The Basic Ideas of our Tow Vehicle

For our Tow Vehicle on this Journey, we chose a 2003 Ford F-250 with a 6.0L Powerstroke Diesel motor.  There are plenty of arguments about Ford Vs. Chevy and gas vs. diesel, there are entire forums arguing these trucks and which ever you choose, great, I’m not suggesting one or the other, I’m just saying the Ford suited us fine and the Diesel motor doesn’t even notice the trailer is behind us.

We chose to get a crew cab so our ever growing supply of gear could be stowed in the back seat and easily accessible if we needed to get at it.  Photography gear, computer equipment and maybe a quick change of clothes can be stored in the back seat and you never have to worry about not being able to recline the seats on those longer day trips.

Traveling with two dogs, fulltime is a major chore.  Having the full sized back seat gives them a place to lay down while we drive and keeps them out of the camper while on the road.  The dogs we thought were going to be a major chore, and surprisingly they’ve adapted quite well to the traveling lifestyle.  After so many years of traveling with them, I cant imagine what it would be like without them.

I honestly don’t know how anyone could travel on a journey like this without having a back seat?  I think back to Monika & Gary Wescott circling the globe in their Turtle Expedition Truck which was a single cab.  Never being able to recline their seats and not having anything stored up in the cab with them?!?!  I give them all the credit in the world.

Truck, Ford, F-250, Outside, SnowThe Truck right before we left and why we were so eager to get on the road and find some warm weather!!

We really wanted to have a Utility Box installed in-place of the stock bed.  The bed just tends to leave too much wasted space.  With a utility box we could store so much more gear and have it be easily accessible and locked if we needed to leave the truck.  How often are we going to use the bed for what its designed for?  Most of our equipment will end up getting thrown in the back and become hard to get to when needed.

This has now changed since we’ve landed in Cedar Key.  We’ve swapped out the stock bed for a light weight aluminum Flat Bed or ‘Tray Bed’ as it’s known in Australia where it’s manufactured.

Lance Camper, Flat Bed, Aluminum Bed, F-550Forget the Lance Camper, but this bed is what I lust after!  Look at all that Lockable Storage

Roof Top Tent, utility Bed, TruckThis is another option that gets me excited!

The cost of Utility Bed kept us from the purchase when we first started, but knowing what we know now, I really wish we would have just spent the money and went with it in the first place.  For the first few years, the truck remained stock with the exception of a few bolt on creature comforts that should almost be standard with most vehicles…i.e. Window Shades, Bug Deflector, Seat Covers…e.t.c.


Cindy excited to get rid of the old Leer Cap

Cindy excited to get rid of the old Leer Cap

There are quite a few things that were on our list of wants, but we had both agreed that there was no reason to outfit the Tow Vehicle with a host of luxury items until we both agreed that there have been more than a few times we needed the item.

I’d love to have some Recaro Seats to make those long days behind the wheel more manageable, maybe a back-up camera to ease into those tight camp spots, or a lift kit with custom bumpers, but like we had agreed, if we saw a few thousand miles down the road that these items were mandatory, we would make the investment, until then, we’d have to go with the stock truck.

This journey had been a dream of ours for years and I was just glad to be able to go along for the ride.  Really I would have been just as happy if we would have been walking, kayaking or riding a bike for the entire adventure, but on this first leg of the route, we’d be taking the trip with this Ford truck as our main mode of transportation.  Really I don’t care which ever one it may be, it just adds to how blessed we were to be able to do it.

A few things changed on the truck right before we left Michigan which would make a big change in our adventure.  Due to some nasty weather we had to make a few big decisions quickly.  A major rain storm blew through our area of Lower Michigan which told us the Leer truck cap that was on our truck leaked very badly?  I took it back to a Leer dealership and they said because the cap was a few years old, they couldn’t warranty it?!?!

We went out to Brighton Michigan, to a local A.R.E. dealer and ordered a new cap.  This would hold us up two more weeks, but we felt it would be worth the wait to have our equipment and supplies dry, out of sight and locked up.  The gang at Ultimate Body helped us with our options list and made sure to give us a call as soon as it came in so we could get on the road.

10 business days later, we got the call that the cap would be in tomorrow and we could come in for the install.  After having it installed, I can honestly say, it was worth every dollar we spent, and I’m glad we waited around in the Michigan winter rather than get on the road with a leaking LEER cap.  Here is what we ordered and the way it looked at the install location.

ARE Cap, Storage Box, TruckWith a lockable, waterproof tool box on the drivers side

ARE, Storage Box, Truck, Cap

You can order the inside of this tool box designed in multiple configurations.  We chose to have a shelf put in the rear and keep the front open for taller items.  We eventually found that the front section stored our motorcycle helmets along with some other riding gear and the back shelves held recovery gear up top and tool boxes below.  It remained 100% waterproof over the course of our 4 solid years on the road through every type of weather condition you could put a truck through.  One thing it wasnt was Dust Proof.  I’d warn against keeping camera gear or anything that might become damaged due to dust.  Any riding gear we stored in here was kept in bags…i.e. Helmet bags, or duffle bags to keep them protected from the dust

ARE Cap, Double Rear Doors

The A.R.E. Cap we ordered had double swing-out doors on the rear which allowed us to access stored gear very easily without having to climb into the bed.  These back windows along with the side windows are all tinted so curious onlookers cant see into the bed.   These wires and debris in the bed is because these photos were taken at the time the installers were still working


Passenger Side Pass Through Window

The passenger side of the A.R.E. cap had a window that swings open to be able to reach in and get gear that was stored up against the back wall of the bed without having to climb into the bed from the back end which makes it very user friendly.  I think A.R.E. calls this a Win-Door as it’s both a window and a door.  We loved this option as it allowed us a good view while backing up.  The windows came tinted and the seals around all the doors and windows were very high quality.  Over the course of the adventure, we never once had issues with the A.R.E. cap and I’d highly recommend it.  (We have no relationship with this company.  We just liked their product and felt it would be good to give honest criticism.)

Its more than we could have asked for when compared to the old piece of junk fiberglass Leer we originally had.  It came painted perfectly to match our truck and we ordered an aluminum roof rack that held the Kayaks.  We had a few lighting options installed to make pulling into a campsite at night or having to hook up after dark easier.  With off-road lights facing the rear of the truck and off to the passenger side, it’ll make for easy hook-ups if we ever have to do it after dark.

Passenger Side Aux LightAuxiliary light aiming off the side of the truck on the passenger side.  The side that camp is always set up on.  This helped for backing up and for setting up camp in the dark on those nights we might have pulled in too late

Rear Aux LightWe had this light aimed straight down to help light up the back of the truck, the front of the camper and the hitch area.  Also another great option for backing up and doing just about anything at night at the back of the truck or the front of the camper

I also had some front mud flaps installed to try and keep a little of the snow and mud off of the steps leading into the truck.

Updates after being on the Road and actually putting the truck through the paces

Edisto Beach CampgroundI’m very happy to say that after spending years on the road fulltime, we never really had to do anything to the truck except put fuel in it. We always maintained a strict maintenance schedule with having the oil changed every 10,000 miles and always using Amsoil Synthetic Oil.

Another little item we always talked about having done was to have the top part of the windshield tinted to help cut down on some of the glare while driving.  But this is just one of those things we never found the time to do.  We would always think about it when the sun is pounding us in the face, but forget about it every other time were driving.  Now that we’re sitting still working at the motel in Cedar Key, I plan to tackle many of these little items and get them accomplished before the next leg of the journey starts.

Looking back at our decision on the A.R.E. cap, I’m not sure if I would put another one on the truck if we were to leave again tomorrow.  The A.R.E. Utility Cap was a dream come true for us when we first started full timing.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking to put a cap on their truck or is traveling with a Travel Trailer.  The tool box on the Drivers side held plenty of stuff that we needed to get to often, it never once leaked water and the double doors on the rear were a life saver for someone who is vertically challenged like me.  The passenger side access window was also a life saver if I needed to get to something up front and the aluminum racks up top held the Kayaks perfectly.

At one point while we were carrying those 3rd or 4th kayaks, we stopped and bought a Yakima Support Arm to hold the middle kayaks upright.  In the image above, we hadn’t had the extra support arm on and you can see the kayak would slide down against the saddles the other two kayaks rode in.  Once we put that extra support on, the other kayaks rode fine and never moved a bit.

Palm Beach SUnsetWhen I said I dont know if I’d put another A.R.E. Cap on the truck, what I was getting at was the fact that it held too much stuff.  There were way too many times that it just became a Catch-All for our gear.  At first, I have no idea how we would have traveled without it.  After being on the road for so long, we had become so streamlined, that we had narrowed our gear and supplies we carried with us down to almost nothing.  So the bed of the truck was close to empty.

I couldn’t say one thing bad about the motor or the transmission.  Having an automatic transmission is something a lot of Full Timers say they would never have, but I cant imagine having to shift gears and have the large gear shifter taking up valuable room inside the cab of the truck.  So I was very glad we chose an Automatic Transmission over a Manual.  I also loved the engine brake and it really helped while descending a long hill.

The 6.0L Powerstroke Motor has worked flawlessly and pulls the camper just fine.  I’ve talked to a few guys who have upgraded their turbos, or added a Banks system and they cant talk enough about them.  They say in addition to  the horsepower, it also helps in the fuel economy.

Would I like one?  Hell Yes!  But for the first year on the road we were still under the full Ford Factory Warranty and we couldn’t see jeopardizing that, so we both decided to wait to do anything to the motor till after that warranty was up.

Update Note back on August of 2007:  After talking of the want for a Banks Power Pack for our Power Stroke Motor, and referring to the fact that I was worried about my Factory Warranty, we received this email from a Reader in California.  I’d love to hear from anyone else that has installed this kit and knows whether it will void my Factory Warranty or not??

Hi Pat, I love your website.  If you are interested in getting the Banks system installed WITHOUTvoiding your warranty, let me know.  There is a dealer here in So. Cal that will do it.  The dealership I am referring to is, Tuttle Click Ford in Irvine, Ca.  Although on my receipt for the Banks install, it is mentioned that the install might affect my warranty, they assured me they would stand behind the warranty 100%.  This dealership sells brand new trucks with the Banks kits and lift kits as well.  I have dealt with them for years and trust them.  They also have one of the best diesel mechanics in the country, Bud Anderson.

The only concern for you is that they may be the only dealership to back up your warranty.  I had the “Power Pack” installed a couple of weeks ago and all I can say is WOW!

Travel Safe, Chris Sesto, So Cal.

One of the items we were researching from the start was a charging system to charge the batteries on the coach with the alternator from the truck, but once we really got to traveling, we realized that as long as we had a few hours of solid sun throughout the day, this would have been a total waste of money.  Looking back, I’m really glad we chose to wait on many items that we had thought would be top priority from the beginning.

In the long run, we would have wasted a lot of money if we would have installed or added items that folks had recommended before actually going out and seeing what worked for us and what would have just been fluff.

Having a dual alternator installed to charge the batteries while the motor is running might make since if you didn’t have any solar panels, but we found that our solar panels kept them topped off so strong, we almost never needed to plug in.  It made more sense to look at a small back-up generator for the random time we might hit a week of solid rain or clouds to help the batteries rather than add another alternator.  Plus, the generator could be used for so many other items that the extra alternator wouldn’t have.

Monument Valley

Cindy and I try to re-use and conserve as much as possible.  When we lived in Michigan in a normal stick home, friends teased us because our 4 recycling bins were always spilling over.  We tried to bring all the empty liquor bottles home from our Bar to be able to recycle them (our Recycle man must have thought we were the biggest drunks in town)

We always try and purchase things that are made from companies that we know use recycled materials.  Our biggest expense while on the road fulltime was Diesel Fuel.  While traveling, I spent countless hours researching the switch to one of the Veggie Oil Systems.  This seemed to be a good option from many we would talk to who had made the switch and we thought it would add a bit of fun to the adventure to find restaurants who would want to help out and donate used cooking oil, but after doing so much research and talking back and forth with one of the technicians from Golden Fuel Systems to name just one company we spoke with, we decided not to make the swap.

There are multiple companies that make conversions for Diesel Motors which would allow them to run on Used Vegetable Oil.  The motor still runs off of your Diesel fuel till the Vegetable Oil gets warmed up and becomes the proper consistency.  I’ve read one story where this guy drove around the United States on one tank of Diesel Fuel, with the rest being recycled Cooking Oil.  This would have saved us thousands of dollars, not to mention the fossil fuels we would have been saving.

But this was our dilemma, we spoke to the Ford Dealership and if we were to add one of these systems to our stock motor, we would void every warranty Ford offers!?!  To me, it’d would be worth the trade off to be able to know we’re using Grease that most restaurants have to pay to get rid of; rather than burning fossil fuels and polluting our environment, we’d be recycling and probably hungry all the time since our exhaust would have smelled like French Fries…LOL

Update 8-2007:  We received this email from a Reader and thought we would share it in case others might want to add to it or help it make any decisions.

My name is Bob and I just saw your site.

I have been through the entire veggie scene. I had a 1999 F-350 Power Stroke. At first it was great but after time we decided to move and I lost my room to process the oil so I stripped all the veggie stuff off the truck and traded it in for a new F150.

It was fun while it lasted (the exhaust smelled like French fries) But I kept having trouble with the screen on the pump for some reason. I filtered it down to very close tolerances and I carried spare screens with me. On a Power Stroke you need to be able to fix a lot of stuff yourself just to keep it on the road. I loved the truck but when I lost the veggie oil option, it seemed better to go the gas route.

If you are on the road it would be next to impossible to use veggie oil. I know there is a guy on the web with a pickup and a slide in camper that has two drums on the rear with two systems which was interesting but not very practical. You need to heat the oil in order to remove any water (water can kill injectors dead!!) and filter it and there’s always spills etc.

Also you need pumps, filters, heated lines, etc, etc, etc. They make it look wonderful in the adds, but in reality its a lot of work and a crapshoot for the truck. They say you can get oil from dumpsters behind restaurants, but that is like playing Russian Roulette. I always insisted on getting it in the original containers that it came in to reduce the possibility of water or the cleaner they use to clean the fryers. You got to be REAL careful!!!

By the way do you have a extra cooler on your transmission or do you have a transmission temperature gauge? Both are extremely important. The transmission has a port to install a sending unit for the gauge – it’s very simple. I’m sorry I’m rambling, but I think a lot about this stuff and always try and think of everything that could strand me on the side of the road.

After getting Bob’s email and talking with the technician from Golden Fuel Systems, who explained to me that the Ford 6.0L motor, which we have in our truck, isn’t reliable for a Veggie Oil System; we agreed to put this idea on hold.  Now I really wish I would have bought the Ford 7.3L Powerstroke rather than the 6.0L that has so many problems.  Luckily for us, we haven’t run into any of the problems that everyone talks of, but I really would have liked to make the switch to Vegetable Oil.

I was really impressed with the Golden Fuel Systems website and how quickly I got a response back from them when I sent an email asking about their equipment.  In this day in age of blowing people off, they were right on the ball.

Since we’ve been sitting still, I’ve met two folks who live full time in campers that run veggie systems on their diesel motors.  Both answered our questions and explained many of the problems they tackle while on the road.  What we learned is it’s not an easy process to make the switch.  It’s very messy, very time consuming and the storage of filtered oil becomes a serious problem for many of them.  Looking back, I’m sort of glad we didn’t go down this route simply due to the constant maintenance it looks is involved.

I’d rather be out enjoying the scenery we’re traveling through than performing maintenance on the truck the entire time.

Santa Fe 23

If I had to pick one thing we did to the truck that was my favorite was when we broke down and bought a Satellite Radio.  We were going nuts with listening to CD’s and scanning the local radio stations endlessly.  It seemed like we would be in the middle of some good talk channel when we would lose the signal.  That was if we could get a signal at all.  After driving for a few days in Northern Louisiana with a scratchy, almost non-existent signal, we pulled over and had the Satellite Radio installed.  They don’t pay us to tell you the brand name (Hint – Hint) but since there is only two brand names to choose from and they both do the same thing, take your pick.  You wont be disappointed!

300watt Inverter Mounted on the Floor in the Cab 300watt Inverter Mounted on the Floor in the Cab

Really I don’t know how we traveled without it.  Now we can listen to NPR (our favorite) all day long and never loose a segment.  When we’re bored, we’ll turn to a comedy channel and laugh till our sides hurt or just pick a random genre and listen to uninterrupted music the entire time we drive.  It has made a big difference with driving and we’d recommend it to anyone who fulltimes or spends a serious amount of time in their vehicle.

While they were installing the Satellite Radio, we had them hard wire our 300watt inverter to one of the batteries and had it mounted under the dash.  Another option that I wonder how we lived without.  While we’re driving from campground to campground, Cindy would charge all our camera batteries, run the laptop for long periods of time and never have to worry about running out of juice.  With most modern vehicles, these options have become stock, but they’re easily added to older vehicles and make traveling fulltime so much easier.

After 8000 miles of towing, we exhausted our rear leaf springs on the truck.  We looked at pictures from when we first started compared to the way the truck sat at that point, and both noticed a considerable sag.  As soon as we found a Nation Wide Dealer that could install them, we had a set of AIRLIFT 5000 installed to lift the rear end.

We chose to stop at a Camping World simply because they are a nationwide company. Our reasoning was if we needed any Warranty work done, it would be easier to find another Camping World dealer that would honor the warranty over some small, local shop where we would much rather spend our money.

Here is the way it looked before the Air Bags were installed.  Notice how the Rear end is squatted down quite a bit?  If we drove at night, people would flash their brights at us even though we weren’t driving with our brights on.

FE9A5198Once the Air Bags were installed, the rear end sat level even when hooked up to the Camper.  We could also lift the rear end of the truck higher if we needed to or lower it down which helps in hooking up and unhooking the hitch.  The AIRLIFT bags made the truck ride smoother down the road while hooked to the camper.  When we were traveling, we would sometimes go for months without unhooking the camper from the hitch as we’d just be riding the motorcycle or riding our bicycles while visiting a small town.  This is the reason I think our stock leaf springs were starting to sag to begin with.

EMAM_TruckWhile spending time out west, we were finding that we were leaving the camper back at the campground and doing more trips out into the desert and along off-road trails.  This was our reasoning for getting the Camping Lab Roof Top Tent.  That link will bring you to a full review of the tent we wrote, which we both totally loved.  It comes highly recommended from us and everyone else I know that uses them.

Camping Lab RTT 6

Tires and What We’ve Used Over the Adventure

While traveling, the truck started out with BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A Tires.  The stock size was 265/75/R16 with a Load Range E.  We had zero complaints with these tires.  We never had a single blow-out, flat or anything go wrong with them.

They were quiet enough for a normal sized truck tire and had a great ride to them.  While in Arizona over the Winter of 2008, we decided to try a off-road trail while camping near the Superstition Mountains.  We had to get permits with the Forest Service to be back in this area, and while filling out the paperwork, I asked what the trail conditions were like?  The Park Ranger said as long as I had Four Wheel Drive, I should be fine.

Donielle 5

The Bulldog Recreation Trail was only some 10 miles long, but it trashed our fullsize truck with its stock suspension.  Send me back out here with a Jeep that has some long travel suspension, and I’d be in love, but this day on the trail, we tore up our stock BFG’s something awful.

We were getting ready to head down to Baja Mexico so we decided to upgrade to some new tires rather than spend months South of the Border with tore up tires.  Shopping around on the internet I found that Goodyear had just come out with a new tire line.  They were calling them Silent Armor and they were touted to have a layer of Kevlar that was supposed to keep road noise down from traveling into the truck itself.

We swapped out our well worn BFG’s for a new set of Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor265/75/R16’s in the same Load Range E.  These tires were nothing short of amazing!  They’ve been the quietest tires I’ve ever used in my entire life and we cant say enough about them.

At that time of our blogs, we were talking about them a lot and had numerous emails come in from readers saying that after reading our praise of these tires, they went out and got a set for their own trucks.  All emails coming in were thanking us about how awesome of a tire this was and everyone was in agreement of how quiet they were.

We don’t get any kick backs from any tire manufacturers, so we’re simply passing along some valuable information in case you’re looking for a great tire to use.

We put about 60,000 miles on these tires and they still had plenty of life left in them before we had a serious blowout in one of the rear tires.  Luckily no one was hurt, and I think this blowout was more due to the fact that the truck had been sitting idle for about 3 months without even being moved when it had the blowout.

I’m guessing the tire probably had a flat spot in it from sitting for so long so I wouldn’t judge the tire manufacturer on this blowout.  If we go back out on the road, I’d more than likely put another set of SilentArmor’s back on the truck.

Once that tire blew out, I started looking into swapping to a different sized tire.  I had heard that I would be able to increase my fuel mileage if I swapped to a 235/85/R16 which is much narrower and a bit taller than those stock tires.

Since I knew we’d be spending our next few years in Florida running the Low-Key Hideaway, I figured I wanted a taller, less aggressive tire that was more suited to highway usage.

We chose a Cooper Discover H/T 235/85/R16 Load Range E tire.  It was much less expensive than the SilentArmor’s, but we rarely drive the truck now unless we’re going into Gainesville to get supplies for the motel or running some errands around good ol’ flat Florida.

Kayaks_Loaded_Up Truck with the taller, skinnier tires


This tire is strictly a On-Road Tire and I’d be worried if we had to do anything off road.  I wasn’t even trying to do anything other than turn around in a field only to find some sugar sand that our area is known for and was able to bury myself to the frame-rails with just a tap of the throttle.  Remember we’re talking a very narrow tire that’s aired up to 80psi, so I wouldn’t be recommending these for ANY off-road adventures.


It’s still a 10ply tire, but when we towed the camper up to Arkansas from Florida for the 2012 Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races, we learned it gives a very squirrely ride.  I’m guessing it’s due to the taller, thinner tire, but we never experienced a ride like this with the larger, smaller in diameter 265/75/R16’s.

So I probably wouldn’t recommend this Cooper Tire if you’re doing a lot of towing with the truck.  If you’re just using it for around town driving or don’t plan on doing ANY towing, then it comes highly recommended.  It’s quiet, gives us great fuel mileage and shows little wear after out last 3000 mile trip.

Swapping Out the Stock Bed for a UTE Aluminum Tray

While living in Florida, we were cruising down the HWY one day at about 70mph when we had a tire blowout.  This did some serious damage to our stock bed which sort of got the ball rolling to swap out the bed with something different.

Broken_TruckTire Blow-Out that damaged our stock bed on both sides of the wheel well

I had been thinking for awhile that I wanted to get rid of the stock bed and either move to a utility bed like we had talked about from Day 1, or try and find a aluminum bed, which is really popular in Australia, but somewhat rare here in the States.

You might wonder why I wanted to get rid of our A.R.E. Cap and move to a flat bed when Cindy and I both always talked about how much we loved the A.R.E.? My thinking about swapping to the flat bed was for a few reasons which I’ll try and explain below.


The biggest reason was it hauled too much equipment in there which means the bed was ALWAYS filled to capacity with extra junk.  When Cindy wanted to put something somewhere and doesn’t know what to do with it, she’d just say “Put it in the bed of the truck till we figure out what to do with it!”  Sure, it’s out of sight, but it means we’re still carting it around and I still have to climb around it when getting to the hundreds of other things we had stored back there.

The second reason for getting rid of the stock bed was we had both agreed that while sitting still in Florida for a few years, we’d take this time to get rid of anything and everything we’d been carting around with us over the past 4 years that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  The bed and cap allowed us to carry a lot of gear and much of it wasn’t really necessary to be carrying at all times.

Another reason was that I had been kicking the idea around about getting rid of the motorcycle and moving to something smaller for weight issues and so Cindy would actually ride it by herself.  Except for the odd time we’d used the motorcycle for a few long distance rides, the majority of the riding was just around town and running errands.

Our thinking was to switch to a small scooter while we kept our eye out for a motorcycle with a sidecar combo which is what we’ve been shopping for for some time now.  A tray bed would mean we could haul the motorcycle and sidecar perfectly behind the truck and get the weight off the back of the camper which isn’t the most ideal place to hang extra weight off of!

I kept bringing this up to Cindy, who got frustrated and finally said “Put the Cap and the Motorcycle up for sale, if you can sell both of them, then you can buy what ever you want for the bed of the truck as long as it doesn’t cost us any money out of our pocket.”

I knew she had me here, but I posted them anyways on the Expedition Portal Forum explaining that I wanted to sell them and was looking for an Aluminum Bed or a Utility Body.  It didn’t take but a few days before I get an email from a guy saying he’s looking for a Dual Sport Motorcycle, and he also just so happens to be looking for a cap to throw on the bed of his F-250.  Here is the icing on the cake.  Dale tells me he has an Aluminum UTE Bed that he just took off his Dodge truck that he’s trying to get rid of.

He asks if I’d be willing to swap out both the motorcycle and the cap with a little extra money being given to me since I was asking a little bit more for my items than he was for his bed.  In one email I take Cindy up on her offer that she thought would be an impossible task to accomplish.

Even though we had no plans on getting rid of the Camping Lab RTT, Dale said he had a aluminum tool box mounted in the bed that had a Hi-Lift Jack mounted to it.  He also had a Portable Air Tank with a mount and wondered if rather than take these out of the bed, would I be willing to swap him out for the Roof Top Tent.

Cindy and I talked about it and figured that we’re not using the RTT right now, so when we go back out on the road, we’ll just get another one.  Hopefully by then there will be newer models out with cool new features, so it wasn’t that hard of a decision.

Getting the stock bed taken off the truck turned into a pretty big ordeal.  The local Ford Dealer said they’d have to torch the bolts out and I wanted to try and save the stock bed to make a utility trailer out of.  So cutting and torching the bed wasn’t something I wanted to do.

I tried every body shop in the area, and none of them would tackle the task of removing the stock bed bolts.  I guess Ford is notorious for these bolts being a serious chore to remove.

Bed_Bolts (1) Ford’s stock bed bolt that is indestructible

One night while sitting at the tiki bar chatting with friends, I was talking about the problems I was having with these bolts and a friend suggested I just grind the heads off with a small grinder.  He said “You can grind down carefully just to remove the head and never touch the bed itself.”

Bed_Bolts (2) With a Grinder and some grinding discs, I went to work

As a last ditch effort, I bought a 5 pack of grinding discs and figured I’d give this a go.  In a matter of an hour and 4 discs later, I had all 8 bed bolts ground off.  Simple as pie.

Bed_Bolts (3)

Bed_Bolts (4)Ground the head off the bolt with zero damage to the bed itself

Once the bolts were removed, we lifted the UTE Tray onto the stock bed rails and I brought the two over to a good friend who took them both off.  Jarrod spent the day with a wire wheel removing any rust from the frame rails on the truck since they were going to be exposed with this new aluminum bed on.

He then sprayed the undercarriage with a flat black paint mixed with a hardener to help keep it from getting stone chips or damage while driving.  When all was said and done, it looked factory and really turns some heads.

I love the lockable tool chest in the bed, the fact that I can reach everything without having to climb under the cap and noticed almost instantly that Cindy wont leave anything in the bed because it means she can see it.  She doesn’t like things lying around that are within eyesight which was why the A.R.E cap was always so full.  Everything was out of sight.

Once we had the new aluminum bed installed, it meant we had lost our back-up lights we had on the cap.

I had Jarrod come back out and wire in some new LED flood lights that are amazing.  They draw almost no power and they light up the area behind the truck nice enough to operate on.  We mounted one up on the Headache rack and one right above the back bumper.  I’d feel sorry for the next person that’s riding my bumper at night time.

LED_Lights (2) One LED Light is mounted under the bed to light up the area directly behind the bed when hooking up a trailer in the dark

LED_Lights (1)

Another is mounted on the Headache Rack to illuminate the entire bed and a larger area behind the truck when backing up at night. With a flick of the switch, these two lights will light up the night behind the truck.  Or, if I’m having someone ride my butt too close, these can always be turned on which should blind them and teach them to stop tailgating!
Some Links that might help you when trying to build the perfect Tow Vehicle

Golden Fuel Systems – Experts when it comes to adding a Veggie Oil System to your Diesel motor

Ford Powerstroke Forum – For anyone owning a Ford Diesel, this is your bible

Expedition Portal – Probably one of the best forums on the internet pertaining to Overland Travel.  Not necessarily RV based, but has a wealth of information on destinations and amazing vehicles that get fellow travelers to these far away places.  I’ll admit I spend way too much time on this forum drooling over the vehicles and the travels of fellow adventurers, but I learn a great deal in the process

Overland Journal – A high quality vehicle-dependant expedition magazine for those who dream of crossing those wide open expanses.  This magazine is as close to coffee table book material as I’ve seen and is packed with useful info.  Their motto is The publication for environmentally responsible, worldwide vehicle-dependent expedition and adventure travel.”

A.R.E Truck Caps – Manufacturer of custom Truck Caps like the one we used while on the road

Air Ride System – Air bags we use to level the truck while towing

Aluminess Bumpers – We are saving up to get some of these Bumpers for front and backend protection.  This company custom built our Air-Turbine Mast, so we know they do some of the best work on the market

Some other Useful Tips to Browse Through

Diesel Fact Page – Found some cool info if you’re on the fence on what type of motor to get in your next vehicle

Solar Tips, Fact’s and Trick’s – we’ve learned some neat tricks while on the road and thought we’d share

Tool Kit List – We’ve had a bunch of emails asking what tools and items full timers should bring, so I went ahead and made a list of what we bring with us.  By no means is this gospel, but it’s a good start.  Feel free to copy it and add or delete anything you need.

Camper Check List – A list of things we do before leaving camp.  Again, this isn’t gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.

Bio-Diesel and Going Green article and how to cut our ties to foreign oil by switching to this greener method of fuel