After six years of travelling across the country three times and to Alaska through Canada, we began seeing many of the same roads more than once. The vans are a great way to travel quickly, stop for short periods, and move on—like a bumblebee in a clover patch. We had changed. We wanted to be more like birds, migrating to new places and staying longer. A van is not great for sitting in one place for months.
So, we sold the GMC van to a couple who wanted to take on the van life. And we bought what amounts to a very big van—a 2002 Itasca Suncruiser motorhome. It drives like a big van with a lot more room.
We can live it for longer periods and have a car to see the sights. So, this is our new home.
We added over 1,000 watts of solar, a 100-amp charge controller, and 2000 watts of inversion to power our residential, all-electric fridge that we put in to replace the 15-year old RV fridge. We can roll down the road with full ac power without running a generator. So far, it’s a comfortable, easy way to travel that still lets us stay somewhat nimble—though certainly not as much as the vans did.
In 2014 we sold the Ford to an ex-pro basketball player, now pro video editor, living in Alaska and bought a 2005 GMC, also formerly a 15-passenger transport. Like the Ford, we stripped the seats (with some difficulty), carpet, headliner, and all trim behind the front two seats. We built a layout similar to the Ford.
We built in a galley. We swapped the location of the sink and storage, so we had a desktop where we could sit on the bed.
Instead of two twin beds, we built a single full-size bed in the center with storage accessed from the behind and in front of the bed, which gave us space along the sides of the bed for clothing storage—we called them saddle bags.
We had lots of storage with access from the back doors and the galley in front. We even created a locking system to safeguard valuables. We insulated the walls with both glass and spray foam insulation. We moved the Ford’s solar system to the GMC with four ac outlets. But we located the batteries between the wheels
One of the most important additions was a 12/24 volt powered fridge from Norcold wired into our battery bank. The fridge will freeze food and keep it frozen to 0 degrees F when it’s over 100 inside. It’s pretty amazing. We’ve used ice chests and a dorm-sized fridge in the past; the Norcold is way better.
Our first van was a 2003 Ford E350 Econoline 15-passenger van. We gutted everything behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats except for the floor. We built out a galley behind the seats on the driver’s side and two twin beds behind that with a path between them and storage underneath. The galley had the sink near the bed, which turned out to be not ideal.
We installed solar, so we can work any time, anywhere. We used a 220-watt solar panel, a 20-amp Morningstar MPPT charge controller, four AGM 12-volt batteries, configured in 2x 24-volt parallel banks, water pump and water storage. It was a cozy ride for 2 years. Then we converted to 4-wheel drive with a front straight-axle. It could go just about anywhere. Looked like a Sportmobile, but was a lot cheaper.
We designed the rig so we can be fully self-contained without needing a hose to fill water or dump tanks. RV parks are so expensive these days, we stop only occasionally if necessary.
We crossed the country and went to Alaska through Canada in this rig.
We moved out of a 2200 sq. ft. house in Nevada and into a 40-foot 5th wheel trailer in 2007. We spent three years in it, traveling across the country and between Nevada and Oregon.
We went through a few tow vehicles with this rig. But it was too big to do the kind of traveling we wanted to do. It wasn’t something we could travel nimbly in—moving from place to place. It required lots of fuel to move around, and it was way too big for many of the small roads we wanted to drive. So, in 2011, we parked it, after buying our first van and reconfiguring it.