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MY VAN CONVERSION

It’s been about two years since I’ve had wheels. I was beginning to think I never would, and sink into life in the slow lane at the senior apt. complex…………………UGH!     At my one year reup time  I decided to do…….WHATEVER IT TOOK…….to have wheels again.

I made this happen in a bout 3-4 mos……so surprised myself. I clean house on anything I wasn’t using, and crafted and sold on ebay. 

This week I got………what in the 70’s we called a Hundred Dollar Van……only now they cost $1,000. Annnd you have to expect a few mechanical hiccups. My Black Beauty is a bit ruff around the edges……just like me…..and needs some TLC.    But ALL GOOD…….I have a mechanic on call……..it runs…………AND IT’S A VAN. 

Oh…….she is a 2003 Ford Winstar….BLACK and Chrome.   153,000 miles…..and to be fair…..looks it. The night I bought her, she ran ok, and the air worked, tires not bald. The next day a couple issues arose, so I called the mechanic and got the low down. She’s going to need a little work………a blend door actuator……and am keeping an eye on the alternator and starter, as the mechanic believes the former owner stupidly sprayed the engine compartment out , and didn’t take care with covering things he should have. It’s charging, but intermittently the idiot light comes on. He said it may dry out and be fine, but we’re keeping an eye on it. Today the air and fan wouldn’t turn on, so maybe I blew a fuse or it has to do with that Blend door thingy. At any rate, all will be fixed soon. 

I got a craft table partner and will now be selling my hand crafted things locally, as well as ebay.   It’s been a really busy week. I can’t complain about being bored anymore. 

Once I feel BLACK BEAUTY is trustworthy, I’ll be taking her metal detecting, shell collecting, and all that fun stuff. Yaaaaay!

These pics are her in rough mode…..soon she’ll be all cleaned up and will be looking about as good as I do……lol. IMG_19800719_031913 332839176715 IMG_19800719_031923

I spent the last several days making the hard decisions of what to get rid of and what to keep. Once I leave this position, the Mini Van is my Home Sweet Home. Sure I’ll get breaks , as when you visit friends and family , they like to have you visit in their sticks n bricks homes. 

Now since my visit to Pa. will be extended, I may take a short term housekeeper position. We’ll see what cards life deals me. Now onto the packing of the van. I can’t really show you pics of where everything is, as it just won’t show up well, with my camera. Suffice to say….it looks exactly the same, except drawers are full now, and every nook and cranny is filled up. Refer to pics in the last post, as to a visual of how it looks.

The hardest things for me were to get rid of tools and craft items. I’m sure you know how some of those things just sit in your tool,boxes, and rarely get used…… I crochet and do wire wrapping. I also had a whole tub of paints and stencils, which I honestly rarely use. I also am an avid gardener, and am going to try to find a place to bring my fav. garden tools along, as I will be putting in a large garden for the family. I will be leaving the garden tools, dehydrator, electric fan , elec heater, and some bulky bedding, stored with family, for future trips. So being a little overloaded on this trip is acceptable. I hope to have a snowbird lifestyle. Visit family up north in summers, and travel rest of the time. I am also looking into getting on a waiting list for a senior apartment in Fl, for my permanent residence. 

How I fit it all: 

Tools/Crafts: I condensed all hand tools and crafting items to One big drawer and half of one skinny set of drawers for the over flow. Tools are in one plastic shoe box and crafts in another, set inside a bottom large drawer. Over flow was a glue gun , staple gun, and cordless drill in a case. Due to the contour of the lift up back door, I had 4″ of space to stick a couple items. The cordless drill, and satchel with my MC jacket, and a small foldup camp table, went there. 

I mounted large drawer units to one side, and created a space to store tall bulky items like the heater, a magnifier lamp/mirror, elec fan, and hopefully the heads of a couple garden tools will fit there.

The remaining large drawers are reserved for my clothes, both summer and winter. Amazingly….they are fitting. I even had room for a 3/4 leather jacket, a shorty, and a zip up sweatshirt in one drawer. Tanks and gym clothes/swimwear are in one drawer. 3 pair jeans and 3 sweaters in another. I have 2 drawers left for tops and capris, which are my primary clothes right now. 

The remaining skinny drawer unit, facing the front of the van, most accessible to the side door, is for food storage. My nested pans and gadgets are in small top drawers, in the opposite skinny unit. 

Under bed drawers;

Two are reserved for shoes and purses. I used to collect these things, so this is as small as it goes …so far anyways. Other two have all my important papers, pens, stapler, etc.

Behind Under bed drawers:

I made my porta potty out of a lidden chamber pot, that came with a chair..For added strength, I cut down a sturdy 2 1/2 gal bucket to the right height to house it….a perfect fit, and with snap on  lid and cover, it all fits under the 9′ clearance of the bed. I am quite proud of myself on this , and happy it doesn’t have to sit out in plain view , except when I need to use it. 

Next down the line, is my one burner butane stove and a grill plate i got at thrift store to use to toast bread and grill things. Mostly I’ll just be heating water up for coffee, or making one pot dishes, in my nested pans. 

The large blender/smoothie maker, I am taking for when I have 110 use, sits in the middle, between the drawers. I wrapped the glass part in a towel.

Behind the second set of drawers is reserved for the dehydrator and smaller garden tools like loppers. Eventually i will buy a fold up shovel, fold up pruning saw, and fold up rake, for my travl’in tools. I have it in my head to tend the earth , plant seeds, help folks with their gardens, where ever I travel. 

The kitty liter jug sits in a space in the door well, behind the bed frame. Easy to get to, yet hidden by pillows. Once I store a few things, it will fit nicely, under the bed frame.

My 12v cooler sits handy at the side door entrance, and doubles as my desk. I have a large ugly , but oh so handy 5 gal. yellow and red water cooler with spigot, which will sit beside the cooler when travling and outside on a table when camped. My 12v cooler doesn’t hold much ice, so most of the ice from a bag, will go in the water cooler. I’ll carry along an extra re purposed kitty liter jug to hold extra water…just in case. 

Front seat area will hold my laptop bag, gym bag, and craft bag. I just keep them there in the passenger foot well, so it doesn’t mess up my living quarters. I cover them with a towel or throw. 

My portable battery pack will sit between the drawers in the back , tucked out of sight, for now. It fuels my 12v fan and small 240wt blender. I currently use laptop at public places like mc d’s.

I’ll update with pics, as I have more time , and get the final things packed.

To become an expert at simple,, gracious living, is my goal. I know I can’t do that completely, as my very home uses gas and I am still using some electrical appliances….but my carbon foot print  is getting lower by leaps and bounds. 

 

 

 

Pic view from front seat. New sterlite drawers and bed frame.

Pic view from front seat. New sterlite drawers and bed frame.

Under bed storage

Under bed storage

I’m leaving the stick n bricks position and going to visit my family as of May 1st. This will be a Fl to Pa trip, and it’s time to devise a ‘new plan’ for the van configuration. I took many measurements, and sat in it thinking how it could be comfortable. Turns out , with my height of being 5’6′, I had room to do 9″ high legs on a bed platform.

I bought some sterlite drawer units and played around with how best they would go. I asked my friend’s sig other for a little bit of help, and he helped me…taught me…how to make a solid ,simple bed frame. We had to remove some remaining hardware from a console unit, and then a 4′ x 8′ piece of 1/2″ plywood fit perfectly on the van floor. I topped it with a $20 carpet from Wal mart. I braced the bedframe with lots of L brackets and corner brackets for added strength. I spray painted it black to match my decor. I tacked all the drawer units down with L brackets. I made velcro fasteners for the drawers to hold them shut while traveling. The outside portion was sticky, so covered it with black ribbon with a tiny tab to help grab it for opening.

I had a 6′ thick fold up chair/bed for the bed cushion. I love this thing! It can be a chair, a inclined lounger, and bed, as well as is comfortable and stylish as a couch. Now I can sit on it as a couch and use a drawer unit as a desk. I now have just enough room to navigate and not feel claustrophobic. I have about 10 ” of room behind the drawers, under the bed to put those larger loose things.

There is room for the porta potty, and a stool, towards the back. I have plenty of room to get in and out of the side door, as well as space for the 12v cooler.

These are pics of the basic configuration. Later on, after I have it loaded, we will have to see if it still looks fairly neat and homey…lol. It’s my goal anyways.

As you know I was totally frustrated with the first layout I did.  Back to the drawing board……………..

I got to Dove’s home yesterday in the afternoon, while she was still at work. I flew into the new set up…….double pace…crazy lady…..stay outta the way mode….lol. That’s how I clean house too…….

I am pleased with how it turned out. The bed is now lengthwise……I even put a sheet on it and everything. The one row of tubs are:

[1] Food

[2] Cooking gear….butane burner, pots n pans, a pizza pan set up I devised, and space for my new personal blender/smoothie maker.

[3] Euro steamer….paper work stuff

[4] Luggable Loo, step stool, emergency light/radio

[5] 12v cooler….this thing is working great! Year on paper work says 1996.

On top……………..

[1] Picnic backpack

[2] Duffle bag of clothes

[3] Overnight case of clothes

I bungee corded the tubs together, and also ran one through the packs ….then covered all with a  fitted flannel sheet. I wrapped the flat sheet around the bed.

Up front seat:

Power pack

Soft side cooler with thermos in it.

Gym bag…set up , ready to go for a workout

Passenger seat….will use for laptop.

My little 12v fan is nestled next to the power pack…it does a great job…best $10 investment ever.

Will keep all this covered with a towel or small blanket.

Back of seats….I have two caddys for misc, and one for jewelry…all covered up by a sweater I wear to the movies.

I think I will be much happier with this set up….though I did have to leave 4 tubs and other misc. at my friend’s home. A future cartop carrier should solve a lot of the problem, as well as finding a room for my off road times. I took one crochet hook along for my on road crafts…..lol. I can make can cozies etc , while on the road.

Note: I discovered the 12v cigarette lighter plugs ,do shut off when engine is not running, so now feel safe to leave them plugged in. I  froze a gallon sun tea jug in my friend’s freezer overnight to help the cooler out a bit, and have nice cold water, if need be.

Side door view

Back view with packs on top

Motorcycle helmet and pool barbells in little side area

Covered by back curtains

The fold up foam chair bed, with sheet

Everything all strapped in

Power station and small cooler with thermos

All neat and ready to rock n roll

What got left behind

When I left Dove’s house I thought I had everything set up perfect.

Sadly………….no…didn’t end up that way. It did nothing but rain for my first few days on the road, and I spent a lot of time in McD’s and Panera trying to not catch a chill and to use their wifi. I left with 6 large tubs, a cooler and a multitude of smaller bags and backpacks, as well as the metal detector.

Even though I had it all strapped together, it all slid…scrunching my little bed, and the front passenger seat ended up overflowing with bags, falling all over. It was a fine mess in short order!

By Wed. I was very frustrated, and ended up spending the day with my pally Gina. I did laundry, and we chatted about options. I decided to look for work of some sort, so I can have a little spot to call home in a stick n brick place, and not try to live in the van 24/7/365. I think it will be better that way, as it’s too hard for me to give up everything, and not enough room to store camping gear and live comfortably in it with all my clothes and so forth.

I made the trip back to Dove’s today and moved my bed to the lengthways position , instead of sideways. Then there is one row of tubs along one side. 4 tubs , a 12v cooler I discovered today, and two bags for my clothing. I stored 2 more tubs and misc other things, as well as am leaving the metal detector behind, until I find a car top carrier. I am also leaving behind the camping table, for now, as will be doing only urban living for awhile. I am also leaving my crafts tub behind for now. Maybe I’ll just keep one size crochet hook , for the road, and save the wire wrapping tools and so forth for when I am at my future stick n brick location.

On the trip home, I stopped at a store in Kissimmee and ran into a dear older lady I used to work with at Wal-Mart. That was nice. I ran across a purse, sitting on a chair, that looked full, so slightly peeked in and then promptly took it up to the desk. in a few min, a lady was looking around and I let her know the purse was up front. Her family was so thankful. I was just so glad to help.

After that, I felt rewarded for my kind gesture, by finding a 12v cooler, at a reasonable price.of $20, at a police organization thrift store. I thought I had found this great twin bed that was adjustable to any height, but it was college extra long size, and just didn’t fit. I could have stored my tubs underneath and had a twin bed instead of my flod out foam chair. The chair is comfy though. it should be even more so, since I moved it lengthwise.

I got out the new butane burner, and WOW…it works slicker than snot……I LUB IT!  I also found a vented round pan to hopefully cook my little taco shell pizzas on, and found a lid to cover the top, so the heat would be held in better. I’ll take pics later.

I’m tired, but feel like I learned some lessons and am moving forward.

 

Neat nik that I am…..I have to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place…especially living small, in my Mini Van.

My pally Dove donated a kewl box she used to use for her 12v coffee maker set up , when she was formerly on the road, as a vender. It probably originally housed a power tool. The foam insert is still there, so it keeps everything safe from rattling around inside.

I am adopting it for my pots n pans. I still don’t know what is going to work for me, so it’s all a crap shoot at this point in time. I got a 2 qt. saucepan with lid at a thrift store. Then next day shopping found a nested set that had a couple plastic lids, as well. I found lids sold separately for several of the sizes. I figure one or other set will go, as I see what I actually use. An investment of approx $3 for each set at thrift stores. Nope… I had no pans at my former stick n brick life, as I did all my cooking in a microwave or toaster oven, in a mother in law suite.

I originally had bought a metal splatter ware camping set at walmart.com, but knew I wouldn’t use half of it, so took it back……but if one would use the frying pans …it was sure a cute set for $25. It had a 2 qt pan/coffee pot/and 2 fry pans.

I also found a metal stand at a thrift store that will double as a pot stand for a solar cooker or a DIY sterno or alcohol stove. $1 at a thrift store. They cost just under $10 at a camping section for a fold up one. Mine nests perfectly under the nested pans I found. Need is the mother of invention……

The measuring cup and one funnel is actually for my euro steamer, but put it here, as it is multifunctional in cooking/measuring from big bottles into travel size bottles. I might have leftovers, so found room for a couple plastic containers.

I go to thrift stores for fun/entertainment/and to help implement my kewl DIY projects.

No where else they would fit….my butane lighter and long metal spatula found a place in this box.

Now…..Hopefully….I will eliminate unneeded STUFF from a tub and be able to store this box, my thermos cooler box, and my butane stove box in one tub.  Right now , these thinjgs do not have a permanent home. I am working on That……………

Pot n Pan Box

Everything all cozy

Saucepan and extra lids

Multi fuel pan stand

Nested enamel pan set

measuring cup and funnels

Storage containers

Spatula and butane lighter

This is the first in a series of how I am packing my load.

Cleaning cloths

AquaThermos

Nissen Wide Mouth Thermos

Thermos comparison

Utensils

Two of everything silverware

Condiments

Lunch Box /Thermal Cooker Bag

I already owned a very nice soft on the outside/hard on the inside , insulated lunch box , left over from my former Workaholic life. One of the few things I’ve been able to keep and re purpose  into something useful in my new nomadic lifestyle.

WOW….I can’t believe all the STUFF I fit in this thing! I started out wanting it to be an extra insulation package for my Thermal Cooking.. I bought a nice, highly rated Nissen wide mouth thermos for around $18 on Amazon. Walmart has one similar on their shelf though it is a different brand and not as highly rated, but I sure can’t tell the difference to look at them. This had a sipper spout, a plastic bowl and the cover can also be used as a bowl. I plan on cooking my dinners in this. Most any rice /pasta/soups/stews can be cooked in these.

I will do all my cooking in the am when heating water for coffee. First I’ll heat water on my butane burner stove…..then pour it into both thermoses to warm them. Then reheat if needed for coffee. Make the coffee into the aqua one. Heat whatever is needed for the metal one, and let it ‘cook’ all day. The lunch bag will provide extra heat retaining insulation. I may also make cozies for them both.

I needed a place to stash my silverware and utensils, and found room around the thermoses. I am going to transfer them to cloth bags my sheets came in, as warm thermos and plastic bags don’t go together. I probably have too many utensils, but will thin out, as I see what I actually use. Mostly I’ll use one set of silverware…but will often have a sister travelin companion for the day, and one extra to boot. Anyone else will have to bring their own.

I used the outside pouch for everyday condiments….salt/pepper/cinnamon/2 packets each of condiments/a few napkins. Top inside pouch has a few various types of cleaning cloths. Will add a couple wet naps to that when i come across them. Outside side pouch has marker and painters tape to mark things, as I always seem to be reorganizing and forgetting what is where, so I mark my tubs now. The flat plastic tops are my ‘plates’. I haven’t found a set I like yet, so these will do fine till I find something my decorator sense ‘can’t live without’.

Cost:

Bag…..had it but they cost around $15 new

Thermos…Nissen….$18         Plastic one…$1.06 at a thrift store[Will switch this out to a metal one when I find a suitable one at a thrift store. I like wide mouth.

Silverware….all I have left from my former coca cola collection days….I’ll say free as everyone has silverware they can use.

Packets……………Napkins………Free…..free…free…….my friends save them for me, so everyone I visit has a bag waiting for me from when they dined out. I LUB my friends!