Here I go...

Join me on my new adventure - Van Living!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Night 1: Red Bluff, California

The trip began on a dark rainy morning and ended in the sunshine. 





Walmart was a good choice for my first night. Safe and quiet, I awoke this morning with several neighboring campers around me. 

Denny’s for coffee and breakfast as I’m not quite set up for cooking until I unload some of my gear at Desert Hot Springs. 



Then back on the road to Hanford, where mom is cooking a turkey. 

I can smell it from here!

Parapatetic


After many years, this morning I began again reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley. 

He truly understood me. 



per·i·pa·tet·ic
ˌperēpəˈtedik/
adjective
  1. 1
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadicitinerant, traveling, wanderingroving, roaming, migrantmigratoryunsettled



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

6 Days until Quartzsite!


Only 6 days until I leave for the California desert 
in my van.

I've been sleeping in my van, 
in my driveway, 
every night, 
and each night has been better than the night before. I'm amazed what a good night's sleep I get!

If you are planning on van-dwelling, 
I strongly suggest you sleep at least a week 
in your own driveway, if possible.  
You learn a lot of things 
that are much easily corrected 
when you have tools at your disposal. 
You learn what works and what does not work.  
You also learn what you DO and DO NOT need.

Here is an update 
on some of the things I've changed 
in the past few days:

1) Reflectix.  I've read several blogs that say reflectix does not help with cold. I disagree. Last night I tried sleeping with only the curtains up, and no reflectix in the window. I got up about 10 minutes later and put in the reflectix. It made a HUGE difference in the amount of cold air flowing down from the windows.

2) Covering the reflectix. The first time, I spray painted vinyl flat black onto some old reflectix window inserts I had made a few years ago for my Mercury Tracer. It flaked off continually and drove me nuts. My friend, however, says hers does not flake and I think it's because the reflectix I used was old and maybe had oils or whatever on it. Or maybe I got hold of an old can of vinyl spray.  

At any rate, I went to Joann's and bought some vinyl fabric in their drapery department. I got vinyl because it does not absorb water. I used no glue. I simply cut the vinyl to fit the reflectix ON ONE SIDE and used black duct tape to tape the edges.  Upon finishing, I wondered if maybe a person couldn't just use black duct tape and forget buying the vinyl?  The only difference is that tiny space between the reflectix and vinyl is dead air space and good insulation.   I didn't bother putting the tape on the backsides except for around the edges. I want to be able to put the silver side OUT during hot weather to reflect the sun 
(hence the name "reflectix.")

Here is what those inserts look like:



3) Curtains.
In addition to the reflectix inserts 
(which live under my mattress during the day), 
I made curtains. 
I bought a set of insulated curtains for $12 
at Goodwill and used my serger to cut them to size. For the two side windows where I sleep, 
I tried various ways of hanging them, 
none of which were comfortable. 
Finally, I went to the hardware store 
and told the guy my problem. 
He suggested I use crown molding hooks.

Crown molding is the molding that people hang around the top of their walls for decoration:


The hooks look like this:


They're also known as steel picture rail hooks.

I bought 3 packages and used 10 hooks 
(5 for each curtain).

When I began I simply sewed rings onto my curtains. 
I wanted to use regular plastic curtain rings 
but I could not find them 
without making a long drive back to Joann's.
So I bought 10 key ring hooks!
They worked great!
I sewed them on.


I began by putting the hooks in the ditch 
between the cloth headliner
and the plastic molded car body.


Then I simply hung the curtains on the hooks 
using the rings.
That worked fine the first night,
but it bugged me 
that the curtains would fall off the hooks
if I touched them wrong.

So last night, I took a pair of pliers
and I bent the hooks CLOSED onto the rings.
I also bent the hooks tighter on the end 
that inserts into the ditch.

Now, I just have to put them in and they stay.
In the morning, I take down the curtains and 
fold them up, rings, hooks, and all.
It's much more convenient.



I use a bungie cord 
across the bottom of the curtains on the bed side,
so the curtains don't touch me while I sleep.


I hung a bungie between the cab 
and the sleeping area,
using the hook in the ditch method again,
and strung a curtain onto it.
I can separate them and tuck them
into the backs of the seats when I'm driving 


Using the same method,
I hung a curtain across the back a few days ago,
but have discovered I do not need it.
Instead, I covered the back window 
with window film,
so nobody can see inside.
With my pillows stacked up at night,
it pretty much covers the back window.
If I DO want complete privacy,
I can still hang those curtains.


My Luci Lamp hangs from the handhold 
toward the back of the van,
where it also gets charged during the daylight hours.


4) Window Film
I took the darker stained glass film out of the passenger slide door window
and replaced it with the clear rainbow film.
It allows more daylight and I love it.


I put that same film in the back window:


I kept the darker stained glass in the window next to my bed:



5) Cab Windows
I bought reflectix and made covers 
for the driver and passenger window.
I bought a windshield sunshade for $10 
at the auto store.
It covers the entire windshield.
With that and the side windows covered, 
I have total privacy.

6) Lighting
I returned the fairy lights that didn't work,
bought a new brand,
and hung them.
I love them!
They give just enough light at night 
that I can undress and see my way around.


7)  Heat
My propane Buddy Heater works GREAT 
in that small space!
I only have to run it about 5 minutes 
to make the entire place toasty!
I ALWAYS crack the front windows 
when I run the heater.

8)  Carbon Monoxide
I bought a Carbon Monoxide detector/alarm
and mounted it near the floor.

9) Toilet
I've used the toilet the past week,
and learned that really,
all I need are double bags in the loo,
with a piece of paper toweling to collect
the liquids.
No need to take cat litter,
puppy pads,
or wood shavings.
I did buy some diaper pail bags
so I could double bag the loo remains
before disposing.
They have tight snap closures,
so should work pretty well.

10) Washing Clothes.
I bought a new washing machine.
I'll report back! 

11) Cooking.
The only thing I have NOT done in my van
is cook.
I do have both a propane and a butane stove,
but I'll save the cooking experimentation 
for when I get settled in the desert.
I've camped all my life, 
so I'm pretty sure I have taken what I need.
If not, Quartzsite is a camper's shopping paradise,
so I'm not too worried.


All in all, I'm very happy with my van!
Today I go pick up the Carfax 
so I have maintenance records,
and I pick up the registration.

Tomorrow, I will go through the kitchen at the back,
and rethink what I do and do not need to take.

I originally planned to use a car top carrier.
However, I got creative, and managed to store 
a folding table for cooking,
a folding table that sits next to my camp chair,
my camp chair,
and two poles for making a shade tarp
inside the van 
with hardly any noticeable loss of space.

I want to take a tent,
and most likely will put it
 in the passenger seat floorboard
while traveling. 
If necessary, I'll put an extra bin of groceries 
on the passenger seat.

And that should do it.

I just can't think of anything else.
Looking forward to being on the road again.
Love,
Annie







Wednesday, November 01, 2017

New Bedding for my Van

My new mattress arrived yesterday. It came all rolled up tight in a box and the instructions said to leave it unfolded flat for 24 hours so it could decompress.

The mattress is a cot mattress. It is a trifold so if I decide van life isn't for me, it will be perfect for company. It is 4 inches thick and this morning looks a lot different than in the photo below.

I used the time to cut the down comforter and duvet down to a manageable size. I cut a row off the side and a row off the end, and now it fits perfectly!

It was easy using my serger, and I thanked my grandmothers again for teaching me to sew!

The mattress before decompressing.
I cut down the comforter AND the duvet to fit.
Once I get the bed made, I'll take another photo.

The van is coming along. Today the milkcrates arrive so I can organize the back end. I'm having a great time projecting, but a difficult time keeping what I take to a minimum.

I originally was going to use a round 5 gallon water bottle and pump. The pump arrived damaged, and in the meantime, I found a 5 gallon water jug that was rectangular in the basement. It will work a lot better!

My window film arrived today and I'll get some of it put up today and take photos.

Stay tuned.
Love,
Annie

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Night #2 In My Van - What I Learned...

What I learned Night #2 sleeping in my van.

1. I revved up my Buddy Heater. That thing gets REALLY hot fast. I probably don't need to run it more than 5 minutes. Those who use it; do I need to leave a window open?

2. Got my curtains temporarily rehung. I need to secure both bottom and top of the curtains because the cold air comes DOWN onto my bed. Going to the hardware store this morning to buy screws and washers and wire to make wire curtain rods on both top and bottom.

3. Kleenex makes a LOT more sense than toilet paper for toileting in the van. Only takes 1 hand instead of two. Tried this out last night and I'm switching to a box of Kleenex.

4. I'm going to try making my coffee the night before and putting it in the thermos so it's ready in the morning. I wake up before light so in order to make the coffee, I need light. I'd rather not have to deal with that at 5 am.


5. It got VERY cold last night; down in the 30's. I used my down sleeping bag until around 3 am, then got cold, so pulled my down comforter over onto me. I learned that the full sized down comforter is awkward and heavy to handle. I'm going to measure about 5 inches over each side of my cot/bed and cut the comforter down to size. It is not only too wide, it's too long. It drove me batty folding up over my face.

6. I had purchased several pillow covers at Goodwill. I use them for storage of my pajamas, sleeping bag, and extra clothes. I am switching my sleeping bag to the more sturdy cover since I'll be taking it in and out every day.

7. My merino wool skullcap was not comfortable for sleeping. I have a "snood" like cap somewhere - it's looser and has space in the top for warm air to gather.
Not comfortable. Too tight and close to my head.
Softer, looser, warmer. Much more comfortable.

8. I do not like sleeping with gloves.

9. My arm kept going to sleep, but that's a common problem even in my big bed. I think the extra couple of inches the new mattress gives will make a difference. I may move the bed a couple of inches away from the side of the van. I'd still have plenty of room by the entrance and wouldn't be sleeping up against the cold side.

That's it. A pretty good night's sleep and again, I learned a lot!
Have a great day, VanDwellers!

Love,
Annie

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What I Learned . . .




Last night I spent a test night in my van.
I put my keys and flashlight where I could find them. I hung my nighttime curtains and was cozy and warm. I thought I had everything figured out.

I didn't.

Here is what I learned last night:

1) Have all your mid-night pee gear together and in place. As usual, at about 3 am, my bladder woke me up. The suggested procedure is to have something like a yogurt or cottage cheese container as a pee pot, then you pour the urine into a laundry bottle and discard it later.

For those not van-camping, sorry to be so graphic, but it's just the fact. So first I was hunting the pee-pot in the cold 3 am air. Then when I finished using it, I couldn't find my laundry bottle. Then couldn't find a place the yogurt container wouldn't tip over so ended up tossing the urine out the door onto my lawn rather than having it spill inside. (Luckily, it's raining!)

2) Learn to use the danged key fob! I've never had a car with a key fob. Opening the door was a comedy of errors. I thought I was locked in forever! No matter how many combinations I tried, that damned door wouldn't open! Then I got my flashlight and realized I'd been holding the fob upside down. Doh!

3) Find a pee pot that is shorter and won't tip over!

4) Move toilet. Put the toilet to the BACK of the van, so I do not have to trip over it in the morning to turn on the heat.

5) Better viewing. Make a tiny place on all 3 sides of the back of the van where I can peek out if I hear a suspicious noise. Maybe I don't need that, but for now, it would make me feel better.

6) Buy a small trashcan or trash bag for the van.

7) Organize sleepwear. Thought I slept warm enough, it's COLD in the mornings! Have a packet (one of those zippered pillows) with nighttime gear in it. Pajamas, hat, gloves, socks.

8) Hook up the Buddy Heater the night before. The heater was right in front of me but the propane was in the back of the van where I couldn't get to it.



9) Check fuses. Figure out how to get the heat on in the BACK of the van. When I turned on the van heater, there was heat coming out of the front vents, but not into the back.

10) Shorter curtains are better. Cut the curtains between the cab/back shorter. I thought it was a good idea to leave them long so I could fold them under (to keep cold air from the cab out of the back of the van.) It's not. I need to be able to easily flip them into the cab in the morning so I can get to my back-of-passenger-seat storage.

11) Buy a better mattress. My old foam mattress that I thought would work... won't. I woke up with my back hurting. Since I'll be sleeping on it every night, I will invest in a good mattress to go on top of the foam. I am looking at this mattress from Amazon, because it is the right size, it has a removable cover I can wash, has sheets that fit it, and it has great reviews:




So that's what I learned.

Advice and suggestions will be appreciated! It was fun, and for the most part, comfortable. I felt snug as a bug in a rug, perfectly safe, and happy. Just a few minor adjustments, I think, and this will be a great adventure!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sophia has Eyelashes

Well, I decided to name my van Sophia, after the Goddess of Wisdom. I'm hoping to gain more Wisdom while on the road.

I picked up a brand new pair of sun blocking curtains (eyelashes) today at Goodwill for only $12.  I didn't LOVE the curtains, but I didn't hate them either. I cut the curtains off and made privacy curtains between the cab and where I will sleep. These also are insulated, so hopefully will help keep out the cold air. I cut them about 4 inches too long so I could fold them under at the bottom. This way there shouldn't be any breeze at all coming in from the colder cab.

They're a bit shiny and I didn't bother ironing them because the heat/cold/moisture will smooth out the wrinkles in a day or two.

I had enough left over from the 84" curtains to do curtains for the back hatch window as well.

People have asked how I hung the curtains. 
I managed to do it without any tools or drilling.
See that space between the door jamb and the roof of the car?
Well, I strung my curtains on a bungie cord that was about 4 inches shorter than the distance across the cab (4 feet).  You don't want the bungie TOO short and tight or it will pull the plastic away from the metal.


See that space between the plastic and the headliner?
I slid the hook of the bungie right into that space,
then twisted it downwards until it caught.





Hooked!



Hanging just fine!

I also picked up these two pillow covers that zip closed. They were new and still in the package. I'm going to fill them with my jacket, gloves, hat, and other clothes I won't need every day.  Instant storage!




I also had an idea to use this colorful "stained glass" film on my side windows. It has been on my bedroom windows and I'll need to remove it before I go, so maybe I'll recycle it for the van.  I love the way it looks!  It lets light in but nobody standing outside can see in, even if they put their nose to the glass. I'll have to piece it together, but I think it will look sweet!
I stuck on a piece to experiment.  That's my neighbor's van in the background. He's a college student. He and his girlfriend are outfitting their new van at the same time. It's been fun watching it come along.



So that's all for today. I did put the Luggable Loo lid on my bucket and guess what fit perfectly on top?  My meditation pillow. So I'll sew a skirt for the Loo bucket, plop the meditation pillow on top, and voila!  A guest chair!

Sophia is getting more and more like a home every day!
I'm so excited!

Tomorrow I have to figure out the other window coverings. I ordered Reflectix but it didn't arrive yet. I also ordered wire bins for the back, but they weren't what I wanted, so they're being returned.  I'm on the lookout for colorful milk crates, but haven't been able to find them in Portland yet. 

Having so much fun!
Love,
Annie

She Has a Nice Rack!

Ok.. sorry to be politically incorrect, but I couldn't help myself.

I went to Goodwill last night, looking for a set of curtains to block the view from the cab to the back of the van, and look what I found!  This VERY cool, VERY lightweight rack with 6 sliding drawers.  The drawers slide in both directions, which make it an excellent storage space for food. If I'm cooking off the tailgate, it's perfect.  If I'm cooking inside, it's perfect.

Also, there is a space of probably 7 inches next to it where I can store a thin water container or some other needful thing.



My van is coming along. Joe helped me put in a plywood floor yesterday and I found this rug in my camping gear.

Here's a peek at where what I've been doing:


Today I'm looking for another curtain and a bedskirt to hide the storage bins under the bed. I'm also going to start on the reflectix window inserts.

She's coming along! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Isn't She Lovely?





Picked up my new (for me) van today!
She needs a name,
but so far,
I haven't come up with one.

Got all the seats out and Joe started building my bed.

Wow!  Lots of room in there!

I saw this meme (below) and felt 'it was me."

Can't wait to hit the road in November!




Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wandering Again . . .


I've never been one to sit around and wait
for my dreams to manifest.
I've followed my heart and my dreams
and my life has been very rich
because of the decision to do so.

I think the desire to wander,
to be a gypsy,
must be genetic.
I ran away to Puerto Rico when I was 17,
and have been traveling alone ever since.
I've wandered all over the Caribbean,
the Western USA, 
and Western Europe.

I made a new decision on my 65th birthday;
it's time to see America!

My dream is to buy a van
and to live out of it for a couple of years
while I travel across the USA and perhaps down
into Mexico and South America.

I hope you'll follow me on my journey.
Give advice if you have it.
Glean information if you need it.

I believe this will be my last year to take a group
on the Camino Santiago.
My current groups are nearly full.
I have one space left and hope to fill it soon.

I have put a bed in my car
and will leave for the Rubber Tramp Roundup
in Quartzite, Arizona around November 21.
I'll stay there until April/May, at which time I'll fly to Spain
to lead my last group on the Camino Santiago.
I will return from Spain in June,
at which time I will buy a van
and fix it up for my new adventure.

Change is in the air...
It's time to do something new...
So...
Hang on to your hat and
Let's go!

Love,
Annie