Eastern Oregon Trip

Around the beginning of May, I packed up my stuff and my dog, and headed out on a trip in the ranger.  The truck held up surprisingly well, even though I need to get the front shocks done so there were some bumpy rides.

After visiting with my parents in for mother’s day and spending some time in Portland, I drove to Hood River to visit with a friend and stop in the area before continuing to Eastern Oregon to see my sister.  I stayed one night in the Hood River area at Tucker Park, which was a reasonable campground that was pretty quiet and not too far of a drive.

The next morning, I started the drive to La Grande.  It took a few hours (I am one of those drivers that likes to stop and take stretch breaks and much needed bathroom breaks, especially when I have coffee), and Toby and I made it to La Grande comfortably mid day.

We met up with my sister and checked out a local campground, Morgan Lake, which was up a gravel road and did not charge a fee for camping (currently, the limit to stay is 7 nights, but the property owners are going to change it to 3 nights and have more of a registration system, but still no charge).  The spots are right by the lake with an open field on the other side, surrounded by cow fields and other properties.  There’s a nice trail that goes around the lake, though we didn’t get the chance to walk all the way around.

On the first night, there were some college students hanging out at the lake, but they left around when it got dark, so the noise level was not bad.  The second night was pretty quiet and the third night included a lot of people fishing and a couple of families, so overall it was a nice lake to camp at.

Not to mention, the sunsets were very pretty.

Toby enjoyed his perch on a camp chair, surveying the landscape and the neighbors.

My sister and I visited several places in Eastern Oregon – we went to Union and got some tasty caramel kettle corn, went to the farmers market and ate at Jaxdog Cafe in La Grande, picnicked at Catherine Creek along the river, and went into a (not) haunted Hot Lake Springs Hotel (we’ll definitely have to go back for the full tour some day, when the dog isn’t in the car).

On the fourth day in La Grande, we met up earlier in the day prior to me driving to the Bend area, where I stayed at a campground in Sisters overnight.  It was near the main road, but the showers and bathrooms were clean, and I got a good night’s sleep before finishing the drive back to Southern Oregon the next day.

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The drive back took me through a ghost town which I will have to visit again one day (Shaniko), mountains with forests still with snow, and a couple lakes.  Hopefully, I’ll get to spend more time at some of these places as the season continues.

Ranger Truck Camper

My 1994 Ford Ranger has been successfully converted into a truck camper.  The process took a while.  Initially, I considered looking for a cabover/popup camper that would fit in the bed of the truck, but it turns out there’s not many that are affordable (used), take into account my truck’s 1500 pound payload capacity (sadly not very much), and are for small trucks.

I decided on putting a canopy on the truck.  After a lot of time scouring Craigslist, finding one canopy that turned out to not be what I wanted, selling that one (made all my money back and it looked great on the truck of the person who bought it), and finding another canopy in California, I ended up with a nice older Leer canopy. It came with a rack on top (bike and boat possibilities) and I replaced the locks, cleaned it, and resealed the windows.

Inside is a shelf that extends from the front nearest the cab to about halfway across the back of the bed (idea borrowed from Steph Davis).  This allows for more headroom and prevents a coffin-like space for sleeping, like a full length platform would make.  I also can access my stuff without having to open the tailgate.

Last night I tested it out with some local camping and this weekend I’ll be staying at another campsite just out of town to test out my setup a little more.  So far so good!

 

 

Finished the Camper (Practically)!

This past week a lot of progress has been made on the camper – thanks in large part to my dad who helped me with resealing, caulking, and such.  As it stands, the camper is at a place where I am more or less comfortable with it, so any major renovations (such as removing water damaged wood panels) can be saved for later.  So, here’s some pictures to prove the progress!

Here’s the old webbing –  you can see it on the seam of the exterior of the cabover section. IMG_7038

And here’s what the new webbing looks like.  If you happen to need any for chair repair, camper seals, etc. follow this link: Two-Inch Latex Elasbelt Webbing for Chair Repair – 40′ Roll

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We sprayed some rust converter on the big ol’ rust spot on top of the truck cab – it turned black, so no more rust progression, just truck character.

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Here’s my dad helping redo the seals and caulking on the exterior seam of the camper.  We found some dry rot in the right side of the camper, but since it isn’t where the hydraulic system attaches and would be a long process to redo the whole top half of the camper, I’m just going to leave it there for now and not do too much wild off-roading.  IMG_7031

Product placement? Possibly, but in any case here’s the sealant used on the camper for recaulking the windows and sides. IMG_7041

Here’s the camper dinette cushions all reupholstered with a neat blanket I found at Goodwill (washed it prior to use).IMG_7036

Here’s the interior – almost done!  I just need to put in sheets on the cabover bed and any dishes/clothes/supplies I might want in the storage spaces.

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Just for fun, here’s a couple ceramic bowls I picked up at a street fair ($10 for both!) to put in the camper.   IMG_7042

So, all in all, the camper is pretty much set to go.  The fridge still only runs on electric and not propane, though it can be used as a glorified ice box or dry goods storage when not plugged in.  The water system was tested and works, though the water tank has a small leak toward the top.  I plan to either replace it or simply remove it and use the space to store containers of water, utilizing a simple gravity fed sink system or attaching a hose.  The cabover panels’ latches have been reinforced and are nice and stable now and the vents are also resealed.  All that’s left to do is get the truck’s transmission double checked and repair a cracked headlight casing – then on the road!

Project Progress: Cleaning the Camper and More

I am pleased to say that progress is being made on the camper and truck project (with quite a bit of help from my dad on the truck and resealing portions).  We got it out of the driveway today and on its way to the mechanic to check a couple things.  The camper top lowered very nicely and the truck started without a problem.  Below are some photos of the things done in the past day or two.

Cherry tree drawer liners.

I made some drawer liners for the plastic drawers.  They look nice and cover up some of the dirt I couldn’t wash out of the drawer bottoms.  The paper was at JoAnn’s and is basically wrapping paper held on with double sided tape, but it makes the drawers look much more cheery.

New rubber webbing.

Here is a picture of the first section of rubber webbing replaced on the camper.  In addition to the plastic strip holding it down, the webbing is stapled to the door frame.  This stuff goes all the way around and the old stuff is Pirelli rubber webbing, but I found some on Amazon that was basically the same product and significantly cheaper.  This will seal out the bugs and the cold while allowing the top to raise and lower.

New window shades.

New shades on the side windows.  These are from Home Depot and cut to fit, about 52″ across if I recall correctly.  They’re spring loaded which is neat, but I may end up adding a removable layer of fabric to block out the light when all is said and done since these are more like shades than light blocking curtains.

New dinette cushion covers

New fabric covering the dinette cushions, as well as new wood backings for the foam.  The backs are forest creature themed and the seats are a nice tree green.  The fabrics are also from JoAnn’s.  To attach them to the wooden backings I used a staple gun – simple, no sew, and efficient.

Cleaning cabinets

Cleaned out cabinets and encountered some fun blue soap stuff on the tubes for the hydraulic fluid.  Should clean off pretty easily.  I found more of it below the sink and was able to scrape it off with a spatula and clean out that space.

Cleaning the inside.

Drawers taken out of their places and being cleaned. I swept the camper and washed surfaces with warm water and a gentle soap.

Taking apart the foam cushions.

A before photo of the backings for the dinette cushions – these were tossed because some of them were moldy.

Back door

And the back door.

Things left to do on the camper include some resealing on the windows and vents, finishing the webbing, and checking the water tank.  If there’s extra time, we’ll take a look at the fridge and check to see if it can run on propane again, rather than just 110 volt electricity.

Today the truck got its brakes checked and is at the mechanic now to look at the alternator belt and the A/C.  Things are getting done – fingers crossed – this project might get mostly done before too long!

Why I’m Doing It

Some folks might wonder why I would want to live in a camper, especially right after college.

I have been interested in small houses for a couple of years now (thanks to my dad, who introduced me to the idea) and because a tiny house is too expensive for me right now, I started looking at alternatives.  Ideas ranged from van dwelling, to a teardrop camper, to RVing.  As you can see, I leaned more towards a mobile dwelling because I want the ability to travel with ease.

Camping at Lost Lake

In the end, I decided on a truck and camper.  This seemed like a viable option because if something goes wrong with either the truck or camper, one or the other can be replaced without losing your entire rig.  I liked the layout of the truck campers and the potential for a 4WD truck if one got into some sticky situations.  Truck campers are by no means stealthy, but they have standing room and other amenities often built right in.

I was lucky enough to find a truck and camper for sale together on Craigslist of the kinds I wanted.  The truck turned out to be a diesel which meant that it gets about 17 miles to the gallon even with the camper fully loaded on the back.  To me, this was a good compromise between comfort and miles per gallon – not as high as a camper van, but not as low as a big RV.

The challenge of getting rid of enough things to fit only the necessary items in my camper is ongoing, yet refreshing to realize what I actually need and use.  This culture runs rampant with consumerism and materialism; ideologies encourage us to define ourselves by what we buy.  Small living offers an exercise in defining ourselves more by what we do and with whom than by what we own.  With a small space, I am forced to minimize and save money by not buying extraneous items.

Overall, at a young age I now own my own home (even if the home is a truck camper), have the ability to travel, a low cost of living, and potentially no landlord.  Even with the work still to do on the camper, that sounds like a decent setup to me.

Interior Prior to Work

Following are some initial photos of the camper before much work has been done on it.  You’ll have to excuse the clutter – all the parts for the camper are being stored in it currently.

The first photo is of the view out the door – you can see a storage area on the left and the fridge on the right.  I made some blue curtains to replace the old ones

Back door view

Here’s a clearer view of the fridge and part of the stove (the cover for it is being cleaned). The fridge currently works on electric only, though it’s supposed to work on propane as well, so it may end up as a glorified ice box for the time being.

Corner of stove and fridge

A view of the outside of the door – it is in a nifty two halves so the top part can be left open for some air flow, and also to make life easier when the top half lowers down.

Back door

The bed – I splurged on the base foam and got some high quality stuff that’s 3″ thick with a 1″ mattress topper that I will trim to the correct size.  I’m not regretting the spendy foam – it’ll make a much more comfortable bed than what was there before.

Cabover bed

On the right is the side dinette – luckily the cushions are reusable there, they just need to be cleaned, some new backings, and recovered.  That’ll save me some money on buying foam.

Dinette and bed

Hopefully that gives everyone an idea of the layout of the camper – my apologies for the poor photo quality – once it’s cleaned up a little more and I’ve done some more sewing I’ll get some better light in there.  Thanks for reading!

The Beginning…

Hello folks!

This blog is a documentation of my experiences purchasing, cleaning, mildly refurbishing, and living in my Alaskan camper.

This past spring, I purchased a vintage Alaskan camper bolted to the bed of a 1991 Ford F250 Diesel truck.  Both were in decent workable shape, but a little rough around the edges.  As I recently graduated from college, this was my graduation present to myself and (hopefully) my entrance into tiny living.

Like many, the tiny house movement has caught my attention.  However, I as a recent college graduate, I don’t have the funds necessary to build a tiny house.  I also decided I wanted my tiny home to be mobile, and so began looking into truck campers, trailers, school bus conversions, and the like

Alaskan campers caught my eye because as a truck camper, they can be separated from the base vehicle if either needs repairs or replacement and they are also a “top up/top down” hard sided camper.  The top raises via a hydraulic lift and then rests back down on the base while driving, thus reducing wind resistance and sway (a nice feature for someone who’s used to driving an old toyota corolla).   While researching different types of campers, I found the cabover camper format appealing – something with a designated sleeping space but not too cramped at the same time.  So, when the pickup and camper popped up on craigslist together, I decided it was the right time to invest in a rig.

I’m headed to the family’s this Sunday to complete work on the camper and truck and hopefully take it out on its “maiden voyage” this August.  Fingers crossed.