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Freewheeling: Under The Hood

February 16, 2011 Freewheeling 1 Comment

A van update!

We are on the cusp of some big changes. STRUCTURAL CHANGES. In the meantime, Greg has been working on small projects to pass the time. Thank goodness I’m so secure in myself and our relationship that I am not upset about him coming home from work and immediately going to the garage until he’s called for dinner. Then going back out to the garage until he stumbles to bed, exhausted and smelling of auto parts.

Secure = I also like my own space. And my own TV shows.

What has he been working on?

There has been additional soundproofing. Greg removed the hood and worked his magic by applying a sound absorption foam (0.5″ thick) to reduce engine noise:

Sprinter Van Hood - As Is

Sprinter Van Hood - Protection Removed

Applying Soundproofing

Soundproofing Finished

Ready To Re-install

While the hood was off, he took it upon himself to become acquainted with the engine compartment. Note his care for the landscaping…

A critical project was to replace the hoses responsible for the turbo air circuit. These were leaking and he was able to fix the problem. The good news was that everything else looked to be in good condition, and he has familiarized himself with the lay of the land.

He also did his first oil and transmission fluid changes:

I hope his next project is to fix the door to the garage, which is being supported by that car jack and a 2×4…

You may also be interested in:

Freewheeling: The Adventure Begins
Freewheeling: Sound Effects


Freewheeling: Sound Effects

January 10, 2011 Freewheeling 2 Comments

Progress on the Sprinter Van continues, though not as quickly as Greg would probably like. Perhaps you recall that we are treating our dog for cancer? That shit is expensive, even if students are doing the work. Oh, and Greg left the area for about four weeks (five days with family in North Carolina, three weeks in Malaysia for work). That will slow production right down… Also, you can take back your negative thoughts: it’s not that he doesn’t trust me with power tools! This is his project and it would take away from his fun if I were doing the [unsupervised] work.


But Greg isn’t disheartened with the slow progress. A lot of the up-front work is behind-the-scenes anyway. Like soundproofing. That’s what all the ruckus has been about around here lately. It’s the stuff like this — the stuff you can’t see and won’t think about once it’s done — that separates the true McGyvers from the McGrubers. I’ve got a McGyver.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of riding in an empty Sprinter van, let me be the first to tell you IT IS LOUD. It’s a tin can that reverberates all the engine noise and road noise and radio noise and talking. The kind of noise that drives you crazy after only a short time. I don’t know about you, but if I can’t hear myself think, I just talk more. And no one wants that. Especially Greg.

Hence, the soundproofing.

He removed the subfloor and began his work. The metal floor of the van is corrugated, so Greg started with this sound-deadening butyl rubber product called “RattleTrap.” It was a tedious process for him to adhere this to every groove, around the wheel wells and in the cockpit area.

Admittedly, I thought he was done once that stuff was installed. Many years ago, he did the same thing with his Element and that was that! I was sorely mistaken. He removed the paneling from the sliding door and began an experiment. You know that Great Stuff you can use to fill holes and otherwise make cool things with? Yeah. That stuff. He wanted to see if he could use it as soundproofing material in the well of the door.

Turns out, he can! And it works well!

Again, after the door project, I thought he was done. Again, I was wrong. The next step was to put a 3/8″ neoprene foam filler in each of the corrugates on the van floor.

This is the definition of tedious:

Then he custom-cut his own plywood subfloor, under direct supervision of Argus. Note the ear and eye protection. Safety first!

The work is not yet done. Not even close. The next step was to install L-track, of course. What were you thinking? The sandwich made of tracks, plywood, and soundproofing was bolted to the floor using 1/4″ bolts and riv nuts. Look closely at the below pictures. Those riv nuts were a bitch to install. The purpose of the L-tracks is to tie down cargo while driving. Begin with the end in mind!

And yet more soundproofing… Greg removed the liner covering the van walls and began the work of filling them in with Great Stuff.

Realizing there was something missing, he built a perch for the Project Supervisor:

This is a long and drawn-out process, for sure. But in between work on the van, work at Job #1, Job #2, and keeping a wife like me happy (!!), we enjoyed happy hour in the van at sunset. You can just see Greg working out the next round of plans: the sleeping quarters!


Uncharted Territory

November 21, 2010 Fido 1 Comment

We are settling into a routine and I don’t feel so utterly helpless (or hopeless). While things certainly feel more like our new “normal” now, I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable just yet. Things will feel even less comfortable when Greg leaves to spend Thanksgiving with his family in North Carolina. Starting Tuesday, I’ll be a single parent to a handicapped child and I’m not looking forward to it. Greg comes home on Black Friday and then leaves again on Monday to spend 2-3 weeks in Malaysia for work. The timing for these two trips could not have been worse. We’re both taking one for the team to keep our family up and running and doing what we can to support each other.

I’m just going to throw this out there… Is anyone interested in buying the rights to our story and making an Animal Planet Movie of the Week? Anyone?

Every day brings a new learning curve for us to navigate. Wednesday night was the crying. Thanks to everyone who either commented here or otherwise contacted me letting me know that crying can be a side effect of the strong pain medication! The last two nights, it has been excessive panting. It seems like he is under a lot of stress and we again have no idea what to do. Yesterday, we took his Fentanyl pain patch off as instructed and we wondered if the panting was an effect of withdrawal. He seemed to settle in the night and we were thankful that the panting didn’t turn into crying. Today, Argus was shivering a lot. I am mothering him and keeping a blanket wrapped around him whenever he is not moving. The shaved area and his remaining front paw have felt cold to my touch a few times, so I am doing my best to keep him covered. Now, he’s panting excessively again. Does anyone have insight on these changing symptoms/side effects?

As much of an adjustment as it has been and will be for us bipeds, Argus has certainly had his own learning curve in figuring out how to get along more independently. I can’t believe his progress! This video was taken this morning, 5 days post-surgery:

Argus was the one leading us farther away from home. He gets about three houses down before we turn him around, knowing he’ll get too tired to make the return trip. Our neighbors came by with Thanksgiving goodies this afternoon and Argus greeted them on the porch, soaking up some sunshine.

Around dusk, we took the Sprinter Van out for its inaugural run as a family. We did our usual Sunday afternoon thing and headed over to the Bay Trail to sniff around a bit. It was Argus’ idea, actually! He stood outside the van until I finally opened it up and helped him in. Who could turn down this face?

Also, you’ll notice Argus is sporting a new T-shirt. Ryan and Mandy sent this totally thoughtful and totally useful “keepsake” and it works like a charm to keep him warm(er) and stop him from licking his wounds. A big thanks to the Resslers for being the first to recognize that Argus is, in fact, a Tri-dog Extraordinaire!


Freewheeling: The Adventure Begins

November 12, 2010 Freewheeling 3 Comments

Greg is making one of his dreams come true.

Here it is:

How jealous are you?!

Yep, Greg has been coveting others’ Sprinter Vans for several years now and he finally found one that met all his needs (including price — and they ain’t cheap no matter how you look at it). He has been doing a nationwide search of eBay and Craigslist for over a year and was lucky enough to find this one just outside of Sacramento.

I got to take ‘er out for a very short joy ride last week! My car is a VW Cabrio so Greg predicted that it would take me a few backs-and-forths to get it out of our tight driveway, but I did it the first time! Not wanting to risk the van or my car or our neighbors’ cars, I didn’t even attempt getting it back into our driveway and opted to park it a half-block away on a long stretch of curb.

This year’s winter project is to transform this box of tin into “Base Camp.” G has very detailed plans (his Visio diagrams are password-protected) that will pimp this ride into mobile living quarters.

Admittedly, I was reluctant at first. My only experience with a “recreational vehicle” is the 35-foot luxury behemoth his parents own that seems entirely excessive for our needs. Are we really going to be a three-car family? (answer: not for long, I should prepare to part with the Cabrio) Where will we park it? (answer: thank goodness for a 70-foot long driveway) What kind of mileage does it get? (answer: 21-23 mpg, and it’s diesel so we can use biofuel)

Once Greg showed me his grand plans and expertly explained all of its customized features, I was sold. We really cringe at spending money on hotels when traveling to races or when camping isn’t an option. DISCLAIMER: we do take hotel-based vacations, too. I love a road trip and there’s a certain amount of freedom by traveling with everything we need. Greg did a great job with the Element (remember the Death Ride?), so I am confident that this will be even better –AND this will accommodate a couple of additional passengers as well.

I’ll keep you updated as we go. This promises to be a fun process to watch!