Travels, Modifications, Experiences

Posts tagged “VW Eurovan camper

Mice in the Van

Eurovan camping in the Tetons

Eurovan camping in the Tetons: it doesn't get any better than this (unless you can eliminate mosquitos)

On a recent trip in the Eurovan we spent about a week at our family cabin not far from Yellowstone. Mice had been scouring the place for whatever they could find, and several had been trapped (killed). After a while it seemed the mice just disappeared: no more little tiny football shaped dried turds in the morning dotting the kitchen counters. What a relief!

Preparing for a hike, Leslie went to the Eurovan to get some food for the trek and found – surprisingly – that a mouse or mice had gotten into the camper and weaseled their way into one of the food cupboards. Worse, they ate most of one of my favorite snacks – the Nature Valley Sweet and Salty peanut granola bar. A Clif Bar had been compromised also, along with a couple other things, but the Nature Valley bar was the clear favorite among these rodents. We have at least that one thing in common I guess.

External heater vent on EVC

External heater vent on EVC

Anyway, it took me a while to figure out how they got inside. No windows or vents were open, except for the auxiliary heater vent on the left rear of the van, which you can’t close. That must have been their port, although the opening is pretty tiny. But so are mice.

From there, the mice had to crawl their way into the heater box and out the inside vent at the base of the back seat. To get inside the cupboard with the food, they had to have shimmied up and over the console with the stove, sink and fridge, down the back and into the cupboard from the rear.

Eurovan mouse entry

Proposed path of mouse entry into 2001 Eurovan

If anyone else has experienced this most undesired transgression, please let me know. Also, if I have their route wrong – based on your experience – please let me know that as well!

Field mice

This is what the inside of the EVC must have looked like

The kicker in all this mice business is that it didn’t reveal itself until we were halfway home on the two-day return trip. The propane setting (which I’d so carefully repaired, as noted in a previous blog post) on the fridge stopped working. I could tell that the igniter wasn’t working, so the propane wouldn’t light for the fridge, but the stove worked just fine. So the fridge was off while we were camped, and on the 12VDC setting while driving (although I’m not sure even that worked; my beer at camp was not very cold!).

So I bit the bullet and after we got home went through the laborious exercise of removing the fridge. It was just as hard to get out as I remembered. I reviewed all the parts and everything seemed in order until I saw the fuse panel on top of the fridge. The little plastic cover over the center fuse (a 20 amp fuse) looked funny. I removed the cover and found it burned at one end. The fuse was blown.

Norcold fridge panel

Before the blown fuse

Then I noticed, scattered hither and yon across the top of the fridge, a bunch of mouse turds, and one very close to the 20 amp fuse. Could a mouse have crapped near the fuse panel and blown the fuse? Or could one of its wee feet have wedged in underneath that fuse cover and caused the damage? Or do fuses just burn up on their own? I’m no electrician or mouse scientist but I’m leaning to either of the first two theories. Again, if anyone has a clue on this, let me know.

By the way, since I had the fridge out, I took the opportunity to add joint tape to all the propane connections on the fridge, which I hope will reduce the residual propane odor that sometimes escapes from the fridge… Now the thing works fine. I thought it might be a good idea to rig up some kind of screen to keep over the exterior heater vents to prevent varmints from entering my mobile abode. But, like a lot of other things, I probably wont’ get around to it until it’s too late.

Snowy Pipe Gig

City of Trees Pipes & Drums get up close & personal in the Eurovan. Clockwise from foreground: P/M John McDade, Josh White's wee head, D/S Gene "More Cowbell" Fisher

City of Trees Pipes & Drums get up close & personal in the Eurovan. P/M McDade, Josh White

Yesterday I and seven other dedicated members of the City of Trees Pipes & Drums hunkered down in the snow to play at a wedding. We do stuff like this to make money for the band. For this gig we earned $300. It involved the eight of us putting on the “kit”: off-white hose (except for Josh White, who wore snow white hose), red flash (the ribbons that get folded into the top of the hose), sgian doubh (black knife) inserted into the top of the right hose (in case one needs to slit the throat of one’s adversary or cut a piece of salami while waiting for the go signal), ghillie brogues (sort of a wing-tip shoe with long laces that get tied in a certain criss-crossy way in the front and back of the hose, with tassels that swagger about while marching), undershirt, white long-sleeve dress shirt, dark tie, kilt (for our band, we wear the Royal Stewart Black tartan – a 15 ounce, 8-yard wool kilt), kilt belt with large cast pewter buckle, kilt pin (mine was a lovely deer antler tip until I lost it – the second kilt pin I have lost in less than two years), sporran (the “purse” covering the crotch of the piper (drummers wear theirs on their sides so as not to interfere with the drum harness) – our band sporrans are made of skunk fur and are very soft and black; they provide a pocket for one’s car keys, wallet, cell phone, condoms, or whatever – the kilt has no pockets), Prince Charlie vest (mine is fine wool with three diamond-shaped buttons and made in Pakistan – a cheap version of the 5-button gabardine wool versions made in Scotland), and glengarry with red feather plume and clan crest (the boat-shaped wool felt hat). After dozens of gigs I now have the dressing routine dialed in at about 25 minutes. To remove everything and get changed back into normal duds after a gig takes about half that.

COTPAD Crackup

Josh comes unglued, making Gene laugh.

We arrive at the designated spot – today at the Stone House: a pub adjacent to the Greenbelt. This is our second or third wedding gig here in the past year. I drove our Eurovan because I knew it would be snowing and that we’d be waiting for a while and wanted to have a heated haven where some of us could hang out until we were signaled to line up and march in. Six of us managed to fit in the van, cozy and warm with the propane heater running. I snapped a couple shots with my iPhone, hoping to catch some “regimental” images of my kilted buddies, but – alas – the iPhone’s lack of a flash prevented any compromising photos. John McDade, our dedicated pipe major, and the band’s only bona fide Scot, upon thinking I had snapped a shot of his privates yelled, “It’s bloody cold – I’m claiming shrinkage!”

We finally got the go signal, and burst from the Eurovan into the falling flakes and lined up. Two drummers – Gene, the Drum Sergeant, and Rhonda, our unflagging bass drummer – followed the six pipers (John, Josh, me, Tim, “Junior” McKay) and Jayce – our next to be initiated band member and current gig gopher, whom – today – served as band photographer and official door opener. On P/M McDade’s command, we fired up outside and began with Mairi’s Wedding/42nd Highlanders and someone’s drones were dreadfully misfiring. As we played and marched toward the entrance to the Stone House Josh – in front of me – shut down all his drones, thinking the wounded rhino sound was coming from his pipes. I had a perversely satisfied feeling the offending sonic malady was emanating from my bass drone but managed to ignore it and revel in the horrific dissonance as we marched into the absolutely packed interior and continued playing to wild applause.
For me at least, and I suspect many of my colleagues in the band, the most exciting moment of any gig is when we enter the interior of the venue, full of people – in this and many other cases, unsuspecting – and we are rewarded with facial expressions of childlike exuberance and fascination, hoots, hollers, whistles, and all other types of boisterous expressions of approval and visceral pleasure.
It is this dynamic that makes it worth the 25 minutes it takes to get dressed, and however long it takes to drive to the gig, and however long we wait in the wings before we are unleashed like rabid rats on a rotting feral cat carcass. It is this moment when I feel the righteousness of strutting, when I feel the loss of self that historical actors from Nazi storm troopers to the starting players in the World Series must have felt. My uncooperative bass drone notwithstanding, this moment is indeed what the great French social theorist Roland Barthes referred to as “jouissance” – the proto-orgasmic loss of self in the cataclysmic moment of pure pleasure…
We finish the two tunes and the ceremony begins. We scurry to stand out of the way so the guests can see. I watch the bride and groom – two middle-aged people whom I think are starting over with great hope, and surrounded by an impressive assortment of people I hope feel the same way – and remember with great warmth my own wedding atop a mountain in central Idaho. The bride’s gaze upon her soon-to-be-betrothed is so angelic that I cannot stop staring at her makes me think that this is really a special moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.
After a decent amount of time and words the ceremony is over and we’re lining up to begin the march-out tune, which John calls out at the last second: Scotland the Brave. We play it through twice, marching elegiacally through the crowd of gleeful attendees, following the bride and groom, out the door into the falling snow. It sounded great. The bride and groom stood in the snow for a moment with us and expressed their gratitude. Gig over, we scurried to our vehicles and headed to our homes to remove the kit and get on with our separate lives, the weekend half completed, thoughts of what’s ahead and what’s due in the offing.