Renovations: Part 2

One of the first blog posts I made was about decorating Idlewild to my taste (medieval/Viking decor) and I still love it, with it’s rustic charm, rough edges and homey feel. However there was something nagging in the back of my mind that it still didn’t feel quite right. The dinette, while an appropriate bench and table set-up for the Vikings, just took up so much space in a 25ft RV. Removing it would give me the space I wanted and the ability to use the camper while the slide was in. The moderately-tolerable sofa-sleeper wasn’t working without arms to lean against…not to mention that it wasn’t exactly comfortable to sleep on so it too had to go. The aim is to replace it with a small love-seat if I can find one to fit the 35″ space between the slide and the back of the camper.

So before winter truly set in in northern Wyoming I took a weekend to renovate the various things I didn’t like so much. I did most of the work myself but did have a little help from a friend and neighbor with some saw work.

Keystone mid-level model RVs aren’t known for their long-term construction strength so was surprised at how much effort it took to removed the dinette, benches and sofa. Everything in the RV was very well installed with strong materials and screws instead of staples or nails. This bodes well for long-term use over the next few years I plan to live in Idlewild with the dogs.

So here’s the deconstruction, with pictures:

The first phase was removing the dinette from the slide. The worst part of this was the flat plates that held the the arch of the benches together. It took a little force and a little finesse to get it done, but it was managed successfully with a little bit of cussing and swearing.

The finished space (apologies for the clutter)

The “bench” underneath the sleeper-sofa. This bench provided storage through-space underneath but I was willing to give that up in order to have a space to put in a comfortable couch.

IMG_1950

The finished space after cleaning and adding burlap to the walls to match the rest of the camper.

With removing the dinette benches I lost some storage space, and generally where I kept my DVDs. As such I had to build a DVD case for the bigger percentage of my movies. One thing I learned was that it might have been better to build the shelving unit outside of the camper and then installed it after, but it worked out none-the-less.

IMG_1947

I then took the skins that were originally covering the benches and the small sofa side “tables” and hung them over the front of the DVD case so that I kept with my theme (hiding the modern stuff). I need to add a front lip or bar on the shelves to stop disks from falling out while moving down the road, but that will wait for next summer.

IMG_1948

Idlewild has been stored now for the winter so there is no more work to do for a while. I found a small love-seat that fits tightly but adequately in the space where the sleeper-sofa was but didn’t get the chance for pictures. I will update when I get some.

The next project I plan on tackling is sealing the roof in order to maintain its integrity, followed by replacing the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom.

Advertisements

After-Thoughts From The Road

Three weeks on the road is fun, exciting, exhausting, frustrating and refreshing…all at the same time.

Being that this was my third trip in my truck with the dogs I have learned a couple of things along the way, like what to bring and what to leave behind, what to give time to and what to miss, what mistakes I made and what I did right. And this trip was no different.

A road-trip alone is difficult and scary for many people, especially single women, but it doesn’t have to be. It is all about being prepared and being aware of your surroundings, and the people around you. While I choose remote camping sites which occasionally make me nervous, they are also sites that are unlikely ever to be bothered by those with unwholesome intent.

I travel with dogs for a reason; they are more aware of what is going on around them and they alert when something is out of the ordinary. I also travel with a firearm (while obeying relevant state laws) that I am both knowledgeable about and proficient with. Pepper spray is also another alternative in areas where a firearm is either illegal (Canada) or difficult to carry without dozens of restrictions (California).

So some of the things I have learned over the last three years can be combined into one list. Hopefully it will show other solo female road-trippers that you can be safe and have fun while still being free and somewhat practical.

In Camp:

  1. I sleep in my vehicle with my dogs (they are either in the pick-up bed or in the cab with me. The only window open for ventilation is the sliding back window which is hard to reach without climbing into the back…with dogs! Never keep a window open that someone can reach into. It goes without saying to keep the doors locked too.
  2. My keys are always in the ignition at night and my truck almost always has an escape route in front of it, and preferably behind it. It is easy to pull the sunshade down, turn the ignition key and leave. I have everything in the back of the truck, packed and loaded for driving before I go to bed.
  3. Try to find a place and set-up camp well-before the sun sets. Explore the area and get to know the terrain and the obstacles. Be safe but have fun. Keep a flashlight with you so that if it does get dark, you can find your way back to the campsite.
  4. If you have a firearm or pepper-spray, always keep it within reach or on your person.
  5. Bag trash in small grocery sacks: use 1 per day, keep in the vehicle at night (bears, raccoons etc) and throw away when you get gas. This is an easy and manageable way to deal with garbage while on the road.
  6. Getting up in the middle of the night to use the “facilities” isn’t much fun. To make it easier have some supplies ready to grab so you don’t have to find the roll in the dark.

Other Considerations:

I travel in my F250 pick-up truck. With the dog food and trash, and me inside when I sleep, there is no room for the other things I need. Water-proof totes are essential (unless you spill water inside them, but that’s a different story).

Everything is stored in the back of the truck which leaves some scope for needing an imagination. All clothes are stored in one clear plastic tote, organized so I can grab the top layer of each for the next day (jeans, socks, u/w, tank-top or t-shirt etc). Another smaller tote is used for laundry and is easy to cart in and out of the laundromat when necessary.

Cooking gear is stored in another clear plastic tote, with easy access to pans, silverware and dish-soap closest to the tailgate, and less-used items towards the cab. A cooler and ice (replenished often) keeps drinks and some food cold. The melted ice also provides cold drinking water for the dogs so I don’t have to use my own drinking supply.

I also keep a small tote of canned food and ramen noodles next to my cooking gear. Unless I eat out I don’t mess with fresh or frozen food while camping.

Lastly, I have a 7 gallon aquatainer for water that I use for drinking and cleaning dishes, brushing teeth and washing my face in the morning (usually very briskly). This is easy to fill and can be tipped up to protect the tap. Things do tend to slide around when traversing dirt roads.


If, like me, you sleep in your vehicle (or even if you don’t) a comfortable place to sleep is essential. Camp pads or cots have made sleeping in tents pretty comfortable but very little is made specifically for the back-seat of a truck or SUV.

When I travel to renaissance faires I throw my air-mattress in the back of my SUV, put my camping bedroll on top (for the memory-foam mattress topper in it) and then put sheets and blankets on it to make a proper twin bed. It is comfortable and easy.

However, the backseat of a pick-up isn’t conducive to most people sleeping there; the seats are hard and narrow and the width of the truck means that only short people can get away with this. But there still aren’t any solutions that are pre-made.

The first year I tried road-tripping in my truck left me sleeping on a very hard, slightly-sloping backseat. It was horrifically uncomfortable despite the foot space in front of the seat being filled in and lying on top of a comforter and sleeping bag, and left me with bruises on my hips. By the time I reached Coeur d’Alene (four days and one hotel later) I was ready to do some fixing. My solution was to purchase two foam king-sized mattress toppers, fold them in thirds and wrap them in a fleece sleeping bag. This made the whole thing 8″ thick and the perfect length and width of the back-seat area of my truck. I added the sheets and quilt I had originally brought with me to turn the whole set-up into a proper, albeit narrow, bed. It has since been modified slightly, taking advantage of the widest part of the doors (about mid-height). It has served me well the last two years for both road-trips and the occasional quick camping trip with the horses when someone else’s cot broke and I gave up my air-mattress. There is nothing quite like having a proper bed to sleep in with sheets and a comforter to help you sleep the best you can.

I believe this idea can be modified for any vehicle, including a small passenger car.


Take your time and don’t rush from one place to the next. I made that mistake this year and missed out on stopping to see and do things. In previous years I stopped at museums and restaurants, did short hikes, watched rodeos and went to street dances after, visited with locals and became a spectator at street events. While I saw a lot this year I rushed myself, mostly wanting to make sure I had a good campsite each night and wasn’t hunting for one at dusk.

While good campsites are important they shouldn’t be the focus of a road-trip. And while having my dogs with me makes it harder to stop and do things they don’t make it impossible and I just have to work around it a little. I am lucky that both of my dogs are well-behaved and stay in the back of my truck, but I don’t want to leave them alone in a big city where they might get taken. I just have to plan ahead if there’s something I want to do or see.


Sleeping in a truck also requires some fore-thought. After 3 years of road-tripping I more-or-less have it down to a science. I struggle to sleep when it gets light, so creating a dark space is a must. A sunshade for the windshield is ideal and serves a dual purpose for keeping the interior cooler in the day during stops and blocking daylight at 4am.

Basic bath towels have proven to be more-than-adequate “curtains” for the driver and passenger side windows. Closing the windows with the majority of the towel hanging on this inside of the door keeps morning light and prying eyes out. These would work on any passenger vehicle, although electric windows are a little easier.

I have an extended cab, which means I have those little folding windows in the half doors. Bath towels don’t work for me here and I had to get inventive this year as the early-morning sun was beginning to drive me nuts at 4:30am. I discovered that a high-thread-count pillowcase was the perfect solution if I slid the pillowcase in just right and closed and locked the window. While not ideal, I could also travel with them this way and was never stopped by law enforcement (although I’m still not sure about the legality of them).

Lastly, I screwed in a bunch of mug hooks above the back window and hung a black shower curtain on the inside. This is easy to put up and take down when I go to bed, and while not quite as dark as the sunshade or the towels, it is more than sufficient to keep the sun at bay, especially when I point the nose of the truck towards the rising sun, and under shade if possible.


The joys of a road-trip are that you don’t really need a destination to go on one. And the joys of not having a destination mean that you can stop wherever, whenever and take whichever road or route looks interesting to you at the time. So get out there and do it…even if you’re alone in the adventure! You’ll never regret it.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 21

Nov-4-2015
Day 21
It apparently rained in the night but I didn’t hear it. The poor dogs were a little wet and cold but once they got out to take care of business and run around they dried off and warmed up a little bit. It rained a little more before I left, and all the rain meant that the dog beds and the towel-curtains were soaking wet but there wasn’t much to be done with that.

I bid farewell to the five from Minnesota as they left to find another campsite and said my goodbyes to Adam and Lacey as I headed for Yellowstone. At 8:30 in the morning I thought it would be a little quieter but I ended up waiting in line for a half hour before I got in. This really surprised me as most people who come into Yellowstone though the south entrance have already been through Teton and I would have guessed that 90% of people would have had the two-park pass for the week.

Once in the park, and dealing with traffic, I was repeatedly stuck behind slow moving RVs and campers who wouldn’t do the courteous and polite thing and move over to let the line of thirty cars behind them go by. It made me really love the law in Washington where it is illegal to NOT pull over and let vehicles by if there are five or more. I think we need that here in Wyoming too…especially in places where RVs are prevalent and passing places are really limited.

I got to Old Faithful, having being seriously delayed, and once again I more-or-less missed the eruption (this would be the third time this has happened). I did see some of it from the parking lot area and caught the tail end of it up close. I was so irritated that I had been so delayed by the rude RV who hadn’t pulled over and let dozens of people go by.

 

IMG_0770

From Old Faithful I headed east to leave the park via the Cody entrance. It was a gorgeous drive and one that had a lot less traffic than the other parts of the park. I will never return to Yellowstone in peak season again. I only did it this time as it was the shortest route home.

IMG_0775

IMG_0774

From Cody we crossed the Bighorn Basin to Greybull and Shell, climbing Highway 14 and Shell Canyon into the Big Horns. Shell Canyon never ceases to inspire awe in me and it was nice to feel the comfort of being back in my home mountains. I had planned to camp one night in the Bighorns but I was feeling beyond exhausted, and longed for a hot shower and my own bed, so I pushed on and drove the extra hour and a half home.

 

IMG_0780

Being home felt good but I also already longed for the road and the solitude that comes with a road trip within hours of being home.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 20

Nov-3-2015
Day 20
It was definitely cold last night and I certainly didn’t want to get out from under my comforter and blankets this morning (yes, I had two over me). We went into Sun Valley for some breakfast which consisted of some really good homemade blackberry muffins. I managed to eat a whole one and a bite of another before it got to much for me.

IMG_0725

With my belly full I let the dogs run for a while and then headed to Sun Valley Stables for a short morning ride. I was early but it was nice to sit on the bench and watch other people do the wrangling and saddling for a change. I signed the standard waiver and made a note of the bottom: “Would really appreciate being given a horse that the wranglers like to ride.” It’s kind of a sneaky way of asking for the good horse without coming across as the thinking you are the crackers and a block of cheese!

The horse I was given went by the name of Giffer, and was a bay gelding that was fairly new to the string. He was a fun ride and listened well, although he needed someone to work with him on his head tossing. We took some pictures from the top of the ski hill, of us on our horses and the town of Ketchum below. It was definitely pretty.

The wranglers were fun and they definitely appreciated having an experienced rider along with them for a change. We got back to the stables I spent a few minutes more talking to the wranglers before tipping them and heading out (after they offered me a job!)

From the stables I took Trail Creek Pass, back past my campsite from the night before and over the mountains towards Arco, Idaho. It was a stunning but slightly scary, narrow dirt road. The view from the top, looking down the valley was especially awesome and you could see the work the glaciers had done in days past in creating the U-shaped valley.

Up and over the pass and driving into the dry valley below where I was rewarded with a stunning view of a gorgeous bald eagle (I love the look he’s giving me). I paused to take a couple of shots before I realized I was delaying red truck behind me.

IMG_0733

IMG_0734

We got stuck at traffic control points and took the opportunity to photograph the Lost River Range, including Idaho’s tallest mountain, Borah Peak.

IMG_0737

From there we followed the road south on the west side of, and paralleling, the Lost River Range we made our way toward Rexburg and then to the rough dirt road that takes you into Wyoming and through Yellowstone or Teton National Parks.

IMG_0746

It took a while to find a camping spot and once you get to a certain point, near to the parks, you can only camp in the free designated campsites. I tried the first one but found that I had trouble finding a flat spot for my truck. I tried the next site down the road and found it to be full. I guessed that all other sites closer to the park would be full, turning around and heading back to the initial site.

IMG_0747

I managed to find a way to park my truck that was mostly level and also enabled me an easy pull-out, which is something I always look to maintain in case of emergency. I had been right in thinking that all other sites were full as the amount of people who stopped to check were numerous.

IMG_0760

One couple from Alaska (Adam and Lacey) stopped and asked about campsites. I informed them of the lack of sites further on and how rough the road got. Since they didn’t have kids I offered to let them stay in my campsite if they were okay with the dogs being friendly, and if they could get a fire going (which I had given up on).

With a fire going and their tent set up we talked about where we were all from and what our trips were. They shared a meal and a beer with me, which was very kind of them and we chatted for a while.

With it starting to get dark we had a car stop at the entrance of the site and I was once more asked about camping further up. And once again I explained about the lack of camping for several miles. With my Alaskan campsite co-hosts we agreed to offer them space to stay. What started out as a quiet evening with the dogs turned into a pretty fun and full campsite. I have to admit that I think we all went to bed a little drunk tonight.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 19

Nov-2-2015
Day 19
I awoke to the sound of jake-brakes and logging trucks. I broke “camp” quickly and made a split moment decision to change my travels plans. I laid awake last night a little fed up that I was doing more driving and less “experiencing”. My favorite place in Idaho is the area around the Sawtooth Range of mountains and I decided to drive that route again, but to take my time.

IMG_0633

I pulled off at a view point for the most impressive part of the Sawtooth Mountains and was blessed with a herd of cow elk and a few calves grazing across the meadow. I was even lucky enough to get a picture of one calf suckling from his mother. Elk calves are just as violent with their head-butting for milk as foals and bovine calves. It was definitely the highlight of my day.

IMG_0638

IMG_0644

I stopped every half hour to let the dogs out to get some exercise, play in the water or just for me to stretch my legs. I wanted to keep mileage to a minimum, and this was a good way of doing so.

For a town of only about 3,500 people Ketchum, ID sure was a crazy busy town and I had to use Google Maps in order to find a gas station as there wasn’t one on the main route through town, and it certainly wasn’t the easiest town to navigate through.

I headed out of town via Sun Valley and found a pull-off just above the creek that was just far enough off the road to be usable,but a little too close to be able to let the dogs run free without an eye on them. Cody got sap in his fur which I had to cut out and then we went to play in the creek. Unfortunately I didn’t find a place in town, at least off the main drag, and so I am out of beer for the evening.

IMG_0667

I have been watching the ducks and other birds on the creek ponds and just generally enjoying some quiet time with the dogs. It is a beautiful area and the weather is perfect and cool…for now. I have plans in town tomorrow since I am determined to not just make this a driving trip, which it feels like it has been so far. Hoping the weather stays like this until noonish tomorrow.

IMG_0703

IMG_0669

We took a short hike along the creek ponds as I found a well-worn and level trail. It took us below the road, at the bottom of an “avalanche” of rocks (at least that’s what it looked like from the bottom) to a small meadow filled with flowers and tall grasses.

Along the trail I watched some ducklings with their mother and laughed as a few of them “ran” across the water. It was really rather cute. I also was lucky enough to stumble across three different snakes along the trail, all of which I believe to be grass or garter snakes of some kind. They were very shy and quick to get out of my way so I didn’t get any good pictures. They were a pretty good size though and were a bonus to all the wildlife I have seen today.

IMG_0711

IMG_0686

I have also had fun experimenting with my camera and have some interesting shots that I think I can add to my portfolio.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 18

Nov-1-2015
Day 18
Had a pretty awesome night. It was cool and quiet. I had originally kept the dogs in the truck but everyone was hot; they were noisy breathers and the sky looked pretty clear so I took the risk and put them in the bed of the truck. It suited everyone better and I slept really well for the first time since I left Steve and Breann’s place.

Other than a beautiful drive through eastern Oregon and a stop to replace my scratched camera (I upgraded to the second camera I’ve bought on this trip; I couldn’t handle the scratch, and I was glad I did) today was pretty uneventful. It was a lot of driving and my truck is pulling to the right again. I need to add some air but keep forgetting at gas stations because Oregon has full service and, as such, I never get out of the truck…pull in, pay, pull out. Hopefully I remember tomorrow now that I am in Idaho.

It took a little longer than I anticipated to find a campsite tonight, and it’s not perfect. It’s situated atop a knoll in the land between two sides of a looped road. It is pretty but I under-estimated the amount of traffic on the road, especially truck traffic. I’m not really visible too much from the road, but I’m glad it’s not one of those nights I need to use my camp shower! Despite that it has been a very pleasant evening, with temperatures about perfect. I pulled out my camp blanket and just chilled with the dogs for a short while.

IMG_0601

We had one visitor to camp; a woodpecker who was intent on the nearest dead tree for grubs and bugs. I tried to get a picture or two, and got one with full zoom on my camera and one from as far out as possible to show the comparison. I was watching some potential thunderstorms move in towards us so I didn’t have any curtains put up yet but I was ready to load the dogs and close up quickly if the rain should come in.