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WHAT a big week (of teaching an intensive course) and what a big few days (of van magic) last weekend and then again Friday afternoon and all day yesterday. I am ALMOST there with the new van fitout, almost almost there.

On my tasks list for yesterday was to get a piece of aluminium with which to make a bracket for the awning. There is, it turns out (of course) a whole WORLD of vehicle awnings, and another world of reading and thinking before figuring it out. You can spend $855 on a Fiamma F45 wind out box awning (or $700 with a few months wait as it’s not in Australia right now). Then, of course, you also need to spend a hundred bucks on EACH bracket for this thing — and you’ll need three of these puppies, plus whatever other fittings you need to be able to hack the thing into a workable design.

But you know what? It’s an AWNING. It’s piece of shade fabric. It does NOT have to be this expensive or this complicated. Enough! I’m not spending a thousand bucks on an awning when, for that money, I could take some unpaid leave and –you know– go camping and actually USE my campervan. (I’m getting very conscious now of the sheer amount of money I’ve spent on this project and I am skint, over it, and REALLY ready to hit the road again.) So, honestly, fuck that.

Instead, therefore, I bought the type of awning that people use (everywhere, always) in Australia on 4wds and utes. They look like this. It’s bigger (wider pullout from the vehicle) and it costs a literal fraction of the Fiamma ripoff: $114. Thing is, they are designed for use with a ute with a roof rack, and as my poptop means that’s not a possibility, there’s a need to creatively invent a different way of attaching it.

Hence, ta daaaah, the aluminium with which to make a van-length bracket (cost $62 and a longish Saturday morning drive with a podcast and a takeout coffee). They DO have a few aluminium bracket-type bits in Bunnings, but none long enough or tall enough or strong enough, or they’re steel, which is heavier than aluminium and needs painting. Not ideal. So instead I drove to Edcon Steel who were super helpful and super fast, and who cut me a 2m piece of 80mm x 80mm aluminium angle to fit onto the line of support holes along the van. Onto this will go the awning itself.

The reason there’s a need for all this faff is that the attachment points on the van roof are for a roofrack (i.e. they run along the van) and what I need is a way of fixing the awning so that it doesn’t spin around on its anchor points. One solution is a bracket that runs all the way along the side of the van roof, attaching to all the anchor points (in a two-metre stretch of roof, there are seven such holes). Hence the 2m-long aluminum L-shaped bracket. This could also be achieved with individually cut pieces of bracket between two anchor points, but this way is stronger. Plus, it means not having to cut the damn stuff.IMG_0759

So this is a project ready to go on Monday, and Andrew is going to get the boys to do it because, as confident as I am as a result of this project, I don’t feel quite up to this yet — not least as it’s a two-person job to hold/support the bracket and awning as it’s fitted.

And as a post-script to this bit, here’s how they fitted it…

Anyway, after my nice Saturday drive, I set about doing the plumbing and the painting. I mean, on Friday afternoon I ALSO did a bunch of plumbing. I carefully connected up all the barbs to the tanks with carefully threaded plumbers tape. AND THEN THE WHOLE DAMN SETUP WOULD NOT FIT INTO THE CABINET FFS! It really IS a tight fit in there and no matter what angle I tried I could not get the be-barbed tanks into the cabinet.

So I took it apart, cried a little, and then the next day I redid the barbs, this time with the tanks in the cupboard itself (fiddly, but do-able, just — I hope they don’t leak because it’ll be a bitch to reach them again). Then I attached the hoses to the barbs with jubilee clips, tight enough to hold (I hope) but not too tight to strangle them (right? We shall see….) Then I connected up the filler inlet to the freshwater tank, the bottom of the sink to the greywater tank, and the two outlets — one running fresh-to-tap and one running grey-to-waste-hose. But I am (of course) missing one part –one, essential part– which is frustrating as this is a part I had previously and which has now mysteriously vanished. It’s the connector between the water pump and the tap, and it simply a screw thread to push-in fitting like this one. So the plumbing is done but I can’t test it for leaks yet as there’s this all important part missing, grrr.

The other reason, of course, that I can’t test the water setup is that the electrics are still disconnected from where I had to cut wires to move everything around. As the water pump is electric, I could fill the top tank but there the water would have to stay as it can’t go anywhere without the pump. So mmm, the plumbing may or may not be almost done: I’ll have to buy a new part, get Andrew to reconnect the power, and then see how it goes. But it looks pretty…


(And yes, I know the hoses to the filler cap are too long: I was scared to cut them too short and, in the process, left them long. I will fix this… And yes, also the water pump still needs to be screwed onto the wall… soooo many small, knock-on tasks is what building a campervan comprises, really.)

Anyway, that done, I was onto insulating the part of the roof that is not taken up by the poptop. When I insulated the walls previously, I deliberately left the roof as I wasn’t sure what would be left of it after the poptop went in. It turned out there IS a small ledge around the roof, and it was bare metal and not pretty. Plus it got mighty hot with the sun on it.

So over the last few days I’ve been attaching wooden batons to it (as it takes a day at least for the glue to set hard enough) and yesterday I insulated the gap and added a lining. The painting is in progress so looks a bit shit (another couple of coats and it’ll look better) but here’s what this looks like:

This also gives me a screw-into ceiling surface for a smoke alarm and CO alarm (important when cooking in a small space), and one one of the pics you can see the backs of these screwed on — the fronts are now attached too.

So it was a productive day, and I feel at last that I’m getting somewhere. I’m off work this coming week and had planned to simply escape somewhere in the van. That’s more complicated now as there’s still the electrics, the awning, and the remaining plumbing to do beforehand. I also plan to sand and varnish the kitchen worktop (today, if I can face it…?)

And also I need to do something about the quilt, which now doesn’t fit the space but which I don’t want to abandon completely, not least as its ugly velcro is still in place on the van but also because at the moment you can see right thru the windscreen to the fact that it’s a campervan, and what I’m going for, for city parking, is the stealth of it looking like just any other tradie van (OK, with poptop, but not many people know what that is). So the quilt also needs a solution, mmmm. Still some stuff to do, then, but maybe I can get on the road by Tuesday???

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