Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oh!, my concerns, they plot and plan clamor.

When a task demands attention, I take my time. I glance askance and yawn as life's concerns convene in the corner. Asleep at my wheel, the concerns are wont to plot and plan clamor.

Increasingly bored and numerous, one of the concerns will eventually reach a boil. The result is a shouting match of many voices; one of them the loudest.


First, I will lament that I am alone in the world. The deep cycle battery gods have forsaken me, like the rafter-cutting gods of before. I have nobody to up and read a book and trouble shoot the shit in my stead. Grudgingly, I use the energy of anxious frustration to propel me forth.

My feet are heavy bags of sand. My thin arms dangle indecisively from their sockets.

I would fall asleep standing if not for incessant prodding anger; flames fanned by the mere concept and existence of variables unknown...


>>> How Ta Fix Yr F'kn Badderies, Kid: <<<
Step One: Check the voltage. 10.2 volts? Dead, dead, dead.
Second Step: Plug in the three-stage charger: the juice from the alternator was not enough.
Step Three: Wonder why I don't have a fucking extension cord in the fucking van.
Step Four Loko: Put down the Bud Ices, and go to Home Depot.
Step Five: With the batteries charging, ride bicycles all over New Orleans with Ian. Begin to remember that life is alright. 
Step Six: Renew vow to explore stoicism. 

End Note: The batteries are completely fine.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sleeping inside.

We've been sleeping inside. We've been expanding our belongings to cover more surface area - more surfaces in more areas. We haven't gotten great at getting anything done. We should take these boxes to the UPS Store, but I've been too busy getting drunk and gluing my glasses back together.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Improving our systems.

Our van sits parked on St. Claude as we spend the nights inside on a bed. Soon we will return to our home, and find parking on the periphery of the French Quarter. We've done some walking around, but there is plenty more to enjoy.

While we have access to a house-home, we are catching up on work and minor repairs. We need to get our systems in place to sell books while traveling. We need to buy and sell more; like throwing coal in the burner of a steam engine.

I broke my spectacles. I'm not excited about the backup pair, but I am grateful to have them. Kristin's folding bicycle broke a chain, and the source of the problem is confounding. Both of these issues were addressed.

I worked through the possibilities with the bicycle, and decided the rear cog on the coaster brake hub was to blame. Process of elimination. I don't know why it was a problem, but everything else was certainly not. Sure enough, an new cog seems to have fixed it. The old one was bizarrely wide, and every twenty rotations or so, it would catch the chain and violently threaten to pull it apart.

JB Weld is an excellent product. A toothpick full of the two-part stinky kinds seems to have my glasses back in shape.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Meeting a drunkbot in New Orleans

We're in New Orleans. We have friends here, meaning a shower and a guest bedroom. We arrived around 10pm, and by midnight it was time to cross the street for beer.

An extremely drunk man across the street loves me. But then he changes his mind and decides he hates me again. I entertained this for a few rounds before I realized he was not a man at all. He was a drunkbot. No short term memory. He didn't know who he was, or where, or why. That he could even see me or communicate was itself merely a mirage. He held two beers; both 24oz tall boys. Still, he had one free hand to gesture. Between index and middle was crammed a tall Steel Reserve. Pinched slightly between middle and ring was a Corona. Both cans were long since emptied.

After we left the bodega, the drunkbot's heat sensors picked our signal back up. He began to accost Ian, who is at least 6'4 and could bulldoze him with a shove. But then he declared admiration, forestalling the need for action until seconds later when the tides turned again. Fortunately, a young couple was crossing the street in the direction of the bodega, and his attention was diverted to a fresh audience.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Finding free vandwelling parking with an app.

This is a good time to be alive. This is the best time to live in a van.

We have an app called "Free Campsites." That's how we found the dirt road. At the end of the road is a campground that is only open for a few months each year. When it's closed, the entrance is blocked by a heavy yellow gate. Perfect. We parked in front of the gate, at least a quarter mile back from the road. It worked well. We own the Earth, along with all the others who roam over its dirt. Alligators.

Last night, we began heading west on the Tamiami Trail, aka route 41. We are as deep in the Everglades as a tall majestic van can get. I was diligent in working the words "Tamiami Trail" into every possible conversation. I did not miss an opportunity to say "Tamiami Trail."

Fast forward 24 hours, and our tires rested in the soft dirt of some state-owned panhandle land. The "Free Campsites" app wins again! We arrived toward the later half of the nine o'clock hour. Another dirt road, this time with deep potholes, required us to crawl very slowly indeed. Signs posted a mile or so in claimed that we should "STOP" and "REGISTER" but it was unclear where or how. A single RV rested underneath a seemingly built-to-size roof, making the setup appear at least semi-permanent. This was between our van and the place we were supposed to park.

A woman stepped out of the RV, and I tried to pull on my dirty Keens quickly and not keep her waiting. Kristin and I exited the vehicle, and stood facing a cagey lady standing on the steps to her RV. Our dogs barked a bit, and so did hers. She sized us up, while we stood at the gates; hats in hand.

The land was closed for a few weeks. Some biologist organized a turkey hunt. I swear I am not making this up. We were told that this biologist has a brother who wants to do what this lady is doing - staying full time on public land somehow; details fuzzy - and they are looking for any way to get her out of there. Clearly there is more to this story, but approaching 10pm with dogs barking was not the time to eek out each detail.

I thanked her and said going back to the truck stop would be okay with us: we were used to that; didn't much mind, in fact. I looked down and sideways, and assured her we didn't want to get in the way of her good thing.

Her heart was pure. After sizing us up, she said she hated to turn people away. She'd seen that we weren't serial jerks, and she couldn't stand to kick a puppy. We agreed that if anyone asked we'd say we got there late, and we only knew that we could park on state land. We basically agreed that this conversation never happened.

Vast land surrounded our domicile, and we let the dogs sniff and circle. We never saw a biologist or his brother, and the perma-parked RV is still safe for another day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

True Crime at the Free Library

"Are you Mark?"

We're outside Tampa now in the parking lot of a library. We're looking for books to buy and sell. Kristin is walking the dogs, and is out of sight under some palms. A hammered Lexus pulled up close and the darkest young black man with dreadlocks and red stains covering the bottom half of each of his teeth leaned out the window. "Are you Mark?" I couldn't look away from his teeth. I never saw teeth that were fucked up in this particular way. I told him that I was not Mark.

"You're not Mark??" he didn't believe me. What the fuck is with those teeth.

"No" I said decisively. "My name is Chris." as though that would settle the matter.

This area did not look as "crime-free" or "safe" as a sign posted to the outside of the library would have you believe. If it was so safe, I later wondered, why would there need to be a sign telling me so? I don't need a badge declaring that I'm not a rapist.

The Lexus followed me slowly behind a line of parked cars as I walked down a grassy median toward the front doors of the library. As I got to the crosswalk, I was forced to walk in front of the Lexus even as I was trying to pretend I didn't see it. I stepped around a woman who frankly looked like a prostitute. Smooth black skin, but a protruding belly and dark bra clearly visible through her sheer... shirt?

I looked up and saw the sign posted on the wall, telling me my instincts were wrong - this is a safe library. Yes, sir - nothing odd here. You are not being followed by a man with amazing teeth, and no prostitutes operate... say... within about a mile of here. "Lying-assed sign," I thought, as I continued toward the doors with increasing rue.

Entering the library, I found a Friends of the Library book store to the side of the entrance, and finally I did feel safe. At least one white-haired biddy was providing a buffer between me and outside. I started browsing through the books in a small closet toward the back of the store, and five minutes passed.

I was looking up data about the sales history of a book about Faulkner when two hookers barged in. (!!!)

"I NEED TO SEE YOUR ID" demanded the white hooker.

"Whaaaaa?!" I responded; caught quite off guard. The other hooker was the one from outside, and now she had a badge. The puzzle began to make sense now, and I was happy show them my license when they demanded for a second time. I was never so glad to not be named Mark.

The sign on the library will remain a falsehood until they finally nab "Mark." The rue will be his as the Lexus-driving vampire sorts out business while two hooker-cops hold him to the pavement.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heading to New Orleans; neglecting basic battery care

How about right now? 

Key West has been beautiful. I love to march around with my family and blab about what happened when and where. Beaches and sunsets have been ever-present, and I got to catch up with a friend.

We woke up this morning next to Sears, and got morning supplies at Publix. Judy-dog pissed a bucket right on the sidewalk in front of TJ Maxx. Less subtle than me, but I agree with the sentiment. I made a swift retreat, looking over my shoulder.

Back at headquarters, we convened to make a game plan. We could sit around in the shade some more, or go back to the beach. Alternately, we could go to New Orleans. When? How about right now.

The appeal of spontaneous action is intoxicating. We'll be back in the winter. With that decision, we added leaving to the schedule. First, I had to get one slice of the best key lime pie. We were on the road by noon.

I am a puppet of a clown

Batteries need to be recharged. We've been running the fan far more than the alternator can keep up with, since I'm only driving for about ten minutes per day. I was lazy and forgetful, and I didn't bother to check the numbers. It would take about one minute to the check voltage with a multimeter, since I didn't install a simple voltmeter, but evidently I've been too busy. Until today. I checked the voltage, was aghast at my negligence, and continued to fester and boil for several hours throughout the day.

That key lime pie was fantastic though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

One step forward; one step back.

Death to crap

I had the distinct pleasure of mailing home two boxes of crap that We Don't Need. I was further tickled to drive around back and jettison a bin of bullshit into a dumpster. It is my opinion that a couple more boxes should be left for dead, but already we feel a little less cramped.

You've got to fight your wife

What good is life if you never get a little bit sad once in awhile? Worthless. You're stuck at one end of a wide spectrum. Every so often you need to kick up some emotional dirt. If you ever feel slighted, that's the best opening. Even kids know the weight of "SHE STARTED IT." My advice is to remember exactly what she said that was a little bit off, so you can repeat it to her and sound far more hurt than you feel. Extra points. You'll know that somebody won when you're both crying a little bit.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Picking the right van: "Do I need a giant beast-wagon?"

Vandwelling in a beast-wagon vs. a standard conversion van

Vandwelling in an extended body van (aka 15 passenger) with a hi-top is different than living in a standard length camper setup. The tall fiberglass shell makes the inside feel truly spacious. Relatively huge, in fact. The shell also weighs a lot more than the hi-top on a standard camper, being that it is at least twice as tall, and also several feet longer. The extra length on the extended body makes it possible to store bicycles and a bike trailer in back without sacrificing any living space as compared to a standard length, or 12 passenger van.

The extra size and weight are most noticeable when driving slowly on uneven surfaces. Our van will rock and sway over potholes and speed bumps. On the highway, though, everything feels basically the same in normal conditions. Fuel economy is comparable: bad vs. bad... to me, all other factors are more important. (If you need excellent fuel economy, you should consider squeezing into a minivan, or driving less.)

I was intimidated at first by the prospect of buying an extended body van instead of a standard length. My first worry was that it wouldn't fit in a standard sized parking spot - and it might be harder to parallel park. Nervous forum-dwellers point to the reputation of a 15 passenger van to roll over or be difficult to drive in windy conditions. Neither of these factors ended up being a problem.

The van has never been difficult to fit in a standard spot. Parallel parking was easy to get used to. Sure, there might be a spot here and there that a standard van would fit, but ours would not - but in practice, I haven't even seen that happen yet. The big van requires a little more attention when driving in high wind - but again, I don't think this is a big enough factor to dissuade a prospective vandweller from ownership, other factors held constant.

Being a married couple with two dogs, I feel certain that we made the right choice. We have more space than a standard size van, and the weight/handling/MPG penalty is paltry. I'm thrilled about the aesthetics of our home as well. I don't like owning fancy things. I don't like to tiptoe, walk on eggshells, or fret about scrapes. Our home is reasonably low-key enough to park on the street, but it is not without personality. The casual observer will only see an old passenger van. We're having a party, but it's not out of hand.

Other vandwelling vehicle options

Older VW Vanagons and Westfalias are popular. They're too small for our big pack, and it's my belief they scream "lived in" when you see one with curtains on the street. Those tent-tops are neat, but you won't put those up when you're parked just anywhere.

Some people convert short school buses or a wide shuttle bus. I'm a little jealous of the extra width of a shuttle or school bus, but I am more interested in the ability to park in the maximum number of locations. Anything longer than our van would be hard to fit in a standard parking lot space, and might fall into the "oversized vehicle" category of local ordinances, making street parking a challenge. Again, I feel confident that our van is perfect for our exact needs.

Everybody needs to consider the relevant factors before picking a vehicle to live in. Most of the time, I think a standard length van is the right choice, and I would always prefer a fiberglass raised roof. My previous van - a 1990 GMC conversion van - was great. Now that I have more people and dogs in my dwelling, I am glad to have a longer body and higher roof - but at least for now, I would not want anything bigger.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Parking at Winn Dixie - Vandwelling in Key West

We woke up in the Winn Dixie parking lot again. Lots of sleeping at Winn Dixie. That was always off limits in previous years, but when we got to the island, the first people we met said they'd parked there every night for a month. They were drinking, and it seemed like a lot, but their Uncle Bill confirmed that he had stayed there extensively without incident. Maybe I'm blowing up a good spot by mentioning this, but I think that typing here is a lot like shouting into an empty coffee can in the woods. If you can hear me, and you'd like to know: the Winn Dixie is open 24 hours now, and nobody seems to be asking anybody to leave. I like waking up next to amenities, and parking here is a lazy easy choice.

(If you want better tips on vandwelling in Key West, you should contact me privately.)

In other news, I bought some yarn. I'm trying to remember how to crochet.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Eating and deleting.

We woke up in the parking lot of the better grocery store toward the top of the island. The vanhouse is habitable even in bright sun, provided all possible windows and vents are open. Provided additionally that our Fan-Tastic vent fan is on. They were; it was.

We entered the cold air conditioning of the grocery store and made a loop. Supplies so far include sprouts, hummus, avocados - one green or two Haas, yogurt for now, and a bread device for whenever. This we keep on hand, and supplement daily with whatever else on a whim. We are making an effort to leave our worse habits up north, and why not - sprout sandwiches are easy and make me feel great.

We drove to our shady place near the pier, and I put our stovetop coffeemaker into service. I needed a hot cup of power before proceeding to the next step today. We have Too Much Bullshit along for the ride...

Everything out; everything in. We went through each bin, and considered every item. Some belongings stay, but two boxes do not. Two 12x12x16 boxes were marked for deletion. We are still a bit heavy - my opinion - but to jettison some ballast is a boon. We have more room. Boom.

I took the opportunity to drill some holes in a pole to keep our huge rear door stationary, even in moderate winds. Tested: works.

Friday, April 15, 2016

My favorite parking spot for vandwelling in Key West.

We woke up on Margaret Street under palm trees on a block that used to feature a large Banyan tree. Those majestic tendrils have since been deleted. Tall palms still shade the non-residential side, and various species of roots pour slowly like molten glass over the curb on the opposite side. To get our home inside the lines was a tight shave. But I'm that good. Mirrors and windows were retracted on the passenger side, and we exited through the driver-side door only. An inch existed between the street-leaning palms; matching in parallel the cant of our fiberglass roof. Yes We Can.

We rose rested and walked the single block to the best place on the island to get a cafe con leche and a bucci served in a tiny plastic cup. Bucci, a shot of espresso, still goes for fifty cents. A small cup full of espresso, or a "colada," will run you $1.25. The same guy is serving it. His hair is a shade lighter now, but his practiced motions are identical. The smells are identical.

This is home. This is the second home that will always be in my back pocket when I need it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finding inspiration after the dog beach.

We found the dog beach. Judy-dog can be persuaded to swim if you toss the frisbee close enough to shore. Throw a stick in a river and she does not stutter - but the ocean holds many mysteries. Daisy-dog is more tolerant of the sea. She becomes a tiny stoic paddler. Her legs paddle mechanically well before entering the water, and she resembles an expensive wind-up toy.

Any quantity of sand and salt is acceptable in the van. If we soon reach a critical mass, we can hover inside a certain spectrum - more sand will enter the side door, and an approximately equal quantity will exit the back. It will return to the Earth with a knowing salute.

We should start working again. We did well enough around the new year that financial peril is not quite imminent. Eddie wanted to learn more about this business - to add a new income to his bag of tricks. It was with this in mind that we convened at happy hour on a deck bar overlooking his boat. Three pages of loose ideas devolved quickly into laughing and writing the word "Quaaludes" on his yellow legal pad before taking some clients out of a cheap boat he has on Air BnB.

Below, a man in a bathtub skiff steered out to deeper waters using a weed whacker as an outboard. I cataloged this under "inspiration."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Self doubt vs. all the clout.

My brain waves are evening out considerably. I'm holding the reigns of a new reality. A renewed reality. Through minor phone prodding, I was able to raise my friend Eddie. I thank god he got back to me, because the nervous part of me easily feels snubbed. My heart worries that even my closest friends could harbor some resentment that untended might boil into a firm dislike. Only a careful counter-logic can confirm that I am looking into a funhouse mirror of self doubt. 

Earlier today, I was in Home Depot to get a cheap tube and some clamps. A sad song by Madonna began as I walked through an aisle of storage containers. The song was far too heavy for the moment, and I felt blessed to notice this fact. I belong nowhere in particular, and I am free to put my feet anywhere I see fit. For that moment, I was a fly on the wall witnessing an absurdity, and I did not want to be anywhere else.

I met up with Eddie at his docked domicile. I remember when his son was a baby that I once spoon-fed some barley soup. Now he is nine. We all bicycled for a quarter mile with a stop in the middle to admire some spear guns. 

At the Gas Monkey bar on Duval, Eddie's son got chicken fingers, and Eddie ordered the recommended sandwich. I got a tall cup of beer and we all watched their friend play a Feist cover among some others. Richard Rawlings himself walked by, below, and I assured myself again that the stool I was sitting on was the world's best perch. Here. Now. Let’s do this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quitting bills, stopping pills, and a return to The Island.

We rolled out of the driveway in Kennett Square and made a line toward I-95 south. We left on 4/8/16. Four times two is eight. Eight times two is sixteen. Every moment leading to this was a nap or a palpitation. Leaving the apartment we had for a year; outfitting the van; preparing to live on the road with two dogs for as long as possible.

The apartment was a mess of messes. Every time we returned home - even if we were gone for a moment - we came home with enough bullshit to anchor a boat. Plastic bag loops dug into our wrists and fingers as we filled our apartment with ever-increasing ballast. At the end of a year, we had to blast out all of this.

Trapped and suffocated; I can hardly remember how smiles rose to the surface. We had great times in that apartment, but oh! it's the difficulties that still leave a sting. On the positive, I married a human girl who speaks my language. We adopted Judy-dog, who is a far better dog than I will ever deserve. I learned how to set us up as booksellers on the internet. Gasps of crisp oxygen punctuated doubt, fear, and frustration. I'm afraid to feel my roots take hold in stationary soil. A fiancee; a dog; a year-long lease. I'm positive about this girl, but adopting the entire menu, oh! I have some recipes of my own! Trust me! Join me! Believe not my modesty; for I am a king.

... and now we've made our escape.

Life is not so easy. The way some people write, it sounds like it is. I’m jealous of those people until I remember there’s a good chance their knuckles meet drywall in secret; their curses turn the wallpaper blue; tears fall in private, wiped away with a tall shrug and a lilted head; ignored as an anomalous moment of weakness. Life is not easy in part because our emotions are tied to unavoidable biology; universal chemistry. The rich and famous fall victim like the rest of us, and today there is a pill for everybody. Certain doctors would prescribe a milligram of such-and-such even for simply feeling okay.

And so it was. I was introduced to and provided with amphetamines to help me run with the pack. When the sky turned gray, and my heart went blue, there was an easy solution for that too. A yellow pill. If both were failing, there was one more option, and it usually comes in a bottle or can.

It’s not as bad as it might sound. Pills work. They’re not a firm solution, but they are a forceful hammer-blow when the head of a nail sticks above the surface. The blue pills helped immensely when I was learning how to build a tiny house. They helped me find a way to make money. They filled me with the energy to digest a reality that I suspect the majority of people don’t much mind. People seem to go about their business more or less upright and rarely with their heads on fire. The blue ones help me to observe and copy this phenomenon. But I don’t want to live in Wonka World forever, so alas, today, I am very sleepy indeed.

Those yellow pills are a tiny little trick. Those only make you feel like yourself. Sheets of sleet could beat my bare feet, and I doubt I’d much mind. Those ones are offered for the mere suggestion of sadness, and they hardly cost a dime each. I thought these were a stand-in for the sun (being small and yellow, after all), but now I suspect some of this crying-while-happy might be their footprint.

This post is about Key West, and how I’m there right now. It’s about how beautiful this island is, how friendly folks are here, and how nothing has changed much. I thought I was away for awhile, but when I checked how long, I had to count again to make sure. It’s been six years. I haven’t been to Key West in six years.

I am sitting in the Truman Annex. I am sitting on a tiny couch built over the battery system for our van-house. Kristin is rearranging our ballast and the dogs are drooped over soft things, wearing content smiles. A tourist trolley is clanging past, and jealous lookers-on keep stealing a glance inside of our domicile. Last night we slept next to Sears. It is not the best spot, but in its favor, I felt most certain that our sleep would not be interrupted.

Sleeping in a van is beautiful. Believe nothing else. We have plenty of space. We have two open windows and two vents clustered about the bedzone. We have a few fans; two of them strong.

I’ve spent the five days since our departure vacillating between excitement and apprehension. Will we be organized, comfortable, and happy enough to spend a year or more living in this van? Will having two dogs turn vandwelling into a resentful chore? Are we going to ever start working again; can we be sure to have enough money? Can we start eating healthy and getting regular exercise? Can we live a happy life using simplicity like a card trick? I think we can. I need the answer to be yes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I swear we're moving into a van.

I can't believe it's been a month since my last progress report. I actually believe it might be less than a week until we're outta here. I spent a ton of time and energy getting the van ready. It's nearly complete. Living in the van is definitely preferable to the pile of garbage we're calling an apartment these days. I swear I'd like to torch this clownhole right now. If it's not empty by the 28th, I'm lighting a match.

This van is a personal dream come true. I love driving it. All hesitation about getting an extended van with a huge hi-top has vanished. In exactly no time I got used to the size, and I have had no trouble parking it. An extended, or "15 passenger" van fits fine in all sorts of parking spots. Being 6'1" and able to stand up straight inside is fantastic. Starting this project with a passenger van was a blessing.

Passenger vans don't have all the home-like touches of a camper van or "class B" RV. The layout and wiring are all simple. This provided a nearly blank canvas to get started with. That's my preference. Camper vans and RVs are already pre-complicated with a large volume of tacky shit I don't want or need. I'm hacking our house together Harne-style to stay awhile.

I used to see big vans on the road and get jealous. "What a great house that would make!" I was screaming inside my head. No more. Now I have the ultimate van, and all the other vans I see fall short of this majesty.

Turning a van into a house isn't rocket science. If you throw a bed in there, you're A-Ok. If you have a little bit of camping gear, you're the King of the Planet. I'm going a step beyond this, however, and applying my tiny house skills to create what I've long lusted after: a comfortable simple home that you can flip the bird from while driving away from life's pains-in-the-ass.

We own our home. It cost me and Kristin $2300, which we raised by selling textbooks in January. To be honest, there's money left over. We haven't done any real work since December, and it's mildly alarming that we're getting away with that. I've put lots of time into preparation, but I've spent plenty of time doing shit-all too. I'm so ready to go that my feet are starting to smoke.

On With The Updates:

Maybe I'll go into more detail later, but here's an overview. As I showed in the last post, I had to clean up some bullshit before getting started on the build. I removed all that rotten plywood, and solved the leaky rear door with some roofing asphalt shit that doesn't technically belong on the back of a van, but stops the hell out of leaks. Case closed on those leaks. I have soft black gunk around the perimeter of the back door, but water has no chance of getting through it. As for aesthetics, I'll survive. In the future, some white 100% silicone caulk might be better - but I was working in cold rain, and not many products can do that, and I wanted to move forward with the interior and Not Have Leaks.

I'm always working against a learning curve - or at least an experience curve - so every step has been a little haphazard. As always, if I could start again, it would be a lot easier the second time. No matter. You have to do everything once before you can try it a second time. I have a life of first attempts ahead of me, so I'll plod along and try not to criticize my work too harshly.

One of the main things we need is some ventilation. I spent something like $350 on Ebay to get some side windows, vents, and a skylight for the hi-top. The installation is the same for all of that. If you can install one vent, you can install fifty-nine of them. So I started making holes.

I traced out where the side windows should go, then I drilled out the corners and cut out the rest with a cordless jigsaw. Once the window fits the hole, you put some butyl tape around the flange and stick it in place. Some screws help squeeze it in place and make a tight seal. Same story with the vents and skylight: cut a hole, put butyl tape around the perimeter, screw the thing in place.

I admit that the addition of so many vents and accouterments detracts from our stealth. But I'll be just as happy to get some air flowing on a hot night. The three bumps along the roof look a little bit interesting from the side. Personally, I get a hoot out of it. I'm calling the van "Nessie" because of the famous Loch Ness Monster photo with three unidentified bumps coming out of the water.

Notably, the roof vent closest to the bed is a "Fan-Tastic" vent with a strong fan. RV people love their Fan-Tastic vents. The other vent was only $30. The skylight is a real cheap one - $37 - and does not come with a trim ring. Same deal with the side windows. Those are made for teardrop trailers, and were real cheap without the trim rings. I made my own trim, which was tedious and imperfect, but also nearly free.

We paid forty bucks for a carpet, which raised my hackles, since carpet can be obtained for free. On the upside, it looks good, feels good, and smells good - and I don't have to wait around for all the stoodents to migrate out of their dorms. I trimmed the carpet to fit, and secured it under the trim around the door. It's good.

Next up, electricity. I'm no 12v maven, but I'm happy with the result. I got two heavy-ish duty storage containers, and made a custom plywood lid that fits over both. The container directly behind the driver's seat is the perfect size to fit two Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries. The other container holds the battery charger, fuse box, and anything else electric-y that comes up. I screwed both containers to the floor of the van body. I cut a piece of foam to the size of the lid. My wonderful and supportive mother sewed together a cushion and a skirt to make it look like a little couch. Thanks, ma!

Our Apartment is Garbage

I don't understand the science behind acquiring shit you don't need, but I know it's a problem. I have 96% of my personal belongings already in the van. Our apartment currently looks like the aftermath of a bad yard sale. If I wasn't so drunk or asleep all the time, I'd probably have converted it to dust and ash by now. A vast array of knick-knacky shackles are keeping me from my palm trees. This limbo-bimbo has got to end.

Getting started...

View from the front.

Grinder-sanded and primer-painted this rust
Two-part bed platform

Lots of room for folding bicycles.

Cubby hole storage beside bed.

Battery box lid.

Cutting memory foam mattress with a hacksaw

Propane locker we probably won't bring.

Start Choppin'

Stick that winder in thar.

Took a day to tune up our folding bikes

This Raleigh Twenty is tuned UP.

Kristin's Folder

Bed, storage, and storage... installed.

$30 vent and $130 vent

Roof accoutremania.




Looking up.

Nessie's spine.

Nice rug!

Battery boxes.

The house battery setup.

Tiny couch over battery bank.

Reading light and 12v outlet for Kristin

Custom locking gate to make the whole van into a dog crate.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Operation Giant Van: The Preparation

I have to turn a passenger van into a rolling home, and that's the first step. I have to sell or destroy everything that's not coming along, and that's step two. Kristin has to burn or destroy thousands of pounds of clothing. To my regular flabbergastation, many items have appeared in the bathroom and kitchen over the past twelve months. We need to disappear many shits. All this has to happen while still sort of trying to make a little bit of money with what I'm calling our "job."

Progress to report: I've designed and built the bed platform. We have a memory foam mattress already. It's 58" wide by 78" long. That's too big, even for this huge van. I'm cutting ten inches off the width, and six inches off the length. Then I'm cutting it into two pieces. That will leave a 48" square for the top part, and the rest will be a foot part to support our legs below the hip-zone, maybe mid-thigh and down. Continuous support in two sections. A platform will go across the back for the main part of the bed, plus storage on the curb side. The lower bed-part will be supported by a table at a level height with the main platform.

This is already too many words. Basically, I'm splitting the bed up so we can toss the bottom mattress section onto the top section and save a lot of space without sacrificing comfort during sleeptime. The table that supports the bottom mattress section can double as a work table, cooking table, desk or ottoman. I am very proud of this.

Bed platform parts. Back section needs legs.

In my previous vandwelling times, my only amenities were a sleep area and a chair, and I never had complaints. I relished it. It's cold outside, and I don't want to waste a bunch of time and effort fooling around with piddly details before we get the fuck outta here. Time to go. Whatever I get done - great.

So I spent some time building the bed parts, and that's pretty much done. I have the basis of some storage over the bed inside the huge hi-top fiberglass area. I put down new plywood on the floor.

Storage in the hi-top. Needs some 1/2" ply.
The rear door is letting some water in, so I'm chasing potential leak areas around and trying to find a product that can be applied when it's cold outside. Most of this sloppy junk isn't supposed to be squirted anywhere in temperatures below 50 degrees. Geez guys. I have a life to try and run here. Anyway, the plywood on the floor was rotten toward the back from water leaking in. So I ripped all that out. That was something to deal with.

All this shit is gone... outta here.
All I can say about bolts is that I had to grind the heads off a lot of them and pound the threaded sections out through the floor. I wore down a cutting wheel until it was about the size of a quarter. Vestigial wheelchair lift parts be gone! Chopped, scraped, swept, and primed. The floor is ready for business.

I don't know how to run a normal life. Asked and answered. Cannot do. My operating instructions are soaked, burned, and demolished. I'm pushing my life forward by slamming my head on mountains until they budge. I accept this because it's the path I'm on, and I have faith that a fresh dose of vandwelling is an escape hatch and salvation is on the other side.

This van is huge.
Daisy. One out of three ladies who I live with.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting shit undone.

Getting shit done is not my strong point. I have occasional bursts of extreme productivity, but the daily to-do lists on scraps of paper keep adding up. When there are too many scraps, I transcribe them onto new scraps. Maybe a tablet.

My brain is a hammer. My brain is a machine gun.

On the productive side, I've accomplished plenty. Built a small house once. I could give myself credit for that.

On the arguably productive side, as in "I produced this content," I updated the Condiment Packet Gallery in January. Nearly eleven years passed without an update. Suddenly I was inspired to continue. Countless hours were spent re-learning basics; writing CSS for the first time, and updating my use of HTML. Then came the repetitive copy-paste creation of a thousand static pages. Scanning hundreds of new packets followed. Now there's an Instagram account: @condimentpacket

www.condimentpacket.com is back open for business.

Sure, I can do that, but today I can't muster the energy to walk to the liquor store. To fold laundry. To step outside. To charge my phone.

We bought eight 18-gallon rubbermaid totes, just like Bob Wells recommended. My apartment is a loud sack of shit.

How am I going to muster the wherewithal to walk out and tap the gas? Nagging last-minute operations suffer in the undercurrent of daily to-dos. I'm suspended like a fruit chunk in jello. The van needs some work; inside and out. It's winter. I need to build a bed platform, but it's cold outside. I need to run some wiring, install lights, sort out the propane situation, and decide what goes into the blue totes. But I barely stretched socks over my cold feet by noon.

I can talk about booze and brains and adderall and ADHD, but what more can I really say. Today is one, and tomorrow will be another.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Alright, so here's finally the fucking plan!

It's time to go. This apartment is the pits. It's a reasonable deal on space and it gets sun, but for $900 something with utilities it can fuck itself. I have not been feeling it.

I'm happy. That's the only thing that matters.

I got married this year. We got a second dog. We need space. We need to be out. I require novelty.

You gauged that right. We are not fucking around.

That's a '98 Dodge extended passenger van with two whole feet of Hi-Top. I had the severe pleasure of driving this home today. Back seats are getting trashed. Inside is a hotel now. Welcome to the U.S.A.

We are so out of here. I'm going to bring my lady to Key West, where we will fall in love for probably the 4th time. Then we're going to edge our way across the country, stopping at the same places we went last year in this Festiva:

Here we are getting married:

About to get away from the house I built:

I've been asleep for a long time. Now it's time to remember what tires are made for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gnome Chompsky

Shuffling around in the woods. Checking out some ruins. Thinking on how to put a roof over ruins. Small car with stick shift gets many books on some days.

Dogs chase free apples. 

About 30 cents an ounce sounds right. 

Wake up when the sun pokes your conscience. Click links. The car of books pays for hoagies++.