Keep What Works, Fix What Doesn’t

My previous van wasn’t perfect. It was finished in a rush. It was originally built for two people but ended up being just me. There were some parts of it that worked wonderfully and others that had room for improvement. Smokey II has been my chance to make those improvements while keeping the ideas that worked before.

A prime example of this is the swivel passenger seat. This was my favorite place to sit in Smokey I, and will probably become so in Smokey II. I used the Ford Transit Scopema Seat Swivel from The Swivel Shop. At $399 it isn’t cheap, but even before opening the box, I could tell it’s a strong, heavy-duty part just from the weight. This sucker’s heavy! But that’s what you want from a part that’s holding your seat in place during a crash.

It was super easy to install and swivels far more smoothly than the one in my last van. The locking mechanism is more beefy, too. So I have my recliner back, and I don’t have to worry about a hypothetical passenger’s safety, either. (While I’m not planning to pick up a second traveler, it’s entirely possible that a friend and I might drive somewhere together.)

The same goes for my Starlink setup. The Transit’s roof is too tall for me to stand on the back bumper and toss it up there. My portable ladder isn’t tall enough to clear the roof, but it is tall enough to let me reach the antenna base. I’ve thought about bolting/clamping a ladder to the back door, but haven’t yet. Now that I know this idea will work at least for now, I decided to duplicate my Starlink antenna roof mount on Smokey II.

So I cleaned up the magnets, wrapped them in tape to prevent their rust from transferring to the new roof, installed new zip-ties, and stuck the base to the roof, just like in the last van. The difference this time is that the roof is actually metal, so the magnets stick without me having to add metal to a fiberglass roof. I put it on the driver’s side this time instead of the passenger side so I could climb up the ladder leaning against the closed driver’s side door while having the passenger door open to run the wiring through. I still need to find a better solution for this, but this will work for now.

My fire extinguisher is still fully charged, so I moved it from the old van to the new one. Fire safety is important, particularly to me because I survived one, but it’s a good idea in general.

Various decorations have been making their way to the new van as well. I can’t leave these behind. They’re personal, and part of what turns this van into Smokey II instead of “Vanna, the Wonder White Van” or something ridiculous like that.

I enjoyed hanging my iPad over the foot of the bed and watching TV and videos on it, but that isn’t an option anymore with the bed running lengthwise. (It’s well worth it for the legroom!) There wasn’t a great way to regain that functionality, and I tried several different ways to do it. So I followed through on something I was already thinking about doing for the last van: getting a smart TV instead. This Vizio TV was $100 from Walmart. I got a mount from Amazon intended to hang a TV from the ceiling, but instead, I attached it to the underside of my shelf. The bracket lets you tilt and lock the TV up out of the way, but there isn’t enough room in the van for me to do that, so I simply mounted it as close to the wall as I could. It’s not that close, with the curve of the outer walls, but that’s okay. There’s still enough room over my desk area for me to put things or set up a laptop. In fact, all I need is an HDMI cable to turn the TV into a large second monitor for my laptop. I wonder if I could be greedy and add my iPad to get three screens?

Meanwhile, here’s a fraction of the stuff that’s come out of the old van. I could overfill my family’s trash can with my stuff alone, but because I’m not rude I’m setting it aside to send out to the curb as they have room amongst their own trash.

The final 10% of the move-out is the hardest, I think. At this point, I’m dealing with things I haven’t seen in months or even years. Yes, much of that stuff is ending up in these trash bags. If I haven’t used it in that long, I don’t really need it. But then I find things like that microSD card reader I lost a year ago. Or an unopened two-pack of Bic lighters that Trisha left behind. I haven’t seen the old van this empty since she and I were building it together.

But mostly, it’s the realization that this volume of my journey, and my life, is over. It’s not ending. There’d be no point in building the Ultimate Vanlife Machine if I was quitting. Although Smokey II is an improvement in almost every way, I spent two years in Smokey I, and seeing it just about empty is a little emotional for me. I’ll be fine. The adventure will continue, and it’ll be great. It’s just dealing with that last 10% of stuff that’s a bit hard right now. I’m glad I’ve had these side projects to break up my time a bit and get my mind off it.

Besides, if Smokey I is almost empty, that means Smokey II is almost full. The swivel seat, which I just installed this morning, is the last major project I’m tackling right now. I’m almost ready to move Smokey I to its Florida retirement home, and to resume my adventures in Smokey II.

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