*If you don’t have time, skip to the last paragraph.*
In late July of 2018, I decided that I’d be moving from Colorado to Vermont. I had sold my old truck in January and had thus spent the last 7 months borrowing cars, bumming rides, and occasionally sticking my thumb in the air to get where I needed to be. It was effortlessly fun and because of the caliber of people I had around me, it was never a point of stress. But some time around early August, I realized two things. First, that I would need a car, but second, and arguably more important, was that I hadn’t been saving money whatsoever. So I sat myself down and gave myself a talk and we (I) decided to not go to any more concerts (unless they were really important), to not go to bars (unless it was happy hour), and to hit pause on the road trips. It kind of worked.
I spent the next month or so saving up paychecks and then lucked into an unexpected bonus for planning and organizing a wilderness education program. When it was all said and done, I had a few thousand dollars saved up and found a bunch of pick-up trucks and station wagons and cool VW vans that I loved looking at and daydreaming about owning, but couldn’t afford.
Then, one hot day in the beautiful little pirate town of Lyons, Colorado, I stumbled across a big van with a cracked windshield for sale. And I walked right past it. I spent the next few days thinking about the van and told myself that I’d give it another look, mainly because I’d found nothing else that matched my criteria: in my price range and actually running.
The next morning, I test-drove a Jeep Liberty with windows that wouldn’t roll down, no radio, and actively started breaking down during the test drive. I drove it half a mile to where the van was parked and got out. I looked through the back window of the van and realized that I was going to buy it. It was carpeted and had two walls of shelving put in as well as a wooden door between the driving area and the cargo area. I called the number on the For Sale sign and had a test drive set up for the next day. It ran beautifully and I was sold. The next day I talked the owner (a recently retired carpenter) down into my price range. I paid him in cash and he rode away on his bike, hollering out “replace that windshield!”
Over the next couple weeks, I cleaned every inch of the inside, painted the bumpers, patched a few rust spots, put on a roof rack, built a bed in the back, and took it to a mechanic for a full bubble bath before I drove this beaut cross-country. He checked off on everything in the van besides the back brakes, which were rusted on and couldn’t be looked at unless I was going to spend another $150 that I didn’t have, so I took everything else being in good shape as good enough and considered it road worthy.
On September 15th I picked up my good buddies Eli Morrissey (fresh off a Master’s degree in England) and Billy Kane (a jack-of-all-trades firefighter/surfer/scientist) from the Denver Airport and we drove south for Telluride with the windows down and one of us in a beach chair in the back area. All 3 of us were pretty broke, but together, we were almost not broke. This was to be that road trip.
Eventually we made ambled down to Southern Utah, the activities of which can be a book in itself. What’s important for right now is that we went from Moab (Hal Canyon) to Escalante to Bryce to Zion. All 3 of us are still speechless from that first sunset in Zion.
The plan was to drive the 400 miles from Zion to Salt Lake City in a few hours and be in Salt Lake City by dinner. When we left Zion, spirits were high. 15 miles north of Zion, spirits decreased rapidly. As I pulled onto the highway and accelerated, all 3 of us noticed a particularly smoky smell and Eli, looking out the passenger side window, remarked fairly calmly how the back right tire area had a plume of black smoke coming out of it. We realized that it was the brake getting stuck in position when I’d hit the brake and it would rub, and in the 100 degree Utah heat, that would quickly become a fire. In short, my $150 gamble to not check the back brakes proved to be a bad idea. Over the next 9 hours, I drove the van roughly 375 miles, up and over mountains, without touching the brake pedal once. It is among the greatest my greatest accomplishments and it took years off of my life. We rolled into the parking lot of Brendan’s apartment building, tired, stressed, hungry, and borderline defeated.
The Salt Lake City breakdown turned out to be an incredibly sobering event for me. For the past year or so, I had been as free as a human being can be. Colorado was a dreamscape for me to live a fairytale and at the speed I was living at, I was moving far too fast for any negatives to catch up with me. I felt invincible. But for every high, there is a come down. I was stuck in the desert with my van in the shop and not too much money left to my name. I ended up spending nearly every penny I had rebuilding the entire back brake system (which now work great!).
On the 7th morning, we picked up the van and headed north to Wyoming. What happened next is a testament to the quality of this fine vehicle. I turned the key in Wyoming, and for the next 2 days, the motor wasn’t turned off until we reached Cleveland, Ohio. Somewhere around the Nebraska border we looked at each other and without really speaking a word about it, realized we’d be pushing straight on to Cleveland, where warm couches, cold beers, an untrained Boston Terrier, and our pal Tyler Zickel waited. We developed a system pretty quickly: passenger seat to driving to sleeping in the bed. Each shift lasted 6 hours with seamless transitions into the driver seat.
Cleveland was kind to us, and then before we knew it a day had passed and we were driving to New England and the trip was over.
15 days and not nearly the trip we expected. Which is perfect if you’re someone that hates Montana, the Tetons, the Dakotas, Michigan, and the Great Lakes. Anyway. The reason I wrote this is to bring you to where I am now. Working in Northern Vermont, one becomes intimately involved with the icy roads that make Vermont a land of 4-wheel drive vehicles. My van is a 2-wheel drive easy rider. It’s time for me to make a change. So without further adieu…
VAN FOR SALE
- 1992 Ford E-250 Econoline Van
- 180k miles
- Automatic Transmission
- Overdrive Transmission- the good one that can last 50 years (Recently serviced)
- 351 Engine
- Recently re-built brake system (New master cylinder)
- Recently replaced windshield
- Seatbelts/Driver-side airbag
- Stereo system
- Carpeted w/ bed and shelves (perfect for someone under 6 feet tall)
- Roof rack mounts (Thule roof box negotiable)
- Can be easily modified or built onto
- Full vehicle history