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. (Unfortunately Rubbermaid has discontinued this tote)

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.