Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some pics

Here are some pics of the old rotor and the new rotors that were installed on the van. Thats my dad holding them. Its amazing they have lasted over 10 years. Bottom left is the inside of the van with just the bedding, my trusty chair, hygiene kit, paperwork. 5 day cooler and clothes are in the front. The bottom right is a picture of the cats "go" pack. The bag has nail trimmers, brush, q tips, food, small litter pack, waterless shampoo, food and water dishes, paperwork and water bottle. Underneath is one of my fleece blankets that in the winter go into the carrier. Tile goes in the carrier in the summer with a piddle pad in back although we don't travel much in the summer, too hot. Both have a pack of their own. 
In other news, visited rental room today and cleared out 2 more garbage bags of stuff. 1 to trash and 1 to charity. More to go. But good for now. The posts have been long today as I took everything out of the van today and went through that as well. Went from 3 bins to 1.
Also, waiting for Eclipse at 12 01. I have to work tomorrow, I must be nuts but I have been waiting for this for a LONG time.

Dog and Cat Gear and some website links

http://www.backcountryk9.com/ has tons of stuff that is made for dogs, camping, and the outdoors. Tippy is currently learning to play frisbee and some suggested backpacking which we will start in a few months. Tippy is a border collie mixed with husky we are told. So far all we see is short hair, black and white, huge high ears and a very high drive, all we see is border collie! This is a dog that can run under the chairs in the kitchen and around furniture like she is in an agility trial. She is incredibly smart, sometimes to much for her or our good. She lives with my dad and I see her quite often and take her camping and for walks quite often. The cats live part time with me based on the weather and part time at the rental room.

So some gear that is great so far, the http://www.backcountryk9.com/208/0/Products.aspx Cooling Pad has been nice, get it wet, put it in the kennel and helps keep the dog cool in the hot weather. Add a fan, water, ice and a chew bone and we are set to go. The cats love this pad in their carrier as well and if we are camped, they have a portable pop up it goes in. Another cooling idea that we have (pics forthcoming) tile glued onto a wood platform as tile is cooler than other flooring. Then if its really hot, the o2 fan goes over ice to create a nice breeze.

http://www.sturdiproducts.com/4111/xcart/home.php Sturdi Products, the finest (in our opinion) maker of portable cat carriers, show cages, flight cages, carriers, and organizer/grooming setup supplies. We use http://www.sturdiproducts.com/4111/xcart/home.php?cat=2 for our grooming setup on picnic tables so there isn't hair everywhere. The  carriers are safe and the hammock additions provide room to spread out. We keep both girls in a single each. It would be nice to have a slide out tray under the bed platform I want to built for this setup although I am still debating on the functionality of a platform.

Being Prepared

One of my favorite hobbies is exploring our great nation on foot aka backpacking. This link includes things to pack in a backpack and has some great resources for finding those out of the way trails. In addition, this packing list is great for when the van needs a tow or something happens in the RV and you need to stay in a tent for the night. There is a major difference between a disaster and a very bad day: whether you are prepared or not. The first time the van was towed for repairs, I had to stay with family and had almost nothing with me. Needless to say, I had no wheels, no washing powder, ect, not a fun experience. Enter the second time, had a too go bag which doubles as my hiking pack as well as a 2nd bag for additional clothes and the cats stuff, it was like camping. And of course the second time I had a tent, camped in the back yard with my bug spray, portable pet tents for the cats and battery operated fans, quite comfortable. http://www.backpacker.com/backpacking101/  

I always carry baking soda and powder with me. Baking soda because its good for cleaning, cooking, and washing. Baking powder in case there is a wound on me or the cats, it can be filled in too create a barrier. Baby powder is also great for staying dry, putting on wounds and hygienic reasons. 

Communication is important and at one time I had a bundle of office supplies. Now my purse is a 3rd bag and 1st bag. I carry my phone, camera, chargers, spare batteries, Dr Bronners peppermint travel size, baby powder travel size and wipes, gum, pens, small paper pad, small makeup kit and small nail kit as well as TP and spare baggies. I keep items separated via waterproof clear zip lock baggies.  I also carry a few snack items like granola bars, a small bottle of water, a pop top of tuna and a small instant oatmeal pack. Yes all that fits in my black hobo bag. My co workers call it Mary Poppins bag lol, because what you wish comes out.

In the van and with me I got a small tote from wal mart that holds: my pen, marker, pencil ect in a zip container, a pad of paper on a zip baggy, envelopes, duct and regular scotch tape, cards for thank yous, stamps, and sharpeners, scissors, and finally my art pad sketch book. 

Books we have pocket translation books, my dan brown book collection, the bell jar, Wasted, religious reference materials and my atlas. Then a binder of CDs and DVDs. I used to have almost an entire room of books. 

Blankets, I am a blanket a holic. The more the merrier. I have the fleece throws, 4 comforters, the sleeping bag, 3 sheet sets, 4 pillows, 2 foam sleeping pads and a egg crate on top. Takes a lot of room but the mats, sleeping bag and sheet set can be rolled up and taken in a garbage bag if needed. I want a tri fold bed now as well to double as a couch.

Other items that are good to have: water, lots of it, I carry about 20 gallons between water jugs, bottles and the slimline container. A 5 day cooler helps as well for fridge items.  The dish set from ozark trail at wal mart has been great, a coleman camp stove, and small cat litter pans for washing self and dishes. 

I don't use plastic silverware or disposable anything if I can help it as plastic takes 100 years or so to break down. Clothes that I am going to throw away get laundered and turned into washing rags via strips. I use Dr Bronners now as I found shampoo bottles were a waste.

For the cats, I use yesterdays mews as its recycled paper pellets. 

I do use lots of plastic for storage to keep weight down. I would love a larger rig but what good is the extra space if I can't afford to go anywhere. I get around 20 mpg currently and can get 23 with just the to go bags, the sleeping mats, blankets, cooler and bucket. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

An interesting project

So today was an interesting day. Thanks to the van dweller list and some individual help, I got new rotors, calipers and pads on my front brakes. No more soggy brakes or chunking noises. The caliper on the back right still needs replaced but its not in bad condition and no brake fluid is draining so for now we are good.

I can't believe I actually did my own brakes with some help on the bleeding from a family member and the coaching of a fellow van dweller. Not to shabby for someone who hasn't touched grease and a year ago, probably would not have. But finances, self determination and downsizing work wonders in this area.

On top of that the move for the cats from the house to the room, they were a bit stressed as their host has dogs. Something they are relatively new too. My vet recommended feliway and it has down wonders. No more howling at night from the change in environment. I can't wait until fall when they can join the van again. By then I will have the roof vent and spare battery set up so they can join me in comfort. I can then stay in campgrounds as needed and boondock as well. Eventually hopefully by summer I will have a camper that is a more stationary homebase that can move as needed. Its an integral part of a plan but the van is good for now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At work, the bennies of everything I own in a van

So today I worked a long day at work (fewer days, more long days = more days off and less gas) and I needed a nap. So what is one to do, pop the back hatch far enough open to get a breeze but not enough to attract attention. I moved Betsy to the back shaded area of the parking lot, turned her off, opened the hatch, tested the breeze, set the alarm on my phone and snoozed for a glorious 1/2 hour lunch break 2 times and before leaving for my night parking spot. Worked out well I must admit. It makes the hunt for a trailer less intense. Granted, mini van living is small, but doable and so compact. During my breaks I walked the parking lot. Good day overall. I have contemplated what to do with my useless breaks and today they proved their worth.

Tonight I have gotten off work, visited family, checked email and will head back to my cozy breezy van tonight. Its comfortable to me. I spent the night at families the other night and couldn't sleep, and yet I sleep soundly in the van. Its crazy really especially with 2 cats one would find it crowded, but I find it cozy. Hopefully it won't be muggy tonight. Last night wasn't so comfy.

No more work until thursday. I want to take a long stroll to the beach and meditate and get some sun tomorrow. I am going to be working more this summer (continuation of doubles) and saving up money for the winter. Winter should be interesting. Next week we will be putting the fantastic vent in and I have a little buddy heater as well as several o2 cool fans.

Its funny in 2006 I lived with cable, high speed internet, AC, and a huge house. In 2008, I got a smaller house and in 2010 I moved into a van. Talk about a change.

So it is possible:
to live without a landline, cable, high speed internet, huge amounts of useless vertical space, high utility bills, washer/dryer/dishwasher/microwave and clutter.
to live with everything you need and want organized, valued and easy to find. To have a cell phone, insurance payment, propane, fuel for vehicle, and the laundry mat as your bills. Add food and recreation as needed.
to live with pets who have an entire house to a van, to some this is cruel, to some it is close, I prefer the latter.
It is possible to live on under a 1000 a month as a single person, to have a job and live in a van, and to create networks to keep that which is close (cats in my case) and enjoy a greater social life.

Not everyone needs to know or knows I live in a van, but I am still me. I am not homeless, I live on wheels, choose my neighbors and go as I choose. My pets enjoy a greater social life and I enjoy a greater peace, less rushed, less expensive, more eco friendly lifestyle.

I have bi polar and clutter is a huge problem, van dwelling solved this. I used to want money and things, and had those things and realized they are in fact useless. Money doesn't know love or immortality. It has its value, but it doesn't make my life, it simply gives me the opportunity to access more creature comforts.

Here are a few other do withouts: you can go without washing your hair, do laundry at a laundry mat or paying for parking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Good Guides and Resources

So last night I went and did laundry, saw Karate Kid, visited some of my stuff in the rental space and went through more books (more went to donation and a few got sold at a local bookstore), and decided in the course of this move (house to rental space/van) that I have both added things and need to delete more. And so since its hot and humid here, I am spending some time on the computer.

Some travel resources and gear I love: http://www.journeywoman.com/journeydoctor/default.html is a nice site with tips for staying cool, traveling, safety and other topics.
Cabelas, Camping World, Harbor Freight, Wal Mart and Petco are my main shopping areas. I read mostly online and have cut back what was once an entire 1/2 room collection of books. I do love the used book stores though and trade my books for new used books. It helps to reuse old books and I quite often find out of print books.

And so off I go to see Prince of Persia. I will issue a review for it when I get back.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Something Funny - Morning with Cats and the Wardrobe

http://www.snotr.com/video/528 has got to be one of the funniest things I have seen in a while. It definitely describes a typical morning in my "home." lol. So Besty got her repairs. Now on to get the car done. I finally went and did some clothes shopping this past weekend at wal mart because in a van space is limited. I choose to do 2 loads a week and well, its hard on my clothes, so less is truly more. So lets talk about what's in the wardrobe.

We have 2 pairs sneakers, flip flops, adidas slip ons, crocks for work, dressy flats and heels and hiking boots.
14 pairs of various style stretchy pants so they unwrinkle quickly, dry quickly, and can withstand several washes.
14 t shirts of various designs, sleeve lengths and materials, made to look nice and withstand the elements but also unwrinkle quickly.

Then we have the winter storage kept in a space saver bag. We have the parka, liner (regular coat for normal season and very warm as a stand a lone), alpaca scarf, socks and beanie (bought at a cat show, well worth the money) as well as a tote of wal mart 3 dollar rolled fabric blankets for the cats, for me, seat liners, multi use...

Clothes as a van dweller are like everything else, you will go through them quicker, have less and go harder on them due to enjoying the great outdoors more often. I would rather live life than watch it go by.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A day off

Today is a good day. It was nice out, I relaxed with the cats, enjoyed the great outdoors and some ramen with soup for dinner (a favorite). The van is getting new brakes tomorrow and a front end alignment. I haven't been on much this week as the weather is nice and I want to live life. Things I did do: went and watched Marmaduke, very interesting and funny movie, walked the cats at the park and took a shower.

 I want to try the apple cider vinegar and baking soda hair washing thing as both shampoo and body wash with lavender oil for smell as I used conventional soap yesterday and my skin has that greasy feel. I have been using baby wipes and suave shampoo for body wash (alternatively) and water/conditioner only for hair and its been a good mix of keeping my skin/hair  in good condition. I have been using a 32 qt bucket from wal mart for a tub for washing in and it seems to be working out well. I use about 2 gallons for a full wash up and surprisingly I only require hair washing every 5 days or so.

I ordered the O2 cool fan and soon the fantastic vent thats in the mail. I talked to the RV place and they can install it so thats good. I decided after all to go with a bed frame. Its going to be long wise behind the drivers side with a middle hinge that allows the plywood on top to open up from either end. It will also be two separate "tables" so that they will fit together for a bed or come out for when I need it too. The kitchen is currently in a bin and I am going to build a small counter with a sink and water pump/water source. I am also going to put hanging shoe organizers on both side hooks and the backs of the seats.

I am planning on visiting canada in the near future as well so I decided the bed on the floor and the bins look a bit unorganized. A 2 table bed frame without the bedding and the kitchen with a cover like in RVs might sit a bit better.