• Rachel

Mr. B

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

I’d been dreaming of having my own adventure mobile ever since I moved to Portland in 2014. The vision had gone through all types of iterations, 170” and 110” wheel base Sprinter vans, Ford Econolines and Astros. Tyler experienced a Toyota Previa on his 2017 TransAlaska Running Road Trip, with a motley crew of pals and he said it was the perfect little beast (not his words, but my interpretation). This was the nidus which began my search for a healthy Previa. I found one out in Sandy, OR with just under 250k miles, “runs like velvet,” the Craigslist ad proudly proclaimed. After a few phone conversations with the seller, we planned a trip out there to check it out. Tyler picked me up from the Edgefield McMenamin’s where I was at our annual MD/PhD retreat (my 4th!) and we headed out to Sandy to check out the red van from Craigslist.

Figure 1: Mr. B and I at the beach.

We quickly learned from the seller, Heather that the van had been her father’s, and he passed away the year prior. He was the original owner and took meticulous notes of the maintenance done on the van, easily rivaling our fathers in terms of car upkeep, which is hard to imagine! We took a long test ride in the van, and we learned that Heather had attended the same school where Tyler teaches! I fell in love with the van and knew I'd be real sad to part with him, so I decided to buy him! It was such an incredible feeling driving back to Portland in my very first vehicle, feeling free! So excited, in fact that Tyler and I decided to drive out to the Oregon coast that night and have our very first adventure! We took out the back seats, threw in a foam pad and some sleeping materials and were on our way to Cannon Beach. We found a gravel parking lot right on the beach and snuggled up for our first night in Mr. B’s tummy! I named him Mr. B after the late Theodore Henry Bokemeier, the original owner.

Figure 2: Mr. B pokin' on down the road. First adventure in Ecola State Park.

The next day we headed to Ecola State Park, where Mr. B enjoyed poking on down the fern-lined road. He isn’t much of a zippy guy, but I think that’s just what I need, to slow down and appreciate what’s around me. We’re grateful for him getting us to Ecola and waiting patiently while Ty and I got in a great forest bath, running from Ecola to Tillamook Head.


For Christmas last year, my brother gave me a coupon for helping me build out my van and, boy, did he follow through! Ryan and his girlfriend Kim flew out to Portland for a whirlwind weekend of Pimp My Ride, Mr. B edition. His egg-shaped body habitus made for some technical obstacles, but Ryan's engineering brain, Kim's architectural brain and my enthusiasm were up for the challenge! We'd planned out nearly everything prior to their arrival, complete with comprehensive blueprints and even a cardboard replica of the proposed buildout (Fig 3a-d) so we were ready to hit the ground running when they arrived. The plan was to build a “mud room” behind the passenger seat, where we would hang our muddy trail shoes, a cabinet system with custom wooden drawers and a work surface that could be used by someone in the back seat for doing work on the road.

We used our aunt’s place in Hood River as a home base, and my future father in law,

Poppa Green, graciously lent us his arsenal of power tools. We did the entire build out in a day and a half, giving us time to enjoy the gorge and take the long way home through Government Camp

Sitting in Mr. B feels like the inside a snowglobe, amazing views but drafty windows. After a chilly night in the Enchantments I decided we needed insulated curtains. I drew inspiration from a local van couple and adopted their technique of sewing a fabric sleeve that would hold a piece of Reflectix (insulating material). There would be black fabric on the outside and patterned fabric facing inward. I wasn't much of a seamstress before, but I learned a lot from our family friend Sheri. She got me started and by the end I was flying solo!

Figure 3: (a-c) anatomical blueprints, (d) cardboard simulation, (e) Reflectix cut into the shape of a window, (f) first completed window covering, (g) grouchy sewing buddy Lily, (h) I'm really doin' it!, (i) all packed up and ready for an adventure with Poppa Bear, (j) sleep mode

Tyler and I had our first adventure with the new plush curtains just after Christmas when we drove up to Bellingham to explore the Chuckanut Mountains with one of my favorite trail runners, Yvonne who I’d met at the Sean O’Brien 100k last February! (She’s also a pediatrician!) Our first night of sleep in Mr. B with the curtains was amazing! They provided insulation from the cool temps and the blackout curtains facilitated 10 hours of sleep! This was great for Tyler, especially as he was preparing for the Bandera 100k in less than a week.


Mr. B wears a lot of hats. He takes me to early morning forest runs with friends, pottery class, waits patiently outside lab late at night or on the weekends. He is also our beloved May Day basket delivery van!


Mr. B provides us with a warm and safe place to rejuvenate after difficult efforts on the trail. I'm exceedingly grateful for his existence and hope his story can empower others to experience the freedom of the road on a budget.


Figure 4: Goodnight Mr. B (Larrabee State Park)

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