Bargain on insulation and a night in the van.

When an opportunity presents itself, you have to jump at it. I’m speaking specifically about finding foam-board insulation on Craigslist, but this might also apply elsewhere in life. Like with love and job opportunities. But right now I’m focused on insulation.

In my perpetual scanning of available building materials, I found a guy selling used sheets of foam board insulation. The sheets are 4’x8′ and 1 1/2″ thick. He has truck loads that were taken out of an enormous roof somewhere, and he wants to get $8 per sheet. A comparable new sheet goes for about $27 retail. I was dialing his number almost as soon as I read the title of the ad.

There’s usually a catch, but in this case the only downside was that he was in Shamokin, PA. That’s about two-and-a-half hours from headquarters. Sounds like an adventure.

The guy selling the insulation works a third shift job, and wanted to meet early in the morning for the transaction. I don’t like to wake up before 6am if I can help it – and certainly not to get behind the wheel and drive for five straight hours. I Google-mapped a Wal-Mart a couple miles from the guy’s house and prepared to drive up there at night. I’d sleep in the van, wake up early, and use the Wal-Mart for coffee and morning bathrooms. I love sleeping in the van, so the plan was seamless. It would break a long drive into two manageable pieces.

Kristin got home from work around 9pm. I thought I’d give her a kiss and say goodbye until tomorrow, but she asked if she could go along. Absolutely, I thought. Certainly I could use some company on the drive. I re-doubled my efforts to prepare the van’s interior for people with actual standards. It was nice to see the interior looking clean. It was nice to use the full curtain that my mom sewed for me years ago before I headed down to Key West for the second winter in a row.

Kristin and the small dog joined me as I finally pulled out of the driveway at about 10:30pm. We had a comfortable sleep in the van, and rose early for a modified morning routine. I love waking up in the van. I love the feeling of opening the side doors and stepping out into new surroundings with a blast of fresh air. I enjoy keeping the secret that I slept soundly in a beat up van. I enjoy a modified morning routine of using corporate amenities like I own them.

“How many sheets do you want?”

“Thirty-six,” I told him. “More if they’ll fit.”

He told me that the last guy with a van only got fourteen. One of my eyes squinted suspiciously at this, and I assured him I’d damn well do better than that. The two of us slid in twenty-six sheets flat with no hiccups. I’d taken measurements, and this is exactly what I’d expected. I knew going in that the next ten would take some smooth maneuvers. I hopped up on the trailer with my razor knife and scored the next sheet down the center. I snapped it in half and slipped both pieces in the side doors and on top of the pile. It was a tight fit going in, but I had a decent-sized cavity to fill. The next six sheets went in the same way, but the seventh wouldn’t have it. I hopped back up to the trailer and scored the next sheet long-ways and snapped it into two long strips. There was enough space beside the first pile to slip these in. The remainder of the sheets went in the same way.

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“I would have bet against you,” he said. “You’re determined. I wouldn’t have believed it.”

I thought of a few boastful phrases, but ultimately just shook his hand and thanked him for helping me load up. I was feeling great. I handed him $288 and calculated in my head that I’d just saved over $700.

Kristin, myself and the small dog enjoyed a scenic ride home with a stop along the way for iced-creams. I was proud and confident that not a single additional sheet of insulation could be tucked anywhere in the van.

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