Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, February 19, 2018

Van Update February 19, 2018

I'll take a break from posts about the Camino for a moment to update those who are following my van adventure.

I came back to Desert Hot Springs a few days ago when the weather turned cold in Quartzsite. I wanted to take the opportunity to hire Joe to build out the hatchback area of my 2002 Toyota Sienna van.  I found the hitch rack in front of the kitchen area too complicated to try to work over with that big bin in the way. The bin had to be removed in order to open the hatchback and things just felt very unorganized. Here is a photo of BEFORE:

I wanted something built into the back of the van that would allow me to organize my food and cooking tools so I could find them without digging. Something along the lines of what they do in the back of a teardrop trailer.

I drew up a preliminary plan and we decided to just "play it by ear" and build the cubbies around each item as we went up each layer. We began at the bottom:

We began at the bottom shelf.  I wanted a designated home for my propane tank. When I posted this on Facebook there were quite a few naysayers. "What will happen if you get rear-ended" was the comment I heard most. 

After stopping and doing quite a bit of research on this issue, I couldn't find one single instance where a van had exploded after being rear-ended simply because of a propane tank. There were cases where people had been driving with the gas turned on and lit a cigarette, or where giant trucks full of propane had exploded, but no small vehicle accidents that I could find. I decided this was probably a non-issue and that if someone hit me hard enough to break this tank, I'd have other problems besides an exploding propane tank.  I like the idea that the tank is out of my sleeping area. It will always be turned off when traveling and when camped, it will be removed from the back of the van and will sit under my camping table.  Also, if I do decide it's an issue, my little round cooler also fits nicely in this space, which you will see in later photos.

To the left of the propane, I divided the space into 4 cubbies; 2 for food and 2 for water. It will hold 8 gallons of water; one gallon less than I've carried since Thanksgiving.

In this next photo, you can see the bottom space finished out on the water side (left) with my kitchen stuff set on top to try to figure out the next layer up. We put one more shelf in the food space, splitting it up.

I used birch colored plywood for this build. With the wood, screws, nails, and stain, the price of materials was just around $100.

Finished rack being stained.

Joe is putting the back onto the rack.
It fits perfectly!

I love it!

Here are photos of the finished rack.  We attached it to the bed to stabilize it. I decided I only needed 3 cubbies in the middle; one for my skillets and bowls, one for my breakfast stuff (because I need to get to that each morning), and the third for plates, tools, and paper towels.  I had him add a small top shelf for canned goods and to add privacy in the sleeping area.  He added a lip and holes for bungie cords to hold the goods in while driving. The stove lives on the left and if you look, you'll see it standing up on it's edge. We did this so I could still get to my jack. The blue folded thing is my large area rug that I put in front of my door when I'm camped.  As you can see, my round white cooler also fits in the propane space.  There will be 4 more jugs of water in that empty space. 

When I'm driving, the table fits right up against the grocery shelves to hold them in. Also, the door closes very tightly against all of this. Nothing moves when I travel.

The table holds in all the small groceries. The closed door holds in the rest.
The inside of the van is very organized and cozy. I hung a shoe holder on the wall to hold my bath items and things I use daily. My toilet sits next to the bed and I put a cover on it and use it as a nightstand. I have a bowl inside the toilet to catch urine since it's best not to mix liquids and solids in this type of toilet to keep down the smell. I haven't put chemical in it yet, and so far only had one "smelly" day when the weather was over 90 degrees. But I did purchase an organic odor eater this week to try out.

Under my bed are 4 bins; 2 large and 2 stacking smaller ones. In bin1, I keep my clothes. In bin 2 I keep my office and shower supplies. In bin 3, I keep my watercolor supplies and in bin 4 I keep medicines, an emergency propane bottle, and bungie cords.  My solar suitcase slides right into the space to the left of the toilet when I travel.

I had my passenger seat turned around at RTR, and so now I can sit there to work on my computer or read if the weather is not nice enough to be outdoors.
I use a Luci Light at night, along with the screwed off tops of inexpensive solar lights I picked up at Walmart 12 for $10.  My friend Sandra taught me this trick. You just buy these cheap solar lights and the tops screw right off!  Then you turn them upside down and you have solar tealights!  The only thing is they can't be turned off so you have to stuff them under something if you want complete darkness. But I use mine every night and between about 3 of those and the Luci Light, I have plenty of light at night in my van.

I had Joe build a box over my battery so nothing could fall on it and short it out.  It lives behind the turned passenger seat in the floorboard where a passenger's feet used to go.  Next to it is my laundry bucket (you can't see it in the photo).

I bought this solar suitcase last week and I love it.

Here is the description from the Renogy Site. I suggest you purchase directly from them. If you ask for it, you can get a 10% discount on the package if you are a first time buyer. But you must ask; they won't offer the information.

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase, 

If you're looking for a convenient and portable power solution, the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase is an ideal choice.
The Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Suitcase is an entire solar power system incorporated into one small package. Weighing in at about 27.60 lbs, this lightweight suitcase includes two 50 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panels, one 30 Amp Adventurer Charge Controller with an LCD Screen for power regulation, one 10ft tray cable with alligator clips for easy connection to the battery, one temperature sensor, one battery voltage sensor, and a protective casing for safe portability. The Renogy 100 Watt Solar Suitcase will make charging on the go as easy as 1-2-3!
Please Note: The Charge Controller is Not Waterproof.
I wasn't concerned about the charge controller not being waterproof as I'd never put it out in the rain. In the winters, I will stay in sunny areas.

Here is the battery I purchased:

Today, our plan was to go to Algadones, Mexico. We both had appointments with a dermatologist there. But we woke up to high winds and in the desert, you don't drive in these winds unless you want the paint stripped off your car and your windshields etched.  So we've called to reschedule our appointments and it looks like I'll be here in Desert Hot Springs at least two or three more days before heading out on my next adventure. I still haven't decided where I'll go, though I'm leaning toward both Joshua Tree and The Slabs. I'll probably do both.

So that's my update. 
I hope you're all staying warm and dry this winter.
I'm looking forward to my Camino in May,
and to seeing my family again.
I'm having fun but admit I'm a little homesick.


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