Gearing up for My 1st Electrical Adventure!

I have desperately wanted to have a Fantastic Fan installed in my Casita.  The original owner ordered it from the factory without any roof vent at all!  But our local RV shop does such shoddy work that I wasn’t willing to trust them with cutting a hole in the roof of my Casita.  (His fixes were largely responsible for the early demise of my Aliner.)  Also, the Fantastic Fan is made for RVs with thicker roofs, and a lot of shops will tell you a Fantastic Fan can’t be installed in a Casita.

The Fantastic Fan

The Fantastic Fan

I figured the only way I could get it done by someone I trust was to make a trip to Texas and have Larry at Little House Customs do it for me.

But tonight I read this article on how to install one.  It answered my BIG question on where to tie the wires in.  It says I can use either the wires to the bathroom fan or to the lighting.  It also showed me how to score the insert to fit my narrower ceiling.

I think I can find the wires to the bathroom fan without doing any damage to the ceiling carpet.  And I think I should be able to fish the fan wire the short distance needed.  I may have to loosen a little bit of the carpet at the ceiling/bathroom wall juncture.  But I can restore that with contact cement.

Cover for the fan so I can use it when it's raining.

Cover for the fan so I can use it when it’s raining.

My big questions will be which wires to tie to which fan wires.  But I figure I can take a photo of the wires and ask the guys on the Casita forum.  They are GREAT at patiently answering even the dumbest-sounding questions.  (The reason I know is I have already asked several!)  😀

So I ordered the Fantastic Fan tonight from Adventurenet.  I’ve had several positive dealings with them in the past, and they have great prices and low shipping costs.

I also ordered a rain cover for the fan so I can leave it running when it’s raining.  With the MaxxAir vent I already installed in the rear window, I can partially open that window so the fan can pull fresh air through.

I ordered the vent cover with the removable louver so I can clean out leaves and pine straw that accumulate under there.  I was afraid that maybe the louver would loosen in time.  But it it does, I’ll devise a method to hold it in place.

I know that this project (like all my projects) will have me pulling my hair out trying to get everything right the first time.  And I’ll probably be really sorry I attempted it for a while.  But I am SO excited about learning how to do this!

If I succeed at this project, then I’ll try to add a switch so I can turn on the Casita’s porch light from inside as well as outside — another feature I’ve wanted for a long time!

Who knows…. I may even attempt the fast gray plumbing mod on my little trailer before I’m done!!!!

 

New Table and Storage Solution

The new glass table with baskets for storage under the rear twin bed

I had planned to build a drop leaf table for the Casita.  But the more I thought of a large expanse of solid wood tabletop and how cramped it would make the area look, I decided against wood.

Then, in searching online for small tables, I found a couple of glass topped ones that I liked.  Best of all,  I loved the idea of how open they would make the space look.

Here the table is slid to the side so we can easily walk past it.

But after pricing them, I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea.  So I headed to the thrift store on a hunting expedition.  I looked in every nook, but didn’t find anything that I liked.  But just as I was leaving, I saw a cute little plant stand and thought I might be able to modify it to make it work.

So I took it home, took it apart and cleaned it.  I gave the metal a couple of coats of spray paint to freshen it up, and discarded the 12″ wood top.

Here the tabletop is placed out of the way on top of a cushion, giving us even more space.

We had thrown out some old wicker furniture a couple of years ago, but I held on to the glass table tops, thinking I might could use them for something else some day.  I’m so glad I did.  The small, oval tabletop is a perfect fit in the Casita!  Best of all, it’s solid as a rock.

I love the small footprint of the table.  When we are not using it, I can slide it to the side to give us walking room.  Or I can completely remove the top and lay it on one of the dinette cushions, giving us even more space to access the storage baskets.  In transit, the glass top will travel on the bed, wedged in with pillows.  And the table base will be wedged between the wall carpet and the mattress to keep it from sliding around.

My beautiful storage baskets!

The wood color of the table base doesn’t match anything else, but I really like it, so I am leaving it as it.

I feel that we have succeeded in making our little 17′ trailer into a camper with the convenience and amenities of a much larger RV.

I also replaced the plastic drawers under the rear bed with pretty baskets.  That was a project!  Those of you who have suffered through descriptions of earlier projects know what’s coming, right?  😀

I found the baskets at Hobby Lobby.  The bases were the perfect size to fit the underbed cubby hole.  However, they had rounded “treasure chest” tops, so they needed some modification to work.

First I used my Dremel to cut through the fat globs of solder that secured the hinges, chain and latch to the basket frame.  After I figured out where not to stand to keep hot metal sparks from flying up my sleeve, the job wasn’t bad.  Just tedious.

Next I ground down all the sharp solder edges until they were smooth and rounded.  Then I rubbed black paint on them to tone down the shiny silver of the solder and to cover the small gouges I put in the surrounding metal so it wouldn’t rust.

Then it was time to make the muslin lining.  EXCEPT there are dozens of very tiny, very sharp little wires protruding into the basket…. and they poked right through the muslin.

So I am going to have to build 1/4″ plywood liners for the baskets.

But that’s a project for another day!

Homeless Women and Camper Vans

Touches of home in a van.

When my brother-in-law’s job moved him to Texas, my sister Gail became interested in getting an RV, primarily to use to visit family back home.  She didn’t like the idea of having to stay in dirty motel rooms, possibly being exposed to bedbugs and foot fungi and who-knows-what-else that might encountered in a bedroom and bathroom used by the public.

Also, they would be traveling when Mike was on vacation, so she knew they would be putting in long hours at the wheel.  And since they would be on a strict travel budget, they didn’t want to have to pay high campground fees just to park overnight.  And they didn’t want to have to eat all their meals on the road — another expensive proposition.  And finally, when they got to family’s homes, they didn’t want to have to move in on them, disrupting their household and sleeping arrangements.

So looking for an affordable RV became their priority.  They considered a travel trailer (as used ones can be bought cheaply), but then they would have to buy a pickup truck, and they didn’t need a truck for anything except towing.  It made more sense to buy an inexpensive used cargo van and convert it to their needs.

Exterior of their van

While Gail was researching ways to convert a cargo van to a camper van, she was stunned to discover that there are countless women all over the country who, through loss of their jobs or relationship breakups, were now homeless.  With no place to live, many of them were fixing up old vans to live in.

She found many websites showing how to cheaply convert a van into a mini home on wheels.  But most of them were depressingly ugly, consisting of bed frames made of 2 x 4 lumber with a mattress, and plastic drawers for storage.  So not only were these women homeless, there was no beauty — nothing girly — left in their lives.

Even worse, many of the vans had no toilet or shower facilities, making the women completely dependent on public facilities.

Attractive and supremely functional

She determined to convert her van into a pretty little space with all the comforts, like shower, toilet and kitchen.  And then she would share what she learned with anyone who was interested — whether they are building their first camper or just downsizing from a larger RV.  And maybe her ideas could be an inspiration to a homeless person somewhere, to help add a little beauty or functionality to their van.

To that end, I am working on building a page on this blog that will be permanently linked at the top, to serve as Gail’s guidelines for anyone who is interested in building an attractive, liveable, small RV in a cargo van.  I’m hoping to have the article finished in a day or two.

[On edit – the article From Cargo to Camper Van has now been published.]

An Idyllic Day

Autumn in December

He leadeth me beside the still waters;
He restoreth my soul.

Today has been one of those days that is perfect from the start.  As Ron was waking up this morning, he heard someone call, “Merry Christmas!” and heard the RV next door pulling out.  He went outside and saw a neat pile of firewood with a fire carefully laid out in our firepit, complete with sticks of fat lighter.  All we would have to do is touch a match to it to start our campfire tonight.

Ron

I wish I could have thanked them, but they were long gone by the time I got out.

The weather was perfect today.  A little breezy until this afternoon, but sunny, bright and warm.  We saw several fish jump out of the water, so we tried a few casts in hopes of catching one or two.  Later, when the wind calmed down, we tried again with no luck.  But we loved just being by the water soaking up the sunshine.

Sunny at the door

Today we just fished at the water’s edge by our campsite.  We may go down to the fishing pier tomorrow and try a little harder.  It would be wonderful to have freshly caught fish for dinner.

We ended the day relaxing around a nice campfire.

Going to the Shop

I talked with the people at the RV repair shop today.  The only reason they can think of why my water heater may have rusted out so badly is that I could have run some bad water through it.  I had wondered if maybe some kind of industrial fumes could have caused it.  But I’m not aware of having parked around anything like that.

We use water from everywhere in the camper, so I have no idea where we could have picked up something corrosive in it.  We’ve never parked the camper at the beach, so it can’t be salt air.

In any case, I have an appointment to take the Aliner into the shop Monday to have the wiring on the new water heater hooked up.  I should have it back by mid week.

And then we will go camping.

Hit & Run RV Accident

On the way home, we stopped at a Flying J near Lake Park, Georgia.

Hit and run driver hitting fifth wheel

Right after impact

We parked, and Ron went in to pick up coffee and snacks.  I was sitting in the passenger seat of our truck.

A burgundy pickup truck pulling a very long fifth wheel came by me on the right and turned left without swinging out wide enough.  I realized he was going to crunch the right front of our truck, so reached over and leaned on the horn.

He didn’t even slow down… just kept coming.  There was no way he could miss us, I thought.  But by the grace of God, he did–probably by a fraction of an inch.

Fifth wheel right after it hit the jeep toad

Fifth wheel pulling forward after impact. You can see black pieces of the fender and white pieces from the fifth wheel on the ground.

After he got past us, he turned left at the end of the parking area.   I heard a very loud crunch as he slammed into the toad of the motorhome parked at the end.  The driver stopped for a few seconds, and then, incredibly, kept going.

When the couple who owned the motorhome came out of the store, I met them and told them what had happened.  I also handed the guy my camera so he could download my pictures to his laptop.

Driver continues across parking lot

Fifth wheel continues across parking lot

Other people in the parking lot got the license tag numbers of the hit and run driver.

The motorhome owner called the police, but since it was just property damage, it apparently was not a priority call.  So they prepared to wait.  I offered to stay in case a witness was required, but they didn’t feel it was necessary.  So I gave them my phone number, and Ron and I headed north.

Hit and run driver exits Flying J

Hit and run driver exiting Flying J

I was stunned that an RVer would hit another person’s rig and not even stop.  Usually RVers are concerned and considerate about other RVers rigs.  I wondered if the hit and run driver had stolen the fifth wheel.  He certainly didn’t know how to tow it.

Driver heading down road from accident

Hit and run fifth wheel on the road leaving scene of accident

I do hope that the couple who owned the motorhome were able to get their toad repaired, continue on their journey, and put the accident behind them.

And I fervently hope that the hit and run driver got caught.

Hillsborough River State Park, FL

Hillsborough River flooded campsite

Flooded campsite

We arrived at Hillsborough River State Park on March 22.

My opinion is that it’s a great place to RV, but it is too crowded for our style of camping.

It is ideal for day use by locals in the Tampa area, though.  There are dozens and dozens of picnic areas ranging from rustic (rock picnic tables built by the CCC) to large pavilions with fireplaces.  There is a huge pool built to accommodate over 200 swimmers, but it was closed for repairs while we were there.

There are also some nice trails, some of which were underwater during our visit.  There’s a cool suspension bridge on a trail over the river.  They also offer canoe rentals.

Flooded trail

Boardwalk where the trails flood

We enjoyed coffee and donuts at the campground management event.  They had a question and answer session, and I learned some fascinating new things.  I’m a Florida native, very familiar with alligators.  But I learned that alligators don’t eat for 6 months out of the year.  When cool weather comes and their body temperature drops, their appetite disappears.  They don’t eat again until the weather warms up and revs up their metabolism.  When it reaches a certain point, they resume eating.  That was the first time I had heard that.

modern and older picnic areas

No excuse not to picnic

The rainy weather from home apparently got here ahead of us.  Half of our campsite was unusable because  the former occupant had gotten stuck in the mud.  Management had covered the area with wood chips, but we weren’t going to take a chance on getting stuck, too.  So we parked way over, cutting our campsite in half.

Half a campsite

Half a campsite

Hillsborough River from trail

Hillsborough River from trail

We did get out and do a bit of hiking.  Most of the flooded areas had boardwalks, but we still ended up walking in mud for a short distance.  It was worth it, though.  The air plants on the older trees fascinate me.  The fantastically gnarled tree roots by the river, holes which are some critter’s home, the little atamasco lilies, palm “root balls” a foot above the ground… so many things to wonder at and appreciate.

Sunny and I taking a break after hiking

Sunny and I taking a break after hiking a trail

Sunny down for a nap

Sunny ~ "It's been a long day!"

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