Friday, June 16, 2017
Newark, Delaware to Somewhere in Georgia
Six hours into what I knew would be at least an 18 hour drive, I was feeling pretty good. It was around 6pm, soft evening sunlight was still shining into my window, I had lots of snacks within arm’s reach, and I was actually really enjoying the drive. “This isn’t bad at all!” I proclaimed hopefully to Michael. Three hours later the sun had abandoned us, Michael had just cracked an egg he thought was hard boiled onto his knee (it wasn’t hard boiled), and our 72+ hours of being awake was definitely catching up to us.
Let me back up.
Around a year ago, we started tossing around the idea of going on a cross country road trip. We were both feeling the tug of another long-ish adventure, and considered trying to see more of Europe. That was tempting. Ultimately, the American cross country road trip won – too high on both our bucket lists to put off any longer. But we spoke about it as a hypothetical; one of those things you don’t really allow yourself to believe until you’re in the middle of it… and even then sometimes you don’t believe it’s happening. For months we talked about the trip, slowly moving from saying “if we drive across the country” to saying “when we drive across the country”. It was decided.
You’d think that would be enough of an adventure, right? NOPE. I don’t know if you know me, but I’m a dreamer. That might sound corny, but enough people have described me as such that I’m starting to come around to the word. And he might not admit it, but Michael is a bit of a dreamer himself. Hey, you can’t really be a musician without your head a little bit in the clouds. Anyway, we started entertaining a crazy idea. What if we bought a van, converted it into a little home on wheels, then drove across America with it??
Really, it’s not that crazy. Lots of people do it. Lots of people convert their vans, sell their main homes, and live in their vans full time. #vanlife and all that. (We’re not there yet.) But could we do it?
We gave ourselves a deadline – if we didn’t have a van by the end of April, we’d forget about it and just drive a normal car. We narrowed down the type of van we wanted – a used 2004-2006 Sprinter cargo van, high top, with either a 140” or 158” wheel base. We tracked sale prices for weeks. We obsessively watched YouTube videos of other people building out vans. But we didn’t buy a van.
Our deadline looming, we started calling around to sellers of vans we were interested in, and met a (naively) unexpected issue – these sellers were sketchy AF. They either knew nothing about the vehicle they were selling, or wouldn’t tell us anything about the vehicle, or would answer their phone once and then never again, or the deal was too good to be true, or they just plain gave us a sinking feeling in our stomachs. The weeks rolled on. Our self imposed deadline passed. I started freaking out. The van was too firmly ingrained in our minds now – deadline be damned, we were gonna do it no matter what. Finally, finally I found the van – no huge issues, great price, low mileage, work truck, and most importantly at this point, the seller was actually concerned about us and what we were doing with the van and whether it was the right fit for us. Thank you 8 pound 6 ounce newborn baby Jesus. We bought our 2004 Sprinter van on May 16, 2017. We planned to leave for our trip on June 14, 2017. We had one month.
So we had a van. And I won’t bore you with the details (maybe later), but we got a slow start on it. Hey, have you met us?? If you haven’t, Michael and I are really good at procrastinating. Like, really good. The best. There’s a reason this blog is called “Last Minute Wander”, and it’s not because we’re so spontaneous and cool. Nah, we just work best under pressure and end up doing lots of things at the last minute. (Our style of wedding planning would have made most people go crazy.) We started working on the van on May 21. We started in earnest (really starting to feel that pressure now, woohoo!) on May 29. We threw ourselves into the build, spending all our free time on it, not sleeping very much, not talking or even thinking about much else.
The night before we were supposed to leave on our much anticipated trip, that we had been planning and dreaming about for months, we were frighteningly behind schedule. “No big deal”, we told each other, “we’ll work all night.” And we did. We worked from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, into Wednesday afternoon, into Wednesday night. Sleep didn’t feel like a necessity. We would just sleep when we were done, right?!?
Well, to make a long story short, by Wednesday night we weren’t done. By Thursday morning we weren’t done. We napped from 4am to 9am so we wouldn’t die. We kept working. By Thursday night we weren’t done. We kept working. What other choice was there? My sweet mother even came over and worked until the wee hours of the morning with us. (Our beautiful ceiling is thanks to her.) By 3am Thursday we had walls and a floor and a kitchen and half a bed. There was a shining glimmer of hope. By Friday morning the van was full of exposed wiring, there were holes in the ceiling not yet filled by lights, the sink was just a bowl with a hole in it, but we had a bed – the most important piece of the puzzle for us poor sleep-deprived souls. We were ready. We stuffed the back of our van/home with tools, building materials, random clothes, shoes, books, maps, whatever food we had leftover in our fridge, and a picture of Nadia, our beloved dog child. At 12:30pm on Friday, June 16th (2.5 days after our planned departure time) we climbed in the front seats of our van, buckled our seat belts, and drove away from Newark, Delaware. We looked at each other in disbelief. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard in my life,” we told each other. We felt thrilled and satisfied and exhausted, running purely on adrenaline and a crapton of Red Bull.
Thus began our three week American adventure.