May 15, 2013

Project : El Capitan

You guys already know it : I’m dropping out. I’m swimming out of my usual pond and into the unknown. I’m off to meet my running family, make new friends and explore the world.

The now [in]famous El Capitan
I decided the roof over my head would follow me everywhere, so I merged two old dreams together; traveling the world and having a camper van. That’s how I came across El Capitan, also known as The Flame, an old ’98 Safari box van, already converted with a smooth interior and camper windows. At $1,300, I couldn’t hope for anything better.

I drove it home, then down to New York State for The Leatherman’s Loop. It drives awesome. It needs a little work here and there, of course, but El Capitan is in great shape :)

I started the work by getting rid of all the extra stuff that just adds weight or decreases gas mileage. Gone are the running boards and the roof racks. I removed the two passenger seats, the seatbelts and their plating. I even opened the side panels and discovered an old, broken heating / air conditioning machine. 15 more pounds out the window. I must’ve removed at least 150 pounds of stuff.

My bed, in Hobo-mode
Then I got to work and created a retractable bed. It’s 30-inches wide for when I’m alone, but it can expand to 48 inches when I’ll be on the road with my Belle. Pretty neat. The bed sits on a storage compartment with plastic bins as drawers, so I can take them out of the van easily if needed.

Next in line was “the kitchen”. I made a 38” countertop with a sink (I bought a $10 stainless bowl and cut a whole at the bottom for the plumbing), under which 2 sets of drawers will be used to store kitchen gear. There’s also room for extra propane tanks for the stove.

Le fridge.
So far, so good. Yesterday, I went out to the outdoor store and got a 2-burner fold-away stove, a 2-way electric cooler (as a fridge) and a bunch of other stuff to make things nice and cozy, like new seat covers. I ordered a custom-made mattress, too, that will double as a couch when I’m not sleeping.

The next big thing after all that will be to take care of the rusty side panels, which I will scrape with a steel brush, putty-up, prime and re-paint. While I’m at it, I’ll also cover the back doors in stickers, Flint-style. Then it’ll be a big, nice wash, 3 good layers of wax and a rustproofing treatment.
Le stove.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but things are looking good. My Belle and I will get to test my new layout in 2 weeks, when we go run the Ottawa Marathon. It’ll be my first running gig sleeping in El Capitan, and my Belle is going to be with me. Life is good :)

I’ll keep you posted on the work being done and make new pics as I go!


  1. That's wild! Love to see it all gussied up!


  2. You're part of the inspiration, amiga :)

  3. I do agree with flint that you can be great inspiration for everyone. The le fridge is so cute!