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*Almost* Final Van Pics

July 14, 2017 Freewheeling No Comments

The adventure is underway! And unless you follow me on Instagram, you may be thinking that we’ve been living in a half-built van. I assure you that we are not.

These pics were taken in April and so much has been done since then. But alas, here’s what it looked like at ~85% done:

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The back of the van now has a ladder on the left door for access to the roof rack, skylight, and solar panel.

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The garage is built to store two mountain bikes and two road bikes, each in a separate drawer that pulls out for access. On the far right wall is storage for four sets of skis (two downhill skis, two XC skis). There is a cubby beneath the skis for miscellaneous items like ski boots, cycling gear, hoses, etc. To the left of the bikes is where Miles’ crate goes, with an inflatable kayak nestled inside. Other miscellaneous gear gets tucked into the open spaces.

It’s not shown in this picture, but Greg built two storage bins just under the bed platform on the left. These bins hold ski poles, kayak paddles, and ski chairs. He’s done a great job of maximizing the space in the garage, which is complete with overhead lighting.

Also not shown, Greg affixed two rows of those over-the-door shoe pockets on the lower half of both doors. Perfect for small tools, cycling gear, shower supplies, etc. If you zoom in on the right side of the garage, you’ll see a water pump and hose that we use to wash the dog, any messy gear, and will be used for our showers. Yes, it is equipped with hot water. It isn’t there in the above picture, but Greg has since installed a clamp above the window on the right side to give us hands-free showering. There’s a pop-up “cubicle” for privacy (though it’s likely we’ll just shower in our bathing suits).

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This is the view from the sliding side door. The couch wasn’t finished when I took these pictures. Greg bought new leather captain’s chairs and ordered fabric that matches it for the couch. Greg did the carpentry on the couch frame and we had a local upholsterer make the cushions. The seat of the couch opens up for storage.

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We have storage in the space above the window that’s above the couch. This is open storage that we have put small bins in for holding stuff we access most often: dog bags and Chuck-It balls, head lamps, chargers, etc.

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The new leather seats look so much better than these, and they are way more comfortable — except for the head rests. They’re too far back for actually resting your head if you’re driving. Greg also thinks the arm rests are too short, but we usually have a dog there acting as an arm rest anyway. Greg built a platform for Miles that puts him seat-level with us; otherwise, he’d be sitting on my lap the whole time. It’s sweet and I love him, but 80 pounds gets to be too much.

The battery pack and the inverter are underneath the seats. More on this in another post later (probably/hopefully). Greg installed the swivel seat bases, which really does make the “living room” feel spacious. Humor me. I realize that we are living in approximately 50 square feet and “spacious” is a relative term!

We ordered the van with the most basic trim packages, knowing we’d be swapping things out. Greg also took out the factory radio system shown in the above pic and installed a custom touch screen with Bluetooth integration to his phone and navigation programs.

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The kitchen features a two-burner gas stove and small sink, complete with soap dispenser (custom-installed, of course). That glass lid folds down to be flush with the countertop when not in use. Just below the sink/stove, there is a panel of switches with controls for lighting, a USB outlet, and on/off switches for the water pump and refrigerator.

The three drawers hold stuff like kitchen utensils, cookware, and a few tools. The cabinet under the sink has a custom-built garbage+recycling bin, the circuit panel for the switches, the on-demand water heater, and the water pump. Oh, and a fire extinguisher. On the floor behind the large wooden panel is our 40-gallon water tank and propane heater. Above the water tank is deep storage (our pantry), accessed through a trap door in the countertop.

Speaking of the countertop, it’s aluminum. We really wanted stainless steel, but getting it flush-cut to fit exactly proved to be too much work and/or expense, so we went with the next best option. I love how it turned out!

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Across from the sink/stove is an upper storage cupboard (probably for bathroom essentials), the refrigerator, a spice cabinet, and storage for the toilet. The toilet slides out of that little cubby and then slides back in to be out of sight and mind. Not shown, we also have a toaster oven that is bolted on top of the storage cabinet. Don’t worry — Greg took it apart to add fireproof insulation and it’s safe!

The vertical part of aluminum (that acts kind of like a backsplash) is actually the foot of the bed. We bought a queen size foam+latex mattress from IKEA and cut ~14″ off the foot of the bed, then cut that in half width-wise and had an upholsterer cover those two “cushions” with duck cloth. When it’s time for bed, we fold down the backsplash, place the cushions, and pull the bed linens over the cushions. When not in use for sleeping, one cushion is used for Miles’ platform in between us in the cockpit, and the bed turns into a seated lounge area with the other cushion and bed pillows as a back rest. You can see a little bit of how that works in the above picture, but I’ll get better photos when we get the van back.

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Our closets are next to the bed. Greg gets the far left one, I get the middle one, and we share the far right one for hanging clothes. Each cubby is equipped with a light (switch on the far right of the pic). The tambour doors slide up and down and look really sharp when they’re closed.

That’s it! I’ll get updated pictures (and hopefully a video tour) posted when I can. I do plan to post more of the in-progress photos and notes for others who are interested in seeing everything that went into this build-out. I know more people are interested in what we’re doing now as we travel, so it will be a balancing act. If you have any specific questions about what we’ve done, please post a comment and I’ll get back to you.

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This is a picture my mom took as we were getting ready to roll out of Lenox. Don’t look too closely, as both Miles and Greg are blinking. Ha!

While we had done a couple of quick recon missions over to the coast to test out the van, it definitely got the acid test when we headed out on a 3000+ mile adventure across the country. Things were packed in there haphazardly because we knew we’d be taking some stuff with us for the interim time between dropping it off in Baltimore and picking it up in Antwerp. Some things were thrown in there “just in case” and/or because we didn’t know what else to do with them. We packed along a lot of food items that we were either able to get through or give away on our journey.

Regardless of things being disorganized, we were able to avoid eating at restaurants, sleep comfortably for free, and get a feel for how things will be when we’re living vanlife full-time. We’ve been apart from the van for two weeks now and we are really missing it!

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