First Night

Yesterday I took The Camper With No Name to MF Auto for a check-up. She’s in great shape for a 1984. Most of the stuff they found I had an inkling about, except they said that the wheel bearings were dangerously close to failure and that driving to Nashville was not a good idea. Read on to hear about how Thor and I still managed to have our first night in the camper.

I was crushed. I’d planned to go to Nashville for a friend’s birthday party and for me and Thor to sleep in the camper of her brother’s driveway. I’d hit REI on the way and get a sleeping bag. It’d be awesome. Did I say that I was crushed?

The good news was that last night my copy of the The Bentley Manual, required reading for any True VW Type II Owner. Well, that wasn’t the good news, I’d expected the manual, the really good news is that the new stereo, the one with the Bluetooth adapter, arrived, what seemed to be a day early. This morning, after I’d showed off the new house to some friends, I came home and started installing the new stereo. I hadn’t installed a stereo since sometime in the 80’s. There was an aftermarket one installed here, which, had I known a couple of things, would have made the installation dead simple. First, whoever had installed this stereo had already wired in a standard wiring harness, which just plugged into what car audio aficionados call a “head unit.” Had I known this, I’d not have made a trip out to the store to buy crimp on wire connectors. As it turns out, whoever had done the install actually soldered the connections, at least the one that I checked.

The other thing is that there is a little cage thing that mounts into the hole where the stereo goes. You can slip a card down the side, between the cage and the Head Unit, and it’ll pop right out. Had I known this, I’d not have had to contrive to disengage this cage thing from the hole it slides into while the old radio was in it. The good news, is that I did learn this and can now remove the unit fairly quickly, which I’ve done a couple times already.

The big problem with how the stereo was wired was that it was designed to be on only when the key was turned on. In a car, this is a good thing, one doesn’t generally want the radio on when not in the car, and generally, they key is on when you’re in the car. In a camper, however, things are different. I want to be able to listen to music when the key is off. By looking a bit at the Bentley manual, but mostly at the wiring diagram that came from my good friends at Crutchfield, I found the lead that gets turned on when the switch turns on. (Actually, I didn’t do that without a trip to the store to buy a volt meter.)
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At some point in the past, I’d bought, presumably on sale, a lighted switch that has one of those flip-down tops that means it takes two steps to turn it on. With a bit of work, I managed to drill a hole in the dash (I considered that I was destroying an otherwise pristine piece of history, but decided that it was in a fairly inconspicuous place) and mount the switch. I can now play music without the key in the ignition.

I’m pretty happy with the Head Unit. It has an auxiliary in on the front, as well as a second one in the back. I plan to run a wire from the back on here to the back of the camper so that I can plug in the headphone jack of the laptop to get decent sound while I watch stupid stuff on Hulu, which I did as a proof of concept. I have now seen a copy of 30 Rock.

I’ve always thought that having remote controls for car stereos was a bit silly, but here in the back seat, it’s might handy to be able to control the head unit from where I’m sitting. I’d considered using velcro to mount the thing somewhere, but thus far have been pretty happy storing the remote in the rear seat’s ashtray.

After I got the stereo installed, Thor and I decided that we should sleep in the camper, as if we were in Nashville. (Actually, Thor, not really knowing about Nashville or the dangerous wheel bearings, seems a bit confused.) I got a pot of leftover rice and a can of dace and brought them out to the camper. I didn’t have any matches, but found a cool survival tool thing that makes a big spark and was able to use that to light the burners. I’m very happy with how that worked. I stuck the pot of rice on one burner, and the can of dace on the other. Dinner came out just fine. Rice, dace, and kim chee. I ate it out of a stainless steel divider tray, like one might have had in the army or elementary school. I gave Thor the rest of the rice to eat out of the pan. He might have been confused about why we were in a car, but he loves rice.

I’ve got the 110 power plugged in to the side and have the refrigerator turned on to the 110. It’s down to 32.6, according to the indoor/outdoor thermometer I bought on the volt-meter run. It’s 68F here in the camper.

I’d intended to sleep upstairs, but it started raining, and I don’t have the cool rain fly that Go Westy sells. I’d considered canceling our camping trip, but decided that Thor and I could just sleep on the bed down stairs. It’ll be a bit more trouble, as there is all manner of stuff to move in order to be able to get the bed down and sleep here, but I decided not to be dissuaded by a bit of rain. I wish I’d brought out my slippers and some comfortable pants, but I’ll be ok here in my shorts. Actually, I might have to make one more trip in.

OK. I went back in and got a couple beers, coffee makings, some eggs and the camping cookware that came with the camper. Perhaps Thor and I can have breakfast here too.

The other modification I made today was to add a lock to one of the cabinets. I plan to put locks on all of them, but F. M. George had only one, so the rest are on order. I installed one to see how it’d work. I think I could have gone for the next longer one, but this will be OK, especially after I add some kind of bar to make it a bit more secure. Keeping people out of the camper seems really hard, so the idea of having all of the cabinets locked–whether they contain underwear or electronics, seems like a fine idea. That way, I can leave the doors unlocked and have my belongings relatively secure inside. I got the idea from a couple who’d traveled in South America in their Type II for several years. They’d even rigged a hidden safe in one of the top-opening cabinets to store passports and other essentials. I should find the link, it was a cool looking rig.

Hmm. I haven’t been playing the stereo for that long and the battery indicator LED by the water pump is already on yellow. This is something of a relief, as I want to buy an auxiliary battery, and it’s better to have them matched, so if this battery is near bad, then it’s one more excuse to go ahead and buy two batteries.

So, that’s how our first night started. It’s a bit after nine. I’ll go ahead and post this, try to make the bed for Thor and myself, and see if I can read some of Suttree.

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