We had a free weekend and decided to go camping in Vermont! We recruited our friends, Jenny and Shaun, and their three pups to join us. Since it was last minute we figured we wouldn't find many open sites at campgrounds. We prefer more isolated camping anyway. We investigated primitive camping in Vermont and stumbled upon a list of several forest roads that have "campsites" ...basically an open space with a fire pit. Perfect. We chose Forest Road 35 in Pittsfield, Vermont because it sounded secluded and was near a brook which would be great for the dogs. And us.
We set out early Saturday morning and met our friends at the rest stop in Salem. It was a fairly uneventful ride. We utilized CBs along the way to coordinate bathroom breaks and gas stops. We got into Pittsfield, VT shortly after noon and turned onto Lower Michigan Rd. It started out as a regular dirt road with a few houses here and there and then became narrower and more like a trail. A road less traveled, if you will. We took this to be a good indicator that there probably wouldn't be a lot of other people on the road. The trailer did great even with the muddy potholes and ruts in the road. We eventually came upon a bridge. Unfortunately, there was a gate blocking it. At this point we decided we might as well make lunch because it was after 1pm and we were all quite hungry. We pulled the grill out of the trailer and the few things we needed to grill up some cheddar brats. Meanwhile, the dogs roamed free, swimming in the brook and frolicking in the grass and mud.
After our tummies were satisfied, we decided to head back out towards town. Over lunch, we had reiewed the map and found our error; we wanted to be on Upper Michigan Road, not Lower. We took Crossover Rd. to cross the brook and reach Upper Michigan Road. We saw a sign that said Forest Road 35 that confirmed we were on the right path this time. It wasn't long until we saw Green Mountain National Forest signs and began to see campsites. We were really hoping to get a site right next to the brook. Unfortunately the one that we had read about was occupied. We kept driving to see what else was open. We did see another site next to the water but there was a lady squatting next the the firepit. Literally squatting. No vehicle or tent was there. Just the lady, squatting. Shaun asked her if she was camping on that site and she responded that she was. We found it to be somewhat strange. But we moved on. After a good stretch of driving we found another site right next the water with open spots on each side of the road. Rob and I parked the trailer at the site while Shaun and Jenny continued on to scope out other open spaces. They continued until we lost radio contact. When they came back they reiterated that this was the best of the open sites so we set up camp. Rather, Shaun and Jenny set up camp. Rob and I just had to stabilize the trailer. It was so nice to park and not have to build the tent or make the bed. Instead we cracked open a beer and played with the pups.
After we were all settled, the ladies cruised back down the road a short distance to get some firewood from a neighbor who was selling it from the end of their driveway. Shaun and I stayed with the pups and parked our butts in our chairs on opposite sides of the trail. We sipped our beers and threw a frisbee at each other. When we'd miss, which was frequent, one of the dogs would fetch the frisbee for us, which was super convenient. We hardly had to move at all!
Jenny and I drove back towards town and gathered two bundles of firewood. When we went by the campsite that the lady had been squatting at we noted that the site was empty. On the way back in to camp however, there was a Subaru at the site and the squatting lady was now squatting in a different spot behind her (presumed) car at an adjacent site. So strange.
We got back to camp and found the men sitting and chatting while all the dogs were just laying around. It seemed like everyone was in full relaxation mode. I soon got to working cooking chicken and steak for tacos while Jenny got all of the fixings ready. Our kitchen setup worked wonderfully. And the tacos were delicious!
After we washed dishes and put everything away, Shaun set to work building us a fire. It's kind of his thing. If you recall from our previous overlanding adventures with Shaun, he built a fire every night. We let him have at it, and we always appreciate his efforts. This evening's fire was especially tough to ignite because the wood was all somewhat damp. He powered through, and soon enough we had a small, crackling pit of flame.
It seemed like a really long dusk for some reason, but eventually it started to get dark outside. We flicked on the rock lights on our trailer to help provide some ambient lighting away from the fire and to help us see our way around the site. Jenny busted out the 'mallows and grahams and chocolate before we'd had a chance to digest our delicious tacos. None of us were hungry but we ate smores anyways. We shared our beers and hard ciders, and argued over the pronunciation of "gose".
It began to drizzle, so we migrated temporarily to the awning, to stay dry. The rain let up shortly thereafter, and we all moved back to the fire. When it happened again, it didn't give up so quickly. We got cozy under the awning. Eventually, we were all feeling the effects of a long day, and were looking forward to a good night's sleep. We ensured everything was tucked into a place to stay dry that needed to be. Then, we brushed our teeth and snuggled up with Loki.
In the morning, we woke up not a moment before we were absolutely ready to. We checked the battery meter, which said our battery still had about 12.5V. We considered that it was disconnected from the truck around 2pm, and didn't really receive any direct sunlight after that, but the fridge ran all night, and the lights were on for a few hours. We're pretty content with the system performance; there was still plenty of life left in the battery as the sun was coming up.
Jenny cooked us up some awesome breakfast sandwiches, and we all had a round of cold-brewed coffees. We cleaned up the kitchen in short order, and then we spent the rest of the morning mostly standing around feeling awkward because we didn't have much to pack. We heckled Shaun and Jenny while they were dismantling their tent. And we played with the dogs, obvously. It was wonderful and relaxing and we loved it, but couldn't help feeling a bit odd, as it was so different than the normal packing-after-camping-in-the-rain that we're used to.
Once we were all packed and hitched up, and all our trash collected, we made our way back into downtown Pittsfield. If you want to call it that. We checked out the general stores, and got some beers and ciders that sounded good. We tossed them into the fridge to try out after we got home. Then we headed back the way we came.
As we approached route 93 on 89 near Concord, NH, Jenny radioed that we should divert from the highway to avoid southbound Sunday traffic. Good call Jenny! We took the scenic route through Bedford and got back onto the highway in Manchester. We caught about a mile of traffic, before things started moving freely again, which was not bad at all. The rest of our ride home was uneventful. We arrived home midafternoon with an exhausted puppy. He could barely get his butt up the 3 steps into the house while we unpacked the truck and tucked the trailer into the garage.
This trip was a fantastic first for our trailer, and was exactly what we were looking for. We found some minor things to work on on our trailer, but overall we couldn't be happier with its turnout. We love it.
We need walls to protect us from the elements. And to keep us contained. Mostly Loki. So we got some marine grade plywood, to help protect against moisture, and set out to build our walls. The plywood sheets were 5’x10’ okoume, so very large and heavy. But we managed. The trailer had to be moved out into the driveway as the sheets were too large to attach them to the trailer in the garage. We had to remove a couple storage compartments that we had previously installed in order to access the bolt holes on the frame. Once we located the position of the bolt holes we bolted the plywood to the side of the trailer in its whole 5x10 form.
Next came the scariest part - deciding where to make the cuts. The top of the trailer and the back of the trailer were easy, they are just straight lines and we already had reference points for those. The curve on the front of the trailer we decided to cut last, after the roof is on, to ensure that the curves match. Next we had to decide where the transition point would be for when the roof changes from horizontal to sloped. Mostly we just had to make sure that it would be at least 44” long so that we had enough room to attach solar panels. And then it just came down to aesthetics. We located a point on the roof and a point at the back of the trailer. We wanted to ensure we would have enough foot room inside after the trailer was all together. Eventually it was time to commit and the cut was made. At this point there was no going back.
Next we placed the door and the window in place and traced them. These holes were cut and the door and window fit! The wall was mostly complete at this point, but we also want to be warm inside the trailer. So the edges were framed with 1”x3” strapping, as were the cutouts for the window and door. In between the strapping we glued in ½” foam insulation. After this, we cut a sheet of quarter inch thick plywood to skin the interior. And ta-da! We have a wall.
The same process was repeated for the driver’s side wall. This side seemed to go slightly quicker because, dare I say, we knew what we were doing. Basically, everything was already set up for us. The slant of the roof had already been determined, so we just made several measurements to make sure that everything was where it needed to be and made the cuts. This side was a little different in that it doesn’t have a door. It has two windows though, one large and one small. We lined the bottom of the windows up on the same side and tried to line the small window up to the window on the passenger side wall. Easy-peasy. The hard part on this side was the compartment doors. If you remember, we have a storage section on the driver’s side front-end of the trailer. This contains the sink and storage shelves above it. We needed to make a cutout for this which will eventually be hinged on as an access door. This took some creativity and a lot of care. But we got it done. We still needed to apply strapping to the wall just under the curve so that it can help support the roof and give us something to attach the roof to. But the cabinet is the entire section, all the way to the roof. So we needed to cut the opening such that it would give us optimal access but still allow room to attach strapping and give us enough space to screw into the adjacent walls for stability. We finally determined where the cuts needed to be and very carefully made them permanent. The same thing ensued for the drawer with the grill attached. We did end up having to adjust the position of the grill (from where it was bolted to the drawer) by about 1/8”, as it was rubbing slightly on the cutout.
At this point we were on a roll, and we'd found a really good working rhythm. So we kept at it almost every night after work until we had to sleep for a couple weeks. Over the winter, we cut a bunch of slits in one of the sheets of plywood and clamped it to a curved jig as we applied a bunch of boiling hot wet rags to the curve area to facilitate the bend. It's been clamped to the fixture we made ever since. We finally brought that panel out and laid it in place. It didn't quite retain the full curve, but it was easy enough to manipulate into place by hand.
This was a super motivating sight. We became even more determined. We laid out and cut the hole for the ceiling fan. We wired it into the electrical system and ran the wires through the wall to the ceiling.
We secured the curved section of roof into place across the front edge, and to both side walls. We also applied sealer around all the winows, door, and in all the panel gaps.
The rest of the roof was pretty straightforward to install. When we purchased the plywood so long ago, we paid a few extra bucks to have the smaller sheets cut down to the appropriate width. Luckily, there were no sinificant design changes between then and now! They had a much bigger table saw than we do, so it was much easier for them to cut the full sheets down to size, and assured they'd all be exactly the same width. It was money well spent. It meant all we had to do was cut the panel to the right length once we knew what that needed to be. Once the roof was complete, we were able to permanently install the solar panels, and get those finally wired in. This was really helpful, as we'd been periodically laying one panel out in the driveway while we were working on it, to catch some afternoon sun and charge the battery. Once the panels were installed, the charging became passive; it just happens automatically with no input from us.
Once the roof was complete, we were able to insulate the ceiling, and install the interior skin. You can sort of see it in the picture below.
Once the interior roof skin was done, we could install the rear wall. We had to wait until the ceiling was complete, otherwise we would not have been able to get the interior skin through the door! The rear wall followed the same general process as the walls and the roof; exterior, then "studs" and insulation, then the interior skin. We passed wires through the rear wall for a center high-mounted stop light. It's not required for trailers, but we like to be sure that it is clear when we are stopping, so we don't get rear-ended!
There were a few really big days (read: late nights) trying to get across the finish line. We had to call in backup. We owe a big thanks to our friends Ryan and Chris for coming and helping out, taking on some of the stuff on our to-do list, so we could multi-task. Their help was outstanding, and we are very grateful. Chris and Mandy built the rear wall. If you recall, we built the taillight harness in the middle of this past winter, so it was done in the house, with just some rough dimensions pulled off the trailer. Some of the lights came up a few inches short of the rear wall, so Ryan took care of that for us, extending the wiring as required.
While Mandy and Chris were working the rear wall, I took care of something we'd been putting off for quite a while, just because it was never a priority; finishing off the tow-vehicle connection part of the wiring harness. It was always there, but it was coiled up inside the front end of the trailer, generally getting in the way of various other things. We finally poked a hole in the front wall and passed the harness through. Then we secured the junction box to the tongue. The coily cord connects to a 7-pin connector on the tow vehicle. We wired it to activate reverse lights, as well as charge the trailer battery. There's a brake wire as well, if we opt to add brakes in the future. We ordered the axle with flanges for brakes, but there are currently no brakes installed. So most of the leg work is already complete, and it will be a fairly straightforward upgrade in the future if we feel the need.
We called it a night at about 11pm on a Friday with the rear wall completed. We made temporary taillight panels which will be replaced in the future with something more sturdy. We didn't really have anything concrete that we had to be done for, but we were motivated to just be done with it. It felt like that last night before a group final project is due, and we all worked until we were totally exhausted. The last step was cleaning the whole interior space out and throwing a vacuum-packed memory foam queen size mattress through the door and cutting the bag off. We left it to fill the interior overnight.
We got up early Saturday and installed the rear storage compartment door, and installed the taillight panels into it. While I was working on the taillights, Mandy laid out all the holes for mounting the fenders. These bolted right up after drilling the holes.
We tightened up the lug nuts, threw on the license plate and hit the road. Not a moment too soon.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.