Low Top Van

Here is one advantage to having a low top van.  I was able to park it in a friends parking garage in LA when we were visiting California this spring (2018).  Unfortunately, most parking garages are still too short especially now that the van has been lifted and has solar on the roof.

There is a saying in the #vanlife world.  “You can live in your van or out of your van.”  My original intent was that we would be living out of the van and mostly just spend time in it when sleeping.  That didn’t exactly work out how I had intended.  We spend much more time than I had expected cooking inside, working there, and hanging out inside to escape bugs.  Still, besides having to put my pants on bent in half, I haven’t missed having a hightop.  The way the van is set up on the inside almost everything can be done from the sitting position including cooking.

Some nice advantages to having a low top van are that it is more stealthy.  That is, it looks more like a contractor’s panel van than a camper.  This is handy if you are sleeping somewhere that you aren’t supposed to.  The low top also allows for more square footage on the roof.  This means that more solar can be fit on the roof than some other vans.

For now the low top van works great, but I wonder about 15 years from now.  Will I still be flexible enough to get my pants on?

IMG 1835

Van Solar and Sand Ladders

Here we are camping near Lake Havasu, AZ.  On top of the roof rack, you can see our 400 watts of solar panels. This powers all our accessories in the van including our halogen hot plate for cooking.


IMG 1829

This is another shot of the solar panels at our home in Iowa.  Next to the solar panels are the sand ladders.  If I get stuck in sand, mud, or snow, I can place those under the rear wheels to (hopefully) drive myself out of any holes I’m in.  They also serve as a platform to walk on the roof to check out the view or to clean the solar panels.IMG 1778

New Van Suspension

Here are a couple of pictures of the van with the new suspension from Weldtech Designs.  I had it installed in San Diego, CA when we were out there this spring (2018).  

They lifted the front 3” and the rear 1.5”.  Previously the back sat higher than the front, so the van is pretty much perfectly level now.  It is amazing how the van rides and handles. Better in every way, both on the highway and off the beaten path.


IMG 1795IMG 1796IMG 1798

Classic VW Beetle

The Beginning and Facebook Drama

With all the drama from this car getting stolen, I thought I would let everyone know why I bought a 1974 VW Beetle when I am downsizing and planning on living in a van.


For those who missed it or aren’t Facebook friends with me, about a week ago I bought a classic VW Bug. The doors didn’t have any keys, but I only paid $3,700 for the car so I didn’t expect anyone to risk going to jail to steal it. It is probably about the cheapest car in my apartment parking lot, so I figured a different car would be targeted first. Wrong. I got home from having lunch with my friend Jerry and it was gone.

I should have realized that the car stood out and may be worth more than I paid for it. The first time I bought gas, I was approached by someone who wanted to talk about it. My apartment manager half-jokingly offered to trade me her ’06 black Beetle for it. I parked in front of Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee. The girl who got me a cream donut and coffee had that glitter in her eye and flirty welcoming smile that could melt any man’s heart. I half expected the bug to wink back at her and for them to leave together. Everyone loves that car.

I put a post on Facebook and asked everyone to share it so that if someone saw it they could call 911 and report it. A good friend, Vicky, posted it to her neighborhood group. Vicky and I both live in the Little Italy district in Omaha and someone in her group saw that it was only a few blocks from my house. Luckily I was able to retrieve car with only minor damage to the ignition lock. It is now securely in a garage awaiting an electronic alarm.

Internal Conflict

Now it is time for me to come clean. My plan for the car is to turn it into a bugeye Baja Bug. Like this one:

/Users/maurice/Documents/Vehicles/Baja Bug/Bodywork/1217381.jpg

This is where the conflict comes in. I hadn’t expected to buy such a nice Beetle. The car I bought only has only minor surface rust on the pan. The interior is in better shape than my Corvette’s. It has 65,000 miles on the odometer, that I naturally disregarded for a car that old. After closely inspecting the car, there is a good chance that number is accurate. Replacing the engine, transmission, suspension and about half of the bodywork and interior feels… just wrong. When I told my brother, the plan he had an open look of disgust on his face that mirrored my own gut feeling.

If you try hard enough, you can justify any bad behavior to yourself. I just keep telling myself that by “donating” the parts I remove on eBay, that there will be many more complete bugs in the world for it. In fact, by putting more bugs in the world, I’m doing God’s own work. Or is that Hitler’s own work? Uh… This isn’t working.

Baja Bug

The idea to make a Baja Bug came to me in Quartzsite, AZ while there for the big RV show and RTR. Several people I saw there were driving around in Sport UTV’s that were licensed as motorcycles and legal to drive on the roads there. The Sport UTV’s were so small, that people parked them in the strangest places and got away with it.


The usefulness of crossing an ATV with a golf cart are immediately obvious if you are staying on BLM land near Quartzsite or some other area of the Southwest. You can tear across the desert and get to places that your van or RV can’t get to. You can also set up camp with your rig’s awning and exterior furniture and not have to take it down to go and get water, food, and other supplies in town. The major downside is that you need a motorcycle license for them, which Nic doesn’t have. They also aren’t legal to drive on the streets in most state that we would be visiting. The cons ultimately outweigh the pros, so no go for the Sport UTV.

But hey, no worries. Previous generations had a better solution anyway.


Update 02/07/18:  I didn’t ever get to finish this project.  It was a situation where I needed to focus on finishing out the van build and stop getting distracted with side projects.  I ended up selling the little Beetle for what I had in it.  I still believe in having a Baja Bug if you are driving around a full size RV, but it really isn’t necessary when you are using a smaller Class B like I have.

I still want a Baja Bug and may still get one, but I will probably buy a finished one.  It doesn’t seem like anyone gets their money back out of the conversion and it is just cheaper to let someone else take that hit.