Tag Archives: minivan life

Thankful Thursday, October 2021

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I haven’t shared a Thankful Thursday with you in a couple of months because I’ve been so dang busy. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot for which to be grateful. So many good things have happened in the last few months. I got to visit with old friends and see new places. I got to hang out with a nice dog and make a bunch of hats. Life has been good.

I stayed for free at Torrence County Park outside of Moriarty, New Mexico.

Here are some things I’m thankful for right now.

I traveled through New Mexico and Colorado for three weeks and camped in 15 different places and only paid once. That’s right! I stayed in 14 different places on public land for free. I’m so thankful for free places to camp on public land and the Free Campsites website which helped me find 10 of those spots.

I traveled nearly 1,000 miles through two states and didn’t have any trouble with the Silver Streak, my Toyota Sienna minivan. I got the oil changed and tires rotated before I hit the road and no problems were reported to me. I’m so grateful for the van. So far it’s been absolutely reliable and has given me no trouble.

I love seeing places I’ve never seen before, and I’m so lucky that I’ve seen so many new places recently. I just three weeks, I visited The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; four museums in Santa Fe (The Museum of International Folk Art, The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, The New Mexico Museum of Art, and the New Mexico History Museum); The Gran Quivira, Quarai, and Abo Ruins as well as the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Headquarters; The Very Large Array; The Box Recreation Area; The Catwalk Recreation Area; and The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Most of these places are open to the public at no charge. One thing I love more than seeing new places is seeing new places for free.

I also visited Crestone, Colorado; Alamosa, Colorado; and Silver City, New Mexico for the first time.

I’m grateful for my health that allows me to drive, hike, and set up and break down camp. Some days I was wiped out by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, but I went to bed early and woke up early excited about the upcoming day. I’m so glad I’m living well with no major health concerns.

I saw this mural in Crestone, Colorado.

As always, I so appreciate the people who support me each month, either through Patreon or a direst deposit into my PayPay account. Big thanks to Shannan, Keith, Theresa, Laura-Marie, Rena, Muriel, and Nancy. I appreciate you beyond the monetary contribution. I appreciate you believing in me enough to put your dollars on the line, but most of all, I appreciate you believing in me.

Thanks also to Brent and Frank who both also made monetary contributions to me recently. I so appreciate your support as well.

Big special thanks to Brent who had a long Skype call with me once I made it back to home base and talked me through every aspect of getting my solar power system up and running. I was really nervous about doing something wrong and destroying the whole system, but Brent gave me calm direction every step of the way. There is no way I can ever thank you enough, Brent.

I’m also sending thanks to everyone who has posted comments on my blog posts in the last few months. I know I’ve taken a long time to approve and respond to these comments, but believe me, I appreciate them so much. I’ve approved all of the outstanding comments and will respond to them soon.

I appreciate everyone who’s bought a hat or a necklace or postcards or anything else I’ve created. (Winter is coming! Keep your head warm with one of my colorful hats!)

Most of all, thank you to my readers. I appreciate you sticking with me even although blog posts have been few and far between this pat year. I’m hoping to remedy that situation starting now by giving you lots of new content over the next several months. Please keep reading. Please tell your friends about my blog, especially friends who are nomads, travelers, and campers. The single most important thing you can do to support me is to spread the word about my writing.

Thank you! Thank you! Thanks you all for being here and sharing this journey with me.

If you would like to support me financially, I would would really appreciate it. To make a one-time donation, click on the donate button in the column to the right. It will take you to PayPal but you don’t need a PayPal account to donate; you can use a credit or or debit card to make your donation. If you want to offer ongoing monthly support, please consider joining me on Patreon. If you join my Patreon club, you get content that other folks never see. I post photos and updates on my life every couple of days on my Patreon account. Depending on what level you offer support, you might get other gifts from me like a sticker, a bracelet, or even a collage. A donation of even $2 a month will get you access to patron-only content. To join me on Patreon, just click the “Become a patron” button at the top of the column to the right.

I got some kicks on Route 66 in Moriarty, New Mexico.

I took the photos in this post.

My Recent Travels

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My first camping spot at the start of my adventure. This photo was taken on the Ski Valley Road between Taos and the Taos Ski Valley.

I recently spent three weeks on the road traveling in New Mexico and Colorado.

I went from Taos to Taos Ski Valley to Tres Piedras, all in New Mexico. Then I went to Colorado, where I visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Crestone, and Alamosa. Back in the Land of Enchantment, I camped in the Carson National Forest near Tres Piedras for three days. Next I visited museums, thrift stores, and a friend in Santa Fe. From the capital city, I went to Moriarty, the three sites of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, the Very Large Array, the Box Recreation Area near Socorro, the Catwalk National Recreation Area, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. I also shopped in nine thrift stores in four towns.

Along the way, I mostly camped for free. I only paid for a campsite once, when I stayed at the PiƱon Flats Campground in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Otherwise, I spent my nights boondocking at no cost.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share with you where I went, what I learned, what I saw, and where I stayed. Stay tuned for all this great new content.

I had a terrific time during my three weeks of travel. It was fun to be back on the road. However, I am glad to be at my home base, settling in for the winter. It also feels good to write blog posts again. I hope you will enjoy hearing about my adventures as much as I enjoyed living them.

Footprints in the sand at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado.

I took the photos in this post.

Why the Rubber Tramp Artist is Driving a Minivan

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A silver Toyota Sienna is parked in a parking lot.
My new minivan. I call it the Silver Streak.

I’ve always been a conversion van sort of gal. I’ve owned five conversion vans (4 Chevy G20s and 1 Dodge Ram) since 2010. When I decided to sell my truck and buy a van, I was pretty sure I’d buy another conversion van. Then I started seeing what used vans were actually available in the state of New Mexico.

On Craigslist I found newer traditional conversion vans and Sprinter vans on the used vehicle market, but those rigs were wildly out of my price range. If I’d had $10,000 or more in my pocket, one of those big van could have been mine. Since I only had around $7,000 in my pocket, none of those vans were to be mine.

My last conversion van was a 1992. Did I really want something that old again?

The vans in my price range were older. I saw vans from the 90s, 80s, and even 70s advertised on Craigslist. I was unsure how wise it would be to invest in a vehicle that was more than 20 years old. My friend Brent strongly suggested that I get somethings manufactured in the 21st century. Besides just being old, the majority of full-size vans I saw that I could afford were high mileage. I saw vans for sale with 180,000; 200,000; 250,000 miles on them. How long could something with so many miles on it last before I encountered a major problem? I was really worried about buying myself a big ol’ problem (or a bunch of smaller problems) in the form of an older van.

After looking at all of the Craigslist ads for full-size vans in New Mexico and finding nothing suitable, I started looking at ads from Arizona. There were more large vans available in the Copper State, and I thought maybe I’d have to go Arizona and stay with friends while I shopped for a van there.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated everything. (What hasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic complicated?) I had received both of my vaccine shots, but none of my friends had received theirs. The last thing I wanted to do was infect anyone, especially people I care about. How could I keep everyone safe during my visit? Where would I sleep while staying with friends in order to not risk anyone’s health? Should I use public transportation to go van shopping? Would it be safe to have a friend drive me to see vehicles? How dangerous would it be for me to meet with a variety of strangers and test drive their vehicles? How would I get to Arizona anyway? My truck was sold, and there’s no Greyhound service from the town I live in. I probably didn’t want to be on a bus with strangers and their breath for 6 or 8 hours anyway.

On the second day of my ad search, I realized I was seeing a lot of New Mexico ads for minivans in my price range. I’ve always been a conversion van gal, but I started thinking maybe driving a minivan would be ok.

The biggest factor I considered when I thought about buying a minivan is that I’m no longer a full-time rubber tramp. I’m keeping my little trailer parked in the little RV park, and I’ll live in it 7 or 8 months out of the year. Because I won’t have to shove everything I own (and believe me, I am not a minimalist) into a minivan, I was able to imagine living and traveling in one for 4 or 5 months at a time.

Of course, gas mileage is the siren song of the minivan. When I interviewed The Man about why he chose to live and travel in a minivan, the main reason he gave for his decision was the minivan’s good gas mileage. After years of driving my vans and truck and getting 15 miles per gallon at best, I was ready to spend less on gas. Not only will the minivan give me good gas mileage during the 4 or 5 months when I’m traveling, I’ll save money when driving around town running errands when I’m living stationery in my travel trailer during the winters. If I want to take road trips during the spring, fall, and winter, I can do so without worrying that stops at the gas station will break my bank.

Reliability was another important minivan attribute. When The Man was in the market for a minivan, he spent hours researching the best on the market. He found the two most reliable minivans available were the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. I figured if I got one of those van models and maintained it properly, I could probably drive it for a long, long time.

As I looked through minivan ads on Craigslist and Facebook, one in Albuquerque caught my attention. It was a 2005 Toyota Sienna with under 100,000 miles on it. It was being sold by the original owner. I sent the owner lots of questions throughout the day and he answered each one promptly. By the end of the day, I had an appointment to see the van the next afternoon.

My mechanically inclined friend drove me out to look at the van, crawled under the van to look for leaks, checked the fluids, rode with me while I drove the car, and took it out for a spin himself.

On the plus side, the vehicle seemed to be in good mechanical condition. There were no leaks. No “check engine” lights were on. The owner said the van had passed the emissions test the last time it had been inspected, about eight months prior and had never been in an accident.. The owner also said the minivan had never been his family’s primary vehicle. His family had always had another vehicle, so the minivan mostly sat in the garage except for the few times they drove it to Vegas on family trips. On the minus side, the van needed new tires, a new battery, and new windshield wiper blades. All things considered, I decided to buy the vehicle.

I had the van’s oil changed right away. I bought a new battery for it, new windshield wiper blades, and four new tires. The nice man who helped me at AutoZone confirmed what my friend had said: he neither saw nor smelled any evidence of leaks. He said the engine compartment looked very clean. The young man who put on new tires at Discount Tire said the can’s alignment seemed fine; the tires weren’t worn unevenly. I’ve driven the minivan over 600 miles in the weeks since I purchased it, and all seems well.

The minivan drives smoothly and quietly and practically parks itself. Its got more get up and go than any conversion van I ever drove. I am so relieved that I no longer practically need a ladder to get in and out of my vehicle. The air conditioner blows cold. The stereo sounds good.

I named it the Silver Streak.

I’ve pulled most of the seats out, and I’m getting it ready so I can sleep in it and live in it. I’m about to take it out on the road for the start of my summer travels. Hopefully it will hold up as well as I think it will. Stay tuned for more posts about getting the seats out and how I set everything up.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted.