Bringing It All Back Home

Growing up I knew Bob Dylan was an important figure in music. His name was everywhere. I had listened to my older sister's Dylan album, Blonde on Blonde and was captivated by every track (especially Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat).  I listened to that record almost every day for a year.  By the time I discovered Dylan's genius he was already a huge rock star. I had missed much of his earlier work and the controversy surrounding his turn away from folk music and toward rock. Particularly the legend of Dylan Goes Electric
In a nutshell: in the early 1960s Bob Dylan was a folk singer/songwriter often compared to the legendary Woody Guthrie. Dylan had appeared at the 1963 and 1964 Newport Folk Festivals, in Newport, Rhode Island and had performed traditional, acoustic folk music. He performed songs like  Blowin' In The Wind, Mr. Tambourine Man and others. At the 1965 Newport Festival, on the night of Sunday, July 25 he decided to perform a set with electric instruments.
Dylan, along with music legends Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and others performed a three-song electric set. Then Dylan and the band left the stage to some weak applause but also quite loud booing. Some say the boos were from disappointed folk fans. Others say the boos were aimed at the poor sound quality of the PA system and the short set. Later interviews with those present give a variety of reasons for the booing audience. Dylan thought the boos were aimed at him and his choice to go electric. The controversy was born ... and lives to this day. 

For a sweet taste of the genius of 1965 Bob Dylan pick up his album Bringing It All Back Home. Recorded just five months before the Newport Festival, it's half acoustic and half electric. Rolling Stone calls the album the "cultural equivalent of a nuclear bomb."

Dylan went electric and so did I recently when I installed a complete electrical system in my cargo trailer to camper conversion project.

In my last post, Sisters of the Sun, I was running wires and water lines and getting all the infrastructure in place to have a fully functioning camper. In this post I describe getting everything in place and working. This DOES NOT mean the camper is done. Not by a long shot! There are still many, many details to attend to and many more hours of work to make it final. The present goal is to get it to the point of being a safe and functioning camper that can be taken to the sports car race in Sebring, Florida March 18-21.

Power Center
All campers require an unusual and versatile electrical setup. They need both a 12-volt DC system, similar to what automobiles have, and a 110 volt system, similar to what homes have.  On top of that they need to be able to operate from electric power supplied by a campsite hookup. And when far away from a power source, they need to operate from a gasoline driven electrical generator or from battery power alone.  My camper's power system can operate in all these ways and I have built in the ability to operate from solar power in the future by adding solar panels.  I house all the components of my power center under this crude but effective love seat.
Click on photo for a larger version

I have two 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries wired in parallel. That doubles my amp hours to 200. The batteries feed into a 5000 watt heavy duty 12-volt DC to 110 volt AC power inverter. The 12-volt DC system is protected by a marine fuse panel on the left and the and the 110 AC system is protected by circuit breakers in that grey box on the right.  I'm using a "Battery Tender Jr." to keep the batteries charged.

Switches and Battery Monitor
I could have looked up all the formulas and performed all the calculations to plan the loads and power requirements of my electrical system. Did I do that? No, of course I didn't because I'm an idiot. From the wire gauge to the inverter to the fuses and breakers I simply guessed at what was required and over compensated by getting the biggest and best of everything. I'm confident it will not only be adequate but will be able to grow over time as needs change and power requirements increase.  Here's my switching system and battery monitor. When the switch is to the left you are running from shore power or generator. Switch to the right and you are running from batteries and the inverter. Center is off.  The gauge in the center tells me how many volts the batteries have, current draw in amps and remaining amps expressed as a percentage. The small button on the right turns on the inverter.

Water Tank

In my two previous posts, you've seen my 21 gallon fresh water tank installation and under bed storage. After mounting the water tank, running the wires, and doing the electrical system I thought it would be a good idea to take the camper out and drive it around. Just to see if I would spring any water leaks or short circuit any wires.   I took the camper out one Saturday morning and did a 50 mile trip. Up and down hills, over some bumps, starting and stopping.  Before the trip I was fairly confident but it was good to confirm my systems survived without a problem.

About ten or twelve years ago we removed all the wall-to-wall carpet from our house. I installed tile in every room. I kept the carpet and over the years it's come in handy whenever we have needed utility carpet that can be used and discarded when it gets soiled or ruined.  I used the last of it under the bed and on the camper floor. It's not permanent but it adds an element of comfort instead of having just bare floors. I plan on getting wood plank floors in the future but this old carpet will do for now!
It will play a movie
Having an installed radio was always a "priority two" item on my punch list. I could have settled for just bringing a portable radio. Eventually I'll install a really good sound system. If you know me, you know why. I came across this unit on Amazon for $45 dollars. It had some great reviews. The price was right and it's not going to be permanent. Even if it lasts a year at that price I couldn't go wrong. It's actually quite amazing. It's got a good FM tuner and Bluetooth capability. You can plug a USB drive, AUX cable or mini-SD card into it. You can view photos on it and it will even play movies!  It came with a backup camera. I'll eventually install the camera outside so you can see who's at the front door without opening the door.  There's no CD or DVD player and the video quality isn't 4K but what the hell do you want for $45? If you're camping on a rainy day and you're stuck inside you can keep yourself somewhat entertained. I added two speakers from an old home theater system and we're ready to jam.

I've shown my toilet installation before. I added a curtain to the door opening for privacy. Also installed a TP roll holder and a towel rack. Until I can build some shelving, I added the cargo net out of the trunk of my old Mercury for storage.

You have to go all the way back to my first post, The Birth of a Project, to understand one one of the main motivations for building this camper. My old popup camper had really horrible beds. Me and my old bones demand really comfortable beds. And now with my new camper, that's a reality.  Charlotte's sister, bless her, was giving away an old foam mattress, a Leesa king mattress. If you cut it in two it's the perfect size to make two twin XL's -- 39 inches by 80 inches. They're the perfect fit for my bunks.

There's just a few weeks to go before we take the camper to Sebring for the 12-hour race.  I'm super excited.  Converting this cargo trailer to a camper has been so much fun and I have learned so much. I've got to admit there were times I wish I had just bought an RV and saved myself the hassle.  Is it perfect? No. Is it done? No.  I have plans for shelving in the bathroom. Shelving over the sink. A door to the bathroom. Solar power, air conditioning, flooring, a shower and much more.

I don't know when my next post will be. I don't have any firm plans after the race. I've gotten behind on fence repair and a lot of other projects here at the farm so maybe it will be a while before I get back to the camper project.  But I now have a great, new recreational vehicle and I can say I made it myself.  You don't know what you are capable of until you try.  Keep trying to do new things because you can accomplish great things!

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