Ooh, today was bad, apocalypse level bad in terms of winds, rain, and property damage in the southern Prairies. I was right in the middle of it and unlike the eye of a hurricane, where it is calm, I was in a real maelstrom. There are trees down all over my hamlet and I had to use a lot of muscle to get a particularly large branch off my driveway so I could park my truck.
My internet service is flaky on a bad day and non-existent on a day like today. I ended up spending most of my day parked in a field about halfway to Assiniboia. That’s how far I had to go to get a usable cellular signal so I could do my work and about as far as I dared to go in lashing rain, gusting winds, and huge amounts of water on the road. It was a very long and unpleasant day.
Working out of my truck for a few hours is fine. I sit in the passenger seat and have a lap desk, so I’m comfortable. But I have no bathroom or means of making a hot beverage (which would have been appreciated on such a cold and damp day). I really don’t have an alternative place to work except taking a motel room in Assiniboia. The library in Assiniboia has weird hours and I obviously couldn’t do an eight-hour shift there or at the bakery that sort of doubles as an internet cafe. So I am rather resentful that I’m being put in this situation because we don’t have cellular service down in the valley, where I have a lovely office.
I am actively pursuing the connectivity issue this summer. I am at the point of seeking a political resolution, having reached an impasse with SaskTel, the telecom company that holds a monopoly in this province. As soon as I am ready to go to the media, I will lay it all out here on the blog. But the short of it is that at this point in time, there are no plans within the next 10 years to bring cellular service, and therefore good internet, to my valley and so I really need to reconsider using Haven as a home base. My flaky internet wasn’t such a big deal when I could schedule going up the hill to where there’s service on especially bad days while being able to work at home, but the new job requires me to respond very quickly to emails and is not compatible with a flaky internet service.
Which led to an epiphany regarding another decision I’ve been contemplating: buying a new (to me) vehicle.
I figured out this winter that I really want a camper van to use as a daily driver and to serve as a mobile motel room and office when I’m traveling. The epiphany I had today is that if I had a vehicle like that, it would mean being able to ride out poor connectivity issues in style. At the first whiff of bad internet, I could relocate to the mobile office, park where there’s a good connection, and work comfortably with access to a bathroom and means to make a simple meal. Yes, my home has wheels, but can you imagine having to pack up and move a 32′ motorhome a couple of times a week, never mind find a large enough place to pull off a highway to work?! There is a reason people like having toads!
Having contemplated the camper van situation for some time now, I’ve figured exactly what I want and why. Mexico has featured heavily into my consideration. I want something that I would be able to import when I move there semi-permanently in three to four years, so that means I need something older since you can only import vehicles manufactured eight or more years from the year of import. So that puts me at a 2009 to 2011 model year, a huge improvement over my current 2000 truck. I also want something that can easily be serviced in Mexico.
Next consideration is fuel economy; I want an improvement over my Ranger’s gas guzzling tendencies. I want something small that I can park anywhere. And I want something that is proven to be convertible into a camper van.
Tall order? Nope. I have found one vehicle that meets every single one of these requirements and it is hugely popular in Europe for camper van conversions: the Ford Transit Connect. It is not to be confused with its larger sibling, the Transit.
Unfortunately, the North American Transit Connects don’t have all the options of their European counterparts, most especially a manual transmission. Going to an automatic would be a huge concession. But we can get the longer body and high roof here, so there’s that. The Transit Connect makes for a very compact mini motorhome. The Transit is much more spacious, sort of like a poor man’s Sprinter in fact, but it doesn’t have the fuel economy of the Transit Connect.
I’ve looked at conversions of the Transit Connect and it would be just the right size for a small bed and work station with room for a potty, a cooler, and a cooktop. Pretty much every conversion I’ve seen has the same basic layout, and with good reason, as it lays out all these elements efficiently.
The conversion is a project I feel I could undertake myself. I would not add propane or plumbing. The most complex part of the job would be electrical, but that’s something I’m competent to do and I would actually pull a lot of materials from Miranda (solar panel, whole house inverter, battery monitor), which would really cut down on costs.
So now it’s a matter of finding my Transit Connect. I did a soft inquiry to see if I could get a vehicle loan and the amount and the answers are yes and enough to buy a recent model (I found a 2013 that fits in the price range). I really doubt that I would buy this summer/fall. I just don’t feel financially secure enough right now to jump into this project, although I am scanning the market. But it looks like my plan for next spring will be to find and purchase the vehicle and then spend the summer working on the conversion.
I need to decide how far afield I want to look. Importing from the US, which has a much larger market, would be a huge pain, but manageable with a broker. I just need to figure out how I could buy a vehicle there in the spring and drive it home while still having my Ranger and would appreciate suggestions for that. I love my Ranger and want to keep it as a cargo carrier until it rusts out from under me, so abandoning it in some junk yard like I did my beloved Accent isn’t my preferred option.
My fear of the Ranger rusting out is what is what got me thinking about buying a new vehicle in the nearish future. I’ve had three body repair guys tell me that the Ranger is too far gone to save and to stop putting money into it except for the most basic mechanical repairs. Independently of that, my financial planner told me that we needed to adjust my plan to fit in the replacement of my truck within a few years. So this is something I really need to be thinking about.
So to recap, I need a new vehicle, I need a backup place to work when internet at Haven is especially bad, and I need to cut down on costs when traveling between Canada and Mexico. Funny that the solution to all of those things is the same thing. I really do think that things are coming together for me!