Part 3 of 3: To the NW edge of the USA!

Olympic National Park is huge and definitely needing more than 3 days to visit it all on our NW edge of the USA. On this day I drove to Cape Flattery. Between where I was camping and the cape, I stopped at a few viewpoints. The town of Sekiu overlooks the Strait of Juan Fuca. Many marinas, fishing boats and people out on the water, along with gulls and cormorants. 

There are eight Native American tribes associated with the park. For my visit to Cape Flattery I needed to purchase a recreational permit to park in the lots and hike in the area. The Makah tribe live in this area. There are many signs to remind visitors of the importance in purchasing a permit so the trails are maintained. From the trail head to the ocean is a .6 mile hike through tall trees, much vegetation and on wooden pathways in some sections. 

Tall trees and everything is green.
Along the coast at the cape.
Weathered limestone leaves sea caves under the cape.

There are gray whales, sea otters and a variety of birds along the NW edge of the USA: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The lands and waters are managed and protected by Makahs who work with the sanctuary to protect the waters and coastline.

I drove to ShiShi Beach further down the coastline. Arriving late in the day made me realize there was no way to hike the one way 2.5 mile trail to the ocean. I wanted to be back in daylight for my long ride to the campground. I had stopped between the cape and here which burned up time. Here are photos of the area. Many backpackers were about to start their hike to ShiShi Beach to camp for the night.

Coastline just north of ShiShi Beach

On my 3.5 hour drive back to the campground, I stopped at a couple of the Discovery Trail trailheads. If I had more time here I would have bicycled some of the segments of the trail. Eventually the trail will be 130 miles long from Port Townsend to LaPush. LaPush is the beach I visited a couple of days ago on the Pacific Ocean. Someday I will return and visit more areas of Olympic National Park. Tomorrow I am on my way to visit a Seattle area friend.

Remember the cougar info when back to bicycle ride in the area.

Am I There Yet? The Oregon Coast!

Many miles to drive before I sleep to arrive at the Oregon coast. I am here days later from Arizona! While on the road, I stayed a night in Garberville, CA where many straight and tall redwood trees stand … wow … they are magnificent.

I did drive hundreds of miles, some on boring interstates and others on twisty, winding rural roads to finally arrive on the coast! Traffic jams are annoying  and I can never figure out what caused the bottleneck ahead of me. When I get to the supposed jam, there seems to be no reason for any back-up!

I try to stop every couple of hours, basically to stretch my body. Sometimes there is a photo-op, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Lone Sailor statue, a half hour nap thanks to that bed in my van, or a chai latte and cream donut to bring on a sugar spark. I listen to audiobooks for a couple of hours, then music, then news if an interesting piece is reported.

Golden Gate Bridge

The photo below is the memorial, The Lone Sailor, at the northern end of the Golden Gate. It is here where every person in the Marine Corp, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard and Navy would see this spot as they leave and return from service. 

There has to be wildlife sightings:

Near the Benbow Historic Inn, I found an active pair of acorn woodpeckers. The pair were caring for young within the tree trunk.

Acorn woodpecker by entrance to nest within tree trunk.
Two woodpeckers at the nest and screaming young within.

Elk signs are everywhere and seeing them was a treat even if roadside:

Elk!

Finally….

I am looking out on the Pacific Ocean from the Oregon coast. The mist seems to hang all morning before the sun comes through. It is cool, very windy and beautiful. I am driving along Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Bike Route. A number of bicyclists are braving the hills, long distances between towns, and unbelievable wind. I say that because as I took some of the photos below, I could barely stand up! A bicycle with full panniers would be like a wall for the wind to push against and while the cyclist holds tight to stay upright. I notice the bike lane is available and sometimes wider on the coast side which makes sense since most cyclists ride north to south. Where the road is too narrow the north-bound bike lane is small or not there at all.

AZ to WA, My Van Adventure Begins!

My goal the first three days of travel: drive from the hot desert of southeastern Arizona to a cool forest of northwest California and begin a coastline adventure of Oregon and Washington.

Day 1: 

There is a blue-winged warbler in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Since I am passing the place then no reason not to stop and find the bird! Well it was off the interstate by some distance but doable. I was up at 4:30am, out the door of my home by 5am, and at the birding site by 7:30am. Other birders were on the trail with the same goal. We commiserate together as we wait and watch and hope. I was fortunate to talk with a woman who had seen the bird the last few days and knew the bird’s routine! (That is a true blue birder!) Long story short, the blue-winged warbler arrived, hopped around deep within the ash tree branches. I saw it and have no photo! It was amazing to see the bird though.

My destination for the night was to visit friends in Sedona, Arizona. Always wonderful to see them, drink wine and enjoy delicious food with a friend who is a fantastic cook. My partner rented a place for time away from our desert heat, thus I could sleep on a real mattress for one more night before the van adventure really starts.

Day 2:

With a beautiful sunny blue sky, my partner and I walk after breakfast and see the new housing in the Sedona area where we used to live. Once headlined on USA Today’s newspaper as the “best place to live” led to everyone descending on the area. Now every housing lot is built upon. Plus half the people eventually driving their rental car from the Phoenix airport to Grand Canyon National Park, drive through Sedona and seem to discover traffic circles for the first time in their life!

I take off and just 15 miles down the road I am in a thunder, lightning and torrential rainstorm on the interstate. When truckers put on their emergency flashers I know this is quite the downpour! No hydroplaning, clean windshield, and thoughts of appreciating my van, knowing I will not be setting up a tent in the rain tonight.

I head to Williams, Arizona where I will overnight. Time exploring Kaibab Lake and downtown Williams were also on the agenda before settling back at the campground for dinner. While waiting to check in at the campground, the woman at the desk finished her statement to another as she looked at me, “and so I am working on my AB list”.  I asked her about her AB list. Years ago she wanted to hike a trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument, near Flagstaff, AZ. Her husband, Bruce, said she should not … and so she did not. She kept a list of things he pooh-poohed and ever since Bruce died she has been doing the activities on her “After Bruce” list.

(Just so you know: Walnut Canyon National Monument has cliff dwellings 350 feet below the canyon rim. 240 steps down for the visitor … thus 240 steps back up. Bring water, wear good shoes, and take your time as you walk the path of the ancient inhabitants and see 20 ruins. It is a worthwhile visit.)

At Kaibab Lake, I discover it is an area enjoyed by fishermen and campers. It is in a beautiful setting where I saw a bald eagle, osprey and great blue heron. I witnessed how crowded the town of Williams can be in the summer. So busy with all its hotels, cafes, and shops selling all sorts of knickknacks. This town is at one end of the train line that runs north to Grand Canyon National Park. Have you visited Grand Canyon National Park? That is a must visit for anyone in the area!

Kaibab Lake

Day 3: Williams, AZ to Barstow, CA

This is not rocket science. Waking to a 55 degree AZ morning … but it is 78 degrees already in Barstow, my next stop. I am leisurely enjoying the morning here. The  cool breeze through the ponderosa pines and Steller’s jays stop by. My 105 degree California afternoon of adventure can wait.

I left the campground at 9am with time to detour to the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. So I did. Lake Havasu City is about 20 miles south of Interstate 40. Easy detour and perfect time for me to check out the area. Boating and fishing is huge here, but I wanted to see the London Bridge. It was originally built in 1830s and spanned London’s Thames River. Robert McCulloch bought the bridge in 1968. He had granite blocks cut from the original bridge brought to the United States. Reinforced concrete structure then had the original masonry on it. In 1971 the bridge was complete linking an island in the Colorado River with the main part of the city. I walked along the Bridgewater Channel canal to take this photo.

London Bridge
Another Colorado River stop with Santa Fe Railroad

Yes, it was very, very hot and I was happy to get rolling down the road again. A short while later I stopped at another section of the Colorado River. No birds, just boaters. The train is often seen as this was a main route across the USA. I am driving across the Mojave Desert. It is known for the hottest air temperature … you may have heard of Furnace Creek in Death Valley. The record: 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. There is truly no joy in stopping at a rest area when it is so very hot. 105 degrees at the moment.

I check in at the campground. After eating some food I decide to check out Liberty Sculpture Park. Somehow I missed the park. If there be one advantage to having everything in the van when I leave a campsite, this was the day! Using my phone, I reserve a hotel room about 20 miles down the road and head there for the night. Air conditioned room, a shower and a good night’s sleep are needed. I have a 6 hour drive the next day. That’s the way adventure travel happens. So much for the best of plans … do what is best to stay safe and healthy! It may require a detour!

Mohave Desert, hottest desert in the world.

Van Conversion with New Ideas

Each time I travel with my RAM Promaster 1500 low roof van, I seem to think of new ideas or projects. If you missed my earlier blogs about my converting this cargo van to a travel van, click here.

Two easy things to do…

One of my easiest ideas: purchasing 2 YETI Hopper Flip 8 Soft Coolers. I store what I plan to eat within the next day or so in one cooler. It sits on one of my sliding drawers in the back of the van. Remember the day of installing the sliding drawers? Here’s that van conversion work at this link. The other cooler holds food I plan to eat in a few days. It sits in the interior of the van. As a result, everything stays cold longer. The big plus is not needing to buy ice so often! With both coolers I have a foil piece on the inside cover of the cooler (those you receive perishables in from some companies). I like the foil also to separate some items I do not need on ice, but still to be kept cool.

Cooler with foil piece

The other ridiculously easy idea was to dry sweaty stuff. I do have a clothesline along my bed’s edge and I can string another line from one part of the interior roof to another. But the small items like bike gloves and socks were always falling off the clothesline, until I realized another idea! I flipped my small camp chair over and hung items there. Perfect!

Small stuff dry here!

Other ideas combine here….

My travel van has no additional heat, air conditioning or electrical outlet and all of that is okay. I refer to my van as a “glorified tent” because my sleeping area is above where my bicycle is mounted and no tent could accomplish that. You may remember my sleeping area is screened in. If not, check this link.

I began to think about charging my portable power station: a Goal Zero Yeti 150 while at a campground since electrical hookup is available and I like to plug my electronics into it while out in the field. Yet I did not want to be carrying the 12 pound power station around just to charge it at the campground. Could I find a place to keep it in my van and still plug in at the campground?

I realized some nights are very warm in the van and I may even have hotter nights to come. How could I charge my Goal Zero and run a small fan to move the air across my sleeping area? After some thought and purchase of a fan, an electrical extension cord, and some small hooks, I had an idea. I would run the electrical cord under my bed, on the side of the van where most campgrounds have their electrical post, and connect with my Goal Zero. My power station will sit on the bench I built inside the van. The fan is velcro-ed to the wall of the van and plugged into my Goal Zero. My needs have been met!

Electrical cord along the side of van and blue bag holds the bulk of the cord.
The fan blows over the bed and its cord goes down to Goal Zero.

Do I have a trip coming up? Yes … on the road to northwest USA! Follow my travels here at https://righteffort.blog or maybe I will see you down the road! Safe travels all!

Bike and Bird Watch!

When I travel, bicycle riding an area new to me is simple joy. This is the main reason I built an area in my van for my bicycle and gear. Plus, cycling gets me from one place to another faster than walking. The downside to cycling, especially when  birds are in the area, is to observe them while pedaling, especially those flying overhead. I often take time to slow down and observe them. So far, no bicycle accidents while birding!

(This reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing the other day, “Sorry I am late, I saw a dog”. A shirt appropriate for me, “Sorry I am late, I saw a bird”. I wonder if anyone makes that shirt?)

Recently I was bicycling around Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The eleven mile bike path winds through parks and passes nearby housing and resorts so an 8 mph bike speed is recommended. Many people were at the beaches, the playgrounds, on the water in all kinds of watercraft, and also pedaling various wheeled vehicles on the bike path.

I like the bike rack!
Paddleboards and boats of all sizes were on the bay, plus swimmers at beaches.

Most of the bike path is not near the bay water’s edge; however, a short section parallels the San Diego River estuary. I saw 3 birds standing on a construction roll where bridge work was happening. The birds were the same type of bird but I could only say they were herons. I photographed them, identified them later in the day, and they were little blue herons! Another new bird for my life list!

They look like herons… but which species?
Little blue heron
I moved closer to photo this bird with hopes it would not fly off.

Most funny moment on this bicycle ride: seeing a jogger with his dog wearing large, sport, mirrored sunglasses! Important to protect eyes! What a fun bicycle ride with a new bird observed and photographed!

Travel & Everest at Age 50? Why Not?

Recently I immediately saw a photo of Mount Everest on the wall behind the bar at the Dutton-Goldfield Winery in Sebastopol, California. It was a photo of Mount Everest from Kala Pattar! So many of us climb this 18,519 foot peak to see a spectacular view of Mount Everest and the nearby peaks. I love travel and the chance to share experiences with others who have been to a same place! I wanted to know more.

Who traveled to Nepal and took the Everest photo hanging behind the bar? Thankfully the man setting up our wine tasting knew. After finishing a business meeting at a nearby table, Dan Goldfield was introduced to me! (He’s the Goldfield in Dutton-Goldfield Winery!) Both of us, many years ago and at different times, turned 50 years old and trekked to Mount Everest’s base camp. On his trek he continued to a neighboring valley. When I turned 50 years old, I trekked to Mount Everest’s base camp, thanks to the support of my employer allowing me time in Nepal during the school calendar.

Was it easy to train and complete the trek?

Train for the trek: carry a fully – loaded backpack, climb up and down garage parking lot stairwells – often smell horrible – and icy northeast USA roads, plus time on hiking trails in Arizona and the Grand Canyon (my favorite place now that I moved to southwest USA) to determine best hiking boots! Many times I wished I was 20 years old because the months of training were hard work! In retrospect, I am thrilled to have accomplished what I did! Out on the trail, “climb the mountain” was my mantra. Burning through hundreds of calories, sleeping on the ground, hiking for hours at continued increasing elevation – hike high, sleep low – and enjoying the company of fellow trekkers and locals where we enjoyed delicious food all added to the experience! Of course, arriving at Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp were the ultimate goals and then downhill to safely arrive home!

Yes, life is good with travel!

After the trek, I made presentations for my students and staff at my school, my community and at a local Eastern Mountain Sports – provider of my reasonably priced outdoor gear – some I eventually donated to our trekking porters. I cannot speak for Dan; however, if I was able to travel to Nepal to climb mountains when I was younger, I would have. From my point of view, when reaching 50 years of age it is time to travel and climb mountains or it will never happen. I love mountains! Thankfully my school’s faculty, board of education, student body and community allowed me the opportunity to trek in Nepal. Writing this post brought back wonderful memories!

Kathmandu – city time
The monkeys were everywhere!
On our way as we enter the park.
Loved the food.
Bridges – not for the weak of heart! I loved their sway!
On top to see Everest still in the distance.
What a sight …Mount Everest!
Avalanche while we were there at base camp.
I could not step on the Khumbu Icefall as Chinese liaison stop you. Look closely, in center of photo, of people crossing a crevasse. The icefall is huge.
I visited a local school as I do on all my travels. Eventually we send additional supplies to the school.
I love seeing children be educated!
Our group leap-frogged up the trail with Erik’s group. He is with his brother and father who I meet. Years later his father is involved with a Tibetan project I had; small world!
Wally – wonderful person and guide. I follow him to my next big mountain the next year!
I admired Rob Hall and was saddened by his death so left prayer flags at his memorial.

A few decades later, I am so glad I kept these photos! While having great memories is wonderful, especially since I am still of an age with a good memory, it is fun to see the good times and other people in the photos. Don’t wait till you are 50 years of age if you can make some of your dreams happen now! There’s a big world out there with many fantastic adventures to be had, so enjoy!

It’s Okay To Ask the Question: Having Fun Now?

Bridge Across the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa

Long distance van travel, camping, outdoors 24/7, unknowns, weather, and solitude are just not everyones cup of tea … although for me that cup of tea is usually around 10:30 each morning! 

I’ve been in Illinois the last few days and asked myself, am I having fun? Despite the cold weather in Colorado and Nebraska, I had plenty of places to visit and birdwatch during the day with occasional sunshine. Time in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio is pushing me to my wits-end with damp, cold, gray weather! Worse yet, the rain! I don’t mind bundling up for a walk in cold or even windy weather, but rain …yes, I do mind! That calls for time to see a movie: I saw “Coda”. (It’s a good one to watch at your local theater or Apple TV.)

My battery for charging my electronic devices, Goal Zero Yeti 150, died. Sure I could plan library stops to charge all my electronic devices, or as I recently did … asked for a lunch booth near an electrical outlet. I have only been charging my phone in the van. All batteries are having a difficult time with the cold temperatures. Thankfully I am warm at night under my layers: flannel sheets, fleece and fiberfill blankets, sleeping bag and with thermal underwear, alpaca socks and hat on! (I know when backpacking I would have my fuel canister, clothing and whatever else under the covers with me, but I have not done that on this trip yet. I have to draw the line someplace to realize I am in a van and not a tent!)

In 2019, I bicycled through parts of Iowa, never spending much time by the Mississippi River so I purposely chose to visit this area on this trip. Since weather is not allowing me to bicycle ride, I drove south on the east side of the river, crossed it and then north on the west side. Loud Thunder Forest Preserve: birds smart enough to shelter somewhere out of my sight, except for 2 turkey vultures on a dead, roadside deer. Fairport State Recreation Area: I took time for my cup of tea, writing back to Goal Zero rep, increasing cell data on Ipad as I warm it on my chest (battery is struggling with the cold temperature), looking at upcoming days of cold weather and making alternative plans. 

The good news is I am not tenting! The van does provide a certain amount of protection from the elements … the wind rocks me to sleep and I have no worries of  rain drops leaking in. However, as I see people in heated RV’s, turning their TV on to watch whatever, I think to myself … hmmm … am I having fun? It takes a certain personality to handle unknowns such as weather. I do awake each morning under warm blankets in my van, wonder and observe, is it as cold outside as in the van? Is the sun shining? Is the wind blowing? Will my fuel canister light so I can make breakfast? Even as I look out the window I do not know every answer … and then I step out of the van … and immediately know what I will do for the day The best thing about the van is I carry everything with me so I can cook, relax, and travel anywhere to make a day work for me.

One thing I realized with the van is I only have to arrive at a campground when I am ready to sleep. Having dinner, preparing the bed area, finalizing my communications and planning for the next day can all be done anywhere. I discovered I was leaving the mat and step stool outside my van door at a campground when the weather had been nice in the morning, but on questionable weather days I take them with me … subconsciously thinking, I don’t need to return here if I do not want another night at this location; I will lose the cost of the campground that night, but I may have found something or weather better elsewhere! (Have never had to actually do that, but who knows, it may happen!)

The cost of everything has gone up. Let’s skip the gas price discussion for a moment. I discovered family restaurants at breakfast or lunch are the best deals. For maybe double the cost of a fast food joint, their prices are up too, local restaurants provide huge meals! A Reuben sandwich is my favorite and when I had fries, and cole slaw and soup, wow! Plus I received a discount because I paid cash. 

Back to the gas prices. When my Mom asked if I noticed the price of gas, I told her if I thought about it I would not be visiting her. However, truth be told, I did think about it and am doing my own little experiment. I purchased a basic Costco membership to possibly save money on gas. First challenge: find the Costco gas station on my route, 2) guess which will be the fastest line at the pumps, and 3) compare the Costco price with local price to determine savings. So far I have saved money, especially if filling with an almost empty van tank. Unfortunately, not many Costco stations on the east coast, but I can continue to save money when I return home since a Costco is a few miles away.

I have not been motivated to take many photos. Plenty of birds have been observed but the rainy gray sky is not exciting me for any photography. This morning I saw great blue herons, Canada geese, a pied-billed grebe, robins, ducks, red-winged blackbirds and grackles … all noisy while I made breakfast. A northern cardinal flew by and I wondered if it was the same one I saw the previous night singing its heart out. My campsite is in-between 2 lakes so plenty of water birds to observe.

Another day I drove on the west side of the Mississippi River. There are parks and places to watch river action near the locks and dams. I will return to this area to bicycle ride when the weather is warmer. So many bicycle trails come through this area which was my reason for stopping here to cycle, but 45 degrees and windy weather is not my idea of a fun day.

Although not cycling did provide me time to locate help for my Goal Zero Yeti 150. Batteries Plus set me up with a new battery on the spot for about $20 more than if I had it shipped to some place on my trip. It’s true, you pay for convenience and now I do not have to make library stops to charge devices.

As I look out on the lake where I am camping, there will soon be white caps on the water. Fortunately this morning I did take time to birdwatch and photograph some of the birds. Here are photos from these past few days. The answer to my question at the start: I am having fun, but I’ll have more fun with friends, family and warmer weather!

On wall of Building in Rock Island, Illinois
American white pelican at Sunset Park
Great blue heron at campground lake
I heard the woodpecker and found it; red-bellied woodpecker.

My “GT” Van Travel: Arizona to New Mexico to Colorado

Well I am heading east! My first couple of days on the road were to visit some towns in New Mexico and bird watch at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. Do you know where this bird can be found?

Las Cruces, New Mexico: I camped in the area but drove into town since I had never been. At one of the scenic rest stops just before this town I found the sculpture, pictured above, constructed from many items. There were no birds in this town, understandably since the Rio Grande River had no water at its surface. Apparently May till September is when the snow melt from Colorado’s high peak mountains will finally get here and provide enough water for the locals to swim in the river. 

I met an interesting couple from Ontario, Canada. They are traveling for another 4 months and return to teach at a school. They explained “Harvest Host” membership to me and it sounds great when I can be very flexible with my travel. One can reserve only a day or two ahead at a winery, distillery, lavender farm, or whatever the business … arrive before they close, purchase something as that is your payment to the owner, then leave early in the morning before the business opens. You need to be self-contained, so with my luggable loo I would be okay! Unfortunately the Canadians were having transmission problems with their converted ambulance. I hope they can get back on the road soon!

My next-door neighbors at the campground were from Cambria, California. They already spent 2 weeks getting to New Mexico! Their plan is to travel only 300 – 400 miles per day: travel to Florida, up the east coast to Maine, across to Washington State, and south to their home in California … with hopes to accomplish all in 3 months!

Interstate 25, not a busy highway now, and probably less back in the 1950’s. I heard a report about a town along this highway originally named Hot Springs for its geothermal spring-fed spas. In March 1950 a NBC program “Truth or Consequences” promised free publicity to a town with Truth or Consequences as its name by April 1 of the same year. Between March 4 and April 1, the Hot Springs town voted to have a name change and on April 1 the Truth or Consequences show was aired in the town! 

I was on my way to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge; no visit to Truth or Consequences. My interest in Bosque del Apache NWR was to scope out the area and return, hopefully in October or before February of next year, to see sandhill cranes here. Birders mentioned I would be closer to the cranes here compared to Whitewater Draw in McNeal, Arizona. This would be a longer drive for me, but if each road here is open to birders then we would be closer to the cranes. I saw 20 plus different species of birds in my 3 hour visit driving almost 10 miles of road. There were plenty of places to pull-off, some with observation decks and another with a blind. Some hiking trails and a bike trail so it will be a good place to return. Unfortunately camping is a distance away since it is not allowed here. Here are just a couple of birds:

Killdeer
Western meadowlark has a beautiful song!

Here are a couple of photos taken at the wildlife refuge:

My drive to Colorado was a long travel day with rain and gusty winds! High profile vehicles, such as my even my low-roof van, sway with every bit of wind. My arms, shoulders to fingertips, were tightly holding onto the steering wheel! At one point I was thinking about my past solo bicycling trip and thought there was no way I would want to cycle in this wind! Miles down the road I saw a couple on a tandem bicycle, miles from anything! Power to them! I was also concerned about a lone pronghorn caught between fencing on both sides of the road it was standing within. I hope it eventually found a place under the lowest wire of a fence to be back grazing with the other pronghorns!

I prepared my breakfast and left New Mexico with 43 degree temperature and very cold fingers. I arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado at dinner time with 47 degree temperature and wind! Thankfully I still had a meal prepared from home to eat. Hopefully weather will improve. I have been happy with my sleeping accommodation in the van: flannel sheets, fleece blanket, fiberfill blanket and thermal underwear … you know this Arizonian will feel the cold so I am bundled … I slept well; no complaints!

Retiree in Action: Part 8: Bench, Box & Van Work is Done!

How difficult can it be to build a box and call it a bench? Except, with this box I wanted a removable shelf, two lift tops and a way to secure items within the bench … and be strong enough for me to sit on it! Well, I did accomplish that!

Bench… done!

And another box … Ram Promaster vans have many places for water bottles, but lack storage space in the front area, thus I built a box … thank you mini Kreg pocket-hole jig … made that project easier!

Buy Kreg jig, not the mini, if you have a big project … lesson learned too late for me.

Small touches to add, but I am essentially done with this project! Kudos to the people who build out their van with refrigerator, stove, water system and other items to make their van a place to live in for months at a time! And kudos to those who do the conversion and have their final product looking professional! 

My work is done … not the prettiest, but will suffice for what I need … and I am proud to say, I did not make one hole in the van! Sixteen hundred dollars … due to the fact: I bought 2 ft. by 4 ft. pre-finished birch plywood for my bench and only one 4 x 8 ft plywood (which cost 3 times the price of a year ago). Also the 4 Aolisheng ball bearing lock-in drawer slides were costly, but I hope to enjoy their use! I do not have to many left-over pieces of wood, screws and nails. I am so happy I had bought an electric powered screw driver!

Where did the month go? For a 3 week and 5 day period of time, every day except for 2 days in that time, I put in 104 hours of work! This does not count the other hours I had been thinking, sketching, watching YouTube videos and at various stores to buy items, ask a million questions of those employees and buy other items on-line. 

With gratitude: I am so appreciative of my neighbor allowing me to borrow his power saw and he offered a few good ideas too. I am equally appreciative of my partner who delivered more than one lunch and snack to me during these weeks, helped me on my most awful day dealing with the sliding drawers, and provided insight when I needed it! 

Surprisingly, a few people did stop and ask what I was working on. I appreciated their positive comments. It also provided me time to talk about possible upcoming USA and Canada travels during the next 2 years. I am a world traveler who has put my international travel on hold for 2 more years with hopes the Covid virus will have died down around the world. Plus I wish for civility to return to humankind. There has been too much ugliness in attitudes and behaviors towards one another about a variety of issues and I just do not want to participate in any of it. Thus, solo travel right now is best for me to wander and see North America’s beautiful places, be outdoors and to follow the birds! Retirement is to be full of life while we are capable of doing what it is we wish to do. This year I enter another decade of my life and I want to live it. Never do I want regrets for not being active in the outdoors. Therefore, this year I will travel to meet others across our country, enjoy our national parks and monuments, bicycle some trails, visit birding hotspots and historical sites, and work on my sketching, writing and photography skills. I look forward to travel in Australia, Chile and Italy in 2024! Maybe I will see you on the road … stay healthy and happy and let me know when and where we can meet! Namaste.

Retiree in Action: Part 7: Sleeping in the Van … 

Was I feeling like an old person rolling out of my tent morning after morning? Maybe. The rolling part was easy; it was the getting up off the ground that seemed troublesome some mornings as I would mutter and ask myself “am I getting old?”.

With the van I decided a priority would be a mattress a few feet above the ground … even if it was just a foam memory mattress topper with my ensolite and Thermarest sleeping pads underneath; yes the same ones I use when tenting. So, I cut a full mattress topper to 43 inches width and kept the 75 inch length. I am high off the ground due to my bicycle stored underneath, thus less head space, so cannot comfortably sit up bed, but can scrunch enough to read a book in bed. 

I equate this “capsule” to the Japanese pod hotels at their airports where one can catch a quick night’s sleep. I will have a good night’s sleep, roll off the mattress to the floor and be on my way in the morning! (Remember I have the luggable loo to step down on, if I need it.) 

I even built a small shelf for a container to hold night time needs … headlamp, alpaca socks and other night stand items. I must admit, this van conversion is more than a “glorified tent”! 

For air flow in the van, I purchased air vents for the front 2 windows. No doubt there may be times I need more airflow so I also purchased a small fan to plug into my GoalZero. But the best air flow will be when the sliding door of the van or the back doors are open! Creating screens became a necessity as I decided to not use one product where you remove the van’s weather-stripping to install the screen and then put the weather stripping back on. Way to dicey for me to consider that option. Another company discontinued their manufacture of screens so I was left with my own creation for the rear of the van and am awaiting a purchase of the sliding door screen!

Nightstand blue box!
No screen below for easy access to items. When buggy the screen will be added.
Fiberglass mesh screen is staying in place by the mattress. Area below will be screened when needed.
Looking to the mattress from the inside … hop up via the loo!