On Monday, Brian and I finished making a platform for the tent that will go on the schoolbus roof. This involved a lot of wire wheeling, welding, grinding, finishing, measuring, more welding, and painting. I got to his house at noon, and we finished up at about 6:30 with no breaks.
But that meant all we had to do Tuesday morning was throw it on his truck and head to Rock Hall; we pulled his truck up next to the bus and carefully hoisted it on to the roof.
It fits perfectly. We drilled holes for the legs directly into the support hoops built into the bus, which will keep things from taking flight unexpectedly. The hatch lines up perfectly with the cutout we built. The legs are +/- 2 degrees but mostly sit flush with the slope of the roof; a set of rubber gaskets help with the fit.
Finn’s birthday was Tuesday of last week so I spent the first two days at home with the family. On Monday I scratch-baked a chocolate cake, and then attempted to make “ermine” frosting, which tasted delicious but didn’t look as satiny as all the pictures showed. Finn seemed to be pretty happy with it, though. After dinner, cake and presents, I headed over to Brian’s house to hit the ground running on Wednesday morning.
Wednesday’s job was to haul the three storage bins out to the shed, pull the bus out, measure the void spaces, and cut access into the sides for each. Then we measured out the mounting points under the bus, transferred those to the bins, and drilled each one out. Using Brian’s floor jack, we got the bins up into place, and with a little coaxing got each one mounted up. The front passenger side bins need some adjustment but overall we’re really happy with how they’ve all worked out.
Thursday was Generator day. This was a lot more difficult because the mounts are on the side, angled outwards, and dropped below the top of the box by about 4.5″. With some trial and error we got the channel cut down and in place, bolted in two places through the floor itself, and set up the brackets.
Then we jacked the generator into place, roughed in all of the bolts, and made sure it all looked good before tightening everything down. When that was complete we put the panel back on with stainless piano hinge for easy access. It took a lot of creative thinking and even more difficult work in tight spaces (we bought a 1/2″ box wrench for the express purpose of cutting it in half to tighten one difficult bolt) but the result is pretty spectacular. Then we threw most of our tools, the welder and tank, and all of the metal we’d cut down last week into Brian’s truck and called it a day.
Friday I laid out and cleaned all of the metal for the roof rack in Brian’s driveway while he moved some stuff around in his electrical panel to give us a 220 plug. We did some test welds on scrap metal we’d brought back with us, and then we got to work tack welding the rack into place. He’s a much better welder than I am, so when it came time to square it up and burn everything in permanently I asked him to tackle that. Then we took a break and ran down to Rock Hall to re-measure the roof for feet placement. We’re putting them where the main ribs of the roof land so that it’s bolted to something sturdy.
We re-measured the angle I took last week and then hefted the aftermarket rack we’d bought on Craigslist to the front of the bus to measure feet for that as well.
Then we went inside to triple-check the seating measurements we’ve been working with (he ordered them on Tuesday) and made sure we’ve got the clearance we need, which all looks great.
Back in Chestertown I started cutting the feet with the angle we’d calculated but I was having a hard time getting a clean cut with a circular saw and a dull diamond blade. By then it was about 4:30 and I was powering down, so we got his driveway cleaned up and I headed for home.
The plan for this coming week is to get the feet and the rest of the rack welded tight, and then I can wire wheel it all, clean everything with acetone, and hit it with etch primer. There’s a bunch of stuff to be done on the bus itself—more work on the floor, adjusting the bins, and finishing screens. With the rack finished we should be able to mount that up this week and maybe even put the plywood down.
Sometimes being the Scout Guy in your neighborhood can bring unexpected benefits. About 10 years ago I bought a local Scout with some friends, towed it out of his driveway, and split up a bunch of parts he had stashed in his garage. (Part of me still kicks myself for not having bought the whole truck, but whatever). Yesterday afternoon he stopped by the house and dropped off a few more things he’d found stashed away; apparently he’s doing a deep clean and found a set of new steel endcaps, a cab mount, an armrest, and a jar of fasteners somewhere in his garage.
I asked several times if I could give him anything for the parts and he declined, so I offered him a ride the next time he was around.
In the meantime, the upcoming weather looks pretty clear, so I think I’m going to drive the Scout back over to the Eastern Shore for the week.
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.