Road Read – Midwest Vanlife Gathering, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower and Ribs?

I have travelled a bit recently and have seen some great parts of the US that were on the list of places to see when I first started out on this journey and lifestyle. We’ll get to those places here in a minute but first, the genesis of the trip.

The counter-clockwise route as it actually turned out. Roughly about 3300 miles.

The tower was constructed in 1993

My original goal was to travel to the Great Midwest Van Life Gathering that was held in the Mark Twain National Forest on May 18th through the 20th. I thought this would be a great way to meet some interesting people who shared my love of travelling long-term in a van. I had found out about the gathering through a website that I have often visited at https://gnomadhome.com.

On the way there I was able to stop and have lunch in Paris, Texas and stopped by a few of the famous landmarks that are there. One was the 65-foot Paris Eiffel Tower with the red cowboy hat at its summit.

The gathering was in the Mark Twain National Forest located West of Springfield, Missouri on May 18th through the 20th. It was cheap to attend at only 50 bucks and was a good catalyst to get on the road and go see some new places. I had never been to Missouri and I wasn’t disappointed. Some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever driven through.

John and Jayme of Gnomad Home fame hosted the event and in spite of having some major challenges with the weather, they did a stellar job. They spent a tremendous amount of time and effort to make sure that everyone was as welcome as could be.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and there was already a healthy crowd. Vans of all types continued to roll in throughout the day and well into the evening. By Saturday morning, there were over 100 van and 150 vanners on site. The gathering was pretty much exactly what I expected. A bonfire. Lots of good food and beverages. Storytelling and best of all idea sharing. I spent most of Friday and early Saturday looking at the vans and the different configurations.

There were also some great activities such as paddle boarding. I’ve never been on a paddleboard before so that was a must for me. Even though I took a pretty brutal fall, I really enjoyed it and can absolutely understand why it has such a following. Here’s a tip. When learning, don’t be in shallow water!

Moments before I go overboard!

Wildfire Media did a phenomenal video of the event. It can be view on YouTube HERE!

As mentioned, rain plagued the event. It seemed that every few hours, a pretty rough storm would roll through and scatter everyone to their van. Just as quick, the storms would blow over and the groups would reform. However, since this was being held in a hastily cut hay field, the ground was soaking up a lot of rain and getting pretty soft. I had several places left that I wanted to see so I got up early before most and headed out. I’m glad I did. While the vans excel at being a great home on wheels, most have pretty poor traction in slippery mud. I had to use my leveling blocks under the rear wheels to get traction several times. Once out and back on the road, I headed northwest towards Mt. Rushmore.

Most that know me will tell you that I am very patriotic. I love my country. All politics aside, I feel extremely fortunate to be an American. We are extremely lucky to have such a fantastic place to call home. Those that don’t appreciate just don’t understand how much worse things could be just because you were born in another country. That being said, I love visiting state and national parks. And Mt Rushmore has been on the “Go To” list since I was in high school. The monument was just as stunning as I expected but what really stuck with me from this visit was how many people were there to see it. And not just Americans. People from all over the world were there. They were coming in by the busloads. Literally. It was beautiful and well worth the drive.

The next stop was Sturgis, South Dakota. Home of the biggest motorcycle rally in the world. The rally wasn’t going on while I was there but since I was so close, I figured I would see the town. After visiting a few of the local motorcycle dealerships and grabbing some lunch, I went the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. I really enjoyed the experience and was incredibly impressed by the number and quality of the exhibits.

61 Cubic Inches and almost 9 Horsepower. Hundreds of bikes like this were available to see up close.

61 Cubic Inches and almost 9 Horsepower. Hundreds of bikes like this were available to see up close.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow - C Type. The Holy Grail of many vintage bike lovers.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow – C Type. The Holy Grail of many vintage bike lovers.

I also wanted to see the Harley-Davidson dealership. I thought it would be great to see the bikes at what I would hoped would be the pinnacle of HD dealerships. What a huge disappointment. If you wanted to buy a Harley, this is the one dealership I have been to that didn’t have a single one for sale. But if you wanted a million t-shirts and leather chaps, this was your place.

Next, I was on the way to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

But first, you remember me mentioning that I had a pretty brutal spill while paddle boarding? Well, since the fall, I had been having trouble getting comfortable. My side and back hurt from where I fell and over the counter meds weren’t doing much to help. I couldn’t sleep at night due to the pain. Sleeping in a van in a strange place can often be unnerving. Add a dose of real pain to that and it can be impossible. I finally acknowledged the fact that I may have had a real injury. But since I was so close to Devil’s Tower, I was going to see that first.

The sheer size of the natural formation is nothing less than impressive. Standing at the base of it and trying to wrap your head around the forces of nature that brought such a thing into being is staggering. As you drive in, the road makes a sweep to the right and there it is. It is so different from anything else around it. There is little wonder that it has such a strong presence in American Indian culture and religion.

 

Originally, the plan was to head from Devil’s Tower to Roswell, New Mexico but by this time, I was in a significant amount of pain and decided that I would try to get back to Texas so I could sleep in a actual bed and try to heal up.

Over all, the trip was about 3300 miles. I covered it far faster than I needed to but am very glad that I got to see what I did. I will save the Roswell trip for another time. I mean you can’t go to Devil’s Tower without going to another site of UFO fame. (Those that haven’t seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, please go fix that right now. I’ll wait. )

Lots of Prairie Dogs! These guys were fun to watch. Most Prairie Dogs are  about 14 to 17 inches long length and weigh 1 to 3 pounds. I think a few of these were putting on a few extra pounds from the tourists.

After a few days rest in a real bed back in Texas, I wasn’t feeling any better. A doctor visit informed me that I had broken 2 ribs in 2 different places. There wasn’t much they could do for the ribs but they sure prescribed some great pain meds. I am continuing to heal but it has been over a month and the ribs are still annoying. I need to get these bones sorted out because a huge trip to Wyoming through Colorado on the motorcycle is coming up in early August.

More on that in the next Spoken Compass.

Keep the course,

Johnny

Road Read – Push Monkey Fun in Sherwood Forest

Everyone has favorite places.
 

They can be spots where you feel safe like being at home. Or places that are exciting like a good camping spot or a good sports arena. A favorite bar that serve you’re a drink just like you like it and always have music that seems to be just right. Places where you are sure to see some of your best friends and are sure to meet other good people. It might be a place you enjoy alone and no one else knows about and it might be a place where you are surrounded by thousands of others that appreciate that place just like you do.  

Sherwood Forest Faire just east of Austin is one of those places for me. If you are not familiar with Sherwood, it is a medieval faire based on the time period of Robin Hood.  

I was lucky enough to be involved with it since its inception over 9 years ago. But this year was a bit different. My attendance previously has been as a patron. I would go several times a season and spend a night or two camping and fill my days with drinking with friends and listening to the music that Sherwood is known for.  

This year, I showed up every day and worked from open to close.  

In February of 2018, I drove to Paige, Texas where the faire is located and attended a job fair there that is held to fill positions for vendors as well as jobs report directly to the fair organizers. I was very unsure if I wanted to work at the festival. I had worked fair jobs before but only part time. This was a much higher level of commitment. While I was there, I had several opportunities to interview with different vendors. The interviews were relaxed but formal applications were required and I was glad that knew several people that were willing to give me references.  

I interviewed with a father/mother/son team that are well known at Sherwood. Those of you that have read some of my articles or know me personally, understand how important my father is to me so I had an appreciation for this family. I also found out that the father and I had some similar background work experience involving safety and risk management. Overall, I just got a really positive feeling from them and had a level of trust that whatever they were involved in would be done professionally.  

Several days later, I heard back from them and while all the highly desirable jobs like security and bar tenders were taken, there was an opportunity to work doing one of the push rides. These are rides like giant swings or in this case a ride that would spin people around. They are not motorized and require the workers to manually make the magic happen. It’s a tough job with long hours. It was also a challenge and I like challenges. I accepted and got ready for my season at Sherwood as what is often called a Push Monkey.  

I would be able to meet some new people, make a bit of money and have an experience that I normally would not be able to do.  

There were several days of when I was able to use some woodworking skills and assist with getting the rides ready before the season opened. A season for Sherwood is 8 weeks long with the 3rd weekend being a 3 day one in order to accommodate the Spring Break crowd. 17 days at about 9.5 hours per day.  

I’ll be honest. The absolute worst part was just the sore feet from being on them all day. The second worst part was seeing all the people that you would normally be drinking and carousing with having a great time while you are focused on the job at hand and making as much money for the owner as possible. However, it was still great to see so many of my friends and the best part was the people I got to work with.  

Since this was a two-man job, I had help during the season from 2 fantastic people. Dylan and Stephen and Harley made the experience so much more enjoyable than I could have ever expected. If you are going to spend long hours doing manual labor, the best that you can hope for is to have good people to work with. These guys were awesome.  

I made enough money to put some into savings. I was also able to get some supplies and gear that normally I would have been more hesitant to purchase. New motorcycle boots and a new tent for example.  

Having a good boss helped just as much. If you are considering doing something like this, make sure that you are working for people that care about you. Every concern I had was quickly addressed. I was regularly compensated for meals since we often only had a short time to eat. But most importantly, I and the people I worked with were appreciated. A lot of managers that I have known in the corporate environment could take some lessons from my boss at Sherwood. It is amazing how hard people are willing to work when they feel appreciated.  

Would I do it again? Time will tell. I would absolutely work for this family again. I am sincerely grateful for the experience and I met some damn fine people along the way.  

If you get a chance, go to Sherwood Forest Faire. And be good to the Push Monkeys.  

Keep the course,  

Johnny 

4/30/18 

Road Read – Atacama Bags, Akalaka Mounts and Excel Gear Review 2/15/18

This writeup is going to be a combination of a gear review and a build of my soft bag set up for my R1200GSA.  

BMW Motorrad Atacama Soft Bags

As I mentioned in a previous article, I wanted an alternative to travelling with my BMW aluminum hard cases off-road. This was primarily due to wanting something that would not need repair in the event of a tip over. The aluminum hard cases are great for a large majority of the travelling that I do. They are lockable, very water-resistant and attach solidly to the factory racks that come on the GS Adventure. But if they get bent in an unintentional dismount (crash), they are difficult or impossible to repair and very expensive to replace. The side cases came in a pair and run about 1000 bucks. The top case can be half that much but this one rarely gets damaged in a fall because it is higher and centered on the bike. Soft bags tend to take an impact better, are cheaper to replace, supposedly more water-resistant (We’ll get into this later.) and just generally more durable.  

I say that expense of repair and replacement are the primary reason. There are certainly other motivations for finding an alternative to the hard cases. Another penultimate concern is having a hard case twisting or breaking an ankle during a fall. Case in point. When I was riding through Big Bend on a particularly difficult stretch of road, I had a slow speed tip over. Basically, I was on a high spot and lost momentum. As the bike started to tip, I put out my right foot to stabilize myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any purchase with the boot and down I went. Since the bike was still moving forward, my boot became trapped between the ground and the case. It didn’t break my ankle but it hurt me bad enough that I had to sleep in my boot to keep the swelling down and even after arriving back in Houston, I had a helluva knot on my ankle and had some pain when walking for more than a week. Long story short, it could have been worse. A broken ankle in Big Bend, could have easily turned into a really scary scenario. Soft bags may not keep you from an ugly mishap but it does help to reduce the potential for this kind of event.   

Soft bags may be more durable and a bit safer but there are some drawbacks as well. One of the main issues is the poorly thought out or sloppy ways of securing the bags to the bike. The bags are usually secured with straps which have to be kept tidy in order to keep them from loosening in the wind and winding up in some moving part on the bike. The bags are easier to steal since they usually are only secured with straps. Even if you can lock them down in some way to the bike, there is often not much to keep a thief from going through the bags and taking what they want while you are out of sight. Heat can also be a big issue. If the exhaust vents too close to the bags or the exhaust just gets hot near the bag, they can warp, melt and even worse, melt your camping gear that you have packed inside.  

There are just a lot of things to consider when you get ready to select the soft bag option that is right for you. Sometimes, a vendor comes out with an option that is pretty close to what you need. I understand that soft bag manufacturers have to design their bags to fit the widest variety of motorcycles possible. It makes good sense to offer options that can be fitted to the most bikes. But at the same time, compromises must be made to reach that goal. While a bag may fit one bike great, it may be a bigger challenge on another bike for a variety of reasons. The exhaust may be different a length or on a different side. Racks may or may not exist to facilitate tying the soft bags down. Seat width could be different. Any number of reasons can affect the way a bag looks and performs when attaching it to a motorcycle. Hopefully, you can find one that is specifically designed for the one you ride.  

And this is why I was so pleased when I found the Atacama Soft bags that were being sold through BMW and had been designed specifically for the adventure bikes that BMW offered. The racks on the GS are not symmetrical. While the one on the left-hand side is flat and vertical, the other side is farther away from the motorcycle and angled at the top to accommodate the exhaust on that side. The hard cases are designed with this angle and work together extremely well but it poses problems for other manufacturers when designing products that fit the GS as well as other bikes. So, I was optimistic when I saw that the Atacama bags were designed  for the BMW. I figured that issues caused by this angle would be in the design of the bag. I was wrong. The solution provided by BMW was an adapter plate that would provide an additional higher mounting point to allow the mounting bracket on the bags to be attached where necessary. I get it. I understand that the other adventure bikes that could use the Atacama bags have different mounting configurations and an adapter plate was a necessary evil in order to get the bags to work with the GSA. 

Many of you will recognize the mounting plate that comes attached to the bags. It is a familiar industry design by a company called Mosko Moto. This quick release design would suggest that the bags are made by Mosko and a quick look inside the bags confirm this. The glass filled nylon frames allow the bags to be quickly removed from the motorcycle but there is a huge drawback to this design. This mount is two-part. There is a frame that is attached to the bag and a wedge that the frame slides on to. In order to use this, you must mount the wedge to the GSA racks by using clamps that bolt on. On the right-hand rack with the angle, you must use the additional adapter plate to compensate.  

This is the wedge that must be clamped to the rack to use the factory mounting frame.

Doesn’t sound too horrible but here’s the rub. In order to put your hard cases back on, you must remove the wedges from the GSA racks by unbolting them. This is a huge hassle when you would like to switch between the hard cases and the soft bags often. This was a deal breaker for me. The wedges look awful when no bags are attached to them and the poorly executed mounting system dulled the shine on what looked like a pretty decent product.  

But there were other mounting options.

I did some research on how others were mounting their soft bags on the GSA and I found a few people out there that were had the same disappointed opinion that I held regarding mounts. Turns out one of those people was pretty dang industrious and came up with a replacement mount for the Mosko style frame latch and wedge. I got in touch with Paul Riat at Gateway BMW in St. Louis. They had same alternate mounts fabricated that utilized a similar configuration that the hard cases use. Paul was super cool and explained that they had made a few prototypes and then done a small production run. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the last sets of the production run. At 650 bucks, they were not cheap but as far as allowing me to run the Atacama soft bags without the adapter plat, they were pretty much

The Akalaka Mounting System for the Atacama bags.

the only game in town. But you get a lot for the money. The adapters come with BMW clamps and locks that allow you to lock the bags to the bike! Another issue put to bed! Paul referred to these adapters as the Akalaka Mounting System. The adapter plates appeared to be laser cut. I say this because the edges did not hold on to the paint that was used. This can sometimes be caused by the oxidation that is created by the cutting process. Before I began the installation, I took them to my local powder coating service and had them refinished. Progress was being made.

Simply unbolt the original mounts from the bag and mount these Akalaka mounts and put them on the bike.

Easy, right? Not quite as easy as I had hoped.  

Another pain was finding the bags. I don’t know all the details but from what I understand, the Atacama side bags were not being sold, even if the dealers had them in stock, due to the bags interfering with the motorcycle reflectors. Yea, bureaucracy! After finding someone willing to part with the side bags and getting the Akalaka Mounting System ordered, it was time to start getting it all pulled together.  

With bags in hand, the first course of action was removing the Mosko fame.  

The mounting hardware for the Akalaka bags.

The bags were attached to the frame with Allen bolts and t-nuts. Each of the bolts had a small coating of thread locking compound that made some of them a bit difficult to remove. I had to hold the t-nuts with a pair of vice grips and spin out the bolts. Some were easy, some dicey and some were absolutely brutal.  My suspicion is that these were put in with a drill and not hand started resulting in some crossed threads.  

 

 

This was the least wrinkled of all the 5 sets of bags that were available.

Here is where you start to see some issues with the construction. With the frame removed and the back of the bag exposed, you can see that the material was not pulled flat before the plate was attached. This wasn’t isolated to my bag. I returned it to get a better one and every 35 liter (left-side) bag had the same issue while all the 25 liter (right-side) bags looked pretty good. I ended up getting the best one I could find a continued onward. Not a huge deal but remember, these are designed to be used in the worst of conditions. Mud and grit is going to get into those gaps and be very difficult to get out.  

Holes in the bag for the mounting hardware.

Even more concerning was how the holes were burned through the bags to allow the mounting bolts to pass through. This must have been done with a hot knife that was far too hot and by someone in a big hurry. On the inside of the bag is a semi-rigid plastic plate that is supposed to keep the t-nuts from pulling through and distribute the load across the bolts. Attached to this plate was a piece thin piece of foam that provides the teeth on the t-nuts a place to get a bite. Unfortunately, the heat knife was hot enough melt the foam far enough back that the t-nuts would no longer even come in contact with it. In many of the spots, it appears that there were multiple attempts to get the holes lined up. Not sure what was going on in the assembly line but there are certainly some opportunities for improvement.

Pick one. Most of the mounting points looked like this. Great idea. Poor execution.

I found some largish washers that would allow the t-nut to pass through. This would give it more reinforcement. I still wanted the t-nuts to be able to bite into the foam so I used 2-sided tape to stick them to the plastic backboard. The toughest part of this was figuring out which of the holes in the plastic was the correct one to use. Once I had that figured out, I reattached the foam backing and reassembled the bags.  

One of my concerns that began to grow as I was pulling the project together was heat. The exhaust on the GSA ends at about the middle of the bag. I know how hot the exhaust can get. Even if the exhaust is not in direct contact with the bags, over time the heat from the exhaust gases can cause warping, degradation of the plastic and, given the right circumstances, melting of the bag and interior contents. Maybe this would be an issue and maybe not but I decided to err on the side of caution and fabricate a heat shield that could be placed between the bags and the adapter plate. It might not solve the heat issue but it would certainly help. I found some aluminized Mylar on Amazon and with some similar aluminized tape and some adhesive spray, I got to work.  

Mylar heat shield

After measuring the back of the bags, I cut the Mylar and double layered it by putting adhesive on the back and folding it. Once I had the edges sealed up with the tape, I used the original Mosko Nylon plates as a template to punch holes for the bolts. I have some leather working tools and the doubled Mylar was similar to leather and was pretty easy to work with. It took a bit of prototyping but I think I got a finished product that will last for a while and help to deflect some of the heat.  

Once finished, I sandwiched the Mylar heat shield between the bags and the Akalaka Mounts. I reused the t-nuts and bolts to get it all back together.  

Once mounted on the bike, I still had reservation about the ability of the bags to take the continuous heat. Why wasn’t this addressed when the bags were being designed? I ended up calling Paul in St. Louis again and asked him his opinion and if any other Atacama Soft Bag owners had an issue. He wasn’t sure about any issues but suggested I get in touch with Tom Dowell at Excel Cycle Werkes who fabricated exhaust extensions for just such an issue. After a visit to his website and a call to explain my concern, Tom assured me that he had a solution. A few days later, Excel Exhaust Extension showed up. It is a fine piece of hardware and installed easily with a little time and two springs to keep it attached.  It moves the hot exhaust a bit farther towards the back of the motorcycle before it is vented.

Excel Cycle Werkes Exhaust Extension http://www.excelcyclewerkes.com/

The fact that Tom Dowell at Excel Cycle Werkes is making such an item should tell you that there have been bags that have been destroyed by the exhaust.

There is a lot of hype about how waterproof the bags are.  I don’t know of anything that is 100% waterproof. There are lots of things that are water-resistant but very few things that are waterproof. Given enough time or pressure (depth), things will leak. The main compartments have an interior sleeve that rolls and buckles to seal at the top. This really isn’t any better than a hard case. I can put the items I want to keep dry in a zip lock bag and it will be just as “waterproof” as these Atacama Bags.  So there is no real advantage to the soft bags as far as water resistance. 

In summary, I spent a lot of time and money on a heat solution that should have been addressed by Mosko and at the very least by BMW.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been an issue but is Mosko or BMW going to replace the bags if the bags do warp or melt due to heat? I strongly doubt it. And I really can’t afford to burn though a bag to find out. 

 

The Mosko mounting system is cumbersome. It is fantastic as a solution to fit the same bag to a large number of motorcycles but when you tout the Atacama bags as being designed for the BMW Adventure bikes, a cleaner, more bike specific resolution should have been created. The Akalaka Mounting System makes the bags much more functional but it is unfortunate for the end-user that this system didn’t come with the bags.

 

 

Keep the course,

Johnny

Road Read – The GSA, Mods and Future Ideas 2/14/18

I tend to overthink things. A lot. All the time.  

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this website and started writing these articles was review some of the equipment that I used – either in the creation of the van or products used while traveling in the van. Since the van has been finished and continues to perform extremely well, I have spent some time optimizing the motorcycle for some upcoming short trips and hopefully a substantial trip when summer rolls around.  

The motorcycle. A 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure. Also know commonly as a GS. I am not here to debate the superiority of one brand over the other or one style of riding over the other. KTM, Honda, BMW –  Street, Tour or Dual Sport – Honestly, I don’t care what other people ride. What often bothers me are the riders that have to justify their brand of motorcycle or style of riding by stepping on others. If you’re that guy, stop. No bike is perfect for every situation. And not everyone likes all types of riding. Be glad others ride and do your own thing. No bike is perfect for every situation.  

R1200GSA Water Cooled Magic

I have wanted a GS for a while. In fact, I can prove it. Here is a pic of a post I made in 2007. At the time, I was riding a Kawasaki KLR. I loved it. I never should have sold it. It was fun, reliable and cheap enough that I could take it anywhere. Here’s a tip. Don’t sell your stuff to pay for a divorce. The point here is that I was already a fan of the GS.  

 

Post from October 4th, 2007

If you have checked out some of the later Road Reads here on Spoken Compass, you already know that I was an even bigger fan of the GS after having the opportunity to attend the Rawhyde Adventure School in Hartsel, Colorado. It was a fantastic learning experience that I would recommend to anyone who plans on riding off road. The instructors were incredibly skilled riders and were able to convey information to the class in a way that made me a more confident rider off road as well as on. Seriously, this was an incredible course. I took the course with about 12 other guys and I had a fantastic time. I am still good friends and ride with some of the people I met in this course.  

Once I got back in Houston, I started looking for a GS. New or in immaculate shape, I didn’t care. I had decided to part with the money and now it was just a matter of how much. Good fortune smiled on me and I found a used one at a dealership north of Houston. As I mentioned before, BMW MC of the Woodlands was a pleasure to deal with. I wasn’t even planning on buying the day that I did. The bike was just so nice, exactly what I was looking for and the customer service and sales rep was amazing. I bought a helmet and rode it home.  After 10 years of wanting one, I finally got a GS. It was long overdue but better late than never. Now, all I need to do is make up for some lost time.  

The GS is a big bike by anyone’s standards. It is taller and wider than most and designed for RTW (‘Round the World) Adventures.  They are extremely capable and even more so when paired with a rider with proper training and good technique.  

One of the things that most riders do is add additional equipment to the bike. It may be additional protection for vulnerable components or electronics for music and navigation. Additional storage in the form of saddle bags or panniers can be helpful for long trip or even trip to get groceries.  

It’s just not in me (and many other bikers) to leave it the way it came from the factory. Necessary modifications for specific purposes or just things to personalize it and make it your own, accessories are just part of motorcycle ownership. 

Another big investment is personal protection. Helmet, gloves, jackets, pants, boots, glasses and neck protection are all things to have. I am a big fan of good riding clothing. Lots of people have different opinions about what is necessary. To each his own but I would encourage anyone just starting out to spend them money on quality riding gear. There is a lot of options out there and you don’t have to break the bank in order to get some really substantial protection. Road rash sucks.  

I have done several modifications to mine in all of the categories listed above. Communications, bike frame and motor protection and storage for travelling have been big investments. The GS has racks to mount hard cases to and the cases are super nice. They are made out of aluminum and are outstanding in quality. Not only lockable and very water resistant, they also offer lots of storage room for a long trip. They do have some drawbacks though. If the bike goes down, the pannier usually hit the ground first. Even in a simple low-speed or stopped tip over, the hard cases can take a beating. Being made out of aluminum, they are light and tough but also can bend given enough force. And, speaking from experience, once bent, they are difficult to get back to spec.  

Side cases on. Aluminum and lockable but can be the first thing to hit the ground in a fall.

A small side note here. I spent years as a Risk Management guy in the Oil and Gas Industry. I am a natural at looking for risk and then figuring out ways to mitigate it. It’s in my DNA. It’s just how I think. When reading some information about long distance off-road travelling, I found that many riders frown upon hard cases. Not due to the damage that they can be dealt in a fall but due to the damage that hard cases can due to your feet and ankles when falling. When beginning to tip over, instinct tells you to put a foot down. The forward momentum of the bike tends to drag your foot backwards once the boot touches the ground. Then the boot can get trapped under the hard case and can cause some pretty ugly injuries. I was made aware of this possibility first hand while riding in Big Bend. I managed to not only damage my pride but also twisted my ankle under one of the hard cases bad enough to cause me to limp for a few days.  

The bikes can go down. Trust me.

But there are safer alternatives. Soft bags. They can take a beating and be pushed back into shape and they are also a bit gentler on the ones extremities in the case of the unplanned dismount.  

I’ve spent a bit of time and money in order to get the soft bag configuration together that I think is functional and safer than the hard cases. I have decided to document the creation of the soft bag configuration in another post so there may be some overlap from here to there.  

My goal is to pull together a trip that I could take on the motorcycle. Long distance. Maybe head up to Wyoming and see Devil’s Tower. I could do it via the van but the motorcycle is mine now and I might as well learn more about traveling on it.  

There is a huge difference in between the safety and convenience of the van and the more exposed mode of travelling on the bike. Lots of people have done it. I can, too. Probably some good fodder there for another article or podcast.  

Off to work on the soft bag article.  

Stay safe and keep the course.  

Johnny 

Road Read – Harvey, Motorcycles, Surgery and Work 1/15/18

It’s been a long, very long time since I have made an update on my status and where the Spoken Compass has been. I think bringing some of my friends up to date is long overdue.  

First Hurricane Harvey sucked. Amazingly bad. I’ve been in Houston since the early 80s and this was way worse than anything I have seen before. When I heard that there was flooding, I was still in Colorado. I kept thinking, “Why are people sending out notifications that they are safe?” Even the news coverage didn’t show the level of damage that was happening. Lisa, a close friend had flown to visit me in Colorado and this storm really threw a wet blanket on being able to travel more. I had been planning on getting back to Houston in order to get some work at a Renaissance Faire but once I began to wrap my head around just how bad this was, I started to head South. There were just too many close friends that were affected and I didn’t know the status of my parents. 

We continued to listen to the news as we headed South and the bigger problem came as we realized how difficult it would be just to get back into Houston. We slowed down, took our time and eventually were able to verify that loved ones were pretty much OK. Several friends had lots damage but there would be time to work all that out later. This was all around the beginning of September and suddenly, I found myself back in Houston. A wetter, soggier Houston than I left but certainly a more galvanized, stronger community than when I left as well. I am still impressed by the stories of people pulling together during a time when chaos has reigned in cities that have been in similar situations.  

As mentioned, I had been planning on working at the Texas Renaissance Festival in Magnolia. It was scheduled to begin on September 30. I had been making some phone calls to people who I knew that might be looking for work and managed to land a great gig at one of the clothing shops there. No easy feat when you consider that there are a lot of people looking for one of these jobs. It is primarily weekend work and it was very close to Houston. I could be close enough to visit my parents and friends during the week and get a bit of money in my pocket so I was pretty enthusiastic about making this happen.  In the meantime, I would stay with Lisa relax a bit since the pressure was off to get the job. 

Another thing I like to say is that every fighter has a plan till he gets punched. And I got a punch.  

One morning around the middle of September, I woke up to a pretty severe pain in my testicles. Yep.  My nether regions. Not just a little. This was a nagging pain that made you realize that something is seriously wrong. Then, it would go away just long enough to let you know how bad it was when it came back minutes later. Well, I freaked out. It’s one thing to slam your hand in a car door – you know why your hand hurts. It is completely different when a pain starts out of nowhere. My mind went through and whole list of potentially worst-case scenarios. By the time I was able to get in touch with the doctor, I had worked myself into sub-panic mode. That spot where you can keep your shit together but probably not for long. The nurse on the phone must have heard it in my voice and got me a same day appointment. After a long visit, MRI and several other humiliating scans, I waited for the results. Fortunately, they came back pretty quick. I had cyst. The fantastic news was that it wasn’t cancerous and was treatable. The bad news was it needed surgery. And the surgery couldn’t wait.   

Apparently, cysts like the one I had can occur at any time with any guy of any race or age. It is often a mystery why they occur but the recovery prognosis is usually very good. The remember the doctor telling me that the surgery would be easy but the recovery would be brutal.  

He was right.  

I had to call my faire employer and explain that the situation. While he was very understanding, I still felt bad for not being able to fulfil my obligation. The surgery went fine but I had no idea of how bad the next 8 weeks were going to be. Thankfully, doctors are often quite liberal with good pain killers for this procedure. By the time I was fully recovered, we were well into November 

Not to say that I was stationary the entire time.  

While I was in Colorado in last July, I had the amazing good fortune to attend the RawHyde Offroad Academy. This is one of the most fantastic experiences I have ever had. This is a course to teach riders of large displacement motorcycles how to handle them better on all types of terrain. It had been years since I had ridden a big bike. I was able to get signed up for a day long refresher course, the 2-day Intro to Adventure course and a 2 day tour through some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado. The bikes that were available to rent were the BMW R1200GSA. For those not familiar with motorcycles, this is a big bike. It is designed for round-the-world adventures and is designed to take a lot of abuse for thousands of miles.

I was smitten. The course was fantastic and I had forgotten how much I loved being on a motorcycle. I have owned many. I even rebuilt a few older vintage ones. My father raced Enduro when I was a kid and I have always been fascinated by all kinds of bikes. I’ve owned Harleys, Buells, Kawasakis, Hondas. Street bikes, dual sports and motocross. All those went up for sale to pay for a divorce. But I had never owned a BMW. They were always too pricey for me or the timing wasn’t right. I guess I felt like I didn’t need it enough to justify the cost. Well, after this class, I knew that one was in my future. After a lot of calling around, I found a dealership that had a used one for sale. It was the right color, a recent model and most importantly, it was cheap enough that I could swing it. I knew that it would take a tremendous chunk out of my travelling budget but I just couldn’t shake the desire to get it.  

I left the dealership (BMW Motorcycles of the Woodlands – Ask for Joshua Anderson – A genuine, helluva guy) with the bike. It took a bit more cash to get it sorted out with protective gear just the way I wanted and some panniers for travelling but I think it will be well worth it. I have already had some amazing adventures on it (more on those later) and have been planning some longer road trips. A lot of people ask me if I will trailer it behind the van or if I will have a rack for it. The bike is far too big for any kind of trailer hitch rack and while I could trailer it (and will if absolutely necessary), I think having the bike behind the van would take away from the ability to boondock and would be another piece to manage while I am on the road. My current plan is to either be on the bike or in the van. One or the other. If I am traveling in the van, I can certainly store the bike at a storage facility or at a friend’s house. If I am on the bike, I can do the same with the van. It has added a level complexity to things but I plan on putting quite a few miles on it over the next couple of years. – Time will tell.  

I have already christened it with 1570-mile trip out to Big Bend with a few others that I met at RawHyde. While it was a humbling, learning experience, it has made me want to know more about Adventure riding and motorcycle camping. I have some great pictures from that trip and it probably deserves a write-up as well.  

Deep in the heart of Big Bend.

Who needs a kickstand when you have all this Big Bend sand to help you out?

So, Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s came and went. I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time with family, friends and loved ones. I have been planning more trips and travels and even picking up a bit work doing some odd jobs.   

Overall, things are good. I can’t say that I have learned to relax yet. But I am getting better. I still feel driven to be productive and have projects. I think that comes from years of the workplace environment. I am slowly learning to tone it down a bit and to not get so worked up about things. I can tell you that I have a long way to go.  

To those that have emailed and called, thank you. I am trying to get energized to get back on the road. I know that time is coming and will be soon. I certainly see more time in Colorado again this year as well as Arizona and New Mexico. California would be interesting as well.  

I am going to finish up this write up here with the intention of getting few other articles started on my Big Bend journeys (yep, there were 2 within a short amount of time and both were challenging), my trip to Colorado Ben here in Texas which is home to the beautiful Gorman Falls and a few others. I have a couple or leads on some work so I will keep you posted on that as well.  

Keep the course.  

Johnny 

Road Read – April Progress Update 4/4/17

It has been a long time since I have done a progress update on the van. Primarily because I have desperately trying to make some progress!

So here is a list of where some of the individual projects. I’ll try to put this is some sort of logical order.

Insulation – The insulation on the wall is about 80% done. The biggest areas have been filled in with several layers of comfort giving goodness. So, in addition to the Lizardskin that is applied to the walls, the areas that allow the most insulation have been covered with a layer of Thinsulate, then a layer of Reflectix, then a layer of the Owens-Corning R-8 fiberglass insulation, followed by a layer of FOAMULAR 1/2-inch insulation. In some of the areas between the ribs, I was able to use an additional section of the FOAMULAR rigid insulation. This leaves the insulation roughly flush with the top of the ribs. Other areas have similar layers except for the rigid foam.

Electrical – Wires have been run from the area where the DC Distribution Panel will be located to where the lights will be. Everything has been color coded since there are 6 individual over head lights. The lights will be LED and on a small goose neck fitting so they will be adjustable enough to be able to illuminate where you need it. Another DC run has been allocated from the same distribution panel to the roof vent. The DC run for the fridge and to the 2 12V DC outlets have not been completed.

A huge accomplishment was getting the electrical panel done. Except for adding a few vents, the panel is completed. This was much more complicated than I thought it would be (like everything else) and was second only to the sliding bed frame in difficulty….. So far. There will be a lot of time spent here on the wiring. While I have a pretty good idea of what need to be done and think I have all the components necessary to do it, other tasks have kept me from progress on this project. It is intimidating and I might, maybe, probably, almost certainly be procrastinating on it, I will get it done. In fact, taking a break from it has provided me with some time to think about some things and even come up with a few epiphanies about how to do the next steps.

The Invertor is ready to be installed but will be part of the overall wiring day that I will dedicate to getting the wiring run. I still need to finish up the Shore Power connection before so I can get the lower wall installed.

AC power outlets locations need to be determined. I have one installed on the main panel, another will probably be located on the galley near the rear doors. I have room on the panel for one more but just may not need it. I could always wait till I determine where I might need another and then install it.

 

 

 

The Galley – I made some progress on this recently, I determined the hinges I wanted to use. The door lay out and how wide the doors could be and not interfere with the bed on the other side. The doors need to be installed but that should happen soon. I will get them stained and magnets installed to hold them closed. I still need to locate, chose, purchase, cut and install the countertop. I have a couple of ideas but need to visit some local places to find what I want.

 

Walls – With the substructure of the walls is mostly done, I need to modify a few of the sections for some of the electrical components. Mainly, the Shore Power cable will need to be run through a section of the wall substructure behand the area of the galley that holds the invertor. When that is done, I should be ready to start installing the wall planking. I have decided that I want the walls to be an antiqued white. Varathane makes a nice oil based stain that I have purchased and tested on the pine slats that will make up the interior walls. I am going to spend some time just staining as many as I can in one afternoon. Most of the wall installation will be straight forward. The substructure will insure that there are several mounting point and boards of various, staggered lengths can be put together. As with everything else, there is a caveat. The area just behind the seat is very curved due to the high roof of the van. The original idea was to curve the boards down to meet the headliner that is over the seats. Unfortunately, the boards are too thin to make such a curve. Original testing showed that some boards could handle the curve and some couldn’t. Some cracked after a few days. The next idea was to wet and curve the boards. This seemed to work but since the area would be comprised of many boards and all of the boards wanted to curve differently, this idea didn’t work out either. I threw around the idea of building a storage area in the space but it eliminated the headroom area where I get in and out of the side of the van. It might have worked but at this time, I am going to make a transition point and cut all the boards to stop at the last substructure rib and then cut shorter boards to make the final angle up the headliner. I built a template / prototype for the headliner area. Fingers are crossed that it will work out.

If it doesn’t, I will figure out something that will.

Shelves – Overhead shelves will be started soon. At least designed so I can prepare for any gotchas that may come along. I plan on using the shelves for most of my daily clothing storage, daily food stuff and anything else that I might need quick access to. I want them sturdy and I want them green. More on those after I get some time to think about them this weekend.

Flooring – So there is a temporary floor in the van now. It is awful and it is cheap. It was put in for the sole purpose of providing me with the 7mm of thickness that the final floor was estimated to be. It is a dark reddish and the color has taught me an important lesson. The sun heats up things. And considering I plan on having the doors open as much as possible, this is kinda a big deal. I walk around and work on the van in bare feet. A lot. And the darker floor has heated up enough to force me to pay attention to the fact that not only does it heat up, when you close the van doors, it heats up the van as well. So I have found a waterproof EVP (Enhanced Vinyl Plank) flooring that I like. It is 7mm think and in a light gray. I think the waterproof will be a bonus in the event of moisture or even rain since the doors are big and the floor goes right up to them and the light gray will hopefully not heat up as fast as a darker color.

The Bed. – It is done. Stained. Finished. Concluded. Ready to be installed and slept on. Oh, I am sure there will be details to fix later on when the install happens but for right now, I am calling it done. Just so I can say something is finished.  Oh, and I still need to order new cushions for it. The first ones I ordered were nice but I think the layer of Dacron that was added to it made them larger that I wanted. I like the way they look and want the Dacron but will need to get them smaller. About an inch smaller for the seat cushion and the back rest and about an inch shorter for both. And I am going to get them 4 inches thick instead of 6 inches. Mainly because they are heavy. If I can get them thinner and immediately shave off 33% of the overall weight, I think it will help. I also might get the seat cushion split. Just make it the size of the two individual compartments that make up the frame of the bed. That way, I could get to a compartment without removing the whole seat cushion. Just a thought. And now that I think about it, I guess this means the bed isn’t finished. Shit.

 

 

Solar – The solar wiring has been run. I got the roof Cable Entry Plate installed and bolted down. The wires are also run behind the wall and to the area that will lead to the Battery Box. The roof rack has been drilled but the solar panels have not been installed just yet. No real reason to not install them but no real reason to get them on till I have more of the electrical done. I have other fish to fry before I get to them.

 

 

 

Battery Box – The battery box is mostly complete. The fridge has been bolted to the lid of the box and so far, the testing by daily driving has worked out well. I installed some vents for some convection air flow and installed a propane alarm that will be hardwired to the batteries for safety.

 

 

 

So, that’s long enough and there ya have it. An update. Lots of cogs in motion and a lot left to be done. I am enjoying the process more. Especially since I can see some real progress. I still find myself getting hung up on the details and minutia that slows me down but I am having more fun. I still get addicted to progress and accomplishments. And I still need 4 hands instead of just two. But I am pleased with the results. As with all major undertakings, there are many things I would do very differently but I have learned and continue to learn a lot. Hopefully, I will be able to use some of these skills down the road.

Cause the road does call. And it calls louder today than it did yesterday. Tomorrow…

Well, I should get busy.

Till next time, keep the course.

Johnny

Road Read – Shore Power Inlet Install 1/21/17

Some electrical work got done today. Not enough to get any electrons moving around. In fact, I didn’t get any actual wiring done. However, it is never a small task to cut another hole in the van. This one was not close to the size of the roof vent but was absolutely substantial. This was a 2 7/8ths inch hole for the shore power inlet.

I took some pictures of how I did the process and hopefully this will give some ideas to those that need to install an inlet or something similar.

Interior. Left side. Just behind the wheel well.

On the interior of my van, there was section on the left side that was different than any other part of the interior. This interior section was cutaway to obviously allow a direct access to the exterior wall of the van. This was where I thought the best location for the hole to be drilled for the power inlet. I measured the overall dimensions of the interior cut out and then found center and marked it with a silver Sharpie. The silver Sharpies are amazing and just about critical when working on a black surface. The interior of my van was originally silver but the Lizardskin insulation that I sprayed in is a matt black and black Sharpies just don’t show up.

Another cool trick is to place a magnet over your center mark on the interior. Then find the location on the exterior of the vehicle by holding something ferrous near where the magnetic field is. This way you can check the location of the of the center point prior to drilling. I wanted to make sure that I was working with the flattest surface available in order to get the best seal against moisture possible.

Next, just drill the pilot hole. For my Marinco Inlet, I needed a 2 7/8 inch hole. So after drilling the pilot hole, I covered the area that was going to be drilled with painters tape. This is an important step as it will be very helpful in reducing or eliminating paint chipping as the hole saw does its work.
Now you have a hole and need to drill the additional mounting holes if you inlet requires them. This was basically the most difficult part for me. I spent a lot of time trying to take measurements that would make sure the inlet was parallel to the lines of the van. After repeated attempts, I finally got it close and just settled on rotating it to where it aesthetically looked best to me. Once you have it where you want it, drill a hole and then place a screw in the hole before you drill the next hole. This will make sure all the holes line up.

Since my application is was only attached to the wall of the van, I wanted to make a back plate and spacer to provide a more secure anchor for the inlet. I had some different plates of micarta. I cut the hole and drilled the holes and attached it to the interior. This may not have been necessary but it did seem to make the attachment to the van more secure.
Before you install the inlet, make sure you have covered all the exposed metal with paint. I may go back and add a thin layer of 3M Window Weld to the back of the rubber gasket just to add an additional layer of protection from rain seeping in.

Also, make sure you attach your wires to the inlet prior to tightening all the fittings. Once mine are tightened, you cannot get to the screws to secure the wires.

Overall, I am please with how the inlet turned out. Once I get the final wiring laid out, I will probably create a more solid back plate. There are some additional pictures in the Photo Gallery.

Let me know if you have questions and keep the course!

Johnny

Road Read – Enjoy the Moment and the Process 1-20-17

Sometime you just have to be thankful for any progress at all.

 

As I sit here at the beginning of 2017, I am forced to look back with a bit of retrospect on the progress that has been accomplished this year. I can say with certainty that I am not where I thought I would be on this project.

If I have learned anything this year, it is that everything takes longer than you think.

I feel like this applies to so many things in my life right now but it probably applies most to the van endeavor.

Over the last month, I have spent a lot of time over at my Dad’s house. It is a 45 mile one way, hour plus trip without Houston traffic and can be a lot longer when you try to get home when everyone else has the same idea. We often get started before 6 and never later than 6:30 which means I am loaded up and out the door before 5. I always stop by Whataburger. I figure the offering of breakfast sandwiches is the very least I can do for keeping him away from his other duties.

Over breakfast, we always discuss what we want to get done. It usually is a pretty good list. Something like:

  1. Finish the battery / fridge box.
  2. Build the end caps for the bed / couch and get them routed for the T-molding.
  3. Bevel the overlap pieces on the bed frame.
  4. Sand the spot that is causing the bed frame to stick.
  5. Build the shelf for the water containers.
  6. Build a temporary panel for the wiring console.
  7. Figure out console locations in the panel.
  8. Get the cable entry plate location determined.
  9. Drill roof for cable entry plate and prep for installation.
  10. Install cable entry plate.
  11. Build additional shelves in galley.
  12. Determine location of Inverter.
  13. Determine location of interior lights.
  14. Run wire for lights from breakout box future location to light location.
  15. Drill holes for battery run from batteries to inverter.
  16. Get rails cut for the solar panels.
  17. Shorten bolts for solar panel rails.
  18. Mount solar panels on roof to get drill locations.
  19. Go have lunch.
  20.    …
  21. ….You get the point.

At the end of the day, after 16 to 18 man hours, we are lucky if we can cross one thing off the list. And we realize that we never even stopped for lunch, or if we did, it was a quick bite and the only time we took a break for the entire day.

This example is absolutely real. Just getting the battery / fridge box close to completion took a lot of time. It look amazing and if incredibly solid. All the joints are glued and the entire thing is screwed together. All holes are predrilled, then counter-sunk before the sides are checked for squareness and screwed together. The box is beautiful and far better than anything that would be in a prefabbed camper. But it is still one item in a long list that doesn’t seem to get any shorter since we are always finding new things that we hadn’t thought of. And it is still not completely finished. I need to construct a bracket to keep the fridge anchored to the box. This will keep the fridge from tipping when making turns.

I am constantly amazed at how good my father is with this stuff. He has been a phenomenal woodworker and craftsman for decades and every time we work together, I feel like school is in session.

Everything takes longer than you think.

I have gotten to spend quality time with my Old Man that I would have otherwise not had. I have learned so much. Even skills I already had have been refined and honed a bit. I will never be the craftsman that he is but I am a lot smarter than I was when we started.

Everything in the proper order. Here, some Thinsulate and Reflectix insulation has been installed so I can see how much room I have for some wiring for lights and solar.

Progress is being made. Regardless of how slow it is, it is still progress. Things will get done and items on the list will get checked off. So if there are lessons to learn here they are first, give yourself a lot longer than you think you are going to need for precision projects. Example – The battery box needed to be very solid. It is supporting the fridge, which is 65 pounds along with the estimated 35 pounds food that will  be in it. It is also holding the batteries. Each one of these is 65 pounds. Even though all three of them are sitting on the base of the box, that is 195 pounds of weight that will be held in place beneath the fridge. Second, and I have talked about this before, perseverance is going to be necessary.

But there may be more than that. Every once in a while, I found myself less concerned about having the box finished or the inverter installed or worrying about how to layout the galley and more focused on enjoying the moment. Enjoying the process. Enjoying the good company. I remember that this whole thing is a project and while it is not moving as fast as I had hoped, it will get finished and I will want to be able to look back on it with good memories and not as just a stressful job.

New temporary floor is in. The old one had gotten wet and taken a heck of a beating with all the holes drilled in it while determining spacing. Final floor will go in just before the final install of furniture. And this stuff was cheap at 14 cents a Sq. Ft. Just took some time to get it done.

And to be honest, I have not put as much time in it as I thought I would on a weekly basis. Regardless of intentions, daily life stuff and obligations continue to happen. Even this has a bit of a silver lining in that I am afforded more time to think things through and investigate options and various ways to do things.

I guess I have come to a point where I am comfortable with what progress has been made and okay with the speed at which things are going. This paradigm takes some of the pressure off and allows the whole thing to be a bit more fun.

The weekend is almost here. Time to get a few more things knocked off the list.

Stay the course,

Johnny

Road Read – Sit and Spin or My Swivel Seat Installation 12-1-16

My vehicle is a 2016 Ford Transit 250. The passenger seat is a manual one.

I am planning on primarily traveling alone so the passenger seat rarely has a butt in it. That being the case, for a large part of the time it is wasted space. Unless you can turn it a get some use out of it while you are parked. This is basically a quick article about how I did my install. Considering that there were absolutely no instructions in with the swivel adapter, maybe this can help if you choose to do something similar.

 

I ordered the swivel adapter from swivelsrus.com. I liked the look of the product and had read some other positive reviews regarding the quality of the build. It was $329.00 for the adapter and another $45.00 to get it to the house. It arrived well packed but, as mentioned, without any instructions. Included were 8 heavy-duty bolts. Why 8? Hellifino. More on that in a bit. Considering that we only had 8 bolts to work with, I felt I had a fairly good chance of figuring it out.

So the first thing was to figure out what tools were going to be needed. And yep, you are going to need a Torx driver to get the job done. And no, an Allen Key will not work. T-40 fit like a glove. Put it on a decent size ratchet because these factory bolts are in there pretty tight.

But before you get all the bolts out, take a look under there and notice that you have some wire and black box attached to the bottom of the seat. On mine, there were two set of wire going to this box. Only one was detachable. There is a clip riveted to the underside of the seat frame that holds this box in place. Once the box is removed from the clip it will be much easier to see the yellow connection terminal.

 

 

Note of caution here. You probably have airbags and all kinds of sorcery hidden in these seats. Be careful and aware when you are removing and replacing these electric terminals. Leave the key off and out of the ignition when doing this stuff and set the parking brake. I am no mechanic and I don’t even play one on TV. Common sense should tell you to freakin’ be careful.

 

After removing the yellow clip, you can now get to the business of tuning some bolts. That T-40 Torx is going to come in real handy now. Remove the bolts and get the seat out of the way.

 

See that jack? Remove it. Once this swivel gets bolted down, you will no longer have access to this area. I know. It sucks. We will persevere. I also took out the jack mount because I am going to bolt that bad boy down in a new spot and have my jack handy for the inevitable flat tire.

 

Now if you are like me, you are at the point where you have places the swivel in its new home and are checking the fitment and looking for any issues.

 

Good for you. Cause there is one.

 

For some reason, there is a small handle on the back of the seat that is going to prevent any real rotation while it is there. Get your Dremel, a fresh Cut-Off wheel, a file and some touch up paint and remove this obstruction to your swiveling bliss. Once it is gone, bolt down your swivel. Make sure the red release handle is facing towards the front of the vehicle.

 

And now we start putting stuff back together. Get the seat back in place and use the bolts (4 of them) to get it nice and secure.

 

Feed the wires through the hole in the swivel adapter and reconnect the yellow terminal in the correct slot before you place the black box back on the tab.

 

Double check the bolts. This is important. Someone you care about will probably be riding in that seat.

Due to the shape of the seat and the amount of recline you have, you may need to scoot the seat forward or back to get it to rotate. The shoulder strap will not be in the way if you let it rest behind the shoulder of the seat.

 

I have had the seat installed for a while now. It works well and does what it says it would do.

 

However I have noticed that if I do have a passenger riding in that seat, the swivel has introduced a squeak that comes along with any vibration or movement. I am going to see if I can get some type of grease in between the plates to remove the issue and I will keep you posted.

 

Overall, a solid product. I know that the installation raised the seat height around 2 or a bit more inches. On the seats with electric controls, I have heard there is a substantially grater height change.

 

http://www.swivelsrus.com/ was where I purchased mine. Give them a call. They were very helpful and had a lot of information. Hopefully this write up will help if you decide to do an install similar to mine.

 

Thanks for the read and keep the course.

Johnny

Road Read – Down with the Man! I mean Main Floor! 8-10-16

Got a bit of work done over the weekend. Certainly not as much as I wanted to but  that is the norm.

I did some additional touch up painting on the Lizardskin. There were several areas where the masking tape pulled up more of the spray in insulation than I would have liked. There were also a few areas where I completely misjudged where I applied my masking and it left a gap of exposed paint that in hindsight I felt like would look better blacked out along with the rest of the spray.

So I re-masked the areas and just sprayed them with the Lizardskin Top Coat. It is in a spray can and while nowhere near as thick as the insulation application, it can help to hide minor screw ups like the ones mentioned above.

20160807_183018I needed to cut the two rear most sections of the subfloors in half. As mentioned in a previous Road Read, this was in the event that I ever needed to get the subfloors out of the van for maintenance, cleaning or repairs, I wanted to be able to remove them without having to take out much of the wall planks. I wish I had thought of this earlier because they are much easier to handle in smaller sections.

Also, while I had them out, I wanted to use the opportunity to get some progress done on the main floor.

First I figured out how to assemble the laminate flooring. (Hint – This is not how to do it.) I laid out enough that all of the subfloor would fit with room to spare all the way around.

20160806_081852I then traced the subfloor and then disassembled all of the sections. As I took them apart, I made sure that I label each one with an alphanumeric coordinate. Basically it started at A1 and ended at G720160806_100825.  A lesson I learned here was to make sure that you mar the section that you plan on on discarding. And ‘X’ or any mark will do. It may seem obvious when you are looking at it assembled but once all you have in your hand is an individual piece, it will make it easier to remember which part is scrap and which part is going into the van.

I also too the time to make the same tracing of the subfloors in the underlayment and cut them out.

After the tracing, it was simply a matter of cutting each section with a jigsaw. As I cut them I snapped them into place.

20160807_193912I am fairly pleased with the results. If I have to do it again (which I might if I choose a 20160807_194127different floor), I would probably try to make the tolerances a little tighter. While all or very close to all of the edges will be covered by either kick plates, cabinetry, or bedding, I think I could have made it fit slightly better. The other part of this that really sucks is that the floor material is absolutely poor quality. To make matters worse, I ordered this from Home Depot. It was cheap. Really cheap and I go exactly what I paid for. The shipping boxes were very substandard. It was hard to tell if any were really damaged on quick inspection at the store but over half were damaged pretty much beyond usage. Fortunately, I bought more than I needed for just such a scenario but I was still disappointed at how much time I had to spend figuring out what piece could be used at which edge based on it damage.

 

Regardless of whether I use a different floor in the long run, it will still be 8mm thick and this allows me to start on the van wall ribs and ceiling.

Thanks for all the questions and motivation. It is appreciated.

Keep the course,

Johnny

08/10/16