All in all, it was a good trip.
I learned some things that I'll be using to guide my changes when it comes time for version 1.5 of the build. First, FWD is horrible in the snow. I'm not used to driving an automatic so feathering the gas to keep the tires from spinning is going to take some getting used to (need to make use of sport mode). It's fine on the highway with a good set of winter tires (I have Blizzak WS70 tires mounted up right now). The turbo was awesome in the mountains and had to problem supplying adequate power. I must confess, that once we got there, I was missing my baby (2008 Subaru Impreza WRX 5MT Turbo Swapped making about 300hp at the wheels on 91 octane):
The single most useful thing I did for the build ended up being the Arduino based remote start. It was -18F in Fargo when we stopped the first night. The hour long timer was perfect. We managed to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep that night without having to wake up and start the car. The added bonus was that the coolant was still warm the next morning so the van was warm as soon as we fired it up. I got no complaints from the Mrs about being cold so I'll consider it a win. That night was the coldest the temps got for our entire journey. We didn't use the remote start system at all over the final night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The temps overnight there were around 30F and the heated blankets were more than adequate.
I'll be making some changes starting in the spring. First, I'm going to reconfigure the position of the batteries so that they don't take up so much length or height. While there is plenty of room to roll around while sleeping, I'd like a bit more vertical space and I'd also like to fit one of my bikes inside. With the extra length, I might be able to fit my skis inside too. With the roof box up top and the bikes on the hitch, wind became a concern. I don't worry about it in the summer, but on icy roads, it wasn't terribly pleasant. For this van, that's about all I'd like to change. I'll also spend more time this summer making everything look nicer. Van 2.0 will likely be a larger transit with the extended wheelbase and high top roof. Something like that is at least 5 years out though.
As for not showing up on youtube... I wish I had a dashcam. Just after crossing the border back into North Dakota we almost had an incident that would have totaled the van. We were on Southbound I29 the day after it was re-opened from the blizzard that went through. The road itself was clear and dry, but there was about 2" of standing snow on the shoulder. I was in the passing lane with the cruise set at 75mph (the speed limit) about to overtake someone in the right lane. The guy in the right lane, apparently, had a lapse in concentration and dipped a tire onto the shoulder. He also must not have a lot of experience driving in snow because when he did that, he did everything wrong. He yanked the wheel to try and steer back onto the road while hitting the brakes sending him into a skid. He spun twice and ended up sideways in my lane. My only option was to lock up (yes, you can do that even with ABS) the brakes and dive into the shoulder that he just left in order to avoid t-boning him at 75mph. The Blizzaks did their job once they hit the snow. I was able to lift off the brakes and guide the van back onto the highway. The other guy spun at least one more time, but he also never left the road. I can honestly say that's the closest call I've ever had. My heart rate monitor registered 153bpm after the ordeal. For context, my resting heart rate is about 75bpm as I'm sitting here typing this. 150bpm is race pace on my mountain bike. We spent a couple miles at about 50mph, but never stopped. It's funny how things slow down in the moment...