The Green Gopher

Growing up in the 70’s I learned and spent a lot of time camping, hiking, being outdoors and active.  Every spring summer and fall, my parents and I would load up the truck, and later the trailer and head out.  Typically preparations would start the week before departure, and the loading process would start on Thursday afternoon with my brother and I hauling all the gear into the yard, while my mom packed the vehicles.  Friday could not come soon enough and when it did, my dad would come home from work, change is clothes, wrangle up two kids, maybe a dog, adjust the mirrors, and exclaim “We’re off” as we drove out of the driveway.  For the most part, for my family nothing much has changed much from my dad.  It is however the details that matter.

In 1972, I was one year old and to celebrate my dad bought a new truck.  Details of the vehicle back then are scare.  From my point of view, my dad previously owned a 1964 International Scout.  He drive this car for years all over the desert south west in the late 1960s.  When my dad married my mom, my mom made him sell the Scout because the breaks were horrible, and at least three times they failed completely.  It was a wise decision considering the stakes for the family at the time, but the loss of his beloved Scout was difficult and for decades despite its faults the Scout cast a long shadow in our family.

Returning to 1972, my dad decided to purchase his truck.  He chose a Sea Foam Green 1972 Ford F-100 pickup sporting a 302 inch V-8 sporting with a 3.2:1 gear ratio, two fuel tanks, and a four speed manual transmission which included a “Granny Gear”.  The extra costs of a four wheel drive were not an option for my dad at that time.  So, the truck became the “ultimate compromise”.  He opted for 2 wheel drive, but to offer improved traction he chose a four speed with granny gear.  The differential was geared up to offer improve gas mileage, but the little 200 HP V-8 could not pull a grade at any sort of highway speeds.  A camper shell, home built bed, pass-through rear window and the “green gopher” was complete for the initial incarnation.

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Alabama Hills, CA

The Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, CA.

Located near Lone Pine, CA the Alabama Hills are an awesome spot to visit and explore.  Large boulder formations erupt from the ground and create a maze of canyons, trails and roads.  This feature in itself, is more than enough fun to justify a trip to this area, however add to the equation that the Alabama Hills has appeared in more Hollywood movies than one person can name and you have the perfect combination of terrain and nostalgic history.  The Alabama Hills are featured in many “Western” movies and is the birth place of the Lone Ranger and Iron Man.

A final punctuation mark is the Alabama hills are located in the foothills of Mount Whitney (14,505 ft), the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

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Chuck Box – Part 2

Painted and completed, with the Jeep behind it.
Painted and completed, with the Jeep behind it.

I finally complete the chuck box or camp kitchen. Constructed from 3/8 inch plywood, the chuck box is 17″ x 27″ x 22.5″.  All of the joints are “glued and screwed” using butt joints.  The entire construction is filled, sanded, and painted with a desert camouflage color scheme.

The top of the chuck box is hinged with a shelf, to allow the cook to get access to the stove.  The top shelf has four holes for the stove legs to securely hold the stove in place during transport and use.  There are two large hand holds cut out near the top to easily allow someone to carry it.  The hand holds also allow the propane connector to pass through and attach to the stove, so someone could use the stove in place.

The front is hinged and folds down to provide a work surface.  The front may be placed in the upright position and held in place with magnets to hold it out of the way as needed.

Inside, the chuck box has a large storage capacity.  The top section stores the stove, and all the supplies required for the stove, in addition to some marshmallow roasting sticks.  The middle section stores cooking utensils, serving utensils, plates, cups and bowls.

Cooking gear
The expanded check box stores a lot of cooking gear.

The huge bottom section can carry a 8 quart dutch oven, nested 12″ frying pans, two pots, coffee pots, and washing bins.  In addition, we can store paper towels, cooking oil, soap and still have room for extra supplies.

The chuck box fits perfectly in the back of our jeep wrangler, along with a 6 gallon water bottle, ice chest, and food box.  The only issue, is that when the chuck box is filled up with gear and supplies, it can be rather heavy.  With the weight, comes strength, and the jeep does have heavy duty springs to carry the load.

Projects – Update Feb 2, 2012

Since the I started documenting some of my projects on my website, I think it important to give an overview of everything done so far, and try to describe how my thoughts and priorities are changing based on the results of my experience so far.


Traffic to the website is light, but gaining ground steadily.  I am hopeful that as I continue to write more, traffic will increase as people of like interests discover the website.   In what free time I have, I am studying WordPress as much as possible.  There are a lot of great articles written on the subject, but my greatest like and dislike of the software is the “WordPressyness” of it.  More on that later…

ChuckBox (Camp Kitchen)

It meats my goals in the short-term and I look forward to taking it on a camping trip in the near future.

Phone Server

This is mostly done, but not yet complete. This is sad for me as the Nevada Presidential caucuses are just around the corner and is not deployed in time for all the robo calls telling me for whom to vote or caucus.  The only remaining task is to record the voicemail setup.

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Chuck Box – Part 1

As a lifelong outdoors man, I have hiked, rafted, backpacked and camped across most of desert southwest.  As such, I have learned very well what I do and don’t need when I leave the city. I am perfectly happy finding a clearing just off a tail and setting up a campsite.  A few years ago my wife and I purchased a four door Jeep Wrangler JK which we use quite often to go on day drives.  The challenge is load and organize all of our gear and carry it in a medium size SUV.

My goal is to build a chuck box, or camp kitchen, which is a simple box to store all the kitchen supplies needed for a successful camping trip.  The chuck box needs to balance strength, weight and most importantly for me, size.  The chuck box needs to contain all of gear and would enable to set up our campsite in no time.  I am hoping to keep it small enough and lite enough that I can easily move it with no help.  The Jeep 4 door Wrangler does not have a large about of cargo space especially for a family of three and a yellow Labrador.

I have several goals:

  1. I want the chuck box to fix in the back of the jeep with the back seats usable.
  2. The box must contain all of our cooking gear,  including a stove, pots, frying pans, dutch oven, plates, utensils, cleaning supplies, etc…
  3. Everything is carried securely AND  organized in such a way that it keeps down the noise potential when driving on the back roads.
  4. The box needs to be light weight yet strong enough to survive the pounding of camping, ‘jeepin’, etc…
I will post photos of my camp kitchen when I have some time to take them.