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        Now, THIS option needed no introduction.  I have had SEVEN of these already, spanning 40 years, and they have carried me more than 700,000 miles, through 48 states, 9 Canadian provinces, and more than 50 National Parks/Monuments/Etc.

As a high school teacher in one of my former lives, I had summers off, so away I did go, for weeks at a time.  Gas was less than a buck a gallon, and I had friends to share expenses with.  After several years, my usual companions gave in to mature things like careers and marriage and parenthood, and they no longer could justify a roadtrip with that crazy van guy.

So, I set out solo.  I was a tad apprehensive at first about having no one to converse with, no one to share the driving with, and no one to split gas cost with.  But, you know what?  I freaking LOVED IT!   I could sing along with the tunes.  I could take whatever random turnoff I liked without any consent.  And as my friend Brian so eloquently put it, “you can fart with reckless abandon and scratch your balls with impunity.”  Very well said indeed, B!

My Noble Steeds -- 41 Years of CV's

The Roadhouse (1979-1981):  1972 Dodge Passenger Van, blue.  Bought it used; it had been fully converted by some mailman in Massachusetts; dual batteries, bed/table, lights, roof fan, curtains, paneling.  Went MA-FL in ’82, MA-CO in ’83, MA-CA in ‘84.  The roadhouse made me a vanman for life.  How can you go back to car after having a room with you everywhere you go?
pix/The Roadhouse
The Moose The Moose (1985):  1973 Dodge Cargo Van, very brown, bought it used, with plywood floors, walls and ceiling already installed.  Pulled interior from The Roadhouse and rebuilt it in here, with carpeted walls and a USA Flag ceiling.  Had exterior painted Midnight Metallic Blue, even the grill and bumpers.  It was one badass looking van.  Got totaled 3 weeks later.  Bah.
Spuds (1985-86):  1985 Dodge Caravan, brand new, was silver, but immediately had it painted Midnight Metallic Blue, removed bench seats and built an L-shaped couch with custom cushions, and installed curtains that I sewed myself.  Made it pretty dang cool for a Caravan, but just couldn’t make it bigger, so… Spuds MacKenzie
Max Max (1987-1997):  1987 Dodge Conversion Van, brand new, white, with grey accents, grey plush interior, 3 huge picture windows with screens and translucent shades, power sofa/bed combo, 4 swivel/recline captain’s chairs, TV, VCR.  We did more than 10,000 miles in our first month together.  In his decade with me, Max drove through all 48 contiguous states and 9 Canadian provinces.  He made it “around the moon” by logging 279,200 miles, and he was still running when I retired him via trade-in.
The Penthouse (1996-97):  This 1988 Ford has the most "fancies" of any of them, most notably 6 skylights.  Light blue plush interior, really good stereo, TV with that air-wing antenna, ladder, roof rack, captain's chairs ... made me wonder why it was being sold.  The bed was too small -- only 2 sections, where Max had 3 -- but the real issue was the gas mileage.  The conversion company had put a heavy steel plate on the sub floor to give it a smoother ride, but the extra few hundred pounds dropped it down under 10 MPG.  I didn't have him long, made no significant trips.  Traded him in, with Max, in a 2-for-1 (plus cash) to by the next one. The Penthouse
Blue Man (1997-2003):  1992 Chevy High-Top Conversion Van, bought barely used (9,966 miles) from a Cadillac dealership.  Plush interior, same options as Max, but with running boards, and a high roof with skylights.  Very nice addition.   BM carried me on my longest trip, RoadRage2000, that covered 9,960 miles and 31 states in 26 days.  He would end up carrying everything I owned (i.e., everything that could fit) from my old life in Rochester to my new life in The Florida Keys in April of 2001
Moby (2003-2013):  1996 Dodge High-Top Conversion Van, white with tan interior and high-gloss wood accents.  Great to be back in a RAM van.  Nicest interior of them all!  Bought him second-hand, and drove him more than 150,000 miles, including two 3-week, 8000-mile coast-to-coast-and-way-more treks in 2004 and 2005.  Retired him with more than 210,000 miles on the odometer. Moby - Ricks Roads
ZDog (2013-2020):  2003 Dodge High-Top Conversion Van, dark green with gray and black interior.  Got him for a bargain ($5000) and proceeded to put on about 100,000 miles in 7+ years, without ever going west of the Mississippi River.  He would have been a great coast-to-coaster.  He loved rolling along the highways in cruise control at 80.  Traded in at 160,000+.

Yeah, these things are tremendous ... for roadtrips.  I did live in my final conversion van, ZDog, for a total of seven months in 2017-18, after Hurricane Irma ravaged the Keys and I suddenly found myself out of the cottage that had been my abode for 15 years.  In the wake of the storm, absolutely nothing was available, so I shrugged, got the middle seats and sofa/bed unit out of the van, put my XL Twin bed in there with a folding beach chair, built a small cabinet over the wheel well, and slid a few large storage tubs under the bed.  Voila!  New bedroom!  New home!

Battery operated fans kept me cool, battery operated lanterns lit my nocturnal doings, and a very small power pack gave me a couple of hours of laptop time every night. 

My gym membership provided me bathroom and shower (plus pool, hot tub, steam room, ha), and the legitimate residential sticker on my windshield allowed me to park overnight just about anywhere in town. 

I was still working full-time-plus (i.e., 50-60 hours per week), so there were not many days of leisure spent lounging in the Belly O’ Th’ Whale, as I like to call it.  The few that there were really exposed the shortcomings of conversion van living:  it was only a bedroom.  No electricity, no water, no comfy chair (the comfy chair?  the comfy chair!), no desk, no dresser, no TV, and no fridge.

For what it was, it served the purpose: I had a roof over my head every night.  Not very far over my head, though – I couldn’t quite stand up in that van.

For consolation, I also had almost no bills to pay!  The bank account just grew and grew.  I was LOVING that aspect.

BUT, when I got a chance to move into my current shack, I pounced at it.  

ZDog got me through, and I got a legitimate taste of Van Life -- albeit without the leisurely meandering that makes it so appealing in the first place -- but I also learned that The Big Roadtrip was going to require a bigger vehicle, with a lot more appliances and gizmos that comprise the comfortable “home” life.

The market had plenty of conversion vans decked out as RV’s.  They were all grand, with price tags to match.  Some were well over $100K.  Such a one from 2011, with over 120,000 miles on it, had an asking price of $54,000.  For a van that I couldn’t even stand tall in.  Nuh-uh.  Not gonna work.  Not for my full-time home.

So, no, no, Nanette, that left one way to go...

Class A Motorhome Class C Camper The Truck Camper The Fifth Wheel Trailer Pop-Up Tent Trailers Sports Utility Vehicle Conversion Vans Cargo Van
Who's Rick? Vehicle The Build Power Up Gizmoes and Accessories Where to do your Snoozin' Rick's Photo Galleries Rick's Blog