Here we are; four months have been completed as we begin level 5 of the year 2020. What has the glorious year brought us so far?
The whole world has been collectively kicked in the shin. We started off with the 3rd state of emergency being declared for the Australian brush fires (remember them?), then the United States killed the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and we all worried about a war coming.
In January we first started hearing widespread talk of the novel corona-virus, COVID-19, but we aren’t really there yet…
The royals split up, with Prince Harry and Megan giving the middle finger to the rest of the family. For many (not us) this was big news. Iran retaliated for the killing of its military leader and the White House lied about casualties in Iraq until it couldn’t lie anymore. The world shrugged as it all got lost in the news feeds. Then a plane crashes, turns out Iran accidentally shot it down. Suddenly, Iran dropped some of its war rhetoric.
As China recorded its first Corona-virus death, we began the Impeachment trial for Donald Trump. Of course that ended with his own people saying he did it, but that they don’t care, let him stay in office. Famous people died, mass shootings at a brewery and fast food restaurants happened, and earthquakes hit. Did you even know that Puerto Rico got hit with another earthquake this year?
And then the rest of the world got the epic level smack down from COVID-19. Lockdown after lockdown in countries around the globe. The US joined late, but we had to; had to make sure we would take over the number one slot in all COVID stats as our primary election season was torn to shambles and our stock market nosedived. Then, just as armed dime-store cosplaytriots got all dressed up to storm the castle (capitol buildings) 2020 hit another snag…
Yes, you read that right, just when we thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, we’ve now been alerted to the oncoming assault of hornets that destroy honey bees and can sting and kill you even if you aren’t allergic. Oh, and they’re bigger than normal too.
What does all this mean for RVers? A lot actually. First came the hoarding. We experienced two problems as the toilet-paper-apocalypse set in: 1) We couldn’t understand why toilet paper was the first thing people wanted to hoard and 2) We live in a motorhome! How do you stockpile in a home this size?
Answer, you don’t. You’re stuck going to 5 different stores in one day just to find a can of tuna, a single package of Kleenex, and a dollar store coloring book.
We didn’t panic until dog food started getting hit by the hoarders. By then, the next nightmare began. Closures. We were in northern Washington when it all began, 40-50 miles from the epicenter. We began to worry as we lost our state park reservation for March, and had to scramble around to find a place. We couldn’t go off-grid, had to stay in contact with family members still working through the first lockdowns just north of Seattle. Around we bounced. We looked like toddlers chasing a superball from the coin machines.
We quickly came to realize that pandemics and full-time RVing are not necessarily a good mix. On one hand, you could take your RV and disappear from society only to reemerge after it is over,
or as we did, you find a long term park that can squeeze you in for a couple of months.
Social distancing, you’d think is easy, but we learned something else that makes it difficult: pantry and fridge space. While we’d love nothing more than to pack a freezer full of stuff and make monuments in homage of the old gods out of our can food pile, we can’t. Only so much can be stored in an RV-size fridge. Thank goodness our motorhome fridge is bigger than our old Serenity travel trailer, but it still leaves us with store trips 1-2 times per week. And 1 per week is stretching it when it comes to snack foods when you have to binge Tiger King.
Don’t mistake this little story for something it is not… are we complaining about our lifestyle? Not at all. Although we are currently stuck, we know that we’ll be back on the road soon enough. In the meantime, we can do some upgrades and redecorating (cue the crafting video binges). We are, however, wondering if we can speak to 2020’s manager, because this is not what we’d call good service, 1 out of 5 stars – would not recommend!
We ARE complaining about those that fail to understand social distancing and other preventative measures, like wearing a mask. We are in this together, and we need to lean on our humanity first. Think about being kind before we get all dressed up in our second hand tacti-cool gear and threaten scientists and spit on, or even shoot, store staff who risk their lives to serve us.
2020 is trying hard to kick our global ass. Let’s fight back, by standing tall (6-feet apart) as the human race, and not as some tribalistic, my way or no way, entitled little shits.
The Earth has spoken, and she wants us to grow up, care about each other, and her.
Vampire Slaying, Stephen King, and a Grand Forking Idea
It all began on a cool, windy, spring day in Bandon, Oregon. Bandon is a beautiful beach town along the Southern Oregon Coast. At the time we lived just a short twenty-five mile jaunt away. We were treating ourselves to a day-date in the “old-town” district.
We went to the Face Rock Creamery, and after sampling enough cheddar variations that we were in danger of being asked to leave, we thought it best to purchase ourselves a couple of blocks to take home.
We walked along the edge of the harbor and darted in and out of the gift shops. We browsed the bookstore (of course), and we left with two books that explain more than I care to admit about our personalities – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and the Star Wars Bounty Hunter’s Code.
We dropped our purchases off in our vehicle and decided it was time to feed the beasts that were growling inside us (the more you feed them, the less likely they are to burst from your chest and face-hug all of your friends and family – if only John Hurt could have eaten faster…). Remember, this was an all-day date, so we went to a nice restaurant instead of the seafood stand on the waterfront. I mean, come on, we even got dressed in real pants for the day!
We laughed. We held hands. We ordered an appetizer that was an experiment for both of us. Our food arrived. It was amazing. This is where we would recommend the meal choices, yet, the food is the fuzziest part of the memory. You see, we had always talked about how we wanted to go and visit new things. We shared pictures of places we wanted to go. Someday, we said; someday.
“You know, we could get a travel trailer and strip it out, and just make a library. Yeah, it’d be a library on wheels with nothing but a bed, books… oh, and a toilet,” he said.
She laid her fork down gently as he stuffed another bite in, proud of himself for the lame addition of the toilet joke. Finally a pause in his babbling. She looked directly at him.
“What’s stopping us?” she asked.
“Um…” he said as he tried to swallow down the over-sized bite.
“Seriously, what’s stopping us?”
His lips twisted in thought as his brow furrowed. He looked down at the table and his eyebrows began to raise. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes.
“Uh… I dunno,” he said.
From that point on the rest of the day was spent dropping back into that conversation. The children were out, or old enough to be out of the house. They had their own jobs. But could we? Was this really a possibility or was the mixing odors of new books and seafood causing misfires in the synapses of our brains? Had someone drugged the vampire-slaying cheese?
That night we broke out pen and paper and began a three-day research project. We spoke of it to no one. This was serious deep spy stuff. Satellite images were passed through secret drop spots and we spoke through encryption devices when anyone was around that might hear. (We texted each other from the same room and sent pictures to each other through our social media accounts. Yes, we know, the NSA could have been looking in on our super-secret spy game.)The fate of the world was resting on our shoulders, and the pressure was on to find an answer.
We read blogs of full-time RVers. We did lots of math (well, he did the math, as she has come to believe that math is just a foul language that should not be used in mixed company).
How much will our income drop? Can we afford to live that way? We considered the emotional states of the children, and us. We considered the health of our aging parents. We talked through scenario after scenario. What if we do and something happens back home? What if we do and there’s a major breakdown or one of us gets really sick? What if we get out there and I can’t stand you? (The answer to this one involved a shovel and the use of one of our kids as an alibi.)
We walked around the house and looked in every room and cried out: “What in the world will we do with all this stuff?”
Those questions were answered, and then we tried to break those answers with as many what-ifs as we could. By day three, we realized the truth.
What was the truth you ask?
We were nervous, because we could, we could really do it. Nervousness became excitement which became…
“Oh crap, we have to tell the family.”
Before we get into the trauma (and drama) of the next few days, let us discuss the how-to part of what we did. Believe us when we say we are not the ultimate authorities on how to transform your life into a full-time RVing adventure. In fact, we are regularly learning something new, or getting frustrated at what we don’t know, all the time. (This is a nice way of saying we really don’t have a clue about what we’re doing, but we hope you’ll continue reading anyway.)
The beginning of the “how-to” part boils down to coming up with your recreational vehicle size and type. Everyone has different desires, different needs, and different wants.
That’s a broad statement, how do we translate that into an RV type, you ask. Well, what we did was make a list.
Actually, make three lists.
First, what do you NEED to take with you to survive, we’ll call it the essentials list. We strongly recommend taking clothes, a jacket or two, and maybe even splurge for some soap and a toothbrush. Then a second list of the things that you want – things you think you need. This second list is the almost essential list. Like a regular can opener instead of an old Army P-38 can opener – or a camera instead of the stone tablets and chisels to create a visual record of your adventures. The third list is the I don’t think we need thisbut wouldn’t it be nice to have list. You know things like the espresso machine, or the Roomba™.
These lists are not the final packing lists for your new life. Nope, not a bit. Those “final” lists will change several times and will not be finalized until you are twenty miles down the road in your new rolling forever home on wheels. (Even then, it will change as you discover new things and go more places. Basically, you can throw the lists out.) No, these lists are to give you an idea of what kind of space you need. Do you want something tiny, the size of a Scamp™ or a conversation van? Or do you need a 40-foot 5th wheel behemoth? We’re not judging you either way. This is entirely up to your preference, and because it is, we’ll just walk through the wonderful way we found our first little towed home…
To start with we had a Dodge SUV. It had the bigger V-8, and it’s tow capacity wasn’t horrible so we thought we were halfway there. It meant that 5th wheels were out, and we weren’t fond of towing it behind a motorhome due to its own weight. SUVs tend to be heavy, as heavy, if not more so, than their pick-up truck cousins. So that discussion was fairly short; Travel trailers it is!
New? Used? How old? Fixer-upper? What do we want? Well, with the drastic change (also known as a drop) in income, let’s try to avoid adding a new debt. Let’s go for used, maybe even a fixer-upper, I mean we are crafty people right? Yes dear; and so that part of the discussion was a bit longer, but still relatively short. It’s all settled now, we want a used travel trailer, no leaks, appliances work, other conditions are open to negotiation.
Two days later. Mike is at home performing his house-husband duties (watching cat videos and posting food pictures to social media all while claiming to be writing an important section of his barely started novel manuscript.) when MeLisa contacts him from work. She found something while browsing the internet on her break.
“What’s that?” he asked.
An RV to go check out. Okay, I can do this, he thinks, but wait… did you say it was a motorhome? Yes. We had come to a decision – Travel Trailer it was, and now Mike was off to take a look at a 24-foot Winnebago Class-c motorhome.
It was the first official look either of us had taken at a used RV. It was spacious for its size. Good sized bed. Functioning kitchen area… lots of carpet. It even had carpet up between the front seats and around the console housing. Between the dogs, and an inability to decide what to do with the SUV, we walked away from it. It was on the high end of our price range anyway, we said to ourselves. Secretly both of us had wanted it, and were afraid to admit it until many months later, but we walked away all the same.
That was a Thursday.
Friday we were back to looking at travel trailers and calling on a few. Mike even stopped to look at one that was being sold with a truck. Interesting idea, but alas, still not quite right.
Then came Saturday.
We had been up late Friday. Had a big family dinner, a few drinks, all with music played at one-half notch below the piss-off-the-neighbors level. We both woke early – too early for the tequila and beer from the previous evening. We took care of a few things around the house and decided an early afternoon nap would be just the thing…
Then MeLisa found it. Someone was selling a travel trailer on Facebook.
“Oh, there’s a number. You should call,” she said.
“Wait, how big?”
“It’s only a thousand. Like one-thousand dollars,” she said.
“And it says it all works?”
“And how big?”
“And no leaks, “ she said.
And so he called. No set time, just come down. It’s right here and we’re having a yard sale too, they said. They also said lots of people were calling and that the first one there with the cash takes it.
And so we went. While we were looking it over – at only sixteen feet that takes a LONG time – two other people showed up inquiring about it. Standing alone inside we quickly discussed it…
“It is small,” she said. (Yes, that’s what she said.)
“Might be too small,” he said. (And then she giggled.)
“The cushions are ugly. What is that, Pepto-pink puke color?” she asked.
“Nah. It’s more purple and puke,” he said.
“Do you really think the dogs and us can even fit in here?” she asked herself more than him.
“Look at it this way, I could give it a once over and sell it for more. There’s a line waiting. Let’s take it home, and decide later. If we don’t want it, we can sell it,” he said.
Afraid that someone would get there first we had skipped stopping by the bank on the way, so MeLisa waited there to have awkward introverted conversations with the seller, while Mike ran to the ATM and pulled the cash we were short. We skipped our nap that afternoon as we towed an old tiny trailer to our driveway.
There it sat for a week, while we debated back and forth if it was big enough to handle our needs, while we also kicked the idea back and forth about what we were going to use to tow it. Our inexperience reigned supreme as we learned what tow ratings versus actual weight meant. Our new acquisition was heavy for its size (though we thought it was all normal – remember, inexperience supreme). At a dry weight of 2900 lbs. the math worried us. The tow rating of our SUV was only 4900 lbs. Our assumption was with the stuff we’d pack we’d be at 3600-4000 lbs. if we kept the trailer we had. That was just too close to the rating to make us feel all warm-n-fuzzy when we thought about the Rocky Mountains or the long haul across the high deserts. And what if we get a bigger one? So while we considered whether the tiny trailer taking up all the space in the driveway would work, we set off on selling our Dodge and finding a more capable tow rig.
Again, MeLisa came through.
Eugene, Oregon is just a couple hour drive from our home on the coast and we setup a day trip to look at both privately sold vehicles and a dealer’s lot in Eugene. The long story short; we said no to two different private vehicles and no to the 3 lots we looked at while waiting on our creditors to approve or deny us on the truck that had both of us salivating. An older F-150 with dual shock systems, shift assist, overdrive kill switch, tow package, no rust, all OEM equipment. Shiny! We had to have it.
That same week we decided. The Serenity was christened (geek alert!). The tiny travel trailer was named and a full remodel/refit began. So, because it would be towing the Serenity the truck was named Hoban. (Most people give their vehicles female names, but Hoban just felt male. He even gets a little hot under the collar, but more on that when we get to Nevada.) Yes, as in Hoban Washburne. The Browncoats were going to take to the open roads because “you can’t take the sky…” er… road “from me.”
We had it all set now, we were sure:
We had our tiny (ultra-miniscule is likely the more correct term) home. We had a tow vehicle that we loved and was nice enough that we frequently got compliments on. We had informed the two children still living with us, and the family members who mattered. We had survived the guilt trips from the daughter who had spent years trying to convince us that she was never moving out of the house. We handled all the interpersonal drama from our family that supported and was going to miss us, and those who thought we had lost our collective minds. The latter were certain we must be the first victims of a soon-to-be pandemic level brain devouring disease.
What was left? Just the little details right? You know, things like finishing the remodel of the interior (piece of cake) and then downsizing into our tiny home.
We’d be ready and capable of leaving within a week we were sure. (There was 23 days in that “week” before Serenity was ready. And another month of donations, giveaways, and yard sales to downsize and choose what was truly important to us.) We walked around the house several times and looked at all these things that we seemed to hardly use; yes, downsizing would be as easy as conquering northern Siberia in the dead of winter.
Serenity served us well over the next 10 months. We learned a lot; saw a lot. We followed the trail of Billy The Kid.
We taught a couple of college kids how to play poker (by taking their money at the table).
and we discovered what happens when you leave a window open in a sand storm. We should’ve brought the Roomba™.
We fell in love with this RVing life, and it was time to plan for the long haul. Serenity found her way into the needy arms of a young couple and we found ourselves a new vessel on the roads of adventure. A magical home with wheels that came to be known as Matilda.
In September of 2016 we began an adventure. We documented our journey for our faithful reader (maybe two) on this website. For reasons, we had to move the website, and being the amateur web designer that I am…we lost everything down into a dark void of WTF do we do now?
What we do now, we decided, is to follow the teachings of a great Sicilian philosopher…go back to the beginning.
…and then I procrastinated.
Alright, alright! Welcome back to Write on the Road!