The Baby Came Early

Our new bundle of joy arrived on Saturday June, 22. Earlier then expected. And what a beautiful baby it is.

I have read some stories and seen videos about the poor build quality of cargo trailers and a couple of stories about poor Diamond Cargo builds.  I have inspected this new trailer from top to bottom. This is a super high-quality built cargo trailer from Diamond Cargo. All the exterior screws
are perfectly lined up. Straight to the middle of the steel frame. The same with the interior. All screws are in straight and true.  All the lights are working. The interior is 7' 3" which puts the overall height at a whopping 9 feet. The extended tongue leaves plenty of room for LP tanks. The thicker aluminum skin in silver color is so beautiful, it's stunning. Imagine an Airstream but built even more like a tank.

I added a special request in the comments section of the order. I told them this was going to be an RV and to take special care with the build quality.  I didn't expect for my request to be read or followed but I was hoping.  I don't know if they did take special care with mine or if they are all done this well but I am so impressed with the attention, care and quality on this cargo trailer. Well done Diamond Cargo.

I have been kicking around a few ideas for the layout but it was difficult to visualize them. The build considerations stem out of conversations the wife and I had after our 2019 Sebring trip. Some of the most important features we want are:
  • Comfortable beds
  • Quiet cabin
  • More room
Otherwise we were pretty happy with the features of the popup. Popup features we will build into the new RV:
  • Indoor/Outdoor cooking
  • 17 gallons of onboard water
  • Awning
  • Dual propane tanks
  • Sink
Now we are including new features in the cargo trailer like:
  • Cargo ramp to be a back porch
  • Grey water tank
  • Toilet
  • Couch
  • Galley
With the trailer here now, the planning begins in earnest.

NEXT POST: Begin at the Beginning


Where to Buy?

After deciding on a 7' by 14' tandem axle trailer the question was: Where to buy one?  Well, because I'm "Mr. Cheap" the first place I turned to was Craigslist. After a few weeks of looking it became clear that it was damn-near impossible to find a good used trailer in the size we wanted on Craigslist. When I did find one it was beaten up. No matter the condition, Craigslist trailers were going for the same price as, or a few hundred dollars less than, a brand new one.

New trailers do not cost that much. Retail trailer sales lots in our area did have the size I wanted at a decent price but you have to be satisfied with the stock, plain-Jane white trailer. All of them are 6'3" inches in height. It wanted a trailer with some additional headroom.

After looking at a lot of the trailers online the wife and I went to a local lot to look at some cargo trailers in person. We looked at a 6' x 12' and a 7' X 14. They had a "cheap, bare-bones line" that had a thin outside skin, OSB interior walls and steel frame ribs at 24" on center. And they had an upgraded line that had a little thicker outside skin, plywood interior walls and frame ribs at 16" on center. There were a few more minor differences. It was helpful to see one in real life, take some measurements and see the quality of construction.  We were already nearly decided to custom order a trailer but it was good to go see some in real life.

It became clear that ordering a new one would have many advantages. You can get the size, color and other features you want.

I started researching online trailer sales. Every online trailer sales company seemed to offer the exact same package. After a couple of weeks it became clear that almost all trailers that are sold east of the Mississippi are made in Georgia.  It doesn't matter who you buy them from they are all made in the same place.

I found Diamond Cargo Trailers online. They offered an online configurator that you can go through and check off the type of trailer and the features you want. You can place your order quickly and easily. I did call the sales department to ask a couple of questions which they answered quickly.  They confirmed they can deliver the trailer right to my house.

On June 4th I placed my order.  We ordered a 7' X 14', with an additional 12 inches of height, an extended 60" tongue, and a thicker .030" outer aluminum skin in silver. I forgot to ask how long it takes but I've heard about four weeks. Now we wait.

NEXT POST: The Baby Came Early


Search and Research

After Sebring 2019, I immediately started looking for another travel trailer to replace the pop-up. They all looked so cheaply built. And I kept finding something wrong with the designs that wouldn't meet the needs of my wife and I. Mostly problems with the bed layout. Many of the beds are positioned horizontally in the back. If one needs to get up in the night, as I often do, I'll have to somehow climb over my partner to get out of bed. As you can imagine, now both partners are awake and not getting quality sleep.  At our age, we really require separate beds.

The wife commented that the interior look and feel of the mass-produced RVs reminded her of an extended stay motel. I agree. The internet is filled with stories and videos from folks who are constantly repairing their RVs or who have a brand new RV with multiple problems. Although I'm capable of doing repairs, I would prefer to spend my time camping instead of making repairs.

That's when I stumbled on videos of people who took an enclosed cargo trailer and converted them into RV campers. I was elated! I spent the next week, hours and hours, watching all the videos I could find. I was fascinated with the endless design ideas. The challenge of designing and building my own camper was super appealing. I didn't have to settle for poor build quality and a cookie-cutter design from an unknown guy in Indiana.

I thought this was the best idea I'd ever seen.  A trailer with a steel frame and aluminum exterior is so much more robust then any mass produced, wood-framed travel trailer.  And the building my own RV would be a real test of all my skills. Welding, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and others. That's when I decided to get a cargo trailer.  So, I did some research.

1999 Ford F-150
We wanted to get the largest trailer we could safely pull with our truck.  First I tried to learn how much weight our truck can pull. I was thinking the most we could safely pull would be a 6' by 12' single axle trailer at around 1200 pounds. We have a 1999 Ford F-150. It's got a 4.6L V-8, automatic transmission and 3.55:1 differential. Then I looked at this chart which told me my maximum loaded trailer weight is 6,900 pounds. Knowing this opened up some other possibilities. For my camper, I didn't want to come anywhere near the maximum allowed weight. It's an old truck with 300-thousand miles on it.

I stumbled upon a guys website who estimated his 6' X 12' cargo trailer build added between 1000 and 1500 pounds to the weight of the trailer.  I don't have any other documentation on how much weight the build adds but that just sounds about right. A 7' x 14' tandem axle trailer weighs around 2200 pounds. Add 1500 to that and you're coming in at 3700 pounds.  Adding additional height and an extended tongue adds a few hundred pounds. Fresh water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon so 20 gallons would be 166 pounds. When you go camping you also bring a generator, food, other gear, and passengers that can be up to 800 additional pounds. All told we are still at around 4900-5000 pounds. Well under the 6,900-pound limit.  That's when I decided that the 7' X 14' tandem axle was the one to get.

NEXT POST: Where To Buy?


The Birth of a Project

I have always loved camping. I used to camp a lot when I was younger. As a kid growing up in Ohio in the summer the neighborhood kids and me would pitch a tent in the backyard.

In high school, some good friends of mine were avid campers and backpackers so I got into it too. We lived in a suburb that was within walking distance from some great rural camping spots. Our philosophy was to be as prepared and self-sufficient as possible. Also to be innovative and creative with your camping gear. We camped under a railroad trestle. We camped in an abandoned barn. We camped in wooded areas. There are reclaimed strip mining areas, tuned back into parks, where we camped.

But I haven't camped that much since I moved to Florida. Part of the reason is Florida is a horrible place to go camping. The insects and the heat are two things that make camping in Florida terrible. Another part is I've just been lazy.

Camping at the 2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
In addition to camping, I've always been a huge fan of automobile racing. In 2001 my wife and I attended and camped at the Rolex 24 Hour endurance race at Daytona. We slept in the back of her Volvo 245 wagon. In 2003 my wife and I attended the Sebring 12 hour race. We tent camped and got rained on.

In 2018 some dear friends of mine came to Florida for the Sebring race. They rented RVs. I had the most fun I've had in a long time. We camped and enjoyed the full 4-day event.

Based on that experience I decided it would be so much fun to be able to camp at more races. Especially here in Florida in the late winter when it's the racing season. And to also camp at the many Florida state parks, National Parks and forests. 

I'm not 20 years old and I can't sleep on the ground anymore. My old bones, arthritis, and sore muscles demand a certain level of comfort. In January I purchased a pop-up trailer, which was only one step up from tent camping. Not many amenities. We took it to Sebring this year and it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. With a 15-year-old, 4-inch foam rubber mattress I woke up feeling like I'd been beaten with a nightstick.  For my wife and I, the pop-up didn't provide any respite from the constant noise of the race track. After three days I felt like the walking dead. We had to leave early which was so disappointing for me.  I never want to experience that again.   

Now I'm super excited to start a new project that will get me back to camping again. And in a way that fits the way I live today.

NEXT POST: Search and Research


Mule Tracks

Mrs. Howell and I had the pleasure of seeing Warren Haynes and his band Gov't Mule on May 2 at the House of Blues Orlando. 

The music had a magic sound that was like last week while at the same time it transported me right back to the 1970's. To say this band is versatile is an understatement. 

Here's a pretty weak description from Wikipedia When The Allman Brothers Band reformed in 1989, Warren Haynes was added as a permanent lead guitarist and vocalist, and Allen Woody was recruited as bass guitarist. The two shared a love for 1960s power trios like Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the James Gang, and MountainHaynes, Woody, and drummer Matt Abts, who played with Haynes in Dickey Betts' band, came together as Gov't Mule. They released their debut album Gov't Mule, in 1995.
When The Allman Brothers Band were not forthcoming with any new material, Haynes and Woody left to concentrate full-time on Gov't Mule in 1997. They were joined by members of the Allman Brothers, the Black CrowesParliament/Funkadelic and The Derek Trucks Band for their 1998 New Year's Eve concert. The performances exposed some of the bands' influences, covering Neil YoungFreeTrafficJimi HendrixLittle FeatHumble Pie and Black Sabbath.

I'd say blend The Allman Brothers Band with the Grateful Dead, throw in Pink Floyd, Yes, Muddy Waters, and John Coltrane and you might come close to the band's powerful sound. 

If you're looking for straight ahead rock and roll without all the bullshit theatrics, you must see Gov't Mule.