General Info

So, here, I’m just going to be talking about the general build of the RoadArk and MiniArk, without the pictures.  When the time comes to actually put these things to the test, I’ll probably update this section with what I’ve discovered, as I use the RoadArk, and the MiniArk in my travels.

I built the RoadArk out of wood that I already had.  The knotty pine boards were once in a different form, in fact, they were in at least a couple of forms, before they became the RoadArk.

I used to have a small business selling natural products, and I rented a space in a store to sell from.  I built two display shelving units for my products, and when I finally accepted that I just wasn’t a salesman, I brought these shelves home, and used them as storage shelves there.  So, when the RoadArk idea came to me, I just started building, with what I had available.   The shelving units had both the wood, and the screws to get going on the project.  It’s as if they were just waiting there for a new purpose.

I can’t say that I remember any particular moment that this idea came to me.  I was just considering all options available, and I went through quite a few scenarios before the RoadArk came to mind.  I still don’t know for sure, whether this will be the best setup for the way I will be living on the road, but it seemed to me like the most reasonable of the options I considered.

Anyway, once I decided the direction I was going to take, I started designing and building.  I would sit for long periods, looking at the developing project, and trying to get a feel for what might work best.  Sometimes it was just a matter of trial and error.  Sometimes things seemed to come together as if it was meant to be.

The RoadArk took shape in a natural way, because it wasn’t forced or built in a hurry.  I would do something, and then I would just sit back and consider how that particular part, or design, would work out in practice.  I was always concerned about weight, since this unit would be hanging off the back of the truck, in a sort of cantilevered fashion.  There was no way around the fact that I was going to have to put some things in it that were heavy, like the battery, and a full 20 lb. tank of propane.  I ended up putting one on each end of the RoadArk, not only to balance the weight, but also because it’s not really a good idea to have a battery, which could potentially create sparks, near a full tank of propane.

I did provide screened vent holes throughout the bottom of the RoadArk, so that any leaks, whether they be liquid, or gas, could escape, and no little critters could make the RoadArk their home.

Also, all the wood in the RoadArk, and the MiniArk, are saturated, both inside and out, with a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, so if they happen to get wet, it’s no big deal.  After applying the mixture to the wood, I heated all the surfaces with a hairdryer set on maximum, so that the beeswax would melt into the wood, sealing it from any possible water penetration.  This is both, a natural, and effective way of preserving the colour and integrity of the wood.  I use this on my hiking boot, and also on my walking sticks, and it works great.

There was one possibility that I didn’t consider when I used this mixture of beeswax and mineral oil.  Bears!  I will be spending a lot of time in bear country, so smelling like the mother of all beehives might not be to my advantage.  Oh well, maybe mixing it with the mineral oil will turn them off.  Who knows, it might even repel them.  Gulp.

As the project came together, I tested whatever I could, to make sure that there weren’t going to be any obvious failures, that might happen at the most inopportune time.  I always like to keep things as simple, and practical, as possible, but there were some technically challenging parts to this build, one of them being the plumbing.

When I first filled up the fresh water tanks, and powered up the pump, I heard an interesting gushing sound.  I ran around to the back of the RoadArk, and there I saw the gushing.  Water coming out all over the floor.  The Ark was taking on water, and was in danger of sinking, before it even had its maiden voyage.

It was a tedious job, from that point, testing each and every connection for leaks.  It wasn’t always obvious where any particular leak was coming from, since there were so many possibilities.  At the outset, I really wasn’t aware of how much pressure these Shurflo pumps could put out, but I know now.

I had to have so many connections because the runs were usually very short, and bending the hose, would only lead to kinking, and eventual, if not immediate, blockage.  Also, the stainless steel clamps I used on the hose connections could only be tighten up to a certain point before the screw stripped, and would not catch.  The clamp was then just garbage.

However, I did finally reach a point where I had everything tight and dry.  I left the pump switched to the on position for days, and the pressure held, without any leaks.

One of the other technically difficult tasks, was coming up with a workable set of legs, so that the RoadArk could be set down, free standing, if necessary.  Remember, I’m building this unit in my small apartment, so I didn’t have some of the facilities that might have made the job a little easier.  For one thing, I do know how to weld, and that would have been a handy resource, if I’d had access to it.

So, since I didn’t have the resources to do any welding, I, once again, had to put my thinking cap on, in order to work around those limitations.

The legs would have to be strong enough to support up to 5oo lbs. of downward force, and also, to provide a reasonable amount of resistance to sideways force.  They also had to be made as light weight as possible, so aluminum was an easy choice here.  I had to balance the need for strength, against the need for light weight, so I did sacrifice a bit of sideways strength, in order to keep the units weight down.  But, this was manageable, since, for my purposes, I did not foresee having to use the landing gear all that much, but I did need it to operate sufficiently to do the job.

I did eventually come up with a way to mount the legs to the hitch basket without any welding, and I’m satisfied that it will be strong enough for my purposes.  Having said that, I don’t think that this setup would take the kind of abuse that a mass-produced item, such as the hitch basket itself, would be subject to, from some, less than careful users.

In order to remount the RoadArk, after lowering it on the landing gear, one would have to back the vehicle up to it, and I could just see some people backing just a little too far.  These legs were not designed to take that kind of punishment.  Since I built the unit, I know that, and I will allow for extra care when remounting into the hitch receiver.

Here is the RoadArk mounted on the back of the truck;

I was really pleased with the way it worked out, and the truck seemed to take the weight hanging off the back very well, thanks partly to those Timbren suspension enhancements that I installed.  The truck also drove nicely, and there was no discernible sway, or any other handling issues, again, thanks partly to the anti-sway chains that I connected between the bumper and the cargo basket.

After putting on quite a few miles with this setup, the only issue that has given me any cause to complain would be just remembering that it’s back there.  I put two Canadian flags on each rear corner so that I might be able to gauge distances a bit better, especially when I’m backing up, and also to make the extended load more visible to others.

Since I’m temporarily stopped now, and I’m not sure when I will be constantly travelling again, I have decided to take the cargo basket off the truck, and I was quite surprised at how easy it was to just slide the RoadArk out of the cargo basket and into the back of the truck.  I put it length-ways into the back of the truck, but it did take up a lot of room that way.  Then I was thinking one night, and I wondered if it was possible that the RoadArk might actually fit sideways inside the truck.

So, I thought I would give it a try.  I hadn’t even considered this before because I really didn’t think there was any way it would fit cross-ways.  First, I measured, and I was surprised to find that it just might fit.  It was going to be close, but the only way to tell was to try it.

Right behind the driver and passenger seats is the foot well for the rear seats, which I removed a long time ago.  If I could get the RoadArk to sit into that foot well, then I felt there was a chance that I would be able to open the top cover properly inside the truck.  The foot well is fairly flat all the way across, with just a very slight hump in the middle, but nothing to be too concerned about.

I opened both rear doors and dragged the RoadArk so that it stuck out one of the doors, and then I dropped it down into the foot well, and centered it as best I could.  Then, the big test, would the doors close properly?  Not only did they close properly, there was actually a bit of space to spare, not much but just enough for me to get my hand in to the door handle, so that I could still open the truck door from inside the truck.

It fit so well that I couldn’t believe it.  It’s such a snug fit that it won’t move around at all while I’m driving.  But, would the top open far enough?  Well, it won’t open to 90 degrees, but it does open far enough so that I can use it just as well as I used it in the cargo basket.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, it actually locks in place into the inside roof of the truck.  The only adjustment I had to make was to open both side windows, just a few inches, to allow the corners of the top cover to extend outside, because of the inward curve of the windows near the top.  This wasn’t really all that much of a problem either though, because, if I’m using the stove, I will certainly want some ventilation inside.

There are advantages to having the RoadArk inside the truck, especially if it’s raining or something like that.  I wouldn’t have to set up the tarp over top of it before I could use it.  Also, the weight of the RoadArk is now in the center of the truck, instead of hanging quite far off the back, and I still have enough room to sleep in the back of the truck if I want to, thanks to the advantage of not being a tall person.

Another advantage of having the RoadArk inside the truck is that, when I open the top, it completely blocks anyone from seeing inside the back of the truck from the windshield, or the front side windows.  The rear windows are all dark tinted, so that gives enough privacy.

Anyway, for now, this is the new home for the RoadArk.  I’ll see how it all works out, and I’ll put up some pics of the RoadArk in its new location soon.

 

 

 

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