Let the Adventure (Van) Begin!

If you’ve purchased my browsing history from my ISP without me knowing then you’d know that I’ve been creeping on Craigslist for quite some time now searching for a van to convert for adventure purposes. I would bet most folks who live more of an ‘outdoor’ active lifestyle can’t help but get sucked into the prospect of having a modular way of getting around to do whatever it is you love to do and be able to live right where you love to do it and then pick up and move on to the next thing whenever it strikes you.

It also doesn’t help that this whole #vanlife thing has gotten pretty trendy and pinterest, instagram, youtube, blogs, etc. are chock full of stories, pictures, how-to’s, vignettes all by folks who are pretty good at media and making things look awesome.

I like thinking about projects like this almost as much as I like doing them and it was starting to look like this was going to be one of those pie in the sky goals that gets stuck in the planning phase basically forever.  There were a few near misses over the last year or two where I made honest attempts to get a purchase going only to have something fall through.  Craigslist is a crap shoot to say the least.  It also doesn’t help that I get some awesome purchase anxiety with stuff like this that makes it hard for me to take that risk and just go for it.  Luckily I married a woman who is excellent at reminding me that you can’t take your money with you and we should max life out RIGHT NOW.

The specific story about how this purchase came together is kind of funny, has a bit of a kismet feel to it which made taking that final leap a bit easier for me.  Story starts roughly early last Fall when I first see this van / bus listed on CL for sale up in North Conway. Price is in my range and the mileage and condition of the body / frame look pretty good.  Plus it has an A-team paint job and some ridiculous looking roof racks. I reach out saying I’d like to look at the van that weekend and I’m told that someone else is coming to look that night and that if it was still around they would let me know.

2 days later I get the notice that the van sold to that person and I was out of luck (OR WAS I?!). Fast forward 6-7 months later and I’m riding my bike on my lunch break cutting through Plymouth down behind Main St. by the river and I see the A-Team van parked in a weird little lot down by the skatepark. Thought it was funny to see the van pop back up on my radar. Later that day or the next I had a few minutes to do my standard CL crawl to see if there was anything new listed. Low and behold…A-Team van for sale in Plymouth.

Turns out it was bought by a student at Plymouth who graduated in December and is walking this May and has been hanging out in Plymouth since.  Turns out he unexpectedly got a job in CO and couldn’t take the van with him and needed money for the move.  I reached out quick to see if I could take a look at it seeing as it was about 500yds from my office. Everything moved pretty quick from there. I was looking at the van the next day on lunch with a few key things I wanted to check and make sure looked ok. I was getting a decent ‘meant to be’ vibe, engine sounded strong, ran well. Frame appeared cared for and in pretty damn good shape for an ’85.  And that was it.  Dude was flexible on price and we locked it down.  Did the final exchange and drove it home a few days later.

Even now part of me can’t believe that I actually have a van / adventure project. First order of business has been registration, insurance, all that official State stuff to get it road ready and in my name.  State Farm had some issues trying to figure out how to classify this beast but things are moving along. Now I’m in full 100% sponge mode trying to learn, watch, absorb as much info as possible trying to get ideas before we start our build.  I’m very much looking forward to sleuthing solutions out with my Dad, working with Gina to maximize interior cuteness and getting Shorty* ready for our first adventure.

Stay tuned here for project and adventure updates!

*Guy I bought it from said the previous owner told him its name was Shorty and we’re going to honor that because I’m pretty sure if we don’t that’s really bad ju-ju.

Kaulback Cruises the Coast

For the life of me I can’t seem to get consistent with content here.  I figured casting a wider content net would help me have more to write about and while it does it does not provide extra time which apparently was the main issue.  But I’ve got a lazy Sunday morning so here comes a Cali info dump.  We benefited greatly from some first hand knowledge from Shaun so I figured it might be good to paraphrase our trip so if anyone we know wants to get similarly rad they will have some digital deets to reference.

Before we go too far if you are more interested in a photo essay of the trip go here: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/calikaulback/

We started our adventure in Malibu.  That town is weird.  We stayed at ‘The M‘ which is a motel/hotel right on Rt. 1. It was a pretty good balance of cost, accommodation and location. Walking distance to a nice beach and food options.  If I had to stay in Malibu again I would probably stay here again but I’m not sure I’ll ever stay in Malibu again.  Don’t get me wrong the beaches in Malibu are pretty amazing.  Probably some of the best I’ve seen but the town itself is just ‘off’.  It’s almost like it became too ritzy to sustain itself and now its a weird mix of mansions in the hills but somewhat downtrodden everywhere else.  Like NY side of Niagara Falls downtrodden.  And breakfast sandwiches cost like $17.  Granted it was a really good breakfast sandwich in a restaurant built on the end of a pier but still.  We did get a pretty cool Wine Safari in up in the hills.  Some baron of industry owns like 1100 acres and grows grapes and keeps all kinds of African beasts.  You can tour around his property and drink wine and feed Giraffes.  It was right up Gina’s alley and I would recommend it.

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Our next stop up the coast was Cayucos a cool little beach town, although we didn’t get to fully enjoy it because it was shrouded in fog the entire time we were there.  But the weather did very closely match our post wedding haze so we had a nice low key visit.  The town had a cool surf / skate vibe.  We stayed at the Shoreline Inn, I would highly recommend it.  Great location and very friendly local feel. We stayed just the one night and after getting some killer breakfast sandwiches made with Belgian waffles at the coffee shop across the street we hit the PCH heading to Monterey.  This was probably my favorite stretch of Rt. 1.  Had a bit of a Road to Hana feel.  Very coastal through this stretch.  Tons of overlooks and interesting stuff to see.  Like Elephant Seal beaches and the Bixby Bridge.  Saw tons of RVs and Adventure Vans and got very jealous. Some day…

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Monterey was our next stop and if I was ever forced to live in CA I would probably settle here.  We stayed right on Cannery Row and had an awesome stay at the Spindrift Inn. Seriously, ask Gina how much she loved that place.  It was a bit pricey for us but totally worth it for one night.  Its right on the ocean and we got an ocean side room.  Can’t beat it.  We hit the Aquarium, which was quite a bit bigger and better than I thought it was going to be.  Felt like there was a ton of other stuff we could have had fun doing but we only had the 1 day before we were back on the road heading to SF.

I always like visiting SF.  Its been a long while since I’ve been. I figured Gina would like the Pier 39 area best so we got a hotel right in the thick of the Fisherman’s Wharf area.  Probably the funniest, most true to form SF hipster locale I’ve ever seen.  There was even some young hipster tech board meeting happening in the courtyard when we got there.  Every dude fulfilling the stereotype to a T. But all jokes aside it was a cool place to stay and a great spot, Hotel Zephyr. We hit all the touristy stuff to make sure Gina covered her bases.  She was not impressed with there basically being only seafood on most restaurant menus but she was impressed with Ghirardelli being everywhere.  My favorite part was me telling Gina we HAD to check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum because I had gone there the last time I was in SF and it was SO COOL.  I forgot that the last time I was in SF I was like 14 and certain things are way cooler when you are 14 than when you are 35.

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Next target was getting Gina into a redwood grove.  I would definitely consider seeing these trees as a bucket list item for just about anybody. Truly impressive. In most cases you need to go pretty far north beyond SF to get them in high density but there is one place that is only about 2hrs or so (on Rt. 1 its faster on the 101) north.  We had limited time and didn’t want to spend too much time in the car so on a tip from Shaun we hit Guerneville and Armstrong State Natural Preserve.  The whole Russian River area of CA is pretty cool.  Had a bit of a New England vibe.  I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Guerneville itself but was pleasantly surprised.  Really awesome town.  We stayed at a cool little cottage place that I would highly recommend.  And had what Gina called the best meal of her life at Boon.

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After that it was back to SF to board a flight back to SoCal to hang with family, do Disneyland and soak up some sun before heading back home. It was a pretty mega and somewhat tiring trip.  We’ve never done a road warrior outing like this but it went pretty smoothly.  It was fun but I think the next trip will be a bit more sedentary. Probably with frozen drinks.

 

New Keg Setup

Hello Americans!

It’s been awhile. I’m still trying to settle on what I write about here.  I don’t want it to be all bikes but that’s nearly all I do. Quandary. Luckily Crotchtown Brewing has had an infusion of action lately.  My parents arrival into the Granite State has given the “brewery” some pretty regular customers as well as some investment capital and renewed interest in having available local brew at all times.  Dad wanted to know why I wasn’t kegging and my answer was mainly that I never wanted to buy the required gear so he solved that problem and just like that Crotchtown has entered into the realm of draught beer.

We now have a real slick 2 keg / tap kegerator that holds two kegs and the CO2 tank and regulator all inside the fridge.  Didn’t take long to get everything figured out.  Only real part that took a bit of figuring was carbonating the first batch.  There is a formula you can go by but there are a lot of variables in play so we slowly stepped our way up until we found the right temp and pressure.  Once you get that figured out its pretty much just rinse and repeat from there.  Second batch was easy-peasy and the third is currently dry-hopping in secondary with a 4th batch waiting in the wings…A vanilla coconut Porter.

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racking to keg > filling 40+ bottles

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kegerator innards

Just recently we even jerry-rigged a mobile keg setup that I think is pretty rad and should probably be the standard for homebrewers looking to be mobile with their ‘Corni’ kegs.  Dad came up with the idea.  Just take a simple igloo drink cooler…the orange ones with the white tops and the spigot on the bottom.  You know, the ones that had Kool-Aid in them at Summer camp.  Cut a hole in the top so the top of the keg can stick out and voila! An insulated keg holder with room for ice that has carrying handles and is ready to travel.  You can even easily drain the water out the spigot once the ice melts to reduce weight after its kicked.

deep cuts

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glorious!

glorious!

Cutting the hole was a bit of a trick but if you have a drill and a jig-saw its not too bad.  A file helps as well to take care of any burrs after cutting.  Just give yourself an extra 1/2in diameter so the keg fits through easily.  Can’t wait to try it out.  What’s the next thing I’m going to that needs 5 gallons of beer?

Bike Packing!

Not too long ago I decided I wanted to get (back) into touring on my bike.  I was never really THAT into it previously but I had a bike that was outfitted for it and I did do one really big touring ride (130mi) up to Androfest many moons ago but that was it really. I never really prioritized it and those big trips take up a lot of time and energy.

Bike packing gear has come a long way since then and there are cool new packs and really well thought out ideas that make things a lot easier to do on just about any bike.  My RLT Steel was actually truly designed with that in mind so I decided I wanted to get some new gear and start adventuring. I needed some sort of ‘non-full monty’ type objective, something medium sized and repeatable semi-often that wouldn’t break the time and energy bank as it were.  I landed on swimming holes.

NH has lots of them so there are plenty of targets to aim for at varying distances and they don’t really require a ton of gear or planning.  Just a fun simple adventure to go for a swim and have a beer then ride home.

I made 3 main gear purchases to get me going.  I replaced my 10+ year old Chrome messenger bag with a new more standard roll-top backpack design to distribute the weight evenly to both shoulders on longer rides.  That messenger bag is still good to go even after all these years and miles and pretty constant abuse (It is going to be my new beach bag) so I obviously replaced it with another Chrome bag.

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I went with the Orlov (how could I not?).  Simple design, size I wanted…and after my first mission I couldn’t be happier with it.  Fits my torso perfectly, rides really well and the various compartments make sense for what I’m doing.  Looking forward to another 10+ yrs with this pack as well.

For the bike I went with packs from Revelate Designs.  I spent maybe a week or two bouncing around the web doing research and trying to figure out a pack solution to what I was trying to do now and what I might end up trying in the future.  Revelate has a solid rep and I liked all the different modular options they’ve designed.  Seems like they really have this whole game pretty well figured out.

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I decided a frame bag and a rocket bag (AKA saddle bag on steroids) would cover me for the medium type stuff I was planning.  I went with the Tangle and the Pika which are the ‘smaller’ packs in their lineup but still pretty decent in what they can haul.  I can’t speak to their durability personally yet but just looking at construction these things are BURLY.  They really have seemingly crossed every T and dotted every I with their packs.  So well thought out and easy to mount…I definitely feel like I’m benefiting from years of product testing and development with these packs.

So I mentioned my first mission earlier and I did indeed waste no time fully implementing this plan.  This past weekend I picked a location I knew fairly well from years past that wasn’t too far away.  Small little cove on the edge of some public land on Big Squam.  Towel, bathing suit, beer (w/coozie), ride essentials.  Easy-peasy, and that left room for a small provisions stop at the Wine’ing Butcher on the way home.

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Everything about the ride was perfect. No timeline, no set route, just a destination.  Weather cooperated, even the water was warm! I was expecting a quick icy dip but I was able to hang out and really enjoy a quality soak. #qualitysoak

I haven’t picked my next target yet but the possibilities are endless.  I live in the Lakes Region and there are rivers all over the place as well.  Even the ocean is in striking distance…C’MON

Attic Renovation – “Finished” !!

I put finished in quotes because I still have to install some trim and Gina wants to do something to pretty up the bulkhead door and for the continued reason that often times projects like this are never really completely done.  They haunt you forever…

Dad and I put the final parts of insulation in place and laid the final rows of cedar planks in this past weekend and the room is sealed and ready for use.  The insulation seems to be working well so far and the temps in the room seem to have regulated nicely.  We’ve had some cold days and warm days during the duration of this project and the temps in the space certainly aren’t like what they used to be.  You can really tell the difference when you open the new bulkhead door to the unfinished attic space.

I have to say I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.  This is by far the largest single DIY project I’ve undertaken starting in late January and wrapping up in late April.  It consisted of several phases and we hit very few snags along the way.  I really wish I had a true before picture of what this space looked like at the very beginning still with everything we had stored in it.  This very much seemed like an insurmountable task with all the crap we had in there.  But we were able to slowly pull a purge off and get rid of a lot of stuff we were holding on to for really no reason.  Long story short we are proud of ourselves.

Now we’ve got a much nicer space to store things, allow the cats to play / hangout, and a spare bedroom in a pinch.

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Attic Renovation – More Floor, Ceiling & Electrical

I kept debating on whether I should post on all these aspects again or just wait until they are all completely done….and then I realized I hadn’t posted in a while and work is still getting done so here are some updates.

The floor is completely done.  Went with vinyl planks because we like them and I know them.  I was a bit wary of going for the install solo because I have only ever done them as a two man crew.  But this room is (basically) square with very few special cuts required so I went for it.  I’m glad I didn’t wait because I ended up flying through it in about 4.5hrs total.  3hrs on day 1 to complete maybe 97% of it and then saved the final row that needed all the special cuts around the door etc. for day 2.  That is my tip with these…orient the rows to try to minimize any special cuts (lengthwise etc.) and if possible save them and do them fresh. i.e. not immediately after a full days work.

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I also finished off the electrical work I wanted to do by splitting the lighting of the two attic spaces into two separate switches.  Originally all the lights were controlled by one switch but with the spaces now split that seemed like a pretty big waste of electricity lighting the other space all the time when it didn’t matter.  I had picked up some electrical tips from Tony and based on some wiring diagrams I found online I figured I could handle it.

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I still always expect to get electrocuted and or fry something whenever I work with electrical though even when its something as simple as this.  I pulled it off and minus installing/wiring the switches upside-down at first there were no mishaps and everything works as intended.

Only thing left to finish now is the cedar planks and final insulation behind my pocket walls.  Planks have been purchased and we’ve started laying them in place.  I’m now into the time of year where I am balancing home owning with weekend ride time so I hope to finish the planks in the next week or two.  THE END IS IN SIGHT.

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Attic Renovation – Floor, Ceiling & Electrical

I was able to keep my momentum going even with my renovation partner on siesta in Aruba.  I needed assistance / expertise from Tony on the electrical stuff I had in mind anyway so the original plan for the weekend was to just rewire the attic fan to run off of a switch. For some reason whoever installed the fan terminated the Romex directly into a plug adapter so to use the fan you had to plug the Romex into an outlet.  Seemed kind of stupid and looked pretty sloppy.

Got that taken care of very quickly with Tony’s help and with the extra time that morning I talked him into making a HD run to get plywood sheets for the floor.  I had been on the fence as to how to do the floor and finally settled on a simple plywood base and finishing things with the vinyl planks I have used twice in other rooms that we like.  Both for look and easy pet clean up.  Our animals puke a lot.

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The plywood actually went down fairly easily and I only had a few issues crop up with the room not being perfectly square.  It was a huge bit of unexpected progress for the day.  I also got some good ideas from Tony on how to handle the apex of the ceiling by using 1×12 planks with a bevel cut to sit flush with the ceiling joists.

Lucky for me Tony has every tool under the sun including an old school table saw that makes quick and easy work of a 40 degree bevel cut down the length of a plank.  I bought the planks midweek, got help from Tony making those cuts and was able to knock that out as well Friday morning before heading North for a ski weekend.

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I rewired the small existing light bulb fixture into a little track lighting set to modernize things a bit and get some additional lighting in there.  It was a bit tricky installing the planks solo but I pulled it off.  Pretty pleased with all the unexpected progress and with how things are coming together.

Attic Renovation – Walls

or maybe I should say “Walls”.   They aren’t exactly fully built out or designed to really carry any significant load I just needed them to square off the room before the roof met the floor.  Now I can continue the ceiling planking down to the floor when I get to that part of the project.

It worked out nice.  The ceiling joists provided an easy place to mount studs at acceptable intervals.  Mounting to the floor was interesting.  I wasn’t 100% sure how the floor / ceiling of the kitchen was constructed and I didn’t want to go through pulling up all the rigid insulation on the floor in the attic to find out.  Soooo I made some assumptions based on the limited stuff I had seen and just went for it.  Whats the saying?…Measure 0 times, make some assumptions, start cutting / drilling.

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It wasn’t quite that reckless…they were educated assumptions.  I had to counter sink the holes a bit in the 2×3’s because the decking screws I had around the house that I thought were long enough weren’t quite long enough.  Luckily counter sinking worked just fine and an additional trip to HD was not required.

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We are nearing completion.  Really just two major tasks left: ceiling planks and then the floor. My build partner is heading to Aruba for a month though so things will be on hold a bit.  I’ve got a few menial tasks to address during that time…some more insulation, electrical, etc.  Pretty pleased with things so far.