Functional Reality


For all the fabulousness that was the FifVANella reveal today, there were some harsh reality checks.

1. The rear view mirror monitor doesn’t even power on anymore, so I took the van back down to PCH Custom Audio who installed it. They said they’re going to have to do a tear down of the center media console to get at the wiring and see what’s up - Monday. (Might be an opportunity to replace the craptastic stock radio, too.) *** I have since fixed this myself. ***

2. While driving FifVANella around San Pedro today, the carefully engineered lock on the folding bed mechanism popped really loudly and the bed slipped forward while the van was in motion. This broke or somehow disabled the proper functioning of the actuators, so the bed is currently stuck halfway up/down and can’t be secured in place. This also means I don’t have cool video of the bed moving up and down for you. I pulled the pins on the actuators and tried to manually reset them, but no joy. I checked the fuses and they’re intact. I think the way the shower pan was strapped in so tightly against the back of the bed had something to do with this break down. In any event, I didn’t feel safe driving around with an unsecured bed, so I left FifVANellla in San Pedro tonight and drove back home to WeHo. The actuators are cool, but I’d be just as happy to move it manually, too. Just really need to rethink the locking mechanism. I’ll go back tomorrow (health-willing) with a bin full of tools to troubleshoot it all. Jeff is away for the weekend with the family, so it’s up to me and my Handy Butch skills now. Good practice for the road. *** Jeff has since figured out that I really did break the actuators and is replacing them with support shocks to ease manual operation of the bed. ***

3. I need to find a better way to secure the shower pan in back or as less-unsightly-as-possible in the main cabin.

4. I cheaped out and got the bargain basement 6” push roof vent fan. It’s awful, barely moves air and despite advertising and the proper wiring, only sucks air out and does not suck air in, too. I will now order the top of the line MaXXAir 6” push roof vent fan. You get what you pay for. *** I now remember why I cheaped out - the cheap fan is smaller than the expensive fan and I didn't have any more room to spare on the roof. ***

5. If things are not tied down or locked up they WILL go sliding and flying. I have a LOT of careful planning ahead to properly lash and stash all the things that need to live in the van. *** I just ordered a lot of bungee cordage...***

6. I am a XXXlb weakling. The wheels are HEAVY. It took a lot of elbow grease to release the spare tire from the undercarriage so it could be changed out, and even more to get the new spare tire properly aligned so I could hoist it back into place. I am really glad I did this in good weather on a quiet side street before having to change a tire out on a highway in the rain.

7. The stock tires that come with the van suck. They have very little traction and aren’t load rated for the weight of the EMPTY van! So, for safety’s sake I got 5 new Light Duty Truck tires installed that are properly rated for the weight of the empty van + 2000 lbs. Unfortunately, the mobile tire guy’s compressor gave out before he could properly inflate them all, so I had to take it down the hill to another tire place and get them inflated to the right PSI. Two issues with this: A.) The Tire Pressure Management System read “check tire pressure” as if they were all flat even when they were fully inflated. So then I had to go through a tedious manual reset of the TPMS which took over an hour, but got rid of the flat tire warning. B.) These tires are slightly bigger than the stock tires - which is good for handling, stability and wear, but might raise the overall height of the van enough that it won’t clear the ceiling of my parking garage. I have not measured the total height yet; it will take two people at least to do it. More to come on that…

8. All the up, down, shimmying on the ground, pushing, pulling, reaching, bending, lifting and twisting had two bad consequences: A.) My knee blew up like a sagging water balloon and is incredibly painful and unwalkable right now. B.) All this heavy physical activity thoroughly exhausted me into really low calcium. I’m back home and having bad spasms and tingling. Such is the life of a Hypopara. Also, it’s a really good reminder of why we OVERbuilt this van: because I have unique medical needs and each element was designed to keep me alive, not just comfortable. If the bed had been working, I would’ve chewed a Tums and laid down for a nap until I recovered. When it’s all functioning as designed, that’s exactly what I’ll do when I need to do it.

So that’s the summary of harsh reality; The summary of awesome reality is that FifVANella is beautiful, elegantly designed and practical. Jeff Nelson is a master builder and generous soul. This project has been such a joyful gift for us all (his wife & kids included). FifVANella and I are now officially part of the family.