As much as I enjoyed the comforts of my sister and brother-in-law’s house for nearly the past 2 months (and Holley’s delicious dinners), it felt really good to get behind the wheel of the Winnie and head back out to the local campground yesterday. The prairie sure has grown taller with all the rains we’ve had in Chicago this summer!
Holley and Mike didn’t send me away to the same old Winnebago, though. I’ve been the lucky beneficiary of their considerable carpentry and sewing skills for a few desperately desired upgrades to my rolling home—a new bed and new dinette cushions. First up, the new bed!
When I bought this 2007 J-model View in 2013, it came with the original “split” mattress. A nice enough looking bed to maybe sleep on for a weekend every once in a while, but certainly not a good solution for a full-time RVer.
Winnebago came up with this unique design as a “selling point” for J-model View/Navions (up until 2011). With a split mattress, you could simply slide the outer half up onto the inner half to now store bigger and taller items such as a bike, skis, or golf clubs via the oversized external hatch door.
Nice feature for selling motorhomes, but one rarely used (and never liked) by most owners! Why? Because to support such a design, Winnebago glued a metal “ladder” frame into the middle of the mattress section covering the hatch. Ouch! Then, they decided to make the inner curved mattress too soft. With the split down the middle, the bed was a complete disaster!
Up until now, I addressed the problem by adding 2 Big Agnes backpacker air mattresses to the bed (1 rectangular, and 1 mummy-shaped), as well as a thick featherbed mattress topper to try and make it all feel like a single, more comfortable mattress.
The solution was more comfortable than the stock bed, but never really solved the issue of the crack down the middle. The air pads were not quite wide enough for the bed and were constantly sliding apart—especially whenever Millie would jump onto the bed!
The ultimate fix was not as simple as just finding a custom, curved mattress. Oh no. I first had to solve how to modify the original bed platform’s large, gaping hole on one side without eliminating it’s absolutely fabulous feature on the other side—a huge “secret” storage compartment with flip-open door. This storage area is often unnoticed by thieves (and customs/checkpoint guards). A nice place to store photo gear or a 2-month supply of “contraband” American dog food when heading to Mexico!
Various J-model owners on the View-Navion Yahoo forum had come up with solutions over the years to try and fix the problem. But these usually added considerable weight (i.e. a 3/4” solid piece of plywood covering the whole platform), a brace down the middle of the external hatch (preventing long items from being stowed there), or eliminating the “hidden” access to internal storage by adding visible side access doors.
Finally, a few weeks ago, a fellow J owner on the Yahoo View-Navion forum posted an absolutely brilliant solution—fabricating a new “hollow inside” platform to replace the original, while still re-using the original flip-up door (and furnace cover behind it).
Mike studied the pictures carefully and said “I can do that!” Within minutes, we were standing in his garage workshop, eying a nice piece of 3/4” plywood that he’d use to build the new internal frame. Within a couple of days, this is what he created--
A new frame constructed of 3/4” plywood pieces glued and biscuit-joined together:
A hole was cut in the corner so that both the original furnace cover as well as the flip-up door could be reused (although Mike did have to add 1/4” shims to the existing frame to fit these due to the new platform being 1/4” thicker than the original).
Once sealed with polyurethane, the new platform slid right into where the old one had been and looked like it was original equipment!
The new platform screws into the frame exactly where the old one did. Here you can also see one of the 2 notches required to allow clearance for the exterior hatch door struts--
To avoid a fixed center brace in the middle of the exterior hatch, Mike came up with a great solution here too. A folding support leg. It can flip up while traveling or to give me full access to the hatch for longer items, and flip down once I stop to camp. So far, the bed platform has proven strong enough to not need the support leg when it’s just me sleeping on the bed…but if I ever get a 500 lb. boyfriend, it will be nice to have the added support!
With the bed platform issues solved, now on to solve the mattress dilemma. Some other J-owners have just put a thick foam mattress directly on their new platforms and topped them with memory foam, etc to improve comfort. Others have ordered custom, “sight-unseen” inner-spring mattresses. I shuddered at the thought of multiple truck freight returns to test out various mattresses trying to find just the right one. Then I remembered reading about the beds in the new Winnebago Travato vans that use the Euro-designed Froli Sleep System (a set of high-tech springs much loved in the boating/marine community that give “bounce” and comfort to standard foam cushions).
Although expensive, the springs are made of a high-quality plastic that allows both strength and flexibility. The beige grid pieces easily snap together and blue springs twist into place on top of them. No glue, screws, or nails are necessary. The light blue springs are slightly more flexible (softer) to improve comfort of shoulders when side sleeping. I sometimes like to sleep “backwards” on the bed facing the windows, so I softened both ends of the bed. Here’s what the final assembly looks like (albeit, before trimming up the grid pieces on the curve).
For the mattress, I went over to the local IKEA warehouse and tested out a variety of their offerings. They happened to have a high quality 7” foam mattress (the full-sized Morgedal) that was comfortable, yet still rather lightweight—perfect for an RV! Even better, it came with a 25-year warranty and was on sale for only $199!!!
Once I tested it out on top of the Froli springs on the floor of the guest bedroom for a couple nights, Holley pulled out her electric knife to cut to fit the Winnie (shaving 3” off one side and cutting the curve). She then re-sewed the removable mattress cover to fit the new shape. It looks (and feels) fantastic. No additional foam topper or featherbed needed!
To finish things off, the new bed sports 2 new pups—a little white Labrador puppy that that I got while in the hospital, and a “Happy Camper” pillow (with a bandana-wearing yellow Lab at the door of a teardrop-shaped trailer) that the wonderful couple renting my house sent to me recently.
I’m not ready for another dog yet, but these two will sure keep me company and remind me of Millie (and our T@B camper) every day!
Sure is nice to be home again!