Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Taco progress

Thanks to Jeremy at Expedition Ops, the Taco now has a dual battery system and a fridge installed on the rear platform.




The dual battery system allows the second battery to be charged while the engine is running but its isolated from the main battery when the engine is off. That insures I always have a charged battery for starting the engine. The fridge has a 40 litre fridge and 10 litre freezer that can run on 12 volt, 110 and 220.

Looking forward to using it on the trip to Utah that starts this weekend.


Green Mountains

I've been in Vermont scouting a trip I'm leading in August and visiting my daughter and son-in-law. It's been a great trip and I had the opportunity to drive more than 750 miles through most of the upper half of the state.

Rural Vermont in general and the Northeast Kingdom in particular is rugged, isolated and mountainous. It's not the elevation of the Rockies but there is little flat land anywhere and roads were typically built over rather than around the mountains. Farming here is challenging and the stone walls that border the fields are the result of many strong backs clearing the fields. Maple syrup, timber and cows appear to make up the bulk of the economy, and the people I met were exceedingly friendly, proud of their state and always willing to stop and chat.

This past winter was hard here and Lake Champlain, which lies on the western border, is flooding at historic levels. The streams everywhere are running strong and the fields are still too muddy to plant in many areas. People tend to forget that Lake Champlain is very long at 125 miles, and when the wind blows from the north or south, waves in the 3-5+ foot range are not uncommon.
The Lake always wins.

Lake Seymour -- Northeast Kingdom

Lake Champlain -- looking west towards New York and the Adirondacks.

There are many of these.

The Northeast Kingdom must be spectacular in the fall when the maple and birch trees are at peak color, and it's been added to my personal bucket list.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moving Forward

The planets aligned just right and on my one free day over the past two weeks, the shell I ordered for the truck arrived. Toppers and More were great and agreed to install it today. Then, I get the call that the foam mattress I had made for the back was ready as well. Booya.

It took no time to install the platform and drawer system I had built over the past few weeks.

Yes, those drawer pulls really are a Campy High Flange Hub (cut in half) and a Nuovo Record Rear Derailleur. The drawer stop is a Guerciotti pantographed shift lever. Tullio would have approved, I'm sure.

I'll be installing a dual battery system to run a fridge in the next few weeks. Then it's off to Utah for some bike trips and some equipment testing.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drop the Chalupa

Between work and travel, I have been struggling to make progress on the Tacoma deconstruction. Over the past week, I spent some late nights in the garage, and progress has been made.

The goal is to make the Taco self sufficient enough that we can take an extended trip in the next few years -- something like Alaska to Argentina. Two projects were undertaken. First, replace the worthless back seats with a stable platform where a fridge and second battery will be located. Second, convert the truck bed to a sleeping/storage space that eventually will have a camper shell over it.

No vehicle is perfect but the Tacoma has a lot of features that make it easily adaptable. The truck bed already has a solid plastic liner in it, and there are two cut outs that accommodate a 2X8 perfectly. Using that feature, I created a platform that is stable and can be easily removed.

Wanting additional storage, I pulled the drawer unit I originally built for the Element and it fit perfectly between the wheel wells.

The toggle bolts will ensure nothing bounces around on washboard roads.

Once the deck was laid out, I cut in two hatches to access all the storage space in front of the drawer unit. The shell I am getting has side windows that open up, giving me easy access to this area.

Here are the hatches open. The entire deck has been covered in grey carpeting over which a 3" foam pad will sit. The only thing I'm waiting on now is for the shell to be installed, hopefully this week.

Next up, gut the rear of the cab. Toyota had installed two pretty worthless jump seats and a storage box so out they came.

The tricky part was to install the platform using as many frame and shell access points as possible. It was definitely a multi-beer job trying to figure out what was going to work. The ah-ha moment came when I pulled the last seat support bracket away revealing a solid mounting platform.

Using Grade 8 metric hardware (thank god for 7 Corners Hardware), the supports are bolted directly to the cab using holes to which the rear seats were once mounted.

Two sheets of 1/2 inch Birch Plywood bolted to the supports and the result is an extremely solid surface. I also added some sound insulation behind and under the platform which will hopefully help reduce some road noise. This area will also be covered in carpet.

Stay tuned for further projects which will include replacing the crappy plastic bumpers and possibly, installing an awning.