Van Dwelling from Alabama to Texas

I’ve been on the road since March and I haven’t really updated much about what I’ve been up to. I’m going to use this post to do just that.

After Shenandoah National Park, I Walmart-hopped my way to Decatur Alabama. My Father and Grandmother live there. I camped in my Grandmother’s neighborhood for about 2 weeks while visiting. Then I camped in Bankhead National Forest.

Van at Bankhead National Forest

It was nice to get some solitude after visiting my family. My next destination was New Orleans to visit my brother for his birthday. It was the first time I’d seen him in about 6 years. The original plan was to buy us both tickets to Jazz Fest as a birthday gift, but we decided against it. The whole festival ended up getting rained out anyway.

We explored some swamps in Jean Lafitte National Park for his birthday instead.

jean_lafitte_swamp

It’s beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to swim in it.

jean_lafitte_pond

I wish I could capture the sounds in a photograph. The forest was so alive.

Jean_lafitte_park

We followed this bridge to a trail.

jean_lafitte_bridge

I spent most of my time exploring the city. It’s a mixing bowl of art and culture. It’s very loud and alive.

Jackson_square

The architecture made me feel like I left the United States.

A lot of fences have broken glass on top to prevent people from climbing them. This place must be mad. Check out the top of the brick wall.

new_orleans_house

I think the Mississippi River was my favorite part.

new_orleans_bridge

missippi_river_boat

I’m not sure why, but I feel like this image captures the vibe New Orleans. This was in my brother’s room.

face_mug

This dog was awesome. She likes to sit on shoes.

dog

It rained a ton while I was there. I spent most of these rainy days in my van watching YouTube videos.

eating_on_bed

After about 2 weeks, I was ready to leave. I figured I’d head toward Big Bend National Park. I camped in Houston, Texas for a while. I had a slow leak at the valve stem of my front left tire. I woke up one morning and it was completely flat. Walmart is probably one of the best places you can get a flat tire. I put the spare on, drove to a Discount Tire, and they gave me a new valve stem.

changing flat tire

I checked out the weather for Big Bend National Park and decided to head north instead. It’s way too hot there this time of year.

I drove north to Texarkana. I loved this town. Everything I needed was 3 minutes away; Walmart, Coffee shops, Lowes, and gym. There is barely any traffic even at rush hour. I spent some time here just working on my website. Lowes has the best Wi-Fi.

lowes

I bought this little desk for about $5 at Walmart to make blogging a little more comfortable. I considered building a hinged desk off the side of the counter, but I like this better. I can move it around if I need to. I can even bring it outside. I think it gives me more options.

folding desk

The next post will be about Arkansas. I think after New Orleans, I needed some down time so I just focused on my website. I even made this van tour video:

Yesterday was my birthday.

  • hshhhhh

    Oh, it has so amazing balcony! In the past owner of this building was really reach.

  • Eli O.

    Happy belated, Joe. Those swamplands look so peaceful.

    • Joe

      Thanks Eli. They were very peaceful.

  • shemil

    Wish I had the carpentry, electrical & plumbing skills to create the perfect small stealth camper for myself. Fed-up with apartment rent scalpers, and have no desire to be tied to property my time that remains!

    • Joe

      Anyone can do this if you have the patience to learn. I had zero carpentry, electrical, or plumbing experience before I built this. I was fed up with apartments too.

  • carl remscheid

    great post thanks so much for sharing. The pics are awesome. I have been to NOLA and love how art is just everywhere.

    • Joe

      Thanks Carl. Yeah Nola is pretty beautiful. It’s a lot to take in.

  • Richard Hauser

    Great post. You should definitely do more posts like this with photos. Also I had one more destination suggestion, as it would definitely be on my bucket list, Burning Man. http://burningman.org/event/brc/
    Also has New Orleans recovered from Katrina by now or are there still unrecovered areas? It seems inconceivable that there would be after 11 years in a US city but I heard there still is.

    • Joe

      I’d love to go to burning man. Tickets are super expensive though. I heard getting all the sand out of your van is nearly impossible. Yes, there are still some damaged areas in new Orleans.

      • Richard Hauser

        Wow, I dreamed of going so long, I never looked at prices, but 390+80=$470 isn’t completely crazy for a week of memories but I understand that is still a ton of money. The logistics of setting up the van would be tough also, the key would be setting up a Tyvek “mud room” tube of sorts outside the van and a filtered fan that positively pressurizes the van to vent back down the mud room.

        • Richard Hauser

          Also as I learned in Alaska, if you drive through a lot of dust, remember to wash the van well. Alaska has this dust called moraine which destroyed all the seals in my Land Rover because I didn’t know enough to wash it off. On that note, Alaska is gorgeous too, but for distance alone, I would put it pretty far down a list for you.

          • Joe

            I’m not opposed to Alaska. I plan to see it some day.

        • Joe

          Yeah it’ll definitely take a lot of preparation.

  • Scott Mauer

    Great job on the conversion! I’m actually converting a 2007 short wheelbase Sprinter 2500 to be an urban stealth camper, so your setup is really inspiring. I’ve used Tiniest Mansion by Tynan as a major resource, and the Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook to help me plan. Right now I’m working out some kinks in the turbo system before I start the conversion. Thanks for blogging and putting so much detail in your setup! I plan on doing something similar. I also live in a yurt I built myself that’s my homebase here just outside Austin. I plan on using the van as my electric company once my panels are installed.

    Burning Man is amazing, but I’m not sure I’m willing to take my van there. I’d probably leave it in Reno and bring a hexayurt instead. There are a boatload of regional Burns that are smaller and more intimate, including Flipside, Apogea, Alchemy, Transformus, etc.

    • Joe

      I used the sprinter source book as well. Sounds like you have a good plan. Good luck on your build.

      I’ll have to check out some of those regional burns.

      • Scott Mauer

        Thanks! Jolan ‘Tru to you on your journeys, and if you ever come through Austin again, shoot me a line.