How it all started. Van Life Diaries.

“Do you live in a hotel?” That was probably the number one social media question I was asked last year.

Renting out 2 vacation rentals is a lot of work, especially because the listings are in one the top cities in the U.S. Lots of the time, both condos were rented and we ended up staying at a hotel.

Breakfast at Renaissance DenverEventually, the time came and we decided it was time for a change. After reviewing our monthly spending, we figured out we were spending at least $1,000 a month on hotels. It was silly. We needed a different plan.

At first, we thought about renting a small condo with that money and just staying there when the other 2 were rented out. But, spending money on rent didn’t sound like the best idea. You never get that money back. We wanted a long term solution to our problem.

We were tossed up between a boathouse and an van/RV/bus. But, all the RV’s looked dorky. Vans had no bathrooms and a bus, well, it’s a bus! Then I saw it. A 6-wheeled van-looking thing. A vanabus. I thought for sure it was a custom job, not something that was put out by GMC.

1973 GMC Painted Desert
1973 GMC Painted Desert RV. What we think ours looked like originally.

Upon further research, we found out they only made 13k of these babies in their 5 year stint in the 1970s. With 8k still on the road, the uniqueness of the body and the fact that it holds the record for the fastest RV in the world, made our decision pretty easy. We began our search and finally came upon the one we thought was best for us.

The interior was well kept, with a few things being replaced here and there in her 44-year existence. A new kitchen, new fold-out beds, new seats, a rebuilt engine. Looked perfect. One problem though, the coach was in Florida.

So we called up Alex Sirum GMC and talked to Norma and Jeff about the coach. I asked what it needed to be able to drive to make the drive to Colorado. Norma said, “Well, you have to come see it before you decide if you wanna buy it!” After making an initial repair list with Jeff, we thought that’s exactly what we should do.

It happened that we had both of our places booked and were out of a home for the weekend anyway, so we looked up some last minute flights. The red eye was perfect.

Ten hours later, we were at the airport awaiting our flight. We got to Orlando at about 6 a.m. and prepared to wait til noon-ish to check into our hotel. Within minutes of grabbing our car we found a dirt road to spark a jay and enjoyed a break on the swamp, even seeing our first gator. It was dead. Bleh.

We got to the room a few hours later, seshed and knocked out. Since the shop wasn’t open until Monday, we hung out with a couple of Instagram friends and visited the Disney World Boardwalk.

Monday finally rolled around and we took the 2-hour drive south to Okeechobee, a small town with a beautiful, gator infested lake. We walked into Alex Sirum GMC and introduced ourselves to Norma as the people who called about the coach on Friday. She said, “You guys actually came all the way from Colorado??”

After her initial shock and introduction to Jeff (which went something like, “Hey, these are the people who called from Colorado. They flew here!”), Norma showed us around a bit, gave us a tour of our potential coach and handed us off to Jeff Sirum, son of founder Alex, and current chief.

Office Bonding at the GMC RV RanchWe sat in the office and made an official list of what needed to be done to get the coach going.  We decided it was best to look underneath the coach and take a test drive. We prioritized our options based on safety, need, and budget, came to a figure, and Jeff said, “Well, if you’re serious about buying it, we can do that.”

The shop was closing, so we decided to get a room one last time. (By the way, Hotel Tonight is an awesome app for last minute hotel stays.)

We knew we were serious about it because as we laid in the hotel room bed, we talked about it being our last night in a hotel and about the possibilities of staying in our coach the next night.

Jeff said to be there bright and early the next morning. We were early (which I rarely am), with a dozen donuts in hand. We put the coach up on the racks to look at her belly and took her on a test drive.

Underneath a vintage RV

The test drive was something I’ll never forget. You see, I have driven everything except a semi-truck. I first started driving an old yellow Chevy truck that had some major idle issues. I’ve pushed a Porsche 911 Twin Turbo to the limits. I’ve even towed a 26 foot trailer every other weekend for months. This test drive was different. Jeff said she had some steering issues that we would address, however I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

Have you ever played one of those racing games in the Arcade? You know how the steering is NOTHING like it is in real life and you over correct with just the slight of your hand? This was the opposite. If I turned the wheel right in a normal fashion, nothing would happen. You had to turn the wheel until it clicked to get it to go.

I screamed almost the whole time I was driving (in my head, of course) and took my turn behind the wheel quickly. Like whoa. I pulled us back into the lot, sweat trickling down my brow and we all tumbled inside the office, relieved that I was no longer behind the wobbly wheel. As we sat and talked, the crew trickled in. Yolanda, Don, Mike and Bob. We made an offer that day. And we met our first GMC family.

Cleaning up the GMC RVNothing had been done to our GMC yet, but we were determined to sleep in our 44-year-old coach. So, we spent the rest of the day cleaning and when the shop closed for the night, Mike drove her over to the yard and hooked her up to electricity for us.

We made a run to the store and picked up sheets and such. After picking up dinner, we came back, did some more cleaning and christened her with a good old fashioned smoke sesh. We dressed the bed (we found only one would fold down) and laid down exhausted from the day’s excitement and couldn’t sleep.

Our coach had been in a field for the last couple of years and there were signs of mice everywhere. Plus, it was tree roach season in Florida. We kept the lights on that night. I kept dozing off and waking up, thinking something was on me or going to get me. I would sit in the silence, listening for something. Looking for something. Nothing was there.

After 10 false alarms, the sun was peaking over the swamps and it was time to get up. Relieved, we cleaned again all day.

Stay tuned for the next blog, “Getting our 44-year-old RV Home” for the 2,000 mile adventure back to Colorado. Or, what I like to call, the biggest adventure of my life! And, in case you missed it, I’m adding a member to the team. We have changed our name, our logo, but not our sense of responsible cannabis consumption in legal states.

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