One Year In

June marked a year since we set out from the ranch in Texas and truly commenced on our full-time RV living adventure.

We have learned so much about our new way-of-life and how we operate in this new realm.

One thing we have learned is that we need so much less than we thought we did. Although the back of our truck may say something different. We took time out at our friends the Marshes house in Montrose, CO, to empty the back and reorganize/reevaluate our gear. We had a decent sized donation pile afterwards and left our donations at the Salvation Army.

Even so, I would say that we could easily cut our stuff down by half again and possibly move into a more mobile and versatile unit such as a truck camper or a conversion van. A 250 square foot travel trailer seems like the height of luxury these days.

I had this affirmed for me when we stored our trailer, and I set out on a month-long journey. With the help of 2 space-saver bags from Dollar Tree, I managed to get enough clothes for 9 days of work, a beach vacation, a visit to my parents’ ranch in Texas and my semi-formal Anniversary Banquet at Southwest Airlines all into my 21-inch roll aboard that I use for work. I didn’t even have it expanded out (at least until the last flight back to the home-sweet-trailer).

I didn’t feel like I was doing without or that I had forgotten anything. Having access to a washing machine in all the places I stayed, did help. I did do a couple of panty wash outs in the sink.

Another quirk in our personalities that I have begun to embrace is that, even though I used to plan our lives for months out when we lived in a stick and brick is that, in this nomadic lifestyle, we are loathe to commit to anything. We do not know what we are doing until we are doing it. And I love it! It feels good to live loose and carefree!

Something that we began to realize as we began to stay longer in some places, is how limited we were by our resources. We figured out a hack for our freshwater which was to tote collapsible 5 gallon containers of water back with us and refill our tank.

With our gray water, we use biodegradable dish and shower soaps such as Campsuds and all Seventh Generation products, so we could usually let it go wherever.

However, our black tank would fill up after about a week. Sometimes we could stretch it longer if we were out a lot and not using our RV toilet. But inevitably, we would have to break camp to dump our black tank or use our Blue Boy tank to dump it which was gross, scary (as lifting a 180 pound fully loaded tank of sewage into the back of the pick up was suspenseful in a very bad way) and not convenient.

So, to celebrate our year anniversary of the full-time RV living lifestyle, we acquired an Airhead Composting Toilet! https://airheadtoilet.com

This solves our problem with waste disposal as the composting toilet can go weeks before it must be emptied and, when it is time to empty it, you simply discard the “dirt” into a composting bag and discard it into a trash can. Then, you refill the chamber with more moistened coconut hulls to start the process over again with a new batch. The urine gets diverted into the black tank and can go a long time before being emptied. Also, it is more sanitary as urine alone is sterile. When it mixes with number 2, it becomes “sewage”.

A composting toilet is also better for the environment because it uses less water.

While I was in Texas visiting my Mother and attending the Southwest Airlines anniversary party, Hans went to Montrose, CO, to his friend of 30 years, Wayne Marsh, and enlisted Wayne’s help and his shop in order to make the modifications (it took a LOT of modifications, but so worth it) to install the toilet.

I came back to a fully functioning composting toilet with the addition of a bidet. (The first time I ever went to France when I was 17, I was fascinated by bidets and resolved to someday have one. I just never realized my wildest dreams would come true in the toilet of my camper!)The bidet!

I have to say that the composting toilet is even better than I thought it could be. It strangely doesn’t smell AT ALL… even less than our original porcelain toilet.

The price tag is high on the composting toilet, over $1000, but thanks to my mother-in-law, Patricia, we are proudly perched on our new throne. She did something nice for Hans’ sister, and she believes in being fair, so she wanted to do something for him and he chose the toilet for us!

Hans making some mods:

This brings me to another thing that we have learned about ourselves. Somehow, some way, everything that we need is provided for us when we need it. The Universe Has Our Backs. Gabby Bernstein apparently wrote a whole book about this concept, aptly titled, “The Universe Has Your Back”.

Our beloved Arctic Fox 25Y was manifested out of the blue when we happened to find a used one only an hour away and at the right price when we were ready for it. This, despite the fact that I could only find 3 used ones in the country, and they were all thousands of miles away.

From month to month, I used to wonder how things would pan out. Would we be able to “clear our boards” and not have to commute back to Denver to work? Did we manage to work enough to cover our expenses? But I have ceased to worry about these things as apparently, things manage to work for us, even when we aren’t sure at the moment how this will manifest.

I don’t understand it, but I do believe it! And I believe this probably operates for all of us, but we have to give it SPACE TO HAPPEN for it to work it’s “magic”.

When we simplified and slowed down, we created the space to let the magic happen.

Strategies for Camping Inexpensively

Besides mooch-docking off your friends and loved ones, there are many ways to camp very inexpensively or even free. Thanks to the Information Age, there are many resources at your fingertips via your smartphone to help you find some of the most beautiful and convenient locations very easily.My favorite free boondock was in our new friend Dan’s backyard.Not to be confused with a mooch-dock which is what we had in the Rigatos’ side yard in Chicago because they had electric that we could plug into. That was lovely also!

After all, if you can camp inexpensively, you can spend more money doing fun things and acquiring paddle boards, bikes and other gear with which to appreciate the outdoors. And in our case, we can put off going to work just a little bit longer!

One of our favorite apps is Campendium. It is by far my favorite app for finding campsites. It is available for FREE in the App Store. It has a filter that ranges from free to $$$$$ and can show you where public land, RV dumps, parking lots and RV parks are located. Other campers can post their reviews and give you insider information and insights on particular campgrounds. For us it has been an invaluable tool.

There is also an app called All Stays. It is a bit pricy at $10. It does have good information on it such as campground information, rest stop locations, bridge heights, locations of Cracker Barrels (they always have RV parking in back…. and biscuits and apple butter!), RV dump locations as well as gas stations that can accommodate the height of your rig.

Surprisingly, casinos are a great place to camp and many of them even provide free electric hookups! We had stayed at several that have free dump stations. (Maybe it is just me, but I really do not like paying for dumps and some places charge as much as $20, and you are doing all the work!) And even if they do not have hookups, they often will let you “boondock” AKA dry camp for free in their parking lot for several days at a time. The idea is that you will come into the casino and give them some business through gaming, the spa or the restaurants. Casinocamper.com is a great resource with reviews and information. Many casinos will give you a senior discount on food if you are 50 or older.

One of our favorite stops in August was at Kewadin Casino in Christmas, MI, where, you guessed it, every day is Christmas! They had 6 free electric sites in the parking lot and it was minutes away from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park.I found the Kewadin Casino to be rather low-key for a casino.

Even better, it was next to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Granted, when you stay in places with free hook ups, there is often a lack of ambiance at your campsite. But, it is great to use these places as a jumping off point to see other things in the area. You just come back to sleep and regroup for more activities elsewhere.

Walmart was renowned for a long time for allowing RV-ers to park for free in their parking lots but recently that has changed, and the policy on parking and sleeping in the parking lot does vary from store to store now. One blogger that we follow tells the story of how he spoke with a Walmart manager who gave him permission to stay in the parking lot for the night. That was around 8 pm. Evidently, there was a shift change at 11 pm and the night manager felt differently. There was a knock on the door from security telling him to leave. He had to explain that he could not because he had drank a bottle of wine while watching a movie and was not safe to operate a vehicle. It was all sorted out, and he was allowed to stay. But if you are going to stay at Walmart, be sure to go into the store and get permission and request that he overnight manager be informed of your presence, too.

Cabela’s is also known for allowing RV-ers to park overnight in their parking lots. They have a separate RV parking area. We stayed at the Cabela’s in Owatonna, MN, overnight on our way west to the Black Hills. It was peaceful and there were other RV-ers there such as the Dubbels Family @dubbelsornothing on Instagram.

Truck stops and rest areas are great places to park for some shut-eye when you are on your way somewhere else, but they fill up surprisingly fast, especially if the truck stop has a good restaurant. I found a free app called Trucker Path that drivers update that will let your know if there are parking spaces left at a particular rest area or truck stop.

Another beautiful and free option is to park without hookups (aka “boondocking” or “dry camping”) on Forest Service land and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. These are some of the most beautiful and serene places. Of course, you have to prepare by making sure that your black and gray tanks are empty and your water tank is full. If you require air conditioning or want to use your TV, you will need a generator. We have dual Yamaha EF2000 generators. They are quiet compared to other generators on the market and fairly lightweight. They run about 8 hours before they run out of gas.

The view from the most scenic FREE boondock on our trip so far. We were perched on the edge of a canyon in the Badlands of South Dakota. We found this on Campendium. You had to open a barbed wire gate (it was haaaard to wrassle it shut again and people were not shutting it so this may affect access in the future) and drive up a dirt road toward the bluff.Us as well as other campers taking advantage of this beautiful and FREE campsite!

I only recently discovered the app “Boondocking”. It is free, and it has a map of BLM and Forest Service land for all states where this kind of land is available. People have added their first-hand accounts of the roads and sites as well as GSP coordinates. Of course, if you are pulling something that could easily get stuck such as a large trailer or fifth wheel, you may want to drop your trailer and scout the area first before you bring your rig down these rustic roads! Also, be fire aware and have two ways out of your camp.

We stayed a few nights ago in a well-kept city park with hook-ups in Wheatland, WY. It was donation only. We jumped on our bikes and explored their cute little downtown. Once again, we found this on the Campendium app.We are behind the tree. These are the donation-only sites at Wheatland, WY.Wheatland had a pretty park and wonderful donation-only services for campers!

There are lots of state and national parks with organized campgrounds and a camp host that are relatively inexpensive ranging from $8 to $30 depending on if you opt for hookups or not. Sometimes they are serene and peaceful, other times they are crowded and noisy so it really helps to do your research on apps if reviews are available.

My friend Miss Mazuma has a great blog post about her amazing cross-country car camping trip. She has some great pointers on free camping as well. Check it out!

At any rate, whether you are like us and try to stretch every dollar to the max or you like to live it up and stay at posh RV resorts and KOAs that are a kid’s dream come true with pizza delivery and pools, live your nomadic life to the fullest because there is nothing more exciting than waking up and letting the day and the road unfold before you.

Bright Lights and Big City Camping

Hans and I found a great and unexpected place to camp in the heart of Chicago at the McCormick Place Convention Center’s Lot B truck marshaling yard.

It was steps from the Lake Shore Drive Bike path and a mile from the Loop downtown.

At $35 a night versus an average summer hotel price of $350, it was a huge bargain!

The white camper on the left with the slide out deployed is our AF, Arctic Fox (lately known as MF, Millenium Falcon).

It was dry-camping, no water or hookups, but we were only at our camper to sleep so we did not use up many of our resources in 3 days.

Literally, the Lot B convention center parking lot is mere steps from downtown.

I also felt very safe there which is more than I can say for some of the places I have lived over the years in Chicago. There were other RV campers there doing the same thing as us as well as a 24 hour security patrol.

Airstream….. keeping Lot B classy!

Granted, it is a truck marshaling yard so 18 wheelers are coming and going all hours of the night. There is also a train to one side of the lot so it could be loud, but the noise never disturbed us when we were sleeping as we were running our dual Yamaha generators. Although they are quiet for generators, they still drowned out the sounds. I love white noise when I sleep so this worked well for me!

Also, the RVs are in a separate section of the lot from the big trucks.

The next closest camping option was in Zion which was 35 Miles from the city. Considering Chicago traffic these days, that really was not an option.

We were able to visit with Chicago friends very easily. Uber drivers did not mind picking us up or dropping us off at Lot B. It cost us about $7 one way to get to the Loop. You also have the option to walk 15 minutes to catch the Metra two stops into the city.

We enjoyed the city just like we did when we lived there! We went to see George Clinton and Parliament at the Petrillo Music Shell.

We also discovered this:

I have never seen a Taco Bell Cantina serving MARGARITAS any other place so I must assume it is a Chicago thing!

I was also able to take a morning bike ride on LSD (Lake Shore Drive for those of you not familiar with Chicagoland) just like old times!

I would highly recommend dry camping here to experience the city.

The staff is used to campers so it is no big deal to accommodate us. Just remember to empty your tanks and make sure you have your fresh tank full, although, according to my neighbor who had been living there since May, it is easy to leave and come back.

Troubles and Hassles

https://youtu.be/x-Q9JJP_kC8

Twenty three days into our new nomadic lifestyle, things are not yet running smoothly. For a while, it seemed that something would break literally every time we moved our rig.

For instance, our High Pointe microwave died on the trip down to Texas. It was covered by our extended warranty, but with a $100 deductible for a $140 microwave, we decided it was not worth the hassle to do the claim.

Our next stop after leaving Texas was Arkansas’ Petit Jean State Park. On the drive up to Arkansas, the light for the “stabilitrack” (whatever that was) came on the dash, and we could not put the truck in 4 wheel drive mode. Not a major problem by any means as we were not going places at the moment where we would need it.

Petit Jean is rumored to be the prettiest state park in Arkansas and has a beautiful legend associated with it.

The first night in Petit Jean, we got in late and set up camp in the dark as we fought off armies of flying bugs to set up our camp.

The next morning, we woke up and decided to move our campsite as we were on a pretty significant slope. Also, we needed a campsite with a tent pad because my brother, Ben, his girlfriend Jennifer, and their 5 kids between them were coming to join us that night.

When we tried to start the pickup, it was dead. So, I went to the visitor center to see if anyone could give us a jump. Luckily, a gentleman from the maintenance crew was able to help us!

We have a 2013 GMC Denali 2500 truck. We could not see a date on the battery, but it looked like it most likely was a factory battery so it was due to go out. We took the pickup out for a brisk drive after we moved our trailer, and it started again after we turned it off.

But we were running on borrowed time with the battery as we began to smell a rotten egg smell while we were driving. I did not know this, but that is a sign that your battery is going out when you smell that. Hans made a trip into town and got another battery for our truck and that problem was solved easily.

My brother and his girlfriend and the nephews and nieces arrived and the good times rolled!

We were able to tick Arkansas off our RV map.

A couple of days into our stay at Petit Jean, rain finally broke the oppressive heat wave. We had not turned on the TV since we left Texas. When we decided to entertain the kids with a movie inside the trailer, we realized the TV was kaput. It had worked just fine in Texas! How disappointing!

Instead, we played cards and told ghost stories about Albert, the ghost who haunted the front bedroom of our former Denver home, and LCHD, the haunted plane I was on in the 1990’s.

The ghost stories may have been too convincing. The kids had been interested in sleeping in their own tent, but instead chose to sleep in the camper with us. We utilized the sofa, the table and the floor for them, and even though it was a snug fit, everyone was OK with it.

It looks like a big mess but really there are children under all those blankets. (Hans likes it super cold to sleep so the rest of us need lots of blankets!)

After a few days with the kids, we loaded up for the drive to Tulsa to take them back home to their dad. Ben, my brother and their dad, is super handy. He installed an electric hookup with water so that we could comfortably stay in Jennifer’s back yard in Oklahoma.

We were making great time and things seemed to be going smoothly. We accidentally got on a toll road. This was he first indicator that our luck was changing. I really hate toll roads. Somehow the filter in my gps app turned off the “avoid toll roads” feature. We didn’t have enough coins in the truck so we had to borrow money from the kids who apparently are loaded.

Our second indicator that our luck was coming to an end was when the brakes briefly locked up as we were approaching a toll booth. That was SCARY. The children even broke eye contact with their video games when we jolted.

A Walmart parking lot was conveniently located at the end of the exit ramp so we pulled off the road. (We spend more time than I care to admit in Walmart parking lots because they are EVERYWHERE and their lots are HUGE.)

This is what we saw:

Like a dead snake lying in the Walmart parking lot, there was our cord that connected the trailer lights to our truck. It had dragged on the ground until the insulation surrounding the wires in the cord had been burned through and caused our brakes to engage.

It was official. We were broken down in Broken Arrow, OK, in the parking lot of a Walmart. I felt like this was definitely the lowest point of my RV-ing experience so far.

I called my brother because we were not sure that we could safely drive the trailer at this point. I knew he would know what to do. He said we were only twenty minutes from his house. He said to leave the cord disconnected and use hand signals to signal turns and use caution as we would no longer have turn signals or brake lights on our trailer.

We proceeded carefully the 20 or so miles to their home and harbored safely in Jennifer’s huge backyard.

As timing would have it, we ended up spending the 4th of July with Ben and Jennifer and their kids which was a lot of fun.

For the 4th, we went with the family to a Tulsa Drillers baseball game followed by fireworks. The Drillers are the farm team for the Dodgers. I can not think of a more American celebration than a baseball game and fireworks for the 4th.

And of course we fired off fireworks in Jennifer’s back pasture!

Ben helped Hans install a new trailer cord.

They also replaced a fuse that had been blown when the trailer cord dragged.

To repay him for his help, we babysat the kids so that he and Jennifer could have some time alone. Babysitting tip from the Taubs: Babysitting is much easier if you wrap the children in plastic wrap so they cannot move.

Just kidding! I really do not know who started this, but no children were harmed, and they actually asked us to do it again the next day!

By the way, if you didn’t know already, we are child-free. I am sure everyone is relieved to hear this! Haha!

We took the truck to the dealer in Tulsa on July 5th to diagnose the “stabilitrack” problem. The problem was the “coder motor” on the transmission had burned out so we replaced that to the tune of a few hundred dollars. It was a relatively easy fix, all things considered.

We left Ben and Jennifer’s back yard and ventured down the road and resumed our journey towards the upper Midwest where (hopefully) cooler temperatures beckoned.

We went to a nearby dump station at a state park to empty our gray and black tanks. Our luck took another turn!

We had had a lot of help from the kids when we dumped our tanks at Petit Jean. The kids gloved-up and helped Uncle Hans.

Somehow in the hubbub, the black tank valve remained open. This was not good when we dumped after the visit in Tulsa.

I was sitting in the truck with the windows rolled up texting with a friend when I smelled a very, very bad smell. I jumped out to see if everything was ok.

It was not. It looked like our trailer had diarrhea next to the dump station. How gross and embarrassing!!! We washed it off as best we could in the direction of the sewer opening. I squirted some Blue Dawn on the aftermath to try to clean it up better than simply washing it with water. We were both gagging! Ugh!!!!

Moving on, we continued uneventfully on our journey until we reached the Downstream RV Park. It was part of the Downstream Casino, and we could get 2 free nights of water and electric hookups if we joined their Players Club!

We thought our streak of weird mechanical luck had thankfully come to an end, but no sooner than we had set up camp, we got a phone call from our neighbor that our home in Denver had flooded because of a broken sprinkler!

Thanks to our fantastic neighbor, Patrick, for handling everything and for family members, Sonny and Calius, flying out from California to fix the broken sprinkler.

Even with the setbacks we have had, we have felt loved and supported every step of the way, from my brother wiring hookups for us and buying Hans a comprehensive tool kit, friends offering us a mooch-dock, to all the nice gifts and messages of support from family, friends and neighbors, we have never felt alone, and we feel so fortunate to be a part of a loving community of friends and family.

We also had the good fortune to be in Quapaw, OK, for the 146th Annual Powwow of the Quapaw Tribe with other tribes in the area. It was so moving to hear the music and see the dancing and the traditional garb of the indigenous people. I am awed at how these people have managed to salvage their traditions and uphold pride despite the genocide that almost annihilated them. I would like to say that the broken sprinkler was the end of our travails, but it was not.

As I write this from Robertsville State Park in Missouri, a mechanic named Chris is putting the finishing touches on installing a converter box for us. He came to our campsite to assist us today after we parked here two nights ago and discovered our batteries were not charging. The lights were pulling off of our battery, which should not happen, so we were unable to use the lights. Thankfully, the air conditioning still worked.

The RV season is in full swing right now so it would have been 4 weeks to get into an RV service shop in St. Louis. We were glad that we found Chris to come out in the first 2 days. It was also nice because we got to catch up with our dear friend, Ann, in St. Louis.

We went to a great place called Louis’s Wine Dive that I highly recommend if you are passing through. They have a gluten-free option on almost every item on their menu. I especially love their Brussels sprouts!

Wish us luck as we venture northward later on this week. I hope our mechanical problems are over for now!

Back Home On the Ranch

We have been “mooch docking” on the ranch in Whitney since my last entry.

I had never heard the term before until Hans used it. It is when you borrow power and/or water off of someone’s residence.

The ranch is an ideal place to mooch dock because my brother installed a 30 amp power hookup and there is a very convenient source of water. There is even a septic tank that we could dump our black waste into, but it requires a lot of maneuvering. However, Lofer’s Bend Park, only 4 miles away, has a dump site for $2.

We have an almost perfect situation except for the hook up being next to the junk pile adjacent to my late Dad’s shop. You need a tetanus shot just to step out the door, but it is fun to look over the junk pile while enjoying my coffee in the morning and play find the kitty.

Can you find Sissy Cat in this picture? How about the portable heater? The fireplace grate? The bike tire? The old high-FI TV antenna? Picture finds are good for your brain!

Another fun game we have enjoyed down home on the ranch is playing “find the newest calf”.

We were on our way to the river in my brother’s ATV to fish when we found this little guy who was so new that he could barely walk yet. He was just a few hours old!

Hans found country life agreeable with him even if it was not agreeable with his allergies. He fell in love with the “gravel bar” on the river which is the fishing hole here these days.

Thanks to my Mother’s innovative storage design when she and her sister designed her house back in the early 1970’s, I was able to fit everything that we were not able to take with us in our trailer into my childhood bedroom and the closet. I estimate that I managed to store about 1500 to 2000 pounds of “stuff” in that room. I guess we will find out the next time we are able to visit a CAT scale.

We were also able to clean and UV-protect our trailer, reorganize and optimize our storage areas and install a Tire Minder.Hans worked hard in the hot sun to get our trailer ship-shape for the start of our adventures.

We also took time to pick some peaches and connect with friends and family.The slow pace of country life was a big change for me. It was nice at first, but after a week, I began to get restless. I felt that there was someplace we needed to be.

There was no where we needed to be. I was just creating this in my mind. I had purposely scheduled no work or any definite plans for June or July in order to fully immerse ourselves in this new way of living.

Motion is such a natural state for me after being a flight attendant for 24 years, that it is my comfort zone. I thrive on new places, people and a constantly changing routine.

I never have days that are not packed with plans I have made for us. I literally never sit still. This motion that drives me forward has served me well for years enabling me to be very productive in how I work and to visit 38 (no place for Bermuda on this map) countries and every continent except for Antarctica (bucket list). If I am not running from one place to another, something feels wrong.

Because I am trying a new way of being and living, I decided that this restlessness that was irritating me like the ant bites on my feet that no amount of scratching could alleviate, must be challenged.

So we stayed in place on the ranch for a little longer.and enjoyed more fresh eggs from my sis-in-law’s chickens!

As a result, I took my brother’s ATV and explored places on the ranch that I had not ventured to since 1987 on my horse. Beauty was still around every corner on this pretty place nestled into the encircled arm of the Brazos River on one side. But there was a wild side, too.

It was jolting to drive into what I remembered as pristine fields where my Dad baled hay and see them returned to their natural state. The tangled neurons in Dad’s brain, due to the Alzheimer’s disease that ultimately took him, precipitated the tangles of overgrowth these fields had become. It felt like the landscape of a nightmare.

I ran into a hole that I didn’t see because the pasture was so overgrown and almost rolled the ATV. The bull nettle (aka Satan’s Dandelion) that whacked me on the knee as the ATV tipped quickly brought me back to reality.

If you have never been stung by bull nettle, then you are living a blessed life, my friend. I’m sure it was probably used to torture one’s enemies back in pioneer days. I raced back to our home sweet trailer and made a paste of baking soda and water to put on my bull nettle stings. It did absolutely nothing!

I think I am way too “city-fied” to survive for long on the ranch anymore, but it was so nice to spend time there and reconnect with my roots and show Hans more of my ancestral home.

Murphy’s Law of RV-ing

Being brand new to the art of RV-ing, Hans and I had no idea about the extent that the old adage of “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” applies to RV-ing.

We set out on our trip to Texas with our trailer fully packed with items to store at my parents’ ranch that we did not want to part with but could not take on the road with us.

We stopped at a CAT scale to check our weight. Our truck and trailer together weighed 20,000 pounds. Our trailer has a capacity of 10,000 pounds and weighed 11,020. So, we were over-grossed by 1,020. Not an ideal situation. Not to mention that we could not even get into the trailer easily because we had it loaded right up to the doors.

With this situation, we decided to make the 13 hour drive (according to Googlemaps) straight through just switching out drivers when one of us became tired.

I felt like we had a perfect plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Being a frugal person, I looked online and found a place to dump our tanks for free on http://www.rvdumps.com/. The Circle K in Colorado Springs looked perfect. If you buy 8 gallons of fuel, your dump is free! Lots of places charge $15-$20 just to offload your tanks so I am always on the scout for a deal.

What we did not know is that the Circle K off of exit 138 in Colorado Springs is super sketchy at 1 am on Saturday morning! I do not think that Hans noticed the activities in the parking lot as he was too busy checking the air in the tires one last time and dumping the tanks.

During the hour it took for him to do that, I observed an 18 wheeler pull in, a Lincoln Town Car pull up next to them 5 minutes later, the truck drivers jump into the LTC for 10 minutes, the car drive off and the truck drivers take off again. A man living in his car at the back of the gas station was screaming at someone with whom he was FaceTiming. And some guy was busily sorting through the dumpster in the back d the gas station. Yuck. I was relieved to leave.

Now, our trip was up to 14 hours in length. No problem! I had 2 cans of Red Bull and all kinds of candy to indulge myself (I usually do a ketogenic diet so this was a treat, indeed!). Hans was conking out, but with my treats and good music, I was ready to punch through the dark night of the Colorado and New Mexico roads.

I finally hit a wall in Clayton, NM, at about 5:30 am, and had to catch a few zzzz’s. We lost another hour with my nap. Hans managed to take a very attractive picture of me:

Things were still going smoothly at this point. But was we drove through Dalhart, TX, the winds picked up considerably. Wind and a trailer is not a great combination. This slowed our progress even more.

We stopped in Childress, TX, to get some iced tea at McDonald’s. The wind had blown the spare tire cover off. Somehow, although we had made sure our spare was in good shape, we never bothered to look at what was actually holding the spare on. Apparently, it was a single rusty stripped out nut and screw. We were so relieved it had held and no one was hurt by our stupid mistake.

Also, one of the bike handle bars was rubbing a hole in the back of our trailer. Of course the Allen wrenches were not in a convenient place and required gymnastic maneuvers on Hans’ part inside the 95 degree trailer to retrieve them to make the adjustment.

Conveniently enough, there was a Tractor Supply Co. store in the parking lot where we stopped. Hans got what he needed, but of course, it took a while to fix it so we lost another hour and a half here.

But luckily there was a tamale truck in the parking lot, I bought one bag of beef and one of pork for $11, and we ate those for the 3 days and even shared some with my Mom and her husband, Danny.

We continued on driving slowly through the gusty winds of west Texas. So exhausted and tired and so ready to be to Whitney.

We were in our final stretch from Weatherford to Whitney, only about an hour and a half left! Then, I noticed a check engine light. I wasn’t sure how long it had been on. I showed Hans and he said it was the DEF fluid. I had heard of it, but had no idea that it was running low nor that it would activate a speed governor automatically in your engine when it ran out!

We had some DEF with us buried deep inside the pile of things in the bed of our pick up. We pulled over in a residential neighborhood in Weatherford and exhumed the contents of our pick up bed and found it.

We finally made it to the ranch at 9:30 pm. What I thought would take 13 hours, took over 21 hours.

We made it down a mile of dirt road without any problems with tree branches or potholes thanks to hard work on my brother and his friend Wayne’s part. However, we found out that something was wrong with the electrical hook up at the shop.

(I think a surge protector is an absolute MUST if you have an RV you are going to plug in. It could save your rig and your bank account.)

I had told Ben, my brother, that it was a 30 amp plug for our RV. I assumed it must be a 220 volt. Not the case!!! Our Arctic Fox 25Y has a 30 amp plug but runs on 110 volts. I’m not sure, but I think this is unusual.

He and his friend, Wayne Redding, managed to figure it out the next day. Ben was in Tulsa, but Wayne had the mad skills required to fix the problem.

It was past midnight, and we were so tired. I slept in the old ranch house which has air conditioning. It was way too hot to sleep in the camper. Hans, who has bad allergies to dust and pet dander, slept in our truck with the a/c running.

We were tired, but we were so happy and thrilled to have completed the first leg of our adventure. And we learned so much along the way, such as give yourself at least a third more time than you think you will need to get there. And things may not work as planned when you do arrive so have a backup plan (such as gas to run your generators). Also, keep all tools and essential equipment in easily accessible places.

I’m sure we will learn much, much more!

The Road Is Calling and We Must Go

This is the big day that we hit the road to start our new life. It has been a huge process in the last couple of months to get here.

Hans said the process of adjusting to our new life is the hardest thing he has ever completed. I still insist that passing a 5 hour Calculus/Trigonometry class to graduate college is the hardest thing I have ever done to this day. Math was never my forte.

You-Doodle-2018-06-15T15-37-53Z

It was a HUGE challenge for us was to downsize us from a 3 bedroom, 1700 square foot home to a 25 foot travel trailer with one slide out. I estimate the square footage to be around 171 square feet. So, it is basically a tiny house. We had to go down to 10% of the space we once had. We had to get rid of 90% of our stuff. I was keeping a list of everything we were selling or donating. I got to around 500 items and then abandoned my list. I think I was almost halfway through my clearing spree when I stopped my list.

I initially started off being very zen about it a la Marie Kondo.   , holding it, breathing it in and seeing if it “sparked joy”. But as time flew by, I turned into the Anti-Hoarder (which my family members began to view more as the Anti-Christ, as they began to sleep with their treasured possessions under their pillows lest they wake up to nothing). If I held everything and waited for a joy spark, we would not leave until Christmas as we had so much stuff!

We had a garage sale and off-loaded a huge amount of items despite bad weather forecasted for the weekend. Denver had been sunny and in the 70’s and 80’s, but in true Denver May fashion (we had a blizzard on Mother’s Day 3 years running), the weather dipped into the 40’s and 50’s with rain on the ONLY weekend we could do the sale. So, we started it on Wednesday at 3 PM and continued it through the weekend. We had 3 garages of stuff!!! By Sunday, we were down to 5 boxes of things for the AmVets to collect.

I do think that doing lots of blasts on social media such as Nextdoor app and Facebook marketplace helped a lot with the success of our garage sale. I would take pics of individual items in the garage sale (the good stuff) and post and that seemed to bring in a lot of people. And of course, traditional signage throughout the neighborhood.

Thanks to a trip to Container Store (not frugal by any means, but you can find anything for ANY space), Dollar Tree, IKEA and Target, we managed to make things quite functional in our small space, although we are neophytes to this new life and I am sure our organization practices will change.

We have amazing neighbors in Potter Highlands. Our friends and neighbors, Debbie and Douglas, were super cool and let us park our trailer on their section of our neighborhood carriage lot. We were able to plug our trailer into our home’s electricity. It made it very convenient to get situated for our new lifestyle.

Our last hurdle today before we depart was to back our 10 foot wide trailer down our 150-foot alley that is 12 feet wide in one place thanks to a telephone pole and the fence on the opposite side. We have done this 3 times so far, and it is always anxiety-inducing to the point where I have bad dreams the night before. One of the biggest challenges in an old neighborhood with narrow streets is just finding a time when the street doesn’t have cars  obstructing our wide pathway. We would not have been able to get out at all yesterday, but thanks to third Friday street cleaning, our window opened this morning!

IMG-0921-2

We put our phones on speaker and use them as walkie-talkies. I watch the back end and tell Hans which way to turn. (It all sounds like a weirdly sexual dialogue. ” ‘Ok. Go right a little. A little more. Oh! That is WAY too much. Oh, that is it. RIGHT THERE. Keep it straight and DON’T let it drift.’ “)

The first time took us over an hour, the second time, 40 minutes. Today we managed this in 25 minutes! So, we are getting better. And no property was damaged. And we are still married! Yay!

This is our new home all packed up and ready for our journey to Texas to visit my Mom at my family’s ranch and drop off some things that we do not want to part with but that we deem unsuitable for our current lifestyle.

IMG-1013.JPG

So incredible to think that this metal box and pick up truck hold everything in the world that we have. It is a strange, yet liberating feeling.