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Dining in

We love our old Ford van, that we've adapted to serve as our base away from home: platform bed in the back, gear and food stashed under the platform, extra water, solar shower...even a table off the back end for cooking, and a section of the bed platform that works as a table. It's been a delight.

But we've always considered goin the next size up. We've left one of the bench seats in the van, just in case a kid or two wants to join us, and we've used that from time to time. Works perfectly. But if we had the extended version of this van, we could probably fit in a small seating area for dining in.

Right now, if it's really windy or rainy outside, we sit in our front seats and cook on top of our Coleman cooler---which is really too small to hold our stove, mugs, bowls, etc. So we end up putting some of those up on the dashboard, and feeling a bit like we're in a seated ballet, where every move has to be planned in advance. Not great. Here's the table as it works in the back of the van...not ideal for eating, but great for cooking.

So imagine my delight when I noticed a van for sale right next door to our mechanic---and it was the longer version. I quickly dove into the calculations--18 inches more length would give us enough room for a table off the back of that bench seat, and we could sit on the bed, facing forward, and dine in elegance.

Only the bed platform is only about nine inches high--closure to Japanese dining on the floor. And our legs would have to extend forward, underneath the bench seat. That's where we store some key gear and food. And the more I thought about it, the more complicated and less attractive it became.

But I still dreamed of a table. I measured the space between the two front seats. Maybe I could make something that would fit between them, and give us more dining area. 17 inches wide. Not much really. But the cooler was only about 14 inches. And as I thought this over, I remembered the table I built to hang off the back of the van. I wonder how wide that is?

Too wide. 23 inches or so. Way too wide. But maybe I could fit it between the armrests and somehow wiggle it into place.

Nope. So I just rested it on the armrests while I got into the van. And Presto! I had a table. It sits perfectly on the armrests between the two front seats, and the front end rests nicely on the center console, giving it great stability. It is now nearly double the size of the top of the cooler, and fits into the van far enough forward the people could sit on the bench seat and join us for dinner.

So a day's worth of measuring and planning and fidgeting got replaced by looking in the back the van. Totally worth it.

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