Summer Vacation

Lots going on lately. I’m on vacation and half of my family has been here from Tampa and Seattle. It was too soon to take the RETROvan camping with us at Trillium Lake, but my scramble to make things presentable was rewarded by the arrival of twelve dinette/berth cushions from a shop in Minnesota.

The custom movie clapboard headrests turned out amazing, and the rest of the cushions look great. But I can’t Velcro them into place until I finish painting the base cabinets and attach the aluminum wall panels.

There is, however, a problem: I had specified exact dimensions for each piece, not accounting for the ‘crowning’ effect of the premium filling. So each cushion came out a half inch too big, and no one at warned me about this. Even a half inch per cushion adds up to two inches across the entire span. So now I have to fit 75 inches of material into a 73-inch span when reconfiguring from dinette to berth.

It’s not terrible, but it does make it very difficult to squeeze the backrests onto the middle table top to form the queen bed. You really have to wrestle them in place and that’s disappointing. Once again, you make extra efforts to plan things out and then you inevitably get back something that’s out of spec. It has happened several times during this project, when outsourcing was required. Maybe in this case the cushions will get squishier over time? They’re pretty firm now, which is good for sitting and sleeping.

But overall, I’m satisfied with the results. Especially considering how the engine rebuild went. And when the windows arrive I’ll have much bigger fish to fry.

My son was here for a couple days, and he’s a Manufacturing Engineering major. We bolted the main pedestal in place and my daughter helped me jig-saw the 24×48″ table corners round, using the same 3″ radius as the window corners. Those are the subtle design consistencies you don’t really want anyone to notice. It’ll just all feel right, because our brains are wired to subconsciously detect patterns.

And of course this task involved yet another trip to Home Depot because my 3/8″ bolts were a half inch too short underdecks, where 56 years of rust flaked off into my eyes. But we got it done, and then tried things out for Happy Hour and had a great time seating six in the booth, comfortably.

I was relieved to not have to cut an asymmetrical notch in the table top. We all just agreed it would be ‘skinnies’ on the right, ‘fatties’ on the left. But ergonomically speaking, almost anyone can get their legs between the galley cabinet and the table top while in the act of sitting or getting up. As long as they don’t put too much weight on the edge of the table top, of course. The retro laminate will go on later.

Meanwhile, I received my first batch of custom AC/DC panel labels and put a few on the helm. The verbiage was very carefully thought out, of course. I’ll post pictures later when that’s all settled. I also found some cool iPad apps to simulate activity on the helm. Apps like sound meters, music visualizers and LCARS displays from Star Trek: The Next Generation fame.

My son also mounted Photon Torpedo Tube #1 above the driver’s seat. This custom speaker can looks amazing from inside and outside the RETROvan, and I couldn’t wait to hear it in action. So today, I ran a 12V circuit up above the cockpit and wired up my Pioneer AppRadio 4. Then I pre-wired a second Sony 2-Way Marine Speaker, which is not mounted in a can yet. It’s just resting on the overhead shelf. I had been using a Bluetooth speaker, set on that shelf. But these two speakers really up the ante, and I don’t have to recharge them of course. You can actually enjoy music over the whir of the ventilation fans now. And I’m digging that, sprawled out on the berth as I type this post.

Normally the receiver would be wired to the parking brake, the reverse shifter, and the accessory switch on the ignition key. But for the RETROvan, I’ve hard-wired it directly to the helm’s DC panel so that it can always be turned on, fed by solar and/or shore power. That involves a special jumper that bypasses the annoying feature that kills all the fun stuff while your vehicle is in motion. I can always turn it on or off via the DC circuit breaker. Later I’ll have to figure out how to enable the backup camera, maybe with a manual toggle switch to simulate putting the RETROvan in reverse.

So today, my DC ampere load went from 0.5 for just an iPad and an LED display, to a whopping 1.0 amps including the receiver and two speakers. I’ll wire up the other two rear speakers soon, but I have to fabricate three more cans using my custom plastic mounting adapter rings — and that will take a lot of time drilling holes with delicacy.

Oh, one major problem: When the RETROvan’s back doors are closed, I don’t get any WiFi from the house. That might change when the back windows go in, but I did go ahead and order another Apple AirPort Express to extend my network right at the garage. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll have to go with a non-Apple antenna made for RVs. Those work like an extender inside the RV with the antenna mounted on the outside.

I also got a cool, white, bat wing-shaped HDTV antenna made by King, to mount on the roof and pull in all the local TV channels for free.

I slept in the RETROvan until 5:38 AM, when it just got too cold. That motivates me to finish wiring up the AC circuits so I can plug in that cool space heater/fireplace.

I also ordered one of these weather station displays, which may mount on the center of the helm. I love colorful infographics!

Oh, and one last thing: I found a nice collection of Star Trek background audio loops for some retro high-tech ambiance, which makes the RETROvan feel even more like a movie set.


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