Off of the Grid

Latest

Hello Spokane!

We have arrived.

What an interesting journey. I don’t really think there is a better word. First off, I would like to send KUDOS to the Drury Inn & Suites. We had to be holed in Phoenix for a week and they were awesome! Free breakfast and dinner. Drinks available until midnight. Pool open till 10. Comfortable, convenient, great customer service. I will do a full write-up on them in our reviews section.

While there waiting for the drive train to be fixed, an infection developed in my jaw. Anyone who has ever had an infection in their jaw is now most likely wincing. Ya. Fun. Turns out all those long days in the full heat in Tucson made me a bit dehydrated. I neglected my self care, while obsessing about my husband and son getting enough water. The result – inflamed and infected submadibular glands.  Hit me hard on Tuesday night with fever and chills and pain. Took Tylenol and kept working with fluids and by Friday, I was O.K.. Ready to drive in any event – still in pain but no longer suffering the chills.

Thursday afternoon, we got our repaired rig back. Thursday night, Daniel was outside working on the trailer lights. I had told him that they were flashing irregularly so there was a short somewhere. While he was outside in the cool of the evening, he met a scorpion. A big black scorpion. Pincers up, it chased him around the rig.  LOL! Too funny! Daniel did manage to fix the trailer lights but with no thanks to the scorpion. You should see him tell the story in person – I had tears I was laughing so hard.

Friday shone brightly and we hit the road. Dogs and kid settled, we were off! There is a wonky wheel on the trailer so I tend to follow kinda close to make sure I have eyes on that wheel. We have been assured it’s OK but it wobbles badly between 20 and 40mph. We were driving through Nevada and there was a ton of truck blowout debris. Daniel was able to avoid a large strip, but I was not.  A large chunk flew under Princess and the next thing I heard was metal scraping on the road.  Opps. I pulled over to see some metal panel bent irregularly behind the driver seat. It looked like everything was still basically attached but this metal sheet was bent.  It looked like I could just bend it back. Sadly – the metal was not bending and I didn’t have any tools to take it off. Daniel was able to turn around and bring the tools and removed the metal. He tied up the whatever and off we went!

We stopped not much farther for the night. Just tired and needing to rest. My throat was bothering me a lot, the pain radiating into my jaw and ears. Never fun. The hotel we stayed in was retro and fun. They put us into the ‘Dog’ room. Dog curtains and dog stickers decorating the walls. Little statues of dogs here and there. Retro movie posters in the hallway of some of my favorite movies. So, a fun place. Price a bit higher than I was expecting but otherwise very nice. Down side of being in a pet room, is all pets share the same rooms. Usually, I don’t notice cats have been in a room we are in, but here – my allergies went into overdrive. Then the fan in the shower was pulling in smoke from the smokers outside. My throat was already hurting and now I had allergy issues making everything worse. Another highlight though, before sleeping we all went out as a family and looked at the milky way. No light pollution and clear skies made for wonderful star gazing. Large bats flew around making sure we weren’t bothered by any bugs. We had fun identifying the constellations we knew and then made up some of our own. Another sweet night bonding as a family.

An early start the next day, and my throat was on fire. It hurt to swallow, I couldn’t stop producing saliva and was exhausted. We stopped in Ely, NV to try and find out if maybe some warm tea would help at all. I was downing extra strength Tylenol in an unhealthy amount and not finding any respite. Finally, almost to the point of tears, we looked for an ER. Turns out, Ely just built a beautiful new hospital. The only thing available for miles around. It sits up on a hill next to a large green park. How perfect is that? My son and husband were able to wait out my ER visit in this wonderful park. The Ely ER was clean, and quick. I could feel something was swollen under my jaw and I guess, it was pretty visible to the doc as well. He had me diagnosed quickly with infected submadibular saliva glands. He could see the line of red from under my jaw and up my jaw line. Then came the issue that I couldn’t have anything that would cause drowsiness. We would run out of funds if we had to stay in any one location. We had to drive. Problem was solved after the ER crewed did some research. Two shots later, and a prescription for a strong antibiotic for me to pick up in Boise, we were off! Xander had a great time at the park because other kids his age showed up and they had a lot of fun. Our pups got to enjoy the grass and the cool sunny air.

The ER trip took  some time so we ended up stopping in Twin Falls, ID instead of Boise. Feeling better because I had the shots, I was still in a lot of pain. The Tylenol was not cutting it but I wouldn’t be able to drive with the prescribed pain med. Swallowing was getting easier but still painful and the allergies now would not stop. We stopped in Boise to visit with our amazing niece. She is studying to be a doctor and has a lovely home. We stopped by for a quick visit, and of course, she checked out my swollen glands. She also got me setup with some protean drinks so I would finally be able to get something in my system, and gave me some Advil she had which worked out better than the Tylenol that I was using. We picked up my prescription and were off again. Our goal was to make it to Spokane that night but we were so tired. I think we got about 4 hours away and had to stop at a Walmart. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. We parked out of the way, cleared off the bed – set the alarm for 2 hours and grabbed some shut-eye.

A bit refreshed, we headed out again. We went about an hour and a half before again, we had to stop from exhaustion. We found a lovely spot off the road, cleared off the bed again and crashed for the night. We were somewhere in the middle of a large windmill farm and fell asleep listening to the wind blowing, the cows in a nearby field mooing and the sound of the windmill blades wooshing.  Another beautiful night of stars but we were too tired to appreciate them. We just went to bed.

We woke up when we wanted, not tied to some hotel checkout time and had an easy morning. We also got a bit of a better look at where we were stopped. Lovely location!

We were driving through Colfax, WA looking for some quick and easy lunch when Daniel and the rig went one direction, and one of the wheels from the tag axle went another. It was like an old cartoon where the wheel just takes a trip of it’s own, miraculously missing pedestrians, cars, rivers and other obstacles. Daniel hadn’t noticed and I was busy trying to chase the wheel. It rolled merrily down the street, up on the side walk, away from windows, back to the street where it said “Hello” to a semi coming up the road. Kept rolling and finally came to a stop in a parking spot. I quickly parked the van and got out to collect the wheel only to see a tow truck stopped and a guy picking up the wheel. Where the heck did he come from? I ran up to him, “That’s my wheel!” He was surprised and helped me get the greasy wheel into the van with the pups. Now I had to find Daniel and the rig! There were a couple tire places in town and the easiest for Daniel to get to was the Les Schwab so I met him there. The wheel had lost the cotter pin and the bolt unscrewed itself with the spinning of the wheel. One comment from the Les Schwab tech was that perhaps our brand new axle had been installed backwards? ARG!!! We need a new axle was the result. Since that was not going to happen, we asked them to remove the other tag axle wheel and we would just go forward with the dullies only. We already knew we were well underweight and only had 72 miles to go to our destination. We wrapped the two wheels with bags, shoved them into the van and made our way North.

We got into the beautiful hill country of Washington. Golden hills of cut wheat. Green valleys – beautiful skies.  We arrived at our friends house – yup – the same friends we spent all last summer with – around 2pm. They miraculously have invited us to stay with them while we find local work and our home. I was feeling human with two days of the antibiotic in my system and Greg made a wonderful dinner he knows is a favorite of ours. His 100% from scratch chicken dumpling soup. Soft enough for me to eat. Nutritious and delicious! They were happy to see us.

Some random favorite shots I took while we drove …

Advertisements

On the Road Again…

We are on the road again. Sort of.  LOL! The problem with old rigs is that there is always something going wrong, even when you have almost replaced the entire thing. If we ever sell Winnie – she will be almost brand new!

It took us three days to get out of Tucson. We had so much to do! Registering the trailer, getting the trailer OK for travel, cleaning out our storage unit, taking things to the dump – it all was just time consuming and exhausting in the heat. Sweat dripping down my face, into my eyes – no fun. But we got it all done. Sunday night we headed out just to be able to get out of Tucson. We only went about 60 miles. There were flood warnings everywhere, microburts happening all around us with flashing lightening and deafening thunder. We found a safe place to hole up for the night and got some much needed rest, and showers! We stood on the deck of our hotel and watched the lightening show all around us. Really glad we didn’t try to drive in it as we were just too tired. As it turned out, that was a very good decision.

Monday, Labor Day – we headed out hoping to make it out of Arizona with a quick stop to the Impact Crater site. We went once before many years ago and were looking forward to it as an outing and chance to walk around. As we headed North on I-17 we lost the drive train on Winnie. I was following behind the rig on the phone to my sister when it flew off. We were very lucky that traffic was super light and no-one got hurt. The AZ highway guys came quickly and picked it up and gave us some protection from the racing vehicles on the highway. We were able to find a tow truck who could tow Winnie for a mere $175 per hour. I had meant to purchase Good Sam’s Roadside assistance before we left, but never got around to it. I just forgot. There was so much going on. So, $700 later, we were towed to a safe location until we could be towed to a shop the following morning. Everyone said, “Take it to Ford – if that is what the RV is based on. They are the best ones to fix a drive train.” Ya, not so much it turns out. Winnibego extended the drive train for our special Class C. Ford wouldn’t touch it. After some exploration, Daniel found a custom shop where they said they could fabricate one for a reasonable cost. Another $200 later in towing, the shop had the rig and had the materials needed in-house to make us a drive train.

We got Winnie back today and look forward to getting an early start tomorrow. Some good news. We were worried we had overloaded the rig, but turns out she is way under her load limit. Hopefully the next time you read an update, it will be from our final destination – Spokane, WA.

Till then!

Just Hanging Out…

Hello Internet World! We have been silent for most of this year. Once we left our spot at our friends house, working on the rig has been spotty and difficult at best. Hard to work on something you are living in! However, Winnie has continued to be a home full of love and comfort. We have been in Tucson since Jan 1st. It feels like the heat came early this year, and we were quick to get the remaining insulation up on the ceiling. We haven’t yet put the finish wood up so things are a bit spacey in here with the silver ceiling – but we will soon. Our living plans have changed so it was good that we hadn’t yet built the rig out on the inside. We still just have a big open rectangle. Lots of options! A bit about living in 100+ weather for months on end for anyone who is wanting to try it.

  • As much insulation as you can do! When we built out Winnie, we knew we were probably coming back to Tucson so added additional insulation to the walls, floor and ceiling. SO glad we did that!
  • Paint your window frames! Our window frames (about 2″ wide) were black. You might not think that is a big deal, but in the super intense sun and heat, that black attracts the heat turning the windows into mini ovens. Dangerous to touch or be near. Daniel painted most of our window frames white. Testing the white vrs the original black – HUGE difference!
  • Insulated Window Coverings! I got fleece, and space blankets, and the curtain. I sewed the fleece to the back of the curtain. Then I cut-up a space blanket and carefully stitched that to the fleece. Careful if you do this – the space blanket material is super fine and will rip easily. Use a sharp needle and patience! You can’t see anything from the front, but keeps the window area cool even on the hottest days.
  • Shade! Whether this is via an awning or those shade things or a good tree. Anything to prevent the sun from directly hitting your windows. Having a shade up outside our windows is making the difference from being able to pull back the curtains and let light into the rig, and keeping the curtains closed and feeling like a cave. Shade is your friend!

We have decided to create a kids room in the back instead of an office space. We will have some bunk beds back there and some build in shelves and drawers. This will give my son and granddaughter the space they need for some dedicated play without affecting the whole rig. I mean, there will still be toys everywhere I am sure, but hopefully we can contain the majority of the mess to their room! We will still have the ocean themed bathroom of my dreams, but it will be smaller. Our kitchen has changed a bit on layout but will still follow the philosophy of having a cooking triangle. Where the stove, refrigerator and counter are all right there, making cooking more efficient and pleasant. We have had our stove mapped out for over a year but haven’t purchased yet – same with the refrigerator. In this remodel, patience is definitely a virtue!

I am loving our higher ceiling over the cabover. It makes all the difference for a comfortable space. Being able to sit-up in bed, stretch and easily move about – so nice! I can’t wait until the cabinet/shelves are made that will provide privacy for the cab-over space! Not only are we building in space for a plant or two or three, but there will be safe places for special knick-knacks that I want out but don’t want in the way. I can already see the clean lines of the living space in my minds eye and can’t wait until it is a reality I can share with you. We have decided to move away from Allure flooring – Daniel says it scratches too easily. Plus he wants something a bit more rigid. We are going instead with Home Depots LifeProof luxury vinyl flooring. It should wear better than the Allure and reinforce the structure of the floor like Daniel wants. Still fairly easy to install from what I understand from reading about it without needing a bunch of prep.

We are going to be moving the rig in the coming months – not sure where yet so keep tuned! I will update you as soon as I know. Till then, ‘adventure is everywhere!’ Enjoy!

 

Living Life in the rig…

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. Life has been full and we have been busy. The original plan was to stay in Monterey through January, and be there to help my mom recover from knee surgery. We would continue to work on the RV as we could. An unknown neighbor complained about the RV in front of my mom’s house, so we had to move. We ended up going out to the Laguna Seca racetrack campground. It was a wonderful place to stay. Nice restrooms, beautiful views, and we got to see race cars practicing on the track! They didn’t fully charge us for the first two weeks we were there (the extra car and the dogs I think.) so we thought the pricing was much better than it actually was. Good news, when we paid for the next week, they didn’t try and charge us the difference for the two weeks before. Bad news is – instead of $35 a day, it went to $50. ACK! When you are living on unemployement, that $50 a night is painful. We could not afford to stay and pay half of our incoming funds to paying for a campsite. We couldn’t work on the RV there even if we had the funds to do so.

Daniel worked out a gig in Tucson where he would be able to work on a project in exchange for a parking spot for Winnie. It’s a super exciting idea for a truly beautiful person so I am hoping Daniel is able to bring this concept to life. Off we went, Tucson bound! Finally!

Winnie is doing really good on the road. We encountered some fierce headwinds headed East and she handled very well but sucked up the fuel. Something to keep in mind for future travel. We drove into Tucson New Year’s Day. We could have made it the night before but with all the New Year celebrations going on, we didn’t want to be on the road. We hung out at Quartzsite for the evening. Quartzsite is pretty famous for RVers. They have events there, people boondock there, and as it’s name implies it’s a great place to find some great deals on amazing rocks and minerals. We go through every couple years or so and this tiny town is just a big RV hangout.

It’s good to be back in Tucson. It’s a bit overwhelming because we felt an urgency to try and find a permanent location to park. Plus – just trying to get our lives started. Daniel had been speaking to recruiters in CA and was anxious to start interviewing for potential positions here. I was anxious to get in contact with the local homeschool groups and get back into schooling with Xan after the holidays. There was a question of travel for me as my sisters and I tried to work out how to best support our mom for her surgery. I was going and then I wasn’t and then I was and then I wasn’t and then Xan and I were going to drive out and then we weren’t and then we were and finally we weren’t. For a while I didn’t know if I was coming or going! It was crazy! Mom is doing great though and she is going to be staying in the hospital a bit longer than normal so she can do the PT there. When she is released at the end of the month, she will be OK to go home alone.

Daniel made some awesome stairs to get in and out of the rig. Much better than the step ladder we were using. We want to paint them in festive colors and have a bit of fun with them. That’s been added to our ‘To-Do’ list. Xander and I have gotten back to work and are having fun learning about early Arizona history. He is working on a report to send to gramma complete with a map of the original fort. We are learning about the desert and the animals who live here and hope to make it out to the Desert Museum soon. I keep looking for discount days but haven’t found one yet. We are slowly getting back in touch with our old Tucson friends recognizing that now that we are back, we don’t have to try and squeeze everyone into a weekend visit.

Our work on the RV has been put on hold as we focus on life. Daniel is working on the project for our host, sending out applications, speaking to recruiters, and working hard to find work. Tucson employers seem to really take their time which is super frustrating.  Once we get things back to normal, we will start working on the rig again. As it is, we are loving the additional space. The higher cab-over makes sleeping amazing! The space is so expansive. I love our cathedral ceiling in the living area and am holding the dream of what it will look like when we are done. Priorities will be getting the wiring and plumbing done and getting an air conditioner installed. The heat out here is no joke. We have great shade where we are parked now but come Spring, we will bake without an A/C. And yes, I meant Spring.

That’s our news for now. I have added some favorite pics of our drive. I haven’t yet driven out to the desert to get some neat desert shots yet but will soon. Enjoy!

 

On the road again

Well, we have done it again. Even though Winnie is not yet comfortably habitable, we have taken off to try and find nicer (ie. warmer) climates in which to do some more work. LOL – I still have to shake my head over my we will be done in a month! We also hope to hang out with family for the holidays. This brings us to Monterey, Ca where my mom and sister live. Unlike our usual journey’s, we didn’t do a lot of playing on the trip down. We decided to head to the coast since we wanted to avoid any snow driving in Winnie if we could possibly avoid it. Weather forecasts were showing snow levels dropping over the Siskiyous so that reinforced our decision. Coast it was! We did have some fun. We stopped by the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, OR which is the location of the Spruce Goose. We managed to hit it just right on our way to the coast and got to spend a nice hour there before they closed. The Spruce Goose is HUGE and AMAZING! I highly recommend you check it out if you are in the area. They also have a space museum and a theater which we didn’t have time to see but for $5.00 per ticket, it didn’t break the budget and we felt it was well worth it.

I am happy to say that Winnie is driving really, really well. She is super spry and zooms right along. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with wind resistance due to our increased cab-over. We experienced side winds as well as front-on while driving and she did really well. I think her gas mileage has gotten worse but that could also be because Daniel had her cranked up to 70mph all the time. We will have to take her out on a more sedate journey where we travel our usual 60mph and see. The tag axle is pretty funny. We still don’t have enough weight in the rig to make these touch the ground all the time. Seeing them spin while we drive is funny.

We have been in Monterey now for about a week. We have been parked in front of my mother’s house where we parked for a few weeks before without a problem. Since my mother’s house is also undergoing some construction, there isn’t space for us to sleep inside, so we have been camping out in the rig. I can officially say the cab-over is AWESOME! There is so much space up there! I can stretch and my arms or legs don’t touch the roof. For some reason having all the additional space overhead makes things seem somehow wider. Even though we didn’t change Winnie’s width at all, I feel like we have another foot there as well. It’s amazing! We don’t have any ceiling, front or back wall insulation up yet so it’s cold. We make a big nest bed in the cab-over with every blanket we own and then snuggle down for sleep. It’s kind of like camping … but in a big hollow wooden box.  LOL!

We need to get more windows installed. Right now, there are only windows on the front of the rig. It looks like a mobile MRI truck instead of an RV. I joked with Daniel that we will be getting stopped by every border patrol car from here to AZ if we don’t get some stripes or paint on it soon. Right now, it looks like a great vehicle in which to smuggle some illegal aliens. LOL! But in all seriousness – we do need to do something with all that white. I keep thinking local graffiti artist is going to see all that blank canvas and just go to town. While I am not sure I would have a huge problem with that, I would like to have some say in what is being painted on the white. I think I am going to just buy some RV stripes for now from Amazon and put them on. Something to break-up the pristine arctic white.

Interesting developments; When we broke down the rig, we removed the RVIA sticker. OOPS! Without this sticker, we have been refused entry into State run RV parks. We now no longer have this sticker/seal thing and have to figure out how to get one. <Head-Desk> Keep tuned in to see how that goes. I am not going to bother with it until all our interior work is complete. There isn’t a reason to do this before then since I am sure many of the items which would potentially cause us to fail the inspection are things that will be taken care of as we finish the details.

Also fun in-an-ironic-killmenow-kind-of-way is the news that Daniel was laid-off. He is not one to sit on his hands but this is something we weren’t anticipating in any way. I can’t complain about his company laying him off. They just didn’t have enough work for the number of employees. The owner of the company treated Daniel very well and was a delight to work for. No complaints. We are just sorry it didn’t last. As I said, Daniel doesn’t sit around when he receives news like this and he is already waiting for an offer for a full-time position. Xander and I are going to hang out in the RV for several months this time while Daniel goes and gets everything setup. No longer running across the country – we are going sit tight, and wait until all the wrinkles get worked out as always happens with a new job. Then, once things have settled down a bit, Xan, the puppies and I will head out. Should make for a much more stable move than what we have typically done before. It means however, that much of the finishing work on the interior of the RV will fall to me alone. Intimidating. Do-able but intimidating. Daniel will focus on the wiring, plumbing and finishing the interior of the ceiling and walls. Then, I will get to work on the rest. If we can get some of the cupboards and cabinets up before he goes that would be huge but I am not counting on it.

The Adventure Continues!

Excited/Exhausted – not sure which…

Sorry for not posting more sooner. We have been working hard on the rig. We keep thinking the tasks will take an afternoon, and then we discover that we were only able to get maybe a quarter done of what we thought we would. It’s been somewhat disheartening. We are so excited to be buttoning her up, and for it to be taking this long is painful. We are all antsy. We have all been frustrated. I had been working on the topline, standing on top of ladders to get the trim completely caulked. I hadn’t gotten to the underside of the cab-over yet because on inspection, it looked like no water was getting in there. Water looked like it was beading on the trim. Imagine our panic when we saw a wet spot on the interior bottom right of the cab-over! All hands on deck and we finished up the caulking job. A space heater was setup and placed in the cab-over by that corner to dry it out for about 24 hours. Every appears to be OK now but talk about freaking out! We did not just go through this summer to have water damage the second we are putting her together!

Daniel and Greg installed four windows. These have been placed more or less in their original locations – a bit higher than they used to be but that’s about it. Two high narrow windows will be installed in the bathroom when we get that built out, and one in Daniel’s office.

We have a temporary door on the back of the rig right now – it makes it easier to get things in and out vrs coming through the narrow RV door that is installed.

The bookcases are in and the rest of our stuff we are putting all over the floor. With no cabinets, closets or other storage built yet, it all is in bins, and our clothes in duffles. It will be nice when we can actually start putting things away!

Here are some recent pictures! Enjoy!

It’s all about the roof

Daniel has been outside in sun and rain and blistering cold. Ok, maybe not blistering but really, really cold! We installed the roof skin and are putting on the trim today. She is starting to really look like an RV. Probably even more so when we install the door. LOL!

The latest pics: