Van upgrades, Thanksgiving in San Francisco and the great Canadian escape


Now that we are home it’s time for some van upgrades. Coffee is very important to us, there is a ritual in place but we felt it was time to improve it. I’ve seen some really impressive van builds and had thought seriously about putting in a ‘live-edge’ wood countertop for our sink. Ultimately we went with a lighter option and chose a half inch thick custom cutting board from plasticcuttingboards.com. Which brings us to our next project, our drawers. The cutting board is awesome in that it’s easy to clean and antimicrobial, but we really wanted that ’live-edge‘ wood. So off we go again to San Marcos Hardwood Lumber. Their selection of wood is incredible, they carry exotic wood and have that awesome Baltic Birch that we used for our build. We found some beautiful live-edge Avocado wood that we thought might add some character to our build. Let us know what you think.

The drawer sliders were tricky but we made it happen and I love the end result. Once we filled the drawer with all that we need for the morning ritual, I thought I would add a little fun and remembered that cute and appropriate basket. Cafe Grumpy is a great little coffee shop in NYC that we ventured into on a previous trip. A neat little van hack to remember, is to try to avoid what rattles. As you can see, we filled the drawer with things that will rattle. One easy fix is use 1/8 inch thick or 1/4 inch thick rubber matting. An old yoga mat would work but we had pieces of matting used in gyms to absorb the noice of dropping weights and to cushion the floor for exercising. Anyway, we outlined each component of the coffee bar and cutout the shape so that everything stays put. Works like a dream.

On to our next upgrade. Hello Agile Offroad! This was a very exciting day. For well over a year and a half, Darin has been wanting new tires. We decided to wear out the original ones first, but a new suspension was in order. Agile Offroad is the place to go, they are awesome to deal with and know what they are doing. While there, we began to salivate over their tire selection and we saw they also install extra fuel tanks. Needless to say, we jumped in feet first and left with new tires and rims, new suspension and a new fuel tank. This act alone is what turned our Sprinter Van into our Juggernaut AKA Juggy.

By this time it had been 2-3 months since I‘d been to San Francisco to visit my uncle and even longer since I‘d seen my son. Guess what that means, San Francisco here I come!

Before I dash up to San Francisco there is a wedding to attend. I don't know about you, but there have been a few people in my life that have left an indelible impression on me. One of those people had invited me to his wedding. Tim & Jen were destined to be together. their paths were unknowingly intertwined, those details are for another story. Their love story began at the wedding of my dearest friend. My BFF Wendy married Brian on October Friday the 13th 2017, that wedding was on a farm with Alpacas. Wendy looked like a Princess.

At the reception, I plotted to seat Tim next to Jen. The seed was planted and Wendy and I went to work playing cupid. Just over two years later Tim & Jen tied the knot. So why talk about weddings in a Van Life Blog? Because no matter where I go or for how long I'm gone, Wendy, who married Brian & Tim, who married Jen will always be in my heart. Wendy is loyal and steadfast. Tim embraced me during a time when he could have sabotaged me. He provided an ear when needed and guidance in ways he is likely unaware of. Tim is the epitome of dignity and grace coupled with humor and tales. His mission in life seems to be to improve everyone's journey, I for one can say I'm a better person for knowing him. He is of service in many ways, check this out, Saving Grace World Missions. Therefore, these weddings are important and look what a radiant bride Jen makes.

Wendy and I had to get our mugs in there!

Now let's get back to that San Francisco trip, my son Franklin came up with the fantastic idea of spending Thanksgiving with me and Uncle Brian. I loaded up some essentials for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and headed up the coast. Morro Bay is a favorite stop on the way up.

If you’ve never roasted a turkey laced with bacon, you are truly missing out. The Thanksgiving meal was a hit, and was followed by some serious domino games. Make those memories people!

I’ve shown you this view before, but like I said it never gets old. To keep that view impressive, one must trim the hedge...

Now let’s talk about that doorbell saga that I’ve brought up before. Doorbells are simple, no-brainers, anybody can do it. Two little wires... When I started this hair-raising task I truly thought it would be done in 30 minutes. I failed during my last visit but promised to get it done. Now with Franklin’s help, no way would we fail. But fail we did! How is this possible? We spent entirely too much time on this and finally Uncle Brian pulled the plug and stopped our madness. In my mind the saga continued and I will somehow get another whack at it.

Back at home after a great holiday visit, I made some DIY gifts and started some crochet projects intended for Christmas presents. This monstrosity is a keeper for the van though.

Winter is coming.

It’s been about 30 years since I‘ve been to Canada, I’ve always wanted to go back. I have an enormous amount of family ties there and have dreamed of crossing the Al-Can Highway since I was old enough to drive. Not to mention the new goal of driving Canada from coast to coast... I just so happen to have a brother that lives in Bellingham Washington, so Darin and I packed up the van and took off for the great Pacific Northwest. Besides, our Angel on earth, Michelle, was ready and willing to care for Pops while we were gone. We didn’t take the most scenic of routes up the coast, we took I-5 through the Siskiyou mountain range and it was mid-December so we wanted to be prepared.

When we got close the Bellingham the clouds were dancing in the sky like I had never seen before.


This trip was to be a practice run due to the fact that Darin had been denied entrance into Canada many years ago. My rationale was that so much time had passed that there would not be an issue. Canada’s government does not have an open-door policy at the border. When we pulled up to the Canadian border the agent was friendly enough, she scanned our passports and without hesitation took a slightly different tone. The questions began and then we were asked to pull forward, park, and go inside.

Once inside, they asked for our keys and directed us to a waiting area. They came back after awhile and requested the combo to our safe... they went through our van with a fine tooth comb. The only thing I was worried about was if they would soil the white crochet project I was working on. We knew at this point we would not be visiting the lovely country of Canada. We knew there was nothing offensive or illegal in our van, we also knew we were in the waiting game. Two-three hours later, they invited us to leave their country and gave us information on how to get permission if we wanted to enter in the future. So as one leaves one border crossing, one enters another... The USA folks were ever so slightly humored by our tale and directed us to park and go inside. Once again, our keys were requested and the search began. This time we had full view of the border patrol agent as he searched, which consisted of opening the slider door, peaking inside and closing the slider door. They gave us our passports back and off we went to explore Lynden and Bellingham. Whatcom Falls park was a great distraction.

After cruising around and seeing the sights, we went back to my brother Nigel’s house where he and his amazing wife Kathy treated us to a wonderful standing rib roast. There were lots of laughs and a good time was had by all.

Our visit was short but sweet, we hopped back in the van to head south. Christmas was upon us and we had things to do. We stopped in at a few places and of course had to see Century Link Field - GO HAWKS!

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