I've Named the Van, and I'm Nearly Set to Go


I Can Finally Fill Out the Birth Certificate — The Van Has a Name

So my last car was a 1999 Ford Ranger. Great little car, incredibly useful, and just about the most petite pickup truck you’ve ever seen. It’s practically dainty. But despite a number of people over the years telling me that if it were any gender at all, if would have to be a girl, I always felt like it was a dude. From the moment it became mine, I was 100% positive that it was a guy. And he was my best buddy for 8 years. I looked for the perfect name for all that time, but I never figured out what clicked. So he remained nameless.

When I got my van, I just as strongly felt that she is a girl, and she’s totally digging the makeover I’m giving her. And I really wanted to give her a name, but I also wanted it to be the perfect name. And I hoped, before the end of the build, that I would figure it out.

Well, I’ve talked about Dan at GMC finding my van for me. And I mentioned Dan the electrician showing up at my garage sale. And I might have mentioned that I’ve been calling this the year of Dan because of a couple other Dan’s who have popped up in my life this year.

Well, I explained all of this to my Uncle Bernd, who visited a few weeks ago, and he said, “Sounds like you should name your van ‘Dan’.”

And I kind of felt like an idiot. I went on and on about the universe sending me a message when Dan the electrician showed up on my doorstep, and I never even considered that the universe might have been doubling down on her messages.

But it left me with this problem: how do I name a girl “Dan?”

Usually, I’m a big fan of cross-gender naming, but I wanted there to be no confusion that my van is a super-badass-chick. Obviously there are plenty of female names that can be shortened to “Dan,” but nothing I thought of off the top of my head seemed right.

It took some thought, but I figured it out.

So I think it’s time to officially christen my van.

Are you guys ready for this? Here it goes:


Danica the Vanica.

Don’t tell me it’s dumb because I’m totally smitten and no one is going to change me mind. So just roll with it. And remember, from now on, when I mention “Danica,” I’m talking about the hulking white vehicle I roll around in.

Actually, I did a little research on the name “Danica.” Turns out, it works for a lot of reasons. It means “star of the day,” and is used as a name for Venus in some cultures, which just so happens to be my favorite planet (and a badass goddess). But the thing that really convinced me I had the right name was Danica Patrick. She’s an American race car driver, and the first woman to ever win an Indy series race (from what I’ve read, it seems she’s the only woman so far). How cool is that?

About the delay…

I mentioned that I wanted to delay blog posts a bit, because I’m paranoid about the internet. Well, a few days’ delay might have turned into a few weeks’ delay.

Leading up to my leave date, we were trying to get as much done each day as was humanly possible. There were a lot of days that I was working on the van 10–12 hours, and then I realized that I still had to figure out places to sleep, what I wanted to do at each stop (since the plan was to spend a day or less in each city, National Park, or other place of interest), and pack. So I was staying up until midnight (or, on some days, until 2 am) working on the technical details if I wasn’t working on the van, and getting up progressively earlier to try and get used to mornings.

The last week before I left was just as insane, because all of that was still going on, but I also had a lot of goodbyes to get through. Plus Zach, my friend who’s traveling with me this summer, arrived a few days before our departure, and my dad’s birthday was the day before we left. It was all completely insane, and I could barely find time to jot down some thoughts for blog posts, let alone to actually write one and get it posted.

Since we left, it’s only gotten crazier. I thought, at first, that I’d be able to have Zach do some of the driving while I got some work done, but it’s a lot more difficult to give up control of the steering wheel than I thought it would be. With all the driving, we haven’t even been able to do much at any of our stops. We’ve gotten a good taste of everything, in a mad rush, racing through hikes and glancing at major sites out of the van windows.

So I’ve been doing all the driving, and nearly every night we’ve stayed somewhere without cell service, let alone WiFi.

At any rate, I’m now insanely behind. And I’m doing my best to get caught up, so please, please, bear with me. I knew there would be some major kinks to work out once I got on the road, and I’ve already learned a lot about what not to do. The biggest lesson has definitely been to slow down, and leave time for work.

But Back to the Important Stuff…

Anyway, a lot has been going on. Cabinets, completing the electrical, discovering two of my most expensive items are broken, preparing to leave on my little tester trip, trying to get the oven installed and the propane connection figured out… I think it’s probably too much for one post.

So I’ll pick up where I left off, and see how far we get.

On Monday, I felt better about cabinet-making, but it’s still easier to build them with two people, because it means there are twice as many hands to hold things in place. So I took a break from building cabinets, and I did some more painting. I gave the ceiling another coat (figuring it would only be more difficult after the cabinets went in) and got a little carried away testing out my yellow accent paint and ended up painting one of the recesses.

It was around lunchtime, so I headed inside to work on the design for the third cabinet — the water storage and sink. We’d figured out on Sunday night that we needed to adjust the plans for the second cabinet slightly, and we needed to cut a couple more pieces. So we made plans with our neighbor, Tim, to head back over to his house Monday night and get those couple of cuts finished. I was hoping, if I could figure out the third cabinet, we might be able to get that taken care of at the same time.

This cabinet is several kinds of funky. It needs to open on both the front and on one side (because it’s in the side doorway and we want the water jugs to be easy to remove, but there’s some extra space on the other side of the cabinet that will only be accessible if it opens in the front), which throws a wrench in the standard, build-two-opposing-sides-and-a-floor-and-throw-in-some-cross-beams method for cabinet building.

It took most of the afternoon for me to figure out how to make it work, and even then, when SuperDad came home he pointed out some problems with my design, so it was back to the drawing board.

Luckily, while Tim was making those cuts for us, he also gave us some cabinet-building tips, and straightened out my design pretty quickly. With his input, we were able to agree on a plan for that cabinet, but I realized we would probably end up needing more wood, so we tabled work on that cabinet until some of the other important items were installed. Namely,my curtains and the electrical.

On Tuesday, I made a supply run for a few last-minute items, both for the build and for the trip. I picked up a set of curtain rod holders for the rear curtains (the foam blobs are in the way in the front, so I ordered a set of hooks online for that rod).

I painted and installed the little wooden circles, and got my rear curtains up.


When my dad got home, we got to work on the second cabinet, which is shaped a bit like an ‘L’ because we decided that would be the easiest way to deal with the oven.


We pulled together the sides, bottom, and the middle crossbeam across the back, notching the middle vertical board so the crossbeam would fit into it.

As we were about to glue the middle dividing board into place, Dad asked (just to double check) if we were sure everything was even and parallel. And I realized it wasn’t.

I’d mixed up the left side piece and the middle piece. So the side piece was actually half-an-inch too short and the middle piece was too tall. Which would cause major problems with installing a countertop.

Honestly, I’ve gotten really confused about order of events. I remember this problem arising and I remember deciding to cut that piece smaller, and then I get confused. think SuperDad pulled out his hand-dandy tools and cut the middle piece to be even with the side piece, and then we decided to add a half-inch piece of plywood over the top to bring it all up to the right height. And looking at the cabinet, that story seems to fit with the end-result.

But I could also just be losing my mind.

This time, we made sure to square it up every time we made an adjustment or completed the next step, and it was coming along really well by the time we called it a night.

That’s all I’ve got time for right now, but hopefully in a few days, when we’re in one place for more than twelve hours, I’ll be able to get a few posts scheduled out.

Thanks for reading,

Carson and Danica