Sunday, June 22, 2008

Truck Camper Retro-Vision - '67 Dodge Camper Special original advertisement

Well, given that I'm partial to the old and long forgotten era when THE RV to have was a Truck Camper for all your outdoor adventures (seeing as my camper comes from that generation), I was pleased as a pig in sh*t when I was given this tasty little treasure.

Personally, I STILL want the boat ;)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Weekend Warrior becomes the Full-Timer, or the Real Journey Begins (06-16-2008)

Oh, starting in mid-April of 2008, I finally landed a job related to my college education, working as a Quality Assurance Engineer and Tester for the Intel Corporation up in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Up to this point, I'd been borrowing my fiance's mother's KIA to drive a couple days a week to cut down my gas bill, but I was still feeling the pinch burning over $200 a week in gas just to go to work, which was really negating the benefits of working the much higher paying job.

This worked okay, though, because of our work schedule. Four days a week we worked 9 hour shifts, then we only worked a half-day on Friday. This went on and all was well until June 14th, 2008 when the company announced that they were going to switch to a 8-5 shift, five days a week.


Here's a bit of history about the Hillsboro, Beaverton, Highway 26/Highway 217 corridor. It was built by Idiots whom decided that there'd NEVER be a big population boom out in the biggest Portland bedroom cities. So, they built the main north/south highway (Highway 217) with only two lanes going either direction, with ZERO space appropriated for future expansion.

The 1990s happened.

Washington County's population exploded as Intel and a great many other electronic companies built bigger and bigger campuses to meet the demand as personal computer technology began to evolve at a record pace and prices dropped making the personal computer more affordable for the masses.

The highways were NEVER expanded.

Their solution?

Add Ramp Signals.

This helped alleviate a little of the highway congestion, by transferring it onto the surface streets. So, now you had slow traffic on the highway, plus two mile long traffic backups waiting to get onto the highway.

Here's a figure for you. My commute was 50 miles. My average speed during the new commute was 25mph. It took Two Flipping Hours to drive 50 miles. Basically, an hour and a half to commute 25 miles, then the remaining 25 miles at posted speed limits in 30 minutes.

Gas is also approaching $4 a gallon, and there I sat idling and idling as I played the stop and go and stop and go game and Oh SHIT!! IDIOT!! game as people try to dart in and out of stopping distance.

Two weeks of this and I'd had enough.

I had pondered getting an apartment in the area for a while, however, your average 1-bedroom slum goes for $650 and above up in the Washington County area. Hell renting a single bedroom in a house goes for a minimum of $400 up there, Washington County, hell, all of Portland Metro is seriously over-priced.

I finally decided that the only other feasible option was to move into my trusty old KIT Kamper, which to this point had only been my Weekend Warrior camping rig.

This was all well and good, but I ran into the problem of Hillsboro not having any RV parks in the area. They, annoyingly so, don't have a Wal-Mart within 20 miles of the area either, which would have worked for doing a hybrid full-timing/commuting thing where I parking lot hopped each night for a few days, then came back down to Salem, restocked the water and what not, then went back up.

I posted my dilemma to my various forums that I belong to and received a plethora of suggestions, most of which repeated concepts I had already debated, but hadn't been feasible.

In the end, a fellow forum member gave me the contact information to his Father-in-Law to speak to them about staying out on their farm.

After work one of the days, I went out and spoke with Gary Duyck, owner of the Duyck's Peachy Pig Farm and was blessed to be allowed to stay on the farm.

So, my days as a full-timer officially began. I stayed with the Duyck's from June till a few days before Christmas that year, before needing to move on to a new location as there was no longer space for me to stay any longer at the farm.

The time I spent there was perhaps some of the most enjoyable days of my life, giving me in a sense the ability to revisit part of my childhood that was long long lost.

Gary and Sally Duyck reminded me a lot of my Great Uncle Marciel and his wife Doreen who kept and ran the family farm (4000 odd acres of Corn and Soy back in Illinois near Chebanse).

I never really got much of a chance to see my Great Aunt and Uncle or spend much time out on the farm before they passed, because of my family's separation of more than 2000 miles from our home state, I missed out alot on seeing my extended family as a kid.

May God always smile on the Duyck's and their Children and all their kin, they gave me back a part of my life that I had lost.

Weekend Camper I am no more, my home is where I park it now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Two Years Later my Return to Odell Lake Memorial Day Weekend (05-23-2008 to 05-26-2008)

NOTE: All pictures in this thread are thumbnailed, simply click on the picture to view the fullsize version.


Well, kinda a ways past Memorial Day weekend now, but not so far gone that folks aren't likely to remember it well. Last year, I took my truck and camper down to Diamond Lake on a Spur-of-the-moment trip with a buddy of mine named JJ. No planning other than 24 hrs before we decided we were going to go. Got there, wound up with a perfect Lake front spot, no reservations!

Well, this year, JJ wasn't free and after a few calls found out that Diamond Lake was still something that resembled a slushy left in the freezer. Campgrounds were still under about six feet of snow, kinda making it a bit on the "Not going to work" side.

A couple weeks out before this trip, I had gotten to talking with mjgcamper from NATCOA about how I was going down to the lake, and Mike decided that that sounded like a good time and said he'd caravan down with me. The monday before the weekend was when I discovered that unlike the last eight years Diamond hadn't thawed in time.

Several paniced PMs back and forth, along with multiple phone calls chatting about, "Okay, its monday before the holiday weekend, what are we going to do..." Mike calls the reservation number for the east shore Lodge & Campground. When inquiring if they had any sites available, he discovers that they have quite a number of open sites and books us two sites next to each other on the water. Talk about a repeat of good luck!

So, the trip is saved, we're back on track. The weekend prior to the holiday, I fished my camper out of storage, and promptly kept poor Matthew_B awake till the crack of dawn assembling my make-shift rolling canopy dolly. Unfortunately, I didn't have much free time between then and thursday night to clean, de-winterize and stock the camper. As it stands, I stayed up for pretty close to 48 hrs between thursday and friday. My original "Let's meet at the Wilsonville Rest Area @ 1pm" plan kinda flushed down the toilet when I still had to get my groceries after working till noon on Friday, along with a couple other small errands (Like get my spare propane tank filed, thanks Dad for running it dry with yer barbacue....).

I forget the exact time of day it was when we got there, but I know it was still daylight, and somewhere around 6-7pm. But, we got there, alive, without running over small cars. We did our check-in, and drove to our spots in camp.

Now, alot of folks here that are familiar with Odell Lake are familiar with Trapper Creek Campground, the bigger, more primitive campground on the south-west shore of the lake. Odell Lake Lodge & Campground is clear over on the east shore of the lake, set about mid-way between the railroad tracks that skirt the south shore and the highway that skirts the north shore. Its location is perfect in that the passing trains aren't too loud and the highway is entirely silent. The campground itself is a narrow band of land that skirts along the edge of the cliff face. Its only got one loop, and about 20-25 odd campsites in it. All but a small few are lake front.

Trapper Creek.... wasn't quite accessible....

Once camp was pretty much set up, we fired up Mike's barbacue and fixed a couple flat iron steaks and a nice salad. We dined and chatted in Mike's (mjgcamper) camper, before saying our goodnights and each of us retiring to our respective campers for a hot shower and a solid nights sleep. I don't think I've been more tired than I was that night, I tried to read my book before turning out the light and dozing off and got exactly three words before nodding off for about fifteen minutes, waking and deciding that I wasn't going to get any reading done.

A crisp, cold morning with a silver-grey sky greeted us the following morning. Mike, a man with probably the best internal alarm clock known to man was already up and about and working on one of his later cups of coffee. I rousted myself from bed, folded up my discarded driving clothes and neatly deposited them in the hamper. A brief pilaging of the wardrobe cabinets yielded me a pair of overalls and a knit cotton long sleeve shirt.

(Yes, that's my generator chained to a tree ten feet from my camper)

Another couple minutes were spent trying to tame my rogue swath of thinning hair before I cracked the fridge and pulled out bacon, eggs and colby-jack cheese. While the bacon was sizzling in the pan and I was mixing up some pancake batter, Mike had strolled over to my camper and gave a knock on the door. I hollared a good morning and invited him in for breakfast. A small feast of colby-jack scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes insued with light banter about the sheer pleasure it was of just being out in the woods again, and away from the general humdrum of normal life.

We each swapped tales from our lives, ate, and then set forth in the activities of finishing camp and launching my ancient wooden boat.

My boat is old, I'm not certain how old, but I'd wager its probably in the area of 40 odd years. Its flat bottomed, made entirely of plywood, and has been coated in fiberglass by her current owner. I call it my boat, which by chain of ownership it really isn't, but in that Floyd, the father of a late friend of mine hasn't touched the boat since his boy died, has basically just said, "Come get it and use it whenever you want, I'm not using it." Case in point, it sat for five years collecting moss before he decided to go out and pressure wash it off, which by happenstance occured less than 24hrs before I called to ask if the offer to use the boat was still open.

The boat doesn't have a traditional "boat trailer," either. It rides around on the plywood decked frame of what used to be a Coleman tent trailer. Its rather lightweight, and with its flat bottom, makes it easy to load my extra camping gear into and tow behind the truck.

It has an outboard that was offered for use on this excursion, but I chose to decline the offer this time around, instead to use Mike's 15hp Mercury instead. The original outboard is a 1953 Evinrude 2 cycle 10hp, I'll be experimenting with it come my Diamond Lake trip in July. In hindsight, I should have used the old motor as Mike's Mercury decided that it was going to be a total PITA at 5100 feet.

Now, before ya let that picture up there get ya thinking we picked that boat up and carried it out to the water and launched it, stop.

We're a bit nutty, but we aren't that crazy.

No, we strapped Mike's outboard on the boat, and then hitched it up to his pickup to take it over to the marina launch. One disadvantage Odell Lake Lodge campground has is, if yer boat's a v-hull and requires more than a couple inches of draft to keep off the bottom, you'll never get her in close enough to land her at camp. The shore comes up rapidly about 15-20 feet out from shore and drops down to around a 1-2' of water. Mercifully, someone took the effort to drag a dead-head out to mark a warning spot so that you don't drive your prop right into the rocks as the bottom races up.

The other disadvantage is, they charge $5 to launch each time. We paid once for the four days.

Finally, we were off. Boat launches, Mike piloted it back to camp while I drove his truck, camper, and the boat trailer back. A few more minutes of prep work at camp and we were off out onto the lake!

About.... twenty minutes out as we were deciding on where to go on the lake first, Mike informs me that he forgot to get his fishing license. So, we decide to check at the Lodge to see if they sell them since they have a pretty substantial bait/tackle shop.

We motor in, and dock, and Mike heads in to see about getting a license. Well, while he's gone, I watch the boat and our gear and decide to check on the drain plug. I was noticing a light wetness to the area around it, so I reach down and tighten up the plug a bit more....

And the wetness becomes a slow trickle leak.... Crap. Nothing too bad, just enough to worry me a bit, she wasn't heading toward the bottom at any rate of speed.

Bout this time, Mike gets back and informs me that they don't sell fishing licenses at the Lodge, but less than two miles east on the 58 there's a big sportsman shop.

That's right, a Sportsman shop, in the middle of nowhere.

There's a gas station, and a restaurant of some kind across the street, and that's it. Its the little town of Cresent, which serves both Cresent Lake (Odells little neighbor) and of course Odell Lake.

I inform him that he drain plug is leaking, and so we drive the boat back across the lake as fast as it'll go and using a couple round pieces of firewood, pull her ashore, bail her out, and pull the drain plug.

Problem's not too hard to diagnose, drain plugs rubber was rotten and cracked clean through, tightening it down just did it in. So, I give it to Mike and ask him to see if they have a replacement when he heads off to the shop to get his license. He asks if I want to come, and I delcine, stating that it'll give me time to set camp up the rest of the way.

So, Mike drives off again and heads to the sportsman shop while I work on camp. He's gone.... Oh, fifteen minutes, before he's back with his license. I'm kinda astounded, usually when someone up on in the hills of Oregon tells me somethings "a couple miles down the road," its usually more like 35-75 miles away.

As Mike pulls in, I ask, "So, did they have the drain plug?" Poor guy gets this awful look on his face and replies, "Well Matt, I forgot to even look, and I had it right here in the truck with me!"

So, I tell him not to worry about it, and ride back with him for trip number two to the Sportsman shop. Now, this is a pretty decent sized store, and amazingly enough is priced within reason, not being much more expensive than buying stuff at Bi-Mart. So, we get a new drain plug, I pick up some Craw/Anise fish scent, a wedding ring, and a couple rooster tails, along with a snubber (Little bit of flexible rubber that you put in your line to help with setting hooks when a fish bites, and keeping yer line from getting broke).

We purchase our items, then head back to camp, level Mike's camper out again, and then setup our gear and head out.

Install our new drain plug, load up our stuff back in the boat, then slide her back into the water and push off and head out going northwest across the lake to the first little cove along the south shore.

As we coast the boat into the cove (above-left), watching the bottom for dead-head and the shallows, I spy that little duck fellow in the above-right picture. Snap a picture of him, then drop anchor and get setup with a wooden float one of the snubbers and an #6 hook with some corn and scent on it.

The wind is calm in this little cove, and the water an emerald green and clear. Mike and I cast into different spots nearer the shore to try and tease out some of the little buggers hiding under the logs. Mike casting, while I cast out, let it drift a ways on the water, then reel it back in an reaim another cast.

This works for about.... 20 minutes before my line breaks the first time. Now, I'm using a Shakesperre Xterra pole and reel I had picked up from Bi-Mart a few years back because my original good reel was nicked from the Silverton Resevoir when the pole was destroyed in a bicycle accident (I used to bicycle out to places and go fishing.) I have no clue what grade of fishing line was on that pole, but I'd call it 1lb test, cause it was garbage, as I learned on this outing.

So, my line broke in the cast and my float and all my tackle is still tied to it (Thank God). So, we pull up the anchor and row the boat over near shore to retrieve it. We then row back out, and while I'm repairing my stuff, Mike continues casting.

I'd say about another 10 minutes out, Mike snags his rooster tail up on a downed tree. So, we pull up the anchor again, and row back in and get it unhooked, then row back out. Bout this time, I've fixed my tackle and ready to start casting out again. I get about four to five casts in before the line breaks AGAIN! Now, I'm pissed. So, we row over to the float only to find the line didn't stay on it and my tackle is now at the bottom of the lake.

Its about this point, we head back in for the evening. Most of the day was consumed in our various trips back to shore, and Mike voiced that he'd like to be back in at camp to get a fire going before it gets dark. So, we head back in and tie up. Get the gas lantern going, then decide to take a stroll over to the Lodge to see about getting some replacement fishing line and some more lures.

A pleasant walk to the Lodge and back, and $20 later I have some Super Green 10lb test, some more swivels, a new wedding rings, new snubbers, and a few extra rooster tails.

Using a piece of 2x4 Mike'd brought as part of his firewood pile, we unwound the old garbage line from my reel and wound it onto the hunk of wood. We then tied off and reloaded my spool with the new super green line. MUCH better. The line is a bit spunky since its still got coil to it from being brand new, but we figure a few hours trolling will take care of that.

Fishing pole re-lined, re-tackled, we put our gear aside for the evening and get to work on getting a campfire going.

I think you can guess what happened to the 2x4 piece with the fishing line on it.

Fire going, I slip inside and get to work on fixing us up some Chip-Beef on toast for dinner and Mike brings over his salad fixings. While I'm finishing up the cooking, I boil up some hot water to make some hot cocoa to warm us back up from our outside adventures. Mike takes his with a wee nip of Southern Comfort in it to give it some extra spice.

Dinner is finished, we dine, we chat, then slip outside to continue our libations around the fire. I pull out one of my Punch Gran Puro cigars and lit up and relax next to the fire, smoking, nibbling peanuts and chatting. Sometime near 10-11pm, we finally retire for the evening and sleep hard once more.

Nine O' the clock rolls around, and with much trepidation I roust myself from my bed once more. Its been a month since I've had two full night sleep in a row, and I'm hating to break away from it. But, there be fishin' ta do!

Breakfast is a little simpler, Mike having been up a full hour - two hours before me, declines this morning and instead partakes of my anti-acids to help him recover from our previous evenings libations. Bacon, eggs fried in the grease, and some freshly buttered toast along with a tall glass of orange juice and milk starts this morning off. Another cup of hot cocoa gets the blood flowing as I fix my breakfast and not too long after we're getting ready to tackle the fish once more.

Since the previous night, the weather's shifted a bit on Odell Lake and its famous east blowing wind has kicked up. One foot waves with small whitecaps dot the surface of the Lake today. Mike suggest that perhaps we should wait till it calms down, I insist that we should go out now, by the time we each the south shore we'll be in the shelter of the coves and the waters will be calm.

So, we set out. Getting the boat out of harbors a great deal more challenging with the waves constantly trying to shove us back into the rocks. Using our two oars as lodge poles, we push the boat back away from the shore and get her turned into the waves. About this point, the Mercury decides its going to be a jacktard and refuses to start. All the while, waves are turning us broadside and working us back to shore again.

So, while Mike cussed the engine, I used my oar to keep the bow pointed into the waves. Getting capsized into 40 degree water is not on my list of enjoyable sounding activities.

Finally, after about five minutes, which to me felt like an hour. The Mercury gets its head out of its rear and starts and gets moving....

Then promptly shoves it right back up there again with a wave of the middle finger....

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I think we went through this process about two - three times before the Mercury was beaten around the brow enough to keep its head out in the open and get us moving along the water. Bout this point, the chop on the water has increased with the wind picking up some steam. As we try to cut a diagonal across the waves, now up to about 1 1/2 - 2 foot swells, the boats front is jumping the crests and slapping the water HARD. We can watch as the floor of the boat bows in as she comes back down on the water. For a while I manage to minimize the degree of slap by lifting myself from my seat and letting my legs extend out as the bow comes back to rest on the waters surface.

Eventually, even that wasn't working well, so we switched to walking ourselves crab-wise over the waves so that the hull was no longer taking a beating. Its decided that we'll follow the shore from then out so long as we were heading west to stay out of the brunt of the waters fury.

We finally make it back to our previous spot from the day before, and drop anchor once more. The lake is once more placid, now that we're sheltered from the east blowing wind. Standing each at oppossite ends of the boat, we spend about an hour casting, floating, and generally experimenting in our little cove.

Probably about fourty-five odd minutes in, Mike decides to set his pole down for a while and take a rest.

I continue to cast for another thirty, or so minutes before we decide to haul up the anchor and take on the challenge of the waves again and explore another cove.

We continue on this way for a number of hours, fishing each of the coves along the south shore, except for I think Shelter Cove where the RV Park is, that was just way too busy. We'd been wondering the whole trip why we weren't seeing hardly anyone. Turns out they're all down on the west side of the lake within twenty feet of each other.

Probably about half way through the day, we finally make it to Trapper Creek's dock. The dock itself is free of snow, but the launch, the roads, and the sidewalk are all under about 3-4 feet of snow still.

So, we tie off, and climb out to stretch, get a walk and find a tree to take care of the business. We wind up having to climb up that embankment of snow to get into the campground, Mike (who's a great deal lighter than me), then myself. Mike has no problems stepping up onto the snow on the edge of the pier and walking out onto the pack. When its my turn, I step up....

And have to grab onto the snow mound as part of it gives way under my left foot, nearly sending me into the drink! Geh, first trip of the year, Murphy always loves those....

Well.... Several minutes of embarassment, and some swearing on my part, I'm up on top of the snow pack with Mike, in search of the ideal tree. After such time that said activities were completed, I strolled back to the boat (Where Mike was fishing off the pier) obtained my camera and hiked myself back into the campground in search of a particular campsite. Namely the spot where I went camping for the first time with the big KIT, almost a full two years ago.

After much searching, I find it. Out of sheer irony, its the only campsite in the campground to which I could find the post with its site number on. No way that's coincidence!

I had always wondered why the back of our campsite what looked like a mini creek bed in it when my father and I stayed there that July two years ago. Turns out, during the spring melt, there IS a small creek running along the backs of many of the back loop campsites.

After finishing my explorations, I finally returned to the dock to where Mike was still fishing We loaded back up, and cast off. As we puttered back out into the lake, we both noticed that a fog wall was rolling in on the lake. Not good. Visibility was basically going from unlimited down to twenty, thirty yards. Get in that fog for a few seconds and you lost complete sight of the shores, all of them.

So, we did what any fishermen did. We got ourselves out of the fog and a good ways ahead of it. Then promptly trolled the rest of the way back to the east shore. The fog slowly followed as we inched along the lake. As we finally passed our first fishing spot, we decided we were done. The fish had been jumping all around us and we'd trolled, cast, bobbered and just about everything elsed we could and didn't get a bite. So, we packed our poles in and started back.

Bout this time, the wind was coming back. This isn't really a big problem when its at your back, but the swells were getting bigger and looking at camp and the amount of open water we'd have to cross at an angle to those waves, I suggested that we'd best head for the docks at the Lodge and go fetch the boat trailer to bring her back with rather than risk it on the rocks.

We debated it back and forth a bit, and finally decided to go with the original plan and head to the lodge. I think we had a five foot wake behind us from the four foot swells with big whitecaps we were plowing.

Yeah, plowing.

There isn't anyway in sam hill you could get that boat to plane with a 15hp motor. Heck, Mike couldn't even do it when he was piloting the boat by himself.

We finally nipped into the shelter of the launch dock and smacked the bow into the pier a couple times as the wind tried to spin us like a top. Finally, we got her tied up and made the walk back to camp to get Mike's truck and the boat trailer to bring her back. The temp was getting a wee bit chilly by this point, and even with several layers of clothes and my heavy rubber rain coat, I could still feel that wind.

As we walked, the fog crept over us and the lake was gone.

It took us a bit of time to get the boat loaded back up on her trailer and brought back to camp. The heater in Mike's truck being ineffectual on our cold bodies as it was too little driving puttering from the campsite and the dock to warm his diesel up enough to do much of anything.

Once back to camp, we built a roarer of a fire, I fired up my generator again (I was running it about 2-3 hrs a day to recharge the batteries. The furnace was set to cycle on and off and left on all day to keep the camper from getting cold inside), then stepped inside to boil up some hot water for a warm drink and change into some dry, clean clothes. Once I had the mobility of my hands again, I set to work preparing the best meal one can have after a cold day on the lake. Hot Beef Stew. I have an 8 quart aluminum pressure cooker in my camper, which is perfect for cooking a great pot of stew up in 10 minutes.

Fresh potatoes, Carrots, frozen peas, yellow onion, and flat iron steak all went into that pot. What came out was a bowl of heaven.

There's nothing better than a big heaping plate of stew with buttered bread to warm ya up and make you feel whole again.

Full, and revitalized, we pulled our coats on and once more enjoyed evening libations by the campfire. Since that ugly wind was STILL kicking it up, we used Mike's big tarp, some bungees and some rope and built ourselves a wind break between the trees, allowing the campfires heat to puddle around us instead of being whipped away into the night.

Everything taken into account, we both decided, it had been a damned good trip, even if we came back empty handed in the fish department.

Hot showers, and a pleasant good night. We slept.

Being lazy and enjoying my last good night of sleep, I slept in till about 10am Monday morning, before finally rousing from bed and doing some house keeping. Once donned in sweats, I stepped out, said my morning "hello" to Mike, and turned the generator over once more. I think I went through half a gallon of gasoline for the whole weekend. That added up to around 8 hrs of run time on a half gallon of gas. Not bad.

Breakfast consisted of more of the same as the morning before, with the added discovery that a couple of my eggs had frozen in their shells and cracked. No mess since they were inside one of those green plastic egg carriers, and by the time they burst were solid on the insides. Still, a waste of eggs. I've always discovered that my fridge has this habit of freezing one item and that item seems to always change. This time it was eggs, in the past its frozen milk, and orange juice, and never in the same location in the fridge, either.

We spent a few hours packing up camp and then Mike graciously treated me to lunch at the Lodge's restaurant. I only wish I could have had room to try the pie, but between my breakfast and the lunch, I was quite stuffed.

From there we hitched up the trailer and caravaned back down the mountain, stopping at the Lowell Covered Bridge on Dexter Lake.

We toured the bridge, then said our goodbyes and parted ways there. I continued on to the Coburg TA, dumped and flushed my holding tank, then made my way home.


Well, I hope you enjoyed my telling of our Memorial Day weekend adventure. I know we both had a great time, even if the fish were being pigheaded and not biting.

Can't wait till my July trip to Diamond Lake!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Medicine cabinet, long long overdue....

This was always a pet peeve of mine, but the old KIT never had a medicine cabinet in the bathroom. There was certainly space for one, but there was never any sign that one had been installed.

Every other camper I looked at before I bought the old girl had a medicine cabinet, but for some reason, the KIT didn't.

At first, I tried looking up what brand and make of cabinet was commonly used in most RVs and discovered that it was just a basic Zenith plastic medicine cabinet. However, they had access to a spring loaded tab that was installed underneath the cabinet to hold the door shut during transit, in addition to the already existent magnet latch.

I searched high and low for a solution, but in the end, I wound up buying this:

Zenith Metal® Stainless Steel Swing Door Cabinet (X311)

I found it at Lowes for $12. The irony was that the Lowes website listed all the stores in my area as not carrying it. However, I found a great big pile of them waiting to be sold at discount right at my nearby store.

I wound up installing my flipped over the other direction so that it swung into the bathroom when opened instead of opening right in my way when trying to reach into the cabinet from outside the bathroom.

So, now my bathroom has a nice medicine cabinet and now I don't have to dig through a bag every time I need my toothpaste or pepto bismol.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Truck Camper with a Deck, Balcony, and a View

Over time, I've seen a fair amount of different projects to add decks or other accessories to the outsides of a truck camper. However, they were all pretty straight forward, simple folding platforms of one type or another.

This all changed when dav1550 posted this album about "Smokey" bigjohn28557's ultimate camper. This camper has it all, and in manly portions! You could say this is the ultimate epitome of Professional Redneck Engineering.

Well done, Big John, the Redneck Express and I salute you!

bigjohn28557's ultimate camper album

(You can view more detailed and larger pics by going to the album above, or clicking one of the thumbnails below)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Project #12 - Stinky Slinky Holsters

NOTE: All Pictures in any of the Kit Kamper Projects are thumbnailed. Simply click on the image you wish to see bigger and a full size copy will be loaded.


This is actually a project I had originally intended to do back when I first bought the KIT, but shelved when I priced out the PVC pipe I wanted to use for it.

I settled for using two rubber made totes with side locking removable lids with handles in them to store my dump tubes in the space between the front of the wheel wells and the camper. The downside was every time I wanted to empty the holding tanks I had to carry one or both of these buggers through my camper with the risk of a tote falling open and dumping dump tube all over my floor a very real possibility.

The project was recently resurrected when Mjgcamper from NATCOA offered me a 10' piece of 4" PVC that he had leftover from a building project.

Since I couldn't beat the price, I swung by Mjg's, hacked the 10' piece of pipe into two 5' pieces and hauled it home. Once home, I popped over to Lowes and picked up the cleanout fittings and butt joint sleeves needed to make the screw caps and either end and glued it up.

Once the glue was set, I used up a couple of half empty rattle cans of Dark Hunter Green paint I had left over from painting the KIT last year and then drilled two holes in each, set back from the screw openings and directly through the center of the joined sections of the butt joint sleeve and the tubing.

Through each I threaded a left over 1/4" lag bolt that had originally been used to hold the front jacks on the camper. These bolts are about three inches long and required a lot of patience and a ratchet to drive them into place. Their extra length gives them more than sufficient bite to hold the tubes in place and resist any abuse by yours truely.

This is the end result.

My primary 10' tube with the 90 degree elbow and adaptor plate for use with most RV hookups is stored in the passenger side tube. Its adaptor plate is stowed in a plastic walmart bag that is tied off and stuffed in the propane compartment atop one of the tanks.

The spare 10' hose is stored on the drivers side.

No more carrying my slinkies in their totes through the camper. When I unload, I no longer have to load and unload their totes from the truck bed, they simply go along with the camper.

Project #11 - Mirror Extensions

NOTE: All Pictures in any of the Kit Kamper Projects are thumbnailed. Simply click on the image you wish to see bigger and a full size copy will be loaded.


Now, this topic has come up more than once over the years on this forum. Most folks either opt for power extension mirrors, or the more common slip on varieties.

These all work great if you're using a stock mirror setup, or your truck has a set of electric extendable mirrors available for it.

Now, what does one do when your truck no longer has its stock mirrors and instead has a big old honking set of dump-truck mirrors?

Easy, you add on!

These mirror extension brackets are another design that my buddy Terry and I dreamnt up after I got to complaining about the fact that I couldn't see all the way back to the rear of my truck or who the hell was getting ready to play Johnny Rocket and shoot out from behind me to do a jacktard passing maneuver.

Rather than drill a whole heap of new holes in the existing mirror brackets, the design opted for reusing the existing mounting stucture and only drilling a single hole in the top cross member to give the mirrors lateral stability. All other holes were matched and the only changes made were the addition of longer bolts to accomodate the extra thickness of the extension brackets.

The extensions are removable, though they require a socket and a wrench to do the job instead of simply undoing some straps or pushing your mirrors back in.

The advantage I like about the design is the two seperate mirrors on each bracket in addition to the stock mirror and the convex mirror attached to it.

The Upper mirrors are perfect for showing me whose hanging around behind me and what's coming up behind me and along side me up to two lanes over.

The lower mirror allows me to watch the back corners of the camper as I clear corners and tight clearances, as well as watching trailers to make certain that I do not jackknife them when backing up, or cut a corner too close and catch the trailers axle in a curb, pothole, or someone elses car.

With this setup, I can now see just about everything behind me from all different angles, with sufficient overlap to eliminate any blind spots I had in the past.

This is, perhaps, one of the better project investments I've made in my time as a Camper owner. Compared to the slide-on mirror extensions my parent's use with their Toyhauler, my field of rear vision is almost four times that.

Project #10 - A/C Cover

NOTE: All pictures in the Kit Kamper Projects are thumbnailed. To view a larger copy of any image, simply click on it and an expanded copy will be presented.


Well, those that have followed my Projects over the years know that I added a home A/C unit to my camper. The A/C is still running as good now as it did when I installed it.

In an effort to extend the A/Cs life span and to help on preventative maintainence I did two things.

First off, I had a fin guard made to fit on the back of the unit to prevent tree branches, rocks, and small children from denting the fins in the evaporator coils. If you revisit my California Adventure thread, and go to Part 4 and view the pictures from Mattole Beach you'll see the steel fin guard I installed on the A/C.

Second, I had a removable cover made for the A/C unit. Terry, my friend and trusted welder happened to have a friend who runs an upholstery business that dealt in boat covers. Upon chatting with him, he suggested a material known as Herculite. Its rip proof, fire proof, fade proof and water proof. Its also a PITA to sew, but will outlast any vinyl cover ever made. He had made countless boat covers from this material and had left over material.

Since I was a friend of Terry's, a deal was cut and for a modest fee we managed to find enough material in his leftovers that by sheer happenstance matched the camper's new paint job to make my A/C cover.

The whole cover is held on by a single strap of industrial elastic. Since the front edge tends to flap out a bit, we're going to add a velcro strip to the underside of the brushguard and to the front bottom edge of the cover so I can pull the front tight with the bottom of the unit.

A properly sized hole was cut in the cover to accomodate the drain hose attached to the drain port on the A/C to help wick away excess rain run off and A/C Condensation.