Meeting Mode owners is one of the most rewarding aspects of being Creative Director. I get to see directly how our product impacts the lives of the people who use it. I get to see an artistic expression of who they are as the van becomes as a blank slate they get to express themselves through. Most importantly, however, I get to connect with other incredibly amazing human beings who share many of the same passions that I do. The first MODE owner we had the honor of interviewing was Bill D. — a fire chief in the Denver area who had bought one of the first vans we ever built.
When we turned onto his neighborhood street, Bill D. was already out on his front lawn, opening the van, which despite having the stripes taken off, stood out very obviously in the driveway. Bill greeted us with a very warm handshake and then walked us around to his van. Being all cyclists, all three of us connected easily right away.
It’s a given that there is almost no van setup that does not have hours, even days, of thought put into it, and Bill’s setup was no exception. We learned quickly that he had elected to remove the signature retro stripes off of his MODE 4×4 van in an effort to keep it under the radar of his neighborhood HOA. As we walked through the van, he showed us more of the extremely intentional and weekend-friendly modifications he had made to the van:
- The shelf he bought from RB Components, installed above the driver’s seat.
- The paper towel holder, with the end bent up purposefully so that the towel roll wouldn’t slide off when braking.
- A second small fan conveniently installed above the bed.
- A level secured below the passenger’s seat for leveling purposes when camping.
We especially took notes when he told us that he programmed the first automatic seat position to position the seat perfectly for rotating the seats around to lounge mode. “Why has no one else had thought of this before?” We remarked on how genius it was.
Before long, we were driving through Longmont, Denver, headed to the base of Lookout Mountain, where a road began that was a popular climb. It was known by locals as the “pillar to post” ride, referencing the the stone pillars at the bottom of the climb and the sign post for Buffalo Bill’s Grave at the top. Just under 5 miles and averaging 5% grade, the climb came with rewarding views of North and South Table Mountain and downtown Golden. We decided to ride up, and along the way, chat about his life and experience in one of the first vans that went out of Storyteller Overland’s doors.
In addition to cycling for nearly 30 years, Bill previously owned several Land Cruisers and used to be big into the overlanding world. Now that he has retired his overlanding vehicles, his two sons Chris and Steve have taken over the passion. Chris owns a 2019 Toyota Tundra with a Camper Hawk 4×4 and Steve owns a 1999 Toyota Four Runner that he car camps in frequently. Bill and Maryann now take the van to meet up with their kids after the bigger, hard core overlanding adventures are finished, driving the van in just to join the fireside festivities.
“Dan was probably the reason I bought the van. I was on the edge, deciding which van I wanted, and Dan personally met up with me over coffee, answering all the questions I had. That kind of service you just don’t see every day.”
Bill went to college in CU Boulder, where he met his wife Maryann there. The happy couple moved to Denver in 1985, where Bill gained an extremely coveted position in the Denver Fire Department as Fire Chief.
“What plans do you guys have for the future of this van?” we asked Bill. Bill said that he had his eyes on a Mode Meetup, should we ever plan to organize one, and is also planning several trips across the country later in the year with his wife Maryann.
The descent was rapid and scenic and we were definitely not the only bikers on the road. It was incredible to be immersed for a short time into the biking culture of Denver, and hear first hand how the van affected not just Bill’s life, but his whole family’s life. He stressed the entire day how the company has incredible people behind it. “I’m a pretty private person, but Storyteller is my adopted company,” he explained. “I’d do anything for you guys.”
”I’m a pretty private person, but Storyteller is my adopted company,” he explained. “I’d do anything for you guys.”
We thanked Bill and headed out. It had been a hugely successful day. The next day, we had planned to meet up with Richard and Marie Bird, and so we went home and prepared. Stay tuned to hear!