The awning system for the front and back porches consists of silver tarps clamped to the roof rail with ball bungees. Trekking poles, paracord, and stakes hold up the other end of the tarp. The guylines use a McCarthy Hitch, which is like a light trucker’s hitch employing a slip loop and a slippery half hitch. This hitch is easy to adjust and offers mechanical advantage.
The roof rails are extended with 3/4″ PVC pipe fastened with hose clamps. Simple and cheap. This allows using bigger tarps and centering them over the sliding side doors. Cross fittings are located at the back of the rails for use as antenna mast mounts. Eventually, I will paint the pipes black to match the factory rails.
This system has held up through big storms, including the ones slung our way by Hurricane Harvey. It keeps the Texas summer sun off, making for a pleasant outdoor extension to the van’s living space.
And here’s the front porch featuring a moon chair and a messy collapsible table. Yes, that bucket is the bathroom. 🙂
While shopping for a mattress for the van, Mattress Insider caught my eye because they offer cot sizes as standard. There’s no need to make a custom order, just pick the size from a dropdown. After checking their reputation on some RV forums, I decided to take a chance on an 8″ thick 30″ x 75″ mattress.
Three months later, I have no complaints. It’s a comfortable mattress. I have a litany of back problems, and this mattress works for me.
The side and rear doors of the minivan are power assisted. After a couple days of camping, the starting battery is flat from door opening. Starting batteries provide cold cranking amps in a quick burst, not sustained loads. They aren’t designed to be run flat and recharged over and over.
So, I installed an Optima Yellowtop battery. It is designed as both a starting battery and a deep cycle battery. It has more reserve to handle more door opening and can deal with repeated discharge and recharge.
A WirthCo Battery Doctor battery isolator isolates the starting battery from the 160Ah house battery in the back of the van. The red 4 gauge wire runs the length of the car, connecting the starting battery to the house battery via the isolator.
The button marked PUSH is an override that allows charging the starting battery from the house battery. The starting battery must have some charge remaining for it to work. When my old starting battery ran flat from door opening, it was too discharged for the override to work. I’m curious how the override will behave with the new battery.
I've used Zojirushi thermal bottles for a couple years and like them a lot. The action on the cap is smooth and the flow is just right. Hot drinks can go all night and still retain enough warmth for them to be satisfying in the morning.
I recently added the Uniox to my van routine. It holds enough to almost fill the Zojirushi. A compact pairing.
The window over the head of the bed (2nd row passenger) is where all the thermoregulation gathers. Two 12v DC Endless Breeze fans handle intake and exhaust. I twiddle the three power settings on each fan to conjure the flow that suits mood and circumstance. A 12v clip fan provides aim-able and oscillating flow. It's face follows me through van life on hot days. A tarp awning protects the fans and open window from rain. A magnetically fastened no-seeum screen filters insects and adrift nature.
I’ve always liked small spaces. As a kid, I read books under the bed, the small space keeping me safe from the overload of my corporeal reality while stories transported me to other realities. I hid in closets. I created pillow and blanket forts and set up house in tool sheds. I sought and created small spaces in a big world of sensory and social overwhelm.
I’ve long wanted to live in a camper. Before starting a family, my dream was to get a piece of undeveloped land and park an RV on it. A small, cozy space set amidst the social isolation of nature is my formula for coping.
Our aging minivan is the perfect platform to experiment with my sensory needs. I installed a solar panel, battery, and inverter and turned it into a mobile, off-grid sensory and social isolation habitat. It’s a rolling coping mechanism, an accessibility device, a sensory safe smial of Cavendish space. I call it the Silver Sarcophagus.
The Sarcophagus is equipped to boondock on public lands and hook up to facilities at state, national, and RV parks. Everywhere I go, my sensory coping space is with me. Everywhere I go, a lozenge of predictable comfort with a good mattress is here to help me endure.
Neuropathy, chronic pain, autistic burnout, and activist burnout have forced me into semi-retirement. I’m at the end of my career wondering what to do with myself once savings runs out. For now, I will abide in my wandering smial, seeking solace in a small space set amidst sprawling nature. From within, the energy for yet another reinvention might be mustered. The continuous fluid adaptation required to cope in a neurotypical world is exhausting. I’ll be in the Silver Sarcophagus marshaling my reserves.