As we finally pushed off from Park City on that Monday, May 11th it all felt surreal but our excitement grew as we headed south and finally parked the van well into the night in Capitol Reef National Park. The next 10 days were going to be a real test to the van's capabilities and a little payback for all of our hardwork. After a night's rest we woke up to the unseen beauty of Capitol Reef with Escalante National Monument in the close distance. Today, May 12th, we would explore the washboard roads of Escalante, in particular, Burr Trail Rd, and try to locate the lower slot canyon portion of Little Death Hollow. This referral from our friend Will Locklair, seemed an exciting first endeavor, however, after questioning his directions of taking the second left turn opposed to the first left turn we found ourselves completing a 20+ mile off-road loop in the middle of nowhere with no spare tire just for fun. At the end of the bumpy loop road we finally reached the appropriate turn off to quickly realize that our sprinter van was not capable of this particular off-road endeavor. Disappointed with our poor judgement, we decided on a late afternoon scramble up The Gulch for a mountain sunset and in the interim settled on an early morning 6 mile hike to the popular but beautiful 160 foot nearby waterfall, known as Lower Calf Creek Falls. The following days hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls was of no disappointment and we even found the trailhead on the first try. It actually would be truly questionable if we were not able to find this trailhead considering its off of a main road and well-signed. However, with feelings of failure on properly exploring Escalante and knowing that we must return soon to do so, we started our drive northeast towards Fruita, CO to embark on a four day overnight river trip.
You may have heard the expression “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” When I hear this expression I immediately think of an epic adventure or long cross country journey covering hundreds, if not thousands of miles. Funny thing is our destination (in mileage) thus far is in the exact same spot as the starting point, the driveway of a small home in Prospector Park located in Park City, Utah. The destination has been constant but the journey has been life changing. Who would have thought, I certainly did not, that over a period of 5 months Rachelle and I were going to transform this characterless old FedEx/Ryder van into our own unique space on wheels. This transformation has taught me many things, especially the ability of the human brain and body to evolve. We have this amazing organ in our skull with ability beyond our wildest dreams. Challenge yourself everyday to go after a skill that seems unobtainable. Completing the “Rambler” and feeling the satisfaction of concurring this massive undertaking without any prior skill or knowledge has given us a sense of empowerment. We set a goal, committed to the progress, and now we have the vehicle to push off on the next journey we have created for ourselves that will take us to many destinations. Go after your dreams with full focus because who knows, they might just come true.
So hear are the many final steps in the build out:
1. Electrical Wiring
With the help of Jason Ledyard, I learned how to do basic electrical wiring for a 12 Volt system. The decision was made to run electrical wiring to 5 different 12v outlets commonly known as cigarette lighters. These outlets we conveniently located to service the ARB Refrigerator, kitchen electrical items, charge phones, and other electronic devices. In addition I wired in a 1000 watt inverter so we could plug in 110v household appliances, even a magic bullet blender, oh yeah!. The inverter is powered directly from the 200 amp/hr AGM battery which is charged by both solar power and the alternator, via an isolator, when the van is running. We used 4 gauge wire in order to prevent power loss and deliver the correct amount of electricity. A distribution block with individual fuses was used so if an outlet has a power surge it will not blow all of the electrical. For lighting in the van, I installed a LED dome light in the kitchen and rear ceiling gear area. Each light has a switch so they turn on just like at home! For mood lighting and to see gear at night, we installed LED strips along the base of the bed angle iron to light the garage space. All in all I had fun doing the electrical except when one fuse kept blowing and I was pulling out my hair trying to figure it out. The thought of pulling down all of the paneling gave me nightmares so I ran a new wire to the unruly outlet…still didn’t work! Now I was officially not having fun with electrical. Fortunately, Jason and Rachelle finally figured out the glitch in the system, which ended up being a simple fix in the actual outlet. Needless to say I was happy to be done with electrical and on to insulation. Besides its a good thing 12v does not pack much power because I would have definitely fried some body hairs during this process.
During a recent trip to Malibu to visit Jeremy's family, I was embraced with the idea that we who do "extreme sports" must desire an adrenaline fix and need to face our mortality frequently. This seemed an interesting concept and brought me to the realization of what many must think that have not explored a similar lifestyle. So I would like to allow for some understanding from my point of view as an outdoor enthusiasts. Outside is what gives me clarity in life, allows me to feel in awe, free, and in tune with who I am and who I want to be. Some go to church, in a sense, outside is my church. Never have I searched for adrenaline or felt like I needed an altered rush. I do not mind adrenaline and it does occur in moments where you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. However, breathing fresh air, exploring the unknown, challenging my physical capabilities, embarking onto the next peak, and figuring out what you are really made of by embracing a whole new surrounding: this is why I love extreme sports, travel, and nature. Take me to the places that not many have gone. Take me to the places that you can only get to by your own will power and skill. This exploration of yourself, the earth, the air, the water are why we were put on this earth and why we should protect it. There is a reason we are connected to the ecosystem and can utilize all the raw ingredients that are provided to us by Earth. Inspiration leads to passion. Passion creates dreams. Dreams are all what we live for. Get outside, feel inspired, and recognize the basics of our purpose on Earth. And I do not mean go take a long road trip, there are many simple expressions.
1. Through research we got an inkling that we needed to insulate under the removable van floor and potentially clean. Oh how we were right! A 5 gallon bucket full of debris, chicken bones, straight up nastiness, cleaning into the night, 7 cleaning rags later the inside began to sparkle.
Progress has been a word thrown around a whole bunch in preparation for our epic van conversion and life altering trip. We are about 30 days out from the adventure and you know what we need a lot of??? PROGRESS!
You would not believe how many things need to be done in order to make this trip happen. While the conversion of the Sprinter Van is a significant item, there are a multitude of other events one must prepare for. Personally the thing that continues to be the hardest is to leave a career I am passionate about and have worked so hard to build. Usually people make life changing decisions when they hate their job, dislike where they live, lack close personal connections, have a broken relationship, or other negative things in their life. My life seems to be the opposite; I love selling real estate, Park City, Utah is one of the greatest towns in the country, I am sometimes referred to as "The Mayor" because of how many people I know, my relationship with Rachelle is stronger than ever, and overall my life is in balance. So you might ask "You have it made, why leave at all?" For me the scariest part about not leaving is waking up 20 years from now and realizing how I let time slip away without experiencing all life has to offer. Being in a professional career for the last 5 years I have realized something about my life...it has sped up dramatically. It seems as though only a few hours pass between the time when my eyes open in the morning and when they retire on another dark night. Now how might this be possible since time is a constant measure? I don't have all the answers but that Einstein guy was onto something.
So Progress is the name of the game right now. Below is a quick overview on what has gone on recently.
1. Bed rails and panels are in place. Thanks to Jake Smith at "A Rusted Development" for welding angle iron into the van. The bed panels are office desk tops I stole from my old man, Ron Wilstein. These are quite heavy but rather sturdy and cost effective so we decided to go with them. Each panel will be bolted to the angle iron to prevent bouncing up and down while moving from one awesome place to the next.
Without further a-due, we would like to share with you the progress we have made on the Sprinter Van and the steps we have taken thus far. Let's say it has been a full two months of brainstorming ideas, developing plans, then revisiting the creation of ideas and plans multiple times. I think I have decided this much brainstorming may not be healthy, but I am the type to thrive on the last minute flawless idea that came together by circumstance. Jeremy, on the other hand, is much like his Dad, thriving on the development of multiple creative ideas even after we finally agreed on one. To say the least, the amount of research we have completed on all subject matters concerning Sprinter Vans and similar topics has taught us so much in a lot of areas we had no knowledge prior. On contrary, like most concepts in life, the more you know, the more you question, and the more you revisit your decisions.
If you are wondering what our research has entailed, here is a small glimpse of the complexity of such vehicles if you really dive into it. To utilize existing paneling or plywood, need of foam insulation for paneling, types of fabric for indoor paneling. What does 12V vs 120V vs Amps vs Watts all mean!? 12V vs two 6V deep cycle batteries vs multiple battery brands vs battery Amp/hrs. Degree of watts utilized for daily electrical functioning, which determines how many watt Solar panels needed. Solar energy vs charging battery off van alternator, deciding on the many components necessary for each system. 3 way refrigerator (utilizing propane) vs 12V refrigerator vs Yeti cooler. Ventilation system through roof van and whether or not to add additional posterior windows. No less the mere layout of the van in order for it to contain inside space for 2 whitewater kayaks, 2 mountain bikes, 2 paragliders, canyoneering/climbing/backpacking gear for 2, bed, galley, and storage. Not forgetting rear indoor space for the potential small 150cc dirtbike that would be utilized for self-shuttling during many of these activities.
When a project like this is conceived, most like us, are naive to the endless possibilities. By heightening your mental capacity you start to realize how this kind of creation can go in so many directions from a grand scale to basic. Even though our sprinter van will have far more comforts then my backpacking tent and small sedan I once completed a two month road trip in, we decided for our purposes an original focus on gear storage and "basic" is best.
As we furthered our education on the Inter-webs and a great handbook 'The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook', we conceived our skeleton plan that would work efficiently for us. After writing down several of the items we agreed on, I came up with a drawing of the proposed layout..