I still have to finish insulating the walls and then panel them. Putting up the paneling is going to be very hard. I have to figure out how to get all these square pegs into a round hole. The interior of the van is all curves but the wood is all straight. The 1/4 inch plywood will flex and take shape of the walls but all the shapes in the van are extremely difficult to measure. Not to mention my tools are limited and I have no workspace. Oh, and I have almost no idea what I'm doing. I just know what I want the finished product to look like. Someone asked me if I would build a bed in their van for them if they payed me for my work, I don't think I could do that in good conscious. I'm really just making it all up as I go along, I have no idea what I'm doing and anything good that comes from me is purely coincidental.
Building notes aside, I did spend my first few nights in the unfinished van last weekend while I was attending an AMGA course at the new river gorge in WV. This was also the longest trip I've yet to take in the van. For non-climbers [read: sane people] AMGA stands for American Mountain Guides Association. The weekend was nasty, cold and wet. I got to be outside for most of it. It was very nice to come back to the van and be dry and warm inside. I just slept on the floor with my sleeping bag, nothing fancy, it was nice though. A real bed will be necessary for full-time vandwelling.
I met Jim, the guide who was instructing the AMGA course, at the cathedral cafe at 8:30 Friday morning and we talked for about half an hour about sustainable bolting practices and preservation of natural resources while we waited for the other students to arrive. I originally planned on taking this course in NC but somehow ended up in WV and I'm glad I did because Jim was a great teacher and we shared a lot of the same values and opinions. The other students were much less experienced so most of the technical stuff we covered was rudimentary to me but I did learn a lot about guiding.
At the end of the second day Jim and I were talking as I shouldered my pack into the van. Jim asked in an upbeat voice if I was planning on living in it. I summed up all my plans into a single sentence which I blurted out excitedly,
"As soon as I graduate I'm going to Yosemite."
He said, "I went through three chevy astro vans and I lived in them for about 10 years. I got to climb everywhere."
"Really!?" I was psyched
"Yeah, as soon as fall came around we would drive out to Yosemite, then when it got cold we went to Joshua Tree. We just kept going south when it got colder and climbed year 'round."
Jim told me about his set up and how he had all his climbing gear in a cargo net above his bed and we talked for a little bit about what I planned to do with my van. We were both tired and hungry from the day though, so the conversation ended a bit prematurely. He did invite me to park at his farm for free whenever I'm back in WV though.
For that weekend I was staying at Rodger's Rocky Top Retreat, which is right on the side of the gorge and only $6 a night. Its basically a climbers only campground, a few mountain bikers stay there occasionally too and Rodger will turn away families who are looking for a wholesome family camping experience, with good reason. At night when there wasn't anything to do I'd go hang with him and the other climbers there that weekend. Rodger told me about all the different Vandwellers he's seen at his campground, there were lots! On a random note, inscribed on the Porta-Jon at the campground, was this awesome poem:
"O! My elegant modern age!
Silicon breasts and silicon chips
Are not more than a gilded cage."
-Unknown porta-jon poet
So all went well on Sunday, Jim said I was ready for the exam and I'm scheduled to go back up there on the 25th and 26th.
On the trip back from WV the weather got really bad- sleet, snow, and high winds. I was actually pretty comfortable driving in it. But then I ran out of gas. This was because my gas gauge has been broken for a while and something was wrong with my second gas tank which was full the whole time. I had gas in the second tank but it wasn't getting to the engine for some reason and of course, this was the first time I needed it. I was lucky to have rolled to a stop near an exit but I still had to walk a mile in the nasty weather to get to a gas station. When I arrived at the station they didn't have any suitable containers to carry gas with. So I bought two gallons of winshield wiper fluid, dumped them into the complimentary winshield wash stations outside and then rinsed them out with water. I filled them up with gas and proceeded to walk back to the van and I succsessfully hitched a ride for half a mile to where the exit intersected the road.
There was no spout on these containers. I ended up spilling about half of the gas on the ground as tractor trailers sped by missing me by what seemed like inches, while splattering me with icy road sludge. But the van started and got me to the gas station and on my way home again. I really need to get that gauge fixed and figure out what's up with the second tank.
Despite that incident, it was a good weekend. I was on my own and it was a welcome change, difficulties included.