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!)

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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.

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.

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.