Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jericho Walton's 'did-it-herself' van conversion, trip of the West

Jericho Walton is a fiercely independent Texas gal, living in Houston.

Profession: Concierge services. Currently creating a line of all natural/organic hand-made skin products.

Type of RV: 1997 Ford Club Wagon conversion, called "Shadow."

Cost: Originally bought at auction for $1,850 to use as a work van. Put in another $900 for new belts, hoses, battery, oil change and radiator flush. Then added four new heavy-duty tires for around $1,000. Total $3,750.

It was "a retired Border Patrol vehicle that had been used to tour the back country along the Rio Grande for illegal aliens," said Jericho. "Shadow was stripped to just a hull except for the two front passenger seats; but with a 10-cylinder engine that lit the tires up when the gas pedal was even breathed upon. It was love at first sight."

Planning: After a series of "rough patches" a couple of years ago, Jericho began to visualize her old work van as "a pretty good apartment on wheels" and started planning a trip of the Western United States.

"I thought about what I would need for a trip of indeterminate duration and started compartmentalizing every phase of my day," she said. "I cannot stress enough the importance of organization. Keep like things together and know where everything is, even in the dark."

Almost everything Jericho used inside her van on her two-month RV trip she got from her home -- including heavy plastic stacking shelves, plastic drawers, small heater, tensor reading lamp, single electric burner, power strip, bedding, kitchen gear, portable oven and electric hot water lidded pot (that Jericho found "invaluable.")

For one campsite meal Jericho "had a jar of cheese sauce simmering in this lidded pot, with asparagus steaming in the surrounding water," she recalled. "When these were done, the water then went into a bag of dry mashed potatoes and, combined with a chicken I bought pre-cooked, I dined royally with a nice Riesling."

Don't leave home without: Inverters that plug into the cigarette lighter socket and make it an outlet. "Keeps your phone, CD player, or computer charged. Buy the best you can."

Safety: In her van within grabbing distance, Jericho carried a .22 handgun, a power baton for striking, and a 13" Bowie knife. When not in her RV, she said, "I always had my 8" knife on my belt in a holster."

"As a woman traveling alone, you never want to look like a victim," stressed Jericho. "Walk with conviction; always look like you know what you are doing. Don't be afraid to warn a man off, especially if he starts to hang around and show interest.

"Know where your weapons and flashlights are at night. Keep them close. If you become alarmed, start the engine, honk the horn, or sit in the dark, gun in hand and sing out that your are prepared to use it," she said. "There's nothing like the cocking of a hammer to let people know you mean business."

The longer she traveled, she said, the braver she got. "I was asked by many of my girlfriends if I had ever been scared," said Jericho. "Surprisingly enough, my answer was 'No.' I rarely gave it a second thought."

Photos: Jericho Walton camping at Brantley Lake Campground near Carlsbad, New Mexico. (Julianne G. Crane)
Read more articles by Julianne G. Crane at


  1. I found this very interesting, as it is pretty much exactly what my wife and I would like to do. How can we get in touch with Ms. Walton or learn more about her van's layout, how she handles water issues, etc.?

  2. You go Gal! I'm proud of you.We're talkin pioneer Woman here.Good advice from a savvy, indepedent woman. Love it. p.s. Plannin to camp and explore in a Chevy s-10 with shell.Small boats and small trucks mean more funds for Adventures!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Good job, Jerico! Now I understand why you had no problem taking to the western desert of New Mexico.