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Old 01-15-2012, 06:26 PM   #41
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Meg, I do not know if they have Panera Bread stores in your area but they have free wifi and they provide 120volt outlets at most tables to recharge your computer.

You pay for the cup at these places and fill your own. You can sit and use your computer and get as many refills as you want to. They also have hot water for those who prefer tea.
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Old 01-15-2012, 09:12 PM   #42
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

I have a bit of experience at Home Depot as a customer. In their garden center they have a lot of bags of stuff be it fertilizer, topsoil, landscaping rock, etc. that is usually sold in 40-50 lb. bags. I haven't bought anything heavier than that. I am capable of lifting those bags but every time I go to Home Depot a worker will immediately jump in and help me. It's my age and white hair they are alerted to I guess. So, I imagine they have some customer satisfaction policies in place. One they called in this scrawniest kid with stick arms to help me. We pushed the dolly of 15 bags of river rock out to my pickup truck. Since the parking lot was slightly sloped one of us had to hold the dolly in place. He started loading and couldn't do it. I had to trade places with him. I kind of felt sorry for him. They were 50 lb. bags.
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:30 PM   #43
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

I went for a walk earlier today and stopped in Home Depot on the way back to ask about physical strength requirements. The two nice people I talked to said it shouldn't be a problem; there's always someone around who can handle something if another person can't. That was good to hear.

They did say that all applying must be done online, which doesn't seem right to me; a lot of people can't do that. But maybe there are workstations in the stores for that, as there are at a lot of other stores, like Walmart and Target; I just haven't seen any.

Hallibagger, thank you for the suggestion about Panera. There is one in this shopping center and I'll keep it in mind if I really need it. For the most part I'm OK, though; I can use the computer either in the van (on battery or plugged into the inverter) or in the Subway inside the Walmart; they have a plug there they let me use. The regular opening person even said the other day I don't have to buy anything, which was good to hear because I just can't afford to keep buying drinks I don't need. But mostly I'll probably just use the computer in the van; it's quieter and I don't have to listen to the umpteenth repeat of Kung Fu Panda 2.

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Old 01-16-2012, 03:16 PM   #44
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

On the road McDonalds has always been the most ubiquitous place to stop for free wifi. This past year we found most to have fairly good download speeds. I like Starbucks too, but they don't seem to be in the most optimum locations for RVers.
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Old 01-16-2012, 06:11 PM   #45
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

We've always found the public library's great for Wifi.....most know have a lot of outlets you can plug into.
Or McDonalds as they are most everywhere. Seems now days lots of the restaurants and bars have Wifi.
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Old 01-16-2012, 08:34 PM   #46
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

I just wanted to remind everyone that I don't need WIFI - I have Cricket's wireless and it works fine. Power has been an issue but is somewhat better now that I have an inverter. There's also a Subway in the Walmart that lets me use their plug when I'm in there. I'm just trying to avoid those kinds of situations (Subway, coffee shops, etc.) because I have to buy something and that gets expensive, especially when I'm trying to save money.

I did just apply online for a job at Home Depot. It was a very long process and used up most of my battery power so I don't have much time left. I'll report back if I hear from them.

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Old 01-16-2012, 09:04 PM   #47
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Do you start the van motor occasionally to charge your house battery?
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Old 01-17-2012, 12:46 AM   #48
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo
Do you start the van motor occasionally to charge your house battery?
Too late, perhaps?

McDonalds is good for wifi, except I haven't seen many with as many AC outlets as you'll find at an average
Starbucks. Just a personal observation. We stopped at one last year, and there was one baseboard outlet in
the public seating area that we could find, being used by (we assumed) the store Manager.
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:54 PM   #49
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Meg,
You are trying to save money, while looking for work. What are you eating, all this time?

Something that can boil water for you, can make many inexpensive meals. Search for "Frugle or Cheap Backpacking Meals". Many folks go backpacking on a shoestring budget. They still have to eat every day, and only have a small stove and a pot to cook with. You stove is actually nicer than most of theirs.

I saw the images of your van's interior, in the "Flooring" thread, posted earlier. If you can use the rear space for the dresser and storage, you could place the bedframe over your two wheel wells, leaving more storage space underneath. If a bedframe is too long, you could use a reinforced piece of plywood (Home Depot), to lay across the two wheel wells, allowing for storage underneath, and sleep crosswise, in the van.

Just some ideas.
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Old 01-18-2012, 06:03 PM   #50
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

To answer some of your questions - yes, I am recharging the house battery with the engine; I've done it 3 times already (the inverter has an alarm that lets me know when it gets low). I think I'm going to have to forego using the laptop in the van, though, unless it's really important; the battery is so small that it drains quickly and I'd rather have light at night. I have a few other options for using the laptop plugged in, like the Subway where I am now; all it cost me was a cup of decaf ($1.62). It's also too cold to really work in the van anyway unless the sun is shining, and with Colorado's reputation for sunshine I'm amazed at how little that happens these days.

Photog, the van is already full of stuff and I'm living in it so I have no way to rearrange anything or do any DIY (not that I have money for that either). The bed is up at the front sandwiched between the driver's seat and the wheel well; the dresser is across from that because that's my main "living" area and the dresser is stocked with the clothes and other things I use all the time. In the back is the worktable (basically useless because of the cold) and many boxes. I've arranged a few things that I need to get at and they're all at the front, and if I lean over the table I can get to some of the boxes and the inverter (whose cable wasn't long enough to even reach to the worktable - annoying).

This van is full of drafty spots; it sometimes makes me wonder if I even need to crack a window when I'm running the heater (although I do) Once the sun goes down I put up 2 "curtains," 1 from the front cabover (behind the seats) and the other from a beam that is conveniently located just above the wheel well - in other words, just at that end of the bed. The front curtain is a flannel sheet; the back is a wool blanket that I originally bought for the bed but was really too small and got replaced along with all the other bedding when I got the sleeping bag. It has a convenient fringe that I use to hang it to twine loops I've tied around the beam. The curtains make that area really small at night - only slightly bigger than an Amtrak basic sleeper, for anyone who's seen one - but with all the drafts the heater just couldn't keep up and the curtains at least partially block off the rest of the van. The heater doesn't have as big an area to heat now. (I'm sorry if this is hard to picture but I can't provide pics.) And the windows, of course, are all covered most of the time.

Early on in this process, before I bought the van, someone somewhere suggested I get a passenger van because I wouldn't have to do the insulating required for a cargo van (and which I couldn't physically handle). I think that might have been true if I'd bought a conversion van, but this regular passenger van - I really don't think it's got much more insulation than a cargo van. And insulating it would have probably been even more trouble because of all the windows. So, to anyone looking for a van they can convert, I would recommend that unless they're doing the full insulation themselves (with a cargo van) they should stay with a conversion van. Big passenger vans like this one aren't nearly the "easy conversion" they may look to be. (Once again, hindsight is 20/20.)

I don't have a lot more to report so I probably won't be checking in very often. I have now applied at both Home Depot and Walmart (and Walmart should give me a job just for getting through the entire process on one of their in-store kiosks, it was a major pain; I wonder how many people just give up) and will be looking for other opportunities, both in and out of this area. I am seriously done with cold weather.

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Old 01-26-2012, 01:39 PM   #51
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Heya Meg - it's been a week just wanted to check in on ya and make sure all is still ok.
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:58 PM   #52
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Hello again everyone, here's my update. This will be the last one because I'm no longer vandwelling. I've left Colorado and am staying with family in Pennsylvania for a while (just got here last night, 2-day trip on the train). It's been good to see them and I'm glad to be closer to my mother who is 93 and in a nursing home just 10 minutes from here.

Before I left I sold the van to my Wal-Mart "neighbor" Paul - the one who helped me out so much when I was there. He plans to use it for daily transportation instead of the 6-mpg Class C he's living in. He will also use it for hauling stuff so he'll be able to make some money with it, which is good because his income is very low. He's also a mechanic so he should be able to deal with some of the problems it has himself. He couldn't afford to pay me much, but it saved me from having to put the van on Craigslist and I know it will help him out, so I think this sale was a win-win situation for both of us. (My stuff that was in the van is being shipped here in one of those little pod things; it's due in around Tuesday.)

Since I don't have a van anymore I won't really have much to contribute here. But I did want to thank everyone for their suggestions, advice, and support throughout this whole experience; even though I couldn't be online much they were a big help and I really appreciated the "lifeline." If I ever get another van I'll be back, but in the meantime I want to wish those of you who do have them a whole lot of fun, some great adventures, and safe travels always.

Meg
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Old 01-29-2012, 08:16 PM   #53
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Meg, sorry to see you go but glad that you're safe and warm!
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Old 01-29-2012, 09:07 PM   #54
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

You'll be missed for sure. I'm a bit relieved that you are out of the van with so much winter still left. The topics that you started will be here to help others for a long time.
Good luck. This year has got to get better for you.
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Old 01-30-2012, 01:29 AM   #55
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Agreed about lots of winter still left, and I'm also glad you're out of the van. It sounded like too much
of a fixer to be practical, but you certainly gave it the fullest effort with limited resources.
We just got our first real blast of snow today, and if you're in PA you may have got it, too.
Take care, and maybe we'll see you pop in here once in a while.
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Old 02-01-2012, 06:36 PM   #56
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

Well Meg, it was an interesting ride. We are also glad to hear you have found a better place to stay.

Safe travels.
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Old 02-16-2012, 02:39 AM   #57
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Default Re: Full-timing in the van - Meg

I just joined this forum today and read this thread through. To bad I found it so late. Other than the cold weather is seems her biggest problem was earning some money. Years ago as a young man I left home and end up in Denver destitute. However, I did find some places that find work for people for a day at a time. I was able to stay pretty busy a day at a time until I saved enough money to get back on the road again. Oh well, she is safe and warm now.

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