DIY Truck Bed Build-Out

I received a few emails after last week’s post asking about how we built out our truck bed for storage and sleeping, so I thought I would pass along the how-to and step-by-step that we followed!

We really began by simply scouring both our memories and the great interwebs for how other people have done it…we’re big believers in not re-inventing the wheel unnecessarily! My years working as an outdoor guide exposed me to the myriad of ways people can live out of their vehicles and I may or may not have begun with some lofty visions of custom welded exterior racks to go around the camper top (GEAR, you guys! I wanted more space for GEAR!). Reality (as well as time and budget limitations…pesky budgets…) set in and we settled on a copy of how the ever-fabulous Becca Skinner rigged out her truck, Happy.

So we gathered measurements and drew out an oh-so-high-tech plan (stop judging us…I hadn’t planned on sharing this publicly...) and materials list and headed down to Justin’s folks’ to borrow tools and expertise (remember how we sold all of our stuff…we maybe should have held onto our tools just a little longer…). We headed to the hardware store, made our purchases, and spent the entirety of a cold, rainy December weekend pulling the pieces together.

Iphone shots of our "plans"- side view and tailgate view on left, view from top on right...

Iphone shots of our "plans"- side view and tailgate view on left, view from top on right...

iPhone again...

iPhone again...

And more iphone...

And more iphone...

A few things to note:

  • We have a Toyota Tundra with a full 6’ bed
  • We already owned the bins we knew we wanted to use and built with their measurements in mind:
    • 4 medium-large clear Sterilite bins that we picked up at Target 
    • 2 smaller clear Sterilite bins that work in the wheel-well area 
    • 2 large Rubbermaid bins I’ve had since somewhere around 1998
    • 2 shallow clear Sterilite bins 
  • We wanted to have the flexibility to have a full sleeping platform across the entire space when both of us were utilizing it OR to remove the center piece in order to have more headroom if it were just one of us (also, it gives us some flexibility of we want to load in, say, bicycles or kayaks…)
  • Everything is freestanding, nothing is bolted to the truck bed itself in any way
  • We opted to NOT use pressure treated wood…the chemicals just seemed like a terrible idea. We did compromise and use Thompson’s water seal on the pieces that are sitting on the bottom of the truck bed itself as there is no way to make the bed perfectly watertight, but everything else is basic pine and plywood.

Our supply list with cost:

  • (1) 4x8 5.5mm plywood underlayment - $12.99
  • (2) 4x8 5.8" pine plywood - $49.74
  • (8) 2x3 pine stud (96”) - $16.56
  • (5) 2x4 pine stud (96”) - $13.05
  • (6) 1.5 x 12 piano hinge - $59.88
  • Thompson’s Water Seal - $11.48
  • 2 brushes - $2.96
  • screws (1” and 3”) (already had on hand)

Our total cost: $186.62

Total time spent (would definitely have been more without the help and expertise of Justin’s dad!): approximately 28 hours

What do you think? Have you guys done this? Would you have done anything differently?  

It Was Enough

We woke early and poured our steaming coffee into travel mugs to go. We loaded up food and the little bit of gear that doesn’t live in the truck and hit the blue backroads, eager to leave the highway and the press of people behind us.

We drove in the morning light, winding through the scrubby ranch land and feeling muscles we hadn’t realized were bunched tight begin to loosen and relax. We rode along in companionable silence, taking in the passing mesquite and herds of cattle chewing the rough grass. The land was rolling and golden and dotted with livestock and cactus under a wide bluebird sky.

We arrived and frowned at the crowded parking lot, hoping our quest for quiet wasn’t in vain and determined to make the most of what silence we could find. Veering away from the summit trail, we ambled with our slow-moving mutt until she’d clearly had enough and laughingly loaded her into our newest carrying contraption for a 35-pound dog. We relished the noticeable absence of road noise and smiled warmly at the few people we saw on the trail…it’s hard to stay mad at like-minded souls.

The going was easy but slow with our furry load. We didn’t mind. As we walked, we began to talk. Of nothing, of everything. Of this life we’ve chosen for ourselves and its ups and downs. Of our plans and our uncertainties. Of the work we do and the work we crave and the work we love. Of the work of love. Of fear and courage and honesty. Of space and wildness and how to cradle the feral in ourselves.

When we were through with the walking, we made our way to an open place to rest for the night. Justin chopped wood for our fire and I gathered words and light and the peace of silence again washed over us. As the night rose dark, we were staggered by the stars in their multitudes, jostling for place in the desert sky. The pond frogs and cicadas bellowed, drowning out all other sound, and we listened to their stories as we watched Orion and his constellation companions move across the night.

In the morning we woke to daybreak peering through the truck cap’s windows, nudging us out of our sleeping bag cocoons and into the shining, dew covered day. We snuggled deeper and smiled at one another, caffeinated with the simple joy of a night spent outside. Eventually we climbed out and our smiles spread to the sprawling live oak tree we’d camped beneath, the golden rim of the cactus patches, the cardinals fighting for attention in the straw-like grass. We waited for water to boil and then coffee to brew and there was pleasure in the waiting.

We refilled our travel mugs to go and wandered back the way we’d come, unloading what was left of the food and the gear that doesn’t live in the truck. We waved to our neighbors and let the distant roar of the highway move itself to the background as we resumed the duties of home. 

It wasn’t an epic adventure. There were no summits bagged, no miraculous vistas, no trials of man and nature. It was a simple outing- just a bit of walking and a bit of fire and a bit of quiet. But it was enough to unkink our necks and our shoulders and our weary souls and fill us with the everyday miracles of pond frogs and cicadas and the stars in their multitudes. It was enough to allow our laugh to come easier, our patience to last longer, our kindness to extend farther.

It wasn’t an epic adventure, but it was enough.

Homebody

Every day now I am redefining my idea of home, of what grounds me in this life and where I hide from the bigger world when I need quiet and solace and solitude. Is it this rolling tin can of a “house” with its four aluminum walls and painted fiberboard interior? Is it my little family of husband and dog and the choices we make together for our days? Is it something I carry within me, separate from structure and routine and external validation?

I don’t really know yet. I suppose that’s part of what we’re doing out here, part of why we shook things up in the first place. And this not knowing is both thrilling and liberating and deeply uncomfortable. I swing from feeling wholly rooted one moment to entirely rootless in the very next. 

I am a homebody in the truest sense of the word. I love to be at home, to tinker in the kitchen and fiddle in the garden and rearrange the furniture so that “cozy” is always the most applicable adjective to describe the space. But I am also very much at home snuggled deep into my own inner life, under the soft knit blankets of my ideas and plans and imagination, thinking and wondering and allowing my curiosity to roam freely. And when I’m strong and running through the woods, when I’m connected to every muscle and sinew, I inhabit each millimeter of my body and know that it is home as well. 

So I’m finding that as we alternatively move and stay, I must take time each day to think about “home” with real attention, to consider where I will find my sense of home in this moment. It’s no longer a static place on a map, but a fluid idea that must take the shape of whatever container I have on hand at any given time. I am learning how to do this. I am learning how to be a homebody with no fixed address, to relinquish all of my old ideas about how that must look. And as I do this rather uncomfortable learning, I’m reminded yet again that cultivating meaning and purpose in my life is about honest, no-getting-around-it hard work, the work of growing, the work of deepening my understanding of myself and my world and where I fit into it.

Where do you find home?

Featured: Susan Lager's BlogTalk Radio Podcast

I was so honored to be invited to talk with psychotherapist and relationship coach Susan Lager on her podcast on Wednesday evening. We talked about the idea of "noticing" and the difference it makes in the quality of our daily lives and I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I had...this might be my favorite subject! While I definitely overused the words literally, absolutely, and, of course, noticing, I just loved the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite tools for practicing greater awareness and I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think!

If you missed the live broadcast, you can find it here or listen below!

I'd love to hear your thoughts- leave a comment below!

I'll Take The Reminder

There is a grackle on our little deck who, by the sounds of it, is quite upset by something. His angry caws compete with the constant cheerful song of the passel of white-winged doves that have taken to spending their mornings in the skinny, gnarled live oak tree next to our camper. Someone is cooking bacon outside and the salty smokiness is making my mouth water as I take another sip of my coffee and think about my own breakfast. Behind the birdsong, I can hear a train whistle and the subtle ceaseless hum of I-35 and people talking to one another around the RV park we are calling home for these eight weeks.

Tessie and I have crawled back into bed and I’ve taken up my pen to jot down these early morning noticings. Justin is off at work and I think of him with more gratitude and appreciation than I can begin to articulate. It takes a lot of courage to agree to a lifestyle that requires you to face being “the new kid” every 2-3 months and he’s done it with his usual good humor and openness. This life on the road wouldn’t be possible right now without this and as I work to transition my business more entirely into destination and lifestyle work and submit more and more of my writing for publication, I am reminded daily of just how fortunate I am to have a partner who believes in what I have to offer this world and is willing to make sacrifices alongside me to help me build and grow.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and as I’ve said before, it’s simply not a holiday that particularly resonates with me in the traditional way. The idea that love looks like red roses and chocolate and fancy dinner out seems so…I don’t know…wrong, somehow. It seems to miss the very best parts of what deep and abiding love gives. Beyond the sexy (which is great, don’t get me wrong!), there is the not-so-sexy, the plain ol’ day-to-day partnership and life-building. To be seen and heard, to have a home in another person that is so rooted in trust it liberates you to explore and risk and grow and challenge every notion you have of your own limitations…how can Hallmark possibly capture that on a card?

But I’ve come to appreciate any day that honors love. Lord knows, the world can sure use as many expressions of love as we can throw at it right now and far be it from me to disparage a single one of them. And I can always use an extra reminder to tell the people in my life how much they mean to me, how grateful I am to them for all that they bring to my little corner of the world, how much my life is improved for the simple knowing of them.

So I’ll take it, this little “Hallmark holiday” of ours, and I’ll continue every year to embrace the very best of what it stands for. And I will do my best to apply its lesson to the other 364 days a year and share my appreciation for the love I am so lucky to have in my life, even when things are “un-sexy” or routine or less-than-perfect. I will continue to spend my mornings noticing the sounds outside my windows and the scents that waft on the air and how sweet our dog’s little face is when squished in sleep and how beautiful this damn life is even in the torn, ugly spots.

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I wanted to share a few last snapshots of our drive from Maine to Texas…we took a little side trip to the New River Gorge Bridge in WV, hit up a slew of bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, explored the wondrous Mammoth Cave National Park, wandered around Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas (not at all what you might expect!) and sampled a bit of craft brew, and had our first couple of nights “camping” in Walmart parking lots as we started to get crunched for time. I will share a bit of our Texas home next week…the impossible-to-remove astro-turf on our deck really classes the place up!

Departures

We fumbled the hitch into place and clamped it down. We plugged in the electric brakes and tested the connection. We took one last long look at the farmhouse and the view down to the river and we listened to the geese who have been congregating down at the bend where the tidal ice pops and cracks in the unseasonably warm January weather. 

I put my phone between me and the moment, used the screen and the desire to capture just a slice of the early afternoon sun and this moment of departure to create a tiny shield so that I wouldn’t have to look it all straight in the eye, something entirely out of character for me. I hit record as Justin put the truck in gear and began to roll forward, pulling our camper from its resting place and into the long driveway. As I hit stop and ran for the passenger side of the truck, I snuck one last look back before resolutely turning my gaze to the road before us and willfully ignoring the lump in my throat and the rock in my stomach.

Change is hard. Even when we know it’s exactly what we want to do and exactly where we should be in this moment, it’s difficult to let go, to release. Or perhaps that’s just me? I do have a tendency to hang on too tight. Even while I’m so very thrilled to be underway, so very eager to begin, I’m confronted by my own resistance to this choice we’ve made, this pain of departure.

I’ve been thinking so much lately about what I want to get out of this whole mess we’ve made for ourselves. And also what I want to give, how I can contribute something meaningful through this slightly odd life choice of ours. I don’t know the answers yet, and I suspect they will be ever evolving anyway, but I know that tucked in between the tremors of fear and the wild exhilaration and the creeping exhaustion of being an introverted homebody without a “home” per se, truth is at the heart of it all. I want to see myself and what I have to offer this world more honestly than I’ve ever seen them before. I want to question everything I think I know for sure and see if old truths stand up when examined carefully under the microscope of time and experience. I want to see clearly and notice when I’m allowing old baggage and old stories to shape my views. I want to find exactly the right words and craft them into sentences that create connection and understanding, that open me to honesty through and through. And I’m looking for more. More moments, more breakthroughs, more growth, more awareness, more truth. More everything

Large departures and small, external departures and internal...each carries with it a lesson and an opportunity to embrace the pain and ecstasy of growth.

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A little snapshot of our travels since leaving Maine two weeks ago today! I hope to be back to my regular Wednesday posts next week, but no guarantees- things on the road are a bit unpredictable and wifi simply isn't generally my top priority!