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The Best $12 I’ve Ever Spent

January 24, 2017 Family, Fear, Freewheeling No Comments

Dad and I rolled out of Kansas City at 2 PM on Tuesday, September 6. I had mapped out our route, but we had no set plan for the trip. By that, I mean that I didn’t have an idea of how far I wanted to make it on any given day. “As far as possible” is the closest thing I can give you as an answer to that question.

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I needed him to drive the first leg for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was really scared of driving this behemoth.
  2. I needed to go through all my emails with the salesperson at the dealership to figure out how this van could have possibly been ordered without cruise control. In taking possession of the vehicle, the first question I asked when I sat in the driver’s seat was, “Where’s the cruise control?” When I told Greg the bad news, he texted back to say he was “distraught.” Ugh.

Dad drove through the first tank of gas, which was 217 miles. In that amount of time, we realized that it was too noisy to turn on the radio or listen to an audiobook or podcast. It was basically too loud to hold a conversation at all. I was stressed, so was he. Not the super-number-one-good times we had hoped for. On top of all of this, my dad is 72 years old and had a nasty summer cold. Yay.

We stopped at a Casey’s General Store in Kingman, KS to fill the tank and get some much-needed provisions: a styrofoam cooler, ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Budweiser. The outside temperature was over 100*F coming across the west-facing Kansas plains and the wind was blowing like crazy. Keep in mind, we’re in a black metal box with no insulation or soundproofing.

I took over the wheel and got us to Texhoma, another 230 miles, which involved a late night thunderstorm and crazy cross-winds. It was not an easy drive, to say the least. But I am goal-oriented to a fault, and it felt good to check the boxes crossing from Iowa (my parents’ house) to Missouri (dealership) to Kansas (lunch with aunt and uncle) to Oklahoma (60 miles across the panhandle) to the Texas border in one day. We stayed at a very clean and comfortable hotel and got a good night’s rest to continue on our journey.

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We were up early the next morning for more of the same. There was a strong cross-wind, but we got lucky that it was an overcast day. I drove 12+ hours that day — 865 miles without cruise control — taking us from the Texas/Oklahoma border to Boulder City, Nevada.

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We were, of course, on Route 66. We knew we needed gas at some point, and there were hundreds of billboards littering the highway advertising their wares (as well as fuel, though prices were not always given). The highlight of that stretch was pulling into the Flying C Ranch, only to find that the gas was at $0.56/gallon higher than it was elsewhere along the route. Blasphemy! We saw that and I hit the gas on our way out of there, unintentionally spraying other weary travelers with the muddy water from a puddle. I legitimately felt/feel bad, but that gave us a much-needed laugh!

We stopped down the road at Clines Corners (where we probably paid just as much for gas). We also secured some M&Ms and a Mexican blanket that served as a barrier between the cockpit and the black hole that was the rest of the van. It helped the situation so much. We honestly couldn’t believe how much “soundproofing” this very primitive solution provided. That’s the best $12 I’ve ever spent. I’m sad I did not get a picture. We probably looked like fugitives driving down the highway in a windowless van and a Mexican blanket behind the cockpit!

Handy little compartment for my M&Ms.

Handy little compartment for my M&Ms.

Dad splurged for rooms at a historic hotel in downtown Boulder City, Nevada that night. We were hoping to meet up with Greg’s uncle and aunt, but they were otherwise detained. I made some wrong turns on my run the next morning that sent me farther than I wanted to go, and that set us behind on our plans to meet up with Dad’s 92-year-old sister in Las Vegas. Visiting with Maureen and her family was the most important stop on our trip. While we got there late, we had a very nice visit; it will possibly/probably be the last time we see her. What a blessing!

I’m going to add this tidbit here, mostly so that I remember it: We were sitting at an outside cafe in Boulder City, having a nice dinner and enjoying the fresh air. Dad made a point of stopping me in conversation to tell me he was proud of me. That he never once felt scared with me behind the wheel, and that I must have felt scared when he was driving (which was true, making me even more scared to drive). That it’s a tough rig to drive in these conditions and that I was doing a good job. I may be 42 years old, but sincere praise from my dad still goes a long way.

From there, it was more of the same for the next 600 miles. Me driving, Dad looking happily out the window and remarking as he saw fit:

“Why is that fence there?”
“Who put that highway there?”
“Why are there so many trains going this way?”

“That mother fucker doesn’t know what he’s doing. Get around him, and quick.”

So what I’m trying to say is: I own the highway. I am at one with the truckers. But only because of my dad. In all honesty, this was the best thing that could have happened. As not-fun as it was for either of us, I got really comfortable driving a really uncomfortable and out-of-my-comfort-zone vehicle. If Greg had taken possession of the van and driven it home (even if I was with him), I would not have driven it because I would have been too afraid. I needed to do this.

My dad’s words: “I’m never going to drive this vehicle again. You need to learn to do this.” He was right, of course, as dads are. He taught me, and he did it in a way that didn’t make me feel stupid or inferior or that I should somehow know how to do this already, having never done it before. He taught me to use the mirrors for maneuvering on the highway, to park in less-than-ideal situations, to park the rig in my own very tight driveway!

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Vans aplenty!

Greg wasted no time getting to work. Dad and I rolled in on a Thursday evening and Greg got to work the next day. We’ve documented the process, which I’ll share here, of course. This is where the real fun begins!

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Van 2.0

January 9, 2017 Family, Freewheeling No Comments

If you read my Welcome, 2017 post and/or if you follow me on Instagram, you know that we bought a new van in September. Well, we bought it in April, but we had to wait for it to be built.

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Brand new 2017 Ford Transit! (The color is called “magnetic.” We get asked all the time.) And as you can see below, we opted for no interior options. Well, that’s not exactly true. One of the amenities that we did opt for was cruise control, and our sales guy missed that on the last iteration of back-and-forth. Not cool. We got an aftermarket kit that Greg has installed, but that was no help for me driving 2000 miles across the desert…

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My parents and I picked it up outside of Kansas City, fresh off the assembly line, and my dad and I drove it back to California so Greg could get to work building it out. The odometer had 11 miles on it when we hit the road. Don’t worry, there are stories.

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Right off the bat, I’m sure you have a million questions and I’m going to answer them in a very comprehensive post. I can’t really talk about the whats and whys of everything right now. I promise, I will fill you in when the time is right. Sorry for being so cryptic, but I’m honoring Greg’s requests on this.

Anyway, NEW VAN!

I have a ton of pictures and descriptions of the build-out. Greg designed it (allowing me a lot of input on my preferences) and is doing a crazy-good job of making it come to life. Every day, he comes home from “real” work and changes his clothes to go work out in the garage and van for the rest of the evening. He had a holiday break from December 23 through January 2 and the amount of work that he got done in those 10 days is amazing.

I can’t wait to show you the progress!

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MDW Cycling Adventure

More adventures awaited us on Sunday. Greg had been poring over maps for a few days to find a good bike ride for us. We know the Vineman race routes well, but wanted something that headed out to the coast. Greg showed me the options, me being very clear about saying I wasn’t up for a long ride — 25 miles was my goal for the day. He estimated a route for me that we could do together until I peeled off to head home and he continued on for a longer ride. Let’s go!

The first nine miles were great. Rolling hills along the river and into the town of Cazadero. At mile 9.5, the road went up and continued going up with only slight reprieve for another nine miles. I have not been training on hills and this definitely felt like work. Also, I had a lot of time to think while I was climbing. Not all of the thoughts were good ones, GREG. Among them was the thought that there was no way this was going to be a 25-mile ride. I knew where I was on the map and there was no way this was going to work out. I was right.

It turned out to be a 37-mile ride with 3,151 feet of elevation gain. Yeah, not exactly the ride I signed up for. But the scenery was beautiful!

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During a photo op outside of Jenner, I let Greg know what I thought about his route planning skills. Ha!

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It’s always an adventure when Greg is doing the planning!

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MDW Kayaking Adventure

We headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge for the holiday weekend; Greg took Friday off, so we got a head start. Heading to the Russian River was my idea. I was chasing the sun and 80*F temps, along with water that is very swimmable this early in the season. Thankfully the forecast was accurate!

We stopped at the Fishetarian in Bodega Bay for a lunch of fish tacos and beer.  It was chilly on the coast, so we quickly made our way inland to Monte Rio. It’s a little sleepier than Guerneville and there is a shady parking spot adjacent to the dog beach. Perfect! Miles swam around with his ball during cocktail hour while we contemplated how to spend the next 3 days.

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The real adventures began on Saturday. Greg and I went for our respective long runs (7.5 miles for me, 10 for him) and then we started scheming the best way to kayak the river. For all of Greg’s planning efforts, things could not have gone worse.

We drove 3 miles out to Duncans Mills to drop a bike there. That’s where we’d take the boat out of the water. I volunteered to ride my bike back to collect the van, which we would be leaving 7 miles upriver in Guerneville. At Johnson’s Beach, we loaded the boat with our phones, my cycling shoes, booze, and snacks and set off down the river.

The three of us (me, Greg, Miles) were in the inflatable kayak, which made it very difficult to steer. Greg also forgot one of the seats, so he was leaning against a lifejacket in the back. These two things alone made for a long trip. What literally made the trip long is that the current in the Russian River is about as strong as that on a lake (read: almost imperceptible). So instead of just floating happily with the current, we were actually having to do a lot of paddling. I’d happily paddle, but Greg was having to work so much harder to steer the boat when I paddled that it was better for me not to (other than when we were paddling into a strong headwind, which was often). We thought we’d be able to average 3 mph or so down the river, but we were only averaging 1.5 mph. A booze cruise that should have taken no more than a couple of hours took over four and ended up being a lot of work.

On the upside, Miles had fun! We would throw his ball and he’d dive off the kayak to fetch it, then swim alongside the boat until he could walk on an island to rest for a minute. We got good at lifting him into the boat using the handle on his Ruffwear harness. He’s such a good adventure dog!

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We were thinking we’d be able to pull off onto islands to stretch our legs and hang out, but we were running out of time. We didn’t get started until 2 PM and we had a small issue at the end of the line. This is where Greg’s planning skills really fell apart. You know, details like where we’d be able to pull the boat out of the water in Duncans Mills. He thought he saw a place on the map. He assumed there would be a trail. He guessed no one would be around to see us hauling a kayak and gear out of the water into town.

Well, there were people at the place he thought he saw and they said it was a private beach (maybe). The other place he had in mind was farther away than he thought it was. The one place he did find wasn’t really a trail at all, which would mean we’d need to bushwhack our way up the hill and into town. I was OVER IT by this point (as we all were), but there was no choice but to go with this plan.

It was treacherous and awful. I was wearing a bikini and flip flops, having taken my river shoes out of the van during ski season and not remembering to put them back. There was poison oak and thistles everywhere. At one point, I made Greg stop so I could take a picture to document the desperate situation. Of course, once we got the boat into town, I had to get on my bike and ride 7 miles back to Guerneville. FML.

The sun was behind the mountains by the time I got back to Duncans Mills at 7 PM, and the breeze blowing off the ocean was cold. Greg and Miles were wet and freezing by the time I rescued them, and Greg still had to break down the kayak. We slept well that night and woke up sore.

Three days post-adventure, spots of poison oak rash started showing up on my legs and torso. And my face. My chin and lips are covered in oozing sores. I got a steroid shot this morning and am on my way to the pharmacy for cream now. What a delightful souvenir from our trip!

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Photo Faves

This photo is old, but it’s one of my favorites that I didn’t share here:

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Greg and I took a road trip the week after Christmas 2014 and woke up on New Year’s Day in the middle of nowhere. Honestly, I can’t tell you the nearest town. We were in central California, somewhere between Highway 101 and I-5, as if that is any help at all… We eventually made our way to Ojai that afternoon (and it didn’t take all that long), but I have no idea where we were.

I had just finished my first run of the year and came upon the van to find Greg standing on top of it with his binoculars. I loved that it was the first day of the new year and it seemed as though he was looking back at 2014 from up there. I don’t often run with my phone, but I was really glad I had it with me that time.

I’ll try to post more photos that I find in my camera roll that I haven’t shared here; it’s kind of fun to look back on our adventures that way.

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Freewheeling: Kitchen Updates

August 17, 2013 Freewheeling 2 Comments

Right after we got back from Ironman Canada, Greg went to work redoing the kitchen. We found out very quickly that the setup was not very efficient and were able to identify ways to improve it.

As a reminder, here is what it looked like:

The stove/sink unit is on the right side, adjacent to the couch. The refrigerator is underneath the wooden countertop, on a slide-out mechanism that locked into place. It had to be rolled all the way out to be able to open the fridge. We found that wasn’t very convenient (especially when I wanted to fix a snack as we were driving down the road).

On top of the setup not being very user-friendly, it didn’t look very good. Here is the updated kitchen:

The new kitchen is so much better! The countertops and black paneling really make it look clean and “finished.” Plus, those countertops make it much easier for clean-up. All of our cooking supplies live in the storage drawer, making it easier for us to find things and keep everything organized.

The one down-side to the fridge top being part of the counter is that we have to move things off of that space when we want to open the fridge. I learned that the hard way a few times and have gotten much better about taking everything I’ll need out of the fridge before I start prepping.

Greg thinks of a lot of small details, and the LED lighting on the underside of the overhead shelves is really handy. He has the lights running from a switch on the electrical panel (just to the right of the water tank fill hole), making it really easy to access them. They make it nice for changing at night without blinding everyone with the harsh side-mounted light.

You may have also noticed that he made the low-profile shelves beneath the overhead shelves into drawers. I wasn’t sure I’d like this “upgrade” because I am not quite able to see into the drawers without standing on my tip-toes, but it does make it nice that everything looks tidy and nothing falls off of these shelves anymore.

This kitchen has served us well and Greg doesn’t have plans to make any changes to it. Two upgrades that he’s researching now are adding hot water to the sink and adding a shower option (with the spigot on the outside of the van).

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Vineman Monte Rio

Greg and I raced the inaugural Vineman Monte Rio olympic distance triathlon on June 2. We had visited the Russian River area of Sonoma County a couple of weeks prior to that and rode part of the bike and run courses, just to see what it was like. The roads were flat, newly paved, and shady. Sign me up!

The nice thing about competing in a difficult half Ironman race so early in the season is that then you’re basically ready for anything after that. In fact, we’re racing again this weekend! The olympic distance is so fun and relatively painless after the Wildflower Long Course.

Vineman Monte Rio makes the sixth multi-sport event these race organizers host each summer. Since this was the first running of the event, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but these folks know what they’re doing and it went very smoothly.

Packet pickup was quick and painless. There were just a handful of sponsors since it’s the first year of the event, so we were in and out of there quickly. Monte Rio is a small community with limited parking, so they were encouraging participants to park three miles away at the rodeo grounds and take shuttle buses in on race morning. This meant leaving bikes in the transition area overnight. Greg and I were staying at a campground adjacent to the rodeo grounds, so we chose to just ride our bikes the ~3 miles in. This worked very well for us.

RACE MORNING
The Van really does make things easy on race morning, the MVP being the in-house toilet. This was a low-pressure race for both of us, so I was able to take care of breakfast, getting dressed, and all necessary “business” before Greg was back from trotting Miles around the campground. I had built in the necessary time that would allow us to run behind schedule (as is always the case) and arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare.

SWIM — 30:37 (2:03/100)
The water was warm (~72*F) compared to the outside temperature (~60*F), so it felt good getting in. I made the mistake of not being in the front of my age group and started behind 3-4 rows of women bobbing around in the river. It took several minutes to finally swim around everyone and get in a groove. While I am not swimming as strongly as I was last year, I start fast and finding “clean water” makes a big difference in getting into a rhythm.

The water was shallow and a lot of people were standing up to walk, especially in one section on the way back in. For anyone with open water anxiety, the Vineman races are very good for this reason. I was able to swim through it all, which was great. I’m much faster while swimming than while walking in knee-deep water. I assumed I’d end up somewhere around 30 minutes and was really pushing myself at the end. Just as I stood up in the water, my Garmin beeped at me that it had been 30 minutes (I keep it in my swim cap in a Ziploc bag and have it set to beep every 10 minutes, just to give me an idea of how I’m doing). I was disappointed that I couldn’t break the self-inflicted time barrier, but also feel better knowing that the race directors said the course ran ~150 meters long. At my 2:03/100m pace, I would have finished sub-30 if the course had been accurate.

I swam into three other age groups in my mile-long trip up and down the river and had no idea where I was in my own age group. There were no other orange caps around me at the time I exited the water and felt pretty good about things.

T1 — 4:18
I say this all the time – I am not fast in transition. This course made it difficult for everyone because of the long distance from the water’s edge up to the transition area and because that run was on small pebbles. We were all hobbling down to the race start, lamenting our transition times before it even began. Some people left their flip flops at the water’s edge and found theirs in a sea of other flip flops for the trip back up…but most gutted it out.

BIKE — 1:16:10 (19.5 mph)
This was a fantastic bike ride! Greg and I rode a section of the course a couple of weeks ago and then drove another section of it Saturday on our way to the campsite. The main road out to the coast was recently repaved and was pristine – perfect for racing! The course took us on a bit of a detour on a less-traveled road that had a little bit of elevation gain and was in poor condition. Other than that 7 mile section, this bike course was a dream.

I saw Greg just before I made the turn onto Highway 1 into Jenner; he was on his way back in. I had a race plan to eat my Larabar at the turnaround. I got it out of my bento box and promptly dropped it as I tried to open it. Now I know why people over-pack for short events… I tend to not eat very much while training/racing anyway, so I wasn’t totally concerned, but I knew I didn’t have much in my race belt for the run and I’d have to take advantage of the aid stations on the run.

This bike ride ends up being a PR for me in an olympic distance race. I passed 7 people in my age group on the course and was passed by one woman who was flying.

T2 — 2:27
I was in the run transition area with another woman from my age group. She was chatting with her husband, saying that this run was going to take her a long time. Of course, “a long time” is all relative to how fast someone’s normal running pace is, but I did feel a bit confident coming off a great bike ride and feeling good for the run.

Spoiler: that woman got the 3rd place podium spot.

RUN — 52:19 (8:27/mile)
I think I’ve mentioned that my running training has focused on hills and consistency rather than speed this year. That was all due to the sufferfest that the Wildflower run is. I signed up for this race kind of on a whim, just because it is a beautiful venue, the distance is [relatively] easy, and it would be a fun weekend getaway.

I hit the 1 mile marker and was delighted to see my pace at 8:17. That is fast for me! And yet, everything felt good. I kept on with it, not paying attention to my pace, only with feeling good while running. The run course is absolutely flat and 99% shaded. The only sun is between mile 3.0 and 3.1 at the turnaround. It was blissful!

I saw Greg at my Mile 2 and he looked good heading into his last two miles. I was chatting with people and otherwise feeling good about life. I had a half package of Clif Shot Bloks as I started the run and decided to take a gel from the aid station at Mile 4. I don’t usually use these for training because they upset my stomach, but I knew I needed an extra shot of energy because I’d lost my food on the bike. Despite everyone saying it’s “just like frosting,” I don’t often eat frosting (!!) and it was hard to suck it down. It did seem to work as prescribed and did not give me any stomach distress, so that was a win and I plan to employ that this weekend as well.

I felt good all through the run. I didn’t explode. I never had the desire to walk. No stomach/bathroom issues. I was passing a lot of people and not being passed by anyone in my age group, so that led me to speculate on where I was in the field. I rounded the last corner across the bridge and saw Greg cheering for me. I turned into the finish area, which included winding around the transition area and up a steep hill to the finish line. This bit of terrain led me to ask aloud,  “Who puts a fucking hill at the finish line?!” and several spectators laughed.

I was so proud of my finish! I thought it was a PR for me, but it turns out the olympic distance I did last year (the one I am doing tomorrow, in fact!!) was a 2:41:32. I did better in the swim, run, and transitions at that race last year, causing a little bit of anxiety this afternoon…

FINISH — 2:45:51
Greg and I hung around for 30 minutes or so, waiting for them to post the final results. The post-race food was pancakes and sausage, so I made-do with drinking half a Dr. Pepper and waiting to eat until we got back to The Van. As proud as I am of my finish, I was totally bummed to get fourth place in my age group AGAIN. I think this is the fourth time I’ve missed the podium by one spot! Even so, it was a fun morning and I was glad to be part of the inaugural running of the race.

POST-RACE
We rode back to our campsite to rescue Miles and spend a couple of hours river-side before taking a leisurely trip down the coast. This delicious concoction includes Stoli Chocolate Coconut Vodka, chocolate almond milk, and coconut milk. The latter two items are known for their recovery properties, so I feel like it’s all good…

And almost nothing is better than watching our sweet boy fetch his ball up and down the river.

We’re headed to Morgan Hill this evening to camp somewhere (hopefully) and race the Reservoir Triathlon tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Pics from Wildflower

I want to share a few Wildflower photos that were taken by friends of ours. First, an early morning shot of all the athletes racing:

The three guys on the left (Joe, Martz, and Kidder’s 14-YO son Kyle) were smart to do the Mountain Bike race. Their race didn’t start for two hours after this photo was taken and their smiles were just as big an hour after that. I’m totally doing that race next year!

Here’s a family shot from after the race. I was happy to be standing at this point. Greg finished about an hour before me and was feeling pretty good. Miles wondered when we were going back to the lake.

Our camping setup is pretty sweet, what with The Van and all. We arrived at our usual spot near Mile 12 and started nesting. Greg rolled out the new awning and carpet and we were ready to welcome visitors.

When the Martzes arrived, their older son Colin took great interest in the van. He has been researching an RV for himself, you see. He’s 10. The one he wants will arrive at his door in Santa Barbara for a mere $130,000. It was so fun to take him through our van and show him how everything works and why we did things a certain way. Apparently he took it to heart.

Two weeks after the race, we got a postcard in the mail, as shown below. It was from the Martzes. Colin had recreated all of Wildflower with Legos, including our van. Nancy took a picture and sent it to us, which will be a memento we keep forever. I love it so much!

As you can see, he built the van setup flawlessly, right down to the awning, bikes mounted to the back, and the sunroof. It even has the hitch on the back bumper! I love that he included me, Greg, and Miles. My favorite part? Greg is holding a bone for the dog and I am holding a bottle of wine. Ha!!

As we get ready to race again this weekend (Vineman Monte Rio), it is fun to look back on Wildflower through these photos. The beauty of Vineman is that it’s an Olympic distance race and we’ll both be done racing by 10:15 AM. Even with temps at 90*, we can enjoy the day on the river.

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Freewheeling: Upgrades

August 25, 2012 Freewheeling 1 Comment

As I mentioned, Greg worked tirelessly to get The Van ready to go for our trip to Penticton, BC for Ironman Canada. He comes home from his day job and goes immediately to work in the driveway. He has a vision of what he wants and sets out making it into reality. A few of these ideas have been “fine” for a first attempt, but we are on v2.0 with several things.

I have been pleasantly surprised with all of the seemingly minor things he is doing that really make traveling in The Van more comfortable. Here are a few of the things he has been working on:

Bed 2.0: The original bed setup was kind of an “accordion” mechanism that folded into itself above the cockpit. This meant we were sleeping on camping-style sleeping pads and it was a real hassle to set it up and take it down. He upgraded the sleeping quarters to a much more comfortable solution, complete with a custom-cut 6″ memory foam mattress. It stays intact and half of the bed slides out on tracks to make it the full length. He even installed a “pull-up bar” to make it easier to get into and out of. Luckily we are fit people. Maneuvering in this van takes a fair amount of athletic ability in itself…

Cabinets 2.0: He installed the cabinets a few months ago using pre-fab frames and custom-built interiors and doors. They look sleek and are very functional — they open up and stay open, and they lock shut. He recently upgraded them so that the ones on the right side extend all the way to the back wall. This added more storage space and cleaned up the space above the countertop/stove. He also installed three electrical outlets, perfect for charging devices and powering the immersion blender for smoothies.

CABINETS - BEFORE

CABINETS - AFTER

Toilet 2.0: He upgraded the toilet to a compost model. The clean-up is MUCH better. I’m taking his word for that one… I’ve (luckily) never had to do it.

Skylight 2.0: He added a wind deflector to the skylight to help with noise and aerodynamics. It also improves the look of things up there.

Sink/Stove/Fridge: We have running water in the sink thanks to a 26-gallon tank + on-demand pump housed under the van. The two-burner stove runs on propane, which is housed in a nifty little box he designed as part of the countertop system. The fridge is probably my favorite feature of the van. It locks into place under the countertop when not in use, then slides out and opens like a chest cooler.

Roof Rack: He designed, built, and installed a roof rack to accommodate for extra storage. Since we are transporting a third bike for Kidder to use at the race, he also attached a fork mount on the rack. Not only is it functional, it looks pretty bad ass with all three bikes on board.

Nav/Media Center: He designed and built this tablet holder + phone mount to have his music and navigation tools at his fingertips. The audio system is set up for Bluetooth integration, so the phone can be streaming Pandora or playing his personal music through the stereo speakers while the tablet is navigating. Pretty handy.

It was a 23-hour trip to Penticton from San Mateo (longer than anticipated because of swim breaks for Miles and because we drove 130 miles out of our way. I’ll save that story for another time…). The Van performed flawlessly and made it pretty enjoyable. When we got hungry, I’d make my way to the back to fix sandwiches or grab a beverage. We rolled into a campsite on Diamond Lake Wednesday night at 8 PM, I heated up dinner in about 10 minutes, and we slept under the stars (under the skylight) until 6 AM the following morning. It took about 30 minutes to put everything back together and we were on the road again.

I just love it when a plan comes together!

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Nonstarter (almost)

August 22, 2012 Fear, Freewheeling No Comments

ROAD TRIP!!

Greg and I love a road trip even in a “normal” vehicle so we have been looking forward to the 1000-mile trek to Ironman Canada in The Van, perhaps even more than the race itself. (Why? The driving will take ~19 hours and will be done over two days. My race will take ~14 hours and has to be done all in one shot.)

Greg has worked tirelessly getting The Van ready, and most of the work has been done expressly for this trip. It’s our first long over-the-road trip in it and he wanted things to be as comfortable as possible. He thought of so many details and everything came together. Load ‘er up!

We had the bikes mounted last night, the cabinets and fridge full, and our clothes + race gear packed and ready to be loaded first thing this morning. The plan was to be on the road within 30 minutes of waking. Around 10 PM last night, Greg remembered that he needed to add a power supply for his phone in the new mount system. So, electrical engineer that he is, he went to work to quickly take care of this issue. In order to get to the wiring, he had to have the key in the On position and the transmission in Neutral. He completed the task of wiring power to the phone holster and started putting things back together. Done and done. When he went to turn the key off and lock everything up, the situation took a turn for the worse.

The key wouldn’t move. He couldn’t turn the engine over, he couldn’t turn it off. He frantically went to work searching the Sprinter forums, the owner’s manual, the error code reader he installed on his computer. Nothing turned up. He had to disconnect the battery as not to drain it while he continued troubleshooting. He came to bed defeated.

At this point, Greg was convinced that The Van was a DNF for Ironman Canada. He told me to start loading everything into his car — a Honda Element. Ummmm, there’s no way everything we had packed food-wise, clothes-wise, and gear-wise was going to fit in the Element. Add a big dog and it was a laughable thought.

Or it would have been laughable, if it weren’t so devastating.

I refused to believe we were not going to find a solution and be on our merry way. I tried calling my German car mechanic, but couldn’t get in touch with him. I called my dad, but he didn’t have any other suggestions than the ones Greg had already tried. Greg finally got in touch with the “lead tech” on the Sprinter forum he follows and that guy said that it wasn’t some fancy computer switch or anything, so it was probably the tumbler in the lock cylinder. He suggested we try a locksmith.

I was encouraged by this, though Greg kept saying there was no way he could fix anything in time. We’d be better off loading up the other car and going, the sooner the better. Undeterred, I called a local locksmith. He said we’d have to call a mechanic. All the while, Greg was still fiddling with the key in the ignition. Confident in knowing it wasn’t a computer issue, he applied a little elbow grease to the key while poking his needle-nose pliers in to create a little more space.

VOILA! The key came out!

With trepidation, he sprayed WD-40 into the key hole and inserted the key again. He was able to turn it over and turn it off repeatedly. We were back in business! By this time, it was 9:15 AM or so. I hustled to get all of the last minute stuff loaded while Greg took care of his few final chores. We pulled out of the house at 10:25.

I think the lesson learned here, which just became my mantra for Sunday, is DON’T STOP BELIEVING. (Plus, it comes with its own theme song… You’re welcome.)

IRONMAN CANADA OR BUST!! 

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