Quick Update

Sorry it’s been so long since I have posted but things have been pretty busy.  First our daughter Kat came to visit her sister in Charleston, and we got to meet her new significant other.  For those who are keeping track, Kat was married but last year she got divorced.  I generally don’t post about my kids’ lives as it is their business, but when it converges with the story narrative I need to give at least some background.  We really liked Adrian, and it was nice seeing all my kids in the same month.

From left: Me, Lee, Adrian, and Kat

As soon as Adrian and Kat left we left as well, and it was VERY difficult saying goodbye to Oliver, Kyrston, and Jeremy.  My only solace was Lee and Kyrston worked out how to Skype and how she could point a camera at the baby, so most mornings we wake up to some Oliver TV.  Here are a few pictures of the last couple of weeks we were together.

We got to feed the baby before w left. He just started solid foods and sleeping through the night

 

Jack’s not sure about the Johnny Jump up but Oliver loves it. If you ever want to buy a baby present this is a MUST have. He will spend up to an hour jumping and laughing and gives his mom a nice break

 

The last day he came to visit was super sad.

 

But we figured out a place to put the baby on our travels so we were all set 🙂

 

Jack was licking him goodbye

 

I loved that they both stuck out their tongues at the same time

The only good part of leaving was we were headed back to San Antonio to see Greg, Cori, Kelly, and Bill.  As much as Jack likes Finn he missed Hobie, and they fell back into the swing of things immediately.  Bill and Kelly also got a new kitten, Simba, and Jack and he were getting used to each other.  We had a great fire one night and as much as I miss Ollie it was great to be back with friends.

I bought the same food that Hobie eats so they can share a bowl now

 

Simba is a cutie

 

One more thing.  My diet has been going well, and since December 1st I have lost 8 pounds.  I am doing this by tracking my calories and sticking to 1500 a day.  This is helping me lose around one pound a week and I am pretty satisfied as long as I eat moderately throughout the day.  The few times I have splurged and tried to make it back up I regretted it.

Since there is no workout facility close to where we are staying I decided to try a couple of at home options.  From Target I purchased an inexpensive jump rope and I also bought a Simply Fit Board which is surprisingly inexpensive and fun.  It’s harder to be on a schedule with these home items but I need to build some time into my routine.

Just like the jump ropes in elementary school

 

This was a Shark Tank item and only $20. That’s a steal in my mind. Target had them in a display that I was able to try out.

 

Twisting…shake it shake it shake it baby!

 

The best exercise though is hiking and we were able to squeeze in a long awaited hike to Hamilton Pool.  I’ll share that experience with you next time.

Oh, and one last thing.  People want to know how the job is going and the short answer is: great.  I have a project going live today and another on Thursday.  It feels great to be doing what I love again and being fairly compensated for it.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

Year Five Budget and Five Year Totals

Well, here we are at the five year mark, and I am pretty excited.  I love data and finally we have plenty of it, so it’s time to really look at what this lifestyle is costing us. But before we get into that let’s start with 2019 and see how the year went.

As you can see in 2019 we totally blew our budget.  This was largely intentional as we were making more money at the end of the year, but we also had some unforeseen costs.  The biggest negative variances were Dining Out, Truck Maintenance, Gifts, and Home Repairs.  Some of that was discretionary and some was not. I am not going to going to go through every category this year because I want to focus on the five year numbers.    If you would like to delve into the details please see each individual month’s report out for that information.    

Here are the Mins, Maxes, and Averages versus budget for 2019 only.  It is interesting that most of the categories on average were just a little bit over.  That does add up of course but the big variance is in Home repair, where we were over on average by almost $500 a month.  Some of that was discretionary and some was mandatory.  I will say that at the five year mark stuff starts to wear out or break.  Just like in a sticks and bricks home where all your appliances seem to break at the same time, we had several things that needed replaced or fixed this year. Since we have almost 50,000 miles on our RV and our truck hit 100,000 miles that makes sense I suppose.

OK, so let’s talk about the five year numbers. In order to give people a means of comparison I have removed all the items that I consider “one-offs”.  The reason I did this is everyone needs to eat, have fuel, etc, but not everyone pays for a Mor-Ryde system or their daughter’s wedding.  I also left out health insurance because this is extremely variable for people.  Essentially I am presenting five years worth of our BASE COSTS.  In no way should you assume these will be your only costs.  First of all, everyone is different.  Secondly, stuff happens.  No matter who you are or how you travel you will have extra costs come your way in a five year period.  That’s why a savings account is so important.  We started the lifestyle with $40K in savings and five years later have $17K left.  That $23K is what we spent above and beyond what we made on the road and our regular expenses.

Let’s jump in! Can you tell I am excited?  I’m such a nerd.

 

A couple of things really jumped out at me when I put this together.

  1. The annual totals were far less than I would have thought.  Prior to going on the road we were making around $160k a year in total and spending every penny of it.  I had serious doubts that we could ever lower our spending to a level we could support while working non-corporate jobs but it turned out we could.  The combination of having a free place to stay and spending less money while we were working had results.  The downside was we had to work way more than we originally thought to even make this much money, but it was possible.  The money we made did not cover any extras though, which is why our savings was slowly depleted.  In particular I was proud of 2017 where we really focused on cutting costs and 2016 where we managed to go to Alaska and still control our spending.
  2. The categories were largely consistent year to year. We both thought we would see a steady decrease as we learned how to live on less, but that didn’t really happen.  For us it was a bit like playing whack-a-mole.  We would make progress in one category and another category would pop up its head and increase.  We would focus on that and something else would happen. To be honest, the biggest downward trends were due to external forces (ie:  AT&T offered a less expensive cellular plan) rather than any big changes we made. The one area we saw a MAJOR trend upwards was home repair.  This was significant but it is not all due to things breaking.  Lots of those expenses were discretionary.

Let’s look at some trending graphs:

This went down as we learned to boondock and spent more time working at places that included sites. It will be going back up now that I am working a corporate job again and our campsite wont always be included in where Lee works.

 

This was pretty steady although it has spiked now that I am working again. We will see what happens here now that we are making more money.

 

The low point in 2017 is because we worked so much we didn’t have much time for entertainment. We also focused on things to do that were free or near free.

 

The spike in truck fuel was when we went to Alaska. In 2018 we intentionally did not go back east to see family, but most years we have crossed the country in miles. We like the west but family is back east so 2017 will probably be our norm.

 

2017 was the year of really watching costs and again groceries were at an all time low. Despite that our grocery bills have been pretty consistent and the other years are a better indicator of our costs. One thing I wanted to mention here is we like remote areas and groceries are more expensive. It’s one of the costs of being away from big cities.

 

As I talked about before our cell costs went down due to a change in the plans AT&T is offering. Also we have noticed in the last five years the networks are MUCH better nationwide. That’s been a nice bonus for us.

 

In 2018 and 2019 we spent quite a bit on home improvements that we had been putting off for several years.   There was something about getting close to the five year mark that made us both want to address long term issues. Not sure exactly why that was but both of us said enough already on multiple things.

 

My absolute favorite data view was the five year monthly averages.  Averages with minimal data can be dangerous, but we now had 60 data points which is plenty to finally say this is what living in an RV costs us.  Of course there are things we can do to lower individual costs, but we have largely shown at this point we have done what we were willing to do.  I was personally thrilled that the monthly BASE COSTS are only $3827.  Again that is without any large, one-off expenditures or health insurance, but it is way better than I ever thought it could be. I did leave in cigarettes because we have very little alcohol in our budget.  Substitute your vice of choice for this amount.  Overall,  I am really proud of how we have controlled our spending these last five years and we have proved to ourselves at least that this lifestyle is sustainable.  That’s a big deal for us!

 

If you made it this far good for you!  Please keep in mind your mileage will definitely vary.  I hope this five year look was helpful though.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

 

First Time at Botany Bay

On New Year’s Day we woke up and decided to give Botany Bay one more try.  It was closed the previous day for hunting, but we hoped it was open today.  Jack was really disgruntled about not being able to come with us two days in a row, but the website was very clear that dogs were not allowed.  We were both relieved when we pulled in and saw the gate was open.  They also had some volunteers helping at the entrance who gave us a very nice map and instructions on the driving tour.  The nature preserve is actually two former plantations and there are some ruins throughout that you can look at.  We decided to do the driving tour first and save the beach for last, which I recommend,  or you can skip the driving tour which really wasn’t that interesting. Here’s the pictures of the driving tour.

The remains of an old ice house from one of the plantations

 

The ice was kept in the hole in the ground which was cool to see

 

This section ran along the marsh which was beautiful and we were lucky enough to run across this woman who brought her horses to take a picture. I love moments like that.

 

The roads really weren’t in great shape but we managed ok

 

For many years there was a caretaker on the property and this tree had a stone set in memoriam

 

There are worse ways to be remembered

 

The reason this is perfect for a nature preserve is this natural dam which divides the body of water into smaller sections for the birds

 

One interesting relic was this beehive well which was created by slaves in the 1800’s

 

My favorite spot of the entire driving tour was this beautiful area with overlapping oaks. I tried but my picture couldn’t really capture the depth and beauty of it

Finally we made it back to the beach and were surprised by the number of cars.  It’s a half mile pleasant walk to the beach area and we saw lots of families with small children making the trek.

At low tide these oyster beds are uncovered and the birds come out to feed. It was a bit chilly so we didn’t see many but the beds were neat.

 

I also had a chance to try out my new magnetic Pocket Plus.  I have tried so many water holders I can’t even count them but this is really cool.  It allows those of us who go beltless to use magnets to hold the pouch and it didn’t hurt me at all.  I really liked it and highly recommend it.

It was a pleasant walk but so far nothing really special, but it was free and it was a beautiful day.  Then we came out on the beach and wow, just wow.  There are places that you see things you have never seen anywhere before and this was one of them. Here are the pictures and yes it really looked like this although the scope was impossible to capture.  This area was at least a mile long and because you can’t take shells there were tons of them.

The beach is full of huge oak trees. Too many to count

 

When I say huge I mean huge. This is the root system of one of them. 

 

 

It’s important that you come close to low tide if you want to see these trees all jumbled up and exposed, although we’ve seen some great pictures of the standing trees surrounded by water at high tide. 

 

Many of them have been there so long they are covered with barnacles and there is surprisingly little trash as you walk along

 

We did see this one huge metal piece from a ship which was cool in and of itself because who knows how old it is.

 

I loved the gorgeous shells people stacked up places. It was a statement. I saw the shell, but I am not taking it. I stacked a few as well. You would never see this at a regular beach.

We walked for a couple of hours and could have stayed longer but I started getting hungry.  It’s a really special place, totally free, and I hope you get to see it on your travels.  Just don’t go on Tuesday!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some pictures Lee took!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

First Time on Edisto Island

Generally I plan our little adventures, but once in a while Lee does some research and surprises me with something really unusual that he finds.  In those cases I just go with it because I like to be surprised.  So when he said let’s go to Edisto Island I wasn’t sure what we were seeing but I was very sure it would be fun.  It was New Year’s Eve and  I was off so it was nice to be able to do something during the week and beat the weekend crowds.

We were headed to a place called Botany Bay, and all I could think of was the Star Trek episode lol.  The road was pretty rough to get to the location but had a gorgeous series of oaks over the tree.  Since no one was on the road we stopped and took some pictures and video.  Lee had forgotten his tripod but I had some inspiration and used the truck to hold the camera which worked perfectly.

Absolutely gorgeous

 

Check out my idea!

The road was pretty wet in one section and it was a bit of a bumpy ride but we made it through and finally got to the gate only to find it was closed on Tuesdays for hunting.  Lee was super bummed because he had missed the fine print on the website and I felt really bad for him. Since we were there though I said we should check out the town and its beach.

 

The beach was nice but it was a typical beachfront community with nothing really special to see.

We decided to head out and I saw a sign for a Natural Wildlife Refuge.  We decided to drive in and check it out and were pleasantly surprised that it was actually a plantation that was taken over by fish and wildlife.

Most of the trails were closed for the winter, but we got to see the house and the absolutely gorgeous oak trees.  I adore the moss in the trees and since there were only a few couples there we had the place mostly to ourselves. It was nice and peaceful, I just wish we had brought Jack because it is also pet friendly.  Let me show you the pictures.

 

 

Loved the house.

And you could sit on the rocking chairs on the porch and look out which was nice

That went up three stories

We mainly walked among the oaks and took a ton of pictures, but it was nice and peaceful and I really enjoyed myself.  Plus free.  Free is always good.

Looking up was just beautiful

The wind was blowing, the moss was swaying, and the sun was shining 🙂

My favorite picture of the day. I was standing when I took this.

Lee’s pic

Every tree had its own distinct character. If you are a tree lover you know what I mean.

Lee’s pic its a beauty

The blooming flowers were a nice touch

It was a really nice surprise and I was so glad we salvaged the day.  By then I was starving and the only place even close was called The Roxbury Mercantile,  The Yelp reviews were good so we decided to give it a try and what an unexpected treasure.  The food was fantastic and reasonably priced and I had the best local shrimp since I have been here.  Delicious!

The shrimp was lightly fried and amazing. I ate just a bit of the mac and cheese and lots of the slaw which was also very good. Didn’t blow my calories for the day and had a great meal!!

Lee had the crabcakes which he loved.

Since it looked like Botany Bay was open the next day we decided we would come back.  It’s an hour drive each way from where we are staying but we both thought it would be worth it.  Plus we were opening New Years Day wouldn’t be that busy.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

December 2019 Budget

December was a spendy month, $6100 in costs.  If you take out the $1300 in gifts (which were discretionary) it was a more reasonable $4800. For more details please see below.

Campground – We haven’t had this many consecutive months in a campground since probably year one.  That $650 a month certainly adds up!

Groceries – We went over by $159 which was mainly due to additional food we bought for the holidays.  I’ll be curious to see what happens with this now that we are both eating a lot of frozen diet meals.

Dining Out – We went over by $350 which was primarily one meal Lee and Kay had at Halls Chophouse.  The rest of us had all had a chance to go there, but they hadn’t and we knew it would be a $300 meal when they went.  Glad they had the experience though.

Entertainment – We went over by $107.  A chunk of this was books Lee bought when he went back to Columbus.

Truck Fuel – Lee went back to Columbus and used our truck.  We also made many, many trips to see the baby which is 16 miles each way.  In addition Lee made quite a few trips with Jack down to the beach which is 40 miles each way.  In both cases small price to pay 🙂

E-Cigarettes – In an attempt to deal with food cravings I started using the vape pen more.  Before you get too judgy this is also my equivalent of having a drink at the end of the day!

Personal Care – I treated my daughter to a pedicure at her favorite place.  It was not cheap but it was a great experience.

Shipping – I created a calendar with some pictures of our travels for close friends and family and the cost was mainly for shipping those out.

New Equipment – We bought a dish drying rack, smoke detector for the bedroom, and a new ice machine at Camping World. Ours died unexpectedly and since we use a LOT of ice that was a must replace. On the plus side we really like the new machine.  It makes double the ice per day the old one did and the ice cubes are bigger.  So far we are big fans.

That was the month and although it was more than we would like to spend we made choices every step of the way (ice machine aside).  Not going to bemoan the results when we talk about it ahead of time.  Next up is the Year Five budget review.  I am really excited about this because we have five years worth of data to talk about…so that should be a fun one for all those number nerds like me.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.

First Time at the Charleston Fire Museum

Before I start talking about the fire museum I want to thank Charlotte and Richard for reaching out and meeting us.  She sent me an email right before Lee had to go to Columbus and despite my last minute cancellation of that lunch they were open to rescheduling.  They also had sent us a wonderful audio children’s book for Oliver earlier in the year and it was so nice to get together for lunch.  Richard was quitting his Project Manager job back when I was quitting mine originally and they had been reading us for a long time.  It really meant a lot to me when they shared they now have helicopter Evac insurance because of what happened to Lee and it is moments like these that really make writing this blog a special thing in my life.  Thanks so much for reaching out. We had a great time!

From Left: Richard, Charlotte, me, and Lee

On to the North Charleston Fire Museum. I worked for a Fire Protection company for 15 years and I love working the fire protection industry because truly I always felt what we did had an underlying higher calling.  I am VERY serious about all kinds of fire protection and was very curious to see what they had.  Lee was in because, well, Fire Trucks.  For him… enough said.  Also, If you don’t feel super interested in fire stuff, the outlet stores are within walking distance.

 

The cost was only $6 and totally worth it.  Local museums in our experience are either great or pretty mediocre but this was was definitely great.  It was a large collection of restored fire trucks provided by the American LaFrance company who manufactured them.  They have all been lovingly restored and they are so shiny!!

1904 Steamer

When we walked in two firemen were working and available to answer any questions.  That was really neat and a very good sign!

1929 Double Bank Service Truck

 

1857 Hand Pump truck. This was super cool because multiple people pushed the bars on the side. In a fire everyone helps and the old fire trucks depended on that assistance as most fire departments were volunteers.

 

This was a tiny coal fired steam boiler like in old trains just on a smaller scale.

 

Loved the old wood container on the back and behind it you can see where the coal went.

 

 

Loved the lamps on this one. It was a roadster that the fire chief drove. Nice ride!

 

Heavy brass hose was on its on tripod

 

The engines came from all over the country and almost all were working engines prior to being restored.

 

This one had a cool bucket truck

 

Many of these trucks were refitted over time as new fire suppression technology was developed.

 

My favorite was all of the different bells. Shiny!!

As cool as the fire trucks were I really loved the other displays as well.

 

These fire department badges are from all over the world and visitors bring their badges and donate them which was great.

 

Vintage hand pumped fire extinguishers

 

and Hats

 

They also had this cool setup of a fire dispatcher

 

And my favorite modern day fire extinguishers provided by my old company!! Made me proud.

 

The entire place was a little kid paradise and was filled primarily with young families.  We both can’t wait until Oliver gets a little older and we can take him here!

Great playground right in the middle of the space

 

This cool animatronic talked to people when they walked past.

 

Schematics of how the pressure engines work

 

Interactive hoses so you can see how hard it would be to hold them under pressure

 

And this cool hydrant cut open to see what was inside

 

An exhibit to try and lift the 100 pounds of gear firemen have to carry

 

My favorite was a household area that showed all the very real danger zones that can cause fire.  super cool and educational!

The most popular thing for the kids was a fire truck with a movie playing inside that they could sit in.  The parents had a hard time getting the kids out!

Looks totally real

And we both loved the sticker machine that allows you to create a custom fire sticker.

Really user and you can print and email it!!

Look what grandpa made Oliver!

 

Of course the gift shop was amazing!!

We loved it and although we only spent an hour there it was a great hour.

 

 

Oh and one last thing completely off the subject.  Someone mentioned in the comments that I should try to make egg bites in my Instant pot for a quick and protein filled breakfast.  I bought the cool insert and they were delicious.  Basically you can make mini omelets in bite sized form.  Thanks for the idea, and I thought I would pass along it worked!

The insert is reasonably priced.  I paid $11.

 

The end result of my first attempt. I overfilled the insert a bit 🙂

Overall the diet is going well. I lost 4.5 pounds in the first month and only went over on calories one day.  We have also discovered Lean Cuisine Comfort meals and they are delicious.  I generally do NOT like frozen meals especially not diet but these are very favorable andlow in calories and reasonable in salt.  I highly recommend them!

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

 

 

 

First Time Building A Puppy Platform

This post is written by Lee 

First I have to apologize for taking so long with this post. I started to work on it a while back, and wanted to include a “before” picture of the tool boxes in the back of the truck that have been there since January 2015. I didn’t take one because I had been planning on this platform project for a while, and was walking past the truck, and thought “I should really get started on that before summer is over and it’s too late, and while I am sitting for a while and have access to a workshop, etc.”  So I decided to get started by just taking the drawers out of the tool boxes. That was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and the next thing I knew the entire back seat area was cleared out and I hadn’t taken a picture. Then later when I was starting the post I thought maybe I had one that I took previously. So I started looking through pictures, which led me to start pulling out pictures I really liked so I could use them as wallpaper and screensaver images for the computer. I also made a ton of new masthead images for the blog. Why not? I was already looking through the pictures. Five weeks and just over 137,000 pictures later, and I was very depressed to find that in all these years, I never took a single picture of the back seat area of the truck, with the toolboxes in it. Isn’t that crazy? So I finally just decided to write the post anyway, even though it’s incomplete. If any of my friends or family out there have a picture of the toolboxes in the back of my truck, let me know, I will update the post. And it can’t hurt to look through all your pictures anyway, and pick some new ones for wallpaper and screensavers!

So, waaaaay back when we first first got our rig in April 2014, and knew we were going to be full timing, I wanted to have a tool box. I knew lots of people who used everything from a bucket to a plastic bag, and I wanted something accessible and organized, because I really thought I would need my tools more often. So I got a 5 drawer tool chest topper, like mechanics use, and had a friend who owns a machine shop remove the lid, which locked the drawers when it was down, and he installed a handle on the side that locked the drawers. I mounted the toolbox in one of my storage bays.

 

This worked really well in the beginning, but then once we hit the road I decided I would earn income by being a mobile RV tech. I thought it would be best if I had my tools in the truck, and so I removed the back seat. I didn’t take any pictures of that process, either, because it went the same way. I thought about it for a few days, and then just did it all at once. And back then Trace hadn’t reached the point where she wanted to document everything for the blog, so she didn’t ask me to take pictures. Oh sure blame me-Trace.  Basically all I did was remove the back seat, and make a very short raised platform out of plywood so that I had a level surface. The floor is not level, it’s higher under the seat than where the feet go. I covered the plywood with black automotive carpet, and then I mounted a three drawer toolbox to the platform and mounted the five drawer toolbox on top of that. The rear of the toolboxes were against the rear wall of the truck, and they were no wider than the driver’s seat, so there was a TON of leftover space to use as a “trunk”. I’d show you pictures, but I didn’t take any, remember?

Soooo, a couple of things about removing the seat, if you’re considering it. We weren’t worried about resale value, because we plan to drive the truck until it dies. We weren’t worried about losing the seating, because I didn’t expect to ever need to put anyone else in the truck. I really didn’t think we would ever meet any people. The main issue with it was that it made the truck much, much louder. The back seat absorbs a LOT of road noise, and in particular it blocks sounds from the back wall, and when you remove it, there’s literally nothing there to stop that noise. There was a also a fair amount of rattling and racket from the tools sliding around. (The squeaking drove me absolutely crazy.  Ultimately Lee used ratchet straps to help keep it from happening and they would eventually loosen and start squeaking again and then he would stop and tighten it.  – Trace) But, we got a lot of space both in the truck and in the rig. Enough that our inflatable Sea Eagle fit in the truck, along with the pump and the seats and the paddles. We got used to the noise. We found ways around not being able to fit all of our new found friends in the truck. Everything was great. (Since we smoked we liked to drive separate anyways.  Now that we don’t, having a back seat would be nice on occasion.  Lee’s right though it usually does work out one way or another. – Trace)

And then along came Happy Jack, the Flying King Of The Puppers.

From the very first time he was in the truck he wanted to sit and/or lay on the big center console between us. That was fine at first, but it didn’t take long before he was a little too big. Plus, after five years of rarely needing most of my tools, I decided to get rid of a LOT of the tools, and take out the tool boxes. If I built a platform that was the same height as the console, we could use the space underneath for storage of the remaining tools, and other stuff, and the top could be Jack’s area, complete with a little crate in case we needed to secure him, and we would all have a more comfortable ride. Grocery store runs were also a major factor.  With the toolbox we had limited space for grocery store visits which was really only solved by only one of us going and filling the passenger seat as well. – Trace)

So the first step was to remove the toolboxes and the old plywood platform, which I did, and cleverly took no pictures. BUT, here’s what it looked like when I was all done!

 

 

 

Apart from the platform needing to be the same height as the console, I also wanted it to take up as little space as possible underneath, to maximize storage. That wasn’t a concern, because Jack only weighs around 15-20 lbs, so it didn’t need to have a lot of structural strength. I also wanted to be able to have as much surface area for groceries and things on the top, without sacrificing the ability to recline the passenger seat. Sometimes we drive very long days, and I wanted to be able to lay the seat back to nap, which as you can see, eats up most of the rear area. (If you do this please build in a way to recline the seat completely.  That is a BIG deal on longer trips days for both of us – Trace).   And finally, the center console is actually the back of the center “jump” seat, and it flips up. When deployed, it’s about 5 inches back from the hinge, so that was also part of what I needed to plan for.

 

 

To start with I took some basic measurements and used some dowel rods and shelf brackets just to get an idea of how this would work. Sometimes it helps to just do a quick mock-up. I didn’t like the way the vertical support would cut the lower storage in half right where I would need to put things in, and I really didn’t like the idea of losing a third of my top surface if I made a “T” or fat upside down “L” shape.  (This is when Lee’s creative side comes out.  He starts a project and continuously improves as he builds.  He also doesn’t get stuck with one idea and barrel ahead regardless.  I really like that about him. – Trace)

 

Luckily, the original mounts for the seat back on the back wall gave me a place to mount some nice heavy brackets to support the rear edge of the platform. I used nylon locking nuts and bolts wherever I could so I wouldn’t have to worry about vibrations allowing screw threads to chew their way loose from wood.

 

 

Once I had those supports in I was able to temporarily put in the platform to tweak the measurements and make sure everything would fit and work the way I wanted it to. And yes, the left edge of the platform is just resting on the edge of the console hinge plate, that’s how close the cut was.

 

 

Here you can see the platform resting on the edge of the console, and in the next picture, the edge of the platform against the back door with the door closed.

 

 

 

There’s a fair amount of just foam in the back of the front seat, so I knew I could get the platform right up against it, and I set the seat to a comfortable angle and distance from the dash and had Trace sit in it before I “locked” in the size of the platform.  (Again that was really nice.  I got to have some input – Trace.) 

 

 

I used zinc plated punched angle steel to strengthen and frame up the side edges and to give something metal to attach the angle aluminum I was using for the vertical supports. The aluminum is easy to drill through and small but strong. It’s hard to see, but the leg is as far forward as the platform, so there’s as much width in the opening to the lower storage as there is width IN the lower storage.

 

Next I used a jigsaw to cut out the piece where the passenger seat will recline. I suck at cutting straight lines, but it was passable. I had to do it in place, because I wanted the fit to be precise, and I didn’t trust just measuring it and cutting it outside, with the closest place to buy more wood 90 minutes away. On the right side you can see where I already cut and hinged the piece that allows the center console to flip up.

 

 

Like I said, I wanted the tightest possible fit, allowing the front seat to recline all the way back, without losing any more surface area than absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the cut was made I trimmed a little off the cut off piece of wood so it wouldn’t be too tight a fit, and used a piano hinge to reattach it.

 

 

To prevent the “door” from sagging I added two mending strips of very stiff but thin steel. Due to it’s eased corners and stiffness it just pushes the foam out of the way when you recline, so none of the surface area was sacrificed to get that added support.

 

 

After that I went around and made sure all the nuts and bolts were tight so nothing would rattle and then added the closest color match automotive carpet I could find. In the picture the edges aren’t finished because I forgot to take pictures after that step.

 

 

Also not pictured is the crate, but it sits behind my seat so Trace can reach the door to put Jack in there if we need to.

 

 

I bought a bunch of heavy black plastic storage boxes with yellow lids, very heavy duty, but very small, shoebox size. Those stack nicely in the lower storage for tools and other stuff.

 

 

I can say after using this thing for four months that it is a vast improvement. Jack has more room, and from time to time on driving days he just gets into the crate. He still lays on the console, but now most of him is on the platform, so he’s not crowding us. The hinged sections are great, because not only do they allow the jump seat to be used and the passenger seat to be reclined, an added unintended bonus is that they make nice little doors to put things into the lower storage and get things out.  (We all like it and obviously this is not a change you would make lightly but in our case it really expanded our storage space and made things easier for Jack. Oh and shout out to  Deb and Steve who we got the idea from and modified it for us. – Trace)

 


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