About Us & the Van

About Us. We are a retired Canadian couple who like outdoorsy things like camping, canoeing, biking, hiking…. We also love to travel and experience other countries and cultures. This seemed like a great opportunity to combine it all.

We left our home in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, on October 13 2018, with the plan of driving to Argentina, South America.

About Vanna.  We are travelling in a black 2002 GMC Savana conversion van. While planning for the trip we mulled over several different types of vehicles, attaching to one idea for awhile, then dropping it for something else. Bob liked the idea of using a truck with a cap and building a bed in the box, with storage under the bed. And we often talked about the German couple we met who slept in a tent on the roof of their Land Cruiser. They climbed a ladder every night to reach it. That was cool but I just couldn’t see climbing that ladder.

We drooled over the colourful and cute Westfalias, Volkswagen’s perfectly designed  campervan. But they are known to  break down a lot. And then for awhile we had our heart set on a truck and pop up camper. We also waffled back and forth on whether or not to try build out a Sprinter van like many that are detailed on the internet. But when a conversion van came up for sale, a few hours drive from home, it seemed just right.  We decided to buy it and take a chance that it would work out.

Three months on the road and we have settled on her name. Vanna Black. …. after you know who on that game show. ?

And we are pretty happy with our Vanna so far.

On the road through the pine covered mountains, Honduras

Useful things that she came with:

  • The back bench seat folds into a bed, on a switch.
  • Pleated blinds on the windows
  • High top roof providing enough space for Joyce (and almost enough for Bob) to stand up inside
  • Comfy leather multi adjustable captains seats
  • TV and Nintendo unit above front seats, which we removed to allow more storage room
  • Small cubbies with doors, all around the upper interior
  • Interior lights in the ceiling from front to back
  • Garage space inside the back doors

Some things we added before we left home:

  • Dometic compressor chest style fridge that sits between the front seats, and can run off 12 volt solar or 120 volt shore power
  • 100 watt solar panel on the roof
  • Inverter, controller and 12 volt battery installed behind the drivers seat
  • Removed second row of seats and installed home built kitchen unit with sink, hand pump, fresh water, and waste water on one half.  Counter space and three shelves on the other half with removable baskets that contain dry food, dishes, coffee press, two stoves, and all that other cooking stuff you need.
  • Memory foam mattress cut to fit over the bed
  • Fold away Bike Rack on hitch, with 2 bikes
  • Curtains that can hang behind the front seats, when needed for extra privacy
  • Reflectex sunscreen for windshield, and pieces cut to fit the two front side windows
  • Two lovely large orange Home Depot pails that are endlessly useful!  His and Hers in an emergency.

Some things we added along the way:

  • Folding black plastic camp table
  • Outdoor light, installed above rear side door. It gets dark here by 6.
  • Installed green rope clothesline all along one side, above sink
  • Boogie board that doubles as a side table when placed on top of the HD pails

Parts  replacement for Vanna en route:

  • Panama- new battery, the first one was less than a year old but apparently the heat can be hard on them
  • Panama – not another solar panel! Yes, but this one is rigid, the other 2 were flexible
  • Colombia- replaced fuel pump and fuel filter, but we had to get the filter from Canada, as nothing in Colombia would fit
  • Colombia – replaced water pump on sink as the first one stopped pumping – ordered from Amazon
  • Ecuador – new windshield- to stop the corrupt cops from harassing us over the crack along the bottom.  This had to be fabricated as there is nothing this size in Ecuador