Many of our customers at GoCode are first-time van owners. As such, the first meeting with an interested buyer can be as much a "needs assessment" as it can be a conversation about “possibilities” and what van life is really like. Social media and the internet have created a false perception that vans are for hero weekends or for couples in their 20s “skipping to the good part” and chasing golden hours framed in a nomad aesthetic. At GoCode, we are big believers in vans as tools for everyday life and time spent earning those "hero weekends" featured in our Instagram feeds.
Our usual approach with prospects is to conduct a “fit assessment” to identify if the partnership makes sense for both parties. We are transparent about our process: bi-directional discovery where the goal of the meeting is to identify whether or not it makes sense to keep meeting. A first meeting is usually a 30-minute call where we learn more about the prospect and how they intend to use their van. A second meeting marries features and capabilities to use cases in the form of a proposal review.
One of our recent first-call meetings was with a couple on the east coast with kids (17 and 14), a thriving family business, and an involved work/life schedule. As a family, they are into rock climbing, skiing, and mountain biking. Their daughter plays competitive soccer with an aggressive tournament travel schedule. A lot of our conversation on that initial call was about “realized value” and whether or not they would feel good about their investment over time.
One of my follow-up items after the call was to provide this family with some detail about how my family uses its van. As a member of the GoCode team, a partner in a few businesses, and a dad of two active kids, I figured that I might serve as a nice reference study. Rather than sending a follow-up email cataloging how we use our van, I decided to author this blog post for the benefit of others that might be wondering if an adventure van makes sense for them. And rather than look back at past adventures, I decided to crack open the calendar and take a look at the coming months and what my family has in store for Janis Van Joplin, our GoCode Overland 144. More on Janis at the end of this post.
I must admit that the stoke levels are running high as I approach this exercise. This exercise is part planning and part accounting. What I hope to convey is that a van, if thought of as a 7 tool, sees plenty of action. Here what Janis Van Joplin (and her family) will be up to in the coming months:
October 22 - Day camp and firewood harvest down in Ninevah. I’m taking the van over to our lead Vansmith's place to harvest some firewood before winter sets in. Pic below is from this spring but the fall colors should be popping. It will be good to swing a maul and run a saw with friends and colleagues. Will try to talk one of the kids into coming along.
Nov 28-29 Pair o' Tailgates!!! Headed to Michael Carroll Stadium on Friday night to tailgate and support my business partner's son as he plays in the IHSA 1A Soccer State Championship. After a quick transition, we'll take the van to Crawfordsville, IN on Saturday morning to host my family for the Wabash vs. Hiram football game.
Nov 3 - Business Meetings in West Lafayette, IN. Meetings for my other business will have me in West Lafayette, IN at the Purdue Research Foundation. In between those meetings, I will be connecting with some tech founders that I am mentoring. They run their seed-stage startup out of home offices in Lafayette. In the spirit of meeting them where they are (literally and physically), we will meet wherever it make sense for them. The van will be in "conference room config" for this trip. As a history buff, I plan to swing by Prophetstown State Park on my way home. The park commemorates a First Nations village founded in 1808 by Shawnee leaders Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. Just might have to break out the Shawnee Prophet to get reacquainted with Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa beforehand. Photos below of vans posted up on "office mode".
Nov 4-5 - “Man’s Weekend” campout in Brown County, IN. One of our van customers invited me to attend a “Man’s Weekend” event down in Brown County on Nov 4/5. Packing a mountain bike, axe, solo stove, cast-iron, dark ales, and dry-aged steaks for a few days of camping in Brown County, Indiana. Brown County is an under-appreciated place. The park itself has 16,000 acres of rugged hills, ridges, and fog-shrouded ravines. The park is upside Hoosier National Forest which contains another 200,000 acres of land and plenty of boondocking/dispersed camping options. Fall colors should be in full force. Check out the Brown County “leaf cam” for live updates on how things are "peaking".
Nov 6 - Mountain biking at Brown County before heading home. For those dirt-rags out there, Brown County State Park is home to IMBA Epic trails and lots of awesome flow.
Nov 9 - Partner “work from van” offsite. "Wherever". I am hosting my business partner for a team offsite amongst the fall colors. We will pick a location as we get closer to the date. We will be powered by Starlink RV: https://www.starlink.com/rv
Nov 12- Monon Bell Game Tailgate in Greencastle, IN with the in-laws. DePauw University and Wabash College have met on the football field since 1890 and have competed for possession of the Monon Bell since 1932. I went to Wabash and my nephew, a Senior in high school, is considering DePauw for his post-secondary schooling. Figured I would get him some exposure to the rivalry between the two schools by tailgating before their 128th clash on the gridiron.
Nov 26 - Old Oaken Bucket tailgate (Purdue @ IU) in Bloomington, IN with the in-laws. Tailgate season continues in Bloomington, IN for the IU vs. Purdue Old Oaken Bucket game. I’ve never attended a game at IU’s Memorial Stadium. My other nephew is a Sophomore at IU and I will be using the van to host a tailgate with my family.
Dec 3-4 - Third Space in the parking lot of my son's volleyball tournament in Indianapolis, IN. Volleyball tournaments are protracted affairs. I plan to use the van to travel to the tournament and as a “chill out” spot throughout the weekend.
Dec 10-11 - Third Space in the parking lot of my son’s volleyball tournament in Detroit, MI. See above.
Dec 17 (Sat) - Family overnight at Dull’s Tree Farm in Thorntown, IN. I’m a big fan of both Christmas tree farms and boon-docking. So why not do both? My family always hits Dull’s Tree Farm at some point during the Christmas season. I was excited to find that Dull’s is part of the Harvest Host network. Harvest Hosts is a membership program that invites self-contained RVers to have unique overnight stays at wineries, farms, breweries, golf courses, and farms. Their membership includes unlimited overnight stays and zero camping fees. Harvest Hosts currently has more than 7,600 hosts on its platform, up from about 1,000 at the pandemic’s onset. I’ve personally had awesome Harvest Hosts experiences with stays at places like Silver Springs Vineyards (in the Smokies), Melvin Brewing (as I made my way from Big Sky and Steamboat) and Bene Terre Farms (as I made my way back from a trip out west). On all occasions, I’ve “met the producer”, patronized their business, and learned about their life’s work.
Dec 26-29 - Boyne Mountain (MI) Family Ski Trip. Harbor Springs, MI. We’ve never skied the midwest as a family and are going to put the Ikon passes to work up in northern Michigan during the Christmas break this year. Given that early season conditions in Michigan can be “iffy”, we’ve minimized our exposure by booking just a single hotel room for the family and will use the van for “flex” capacity. Said differently: my oldest and I will be overnighting in the van.
Jan 7-9 - Third Space in the parking lot of my son's volleyball tournament in Louisville, KY. See above.
Jan 14-15 - Third Space in the parking lot of my son’s volleyball tournament in Chicago, IL. See above.
Jan 27-29 - Third Space in the parking lot of my son’s volleyball tournament in Milwaukee, WI. See above.
February 7-10 - Business meetings in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis. Will spend a week in February visiting tech founders and partners in the great state of Tennessee.
March 2-6 Boondock on friendly land in Buena Vista, CO. The van will be in gnar-pursuit mode during the months of Feb and March. The first stop is Buena Vista, CO. It’s an awesome town along the banks of the Arkansas River and nestled up against the Collegiate Peaks section of the Sawatch Range of the Rockies in Central Colorado. Its also away from the madness of the I-70 corridor. Buena Vista is about an hour from Breckenridge and 30 minutes from the Cooper and Monarch ski areas. It's my hope that we'll be able to ski early and fish late. I’ll boondock on land owned by a GoCode customer for the weekend and then leave the van in BV to be retrieved a few weeks later.
March 24 - Fly to CO, fetch van in BV and drive to Steamboat. I will likely overnight at the KOA outside of town or find a boon docking arrangement.
March 25 - Drive from Steamboat to Jackson Hole. After a half day skiing Steamboat, I will head to J-Hole. I wouldn't rule out a boondock session in the Melvin Brewing parking lot in Alpine, WY on the road from Steamboat to Jackson.
April 1- April 8 - Big Sky Spring Break with the family. We’re sharing a 3 bedroom house with friends. We were able to book a smaller house as my oldest(17) and I will be in sleeping in the van in the driveway. We’re also using the van to shuttle families to the resort each day. I have fond memories of boondocking in Big Sky's Levinsky Lot in March of 2021 and might find a way to sneak over to the unofficial overnight lot for old-time's sake.
April 8-9 - Drive from Bozeman, MT to Minneapolis.
April 10-12 Work from van in partner office parking lots. Minneapolis.
April 12 - Drive from Minneapolis to Indianapolis.
April / May: Work and family pursuits before zooming into summer adventure season.
At GoCode, we see vans as 7-day-a-week tools that are equally capable of chasing down winter storms, business and tournament wins. For more on the adventures and quotidien affairs of our team and customers, check out @gocodeoverland on Instagram.
Janis' bio: Mercedes 4x4 144 Sprinter upfit by GoCode Overland. Seats 4. Sleeps 4. Built for 4 seasons with auxiliary 12V AC and heat. She's got plenty of energy to support off-grid operations. Janis Quickly converts to a "home office" for weekday pursuits.