I’ve dreamed of building an adventure van for the last 15 years. My wife and I like to travel and would love to take all the gear along on trips so we can ride, climb, ski – you name it – and be able to sleep in all-weather without getting soaked. This has generally been a point of playful negotiation since we've been married so it was to my great surprise when she pushed to pull the trigger on getting the project going. Between RAAM and other travel plans, it just made sense to finally make this the year.
We have a Sprinter van for Rolf Prima (which will be Pig Pen for RAAM) and it has been great for getting us to events and carting our show booth to Interbike. We also used it for the Cascade Lakes 217mi running relay so we knew it was a good vehicle for having several people moving around inside at the same time. After looking around, we decided this was also a good fit for us.
I had not been thinking in too much depth about how we wanted it built out but after getting the most basic build-outs quoted, it was clear we would be doing it ourselves (or Rolf Prima was going to need to sell a lot more wheels).
Now I like a good project, but between work, family and training for RAAM, there is precious little time left over to build out the van. For our short and long term needs, we want to be able to carry two road bikes and two MTB bikes underneath the bed. The sliding drawers enable us to tuck them in there tightly and allow room for gear storage in between. For RAAM, this van will be the Rubber Duck and will be our follow van. For that we’ll need two beds for us and our crew so the bike trays will come out and we’ll have a bed above and below.
Below are some quick pics of the process and a list of several things I learned about building out a Sprinter van.
- There is not one single straight line in the entire van. No where.
- Building in place in a tilted driveway makes determining level a total head game
- Prototype = Final. I ain’t making that part again.
- Measure twice, cut once. Nope. Refer to #1. No straight lines means measuring 47 times and cutting 46 times until you sneak up on it.
- Building something complex one hour at a time makes it tricky to remember where you left off.
- Everything takes 10x longer than you thought because of #1 - #5 abov
So it’s the middle of May and the race is June 18. Is it bad if neither my training nor our follow van is ready for prime time? Which one do I focus on? I had better get this show on the road or there will be no sleep between now and mid-June.