Well, it's been a long time guys... And for good reason.
Long story short about how all of this started. Wife had enough and threw me out. 'Nuff said.
Let's leave some other priorities and details out of this, otherwise it will be Christmas 2027 before you all ever reach the end of the story. Those that know my articles know they're long enough as is. This one is NO exception by far...
Having gone around in desperation checking out things like shelters and the like, I decided they weren't for me. I stayed 4 hours at one the second night out, and realized that there are a lot more unfortunate individuals than myself. You see and hear about it, but nothing is as humbling as witnessing it first hand. That said, I ended up living in my car, and the "dream" that I had been working on with the solar theater all of a sudden no longer looked like it was going to happen. Ever. Well, at least not ANY time soon.
To say the least, sleeping in a car, albeit a full-size sedan, is for the birds. I tried all kinds of things to get comfortable, it just wasn't happening. I even had a jogger think I was dead as he was going by at 4 AM because I had both back doors opened so I could stretch out in the back seat (Im 6'2"). That's not exactly my favorite way to wake up; lemme just throw that out there.
Ok so fast forward a week or so, and I got wind that Wally World (Wal-Mart for those not "in the loop") is the place to be if you're sleeping in your car. If you pick the right one, there's little to deal with, and you might even make some friends.
I was still sleeping in the car, and I noticed that each day, a younger female was going to and fro a van that was parked in various spots over the course of time. One night after a few days of this, and my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to go over and say hi and see maybe if I could gleen some tips and such. We ended up talking for about 4 hours, and her story made mine seem pale in comparison. She had been living in the van for about 4 months, and because the van had engine issues, she was walking over a mile back and forth every day to go to work at the local McDonalds. She had been pondering her out for a while, and decided that she was done with making minimum wage, living in a van, dealing with the heat of the summer (over 100F some days) and needed to get out.
Turns out, my timing was impeccable. She had a train ticket lined up to take her to the airport the following day so that she could go to Oregon to be with her mother. You could have knocked me over by blowing on me with a straw when I heard that. And after talking with her for even that short period of time, I realized I was dealing with a very intelligent, articulate, level headed girl. I say girl, she was 22. It was depressing to know that there would be one less worthwhile candidate for the gene pool on the eastern seaboard.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this...
I had offered to take her to the airport directly, and she said that she already had the train ticket. Ok, no problem. How about a ride to the train station then? She was reluctant at first (obviously, I would have almost been concerned for her wellbeing had she not). After about another hour or so of chatting, she said "I think I'll accept your offer for a ride to the train station."
Ok, we're all set then. We chatted a bit more, then decided it was time to crash for the night. We each went "home", to meet up again in the morning. That's when things suddenly got REALLY interesting.
She had mentioned leaving the van behind (duh!) the previous night, and I thought she was kidding when she said she'd give it to me. Hmmm...
So we're at the train station, and I just kinda non-chalantly mentioned the van, kinda just being a smartass. What happened next blew my mind. She puts down one of the two bags she had with her and dug out a title and signed it... :O
I couldn't really absorb what was happening, and there was an awkward silence afterward. I thanked her, and she reached out to shake my hand. Not what I was expecting, but ok. Then she drifted with silence off to the line for the train, never to be seen by my eyes again. Bitter sweet to say the least. I felt like I lost a life long friend even though we had only known each other for less than 24 hours.
I told you all of that to tell you this...
This is where you guys come in.
I have learned so much from everything I have read on this and the "other" board. The wisdom on here is absolutely unmatched and taught me more than you OR I may ever know consciously.
Even as early as about my first night (after trying the shelter) living in the car, I began to use what I had learned here and "there" to construct the foundation for living in such an environment. Nutshell? Shrink need, then apply force.
I had to discard "life as I knew it" to pull this off. And quick. I got a comment from a guy that isn't homeless, but refuses to pay for hotel rooms when he comes down here from Pennsylvania. He said "Wow, you've been at this how long? You've already got it figured out as far as I can tell." - He's been doing this for years.
Ok so anyway, I now have a van. Inside is of course all the basic stuff one might need for survival. A basic place to lay a head, some clothes, a can opener, you know... Camping stuff. From this, I built.
Here is the van, a 1994 Chevy Astro. It has "personality issues" with the engine/computer that I have been able to tame somewhat with a little TLC, some parts, and a little inginuity. But it is still far from "road worthy", at least for any REAL distance. I've driven it about 100 miles or so, and let's just say one of my issues with it is that it's a little scary on the interstate. Back roads only. :/
I spent one night in it, and ended up breaking the undercarriage of the bed. They were undersized wooden slats about 1/4 inch thick and a couple inches or so wide. My guess is to give some springyness. Well, 2 of them failed under my weight overnight, and apparently she had knocked a few out herself. I found a little patch job she tried to do. It worked for her, but was insufficient for me. What you see is the final result of what I came up with to solve the problem. As luck would have it, she had about 100 feet of nylon rope stashed away elsewhere in the van. I found it and gave it it's perfect application. It has it's issues; I have to retension it about once a week or so. Once I found out I would need to do that, I simplified how it was terminated. Works good tho. Comfy.
Here's the bed, made. I joke with my friends about sleeping with a pillow that has a rose on it, and a pinkish-purple "comforter". But let me tell you, out of everything I found in the fabric stash department, this was by far the softest, most comfortable item in stock. Joke as you wish; I'm comfortable with my sexuality.
One of the more interesting items in the van was an old style oil lamp. I ended up getting rid of quite a bit of stuff that I felt I really didn't need, although it's not actually gone, it's still in my car. Anyway, I felt for some reason that the lamp did not fall into the "unwanted" category. I suspended the lamp by some erroneously purchased #18 solid black wire that I got from Radio Whack. I light it when I'm pondering what has been bestowed upon me, and particularly who and how. It's an inspiration when I start to lose focus. Behind it is a burlap curtain, separating the "cab" from the "cargo" for privacy.
Here is the lamp, burning. Ghurd is no longer the only one with a toe either.
Ok from here we head into the meat and potatoes of what I have directly learned and applied from all of you. This is my main battery, there are a total of 3. This one is a 12V 12Ah Lead-Acid SLA.
The other two consist of the set of NiMH that are in the satellite amp for the original theater, and the van's cranking battery. I had to involve the van's battery to get past Peukert's law and get things back inside "the window". Running the laptop prior to doing this was a major pain in the ass. Don't worry, I realize it's not for deep cycling, and I monitor it pretty closely while using it.
Here is the "control system". From left to right:
The "at-a-glance fuel gauge" for the SLA. This was put into operation as an attempt to reduce precious 9V battery consumption in the meters just to the right of it. It gives a rough idea of if the battery is full, if it is charging, roughly where it is in the charge process, is it ready for use, is it sitting at the "top of the hill" (~ 12.6V), and how close to 12.0V it is (far left deflection), should NEVER be allowed to get that low. If it does however, this little gem will warn me about it, at a glance. I also put a white LED behind the movement to illuminate it at night. Runs 24/7 @ 10mA. No biggie.
The diagnostic meters. These monitor voltage and current flow for the SLA, and can do gross or net current display to find problems or discrepancies in the main storage system. I no longer turn these on unless I can't figure out why power isn't going where I think it should.
The ceiling fan control. More on that in a bit.
The main system distribution outlets. They are the most accessible for things that are removable or are otherwise may to need to be disconnected at some point.
The ceiling fan. This is a 120mm fan with a 1W LED die below it. Both are fully variable. I need to do some tweaking as far as distance from the "ceiling" to improve airflow and such, but for now, it's hanging from one of the original dome light holders. Helps out quite a bit, and it's reasonably efficient, provided you don't throw the "turbo" switch on the fan. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. :/
The heart of the sound system. Much of this (everything but the satellite speakers) came from the theater project. Irony places the original satellites that came with the sub back in tandem operation with it. This thing still sounds really good considering, and I would have used the speakers for the theater, but there just simply isn't room. Live within your means.
Continued . . .