Life's Vantastic!

If you've been following @peteandkara on Twitter, then you already know that we've added a bit more crazy to our lives. Last Friday night, Pete and I bought a 1995 Chevy Astro Van for the purpose of temporary housing (with the added benefit of a killer set of wheels!). 

After crashing at my friend's house for about a month, we started to feel like we were overstaying our welcome. With the Winnebago still at the shop in Texas (for perhaps another month), we decided to brainstorm some ideas for short-term housing. A van was the obvious choice, you know, since this blog was getting so boring. 

Prior to making another ridiculous life choice, we weighed the pros and cons of the few options we had.

The first was an apartment sublet. I found a couple on Craigslist in our area, lasting anywhere from two weeks to 3 months. Being that the Silicon Valley is so wretchedly expensive, a sublet was looking to cost us anywhere between $1800 (for a month and a half) to $3885 (for 3 months). And that didn't include a car. Or furniture. Or electricity. And we can't sell an apartment back when we're done with it.

Plan B was a motel. We're pretty good at living in motels. It seemed fairly reasonable. But a month would have cost $1100 and up. And again, no car. Or resell value. And sometimes motels can get...awkward. 

So we decided on option #3: A mediocre cargo van. Scouring the area for a cheap (under $2000), but decent van, we settled on the first one we looked at, which was conveniently located in town- only a 5 minute bike ride away.  

A quick test drive taught us that the windshield wipers have a mind of their own (we have bad luck with windshield wipers...), the shifter is based on "feel", and to ignore the intermittent "Service Engine Soon" light. We were sold!



We started working bright and early the next day, and I don't think we've stopped since. Day 1, Saturday, was all about cleaning. And oh my, did that thing need cleaning. It's a shop van after all- not something people traditionally deep clean. Because, like, who would live in that piece of junk!?

We got rid of all the little odds and ends that accumulated in the back cab over time. And, damn did dude have some crap. 


Pete took out the metal dividers behind the two front seats, which freed up a bit of useful space and got rid of a ton of weight. Then it was on to shelving removal. Shelves are great and all, but these ones weren't conducive to our living situation. We knew we could make better use of our space. Problem was: those little buggers were hella bolted down! 


Two hours later, we had quite the pile of trash and scrap. 



Being that we were apathetic about cashing our scrap metal in (we were in project mode, people), I put a quick post in the "free" section of Craigslist advertising our pile of bullshit. Fifteen minutes later, it was gone. 

Next, we brushed out the large quantity of debris and scrubbed down the floor with soapy water. Taking better care cleaning this crappy van than we ever have with the Winnebago (we never even vacuumed it until we had already lived in it for two months), we meticulous wiped down all the nooks and crannies in the front cab, being sure to eliminate all spider webs. 

Then, using his favorite material, Pete patched up the driver's seat with a healthy dose of duct tape.



Seeking a little bit of class, we added a pair of cheap seat covers to mask the Astro Van's dirty past. 



Afterwards, it was off to Home Depot for some snazzy indoor/outdoor carpet. That night, keeping warm with a bottle of wine, Pete cut the carpet to size and glued down the edges. We went for the cheapest least expensive option. Basically, it's AstroTurf. But, it's almond AstroTurf. Ooh, la la!


The next day was bed-building day. We had already purchased what we thought was enough lumber at Home Depot the night before, so Pete was able to get started fairly early in the day. 

Being that all of Pete's power tools were still in the Winnebago (regret!), we broke down and bought another drill and saw (and got an angle drill for free!). After a little in-head planning, it was construction time. Pete designed the bed to be flush with the wall, removing a chunk of the side plank to fit around a small protrusion, thereby giving us an additional half-inch of space! Meanwhile, I was making sandwiches.


The lack of safe work space (basically, the lack of a table) meant that Pete was sawing wood off the end of the van. Luckily no appendages were lost in the making of our bed. 


After only four hours (the Winnie's bed took about three days), the bed was complete. And sturdy! Pete bolted it to the floor, so that thing's not going anywhere. 

A quick trip to Ikea later, and we were mattressed! A less-expensive version of our Winnie's new mattress, the van's bed is a comfy foam diddy that certainly does the trick. And fits like a glove in Pete's masterfully-crafted, better-than-Ikea bed frame.


As was the motivation for our 'lofted' bed in the Winnie, the van needed storage space. So although we can't really sit upright on the bed and we bang our heads all the damn time, we've got plenty of storage capacity. 

I've had that Nike bag since elementary school. 
Our first night in the van was rather blustery- the windows were uncovered, the walls were bare and we stayed on an open road with no tree cover or wind protection. The 40-degree damp California air really made it feel colder than it actually was. So insulation was definitely key. 

This time, Pete didn't have to fight me to turn our home into a space ship. Contrary to my initial feelings about the silver bubble wrap window coverings in the Winnebago, I not only agreed to insulate the entire van with silly shiny shit, but I encouraged it! In fact, I installed it! See, I can do more than just make sandwiches!


Despite cutting the crap out of my hands with the aluminum and banging my head every five minutes, the insulation installation was fairly simple, given that the rolls I purchased were self-adhesive. 

For both thermal and privacy protection, we installed a shower curtain in front of the captain's chairs, which keeps all of our precious belongings out of site. 


The van is definitely much warmer at night now. The last four nights have actually been quite comfortable. Although the curtains and insulation are quite effective on their own, we keep an extra heat source on board for cutting out that extra chill in the air. Walmart never new it's clearance Christmas candles could be so life-saving:


And we went all out with our living room furniture too. It's even got storage inside!


At least the bucket lets us sit up straight without bashing our heads. 

So, what about the bathroom? Don't worry, we've got that covered. 


I've got a brand new mixing bowl to desecrate. And this one has a spout! More importantly, however, is the tinkle-disposal urinal (not for direct peeing). 


As for showers, Pete keeps clean at work (they have full facilities) and I got a gym membership at 24 Hour Fitness. So, assuming I shower everyday (which I don't), I'm paying about $1.50 a shower. Plus I get to work out, which I'm not really sure how to do. I think I'll just stick with the classes- I've already taken Pilates and Yoga and my ass is killing me. 

After about a week in our new van, we're feeling pretty groovy. Sure, it's small, but at least we're not paying Silicon Valley rent and we've got the freedom to go anywhere. We'll probably be off on a new weekend adventure soon. 

As for the remainder of this weekend, we'll spend our time fixing up any loose ends and finishing the roof-patching project. Our van came with a shoddily-welded roof rack which now houses our spare tire and Pete's bike (which, like a he-man, he takes off and puts back on everyday for work). Because the rack was so poorly patched up in the past, it needed some attention. 

We purchased a wire brush to scrape off all the rotten duct tape from previous patch efforts and some Rustoleum spray paint to prevent further rusting. Tomorrow, after the paint dries, we're going to use tar sheets to seal up the patches. 




Obviously, this isn't a 'best-practices' roof fix. And it's not particularly pretty or flashy either. But there's rain in the forecast and we're not interested in getting wet. Screw form. We're masters of functionality!