Here’s a quick tour of the Ranchito garden, taken during my customary lunchtime inspection stroll. Our vegetable season tends to be on the late side here, with the coastal climate and limited backyard sun, but the upside is that we often still have tomatoes fruiting around Halloween.
Like everything else in the RV/trailer/vanlife world, everyone has their own opinion about what works best for window coverings. Tie-dye bandannas held up with pushpins. Custom sewn $500 etsy drapes. Reflectix wedged in the window frame. Hmm.
In Rocinante v1, I sewed up some screens and blackout curtains that were held in place with velcro. They worked well, but the velcro rips up your carpet headliner when they’re moved around, and they were kind of a pain to store when fully taken down. This time I’m going with the popular “curtains on a string” method, using 550 paracord to hang my DIY bug liner and privacy curtains.
I’m trying to minimize the number of holes I drill through the shell, so I hunted around at the hardware store in search of a cord-holder bracket that could be glued into the headliner. These awesome clamps from the electrical section seemed to fit the bill. They’re low profile, have a nice flat side for gluing, and can hold two separate cords if I want to hang the bug liner and curtains separately.
After deciding where I needed each clip to go, I cut a small hole in the carpet headliner so I could glue the clip directly to the fiberglass. I used this super stinky rubber cement style glue to attach the brackets, then let them cure overnight before installing the paracord.
Next step, curtain creation. Off to the fabric store!
I’ve got about two months until the Teton road trip, so Rocinante is now my top priority project. The master list of improvements continues to grow, which means it’s time to sort out the critical items and get them squared away first. These projects definitely need to be done before we leave:
- Finish the sleeping platform. The outer box is complete but still needs to be strapped to the truck frame. Both drawers need fronts, handles/latches, and carpeting for the bottom of the drawers.
- Shell weatherproofing. Both stargazer windows need to be replaced. Add awning over the back door to redirect drips. Clean up and caulk back door.
- Dim headlight issue. Try replacing the bulbs, move to whole new light assembly if needed.
- Power. New panel is on order, figure out installation once it arrives.
- Radio and GPS. Decide, buy, install. If my phone is the best option for navigation, need a dash mount.
- Shell livability. Add curtains (possibly insulated) and bug netting for the back door.
Richard and his welding kit came down to visit us this weekend. We (mostly “he”) got a ton done on the trailer:
- Replaced the old coupler, adding on a jack and welded tow chains.
- Replaced the old axle, including welding on new hangers for modern shorter springs. The original springs were 26 inches long!
- Beefed up the floor framing. A prior owner had added a wooden central rail, which we replaced with 2×2 steel. Additional 2×2 was added at the rear of the frame, and a 4″ flat piece went on to cap the ends of the frame and act as a mounting point for the license plate.
- Pulled the tires off the rims and welded up some holes. The tires are tubeless but we discovered a tube inside one, so that rim got special welding attention. Looks like they were painted blue at one time?
- Added three angle iron braces across the open front of the trailer. There will eventually be a big window in the front, so we thought it could use some additional steel to stiffen the frame.
- Finish cleaning up the rims and paint with POR 15. Have the tires reinstalled, and if they pass the leak test, get them onto the axle. The rims will eventually get some nice shiny half moons, like these.
- Clean and POR 15 the floor framing, so we can get the subfloor in and start on the wall framing.
It still seems weird to me that my friends are old enough to be parents. Like, whoa, weren’t we just working on our jr. high History projects together? Anyway, if they can spend 9 months making a person, I find a few hours to put together a baby quilt. Since I haven’t been great about documenting these individually, here are a few that I can readily find pictures of.
Olive’s County Road quilt – I saw this fabric at Betty’s and had to get it. The colors! The cows! Quilted simply in wide diagonal rows, and backed with a stripe print from the same collection. Made the binding with a coordinating dark purple Kona solid.
Ellie’s “Grellow” Disappearing Nine Patch. Ahhh it was so little! This was one of the first baby quilts I made, and may have been pretty literal about the whole “small person, small quilt” thing. Now I go for about 40″ square.
Ivy’s Modern Bohemian quilt. Got fancy with the quilting on this one! Since the design is so simple, I wanted to try a little pattern quilting, and I think it was a good match.
James’ 3-stripe quilt. This is a great way to use those jelly roll pre-cuts. I sew three strips together for their whole length, then whack it into 3 or 4 squares. Each one gets turned 90 degrees along the row, and you get this nice scrappy quilt with good color distribution. In fact, I had enough squares made up to do a second quilt, backed and bound with the red version of this quilt’s backing. Not a bad idea for a set of quilts for twins?
When we bought the truck, we could only open the tailgate by shoving both hands into the tailgate housing and spending three minutes carefully tweaking the control wires, then attempting to catch the free-falling tailgate with something other than your face. This process worked about 60% of the time. The mechanic quoted me $80 for the new latch plus labor, and I *think* I suppressed my giant eye-roll until I was back in the car.
Here’s the $17 replacement part and the helpful installation video that I followed. Seriously, it took longer to round up the tools than to install the new latch. The most exciting part is prying off the spring clip that holds the lock tumbler in place. Fliiiiing! Be prepared.
The interior latches on the sides of the tailgate also needed a squirt of lubricant before closing up the housing. One more small repair to check off the list.
We really liked the camping setup in Rocinante 1.0, so I started looking for a shell to fit the new truck right away. My main requirement was the high-rise top, which has a huge impact on comfort and usability in the sleeping area. Just a few inches of head room makes the all difference between slithering into your coffin each night or cozily propping up in bed with a book.
My local camper shell dealer quoted me $2000-$2700 for a brand new shell, and said he rarely sees used shells in the size I need. They’re certainly snapped up fast on craigslist for $500-$700, if they’re available at all. I decided to pick up a super cheap shell and try refurbishing it, because why spend $$$ to get something new and perfect when you can spend something more valuable (weekend hours) on something that will mostly kinda probably work? Project time!
Here she is, in all her $60, chipped-and-cracked, missing window glory. One point in her favor: we bought her during a rare downpour and she’s watertight. Plus, now I get to have a second camping-related toy on cinderblocks in my driveway.
The general plan for refurbishing:
- Remove and repair the windows
- Figure out replacements for the missing large side window and the rear door window
- Repair the cracked fiberglass. Really nothing too horrible here.
- Replace all the windows
Most of the windows are screwed in from the inside, so they came out with a small offering of time and knuckle skin. The existing large side window is held in with a locking gasket, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether to attempt removal and installation. As of now, I’m planning to just paint around it.
I’ve also sanded and patched the cracks with marine fiberglass filler, which is possibly the smelliest product produced by man. I used it outside with a fan blowing the fumes away, and it was still pungent like KAPOW. The filler went on easily though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it sands down and takes paint.
What is that flappity-flappity-flappity noise coming from the driver side tilt window? Didn’t I just latch it down? On closer inspection, I found that the black plastic pivot inside the latch was cracked, keeping the window from locking down properly.
Apparently these pivots are notoriously flimsy, and the window flapping issue is a common complaint on Toyota trucks. Fortunately, this dude has started manufacturing a solid aluminum replacement pivot. After watching his installation video, we popped the new pivots in on both side windows, and now they both work perfectly.
We bought Rocinante 2.0 from a young construction guy, who had obviously loved the truck and made several modifications to suit his needs. I have some different plans, starting with a bit of a cleanout.
First, the two layers of DIY tinting. The film makes the most horrid noise as you rip it off, but it’s no longer noon outside the windshield and midnight in the rear view.
Mystery wires A – H, gone. I don’t know what these were originally intended to do, but they’re not doing it anymore. After the nippers and a little excavation via the floorboard trim, we are now random wire-and-cable free.
The rear seat was only nominally bolted down, so I went ahead and pulled it out. I have some ideas about building an organizer for water storage, cooler, etc into the back, now that I’ve scored a truck with clamshell doors. No more wrestling the cooler out of the teensy backset of the Tacoma!
It’s finally done! I cast this on about a year ago, and it sat around for months with everything but the sleeves finished. When I finally sat down to do the sleeves, I realized I had purloined one of the grey skeins to make a Freestyle Hat for Chris, and only had one skein left for my sweater. Luckily, I hardly ever wear sweaters with full sleeves, so I just split my remaining yarn into two balls of equal weight (thanks, kitchen scale) and knit them half-length. Very pleased with the final product.
I made the 36.5 size, so this is a no-ease sweater for me.
The yarn is Cascade Longwood, which is really soft and lovely, but yowza does it split easily. There’s almost no twist to the yarn, so it’s like knitting with 10 little separate threads. Aside from the extra attention to not splitting stitches, Longwood is pleasant to work with and the finished fabric is very warm and cushy.
My biggest “arrrgh” is using a tiny 9″ circular to knit the sweater sleeves. It definitely works, but the needle tips are so short they’re hard to hold onto without rearranging after each stitch. I guess I’m 50/50 on a short circular vs DPNs for sleeves. Maybe trying the Magic Loop would be better?
I used a few different techniques in this project that are worth bookmarking:
- Tilly’s Very Stretchy Cast On for hem ribbing. This is my go-to for ribbing COs.
- SSK Miraculous Elastic Bind Off for the neck ribbing. Looks nice and is really stretchy.
- Improved SSK throughout. Basically you turn the first knit stitch backwards, so when you SSK it sits over the second stitch more smoothly.
Now I just need the weather to cool off enough to wear it all day.