Happy New Year 2014


Not exactly stealth camping… Taken on New Year’s Eve @ the casino in Riverside, Iowa.


Hello and Happy New Year for 2014!toyfactory

We made it through another year!  2013 was a rough one especially with the loss of Dad and the crazy employment situations.  But a lot of good things are in the works and I’m optimistic that 2014 will be the best year yet.

First, here are a couple of pictures of the New Year’s Eve party featuring the band, “ToyFactory,” at the Riverside Casino.  The concert was was high energy, with an R&B spin on some favorites including “We Are Family”, “1999”, “That’s the Way I Like it”, and even Glen Miller’s “In the Mood”, as well as many other songs spanning seven decades… The party went from 9:00 PM through midnight.

There were a lot of people having a great time and the booze was flowing!  I think the lady behind me became irritated because I startled her.  She was drunk and kept dancing around and throwing balloons on my table.  I popped a couple of the balloons with a diabetic lancet and the lady moved away, still swaying and slurring to her significant other.  😀

Brad_fiber lamp

That’s a battery powered fiber optic lamp and not a new Star Trek transporter beam.

After the music there was a champagne toast and the traditional “ball drop” to ring in the new year.  Though not planning to gamble, I ended up winning $30 profit on the penny slots.  Camping occurred in the casino’s parking lot using the Mr. Heater Buddy propane heater.     Though electric heat is nice, you can’t beat bone warming radiant heat of an orange flame.


Well, it wouldn’t be New Year’s without some goals.  “Goals” sounds better than resolutions.  Most of us equate resolutions with failure.

Soup and Salad

What’s not to like about this healthy fare? Click the pic and check out the Heirloom Salad Company in Iowa City, Iowa. It is so good, you’ll forget you’re eating healthy!

GOAL 1:  50 pounds of weight loss in 2014 (or more)….  This is the most important goal of them all… and medically necessary.  I got some lab results back on the 24th and the situation (blood sugar, cholesterol, and extremely high triglycerides) was starting to spiral.  It’s a scenario that kills many diabetics.  It is scary but reversible.

There was another wake-up call.  Sadly, on Christmas, a friend of mine had a stroke.   Thankfully, he is recovering.  This guy is a few years younger.  It makes you wake up and pay attention!

Soups and salads are a way of life once again!  Things are turning around quickly and with no suffering for lack of good food.  The picture on the right is from the “Heirloom Salad Company,” a restaurant in Iowa City.  They have you select a small or large bowl of the desired greens and then order your salad cafeteria style with the favorite toppings.  They’ll toss or chop it for you.  The low fat mango/cilantro dressing is a winner.

GOAL 2:  Relocation of the home base…  In a few months Dad’s house will be sold.  The kitties and I will have to relocate somewhere.  The dream is to move to northeast Iowa.  It would save on gas.  Oh, to live by a trout stream… actually a number of them.  🙂

GOAL 3:  Exercise and Van Trekking…  One easy goal is make every “van trek” – every camping trip in the van – include at least one belly busting workout at Anytime Fitness.  It’s doable and fun.  I plan to incorporate some kind of activity at least five days a week – even if it’s just going for a half hour walk.

GOAL 4:  Cookbook / Recipe Collections… The cookbook project is on hold for health reasons but there are other ideas.  I’m contemplating scaling back and making a PDF of “Healthy Soups and Salads You’ll Love” to sell on the website starting this winter.

GOAL 5:  Fish more…   Keep eating fish but grill, smoke, or bake them.  That includes Jesse, too.  The tomcat is getting pudgy again, too.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope everyone had a great end to 2013 and a good start for the next year.  2014 is going to be spectacular.   May your journeys be safe and fulfilling.  Live long and prosper!

Bradford, the “Van Trekker”

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

13 Responses to Happy New Year 2014

  1. Pleinguy says:

    Sounds like you had fun on New Years Eve. Hope your health improves; you’ve done it before. Best of luck on reaching your goals in the new year. Take care.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope 2014 is good for you as well!

      It is amazing how the body can fix itself. I’m following what was done in 2012 and the progress is amazing – just in a week’s time the sugars are nearing normal again. Life is getting better with each day.

      How is the journey going? Are you enjoying the time to paint and relax?

  2. tinycamper says:

    Brad, the picture of your van and the Christmas tree at the top is a classic! It looks like it ought to be a postage stamp!

    Glad you had a nice time last night. We stayed home to escape the crazies on the road.

    Do take care of your health, Brad. There’s too much at stake to mess around with it.

    Hugs. 🙂

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks! I agree about the crazies on the road! It was a good night to camp rather than drive among the drunks. Thanks for the hugs, too! I’m looking forward to making some of those awesome sounding peanut butter cookies! 😀

  3. Todd says:

    Hello Brad,

    Way to go! I like your goal to eat more salads and such. That image from the “Heirloom Salad Company” looks appetizing! I am with you. In this new year, my goal is to eat as many veggies (and fruits) as I possibly can.

    I hope you will find a new home base that works well for you.

    I have a few questions for you about van dwelling …

    1. How do you wash dishes? I boil vegetables and meat in a pan. Afterwards, scum is stuck to the pan. It takes a lot of scrubbing with steel wool and a lot of rinsing. How can one achieve that in the van?

    2. Does your solar collector work in the winter? Do you need to scrape off snow and ice?

    3. I can’t find the “Donate” button.

    Thanks for everything!


    P.S. I tried to make this comment earlier. I must have not done something correctly. I hope I did not break anything for you.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Todd,

      When out and about, I tend to cook mostly on a propane camp stove. I heat a little water in the pan or skillet and add a bit of soap and use a green scratch pad. Doing the dishes immediately after eating helps a lot. If they sit overnight, it’s time to chisel. I cook with that non-stick cookware most of the time. When storing the skillet and sauce pan, often I’ll rub a film of dish detergent over the cooking surface – then rinse it off prior to the next use.

      The solar panel works marginally during the winter months, provided the ice and snow are cleaned off. I used to be lazy and leave the inverter on 24 x 7 which drains the batteries a bit. As long as one is sparing with the energy consumption, I’m still getting enough to keep the bank topped off most of the time. Sadly, the winter months are often gloomy and the sunlight weak. For that reason, I keep a generator on the back of the van or plug in to shore power. (I can charge the bank to full in an hour most of the time).

      I took the donate button down after the last weight loss challenge crashed and burned… I was intending to raise some money for the Americans with Diabetes Association. There are some plans in the works for this year to raise some money by selling my little cooking pamphlets and donating at least half of the proceeds to the ADA. But for now, there is no donate button… But if a person was inclined to donate, the Paypal is still Chevys4Brad@aol.com I’ll probably put the button back up there again one of these days.

      Thanks for the note and I’m glad the blog is of interest. It keeps me busy. People like Bob Wells and Curtis Carper were and are a big inspiration.

  4. Meg says:

    Happy New Year, Brad. I applaud your goals; I have done the weight loss thing myself. The first time was 4 years ago and I lost a bit more than 60 pounds; it was slow, took a year and a half, but worth it. I learned that besides counting calories I just had to add exercise to my daily routine, and that turned out to be a good thing because otherwise I’m fairly sedentary. The weight has since tried to creep back, mainly because I have a sweet tooth 🙂 , but I have a low cutoff point – if I’m more than 15 pounds over I go back to calorie counting. If I could stay off sweets entirely I think I could stay “within normal limits”… I’m working on it.

    You have some other changes lined up for this year and they are big ones (like the move). I hope they go well and get you closer to your dream (ie, closer to trout 🙂 )

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Meg! If a person struggles with weight, counting calories really does help. I don’t want to say it’s the only way but in my case, that’s pretty much true! There’s sort of a “selective memory” in place — I forget about that 2:00 hamburger when I want a piece of pizza at 4:00. I’m not counting calories but monitoring blood sugar closely. If it’s too high, the memory suddenly gets very clear… (darn those honey roasted peanuts!). Paper works!

      I’ve heard a lot of people say that they are optimistic about this coming year. There is so much to look forward to in the coming days. Best of luck keeping your weight in check – it looks like you’ve got a plan in place that works. Kudos!

  5. Jerry says:


    I’m still amazed one can camp inside a van at -20 like forcast for this coming Sunday , since I get sick from most all heaters I could not use Mr buddy etc.

    I have just found some candles made of Beeswax and I can tolerate them quite well, all others make me very sick right away, but at $8 a pound and only 22,000 Btu its not cheap heating. but does burn very clean.

    I’m also testing if spraying some kind of plastic coating – under coating on exposed metal parts to see how much it reduces condensation on metal, I’m guessing it would be quite good – especially spraying a van interior before adding some insulation- will report back latter.

    Keep warm Sunday


    • VanTrekker says:

      Jerry, I understand what you’re saying about certain things making you feel ill. I try not to run the propane too much because it makes me feel like I’ve been standing behind the city bus under heavy acceleration. *grin* Electric does work well but nothing heats like that good ole’ orange flame.

      I would imagine that the coating over the metal would help a lot. My only real condensation problems are with the front windshield… That’s why I crack the front windows a little to help with condensation a little. I put a moisture barrier above the ceiling and that seems to help a lot with condensation… one day I’ll probably find the ceiling to be full of black mold… LOL.

      We’re looking at -24 this weekend. I’ll probably go camping and cook something in the crock pot. You cannot beat the contrast between the polar conditions and the comfortable night’s rest. But truth have it… The bed is cold as heck some nights. I sleep in Carhartt overhauls even with the heat running. 🙂

  6. Jerry says:


    I think I would be scared to sleep in your van at -25 deg F , what would happen if the heater koncked out while you were sleeping ? Could one go direct into hypothermia without even waking up ? But I do wanna get the trailer out into the cold once or twice just to see how well the hot water would work at -25 just for fun.

    On the metal door frames & other exposed metal parts I get lots of condensation, maybe when it’s that cold its not an issue as its all frozen ? The propane I’m told actually adds lots of water to the air. I also have a dehumidifier that I run sometimes as I’m always worried about condensation build up , it’s 90% better in the wood trailer vs the metal one , like you said maybe one day you find the hidden mold. The plastic coating or under body spray does make a difference – depends on the thickness – maybe 50% need to do some more testing but it’s only 38 at night now 🙁 need colder weather for better results.

    If you start feeling sick every day – then I would start looking behind the felt covering the walls 🙂 The mold will show up there first.

    Stay warm at -25


    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jerry,

      Common sense prevailed. I decided not to go camping just for the sake of camping at -25. By the end of the week, the temp will recover to highs of around 30-34. I’m going to head to a spot NW of Ames / Des Moines and do some ice fishing for 2 or 3 days. It should be a lot more enjoyable. Sure, the lows will be single digits, but nothing the van can’t handle. The DNR is supposed to be stocking a pond with some trout near Fort Dodge… I’m really looking forward to going… It’s been years since drilling holes in the ice and dragging fish out. 🙂