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KEQIAOSUOCAI Forest Green Blackout Curtains, Grommetted, 52" x 63" -- 2 panels for $28 (3 sets)
YGO Forest Green Blackout Curtains, Grommetted, 24" x 24" -- 2 panels for $22

    Once the windows were in, curtains became a necessity.  I had had several sarongs draped over bungee cords, so I could close off the front (i.e., behind the seats) and cover the back windows, and, short-term I used the same approach on the sides. 

    Sarongs have been my go-to curtain material since I moved to the Keys in 2001.  Prior to that, bed sheets had done the trick, usually hung loosely over a 1/4" aluminum rod that spanned the width of the windows. 

    Those vans all had the thin, translucent folding blinds that are so common in vans.  They are a good look, for sure, but they don't fill the bill for stealth.  If you have any lights on, the outside world can see that you have lights on.  Laptop or TV, forgetaboutit.  

    The bed sheets were pretty good for that, and I usually had them tied back around the middle, so they looked kinda like actual curtains, but there were inevitably a few wrinkle gaps when they were untied.

    The sarongs are a lighter material so they did not get those stubborn creases of they had been tied back for a few weeks; they just flopped right down in to place and overlapped easily. 

ZDog's green interior    Plus, they were colorful.  In Moby, with his beige/tan and polished wood interior, I had leopard-pattern sarongs.  Hung double -- i.e., hung over a rod or cord in the middle so that 36"-42" hung down on each side -- they were pretty good at blocking discreet light, but very good at letting just the right amount of morning daylight in. 

    In Zdog, a dozen green-and-yellow tie-dye sarongs covered every window.  The green glow in there was great -- like being in a rain forest on a sunny day -- especially with the jungle-pattern duvet and pillows.   It was a good look to wake up to.

    But, since Blue Maxx is next level, the window treatments need to be next level as well.  There will be many, many times when I'll pull in somewhere well before bedtime and need to do some writing, some photo editing, or some eating -- without the outside world knowing about it.

    And for that:  Blackout.  Several companies sell thick, lined curtains that might as well be a wall.  No light gets through.  I suppose if you had a big LED flashlight and you pressed it against the fabric, you'd see it from the other side.  But they would not see you.

    So I got a couple at a time:  two for the back first, then two for the front.  Forest Green, said the label, but they look a shade or two lighter.  WTF, though, as long as they all match.

Curtains - front half    The 63" top-to-bottom length is perfect.  In the front, they hang from the height of the bottom edge of the overhead compartment (OC), to within an inch or two of the floor.  Even if I have all my lights on -- and there are 16 of them now -- nothing will be visible from the front, even at the very bottom, which, conveniently, is obscured by the single step from flight deck to living room. 

    The two 53"-width curtains are way more than the 6-foot-wide van needs.  I chose grommeted curtains.  Bungee cords are my "curtain rods" and their hooks need something wide to slip through.  If I had a narrow aluminum rod, like I did in other vans, I could get the kind with the closed sleeve on top.  But with bungees, they don't work.

    Also, because of the grommets, and the need to alternate front-back with the cord, a nice soft ripple occurs in the curtain.  The panels have an even number of grommets, so you begin with a front-facer and end with a back facer.  Because of this, you get a dandy overlap where the right-hand panel and the left-hand panel meet in the middle.  This is important.  With curtains on rods, you can't overlap them, and that can leave a slim gap that will betray you. 

    I added the same size for the slider doorway.  The front-slider panel tucks nicely up against the right-front one, then overlaps with the back-slider.  I tuck the back edge of the back-slider panel under the skinny bungee that I also use to hold it open, and it is light-tight (kinda like watertight, but not wet on one side).

Curtains - back    The back curtains, like those at the slider door, were measured up from the floor to find the proper hanging level.  While the bungee cord at the slider stretches across the very upper part of the opening, the back doors actually open all the way to the roof, a full 74" high.  The windows, though, are just above the halfway point of those doors, and they are what the curtains need to cover, so bungee-cording across at about 66" from the floor -- hidden nicely behind the "logo board" -- works out perfectly.  no light can be seen over the top of the curtains. and none shows below the bottom (largely because the bed blocks it).

    A pair of much shorter curtains were required for the office window.  I had had sarongs there that hung from a rod and they went all the way to the desk top.  Once I add the upper shelf of the desk, those looked sloppy.  So I got the 24" length, with grommets.  They hung a teench too long, but WTF, better than too short.

    They do fill the window space fully and give the needed blackout, but I found, as I was sitting at the desk, that they also cut off any breeze that might otherwise pass through that open screen and onto my face.  This was irksome enough to be the catalyst for the purchase of blinds for that window...

     ... which you can read about immediately below!


THE BLINDS Faux Wood Blinds, 44” x 22” ($176) Faux Wood Blinds, 22” x 22” (2 sets for $176)

Whitewood Studs, 2” x 4” x 96” -- 2 @ $9

Douglas Fir SRS Mixed Grain Board, 2” x 2” x 96” -– 3 @ $11 = $33

     Since I already have thick forest green curtains all around, blinds might seem superfluous, and I suppose they are.  

    But the blinds do serve a purpose beyond the basic aesthetics.  I love the look of faux wood blinds, so that might be enough of a reason – I’m building this exclusively for me, after all -- but they also let some light in – a little or a lot, depending on how you manipulate your wand.  

    Even more importantly, though, they let some air in.  The MaxxFan in the ceiling serves primarily as an exhaust fan, pulling out stale air and drawing in fresh air from outside.   It can only do that, though, if at least one window is open.

 Back window roundness   I can lie on the bed and feel a surprisingly good breeze brush over me as the outside air flows in through the open back windows and forward to the MaxxFan.  Shut the windows, though, and you get no flow.  The fan can only pull out air if new air will go in to replace it.

                                                This is where blinds will be an advantage over blackout curtains.  The curtains block out all light – and do it very well – but they block out all air flow too.  The blinds, even when almost fully closed, will afford me the privacy I crave while allowing my coveted breeze.

    My original notion had blinds on all windows.  (My original notion also had very large side-back windows.)  It wasn’t until I actually tried to put blinds on a window that I realized how freaking tricky it would be.  

    Several months ago, I bought a pair of small ones (22” x 22”) from, figuring they would be a quick install on the back doors.  But not so, Jojo.  The windows sit in a very rounded recess, and the square frame that the blinds require … well, the old square-peg-round-hole thing.

    Over the span of a few months, I made occasional attempts at fashioning a frame that would attach to the flatter metal outside the recess.  I even built a reasonable prototype out of some medium-quality 2x2’s that I had left over from a previous step.  

    I kept waiting for the solution to present itself, but the square-in-round aspect was proving to be too much to overcome.  

    My prototype sat in a remote corner at work for a few moons as I waited out my budget issues.  Work resumed, but I moved onward to the paneling, the floor and (most of) the ceiling.  The blinds sat out-of-sight and almost out-of-mind.

    When I finally turned my attention back to this task, it was not the back of the van that would get blinded, but the large side window, over the desk.  I had ordered a 44” x 22” cedar-toned blind, with 2” slats, and it arrived a week or so ahead of schedule.

    This was an easy install.  I had to add an upright 2x4, screwed into the frontmost side of the upper desk, right behind the driver seat.  I made it just tall enough to touch the bottom few millimeters of the cabinet’s side.  I didn’t want to screw it to the side panel – or make it tall enough to block it -- in case something went wrong with the dimmer switch that was embedded therein and I would have to remove it.  

Office Blinds    As it turned out, the three screws at the bottom made it plenty sturdy enough.  All that was required to install the blind was to mount the bracket on each side.  Four screws affixed the metal socket at the top of each side.  The blind slid right in and fit snugly.  I closed up the front flaps of the brackets, and – boom – done!  It even came with a dang stylish valence.  

    Damn, that was too easy.  Hmmm, maybe I can get some blinds mojo going here. 

    I had a notion that a partial frame would work for the back door blinds:  maybe just a top crosspiece and two small side blocks on which to anchor the brackets.  Maybe?  Maybe??

    Nope.  Wouldn’t fit.  Not even close, in fact.  The recess was just too damn round.   

    But I now had the prototype back in hand.  It sent vibes through my arm and up to my brain.  It said, “Hang meeee, hannnnng meeeeee.”  

    I had recently acquired a fresh supply of the same Douglas Fir 2x2’s that I used for the skeleton of the upper cabinets.  Home Depot sells them, but they take about two weeks to be delivered to the store.  They are exactly 1.5” by 1.5” and are almost perfectly straight – unlike the aforementioned medium-quality 2x2’s (1.25” x 1.25”, with a bit of a warp) I got at the store.

    With new resolve, I set to the task by dismantling the prototype and rebuilding it with the new fir.  The frame was really simple:  27” horizontals top and bottom, and 21” verticals. 

Corel plan for frame


    The blinds fit nicely, but a couple of modifications were necessary.  I tell myself that I’ll always raise and secure them when I drive, but I know myself too well.  I will forget and end with them being tossed chaotically on some bumpy road.

Fir frame for back blinds    So, to keep them contained, I outfitted the Douglas Fir 2x2’s with narrow cedar panels.  There were plenty of scraps left from other Steps, so I trimmed down several to create “sleeves” to limit the blinds’ range of motion.  The sleeves extend into the space by about ¾” on each side and are both in front of and behind the blind.  No matter how much they get jostled, they cannot slip out of the sleeve.  Clever, yes?  =) There’s one on the bottom and a wider one across the top to act as a valence.

  The back sleeve-panels had to be affixed first, of course, since there would be no way to screw them in once they were on the door.

    I was working solo as usual, so there was no third hand to hold the square in place while I worked the drill.  Bracing it with my head was awkward and impractical at best (stupid and injurious at worst), so I needed a new option.

    Way back when I was considering taping the solar panel to the roof – yeah, remember that nutty idea?? -- I bought some strips of VHB (Very High Bond) tape.  I cut four 1” squares of it, stuck those in the very corners of the frame, and pressed it in place on the door.  I held it for several seconds to help it grab on, then tentatively released it.  It stayed on!   

    I needed to drill a hole through each corner and into the steel behind it.  Lower right was first and I was happy that the extra long drill bit ate right through the fir and metal.  I pulled the drill back out, started to reach for a screw annnnnd quickly caught the frame as it fell off the damn door.  Very High Bond, my ass.

    I stuck it back up and quickly drilled through the upper left corner and vroomed in a 2” screw.  A second 2-incher in the lower right stabilized it.  The other two corners were cake.  Likewise for the other door.

    The blinds fit in just right.  So, I called it a day.  I called it Sunday, in fact, and went Back door paintedto play some late-day golf.

    I drove around for a couple days to make sure they wouldn’t rattle or shake loose.  All was well, so it was time for some cognac.  Stain, that is.  

    And, no, not on the frame.  All of that fir would be hidden behind cedar panels, so the stain would be a waste.  I did hit them up with a good coat of polyurethane, though; they will inevitably get a little wet at times.

    The cognac stain went on the metal.  It’s all about the décor, mate.   I love the True Blue Pearl exterior – it is one of the main reasons that I bought Blue Maxx – but the interior scheme is brown and green.  Any blue metal just looks like a spot I was too lazy to cover.

    I did the first coat on Thursday morning before work, then added the second coat on Friday morning.  On Saturday, I cut all the small cedar panels, then remounted the frames on the back doors.  A few screws attached the panels to the frames and The Blinds were done!

    To be honest, this is the least good looking of any step so far.  There is nothing about these things that says, “skilled work.”  They look like scraps thrown together, which, well, is what they are.

    But, considering that the blinds were sitting idle for so many months, just getting them up and functional is a huge victory.

Back Blinds Complete

    But I would be remiss if I did not give a big thumbs-up to  Their website is crazy easy to use, they have tremendous selection of items and options, and their ordering page is user-friendly.  The products are well-made, with a sturdy feel, annnnnnd there is a 2-year warranty on everything.  Makes me wish I needed more blinds.

    Hey, I hear ya, I know, put blinds on the slider door!  Doncha think I've thought about that?  A set identical to the Office Blinds would look awesome on that door, but there is no way to attach them where they would not interfere with the opening and sliding of the door itself.  The door doesn't pop open very far at all, so there is a very narrow clearance.  Too bad...

    Anyway, just wanted to give a big Hoorah to JustBlinds.  Buy some blinds from them, even if you don't need them.  Thanks.


Amazon Basics Utility Handle, 6.5-inch Length -- 2 for $10

    Huh?  The doors came without handles?  What?

    Almost true.  They all have some kind of latch or flip-plate that you use to release the mechanism holding the door closed, and there are things to hold onto pull the front and back doors shut from within.

    But I felt the need to add two:  the Yank-Me and the Gravity Assist, both at the slider door.

 Gravity Assist Handle   The Gravity Assist is -- I'll admit it -- a concession to age.  Don't read that wrong.  Gravity does not need an assist; I do.  The step up into Blue Max from level ground is significant.  The front leg has to bend acutely to heft my carcass upward and inside.  As a collegiate triple jumper, this would have been laughable:  all ankles and bounce right up. 

    That was "a while ago" now, though, so to keep my knees from waking up the neighborhood with their screams of anguish, I installed the Gravity Assist handle on the inside of the door jamb, somewhere between a yard and a meter above the van floor.  The metal is just barely wide enough to accommodate the 1.25" wide screw-base. 

    The handles came with black screws to match the black metal, but I eschewed them in favor of my favorite dark-grey 1" pointy drywall screws.  No pilot hole needed, just hold it in position, start the power screwdriver (i.e, drill with Philips head bit) slowwwwly, lean on it a bit, and let that little devil chew its way through.  Takes no more than 12 seconds.  Took less than two minutes to get The GA installed.

    So now, I grab hold on my way out of the van and ease my self groundward, and I grab it on the way in and give an easy pull to help out the ol' legs.  VERY nice touch.  I highly recommend it.

  The Yank-Me Handle  The other one -- the Yank-Me -- is mounted horizontally on the sloped metal just under the window.  The slider door needs to be pulled shut firmly to avoid getting an error message on your dash:  SIDE DOOR OPEN.  Grrr.  How insulting. 

    Before I installed the cedar panel on the top part of the door, I simply grabbed hold of that lip and pulled the door forward-then-in firmly.  I quickly realized though, once that panel was in place, that a new strategy would be necessary.  Pulling it forward by the front edge was good, but I was not able to consistently pull it inward into the official Closed Position.  

    The black utility handles came in a pack of two, so this seemed to be the perfect place to use the second one. 

    I positioned it about 10" front of center and applied the drywall screws.  I had to be a little extra careful because sometimes the screw will topple before it sinks its teeth into the steel, and I did NOT want to clunk my drill into the slider window.  I don't want to ever break one of those, but especially not by doing something dumb.

    The four screws went in without any such trouble, though.  Now, I just grab that handle underhanded (i.e., palm up), pull it forward and yank it inwards.  PERFECT closure. 


Yvan Telescoping Ladder,12.5 FT -- $140

    Wait.  Blue Maxx already has a ladder.  It got in the way when the back window had to be installed, remember?  Of course I do. 

    But there's a serious limit to that ladder now.  I can still use it to climb up onto the roof, but, well, what then?  There's this long, wide solar panel in the way.  It doesn't go fully side-to-side; there is about a foot available on either side.  Now, if this was on level ground, and I had to walk a foot-wide stripe, well, no problem.  But this one is basically ten-feet off the ground, meaning that my head is almost 16 feet up. 

    Ya, I know, 16 whole feet.  Whoaaa.  But, to someone with mild acrophobia, it's a tad daunting.  Falling would be like dropping out of a second story window.  I mean, if I lost my balance, but could control my fall enough to land on my feet, I'd probably be OK, as long as knees don't explode.  If I went sideways, though, that's high enough to break some things, maybe even my precious little head. 

    It's funny, I'm not particularly scared of really high heights.  If I fall from way up there, I'm just gonna die (and pretty much instantly, and hence painlessly), so might as well enjoy the flight.  Just ask Thelma and Louise.  But surviving with injuries (and accompanying medical expenses) is far more scary.

    So, ANYWAY, I decided that it might be pretty handy to have a ladder I could use to access the front of the roof, for those times when I need to go up and wash off the solar panel, or in case the MaxxFan ever needs anything, or if I ever want to slop some more waterproofing stuff around the feet of the solar panel. 

    [I got a roll of black Flex Tape.  That stuff is crazy!  You cut it with scissors and then you can barely get it pulled off the scissors.  And you better get it placed right first time, cuz it's a bitch to try to peel off.  Gives me confidence that it will do what it claims, though.]

Yvan Telescoping Ladder    So, ANYWAY, I had seen a telescoping ladder on a Facebook ad and thought it might be just the ticket.  Buying off Facebook often leads to a rip-off, though, so I did not pull the trigger.  Quite a bit later, I looked one up on Amazon.  The price gave me pause.  The FB ladder was about $40; the real ones were $120 and up.  So, ya, ripoff. 

    I picked out a 10.5-footer.  I didn't care about brand; they all looked virtually identical.   Just before I went to the payment page, I saw that I could get a 12.5-foot ladder for not much more.  I took it.  The van is 9'6", so climbing back down will be a lot easier if I can grab the top of the ladder before putting my foot on a step.  Negotiating that on the back door ladder, which barely reaches the edge of the roof, was a trip:  nothing to grab onto, needing to reverse body position, and trying to find a step without catching the leg of my shorts on the top of the ladder (happened almost every damn time).

    So, the ladder works jusssst fiiine.  It extends upward easily, feels very sturdy when I'm on it, and it closes slowly and silently. 

    But where to keep it?  Folded up, it's 33.5" high and 19" wide.  It won't fit standing under the desk, or between the counter and the bed.  Even lying on its side, it will stick out too far.  And it will take up too much space between the bed and back doors where the bike will be.  Hmmmm.

    As I was looking under the desk with an "are you sure it won't fit under here?" attitude, I looked at the space behind the dresser.  There's about a 3" gap between the upright studs and the sheet metal wall.  I angled the Yvan this way and that, and finally slid the narrowest part (the top) as far as it would go behind the dresser.  It fit quite well, even finding a snug niche to rest in.  The legs stick out to be easily grabbed if needed, but comfortably out of the way of my legs behind the floor-level stud of the desk.

    I had to be careful because there are a few wires and a power strip in that area, but I was able to use some nift and avoid them.  The EZ Cool insulation on the wall even keeps the ladder from rattling as a I drive.



ovios Ergonomic Office Chair -- $200

     I liked my old desk chair.  I bought it less than two years ago, as a functional piece of furniture for my suddenly large mobile room.  All I had had in Zdog was a folding stool, about a foot in diameter.  Pretty lame, right?  Right, but it was all I could fit.

 Rocky the Rock-n-Roll Chair     But then Blue Maxx came along and my cramped bedroom became a spacious  bedroom-office suite, crying for office furniture.  I got a sturdy folding table from Amazon and bungeed it to the van’s ribs.  The chair was an impulse buy at OMax.  It was sitting right inside the front door and on sale for about $75. 

      It was a rock-and-roll (and swivel) chair, not overly cushy, but cushy enough.  Nice shade of brown, too.  When set at its highest height, the arms fit right under the tabletop.  I named it Rocky because, well, what else would you name a rocking chair?

      There was almost nothing wrong with that chair.  While at the table working on my laptop, I sat in efficient and productive comfort, having myself a relaxing rock when I paused, spinning and rolling for whatever lay beyond arm’s reach.  ‘Twas a fine chair indeed.

     But it had to go. 

     As Blue Maxx’s new identity took shape, it became clear that one thing was lacking:  a Lounge Chair.  With full days and full nights to be spent in the van, there would need to be lounging time.

      I could lounge on the bed, certainly, but that’s a different kind of lounging.  You don’t want to overdo your on-the-bed time.  You want that mattress to feel special and welcoming when you crawl off to zzzz-ville.  Too many hours on it in Lounge Mode will undercut that. 

     Plus, you need to build a pillow-pile backstop for yourself, and the cabinets keep me from sitting up straight.  And you still can’t help but slide down again and again, messing up your covers bigtime.

     So, a Lounge Chair was a necessity.  Being on wheels was a good trait.  Having arms was another.  Swivel, yes.  Rocking would be nice.

    But the one trait that would make for a successful Lounge Chair – the one that Rocky lacked – was a high back, high enough that I could lean my head on it.  Rocky came up to about my shoulder blades, so even if I rocked back, I had to hold my head up.  That’s a lot of work -- at least when compared to laying it back on a cushion. 

     So, Rocky would get reassigned to actual office duty – as befits an office chair, yes? – when my extensive Amazon search would finally find its mark.

      I looked at high-back, body-fitting gaming chairs, but I didn’t like the gaudy accent colors and spaceship style, and I was not sure the arms would fit under the desk, which was a must.

     Some of the candidates had recline mode with fold-out leg rests.  These were very tempting options.  But to be honest, those leg rests all looked a bit flimsy.  They also looked too short for my legs.  That’s why I’ve been saying “leg rests” instead of “foot rests” as the ads themselves said.  I pictured the bulk of my calves resting on that cushion, and I just didn’t think that would be crazy comfortable.

     I also had to wonder if the folded-in leg rests would clang into the EcoFlow Delta solar generator under the desk, nixing the tidy stowaway position that worked so well with Rocky.

Ovios Desk Chair     Then I came upon Ovios.  Nice tall chair, with wheels, padded arms, and a reclining back, all at a decent price. 

     The color and texture really sold me though.  Dark Coffee is what it’s called:  kind of an antique, aged look, with a suede-like finish.  Excellent match for Blue Maxx’s cedar and cognac décor. 

     Charley seemed like a good name for him:  Charley Chair.  You probably thought that Ovios would be the obvious choice, but, well, no.

     The assembly was easy and I wheeled my new lounger out to Maxx for a test fitting.  At full height, the arms are a tad too high, but with the seat lowered about an inch, it slides right in.  The wheels straddle the corner of EcoFlow nicely, and the bungee cord wraps perfectly around the back to secure it in its home position.

    I did a test lounge in it, and it passed with high colors and flying grades.  On Rocky, the seat and back were a unit, and the whole thing rocked back.  Charley’s seat stays level and the back reclines from, officially, Comfortable Work Mode, through Reading Mode and into Watching Movie Mode.

      For quality lounging, I can put my feet up on the dresser or sink.  Ahhhhhhh….

YoungPower Battery Operated LED Rope Lights, Warm White, 40ft -- $14
Outwater Plastics Styrene Moulding, 1/2" x 1/2" x 3/64", 18 72" Pieces -- $100

    All the puck lights came out great.  They really did.  When this whole thing started, I put the pucks in the plan and figured I concoct some kind of Plan B when I messed 'em up.  But I didn't mess 'em up.  Yay, me!

Rope Light Set    But, the whole time, in the back of my mind, I knew they would not be the whole story of Blue Maxx lighting.  With three distinct sets on three different switches, dimmable to Pretty Dim and brightable to Really Bright, you'd think I'd have every level of illumination covered. 

    Somehow, though, I knew there would be rope lights up along the top of those cabinets.  Something just right for a a candlelight mood.  Something dim enough to keep my pupils wide open, but just bright enough to keep darkness at bay.  That is my soul soothing illumination level. 

    Anyone who has ever been in my abode knows I am a huge fan of indirect lighting.  You'll never find a room of mine lit by some dome light in the middle of the ceiling.  More likely to find a couple of pole lamps in the corners with all their pods turned to shine on the walls, floor or ceilings.  You'll never be looking at the light bulb itself in my nest.

    The puck lights didn't fit that, and it's fine.  They are get-things-done lights.  But when all the things are done, those will get turned off and the dim, soothing rope lights will go on.

    I have a set of rope lights on my front porch at home, strung up among the laces around the pipes.  Glowing green under the green canvas awning, they create a great atmosphere.  I also have two sets lining my walkway, casting a white glow upwards in the the lower palms on each side.

    For this set, though, there had to be "next level" parameters. 

    First, I wanted battery-powered lights.  Those ropes come with AC plugs, with USB plugs, or battery packs.  The home string was AC, plugged into a timer.  You might think that I'd be all over the USB version, given that I have 22 ports in the van. 

    But, no, no, Jojo, me want batt'ries.  Double-A's, three of 'em.  I'm thinking ahead to nights when I'm fatassing in bed, iPadding myself into sleepy-time-time.  If any DC or USB device is still on (except the fridge), I'll have to either leave it on all night, or get up and shut it off.  With the AA-fueled lights, I'll be able to just click the red button on the Rear Remote and slip into darkness without putting any drain at all on my solar stockpile.

    And, yes, there will be a Front Remote as well, so I can flip on my glow as soon as I park -- or even while I drive, just for atmosphere.  Having a soft glow behind me as I drive through the inky night will help ward off evil spirits.  Plus it'll just look dang cool.

    Most of the time, going battery-power only will be overly thrifty.  I think I could leave all my puck lights on all night and probably burn just a bar on the Maxoak's 5-bar gauge.  But, still, it might save a tiny bit on the life cycle of the Maxoak, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get an extra day or two at the end of its life.  Maybe.

    Second, I didn't want the rope lights to be raw.  No raw ropes.  That indirect light thing again.  My ropes needed a gutter. 

    This would have been a useful thing to consider as I built and installed the cabinets, right?  Oh well, maybe next time.  I had to concoct a plan to support and hide the rope itself, but leave enough space for the glow to escape -- and do it all in a 1.25"-high space, the height of the top bar of the cabinets. 

    Somehow, there had to be a flat vertical surface to adhere to the wood, a flat horizontal surface to lay the lights on, and another flat vertical surface to go straight in front of the lights.  And I needed a total of about 32-linear feet of it all. 

    The plan was easy to concoct, but the details took their time revealing themselves.  It was clear that it would not be a one-piece thing; I was going to have to assemble something.  That notion had been in motion quite a while, though. 

    When I got the wood angle-molding for the slider-side edge of the floor, I thought that might be the ticket.  I could slap two pieces of that together with little screws, then use more little screws to connect to the wood bar.  But I took a couple of small pieces, taped them together and held them up for a test fit.

Molding for Rope Lights    It was a big No Go.  The angle-molding itself was too thick.  The horizontal part had to be two-layers thick, so if I laid them outside each other, they went all the way up to the ceiling, which was useless.  If I laid them inside each other, the gutter was not deep enough to hide the rope. If I was going to see the lights, I might as well save a ton of trouble and staple the rope up there in plain sight.

    But the notion had a back-up.  Before I got that wood molding, I had bought a sturdy styrene plastic version of the same thing.  While the wood was 0.75" on each side, and 3/16" thick, the styrene was only 0.5" high, and just 0.047" thick.  I had purchased it to use on the edge of the floor, to cover any gaps and to keep the tile edges from rolling up.

    The floor was aces on its own, though.  It fit great, and it stuck even greater, making the plastic molding useless.  Down there, at least.  Where floor duty bottomed out for it, a ceiling job might lift it up.  Plus, when I bought it, I had to buy 108 feet of it; it was only sold in a pack of 18 six-foot lengths.  In the side of my mind -- not all the way back -- I knew I might need it for gutter time. 

    Once I did sample fit of the same two-piece design, it was clear that the Outwater plastic was the way to go.  It was so lightweight that I wouldn't even need to use screws; long strips of 1/4" wide two-sided tape would be plenty strong enough to hold it up. 

Rope Lights Gutter
    I wanted as few gaps as possible, so I used 72" lengths wherever I could.  Two 36" strips of tape got applied to both outer sides of one of the lengths.  I peeled one side and stuck the naked length to it, in the opposing direction.  Then I peeled the remaining side and stuck it to the top bar.

    The corner provided a bit of a challenge, especially the back corners where the cabinets met the Logo Board.  But I took my time, cut some smaller strips, and assembled them the same way, even where the gutter went to vertical orientation. 

    I kinda regret no running the lights right under the RAMACK laser-cut lettering.  I could have done it, but it would have looked forced.  The track would have had to jump from the cognac layer to the cedar layer, and it just would have been hack. 

    Might have been a bit vain, too.  Bad enough even having it there at all, I suppose, but fukkit, it's all part of the Stealth Mode.  We'll get to that later.

    I started at the front end of the cabinet on the driver side and worked backwards.  The rope would follow a crooked U, ending at the overhead compartment (OC) past the slider door.  I didn't see the need to cross the OC and complete the loop.  For one thing, there was no reasonable way to do a gutter across the top, and one across the bottom would just get in the way of the curtains.  Also, Instead of illuminating a nice cedar ceiling, a rope there would light up all the crap I store up there:  raincoat, sweatshirt, first aid kit, toilet paper supply, umbrella, and I don't even know what else for sure.  So no need for that.

    Once I got U'ed around past the cabinets, the space above the slider door threw me a curve, literally.  Since it was not flat, vertical metal, but, rather, rounded and sloped diagonally, my gutter design seemed unnecessarily complex.  I simply taped one length of styrene molding up there really close to the top and the space was perfect.

 Rope Lights Completed   The battery pack site at the front edge of the OC, near the slider.  There is a six-foot-long piece of silver wire/cord between the pack and the lights themselves.  This allowed me to choose exactly where to start the glow.  I worked the U in reverse, tucking the rope in as I went.  The vertical-horizontal junctures didn't want to play at first, but I thought "screw them" and secured them with a drywall screw in each corner to snug them in.

    When I got to the starting point of the gutter, I had about 8 feet of lights left.  I toyed with the idea of running them across the top of the office window, but quickly bagged the idea.  It would have meant creating new gutters, and it would have looked a tad obnoxious.  So, I rolled them up fairly tight and stuffed them in a black fabric bag and rested them in the corner of the OC.

    The glow is perfect.  Love it.

Sande ¾” Plywood 33” x 16” -- $0, left over from dresk

Sande Plywood    So, yes, The Blue Maxx Project could definitely be called complete, but I’m still keeping an eye out for anything that might (a) fit, and (b) be useful.   Most often, its’ when I see a need and seek out a solution, but this time, the solution saw me and created a way to use itself.

      I had started the process of purging my leftovers from the back room at work, lugging a carton of 2x4 pieces, cheap 1x3 scraps, and small slabs of cedar plywood out to the dumpster.  I was setting aside a few semi-panels of cedar for “just-in-case” duty, when I looked at the three planks of Sande ¾” plywood that were standing on edge, leaning against the shelf unit.

     Sande is the wood that I used for the sink countertop, the dresk top, and the bed platform.  It is sturdy, it is smooth, and it had not warped even a millimeter in the year-plus that it had been leaning there.  It is awesome.  I lamented its imminent disposal. 

      Then one of those notions stirred into motion.  I picked up the long and narrow plank – about 42” x 9” or so – and took it out to show Blue Maxx and see if he had any ideas. 

      I stood behind the desk chair and set the plank down so I could switch on the Maxoak for some lighting and some fanning.  As I stood up, I realized that the plank was doing a most excellent job of spanning the yawning gap between sink and dresk.  Hmmm.  That might come in handy someday, mightn’t it?

      I certainly would not want it there all the time, but it would be useful sometimes.  It would be The Sometimes Shelf:  deploy when needed, stash when not.  Top notch!

      I grabbed the tape measure and marked out a length that would sit sturdily on both sides, yet not impose on the drink holders or sink basin.   This 9” wide plank was good for a test, but any worthwhile shelf would need to be almost double that.

      The medium-sized board won the assignment.  I sawed a few inches off one end to bring it to 33” long, kept its 16” width intact, and got out my can of cognac stain.  A thick skin had formed inside the third-full can, but a few good pokes with a skinny stick knocked it loose and let the fluid breathe.  Two coats of stain, followed by two coats of glossy polyurethane got the shelf ready for duty.  Almost.

  DIY Van Conversion, desk, shelf   Just laying a board from counter to counter is inviting calamity.  There needed to be some sort of anchor.  The space between counters was 28.5”, so I took a couple of another, small slab of Sande, put it on the table saw at work and cut it down to 4 shallow blocks, roughly 4” x 3” x 0.75”.  With a dozen of my beloved 1” pointy drywall screws, I zummmed them into the underside of the shelf with their outer edges 28.25” apart.   The wood-on-wood thing conjured up images of chipped or dented or otherwise damaged edges, though, so I needed a buffer.

     Unlike the Corleone Family, I did not have a lot of buffers, but I did have a roll of 1/4” green felt dots.  These are the little things that are often used on the bottoms of some tabletop items to prevent scratches.  They are a staple at work for desktop awards.  I put a few on the underside of the shelf, right near the ends, the a few more on the outer edge of each shallow block to buff the sides of the counters.  Poifect!

     The primary placement of The Sometimes Shelf would be as a left wing of the desk as I sit there working.  It would be wide enough to spread out notebooks, camera stuff, and even food while the laptop fills the desk space. 

      I could also swivel Charley Chair and angle towards the TV screen near the foot of the bed, so I could do dinner and a movie.

      It might also come in handy placed a couple of feet farther back, as utility shelf as I do stuff at the sink:  laundry stuff, or whatever. 

      The Sometimes Shelf can also be set up next to the bed, if ever that need arises.  I can leave room for my legs and sit on the edge of the bed, or I can get it right up next to the mattress and line it with fans on a sweltering night.

     And when it’s idle, it stands almost upright behind the driver’s seat, where it also serves as a stabilizer for the Maxoak in case of hard braking. 

      So, I feel right proud of this simple thing. 

DIY Van Conversion, bed, shelf