Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys

Leaving Baker City, OR on 7/29/05

Mon June 13th, 2005 (E)

Flew down to Fresno to pickup the van. Phone conversations with SMB assured us that it would be late, but should be ready this week. Since we already had the tickets, and couldn't get refunds, we decided to suck it up, and hope for the best. Speaking with SMB upon arriving we were told that they had received the van back from Ford, and were hoping to finish by Wednesday morning.

Tues June 14th, 2005 (E)

We rented a car and drove down to the SMB factory. For the 4 mile trip we tried out our new laptop, with a USB GPS antenna and MSFT Streets and Trips. It worked amazingly well, with Amy able to tell me exactly when I missed a turn, and where to go back to (and with practice, perhaps she will be able to tell me to take the turn before we get there).

At the factory we got a run-through of many of the major features on our van, but on other units in different stages of production or in the show-room. We did see our van being feverishly worked on for an estimated completion time of the following morning. We even got a short test-drive in one of their show-vans outfitted with 4wd and a few lessons on the use of the hubs and transfer case shift-levers.

The tutorials and some paperwork (including the writing of a very painfully-large check) ended up taking most of the day, and we finished up by going back to the car-rental place to add the driver to the car so he could return it (more on this later).

Thurs June 16, 2005 (E)

We arose with dawn, about 5:30 am, and headed north. We traveled 95 through south-east OR, into ID, and then took I-84 back into OR and got to Baker at about 10:30am. We stopped at my parent's store (Baker Exchange on 10th, guns, furniture, electronics, and all sorts of new and used crap). We relaxed at the store for a bit, and then headed up to the parent's property (140 acres about 30mi outside of Baker City)

Up at my parent's we worked to finish preparing a space to pour a concrete foundation for a storage shed for storing some of our stuff while on our journeys, as the cost of a shed was just a bit more than a storage unit for a year, and would be more secure and useful over the long term.

Wed June 15th, 2005 (E)

We showed up at SMB about 9:30am, and got a final walk-through of our own van. Everything appeared in order, and we took off in the car following our delivery driver towards Reno. This was necessary because, for some reason, SMB has to collect CA state sales tax on any transfer in the state of CA, even to out-of-state residents. Since we were not feeling like giving CA a large chunk of change, we opted to follow the van to NV in a rental car, exchange the car for the van in Reno, and then have the driver return the car while we continued on to Erik's parent's place in Baker City, OR.

The drive to Reno was educational, with each rest-stop resulting in a number of people gawking, poking about, and asking "What in the world is that?" and "How much does that cost?". Not being very comfortable with lots of people pawing at our new toy, we decided to take further rest-area stops in the semi-section, as it is usually less crowded and the people a bit less nosy.

We made it a bit past Winemucka, NV before parking for the night in a pull-out. Lots of bugs on the wind-shield, and oncoming semis on a 2 lane road at 75mph was just a bit disconcerting after dark.

Setting up camp was quite easy, and the day/night shades & penthouse curtains appeared to do a good job of blocking out the interior lights from outside visibility. We did not sleep well as the semis traveling by were noisy and rocked the van every few minutes.

Fri June 17, 2005 (E)

The concrete truck came in the morning, and we worked to get the slab poured and finished by noon. Following that we were beat, and relaxed for a few hours, before deciding we needed to try out the abilities of our new home.

First was the 4x4: We traveled to the back 1/4 of the property and drove around on some old logging roads while trying out the shifting. Not feeling too adventurous at this time we didn't actually do anything that couldn't have been done in a 2 wheel drive, but we did verify that everything worked (hubs, transfer case, etc).

We also tried out the Air Compressor (worked fine, once we found the ON switch), the diesel furnace and the coolant heater (both ran for a bit and then stopped with an error code). Trying to figure out why we called SMB and they suggested that perhaps the fuel was below 1/4 tank, because then the accessories would run dry. The tank was actually at about 1/3 tank on the gauge, but the fuel lines (clear) had visible air bubbles in them, indicating this was probably the problem. With 1/3 tank of fuel still being a couple hundred miles, this will need some fixing as we will be relying on these things for heat, and don't want to always fill up at 1/3 tank remaining.

A survey of the 2 solar panels revealed that they were installed in-line down the top of the penthouse roof. This placed the second panel under whatever is on the roof rack. Even the shadow of just the roof-rack rail on the panel dropped the output of the whole array by over 20% (we tested by removing the rod and then putting it back). There is room to put the panels both up front side-by-side (and that is where we had been told they would be), so this is another bit of work we will have to undertake soon.

The third, and probably most major, nit we found to pick was with the installation of the potable-water heat-exchanger. The diesel coolant heater heats the engine coolant, and pipes it though the engine block as well as a heat-exchanger with the potable water system (hot-side). Fine and dandy, BUT the heat exchanger and all of the pipes leading to and from it are under the van, exposed to the environment, and bolted to the skin of the van (a very large heat-sink). The first problem is that the potable water system will freeze in the heat-exchanger and pipes with this much exposure (just a night of camping that gets sub 0 would probably do it), second the pipes are right where brush and branches kicked up by the front wheels will hit and snag if traveling off-road. We will need to do some work to route the coolant hoses into the cabin so we can move the heat-exchanger and its piping out of the cold. The diesel accessory plumbing and pumps are also located at this vulnerable location, and, though they don't need to be inside, probably should be shielded from kicked up debris by something (from the plumbing of the diesel lines, it looks like popping a fuel hose here could siphon the tank down to the height of the accessory fuel pickup).

Sat June 18, 2005 (E)

Drove home to Bellevue this morning to prepare for the trip to the NYC licensing show for Amy's business (www.doodlez.com). We intend to walk around and see how other characters are licensed, who is involved, and hopefully talk to some potential licensing agents and/or licensees. Also the first trip to NY for either of us.

As we drove home, and traffic became heavier, it became obvious that in this tall vehicle we command a LOT more respect than in the Tercel. Nearly everyone in the left lane would now move over if we were coming up behind them, even full-sized, lifted, pickups. We also noted that we sit almost even with the semi-drivers, which seems to startle some of them a bit. Lots of rubber-necking from other motorists too, almost like when riding Amy's motorcycle around. Also the horn does not work. Perhaps it was disconnected by Ford when working on the engine and never plugged back in?

We got home about 3:30, and, while Amy be gain preparing for the trip, Erik worked on the Van. The first bit of work needed is to install the Wallas 95u diesel powered cook-top (www.scanmarine.com). SMB did not offer a diesel cooking option, but the units are available for boat installation in the Seattle area, so it was easy to obtain. By 6 the stove dropped into the counter top, and the holes were cut into the floor for the exhaust pipe and fuel line.

Sun June 19, 2005 (E)

More preparing for the the trip to NYC, and finalizing the work on the cook-top. By noon the cook-top was wired in, plumbed in, and had been test run with no problems. Also verified that the other diesel accessories run with the tank over 1/2 tank, and they do. While under the van plumbing in the stove, Erik took a look around and noticed a few issues that should be addressed: The rear axle was leaking a bit of differential oil where the axle goes into the differential housing, the oil pan was dented in (perhaps when ford did the engine work?), and there was an oil leak around one of the oil-pan bolts.

We parked the van in the most inconspicuous spot we could, disabled it, and finished packing for NY.

Mon June 20, 2005 (E)

Got up early, headed to the airport, and started the travels to NY. First we got a lovely 0-minute layover in St Louis (late leaving Seattle, just barely made our connection), then we had an exciting cab ride into Manhattan from Laguardia (the driver ignored lights, lanes, bicycles, other cars, passed using the bicycle lane, etc). The hotel was just a couple blocks north of Times Square with a good view from our room on the 32nd floor (expensive though).

Tues June 21, 2005 (E)

Headed to the licensing show and were thoroughly overwhelmed by the size, people, and such. Amy had some productive meetings with some people she had spoken with on the phone before the show to setup meetings, and we saw a lot of what is out there. Some of the ideas are so stupid and out-of-place that the fact that people are spending so much money promoting them is baffling (but perhaps we will be proven wrong), and others seem genuinely good, but have been around a long time and don't seem to have a lot of traction.

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