Van-Building: A Journey of Patience

Van-building, it’s a labor of love, but make no mistake, it’s still labor. VANUAL LABOR (teehee). This blog could also be called “Lisa works manual labor for two months and wants to talk about it.” or “Two months of vanual labor and I haven’t lost a pound but my body aches every day – what gives?”

I’ve been toying with this blog post idea for awhile now, but until I sat down to write it, I didn’t realize how much I had to say. Apparently, I have a lot of reflections on the subject. Let’s start at the beginning…

Before we started the phase two van build, I was all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Or, at least, this is what I had in mind:


Oh, I was getting OVERALLS, maybe a tool belt, the works. “I’m a working girl! Let’s get to WORK!” Have I gotten any of that? No. Of course not. The idea of shopping (or rather, being on my feet) any more than I have to is not appealing. I have clothes. I’m not looking for new ones, especially since they’ll likely get stained. Besides, we all know that tiny tool belt ain’t holding shit except Heidi’s waist. On second thought…

So, who do I actually resemble while working?


You betchya: Mr. “I don’t think so, Tim” Al Borland. And here’s why: It’s cold in Chicago. It’s cold in the warehouse. I have flannel. I like flannel. And jeans. And I have brown hair. Just a few more days til my mustache comes in and we could be siblings.

So, now that we all know I’m not prancing around like Tool Time’s Heidi (respect), what exactly am I doing? Am I living up to my “vanual labor” claim? You bet your flannel shorts I am. I’m putting in a full week’s work. And then some.

“Ok, you’re “working”, sure. What do you mean by that? How many hours are you clocking a week?”

Well, this depends on what you mean by working.

Warehouse work: Colin and I clock in about six days/week. We get in anywhere from 8am-10am. We leave anywhere from 4pm to 8pm. Ten and eleven hour days are not unusual. More often than not, our time in the warehouse is usually a solid nine hour day.

Research work: Ongoing. Most days when we get home, we’re too tired to do much except crash. So, when we need to hunker down and figure out logistics, sometimes we stay home to research. Other times, we’ll just take the laptop to the break room for a few hours. Admittedly, Colin clocks in more research hours than I do. 

Body work: No, I’m not talking about cars. I’m talking about our bodies. Damn, are they tired. My legs ache. Every day. We’re constantly standing on them – and the warehouse is no small garage. You want something from the other side of the shop? Get walking! What about the bathroom? Snack from the break room? Walk walk walk. Some day I’ll wear my fitbit just so I can see how many steps I take on an average day. Even when I’m “just” painting, I’m still moving my legs, the only difference being my arms can get in on the fun as well. Yay!Vanual labor warehouse

Vanual Labor: Add two days to all estimated time frames

As I briefly mentioned in this build update, every step in the build takes much more time than you anticipate. That’s easy to read and think “that sounds about right” but it just doesn’t do it justice. So I’m going to walk you through one example, if I may. The Ceiling.

Friday/Saturday: Read multiple van blogs to determine what kind of planks to use. Search Home Depot, Menards, and finally, Lowes, where we find the perfect planks. 

Sunday: Haul ass to get to Lowes before closing time to get our planks. We buy stain and polyurethane (to protect the wood from humidity and warping, let’s call it “poly” for short).

Monday: I hand-sand all the planks and begin staining. Brush, brush, wipe, wipe, move the boards to the “done” pile. Repeat. Sixteen times. This takes nine hours. That night, I marvel (fine, complain) at my right deltoid: sore and swollen. [envira-gallery id=”2993″]

Tuesday: Despite staring at them for hours the day before, we come in to realize that the planks don’t exactly look how we want.

SO. I take a deep breath, pop ibuprofen, and give them a light sanding. I wipe off the dust and get one coat of poly on the boards before I call it quits. 

ceiling planks
Do you see the difference? I DO.

Wednesday: Back at it again! In five hours, I apply two more coats of poly to the front of the planks. Let them dry overnight.

You still with me? Or is this “too long” for you to read? Because I lived it. And I’m not even done yet!

Thursday: Apply two coats of poly to the back of the planks, with one Menards trip in between for more poly. 

Friday: We come in to find eight planks with poly drips on them that look like milky white tear drops. They may as well have been my own. We try to clean them off with mineral spirits but nothing works well. 

Saturday: We install the ceiling!! The few planks with milky white tears aren’t a big issue as we have to trim them anyway. And the ceiling LOOKS AWESOME. Only took us a week to get here. 

promaster van build ceiling

So, why am I telling you all this?

Because, most of you will only see Vaniel after he’s LEGIT and sexy AF. I want you to know that he’s not just some body for you to ogle. He’s a van, with many layers that were earned, after much blood sweat and tears and, of course, vanual labor. 

Also, despite grandiose visions of seeing all our friends and family over and over again while we’re in the midwest, we simply haven’t been able to do that yet. There’s so much work to get done and we really hope to be finished by March 1 so we’re CRANKING. And the thought of doing anything after a day of building is, honestly, just exhausting. So it’s not you. It’s us. But, we still want to see you! We just need a little more time. 

Am I complaining? Well, of course I am! What else does this sound like to you?

But do I FREAKING LOVE IT?! Oh, you know I do. I am working with my hands every day. I am learning new things EVERY DAY. I have never felt more accomplished. I’m not just helping build a van, I’m helping build our HOME. That is pretty kickass. And if I have to put in long vanual labor hours for four months or so so Colin and I can enjoy Vaniel while we’re on the road adventuring, then I will gladly do that, again and again.


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