Karma Yoga at Sea to Sky Retreat Center

It was awfully hard to leave the wonders of the hotsprings, but we somehow managed to peel our relaxed bodies out of pools and back into Luna for the continuation of our journey. Then we had a unexpected one-day stopover in Revelstoke when Luna decided to reject her alternator. Finally, after a mildly stressful drive through the epic mountain passes of Highway 99 — which Luna actually did quite commendably — we arrived at the Sea to Sky Retreat Center in Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia.

Wow -- The view from the lakeside at SSRC. Cloudburst Mountain + Daisy Lake + Tibetan flag.

Wow — The view from the lakeside dock at SSRC. Cloudburst Mountain + Daisy Lake + Tibetan flag.

The way of life here is one of Karma Yoga.

Here, our work becomes a spiritual practice of selfless service. We are challenged to remain mindful of the task at hand and to stay in the present moment. Mundane tasks — take, for example, the quintessential ashramic event of chopping wood — become unexpected opportunities to tune into the Self. In the distracted wood chopper, the ego swings this way and that, thoughts roil and churn through the mind. The task is a chore, laborious and uninspiring. The axe swings through the air as the wood chopper thinks of what he wants to eat for dinner. In this manner, thoughts unsynchronized with the task at hand, neither the chopping nor the thinking is done to the fullest potential. Both are unsatisfying and the wood chopper is discontented.

The mindful wood chopper is chopping wood with body and mind. The mind is focused intently on the physical act of aiming the blow and moving the axe in a smooth arc. Chopping wood becomes the object of meditation — just as the breath is during seated practice. The mindful wood chopper trains himself in selflessness, thinking, “I am chopping wood so that the people who dwell here are able to warm and comfort their bodies during winter’s cold. I hope that all beings who suffer coldness of body or spirit find contentedness.” In this way the act of chopping wood transcends “chore” and turns into a beautiful opportunity for awareness of Self and selfless service.


The big staircase leading up to our lodging. Note that the steps are set upon one huge tree trunk!

The big staircase leading up to our lodging. Note that the steps are set upon one huge tree trunk!

In real life (outside of the wisdom texts), mindfulness is a constant challenge. It is a great assurance to know that all of the staff here at SSRC are vigilantly striving for mindfulness with limited success. This is not an easy task and nobody will ever say it is! But the location is ripe for encouraging spiritual reflection. The intimate connection with Canada’s thriving rainforest ecosystems acts as community within itself. I feel peaceful here, surrounded by seemingly infinite lifeforms, and it all acts as a continual reminder to keep present in the moment.

The main house of the center, with a kitchen, lounge and bedrooms.

The main house of the center, with a big kitchen, living room and bedrooms.

Nature is our friend. Nature is humanity. And to combine a human spiritual community with the sentient depth of the forest is a potent combination. The pictures on this post capture a few of the facilities on the property at Sea to Sky Retreat Center as well as the natural features of this land. Daisy Lake is totally astounding with Cloudburst mountain behind it. To the south is the Tantalus mountain range, looking rugged and aloof.

Heavy afternoon rainclouds crowd in upon the majesty of Cloudburst Mtn.

Heavy afternoon rainclouds crowd in upon the majesty of Cloudburst Mtn.

So far this place is really great.

There is an ideal work ethic here; it seems to be a blend of personal initiative and responsibility with structure and form. Every day, I know what I have to do and how to do it, but am given the ability to accomplish tasks with a bit of creativity. The staff here are totally open to suggestion and comments about how to build, clean and maintain the facilities and every opinion is considered — this builds confidence and trust within the center.

I was surprised that there are no scheduled meditations here at the center. It truly is karma yoga and the entirety of the spiritual practices here are work-based. One must do their meditation practices independently. Personally, I find immense value in group meditation. There is a saying that my acharya once passed on to me: To truly grow together as a functional community, the members must eat together, work together and meditate together. I don’t think a busy schedule is a valid excuse for not sitting every day. Perhaps I have been biased by my previous experience within community — but I think it’s a good bias!

The center's secondary house, fully equipped for quite a few people. Tucked away gently amidst the forest.

The center’s secondary house, fully equipped for quite a few people. Tucked away gently amidst the forest.

Sustainability and Spirituality

The Sea to Sky Retreat Center is a very low-impact center environmentally. A microhydro system from a strong mountain stream powers the electricity for the whole center. All water consumed here comes from up the hillside from a spring. The buildings are small and efficient, without wasted space. Buddhists from across Canada have volunteered and even donated money into the center, meaning that there is very little expenditures needed to cover labour and work costs. There is even a extensive library of spiritual literature, donated entirely by members of the sangha over time.

A lack of reliance on industrial and metropolitan influences has preserved a delicate and simple energy on this land. The creation of electricity on-site and the local water source provides a deep grounding trust in the giving nature of the land, bringing all people here closer to the source of creation. It is a humbling experience to be surrounded by the rainforest, drinking water from up the hill, warming up by a fire made from an local tree, reading by a lamp powered by water.

The pathway to our lodging crosses this beautiful mountain stream. This same stream is also, via a micro-hydro system, the source of the center's electrical power.

The pathway to our lodging crosses this beautiful mountain stream. This same stream is also, via a micro-hydro system, the source of the center’s electrical power.

Speaking of reading, I have begun reading Living with the Himalayan Masters, a compilation of Swami Rama’s writings and lectures regarding his time as a sage wandering the sacred mountains of northern Asia. THIS IS A MUST-READ! (Do not read if a spontaneous journey to the other side of the world for a few years might do irreparable damage to your life.) To read about the majestic Himalayas is even better when I can look across the lake at our very own mountain range and dream of wandering the hillsides with a staff and a robe…

I may have had a previous life of a renunciate. Or maybe it’ll be this life. Who knows 🙂

We have about 25 people coming in today for an 8-day long Yoga Teacher Training, so the next week will be full-on retreat engagement mode. I like the daily flow during retreats – there are very specific roles we all must do, and it keeps me busy. But not too busy. I will continue to find time for morning sadhana, hopefully evening as well. I keep on thinking of inspiring thoughts I’d like to share on this blog, but when I sit down to write they flutter away.

I have a question: Have any of you experienced mindful labour like the ideal karma yoga I described above?




Luna broke down! Also, Revelstoke is awesome.

The title says it all, folks.

We lost all power about 40km away from Revelstoke, BC. No cell phone reception, of course.

The first car to come into sight pulled over and the driver — a cool dude indeed — took my AMA information and drove into town to call a tow truck for us. The truck was here within an hour.

Loading Luna onto the tow truck.

Loading Luna onto the tow truck.

As I said to my partner last night: This is now officially a legitimate roadtrip.

Luna looking sad through the side mirror of the tow truck. But what beautiful forest!

Luna looking sad through the side mirror of the tow truck. But what beautiful forest!

We spent the night in the van in front of an auto repair shop, 50ft from the loudest train track on earth. Seriously – the shop was right across from the exact area that the locomotives stop, back up, and rumble around with their gargantuan engines.

The issue? The alternator failed. The shop got us in right away and we should be rolling out within the hour. Not too bad!

This is a great place to get stranded – Revelstoke is beautiful, serene and full of awesome people! I’d live here, for sure.

Next stop: The Sea to Sky Retreat Center near Whistler, BC!

Healing powers of the forest – cedars, hummingbirds, hotsprings and hippies

I thought I’d do a quick update while I encroach upon this lovely cafe’s hospitality. Question and Answer style.

Q: How is Luna Doing?

A: She is still alive, even after some very hairy abandoned forestry roads leading to certain springs. We were pushing her the maximum limit of her sagging suspension and iffy transmission. I have discovered there is a certain amount of discomfort and nervousness that accompanies driving this van. A perpetual “what if..?”

But she has made it everywhere so far! We just got back from a gnarly hotspring visit involving a 15km long, intensely potholed ex-logging road that took about 45m to drive. I was holding my breath as we traipsed over some very perilous terrain and climbed into some serious altitude (snow!). But Luna is a champ!


Luna happily resting after an exhausting climb.


The cooking set-up for breakfast today. Kale salad with millet, sauerkraut and flax 🙂 

The shelving set-up in the back has been working really well. It’s a great space for cooking meals and storing food. I created this van as a single-person RV, so having both of us in here is a bit chaotic. In a few days we’ll be at a Buddhist retreat center on the west coast and they are providing a bed, so no worries.


The weather has been epic. 30C+ on this day meant we needed to rig up a shanty-style shade structure.

The window covers have been partially successful. Warning to all people using Reflectix covers – they expand slightly in the heat. Because of this, a few of the covers don’t slot nicely into the windows anymore and we’ve had to use duct tape to hold them up. I think I want to totally remove the cardboard and use velcro to hold the reflective stuff in place by itself (this will be a future project). However, the heat blockage is excellent – after all day in the scorching sun, the soft-shell coolers in the van are still holding veggies nice and cool.

On that note: Kale is a surprisingly robust travel food! After the broccoli was almost dead and the bok choy looking wilted, the kale was krisp and krunchy. Take note, fellow travellers. Take note.


Luna on her first ferry ride.

She even had the chance to ride a boat – one of multiple ferries she’ll be riding during the summer adventures. No seasickness.

Q: How are the hotsprings?

A: Amazing! We’ve set up a home base at a sacred spring in interior BC. This place is awe-inspiring. I won’t mention spring names here, but you can see for yourself in the following pictures.


Top view of the three pools in a row


The big pool and a lovely view of the surrounding cedar forest.

The majestic cedars make this place feel like a cathedral. It’s one of those places you find yourself whispering without knowing why. The water trickles out from a tree root and fills the top pool with hot, hot bliss. There is lots of lithium, magnesium, calcium and barely any sulphur in these springs.


The top pool, with hot water falling down into subsequent pools.

The people here are devoted to the springs. We have a new friend in the form of an old, retired hippie who has been frequenting these springs since 1969. (That’s forty-four years!) When we asked him if they’ve changed at all, he just grinned: “Nope.” I don’t know about you, but that’s MY idea of a quality retreat. Unchanged and preserved in all its sanctity. I met a beautiful woman who spent an hour cleaning up discarded beer cans and candles from careless spring-goers, carefully creating a cedar bough and bark altar before quietly walking away. Clothing is not necessary in these springs, leading to more authentic and pure interaction with fellow spring enthusiasts. It is a tranquil and healing place.

Yesterday, we drove a short distance (and a crazy road) to a different set of springs with a distinctly different flavour.


The carefully made tub, filled directly from the nearby spring.

These springs are right on a river. We were about a day late to the party – the melting snow raised the river to the point that it flooded the riverside hot pools, forcing us to move inland a bit and enjoy the tub that had been built. Not a terrible alternative at all! Luxurious yet still firmly rustic — and, of course, there was nothing in that tub but untreated spring water. We met a man who works four months per year and drives across North America for the other eight, visiting springs, camping on beaches and enjoying the world. These sort of people are incredibly inspirational. The extraordinary community of gentle and creative souls is another reason why hot springs are important in my life. It was also an honour to be visited by a hummingbird, whizzing and zipping around the springs in search of something.

Those springs were nice, but our loyalty lies with the first springs nestled in their rich cedar forest. The energy there is more subtle and the patrons tend to bring more mindfulness into their conduct.

Q: How is life going?

A: Fun! Intense! Healing! Serious! Playful!

The springs tend to act like a spiritual accelerator. I find that the detoxification process brings up emotional as well as physical toxins, leading to a lot of emotional ups and downs. We are meditating twice daily — trying to find the most heavenly locations (and succeeding) — which of course further exaggerates the process. It’s a rollercoaster!


A nearby mountain framed by cedar boughs. Mmm.

But it is impossible to resist the calming and grounding influence of these cedars. And the mountains. And the lakes. And the deer, elk and bears. The eagles, owls, crows and swallows. It’s too much to stand up too — one must return to the root, the source of human existence!

To summarize – we are doing very well. Growth is happening. Life is happening. Sleep has been warm, we are eating well and — OH YEAH, I forgot to mention, the massive amount of herbs and supplements has been amazing! We are drinking crazy teas and loving life.

OK – time to get going. Peace out everyone!

PS: Here is a picture of a stegosaurus with sunglasses eating a massive dill pickle. While reading the paper.

a stegosaurus with sunglasses eating a massive dill pickle.

a stegosaurus with sunglasses eating a massive dill pickle.

Hotsprings Ho! So begins a summer of vandwelling, camping, volunteering and meditation.

Today’s the big day.

I’ll be back home in four months (before leaving for another four months). Somehow, within two weeks, I decided to get a vehicle, acquired a vehicle, converted it to a mobile bedroom, finished up the semester and got my proverbial together for a quest. Yay!

Luna is in pretty good shape, and seems pretty happy to have a name now. She is fully packed and ready to go!

Luna all packed up. Ski box was a saving grace!

Luna all packed up. Ski box was a saving grace!

Naturally, order and cleanliness only degrade from this point.

Naturally, order and cleanliness only degrade from this point.

This trip would be a lot different without the ski box. I have all my camping stuff up there and some extra blankets (in case a spontaneous picnic or craft session erupts). I even had room for my trust walking stick.

You might notice the corner of a djembe in one of these pictures. That will be a bit clunky as it doesn’t really slot into place anywhere, but I figure it’s a small price to pay for having percussive awesomeness available on demand. The didgeridoo slides right behind the seats. I am going to try to learn to play them both at the same time during the summer at some point. I just need to dream up some sort of stand for hands-free didg’ playing.

The kitchen and library combo.

The kitchen and library combo.

I am also totally aware that practicality, use and experience will change the layout of everything over the course of the summer. Perhaps the books will be impractical here and might need to go under the bed. It sure looks cute right now though. I can say I have a library on board! — In addition to the apothecary and esoteric item exhibit, of course. Quite an interesting rig, this one.

Hopefully the last repair Luna needs for the summer:





Remember the mission statement here, folks: “Cheap, and in a hurry“. Pretty much anything done with duct tape suits my purposes. Just you wait – I’ll bet it’s still in one piece in September.

So, I’m off! Driving the Trans-Canada into BC for a week of healing hot springs adventures.

I will not be blogging for this week. (I would, of course, not recommend anyone touches an electronic device while taking in the healing waters.) No big deal – I’m sure my massive hoards of followers can survive the electronic silence as they eagerly anticipate hearing from me. Never fear, non-existent fan base! I’ll be updating with some pictures before leaving for phase two: Volunteering at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center for three weeks of Karma Yoga.

Lots of love from the Silly Sadhaka 🙂

Be in Peace!

Luna the healing energy vortex : 20+ herbs, essential oils, vitamins, crystals, sage…

The van is named: May I re-introduce you to Luna.

I have to give credit where it is due: My mom pretty much named it. I did my best at asking my friends for input and advice, thinking it would be nice to solicit clever university-student wisdom and thoughtfulness. Here are some highlights from that unfortunate facebook census:

  • Pork Chopper
  • Rollin Basket
  • Wheelin Rudy
  • Southern Alberta Advantage
  • The Hop on Can’t Stop
  • Goldie Hawn
  • Elm Golden Moon
  • Excaliber
  • Oh Henry

I love my friends. But damn, those are weird names. Will those be the upcoming names of our generation’s “hippie children”? Gone are the days of Soulflower, Autumn and Daisy. No. My kid is Pork Chopper.

Anyways, she’s Luna now. Luna is a Roman goddess, the divine embodiment of the moon, carrying all the qualities traditionally associated with moon energy. She also provides safety in travel (excellent) and, more specifically, is a protector of charioteers. (source.) Here’s hoping that this van grows into her name.

Luna is chock-full of healing powers!

The big journey begins soon – only one more day! My partner and I will be traveling to our favourite hot springs in the interior BC for a week of rest and healing. Anyone who’s soaked in natural springs can attest to their deep restorative power. Combine this with a tranquil cedar forest, outdoor tenting and simple, fresh food, and you have a recipe for a good time. We’re also bringing a natural pharmacy of sorts along for the ride.


About 20 different herbs and spices should be enough for a wide variety of tonics and infusions. A lot of common seasoning herbs (read: under-estimated) are actually quite potent for healing work. We’re bringing the ubiquitous rosemary, thyme and marjoram along for their powerful antibacterial/antiseptic/antiviral properties. They should help kick out any foreign bacteria and keep the system nice and clean. Elder flower, red clove, nettle and burdock are all bitters renowned for their detoxifying properties and should really activate the liver to help cleanse to blood and expel toxins. We also have a ton of mint, licorice and chicory to aid digestion and soothe the intestinal tract. Echinacea is a intense detoxifier and immune-booster that I find extremely effective. Plus, there’s this random tin of some herb that is really tasty, but I have no idea what it is. Hopefully not poisonous.

And that’s just the herbs! Luna will also have an arsenal of essential oils, including juniper berry, tea tree and cedar amongst others — excellent to mix into carrier oils and to apply topically for desired effects. Or just to smell happily. Our little mobile apothecary is also going to have a goodly amount of dietary supplements (3-6-9 oil, spuralina, multi-V, etc). I have no idea why this is so exciting. I think it’s because normally when I’ve gone camping/travelling in the past I’ve had to make sacrifices as to how I am going to eat. But having the extra cargo space of a van (versus a backpack) opens up a whole new realm of luxury.

“But surely,” you say, inquiringly, “Surely you don’t have that much excess space in your vehicle. After all, I saw the photos of the interior space. How can you afford to cart around non-essentials?”

I suppose the answer lies in defining what is essential. For me, health is essential. Physical nutrition is very important, but I think that it is equally important to pay attention to the “subtle nutrients” we are “feeding” our emotional and spiritual bodies as well. For example, there is not a lot of legitimate research that validates the effects of essential oils that so many claim have helped them overcome illness X. Yet, the oils help people. And they have an effect. Perhaps not at a measurable level, but just because science has not yet advanced to the point that we can quantify data from more subtle planes of existence does not mean such treatments should be discounted. Yes, users should know that what they are doing has no scientific merit per se. And that’s OK. It should not leave this person open to ridicule from skeptics, nor should it give them the right to proclaim alternative therapy X as the be-all-end-all. Moderation in all things. If it works, it works. Mind your own business. (I’ve been reading a lot of skeptic blogs lately and they peeve me to no end.)

This is a segway to what many would call another space waster: Luna’s new shelving unit has a drawer of my favourite stuff.


Bedside drawer contains fun healing stuff that I use for meditation, reiki, shamanic stuff and intuitive whatevers. Sage, Paulo Santo, a bunch of crystals, a bunch more crystals, a singing bowl… you know, that kind of stuff. For me, these are items that carry a certain energy. Opening up these boxes is like walking into a church. I feel a sacred energy descend upon me when I smell the dried sage and when I roll a quartz into the palm of my hand. These are allies that help me focus. They are tools of a different sort of trade — not to imply that I am a master tradesman by any means, though! I simply tend to keep things around me that make me feel centered and calm, and over the years certain objects have consistently done so. Thus the select few have been rewarded with a VIP placement in Luna’s special drawer.

And, last but not least… Roll your clothing!

A solid piece of advice given to me a year ago, and passed now onto you: When you’re on a big trip, don’t fold your clothes — roll them instead.


This applies for any sort of bag that opens wide. Notice how the rolled clothing allows me to select from 8 different pants/shirts without having to touch anything. The folded clothes on the right have to by physically flipped through in order to get to a desired shirt. Over time, this adds up to unorganized, messy piles of semi-folded clothes, while the rolled clothing simply stays rolled until needed. This method also saves space — not by a huge margin, but it’s noticeable.

Hoping to get one more in before taking off for a (non-internet) break at the hot springs!

Quick update: Vandwelling construction completed (perhaps).

You might be wondering, “where is that yogi with the nice dharmic musings? He seems to have been replaced by a tradesman or something.” The answer is: He’s been running around like a decapitated chicken getting his life in order before the trip. These posts reflect the flow of my life  – sometimes spiritually oriented, sometimes otherwise, but always conscious of spirit.

After a few fun days of small scale construction, I feel like the woodworking is over.

The result is simple to the point of being spartan, which I feel is completely necessary given the square footage I am working with. Have a look for yourself.

One side of the shelf, cut to slide under the bed frame overhang.

One side of the shelf, cut to slide under the bed frame overhang.

Shelf sits flush with bed frame. Bottom storage space is only accessible when trunk is open

Shelf sits flush with bed frame. Bottom storage space is only accessible when trunk is open

Door opened. Half wall on mattress side means I can reach in to access storage space without having to open the trunk. Up to 30lbs can be supported on the extended platform. This should be great for outdoor cooking.

Half-wall on mattress side means I can reach in to access storage space without having to open the trunk. Up to 30lbs can be supported on the extended platform. This should be great for outdoor cooking.

Latching hook-and-loop fastener will not pop open on bumpy roads.

Latching hook-and-loop fastener will not pop open on bumpy roads.

The finished product - mattress on bed frame with rear shelf. (Note that the window covers slot in nicely in the space between the bed and the passenger's wall)

The finished product – mattress on bed frame with rear shelf. (Note that the reflective window covers slot in nicely in the space between the bed and the passenger’s wall)

On a different note…

It’s been really fun playing with saws, drills, plywood and nails over the last few days. I am disappointed that floor space is disappearing so fast, as I would love to spend more time building random stuff for the van. Seeing as I have less than a week until I need to leave, it’s probably time to start concentrating on fitting my life into the remaining available space.

I’ve been very van-intensive lately. One of my hopes with the creation of this blog was to contribute another set of resources into the vandweller community. My forays through blogs and websites made me realize that — despite the proclamations all over the ‘net stating that the population of vehicle-residents are larger than expected and ever-increasing — my experience has shown me this is a tiny little niche, albeit with an amazing collection of individuals who all want others to succeed. I am in a position in which I can be sharing my adventure — I own a digital camera and laptop, I have internet at my home, I have a bit of extra time to develop a resource — something that, given the small scope of this community, and the lack of funds and resources of many within it, could be very helpful.

I suppose that is my explanation for why I am putting so much emphasis on the conversion of this van into a lil’ home. This, of course, leads me to ask myself why I feel the need to defend this decision to the interwebs…

I am feeling an inner need to have to validate the sadhaka aspect of the silly sadhaka blog persona, as if the Esoteric Police are investigating me for yogic fraud. I’m fooling all of you – I’m masquerading as a meditation and yoga instructor, tuned in the dhamma and locked in self-awareness. This blog is turning on me — beginning to portray to the world who I really am. Uh-oh. What if you find out that I dropped f-bombs constantly when I was drilling the pilot holes for the shelf hinges? Will I be shunned from the zen life if I reveal the fact that I had Arby’s curly fries yesterday? Can I still teach yoga if I go a couple days without meditation?

I am imperfect in all dimensions, most definitely including the spiritual realm. Too my earnest dismay, I am not Shiva. It is only by fully accepting my imperfections that I will ever be able to achieve contentment. Heck, it’s even in the site title – I’m a bit Silly. So let me try to deeply integrate my idiosyncrasies, and let me accept the fact that I enjoy things that might not be completely aligned with an ideal yogic lifestyle. And, dammit, let me write about stuff I find interesting without feeling upset that Shiva won’t follow my blog.

There. I said it. Now, is it OK if I proceed to live a life full of mistakes, awkwardness and glitches?

Minihome in a Minivan for the Mega-Journey. Creating Windstar window covers and bedframe.

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.

A big space to fill in the back of the Windstar. Oh, the possibilities!

A big empty space to fill in the back of the Windstar. Oh, the possibilities!

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.

Mattress laid down in the back of the Windstar, for size reference.

I found a sweet foam single bed at Jysk. It’s all foam and incredibly light.

Hmm… much tighter fit than anticipated.

15" of Space between the single mattress and the sliding door.

15″ of Space between the single mattress and the sliding door.

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.

Cutting the 4' x 8' plywood to fit the single mattress.

Cutting the 4′ x 8′ plywood to fit the single mattress.

I trimmed the plywood to the size of the mattress (75”x 38¾“) with a handsaw.


Bed frame support: 2×10 with a 45 degree 2×4.

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.

The completed bedframe.

The completed bedframe.

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 traced and cut onto newspaper

Window traced and cut onto newspaper

Window successfully traced onto newspaper. Cut excess paper off with scissors.


Cardboard cut out to fit window (hopefully)

Window successfully traced onto cardboard. Cut excess cardboard off with exactoknife.

Stapling the cardboard to the reflectix. Not an easy job - requires a musclebound staple-person.

Stapling the cardboard to the reflectix. Not an easy job – requires a musclebound staple-person.

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.
Inside the van with the back windows covered.

Inside the van with the back windows covered.

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.

Reflective window coverings – stealth when not in direct sunlight.

Very obvious when in direct sunlight.

Very obvious when in direct sunlight.

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.

The trunk pushing up on the ski box.

The trunk pushing up on the ski box.

I don’t want to sacrifice my trunk opening ability, nor do I want to kill the rack system on the van.

Trunk, completely open, not quite touching the ski box.

Trunk, completely open, not quite touching the ski box.

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!