Van renovation – before

The Van Renovation

Spoiler alert: Oh, these first pictures are gonna gross you out!

The previous owners of the van were a couple of artistic young people who traveled extensively and had a great time – I know this because the van interior was worn… and stinky!!  Tobacco (and other un-named) smoking products made the carpet and fabrics REEK!  Black SHARPIE drawings and quotes were a delightful… cough, cough … break from the boring tan fabric of the ceilings and walls and seats and sun visors…

I could appreciate the lyrics to “I’ve been everywhere”, and the heart-tugging suggestion of “May the four winds blow you safely home” was nice, but I wasn’t a big fan of some other suggestions left in full color.  Someone’s mommy had taken another black Sharpie and covered some phrases and pictorials before it was sold to me.  Good thing, this was not what I wanted my young granddaughter to start reading! All in all, I decided boring tan with black Sharpie was not my creative style.

First job, ripping out the stinky carpet. After just pulling up the middle third, the van smelled soooo much nicer!  It was great when the urine areas were out, and I had a clean dry floor underneath.  I could actually breathe deeply again.  Disgusting work, but it was over quickly. (Will cover with a Pergo-type floor when I get to that step!  Fortunately my son has some left-over from when he refloored the master bedroom of his home – YAY!  Love that price!)

Then I started with the ceiling fabric and foam.  The ceiling was connected to boards all around the sides and windows, and each one had to be unscrewed, the fabric ripped off, and the piece re-screwed back in place before going to the next one.  I was tempted to just leave it all in pieces, but remembered past experiences with “Sure, I’ll remember how this goes back together – after all, I took it apart!”  Sure, and I will remember for about 2.5 minutes and then it’s all guesswork with random screws and boards left over! By this point, I had scratches and bruises all over my hands, my back and arms were aching, I was popping Aleve, and I had created “Ode to my Ratcheting Screwdriver” – will post that later.

Once I figured out how the window shades were configured, I took them all apart and let them soak for a few hours in a bathtub while I babysat my grandchildren for the afternoon. (NOTE TO ALL GRANDPARENTS:  Enjoy a grandchildren play date and let parental units have an adult-only date!  Best gift of the week!) The first bathtub drain after ten minutes of soaking left a dark ring that took half an hour to clean off the tub.  It was a few soak/rinse/soaks before the water stayed clear!  When the shades were thoroughly rinsed and I could see the lovely pattern of the fabric, I hung them back up on their window mounts to finish drying for a few hot days in a row.

I found some wonderful marine upholstery fabric on sale in my favorite color (aqua) to recover the ceiling and sides.  Will probably just purchase seat covers when nearing the end of the renovation.  After two months of work, the renovation is almost complete.

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I have a feeling you’re going to do your ancestors proud. You know, that’s how the Chinese see it — your accomplishments bring glory not to your descendants, but to your ancestors, in recognition of the fact that it was their sacrifices that put you in a position to do what you do…”

–The Rowan Tree by Robert W. Fuller, 2013


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Boondocking at “home”

This old van is my new home.

Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van - ready for renovation
Driver’s side of the “new” old 1997 Ford van
Passenger side, 1997 Ford conversion van. Starting to renovate!
Passenger side, 1997 Ford conversion van. Starting to renovate!

I bought it used for under $1000, and have spent about $500 so far in renovations.  I am currently living in my van while parked at my son’s home.  This last month on my Honda Civic lease means I drive to work and back in the car, but sleep and live in the van.  Within the next month, I will also be driving the van to and from work, so then will officially be living “FULL TIME RV”.

I left my apartment when the lease was up in March.  We had more winter in March and April this year than from November to February (of course…Murphy’s law…if you’re gonna be without heat, the weather will turn frigid!)  My daughter-in-law who loves me insisted I come inside to sleep when it hit freezing temps and below.  But I sleep well in the cold so I only did that for a couple of weeks – would rather sleep in the van!

So, no running water, no heat or air conditioning, no toilet or shower… but I still needed to show up at work every day and I was proving a point to myself that no one would guess I was living out of a van.

I wanted to do a trial run to see how it feels to “full time RV” in a  vehicle so I purposely did not use the family’s bathroom, etc.  I tried to keep as close to the real experience as possible. I wanted to see how it worked to just “go with the flow” and be flexible. One benefit to this 6-month trial run is that by September I will have saved over $8000!  Not too shabby…

Actually, for the first two months I was living out of my Honda Civic.  How did that work?  That first night I locked my car doors and curled up on the back seat, I looked out the rear window and felt GREAT! I have always loved camping and this was pretty close to that feeling.  No campfire, but I cracked open the windows a bit and smelled/felt that nighttime breeze.  I was looking at the moon and stars through the trees, and I was SMILING! When I woke up early in the morning, the air was fresh and cool, and I knew this was what I wanted to do every day, absolutely!

Honda Civic boondocking in front of my son's house in Albany, NY
Honda Civic boondocking in front of my son’s house in Albany, NY

A Honda Civic is not a large car, and those two months before I bought the used van was a great reinforcement to all my down-sizing and packing skills.  The back seat did not allow for a complete stretch-out on the bench sleep and at first I tossed and turned every few hours to get comfortable. Fortunately I am only 5’4″ tall, and adjusted okay.  Not great sleeping curled up, but survivable.  Here are some tips and tricks:

I had done a great job of downsizing and put warm weather clothes and kitchen supplies in my daughter’s storage unit until I would be ready to move into a van. (When I did move into the full size van, I felt like it was sooooo spacious!!!  LOL)

Clothing was selected for its non-iron practicality, and packed lightly into those 12″ cloth storage cubes ($6.00 each) – one for underwear, one for socks, one for pants, etc.  These 12″ cubes were lined up in my car trunk for easy access.  In the corners of the trunk were a few pairs of shoes, sneakers, flip flops.

Living out of a Honda Civic - cloth cubes of clothes in the trunk. Easy access. Laundry basket in the back.
Living out of a Honda Civic – cloth cubes of clothes in the trunk. Easy access. Laundry basket in the back.

Personal items were stored in my gym bag, which went on the back seat floor.  I purchased a black card membership at Planet Fitness for $20/month, which allowed me to not only work-out but SHOWER every day.

Back seat has black bedroll on the seat and gym bag on the floorboard. Front seats are moved as far front as possible and tilted into dashboard for maximum space in the back.
Back seat has black bedroll on the seat and gym bag on the floorboard. Front seats are moved as far front as possible and tilted into dashboard for maximum space in the back.

My car interior is black, and I folded my black comforter with my sheets inside, and they blended into the back seat.  Ditto for a black pillowcase on my favorite pillow.  It would require quite a close look to see that there was a “bed” in the back seat while parked at work.

Front seat passenger side held my current library books, a bag of snacks, bottle of water, and my tote-sized purse.  Most of my life I have carried a small purse but for this transition, I used a large-sized purse that could carry my wallet, notebook, smartphone, Kindle, tissues, eye glass wipes, personal feminine hygiene wipes, clear nail polish and file, etc.  Since this purse always went into work with me, there wasn’t much left in the parked car to give away my “homeless” status.

Front passenger seat has tote purse, snack bag, library books and napping pillow. All set!
Front passenger seat has tote purse, snack bag, library books and napping pillow. All set!

Sleeping in a smallish car was not too bad – I knew it wouldn’t be long as I was already searching for a used van to renovate.  I found that by pushing the front seats up as far as possible and tilting them forward into the dashboard, the back seat felt more spacious when sleeping. I could stretch my legs out occasionally if I put my feet up or in the middle console area.  I slept quite well, using my smartphone alarm in case I didn’t wake up naturally at the usual time.

Waking up by 5 a.m., I would drive to Planet Fitness or a local convenience shop to empty my bladder.  I do have a “stealth” system if I couldn’t make it (yeah, five pregnancies will do that to your ability to hold urine!)  A simple $2 funnel from the autoparts store works fantastic, as most backpacking girls know.  Not too interested in “dropping trou” in my son’s front yard, so I pull up next to some trees around the corner and stand there like a man — haha!  We call it the She-nis”…

Small automotive funnel – use your imagination!

Back to the daily experience…work-out at Planet Fitness, then shower and change into my work clothes.  Small laundry basket in the trunk to hold dirty laundry (bag of detergent pods and dryer sheets at the bottom of the laundry basket – ready to go.) When I left the apartment, I did pack all clothes that did not need ironing – jersey / knit tops, casual slacks that could pass for “business casual”.  I put together eight outfits that I could switch and mix.

I usually bought a breakfast roll or have a granola /cereal bar on my way to work.  Lunch was my usual frozen Lean Cuisine meals I keep in the office freezer – a week’s worth at a time.  Supper was either with family / friends, or just a prepackaged salad from Walmart or a grocery store, with an occasional fast food or diner meal.  I knew this was a limited time of no cooler/camp-stove so was prepared to spend a bit more for eating convenience.  Still managed to lose 4 pounds and save $2000 during that two months – yay!

Charged my smartphone, Kindle and laptop in my office at work every day.  Weekends I would either stop at the library to recharge or family / friend home.  I had purchased a Verizon Jet-pack so that I was self-sufficient with my own wi-fi.  For $10 a month, this keeps me free from public wi-fi hackers.  YAY for Verizon!

Before heading back to boondock for the night, I would stop again to empty the bladder and wash up.  For those who know upstate New York, I have always loved Stewart’s convenience shops – now they are my best friends since I stop at one or more every day.  Fortunately, there are five or more within a two mile distance of home!  Clean individual bathrooms with hot water and toilet paper/paper towels – always appreciated!  YAY for Stewart’s Shops!

It was a red letter day when I found and bought the used Ford conversion van and brought it to my son’s driveway.  He had already agreed to let me park it behind his (Railroad) work truck, back between the fence and the side of the house.  I moved my “stuff” into the van, and my car again became just a car to drive around town.

Now I am busy renovating the van, but that’s for another post.

Moral of the story, you can survive with very little if you know it’s for a limited time.  I was able to do all this, in part, because I am single.  My adult kids are all grown and have their own homes and families. I have no life partner at this point, which meant my decisions and sacrifices were my own choice.  Ask for help, be willing to make concessions, and be flexible.

If you want it bad enough, you will find a way!

Scout — out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it…Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, 1962


Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

Hello, friend!

Today is a new step on the next leg of this journey called LIFE.

Revolutionary changes are underway as I experience freedom:

          Freedom FROM the 9-5 office, the monthly rent/mortgage drain, the same old, same old —

          Freedom TO travel this beautiful nation, set my own schedule, experience any and all open doors —

Home is no longer a “sticks and bricks” home or apartment… but is now an old, dented 1997 Ford conversion van! The renovation is taking place, and slowly but surely the  new “home on wheels” is coming together.

Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van - ready for renovation
Driver side, 1997 Ford conversion van – ready for renovation

While continuing to work at my regular job (database analyst for a major trauma center/medical college in upstate New York), I am boondocking on my son’s property.

                           Boondocking: the art of living off the grid                                   without electric/water/sewer hookups

By the end of July, the van should be ready for travel, and my first week-long “shakedown” trip will be to Assateague Island, MD, for the annual ROUND-UP OF WILD PONIES!

In September 2016 I will experience the joy – and fear – of becoming technically “unemployed and homeless” as I walk away from a terrific job with wonderful people, and start working remotely from anywhere and everywhere U.S. in my little van.        ????????WHYYYYYYYY????????

Freedom.  Life is too short to not step out to follow your dreams. I love to travel, and so far have camped or at least visited all 48 contiguous states but always on a short timeline.  There is so much more out there to see and experience!  So many family/friends to visit, and more new friends to get to know!

With four adult kids in New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and South Korea, and seven grand-kids at two of those locations, I want to spend REAL TIME with those I love for more than a few days here and there.  I want to make memories as we enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and moments of joy and laughter in between. And when I am ready to go, there is nothing tying me down to a location or a schedule.

Scout - holding some grandbabies
Scout – holding some grandbabies

Does this sound selfish? I ask myself that question.  Yes, and No.  After raising my family, going back to school for a Master’s degree, volunteering, and working full time (often more than one job at a time) for years, I think it is time for me to step out.  Selfish is not a dirty word – it is recognizing what you want/need and making choices.  Following a dream is not selfish, it is fulfilling.

                           WANDERLUST:  A strong desire for or impulse to wander             or travel and explore the world

I have moved approximately every two – three years or so throughout my adult life.  I have lived in several different geographic regions of the United States, and loved them all. I’ve lived in New York City and Chicago, and small towns of less than 1,000 population, in America’s heartland and on a coastal island; in the north and southwest and Great Plains, in suburbs, urban and rural areas.  To me, HOME is what you carry in your heart, not a location.  Everywhere, I make connections and enjoy life. There is good and bad everywhere, and there are great people and not-so-great people everywhere.

In every location, I have to admit, I first find the library.  Books are universal friends, and I read about a book a day (speed reader).  I have my Kindle, and am on several “email for free books list” so I rarely pay for a book.  I love the hard copy books from the library, too, but know that once I am on the road full time I won’t have the residence address to take out books – but hey! I can still sit in any library anywhere and read!  Plus, most libraries have free Wi-Fi and electric plug-ins to charge my phone, Kindle, and laptop.  Definitely will be visiting libraries all over the country – they make me feel safe and happy no matter where I am!

Sitting at a counter at a diner or restaurant can often lead to good conversations when I want to socialize.  Walking the campground I am visiting will often provide a new “friend” to visit.  Opportunities abound to connect – I just have to smile, open my mouth, and care about another person…hey! there’s another friend!  I am, however, an introvert and can go daaaaays without face-to-face conversation with another person.  Facebook and texting keep me connected with family/friends until I see them again.

So, here I sit (at a library, haha) as I prepare to live full time on the road.  Just 5 weeks until the first shakedown trip and then 5 weeks after that, goodbye, farewell, auf weidersein…do I hear Julie Andrews singing?!?

 Hopefully this first post helps you get to know me a bit, and where I am in life.  If you’d like to comment, please feel free to do so.  I will respond, and look forward to meeting you.  By the way, any comment which shows disrespect for anyone will be deleted.  Thanks!

SCOUT – out!

What book are you reading now?

From the bookshelf…

“I told her that, in my opinion, you can sympathize, but that true compassion was not possible unless you had been in that space.  Unless you had had the actual experience of having a loved one, a child, with cancer….All that mental spin, and all those concepts…her idea of what compassion was–it was so trite and childlike.”

–There is a reaper: Losing a Child to Cancer by Michael Lynes, 2015


Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link. If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click.  Thank you!