Quick weekend get away Va. Beach, Virginia...

With some weather coming our way, I decided to pack a bag and my metal detecting gear and head to Virginia Beach. I headed out Friday after work and slowly made my way East. I stopped just East of the Hampton Bridge Tunnel to let the traffic die down a bit. There is a boat landing there were you can pull right up to the water and take it all in.

Arriving at the beach a secured some chow. While I ate my dinner I watched as two tow truck drivers cruised the parking lots looking for vehicles to tow. I walked over and asked if there were any 24 hour parking lots...They were very helpful and gave me a few suggestions. I wanted to be close to the beach as my plan was to do some metal detecting that evening. Free on street parking is unheard of around the beach and the cost for a campsite near the beach was anywhere from $40 to $70 per night. I parked in a parking lot for $20 just off the beach.

Metal detecting for just a few hours, I managed to find about $8 in clad, not the gold ring with diamonds hanging off it I had wished for. Fun anyway!! Hit the rack and watched a Denzel Washington movie "Fences." Great movie! Rain came down pretty hard that night.

Got up the next morning, rustled up some breakfast and coffee from the local fast food joint. Parked the van right off the beach and watched sun rise. Surfers paddling out near the pier looking for the best waves. Grabbed my Minelab CTX 3030 and hit the beach again. Few hours later, no ring but another pocket full off clad.

I did work on a list of things "To Do" on the van next. Topping off that list is finishing the sliding door. Need to get finished panels on and window installed.

Called my daughter and granddaughter who weren't far from my current location. Made a plan to meet at a local state park for some exploring. Turns out First Landing State Park is a really cool park. Trails, beaches, boat ramp are just some of the reasons to stop and explore. The park is a favorite of my daughter and granddaughter, turns out they go there often.

After collecting clams, snails and running from little small crabs, we were hungry and headed to a local taco shop. This was my second time eating at Pelon. Great tacos and good service. Give them a go, you'll be glad you did! Video here

Sometimes the "Art of doing nothing.." must be worked on. Here I am working it hard!

After lunch, they headed to NC and I head to the Chesapeake Bay to do a little more detecting. Got another hour or so in before the rain came in hard. Packed my gear up and decided to make a run for the house. Great weekend!

 

Sprinter Van Conversion: Electrical system, AC current...

I'll be the first one to admit it, I over did this electrical system... I just was trying to design for simplicity and ended up with way to much wire ran. It's not the end of the world, I have a few extra wires ran that will probably never be used, their hidden so no harm.

As with the DC power system, I didn't want any part of the electrical system to be connected with factory electrical. The system is 30 amps, with a 100 amp panel box, this gives me the ability to have six circuits. One circuit is a 20 amp receptacle for the kitchen. I have one 20 amp circuit for garage area receptacles and one 15 amp for the entertainment system. There is also a 15 circuit in the lounge area for USB's and receptacles.

I grounded the system to the metal frame to the left of the panel box. The system has worked perfectly so far.

30 amp plug on driver's rear

Scuba Diving Florida Springs Dec 2016

Christmas Day I headed south about mid-day en route to Blue Grotto. The plan was to meet Clyde the next evening. A buddy of mine that lives in Florida was going to join us for a day of diving as well. Our plan was to dive as many springs as possible, camp out, relax and have a good time. This was also the maiden voyage of my van, even though it was not completely converted. By the way, it still isn't complete...a lot of work converting one of these things!

We had a blast and dove some really incredible sites. Base Camp was Blue Grotto, I had dove there in January and knew it was a good central location to the other sites. Plus the rates are good and the whole place is clean and well ran. If you have not been to Blue Grotto your missing out. Take a look at the videos listed below. Please subscribe to my channel, hit the Like Button and leave your comments. Thanks for watching...

Sprinter Van Conversion: Walls, Ceiling and Roof Rails...

Really liking the look of the pine tongue and groove walls. This part of the project needed to be planned out so that the end seams are hidden by cabinets that go on the wall. You can see in the first photo where the boards end, I'll have a wall cabinet there. The walls curve into the van the further you go up the wall and this made for a bit of struggle getting the boards in just right.

The driver's side wall is just over 14' long but went up pretty fast. I secured the boards with sheet metal screws 1 1/4 long. The lower section of the walls will be covered by bed platform, kitchen and wet locker so there I used 1/2 plywood cut to fit, no need for a fancy look when those sections will be covered.

I used the same product for the ceiling, but bought it primed white. Finished ceiling will be painted white to brighten up the interior. This by far was the hardest part of the build to date. The insulation kept falling down while installing the boards. It didn't help that I did 95% of it solo. Get someone to help with this portion for sure. I marked exact location of ceiling lights as the boards went up and remembered to keep wires out of the way of future cutting for lights.

Before I could do the ceiling insulation and finished ceiling, I had to install my roof rail system for possible accessories on the roof in the future. I could't decide which manufacture to use and this slowed the build down for a month. In the end I decided on Van Tech. The kit came with everything  needed for install. I used my buddies garage as it was raining the day we installed. I first cleaned the rail beds really well and then knocked out all the factory grommets. Just hit them with a rubber hammer and push through roof with a screw driver. Took a few hours total. 

Check out finished photos below...

 

Giving back, my idea of what to do with lost history once it's found...

When people find out that I like to metal detect, by far the most common question is "What's the best thing you've ever found?" The second question is "What do you do with the stuff you find?" I tell them I give a lot of it away...

I have found so many of the same objects its not funny. I have thousands of Civil War bullets of various types. Buttons and more buttons. Civil War Artillery pieces coming out of my ears. I do keep some stuff but you can only have so much. I did have a store on this site at one time but never sold anything. I wasn't sure how I felt about selling it either...

I offer the gracious land owners any and all finds that let me search their property, some are not interested enough to want the artifacts, most see how excited I am and ask that I keep them. I have put together shadow boxes of relics and giving them to the land owners many times. 

My favorite thing to do with the artifacts I find is to give them to young people in an effort to get them excited about our history. Late last year, I sent off a package to a school teacher in Florida. We are friends on Facebook via a few artifact FB pages. She sent back some photos of the kids with the relics and it looked like...well I think the photos speak for themselves. 

I think as metal detectorist, treasure hunters, amatuer archaeologist or what every we call our selves, finding lost history is only part of it, we need to share what was lost and now is found. For me, kids being able to actually touch an artifact related to what they are studying is priceless.

JC Johnson

 

Sprinter Van Conversion: Solar power

Last few weeks has been a crash course in solar power and DC current in general. Studied a lot on what others have done and kinda added my needs for power and came up with a pretty good system I think.

Ordered a complete solar panel kit from Windy Nation, except for the inverter, bought that separate, still from Windy Nation though. 300 watt kit that includes (3) 100 watt panels, charge controller, and all wires and connectors needed to get power to controller. Inverter is a pure swine wave 1500 watt machine that has three AC outlets. Charge controller is a TrakMax 30 L MPPT controller. 

By stacking the brackets, I was able to keep panels rearward about 3 inches

I wanted to mount the panels on the roof as far back as I could get them, without interfering with the Fantastic Vent. I had just enough room with stacking the brackets on two of the panels. See photo. I had to lay out panels and enlarge the existing holes because they didn't line up. No big deal, one extra step. I mounted the panels to the roof for the lowest possible profile. Used plenty of caulk and lock washer. I did this by myself which was pretty tough, I would suggest two people for sure. 

I did have to drill into center of a roof support beam/bar for the rear brackets of the rear most panel. Problem with that is no easy access to secure a washer or bolt. You can cut a larger hole from the inside to gain access or just use a brass expansion nut. I chose to use the expansion nut. You can get them at Home Depot here.

I researched all over the place to find a way to get the panel wires into and through the roof of the van. There are a million ways to do this. I ended up going with a simple PCV electrical fitting. I was limited in where I could penetrate roof, because of space for wires and wanted a small hole through the roof. I plan to have a roof basket on the rear section of the roof and it will hide the fitting well. Mounting the panels and roof penetration took a couple of hours on a Sunday. I spent the next several days studying how to wire and hook up the components. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the install...