A Van Workout

I’d promised Trisha a day at the beach. I hadn’t fulfilled that promise, and there aren’t that many warm days left this year. Since I don’t currently have a full-time job taking up my time, we decided to hop in the van and visit Hampton Beach one particularly warm day last week. She got her beach trip, and I got a break from the grind of kicking off my job search. There isn’t much to report. We did basically nothing, and it was wonderful.

Being in the van enabled us to spend the night at the beach. Since it’s off-season, parking was easy, even overnight. During our extensive walking around the area, we found no signs prohibiting overnight parking, nor marking resident-only parking, so we just parked in front of an unoccupied house for rent and called it a night. I got Trisha caught up on The Mandalorian before season 2 starts, and we fell asleep to the sound of the waves. Nobody bothered us.

The next day we lounged a bit more, then met Allison for lunch. When the rain started, we hit the road to National Powersports Distributors. Trisha wants a bike, but wasn’t sure what kind. The best way to figure that out was to sit on a whole bunch of different ones, and this place has a huge, wide selection of bikes. I mean, they even had a Honda PC800 in stock. She pretty much fell in love with the Triumph Speedmaster. I can see why — I like it, too. Then it was onward and homeward.

Because Racecar

The next day we did a quick turnaround on the van and drove up to the Littleton rest area for the night. This wasn’t for the scenery, but a strategic pre-staging location for Team O’Neil Rally School, less than half an hour away. We volunteered to work an SCCA RallySprint, the first to take place since the ‘Rona ruined everything, and the first rally event of any kind I’ve gotten to all year. All that planning with the previous radio tests got put to practical use. It was go time.

It worked great. I set up the radio as a crossband repeater to let me sit outside with my fellow rally workers — at least, until my handheld radio’s battery ran out. No big deal. I just sat on the futon sofa and operated the radio by hand instead of remotely. Since it was cold, I also turned on the propane heater. It was practically the lap of luxury.

I also saved the day when the generator failed to start by plugging the timing equipment into my Jackery 240 battery pack. This was pretty much a worst case scenario for my power situation, running twice the wattage I expected and with no solar charging due to shade and overcast skies. It was under 20% charge by the end of the day, but it did its job perfectly. We were headed home that night anyway, so we wouldn’t need any more power overnight.

Breakdown, Now I’m Standing Here

Or so I thought. To make a long story short, just north of Concord, NH the van sprung a leak and dumped all of its coolant. After a long wait with roadside assistance, once they finally assigned a towing company it was a relatively quick and easy flatbed home. I’ve traced the problem down to a hole in the top of the radiator. The drive to Team O’Neil was a straight highway slog up and down Interstate 93, running faster and harder than I normally do just to maintain the speed limit of 65-70 mph. This harder driving is probably what pushed the radiator past its limits.

I could try some of the low-cost patching methods (stop-leak, an egg, etc.) but everything in this van is so old and rusty I should probably just replace it. Honestly, I can’t justify spending money I’m not making on repairing a vehicle I don’t need to use right now, so the van is just sitting in my parking space, awaiting repair. I will winterize it if it’s going to end up sitting over the winter, just to prevent any further issues while it sits still.

It’s a blow, for sure, but my van adventures for this year were already pretty much over. There’s another SCCA RallySprint in November, but I’m not going on any adventures with very little income. Northern New England is in pretty good shape for COVID these days, but the rest of the country is raging out of control, making travel to someplace warm not the safest thing to be doing. On top of that, I’ve lost a lot of confidence in this particular van for long distance voyages. Ultimately I’d like to do a cross-country trip, and I don’t trust this clunky old Dodge to get me there and back trouble free. When I bought it, I always said it was a one or two-year van, given its age and condition. I’ve gotten essentially a year’s use out of it at this point, so that’s on target. It’s given me a chance to try #vanlife. And, it’s given me the chance to realize that I like it. So although my personal #vanlife is on pause right now, it’s certainly not over.

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