Tag: Camper Van

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

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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VanLife - Thunder Bay or Bust

Thunder Bay or Bust – Nothing Like a Break Down

Here it is day four and we are still in Thunder Bay, and for good reason.  We started having problems about an hour after leaving Wawa.  I noticed the manual Over Drive light had illuminated on its own.  This would be the beginning of our troubles.

First Planned Stop – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

It turns out this overdrive light would be the beginning of our troubles, about an hour out of Wawa we needed to come to a stop at a road construction area and as I slowed down there was a strange grinding sound, and Freddy began to lurch, not a drastic one but it was noticeable for sure.  As the flag person gave us the go ahead, things were all good, and we went on our merry little way.  Though not known to us things were getting worse by the minute.  I think we drove on for another hour when we pulled over to check something, this would prove to be a bad decision.  As we went to pull away, I learned that I had lost Drive (D) on my transmission.   I still had Reverse (R), First (1) and Second (2).

Since we were in the middle of nowhere, I knew if this was to have a happy ending we would need to make it to Thunder Bay.  As we continued to limp towards Thunder Bay things just continued to get worse.  For a while, I was able to go into Overdrive or Fourth, as we climbed the hills in the area, but it was getting worse and by the time we were climbing the last hill into Thunder Bay was down to Third (D)  and manual starting from a dead stop.   Just on the outskirts we saw a Walmart and decided to pull into the parking lot and call it a day.

Transmission Work in Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

Where do you go to get transmission work done, finding a shop that would help us out proved difficult!  I did a search on Google, and the first place on the list was Mister Transmission.  As I waited for the call to go through I had all those terrible thoughts running through my mind at one time.  Crap this is going to be expensive! Will we make it to British Columbia to start my new job in time?  Can we find a rebuilt transmission or is it going to be a new one?    Mister Transmission was very helpful right from the very start.  The girls I spoke to did their best to answer all the questions I had, but the one thing I did not like was we can not look at it until the next day.

Still holding onto a thread of hope for a quick fix, I decided to call another transmission shop.  One shop told me lots of information, but in the end, he could not handle a conversion van on his hoist.  Another shop would be able to take the transmission out, but then it would need to be worked on somewhere else as they do not do transmission work.  The earliest he could get me in was Thursday, and then a couple of weeks for a transmission, and I would need to be the one to find a replacement.  I was directed to contact the Dodge Dealer in town, they could do the work, but no they could not take me.  They however offered to find what transmission I would need.  We are still waiting for an answer a day later.

Mister Transmission – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Mister Transmission

In desperation, I call back Mister Transmission and I lay it out there on the line.  It’s 16:52 they close at 17:00 and I’m between a rock and a hard spot.  I speak with a gentleman named Daryl who was so very helpful.  We discussed the symptoms, and then the reason for the rush needed, and he tells me to have it there for 8:00 am the next day for it to be trouble shot.  I explain to him we are living in the vehicle, and I ask if we could stay in their parking lot overnight.  He said for sure, no worries, and I decide to head over there now so we can be in place and ready for first thing this morning.

Arriving the night before turns out to be a good idea for a couple of reasons.  The first one is I’ll be at their door at 7 am, so I will certainly be the first in line.  I’ve been warned they are jammed with work but I am going to do my best to get pushed in there.  The second reason, we happened to meet the owner, who tells me to plug Freddy in so we have power.  This turns out to be a fantastic offer, we were able to run the AC a little, and not worry about our battery power.

Sure enough, I’m at the front door of the shop at a couple minutes after 7, and I happen to meet up with Daryl, and he begins my paperwork for the truck.   We discuss a plan of action to find out what the issue is with Freddy, and then we head off to Starbucks to give some room for Mister Transmission to do their work.

The Bad News

Late in the morning, I receive a call from Mister Transmission with the bad news.  Freddy’s transmission is not fixable and needs replacing.  There is a company in Winnipeg who is working to get the transmission off to Thunder Bay if all goes well it will arrive late Friday morning.  If it arrives in time there is a chance we can head off late Friday afternoon.  The bad news is if it does not arrive on time, it won’t be done until Monday, as Mister Transmission is not open on the weekend.  So here we sit in a motel keeping our fingers crossed hoping Friday is our lucky day.

The staff at Mister Transmission here in Thunder Bay has been fantastic.  Not just because they are helping me out, but because they answered my questions and provided fantastic customer service.  You can tell they take their jobs seriously, and they are very professional!  Thank you, Mister Transmission!

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VanLife - Algoma Country

Algoma Country – Northern Ontario

VanLife - Algoma
Algoma Country – Black Bear

We are on Day three of our adventure and so far it’s been fantastic!  One of the highlights for me was Algoma Country because from seeing the Algoma named ships in the Welland Canal.  There was such a liberating feeling as we left Niagara Falls, where we’ve called home for the past two years.  Sadly over the past couple of months living the VanLife we finally started meeting some open like-minded people, but to quote someone “Too Little Too Late”.

South Baymouth, Algoma Region, Sault Ste. Marie, and Wawa

As we approached Tobermory and the ferry terminal the scenery started to become quite picturesque, and if you ‘ve driven with me before you will know I was looking for some opportunities to shoot some images.   We lucked out at the Ferry Terminal.  There was a lovely young woman working there and she was so helpful.  She could tell we were a little lost about where we could boondock for the night, as we passed by the Terminal entrance she called out and asked if we were going to catch the 7:00 am sailing.  I had become so used to everyone’s indifference and not open to help, I was shocked!

The ticket agent said we could buy our ticket and line up and spend the night there while we waited!  We were on a roll for sure!  The 7:00 am ferry left on time and as I have become accustomed to Michelle’s question, “Ocean Hun?”, “No babe just a big lake.”  I know she is missing the ocean as am I, soon though.  After arriving in South Baymouth,  we stopped at a nice little Shell gas station on our left.  The people there were so friendly and helped us with a couple of small “fuse” issues.  Just as a point to note, not many gas stations actually have 12 v fuses in their stores.  So badly so one guy was not sure how it was spelt.

Our destination for day 2 was Wawa and having made this drive in the past, I knew it would be a long drive.  I have to say, my sister,  Deb has done a fantastic job driving “BlueJay” this is by far the longest trip she has driving on.  We arrived in Wawa around 18:30 and settled for the night.

Day 3 Wawa to Thunder Bay

VanLife- Algoma Country
Algoma Country – Lake Wawa

We decided to Boondock on the Beach at Wawa Lake, what a fantastic quiet area to enjoy the sunset and sunrise to start our Day 3 journey.   We had a fantastic sleep the air was cool and clean, in stark comparison to the air in Niagara.  Michelle and I started our next leg at around 9:00 am.  The road between Wawa and Thunder Bay seems so long.  The highway is cut through the dense bush there is not much to see until you get into the Nipigon area and start to head towards Lake Superior.  Though in the end, it is still so beautiful.

We have decided to spend a couple of days in Thunder Bay to recoup and pick up some supplies.  Thunder Bay is a beautiful town, the people are friendly and helpful.  I highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been here before.

Leisure Travel Freedom – Our Van Tour

Van Life Van Tour
VanLife – Van Tour

We finally did it!  We were able to finish the video of our Van Tour.  I thought I should write this post while our video uploads to YouTube.  Please be gentle with your reviews as it’s our first video, and we seem to be a little long.  Everyone starts somewhere and things can only get better!

Freddy’s – Van Tour

We are very proud of our home.  We moved into Freddy back over Easter in late April, and have worked at perfecting our new way of life.  So many people seem to want to look down their noses at us.  Oh well, can’t please everyone, and at my age, I am not going to try!  So we hope you enjoy the Van Tour.  Be sure to leave comments either here or on our YouTube Channel.  If you have been reading our blog you will know already we are moving back to Beautiful British Columbia so be sure to follow along.  We will try to upload a video every Friday, and if all goes well we will have a couple of blog posts a week.