Yes, You Van
In last year’s Christmas card, we explained that after experiencing the realities of towing a travel trailer we decided we might prefer an Adventure Van for our road trips.
We ordered the van from a fleet dealer in Elkhart, IN because they are a volume dealer and Ford was placing priority on their builds. Even with that priority, we knew we would be waiting about 6 months for delivery.
While We Wait
When RV Tech Institute, also in Elkhart, discounted their in-person training, Tim decided to make the most of our van wait time and go to school. He spent 5 weeks in Elkhart in January/February and emerged with both his Level 1 and Level 2 RV Tech certifications.
Obtaining those certifications enabled Tim to pursue additional training offered by manufacturers of components we hope to incorporate in the van. Developing relationships with the manufacturers also positions us to become suppliers to folks either repairing or building their own RVs.
We Get the Call
In May we got the call that the van was ready for pickup, so we loaded up the truck and headed to Elkhart. We had mixed feelings. It’s one thing to watch YouTube videos and imagine ourselves seeing the USA in a van. It’s another things to purchase a new van and begin envisioning the actual work that is going to go into it to convert it from an Amazon-esque utility vehicle to a self-contained travel platform. However, one look at the van and excitement overshadowed our concerns.
“What is an Adventure Van?”, you ask.
An Adventure Van is different than a typical factory-built Class B RV. It also differs from a camper van. Utilizing components designed for the marine industry, an Adventure Van is built for durability and maintainability. Its fit and finish are higher-end than a camper van but can take the rough and tumble vibration of the road. A true Adventure Van is also equipped for off-roading. While we don’t plan to ford streams and travel across miles and miles of desert, we do want it to be able to handle unpaved roads and maybe even cross the creek at our grandkids’ home.
Factory-built Class B vans can be quite attractive, but most are not built with durability and maintainability in mind. They are cost-effective for manufacturers but have a surprisingly inverse relationship to consumer price tags. Camper vans are usually built as inexpensively as possible and can often have an unfinished or utilitarian feel.
It’s All About the Space, ’bout the Space…
We have looked at various RV platforms for years. Although there have been some improvements over time, Class B RVs – regular body vans – often feel claustrophobic to us. Tim’s height simply doesn’t work. He is too tall (for vans – not for me. I like him tall.). When Ford came out with the high-roof Transit, it solved the height issue.
Then there’s the question of how to create an open feel in a space that is anything but open. In such a small space, creating an illusion of space is going to be important. We have a basic floor plan sketched out, but the specifics will develop as we build the interior.
Nothing Ventured …
From the beginning, we agreed to take it one step at a time and if we need help, we hire help. We both are pretty handy and we enjoy working on projects together, so we are carefully moving forward like the Little Engine That Could, encouraging each other with,”I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Little Engine’s willingness to try something new caused me to initially dub our project “I think I Van”.
My great-grandmother used to say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” We have embarked on this adventure venture, sure hope the gaining part of Maudie’s memorable statement proves to be true.
Life Outside of Van-Life
There is more to life than van-life.
I began volunteering for the National Society DAR in July 2022. I work with states and chapters nationwide as they implement social media and create new websites. My role is to review their work, coaching them to create content that is consistent with national’s requirements. I continue to share family history related information on Instagram (@artofrecollection). That has become an incredibly rewarding experience, building a community of like-minded individuals, encouraging and supporting one another as we research, write, and share our family histories.
Tim continues his volunteer work with Nashville Technology Council, providing mentoring for emerging leaders in the technology community. He had a torn meniscus repaired three weeks ago. Let’s see. He’s had shoulder surgery, hip replacement, and now meniscus repair. That leaves a shoulder, another hip and a knee still to do – but who’s counting?
Our grandchildren are now 9 and 4 and bring joy that only grandchildren can bring.
Even though we haven’t been traveling, we are enjoying life and we think we are elder-cute. I mean, look at those aprons …
Along for the Ride
I plan to share the van-build process via social media and a website. Our URL is yesyouvan.com and on social, we are yesyouvan.usa. Will we succeed? Honestly, we don’t know, but our intent is to have fun, enjoy the process, be patient and accept the fact that mistakes will happen.
If all goes well, our 2023 Christmas card will include travel photos and stories. For 2022, here’s the van plan, Stan.