With Soulianis tucked away in the boatyard, we try out #vanlife and go tearing across the country in our new transit van, Chip! (Does driving from south to north count as across? Well, either way…) We leave Florida for Wisconsin, then hop over to Michigan, then back again, all to visit family, friends, and hunt for new potential rental properties.
Hope you enjoy!
Lauren & Kirk
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Start Your Morning with some Sailing Inspiration
Chip’s been great.
It’s been an interesting first urban stealth camping mission.
It’s a little bit rustic still.
[Kirk] Where are we?
We’re at Kirk’s Lake in Michigan.
That’s so addicting. Hey dad are we in distress?
Ah, we could be.
Hell yeah. It’s been a pretty fun adventure.
Are we even half way yet?
[Lauren] We are Lauren and Kirk and this is Soulianis. We sailed it from Lake Michigan down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s the ocean!
[Lauren] And have been living and working aboard ever since. After hauling the boat over hurricane season we moved into our summer home on wheels.
[Kirk] All right boat, take care of yourself.
[Lauren] A van we named Chip. Good morning.
[Lauren] That is some bright light. We have to fix that.
See you in a few.
Okay. We spent our first night in the van last night. It’s a little bit rustic still. All of our stuff is spread out on the floor and so when we pulled in to the rest stop, oh no. I better take down some curtains. Kirk set up a bunch of towels and sarongs to block the light. Wow, this is quite the set up. We bought a couple cushions from the boat because we didn’t have any mattresses or any sleeping pads or anything. Kirk was dead set against getting a motel. We bought a van, why are we sleeping in a motel? I’m like, ’cause we don’t have a bed. But we made a pretty decent bed. These cushions are, well they came from the quarter berth and the pilot berth so it’s what Tartan gave you to sleep on so. Then we piled all of our crap up in the back of the van to get it out of the way so that we could sleep. Should be in Wisconsin tonight.
[Kirk] Where are we?
[Kirk] Uh huh. What river is this?
[Lauren] I don’t know but there’s tows on it.
[Kirk] Where are we?
Terre Haute, Indiana. Small town America.
[Kirk] Okay, how do you feel two thirds of the way through your first overnight passage on Chip? I see that you’re eating some ginger snap candy. Are you road sick right now?
[Lauren] No, definitely not. I just never thought about eating the ginger candies when I was feeling sick on the boat. So now I’m eating them while I’m not sick on the road. I don’t know, I don’t really get sick in the car unless we’re driving super windy roads and I’m a passenger and I’m reading a book or phone or something like that. Chip’s been great. Chip is exactly what we needed, I think. We’re both really happy we got the short van so that we can park in a normal parking spot. And Kirk’s super stoked that he can stand up and there’s what four inches of room above your head still? I think it’s gonna be pretty frikken awesome.
[Kirk] I mean this is like a serious passage we’re making here.
Yeah, I guess it is. What was it, 1300 miles?
[Kirk] Yeah. What a shake down cruise, huh?
[Kirk] This wasn’t no like going parking out in the forest for a night five miles away. I mean we did a cross country road trip here.
Yeah we did, and it seemed like nothing. 1300 miles across land compared to 1300 miles across water, it’s like 1/20th, not even. It’s like 1/50th of the effort. You get to stop wherever you want, get snacks, fuel.
Snacks! You don’t have to worry about being self-sufficient because there’s literally everything you need pretty much like every 10 miles. Anyway.
[Kirk] Dope. Current state of Chip.
[Lauren] Giant mess.
I can make it look like we’re on a boat. Just kidding, we’re not on a boat.
[Lauren] What do you think about Chip?
I think Chip is frikken sweet. I’m super excited. I like everything about Chip except for the fuel mileage. We’ve averaged 17 point 9 on this trip.
[Lauren] We’re not commuting in it.
Yeah. We’re not driving it everyday. What I like are all the cup holders. All of the places to put our bottles.
[Lauren] So many cup holders.
[Kirk] Like the perfect spot for a Nalgene and the perfect spot for Lauren’s favorite cup. We got the perfect spot for phones right there for directions. The radio’s a little lack luster. You can’t adjust really anything on the steering wheel which would have been kind of cool but…
[Lauren] Luxuries Kirk.
We got a nice shelf up here which you can’t really see very well. We got a fruit basket. The seat in the passenger side is super comfy to sleep in. Lay it all the way back.
[Lauren] Lay it all the way back.
And it’s quite nice. Going down. It’s pretty nice to sleep here. So far so good. Now we just need to build him out, make him a home. Or make him a house, I guess he’s already home. All right. That’s update form the road number one. ♪ Ain’t that a hole in the boat. ♪
[Lauren] We were in a bit of a rush to leave the boatyard to make it up to Wisconsin to my parents house which they had just sold. I spent a couple days going through a closet full of my childhood things that I hadn’t seen in 20 years and helped my mom pack up the last boxes for the moving truck. We were off again to visit Kirk’s family in Michigan.
We’re going wind surfing. I grew up next to an inland lake so when we visit my family we like to hang out on the lake as much as possible. This is my dad’s windsurfer. It’s an early 80’s relic but it still does the trick. Wooh!
[Lauren] Oh hey.
Hey Love. That was frikken awesome. It’s so addicting. God there’s such good wind now let’s see if I can just dock start this. Okay, ready?
[Lauren] You didn’t put sunscreen on, did you?
No, we’re gonna go in just a second.
We’re gonna fire off our expired flares. The directions are a little bit long and detailed. We wanna try ’em out so we know how to use ’em when we are actually in an emergency.
[Kirk] Cool, and where are we?
We’re at Kirk’s Lake in Michigan. Burn time up to seven seconds each. Waterproof, floatable, oh they’re floatable. We can go pick them up.
[Kirk] We should test that out.
Okay so press stop of red launch tube down, orange sleeve firmly with one hand, use the other hand to pull down on red cap to lock sleeve in place. This already sounds complicated.
[Kirk] Yeah, imagine doing this while our boat is sinking.
Yeah that would suck. Grasp red launch tube firmly with little finger bracing finger dimples will drop… Are you serious? While holding above head off to side sharply to launch ariel flare. There will be recoil as the flare launches so be certain to maintain a firm grip on red launch tube throughout launch process. You ready for this?
[Kirk] Yowza. You gonna remember all that?
[Kirk] Hey dad, are we in distress?
We could be.
[Kirk] It looks like we are right now.
Nah, just a little engine maintenance. Routine.
[Kirk] All right. One, two, three. Oh yeah. Hells yeah. Oh that was–
[Lauren] Did it burn out already?
[Kirk] Yeah, that one didn’t stay up very long. All right do you wanna try one? Did you pull real hard?
[Kirk] Oh, that might be a dud.
Oh wait. Wooh!
[Kirk] That one lasted a little longer.
[Lauren] That didn’t go very high though.
So these are suppose to float.
[Kirk’s Dad] Before you light it?
[Lauren] It floats!
[Kirk] Nice. Happy we don’t wanna have any use for this.
Never use flares hopefully ever! Wow that’s bright.
[Kirk] Super bright.
[Father] Like a sunset.
Yeah, it’s brighter than the sunset. The fish are getting a show too.
[Kirk] Are they down there?
Are the fish down there?
I think so. I don’t see anything. Seven-year-old expired flares work. A couple of weeks later we headed back to the Milwaukee area to hunt for potential rental properties. Both Kirk and I are interested in architecture and real estate and plan to continue investing in rental properties long term. We’re always looking for new prospects. Since graduating college we’ve probably toured over 200 different properties. Of those, we’ve purchased three.
We just wrapped up our first night of urban stealth camping. We’re in Milwaukee looking for more rental property and we spent yesterday afternoon hanging around at coffee shops ’till they kicked us out. We decided to go have dinner at a park. Everything was going nice and we didn’t really know where we were gonna camp. Apparently Milwaukee has a city wide overnight parking ban. You have to have a permit. There is not a single city street that you can park overnight in. We called up Walmart and they didn’t allow overnight camping so then there’s a casino in town. I thought, cool, we’ll wrap the night up with a couple of hands of black jack while we pulled in about three inches away from the edge of the parking structure I realized, oh crap. We’re in a very tall van. A half second later I’ve got like six cars slamming on their horns. We then found this, it’s a parking lot of a brewery that didn’t open until midday today. This was now 11:45 at night. We stayed there until 1:30 when we were abruptly woken up to someone trying to open our door. Then we stayed silent for a moment and they walked around to the other door and tried to open that one. And then I think I heard them pee on our tire so I’m pretty sure they were just a drunk person. That was it, we heard them walk away. And so I hopped in the driver seat and we got out of there. Hello, good morning. And then we drove back to the neighborhood where we’ve been searching for houses in because it’s the neighborhood we felt most comfortable in and parked on the street and had a pretty peaceful rest of the evening. We were woefully unprepared. We don’t have any black out material, almost nothing for going to the bathroom. We don’t have a bed made. This is a very rough shake down cruise but it’s been a pretty fun adventure. So then we had a really beautiful morning here. We’re hung out on the Milwaukee River. There’s a nice little park here. Just had breakfast and I’ve gotten a little bit of work done. Did my first conference call and just watched people ride their bikes past and play with their dogs. Absolutely beautiful morning here. We are gonna go see a house that may become a new rental property for us at one today. And now I’m gonna go meet Lauren at a coffee shop. Chip are you locked? Thanks buddy. Of the few properties we saw this was our favorite. So we made an offer and did an inspection but we discovered there were some significant repairs to the foundation that were needed so we ended up passing. And then we headed back south to Racine where we bought our boat.
[Lauren] Who put the raisins in with the dates?
[Kirk] Hmm, what kind of schmutz would do that?
[Lauren] Yours truly.
[Kirk] What are we having here?
[Lauren] We got apple, raisin, cinnamon oatmeal.
[Kirk] Hell yeah.
It’s perfect, look at that. We hung around Racine for a couple more weeks touring about a dozen properties.
[Kirk] A few houses we saw in Racine fit the bill. But the market was heating up and rental rates didn’t support the asking price. We needed to keep looking. Racine was much easier for urban camping. Our daily routine was to park on a residential street overnight and then we found a spot along the lakefront during the day. It was a perfect setup.
[Lauren] After exhausting all the properties on our list, we set off with the goal of getting to the North Channel of Lake Huron for a week of sailing with friends.
[Kirk] We stopped to see the lake front in Port Washington and I caught a few waves in Sheboygan. I think I should try the rights first. It looks way too mellow down there. Oh man, it’s been a while. This is the current state of Chip. See ya Chip. Sorry, whipped you in the face.
[Lauren] So we’re gonna walk this. As a kid my mom used to bring me and my sister here every summer and we just loves running up and down the sand dunes. Wooh!