off-road (30)

Our Next Book: Rolling Homes

My Baja Bug* from the ’90s. A “pre-runner,” used back then to run the Baja 1000 race course before the race. Fiberglass fenders and hood, shocks came up and tied into roll bar, 15-gal. gas tank behind rear seat. Rocket Box on roof, with solar panel that charged 2nd battery. There was a 12′ by 14′ flea market tarp inside box that I would set up for shade.

I kept it at La Mañana Hotel in San José del Cabo, would fly down, pick it up, and drive 15 miles on dirt roads out to an arroyo, then let air out of tires and go about 2 miles on the sand to a spot called “Roosterfish Cove.” I’d set up the tarp (shade is critical in Baja camping), and spend 3-4 days solo on the beach, surfing at “Destilladeras,” a short paddle from my camping spot. Since I was still a competitive runner, I’d run along the beach when it was cool enough.

It was my camping vehicle until it ended up under water in a flood from Hurricane Henriette in Los Cabos in 1995 (26″ rain in 24 hours).

The idea of a sequel to our book Tiny Homes on the Move has been kicking around here for a while. There are some really good books on nomadics out there now, such as Van Life, by Foster Huntington (who coined the term/hashtag #vanlife), Van Life Diaries by Morton, Dustow and Melrose, and Hit the Road by Robert Klanten and Maximilian Funk.

But after talking to Foster, who encouraged me to go ahead, and starting to gather material, I’m excited. We’ve discovered a lot of different and new rigs; this book will be different. The Sprinter vans are super, true, but there are a lot more lower-cost and/or homemade options to the +100K van.

If you know of any such vehicles, please contact me at lloyd@shelterpub.com

*How ironic that the “people’s car,” or “folks’ wagon,” developed in Germany by Ferdinand Porsche on orders from Adolf Hitler in 1938, would go on to become not only the most popular car in history, but the go-to car for desert rats.

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Jay Nelson’s Subaru Brat Camper

I stopped by Jay Nelson‘s house in San Francisco Wednesday on my way to Santa Cruz (to check out the sliding doors on his shop — for the sliding doors I’m about to build on my curved-roof shed), and this was parked out in front. The body is made of wood, and there’s a copper roof which lifts up.

The vehicle is a Subaru Brat (which, in Subaru-ese) stands for  “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.” 4-wheel drive.

According to Autoweek:

“The BRAT came with one engine at launch, a 1.6-liter flat four mated to either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. Two trim levels were offered, DL and GL. The GL had four headlights, the the DL had two. In 1981 displacement was raised to 1.8 liters while power grew from 67 hp to a whopping 73. In 1983 an optional turbo engine was offered with 93 angry Japanese ponies. Early models had a single-range transfer case; later models came with a dual-range unit. The strange Subaru Baja eventually came to continue the legacy, but only 30,000 were sold in the four years (2003-2006) it was produced.”

We are doing a new book, Hit the Road, Jack: Adventure Rigs, and Jay’s unique vehicles will be featured, along with those of Mike Basich and other creative builders.

Note: if you have anything to contribute, or know of cool road rigs, contact evan@shelterpub.com.

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Beach Camping in Baja California Sur

Left to right:

  • My 1983 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 with 8-foot bed parked at Roosterfish Cove, Destilladeras (several miles farther out on the East Cape from Shipwrecks). This model did not have independent suspension for front wheels; desert rats preferred it because it was tougher.
  • Air Camping tent (made in Italy) on roof. When flap was up, it faced water. Had mosquito netting, mattress, pillow, sheets inside. Ladder holds up cantilevered section. Great for the desert, no worry about snakes, scorpions. I would 4-wheel it out in the desert on my travels in Baja at night, go down into arroyos and sleep. Stealth.
  • 9-foot Haut 3-fin board
  • Yakima Rocket Box on roof, which contained:
    • 10-by-12-foot flea market tarp for shade. There was a solar panel on the Rocket Box that charged up an extra battery. Note sandbags hanging in corners to hold tarp down in wind; no stakes nec.
    • fishing rod

I would fly into San José del Cabo, pick up the truck at my friend Chilon’s house, drive out to an arroyo on a ranch, down to the beach, let air out of tires and go 2 miles or so on the sand to Roosterfish Cove. All alone for days. No clothes nec.

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