Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Return of Spartan Luxury

At one time, The American Dream was being free to live in the way you wanted to, rather than being the opportunity to go from rags to riches.

At one time, The American Dream was being free to live in the way you wanted to, rather than having the opportunity to go from rags to riches.

You asked for it, and here it is: the sequel to Spartan Luxury and Update to Spartan Luxury, with additional detail provided from interviewing Charles, the owner of this surprising little rig that’s built to boondock in more remote areas. I have to admit, I figured that this quirky little trailer, being not much over six feet square, would be akin to a broom closet inside, as far as living space goes. I figured that a converted cargo van would be a mansion in comparison.

I initially thought it must be too small to do any more than weekend in.

I initially thought it must be too small to do any more than weekend in.

Wrong again. It’s quite the other way around. Yep, the exterior has a kind of ramshackle practicality that doesn’t build much expectation for the interior. Yet once the door to the inside is opened, the aura of the interior layout and storage is so plentifully sensible that you immediately have a sense of homeyness. You have to step in and explore.

A quick glimpse in raises more questions than it answers.

A quick glimpse in raises more questions than it answers.

This trailer used to be built straight-up on its 4×6 trailer, and Charles quickly found it to be inadequate. What is before you now is Trailer 2.0, and adding overhang to the sides has transformed it into a surprisingly workable full-time rig. I can assure you that if you walk past it with a “boy, this guy is really having to scrape by” perception, you’ll lose that when you look inside. It works. There’s space for all the vitals and then some. There’s no need to suck in your stomach and shuffle sideways anywhere, to walk hunched over, to hold onto things while you step over obstructions, or to bash your knees on anything. And the interior is real wood, not faux-veneered chipboard.

A previous campsite. You know, there aren't very many campsites around here that are out of reach of this combination.

A previous campsite. You know, there aren’t very many campsites around here that are out of reach of this combination.

Charles has been full-timing in it for 4-1/2 years, having finally escaped a wheelchair after more than 22 years. A disabled Vietnam veteran, he told me that in order to stay on his feet, “there’s still more to do” as far as surgeries go. His days vary. Some times he walks fine, while others require a cane, or crutches, or the wheelchair. He’s a hardy, pleasant and likable soul who never complains, but just states how things currently are. Unattached, he goes where he likes when he likes, and when he isn’t camping near friends as he is now, he’s up in the hushed solitude of the mountains. He has no blog and at this point no onboard Internet access, which makes sense when you spend a little time with him. He’s more interested in living life than in writing about it. He has little, yet neither complains nor brags about it. He’s a man’s man in the very best sense of the word, without the bravado or attitude.

You assumed right. There is no hope of keeping kids from taking over this thing.

You assumed right. There is no hope of keeping kids from taking over this thing.

This is one post which relies heavily on photographs and their captions to fill out the story. Overall though, the trailer’s floorplan allows for the bed to be crossways in the front, with no supports needed in the middle to chop up storage space below it. A sliding screened window is fixed to the front wall for light and ventilation. Just below it is a handy long shelf for incidentals. Above it is a slanted roof that cuts air drag when towing. The foot area of the bed is topped with two shelves, one for the TV and one for the satellite box. A large ice cooler is stowed under the bed with plenty of room for a porta-potty and other equipment. The center of the bed is open to the floor for getting up.

Up forward, the head of the bed.

Up forward, the head of the bed.

And at the foot of the bed, the TV and satellite box.

And at the foot of the bed, the TV and satellite box.

Stepping a bit to the rear, whether you are in the dressing room or the galley depends largely on which way you’re facing. A good-sized floor-to-ceiling clothes closet is on the driver’s side, and further to the rear is a sink with shelves above and below. He picked up the sink in Mexico, and its installation is a project still in progress. On the passenger side is a floor-to-ceiling pantry with a microwave on the top shelf, and then further to the rear a gas range with a toaster oven above. More shelving is below. A dutch door at the rear includes a whimsical half-moon window that can be closed off with screen for bug-free ventilation, or a slab of insulation for cold nights. Heat is supplied with a catalytic propane heater. A fixed skylight in the center of the roof makes a big difference in the feel of the interior. Along with the plumbing for the sink, Charles is planning to install the hardware for an outdoor shower that can use any available water source. Charles claims that, stocked properly in the right location, he can stay out for a month at a stretch.

The galley consists of a propane range with shelving above and below, plus a sizable pantry behind the door.

The galley consists of a propane range with shelving above and below, plus a sizable pantry behind the door.

The ergonomics inside are quite good all-around, something that can't be said of many commercial rigs. That's a toaster oven above.

The ergonomics inside are quite good all-around, something that can’t be said of many commercial rigs. That’s a toaster oven above.

A peek behind the pantry door reveals a lot of opportunity.

A peek behind the pantry door reveals a lot of opportunity.

The opposite side of the trailer carries the clothes closet and wash-up area.

The opposite side of the trailer carries the clothes closet and wash-up area.

Overall, Charles has taken a practical approach to accomplishing what he wants to do with this thing. Instead of bulking up on holding tanks, deep cycle battery banks, big inverters or solar, he powers his electricals with a 3,200-watt gas generator. Given the premium on space, that’s a really good idea with such high-demand appliances as a microwave, toaster oven and air conditioner. Whether or not this or that person might want these things onboard in their own situation is immaterial – Charles does, he’s here, and the way he chose to make these devices work for full-time boondocking is the least expensive and most direct way to get the job done. Bang.

It'd be nice if these shovels were here just for macho ambiance. Unfortunately, they aren't.

It’d be nice if these shovels were here just for macho ambiance. Unfortunately, they aren’t.

I find it difficult to wear my Critical Hat with this thing as far as off-roading goes. Sure, the tires are skinny and will sink into soft sand. Sure, the extra width and high center of gravity mean that when off-road you have to be careful now and then so as not to risk tipping it over onto its side. The trailer itself is truly minimal cost and, as-is, may not be the best for deep sand or extremely rough trails, but it’s light enough that the Jeep will get it there anyway. Besides, the risky situations truly are both “now and then” and purely a matter of choice, so big deal. When you look at any prefab alternatives that would have an easier time of it, they are a lot less comfortable and a lot more expensive. In its own way, as a bucks-down, go-anywhere, comfortable micro-coach, this combo is clearly a winner. It’s the 95% solution to camping on all available Federal lands campsites.

The curtain is on the outside, and fresh air is just a window-slide away.

The curtain is on the outside, and fresh air is just a window-slide away.

Dreaming of boondocking someday? Do you like four-wheeling, or simply the idea of towing a lightweight but comfortable trailer into areas that common RVers will never see or experience? Prefer the inexpensive approach, or a manageable project that can reflect your own personal preferences in materials and features? Then throw this approach into the mix and tailor it to your own needs, like Charles did.

This is the KISS system in operation. You may have to extend the tongue to find space or decrease tongue weight, but it works.

This is the KISS system in operation. You may have to extend the tongue to find space or decrease tongue weight, but it works.

Nope, it's not a new whisper-quiet Yamaha or Honda generator, but it does the job it needs to be able to do.

Nope, it’s not a new whisper-quiet Yamaha or Honda generator, but it does the job it needs to be able to do.

There's a winch, lights, and a toolbox for a front bumper.

There’s a winch, lights, and a toolbox for a front bumper.

Charles made the toolbox. Its drop-down lid has a pin through ring that can be padlocked on each end.

Charles made the toolbox. Its drop-down lid has a pin through ring that can be padlocked on each end.

The overall view shows the roof rack gone now.

The overall view shows the roof rack gone now.

The rear bumper has a light to make hitching up easier.

The rear bumper has a light to make hitching up easier.

This wood box is deceptive. The upper half is a metal-lined gas tank for the generator or driving. The lower half is a storage compartment.

This wood box is deceptive. The upper half is a metal-lined gas tank for the generator or driving. The lower half is a storage compartment.

The tailgate makes this a good-sized lockable compartment.

The tailgate makes this a good-sized lockable compartment.

This picture, taped to Charles' pantry door, is a reminder. Of this, his squad, only two returned alive from Vietnam. The only other survivor died from an accident within two weeks of his return.

This picture, taped to Charles’ pantry door, is a reminder. Of this, his squad, only two returned alive from Vietnam. The only other survivor died from an accident within two weeks of his return.

The Jeep's self-supporting roof rack, handmade by Charles to hold mucho weight, lies in the desert with a $400 for sale sign.

The Jeep’s self-supporting roof rack, handmade by Charles to hold mucho weight, lies in the desert with a $400 for sale sign.

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14 thoughts on “The Return of Spartan Luxury

  1. Camilla on said:

    Well, thanks for the tour! Bet he has all kinds of interesting stories to tell. The squad photo is a gut wrenching reminder. Poor guy.

  2. Doug, what a super story about Charles, his jeep and trailer. It is amazing what he has done to make it a comfortable place to live, with what he needs and wants in it. It really does look more spacious on the inside than one would think. I can’t believe all the shelves and closets he has. And to just need the generator to have the energy he needs. You can tell he is really creative and resourceful in making the things he needs. Glad you could get the shot of the toolbox by the winch. I think I would be like the kid and want to peek in also. Love the dutch door, truly original. He has covered all the basics and really that is all we need. Tell Charles a great big thank you for allowing us to see his Spartan Luxury setup, really cool. Also thanks to you for your always interesting posts.

  3. Linda Sand on said:

    Thanks to both of you for taking us inside this absolutely perfect setup. Now there’s a guy who knows how to live; not just survive.

  4. Thanks to you for the story and to Charles for giving you a tour! I’m sure many of your readers were curious about the trailer after your first post – I sure was. 🙂 Charles’s little home is beautiful! I love the way everyone living this on-the-road life makes their space comfortable and unique – tailored to fit their own special vision of perfect.

    • And thank you for commenting – you make a very good point. C’s rig kind of dispels the assumption that it’s all about square footage and ceramic tile. We are generically similar but individually unique, so why shouldn’t a residence on wheels reflect our priorities and values? Expressing individuality can be fun!

  5. Doug thsts a inspirational and insightful post about a insprirational and insightful man!!!!! Charles is truly a ” wealthy” man! Thanks for the redt of the dtory to both of you!

  6. Thanks for the write up and pics Doug. I was wondering what you have been up to. I hope to do as well as Charles as I age. He is a real inspiration.

  7. Hi Doug,

    That is an amazing setup he has inside, it’s does not look cramped at all and has what he needs. Gives me some good ideas. Thanks for all the photos!

    Take care,

    Tina

    • It really does work well Tina, and it is as it looks – it doesn’t FEEL cramped at all when you shuffle around inside. Door closed, maybe, but that’s partly what the dutch door can do for you, I figure.

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