Monday, July 26, 2010


Hi everyone,

I am migrating to a new web site for a variety of reasons including more flexibility, more customization features, and room for a larger community. Check it out and tell me exactly what you think!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Powerful, free, and easy Linux Photography Tools

Lately, I have been working quite a bit with Linux photography. I'm using Linux programs because I don't want to steal (or buy) expensive Windows programs; and part of the van-dwelling life is being frugal with your hard-earned money. With these tools at your disposal, you can unleash your creative potential on your digital photo library.

Before the Windows people start feeling left out, I would like to mention a program called Wubi, which will emulate a Linux environment as a program INSIDE your Windows installation. That means you can install/uninstall it with ultimate ease. Check it out here:

Some great FREE Linux programs to take a look at are:

  1. Hugin – This is an amazing program for panoramas and multiple picture art. There are some great examples on Hugin's website that show the power of this program... Very impressive stuff.

  2. FFMPEG – This excellent tool will help you break down videos into individual images, compile individual images into time lapses, and convert image formats. Although this program doesn't have an interface (which means you will be doing command line work, similar to Window's DOS) there are plenty of easy-to-learn tutorials and techniques (I'm talking 5-10 minutes) that will get you rolling.

  3. GIMP/GIMPshop – Basically this is the free photoshop of Linux. If you need something done graphics-wise for your pictures, there is a tutorial on how to do anything you think of online.

  4. UFRaw – Basically the purpose of this program is to process RAW style images through a digital darkroom studio. RAW images are common formats for DSLRs. This format differs from the common JPEG format in that it is minimally processed and uncompressed (which means larger file size). Technology is great :) I use this whenever I am getting prepped for creating an HDR image.
I made this panorama below by taking apart a 10 second video frame by frame using FFMPEG, and then putting about 12 of the extracted frames together in Hugin (which does all the hard work automatically).

  1. Photomatix - The only paid for program I use for photography. This program is arguably unsurpassed in generated HDR images. If you search for a few of these style photos online, you will see how beautiful HDR shots are. If you're going to do the job, do it right. It costs 99 bucks, but if you have any .edu address, you can score the program for 35 :) Currently, there is only a Windows/Mac release, but if you install another program called WINE, you can run a lot of Windows programs, including Photomatix, on a Linux machine...

    ..but I know, it's not free. So a great alternative to this program is..

    6. Qtpfsgui - Although not as complete as Photomatix, it's free and easy. Here's an example of an HDR I created with this program:

Give some of these programs a look at on Google, and you can see how powerful they are. With an arsenal like this at your disposal, it will feel like you have super powers to manipulate to visual world... MUWahaha!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Temporary Shelter

Recently, a friend of mine has left America for two months to visit her Air Force husband in Korea and she asked if I would like to look over her house. I thought about it for a while,  wanting to stay true to the van lifestyle. Part of the negative side is I will have some duties to fulfill such as watering the plants, cleaning the house, mowing the yard, and helping the house generally look good so the real estate people can sell it. 

I finally decided that it would be a perfect recharging station for my batteries, a place to do my laundry for free, store food for longer (thus saving money), provide a home base nearby to my work, provide a safe/legit place to do work on my van, and be a quieter/darker parking place to sleep (I can't spoil myself with air conditioning and down comforters, I'm sleeping in the driveway!).

It's nearing the end of the first house-sitting week, and I've got to say it's going pretty well. I've saved some considerable cash on groceries, laundry, and travel fuel - which makes it all well worth it.

One of the downsides is that she has turned off her home Internet. No big deal though, I can easily head to the YMCA or local libraries to get a signal :) 

After only a week of being able to use the benefits of this house, I find myself becoming slightly complacent. I don't see this as a hugely negative thing though, I'm learning quite a bit about myself (and the human brain) from this experience. I'm tracking all of my changes, and am very aware of what is happening.

I hope this might make everyone think about reducing the amount of unnecessaries in your life. Modern conveniences have spoiled us rotten; the result of this is complacency, heavier reliance on material goods, and losing focus of the truly important things in life.

Van to temporary home changes:

 1. Spending more time in shower than necessary.
 2. Ability to shave while showering (not a good idea in a public shower)
 3. Running water provides place to always brush teeth. I leave a lot of my bathroom stuff here to make bathroom time easier.
 1. Sleeping in longer due to feeling of being relaxed which results from having a singular place to meet nearly all of my human and societal needs.
 2. I slept inside the first night, which went miserably. There is something synthetic about air conditioning and the wasted energy around me that drove me nuts. I've been sleeping in the van in the parking lot since this night.
Regular Duties:
 1. Mowing the yard. I haven't done this since I used to live in a house, but it's necessary to help my friend sell her house. Time is spent on home maintenance every week. This takes gasoline for energy. $$$!
 2. Watering the plants. I enjoy watering plants, but keeping a yard all pretty-ish for the sake of keeping up the neighborhood is a daunting task. I spend quite a bit of time watering all the plants every other day that normally wouldn't naturally survive in this environment.
 3. DustLaundry:ing/vacuuming/etc. Wow, it's ridiculous how many nooks and crannies never see any of our attention in a home. There are also so many freaking unnecessary doodads and knick-knacks that require constant attention.
 1. Instead of buying dry ice and storing food in my cooler, I have been using the fridge inside. This stores food a lot longer, and I notice I have completely replaced the cooler inside my van.
 2. I now have access to a freezer, and I have started buying frozen goods to microwave for quick and dirty food access. This is great for work, but it causes my shortcut-tuned brain to accept quick meals instead of planning ahead for fresh ones.
 3. I'm using a dishwasher!! It's so convenient to use when I'm working a steady job, but it's definitely going to be a hard habit to break.
 1. No terrible negative changes here. I'm merely saving money by doing my laundry here. I'm not rolling through my clothes at a different rate that I would if I was completely living in the van, so I won't have to break this habit.
Space Usage:
 1. Instead of always storing my stuff into neat compartments, I have piles of stuff inside the house, spread out in different rooms.

I'm sure there are some more changes I have made since this chapter opened. I will add them as I think of them.

Conclusion: Knowing that I have all of this security causes me to slack off and weakens my mind. Having to think about each move I make helps me better the problem-solving, analytical, planning, and innovative parts of my mushy brain. When it's just me and the van, I have more time to devote to creativity and hobbies.. basically time to do the stuff I want to do, not take most of my time taking care of the life maintenance to maintain a drone-like lifestyle that will merely just keep me working, working, working at an efficient rate and keep on hoping I'll derive all my happiness from the dedication I show at my job. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and the people I work with, but there is much more out there I yearn to explore, learn about, and do. I will continue to be myself, do my best, and plan for the future. A future rich in happiness and simplicity.

"Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained."
Vladimir Nabokov

Monday, June 14, 2010

Taking advantage of the mobile lifestyle: SCUBA

Since I'm still safely buckled in to the lifestyle of a steady job, I have recently had the resources to focus on some of my hobbies.

This past weekend I took a Friday off work and drove down to Moorehead City, North Carolina to finalize my Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification. This PADI SCUBA level allows me to make dives around 100 feet. Previously, I could only dive down to 60 feet.

I woke up at 5:30AM Friday morning to the sound of my instructor, Dave Weston, banging on the side of my van and telling me "rise and shine" :) At around 6 we all drove from the parking lot of Fisherman's Inn to Olympus Dive Center. Once there we unloaded all of our SCUBA gear onto the "Mutiny", our faithful diving boat.

Our crew then proceeded to head over 20 miles south (about a two hour boat ride), into the depths of the ocean, in search of the nearly forgotten wrecks of the abyss... ARRRRR!!!

Here are the wrecks we hit each day, and a description of the memorable sights (also with some links to extra information):

Day 1 (Friday, June 11th):
 -Hardee's - This was my first dive beyond 60 feet. I was breathing pretty fast and my heart was pounding when I hit the water... but I calmed down as I hit about 30 feet and had to focus on what I was doing. I was surprised by the high visibility and abundance of marine life at this location. For a bit I was thinking.. holy crap, holy crap, I can't believe I'm this freaking deep.

More info:

 -Box Wreck - I didn't get to explore this cargo ship wreck all that much since I was working on dive skills with my instructor. I had to effectively use a wreck reel to navigate through the cargo in order to pass the lesson. I can see how effective making a trail with this device can be if visibility is ever reduced to zero in a wreck environment- especially if sand or silt is kicked up when you are inside a wreck. Sorry, no additional info on this wreck!

Day 2 (Saturday, June 12th):
 -Proteus - Holy crap, sharks! As soon as we neared the end of the decent, a sand tiger shark is waiting to greet us right by the anchor. I looked right into it's primal eyes and watched it stare right back into mine. I wonder what it was thinking.. We saw several sand tiger sharks throughout this wreck, and large varieties of smaller fish. Sea urchins littered many nooks and crannies of the boat. I really enjoyed this wreck because of the active marine life, interesting layout of the boat, and rather smooth current.

More info:

 -Papoose - This wreck was another great experience. Two in a day! Probably the most memorable thing about this dive was the huge southern stingray. It was about 7 feet long, with a pretty large wingspan. It laid peacefully in the sand, at around 120 feet while I swam all around it studying its features. It looked right into my eyes and didn't move an inch, even though I was inches away from its body. As we were making our safety stop at 15 feet (we always do this to decompress) we saw a pretty large group of sharks about 40 feet away. As we were leaving for shore, a group of about 10-20 spotted dolphins swam about 10 feet away from the back of the boat on the surface.

More info:

Day 3 (Sunday, June 13th):
 -U-352 - This wreck has a lot of history behind it. The US Coast Guard took this German sub down during World War II and had to disarm its torpedoes. A lot of people didn't know that Germans were had subs over here during the war, but yeah, there's quite a few U boats in the area. The marine life was decent here, but not a whole lot to penetrate on this wreck. I'd definitely say all the coolness factor sits in the historical significance of the wreck, not the marine life.

More info:

 -Aeolus - WOW! By far, my favorite dive of the trip. Why? Well let's see- swam inches away from a 10 foot sand tiger shark, saw sea slugs, schools of active bait fish, a barracuda, jacks, groupers.. and that's just the marine life. The wreck itself is huge; according to my experienced dive buddies, I probably only covered about a 1/4 of it. I felt very occupied the entire dive - going through doors, holes, crevices, up and down the sides, and pretty much enjoying every moment.

More Info:

Currently, I'm editing the videos I took of the dives, so I will extract a few frames to post as pictures here ASAP. I'll also make the videos a little more fun to watch and post the videos on Vimeo or Youtube for your (and my) viewing pleasure!

Be well everyone :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Van: Start to Finish

Even though I have already posted about the materials/devices inside my van, I think it might be interesting to show you how it everything came together.

It all began with me researching the best price for a cargo van. I wanted relatively low mileage, everything working under the hood, and a somewhat stealthy body. I looked through local trading post advertisements,, and local Craigslist ads. I found the best deal through, which took me to a car dealership in Norfolk, VA. I bought a used Dodge 2500 cargo van for 4500 dollars. It only had 41K miles, so I considered this a great deal. I sold my old car for 5500 to these guys, so I made a little bit of cash after getting hit with all the dealership fees and taxes.

After I had the van, it was time for construction. I cleaned out the inside and started with nothing but the van walls and a plywood floor board.


My first job was to add insulation. I put in a layer of R-3 styrofoam insulation and cut it into pieces in order to fit the ribs of the plain van wall.

In order to keep the insulation against the walls, I used adhesive spray and cans of Great Stuff foaming insulation. This stuff is great indeed.. You can spray it in tight spots and it will foam up overnight and provide excellent insulation for gaps and cracks.

After this piece of work, I decided to put up some horizontal 1x3 "ribs" to both provide a base for the plywood side paneling and leave space to add R-13 fiberglass insulation.

To continue solving the problem of temperature control, I went to my all around handyman friend, Rob Stone's, house. He helped me cut a hole in the top of the van (he used a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade) for me to install my newly purchased Fan-tastic fan vent. Once it was set in the 14x14 inch hole, we drilled the screws through the roof and then used silicone caulk to weatherproof. This was put over the screws in the outside of the van, over the screws in the inside of the van, along the 14x14 cut. This amazing unit keeps me extremely cool throughout the summer. I couldn't live (comfortably) in the van without it. Some helpful friends and online companions have suggested created an "ice conditioner" using this fan for simulated air conditioning. I will be doing a bit more research on the topic before I dive into it.

After listening to some excellent suggestions by Rob, me and my head full of ideas journeyed up to northern Virginia to see my parents for Mother's Day weekend. Driving this beast on the roads of Washington, DC forced me to learn how to drive the van very quickly.

When I woke up Saturday morning at 5:30AM, me and my Dad started planning how we would tackle the van build. The sequence of events to follow exhibit the most productive day I have ever lived :)

List of materials bought at Home Depot that morning:
1. Three 8x4 foot plywood sheets
2. Two 8x4 styrofoam sheets
3. Six 2x4 foot boards
4. One pack of 2 inch screws
5. One pack of 1 inch screws
6. One DIY three-shelf cabinet
7. Two cans of Great Stuff gaps and cracks
8. One pack of 12 pre-cut fiberglass R-13 insulation

When we got back home, we started working on the floor. There was already an existing piece of plywood on the floor from when I bought it, but we wanted to put two more layers of insulation for excellent temperature control. After measuring, we cut the styrofoam insulation to act as a template for the plywood. We verified the styrofoam insulation fit the floor, drew the exact pattern on a piece of plywood, then cut the plywood with a wood table saw.

Here is the styrofoam on the floor and then the plywood put on top of that:

Me and my dad then screwed down the plywood with the one inch screws and felt we were well on our way towards makeshift camper van completion. So far, this all took place before lunchtime. After getting the thumbs up from my dad, we started on the insulation.

What we did here is stuff R-13 fiberglass insulation between the 1x3 horizontal ribs and styrofoam insulation. As my dad was putting the fiberglass insulation in the walls, I was using duct tape to create a seamless transition between the pre-cut fiberglass.

Since all the insulation is up, we are ready to put up the plywood siding. We used a piece of styrofoam as a template once again- then measured, cut, and secured the plywood with the 2 inch screws.

Using some of the excess plywood and boards, we designed a box for each wheel well. Before they were closed off, we stuffed them to the brim with R-13 insulation.

Wow, we are getting it done at this point! But hey.. where am I gonna sleep? Well what does pops and mom have in the basement? My old college dorm IKEA bed and mattress. Perfect!! My dad and I engineered an elevated bed frame with the 2x4 boards, secured it to both the floor and wall with 2 inch screws, then screwed the IKEA bed on top.

At this point, the structural foundation of the van has been completed. 

After this was finished we did a few more things:

1. My mom assembled the DIY shelf (which had over 100 parts and took over two hours) and we screwed it to the wall.

2. We used Great Stuff to fill up any gap or open space we could spray into and wouldn't negatively affect my storage space.

3. A mattress, sheets, and comforter were placed on top of the bed frame.

4. My parent's excess basement carpet was cut and put on the floors.

5. I set up some black drapes and a tension rod to separate the driver's area from the living space.

6. All of my previously listed materials (from my last blog post) were either stored, configured, or hooked up in one way or another.

So here is the current look of my mobile abode:

I would really like to thank my parents, brother, friends, and peers for all their hard work, ideas, and support... I couldn't do it without you all!


Monday, May 24, 2010

The "How?" of van-dwelling

Unfortunately, the first thoughts to come out when someone hears about a person living in a van may go something like "unfortunate, poor, last-resort home, mental-case, strange, pedophile(if the van is white), hippie, creepy, and/or homeless."

I don't know much about the unpublished van-dwellers, but I know this is not the case for the ones that I have read about. Usually they seem to be enlightened and intelligent people, specializing in all sorts of skills from journalism to construction.

To make the case for van-dwellers, I decided to make a list of the materials I use in my van and a list of ordinary locations that I visit in order to show the effort/research/ingenuity used to live this minimalistic lifestyle.

 1. 55 quarter insulated cooler - stores fresh food for a week w/ one bag of ice. Combine with dry ice on the bottom for extended cooling times.
 2. GSI Camper's Kitchen set - "running water" and cooking surface. I would totally recommend these if you are planning to set up camp at a certain area for more than a day. To accompany this is a collapsible 5 gallon water container and a simple foot pump. With these powers combined, you have a sink with running water.
 3. Coleman dual burner propane grill - Couldn't eat raw foods without it. I love this thing! I usually plop down all my cooking and cleaning ingredients at a nature park about 2 days a week and get to cooking. I store leftovers in my cooler and eat them throughout the week.
 4. Tupperware and silverware - Store food, avoid messy hands. Ziploc bags are extremely useful as well.
 5. Cast iron skillet - Excellent skillet for cooking. Spray a little non-stick oil on it, get to work, eat delicious food.
 6. 600 watt microwave - This item is a huge convenience. I can use this to reheat my food, warm water for tea/hot chocolate, or make healthy popcorn.

 1. Optima D31M Deep Cycle AGM Battery - This is my secondary battery. I use it to power everything in my car. I plan on installing a second one in parallel soon for two reasons: Redundant/fail-safe power and longer electronic usage.
 2. Continuous Duty Solenoid - This is a special switch-like device that runs from my starting battery and alternator to my secondary battery (Basically, it charges my secondary battery whenever I am driving, but stops charging it as soon as the car turns off). Super essential piece. Get a pro to install it, it deals with a lot of electricity.
 3. Vector 2500 watt power inverter - This beautiful piece of technology converts DC energy (like a battery) into AC energy (like what you plug in at home). I'm not saying there's a point or that it's smart, but this device could most likely run everything I have in the van at once.

 1. Laptop - digital photography, Internet, work access.
 2. TracFone - at 30 bucks a month, this gives me more texts/minutes than I can use for both work and personal use. Soon, I will be recycling the TracFone for a Samsung Moment and data only plan from Sprint. This gives me unlimited DATA for 30 bucks a month, which means I get Internet anywhere I get signal! Then I will download the Skype app on the Samsung Moment, and buy an unlimited Skype voice plan for about 2 bucks a month. Thats a total of 32 dollars for unlimited data and unlimited voice. Can't beat that..
 3.  26" Vizio LCD monitor - I hook my laptop up to this wall-mounted beauty for a large screen where I can watch DVDs and TV.
 4. USB TV Tuner and HD off-air antenna - used to watch FREE digital HD channels broadcast over the air through the laptop. Total cost = 70 bucks.
 5. My camera - Right now, just a CHDK hacked Canon Power Shot A620, but I have plans to buy a DSLR soon. Overall, I am pretty happy with this tweaked unit since I can do time lapses, panoramas, long-exposure shots, HDRs, and run scripts/programs through it. Technology rocks.
6. SCUBA equipment - I am really into SCUBA diving. I'm on the way to becoming a dive master, which is the rank needed to operate a boat and take a crew of people diving. I keep my wetsuit, BCD, octopus, and toys in my drawer. I keep two giant tanks underneath my bed. Surprisingly, everything fits extremely well!

Hygiene, Health, and Fitness
 1. Laundromat - about once every two weeks, I start to run out of clothes and need to clean out my laundry bag. Everything I need to clean ends up costing about 7 bucks.
 2. YMCA - This is my home base for hygeine. I can shower every morning, brush my teeth, work out, get free water/coffee, and shave. I spent about 280 dollars on a year membership for the YMCA. Also, the company I work for pays for about half the cost as a fitness incentive since it lowers their insurance rates. The cost of a membership depends on your salary (if you have one).
 3. Walmart - Home sweet home. Depending on the area you live in, you can do just about everything at Walmart. I sleep here just about every night, and bask in the convenience of safety, 24/7 bathrooms, and lack of harassment.
 4. Nature parks - A lot of these have showers or running water, and are great places to clean up. I will use these when I am out wandering around the world.

Temperature Control:
 1. Fan-tastic fan - This is an amazing device embedded into my roof that will move air in/out, automatically open when a user-defined temperature is reached, close when rain hits the sensor, and use below 3 amps even on high speed. Price tag = $200. Actual worth = much, much, more.
 2. Van A/C and Heat - When traveling down the road, a working A/C and heat unit are a great convenience.
 3. Insulation - Just like in a house, insulation is an energy saving necessity. In the winter, you will want to keep all the warmth in your mobile abode that you can. In the summer, you want all that warmth to stay away from your inner coolness. Although it depends on your van and situation, I recommend installing both styrofoam and fiberglass insulation in the walls/ceiling/floor of the van.
4. Sun reflectors - Most heat will enter your van through windows in the van. Luckily, sun reflectors can deflect a huge amount of those warm, damaging sun rays away from your van's interior. Currently, I only have one for my front windshield, but I plan on buying two more for the passenger and driver windows.
5. Electric blanket and Coleman thermal camping bag - I haven't been through winter yet, but ohhh yeah.. I'm ready.

 1. Three-drawer wooden cabinet - This big ol' cabinet stores ALL my clothes in the top two drawers, and most of my bulky SCUBA stuff in the bottom drawer. I put the microwave on top of it in an effort to waste ZERO space. To stop the drawers from opening while I drive, I have a tension rod directly in front of the drawers that goes from the floor to the ceiling.
 2. Six-drawer plastic organizer - This can be used for anything, but here's my setup so you can get some ideas:
Bottom two drawers - Dry foods and sauces
Third drawer from bottom - Cooking supplies (matches, skillet, pot)
Fourth drawer from bottom(smaller drawer) - Tools, screws, miscellaneous items
Fifth drawer from bottom(smaller drawer) - Toothbrush and medicine
Top drawer - Soap, shampoo, face wash, deodorant, and cologne
3. Long, skinny plastic organizer - This stores all my rarely-used items underneath my bed. Everything from extra cooking equipment, silverware, propane tanks, tools, and small blender go in this hodge-podge bin.
4. Briefcase w/ passcode - This is temporarily storing all my sensitive, personal information. Eventually, this will all go into a safety deposit box.

I continue to add more effective pieces of equipment to the van as I think about them or have a necessity to change. It is a continuously changing environment that I can create to suit my every need. Mobility, comfort, basic human needs, happiness, and most importantly... freedom. Free from debt, free from unnecessary waste, free to discover, and free enough to be flexible, happy, and appreciate the temporal nature of this world.

Thank you all for taking the time to read and think about my blog. Best wishes to everyone!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The van-dwelling life begins

WOW I have been busy. The past month and half involved me moving out of my ex-girlfriend's house, moving into a hotel, buying a van, learning about electricity/woodworking/cooking, remodeling the van, THEN moving out of the hotel and into the van. A month and a half.. that's it.

I am currently learning how to adapt to this new lifestyle and have been keeping an off line journal on my adventure so far. Here is what I have written so far:

May 11th 2010-
After a month of rushed preparation to move out of an Extended Stay Suites, I decided that today would be the first day to stay in my camper van. It took a well orchestrated effort by my friends and family to design and construct my new humble abode. Armed with a few months of campervan lifestyle knowledge that I acquired from the internet- I knew that I would be staying the night at Wal-Mart, finding wi-fi wherever I can, cooking with a propane stove, going to a Laundromat for my stinky clothes, having a PO Box as a mailing address, and using the YMCA for showers. With this basic setup, I could continue my “normal” work life at NASA Langley.

So far I have been giving a lot of my stuff to goodwill while trying to build some last minute items inside the van.

I will be writing a larger article on the layout, planning, and work that went into making the van. I wanted to write this article so I could start a habit of keeping a journal while I am living this lifestyle.

Sleeping at Wal-Mart is surprisingly relaxing, there have been no interruptions and very little noise (partly due to the insulation in the van walls). Sleeping at Wal-Mart is great for several reasons:

1. Always an open bathroom
2. Fresh, cheap food at your disposal
3. Security cameras constantly monitor the parking lot
4. There are usually other people (mostly truckers) spending the night there, so you aren't alone

Overall, I am very happy with my lifestyle choice. It allows for great flexibility and spontaneity. It also doesn't hurt I just avoided paying 700 dollars in rent yesterday :) My plan is to save 1000 dollars a month and put it towards savings. I don't have a plan with what to do with the money, I just want to save it for when I think of a good enough plan. Or if I get laid off it's pretty nice to have some savings you are sitting on.

Ahhh... it feels so good to not have rent or mortgage over my head. Now is just the need to keep up the maintenance on the van.

May 12th 2010-
After going to the DMV to mess with the title and registration, my vehicle is almost 100% legal. All I need is the inspection and I will actually be allowed to be on the road :)

It's storming pretty bad here in the peninsula right now. It started as soon as I bought all the goods needed for cooking a steak dinner with my propane burner. I still haven't gotten the chance to use the thing! I'm a bit anxious about using it, but I will just follow the instructions and hope for the best. In the back of my mind theres always the explosion factor.. I'll just have to get over that.

Instead of eating that steak, I'm thinking about where I could cook in bad weather. I am going to go check out a few campgrounds and picnic pavilions in the area to see if I could cook a quick meal without paying any fees.

I cleaned out the van a bit more by bringing some stuff into my work. I brought my nice computer speaker set and some decorations I bought from Costa Rica. Basically stuff I don't want to throw out.

I am off to borrow some more wifi from these unencrypted folks in this crowded neighborhood, then I am off to the park, and then off to bed at Wal-Mart.

..I'm back from Shady Grove park and currently parked outside of the Yorktown Wal-Mart. It's raining extremely heavy outside right now so I can't really do so much right now other than hang out in my new home.

So, about the park. I was able to set up my mobile kitchen which includes soap, water, propane stove, silverware, cast iron skillet, plate, matches, a hand towel, and a scrub brush for cleaning up. I then began to cook about seven sirloin steaks, all of which cost me about 8 dollars from, guess where, Wal-Mart. These will be good for microwaving for dinner/snack in the next few days to come.

I was a bit nervous when the park ranger drove by because I didn't know if the place was free, but turns out he was pretty friendly and just waved at me. A little before 8PM he came by and said the park was closing up. This is great news. This means when I get off work at 4PM, I will have enough time to prepare and cook a meal as long as it is before 8PM. In a matter of two days I have found a solid kitchen workspace that will give me plenty of space to cook. As much as I would love to huff propane fumes inside the van, I really prefer to live and cook outside.

My battery on the laptop is running out and I don't feel like powering up the inverter, so I am going to head to bed a bit early. I'm trying to make it a habit to prepare my YMCA gym bag at night time so I'm not scrambling in the morning looking for my work stuff. Off to bed I go!

Well, before I go to bed I'm going to run a lap around Wal-Mart so I can get my excess energy out. Then I will be hitting the sack.

Buenos noches!

May 13 2010-
Ahhh, my third night of van-living. I tried to get my van inspected today, but the place was packed. I will probably end up going after work tomorrow to get it done. I want to make a trip down to Hatteras, NC this weekend. I will check the weather and feel it out tomorrow before I make the trip.

Currently, I am hanging outside a Hardee's fast food joint. I just filled up on my gas tank (2.69 a gallon with a 26 gallon tank) and I am waiting on a friend to call me up and let me know when she wants me to come take a look at her PC. I have been working on restoring it back to working order throughout the week, and I will most likely complete the job today. Her place will give me a spot to charge my deep cycle battery and cell phone while I do the work. I'll also get paid 80 bucks for the work. Win-win!

She has been pretty open to the idea of me living in a van, which is hard to come by. She thinks I am too educated and fortunate to be doing it, but she supports it nonetheless. I have to admit I admire such an open mind. She made a parody of MTV cribs and posted it on YouTube, it's pretty funny for a no-prep skit :)

Well, my battery is about to die and I left the cord at work. The plan tonight is to finish the PC, setup my new portable camper kitchen, and then clean up the van a little bit. Maybe even find some more cabinets to store my floating stuff in.


May 14th 2010-
  While I was at work today, I thought of what to do with my weekend. Sure, I have a lot of stuff I need to do to the van...

My to do list:

1. Get van inspected. Yeah, making it legal to do what I'm doing is pretty high up there on the list..
2. Install my new kitchen-on-the-go:
3. Permanently screw in my cabinets to the paneling.
4. Have a continuous duty solenoid installed so my secondary battery charges off the alternator while I drive around. I have the solenoid, I just need the work done.
5. Permanently install my 2500 watt power inverter.
6. Run all cords through conduit.
7. Install insulation and paneling on the ceiling.
8. Find more storage containers for space optimization.
9. Get an oil change. Probably synthetic oil so I have to change it less often.
10. Perform maintenance and give some TLC to the transmission. I want this thing to last!
11. Install trim to make paneling look pretty.
12. Probably more I can't think of right now..

... BUT, I don't want to spend all weekend doing this stuff while I could be enjoying the great outdoors and working on some photography. So, I headed down to Hatteras, NC. I am currently outside a hotel right now borrowing some wireless internet and a safe spot to stay for the night. My theory is I look just like a hotel guest and no one will bother me. We will find out if that is true soon :) The only thing bothering me is the loud drunkies in the hotel. I hope they pass out early, it's only 8PM and they sound drunk.

My plan is to wake up early enough to get some pictures of the sunrise on the ocean. I'd like to get a timelapse of it coming over the horizon. While I'm waiting, or after it's over, I am going to cook some eggs and bacon on my propane grill. I bought the food right down the street and I am storing it in an insulated cooler. Supposedly the cooler keeps ice for 5 days at 90 degrees. 

I already went for a little run before it started getting dark, so now I am going to surf the web for more ideas and maybe try to keep in touch with a few people.

Yes, I will be taking pictures of the van's construction soon - I would like to write a whole article on that subject. 

Good night for now!

Hatteras, NC - Close to the Ocracoke Island ferry

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Electrical Diagram for Cargo Van

Now that I have my sights set on a certain cargo van, I have started planning for the electrical system. I have made many trips to car audio, home improvement, and RV stores asking questions about my proposed configuration. Here is the beta version of my electrical system. The only thing I have to do is figure out which cord goes where and where to connect a continuous duty solenoid :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Historic Yorktown

I'm testing Picasa's ability to post pictures directly from it's interface. Picasa is a very powerful tool I can use for directlyuploading pictures to the blog, my facebook, email, GIMP/Photoshop, and Geotagging on Google Earth. I will post my finalized photos to the blog and work on Geotagging them in the future so you can visit the same spot if you want :)
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The Plan

I have decided to buy a Cargo Van and spend the next few months making it live-aboard-able.  I am looking at trading in my current car, a Mazda 3i, for a Dodge Ram or Ford Cargo Van that costs about the same.

I will keep track of all the moves I make and knowledge I gain in order to make this happen.

Currently, I am on, craigslist, and looking through the local Trading Post newspaper for the best deal I can find on a cargo van. 

I am also researching everything on converting a cargo van into a modern pirate ship :) A great resource is this web site here: Users cover everything from their stories to setting up electrical systems in their vans. This is an essential resource to me now as I have no knowledge of electrical systems. 

Not a lot of people understand what I am doing, and most mock me for it, but that is to be expected. Humans naturally fear the unfamiliar and unknown. I thought about this idea after reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Essentially, living on the bare essentials and learning to appreciate nature. He referred to houses as "well-manicured coffins" that we spend so much time paying off and it distracts us from appreciating the important things around us. 

Flexibility, determination, and an open mind will help me accomplish my goals.

So, aside from the philosophical side of my actions, I am researching electrical systems and cargo vans.