“Blessed are the curious for they will have adventures.”
We had worked on the van for the last two weeks straight. Early in the morning until way too late, saw dust slowly drifted up through the air from the screaming saw blades and coated everything. I had done plenty of woodworking in the past which I think prepared, but also disillusioned me when undertaking our own conversion van.
My wife and I were about to graduate college in a few months and let our lack of a plan lead us. We searched for vans in almost every state, and finally we found a Ford Transit that was just the right size for our new home. We named her Wanda and immediately got to work. We were still full time students living in an apartment, and even though Wanda filled up the entirety of our single parking spot, nothing kept us from working on her every chance we got. After graduation, our lease ended and we drove everything to my dad’s house to keep working and piss off a whole new set of neighbors.
We got to work routing wires, installing flooring, cutting a mattress into puzzle pieces, and painting everything white. We had spent countless hours, relied on so many friends and loyal family members, ate A LOT of Jimmy Johns and she was almost done! Part of the wall wasn’t finished and although the solar was hooked up and we had everything plugged in, we still had no power- yet the west coast beckoned. We filled the cabinets and fridge and decided to head out of town, stopping first at an electrical parts store. I installed the in-line fuses for the solar panels and, hallelujah, the charge controller, water pump, and lights turned on!
That happy moment quickly passed, and the next 13 hours were spent glued to a windshield watching Wyoming slowly shrink until it fit into the rear-view. Michelle and I LOVE road trips! We have had some of the most defining moments of our relationship on road trips- some of our biggest fights and our biggest break throughs. You’re forced to sit next to another flawed individual for hours, both of you strapped to bucket seats with the only options being; #1 Put your ego in the glove box, listen, and solve your problems, or #2; hope that the last six Fast & Furious movies have prepared you for this moment...To dive out on to the blur of 75mph pavement, tuck and roll, and pray that you come out as unscathed as Vin Diesel’s bald head.
During this particular road trip, we were too busy being silly and eating french fries to continue the F&F franchise. We traded off drivers until about 10:00pm when Michelle got some much needed sleep. I depended on an ultra-caffeinated concoction called “Screaming Eagle” that I found at a combo gas station/casino to get me through the night. Michelle would randomly jerk awake and find me singing the soundtrack to Greatest Showman with wide eyes, blood shot and fixed to the road. We rolled into Bozeman around 3:00am and parked our new home in the privacy of neighborhood street.
Living in a van has pretty much ruined the thought of paying $100 for a hotel only to get a few hours of rest and some powdery eggs in the morning. We chose the Ford Transit for our conversion for a number of reasons. The extended height roof was a must, and I cannot imagine living in a space where we weren’t able to fully stand to cook or change clothes. Diesel engines are great, but they have also have their down sides; our van runs on gas and gets pretty decent mileage, we averaged 19mpg on that trip! Lastly, we were able to afford a 2016 van and pay about 1/3 of what a similar Mercedes Sprinter would have cost.
The rest of our time on the road seemed to go fairly quickly; we had booked a wedding in northern Washington and high tailed it in that direction. Jordan and James were such a cool couple and the way they honored God through their ceremony was so refreshing and reaffirmed that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Plus they had waffles which were life changing, well, as life changing as breakfast food can be... which is a lot.
Washington. Was. Absolutely. Beautiful.
I walked through a rain forest on my own continent and saw nearly ever shade of green. Being from Colorado, with its 300+ days of sunshine, I was surprised how little the sun cared to shine. In addition to the 200 watts of solar panels mounted to the roof, Wanda has a smart isolator to give the battery a little extra oomph. An Isolator is a voltage sensing relay that connects your van’s built in starter battery with your battery bank in the back. When driving, your engine powers the alternator which sends around 14v to your battery to keep it topped off. The isolator senses this voltage increase and shares that extra juice with the batteries in the back. What’s great about having a “smart” isolator is that when the voltage drops back down, the circuit is broken and there is no risk of running your batteries so low and not being able to start your van in the morning.
After the wedding, we headed south. By some stroke of luck, I was perusing Craigslist and came across a surfboard cheap enough for me to drive to a stranger’s house to bargain in the rain. I had brought a wetsuit with me for such an occasion, as I was determined to surf. I had only surfed once in my life on the tide’s equivalent of training wheels- but i thought it would certainly have been enough to prepare me for much larger and much much colder waves. Thankfully, my floundering was edited out of the video.
From Washington, we drove down the entire coast of Oregon, mouth agape, taking in the beauty around every turn. With food being a major priority in our lives, Portland was a necessary pit stop as our friends filled our inbox with suggestions for their favorite restaurants. If having a beach house is any metric for success, then at 22, I was well on my way...as we drove up the sand of Cape Kiwanda. As you’ll notice in the video, yes, we did get stuck immediately and a kind soul helped tow as I pushed from the front, and Michelle tried not to accelerate into the back of his truck.
Venturing further south, we crossed the border into California, where the vastness of the ocean is slightly overshadowed by the height of the trees. After miles and miles of beach, we made it San Francisco. When you live in a 10ft tall van parking garages aren’t an option; but thankfully, Seattle had honed my parallel parking skills. We ate our way across the city, starting at Boudin and finishing in China town. We had friends just outside the city and treated ourselves to a real shower. Up until that point I hadn’t realized that Yosemite was on our way-ish back home; so we headed off, determined to gain another layer of sweat and adventure to replace the one we had just washed off.
Climbing in Yosemite has been a dream of mine for a long time and tomorrow it would come true. The only problem was my 60 meter rope and sport rack limited us in a valley of granite giants and climbing legends. We found a promising area, walked to the top, built our anchor, rappelled in, and top-roped for the afternoon. Not quite the epic adventure I envisioned, but we were blessed to be able to climb in the valley where climbing was born.
From the on, we continued to make our way through the endless landscapes of Nevada and Utah ending back in Colorado. I hope you enjoy our mediocre videography and it inspires you to take a road trip of your own!