Beast of Burden

Posted April 21, 2020 – Narrated by Jim
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“He’s no Prince Charming but there’s something in him I simply could not see before.”

      – Belle, Beauty and The Beast

Beauty and The Beast – our Airstream trailer and Ram truck – have been road-tripping together for almost 1,400 days straight.

The Beast has over 105,000 total miles and keeps going strong. Only 39,000 of those miles were actually hitched to Beauty, an average of 850 miles per month (well below the average American monthly commute). When we found the Ram at the dealership, it had more than 50,000 miles on the odometer. We account the remaining 16,000 miles to occasional outings, shopping, and errands.

So, our LIB rig is still a pair of blushing newlyweds with a long way to go before the 70,000-mile itch sets in. Yet, they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It’s true that both have a checkered past, and we may never know the full story of their pre-LIB adventures, but, it gives them an air of mystery. And, bottom line is, the past is the past.

Today, in our seventh week of lockdown in the Arizona desert, our Beast of Burden is getting a much deserved rest. Like everyone, during COVID-19, we’re just trying to make use of all this down-time – knocking off tasks, accomplishing small home improvements, sorting, organizing, and implementing some creative storage solutions we’ve been strategizing over time.

Occasionally, we’re asked to explain how we store our gear, if we have anything in storage (No. Not since Carmen’s Dad’s house burned down), and how do we fit so much in the truck.

Inside, is Everything

When Carmen and I started out, we agreed to only outfit with things we can keep inside our rig when we’re in motion. Carmen struggled most with what she called the “No-Flamingos” philosophy.

But she loved the Airstream so much that she quickly came around to accepting the reality of our spatial means, and how keeping everything inside also meant the freedom of not having to deal with the filth, corrosion, damage, security problems and pain of storing unwieldy gear outside. I’m talking about bicycles, kayaks, grill, and storage accoutrement strapped to the bumpers and rooftops of the rig.

As we’ve stuck to “No-flamingos,” travel has become more organic and effortless. The less-is-more strategy gives us more leisure time and costs less in money, sweat and hassle. However, towing clean demands more planning, patience and a commitment to simplicity and elegance.

As RVs and RVers go, those who travel full-time in Airstreams have signed up for a less materialistic lifestyle in exchange for sleek portability. So our gear and where we put it is a matter of square inches, not square feet.

Again – and, I repeat only because some RVers find this very hard to believe – every item we own is either inside the Airstream or inside the truck. In addition – and this is equally important – every item must be accessible within moments. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So with all this spare time, we’ve been taking a hard look at our gear – inspecting each item and making tough decisions. With so few possessions to our name, we’re as serious about what we have on board as we are about what doesn’t make the cut. You gotta lighten up to lighten-up.

And there’s no better time than now to explain our system, our gear, and our organizing method. We’ve had four years to get this thing right, and we’re feeling pretty good about it – so, here goes.

The Basics

The Beast is our 2014 Ram 2500 (¾ ton) Crew Cab Laramie 4×4 6.7 liter diesel truck.

The bed is 6-feet long. The standard Ram Truck Crew Cab option offers a full-size back seat passenger area.

The Back Seats

To carry additional passengers, we clear out the back and store the gear in The Clam to make room for up to three more.

But we rarely need the back seat, so we dedicate this area for items we usually need fast, and the gear we use most frequently. This area our quick-grab storage. The seats fold up and shelf panels fold down to provide a large flat surface.

On the driver’s side, underneath the fold-down shelf, we store my hiking shoes, an extension cord, and our hiking poles.

And on the passenger side – underneath the shelf – we store the bike pump, emergency triangles and LED road flares.

All of these items are at hand when needed.

In small cubbies under the folded-up seats we store toilet paper. We always buy those in bulk and we were lucky to be stocked up just before the COVID-19 lockdown. We also store an extra refrigerator shelf (left over from the old fridge we replaced) but it serves as a container, so that’s okay.

On one side, behind the folded-up seats, we store more toilet paper and wedge our growlers into the seats so we can grab them if we happen to see a good craft brewery.

On the other side, we store extra ballcaps (for hiking when we forget our hats) and the empty SodaStream gas canisters which can only be replaced on the road, not through the mail. So they, too, are at hand when we see a supplier.

The Otterbox cooler and two totes are on the drivers’ side, on top of the shelf.

Our collection of reusable grocery bags are inside the Otterbox, handy for shopping.

One of the storage boxes contains our tool pouch, a set of drills, phillip and flat head bits for the electric drill, a tape measure, and an electrical test kit.

The tools stored in the cloth roll pouch include:

The other plastic tote contains spare parts for quick Airstream repairs.

Some of our spare parts include:

  • Spare kitchen faucet
  • Spare shower head wall mounted holder
  • Spare Dometic 310 Toilet seal
  • #8 Stainless steel screws in various lengths
  • Two sizes of rivets
  • Spare Airstream window fasteners
  • Zip ties
  • Caulking for shower and kitchen sink
  • Electric wire connectors
  • Cabling tie downs
  • Black and white screw caps for shower and windows
  • Oak wood hole plugs
  • Velcro – various sizes and shapes
  • Drawer/cabinet locks (these break all the time)
  • Cabinet door bumpers
  • Spare cabinet mirror clamps

On the passenger side are two large totes and one very small tote.

Inside one of the large totes under the bikes is the emergency roadside supply kit.

These include:

Inside the other large tote is an assortment of large tools

These include:

  • Tekton torque wrench
  • Breaker bar
  • 24″ pipe to extend the physics of the breaker bar, if needed
  • Racket wrench extension – 12 inches
  • Wheel nut sockets for Airstream, Truck and hitch
  • Hatchet
  • Wide open mouth vise grips (2)
  • Rivet gun
  • Soldering iron kit
  • Tow strap
  • Small plane
  • Large adjustable crescent wrench
  • Two large wrenches to tighten hitch
  • Large vise grip pliers
  • Wire brush
  • Hand broom
  • Rope
  • Gaffers tape (black and white)
  • Knife
  • Pry bar

One very small tote contains all the tie-down straps for holding things in place.

Our two Dahon folding bikes are so compact …

… they fit side by side on the passenger side, on top of the storage totes.

Between the bikes (on the passenger side) and the Otterbox cooler (on the driver’s side) we store our bike helmets and Pico’s bike basket.

In the driver side door we store a small hammer, along with a laser thermometer, channel lock pliers, and a Allen hex wrench set, all for easy access.

The truck bed

Before we started out on this journey, I had a BedSlide installed. This lower back and knee cap saving device extends to 75% of its length. So, every storage container is available for easy, no-pain, access.

The Honda generator weighs about 130 lbs. Four hidden bolts keep it firmly attached to the driver’s side of the bed slide for security.

Our grill and cooking supplies, are housed in a Rubbermaid Roughneck 37 gallon tote which fits the ensemble perfectly.

The grill tote nestles in beautifully right behind the generator, as does our telescoping A-Frame ladder.

In the far back on the driver’s side behind the ladder, we have three totes. One stores liquids like paints, thinner, solvents, sealants, brushes, and the other two totes store various long-term personal items. Tarps are stored under the totes.

The propane fire pit is in the front passenger side of the slide. Behind it, there is a large single tote which contains all of our kayaking gear: paddles, seats, inflatable floor, rolling carts, inflatable life jackets, gloves and dry bags.

Tucked way back, on the passenger side, are two totes.

One holds Beauty’s beauty-kit.

Our Airstream cleaning supplies include:

The second tote contains our newest addition, a steam cleaner. We use it for non-chemical non-abraisive sanitizing of interior surfaces and appliances such as sinks, toilet, shower, oven and stove top.

If not for our nothing-outside packing philosophy we’d never have discovered these amazing inflatable kayaks that are now like old friends.

When deflated, each boat fits inside its own soft plastic bag. The bags are lightweight and easy to lift. One is on top of the grill tote and the other is on top of the kayak-gear tote.

The Milwaukee cordless electric drill slips nicely in the margin between the truck bed and the slide on the passenger side. The Alps Table and Clam shelter slip right through the middle, in-between everything.

Storage is an evolving process

What we store and where we store it is always in flux. But, at least this demonstrates the way we store the gear we have today even though the details are always changing.

As we are constantly updating – adding to, deleting from, and replacing items that serve our unique full-time RV travel lifestyle – we track the progress on the OUR GEAR page where each selection – its purpose, history and value to us – is explained with unfettered candor.

So, to sum up, if one should check in a few months from now, our storage and what is in it may be somewhat different, but the philosophy will be the same: inside not outside. Keep it clean. Keep it neat. And keep on truckin.’

Oh! And if you have any suggestions about how we can improve our system, please let us know in the comments below. Also, we’d love to see your storage system.

Good storage ideas are universal. So, if you’d like to send photos, please reach out via the LIB Contact form. We will then tell you how you can email your photos to us so we can display them on this blog post.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

44 thoughts on “Beast of Burden

    1. Larry, as hard as it is to believe, today is the actual anniversary of us buying Beauty from you on April 21, 2015. We can never thank you enough for the way you took care of her for us before she became our Beauty. It has been an amazing journey. Also, in two days, April 23, is the day in 2016 we moved full-time into Beauty and have slept in her everyday since then, except for one night when she was in the repair shop being fixed from the tire blowout in mid 2016. Thank you for being a true friend. Jim

  1. I LOVE YOU GUYS SOOOO MUCH! AND WANT TO BE JUST LIKE YOU when I grow UP!!!IF DALE kaks before me…I’m bringing my VW BUG hitched to a CLAM to follow you everywhere! WHAT A LIFE! WHAT AN ADVENTURE! Like EVERY cotton pickin DAY! ONLY the Beaubeaux!!! FOR SURE! The ONE drawback might be the work of traveling and setting up/ packing up …frequently. SHEESH! I’m getting OLD! What is the LONGEST you’ve stayed anywhere? Besides NOW? Doesn’t it become “work” afterawhile? Take down/set up, take down/set up? JUST wondering?
    Nonetheless…YOU make it all look very exciting! And in the least…FAR….FAR…from dull!
    I’m so GLAD I know you. I can FOLLOW YOUR ADVENTURE logs and watch a documentary of it on TV someday and BRAG! And BRAG! and BRAG! I MISS YOU SO!

    1. Ah Marsha, shucks and shazam. Yer kind words go right to our hearts. We ARE living a very exciting lifestyle where every morning we wake up and want to pinch each other so we realize this is really happening. This is really our lives… almost 4 years traveling full-time. We try to stay about 2 weeks in one place, but if you discount the COVID-19 lockdown here for almost 7 weeks, the longest we have stayed somewhere is a month, which we have done a few times. We usually get antsy around 14 days and want to hit the road and move on to a new adventure. Packing up and preparing to move is no longer a hassle. We can do it and be on the road in less that an hour. Simplicity is the key. Just do not own much ‘stuff.’ Love you and Dale dearly and hope we can swing by someday soon and hang out when the world goes back to normal, whatever that may mean in the future. Love you two. Jim

  2. Of course you two would be Uber-organized! I am going to clean up my tool boxes. Clearly I have stuff I don’t need!!

    1. Barbara, if you need any help with those tool boxes, you just reach out and I will be there. Well, maybe not until this craziness disappears and people can touch each other, sit with each other, and share our lives once again. I sure hope that day is soon. Think of you often… Jim

  3. Good job Sis. You and Jim have become Masters of Organization. I would never believe it possible after sharing a bedroom with you is so many of the houses we grew up in.
    Love y’all so much. Stay strong and healthy out there. Deb

    1. Hey Deb, it might be taking it a bit far to call us Masters of Organization, but having a place for everything and not having a lot of ‘stuff’ sure has made our lives easier. Carmen says she recalls her side of the bedroom was always spotless, neat and tidy. Just saying. Jim

  4. Oh Man!! I am soooo looking forward to seeing you guys, but after reading this, I do NOT want you to see our storage ‘system’! Ha! As Lee said…”There’s a SYSTEM??” Haha! Though, we are not quite as mobile as you guys are…we just move back and forth from summer place to winter place and they are only 20 miles apart. I keep trying to lighten the load, but it seems to be a never ending chore. AND I have all of Dad’s 60+ years of slides to get digitized…if I could just discipline myself to get it done. (Plus 30 or so years of our own slides.) We will definitely take any advice from you two on this storage matter while you are here next month! Can’t wait!!

    1. Cyndie, we will try not to flaunt our trucks interior in front of you and Lee. We can keep the doors locked to the truck when we see you. One of the secrets to traveling light is to toss anything that hasn’t shown value in the last year. That philosophy has proven to be very useful. We scanned 18,000 photos to jpg format before we hit the road. Now all those photos that were hidden in the garage for decades can be seen anytime on our computers. We love it! See you two soon! Jim

    1. Errol, thanks for the compliment. It has been a long time coming to finally get organized. See you on the road! Jim

  5. I don’t have the sliding shelf, but I’m pretty sure I would love it. One thing that I do have is a shelf in my truck bed. I don’t put heavy things on it, but it has enabled me to more easily grab the things that I need without them being one on top of the other. I like the idea on putting your bbq in a tote. I have one like that as well and I find it’s awkward shape inhibits my ability to place it. I’m going to have to think about that. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Karen, having that shelf in your truck bed must be a great addition to being able to get to things in a hurry. Great idea. Having our BBQ in an easy to use and grab tote makes is easy to grab and use and that is why we are able to BBQ often. Glad you enjoyed the post. Stay travels! Jim

  6. Wow! I don’t know which I am more impressed by, all your hard work in planning and collecting all of these travel solutions, or all your hard work in chronicling the story of them! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! You are brave and hard-working souls. No one will ever accuse you of laziness!! Very impressive!

    1. Ed, well, coming from one of the smartest and hardest working individuals I have ever met, this is quite a compliment. Thanks for being a part of the LIB adventure in following us while we do crazy things traveling around this amazing continent. Jim

  7. cap packI added one more trick in the back to maximize use of space under the topper or cap in addition to the cargo glide or bed sled. It’s called a cap pack sport.

    1. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing! Did you install or did you have a cap dealer install? Thanks.

  8. Very impressive! I am huge on being organized and prepared. We have been preparing to sell the house and go full time as well, that is, if the economy is good enough to sell a house now. This pandemic has thrown a wrench in our plans! One question- I didn’t see a propane tank in your items – I assume you use the trailer propane tanks for your Weber and fire pit as well? You must have a long propane hose for the fire pit? We have a Weber baby Q and similar fire pit. Always love your blog! Anxious to get out on the road with our little bird and be nomads! Would much rather be where you are than stuck at home during this pandemic! Stay safe and healthy!

    1. Lula, has it been 11 months since we were together at the Mothership in Jackson Center? Wow! How’s your parrot, Carmen wants to know. We do not carry any separate propane tanks and we hook up to the the two main tanks as you mentioned. We have a 12 foot hose that works most of the time with the tanks kept in place. When that doesn’t work, I simply remove a tank and place it where it is convenient. Hope our paths cross again soon! Stay safe! Jim

  9. Which tote are you using for your grill? We have the same grill, I searched high and low and came up with a much bigger rubber made tote that is just too oversized. I like yours.

    Also, I didn’t see a blue boy? Do you use one? If so, where does it get stored?

    1. Glen, great to hear from you. It is hard to believe it has been 8 months since we saw you in New Hampshire. It is kinda scary how fast time flies when you are having fun. We bought all our totes back in late 2015/early 2016 at Home Depot. All the blue and purple large ones are Rubbermaid and the clear ones are Sterilite. I just measured the tote we use for the grill. Measuring the top lip the outside is 16 ¼ ” x 30 ¼”. Measuring from the outside from the ground to the top of the lip, it is 16 ¾” tall. Hope that helps. We do not have or use a blue boy. We can go 10 to 14 days without having to empty our black and gray 40 gallon tanks, so we just hitch up and go to a dump station when needed. Stay safe! Jim

  10. Hi Jim and Carmen. I so enjoyed and appreciate this post. I’ve pestered Jim previously with storage questions and now all is revealed in fantastic and descriptive detail with such great pictures! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I do have a question. I like the idea of mounting the generator to the bed slide. But does this make it harder to start (higher up) and make oil changes difficult? Also, what do you do when it is raining? Just curious. Everyone’s needs are a tad different but there are so many great ideas here we will adopt for Life on the Road Phase II when we can get it launched!

    1. Steve, your request a few months ago was the catalyst for this blog post. I have no problems starting the generator while it is on the bedside and have never had a problem with changing the oil. When it rains, I usually will cover up the generator. Safe travels Steve. – Jim

  11. Jim, you are a genius. If I had someone like you as a traveling companion, my decision to live on the road would be made!

    Love, Morgan

      1. What I love is instead of carrying a bunch of totes, you can get D-boxes that fit in the drawers. The whole system is waterproof as well. Really tough recycled materials and it is reasonably priced.

    1. Dean, thank you for being a follower of ours for over 4 years. I see you started following us on January 24, 2016, a few days after we posted our very first blog post. That classifies you a Golden follower. Well, actually I just made that up because I was so impressed when I discovered how long you have been with us. You mentioned in your comment you are ‘preparing’. Are you considering hitting the road full-time in your ’65 Sovereign? Hope our paths cross someday. Stay safe out there! Jim

      1. Hi Jim, I just turned 55 so it’s still a dream at this point. The AS is a ongoing project. Working from home since March 11th has certainly given me some ideas.
        I’m able to do everything from a Verizon Jetpack that I did at the office so maybe there is something I can do to bridge the gap between now and retirement and get out there while I still have my health.
        My two week trip out west this past winter, camping inside 5 National parks, was wonderful but way too fast paced.
        We’ll see what opportunities there are and whether my 401’s bounce back once all this craziness levels out.
        Take care, travel safe and hope to see you down the road.

  12. Great post. We will be taking our first trip ever in our recently new to us Airstream next month. Thanks for sharing your packing routine, detailed lists and photos. We’ll be studying up from your experience.

    1. Art, congratulations on your new (to you) Airstream. We can remember back in April 2015 when we bought our Airstream. What an exciting time. Our first trip was to fly from San Diego to Mississippi to pick up our truck and airstream and drive them back to San Diego. We call it our maiden voyage. Glad you are finding the blog helpful. Hope our paths cross someday on the road. Safe travels!

    1. Bonnie, glad you enjoyed the blog post. Having the truck organized sure helps us stay lean and nimble as we travel.

    1. Amanda, in our 46,000 miles of travel at more than 300 campgrounds, we have come across full-timers of just about every age. Way back in the day, you know, 2016-2017, we would say most of the full-timers were retired. But not any more. With the internet freeing anyone of any age that is still working to be able to connect to the world and earn a living, we are seeing more and more younger travelers. Many we come in contact with are digital nomads who can do their entire job on their computers anywhere in the world. They have figured out a way to travel full-time while putting in the hours needed to pay the bills. While the majority of them come in couples, we have had the pleasure to meet many women traveling alone. Some in their 20’s and some in their 70’s, and many in-between. It really depends on ones ability to take care the mechanical problems that every RV has on occasion. Going down the road is hard on an RV and something is always breaking and we cannot rely on a RV service center to be nearby. So, to live like this, we have to be able fix simple problems. We love this lifestyle and have plans to ever stop it, unless our health gets in the way. Thanks for following Living In Beauty and we hope our paths cross someday on the road. Jim

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