Happy Birthday, my intelligent, sensitive, goofy, beautiful girl. I love you so much it hurts.
I posted a quicker version of this to the ‘Grams last week but I figured I’d add it here as well. Last week ended strong but this coming week is going to be better; we’ve got a lot of stuff to tackle. I drove 6 hours on Saturday to and from Richmond to pick up a school locker and Brian made a side trip this afternoon to pick up a steel roof rack. Hopefully we can get the large roof rack (for the tent) welded up, and get all of the storage boxes hung.
Who found this smokin’ mid-70’s Kenworth nylon jacket at the thrift store today? This guy, that’s who. The sleeves are kind of big—apparently things were tailored for Popeye back In The Day—but otherwise it’s a good fit. It’s a replacement for, but not better than Dad’s red Ciba-Geigy jacket that got swiped by a guy who gave me and my ex a ride home from a party at Rob’s house back in the mid-90’s. I loved that jacket. Asshole.
I also found a barely-used Kelty 50l backpack at a yard sale on Saturday which I got for the low price of $20; this will be a much better bag for camping and carrying 3-4 days’ worth of stuff, and also has a laptop sleeve.
I’ve been putting a lot of miles on the Scout this summer, and she’s been running exceptionally well for me. My records show that I’ve put 1133 miles on since I went to Nationals, but as I’ve mentioned before my speedo calibration is wrong. If I do the math for my latest trip back from Chestertown, Google tells me my route from my last fillup was 87.5 miles. My odometer reads 77 miles. If I redo the ratio I worked out a couple of years ago I now come up with 100 miles true to 88 miles indicated (vs. 100 true to 78 indicated). When I apply that to the mileage recorded in my notebook, that works out to 2528 miles since the beginning of the year.
Doing some sleuthing, it looks like there’s a fuse blown or some other electrical gremlin between the switch on the dash and the wiper motor; the motor itself works fine when I put 12 volts to the contacts. From what I’ve read, the wiper switch itself has a breaker, and the switch doesn’t go through the fuse panel. I’ve put in a replacement switch from a different Scout to see if that fixed anything but I’ve still had no luck, so I’ll have to keep looking.
I’m sitting on the couch at home Friday afternoon, enjoying some downtime to catch up with Jen. I put in a solid four days’ work this week, pausing only because we’re out of things I can do myself and Brian is jammed up with other paying work that needs to be done. But we made some solid progress this week.
I rode out to Chestertown on Monday and met up with Brian to pick up the keys to the shed at noon. By 1PM I’d pulled the bus out and dusted off my trusty Hitachi hand planer—the one I used to plane the floor in the kitchen all those years ago—and got the whole floor leveled off. Then I cut and built a couple of screens for the windows; Schoolbuses don’t come with screens and they’ll need them where they’re traveling.
On Tuesday Brian and I made a plan to get the materials we’d need for the floor and for the roof rack, which required a trip to Wilmington, Delaware to pick up raw steel. After a tasty lunch at a taqueria, we grabbed the steel and were back by the early afternoon. We unloaded the steel, plywood, and other stuff, got the tools out and cut the rack together.
We’ve been chasing vendors for various elements for a while now, and finally got word back from the rooftop tent guy who will be starting production soon. The seats have been the other big question mark, and the original vendor there does not offer specifications or any detail on the website other than an eye-watering price. We did some more digging after dinner and I found a competitor who offers multiple sizes at a much lower price point—with measurements and specifications. Imagine that!
Wednesday we took that knowledge back to the bus and mapped out different seat sizes in blue tape on the floor. Brian hooked up the generator to the welder and attempted to tack the rack together but he wasn’t getting enough juice, so we punted on that. Matthew and Robbi came by to look things over and we agreed on a size and layout which gives us a direction; with this and the size of the rear bedding we know how much space we’ve got for the rest of the area. We continued cleaning up the interior to prep for the floor install until quitting time.
On Thursday I was on my own, but that was fine; I loaded up some podcasts and got to work installing plywood over the original floor. By about 12:30 I was done, and broke for some lunch out by the water to cool off. Then I climbed up onto the roof to measure out and find the angle we’ll need for the feet on the roof rack. When I knew that I hopped back down and built two screens until I ran out of supplies. It was 3:30 and I was hot and sweaty. Things were supposed to cool off after the rain but with the humidity it was still in the low 90’s. I closed things up and headed back to Brian’s, where we examined three steel storage boxes that arrived via UPS, and looked like they’d been dropped off the back of the truck. After cooling off, we agreed there wasn’t much else to accomplish until we had more supplies and Brian had time, so I loaded up and headed back home to see the girls.
Next week we’re going to install the storage boxes and find a way to hang the generator; that’s probably going to eat up a lot of time until we get the method down. Then maybe we’ll get the flooring in place.
On Tuesday, I drove over the bridge to Brian’s house, where I dropped some gear off, and then we went out to the field where the bus had been stored for a few months. It fired right up, and I followed Brian back to his driveway where he had a pressure washer ready to begin cleaning. He had to take off for another job so I set up a camera and got to work spraying several years’ worth of grime off of the bus. That didn’t take very long, so I climbed inside and started tearing sections of the interior out.
First came the bedframe in back, and then I worked my way forward to the seats. These were repurposed from a couple of minivans and mounted on modified bus platforms, so I had to do a lot of climbing up and down inside and out of the bus to get vice-grips on the fasteners underneath. At a certain point after I was hot, tired, and sick of the process I said fuck it, busted out the angle grinder, and cut the heads off the bolts. In retrospect that should have been how I started the process. All of the seats came out except for the two rows up front. The single seat by the door was also holding a platform connected to the battery inverter, charging unit, and fuse block. Since that was all still live and hooked to four deep-cycle car batteries in parallel I left it alone.
Brian made it back home at about 4 and I nervously pointed at a huge pile of debris in his driveway, but he was happy with the progress I’d made. We then drove the bus over to a rented shed in Rock Hall, backed it in, and called it a day. They’re putting me up in a beautiful travel camper they bought new last year; I have running water, electricity and air conditioning out in their driveway. I slept in a bunk above the hitch tongue with three screen windows providing a cool breeze all night.
Wednesday I drove out to Rock Hall, pulled the bus out of the shed, and got to work pulling the last of the seats out and stripping the floor. There was a layer of wood laminate down over the original rubber schoolbus floor, and all of that had to come out, so I was happy I’d packed a hammer, chisels, and plenty of podcasts. Some of the floor came up quickly and some of it fought me inch by inch. I took a break mid-day and found a lovely market in Rock Hall for a sandwich and an iced tea. The rental shed is about 1/2 mile from the marina, so I pulled into the parking lot, put the tailgate down, and ate my sandwich with the breeze blowing off the water, watching boats come and go. By 4PM I had about 2/3 of the floor up and piled in a corner, and my back was tighter than a guitar string. I headed back to Brian’s and his son handed me a fresh chocolate smoothie as soon as I got out of the truck. I could get used to that.
After dinner I had to cover the Scout with a tarp, as a big thunderstorm blew through the Mid-Atlantic that evening. Thursday morning I drove back out through a light rain and got at it early; by about noon I had the remainder of the rubber up off the floor and in two (heavy) contractor’s bags. Brian came out and we got some lunch, and then he deconstructed the charging/fuse system while I took measurements and cleaned up the workspace.
We then spent a couple of hours formulating a plan. We have a good spot for the diesel generator up between the driver’s side axles, and Brian ordered three locking steel storage units for the other free areas under the bus. This will give them 27 cubic feet of dry storage outside of the main living area—which is key, as there isn’t a lot of space inside. He has a guy in Colorado who’s supposed to be building a rooftop tent but dude been hard to reach, and we don’t have exact measurements for that yet either. We do have a plan for the platform it’ll sit on, and a way to get the kids up into the tent; one of our next big jobs is to source the steel and weld the platform together so that it accounts for the slope on the sides of the roof and sits as low as possible.
We’ve got a plan for the rear bed but the vendor for the new seats is being flaky and there’s no data sheet available for them to review. Without that information we can’t do much with the living space inside—it all hinges on how much space those seats need and how big they are when they fold down into beds.
We have the generator, and the steel storage units will be here on Thursday. I think we’re going to get the generator mounted first, and that’ll help us work out the plan for the storage units. I’m going to get busy planing the rest of the rubber off the floor to make it flat as possible, then cut and fit plywood to go over the floor that’s there so we’ve got a clean surface to lay checkerboard tiles on.
Here are a couple of quick videos of this week’s work. I’ll have more to write about later; I’m currently chasing down some information on seats and 3D modeling software.
On Wednesday of last week, I started cleaning up the full-size closet in the new bathroom in preparation for installing our closet system. As mentioned earlier, this involved fixing the crappy old outlet box hanging from the wall and painting the walls with two coats of eggshell white.
I started building the middle cabinet on Friday and got the whole thing assembled, in place, and leveled by dinnertime. I had to find a stud on the back wall to mount into, and then shimmed up the base. Then I started trimming and cutting wood for the baseboards when I knew the middle cabinet was in place.
On Saturday I hit the whole thing with a vengeance, finishing off the baseboard trim, cutting side supports for the clothes racks (I don’t know in what world they think 300 lbs. of clothes will hang on a couple of drywall anchors, but I ain’t buying it) and cutting the rods to fit. Everything got nailed into place, caulked, and painted. I cut two of the supplied shelves down to size, glued the moulding in place, and let everything dry overnight.
Sunday morning Jen and I had the pleasure of moving the contents of two overstuffed 1920’s closets into one adult-sized lighted walk-in.
When that was done and Jen was organizing her space, I moved our giant IKEA dresser out from in front of the back bathroom entrance and opened that door for the first time in (5? 6?) years. We’re reorganizing our bedroom space, and now that the closets are opened up that allows us to move other things around and make some changes. It’s going to be hard to reprogram my brain to look for certain clothes in certain places (when we moved the silverware drawer in the kitchen, it was a full two years before I mentally made the change) but I’m excited about our new space and the upgrade to our quality of life.
As I mentioned earlier this month, I’ve been listening a lot to the new Deafheaven album, Infinite Granite, and I really dig it. Very atmospheric, excellent melody, lots of energy.
Baltimore’s own Turnstile released a new album, Glow On, which sounds really good on first listen. I really loved their last album, a mixture of powerful vocals, shredding guitar, and pure hardcore energy. This one is more polished but the fact that they’re just going for it with every idea they have is amazing.
And, as mentioned before, Chvrches just released a new album that I haven’t listened to yet. I’m embedding it here to remind myself to spin it as soon as I’m in front of the laptop again.
On the streaming front, I watched the last season of Bosch on Amazon Prime and enjoyed every minute of it. I’d read this was the last season and wondered if they had any plans beyond this, and my hunch was correct: three of the main characters are going to continue in a new series over on IMDb TV (apparently that is A Thing) where Bosch, his daughter, and another character will fight crime in LA. I’ll miss all of the supporting characters I was familiar with from the book and series—Crate and Barrel, J. Edgar, Lt. Billets, Sgt. Mankewicz, etc. but they’ve had seven great seasons.
In my podcast queue I found a couple of new shows I really like. Strong Songs features a careful deconstruction of a song, spanning multiple genres, as well as careful explanations of basic music theory. I came for his episode on Know One Knows and was hooked. I have two friends currently teaching music history and theory and immediately shot the link off to them. There are three seasons dating back to 2018 so I’m set for awhile.
SmartLess is a podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett, and they are always able to get incredible guests to come on and talk about anything and everything. They got Kamala Harris the week she was asked to be the VP; they’ve had Paul McCartney and Megan Rapinoe and Tony Hawk and many more.
I Spy is a podcast produced by Foreign Policy and features stories told by spies about their experiences in danger zones around the world: a CIA agent before the fall of Saigon, the guy who interrogated Saddam Hussein, and a Soviet sleeper agent sent to the U.S. before the end of the Cold War. Riveting and fascinating. This was my binge on the way home from Ohio a few weeks ago.
Cautionary Tales is about mistakes that we make and how we might learn from them. The last episode I listened to was about how we depend on tools like Microsoft Excel, how we often use them incorrectly, and how that can lead to disaster. It’s a better version of Malcom Gladwell’s podcast.