Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quick post concerning brooms and brushes.

Brooms and brushes are awesome. A quick sweep out of the van floor can simultaneously make you feel super productive and like you’re living in a real house. The best part is that in a van it only takes a minute to do a thorough job. They’re definitely a must for the winter as its impossible not to track snow inside, which only adds to humidity and the discomfort because stepping from a warm sleeping bag on to a chunk of snow or ice sucks. They’re also nice for dusting off the snow off your windshield after a dusting. And a little brush doesn’t take up any significant amount of room but is super useful.

Now that I think about brooms and brushes even more I realized they’re pretty much a necessity year round as tracking dirt/sand and mud in is pretty much inevitable like any home and so they’re awesome for everyone. I guess that while this might all seem rather obvious, I feel (and maybe it’s just me) but some of the small things are overlooked or unappreciated by dirtbags and it’s only with these weird moments of inspired reflection that I realize how great some of these things are. Now I can’t help but wonder what else I have overlooked or not properly appreciated. Any ideas?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Customizing a Van

For van dwellers or aspiring van dwellers I should say; there is a decision to be made regarding the interior of the van/vehicle you will be living in. The decision being whether you will buy a van that has been pre built to live in or one that is a blank slate, chock full of potential. There are certainly pros and cons to both and circumstances may force us one way or the other.

The pros of getting a van pre-built up include: convenience, cost and time factors. It's obviously convenient as you will not have to build out the interior yourself, overcome the inevitable hiccups that are associated with such a project as there are a plethora of obstacles you might run into, like tapering van bodies that mess with your bed setup, the curvature of the walls, insulation taking up more space than anticipated, incorrect measurements etc. Cost also is a perk as in my experience pre customized vans typically have a lower cost relative to the amount of work put into them as I am guessing that the sellers focus more on the worth of the vehicle itself rather than the living functionality, and so what may have been hundreds of dollars in materials and time may only be reflected in a $50-100 price increase. Time in addition to what's already been mentioned is still a factor to consider when purchasing an instantly livable vehicle as you can simply hop in and hit the open road with out any further fuss. And obviously I should mention if you lack the cash to take it to specialists that customize vans like Outside van or Sportsmobile and are not a DIYer then a prebuilt up van might be just the choice for you.

The benefits of customizing your own vehicle might however include some or all of the following: maximized storage potential, increased livability, street cred., pride, easily modified creation, personalization and just a fun experience. Some decked out vehicles when purchased may have only been intended for use as a part time camp/get away vehicle and as a result may lack the maximized storage space a full time van dweller may require, leaving you cluttered and aesthetically less pleasing.

Note how the shelves accommodate each of the
largest items, coincidence...not quite.
By creating your own interior you can create spaces specific to items that will be a permanent fixture, like water, food and cooking appliances, so as to make the most of your limited space. Since you're the one to be spending the most time in your vehicle, build it up in such a manner that you will find it a comfortable and convenient place to retire/hang out in. Street cred. and pride often go hand-in-hand when you receive complements on your creation you can stand behind it with your head held high and share what you learned and how you did it. Ease of modification and personalization are huge benefits as the first set up you create is unlikely to be perfect and so you can tweak it as necessary. And because you built it you know how it all fits together. Along those same lines you can take other's designs and modify them for your benefit, notching shelves to accommodate skis or fly rods, mounting a bike rack on the bed just so, blacking out the windows for stealth bivys or late morning lie ins, etc. Lastly, creating your own living space is a great way to reflect on what you need in your home, how it fits with your van/tiny house lifestyle, and getting to create something you can use and by psyched on.

This is pretty much the way the van came, which was perfect
to leave from the previous owner's house
straight to the desert for a climbing trip!
It is possible, I should mention to combine both of these options by modifying an existing custom interior to suit your needs as the author has done on his previous two vehicles. One of the best parts of living in your vehicle is that there are no wrongs or rights and it's certainly not too difficult to create what will suit you best.

Nifty stowaway bedside table took about 5 minutes
 to install and has been totally worth it.

For any and all van lifers reading this I'd be psyched to see pictures of your rigs!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Frugality and the Luxuries of the Van Life

For folks that are unfamiliar with manager's special, allow me to enlighten you. Manager's special, as a term is specific to the Kroger line of stores, however, the concept is used by many chains. Manager's special, is usually massively marked down grocery items that are about to expire. This can include but isn't limited to: veggies, fruits, baked goods, vitamins...well pretty much everything that has an expiration date stamped on it, or is drastically out of season.

Manager’s special is the socially acceptable and sometimes slightly more costly version of dumpster diving, unless of course it's paired with a coupon. Dumpster diving being the hide and seek game of finding edible foods that have fully passed their expiration date and have accordingly been tossed in a dumpster despite still being edible, particularly in the case of processed foods. Manager’s special items are typically identified by bright yellow and orange tags in the Kroger stores or by designated areas that will contain just baked goods or vegetables or refrigerated items etc. 

Additionally, these markdown items are almost always 50% off of their regular price or better.
As a result of this markdown, dirtbags and penny pinchers alike can enjoy the edible luxuries that are also enjoyed by people with a reliable and healthy income. We can appreciate and enjoy the aromas and flavors of cold pressed organic olive oil, imported Wensleydale cheese with cranberries or handmade hummus with fire roasted green chilies.

People that I have worked or lived with know that I love to flaunt the rack of ribs I've recently picked up for six bucks, or the ½ gallon of the aforementioned olive oil for $7.49. If you don’t care to rub your savings in the faces of friends, but still wish to bask in the glory of finding a delicious deal. Simply peel that still discount sticker off your great find and share. Let your friends and family ooh and aah over whatever delectable dish you’re serving and smile to yourself, knowing you only spent pennies on it!

So next time you go grocery shopping swing by the markdown sections first, especially if you’re a fan of baked goods as they seem to be plentiful, and snag some stuff that’s on your list…or not (be careful though if shopping on an empty stomach as the impulse purchases can be most costly despite the savings). Save yourself a couple bucks here and there, toss time in a piggy bank and I’ve found that in a relatively short amount of time you can tack on an extra month to your road trip with your manager’s special savings!
Yes a few spontaneous purchases made their way into the cart...but JACKPOT!