014 Spoken Compass – On the Road! 7-23-17

So after a year of planning, stressing and building, I quit my job, sold my house, finished the van and finally got on the road.

It has been an incredible adventure just getting to this point. I have really expanded my knowledge around woodworking, solar, AC and DC electronics.

The van is amazing. I am really pleased with how well it turned out. I couldn’t have done any of this without the guidance, knowledge and wisdom of my father, John Sr. I feel so incredibly blessed that this project has allowed me to spend more time with him. We clash and disagree sometimes but even those times are pretty fun. I have said it many times, I sincerely love my Old Man.

Love this guy. Thanks for all the hard work.

Now, it took a while to get the van finished. As usual, Longer than I thought. I figured it would take 2 weeks to get everything finished up and be ready to roll. It took 4 weeks and there are still a few things that I want to finish up and/or adjust when I get back to the workshop in Houston. The sink needs to be sorted out. The containers that I purchased have never fit under the drain attachment like I had intended. I would like a functional sink. I am doing OK without it now but I think it would be great to have clean cheap water readily available. The floors have been a bit of a disappointment as well. We put the floors in while it was over a 100 degrees. After moving the van north to Colorado, the cooler temps caused the floor to shrink a bit. I can see a few gaps between the planks. The furniture is keeping the planks from expanding and contracting uniformly. Not sure what to do about it yet and it isn’t a problem. Just one of those things that shows up after you leave.

I headed out on July 9th. It is now about 2 weeks later and I have already done so much.

Camping in a Walmart parking lot was interesting. Lots of travelers do this. Unfortunately, many abuse this and make a complete ass out of themselves. This is why it is harder to find Walmarts that will allow this. Point in hand, Manitou Springs does not allow camping.

Solar Panels getting a full dose!

I also went to Palo Duro Canyon which is located South of Amarillo. Amazingly beautiful and rich with Indian history. Also very hot and heavily populated with some vicious biting flies. Flies suck in general. Flies that are painful are a new level of frustration. 

I made it to Manitou Spring and found a nice place to park that isn’t too far from one of my closest friend’s place. For 2 weeks I have opened the door van in the morning to amazing mountains and a beautiful city that is very friendly. It doesn’t hurt that there is a tremendous amount of breweries all around town.


Doesn’t look too suspicious. Smaller than a motorhome but with most of the luxuries!

I parked on an small street that gets a bit of traffic. The nights are quiet and haven’t had any trouble from the locals. Out of respect for them, I keep quiet and make sure not to make any kind of a mess. The van doesn’t look too out of place and that is exactly what I was hoping to do. Blend in and park cheap.  I have met some great people, spent time with some people that really care about me and are very supportive and I have already seen so many amazing things that I never would have from behind a desk.

The elevation has taken a bit to get used to. After a few days, I felt much better and I can even drink a beer or three without a crushing hangover now.

Here is a pic from near Hartsel, Colorado. Hail storm was moving in.

Check out this episode for more of the Spoken Compass travels. More to come.

And check this guy out. Johnathon went through some tough tribulations and decided he need to focus on himself. He needed a goal. So why not just walk across America? This guy is an very kind soul and I was really blessed to have met him while we both did laundry.

Keep it up, friend.

I sincerely appreciate you checking out the page and it would mean a lot to me if you would send questions and comments to me through the contact page.

I don’t have as much access to the internet as I used to but I will try to keep the podcasts coming and more small articles as much as possible.

Quit waiting for a sign and go find your dream.

Johnny Roberts

013 Spoken Compass – Galley Design and Perseverance 12-6-16

Just a quick update on the latest progress as of 12/6/16.

With the bed coming to conclusion, the galley has come up in priority. I am calling it the galley because this is where the cooking will take place as well as the location of the sink and the fridge.


But it will be more than just that. Oh yes, my fine travelers. Lots of electronics like the invertor, AC and DC distribution panels and all of the power monitoring displays will be located here. Some storage along with water and a grey tank will be located here.


I am in the process of determining how the propane tank will be located as well. Do I place it inside the cabinet near the rear doors and wrestle with it every time I need to change it? Or do I shorten the galley a bit and have the propane tank located outside of the cabinet near the rear doors?


Appearance and construction of the galley is also being determined. What kind of hinges? Surface mount versus flush mount doors? Drawers or baskets placed in recesses? Latches or magnets to keep the doors secured during travel? Height and depth of the structure is still being determined as well. I expect the top to be over 38 inches. Maybe even taller.


I have already spent a rainy weekend working in the garage on the basic structure. I am still concerned that the front of the galley is too close to the bed when the bed is extended.

I am planning on spending some time deciding another day of checking clearances and heading to find door hardware. Some decisions need to be made in order to get the dimensions locked down.


Lots to figure out with this. And I still need to get the solar panel wiring run in through the roof. Just picking the best location for the Cable Entry Plate to be mounted is a tedious process. It needs to be placed on the flattest area available yet still be in a location where the wires can be easily run and services if necessary. I was also thinking that I would place it slightly off center to partially hide it under the panels. This would give it an extra layer of protection from rain and evil UV rays.



Perseverance is going to be the key here. I am a bit frustrated that my effort on the galley may need to be scratched and redone. However, I also realize how important this is. If I can get a working footprint or skeletal frame for the galley, I can move a lot of other things forward. The electrical can be started, the rack for the fridge and water containers can be built and the power control modules can be put in a temporary frame and I can begin to wire them together.

Just got to keep the course.



012 Spoken Compass – Progress Update with Mike 11-19-16

Mike and I sat down and had a couple of caffeinated IPAs and talked about his big news and the latest happening on the escape van.

Significant progress has been made in a couple of areas. Some ribs have been installed on the wall along with some sections where the overhead shelves will probably be attached.  This was done using a whole lot of Rivnuts. Basically it is a rivet with threads. Drill a hole in the van wall, place the rivet in the hole and secure it in place  with a special Rivnut tool. Put a hole in the board and secure it with a bolt.

This is where the walls are at this point. Overhead has some ribbing attached as well.

This is where the walls are at this point. Overhead has some ribbing attached as well.

The Roof Vent was installed. More photos on the process are located in the gallery.

Nerve-racking to cut a hole in the vehicle but it had to be done. Measure 45 times. Cut once. Then cuss. Then trim. Then use a file to make it fit.

Also located in the gallery are the pics of the bed build. I would normally post a pic of the bed next. But instead, you get a pic of my Pops. This guy is amazing and words just don’t convey how lucky I am to have this guy on the other end of every board that it took to build this. There were no plans. Just a couple of pictures that I found on the internet. His enthusiasm was key. There were a couple of times, I wanted to throw in the towel and figure something else out to sleep on. Seriously, this was a complex project and I couldn’t have done it without him. Cliché but very true.  He is just so damn smart. Pops, if you ever read this, I sure do love you.

Now a pic of the bed. 31 inches closed. 48 open. 80 inches long. A bit more to be done in order to consider it complete. Ends needs to be cut and attached. T-molding will need to be installed and the whole thing will need a coat of stain. It will be secured to the floor with corner brackets. Lots of storage here and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. Best guess is 48 man hours and 200 in lumber. Also notice the wheel well covers have been created. Insulation will be placed inside those boxes and sealed up.

Next, I will start on the layout of the galley. I need to get this done in order to figure out some locations for the batteries, inverter, fridge, sink, water storage, power distribution panels and propane. You know. Minor crap.

Finally, thanks to Michael Walker. The podcasts are infinitely easier with him involved.

More coming soon.

Keep the course,


011 Spoken Compass – Post Lizardskin Results 7-26-16

Finally! The Post Lizardskin Results episode. I finished the install of this spray-in insulation about three weeks prior to the recording of this podcast. I wanted to see how the Lizardskin was going to hold up and perform for both the sound insulation as well as cutting down on some of the heat in the van.

In this episode, I go into some detail on some of the lessons I learned before, during and after the application. Take heed my fellow Lizardskinners. Learn from my mistakes!

1.       Don’t do it by yourself. You are going to need some help. You can manage it but an extra person that can refill you sprayer, quickly mask off an area you missed, or just remind you to drink water in the heat is a great asset.

2.       Lizardskin is thick. Both the SI and CI. You are going to make a mess. Have plenty of tarps laid down and some old towels to wipe your hands and sprayer with.

3.       The wet-mil gauge is just that. For product that is wet. The SI goes on thick and the CI even more so. You will want to check early and often when you get started. Once you see how the product looks going on at the recommended 20 mils, you can check less often.

4.       Manage you product. I needed 8 gallons per coat for the van that I was spraying. So think about how you are going to manage that quantity. I basically thought, OK I am going to need 8 gallons for this square feet. If each bucket is 2 gallons, I will need roughly 1 for the ceiling, one for each side including one back door and I better roughly have one left to finish the floor on the way out the back.

5.       Pick a pattern for each coat and repeat it for all the sprays. I did the complete ceiling first. Then the Driver side wall (easiest), Passenger side wall (most complex due to sliding door and then I started on the floor at the cab and sprayed walking backwards till I had it covered.

6.       Watch your step. If you don’t, you can fall right out of the van. Seriously. Also you are going to have the compressor hose that will insist on being exactly where you do not want it.

7.       Take breaks. The stuff dries quickly but not so fast that you can’t take a breather every couple of fills. It is also good to let your compressor take a short break every now and then. Mine 33 Gallon one from Husky was rated to run 30 minutes of every hour. I pushed this a bit but tried to keep it in mind.

8.       Wear a mask. The SI is heavy and drops out of the air quickly. However, the CI is MUCH lighter and hangs in the air much longer. Do yourself a big favor and keep this stuff out of your lungs.

9.       If you think you are done masking, you probably are a professional painter or you are completely wrong. Masking sucks. Seriously. However, you will be glad you did. Buy good quality masking tape in varying widths. Aluminum foil is your friend. It will cover wires and odd shapes when masking tape may not.

10.   Think about your masking. Determine how you are going to spray a section before you fire up the sprayer. My example was the sliding door on the side of the van. There was a section at the bottom that I had thought would be sprayed. However, there was no way to get a sprayer to the area. I ended up taping a bit higher and saving myself a lot of heartache.

11.   Walk your vehicle every couple of sprayer fills and look for overspray. The Lizardskin is pretty forgiving when it is wet. However, it is pretty stubborn when it has dried.

12.   Have a spatula or ladle or both to help get the product out of almost empty buckets. This stuff is expensive and you have already purchased it. Use it.

13.   Be ready to protect it. By some Top Coat for areas that will remain exposed. And if you are going to be doing the floor like I did in the van, have your subfloor ready to lay down over it. This stuff is not paint. It maintains a slightly rubbery texture. Don’t walk directly on it and not expect it to take a beating.

14.   Wear something you really hate. I mean like a jersey of a team you hate. A crappy Christmas sweater.  Whatever you are wearing will be trash. Those guys in the video make it look like a super clean application and for the most part it is but you are going to get it on you. It just happen. Bragging rights. Stay out of the wind and yes, it does pour into the sprayer easier than you would think.

15.   Prepare to be amazed. I had high expectations. But I watched the videos and I read the directions. (Crazy, right?) But doing this will save you from a bad experience. Every person I spoke to at LizardSkin was awesome and friendly. Don’t decide to do this on a Friday night after a few beers and start spraying Saturday morning. Do your homework and reap the benefits.

I am sure there are others but these are the heavy hitters.



I also discussed how I used the ZOOM H4N Audio recorder to get a baseline before the install and comparison results after the install and before anything else was done like installing the subfloors. Here is a trick. The ZOOM H4N fits really well in a phone caddy. This is how it looked from the driver’s seat.



There are several pics of the masking process and the installation in the Photo Gallery

Click HERE to see them.





LS Comp A L50Here is a graphical representation taken directly from a program called Audacity. The blue shows the amplitude of the sound in the van before the Lizardskin was installed.

The orange is laid directly over the top. It certainly shows the amplitude being lower. Using a comparison program in Audacity shows:

Background (Blue)
Time started = 0 hour(s), 0 minute(s), 0.00 seconds.
Time ended = 0 hour(s), 1 minute(s), 37.52 seconds.
Average RMS = -21.2 dB.

Foreground (Orange)
Time started = 0 hour(s), 0 minute(s), -1.00 seconds.
Time ended = 0 hour(s), 1 minute(s), 37.52 seconds.
Average RMS = -18.3 dB.

Difference = 2.9 Average RMS dB.


Check out the audio comparison in the podcast and let me know what you think. As usual, I appreciate the listens and the encouragement that quite a few people are posting and sending.

Stay in touch and keep the course.


010 Spoken Compass – Progress Update 7-20-16

All over the place on this one but there was a lot to cover.

I am going to do a longer episode on the trials and tribulations involved with the Lizardskin install. I have a lot of data and notes that I want to share with those that might be considering making the effort to get all those lizards into a project of their own.

Just me on this one. Enjoyed a Pedernales Brewery Texas Hop Bomb 2016 while I made it. It is an American Style IPA at about 7.5% ABV. Sweet but very enjoyable.

It is a Single Malt and Single Hop IPA which is why it is called a SMaSH IPA. Learn something ever damn day.

I go into some kind of diatribe about finding skilled specialist and then one on limiting the number of vendors in your build. Opinions only and worth what you paid for it. Your mileage may vary.

I also cover some of the plans that I am pulling together for the short term. Flooring, wall ribs, wall planks, electronics, batteries, AC install and lastly but not leastly, window tint. Like I said, all over the place.

I got mine done over at American Window Tint in Katy, Texas. The Beav did the work and I am pleased with the results. He used Suntek Window Film. The ceramic kind.

American Window Tint

Thanks for the listen. Lots more coming up soon including the big review of the Lizardskin as well as some floor layouts.

Keep the course.


009 Spoken Compass – Pre Lizardskin Install with Mike 6-28-16

A quick podcast as Mike and I enjoy a few beers and discuss the imminent install of the Lizardskin Insulation.

Common sense will tell you that preparation is the key. Making sure that everything is masked off and all the metal is prepped correctly is going to be key to a successful install.

Exhaustion will tell you that what you have done is close enough. Don’t listen to this guy. He is an ass and will lead you to a sorry fate.

I spent a lot of time on the masking. In fact, all told it was over 8 hours of just masking and a ridiculous amount of Blue Tape.

Masking 1 Masking 2 20160630_220245







I taped long into the night after this podcast was recorded and still didn’t get it all finished. I decided to take a rest and get some sleep. I got up early the next morning and was back at it long before the sun came up.

The good news is that I got it done and as of this writing the first 2 coats of sound insulation are complete. The down side is I still have two more coats of the heat insulation and a substantial amount of the Lizardskin Top Coat to apply in areas that will not be covered by flooring or siding.

008 Spoken Compass – At Baa Baa Brewhouse 6-11-16

Mike and I headed out to beautiful Brookshire, Texas which is about 30 miles West of Houston. It happens to be the location of one of my new favorite breweries, Baa Baa Brewhouse at 539 FM 359.


A growler full of Father Goose IPA. Mine!

We got there around 4 and spent the rest of the day with some good beers and good company. We also set up the mics and talked about some ideas around the flooring of the van and the difference between radiant and conductive heat and some of the issue when trying to insulate.
I have spent a lot of time investigating different ways that travelers have insulated their rides and so far a sizable chunk of my expenditure has been on insulation such as the Lizard Skin and a big roll of Thinsulate. I personally think that the investment here will have the biggest payoffs in the long run in both hot and cool (I plan on staying away from cold) environments.

There were 5 different beers on tap and Mike and I got to sit down and talk with the co-owner and brewer, Marcus W. It was a great discussion and definitely made me appreciate having the opportunity to have an additional mic. Lots of different topics were covered from Punk bands to grilled lettuce. Marcus talked about a few of his beers and brought us up to speed on the brewery and some of his goals.

20160611_192400            20160611_163359           20160611_163326

.              Marcus W.                                             Johnny R.                                              Michael W.

We will certainly be doing more podcasts from this brewhouse. Many thanks to Michael and Marcus and the other patrons of Baa Baa Brewhouse for a great afternoon.

Check out the podcast and let me know your thoughts. I can be reached through the contact page.

Many thanks for listening and keep the course.


007 Spoken Compass – Sour Beers in Sour Weather 5-3-16

I got together with Mike Walker at the house last Friday afternoon and had some great tacos and some fairly decent beer.

We braved sour weather and sour beers as we talked about some minor progress. Kinda like, talking about the calm before the storm during a storm.

While it rained, we discussed some benefits of finding new interests and goals and some of the great people you meet along the way. And it seriously rained. Luckily, I was trying out a new field rig setup that is completely battery powered so we managed to get this one recorded in spite of Mother Nature’s strong efforts.

We have thunder, strange noises and squeaky kitchen chairs. Welcome to the strange road.

Thanks for listening and keep the course,


006 Spoken Compass – Shame on me 5-30-16

Shame on me for not getting a podcast up sooner. Lots of updates to talk about in this one. The van is in! But that was the easy part. Now, the planning and purchasing are really getting underway.

In this episode I talk about roof real estate,check engine lights, and some really great people.

Updates on the UPR Catch Can , solar configurations, and my inability to choose the correct radio.

It takes a lot of lizards to make this much Lizardskin. I appreciate their sacrifice.

Roof real estate is at a premium. Trying to avoid any unnecessary holes in the roof is also a bonus. Graph paper and some layout drawings are the best bet for figuring out how much room I am going to have on the Thule bars.

005 Spoken Compass – Beer with Chris K at Bakfish 5-30-16

I get to sit down with one of my oldest friends at Bakfish Brewery and have a good conversation over a few pints of great beer. Chris fills us in on Pearland, Killen’s BBQ, his current studies in Maritime Administration and brings us up to speed on the World of Tiki and Tuna fishing.

What started out as a relatively quiet setting as we were getting ready to record quickly grew louder. Some background noise but not too bad. Lesson learned.

Bakfish Circle Hook IPA Bakfish Goat Roper Porter Bakfish HOO

Bakfish was a great brewery with some excellent beers and nice atmosphere. The AC didn’t hurt either on this Sunday afternoon. You can find more about them on Facebook and here – http://www.bakfishbrewing.com/

And don’t forget Robbie’s in Islamorada for all your fishing needs.

Thanks for listening in and thanks to Chris K. for sitting in front of the mics with me for a bit.


Keep the Course.