Sprinter Camper: 10 Upgrades That I Love!

Our Sprinter camper conversion benefited from the pandemic lock down. Here is a list of my 10 favorite upgrades!

1. LED lights

We added four lights. 1 goes on and off as the door is open and closed. The other three click on and off via one of two dimmer switches. One switch is over the bed and the second is behind the driver’s seat.

2. Guitar storage

Finally, a reasonable way to travel with a guitar! It hangs under the bed and over the kids bikes. Easy access and never in the way!

3. Trekking pole and kite shelf

Poles and kites run the length of the van and next to the kids bikes. They are easily removed via the back door.

4. Fishing pole holder.

This was a last minute addition and a surprise for the kids and I. I couldn’t be more happy!

Our three poles run the length of the van, on the driver’s side, over the bed.

5. Food and kitchen supply storage boxes.

You may have already seen these as they are part of our second bed set up but CD improved the efficiently of these as well. The lid of the box has recently been cut into two pieces so that I may access food at one end while sitting on the other end. Amazing!

6. Cabinets at eye level.

Check this out! We have two cabinets at eye level. One is on the driver’s side and is used for kitchen supplies. The second is on the passenger side, over the bed, and used for PJs and other daily use items. Both are secured to 8020.

7. Wood paneling.

Cedar tongue and groove gives the illusion of being in a cabin. Don’t underestimate the power of wood paneling!

8. Bike storage in our Sprinter camper

The kids bikes attach to wood and a metal bracket to slide under the bed easily. It takes less than 5 minutes to get them out and I have yet to encounter a peddle stuck in spokes or any of the other problems that I had prior to storing the bikes upright. Thank you high roof Sprinter camper!

9. Maxxair fan

Again, you may have heard us talk about this already but we installed the fan last year. Now that it is framed in, it not only works great but looks great too!

10. Rear AC wood paneling

CD framed the rear AC unit and vent with the Cedar tongue and groove. I don’t know how he did it but I am glad he did. It looks amazing!

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Sprinter Roof Rails Self Installation: 12 Easy Steps.

Traveling During A Pandemic: 8 Things to Consider.

We drive from Oregon to Ontario and back each summer. Typically, we spent several weeks on the road and explore everywhere from British Columbia to Colorado. This year is different. We are in Colorado, halfway to Michigan. Here are some reflections from the first half of our trip: 8 things to consider when traveling during a pandemic.

1. Camping is more complicated than usual when traveling during a pandemic.

The first night on the road: Campground #1 was closed. The local Walmart did not allow overnight parking. Campground #2 was full but we drove in anyway and the camp host pointed us towards a spot that was open due to a cancellation. We felt so lucky! In the morning was drove to the day use area and it was pretty much full. We were able to snag a spot to the side and hike in an area away from the river.

Tumalo State Park, Bend, Oregon

The second night we were in Utah. I cannot speak to the situation at Utah State Parks because we arrived in Ogden around 10:30 and Utah State Park campgrounds close and lock gates at 10 pm.

We broke one of our own unwritten rules and ended up at a KOA. Again, we were lucky! It was barely occupied, clean, spacious, and had affordable tent sites for our van. It was pouring rain and we were lucky to be self sufficient.

The third night we opted to stop driving at around dinner time. We were at Dinosaur National Monument and stayed at the campground. It was easy and great. The hosts came over to welcome us, which would have been great if they had been wearing masks. Overall, it was still a hit!

Dinosaur National Monument

2. Be prepared to be amazed and scared.

We left a highly mask and social distancing compliant town in Oregon in order to travel and see our families. It turns out that the rest of the world is going on with their lives and not necessarily very compliant.

I was almost immediately shocked by the lack of masks compliance. We haven’t been in any stores or even gas stations but I have been watching people go in and out of places as we drive through. We spotted 1 mask the entire time we were in Utah. Eastern Oregon was the same. Steamboat Springs and Summit County Colorado were a bit better but, overall, I was horrified and a bit scared.

3. Bring more food and drinks than usual.

I packed food and drinks for weeks. This includes snack size bags of chips, M & Ms, Diet Coke, Gatorade, and all the provisions that you would usually run into a gas station to pick up. We have not been in a gas station or store and do not intend to change that.

4. Consider a camping conversion that includes a toilet.

Again, we have not been into gas stations, campground bathrooms, stores or restaurants. This is probably self explanatory.

5. You may feel guilty at times.

I find myself feeling like I need to justify why we are traveling.

During a remote work meeting while on the road, I felt the need to explain why we chose to travel and every precaution we are taking. I did not do that but I still want to call the people in that meeting and tell them all about it.

It is easy to find myself reviewing these points in my own mind in order to justify this trip.

6. You may find yourself judging others while traveling during a pandemic.

I find myself judging other people behaviors which is kind of funny because they could be judging me as I drive by with my out of state plates.

A playground full of mask-less adults and kids without social distancing while driving through Salt Lake City had me judging them for sure. I am aware that this is neither appropriate nor helpful.

7. Empty parking lots are more appealing than ever before.

CD and the kids spent two hours in a National Forest Service Parking lot in Utah. I was on a phone call and they set up hammocks and cooked lunch. They were happy.

Traveling during a pandemic

I cooked lunch on a our camping table in the parking lot of an abandoned department store in Idaho. We ran laps to the lamp post and back. It wasn’t our usual picturesque lunch at a park or splash pad but it was okay.

8. You will wonder if traveling during a pandemic was the right choice.

This is impossible to know. We will just do our best to keep clear minds and hearts.

Please like and follow our blog!

Dinosaur National Monument: 5 Things to Know
Packing for a Pandemic Road Trip.
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New Mexico: Brief Travel Series

The first time that I went to New Mexico, I was in my fifth year of college. I drove from Buffalo to Chicago, flew to Albuquerque, spent a week hiking and camping, flew back to Chicago, drove to West Palm Beach for spring break, and drove back to Buffalo. I can’t really explain the itinerary but must have made sense to my twenty something self.

In any case, that was also the first time I was enchanted by New Mexico. Started in Santa Fe on a warm and sunny spring day, three of us stood on a street corner without talking or crossing the street. We just stood there for seconds or minutes. There were many colors to see, people to watch, and so much energy.

Gila National Forest

At a hot springs in the Gila National Forest two of us walked back to the car ahead of the others. Through a window crack, we unlocked the door and set off our car alarm. The canyon echoed with the alarm as the sun was setting in the canyon. It continued until our travel partners hiked out and gave us the keys.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences local convenience store offered soda and a pay phone. My parents were excited for our call and asked if we heard about the woman that escaped a kidnapper in the same town that day. We didn’t see anything unusual and hadn’t watched the news.

Guadalupe Peak, Texas

Crossing into Texas, we hiked Guadalupe Peak at sunrise. Forgetting sun screen, we ended up with the remarkable sunburns of tourist. Skunks woke us up at night as a mother and her liter spent some time ransacking our campsite. Disaster was narrowly averted.

The Trinity Site

The Trinity Site wasn’t even on my radar but we found ourselves there on a random day that was open for tours. I learned more than I wanted to know and left with more questions than answers.

Santa Fe

Fast forward a few years to me living in Summit County, Colorado. We enjoyed several mud season weekends at La Posada and indulged in all the resort had to offer. We drank wine and shared appetizers with other guests while local artists gave guided tours of their work. The Tunnel of Trees from Northern Michigan was my favorite painting. Proximity to restaurants, art galleries, hiking, and my all time favorite consignment store are the best features of La Posada.

Taos, New Mexico

Since New Mexico consistently treated us well, we tossed Taos out as an option for our annual friends ski trip. The opportunity to check out the Earthships tipped the scale and we headed to Taos.

We stayed at the Burch Street Casitas. They offered a great downtown location, were locally owned, clean, and spacious. I would stay there again for sure.

Taos and Green chili

We took advantage of being able to walk to town by immersing in the local food scene. Our meals looked like this: Green chili beer, green chili bread, fried green chiles, green chili smothered burritos, pork green chili, vegetarian green chili, fresh lime margaritas, wine tequila margaritas, more green chili beer …

The drive to the ski area was easy and relatively brief. The skiing was good – I think – or at least the hiking and skiing was nice. The wagon shuttle service from the parking lot to the base area was a bonus.

The next day was cloudy and we were lazy. We looked to the Earthships for inspiration.

Earthships are built with natural and repurposed materials. You really need to go there to understand the architecture and commitment to sustainability. The tour left a bit to be desired but the purpose of the community was obvious. I felt equally inspired and conflicted.

A wall built with glass bottles.
https://www.earthshipglobal.com/visit-us
Tires were a common building material. I not sure how I feel about living in a building made of tires, however.

The next day, on the way out of town, a friend wanted to buy some green chiles. CD asked the gas station attendant. An unusually long amount of time passed and he returned confused and empty handed. He had asked about buying green chilies and was offered a hook up of the family stash. In the end, he was pretty sure he was not longer buying green chilies and he walked away from the deal. We left empty handed, conflicted about living in an Earthship, and still loving New Mexico.

Please check out our other blog posts!

A Glimpse of Southern Utah
10 Clues That Your Husband Was A Thru – Hiker.

A dead van battery and relief from social distancing.

Its 2020 and CD has been working on the van while social distancing. It was half taken apart but still put together enough for a day trip. I decided that today was the day that we would break out of isolation.

I woke up and quickly packed snacks, jackets, and even travel games. CD put the head liner back in the van and used the shop vac to touch up the interior. The kids were buckled in and I was choosing our road music . Then, our battery was dead.

We don’t know why it was dead. The interior lights had been disconnected while CD was working. Does anyone know if the electric step could drain the battery over time? In any case, we don’t know why it was dead. We tried to jump it with our mini van but didn’t have any luck.

Mary’s Peak social distancing.

We changed our plan, put everything in the Sienna and headed to Mary’s Peak. We were sure it was closed and it was. The road was gated 5 miles or so from the peak. There were 4 or 5 cars parked at the trail head near the gate. We felt good about going for a walk here in terms of social responsibility in the face of the pandemic and opted to avoid the trail and duck the gate.

It was a great choice. The road was empty. We walked for a couple of hours. The kids smiled more than they have in weeks. They kicked rocks, raced imaginary dogs, built pretend fires, and fetched sticks for each other.

social distancing. Mary’s Peak, Oregon

This was a day like I used to have when I was running fifty miles per week. There were endless things to see that I never noticed from my car. Everything was interesting and new. An owl seemed to be hiking with us. We didn’t see it but its calls were unmistakable. The trees were greener, the sun was warmer, and even gun shots from the shooting range sounded nice.

We started our hike on the road at about noon. When we returned at nearly 3:00, the parking area was overflowing with cars. As a health care worker, I immediately felt guilty about going out during these times. Then I remembered that we haven’t gone out since this March 12, 2020 when we went skiing.

Today, we only saw one other family walking on the road and we hugged our respective edges when we passed. We didn’t get near anyone in the parking lot. We ate snacks in our car. I would have felt horrible if we had been on a single track trail walking past all of the people that arrived in all of those cars.

We were lucky. Walking the road was a great choice for us and we were able to enjoy it while still feeling like we were doing the right thing.

social distancing

Back to working on the Van.

Tonight, as I write this, the Sprinter battery is charged and all is well. We had been trying to jump it using 12 gauge cables and we needed more power. When we got home from Mary’s Peak, our neighbor tossed us his jumper cables from a socially responsible distance while standing on his homemade pickle ball court. By the time the kids and I sat down for dinner, CD was busy drilling holes in 80/20.

I look forward to taking the Sprinter the next time time we break out of home isolation.

Yosemite, Camp 4.

Do you dream about sleeping among the granite rock walls of the Yosemite valley? Have you heard of Camp 4?

Yosemite is impressive and beautiful.

We arrived in CD’s Honda civic. We had come from Colorado via Utah, Nevada, Southern California, and Highway 101. The mountains were a welcomed site. We were road weary and our legs were begging to hike all day.

We rolled into Camp 4. I can’t remember if we were seeking Camp 4 or if we just needed somewhere interesting to camp.

Welcome to Camp 4, Yosemite

Camp 4 is a campground and a community. It is a lifestyle choice than a housing choice and this is obvious when you are there. It is a famous home base for climbers.

The cost was $6 per person per night. There are 30 some walk – in sites. There are rocks for bouldering, granite mountain sides for climbing, and trail heads for hiking.

We were greeted with a list of rules. You must remove all food from your car and place in designated lockers. Camp 4 is loved by bears almost as much as by climbers.

We followed all of the recommended procedures. I cleaned the car, used the bear lockers, kept a clean campsite, and properly disposed of my dish water.

Camp 4, Yosemite

I convinced CD to use our largest tent. Who knows why we packed this way but we had CD’s sleeping tarp from the PCT, a new backpacking tent, and my old six person tent. It seemed logical that I would be less likely to be mauled by a bear in a six person tent than in a two person tent. CD didn’t agree but was kind enough to go a long, however.

camp 4, Yosemite. It is quiet in the afternoon.

Bears and Messy Campsites

The bears showed up at dusk, right on schedule. You could hear the classic: “hey bear” and “get out of here, bear”. Neither the bears nor the campers were particularly concerned.

The campground was relatively rowdy and a bit messy. Chip bags and beer cans were rolling around. Nobody really cared. Everyone was happy. I admit feeling a bit judgmental of the other campers food storage habits.

We passed by tons of climbers on our way to the trail.

A few hours later, the climbers from Camp 4 were below us and this was the view we found.

The view is spectacular, as you can see

Ultimately, I slept with one eye open but still felt rested. I reaped the benefits of being surrounded by free-spirits. They were having fun and it showed.

It is unlikely that I will stay at Camp 4 again since they don’t allow sleeping in the parking lot and the sites are not accessible to our van. If we sell the van, I will likely be too old and spoiled to sleep on the ground in Camp 4. I guess you never know.

As John Muir said: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”.

Please check out our blogs for other National Park adventures.

Throwback Blog Series: A Tour of Utah
Sleeping Bear Dunes: Bike, Swim, Repeat

New Mexico: Brief Travel Series

The first time that I went to New Mexico, I was in my fifth year of college. I drove from Buffalo to Chicago, flew to Albuquerque, spent a week hiking and camping, flew back to Chicago, drove to West Palm Beach for spring break, and drove back to Buffalo. I can’t really explain the itinerary but must have made sense to my twenty something self.

In any case, that was also the first time I was enchanted by New Mexico. Started in Santa Fe on a warm and sunny spring day, three of us stood on a street corner without talking or crossing the street. We just stood there for seconds or minutes. There were many colors to see, people to watch, and so much energy.

Gila National Forest

At a hot springs in the Gila National Forest two of us walked back to the car ahead of the others. Through a window crack, we unlocked the door and set off our car alarm. The canyon echoed with the alarm as the sun was setting in the canyon. It continued until our travel partners hiked out and gave us the keys.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences local convenience store offered soda and a pay phone. My parents were excited for our call and asked if we heard about the woman that escaped a kidnapper in the same town that day. We didn’t see anything unusual and hadn’t watched the news.

Guadalupe Peak, Texas

Crossing into Texas, we hiked Guadalupe Peak at sunrise. Forgetting sun screen, we ended up with the remarkable sunburns of tourist. Skunks woke us up at night as a mother and her liter spent some time ransacking our campsite. Disaster was narrowly averted.

The Trinity Site

The Trinity Site wasn’t even on my radar but we found ourselves there on a random day that was open for tours. I learned more than I wanted to know and left with more questions than answers.

Santa Fe

Fast forward a few years to me living in Summit County, Colorado. We enjoyed several mud season weekends at La Posada and indulged in all the resort had to offer. We drank wine and shared appetizers with other guests while local artists gave guided tours of their work. The Tunnel of Trees from Northern Michigan was my favorite painting. Proximity to restaurants, art galleries, hiking, and my all time favorite consignment store are the best features of La Posada.

Taos, New Mexico

Since New Mexico consistently treated us well, we tossed Taos out as an option for our annual friends ski trip. The opportunity to check out the Earthships tipped the scale and we headed to Taos.

We stayed at the Burch Street Casitas. They offered a great downtown location, were locally owned, clean, and spacious. I would stay there again for sure.

Taos and Green chili

We took advantage of being able to walk to town by immersing in the local food scene. Our meals looked like this: Green chili beer, green chili bread, fried green chiles, green chili smothered burritos, pork green chili, vegetarian green chili, fresh lime margaritas, wine tequila margaritas, more green chili beer …

The drive to the ski area was easy and relatively brief. The skiing was good – I think – or at least the hiking and skiing was nice. The wagon shuttle service from the parking lot to the base area was a bonus.

The next day was cloudy and we were lazy. We looked to the Earthships for inspiration.

Earthships are built with natural and repurposed materials. You really need to go there to understand the architecture and commitment to sustainability. The tour left a bit to be desired but the purpose of the community was obvious. I felt equally inspired and conflicted.

A wall built with glass bottles.
https://www.earthshipglobal.com/visit-us
Tires were a common building material. I not sure how I feel about living in a building made of tires, however.

The next day, on the way out of town, a friend wanted to buy some green chiles. CD asked the gas station attendant. An unusually long amount of time passed and he returned confused and empty handed. He had asked about buying green chilies and was offered a hook up of the family stash. In the end, he was pretty sure he was not longer buying green chilies and he walked away from the deal. We left empty handed, conflicted about living in an Earthship, and still loving New Mexico.

Please check out our other blog posts!

A Glimpse of Southern Utah
10 Clues That Your Husband Was A Thru – Hiker.

Throwback Blog Series: Our Littlest Camper

Our littlest camper was CD’s Honda Civic hatchback. He loved it. I took a bit more convincing to come around to it’s charm.

Our first mud season together, we hiked in to the Grand Canyon. I had a Chevy Trailblazer and CD had a 1997 Civic hatchback. His argument for taking his car was tangled in a discussion of gas mileage and climate change. I couldn’t argue against that so off we went.

Two people in a two door hatchback was different than one person in a Trailblazer. I still brought everything that I needed but I didn’t bring the other dozen or so things that I didn’t need. Everything had a place. The vehicle was no longer a suitcase in and of itself. It demanded a higher level of organization.

It was louder and hotter. The music was the same.

It was slower. Life was slower. Having lunch in the car wasn’t fun anymore. First of all, I couldn’t reach the food. The cooler had a carefully constructed place along side a tarp, tent, sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, sunscreen, and other amenities. CD’s Tetris-style packing skills were impressive.

Feeling hungry now required finding a park, pulling over, and unpacking half of the car. There is no way to rush that process.

What did I learn? This was a nicer way to travel.

Parks that I had never seen offered views that I would have otherwise missed.

The daily process of unpacking and re-packing the car was somehow therapeutic.

So, the 1997 Honda Civic hatchback and I reached an understanding. We appreciated each other.

So where did that Honda Civic take us?

Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Ontario. Here is a few pics of our inaugural trip.

Sunset Crater

Please follow our blog to enjoys more adventures!

A Glimpse of Southern Utah
10 Clues That Your Husband Was A Thru – Hiker.

A Michigan Summer Garden

Sometimes I think about our Michigan garden.

The pinnacle of our gardening and canning experience was in 2011. My grandparents had a nice garden and CD was invited to tend to it for the summer. Our garden was mostly tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, strawberries, onions, and potatoes.

My brother offered some space at his house so we planted black beans for fun. I don’t mean that we germinated beans and planted them carefully. We bought a bag of dried beans, planted them in rows, and hoped for the best.

Herb garden box with drainage
Drip Irrigation

The garden was a huge success! We were eating vegetables all day, every day. Days were busy with chopping and freezing, canning, and canning more. We couldn’t keep up.

Apples

I stopped by an apple orchard to ask about some seconds and they offered me bushels of beautiful seconds for nearly nothing. Now I was coring and peeling, chopping and making sauce, and canning some more. We couldn’t stop. Did you know that green tomatoes make great muffins? The first two dozen or so are great anyway. We had muffins and frozen muffins and chopped green tomatoes.

My back was aching but I felt great. We had endless cans of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato chunks, salsa, banana peppers, and apple sauce. The freezer was full of zucchini and peppers.

Black Beans and our Michigan Garden

I took a breathe and decided to check on the black beans. They had drip irrigation but other than that, we had not seen them in months. The garden was full. Black beans were everywhere. I have no idea how or why it happened but it seemed like every bean we planted produced dozens more.

Thank goodness for the internet because I had no idea what to do. We got the beans from the pods, put on cookie sheets and put them in the oven on low until they were fully dry. This yielded gallons of dried beans.

Post Garden Bike Trip

With the garden mostly under control, CD had wanted to take a bike trip so we headed to Glen Arbor on a weekday in mid-September. It was quiet. The weather was as good as any summer day. We stayed at DH Day campground and packed the supplies for our trip.

It wouldn’t be possible today but, at that time, DH Day was happy to let us leave our car there. The next morning, we hopped on our bikes and headed to Northport. Our route was through Glen Arbor and mostly up the center of Peninsula. Farm markets and apple orchards were everywhere.

We checked into Leelanau State Park in Northport by dinner. Hardly anyone was there so we picked a prime lake-side campsite. It was easy to sleep after riding my bike all day.

Back to our car in Glen Arbor by dinner the next day. my legs felt great. My first overnight bike trip was a success. Every year since then, CD has suggested more and longer bike trips. We have yet to make it happen but maybe this is the year!

Please follow our blog for more adventures.

Sleeping Bear Dunes: Bike, Swim, Repeat
Stocking Stuffers for a Bike Commuter. Sprinter DIY

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Social distancing and disconnecting.

The insulation is mostly installed but the paneling has not been put back. It was March 2020 and we were early in our time of social distancing.

I requested the day off. The kids are out of school and today is “Thrifty Thursday” at our nearest ski area. I really needed to clear my mind and couldn’t think of a better way than heading over the pass and making some turns.

I am happy to report that despite the exposed insulation and last minute packing, the Sprinter’s first ski trip was a huge success!

Social distancing via Sprinter

Not only do we use the Sprinter as a dressing room for changing our clothes but we also use it as a gym for stretching, a cafeteria for snacking, a restroom for washing our hands, a laundromat for drying our gloves, and an apres ski lodge for putting up our feet.

Bluebird days with spring snow conditions are some of my favorite days. Today did not disappoint!

For five hours, I didn’t have a cell signal. I didn’t get phone calls, emails, or see the news. As a health care provider, I feel that we acted responsibly in the face of the Covid-19.

This was social distancing at its best! We didn’t get closer than six feet to anyone; we wore PPE (gloves and googles as eye shields) the entire time! My kids washed their hands like they have a million times before and they didn’t mention scary rumors from school or tales of a virus.

I wish them clear minds and minds that are free from fear and anxiety that is even difficult for adults to process.

I hope our next few weeks are filled more Sprinter assisted social distancing.

We made it! Hoo Doo, Oregon. – and a great parking spot! Sprinter DIY
The insulation progress. Sprinter DIY
Spring conditions at Hoo Doo. A bluebird day.

Oregon winter day trips

Last weekend was a success! We sold our spare Sprinter seats and reclaimed our garage. We painted our bathroom while the neighborhood kids made a tent city in the front yard. I thought about options for Oregon winter day trips.

CD told me that he has a new plan for upcoming Sprinter modifications. I am anxiously awaiting the details.

So, what should we do with the rest of our Oregon winter? Here are a few ideas:

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Yaquina Head. Bring your inter-agency pass and hit the tide pools. There will be just enough but not too many people. You are sure to find something amazing!

Oregon Coast

Any Oregon beach. Sprinter DIY. Oregon winter day trips.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach. Rain pants, rain jackets, and spare socks are recommended. Sprinter DIY.

Sno-Park: Oregon Winter

Sno-park. Get your sno-park pass and hit the road. Hope for a rain-free day and you may be surprised how solid of a snow fort you can make with pacific northwest concrete.

Mary’s Peak, Oregon Coast Range Winter Day Trips

Don’t forget the snowshoes. Drive toward’s Mary’s peak until the road is no longer passable and then continue by foot. Bring a shovel and expect to help dig out a stuck car or two. The kids will love it!

Please follow our blog for other adventures.