It started with a wedding invitation. A humble beginning, as all great adventures often have.
A girl whom I had been nanny for, mentor for, and friend for ( and also my Mom’s best friends’ daughter) was getting married. In the middle of nowhere Montana. I hadn’t seen her in years and the wedding invitation was just the push I needed to plan a visit to go see her, her new baby and soon to be husband. The town, a small speck on the map, was perfectly situated next door to Medicine Bow National Forest. A few weeks into my planning; which in all honesty was sporadic at best as I fall into the clan of spontaneous adventure seekers; I discovered the wedding would be only a scant week after a rather epic celestial event. A total solar eclipse, the first of it’s kind since 1979.
Being a homeschool Mom, and slightly selfish thrill seeker with a wanderlust filled heart, I simply could not pass this opportunity up. Our trip was already expected to be two weeks. Our, being my kids and I, since my husband was not able to take off work during that time. I had driven to Arizona alone with the kids, and to Iowa and Illinois many, many times. But this road trip would be an entirely new beast. Unknown. Big. Over three weeks long. Exhausting. And full of adventure of monumental proportions.
But this road trip would be an entirely new beast. Unknown. Big. Over three weeks long. Exhausting. And full of adventure of monumental proportions.
My husband is incredibly supportive. And ingenious. He helped me concoct a plan to build out our 2006 Kia Sedona so that the kids and I could sleep inside of it. Both for convenience and for safety. I had been spending entirely too much time on the overland websites known equally for diy build outs and ridiculously expensive rigs. Over the course of a week my husband had a well laid plan for building a sleeping platform with pull out drawers. The difficulty was our kids car seats. I didn’t want to have to remove the behemoths each night when we stopped. The work around we (well, he) came up with was to have the kids each sleep behind their captains chair. I would sleep between them with my feet between their chairs on an extension of the platform. We both took on the build with exuberance. Though truthfully, all the credit goes to my husband. He designed and executed the entire project. In the end, we had a hinged sleeping platform that lifted, allowing me to access the two pull out drawers below. The drawers held our kitchen in its entirety, our stove, fuel, and all cooking and eating utensils. A spare battery hidden below the section between my kids seats was trickle charged by a small solar panel we placed up on the passenger side dash. The flip of a switch would open the channel for charging and give power to a volt meter with two charging ports that I could access from the sleeping platform. The final addition was a small marine fan, with two fans on one base, that could run off of the spare battery at night while we slept for airflow. I found bug screens for the windows, which held up with magnets to the exterior at night. Our water source was a 5 gallon jug with a hand pump and could easily be refilled along our journey.
The majority of our gear and extras were packed into our rooftop carrier. The clothes we would need ready access too were organized in a cube packing system that rode on top of the sleeping platform; along with sleeping bags and pillows. Setting the van up for sleeping would require a bit a a shuffle, but it was manageable. Just prior to our big trip, the kids and I had an opportunity to go visit family and the chance to try out our camping set up. Our only mistake being going camping in southern Missouri in the middle of July. The fan worked great, as did our bug nets, it was just miserably humid. A detail that would be not a problem on our big trip out west, to the land of no humidity. The kitchen set up deployed like a dream, and packed up just as easily. I am deeply grateful to my husband for his ability to design and build such a fantastic little system for our van, which from that point forward I began calling my magic camper van, an expansion on my previous name of magic school bus.
I am deeply grateful to my husband for his ability to design and build such a fantastic system for our DIY magic camper van.
A few weeks later, we embarked on our journey. A journey of 4000 miles. We wrote our names on Cadillac Ranch, jumped in an ice cold blue hole in the middle of the desert near Santa Rosa, traveled through dimensions at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, slept in a vintage trailer in Taos, climbed to the top of scorching sand dunes in Colorado, stayed in a century old trappers cabin in Walden, slept under the stars in a field in Wyoming, howled at the moon in the midday dark of the eclipse, camped in our self made minivan camper, on the side of the road, boondocked near Moab, off roaded when we shouldn’t have, and danced our way across the desert, under the glow of the endless starry skies. It was difficult and exhausting, but equally epic and exhilarating. It is my hope that my boldness will help pave the way for families to loosen the reins a bit, stretch their own limits, and discover that adventure is indeed for everyone.
We danced our way across the desert, under the glow of the endless starry skies. It was difficult and exhausting, but equally epic and exhilarating.
Sadly, our magic camper van reached the end of its shenanigans back in April. It served us well and stood strong as I learned to spread my wings and hone my road trip skills. The engine troubles made it no longer reliable for long journeys. We all cried big and hard when it was time to say good bye to the van. It was the van that brought both of our babies home from the hospital. Carried us home to family many times and kept us safe on our many travels. It was a tough lesson in holding on loosely. My husband took some pictures for me that last night it was ours, and I cried my eyes out while he dismantled the sleeping platform and drawers he had worked so hard to build. There’s a powerful life lesson in there. We savor the memories, cherish the pictures, and look forward with happy hearts to the future stories we will have with our new adventure mobile, a Subaru Outback. We’ve already begin planning our build out for epic shenanigans. So, stay tuned my friends. If you’d like to see a tour of our van, there is an old saved highlight on my Instagram Profile, called Magic Camper van. Or search the hashtag “magiccampervan.”