Getting The Van Ready

After the end of the last post, we spent the following three days preparing the van to take off towards my host parents. First, we had to hook up the second battery of the car again. Beside the regular car battery for the car starter, the lights, the stereo and the cigarette lighter in the front, there is a second one which is charged by the engine as soon as the main battery is full and which is connected to two cigarette lighters in the back of the van. When we plugged the cooler into one of them, we noticed that there was no power coming from them and after asking Dallas, he told us that he had unhooked it before selling the van to us.

But because it was located under the hood of the van, we had to figure out how to open that first. We pulled the lever inside the car saying “hood” on it and tried to open it, we found a lever behind the grill which we pushed, but the hood still wouldn’t open. We were so clueless that we decided to drive to a gas station and ask the clerk there who had no idea himself and also didn’t really seem like he wanted to waste his time with us in the first place. So we drove on and parked in front of the garage where we had vacuumed the van the day before. The mechanic there was so friendly to help us out. After pulling the lever inside and pressing the lever behind the grill, he gave the hood a soft knock and is sprang open.

We left for the hostel where we were puzzled once more the next day. We located the second battery but couldn’t figure out a way to connect the numerous cables around it and were also a little scared of the electricity – at least I was.

While we were standing on the hostel parking lot with our hood open, looking at the cable situation and discussing what to do, another guest of the hostel who we had never seen before walked up to us and asked if he could help. We explained the situation to him and right away, he started to explain everything to us. He was certain which of the five cables would have to be connected where and explained the function of every single one of them. He started telling us that most of the screws inside the hood were useless anyway before taking one from an actually useless seeming spot to fix two cables before swiftly shifting from electrical explanations to his worldly wisdom telling us that always and everywhere in the world there was too much of everything.

The guy seemed really nice but both Silas and I weren’t trusting him too much from the beginning on so we were both relieved when he said that he had to leave. We preferred to go back to the garage of our trust where another mechanic was so kind to hook the cables up correctly so the cooler could be powered. Silas’s and my feeling were validated by the fact that the cables were hooked up in a totally different way than our friend at the hostel was very sure it was right. We gave the mechanic 10 dollars which he didn’t even ask for, stated him our gratitude and went back to the hostel – with another working battery under the hood.

The day before, we had also bought two camping chairs before I had Silas try Poutine, a British Columbian specialty. Take fries, put a little cheese on top and pour gravy over all of it and there you have it, a slightly absurd but super tasty meal if you will. I used to eat that for lunch every single day that I was skiing in the Rockies on the weekends and in spring break three years ago so sitting in the mall and eating Poutine brought up so many great memories.

After getting a couple more things done, returning to the Waterfront Park once more and buying groceries, the morning of our checkout at the hostel had come. We slept in and had the same breakfast as the last days – pancakes. Then, we packed up the last few things, stayed in our room for another half hour in order to make use of the last real bed we would be sleeping in for a year, and then finally checked out at 11 am.

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A few more impressions of the Waterfront Park in Kelowna at daytime…
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…with a few over the lake…

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… and a friendly couple willing to take our first photo in front of Canadian scenery.

The time had come to take the van on our first real roadtrip: 45 minutes from Kelowna to Vernon where we would be staying with my host parents and their three current homestay students for the following three nights.

Silas was so friendly to let me drive the van. It was a good feeling but most of all, I was excited to arrive at my homestay family’s place.

Of course, we were welcomed with a delicious lunch during which we were also shown the program of the Winter Carnival in Vernon. Silas and I decided to then head up to Silver Star, the ski resort where I went skiing back in the day, because there were several snow sculptures in the village which had been built earlier that day.

On the way up the mountain, we were driving so slowly in our 1990 van with lots of clothes, food and furniture in the back that even the school bus which I used to take to get up and down the hill, passed us. We stopped at every pullout which were actually made for that school bus to let the numerous cars that piled up behind us pass. That reached its peak when on the way down, there were a total of 13 cars passing us while standing in one.

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So many great memories.
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What do you figure how deep that snow must be?

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Unfortunately, we won’t be able to go skiing this winter. It is just too expensive for us and we both agreed that that money could be spent much better another time. And on top of that, I am planning to work in the ski resort next winter anyway so I will get to ski enough then, hopefully.

Later, we had some supper before our first night in the van had come. We brushed our teeth and got ready for bed in the house but then refused the offer from Gordon and Sally’s daughter and son-in-law to sleep at their place next door because we wanted to test out sleeping in the van while there was still an alternative in case we couldn’t do it for any reason – and to be honest, we were also just really excited to finally spend our first night in the van. Anyway, I trusted my love in coldness and only put on a long-sleeved pyjama and not even any socks before getting into my sleeping bag which is designed for 0°C which later turned out to have been a huge mistake. I fell asleep very well but then kept waking up in the night because I was so cold. Still, I was too tired to get up and get changed and also didn’t dare to leave the sleeping bag which was holding at least a little bit of heat. First thing in the morning, I put on jeans, a t-shirt and a sweater and headed straight into the house where it was nice and warm. In the meantime, I realized that all windows of the van had a thick layer of ice on the inside which suggested that it was far under 0°C outside – and also inside the van because there was no heater in it and neither the cooking stove nor even just our presence for a little while before going to bed had heated up the inside of the van at all.

After enjoying the big breakfast which Gordon made us, we used the next day to get some tasks done. One of them was to buy two hot water bottles which we could fill with boiling water and stuff inside our sleeping bags before going to bed in order to keep ourselves a little warmer in the following nights.

Around 2:30 pm, I then headed to Clarence Fulton Secondary, my highschool from back then. On the way there, I actually had to stop to let two deer cross the street which was pretty exciting. And then at the school, it was a great feeling to just walk through the hallways and get a peak inside a few of the classrooms where I used to have classes. Unfortunately, most of the teachers that had been teaching me were still in their classes and I didn’t want to disturb them. But still, I met my former woodwork teacher whom I really liked at the time, and had a nice chat with him. I had actually reached out to him around half a year before when I had still planned to build out a van by myself and asked him whether I could use some of the tools at the school. Although he had even looked into van conversions himself and was very interested in the topic, he wouldn’t have been able to help us due to insurance issues – good thing we were forced to change our plans after all!

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Yet again, so many memories that are coming to my mind.
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All of my time in Canada, outlined in one picture.
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In Germany, there’s dogs on the sidewalks, here it’s deer.

In the evening, we played some cards with Gordon and Sally before Karen, their daughter, and Andrew, her husband, and later Alessio, a 12-year-old host student from Mexico who is staying with Gordon and Sally, joined us. We played boardgames until late at night when around midnight, Silas and I couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. We brushed our teeth, got ready for bed and filled our hot water bottles. On top of that, I put on more clothes: long underwear, sweatpants, two sweaters, a pair of socks and one of woollen socks. All of that made me more comfortable over night. It was still pretty cold, especially when I woke up in the middle of the night and the hot water bottle had already cooled off, but that was good enough for me.

The following day would be our last with Gordon and Sally, and our last in a house before we would take off in the van – towards Vancouver which we had planned the days before.

That day, we only stayed at home, played cards with Gordon and Sally and finished planning our first days living in the van before we headed to a friend’s house. I met with him a couple times when I was staying in Vernon three years ago, his mother works in the internationals program for the school district and a Mexican exchange student with whom I went skiing very often is still staying with them.

It was a fun evening but around 9 pm, we headed home again to get some more rest before our alarms would go off at 7 am the next morning. And we still felt the jetlag or rather our lack of sleep from the flight.

When we pulled up at the house that evening, I was so stupid to start pulling the rear view mirror downwards because I thought, it could be removed from the holding structure in order to hang a dream catcher which I had brought from Germany to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t put much thought into that idea so of course, a few moments later, I was sitting on the driver’s seat with a rear view mirror in my hand. Both of us started laughing hard at my stupidity before glueing it back on with a little strap from a couple of hooks we had bought the other day. After that, we weren’t really able to adjust the mirror without tearing it from the windshield anymore and it would always be vibrating while driving but at least, it was back on the windshield – with a dream catcher hanging from it.

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Beautiful, ain’t it? Totally worth the trouble, I’d say for once.

The next morning, our alarm woke us up at 7 am, we went inside the house and had a huge breakfast featuring bagels, pancakes and hot coffee which Gordon had made for us once more. Meanwhile, Sally started adding to the one plastic bag she had already packed for us the day before. It contained food of all kinds before she started adding things like sponges, dish soap, a can opener, some plastic cups, paper plates and much more. Karen added two bags of chips, half a palette of canned mushroom soup, some detergent, lots of tea and probably much more which I can’t even recall anymore. Gordon added a bottle of windshield cleaner, a baseball bat and a huge knife to keep us safe. And all of that was topped of by a huge box of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies which were so tasty that water is gathering in my mouth in the moment I am writing this.

After Silas and I both took the last shower after which we didn’t know where we would be able to take the next one and I filled two bottles with black tea, everything was set to leave and it was time to say goodbye to Gordon, Sally and Karen once more.

It was a little sad but I knew that I will be back in a year from that moment the latest and Silas and I were both pumped to finally start this huge adventure.

And that’s where my next post will take over, see ya!

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