The Van is Dead! Long Live the Van!

Memorial weekend Kenmare got 4 inches of rain, and I got stuck. I took some pine boughs put them under the back wheels, said to myself, “Sudeith, don’t make a small problem a big problem”. I got behind the wheel, put it in low, gave it some gas (too much?), got it going, the motor quits and a puff of black smoke is emitted from the dashboard. Two days later, Tuesday, the AAA tow truck arrives driven by a 17 year old kid (girlfriend along for the ride) who says, “Sounds like the motor”, and he was correct. Long story short, it was cheaper to buy a new van, my time excluded.

Starting from the Beginning

In October 2009 I got the idea of spending some time travelling to make petroglyphs. By Thanksgiving 2009 I began to float the idea of going walkabout to my friends and family, who were mostly lukewarm (at best) to the idea.  By New Years 2010 I began to plan wholeheartedly, and as the plan evolved, my friends became more supportive of the idea of an extended trip to make petroglyphs. The plan by mid January was to move out of my apartment April 1, with May 1 as a fallback, and hit the road. . February and March I worked tnthusiastically to temporarily close and move all of my shamefully coupious personal property (a.k.a. junk) into storage while feverishly planning my trip:locations to work, routes, tools, campng gear, van transformation.  At this point my friends had become enthusiastically supportive while I had begun to think the whole idea might be… a little drastic.

March 23 the truck arrived, six hours late, to pick up my personal property. April 1 I vacated my beautiful apartment. April 10 I left New York City.  I spent a couple of weeks prepping and staging in Minnesota, and on May 1 I left for locations westward.  Today, May 20, I find myself in a cafe in Stanley, ND working on preparatory drawing for my first major carving of the trip.

This blog will serve as journal of my trip and work.

I will go back a while and recount my planning, preparations, and departure, but first, here is the first carving I’ve made geared to the specific local in which I am working.  Its a contemporary tractor used in the wheat farms around Kenmare where I find myself.


First of all, the most important stuff: fishing tackle. I planned to bring a freshwater rod and reel, a saltwater rod and reel, and fly fishing gear. While packing I found my fly tying stuff and thought, “Am I going to bring this TOO?” when it occurred to me, I could bring just fly fishing tackle AND fly tying stuff and fish anywhere. Wishful thinking, I know.

Next most imporatant is computer / telephony stuff.

After electronics, shelter is most important.

What am i going to read while at repose in my tent? (Someone on FaceBook kindly informed me that Into the Wild is not a “how to” book.)

Miscellaneous camping truck:

Here’s the kitchen.

With electronics, shelter, cooking and reading sorted, I suppose I should bring some art supplies

My dad taught me to use a tool only for its proper function, so I’d better bring some tools.

Hmmmm….What am I forgetting? The potentially most crucial bit of stuff – the First Aid kit. I made three First Aid kits: van kit, camp kit, and day Kit. The van kit was most extensive with stuff for making casts, reattaching fingers, major stuff. The camp kit was pretty extensive too: one cast kit, ace bandages, some suture kits, gauze, rubbery bandage stuff, various OTC meds, Epy Pen, instant ice packs, ointments, etc. The day pack kit is meant to carry with me on day trips and patch myself back together well enought to get back to camp or van.

Van Transformation

Transforming a New York City work van into a RV outfitted for petroglyphy took planning, but with the invaluable skills of the excellent artist, Daniel Davidson (above), we installed a false floor designed to contain ten foot tent poles, a 42×36″ paper tray, tarps, camping supplies and portfolios.

Photo by Daniel Davidson

After the floor was installed, the next project was laying in the storage. Ikea metal drawers and shelves from Home Depot fit the bill.

Next came the insulation and paneling behind the storage. One inch pink polystyrene foam was covered by eighth inch masonite paneling . Daniel had taught me well how to plan the layout and cutting of paneling. It was a challenge, but manageable. Measure twice, cut once, sort of…

Later, in Minnesota I paneled the opposite wall.

Next was the hardest part, paneling the roof. The challenge was holding up the paneling while screwing it to the frame.

and VOILA! All ready to go, almost…

Ad one bicycle, some rugs, camping supplies and a gymnastic mat turned murphy bed and the petroglyphmobile was all set to head west.

And heres the best part, the giant paper tray!