It all started in the spring of 2009. Chris and Nikki took a trip to the East coast in hopes of falling in love with Baltimore and moving there by the end of summer. Mainly, they just wanted a change of scenery. Relocating closer to the ocean would be perfect.
After a short visit to Baltimore (too grimy), Silver Spring (too pricey), Washington DC (too dicey), and Philadelphia (too dirty) they were not as confident in the move as they had hoped they would be. They discussed their options: A) Resign their leases, stay in Chicago another year while continue working at the magazine and at the law firm saving money to take a few more trips to prospective places to move. B) Quit their jobs, buy an RV and live out of a van for six months traveling the country, camping, and visiting friends.
The choice was simple.
That very night over plastic cups of boxed wine they channeled their inner Jack Kerouac. They mapped out a route across and around the USA and everywhere in between. They got serious and created an expense spreadsheet. They got really excited to get back in touch with Nature, do some writing and simply live simply.
One week later they purchased the vessel that would drive them across the land.
Chris found the RV on craigslist.com. Some guy named Dale was selling a 1981 Dodge Transvan with 60,000 miles. One Saturday morning Chris and Nikki drove to Ottowa, Illinois to check it out. The van had been sitting in Dale’s driveway for years. Dale had injured his back shortly after acquiring the Dodge. Many surgeries and multiple kids later, he never had the chance to take it out.
The plate on the hood read “DOD” instead of “DODGE”. The bumper was hanging by a rubber cord. Rust spotted the paint job. The vent on the roof was cracked and there was water damage inside. The radio didn’t work at all. There were a couple of freeloading spiders. Faded orange shag carpet covered the walls. The base of the table was bent. It was kind of smelly. One quarter mile into the test-drive the battery died. After it was jumped the brakes began to smoke.
Things did not look good.
Chris and Nikki still had high hopes that this was the machine that would escort them on their journey. Local mechanics checked it out and gave the engine two thumbs up. Well, six thumbs up among the three of them.
That was all they needed. They were convinced. Their gut feeling was reinforced by the mechanics’ unanimous approval. They told the owner they wanted to drive around and talk it over. They weighed their options agreeing that the absolute worse case scenario was worth the risk. They pulled out some cash, made the down payment and that was the birth of the DOD.