The van has really come together in the last two weeks which has largely been down to Hilary, Richard’s mum and her amazing sewing skills. When a couple of months back I mentioned that foam covers would have cost more than the foam itself (which isn’t cheap you know) Hilary kindly volunteered to sew something together. If only she knew what she was getting herself in for!
She also managed to locate me some old sheets for the covers – some red and white bedsheets and as we were measuring up she jokingly mentioned that we could make the Canadian flag with these colours. Well I thought that sounded like a brilliant idea and with minimal grovelling she told me that if I could make a maple leaf paper template big enough then she would do the rest! Using almost all of my computer/printing skills I managed the template and Hilary worked her magic. Plain covers alone were no simple task, because of my design there needed to be four individual covers with velcro on the bottom… which now needed a flag positioned across them!
After all of her hard work were really pleased with the final result. She also put a loop in the top of the curtain material I had bought so she really did put the finishing touches to the van, and much better than I could have done myself or ever hoped for. Thank you Hilary, you are super!
With Hilary and my new foam covers she made for me
Foam covers installed in the van
My new curtain
Last week I got to test out the van on a camping trip a little way up the island with Richard, Sam and Lucy and Gemma and JR. We stayed at a free, government run camping site (known as a ‘recreation site’) located on the shore of Pye lake, just North of Campbell River. Campbell River is a town geographically half way up the island, but in terms of civilisation things start to get quieter and quieter the further North you go from the town.
To access the Pye Bay rec site we had to leave the highway and drive along a network of logging roads, surrounded by forest and mountains we really were getting off of the beaten track.
The vans parked up at Pye lake
Once we had the vans set up me and Richard headed off on the canoe for some fishing (a first for me). It was really calm and peaceful on the lake and I couldn’t have been happier with where I was at that moment. Unfortunately the calm continued under the water and we didn’t see a single fish the entire time we spent fishing on the trip!
The view from the camping site. Did I mention this was free?
My first time fishing – with the obligatory beer in hand
Gemma and JR arrived later that night and the next morning we all took to the waters to explore. Me, Richard, Sam and Lucy had all managed to borrow canoes for the trip while Gemma and JR don’t go anywhere without theirs!
Exploring the lake
Great views, making great reflections
Myself, Sam and Lucy are all new to van conversions and camping in this way, Gemma and JR on the other hand are veterans so this was not only an ideal opportunity to test out the vans but also get some pointers from these wise masters. We had brought some nice food with us and JR being a chef meant we got a lot of great pointers on the best way to cook our food on the fire (lots of tin foil!) and a few other tips he had learnt over the years. Like cooking an extra baked potato in the fire the night before and frying it up with breakfast the next morning. Yummy!
I was really pleased with how comfortable and spacious the van turned out to be. I designed it to be large for one but to be able to accommodate two, but there turned out to be plenty of room to sleep me and Richard and we both enjoyed two good nights of sleep. It didn’t really seem necessary to organise our gear for just two nights though and with two peoples gear, plus canoeing kit the van did get a little messy. I decided to do some organising once I got back… something I am pretty good at 🙂
I completely intentionally (cough cough) managed to flatten my car battery by using the lights too long to finish off a few things in the van during the first night and playing music during the trip. When we went to leave I couldn’t start the engine but thankfully Sam and Lucy were still around and I got to use my new jump cables. Thanks guys! I figure it’s good to know how much juice I can get out of my battery – and there is only one way to find out!
A couple of days before the trip I expressed to Richard and Sam that I wouldn’t mind practising a tyre change on the van as I hadn’t done one before. We didn’t get a chance before the trip but as we were coming back me and Richard had a flat in the van so I got my opportunity, though conditions could have been better. I must have picked up a puncture on the logging road leaving the site and hadn’t noticed by the time we got to the highway. After a couple of kilometers the van started to shake and I pulled over immediately to find one of the rear tyres was shredded and smelt of burning rubber.
I reversed onto the verge so we wouldn’t be changing the wheel in the road and once we had managed to work out how to release the spare wheel (which was a bit stiff and needed a little persuading to come out) the change went pretty smoothly. Some girls even pulled over to offer assistance, which was nice. When we got back to Comox I manged to pick up a slightly used tyre for $60 (~£40) and I finished the trip with plenty of lessons learned – from slow cooking ribs on a camp fire to learning what a spare wheel winch is!
Getting my new tyre fitted. Luckily the bed could be pushed forwards far enough to access the spare tyre winch (by design of course!)
The trip really was a good way to test out the setup and once I got back I reorganised and went out to buy a few small things that I needed. Speaking with the others and seeing what they were doing a great way to learn and tweak my setup.
Getting things organised
Today I head out for a “mini” road trip to the North of Vancouver Island. I am excited to go off on my own for a couple of weeks and explore the beauty of the island in the van. I am sure I will have had plenty more lessons by the time I am next back in Comox, which will probably be the last time I am there before starting my cross Canada trip towards the end of the month. Exciting times ahead!