Sug’s First Upgrade

1985 white vw vanagon

We bought our Sug in San Francisco. Her former owner was a chef who lived near the beach. Clearly a very successful chef! She came with good mo-jo; her former chef-owner was also a former Punk Rocker from Utah–you must be thinking what I’m thinking, right? SLC Punk. Yeah!

Anyways, Sug came with some cool features like an amp and subwoofer, all appliances in working condition, a cool little propane heater for cold nights, the canvas in great shape, a Van Cafe awning, and Go Westy rubber mats throughout. Those rubber mats are pricey–$120 or so just for the middle mat. The mats come with circular indents that make them slip-proof and most importantly they help keep the floor clean. But when you throw-up from the top bunk Crab that-you-fished-out-of-the-ocean-but-didn’t-quite-cook-well-enough you end up with little indented circles of of uncleanable, dried craby throw-up bits. Yup! Ewe… That happened. Needless to say, we’ve been looking for flooring alternatives ever since.

We did a bathroom remodel a few months ago, and had a box of Rugged Brown Armstrong Luxe Plank flooring left over. Luxe Plank flooring is also known as luxury vinyl flooring, and it basically looks like hardwood, but it’s waterproof and scratch resistant. You may have remembered similar promises from laminate flooring, but laminate flooring was never waterproof and it always pulled up at the seams–looking hella-cheap. Luxury vinyl is a way, way superior product.

box of Armstrong flooring
Armstrong Luxe Plank Flooring

We decided to use our left over luxe plank on the floor of the van. We were a couple of square feet short, so we stopped by Wood Brothers Carpet and Flooring, the local flooring store from which we originally purchased the luxe plank. Luckily the local store agreed to sell us just a couple of boards; the cost $10. The big box stores would have made us buy a whole $55 box. Local shopping benefit–big time! Wood Brothers also sold us an aluminum L-shaped trim piece for the door jam; $5. They actually sold these in 12-foot sections; we need only 48″. So, they cut it in half and sold it to us at half the price. Kinda rad!

Most people who add wood or laminate flooring to their Vanagon, pull up the original Vanagon carpet or vinyl flooring and metal trim pieces and start on bare floor. We decided that we wanted to maintain the original flooring and lay the luxe plank over the top. Who knows, maybe some day we will want to go super original again. But when we laid out a few starting pieces, we found that the rounded-heads of the flooring-bolts kept the new luxe plank from laying flat.

bolts with round heads
The original round flooring bolts

So we took a jaunt to another local shop, Valley-Wide Fasteners for metric size-8, 1.25, 3/4″ bolts with flat instead of rounded heads. We bought ten of them, $8. And we replaced all the floor bolts. From there it was pretty darn easy. The luxe plank floor snaps together; it doesn’t require any glue or nailing; it floats right over the top of the existing floor, which means the original floor is still there and intact.

flooring being installed in the van

We used a miter-saw which made for easy, straight cuts. While for the most part, cuts were straight, there were a couple of small, tricky notches we handled with a hand saw. We then lined up the aluminum, L-shaped trim piece along the doorway and secured it with 5 self-tapping screws; we already had those. Yay! And, to make things look pro, we added some small, oak, quarter-round trim to the interior edges. I tried to purchase this from our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, but I wasn’t able to find it. So, I purchased this from Lowes for $6. It finished the job nicely. And generally speaking, if you have a Habitat for Humanity Restore, it’s a great place to buy small quantities of flooring for projects like this. You might find 30 square-feet of hardwood for just a few bucks. If you have to go out and purchase flooring, try your Habitat store first! You save and your cash goes to a great cause!

installing metal trim

For $29 and a couple hours of labor, we got a stylish, easy to clean luxe plank floor in our vanagon. Here’s Joe looking proud of his finished product. And the color seemed to go perfectly and almost looked like it could have been the original floor.

finished van floor

Our next mod is the auxiliary battery. I’ve watched a couple of videos, and it looks pretty intimidating to me. Joe seems pretty confident (maybe overly confident). So, look for my next blog on battery power or battery blunder!

Sugar Magnolia

1985 white vanagon
Sugar Magnolia chillin in Southern Nevada’s Valley of Fire

We call our 85′ Westy-girl, Sug (pronounced “Shug”); short for Sugar Magnolia. Okay. Yes! This name is a Grateful Dead reference (my honey is a pretty serious Dead Head), but it’s actually more than that. An amalgamation of many references: the street on which we live, the sweetness that she’s brought into our life, and one of my all-time favorite literary characters (Shug Avery) from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (if you haven’t read it–do–like right now). It’s not a coincidence that like Ms. Avery, our Sug has played many roles in our lives: teacher, confidant, friend, companion. The experiences of Shug’s life define who she is, and our Sug plays a role in our experiences helping to define who we are. Sug is rough around the edges, but she’s warm and safe on the inside. And, yes. The Grateful Dead reference is also totally appropriate, “She can dance a Cajun rhythm/ Jump like a Willys in four wheel drive/ She’s a summer love in the spring, fall and winter/ She can make happy any man alive.” And, after 25 years of raising kiddos, we are excited for music, dancing, and adventure. She’s been part of our lives now for the last two years. And, we’ve managed lots of quick coastal weekends and one big Southwest, summer excursion. We’re gearing up for a long weekend at Patrick’s Point in just a few days. Our 2019 van life trips will be short this summer, but I’ll keep you up-to-date on these adventures and on our Vanagon hacks & mods.