Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Thursday, June 4, 2020

My New Partner

The Delay

My goal was to leave Pahrump on May 31st.  But, I didn't make it; today being June 4th.  Here I sit in Pahrump at 103F; so thankful for the AC in my Prius.  Tomorrow will be cooler ... only 100F ... but the next day is a true respite in the mid 80s.

Unfortunately, I can't physically work in heat much past the upper 80's.  So, I get up early, work on the van, then go into the Prius and do HOWA tasks until about 5 or 6pm when I typically do something relaxing ... like write a blog post :) ... before bed.

Headliner with heat and AC running through it, also side airbags from cab to back.

The Work to Date

I got the van in early March, a passenger van because windows are important to me.  I took the seats out and quickly discovered that removing the floor-rail infrastructure to which the seats were attached was beyond my capabilities.  Similarly, I needed to take the headliner off in preparation for a 16" fiberglass high top roof.  Because a heater/AC system ran through the headliner, as well as side airbags, I didn't have the skill set to do that removal either.  So, I hired a local shop.  Once completed, the back of my van now looks more like a cargo van than a passenger van.

Looks more like a cargo van with seat rails and carpet removed.

Although the heat/AC was removed from the headliner in the back, I had them keep it running to floor-level.  I suspect that will be a nice feature when I've been driving and want to heat or cool my living space before I get to camp.

I was hoping to have the Fiberine high top installed in May.  But, they had to close due to the virus and then got really backed up with work.  So, I'm waiting until the Fall.  In the meantime, I tacked the headliner back up for aesthetics and a bit of insulation.

Spare tire moved from underneath to back door. 
Also, hitch installed for towing.
In addition, I had the shop move the spare tire from underneath the back carriage, onto a back door.  I know changing a tire will be a challenge anyway; so, trying to make it as accessible as possible when/if needed seems prudent.  I also got some running boards.  Finally, I had a hitch put on so I could haul my 6'x10' cargo trailer.

The Bow Problem

I decided to put in a plywood floor to even out the bumps and ridges.  Gratefully my comrade and colleague Phyllis trekked back to Pahrump to help me.  We cut the ply and everything fit like a glove.  I was then going to attach the wood and lay some sheet vinyl.  BUT, the dry weather in Pahrump made the plywood bow something fierce.  A google search provided a solution: wetting the concave side and letting it sit overnight.   But, within a half hour outside, it would bow again.  Finally, I just gave up finishing the floor here in the desert.  I will finish in Oregon.

Bowed plywood from the dry desert air.

Today's Status

So, this morning I started setting up a living space in the van and packing everything up for my trip north.  I have many HOWA items to outfit a couple of HOWA minivans this summer.  So much so, I got a hitch carrier for the overflow.  So, bins, bins everywhere ... plus large rolls of floor vinyl, underlayment, and curtain fabric ... just like living in a house under renovation!

The Lament

I have living in my Prius down to a science.  I know where everything is; how to set up my devices for video conferences and live feeds.   I've got instant electrical power in the Prius ... a generator on wheels.  So many changes in the van.  Now I have solar panels to set up and move with the sun each day.  I need to figure out where to place cameras and sit with my laptop in the van for decent lighting and audio.  Everything will be a learning experience for a while.

So, Why?

Do you sense frustration?  Me too.  The thing is, I still like living out of my Prius.  I think this transition would be easier if I didn't.  All that said, the reasons for getting the van are still sound and wise.  I need to be able to stand up off and on while working inside on the computer.  I need to be able to easily cook inside instead of having to eat cold foods or go out to eat each day.  I need to be able to tow my cargo trailer.  These are the features I need because I want to continue doing the work of Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA).

Bed set in first in my new van, my Partner in all things good.

Onward and Upward

So, I'm keeping the Prius as my "cottage on wheels" for vacations and extended trips.  But, the Van, she is a working girl.  A dependable, go anywhere, climb any mountain kind of woman.  She will carry a load in style.  Her and I, we're partners.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

New Wheels

Announcement: In March, I bought a van. Right now it’s at a local shop to remove the seat rails from the floor, and the headliner from the roof. This is necessary disassembly before I get it ready for camping.
Purchased from Pahrump Chevrolet on March 7, 2020.

Prius’ Future: I will keep my Prius because I really love it and will continue to use it as much as possible. The Prius will be my vacation “cottage” 😊.
Although the van is larger, I hope to maintain a minimalist lifestyle.

Reasons for a Van: I've always considered myself living out of the Prius except to drive, sleep, do personal hygiene, and for storage. Since I started my work with Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA), however, I'm inside a lot more to use the computer. So, I find myself not setting up my kitchen to cook, nor standing up and moving about as much. Plus, I have a cargo trailer that I can't tow. (Many thanks to my assistant Phyllis for pulling it when used for HOWA business.)
The headliner will be removed to put on a 16" fiberglass high top from  I'll be able to stand up inside to cook!

The Purchase: For those 3 reasons -- to cook, stand, and tow – I started looking for a van about a year ago. One of my search criteria was to find a van from a private party in NV to avoid dealer prices and sales tax. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find one from a private seller. So, I finally broke down and got a van from the Pahrump Chevrolet dealer. Except for the higher costs, the buying experience was a positive one.
Before we took all of the bench seats out.

Other Pros & Cons: Although I plan to keep my minimalist lifestyle, I will still incur additional costs with the van. Fuel usage will be much greater than the Prius. Plus, I'll need to purchase and install a solar power system to keep devices charged, loosing that benefit of the Prius as well. My insurance and registration costs increase, as does my carbon footprint. But, the van has much higher ground clearance to go further into the back country which I love. And, I now have room for a dog companion when the time is right.
The floor after taking out the bench seats, and before
 the rails (under carpet) are removed. 

The Build: I plan to do a no-build build by using furnishings I already have. I’ll try different configurations until I find the best set-up for me and my needs. Unfortunately, removing the bench seat attachments from the floor, and taking down the headliner with its air bags has been a challenge. Thankfully, I found a local shop to do that prep work for me.

Here are some details:
  • 2016 Chevrolet Express Passenger Van RWD 2500 LT
  • White, Regular Wheelbase, 36000 miles
  • 6.0L V8 Vortec engine, 6-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission for towing
  • Passenger van for windows all around, 6 of the 10 windows open
  • Regular wheelbase for a tighter turning radius than an extended length
  • Purchased with funds from my cashed-out Roth IRA, owned by myself (not HOWA)
  • Plan to:
    • Mount running boards,
    • Install a hitch to tow my 6x10' cargo trailer,
    • Keep all windows unobstructed to retain my view and connection to the outside,
    • Make curtains and screens for privacy and airflow without bugs,
    • Insulate interior plastic panels and trim, as possible,
    • Have a plywood floor put in, secured to van floor, and covered with sheet vinyl,
    • Do a no-build build with items purchased when I tried living in my cargo trailer,
    • Attach furniture and other items to plywood floor for safety,
    • Purchase a Fiberine 16" Aerodynamic High-Top, reinforced for storage, solar & roof vent,
    • Get a 100W solar power system to charge 12v electronics (no fridge or 110v items), and
    • Store my Prius in Pahrump for errands, and for long and/or fun trips.
In Closing:  I’ve camped in lots of different ways. I’ve been mobile living out of my Prius since 2009, full-time since 2017. In addition, I’ve camped under the stars, in tents, a teardrop trailer, Class C motorhome, and a converted cargo trailer. So far nothing has suited me like the Prius. Although well thought out, transitioning into this van still comes with some unknowns. So, I consider this new situation an exploration of possibilities and comfort. My hope is that it’ll be a good fit for me.