Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys



Why write this web site?

This web site initially started as a log to allow friends and family to keep track of us as we began our travels in our van. It gradually expanded as we realized we would like to keep a more detailed journal to remember what we had done.

We also had sections to discuss our hobbies (including the van) with other folks with similar interests.

After a few months it began to get more traffic as it became indexed in the various search engines. Eventually the van-travel related traffic from unacquainted folk became overwhelming, and we adjusted the focus to address this.

What are you doing?

This is covered a bit more in the Who We Are page, but in summary we are a couple who sold our house and began traveling around North America in a 4x4 camper-van a few years ago.

Why did we start the trip?

We were feeling that we were due for an adventure. The past few years had been rather pedestrian and we were itching to do something new. A daily routine of waking up, commuting to work, working, commuting home, and heading to sleep was sucking out our souls.

Why did we get rid of our house and (most of) our stuff?

We sold our house and divested ourselves of most of our belongings in order to reduce the ties and worries we had while on the road. We were unsure if Erik would be able to keep his job on the road, so reducing the bills and converting assets to liquid form would serve to keep us mobile for longer with fewer headaches. (we still have the bikes, in storage)

Van Related:

Why did we choose a conversion van (instead of an RV/Trailer/Camper)?

We wanted to minimize the size of the vehicle while still having a comfortable living space for inclement weather. A regular RV is uncomfortably large to maneuver in town and tight trails (including a spiffy Unimog conversion or similar). A pickup with a camper is another option, however the van has the benefit of the cab turning into a part of the living space with no more impact on vehicle length or height. When on the road we still have access to all of our stuff (which can be very handy when stuck in traffic and wanting a drink, or to get rid of the consequences of said drink. Finally, since we often want to travel to remote places with unknown road conditions or turn-around space, a trailer was deemed too restricting.

Our 2002 trip to New Zealand proved to us that a van sized vehicle would be plenty of room, and that anything larger would be a significant hindrance to getting where we wished to go. On the other hand our experience traveling the western US in a Toyota Tercel had us convinced that we wanted enough internal room to stretch out and stand up.

Why 4x4?

We had never had a four wheel drive vehicle, but the idea of having the capability to get into, and hopefully out-of, many of the remote places in this land with our home was such an intriguing and compelling idea. We debated this issue a number of times due to the cost consequences, but in the end we figured it would hurt more to be regretful that we had not tried it out. Time and experience indicate that we made the correct choice for ourselves as we have ended up in many places we would not have gone without the high clearance and 4wd capabilities.

Why no generator?

Noise, space, and the requirement for carrying around extra fuel. With enough solar panels and the engine alternator as a backup we should be able to be self-sufficient on power without one. Space is a very dear premium and a generator and its fuel would take a significant amount. Plus they are annoying. Try sleeping in a campground where someone leaves theirs on all night (especially if they are directly up-wind).

Why Diesel?

A number of people have asked why we chose to go with a diesel powered van, and also with diesel appliances as opposed to the cheaper propane appliances available. Here is a listing of some of the points that we considered when making our decision.


  • Diesel has higher energy density per gallon than gasoline or propane allowing:
    • Larger driving range between refills for the same tank size
    • Cheaper per mile (though this varies as the price delta between diesel and gasoline fluctuates)
  • Longer distance between oil-changes with larger oil-capacity and an aftermarket bypass filter system.
  • Only one fuel source for transportation, cooking, heating.
    • No need to locate both propane and diesel fueling.
    • Always know how much fuel we have available for any use. Propane tanks often do not have a gauge, and fill level is determined by running out, or weighing.
    • Diesel cook-top has externally vented flame, so no CO, CO2, or H2O from the flame to worry about inside (which is a significant issue for us as we spend time in sub-freezing areas and don't want condensation, or to have to open windows, and loose our heat) This also allows the diesel cook-top to serve double duty as a backup furnace if we have trouble with the primary.
  • Concerns about the flammability of propane, hassle of turning it on and off when parking and then driving respectively.
  • Longer warranty on the diesel power train of 10/100,000 miles vs. 3/30,000 for the gasoline engine. Leading hopefully to a longer lifetime overall for the engine.
  • Potential fuel efficiency increases through tuner, freer flowing exhaust system, etc.
  • Costs more, so it must be better.
  • Opportunity to tinker on a diesel engine and learn more about them. Most of my prior tinkering, maintenance, and rebuilds have been on gasoline engines.
  • Cool sound, though it can get rather oppressive on long stretches of freeway.
  • Fewer restrictions on transporting extra cans of fuel (e.g. ferry system in WA)
  • Nice low-speed torque for offloading
  • Propane re-fueling could be a hassle, with changing and differing requirements on propane tank requirements between different jurisdictions. Some places only exchange tanks, some require certain types of valves, etc. We want to be able to travel to the US, Canada, and potentially Central America and this is a worry we don't want to have.


  • More costly up front
  • Significantly heavier
  • Much more stuffed engine compartment, making some maintenance and repairs more difficult.
  • Fuel costs are rising to parity, or above, with premium gasoline in some areas (diesel fuel costs often vary much more wildly between stations in the same town than gasoline, we have often seen a delta of up to 25c per gallon just 2 blocks apart)
  • Wet-stacking concerns when idling to charge batteries (aux-idle control should help, but increases fuel consumption and noise)
  • Cold weather issues with fuel gelling, trouble starting, etc
  • Diesel fumes are not the most pleasant
  • Diesel appliances often have documented altitude limitations; however we have not had any significant problems so far, at up to 10k feet.

Would we choose diesel again?

Probably not. The cost advantages of diesel seem to have evaporated following the Katrina hurricane, and have not come back. The difficulties we have experienced with the Ford diesel engine add to this, as well as the technical complexities inherent in modern diesel engines as they pursue new environmental regulations.

We might consider it in a legacy vehicle with a simpler designed diesel engine.

Why diesel cooktop?

We chose to go with a diesel cooktop because it was an integral part in our hope to run our entire household off of one fuel source and solar. Additionally, a diesel cooktop vents to the outside, which prevents combustion products such as CO, CO2 and H2O from collecting in the living area. Since we figured we would often find ourselves in inclement weather, and opening windows for ventilation would not be pleasant this seemed a good way to go. Since the combustion products are vented outside, with a blower the stove can turn into a backup for our furnace, providing some redundancy for heat generation.

The cooktop is expensive, and has similar characteristics to an electric range with a couple minutes to warm up and a few minutes to cool down.

Why did we go with Sportsmobile?

After much research we went with a Sportsmobile because it fit the largest number of our criteria, the company had a good reputation, and the cost was within our budget.

Why did we make a custom floor-plan?

We chose to do a custom floor plan because the standard ones available did not have the mix of storage space and seating arrangements we desired. After a couple years of life in the van we are still quite happy with our floor plan, though there are a few negative consequences that resulted in the routing of the plumbing that cause us freezing problems in cold weather.

Why do we carry a motorcycle?

We carry a motorcycle on the back of the van for a couple of reasons. The bike allows us to explore without tearing down our house. We can scout ahead on questionable trails to see if the van will have trouble. The bike also gives us a quick simple way of running into town for supplies when we are happily camped somewhere. Finally it provides insurance and a way out if we get the van stuck somewhere and need to go get help.

The motorcycle and carrier do have their drawbacks in extra weight to carry and reduced departure angle for the van. It is not uncommon for us to scrape the back end of the carrier when crossing a wash or steep ditch.