Yee-haw! Only 9 more days until the summer adventures begin — time to get long lists of things accomplished in short periods of time. The van, still an unnamed girl, is fully repaired and ready to groove.
Over the years I have found myself growing more and more in love with the emotions and sensations that come with preparing for a big trip. That eager anticipation, always found in tandem with that bit of anxiety –Am I forgetting an essential item? Do I have all my loose ends in order? (In my case, no, definitely not. It seems as if I am actively unraveling a ball of twine at the rate that all these loose ends that keep popping up.) I love the mystery of the the unknown humans, situations and environments I will find myself in. I love the combination of my brain trying to create expectations, contrasted with the knowledge that nothing ever turns out as expected. Finding zen through packing. Preparing for a big trip is stressful, stimulating, magical. And right now, it’s also a construction project.
I have realized that the mandate of this van conversion is “cheap, and in a hurry”.
(i.e.; you won’t be seeing my work in a magazine anytime soon.) Thankfully, I know that I am currently sharing this mission statement with many vagabonds and gypsies worldwide. When you gotta go, you gotta go. And when a man has a short window of time to gather his things on his back and disappear, priorities morph quickly. So without further ado, here are some photos of the project so far.
Despite the fact that I crawled in there and laid down before buying it, I imagined a single mattress would leave way more room for activities! For example, I anticipated a space big enough to meditate on a cushion between the bed and the door.
Hmm… much tighter fit than anticipated.
Silly me.. Not nearly enough to sit down! I think my mind was warped from looking at full sized van conversion pictures. It was too good to be true.
FYI for vandwellers: The rear interior dimensions of a Ford Windstar are approximately 91”(l) x 56”(w) x 60”(h). The width at the rear wheel wells is 49”.
Time to build the bed frame.
I bought a 4’x 8’ of ¾” plywood from Rona along with a 2×10 that I had cut into thirds. This thing is going to be bombproof.
I trimmed the plywood to the size of the mattress (75”x 38¾“) with a handsaw.
Then I screwed two 4’ 2x10s onto either end of the bed, width-wise. I did this so that I can easily slide gear under the bed from side door access. But without any length-wise support, the forward and backward movement from acceleration and braking will slowly start wobbling the 2x10s. So I cut four 2x4s at 45o and screwed them in to provide support in that direction. This way I preserve the precious 9” of space under the bed. A good solution, I do say.
A quick sanding of the corners and top surface with a belt sander, and viola! This thing is a beast – I thought I would have to use the 3rd 2×10 in the middle, but the ¾ ply is so strong it barely bends even when I’m bouncing on one foot in the middle. (Yes, that is how I tested it.)
It’s a damn good thing I bought an ultra light mattress, as this frame is incredibly heavy.
And onto the window coverings!
This was a combination of fun and frustrating, as all projects worth anything tend to be. I pressed newspaper into the windows are traced onto it with a sharpie to produce a paper outline.
- Error #1: Trying this from the inside of the van. In retrospect, the inside of the windows are actually the exact same size as the outside. Derp. So mush energy was used in trying to keep the newpaper from fluttering down and expanding outward from the glass. I’m getting all flustered just thinking about this right now. Live and learn, they say. Live and learn. Om.
- Error #2: Doing the recycling the day before. Because all we had left was a half-sized advertising section of newspaper. So I had to painstakingly tape delicate newspaper together – sometimes three or four in a row – to get to the width of the glass.
Window successfully traced onto newspaper. Cut excess paper off with scissors.
Window successfully traced onto cardboard. Cut excess cardboard off with exactoknife.
I purchased a big chunk of reflective multi-purpose insulating wrap from Rona. Super cheap – I paid $20 for 10’x4’. It is similar to Reflectix, but a different brand. I laid the cardboard down on the stuff and used the exactoknife to trace the window.
- Error #1: Do not let this nice stapled cardboard fool you. If you do not have extra long staples, you will need to push VERY VERY HARD to get the staple all way through the material and locked into place. This picture reflects my initial lack of knowledge. Imagine my surprise when the reflectix gently whiffed off the non-locked staples when I picked this up. The actual finish product sports big dimples at every staple.
- Error #2: I stapled the wrong way. Staple so that the flat end of the staple is on the reflectix, not the cardboard (opposite to this picture). When I stapled as pictured, the sharp turned-in ends of the staple ripped through the soft reflectix and it escaped the metal claws.
Surprisingly, it worked really well! For the most part, the covers just pop into the windowsills. They are not 100% blackout, but remember: “cheap, and in a hurry.” This technique worked well enough that I’m going to do the same thing for the front side windows. For the windshield I’m just going to buy a folding sunscreen to save space.
A quick fix – rebolting the ski box.
I threw the old ski box from my previous SUV onto the van. When opened, the trunk hits the box and pushes it upwards quite hard.
I don’t want to sacrifice my trunk opening ability, nor do I want to kill the rack system on the van.
So I drilled some new holes on the floor of the ski box and now it sits forward enough to allow the trunk to open fully. If there was a warranty on the box, it is definitely voided now. Breakin’ warranties – Thug life.
There’s still a lot of work left,
but with a bed to sleep on and protection from heat and prying eyes, I feel more prepared for this adventure. Speaking of which, summer plans are coming together quite nicely right now. Destinations have been confirmed and I can now reveal them without fear of shamefully recalling my statements. Stayed tuned for details.
And hopefully this van will be named soon!