You may be wondering, “who the heck is Bernie?!”. She’s the hardest (and only) working Beirne, our van! Short for Bernadette, Bernie was loving adorned with this special name to mark our support for Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Bernie is a 2000 Ford E-150, equipped with a 5.4-liter, 255-hp, 350-lb-ft torque V8 engine and Rear-Wheel Drive. We have a payload of just over 2,000 lbs and can tow 6,000 safely behind us (trying to convince Sean that we a little OHV for fun). The interior boasts a whopping 256 cubic square feet and exactly 0 bells and whistles. Tires are All-Terrain/Weather standard 235/75/R15, though we don’t technically have a lift, we have higher than standard clearance at around 5″. As far as mileage goes, we get about 18 MPG highway, and 13 MPG city; she’s got a 35 gallon tank to get us to even the most remote locations.
When we bought Bernie, she was a completely empty shell with only a carpet lining the floor, a true blank canvas! We took a couple weeks to figure out what was a must/definite need, the type of space we envisioned, and how to literally build a camper, before we got to work. Looking at Instagram, it’s easy to get caught up in all the ‘gram worthy decor and want to have something that looks that nice and fancy, but from an affordability and practicality standpoint- it’s just not realistic. Road life is made 100% more complicated with every little gadget and item you have, for us, we have found that being as basic as possible limits a lot of stress and unnecessary clutter. The first step was insulating, we used a combination of polyisocyanurate board, Reflectix, and spray foam. From there, we could start the build. After doing some research on what others wish they had done in their van, I got to drawing a bed frame. The frame was made using 2×4’s and sub-floor boards, and lifted off the ground enough (19″) to store large plastic bins underneath with more room available to store things on top of them. We have used every last inch of space under there, so though we don’t have enough head space to sit-up in bed, super happy we went with the extra space underneath. On top of the sub-floor, I laid a faux-wood stick on tile, and then we put a carpet on top of the available floor space so Rufio can walk around (in a circle LOL) and not slip. I plan on building him a custom seat for in between us, but that will have to wait for springtime.
We were up in the air on painting the van, but we ended up leaving weeks ahead of our planned date and it just didn’t happen, and you know what, I am so happy that it ended up that way! We love to see the colors of nature painted onto the side of the van throughout the day…the sunrise paints the van orange, red, and pink every morning, and sunset gives it this firey glow that has to be seen in person to fully enjoy. The roof is one of my favorite parts on Bernie, she is installed with 4, Yakima 1A Gutter Towers and 66″ Round Cross Bars that we purchased second hand from the Open Road Outfitter in Denver, Colorado. Buying used parts saved us over 50%, do some research in your area to find a similar store. On top of the crossbars, we have Yakima’s Slim Shady Awning which has gotten a lot of use already and we definitely would recommend, look on REI’s site for a sale on Yakima items, we scored ours for $170, cheaper than the cheapest option on Amazon and has that lifetime warranty. Next to the awning, we have our Thule skybox. We took our time looking for skybox because they are an expensive, one-time purchase, so we did a lot of shopping around to price compare. In the end, we bought a discontinued model (Thule Evolution 16 Cubic Feet) from Pep Boys because we had a 20% off coupon, which brought the price down to $250 and that deal cannot be matched. Behind the awning and skybox is a cargo basket carrier that we got on sale from Walmart and are surprisingly happy with. We use the basket to carry our spare tire as well as firewood and extra gasoline for those weeks we go off-grid. You may have noticed that we didn’t include solar panels, and that’s because we opted to go without at first and see how we fared without them. We don’t work, so we don’t need our laptop or phone to always have a charge, and those are the only 2 electronics we own.
There you have it, that’s our Bernie! We will update this section if we add or change anything. Have a specific question? Feel free to reach out!