ALASKA pt. II

After spending ten days in Alaska, we were ready to head back down to Prince George to reunite with our van and rid of this blasted mini-van. Despite consistent daylight, mosquito swarms invading our sleep, and trying to pee in a porta potty while in the fetal position, we really did find a reason to laugh, and laugh HARD, every single day. 

Getting back to our van felt like Christmas times one thousand. I remember looking back while we were driving and just feeling so much gratitude that all of this space came equipped with everything we could ever need and that we had made it. Thankful for Corbin and his ability to create such high quality amenities, thankful for my job and the freedom and flexibility that comes with it, and thankful for all of the dirtbags that have been living out of vans and station wagons for years, paving the way to this life and these adventures.

However the thrill and pure bliss was short lived. Two hundred miles after leaving Prince George, we spent a few nights in Jasper National Park in literally the most perfect free and hidden campsite there ever was. We pulled the van in down some two tracks and up near a glacier creek. We ran naked into the freezing shallow water and back to the campsite with out any regard for indecency because there was not another human for miles. It took quite a bit of convincing to drag me out of there, but thankfully we left when we did, because about half a mile from our little mountain paradise, the transmission that we just had rebuilt, failed. 

We were towed into Banff, which in all honestly is truly one of the best places to ever be stranded, where we spent eight days waiting on a new transmission to be delivered and installed. Even through some shit, the universe still has such a beautiful way of taking care of us. All of the repairs were covered by the first mechanic and we ended up with a brand new transmission and an incredible warranty. 

While in Banff we celebrated Corbin’s birthday, hiked a few mountains, floated down the crystal blue river, spent time getting to know a few locals, and visited all of the tourist shops, bars, and art exhibits. We made it home three days before needing to shoot a Michigan wedding, and despite all of the stress and anxiety of travel mishaps, we had an incredible adventure. 

Recently I read a quote that stated, “If you are going through an experience, it’s because you need the lesson.” Here are a few lessons and takeaways I took from this trip:

  1. As long as I have the people that I love and my health and an open road, there is absolutely nothing that can bring me down. 

  2. Be flexible and trust the process. You are never trapped, there is always a way out, always a way home, and everything will happen exactly the way that it is supposed to. 

  3. Corbin is my rock. These little bumps have proven to me how strong our bond really is and how much weight it will take to ever break us. Between his positivity and my abundant gratitude, we’ve got a lot of full glasses to pass around. 

  4. There are so many good people everywhere. The kindness I am constantly shown in all of these places I visit is evidence of that. 

  5. I’m not tired yet, and we are going to keep this train rolling, regardless of obstacles to be faced. 

Until next time. Much love. 

Meghan KindsvaterComment
ALASKA pt. I

I decided to split this trip into two posts. Mostly because there are so many images to share, but also because this adventure really did have two distinct parts with different emotions and stories. 

My entire heart and soul went into the planning of this trip. After spending two months of every spare second we could create building out the new van it was finally time to hit the road. We literally were putting the awning on the roof four minutes before driving away. Corbin and I jumped into the front seats knowing that there was likely a long list of things we had forgotten. It didn’t matter, all of the hard work and long nights and stress and disagreements were going to be so worth it. He grabbed my hand and we took a few deep breaths, watched our eyes grow glossy and then drove away. 

The first couple of days were rather uneventful, I had three continental states left to visit: North Dakota, Montana + Idaho, so we took the northern route. Once we got into the mountains in Montana we started to notice that something wasn’t quite right with the van. We had been driving it for close to six months and it actually had visited the dealership twice to prep for the long drive. Regardless of our preparation, after several opinions from shops in Montana, Washington State, and British Columbia, it was determined that the van needed a new transmission and that it wasn’t going to be finished in time for us to get to Alaska to shoot a wedding. 

Cue the birth of VAN .25. The Dodge minivan that we rented and slept in for ten days that carried us all the way to our destination and beyond. Leaving our van behind in Prince George, BC was heartbreaking, it really was. But honestly I felt like maybe I should have been more sad. After letting the build out completely consume our lives and relationship for months the idea of not being able to carry out the van’s purpose should have totally crushed me, but it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad and stressed and I did cry. But traveling and adventure is solely experience and I didn’t care what I was going in because I was still going to fucking Alaska. And I was with Corbin and that was all that mattered. 

A fellow traveler friend sent me a message during our sharing of the circumstances and stated “Part of being on the road is being flexible” and that we were doing it well. She is right. To follow this path you have to eliminate expectations and just fill yourself with so much gratitude that you get to wake up in a new place nearly every day. 

Alaska is everything you would imagine it to be. The sunsets at midnight and dusk never fades. We saw black bears and grizzly bears and moose and caribou and wild buffalo and wolves and foxes and mountain sheep and otters and seals. It is true wilderness. I’ve visited a lot of places that seem like wilderness, but 10-20 miles down the road you can find hotels and fast food joints and tourist shops. But driving through the Yukon and into Alaska, you are absolutely alone and in the wild. 

I have now covered all of the United States (other than Hawaii )and more than half of Canada too. I have a lot of plans for this new van and I’m glad we were able to get some big repairs taken care of. This winter will be my fourth winter on the road and I have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.

Stay tuned for ALASKA pt. II were we reunite with our van and head over to the Canadian Rockies. 

Meghan Kindsvater Comments
THE NEW VAN

It still blows my mind that we built this. While on the road I will periodically glance back and think, “holy shit.” But it’s here, it’s real, and I have never worked so hard on anything in my life. Mostly because of the deadline for the Alaska trip. But also because we essentially built an eighty square foot apartment from scratch. 

The decision to upgrade to a new van came after booking a wedding in Alaska. I knew that I wanted to road trip up there and initially I was going to purchase a truck and a truck camper with the plan to sell when I returned home. But come along Corbin, and the dream and design flourished. Corbin has a lot of knowledge and experience in building homes, so he is really the key component to bringing this entire vision to life. Between his skill and my back account we were able to create something pretty incredible. 

The post will first just showcase a few overall images of the space and then I will break it down into parts of the build, why we did things the way that we did, as well as the cost breakdown. 

THE BED

This was a big priority for me, after spending months sleeping on a fold out couch in the old van and spending at least 10 minutes every morning and evening setting up and tearing down. The idea of being able to just crawl into an already made bed at the end of a long driving day was absolutely divine to me. So we went with a queen horizontal set up using an inexpensive memory foam mattress on Amazon. You have to cut about 10” off of the mattress in order for it to fit horizontally, so the length is only 70”. It’s tight for Corbin, being six feet tall, so we sleep on a diagonal sometimes, but still. Its amazing. 

Also, you can find the pillow, which was the inspiration behind all of the interior design at www.baladihome.com.

THE TOILET

This is still my favorite. I am pretty sure I shared it on Instagram when it arrived in the mail, but it is so nice. It tucks right under the bed on a slider and is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to dump out. There is also zero odor, but we do only use it for liquid waste, so I can not attest to solids. The toilet itself is a Thetford Porta Potti Curve 550e and I found it on Amazon for $120 with a mounting plate for another $30.

THE KITCHEN

So the second big priority was having a stove/oven inside of the van. Being on the road for long periods of time can be a bit draining, and not eating well just exemplifies that feeling. I also have such a pain in the ass diet, so fast food and restaurants are super tough. I found the RV oven on eBay for like $300 because of a few scratches which are unnoticeable to us, and truthfully it is going to get beat up anyways and so far its worked perfectly.  Adding in the stove meant needing propane, and that was quite the journey. I see a lot of van builds put propane tanks in built out sealed compartments inside of the vans, but Corbin was not into it. He wanted to find a tank we could mount underneath the van but they were super expensive. So after a week of going back and forth I reached out to another trusted van builder pal, and he strongly recommended Corbin’s plan. So Corb-1, Meg-0. 

I found a reasonably priced fork lift propane tank that could be mounted vertically and we mounted it underneath the van with twelve inches of clearance. We did read that some people struggled with hitting the ground, but we’ve driving 2,500 miles thus far (and through a couple of fields) and thankfully haven’t had any issues.

As for the sink, its all standard size parts that you can find in any hardware store. We are using three 5 gallon tanks (also found on Amazon and I think they are used on ATV’s). One tank is the grey water holding and the other two are connected to a water pump for dishes, teeth brushing and showering. We put the faucet specifically next to the door and bought a faucet with 360 turning range and an extra long hose so that we could pull it outside to wash. Alternatively we have a six liter gravity filter for backpacking with a shower attachment. Just this week we hung that from the back doors and were able to both shower on the side of the road in British Columbia.

THE POWER

Let me just say that solar power is the coolest thing ever. The fact that I can run a refrigerator and have the lights on and charge a computer and always have a sleep fan because of the SUN is so rad. And every day it just recharges itself, no matter how much energy we use the day before I wake up in the morning and check the battery only to find it full. We ordered the Renogy Adventurer 300 Watt Solar Kit from Amazon and have so far found that the 300 watts provides more than enough juice for the things we need. 

We did splurge on a refrigerator from ARB that only draws 0.7 amps per hour and other than the one time Corbin turned it down to 1 degree Celsius it has not affected our battery levels at all. We do keep things that need to be really cold near the bottom because the items on top don’t seem to keep as cool. It is also more spacious than it appears, after grocery shopping we thought it would be jammed but there was still a lot of room to spare. 

THE COST

Here is a cost breakdown of what I spent on the rebuild. Obviously super fortunate to be able to do most of the work ourselves, and would like to give a huge shoutout to our friend Denny for his guidance and scolding, my dad for making the carpet piece for the front area, my mom for custom making our cushions, Shane, Ryan + Tommy for lending Corbin a hand when I was out of town or working, Wendy lady for being a painting boss, Tinne with Baladi Home for providing the entire design inspiration with her products, The Cupples for sweet reminder that sits at the foot of our bed, and Spenc + Jess for gifting us with plant life. Thank you to all of our friends and family for their love and support and being patient with us while we disappeared down the van building hole. 

We are beyond excited, filled with so much gratitude and cannot wait for the infinite memories and adventures we plan to make in this space. Much love, Meg + Corb.