Friday, May 31, 2013

I bought a Lynnebago!

There’s something about the 3rd week of May that just seems to make me buy motor vehicles!  Four years ago, I bought the View, and 2 years ago this same week, I bought the Tracker.  So, true to form, earlier this month I found myself searching the internet casually looking at used Sprinter vans.  Most of them were not very tempting (heavily used and abused boring white cargo vans with 150,000 to 350,000 miles and various commercial racks/partitions in the back).   But then I saw this little green beauty with no rust, no gobs of industrial racking in the back, and only 62,000 miles on it!

The “3rd week of May” curse strikes again-- time to pull out the checkbook!

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It’s a high-roof 2005 Freightliner Sprinter 2500 (meaning no dual rear wheels to fool with—yeah!).  It’s the mid-sized 140” wheelbase and comes in at 19’ feet long.  Short and narrow enough to fit into a standard parking space (but still enough floorspace in the back to make a decent camper van).

My Winnebago View Sprinter came with every possible comfort and convenience already installed.  This Sprinter came with none of that.  It’s got some reflectix insulation and carpeted plywood covering the bare floor, walls, and ceiling in the cargo area, but the rest will be completely up to me to design and build.  So, I’ve decided to name this Sprinter van my “Lynnebago”!

The van was down in the northeast Georgia mountains, so my first task was figuring out how to logistically get it home.  Luckily, it had a nice Class III hitch already installed and the dealer verified that the plug worked fine.  So, I packed my towbar and suitcase into the back of the Tracker, Millie hopped into her backseat bed, and away we went on a roadtrip down to Georgia!

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The Tracker is a great in-town car and off-road vehicle, but not a comfy cruiser for a 750 mile roadtrip!  But, it did it’s job to get us to our destination safely and without any mishaps.

After a final inspection and test drive, the dealer had all the sales paperwork ready to go, so the whole purchasing process from Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland, GA was speedy and friendly.  They, admittedly, don’t see many single ladies come down with their own towbars (and dogs), so as I started getting the ReadyBrute hooked up, the dealer guy came out to watch and learn how to attach the cables!

The first 100 miles was a bit nerve-wracking through the curvy, mountain backwoods.  I realized later that this van has an auto skid control feature (that I should have temporarily turned off) as whenever I was descending a pass and making sharp hairpin turns, the van would automatically apply it’s brakes!  Pretty disconcerting for sure, but no harm done, it was just trying to keep us safe.

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As luck would have it, my world-traveller and very talented and amusing blogger friend Suzanne ( Take to the Highway) was staying at a campground just north of Knoxville, so I reserved a hotel room nearby for Millie to catch up on her missed afternoon napping, while Suzanne and I headed out for a great dinner and catch-up conversation.  Who knew there was great Thai food to be found in tourist-infested Sevierville?  But we delightfully happened to find a great little place tucked into an unassuming strip mall.

After dinner, we stopped at the campground to see Suzanne’s new full-timer RV home—a gorgeous 2008 J-model Winnebago View.  Her RV has the light maple cabinetry and also has cabinets in front (rather than the cabover bed). Combined with the 2 cab swivel seats, and custom memory foam dinette cushion and bed mattress replacements, Suzanne has one of the most comfortable (and nicely functional) Views I’ve ever seen!  So happy for her giving me the grand tour of her lovely new home!

The next morning, Millie and I hopped into the Sprinter for our drive back home to Chicago.  First unexpected bonus discovery?  No need to park and walk inside to get a morning traveler breakfast--- just pull right into the drive-thru lanes!

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The Sprinter towed the Tracker easily, and managed to get a decent 18 MPG towing 65-70 miles per hour through the Kentucky hills.

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Millie was not quite sure what to make of this new Sprinter, but she quickly mastered jumping into the driver’s seat whenever I got out!

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And she liked the big side-door easy access to jump in and out of the van!

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I set up her little padded bed right behind the 2 seats and she spent most of the drive hanging out there.  But discovering she now had a big, unobstructed space to move around in, she also had fun chillin’ in the rear back corner of the van too!

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The Lynnebago is, indeed, a pretty “blank slate” at this point.  But it did come with a few unexpected benefits:  both front seats already have the swivels installed (that’s one less upgrade I’ll need to make, and a $500+ savings)!  The dash radio turned out to be a really nice-sounding Alpine stereo system with 2 Alpine speakers added to the OEM dash speakers— a great van to “sing-along” with road tunes!

The only downside discovered thus far—the existing ceiling vent (and interior ceiling paneling) is a real hack job, giving it a decidely “Hillbilly Hilton” look.

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The previous owner seemed perplexed by the curved roof lines and just threw whatever scrap lumber he had to finish it off.  The ceiling vent was apparently cracked at one point and rather than simply replace it, the guy decided to duck tape the outside and paint the inside of it with some kind of black sealant goop.  I’ve now ordered a new Fantastic Fan and this will be my very first upgrade to get done! 

Since there are no current auxiliary electrical or water systems, I’ll need to remove and re-do the ceiling, wall, and floor coverings anyway, but until I’m ready to do all that, I’ll initially just connect the new fan directly to a spare AGM battery, and use my old tent camping gear to make it immediately functional as a bare-bones camper.

So, why another vehicle?  Well, a girl can never have too many Sprinters Smile…..but seriously,with my current situation requiring lots of in-town hauling of stuff from my house and my mom’s house, replacing my in-town vehicle (a Subaru Outback) with a full-sized cargo van seemed to make a heck of a lot of sense.  My brother has been after me for a few years now to buy my Subaru (as his current Outback is getting up in miles), so that took away the trade-in hassles!

I also really want to get to Mexico next winter and would prefer to take a “stealth-ier” looking van than my big white Winnebago.  This 1st-generation T1N Sprinter doesn’t require ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel (like my 2nd-generation NCV3 View does), and as Mexico is not yet known to have wide availability of ULSD fuel, it will be much more capable a vehicle there than my View.

Beyond that, this Lynnebago has serious potential as an international vehicle!  Sprinters have been widely used in Europe and in many parts of South/Central America as well.  Perhaps I can follow my friends’ Evelyn and Tessa’s leads to RV far beyond the continental U.S. borders!  Lots of possibilities for this little green Lynnebago!

p.s.  As some of you might not be interested in the new van’s conversion process, I’ll put those posts on a separate blog called LynnieViews.  I’ll continue to keep travel, Winnebago, and general posts here on this main WinnieViews blog site.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, that's BIG news! Congratulations! Hope you love your soon-to-be camping van as much as I love mine. IMO, unless you are staying at CGs for extended periods, this is the only way to travel!

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    1. Thanks Kim. Yes, after seeing all the fun you've been having traveling around in your van, I think it will be fun to give downsized "van touring" a try. The van has been great to drive around in-town as well-- so much easier to see traffic on the expressways from the higher vantage point!

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  2. Same model as my van (class B) except it is the short and tall and a pretty green. So far, mine has given me no trouble - the Sprinter part, that is. If it has no rust, the green must be a much better quality paint than the stock white paint. Without towing, you should be able to get 23-26 mph out of it. That's as good as my outback gets. Do you have a design in mind for the build out? Lots of how to's and ideas at Sprinter-Source.com if you didn't know.

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    1. Yes, I've been pouring over the Sprinter-Source site for the last few weeks. Great treasure trove of info there. Your blog looks very helpful too! I'm sure I'll reach out with more questions the deeper I start getting to know this van. Glad to hear the MPGs will get into the 20's. That's what I was hoping for!

      As for no-rust, I think that's due to the previous owner keeping in a garage in Georgia most of it's life. Now that I'm having to keep it outside on a driveway, I sure hope to not have it sitting in Chicago over a winter-- so Mexico will be double-important to escape to!

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  3. It will be interesting to see what you do with the Green Machine!

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    1. I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities-- so many cool-looking van conversion ideas that my challenge will be to contain myself, keep things simple, and not overdo it. But it should be a great learning process!

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  4. Congratulations! I'll be anxious to see how you decorate the interior.

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    1. Thanks! I'm all ears if you have some ideas! Right now, my general idea is to keep it very minimal and multi-functional (since I have to use it as a cargo van for a little while, all the camper stuff needs to stay "modular" and removable.

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  5. Looks good! Green may be a bit hotter than white so it's good you're getting a Fantastic Fan. I don't know if you follow Glenn's blog but just in case you don't, here's his post on the new ceiling he just installed in his VW van where he braced the sides then let the wood curve to the roof: http://www.tosimplify.net/2013/05/ceiling.html

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    1. Yes, I've been drooling over the fine work he's doing to his Vanagon restoration. I do not have 1/10th of those carpentry skills, so if I can't find a reasonably-priced local conversion guy, my Hillbilly Hilton interior might continue to be the case!

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  6. I was just about to recommend Glenn's blog with his VW Van conversion. I am glad I read through all of your comments to see that Linda Sand and I were thinking the same. I will look forward to your conversion posts and especially your trip to Mexico next winter. These people van traveled through Mexico last winter. Link here in case you don't follow them.

    http://alifemadesimple.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Steve! I'll take a look at that one!

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  7. Congratulations! I too was going to suggest Glen's blog. What a popular coincidence meanwhile, I'm subscribed to your new blog. :) Hey, if I can ever give you a hand with Mr. Greene genes let me know!

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    1. Thanks Bob! I'll see how my first big job goes tomorrow (replacing the roof fan). If I make a total mess of it (and resort to duck taping a gaping hole in the roof), I very well might be reaching out for your much more professional skills!

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    2. I don't know about professional but it's fun to help others, the price is right, and the offer stands.

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  8. Wow how exciting!! That looks like a great van and so many different possibilities. Looking forward to the inside build, and to following your new journey.

    Tina

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    1. Thanks Tina! If nothing else, it should certainly be a learning opportunity for me!

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  9. Lynne: Will be interested to see your conversions as they go along! Good luck with that!

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  10. Wow! How did I miss this?? VANtastic!

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  11. Wow! Looks like a great vehicle. I see more and more of them on the road. Great buy.

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