Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Benefits of Car Camping VS Dump Camping

Let's be clear, we know we are glamping. We have done our time as dirty kids with a tent. When it got hot, you took off more clothing. When it got cold, you put on more clothing and started a fire. We ate dehydrated crap and fit everything in backpacks. If you haven't heard my story about Eli taking me backpacking, here is a brief summary: uphill into camp, forgot food, hiked uphill out of camp. The photos from that trip show my lack of enthusiasm. That was the weekend we learned to communicate our expectations for our trips. And he agreed to never do that to me again.

A little mood lighting for night reading? Of course!
So, now we glamp! We love to pack up the car, plan a nice dinner, drive to the mountains and dump everything in our camp site (dump camping! I know, I just learned that term too!). Everything we need is in the car. I love to play house in the campsite. I've always been that one who sets up the tent, gets the gear organized and starts on food! It's great to be paired with someone whose first priority is either to run somewhere or sleep somewhere. 

Home sweet home. 
Now we are older and want to enjoy the little perks of extra planning. Although there is not tent, there still a good bit of set up. It took us a couple days to get in a routine of shifting everything out of the back seats and methodically repackaging the front seats to allow full sleep mode. Because of animals in camps, we can't just pull out all our food and play set up. First we set up the big screens on the windows and roll them down to what will best suit us during the night. We do our best to take out what we need for dinner and pack away what we don't need so we can get the bed set up before it's too dark and buggy. By day three we figured out, since Eli is running most mornings while I sleep in, how to pack the front seats to accommodate dinner that evening AND whatever Eli needs for his morning adventure. 

There is definitely more attention to detail with the dirtbag mobile than there is with dump camping. Almost every transition has a plan for what we need to access before the next transition. Snacks for driving, any meals on the road, what we need first thing in the morning, where will the dinner prep gear go once it cools, how much water are we going to drink tonight...

I love it! This is why I camp.  

Dirtbag Trip Begins!

Day 1. Leaving Atlanta, Georgia. 
We started off on our adventure we had been planning for months. So much of this was thought out in advance. For me: what food would pack best, meals that we can easily prepare, where and when we would have to stop at markets along the way. Eli is more of the map guy. He knows where it will be coolest at night, the best campgrounds and how long each day's drive will be. We are perfect together.

Since we won't have access to a freezer, we figured we'd take Ziplock freezer bags to fill with bags of ice along the way. I didn't want to dump the ice in the cooler, because then everything gets soggy and it can ruin a good cheese (am I right?). The day before, I came up with, what I thought was, a brilliant idea! Smaller ice pieces melt faster because of the greater surface area. I had the ice machine going all weekend to make sure we had enough cubes to get started. But if I could make giant pieces of ice, it would take even longer for it to melt because it has less surface area. So, I pulled out a couple freezer bags and filled them with water. I placed them ever so carefully, flat, in the freezer. So. Smart.

The time came to finally pack the perishable food. I pulled out my ice blocks and put them in the cooler. The plan was to have one on the bottom and a second one in the middle so everything would had a little bit of ice around it. The plan did not take into account the measurements of the cooler nor the ice blocks.... They did not fit. 😳 So, plan B, ice cube bags for the cooler.

We have a "cool bag" that is probably marketed to keep your frozen goods cold on your drive home from the store. It is probably not advertised as a cooler substitute. I was reminded of its limitations as we pulled into the rest stop to sleep.

Since I had the ice blocks, I figured we could use them in the cool bag. I placed one at the bottom of the bag and put our dinner items and things that don't necessarily need to be refrigerated (cauliflower, peppers, onions, carrots- everything cut and prepped for usage) on top of the ice. Zipped it up and kept it close, incase we need it while  driving.

Thank you, Starbucks parking lot!
The plan worked great for dinner. We set up our kitchen station at our last coffee run for the night; we pulled out our veggies, lettuce greens, chicken and cheese. We mixed all the ingredients and topped with homemade dressing and some walnuts. Balancing my salad in my lap, we pushed on through the evening. 
Finally, it was time to rest. Our planned rest stop was closed for remodeling! Google didn't tell us that. We pushed through until the next stop about forty miles later. We were cranky and ready to sleep. As I start making up the bed, I find a giant wet spot where this cool bag was. My brilliant idea leaked as it slowly melted. 😬 And now there is a wet spot in the bed, down to the wood frame. Eli had to wring out the egg-crate and we had to ditch the sheets for the night until we could dry them out. We packed extra blankets as an after thought but they have already come in handy. We layered all the dry things and finally went to sleep.

The mistake that keeps on giving: this morning, my seat was also wet from all the moving I did of the cool bag. I used my rain jacket as a barrier and we drive on.

All in all it was a good night. One car alarm went off in the rest area and there were a couple of noisy visitors, probably trying to wake up in the middle of the night on their trips, but we got in some good sleep and weren't too hot with our personal fans.
I wish this was in focus but this is the best I can do without my glasses on. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Privacy Please!

We will be living in our car for about eleven days and will need some privacy. Our next focus of the Dirtbag Mobile was removable curtains and screens.

Curtains- We found tension rods at Family Dollar for $2.50 each. Four is enough to cover our larger windows. The tension won't really work inside the door frame (no matter how hard I hope), so we attached them to the plastic parts of the car around the windows with sticky hooks we also found at Family Dollar. I found a ton of fabric left over from another project that never got competed. I just measured and cut the fabric to be 1 1/2 times the width of the window and sewed an inch and a half loop for the poles. Alternatively, you could us any poles or dowels you have laying around and we also talked about cutting holes in hand towels to pass the pole through and have curtains that pull double duty. Perfect for real-hard dirtbagging.
We wanted to make sure to not feel like we lost space with the curtains. As they hang, they drop a few inches away from the door. We bought Velcro dots to attach the bottom of the curtain to the door to give us more breathable space when they are closed. Once I hung them, I was able to situate the tail ends with the seatbelt!! The curtains fall just in front of both front and back seat belts. No Velcro needed; no space lost!! 

For the back of the car, we used left over cardboard from another project and for the windshield, we'll just get a regular sun shade cover.
Screen attached with magnets and hangs well below the bumper. You can also see the cardboard for the back window above this adorable man. 

Screen is large enough to cover the table if we need to keep the flies out during dinner prep.

Screens- I went back and forth on how to make screens for the windows. In the desert, we'll need to sleep with the windows open but I'm not about to play with flying creatures at night (did that once- not fun). I was going to get a Magic Mesh door and just cut it up to size. But, they are expensive and I would probably need two to cover all the windows. Of course, Ikea has those fantastic mesh curtains for $5- always. You can't beat that! I was able to cut screens for the back windows, front windows and the hatchback, and have some left over to fix the first ones that are just slightly too small PLUS one whole panel that will fit nicely in my hallway door. SO MUCH MESH! To attach, we used small, ceramic magnets that the door can actually close on without a problem. It takes about eight magnets for each window. We wrap the screen around the door frame so it is pulled tight when the door is closed and it opens with the door.
Here is the first edition we tried out on a weekend camping trip. The screens are now a little larger to wrap around the window better.
For extra ventilation, we got two stroller fans on Amazon with clips that fit on the handle above the windows. This will allow us each to regulate our own wind speed though the night.

Don't forget to check out the building of our Dirtbag mobile to see what we started with!

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Bells and Whistles

Now that it is mostly assembled, we wanted to add the little things to help make it more user-friendly.

Each side has a cubbie that will (hopefully) house our clothing and personal items that need to stay out of sight. We drilled two finger holes on each cubbie door for easy lifting. After we added the extra length to give us 6 feet in sleep mode, we realized we lost the brilliance of these holes when we were in drive mode and when we would need them most. So, we added two holes on the extending flaps as well.

Next was the back storage. We wanted to make sure the back opens up all the way to reach items toward the middle of the car. To help with packing the "trunk" under the sliding table, we added a hoop and hook to hold it open while loading and unloading. We used an "s" hook we have from Ikea and just made a loop out of plastic string we keep in the car. The "s" hook attaches perfectly to a child seat   
           anchor in the rear roof.

Next we added the sliding table. This was a little difficult because the sizing has to be perfect. We measured and placed the slides but couldn't get the table to slide easily. We kept one slide placed and unscrewed the other to replace it with the table attached. That did the trick!

All we had to do next was get the plywood attached to the supports and screw on the hinges and doors. It's actually coming together.

Despite the rain keeping us from working on our back porch (aka- our "wood shop"), we still had to add the extenders for what we call "sleep mode." When we aren't driving, we will push the driver and front passenger seats forward as far as they will go, and lean the backs as far forward as they will go to give us the extra foot or so needed to sleep comfortably. We moved the project indoors and attached the extenders at the top of the unit with hinges that will fold over the cubbie doors while in "driver mode." Once we did that, we totally fit!

Now we have to move this beast!

It is HEAVY! Once we moved it into the car, we didn't move it out for at least a month, and even then it was only to make improvements! To help carry the load, we added handles at the back by drilling two holes through the support beams on each side and made a loop with some rope. Knot the rope on the inside and pull tight- viola! 

We are ready to go!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Building Our Dirtbag Mobile Part 2- Plywood

Check here for the steps before this post.
While out with a truck, Eli picked up the plywood needed for our platform. We made sure to get a finished hardwood ply-board to reduce splinters and catching on our sleeping bags, etc, during our trip. The little things count. We also wanted hardwood so we could have something sturdy but still slim. We ended up with Top Choice Birch Plywood (.47 inches x 4ftx8ft). This will give us enough to build the bed platform with the "extender flaps" as well as the extended table in the back (although we have another piece we had laying around we will be using for our table).

We got right to assembling once we had the plywood at home.

First we joined the support beams. Top beam to the two side beams first with wood screws and brackets for extra support. We measured where we wanted the second beam thinking if we needed to move it, in the event the plywood wouldn't hold our weight, we could take out the screws and move it to where we needed the support most. We joined the second cross beam and tested it. The plywood bowed a little once we sat on it so we decided to add more support at the corners to allow the room needed for our hide-a-table. When the car seats are laying flat, there is a hard metal piece in the middle of the cabin followed by a very soft part. We opted to have the support across the hard part. The added support in the corners bypass the need to figure out where the next hard spot is.

We also decided to add additional support between the two cubbies where the hinges will sit. We have the lumber and you can never have too much support.

Once the frame was built, we traced it on the plywood and cut the extras off. Next steps will be cutting and placing all bells and whistles.

Supplies this trip:
Birch Plywood .47inch x 4ft x 8ft $34.27
Total with tax: $37.01

Running Project Total: $88.44

Building Our Dirtbag Mobile Part 1

How we decided on this trip (past post).

We have plenty of time to create our Dirtbag Mobile but we are so excited, we couldn't wait to get started. We've searched online for Instructables or blogs from Dirtbags before; took a little of this and a little of that and created our plan. Our two favorites were JMYilla and Jeffers. We decided we wanted a little more headroom so we made our support a little shorter (8 inches rather than the traditional 12 inches).

Sketched out plans, just like Poppie taught me.
The best part of our plan, and the most important part is the Honda Fit. When we bought this car in 2007, it was the first year these amazing wheels were available in the US, and man, have we gotten use out of it. We used to joke about how everything fits in the Fit. We took it camping early on and filled the car with five adults and all their camping gear-it fits! I think we all took pictures with the hatchback opened, filled with gear. We've transported lumber for house projects, boxes from Ikea, puppies, plants, trees, whatever fits! It generally stays in sport mode for Eli to put his work stuff in and take out on the ready. With the back seats in sport mode, we can build the platform up to the front seats while in driving condition and have a hinged "flap" to extend while we are parked and can move the front seats forward.

We plan to have two cubbies at the back doors for personal storage- clothing, food, anything that needs to be kept out of sight. We have about 7 inches deep to work with (turns out '2 by 8's' aren't actually a full 8 inches deep). The doors will be hinged and have a handle to open and close.

Second storage will be for our tent and cooking supplies in the section of the trunk. Again, a hinged door will allow us to open and close as needed but will remain closed while on the move. This door will also hold a little added bonus: an extending table as seen in Jerrers Abode on The Road. Brilliant!

Our first trip to Lowe's, we got enough to get us started. Support beams, brackets, wood screws and drawer sliders. We can fit a lot in Fitty, but the plywood would have to wait or get cut. We just wanted to get started so we opted to wait for the plywood.

We measured twice, cut once and double checked everything would fit. IT FITS!
Dry fit was a success!

Supplies and cost:
2x8x8 (3) $5.71 each- $17.13
4 count 2.5 corner brackets (3) $2.98 each- $894
8x2.5 wood screws (50 count)- $5.58
18 inch drawer sliders (2 pack)- $15.97
Total with Tax: $51.43

Side beams: 56 inches
Cross beams: 37 inches

Building continued here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Summer Sabbatical

We have recently come to the understanding that work is killing me. Not literally, but very much so figuratively. I've lost the excitement for life and I want it back. As with anything, Eli and I made a plan to fix it.

Step One: Take back my health-I've heard of friends having fertility issues for months and then getting pregnant after going Paleo. One friend was losing weight to get pregnant and on her way to fertility treatments found out she was pregnant. Of course, our mutual friend went Paleo after that and got pregnant on her first IVF cycle! I'm in. I gave up refined sugar and carbs such as bread, rice, grains, beans, corn and white potatoes. It wasn't easy at first, but now I'm getting the hang of it.

We aren't trying to stress me out with this diet, so if I mess up or "cheat," we roll with it as long as it is once in awhile. I can't remember when I felt better. Joint pain is gone; I'm able to walk a lot more and do gentle exercises (walk the dog or light yoga). Our food is fresh and the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes every night. I love cooking; I love eating; it was a no brainer.

Step Two: Quit my job- I knew the news wouldn't be taken lightly but I had to get out, by any means necessary. I was over worked, totally stressed and not happy. Now that I'm treating myself better, I need to be treated better. I broke the news to the boss and we were able to strike a deal. Part time, reduced responsibility, and work mostly from home for a pretty good portion of my regular salary. I'll take it!

Step Three: Summer Sabbatical! We want to get away. We are packing up the old Honda Fit (lovingly referred to as Fitty) and going out west! We'll have about ten days of just me and the hubs and the open road. We'll stop along the way, visit friends, camp, hike, eat, sleep, and of course poop (I can't help it, I don't have a colon!). Thus, our Dirtbag Summer.

Dirtbag trip 2015 over the Grand Canyon
We are bumping up our Dirtbaggedness this year. Last year we booked hotels/B&Bs and flew to Vegas to start the trip. This year, we are driving from Atlanta to Colorado. Living out of the car for so long (as the old folks we have become) requires a little more creature comforts than we used to pack. We are outfitting Fitty to be an amazing little camper! All DYI! We hope you follow our journey into the gorgeous sunset of our Dirtbag Summer!

Building begins here!