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I'm new to the forum and hope I'm posting this in the correct place. My van builder showed my newly-finished van at Tinyfest in Salem OR in August and Jarrod Tocci asked to film this video tour for his YouTube channel. I'm in the video, but haven't yet watched it!

Disclaimer: I can already see, this forum is heavily populated by DIYers, for whom I have enormous respect. I know myself, and building a van isn't something I felt willing or able to tackle. This was a fully custom build. I'm not wealthy, but yes, it was an expensive way to go, about $120k, including the van.

The builder kept calling it a unicorn due to several unusual features, and the name stuck.

 

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... well now, that's pretty special Judy ... 12v A/C too ... you are surely right, Mark put his heart and soul into this one for you... thanks for sharing ~ Steve
 

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Nice combination of natural materials and synthetics. I am a proponent of no propane but there could have been large cost savings to have use it.
 

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Wow. Looks like you picked the right builder and together you made some interesting choices. My van is at the opposite end of the spectrum, i.e. - low-top shorty with minimal insulation covered by unfinished brown hardboard. I do have carpeting however, and a nifty (oversize) cot. ;-)
58960
 

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My van is at the opposite end of the spectrum,
Hey h1k3rb

But equally impressive to me. Different wants/needs for different folks. I like your “get out into the woods” style your photo depicts. I have thought of installing the same kind of power assisted steps for my slider door ( human power )
 

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Hey h1k3rb

But equally impressive to me. Different wants/needs for different folks. I like your “get out into the woods” style your photo depicts. I have thought of installing the same kind of power assisted steps for my slider door ( human power )
Yeah, h1k3rb stands for 'hiker bob' so one of my main goals with this van is to get out where the good trails are (the above shot was taken in the campground at Black Rock Mountain State Park in far NE GA). That isn't to say I don't enjoy exploring towns, checking out stores, restaurants and sampling local brews. The nearby mountain town of Clayton, GA was an unexpected surprise. Sure, it's near the Chattooga River (where Deliverance was filmed - banjo's, etc ) but the area is beautiful, the folks are super-friendly and I could seriously live there!

Next morning...
58962


Judy's rig would certainly make traveling/exploring a LOT more comfortable and could seriously tempt me to sell my house and live in the van full time!
 

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If you wanted to live alone in a 75 sf home that would be worthless after 150k miles and 15 years, you mean?
Heading into my late 60's I'll be lucky to be alive in 15 years, and with no children to pass things on to, my last concern would be the value of a van. By then (if still alive) I'll likely be ready to park it "down by the river" anyway. ;-)
 

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Nice combination of natural materials and synthetics. I am a proponent of no propane but there could have been large cost savings to have use it.
Absolutely, RD. Looking back to when I started this caper, I had a somewhat unrealistic fear of propane since I had no prior experience with it. The solar setup alone was about $14k of the build and it could have been much lower if I didn't go full solar. It also added some complexities like finding and installing 12v air conditioning.

I also used the highest end materials possible. The solar panels are house quality and can withstand 1 inch hail at 50 mph. 20 yr warranty and a tax write off which brought my actual cost down to about $9,500. BUT really, if I had gone with Renogy or whatever, I could replace them several times over for the same cost. So, I probably wouldn't do it the same way next time.

I say "next time" because in the past 6 months (mid-build) I've had an unexpected life change and may sell this van. My guy friend now has full custody of his 2 yr old daughter and though we dont always travel together, to do so now we need a 3rd seat. Not easy to retrofit with the snug layout and the hydronic radiant heat under the floor. So we'll see. Still thinking about it.

Thank you, I love getting feedback, especially because it helps me think through van 2.0, if I go that route. Right now it's a pretty short list of things I'd change.

I'd keep the same batteries, lithium iron phosphate, which are non combustible and chip driven, so they shut down if the charge gets too low. I appreciated that a few times when I was still learning about power management. (Can't make an espresso, blow dry my hair, run the AC and microwave all in one night without idling the engine.)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hey h1k3rb

But equally impressive to me. Different wants/needs for different folks. I like your “get out into the woods” style your photo depicts. I have thought of installing the same kind of power assisted steps for my slider door ( human power )
I agree, equally impressive! I'm in awe of people who can DIY. I'm not intimidated to do it, but it would have taken me years and a lot of do-overs.

Yeah, a step! First week owning my van, I backed out of the driveway and ran over my expensive Camco step, haha. I now use a plastic step stool, mostly for my old dogs. I tell myself that climbing in via the slider without a step is good exercise.
 

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Very nice. I've been kicking around ideas about a pull out seat, so that helped me refine my thinking.
Marc, the builder, surprised me with that rear "couch." I use it a lot. He said there was a lot of head scratching to figure it out. I don't carry bulky sports equipment and it might not have been possible if I was packing mountain bikes, etc.

Despite this over-the-top build, I live very simply. I travel in it for weeks at a time and may go full time in the spring, and I dont even use all the storage space. I look around my house all the time and never see more things to put in the van. My dogs have more gear than me.
 

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Judy, we broke two of those plastic stools, but figured we’d add a side step when we were “decrepit enough” to need it. We became decrepit enough when MrNomer fell backwards over a rock and knocked himself out. He’s actually nowhere near decrepit and it could happen to anyone. A forum member’s wife broke her ankle getting out and required a year of hobbling to heal. My foot slipped when another forum member gave me a hand up into his van. Six weeks later, I still have a sore spot on my shin. Bottom line, some kind of secure step is a safety necessity. Without it, sooner or later someone could get hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Oh, yikes! I hope you and MrNomer (love that name) fully recover.
If my dogs ever spot a rabbit or squirrel I envision doing a swan dive out of that slider. My current Rubbermade stool needs an upgrade for sure.
 

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If you wanted to live alone in a 75 sf home that would be worthless after 150k miles and 15 years, you mean?
Ha, that's for sure, keeponvanning. I sold my house last year and bought a depreciating asset. That's a good definition of crazy, or foolish.

I looked for a new home for a year, but my heart wasnt in it. I could get a small house and still travel, but buy something I dont want or need? There are other investments and other ways to save money.

I'm not wealthy, but I also don't live on the edge financially, so I can bail on this caper anytime. I'm also retired. I admire people who work and live this way. I also admire people who DO live on the edge financially and choose this life. That's a good definition of brave.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Heading into my late 60's I'll be lucky to be alive in 15 years, and with no children to pass things on to my last concern would be the value of a van. By then (if still alive) I'll likely be ready to park it "down by the river" anyway. ;-)
Haha, H1k3rb!
Reminds me of a guy whose family asked him what he would do when he got too old to drive his camper. He replied, "I'll tow it."
 

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Looking forward to seeing your next van. I suspect your needs and wants will change by then. I hope you do get time to use this one to the fullest before selling so you can more fully discover what those needs actually are.
 
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