First Nights in Smokey II

The new van, while not complete even by Phase 1 standards, is no longer a constant construction zone. I’ve gotten to the point of having individual projects here and there, which are satisfying to check off, one by one. Enabling factory cruise control is the latest one I’ve accomplished, as well as wiring my ham radio to the house fuse box. I’ve also moved enough of my stuff into the new van to begin living there, so I’ve done that for the past two nights. April 24, 2021, was my first night in Smokey I, but my enthusiasm made me a few days early for a two-year anniversary in Smokey II, with my first night being April 21, 2023.

The new bed is quite comfortable, especially with eight inches of a foam mattress. I absolutely love being able to stretch out, something I couldn’t do across the back of the old van. During the day I can flip one of the two layers of the mattress up against the wall and turn it into a couch. It’s still too high for me to use as a place to sit with my laptop as I’d hoped to, so I may have to devise a new plan for how to better use the space on the driver’s side of the van. My plastic drawers are all working fine, both for living and for driving, with bungees holding them against the walls. It’s not what I’ll do forever, but in the spirit of Phase 1, it’s good enough for now.

I’ve slept in a bit later since sleeping in the van. Between the lack of side windows and the blackout curtains across the front, back, and side door, it stays quite dark inside. Lister seems to enjoy sitting up front, which kind of becomes its own room with the curtain closed. This isn’t so good for stealth camping and only shutting the curtain, but it lets me get some privacy in the back while he can still look out some windows. There are certain times and places, like here and now, where that won’t be a problem. I’ve also enjoyed being able to easily open the curtains in the back since putting them on a rod, letting a lot of natural light into the darkest part of the van. I haven’t yet come up with a solution for the curtain by the side door and am wrestling with magnets for the time being. I’m still working on that.

I haven’t found a good place to put my iPad for watching movies and videos at night. I’m thinking about splurging for a smart TV to hang along the driver’s side wall. That’ll not only solve that problem, but it’ll also give me a second monitor for my laptop just by plugging in an HDMI cable. In that way, it makes me want to figure out how to make an office space in that area work after all.

So far, the single roof vent in the back and the vents in the front windows are working great for ventilation. I’ll keep testing it in the long term, but so far I’m doing just fine with only the one vent. I reverse the fan’s direction to suck air in when it cools off at night, making it quite comfortable inside. My only complaint is the same as the last van, that the green light indicating that automatic mode is enabled is far too bright to leave on overnight. A simple piece of tape can help this.

The last 20% of moving out of the old van is hard. It involves going through all of the stuff I’ve been stashing away for months, or even years, to “deal with later.” Well, “later” has become “now” since I’m moving out of it. It’s strange running into these reminders of the past. I found part of a muffler clamp that I adapted into a support for my painter’s pole antenna mast two years ago. A mostly full box of business cards for a website I started, then abandoned turned up. I also found an unopened pack of Bic lighters, probably leftover from Trisha considering the flowery decorations. I tested them, and they work, so I’m keeping them.

There’s also the question of where to put the stuff I’m keeping. Drawers and bins are starting to fill up. I can reorganize my trailer shelves to make better use of the space in there for things I don’t need so often. The trailer is going to be a clean-up operation of its own since I’ve been using it as a storage shed while building Smokey II. It’s a lot of decision-making. I could already fill my family’s trash can with my own bags of stuff I’m not keeping. (I won’t because they need to take out their own trash, too.) The process is hurting my brain a bit. But I’m close. Very close. I’m not quite ready to put a date on hitting the road yet, but it’s looking like it will be sooner rather than later. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and unlike other times of my life, it’s not an oncoming train.

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