Dialing Up the Excitement

Last Sunday, I had a moment where this all just seemed completely crazy to me. A moment where it hit me that, in a couple of months, what I’ve been picturing in my head will be a real thing. Here I am, sitting in half an inch of insulation foam sawdust, looking around at the walls of my van, which are slowly disappearing behind these big shiny panels, and one day soon it’s going to be my home. Completely surreal.

I think those big shiny panels were what did it. We’d been making progress with the fiberglass and Great Stuff spray foam, but that was mostly just about filling the cavities. It looked like we’d done something, but it still basically looked like a white cargo van inside. Putting up the big insulation boards on the upper half of the walls really changed the look of the inside and started to make it feel real. This isn’t a cargo van anymore. It’s my Home-In-Progress.

The interior is starting to look less like a cargo van

The interior is starting to look less like a cargo van

Framing Faux Pas

We had one final weekend to focus on the van before two weeks where I’m basically on my own. My parents were on a romantic, couple-y excursion (to Disneyland of all places) until last night and this week Dad will (naturally, as most people do) be working. 

My goal for last weekend was to finish the wall and ceiling foam board insulation panels. The floor wasn’t finished, but I’m getting really handy with the jigsaw and I know I can handle a can of spray adhesive on my own; plus, I really wanted to give the van a full cleaning before I sealed up the floor for eternity, so I was happy to do that part on my own, and the next step after insulation is to lay wiring, which I can do a “rough draft” of by holding it all in place with a bit of tape, and then have SuperDad or someone with some serious electrical experience just check it over before I permanently install it with electrical staples. There are a bunch of other things I can do, too, like removing all the heavy-duty clips holding that big string of wiring in place and reattaching it up against the insulation, where we can easily hide it with a bit of moulding. 

So there’s a lot that I can handle doing on my lonesome the next couple weeks, but we decided to screw those big foam panels in to the walls and ceiling, and the space between the inner metal walls and the outer wall is really narrow and varies. I know I can use all the tools necessary to do it, and I think I might be able to pull it off without doing any major damage, but I’m worried I’ll misjudge the distance, or tighten a screw too much, and end up damaging the outer surface of the van. It’s something that has to get done before we can start laying wiring, and really the only barrier between me and a handful of steps that I’m comfortable doing on my own.

We did manage to get the wall panels finished, but not the ceiling.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I want to do something a little bit complicated with my walls: I want to recess them on either end of the bed so I’ll have a little more headroom. In trying to figure out how to do that so that it would all still be stable, we figured we would have to put in some furring strips and break up the panels a bit. We spent an hour or so tossing around ideas until we settled on a plan, and then we ran off to Home Depot to get some lumber.

We borrowed a rip saw from our neighbor, Chris, who has generously opened up his workshop to us. Chris is a carpenter, and he took one look at the inside of the van and came up with a much better, simpler, solution: frame it like a window.

Dad and I, mere mortals that we are (even considering SuperDad’s awesome superpowers), didn’t really pick up what Chris was expertly throwing down, so we went ahead and ripped some 2x4s into furring strips anyway. It was getting dark, so we headed inside.

Sunday morning was, for some reason, a busy morning for Mom and Dad. Mom came bursting into my room at 8 am, jostling me awake to ask if I had any whites to add to her load of laundry, which had me wondering why she was doing laundry at 8 am on a Sunday instead of reading the paper and drinking coffee or enjoying a lie-in like us regular folk.

She informed me that it was 10 am, not 8, and I pointed to my clock.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I thought it was 10.”

Honestly, if she accidentally found an extra two hours in every day, it would explain how she manages to get so much done, knock it all out of the park, and still have time to play Bejeweled on her computer on a daily basis.

I figured if it was already 10 in Mom-world, I could probably drag myself into the kitchen at 8:45. Dad and I had planned on getting started on the van at 9:30, so I figured I had plenty of time to eat, drink my coffee, and maybe doze a little more in my chair before throwing some clothes on and heading outside. I’ve never been much of a morning person.

But apparently neither of my parents sleep, because SuperDad was there, a pristine, beautifully designed and precisely measured out diagram in front of him, and he told me he’d finally caught Chris’ meaning.

So he explained it to me, and showed me his diagram, and I sleepily made coffee and nodded along until he said, “Like a window,” and then I started to get on board, too.

By the time 9:30 rolled around, we’d already been talking van build for 45 minutes and I was still in my PJs. I got dressed, slowly, just to reclaim a little of my morning, and then we headed outside and got to work on the wall panels. Turns out, we couldjust throw them up there, so long as they were flush with the wall, and the frame could just go over the top of them. Hopefully, we’ll find a use for our little ripped furring strips at some point.

We were getting worn out by the time 4:30 rolled around, and we’d run out of washers. We struck out at the first hardware store we tried, one of the others was closed, and I couldn’t locate my gift card for the third, so we decided to take it as a sign to call it a day. Like I said, the walls were finished, but not the ceiling, and not the doors. I’ll probably have to buy more fiberglass to deal with the doors, which is a shame. But we’re making slow and steady progress, which is really all .

Picturing the Final Product

Monday, I spent six hours trying to finalize my plans for the furniture and be more specific about the compartments within each piece. Part of that is making final decisions about appliances in the kitchen, so I did some more research on that. I found a stove/oven combo that is small enough to work. It’s designed for RVs, so it should be safe to use in the van, though it does run on propane so I’ll have to be careful to ventilate while I’m cooking.

I started to list out everything that I want to bring with me, and think about where it was going to be stored so I can be certain that I do have enough storage. It’s looking good. I think I should be able to pull it off, even considering that I’ll have to store all my pillows and bedding during the day, which will take up a fair bit of storage space. I think I’ve got some cool ideas for the design and color scheme, too.

I’m starting to think that final stage (finishing and decorating) is something I want to do entirely on my own, and not let anyone see it until my vision has come to life. It might be fun to have a big reveal. We’ll see. I might be tight on time at that point and be begging everyone I know to stop by and help whenever they have spare time.

It’s kind of fun, having this clear vision of what everything is going to look like when it’s finished. When I was figuring out my packing list, I tried to think about every moment of an average day, to figure out every item I would use on a regular basis and needed to account for. So I pictured myself waking up, getting ready for the day, making breakfast, deciding where to go next, working at the table, leaving for a hike or to visit a museum or to meet with a research contact for a new book, coming home and reading or playing a card game and watching a movie on my iPad. It was so exciting to be able to picture how I would go about my life, see myself opening drawers or tucking my bedding away in the bench or making coffee.

Every day that passes, I’m more excited about everything that’s to come. Researching the Alaskan wilderness on-site for an article about oil drilling and climate change, hiking the Rockies in search of the perfect location for a key scene in my novel, counting down the minutes until Old Faithful blows, tracking down local mysteries in small towns for new story ideas, standing in front of masterpieces and priceless artefacts in some of the greatest museums in the world. Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. And so much more.