Road Trip Summary: Part 1 MPG of Chevy Express Vans, Peg-Board in a Van

As I am writing this Judy and I are back in Cottonwood, Az and our road trip is over. After we had been at Moab for two weeks, we were undecided whether we would continue the trip or go home, so we flipped a coin and the coin said to keep going. The next day we left for Zion but my sprained knee became sore from driving, so we decided to quit the trip to reduce the number of miles we drove. We both had a wonderful time and I want to wrap it up with a summary and some of the lessons I learned on the trip:

I love being on the Road! I have to get my "fix" of it every year!

I ‘m addicted to being on the Road! I have to get my “fix” of it every year or I go into withdrawal!


I am too lazy to keep accurate records of a road trip like this, but fortunately Judy loves to do it. So she kept records of her fuel mileage and all her spending on the trip. Her 2007 Chevy Express van with 5.3 liter V8 averaged an astounding 18.16 MPG over 1324 miles! Her total cost of fuel was $278. She buys premium fuel because by experimenting she believes it gives her another one MPG which more than offsets the higher cost.

Judy averaged an astounding 18.16 MPG over the whole trip.

Judy averaged an astounding 18.16 MPG over the whole 1324 mile trip with almost no freeway miles but lots of giant hills with switchbacks..

Her essential daily spending for the 25 day trip was $473. By that I mean money you have to spend and not optional spending or fixed monthly expenses.


This table is of money that she didn’t have to spend but were things she was wanting or needing. October is the end of the season in Moab and we found quite a few end-of-season sales she couldn’t pass up. She picked up some outdoor gear she was needing at great prices.  She also got a stunningly beautiful tattoo to celebrate the experience.



Jud'ys gorgeous new tattoo!

Judy’s gorgeous new tattoo!



I need to be in new locations and absorbing the sights, sounds and feel of different places.

It’s startling how easy it is to fall into a routine and before you realize it you’re in a rut and your life is boring. That’ just where I found myself so I knew I needed to get out and hit the road. I am so glad I did! It just feels so “right” to be on the road and free to roam as I please again! This trip reminded me how much I love it and I don’t ever want to forget it again. All my plans are written in Jello but I am almost certain I will spend all next summer on the road to and from Alaska and after that I will do at least one road trip every year.


This is my office, living room, and kitchen. The fact it was a low-top wasn't a problem because I had to move around very little.

This is my office, living room, and kitchen. The fact it was a low-top wasn’t a problem because I had to move around very little.

While I have lived the mobile life for nearly 12 years, I’ve never lived in a low-top van. I lived in a 6×7 camper for 2 years (and it was smaller than this extended van) so I knew I could easily live in the small space, but I honestly didn’t know how my back, neck and knees would respond to being hunched over or walking on my knees all the time. Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem at all. I still prefer a high-top, and I wouldn’t want to live in a low-top year-around, but for short-term trips a low-top was no problem. I’ll be fine in it for 6 months to Alaska and back.


I preach this constantly and so of course I ended up with way too much in my van and it was making me miserable! File this under “Do as I say, not as I do!” Living in the cargo trailer and using the van for storage allows me to have a lot more stuff (I admit that I’m weak) and I filled it up! When I realized I was doing it I went on a mission to get rid of a bunch of it and it has come down quite a bit, but I left too much in the van for this trip. It took a while but I eventually found a place for everything and got everything in its place. When I do this again in the future I will be ruthless and only take bare-bone essentials.


I bought a 4-drawer unit just like this one and it helped tremendously! Judy liked it so much she bought one also and this is hers in her van. It’s right behind the drivers seat and is ratchet-strapped to the front seat (red strap) and bungeed (blue strap) so the drawers don’t come open during driving.

 Sterilite 4-Drawer Unit Light Platinum


If you are going to have too much stuff, you must have lots of organization and I had none. I had an open unused space available so I went to Wal-Mart and found a plastic, four drawer unit ($60) that fit right in it. Getting it was one of the best things I’ve done for living in a van! I now recommend it to everyone as one of your first purchases! It’s a little hard to find at Wal-Mart because it is not with the housewares, it’s back in the hardware section. They are built heavier to be used in garages and not in the kitchen or bedroom. But, not only are they much stronger I think they are more attractive than plastic drawers made for housewares. To mount it I used a ratchet trap that went to the shelf units that came with the van. They are industrial shelves and mounted extremely well so I have no question the plastic shelves are secure.


This is my kitchen. Inside the green plastic tote is my 2 1/2 gallon propane bottle and my Coleman 1-Burner propane stove sits on top (I cut a small hole in the side for the hose to come out). I have a splatter guard around it to keep the heat and splatters from escaping (there’s a link to the one I have below). Beside it is my Dometic fridge and behind it is the shelves with groceries. There are links to for most of these products below.

Norpro 2063 Nonstick Splatter Guard
Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove
Coleman High-Pressure Propane Hose and Adapter

Some people like all their stuff hidden in drawers and cabinets; I’m not one of them! I’m so lazy that the things I use every day I want within easy reach. I’m a big fan of peg-board; I think it should be in every vandwellers home! I just happened to have a sheet of it and some scraps of plywood with me, so I cut it down to fit on the end of the 4-drawer unit and mounted some bins on it. Viola! Instant cheap and easy organization!


My peg-board for organization. Below it is my 5-gallon poop bucket bungeed to the plywood. Inside the bucket is my trash can. In the wheel-well is a gallon of water.

Mesh Basket-Value Pack For Peg Board
Peg-Board and Ultimate Kit


I will never be a hard-core 4-Wheeler, but when I’m heading down a little dirt road in the desert I don’t want to be scared of, or turned back by a sandy wash I have to get across. All the other RVs and campers turned back because of it so if I can cross, I can be all alone. I like being alone! After talking to my good friend Forrest, I’m convinced all I need to do is get a Detroit locker in my rear axle. So that is on my agenda for some time this year.


We camped in Moab for 14 days at this spot. This little road was very typical of where I always plan to camp. It was rough and rocky in places but a car could make it.



Full-moon rise at our Moab camp. The road went down into the wash below us and it got very sandy the further it went. We couldn’t go past it.


Looking back from the wash towards our camp. With a Detroit Locker I could have crossed it and been truly remote.


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

53 comments on “Road Trip Summary: Part 1 MPG of Chevy Express Vans, Peg-Board in a Van
  1. Avatar Joni says:

    Bob and Judy;

    What a lovely trip, thanks ever so for sharing it! Judy, a monarch! How wonderful! I grew up in S. Ontario where the monarchs summer and they have always been my favorite.

    I’m always a bit surprised when people say “Oh my, the expense!” when I talk about travelling…nice to see a budget that shows it doesn’t have to cost a furtune. And I tried the better fuel for better mileage but not so in the little box I drive though at close to 30 mpg I’m really not wishing it away.

    I sure hear you about the space in a smaller unit Bob. The mini-van is going to be interesting! And I was feeling bad about tossing it all in with an I will sort/organize later attitude but I see I’m doing okay in the van organization department too *laugh*. Cudos on the great new storage.

    Soooo…now what?? *smile*



    • Bob Bob says:

      Joni, no matter how much you prepare moving into a tiny space is always a shock and requires an adjustment.

      I gotta tell you I have a whole new adventure in the brewing process that I am tremendously excited about. But I’m not going to talk about it until it actually happens.

      • Avatar Joni says:


        Oh, c’mon…you can tell just me?? *smile*

        BTW – BOO ALL, Happy Halloween!


        • Bob Bob says:

          Joni, I’ve learned the hard way that I get excited about things and then lose interest and it never happens. I’m more cautious now and don’t let my actions do the talking for me.

  2. Avatar Cheryl says:

    I have to agree with you on the 4 drawer unit! We love it for clothing storage. I just put in the 2 door base cabinet made by the same company. It holds all kinds of kitchen stuff and is a great food pantry! I was surprised at how much it really can hold! We close on the house this Friday and then we begin our new nomadic life style! Finally, after about a year, we are ready to go!

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s wonderful Cheryl! Just don’t be surprised if your initial reaction is under-whelming. Almost nothing lives up to hype and expectations we build up in our minds. Give it a fair shake and you will find yourselves changed. Then you will suddenly realize one day that “I love this life!”

      The problem is we become addicted to the rush, busy-ness, stress and anxiety of modern life that the peace and contentment of vandwelling/RVing seems “wrong” somehow. But the day will come when you love it more than anything else in life!

      • Bob, I had a “what have I done?” moment last night while stealth camping in my neighborhood. It didn’t last long, thanks to your posts about this very thing. And I realized that, of course I’m underwhelmed right now — I haven’t left the city yet. My whole goal was to get out in nature, so that’s next. I’m going on a two-week camping trip in a nearby national forest as soon as I get my SS check. 🙂
        LaVonne Ellis recently posted…It’s all about stealthMy Profile

        • Bob Bob says:

          laVonne, there really is a difficult transition to vandweller. A lifetime of fear, stress and anxiety is not let go of easily.

          • Well, here I go changing my mind again. After sitting in the dark for another night, afraid to make a noise or turn on a light lest someone spot me, I decided screw it, I’m going to Quartzsite. No point ‘practicing’ with a 2 week camping trip and then coming back to the city. Might as well make the break now. Heading east in a few days…
            LaVonne Ellis recently posted…It’s all about stealthMy Profile

          • Bob Bob says:

            laVonne, I’m not there but I will be soon. I’m sure you can find other vandwellers to camp with though. It always feels better to camp with others!

      • Avatar Cheryl says:

        We tent or van camped most of the summer and when I was home I couldn’t sleep. I felt like a fish out of water! I was miserable! I lived for our next trip. Getting rid of stuff has been so liberating! We both love to wander and explore so we both know that the nomadic lifestyle is for us! This choice is the only one that feels right for us at this point in our lives!

        • Bob Bob says:

          Cheryl, how wonderful that you have found something that is so right and natural for you! You must have been a nomad of some kind in a previous life!

  3. Avatar OpenSpaceman says:

    I’d like to nominate Judy for “National Budget Director”. Could we get a peek at her grocery list? One of my challenges I’m facing is the grocery stores by me have all this semi healthy pre-made food and I can’t resist the convenience. But it’s to pricey. Especially the fruit.

    *Tell me how the mobile pro’s do it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Openspaceman, I’ll ask her if she is interested. But that is a good idea for a topic.

    • Avatar judy says:

      Open Spaceman, I’m a strange cook since it’s only me to say Yummy or Yuck.
      I’ve emptied a can of chili over the last handful of tortilla chips in the bag…roll the edges of the bag down to create a bowl. Surprisingly Not that bad!

      Get 2 cups of water boiling in a pot, add a pkt of Idahoan inst mashed potatoes & top that with a can of drained tuna. Individual fruit cup for dessert. That’s another of my don’t knock it til you’ve tried it meals.
      Using the pot for a bowl, you eat half then put the lid on and eat the remaining half in an hour or so. Stays warm if you cover it w/ a towel. Tummy full for less than $3.

      Are you Sure you want my grocery list? Ha!

      I can do a lot w/ eggs, onions & a loaf of bread. Omelets, over easy w/toast, French toast w/ a sprinkle of cinnamon & syrup or jelly. If you aren’t familiar w/fried apples, it’s like a skillet full of apple pie w/o the crust! Truly Tasty.

      I’ve found that food is not uppermost in my mind when I’m out in nature, alone or in good company. One night at bedtime I wondered why I was sooo hungry til I thought back over my day & my only meal had been at 10AM. I put together a p.butter & jelly sandwich & retrieved an Ensure from my cool box under the bed. Fell asleep w/ a happy tummy.

      • Avatar OpenSpaceMan says:


        Lot’s of good ideas. I’m being honest, everything you mention sounds delicious. I’ll be waitin’ for the Ebook. Yesterday I wrapped some McDonald fries up in a piece of Colby Jack cheese and some deli roast beef…got two decent sized meals for about six dollars total. Looks like my bachelorhood is showing.

        *Thanks for the reply. I’m learning everyday.

      • Bob Bob says:

        I’ll second that Judy is a “strange” cook!!!! But everything she has ever made for me was delicious!

  4. Avatar Kim says:

    Thanks to Judy for sharing her stats. She gets great mileage indeed. My 2010 RT is built on the same chassis and I get 15 MPG. (Of course, my van weighs about 8,200 pounds).

    Glad you had such a satisfying experience!
    Kim recently posted…DC Day 2My Profile

  5. Avatar Gary says:

    Bob, you probably know this but just in case you or others don’t, a word of caution (speaking from bad experiences) with that I’m assuming rear axle “locker” that allows both rear wheels to ‘drive’ (or for those with a 4×4 vehicle). Especially in sand or mud. It is very easy to get into a situation where it looked OK to go but then you get stuck, really stuck. Stuck to the point another vehicle or a winch is needed to pull you out and even then that might not get you out if they don’t have the same setup or 4 wheel drive. Usually in sand or mud there is nothing to tie a winch or winch cable on to but an anchor in the sand or mud and you might have to be pulled out backwards instead of forward. Especially out in the desert areas where you’re wanting to go.


    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s good advice, Gary! But I am not a very aggressive driver. I am also planning t get a winch. I’ll get an 8000 pound winch that goes into the receiver hitch. I’ll get a front hitch and then I can move the winch from front to rear as needed.

  6. Avatar Calvin R says:

    Hi Bob. Thanks for the practical side of this post. I already have the 3-drawer version of that unit. It’s holding up very well after several years and moves.

    Pegboard is wonderful stuff. I’ll keep that in mind when the time comes.

    My outlook on living in whatever type of unit is that if I can use it in reasonable comfort for a month I can probably stay with it for as long as I need it. I’m glad you mentioned the low-top factor, as that had been bothering me a little. My personal issue with that is that right now it looks as if I’ll be working on the road, so that I’ll be living “out of” the van rather than living “in” it. As always, that will be personal to each dweller.

  7. Avatar Desert Rat says:

    Great photos, as usual. As for Klondike Wash, after you guys left I drove across it further up the way and came across a pickup with a camper stuck up to his axles in the sand. He’d decided for some reason to drive down the wash, getting off the more packed “road” and he had a heavy rig. Man, was he stuck, but fortunately he was right where the ATVers park and they were able to get him out.

    My brother wasn’t so lucky. He got stuck in a wash out by Green River once and had to walk about 12 miles for help, leaving his urban wife (she’d never been camping), little daughter, and their pet cat waiting in the desert. It was a very remote road that noone used. He learned the hard way – I drove over 200 miles to come pull them out. Fortunately, those waiting had lots of water and food, so they were fine, but he got blisters. We laughed about it – years later. 🙂

  8. Avatar Joe S says:

    Bob – if you don’t mind me asking, where is that campsite located? I always end up camping at the Sandflats Recreation Area and it’s $10 per day. A free campsite would be much appreciated (unless it’s a secret spot of course).

    • Avatar Desert Rat says:

      Joe, the beauty of this life is exploring and finding new places. Way better than if someone tells you where to go. Just my two bits’ worth. 🙂

    • Avatar judy says:

      Joe, From the Colorado River bridge on the north edge of Moab UT, you go 9.9 miles north on route 191 to a right turn onto Willow Springs road.
      It’s a dirt road with many campsites along it and the short un-named spur road that goes off it maybe a quarter of a mile in.
      Desert Rat suggested that area to us so happy to pass that info along. The little spur road has less ATV & late arrival traffic on it than the main campsite road.

      • Avatar Joe S says:

        Thank you for the information Judy! I appreciate it. At first I thought maybe you all were near the Klondike Bluffs trail area, thank you for the clarification.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Joe, no problem at all telling you where it is. It’s a well-known dispersed camping spot. It’s almost 10 miles north of town. Off to the left is Highway 313 the road to Canyonlands and Dead Horse SP. Keep going and you go down a hill and at the bottom of the hill is Willow Springs Rd to the right. Turn right onto it and it is all dispersed camping. We were on a road off to the left of it and we found more privacy and less traffic.

      If you kept going instead of turning, nearly all the roads north of it have dispersed camping as well.

  9. Avatar Curtis says:

    Great info Bob and Judy! Thanks for sharing.:)

  10. Avatar Terry says:

    Great description of just how great of a life one can have, without the trappings of modern society:) Terry

  11. Avatar Rob says:

    Sounds like you had a really good trip!
    I do have a question about your poop bucket… What is what around the edge, it it insulation to sit on? Do you have a bag inside? Do you use a lid or is it one use at a time?

    Looking forward to hearing about your next planned adventure (before the Alaska trip?)!
    Rob recently posted…Too fastMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rob, there are lots of ways to use a poop bucket, but this is the way I do it.

      1) Sitting on the edge is uncomfortable so I bought a piece of pipe insulation at Home Depot and put it on the edge and duct taped in place. I’ve been using it for 5 years and works great. Some people get a Luggable Loo seat and put it on instead.
      2) I double bag it for use. Once I’ve made my “deposit” I wrap it up and throw it away.
      3) Some people do use it multiple times, but I don’t. One friend puts a piece of newspaper in after every use and then sprinkles some Kitty Litter deodarant over that. I’ve never smelled it in her van.

      • Avatar Mario says:

        Thanks to both of you for the great Trip Report,very useful ideas for life in a confined space with as little discomfort as possible, Judy seems to be a “shining star” assuming the position of “Trip budget coordinator” also I really like her colourful tattoo!!
        As Rob mentioned above, I also need some “clarification” on this sensitive topic (poop bucket) , last weekend I ran a test on it’s use ( as part of my preparation for all necessary equipment) so I doublebaged it as instructed but I noticed that the common household bags of any kind allow gas to pass through the plastic ( but not liquid) , this puzzled me a little so I quadroupled the bags and gas ( thus odor) was still passing through all 4 , so if I was to assume that for some reason you are confined in the vehicle ( as in a rainy night) with no opportunity to “throw it away” there should be a way to “store” it until able to properly dispose of it. My solution to the “storage” part is a PLANO
        Ammunition plastic box (sold at Bass Pro) that has a waterproof seal around the opening so it really seals totally any odor escaping the plastic bags . . . after researching a little further on the net I learned that common garbage bags, shopping bags , fruit bags etc. ARE NOT “gas impervious” but food grade mylar bags are. So my next test will be with Mylar bags 5ml single use with a zip-lock ,advertised to be totally gas impervious and ( assumably ) can be left in the vehicle without any escaping odor. I know they are more expensive but can be purchased in higher quantities at reasonable price. Of course one could limit their use for those times where doing the “business” out in the open air is not an option or expected disposal time is a lengthy one.
        Your friends experience with Kitty litter deodorizer is also mentioned as working adequately but I have to try all possible methods and select the quickest , cleanest,most convenient and less costly one, under the scenario where one can not leave the vehicle, I am open to all ideas from the “experienced users”.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Mario, they do smell. I only use one tall garbage bag anymore but I wrap it around itself really well, then wrap it in a Walmart shopping bag. I just throw it in the trash and wait till it goes to the trash can. I get to town and their trash cans pretty often so usually it is only a few days worth at most.

          If you put your nose in the trash can, you can smell it. I don’t put my nose in the trash can!

          You can get little galvanized trash cans with lids and store it up in that and then take that to the trash in town. Or, with the holidays coming up, buy one of the tin cans full of popcorn and eat the popcorn (It’s a dirty job but you can do it!) then use it to store your little deposits in, then put them in a walmart shopping sack and throw that in the trash in town.

          There are lots of ways to store them odor free till you get to a dumpster.

  12. Avatar Lois says:

    Great information! I love reading other people’s lists of what it costs them to do whatever it is. We always think that travel and adventure cost lots of money and it’s nice to know it doesn’t. Thanks, Bob & Judy!

    — Lois
    Lois recently posted…To TV? Or Not to TV?My Profile

  13. Avatar CAE says:

    Great article! I love this stuff. My dad and I used to take his old ford fairlane all over the sierra’s without ever getting stuck. You have to be careful and know when it’s too tough. But it’s amazing what you can drive through in a passenger car if you’re careful. I would avoid sand, getting really stuck can be an adventure you don’t want.

    • Avatar Joe S says:

      CAE – You’re absolutely correct, with the right drive a passenger car can do some pretty impressive stuff.

      Here’s a guy climbing up the Baby Lion’s back in Moab in a Crown Vic! LOL.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CAE, it’s hard to avoid sand when you spend half the year in the Arizona desert! Sand is part of the deal.

  14. Avatar Toni says:

    Thanks for the cooking tips, judy. Here’s another mashed potato meal my ex taught me. Put cooked hamburger, canned corn and spaghetti sauce on the mashed potatoes. Sounds terrible, but tastes really good. I enjoyed following your trip. I used to live in the west and did a lot of camping when I was young.I hope to be able to get back out there again. Happy travels.

    • Avatar judy says:

      Joni, Thanks for a great one pot meal idea. Hamburger would be a special purchase for me & cooked when I came back to camp. I don’t have a fridge. There are cool spaces in the van but nothing cold enough to keep meat or dairy. I plan to use eggs w/in a few days of buying them.

      I crack open a couple eggs & drop into rahmen noodles in the last couple minutes of cooking. Stir w/a fork to make small cooked pieces in the noodles.

  15. Avatar DougB says:

    18 MPG! Sigh. The only way I can do that is with the bare 4×4 pickup on a flat highway with no wind.

    The Detroit Locker is just one of many forms of locking diff, and as I recall, the cheapest. But I’ve also heard it’s noisy on turns, with a rough, ratcheting action on pavement. It’ll work, but be prepared for sounds that’ll make you think your axle is folding up. Should help on sand, but don’t get TOO adventurous!
    DougB recently posted…Batten the Hatches Again!My Profile

  16. Avatar Naomi says:

    I’ve enjoyed catching up on your travels – vicarious travels are better than none at all! Glad to read that you like those Sterilite shelves. I’ve had my eye on those for a while, and will probably purchase a set soon now that you’ve given them a good review. I’m slowly buying stuff like this for my future travels – soon I’ll have everything except the van. Ha!


  17. Avatar travlin man says:

    bob you will probley have to have a hitch made for the front. I had 2007 and now have a 2011 and I could not find a hitch to fit the front so I took a old one I had and made some mods so it would fit.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Travlin man, I wasn’t aware of that. They make lots of Express vans so I just assumed it would be easy. I’ll have to look into that.

      I just did a goggle search and it showed numerous manufactureres with them for about $135. They must have changed the later Express vans like yours.

  18. Avatar Rick says:

    Rear locker is the poor mans four wheel drive. It was the only option I had on my 1999 Chevy Silverado plain Jane pick up. It was worth every penny too. The other thing you can do that helps a lot is air down your rear tires.
    Search 4×4 sites and you can find some recommendations on pressures. I think you could easily do 20 psi or so though you dont want to go too low on a regular tire as you may pop the bead off. I often aired down to 12 to 15 in my Cherokee 33×12.5×15 Goodyear MTR’s. Thats a whole different tire with an extremely tough side wall that could probably go even lower. I once drove home from work with a flat and it didnt pop the bead but it did seem pretty squirrely. lol Don’t forget to air up before hitting the highway.

  19. Avatar Juan says:

    Before you spend money on a locker, give a winch serious consideration. Any Jeeper will tell you, the very first modification you should do to your 4×4 is a winch. Big tires, heavy duty locking axles, and 4 wheel drive get you stuck. A winch and a good shovel gets you unstuck!

    There are also tools called winch anchors that allow you to bury them and have a solid winching point anywhere you want/need.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Juan, thanks for that tip! Actually a winch is at the top of my list! I just got a front hitch installed on my van and I will pick up a Receiver Hitch winch that can go in either the front or rear. I’m still planning on getting a locker, but the winch comes first.

      Thanks for the information!

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