I lived in a van and I’d do it again. I spent most of my nights parked along the Bow River in one of the many places to park. Years before I lived in a van, I lived in a 1988 Chevy S10 pickup with white racing stripes and a moose skull quick-tied to the grill.
The topper window had stickers from places, beers and brands. I slept on a Therm-a-Rest and empty beer bottles and soup cans would roll next to me. I’d use one of the bottles to prop my once-lofty pillow, so I could better angle my headlamp.
I parked next to rivers, at friend’s and behind the Canmore library, the old one downtown. I would lay low and time my morning unfurling to when the fewest people would see me emerge from the tailgate of my heat-score of a truck.
Years later, after living at a fixed address, I realized that I missed the freedom of the wheels and purchased a 1990 Plymouth Grand Voyager – grand it was. I opted for a mattress instead of a Therm-a-Rest, which was elevated on a sheet of plywood supported by scrap wood. I added drawers for gear and a shelf for books.
The cooler was never used, as it was just as easy and cheap to grab grub on the go. I drove to California, Squamish and Devil’s Tower with friends in search of climbs. One time, when my girlfriend and I were on a “break,” she stopped by unexpectedly on a rainy night. After chasing me and my “break” partner through the riverside park, she proceeded to empty my van into mushy puddles. That night, I sat alone in my van and dried clothes and climbing gear using a “hippie killer” propane heater. My bad.
After one long weekend in Skaha, my friend and I were driving to Calgary, where we worked as rope access technicians. The motor in the van blew up south of Golden. We emptied the van and left it on the side of the road. The first car to stop was a co-worker heading to Calgary with his partner, another co-worker. We crammed into the back of the two-seater and I said goodbye to another home.
A few weeks later, I purchased a 1995 Chevy Astro van, one of those creeper white ones. I lived in it for two years, mostly based in Canmore. Sometimes I’d drive to Squamish to guide clients on rock routes.
Friends would visit in the morning before shuffling to get coffee and they’d sleep on the floor after long climbs. Some of my favourite nights were parked in remote places listening to the rain patter. I haven’t owned a van for years, but seeing so many friends living the #vanlife, well I think its time to go van shopping. I’ll see you down by the river.