Life in the back of a truck (part 1)

November 20th, 2008

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

So, you want to live in the back of a truck… First off, you should probably face the fact that you’re a bit of an odd duck. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the things that you’ll encounter along the way to making this grandiose fantasy a reality.

Where are you from?
You’re going to hear this question a lot as you travel around. It’s simply a polite thing to ask strangers that “aren’t from around here”. There are a few schools of thought as to how one should answer this question. You can tell people where you left “real life” from if you are in a hurry and don’t want to explain how you come to be living in that truck over yonder. If you’re dealing with a business or government agency, it’s usually simplest to give the address of your mail forwarding service or the address on your driver’s license.

The next two options are a pretty good way to strike up a conversation, so use them carefully as you may end up trying to explain yourself to a posse in the wrong town. You can simply tell the truth and explain that you’re traveling. This can lead to all sorts of interesting questions such as “are ya’ll circus folk/gypsies/carnies/hippies/destitute?”. I wouldn’t recommend telling the cashier at a local business this, but it goes over well at campgrounds. Events that bring a lot diverse folks together are also a good bet. You’ll have to explain yourself a lot more, but as you’re there to meet people anyway, it gives you an interesting topic to talk about. A lot of people are curious about the fulltime RV lifestyle and have lots of questions. The final answer to “where are you from?” is to say “I grew up in…”. This is a polite way of making smalltalk without committing yourself to answering a lot of personal questions from complete strangers.

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Winchester RV Repair

November 13th, 2008

Spice rack built by Winchester RV Repair

A couple of months back, we posted about three guys that got laid off from the Northwood of Virginia factory and have gone into the repair business. Well, we still needed a few things fixed because of problems with our appliance vendors and had a few days left on our warranty, so we figured it would be a good time to visit Bruce, Jerry and Roger again. I’m happy to say they had about a half dozen RVs in for repairs – primarily insurance claims and warranty work. Fortunately for us, everything they had sitting was because they were waiting for parts to arrive, so they had some time to work on our fan and air conditioner without having to wait.

We’ve been working on their website for a few days and instead of trying to figure out how much to charge a start-up that we really want to see succeed, we talked them into doing some customization on the camper. You’ve seen my oh-so-humble efforts on the liquor cabinet, so let’s just say I was thrilled to see what they made of my request to add a spice rack. And here I was about ready to buy some wire and plastic contraption from Wal-Mart!

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Dear Brent,

November 7th, 2008

On 2008/10/25 at 12:11 PM, Brent wrote:

Hey guys,

Currently working my way through your all your postings. My wife and I are in the “can we really do this” stage of making the same change that you two have. Very much enjoying reading through your process.

Much like you two, we both work in technology and are somewhat dependent on the Internet. Add to that, the need for research / blogging / and potentially some work while traveling and connectivity gets to be one of our important decisions. So I’m curious, how are you feeling about the cell network decision versus satellite? Working out as you had planned?

Brent

Well, Brent, I’d have to say I don’t like any of the choices available. I’m pretty happy with the performance of EVDO, but I’m extremely upset with Sprint changing the contract midstream so that it no longer remotely resembles the class of service that we originally purchased. I have already ranted about this particular event once, so I’ll try and stay on subject…

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Home Improvement

October 1st, 2008

I posted back in April about our table upgrade that has saved my sanity, but I figure it’s time to cover a few more minor modifications that have improved our enjoyment of the camper. Also, we’re about to be engaged slinging fried chicken for a couple of weeks and we’ll probably be rather quiet in the blogosphere.

I’ve really got to say I’m still very happy with our choice of camper and options. We’ve looked at quite a few both before and after we made a decision and I still haven’t seen one (yeah, I know Paul will tell me to look at his Snowriver) that I would be happier with for fulltiming.

Added shelving to main closet

We had a couple of things customized on the camper that have made life a lot easier. One was getting a wet bath instead of a dry bath. For starters, it’s very easy to clean a wet bath. The only thing you really sacrifice is having a dry place to store towels and toilet paper. It’s also a good idea to buy a squeegie to swamp out the bathroom after your shower. But what we got in return for a dry bath is a wardrobe that’s two and a half feet deep, three full length drawers and a shoe cabinet.

After we quit work, I found I didn’t need hanging clothes anymore and built a cubbyhole system inside the wardrobe. Now, I have four shelves for clothes, a liquor cabinet and a handy place to store our bows which we previously had to squeeze behind the backseat of the truck. Rene has been asking me, for months now, where we hide the booze and I finally have a good answer. With some wiggling, I can get roughly eighteen liters of booze in the liquor cabinet. Just right for a couple of unemployed, homeless folks, right?
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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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