5 Weeks of Paradise
I got your attention with five weeks of paradise, but van life isn't all barefoot walks on beaches and cocktails under the sun. Living in a van can be tough at times and isn't for everyone.
It was the summer of 2021, when I went on my first van trip in my newly self-converted van for 5 weeks. I posted a ton of pictures on my Instagram page, but I have since deleted the account with too many social media accounts to manage, being a performer, too. So this will be a recap with photos.
I left about two weeks later than planned as I was still building out my van. In the end, I left with a partially finished van and no working faucet. However, I wasn't complaining about it.
It was great that I went on this trip before living in my van full time because when I returned from the trip, I knew exactly what not to pack, what I should have packed, and how to better equip and organize my van. Presently, I live in my van full time, and I have everything I need.
My 5 week vaca was in the middle of one of the most hot summers, and I wanted to see Utah, Arizona and California. I got advice from other van lifers and friends. Half said I could die of heatstroke and half said, "You'll be fine; just be smart." Long story short, I survived to tell you all about it. Taking my chances, I set out with Homer, a tiny plant from a friend, and my van.
I had absolutely no clue where I would go, what route I'd take, and where I'd stop, other than meeting friends in Hood River, OR, near the Columbian River Gorge, on the first night. My friends checked out my partially finished van, and we had an amazing dinner at Three Rivers Grill while we watched the 4th of July fireworks. By the way, the food there is delicious, as is the view.
Deciding which direction to head was a bit daunting. Unfortunately, there were wildfires just about everywhere with severe heat warnings. I decided to head west on highway 84 through Boise and into Salt Lake City. I paid to sleep at a campsite that first night as I didn't know where else to sleep being new to van life.
I stopped for a break at the Great Salt Lake just before reaching Salt Lake City. A very interesting spot and worth the stop.
Driving through Salt Lake city and into Park City freaked me out with the steep inclines and descents. The automatic shifting on the ProMaster feels unsafe when going downhill as it doesn't turn over until the last second. There is a manual shift option on the transmission, but I didn't even know it was there at this point. Not wanting to burn out the breaks, I "white knuckled it" here and all through Utah. It wasn't pretty. Even on flat parts of the highways, EVERYONE passed me as I drove no more than 63 mph with speed limits up to 80, even the truckers! The ProMaster van is built like a big box that catches the wind like a kite and above 63 mph causes my van to shake.
I stopped for a night in Park City, a quaint little mountain town just east of Salt Lake City. The temperature there was also a lot cooler which was welcomed after the 100+ degree temps I had already experienced at this point. After paying for two or three RV parks already, I decided to give Walmart a try. It was fine, and I felt safe. However, that was just the first time! More on that later.
Light meals and a night at a hotel to escape the heat!
Bryce National Park was extraordinary! At this time I was mostly paying for campsites at night. That meant I was also getting a shower each day, too. Something that would later become more challenging.
50 mph dropping down to 45 for the sharp turns! That's how the Utahnians do it apparaentlty. Yikes!
I usually ate one meal out and two in. I stopped in Kanab, known for its cuisine. If you go there, do have a meal at Wild Thyme Cafe; you won't be disappointed.
I made it through Page on hwy 89, one of the scariest parts of the drive, and into Arizona! You'll have to read part 2 to hear about "van life" living, including how I showered, filled my water supply and all the nitty gritty.