Shakedown and Back On the Road

Exactly two months to the day after I arrived in Lakeland, I was back on the road, resuming my adventures. My first day was only about 80 miles or so, to go visit a friend in Mount Dora. She’s been converting a former bookmobile bus into a home on wheels for herself. Unfortunately, the people doing the work for her bailed halfway through the job, leaving her pretty much screwed as far as getting it finished. Now she has to move out of her apartment (and Florida), needs to sell the bus, and had no idea how to go about it. I’ve bought and sold many vehicles over the years, and I’ve been in this life long enough to understand what people are going to want to know about the bus, the build, the accessories, etc. So I offered to look around the bus, take a bunch of pictures and notes, and write up an ad for her to post. Here’s what we came up with.

It’s a sweet ride, and an excellent design. If everything had gone according to plan, it would’ve been a wonderful home for her. Unfortunately, things went about as badly as they could have, and the only thing for it is to make it go away at this point. I hope she’s able to make that happen and get herself moved.

It wasn’t all work and no play. During my stay we watched the new Dune movie, as well as Blade Runner 2049, two movies I’ve wanted to see but haven’t because everything’s spread across different streaming services these days. She also got us pizza in return for my help with the bus ad.

My parking space next to the bus had a great view of the north sky, so even though I didn’t need it right away, I hooked up Starlink and downloaded the updates I knew I would need. It was the first time running it off my new inverter in the new van, since trees blocked the sky at my aunt and uncle’s place. It worked perfectly, so I’m good to go.

Speaking of working perfectly, let’s talk about the van. It worked perfectly! Of course, it had better, with just over 1,000 miles on it. With a full load, including the motorcycle for the first time, I was surprised at how easily it pulled the trailer. It may only have a V6 engine, but it has 20 horsepower more than my old van, and a 10-speed transmission that always seems to be in the correct gear without any intervention from me. Of course, there aren’t any real hills in Florida, so we’ll have to see how it handles those later.

I find myself using cruise control a lot, now that I have it. Even on an empty two-lane highway (I’m choosing to stay off the interstate, because I like the secondary roads more and I have the time), I’ll just set the cruise to the speed limit and let the van do the work. All I have to do is steer and watch where we’re going. Best of all, my gas mileage is better than the old van. I ran through most of a tank since leaving Lakeland, and the van says I got 12.6 MPG. That may not seem like much compared to a 40 MPG hybrid car, but it’s much better than the 10 MPG I got while towing in my old van. It seems that letting the van handle both the gear selection and throttle control results in the smoothest, most efficient ride I can get.

The air conditioning works great. I set my roof vent to automatic mode with the fan venting outward, so the cool air comes out of my dashboard and all the way to the back of the van, which helps keep Lister cool. Because of this, I’ve switched to working in the morning, then driving in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, to keep the AC running. I saw a high of 97º while driving today! It’s way too hot to be in Florida, which is why I spent a few hours driving north, and will continue to do so each day until temperatures are habitable again.

There is one small glitch. Even fully loaded, my trailer still likes to gently sway from side to side at highway speeds, so it’s not a weight issue. My next thought was to check the wheel bearings. Sure enough, there’s a little bit more play than there should be in both wheels. It was way too hot to fix it right then, but it’s a super simple fix, just tightening the nut on each wheel bearing a little bit. The grease inside the bearings still looks like new despite the miles I’ve put on over the past year, so a little adjustment should be all it needs. Then it should go down the highway rock solid just like it used to. I may even be able to tackle this in the Walmart parking lot I’m in as I type this, since I don’t even have to take off the wheels. I’ll see how hot it is in the morning.

This particular Chateau Walmart is one I’ve stayed in before, in Perry, Florida. In fact, it’s the last one I stayed at before heading straight to Lakeland with the ailing van. It just happens to be on my way, be a good distance away from my last stop, and also a known-good overnight spot that I have recent experience with. Tomorrow I’ll venture into unknown territory, but having a destination that I knew would work was a good way to finish my first real day back on the road.

I also took the opportunity to resupply at Walmart. I picked up a few microwave meals and snacks. While my goal is to cook for four, put away what I don’t eat, and reheat it later, right now it’s way too hot to do any stovetop cooking inside the van. The microwave doesn’t add any heat to the van interior. Frozen meals are also less expensive than eating out, even though there’s a Sonic right next door. So I’ll get by for now, and do this better later. Right now, though, I’m glad I have the microwave option to fall back on, something I’ve never had on the road before.

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