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Summer Road Trip 2017, Part 1: Getting Out of Town

After a year of waiting, the time has come to have Ursa Minor Vehicles install an Ecamper on Ellie, my 2005 Rallyee Red AWD Honda Element. I scheduled the installation back in May for the week of August 7th. I picked that week because the U.S. mainland gets a total solar eclipse the following Monday, and I'm headed to Wyoming to see it.

I'm looking forward to an 18-day road trip with the camper.. I'll cross a lot of state lines and see a few National Parks, but starting with a total eclipse at Grand Teton is borderline ridiculous.

The first step: Get Ellie to California.

Ursa Minor is located in Chula Vista, 10 minutes south of San Diego. The trip from Dallas is 1,360 miles. I don't drive fast so I'm estimating 24 hours of drive time to get there..

Ursa Minor asked that the vehicle be dropped off around 9 a.m. on Monday. I want to be in San Diego on Sunday night to guarantee the drop-off goes smoothly. They'll work on it all week and have it ready about 3 p.m. on Friday.

My departure from downtown Dallas was delayed by preparations. The lion's share of this road trip will ensue after the Ecamper's installation. The vehicle won't be back to Dallas, so on Friday after work, I was packing for the duration.

Organizing everything into the Element was simplified by the installation of a cabinet system I designed and built in the weeks prior to departure. The cabinets have four cubby boxes flanking two central shelves that are designed to line up with the moonroof. When the Ecamper is up, the shelves can be used as steps for climbing through the hatch and into the upper area.

The four cubby boxes were designed to hold food, clothes cooking utensils, and general supplies. There is a large lower compartment big enough to hold my fishing tackle, camping gear, Coleman stove and many other large items that I don't want shifting around while driving. The ability to organize and stow all my equipment meant the cabin felt empty and free of clutter.

In addition to the cabinets, I was also feverishly working to finalize the design of the Moto Transporter, the hitch=mounted motorcycle carrier that allows me to bring a small motorcycle for campground transportation and backcountry exploring. Suffice it to say, it turned out great

Next up was to get my 1991 Honda "MiniTrail" CT-70 out of storage, tuned up, and ready to go. It sat for years. but in typical Honda fashion it started on the first kick.

I changed the spark plug, disassembled the carburetor, cleared the jets, cleaned the air filter and changed out the old gas. When It was all back together, it started right up and idled perfectly.

I had to renew the license plates so I dug up the old registration and printed out a copy of my insurance. I had the MiniTrail inspected at my usual place on N Peak Street in downtown Dallas, With its state inspection in system, my dad went to county clerk's office to handle the actual renewal. That was a big help because I still had a lot of things left to do..

The goal was to leave around 8 p,m. on Friday, August 10 but the I didn't finish my preparations until just after midnight. With Ellie ready to go and me not wanting to incur any more delay, I decided to get on the road and drive for a few hours.

That meant I would be pulling over to sleep at rest area, but at least I would get out of town immediately.

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