After all the work and the money spent, I hate to admit this, but my idea for living in my car has failed.
I am simply enjoying too much the convenience of having a private toilet and shower I can use anytime I want. Going mobile, this aspect has been just too difficult for me to try to accommodate, especially with how cold the weather has gotten lately.
But again, the vehicle still works perfectly fine as any other commuter car, and it still works supremely well as a short term, temporary camper whenever I am on the road. Way better option than paying for any roach motels, thanks. In fact, it is so super convenient that way, I've decided to just leave everything as is.
But as a permanent living arrangement... sadly that will not work for me. Sad because if it could work, that would have saved me so much money, it wouldn't even be funny.
This also has other implications, because it also made me realize that tiny houses would not work for me either... or rather, it would if I could get plumbing done for water and sewer like a conventional stick house. Unfortunately, when you do that, it no longer qualifies as a "camper" and is then subject to city building codes, which would make them illegal dwellings.
Long story short, I need to stay put for now, living in the house I am currently in, and try to figure out what my next move should be, if any.
To be honest, I am not sure what to do next, or at least what I want to do next. I suppose I will wait and see how things pan out, but for right now, I am going to go into sort of a financial hibernation mode, and bleed as little money as possible.
After all the work and the money spent, I hate to admit this, but my idea for living in my car has failed.
I know I haven't been on for a little while, but I have a question for you guys.
In light of the protests and even riots going on in Charlottsville, Virginia, I am seriously considering joining the protesters (against the white supremacists).
For what it's worth, this can be done very cheaply as I live fairly close to that location, so the drive, especially in my camper car, would be very low cost.
Anyways, please feel free to let me know what you think of it.
My house-car is a work in progress, so it was inevitable that revisions or improvements would eventually come along.
First, I noticed that as much as I like the aesthetic touch of the flowers, they keep dropping these plastic pellets and petals, especially when I roll down the window and air blasts on them. This has lead to a lot more effort in brushing my bed than necessary. Also, the metal clips that holds them on the roof has scratched my head at least twice. Sadly, they must come down. The Christmas lights too then, since I realized that I barely use them.
A second revision I am making is that I am taking out my water tank, because as it turns out, that's way more water than I actually need. Yes, I did start out with some kind of long term survival in mind, but in practice, I am overflowing with clothes that need to be there and no place to put them, and a large water jug that is way overkill while taking up a precious large amount of space. Put these two together, and I am basically going to replace the water jug with my clothes instead.
Final revision is how I cover the back of my window, which is basically a couple of these neat pants hangars, strapped upside down. I know that sounds weird, but they work remarkably well, and can be done from the inside (or outside) and bonus is that it helps to hang a semi-wet towel, which is what I have holding up and blocking the screen. Bonus is that it conceals even better than the original screen.
My house-car is coming along quite nicely. It actually works well for what I am getting, but yeah, not going to lie, I do dream of having more space, but then, the air conditioning would not work well if that was the case.
Finally, it's been a week and I am still coughing. This is insane. However, it has steadily improved with each passing day so I am hopeful that I'll be back to "normal" in another couple of days or so.
I had a fun time with the guys. We proved very adept at staying boring and low-key indeed haha, but we did eat some really nice seafood. Wow. So this is what being spendy tastes like.
However, I woke up by 4am on Friday, with my throat burning and coughing non-stop. One of the guys is a smoker, and I think whatever he was smoking really set off what seems like an acute case of Bronchitis that I am still suffering as I type this. I woke up again at 4am last night from the coughing and the non-stop phlegm. Yay.
The condition plagued my entire weekend. It was so bad that I actually spend most of the nights in my own car, and slept better in there than in the hotel room. The upside is that it is slowly but surely improving.
Here are some funny stuff I snapped while I was there:
There it goes again! Why are these thumbnails sideways and upside down? Are you guys seeing this too? At least clicking them seems to show in the proper orientation.
Finally, here's a poor attempt from me trying to capture some dolphins that were near the shores.
Anyways, just got back home last night and Dr. internet says I need to take it easy so I will do that for now.
Yesterday, I arrived at my intended destination... about 2 days early. So, having some time, I figure I might as well check off one thing that's been on my bucket list, which is to touch the ocean.
Yeah, it sounds like a simple one, but I have never actually gone out into the edge of land before, and looked out into the infinite Atlantic... and just touch it.
However, achieving this turned out to be easier said than done. Mostly, it had to do with the atrocious lack of parking (without paying some crazy fee). Finally, I saw a place that I might be able to get away with it for free-ish.
Anyways, here it is, in video even!
I have to say, the beach is far bigger than I imagined. Also, I accidentally got my shoes drenched by the ocean. Luckily, as you guys know, I am used to wet shoes by now, and I was already prepared with a second pair to wear.
A buddy of mine from way back is getting married, and we are all meeting up this weekend for his "bachelor party". It's in quotes because basically we're all a bunch of low key, boring guys. We are not going to bars, strip clubs, or even casinos (which there will be some nearby). We are just going to hang out, catch up, and maybe eat some nice dinner somewhere.
The only catch if you can call it that is that it's very far away for me. Roughly an 8 hour drive. That also means that I can't cheat by coming home for any reason... which I confess I have been doing. Well, sometimes, I forget my vitamins, or forget my can opener, or just want to use the bathroom in peace. No, this weekend, I will truly have to live "out there"....
Uh, ok even then, they have booked a hotel room, and wow is that place expensive. Seriously, it's double what I would have paid, but it is right in front of the ocean. However, I am not the one getting married here, so I'm just going to bite the bullet on this one.
Having been preparing and practicing to live in my car all this time, I must say I feel supremely prepared for this weekend road trip. It feels great to have something you do be useful in a situation like this. In fact, it's overkill.
I'm also going to take my time getting there and explore my surrounding. Why drive for 8 hours straight when you don't have to, right? There are plenty of rest areas along the way, and hopefully, they're even nicer than the ones I've seen so far.
Wow, the parks sure are busy. Memorials Day weekend and all that I guess. I'm typing here at the park that's fairly packed
Edit: Wow, how did this picture end up upside down? It's hilarious though so I'm just going to leave it.
Just wanted to chime in that I am still here and still working on transitioning to my new lifestyle. I am at a point where things are starting to become routine. The novelty has worn off, and now it's just a matter of learning as I go with what I should be doing each step of the way.
I guess something like this need practice too.
Hey gang. Hope you'll pardon me if I haven't updated recently. Thing is, I caught some kind of bug or something, and have been coughing quite a bit lately. All I know is that the car's air conditioner makes the cough worse, so I've been spend the last couple of nights sleeping at home.
I am still living mostly out of my car though, if nothing else because I am getting used to it.
Everything I need or mostly want is packed into the car already. It is super convenient to basically have everything with me wherever I go, and know where to find it.
I am still experimenting with various sites around town to see how well it works for me throughout the day and night. For example, for some reason I have never visited the biggest park in the city before, so I decided to make that a priority. Here's a quick picture I snapped of it.
I tell you, it was somehow prettier in person than what the picture is showing. There is a very calming quality about being surrounded by all these trees and green leaves....
Unfortunately, I am also getting a greater exposure to the weather and insects, and that's not always pleasant. With my cough and a large bug bite on my neck that still hasn't fully healed, it's tempting to just keep living in a house.
However, this exposure is to be expected. I am still determined to make this lifestyle transition, or at least give it my very best shot. Why? Well, if nothing else, I guess you could say that I can be a rather stubborn person when I want to be.
There's a fine line between determination and stubbornness though, and I think where that line lies depends on how one answers the question, "Does the benefit of continuing this path still out-weigh the cost?" For now, it still does.
Taking this line of thought a step further, I have often wondered exactly how other vandwellers do it. How do they cope when they struggling?
Naturally, I suspect many of them love traveling to begin with. However, many that do it only out of wanderlust don't always do it full time. They travel as much as they can, but ultimately, these are seasonal part-timers.
Some are perhaps like me; just pig headed enough to try to make it work and maybe they managed to surmount the teething process.
However, I think the majority of people that ultimately end up being a full-time lifers... I think they live this way because they have no choice. Like, for whatever reason, it's simply not a choice that is available to them, or at least it's not a choice in their minds.
If you look at a lot of their interviews and videos, you'll see that many didn't start out this lifestyle by choice. Some will come straight out and say that too. Life dealt them a harsh hand somehow, and they ended up in their car or van simply because they had nowhere else to go.
To be fair, many will tell you that they actually prefer this lifestyle, but even so, I can say with certainty that this is not an easy lifestyle to transition to. Doubly so if you are not doing this by choice.
The reason why I am pointing this out is because I've raised this question to them before. I've asked the full time community just why they continue to do this, and how do they cope. I asked that because I was intrigued by their mindset, and I also wanted to glean wisdom that may help me cope with my own transition as well.
Unfortunately, I find that while some were quite polite and answered thoughtfully, by and large, they were also very defensive about their lifestyle. It was as though I had stepped into something unpleasant that they would prefer that I do not question.
They didn't say this, but after some rumination, I suspect that they probably think I am a lucky fool haha. You know, because I am doing this by choice, and have a safety net to fall back on, I therefore could never fully understand the depth of hardship that they've had to endure. To be perfectly fair, they are probably right. I am, in many ways, a lucky man.
It's not that they don't include me. Quite the opposite in fact, but I think when you dig deep down, this is the mind of a true dweller. Not some hippy who is doing this seasonally or by choice (like me). Rather, it's growing community of scrappy, sometimes disenfranchised group of mostly decent people, living on the fringe, not always by choice, but trying their best to make their way through life.
Ok, I am finally back at my house, and am able to update the day's events. There isn't much to tell, but I'll try to recall what I can.
As promised, I gave the parks in Asheville another shot. During the day, it was quite pretty indeed. I saw people generally strolling about and having picnics. Unfortunately, many of their areas, especially their buildings, don't allow guns, so I decided to just turn around and head back out.
On my way back, I did get very sleepy at one point. I drove to yet another rest area, and just went ahead and set up shop to sleep there. So far, I really love how I can just roll right over into my bed and sleep. I guess I was more tired than I thought, having stayed up late night driving all over the mountains. By the time I got up, the sun was about to set. I did feel very refreshed though, for what it was worth.
When I got up, I also realized that my car has been exposed to direct sunlight, and my car's AC was just struggling for all it's worth to keep up. I do park in the shade, but in this case, enough time has passed where the shade moved away.
When I got back to town, I went straight to the gym, mostly because it was the closest destination, but also because it's bad enough to go nearly two days without showering, but I also didn't want to go nearly two days without working out. I did a quick one, then came home to shower. I didn't do it at the gym because there was a bunch of people there and I didn't want to hog the entire bathroom for myself.
So, here I am, a quick experiment and road trip complete, and what have I learned? Well first and foremost, I am proud to report that I really do think I can do this. It did not go as well as I had hoped, but I think sometimes, I get stricken with the Han Solo effect, where I would run headlong into something thinking of course it's going to work, but with the added instruction, "Never tell me the odds." Haha. But if you consider the fact that I spent nearly two days out without having to pay for a single motel room, and I didn't feel as though I was suffering or anything, I would say that is a success.
However, when it's all said and done, I don't think this will work for me. Again, for a road trip and a personal experiment that I've never tried before, I think it was worth the experience. Now that I've done it though, I've decided that it's going to get really old really fast if I had to do this regularly, and I don't care for the wear and tear on the car either.
So here I am, back a day earlier than planned, but the upside is that there is still one more idea I haven't fully tried, and I can do this with the extra day I now have. I'll report back later with more details.
Ok, so let me see if I can remember from the beginning how things are going so far.
So I left yesterday morning I think. I remember seeing big gaps in not just my cellphone data reception, but even on occasion, my regular phone reception. Clearly, T-Mobile's coverage isn't as good outside my city. The reception situation only worsened as I approached the mountains, where I even have trouble picking up regular radio stations.
Let's see, I went to Boone first, because it had the coolest weather, and between that and Asheville, it was also the closest destination.
Ok, so before I got there, I stopped at a rest area, and I was so shocked at how nice it was. It wasn't just a rest area, it was also some kind of nature conservatory? For like Monarch butterflies? Anyways, I took a picture of one of its small trails here:
When I got to Boone, the first stop I made was to the fitness gym that I am a member of. Alas, my card didn't work for some reason, but I got there so late that the staff had already left. However, as I was trying my card, someone just left and opened the door, allowing me to step in and take a real quick look:
During the late night, I stumbled on the internet that there was a park that was actually open 24 hours. I was like wow I've never heard of that before. So I decided that, hey, it's 1am but I am not sleepy, and this thing is open 24 hours, and I am going to go check it out.
Bad idea. The entire place, and the roads leading up to it were completely unlit, winding, and luckily that I was wide awake because, if I wasn't, I could have also easily had an accident or rolled off a hill or something out there. When I got there, I had zero cellphone reception, no lights except from my own car, and two sketchy looking cars parked mysteriously out there. The place looked more look a horror movie location than anything to me. Literally, here's a picture of said "park":
I decided to leave and try another rest area, because that last one was so nice. I went to another one on the way to Asheville, and it turned out to be almost as nice. You know, I feel like maybe I could get away with living in rest areas. Is that crazy of me to think that? Or am I already so way over the crazy line that this doesn't surprise you guys?
Anyways, I slept there, and by the time it was late morning, I rolled out again, making it into Asheville proper. The first stop here was, once again, a local gym that I am supposedly a member of. This time, a staff was present, and he explained to me that in order to be able to access gyms nationally, I have to wait for something like a full month before "reciprocity" kicks in. Ah.
However, as I type this at a local Starbucks in Asheville, I think all this effort is rather excessive and would get dull to do on a regular basis. Some may love this life on the road, but to me, it feels more like a giant commute of some kind. I will say that Boone was certainly much cooler, and I could probably make it work on that nice temperature alone.
When I get back though, I have another idea in mind that I think will hopefully work just as well. If successful, this will eliminate me having to travel anywhere at all.
I will be coming home sooner than expected, on the account that I haven't showered last night, and I won't be able to do so tonight either due to "recipropcity". So I might as well wrap it up and come home tonight. But before I do, I'm going to give those horror mountains one more try, except this time, during the day.
The projected temperature for today, tomorrow, and Thursday is suppose to be 87, 93, and 90. Also, my schedule has finally cleared up enough that I can head out for a little road trip. I think I am also prepared enough at this point to give this a shot. So... I guess it's that time!
But where to? Well, I've spoken about Asheville before, but when I googled the coldest place in NC, the result consistently came up with Boone. The projected temperature for Asheville for the next three days is 86, 85, and 83. However, Boone is projected to be 78, 78, and 74. Even better! As an added bonus, Boone is also an hour shorter drive from where I am than Asheville.
Overall, I am not sure about putting literally hundreds of miles on the car, each way, just so I can get a little bit of heat relief. Quite the opposite, I would like to put as little miles on my car as possible.
However, when you are just roasting in heat and humidity, it's hard to describe how motivated one can become just to get away from the sticky, itchy, uncomfortably hot heat. Anyway, it's just a little road trip and personal experiment.
I've never been to Boone before, but as planned from before, there is a 24 hour gym there that I have membership access to, so I figure that's a place to start, and explore out from there.
Ok so let me finish my packing, and I'm heading out! The day has finally come! I'll share anything interesting I find with you guys. Oh, and if you guys think of any last minute advice or whatever, please let me know as soon as possible so I can go, "Oh, I wish I thought of that before I left!" Hahaha.
So I've been trying the idea that you guys recommended with the swimming or beach shoes in the shower. As far as shoes go, they are actually quite affordable. First, I just want to say it feels weird walking into a shower stall with your shoes on. I just want to say that. It's a very seriously weird feeling haha. Also, it feels very weird to let it get soaking wet on purpose.
However, I do like the part that it is very grippy since these showers don't have those seashell or starfish stickers on the bottom to prevent slipping... what?
Now, when they get wet, they get... completely wet, and they don't dry well overnight in the car. In fact, it introduces a lot of moisture that condenses on the windshield that makes it hard for me to drive in the mornings.
So, now I am having to put the shoes outside of the car, but under my front driver's side and that seems to work. You know, the more I do this mobile lifestyle, the weirder I realize my life is becoming. Just so many things I would have never imagined.. even just a year ago, that I would end up doing.
Anyways, I am pleased to report that the shoes are working out great. So, I want to thank you guys for this recommendation. In fact, I have ordered a second pair, so I can rotate the two. It takes roughly half a day for them to dry out, and I hate having to walk around wearing them while they are still cold and wet. This would be especially bad during winter time.
On another note, I haven't left town yet, although I was planning to soon. Things keep popping up so I am staying put for now... and to wait for my second pair of shoes. That and the temperature lately have been surprisingly cool anyways, so that's a welcome change.
Oh, and finally, I tried super, super hard last night to hypermile and see just how high I can get my MPG to. Here's what I ended up with:
I was so pleasantly surprised and pleased by the result. The only problem is that this is not something I can do realistically as I had to drive way, way below speed limit. But since I was driving around late last night, with mostly no traffic around, I could get away with that.
My life is weird. Why am I so weird?
Ok, maybe I should write this in chronological order, so my thoughts are not scattered all over the place.
Yesterday was my baby step out into trying to stay in my car full time. Up until now, I've always made pit stops at home or my mom's house because I forgot to get something, wanted to use the bathroom at home, and what not. This time, I'm going to try to stay out almost a full 24 hour if I can help it.
I'll still be hanging around town for this one, and won't actually go out of town until next week.
So I was wardriving last night. It's like the last thing on my list, because this one was highly optional, and even if successful, seems rather extravagant.
Then I headed off to the gym to work out. According to Google, the gym is the least busiest between the hours of midnight to 3am. That's what I decided to try out their shower, mostly because there is actually only one large bathroom (with the shower) at my current facility in town. So, I didn't want to try to hog the bathroom and shower when there are lots of other people around that may need the bathroom. That and it seemed like a good idea to be able to shower before sleep.
Well, the shower experience was... very uncomfortable. Everything felt disorganized. It was kind of dark, I didn't know what I was doing. Did I even pack extra set of clothes? Where do I put the dirty ones?
In all, I didn't like it haha. However, I do think I will eventually get the hang of it. This, despite all the horror stories I've read and seen online about people finding all kind of nasty messes in gym bathrooms. Needless to say, I was reluctant to step barefoot in there... but I guess I need to get over all that.
Another thing worth noting is that I've read that it's not a good idea to workout right before sleep and I think I can agree with that. I would feel sleepy, go work out, and somehow, that sleepy feeling seemed to go away.
Also, after every workout, I always drink a protein shake, and that requires water to gulp down. Unfortunately, the result of that is that I would wake up the next morning with a very angry bladder. This would be OK if I was at home, but it's a serious issue out and about. So, I will need to resolve this scheduling conflict somehow as well.
Sleep last night was actually not as well as I had hoped. It was raining hard last night, and the sound from the rain was loud enough that it even woke me up with my earplugs in. However, I didn't mind it too much, and this morning smells real nice, so that's a plus.
Because I had to pee so bad, I decided to run into a nearby sandwich shop from where I was parked to use their bathroom. Then I felt morally obligated to buy something from them. That and they also had free WiFi, so I was like OK, but I know I can not and will not be doing this every morning. This is simply too expensive and is just not going to work.
Still though, for today's purposes, here's what I hope is an instagram-worthy pic of my morning escapade, thanks to sandwich WiFi.
Despite of it all, I do feel quite well right now. Hoping it will hold for the rest of the day.
This post is being written from a WiFi access point found on the road. Hi mom!
Edit: I want to clarify that this is highly optional on my to-do list, and in fact, is rather extravagant.
While it is possible for me to access SA and blog through my phone, the screen is very small, and requires a separate bluetooth keyboard hook up. I also needed to find a way to hold up the phone while I type. In all, the setup is far from ideal.
Instead, I decided to drive around town and look for any possible WiFi hotspots to use with my little laptop. This turned out to be far more difficult than I expected, if nothing else because it would seem most businesses have either faulty hotspots, or they are somehow locked down. And of course, I don't intend to hack any of them.
Finally, I found one and well, here I am.
For what it's worth, my gym membership also includes WiFi access at their locations, which makes its monthly cost much easier to swallow.
Ok, I'm rambling, but I figure maybe you guys might want to see what I see, so here's a grainy night photo I took not long ago.
I've discovered a small puddle of water in the plastic bins near my water dispenser. No doubt, some water accidentally spilled at some point, so now I am having to take everything out and air it.
Luckily, the bins worked as intended-- as a fail safe in case of spills-- so my car batteries were unaffected.
While I was airing everything out, I thought you guys might be interested in a photo of what my current inventory looks like:
The items in the picture are wet wipes, garlic salt, a spray bottle of distilled vinegar, a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol, scissors, spatula, can opener, small cutting knife, car window netting, clothes pins, a couple of scrubbers, some plastic knives that I mostly use as stirrers, cooking oil, make-shift clothes line, some sporks, and my remote for the Christmas lights. Last but not least is the pack of ziploc bags that I am using for many of these items.
This isn't an exhaustive list of all the items I have in the car, but it's a good chunk of it.
Just wanted to make a quick post about my MPG usage, now that I am regularly sleeping in the car.
Even at night, the temperature is hot enough that I have to leave AC on in order to sleep well. I am generally a very light sleeper, and so temperature is critical. In fact, I had major doubts about this working actually.
Thankfully, work it did, and for the most part, I am sleeping as well as in my regular house bed. Better actually, since there is a lot less distractions in there once I lie down so I basically just sleep like I am suppose to. In fact, it's working so well that I am not running my house AC very much at all, so I am hoping to see a reduced electric bill in the coming summer months.
However, my car gas bill will skyrocket for sure. Well, I have been experimenting with the temperature settings to see how little in usage I can get and still be comfortable, and for right now, I use roughly around $0.50 worth of gas every night.
With the car now fully loaded with most of the gear, I am no longer able to hyper-mile as high as 70 mpg on the road. However, I am still getting a very realistic 50+ mpg, which I think is just great.
Mixing that in with the car sitting idle and running AC all night, it reduces the overall MPG further down to roughly 38.5 MPG, which is what I saw right before before filling up gas again.
A total of 38.5 MPG... I can live with that. However, the higher I can push my MPG, the more money I can save overall, so I will continue my effort to find ways to get that figure up.
Finally finished signing up for my gym membership. At $36.50 per month, it was more than I wanted to pay, but it's also the only gym that's available in all the destinations that I am thinking about going to. Still beats the pants off of even a single night at a motel.
I also signed up for AAA. I think given my situation, this one is self-explanatory. I signed up for the basic package, which is their lowest service. but I think that's all I need really anyways, and it costs less than $50 a year.
It was raining last night. Rain on a car produces more of a tin can sound than the more soothing thuds that you hear in a house. It's a bit louder too. I don't think I've ever noticed it before simply because I was busy driving, but just lying in a car listening to this, well it certainly does seem much more noticeable. Luckily, if it ever bugs me, ear plugs will solve that minor quibble.
The building phase is almost done. At this point, I am only ironing out minor details, such as if I want to add some kind of a clothes line to dry my clothes for a bit. I will experiment with that some more tonight. Minor stuff though.
I have to plan how I am going to roll out and do things. I sure hope I don't forget anything. I probably will though. This is an completely different way of life than what I am used to so far.
As I near closer and closer to my build completion, I decided to make my first trip outside my driveway, and to the local 24 hour grocery store.
The temperature here was atrocious, peaking at 90F today. Being in the car was very uncomfortable during the day, and I felt like a vehicular vampire, hissing and avoiding direct sunlight wherever possible.
However, as the sun set, things started to improve. I fell asleep around 8pm in my car, mostly from boredom, and slept until around 3am. I had to pee, so I went inside the grocery store, used their restroom, and bought some essential items on my way out.
This being my first time out made me hyper-aware of my surrounding. I watched the employees and other shoppers outside to see if they noticed me before exiting the car. I am sure nobody noticed, and even if they did, I could they would even care. Still, I just couldn't shake that feeling of paranoia. First time jitters perhaps.
Technically speaking, everything worked out well. I still have a few things to iron out, but I need to consider taking that road trip as soon as I can, as the heat is starting to get atrocious.
Finally, I learned that beef jerky is a bad idea because, aside from being pricey, they are also very salty, and that causes me to drink quite a bit of water, which makes me have to pee more often, which is inconvenient. I have to cut down salty foods in general.
Earlier, I showed a picture of the Christmas lights I wanted to put up in the car. The picture was a hasty mockup to see how it would look, and to make sure that it would even work at all. It worked fabulously, so after ironing out the details, I just finished installing them.
You see, I also had this slightly nutty idea. I said to myself, "Self, this may be the only chance you have to add some color and texture to your otherwise drab and monolithic build. The solid black color choices so far were necessary to help provide stealth, but what about the rooftop area? Nobody is going to see that, right?"
Since I'm already in the process of hanging up the Christmas lights, I figure I might as well hang up some flowers at the same time. So, here's the result:
I must say I really love how it turned out. The two strings of fake flowers were bought at a local art store, and they were one of several available for 50% off.
The tough part was finding a way to attach everything. Long story short, I had to special order these metal wire cubicle push pins off of Amazon. They seem to be working well though.
Here's a bonus picture from the outside, showing that it's not completely stealthy, but then, that's also without my privacy panels up.
I'm also glad that this part is done because, before having the lights hung up, it was annoyingly scraping against my forehead everytime I got into the car. It also made me paranoid that I would accidentally snag it on one of my limbs and break it. Now they are finally out of the way.
While this build is by no means finished, and is going to be an evolving work in progress, I am getting to a point where I can actually roll out soon! I have to say, it's kind of exciting.
Just thought you guys might be interested in my current experimentation with LED Christmas lights in the car. Having it actually serves a few purposes. First, I love Christmas lights. I think it makes any room look warmer and more pleasant. Second, it serves the practical purpose of room lighting. Yes, the car has its own lights, but only at the front of the car. Last but not least, it doubles as a clear visual indicator that the inverter power is on (or still on). It does all this without getting in the way, and draws very little power at all.
Trust me, it looks warmer and prettier in person than what the picture depicts. Still though, it does feel like something is missing. I would eventually like to try adding some fake ivy and white drapes or some such. In fact, I'm open for suggestions here. However, these are all purely aesthetic considerations that will have to wait until I iron out more pressing issues first.
While I was there, I decided to take another picture of my "laundry room", to help you guys visualize what I am working with:
As you can see, while the trash can doesn't have to be there, it helps to hold the cooler in place so that it doesn't fly into the back of my seat in case of a hard brake.
Speaking of which, I was also going to use the top of the cooler as kind of a small kitchen counter top. However, I also realized that, in the event of a spill, stuff would easily roll off the cooler lid and down the battery area. That would be bad. So, I started to look for a solution of some kind, and decided to try a baking pan.
A baking pan is great because it is very sturdy, can withstand heat, and in the event of an accident, will not shatter or break, resulting in sharp edges.
However, and much to my horror, I later realized that my baking pan was also highly magnetic. That means it may be affected by my induction plate. I double checked online, and the great and powerful Internet proclaimed that just because something is magnetic, does not necessarily mean it would be a problem. It depends. So, I will have to test the induction plate on the pan later, to be certain.
Ok I was paranoid about the prospect of a heating disaster with the baking pan, so I decided to go ahead and test it out right away. Besides, spam and eggs sounded good anyways.
First, I want to state that this is my first time cooking inside the car, simulating a real cooking experience once I am on the road. I have to say, this was a very cramped experience. I can not straighten my head up while doing this. Also, I thought it was amusing that I forgot the spatula and had to walk back inside the house to get it. Also forgot knife, spork, and garlic salt.... Could really use a small cutting board as well.
Oh, but the most important thing is that, NOPE, there was no heat issues at all from the baking pan! This is terrific news. Also, this makes it more interesting and useful as I can mount magnetic objects to the pan.
Anyways, I hope you guys have a nice Monday.
Ok, so this project... slowly but surely, it is moving along. However, as it moves along, I am ending up with less and less space to work with. All the floor space I have left for all my clothes and also my dirty laundry is literally the size of a tall kitchen trash bin. Yeah.
It reminds me of that amazing scene from the movie Apollo 13, where the chief engineer guy says, "Ok, the boys from upstairs have handed us this one, and we have got to come through. Basically, we have to make this... fit this... using nothing but that." That's how I am feeling right now as I work on this.
Lucky for me, laundry is very pliable, and especially if I am just carrying summerwear, I am sure something can be worked out. Winter will be much tougher, but I have a bit more time to work on that later.
So, as I write this, I am asking for any suggestions you guys may have. Picture a regular, plastic kitchen trash bin. Then picture 2 weeks worth of shirts, shorts, socks, and underwear that has to somehow fit in there, along with space for dirty laundry. How would you go about it? They don't have to be neatly folded or anything, but I obviously would like to separate the dirty stuff from the clean stuff somehow. Also, a bit of organization would be nice too. What do you think?
First and foremost, Happy Easter everyone!
Last night was the first night I spent outside the garage, sleeping in my camper car. Everything is still a work in progress, but I had enough done that I felt like I could try it outside.
I don't have much report because things are sort of slowing down from trying to iron out all the details. A lot of this is still trial and error, and what I don't blog about are the stuff that I have tried but ended up not working. I don't want to bore you guys with these kinds of details, but this is pretty evident to me as the garage is starting to pile up with scraps and other clutter. Once this is all done, I'll have to clean out the garage.
A design improvement for the window panels just popped into my head. That's going to be my third time completely re-doing those windows. Bah. Hopefully, third time's a charm.
However, I did finish wiring the inverter, although I may re-do the fuse box as well, to make super sure that is done properly. Bah.
I learned that the hard way that cutting your own electrical wiring is best left to the pros or hard core wire-heads. Apparently, flux compound is like super toxic, and a proper job requires a blow torch and soldering, especially on low gauge wires. You also need heavy duty cutters and crimpers the size of two-handed bolt cutters. Wow. Thank goodness people sell pre-made stuff.
So anyways, sleeping outside for the first time was an interesting experience. It was certainly one thing to build the car based on how I think it can work, but it was decidedly another to actually go through the motions and work it.... For example, there is a certain order I have to do things, based on where I have space and where I am currently positioned. Everything feels kind of like a yoga exercise. Ah, if you only you can see how I struggle just to get a little bit of water. Actually, please don't. You don't want to see that sad visual. Let's just... move on.
Another interesting observation is that it is super easy to hear every little thing from the outside. Separately, I use a highly recommended fan for RVs, but these things are surprisingly loud. To compensate for both, I tried sleeping with ear plugs, and that worked out really well, although I dropped one somewhere and will need to find it later.
The engine idling up once in a while is an interesting experience, where for a split second, you think the car is about to roll off.
Before falling asleep, I also felt paranoid about people coming up to the car to see what's going on. I don't know why, but I kept peeking through the cracks in the window.
However, when I finally woke up to the neighbor's lawn mower, I realized that-- all-in-all-- this crazy one man slumber party wasn't too terrible.
Last but not least, I did notice that when I woke up, I didn't know what to do with myself. Haha. Everything was out of place. I hadn't given much thought about how much I was auto-piloting through a certain routine when I woke up every day. I guess I need to get used to a new one.
Uh, I still need to hammer out the final details with my water jug issue, but I think the my best course of action is to just encase the whole thing in a relatively tall plastic trash can. A clean one naturally. I mean they're just large waterproof bins basically. So, I am hoping to have this solved by tonight.
In the meantime, PatientSaver asked this seemingly simple and perfectly reasonable question, "But why do you want to live out in the woods on your own for few weeks at a time?"
I am kind of jumping ahead here, but basically, there are practical and spiritual reasons to do this. It starts out with my personal enemy #1, and that is the nasty, humid Southern heat. Anyone who has had to get into their car after it has been baking in the summer sun knows just how woefully inadequate vehicle air-conditioners can be. There are even times when you are better off rolling down all the windows and just start driving.
Now, imagine trying to stay cool inside that. There are animals and even infants that have been cooked alive this way.
This is also why the phenomenon of snowbirding even exists to begin with. When you are mobile, you might as well just get up and go somewhere cooler.
However, as someone who is more of a penny pincher than one stricken with wanderlust, I just don't see too much value in wasting gas, traveling up and down the eastern seaboard, just to "cool off".
Still, I need to figure out something, and after some internet research and even testing out some ideas, here is what I have figured out so far. Oh, and feel free to jump in anytime and share some ideas if you have any. Believe me, I'm all ears.
Ok, first of all, let me state that I live in Raleigh, NC. This is where my family is, this is where I will be during the colder months of the year, and this is also where I will return to, say, every other week to get my laundry done, check my mail, catch up with the family, etc.
To give you an idea of the weather here, today's temperature is roughly in the low 80s F. It's not considered "hot", but the interior of any car always ends up hotter than the ambient temperature.
To beat the heat, the best place I've found to park in is in a mall parking deck. I am not only almost entirely out of the sun, but I also have easy access to public bathrooms and the food court.
The downside is that malls are only open until 9pm. After that, I can head to my 24 hour gym, where I can shower when I am on the road. Plus, I need to work out anyways.
There are other places I can go to as well, depending on what I want to get done at that moment, such as 24 hour grocery stores, 24 hour Walmart, and truck stops.
So that's a concise example of what my future daily routine may look like.
However, as summer rolls up and the heat intensifies, even parking decks may not be enough. When that happens, I will need to consider snowbirding to somewhere cooler.
But where? This is when I started looking up annual temperatures and precipitation charts in my state.
Here's the mean temperature in July:
Here's the normal precipitation chart (suggesting higher likelihood of rain that should further reduce the heat).
All of them point to the western edge of North Carolina. I pulled up Google Maps to double check what's over there, and lo and behold, it's the Appalachian mountains. Well, more specifically the Blue Ridge highlands. Anyways, point is, it's a vast stretch of cool, shady, national forest land.
I haven't been in that area much, except for the town of Asheville. For those that may not know, this is also the place where one of the richest family in America, the Vanderbilts, decided to build their super McMansion. From what I understand, this Cornelius guy from way back could have built it anywhere, but after hiring a professional surveyor years to find that perfect spot, he came back with the answer: Asheville.
This is significant in part because there were no air conditioners back then. In fact, even indoor bathrooms and plumbing was cutting edge, if not unheard of. Long story short, the climate had to be naturally pleasant for as much of the time as possible.
Today, Asheville is also a bit of a tourist trap, so I don't intend to stay too close or for too long even though it's a nice area. Rather, I've scouted places that are deeper into the national forests, where I have been given permission to overnight at their Walmarts, to having available 24 hour gyms there.
But this isn't just about me trying to beat the heat. I've always fantasized about living a bit closer to nature. How great would it be to wake up, turn on a small kettle for a warm tea, and open the doors to a national forest? Despite doing some prelimary research, I am still not certain exactly whatI will find there. However, that's all part of the adventure, right?
Also, let's not forget that this is aimed towards me not having to own a house, so that I can drastically lower my monthly bills. So yeah, that's the plan and, crossing my fingers, I hope it all pans out.
I see many of you express concern and caution about messing with the electricals. I agree. However, having gotten this far-- and even have it working-- I would like to see this through. All that's left now is to make it safe to operate, so I've ordered a battery monitor, ground wire, and a fuse box.
Oh and I forgot to mention another benefit to all this. I know I've been focusing on just the induction plate, but what I am really doing is installing an electrical outlet. Done right, this can be really handy for all kinds of things.
But anyways, as I await for the parts to arrive and complete the electricals, today I tried to tackle something else, which is my desire to carry some drinking water with me. After some research, and realizing how much water can weigh, I've decided to compromise with a 3 gallon jug that I can refill at Walmart.
I also need to keep this thing as far away from the batteries and wires as possible, and the very back of the car seems like the perfect space for it. The only problem is that I am not sure how to strap it down so it doesn't tumble and spill everywhere in the event I do a hard brake.
Anyways, that's what I've been looking at today, and am hoping to figure something out.
Uh, induction cooking. Wow, where do I begin? I am going to jot down as much technical information as I can recall for reference and future use. I've spent days just trying to decipher and understand all this, and I still feel hazy about it. Feel free to double check me, and let know if you see something doesn't look right. After that, I'll share what I have learned so far by trying to cook an egg. (You can jump to the next sections, marked as [INSTALLATION] or [TESTING] if you want to skip this part.)
Oh yeah, I chose cooking an egg as a way to test things, in part because it's a cheap and easy way to see roughly how well something like this works... and because I like eggs and know it's something I would like to actually be able to do.
* Ok, so the Prius gas engine sometimes self-idles to supply power to its electrical counterpart, the High Voltage Battery Pack (HV for short).
* The HV pack, in turn, provides power to the conventional 12 volt car battery, which provides the power to the car instrumentation and systems like any other conventional car.
* I think the HV pack supplies something like 100 or 110v, making it ideal to power the induction plate. However, everything I've read so far suggests that I should stick to the 12v battery instead. Less question marks, and really, no documentation on how I would even go about hooking up anything to the HV pack.
* Ok, so after some research, I read that one should definitely not try to draw 100 amps from a 12v. Separately, another Prius owner with an inverter has pushed as far as 75 amps, but stating that is pretty much the limit as he started to pop a fuse.
* The lowest wattage setting available on an induction plate is 600w. That means that it should only draw about 50 amps at a time, so this should work.
* The medium wattage setting is 900w, and that's when it requires 75 amp draw, and therefore should be avoided at all cost.
* I should still turn pretty much everything off when running the induction cooker, just to be on the safe side.
* However, the Prius should be left on at READY to help keep power supplied throughout its batteries. I also read that most 12v batteries should have a 45 to 50 Amp Hour capacity, and I highly doubt that I would ever need more than say 10 to 15 minutes anyway to cook anything. Nevertheless, it's wisest to keep the running of the induction plate as short as possible.
* I am using a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter, with a peak of 2000 watts, to power the DC/AC conversion. This should be adequate for a 600 watt setting. It might even be OK for the 900 watt setting, although that would be pushing it, and I intend to stick with 600 watts anyway.
* As for peak power, I've seen other videos and sources showing that, during startup peak, the induction plate barely registered 1 watt for a second on a Kill-o-watt, so startup peak is definitely not an issue here.
* The inverter's user manual only recommends a battery draw of only 50AH from a 12v, so this pretty much pins me down to only 600 watts anyway.
* My inverter's user manual also recommends to ground the unit, but does not specify how or provide the wiring for it. I will have to look into how to do so very soon.
* The user manual on the NuWave Precision compact induction plate mentions that both the low setting (at 100 degrees F) and the low/med setting (at 175 degrees F) are rated at 600 watts, so these will be the only two settings I will use. The induction plate also has a setting button that explicitly sets the plate to only 600 watts, which is a good thing.
So, on paper, this should work. This also explains how David has managed to pull this off in the first place. Ok, so on to the second part and actually trying to piece all of this together.
Ok, so this is supposely an easy job. First, I am already fortunate enough to have the car battery be conveniently located in the rear passenger side seating, rather than under the car's hood like most other cars. Also, it's already exposed for use due to me having to build a bed, so, even easier.
However, my first hurdle was when I realized that the Prius does not actually use a normal 12v car battery. Apparently, it uses a smaller, custom glass mat battery all to its own. Consequently, the terminal post for the positive (red) end is a bit too big for the inverter's wire hole to fit. However, after double and triple checking that there is indeed metal contact from the side screw on the positive end, I decided to try screwing it there instead.
Doing so was rather scary to me, because every metallic contact I accidentally made, including from my ratchet tool to say the safety cage, would spark. I paused to check the internet yet again to make sure I am not going to screw this up or electrocute myself... and to find out why it's sparking so much. Apparently, I was suppose to work on the positive (red) end first. Then the negative (black) end. I only did the negative (black) end first because it was harder to reach but the wire hole fitted easily. Lesson learned.
Funny story, but at this point, my mom called me on my cellphone, asking me if I wanted something for dinner. The cellphone buzzing freaked me out for a second, thinking I just got electrocuted haha. Wow, it made me think I really should not be messing with any of this, but I was in too deep and wanted to see this through.
Finally, I got the inverter wired up, and very slowly and carefully, I powered up my car, then, I powered up the inverter, then I plugged in the induction plate, and well, next thing you know I am this crazy man sitting out in the drive way, cooking eggs out of a car....
Oh, before that, I did test the induction plate plugged into a regular receptacle and cook an egg there first, just to have a baseline as to what to expect under normal conditions. It was not scientific by any means, but I say the egg cooked in roughly 2 minutes under 600 watts.
Armed with this knowledge, I then cooked a second egg using the car and the inverter. This time, it cooked even faster, presumably because the pan was already warm from the first time. It basically worked like a charm. Nothing strange that I can tell happened. No strange fumes or smoke. Nothing sparking, failing, or dying. The engine didn't even cut on. I just sat there, silently, watching an egg getting cooked.
Another observation I would like to add is that the induction plate has a safety feature where if it doesn't detect the pan or pot in contact with it, it would turn itself off. Because of this, I can't pick up the pan to tilt it or flip the egg like I normally would with a regular stove. Well, to be exact, I think there is like maybe 5 seconds delay before the plate would cut off. I haven't counted, but the point is, the pot or pan should be left on the plate at all times. Unable to pick up the pan, I did the best I can to flip the egg, but it didn't work, so I was like OK scrambled it is.
About an hour later, I checked back on the plate, the inverter, and my car in general. I was paranoid and wanted to see if anything looked or smelled off. Luckily, nothing seems to be amiss. So far so good!
My final major hurdle in the car project is my desire to build some kind of simple kitchenette. My goal is to almost never eat out unless I actually want to, and not because there is no way for me to cook. Plus, if I cook it, I know what I am putting into that food, and it will be cleaner and healthier than, say, ordering a fast food burger, have them cough into it, or drop it, pick it back up, brush it off, and give it to me without me knowing. It can save more money too.
The problem is, the more I looked into this, the less simple it looked. When it comes to cooking in a car, there are 3 basic options. All of them have their pros and cons.
1. Heating Element - Basically they look like these tool boxes but are really a small, enclosed heating space the size of a small loaf bread pan. Using a heating element
1a. Pros - It's dirt simple. Just put your meal in a bread pan, put that in the lunchbox, plug it into the cigarette lighter, and wait until heated to desired warmth.
1b. Cons - It takes a long time (20-30 mins) to heat foods. It will only heat up so much. And actually, I found out that these things draw 12 amps, which is 2 more than than what is available from typical sedan 12v cigarette receptacles. Meaning, it's only a matter of time before it trips a fuse or three. The alternative is to strap it directly to the car battery, but if I must do that, I might as do it for a more ideal cooking method, listed later. Also, space is limited compared to the others.
1c. Verdict - I decided to use this method as my last resort if all else fails.
2. Propane - Using some kind of propane cooker is what Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others use.
2a. Pros - Propane (or even butane) is cheap enough, will generate enough heat to cook just about anything, and using just about any cookery. Bonus is that a small Coleman propane tank shown in the pic above can also be used to power Mr. Buddy heaters during winter. It's also a fairly simple system to implement.
2b. Cons - Propane itself is a harmful gas in enclosed space, is a fire hazard where the entire car can theoretically catch on fire. Even if it is used safely, gas cookers can generate a lot of heat during use. Remember how heat is my enemy #1? Also, as a fire hazard, it can not be used indoors, and as an outdoor-only cooking method, it is also at the mercy of Mother Nature.
2c. Verdict - Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others insist that this method will work just fine, but even if it works perfectly, it's still going to generate a lot of heat that I am trying to avoid. I would also prefer to be able to cook in my tiny car, which I realize is asking for even more, on top of an already challenging build.
3. Induction plate - Finally we come to a very interesting option, which is the efficient use of an electromagnetic field that is converted to heat when it comes into close contact with an iron-rich pan or pot.
3a. Pros - Induction cooking is very energy efficient, enough so that it can even be powered by a 12v car battery at low heat settings. However, this should not be understimated as the heating is also super fast. Like, microwave fast. About 2 minutes or less and temps can reach upwards of around 100F to 175F. All without actually generating heat on its own (though the pot or pan will be very hot of course). Unlike propane or butane, the lack of any gas source means it can be used safely indoors. It's amazing, honestly.
3b. Cons - It's also, by far, he most difficult route to take. It means I need to be very aware of what the electrical systems and specs of every component in the entire chain, not just ensure that it can work at all, but that it can work safely. I can't just take one guy's word for it. Since I also have to assemble my own system, I have to know exactly what I am working with. Sadly, it's also the most expensive option in terms of upfront cost.
Also, I am concerned that this much wattage could accelerate the wear and tear on my car's battery systems.
3c. Verdict - It's by far the hardest route to take, but if it works, it could also be among the safest, most efficient, and most effective method to cook food. I just have to try it.
So, that's what I did. I ordered the induction cooker and some related components (such as a pure sine wave inverter) and gave it a shot, which I will detail in my next entry.
Ok, I'm still here, I still sleep in my car every day, and it's starting to feel a bit more comfortable so that's good. And yes, I'm still working on the car.
The past couple of days had been rainy so I couldn't quite continue with the next step, which is basically to spray paint the reflectix window panels. That was fine I guess since I needed more time to work on other details of this project.
Today, however, the weather is bright and sunny, even unusually hot at up to 85F. So I decided that it is a good day to get out there and basically see how well the whole setup work, even though I am not finished with it yet. Once again, heat is my #1 enemy, so I wanted to see what it felt like with me in it for an extended period of time.
I also added a couple of trash cans to work out where the trash and the dirty laundry would go. I don't have lids for these bins, but I am not sure how badly it may smell. If it's bad, I'll have to either build some kind of air tight lid, or find containers that have this feature.
Also, the window screens that I worked so hard on might not work. Amazingly, the military grade duct tape I used doesn't seem to stick to fiberglass mesh. Color me surprised, but yeah, there are whole strips that are just flailing in the wind here. I do have an alternate method I may try, but I also want to think some more on this. We shall see.
Finally, I accidentally broke the flexi-arm clamp that is currently holding up my smartphone. The clamp itself is plastic so it wasn't very strong to begin with. Will have to figure out another solution for this as well, or at least a replacement....
So yeah, here I am, parked under the shade, blogging and just hanging out with the parking lot geese.
But you know what? It's oddly relaxing.
Ok, so my current car is indeed too tiny, so I've started to look around for options. That's when I found this magnificent camper top:
Unfortunately, it may be a bit out of my price range. So, inspired by Chris from PriusOuthouse, I may follow his design and build this instead:
I understand the interior is a bit on the drab and simplistic side, but it will have to work:
While I'm here, I've been thinking about car security (and companionship), and while dogs make wonderful travel companions that can also double as your car's security system, I have a soft spot for kitties too. Some don't think they make great car security, but I am not so sure:
Don't those two words just glide effortlessly across your eyes? Like a sultry, smooth PB&J sandwich? No? Ok, it didn't exactly work for me either.
But that's exactly what I was tackling earlier today. You see, after priority #1 (the bed) and priority #2 (emergency toilet), the next priorities in line for me are... well... insulation and privacy!
First though, let me step back and share a bit of clarity and perspective on this particular venture. You see, cardwelling is nothing like RVing for example. They seem similar on the surface, but underneath, the two couldn't be more different. Whereas RVs try to imitate and offer the comforts of a traditional house, cardwelling is more of an exercise in motorized camping. The same kind of camping that involves tents, sleeping bags, camp fires, and trying to fit everything in a backpack.
Point is, due to the severe limitations involved, Cardwelling ends up being a glorified form of camping, and it is important for anyone who is intrigued by the idea, including myself, to realize what you are signing up for.
Case in point, there is only so much you can do to insulate a car. Most insulation is either too impractical, will cause mold, or is too expensive as an option. That is why many opt for a cargo van instead, because they are much more workable in that regard. For cars, most people just put up reflectix on the window glass and call it a day. Some don't even go that far, and just accept that they are indeed "camping" and choose to become quite intimate with Mother Nature.
So that's what I did earlier today, cutting out reflectix to my windows, and see if that will work for me as well.
This isn't all bad news though. You see, cargo vans have one serious Achilles' Heel, and that's the fact that they don't have a practical solution for air conditioning. A van's AC simply isn't powerful and energy efficient enough to cool the entire van. However, cardwellers armed with a Prius can! In fact, the smaller the space, the more effective using the built-in AC will be. Knowing this, that is why I don't mind the tight spaces.
The simultaneous benefit of this option is that it also helps to ensure privacy when I am inside the vehicle.
Oh, and I also put on a protective seat cover. It looks very nice. Ok, I'm going to stop rambling for the night.
Today's entry will likely seem absolutely no different from any other entries that I have written, but for me, there is indeed something very different about it. As I have already given it away, I am writing this entry inside my car.
Well, my car is still parked inside my garage until the pollen clears up and I complete my solution to ensure privacy.
But other than that, this entry is written on my smartphone, clipped to my car bed using a clamp with a flexy neck... and a bluetooth keyboard.
I am not sure if this is the best solution out there, but that is why I am testing it out by writing this entry. So, time will tell....
Other than that, I admit I haven't made much of any progress today. My official excuse was that I wanted to do some more research first, but honestly, I took some naps as I think not sleeping well the past several nights have finally caught up to me.
Anyways, this seems to be working, and hopefully, I'll have more to show for tomorrow. For now, I am going to head to bed.
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