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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk1 :: Construction Diary :: #21

28 Oct 1999

I feel like a traitor. It's only a couple of weeks since I thumbed my nose at the rat race and here I am working on a quote for a photographic job.

Still it's different this time, I no longer really care if I get the job or not. Sure it's a nice little earner that would pay for a large part of the motor home, but hey, I was happy before I got the call.

I delivered the quote today to a massive government building, seven floors of stained concrete monolith in the bush near Canberra. What a depressing place. While studying the building plans I was struck by the rows of work stations and thought to myself that this would not be a pleasant environment to work in. Viewing the grey facade confirmed my feelings.

Still if they accept my quote at least they'll get to look at plenty of Rob Gray original landscape photos :-), maybe that'll help.

On leaving the building I looked back and was struck by the similarity between the massive buttresses looming above the eucalypts and the landscape in the Budawang Ranges. I must try to return to my beloved Budawangs before long.

Meanwhile, back on the motor home front...

Progress has been slow, it seems that every day I have to spend most of the morning attending to banking chores or buying materials. I've been mostly working on the pop-top roof above the bedroom. It works now but is getting heavy and will soon be too heavy to lift.

Enter some hydraulics.

I have been resisting the temptation to mechanise too many of the motor home's features in an effort to reduce complexity. But I have to admit that the addition of hydraulics to the design does simplify a lot of the design and the subsequent operation of various features, eg the pop-top and deck.

I've also welded some of the floors into the storage bins, decided how many water tanks I'll have and how to hang them, decided to include some air conditioning and how to install it, played with installing the inverter and bought four batteries which will make up one of the two banks I plan to have.

So I haven't entirely slack, there's just not much to show for it.

2 Nov 1999

My car's on the fritz so I'm riding one of the Hondas for a few days. It's a heck of a lot of fun but it's taking me a while to get used to it. Not the actual riding, I've ridden motor bikes a lot over the years, rather the practicalities of motor bike transport. Or should I say the impracticalities.

I finally got used to wearing a small backpack so I could pick up a bit of shopping or some parts for the truck but yesterday I had to collect about a dozen pieces of 10mm steel plate I'd had cut to size. I loaded them into my pack one at a time each wrapped in some towling then heaved the pack onto my shoulders. Each piece of steel was pretty small but together they weighed about 20kgs. I rode back to the workshop half expecting one of the straps on the pack to break and send the pack, and therefore my centre of gravity, swinging. I made it without incident and my back should be OK in a week or so.

Another thing I'd forgotten about bikes is the cold. We haven't bought much in the way of cold/wet weather gear yet so I'm reduced to scrounging various items of bushwalking clothing in an attempt to stay warm when I ride home at night.

On a related subject, has anyone done those intelligence tests were you are presented with a sequence of numbers and you have to guess the relationship between the numbers? Well try this one.

28

28

28

28

28

28

28

28

28

28

12

12

15

13

18

11

8

10

8

9

Can you pick the sequence? I'd be astounded if you did. The top row is the temperature in Townsville every time I take notice of it on the news. The bottom row is the corresponding temperature in Canberra on the same days.

We didn't watch any TV when we were in Townsville recently but I'll bet they dispense with the daily weather reports in favour of a bi-annual one. In the autumn they slap the janitor in front of the camera and he says something like "For the next six months it will be 28 degrees and clear", then in the spring they haul him back again and he says "For the next six months it will be 33 degrees, muggy as hell and will piss it down every afternoon".

Of course it's pretty hot and humid up north in the summer but as a full-timer you can head south before then. If you need any more reasons to go full-timing then that should do the trick.

Meanwhile back at the truck there's not much to report. I've hung a 230 litre drinking water tank and am now making the brackets to support tanks for the grey water and about 6-700 litres of general purpose water.

22 Nov 1999

Contrary to what you may think by viewing this diary there's been a lot happening. In fact that's why there hasn't been any entries for a while, I've been working 10, 11 and 12 hour days and, frankly, have been too buggered to write about it.

Anyway what's been done? I've built hangers for two fresh water tanks and a grey water tank and hung a third fresh water tank.

Here we see the hangers as they appear today but they where actually built as a single unit with braces connecting the two halves. I feel the bracing is required because each side has 300-400 litres of water and I reckon that's stretching the friendship asking the hangers to support 400kgs (that's static load, not to mention the dynamic stresses caused by driving on a rough road).

I had no sooner built them when I remembered the chassis flex. After all that time allowing for the movement of the two chassis rails I go and build a rigid structure that spans both rails. If I tried driving the truck with this in place something would give.

So, once I recovered from this most recent stupidity attack I removed the entire structure and cut it in half. I still need bracing between the halves however, it just has to allow some movement. I welded four plates to the old brace stubs and drilled them for some bonded rubber mounts as shown below with the mount placed in position.

This will allow me to connect the two halves of the structure and provide the necessary support but still allow the halves to move independently of each other.

I've moved the winch sheave block to the rear of the chassis and added a roller just behind the winch to direct the cable underneath the body.

I've almost completed the under floor (The rig has two floors, the under floor sits below the main floor at a distance of between 200 and 450mm according to what clearance is required for things like the winch. This creates some large storage areas).

I've mounted the inverter and air conditioner, modified the battery cradle and started installing a hydraulic system. Below we see the inverter and air conditioner in the under-floor section next to the shower base.

The inverter weights 50kg and the air conditioner about 40; they've been in and out more often than I want to think about. I'm knackered just writing about it.

24 Nov 1999

You can't get there from here. There was a joke a while back, something like a city bloke asking a local yokel how to get to Bullamakanca. The yokel responded that you can't get there from here, you have to go somewhere else first. Well that's how I feel.

A couple of week ago I was working on the bedroom's pop-top roof. I got most of it working but realised that it was getting too heavy to lift manually so decided to install some hydraulics to do the work for me.

The end of my journey to build a pop-top was within sight but I realised that I'd have to visit a lot of other places before returning to the job at hand. To wit...

  • To finish the pop-top I would have to install the hydraulics because adding more to the pop-top would make it impossible to lift.
  • To install and test the hydraulics I need 24 volts.
  • To obtain 24 volts I need my batteries in place.
  • If I'm to draw 250A from the batteries while testing I need a battery charger.
  • The only 24v battery charger I have is my inverter so I have to install that.
  • To install the inverter I have to build the under-floor storage.
  • The inverter and air conditioner share the same storage compartment so I cannot finalise the invertor's mounting until I have the AC and mount them both.
  • I cannot install the AC without knowing exactly how the ducting will work.
  • I cannot really know how the ducting will work without doing some of the panelling in the lounge area.

And that's just the major items.

So to finish the pop-top at the upper front of the motor home I have to work on the lounge and the lower rear. Go figure.

Of coarse I could jerry-rig things to get the hydraulics working well enough to test, but this is work that has to be redone and I already do enough things twice due to stuff ups.

Today I mounted the hydraulic power pack and the first clevis for the pop-top ram.

16 Dec 1999

I feel like Frankenstein, the doctor that is, not the monster. For months I've been slaving the inert body of my motor home, an ugly looking beast conjured from the depths of my mind with a little help from the Wondonga truck wreckers.

Today I breathed some life into it. I installed four batteries then connected them with wire as thick as your thumb (actually as thick as MY thumb, I've no idea how large yours are). I then had one negative and one positive wire, I bolted the negative to the inverter, held my breath and touched the positive.

There was a bright flash as some internal capacitance was satisfied then the reassuring hum of life. The LCD lit and displayed "Set Inverter", my monster's eyes had opened.

I sat awhile to see if the inverter (sorry, "Power Conversion Center") would pass the smoke test, it did so I relaxed.

Now let's see if is actually inverts. I found a short extension lead, cut it in two and bared the wires to make what we used to laughingly call "death leads", one for input to the inverter (shore power) and one for output. I connected them and plugged a light into the output.

It lit, so far so good.

I plugged the input into a power point, the "AC1 in good" LED started flashing indicating that the inverter was synchronising its waveform with the mains. After a few seconds there was a click as the inverter handed over to the shore power. The "Inverting" LED went out and the batteries started charging. This is one clever piece of gear (A Trace SW3024, 3300w inverter/charger).

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