Enrique, my Nissan Murano, was getting on in years. Now you know he was wrecked in The Great Minor Accident of 2016. After months and months of ridiculousness with the other party's insurance company. Enrique was totaled and I was left with a rental. Under the gun, I had to look for new wheels.
I'd been toying with the idea of getting a business cargo van for months. I did a lot of research, as I do, and test drove a Ford Transit Connect and a Nissan NV250. I decided pretty quickly that I would outgrow those just about instantly. They're a good size but just too small. I moved on to the next size up, test driving the Ford Transit 150 and the Mercedes Metris and Sprinter. For how few options there are in the medium size cargo van world, there are a million options. Ford, Mercedes, Nissan and Ram. 97% white. Standard height. Walk-in height. Really tall height. Standard wheel base. Long wheel base. Very few used options. Used cargo vans usually have about 100k miles on them and are only 3 years old. Very few new options. I couldn't even find a Ram ProMaster to test drive within 150 miles of my house. Did I mention they're almost all white? After all the drama with Enrique over the years, I knew I needed something ultra reliable so I went new. New. As in a new car. This goes against all of my being - I am a used car person all the way.
Buying new, I also had the option of getting something other than white... I know it sounds silly, but I didn't want to spend that much on a cargo van, a vehicle that already didn't woo me, and have it be white. Since I didn't want white at all whatsoever, my options were slim. Really slim. I went back and forth, but honestly I had the best experience at Mercedes of Fairfield. Really great actually - Steve & Mekaeel were fantastic. I was treated like anyone looking for a cargo van, not a FEMALE looking for a cargo van. I don't handle the "maybe you should look at minivans" and "maybe you should test drive this small SUV" comments well when I know what I need and what's best for my business. Yes, I'm a girl. No, I don't need a minivan, thankyouverymuch. (No comments on how Morrison kiiiiiinda looks like a minivan without windows...)
It was settled. I was going to get the Mercedes Metris. As I mentioned, new cargo vans in non-white were slim. There were exactly 3 in the whole state of California: two blacks and a silver. I wanted the dark grey one I had seen online, but couldn't deal with an 8-month wait for it. Letting that go, I chose a black one. I've finally named him: Van Morrison Obsidian, or just Morrison.
Cargo vans have the cool factor of being able to customize them to no end in the back. I had shelves & a bulkhead installed immediately by Sierra Truck & Van in Fairfield. With those done, I've figured out how to best fit my gear on them. Now some extra customization was needed.
My dad is an engineer + he & my mom were able to tetris their way through endless road trips with 4 kids in a minivan and small trailer. Enough said. I had the crew who was going to help me customize Morrison to fit my photography business. In the photo above, you'll see the sweet shelves on the left, loaded up with gear. Bulkhead in the center, separating the cab from the cargo, also saving my head from being chopped off if gear flew forward in an accident or from stopping quickly. On the right we've got stuff on the floor: C Stands (above; also called "Three Prongs of Death" according to some) but usually also light stands and tripod. The goal is to get as much as possible off the floor. Not only will it prevent things from sliding around at every turn, literally, but also save space for large shoots where I need the cargo space for boxes of props or gear we don't use as often. Or maybe a bicycle. You never know.
Here were our top challenges:
- Add more lighting - can't see anything in a cavernous black cargo van!
- Find a place for my gel roll and paper rolls so they don't get scuffed or squished
- Get everything I take to every shoot off the floor and give it a home
- Figure out how to secure the items on the bottom of each shelving unit so they don't slide around
- Find a place for the cart I hate, better known as the Evil Finger Pincher (also, find a new cart that I don't hate. One thing at a time.)
- No center console = where do I put lotion and other random car items?
1. Done & done:
I ordered some magnetic tap lights on Amazon for $5 a piece. I put 5 of them around the cargo space and ta da! We have light.
Next up: Find a spot for the gel & paper rolls