Interruptions…and more…Part Two

In the midst of all the uproar with the septic system, we have still been considering our options as far as what we are going to use for our full-time travels…coming up next year (2015), which will be here before we know it, considering all that we have to accomplish between now and then.

Although we had talked of a motorhome, we finally decided against that, for several reasons:

  1. The fuel costs
  2. The maintenance costs
  3. The maneuverability
  4. The number of steps to get up into it (especially with loading a piano into it)
  5. Where we would NOT be able to go with it

and a few other minor things.

The more we discussed how we would use it, the more we decided we needed a towable setup…something not too big, and yet would allow us the flexibility to take the piano or convert that space to something else if we were to get rid of the piano, and would be reasonably economical, both for towing as well as daily running around.

We realized that one of what we needed, we already had…a cargo trailer. If we were going to buy one we would have opted for a 7 x 14, but we already owned this 6 x 12 one, and since retiring, we weren’t using it anymore. We had already had it fitted with electric brakes and 8-ply tires, plus the tongue had been upgraded from 2-inch stamped steel to 4-inch iron C-channel. We had it packed like a sardine can on two trips back here from Mesa, and as a travel trailer it wouldn’t be anywhere near that full, so we knew it could handle the weight. The biggest issue was how to design it in such a way as to provide sleeping area for two, a piano, a kitchen, and a bathroom, plus a storage area at the back big enough for two mountain bikes, a 25-gallon portable sewage tote tank, and all of the other stuff we wanted to take with us full-timing. Well, OK, not “all” of it, as some will go in the van.

It took a lot of redrawing of the plans, but I finally came up with a design that would meet our needs. If you’d like to see it, and have OpenOffice on your computer, the drawing is on a spreadsheet, using the drawing capability of the program. Here is the file, and right click on the link and choose “save target as” or whatever the equivalent term is on your computer: Abert Haulmark CK Side Piano1-6×

New as of 5/1/15: Or if you would rather just see the drawings on a pdf file, that you zoom in and see details, you can click on the following links:

(1) This one shows the “as being built” floor plan with an overhead view:

Abert Haulmark CK Side Piano1-Top 1 – 6×

(2) This one shows the “as being built” view from the right side:

Abert Haulmark CK Side Piano1- Side 1 – 6×

(3) This one shows how it could change if we get rid of the piano, and add a dishwasher and washer/dryer combo unit, plus an additional pantry. An option not shown on the drawing is to install a two-person facing dinette along that wall.

Abert Haulmark CK Side Piano1- Side 2 – 6×

Update 5/1/15:  All of those files shown above have been updated to show all the latest changes and improvements, but to really understand it, you should read the blog at where I explain what I am doing on the trailer.

So that was decided. Next we needed something with which to pull the trailer. We had used our V-8 Dakota Quad-cab before, and it pulled with power to spare…but the problem was the straight down tongue weight. They can say what they want about the Dakota’s abilities, but our Class 3 receiver hitch already had a downward tilt to it that wasn’t there when I installed it. Also, when we plugged the step into it for the truck camper, we could feel a definite spring in the step and could see it move…separate from the truck. The frame was definitely flexing.

Besides that, the little 5′-3″ bed length hardly left enough room for the storage that we needed, let alone being able to use it as a “second bedroom”. And even if it did, we would have to acquire a tall cap for it that would be secure enough for the long haul, and finding a cap for the Dakota short-bed was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

One day in late October, we went out to eat, and I grabbed a copy of a sale newspaper on the way out. In one of the local dealer’s ads we saw a conversion van! Now maybe that doesn’t seem like a stretch, but around here, in pick-up Heaven, a conversion van is a rarity! Not only that but the year was old enough to be affordable, and still work a deal for cash back if we traded the Dakota and camper together, as a unit! After all, the camper was specially built for the Dakota Quad-cab, so why not keep them intact if possible?

Even though the van was a ’97 (a little older than we would have looked for) the mileage at 114K was reasonable, and when we saw the inside, it was nearly spotless! It had everything we could have wanted and nothing that we didn’t. It wasn’t quite as fancy as the Tiara Diamond Edition that we had in the early 90’s, but much of what was on that one was overkill anyway! This one was was “perfect enough”.

We took it to our mechanic before making the deal and had it inspected up on the rack. We could see the tires were out of date and it needed alignment badly, but everything was solid except for the exhaust system. He couldn’t fix that, so we had it checked by someone who could, and he gave us a VERY reasonable price for replacing both catalytic converters. We also took the van to a body shop to see what some very minor repairs would cost around the right front wheel, and that was reasonable, too, so we made the deal, got some cash back (more than enough to cover four brand new tires, alignment, the exhaust repairs, and even a brand new Class 3 receiver hitch to replace the light duty 1-1/4-inch hitch that was on it).

Now the van drives like a brand new one, and we are pleased as punch that we came across such a deal. The advertised price ($3495) was a good $2000 less than comparable year vans of that type on the web, and some of those weren’t even in as good a shape as this one, so we’re pleased. Even after we get the body work done next spring, the over-all price will still be in line with the other vans we saw of that year and type, and the best part is, we don’t have any vehicle payments! Read on down and you’ll see where you can see a picture of both the van and the trailer.

Now as for the trailer, I picked up the hasp we needed last September in Elkhart to lock the cam bar handle back when we’re occupying the trailer…so someone can’t use it to lock us inside. I also ordered and received the new RV type door latch (a Fastec, as compared to a Bargman…they’re almost identical). So now I’m just waiting for some warmer weather to install those, and then I can get power into the trailer and some lights and heat, and start working on the inside. By the time I need ventilation in the spring, I should be far enough along to get the two Fantastic fans with thermostats and rain sensors, and probably even get the new air conditioner installed under the couch, and the rear portion vented down through the floor (with bug screens and filters on them, of course, along with a diverter shield installed underneath the floor to prevent rain from splashing up into the vents).

For those who download the floor plan and elevation drawing, if anything should “drift away” from where it should have been (a common occurrence, it seems with these types of drawings), you can just click and drag them back into place on the drawing to fix it. I find that it works best at 50% zoom, for optimal viewing.

And then of course there are the holidays, and all the time that they require. We had Thanksgiving at my son’s place, since they just moved to Hardy this summer, and had an excellent turkey dinner with all the fixings followed by a long game of Scrabble.

For Christmas, we had them here for a ham dinner, and then back again on New Year’s Day for a day of snacking, watching a movie, and then a couple more games, so we all had a good time. He is also coming back to cut up the wood from the fallen trees and will use that in their fireplace, so it all works out well for everyone…except for the nearly $7K that this septic system is going to cost us!

And the worst part is, the installer can’t even grade the yard smooth again until next spring, when it “really” dries out…otherwise this clay just balls up when you try to grade it! So our yard may be a mess until mid-summer, but all we can do is smile and say that it’s that much less mowing we have to pay for (yet to be seen)!

Also, you might be interested to know that I have started a new blog…one that will be strictly for our quest in finishing the cargo trailer and conversion van, and then will follow us as we head out to full time, by no later than June 1st of 2015. And to that end, I have set up a countdown timer in the side margin of this blog! It feels good to finally have a date in mind, but we still have a lot to do to get ready for that date.

I still have a few things to do on the new blog, at (catchy name, huh?) like adding disclaimers, adding more blog recommendations of other travel blogs, and getting approval from Skimlinks to add their contextual links. Hopefully that will all be done by this weekend. Don’t forget to subscribe to it if you want to follow our progress.

So until we can get these holidays behind us, and get back to a normal routine again…and get this blog series finished, have a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! And remember, comments are open, so let me know if you have any questions or comments!