Our departure time is growing near. In one month, Kristin and I will begin a four month adventure of traveling around the southwest United States. My 1993 Ford Festiva will be our home and office. We will travel slowly through sparsely populated areas, visiting ghost towns, deserts, and wilderness. We will set our sights on oddities and unique places. The primary mission is to squander time, with the simple act of being away used as the measure of our success. We will escape what we can of the cold.
The trip is unplanned. We have only the thinnest outline. I have a short list of places I'd like to see, and even those are only vapors of an idea swirling like smoke inside my mind. We are leaving southeast Pennsylvania and spending time in California. The space and time between are as yet unknown.
The Ford Festiva is one of the smallest cars. I am tasked with figuring out how two people can sleep inside of one with supplies and equipment for four months of cheap humble living. Designs for customized interiors have been weighing on my mind for several months. I removed the back seat, which was a big step in the right direction. I sat for hours with scrap wood and a tape measure. Just looking.
I sat in the back of the car with the hatch open and tried to envision every possible way to create a platform for sleeping two people in a tiny car. One idea took the lead. The plan involved a cantilevered platform that would extend beyond the open hatch to create a sleeping area behind the front seats. Ideas for hinged plywood platforms swirled inside my head. Sleeping with the hatch partially open would increase our usable space, and our gear could be stashed in the front seats while we sleep. The downside is that the vehicle would look slightly more conspicuous, and we would need to find a way to fill the gap around the half-open hatch to keep out weather and maintain a minimum of privacy.
Without a final design plan, I decided to forge ahead in any direction, and hope that the momentum of building would lead to further inspiration. I built a small platform which filled the space from where the back seat used to be, up to the opening of the hatch. I made the top of the platform level with the opening, and hoped I could figure out the rest from there.
I will need to sleep in the car tonight, because I am attending a bicycle swap meet tomorrow morning. The swap is hours from home, and driving there before the break of dawn is not an attractive option.
Necessity is the mother of throwing something together. I adjusted my goal to simply finding a way to sleep fully inside the car tonight. With the back seat removed, the front seats can recline almost perfectly flat. In this position, the headrest is nearly in line with the platform. I knew this before, but the uneven curvature of the seat did not appear to provide a level and comfortable position for sleep. I reexamined this, and discovered I was wrong. Laying down along the fully reclined front seat with my upper body extending along the rear platform was far more acceptable than I envisioned. When I arranged some lengths and pieces of 3" memory foam along the seat and platform, it became downright cozy. Adopting this new sleeping arrangement would make the work remaining minimal indeed. All I had to do is affix the plywood top to the platform. I did so with hinges to make the space underneath accessible for storage.
I laid down again along the sections of memory foam, and I felt confident and sure that this would be perfectly comfortable for four months of travel. I hoped Kristin would agree.
Kristin has spent almost none of her life being a glorified bum. I've spent years of my time living in a van, months of my days sleeping in a bivy sack, and hundreds of my nights in improvised sleeping situations. For years, I worked a night shift job in an office where I would sleep up to four hours per night across three strategically placed office chairs. I'm pretty sure that during all of those times, Kristin just slept in a bed.
I feigned calm indifference and asked my love if she would like to lay down in the car with me and offer her opinion on comfort. She liked it. No problem. I rarely give Kristin enough credit. I see her choice of footwear, and I assume that she needs to be pampered. I notice how long she takes to get ready, and I equate that with a softness at odds with gritty adventure. There may be an element of truth to this, but to a degree far smaller than it would appear. In fact, it's usually me who acts like a big loud baby. I do a lot of complaining for a tough guy. Sometimes by comparison this girl seems positively stoic.
I think that after being together for a few years, I've gained Kristin's trust. My ideas are not simply daydreams cobbled from rough bits of hardship - as it may fairly appear. As unorthodox as my plans and activities may seem, I do have standards and a measure of common sense. To illustrate our shared status: we are living in an 8'x12' house and cooking on a camp stove. I think Kristin likes our house better than I do. And I think that's fantastic.
I'm ready to start driving in a month. Knowing that we can get a decent sleep almost anywhere has made me more excited about leaving, and less nervous that unfit accommodations may lead to an early return to the gray claws of winter.