The journey begins
After seeing a vandwelling video on YouTube, I was instantly hooked onto the idea of living in a van. Even though rent here in Chicago isn’t too expensive ($1350 for 3bd/1ba in a decent area), I was enthralled with the idea of being able to move anywhere with the step of a pedal. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and I was still van-less. Finally during a night of heavy drinking, my friend bet me $100 that I wouldn’t possess a livable van by the end of the year.
That hundred dollars was the push I needed to go all in on the vandwelling quest. I knew I wanted a high roof cargo van, but with the newer Ford Transit, Ram Promaster, and Nissan NV firmly out of my price range, I decided to get an used Sprinter. After some research, I narrowed my search to 2002-2006 Sprinters with a preference for the 2500 over the 3500 for better fuel economy. Unfortunately, everything around me either cost a fortune, or was panels of rust somehow held together by nuts and bolts. That’s when I decided to turn my search nationwide. Using searchtempest.com, I found a pretty good looking Sprinter 3500 in Wilmington, NC. Factoring my travel costs, it was still a steal. I packed my bags, and jumped on the next plane (well I guess the plane next week) to Myrtle Beach. From there I got a $20 greyhound ticket to Wilmington. Finally after a $8 Uber ride, I arrived at Ron’s Fireside, where the Sprinter was used to transport ladders for Ron’s Fireside business.
Let me tell you, it was hot as hell in NC, attempting to look at the undercarriage nearly cooked me medium rare, but the undercarriage looked just as spotless as the pictures showed. This was a southern gem with very little hints of rust, far exceeding the condition of the similar priced sprinters up in Chicago. We went for a quick test drive and the van was sound mechanically in my amateur eyes. Ron and I exchanged my cash for his title and off I went.
My first stop was in South Carolina where Doktor A(ndy), a renowned Sprinter mechanic held shop. Unfortunately I arrived in Greenville after sundown and had to schedule an appointment for the morning. At Andy’s suggestion, I parked at the local Wal-Mart, after buying a hammock. It was humid as hell but I managed to fall asleep relatively quickly. To my surprise, I woke up multiple times drenched and freezing due to the humidity; I didn’t have a blanket or sweater so I bundled myself with a couple of spare shirts and tried to wrap the hammock around me. Luckily I survived till morning and made my way over to Andy’s shop.
After a thorough inspection, Andy determined the van was indeed in good condition. I took lots of notes on routine maintenance, diagnosing problems, and parts to buy. After thanking him, I was off again in the direction of Nashville.