Finished Build and Test Trip

From the previous post, we had the flooring, walls, bed, and fantastic fan put into the van. A clean pallet for building our design. If I still had Bailey’s original “inside van sketch” I would certainly post a picture of it but when we were done, it came out really close to what we were shooting for. So…. after the bed was built we moved onto the countertop, cabinet, and storage area. It was perfect for the far side of the van because there are no windows on that side of the van. It made sense. Basically, we built a storage cabinet from the floor to the ceiling directly behind the drivers seat. The lower area of that cabinet would house all of the solar system items (batteries, inverter, fuse box, etc.) and the upper shelves would be mostly food storage and whatnot. Water jugs will be housed underneath the countertop area. We built the storage cabinet and the under-counter storage to fit some cool shutters that we scored from a local friend here in town. Shoutout to Mike O’Neill! They are old antique mini shutters. The shutters are perfect for the job because they hide all of our crap while also making it easily accessible. We painted them a cream white color to match the ceiling. Bailey did a stellar job at putting some fabric that we got from Jo Ann’s on the ceiling. The trick? A whole bunch of 3M 90 spray adhesive. That shit really holds stuff good! I’ve blabbed on a lot here, but we are somewhat close to being done with the build. I’m sure I have forgotten some things. There are plenty of small things still to do and I’m sure we’ll find another hundred things to do once we hit the road, but in the mean time… we are pretty proud of our progress!

First picture above is on/off switch to turn the solar panels off to stop charging the batteries when we aren’t using them. You can also see the charge controller and fuse block. A separate write-up on the solar system is coming whenever I quit being lazy. So you’re not chomping at the bit, it’s 2 – 100 watt panels on the roof running to 2 AGM sealed Vmax batteries wired in parallel for double the storage. This is plenty of power for what we will be running (LED lights, fantastic fan, charging phones, etc).  The middle picture is the counter and cabinet just after we put the shutters on. You can see how great of a job we did. Hey, they hold stuff in!

We got some cheap hinges from Lowes to hold them closed. Long story short, we’re now using paracord to help hold them shut. Last picture above- another thing I forgot to mention. You can see the bed platform. The piece on hinges is a folding piece that comes up at night to extend the bed so we have full length. We can also access under-bed storage from inside the van there.

Bailey in the van

Bailey showing off all the space in our “living room”.

From this photo you can see the cool spice rack that we put up on the wall. We found that at Jo Ann’s labeled as a CD holder for like 7 bucks. Some fresh wood stain and it was ready to go on the wall. You can also see the drop down side table that we put on the side door for holding beers, coffee, or whatever. OH – another forgot to mention thing. Check out that fishermans rope that we used for trim. It’s in a few different places around the van. Next up, we had to get our memory foam mattress ready and specifically cut to fit what we needed. We got a good deal on the mattress somewhere online. After plenty of research on youtube, it turns out the best way to cut a memory foam mattress is with a cheap electric knife from Wal-Mart. And that is exactly what we did…

From the pictures above you can see the tool we used, Bailey making some final double-check measurements, Bailey cutting the actual memory foam, and then the final product inside the van with the sheet on it. It was very easy.  That little electric knife seemed to cut like a dream. It went right through the memory foam mattress no problem. The whole process probably took half an hour.

bed in the van

Here’s me tightening down some loose bolts on the bed extension.

The last piece of mattress/bed extension was wrapped by Bailey in our fabric of choice and will transfer back and forth from the bed as a giant pillow during the day and then to the extension as the rest of the bed at night. That way, all 6 feet and 2 inches of me can sprawl out without a care in the world. Inside a van. Yes.

Now that we had a bed inside the van it was time to give it a test. We planned a trip to Santa Cruz and the California coast this past week to give the van a shakedown cruise. We have since taken that trip and everything worked out great. We slept like a dream (minus the cars zooming by on Hwy 1). The LED lights that we put up around the van (another thing I forgot to mention) worked great and took zero power. The power inverter to charge our phones and laptop and camera and whatever worked like it should. The entire solar system seems to be working great. A big thanks to my buddy Chris for helping me plan out the entire process of install on the solar. I have zero electrical experience and it came together just fine. Again, another post to come on that subject. One more thanks to Phil, Bailey’s dad, for hooking us up with some parts for the roof rack. After a little modification, it holds down the Thule Weekender cargo box that we got on Craigslist perfectly! Prepare for picture overload…


van on hwy 1

Here is our first sleeping spot. Hwy 1 a few miles outside of Santa Cruz.

sunset photo

Obligatory adorable sunset photo from the night before, same spot.

breakfast on hwy 1

Making breakfast at a public beach. Check the coleman table. Awww yeah.

Bailey on the beach

Bailey hanging out in the “hippie hobo tent encampment” on the beach after breakfast.

Bailey with her toes in the water

Then she dipped her feet in the ocean. Chilly!

Bailey on the ocean

We walked from one end of the beach to the other. This end was cooler, can you tell?

skateboarding the pier

We headed down to Santa Cruz and skateboarded the pier and boardwalk.

van in the dark

Me and the van. Wire LED lights on point and they use almost no energy.

Bailey in the river

A sweet swimming hole just a short hike away from where we camped.

Us and the train

We rounded out the trip with a ride on a steam engine train through the Redwoods.

View from the train

Our view from the front car on the train. Check out the trestle!

The van did awesome on the trip. There are still some things that need to be done like putting in a refrigerator and getting rid of a cooler and ice. We need to get some sort of step stool because the thing is so damn high to step into and out of. We need to install some sort of pump to access our water from the jugs easier. We need to hang up a paper towel holder. Ok now I’m just using this as a notepad so I don’t forget stuff, LOL. You get the picture. Small little things that make your house, or van in our case, a home.

We relax this weekend before heading out to Alaska (SO STOKED!!!) next week for a childhood friend’s wedding. We’ll be there for about a week and hope to do lots of exploring. After that we’re back to California to button up the rest of our van business before we head to Mammoth mountain to go skiing and snowboarding for the 4th of July. Yes, we got pounded with snow this past winter and Mammoth is still open so we’re capitalizing on that before we hit the road. As far as travel plans we do know we are going to Mammoth, then Spencer Hot Springs in Nevada, then headed to Yellowstone in Wyoming to crank off the road trip… speaking of, I better buy that National Park pass now. Will update as I can in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. We’re ready for adventure!




3 thoughts on “Finished Build and Test Trip

  1. Lookin good Justin. After my stint in Denali this summer I’ll be joining the ranks of Van-Life. When I get back to cali

  2. Pingback: Free Campsites Along Highway 1 in California • A Van To Stand By

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