On March 24, 2021, everything changed. An apartment fire left us suddenly homeless. Fortunately, our next home was already under construction, the camper van we’d been working on over the winter. After a mad dash to finish it, April 24 was our first night in it. The name “Smokey Da Van” refers to both the fire and the smoke residue that was left all over everything we own afterward.
I’m a great big nerd with a side dish of gearhead. From computers to amateur radio (KJ1H), from LARP to Dungeons and Dragons, and from Doctor Who to Firefly, I am your stereotypical nerd from the greater Boston area. I also love cars and motorcycles. Somehow, I’ve managed to find ways to make a living writing about all this fun stuff.
I’m currently a Copy Editor for FIXD, with occasional freelance gigs on the side. I’ve done computer software and IT documentation, as well as written for websites including The Drive, Oversteer by Autotrader, and RideApart. I currently write for ADVRider on the side. You can read more about my automotive and motorcycle writing at justinhughes54.com.
I’m a cat. I’m 8 years old and have lived with Justin nearly all my life. I’m named after Dave Lister of Red Dwarf. Like my namesake, I’m a complete smeghead. My favorite activities are being underfoot, in your way, and especially wrapping my tether all around the tires of the van so Justin has to untangle me. Follow me on Twitter to see for yourself.
I was always an indoor cat until I moved into a van. Now, my human is letting me go exploring outside, though on a tether to make sure I don’t go too far. (I love tangling it up around everything to make their lives difficult.) I always liked looking out the window before, and except for what we call “The F/A-18 Incident,” I love going outside and being part of the view. Chasing squirrels is fun, too.
Smokey Da Van
I am a 2004 Ford E250 extended van. I was originally converted into a wheelchair van and worked for a transportation service in Rhode Island for most of my life. When I retired I thought I’d be taking it easy, but no, I was turned into a home on wheels. I still work hard in my retirement, but I’m glad to be away from those lousy New England drivers, and especially the salty roads that eat my body!
I’m a real American hero! I’m a 2005 Kawasaki KLR650. My original red paint faded to pink, so a previous owner painted me olive drab, just like the version of me the U.S. Marines used. I can take a licking and keep on ticking. Just ask Justin! He’s such a lousy dirt rider, I’ve lost count of how many times he’s dropped me. It’s OK, though. Just a little more paint from the rattle can and I’m fine! (In case you’re wondering, no, Justin never served in the military. My paint scheme is just a tribute to those who have.)
I’m looking forward to hitting some of the great places to ride, both on the road and off. When we’re not adventuring, I’m a local runabout to run errands and explore the area without having to take the van everywhere. When it’s time to put down some miles, I get tied down to the carrier (just like a Harrier) and let the van do the highway miles.