During the cargo van conversion, I take time out for short trips with the van, sometimes to try out the latest modifications, sometimes just for the fun of it.
In preparation for this road trip, I needed and installed the floor insulation and the subfloor itself, the cabin curtain and a small, temporary inverter connected to the CCP (Customer Connetion Point). A foam mattress and a porto-potti were added and some of my hiking/backpacking gear for the planned hikes. During these final days of April, the weather in the North-East has been improving, giving the green light for my trip to Canada, that includes some long awaited side trips.
The van was ready for some long distance driving after the first 1000 miles of exclusive local driving. The engine needs a good workout and it will run more miles in the next two days than the entire first five months.
A visit to Roadtrek in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario and a factory tour is at the top of my list, but the same area is a great vacation destination for me with good memories from the times I’ve been here before. The Elora Gorge, part of the Grand River Parks system near Elora with its fishing and kayaking opportunities and the local Mennonite area and the covered bridge in West Montrose. St.Jacobs Farmers market burnt down last year, but is back in operation again.
I have more plans for Toronto and an option for a visit to Ottawa, one of the greatest, small capitals on the continent, if the weather keeps improving during the trip up there. Unfortunately when I arrived the weather had taken a nosedive and while I had some sunshine on the first day, pretty soon night temps were around freezing and rain was pouring during the day.
I had some safety built into my vacation planning and decided to head back to the US and move a few hundred miles south and closer to the east coast. My next stop was Washington DC. Again weather improved by the minute as soon as I crossed the border and soon I was driving with sunshine all around me.
Before heading to Washington DC, I wanted to spend a few days hiking parts of the AT (Appalachian Trail) in Maryland, so I drove to Hagerstown MD and spend a free night, courtesy of Sam Walton. But when I woke up the next morning, the clouds had moved in and the rain had started to fall again; just an almost unnoticeable drizzle, that grew to a light rain at the end of the morning. While the temperatures were still fair, it was not what I expected.
Despite these drawbacks, I put on my hiking/backpacking gear to shed off some pounds and get back into shape and prepare for the longer overnight trips, I have planned for next year. This was also an opportunity to get the dog accustomed to his dogpack and to the ethics of trail blazing. He behaved better than expected, but was a goner when we returned to the van. You can read about my first hike (after many years) here!
The next day started with rain and I just moved a short distance to Washington Monument State Park to warm up the still unfinished cargo van. This is a good starting point for another section of the AT and the place where I planned a second day hike on the AT. The persistent rain made me decide to move on to Harpers Ferry and fill my time with some (car) sightseeing.
I could have skipped Washington DC and left for Charleston SC, but still hoped for some slightly improved weather the next day for a walking tour of the Capitol, the White House and the Monuments at the National Mall.
The weather cooperated and I spend most of the day walking around the Mall. One can spend days here to visit many of the superb museums and Federal buildings, but as a dog owner I’m restricted to see it all from afar. That was no surprise to me and I enjoyed the tour. Unfortunately the Capitol was in scaffolds, the White House was obscured by a large tent and most of the Mall was being refurbished. Viewing the memorials at night is worthwhile, but expected rain made me decide to move on to Charleston SC early.
I arrived late morning of the next day and there was a complete change of weather. Mid to high 80’s and sunshine. Charleston is about an hour away from the I-95, but worth visiting. I had found the only garage that could accommodate my tall van, but the few spaces were already taken. Keep that in mind as parking here is a huge problem for these types of vehicles. Despite that, walking through the streets and alleys of Charleston is like stepping back in time. A similar, yet more subdued city, that I visited was Savannah GA. Only about an hours drive away, it has the same feel, but not as developed and much less commercial.
Savannah was my last stop on this trip and allowed me to be home by nightfall. Besides the fun I had on this road trip, I also recognized many of the features that should be part of this van conversion.
What I learned
(well, I already knew, but it reminded me, how important some things are):
- A good heater is important in a conversion van. Not just during these wet periods, but also to make those cold winter desert mornings more comfy.
- The best mileage I got, was 21.7mpg displayed on the van’s information screen; the average trip mileage based on the actual gas consumption was 19.4mpg.
- The cab curtain that I installed just before this trip, worked as expected or even better.
- This early in the conversion, my ‘all-around’ windows were still exposed and I had to create some temporary covers, to create some privacy at night. Something to remember during the next trip. At the end of the conversion, some windows will be completely covered by closets, etc.; the remaining glass surfaces need a well-thought out cover against daytime heat and for privacy.
- The temporary inverter that I connected to the CCP (Customer Connection Point) and the USB socket worked as promised and made me completely self-sufficient during this trip. The 450w Samlex inverter recharges my phone, camera and laptop batteries very quickly and kept my electronics fully charged at all times.
- The maps.me app on my tablet saved me on more than one occasion. This app with off-line maps is simple to use. It’s built-in search function also locates the closest Walmart.
- The medium roof height of the Ford Transit offers enough space to walk around the van straight up (I’m 5′-7”), but the finish floor and ceiling haven’t been installed yet.
- The sliding side door is the main point of entry, while traveling. The entry height is fairly high, but the entry handle does a good job.
- The side sliding door remains awkward to close.
- I used a small porto-potti during this trip. A larger, permanent toilet with cassette or black water tank would be an improvement.
- Despite relatively mild temperatures, I realize that a good heater is important. Heat loss through the driver and passenger doors is significant and must be addressed with insulation.