Appendix A - The Van and Other Gadgets
My vehicle was a 1997 Volkswagen Eurovan Camper.
I bought the van in March of 1997, so I had had it for
five months or so before the trip. During my first couple of camping
trips in the van, I noticed and fixed a few glitches in the camper, but on this
trip, everything performed flawlessly.
Modifications I've made to the van:
Here you can see the driver's view of my van, with a couple of
the additions I made.
- Soft foam tape on the front of the upper bunk, a result of hitting
my head on the sharp surface too many times.
- A big mag-lite flashlight mounted in permanently attached brackets in
the front of the van, on the console near the floor between the seats.
- A compass on the dashboard
- A pair of clinometers (levels designed for a sailboat) mounted
on the front and side of the driver's area, to judge
how level the van is when I'm choosing a spot to park for the night.
- A whisk broom clipped to a hook permanently mounted on the front
of the galley.
- A GPS antenna (see other gadgets, below) permanently mounted under
the false fiberglass roof above the driver's head.
- A spice rack inside the upper cabinet, to make better use of the
Other gadgets I brought along:
All of this, plus clothes, coats, food, and a dog, fit very easily
into the van. I was able to stow everything behind the back seat or
in the cabinets for travel, so the seats and floor of the van were
empty when I was on the road.
- A Garmin GPS 45 Global Positioning System satellite navigation
receiver. The GPS tells me exactly where I am,
what direction I'm going, how fast, and how long it'll take me to get
to my destination. I provided power and antenna connections for the
GPS, routed behind the interior panels of the van, coming out on
the floor underneath
the driver's seat.
- A Toshiba Satellite® 225CDS laptop computer. It's a Pentium
machine, running Windows 95, with a CD-ROM drive and all the
multimedia setup you'd expect. I mostly ran DeLorme's Street Atlas
USA on it, a great atlas program, showing all the streets in
the US. The GPS and the laptop are connected via a serial cable, so
the laptop can continously plot my current position on the street map.
This was very useful for navigating. I also used
the computer for taking the notes
for this journal, e-mailing "postcards" to friends
from the road, and processing photos and preparing these web
pages once I got back home.
- An HP200LX palmtop computer. OK, I don't really need two computers,
but the palmtop is so tiny, I brought both, ok? Actually, I used it
to back up the data on my laptop, among other things.
- A small inverter to generate 120VAC from the van's 12VDC cigarette
lighter outlet. This provided power for the laptop computer, mostly,
and also occasionally recharged batteries for the palmtop.
- A Nikon FM 35mm camera with a 43~86mm f3.5 zoom lens. I bought this
camera in 1979. It's old reliable technology, completely manual and
mechanical, except the light meter (which is on its third battery
since 1979, by the way). This camera and lens took all the photos on
- A Meade ETX 90mm reflecting astronomical telescope. I brought two
eyepieces, giving powers of 39X and 125X. This is a small telescope,
stowed in a toolbox back in the back of the van.
- A tripod, which did double-duty for the telescope and camera.
- Levelling blocks for the van. These work like giant lego blocks,
allowing me to make whatever kind of ramps I need so that I can have a
level bed when there's no level parking spot.
- A classical guitar.
- Music books, astronomy books, travel guidebooks, and fun reading.
- The usual pots, pans, plates, silverware, and wineglasses.
- A 12 volt air compressor to inflate the van's tires, along
with a toolkit, spare fuses, bulbs, etc.
However, since the van has to function as living room, dining room,
kitchen, bedroom, and "driving room" (most architects leave
that room out), I was constantly rearranging things. For example,
every morning began with stripping the sheets of the bed, folding
the mattress, and making the bed back into a seat. Before driving,
I'd take all the luggage from the front, where I'd placed it the
night before, to the back, behind the back seat. And in the
evening, I'd have to make sure all the dirty dishes were washed
and put away before I would transfer the luggage to the
front and make the bed up. It was a constant
battle against clutter, requiring a good place for everything.
©1997 Richard Cochran