Author: KennyG

Little Buddy Heater – One Year In

Little Buddy Heater
VanLife- Little Buddy Heater

Today is gear review day, and we are going to review the “Little Buddy Heater“.  When we first moved in to Freddy, it was early April in Ontario and the weather was improving.   We made the decision to move into the van on Easter Long weekend.  We learned early on that we needed a source of heat with the early spring rains starting.

Little Buddy Heater

After watching a couple of reviews on YouTube, I wanted to buy the “Portable Buddy” or the “Big Buddy” Heaters,  but there were none, since it was spring and all of the stores had already stored away for the summer season.  The only one I was able to find was the Little Buddy.  When we first got the heater, though it was a little small to warm a 19ft Class B, it was enough to take the chill out of the air.  It was easy lighting, which is important, since who has the time to stand there and wait ten or 15 minutes attempting to get it to light.

One thing I noticed right away, was the amount of condensation that is caused but the Propane Heater.  This contributed substantially to some of the on going issues we would have in the van during the months  Oct – Dec.  As the year went along, we noticed that the heater became more and more temperamental.   Some days it would light rite away and other days I would need to stand and hold the feed button for 10 – 15 minutes in order for it to warm up enough to light.  I would often change out a partially used cylinder for a new one, and the Little Buddy would light right away and on other occasions it would not.   Now when I say light, I mean I could get the pilot light lite, however it would not ignite the Ceramic dish that would produce the heat.

We had planned to use the Little Buddy heater as a stop gap measure until our wood stove came in.  We however, were unable to continue using the Little Buddy because we could not get it to lite.  Thankfully we were in the Lower Mainland with warmer temperatures.

Minus Temperatures for Little Buddy Heater

As the year went along it was really quite obvious the the Little Buddy Heater was not overly useful so we decided it was time to jump in with both feet to buy a Wood stove for the Freddy.  If we wanted to make it a go in the van through the winter it would be a must

Overall, I would have to rate the Little Buddy Heater as a 4 out of 10.  Fresh out of the box, the heater did a great job, but after a years worth of work for us it became more and more temperamental, to the point we had to stop using it.  In the end we gave it to a homeless gentleman we met, with some of the remaining propane cylinders.  The Little Buddy Heater retails for around $89.00, and if I had to do it over again, I would have saved my money and put the $89.00 into a Cubic Mini, which we will review in a later post.

If you have any comments we would love to hear them, just post them below.

Home on Wheels or Homeless

VanLife - Homeless
VanLife – Homeless vs Home on Wheels

“All who wander are not lost” this saying screams Ken and Michelle.  We decided to move into a van as our choice of homes, for various reasons.  One of our main reasons for choosing VanLife is being Minimalists at heart we like simple over complicated.  The other big reason is to help pay down some of our debts and to help save money.    Just because we choose VanLife does not mean we are Homeless, it just so happens our home is on wheels.

All who wander are not lost

Vanlife - Homeless
VanLife – Not Homeless, just walking a different path

This saying is so much us.  Michelle is from the Philippines and she has always wanted to travel and explore.  I am retired from the Canadian Navy and I have travelled all of my life, so having a home on wheels is right where we want to be.  So many people look at us kind of strangely.  Nights after showering at the “Good Life Fitness” where we have our gym membership, we stop at Tim Hortons for a coffee, sometimes we are in the van, and the people working will offer us the remaining soup, or timbits, and though we are so very grateful,  but we are not homeless!

There have been many stories in the CBC of late about the number of people, “Homeless” who are living on the streets of Vancouver.  This story talks about a large number of homeless people living in vehicles.  Of course, the general public fear those that do not conform to what is considered the norm.  Some of the article I agree with, we who live the VanLife, should not leave garbage on the street.  We need to be respectful of others in the area.  It is no different if we are your neighbour in the house next door, the only difference is we are on the side of the street.

They also reference a “Drug Lab” in a vehicle, ”

Leanne Daw got used to watching the van-dwellers roll up behind the East Vancouver warehouse where she worked. “It was pretty bad. They used our dumpsters and one time there was a drug lab in one of the trucks,” said Daw.

How is this related to living the Vanlife?  Drug Lbs are found in areas of all walks of life, not just van dwellers.

Living the VanLife not Homeless

If you have read any of our earlier stories you will know that my sister travelled and lived with us for about 15 days.  She has never questioned our motivation behind what we are trying to do.  However, some of my other so-called family have judged me from the very beginning.  In the end, though, I will have done what I set out to do, never afraid to actually do the things I have wanted to do.

VanLife – Homeless, NOT!

I say to hell with what the general public have to say or think!  We are not homeless but free of that crushing debt of being tied to a mortgage payment.  Instead, we are able to save to travel, to do the things we want to do.   Do not stand there, hand on hip, with the smug look on your face, looking down at me, and laugh.  Instead, know that I pity you, your close-mindedness,   I feel sorry for you, for the life lost because of fear you are not strong enough to overcome!

Here are a couple of Links to other stories of people living in their vehicles.

Global News “Residents living in RV’s

VanLife - Lower Mainland

Boondocking – The Lower Mainland

Michelle and I have not had the opportunity to enjoy a weekend exploring the Lower Mainland since we arrived. We spent this past weekend exploring and taking pictures.  The area around the Science Centre in False Creek offers the photographer excellent opportunities for sunset images.

The Lower Mainland

Lower Mainland – Sunset @ False Creek

We spent Saturday afternoon searching for my ever elusive “Honey Bee” beer from Fullers.  This was one time my favourite beer which I could only find in the Lower Mainland.  Finally, after searching for 6 weeks, I found someone at the BC Liquor store that was able to find 48 bottles of this fantastic brew.  As is my luck, there was not a bottle at the branch I was at, but a short 15-minute drive to Cambie street, and there before my eyes was my quest!

Michelle, having a craving for pizza, was telling me how I needed to find her some good pizza.  Since we were near my old stomping grounds, I knew where to take her!  Bella Pizza, arguably the best pizza in the Lower Mainland!  We settled on the Bella Gourmet Vegetarian as the one of choice.  This had been my favourite pizza and after three years it certainly did not disappoint!  Living in Ontario like their beer is the land of assembly line pizza.  The same taste from every pizza joint.  Here in the Lower Mainland, however, there are fabulous unique flavours and tastes for those open-minded enough to give a try!

Our Boondock on the First Night – On the Lower Mainland

We decided to use one of our previous boondocking locations for the first night.  We went to St Mary’s church down off Joyce road where would go to church in the morning.  I get such a kick sleeping in the van while parked on the road.  Especially off Joyce there, the sounds of the city, the conversations that take place around the van no one the wiser of Michelle and I sleeping but a few feet away.  There is something so cool and interesting about that.

After church, Michelle and I headed to Granville Island.  I did my first Photowalk there back in 2014.   It was so much fun shooting around Granville Island that time, this time around since it was during the afternoon, I was there more to show Michelle around then to shoot images.  I love hearing the words Michelle says when she experiencing something new.  I love that she is getting to explore, something we both love to do.

False Creek Sunset Images – The Lower Mainland

VanLife - Lower Mainland
Lower Mainland – False Creek Panorama

Sunday evening was spent down near the Vancouver Science World where I set up some of the Sunset shots I was hoping for.  The area provides an excellent opportunity for the beautiful city scape images you see hanging on walls.  Truth be told, some of these shots are for sale in the Granville Island stories and since we are down here, I figure we need to give it a try.

We only have one tripod and Michelle knows how much joy I get from shooting landscape images she always refuses to use it, so she sacrifices her night shots for me, so try to do my best for her.  I’ve shot at False Creek a couple of times, though I think this time I got my best images.  I was sure we were there plenty early enough to be set for the Golden and Blue hour, and then I did some bulb exposures after it was totally dark. There is something so peaceful abuot Sunset photography!  If you get a chance be sure to give False Creek a chance for your images!

VanLife - Solar Problems

Solar Problems in Abbotsford

VanLife - Solar Problems
Solar Problems – No Damage to Panels

It all started about two weeks ago.  We are boondocking in the yard where I work.  Things have worked flawlessly so of course, that means something has to go wrong and sure enough we encountered solar problems.  After plugging in a USB fan, we would wake to a dead battery.  So I decided to pay closer attention to the Solar Charge panel and we noticed that our charge volts from the panels were cut in half.

Solar Problems

We first noticed the problem when we were boondocking down in New Westminster.  Our battery was only charging half way, and we were running out of power before we would head to bed.  I climbed up on the roof of the camper van and metered the panels individually.  One panel was putting out 12 volts as it was supposed to.  The second panel, however, was only reading an output of 58.4 m/volts.

Seriously, how could a panel that was less than 23 months old not be working properly already?  Though I know with my luck, if something could go wrong it would, and it would happen to me.  The last thing we need is solar problems.  Michelle is about to start her new job, I am working tons of hours, and we have yet to get a BC address so even if I was able to get replacements, we had no place to have them sent!!

My first thought was to contact Solar Warehouse, which has now changed their name to Solar Wholesalers.  Hmm, strange, but sure enough I was able to get ahold of them and at first, they were none too interested in standing behind their product.   But after some conversation and emails, they said they would contact the manufacturer and have them RMA’d (returned).  I had to prove I had not damaged them, so I sent a series of pictures.  But this past weekend something interesting came about.  A friend of mine (Mike) was down and I was telling him the problem, and being a handy guy that he is, he climbed up and took a look.  He discovered that one of the leads coming from the panel as loose.  He decided to loosen the cap, and while doing so the entire wire fell free.

Really What Can Go Wrong with Solar Panels

VanLife - Solar Problems
Solar Problems – Disconnected

It’s kind of interesting, as a kid I used to be very much into taking things apart, but in this situation, I reverted to the brain washed consumer and was simply happy to return the panel for replacement, paid the shipping and away it went.  I have to stop thinking like that and dive back in and trouble shoot things more closely.  Today, I went to Fraser RV, looking for Cabinet Catch for one of my doors in Freddy.  I thought I would ask some questions about batteries for my solar and sure enough, as soon as the Service Department person got a look at the camper van his attitude changed and wanted to get rid of me as fast as possible.

In the end, I am glad Mike took a look and I was able to repair the panel right there.  I needed to be reminded we can fix most problems, whether they are solar problems, electrical or mechanical.

VanLife - Drag Race

Drag Race at Mission Raceway

VanLife - Drag Race
Drag Race – Out of the Starting Blocks

This August long weekend has been busy for Michelle and me.  I worked the graveyard shift Friday night and then Saturday afternoon. Sunday, however, we spent with my friend Alexis and her boyfriend at the Mission Raceway watching our first ever Drag Race.

Drag Race Day in Mission

We spent the night out side St Mary’s church off Joyce Street in Vancouver.  Michelle and I have not been able to find a church, so we decided since there is a large Filipino population in this area we would start off at this church first.  It was perfect, we found a parking spot right beside the church, so we Boondocked there.  I would drive by this church every Sunday when I worked in Vancouver before.  I found it ironic to be sleeping at this corner.  After church, we went to a nice little restaurant called Manila Grille, as one would expect the food was amazing and Michelle had the smile on her face saying…I don’t feel so far from home!

After lunch, we stopped at my favourite Starbucks on the corner of Boundry and Canada Way, and sure enough, there was someone I knew working that day.  Nice to see familiar faces for sure!  From there it was off to Mission to find the drag race and to meet up with Alexis.

Mission Raceway – Mission BC

VanLife - Drag Race
Drag Race – The Finals

Being that we are geographically challenged on occasion, I could imagine how difficult finding the Raceway was going to be.  Surprisingly, after checking in to Google Maps, I realized I knew where it was right away.  Afterall I seem to drive past it every day at my new job, so it was a cinch to find.   I have to admit I thought the entrance fee was a little on the steep side with a $40.00 for really what turned out to be a 3-hour viewing of the end of the Drag Races.

It was a great opportunity to get out and catch up with Alexis, someone I have not seen in a couple of years.  Michelle and I had a lot of fun shooting a different genre if you will.  If you get an opportunity to shoot at the Drag Races be sure to give it a try!

Manitoba – We finally Made it out of Onterible

VanLife - Manitoba
Manitoba – Abandoned Railway Bridge

It seemed to take forever, to finally make it out of Ontario.  I had explained I thought it might take 3 days, even with the ferry from Tobermory.   But since we needed to replace the transmission in Thunder Bay it ended up taking us 5 days.  We got the go ahead to pick Freddy up for 16:00 on Friday, so we took a few minutes to go shopping and grab some fresh food and then off to the Mister Transmission.  I was hoping I would be well into Manitoba by now,  but instead the best we hoped to make it too was Dryden which we did easily.

Arriving in Manitoba

VanLife - Manitoba
Manitoba – Border between Manitoba and Ontario

We departed Dryden at 8:30 in the morning, bound and determined to make up lost time.   The people in Northern Ontario have been so very helpful.  Thankfully there has not been much of road construction so we were making pretty good time.   We arrived at the border around 11:30, with to our advantage, we had an hour time change so that helped on our trip for sure!

Michelle wanted to stop in at Jollibee, which is a Filipino restaurant we use to go to when we lived in Bacolod City.  She has been missing her Jollibee very much, so we had to stop for a bit to eat.  I also had the opportunity to visit with an old Navy friend of mine Colin.  We sailed together back in the late 80’s early 90’s  I have not seen him since my last couple of years in the Navy.    It was fantastic to see him and meet his lovely family!!  Way to much time between visits.

Next Stop Brandon Ma.

VanLife - Manitoba Jollibee
Manitoba – Jollibee

After enjoying a stop at Jollibee, we figured we would high tail to Brandon a short 200 or so km away.  Things were clear sailing, The van was running perfectly and Debbie has been equal to every driving task put out for her!  She has been doing a fantastic job, especially since this is the farthest she driven west, and by herself to boot!  We ran across a plane doing some crop dusting which very interesting to watch, and Michelle has never seen that before so she was very interesting.  I had to pull over to see if I could shoot a couple of pictures.

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