Three-Month Retrospective

We’ve been on the road about three months now, and so have long since surpassed the length of our previous longest road trips (52 days each to the Arctic in 1999 and California in 2003). It seems like a good time to calculate some trip statistics, and in this post I’ll also provide some additional description of our camper, as requested by one reader.

Trip stats: Our budget is broken into three categories. Fixed/recurring costs, which are dominated by healthcare and other insurance premiums, run about $1850 per month. Secondly, vehicle depreciation is calculated based on the mileage we have driven in the month, and the cost and expected lifetime of the truck. We have a nominal mileage budget of 100 miles per day, at which rate depreciation is estimated to be $1000 per month. Finally, our other expenses, led by food and gasoline, have averaged about $1750 per month. The figure, well below our allotted amount, has been helped by low gas prices, lack of vehicle repairs, and lack of medical problems.

So far we’ve driven 7800 miles in 92 days, an average of 85 miles per day, and so we have built up some credit. Our average gas mileage has been 9.4 mpg, with a self-imposed 65 mph speed cap, to avoid excessive air drag at higher speeds. Our average camping fee has been about $9 per night, kept low by many free nights in remote areas and inexpensive primitive campgrounds. We have camped in 43 places in 92 nights, an average of slightly over two nights per site.

Below is a map showing the planned stops of our “prairies trip” proper, comprising icons 3 to 67, and covering from mid-March to mid-August. We’ve now completed everything we will do south of the label “Nebraska”. We don’t have any actual schedule per se, but we have 5 months to visit about 65 places, and so should average about 2.3 days per planned location (we also have been making a number of unplanned stops, when we pass near places that sound interesting). So far we’re averaging about 2.7 days per planned location and so are slightly behind the nominal rate. But we don’t think that is a problem as we have lost quite a bit of time to bad weather, which must improve (surely!).


Camper details: After a reader request for some more description of the camper, I took a few shots to show its features. The first interior image shows the back half of the camper, seen from the front.  On the right side of the image, there is a propane stove, an oven, and a double sink. On the left side, there is a toilet, furnace, and refrigerator. Both sides have countertops, windows, and cabinetry both high and low.

Camper interior looking to rear, Johnson Lake SRA, NE

All windows in the camper slide open and have screens, except the lower half of the Dutch door. There are two roof fans, which can blow in or out at multiple speeds. The unit has eight LED light assemblies, each which can have one or both halves turned on.

The second image shows the front half of the camper. The table conveniently is stored on the ceiling, taking only about 10 seconds to take down or put up. The sofas on each side can fold out flat to make a double bed. But we instead sleep at the far front end, in the cabover (which is above the truck cab). We like it because it is high above the ground, so we can see and hear well, and with a fan and three windows, it has great air circulation, for comfort in warmer weather.

Camper interior looking to front, Johnson Lake SRA, NE

The third photo is a panorama, which has a lot of distortion and image artifacts, but I hope it conveys how being in the camper is practically like being outside. I am not aware of any standard camper with anything close to this density of windows. But I spend a lot of time inside the camper using a stereoscopic microscope to identify plant specimens, and I want to hear birds and frogs and have a nice view. So we asked Bryan Wheat, President of Alaskan Campers, to add another window on each side, to enlarge all the windows in the cabover, and to place the screened halves in the best positions for acoustics and ventilation. This has been a great success – we love it! (To calibrate your viewing of these wide-angle photos, note that the camper is just 7×14 feet, including the cabover.)

Camper interior panorama, Johnson Lake SRA, NE

The final photo is an exterior shot that shows some of our storage. In the photo, from left to right, there is a storage bin for larger items; a storage bin holding Roughneck ten-gallon boxes in two stacks of two each (with colorful labels); an aluminum box under the flatbed (partly occluded by a bin door hanging down); and the rear seat in the extended cab of the truck, holding four stacked Roughnecks. All but the leftmost bin have analogues on the driver’s side.

Camper showing storage, Johnson Lake SRA, NE

As mentioned in some early blog posts, by building the camper for a flatbed we gained a lot of storage space that otherwise would be occupied by the sides of the pickup bed and the wheel wells. Despite having identical inner and outer dimensions, this camper holds ten more ten-gallon Roughnecks than our previous one!

Our gross vehicular weight rating is 11,300 pounds – this is the maximum total weight, including people, that allows the camper to stop sufficiently quickly when braking at high speed. When we weighed the fully-packed unit (including ourselves) just before departing El Paso, it was 11,160 pounds, so we really couldn’t carry any more mass, even if we had more storage room. Because the axles were weighed separately, I was able to calculate the center of gravity, which is right at the rear edge of the truck cab, far forward of the rear axle, providing stability and good handling.

Next time: back to a travelog of northeast Colorado and western Nebraska.

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