My life and travels in bullet points

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Veg Conversion

What a exciting post I get to tell you about! Where do I begin? Matt from the Happy Janssens came into town, along with his family, to do the veggie conversion on Benny.

We started by getting the dimensions for the fuel tank and discussed where we wanted to mount it. We found a great spot to fit a 36 gallon tank; the only bummer was I had to move the electrical box for the generator plugin. We started by making a bracket to mount the veg pump and misc solenoids. After mounting all of them on the bracket we then mounted the bracket inside the engine compartment. Then Matt worked on mounting the fuel gauge, pressure gauge and veg switch on the dash. We then routed all the different hoses to everything, and back to the fuel tank.

And there you go: Benny runs on veg now! I don’t want to go into depth on the install for proprietary reasons. But Clark from Green Eye Auto asked Matt and I if we would be interested in going around the U.S. doing veg installs for him. How awesome is that? I have to get in touch with Clark soon. He wants me to travel up to Eugene, OR and work on a couple of installs for him, so I can get acquainted with all the different parts and vehicles I will be working on. I am so excited about this, and hope it pans out. :)

Matt, thanks a lot for everything. You’re awesome.

New Mexico so far

City of Rocks is located about 45 minutes out of Deming, New Mexico. What a great place to visit with awesome views.

Just The Three Of Us

When we arrived Zeb and Tara went off for a hike. I stayed back to check the fluids on Benny.

In the morning we started to make our way to Albuquerque. I forgot to filter oil the previous night t so I tried to filter some in the morning but it was too cold and kept on popping fuses. So I had to stop and fill up the diesel tank. :(

Then the GPS took up on a back road thru some steep snowy and icy mountains. Other than that we made it to the Ironwood Farm in Albuquerque at about 5 in the afternoon. Chris, the owner of the farm, is very friendly. He showed us where to park and setup, he also invited us inside for dinner to meet the two other interns. I told Chris I would tackle working on the chicken coop for the 100 chicks he had waiting. I finally finished up today after finding things and getting acquainted with his shop.

Chicken Transfer To Their New Home

I also helped move a bunch of bails of hay and worked on an adobe floor in Chris’s shed.

What a terrible 2 days…

We finally made it to our first destination in Phoenix, AZ on Friday to hang out with a great unschooling family for the weekend.

Zeb has had so much fun hanging out with their 3 boys, riding bikes, and playing video games. Tara is having a hard time trying to get used to this lifestyle, but I think she will come around eventually. ;) Saturday was so hot here; I would say close to 80 degrees. Oh, did I mention that our water pump went on the fritz Saturday? I messed with it and got it to work till Sunday morning when it was shower time and then it decided to keel over. Carlos, the dad we were staying with, was kind enough to give me a ride to the RV store for a new pump.

Sunday it rained all day, so of course one of the windows leaked and soaked our mattress. So I got drenched outside trying to fix it. I woke up Monday morning to a crack in the toilet and water everywhere again. So another trip to the RV store to get a new toilet. The good thing about the RV store is it had a free dump station and water to fill up the fresh water tank. I proceeded to dump, and then started to fill the fresh water tank  and the freaking hose came out and soaked me ( by that point I’m so pissed and fed up).

Finally after that we get on the road and made it to Tucson, AZ, Tara found a nice spot to boondock on some BLM land. We arrived and Zeb gathered wood for a fire and set up his Heroscape. Tara took a walk, and some pictures, and made some awesome pork tacos. I filled the veg tank, and caulked around all the windows in hopes of not having another leak.

I know tomorrow is going to be a better day. On to the City of Rocks National Park in the morning.

24 Hours Isn’t Enough Time In A Day

It’s really hard to update my blog as often as I’d like to with so much going on.

Just an overview of what’s been going on the past couple of weeks:

I finished the trailer: added all the tie down points, wheel chock (holds the motorcycle wheel) and new tires. I found a 55 gallon drum on Craigslist for $25; it smells like fruit punch, even full of veggie oil. Matt and I installed the filters on the wall of the trailer; they filter the oil from the drum before it goes into the RV. Tara found some old “storage bags” that were originally made for car trunks. I hung those and they work great for holding filters and misc odds and ends. Matt and I also hung the bicycles in the trailer but I’m hoping to find a spare tire bike rike to go on the back of the RV so I don’t smack my head on the bikes getting in and out of the trailer. Here’s a half way finished photo:

I’ve made 3-4 trips to the storage unit (we got a 5×10 unit to store important keepsakes and few other items, like our dining room table, my homebrewing equipment, etc) and spent days upon days packing, getting ready for the estate sale. The estate sale went really well, minus the bunghole that stole our router. Now we just have a couple things left to sell on Craigslist and some boxes of smaller stuff to donate.

I also found an awesome home for my dog, Bear. My mom is an animal lover so I know he will be well cared for (and spoiled rotten!). By now I’m sure he already has his first leather recliner. Thanks, Mom! ;)

I had a big get-together with all my work buddies to finish off the last of the homebrew. Out of everyone that came, only one person was still employed. I had fun conversating with everybody. I’m really going to miss their friendships. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep in touch.

Most of my time was still spent working on Benny and the veggie oil conversion with Matt Janssen. But that’s a post unto itself. I’ll try to write out the details and post photos within the next week.

Same-ies

Greasers

Not only is Matt a talented mechanic, he’s such a cool and inspirational person to be around. He enjoys a lot of the same things I do and we have a lot in common. I can’t wait to travel and run into them again.

This week I’m taking care of a couple odds and ends before we head out of town, including a day wasted at the DMV turning in the truck plates (it’s going to be parked at my dad’s house), filtering more oil, and some small errands.

I’m hoping to be ready to go and on the road by Wednesday or Thursday, so I can finally relax and breath.

Trailer

Benny can only haul 2000 pounds which means I can’t tow my truck. So I found an enclosed trailer on Craigslist. Its 6×10 and should be perfect for our traveling endeavors. I got it for pretty cheap, but its in need of a little work: a new vent hatch, new tire, new interior lights, anchoring points to strap stuff down, and most importantly, a motorcycle chock so I can bring my motorcycle with us. It has a ramp in the back, and a door on the side. I’m hoping I can get everything in there without exceeding the weight limit.

I’m bringing my motorcycle just in case we break down, and need to get to the nearest town, and just for fun. ;)

I started by putting the vent on today. I removed all the 2×4′s from the previous owner. Tomorrow  I am going to get started on putting the wheel chock in, and all the eye bolts for anchoring stuff down. I also found a 55 gallon drum today that I plan on mounting in the trailer, for storing additional veg oil for the RV.

Death Valley

Yesss!! We finally made it to Death Valley and back. Benny ran great. With only two minor flaws, Tara ran out of battery’s in the camera,so we didn’t get as many pics as we wanted, and the temp gauge didn’t work, but I’ll check into that tomorrow.

We stayed at Furnace Creek campsite witch was a great campsite, but a bit more than what I wanted to pay. Our first night we made a awesome potato soup on the rocket stove. And played games.

rocket stove

When we woke in the morning I opened the door and closed the screen and within 5 minutes a roadrunner came right up to the door.

roadrunner

While we were eating breakfast I saw a coyote probably 50 feet away. I would have a pic for you but someone forgot the battery’s for the camera. :)

we finished up breakfast and were off to to hike at Badwater salt flats. This place was very interesting, the ground not only looked like snow it felt like you were walking on snow.

Badwater Salt - Death Valley

Next we traveled north to check out Scotty’s Castle a must see if your in this neck of the woods, or shall I say desert. :) We were privileged enough to take a tour. The house is full of unique and beautiful woodwork definitely a must see for any woodworker.

Scottys Castle

We also took the underground tour which was a 1/4 mile of underground tunnels leading to different locations on the grounds. What I thought was interesting about this part of the tour was a underground observation room so you can see people swimming in the “lake”.

We then headed back to camp and enjoyed dinner, and read Harry Potter by campfire.

Benny let me down

We set out this morning to go to Death Valley, to let Benny spread his wings and see what he can do. Every thing was going good??? And then from under the dashboard a puff of smoke came, and then the engine died, the turn signals didn’t work, the radio didn’t work. Fuck this is how you repay me after all the work I’ve put into you. So we coasted to a safe spot and pulled over. I thought hmmm I bet its a fuse or a relay or maybe even a wire that grounded out. So I checked all the fuses and wires and everything seemed to be ok. So I called my Dad to see if he can come and help me figure it out. We tried to see if the engine would turn over by using a screwdriver to hit the + and the – on the solenoid but nothing happened. At this point I am at a loss, and don’t know what to do. So I called a tow company to come and pick Benny up. I guess I’ll find out more tomorrow when I talk to the mechanic. Hopefully its something simple. I would post pics but Benny doesn’t deserve any fame today he let me down. Thanks Dad for all your help. And thanks Elizabeth for the number to the tow truck.

Solar Panel Installation!!

Yessssss! Tuesday this week we finally received our solar panels in the mail (I’m so excited).

yes!

I got my kit from Alter Systems. It includes:

  • 2- 80 watt Sharp solar panels
  • 8 mounting brackets
  • 30ft of #10 wire
  • 2- 6ft #10 wires
  • 2 wire connectors
  • Morning Star charge controller
  • 600 watt Samlex inverter

So I figured I would get a jump on the install first thing Wednesday morning.I had to run to the Depot and Checker for some odds and ends not included in the kit (30ft of #6 wire, misc wire ends, 30ft of split flex tubing, electrical box, 100amp inline fuse, and grommets.)

misc peices

I hooked the wires and connectors to the solar panels, and put the mounting brackets on them.

attaching wires to panels

I mounted the panels on the roof of the RV in a location where they wouldn’t be shaded by the air conditioner or any other vents. I also mounted an electrical box to put the connections in to protect them from the elements. Any place I pierced a hole in the roof ( screwing down panels and drilling holes) I sealed them with Dicor sealant.

solar panels!

electrical box with connectors

Then drilled a 1/2 inch hole directly above an existing support tube, and fed the wires from the panels to the charge controller, which I mounted under the sink, that way it would be close to the batteries and easily accessible but out of the way.

1/2 inch hole in roof to feed wires into

support tubing holding wires

charge controller

I took some of the #6 wire and ran that from the charge controller to the batteries. BAM!! Now we have free energy. :)

battery bank - 2 for engine, 2 for solar array

Now for the fun part: hooking up the inverter. I mounted the inverter in an outside compartment on the RV and drilled a 2in hole into the compartment to feed the wires from the batteries to the inverter. If you can see to the right of the inverter on a block of wood I mounted the blue 100amp inline fuse. And the black wire plugged into the left of the inverter is the shore power cord, which runs to the a/c breaker panel inside.

inverter with inline 100amp fuse

The only thing left to do is get a breaker, and mount it above the other two, which will be the on/off switch for the RV’s automatic battery charger. The reason for the breaker is so that the inverter doesn’t charge the batteries when the panels are charging them (not good). Now I have to wait till Monday to see if one of the RV stores have the breaker, because the depot doesn’t carry 30 year old breakers.

ac breaker panel

Oh and thanks Dad for coming over and giving me a hand. :)

Chocolate cherry stout

Today is my favorite day of the month. That’s right, beer making day. This months special was a stout with hints of chocolate and cherry (my fave). Thanks to my friend Matt helping, it made it a breeze.

First up you have to get the water to 180 degrees.

heating water

after that I added the grains, and let that brew for about 20 mins.

grains boiling

Then removed from the heat and added the malt extract, and back to the heat to get it to a boil. Once it reached a boil I added 1 oz of New Zealand halter hops, and let that boil for 40 min. After that I added a 1/2 oz of American Summit hops for 20 mins with a dash of Irish moss flakes for clarity.

This is my friend Matt dropping the hops in.

adding hops

Next I chilled the wort (unfermented beer) in a container with ice, and a wort chiller till it reached 65 degrees. The wort chiller is 3/8 copper tubing that I drop into the beer, and hook up to a garden hose to filter cold water thru the wort to cool it, and then into a bucket to water the plants with.

lowering temp

This is me checking the temp.

checking temp

Next I filtered the wort into a glass carboy to let it ferment. Sorry I forgot to get a pic.

And voila you have fermenting beer.

fermenting

From there I will keep it in a unplugged freezer for a week to keep it at a stable cool temp, and then transfer it to a secondary fermenter for another week. Then comes the pain: bottling day. I’ll bottle all the beer and let it sit for about 3 days then taste testing begins. Usually after 7 days the beer is ready to drink.

I get all my ingredients thru Seven Bridges. They are an organic brew company out of California with great customer service. I have been ordering my ingredients from them for  almost 2 years and haven’t had any problems.

Hello

I’ll tell you a little bit about my self. My name is Justin. I am 28 years of age, born in LaCrosse WI, and raised in Las Vegas NV. Husband to a wonderful, quirky, beautiful wife, Tara (aka TheOrganicSister) and father to a brilliant, self-educated, sensitive son named Zeb.

I love all things that go vroom, homebrewing, simple living, gardening, sustainable living, being with my family.

And long walks in the park. ;)

I’m blogging to keep a journal of our journey that we’re about to take.

Our family’s plan is to travel around the U.S. full-time, hopefully finding work on the road and eventually a new home and homestead. We have friends in NM with an organic farm that we hope to intern on, two of my old bosses have a business in Louisiana that I hope to work for, an uncle in Wisconsin that may have work and friends and family around the country that we plan to visit.

In September, we purchased an old beat-up 1982 Winnebago Brave, 22ft with a Chevy 6.2L diesel engine. [Insert manly grunt here.] Every since we purchased it, I’ve been working on it everyday after work, including painting the interior, building cabinets, installing wood flooring and shower and wall panelling, new power steering and fuel pumps, new tires, changing brake fluid, resealing the roof, resealing the windows, new black water tank (man, how fun that was), new countertops and tabletop, a new gas cap where a sock previously was, new shocks, numerous engines leaks, and new batteries.

Benny the Brave needs stencilling
Look, there’s the sock!

I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it. It’s become my second love.

Still on the To Do list for the RV: Install solar panels (ordered last week), straight veggie oil conversion (that hopefully I can partake in the installation of), and a few details Tara has to finish up inside. I also need to find a trailer for tools and my motorcycle (because I can’t go anywhere without my motorcycle), because the RV will not tow my truck.

Since I got laid off two weeks ago, I’m rushing to get everything done in hopes to get out of Vegas as soon as possible.

Tara has a Flickr set of more photos here. She won’t update it until all her work is done. :P