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!)

summer in the van.

One of the big debates I’ve had with myself since making the decision to stay in San Diego was what to do about my living situation. I absolutely love living in my van, but one of the agreements when I moved to my current location, was that The Beast and I would be leaving in April. Part of this was so that I wouldn’t overstay my welcome, but the other, and far more important reason, was that it will be getting extremely hot since it’s quite a ways inland from the coast. I’m not concerned for myself regarding the heat since I am gone almost every day for work, but taking into account my cat’s wellbeing is another story. Even with all the windows and vents open and the fact that my van is parked in the shade, I was worried the heat could get to be too much for her.

For a few weeks, I was slowly resigning to the fact that I’d have to give up van-dwelling for a brick-and-mortar apartment…at least for the summer. As much as having unlimited access to a shower sounded tempting to me, I felt like I was somehow giving up or failing. Upon the realization that I might be getting an apartment, an anxiety began to build inside of me. I was worried I’d be tempted to start acquiring stuff again. A couch, a nightstand…some more pots and pans. The more I thought about it, the more distraught and worried I became. Money was also a huge factor, seeing as I haven’t made any in a while as I acquire more experience and slowly work with more and more buyers at my new job.

After accepting my fate and deciding to try to rent a studio below a friend’s home, my boss and his housemate unexpectedly told me that I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted. As a fix for the concern of baking my poor cat Loulou in the summer heat, we’ve been taking her inside the house to get her acclimated to new surroundings and their two pets (a cat named Socks and a dog named Bella). She’s adapted really well and now goes inside the house for “play-dates” with Socks every day while I’m at work. With that problem solved, there isn’t any other reason for me to consider giving up van-dwelling, so I’ve been able to sigh a breath of relief knowing I’m safe and sound in my minimalist lifestyle on wheels for at least a little while longer.

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.

a life-changing discovery.

I’m not one to tout specific items very often (or at all for that matter), so the fact that I’m writing an entire blog post about one means that I’m truly convinced that this is a magical product.

Given my recent move and subsequent limited shower access, I’ve found only one thing to really bother me when I have to go more than a day or two without…unwashed hair. I have fairly thin hair that’s just short enough not to put in a ponytail, so a day or two without a shower means I’ve got an oily mess of hair sticking up in all directions and absolutely no way to salvage it without the use of a hat or bandana. Unfortunately, I’m not at all a hat or bandana person, so when it’s been without wash for a few days, it’s extremely evident.

To help with this problem, I turned to a generic beauty supply store in search of dry shampoo. (Before someone comments telling me that baby powder works just as well…for me, it doesn’t. I end up looking like I’m wearing a freshly powdered wig of an 18th century royal and smelling like a [freshly diapered] baby’s behind.)

I located the dry shampoo (curiously packaged in an aerosol can), but noticed a bottle right next to it called No-Rinse Shampoo. After examining the bottle thoroughly, I decided to give them both a try and bought one of each, satisfied with the fact that they both cost about the same as a bottle of decent shampoo or conditioner would have anyway.

In a pinch, the dry shampoo will work. I’d say it’s best for those last-minute rushes to get ready when you’ve missed your alarm and haven’t the time to style your hair in any way. I’d argue that it’s more effective than baby powder, but that might just be me. After spraying my hair, it wasn’t oily, but did have a bit of a powdery/product-filled feeling to it. Regardless, I’d feel much better going out in public with this in my hair than not, so I’ll keep it around as a last resort


Now let’s talk about this No-Rinse Shampoo. This stuff is pure magic in a bottle. It’s really watery, so you just apply it to your hair until it’s soaked through…lather it up a bit…then towel off as if you’ve gone through your normal shampoo/condition/rinse procedure in the shower. I blow-dried my hair afterward, and despite it feeling a bit like I had some product in my hair (similar to that feeling after you’ve gotten a haircut and they insist on putting something in your hair despite your arguments that you don’t use it), I felt absolutely wonderful afterwards. I’ve used it twice, but I’m still managing to shower often enough not to warrant full dependency on it quite yet. However, I’m quite certain it will come in handy when I’m on the road this summer.

a mini move.

Last week, I moved The Beast. It was only 25 miles up the interstate, but it was far enough that I was able to get a feel for the road and how she’s going to handle when I take her on the upcoming longer treks.

One of my bosses has very generously opened up his backyard as a new residence for me while I finish the work on the van and make preparations for my trip up the coast. It’s a wonderful setup in a very industrial area behind a house with an office and huge garage/workspace in the backyard. Not only do I not have to worry about any pesky neighbors nosing around and deciding to report someone living in their van, but I now have ample space to work on the van and move it on a regular basis as needed. An even bigger bonus is a huge metal awning off the back cement/porch/workspace that The Beast is able to fit under, so even on the rainy days I can have my vents or windows open.

Some of the details of the new place could be considered negatives, but I’ve gotten used to them quickly and haven’t found them to be much of a bother:

  • I no longer have regular access to internet (something I’ll have to get used to on the road anyway, and it’s just one less distraction to keep me from getting the work done on my van)
  • The bathroom setup is pretty rustic…my shower is a pvc pipe coming from a ceiling in an outdoor entrance kind of bathroom/closet with a toilet in the center and plastic hanging from the walls (I’m honestly overjoyed to have a bathroom at all, so between the pvc pipe setup and using the shower at the marina I work at on the weekends, I manage to stay pretty clean)
  • No sink or running water in the bathroom (I’m finally working on getting the water pump and tank working in the van, but for now I’m utilizing my sink by buying those 2.5 liter water jugs with the spouts and having it pour out over the sink…works well and is a great way to really monitor your water use)
  • I’m no longer less than a mile from the beach, but instead inland by about 20 miles (a fact I thought would bother me a whole lot more than it does, but I’m close to one of the best local hiking spots in San Diego…Cowles Mountain, and am less then five minutes from two Targets, a giant Goodwill, one of my favorite grocery stores, a Lowes and a Home Depot among countless other hole-in-the wall shops that I’m sure will be a treasure trove of items I’ll find need for in my van)
  • The weather is much different than on the coast, which means hotter afternoons and colder nights (I’m pretty well adapted to the weather change and I actually enjoy the cold nights now that I have a nice sleeping bag and the warm days make it easy to want to be outside working on the van…so it’s a win win!)

As you can see from my list of negatives, they’re not all that negative at all. The more rustic conditions will help prepare me for the road, and the benefits of the new location far outweigh the downfalls. I’m excited to really get the momentum going on my remaining renovation projects and I’ll hopefully still manage to update the blog regularly despite my limited internet time.

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.