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Amazon Reviews van build

Amazon Product Review:

Suburban 3206A Gas Range with Conventional Burners – Black w/Piezo Ignition, 17”

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Today, we are starting a series of Amazon product reviews. If you’ve landed here because you are building out a van or just curious about the process, then you might be interested in our experience with the appliances and tools we used on our own build! I’ll describe the product we bought plus the pro’s and con’s of it. Let’s get started with the oven. 

Things to Consider Before Buying any Oven:

Space

Space is always the limiting factor in a van build. Space is constant. You can have more/less water, more/less electricity, more/less propane – not space. Ovens can be harder to fit into shorter vans and stove tops take up your counter space. So, visualize where an oven would go and the opportunity cost of giving up that space for something else.

 Propane

If you don’t want to use propane, this particular oven may not be the one for you. You might put more effort into a good battery/electrical system and then get an induction stove top (as many van builders do) and use a smaller propane tank for a camp burner.ExpensiveOur oven cost $473.23 from Amazon (currently $455 at the time of this writing). Ours is 21x18x16 inches, 54 pounds, gas range with piezo ignition. So, it’s a fairly simplified design, you have to turn the ignition on a separate knob and you have to manually light the oven with a hand held lighter. The ovens with electric ignition are quite a bit more expensive than even this one.We like our oven, but it’s not great at heat disbursement. So, keep in mind your RV oven won’t behave like a full kitchen oven and will take some practice to get used to how it cooks.

Do you even want an oven? 

We almost considered using just an Air Fryer for our cooking, because we were already in the habit of using it for much of our food. But, we figured we would need the oven too often to do without. We plan to live full-time in the ProMaster, so the convenience of an oven/stove combination seemed like a luxury we needed to make the van feel more like a home. Maybe you don’t use the oven often at all. Maybe you want to do a microwave/portable propane stove combo. Just think about how you usually heat/cook your food and what your goals are for the van.


Alright, so here are the pro’s and con’s of our specific oven.

Suburban 3206A Gas Range with Conventional Burners – Black w/Piezo Ignition, 17”

Pro’s:

  • Sleek Black Color
  • Easy to use stove top ignition
  • 3 gas burners
  • Easy to clean
  • I feel like it gives us extra counter space when it’s not being use
  • Compact but efficient
  • Fits an average Costco pizza
  • Easy to hook up to the propane lines – Common size fitting
  • Spots for mounting

Con’s:

  • Small, so pans & dishes need to be smaller
  • Poor heat disbursement (runs down the middle in a line), so we needed to get a pizza stone to help
  • Expensive, but I wouldn’t say it was too expensive for how often we use it
  • Arrive with a dent in the front (common complaint on Amazon too)
  • From other Amazon customers (not us): rusting after 6 months, weak burner grill, paint scratching off

Hopefully this gives you some helpful information while you’re shopping for your oven. Questions? Let me know in the comments!


If you click this link to the oven and end up purchasing something from Amazon, we may get a commission at no extra cost to you. It’s a great way to support us on the road!


Sincerely, Hanna

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Consciously Incompetent

When starting a new project, there are several levels of competencies:

Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know if you’re capable or not, you don’t know where the gaps are in your knowledge. The problem here is that you might not recognize your mistakes. If you’re a person filled with false pride…then this can be a dangerous place to be!

Conscious Incompetence – a humbled place where you recognize, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” This is the place where Ivan started as he jumped into the van build. He pursued the knowledge of others and tried to absorb and apply the things he learned.

Conscious Competence – you’re now able to do the things that seemed impossible, but you still need help and you still need to consciously think through each step you take. Ivan is getting closer to this conscious competence regarding the van build. He has built up experience with plumbing, carpentry, and wiring – but he still needs to tread carefully.

Unconscious Competence – now you’ve arrived! If you can hop on a bicycle and peddle away without second thought, you have unconscious competence. The training has been internalized and you can proceed unconsciously, without making mistakes.

As we began the van build in a state of Conscious Incompetence – Ivan purchase blueprints from Trent & Allie. He proceeded with caution, made some mistakes and fixed them, and planned to follow the blueprints exactly.

However, now that he’s been in the van almost everyday for about 3 months, he’s starting to recognize where he can step away from the blueprints and make his own decision.

Not to be too sappy here – but, it’s a little like that transition from teenager to adult. Day by day, you start recognizing “Oh, I can make this decision myself instead of copying my parents.” Comedian Christina Patsziski referst to this as the “Patsziski Effect”.

Example: Why do I keep moving my dang charging cable around the house, when I could just buy another one?

Or: Hm, nothing is stopping me from buying and eating Pop Tarts for dinner.

In our case: Well, maybe we don’t need a closet here – maybe we want more counter space.

The van really started to feel like our van build when we decided to change the original layout from Trent & Allie’s design. We will now have 1) no closet, but more countertop; 2) a L-shaped couch instead of 2 facing seats; 3) a semi-convertible bed; 4) a sliding pantry inspired by Tio Aventura.

I’m excited about the bed we are doing! It took Ivan quite a bit of puzzling to tease it out into a plan. Half of the bed will be mobile – it will pull out and in. We will attach a harness to the mattress so that when it scoots it, the mattress slides up the wall and becomes a back cushion for sitting.

slide the arrows to see this pushed in/pulled out frame

This bed change allows for extra seating under the bed – hence, the L-shaped couch. The L-shaped couch was inspired, because it helps us maneuver around the inverter and wiring that was set up prior to these changes.

Being able to have the freedom and confidence to say, “I’m doing something different.” makes me feel like we really are part of Van-iverse. There’s nothing wrong with the original design, but it now feels like our van will have more of our personality.

Have you experienced that transition from (Un)Conscious Incompetence to (Un)Conscious Competence? If so, please comment and share!

Until next time,

Hanna

Categories
van build

3 Things We Wish We Would’ve Checked Before Buying our ProMaster Van

We knew there would be unforeseen maintenance, but as amateurs at care buying, here are the three things I wish we would’ve checked first, because it might have given us a bit more negotiation leverage. Maybe, maybe not. 

A little background – these tips are personal to our buying experience as we shopped for a Ram ProMaster to convert into a tiny home. So, it was a bigger and more “industrial” purchase than a regular car.

It was pretty obvious the side door handle needed replacing, since the handle itself had been broken off. I did a quick Amazon search, thinking it might only be $50. In fact, the replacement part was $115. If we opted to have someone replace it for us, we were looking at a $200 ordeal. When settling on the price, we were able to get $500 knocked off. The salesman was pretty ready for that move and pulled out the, “This is the best price in the country on this type of van.” Which, was true. But, it’s still $18,000 coming out of our pocket.

Here are three more unforeseen problems, that we probably could have checked while at the lot.

  1. The Spare Tire – This is one I wouldn’t have thought about, unless someone mentioned it. How often is the spare tire flat? Actually, I don’t know. I don’t buy cars that often. But, repairing the spare tire cost us $183, rounding up to $200.
  1. The Headlights – These might be hard to check during the daytime, but try to get a close look at them. Are they scuffed and scratched? Does it look like some elbow grease will shine them up? We didn’t know it until our overnighter road trip how dim they were and not just because of the bulbs. Ours were pretty worn and needed replacing, which added up to $330. Whew! Who knew they’d be so pricey? If it’s obvious your desired car will need new headlights, do a quick Amazon search to get an estimate. 
  1. Brakes & Oil – ask the dealership when they last changed the brakes and oil. It may be standard practice, it may depend on the dealership. You might need new pads, or new calipers too. But, changing the brakes to make sure they were fresh and ready to go cost us $390.
Our brakes really weren’t terrible, and it gave Ivan something to do/learn while waiting for the weather to warm up.

All in all, the repairs we were responsible for added up to $1,000. We got a bit knocked off the price, could have negotiated another couple of hundred dollars if we knew to look for these three things? Maybe, maybe not. 

But, at least I will know for next time. (Hopefully, there’s not going to be a next time to soon!!)

Any other quick checks people should do when buying a car? Maybe ones that are less obvious than checking tire tread? Comment below. And, good luck on your next car purchase!

Love,

Hanna 

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Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Time to Move

We were laying down to sleep, upstairs in his parents’ unfinished attic, when I was overcome by sadness. “I miss our home,” I whispered. “Me too,” he replied. I felt lost.

When we were skipping around packing up the van with “just the essentials”, something in the back of my mind knew we were moving out – but my conscious self hadn’t accepted it. I didn’t let myself understand that, “We will be in Idaho for 2 months” actually meant, “We are moving out of this home.”

On the other hand, was it really home? Our landlords were nice enough, and just picky enough that I felt a regular reminder whispering, “You are a guest here.” So, while the apartment was comfortable, clean, and big, it wasn’t really our home. Despite the conflict of emotions, I still missed our nice little place in Farmington, Utah. Laying down to sleep that night, I realized I would need to set up a new routine yet again to manage my diet needs (and preferences).

We’ve been here about two weeks now. Ivan installed two back windows in the van. Yesterday, he cut some boards and drilled them in to essentially create studs for the walls. We get 4-5 Amazon packages almost every day, it feels like Christmas. There are moments where I’m excited for this next adventure, moments I regret not doing it sooner, and other times where I wonder if it’s going to be a good thing. 

I haven’t exactly been super helpful. Ivan has so far done the work himself, though I expect the tasks to gear up pretty soon. Everyone seems excited for us, curious and intrigued. No one has said anything critical or negative, which is nice. Even though we’ve received nothing but encouragement, I still anticipate some passive aggressive comment about our choices. It hasn’t happened yet, so why do I keep thinking it’s coming?

Lying in bed, missing our home that wasn’t really our home, I recognized that we are on the edge of a great adventure. I think part of my sadness came from the speed at which we left. The two months of missing Ivan dragged on and on, then suddenly he’s home, were driving home from Chicago with a brand new van, my current job becomes my former job, and we find ourselves living in another state.

Perhaps the sadness I felt in the night was more like the ache of goodbyes left unsaid – which, I’ll admit is weird to feel about an apartment. I think once we go “home”, finish emptying the apartment, slow down, and say, “Goodbye” I will be able to close the chapter of Rooted Life and open the chapter to Nomadic Life.

Have you gone through an exciting transition, then sadness took you by surprise? Maybe it’s a symptom of looking too far into the future, that you/I miss the present. Let me know your thoughts, I’m genuinely curious.

Love,

Hanna

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Our New Van Won’t Start!

We did it! We bought the van and drove it across the street in search of food. We walked in to Panera, then back out with some dinner. We hopped in the van, analyzing how far we could drive through the night before stopping. Ivan turned the key and heard a long beeping sound. Click forward, nothing. We each take a deep breath, glance at each other, and he tries again. Turns the key, nothing. Neither of us are quite ready to say it, but, “We own this piece of junk now. What have we done?” I had just written a check for something in the area of $18,000 for something that won’t start.


An hour earlier we were “inspecting” the van. We took it for a test drive and didn’t hear any scary noises. We glanced over the body and at the tires, but nothing seemed to say, “I’m a problem”, except for the missing door handle. We stopped in a parking lot close by and tried to talk through any concerns we might have had. We couldn’t talk ourselves out of it. Nerves tensed from head to toe, but tummy jumped in excitement! Ok, we decided. Let’s do this.

After waiting in the office for 7,000 hours while the Financing department ran a credit check (and who knows what else) they handed us the keys and waved goodbye. How is it that only 30 minutes later the van doesn’t start?


I texted the salesman right away. He tried to assure me that the battery was new, everything had been checked out, but he knew and I knew – this is was not okay. To his credit, he drove right to us even though he was off the clock and ready for a relaxing evening. He dropped us off at a hotel and promised to reimburse it.
That night and the next morning we couldn’t help but wonder, “Did we just make a huge mistake? What could possibly be wrong with it? Better now than halfway through Nebraska.”


In the morning, we Uber’ed back to the dealership with bags in tow. They assured us they checked the engine, batteries, etc. Apparently, Ram ProMaster’s have a key issue. If you turn it too fast, it locks up. They promised this was it and that it was even a recall issue that could be resolved.


Tentatively, we took the keys back and rumbled out onto the road in hopes that we would make it 1,400 miles back to Utah.

So, we bought the van. It’s a 2017 Ram ProMaster 2500, extended. We bought it for $16,500 and ended up paying another $1,500 or so in fees and taxes (yuck).


We are ready to take on the challenges that come our way. For better or worse, it’s ours now and there’s no going back.


Much Love,

Hanna