Car camping

My lodging for Interbike 1999. While I was en route, anyway.

Two distinctly different takes on the ancient and honorable practice of kipping in the car, the first from Adventure Journal and the second from NPR.

I’ve spent many a night racked out in my rides, starting with a 1974 Datsun pickup that had an aluminum topper. The two ’83 Toyota longbeds were an upgrade (more space for me and the dog(s). The ’98 Tacoma? A little less so; that truck was too pretty for stealth camping.

One of the best ever was Herself’s Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon, acquired sometime in the mid-Nineties. Fast, decent fuel economy, AWD, long enough for a 6-footer to sleep in, and no icy water dripping on the sleeping bag on rainy/snowy nights (all truck toppers leak eventually, especially if you bounce them along the indifferently maintained dirt roads of Crusty County for a few years).

Of course, the best thing about kipping in all these vehicles was the certainty that it was both temporary and voluntary. Even a Motel 666 in Dipstick, Idaho, looks pretty good after a couple-three nights spent roadside in your ride.

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34 Responses to “Car camping”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Ah, the good old days. Camper shells were a blessing. Especially the high rise ones, like on my old 86 F-150. Plus, it had a carpeted insert that went from benches to bed. One night on the east side of the Dragoons, we were camping in a dispersed area of the NF. I went to make an early morning trip to the camp toilet. I spotted a mountain lion coming through camp. Past the toilet tarp it went, under the camp table, and alongside the truck. Then the smarter half and I started the same ole you go, no you go. I don’t need to go that bad. Me either. Let’s wait until it the sun is up. The ranger’s cabin was about 1/2 mile from our camp. He stopped by for coffee and said there was a fresh lion kill in his front yard. We told him we saw it on the way to its breakfast date.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      One of the neatest rigs I ever saw was a Toyota Chinook FrankenCamper. Some dude on a mission fused a pair of ruined Toyotas — one, a Chinook pop-top camper, the other a 4WD pickup — and presto-change-o, instant all-terrain Toyota camper.

      Well, maybe not so instant. I suspect there may have been a job of work involved.

  2. Dale Says:

    “Even a Motel 666 in Dipstick, Idaho, looks pretty good after a couple-three nights spent roadside in your ride.”

    My wife and I did the cross country ride twice back in the seventies driving a 1968 VW Beetle. We carried one bicycle, one $19.99 nylon pup tent, and two useless Coleman sleeping bags. We stealth camped for two nights and then got a cheap motel room in order to bathe. We did that twice on every trek from Maryland to California and back.

  3. carl duellman Says:

    you should check out the foresty forest youtube channel. he’s touring northern canada, bagging peaks and cooking crock pot meals all while living in an anonymous chevy van.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Wowsah. Dude got busy in that Chevy. It looks like a DIY International Space Station.

      The Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey are supposed to be the shit for minivanlife. Some of the Siennas come with AWD. But holy hell, do those things ever hold their value.

    • carl duellman Says:

      i bought a used sienna last year for a reasonable price but it was beat up a little. i made a bed platform and i got some bins. i just need somewhere to go.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Aye, there’s the rub. I’d like to go somewhere myself. But a road trip of any sort really ratchets up the risk these days. Unless you fetch all your own food and drink along, dig catholes in the boonies, and wear a hazmat suit at the Shell station.

      There are other options, of course. A WaPo travel writer recently set out on a self-powered trip. Without consulting the experts at the Adventure Cycling Association, alas. But still, props for having a go at travel by bike.

    • carl duellman Says:

      being in florida, we are open for business. too hot and buggy for anything enjoyable.

    • Shawn - with van in the Gorge Says:

      I got me a minivan. It’s cool and it’s painted in the favorite color of Maranello. It’s one of the extended versions that I can put three bikes in the back and still have 4 seats. Although it’s not an AWD, I lived in northern and high country environments that I can drive a FWD 2WD in a lot of places… But I carry a shovel. The one drawback is the low ground clearance. I’m not able to get it into some places that I was able to take my 4WD truck in to.

      When it’s a cold, rainy night somewhere up on a road in the Yukon, a dry enclosed vehicle with stretch-out room sure beats trying to set up a tent in a pull-off by the side of the road.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        My Forester is just a hair too short for comfortable sleeping. Plus the rear seatbacks fold forward onto the seats, so they don’t lie flat the way the seats in Herself’s Legacy did. In that rig, the rear seat bottoms folded up and forward against the back of the front seats, and with the headrests pulled off, the rear seat backs just dropped right down.

        I could rig some sort of platform to level out a sleeping area, hinged so I could get to the spare tire and other compartments in the way-back if need be. But I’d still have to curl up like a snail in his shell.

  4. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Changing subject for un momento por favor, this is a climb some of you may be familiar with. This is national news it seems in our pandemic world.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      With all due respect to anyone beating his/her head against this particular wall, I think this is what we’re left with when there is a lack of actual events for the sporting media to cover. Most sports are contrived; this seems especially so. Gotta keep the sponsors and advertisers hanging on, though. …

      • JD Says:

        I’m of the belief that “the news” is really in the entertainment business. After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog for-profit enterprise. (Somewhat similar to politics, eh? Dare I stir the pot with “organized religion”?) 🙂

        The next “sweeps” month starts tomorrow… conflict, controversy, schadenfreude, and contrived sports “insights/societal dilemmas” should step up a notch or so, eh?

        Market share drives advertising costs, drives TV coverage of events, drives bottom line, etc.

        Get out….spread out…..stay safe…..have fun!

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Part of the problem stems from how we define “news.” Here’s an example: When did whatever a Kardashian does become “news?”

        The lines separating “news” and “entertainment” have been blurring throughout my lifetime, thanks in part to electronic media and the audience’s withering attention span, and today the two are virtually indistinguishable.

        Tightening our focus a bit we also see a blurring of the lines between “news” and “opinion.” Used to be those were clearly separated, but no longer. Today a considerable portion of the audience can’t tell the difference between a news story and an opinion piece. All samey-same.

        Throw in the consolidation, emasculation, disintegration, and homogenization of both print and electronic media and what you have is a small, centralized group of people, interested in little beyond making money for themselves and their shareholders, sitting at the top of your information chain. They will sell what their customers want to buy, not what they need to function as citizens in a republic.

        Bonus: This helps fuel distrust of the press as a source of actual news, just as the ongoing dismantling of government fuels the belief that government doesn’t work.

        This is how a Kardashian becomes “news.”

        “There’s enough bullshit in the media for Texas to open a branch office. And you’d still have enough left over to start two law firms and a Christian bookstore.” — George Carlin

        • Shawn late night hacking in the Gorge Says:

          Regarding decent journalism, do any of you keep up with the Canyon County Zephyr down in Moab? Jim Stiles started it many moons ago – Well at least I think he did…? He’s been there long enough to take the credit and he did know Abbey. He got married a while back and now has a co-writer, Tonya, his wife. Between the two of them, they have a great paper (well perhaps it should now be considered a great electronic word cloud). And Stiles is a fellow cartoonist.

    • khal spencer Says:

      I suspect few if any of these people actually know what it is like to “Everest”, i.e., to try to put one foot in front of the other when the ambient air pressure is 0.3 atmospheres and a bad day at altitude is a death sentence. These folks should start with something mild, such as the Iron Horse Classic.

      I took a different spin on car camping, i.e., throw the two person backpack tent in the car and crash out somewhere when the eyes drooped and the oncoming cars didn’t go away.

  5. carl duellman Says:

    i’m sure you guys have seen this:

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Now that’s fuggin’ awesome. I’d like to see Chris Froome try that.

      Also, it goes without saying that the dude is Belgian.

    • carl duellman Says:

      i wonder if you could fit racks and bags on one of those. it would make for a fun tour.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Descents would be fun. Like riding a bucking sheep in a sloping rodeo arena.

      I notice he’s not wearing a helmet, and his space hopper lacks headlight and taillight. Probably doesn’t pay road tax either. Must be a nihilist. Being a nihilist and climbing the Tourmalet on a space hopper must be doubly exhausting.

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Got the Double Cross back from the shop. Very nice and I have Shimano Tiagra 10 speed road rapid fire shifter on it. I didn’t even know they made them. I already had 600 level Shimano flat bar brake levers for it, This is the handlebar we used.

  7. JD Says:

    Good lookin’ pedalin’ machine there, Pat O’B!! Hoping you’ll follow up w/a pic of yourself in the saddle and baggin’ some miles/kilometers. A nice southern AZ background would be frosting on the cake, eh?

    Where’s the sleeping bag for the “car camping” theme?! 🙂

    Well done, mi amigo!!!!!

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