Friday, March 2, 2012

Week at Duke

Last May, when I was close to broke, I tried to sell the van. I put it up on Craigslist for $2,100. After two weeks, I lowered it to $1,800. Finally, I dropped it to $1,500. One guy--from somewhere in rural North Carolina--asked me if I wanted to "trade." "No thanks," I said," I'm flying up to Alaska; I don't need another vehicle." "Vehicle?" he said."I want to trade my guns for it."

Alas, I turned down his offer and asked David if I could park the van on his property until I figured out what to do with it.

When I moved back into his house in late January, I was glad I still had the van. Apart from it needing a new paint job, it's in wonderful shape.

I know it's just a big hunk of metal, but a vehicle affords its owner a sense of freedom like little else. No longer must I hitch rides and depend on the good will of others to get around. No longer must I plan my travels according to the rigid schedule of public transportation. I don't need to be scanned at airports or sit uncomfortably in a narrow bus seat. Yes, I now have a big, ugly, sometimes costly possession. And yes, I'm sort of destroying the environment. But my goodness, how it all feels worth it when you get behind the wheel of your own vehicle.

I needed to get out of Stokes County for a bit, so I put the van in vandwelling shape and spent a week at Duke to visit old professors and enjoy the numerous library privileges available to Duke alumni.

Here's the van before refurbishing.

I went to a Goodwill and spent about $30 on clothes, linens, pots/pans, Tupperware, and miscellaneous items. That's my old sleeping bag.

Brand new hamper.

Water jugs, cutting board, pot and pan. All in all, it cost me about $50-75 to get the van in shape for comfortable habitation.

I paid a local $50 to watch my middle pilot chairs for the year. Keeping them safe has been one of the biggest pains of vandwelling. I think I may just discard them eventually. David had an extra curtain, so I cut it up to make it fit as my partition.

I parked the van in my old neighborhood, the Mill Lot on Ninth Street in Durham.

There used to be a big open field behind the apartment complex, but now they're bulldozing to construct something big.

Duke Chapel.

Duke has some impressive natural features, like 100-year-old willow oaks and magnolias.

In the basement of the library is "The Link," a labyrinth of high-tech classrooms and study areas.

There are many questionable usages of funds at Duke, including this video art.

This statue is called "The Scientist and Nature," featuring a camel and Professor of Zoology, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen. The sculptor meant to express the value of scientific curiosity. It says, more or less, "Tell me about yourself, Camel, that I may know myself."

Students camping for tickets in Krzyzewskiville for the Duke-Chapel Hill game.


Tom said...

It is nice to see you still blogging and I hope you continue to do so. I plan on living in a van someday but what would you recommend? I'm not at all mechanically inclined but how much mileage is a van still accessible?

Also when does your book come out? I plan on buying it.

Bob L. said...

If you are still looking to sell the van, is looking to buy one soon.

mikeBOS said...

Sounds like the perfect vehicle for a book tour, no?

Ken said...

Hi Tom—I’m really not the best person to recommend a van, as I have only owned one, though you could probably make any van habitable if you put the time into improvements and renovation. Finding a something trusty is the key. Join the “vandwellers” message board group on Yahoo—they have tons of great advice. As does As for my book, I’m not sure when it’s coming out—but I wouldn’t expect it any earlier than January 2013.

Bob—Nah, I think I’ll be keeping the van for the time being. I was pretty desperate for money when I was trying to sell it. While I was disappointed I couldn’t sell it before, I think it worked out for the best.

Mike—Yes, indeed. Not looking forward to those gas bills, but hopefully I’ll be making money along the way.

VJP said...

That camel statue is near the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and Curry is terrified of it.