How does a person take a very long road trip on a budget? Live out of their vehicle of course. But what happens if the vehicle is a two door Honda Civic with no hatchback? The solution is what I like to call creative dirt-bagging.
I came up with the idea to build a bed in my backseat/trunk last summer as I explored Colorado, and for the most part it worked. However, the craftsmanship was shot-ty and it was bulky and uncomfortable. I simply threw down the back seats and added some foam and padding but it was uneven and there were car parts jabbing me in the back. I was never gone for more then 2-3 weeks at a time so I made due.
This summer I intend on solo road-tripping through New Mexico, Western Texas, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. I will be far from home for a significantly longer period of time (7-8 weeks) and setting up a tent can be time consuming. As well, I don’t feel all that comfortable tent camping alone in some of the locations I will be visiting. Now I am not saying that National Parks are full of street youths but I personally feel much safer locked away in my trunk.
I can build a working bed with plenty of room for storage in my tiny car, right? No time like the present to put my sophisticated engineering skills to the test!
All great plans start by drinking a $3.00 bottle of wine on your friends balcony. Cheap wine not only burns but gives one the confidence needed to dismantle their ride. My friend Sean is good with cars, a fellow engineer, and had all the right tools. Adios back seat.
A few days later my amazingly awesome friends Meredith and Chris came over, because one does not construct without a team. We conjured up a design, took some questionable measurements and went to home depot. Home depot only saws in a straight line so that put a damper on a fanned out design (which ended up working out for the best). Home Depot is where my deep rooted fear of getting a splinter began to surface. After some mass confusion at the self check out line, I was under charged, and ended up spending a total of $49.
With supplies bought and a general plan laid out, all that was left to do was drive around for a week with a metric ton of wood in my backseat/trunk. Speed bumps and pot holes were especially fun. The school week dragged on until Friday when I ventured to the sketchiest self serve car wash I could find on Colfax Ave. I figured cleaning with a side of harassing toothless meth head was a good idea.
After cleaning I laid down some $3.94 fabric. I bought expensive stick Velcro and learned a salty lesson, nothing sticks to cheap fabric. I toyed around with the idea of gorilla glue but ended up dusting off my stapler, a much less damaging option, also I love stapling things. I decided to role with a full size spare because a donut is not going to get me 200 miles out of the woods if I get a flat. Conveniently enough I have a ghetto rigged end table made out of four perfectly good tires in my office, so all I had to do was buy a $45.00 rim.
Finally it was construction day. Meredith and Chris arrived, Chris with his massive tool box and Meredith with bagged wine. Alcohol, power tools, and my party mix playlist, ready, set, and go…..
Having a full size spare is necessary but presented a problem in the form of not sitting flush with the trunk space (fortunately it fit in the circular part). We built the bed high enough to clear the tire (and to clear an oddly shaped rod sticking into the back seat). The core of the design entails two pieces of wood, one in the trunk and one in the backseat hinged together where trunk meets backseat. The hinges allow me to lift both the piece in the trunk and the piece in the back seat utilizing crucial storage space. We began by using six 7″ long 2×4’s to build stairs and attain the necessary clearance.
Chris drilled holes in the back seat piece of wood and construction from there on out occurred inside the car. Due to size constraints the fully assembled bed cannot slide in and out which is fine because it’s never coming out (but if it needs to it’s not hard to unscrew one side of the hinges). We also used 5 bolts for extra security.
We faced our last obstacle: lay down the support for the back seat piece of wood. This is where things got janky. We only took measurements for the two front supports assuming the middle and back ones would be the same. Never assume a Honda is symmetrical or even. Chris sawed five, 5″ nubs of wood with a miniature hand saw. If you ever see him, ask him about it. The front two went in no problem but the back two were too long. A few tears later we had the correct sized supports and I had a car bed.
Lastly, Meredith and I stapled a bunch more crap, including a thin layer of foam to the wood (I will be acquiring some form of futon like mattress). The bed still hinges no problem. This completes Phase 1 of pimp my Honda Civic into a mobile home. I will write a blog about Phase 2: interior decorating. I have SO many ideas. Stay tuned my friends and remember, if you can think it, you can do it!
Splinter Count: zero (although Meredith was stabbed once)
I thank the winter gloves I wore most of the day.