Three months of vanlife

Three Months living in a van and I’m still alive and not regretting it. Complete with 70’s shag carpet, vans are once again becoming part of our culture. As retirement was going on it’s 3rd year I chose this lifestyle with the hope of discovering where I belong. Still searching for that answer I continue to explore and add more memories and experiences to my ever aging brain.

As I’ve written before I chose to leave my house behind and live in my van which I designed and built myself. A bit larger than a prison cell it has every single luxury of a home in a small package. I can literally cook bacon while I’m sitting on the toilet reaching over to do the dishes, plus I can even open the fridge and figure out what I want for my next meal. No more long trips to the bathroom from bed either. The cramped quarters grant me the wonderful freedom to not buy anything either. Impulse shopping is a thing of the past since everything has to have a nice place where it goes and nothing can pile up. Imagine your house if you drove it around and suddenly slammed on the brakes to ovoid that little old lady with a walker in the street. How much stuff would hit you in the back of the head and make you curse like a sailor?

Observations I make are constant. Some things make me laugh, some make me ponder how I can improve situations. Everything I see makes me think so much more than I used to. Vanlife has given me such a rare opportunity to observe many different culture groups that I normally would never have a chance to interact with. I’ve had conversations with drug dealers, commercial fishermen, city workers, gardeners, clueless kids, tourists and even rock stars so far. Oh and I even got to hang out with a midget one night who might have been wee man but I never asked cause I really didn’t care. It was just a great night with some good people.

Homelessness of others has really opened up to me in my travels. This was one unexpected interaction I did not expect to be faced with. Everywhere I travel I see more and more homeless people, and I’m talking about small towns. I do my best to avoid cities since driving a van in a city is comparable to you ladies trying to get into your hot jeans. It works but damn the struggle is real! Virtually every town with a population over 1000 has someone on the corner with a sign asking for help. They live on the streets, in tent cities or if they are lucky they sleep in a car. Having a van makes me one of the rich homeless I guess. I’m not going to get into why there are so many homeless too much but just remember they are human beings and need to be smiled at.

Loneliness I suspected was going to be a real problem with van life and I have to thank the creators of tinder, ha ha. Once the standard for finding a hookup, now it simply allows me to find other humans to interact with and talk to about the local areas. Amazing as it sounds they don’t run away clutching their crosses and bibles when I tell them I live in a van either. However it happened van life has become an acceptable lifestyle. Every time I park I have to watch out though, not for muggers or danger, I have to watch out for the groupies that want to know about my van and how I built it. Soon the necessity for brochures or business cards with the answers will happen at this rate. The weird thing is that it’s always the wives that come up and ask questions too. Maybe they are shopping and the mountain man beard is some sort of aphrodisiac because as soon as they see the husbands they run off quickly? Don’t get me wrong there are a few guys that ask stuff too. I’m simply losing count of the amount of time I hear “my husband and I are going to build our van soon and I wanted to ask you about……”

Then shyness of others and the stranger danger still persists but once I climb out and smile and wave I’ve experienced things I never expected. A family with kids had me come over and have dinner with them because they collected too many muscles on the beach that day, woo hoo!! Free dinner!!

A Mexican couple taught me to fish, well attempted to teach me is a better description of the interaction. I dug the worms right next to her and for every one I found she found about 34 of them, no idea why. Same for the fish, I caught 4 all week, the husband had about 453 by the end of the week, WTF?!?!??! And they kept feeding me too, apparently tortillas go with every meal even if it’s a fire roasted fish with the head still on. My Spanish speaking stills are still at the stage of being ordered “you just stop trying, we’ll stay with English.”

So many more surprises, laundry is almost enjoyable now. I engineered and built my own laundry machine for the van and it even has a spin cycle, then I simply hang the clothes like a hobo wherever I am out in public, ha ha. I know people are driving by laughing at my Star Wars bed sheets (originals from 1977 by the way.) I did try the public laundromats but at $10 or so a load washed and dried that soon became a non existent expense. Love my dad for teaching me to be so super cheap and proud of it!

My own limitations still exist even though my mind hasn’t accepted them. For example I was having such a nice relaxing sleep when suddenly I hear a CRASH from the front of the fan. I sit straight up, almost, cause the ceiling is too low for straight up. It’s dark and I react instinctively to what i’m sure is some meth head trying to break into the van. One hand reaches for the light switch and with the other I unleash a deadly photon blast as I scream out “Die you fucker!!!” Unfortunately now we get back to my limitations as all the happened was the lights turned on to reveal there was no meth head burned to a crisp. Instead it was just my cupboards had come loose from the wall and crashed to the floor. I guess that turned out to be a better end to the story though. The next morning I was initiated into being a van life man as I made repairs right in the Walmart parking lot.

Someday, well actually some week I’d like to have a week without any injuries. So far I’ve lost count of the amount of scrapes, bruises, blood spots on my sheets, aches, pains, sprains and other unexplained sore parts that just appear at random. It’s a good thing that scabs are fun to pick and mosquito bites feel great when ya scratch em. The common sense part of me realizes that I’m older and I shouldn’t be doing all these things, unfortunately that common sense voice doesn’t speak up until I’m already doing it, or I’m in mid fall. If there was an olympic event for falling without style I’d win the fucking gold! So far I’ve fallen off my bike several times, off a ladder, downhill, uphill, over rocks, through bushes and my old age brain thankfully lets me forget the rest. Oh and don’t forget all the times I’ve gotten a fish hook stuck in myself somewhere.

This van is not an off road machine and it’s really quite annoying. I still have my Hummer H1 in storage and part of every day is spent visualizing how I can convert it into a camper of some sort. I have gotten stuck at the beach twice and the last time even with the tide coming in just a few feet away from me. Rocks, you would think I could drive over rocks. Nope, I get stuck on the side of the river as I sink into lower levels of rock. The unavoidable problem with having a fat ass van I suppose is my challenge. Lucky for me I’m good at waving my hands frantically and laying down in front of big trucks until they agree to pull me out. Also there are still wonderful kind people left in this world that have always helped me each time.

Tourists are everywhere and they are multiplying faster than rabbits at Mardi Gras! If anyone is looking for a new business opportunity, go into a tourist town and live off of them. I’ve seen villages with literally a population of 45 and there are more stores selling crap than there are houses. Tourists will buy anything and pay anything for some sort of weird attraction including looking at a giant redwood. People, it’s just a tree, turn your head and save $10, the tree to the left is still gigantic and it’s free. Gone are the days of the plague and that’s just unfortunate. We need a good zombie apocalypse or alien invasion to wipe out most of our population so we can enjoy time at the deserted swimming hole without some family coming by to check it out and take pictures because some app told them to visit. Litter is everywhere and I’m getting to the point that I might start collecting cigarette butts so I can dump a whole can of them in some smoker’s car someday soon. Thankfully I have some great medication that keeps me from doing the things I really want to do to all these careless and sloppy humans that are always in my way.

Hit a rock, broke the poo tank. Yup, when you have to carry your waste around with you it can be a real dilemma when you drive down a dirt road and don’t notice the big rock that’s going to put a hole in that tank. Besides the hippies that all say you should go back and pick it up, yeah right like that’s going to happen. There is the unfortunate job of fixing the tank. So here is a nice leisurely day spent in the Home Depot parking lot with a sheet of plexiglass some silicone and a lot of screws. Thank goodness for being a tattoo artist and I carry a good supply of rubber gloves. Vanlife isn’t all sunsets on the beach, there are bad days of repairs like this one, but when it’s all fixed those sunsets do make the end of the day a nice one.

Only in Nevada have I found a movie theater with electric reclining lazy boy type chairs in a movie theater where you can order wine and watch monty python’s the Holy Grail on the big screen. Cities do have a few advantages such as this so I suppose it’s worth exploring them every once in a while. For me however there is just a huge happiness in getting out to the middle of nowhere without the sound of cars and finding a couple silent trees to enjoy an afternoon napping in m hammock. Thanks to the young kids that think they own the world it’s now perfectly acceptable to even hang a hammock anywhere out in public. I’ve even seen them between two parking meters, so again, you won’t hear this often, but thanks kids.

Cheese factories are an attraction I never knew existed. If you have had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the inside of my refrigerator then you know I have this strange addiction the the wonderful stuff. Actually I just read an article that cheese is more addictive than cocaine, mmmmm. I actually pulled up a chair and watch the assembly line where they packaged the cheese for about 15 mins, and I wasn’t alone! The factory actually had chairs already by the side for the curious addicts, however I was the only one that stayed more than a min, perhaps I need a support group?

Or maybe a support group for nerds, since I spent 3 days in Astoria Oregon, the town where they filmed the movie Goonies. I sought out the sights of the high school, the fishing warf, the famous window where chunk spills his drink and even took a ride down the giant “no truck hill” featured in the famous chase scene. Just when I though I couldn’t have a better nerd day I was driving through Abberdean Washington and saw Princess Leah waving at me with a light saber in front of an entire store of vintage Star Wars toys! I even asked the guy for a job, unfortunately even with two danishes strapped to my head I couldn’t get into the princess costume so it didn’t work out. It’s the little surprises like that which make this life worth remembering.

Vanlife means living in a van, a mobile home remember. Every night requires me to find a new place to sleep, sometimes it’s in the parking lot of a car dealer, or Walmart, or even just a city street in front of someone’s house. More wonderfully are the nights where I can drive to the top of a mountain, or when I find myself simply and literally down by the river. People pay millions to get their home with a view of the ocean right on the beach. I simply park and enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing or the birds singing as the sun sets in all it’s glorious colors. Or maybe I find myself in a national forest with only Sasquatch to watch over me for days at a time with the smell of the blackberries all around me. Oops, I’ve been told by a millennial, we can’t call them BLACK berries anymore, now we are supposed to use the racially sensitive term of dark berries. Do I complain about these kids too much? Naah….

The deliciousness of food haunts me daily. For some reason I’ve been enjoying different varieties of flavors and unfortunately I’m eating sensible portions. Why do I do that when my main theory of life is to live for the quality of life and pursue happiness? Doesn’t that mean I should eat and enjoy the flavors of mass quantities because it makes me happy? Why do I feel guilty for larger portions of mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of fried chicken? I know it’s my guilt of dying and not being around for my kids, perhaps I shall figure out immortality soon and not have to concern myself with it. Logically I would still get fat so I guess it’s a good thing I’m getting a lot more exercise with this lifestyle as well. These days with my lack of schedule I can enjoy walks on the beach, hikes in the forest or just exploration of new places on my bicycle

As I walk back from my kayaking trip I am again disappointed in the generosity of humans. It took me several miles and about 100 cars before someone picked me up as I was hitchhiking. I happily smiled and waved to everyone as I held out my thumb until finally a 60ish man pulled over and drove me. This man had no worries, he lived for helping others, a trait long lost by virtually everyone these days. Think about it logically, what are you really doing living in fear from other people? I have to believe in the genuine goodness of others, I refuse to live believing that others are out to get me, and if that stray person that I pick up needs to rob me, well he needs that money a lot worse than I do. Plus, when have you actually heard of anyone actually getting hurt or robbed by a hitchhiker? You hear the paranoia but you never hear about anything ACTUALLY happening. Be nice to others and see the good, don’t live in negativity and fear please.

Finally, It’s a great gift in this life to know what you’re good at, and I’m good at crazy, I’m a caretaker to them. Makes me feel needed, plus, it’s NEVER boring. Why you ask? Hard to say what will happen with a crazy person, that’s the thrill, you never know what you are going to get moment to moment. That’s where my life is right now, I have no expectations or plans. Every day is a new miracle and no matter if it is a good day or a bad one it’s always something unique and always adds a memory of life.

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