Source: The Geek Twins. Coincidentally, how I felt until I had to call the MA RMV.

Remember when I got a bad speeding ticket, thought I was going to lose my license, and then luckily did not end up losing my license? Well as luck/fate/chance/happenstance would have it, that turned out not to be the end of the story.

Brandon, what are you talking about? You said you called up the California DMV and they said everything was fine, what gives?

I did say everything was fine, because I did think everything was fine. Like the Overly Cheerful DMV Lady said was going to happen, I got a letter in the mail that said, without a doubt, the California DMV had no intentions of taking away my license. It wasn't until I stopped into the DMV this past Thursday to get my motorcycle license that I found out anything was wrong.

I debated weaving out the intricate web of sadness and bureaucracy that took place that fateful Thursday into its own little story, but I decided against it because it's mind-numbingly boring and it physically pains me to recount the conversations that I had with various three-letter agencies in all of their vivid, nonsensical glory. So I'll just give you the SparkNotes version, which goes a little like this:

  1. Brandon wanders into California DMV.
  2. CA DMV says, "Sorry, something is wrong in the system and we can't give you a motorcycle license, call the Massachusetts RMV."
  3. Brandon calls MA RMV.
  4. MA RMV tells Brandon that he never took the course.
  5. Brandon has never heard of the course.
  6. MA RMV explains to Brandon that he has to take a course because of his ticket.
  7. Brandon inquires why he hasn't heard of this course.
  8. MA RMV says they mailed it to his old address, which was invalid.
  9. Brandon inquires why they didn't send it to the address he's been using for 8 months, especially after realizing the old address was invalid.
  10. MA RMV doesn't have an answer, but explains that they're going to tell California to take away Brandon's license because he didn't take the course and is reaching the end of the (apparently 90-day) grace period. MA RMV instructs Brandon to call the National Safety Council.
  11. Brandon calls NSC.
  12. NSC agrees that this whole scenario is ridiculous, and gives Brandon a list of four (in the entirety of California) sketchy locations where he can take the course. None of them are within an hour drive.

And that's where I am right now. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective), I'm going to LA with a few friends this upcoming long weekend, and can take the course once I'm down there…while my friends ride rollercoasters at Knott's Berry Farm. In the end, it's still entirely my fault for getting the speeding ticket in the first place, but the course is clearly designed for people in negligent accidents or repeated violations. Oh well. I'll take the course, pay another $xxx on top of the $470 I've already paid, and move on with my life.

One thing I've noticed is that I'm decidedly less terrified this time around. Last time, I remember my heart rate shooting up and panicking over what I was going to do, and that just wasn't there this time. The consequences are still the same as before, potentially losing my license and home, but for some reason it isn't scary anymore. I'm not sure if it's because I've already made the leap and moved off campus, or I'm just getting better at handling weird truck-related strife in all its flavors. In any case, I think it's a good thing, and I await the next strange twist of fate with open arms, and an open back roll-up gate.


Source: My signature "look off into the distance and feign deep thought" look. The "deep thought" is about truck stuff like 46% of the time. This was at my company holiday party a few weeks ago, thus the general festive-ness.

On the last episode of From Inside the Box, we found our pickup truck protagonist in the throes of a struggle for survival: not of flesh, but of his very livelihood. Where will he go? What will he do? Will he ever understand why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch™? Find out on this episode eventually…maybe.

Just kidding. I don't plan to talk about any of those things today. Instead, we're going to talk about poor decisions, getting in the holiday spirit, and how any of that relates to truck stuff. Oh, and apologies for my silence and general tardiness with getting new posts out, rest assured that there are more in the pipeline (tech, home improvement, and philosophy, oh my!). But anyway, let's see what the past two (fairly truckless) weeks have been like.

Flying Home: The Story of Las Vegas

I'd been planning to go home for the two weeks leading up to (and including) New Years, but it wasn't until I actually sat down to look at the flights that something interesting happened. The best (read: cheapest) flight that I could find had a 30-hour layover in Las Vegas. For the uninitiated, Vegas is basically the physical manifestation of every American stereotype, magnified a hundred times over. It proudly exploits every human failing and mortal vice, packaged together and wrapped with lights, hundred dollar bills, liquor, and strip clubs. It's grandiose, excessive, wasteful to the point of comedy, and stands boastfully in the face of everything I believe in.

Brandon, if you knew all of this, why the hell did you even go? Plus, it may have been the cheapest flight, but that's not counting the cost of being in Vegas and the hotel room.

Well that's the thing. I was curious, and despite knowing how well that worked out for the cat, I wanted to get a closer look. And as far as the hotel goes, I had this crazy idea that I just wouldn't get one. My (later proven to be bad) thought process was something along the lines of:

I've spent the past six seven months without legitimate housing, what's one more night? Vegas is the city that never sleeps (or something like that), I'll just stay up and explore, then crash at the airport before my flight.

-A two-week younger Brandon

It sounded like a plan to me (at the time), so I booked the flight.

When my Friday flight rolled around, I went about my morning routine as normal. Gym, shower, get dressed, etc, but then instead of heading into work, I headed back to the truck* to pack my bag. Just like when I went camping, packing (even for two weeks) proved to be a breeze, and I quickly left my truck with nothing more than a small gym bag. I should mention that I'm still dealing with a residual leak that I haven't tracked down yet, so I put a garbage bag underneath the affected area to (hopefully) catch any little dribbles. On returning this past Sunday night, I found a bit of water in the bag, though not nearly as much as I was expecting given the rain we had here while I was gone. This means one of two things: water wasn't making it into the bag, or my various hole-fixing endeavors are paying off. More research is required.

My less-than-elegant answer to El Niño.

Onwards, To Vegas

Whilst in my Uber on the way to the airport, I called my bank and asked them to limit withdrawals from my account to $500 for the next few days. I figured that'd last me the night in Vegas, and prevent a drunker, more ambitious version of me from emptying out my accounts (which did indeed happen).

Hold up, I could have sworn you recently said you were saving for an early retirement? What the hell are you doing going to Vegas?

I know, I know, Vegas is the last place on the planet I should be if I'm super serious about retiring early, and I can feel the intense disapproval of Mustachians everywhere. Even with my limited understanding of statistics, I knew I was never going to see that $500 again (spoiler alert: It's definitely gone), but I wasn't treating this like an investment strategy. I could try to justify it with the unexpected $500 bonus I got a few weeks ago, but that could have just as easily been put to literally anything else. I'm thinking of it more like $500 spent on a once in a lifetime experience**. And I'm very much one for experiences over stuff, so this was an an expense I was willing to foot the bill for.

After a few short hours of people-watching (a favorite pastime of mine) in SFO, I found myself enjoying the modern marvel of human aviation. Once I landed in LAS, I grabbed a shuttle into town and dropped my gym bag off at a random hotel on The Strip, then it was off to the (proverbial, but also kind of literal) races. It didn't take me long to get acquainted; a slot machine devoured my first $20 in approximately 15 seconds. I definitely wasn't in Kansas the relative financial safety of my truck anymore. I figured the best 2:1 odds I'd find were ~47%, playing Roulette. My $500 turned into $1,000, which then turned into a whopping $0 over the course of a few hours, but that's Vegas.

I spent the remainder of my time making conversation with interesting strangers (good), getting far too drunk at several different open-bar clubs (bad), and wandering the (fairly cold) streets of Las Vegas from roughly 3 to 8 AM while waiting until I could go to the airport (very bad). That last one in particular really killed the whole "Vegas experience" for me, partly because cold, hungover, exhausted Brandon isn't a happy Brandon, and partly because Vegas is a sad, sad place at 4 in the morning. Homelessness is rampant in Vegas, and that's never more apparent than in the wee hours of the morning. Most of the people I saw seem to have just lost their way in life, but I felt helpless seeing their pain and suffering, especially juxtaposed with the opulence and extravagance of the world around them. The whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Well that took a turn for the darker. There is a bright side though, in that there are tons of organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness. I've been donating to HandUp recently because I like their approach to solving the problem (in San Francisco) on an individualized basis. Plus, a generous corporate matching initiative more than doubled all donations to that organization last month. As per the article I linked above, Help of Southern Nevada orchestrates homeless outreach programs in the Las Vegas area.

Getting in the Spirit

Aside from the fact that Christmas music starts playing nonstop a day after Halloween, I love the holidays. Reconnecting with old friends, hanging with family, and drinking obscene amounts of eggnog rank pretty highly on my Things That Definitely Have To Happen While I'm Home And It's Winter™ List. That said, I normally make other peoples' lives difficult because I'm notoriously hard to shop for. I always have everything that I could ever need (and then some), plus this year I live in a truck, so I don't have space for more things, even if I did want them. I consider this to be a good thing, and most people were happy to oblige my request of "Please don't get me anything", understanding that I just wouldn't even know where to put a gift.

I say "most" people, because much to my chagrin, my mother's home was filled with presents of all shapes and sizes, more than a few of which were emblazoned with my name. This put me in a somewhat awkward position. On one hand, I didn't want to be a massive Grinch and tell her to return all of her well-meaning gifts. But on the other hand, I make a very conscious effort to not drag around things I don't need, and I was pretty confident I had everything I needed. Luckily, the issue resolved itself because all of my gifts were very well-thought out. In no particular order, I received:

  • Top Gear Premium Roadside Assistance Kit This was pretty much the perfect gift, because it showed me that, as much as I like to think I'm prepared for all reasonable eventualities, I'm actually pretty lacking. Considering I'm someone whose livelihood revolves around the questionable performance of an old box truck, it's mildly shocking that I didn't even own a pair of jumper cables. This was as much a gift as it was a lesson.
  • Tire Repair Kit Right in line with the above, I'd have been pretty screwed in the (not entirely unlikely) event that I got a flat tire.
  • Various warm and soft articles of clothing For those times when the weather is slightly less than ideal.
  • A website and accompanying surprise When asking what I wanted for Christmas, my sister wouldn't take "Nothing" as an answer. I wracked my brain for a little bit, and eventually told her that if she was dead set on getting me a gift, she could make me a website. My reasoning was that taking the time to learn how to program and making a gift is far more meaningful than purchasing something, plus it's a useful skill she'd have for the rest of her life, and it's something for us to bond over, and to top it all off, it doesn't take up my precious, limited truck space. So it sounded like a win-win-win to me. And bless her heart, she totally nailed it. Not only did she make a totally kick-ass website, but she also hid a set of questions in it that, when answered correctly, gave me the combination to a lock box containing a Samsung Gear S2. Clearly I'm not the only one in the family Thinking Inside The Box™®©.

Reflecting

All in all, I had a wonderful vacation, and I'm incredibly grateful to have family and friends who are exceptionally supportive (as evident from the thoughtful, relevant gifts) of all the weird stuff that I do. Less importantly, but still certainly worth noting, this vacation marked the longest period of time I'd spent sleeping in Real People Houses™ since May, which meant I had some time to see/remember how the other half (read: 99.8%) live. You'd think this would be an upgrade, but I found myself missing some of the things I've started to take for granted in truck life. For example, I did a lot of couch-surfing with family and friends, and each bed gave me a different set of weird dreams and a different set of weird pains. Sure, given another day or two, I would have adjusted to the new situations, but, as I noted that time I accidentally moved to a different city, the truck is the same regardless of where on the planet it is, which is a nice feature. As weird as it may be, I did occasionally find myself daydreaming about the cozy homeyness of my rickety, riveted residence. So I'm glad to be back, and glad to be starting off a new year with my trusty rusty steel steed by my side.

*I had parked the truck in a place where it could safely stay for the two weeks I was home.

**Mainly because I have no intentions of ever going back.


Source: DeviantArt

It's been two months since I opened my large mouth a little too widely, and things have calmed down considerably. I've only received one or two interview requests in the past month (which I've dutifully ignored), and website views have tapered off to a fairly consistent 500 truck-enthusiasts a day. I've been spending my weekends hammering away on a new home improvement project, and enjoying bike rides to events in the area.

So it caught me totally off-guard when I, with little warning (like a few hours), found myself in a very formal meeting, where I was told, in no uncertain terms, that my weird truck shenanigans weren't going to fly anymore. The company parking lot isn't zoned for residential use, and it's illegal for me to be sleeping in it. It's also a liability, and certainly not a burden my company has any reason or obligation to take on.

And now I'm left to answer a (very timely) question I received, one that I'd been mentally dodging for a while:

Do you have a backup plan if you have to leave the corporate campus?

What's Next

The answer to the above question should have been "Yes, of course I have a backup plan!", because a backup plan is literally the first thing I should have prepared. It's not like there was any certainty in my parking situation to begin with, it was based on assumptions and optimism. But, as I'm rapidly learning about myself, I'm not quite as good a planner as I'd hoped I was. Sure, my friends would happily take me in (like the stray dog that I am) while I figure it all out, but why should they have to deal with my completely ridiculous truck-related problems? It's similar to how I felt about dumping my trash, it's not my friends' responsibility in the slightest.

So that leaves me here, sitting in a cafe writing this post, iterating through the various (in reality, just two) options available to me.

Sell The Truck

Not happening. I've been far too spoiled by the simplicity, mobility, and regimentation the truck has provided me. I'm not ready to donate part of my life to a soul-killing commute. I'm in the best shape of my life because of my strict, truck-necessitated workout schedule and weekend bike rides. I like that my whole life fits in a parking space. I like the deafening sound of pouring rain on my thin metal rooftop just as much as I like falling asleep to the sound of crickets. I like being able to tear apart the walls and put them back together again on a whim in the name of "Home Improvement". I want to be able to live in random places for a night just because it's convenient. I like always living just outside my comfort zone. And yes, I like being able to fast-track my retirement and earn my complete freedom.

Redefine Home

As you can probably guess from the paragraph above, I'm clearly not ready, willing, or able to sell the truck. Instead, I'm going to step outside my comfort zone, and move my truck beyond the relative safety of the corporate parking lots. This means I'm a little further from the resources and facilities than I'm used to, but I'll figure it out with time and the slightest bit of planning. Like with everything else in my life, routine and consistency are paramount, and once I settle back into a rhythm, I doubt this hiccup will be an issue. As far as the logistics go, I still haven't been able to find vagrancy codes for the city I live in, though there is a Senate bill working its way through the system that would invalidate city laws prohibiting sleeping in cars, which I'm naturally rooting for. In the mean time (and really just forever), my best bet for staying out of trouble is to be unobtrusive and out of the way. I'll have to play it by ear for a while, but I have complete faith that everything will (slowly, but surely) work itself out.*

Brightside

Being evicted isn't exactly the most pleasant feeling on the planet, especially when I've spent the past few months lulling myself into a false sense of comfort and security. But I'd be kidding myself if I believed for a second I wasn't still the luckiest person on Earth. Human beings have endured so much worse over the course of history. Read literally any statistic on this page and it'll become imminently clear that even in this day and age, the worst day I have in my whole life won't be as hard as what billions of people experience every day. For me to sit here and complain and wallow in my own self-pity while a billion children live in poverty would be an incredible display of arrogance, and a complete waste of time and energy. I still have my dream job, I'm still able to live my truck-heavy lifestyle, and I'm surrounded by supportive friends. Hell, my manager even offered me his guest room while I figured everything out, which was above and beyond anything I could have asked for (not that I took him up on it). To ignore all of that and be sad about the drawbacks of my entirely self-imposed lifestyle and short-sighted decision-making would be to discount just how truly fortunate I am.

Looking A Bit Further

Mistakes are always a good thing as long as you learn something from them, and the lesson I'm learning here is to plan ahead, certainly more than I have been. Having some sort of contingency plan is the key to my situation remaining viable, and one plan that I've been looking at is buying property (along with a couple other truck-minded people) and then parking there. This is a much more long term solution, and there aren't any promising properties available at the moment, but it's something I'm seriously looking at.

Speaking of other truck people, I really owe them an apology that my vocabulary doesn't really have the words for. For years, people at similar companies have been doing the exact things I had been doing up until today. The fact that my company is cracking down two months after I paraded myself around is no coincidence. I don't know why it was so hard for me to keep my mouth shut in the first place, I knew what the consequences could have been (and now are). I guess it's hubris, maybe I thought I had something to prove or needed validation that I what I was doing was right. In any case, the fact that my own egotism has potentially uprooted the lives of others isn't something I'm proud of. I don't have a good solution, but if you're one of those people, please let me know and I'll do whatever I can to help.

*I edited this paragraph pretty heavily on December 16, 2015, mainly to save me from myself aforementioned loud mouth.


Source: Questionably relevant image courtesy of Go by Truck

I gave my spiel about such lightweight topics as money, financial planning, and how I plan to live the rest of my ephemeral human life. Naturally people had some questions and thoughts of their own to contribute, and I'm more than happy to bring those into the mix.

Any reason you're using an ETF instead of a mutual fund? I don't see the soundness in the incurring fees on a brokerage account.

So I mentioned I'm using Vanguard for my brokerage account, and (as of now) my investments are in VOO. If you look at this handy chart here and included below for good measure, there are no commissions or fees as long as you're trading Vanguard funds/ETFs.

Vanguard is pretty awesome.

So between that, and the generally higher expense ratios for actively-managed mutual funds, Vanguard ETFs seem like the better option for me right now. But I'm also the first one to admit that I'm still very actively learning about all this stuff, and I appreciate any and all advice people have to offer.

I hope [...] you're not actually going to invest all of you "investment money" in that one ETF.

I probably didn't make this clear enough in my money post, but I won't be blindly dumping all my money into the one ETF. While it is diversified, it is still all my money being susceptible to the fluctuations of a single fund. I don't have enough money in my brokerage account to worry about it yet, but I will start picking out other types of funds to invest in once I'm putting serious cash (>$100k) into it . In the mean time, my 401k and HSA are invested in funds that are at the very least not identical to VOO, and 10% of my 401k (which has 10x more money in it than my brokerage account) is invested in bonds, so I'm not putting all my eggs into one basket by any means. I'll likely never pick out my own stocks, but I'll certainly branch out once I have some time to research what my options are. In the mean time, my current mix provides a nice balance of risk/reward.

Appreciate you sharing the numbers. What percentage are you spending/saving?

This is a tricky one to answer because my spending hasn't been consistent in the slightest. When I was first getting the truck setup, I was really making it rain on my expenses. Between getting truck-work done, and buying beds, dressers, bikes, clothes, and all the other bare necessities, my weekly spending was easily 10x what it is now. Six months into it, I think I have every large object covered. I can't think of anything I could buy that would make my life better in any meaningful way, and more likely than not, it'd just take up my precious and relatively scarce truck space. All that considered, it's much easier for me to hit my target savings rate (~90%) now as compared to six months ago. My biweekly take-home pay is $1,640.89 (as of now), and I have monthly truck insurance of $70, a music streaming membership for $10, a GitHub account for $7, and a DigitalOcean server for $5. That leaves me about $60 a week for random leisure spending, which is more than enough for a nice dinner, some drinks, and hanging out at a quiet cafe and typing up blog posts. It'll be easier to consistently hit the target when my income goes up in the New Year (raises, changes to 401k/HSA, etc).

How much are you spending on fuel?

Not much, especially since I learned I can keep my insurance cheap by driving less than 3,000 miles a year. Sometimes I'll go two weeks or so without driving, and then I'll drive it just to make sure it hasn't died on me/the tires aren't warping. The last time I drove it any significant distance was to help a friend move, and that was about 50 miles round trip. I probably drive, on average, 50 miles a month, so like $15 in gas a month. My bike and a sprinkle of public transportation serve me well for pretty much all the travelling I do in the area.

Back in the good ole college days (like six months ago), I was the proud owner of a 1986 Corvette, which had roughly the same fuel efficiency as my truck, but would probably make a much less comfortable home. Despite costing me a fortune in fuel, insurance, and repairs, I'm glad to have had it: at least I was able to get all most of the crazy, testosterone-loaded joyrides out of my system before entering the real world. It's strange to think I went from one extreme (loud, gas guzzling, male compensation machine) to the other extreme (long quiet scenic leg-powered bike rides) in such a short time. Hell, Last Year Brandon™ would have painted the front fender a fresh coat of cherry red with bicyclists like Present Day Brandon™. I blame the change on California and a life philosophy shaped by six months with The Truck.

The love of my life, Yvette.

In your savings clock, are you including the amount you spend on your various Home Improvement projects?

I'm not, and that may skew the numbers a little bit. That said, even the largest of my past and current Home Improvement projects hasn't cost me more than $100 (plus my time). I ignore smaller things like this in my calculation for simplicity, but also because it balances out other random costs of existing that my situation doesn't necessitate. For example, if I had an apartment, I'd likely be paying for some combination of water, electricity, and Internet, and I'd probably buy some food just so my refrigerator wasn't so lonely. At the end of it all, the savings clock is a very rough approximation, but rent and truck insurance are the dominating terms in the equation, and the rest is just noise.


Source: My arsenal of Home Depot supplies used to wage war against certain truck deficiencies.

It's been long enough.

I took my sweet time getting around to actually doing it, and then almost another month on top of that to start writing this post about it, but we're here now.* And that's what really matters, right?

So anyway, you might remember "The Hole" from that time that birds always insisted on pecking at it, or that other time that I MacGyver'd a drainage solution to avoid waking up in a truck-shaped rainwater swimming pool. Looking back, I had every intention of paying another human being money to fix this particular problem. That all changed once I received an email from Nancy (over at PK Safety), who, like BoscoBob before her, knows way more about fixing my problems than I do.

Nancy was kind enough to give me step-by-step directions on how to apply a sturdy smattering of fiberglass mat/resin to the tragically maligned hole, directions she curated and perfected from her experience fixing/consistently-being-in-close-proximity-to boats. "If this treatment is good enough for boats, which have to withstand waves and constant interaction with salt water," I thought to myself in a conveniently blog post-ready format, "it's sure as hell good enough for protecting my truck from a few gentle raindrops."

The Plan

As you can see from the picture above, this wasn't a small undertaking. Quite the opposite, this was hands down the largest truck improvement project I've attempted thus far. And as a person who's never considered themselves "handy", "useful with tools", "remotely adroit at anything that requires common sense", or "likely to survive attempted usage of industrial chemicals", this was sure to be a demanding (and educational) experience. With Nancy's instructions in hand, I biked off to, you guessed it, Home Depot, a company so integral to my truckly lifestyle that I should probably double down and buy stock in it. On my short list of things to buy:

  • Acetone. As it turns out, acetone is useful for more than just pyromaniac teenagers (guilty) and removing nail polish. It does a solid job of cleaning/preparing surfaces before putting other chemicals on them. It was especially useful for my needs because there were clearly failed attempts by previous owners to fix The Hole, as was evident from the strange rubbery white residue surrounding it, which I'm guessing is Flex Seal.
  • Face masks. Preferably get the type that save you from losing a couple IQ points to the chemical cocktail you're about to whip up.
  • Drop Cloth. Because I've never been particularly capable of coloring inside the lines, and I don't have a burning desire to cover my walls and floor in a nearly-impossible-to-remove epoxy.
  • Great Stuff® - Window & Door Sealant. To completely misuse and make the walls look like they're giving birth to some cross between Alien and the Stay Puft dude. Check out the picture below to see just how I thoroughly I screwed up. Note: It is literally called Great Stuff®, my opinion isn't quite as enthusiastic.
  • Fiberglass resin. To go with the Fiberglass hardener.
  • Fiberglass hardener. To go with the Fiberglass resin.
  • Fiberglass cloth. If the resin and hardener are the marshmallows and chocolate in a bad food analogy, the cloth is the graham crackers that hold the whole sticky metaphoric S'more situation together.
  • Painter's tape. I think the intended purpose is to mark off the area you're working on, but I completely skipped that step.
  • Empty, clean Chobani® Greek yogurt cups. For mixing epoxy. I used the low fat plain-flavored variety, but I've heard that strawberry works well too.
  • Paint brushes. For gooping up and dabbing the epoxy onto the fiberglass cloth.
  • Several types of gloves. Because while super-gluing your fingers together is undoubtedly unpleasant, I imagine epoxying your fingers together is at least two circles of Hell deeper.
  • Water. Stay hydrated out there, kids.

Nancy's list of Hole-fixing ingredients also included things like "sand paper" and "primer" and "rollers", which I dutifully ignored because it looked like their collective purpose was to make everything look prim and proper, which isn't of any particular interest to the dude who lives in a borderline leprotic van still covered in several-year-old graffiti.

Getting It Done

I had everything I needed to do this thing, I just had to put the rubber to the (literal?) road. I woke up early on a beautiful and crisp Saturday morning, drove to a nice remote area, and threw open the back gate, both for ventilation and sunlight.

The view from my work site.

The first step was to survey the area and plan out how I was going to handle it. There was a chunk of fiberglass missing on the right edge, and there were a bunch of cracks that extended about a foot beyond that. I had bought more than enough to do the whole area over, so I put some acetone on a paper towel and cleaned down everything extending a few inches beyond the cracks. The idea is that the acetone removes anything that would prevent a good bond from forming.

Yup, definitely a hole.

One last piece of setup: I tossed the disposable drop cloth out below the soon-to-be affected area, and taped it to the wall with the painter's tape. Before whipping out the rest of my meth lab essentials, I threw on a pair of gloves and one of the face masks.

Casting sideward glances to intimidate and confuse The Hole is also a recommended, but optional, step. *insert a good Bane impression here*

Anything more than very basic instructions leave me befuddled and deterred, so I was grateful that the fiberglass resin and hardener had simple ratios to mix together: a certain number of drops of hardener per cup of resin. The trick is that you only have 10-15 minutes of time to spread the mixture once you mix them, then they harden up and become a sad unusable cement. That's why I had been binging on Chobanis®, I needed multiple cups for multiple small batches. So I poured a small quantity of the molasses-like resin into my plastic measuring cup, and then counted out the corresponding number of hardener drops into one of my re-purposed yogurt cups. After pouring the two components into the same container, I frantically looked around for the stirring sticks I had completely forgotten to purchase. Luckily, the wood chips on the ground just outside the truck made for great improvised stirring sticks. From there, it was just a matter of painting a thin layer of epoxy, ripping a piece of fiberglass cloth off, dabbing it all down with a little more epoxy, and then repeating the whole process again, layer after layer. I put down around 20 pieces of the fiberglass cloth in total over the course of my three batches of epoxy, with each piece roughly half the size of a sheet of paper.

The end result (before drying). It doesn't actually look any better in this picture, but I can assure you that it's all one solid piece now.

To finish up, I threw all the leftover, unsalvageable, half-used ingredients onto the drop cloth, which I then rolled into a little ball and tossed into a giant garbage container belonging to a nearby construction site. I then left the truck-patch to cure (and vent some of the brain-cell-killing chemicals away) for the rest of the day, opting to go on a nice long bike ride and coding from a cafe a few towns over.

Is It Holding Up?

If you go back and look at my first two Home Improvement projects, you'll see that I did a terrifically shoddy job on them and had to immediately turn around and repair them. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be the case this time around. Nancy's instructions worked wonderfully, and the bond still appears sturdy as ever. One pretty big issue is that I didn't totally fix my leaking problem. I still have a pretty consistent drip from the metal area to the top right of where The Hole was, and I have to do a bit more research as to where it's coming from before El Niño turns my truck terrarium into an aquatic abode.

The Great "Great Stuff®" Unprovement Project

The idea behind Great Stuff® is pretty simple. You shake the can, you spray it into the cracks, it expands a bit, and it provides a little extra insulation. I thought this would be a great addition to the area around The (now defunct) Hole, and just the back of the truck in general, which is a bit drafty. But I forgot to take into account how bad my basic motor skills are, and how much the stuff expands, and I kind of just coated seemingly random bits of the truck in it. It legitimately looks like Shrek had a vicious cold and was sneezing huge mucus-y webs of lumpy sadness everywhere.

A collage of my ceaseless stupidity.

The icing on the cake is that the only way to remove the stuff, per the instructions, is "mechanically". Meaning I have to physically rip this stuff free from everything that I've attached it to if I want to redo it properly, which I'd like to do at some point. Like I said before, if nothing else, this project was very, very educational. And while I don't know when any of this information will ever come in handy again, it's certainly helping me towards (wrongly?) believing I can undertake larger and more ambitious projects in the future and maybe have them not fail entirely/spectacularly. I guess we'll see.

*I was really waiting until I had finished adding the functionality to put multiple pictures in a post, which as you can tell, totally exists now.



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