Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meet HodgePod, our new trusty, travel trailer!

After a little bit of research and several wanders through vast RV dealerships, a Craigslist offer jumped out at us, and was too good to pass up! Since last fall, Doug and I are the happy owners of a Forest River r•pod!

As we looked for travel trailers, we each had our own must-haves. Mine was "as small as possible". Doug's--a bathroom and a table that had space enough for people to sit on all four sides--since card games are ALWAYS a requirement in our lives! The combination of these seemingly simple requirements eliminated a lot of the options. But we were thrilled to find the r-pod. A little longer than I hoped for, but space enough for all the rest. And super cute!!

This model is the RP177.  It's a 2011, with two previous owners.  As far as we can tell, the first owners didn't use it much.  The second owners, a lovely couple from Columbus, IN, used it for a month-long trip out West, to celebrate a big wedding anniversary. As we made the arrangements to take home the r-pod, we also ended up buying a camper shell for the truck, that they didn't need anymore.  Thanks to Richard & Sharon!

Here's the original floorplan and photos from before I started tearing things up.

The kitchenette slides out a few feet to really add some interior space.

Weird panorama of the whole place.

Dinette up front, could fold down into a full size bed.

Short queen bed in the back. Kitchenette and bathroom in the middle.

It turns out that there's a huge online community of r-pod owners. And they're DIYers, and love to share the modifications they've made to their pods.  There are at least two web forums and a fantastic Facebook Group specific to rpodders. They are truly the best help desk ever. I got lost in the groups and soon started tearing up our pod, to make it truly our own.

First thing, was to get rid of the horrible metal mini-blinds.  Noisy, awful things. Found a blog on how to turn mini-blinds into roman shades.  All of that is written up here. The after shots of the new window coverings are below. I used thrift store curtains for all of these, to figure out if the mod would work at all. Chances are pretty good that we'll updgrade them to roller shades with some awesome dragon and peacock fabric that I've had my eye on.

But the nuttiest modification that I decided to dive into was the dinette to couch mod. I'd seen a great write-up in one of the forums on this and since we'd missed out on one of Doug's requirements (a card game friendly table), I needed to do it.

Evolution of Dinette to Couch & Game Table

This was a first completed mod, using the original table legs,
which didn't fold flat.
Updated mod. Thicker stool/end table tops and nicer cushions
that can double as pillows for the couch.
New legs for the table. A little more annoying for four people around
the table, but better for storing it out of the way.
Fold completely flat! And height adjustable.
Can be stashed on wall for added space when not needed.

I can't believe I destroyed a perfectly nice camper dinette! And I'm so glad I did!! A huge shout out to the original poster of this mod on the forums. He fantastically added measurements and step-by-step photos. Made me brave enough to try it without having any experience in this sort of thing.

The table now has legs that fold completely flat so that it can be stored against a wall for extra space. The original table is VERY HEAVY. We will probably cut a new lighter table top for it soon. The new legs are set further out toward the corners of the table, which make scooting around the table harder when sitting in the pod. But the table can be easily shifted out from the seats to avoid that. The new legs also will fit over and around the fender of the wheel just outside the door, which is also very handy for outdoor use. We're still fiddling the best table option for all of these reasons. The dinette was originally a full size sleeping space. It theoretically still could be in the new configuration, but I would need to get different cushions and hide an extra board for between the end table/seats. We don't need it currently, so that's way down on the list of mods now. And one person could still sleep on the current couch.

In the kitchen, I increased our storage space under the sink. Originally, the pipes were sectioned off with a panel, blocking almost 2/3 of the possible space. A little replumbing and reorganization of wires opened the space up. 

Original configuration

Behind the panel


Then came some simpler mods to the kitchen: a tin sign to hold magnetic spice containers, a basket organizer for utensils, a new faucet (old one was plastic, leaked and we broke a handle), a cutting board-stove top cover.

Weirdly, the overhead cabinet door doesn't have a stop to keep it open. I've swapped out the handle for a real metal one and put a magnet on the ceiling to keep it open.  Yep, another idea from the forums.

Across from the kitchenette is the bathroom door.  Added a mirror--$1 from thrift store--attached with Command Strip velco.

Inside the door are over-the-door shoe organizers for all sorts of storage. I also found a closet organizer wire shelf unit that fits behind the commode for more storage. This is a "wet bath", so the shower is in the same space.  We still haven't used the shower, but there's a plastic curtain to protect the shelves on the wall and cover the door space.

After those easy ones, I decided to dip into the crazy side again.  More deconstruction and reconstruction!

This cabinet over the bed was maddening. It had to go. Not so surprisingly, someone had posted this on the forums, and helped me out further with any questions I had. Here's another evolution from original to new configuration.

All the details on this one are in my post in the forums. I've also added a 12v outlet under the corner shelf for charging our various phones and tablets when we aren't hooked up to electricity.

The last big mod that I did this spring was to utilize the under the bed space. According the the manuals, I shouldn't be putting anything under the bed because of the furnace, but there was so much unused space!  So with some guidance from lots of other podders, this is what I ended up with. We don't use the gas furnace much, and we'll be monitoring the heat on the drawer and its contents down there a lot when we do. 

The furnace is under the bed and vents into the space under the bed. 
1st try, smaller vent on drawer, no cold intake.
2nd try. Larger vent on drawer, new cold air intake next to furnace.

So, that's it for the "OH MY GOSH, IT'S OURS" initial mods.  More to come!  I have grand plans to de-beige-ify the color scheme soon. It's going to be fabulous!

Ack! I missed one big project we had to scramble to finish, before we even got our pod home...the parking situation! We took out a few fence panels and created a parking pad next to our garage, accessible from the alley. We spread and leveled 5.5 tons of gravel, in hopes that we'd be able to maneuver the pod from our skinny alley into the yard. And since Doug is fabulous, we've managed, just barely, and without divorce, to do it. It's getting easier! Now that we know we can get the pod into the space, we plan to get the parking pad cemented in.  Yay.

Great to have neighbors with construction equipment!

Leveled the new parking area super quick!

5.5 tons of gravel!

First night, all tucked away at home.