Frank Ross loves to take his 2006 Dodge Power Wagon and 2005 Hallmark Milner LX off-road, off-grid, and on the dirt, sand, and rocks. Jeep trails anyone? Yes, please!
Think the off-road truck camper trail ends where the Jeep trails begin? Think again. Frank Ross tells us that there’s almost nowhere his 2006 Dodge Power Wagon and 2005 Hallmark Milner LX can’t go. If there’s enough room for his full-sized truck, he can get through. The Jeeps can go a bit further, but Frank Ross and his truck camper can go places where other RVs wouldn’t even dream. And don’t think for a second that Frank is afraid to scratch his Power Wagon to get there. He’s already been there, and scratched that.
TCM: How did you discover truck camping?
Frank: I got my first truck camper around 1992, an old twenty-year old eight-foot Six-Pac. With the Six-Pac I had a one-ton Chevy with an eight-foot bed. We had that camper for maybe five or six years. Then we sold it and we didn’t have a camper until 2006. That was a long spell in between campers.
TCM: What brought you back to truck camping?
Frank: Now, the kids are grown and gone, so my wife, our new dog, and I thought it would be fun to get a small camper. Our Hallmark is the perfect camper for two people and a little dog. We can get off the beaten path where it’s not crowded. I’m the type of guy who avoids RV parks and crowds and likes to get out into the boonies.
When I bought the Hallmark, a friend at work said, “You’re not going to use it. You’ll sell it to me in a year.” Well, we’re going on three years and we’ve used the heck out of it. Later in life I can see getting something a little bigger, but for now I’m having too much fun going off-road and scratching the paint up on my truck.
TCM: How did you come to choose a Hallmark pop-up?
Frank: I settled on Hallmark because I really liked the electric top and it came fully loaded. I called Randy Was, who is a very nice guy, and told him I was looking for a good deal on a 2005 Hallmark Milner LX. I have everything; electric top jacks, an outside shower, a dual-battery tray, a three-way fridge, and twenty-two gallons of water. The camper has everything I wanted.
I have weighed the truck and camper with me in it, not a lot of gear, full-water, propane, and a few miscellaneous odd ends. The weight of the truck and camper was about 9,160 pounds. When it’s fully loaded for a trip I’m getting close to 10,000 pounds. When you add in twelve gallons of extra water at 8.34 pounds a gallon, leveling ramps, tools, porta-potty, chairs, table, generator, and on and on. It adds up fast. I’m very weight conscious.
TCM: What do you think about your Hallmark’s electric top?
Frank: It’s bullet proof. Mike Hastman, Hallmark’s Foreman, told me that he’s never had one fail. Just be careful that you have everything right before you raise or lower the roof. The roof is so powerful that it will power through anything you forgot to set right.
One night I lowered the electric roof when the top stove cover was still up. The electric roof doesn’t stop. I didn’t permanently damage the stove top, but I was upset at myself for leaving it up. A few months ago I lowered the top with the queen size bed storage lid up. As I was walking away, I heard a, “Pow”! I thought there would be serious damage but all I had done is snap a bolt in the linkage for the roof. You really have to make sure everything with the camper is where it’s supposed to be before you lower or raise the top.
TCM: That’s quite the lift mechanism. Have you made any modifications to your Hallmark to extend its boondocking capabilities?
Frank: I put waterproof electric connectors on my jacks so that I can R&R them easy. It saves 132 pounds. Plus, I don’t have to worry about snagging one on a rock. When I went to Death Valley, I knew I wasn’t going to have the camper off so I removed the jacks before the trip.
I also put a cargo pod on the roof that I use for dirty clothes and garbage. There’s a funny story there. When we were coming back from Death Valley, I noticed a bag of garbage hitting the freeway behind us. Being in denial, I thought, “Wow, that looked like our garbage” and kept going. A little while later I saw my Levis and socks falling all over the freeway behind us. It’s not a heavily traveled road so I hit the breaks and got my dirty clothes off the freeway.
TCM: That’s one way to air your dirty laundry. So what happened to the pod?
Frank: There was a big crack in the pod and a couple of the latches had failed. A year before, the cargo pod had been dented by some overhanging branches. I punched out the dent but evidently the latches were damaged more than I thought. It was a total loss.
TCM: Tell us about your 2006 Dodge Power Wagon.
Frank: The Power Wagon is my toy. I ordered it directly from the factory. They started building the Power Wagons again in 2005. I read about it and decided that I had to have one. I ordered my Power Wagon in 2006 just the way I wanted.