(Formally "Plan V: A Van Dwelling Blog", when I lived in a 1978 Dodge Xplorer 228 Class B motorhome van)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Updated photo - Before & after

Here is before and after photos of the curb side of my van. First picture is before I bought it. Second one was taken a day or two ago.

In the new photo, it has an exterior windshield cover to help keep the 100+ heat out and it works pretty well. It's theft resistant since the edges at the ends go over the doors, so you have to open the doors, or cut it up, to get it off.

After this summer, I won't be staying in 100+ heat if I can help it though. But even so, it's good for added privacy when at RV parks and campgrounds.

September 2013 plans

On September 2nd, my rent is up at this RV park I am currently in. I am currently undecided about taking my utility trailer and scooter with me when I hit the road in October, or mid to late September at the earliest. Due to the way I want to travel, the trailer and scooter might end up costing me a lot more money than it will save in better fuel economy having the scooter as a daily driver.

With a trailer tagging along, I will need to be in an RV park due to parking issues in major cities. However, I cannot afford nightly RV park rates at $20-30 a pop while driving it daily. Even with membership in clubs such as Good Sam (10% discount) or Passport America (50% discount, strict rules that vary by place) it means I'm tied down more. For the cost of the RV park in a town I might not want to stay in very long, I could move on to another town.

My original plan was to jump from city to city (no more than 250-300 miles apart) and then pay for a monthly RV spot. The flaw in this is that it could potentially cost me $400-500/mo to do this ($80-100 in gas, plus $300-450 for RV park rent/

Monthly rates average it out to about $10-15 a night, depending on the location. However, then I am nailed down for a month, whether I like it or not. $300-400 for RV park monthly rent alone would buy a LOT of gas to keep on the move and stay out of RV parks. I wouldn't even need to spend that much on gas in a month unless I was going a great distance within a month.

At an estimated average of 10mpg (I think it gets about 12-13 hwy, 8 city) and $3.75/gal of gas, 100 gallons of gas (roughly 3 fill-ups) would let me cover roughly 1,000 miles in a month for only $375. I spent more than that this month on this RV park -- and I still had to put gas in the scooter!

On top of that, some cities, especially along the southern and central coast of California, have RV park rent that is way beyond my budget. Such places have RV park rent in the range of $800-$1,000 a month!

It's fairly easy to find places to park overnight without being hassled too much but of course it depends where you are. If I have a trailer hitched up, it's going to double, if not triple my chances of being hassled. It brings more attention to me and creates more risk of theft due to the cargo in the trailer. Besides that, it will hurt my already low mpg. Plus it takes twice as much space to park, assuming I can pull into double layer spaces such as in large store parking lots.

So as a trial run in September, I am going to store my trailer and scooter at my mom's house here locally and bum around this city I am familiar with, as if I am on the road by staying out of RV parks.

Although, I might go out to the lake campground nearby for a week if I get sick of keeping on the move. I plan to do that anyway when on the road. It'll give me a chance to get my feet wet and practice living off the grid for the most part and out of RV parks/campgrounds. Just staying around this area, I doubt I'll go through much more than 2 tanks of gas which comes out cheaper than any monthly RV park rate you can find.

Plus on the weekend of  the 7th, a friend and I will be going out of town camping one last time before I hit the road so that'll blow a days as well. We went camping last November and about froze to death in tents. This time, we'll be going in my van so we'll have more of the creature comforts. For me, it'll have them all since I'll have all my stuff with me (short of the trailer, scooter, etc) that I have in everyday life.

So for now, that's the plan for September.

Dead house battery

Thankfully no harm was done, but my very old Diehard marine battery went bad. It was at the stage it could have exploded though!

About a week ago, my CO detector woke me up about 9am for no apparent reason. I thought perhaps the batteries in the detector were getting low or the detector is just aged and needs replacing.

Later on that day, I saw my battery voltage reading was unusually low so I plugged in my RV converter. I should have realized something was wrong at that point. Normally I have it unplugged since my solar panels keep the house battery bank charged. At 4pm, I shouldn't be showing 12.3V. I should be showing 14V from the solar charging!

I exited the van for about 10 minutes and returned to find 'rotten egg' smell, but not from any of the propane burning appliaces or from the propane tank storage compartment! It was coming from the battery box! The box is vented to outside but not airtight from the interior. I opened the box and the odor was strong and the old battery was burning hot.

I quickly unplugged the RV converter and disconnected my solar panels. After allowing it to cool down about 5-10 minutes, I promptly removed the bad battery and placed it outside. Thankfully, I caught it in time before it exploded. I was a bundle of nerves disconnecting it and hauling it outside.

I am holding on to it for core exchange since I will be getting another cheap marine battery next week. In the long run, such batteries are a waste of money but in the short term, it's 1/3 the cost of a pair of 6V Trojan T-105s, or rougly 1/2 the cost of a pair of cheap golf cart batteries. Plus I would have to modify the battery box I already built. I used scrap wood so I was limited in the size I could build it, so it ended up too short for 6V golf cart batteries.

It has crossed my mind to pull the old, worn out generator and install 6V golf cart batteries in it's place, but I'm not going to right now. I may do that in a year or two, if I decide I need more battery power. I would probably need a third 100W solar panel to keep up with the battery bank. I did install my first two in such a way that I have room for a third by removing the RV antenna so it's possible to do. Just not something I want to do right now. It would cost roughly $500 to add a pair of Trojan T-105's and a third solar panel so I may budget for that later on.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Xplorer 288 cutway advertisment

This is an ad for an Xplorer 228 from about 1979-1983. The interior layout is identical to my 1978 one.