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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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!)

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.

a rainy day project.

Yesterday I decided to work on redoing the front of the fridge. When I bought the van, it had some of the quilted faux-leather upholstery covering the front of it that the rest of the van has throughout the interior. I liked it well enough, but it was a little ripped and bubbling out, so I ended up just ripping it off one day and decided I’d paint a map on the wood I found behind it. There was still some adhesive and backing left on the bottom of the wood so I spent a good half-hour scraping that off.

As I was cutting the roll of cork to fit I noticed the wood was bendable and was able to pull it off of the fridge since it wasn’t glued on. Turns out, they had flipped it around and the backside was some sort of fake wood finish. I was excited at first and thought about using the original as the backing, but I decided it clashed with all the other wood finish styles in the van and proceeded with the cork.

After cutting the cork to fit, I attached it with spray adhesive (which, as we all know, is NOT something that’s fun to work with in a tiny enclosed space). I ended up pretty coated in the stuff by the end of my project and had to wear a scarf while I sprayed it to fend off the fumes.

I should also note here that a huge storm rolled into San Diego yesterday and brought with it some serious wind and rain. Seeing as my focus has been on fixing up the inside of The Beast I haven’t yet gotten to repairing the cracked and badly sealed vents on the roof. In a hurried attempt to avoid leakage, I climbed onto the roof and used garbage bags and rocks from the yard to cover the two vents. During the process of ghetto-weatherproofing the vents I also managed to stick my knee through the better of the two vents, so I pretty much ensured having to replace both of them asap. Luckily, the weatherproofing worked and I didn’t see a drop of water inside The Beast even during the worst of the rain.

Since I wanted to paint a map on the fridge to put push-pins into the places I had been and map out where I wanted to go, I decided to cut out another piece of cork in the shape of the map and attach that and paint it to give it a little bit of a 3D look.

To do this, I used my now favorite tool, my staple gun, to staple a map I’d printed out along with the corkboard to a piece of wood I use as a portable desktop and cut it out with a utility knife.

I painted the map white while it was still semi-attached to the cutting board and then attached the map to the fridge using more spray adhesive.

I then got started on painting in all of the states…a painstaking task that took me a solid five hours to complete.

The western states were easy enough with their larger size and mostly straight edges, but I was dreading the east coast as I worked my way across.

When I finally finished up around midnight, my knees and back were absolutely killing me. Perhaps I should’ve waited to attach the map to the fridge until after I’d painted in the details. Unfortunately I didn’t take a better photo to show the raised edges of the map, which is my favorite part. I do plan to add Alaska and Hawaii (I doubt I’ll manage to find a financially feasible way to ship The Beast to Hawaii at any point…but I’d feel bad leaving it off the map.) I’ll also probably add a portion of lower Canada to it as well in the anticipation that I’ll cross the border at some point.

I haven’t yet decided if I want to label the states or not. I like the clean look of it as it is, but it might be nice to have the abbreviations on there.

I also plan to paint a quote beneath the map, but I haven’t decided for sure which one yet. I’m debating between a play on the Dr. Seuss quote from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and having it say “oh the places we’ll go…” instead. That, or the J.R.R. Tolkien quote, “Not all those who wander are lost…”

Any input or ideas for another fitting quote?

learning by doing.

Up until yesterday, three Ikea collapsible cubes have been serving as my “dresser” of sorts for all of my clothing. After storing them stacked up haphazardly in the bathroom for a while, I decided it just wasn’t working and started brainstorming how to build shelves in the bathroom instead.

My brilliant sister (who just happens to be an interior designer) suggested that I instead hang a rod in the bathroom for my hanging clothes and turn the closet into shelves. Yesterday, one trip to Lowes, three trips to Home Depot and seven hours later, I made that happen.

The bathroom was a weird setup with two of the “walls” being made of the actual fiberglass of the camper top, so I couldn’t screw anything directly into it. That, paired with the fact that they also curved and angled in stumped me for a bit. I finally settled on attaching the rod to a piece of plywood with a 2×4 on the bottom of it for stability.

The photos below are the before/after with the rod setup in the bathroom. It turned out great and seems to be stable enough. The good news is, since I don’t have many hanging clothes, when I finally do decide to use the toilet, I should be able to just kind of shove them back and tie them up with a belt or something to keep them out of the way.

The closet space before…(the shape of it with the curve of the van and then how the closet narrows inward proved a bit of a challenge).

I started off sawing pieces of square rods to use as supports for the shelves.

The best decision I made all day was to get a staple gun, which helped me secure the square support rods to the already existing support system within the closet (the actual walls of the closet is thin and unable to be screwed into for support).

Once the initial support beams were installed, I cut more square rods to screw into those beams to be the supports that the actual shelves would rest on.

Loulou wasn’t digging all the noise I was making with the staple gun.

I used press board for the shelves so that it would be flexible and easy to cut since the spaces would have to be so custom-fitted due to the odd angles and size.

I added another support beam under the front of the shelves and then attached some cheap moulding I got and cut to size to give it a more “finished” look.

Clothing loaded up into my now functional closet shelving space!

To say that I felt accomplished after finishing the shelves is a huge understatement. I’ve never done anything like this before and didn’t really bother to do a lot of research to figure out the best technique beforehand. I just knew what I wanted and hoped I could somehow make it happen if I took it step by step. There have been countless days that I’ve woken up and wondered what on earth I was thinking when I acquired The Beast. My successful completion of the shelves is enough of a confidence boost to keep me positive about the ever-growing list of things I need to do to get the van into the kind of shape I want before I start traveling.

On a related note, I finished the flooring (finally!) and have yet to take photos. Perhaps an updated van tour will happen in the coming week.

naming the van.

When I went to pick up the van for my inaugural drive home, I hadn’t thought to ask the seller if there were any important quirks or details I should know about. For instance, whether or not the gas gauge displayed the actual fuel level or was actually quite off.

I was lucky enough to learn about this particular quirk on my inaugural drive home. The van made it a mere ten miles away from my house before it sputtered out. Lucky for me, I made it halfway up an off-ramp before the poor thing just gave out completely. I sat there for a split second in fear that I wasn’t actually out of gas (the gauge read that it had well over a 1/4 tank) and there was some horrible problem with the engine.

I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that this was going to be an adventure and learning experience and I knew that good and well going into it. Before long, I was able to get in touch with a good friend and his wife that just happened to be nearby and waited patiently as they went to grab me a can of gas.

As I sat there waiting on the side of the road, I decided right then and there that the only name appropriate for the van was “The Beast.” She’s big, quirky and will most definitely be a finicky addition to my traveling family, but I’m still so happy I got her (I type this as The Beast currently sits in a garage getting some of the bigger quirks worked out).