Here I will be discussing the truck that I will be living out of, not in.  It’s just what I already had, so I made it work, and, in many ways, it worked out pretty good.  It’s a 1999 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer All Wheel Drive/4×4 with some extras that you won’t find on any other Expedition.

When I first realised that I might be hitting the road, and living life in a mobile fashion, I considered my options, and weighed the pros and cons of each option.  I bounced back and forth a bit since it’s hard to decide what would be best, if you haven’t actually been doing it for a while.

Sure, I had done lots of camping, and even quite a bit of travelling by vehicle, and camping along the way, but I always had a home base to come back to.  Breaking the ties to any home base is a bit of a scary thing to do, if you’ve always had a home base.  So, I wanted to do as much as I could to ease that transition, and I did this, partly, by researching the experiences of others.

There are lots of groups on the internet for any type of interest or situation you could imagine, so finding groups that specialised in mobile living was not all that hard.  Just do a google search, and pick which ones seem to suit your ideas best.  Then, frequent those groups, and soon you will find that, not only are you learning important facts about what is working for others, but you also get to know the people themselves, and you realise that you’re not alone in what you are about to undertake.

So, as I went through the decision- making process, about which type of vehicle would be best for me, these were some of my considerations; a fully equipped camper van, of the RoadTrek variety, a conversion van, which was basically a regular van which had been either partially or fully converted into a livable space, a basic van, which I could convert/customise myself, a tow behind, such as a travel trailer, or, last but not least, the truck I already had.

So, let’s just go through my decision- making process and see why I ruled out certain options.  First, we’ll look at the RoadTrek type RV’s.  I knew a little bit about these because I had rented a brand new 19 footer before, and I drove it out to the east coast of Canada and parked right on a beach, right beside the Atlantic.  It was fairly easy to handle and it got reasonably good gas mileage, so no complaints there.  Initial cost would certainly be a consideration, especially if I was thinking about a recent model, and my budget was thin, so I would be looking at older models, with higher mileage.  I know that it’s not the same everywhere, but, RoadTreks around here seem to hang on to their value pretty well, and I soon decided that this might not be my best option.

There are, of course, other van-type RV’s available, so I started to expand my possibilities, and search for camper vans, in general.  Again, I did find quite a few for sale, and some were very reasonably priced, but I was concerned about the age and condition of many of them.  One thing I often came across was a camper van with very low mileage, and also a very low price.  Now, at first glance, this might seem like a bargain, but if you do enough reasearch, you will find that many of these camper vans were parked for ages and ages in one spot.  Not driving a vehicle can be just as bad as driving it too hard, and I was a bit leery of buying something that would turn into a money pit.

I have to say, though, I came very close to pulling the trigger on some of them, but something inside me was just holding me back.

Then there’s the option of buying a used work van, or even any van I felt was big enough to live in full time, and adding all the features that I would require, such as cooking facilities, storage, power supply, sleeping arrangement, bathroom facilities, etc.  This method seemed reasonable since it would allow me to just add features that I wanted, and in a way that best suited me.  Some of the already converted vans have everything you might need in them, but there’s not a lot of space left over to move around, so building your own conversion might allow you to leave the space you felt you required, by arranging the facilities in a complementary fashion.

I eventually decided that this route would be more time-consuming and expensive than I was willing to commit to, so I continued to look at them but my attention slowly faded, and I found myself considering my next option.

A small, light weight travel trailer might just fit the bill here, I thought.  It already has nearly all the facilities that I might need, and there’s a bit of space to move around in, and I would also have the option of un-hooking it when I reached a campsite, and just driving the tow vehicle to do any local shopping or sightseeing.  This sounded very appealing to me, so I started to look at small travel trailers to see what kinds were available, and what the prices were like.

I had already had some travel trailer experience since I previously owned a 26 footer, which I kept on a property up north to use on weekends and holidays.  I didn’t have all that much experience with pulling them full-time though, so I did have some concerns about that.  However, I felt that a small light weight travel trailer probably wouldn’t cause me all that much grief, since my tow vehicle was capable of handling up to 10,000 lbs.  So, I went ahead and purchased a light weight fiberglass trailer called a Trillium.

Trillium trailers are a Canadian made travel trailer which were popular way back in the seventies, along with others like Bolers.  The one I purchased was a 78, and it was in pretty good shape, so it wouldn’t need a lot of work to get it in living condition.  I started to make some small modifications that I felt would work well for me, when I eventually hit the road, and as I was working on it, I still kept researching what others who lived the mobile lifestyle were doing, and what problems they ran into, and what worked out well for them.

It really is hard to predict what possible difficulties one might run into with any particular setup, unless you get right into it and try it out.  But, that requires that you actually start living the lifestyle, and I wasn’t quite ready for that yet.  I could just do the weekend thing and try it out that way, but I already knew what that was like, and I didn’t think it would add any valuable experience that would help me envision what full-timing would be like.

One thing I did know was that I wanted to be as mobile as possible, as simply as possible, and at a cost that I could live with, while still being able to live with some degree of, what I felt was, comfort.   My setup needed to be adaptable to any conditions I might find wherever I went, and it also had to be quick and easy to use, for both short-term and long-term stops.  I also like things to be very practical, and, if possible, have more than one use or purpose.

Sounds like quite a tall order doesn’t it?  Well, everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes comfort, and what easy means, and how much space they could live in, so this is a very personal choice, and it will be different for everyone.  Fortunately for me, I was single, so that made my task 50% easier.

As time went by, working on the travel trailer, I started to get this nagging feeling that pulling any kind of trailer, whether small or large, is going to have it’s downsides.  Of course, everything has it’s downsides, it’s just a matter of which downsides we’re willing to live with.  For instance, I knew that where I was headed, I would more than likely find myself on a narrow access road to some remote campsite, and discover that the road was impassable and I would have to turn around.  This would be very inconvenient while pulling a trailer, if there wasn’t enough room to turn around.  It might not even be a remote road, it could be a town I’m passing through, and I go down the wrong street and find myself on a dead-end.

This was something I needed to consider, but it wasn’t a deal breaker, as far as I was concerned.  The real deal breaker for me was ground clearance.  The Trillium trailer was quite low to the ground and my tow vehicle had mucho ground clearance, being a 4×4.  It seemed to defeat the purpose of even having a tow vehicle that could access some pretty rough conditions, when the trailer it was towing could not.  There were possibilities of reworking the trailers suspension to raise the ground clearance, but after researching that option, I came to the conclusion that raising the trailer would almost certainly impact it’s handling, and also it’s drag, causing increased gas consumption.  Things were just getting too complicated, and I like simplicity.

So, I decided to sell the Trillium and find a way to use what I already had available to me.  My 1999 Ford Expedition.  I was concerned about the small space I had to work with.  It’s not something that I could see myself living in for very long, even when I removed all the seats except the front passenger seat, there was not a lot of moving around space, and I knew that the fact that I couldn’t stand up would eat away at me eventually.

However, it was large enough to live out of.  It made a great place to sleep, and I could store most of what I needed in it.  So, I started to brainstorm.  How could I make this work?  First thing I did was purchase one of those streamlined roof mounted cargo carriers.  It’s a sixteen cubic footer.  That would most certainly give me all the space I would require for whatever I wanted to take along with me.  Next, I purchased eight of those plastic drawer things, that have three drawers, stacked one on top of the other.  That’s 24 drawers in which I could store all my clothes and probably a lot more too.  These fit perfectly along both side of the rear cargo area, with a thick cushion mattress in between them for either sitting up on, or sleeping.  The drawers also provide privacy, since they are high enough that I would not be visible when lying down.

So, I had storage and sleeping quarters covered.  Now, I turned my attention to other necessities.  Where would I cook, clean up, shower, use the bathroom, or anything of the sort?  I would require at least a minimum of these facilities if I’m going to be living full time like this.

The RoadArk is born.  Now, keep in mind that my idea of what is livable will differ from others, maybe most others. I don’t know.  But the RoadArk, which I  designed and built myself, to suit my own personal preferences, is the culmination of a lot of thinking and rethinking in order to get things, not only the way I wanted them, but in a compact, doable, workable, efficient, and last but not least, cost-effective way.

The RoadArk made my existing vehicle into what I personally needed it to be, in order to live out of it for an extended period.  Yes, it does have limitations, but we all have those.  I feel that the limitations are quite balanced with what it can do, and after all the work and thought I put into building it, I have to say that I even surprised myself with how well it turned out.  You can read more about the RoadArk by selecting it from the header bar.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on June 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Hey Al, that looks great! A couple of things came to mind when I saw the pics. First, it rests a fair bit out from the back of the truck…….great for storing the bike, I see, but I wonder if it might be wise to put a red oversized load flag on it. Or, maybe the Canadian flags do the trick? The other thing is that are u sure that the tongue weight will be sufficient considering the bouncing and the cantilever effect?



  2. Hey Wally;

    Ya, I know what you mean regarding the way the unit sticks out from the back of the truck. One of the reasons I put the Canadian flags on was to draw attention to the extended load, and also to give me some indication of distances when I’m backing up.

    As far as the tongue weight goes, it is well within the 600 lb. capacity, but I do understand that without wheels, that weight is applied in a different way than pulling a trailer. I’ve considered all the stresses, and I feel that it will be strong enough, but there are no guarantees. This cargo basket was designed to carry 500 lbs. and I expect that the company that makes them did a certain amount of testing to protect themselves from liability.

    Have you ever seen those salt spreaders that attach in the same manner? I’ve seen those things loaded so heavy that the vehicle is sitting way down in the back, but I’ve never heard of one breaking off.

    As a final word, I’d have to say that I’ve never been one to over-err on the side of safety. I do what I feel is reasonable, and then I just roll with it, in this case literally.

    I do appreciate your input though. At least I know someone is reading my blog 🙂


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