Yet another curve.

As we feared, the curves at the front of the ceiling made things extra challenging today. The van roof slopes from the center to the edges, but of course at the front it also slopes down. These compound curves caused some tough gaps in the planks as we tried to install toward the front today. Think of wrapping a flat board over the surface of a ball. As you move out from the very center of the ball the middle of the board has a gap relative to the two ends. So the tongue and groove fits nicely at the ends, but not so much in the middle.

This was … very frustrating. The hardware store was nearby so I ran out and bought a couple more clamps to pull the boards together. Unfortunately, even with the clamps the process is still quite difficult and we chipped a couple boards in the process. Nothing so bad that we pulled down the board to start over, but definitely things that will give the ceiling some “character” and will probably irk us every time we look at it. Perhaps we finish it all well now that we know what we are up against and those blemishes will just be a reminder of what we overcame!

Here are some boards at the front clamped together, propped up with supports, glued with construction adhesive, and held in place with tiny brad nails. Sheesh, that seems like a lot writing it down.

Me adding some nails. Again, we shoot the nails into the furring strip through a small piece of wood to act as a spacer and then clip off the head to leave a little spike to hold the boards in place while the glue sets.

A lot more challenging curved boards to go, but here is the view looking toward the front.

More of the back is done, including the first two boards where our ceiling lights will go.

We also both worked out with a personal trainer, I made two trips to the hardware store (one for the clamps and one because we kind of melted an extension cord running our electric heater), I made one stop shopping for more adhesive, and after dinner we went to The Last Jedi with my dad.

Sure beats a day at work!



Today we put in a ceiling…

…plank. Actually we put in four planks. As it was late anyway, we decided to let the glue set on those planks so that we have a well-set line on which to put in the rest of the ceiling. The ceiling is insulated with automotive Thinsulate and reflectix (glorified bubble wrap with foil on both sides). The Thinsulate is glued in and the reflectix is just held up under the furring strips, which are bolted to the roof ribs of the van. The wood planks are the final step of what is hopefully a beautiful and well-insulated ceiling.

A month ago we got a bunch of 1/4″ tongue-and-groove cedar planks from the Home Depot for our ceiling and walls. Around Thanksgiving there was some unseasonably warm weather so we sanded and polyurethaned them all so they would be ready. Here is a video of Sara hard at work applying polyurethane to all the boards.

So many nice planks all smooth and semi-glossy.

Today we were finally ready to start on the actual ceiling install. We finished gluing in pieces at the front and back of the van where the planks will end. We will butt the planks into those boards and then install a trim piece to hold them all in the same position and cover the ends. Some people use brass screws to install these types of planks. We decided to use a [hopefully] strong construction adhesive. We also shot small brad nails into the furring strips on the ceiling then clipped off the heads. This leaves a sharp exposed nail to hold the pieces place while the adhesive sets. We spent a lot of time thinking about how it was all going to line up and then measuring out the first boards so hopefully it goes reasonably well!

Installing end pieces.


The glue/nail combination.

Installing the first board.

The roof curves quite a bit in front and we wanted the first boards to be perfectly aligned so we jammed a couple 2x4s under them and will let them set over night.

The first two additional boards in back. In order to offset the joints these are only about half the length of the middle board. It doesn’t curve much there and everything was holding really well so we figured that we could get these installed tonight as well.

Looking forward.

With any luck we will be able to get most of the ceiling finished tomorrow. We have to install lights along the way and there are more curves to deal with. We will see how it goes!

Van shman. Look at the puppiessss!

Sure, we worked on the van today. We finished up our slider door trim. We finished off our bed brackets (essentially an hour to carefully measure and drill holes for two last bolts). We measured some wood. We cut some wood. We glued some wood. We kept drying out the ceiling.

See, nice looking step there.

Far more importantly, a friend took us out to visit a litter of five-week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppies. Mom had eleven puppies and of course they are adorable. Unfortunately, we did not get to take any home.

The puppies actually weren’t too social untill Mom came to visit. Like a typical Berner, Mom was actually quite demanding of us for attention. She didn’t care that we wanted to play with her puppies, she wanted us to play with her!

All covered in wood shavings.

Yep, they have teeth. Fortunately they don’t really know how to use them yet.

Sara was definitely ready to bring this one home.

Puppy pile! This is seven of the puppies once they got tired of playing with us.

Puppy video!

Nothing goes according to plan.

If I had been blogging regularly as promised, you would have heard this many times before. We measure twice and cut three times. We need more adhesive and it is not available in rural Oregon. I literally went to Ace one morning to exchange some bolts I bought the night before for a longer size, then went back a couple hours later to get them again because after counter-sinking my holes they actually were the right size. I just asked the clerk to retrieve them from under the counter where the other clerk had put them for restocking. Every little project is an adventure!

Today we hoped to start on our ceiling, but that didn’t happen. I spent the morning being a good son by cleaning up the driveway. Using my parents’ ancient snowblower is enough to motivate me to keep working on the van because I don’t want to be around the next time it snows! In the afternoon we went down to the garage where we moved the van, but because of yesterday’s snow our friend did not move out his RV, which meant we did not have any space to work. I also got concerned about how much moisture has accumulated under the ceiling insulation because of our use of the propane blaster to keep everything warm, and I want to work on drying it out before we put another layer up. So, I finished the floor trim (probably not a particularly good use of our time, but it will look cool) and then we brought the van back home. I’m going to leave it cooking with dry electric heat  and run the air conditioner at times to see if I can dry it out. This evening while the van cooked I started cutting pieces for our galley cabinet that will have the sink and stove.

Putting the trim around the floor. We will add a regular metal trim piece to cover the exposed edges.

A little lever action to hold the piece tight while the glue sets.

Galley cabinet plans. Plenty of pieces to cut!

Kenai was not happy he was left out of everything today so he took over Sara’s pillow and has no intention of moving.



As promised…

Two days in a row!

Today was actually rather unproductive on the van. I worked out in the morning and then had a sports massage. Hey, I have to get the old body in shape for snowboarding, too!

In the afternoon it started snowing as expected so Sara and I moved the Hund – that’s what we are calling the van – along with a ton of tools and wood into a friend’s RV bay so we could do some ceiling work this weekend without having to deal with weather. The goal is to get started on the cedar panelling and we need to warm things up to use some adhesive. We have a propane blaster that we will fire up in the van to keep things toasty! We will also be doing some electrical for the ceiling lights and working on the walls so it felt like we moved most of our equipment to the new place – all in the midst of the snowstorm.

We did get one piece of floor trim glued in after we moved inside, but that’s it.

This is what we want to see, but it does make it more challenging to work on the van!

Sometimes we have to come up with creative ways to hold the pieces we are gluing. Here is the pin-the-packing-bubbles-between-the-door-and-the-trim method. Hopefully the bags are putting enough pressure on the trim piece to secure it well.

The pups don’t mind the snow!

Time to get back on track! What did we do today?

I’m sorry we have not been blogging as regularly as we should (and promised many of you who want live vicariously through our mid-life adventure crisis). Van building has been a constant and busy adventure and it seems that is where all of our energy has been focused. A few times along the way I thought about just starting from where we are at now because the posting to get completely up-to-date would be rather long! Well, that is what I am going to do. Starting. NOW. At some point I will go back and catch up on everything, but in order to get in a rhythm, I’m just going to start with a daily “what did we do today” blog post. The posts may not be long, but I will get some entry and a picture up every day so keep checking back!

Alright, alright, alright, so what did we do today? My primary focus today was on building the framework for our 25-gallon fresh water tank. The tank came yesterday and it seemed like a fairly discrete project. Of course, there are still way too many decisions to be made on how to frame it in (25 gallons of water is a lot of force sloshing around) so it was not a super quick project. The tank sits on the passenger-side wheel well under the bed. I will still add a bit more bracing (I’d like to find some metal straps to work in), but it is mostly complete. On one of my three (3!) trips to Ace Hardware today I picked up the fittings and tubing for most of the plumbing.

Sara helped with some of the cutting, put polyurethane on one of our initial cabinets, kept working and sewing on our window coverings, and started some detailed planning for our galley cabinet.


And because no post would be complete without a picture of the actual powder hunds, here is a typical view of the van. Kenai taking up a position in the van and Tanzi lying guard outside!





First “vamping” trip!

Dog bed. Human bed. I prefer the human bed.

Kenai: My people are too busy, so I am going to write about our first adventure in my new van. As soon as Mom put the foam bed in the back, I was all set. Seemed like a good place for me and a lot thicker than my bed. They loaded in some other boxes and off we went. Tanzi didn’t want to lie in our beds. Instead, she stood right between with two front seats with her nose on little screen up there. I don’t know if she was trying to see out or if she was nervous, but Dad wasn’t too happy about it when she rested her head on the shift lever.


What’s that button do? What about that one? That one?
I can see some mountains!

Anyway, we drove for about an hour and the road got really bumpy. When we stopped, we were in the woods and I could run and run. We were in a place called West Eagle Meadows in the Wallowa Mountains. Even though it was late and getting dark, we went for a walk. They stayed on the trail, but I ran circles around them. In the meadow, up the hill, through the creek…wait, where did they go? There was so much woods to explore and it felt good to run!

West Eagle Meadows.
First meal in the van and we didn’t get any.

When we got back from our walk, Tanzi and I had dinner, but when we got back in the van we had to stay on our beds. Ugh. Then Mom and Dad had a celebratory dinner inside – right in front of our noses!

Finally we all went to sleep. It got really cold. Tanzi and I only had a thin dog bed between us and the metal floor. We had to curl up tight with our tails on our noses while Mom and Dad were all warm under blankets. In the morning, I didn’t want to move, but as soon as Mom opened the van door and I saw what was outside, I dashed out!


SNOW! It had snowed during the night, nearly 6 inches in places. I ran and ran and rolled and rolled. I do love snow! I even had Green Fish with me, but Mom was all worried that I would drop it somewhere and not find it again. As if I ever do that. (He always does that. Ed.) Tanzi was super happy, too. She trotted all around making fresh tracks and getting a thick snowy coat.

I love snow! I love Green Fish!
Tanzi loves snow, too!

We didn’t stay long, but I can’t wait to go on another vamping trip. (I just hope they make it warmer for us to sleep next time.)

(Michael had fun driving in the fresh snow even though he made me get out just for this vanity shot. Ed.)

The Adventure Begins – Step 2

In hindsight, the logical order of events for our midlife crisis, “sabbatical,” career escape, play-harder-than-you-work adventure would have been to buy a van and THEN quit our jobs. As it turns out, banks are not keen on financing a couple of vagabonds who have no proof of income, particularly if you are buying a Ford Transit van they think should be a commercial vehicle. A $100,000 tricked out F-150? No problem. Our credit scores would have let us walk out the door with anything else on the lot, but not an empty cargo van. Hence, despite having great credit and the savings to prove we are good for the loan, we initially walked out of the dealership without a van. After the guys at the dealership kept making calls and we talked with some more banks (we had talked with our banks in NH but not the local banks here in OR), we had some options so we only lost a couple days on our adventure.

The Tacoma is so little!

We want to send a big shout out to Roger, Justin, and Joe at Legacy Ford in La Grande, Oregon for a) letting the van sit on the lot for six weeks while we got ourselves here, and b) working all their creativity and angles to find us the best offer they could. On October 18th, yup my birthday, we traded in our Tacoma and welcomed in a new era of #vanlife!

This is the sleek view!



Hund (pronounced hoond) comes from Sennenhunds, a group of dog breeds originating in the Swiss Alps, one of which is the Bernese Mountain Dog.



I told everyone I really hoped I could say that we had a midlife crisis and bought a Mercedes, but in the end, the gas Transit was a better match for our needs than the diesel Sprinter van. So we are now the proud owners of a 2017 Ford Transit van, AKA The Hund, ordered to our specs and manufactured in Kansas City. It looks like a big, white, empty bread truck, but we prefer to think of it as a blank canvas.


Kenai: The back of the truck was my favorite place to spend the day, mostly because I hope my people will take me somewhere fun to play. I was a little sad to think I wouldn’t have it anymore, but this van thing seems like it will be okay.


This is even bigger than the truck! Is it all mine?







Keep an eye on the #vanlife section of our site. It’s time to start documenting our build progress because now that we have the van, I guess it is time to figure out what to do with it!


The Adventure Begins – Step 1!

Quitting our jobs was the easy part. Packing a house and moving…not so easy.

There is a surprising amount of stress in sorting, packing, throwing away, and cleaning a house with years of accumulated stuff. So. Much. Junk. I don’t know how anyone could do everything to downsize and move while working. It was more than a full-time job! Tell me again why I have an entire set of mailbox numbers stashed in a basket? Why do we have 14 outdoor extension cords? Why do we have entire rolls of old developed film? Film! In any event, we suffered through a yard sale – if you ever wanted to know how to make hundreds of dollars, just start with thousands of dollars worth of things and have a yard sale – we took about 20 truck loads to the dump, and we took about 10 full truck loads to the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Families in Transition. We also spent bunch of time painting and fixing up the house to get it looking good to put on the market. We even added granite counter tops to the bathrooms and then wondered if maybe we should stay just to enjoy the new look!

Finally it was done. The  photographer came to take pictures for the listing and it was as clean as it was going to get, or has ever been while we lived there.

After all the purging and staging, the house didn’t feel like our home anymore. Even Sara was ready to leave. Obviously we could not stay because we would just make more of a mess so it was time to hit the road. The listing went active and we packed up the truck full to bursting (I hereby challenge anyone to a game of luggage tetris) and loaded the roof and had the bike rack and had the four of us in the extended cab. Sara even had to ride with a box on her lap to Burlington where we were dropping off some more things. It was a tight fit!

Our route to Oregon was across Canada, down into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and across I-90 to Spokane, WA before dropping down to Oregon. We just missed sunset at Painted Rocks National Seashore in the UP on Lake Superior, but we still saw the beautiful shoreline. Tanzi was on the lookout for Yoopers, but I don’t think she knew what to look for.

In South Dakota we took a more scenic day – visiting the Badlands NP, Mt. Rushmore, and racing to catch sunset at Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming. In the Badlands it was rainy, cold, and windy, but still beautiful in an other-worldly terrain.

Mt. Rushmore was fun and the blue sky came out just as we were leaving so we dashed back to get a few more pictures.

Finally we headed through the Black Hills and Deadwood, SD to eastern Wyoming. We got to Devil’s Tower about 20 minutes before sunset and it was a beautiful evening.

On our final day we made the 789 miles from Billings, MT to La Grande, OR. Trip total was 5 days and 3300 miles. Now it’s time to start the real adventure!

We made great friends in New Hampshire and although we are ready for a new chapter, we will miss all of you. Thank you for being there to support us, challenge us, hang out with us, and make us laugh. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We expect our friendships to continue and look forward to seeing you all in the future. You are always welcome to come west to visit us in the van (as long as you stay someplace with a shower we can use)!



Terrible news about Sperry Chalet, Glacier NP

We are so sad to learn that the beautiful and historic Sperry Chalet burned in a forest fire a few days ago. We were lucky enough to spend three nights there over my birthday in late July 2014. Coincidentally 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the chalet. The chalet was one of six chalets originally built by the Great Northern Railway to bring tourists to the backcountry and the new Glacier National Park, which was created in 1910. The railway would bring tourists close to Lake MacDonald where they would boat up the lake, then take horses or hike the 6.7 miles and 3300′ up to the chalet. The chalet sits in a stunning glacial cirque about 4 miles from the Sperry Glacier, one of the few glaciers remaining today in the park. (For a full history of the chalet read Welcome to Sperry Chalet by Beth Dunagan, the source of all the historical info in this post!)

We went with my Mom and Dad and had a great time hiking and exploring. There were mountain goats all over – they even warned you to not leave sweaty clothes unattended on the railing because the goats crave salt and will eat your gear. Sara heard clomping one night on the deck and looked out the window to see a goat looking back in the window at her. The chalet facility includes a dining hall, which served excellent food, especially if you are used to actual backpacker fare! An excursion to Sperry Glacier is a must if you’ve already gone all that way, but it is still a good 8-mile round-trip trek. The final push to the top includes a narrow staircase carved into the cliffs! The scenery is spectacular beyond words. Glacier NP is really unique in the lower 48 for towering mountains exquisitely carved by millennia of glacial ice. With Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone it should be at the top of everyone’s National Park bucket list.

Sara and I were in the middle of training for a marathon so we used the trip for some trail running. The final day we graciously accepted my parents’ offer to carry out a bit of our gear back down to the car so we could run out the long way. 16 miles, light packs, 2 mountain passes, and thousands of feet descending, and a two-hour bus ride back through the park was quite an adventure. We were loaded up on bear bells and sung our way out to make sure we didn’t startle something that would eat us!

Momma goat and kid to greet us on our arrival.

The view west from the chalet.

Evening light looking over Lake MacDonald.

Sunset with glowing granite and approaching rain at Sperry Chalet.

Crescent moon over Lake MacDonald.
Goats were everywhere and were surprisingly not shy.

Goat on the way to Sperry Glacier.
Original visitors navigated the last cliffs to the glacier by climbing an iron ladder, but the park eventually carved this staircase into the sheer cliff by had-drilling.

Mom and Dad coming up through the final staircase blasted into the rock to reach Sperry Glacier.
Playing on/in the glacier.

On the final day we were ready to run out over the pass to Lake Ellen Wilson, over Gunsight Pass to Gunsight Lake, and then down the long trail along Saint Mary River to the Going to the Sun Road.

Ready to run!
Sara running down the pass toward Lake Ellen Wilson.

Michael running down a section of Gunsight Pass to Gunsight Lake.

Happy to be done!

Happy to be done and soak our feet in a painfully freezing creek.