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.

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Portland, March 2017

Last Thursday was the last day at my job.

Yesterday, I drove up to Portland.

My family lives up here, and it’s where I grew up, so I’m starting off my time off from working on a familiar trip.

Prior to leaving, I got an oil change and had the tires rotated (it’s been 5000 miles since I bought them already!).  I will have to remember to get the transmission fluid changed as well.

I got back on my road bike and rode around the neighborhood a bit, realizing just how out of biking shape I am.  My dog, Toby, has been enjoying the long walks around the neighborhood and new sights and smells, as well as pestering the family’s dogs.

While I’m up here, I will clean out the back of the truck and canopy and get it ready to load up for some camping trips.  I am planning to see a few friends and possibly set my sister up with my old mountain bike so she can have wheeled transportation at college.

Adjusting to the notion that I don’t have have any major time frames I have to follow right now will take a bit.  I think it will end up being a healthy break from the stresses of work life though.

Now, it’s time to think of places I’d like to go and see.  Some of them on my list are the California redwoods, Bend (haven’t been there yet), Hood River (to visit with a friend), and the coast.

If you’ve got a local place you would recommend for a visit, let me know below.  Dog friendly, bike friendly, and camping friendly places would be ideal, but I am always good for day trips.

 

 

Catalyst

These past two weeks have been tumultuous.  Due to a variety of factors, I put in my two week notice at my job.  Luckily, I have enough financial stability right now to take my time finding my next job.  That financial stability is due in large part to paying a decreased rent – my partner and his family have graciously let me stay with them while I was working.

I recognize my current goals are not in line with what is typically expected of someone of my age and that I have a great deal of societal and personal privilege in being able to pursue those goals.  Not everyone will agree with what direction I am headed for the time being, and that is ok.  Each person has their own drive and direction they would like to go, and each has its own merit.

Working for nearly two years has allowed me to save up the funds to take some time for myself, travel a bit, reconnect with friends and family, spend time with and train my dog, and do some self-reflection.  My vehicle is reasonably reliable with known quirks.  I’ll be cleaning out the back of it these next few days and working on getting it set up for some local travel as the season warms up.  Then, we’ll see what happens next.

 

 

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!

 

 

The Planning Process

I’ve been circulating various ideas recently about how to set up my Ford Ranger for camping.  Currently, it’s looking like the most simple and cost effective option would be to convert the bed of the pickup into a camper for shorter trips.  It would have a sleeping and storage area – most likely with side bins and perhaps a small platform, depending on the height of the canopy.

My first step is to find a canopy to go with the truck.  Craigslist is the main source for this, as a used canopy from a dealer (and there are not that many that sell used ones, oddly enough) runs from $400 to $800 depending on features, whereas a used one on Craigslist is more in the $100-$300 range.

Some of the resources I’ve come across for this sort of setup are as follows:

A simple how to details some of the things you need to turn your truck into a camper.

Tacoma Based Truck Bed Camper: This page discusses one truck’s modifications to becoming a camper.

Desk to Dirtbag is a really helpful page.  The author walks you through the process of choosing a canopy, setup, and why he has his truck setup with a transformer style bed.

“The Office Hobo” provides an inside look at one person’s truck living in the city.  I particularly liked their sleeping setup with raised side bins for storage and the lowered sleeping area for maximum headroom.  Theoretically, if you’re not a super tall person then you wouldn’t even need a high top canopy for this kind of setup.

Strategies for Living in a Truck as a Couple highlights the experience of a younger couple living in the back of their Toyota Tacoma.  Not a lot of space for two people, but their bed design helps.

A basic truck bed setup involves simply putting a board across the back of living/sleeping space to be used as a shelf, storage, kitchen, or whatever is needed.  The rest of the items are then organized in bins along the side, allowing for room to sleep and store things with minimal build out.

Steph Davis‘s truck camper is set up in a similar way with a board across the back.  It works well for her in that she can easily use the cargo area to haul things or to sleep in, depending on need.

It won’t be the fanciest of setups, but it will be good for shorter trips and saving on gas by not driving a larger rig.

An Alternate Route

I’m back in Southern Oregon now as I (finally) add another update to this blog.  The Ford F250 with the camper had to stay in Portland due to mechanical issues and instead I drove down in a smaller Ford Ranger (this one being an all around more reliable vehicle).  On the bright side, I now have a definite vehicle I can base my plans off of and a reliable daily driver which expands my job opportunities greatly.  I’ll end up selling the first truck with the camper on it once it’s in better mechanical condition.  Turns out that a 1991 automatic, diesel, 4×4 is a relatively complex engine to work with, especially when previous owners didn’t take fantastic care of it.

For a while, I was frustrated about not being able to start travelling and camping at this time, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed the universe was telling me now isn’t the right time for this particular adventure.  As much as I want to live out of my vehicle for travelling and adopt a dog, I’m going to hunker down for the colder seasons and stay in the studio apartment I live in.  I’ve done some job searching and have some small gigs set up (pet sitting, childcare, etc.) as well as applied to the place where I volunteer each week for a paid full time position (wish me luck!).  In the end, I don’t want to work full time at a desk job, but as long as I am here I may as well make the most of it and save up some money.

Ford Ranger

I also have the opportunity to think about which kind of camper I want to put onto my Ford Ranger and do some more research.  Inspiration is popping up all over the place.

Tiny House People on Facebook has provided me with some neat ideas and links lately.

For anyone interested in living in a very small space, you should check this out: Chris Sawey’s Hotel Prius.  He’s got a relatively nice setup in a very small space – great for stealth camping and super good on gas.

Even though I totally dig the Prius camper, I’m looking at stuff I could use my little truck for.  The ranger has decent towing capacity, so a teardrop trailer could totally be in the mix.  There are lots of teardrop companies out there and here are a couple that I like so far.

North Coast Teardrops is in the Pacific Northwest and makes insulated teardrops in a variety of sizes.

Big Woody Campers are of course some of my favorites in terms of looks – can’t really beat that classic wood finish.

Etsy Teardrops – There’s a few neat teardrop-esque campers floating around on Etsy.

Terry’s Teardrops

In addition to towing, the ranger could carry a small camper or have a stealth canopy camper.

Stealth Canopy Camper: This is a link to a blog post about a fellow who built out his regular truck canopy with sleeping and storage areas into a cozy stealth camper for a long trip.  This particular setup is appealing both for its simplicity and the fact that the storage areas are on the sides, rather than having a sleeping platform which minimizes sitting ability. There’s even a tiny kitchen and water storage in this one.

Bel-Air Camper Shells are insulated with a wood interior, vent, and lighting – making them great and relatively lightweight shells to put on smaller trucks.  That leaves the interior to be made as simple or complex as wanted.  I may end up getting one of these for my little truck because it means you don’t have to tow anything, can have an insulated sleeping area, and lockable storage for your gear – all in the  bed of a little truck.  Plus, they’re far more affordable than a teardrop.

Bel-Air Camper Shells

In some ways, I am back to square one on this project.  In other ways, I am getting an opportunity to really evaluate how I want to accomplish these goals and in what format.  Hopefully, come spring, I’ll be more than prepared to hit the road.