Friday, August 16, 2013

Just doing it.

I had never cut a hole in a van roof before. I had put off doing it. I could turn a perfectly good roof into a leak. But if I wanted a vent in the Rolling Steel Tent, it had to be done.

There are professionals who do that sort of thing all the time. Better to leave it to them, right?

But what's the difference between the pros and I? They've done it and I haven't. They learned by doing.

Going back a few years, I had never worked on a motorcycle. I knew it was about nuts and bolts, but my biggest fear was that I'd open something and springs and parts would go flying and I'd need some big expensive machine available only in select parts of the world, and piles of money, to get everything back together.

But then I discovered manuals.


Instructions with pictures. And warnings not to open certain parts or things would go flying.

With that, I was able to tear apart and rebuild an entire motorcycle. I should be able to do the same with something as simple as a roof vent.

Thanks to the Internet, there are all sorts of instructions and helpful advice online. It turned out I had the necessary tools already, I only needed some specialized materials, also available online. (Oh, the running around and phone calls saved by Google and Amazon.)

So, armed with tools, materials and knowledge, I needed only to wait for enough dry weather, which came yesterday.

(Lurking to the side, there, is the angle grinder that nearly severed my finger a few weeks ago.
Get back on that horse and ride, cowboy.)
Cutting the hole was quick and easy. Getting the vent sealed into it, water tight, was the tricky part. But butyl tape and a generous application of automotive window adhesive got the job done.

The black goop isn't terribly neat, but today's rain has shown it to be effective. I can make it pretty later. When it stops raining.

So, now I have my vent and the right to call myself a vent installer. I've done it before. I know what I'm doing.

What might you be able to do if you just did it?

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The van is almost complete. I think. It's clear, though, that my stuff needs more trimming.

How many pairs of socks do I really need?

What about the box of art supplies?

One seven-gallon water jug instead of two?

What's on these hard drives? Does not remembering mean there's actually nothing all that important on them? I need to check.

Nearly every shirt I've worn the past six weeks is now permanently stained with something or other. Do I keep some of them for when I need to do dirty work in the future? Or do I just toss them to lighten the load?

Tools. Wrenches (metric and SAE), pliers, screwdrivers, drill bits, clamps. A sledge hammer? Well, something might need to be pounded. Hard. Can I consolidate it into one tool box instead of three? Oh, wait, there's the electrical stuff, too.

Meanwhile, more things are on the way. A small folding table. A cell phone antenna. A wifi booster. Caulk.

I look back at this transitional life, living out of a 6x12 trailer in a friend's back yard, and think about what material things I've actually used—other than tools to outfit the van. Not much. Changes of clothes. Grooming needs. Bedding. Laptop...

I used to be proud that I could leave the house with just my wallet, keys and phone. I used to shake my head at all the stuff I had that was just taking up space. So why now do I worry that I might not have enough things? Because there's no home base? No anchor? Yeah, probably.