Tag Archives: toyota

The Midwest to Colorado

kansas
Kansas

Once we left the Great Smokys, we dipped into Tennessee and found ourselves at Center Hill Lake. This was a typical lakeside campsite, with campers and professional RVers strewn about. Our stay was uneventful, but the weather was uncomfortable, so we headed out in the morning. The next day we departed from the interstate, driving the twisty back roads of the Bible Belt. As we cruised the back country route, we received crooked looks from cross-eyed locals as they stared us down from their overcrowded double-wides. The feeling of being out of our comfort zone was growing more apparent with each piece of anti-abortion propaganda / guns and ammo supplier we passed. There was a general sense that these locals were armed, and looking for any lame excuse to shoot down trespassers. We kept to ourselves and proceeded to the Land Between Lakes in Western Kentucky.

One thing to note about the great plains is the intolerable amount of bugs. At times it became unbearable, and combine that with 90+ degree heat, it was hard for us to handle. The landscape was baron, producing dramatic sunsets, and a lot of horizon to absorb.

downtown Cairo, Illinois
downtown Cairo, Illinois

Once we crossed the Mississippi River we found ourselves in the town of Cairo, Illinois. Upon driving through, we grew increasingly interested in the town’s dilapidated state. After some quick google action we came to learn that this place had a checkered history. Cairo had some major racial tension around the turn of the century including lynchings and riots.  This old railroad town, sitting right on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, had been through a lot. In 2011, the levies broke and completely destroyed it, leaving Cairo in its present haggard state. There were a few people wandering the streets, but for the most part it was a ghost town.

We left Cairo, blew through Missouri, and made it to Eastern Kansas by the evening. We decided to stay at Clinton Lake, right outside of Kansas City, for the evening. During the day, this was once again bug city. I was left seriously questioning how the early settlers did it. Once night fell, the bugs cleared out, there was a cool breeze, and the stars were epic. The campsite was not crowded and the locals kept to themselves within the confines of their RV’s. We had completed a couple hard days of constant driving with the goal of arriving in Colorado.  The interstate through Missouri and Kansas is the most monotonous part of the entire trip. There is a great deal of religious propaganda billboards, fast food truck stops, and some “come see the worlds largest prairie dog” sights which can definitely become repetitive. It became apparently clear that we were ready to get the hell out! As we crossed the Colorado border we took a sigh of relief, knowing that once we reached Boulder we would be able to rest for a few weeks, improve our setup, and make a few extra bucks working. Looks like rain in Boulder…

Security time

There is only so much a person can do to keep their possesions safe while driving to South America. My theory is to not bring anything. If you dont have it, they can’t steal it. Or in our case, and in the case of most overlanders, bring absolutely as little as possible. Yea thats right, all that crap you bought off the Sky Mall catalog stays in your parents crawl space. No 3-D goggles, or liquor cabinet golf bags allowed. Before we pack it all up, let us all take a quick moment to poke fun at all the rediculous trash Sky Mall tries to hustle.

You need to organize and lock up your gear so wandering eyes look the other way. If and when someone tries to smash and grab my gear, what will they really get away with? Inside the truck cab there is a lock box which can hold the laptop, important files, camera / lenses, and a few other things. This lockbox is made from 3/4 inch ply with angle iron steel corners, fastened with one way flathead screws, then bolted to the truck body. Someone could get into this thing if they had grinders, power saws, some time and effort. That is unlikely.

Next, I had an alarm installed. It is the most inexpensive alarm at the car security store. It was $200, including install. It has remote locks, activation blinking light, and it will provide me with a better sense of security. I have been told by experienced overlanders that a cheap alarm system can help deter theft in crowded areas. Yes, thugs will smash and grab on crowded streets. Our $200 alarm will help us out in this situation.

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Follwing the alarm, I had a limo tint added to all the windows on the cap as well as the back windows in the cab. Yea you can’t see inside my whip, plus it looks gangster. I also welded up some steel window cages for the rear slider windows. The sliders are easy to access inside the cap, but if someone gets them open, the cage will keep them out. It is also to keep Lupe safe. (notice the fishing pole holder on the cieling also.)

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truck cabinet conversion.

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We all know living in a car, truck, or van is nothing to brag about. Usually it is a result of a person going through financial distress, or some kind of mental breakdown.  Our parents always warned us about the guy who lives in a parking lot nestled between Wal-mart and TGI Fridays.  Oh, and don’t forget about the couple that lives in the van full of birds under the Bklyn Queens Expressway. Despite these tall tales, and as glamorous as this does not sound to many, Sara and I have decided that this lifestyle sounds pretty good to us. Calling a vehicle home is an excellent way to travel. When traveling, lodging can take up a large percentage of your budget. By eliminating the lodging expense completely, we will be able to extend our trip by a matter of months. Now, this all depends on the person of course. Not everyone is open to sacrificing a certain amount of comfort in exchange for  the extension of a trip.  It is a personal decision that many travelers ponder. Or not.

With all this being said, I am in the process of making our 2001 Toyota Tacoma as comfortable as possible. Besides our roof top tent, which is where we will be sleeping, I have decided to build a cabinet / storage system in the bed of the truck. The system I built will contain a hand pump RV faucet with a 7 gallon tank, propane tank and hose hookup, a 12 volt cooler / fridge, electrical outlets, ample storage space, sleeping room and/or an area to chill out. Here is a rough step by step guide to the build:

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First build your basic structure- notch out for wheel wells and anything else that might be in the way. You want this thing to be as tight as possible, and still have the ability to remove easily if need be. Before you go any further TEST FIT!

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Once it fits, decide where all compartments will be located. I measured my fridge, propane tank, water tank etc so everything fits properly and can be easily removed if need be.

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I painted the entire structure with 2 coats (all sides every piece) with herculiner truck bed paint. This is basically a rubber coating that will withstand abuse as well as water and moisture.

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I then got some outdoor carpet and adhesive and covered all cabinet doors and the platform. I used piano hinges because they will help keep doors from warping and they have a low profile.

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The RV pump sink works great.  It was easy to install and seems to be very durable. This will be great for drinking water. The small cabinets will probably carry basic every day things like toothpaste, toothbrush, suntan lotion, and hot sauce.

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The fridge has a fan thats need constant ventalation, hence the blue vent on the sidewall. The 1 gallon propane tank has an access hole so it can be turned on and off easily. The propane hose runs through cabinet along the side of the fridge so it is not seen. When the stove is in use on the tailgate, the hose is accessible near bottom right side of fridge compartment.

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The 7 gallon water tank is in the back right of the cabinets. In this location its out of the way, but can be easily removed or filled up. the clear hose runs through the pvc pipe. The pvc is only there to protect the hose from whatever storage is in the cabinet.

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The center platform is removable, and fits on the floor when not being used as a platform. When the platform is not in use the space acts as an area to chill out. When the platform is in use it can be used as a sleeping platform, or a way to hide gear from wandering eyes. As you can see the cabinets provide a good amount of storage space for my machetes, bags of rice, and underwear.

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Well here it is! its basically done except a few minor adjustments and additions. I estimate it weighs a bit over 200 pounds. We cant wait to go camping and test this thing out!

Suspension is in!

The OME suspension with Dakar leaf packs install was a success. This was the first time i put a suspension kit in a vehicle, and I found it to be a fairly simple process. Paul from http://ihearttrail.com has done suspension kits before and decided to help me. If he wasn’t there I would not be able to do this. After hours of wrenching and driving around Queens and Brooklyn looking for bolts we had to cut off, the install was a success. The Tacoma now has a 2 inch lift and a high end suspension that will be able to take the abuse of our 30,000 mile trip to Argentina. The truck looks and feels great.

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Suspension in my kitchen

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Roads in the states are maintained on the regular and built to last. A lot of the roads south of the boarder are either not paved or not maintained very well, which leads to a bumpy ride. With this in consideration as well as all the extra weight we will be carrying in the truck, the stock suspension is going to fail. We went with the OME full suspension kit with Daker leaf springs. This might be over kill, but we thought it would be a good idea to have a high end suspension for the 30,000 mile overlanding trip. Now i just have to get it on the truck somehow.