This week is a little special. It marks 5 years since I started this RVLife. It is my 5 year Vaniversary! Oh the changes we have both been through. The ups and downs and the Ahhh and the Uggg! Somedays it seems like yesterday and somedays it feels like I have been here forever. Come take a walk back with me.
I remember the feeling when I first bought her. The excitement of starting something totally new and the terrified feeling of a completely different way of living that I had never known. It was the end of January and darn cold. Was I crazy?? Well I have always been a little over the edge so if you know me and as my Dad always said I have to do things the hard way. The way I looked at it, let’s get the hard part over first. There was many things to do. Figuring out how to make it warm, then deciding how to make her mine.
When I bought her she was a little old and used like me. A few changes definitely needed to be made. I decided that I would take the back and make a king sized bed. It would give me protection from the cold floor and a nice big sleeping space. I could sit on the bed and work or relax or turn the passenger seat at the front and use it as a recliner. The old curtains would certainly have to go as they provided no protection from that north wind coming through and were stained with years of age. The metal floor in front of the counter I would line with bath mats to keep my feet a little warmer in the winter and a little cooler in the summer. With a little help from my friends and my daughter’s sewing skills, within a couple of months she looked like a whole new van. Warm and comforting , from brown and a little worn to purple and nice and fresh.
Over the years I have added and taken away, changed and replaced and a few things made over. The addition of the puzzle flooring to help insulate the metal floor, replacing the old roll up door with new frosted purple panels and the change of the drivers and passenger seats for a more comfortable ride. I also removed the microwave to make a little shelf for my few knickknacks that I have kept and of course my Christmas tree.
Last year I decided I needed a little more living room. Only having the front and aisle way was proving to be a little constraining. I took down the bed and made a couch and single bed. It opened the van up so much. However in the winter I found it is much harder to keep it warm in here. But it’s only for a few months. Maybe next year I will be south or west and will not have to worry about that issue.
The old beige color of the fabric also had to go. It was old and stained and beige really did not go with my purple theme. With the help of my girlfriend Diane, we transformed the inside to a beautiful grey.
The outside was developing a few problems of its own. Some rust spots had come through and again the brown did not match my purple theme. With the help of my friends Tom and Mike we transformed her into a purple Chipmunk. I must tell you when Mike finished painting the purple I cried. It was so beautiful.
Oh the places we have been together. To the farthest northern point in Ontario, Pickle Lake, to the shores of Florida gulf coast and many places in between. Just this past year to one of my bucket list items Newfoundland. To deep in the forests in Northern Ontario to driving the Infamous Cabot Trail. It has been a fabulous journey! I remember my first long trip with her to Rhode Island. Coming back and staying in the Andriondack mountains. The ease of traveling with your whole house with you was astounding. Being able to pull off anywhere and make a coffee and relax after a day of driving was something I could and have gotten used to. I have been travelling in a van for well over 30 years but it was not set up to make coffee and turn the furnace on when it’s cold. It did not have a bathroom or a bedroom so it was kind of celebration when the first time I had to go (which is often) when I was traveling, I could just pull off to the side of the road and walk to the bathroom. Silly I know but I really am not good at and do not like the I gotta pee wiggle. Lol! Traveling for work was also much easier. If bad weather hit there was no worry about searching for a motel or only finding a Uggg one. I am pretty particular about where I lay my head. Find a Walmart or if the weather is bad most places will let you stay and relax until it is over. I remember leaving London, Ont once, getting to the highway and seeing what a mess it was, pulled into the Flying J truckstop and called my boss and told him I was parked for the night. I was glad I did not have to live a few of the horror stories of getting home that day that my coworkers did. So glad they made it safe as they all are beautiful people.
Learning the different aspects of driving her has been an adventure and misadventure. Learning how heavy she is by getting her stuck a few times, Learning the hard way and keeping in mind how tall she is, so far so good on that one took a little getting used to. The lower clearance of the basement and that extra foot with the spare tire I cannot see in my mirrors was also a oops and oh my lesson a few times. We have been to some tight places like the trail I took in Northern Ontario that the conservation officer said was a beautiful spot in the river. Turned out a trail not a road and was washed out over 2 miles up the trail. Backing out has become an art! Lol! There was a few places that I have taken her that no roadtrek has gone before like the “access road” which turned into the ATV trail at Queen Elizabeth Wildlife Park. Haha! Oh boy that was a lesson learned and a night spent on a rock. She did great though although a little damage to the under carriage because really climbing rocks is not her thing.
I love the fact that she is the size of a large van and really can go about anywhere. In any season we can drive the roads into the wilderness or into the city. I prefer not the city though as other driver’s are crazy. My first winter camping was done in this van. I found a quiet peace snuggled into the snow in the heart of a forest.
Mechanically we both have had some OMG moments. The biggest by far was the engine blowing in Timmins Ontario. Although I will admit the alternator going in the middle of nowhere Indiana at 2 am was exciting as well. The tierod ends in Newfoundland was a little unnerving. But in the end all was taken care of and today, anyway, she runs like a dream!
Getting comfortable living mobile in all four seasons was a learning curve. Where to park for sleeping, where to take showers, when to winterize my tanks just to name a few. Walmart has become one of my favorite overnight quick stops. Joining the gym for showers and taking advantage of campground shower and laundry facitilities.
Living mobile in the winter as you probably have guessed, has been the biggest challenge. No running water for about 3 months is frankly, a drag. Waking up to chip ice to make coffee, then have to massage the milk carton because the milk is frozen is way too much work for morning coffee. It only happens occasionally and I have learned to take the water jugs off the floor and put them on the counter at night. It helps to keep the water flowing.
Learning a way of doing simple things like making coffee without a coffee maker. Keeping a minimal lifestyle. There is only so much room in the van. Learning all about watts and power, how much power it takes to run things was a big challenge. Not having a generator I really have to be careful on the amount of power I am using. Even with the two extra batteries I added I still have to watch my power consumption.
Personally I think this has been the most challenging and growing years of my life. Learning and getting comfortable doing it on my own. I am still working on that aspect and have taken some pretty big strides. This year was my first tour of anything and it started with Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. Building my website and rediscovery my love for writing. Writing my book and the publish of my first magazine article was huge to say the least. I am pretty sure moving into the van gave me the confidence to leave my job and pursue my dream.
The last 5 years have not been easy. Emotionally it is a Rollercoaster on whether it was the right thing to do. On those days when it dark and cold I still wonder if I made the right choice, but in my heart I know there is no place I would rather be than in my Roadtrek.
Cheers to the next 5 years and the excitement that it will bring!
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.
See you next week