All the pros will tell you to take time to get to know your van and figure out your likes and dislikes. Sound advice.
We threw together a bed frame that attached to the van walls. It sounded pretty simple in my head. Not going to lie, it took about four hours to get it up and secure enough to toss a memory foam mattress on it. A few days later we made our first overnighter.
We drove up to Boone, NC and eventually to a campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We heard a substantial amount of creaking and things popping; we would just look at each other wide-eyed and speculate on what was going on behind us. (I once heard someone describe a converted van to a moving earthquake.) It was the two of us and our dog Annie, a Chihuahua mix. Annie is the type of dog that sleeps from 9am to 8pm interrupting her slumber only to eat and do her business. Not today. Day one of traveling was constant panting and moving around the cab. She couldn’t see from her box on the floorboard so she wanted in the passenger’s lap to look out the windows or walk on the dashboard.
We found a nice parking spot on the Appalachian State University campus. Grabbed some lunch from a taco food truck and relaxed. Then it was time to drive towards the Blue Ridge Parkway but first we needed to pick up some dinner for later that night. We decided a charcuterie would be simple enough so my wife popped into a Publix and asked them to bear with her as she picked out two slices each of several cheeses and meats! After some sightseeing we pulled into our camping spot and settled down. For about 10 minutes.
The forecast had told us to expect rain all day but it held off until we got to our campsite and then the heavens released. You know how you can count after a lightning strike and estimate how far away once you hear the thunder? We rarely made it past 1 or 2. And while the sound of rain on a tin roof is very soothing, a downpour on a van roof is deafening. Oh, did I mention our dog who didn’t sleep all day is terrified of thunder? Annie was practically under our chins the entire evening.
What did we learn on that maiden voyage? Well, we actually kept track of it in a spiral notebook. There were about 23 items we wrote down including the need for insulation in the ceiling, a better space for the dog, and some way to deal with the dampness you feel in the van.
But our dog slept well the next day. In fact, she seemed a little annoyed with the numerous stops we made at the overlooks on the way home.
Time to get serious about building this thing.