Minivan Camper Bed and Updates

I just realized it has been way too long since my last post regarding progress with the minivan and the reclining couch bed. The reason is because it was originally being designed for our own use, but our own needs have changed.

We had planned for years to have a home base to return to once in a while, and for our own unique situation (and in reality, isn’t everyone’s situation unique?) it would have worked very well. It has only been through continued living in this real estate and neighborhood that we are in, that we grew more and more dissatisfied with it and knew that something had to change ASAP, even though that couldn’t be as quickly as we wished it could be. Several things had to be worked out first to get ready for a change.

First of all, this place has to get emptied out. We have WAY too much stuff, and before we can even show the house to prospective buyers, things have to go. Anyone who has ever done a major emptying out of a house knows it doesn’t happen overnight. We had to determine what we intended to keep, and among that, what was to go into the van conversion, what would go into the trailer, and what would go to storage. For that I put together a spreadsheet showing what those items are, and their weights and approximate cubic foot volume, so we would know how to distribute it and how much space it would take.

For the rest, we have to determine what to put in a garage sale, what to put on eBay to get the best value out of it, what to give away and what to throw away. Let’s just say that we are making satisfactory progress in this regard.

Secondly, certain financial things have to happen in order to prepare for a future life of full-timing because once we leave here, we don’t ever want to worry about working again, even for ourselves. We have two items to take care of yet, one time-share and one credit card, and then we will be debt-free and ready, but time-wise it now appears to be August 1st of 2015 before we can leave here. We also have to have time to play catch-up with making final purchases of things we will need immediately for the road, as well as a plan for things we still need “after” we hit the road. The sale of the minivan will provide a little financial cushion, but we also hope to have some equity in the house when it sells. On the other hand, we want a quick sale, so we don’t have to make payments any longer than necessary, so there’s a lot of unknowns there. Regardless, the status of this house has nothing to do with our ability to travel when the time comes. If it’s not sold yet, the realtor can mail me the paperwork!

Thirdly, some logistics had to be worked out…such as what are we taking with us and what are we going to travel in, since the minivan is no longer practical for our full-time lifestyle. For one thing, my wife doesn’t want to give up her piano that her parents bought for her when she first started taking lessons in grade school. There is no one that we can leave it with that wants it, or that we could trust to take care of it. And we have spent a lifetime of travel and collected many things that we don’t want to part with.

The other part of that equation is that we have no one to leave anything to that would want it or deserves it, nor do we want to leave a financial mess when we leave this world, so it just makes better sense to dispose of most of it now, while we still can make those decisions for ourselves and take the best financial advantage of everything for our own use!

We looked at various traveling methods (RV’s) but none of them were exactly what we needed. The ones that “could” work were never around here, and would require traveling long distances go see them where they were to make a deal, and that could only happen after this house was sold. That would require more expense and hassle with moving to a rental in the interim.The timing just wasn’t right.

After coming across several blogs regarding using converted cargo trailers, an idea came together. We already owned a mid-sized cargo trailer, and I am a builder (of many things) by trade, so I worked up a design that was better for our use than anything we could hope to find on the market, and when completed we won’t owe anyone a dime on it!

In order to get that done, other things (like the minivan project) has to slow down to allow other things to catch up. It all has to come together at the right time. In that light, I also created a new blog to show our progress in converting our trailer, and that blog will continue on as our travel blog once we get out there using it. You can read all about it at Even a cargo trailer of this size can be pulled behind any mid-sized vehicle, so some of you may find this project more to your liking than using a minivan for camping.

It has several advantages, the first being standing height. It also has more usable space in general. At well under 4000 pounds, you can tow it with nearly any vehicle with a receiver hitch on it, and you won’t lose your living quarters if you have to trade towing vehicles. Trailers have no odometer and few moving parts, so they can last a LOT longer than a drivable RV. In a worst case scenario of failing to keep the wheel bearings greased, even the entire axle can be replaced relatively cheaply in a couple of hours, and get you right back on the road again in no time.

Also, the original idea of providing fully-dimensioned working drawings for the minivan reclining couch/bed was too overwhelming, even if nothing else was going on. Although I know computers in general, learning to use some of these CAD drawing programs is a major task in itself, requiring massive amounts of time that I simply cannot justify, considering everything else going on.

On top of that, just building it and getting all the parts to fit together, slide properly where they needed to, and work as they should, proved to be more than what a normal person would be able to do. The intricate and precise cutting involved is better suited to CNC machine cutting, rather than a handyman with a saber saw. It also gets away from the original concept of “creating” a minivan camper, rather than “building” it. Something had to change.

I will still finish the reclining couch/bed for our own use, however limited that may be, but I will not recommend it in the next version of the book because it is simply too complex for most people to build. Instead, I will offer a much simpler alternative that will work just as well, and be a lot more versatile and practical. By next August (2015) when my wife doesn’t need the minivan for her work anymore, we may sell the van and reclining couch bed separately, or sell them together, if someone has an interest in it. More details will be given when that time comes.

I am still in the process of updating the next version of the book, and will add pictures and maybe some scanned rough sketches to it, but no working drawings. Every model of van is different, and each person’s needs are different. My ideas were originally meant to be concepts…to generate new thoughts in other people’s minds. Adding dimensions to anything simply takes away from that. People need to visualize what is possible, add a few twists of their own, and make it happen. I know some of you were already in that mode even before you got my ebook. You are the “do-ers” that can take an idea and run with it without someone holding your hand. That’s the kind of minds this ebook was for.

Others have read the book, and have still not done anything with it because you have wandered off into all kinds of other tangents. It’s fine if you were just curious. But for some of you, what is dangerous to yourself is that you “want” what this can do for you, but you find all kinds of reasons why it won’t work, even without trying it. From worrying about what to do with unnecessary wheels on storage totes, to wanting to change all sorts of unnecessary details before you haven’t even tried to create your van, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to actually accomplishing what you wanted to do in the first place, and that is to be able to create a camper and travel economically.

I have one reader who even went his own way and tried to buy an older RV, which went against many of his concerns, only to find that he got ripped off on the deal, with finding major expenses that had to be done to it. Then they talked about another type of RV, a towable, but didn’t have the courage to learn how to back up with it, and would have incurred more payments in buying it. And it still wouldn’t have met all their needs. Now the older RV is gone and after nearly three years, they are finally back to what my book was about in the first place, and have bought a minivan! But now they are nickel and diming the expense of what I tell them they need on it to make it workable for them, even though the total cost is less than 1/10th of what they would have put out for the new towable RV they had looked at! For everything I suggest, they have a contradictory attitude about it and either look for problems which don’t exist or want to make changes to everything. In the meantime, they already put off one long distance trip, and now would like to go on a different one, and yet they haven’t even made it out of the state yet!

I have hired and fired a lot of employees in my lifetime, both for my own companies as well as being in a position to do it for other employers, and I have seen a lot of people like this. They can’t just take an idea and run with it to see how far they get, because they trip over their own insecurities in the process. Every little detail becomes a problem that they have to have someone to hold their hand while they work it out. Nothing is ever good enough on it’s own merit without them constantly worrying about something or wanting to change it. People like that don’t last two days in jobs like I have been in where snap decisions have to be made and deadlines met. While they are thinking about all the issues, another person would have the project done and moved on to the next already.

I have no problem with people adjusting my concepts to meet their own needs. That’s what it’s all about. But most people make some kind of progress. As someone once told me, “Do something, even if it’s wrong!” Progress is only made by action…NOT thinking about taking action! The person who dives into stuff head first without knowing what they are doing will likely make far more progress than one who has to think everything to death before they lift a finger to actually do something! Even if the other guy makes mistakes, he will find out by trial and error what works, and if it doesn’t work, he will make a quick decision to either fix the problem or abandon it and move on to something else.

Had this reader simply taken my advice, and purchased the minivan last year, and at the same time, ordered everything I told him he would need to make it livable for both he and his wife (hopefully from my links), it would have taken maybe a week to gather everything together, and maybe another week to pack to get ready for the first trip. He would have had far less in his purchases than what he paid for the older RV that turned into a lemon. That project as well as the trip would have been done and out of the way, and this year, they would have been ready to make the second large trip. As it is, they haven’t even left the state, and still don’t have everything they need for the minivan. It isn’t lack of money that is stopping them. It’s an inability to make a decision and move on with it!

For this and other reasons, I just don’t have the patience to deal with people who are not “do-ers”. I am used to working with technically-minded people who can think outside the box, and get things done. I am an idea person, and can work out all kinds of problems on complex machines, both mechanically and electrically (as well as hydraulics and plumbing) but when people refuse to take action to help their own causes, it is not my job to constantly hold their hand and try to lead them into action to get things done. Somewhere I have to draw the line, even if it costs me followers or friends. I have more than enough projects of my own to deal with.

One of my pet peeves is when people ask me for advice, and then they go and do something else that is totally opposite of what I suggested, only to find out that it was wrong to begin with, which is what I tried to tell them! I can’t help people who won’t listen or at least try what I suggest! That’s like me selling a web site building program that I am trained in, and then having someone go buy a different one from someone else and want me to teach them how to build a web site on a program I am not even familiar with! It’s not just a disrespect for my time and money, but is totally wrong in so many ways! And yet, some people just don’t “get it”!

Anyway, that’s where my mindset is today, what is going on, and why the next version of the book is way behind schedule. Never mind that we had to spend $9000 for a whole new septic system which was not buried deep enough, and because of rain, the front yard has looked like a badly plowed field since last November. We finally got it partially graded out last month, so at least it’s reasonably flat, but now the septic tank and pipes need still more fill dirt over them before grass starts growing again! So the expenses haven’t ended yet!

Meanwhile, we’re trying to have garage sales as often as possible to try to get this place emptied out, and trying to get listings on eBay for other things. When the weather permits (no rain, above 60 and below 85) I have to work on the trailer to get it done in time for our departure next year. Also, there are still things that need to be done on the conversion van to get it ready to go. It’s all very overwhelming at times, and sometimes very frustrating. But progress is being made on all fronts, so we know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, it’s not a train.

Your thoughts?