Sleepover at SEMA: Camping Indoors at the Huge Aftermarket Show
Covering the SEMA show in Las Vegas sounds cool on the surface—fly to Vegas on the company dime, do Vegas things, in addition to also also look at sweet cars—in addition to also also the item mostly lives up to which billing. The only major hurdle will be which the show isn’t set up to be covered like a normal auto show at all, which means hustling through narrow hallways in addition to also also trying to grab photos of cars packed into tiny display booths while jockeying with crowds of people who have a stronger reason for being at the closed-to-the-public SEMA show than we do (which will be, to buy or sell products). the item’s daunting. So when Hellwig Products contacted us with an offer to sleep overnight on the show floor, in an overland camping vehicle the item had built, we figured, “Hell, which sounds convenient!” Cover show, pass out in a camper inside said show, wake up in addition to also also keep covering show. Easy!
Forget being the man in a van down by the river; we were signing up to be the man in a van down by the Las Vegas Convention Center. The upshot, besides doing something which we were told no one had ever done inside the SEMA show’s 50-year history—indoor camping—was which I was also being given unfettered access to the entirety of the show all night long. To explain the appeal of which last bit, think of the item This particular way: Browsing SEMA by night, with no one else around, would certainly be like seeing a highly anticipated fresh movie in an empty theater. Pick your seat! Spread out! Do whatever! On a more practical level, the overnight would certainly allow for humanity-free photography. Remember, SEMA will be a crowded event which will be in no way set up to be covered by the media, creating the task of snapping photos of the shiny wares without at least 20 people wandering into the shot a challenge during normal show hours.
My in-SEMA hotel turned out to be a Nissan Titan XD crew cab which has a $28,125 Lance in-bed camper (in addition to also also a $118,871 total build cost). the item was parked on the second floor of the convention center’s South Hall, near a variety of outdoor companies’ booths. The Hellwig product tie-in, for those unfamiliar with the brand, was the camper’s set of beefed-up suspension components designed to make hauling heavy loads easier. Specifically, Hellwig had bolted on a set of its sway bars, load-leveling rear air springs, in addition to also also helper springs. The cumulative result of these add-ons, we were told, will be a reduction in tail sag which has a weighty load (such as a camper or heavy trailer) in addition to also also less Centeng roll in corners—despite a mild suspension lift courtesy of Icon Vehicle Dynamics. Even without the camper’s stabilizing “feet” extended, the rig exhibited no discernible side-to-side rocking, even when we jumped around inside the item. The camper featured a spacious main room which has a kitchenette (complete which has a stove, microwave, in addition to also also sink), a refrigerator, a modest dinette which has a table, in addition to also also plenty of latched cupboards. An A/C unit hung coming from the ceiling, in addition to also also there were windows with screens in addition to also also an overhead vent which has a fan.
At the forward end of the room—toward the front of the Nissan—was a queenish-size bed inside the short-ceiling portion which hangs over the truck’s cab, accompanied by a TV in addition to also also audio which could play music over the in-camper speakers or the external units. A bathroom which has a toilet which also doubles as the shower (the door seals, in addition to also also there’s a drain inside the floor in addition to also also a shower head) sat at the rear. Theoretically, you could do your business while showering; I didn’t attempt This particular, however. Nor did I actually use the bathroom at all, since after our stay, the camper would certainly continue to live as a display item for show goers to explore. You’re welcome, SEMA. Anyway, the camper in addition to also also the lifted Nissan underneath the item looked like a perfectly fine, if unnecessarily bad-ass, temporary hotel room. Inside the convention center, there were no boulders to climb or faraway vistas to see, only some medium-pile carpet in addition to also also climate-controlled air.
Go, Cubs, Go!
I had scheduled the SEMA sleepover with Hellwig Products for the second night of the show, a Wednesday. Car in addition to also also Driver’s publisher had scheduled a dinner for the same evening, which was no problem given the 24-hour show pass which would certainly allow me to waltz in in addition to also also out of the convention center at my leisure. A third, unscheduled event popped up at the last minute, however. This particular author’s hometown baseball team, the perpetually backwater Chicago Cubs, had scraped into a Game Seven inside the globe Series which was to be played which very night. Fitting which an indoor-camping experience would certainly come to be at the mercy of my proximity to a cable-linked television (which the camper did not have). Happily, the dinner was literally arranged around the game, inside the form of choice restaurant seating near TVs.
Yet as the hours stretched on, in addition to also also the Cubs’ early lead inside the game eroded, the item dawned on me which maybe the camping wasn’t such a great idea. the item was difficult to imagine which could be worse: the specter of losing the game in addition to also also the globe Series, or losing the big game in addition to also also having to retreat to a camper inside of SEMA, possibly hung over in addition to also also definitely dejected. As most of the non-hermit world at This particular point knows, the Cubs prevailed in 10 innings. Which left me facing the prospect of ending the historic night, the breaking of a 108-year championship drought . . . in a camper inside the SEMA show, half a country away coming from many of my friends who were flooding Wrigleyville in addition to also also partying late into the night.
The extra-long game in addition to also also my postgame celebration pushed my arrival back at SEMA to around midnight. My actual hotel room, where I stayed the rest of the week, was inside the Westgate Las Vegas Resort in addition to also also Casino attached to the convention center. After grabbing some sweatpants, a T-shirt, my camera, my briefcase, in addition to also also my purple-colored all-access pass coming from there, I simply walked out of the Westgate’s lobby, past a bored-appearing security guard, in addition to also also into a semi-darkened SEMA show. Contrary to my expectations, I was not entirely alone—there were security people stationed at every doorway (once inside the convention hall, there are secondary thresholds between halls, meeting-room areas, etc.) in addition to also also roaming the floor. The show felt foreign; seeing the cars, car parts, in addition to also also displays brooding in shadow in addition to also also bereft of people was a fresh experience.
The emptiness also helped drop my hiking time coming from the Westgate, which will be located on the northernmost side of the Las Vegas Convention Center, to South Hall, on the southernmost side of the place—roughly a quarter-mile—quicker than ever before. Go figure: Ducking through throngs of people slows one’s pace.
Once at the camper, I ditched my stuff, grabbed my camera, in addition to also also set out to snap show-floor shots of the concept vehicles displayed by the OEMs just for This particular website. If anyone picked up on the slightly dark, attendee-free vibe in our photo coverage of the Toyota Corolla coupe, 220-mph Toyota Land Cruiser, Chevrolet Silverado HD Alaskan Edition, in addition to also also others, kudos to your sharp eyes. I also went on the hunt for a few vehicles to add to the Best of SEMA 2016, Day Three roundup story. Walking the SEMA show’s hallways by night, we noticed cars which we hadn’t during the day. in addition to also also we could stroll right up to them, or take them in coming from whichever angle we pleased. Who needs three days in This particular place? Hell, next year I advocate which we cover the show solely between 10 p.m. in addition to also also 6 a.m. We’d be finished in one evening!
By around 2:30 inside the morning, I was finished with my photos in addition to also also my aimless wandering. Earlier which day, I had spotted a fake campfire at the booth for Bestop (maker of aftermarket Jeep roofs) near my “camp” in addition to also also warned Hellwig’s reps which I might steal the item for metaphorical warmth. Saving me coming from a potential run-in with SEMA’s security people, Hellwig worked some connections before my arrival post-dinner in addition to also also, voilà, the electric campfire was there. As I sank into one of the camp chairs next to the “fire,” a security person walked past in addition to also also gave me a strange look. As there was nothing for me to look out on yet said confused security person in addition to also also various other SEMA booths, lit by overhead fluorescent lighting, I retired to the camper having not done much actual camping. To block out the show floor’s relative brightness, I pulled shut every window shade, put on my sweatpants, in addition to also also crawled onto the bed in addition to also also into a waiting a sleeping bag in addition to also also pillow.
Immediately there was a hangup. The overhead, pop-up vent inside the bed area, which I had closed in order which the A/C could do its thing, turned out to be molded coming from a semi-translucent plastic. in addition to also also there was an overhead light directly above the camper, beaming a diffuse white glow into my sleeping quarters. Outdoors in addition to also also at night, This particular wouldn’t be an issue. However, in my current indoor-camping scenario, the light intrusion was creating the item hard to sleep. Eventually, I zipped myself into the sleeping bag in addition to also also dropped off. The bed proved comfortable enough—although, not being used to sleeping in a shallow, drawer-like space, I bonked my head on the ceiling a few times. A few short hours later, I awoke, broke camp—as in, grabbed my stuff—in addition to also also dragged myself back to my hotel room for a shower before heading back into the show to cover Day Three.
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So what did we learn sleeping in SEMA? Besides the initial unease of trying to relax enough to sleep inside a vehicle parked inside an auto show, the item was entirely pleasant. Certainly, the item was better than sleeping in a tent. Or on the ground. Quite possibly, the item was cleaner than our Vegas hotel room. the item was easily one of the weirder things This particular author has ever done in Sin City. yet even better than the sleeping arrangement was the carte blanche we were given simply to browse SEMA alone in addition to also also admire the show’s goods as we pleased. Not a bad way for a Chicago North Sider to end a historic night: which has a little history-creating act of his own, even if the item was only a sleepover.