Blood & Sweat

With my self-imposed deadline of September 9th looming (NFL weekend #1), I made efforts to reach the end of the dry-fit phase of the project.

This week, the RETROvan has drawn blood and sweat — but no tears. The blood came from a gash on my forehead from hitting a sharp aluminum brace, and the sweat came from global climate change. We haven’t had rain in Portland since spring, and that’s highly unusual. Especially with high humidity, I’m only getting a couple hours of work in at a time.

Tuesday I managed to slip the third deck piece into position, under the helm and the refrigerator. This was less impossible than it sounds, considering how heavy the helm is. But the helm is still tippable and it slides. Once I got it the floor under it, I noticed the driver’s side is about 1/4″ too long, which means the cargo area is not square. But that can be compensated for with the frontmost floor pieces, which will have to be custom cut anyway to work around various obstructions and access panels in the diamond plate subfloor.

Assumptions, assumptions…

The 3/4″ marine plywood floor adds considerable stability when moving around in the RETROvan, and provides much needed support for fixtures like pedestals. I’m leaving 1/8″ gaps around all edges on purpose, for expansion and for the ability to remove a section of floor if needed. Those gaps can be filled with silicon caulking to form a better seal against moisture, insects, etc. And then the whole floor will be covered with my B&W rubber puzzle tiles.

I next proceeded to finish assembling the galley cabinet and bulkhead, running out of Kreg pocket screws in the process. My biggest pet peeve is zinc-plated screws that strip if you look at them. Screws should always be stainless steel, but Kreg’s screws are special and they only come in zinc. But at least for the first time folks can see the real shape of things. The double ovens fit great, and there’s still plenty of room on the upper shelf for foodstuffs. That cabinet will eventually get swinging doors with an RV latch.

On Wednesday I replaced the refrigerator’s temporary extension cord with a hard-wired dedicated 120V circuit and custom plug. The Nostalgia Electronics fridge is on its own circuit because you can’t risk spoilage — or warm beer. That circuit only draws 110W, so my 2000W ProMariner inverter can service that load 24/7 just fine on solar and battery, whenever the RETROvan isn’t plugged into shore power.

I found a better place for the weather station display, above the TV on the mounting arm. That provides an ideal viewing angle for its LCD display. But soon after installation, it was reporting an inside temperature of 112° when it was only 97° outside! Turns out it’s actually measuring the heat generated by the TV, which just won’t do. So I need to move it again.

That evening I spent an hour or so attaching spade terminals to the six LED lights that will make up the aft lighting bank in the ceiling. That makes it so each light can be detached and removed more easily, which is important because they’ll be part of an aluminum ceiling panel assembly.

I’ve figured out that each bank needs to be wired in parallel, so that each individual light gets a full 12V. Otherwise, if wired in series, the total circuit would require 72V (6 x 12V). So to do this, I finally found a pair of six-way bus bars made by a company in New Zealand. Unfortunately they’ll take a month to get here.

We finally see rain in the forecast for Sunday, so that means I need to screw and seal the HDTV antenna mount and the solar panel entry gland into position on the roof. Then I’ll need to camp out in the RETROvan during rain to check for any leaks.

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