21 Years in a 1973 Dodge Van

Discussion in 'Camping/Outdoor Living' started by TwoDogs, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    That's right. Actually a bit over 21 years. I also have a 75 pound and a 40 pound dog. I am very comfortable in such a small space because every inch of space is put to good usage.

    When I was 13 and 14 my dream had always been to live in a van and travel around. I'm living my childhood dream. How cool is that?

    I have a bed that is just about the size of a double bed. beneath the bed the front 2/3rds is used for storage of various items. That space is accessed by a hinged top. The rear 1/3rd is also storage but is for things like 5 gallon gas and water containers, tools, prospecting equipment and spare parts. That area is accessed by the rear doors.

    I have a two battery system, starting and accessory battery, which utilizes an isolator to keep me from draining the starting battery. I have a roll-up solar panel which provides a little over an amp at 20 volts in direct sunlight to keep the whole set-up going when I'm sitting somewhere for a week or two. It unrolls and sits on my windshield at just about the perfect angle. This has saved me hundreds of gallons of gas which would have been burned charging batteries over the years.

    There are SO many things that I've changed about the van or have stowed away in order to make life more comfortable that they are too numerous to mention. If you are thinking about the doing the same sort of thing that I'm doing and want some tips...feel free to ask here or by PM.
  2. soaringeagle

    soaringeagle Senior Member

    still livin in it? ya got net access?
    21 years is a pretty good stretch
    ya must got tons of stories
  3. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    I can hook up via cell phone but that's REALLY slow. I'm usually online if I'm at the welding shop where I work on occasional weekends. I'm at the shop playing security guard fairly often on weekends also.

    Stories? Yeah...I guess I do. This old van and I have seen a lot of places and things.
  4. erizoe

    erizoe Member

    Do you live with other people? I want to do something similar (not in a vehicle, but in the woods) but my worry is that no one will want to accompany me.

    You sound like you have an amazing life, living the way you wanted to ever since you were a kid....it must be rewarding.

    good call on the solar panels too! =p
  5. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    I live with my two dogs. They keep me entertained. We walk all the hills and washes looking for rabbits or gold or other cool stuff. Found a body once...that wasn't too cool.
    TalonedFeet likes this.
  6. wyldwynd

    wyldwynd ~*~ Super Moderator

    :eek: that must of been scary
  7. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    What was scary was dealing with the cops. The County Mounties were pretty cool, but the Homicide Detective out of Prescott was a real butthead. First...it took him over two hours to make it out to the spot where I found the body. I commented to the County boys that if the detective couldn't even find the scene of the crime with directions, what were the chances that he'd be able to find the criminal if it was a murder?

    He immediately started treating me like I was a suspect as opposed to a citizen that had done his civic duty. He fingerprinted me and wanted to look through my van. I told him pointblank that this was the last time I would ever try to be a good citizen and report something like this.
  8. stalk

    stalk Banned

    I'm moving into a van pretty soon.

    I've never done it before. I Figured I'd just wing it.
  9. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    I'm still "winging" it. I'm always making improvements when I can. I put a 4-speed truck transmission into my van. You don't see too many vans with a four on the floor. Granny gear is great though, it allows me to get furthur out into the boonies. It allows me to drive old washed out mining roads in search of gold. It was one of my best time and money investments, making that change.

    Six months ago I finally figured out the wiring to utilize my isolator in my two battery system so that my stereo, TV, dremel, 12 volt soldering iron etc. don't drain my starting battery. Sometimes I use more juice than my solar panel can put back into the system and there's that sinking feeling when you go to start the van and the relay just clicks instead of the engine turning over. When you're 14 miles or more from the nearest paved road a jump start isn't likely to drive by. Fully isolated now, I don't have to worry about that.

    Paneling, with styrofoam insulation between the metal ribs of the walls and even the roof, was also a good investment. Keeps out a lot of the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. Yes, here in the high desert of AZ. we DO have winters. 10 to 14 degrees at night in Prescott Valley, AZ. at 5000 feet elevation is not uncommon. Even colder in Williams or Flagstaff. I have a cargo van rather than a windowed passenger van 'cause a window van is like a rolling solar oven here in the summer.

    There's a LOT of things to take into consideration, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself just hitting the road in a bare bones van. It's just that if you're going to do it for the long haul like I have, and as you get older like I have, comforts become a must.

    Good luck and enjoy! That's what life's all about.
  10. wyldwynd

    wyldwynd ~*~ Super Moderator

    sounds like the detective they sent out needed a brain,,,,:)
  11. FireflyInTheDark

    FireflyInTheDark Sell-out with a Heart of Gold

    I am...
    SO jealous!
    Not of the corpse part, but of the rest of it, heh.
    Someday... I will do it someday... I promise you all and myself.
    Now, I just have to get a license...:tongue:
  12. zihger

    zihger Senior Member

    How is the National Forest camping in Arizona in the wintertime?

    That’s cool you have such a good van those old Dodges can run forever.

    I had a 78 Dodge tradesman van once It was awesome went until the rings wore out of the engine more the 200,000 miles it was still running but had no compression.
  13. Zoomie

    Zoomie My mom is dead, ok?

    This is a fascinating thread. Two Dogs, I really didn't think anyone gypsied old school like that anymore. I know a few people who have in the short term but mostly in VW Westys. You rock, man.
  14. cozmo_g

    cozmo_g Is Out Of This World

    Kudos to you, sir. I am currently saving money to purchase a chevy van, possibly a minivan soon. I will be getting a cargo version, just as you recommend, and I soon will take to the road, to live a life of freedom. It was good to see your post, as it reminds me of my promise to myself.
  15. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    Wonderful. The majority of AZ. Is public land, either NF or BLM land. There are certainly warmer places to camp during the winter than my area, but I'm on call at a welding shop in Prescott Valley, so I don't range too far most of the time. Except for roadtrips to the east and west coasts on occasion I've spent just about all of the 21+ years in the same area and have only had a run-in with a Tree Pig (NF Law Enforcement) one time. If you don't appear to have a permanent set-up, or have trash lying about, they leave you alone.
  16. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    The part that never tires me is the ability to change the scenery outside my front door any time that I choose. There is nothing more awe inspiring than sitting on a hilltop with the van facing south, sitting in the open bay door, and watching the sunset with the tunes cranked.

    TalonedFeet likes this.
  17. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    One note...a minivan doesn't have the ground clearance and limits your ability to be as free as you'd like sometimes. If you are pretty much going to stay on paved or maintained roads, you'll probably be okay. But...if you want to get away and into the real wilderness...you need a full-sized van. I just saw a minivan with a huge hole in the oil pan the other day. I stopped to see if I could lend some assistance but when I saw the damage I remarked that this was something that duct tape and baling wire wasn't going to cure.

    Another thing is the year of the van you buy. The older, the less complicated it will be and the easier it will be to do your own maintenance. I run a very Spartan van. Nothing's computerized, no AC,(People ask me about "climate control" and my answer is, "It's simple...winter - windows up. Summer - windows down.") no power brakes, etc. Mechanically, my van has never left me in the lurch. If something's gone wrong, I've always been able to fix the problem. (Knock on wood.)

    That brings us to another point: Spare parts. I carry a spare alternator, distributor, spark plugs, ignition module, starter and other odds and ends.
  18. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs This space for rent. Lifetime Supporter

    Thanks Zoomie. My overhead is so low that I don't have to let fulltime work inhibit my ability to enjoy Life. I'm living pretty high on the hog on less than $5000 a year. That covers gas, insurance and registration easily with enough left over to feed myself and my dogs well. We never go without the necessities and actually have quite a few luxuries. This is my laptop I'm using to post. Believe it or not...I'm even able to put money into the bank.
  19. xexon

    xexon Destroyer Of Worlds

    You should write a book. Maybe get a new van. :)

    I too suffer from gold fever. May be heading up to BC and the Yukon later this year.

  20. FireflyInTheDark

    FireflyInTheDark Sell-out with a Heart of Gold

    Amazing photo. I can't wait. :D

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