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travel

Thanksgiving Road Trip

We piled in the van on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at about 11:30 pm.  The family picked me up from work, with almost everything loaded and we planned to drive a couple of hours south before finding a friendly parking lot to spend the night in. True to form, we had to stop at home to pick up a few forgotten items before ultimately leaving town.  We drove about 2 hours south before we stopped for the night, sleeping between two semis in a Walmart parking lot.  (My youngest wants me to note we stopped about 2:30 in the morning). We slept fine. Walmart parking lots are bright and I have a couple more curtians to make to bring the van to appropriate sleeping darkness.

We added a toilet to the van this trip as a convenience item.  The base of the toilet is a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot, with a snap on toilet seat with a sealing lid. I had initially planned to use kitty litter and sifting litter liners in the bucket to manage waste, but the liners did not fit with the lid.  We ultimatly put kitty litter directly in the bucket.  I don’t know a lot about how kitty litter works, but after using this method I assume that having the litter in open air contributes to the appropriate clumping action.  Our human “litter box” turned into one big unscoopable clump due to the sealing seat lid on the bucket trapping all the moisture in the bucket.  I plan to purchase Double Doodie bags for our next trip.

Reviews on Amazon report that this bag can be used for a couple of days. The product solidifies liquids and deodorizes waste, making it easier to use and dispose of. The Double Doodie bags can be purchased here.

This is the bucket lid we used and it can be purchased here.

On Wednesday we finished our drive, arriving in Durham, NC to visit and enjoy Thanksgiving and the weekend with family. Along the way we stopped at Elenor City Park outside of Charleston, WV. The boys stretched their legs playing soccer and I attempted the trail. I’ve been mountain biking a lot this summer, but this trail system was out of my league, particularly covered in leaves. I managed to ride about a half mile before I decided I should turn around to avoid injury. I ended up riding some gravel to stretch the ride to a half hour before we got back in the car to finish up our travel day.

The next post will highlight the trails I was able to successfully ride in the Durham/Chapel Hill area. My family was able to join me for one of the rides and we had a great time.

~liz

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travel

Southern Swing

We met family at Carolina Beach for a week in July and took another week as travel days which afforded us time to visit two national parks and do some biking and white water rafting.

Our first stop was a Loves Truck Stop in Virginia. I don’t yet have our curtian game in lock down, so it was a bit bright at times due to the parking lot lights but that will be fixed by our next big trip. We were also traveling with two bikes on the bike rack and two in the back of the van. That meant we had to fold our bed up and down and haul the bikes in and out for each stop. That problem has already been solved with the addition of the 4 bike Saris hitch rack.  All the bikes go on the back now (although mine is the only one in this photo).

The boys enjoyed washing up in the truck stop bathrooms at night and buying breakfast there as we heading out in the am.

Our next stop was Arrowhead Bike Farm in Fayetteville, WV, which was a great base camp for local mountain biking and white water rafting on the New River.  The bike farm had camping spots, indoor plumbing, a bike wash and a small restaurant.  I LOVE the concept.  We went rafting on the upper New River which was plenty for us.

After spending a couple of nights at the bike farm in Fayetteville, we traveled south and stayed in a pretty  grimy campground just outside of Shenandoah. I won’t provide a link because I don’t want to be sued for defamation of character, but we were pretty sure we saw a two liter of pee outside the mobile home the owners lived in.

We spent most of the next day in Shenandoah and the boys loved our hike up Bearfence Mountian. There is a lot of exposed rock for bouldering. 

We spent the next night in a Walmart parking lot in North Carolina. We had the same problem with the lights and the bikes; we also neglected to fully charge our battery so our fan didn’t run all night and it was bit warm in the van but it was free and we lived.  In the morning we road the trails at Brunswick Nature Park near the beach before taking a ferry to Carolina Beach where we spent the next week enjoying family and the ocean.



We were feeling vacationed out after our week at the beach so we only stopped once on the way back to Michigan. We stayed at Brushcreek Campground; among other amenities, it had a pool with a WV Mountain View. The campground was quiet and clean and had very nice bathrooms.🚽🚿

It was a great family trip and we enjoyed the freedom the van provides us to plan as we go.

travel

Campervan Update

We completed a very basic build in our van.  Sleeping 4 in a full size van doesn’t leave lots of space for extras, but we are able to comfortably sleep and come and go with minimal set up. My husband and I sleep on the fold out bed in the back, our eldest sleeps on the loft above our feet and our youngest fits on the bench seat.  As he grows we will have to figure out another option, but it works for now.

Our first big trip with the van was a 15 hour drive to Kure Beach.  We slept at a Loves truck stop, two campgrounds and a Walmart parking lot on our way to the beach, stopping in West Virginia for rafting on the New River and mountian biking on the Arrowhead trails.   We hauled 4 bikes for this trip – two on a hitch rack and two in the back of the van.  This required us to fold the bed up and down so we could slide the bikes in the back each time we traveled to a new location.  Much easier than camping and cheaper than a hotel, but loading the bikes in and out was a bit of a hassle.

It wouldn’t be a family vacation if we didn’t have some sort of SNAFU.  In West Virginia my husband backed the van into a tree with our two bike hitch rack on the back.  He spent some time futzing with it and we headed down the road.  As we were driving to a trailhead we noticed people waiving and yelling at us…my husbands bike was secured to the rack by the tire straps and his handlebars were dragging on the road behind us.  His bike was repaired at the LBS and he fussed with the rack before we headed out to the trail.  Long story short, as we arrived at the trailhead and went to get the bikes off the rack, my husbands bike was not there.  A car arrived at the trailhead shortly after we noticed our loss and told us they found it in the road about a mile back.  My husband ran back to get it.

I immediately started pricing 4 bike hitch racks and they are expensive.  We decided that we needed to wait to get one and found a way to secure the bikes for remainder of the trip and thankfully avoided anymore bike excitement.  The seed was certianly planted- we need a new rack.  

We decided on a 4 person tray rack and opted for the SARIS Freedom SuperClamp 4. We pulled the trigger in August when we needed to get 4 bikes to a town about an hour away from our home. The rack is very secure and simplifies our coming and going with the van.  With the bikes on the back, we get out of our beds, climb to our seats and drive away.

Summer Campervan sleeps:

  • 2 nights at Young State Part for a family camping trip (4)
  • 1 night in Muncie IN before the 1/2 Ironman (husband)
  • 1 night at Waterloo State Park for a solo mt biking adventure (me)
  • 3 nights at Interlochen State Park for Art Camp with a high school friend (me)
  • 2 nights at a campground outside of Grand Rapids MI for Skirts in the Dirt, MITI half ironman and MITI kids tri (all 4 of us)
  • 1 truck stop, 1 Walmart parking lot, 4 campgrounds on the way to the beach (all 4 of us)

travel

Progress 

After the untimely death of our minivan, it took some time for us to find the perfect van. We were looking for a newer used affordable van that would fit in our garage, be a daily driver for my husband, have cargo space and work as a barebones camper. 

We found it! A red crew cargo Ford Econoline 250.  Weve been working on our build!

travel

Life and Dreams

We spent the night in the parking lot of the FlyingJ and woke up ever more focused on campervanning.  About 10 miles down the road we heard some thunks and then our van lost power.  We coasted to the exit and after an eventful hour, we learned that the minivan was DEAD.  Long story short, we searched the Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh area for a unicorn full size van and we did not find one.  Desperate for a vehicle, we purchased a sensible Corolla under warranty.

Our dreams of campervanning our not dead, but our plans are on hold for a bit.