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Building a Skier's Mobile Home

This past summer, telemark skier Bevan Waite bought a run-down van from a surfer in San Francisco. His vision? Create the ultimate winter rig to be his home base for ski trips and life on the road. He s spent the last six months working on his van, which he s named Bubba. And now, as winter is just around the corner, he s settling in in his hand-crafted mobile home. We spoke with Bevan about how he transformed the van, the tiny home movement, and where he takes a shower. What kind of a van did you start with? Bubba the van is a 1994 Ford E-350, but it is converted to be 4WD, meaning the van body and engine are sitting on top a Ford F-350 1-ton chassis. I bought the van for $5,500 in a pretty run down state from a fireman/surf bum in San Francisco. It had been living very close to the beach for years and had significant rust damage to the undercarriage as well as the body and frame. The engine had 289,000 miles on it, idled very strangely, occasionally stalled (even though it's an automatic) and misfired when climbing hills. Sounds like it needed some work. Was it a smart purchase? In hindsight, probably not, but it's turned out alright. The 4WD conversion had already been done by the original owner somewhere in Tahoe. Before the surfer bought the van from the Tahoe owner, it had been sitting unused for a long time. Per his description, it was in an unusable state and was infested with bee hives. He took the time to clean and fix 'er up a bit mechanically as well as install a jury-rigged VW pop top, but he ran out of time to continue the work. That s when I took over. [caption id="attachment_6724" align="aligncenter" width="960"]
The van before Bevan's handy work.

The van before Bevan's handy work.

The van before Bevan's handy work.[/caption] So what exactly did you do the van to convert it to its current state? The prep work took the longest and was the biggest effort by far. I became quite adept at structural and cosmetic rust repair. I filled all the cavities in the walls with expanding spray foam insulation and then covered everything I could with heavy duty heat reflective bubble wrap. I built a four layered floor composed of wood stringers, continuous polystyrene insulation, OSB subfloor and a faux hardwood finish. From there I moved onto the walls which became a bit more complex. I stuffed R-19 fiberglass insulation behind a moisture barrier into the cavities and squared up the inside walls of the van so I could make a 3D model for the bed, storage, stove and desk framing. I rebuilt the rusted out leaking van gutters with fiberglass and Bondo and did all the prep work for it to get a paint job. Believe it or not, the prep work took so long it left me with only two weeks to build the desk, bed and stove before moving to Tahoe, but somehow it all came together. Did you come up with the design yourself for the bed and stove? I did! There were many precedents. It helped a lot to see what other people had done and how they did it. Ultimately it came down to how I could most effectively use the space for the types of activities I plan to use it for, like skiing, cooking, sleeping, staying warm. What else could you want from life, right? If I run the stove at full capacity, it turns the van into a clothes drying oven perfect for storm skiing days. [caption id="attachment_6725" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Bed, stove, storage. What more does a skier need?

Bed, stove, storage. What more does a skier need?

Bed, stove, storage. What more does a skier need?[/caption] What was your vision from the beginning? What were you hoping to create with this van? My goal was to have it useable by this coming ski season so that I could take it on trips and such. This van is actually a product of a long evolving vision that began while I was in college. Having studied architecture at U of O, a school known for its sustainable design practices, I became somewhat appalled by the ever growing square footage of single family dwellings. I mean really how much space does one actually need to be comfortable? I became very interested in the tiny house movement and went so far as to design myself one with the intention of building it after graduation. As I got closer to doing it, I started to realize the significant financial commitment and the fact that these houses, though built on trailers, are not easily moved. Moreover, they are largely illegal in most places, and without owning land to put it on, it can be difficult to find places to stay. So the idea evolved and Bubba was conceived. Will you be living out of the van? Or just using it for road trips? I m proud to say I am currently living out of the van! Even in its unfinished state, I am getting pretty comfortable with the freedom and routine of van life. I have no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom or shower---but with a gym membership, five reusable gallon jugs of water and various charging stations at work/libraries/cafes for a phone and computer it's working out quite nicely. I guess I can say I am "off the grid," though not in the sexy way with solar panels, generators and fancy schmancy stuff like that. Where are you living right now? I am living in Tahoe City at the moment, but the beauty of a van is that home becomes wherever I want to make it.

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