I’m sure there is no shortage of variety in the answers to the question, “Why did you move into your car, truck, van, etc…” Here I am, facing the highest rent and cost of living the Vail Valley has ever seen. I’m on the cusp of accepting my dream job on the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol at the end of the coming summer while simultaneously ending a 15 year stretch as a professional chef. I’m going from one of the highest paid jobs in the valley to the lowest paid jobs in the world. Not to mention, leaving behind the comfort of a career that has been very successful for me; taking me from Michelin Stars to Manhattan…
Everything changed when I moved to the Vail Valley in the high Rockies of Colorado. My obsession with knives, restaurants, Chefs; all started shifting to skis, mountain bikes, and being outside. I traded the Civic for a truck. I bought camping equipment. I soon found myself staring out the windows, wishing I was doing anything outside rather than being trapped in this damn kitchen.
One truck led to another, and soon I had my found myself behind the wheel of my 2012 Toyota Tacoma. Sometimes when it rains it pours, and sometimes you can bake your cake and eat it too. It had the engine, transmission, cab size, and options I wanted. Hell, it was even the amazingly rare Spruce Mica.There are no photos with those IDs or post 1165 does not have any attached images!
I was already fed up with my living situation. I have this new Tacoma which will make a great adventure mobile platform. I want to spend more time outside. And finally, there is no better way to save money than stop paying rent.
I started making calls. First, I found the topper that best suited the needs I had for space and features. I got a hold of Chris Blais at Suburban Toppers in Denver and he had my brand new, paint matched A.R.E. MX ordered and delivered in 2 weeks. I went with the carpet lining (to help fight condensation and help slightly insulate) as well as the matching Bedrug, security screens, LED lighting, and fold down clothes hangers. I now had a space to call my own. It has an interior height of 51″ so I’m not standing up in there but with careful design and planning, I’m also not crawling around on my belly.
With the topper on it was time to think about storage and organizing. A quick trip to the Container Store helped me find an assortment of IRIS weatherproof locking totes. I was able to find the right combination of different sizes to accommodate everything I was looking to carry (currently clothes, cooking equipment, and dry pantry). With the totes picked out I was now able to start planning my bed frame.
Built of out of 2×4’s and MDF, and sealed with oil paint; I knew that I wanted to leave 1/3 of the bed open as an aisle while using the other 2/3 as the sleeping platform and storage chest. I would build a nightstand at the head of the bed to hide and organize the many electronics I use in my adventures; as well as keep a central charging hub for them all centered around the power inverter. I would also have to find a way to make a Nature Power Pure Sine 2000 watt power inverter (overkill, but will run anything and charge everything) fit while maintaining proper ventilation and protection. I still have not moved to a 2 battery system with a split charger, mainly because I use an Optima Yellow Top and I never go below 11.5 volts. I have simultaneously charged every electronic device I own (including a laptop) overnight, and have never gone into a deep discharge that my alternator could not recover. The bed frame would open like a chest for me to access my totes below, and it would open at the tailgate end to access all my kitchen wares stored there including my Camp Chef Rainier combo stove. Everything would be able to be locked via hasps and padlocks, and nothing would be in site aside from my actual bed and the vague silhouettes of the cabinets inside. I would store my Pelican 45 at the tailgate end in the open aisle during travel, and have it able to slide out easily to open up the space fully while camping.
To expand the interior space while parked and help with ventilation and keeping unwanted visitors out, I added a DAC midsize truck tent on the the rear. It utilizes the edges of the open tailgate and hatch to create more usable space while enclosing the whole area in a weather resistant tent with dual insect screen doors.
To help keep my dirty gear, firewood, and any other unwanted items out of my new home, I installed a Rhino Rack Masterfit 660 roof box on a set of their 54″ Aero Bars. It opens from both sides; fits 3 bundles of firewood, charcoal, camping chair, all my biking gear, shoes, 0 degree down sleeping bag, and an assortment of tools. With its lower profile it keeps me from getting blown off the road, while its extra width and 7′ length ensure it can hold anything.
I needed to help the little green Taco deal with this new found weight of my entire life on its back, so I fitted in a Firestone Ride Rite airbag helper system. This corrects the sag and helps keep the truck from rolling or bouncing excessively.
That is the bulk of the major modifications in story format. The project is not over by any means, but so far has given me a comfortable home and a capable adventure rig.