Sprinter Adventures: 2020 Re-cap

We have enjoyed countless day trips and many long road trips in our DIY vans. Despite the hours and seemingly endless Sprinter adventures, we failed to anticipate how 2020 would elevate our attachement to our van. There is nothing like a pandemic to help us appreciate traveling in a vehicle that is more of a self-supported safety bubble than a mode of transportation. I have never been more grateful for our Sprinter and, as most of you know, I was so grateful that I took just went out and bought a 2020 4×4 Sprinter to start our DIY camping conversion all over again!

Here is a run down of some of the experiences that our Sprinter camper brought to us in the midst of a 2020 and a world wide pandemic.

Sprinter Camper DIY additions!

CD spend March and April in the van and it was worth it! I learned a ton about 8020, wiring, finish carpentry (van style), hinges, and options for storing fishing poles in a Sprinter 144. The van has never looked so great or been so comfortable. Despite this, CD kindly agreed to do it all again! I look forward to seeing what is next!

Exploring the Oregon Coast, pandemic Sprinter Adventure 2020 style

Any where on the coast is fair game when you can eat, sleep, change clothes, and use the restroom in the safety of your van! Once we realized this, we hit the coast enough times to find a favorite beach, settle into a routine, and pick up two new skimboards along the way (thank you grandma and grandpa!)

Revisiting Oregon Dunes

A great thing about the Pacific Coast and Oregon Dunes is that the weather is nearly the same whether you are there in winter or summer. The difference is that in the winter, it may be warmer than in the valley and in the summer it may be cooler. Either way, it is always fun! We spent Thanksgiving there and it was just the escape we needed. Thank you Sprinter van!

Camping anywhere that is less than a two hour drive

It wasn’t super easy to find available camping in Oregon during COVID times but we happened accross a campground that was open and perfect for us! This also led to a third child-size kayak purchase. We now have kayaks several thousand miles apart and one to spare.

Sprinter Camping in a lava field while watching a comet

No worries if the campgrounds are full. We slept like babies in the parking lot of an observatory in the middle of a lava field on a night of prime comet viewing. Not too bad!

Escaping wildfire smoke

As self supported travelers, we felt it was safe and reasonable to leave the state to escape wildfire smoke, even though traveling during the pandemic was not recommended and included post travel quarentines. School and work continued without interruption despite everything. We even snuck in a few hikes and a national park stop while on the road.

Checking off more National Parks

We managed to get a few new parks in the mix and that isn’t easy to do, even in normal times! Dinosaur National Monument was a win for sure! We also hiked, slept, and explore a handful of other parks and monuments, some of which we would not have taken the time to explore during our usual summer travels.

Waking up in Michigan

We made it to Michigan. I am grateful. It wasn’t long enough and it was a tough and confusing time earlier in the pandemic. Mostly, I know we can do it again. We can safely travel thousands of miles in our Sprinter to be with those we love. Next time has been on my mind everyday since.

Here is the van we will do it in next time, summer or winter.

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On to 2021, a new Sprinter camper DIY project, more pandemic safe adventures, and more opportunities to take the road less traveled. I look forward to seeing what’s next. Happy New Year!

Follow our adventures!

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Click for: Tips on packing for a pandemic road trip

Click for: Tips for starting a camper van make-over

Sprinter Camper Conversion 2020

We are a family of 4 that wants to combine efficiency for long trips with comfort of frequent day trips. This is our third Sprinter. Our first was a low roof, our second was a 2015, and our third is a 2020 4 x 4. The big question is: what should we do differently with this Sprinter camper conversion?

Answering that question has not been as easy as I imagined. We are still at the beginning. Here is a list of five considerations for our most recent Sprinter build.

1. Time

I have never been known for my patience. I sold our mini-van to buy this Sprinter. In doing so, I kept our 2015 Sprinter. While having two Sprinters in the driveway seems a bit unusual, I do not regret it! We have one van ready to go for day trips at a moments notice!

We spent Thanksgiving at Oregon Dunes and yesterday hiking in the pouring rain. Our van made it all possible, even in the midst of a pandemic. For better or worse, we have time to debate and plan our next build. So far, insulation is in and all of the other plans change hour to hour.

2. Sleeping Space

We are all older than during our first build and we plan to keep this van for much longer than the others so we need to use the space much more carefully than before. We went from 2 people sleeping on the floor in our first van to a genius 2 bed system in our second. The challenge of our second build is that when the beds are converted, you can no longer stand on the floor. How can we use space to allow privacy and preserve floor space even at night? Is this even possible?

3. Kitchen Space

Our prior Sprinter camper builds did not have kitchens. I am typically happy to cook outside or eat cheese and crackers inside when the weather is bad. It rains in Oregon, however. Rain is so much more difficult for me to deal with than snow. Rain means mud.

I cooked two meals while on our recent Thanksgiving trip. I sat on the electric step in a puddle of mud both times. It was the best option.

If you have ever tried to sit at a picnic table in the Pacific Northwest between the months of October and March, you know what I mean. Everything is muddy, wet, and mossy.

In retrospect, my shift towards indoor cooking started last winter with hot chocolate and went as far as soup and instant mashed potatoes by July. By then I was really stretching the limits of the Camp Chef Stryker that we bought for boiling water for tea. At this point, I am open to discussing a kitchen.

4. Thinsulate installation goes more quickly the second time.

The van was insulated in a fraction of the time of our last build. The panels did not go back in more easily than last time, however. We still needed two people and a bit of patience to get the front panel back in. The airbags added to the stress a bit but mostly because it felt nerve wracking to have exposed airbags just hanging around.

5. All options are on the table and that doesn’t make the process easier.

This is the first time that I have been ready to spend additional money to get the best build for us. It turns out that short of buying a van that is already converted, deciding to spend money doesn’t really help. The world of DIY Sprinter Camper conversions is open ended, confusing, and popular, especially right now. Everyone we talk in the business is busy. Supplies are back ordered but ideas are still limitless. Everyone has good ideas. Not all of the ideas are interchangable so each decision affects the next.

So far, in addition to insullation, we have installed a modular rack system. It was easy to install and we love what we can do from here. With that being said, we drilled holes to secure it to the van, so we must go forward from there. As we browse the internet, we are careful not to click on other modular systems or accessories attached to systems other than what we have in place.

It feels like we are headed down a rabbit hole but keep getting turned around and going back. As I mentioned, patience is not my strong suit but I am doing my best to give the process a chance. Even I look forward to seeing where this all lands! I just hope it lands somewhere while there is still time for a ski trip this winter. Wish us luck and leave us comments with your ideas and questions!

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5 Ways To #optoutside This Thanksgiving

Skimboarding Pacific Ocean Beaches

Oregon’s Pacific Ocean beaches are scenic, spacious, and accessible. They are not exactly known for being warm and sunny, however. The benefit of this is that you can enjoy the same beach activities during winter as you can during the summer. So we chose this weekend to pick up a new hobby.

Skimboarding was a hit! Everyone had a turn. Most of us were semi-successful and at the end of the day, each of us was smiling!

Exploring Dunes

Next stop was Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It felt great to trade a turkey dinner for a few laps up the dunes. There were two cars in day use parking when we arrived and none when we left. Don’t let the footprints in the sand fool you, we were mostly alone on the dunes on Thursday and only accompanied by distant ATVs on Friday. The kids were free to dig, climb, run, build, and explore as far as they could go. How bad can a little sand in the van be anyway?!

Oregon Dunes
The ATV tracks in the distance
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Camping Near the Pacific Ocean

Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park was open and with plenty of empty tent sites. Every site in the RV loop was full but we only found one tent and one other camper in our primate campsite loop. Tent sites are $21. We didn’t have reservations and late check in was a breeze. We walked form our campsite down a wooded path and to the day use parking lot to get one more shot at the dunes, do some star gazing, and toss in a fishing lure a few times.

Star Gazing

The moon was nearly full. The dunes were empty. Hardly anyone was camping. The day use lot was closed. It was a great time for star gazing!

Fishing

We didn’t catch anything but we enjoyed trying. The dunes run down into a lock with accessible shorelines and a dock for fishing. Next time, we will bring the kayaks and get out there to see what we can catch!

Don’t worry, I still cooked a turkey. It was just a few days late. Spending our pandemic holiday outside was just what we needed! We weren’t isolated but didn’t need a mask since hardly anyone else was there. Now, I will lend my thoughts to Christmas and how best to hold off the feelings of sadness and loss that comes with holidays during COVID 19 times. The guilt of being together versus the lonliness of not being together may temporary be reconciled by fresh air and exercise. Stay safe and happy holidays everyone!

Oregon Beaches: Newport to Waldport

The Oregon Beach Bill was signed into law in 1967 and guarenteed public beach access to the 362 miles of Oregon coastline. The impact of this is obvious when you look at an Oregon map. The western shore is dense with beaches and parks. Here is a small sample of Oregon beaches between Newport and Waldport.

Ona Beach

This is one of our favorites. It is part of Brian Booth State Park and it has it all!

Ona Beach parking area is framed by Beaver Creek to the south and picnic areas to the west. There is space to launch a kayak, toss out a fishing lure, or have a picnic. You will find plenty of picnic tables with room for lawn games if you chose. You can follow the creek to a sandy beach or cross a foot bridge to the Pacific ocean. The Pacific Beach is wide open, clean, and not crowded.

Accross the road is the second half of Brian Booth State Park. Beaver Creek State Natural Area is east of Highway 101. There are two designated boat launches within a mile from the highway. You can also find a boardwalk and hiking trails.

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach has a restroom and a short wooden walk way down to the beach. It sits up above the beach abit so be prepared to walk down a short but relatively steep trail to the beach. The beach seems to go on forever in either direction. There is perfect sand and wide open space.

There was plenty of wind when we were there. It may be a great place to fly a kite! The parking lot is long and narrow so I was unable to see the beach while cooking lunch in our van. I had a cell phone signal though so it was easy to let everyone know when lunch was served!

Curtis Street

You won’t find this one on the map! This is a small gravel parking lot north of Ona Beach. From there, you walk down an embankment to the ocean. It seems to be a local’s favorite. It gets crowded with people walking dogs and riding bikes after dinner and the parking spots are hit or miss. We had it ourselves one day and could barely find a comfortable parking spot the next. Houses tower high above the beach on either side of the access and Seal Rock can be seen to the south.

Packing List for Oregon Beaches

  1. Jacket
  2. Windshirt
  3. Hat
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Bathing suit
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Sweatshirt
  8. Pants
  9. Shorts
  10. Beach toys
  11. Kites
  12. Beach towels

Tips:

Bring layers. If you have not been Oregon beaches, you will likely be surprised about the temperatures. We took a day trip in July and went from 90 degrees in the Willamette Valley to 67 degrees at the coast.

Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. We always stay longer than we plan.

Watch for wales, seals, jelly fish, and crabs.

Have fun!

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Cape Perpetua, Oregon Coast Day-Trip.
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Willamette Valley, Oregon: Schwarz Campground
Oregon Trip Planning: Dee Wright Observatory
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