Our Camper

1993 Palomino Filly LB

After a long, exhaustive and disappointing search, we found our pop-up on rvtrader.com for $999.  You read that right, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine smackeroos.

Here's the story.  We moved to Colorado Springs in February 2017, and being from the country, I have always loved camping and being outdoors.   Now at this point, we had 4 adopted kids, ages 2, 5, 7,  and 8.  Tent camping wasn't in my future, although we did own a dome tent that was an instant up variety.  The amount of effort it would have required to wrangle the kids, and attempt to setup all that gear would be an monumental effort.

It was the summer time when I started looking (June 2017) for a pop-up that I could work on in our garage and fix up.  I found several candidates, but after further investigation, they were going to take way more effort than I was willing to expend.   There were several that were available,  some at $1500 or just a bit over, or $1250 but someone is looking and I'll let you know, but I had a strict $1000 budget, and I wasn't moving off it.  After several attempts to locate a suitable candidate through local channels, OfferUp, LetGo, 5Mile apps and several obvious Craigslist scams later,  I was sadly disappointed in what I found.  I figured that God just didn't want us to have one yet.  I was almost depressed about it, because it was something that I really wanted to do for the kids, because they enjoy being outside so much.  Someone at our church saw the sad state in my countenance and asked what was wrong, and I told them.  They simply said, "Ahh, Just go on rvtrader.com, they hav'em on there all the time."  So that night after putting the kids to bed, I grabbed my MacBook and started the search.

And there it was.  The only pop-up listed for sale within a 500 mile radius of Colorado Springs!  And it was under budget!  I got excited!  I told my wife (who doesn't like to camp, and was not too terribly impressed), and submitted an e-mail to the owner that went something along the lines of "Is this for real?  Not a misprint on the price?"  I must admit it was hard to sleep that night.

To my surprise, she answered back very early the next morning, stating that it was not a misprint and that she truly wanted only $999 for the camper.  I asked the normal questions, what's it got, does it leak, etc. and liked the responses I got.  We scheduled a 3PM meet up time at her house in Denver, and I went and grabbed the kids to go look at it.  I figured that if they were going to be the ones camping in it, I would want them to be involved in the decision.  We hit some bad traffic on the way there, and were nearly 30 minutes late, but when we pulled up to the house, I could tell that it was well taken care of.  She had popped it up in her driveway, and we explored every detail, noting that the only issue seemed to be that they didn't use it very much!  Her husband was out of town a lot, and they didn't get to go as much as they used to. I asked if the fridge worked, and she replied that she didn't know because they never used it. I asked the same about the heater, and received the same answer.  I figured that even if they didn't work, it'd be less time, money and effort to put into this one than any of the other fixer uppers I had seen that would have cost more! (Edit: We later found out that both work flawlessly :-) )

I asked the kids what they thought.  They liked it.  I liked it.  So with no further discussion, and no hesitation or negotiation whatsoever, I handed over $1000 cash, and she signed the title over.  She even asked if I wanted the $1 back!  She was so enamored with the kids, she even through in quite a few goodies that we have used along with the camper, like a screen tent, outdoor carpet for the front, broom, mop, and even two brand new spare tires!  We hooked it up to the Honda and headed home with our new home on wheels.  The following weekend, we had our first trip, which just so happened to coincide with Claire's third birthday!

Since that day, we have added things, subtracted things, enhanced, upgraded, and made it more our style.  Yeah, it's old but so am I, and I still work.  UPDATE: Camper Makeover In Progress! See pictures below!

Some things just get better with age :-)


Our Rooftop Tent

Odin Designs Rooftop Tent (RTT)

Just like our camper, I've been looking for one of these for a loooooong time.  Only difference was my budget this time was less, around $800.  I found this little gem on Craigslist for $500!  Had to drive to Niwot (near Boulder) to get it, but it was worth it!

The Odin Designs tent is really no different than any other RTT, except the owner incorporated a lot of the "extras" that are normally an additional cost into his base model.  For example the base model came with the annex, a removable rubberized floor, heavier tent canvas, shoe storage, upgraded alloy hardware, a telescoping ladder (that's 8.5' instead of the standard 6.5'), and some other extras like the anti-condensation mat, waterproof cover on the mattress, and get this, two star gazing skylights!

So, the story on this guy is that the previous owner had it on top of a teardrop camper, loaned it out to some friends, and the roof rack that he had mounted it on failed.  This sent the whole rooftop assembly scampering down the asphalt and into a ditch, and doing double back flip flops until it came to a rest.  Miraculously, there was zero damage to the tent itself, and only minimal damage to the PVC cover, which ended up being a few small holes or tears in the cover.  I remedied this by using what else?  Gorilla tape.  Hey, it matches and it is watertight, at least temporarily until I can get another cover either purchased or make one myself.  It's nice to own a commercial sewing machine that can sew that thickness of material.  Upon getting it home I had to buy some longer bolts to attach it to the rack system I have, but it's fine now.

Now, the bad news is that Odin Designs is out of business, but the good news is that the tent was made by the same Chinese manufacturer that also makes most of the other models.  They are all pretty much the same design, with varying degrees of quality and sizes.  In all reality, this is the same tent as a Tepui, Smittybilt, or Cascade Valley Tent (CVT), etc., some of which are selling for upwards of $2500.  My co-worker owns a CVT, and after looking at mine, he said I got a lot of the same options he got on his, but for about 1/5 the price. 

I'd say God blessed us with a great a deal!


The Adventure Machine

2013 Chevrolet K1500 Crew Cab

We have officially changed the name because of a conversation with a Grand Canyon Bike Shop employee.  He mentioned, "Well now, that looks like quite the adventure machine!" 

I found this truck completely by God's hand.  Let me explain.

I was looking into a travel trailer about a year after we bought the Palomino, and I also knew the Honda wouldn't pull it. The Honda was also getting high in miles (almost 200k), and I really missed having a truck.  At one time, back in Texas, I had a 1980 Chevrolet K1500 single cab classic square body, but sold it ultimately to help with attorney's fees to adopt our youngest in 2016.  I'd say that was a good trade!   Anyway, I started looking for a truck and after months of searching, I found what seemed to be the best deal I could find, a 2012 Ford F-350 crew cab short bed with a V-10. I knew a V-10 would be overkill, but hey, with only 31k miles on the truck, how could I go wrong? I rented a U-haul car hauler, hitched the Honda pony to it and set off to Denver to pick up the pickup.  Here's where things got a little wonky.

When I arrived, I immediately realized that this was not a normal dealership.  People in and out in droves, all just looking for some wheels for a while.  Most cars on the lot had some sort of damage, some heavy, some not.  I asked to see the truck, and when they pulled it around, you want to talk about gross representation of a product, this was it.  Bald tires, hanging wires, passenger door was caved in (conveniently NOT shown in the pictures...), seat belt cut out of the rear middle passenger seat, rear diff leaking, oh, and that 31k miles?  That was the stock number that was "mistakenly" reported as the mileage, truth was this truck had over 225k miles and was previously owned by a roughneck rodeo cowboy.  Now, this not being  my first rodeo, I know the kind of cowboy he was, because I used to hang out with some in Texas.  I test drove the truck, it shook really badly.  I actually had to hold the driver side seat belt in during the test drive with my right hand so that the buzzer would stop, but it wouldn't even latch.

This truck was clearly not for me and my family.  I low balled just to see what they would do, and of course they declined.  I let them know that somebody would buy it, but it wouldn't be me.  As I left the lot, the sales guy chased me all the way to the Honda, where he saw the car hauler and said, "Wow, you were serious about buying a truck today weren't you?"  and then pointed me on to their sister store down the road a few miles.  Said I might have "better luck with the kind of truck I was looking for".  I assumed he could only mean safe and reliable transportation to transport my family in, but didn't ask him to clarify.

I found the lot just as he said, a more traditional type of lot with trucks galore.  I parked around the corner so they didn't see me coming.  I hate high pressure sales tactics.  I perused the lot, and couldn't find a truck that fit my specifications.  1) Had to seat six. 2) Had to be 4x4. 3) Had to have ~100k or less miles. 4) Had to be under $15k.  Most of the trucks that were on the lot had a center console and only seated five.  That knocked out 80% of them on the lot, even if they did tick all the other boxes.  The ones that were left, just didn't come close because they were way over budget.

As I was on my way out the gate, a sales guy tracked me down.  Oh goodie.  Introduced himself, and asked what I was looking for.  I plainly told him, he didn't have it on his lot.  He said, "Well would you let me look with you?"  Knowing that he wasn't going to give up, and that had already looked the lot over, I thought I'd humor myself and watch him try to sell me something that didn't exist.  We went over the lot.  Again.  And didn't see anything that fit my specifications.  Again.  Then, with a gleam in his eye, said, "I've got one more place to look, come with me."  On our way to what I could only imagine was his "private stock", or ax murdering chambers, one of the two, we passed by the garage.  Again. But this time around the block, there was this white Chevy Silverado that wasn't there before, and if it was, I don't think I would have even given it a second look because it wasn't 4x4, but there was something odd about it. It had a toolbox but it was a very odd looking toolbox.  It was getting dark, and the light was dim, and I didn't have my glasses at the time, so I veered off to take a peek.   I thought it looked familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it until I got closer.  It looked like a propane tank, but I didn't recognize the style of connector, it was smaller than what I had remembered with propane.  I went to the back of the truck to see if it had a hitch, and it did!  Then I saw it.  A little blue diamond with three letters in it.

Oh my.  A CNG powered truck! CNG is Compressed Natural Gas, an alternative fuel, a cheaper fuel, a huge tax break!  I opened the passenger door, it had rubber floor mats and NO carpet! It had a MANUAL 4x4 lever! It was under $15K!  It had a flip up console that made a full bench seat for SIX human beings!  It had.....Over 100k miles on it. 110001 to be exact, but that was beginning to fade in the light of the other features!

 I took it for a test drive.  Come to find out, it was actually a dual fuel vehicle, but the CNG switch didn't work and wouldn't engage the CNG system.  Because of this, I was able to negotiate it down to well under 15K with a full powertrain and fuel system warranty. I did this by explaining that I was taking a huge risk on something that might not even work.  They agreed, so I bought it.   I was then asked by a confused salesman about how I got there and when I replied that I had driven our Pilot, he inquired how I was going to get two vehicles home.  I then demonstrated my preparedness and pulled the Honda around with the trailer, dropped the trailer, hooked up the truck, loaded the Honda, strapped it down and pulled out the driveway in less than 10 minutes.  I think the sales guy's mouth was still open when I pulled out.

Drove home and pulled the dash to check out the CNG switch.  It was unplugged, so I plugged it back in. Had 1/2 tank of CNG and no issues since!  

God is good! :-)


Things we want!

Things We Want

The Kelly Kettle

This  is one of my most-desired pieces of backpacking/camping gear.  The Kelly Kettle is a double-walled stainless steel container that  uses sticks, bark, grass, etc. for fuel (no propane needed!) and can be used to boil water for cooking, hot showers, coffee & tea,  etc.