Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Van Camping remembered

I have a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan that has been a wonderful vehicle for over 100,000 miles. It has the flip down Stow-N-Go seats that fold flat in the back to create a huge sleeping area. We put a couple of Thermarest mattresses down and then a full double size 2 inch memory foam mattress topper over the pads. It is more comfortable than our regular bed, and very cozy. There is still plenty of room in the back area for a very large cooler and multiple duffle bags. There is a Thule roof box on top for more equipment storage. I covered the windows with black fabric stuck to the windows with sticky Velcro.Throw on a bicycle rack on the back, and we were set for multiple week-long vacations.  Seriously. We didn’t need to re-stock food or supplies for weeks on end.

Camped in the middle of the woods on old forest service roads was our favorite escape, but we could also sleep in any urban area that had on-street parking. It is a great stealth vehicle for sleeping anywhere.  Although we sometimes slept in a Walmart parking lot, we rarely felt the need.

To be honest, the only thing that would drive us back to civilization was the urge for an indulgent shower using way too much water than was necessary. We had the standard camp shower bags so it wasn’t like we were dirty, it was just the perceived notion that it was somehow a “better” shower than the ones we took in the woods.

And food? We actually ate better on the road than we did at home. We found ourselves eating more fresh fruit and veggies. More grains and rice cooked in the campfire kettle in stews.
I have had an electrical problem with the minivan for the last six months. The running lights and fog lights stay on for 30 minutes after the engine is turned off. The battery gets drained and I have to jump start the vehicle. I have removed the bulbs from the fog lights,  tuned off all the inside dome lights, turned off the dash lights except when the vehicle is on… and the battery still drains down and leaves me stuck in inopportune moments.

This morning, the battery was dead again. I was already running late for work, and now I had to take public transit. I made it into work only 1 hour late. I will need to leave an hour early today to get it into the shop. I’ve had it looked at by two different shops now. Neither could find the solution to the electrical problem. We will try again.
And if we can’t find a permanent solution to the problem, I may just trade it in for another vehicle. And there is the dilemma. My first thought is to get a smaller fuel efficient vehicle like the Toyota Prius. The back area folds down, and in a pinch, I could sleep in the back, but with very little room, and probably not with company. 

Or I could go the other way, and find a Dodge Sprinter Van and create a wonderful weekend warrior escape vehicle.

This would be my daily driver car though, and driving 15 miles each way to work is a significant expense.

No need for me to stress too much though, as I am hopeful we can get the problem fixed in the mini-van.

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