Wentworth Springs and Pushing the Van to it’s Limits.

On June 30th, after a night out at the bar with my Mom, we set out on our grand adventure. The first stop was The Rubicon trail outside of Placerville to visit our friends property at Wentworth Springs for some good old fashion Independence day celebrating.  The thing about the property is it is about three or four miles in on one of the gnarliest trails I’ve been on in any vehicle, let alone our 1985 van.

Getting to Wentworth Springs

Being the go-getters that we are we thought we would get the tough stuff out of the way before setting out on a 3,000 mile trip. We met my Dad and Uncle Mike at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and went to meet up with the rest of the crew at another property called Camp Ten up the road. They were towing in an excavator to do some work on the property and had to pick it up over there.

To start, we met up with the owners of the property who are good friends of our family, we all made our way to the Rubicon via Wentworth Springs road.

Van at Entrance to Rubicon Trail

The Van at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail.

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The trail start with about 100 yards of water crossing; luckily the van is pretty tall and the water was not that deep.

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My Uncle Mike’s Jeep mid water crossing.

When we first got to the trail we attempted to get the van in 4 wheel drive.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the hubs to lock. We decided to push on in 2 wheel and see what would happen. Seems like the best way to go, we thought. This usually goes one of two ways, it works out or it doesn’t. Fortunately, we made it 90% of the way in with no trouble. Unfortunately, The last 10% of the trail into Wentworth Springs is the hardest part; you end up running into a hill where the road is mainly made up of river rock and large boulders. Furthermore, after a large winter and plenty of water run off this part of the trail had been made even worse this season.

4 Wheeling on the Rubicon Trail

We brought up the rear of our pack and we were last one’s to attempt the hill. We had watched more experienced drivers and better built rigs struggle, so needless to say, we were slightly apprehensive.  Justin drove the Van and My Dad and I hopped out and played spotter.

Justin had a hard time getting the van over the first few boulders without the front axle being locked. He made it three quarters the way up without four wheel drive. Eventually we gave up and Uncle Mike pulled out the recovery strap and pulled us up the rest of the way.

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The Van and my Dad as spotter trying hard to get over some huge boulders.

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Uncle Mike and the crew preparing the Recovery Strap. We got pulled to the bridge seen in this picture and drove the rest of the way in ourselves. Thanks for the help Uncle Mike!

Once we made it to the bridge, we continued on to Wentworth Springs and set up camp. Everyone went back to fill in the spot where we got stuck later in the day. We rode our bikes down there, which was also some of the roughest mountain biking I probably will ever do.  We spent the rest of the afternoon fixing the road and filling holes by throwing rocks into them. My dad rolled out big boulders with the excavator. All in all, after the road work we probably could have made it up no problem in 2 wheel.

Relaxing at Wentworth Springs

We spent the rest of weekend relaxing, swimming, celebrating, and wheeling in my Uncle Mike’s jeep on the Rubicon. Unfortunately, we were having to much fun and forget to take pictures of anything else after the ride in. You’ll just have to take our word for it.

We had an awesome time at Wentworth Springs. We would definitely go back with the van (we did, read about it here) and even the jeep for some playing around. Special thanks to Nancy, Colby, Fio, Morgan, Steve, Sandy, and the rest of the gang for inviting us to come play! Come Monday morning it was time for us to make our way out to our next destination: Mammoth Mountain for 4th of July Skiing and Riding!

The van made it out pretty easy on Monday morning. We followed my dad out and said our goodbyes at the bottom of the access road. From there, we made our way to Tahoe for a quick stop and stocked up on food and also bought a bike rack for our bikes!

We stopped at Kiva beach to see the water level in Tahoe which is crazy high! The beach was almost non existent!

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Kiva Beach Lake Tahoe looking FULL.

In conclusion, the first leg was challenging but a great time!

 

 

Finished Build and Test Trip

From the previous post, we had the flooring, walls, bed, and fantastic fan put into the van. A clean pallet for building our design. If I still had Bailey’s original “inside van sketch” I would certainly post a picture of it but when we were done, it came out really close to what we were shooting for. So…. after the bed was built we moved onto the countertop, cabinet, and storage area. It was perfect for the far side of the van because there are no windows on that side of the van. It made sense. Basically, we built a storage cabinet from the floor to the ceiling directly behind the drivers seat. The lower area of that cabinet would house all of the solar system items (batteries, inverter, fuse box, etc.) and the upper shelves would be mostly food storage and whatnot. Water jugs will be housed underneath the countertop area. We built the storage cabinet and the under-counter storage to fit some cool shutters that we scored from a local friend here in town. Shoutout to Mike O’Neill! They are old antique mini shutters. The shutters are perfect for the job because they hide all of our crap while also making it easily accessible. We painted them a cream white color to match the ceiling. Bailey did a stellar job at putting some fabric that we got from Jo Ann’s on the ceiling. The trick? A whole bunch of 3M 90 spray adhesive. That shit really holds stuff good! I’ve blabbed on a lot here, but we are somewhat close to being done with the build. I’m sure I have forgotten some things. There are plenty of small things still to do and I’m sure we’ll find another hundred things to do once we hit the road, but in the mean time… we are pretty proud of our progress!

First picture above is on/off switch to turn the solar panels off to stop charging the batteries when we aren’t using them. You can also see the charge controller and fuse block. A separate write-up on the solar system is coming whenever I quit being lazy. So you’re not chomping at the bit, it’s 2 – 100 watt panels on the roof running to 2 AGM sealed Vmax batteries wired in parallel for double the storage. This is plenty of power for what we will be running (LED lights, fantastic fan, charging phones, etc).  The middle picture is the counter and cabinet just after we put the shutters on. You can see how great of a job we did. Hey, they hold stuff in!

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Installing a Fantastic Fan in our Van

After we had the flooring and walls up, it was high time we installed our new Fantastic Fan. They have many different models but after researching we decided to go with the medium model that has 3 different speed settings and the manual vent open and close. The more expensive ones that come with automatic rain sensors, reverse, 10 speeds, etc. just seemed like a little much for our application. Here is how we installed our fantastic fan vent into our 1985 Ford 4×4 van. A classic write up with lots of pictures is always good and relatively easy to follow along.

For this application, there was already a standard 14′ x 14′ hole cut that was housing an old manual vent that the previous owner installed in the van. From my research that is the scariest and/or toughest part, basically because you are cutting a hole in the roof of your rig. If you are installing the fan in an RV, there is a good chance that you already have the hole cut and are just replacing your old vent for the new Fantastic fan. This write-up is perfect for you.

To start, I needed to get onto the roof and start scraping away at the old sealant from the current vent. With a paint scraper, screwdriver (for scraping), and my drill with the proper bit, I was able to easily remove the old screws fairly easily. After the screws were out I was able to remove the old vent without much problem with a bit of Bailey’s help down below.

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The hole in the roof after the old vent was removed

In the photo above you can see what the hole looks like with no vent in it. Getting the vent out was pretty painless. Now the real work starts…. I’d say I spent a good hour scrubbing and scraping at all of the old sealant and caulk on the roof. Honestly this was the hardest part of the whole installation, LOL. In addition to the paint scraper and my screw driver, a bottle of mineral spirits and a rag is great in this situation. The mineral spirits really helped to bring all that old crap up without jacking up the paint. Goo gone also works just the same.

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4×4 Ford Van Flooring, Walls, and Bed

Well this is typical, it’s been almost 1 month since I last posted an update on the van. I’m gonna label the title May anyways. When you really get wrapped up in building you get kinda lazy at night and skip posting extensive updates. We have been posting little snaps here and there on our Instagram – be sure to follow us there @avantostandby. We spent the better part of the month of May building out the interior of the van and preparing it for our trip. Since our last update, we did get the radiator issue fixed. A new beefier radiator was installed along with a separate transmission cooler to eliminate the possibility of the two fluids mixing together should the radiator fail for whatever reason. That being said – the transmission and motor were also both completely flushed to ensure there was no extra tranny fluid floating around – that would not be good. So a big check – mechanical work is DONE! The van is running great all around. Now it’s time to make it livable…

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Bailey the morning of insulating and installing the flooring.

Here is how we put floors into our 1985 Ford 4×4 van. So we kind of tackled everything in sections. We started with the floors since it seemed the easiest (and because we were given some free laminate flooring, thanks Mike). We put reflectix down first with 3M adhesive spray. We used that stuff for a lot of things on this project. After the reflectix, a layer of particle board subflooring was screwed down with self driving metal screws. Finally, we installed the tongue and groove subflooring, piece by piece. A bit of liquid nail and some different heavy objects were put down on top of the flooring to ensure it was set in nice and tight. The floors came out really well. Click the below images to enlarge.

 

Next we headed to a friends house who was going to help us with the walls. We were able to get the walls and bed put in that day, a huge success. Harlan is somewhat of a professional woodworker with a lot of knowledge, and a killer set of tools. Awesome barn too! We spent Memorial Day building Continue reading

“The Van” Strikes Again

 

Well, well…. where to even start. I’m a week late and then some on updating the status of the van. This could be a lengthy one. Let’s dig in. So we were finally able to pick the van up from our mechanic in the last week of April. We won’t talk dollar amounts so I can keep my sanity, but know it was quite a bit. We had a lot of items serviced on it. The following is a rundown of all the work that was done so you all know what was done as well as a record for us. Full tune up, replaced spark plugs, cap and rotor, air filter, all belts and hoses. Tightened loose steering. Installed new Interstate battery. Reset ignition timing for smoother drivability. Rear Dana 50 axle serviced and filled with fresh gear oil. Filled transfer case and transmission oil. Fresh oil change with oil and new oil filter. New thermostat and seal. New transmission filter. New duralast gold starter. New temperature sending unit so the temperature gauge on the dash now works. A lot of “new”, right? Once we got the temp gauge on the dash working we noticed that it was running slightly hot, so we also put in a new Spectra premium radiator. Let’s take a break from words for a photo.

4x4 van in mechanic's parking lot

Here’s the 4×4 van in the mechanic’s parking lot

So now you know everything that was taken care of on the van. Directly after we picked it up, we headed down the road to Tires Plus for a brand spankin’ new pair of 315/75r16’s. While we were there, we also had new pads and rotors put on the front. So new brakes too! Add another thing to the “new” list… and add another dollar sign.

New 35 inch tires on the 4x4 van

New shoes on the whip

OK – current day: It’s now May 8th. Big shout out to Bailey’s folks for letting us park the van in the street in front of their house and doing all sorts of crap to it and also for letting us sleep in their house until we get this build wrapped up. We are optimistic that the entire thing will be done, road ready, and living ready by the end of May. Cross your fingers for us.

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