Wisdom in motion?

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Lostranger
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Sorry for the long delay in updating. We've been living in the truck since late February, but I'm amazed at how little conversion work I've gotten done. Our life has been crazy all spring and summer, but I do have some things to report and show. Here's what the pile of polyiso board looked like when I brung it home:

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We've named the truck Molly. This is what she looked like after I replaced all the rear lights with sealed beams and leds.

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This is new insulation board on the back wall:

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Both the roof air units were framed with white oak. Both frames were too rotten to use. I replaced the frame of the rear unit with treated pine:

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I decided to remove the front ac unit. It was apparently original to the truck (1976), and the roof leaked around it. We're not likely to need more than one AC unit anyway.

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Here is an exterior and an interior shot of the patch I made from one of the aluminum panels I took off the interior walls. I made the patch 1-1/2" larger each way than the hole and sealed it with liquid nails heavy duty construction adhesive. I was surprised that the patch leaked a bit at first, but it self healed after a couple weeks in the sun. The white stuff you see on the rivet heads and patch edges is an aluminum specific primer that I globbed on with a foam brush. I'll spray the same primer on spots where I sand through the original paint when we get to body work.

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I have a little more to show, but no time just now. I'll try to post again later today. One of the reasons I'm so long updating is that we've not had a good connection until recently. Related to that is the fact that Bev and I found ourselves back in the doughnut/coffee shop business at the first of June. We had done that for six years ending in 2009, and that's the reason we lost our house and are living in a truck in the first place. The return to to food service was predicated on the fact that we had sold/financed our equipment to another family member in early 2011. He was trying to run the shop in addition to a full time job. When he finally decided to get out, we had to get back in or take a major loss on the equipment. Here we are now, putting in 14 hour days six out of seven. Summer is a slow time in this business. After school starts we may be able to hire help and get back to the conversion.

I did get a temporary kitchen installed in a shed where we're living. We also have a toilet that serves the flea market where we're parked. I rigged a great shower on a side wall of the kitchen shed, but it's mostly a night time experience since it only has one wall.

More soon.

Jim in NC
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Here's the kitchen we've been using. Now that we're spending so much time at the doughnut shop, we do most of our cooking there.

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I've spent a lot of time and money recently rebuilding the engine in my old GMC cargo van. It's an '89 model that I've had since '94. I have a collection of GM and VW vans that I've held onto through the years just in case I might need them. Losing both our late model vehicles in 2010 prompted me to bring this van out of a ten year retirement. It's been an expensive pain, but it's coming together nicely. And it's paid for. Here are a few shots:

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This is Kora and me deep in the Cherokee National forest near Hampton, TN. The van is doing great, and Kora is pushing us to let her get a learner's permit. We're thinking not, since she's not even eleven months old. I splurged on the exhaust system for this van. Hedman headers followed by new cat converters, magna flow-style mufflers, and 2-1/4" pipes all the way back. It sounds MARVELOUS. Not loud, just deep and powerful. I won't brag on the fuel economy, but I know it's better than it would have been with stock exhaust.

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And finally, here is the way Molly stands at the moment. We're getting ready to move to a different spot on the ten acre property. We'll be on a level concrete pad with direct access to a septic system. I'll have to lay about 250 feet of water line, but I'll rent a small trencher and run 3/4" PEX. I'm planning an 8'x12' utility building adjacent to the new truck site. It will house toilet, shower, washer, dryer, sink and water heater. These amenities will supplement rather than replace the bath/toilet/kitchen facilities we're planning for the truck.

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Molly has proven to be a wonderful truck. We've made several weekend trips with the band up to a couple hundred miles each way. She's amazingly comfortable with nothing more than a double mattress set lying on the floor. I can't wait to get more conversion done. We already have most of the materials and appliances, just no time.

With that said, however, I'm back to looking for a bus for the long haul. Pun intended. We'll keep Molly for visiting state and national parks that won't accommodate a 40' bus and for a guest house, but I suspect that an MCI C3 or D3 is in our future. We plan to NEVER own a fixed-foundation house again. The mobility freedom we're already experiencing, coupled with our dramatically low living expense, are too good to give up.

I hope to get back to insulating/paneling the interior next week. I'll be back as soon as I have more to report.

Jim in NC
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Dusty »

Thanks for the update, it's always interesting to see where the build has got to.

Kora looks like she really loves you :thumbup: :) :)
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Kora thinks I'm pretty cool. She runs to greet me when I get home. Not even my wife does that anymore.

Jim in North Carolina
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Dennis The Bus Dweller »

The mobility freedom we're already experiencing, coupled with our dramatically low living expense, are too good to give up.
I feel the same way 8)
Peace along the way
Dennis the bus dweller N.Y.
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Mark R. Obtinario »

Any particular reason you are wanting a C3 or a D3?

Personally I prefer the D-series mostly because it has the better one radiator cooling system. The older style twin radiators coupled with a 2-cycle Detroit Diesel means you are going to overheat.

Whichever you decide to purchase you need to spend the extra $$$ to get one with the Series 60 in it. Whatever the price difference is it will more than pay for itself in lower fuel usage--2-cycle=3-5 MPG and 4-cycle=6-9 MPG.
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Any particular reason you are wanting a C3 or a D3?
Greetings Mark,

Thanks again for your valuable input to this and other forums. I believe we've had this discussion before, but I'm happy to weigh in again.

To start, I never do ANYTHING without a particular reason. In the case of my preference for a C3/D3 body, I have two particular reasons. First I'm an MCI fan. Second, I'm 6'5" tall, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life ducking as I walk through the house. It's not that I'm incapable of raising a coach roof, I just don't want to. Starting with 6'10" of interior height will save time, trouble and expense.

As for the advantages of a four stroke with modern radiator design, you're preaching to the choir. The series 60 is my favorite engine, and I have stated before on this forum that I will never again be shackled to a 2 stroke. If I find the right deal on a C3, I'm willing to repower. I still think the ideal package in a bus is a series 60 and a 13 speed RR, but I'm from the lunatic fringe. The best driving/performing bus I've ever been in was a friend's MC9 with a series 50 and 13 speeds. When he lost that bus in a tragic fire, several of us cried.

Of course my first choice is a D3. It's been my dream coach since I first saw one up close in 2001, They're getting enough age to start to bring them within my range. If I go that route, I'm not likely to pull the Allison and transplant a Road Ranger, but part of me will always wish that I had. I would gladly consider a D3 with Cummins power. I believe that a few of them came with Cats, but that would have to be a steal to interest me.

I've been too busy with other areas of life to do any more work on my step van. I have been building the utility building I mentioned earlier, and that's going to be a sweet addition to life. I'll post some photos in the next couple days.

Mark, thanks again for always-helpful input.

Jim in NC
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Headache »

Lostranger wrote:I still think the ideal package in a bus is a series 60 and a 13 speed RR, but I'm from the lunatic fringe.
Not lunatic at all as that's my favorite set up as well. I drove a Volvo set up like that and I tried on more than a few occasions to get the owner to sell it to me.

But lets be completely honest, DDs are the 2nd most expensive US built engine to repair and maintain being surpassed in cost only by Cat. This is the only reason I won't go big truck motor in my project now. It will have a 13 speed in it someday as well as the 7.3 being rebuilt or something like a DT444 replacement, but I'm staying small because I can afford a $5000 rebuild much easier than a $10k rebuild.

The first thing I think of with any potential project is the future use and costs. Just like with the UHaul I bought(and your van), I was thinking of a future build. I'm still dreaming housetruck and someday my UHaul will be one. I'll be able to have the box lifted off and still have a place to live while the frame of the truck is being redone for the house.
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Not much to report on the step van — the doughnut/coffee shop business requires many hours, and in the summer, it does not generate enough cash flow to hire employees. That should improve about the time school starts.

I am working on support structure for our house truck, however. The 8'x12' utility building is coming along nicely. If you missed my earlier post, this building will contain shower, toilet, washer, dryer, water heater and sink. I'll post photos in the next couple days. Roofing metal should be here this Thursday. This building is nomadic in nature. The floor is part of a concrete pad where my father once had an apartment. I just built around the old drain stubs. If we should have to move, I'll jack the building up and haul it on my 16' tandem trailer.

I've finally become aware of a class of nomadic homes called showman's wagons. Here is one of many good sites I've found: http://www.visit.carters-steamfair.co.u ... gvans.html

I've given up on converting an MCI bus. I no longer think it's a good move given the precarious nature of petroleum supply and distribution. For the long term, I want something that can be moved with any available traction source, and a wagon fits that bill. I'm back to looking at the chassis under my old class A motorhome. I'm no longer thinking of something with a wooden frame, but a steel frame on the order of Rob Gray or the Pollymecca house truck might be the ticket. Those showman's wagons are inspirational. I especially like the mollycroft roofs: light, air AND more headroom.

Soon as the utility building is usable, I'll move the step van beside it. I have four 250 watt solar panels on order, but It will be some time before we get a 24v inverter to put them to good use. After I move the truck, we will not have mains current available. We will use a couple of good 8D truck batteries, a 12v inverter from the motorhome, and a 5kw generator for backup. I'll run the generator when we do laundry and top the batteries at the same time. We'll use our propane refrigerator at the new site, but it doesn't seem to be cooling well. I want to take it in for service before we're depending on it.

It occurs to me that I may be able to use the new 24v solar panels to feed a 12v system with an MPPT charge controller. Maybe someone who knows this subject could weigh in.

In any event, life is fun and satisfying. Who cares if we get up numbingly early and work so many hours. Bev and I treasure each other, we get to play with our dog several times a day, we're making progress toward mobile living, and our cash flow is positive. Heck, I might just write a song.

Jim in North Carolina
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Headache »

I'm all ears when you write that song!

I love the look of the showman's wagons. I know that eventually I'll have some sort of tiny house built on the frame of mine but I want something with character. I'll definitely be interested in whatever you build.
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by stuartcnz »

I think you are on the right track with the idea of showmans wagons. I also love the idea of using the mollycroft roof. It seems a good way of bringing in light, and being able to keep some privacy inside, and giving extra headroom where it is needed most, all at the same time.
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Kora turns one in a few days. She's still an adolescent in dog terms, but the anniversary of her birth and her burgeoning maturity have me thinking about her needs. Food, water and regular access to a place to relieve herself. Shade from our relentless summer sun and a dry place during afternoon thunder storms. Because she's an Australian Shepherd, Kora needs to run. And run. And run. She runs for the thrill of exertion. She craves the rush of acceleration as much as any teenaged boy ever loved to floor an accelerator. She runs for the joy of knowing that she is not bound to any place. When the orange frisbee catches a tail wind and sails over her head, Kora streaks to a pace that my aging bones and muscles refuse to accept at face value. Pure, dizzying speed. Surely she becomes possessed by the spirits of countless generations of long-dead timber wolves clenched in the far-from-certain struggle to overtake and attack. Blinding speed that leads to death that leads to life for the pack. As far as we know, Kora's never killed anything larger than an insect. Her meals show up twice a day with no more effort on her part than the training ritual of "down, stay" before she's allowed to eat. Still, something inside her knows that her job is to run, and even though the prize is a well caught flying disc, not the throat of a deer or elk, the purity of her pleasure as she leaps high and snatches that spinning saucer from the air often causes me to gasp and applaud wildly. Some part of my soul makes that leap with her.

Kora has other needs. She needs to spend as much time as possible with her humans. This works well for us, since we need to be needed. She needs time and space and tools for healing when she's sick or injured. We provide the space and tools as best we can. She needs to ride with us. When "Mom" is not along, she sits in the passenger seat and hangs out the window to feel the wind and observe the world from so high. Kora needs to have her belly scratched. She can approach a trance-like state while I'm rubbing her. I can almost make out her mantra. "Cowwww. Cowwww." She would argue this next point, but she needs an occasional bath and trim. She sometimes needs to lie beside my bed and have me pet her neck and chest. One night she needed to get in bed with us during a thunderstorm. One of her most important needs is for us to keep her from following her enormous curiosity and wandering away from our protection.

The effort I've put into assessing Kora's needs has helped me with the housetruck build. Other than the craving for speed, our needs are not that different than hers. We are addicted to audiovisual entertainment as we drift off to sleep and we enjoy bathing. We need more shelter in cold weather than she does. Since we have opposable thumbs, we have accumulated tools and trinkets that need a place. We prefer our food hot and some of our drinks cold. Our furnishings are larger and more elaborate than hers. We play music and talk on phones and use a computer and preserve vegetables and cook in Dutch ovens. We fly fish and bicycle and sew and build musical instruments. Obviously, not all these are "needs", but we're not likely to give them up unless forced, and it's no accident that our housetruck is more than just a large dog house. We've known all along that one moderate-sized housetruck will not accommodate all the interests and activities I've listed, and we're working to figure out what fits mobility and what needs a more-fixed base.

I want our truck to meet our needs without superfluity. Nothing merely for show. No large "extra" space. No gadgets that are never used. No clothes that are never worn. And yet, mere utility is not enough. Like Kora jumping to catch the frisbee, something in me occasionally needs to leap free of the grasp of gravity and temporal momentum and touch the face of generations past. Part of me longs to stand midwife for unborn hope in a world filled with gloomy possibility. I believe that a housetruck should facilitate THOSE needs as well as basic bodily needs — partly through its ability to travel to inspiring places, but mostly through its thoughtfully crafted form and function. When home "feels right", then one's reach is more likely to exceed one's grasp.

Colin Fletcher was known to wax eloquent about his emotional attachment to his backpack. Colin spent much of his life walking the wide world, dependent mostly on what he carried. His choices of gear and supplies and arrangement evolved through decades of trial and error. In "The Complete Walker," he spoke of his relationship with his loaded pack and of his anxiety whenever forced to separate from it when he was out walking. I'm already developing that sort of attachment to our step van. I'm becoming convinced that a housetruck should fit like an expensive, well fitted and well worn shoe. And there lies the rub.

Part of me doubts that I'm up the challenge of "thoughtfully crafted form and function." I have experience and ability and tools. I used to make my living as a building contractor and mechanic. I've previously built both a housetruck and a housebus. I've built two houses that we lived in. I've thought about and researched this project, but this is the first time we're living full time in something that rolls. I confess my self-imposed intimidation. I have every excuse of being busy for the past few months, but the fact is that we've been living since the end of March in a mostly empty box that moves. We enjoy an acceptable level of comfort and convenience, but most of that is exterior to the truck. Part of me is itching to move the project along, but.... Truth is, I need to get a few things out of the way first.

Some of my trepidation is related to a flaw in my character. I can never build anything without putting major energy into planning the NEXT version of that thing: improving the design, choosing better or more cost-effective materials, polishing the details. Don't misunderstand. I finish most of what I start, and I know and care enough to do good work, but the future plan is always some distraction to the current project. I already know that I want to build one more house vehicle — probably on the lines of a showman's wagon — and that knowledge deflects some of the focus I need for this truck build. And that brings me to what I want to say.

I need inspiration. Knowledge is wonderful, and I treasure what I've learned from the rest of you, but inspiration is what makes things happen. Please keep posting what you're working on. Include pictures. Talk about your choices and their reasons. I suspect that our group is smaller than it was before Sharkey handed over the reins, but Stuart is doing a great job and the need for nomadic housing is growing. Show the rest of us what you're doing in your life and your truck or bus or boat or whatever, and I promise I won't bore you as much talking about my dog.

Jim in North Caroliina

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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Dusty »

But I like your dog ...........
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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Caravan Monster »

Lostranger wrote: I've finally become aware of a class of nomadic homes called showman's wagons. Here is one of many good sites I've found: http://www.visit.carters-steamfair.co.u ... gvans.html
Another variant is the living van, that would have been towed behind traction engines and steam rollers to accommodate workmen. I don't think they ever grew to the size of showman's wagons, and their horsedrawn ancestry is more apparent.


(that's not me !it's taken from google images)

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I've been living in a less refined version for a few years now. If I was building another, I would combine steel framing and wood panels, with a design focus on keeping the centre of gravity close to the ground. Tall narrow windows and an aluminium roof have worked well in the current version and I would repeat those features. Good insulation and condensation issues are other things I would concentrate on. And I would make the dog sleep outside so I can't hear her snoring (only joking, she's 14 now and has earned her place in the warm)

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Re: Wisdom in motion?

Post by Lostranger »

Hey Caravan Monster,

Thanks for the info and the great photos. Love your dog. How about posting pics of your rig. I'm thinking seriously of putting wooden siding on the steel frame of the showman's wagon I'm planning to build.

Jim in North Carolina
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