Title:
Combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The technology described herein provides a combination beverage cooler and car seat cooler for simultaneously cooling food, beverages, and the like and cooling an unoccupied car seat. The combined cooler includes an insulated container having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another, a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels, the back, front, left, and right panels integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity for receipt of an at least one item to cool, and a sealable lid being sealable with the back, front, left, and right panels and hingedly connected to the rear panel and an insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat, the cover having a flexible thermal barrier and being foldably attached to the insulated container to provide a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler.



Inventors:
Court, Christine M. (Marietta, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/207135
Publication Date:
03/11/2010
Filing Date:
09/09/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/457.7, 220/592.16, 220/592.2, 297/180.11
International Classes:
F28F7/00; A47C7/72; B65D81/00; B65D81/38; F25D3/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CRANMER, LAURIE K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CROSE LAW LLC (112 NORTHBROOKE TRACE, WOODSTOCK, GA, 30188, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, comprising: an insulated container having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another, a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels, the back, front, left, and right panels integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity for receipt of an at least one item to cool, and a sealable lid being sealable with the back, front, left, and right panels and hingedly connected to a top of the rear panel; and an insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat, the cover having a flexible thermal barrier and being foldably attached to the insulated container to provide a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler.

2. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, further comprising: a pocket disposed within the lid, back, front, left, or right panels of the insulated container to receive a cooler ice pack with which to cool the beverage cooler; and a pocket disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a cover ice pack with which to cool the car seat cooler.

3. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat further comprises a lower seat cover and an upper seat cover, each foldably disposed upon a side of the insulated container.

4. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 3, wherein the lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are each foldably attached to the insulated container and held in position with a hook-and-loop fastener.

5. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 3, wherein the lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are foldably attached to the insulated container and held in position with a zipper.

6. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 3, wherein the lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are detachable from the insulated container.

7. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, further comprising: a fastener configured to hold the insulated cover to the car seat.

8. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the insulated cover is water-resistant.

9. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover each further comprise a plurality of pockets disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a plurality of cover ice packs with which to cool the car seat cooler.

10. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are attached to the insulated container with hook-and-loop fasteners and are detachable from the insulated container.

11. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are attached to the insulated container with zipper fasteners and are detachable from the insulated container.

12. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, wherein the insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat comprises a plurality of layers.

13. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 12, wherein one of the plurality of layers is a reflective layer to provide additional insulation and reflect heat.

14. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 3, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are configured to be unfolded and operatively be placed over a car seat base, back, head rest, and arm rests to provide thermal protection to the unoccupied car seat.

15. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler of claim 1, further comprising: a carrying strap disposed upon the insulated container to facilitate transportability of the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, the carrying strap being operatively adjustable.

16. A method for cooling an unoccupied car seat, the method comprising: utilizing an insulated container having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another, a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels, the back, front, left, and right panels integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity for receipt of an at least one item to cool, and a sealable lid hingedly connected to a top of the rear panel and an insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat, the cover having a flexible thermal barrier and being foldably attached to the insulated container to provide a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler; placing the insulated container in the unoccupied car seat; and unfolding the insulated cover from the insulated container and covering the unoccupied car seat to thermally protect the car seat; wherein the insulated container and the insulated cover together form a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler.

17. The method for cooling an unoccupied car seat of claim 16, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover each further comprise a plurality of pockets disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a plurality of cover ice packs with which to cool the car seat cooler, the method further comprising: inserting a plurality of cover ice packs into each of the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover.

18. The method for cooling an unoccupied car seat of claim 16, wherein the insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat further comprises a lower seat cover and an upper seat cover, each foldably disposed upon a side of the insulated container; and wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are configured to be unfolded and operatively placed over a car seat base, back, head rest, and arm rests to provide thermal protection to the unoccupied car seat; the method further comprising: unfolding the lower seat cover from the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler; covering the car seat base; unfolding the upper seat cover from the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler; covering the seat back, head rest, and arm rests of the car seat; and unfolding both the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover such that the insulated container remains in the car seat to provide additional cooling.

19. The method for cooling an unoccupied car seat of claim 16, wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are detachable from the insulated container; the method further comprising: detaching the lower seat cover from the insulated container; and detaching the upper seat cover from the insulated container; wherein the insulated container is utilized as a portable beverage cooler.

20. The method for cooling an unoccupied car seat of claim 16, further comprising: folding, upon completion of use of the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, over the car seat the insulated cover up to the insulated container; and attaching the folded insulated cover to the insulated container.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The technology described herein relates generally to the fields of car seat covers and food and beverage coolers. More specifically, this technology relates to systems and methods for simultaneously cooling food, beverages, and the like and cooling an unoccupied car seat.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Automobile car seats, strollers, and the like can endure significant heating due to the extreme heat buildup from continued sunlight upon the seat surfaces. The resultant overheated seat, straps, and buckles can result in burns or discomfort to an infant or child.

Various seat covers are known in the art. Related patents known in the art include the following: U.S. Pat. No. 7,097,244, issued to Holmgren et al. on Aug. 29, 2006, discloses a thermal protection apparatus and method for a child car seat. U.S. Pat. No. 5,833,309, issued to Schmitz on Nov. 10, 1998, discloses a child car seat temperature control device and method. U.S. Pat. No. 4,899,693 issued to Arnold on Feb. 13, 1990, discloses a cooled pet bed. U.S. Pat. No. 1,593,066, issued to Gaston on Jul. 20, 1926, discloses a self-cooling seat. U.S. Pat. No. 2,041,919, issued to Gaston on May 26, 1936, discloses a covering for seats or cushions. U.S. Pat. No. 2,004,106, issued to Gaston on Jun. 11, 1935, discloses a seat or cushion. U.S. Pat. No. D513,146, issued to Griffin on Dec. 27, 2005, discloses the ornamental design for a car seat cooling blanket. U.S. Pat. No. 4,060,276, issued to Lindsay on Nov. 29, 1977, discloses a cooling seat. U.S. Pat. No. 4,458,738, issued to Wilson on Jul. 10, 1984, discloses a protective device for a vehicle seat, seat back, and steering wheel. U.S. Pat. No. 5,150,945, issued to Aupperlee et al. on Sep. 29, 1992, discloses a vehicular child seat cover. U.S. Pat. No. 5,308,139, issued to Rieger on My 3, 1994, discloses a seat cover. U.S. Pat. No. 5,549,354, issued to Rosen on Aug. 27, 1996, discloses a reflective seat shield for use with infant restraining devices. U.S. Pat. No. 6,655,736, issued to Arenas on Dec. 2, 2003, discloses a retractable seat protection cover. U.S. Pat. No. 6,665,551, issued to Arenas on Dec. 9, 2003, discloses a retractable seat protection cover.

Related published patent applications known in the art include the following: U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0075311, filed by Linder and published on Apr. 22, 2004, discloses a chair with a cooling pocket. U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0057750, filed by Blackler and published on Mar. 27, 2003, discloses a car seat cooler. U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0075310, filed by Wang and published on Apr. 22, 2004, discloses a heatproof car seat arrangement. U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2006/0175878, filed by Pontes and published on Aug. 10, 2006, discloses a seat cushion. U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2007/0102079, filed by Billock and published on May 10, 2007, discloses a heat reflective cover for an infant or child car seat.

The foregoing patent and other information reflect the state of the art of which the inventor is aware and are tendered with a view toward discharging the inventor's acknowledged duty of candor in disclosing information that may be pertinent to the patentability of the technology described herein. It is respectfully stipulated, however, that the foregoing patent and other information do not teach or render obvious, singly or when considered in combination, the inventor's claimed invention.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In various exemplary embodiments, the technology described herein provides a combination beverage cooler and car seat cooler for simultaneously cooling food, beverages, and the like and cooling an unoccupied car seat.

In one exemplary embodiment, the technology described herein provides a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler. The combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler includes an insulated container having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another, a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels, the back, front, left, and right panels integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity for receipt of an at least one item to cool, and a sealable lid being sealable with the back, front, left, and right panels and hingedly connected to a top of the rear panel and an insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat, the cover having a flexible thermal barrier and being foldably attached to the insulated container to provide a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler.

The combined cooler also includes a pocket disposed within the lid, back, front, left, or right panels of the insulated container to receive a cooler ice pack with which to cool the beverage cooler and a pocket disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a cover ice pack with which to cool the car seat cooler. The combined cooler also includes a fastener configured to hold the insulated cover to the car seat. The combined cooler also includes a carrying strap disposed upon the insulated container to facilitate transportability of the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, the carrying strap being operatively adjustable.

In various embodiments, the insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat further includes a lower seat cover and an upper seat cover, each foldably disposed upon a side of the insulated container. The lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are each foldably attached to the insulated container and held in position with a hook-and-loop fastener. Alternatively, the lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are foldably attached to the insulated container and held in position with a zipper. The lower seat cover and an upper seat cover are detachable from the insulated container. The insulated cover is water-resistant.

The lower seat cover and the upper seat cover can each further include a plurality of pockets disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a plurality of cover ice packs with which to cool the car seat cooler. The lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are attached to the insulated container with hook-and-loop fasteners and are detachable from the insulated container. Alternatively, the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are attached to the insulated container with zipper fasteners and are detachable from the insulated container. The insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat can include a plurality of layers. One of the plurality of layers can be a reflective layer to provide additional insulation and reflect heat. The lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are configured to be unfolded and operatively be placed over a car seat base, back, head rest, and arm rests to provide thermal protection to the unoccupied car seat.

In another exemplary embodiment, the technology described herein provides a method for cooling an unoccupied car seat. The method includes utilizing an insulated container having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another, a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels, the back, front, left, and right panels integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity for receipt of an at least one item to cool, and a sealable lid hingedly connected to a top of the rear panel and an insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat, the cover having a flexible thermal barrier and being foldably attached to the insulated container to provide a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, placing the insulated container in the unoccupied car seat, and unfolding the insulated cover from the insulated container and covering the unoccupied car seat to thermally protect the car seat. The insulated container and the insulated cover together form a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler.

The lower seat cover and the upper seat cover each further include a plurality of pockets disposed with an underside of the unfolded insulated cover to receive a plurality of cover ice packs with which to cool the car seat cooler. The method also includes inserting a plurality of cover ice packs into each of the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover.

The insulated cover for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat further comprises a lower seat cover and an upper seat cover, each foldably disposed upon a side of the insulated container; and wherein the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are configured to be unfolded and operatively placed over a car seat base, back, head rest, and arm rests to provide thermal protection to the unoccupied car seat. The method also includes unfolding the lower seat cover from the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, covering the car seat base, unfolding the upper seat cover from the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, covering the seat back, head rest, and arm rests of the car seat, and unfolding both the lower seat cover and the upper seat cover such that the insulated container remains in the car seat to provide additional cooling.

The lower seat cover and the upper seat cover are detachable from the insulated container. The method can further include detaching the lower seat cover from the insulated container and detaching the upper seat cover from the insulated container. Thus, the insulated container is utilized as a portable beverage cooler.

The method can further include folding, upon completion of use of the combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, over the car seat the insulated cover up to the insulated container and attaching the folded insulated cover to the insulated container.

Advantageously, the technology described herein provides a combination beverage cooler and car seat cooler for simultaneously cooling food, beverages, and the like and cooling an unoccupied car seat without the need for separate devices.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the technology in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are additional features of the technology that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto. In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the technology in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The technology described herein is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the technology described herein.

Further objects and advantages of the technology described herein will be apparent from the following detailed description of a presently preferred embodiment which is illustrated schematically in the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The technology described herein is illustrated with reference to the various drawings, in which like reference numbers denote like device components and/or method steps, respectively, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler, according to an embodiment of the technology;

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 1, illustrating, in particular, an unfolding step of the lower seat cover and an ice pack pocket;

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 2, illustrating, in particular, the insertion or removal of an ice pack;

FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 3, illustrating, in particular, an additional unfolding step of the lower seat cover;

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 4, illustrating, in particular, an additional unfolding step of the lower seat cover;

FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 5, illustrating, in particular, an additional unfolding step of the lower seat cover;

FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 6, illustrating, in particular, an additional unfolding step of the lower seat cover;

FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 1, illustrating, in particular, an unzipped beverage cooler lid and ice pack storage pocket and cooled contents within;

FIG. 9 is a side view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 1, illustrating, in particular, the stored lower seat cover and a stored upper seat cover;

FIG. 10 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 1, illustrating, in particular, the unfolded lower seat cover and the unfolded upper seat cover; and

FIG. 11 is a front perspective view of the combined beverage cooler depicted in FIG. 1, illustrating, in particular, the unfolded lower seat cover and the unfolded upper seat cover as placed over an unoccupied child car seat.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Before describing the disclosed embodiments of this technology in detail, it is to be understood that the technology is not limited in its application to the details of the particular arrangement shown here since the technology described is capable of other embodiments. Also, the terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.

In various exemplary embodiments, the technology described herein provides a combination beverage cooler and car seat cooler for simultaneously cooling food, beverages, and the like and cooling an unoccupied car seat.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a front perspective view of a combined beverage cooler and car seat cooler 10 (hereinafter combined cooler 10) is shown. The combined cooler 10 includes an insulated container 16 having a back panel and a front panel opposite one another and a left side panel and a right side panel opposite one another and extended between the back and front panels. The back, front, left, and right panels are integrally formed with a bottom panel, thereby defining an interior cavity (FIG. 8, element 52) in which to place items to cool. The insulated container 16 forms a small, portable food and beverage cooler. Cooled items can include, for example, drinks, snacks, and the like. One or more ice packs can be placed into the insulated container to cool the enclosed items.

The combined cooler 10 includes a sealable lid 14 being sealable with the back, front, left, and right panels of the insulated container 16 and hingedly connected to a top of the rear panel. The lid can be sealed to the insulated container 16 by a zipper 20, or like sealing means. The combined cooler 10 also includes a carrying strap 12. The carrying strap 12 is mounted upon the lid 14 or the insulated container 16 to facilitate transportability of the combined cooler 10. The carrying strap 12 is operatively adjustable. The sealable lid 14 can include an inside pocket to receive a cooler ice pack.

The combined cooler 10 includes an insulated cover 18 for thermally protecting an unoccupied car seat. As shown, the insulated cover 18 is folded and maintained in a folded position with cover strap 22. The insulated cover 18 includes a flexible thermal barrier. The insulated cover 18 is foldably attached to the insulated container 16 to provide a combined cooler 10. The cover strap 22 can be fabricated to include hook-and-loop fasteners to secure the insulated cover 18 to the insulated container 16. Alternatively, a zipper (not shown) can be utilized to secure the insulated cover 18 to the insulated container 16 once is has been folded.

The insulated container 16 and lid 14 can be fabricated from known materials that provide for both cooling and insulation. The insulated cover 18 can be fabricated from known materials and can include multiple layers to provide additional thermal protection. The insulated cover 18 can include a reflective layer to provide additional insulation to reflect heat. The insulated container 16 and the insulated cover 18 are fabricated from water-resistance materials and can be, for example, a fabric material.

Referring now to FIG. 2 a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. In addition to the elements shown and described in FIG. 1, an ice pack pocket 24 is shown. The insulated cover 18 can include a pocket 24 to receive a cover ice pack. Additionally, the insulated cover 18 can include multiple pockets 24 to receive multiple ice packs. As shown, the cover strap 22 is lifted such that the insulated cover 18 is released and unfolded in direction 26, for example.

Referring now to FIG. 3 a front perspective view of the combined cooler is shown. In addition to the elements shown and described in FIG. 2, the insertion or removal of an ice pack 50 is shown in a directional movement 28. The ice pack 50 is inserted through opening 30 of the ice pack pocket 24. Location of the ice pack pocket 24 (or multiple ice pack pockets) can vary on the insulated cover 18. Location of the opening 30 about the ice pack pocket 24 can vary.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. As shown, insulated cover 18 is a lower seat cover 18, to cover a lower portion of a car seat, stroller, or the like. In addition to the elements depicted in FIG. 3, an additional unfolding step 32 of the lower seat cover 18 is shown, illustrating the outward extendibility of the lower seat cover 18 away from the insulated container 16.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. In addition to the elements depicted in FIG. 4, an additional unfolding step 34 of the lower seat cover 18 is shown, further illustrating the outward extendibility of the lower seat cover 18 away from the insulated container 16.

Referring now to FIG. 6, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. In addition to the elements depicted in FIG. 5, an additional unfolding step 36 of the lower seat cover 18 is shown, further illustrating the outward extendibility of the lower seat cover 18 away from the insulated container 16.

Referring now to FIG. 7, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. In addition to the elements depicted in FIG. 6, an additional unfolding step 38 of the lower seat cover 18 is shown, further illustrating the outward extendibility of the lower seat cover 18 away from the insulated container 16.

Referring now to FIG. 8, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. The combined cooler 10 is illustrated with lid 14 in an open position, the zipper 20 in an unzipped position, and the lower seat cover 18 in an unfolded and extended position. Various food and drink items are placed within the cavity 52 of the insulated container 16. One or more ice packs can be placed with the cavity to cool the various food and drink items stored within.

Referring now to FIG. 9, a side view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. In addition to the elements previously depicted, an upper seat cover 42 and a lower seat cover 18 are shown in stored position. In this embodiment, the combined cooler 10 includes both the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 for coverage of an entire top surface of a car seat, stroller, or the like. Upper seat cover 42 is folded and maintained in position adjacent the insulated container 16 with upper cover strap 40. Lower seat cover 18 is folded and maintained in position adjacent the insulated container 16 with lower cover strap 22. As shown, the combined cooler 10, with both the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 are easily carried with carrying strap 12.

Referring now to FIG. 10, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. The combined cooler 10 is shown with both the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 unfolded and fully extended. In at least one embodiment, for example, the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 are detachable from the insulated container 16. By way of example, the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 can be removably attached to the insulated container 16 with hook-and-loop fasteners, zippers, or the like. The upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 can include multiple ice pack pockets in various locations. As shown, the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 attach generally to an exterior surface of the base of the insulated container; however, as will be apparent to those with ordinary skill in the art, attachment can be made to various and alternative components of the insulated container 16. By way of example, the upper seat cover 42 can attached to a top of the back panel. Additionally, as will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, the size of the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 can vary. By way of example, various configurations can be utilized for car seats, strollers, and so forth.

Referring now to FIG. 11, a front perspective view of the combined cooler 10 is shown. The combined cooler 10 is shown with both the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 unfolded and fully extended to cover a car seat. The unoccupied car seat base 46, back 48, and arm rests 44 are covered by the upper seat cover 42 and the lower seat cover 18 for thermal protection.

Although this technology has been illustrated and described herein with reference to preferred embodiments and specific examples thereof, it will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments and examples can perform similar functions and/or achieve like results. All such equivalent embodiments and examples are within the spirit and scope of the invention and are intended to be covered by the following claims.