We left off last time with the story of how the Whale came to be, and how it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life filled with many road trips around the United States. The first phase of the Whale accomplished its goal, which was to be a cheep way to live while traveling. That being said, it had its downfalls. The set up and tear down every night was a major issue. I know some people are completely fine with having to set up their sleeping areas every night, but for me I needed a stable, unchanging sleeping platform. Thus phase two was built and the Whale took on a new look!
After my summer spent at the CM in 2013, I decided to return to Wyoming, specifically Grand Teton National Park, in the summer of 2014 as a groundsman working for Grand Teton Lodge Company. I knew that I wanted to do another major trip in the spring, and Timmy was ready to be my co-pilot again, so I started brainstorming a way to improve the set up in the Whale.
I knew I needed to improve on three major things for the phase two build: simplicity, permanent storage, and a permanent sleeping area. I also needed that sleeping area to fit two people. I did a little research online and found the very common style of van build with boxes for storage underneath and sleeping on top. Another great benefit of the Odyssey was that a full sheet of plywood would fit inside the back so that gave me a sturdy base to attach my boxes to.
I used plywood for the tops of the boxes as well, and hinged them so that you could access the boxes from the top and also from the sides. This made a platform on the top that would allow for us to sleep on top and also leave the beds in tact instead of having to tear them down. The window blinds were black out curtains from Walmart strung up with bungees. This was a huge improvement from the first trip because it made set up much much faster every night. It wasn't quite perfect, but it was a huge leap in the right direction.
The biggest thing that I have found while living in a van is that you have to find a way to make life easier for yourself. It is already difficult enough being stuffed into a small space so the easier you can make it on yourself the happier you will be. Having things organized into their respective places is a huge help. Its amazing how much you can lose in such a small space! With stuff easy to access it will give you less of a headache when you need something simple like a shirt to wear or a snack to eat. Even with the boxes I had built, it was still a multi-step process to get to certain things. After a while it starts to get on your nerves.
With phase two in place, Tim and I hit the road and continued the journey through the western states and had an awesome time.
As I drove home that fall, I knew I needed to improve some things in the Whale. It was time for yet another upgrade to the beast!