Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
- How did you poop?
- How did you shower?
- What was your route?
- Did your van have solar panels?
- What did you do for electricity?
- How did you keep food cold?
Questions and Answers
How did you poop?
While I was lucky enough to have a van with a built-in toilet, I never used it for “#2”. Finding a reliable clean bathroom was a daily challenge, but I started to pick up tricks (and lower my standards). Walmarts, libraries, coffee shops, campgrounds, rest stops, friends houses and the gym were common options.
How did you shower?
One of the early challenges of the trip was transitioning from being a daily-showerer to someone who showered only about once a week. Wet wipe “baths” were a common technique. Some vans have built-in showers but mine did not, so instead I got a membership to a national gym chain. This way I had a reliable place to shower, and a good excuse to stay in shape.
What was your route?
I started in San Francisco in mid-February. I made my way down the California coast, stopping by Big Sur, the central coast cities, and LA, before stopping in San Diego. I then went to before coming back to SF. Next was Yosemite, after which I headed for the desert.
After visiting a series of parks in the Southwest, I stopped by Santa Fe before heading to my dad’s house in Dallas. I rested there for a bit before heading to Austin, TX for a music festival. From there I went deeper south to Big Bend, which was one of my very favorite stops on the trip. Next I headed north, stopping by national parks on my way to Salt Lake City. It was there that I somewhat-randomly got backstage passes to see P!NK in concert.
After SLC I went to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, another highlight of the trip. From there I made a beeline eastward toward Chicago, stopping by the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, and Mt. Rushmore on the way. I spent a long time in Chicago before heading to Detroit to visit the Henry Ford museum, after which I went to Niagra Falls. From there I went to Letchworth State Park in Upstate NY, and then Hartford, CT. I spent the whole summer in New England, including an entire month on Martha’s Vineyard, a week at Acadia, and a week at a Buddhist monastery.
As summer drew to a close I headed south, stopping by various Civil War battlefields that were of interest to me. On my way to the Great Smokey Mountains I had my (mechanical) breakdown. I went back to Dallas to get everything fixed up, and then drove straight across the country to LA to meet a friend at a music festival. From there I made my way back up the California coast, spending more time in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Finally, I ended up back in SF where I lived on the streets for 6 weeks while I worked on selling the van.
Did your van have solar panels?
Unfortunately not! While I looked into adding them, the price was high and my power needs were low. Next time I do a trip like this I will probably want solar, mainly because it means I could go much longer stretches without driving.
What did you do for electricity?
My van had two batteries, a standard starter battery for the engine, and a deep-cell “coach” battery for the living quarters. The coach battery powered the interior lights, a rear cigarette-lighter-style power outlet, and the rooftop fan. Both batteries were charged whenever the engine was running and when I was plugged into “shore power.” A small compartment on the exterior of the van contained a typical three-pronged power cord which I extended with a heavy-duty 100’ extension cord.
While there were many outlets available in the interior cabin, none of them worked unless I was on shore power. One small addition made everything a lot easier though… hidden in a cupboard was an inverter with two power outlets. This let me run two devices off of the coach battery, which is how I powered my laptop to write this blog!
How did you keep food cold?
The fridge built in to the van could be powered in three ways: shore power, the coach battery, and propane. With propane I could keep it cold when I was holding still for several days, but I rarely used this feature. Instead, I found a fancy marine fridge on sale and used that for everything. This way I could keep things cold with only battery power, and boy could that thing get cold!