What’s the Van, Stan?

Rolling through RVX looking for that #vanlife

Whalebone Magazine was on the hunt for a new Whalebone Magazine van.

She’s a good old girl, logged a lot of miles between Montauk and Manhattan, but she’s seen better days. It’s time for her to go out to some ranch up in Hudson Valley and live out the rest of her miles frolicking carefree in the grass and drinking high-test diesel straight from the trough while daydreaming about catching catfish.

Whalebone Magazine Van

Who tagged her?

We have searched high and low. Low and high. We’ve propositioned strangers in parking lots to sell us their vans, left notes under the windshield wipers of promising whips, attended three different Rolling Heavy rallies, traversed the underbelly of salvage yards in Hunts Point in the Bronx and made the police auction scene where we briefly considered one bullet-riddled blingy barge but then thought better of it.

Then our friends at Go RVing said, “Hey, do you know what RVX is?” After we wrongly guessed Random Valuable Xaviers and Righteous Vertical Xylophones, they clued us in. It’s the recreational vehicle industry’s (ohhhhhhhh) biggest event of the year. “Look,” they said, “You may be bad at guessing what letters stand for, but come be our guest at RVX in Salt Lake City and take a look at the unveiling of vehicles in the Van Life category that’ll be on the road next year.” Future vans? we asked. “Not really,” they said. “But maybe it’ll give you some ideas.”

The Big Reveal at RVX

We flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, avoided the urge to go straight to Park City and, what do you know, RVX did not disappoint. It had everything from rooftop pop tents to travel trailers to fifth wheels to a monster rig we assume will be Willie Nelson and Family’s next forwarding address. And all manner and make of vans. Just for the record, here, there was some future shizz, but from KOA and it was the “campground of the future” which we had to put virtual reality goggles on to see, which is also kind of like the future.

When that happens, well, you know what Beyoncé asks Jay Z in that video where they are in the French art museum.

So then our old friends at Go RVing showed us around and they said, “You know, tomorrow’s the big Reveal?” Sounds mysterious. This time we didn’t try to guess what the letters stood for because it’s just a word that means what it sounds like. What happens there? “The contenders for best RV of the year in a bunch of categories get announced to a room full of a few hundred people in the RV industry and journalists and the winner, determined by a consumer panel, is unveiled. When that happens, well, you know what Beyoncé asks Jay Z in that video where they are in the French art museum.” We said, yes, we know that video and asked if there would be a DJ and the answer was yes. We said we were in.

They said, “Maybe, you know, since you’re looking and all, maybe Whalebone Magazine can make its own pick in the Van Life category.” We said—well, first we said, hashtag vanlife but when we said it, it had a y for the i—and then we said, sure, sounds cool. We took our new responsibility pretty freaking seriously though.

Winnebago Revel

First we got to put the Winnebago Revel, a sweet customization of a Mercedes Sprinter with a queen-size bed and off-road capabilities, through its paces on a mud track. We may have gotten air.

Then it was back to the main halls of RVX where we looked at vans. Like a lot of vans.

It could really accommodate the sort of live/work situation we imagined for our magazine delivery drivers.

We were pretty smitten with the Revel, but we also took a shine to ModVans’ CV1, a radically altered Ford that had a pop-up roof, flare to spare with some cool buttons that looked as though they might operate an old AM radio but were actually pretty tech-y, and it could really accommodate the sort of live/work situation we imagined for our magazine delivery drivers. ModVans is a small outfit based out of Ventura, CA, and the buildout had a nice hand-done feel.

But then we thought about the days we spent in a Ford during last year’s National Dive Bar Tour from Austin to New Orleans to Jacksonville to Nashville to New York and a few bad memories of driving several hundred miles smelling like cigarettes and stale beer came wafting back. Not fair to the fine folks at Ford and ModVans exactly, but we had an association. But this van, could it do more than deliver mags? Could we make it our daily driver and then tour the national parks and maybe take it on a Baja surf trip? All answers were yes.

Then we looked at the Revel again, and the simple fact that we’d driven it played heavy, and the 4WD handled 6-inch deep mud pits like we were a soccer mom rolling through a puddle on the way to a PTA meeting. We could see it rivaling the rigs of some of the most badass Montauk surfcasters, fitting enough cases of magazines to stock half the eastern seaboard, and we could also get one with a shower in case there was another National Dive Bar Tour.

The choice was made, and our Reveal pick was the Revel.