updates on the 1985 toyota van camper conversion

1985 Toyota Camper Vanwagon
Off Highway 89 somewhere.

If you’re doing a van conversion or some kind of camper conversion, I recommend creating a very basic set up to start with not a lot of screws or time spent doing it. This is what I’ve learned through various builds. You don’t know exactly what you want until you go camping, you spend time in it and become aware of your own needs. It’s hard to understand our needs in life and that’s the same for building out a van.

I realized I haven’t shared any updates on the my 1985 Toyota Vanwagon Mashin’ Machine. The van has undergone some changes since the original build. I’ve been lucky to take her on a quite a few trips this year and after each trip, I came back with a list of changes or supplies that needed to be added. This is another tip I recommend, when going on weekend trips, create a running list of what’s not comfortable, what would be nice to have, what you don’t need and so forth. You’d think you’d remember everything but after a few years of partying too hard, it’s best written on paper so I can revist when I’m back in a place I can make modifications.

I was able to keep most of the design from before (the folding bench seat and frame). I made a decision to keep the bench seat in bed formation all the time. This saved the hassle of not having to unfold or fold the bed every morning and night. I also gained a ton of storage room below. I made the drawer out of plywood and 2x2s then drilled a couple holes to put some rope through for a handle.

Bed Toyota Vanwagon 1985
This bed doesn’t interfere with accessing the engine compartment.

In the back of the van, I created a divider wall. This was now going to be the area for the electronics, fridge, stove, water, and other various supplies.

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Here is the back of the van, “the kitchen” with the divider wall.

Added 12v fairy lights, you can buy these anywhere from Amazon to eBay for 5 bucks or less. I really like them and I hope to put them on a dimmer switch. They are bright enough to read under, it also helps to run two strands across the van where you’ll want extra light. I did that in the back where the kitchen is and by the seats in the front where our heads rest and we can read.

Back of Van at Night w/ 12v Fairy Lights
Back of Van at Night w/ 12v Fairy Lights

58183079700__30657fda-ca19-4506-b305-392a7ca1a122Upgraded the stove from a Coleman two burner to a cast iron Camp Chef Ranger II Blind Stove. Stays in its place well, has a really night flame, and has a flexible hose for the propane instead of the rigid Coleman attachment.

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A mistake I often make is that before I participate in something, I get all excited about it and I start to research what I think is the best things to buy are and I start trying to figure out everything before actually partaking in that activity. For example, if you take up running, you may not want to research best running shoes, best water bottle, best visor (is that a thing?). Only after running will you realize what you truly need; shoes with more padding, a water bottle with a strap so it’s easy to hold onto, a visor instead of a hat because a hat makes you sweat too much. This relates to building out a van.

I have built out a truck camper shell (see other posts) and a cabover but each vehicle is different. Until I took enough trips in the van, I wouldn’t know what exactly I would need. Taking it slow and easy is the best approach, it’s about the process and not trying to get everything done immediately.

Complete list of revisions so far:

  1. Added a second solar shower (scored one for cheap on Craiglist). Also, it helps to have back up water as well as water to rinse dishes when dry camping.
  2. Added a shower nozzle to one of solar showers. (post coming)
  3. Created a divide for the kitchen and bed.
  4. Inserted plywood sheet to extend bed to the back of the seats.
  5. Made two large pull out drawers, one pulls out from the side and one from the back.
  6. Added a fuse panel. (post coming)
  7. Mounted the inverter.
  8. Added a storage shelf.
  9. Mounted an ARB awning. (post coming)
1985 Toyota Van Forest Road
Down some forest road.
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DogEars GPS Garmin Aluminum Mounting Plate Review

19.99 plus 4.99 shipping. 10 out of 10 stars.
Saves you money, time, and frustration.

I had been shopping for a bike GPS for a couple weeks and soon discovered that I can get a Garmin Edge with more features if it was broken. Well, duh! I began to do some searching to see if there was any DIY fix it repairs for the back of the mounting plate. The mounting plate is plastic so a common problem these Garmins have is that the tabs will break off. Sometimes, pretty easily. (See below)

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I stumbled onto the DogEars website after some simple google searching. For 19.99 plus 4.99 shipping, I could receive an aluminum mounting plate that fits over the plastic mounting bracket. I emailed them and received a reply, although it took a couple days to hear back, the customer service was great. I decided to order one, it was shipped promptly the next day and arrived within 2-3 days (I’m in California).

Advice: When I installed the plate, I used a flat head screwdriver that I wedged between under the tabs and lifted up to break off the tabs. This took the place of filing the tabs off. Garmin Mount Fix DogEars GPS

I was checking to make sure it had enough room to slide on and it made a snapping noise. It had snapped on. I tried to pry it off and it wouldn’t come off. It’s recommended that you put super glue underneath the aluminum piece to make it more secure but I couldn’t get that thing to budge. So, I kept it on there without any superglue and just added glue where the screws go into the plastic. I’ve been using it for a week and so far no problems. It fits into the same Garmin mounts as before.

I definitely recommend giving DogEars a try if you have the same problem. I was able to save substantial money by buying a broken tab gps and putting this onto it.

10 out of 10. (as of 10/27/2015)

You can find their website here at www.DogEarsGPS.com

Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.

how to sprout seeds for eating (simple and easy)

Sprouts, so healthy, so good. That sprout needs a lot of energy to start growing, so, mother nature packed seeds full of nutrients. When you sprout a seed, you increase the bioavailability of those nutrients. That’s where you come in. You get to chow down on these delicious little buggers. They are tasty on their own, but they also make a great addition to many meals. Here’s a quick, simple, easy to follow guide to sprouting your own seeds. Today, I will be using alfalfa seeds as an example but this method can be applied to all seeds that are edible such as broccoli, sunflower, mung, and adsuki beans.

alfalfa sprouts diy

Step 1…Cut a hole in the box! Just kidding, I regress.

You can get started with any glass jar but I choose to use canning jars. The wide mouth version of canning jars are able to fit a variety of sprouting lids. The lids can be purchased online, or at local hardware stores and some groovy garden centers such as Harmony Farm Supply. If you don’t want to use a lid, start with a rubber band and some mesh or cheesecloth.

Step 2….Obtain the seeds, preferably organic (you don’t know what yucky chemicals the conventional ones have been sprayed with). Some conventionally grown seeds are treated with fungicides, definitely avoid those! Put a couple tablespoons at the bottom of the jar.

Step 3…Fill with water and let sit overnight.

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Step 4… Empty jar of water then rinse seeds and leave jar upside down at angle to drain.

Step..5 Repeat step 4 every morning and night until the seeds have sprouted and are a good size. Overtime, you’ll get better at determining when the best time is to stop rinsing and eat.

Step 6 (optional)… Put sprouts in a bowl of water and scrape the hulls of the seeds off the top of the water. This is easy to do with bigger seeds like mung beans.

Step 7 (not optional)… Eat those sprouts and store the leftovers in an airtight jar in the fridge. The canning jars are great because you can throw a canning lid on and be done with it.

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P.S. I will soon be starting a youtube channel and will be posting a video of this process! Thanks for reading.

30 days of not buying anything

I’m 26 and have been working full time for the past few years after college. I have no savings account and basically live paycheck to paycheck. This is not uncommon in the United States where people strive for the American dream but fall short and get consumed with increasing debt over time. For me, every time I have money starting to add up in my savings account, I get the urge to spend!! Something I didn’t think about before, I must have now.

I spend a good amount of time on Amazon and had the “Prime” membership for the past year.It wasn’t a bad deal, I mean most of the stuff I would buy at the store (in an area dominated by Whole Foods and overpriced hardwares stores) I could get close to half off on Amazon. So, each week, I would buy something new, something I thought I must have.

On top of me not being able to build a savings account, there is the fact that our landfills are becoming exponentially larger. There’s more plastic in our oceans then ever before and new products require energy and packaging to make it to that shelf for sale.

We’re constantly reminded to keep buying, we’re not important if we don’t own the newest greatest stuff. We’re overloaded and bombarded with advertisements everywhere we go, not only on tv but on billboards, scoreboards, radio, and online. I fall for this consumerist trap , sometimes consciously and at other times unconsciously.

Now, here I am, still wanting more but in a constant battle to free myself of clutter and put money in my savings account. I’ve decided to make myself a thirty day challenge of not buying anything except allowing myself a hundred dollars worth of groceries (no eating out). This way, I can examine what’s really important and at the same time, go through some of the food that’s been sitting in the back of my cupboard.

I will update the post with what I spend money on (groceries wise) and the thoughts that come up for me through this challenge. Hopefully, this will help you examine your spending habits.

Day 1 February 6th, 2014.
a short film worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.
the Story of Stuff

Day 2 February 7th, 2014.
Throughout the day I thought of stuff that I wanted to buy. For example, one of those white ceramic mugs with bpa free lids that look like paper cups because my tea or coffee always gets to cold in a minute or so (I like it hot!). I thought about buying screws to build a vermicompost (worm compost) bin but then thought about maybe grabbing some from work or finding some lying around in the shed. I really want a juicer to go along with my blender so I can make fresh juice for green smoothies. It will be hard to hold off on these purchases. Some purchases that I come up with in my head, I don’t remember in an hour so. It makes me think it must not be that important.  I think this is great to do alongside my donating an item a day challenge. This is a challenge so far!

Day 3 February 8th, 2014.
With this day an age, Ebay, Amazon, and other sites make it easy to purchase items with one click. This challenge so far has made me pause from purchasing an item instantly. I think one thing I will carry from this challenge is to maybe wait a week before buying something, if I still want it after a week, then maybe proceed with the purchase.

Day 4, February 9th, 2014.
I bought some organic dino kale today that costed 2.69 for the bunch. My budget for groceries is down to 97.31 for the rest of the month. I’ve been burning through kale lately with my making of green smoothies daily. I could have not spent this money if I grew the kale myself. My kale plants right now are too small too harvest. I recommend growing your own produce when you can. I think it’s much better tasting, more nutrient rich, you know how it’s grown, and you become more self reliant. I love the way dino (lacinato) kale looks like with all it’s wrinkle and dark green foliage so, here’s a picture.

lacinato kale dino dinosaur organic green dark

Day 5, February 10th, 2014.
Spent 14.10 at the farm stand and 14.70 at Safeway stocking up on veggies, nut milks, and organic bread. Have you ever tried Dave’s Killer Bread, so good and he uses juice instead of sugar. 97.31 minus 28.80 makes 68.51 to spend on groceries with a lot of time left in the challenge. This is going to be tough.

Day 6, February 11th, 2014.
Bought another bunch of organic kale, 2.17. 68.51-2.17=66.34. I’m trying to limit myself on money spent on groceries but I’m making a conscious effort not to eat unhealthy during this month.

Day 7-8, February 12-13th, 2014
Another 11 dollars spent on soy milk, carrots, and berries today. I was graciously given a huge bag of broccoli, chard, rutabaga, lemons, and limes from my farmer friend Phyllis. There’s nothing like fresh fruit and veggies you harvest yourself! It looks like we might be teaming up to do some farming this year which will be a fun and challenging experience and on top of that, help keep my food budget low. I’m very excited about this opportunity! Down to 55.34 for groceries for the rest of the month. I don’t know if I’ll make it but I will keep trucking along. I still haven’t bought anything but I really need a 3/4″ deep socket to install my hitch on my truck. Tomorrow, I will see if I can borrow one from work. Tip: Why buy something when you might only use it once in a blue moon? Well, I’m going to try borrowing first. If I happen to be needing that tool more frequently, then I might consider purchasing one for myself.

Day 9-10, February 14th-15th
Spent 3.68 on some organic bananas.  55.34 minus 3.68=51.66 left to spend on groceries for the month.

Day 11-12, February 16th-17th
I bought my dog some treats to clean his teeth. I don’t know if I can count this as groceries but I’m going to. If you smelled his breath, you would too! So, that was 8.50. 51.66-8.50=43.16

Day 13, February 18th
By not sacrificing health, I may end up going over the limit as I spent another 22 dollars today on groceries. I’m sticking with buying mostly organic produce. If this challenge was done in the summer when my garden is producing (which I might try) I think my grocery bill would be substantially lower. 43.16-22= 21.16. I’m still going strong with not buying anything other than groceries and gas. I’ve saved a substantial amount of money and decided that I would put the money into a CD so I can’t touch it for six months.

Day 14, February 19th
I’m very tempted to break this not buying anything challenge. I’ve wanted a Vitamix for the longest time and I don’t know if I can hold out for another week and a half. I’m moving towards a vegan/raw food diet and I think it will be a valuable tool. This is how I’m justifying it to myself. How do I know when if it’s really a justified purchase and not something I don’t necessarily need?

I guess in life there’s not many things you need, other than water, food, and shelter. But, I believe there are things that can make your life more enjoyable, healthier, and work as a tool to pursue your passions. For example, if surfing is a passion or hobby, maybe having a board would make it ten times easier for you to get out in the water. But maybe, renting or borrowing a board is all you really need because you don’t go out that much. Overall, I think it’s healthy to explore these opportunities, buy that kayak or get that Bowflex but when we realize we’re not utilizing these “tools”, it’s time to let go. Sell it, donate it, don’t keep it around or you will end up with all these items that don’t get the attention they deserve. They end up being distractions from getting anything done. You began to be spread to thin and then you’re not pursuing any of your passions.

Day 15-16, February 20th-22nd
Well, I’ve held off from buying the vitamix althought I think it will help me save on food in the long run. I have a dependable beehive blender that do the job for now. Unfortunately, my last grocery trip brought me over the hundred dollar limit. I had 21.16 left to spend. I spent 46 dollars. 24 dollars was dog food along with more fresh fruit and peanut butter. So, right now, that brings me to -25.00. I still haven’t spent money on eating out. Tip: I think it’s key to make your meals the night before you work. Also, pack more than enough food for the day. If you’re like me, I never seem to pack enough. I think it’s because I’m not that hungry in the morning. By midmorning, I need food!! So packing enough snacks like fresh fruit and nuts and a big lunch. I’m known to dip into my lunch before it’s time. Having enough food will save you money because you won’t be heading to the nearest fast food or Mexican restaurant when your stomach feels empty.

Day 17-19, February 23rd-25th
Over the past few days, I’ve spent more at the grocery store. I still have yet to eat out, that part hasn’t been really challenging. Keeping the budget for groceries under a 100 on the other hand, has been very challenging. I think it would be more feasible for me to shoot for two hundred dollars for groceries a month. Especially, if I want to eat healthy, mostly organic, and no processed foods. I spent 45 dollars on my last trip to the grocery store. That puts the total at 170 for groceries so far.

Tip: Oh, do I love my online shopping sites. Those sites that give you huge discounts like Sierra Trading Post. Once, I began to click on these sites,I start to find items that I didn’t think I needed before. So, my advice would be to stay clear of shopping websites and unsubscribe to many coupon email lists as well.

Day 20-23, February 26th-28th
I purchased another 26 on groceries and bought a five dollar juice when visiting family. That puts the total at 201 spent on groceries.I still have yet to buy anything besides food and gas. I find it almost exhilarating saving money. I like the fact that I don’t make a whole lot of money yet I’m able to set money aside if I make a conscious effort. When I stop spending money on frivolous items and take a moment to really think about a purchase, I end up with more money in my pocket at the end of the month and less stuff cluttering my space. By, cutting back on eating out, I spend more and more time in the kitchen cooking my meals. Which, are almost always healthier than eating out. A win win!

Day 24-27, March 1st-4th
I’m glad this month is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean I have enjoyed taking a close look at my spending habits. Everything from big ticket items to three dollar coffees when I’m on the run have been stopped for the time being. This has allowed me to save money this month, start a CD which I never have been able to do in the past. I am grateful for that. I realize what it would cost me to eat healthy for a typical month. For me, this is around 200-250 dollars. I stepped back from the consumerism culture and began to realize just how strong it is. I notice that depending on what sites you visit online, advertising can be just as strong online compared to television. NPR even sneaks in advertisements or sponsors for their programs whle my local sports station has constantly bombarded me with ads to buy chocolate strawberries for my valentine (if i had one) or buy a new mattress because my current one sucks. For the most part, I have not falling trap but that doesn’t mean I’ve been tempted to buy, especially, with the ads now that are tailored to your interests on practically every website you view.Three more days….

Spent 9 on groceries these past three days….for a total of $210 on groceries (110 over the amount I allowed myself).

Day 28-30, March 5-7
I finished up not buying anything else.

But…
Day 31-32, March 8th-9th
I did buy some backpacking gear and found myself quickly in buying mode again. Oh man, it’s so easy to get back into the habit. Everything I learned over the month, I threw out after I bought a few items. Although, these items were used that doesn’t take away from money being spent. I thought, wow, this is a heck of a deal,I have to take advantage of it. What I bought will be used on the John Muir Trail in August, it will see good use and I can resell it if I need to. If I find these items aren’t being used,I need to make sure I sell them and not let them sit around. As I move forward, it’s important for me to put money into savings accounts I can’t touch, whether that be short term bonds or CDs. It’s a safety net for me. If I have several CDs going, I can withdraw from the in emergency situations and it stops me from spending extra money I have.

76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Let’s free ourselves from this vicious cycle by taking a deeper look at our spending habits and cutting back on those unnecessary purchases. Keep things new, try different recipes instead of eating out. Light candles in the kitchen and make that meal special. Explore regional parks and free recreation fun in your area. Limit yourself from going onto websites that encourage purchasing. I hope this article has inspired you to examine your budget and maybe encourage you to try the challenge.