Another Big Blue rebuild, 2018 plans

As much as I try, I can not be anyone other then who I am. I am a planner, sometimes to the point of sleepless nights. I enjoy the thought and planning process just as much as actually living out a well thought out plan. 2018 was being planned before we even completed our 2016 travel year. Even the 2017 travels (going East) were planned specifically because where the 2018 travels were going to take place; staying on the West Coast.

Though we were both born and raised in California, the vast majority of all my travels were outside the state, and I’d like to see some key places along the Sierra Mountains before we move on to bigger adventures (sailing) by the end of this decade. Kerri and I both wanted to pop back into Baja for a more relaxed visit (not so much driving) so we tossed that in the mix as well. And finally, Kerri has not had the chance to visit many of the National Parks in Washington, so those were also pulled into the plan. The entire year is mostly going to be spent in just three states (Calif, Oregon, and Washington) along with Baja and possibly a little bit of Canada if all goes well.

We also decided – actually back in 2016 – that we would be doing these travels in Big Blue but we decided to do the South in the trailer due to it’s air conditioning (which broke – twice – during the year, and is still broken now). So, Big Blue is officially coming out of retirement and be prepared for the 2018 year’s travels, and probably 2019 as well.

Having an entire year to think on, and plan, the things we wanted to do on Big Blue resulted in a long list as you could imagine. In the end, the list pretty much entailed everything! Big Blue was going to be gutted like it has not been gutted before. In 2014 I removed everything but the walls and carpet, but this time even those would be coming out and replaced (that carpet was horrid). In fact, nothing of the interior would be left untouched. Here are some of the major bullet points;

Layout – In the end, we both agreed that the actual layout would not change. A few inches change here and there of fine tuning the layout, but the basics are not changing. The carpet floor will be replace with rubber matting for comfort and insulation. The painted wood panel walls and the upholstered ceiling will be replaced with cedar planking. No more man-funk smells in Big Blue, that is for sure! It will defiantly have a log cabin feel (and smell) inside.

Fridge – A new fridge had to be added to the plan after I punctured the cooling lines of my original one in Baja last time around. Seriously frustrating I must admit, but the original 2 cubic foot appliance was too small for the both of us, so we bit the bullet and a larger fridge is now ready to be installed.

Water – We also decided to install a 20 gallon water tank under the van. Not only does this give us the ability to carry more water, it frees up space inside the van where water was being carried. More storage space is *always* a good thing.

Sink – A small sink will be inserted into the counter so we can more easily wash our hands, brush teeth, etc. Kerri picked out a sweet copper sink, and she is making a custom faucet out of copper pipe. Combined with a foot pump, we will have water on demand anytime.

Power – To accommodate Kerri’s work schedule we are beefing up the solar to 300 watts incoming power and adding in a 200 amp hour lithium battery. Not only does that effectively triple the usable battery power in the van, it also drops about 100 pounds of weight in lead acid battery. A huge cost of course, but the batteries are actually an investment in the future sailboat. They will be moved into the boat in a few years time.

Storage Box – A large cargo box will be made and installed on top of the van (on rear luggage area) to store some of our adventure gear. With the Sierra’s being much of our year, we wanted to ensure we could bring our backpacking gear. Though lightweight, they are bulky as heck. A water tight box on the roof will do the trick.

Suspension and tires – The Achilles’ heel of Big Blue has always been the weight. He is already a heavy dude to begin with, but add in all the wood, water, food, clothing, etc and Big Blue’s suspension has always buckled under the load. So much so that I installed spring helpers *and* weight adjusting shocks for more than 2000 lbs of extra carrying capacity. Still, the rear end sagged badly, so this time around we are going with airbags on the rear to end this problem once and for all. Because the airbags will raise the rear of the van a few inches, we are also having to add spacers to the front suspension to raise it as well. That extra space should allow for us to run larger tires, of the all-terrain variety, to give Big Blue a much tougher look as well as a little more peace of mind off the asphalt.

As it turned out, when we returned to Big Blue last week – after nearly a year of being stored – we found that one of the windows leaked allowing water to sit in the van the entire time. Mold took over the interior of the van, so much so that all our planned upgrades now became a necessity.

Absolutely everything, down to the silverware, had to be replaced now. It was a total loss, and one we are both pleased happened. Now, thanks to the mold, no shortcuts could be taken and total diligence is a must. So, this happened…

… to be continued

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