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My Vanpartment - Time for Test Runs!

After Mike slid the buildup into the minivan and we secured it, I started organizing it to figure out how my belongings could fit.

I spread a white blanket (it is easier to see what is in front of me with a white background) next to my van and began laying out everything I would like to take with me. My first reaction is a bit of panic! How in the world do I fit it all? Remembering that I had the same reaction when I packed my Mazda I have hope for another miracle.

After seven hours, yes, I know that sounds like a crazy number of hours to organize such a small space, but I need to go slow, have a wide lens, and above all, have a functional outlook as I organize my life into a tiny space again. I asked my friend Aimee to come and give me another set of eyes and hands. I am telling you, I have the best Pit Crew!

I take the time to attempt making curtains for privacy and ambiance in my living space. 'Attempt' is a good choice of words here. :) One thing you can't find me doing is sewing. I never liked it, so I decided to use fabric glue. Oh well, I did give it a try. I found a local seamstress to fix my work.

I also put an effort into creating a screen door. The first attempt is in the garbage, but I learned so much from it that I think the second one will work well. I guess I will know the level of success when I need to deal with the mosquitos.

Only a few adjustments needed to be made before I could test-run my setup. Mostly securing my things from moving around while I am driving.

Test number one: I am parking on the street outside Eva Marie and Norman's house, where I am staying while my tenant occupies my apartment. Indeed, I have the best Pit Crew!!!

I think my brain blocks the memory of how hard it is to sleep in such cold temperatures. The temperature tonight is in the low 40s. It isn't helpful that I know I am just a few feet from the comfort of a warm bed. I know myself pretty well to be relaxed by the notion that when I am in nature and don't have a choice, things seem easier and warmer.

Test number one was a success after all! I can see that similar to the Mazda, it will take me a while to figure out how to move my body in this tiny space. I need to find a way to climb up my bed that is a bit high for me while I have a narrow margin to move around. The excellent news is that I can open my cooler from inside the van. Because the door opens upward, I expected I would not have the space to do so.

Test number two: "In the woods." I spent two nights at Harriman State Park—one at Reeves Meadow Visitor Center, practicing stealth camping. Again, I gained valuable information, most of it what to avoid when going to the bathroom. :) That night, unexpectedly, it rained. Luckily, the day before, Mike installed rain guards on my side windows. I had them on the Mazda and found them an essential tool on rainy days. It was worth the investment.

As the sun came out to start a beautiful day, I tested my electric immersion water heater to heat water for a cup of coffee and found it very helpful. I tested the little heater I got and found it useless, not to mention the amount it drains from my power station. I will need to put on more layers, that's all, or I can always turn my car on for a while to heat my space. It's not always possible, but it can be a good option.

I spent half the day hiking with Marianne, my hiking buddy of the last ten years. I love to hike on familiar paths where you don't need to think about where you are going. We start our hike from Johnsontown Rd, one of my favorite head trials. I love the loop of the blue disc to the red strip to the white bar. Most of the leaves by now are under our feet, creating a carpet rich with colors of the fall. If you are ever traveling to this neck of the woods, don't miss a visit to Harriman State Park - just driving on Seven Lakes Drive is gorgeous.

My other half of the day is spent testing my "kitchen" setup. I drive to a parking lot my friend recommended (thank you, Rob). I can't believe I never knew about this spot. Just off Lake Welch Parkway, I turn right onto a dirt road to St. John's Rd. Past the church on the left, there is a small parking lot hiding from the road—my quiet spot for tonight. Just perfect!

I love my kitchen setup. I can see I will need to remember to pull out anything I need from my "pantry" before opening my kitchen platform. Only by experience, I will learn to adjust. I love the extra countertop I get after opening the platform as well.

There is still a bit of daylight left, so I sneak another hike. It feels so good to be back in the woods by myself. I treasure how relaxed I am when hiking solo in the woods. There is wonderful magic in this experience.

Oh, I wish, I wish each person in the world could be as connected to nature as I am. So they can also see and understand how we are all one body connected. We are all part of creating and being responsible for kindness or evil in our world.

Ouch, it's not even five, and the stunning sunset reminds me it's wintertime. It is too cold to sit outside in the dark. Luckily, now, I can relax by reading a book sitting in my "living room." Now, that is a significant improvement!

I am pleasantly learning that my power station and cooler are quiet, and there isn't any humming noise at night, as I love to enjoy silence. The only noise that woke me twice last night was the howling of the coyotes nearby.

Test number three: A day trip to CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappingers Falls, NY, and a visit to my dear friend Amy (another member of my Pit Crew) and Bernie.

It is exciting to be back on the road exploring new places!

From Google, "The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is a trans denominational church and 501 nonprofit organization dedicated to the realization of a shared 1985 vision of the American artists Alex and Allyson Grey to build a contemporary public chapel as "a sanctuary for spiritual renewal through contemplation of transformative art."

I am mesmerized by Allyson and Alex Grey's art, especially the choice of colors they embroidered into their detailed artwork. Absolutely worth a visit.

Amy is puzzled that I am declining her warm invite to sleep in her guest bedroom. I need to test my power station again. It will be a freezing night; the temperatures will be in the mid-20s. I want to know how much power I need to keep warm and comfortable. I want to know how long I can go without charging my power station. Obviously, it all depends on many factors, but I want to have a basic idea of understanding.

I am also testing my solution of keeping my down blanket from slipping to the floor and leaving me cold. I enjoy solving challenges and I love it when my brain gets in the "mini MacGyver" mode. I am happy to report the problem is solved!

In conclusion, overall, all tests were a success! The bottom line is that I learned I need to be a monkey to move around my tiny space and up to my attic (my cargo box).

I am very proud of the final product that Mike and I created. It is a true masterpiece in my eyes.

Check out the video for a tour of my new "home."

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