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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
In other words, using the E as an RV.

Hi, folks. Even though I'm still just a noob, I've decided to start a thread specifically about road trippin' logistics. Where I'm coming from -- on many of my trips, I'm traveling by myself, and usually spending only one or two nights in a single place. Layovers are at truck stops, rest stops, boondocking, or campgrounds.

I take this kind of trip at least a couple times a year for a few days. It's far less expensive and far more relaxing than dealing with motels (especially franchises...), and it's a great way to find quiet places to overnight. My trips center around landscape painting, hiking, visiting friends, historical research, and just, you know, poking around, so the freedom of having my "house" with me is great. I'm also interested in highway history, and this sort of travel dovetails nicely with shunpikin' and old alignment research trips. I hope to take a cross-country shunpike lasting at least three weeks in a few years, living entirely out of the E, so my trips these days are all also research for that venture. I hope we can share our adventures, and some lessons we learned along the way.


Some things we might talk about:

  • How to find legal & safe free overnight parking
  • Cooking in the E in ways that won't get you thrown out of the parking lot
  • Taking a spongebath in the back seat without turning yourself into a pretzyl
  • Sleeping On the Floor (SOF) versus Sleeping On the Seats (SOS)
  • Privacy curtains: fabric versus sun shades. DIY versus store-bought. Suction cups, magnets...
  • Why the Rangers aren't kidding about carrying water in the desert.
  • Etc. Whatsoever. And so forth.
Let's hit the road!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Boiling Water Cuisine

So, I've been trying to figure out a way to "cook" in the E without violating blacktop-boondocking protocol. Using my trusty old one-burner propane stove is out, so I've invested in a 12-volt hot pot for heating up water. These things will boil water, I understand, but you have to wait about 20 minutes. I'm especially looking at methods that don't require refrigeration, because I hate having to worry about getting ice all the time, and most 12 volt coolers aren't cold enough to prevent food spoilage over time.

There's a whole school of boiling-water cuisine that's developed for both backpackers and long-haul truckers. There are commercial freeze dried and dehydrated meals (Fantastic Foods, Nile Spice, Mountain House, etc.), but I've also found a great site about preparing your own mixes (at a considerable savings in the long run.)

Also, for people with 12 Volt access, there are little ovens and sandwich grills. (There are also 12 volt blenders, if you absolutely must have a smoothie for breakfast.) I'm going to try a few outings with just the hot pot first, and see whether investing in any other gadget is necessary.

Any advice on making one's own meals on the road -- to save money, and just for fun and convenience?
 

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Welcome to EOC, HT!

There are some threads around about building a bed platform in the back of the Element. I already keep my backseats out of the Element, if I were doing long trips with just me and my pup then I'd for sure be dumping those rear seats -- so that means sleeping on the floor or a bed platform.

You have an EX so if you need to cook inside of the Element I'd come up with a way of using my JetBoil in the open sunroof space or, better yet, removing the sunroof for cooking and have the JetBoil - or other stove - set up on the Element's roof. Depends how discreet you have to be.

On that note, I'd look into having your tinted windows tinted darker and the front windows tinted as much as is prudent being mindful of state laws on tinting.

I couldn't wait 20 minutes for water to make coffee.

I've heard that the Engel's refrigerators are excellent and they are priced accordingly.

Full-timing is quite a logistical challenge. You may want to look into a food dehydrator so you can prepare a lot of stuff in advance -- full meals as well as dried fruit, tomatoes, etc.

Have you considered pulling something like a teardrop trailer? Makes a world of difference having that bed always made and ready to crawl into. You could get a super-light 4'-wide and hardly know it was behind you.

A rooftop pop-up tent could be just the thing for you, too. There is one made for the Element. Spendy.


 

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Discussion Starter #4
I don't think sleeping's going to be a problem. I'm not traveling with any critters, and I've already tried SOS, and like it better than my everyday bed. (I've always told my dentist I was going to steal one of their chairs when they weren't looking.) We'll see how the upcoming 5-day trip in May goes. So far, I've had plenty of room to stash everything (especially since I'll likely be having at least one meal a day "in town.") At any rate, there's no way this larger-than-average 50-year-old with a couple neurological movement disorders could deal with a roof tent. (Skinny young whippersnappers and their pop-ups, always running on my lawn...)

Re. coffee. I'm the queen of the snooze button, so I think I'll do OK if I can just remember to turn the pot on the first time the alarm goes off. It should be ready by the time I'm actually ambulatory. :sleep003:

Checking out the Engel's... Thx.
 

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I 2nd the idea on building a bed platform. With the right mattress it is nicer than the hotel beds.

I know Walmart used to let people sleep in their parking lots. Too bad in LA all the walmarts are in pretty bad parts of town.

I remember reading someone's blog about living in their E outside of their gym. That way they can use the bathrooms and showers. You might want to look into getting membership at one of the national gyms (24 fitness, LA fitness, ...etc.)

I would test out the 12v stove first. My experience is the stock battery is pretty weak and runs out of juice very fast. Cooking outside would also eliminate the problem of stinking up the E.

good luck with your trips
 

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When I took my 2 week road trip around Northern Cali this past summer I used a futon which was surprisingly more comfortable than my mattress at home. A futon might be thin enough to not worry about rolling up every day and you could just stack your stuff on top of it during the day. I'm assuming you're leaving the back seats at home.

If you don't have enough space to spare to keep the futon rolled out during your trip then the other simple option would be an air mattress that you inflated every night with the help of a 12V pump. The pumps are now reversable so you can suck the air out of the mattress and fold it back up for the day.

I agree with hiker chick about the sunroof deal.;-) If you have one and the weather is nice, just keep that baby off and cook right in the back with a propane single burner, you could also simply lift the back door up and get even more air.

As far as food goes, freeze dried rules. Also canned goods would be convienient, as would be dried fruit and beef jerky. I personally could live off of cold oatmeat and dried fruit with water, but my better half thinks I'm crazy, so that may not be your thing, I'm just used to eating like a back packer.

But really, give me a city that doesn't have someplace to camp within 1 hour, and I'll give you a city that I'll never be near!! If you can't see the mountains, you won't see me there.:-D
 

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I 2nd the idea on building a bed platform. With the right mattress it is nicer than the hotel beds.

I know Walmart used to let people sleep in their parking lots. Too bad in LA all the walmarts are in pretty bad parts of town.

I remember reading someone's blog about living in their E outside of their gym. That way they can use the bathrooms and showers. You might want to look into getting membership at one of the national gyms (24 fitness, LA fitness, ...etc.)

I would test out the 12v stove first. My experience is the stock battery is pretty weak and runs out of juice very fast. Cooking outside would also eliminate the problem of stinking up the E.

good luck with your trips

I completely agree, the stock battery is not designed for extended use:-(, but a good aftermarket deep charge battery would fare a lot better. Check out the forums on aftermarket stereos and people who have high powered sound systems in their cars, they will know what batteries are best. Or you can go to your local car stereo business, they will have good advice as well.

Right again, a majority of Wal-Marts are 24 hours, I usually sleep in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Reno when I drive through to Burning Man:razz:, and I've never had a problem. If you feel unsafe:shock:, you can carry some protection and arm the alarm.:evil:
 

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Don't know if I would feel safe cooking in the E, but that is just me. I normally use the tailgate and a propane stove. One thing I have found works REALLY well is sleeping on with 1 seat folded back and the other out or against the wall. Then the E feel's roomer than my first apartment. Hvae Fun, if you're ever in the Vegas Area drop on by.
 

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The only vehicle I can think that is better than an Element for traveling, would be some kind of conversion van.

My Element not only makes a great traveling vehicle, I also consider it my BOV--Bug Out Vehicle, in case I need it to evacuate.

Currently it is equipped for just me for 3 days or if Mr. Jojo is with me, 2 days.--That is food and water.
We have a teardrop for a prepared evac, so the E is my "In case I'm not home and for some reason cannot get back."

Here are a couple of pictures showing my Element set up for an outing.
I keep (2) bins in it at all times. One bin contains tools and roadside emergency equipment including a gas can.
The other bin contains all my gear. First aid kit, toiletries, utensils, water, lighting, food, etc.

The hanging net contains spare clothes, shoes, blankets and towels.
The pillow stays in also.
The backpack contains a windbreaker and rain gear, and my hiking gear.

Behind the seat I keep the battery charger, which can jump the E, put air in the tires, charge cell phones, and lighting.
For cooking you could plug into it any small appliance.

Even with all this in the Element there still leaves plenty of room for other gear, wiping down with wet ones and setting up a portable potty.

If I were planning on taking Mr. Jojo with me, I could easily just add a self inflating air mattress and sleeping bag.
I lost my reflectix curtains in Ike, because I took them out. I still need to replace them and keep them in regardless.

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Thanks, folks. These are great ideas.

For me, a platform's out because I need to magically transform the E back into an SUV for tours and meetings for an historical group I belong to. (Also, I have nowhere in my townhouse to store the seats. And, they don't match my couch.) I'm definitely sold on SOS (my back likes it better). I keep forgetting I can fold the other seat up, though, when "parked." I'm definitely going to give this a try. (I don't want to drive with it up to save fatigue on the strap, and also for the sake of visibility.

Project in process... I've tried using sun shades as privacy screens (the kind with suction cups -- I got some for a buck each at the dollar store, so what the heck.) Verdict: OK in a pinch, but not for frequent use. I really like some of the work folks have done duplicating the Honda privacy curtain (with plastic tabs, etc.), but I hope I can make one that will go up much more quickly, and still work well. Stay tuned...

(I'm also working on a solar food dehydrator made out of a 2 liter soda bottle and half a pair of knee highs. I guess it's my weekend to be a Mother of Invention.) UPDATE: Nylon & soda bottle trial abandoned -- not enough air circulation. I'm now trying metal mesh strainers in crock pots with the lid slightly ajar. Apparently crock pots use slightly less energy than dehydrators, but have a lower capacity for this sort of thing. So far (peas & mushrooms), it's working really well. (I also tried my toaster oven, which worked well, but is a real volt-pig.) I may give in and buy a real dehydrator, but I want to see if I can get into this method of "cooking" before spending the cash. I've learned my lesson since the Great Juicer Mistake -- long story.)
 

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I agree about the comfort of SOS. I did a 4500 mile solo round trip staying mostly at rest stops and a couple of nights at a motel. I also repeated the route with a friend along. She thought sleeping on the seats was great also.

About using the seats:

Have you noticed that at the sides of the seat there are little pockets where you can stuff the seat belt and buckle so that you don't accidentally roll over and jab yourself with them during the night?

We also found the best position for the seatback. Push it down as far as it will go. Then raise it back up about 3 notches. With the seat back all the way down, we felt a hump in the small of the back. By raising it a little, that hump magically disappeared.

As long as I have my regular bed pillow from home, I sleep as well on the seats as I do on a regular bed.

About hanging up the rear seat:

I don't find that the driver's side rear seat hanging blocks my visibility at all. It's actually in my blind spot, so when it's up, I don't notice that it's there. When I was touring solo, I mostly kept my left seat hanging and I used the bed on the passenger side for sleeping. That gave me plenty of room for my bags and gear on the left side. And sleeping on the right side meant that making the bed in the morning was optional. If need be, I could wake up, put on a ball cap, get behind the wheel and hit the road to the nearest service station or convenience store for morning coffee.

Good luck in your travels. I'm planning to do another trip in the fall, as a nature and landscape photography jaunt. This time my sheltie Buddy will be my travelling companion. I'm glad you started this road trip thread. I would like to hear more about "where to stop for the night" ideas.
 

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I'm definitely going to give this a try. (I don't want to drive with it up to save fatigue on the strap, and also for the sake of visibility.
I second the observation that having the driver-side rear seat up won't affect your vision -- you can't see out that side anyway when you're driving. And I wouldn't worry about strap "fatigue" -- it's quite sturdy and I'd bet it wouldn't wear out in the lifetime of the car if you were off-roading all the time. It is easier to attach if you have another carabiner on the "Oh Sh*t" bar.
 

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Great thread, HappyTrailz. Newly registered, here. Love the camping threads, and hope to contribute over time.

HikerChick, I've enjoyed your contributions to this forum and others since I started reading them. Keep up the good news!

I have a question of JoJo. Your photos showing the inside of your E are wonderful, and are a great inspiration for my dream of traveling and living (at least part-time!) in my E.

Can you tell me, though, if the reclining seat (set up as a bed) is the driver's seat moved back, or the rear drivers-side passenger's seat? I'm confused, because, looking in from the hatch, there doesn't seem to be a driver's seat.

Thanks, and looking forward to reading more on this this thread and others.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Happytrailz, have you seen the discussions of making privacy panels with Reflectix?
Yes. They're very spiffy, but I need something that I can put up more quickly, while double-dog tired and dealing with a migraine (As Forrest said, __it happens.) And easier to store amidst a bunch of other stuff.

I tend to be going with "soft-sided" items generally, anyway. For instance, I just swapped out a bin I was using for towels & a small wash basin, etc. for a fabric grocery bag. It takes up less space, and is easier to reach and move around while inside the E.
 

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Camping

A number of years ago a friend and I went to upstate New York to rock climb and hike for a few days. Small coolers, tent, climbing gear, clothes, all the good stuff.

Vehicle? 1986 Toyota MR2!!

So, camping in an E to me seems drastically spacious.


If you want to travel, you shall find a way!

Consider a solar charger as an option to top up the car battery, other batteries or run other devices you may want along (iPod, camera, phone, cabin fan etc.). There are solar ventilation fans that fit windows to keep heat down.

Consider the LED bulbs for the interior.

A good Swiss Army knife and multitool ( like Leatherman, Gerber) are very
handy.

Jumper cables too!

Serious climbers have lots of usefull small, lightweight equipment and gadgets to make life more enjoyable. Canned stew laced with red wine improves the taste a lot! Outback gourmet is an expression I have heard.
 

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I have a question of JoJo. Your photos showing the inside of your E are wonderful, and are a great inspiration for my dream of traveling and living (at least part-time!) in my E.

Can you tell me, though, if the reclining seat (set up as a bed) is the driver's seat moved back, or the rear drivers-side passenger's seat? I'm confused, because, looking in from the hatch, there doesn't seem to be a driver's seat.

Thanks, and looking forward to reading more on this this thread and others.
It is the drivers seat folded down with headrest removed pushed back to meet the folded down rear seat.

The action packer bin is sitting on the end of the seat next to the steering wheel.

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Thanks for your explanation of the front and rear seats meeting, Jojo. I can see how it works now from looking again at your photo. Cool set-up!
 
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