Getting ready to get momentum going again!

Sincere apologies for going ghost for a few months. I know that I had written in previous posts that we were shooting for some time windows to be finished with the RV. As you know, if you have read our blog from the beginning, we live in the Florida Keys and we had a massive and devastating hurricane hit us barely 9 months ago. Hurricane Irma was the first, and hopefully the last, major storm I have ever experienced in my life. We evacuated from the Keys and returned to a nearly alien landscape from when we departed. It has been a long and difficult recovery that is still in progress. There are still several hundred families displaced that lost their homes, as well as several hundred families living in trailers in their yards as they try to figure out how to repair their homes. Luckily for us, we rent our home and it happens to be a solid concrete wall and floors elevated construction. The house made it through the storm with minimal in comparison damage; new roof, some water intrusion but mostly cosmetic. During the clean up, we worked very long hours cutting down trees, moving heavy things all over the place, and our business work became unmanageably busy. All of the extra activity has severely agitated an arm injury that I have had for a couple of years. Severe tendonitis of my elbow, with a minor case of tendonitis in my shoulder as a result of the elbow strain. Through my own ignorance and stupidity of refusing to listen to my body, I had agitated my elbow to the point that I could not eat with my right hand. The pain was too extreme to bend it enough to reach my mouth. Sleeping was a ton of fun too, as every time I move incorrectly I am awakened by a sharp and stabbing pain in my arm and elbow. My darling Karuna also gets to enjoy me waking up when I roll incorrectly on my arm. I have researched this injury, (“tennis elbow”), and what I have found is discouraging. Most websites describe this injury as a chronic condition that can be made better through the reduction of pain and inflammation chemically; and sometimes may be improved upon with surgery and pills. I did not find these solutions anything that I was interested in pursuing, and after being told more than a couple of times to consider acupuncture; I finally did.

I have been receiving treatment from an acupuncturist that is amazing, and her methods have given me more pain relief and mobility than I have experienced in six months time. She is a Doctor and she went through many years of education to earn her degree. I have received four treatments thus far and I cannot believe the improvement that I have had in these four short weeks. I am approaching 50% recovery, and to let you know the contrast, it was only four weeks ago that I still could not even eat with my right hand. This is very inconvenient when you injure your dominant hand and it forces you to realize how helpful it would have been to become ambidextrous when I was young. Currently, I can feed myself, brush my teeth, do some labor for short periods, and very light duty for almost a whole day with only minor discomfort. My doctor says that I will recover completely with a disciplined regiment of stretching and strength training of my arm muscles. Secondarily, the lesson(s) that I have learned and am learning about maintenance and patience are invaluable. Don’t overdue it, stretch properly and thoroughly prior to rigorous activity, get plenty of rest and relaxation, and nourish your body well. With age comes wisdom, experience, and knowledge; but it also comes with aches, pains, and our bodies’ refusal to continue to allow us to abuse it!!! I want to share this information for anyone with tendonitis or any other muscular or tendon injuries that you are told cannot be fixed without surgery and drugs. Some things require these drastic measures but acupuncture performed by a licensed doctor is for me, and can be for anyone, just as if not more effective than conventional medical treatment; I am living proof. Look for our soon to come posts as we dive back into our wonderful project, and we apologize for the delay!


Exterior Wall skin, wheel wells, a new awning, and moving into the cab over sleep quarters……

We have been working hard on our beloved Toyota based traveling adventure mobile; and we have settled on our exterior wall skin material. In our last post, we discussed the possibility of using reinforced fiberglass panels, (Filon), instead of .060 aluminum as we have been using on the roof. One of our concerns was condensation, as well as the aesthetics of our project. We ended up staying with aluminum, but we did decide to upgrade slightly to powder coated aluminum. Our aluminum supplier had white in stock, and we like the idea of keeping it cool for heat, as well as clean looking and unassuming. We installed the wall skin over the last few weeks, and we used the same method as the roof. 3M vhb tape, and there will be screws here and there to make certain of the results. Our front door is installed as well as two of the windows. One of the windows is in our sleeper area, and the other is in the rear lounge area. We installed the wheel wells this weekend and we have been working on fabricating them through the week. We went with 1/2″ marine plywood, with a .040 aluminum lining on the underside. After we assembled them, Karuna sealed up all of the seams and connections with generous coatings of lexel sealant, and we applied two heavy coats of rubberized undercoating. We also used lexel to adhere and seal them around the floor and connections to the frame. Everything that we have been sealing as we have been constructing this project has been sealed in with lexel. (there will be a description and use of all of our products that we have used at the end of the blog)

Our awning also arrived this week, Fiamma F45S model, and we decided to install it this weekend as well. We know we are a ways out from taking our sweet rig camping, but installing our outdoor recreation area shade was too exciting to put on the back burner. It was a bit of a chore, mostly due to the thickness of our walls and the need to go to the store to get different installation hardware. We made a few brackets to install our wall, and through bolted the brackets with stainless steel bolts. It looks really good and it operates nicely. We have not been able to fully deploy the awning yet, but we will post photos as soon as we can. (We are parked next to our house and we don’t have the clearance from the wall.) We do have a photo below of it partially open.

A roof over our heads….

We have hit a pretty exciting milestone! We have officially completed the installation of the roof on our awesome Toy motor home. The roof installation also included our escape hatch/vent, our fantastic fan vent, and our double wall poly carb skylight above our shower location. We are using 3M VHB tape to attach our roof panels and to attach our vents and skylight. In the photo’s you will notice that there are also screws on the fixtures as well as the roof panels. This is due to the fact that we just don’t feel comfortable with tape doing the job entirely on it’s own. RV manufacturer’s use this method, but we just don’t have the experience with it. A huge benefit of the VHB tape is that it also seals and is waterproof. We are going to subject the roof and walls to rigorous leak testing once completed. If the VHB tape holds true to it’s waterproof claim, we will avoid putting additional sealants on the roof.

We are currently deciding on our wall skin material. Originally we were planning on using aluminum for the entire skin, but we have recently been considering Filon. (Filon is reinforced fiberglass sheeting that is commonly used on mass produced motor homes.) We are considering this option as it would allow us to minimize the seams needed, and it would aid in our concerns about interior condensation. Condensation is a definite concern with a metal skin, and if constructed improperly, it could make short work of ruining the interior of a motor home. As we continue to research our outer skin material, we will be working on fabricating the wheel wells, adding floor fasteners under the frame, sealing and undercoating the belly aluminum, and preparing for our wiring pathways. The insulation and method that we install it will be decided in part by our outer skin choice. If we stay with the aluminum skin, we will use a combination of 2″ rigid poly iso insulation, a vapor barrier, and spray foam to seal cracks and gaps. We also have two thermal barriers by using the VHB tape on the skin, as well as our plan on using it on the interior wood paneling.



Walls and skin are taking shape!

After a few weeks of intense and thorough mechanical wizardry performed by Calvin Rowley; we are back on the case of getting the wall frames and the roof skin installed. The first challenge was getting the factory original fiberglass molding attached to our frame work. The shape is very specific and the decently sturdy fiberglass does not like to flex very much. We ended up installing a piece of rectangular trim along the bottom edge of our frame in order to facilitate installing the fiberglass without much distortion. Our second challenge was getting the .060 marine grade aluminum sheet to conform to the rounded nose cone. We had to encourage the aluminum by using ratchet straps and a heavy piece of angle to hook to the edge. After taking our time and pulling on the sheet gradually, we were finally able to get it fastened. We are very pleased with the smooth lines of the front, as well as the inherent strength of the shape. We decided to proceed with the attachment of the walls, prior to advancing on the roof. Both of these tasks kind of go hand in hand as well, as the roof skin is limited to the amount of frame work that has been installed. The second floor section is now installed, and we may even go back at it and get some more of the roof skin put in place!IMG_8389IMG_8397.JPGIMG_8394

A Bit of Bhutan at the Tipping Point

In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, they decorate their cargo trucks with bright colors, and often paint wild faces on the differentials. I am not sure all of the symbolism behind that, but certainly warding off ill-meaning spirits and keeping the driver safe are part of it. Yesterday I got the fun job of painting the gas tank, axle and differential with a protective bright orange paint Steve had picked out. We won’t be able to see much of it once it’s back together, which is good, since my painting skills are lacking, but I do hope the festive color will serve a similar purpose. I may just need to sneak back in there and add a couple of eyes.

Yesterday we also passed a milestone on the motorhome — instead of taking it apart, we finally put the first few pieces back together. The amazing Calvin nestled the engine back where it goes under the hood. It has a lot of shiny new parts on it, and no longer are there mystery hoses and wires flapping in the breeze.  Meanwhile, the intrepid Steve welded a new bracket to hold the gray water tank, which we moved from the very back to a bit farther forward for better weight distribution. He also welded much needed aluminum bracing to reinforce the floor.

The reanimation of our adventure mobile; recap, perspective, and moving forward

Just a little while back, we dove into this adventure of gutting and remodeling a 1984 Dolphin motor home that had served as a temporary house for hurricane Irma victims. We spotted her in the parking lot of one of our local grocery stores, where one of the over one thousand families that lost their home were living. They had received a FEMA trailer, and were selling their dolphin to recoup their purchase monies.

Gutting became rebuilding, and we undertook the task of fabricating a new body; upgraded to lightweight and waterproof aluminum with a 2″ wall thickness. We also purchased nearly every engine part needed to perform a complete and “deep” tune up to awake our Toy power plant. (haha) We knew it would be a while until we could address the mechanical maintenance due mostly to the fact that we need to get the interior dried in to prevent water damage to the cab. The framework for the body is coming along well and is teaching me first hand that this undertaking is quite a bit more complicated than initially meets the eye. Windows, openings, weight distribution, roof vent placement and arrangement along with wiring considerations are all part of the fun. It is coming along well, and the learning aspect of this process has been fantastic. As you read in our previous post, (if you haven’t then you should read it), we have been incredibly fortunate and are immensely thankful for our luck in meeting our new friends, Erica and Calvin Rowley. Calvin is a Toyota 22R wizard in my opinion and with his knowledge and love for these die hard power plants; ours is getting a new lease on life. (check out Erica and Calvin’s blog:

After asking Calvin and Erica if they would be interested in helping us out with the engine work; we took a look at the condition. Well, more accurately, Calvin took a pretty deep look. The doctors’ findings were not great, or even good for that matter. Coolant in the oil, several of the systems under the hood were incorrectly connected, or not properly operating at the least. He gave it to us straight and pretty much informed us that this project would require a top to bottom renovation as well.  Out came the engine, and apart came most everything else under the hood. The engine has been inspected internally, and any questionable parts are being replaced.

Engine work and engine bay upgrades:

All new gaskets, including the head gasket; new oil and water pumps; upgrade to double row timing chain; Weber 34/36 with jet kit for economy/ power fine tuning; fuel regulator; new fuel pump; valve job; complete and proper de-smog; upgrade to heavy duty gm brake master cylinder, upgrade to 160 amp heavy duty Gm alternator, upgrade to electric fan kit with thermostat control; eliminate smog air pump; eliminate in cab air conditioner and compressor; ceramic coated equal length headers; stainless steel low restriction muffler and aluminum exhaust pipe; (2.25 inches diameter).

Suspension work and upgrades:

New front and rear shocks; new rear inner and outer bearings; change rear dif oil, new rear brakes, inspect and repack front bearings, new upper and lower ball joints, new steering stabilizer, new air lift rear system with in cab air controls, inspect and check front brakes.

Frame work and upgrades:

We have completely removed the camper from the frame. We also removed the floor from the frame chassis. There were spots in the floor that were “spongy” and since we were faced with the choice of replacing the floor we chose to take advantage of the extra work space. (the space to install the air bags, reinforce the floor support, and re-wire the vehicle tail light wiring.)

This past weekend we have painted the frame and we are in the process of installing floor supports. Calvin is in the assembly phase of the engine and is preparing to re-install the engine in the coming days. For the floor frame system, we are using aluminum for weight savings to fabricate the bracing. We are also going to try a composite floor to save weight and increase interior comfort. We are fabricating the floor using a 1/2″ sheet of marine plywood, 3/4″ thick rigid foam insulation with 3/4″ x 3/4″ aluminum support stiffeners, and sandwiched with another 1/2″ sheet of marine plywood on top. We plan on gluing the floor panels together. The exterior bottom of the floor panels will have .040 aluminum sheeting to protect the floor from water and deterioration. Hopefully the result will be a well insulated, strong and light floor system.














An End, a Start, and a Double Trinity

It was with some nostalgia that we waved farewell to Steve’s 2004 WRX wagon this afternoon. Even before the hurricane, we knew she was a goner. Her name was Trinity, and her frame was nearly rotted through. Since being partially submerged in the storm surge, she was now even worse for wear. It took a good deal of hammering and a small bit of cursing to get her onto the tow dolly, then break the e-brake free so the back wheel would spin, but she finally agreed to disembark on her final voyage up to the scrap yard on the mainland. It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old friend. After all, the first time I saw Steve was when he pulled up to our date driving Trin. And, well, since we both drove Subarus in a land where they are scarce, we had a feeling we might just get along pretty well. She went to a good cause, though, a hardworking local who can use some spare cash. Her parting also made room for a new set of friends, who showed up just an hour later.

Enter Calvin, Erica and Booty the cat, a trinity from Utah who happened to be visiting the Keys in their ’86 Dolphin. Calvin is an intrepid Toyota mechanic, among many other talents, and Erica an inspiring writer, filmmaker and photographer. They arrived with impeccable timing, and will be camping out for a bit to help us get everything under our Toyota’s the hood working well. Steve and Calvin didn’t waste any time opening the new parts, like kids at Christmas. I’ll let Steve detail the plethora of fixes and upgrades that are being made under the hood. And check out our new friends’ blog They’ve been living on the road for almost a year; happy and lucky souls.

Our Toy motor home build is back in motion!!!

Happy New Year! We are very excited to dig into our project and to get closer to our motor home adventures!

Prior to our holiday break we had started to lay out our first side wall design. Perhaps we were hastily quenching our desire to get started on the project; as we pretty much changed directions upon our return. We rethought our height requirements and interior space which brought us back a little closer to the “mini” motor home mentality. We are completing our first side wall this weekend, including the proper layout for the entry door and windows. We are very happy with our shape and size that we are moving forward with. The interior head room is 6′ 6″ where the cab over meets the main motor home camping body, and the roof slopes down toward the front and the rear. The 6′ 6″ point is the peak and the sloping design is to provide adequate runoff of water from the roof; both fore and aft. We also improved the aerodynamic shape of the cab over nose with hopes of maintaining the current mileage, at the very least. The photo below shows the frame of the passenger side wall. We are using 1″ x 2″ rectangular aluminum tubing for the frame work in heavy wall, (approximately 1/8″ thick), and light wall, (approximately 1/16″ thick). The heavier gauge tubing is used on the structural members that will provide support in the cab over section, next to the entry door, and along the rear that will support bike racks, a ladder, and possibly other storage options. We are weighing the frame as we construct the vehicle and will keep track of our gross weight.

We will post more photo’s as we progress, as well as a timeline photo record as we get much farther along. IMG_8273



Frame layout and holiday break!!

Aluminum is here and the layout has begun. We started getting our first wall frame planned out and we worked through setting our door location and rough opening. We are building our wall frames so that they sit on our floor, (1″ of the 2″ new wall thickness), to aid in the process of installing the new walls and the roof to the existing rv platform. We are increasing our height by a little more than a foot in the front, sloping down a few inches in the back. This decision was made as I am 6′ 1″, and our existing ceiling was only 5′ 11″. We also extended the cab over portion, (our sleeping quarters),  forward by almost a foot to provide a very spacious sleeping and lounging area. This extension will not impair our vision and since we are building the frame work, we have made it strong enough to easily support the extended area. We will post more pics as the process continues, but we are now focusing on work to wrap up our clients projects prior to our soon upcoming break. We can’t wait to get back into the rebuild as soon as we return!


The big flatbed came to a halt in front of our house amidst some chaos. Steve’s son had been visiting and we were saying our goodbyes as the landlord wandered over to discuss a few things. He had been out of town, so had not yet been informed about our new project, and looked at it with a hint of confusion. To top it off, the road is clogged with hurricane debris and construction trucks. Right at that moment the garbage truck was also trying to squeeze by.

It was all hands on deck to move the long pieces off of the truck so it could clear the road. Our roommate Fritz jumped in to help. It took a bit for the driver to turn around by backing into the empty lot next door, especially because we had placed the guts of the Toyota in the precise location that was easiest for him to occupy. But he is a skilled driver, and the truck had very tough tires that were able to roll over the old cabinetry, ripped up carpet, and part of the refrigerator without fear of puncture. Luckily, our landlord also did not puncture. He seems tentatively supportive, or at least not terribly irritated. He lives in Ohio most of the time, so he’s pretty easy going about what happens here as long as we pay the bills.

Now Steve and I are staring at the shiny lengths that will soon become our new frame, and counting the hours until the day-job quitting-time whistle blows and we can start phase two of the build and see what we’ve really gotten ourselves into.