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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: Glacier's Edge Self Inflating Camp Sleeping Pad & Pillow

Update 6/10/15: The sleeping pad began losing air after 2 or 3 nights usage. Too bad I bought it so long ago, there is no returning it now.

I stopped by Fred Meyer today to pick up a 14 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck plastic tote ($9+tax) and nothing else really, I decided to wander down the camping isle since it was nearby. (Well, that's sort of a lie since I went near across the store after finding the tote in the Xmas area on the side of the store I entered).

I walked out having spent just under $44 for my 14 gallon tote, an 18 gallon tote plus some new tent camping gear that was on sale for 40% off, a Glacier's Edge Self Inflating Sleep Pad ($18 on sale) and the Glacier's Edge Self Inflating Pillow ($6 on sale).

As they come from the store:

I had my doubts since I once tried out a $40 Coleman one back in 2009 and I found it to be unusable it was so lacking in padding and was very lumpy. A cheap pool mat is more comfortable to me. I returned it within a few days having only tested it at home. But I figured hey, the way these are packaged, they aren't sealed up with anything other than the storage sacks. I figured I'd bring them out and test them out for comfort since I can always return them... the same way I did the lumpy, lousy Coleman one (which came in a box, no bag with it.)

Sleeping pad first removed from the bag. It has built-in straps in addition to the bag.

I am pleasantly surprised by the camping pad. It self inflates most of the way easily.

Partly inflated, without help from me.

It's not a bad idea to help it out by closing the valve and rolling it up from the valve end to push the air to the opposite end then opening the valve again. Do this a 1-2 more times and it will be very well inflated.

The fully inflated size (according to the bag) is: 72" L x 20" W x 1.5" D

It is quite comfortable for me, but I'm only about 155lbs, so I don't know how well it will perform for huskier people. Initially I was trying it on the carpet padded floor but then I tried it out on the hard kitchen floor. I had to give it just a light puff of air beyond the "fully self inflated" state to make it more comfortable for side sleeping on the hard floor since I could just barely feel the floor that way. Perhaps I wouldn't if I was in a sleeping bag since it would have an extra layer of padding. I usually fall asleep on my back and wake up on my side, so side sleeping comfort is important to me.

 The valve seems to be well made, sturdy and seals well:

The package says it's 1.5" thick and I guess it is, just barely, by my measurement. The material feels of good quality.

Now... the pillow? Well... it's good for what it is. You can easily adjust the firmness by letting out extra air. It's probably great for budget backpacking or very light car camping but I wouldn't want to use it more than I had to. It self inflates most of the way very quickly. I suggest putting a pillowcase or a t-shirt to put over it. It's a rather noisy/annoying being polyester/plastic, at least for me. It's acceptable for short term use, which is all it's intended for anyway.

The pillow comes with a velcro loop in addition to the bag:

Self-inflated after a minute or so without any help:

 After a couple of minutes, with help.

I don't know how well the pad and pillow will hold up long term or if they are worth buying at FULL PRICE, but for $18 and $6, I think I made a wise purchase.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Road trip next year - car or van?

The van has been winterized, tarped over (it still leaks around the bed windows *sigh*, with a 1W solar panel (paid $5 for!) plugged in for the starting battery's benefit. (The house batteries get power from the big solar panels on the roof) I considered just putting a jumper wire between the battery connectors on the battery isolator, but I figured 1W is enough to keep it topped off with zero usage. The in-dash stereo's memory runs off of the house batteries due to the custom wiring installation I did on it.

Now to the topic at hand ...

I am planning for a road trip around the middle of next year in my car since the trip will be at least 4,500 miles round trip. Even though gas prices have dropped by about $2/gal since March 2014, it would still cost a good $1400-1500 in gas round trip based on 9.5mpg average. The car gets about 30-35mpg, so figuring 32mpg average, the cost would be about $425-450. I would require campgrounds more likely unless I simply recline the car seat and sleep that way, or pitch a tent at campgrounds.

Where comfort is concerned, the van is be better but cost wise, the car wins out. But who knows? I might change my mind in the next 6 months and just pay the $1500 in gas since I want to make it a long, drawn out trip of several weeks, if not an entire month or longer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

End of the road

Well, it turns out a low income disabled apartment opened up for me last month in Tacoma WA, so I moved in this month. It was too good to pass up. A HUD subsidized good sized 1br apartment with lots of storage, 3rd floor with some of a view, elevator access, free parking (for the 1993 Geo Metro I bought last month) and still in the city. The full rent would be about $800 and I am paying about 1/3 of that with the HUD subsidy due to my income level.

The van is in storage due to laws/rules about camper vans and such. I found a relatively low priced place, $30 less than I was paying before. I have no plans to get rid of it anytime soon. I have too much in it. I doubt I could get even HALF of what I have in it. I will use it for short getaways around the northwest mostly due to it's low MPG, but who knows... I might take a long trip in it again some day.

I will either be revamping this blog into a general travel blog, or just creating a new blog and posting a link to it. I'm not sure which I'll do, yet.

Post a comment with your suggestion on which you think I should do.

In the meantime, a few photos:

 Nice bit of a view.

 My "new" car for daily driving.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vintage Computer Faire - Seattle, WA

I went to a cool, free Vintage Computer Faire today at the Living Computer Museum in the SODO district of Seattle. Click the picture below to view my photo album on Facebook (no account needed).

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Staying in Seattle for a while

The RV park I wanted to move into back in March finally got an opening, so I have decided to stay in Seattle for a while instead of hitting the road... for now anyway. Who knows how I'll feel next spring.

I had to pay a deposit for the park plus a $45 background check (ugh) plus a $200 refundable deposit. So I'm gonna be here a little while for sure. I opted for the month to month "lease" instead of the 1-year lease so I won't feel so tied down here.

I also ended up having to rent a uhaul pickup from the storage place where I had the van parked. After 5 months of being parked on a slope (engine side high), the carburetor was bone dry, and probably had an empty fuel line all the way back to the gas tank. I had to go buy a 5 gallon gas can (to be sure I had enough fuel in case some had evaporated) and also prime the carburetor a few times by pouring gasoline directly into it from a plastic cup then cranking the engine until I got it running.

The fuel pump on these beasts is mechanical, so when the engine is turning over or running, the fuel pump is running. By pouring gas into the carb directly and giving it enough fuel to run for a few seconds, it put a bit less strain on the starter.

Once I got it running, it did just fine. I drove it from Tacoma up here to Seattle about 30 miles and parked it. So yeah, I'm now back to living in it full time.


I'm kind of just rambling on now... you can stop reading now if you want since it's just thinking out loud about possible things I might do. heh

My ultimate plan was to live up in the Seattle area in a few years but as you all know, plans seldom work out exactly as planned. I ended up taking up WA state residency and having to register my van here, so yeah.. I "live" here now.

It has crossed my mind that I should forget anymore LONG cross country trips in this ol' van. The engine is so aged with no proof of what has ever been done to it as far as repairs or maintenance. It lightly burns oil which is a sign something, somewhere in the valves is wrong. Frankly, I fear it could have a major failure (valves are my biggest fear obviously) and leave me having to pay thousands of dollars for repairs and being stranded without anywhere to live.

If it's stuck at a garage being repaired for several days, assuming I could even afford the repair (if it would even be worth doing!) I wouldn't be able to stay in it during the time it's at the shop.

The power steering pump screams bloody murder (loud screeching) when it's cold and sometimes other times when the steering is turned to the max in one direction. Low on fluid? It shouldn't be since I had a few gearbox put on last year. The new gearbox install should have required fluid being added.... I think?

Maybe I'm just being paranoid but... I don't know. I'd hate to be in the middle of Kansas with a blown engine and having to spent my savings to patch it up so I can try to get back to Washington.

I am mulling over the idea of just staying put and buying an old 3cyl automatic transmission Geo Metro. For the cost of repairing this beast (or even DRIVING it.. with it's 10mpg hwy) I can buy a Geo Metro with 31 city/35 hwy and drive 3.5x further on the same gas. I could take a month long trip around the country in it for a fraction of the cost of driving the van.

Just to put it into perspective: I was considering hitting the road in September and going back out to Arkansas to visit and pick up my other stuff. Using the following estimated formula, this is what it would cost to drive the van round trip:

4500 (round trip miles) divided by 9mpg (assuming 90% hwy, 10% city) = 500 gallons of gas (!!!!!!)
500 gallons X $3.75 (average price) = $1,875 round trip gas cost

See what I mean? Now let's to that again with a Geo Metro:

4500 (round trip miles) divided by 34mpg (assuming 90% hwy, 10% city) = 133 gallons of gas
133 gallons X $3.75 (average price) = $498.75 round trip gas cost

Less than 1/3. Driving the van would cost $1376.25 more than driving a Geo Metro. You can BUY a Geo Metro for 1376.25 at times if you find a good deal! So it's come down to this: Do I want to sink money into gasoline and have little to show for it than memories and photos... or do I want to just set down roots here, buy a high mileage used car and simply do my part time traveling in that instead?

I do hate the fact that I spent 2 years working on this motorhome and only 5 months on the road. I actually tried posting an ad on Craigslist for the van to see if anyone would respond interested in my price of $6.000, but some jackass keeps flagging my ad. It's either that or the CL spam control system is automatically flagging it due to the LONG description I was placing in it.

It has also crossed my mind to buy a big travel trailer (later on) and put it in this spot and sell the van, or at least store it elsewhere for as cheap as I can find.

But this is all just thinking out loud. I'm less than 24 hours moved into this RV park so I have plenty of time to think things over. It's going to be at least 5 years before any low income public housing comes up. When that does, the van will go back into storage since I probably won't be able to park it at the apartments. At which point, I'd be glad to have a Geo Metro for daily driving.

As much as I loved full timing on the road, it can be chore. Plus my fear of major engine failure makes me hesitant to drive it another 10,000 miles without some form of backup plan for a place to live should something go wrong. It makes me think a small travel trailer and the pickup I had would have been a better way to go since everything wouldn't be tied up in the vehicle itself... but that's long past now. I have what I have so I am just going to try to get the most enjoyment out of it for now and decide what to do long term later on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stay away from the forum IRV2

The admin "Clifftall" over at IRV2 make up rules as he goes along. He claims my blog is "commercial" in nature because I run Google Adsense ads on it and therefore I am not allowed to link to it.

Here is how the IMs went, entirely unedited:

---------[ Start ] ----------
Hi. Your blog contains multiple rotating ads and therefore it's not allowed to be linked in your signature. You can replace the link if the ads are removed. Here is a link to our rules.
Thanks for understanding
I have read the rules you linked to and it says NO SUCH THING that I can find. Please point out the exact phrase you are referring to.
Here is the paragraph under signature standards.

" Signatures must be setup in your profile rather than manually added to your messages. They will appear at the bottom of every post you make.
Signatures must be kept to a maximum of three lines (including blank lines) and contain no more than one link. (non-commercial).
Signatures may not include email addresses, links to competing websites, prompts to contact or a sales pitch.
Signatures must follow our forums posting standards and only one line may be bolded. "
That says nothing about "no ads on your personal website".
Your  " personal website " that you refer to as a blog was linked in your signature and as mentioned has multiple ads running in it which makes it commercial and therefore not allowed here.
You sir, are full of ****. I am closing out my IRV2 account and will not be recommending this site to anyone, ever.
---------[ End ] ----------

The **** was "shit" edited by the forum software. It kinds of ruins the effect haha.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review is done

My SSDI review is done and all went well as expected. Now that it's finished, I am looking forward and considering going back on the road this fall.

I want to get back out to Arkansas to visit family and friends, and to also pick up my trailer, scooter and other belongings stored at my mom's house.

I have a rough draft of a route planned out which involves stopping through Yellowstone National Park on my way southeast.

Stay tuned for more details later!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Very delayed update

I'm sure everybody's been wondering why the updates stopped in February. Here's what ended up happening.

I had my mail going to my mom's house in Arkansas still. She would call me if something potentially important came and had permission to open everything that came there. The last week of February, a letter came from Social Security.

It turns out my occasional disability review had come up. I thought I was good for at least a couple more years. I was wrong! She forwarded the paperwork to me at my uncle's apartment and I contacted the caseworker listed. The paperwork gave an extension which calls the lady's desk directly so it as very straightforward and easy.

She informed me not to mail the papers back to them or they'd do the review out there. But she did need me to hurry up and provide an address of where I was staying. I hauled ass up to the Seattle area and got in at a homeless shelter after one night. That first night I slept in the van on an overpass with I-5 running under it. I can sleep well with traffic noise so it was no big deal.. heh. Then I got in at a shelter.. which turned out to be infested with bedbugs.. but  thankfully I didn't bring any with me when I left there.. just a bunch of bites that took 5-7 days to show up.

After the first night in the van, I had put it in secure vehicle storage south of downtown (about a 45 minute bus ride) since downtown Seattle is insanely expensive for monthly parking. I got a $300/mo quote from Public Storage.. and the guy told me that the man who had his truck parked there previously had it vandalized since it wasn't fenced in and it stayed there extended periods of time.

After about 5 or 6 nights at the shelter, I ended up finding a transitional housing apartment down in Tacoma that had just become available. So I snatched it up. It's a bit expensive for my income, but it's no lease, no deposits, no credit check. I can stay here up to 18 months and it's a quiet, secure building.

The reason I didn't just go to an RV park is I couldn't find one who had a space available and who allow a 1978 RV.

I moved the van to closer storage this month since it was an hour and 45 minutes each way from Tacoma to where I had it stored in Seattle. Now it's only a 20 minute bus ride. Parking where I am living now is pretty much all for compact cars and costs as much as storage so I have it in storage with a tarp on it.

I ended up just taking up WA residency (driver's license, vehicle reg) since I ended up applying for food stamps here to help me since I was paying so much rent plus vehicle storage. The food stamps covers what I would be paying in cash for food if I was in the van, so it kind of like "pays for the storage of the van", though indirectly. Oddly enough, insurance on my van is less than half of what it was in Arkansas. I have MUCH higher registration costs, but it's exempt from being smog checked since it's way past the 25 year limit.

I don't know if I'm going to just stay in this apartment once my disability review is done or if I'm just going to end up back on the road again, keeping my WA residency of course after all the money I had to pay to get established here.

I still have my scooter, trailer, tools and 2 boxes of personal belongings out in Arkansas I need to collect or sell. I may try to go get them once my disability review is up and then come right back up to WA and look harder for an RV park this next time, or even stay in a smaller town until I can find an RV park spot around Seattle. I was in such a rush over the disability review stuff I didn't have time to really decide much. I require a lot of thinking to decide on things usually but I couldn't this time.

Oh... and about the lady saying not to mail in the papers. I don't know if she didn't tell me or if I misunderstood... frankly, I can't remember now.. but I didn't do anything with the papers but keep them. I had them almost entirely filled out. Come April first I logged on to SSA as something was nagging at me to look. It said I was receiving no benefits!! It was 9pm so I had to wait until the next morning (March 2) to go to SSA about it. I had a very unpleasent stress filled night, to say the least.

When I got to SSA in the morning after a long line and relatively shirt wait considering, they informed me that I was supposed to hand in the papers up here but hadn't so they stopped my benefits! They *promptly* reinstated them within 24 hours (more like 12 hours!) and my direct deposit was in on time as it normally would have been in the early morning hours of March 3. I had to scribble in a bit of partially incomplete info at the last minute at the window in the SSA office and handed in the forms. The case worker who came to the window said he'd Google the contact info, but to give the names, places and cities for doctors, etc.

So now things are good and I am waiting on hearing from Social Security about when they will be having me see a doctor up here for the review. Once that's over and done with, then I'll have to decide what to do. I will post back here once I know more.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

San Francisco Traffic Nightmare!!

On February 6, I found myself in San Francisco... downtown... after dark... on city streets.. in rush hour.. in misty rain. ARRRRGH!!!!

Here is a pic I took on the highway before I ended up in that mess.

After much cursing and accidentally running a few red lights, I was able to get on my way to Sacramento where I have been now for a week.

I am busy with buying goodies at thrift stores and reselling them on ebay which is going very well. I did that a lot back in 2001-2004 during the time I lived here from 1999-2004. (Speaking of which, as I was writing the following paragraph, a $30 item sold that I paid $2 for!)

I have also been busy visiting friends and an uncle who lives here too. As long as you keep out of business parking lots and don't take up a curbside parking place that might be used by someone regularly.. and on one complains... it seems a tiny RV like mine is able to be parked for a long period of time in the same general spot (being moved often) without being ticketed or knocked on. But I have a pretty good place I am parking. It is very noisy traffic wise but it's on a public street and isn't directly outside anyone's home or business and it's not in a "no parking" zone or fire lane.

Scott Creek Beach

After heading out from Santa Cruz, I headed up CA-1 and stopped off at a roadside beach, Scott Creek Beach. I hung around for about 30 minutes enjoying it then continued on up toward Half Moon Bay.

Santa Cruz, CA

The next morning (February 6), after departing New Brighton State Beach, I drove back to Santa Cruz to visit the beach and wharf. It was windy, a bit misty rainy and very overcast. So much for relaxing on a sunny beach!

 There is a large free public parking lot right across from the main part of the old boardwalk buildings.

 Someone had been on the beach earlier that morning and decided to leave some fun sand graffiti. 

New Brighton State Beach

After leaving Morongo Casino on February 4, I drove on through the northen LA area by way of Pasadena and headed North on I-5. I stopped off in Wasco, CA (North of Bakersfield) and parked overnight at a K-Mart. There was one other RV parked there. I didn't see any "no overnight" parking signs, nor did I have any problems. There was an Anytime Fitness so I was able to get a shower as well.

The next day (February 5) I headed up to Santa Cruz, CA with the idea that I would be able to stay around there for a month or two. That was quickly squished flat by how militant the local police are about RVs and the homeless in autos. I drove out to New Brighton State Beach and finally made use of the CA State Parks disabled discount card I mailed away for years ago.

The regular camping fee for a sight that isn't considered "premium" (a direct ocean view from the sight) is $35 a night. You get no hookups, bathrooms and coin operated showers (25 cents per 2 minutes). You basically just get a place to park. I paid $17 with my discount card and I still felt like I was being ripped off. I cannot imagine paying $35 for what amounts to a place to park and a bathroom.

The "premium" sites are $50 which also totally lacks hookups!

They do have a single dump station in the park and potable water throughout... someplace. I had just dumped and filled a couple days before at a Flying J so I didn't need or use those facilities.

Salton Sea

Oops... I should have posted this before the Morongo Casino post. Here is a photo I took of the Salton Sea between Niland and Mecca.

Morongo Casino - Cabazon, CA

On Feb 3 I stopped off at Morongo Casino located just off if I-10 in Cabazon, CA. They have a large overflow parking lot in the rear behind the parking garage that allows RVs and buses (but not semis) to park overnight. I went in and got the member card and got $10 in free food. They give you a choice of food credit or slots credit. I ended up spending $20 in slots as well plus eating in the food court. $30 for food, a bit of entertainment, restroom access plus a place to park overnight wasn't bad at all. I decided to move on the next day so I wouldn't be tempted to spend anymore.. heh.

Niland, CA

I am really late posting this and other posts I will be doing today. I spend the end of January down at Slab City as previously posted. Here are a couple photos I took in town at Niland, CA.

I wonder what this building was... a bank perhaps? It is rather massive. It's a few blocks from CA-111 otherwise perhaps it wouldn't have been left so abandoned. The rear of it is being used for a metal recycling business.

Huh... that's something you don't see everyday; horses outside of a laundromat. 
(I did laundry there before I left out on Feb 3)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Salvation Mountain

I woke up around 6:30 this morning and found it to be rather warm.

After breakfast and waking up, I biked back down to "Salvation Mountain", a giant man made mound of hay and adobe, covered in paint and portraying the message "God is love".
Despite not being a Christian, or in favor of religions in general, I still find it a very interesting piece of folk art. At least it's a religious piece that embraces universal love, not selective hatred.

It's very surreal, like something out of  Dr Seuss book when you walk through the inner part. That's what appeals to me about it and keeps drawing me back to see it. I love weird surreal things like that... heh.

I stopped and looked at it when I arrived yesterday, but didn't look around it much, nor did I take any photos then. I had the place to myself this morning when I went for photos and a better look around.

The photos are dark due to the overcast. I usually try not to edit my photos, so you get the impact of what I saw, not a touched up scene to make it look nicer.

For more information about the monument, visit the following links:

        Official Salvation Mountain Website

        Wikipedia: Salvation Mountain

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Slab City

I decided to leave Quartzsite and head to Slab City today. I considered it yesterday, but I wanted to sleep on the idea.

So yes, now I'm in California! Yay!

I took CA-78 down from Blythe and came around that way.
My cell data service is worse here.. runnin at 1X, but it's better than nothing.
My little 12V 7" LCD TV thinks we're in Mexico. ALL the analog and digital channels are FROM Mexico. It seems Mexico does a better job of log distance TV broadcasts than the U.S. does.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hi Jolly 14 day area

I arrived in Quartzsite, AZ on Sunday evening around 5pm (Mountain time) and went up north of town to the "Hi Jolly" free 14 day BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area to use up the free time I can stay here. I will need to dump in about 3-4 days, at which time I will have to see what the most cost effective method will be. It might end up being that paying $40 for 2 weeks in the LTVA will be best, but I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alternator replaced

I found my battery was dead this morning when I went to leave Wal-Mart. (Oh, and I stayed parked under a "no overnight RV parking sign" for 2 nights without even noticing it.. but luckily no one bothered me). I managed to get it to charge enough via slight solar charging to get it running. I went over to O'Reilly auto and had them charge the battery then test the charging system with their hand hand portable testing device.

Do NOT always trust those devices! They can be mistaken!

(Before that, I had tried a diagnostic method of my own from the Haynes manual involving bypassing the voltage regulator to see if the alternator would output high volts without the regulator present.. and it didn't. That's a sign of a bad alternator. But I wasn't 100% sure.)

The tester said that it was a problem with my voltage regulator's diodes or some such. Being a $20 part, I figured it might be the problem since the diagnostic said it was.. plus it's a lot easier to change out than the alternator.

However, before I paid for it, I asked the guy if I would be able to return it promptly if it doesn't fix the problem. He hesitated a bit... then said he would do that for me as a warranty exchange.  So I install it.. no dice. He tried again testing the system with the handheld tester (they test at the battery) and it said the same problem, bad voltage regulator and that the alternator was fine. He was scratching his head at that point.

So I removed the new voltage regulator, replaced the old and had him check for a new (rebuilt) alternator. He only had the 1yr warranty one in stock. It would be Monday before they could have anything else. Rather than limp for 2 days more on a bad alternator, I decided to nip it in the bud now.

So, I set out removing the old alternator. They have a BETTER test machine inside the store that cannot be moved, and requires the part to be out of the vehicle. After removal but prior to purchase of the replacement, I had him test the old one. It came up FAILED on that better machine.

So, I went ahead and did the return on the voltage regulator and bought the new alternator. I got it put on and all is well now.

If you are in Benson, AZ and need auto parts, I recommend O'Reilly Auto for sure. They were most helpful and patient. They also lent me a hammer to pound in the roll pin for mounting on the new one where it wasn't put in all the way like it was supposed to be.

A tip to someone who may be doing this: Remove the air cleaner housing and get the alternator out via the area on the right side. Your transmission dipstick tube might be in the way a little and the oil filler cap on the valve cover may be slightly in the way, but I didn't have to remove the cap. It's a tight fit but I got the old out and the new in that way.

Also, double check your belts!! I had them on wrong around the crankshaft at first. I double checked due to one being tight and one being floppy. One was outside of the grove, one was in the wrong groove and the other grove was empty. Thankfully it didn't hurt the belts as it was only run for a minute or less that way. It only took a couple minutes to loosen the alternator again, fix the belts back on the pulley right then tighten back the alternator.

The "new" alternator:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tombstone, AZ Revisited

I revisited Tombstone, AZ today to do a bit of sight seeing I missed back in November since I am about to leave the area.

I am too tired to add photo captions to check back in a few days to see if they have been added.