survey says? where do you pee? what's inside? do you use drugs? that's not a house!
The Times Georgian

Man takes home on the road

Bread-truck apartment lets him roam country.

By Alan Schnepf
Union Tribune
April 26th, 2008
JAMUL First things first: Yes, Angel Hess' truck does have a bathroom.
     As a person who makes his home in a 55-year-old purple bread truck, this is one of the questions Hess - who just completed a visit to Jamul - faces on a regular basis.
     Since 2006, Hess, 29, has lived in a 100-square-foot Ford truck he paid $2,500 for on eBay. Now he roams the country.
     Hess had been living in New York City since 2004, floating from rented room to rented room, having typical roommate conflicts and occasionally losing his home to make space for another renter's relative. He didn't enjoy it. But his only income was a $600-per-month Social Security check he receives for an anxiety disorder. Between that and the income of his then-girlfriend, poet and sculptor Theresa Magario, there was no way they could rent their own place in Manhattan.
     He saved some money and then saw the purple truck.
     "Originally, I think it was more about housing," Hess said of buying the truck. "But after I got it and saw how people reacted, it became more artistic."
Angel Hess lives in this 1953 bread truck that has been converted into an apartment. He just finished a visit to Jamul.      For a while, he and his girlfriend lived in the van in and around New York.
     After a newspaper reporter from the New York Daily News found them living in the bread truck in Brooklyn in early 2007, media attention snowballed. Gawker, a popular New York gossip Web site, sarcastically dubbed him "hipster of the year." CNN Headline News did a segment about him, as has the Los Angeles Times.
     The attention brought people to his Web site - Some donated cash and goods that helped him improve the bread-truck apartment. The solar panels, lights, the dry toilet and other items were donated by companies that now have their logos and Web sites listed at
     Across the top of his homepage, Hess lists frequently asked questions such as "Where do I pee?" and "Do you use drugs?" (The answer is no, he said.) Hess said both are common queries.
     In February, after he and his girlfriend split up, Hess took the bread truck on the road, stopping in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. He stayed mostly at farms he would contact online, offering to work in return for a place to park and perhaps a little cash.
     His latest stop was the Casi Cielo Vineyard in Jamul, where he landed April 18. Gregory Michael Maness, owner and manager of the vineyard, said he admires Hess' spirit.
     "You don't find too many people like him anymore. Everybody's afraid of people," Maness said. "He reminds of a time a while back when you didn't worry about what your neighbors thought."
     Hess also sees his lifestyle as having elements of a bygone era.
     It's sort of like how things were 100 years ago. "People would ride their horse until they found a house and meet the people there. Maybe they would stay and do some work and then go on," he said. "I guess I do it differently because I'm online."
     Over the years, Hess has made improvements to the truck, putting in a hardwood floor, solar panels, lights, a wood-burning stove and the "bathroom," which has a dry-toilet that is sometimes used as a basin for bathing. He's thinking about getting a microwave or hot plate.
     The decision to live in a bread truck initially left Hess' family scratching their heads, but they have now come to terms with it.
Angel Hess lives in this 1953 bread truck that has been converted into an apartment. He just finished a visit to Jamul.      "He's very eccentric in lots of ways," Arizona resident Larry Hess said of his son. "He likes to make his own soap. He'd walk 10 miles to buy dried fruit instead of getting a candy bar at Walgreens, he told me."
     Hess often gets help where he parks. At Casi Cielo, for example, a maintenance man helped with the truck's cooling system, which had been overheating on steep hills.
     Hess worries about the truck's condition and mechanical problems. The odometer shows 12,000 miles, but he's unsure if that means 12,000 miles or 112,000 miles. Either way, he said it's not accurate because the size of the tires does not work in conjunction with the odometer.
     The mobile apartment is still a work in progress and the mechanical concerns take priority over aesthetics for Hess. The vehicle is mostly purple, with some silver, and has a mural of a wilderness scene on the rear. The mural of the grizzly bear, bald eagles and mountain stream was there when Hess bought the truck. The graffiti that covers a lot of the truck was something he picked up while living in New York.
     "All the spray paint marks were done by little kids in New York City - without my permission," he said.
     He'd like a better paint job, but it will have to wait. Expensive gas doesn't help, either, especially in California, he said.
     Hess expected to leave Jamul yesterday. Next destination for the purple van: a farm in Lake Elsinore.