Throwing Shade

No, not the bad kind. I can now make my own shade with the awning I just installed!

This is a common addition that many in the #vanlife have made. As I continue west, I’m going to be in areas with fewer and fewer trees. The sun gets hot, especially in the southwest where I’m going, so now seemed a good time to make the upgrade, particularly while parked at Meg’s for a few days.

I ordered an All-Top 6.6’ x 8.2’ awning from Amazon. It looks like I got the last one in this size that they had, though other sizes are available. It’s a bit wider than my side doors, but not too much, so the overhang from the mounting points isn’t that much.

Speaking of which, after months of wondering how to install such a thing, I figured out that the frame around my side door would work well. It’s solid, and part of the van’s structure since the original top of the frame was removed to accommodate the wheelchair lift.

The first mounting attempt was less than successful. It was solid, but the bag containing the stored awning sagged in front of the side doors. I could push it out of the way from the outside, but that doesn’t help from the inside. I needed to make my own brackets to raise the awning a few inches so it wouldn’t block the door when it sagged.

The big box hardware stores no longer seem to carry mending braces in stock. I guess they think people just throw stuff away instead of trying to fix it? Then again, Lowe’s has Christmas decorations up in mid-September. Anyway. I made way too many runs there for bolts and other supplies. I got the mending braces I needed at a small independent hardware store, the type I prefer to support, but they didn’t have the other things I needed like Dremel cutting disks. I spent way too much time running errands on the motorcycle to get what I needed. On the plus side, I was on a motorcycle.

This is how it looks after cutting, drilling, painting, and installing. I wasn’t satisfied with just the one mounting point, so I used some of the hardware included with the awning to make another. It should work just fine.

The awning itself is pretty nice. It’s unwieldy to set up and take down alone, but I’ll manage. It’s also tall. I’m glad I’m tall, too, or else I wouldn’t be able to operate it! But the plus side is that I can walk under it without ducking. Even with the raised roof in the van, I still can’t stand up straight. I can outside, though, even under the awning, so I’m comfortable.

I made another small addition to the outside as well, this decal with my Instagram on it. I’ve been meeting other nomads because they have their info on the outside of their vehicles, so I decided to do the same so people can look me up. Shameless plug: follow me on Instagram!

The awning project has taken three days, on and off between work and countless runs to the store for supplies. I’m glad it’s done. This was by far the biggest project I had planned for my stay here, so everything else will be simpler. I’m taking some time off projects today to visit the Covington Apple Fest, just over the border back in Indiana. Meg is vending there, and it seems like the sort of small town celebration I should be checking out in my travels, so I’ll be doing that.

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