Bending Season

I live outside, on the porch of a travel trailer, underneath an awning and hemmed by colorful tarps.

The dirt is always beneath my feet and the weather on my skin. Insects go about their quotidian, treating me like just so much terrain. I observe their passage and their limitless diversity. I witness their entrances and exits on the stage of seasons.

Now is the season of the caterpillar. Little inchworms bend their way through space. Contract and expand, contract and expand. When observed at close distance, it is they who tug the earth through its travels.

They dangle from the live oaks on their silken threads, trapeze artists alight on the breeze, and then march together in all directions, following the arrows of anarchy to natural order. They are legion. They cover me by the dozens. My tender attempts at relocating them sometimes end in bloodshed. They are not willingly pried from their purchase.

The chickens feast during bender season. They pick away at the legion, taking out swaths, but the legion remains legion. Soon enough, they will disappear entirely, through no act of chicken, to be replaced by tiny white moths. A swarm replaces the horde, still legion either way.

They die quickly, leaving papery wings as memento of their moment. Little parchments mark the end of bending season. Punctuated ephemera.

May Your Buses Be Thick and Heavy

We use 2/0 wire and heavy bus bars for battery and inverter connections.

Before, the wire grounding the battery to the trailer chassis was 12 gauge and separated from its ring terminator.

A  four post negative bus bar, 200 amp circuit breaker, battery cutoff switch, and 4 post positive bus bar with plastic cover are arranged left-to-right on and secured to a piece of plywood. Heavy 2/0 wires run between them. Red positive wires run to and from the breaker, cuttoff switch, and positive bus bar. Black negative wires run to the negative bus bar.
A four post negative bus bar, 200 amp circuit breaker, battery cutoff switch, and 4 post positive bus bar with plastic cover are arranged left-to-right on and secured to a piece of plywood. Thick, heavy 2/0 wires run between them. Red positive wires run to and from the breaker, cuttoff switch, and positive bus bar. Black negative wires run to the negative bus bar.
The plywood board with breaker, cutoff, and bus bars is mounted vertically in the electrical compartment of the Casita next to a 160aH Renogy battery. A black 2/0 wire runs from the negative battery terminal to the negative bus bar. A red 2/0 wire runs from the positive battery terminal (out of frame) to the circuit breaker. Spare wires lie in the compartment waiting to be attached to the inverter+charger+transfer switch (not in photo).
The plywood board with breaker, cutoff, and bus bars is mounted vertically in the electrical compartment of the Casita next to a 160ah Renogy battery. A black 2/0 wire runs from the negative battery terminal to the negative bus bar. A red 2/0 wire runs from the positive battery terminal (out of frame) to the circuit breaker. Spare wires lie in the compartment waiting to be attached to the trailer frame and the inverter+charger+transfer switch (not in photo).

New Water Pump

Here’s the original water pump in our 1990 Casita. It served well for many years, but, by the time it got to us, it was a little leaky and a lot loud.

Zoomed out view of old Shurflo water pump showing electrical and plumbing connections
Zoomed in view of old Shurflo water pump showing the dusty label. Manufactured 4/90.

We replaced it with a Shurflo 4008-101-E65 3.0 fitted with a couple elbow adapters and a pipe strainer. We mated the new pump to the stiff PEX tubing of the Casita’s plumbing with flexible, braided, nylon tubing to aid vibration damping. The noise and vibration reduction between old and new is significant. I can’t hear the pump over the sound of water flowing from the kitchen tap. Even without the sink flowing, the whirring beneath the bed is subtle enough that we might forget to flip the switch off (it shut offs automatically when the taps are closed, but I like to flip the switch off too).

New Shurflo water pump with electrical and plumbing connections
Zoomed out view of new Shurflo water pump showing electrical and plumbing connections and intake strainer

This was a straightforward swap. There are four connections to make. Inflow, outflow, hot, and neutral. I made the 10 year old do much of the work while I supervised from repose.

Don’t forget to drain the water tank and shut off any city water connection before disconnecting the old pump. Keep buckets and towels handy. (IME, you can’t have too many buckets, towels, tarps, or clamps.)

1990 Casita Trailer

We upsized from the minivan to a 1990 Casita. This Casita rests on a car hauler trailer, giving it a wider stance and room on the back for a storage deck. The trailer and Casita are integrated with a groovy custom paint job. This thing has been to all kinds of cool places, including a few trips to Burning Man.

Here are some photos from the previous owner.

 

We replaced the water pump, reconnected the shower and hot water lines, and started the process of upgrading the battery, inverter, converter,  battery charger, transfer switch, and distribution panel. Once we finish crawling in tight places and repainting the name badge and bumper, I’ll post some fresh pics.

The Things of Van Life

I collected many of the things I use in my minivan camper into an Amazon idea list. I use all of these products, many of them daily, and recommend them. I continuously update the list to reflect what I’m currently using. As things break or otherwise leave my life, I remove them from the list.

This Amazon wish list collects items I want to add in the future. I’m planning to expand the solar system, add a catalytic heater, build a luggable solar generator, and add a spin washer.

Tarp Awning System

The awning system for the front and back porches consists of silver tarps clamped to the roof rail with ball bungees. Trekking poles, paracord, and stakes hold up the other end of the tarp. The guylines use a McCarthy Hitch, which is like a light trucker’s hitch employing a slip loop and a slippery half hitch. This hitch is easy to adjust and offers mechanical advantage.

The roof rails are extended with 3/4″ PVC pipe fastened with hose clamps. Simple and cheap. This allows using bigger tarps and centering them over the sliding side doors. Cross fittings are located at the back of the rails for use as antenna mast mounts. Eventually, I will paint the pipes black to match the factory rails.

This system has held up through big storms, including the ones slung our way by Hurricane Harvey. It keeps the Texas summer sun off, making for a pleasant outdoor extension to the van’s living space.

And here’s the front porch featuring a moon chair and a messy collapsible table. Yes, that bucket is the bathroom. 🙂

Mattress Insider RV Mattress

While shopping for a mattress for the van, Mattress Insider caught my eye because they offer cot sizes as standard. There’s no need to make a custom order, just pick the size from a dropdown. After checking their reputation on some RV forums, I decided to take a chance on an 8″ thick 30″ x 75″ mattress.

Three months later, I have no complaints. It’s a comfortable mattress. I have a litany of back problems, and this mattress works for me.