Ok so here's a big post with lots of pictures.
Included will be:
- Screen assembly
- Tank Assembly
- Back Deck
- Beet harvest
- Select trip pics
Here's how we made our screens. The pegboard that we built the walls with originally had steel supports screwed to the back of it. There were two per board, and they came in a couple different sizes. My dad is a custom machine engineer, and he let us use his shop both at home and at work as well as tools for most of our build. We measured the space in the windows, cut the supports to the right size, and welded frames that fit with 1/8" of wiggle room. Then I painted the frames and used outdoor Liquid Nails to glue screen to the back of the frames. Then we screwed the frames into place with sheet metal screws; two on each left and right side.
This machine cut the supports at a 45 degree angle by using pressure to punch a V into the metal.
Then Dan used a band saw to cut the pieces at the tip of the V punch. Each support was a strip of metal that had about 1/2" lip along the edge.
My dad instructing Dan on using the sand blaster. The ends of the newly cut pieces were sandblasted to remove the old paint so that the weld would hold better.
My dad made a form at the right size to put the pieces in for welding. Then after clamping it down he used a welder on the corners. The a metal grinder smoothed down the welds so that they wouldn't rip the screen.
At home I used the spray gun to paint the frames green and prevent rust. Then I laid out the frames on a roll of plastic screen and cut it out. We made one for every window except the emergency windows.
I cut a piece of foam board insulation to fit in the frame to keep the screen from sagging, laid the cut screen across the frame, and applied a very thick layer of outdoor Liquid Nails between the frame and screen. Then using gloves I smeared it around so that the Liquid Nails was completely encasing the screen.
Closeup. It was kinda like peanut butter. When it dried it became impossible to pull the screen off the frame.
Then we drilled the appropriate size holes in the frames and in the window spaces, and attached the screens with two sheet metal screws on each left and right side.
The purpose of the screens isn't so much to keep bugs out as it is to keep cats in. If they try really hard the bugs can get around the edges of the frames, which could be solved by putting some sort of sealant there, but it's not enough for us to bother.
For our tanks we took 30-gallon food grade polyeurethane syrup drums and mounted them with laser-cut cradles. My dad drew up a design for flat aluminum, sent it off and had it laser cut, then used tools at his shop to bend it into shape.
We had six of them made; two for each tank. We installed two tanks for grey water, and one for black water.
Here Dan is drilling holes in the bottom of the bus to bolt the cradles to. Our floor is made entirely of small sheet metal panels that are curled on the edges and welded together to make ribs. The cradles bolt directly to one of the ribs.
Here's how the barrels fit in the cradles.
To attach the barrels to the cradles we used hurricane straps. They cost $13 for a 35 ft strap at Lowes, and can support something ridiculous like 1500 lbs. They're zinc coated, and are very flexible. After cutting the correct size pieces, each end was bent around a stub of metal rod and riveted back on itself, making a sort of eye. The metal rod stubs were hexagonal, and had two holes drilled in each. One end's holes were tapped with threads, and the other end was just drilled. Then to attach the barrels, the straps were laid flat in the cradles, pulled around the barrels, bolts were inserted into the rod holes on one end and screwed into the rod holes of the other end, which tightened the strap on the barrel. Long bolts were used first, and then replaced by shorter and shorter bolts to make the strap as tight as possible.
This machine cut the hexagonal rod into little chunks of equal size so that I could use the drill press to put in the tapped and drilled holes that had to match up exactly for the bolts to fit correctly.
Close up of the rod chunks.
Dan ground down the sharp edges to avoid damaging the plastic barrels and so that the pieces would lay down flat on the drill press.
I don't have any more pictures of this at the moment. This is a new computer so I'm missing all of my old pictures until I can figure out how to move them over.
Plumbing the tanks was another matter entirely. Before cinching up the black water tank, we had to drill a hole in the right place for the toilet to flush into and insert a 3-inch rubber grommet to fasten the pipe from the toilet flange. Polyeurethane cannot be glued or sealed. The only way to bond it is either by plastic welding or a very expensive special glue that costs $70 per ounce and must be applied with a specialized $170 applicator. The tank grommet was the prefect solution. It's just rubber and works by mechanical pressure. When the pipe is inserted into the grommet, the rubber edges are squeezed against the sides of the hole and are mechanically sealed. It cost $12 per grommet. The black tank has one grommet on top for incoming business, and one on the end at the bottom with the valve coming out of it. The two grey water tanks were easier. Our grey water system uses 1.5" pipe, and it just so happened that the tanks originally had two threaded drains on the top. Our sink and tub are plumbed together with a wye inside the bus, and go to a P-trap just under the floor. Then there's T with a cleanout plug on one side in case we need to unclog any hair, that goes to a cross fitting. The cross fitting has one tank on each end by way of those original threaded drains, and then the last part of the cross has a fitting that increases the pipe size to 3" for our grey water valve. This way we can attach our 3" black water drainage hose to empty our grey water second and sorta clean it before hosing it out at the dump station.
As we worked on the bus we kept coming across some crazy and beautiful bugs. Here are a couple interesting moths I saw.
Here's Dan working on building the frame for the goat pen. It's a two foot tall platform with storage underneath.
It's hard to take good pictures of Rosie's setup, but here's one when Frankenstein decided that Rosie should share. It didn't last long. Rosie doesn't share. She headbutts.
Here's the awesome back deck that my dad welded together for us. It's about 3.5 feet long. The steps fold up as a gate. The deck is attached to the bus in a clever way. The two main supports under the deck are even with the main bus beams, and extend under the bus for about four feet. A short piece of square tubing had a couple of pegs welded to the end that straddled the deck supports. The I-beams under the bus are sandwiched between these pieces of square tube and the deck supports, which are then bolted together. I'll have to take a pic of it sometime. But it's nice because it's secure but easily removable. If insurance has a problem with it we can say that it's just an accessory since it's not actually welded to the bus.
That's all I have for cool improvements at the moment. I still have to add pictures of the ingenious folding passenger seat that my dad designed and welded for us. You're all gonna be so jealous. It sits over the stairway space, and folds up snug beside the front dash out of the way.
So now we come to the travels.
The sugar beet harvest takes place in North and South Dakota and Minnesota. Every year lots of RVers of all ages go to make some money. In two weeks we made $4500. It's grueling work, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, outdoors, and we had the night shift. In October.
Trucks drive up into this machine and unload their beets. The machine sends the beets up a conveyor onto a 30-ft-tall and 100-ft-wide pile.
Dan worked on the ground shoveling piles of beets when they spilled out of the trucks or machines, cleaning escaped dirt off the ground, directing trucks, and bagging samples from a chute for the lab to analyze for sugar content.
Hard hats and safety glasses were required. Each of these beets could be anywhere from the size of a large egg to a watermelon, and most were about the size of a human head. When they came flying out of the machine and hit you in the head, it hurt even with a hard hat.
I worked on the ground with Dan for a couple days but I'm tiny and it was freezing. Out of 300 hired employees, more than half quit by the end of the first week. It seems to be that way every year. I asked to be trained as a machine operator so I could be inside the enclosed booth. There was even an outlet so I could bring a little electric heater. The job required a lot of attention and multitasking with all these buttons plus eight other levers to push and pull. I was responsible for everyone's safety, moving end dumps, conveyor belts, signaling the trucks when to move, back up, or dump, and moving the machine when it needed to expand the pile. All without crushing anyone.
Here is the main conveyor belt which leads to a screen that separates the dirt and sends it back to the trucks on the other conveyor. Then the beets go up the boom to the pile.
Dan got a good look at the boom when he had to suit up in a safety harness and climb up there to shovel out accumulated dirt.
After making that money we started traveling again. So here are some random traveling pictures!
Our first camping trip in the bus before leaving NC: Mount Pisgah Campground and Pisgah National Forest, Asheville, NC.
You can't see it in this pic, but Frankenstein is sitting on top of the cushion that is squishing Oscar. It was an amusing sight.
Frankenstein's a barn cat at heart; sleeping in Rosie's hay bale.
Dan and Rosie cuddling on a warm December day in Junction, TX.
Dan's glad I'm washing the windows instead of him.
I get to do this every day.
Whitewater Draw, near Tombstone, Arizona, is the roosting place of 30,000 Sandhill Cranes in the winter. They all fly at once every sunrise and sunset on the way to and from fishing.
I painted OneNationUnderGoat on the sides of the bus!
Taping out the letters for paint.
Frank judging me with her laser eyes.
Piper and Frank getting along.
A coyote walked through our campsite in Lake Mead outside Vegas.
This may have been Valley of Fire state park in Nevada.
Camped out on Willow Springs Rd in Moab, Utah.
A morning fire for cooking breakfast.
Moab is one of our favorite places.
Plenty of room to roam, dead wood to burn, and dried weeds (for Rosie) to eat.
Stayed overnight at a visitor center halfway across the Rockies.
On the way down:
Dan relaxes by the fire at sunset at Mittry Lake in Yuma, Arizona.
Rosie and I climbed a desert mountain in the Anza-Borrego State Park. She jumped off this rock and disappeared. I thought it was cliff and that she had just died. It was about a six foot drop and when I looked over she just looked at me like "you think THAT was high? pfft."
Juno says, "Are we ready to go yet?"
I hope this photo update gives you plenty to look at until I have internet again! When I get all the old pics from my laptop there will be more.