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     Hayyyyyyy. It's been a while. I was traveling, then home, then doing laundry. So I was a little busy. But it's official! I live in my van now. It's like my second ? day out here in the world away from friends and family and let me tell you it's been a ride. In the process of learning the little things for sure. I'm sitting on my van floor listening to Drake, buzzed on an Angry Orchard cider, eyeing a police office in the distance trying to judge if he's going to get out of his car in the rain and come see what the creepy white van next to the park is doing. Fingers crossed he doesn't, but I guess I'll keep you updated as I keep writing this. Currently googling; "if I live in my van and the keys are locked in the back can I drink in here??" Sounds like I might be able to make a case to the right police officer. Who knows, would rather not have to test the theory. 

     Right now the title of this blog says 'Van Build Cost', but I think since I'm about to pour myself a glass of Franzia sangria I may as well change it to 'First Van Days; drunken thoughts and ramblings', since I don't think I'll trust myself with numbers right now. Don't worry friends, this town has a "no parking after 2am ANYWHERE" situation, so I think I'll just stay parked here and write/nap/netflix-binge my buzz away until then, and then go find somewhere to drive to and sleep. No drinking and driving for this girl, I have a bed right here, screwwwww that business. 

     Just kicked my Franzia over - my party fouls have become impressive for the small amount of time I've spent in here. Okay, let's focus Hannah. What am I supposed to be writing about? 

Day One

     First day! I drove for 6 hours! How's that for exciting?? Honestly it wasn't very. I couldn't quite wrap my head around not having a schedule. I'd been at my aunt's house in Antioch, IL (Gale, if you're reading this I love you! And you Riley, Amanda, Brian! Yr all the best) and I opened Google maps and scrolled over East. Kalamazoo. First town in Michigan that pops up and catches my eye. So there I head. I stopped every two hours, trying hard to let myself break the cycle of feeling like I was on a schedule, but I couldn't do it, I just kept stopping and then getting back in the car and driving. 

     Oh man, I gotta pee. Guess I'm gonna lean quick how not to break the seal. 

     Anyway I eventually stopped short of Kalamazoo. A town called St Joseph, MI - my butt was killing me from sitting so much, and I was starving, so I figured I would call it a night here and make some spaghetti in a parking lot somewhere. Kinda dorking out about making my first meal in the van - that is, until I actually tried to use my hot plate. I really should have known better. It wasn't like I hadn't tried to use it before. Plugging it in? Fine. Leaving it plugged in for more than a minute? My inverter starts screeching at me. Stupid 110v inverter. We've fought a lot lately. I'll tell you right now; I don't know if they sell 120v inverters. I've done maybe a 30 second google search and failed to follow through with the search just because I don't feel like replacing the inverter I'd already bought as a replacement for a lower wattage inverter. Let this be a lesson to you all! If you plan on using a hot plate or water kettle; make sure whatever you're plugging into supports 120 volts! Everything that heats up appears to be 120v. Man. I'm a walking "live and learn" example.. 

     I can't do it, I have to pee. Just poked my head out the window and I spy a port-a-potty. Can't be worse than the one I used this morning. Be back in a sec.

     Not bad guys! Zero smell, only one spider. Not any worse than the one I used this morning. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

     Stuffing my face with chips and hummus I googled for the nearest camping store. I'm starting to wonder who I'd be without google. I find Wanderlust Something Something, so I go there, where...Jack? Jason?...some nice blonde boy convinces me to buy a $150 camping stove. I'm exhausted and I'm tired of fighting my inverter, so I buy it and head on my way. Of course, this town has signs posted everywhere saying "no parking 2am-5am on ANY street". Dear Lake Michigan towns: do you have elephants roaming your streets? Why do you need all this street space in the middle of the night? I'm on to you, and will be on elephant look out tonight. Maybe they'd like some sangria.

I decided to try my luck further north in the town of South Haven, MI - hoping they wouldn't have the same street ordinances. No such luck, so I ended ups calling the non-emergency line for South Haven to ask where I could park my truck over night. The lady begrudgingly gave me the location of a public parking lot. I had googled earlier and found a list detailing where it’s legal to sleep in your car, so I knew it was legal in Michigan. Here’s the link to the site with the list of car-sleeping legality. Before heading there I opened all my doors, cracked the box of Franzia (yes guys, the one and the same!) and watched the sun set over Lake Michigan in oranges and purples. Sat for a while before heading a couple bocks over to the parking lot, putting all my curtains up, brushing my teeth, and snuggling up in bed. 


Day Two


     So yay! I woke up with sunshine filtering through my shades, excited to make my FIRST CUP OF COFFEEEEEEE. So I drove down to the beach and parked in a lot, pulling out my camper stove. Let’s start here: I grew up camping. I couldn’t tell you how may times my mother took us camping- it’s just something we did over and over growing up. I should have known how to use this camping stove; I’ve seen her use hers five million times. But I’ve always been the cleaner upper, my sister was always the cook, helping mom prep and make dinner, and I would scrub everything out when we were done. Sooooooo. 


     I read all the instructions. I light the thing. I’m sitting in the van, the stove on the counter. It bursts into flames. Internally I panic. 


     Here’s the thing. I have a really hard time losing my cool. If I lose my cool I can’t let anyone know I’ve lost my cool, and I have to remain looking cool while internally I’m bursting into flames, along with my camping stove. So there I am, a burning, flaming ball of metal sitting on my counter, which I grab and calmly (yeah, sure) take out of the van and set in the parking space next to me. I sit on the ground next to it, realizing hey, it’s 8am, people are taking their morning walks, sitting their morning sits, and generally doing their normal 8am outdoor things, and meanwhile here I am with a flaming ball of gas next to my truck in full view of all of them, potentially about to ruin their mornings if things escalate. 


      Eventually the thing did burn out, after turneing the gas off. I called my mom after things were under control and she informed me that actually, camping stoves are supposed to do that. So here you go; I’m writing this because as much as I hate not immediately being good at something I try, I figure there are other idiots like me out there, who might appreciate knowing that A) camping stoves initially burst into flames B) once the flames die down and the blue gas appears it WILL sound like a jet engine and NO it will not explode - it’s meant to sound like that. 

     I’ll explain it the way my mom explained it to me. The first bunch of flame is what heats the camping stove elements; you let a little gas come out in liquid form, which then you light on fire, resulting in the ball of flames that inevitably freaks you out a bit. That burns for a minute or two, which heats the stove, so that once the flame dies down and you let gas flow out once again, the gas will come out in gas form instead of liquid like it did before, because now the elements are hot enough for it to immediately turn into a gas, which forms the super hot *jet engine sounding* flame that you can now cook over. So there you have it; information I wish I’d learned before fearing I’d started a small parking lot fire at 8am yesterday morning. 


     Still a bit shaken, with no coffee and no food, I decided to find a camp site where I could be alone and fiddle with my new stove and settle into my rhythm without the added pressures of trying to find a place to sleep, or have people watching me blunder my way through trying to make a meal. 10/10 I would highly recommend this for any first night or two starting a trip. I was so happy and relieved once I got there. I figured out the stove first try, I got COFFFEE (sure, it was 5pm by the time I got it, but triumph none the less). High off my first success I made spaghetti 30 minutes later to show it who was boss, with some happy dancing to latin pop and some celebratory Franzia in my hammock (are we sensing a slippery slope? I promise I’m not an alcoholic).


      Anywhoooooo it’s the 3rd day now, I got up, made coffee and French toast (I’m a camping stove PRO at this point) and packed up camp before driving to Holland, MI. I spent most of the day reading at a coffee shop, going to Walmart to get some shower supplies, and then taking my first gym shower at Anytime Fitness. It started raining around 4:45, so I found a park (this one) and here I am, downing wine, dodging cops, and braving port-a-potties. 


      It’s 9:30 now, it's dark out, I'm sleepy, my buzz is gone (I promise mom) and I think I’ll watch a movie before finding a place to park for the night. Will probably dream about parking lot fires and elephants. Night invisible internet friends ♡♡

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