Sink Area

Packing a Van

Where do you keep your underwear? How do you fit all that kiteboarding stuff into the van? Taylor, you can’t bring a crockpot and a blender. Now that we have been on the road for three months we are happy to share how everything fell into place. We are often asked about how live in just 140 square feet so don’t be bashful if you still have questions after reading this.

If you want skip the stories and get straight to the photos and diagrams head over to the van page. Otherwise keep reading and we will add some more personality first.

Immersion-Blender

Minimal dishes made when using this blender

When we began packing, we had no idea what to expect so we loaded up just the essentials. Then a few more things were added and eventually the unnecessary but fun things. Annie didn’t want me to pack a blender but I insisted and now she agrees it’s a wonderful appliance to have on the road. It may not be a necessary, but it certainly is useful. We have made countless soups and pasta sauces with it. Its an immersion blender so cleanup is quick and storage is easy.

Crockpot

As soon as we learned that the van only had one burner we were a little puzzled.. Some of the dishes we like to make could easily use four burners. But after three months Annie has taught me that cooking with limited resources makes you creative and it has always worked out. Along the way we did pick up a small $7 crockpot that has helped with the single burner and cooking while driving.

IMG_3138We struggled for a while with what to do with clothing. The cabinetry that seems to be for this purpose is awkwardly shaped and hard to work with. We found a Container Store in Tampa and checked out what they had to offer. We met a semi-retired employee who really wanted someone to talk to. He showed us many storage options and shared lots of stories about his life including his own van living experience in the sixties. All in all we decided it was too expensive and went dumpster diving out back for some cardboard that worked great at separating socks from boxers and tee shirts. Boom, free.

For detailed diagrams and photos of our stuff check out the van page.

Non slip linings

Non slip linings

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Texas

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 2.42.53 PMAfter New Orleans we drove west to Texas.  We spent a night outside Huston with Taylor’s good family friends the Schreibers and drove back into the city the next day to see a friend from college, John Eigege and his new baby girl.  Houston had all the traffic and ugliness I had expected, but we learned that it’s also a surprisingly young and diverse city.  Many international corporations are based there so it collects people from all around the globe. We learned that half the population is younger than 30. We would have spent more time exploring this city, but we were eager to meet up with our friends in Austin.

Austin surprised us in that it is an incredibly active town.  They have separate pedestrian and bicycle paths along the river and both were packed with people enjoying the outdoors the entire time we were there.  We stayed with Taylor’s dear college friends Gabe and Liz and their two boys.  It was a treat to get to know their family better.  They took us to the farmers market, on a hike in the hills, to eclectic shops, to a great french-korean restaurant, and to a fancy donut food truck. The buildings were a lot newer than in most cities which was a refreshing experience.

IMG_3288After Austin, we drove north to Stephenville to spend the night with Taylor’s aunt and uncle.  As soon as we arrived we were informed that we would not be sleeping in our van and we would not be going home hungry.  We were incredibly well fed and well taken care of by them.  The four of us stayed at the table talking and laughing until midnight and in the morning we were loaded up with treats for our journey.  We were very happy that we were able to spend the night with them.

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Our first mountain!

We had been warned that the drive across west Texas would be incredibly long and boring, but we enjoyed watching the landscape turn to desert.  Eventually there weren’t even any cows out on the range. It went from swamp to forest to desert. A wonderful progression to experience on the road.

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At the far edge of Texas we arrived at the second cave of our journey, Carlsbad Caverns.  We probably enjoyed these even more than Mammoth Caves because you could explore it without being a part of a guided tour.  Most of the cave is one huge room full of interesting formations that stretches seven football fields long. It was incredible to see all that space and variety underground.  While we marveled at it for quite awhile, eventually we went around looking for formations that looked naughty.  It was great fun.

IMG_3304Just past the caves we had a little scare.  We passed a sign saying there’d be no gas stations for the next 150 miles.  Taylor did the calculation and figured we had enough gas to get us there, but we hadn’t realized how much elevation change there would be. When the fuel light started blinking and we were still 30 miles out of El Paso we got pretty nervous, but thankfully we made it without incident.  We hope never to cut it that close again.

San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

Finally we arrived in Phoenix.  It felt wonderful to be at home again with Taylor’s parents. They were hosting a Calvin alumni gathering so we joined right in. Taylor’s aunt and uncle were there as well so we got to spend some time with them at the start of the week. While we did many fun things in Phoenix, the highlight was having conversations with Taylor’s parents about our future.

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New Orleans

Driving into NOLA we hit some heavy rain

Driving into NOLA we hit some heavy rain

Our first stop after leaving Florida was New Orleans.  Prior to our arrival, the only things I had known about the city had to do with Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras.  I quickly learned that New Orleans is a city with a soul.  During our three days there we parked in the beautiful garden district.  This area was relatively protected from the hurricane and was full of gracious old houses.  We hopped on our bikes and made our way downtown stopping at any shops that looked interesting.  We found a number of design shops that were fun to dream in. One particularly fun moment was when we were sitting in the grass looking out at the Mississippi river while two guys played the banjo behind us.

One of our favorite sculptures in the park

One of our favorite sculptures in the park

We spent our last day in the “City Park”. It is a large park just north of the city with an art museum and gardens everywhere.  We pretended to be sculpture art critiques in the afternoon then had a nice picnic nearby. The park was full of people all day. We enjoyed watching skaters, family reunions, and kids playing all around us over dinner at a picnic table.

Homemade Ramen

Homemade Ramen

Food was wonderful here. We ate a a po-boy sandwich shop and a homemade noodle shop. There certainly were many more places that we could have gone to but to keep costs down we made food in the van.

Throughout this trip, Taylor and I have been together almost 24/7. This has gone far better than I had expected.  In New Orleans however, it became a little much for me and I had to go out and take a bike ride by myself.  At this point we were parked at the zoo enjoying the free internet.  I biked around the zoo hoping to see some animals through the fence.  While I didn’t see any elephants, I did find a private horse barn and they welcomed me in to take a look around and pet the horses.  Being with the animals was calming.  While it’s a wonderful gift to have so much time together, it’s also important to take intentional time apart.

We loved the unique architecture everywhere, not just the french quarter.

We loved the unique architecture everywhere, not just the french quarter.

 

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North Captiva Island

Taylor and I are both happy to continuing our trek across the country. Previously we had stayed in Florida because we were waiting for my family to come down for spring break.  We had hoped to do some touring of other parts of the South while we waited, but the polar vortex kept us confined to below the frost line.

The ferry to North Captiva leaves from Pine Island.

The ferry to North Captiva leaves from Pine Island.

Waiting in Florida ended up being worth it. We were able to do a lot of work in coffee shops and enjoyed some beautiful places. And at the end we had a lovely time with my family on North Captiva Island over their spring break.

IMG_3191We took a ferry over and spent the whole week relaxing, playing games, and conversing with people we love.  We saw lots of fun wildlife on the island and in the ocean in the surrounding area.The island club that our rental was a part of gave us access to rental kayaks, tennis rackets, and bikes. We certainly took up use of those resources.

Check out this video for some of the highlights. Photos are here.