We bought Great White the Adventure Van on Craigslist in late 2014, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone we knew. A 1998 Ford E-250 cargo van previously owned by AT&T and bearing the sticker residue evidence of such. She was perfect. Which is to say, the price was right; she cost $1400. She had high miles (168,000) and the sort of rust you would expect from a 17-year-old vehicle from Ohio.
Our test drive had been uninformative, as we weren’t able to hear the engine over the clanking of the metal cabinets that filled the back. But we had faith. Removing the cabinets turned out to be an adventure in and of itself — the screws were rusted into the floor so we just had to grab a sawzall and cut apart the floor. There were other minor hitches. When we pulled up the foot mat on the driver’s side, we discovered well, not much. No floor, just a gaping hole and an excellent view of the pavement whizzing by beneath. But we patched the floor, and yeah, she was perfect.
Fortunately for us, Syd’s parents had an Autohome Airtop roof-top tent that they were no longer using, so we “long-term borrowed” it, stuck it on the roof and attached a custom hinging bike rack to the rear. Excluding the car-top tent, our “conversion” cost us under $1,500 because we eschewed standard van conversion requirements–namely aesthetics–and focused on making the van the ultimate toy hauler. In addition to the car-top tent and the bike rack, we purchased a rotating seat base ($250), moto chocks ($70), a K2 cooler that holds ice for days ($329), some tape LED lighting ($8) and built some shelving out of discarded lumber (free). Then we called it a day and hit the road.
Later we built a porch out of old 2x4s recovered from Macky’s parents backyard, and added that to a roof with a sparkly new ladder ($60) bolted to the rear door.
After all, for us, living in a van is about financial freedom and pursuing our dreams of racing bikes professionally–not sinking $20,000 into a conversion. As long as we can ride our bikes everyday, we’re happy cooking outdoors (Eureka collapsable table, Jetboil Genesis stove and a plain ol’ refillable propane tank) and sleeping in the fresh air.
Since November 2014, we’ve logged 30,000 miles in Great White traveling to mountain bike races around the U.S. We’ve visited 15 states, numerous trailheads, and experienced countless mountaintop sunrises and sunsets.
Check out the detail photos below:
Here’s the packing process:
See you on the road!