Van Conversion: Week 2

No news to report on the window other than it is still leaking. No news to report on the weather other than it is still raining. Conclusion: no possibility of repair as of yet. But there is always next week!

Nevertheless, slow progress has turned into fast progress and Tina is looking fresh. Although, we cannot take all the credit as help came in all shapes and sizes this week, from old friends from school, new friends in Wales, a wanderer from South Africa, and my electrician genius of a Papa.

Monday’s activities were not very van related but we did hot smoke a whole Salmon with Harry’s school pal Tom and go to puppy class with Eddie my dog. I half heartedly measured some plywood for boxes to cover the wheel arches. These measurements later turned out to be wrong but the salmon however was delicious and Eddie was excellent in class. Life just swings in roundabouts.

On Tuesday we all piled in the van and drove to the deep and dark Welsh Valleys to look at a roof rack. Our tummies full of egg, sausage, and bacon baps from a truckers lay-by cafe we had a good feeling about this one. We had been to see a few roof racks the week before and contacted a lot of other people from Facebook and Gumtree but with no luck: they were all too big or had been sold or didn’t have the correct attachments or were too rusty, yadda yadda yadda. Hope was wearing thin. I mindlessly messaged the next one on the list, it seemed dubious from the description but looked in good condition. After much communication the days previous we were 93% sure the roof rack would fit despite the owner’s van being a different size and model to Tina, yet the measurements seemed to work.

In great Welsh style as soon as we got out the van it began to rain, pathetic fallacy at its finest. Only at this point did we really think about how to get the heavy three metre long rack onto to the nearly three metre high roof. We had recruited Tom to come and help and as he is just about the join the Marines, I think Harry and I thought this would be a piece of cake. Luckily the seller Rebecca knew the tricks and she got us to reverse the van up her sloped driveway making the van almost level with her front yard, then the four of us carefully hoisted it over the wall and onto the roof fairly easily. We had adjusted the legs of the rack to the correct width of the van gutters and the rack fit in fairly snug. Two hours of rain and further adjustments later, Tina was fully accessorised and she looked fab. So Rebecca if you ever read this, THANK YOU again. Your help and business was and is greatly appreciated.

Cue pathetic fallacy once more and the sun began to shine as we trundled home with our new kit. We stopped off at the castle and pub at Skenfrith for a celebratory pint, a good job done. So Tom, THANK YOU for joining for the first big trip in Tina and for expertly assembling the roof rack in a t-shirt in lashing rain, i’m sure you will make a fine Marine with training such as this.

With the rack now on we could install the solar panel and make a start at the dreaded electrics. Though on Wednesday we didn’t do a whole lot of that. After the excitement of the Welsh roof rack expedition I had some travel vaccinations for Mongolia and I ain’t great with needles. I managed to muster the strength the next day to go shopping and bought nothing van related and Harry changed some damaged bolts on the roof rack. Feeling fairly wobbly and wounded in both arms I did some admin and wrote some lists in the afternoon whilst Harry organised our purchases as Thursday was the day I had been fearing and the others relishing, electronics day. Duh duh dunnnn…

Yet in the end I had nothing to fear. My Papa is an engineer and excellent at all DIY related activities so I drafted him in to help with electronics, mostly for safety reasons because I memorised my GCSE physics notes in order to pass the exam without any comprehension of its meaning, and Harry, although far more knowledgeable than me, was keen for back up. Papa Hunt seemed genuinely excited too and his enthusiasm and help did not disappoint! He is very organised and efficient so we now have a wonderful electronics cupboard to house all the components.

We cannot run our utilities solely off the van battery so we have two other ‘leisure’ batteries fed by the solar panel and a split charger. The utilities we have are the fridge, plug sockets, blow heater, water pump, LED lights, a smart bulb lamp, and a USB charger. Again thanks to help from others, big up Sean from Photonic Universe, we have been advised on the correct battery and solar panel sizes we need to support all of this. My dad helped to sort all of these into the correct order and connect it to all the wiring Harry had prepared, we would be a bit stuck without his help so THANK YOU VERY MUCH Papa.

The rest of the week was spent eating lamb and chocolate to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, but after our super productive electronics day I don’t think we felt too bad. Our friend Jim from yachting came to England for a long weekend and we persuaded him to come to Harry’s for a night. Jim is from Durban, South Africa, so the English countryside in its true rainy Spring glory is probably a shock so we just bumbled around, took him to the pub, and had a bbq in the rain therefore I think he got a flavour of our nations’ favourite pastimes. So here is a THANK YOU to Jim, always the trooper to get involved with an adventure, and giving us a much needed break from the van.

All in all a good week! Now we have some key components in place it is a lot easier to see how the van will be and how it will work as a home rather than a vehicle. A lot of plans for the interior layout and function are changing day by day but this seems really key to working out what we want from the space and how we can use it efficiently. One of my father’s friends came over to our house briefly and when we told him about our plans to convert the van and drive to Mongolia his reaction was the first of its kind. Bearing in mind he is very knowledgable about vehicles and travelling long distances in them, he made an awkward face, the classic eyebrow raise and furrowed brow, let out a small grunt and looked away. Our planned departure date is creeping up on us and we are extremely aware of this, but I think this reaction was odd. We are not professionals and this will be hard work but I think we got this and are heading in the right direction. His reaction really bugged me and creeps into my head daily now but if anything is making me work harder, so THANK YOU family friend because you have shifted my ass into gear a bit.

Eddie surveying her kingdom at the Pub for a break


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