saying goodbye.

I finally said goodbye to The Beast on Saturday.

In true form and fashion, my last morning with her was a doozy. Included in the last repairs I opted to do before Jade and Leah took possession of her was replacing the transmission pan gasket that had been leaking for quite some time. My neighbor (who also happens to be my landlord’s dad) is a skilled handyman in every sense of the word, and did all the work for me. (I know…I’m spoiled!) The only hiccup is that the van was sitting on a sloped driveway, so filling the transmission fluid up to the correct spot required waiting until I pulled her up onto the road the day J&L came to get her. What could possibly be difficult about that, you ask? Well, leave it to me to choose the wrong spot to fill with transmission fluid. First, it was the power steering fluid. Luckily, it was already full and overflowed immediately, alerting me to the mistake I’d made. Not wanting to chose any more wrong orifices to fill, I called the neighbor to come supervise.

In a blinding moment of equal stupidity, we uncapped the oil tube and poured the transmission fluid (all gallon and a half!) into the oil. It took only a second for the realization to sink in, but we had a chuckle and I texted the girls to tell them of the delay before we flushed the whole system and filled both the oil and transmission tanks with brand new fluids.

My last morning with The Beast wouldn’t have been complete without some mild disaster occurring, so I couldn’t really be upset. Besides…it gave me a few extra minutes with The Beast before her new parents came to get her.

Jade&LeahBeast

Jade&LeahDriving

DrivingAway

Seeing them drive off with her was bittersweet. I was relieved to know that I no longer had to worry about keeping up with the project, but after living in her for a year, I had gotten pretty attached. Knowing I’d gotten to choose the most perfect new owners for her gave me some relief. Had I seen her drive off with anyone else, I might have been led to sob in the fetal position on my bed all day.

It was time to let go. I’ll never forget or regret my time with The Beast. I learned so much about myself and living a minimalistic lifestyle and I couldn’t be more thankful for the perspective it granted me. I’m so excited to see where it takes Jade and Leah on their new adventure.

Jade and Leah said they’ll be starting a blog to document their life with The Beast as well, so whenever they make that happen, I’ll pass the info onto you folks so you can continue to follow the adventures!

Until then, if you’d still like to have some sort of peek into my life, I have a separate photo blog you can follow:

http://chelsearoberson.wordpress.com/

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a busted battery and a new parking spot.

Did you know that batteries can blow up? I think I maybe did, but the possibility hadn’t ever really crossed my mind.

Knowing I’d be moving The Beast this week, I went to crank her up and she wouldn’t start. After my experience months ago with letting the battery die and then having a starter that sticks, I’ve been running her about once a week to keep her going and haven’t had a problem…until now.

I popped the hood and pulled my car over to jump start the engine. After I’d hooked it up and got it charging, I glanced over to the deep cycle battery (the one that powers the lights on the inside) and noticed something was off. Upon closer inspection, I realized it had blown up. Pieces of the plastic were strewn about and acid had leaked down around it, corroding anything it had touched.

I just stood there with my mouth gaping open for a while before pulling the connections off and getting the battery out. I never did get the engine to crank, but hooked it up to a trickle charger overnight and kept my fingers crossed. Lucky for me, she started on the first try the next day and I hurriedly got the plumbing system put back together (I’ll definitely have to redo that rush job later) and readied her to move the next day.

I was able to drive The Beast to her new parking spot yesterday and was delighted at how well she handled. I’ve got an issue with the transmission fluid leaking, but it’s a simple fix with a new seal, so I’m not worried. I was going to park it on the property behind where my apartment will be, but due to some unforeseen hazards (gopher holes!), they opted to stick me in the driveway (fine by me…there’s a far less chance I’ll be coated in spiderwebs during my walk from the van to the house now).

(Loulou the road warrior, checking out the scenery on our way to the new parking spot.)

I thought I’d only be spending a few more nights in the van and then transfer into the apartment, but they decided that they’d like to do some pretty major renovations to the studio before it’s ready for human habitation.

This means a few things for me:

  1. I get to live in The Beast longer! (Still not sure what the timeline is on this, but I’m guessing maybe another month or more depending on what they decide to do with the studio.)
  2. I get more time to fix the remaining things I wanted to finish and actually do right before putting The Beast on the market.
  3. I’m going to get to help out in the renovations and learn some cool construction stuff…which is always useful.
  4. I get to live in The Beast longer!

As nice as it will eventually be to live in an apartment and have the creature comforts that come with it, I really am attached to living in a van and had the goal of making it at least a year. As I said, I’m not sure what the exact timeline with the studio being done is, but at this rate, I’m getting very close to that 365 day mark.

Since I’ve been allotted more time in The Beast, I’ll be keeping you posted on the projects I’m going to continue working on and might even do some before/after shots of the studio as well.

*Side Note* If anyone might know of a place I can freely and safely dispose of my busted deep cycle battery, please let me know. I’ve tried three auto shops and none will take it because it’s considered hazardous waste. The closest solution I’ve gotten is taking it to a landfill where I will have to pay upwards of $100 to dispose of it properly. I want to be environmentally friendly, but I can’t afford to pay almost as much as it will cost to replace the battery just to dispose of it.

back to the grid.

Well friends, I’m sad to announce that my time in The Beast is coming to a close. There are a lot of reasons, but the big ones are that I decided to commit to my new job (meaning staying in San Diego a lot longer than I ever intended), and the backyard I am living in is no longer being made available to me. I also had never intended to just live on the streets in the van and stay in one place…it was always about the traveling aspect. After spending almost a year living in it and never having even trekked up the coast, I can see that it’s time to move on for the moment.

The Beast was the perfect van for full-time van dwelling, and I’ll miss it dearly, but I’ve also decided I am going to put it up for sale. My new job is commission-based and I don’t have a lot of wiggle room right now to store the van (and keep it up and running and probably continue work on it) on top of paying rent. There’s a few more things I need to finish tweeking on it before I hand her over to someone else, but she looks and runs better than ever, and I have high hopes that someone else will love her just as much as I do.

I’ll be moving into a tiny little studio apartment beneath some friends’ house, in which I’m already daunted by the task of filling it up. When all the furniture you own is bolted inside a van, you realize how very little you have to work with as far as filling an apartment goes. I’m thankful for it’s small size and hope to just find a bed and a big comfy chair or love-seat online, but I want to draw the line there. For someone that’s gone down the minimalist path, the idea of having to procure more belongings after having successfully purged most of them is intimidating to say the least.

If any of you knows someone in the Southern California region that might be on the lookout for a van worthy of dwelling in, please feel free to point them in my direction. Until then, I’ll be savoring my last moments in her belly and brainstorming my next big adventure. (I’m thinking I’ll eventually want to do a van conversion from scratch!)

at a standstill.

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted in a while. There’s good reason for that…not a lot has been going on with the van as of late. As some of you know, I have multiple jobs. While this keeps things interesting, it also means I sometimes (fairly often) have to work a lot and hop between all of them to keep myself afloat financially.

One of my jobs recently led into a new job opportunity at a yacht brokerage to be a yacht salesperson. Pretty cool, right? Never the one to turn down new and fun opportunities, I accepted immediately and have spent the last month or so transitioning into my new position. The only major downside at the moment is that because it’s a sales job and commission based, I’ve also not been making money at it while I train and learn the ropes.

I know that down the line this will all have been well worth my time and effort, but at the moment, it means that every extra cent I have goes towards gas and basic living needs and not the van. It’s a real shame too, because I’ve just ripped out the water tank to redo the water system and *hopefully* build a hand-pump system in which I manually pump the water from my main tank to a smaller holding tank above the sink and use it as a gravity tank. Sounds fancy, but it should be pretty simple. I hope.

In other news related to my job, I’ve decided (with painstaking deliberation) to stay in San Diego for at least the summer. In short, it’s because this is the first job I’ve ever gotten with real potential for growth. It’s also a job that one doesn’t just “fall” into as I seem to have. Usually, it’s older men with a lot of boating industry experience under their belt. To pass up the opportunity to learn this job and industry and have something far more substantial to put on my resume as well as a possible fall-back job at some point down the line would be pretty irresponsible of me. As much as I’d like to remain a vagabonding free spirit forever, I know well enough that the older I get the harder it will be to come by odd jobs that make ends meet.

Everything is up in the air concerning where my location will be this summer, but once I get that worked out and start selling some boats, work on the van will undoubtedly resume.

Until then, I’m so sorry for the brief hiatus. I’ll do my best to get the water system project going and post photos of that soon.

she’s alive!

After a few days of tinkering that didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere, paired with advice both solicited and unsolicited from all sorts of sources, I finally got The Beast started today.

I took the old battery back to the mechanic who installed it to have them check it out and try to charge it. After testing it, they declared it faulty and, since it was still under warranty, they happily gave me a brand new one to take home. I stuck the new battery in place and gave the ignition a crank, only to hear a sad little click and then nothing.

At the recommendation of about four different people (including Charles who commented on my previous post…thanks!), I crawled below the van and smacked the starter with a hammer a few times. Hopeful, but still not convinced, I went back up and gave the keys a turn. This time she turned over! (And over and over and over…) I considered this good news though, as this was definitely progress!

After a few good pumps of the gas, switching the gears between drive and park, and quite a few more pumps of gas, she begrudgingly rumbled to life. I let the engine idle for about ten minutes, switched it off and then tried again. This time, there was no hesitation and she started immediately.

I could not be more relieved. It could’ve been something far more complicated and costly, but lucky for me, it was simple. I hereby solemnly swear, that I, Chelsea, won’t let the van sit for more than a week without running it from this point on.

I’ve got a few more things under the hood that need tinkering with, but after that I plan to take The Beast for a few small drives to start getting her ready for my long haul up the coast in the spring.

the cost of neglect.

The Beast won’t start.

Admittedly, it’s my own fault for letting it sit as long as I did. After about a month of neglecting to simply turn the keys in the ignition, I entered into this state of equal parts fear and denial that kept me from even attempting to start it. It’s completely irrational, but it’s true. I was afraid it wouldn’t start, so as a result, I didn’t try.

I’m not going to dive into analyzing my actions, or lack thereof, I’m just going to admit it was a very stupid mistake that I don’t intend to make again. That is, if I ever get her started.

Lucky for me, I have some resources here that I’ll be tapping to help me diagnose and fix the problem. For anyone feeling the urge to comment and tell me what a fool I am or offer up that it’s probably a dead battery (it was, but that’s only part of it), I know…I know, I know, I know. I’m not going to try and defend my stupidity or make up excuses, but I’m also not going to try to hide it. Hopefully I can learn from my mistake and move on.

an update.

I’ve been meaning to update my blog for a while, but upon some urging by a few folks, I’m finally getting around to it. I’ll try to be better about keeping up with it even when nothing too exciting is going on at the moment.

Things have been going well in the van, despite working so much lately that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to make much progress on all the projects looming. I can’t complain though, because this time last year, both my jobs experienced a huge slump and I was strapped for cash in the worst way. It’s been a wonderful blessing to find myself overwhelmed by the amount of work I’m getting instead of the other way around.

We recently went through a really cold spell here in San Diego, with nighttime temperatures dropping well below freezing for about five consecutive nights. This prompted me to purchase a sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees F. It was the best purchase I’ve made in a while. Not only has it kept me warm at night, but Loulou absolutely adores it and I find her curled up inside it during the day when it’s a bit chillier as well.

I took a six day trip up to Canada in November and came home to a solid corner of my mattress soaked through after we got some crazy rainstorms while I was gone. After inspecting the windows around the van, I realized the sealant on all of them was well beyond its expiration and knew I’d need to redo that before the next storms rolled in. Lucky for me, I had one day off before they started again, so I went about resealing them in preparation. Due to the lack of daylight and dawdling just a bit too much, I rushed through the job and will probably want to go back at some point and redo it so it’s cleaner, but they’re definitely sealed now and the past two days of rain haven’t touched the inside of the van.

I think the thing I’ve discovered that I hate the most about living in the van is getting up on a particularly cold morning. Living in a metal casing with a floor made of plywood topped with laminate makes for some painfully cold first steps in the morning. A few folks have asked how cold it gets in the van at night and I usually just compare it to camping in a tent. The Beast keeps out the wind and rain, but the temperatures drop just as low as the outside, so seeing my breath is a common occurrence.

Now that I’m writing this update, I realize there’s quite a few other things I can add in, but I’ll save those for some followup posts over the next few days.

replacing the vents.

Knowing the deluge of rain a week ago is only the beginning of our rainy season here in San Diego, I moved replacing the vents to the top of my to-do list for the van repairs. I found an RV supply store in the area and got what I thought I’d need to make it happen so I wouldn’t have to rely on black trash bags to keep my van dry.

[Old vent.]

[My weatherproofing.]

[The old vent on the outside.]

[After closely examining the old vent, I’m seeing that it should have been the very first repair I did on the van…oops.]

[The fan and motor from the old vent dangling while I decided whether or not to install it with the new one.]

Replacing the vent was another repair I assumed would be simple, easy and maybe a two-hour project that ended up taking all day. I think if the previous owners had bothered to actually replace things instead of just trying to patch them up, it would’ve made things a lot easier on me. Removing the previous vent was the longest and most painstaking part of the process since they’d slathered on so many coats of sealant over the vent edges and screws. I had to scrape each screw free and remove them one by one, which was a difficult task in itself even once they were uncovered since quite a few of them were terribly rusted and stripped. This step of the process meant I only made it through replacing one vent and will have to set aside another full day for the second one when I can.

Once I managed to get the old vent free, I scraped up as much of the remaining sealant as possible before giving the area a good wash-down with soap and water. Upon inserting the new vent, I realized it had 28 screwholes as opposed to the previous vent with 24. This meant that not one of the holes lined up and I’d have to drill all new ones. I didn’t bother filling the old ones since I knew the putty tape would be covering each of them and I’d be sealing over the edge anyway. I hope that was the right call.

Once I got all the new holes drilled, I laid the putty tape down and lined up the new vent to secure with the screws. I then used the sealant that the RV supply store had recommended to cover each of the screws and seal the edges.

The previous vent had a fan, which I could’ve easily installed with the new vent using the old motor, but I hadn’t used it and didn’t see the point. I’m keeping it in case I change my mind down the line though.

I ran into a problem with the bottom of the vent that is supposed to cover the edges on the inside of the van. My roof is more shallow than the vent, so there’s about a half inch gab between the ceiling of my van and the vent. The easy solution would be to trim it, but there’s a lip that lines up with the vent and without going into much detail, it basically means trimming it would do nothing, so I’m still brainstorming a solution to that problem. Luckily, the inner part is purely superficial and has nothing to do with keeping the weather out, so I can leave that alone until I’m ready to deal with it.