This Van Is Definitely NOT Rebuilding Itself (and the dog is only getting bigger)…

One thing that always helps me focus...a pound of bacon. The only problem: keeping it away from Desiree'.

Now that I have your attention… 🙂

Paps has the keyboard for a post.  Here’s an update on the build/inside of the van.  We’ve ultimately had three rather different interiors.  We’ve spent probably close to 60 nights in the van in 10 months, so we’ve spent a lot of time already tweaking things, trying new configurations and pulled everything out but the bed frame on multiple occasions.  The nice thing about this whole project is that it all builds onto a previous piece.  In other words, the structure isn’t mounted to the van anywhere.  Essentially the entire structure is somehow reliant on the main 2×4 on the drivers side; which is held off the ground by two 2x3s, and then  pulled back and down to the rear cargo tie-down point with a steel cable.  The bed frame/platform sandwiches between the two walls and is help up by two other 2x3s on the passenger side.  A combination of the overall weight, the steel cable anchor, and the wedging between the walls and insulation…the whole thing stays pretty secured.   We could have the the entire structure out of the van in about an hour.

Another evening spent reinventing the wheel.

Another evening spent reinventing the wheel.

One thing that always helps me focus at 9 PM…a pound of bacon. The only problem: keeping it away from Desiree’.

Desiree' enjoying some organic soup from Whole Foods in Boulder, CO. The current version of the van gives us a lot of living/movement space. We pop open some REI chairs and it's like a little livingroom.

Desiree’ enjoying some organic soup from Whole Foods in Boulder, CO. The current version of the van gives us a lot of living/movement space. We pop open some REI chairs and it’s like a little livingroom.

Trango likes to be the center of attention. So she gets on the table.

Trango likes to be the center of attention. So she gets on the table.

Let’s get back to rebuilding the van.

Plans plans, plans for the van...

Every home project needs a good soundtrack; and we’re playing a lot of air guitar!

First Build –  We built most of this in the garage before we even had the van.  A few minor tweaks and it actually fit.  We had nice matching HomeDepot cabinets with a 1-1/2″ thick butcher block counter, dreams of a gator-skin couch built onto the water tank and the entire rear floor of the van sliding out on 60″ sliders to carry a tandem bike, skis and a whole lot of fun.  Those cabinets got demolished when Mitch (Paps’ Pap) came to visit…we actually roasted our hotdogs on the beach using the wood from the cabinets.  Why?  Because Desiree’ wanted a puppy…  On to build #2.

This was our first change after getting TrangoPup. We ripped the cabinets out, tied the shelf thing to the side support and lived more out of totes o the floor.This was our first change after getting TrangoPup.  We ripped the cabinets out, tied the shelf thing to the side support to hold some clothes and lived more out of totes on the floor.  Not enough time between trips to build anything new so we “dealt” for a couple trips.  The vertical shelf was built to be mounted on each side of the bed, up at the ceiling, for overhead storage.  We eventually mounted this to the actual bed frame beside the mattress (perfect fit!) and we store guide books, towels, and other items in there.  This same box is what we eventually mounted the potable water spigot into.  Quite the multipurpose box!

Second version – We needed a place to house the dog and more (better) storage. We also had to keep in mind that our 10 lb fluff ball would be an 85 lb shed ball by next year.  We got rid of the cabinets and I built these ghetto shelves above the water tank.  I wasn’t smart enough to flip them over to use their down turned lip as a stop…I wasted time and 1×2″ lumber to make the wooden stops you see in the pictures.  At some point I figured I would try them upside down and they work like a charm.  We put the dog crate under the bed on the slide-out-floor and rearranged things every time the music stopped…trying to find the best place for each piece of the puzzle.  I’ll add captions to the pictures to explain each notable point.

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Here’s another view of the guts to our final shelf version. I regularly check the cull (damaged) lumber bin at Home Depot…that’s where I got the key piece of wood for the van build. The super long 2×4 on the driver’s side runs almost the full length of the van and holds everything together. I splinted that 2×4 to to a couple other pieces to support these wire shelves. I cut them to length so this shelving unit fits the same spot as our old cabinets. The 2×4, and rest of the bed, are supported by a couple braces. The window frame shaped support on the floor holds a lot of the weight and eventually acts as a good divider for our clothes hamper and gear storage.

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The inside of the battery box. Keeps them in place and offers a little bit of insulation to the bottom of the batteries.

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View from the back of the van. The water tank box is now over in the far right-bottom corner. The box is anchored to the rear bed frame support. So, 400 lb of water adds to the anchoring of the bed system…in addition to the driver’s side 2×4 being anchored back and down to the back of the van with a steel cable and turn-buckle. The early version of the frame kept the bed about 6″ forward of the doors (true back of the cargo area). We cut notches out of the back corners of the bed frame and pulled it back even farther. Now, there’s less room to drop things (pillows) off of the back of the mattress and cold air won’t move as well when we’re cold camping.

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With the water tank up front, we used the lid as a make shift counter and rando-storage area. The tank was originally going to go under the front of the bed and have a gator-skin covered cushion to serve as a couch type seat.

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The wood piece in the middle of the shelves is notched out to hold/support each shelf and ultimately transfer the weight onto the 2×4 support across the back of the bottom shelf.

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This was our first attempt to relocate the dog crate. In this version, the crate took up half of the slide-out floor and we piled gear and shoes on both sides of the crate.

Third – And pretty close to final.  We removed the slide out floor all together, pseudo secured the dog crate to the rear driver’s side of the van and secured the water tank to the rear passenger side.  One of the best outcomes of Mod-3 is that we got the water running (the day before we left for 2 weeks in Colorado!).  We now have a water spigot (like you’d install on your kitchen sink with a water filter or heater add-on) and an extendable hose connected to a spray nozzle (like you pull up out of your kitchen sink to spray the food of your dishes) that will reach out of the van for gear/dog washing and showers.  We installed the spigot inside the storage box alongside our mattress so that it’s protected from dirt, damage, and dog but we can still access it without opening the lid or too much effort.  We also installed 5 LED lights that run off of the house battery system.  Unfortunately, we bought a POS storage chest from HomeDepot that can barely support the weight of our snacks and cookware…but it works.  Pictures below:

The mattress helps keep the back wall pressed into the PVC hanger which presses into the shelves. Nicely sandwiched together.

The mattress helps keep the back wall pressed into the PVC hanger which presses into the shelves. Nicely sandwiched together.

Front side of our bedside storage system. This is one of the LED lights that we installed. This one floods the open area inside the sliding door. This is also a decent picture of the front face where we later cut the access hole to the water spigot.

Front side of our bedside storage system. This is one of the LED lights that we installed. This one floods the open area inside the sliding door. This is also a decent picture of the front face where we later cut the access hole to the water spigot.  Also, the slide-out-floor has been removed and the plumbing is yet to be installed.

Since the whole shelf system is anchored to that one 2x4 along the driver's side of the van, the shelves would rock pretty violently when going around turns. Particularly left turns... So, a little chain and a turnbuckle and now it's pretty secure. I also rebuilt the battery box so that it's not so janky...it's still a little ghetto, but it works.

Since the whole shelf system is anchored to that one 2×4 along the driver’s side of the van, the shelves would rock pretty violently when going around turns. Particularly left turns… So, a little chain and a turnbuckle and now it’s pretty secure. I also rebuilt the battery box so that it’s not so janky…it’s still a little ghetto, but it works.

LED light on the back side of our coat closet...lights up the sleeping area nicely.

LED light on the back side of our coat closet…lights up the sleeping area nicely.

You can see the one 2x4 that runs from the back of the van up to the middle of the gray wire shelves.

You can see the one 2×4 that runs from the back of the van up to the middle of the gray wire shelves.  The wires for our electronics charging run through the flywood wall on the picture’s right.  All of our headlamps, batteries, cameras, etc., sit on the plastic drawers to get charged.  Our clothes hamper, CO detector and fire extinguisher live behind the short plywood divider on the left of the photo.

Either open the lid to run the lever, or reach in under your bottle, and you're good to go. This area is also perfect for keeping a roll of paper towels and maybe even some chocolate rice cakes... :)

Either open the lid to run the lever, or reach in under your bottle, and you’re good to go. This area is also perfect for keeping a roll of paper towels and maybe even some chocolate rice cakes… 🙂

Storage bin lids double as a nice bedside table and movie watching platform.

Here's the opening on the front of the storage box.

Here’s the opening on the front of the storage box for running the spigot.  You can see the lid on the top, each compartment has it’s own lid.  Below the light you can see the water pump and some of the plumbing.  The water comes out of the tank and into the pump through the right vertical line, left of the blue wrap.  The pump sends it left across the picture and up to a T-fitting for the spigot and shower line.  The shower line is on the end of the far left, angled, white tubing and it hangs from the orange twist tie.

imageThe main thing that we have to do yet is install the ceiling. We were close to finishing it before we left for CO but I had the wrong size screws and didn’t have the time to get it back in place to secure before we left.

We’ve also been trying to socialize Trango to sleeping in a tent so that she’ll be used to sleeping with us.  Our plan is to have her sleep with us on the bed this winter while ice climbing and skiing.  She’s great…for most of the night.

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Trango trying to wiggle between our sleeping bags. She slept so peacefully at Desiree’s feet until we started to move a bit more when the sun was up. Then, it began…

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Catch us next time…we might need to borrow some tools.

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