(Today we are going to have a guest post from my good friend Fred about his odyssey of finding the live-aboard vehicle that was just right for him. Thanks Fred!)
Bob asked me to write about my new rig, especially about my transition from large rigs to my current one, a short wheel base 1996 Dodge van (about 15-16 feet long). I started with a large 38ft. 5th wheel, and while it was very comfortable with all the amenities, it was simply too big and certainly way too much for me. I felt like I was in a large cavern that I could have played a soccer game in.
I sold that and got a 24ft. travel trailer that certainly was smaller but I wasn’t able to go or get into some of the places I wanted to go (no, not 4-wheel drive stuff). I either wouldn’t fit into the space or wasn’t able to turn around in it. The trailer was an improvement though since I didn’t feel like a beebee in a box car size wise. It still allowed me to have too much unnecessary “stuff” crammed into nooks and crannies. I was starting to realize that it was still way more room than I needed, plus I was the one who had to keep it clean.
Somewhere along the line I came up with the brilliant idea that I simply did not require a lot of room to be comfy along with the realization that I still had too much “stuff”. So I then downsized to a truck camper combination. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus I had a cat and needed at least some room for the kitty box. Finally I could get in some tight spaces on National Forest roads, but more importantly I still did not feel cramped at all. And yes, I still had a lot of “stuff”. There’s that pesky little word again.
I was still paying for a storage shed. It was only $35/mo. but it was starting to really annoy me since I was just storing a bunch of “stuff” for no good reason. And over a period of 3 years that was over $1200 bucks that I sure could have used. I’ll use my “stuff” someday was a lame excuse for not getting rid of it. Well, someday came in Nov. 2014 and I donated and gave away all but a very few select items. Some of the “stuff” I had kept in storage I didn’t even remember I had because it had been so long since I had last used it. Best of all, the truth was I really didn’t miss it. What a relief……. And now………..
Back to the truck camper. It was certainly small enough but it still had things that I really never used, for instance, I only used one burner on a 3 burner stove and never used the oven. It had a bathroom I didn’t use because since I went outside for both functions with the coyotes since I did not want to have to keep running to the dump plus buy and store the chemicals. So the bathroom/shower was a storage room. A big item also was climbing up and into bed, but more importantly climbing down at night to go to the bathroom. Since mine was a large camper, the drop down from bed to floor, especially at night when I was groggy, let’s say at times was rather precipitous. One memorable nighttime moment was the time in my hazy state I stepped on the cat. Only some sort of minor miracle saved me from a 4 foot plunge to the kitchen floor. My cat was major pissed as only a cat can be. Gas mileage improved though to a whopping 10mpg. Soooooooo……
I finally took the final plunge hook, line, and sinker to get a space absolutely no bigger than I needed. My cat had died the month previous so I sold the truck and camper and purchased a 1996 Dodge van which gets between 16.5 and 18mpg. Yea! . It is a V6 engine which has proven over the years to be very reliable. It was a commercial van that the owner had already had the bench seat removed. I removed the passenger seat and gained lots more room. What I liked about it was the fact that, since I don’t do stealth, it has windows all around, front. back, and sides. It has 5 doors. And it runs very well. What I don’t like is that, even at 5’8″, I cannot stand up fully. Fortunately, my arthritis is in my ankles not my back. Since I spend a lot of time outside, but still can sit comfortably inside, it has not become too bothersome. Yeah, it’s a little difficult to dress and stand up to cook, but with the new table I can use the stove facing inside or outside. (See pics).
The new place allows me to do the things that I enjoy, hiking almost everyday, reading, playing games on the computer, fitting into a normal parking space, getting into tight spaces on forest service roads. I have a Thule “attic” on top that carries some gear that I don’t use very often such as a large tow strap, a winter coat, extra pair of hiking shoes, some tools kits, some wiring and nuts and bolts, etc. I still need to carry around a ladder to get into the Thule however, so that is annoying at times. Also, I have to get a tire carrier for the rear door since the tire is now on the roof. So, there are a few things that need to be adjusted or fixed but this mode of transportation seems to be just right for me. I have a bed, enough storage for just about everything and within easy reach, a Mr. Buddy heater, a stove to cook on, and plenty of light at night since I switched out the regular inside bulbs to LED’s. The computer table, bed, cooking table, and the support for the shelves were all built from scratch. The pics are below. In addition, I carry all the solar panels and supporting stuff upright against the shelves, held up by a bungee, inside without any problem at all.
This has been my 3 year transition from large to small. I am very comfortable in my limited space and realize it is not for everyone. The hard part was getting rid of all the “stuff” we buy, store, keep, and never use. The real hard part was the mental aspect of it, but once I got started in earnest, it was a lot easier than I thought. I am certainly a lot happier because of it. If you have any questions about the build out or the solar, please feel free to ask or see me at the RTR.