Some of you may remember Odie the Odyssey from his maiden voyage, and surely you’ve seen some sneak peeks at his innards throughout our recent blog posts… but we’ve saved the juicy details for one big ode to Odie: behold, our home on wheels!
Check out Hailey’s video walkaround below, followed by some additional background and photos illustrating how it all came together.
Now, for some behind-the-scenes and how-to tips: we were pretty adamant about making a normal, affordable minivan our weapon of choice on Rogue Trip, as one of the tenets of this adventure is to prove anyone can do it and go anywhere they want. You don’t need to buy an RV, you don’t need to learn how to fix overpriced VW buses on the side of the road, and you don’t need to relegate your overnight parking to some remote wilderness campsite. Odie’s just a regular soccer mom mobile (don’t tell him I said that); with a few turns of a wrench and a few swipes of a credit card, these vehicles can provide plenty of room to house your precious cargo.
Odie’s first surgery came at the hands of Mitch’s Uncle John, resident fixer of family cars. We wanted to bring our bikes along, and since Odie didn’t come with a tow hitch (although many vans and SUVs do), we had to bolt one up before adding a bike rack.
If you don’t have an Uncle John or a car lift or an impact wrench, the task can be done at a dealership or service station, probably for $50-$100 depending on where you live.
After that, installing the bike rack was a cinch, though it was pretty pricey. We went with this Yakima rack to ensure we could a) lock up the bikes to the rack, in addition to locking them to each other; b) easily tilt or remove the rack to get into the back of the car. That’s what $375 gets ya. It also gets ya a bottle opener on the end of the rack.
Because Mitch likes things to match, we also got our rooftop cargo box from Yakima. And again… this stuff is expensive. The rack and box are probably twice the price you’d imagine these things to be when you see them on other cars, and frankly, unless you go with a super-cheap knockoff brand, whatever solution you go for is going to cost half your bodily appendages.
That said, this $500+ Yakima SkyBox Lo holds an incredible amount of stuff for how aerodynamic it is — about the same as fifteen carry-on suitcases can hold, if we recall correctly. In keeping with our theme of having a versatile vehicle, the Lo version is longer and wider than most roof boxes, ensuring we can fit into any parking garage that was built to code. It’s also just a darn good product with a lifetime warranty, and we’re not being paid to say that.
So, bikes not included, that’s about $1,000 you might find yourself dropping on a van to haul bikes and a treasure chest of roof gear. It’s worth it, but certainly not necessary; bike-share programs are increasing in popularity, and nothing in that SkyBox is of vital importance to our travels. It’s just nice to bring along a lawn chair or a shovel or a photo of your grandma without it having to take up room inside the car.
Make Your Bed
The most obvious Odie operation involved taking out the seats. Second row seats? Easy as pie… they’re designed to be removed, because like all minivans, Odie is awesome. Here’s Hailey doing some final cleanup before we stand back and admire just how roomy this car is.
Now, behind Hailey in that pic is the third row, which folds flat for convenience. Well, that wasn’t convenient enough — since we’re putting a bed in here, the seats will be useless, which means they’re dead weight and more importantly taking up a ton of available space. Trouble is, these seats aren’t designed to come out.
Here’s where Mitch’s dad comes in, and it won’t be the last you hear of him. We managed to find a beautiful set of instructions on removing the third row, because the Internet is amazing. From there it was just some legit elbow grease and inventive use of levers to get these things gutted. Definitely a two-person job if you prefer to keep your fingers.
Here’s Mitch getting credit for the work by putting a screwdriver on the already-removed seats. Dad looks on in quiet rage.
Now we’ve got a huge empty space with which to stash even more crap, and an open area for laying down a mattress. It actually wasn’t hard — but again, two people is the way to go. Buy your buddy a beer if you need an extra set of hands.
So, what kind of mattress fits in a minivan? You guessed it: none.
In truth, we could’ve gone with a twin bed and had it fit in without a fuss. But two adults on a twin is basically two angry, sleep-deprived people kicking each other, so we decided to buy a full-size mattress (8″ thick foam, $139 Black Friday sale) and cut the width down by about four inches so it measured Odie’s interior dimensions precisely. The length was actually perfect.
When we say “we” cut the mattress, we are of course referring to Mitch’s dad. Not that we hadn’t planned to help — just that he prefers to start his day at 5am which means he’s starting without us. In a way, it was more like Christmas than teamwork… you awaken to find a sliced up mattress waiting for you, thanks to a guy with a beard.
Ok, the bed has been made!
Recall from the video at the top of this post that the space vacated by those third row seats is now occupied by a wooden frame with a panel over it, allowing us to store stuff and keep a flat surface area for the bed. Three guesses as to who built that frame for us.
All That Junk Inside Our Trunk
The hardest part of #shevanigans isn’t any taxing physical labor or dollars to dole out for equipment… it’s the battle between logical minimalism and emotional materialism. As stated in our prior posts, we did a ton of downsizing from what we already thought were pretty light lifestyles upon leaving NYC… but we had to do another several rounds of cutting the fat in Florida before it was all said and done.
Now, we made it hard on ourselves by vowing to keep the bed area clear — it’d be easy to toss all your possessions in a car with a butt this big and be done with it, but the last thing you want to do is be stuck living in a vehicle where you and your stuff need to switch places every time you want to relax. Besides making the bed less useful on a day-to-day basis, it’s a bad idea from a security perspective, as both cops and robbers tend to notice when a parked car has suitcases sitting in the front seats where people oughta be.
Luckily, Odie has some storage tricks up his sleeve. In particular, there’s this abyss sitting under the floorboards that we didn’t find until 3 months into owning the van. I noticed it one night in Brooklyn and googled what it was for, as anyone but us might find it a rather strange feature.
Know what it’s for? Are you ready for this? It’s for a lazy susan.
Our van didn’t come with the actual lazy susan equipment; just a crawl space big enough to qualify as a studio apartment in New York. So, between the rooftop cargo box, the vacated third-row seat storage, and the black hole susan, Odie provided enough real estate to mitigate most of the arguments a couple would naturally have about just how many times they’ll honestly make use of a blender on a road trip. So far the answer is zero times, by the way.
So, is that all she wrote for the storage space? Not quite, friends. Look to the skies…
Obviously the ceiling is an additional storage opportunity, and once again Mitch’s dad was more than happy to conjure up some solutions. Hailey’s video shows ceiling rack version 2.0, while the pic above was our first attempt. Both solutions measured out the ceiling space and gave us just enough room to stick our arms into the storage area without the rack hanging too low for the rear-view mirror’s liking.
In the end, the added stiffness and see-through benefit of the metal rack (Amazon or Container Store, ~$60 for two shelves) made it a better choice, and since installing it, we’ve had a hard time understanding why everyone doesn’t have a ceiling rack in their cars. We stash jackets, hoodies, blankets and towels up there — all the things you need often but need out of the way even more often.
And of course, the finishing touch: scratch-off state map.