With Four Wheels!
As we shared in a previous post, we finally decided on a replacement for our Camry. The three primary objectives were – it had to have high clearance, four-wheel-drive, and be large enough for us to sleep inside, all for the least amount of money possible while still being in good shape! Those requirements led us to a used Chevrolet Suburban.
We had figured out that if we purchased one in Oregon, there wouldn’t be sales tax. (We did pay an excise tax in South Dakota – kind of a sales tax, at a lower rate.) That could save us a ton of money. So, while at the house in Crescent Lake, we took a drive into Eugene, one of the two decent sized cities within two hours of the house, to look at a few. Since we had ruled out other vehicles once we saw them up close and personal, we thought it wise to see a few Suburbans up close and personal.
This One or That One?
I had found two used car dealers that had advertised a few in our price range. As we pulled into the first lot, there was a shiny black Suburban right out front. We had come to look at a different one and did that but kept our eye on the shiny black object over there. Neither of us was that impressed with option number one as it was old and beat up. So we walked over towards the black one, drawn by some magnetic force. This thing was nice! It was just over our budget but was a top of the line model for its year. We remembered we were there just to look around and took off for the next stop.
That stop at the next dealer was not as good. They tried to sell us a new model ($60,000) because they couldn’t find the one I had seen advertised. We left the lot, and within two minutes of driving, I told Jim that I liked that black one. Jim says, well, me too, but I thought you didn’t want a black car with leather seats. But I like THAT black car and THOSE leather seats. Well, that’s all she wrote, we returned to the lot and made the deal!
Can We Make a Deal Today?
The only hiccup was that we didn’t have our title in hand on the Camry. We’d just registered it in South Dakota and were waiting for the title to arrive in the mail. We called South Dakota and found out that the papers had processed that day and we could expect them the next day. The dealer in Oregon was willing to work with that, and after a few hours, we drove off the lot with our new vehicle!
We were ecstatic! Our next step would be to set it up as our traveling home. We were going to keep our tent and all the trappings so that we could sleep outside but this would help in inclement weather if it were pouring rain or snow we wanted to be able to sleep in the Suburban.
Too Many Seats
The first order of business for us was to remove the second and third-row seats. To our delight, it was easy to remove the back row. The second row, however, was a different story. They were bucket seats, fancy bucket seats with electrical hookups and a casing all around the base. We couldn’t find any screws! We tried searching for some help on YouTube for days. It seemed that no one on earth had done this – well, at least no one who recorded it on YouTube, unlike virtually any other thing you can imagine doing to a car.
We tried finding written instructions online – also no luck. We discussed the possibility of leaving them in and trying to fit a mattress behind the seats. Technically, it could have worked, but then we remembered our large Yeti cooler. It was too big to fit between the seats! We had to get those seats out; it was the only way.
Call in the Pros
Finally, we realized we could probably pay a Chevy Dealer to do it. Jim called a service center in Bend, and they said it was no problem. We made an appointment, and a few days later, it was done. The seats were out, and it only cost us $90.
Yes, someone with mechanical know-how probably could have easily removed them but we didn’t have that and didn’t want to destroy or break the seats. We intended to keep them in storage in case we ever need them or need to sell the vehicle.
A Big Back End, a Little Bumpy
Now, we had a vast area behind the driver and passenger seats: Yippee. Just one problem – it wasn’t a level space! Newer Suburban models do have a level floor, but we couldn’t afford a newer model. How do we make it level? Put a platform over everything, of course. Easier said than done for us.
Over the recent months, I had watched some YouTube videos on van and car conversions – for camping. People have come up with various ingenious set-ups for living in their vehicles; I can tell you that! We knew we needed to build a frame or base for a mattress and discussed various plans.
Maybe Plan First – Build Later
It was not so typical for us, but in the end, we decided to wait and see if our trip gave us some first-hand ideas about what we wanted, rather than construct something before our first trip only to find out we don’t like it.
That meant we would need to fill the hole under half of the mattress to get it level and supported. Then, after the six weeks of travel, we should have a good idea of what we want.
With glee, I started researching all the things that we needed to make a proper little home. I was the best customer of Amazon for a week or so. Between my packages and the homeowner’s purchases while traveling, the Fed Express and UPS trucks were here every day, sometimes more than once. Funny.
We had a new stove, our comforter, a light source, and a fantastic cooler. What I still needed were curtains/insulation for the windows, a mattress, a better form of light (other than the flashlights on our phones and the solar lantern). We needed a way to go to the bathroom if we were dispersed camping or Boondocking (without water facilities.) We also needed a way to carry a decent amount of water.
The Mattress – A Bed Away from Home
We knew we needed a bed to sleep on in the car and we discussed quite a few options. I did some research and thought a tri-fold mattress made the most sense. When I brought it up to Jim, he suggested it would be uncomfortable – oh, I don’t want to be uncomfortable.
I kept looking and found an eight-inch-thick full sized memory foam mattress and got it on Amazon. Why didn’t we want to fold up the mattress? Because the trifold would be thinner and have places that dipped given the folds. Once I got the mattress, I realized it would be best if we could protect it, so I also purchased a waterproof mattress protector.
Now we come to an essential purchase! How to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer and block our windows from others seeing inside. Of course, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money or make any permanent changes to the car’s interior.
Once again I turned to the full-time RV blogs. It turns out everyone uses something called Reflectix. Officially it’s used for things like wrapping water heaters, etc. It consists of two layers of aluminum foil with bubble wrap in between. It comes in various sizes, and you buy a roll, cut it up to the size of your car windows and put them up.
I ordered more than I thought we needed and started measuring windows and cutting the Reflectix for each one. There are eight large windows, so there’s quite a lot of work getting the measurements right which I didn’t do perfectly. But as you can see they fit well enough. Hopefully, they will help since it’s going to be hot where we’re going.
Our Very Own Water Reservoir
On a whim, I purchased a collapsible one-gallon water container. Once it arrived, I realized it hadn’t been the best purchase since it could easily get punctured and ruin all our belongings. After some research on water containers, I found that many of the reviews say they leak a lot and are not sturdy. I worked hard to find one that was rated well and could hold up to some abuse and think I succeeded. It holds 5 1/2 gallons and costs $20 – will see how it works.
Now comes the unpleasant part – but I’m going to talk about it because it’s essential – a toilet. This topic of conversation was something Jim had no interest in at all. I kept bringing up the subject, and he just kept thinking I was crazy. Of course, you can buy a five-gallon bucket, plastic bags, and a cheap $10 seat but that seemed disgusting to me, and we’d have to carry around a ten-gallon bucket in our car. I just couldn’t get my head around that.
I found out there are specific waste bags that are approved by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forests and I think they fit on any toilet seat but I wanted a specific one that was $75. Those waste bags are quite expensive. If you buy them one at a time, they cost almost $3 a bag at least in Oregon. I found a deal on a package of 30 and spent $80 on a plastic toilet and around $60 on waste bags! I know it sounds crazy but it was a big deal to make this part work, and I didn’t want it to be stinky or dirty because, well because!
No Mr. Coffee in Campsites
We’ve traveled with Mr. Coffee for 10,000 miles or so. Works fine during house sits. But that doesn’t work on the road. Instant coffee is an option, but a poor one according to Jim. We needed something to bridge that gap. We went to our resource for all things camping – REI. They had an old style stainless steel percolator: great. Works on stove tops and campfires.
Our light sources up to this point had been a small solar lantern and the flashlights on our phones. We thought it was time to upgrade! We researched a bit and spoke with the salesperson in REI and left with these. Black Diamond Headlamps that are rechargeable! Hopefully, they will be okay since we didn’t purchase top-of-the-line models.
Portable Battery Pack
Since we are going to be on the road for about two weeks, I started wondering how I was going to keep my phone charged. We wouldn’t be driving all the time, and with all the photos I’d be taking I’d have to charge it more than once a day. I learned what you probably all already know – they have portable chargers!
After a bunch of research, I opted for the Anker brand and the one that said it could charge two phones five times each and only cost $40. That was a no-brainer, and I bought it right away. As you can see, it’s quite small – less than an inch high by about six inches long and comes in a nice little box. Hopefully, it will work as promised; I will let you know.
Sink and Shower
So, if you are living out of your vehicle for a week or so, you need a way to wash dishes or maybe even an item of clothing. I looked around and found a ten-liter sink from Sea to Summit. Perfect that it folds into a tiny bag. You just have to spend 30 minutes learning how to get it back into that small bag after you use it!
Same thing about washing yourself. We bought a Sea to Summit ten-liter shower bag which also folds ‘nicely’ into a small bag. We’ll let you know how well they work.
One of the most expensive purchases I made was the WeatherTech window deflectors. The only thing that drove us both crazy with the Camry was the windows. If you want the windows open a bit and it is raining, rain would pour into the car. Looking back, of course, we could have purchased deflectors for the Camry, but we didn’t think of it – complaining was so much easier. Anyway, we got them for the Suburban and can’t wait to try them out. I also purchased a grille deflector for all the thousands of bugs we’re going to collect on our journeys!
We had almost figured out what all the buttons and switches did in the car and were almost set for our next big road trip. We couldn’t wait to try all this stuff out. But the calendar said our trip was a few weeks off. Hmmm, let’s see what else there is to do around here.
What’s Next – more from Crescent Lake
You know you want to!