Pre-Teton Travel Truck To Do List

I’ve got about two months until the Teton road trip, so Rocinante is now my top priority project. The master list of improvements continues to grow, which means it’s time to sort out the critical items and get them squared away first. These projects definitely need to be done before we leave:

  • Finish the sleeping platform. The outer box is complete but still needs to be strapped to the truck frame. Both drawers need fronts, handles/latches, and carpeting for the bottom of the drawers.
  • Shell weatherproofing. Both stargazer windows need to be replaced. Add awning over the back door to redirect drips. Clean up and caulk back door.
  • Dim headlight issue. Try replacing the bulbs, move to whole new light assembly if needed.
  • Power. New panel is on order, figure out installation once it arrives.
  • Radio and GPS. Decide, buy, install. If my phone is the best option for navigation, need a dash mount.
  • Shell livability. Add curtains (possibly insulated) and bug netting for the back door.

Welding Weekend: Trailer Update

Richard and his welding kit came down to visit us this weekend. We (mostly “he”) got a ton done on the trailer:

  • Replaced the old coupler, adding on a jack and welded tow chains.
  • Replaced the old axle, including welding on new hangers for modern shorter springs. The original springs were 26 inches long!
  • Beefed up the floor framing. A prior owner had added a wooden central rail, which we replaced with 2×2 steel. Additional 2×2 was added at the rear of the frame, and a 4″ flat piece went on to cap the ends of the frame and act as a mounting point for the license plate.
  • Pulled the tires off the rims and welded up some holes. The tires are tubeless but we discovered a tube inside one, so that rim got special welding attention. Looks like they were painted blue at one time?
  • Added three angle iron braces across the open front of the trailer. There will eventually be a big window in the front, so we thought it could use some additional steel to stiffen the frame.

Before – new axle standing by, wooden center beam still in place, decorative leaf arrangement

In progress – new floor framing and jack are in, just needs the axle and front frame steel

New coupler with super beefy jack

Starting to clean up the rims

Showing improvement on Sunday afternoon

Next steps:

Yep, looks legit.

An actual professional

Camper Shell experiment

We really liked the camping setup in Rocinante 1.0, so I started looking for a shell to fit the new truck right away. My main requirement was the high-rise top, which has a huge impact on comfort and usability in the sleeping area. Just a few inches of head room makes the all difference between slithering into your coffin each night or cozily propping up in bed with a book.

My local camper shell dealer quoted me $2000-$2700 for a brand new shell, and said he rarely sees used shells in the size I need. They’re certainly snapped up fast on craigslist for $500-$700, if they’re available at all. I decided to pick up a super cheap shell and try refurbishing it, because why spend $$$ to get something new and perfect when you can spend something more valuable (weekend hours) on something that will mostly kinda probably work? Project time!

Here she is, in all her $60, chipped-and-cracked, missing window glory. One point in her favor: we bought her during a rare downpour and she’s watertight. Plus, now I get to have a second camping-related toy on cinderblocks in my driveway.

Camper shell: before

The general plan for refurbishing:

  • Remove and repair the windows
  • Figure out replacements for the missing large side window and the rear door window
  • Repair the cracked fiberglass. Really nothing too horrible here.
  • Paint
  • Replace all the windows

Most of the windows are screwed in from the inside, so they came out with a small offering of time and knuckle skin. The existing large side window is held in with a locking gasket, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether to attempt removal and installation. As of now, I’m planning to just paint around it.

I’ve also sanded and patched the cracks with marine fiberglass filler, which is possibly the smelliest product produced by man. I used it outside with a fan blowing the fumes away, and it was still pungent like KAPOW. The filler went on easily though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it sands down and takes paint.

Ready for paint

Rocinante 2.0

We bought Rocinante 2.0 from a young construction guy, who had obviously loved the truck and made several modifications to suit his needs. I have some different plans, starting with a bit of a cleanout.

Rocinante 2.0, upgraded from the Tacoma

First, the two layers of DIY tinting. The film makes the most horrid noise as you rip it off, but it’s no longer noon outside the windshield and midnight in the rear view.

Peeling off the tinting, bit by bit

Mystery wires A – H, gone. I don’t know what these were originally intended to do, but they’re not doing it anymore.  After the nippers and a little excavation via the floorboard trim, we are now random wire-and-cable free.

    

The rear seat was only nominally bolted down, so I went ahead and pulled it out. I have some ideas about building an organizer for water storage, cooler, etc into the back, now that I’ve scored a truck with clamshell doors. No more wrestling the cooler out of the teensy backset of the Tacoma!

So much organization potential