But It’s The Desert!

December 22nd, 2009

It snowed. And then it snowed some more. It snowed so much that Amazon/Integrity hired buses to bring in their staff from Reno. It was nice of them, but I wish they wouldn’t have called me at 1pm to let me know that they were going to do it.  I am not in Reno and the call woke me up a couple of hours earlier than I would normally get up. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I been able to go to sleep at my normal time, but we went to sleep a few hours later than scheduled. So, after 4 hours of sleep I awoke to this:

The snow is just starting. Fernley, NV
The start of the snow day in Fernley, NV

A light snowfall. I know. Its not a big deal. There isn’t much snow out there at all. Its about as much snow as I expect when there is snow forecast and usually its gone by the next afternoon. However, this was no ordinary snow day for us.

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Life in the back of a truck (part 2)

January 25th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Why a truck camper when you could have something much larger?

True, a bus conversion or a 5th wheel would give quite a bit more space than a truck camper, but if you can deal with the smaller size, a truck camper has a lot going for it. For starters, you can take it places that just aren’t practical in most rigs that are suitable for fulltiming. Sure, a popup trailer or an especially small travel trailer might make it down a particular nasty stretch of dirt road, but even those are going to have issues if it turns out backing out is required. A smallish Class C is as manueverable as a truck camper, but they’re awfully hard to find in 4 wheel drive models with the kind of clearance you get from a full size truck.

Another bonus to truck campers is that you don’t really need to tow along a second vehicle for running around. Many Class A owners tow a dinghy vehicle for sightseeing in order to avoid moving their RV once its parked. While, we also haul around a scooter for short trips, we often just move the entire truck and camper if the trip requires it. Better yet, if we’re going to be somewhere more than a few days and know we’ll need to run around in the truck a lot, we can just drop the camper and have a separate vehicle to drive. It takes a bit more effort than dropping or loading a trailer, but the truck can easily be loaded or unloaded in around 30 minutes.

A final reason we really like the truck camper option is that the camper and drivetrain are not married as they are in Class A’s or C’s. If you decide you’d prefer a different floorplan or the truck experiences catastrophic failure, you can always change truck or camper with a minimum of hassle and keep the one you’re still happy with. For that matter, you can dump the camping lifestyle altogether and keep the truck. Not having the RV and truck married is what allows you to have a 4wd, diesel RV with good clearance at a reasonable price. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone that would like to pull a boat. Many states prohibit double towing, and I can’t imagine it being particularly fun even in those that allow it.

But, isn’t a truck camper way too small to live in fulltime?

I guess that depends on your lifestyle and what you want and need out of life. There are probably more people living in vans than truck campers by an order of magnitude. I can stand up fully, stretch out fully and have considerably more room to move around than any van I’ve ever seen except perhaps the shuttle buses, which I imagine would make a nice little rolling house with some work.

Personally, I find there is plenty of living space, but I’ve always liked living in smaller spaces. They prevent me from accumulating too much junk and I can usually find things I’ve mislaid without much trouble. Jenn and I as well as two cats have been living in the camper for 12 of the last 14 months and I feel much more comfortable to be back in our camper than I felt while we had the run of her parent’s place the past couple of months.

The one real constriction I feel about living in something the size of a truck camper is making a concious effort not to accumulate too much junk and finding a place to store the things we need. Anytime you consider picking up a new item, you have to think about just how often you’re going to use it, whether or not you can get along without it and where you’re going to store it. On top of that, you should consider whether it will be able to replace something you already have or if you already have something that can do the same thing. This problem actually helps me to save money by not buying things just because they’re shiny!

Tech Specs

July 23rd, 2008

Edited 10/20/2012. Blame Blars.

The Van:

2003 GMC Savana 2500

  • AWD. When we get stuck, we’ll be really stuck.
  • Positraction. I mean REALLY stuck.
  • Pro package. Next best thing to a tent, but with lights!

The Truck:

2001 Ford F-350 Lariat

  • Dual rear wheels
  • Crew cab
  • 4×4
  • 7.3L Diesel (International)
  • Timbrens
  • Front and rear receivers

The Camper:

2008 Arctic Fox 1140 (poorly constructed, no… really poorly)

  • Wet bath
  • Couch seating
  • Full-wall cabover wardrobe
  • 9k BTU Air conditioner
  • No oven or microwave (more storage!)
  • Thermal pane windows
  • For sale. Cheap.

The Bikes:

  • Trek RST 3700
  • Roketa MC-17-50T (Sicily) RIPieces!
  • Custom, ancient and venerable road bike. Because we spend our time on dirt roads?

The Internet: Ubiquitous

Sprint EVDO service (for now you greedy bastards!)

  • Novatel U727 EVDO card Fancy mini sd to USB storage adaptor with potential for alien technology. For sale.
  • Cradlepoint CT350 Wifi router
  • Dual-band Omni-directional external antenna
  • Wilson. 3 Watt Bi-Directional Dual-Band EVDO amplifier. How cool would this be if we were using alien technology? For sale.
  • Unix on a phone. Verizon. Google. Hey, almost time for a new wifi only camera/storage/gps/pocket gadget! Penny phones!

The Network:

  • Fujitsu Lifebook 1510
  • Dell Vostro 1500 Jenn smashed it lots of ways. I recommend bondo. For sale. Some parts still good!
  • Asus 1005pe. I love Moore’s Law. I still do all the really important stuff on the console. I mean, I have more spare crunch time on my old router than it takes to run a fair sized company. This is so much more CPU and memory than I really need. I bought it for the battery. 14ish hours. Very solar friendly.
  • Asus 1215B. Jenn can do some fancy graphics with this. I don’t understand her alien technology, but she seems to be happy.
  • ReadyNAS 600 (700GB RAID5)Massive power requirements for more performance than we need. Outdated drives. New drives and firmware would make it even more overpowered for us. Runs linux and is massively hackable. Might still have a wifi card stuck in it. Used this for storing captured video from MythTV network. Might be for sale if it can still be found. Firmware is modified stock. Warranty voided professionally.
  • 2 Cowon A2’s for random movie/music access. Still use these daily! I wish these were more hackable.
  • One of the most hackable linksys routers. Currently acting as a hotspot hijacker and repeater with automated p2p file sharing. Rarely use this, but just too many knobs on it to let the aliens have it. Would trade for even more unobtainable linksys router with an external antenna jack and at least 1 USB port.
  • Toshiba external drives. 2 x 1TB.
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How many MPG does YOUR house get?

May 28th, 2008

Well, our house gets about 14 mpg on flat land such as Florida. We got more in the neighborhood of 12 mpg in the Virginia and North Carolina mountains.
I know everyone has been screaming about fuel prices lately, and I’d rather not get too terribly sidetracked other than to say that in less than two weeks while we were at the Bike Rally, we watched fuel prices go up 12% across the street from us.

I know these prices probably look low to many of you, but we are currently in one of the least expensive ‘fuel zones’ according to this map over at gasbuddy.com. The last I heard, diesel prices in Mexico are about half of the prices here in South Carolina. I guess it pays to be a country that is exporting oil and have state run petroleum companies. Hopefully we’ll make it into Mexico in the next year or two and brush up on some very rusty Spanish.

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Free At Last! Free At Last!

May 1st, 2008

After far too much time spent planning, preparing and waiting, we are finally on the road!

We spent a few hectic days cleaning out the remains of our storage unit and some work on the truck. Friday afternoon, our Bodiak front end receiver came in along with a receiver mounted cargo carrier. Unfortunately, the cargo carrier stuck out an absurd amount from the front of the truck… roughly 14 inches past the receiver before the basket portion even began! With some fiddling, I found that we could use the holes drilled for people that wanted it to stick out even further (I have no idea why) to reverse the basket so that it would mount over the raised portion of the carrier support. This still left about a foot of useless steel sticking forth, which I was tempted to use as a battering ram. Instead, I waited until the welding supply shops opened on Monday (I blame Murphy for using all my gas on Thursday) and cut it down to a manageable size. See? Everyone really needs an oxy-acetylene torch in their rig!

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