What Have We Done?!

It was the beginning of January 2016, and we had just purchased our van with no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. Project Wander Wagon had begun! The day after we drove her home to Portland, OR from Astoria she wouldn’t start. The panic set in. We just spent about half of our budget on a van that may or may not start again. She was towed to a mechanic, and we wrung our hands as we waited anxiously to hear the list of things that needed to be fixed.


“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” the lady asked us when she called with the mechanic’s update. Good news was, our gut was right, the van was in great shape mechanically. The mechanic couldn’t believe the condition the engine was in considering the van’s age. The bad news was, we still needed to fork out about a grand to replace one of the fuel pumps, the rear brake pads, and a couple minor things.


A few days later the van was all fixed up and ready to be driven back home. First step of the renovation was done, and we were pumped to get to work on the outside. But, it was probably only a couple days later when the rain began.


Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are no strangers to rain, and we usually enjoy the wet weather. However, it soon became clear that this van was by no means waterproof. Leaks were everywhere! So, with the forecast of rain everyday for the next month or two, we had to rent a covered storage area to get back to work and to prevent further water damage. We got lucky and found a place that allowed us to rent out a space for only a month.


With only a month to waterproof this van, every hour of our available free time had to be spent working on it. We had no idea what we were doing, so every project required hours of previous research to learn how to deal with the leaks we encountered. We learned about butyl tape, and quickly became best friends with it. We also learned about silicon, because it was EVERYWHERE on the van from a previous owner, and we quickly became worst enemies with it.

We began with the windows. It was terrifying removing that first big side window, there was suddenly a huge hole in our van and who knew if we would be able to put the window back in. But, two hours later, after scraping away the old gunk we finally replaced the window with new butyl tape and we felt pretty dang proud of ourselves. Only eight more windows to go.


It was a long month. Most days we were freezing, with the cold wind constantly biting at our faces and fingers. We had a couple emotional breakdowns where we were exhausted, but we had to continue or it would never get done in time. But, we had our good days too. Days when the weather broke and the sun came out. Days when everything actually worked out as planned and we got a lot done. These were the days that kept up motivated as we stumbled our way through everything that needed to be done on the outside.


By the end of the month we had resealed both side windows, all seven skylight windows, the seam between the cab and the coach, and all necessary vents. We had removed the old generator box cover (you don’t even want to know what it used to look like), installed a vent fan, and washed away the dirt and mold from the roof. We still had work to do on the outside, but we thought we had done well and we were sure it was pretty close to being waterproof. Unfortunately, this would turn out to be not quite true.


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