Life in my hand built home; Rocket

The Camper Jun 15, 2013 No Comments

Fall 1999

In the pursuit of happiness and knowledge there are times when we all do something that seems without purpose or reason. If you’re lucky, you will trust yourself, and though the reason may not be clear, you will enjoy the fruit of intention.This begins the story of building a camper on my truck and moving into it.

Meet Kitty and the Rocket,  Kitty is the Ford and The Rocket is the metal and wood thing on it.

When I first had this idea it went something like; I want to build a cool looking medieval ship on the back of my truck with small portal windows to look from. I want it to have iron hardware and look rustic, or some form of wabi-sabi. I think the first Lord of the Rings movie had just come out and I was enthralled. We all resonate with something we cannot explain right? And so it was; I collected wood from every job site I was on for several years, scrounged wood from Portland Alleys, utilized the rebuilding center, and collected random bits of lovely. And it became its own.

It’s hard to say what exactly invites me or any person to be enamored with the camper but certainly both young and old find a quality of freedom they can’t look away from. It’s the best fort I ever made and I guess it has a childlike quality; you feel like a kid in it, it’s both playful and mysterious, and feels like a secret place when you enter.

For starters it’s all wood interior is fragrant, and adds a certain richness that makes it a home. It has ambiance and character. It’s rough a bit, like a well used and loved wooden box, and the things in it are well selected for such a worthy space. To be in it is enchanting like a hiding spot with all one’s beloved things.

Because I built the camper without really knowing what it was going to be like to live in it, I make a lot of revisions and customize as my needs change. I have remodeled more than once, and certainly not all for sane reasons. Once I had an infestation of sugar ants during a stay in Eugene, Oregon. I thought I might go crazy with so many uninvited guests. I tore out the counter on one side and sealed any openings I could find before replacing the newly sanded pieces. I guess it needed refinishing anyway and no more ants!

But overall the structure is in good health and when I am in it I am filled with love for it.

Inside the camper

Inside my hand built camper

When you’re inside the camper it feels pretty big, with more than 6 feet of headroom and no overhead cabinets it has more of a wide open feel than you may think.

What I keep inside my camper is always changing. My motto is if it’s not artistically aesthetic, a useful tool, or something I really need then I can’t have it. Once in a while I will come across an item that I have to have in which case I will have to give something up in exchange.  Things rotate and yet, there are many things that remain the same. Often people want to give me stuff, or give me something they think I need, and they don’t understand; I don’t have room for it!

It’s hard for most people to grasp the scope of a camper life. Some, including my friends, have asked  such questions as, “Do you have blankets?”, “Do you need a coat?” Some will make suggestions as though it has not occurred to me, like, ” what you need is a little propane stove”, “I have a toaster oven if you want it.” Now where in the world would I put a toaster oven?

There are times when I have been parked for an extended stay either working, visiting, or just traveling and people will ask me, “Why are you sleeping in there?”, meaning…. my camper. Does it not seem clear that this is my house, containing my bed, not to mention my couch, my books, my coffee cup, my dogs, my pillows, my art supplies, living room, library, peace zone, resting spot…….this is a very difficult concept for almost everyone; that all things are in one box.

Recently I was house sitting and spent some time in the house, watching TV inside, cooking in the kitchen, basic “house stuff”, when I looked around to see a huge mess that I had made. There were places to leave dishes, set papers, leave laundry, shoes and socks, and spread out in such a way that I could almost hide from the mess! Have dishes? No problem. Put them in the sink and head to the living room. Couch cluttered with projects? No problem. Sit in the easy chair or the desk. What to do with all this space? And heating?! How much heat was wasted while I sat on a chair in the living room taking up all of about 25 sq. feet while the room around me with it’s square corners was vying for my warmth. It takes practice to live in a big house just like it takes practice to live in a small house. Yet, for some reason, the tiny house seems a harder concept for people to manage.

People often ask, “So….you just travel around?”

Well yes I do but it’s not quite as romantic as that. There are times when traveling around means making a spectacle of myself in a strange city looking for a cool place to park for me and my dogs While people stare and wonder whats going to happen next.  But the times I drive in remote areas where there is no one for miles and it is perfectly fine to sleep with my door open, makes up for all others.

I want people to know that it is not difficult to manage a small space such as this. In fact having less is more and the benefits to this compact lifestyle are extraordinary!