After selling everything we owned to move to Western Canada, it was a dream to spend a Summer on the road Stealth Camping. To see the sites, and save on Hotel Fees. But we are owned by a Cat.
The camping system we designed and built for the inside of the Rav4 would serve us well, with myself our seventeen year old kitty, Magic and my Wife to occupy the tiny crossover "motel on wheels". We would soon learn that without a doubt this is the cheapest and most exciting method of Stealth Camping, ever.
Anyone new to this blog will soon learn this is no average Rav4, as I've transplanted the heart and soul of a JDM Japanese high performance station wagon into it, in order to accommodate the extra weight of our trailer and my "spirited" driving style. Would this JDM Engine handle it? The 1998 Toyota Rav4 had 300,000km on it when we set out on the road.
We bought and outfit a bug out trailer, with toolboxes, extra fuel cans, shovels, and even used a bracket meant for holding galvanized fence posts to concrete walls to hold a patio umbrella against the trailer, allowing us to prop it up when we were parked, it perfectly shaded the cooking areas. The drawers of the camping system were where we stored everyday used items like cooking gear, toiletries you name it.
We would spend an entire summer, from May to October 2016 travelling across and throughout Canada's back roads and highways, camping on Crown Land, in Truck Stops, Wal-Marts and regular camp grounds and loving every single one of the almost 160 days travelling with a Cat! She loved to drink water from the Rivers when we would do the dishes after a road-side picnic.
We put a litter box in the back corner of the Rav4, I could see it in my rear-view mirror while driving, If kitty had to do any "business" I would simply tap my turn signal, and pull to the side of the road and let her do her thing. We would scoop and toss the intruding nuggets and wet litter and the smell would be gone within a mile with the windows open.
This "Nerd Station" I built serves multiple purposes, it's a Laptop bracket, a lunch table, extra cup holders, and a Kitty bed!
Anytime I left the vehicle (the whole summer I barely spent more than 15 minutes without Kitty or Car) with the Laptop on my "nerd-station" open, she would promptly use it as her personal heating pad.
Kitty was unbelievably content sleeping many hours tucked away in blanket folds, under the seats, on the floor in the back or even right up front on my Wife's lap. With my wife flying in-and out of norhtern Alberta every other week, Kitty looked forward to the change in routine.
a Piece of 3/4" EMT Conduit, with another piece of 1/4 slid inside, allowed for a simple, telescopic rooftop canopy to shade the door area from rain or sun. We brought a bicycle with us for a number of reasons, the main one being that no one wants to have to walk to a fuel station or back to the nearest area you had cell service if you break down. CAA (like AAA) is a must for long distance road trips in an older vehicle. Mind you many forest service areas don't qualify under your plan. Luckily I'm quite accustomed to vehicle repairs.
This is where we put a plain old cardboard bankers box, with Magic's favorite blanket at night time, as a part of our setup routine, after flipping the seats forward, and folding out the bed extensions.
Some mornings at 3am, we would wake up, walked across, as she made her way to her litter box. we had "poop alarm" drills where we would have to evacuate the unit, open all doors and proceed with abatement. about 15 minutes would suffice for us to return inside without any sense of the incident. Kitty would sleep in her box for most of the night, then in the early morning she would bug us to climb into one of our sleeping bags.
I had installed a 16"x16" RV Roof vent, right into the steel of the Rav4's roof, this along with AVS Ventshades on all the windows, would allow us to sleep with fresh air moving freely inside. It was amazing on rainy days, to lay back in your sleeping bag, and read Reddit, Catch a Movie on the DVD player I installed, or read a book.
It became so comfortable that some days we would find a spot of shade and just melt the day away, all three of us fast asleep inside this tiny 98 Rav4.
When she would wake up she would immediately make her presence known, We kept a water bowl on the floor that she had access to all the time, but we would pop the lid on her food as needed to keep it from going stale.
While camping in Ontario, she did escape one afternoon. Not being a parent, I felt like one, sick to my stomach, she made her way out of the tent I drunkenly left open, (and rarely used, saved for when camping with family) and took off into the brush to discover the wilderness.
I was frantic. I devised a plan to convince her to return. As the bush was filled with Racoons and this was a prissy indoor kitty, not an outdoor kinda girl.
I filled a fishing net with Cat food, reversed the fan on my Intercooler, and set the entire bag on top of it, blowing the smell of cat food throughout the bush. I knew either 100 Racoons, or my Cat would return.
Calling the park service ranger made me feel like a real winner, a grown man, crying about his lost Cat. But surprisingly they didnt make fun of me, and when Magic took the Bait on the food trap, realizing her own meal was easier catch than field mice, she returned much to my surprise, and the shock of the Park Service.
I will never forget the kindess and empathy expressed by this man. He searched for hours, as did another off duty park ranger, who tromped through the bush in shorts!
After returning to British Columbia a couple Pals joined me at one of our favorite spots to camp in Golden, BC.
We built a Hot Tub, and a Shower, that was heated by the campfire. Here is Neil enjoying the warm water with his Breakfast.
It's a popular camping spot with lots of people coming and going to see Thompson Falls. We had a few people laugh, a few scoff, a couple jealous and many offering to pay for a shower. There are no facilities here, its you and the land.
Using Two (because flimsy) kiddie pools, a coil of copper, some bubble foil insulation and alot of beer, we managed to burn ourselves multiple times on the hot jets of water shooting out of this human capuccino machine. Dont worry I brought a jug of Bleach and made sure that water couldnt fester any soup.
Kris and Neil putting the lid on the hot tub.
We completed our camping tour after the snow started to fall, and Magic started to object. over 50,000km travelled in less than 200 days! The only mechanical failure the entire trip was a failed thermostat, Toyota reliability at its finest.
All told Magic and I spent over 160 days sleeping in the Rav4, travelling throughout Canada. With my Wife joining us each week, at which ever airport was nearest at the time she only spent about half that time on the road with us, but it was one of the most exciting summers I'v ever had.
My back started to really bother me by the fall, and I would later discover a genetic predisposition to a degenerative disc disease, at the time, I likened it to needing a chiropractor, and sleeping on a comfortable, but rather firm surface as we only used self inflating mattresses all summer.
We would wrap up our Tour in October, renting a townhouse and a shop near Edmonton, where I would start my YouTube Channel, and begin to document some of my Rav4 Engine Projects where kitty makes impromptu cameos in many, of them and Stars in this one where she demonstrates walking her human: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cml4uWOPCyo
Kitty passed away in August of 2017, after kidney failure and her Magical almost eighteen years caught up with her. We are still, months later heartbroken at her passing.
We buried her in a farmers field, without permission, in a beautiful part of the Alberta Countryside, in the same type of Stealth fashion that she spent her last summer, the "Magic Tour of 2016".