To Van? Or, Where to Van?

I was going through my Baja photos from two years ago and got to thinking about how much more time I spent outside that season. I did everything outside except sleep, or watch an occasional movie. But that’s because I was living in a pickup truck. Who wants to hang out curled up in the back of a pickup truck? Now, in an RV trailer, I have everything I need in a comfortable indoor space. I can sit and stand and cook and eat and even go to the bathroom! But I find it too comfortable, in a way. It doesn’t keep me outdoors like the truck did. And I miss that.

Camping in an arroyo in Baja takes on many forms. You may live in an RV, or a van, or a tent, or a converted cargo trailer, or a self-built palapa. You may even live in a military-surplus communications bunker on a flatbed like my former neighbor did. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure book where your choice of rig determines the flavor of your trip.

Last time, in a 4×4 truck, I could go nearly anywhere. With confidence, I took long bumpy dirt roads and camped on soft sandy beaches.

“Está el camino bien?” I asked. Is the road good? The man surveyed my truck and replied, “Se pasa.” You’ll pass.
The road to San Javier.

This time…

I wanted to take Mexico 5 down the Sea of Cortez side, because I hadn’t been that way before and I heard it was passable by an RV, taking its time. I envisaged a decent dirt road with short spicy detours. Erin, my caravan buddy, checked the road reports and said that yes, it should be okay; all the washouts from last year’s hurricane season have good detours. This turned out to be true. In fact, the detours were far better than the bad sections of the road itself. The road was good to San Felipe, then bumpy and potholed to Puertecitos, then brand new for a while, then gravel, then dirt, then loose dirt and rock, then one lane, then it dropped down a steep, loose sidecut and my anti-lock brakes came on (did I mention I was hauling an RV trailer?!), then we made a wrong turn, then it was rocky… an hour passed… then we turned around, rocky again, more rocky, then graciously brand new for the final kilometers to Highway 1.

So yeah, technically it was passable by an RV. But I wouldn’t do it again. I bottomed out the hitch jack, popped loose a swath of the aluminum siding, rattled all the screws loose, and caused a propane leak.

For Sale: 2006 RV trailer, 18’. Fair condition, with a few screws loose, like its owner.

So it’s time for a change. But not back to living in a pickup truck; I’m too old for that. I’ve been thinking a lot about van living recently, and this escapade may well be the clincher. A van is like the hybrid between a pickup and an RV: more living space than a pickup, more road capability than an RV. But I’m not talking about some high-centered, low-slung Sprinter or Transit van. I want a van that can drive some dirt!

With that settled, the question is: Where?



South America?

I realize that the choices I pose to myself are unlike those of most people.

4 Replies to “To Van? Or, Where to Van?”

  1. Maybe you should lease one for a trip to try it out. Especially if you are going to do South America or Africa. Yes, that’s my prejudiced opinion!

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