Friday, September 1, 2023

Our First One Nighters (or First Month with Van) (written April 18, 2023)

Technically, the first night in the van was spent by me - sleeping in the van parked on our street outside our home.  I won't dive into the evening much - I was like a school kid with a new toy...except I'm 52 and I was drinking whisky listening to classic rock in the van.

We've had the van for a month.  We live in the PNW (Seattle area) and the weather has been colder than normal with average precipitation.  So we haven't had comfortable weather.  We decided to plan out some one nighters increasing the adventure level over time.

Our first trip was just Steph and I and no pugs.  We drove an hour up I-90 to the Crystal Springs SnoPark (Stampeded Pass) just east of Snoqualmie Pass.  Basically a large wet and muddy parking area.  We pulled in around 4pm.  Unlike our past land outdoor adventures - there is no setup!!!  We sat outside enjoying our first bottle of wine for our inaugural van trip.  We met two other families staying on either side of us (both in Northern Lite campers). 

One neighbor told us their sprinter van rental horror story.  Before they chose the camper over the Sprinter, they rented an outfitted Sprinter van for a trip to California.  In Oregon (where you are prohibited by law to pump your own gas), the attendant mistakenly put gas into their diesel tank.  Ugh.  It was late afternoon and the gas station couldn't get the tech out until the next day to pump the fuel out.  So they spent the night at the pump.  That sucks.

Back to the sno park.  It got cold quick.  This is March and there was still 6 feet of snow on the ground.  Once the sun dropped below the trees, we hopped in the van, turned on the heat, and drank more wine.  We enjoyed listening to music and just relaxing. 
The Rixen Systems heat worked great.  Simple to use and quick to bring the van temp up to 60. After having some additional wine, I made chicken for our chicken tacos on the induction cooktop.  We opted for a single cooktop, which is perfect for how I cook.  We enjoyed our dinner with, you guessed it, more wine.  We made it an early evening and watched a movie in bed on the iPad.  In the morning we had some coffee and called it a trip.  Everything worked great and the van drove well.

For our next adventure, we drove out to Yakima on a Saturday morning to spend the day wine tasting.  We hit up 2 wineries and a sparkling wine place before landing at our place for the evening.  We ended at Cultura Winery (also a Harvest Host participant).  After some very good wine tasting and conversation with Tad, we relaxed, with wine, at our van.  We were located next to the winery building on a gravel patch surrounded by orchards. 

It was another cold evening.  Earlier in the day, we had more sun and no wind.  By 6pm we had wet snow and temps in the 30s.  Oh...we also had the pugs for this trip...almost forgot.  During our winery stops we popped open a awning window and turned on the ceiling fan to funnel air through the van.  We sat outside with the Sounders game on the iPad, while enjoying some local wine.  Post game, we hunkered down in the van with the heat on and prepped up a meal.  We ended the evening with a movie on the iPad.

For last one nighter, I planned on a night of dispersed camping in the national forest outside of Sisters.  This was preceded by a week at our place in Sunriver.  Oh, almost forgot, we did two day trips skiing - one day at Snoqualmie Pass and another at Mt Bachelor. 

For the Sisters night, we spent the morning making our from Sunriver to Sisters with stops for gas, weigh station (4450lb front, 5950 rear), outlet mall, and finally walking around the town of Sisters.  You don't need to drive far to find dispersed camping outside of sisters - the NF starts pretty quick outside of town.  We stopped by the ranger station and picked up a MVUM (motor vehicle use map).  We first did a quick drive through Cold Spring Campground.  Even though it was empty and free, it defeated our goal to truly boondock.  We pass several places that were occupied along one of the main forest service roads.  So then we started venturing down the lesser used roads.  Didn't find much at first so we had to turn around a couple of times - always fun in a 170.  Finally found a spot with plenty of room flat, and not near anyone.  We never saw a single person or vehicle.  We also saw no animals - would have liked to have seen something.  While the sun was out, it was still in the 40s and breezy.  We bundled up and set out our chairs to enjoy the outdoors.  The doors were on a long lead so they could move around a lot.

We had our wine and books.  Also, we had very little to no cell service.  But, the weboost changed all that.  We were able to give ourselves very usable service with it.  We relaxed for a few hours until the sun dropped below the trees and temps were getting into the low 40s.  We hunkered down in the van with the bug screen deployed - this actually cut back the wind significantly.  Dinner was leftovers - we had meat, veggie, cheese omelet bowls...and wine.

For this trip, I had installed a setup to mount the iPad above the bed using l-track, ram mount, and iPad holder.  This worked well to hold the iPad up above us while we watched from bed. 

Oh, and the pugs.  They did well on both of their trips.  They seem to sleep well, even when we get up to use the bathroom during the night.  But once the sun comes up, they need to go outside and go potty. 

That morning was sunny but cold (below freezing).  We made our coffee and called it a day.  We had a 5.5 hour drive ahead of us.  So we headed out early.

I really enjoy driving the 170.  It can get blown around a bit in real high winds - we had these coming from Yakima and driving through the high desert north of Redmond, OR.  Acceleration is good with the pedal box set to sport mode.  I've tried Eco and Sport - I've chosen to leave it on Sport.  One other interesting note, I've seen the gas mileage improve slightly.  

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