The Week Of Van Renovations And Data Backups

This Week:

  • Finding a suburban coffee shop that does things well.
  • The progress I’ve made on my van renovation project.
  • A story about picking up takeout from a restaurant.

May 2024

Su M T W Th F S

Where In The World Was I?

  • 🇺🇸 Acton, Massachusetts

Metrics From The Week

Got a little sore throat/congestion this week. My sleep quality has been a lot better but the scores are still mainly just a function of time (when I go to bed) which is still all over the place.

I wiped my phone on Tuesday, the numbers were probably about the same.

Business Progress Update

No updates since last week.

Suburban Coffee Shops

I found this great coffee shop in West Acton! It has a homey feel in a great little area and has been really popular with people every time I go.

The other coffee shop in North Acton feels… NOT as homey.

I do miss the hustle and bustle inside of coffee shops from all the ones I’ve been to (around the world!) which is why this West Acton coffee shop stood out. It’s a good example of a third space done well – tons of people chatting, line out the door, some people working on their laptops, parents with their kids going across the street to the playground, walkable area, ice cream shop right next door.

The North Acton coffee shop on the other hand feels like a good example of the opposite – almost completely empty on a Sunday, people just stopping in to pick up and leave, feeling a bit “sterile” and in this big shopping complex just plopped on a big main road (instead of a mini-town center).

Van Renovation Update

Okayyyyy! Made some great progress this week. I was hoping I could get it finished this week but that uh, didn’t turn out as I had hoped. Typical of any project 😅

In last week’s post (The Week I Started Tearing My Van Apart, May 12th, 2024) I had just finished extending the bed/couch platform. The next up was designing and putting in the slats that would sit on top.

We decided to go for 3 pull out sections which lined up exactly with the edges of the box sitting on top of the water tank on the other side. I figured this would also make it easier to pull out (in sections) rather than trying to reach over and pull the whole thing out.

Then built the support structure that the slats sit on.

We started with just two verticals and the horizontal piece but found a tiny bit of flex/bend in the long horizontal double 1×3 so we added some extra support in the middle and diagonals (which I also thought just looked cool 😎).

Then finished the 3 pieces that connect all the slats in sections.

This was a huge step in the build and felt great to get done! At this point I basically have what I had a week ago except my bed is just a foot lower and I have a new optional walkway. The next part is using this new space to mount a desk.

But first I decided while the van was half-torn apart, that I’d beef up the insulation in the back of the van. One of the upgrades I wanted to make the last winter I was in the van was to add more insulation to the back. That back door frame was always frigid cold and could tell there wasn’t really much insulation protecting it.

I bought a 10′ by 5′ package of 3M Thinsulate and added a layer to the side.

Then created this new “Geo-Wire Gravity-Enhanced Insulation Facilitator 3000” device to help me feed the insulation into the frames. It worked better than I was expecting!

And took off the back door plastic covers and beefed up the insulation there too.

But getting that plastic sealed cover back on turned out to take longer than I expected. I probably spent an hour scraping alllll that rubber/silicone adhesive off.

Then picked up some polyurethane adhesive to re-attach it.

Except after 10 minutes, the adhesive didn’t attach to the plastic, so it just kind of slid off… 😬🤦‍♂️

So I spent ANOTHER hour scraping off all the new polyurethane adhesive stuck to the van.

The polyurethane recommendation came from ChatGPT and I didn’t read the label on the product to see that plastic is NOT one of the materials it works on. Woops.

I haven’t gotten around to using a different adhesive (silicone or rubber or something stickier like the previous stuff) and giving it a second go.

I finished the week off adding an extra layer of reflectix as insulation and sort of as a vapor barrier. I had two extra rolls of reflectix that I had been carrying around (that I was gonna use for this exact purpose: insulating the back of the van) so I figured I might as well use it.

And that about leaves us at Sunday.

The next (and big) puzzle piece is trying to find or engineer mounts that allow you to easily attach AND remove this piece of plywood I’m gonna use as a desk top. After that the rest of this project is just finish work and some cleanup!

I’ve spent many a time in the cabinet and mount aisle of Lowe’s trying to figure out how to get this to work and not make it look horrendous.

BUT, my dad suggested an idea that I think will work the best.

Find out next week how it goes 😉


Like last week, this project has been a good balance between achievable and challenge, producing a nice level of purpose.

This is the biggest blocker to me leaving and I’m very fortunate to not have to be doing anything else. So besides morning chats over coffee, backing up data, and meals, most of my time this week has been spent out in the van in the driveway designing, cutting, and screwing things together.

There’s this interesting level of flow I’ve discovered in building. It’s this pendulum swinging between the challenge and problem solving of trying to design and engineer the next piece, to this release of 1-2-3 routine: measure this, cut it here, screw it there, cut another one, screw it there.

Many evenings I’m just completely drained, mostly mentally but somewhat physically too. My mind is completely void of any thoughts and I’m just inching by to get to bed.

That exhaustion paired with the reward of progress is a beautiful feeling.

Data Backups

The other big task has been backing up all the data I took with me backpacking over the last 9mo and consolidating my drives.

The problem was… this drive I had was working all well and good one day then randomly just stopped wanting to mount 😡

So this took me a longggg time trying to debug and repair it, which wasn’t working. I shifted to trying to just get my data off so I could wipe it, which also was easier said than done.

I spun up my old Linux computer, and after much debugging, was able to get the data I needed off – what a relief.

Taking over the living room with computers (sorry Mom 😅😂).


So we ordered takeout from this local Indian place on Thursday night.

I placed the order at 7:09pm and the online order said it’d be ready at 7:40pm so I headed over just before 7:30pm to catch it fresh out of the kitchen.

There were 3 other people waiting in the online pick up area when I got there so I joined them in waiting. The rest of the restaurant was completely empty.

But, the orders were coming out soooo slowly.

And the guy working the front didn’t exactly exude customer service 😅 He said absolutely nothing when someone entered and just kind of paced around the restaurant until there was an order to take to the front.

7:40pm comes around, nothing.

8:00pm rolls around, still nothing. Some other people finally got their orders. Some other people joined in waiting for theirs.

8:15pm rolls around, I’m starting to get a bit hungry.

8:30pm rolls around, still nothing. Some other people got their orders, but not ours.

Eventually this other guy who came in looking like a Doordash driver spoke up and asked where his order was (he had been waiting 45min) because his customer started asking.

His order came out next.

It was down to myself and 2 people.

I finally stood up leaned up against the wall thinking okay the next one must be ours. I asked the guy for the “order for Peter” and he said “oh yeah yeah it’s coming.”

8:40pm rolls around and finally he walks out with a bag… then PAST me to this other customer.

At this point I was hangry, antsy, frustrated, and finally spoke up. I asked him if our order was next and he goes “oh yeah yeah it’s coming, the salmon is still cooking.”

As I turned and walked away I said “… it’s been OVER an hour” and he said something like “yeah yeah all these big orders take an hour, ya know, busy time.”

Oh, nice, thanks, super helpful.

8:50pm rolls around and he again finally walks out with another bag… then PAST me again to this other customer, the only other one waiting there.

So there I am, a full 90 minutes after entering the restaurant to pick up the food, standing there, the last one in the restaurant.

And finally at 8:57pm, 3 minutes before they close, he comes out with our order, hands it over and just says… “here ya go.”

I actually thought about asking for a manager’s phone number or email or something but thought, it’s just not even worth my mental energy…

I’m not usually one to speak up in these situations. Usually someone else getting frustrated that their order is taking too long rubs me the wrong way and makes me uncomfortable. It’s a fine line between realistic expectations and “entitled brat.” And I also haven’t liked the feeling of making someone else uncomfortable.

So I generally try to just maintain a positive mind, be patient, and be grateful when the food DOES come. After all, you never know when people sent in their orders or if a particular dish takes longer to make or what else is going on.

That said, 1 hour and 17 minutes after the estimated pick up time that THEY sent seemed kind of… ridiculous… with no updates from the guy on how much longer or any kind of “sorry for the wait” or “hey thanks for waiting.”

The REAL Takeaway

I saw this moment as a test for me, a test for learning how to set boundaries and get a rep in for assertiveness (or at least not be pushed around completely at someone else’s will).

This exact quality is in my Ideal Self document:

Assertiveness: Practices respectful assertiveness, setting clear boundaries without fear. Speaks the truth.

What this situation did was accurately push me just long enough for me to break and say something. I’m proud of myself for at the very least saying something, for at least expressing some disappointment in the moment, for getting that rep in.

THAT is what matters to me, learning to be able to do that. Was it received by the guy working there? Probably not. Actually… No. Just plain no. 😅

The problem I’ve had with setting boundaries or asserting expectations is (besides uh, the fear of making the other person uncomfortable, and thus have them not like me) is that boundaries are usually loose and fungible.

If in this scenario the restaurant says “we guarantee your food will be ready by 7:40pm or else it’s free” then the boundary is very clear and defined. But, situations like these fall into loose societal expectations. Sure maybe you think your food is taking a long time but maybe the restaurant is short staffed and the chef working back there has been on shift for 12 hours and absolutely exhausted. Asserting a boundary that “this wait time is unacceptable” kind of makes you look like an a**.

Thinking out loud here, it seems like the best communication strategy is to stick to what is indisputable and true.

I don’t know how long it typically takes to make the same order with no other customers in front of me. I don’t know the conditions of the kitchen staff. I don’t know when all the other people sent in their orders who got their food before me.

But, it’s indisputable that my order said “Estimated Pickup Time: 7:40PM,” that the guy working the front did not provide any reassurance or information on how much longer it’d take, and that I received my order at 8:57pm. From there, the question of if those facts unreasonably break an expectation seems to be the judgement call.

So maybe I was in the wrong here by expressing my disappointment or in what I said, but speaking for myself, I’ve tended towards the side of saying nothing and thus let things happen TO me. On the macro I’d rather try being assertive and be wrong 50% of the time than continue to do nothing. Does that mean I’m gonna start speaking up every time my order takes long, no. It’s more of a macro justification for being in the wrong.

Bottom line, maybe skip that restaurant or call in 2 hours ahead of when you want to eat 😅

A GOOD Restaurant Experience

In other news this week, we went out for a special dinner and went to this FANTASTIC Asian fusion restaurant. (the wait was very reasonable 😄)

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Other Food From The Week

Absolutely zero chance I can keep up with this level of food when I get back to cooking in my van 😅

And those are homemade teas in the brown bottles… I’m not slamming beers at every meal 😂

What’s Next?

I can smell the end of the van reno project! Almost there.


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