Van Life: Meet the new Lucy

Meet Lucille Van White. You may recall Lucy One White, my late cat who wrote a Friday column for some time.  Lucy the cat has been physically gone a year now, although she still transmits plenty of comments to our household.  Twenty years leaves a lasting presence.  But I digress.  Back to Lucy Van. Lucy was purchased last summer from a young couple who had built out this 2015 Promaster then lived and traveled in it for more than a year. The van was in good condition, had low miles, and I liked its basic layout. BA and I drove out to Bend, OR to pick it up and then drove home in tandem.

There’s nothing like a road trip to show what works and what doesn’t in a vehicle.  The first thing I found out was that if it isn’t tied down, it will move while driving.  Memo to self, check all latches prior to every departure! Like me, the previous owners were pretty clearly beginners at this van building thing.  Some projects were done very well, and others showed lots of room for improvement. Loss leaders were some big storage drawers under the bed that would take off and and roll through the van while driving, and the fiberboard “wardrobe” type cabinet that they had cut part of a side out to accommodate the power station. And then there was the refrigerator.  The fridge is a Dometic top loader in a drawer.  These are commonly used in vans, as they are very energy efficient and the cold air doesn’t flow out every time you open it.  However, the front of the drawer holding the fridge was so tight that I scraped my knuckles every time I opened the fridge.

Arriving back in Colorado, I had a list of projects to keep me busy.  One reason people convert vans is to suit their specific needs and desires. Like any project, there’s a balance to be struck between desires, space, money, time and skill. Driven by aggravation, I started with demo. I took out the crappy cut out cabinet, cut a few inches off the top of the refrigerator drawer, and removed the traveling drawer.  I also removed a built in box/single seat that the previous owners used to store their dog’s food. Storage shelves over the bed also came down.

Then came the project list.  Fix the fridge drawer.  Raise the bed another 4 inches.  One of the desirable features of the Promaster is its width–75 inches. This lets you sleep comfortably sideways (as long as you’re not more than 6 feet tall), making it possible to have a fixed bed in the back, with living space as well. The space under the bed is often referred to as the garage, used for storage and separated from the living space.  Again, one of the reasons I wanted a Promaster and specifically the hightop was so that I could have the sideways Queen bed with room to transport bikes in the garage. This was a relatively easy project, and I soon had the raised bed and a mounting system for the bikes.

My next project was very much function and need driven. The young couple didn’t have any sort of toilet facilities in the van, and they also didn’t have steps into the bed, and they had set up the bed with head on the passenger side of the van. In addition, there wasn’t a table inside and only limited seating. This wasn’t going to work so well for us. Being able to get easily and safely in and out of bed during the night and having an indoor toilet was essential.  A multifunction bench became my winter design and build challenge.  This bench needed seat two, provide storage, serve as steps for bed access, hold a cassette toilet, and provide mounting for a Lagun swivel table. With some help from friends and family with good cutting tools, the bench was built and installed.

Late spring, and early summer, I took the van out for a few overnight shakedown trips.  Things worked pretty well, and I learned a lot about what worked and what could use a tweak or two.  In July, BA joined me, and we spent two nights in Basalt at a gathering of van dwellers. We had a  good time, and despite some ongoing health challenges, BA decided that doing a more extensive trip was possible and possibly desirable. Time in nature is healing. After considerable discussion and negotiation, we decided to tour the southern shore of Lake Superior. We leave this coming Sunday, September 8! This will be a two week trip and we will stay primarily at municipal and state campgrounds, with showers, and back-up electricity.

The prep work is done, the van is in pretty good and comfortable shape, and now I’m finishing up my work week, finalizing meal planning and food storage, and I’m excited to head out on this new adventure.  We will have intermittent internet access on our trip and I’m hoping to post some updates along the way.

I’ll close with a few pictures of the “finished” interior:

Van bed
The Bed
van interior
The back interior
bench and table
Bench and table
bench and step
Bench with the storage step out.
van kitchen
The kitchen, with its maddening array of latches.
kitchen and seat
The passenger seat swivels for more seating.
van map
Map on the sliding door.  If you look closely, you can see the red dots where we will spend a night or two.

32 thoughts on “Van Life: Meet the new Lucy

    1. Its a very good thing in my estimation. This is big for me (my daily driver is a Civic). But, its under 20 feet long and will fit in a standard parking space, and on regular roads. Nimble matters a lot to me.

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  1. It is so exciting to see what you have done! Amazing!! I LOVE the tropical vibe too!! I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures. Congrats on a job very well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an awesome van!
    The north shore of Lake Superior is also worth a side trip, at least as far as Two Harbors, Betty’s Pies, the Split Rock lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls.

    Liked by 1 person

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