Van Conversion: Road Trip Stage 3; Disaster Strikes

I didn’t have the heart to write this blog post yesterday, but after we almost got flooded in the crazy thunderstorm last night it helped me put things into perspective. When you put a lot of work and effort into something, it can be hard to let go and still stay positive, but we’re trying!

We’re just on the cusp of finishing the van. All the blinds and curtains have been made, van cleaned, shelves and lighting up, strip lights replaced, painting done and half packed. I even made some more cushions!

It was the curtains and blinds that have been the nuts in my brownie during the last week, although I’ve slowly come to love the Pfaff sewing machine. To save myself having to do any more stitching that I absolutely had to, I just used a couple of old shortened leather belts as the ties for the blinds at the back.


Home made navy blue roll up blinds on a Transit van conversion a wilder life

We even bought some magnets to hand sew into the blinds so they’d snap shut to the van when closed, getting rid of any annoying gaps at the side. The magnets were so strong, it was almost impossible to use the metal machine to sew them into their little pockets. They also liked to stick together at rapid speeds every time they were less than 4 inches apart. Imagine Thor’s hammer turned into small metal smarties because that’s what it felt like when they snapped together over my fingers.

Jackson put the storage trays up in the back and kitchen area and we screwed in the LED lights underneath. We even re-formed the plastic covers on the two strip lights in the van because the old ones were the colour of a 90 year old man’s unbrushed teeth.

Van conversion storage with led lights

We’d designed a simple surf board rack that could be folded away when not in use. Using an old camping mat, we cut out strips to use for padding to protect the boards from being scratched in transit.

Simple surf board rack idea for the van conversion
You can just see the new white strip light on the left

The third coat of stupidly expensive Farrow & Ball paint went onto the venetian blinds covering the furry mottled seats, making them look just about passable.

Van conversion storage seats in the back that turn into a bed
Stapling the blinds to the seats felt a bit “Changing Rooms”

But, none of this matters because we can’t take the van to France after all. We found out two days ago that the previous owner had sent the wrong documents off, which meant that we hadn’t yet been registered as the new owners. This left us unable to tax the vehicle for another four to six weeks.

This news was pretty gutting. Despite lots of calls to the DVLA, we couldn’t make any progress and we thought hard about postponing the trip. We’d tried so hard and put so much thought into fixing the van up the best we could, it was deflating to concede defeat. After a sleepless night of talking, disagreeing, making and re-making plans, we tried to decide what to do.

In the morning, we hadn’t got any closer to a solution. It was the hottest September day ever in the rest of the UK, but the relentless rain and thunder in Cornwall matched both our faces perfectly. Around 7pm we opened the door to let in some fresh air to see a raging sheet of water rushing down towards the barn.

flooding outside BarnyMcBarnface
Outside the barn, just before the rain got worse

The drains had been overwhelmed with the constant downpour and water was quickly rising towards the barn entrance. I grabbed a washing up bucket, Jackson grabbed a broom and we ran outside to try and divert the torrent. The two of us alongside Jackson’s parents were outside making barriers, scooping away water and doing everything we could to stem the flow. Even Carney’s basket was sacrificed to the barrier in an effort to avoid the flood.

Even the bothy was in trouble

Just as the soak away started backing up and I was laying out our best (only) bath towels in the doorway, the rain started to subside. It made us realise that things could always be worse, and that we should probably stop feeling sorry for ourselves.

The point of this project wasn’t the van conversion, but the idea of taking up a challenge to experience a mini adventure. Just because everything hasn’t worked out the way we wanted doesn’t mean we have to give up completely. It also doesn’t mean everything we’ve done has been a waste of time. We rang a good friend who volunteered to lend us a mega tent (thanks Neil and Georgia!) and we’ve already started cleaning the Volvo ready for packing tomorrow.

Emptying out everything from the van was sad, but we’re still excited for our holiday. I’ve already started searching  #tentlife on Instagram (not really, but I have already decided what cushions to take!).


Categories : Projects, Van Conversion
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