Interlude – What Five Hours Looks Like

I have received a lot of questions about how I built out the van and how long it took. The short answer is it took me 5 hours to pull everything together and have it all packed. The long answer is I had been planning it for about 6 weeks.

I cannot pinpoint exactly when I decided I was going to drive instead of fly to see my son, but it was sometime mid-spring 2021. I started looking at RVs to rent, but the more I looked the more I realized by the time I paid for the rv, the fuel, and all of the mileage overage, that I could not justify the expense.

I started watching YouTube videos and Tiktoks, and came to the decision that I would rent a cargo van from a car rental company, take advantage of the unlimited mileage that would come with it, and come up with some sort of temporary build out that I could use in place of an RV. Knowing that I had zero experience with this, I spent a lot of time reading and watching videos.

For several weeks leading up to my departure, I would purchase and arrange various items in the living room based on the dimensions of the smallest Ford Transit. Since I was renting from a car rental agency, I was going to be at the mercy of what they had the day I picked up my vehicle.

Despite laying things out several times, I knew that I would not really be able to know how things would work out for me until I actually had my van in hand. The day before I was scheduled to leave I went over to the car rental agency and picked up a Dodge Promaster. It had been recently returned by a contractor who had used it to haul stones. It was filthy! To get the van ready for me, they literally hosed out the interior.

I knew that I wanted to build some kind of a platform for my bed so that I could use the space underneath for storage. After tossing around several different ideas, I decided to try to use sawhorses. I found these awesome folding sawhorses, and used some 2x6x8 pieces of wood I found in the basement that had been left by the previous owners. All that was left was to figure out how to secure the cot to this contraption so that I could climb in and out, and sleep, without falling. I had purchased some bungee cords to help secure my drawer units in transit, so I decided to use the extras to see if I could secure my bed.

With the exception of the few days that I am traveling with my son, this is a working vacation. I have my laptop, and I have printed out my Outlook calendar. Basically I have turned the front passenger seat into my mobile office. It even looks about as organized as my office at school!

Knowing that I would be staying at Harvest Hosts sites, I needed to be fully self-contained. To that end I built a makeshift sink, and I purchased a portable potty. I did not have the space on the van for a shower, but there are plenty of opportunities to get cleaned up using my Planet Fitness membership and truck stops.

Since I would be spending three full weeks on the van, I also knew that I needed it to be somewhat decorated. There is no way I was going to stay in that space without adding a personal touch.

It isn’t perfect, in fact it is a bit of an engineering nightmare, but it is working well enough. It also makes for a great conversation piece as I meet new people.

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