Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lessons from life in a van

It has been two months since we set out on this vanventure of ours. So far, the van is perfect! We love the size, convenience, and reliability of our Honda Odyssey. We stay pretty organized simply because there is not enough space for much to be out of its spot. After the first week or so, we realized how annoying it is to move things from the bed in the back to the front seats every night before going to bed. It was then we found a place for everything. Whether it was velcroing the speakers to the side of the van or hanging our backpacks off the back of the front seats, we found the perfect location for all our items or got rid of them.
Staying somewhat organized:)
I have the side behind the passengers seat and have organized my bins under the bed platform so that my clothes bin is the easiest to access. Zach decided he wanted his climber gear closer and put his "closet" further back. Both of us like our sides and how they flow. Its funny that even in this small of space, we can still have our own systems and space. 
There are a few things we would like to modify and plan to use my dad's expert skills and shop when we are home over Thanksgiving:) We think there is space for another shelf in the kitchen area that could help us organized the back more. Otherwise, our home is pretty perfect and we enjoy being able to basically sleep anywhere! If the weather isn't pleasant, we (meaning Zach...) can cook dinner quickly underneath the back door and then we can sit inside and listen to NPR to catch up on the current events. Its a fun way to enjoy dinner together.
Dinner time!

My lovely Chef!
Our food selection continues to increase as we learn what things work well over a two burner stove. My personal favorite is Mac and Cheese with unsweetened, condensed milk from a little can. We found a Dented Deals store in South Carolina suggested to us by Zach's mom and it had groceries at a discounted price because they were damaged or something. I found the jackpot with family size Mac and Cheese boxes and little condensed milk cans for a steal! There was a box of seasoning packets and you could pick out 10 for $1! We add them into stir fry or pasta salads and have gourmet meals on the road. Its pretty sweet. Other foods we enjoy are breakfast burritos, spaghetti, stir fry, and chip dip! Zach adds lots of Marte Scrugg's delicious hot sauces and I stick with my plain Jane tastes. 
We are able to do all of these meals without refrigeration. Only one thing has gone bad before we were able to finish it, but if you want to have good meals on the road, don't be afraid to go ice free! It is possible. Butter, mayo, cheese, some salad dressings, and lots more last a lot longer then you think without refrigeration. The key is not to contaminate the containers. Buying squeeze mayo eliminates the need to dip a spoon or knife in the jar, avoiding the introduction of contaminates.
Its fun to keep up with the food we have and what we need to use. I lived in houses with huge refrigerators and cabinet space. Sometimes, it wasn't until I moved out that I realized all the food I had left. Buying fresh veggies and fruit, help us make our meal choices. If something needs to be used up, then that's what we eat. This trip is keeping me focused on what we have and using it up before it goes bad. I am loving this new relationship we are having with meals! 
Finding a place to camp and make our dinners has been a big part of our adventure. The biggest lesson we have learned is to find said camping before dark. If we roll up after dark, my fear of the unknown starts to run a little wild and I make up stories about what's out beyond our lights. Zach enjoys hanging out with the less paranoid me better, so we try to find camping in the light. Its also more fun to explore our surroundings in the day and enjoy being outside the van if we have driven very much. After dinner, we usually settle in for the night watching a tv show on the laptop powered by our awesome solar panel and battery:) Its a simple but relaxing way to spend the evenings.
During the day, we love exploring! Whether it is a new climbing area or city, we love setting out on expeditions to understand the world around us. Museums, trails, and coffee shops have all been fun places we have found ourselves. In Knoxville, there is a free concert every day at noon at the local public radio station downtown. It's called the Blue Plate Special. Zach and I went with our friend Becca, whom we met at the Lilly Pad, and had a blast listening to Tyler Childers and the Foodstamps as well as Nick Dittmeier with his backup Americana band. It was great fun and I highly recommend Knoxville to anyone in traveling in the area.

Tyler Childers and the Foodstamps

Nick Dittmeier
Meeting people on the road has been a blast! We are connecting with people from all over the country! This is one of my favorite aspects of the trip. Hopefully, we will get to see these new friends again as some of them are doing the same thing we are! Even moving from the Obed climbing area down to Chattanooga, allowed us to keep up with a few people we had met at Del and Marte's. We ran into them at the sport climbing in Foster Falls. It was fun to see them again:)
I love meeting new people, but when I get to see my friends and family from home, it makes me so happy! My little sister, Megan, was visiting her friend Lisa in Nashville. We planned to meet in Chattanooga for lunch. We had a great time exploring the downtown together and checking out baking shops for Lisa and a used book/craft store for Megan. Its great to see them both so excited about different possibilities for their futures. Thanks for coming to hang out and sharing your excitement for different things in life:)
The Ice Cream Show with over 17.000 flavors (the secret is in the combinations)
Downtown view from a river side park.

A weird mushroom statue in front of a pizzeria.

Walking over the Tennessee River.

Another fun (and free) adventure we partook in recently was swimming under a waterfall! It was beautiful, scenic, and bitterly cold! Adventuter isn't about staying on the shore though, so we braved the chilly water and swam towards the water fall. Zach made it under, but I was getting so cold, I made a quick u-turn and headed back towards the shore. Zach described my swimming as similar to a labrodore swimming after a stick. My doggy paddling is apparently spot on:) It was a fun day and something I won't soon forget!
The beautiful Foster Falls from above.

Zach climbing in Foster Falls

Beautiful scenery as we climb.

Zach getting pumped up for the cold plunge!

Making it under the waterfall!!!

Success and now we can rewarm!
It is a rainy day today, so outdoor adventures are more difficult to find. Instead, we have met back up with Becca in Chattanooga and are enjoying Wi-Fi and music in the North Shore district of downtown. Who knows what adventures lie ahead, but its nice to have a quiet day today:) We are hoping to head up to North Carolina soon and climb some taller rock formations. The fall colors will make the views even better! 
Vanventuring has become a wonderful way of life for us and we are enjoying it so much. So far, we have not run into many hiccups and only cooked one meal that wasn't delicious. If these first two months are any indication, we are in for one awesome year! 

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