We had just finished up a long, hard month trying to waterproof our van during the rainiest season of the Pacific Northwest. Time was up, however, as the lease to our sheltered rental space had come to an end. Since we were living in an apartment building, from now on, it would be us working on our van on the sidewalks of our neighborhood- we were prepared for some strange looks and lots of questions.
We got right to work, rain or shine, we started gutting the inside of the Wander Wagon. Our plan was to redo the entire interior- top to bottom. It was a slow and painful process, and like usual, we had no idea what we were doing. We couldn’t help but grimace as the Wander Wagon began to look worse and worse as we tore her apart. We kept telling each other that it would all be worth it in the end, that it would look so much better when she was completely finished.
During this destruction period, we had to learn some hard lessons. A lot of the work we had done waterproofing our van just wasn’t adequate. She was still leaking everywhere. Almost all of the skylights we had replaced were still leaking, the big seam connecting the cab to the coach was pouring in water, and one of the side windows needed to be resealed as well. The worst part was, we no longer had any cover to keep our van under. Everytime it rained, neither of us could sleep as we knew that meant more water was pouring into our van creating even more water damage. There were many desperate nights where we ran down to check on the van to see just how bad it was, bringing bowls to catch the worst leaks, and using duct tape to try our best to limit the amount of water coming in.
Throughout it all, we just had to believe that it would all work out eventually. It was a test in patience and perseverance, redoing the work we had struggled so hard to get done in the first place. But, we tried different tactics, and eventually we really did get the Wander Wagon fully waterproof. Although, we still suffer from insomnia whenever it rains really hard, I think we’re still a bit traumatized.
Van destruction continued for a good three months. We ripped out the dinette, the sofa, the carpet, the wall paneling, the headliner, and basically everything besides the bathroom, closet, and kitchen. Everytime we ripped something out we would discover just how bad it really was. From the apparent years of water damage, our van was a container of trapped moisture brewing mold and filth. On our free days, we would work all day removing as much material as we could, ending the day just covered in sweat and dirt. We filled trash bag after trash bag with the rotting, damp materials, and slowly, the van’s interior turned into a basically empty fiberglass shell.
It just so happened that during these three months our commuter car broke down. It was an old car, and had served us well for a long time, but now our van was our commuter vehicle. This is not exactly the ideal vehicle to commute around Portland, OR in. Luckily, there is great public transportation that got us both to and from work, but we always ended up needing the van to run errands somewhere.
It was a normal afternoon, and we had just finished running our errands and were on our way home. We were driving on a main busy road and about to drive through an intersection, when out of nowhere an oncoming car illegally turned left, completely cutting us off with no time for us to stop. WHAM! We rammed right into her.
Everyone involved in the crash was okay, thank goodness. However, the van was a different story. Her front bumper was smashed on the passenger side, to the point that the door would no longer open, there was fluid leaking from under the cab, and she made an awful noise when we tried to drive her. “Well, shit! There goes the van trip!” my husband said. I snapped at him that he was wrong, but I couldn’t help but cry realizing that he could be right. All of that work we had put into this dream, and it may have just literally crashed and burned.