Words and photos by Michael Chandler
Most of us go on vacations, and we enjoy them. We go on cruises, fly to Vegas, or road trip to a nearby getaway. My trips last a few days, and I haven’t gone further than Las Vegas in a few years. A bold few will pile into a large vehicle, and take to the open road for weeks at a time. And some just up and live in one of those vehicles for months on end. This is a story about one of the latter.
The handsome fellow relaxing in the Adirondack chair is Jay. Jay is quite the character. He has lived on a boat while he was fixing it up. He’s done bike races, well into decades when most people would be content to sit at home and reminisce about the life they’ve led. He’s lived in the desert, and biked on trips that most people would drive. He also turned a 2000 Dodge Ram delivery van into a pretty sweet home on wheels.
Jay got to work pretty early. He says he got cracking two weeks after buying the van, his girlfriend says the stockness lasted five minutes. Regardless, he built this van to live in, and while some people would throw a twin mattress in the back and call it good, Jay didn’t do that. He couldn’t even really settle on how the interior would look, in the fifteen years he’s owned it he’s changed the interior ten times. No project is ever done.
Now, why did he pick a van of all things? Imagine this: you’re living in Newport Beach, California. You live in a rather expensive home, in a very nice neighborhood. One morning, you go out for a run and you see a Class C motorhome parked on your street. where did this come from? You think to yourself. It can’t be here all summer, there’s no way. And yet that monster sits. Obstructing views and traffic, and generally being an eyesore. The site weighs on you, your productivity at work falls. By the end of the summer, you’ve been fired. You can’t afford your mortgage anymore, so you end up moving to a trailer park in the IE and reminisce about the life you led. Now imagine that instead of seeing the Class C, you see a bubble top van. It’s smaller, less garish. You don’t notice it because it’s a van, and contractors and other professionals drive them. You don’t get fired, and you continue living happily in Orange County. That’s why the van, because it’s inconspicuous.
Running width-wise across the van is a large shelf that could be used as a bench, but is just a shelf. It holds all the supplies one would need when living out of a home-made camper van, including a broom. Above the bench/shelf is a pretty sweet little Murphy bed, on which he’s attached some Tibetan prayer flags. Underneath the elevated bed is his Adirondack deck chair, and half a chest of drawers. Directly across from the bed are some hooks, which he hangs jackets, hats and whatever else he wants to on them. It’s a van, were you expecting there to be a distinct lack of storage?
Jay throws his bike in the back when he heads on his adventures. And he’s gone on plenty in this van. He’s put 166,000 miles on the odometer, and those miles taken him to the Pacific Northwest and Orca’s Island. He’s taken it to California a hundred times, and it’s gone up to Fish Lake in central Utah dozens of times. Him and his girlfriend, who is my girlfriend’s grandmother (hi Jeanette!), hop into the van, hitch up their fourteen foot trailer, and they spend their summers living in the van and trailer by the lake. And that trailer hasn’t been spared from Jay’s handy work. He built a deck for that thing. Out of wood. And they bring it with them!
The van isn’t perfect. If he could, Jay would’ve picked up a 3/4 ton van instead of the half ton. And he definitely would have a V8. The V6 hasn’t exactly been the fuel sipper he imagined it was going to be, especially when dragging that trailer up to the lake. Overall, it’s been pretty good. And it’s really hard to complain when you’ve got the door open and you’re enjoying a view of Newport Harbor.