The Rise Of The Van Machines

Updated: Jun 9, 2019

Living in a van sounds cool when you're under 30. Wooden boxes for cabinets, plywood and a mattress for a bed, and a Coleman lantern and stove. But these days, especially for us older folks, they really need make it appealing if we're going to shoehorn ourselves gleefully into a sardine can overnight. The manufacturers of RVs know this and have been doing a remarkable job competing for the dollars of a rapidly retiring population.

We want it all. A fully equipped kitchen, functional bathroom, living room, bedroom and storage. We no longer feel a need for non-essential excesses. By now, we know how many pots, pans, appliances and hand tools we have touched in the last year. Anything else might never be used again and can be sold or discarded. Except for that plumbing snake I used once back in 1998; I'm going to need that someday.

Like moths to a flame, more and more people, of all ages and for many reasons, are answering the clarion call of the wild. To recapture those memories of camping we are fond of and to have new travel experiences, but this time with a full dose of luxury and a bevy of solar panels. Many of us eschew the big glamorous Class A rigs for their largess. And the Class C boxes with cabover sleeping compartments look, well, like RVs have typically looked for generations. We want to pull into a Safeway parking lot and NOT take up four spaces, even parallel park if we find a nice spot; although the longer Class B van sizes will require feeding two parking meters just in case.

Which box to buy?

We did our homework. We watched YouTube families and couples out there blazing the trails ahead of us. Armed with a laptop, we scoured the Class B options from the top manufacturers to compare the layout, the features, the workmanship. We determined we would buy a used one and chose a 2015 Airstream Interstate. The accommodations are luxuriously appointed.

The Interstate comes in two flavors; Lounge and Grand Tour. While both models have a reclining sofa in back and two side seats that can fold down to make a queen size bed, the Lounge version has two additional seats just behind the cockpit for passengers. The Grand Tour uses the space behind the cockpit for a larger galley and a tall skinny pantry and closet cabinet. We knew we wanted the larger counter space and extra storage of the Grand Tour.

Airstream really does a bang up job optimizing the cabinet spaces and making the whole package feel like home, like a high end studio apartment. In downtown Tokyo. One of those overnight closets an executive rents when he doesn't have time to get home and sleep before heading back to the office. Perfect for one person. Cozy for two. Add Winston, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and you've got a full house.

Speaking of house, in 2018 we will rent out our place in Oregon. The plan is to spend several months of the year traveling by RV, and spend the colder months in Costa Rica. More about that in another blog post.

The current challenge is how to pare down our stowable belongings to just the bare essentials. We'll only secure a small storage unit for a few things so we are regularly getting rid of things we don't need or won't want if (when?) we return from this flight of fancy. Does an RV need a plumber's snake?

NEXT: 2017: Making Life Changes


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