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Old 06-18-2017, 12:28 PM   #111
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3rd captain's chair

So I put the 3rd chair back in (behind passenger chair) as I get ready for a 3-person trip (wife, daughter, and myself), and 2 short 5 (yes, five!) person trips coming up by the end of the year (wife, daughter, two college sons and myself).

The seat itself is nice. If I didn't mention this somewhere else in the thread, SMB accidentally leather upholstered this for me and it is a gorgeous match with the front seats. (I did not ask for it, and they did not charge me for this very nice enhancement - which in hindsight I would recommend others do on purpose). The seat is quality, comfortable, tilts, and swivels.

The location.. 'works'. Given my kitchen configuration, one cannot both slide it back all the way and tilt it much at the same time, nor will it swivel much if you push the envelope against the counter behind it. It works, and was an expected compromise. If you tilt the seat back up, and/or slide the seat forward, you can swivel more than 90', but it's never going to 'face the rear couch area' due to the kitchen configuration.

That said, the seat rests uncomfortably LOW to the floor. It seems to be designed to go on top of a box or mount of some kind, but as delivered from SMB it mounts directly on the floor. It worked OK, and there was enough leg room for some, but it gives a feeling of being too low to see out the window or easily converse with those in the front seat.

OK now, I know some engineers out there are going to call me irresponsible for this, but I just ask you be constructive in your criticisms: I raised the seat by installing wood under it and using longer bolts. First test was to stick a strip of 2"x12" stock between the seat and the floor, raising it 1.5". BIG improvement. I ordered some longer bolts and will be raising another 1.5" for a total of 3", which I think will be sufficient. My concern is that I have almost certainly compromised the integrity of the mount to the floor, and in a high speed, head-on collision the forces might be different enough to tear the bolts or rip them out of the floor. The seat does not feel any more flimsy, and given that I will be allowing people to ride in the back sitting sideways with no shoulder straps, I am keeping this in perspective.

So, the useful bit of info is for readers considering seats mounted to the floor behind the passenger (or driver for that matter). Either choose a seat that has a higher base height; deal with feeling like a 3rd class citizen back there; or expect to provide some sort of base/spacer on your own. (I wonder if I could have just chosen a different seat model or something.)

Looking forward to reporting back on 4 adults and a 13 year old sleeping in a 144" wheelbase! LOL

Snowy
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Old 06-18-2017, 12:54 PM   #112
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Low Range 4x4

When researching CB radio options I found myself responding to a thread elsewhere on the merits of the low range option with 4x4. I saw Fitz make a comment that he has not had issues with 4wd, and I want to make very clear my experiences:

1) I have never had any issue getting into 4wd. Stop, put it in neutral, hit the button, wait for it to stop flashing, and you're done. There have been a few times when things weren't sync'd up and the flashing would stop because it wouldn't go into 4wd, but put in gear, move an inch, and try again and I have never had to try a 3rd time. This is what I expect in a part-time 4wd system and I have ZERO complaints. I have used it often, and it has made the difference between stuck and not stuck on many, many occasions. Some of which surprising because by default, the drive train REALLY favors one rear wheel.

2) Regarding low-range: Everyone seems to advocate this if you are already going with 4wd. I think it would be silly not to get it given the minor cost and weight. To be clear though, while some enjoy this when pulling a boat up a wet ramp, I use it for the improved granularity of speed control. More often than not, if I am in 4wd, I am in low range. Whether sand, mud, loose dirt, or just navigating obstacles like rocks or trees, it is a matter of control at least as much as power.

Just thought I'd toss this note in here while I am online.

Snowy
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Old 08-03-2017, 12:27 AM   #113
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Let's see some more photos of the finished van. Some exterior shot would be great!
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Old 08-08-2017, 08:20 AM   #114
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Snowy,
excellent thread and extremely informative, thank you so much for all the great insights!

Quick question regarding sleeping arrangements...
I'm 6'-4" tall, and on paper, it appears that I would not be comfortable in the PH bed or in the dinette bed. But you mention that you are good with it, so maybe real world is trampling my calculations.

May I ask, how tall are you?
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Old 08-08-2017, 08:58 AM   #115
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Kirwoodd,

SMB also makes short extensions for the PH bed to extend the length. Suggest you explore that option with them.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:15 PM   #116
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Originally Posted by kirwoodd View Post
Snowy,
excellent thread and extremely informative, thank you so much for all the great insights!

Quick question regarding sleeping arrangements...
I'm 6'-4" tall, and on paper, it appears that I would not be comfortable in the PH bed or in the dinette bed. But you mention that you are good with it, so maybe real world is trampling my calculations.

May I ask, how tall are you?
I am 5'10. At 6'4, you should anticipate sleeping diagonally across the dinette bed. My floorplan actually has asymmetric dinette benches: one long, and one short. On solo trips I sleep with toes pointed towards the front (look at my floor plan, and hands back over my head under my pillow and nothing is touching. My daughter has not let me sleep in the Penthouse yet (it's her loft), but my initial lay-down up there suggested it was similarly plenty long of you can sleep diagonally. My wife is short enough that me sleeping diagonally does not preclude her in there too. Our feet are just cozy at one end. Take a look at my floor plan at the beginning of this thread for a visual. I think I even put stick figures in there. LOL
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:18 PM   #117
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Kirwoodd,

SMB also makes short extensions for the PH bed to extend the length. Suggest you explore that option with them.
Yes, there is an option to have an extension that fills a few more inches to the rear by the rear doors. I had ordered this, but it wasn't on the vehicle when we went to pick it up. SMB Austin offered to install it, but upon reflection of the otherwise finished product, I opted to skip this. For someone 6'4 though, I can see it might be a big deal. Just can't offer real-world data on durability or viability for sleeping. It kind of looked like it was outside the small rail, so it might only be good for the 'foot' end of sleeping.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:23 PM   #118
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Originally Posted by ccw3432 View Post
Let's see some more photos of the finished van. Some exterior shot would be great!
Let me know if there is something in particular you'd like to see. Not really into showing it off just to show it off, but I totally remember that I too craved pics when I was researching. I could show you the latest body damage due to the height of the vehicle on trails generally only cleared for jeeps and SUV's. LOL
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:43 PM   #119
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Nearing 40K miles and a few more use cases so thought I'd drop some quick updates. Not all are related to the van itself, but here goes:
1. Road trip with family of 5 and two college sized boys went great for the road trip (we did not camp in the van on this trip). Stuffed luggage in the bathroom, heavy use of the refrigerator and even microwave while under way. Plenty of leg room and variations on seating. People in the rear worked it out, including room for a full sized acoustic guitar and a ukulele. Some casual nodding off leaning against each other by the end of the trip, but contrary to earlier concerns about motion sickness, we managed by putting those with issues in the front seats and the rest in the back who even spent time on phones and gaming on computers for awhile.


2. Sound insulation. Slept at my first truck stop on last solo trip. With top down and engine running and A/C running, I think only hear the first couple of 18wheelers come and go before I stopped trying to listen for them and slept soundly. This has been an interesting thing for me. Sleeping in the van, even with top up and windows open, I do not get to enjoy the sounds of critters I am accustomed to when tent camping. I haven't slept in the penthouse yet though, and up there with windows open all around it may be different. The flip side is that you can sleep on an air strip if you want to.

3. Sleeping at truck stop in panhandle TX on way back from CO two weeks go I got a chance to run the engine and A/C all night. Worked fine. Was PLENTY cool, btw. I suspect if I had tried to be more careful on the temperature where it would cycle on and off, this cycling on/off would wake me (as the refrigerator used to), but no issues with fuel consumption, engine temp, exhaust, etc.

Still happy with my choice on the bathroom and cassette toilet. Never thought of this ahead of time, but it doubles as a changing room for anyone shy or when in very public place (like Sam's parking lot!).

Speaking of which, was ready to be done driving when landed at Walmart in Santa Fe only to see that they don't allow overnights there. Security guard was very nice as I was trying to plot my next move (a casino?). Sams was just down the road though and worked fine and there were a few other RV's there.

Happy trails!
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Old 07-15-2018, 06:11 PM   #120
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Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
We're in CO - and the foliage cover is more a function of the trail rather than geographic location. A less used trail high in the alpine can have scrub brush growing into the trail, and a lower alpine forest can have limbs growing into the trail.

We have a tail van and will have a rack and AC on the roof. We're getting a small electric chainsaw for cutting storm fall and low-hanging limbs that may impede our progress. These chainsaws are less than a hundred bucks and only weight 6 lbs. My wife will just sit on the roof cutting our way through trails if we need to.
We have the 2nd alternator option just went with electric chain saw too. The main reason was not the weight, but the maintenance. I expect this to be a very infrequent need, and the thought of having to empty the fuel tank each time (knowing it would be no good by next use) was not appealing. Checked it with the external AC plug and engine running and it works fine. Already have the extension cord for shore-power when staying in friends driveways anyway. Caveat: Have not actually had to use it in the trail yet.
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