Big Blue version 4.0 – The final phase
It has all come together nicely this past week. Big Blue… (yep, his name is not changing. Not that BB is its name, “Jonas” is the van’s name. Jonas is a big blue whale – that people traveled the world in – from a series of books I read when I was younger. BB was just easier to say some day and it never went away)… anyway, Big Blue is 90% complete but not livable just yet. It needed just a few more things to start loading gear in. With most of the big construction projects completed in the van, I shifted my attention to the other areas, starting the final phase of the build-out.
First was the bed. How could I have forgotten? Well, I didn’t actually. I was waiting for the new mattresses (6 inch foam with new upholstery) to show up before I could finalize a few measurements. They arrived on Wednesday, so I immediately got to work on the bed system. This time around the slide out portion of the bed was installed using large ball-bearing drawer slides. This allows one person the ability to pull the bed out as opposed to it being a two-person job as before. The bed pulls out 19 inches (for a total of 49 inches in width, and increase of 3 inches over the previous bed) and sets into a notch cut in the closet. This, and a swing out leg, supplies support to the pulled out section of the bed.
Friday was right around the corner and Big Blue had an appointment for late morning of that day to get new tires. Before that could happen, something else had to be done about the dusty, dirty, rusty, and cobwebbed old wheels. A quick repaint was in order, which was made simple thanks to knowing the tires would be immediately replaced. I could just paint the wheels with the tires in place without taping or caring about the over spray on the tires. Wa-la!
And then came Friday. At the time the jury was still out whether or not the tires we wanted were going to fit in the front wheel-wells. The rear was fine thanks to the new airbags setup that gave ample lift and firmness to BB’s behind (hey, careful now!). Why the questioning of the fit? Because we chose to stuff some 31 inch all-terrain tires on this time around, upgrading from the original 29 inch size. It was a major improvement in appearance, for sure, and will provide a lot more comfortable ride on all those dirt and gravel roads we will be on in Baja in just a few weeks time.
To fully appreciate the change, I offer this image below that shows how Big Blue has grown up since last year. The big black stripe and the new boots sure make him look a lot tougher then he really is! And of course, the spare had to match and be re-installed hanging off the van’s rear door (not shown in pic). In all, with the new airbags and larger tires, the step to get inside the living space of the van is two to three inches higher then it was. More ground clearance = less chance of getting stuck “off asphalt” (the van is not really “off-road” capable. Off asphalt is a better descriptor).
Saturday was all about cutting the wood for the facings of the doors and drawers. I’ve been dreading the day I had to cut into this most expensive piece of plywood. My confidence level wasn’t the highest when it came to making that many correct measurements and making all those cuts on that costly of a chunk of wood. But, only one man was going to do it, so I eventually jumped in, measured twice, cut once, and handed off the dozen or so door & drawer-facings off to Kerri for a coat of her favorite wood wax. Now all I have to do is build the actual drawers… ugh!
While I spent my time working on all that wood, Kerri was inside working on more of these awesome curtains. I am lucky that Kerri’s taste is not all flowers and paisley. She and I agree – and this was 100% her idea – that the more basic look of burlap and leather was going to be best for us. Honestly, I just nodded my head in agreement, but now that I see the finished product I totally understand! Instead of burlap, we went with a large painters tarp as the fabric. It works well, yea?
There are still dozens of small jobs left to do, like wiring in another light fixture or two, and will probably go on for many more weeks. As is customary in van life, the van is never 100% complete. There is always something to add, adjust, or tinker on.
This week we start the multi-day process of moving out of the Airstream and into the Van, again. Last time we did this – in 2016 – it took three days, which is about all the time we have. This upcoming weekend, with the new sun and longer days (Christmas-lie weekend… ask me how I really feel), we crank up the big American V8 and start our migration South towards Baja, again.