Mighty WhiteyMighty Whitey is the name of our 1999 Chevy Express 1-ton Cargo Van. We bought it in 2001. “She” already had 175,000 miles under her tires. We were never given the name of the company that owned her but the driver was certainly busy taking her many places those first few years. We have NEVER driven a car for seven years. We are reminded of the story of Elijah and the widow, whose oil and flour did not run out during the years of the famine in Israel. She was able to make bread for herself, her son, and the prophet Elijah because God saw to it that she had what she needed. Mighty Whitey keeps on going – mile after mile.

When we first bought MW we used the interior for our bookcases and pear crates full of books. Gary hoisted the filled shelves into the back and sides of the van, one on top of the other, all the way up to the roof. We stuffed our duffel bags wherever we could. We were overloaded. We had many tire blow outs. Gary’s back did NOT like loading those shelves. We decided to buy a small trailer. Gary went to a neighboring town to check out the trailer inventory. He was going to come home with a small trailer.

When he pulled into our driveway he was followed by what I thought was a large trailer. Gracious! What were we going to do with ALL that space? Our first trip with the trailer was different – the interior of MW echoed without any books or wood cases absorbing the sounds. We discussed what we should do now – did we need a cargo van? Should we buy a truck? Gary suggested using the van for camping. I could go along with that. We had tent camped with our three children and I felt comfortable in campgrounds, so, sure! Let’s camp. The first night we pulled into a campground in Wisconsin. It was raining. The campground appeared deserted yet the lights in the bathrooms were on. We pulled into a space, used the bathrooms, and snuggled onto our inflatable bed. The rain drummed on the uninsulated roof. The inflatable bed deflated. It was cold. It was uncomfortable.

The next day we bought a queen sized mattress at a thrift store. Life was better with a REAL bed. We found campgrounds as we traveled and enjoyed camping once again. UNTIL the fateful day when Gary heard Paul Harvey tell his listeners that Walmart allowed overnight campers in their parking lot. For some reason, sleeping in a Walmart parking lot became the goal of Gary’s life. I resisted until the night we were leaving our home after midnight, desirous of getting the metro area and on our way. I told Gary I was willing to stay in the Owatonna Walmart parking lot. I doubt he slept the entire night he was so thrilled to be parked in a Walmart lot! THEN, a few weeks and few campgrounds later we were in Denver with the nearest campground an hour away when our friend, Bob Farewell (of Lifetime Books and Gifts) told us to stay with them in the conference lot and use the nearby Flying J truck stop for showers. Not only did I resist, I objected strenuously! I was adamant that I was NOT going to take a shower in a truck stop.

But I did. And we’ve never stayed in a campground since! There are nights I laugh as we hunker down in Mighty Whitey in a parking lot and wonder, “What in the WORLD am I doing here in this van in this parking lot??!” Bob Farewell told me we had braggin’ rights when he heard we awoke in the Black River Falls Walmart parking lot to see the thermometer registering SIX degrees. That’s MIGHTY cold!! When we travel in the colder months we often turn on our electric blanket 2 hours before we plan stopping for the night so that we have a nice, toasty bed to crawl into. As we sleep the heat from the blanket dissapates but the Norwegian knit ski hats that cover our ears and the thick down comforter that covers our bodies keep us warm.

Summer is actually more uncomfortable than the colder months. It is easier to get warm than it is to stay cool. We have a thermometer in the back of the van that is used to determine whether or not we’ll sleep in the van. If it is above 85 degrees and it is after 10 PM, we check into a hotel that has air conditioning. If it is cooler than that we open the RV window Gary put in the roof of the van above our heads, attach the 12 volt fan to the clothes pole at the foot of our bed, and sleep away! Gary usually wears his clothes in case we are awakened during the night. I wear my pj’s, put earplugs in my ears, and trust God for safety!

I love to be organized. Over the seven years traveling in Mighty Whitey we have developed systems for our stuff. We now have our bed on a platform above the wheels which leaves all that wonderful space underneath for milk crates and copy paper boxes. We have our business crate, the notebook crate, shoe crates (Gary just doesn’t understand why I need at least 5 pairs of shoes…), a food crate, the printer for our laptop, the author information file boxes for the book I’m writing, and all of Gary’s tools for fixing almost anything. We have clothes racks in both the trailer and the van, so we keep only the clothing we’ll be needing right away in the van. We have a 12 volt light that is magnetic and attaches to the ceiling of the van which enables us to read in bed.

Two winters ago Gary gave Mighty Whitey a new engine. We have traveled 61,000 miles on it. Almost every part that can be replaced has been replaced yet we consider ourselves blessed to have such a reliable vehicle. We put lots of wear and tear on her! Our trailer (we are on our second trailer, this one even larger!) weighs close to six tons. That is hard work for Mighty Whitey! But she valiantly pulls that heavy trailer up hills and mountains and then cautiously takes that silly trailer down the other side.

We often stay in our van even when we are visiting people. Gary’s sister, Susie, thinks it is very strange but we explain that we sleep in MW more nights than we sleep at home, so we are used to it and we LIKE it out there! I miss standing up to get dressed, but I have grown very skilled at garbing myself on my knees. We have an inverter hardwired into the battery so, if necessary, I can plug in a blow dryer or curling iron for beautification attempts. But them old Flying J’s have proven to be our worthy partner in this vagrant life. I use the rest room on the trucker’s side where I am usually alone to wash my hair and dry it. Life is good with clean hair and a bit of mascara!

The moral of the story is: if you want to be middle-aged gypsies, get a good van and pull a good trailer! trailer


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