A New Trail Dog: The 2010 Ford Transit Connect
Since I last posted, I’ve had my heart-broken twice; once when I lost Pippin to cancer in July of 2014 and again when I lost my Dad back in March of this year. Writing hasn’t been a top priority for quite some time and in fact, I still can’t write about either event. Lately, I’ve been feeling more motivated to write, in general, so what better place to start again?
In September of 2014, Westly’s engine blew on a road trip to the Berkshires leaving myself and Georgia stranded by the side of the road until AAA could tow us the 90 minutes back home. It was a fiasco. I contemplated having his engine refurbished and putting him back on the road but, as sad as it made me to choose differently, I had to be honest with myself. I just didn’t feel safe traveling in a vehicle known for breaking down. I could learn how to fix him myself (like so many other VW owners do) but it’s a skill that I don’t care to have or learn. The motto in the VW community is “It’s the journey, not the destination” and I can appreciate that as much as the next person but I still want to be able to go the speed limit on the highway, not get blown into the breakdown lane every time an 18-wheeler goes by and I want to feel safe in the knowledge that the vehicle I’m driving, will not only serve as my home, but also get me to, from and around whatever destination I choose more often than not. Westly now sits in my mechanic’s garage where his engine will be repaired as a winter project. Once it’s complete, I will most likely sell him to someone with more skill in tinkering than I have.
I started looking at vehicles similar to what Westly offered in terms of space. I knew I would have to buy a used vehicle and I wanted an open cargo area so I could convert it to suit my needs. I didn’t want something big like a Sprinter van because I wanted something that got good gas mileage, would drive like a car, be able to easily parallel park, turn on a dime, get into tight spaces and not be as obvious as an RV, so stealth camping/parking could also be an option. Enter Campari, a 2010 Ford Transit Connect.
The first thing I did was remove the second row of seats in order to empty the cargo space and have a clean palette to work with. With the seats removed, the space behind the driver and passenger seats is six feet long and five feet wide. After removing the seats, I laid a 3/4 plywood floor and put in a custom-made galley area built by Morehead Design Lab.
Next up was the bed. I drew many different sketches and designs. Within a small space, every piece of furniture has to have multiple purposes. I wanted the bed to be utilized as a bench with storage beneath when closed and when open, a bed that was wide enough for Georgia and I to stretch out on. Originally I wanted to put in a rock ‘n roll bed like Westly has, but a design like that would cut into storage space. This is what I built.
Extreme comfort was taken into consideration when I was choosing actual bedding. I didn’t want to use a self-inflate mattress, nor did I want some kind of flimsy tuck away bed mattress. I ended up having Foam Orders custom craft a 4 inch folding, foam mattress using boat vinyl so that it would be durable and easily cleaned; important for camping with dogs. I was over the moon with the results.
In the above picture, under the bed, is my power supply; two Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generators. These babies allow me to continually recharge laptops, cell phones, gps, cameras, satellite phones and even power a desktop computer for a little over 8 hours before needing to be recharged. Perfect for all my electrical needs while on a road trip.
After a couple of camping trips, I decided to remove the front passenger seat and it made a world of difference with additional living space.
With the interior complete and cozy, I added a few more things to make traveling even more dialed in.
An ARB Awning, Side Screen House (for bugs, rain and hot summer sun) and a side Tent (for even more living space). These are of impeccable quality and the screen house and tent simply slide into the awning making set up a mere three minutes once you’ve done it a few times. Taking them down is just as easy.
A Thule Cargo Box (purchased off of Craig’s List). This is perfect for storing items like propane, chairs, tarp, etc. Pretty much anything I want to have along “in case I need it” but don’t use every day, goes up into the Thule.
Window screens to keep out the bugs from Screenz just slip right over the window, velcro under the mirror and stay tight once the door is closed.
Curtains for privacy, of course. I chose black because when “stealth” camping, it just looks like the windows are deeply tinted and you can’t tell there’s even a curtain.
For the front window, a blind that’s easy to assemble and quick to open and close, also from Carid.
I’m so happy with the way things turned out and was surprised at how handy I am with tools, design and carpentry. The project took about four months of weekends from start to finish. Since its completion, I’ve added a Road Shower, which heats water with solar power (a shower after a grueling hike is fabulous) and of course there are other things that don’t warrant pictures like a porta-potty that also serves as an additional chair, a single burner butane stove that can be used indoors when caught in blustery winds and torrential rains (a girl still has to have her coffee and eat even when she can’t put up the awning), Yeti Coolers (that keep ice frozen for at least four days) and a rechargeable fan.
Home is where you park it and Campari has become our little red house on wheels. She’s perfect in every way. The only thing that’s missing is a pop-top. While I can stand (12 inches shy of straight up) and move around easily in her, I do miss the pop top. Maybe someday. But most importantly, she keeps us comfortable, cozy and safe.