Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Project Erica: Part 14 - We Have The Power!

For most of Project Erica I've been publishing one video a week, but here we are with the second installment in the space of 4 days. There are two reasons for this:

1) The build has accelerated over the last couple of weeks with lots of tasks getting finished, so I've already got the footage recorded for the next two videos;

2) My month-by-month subscription to the video editing software is up for renewal in a few days' time, so it seems sensible to get the antepenultimate and penultimate videos edited now so that I can cancel it (the final video* may be a while away yet) - and if I'm making the videos, I may as well publish them**.

The subject of this video is Erica's electrical system, which involved three days of me kneeling on her floor surrounding myself with tools and wires. My pleasure at things actually working once I'd connected them was arguably a little disproportionate and perhaps reflects an inbuilt pessimism that I seldom expect things to go to plan.

It's another quite long one at 23 minutes (including a couple of bonus snippets at the end), but unlike the heater installation installment, I'm happy with how this video has turned out. 



(*Now I think about it there may be two more videos: the final bits of the build combined with the grand tour, and a 'what it cost' review.

**YouTube would probably advise me to stick with a regular schedule, however, I've no interest in building a YouTube channel. I may well create more videos in the future if we do another significant project of some description, but for now the vlogging will finish with the completion of Erica.)

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Project Erica: Part 13 - Portable Warmth for Nesh People

As if we haven't abused Erica enough over the last two months (I'm not sure she's yet forgiven us for wielding an angle grinder at her ramp), a couple of weeks ago we decided the time had come to cut another hole in her - quite a big one this time at 127mm across (or 5" if you prefer old money). 

The purpose of this hole was for the fitting of the diesel-powered air heater, which is the subject of this week's video:

Whilst almost everything on this project has been a learning experience to some extent, much of the work has been somehow comparable to things we've done in the past. The fitting of the diesel heater, in common with carpeting the walls and changing the passenger seat, felt like far more of a novel task.

Fortunately, I joined a couple of diesel heater groups on Facebook at the end of last year and over the months I've picked up many tips (mainly from other people's mistakes). Even so, it was a daunting task that I had in mind would take two days to complete. I wasn't wrong on the timescale, although if some of my tools hadn't gone into hiding, and if the weather been more amenable such that I'd been able to have a good run at the job (rather than snatching five minutes here and there when the rain wasn't so heavy), I would have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and (relatively!) smoothly the fit went. As for complexity, it was easier than I'd expected, even if a couple of aspects were tricky (drilling the hole was as bad as I expected; routing the exhaust was significantly harder than anticipated).

I know that none of my videos in any way approach a professional standard, but I've managed to make this one worse than usual, with shaky pictures (filmed entirely phone-in-hand, rather than using the mount) and with wind across the mic right from the beginning. It's also rather long (23 minutes); I would have liked to have cut it down further, but given that I started out with over an hour's footage, I congratulated myself on getting it down that far!

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Project Erica - Part 12: Switching Seats

When we bought Erica one of the compromises we had to make against our ideal vehicle specification was that she had a double front passenger seat, whereas we wanted a single. We knew it was something we could change, although we had also come to realise that single Peugeot Expert passenger seats don’t get advertised for sale too often* (because the vast majority of Experts come with doubles), and when they do they can be silly money (as in £600 for a second-hand one). Thus we thought our best bet may be to buy a driver’s seat in France when we’re over there some time. Given the current state of travel, we acknowledged that may be a couple of years down the line.

Then a week last Sunday we were watching a YouTube video where someone made a passing reference to a seat swivel, which reminded Mick that we hadn’t searched Ebay for a while. A couple of moments later he pointed me towards an auction and to cut the story a little shorter than what I tell in this week’s video, three days later we found ourselves in possession of a single passenger seat for £40.

A single passenger seat in itself has a huge benefit over the double: you can get from the cab into the living area without going outside (arguably it has a negative too: we can no longer give anyone a lift anywhere). A swivelling passenger seat is a bigger bonus as it not only gives an extra living-space seat, but it also creates more room (plus easy access to chuck things like daypacks in the front at night).

As the swivel plate was going to be four times the price we’d paid for the seat (I could have got one cheaper, but I went for a model with safety certificates), I didn’t want to commit to that purchase until we’d fitted the seat and knew that everything was okay with it. Again, I expected there may be quite a delay between the seat fitting and the swivel fitting. As it turned out, they happened two days apart.

Both activities were really simple … save for a couple or three time-consuming stumbling blocks (one of which involved the electrical connection to a seat that no longer exists which triggered a fault on an air bag that has never existed).

Anyways, enough wittering, if you want to see the video of all this coming to pass, you’ll find it here:


(*There was one on Ebay for about 3 weeks before we took delivery of Erica but to buy the seat before we had the vehicle seemed like tempting fate and by the time Erica arrived it was no longer available. I can’t remember whether it was £125 plus £25 delivery or £100 plus £25 delivery, but it was one or the other. That's the only other seat I've seen at what I would consider a reasonable price.) 

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Project Erica - Part 11: Much Proudness Surrounds Kitchen Completion

In last week's Project Erica post, I referred to how we have put together detailed schedules for past projects. What I long ago learnt in making such plans is that all tasks should be allocated at least twice the time that my initial gut-feel suggested it should take. Sometimes a ten-minute job does only take ten minutes, and that is always a bonus, but oftentimes a ten-minute job takes half an hour*.

I didn't have any firm idea in my mind as to how long it would take us to build Erica's kitchen, but I can say with certainty that never in my wildest 'add x%' dreams (or nightmares!) think that it would take anywhere near as long as it did, nor did I anticipate that we would run into quite so many hitches (some of which were quite ridiculous and entirely of our own making).

The time it took was, however, worthwhile: I'm soooooo chuffed with how it has turned out.  

Here's this week's video showing us getting to that end result.  

(*Or longer. Sometimes a lot longer. I'm sure that if I gave Mick the keyboard at this point he would tell a few tales on me...)

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

A Short Get Away (28-30 Sept) - Part 2

Within 55 hours of setting out on our trip, we were home again, but we excelled ourselves in achieving our objectives by managing to go out for breakfast not just once, but twice.

We were up relatively early this morning as I was intending to take another run along the seafront promenade, but a tight calf suggested that maybe that wasn't the wisest plan. So instead we left Prestatyn before 9am and headed the few miles west to Rhyl. There we pulled into Morrison's car park and found that their fuel station sells LPG. With LPG being increasingly difficult to find in the UK, it was a bonus to stumble upon such a cheap source. 

A stroll was had around the town (lots of charity shops) and along the seafront (much nicer than Prestatyn but completely dead with all of the businesses closed, whether due to the time of day, the time of year, the state of business, or various combinations thereof, we know not), before we repaired to an eatery for second breakfast. For the second time in two days we found ourselves somewhere that felt very safe from a Covid point of view - partiuclarly once the customers at the one other occupied table left and we had an entire room to ourselves.

Suitably fueled, we might then have wandered around a bit more, but it was just starting to spit with the rain that was forecast to last the rest of the day, so back to Bertie we headed and onwards to our next stop: a village just outside of Oswestry to pick up an internet purchase we'd made on Sunday night (more about that in a Project Erica post sometime soon). Arriving there an hour and a half earlier than scheduled, coffee and a crossword was had in the village car park whilst time was killed. 

It was still raining when we got home, but it didn't take many minutes to unpack Bertie; we hadn't taken much with us. 

Poor Bertie is now SORNed again. I'll be quite happy to re-tax him at the drop of a hat if it turns out that I've been essimistic in my expectations, and that we are in fact able to get away against sooner than anticipated. 


Tuesday, 29 September 2020

A Short Get Away (28-30 Sept)

Where's Bertie? He's sitting in the front garden of a bungalow in Prestatyn. The owners allow motorhomes to park here for £10 per night, including water and waste. One electric hook-up point is available on a coin-operated meter.
Weather: Yesterday fine and warm, today a showery start, but dry from just after 9am.

Back in the middle of March Bertie made the monster drive home from the south of Spain over the course of four days, since when he has, bar a one-hour interlude, sat patiently waiting to go somewhere else. At the end of March we SORNed him, but at the end of July we'd been without a car for a couple of weeks, and had an empty fridge and pantry, but supermarket delivery slots were still almost as rare as hen's teeth. So we re-taxed him and on 1 August we drove him to the supermarket. We also had optimism at that point that we would be taking him on a trip somewhere before the month was out.

By Saturday evening just gone there were just four days left in the month, Bertie still hadn't been anywhere and it had become clear that our intended month-long trip in October was going to have to be postponed. Having forked out for two months road tax already, there was a sudden imperative to get something for our money, before SORNing him again on Wednesday.

"Let's go to the seaside!" I said. A quick think about the nearest bit of seaside that's easy to reach via good roads, and I suggested Rhyl as a destination. We've only been there once before, when we stayed on a campsite for a couple of nights in Colin (Bertie's predecessor) when I was walking the Wales Coast Path. Whilst my experience of the town only extended to walking the seafront (at around 7am, I would guess, which perhaps didn't give a true representation), I didn't find the place as tacky or offensive as its 1980s reputation suggested I might*.

The fact that the campsite we'd previously stayed on was charging £25 per night to rent a small patch of grass didn't put us off entirely, after all, we were only going to be there for 2 nights and this year has been easy on almost all categories of our household budget. It was only as we were in Wales, proceeding along the A55 westwards yesterday (Monday) morning, that I asked Google Maps how far it was from the campsite into Rhyl itself and discovered that my memory had significantly shortened the distance. Why pay £25 to stay 2 miles away from town, when we could come to Prestatyn and pay £10 to be a 5-minute walk from the beach in one direction and town in the other?

There are possibly good answers to that last question. I wouldn't want to offend anyone who likes holidaying in Prestatyn, but I also haven't yet come to understand why anyone chooses to come here on holiday ... and I do appreciate that I'm saying that as someone who chose to come here on holiday. It's an odd place is Prestatyn; not like most seaside resorts I've visited in the past.

It's of no matter for our current purposes. Our objectives for this trip were:
- to have a few days break from Project Erica;
- to sit around reading a lot;
- to go out for breakfast;

and we've been doing a good job of achieving those aims. That also means there's not much to report as to our activities; we've mainly been sitting in the front garden of a bungalow on Marine Road (which, objectively, could come across as a strange way to choose to spend a couple of days!).


From this morning's run. Fine weather looking towards Rhyl; overcast looking back to Prestatyn.

There have been a couple of walks, and one run along the seafront (I nearly went to Rhyl this morning, but turned back just a couple of hundred metres short, at the point where the promenade was closed for engineering works), books have been read and we did indeed enjoy breakfast (brunch really; it was gone 11) out. The latter was an unexpectedly relaxing activity once we'd checked in, having chosen, entirely by chance, an establishment with good social distancing in place (although the 'order over the internet from your table' arrangement was a tiny bit stressful, particularly when I accidentally hit 'back' at an inopportune moment).


Quality breakfasts. The eggs were cooked to perfection.

We'll be back home tomorrow and who knows when Bertie's tyres will next hit the road?

(*Maybe I just like seaside resorts that are oft perceived to be tacky? We went to Blackpool around this time last year and to Benidorm earlier this year and on both occasions I opined that I wouldn't baulk at a cheap and cheerful holiday in either location.)

Monday, 28 September 2020

Project Erica - Part 10: Kitchen

Rumour has it that I may have something to talk about this week that's not Erica-related ... but until that comes to pass, here's a link to this week's video:


Ordinarily we are detailed planners. We've done renovation projects for which we've put together Microsoft Project Gantt charts, and pretty well stuck to them, and although we didn't go quite that far on Erica, we did have a plan of attack. That plan went awry, and swiftly out of the window, when I didn't order things in a timely fashion (not to mention the issue of sequentially ordering three solar panels before we got one we were happy to fit) and to save us from sitting around for weeks on end we started doing things in an illogical order. That's meant that things have been built then have had to sit in the house so as to keep them out of the way when we were able to go back to doing the jobs that should have been done first. 

As shown in a video some weeks ago, we built the bed/sofa even though we weren't ready to fit it. We then got on with other preliminary stuff, until we found ourselves with a spell of good weather but without the materials we needed to do the next job. We weren't going to sit around twiddling our thumbs, so we started building the kitchen. It then languished in our dining room whilst we sorted out the solar panel and finished the ceiling, before we returned to it with our full attention. 

This video only covers the first half of the build. It's incredible that something that looks so simple has consumed quite so many hours (I almost wish we'd logged the hours, because I'm sure it's a ridiculous number at least six times higher than we would have anticipated). The gas locker was one of the greatest consumers of time. I can report that it is possible to squeeze a gas locker into the space between the wheel arch and the tailgate, but it would have been a whole lot easier if Erica had happened to be the longer wheelbased version of the Expert Tepee!