Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys

Sunset in the Angeles Mountains

2006-12-16 (E)

One bit of interesting work we did on the van last month that I failed to mention previously was to insulate the "doghouse" of the van. This is a cover in the van that, when removed, provides access to the rear of the engine and exhaust system. Since the exhaust and turbocharger are right under this cover a lot of heat and noise transfers into the cabin through this cover.

The cover is insulated to some extent with a thin fiberglass blanket covered in aluminum.

Our main complaints were the heat (and cold at night) transfer through this cover, the fact that any cup set into the cup holders would be warmed up quickly when the van is running, and the ever present noise in the cabin.

Our solution was to remove the fiberglass blanket, glue 1/2" of closed cell foam in the cover, cover that with 1/8" of self-adhesive duct insulation foam with aluminum facing, and then layer the fiberglass blanket back over all of this. The result is a significant decrease in noise transfer to the cabin, and no noticeable heat transfer when the engine has been on (before it could get almost too hot to touch).

Insulating E350 Doghouse


We spent a number of days up in the Klamath mountains in the period following Thanksgiving to handle some emergencies that had arisen at Erik's work, and enjoy the beautiful snow while the rest of society was panic over the frozen precipitation blanketing the north-west.
Klamath Mountains

On one clear morning when the snow had let up we were treated to a magical view of the fog in the valley below glowing from the early morning sunrise out our window...
Morning Window View

After a half-mile hike to a location where our phone would work for some calls, and a return we could see the lake that had lain hidden below the fog an hour or two prior...
As the fog lifts

Once we were ready to move on we picked a route that would take us out towards the CA coast line since the promise of more clear weather sounded like an ideal time to explore the northern CA coast with its beaches and redwood forests.

We chose route 199 from Grant's Pass OR out to Crescent Bay, CA through pieces of the Redwoods National park. We stopped at one of the groves for a hike among these trees, and a few comparison photos showing how large these plants are relative to the van...

Neither of us had ever seen trees of this size before, and the sheer immensity was truly awe-inspiring.

Redwoods The size of the trees the highway wound between varied from merely large, to gargantuan. We finally stopped at one of the pull-outs to let some cars behind us pass, and ended up walking for about an hour on a trail back into the forest.
In the hike we found some trees that made even the one pictured above by the van seem rather puny. Unfortunately I don't carry around a tripod, and the lighting was rather dim so many of the pictures didn't turn out very well. We did also see some magical scenes where the sun-rays would peek through the foliage hundreds of feet above and light up the mist and fog creeping through the trunks. Redwoods Hike

Once we hit the coast we stuck to highway 101 for quite a while. Periodically there would be a sandy beach with access of some kind, and around noon we found a place that permitted vehicle access. We drove a mile or two down the sand to a secluded spot and ate lunch while watching kite-boarders ply their sport upon the waves and wind just off-shore.
North CA Beach

The next day we headed out early since we had not been able to find a nice secluded camping spot as evening approached.

A state campground had proven to be the best bet and, although the signs said it was open, and that fees were required all year round, the bathrooms and water were all off and locked. Our solution was to get up at 6am and leave before anyone asked us to pay.

As we drove south we noticed that the turn-signals were working slowly, if at all. We made some calls and stopped at a Ford shop in Santa Rosa, but of course everything worked fine by that time and they found nothing after an hour of looking.

We then found ourselves heading across the Golden Gate bridge into San Francisco. Somehow we missed a turn when 101 and CA1 split just after the bridge, and ended up driving up and down the famous hills of the city in our van. Not the most thrilling experience, but very reminiscent of some of the hills in downtown Seattle, just much longer.

Golden Gate Bridge

As we were coming to San Francisco we realized that we would be hitting the Santa Cruz area around dark, and that was the home of Shane and Laurie, the friends with whom we were planning to spend Christmas, and who's wedding reception we had traveled to Vermont for earlier this year. A few IM messages and phone calls and we synched up for the evening, helping them setup their Christmas tree and then playing a board game with some of their friends. Since we did not take any photos, Amy has created the following instructional graphic on our experience:
Setting up Christmas Tree

I had the luck to catch a cold somewhere just prior to stopping in Santa Cruz, and it hit pretty hard that weekend. Because of this we hung out with Shane and Laurie for another day while I guzzled cold medicine and coughed on everything I could see.

We decided that since we were not due in San Diego till Wednesday morning we could wait till Monday mid-day to get going so I could get some extra sleep and hopefully recover some. We ended up leaving mid-afternoon Monday, driving into the dark and just sleeping in a rest-area. With the cold I again slept in and we headed out at almost noon the next day to drive through LA in our Sportsmobile. This was not a prospect either of us had looked forward to, but because of our schedule and my inability to concentrate on driving for more than a few hours a day, going around was not feasible. We made it to the far side by 3pm, and stopped again for cold-medicine and ended up spending the night in the rest-area on I-5 between LA and San Diego.


Wednesday we left the rest area and hit Santee, a suburb of San Diego where Aluminess had the aluminum bumpers we had ordered a few months prior. We decided to purchase the fancy (and expensive) bumpers because of the storage space they offered. With a custom sized rear tire-carrier for our new 37" tires, and a large storage box on the rear we can hopefully (with some thought) put the bicycles across the rear, removing them from the roof and reducing our overall height a few feet. Up front the winch compartment can hold a winch, or (currently) all of our recovery gear and tire chains, returning valuable space in the van cabin and under-floor storage.

Aluminess Bumpers

At Aluminess the bumpers were installed by Dave and Grayson, with a bit of help my myself since I like to be involved in any work done to our home. I was pleasantly surprised by their attention to detail and care when installing the bumpers.
Aluminess rear bumper install

The bumper installation, and then the re-arrangement of stuff and the motorcycle to accommodate the new storage and configuration ended up taking till dusk. This left us in the middle of the city with no time to find a good camping spot, so we took advise from Dave and went to a campground in the middle of the city on some water treatment lakes. The cost was pretty steep at 33$/night, but the waterfowl that we got to see all around the lake the next day was a form of compensation. The abundance of water attracted cranes, herons, pelicans, and all manner of ducks.

The next day we spent again at the campground due to the availability of laundry and shower facilities. After a week of being sick and having to travel a lot I found the delay quite welcome and spent most of it asleep while Amy took care of the cleaning and did some relaxed yoga in the sunny campsite.

By this time we were feeling a bit cityed out, and we left fairly early the next day (Friday) to find a more remote camping spot. A quick stop for groceries, a few tools and bits to manufacture a jack mount for our front bumper, and we were off. Our chosen destination was a 4x4 trail on the back side of Mt Palomar from the famous observatory. We found the trail after an hour and a half of driving, and proceeded about 5 miles up till we found a lovely promontory where we could camp in seclusion with a magnificent view.
Camping on Mt. Palomar

I constructed a carrier for the Hi-Lift jack on the front bumper and we ended up staying on Mt Palomar for a couple days. As the week wound to a close and the next was approaching we were scheduled to visit an old friend who lived at the north end of the Los Angeles megalopolis. The concept of driving through that traffic again was intimidating so we plotted a route that would lead around the city on the east side to another 4x4 trail we had notes on. From there we would be about 1.5 hours from Ventura which was our destination for the following day.

On the way up we passed a set of very interesting rock slabs tilted up as we entered the mountains to the north-east of the city. A sign indicated they are entitled the "Mormon Rocks" and certainly look worth a re-visit at some point in time, but the daylight was waning so we continued on...
Mormon Rocks

The spot we ended up camping at was just off of a 4x4 trail in the national forest that starts in Lake Hughes, CA and extends north. Although we arrived in the evening and did not get a good feel for the view, it was revealed to be quite a spectacular spot the next morning. Our little spur-road that we chose for camp provided access to a portion of the Pacific Ridge Trail just 20' away from our van. We took a mile or two walk along the trail in the morning to get some fresh air and exercise in before descending back into the maelstrom of vehicles near LA.
Camping above Hughes Lake

After a few days of solitude and camping in the wilderness it was time to re-socialize, and meet up with other friendly faces from our past. In this case we ventured down to Ventura, CA where a friend and instructor from our early paragliding days in the late 90's had settled. We spent a couple days catching up with Marty, meeting his new daughter Mia, wife Carmen, and her other children Joe and Andrea (who didn't make the photo below unfortunately)...
Visiting Marty, Carmen, and Mia

After imposing our existence on Marty et. al. for a few days, we again sought the solitude of the mountains on our way to see another friend from college who now works at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

We were lucky enough to find a nice hidey-hole just 45 minutes from the city, where we were high enough to avoid most of the smog from the greater LA area, secluded enough to camp without disturbance, and surrounded by hiking trails where we could explore the country-side and flora which were quite foreign to our collective experiences.
Angeles National Forest


Sportsmobile at sunset Upon our return from a hike we found the van sitting in the waning light with beautiful clouds above reflecting the red light of the sunset. Considering we were less than 10 straight-line miles from the Los Angeles urban area, the serenity and solitude were amazing.

Back at the van the colorful smog-enhanced sunset was reflected in the paint of our Sportsmobile, dirty as it was. I took a shot for the sheer unexpectedness of the scene (which I just noticed as I was stepping into the van for the evening. I also managed some shots of the sunset itself, one of which graces the top header of this page...
Sunset reflected on Sportsmobile

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