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Old 08-29-2014, 09:10 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Houston, TX
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My Turn

Greetings All

For the last year or so, I have been in the background monitoring conversations on this forum (some may call it stalking) and have enjoyed eavesdropping on all the chatter, comments, opinions and advice. Really great stuff. Chumley’s adventures were as good a read as most summer-at-the-beach novels but informative to boot. Posts from llamadave, 100sqft, DonMc, DonSt (love those Dons) and many others too numerous to mention are packed with valuable insights.

Well it’s time for me to come out of the shadows and into the light.

My wife and I have decided to move forward with a Sprinter Sportsmobile conversion of our own. We visited SMB Texas last year and had a long conversation with Paul who very patiently answered all our questions—ones that I’m sure he has heard a zillion times before. And he let us test drive a Sprinter that they had on consignment. We have had no RV ownership experience but we both enjoy long distance driving and being on the road. I will be 65 in September and will be slowly weaning myself from my graphic design business of 37 years. I enjoy what I do but it’s time to do something different and we are planning on the Sportsmobile to provide some new experiences.

My wife and I have been discussing how we would use the Sportsmobile. This is what we came up with:
--not a daily driver
--long weekends to get away from the city
--extended trips across US and Canada that would combine stays in hotels, motels, B&Bs and limited camping (1-3 days probably)
--the sleeping accommodations in the RV would be used to provide a tired driver quality nap time while the other person pilots the RV, for overnight use while on the road and, as mentioned previously, for occasional camping
—my wife wants her shower space

With that in mind, we explored the many floor plans on the SMB website and determined that the RB137S was the most appropriate for our needs--albeit with a few modifications (of course!). We feel that a single 74” long gaucho (I am 6’) that expands into a 44”-50” wide bed is all we will need and that having it up front behind the driver is better than a having a bath cabinet there.

I have taken the basic RB137 plan and using it as a starting point, created a number of different layouts. These plans are in the attached pdf if anyone is interested. Next to each drawing is a list of bullets that highlight a feature we like about that particular design and a few questions/concerns about it, as well. Most of the questions were directed to the folks at the SMB Texas office. If anyone here has the time and the inclination, we would appreciate any comments.*


Here are some of the items we want to include. We are leaning toward an all electric design.
--6 cyl. engine (but considering the 4cyl.)
--induction cooktop (no propane) and electric water heater but would consider a flat plate heater
--galley sink
--microwave
--flat screen TV
--pre wire for solar
--swivel driver's and passenger's front seats (if possible)
--Thetford Curve toilet
--Possible rear storage compartment under floor with spare moving to rear door (not recommended by SMB Texas when we visited last year)
--storage compartment for Honda EU2000i generator and gas can
--3E refrigerator (but will consider 4E if it will fit)
--roof mounted AC (Coleman aftermarket or MB factory AC?) or is a Danhard worth the expense?
--awning
--factory roof rails installed to work with awning
--factory trailer hitch
--upper front roof storage and upper storage on sides but none across back
--cab divider curtains*
--20 gal fresh water tank
--deluxe attic fan
--exterior shower*
--aftermarket Apple CarPlay capable radio with back up camera that operates on demand without vehicle being in reverse (if such a thing exists)
--running boards
--there is more but this will do for now

I know this is not a unique or unusual design but we think it will work best for us. And I know a lot of this has been discussed on the forum already and I have probably read it. But this is my baby now.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

DonS
Attached Files
File Type: pdf IbedonSMB823.pdf (565.6 KB, 60 views)
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:22 AM   #2
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Re: My Turn

Hi Don, Welcome to the forum!

It looks like you have put a lot of thought into the best ways to use the limited space. I do have some comments.

I like your E plan best. A standard double bed is 75x54. I sleep best with a bed that is 6 inches longer than I am tall, so I think you need at least 75 long and 78 would be best.

The bathroom should be 24x34 inside dimensions. An isle width of 24 inches is good for the galley area so you can open drawers and pass each other.

You may find you like to camp for longer periods than 3 days and stay at campgrounds without electricity. If you are all-electric you won't be able to cook much when you stop for the night at a rest area, truck stop, or Walmart. You can't use the generator in those places, and hours will be restricted in campgrounds. So I would reconsider propane for the stove and hot water.

I don't think it is safe to store the generator and fuel for it inside the living space.

I think it is best for dumping to have the gray and black tanks not too far apart. So the gray tank will need to go underneath the back where the spare tire goes. To keep from having to dump too often the black tank should be 10-15 gallons.

If you have not camped before, I recommend you rent a class C for the weekend or longer. You will learn some things about space and appliances.

David
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Old 08-30-2014, 05:01 PM   #3
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Re: My Turn

I have some comments/suggestions too.

You should think carefully about if you really want to cook in the van. If you fry something for breakfast, your van will smell of it for a long time. I have a microwave (indispensable) and a small propane camp stove that has a grill on one side and a place for a pot/pan on the other.

You should consider the diesel water/hot air heater.

I also have the two swivel seats, but I never swivel the driver's seat because it bangs into the fridge when it swivels about 90-degrees. I just leave it facing forward and plop my suitcase in it night. Swiveling the passenger seat gives lots more room in the back.

I have a radio and backup camera that you can display the backup camera while driving. It's not as useful as I had hoped for an alternative to the rear view mirror because the camera has such a wide-angle lens that you can't see anything unless it's only 10' behind you. However, it's great for checking that nothing has fallen off the back. It's a Kenwood DDX318 and I really like it. I don't know if the latest incarnation does Apple carplay; mine is 2 years old.

Hope this helps!

- Steve
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Old 08-30-2014, 08:23 PM   #4
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Re: My Turn

Quote:
Originally Posted by llamadave

I like your E plan best. A standard double bed is 75x54. I sleep best with a bed that is 6 inches longer than I am tall, so I think you need at least 75 long and 78 would be best.

The bathroom should be 24x34 inside dimensions. An isle width of 24 inches is good for the galley area so you can open drawers and pass each other.

You may find you like to camp for longer periods than 3 days and stay at campgrounds without electricity. If you are all-electric you won't be able to cook much when you stop for the night at a rest area, truck stop, or Walmart. You can't use the generator in those places, and hours will be restricted in campgrounds. So I would reconsider propane for the stove and hot water.

I don't think it is safe to store the generator and fuel for it inside the living space.

I think it is best for dumping to have the gray and black tanks not too far apart. So the gray tank will need to go underneath the back where the spare tire goes. To keep from having to dump too often the black tank should be 10-15 gallons.

If you have not camped before, I recommend you rent a class C for the weekend or longer. You will learn some things about space and appliances.

David
David

Thanks for the comments.

I'll look into making the gaucho longer. However, if it does get longer, the space will have to come out of the width of the bathroom, which at this time in design E is 30" w x 33" d. I think the refrigerator cabinet has to stay the width it is now.

In design E, the aisle is 18" but I'm checking to see if the gaucho can be skinnied down from the 32" seat depth and still provide a 50" wide bed when expanded.

Regarding cooking, we plan on packing a small Coleman propane camp stove to provide backup to the induction cooktop. I am still considering a flat plate heater for hot water and I think that doesn't require propane.

I understand your concerns about the gas generator storage but I have been told that SMB can provide a secure vented space for it. If I am wrong or if it is just not a good idea, I will have to rethink this.

The toilet we plan on having onboard is a Thetford Curve and is self contained so a black water tank won't be necessary.

DonS
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Old 08-30-2014, 08:46 PM   #5
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Location: Houston, TX
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Re: My Turn

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveTOaks
You should think carefully about if you really want to cook in the van. If you fry something for breakfast, your van will smell of it for a long time. I have a microwave (indispensable) and a small propane camp stove that has a grill on one side and a place for a pot/pan on the other.

You should consider the diesel water/hot air heater.

I also have the two swivel seats, but I never swivel the driver's seat because it bangs into the fridge when it swivels about 90-degrees. I just leave it facing forward and plop my suitcase in it night. Swiveling the passenger seat gives lots more room in the back.

I have a radio and backup camera that you can display the backup camera while driving. It's not as useful as I had hoped for an alternative to the rear view mirror because the camera has such a wide-angle lens that you can't see anything unless it's only 10' behind you. However, it's great for checking that nothing has fallen off the back. It's a Kenwood DDX318 and I really like it. I don't know if the latest incarnation does Apple carplay; mine is 2 years old.

Hope this helps!

- Steve
Steve

I agree. Cooking odors will linger. We plan on cooking outside with a Coleman camp stove when we can but cooking inside will happen. Fortunately, my wife is a great cook and I enjoy the lingering aromas of a past repast.

A flat plate heater is definitely on the table for consideration.

I have read posts on this forum that indicate that swivel seats are not as useful in practice as they seem on paper. Anybody else want to provide additional input?

The Apple CarPlay radios are brand new and unproven but seem like a good idea. Who knows. Apple has put a lot of good products out there but they have had their share of losers, as well.

And that is a very good point about the always on rearview camera's limited view. At least it will be handy in parking situations especially with a rear mounted spare. SMB Texas expressed displeasure with the spare back there saying that too many times drivers have backed into objects with the spare tire carrier and done damage to the rear door--which can be expensive to repair.

Speaking of rear doors, does anyone have any first hand experience with rear mounted ladders?

DonS
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Old 08-31-2014, 10:30 AM   #6
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Re: My Turn

We just returned from a 3-month trip camping in Alaska. We prepared over half of our dinners in the van, not outside usually because of mosquitoes or rain. My wife usually starts with some sauteed onions. I like the smell and don't notice that it lingers. The smell that bothered me at first but then I got used to it is smoke from a campfire on my clothes. Since we almost never have an electric site, these dinners would have been a much worse experience without propane.

We rotate both front chairs every time we stop. It is easy and takes about 10 or 15 seconds. The driver chair turns 90 degrees and the passenger turns 180 degrees. I have my laptop computer on a custom stand between the seats and I sit in the driver seat when working on the computer in the evenings. I have a counter on my right to put papers or a drink. The passenger seat is there to put my feet on or to sit when changing shoes.

You can see photos of our galley and the front laptop stand in my gallery or on my web pages.

David
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Old 08-31-2014, 08:01 PM   #7
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Re: My Turn

Quote:
Originally Posted by llamadave
We just returned from a 3-month trip camping in Alaska. We prepared over half of our dinners in the van, not outside usually because of mosquitoes or rain. My wife usually starts with some sauteed onions. I like the smell and don't notice that it lingers. The smell that bothered me at first but then I got used to it is smoke from a campfire on my clothes. Since we almost never have an electric site, these dinners would have been a much worse experience without propane.

We rotate both front chairs every time we stop. It is easy and takes about 10 or 15 seconds. The driver chair turns 90 degrees and the passenger turns 180 degrees. I have my laptop computer on a custom stand between the seats and I sit in the driver seat when working on the computer in the evenings. I have a counter on my right to put papers or a drink. The passenger seat is there to put my feet on or to sit when changing shoes.

You can see photos of our galley and the front laptop stand in my gallery or on my web pages.

David

David

Wow. Three months camping in Alaska. Impressive. Don't know if my wife and I are up to that yet.

We may have crossed paths, figuratively speaking. My wife and I were in Alaska in late July. However, our transportation was on the water via a somewhat larger vehicle--a cruise ship. Not my favorite way to travel but it was a family trip with siblings and friends and that group and the rugged Alaskan landscape was well worth the trip even if the ship was not. Someday, my wife and I hope to travel to Alaska in our Sportsmobile and recreate a trip she took in 1969 with her family when they pulled a pop up trailer behind a Mercury Comet on the gravel Alaskan highway. She remembers hearing on the radio the first landing of a man on the moon during that journey. Interesting juxtaposition. She remembers the gravel removed all the paint off the back of the car and the front of the trailer by the end of the trip. I don't want that to happen to my Sportsmobile.

I like the idea of having the front seats swivel at least some. I have seen on your website the cleverly designed table you created to use between the front seats and plan to work up something similar. I have also seen the screen door you have installed on the side. Does it still work? What do you think of those screen rooms under an awning as a solution to enjoying the outdoors while keeping the bugs out?

DonS
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Old 08-31-2014, 09:36 PM   #8
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Re: My Turn

Don,

A screened awning might work if you were not moving the van for several days. Trouble is that it would be full of bugs as you set it up, then you would have to take it down if you needed to drive to the store or a trailhead.

Our screen door has worked great. It is always ready to close quickly behind you.

We were in Skagway July 27, and during the month of June we took the ferry from Prince Rupert to Haines, stopping at each town along the way for a few days until the next ferry came. You can read more on the Alaska SMB thread here and in the blog on my web site.

If you plan to take your SMB to Alaska, you should know that most government campgrounds do not have electric hookups. The private campgrounds with electric usually line up the RVs with very little space between them, are not usually in a nice location, and are expensive.

The roads are mostly paved now, but we did take the Dalton highway and did not lose much paint.

David
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