Working on The New Businesses and Volunteering

Well, if I was worried about being bored after leaving my job, this week certainly proved that would not be the case!  The bulk of the week was spent finalizing numerous aspects of our businesses, culminating in Lee publishing his website for Open Road Video and our ordering business cards and signs.  Lee’s videos are his resume, so it was a much larger venture pulling together everything he would need for the website.  If you have been curious about his work, take a look.  One of the things that has been difficult for us in all of our businesses is finding a way to communicate that we are a truly mobile workforce,without coming across as less professional in any way.  It really adds a layer of difficulty to marketing our services as most people look for a company in the area the business is located.  That is changing as people are more mobile, but the bias is still to hire locally.  So we understand this could be an uphill climb, but we are hoping that between the three businesses, Open Road Video, Open Road RV Repair, and TSPerkins Consulting we will be able to make enough to cover our relatively low budget.  I know we have a lot of support out there, so I would ask if you know of anyone who you think could benefit from our services, please pass our information along.  Since you understand the lifestyle, you could explain that we are mobile workers, which is actually a benefit, because we can take our skill sets to where they are needed.  

Along with working on the businesses I spent quite a bit of time on my blog this week.  We are coming up on our one year full timing anniversary (!) and I wanted to do the milestone some justice.  I ended up completing two posts, one strictly about the facts and figures, and another about the emotions.  In addition, I will be adding a financial review at the end of the calendar year which will slice and dice our costs in detail.  I also have been reviewing all of my recipes, adding small pictures on the page and removing the ones that at second glance I felt did not make the cut.  This work is still in progress as I will need to remake some of the dishes to get better pictures for the site.  Lee was pretty excited to hear that! I’ve also been trying out many new recipes, almost all of which Lee liked but I am so-so about.  The dish has to be delicious and worth the effort to make my cut and I have pretty high standards.  Lee’s been very happy to be my guinea pig though, and even if a recipe doesn’t hit a home run I am learning some new cooking techniques which has been a lot of fun.  I will say that on occasion I have been missing having a dishwasher.  New recipes often require extra pans on the first go round and my hands are getting a little “pruney” from all that washing.  Yes, Lee does dishes, actually better than me, (Better than pretty much anyone. – Lee) but since I am often making a huge mess I feel I should at least clean up some of the cooking dishes. Oh, and I forgot to mention that they had a local library sale and for $25 I bought a HUGE box of cookbooks.  I can’t tell you how happy that makes me as I had gone through all of my other ones.  Although I am not generally a fan of cutting up books, storage is of course an issue, so I look at the recipes and cut out the ones I am interested in, and put them in a file folder. (I don’t think she should feel guilty. In almost every case, the cookbooks she’s going through are old, and have had a good long life, and probably been passed from person to person. She ends up getting them at garage sales, flea markets, and library sales. So she’s giving them their last big hurrah, and plus, they get to see the country before they’re slaughtered. – Lee) In general these recipes can’t be found online as they are often family recipes from non-profit fund raisers or  local restaurants.   I was thrilled that I saw so many different ones since I was in California and when I paid for them the librarian said how great it was to see someone so happy about books at the library. So when you are in an area, check out the local library and see if they are having a sale.  Not only does the money go to a good cause, but these are some of the cheapest books you will ever find!

My awesome box of recipe books!!

My awesome box of recipe books!!

The small file folder I put my recipes in

The small file folder I put my recipes in

Along with all of that we also got to do something really rewarding. Each fall, Stan does senior tours of the Bizz Johnson trail and we both volunteered to help.  Stan gets golf carts from the local city golf course and then works with two different nursing homes to take seniors on an 8 mile ride up the trail.  We did this on Thursday and it was a great example of something I would not have been able to do if I was still working my corporate job.  Although it was very chilly, it was a clear day and we took one group up the Bizz, and at Devil’s Corral we dropped them off and brought another group down. My first passenger, Inez, was a very sweet lady who was a fellow rock lover and my second passenger Jack seemed to enjoy all the beautiful color still on the trees.  They were very bundled up and really seemed to enjoy themselves and I certainly enjoyed getting an opportunity to share nature with them.  Lee’s first passenger was Ray, a 96 year old WWII Navy veteran who retired from being a principle at the local high school.  His second passenger, Dave,  was a chatty octogenarian who really kept Lee on his toes through the whole trip.  We stopped at several places along the way and Stan talked about the history of the trail which was very informative and even though I was super cold by the time it was done I am so glad we went.  I always wanted to volunteer more in my old life and I am so glad to have this experience be a part of my new one.

Dropping off the golf carts that the local golf course generously donated

Dropping off the golf carts that the local golf course generously donated

Lee and Stan dropping the gate

Lee and Stan dropping the gate

Check out my guy !!

Check out my guy !!

Here is Inez my first passenger getting out of the van. Loading and unloading these folks was no small task

Here is Inez my first passenger getting out of the van. Loading and unloading these folks was no small task

Lee with 96 year old Ray who was still pretty sharp

Lee with 96 year old Ray who was still pretty sharp

Getting lined up and ready to go

Getting lined up and ready to go

And we are off

And we are off

Everyone liked the many beaver dams we saw

Everyone liked the many beaver dams we saw

Stan would stop at some places and give some history which Jack my second passenger really liked

Stan would stop at some places and give some history which Jack my second passenger really liked

Here's me and Jack. As bundled up as I was it was still pretty cold on the return trip

Here’s me and Jack. As bundled up as I was it was still pretty cold on the return trip

Everyone really liked the tunnels

Everyone really liked the tunnels

And the 8 wooden bridges that we went over

And the 8 wooden bridges that we went over

Stan sharing some history

Stan sharing some history

So glad there was still so much color

So glad there was still so much color

Y083 Y073

Y060 Y059

It was a very beautiful day and a lovely experience.  When Jack, who had difficulty speaking because he had suffered a stroke, thanked me for driving him, it really touched me.  Lee had a wonderful time as well and we were both so glad to be able to give back a little.  Our time here at Susanville is coming to an end, and it really has been a great experience.  Look for my yearly recap posts which should be coming out later this week and as always, thanks for reading!

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A Not So Good Week

I was going to title this post a terrible week and I actually starting typing “terrible” and stopped, because terrible is a ridiculous overstatement.  I am sitting in a beautiful place, with people I care about.  I have my health, my husband, and enough food on the table and I am living this really cool adventure.  I mean really, how terrible could things be?  As my kids say, “first world problems.” And for those of you who would give anything to trade places with us,  let me apologize in advance.  I fully realize that my one year ago self would have felt the exact same way as you probably do.  When I was in my home,waiting for it to sell, I would have given anything to have the kind of week I have had this week.  The irony of that does not escape me. But as grateful as I am to be doing this, I still have bad days.  Not many, and certainly I have had very few bad weeks. They do happen though, and since I want to portray as balanced a picture as I can I’m going to write about it. (None of this applies to me, my life is a never ending sunshine parade of happy awesomeness. I have no idea what she’s always whining about. I try not to listen, lest it harsh my groove. – Lee) 

There’s no pretty pictures in this one, no fun activities (except dinner with Howard and Linda last night ) and really that’s the crux of the problem.  Being full-time and working from the road is an interesting dichotomy.  Linda put it beautifully last night when she said I still have a foot in both worlds.  It’s a bit of a split personality because you are in beautiful “vacation-like” settings but you’re not on vacation.  So sometimes the beauty around you can get completely displaced by other things.  It doesn’t have to be work that does this, either. Family issues, money issues, health issues, can all have the same effect, but hopefully those types of things don’t happen with the same frequency as work problems.  Most of the time my work is great.  I truly am grateful to have a steady income and the flexibility to work and live this lifestyle, but it was a stressful week and this was coupled with not doing any fun things.

Basically my life working on the road falls into 4 major categories and 3 of the 4 are just fine. I’ve boiled it down to the following scenarios;

  1. Work is good and there’s lot’s of fun stuff to do – so that’s the best of the best.
  2.  Work is good but nothing much to do – that’s still fine, sometimes you just need to chill.
  3. Work is stressful  but there’s cool stuff to do – that’s when I really appreciate the lifestyle in comparison to my old life.  Having a bad day? Take a walk on the beach, have cocktails with friends, take a nature walk, watch the hummingbirds for awhile.  These are all great stress relievers and really helpful in putting work in perspective as to its relative importance in your life.
  4. Work is stressful and there’s nothing fun to do. (I would have stopped the list at #3. Nothing good happens after #3. – Lee)

So the last one is where it gets interesting, because obviously there is always something to do.  Nature is still out there, and the things I listed in my third category haven’t changed, but they aren’t having the impact they should.  So I have to wonder “Why?”.  Why do I have a day, or in this case, several strung together where the surroundings don’t elevate me from the work stress?  Why do some days I sit here at my desk working and look outside with wonder and other days I see the same view and either ignore it, feel cooped up, or resentful that I am not out in it?  It’s a good question, and frankly one I have not totally figured out.  Obviously mood has quite a bit to do with it.  Sometimes you’re just in a bad mood and nothing can make you happy.  But mainly I think for me it’s the newness of our surroundings that can elevate category 4 into a category 3.

Before I explain that last statement, I’d like to point out that we had a very nice impromptu dinner with Howard and Linda last night, and we spoke quite a bit about this.  They’ve been doing this for 10 years and getting their perspective is very helpful.  Plus, just having people you admire validate that you’re not a crazy person  is wonderful, so thanks guys, for spending part of our night letting me talk this through. (I was there, and I can assure you that at no point did anyone even suggest that she is not a crazy person. – Lee)  So, on to the explanation. When we get to a new place, I rarely have bad days.  I am so transfixed and excited by the newness of our surroundings that almost every day is a 1-3. But after a few weeks, the newness wears off and if this corresponds with a bad work week number 4 happens.

I don’t have bad work weeks much.  I really like my job and feel good about what I do, but it happens.  Also, when I was living in a sticks and bricks the bad work weeks almost always results in number 4 versus number 3 because it was hard for me to find things to transport me out of it.  So this lifestyle has had a major, positive impact on my life which is maybe why when a number 4 week happens it can be so jarring. I know I am happier than I have ever been, but I question how much of that is due to the newness of the constantly changing surroundings.  And if that’s the case, is that necessarily a bad thing? This is where my small town upbringing gets in the way.  I love the way I was raised and the ethics it instilled in me, but in some respects it can be very limiting.  The small town mindset (for lack of a better way to explain it) is suspicious of the adventure.  Suspicious of the newness, and the feelings it evokes.  I have known people in my life who have an adventuresome spirit and always wistfully thought, “I would never have the courage to  do that”.  But surprise, here I am being  the adventurer.   Mostly I am embracing it despite the terror it sometimes evokes, yet a part of me, the small town girl part, is waiting for it all to go horribly wrong.  She’s a real pain in the ass, by the way.  (I concur. – Lee) I appreciate what she’s done for me in my life, but I’ve outgrown her in so many respects.  There’s a whole wide world out there and I want to see some of it before I go.  And I’m happy, really happy, in a way I’ve never been before.  But the bad days let in the doubt, and that can start a tough downward spiral to fight my way out of.

So let’s look at it head on.   Write about it, talk about it, say the thing out loud to lessen it’s power.  That’s what Howard, Linda, and Lee let me do last night and I felt so much better afterwards.  Maybe it is the newness that appeals to me.  As Linda said, the newness leads to growth and life enrichment.  And yes, I know as time goes on there will be less new.  We will need to stop in places for longer stretches so Lee can work.  We will go back over territory we have already covered.  We will get road weary and just decide to stay for a while in a place.  That’s all part of the life too.  Every day can’t be Eagles and Waterfalls although that would be great, wouldn’t it? There will be rainy days and boring days and category 4 weeks.  The real question is: am I spending more time in categories 1-3?  The answer thus far is a resounding YES!  If that changes, we can reevaluate, but for now that small town girl needs to shut the hell up so I can get on with my adventure. (I concur. – Lee)

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Compromises

I promised myself when I started this blog I would be as honest as I possibly could.  (I made no such promise. Caveat emptor. – Lee) I think many people gloss over any detail that even gives the slightest impression that this life is not the best thing ever, but obviously that’s not realistic.  Life is life.  It has ups and downs, good and bad.  That’s part of the fun.  If every day was a perfect day things would get pretty boring pretty quick.  So as much as I can I will try to present the balanced picture.   One of the things about this lifestyle is it involves many compromises.  In our sticks and bricks we had created a life that really suited our day-to-day needs.  Obviously it wasn’t good enough or we would never have made the move, but we were comfortable. (I’m never actually comfortable, the best I can shoot for is minimally uncomfortable. – Lee)  Going out on the road is an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone and it seems every decision we make involves compromise of one sort or another.  Compromise is not bad in and of itself, (yes, it is – Lee.) but you really have to be honest with yourself and each other about what really matters to you.  In this post I am going to talk about some of the compromises we have run into in just the first week.  Please keep in mind most of these things are definitely “first world problems” and taken individually we would probably not even pause, but so many all at the same time is a little unsettling.  Unsettling is good though in my opinion. (Wanna guess what my opinion is? -Lee)  It means we are definitely out of our comfort zone.  So here are some of the compromises we are dealing with.

Internet – In  our seasonal site we had very strong, unlimited internet. (We were using cable internet. Always has been, and always be the fastest and most stable connection to interwebs. – Lee)  Now things are different.  The campsite has WiFi (No, it does not. They claim to have WiFi, but what they have is something really cool and new where you see a WiFi network, you connect to it, and then it disappears. Every. Single. Damn. Time. It’s like Whac-A-Mole, but there’s no little tickets that spit out that you can redeem for cool little prizes. – Lee) (unusual in a State Park) but they are having issues with it and it has been up and down all week.  Luckily we have strong cell signal and have had good luck using our  ATT hot spot.  We decided to stay with ATT (rather than going with Verizon which most full timers do) because we would have had to purchase a new IPhone and Ipad and sign a two-year contract with Verizon.  At this point we really don’t want to get locked into any long-term commitments because we don’t know what life on the road will look like for us.  With  ATT we could keep our original devices and best of all continue month to month.  Plus, we were lucky enough to take advantage of the double data deals in October so we got  40 GB of data a month for around $106.  I know that sounds like a lot of data, but if you want to stream movies and/or do a lot of downloading it adds up quick.  For example, we have only been on the road for one week and with extremely careless data usage we have already used 65% of our monthly allotment.  Now we certainly can throttle back (and will)  but…damn.  The next level up (60 GB) was almost double in price, so we will need to change our internet usage patterns and really keep an eye on what we are doing and when.  Is that a huge deal? Of course not, but when you’ve had unlimited fast internet for $50 a month it’s a bit of an adjustment to have less for more money.

TV – Lee did tons of research and based on what we wanted we purchased $600 in hardware (dish with two channel selector and two boxes) from Wineguard.  Lee went to set it up this week and  after numerous phone calls discovered he was flat-out lied to about the functionality and what we purchased will do.   He was very specific that we wanted to watch one channel and DVR another, and yet discovered that this is only possible if you have a Dish plan associated with a house.  The “on the road” month-to-month plan that was so appealing to us does not allow for this functionality.  He was livid, and frankly I don’t blame him, because being a TV guy he was very very specific when he put this system together.  We could have saved the $600 and spent about $200 instead which is not an insignificant amount of money.  Also, despite spending an additional $10 a month for HD channels it turns out only some of the channels are actually HD (essentially the networks and we are already getting a beautiful HD signal for free with our over the air antenna).   I know, poor baby right, but in my sticks and bricks I called a guy he came out and setup my cable.  (Or, more often, she called a guy, he came out and screwed it up, then I came home and fixed it. – Lee) On the road,  Lee spent the better part of a day just getting it all set up and numerous phone calls to discover it wouldn’t work as expected.  The situation did prompt  a really good conversation about how much we wanted TV to be part of our new life.  I want a life that involves less TV and more hikes and bird watching, but we are also being realistic that we are not completely willing to give up all TV immediately.  So it will require more research and discussion and some compromise (in this case not necessarily a bad thing), (I beg to differ- Lee) but it was a shock since Lee had done so much research in advance of going on the road.  On a positive note I did get to watch both the Patriots game and the Dancing with the Stars finale on local TV (with a beautiful free HD signal) so I was very happy this week!!  (Clearly she does not speak for me on this – Lee) 

Working from Camper –  I worked from the camper all last summer but the last week has been a different experience.  As I mentioned before I am lucky enough to be able to do my job from the road.  We have 140 office locations spread throughout the United States and as long as I have phone, internet, and access to an airport  it shouldn’t matter where I work from.  I like a mixed work week with some days in an office and others from home and that is working well here as the Charlotte office is only a 30 minute drive from our campsite.     The office days give me great interaction with our field staff, and I use home days for getting lots of “quiet time” work done.  So I went into the office on Wednesday to check it out and they were so nice.  They put me in a great office and made me feel right at home.  Over 15 years with my company I have worked with many people, and Lorraine from Charlotte was one of my favorites.  She took great care of me and went out of her way to make me feel welcome. The compromise occurred when I worked from the camper.  My desk area is great and the WiFi connection was strong, but in the past when I worked from the camper Lee was never there.  After a somewhat frustrating first day on his part, we pretty quickly we realized we were going to need to make some adjustments.  We have the Front Living Room model so the TV is up at the front as well as the desk area and because of all the conference calls, Lee couldn’t really do anything at all inside the camper. (And that’s where all the cool stuff is!-Lee) So he was either outside (which was fine) or inside being stuck in 2/3 of the camper and needing to be super quiet.(I’m not so good at being quiet, let alone “super quiet” -Lee) We never thought through what this would look like with two people in the camper and it was different. We will definitely be fine, but it did catch us both by surprise. (What she doesn’t know is that I am planning to move her desk outside. Problem solved. Everyone wins. Well, I win. That’s good enough for me. What’s next? -Lee)

Temperature – The great thing about the rig is it heats up quickly, but it also loses heat quickly as well.  The weather here has been all over the place, ranging from 14 degrees one morning to a high of 78 one afternoon.  Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the weather, but we have struggled a bit with regulating the temperature.  It was important to us that we find a way to manage the temp using only electric power because propane costs additional money and we would like to save that for the really chilly nights.  I also made a mistake during one of our early moves and left the space heater in the bedroom sticking out too far from the wall and crushed the top of it with the slide out.  Not good, but Lee was very sweet about it.    He found a Hunter 24″ heater with temperature settings and a remote control for $50 at Home Depot which wasn’t awful, and we also bought a small heater for the kitchen area. The nicer unit with the specific temperature setting is really important for the bedroom or it can get really hot at night.  The kitchen one we just turn on and off as needed.  We use the electric fireplace (which has temperature control) for the front room, so now we have all rooms covered with electric heat.  I hear there are campgrounds where they really crack down on electric heaters, but so far we have not experienced that and want to use electric heat as much as possible.  The only downside is you really need to watch what you run at the same time or you will overload your circuits and pop a breaker.  For example, we can’t run all three heaters and the coffee maker or microwave at the same time, but really that hasn’t been a big deal. I guess it gets trickier when on 30 amp.  I also have heard that blow dryers will easily  overload circuits but since my hair is so short that’s never an issue for us!!  Again, not a big deal but unlike a sticks and bricks you can’t just flip everything on at the same time, you have to think it through a little.

Smoking – We are smokers and yes I know we should quit,  but seriously I can only handle so much change at one time.  We don’t smoke in the camper at all (that was a hard rule I had before we bought it) and when we looked at our initial budgets we saw pretty quickly that cigarettes was a huge line item.  Lee went into action and starting rolling our own.  A carton of premade cigarettes in NH costs around $65, and he can make a carton and a half for about $37. Plus, the bagged cigarette tobacco has less additives than the premade cigarettes.  So here we come to the Carolinas, the home of Phillip Morris for heaven’s sake, and we can’t find bagged cigarette tobacco anywhere.  We looked in two states and called or went to many, many stores.  You also cannot purchase it online because of the local state rules so finally we decided we would have to settle for pipe tobacco which is much cheaper than the cigarette cut but much harder to roll.  Will we muddle through?  Of course, but it’s one more example of something simple that becomes not simple overnight and is taking quite a bit of our time and energy. (Here’s an update on that, I finally found a place that sells what we were looking for, and will order as many bags as I want, so that problem is solved, at least for now. We’ll be travelling with a somewhat ridiculous amount of bagged tobacco when we go from here to Florida, but I’m sure we’ll find a source for it again when we get there.-Lee)

Security – One last thing I want to mention that we never thought much about was the security of our stuff.  When living on our seasonal site, it was mostly a non-issue as we had plenty of neighbors who kept an eye on things.  But after our friend Deb had her kayak stolen (from a well run state campground) and another friend Jo had her outside rug stolen from her truck bed at rest stop I started to think more about theft.  (Who the hell steals a USED outdoor rug from the back of a pickup truck at a rest stop???? People suck. -Lee) Although I absolutely love the State campground we are in there is quite a bit of day traffic unrelated to the campground. It’s on a lake, and there are people bringing in and out boats all day. After talking to Deb I decided the best thing was to keep the bikes locked up and not leave anything out that might present a good target.  So instead of putting out our $60 gravity chairs, we have the cheaper models out all the time.  Also,  I really want to take an overnight weekend to Charleston at some point, but I am not sure how I would feel about leaving the camper unattended. There is a mix here of very expensive RV’s and some people living in pop up campers and even tents.  (Not that the type of camper or lack of one in any way reflects on the type of person camping, but these are definitely sketchy people. One in particular started right away with “can I bum some cigarettes from you” and “can I get a ride to the store, my car isn’t running” and that sort of thing. Ick. – Lee) I don’t feel unsafe physically, but I don’t think I would want to leave my stuff lying around.   So for the time being, I will have to play this by ear.  The ranger said the campground really clears out after Thanksgiving weekend and I will see if we feel more or less safe with less people.

So,  those are a few of the compromises we have been working through over the last 10 days.  None are major and the benefits by far outweigh the irritations, but it definitely is part of the story.  I want to end on a positive note though so I am going to share some bird pictures I took this week.  I have wanted to have the time (and a nice enough camera) to start taking bird pictures for years.  I finally was able to start that so here are some pics.   Eventually I will be adding a new page with the birds I have identified so I can keep track of what I have seen.  I am also using a great website called  What Bird.com to help me identify the birds, but I am super new at this so if I get one wrong I would really appreciate a correction note from anyone so I can change it.

 

Chickadee

                           Chickadee Rock Hill, SC                                       (picture taken by Lee)

Yellow finch

Pine Warbler  Rock Hill, SC             (picture taken by Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinal Rock Hill, SC

Cardinal Rock Hill, SC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Search Amazon Here
  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

 

First Time Working from the Camper

This is a long one. ..so many things have been happening I really need to get us caught up.  There’s a hodge-podge of stuff in the beginning, but I promise to get to the experience of working in the camper by the end 🙂

As you may know, our daughter Kay graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and is heading to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training  August 12th.  Before she leaves, my mom is taking her on a grandmother/granddaughter vacation.   It’s a really neat thing mom has done with all of her kids (when they graduated from college) and the grand kids when they graduate from high school.  The vacations vary depending on the interests of the kid and mom’s financial situation at the time.  I went to Hawaii and it was amazing, my sister Wendy wanted a shorter flight and went on a Caribbean cruise, and my brother Eddie went to Europe.  Kyrston (my oldest) went on a cruise to Key West and Mexico, Katy (my middle daughter) went to NYC and they saw 5 Broadway plays, and now it’s Kay’s turn. Of all of the grandchildren Mom has spent the least amount of time with Kay.  She was only 5 when we moved from Ohio to New Hampshire and I knew Mom wanted to do something very special for her.  Because Kay is fluent in Spanish (she was accepted to the crypto-linguistic program in the Air Force because of her talent with learning languages), they decided on a trip to Barcelona and then a cruise along the coast of Spain and Italy.  Very very cool trip and on an international boat which means because Kay is 18 she gets to do all the adult things European kids get to do such as drink and gamble lol.  Needless to say she is super excited. (And who can blame her? I’d love to gamble and drink my way around Spain and Italy!  – Lee)

So what’s all that have to do with camping?  Well for the first time in 25 years we will be without a child in the house.  Lee and I were married very young and had our kids right away, so our lives have revolved around kids.  As of August 12th we will be empty-nesters and we are expecting camping to be a huge part of our life in this new kid-less future.   So Kay is gone for the next two weeks with Mom and we are going to take this opportunity to try living out of the camper for two weeks.  Well Lee is…I have to travel for work Weds and Thursday of this week and all next week, but he wants to see what it is like.  Partially because the house is so empty while we wait for it to sell, and partially I think to ease into the kid-less state.  I have been traveling a lot of the last several years and Lee (who works 5 minutes from the house) has been the primary caregiver.  He is an amazing parent, but this is definitely likely to hit him harder than me because he has spent so much more time with the girls in the last few years.

He also has numerous camper projects that have been put on hold because when we were just coming out for the weekends and we’ve had lot of visitors it was tough to find time to get things done.  One of the first things he is working on is cleaning the outside of the camper.  We had tons of rain and various detritus from the trees is on top of the slideouts. He bought a product while we were in Tennessee called the Bon-Aire Ultimate Water Blaster.  It is this really cool expandable attachment that goes on a hose with a rotating head that can go straight up or down or side to side.  It was great to spray specific parts of the camper.  I think it’s incredibly neat and Lee says it works very well.  Here’s some pictures to show how he used it.

Spraying the awning

Spraying the awning

Spraying top of slide out

Spraying top of slide out

 

He also took some advice from Howard of RV-Dreams and bought a metal water manifold to hook up his separate hoses for (from left to right) hose to rinse off stuff outside, hose to flush sewer lines, fresh water hose.   Much better than the crappy plastic one he had previously bought. (I can’t say enough about this! It’s such a pain to have to attach and remove hoses. The manifold is awesome. Be sure to get a four port manifold, so you’ll always have an extra one, just in case. Also, invest in as many brass quick-connects as you need for every hose end and attachment. No more trying to loosen and tighten hose ends with slippery wet hands. They just pop on and off like magic. – Lee)

Water manifold

Water manifold

 

We also have been struggling a bit with smells in the camper.  Lee is not comfortable leaving the windows open when we are not in it, so little smells can quickly become big smells.  Some of the things we have done (which have all helped) are:

  • Used grey water tank chemicals to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waster is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping (don’t laugh, everybody poops! – Lee) turn the fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on your way out
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us. (Why would anyone PREFER to be in a small space a few feet away while someone else is pooping??? – Lee)

In particular I could smell something under the sink that was unpleasant.  Lee did some online research and discovered that the anti-siphon valve was probably bad.  The way it works is a P trap is under the sink (that’s the S curve part of the pipe) is supposed to be full of water to stop noxious gasses from coming back up.  The problem with a sealed system (like a camper) is the water pushes but the air can stop the water from moving.  Anti-siphon valves allow air to go down the pipe but NOT come back up, but they are plastic and cheaply made, and sometimes they can get stuck in the open position.  Lee bought a new one at Home Depot ($5) and replaced it. Smell gone.  See below for some pics.

 

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

P trap

P trap

 

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out...he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out…he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

We also did some mini purging…well mainly Lee did.  It’s amazing how many things we picked up a year ago that are no longer relevant.  And Lee wired up the computer to the TV so now we can watch downloaded movies that are on our computer on the TV screen.  He also took this mat we bought and cut off the outside because it interfered with his chair being pulled back.  See below for the before and after.  It’s great being married to a handy guy. Seriously, it’s like living with MacGyver. (I have a much better haircut than MacGyver. – Lee)

 

Computer wires to TV

Computer wires to TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mat down on the ground ...we still have

Mat down on the ground …we still have

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

 

Just in case you think I am a total slacker..I did put my books away.  I went from 450 books down to 30 and was really worried that my favorites wouldn’t fit in the camper, but I have to hand it to the designers of the open range; two cupboards are paperback height and two are hardback height!  I am so pleased with my Open Range.  Every time I turn around there is some little feature that makes being in the camper easier.  Really a great product so far.  Other than that and watching an excellent Wimbledon men’s final…I didn’t do much this weekend.  I’ve been traveling so much I really needed some chill time.  I loved cuddling up on my couch with the fake fireplace going this morning watching some Wimbledon.  Really relaxing.

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Hardback size

Hardback size

 

 

So while I was relaxing Lee was puttering.  It has taken years for us to get to the point where I can sit and he can putter.  But if you’re going to spend any amount of time in a camper…you need to learn how to do that.  It’s tough having two people work in the same small space, so one generally is sitting.  Plus with small square footage, really how much is there to do?  You can only clean and reorganize so much.  So here’s some more pictures of things Lee did.  Needless to say I am happy because his puttering makes my life easier 🙂

Hanging my clothesline

Hanging my clothesline

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes :)

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes 🙂

 

 

Basement door...no space left untouched

Basement door…no space left untouched

Lee's tool side of the basement

Lee’s tool side of the basement

 

 

The non tool side...will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

The non tool side…will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple more random things and then I think I am all caught up!  Seasonal sites are great on a holiday weekend.  No worrying about where you’ll stay or losing a day of a three-day weekend setting up and then tearing down right away again. The campground was packed, but people were well-behaved and we just stayed around our site to avoid the crowds.  Also, and completely unrelated,   I tested the “make a fire with chips” theory.  Fritos did NOT work but Tortilla chips worked great…see below

Did not stay lit

Fritos did not stay lit.  I heard later the scoops don’t work but regular ones do??  Not sure haven’t tested that

Ta Da ..much cheaper than a $1 fire starte

Tortilla chips stayed burning for much longer and a handful is much cheaper than a $1 fire starter

 

So finally to the working in the camper.  I work from home occasionally so it’s not a complete stretch to work from the camper but I was nervous about it.  Not sure why…Lee built me a great desk space and we have Time Warner internet at this campground so wifi is very fast and unlimited.  I just had some very important assignments due and wanted to make sure my work space was perfect for the next couple of days so I could focus.

Here's my desk

Here’s my desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The morning started a little rough.  I got up took a shower and was online by 7:30 so that was good, but a couple of neighbors were staying for the holiday week and they were a bit noisy.   It’s ironic because Lee was raving about how quiet it is here during the week, so the first time I stay there was noise.  The birdsong and trees rustling in the wind were great.  Kind of like having a forest sounds CD playing in the background but for real, but then the older couple across the way started talking.  They must be hard of hearing because their voices were really loud…and I could kind of ignore that but she kept spontaneously singing.  I like music, but it was a bit off-key and very distracting.  I was about ready to turn the fan on for some whit noise when they left the site.  Things were very nice after that.   There was some light campground noise, but nothing to loud and I quickly got focused on my work.  I managed to accomplish quit a bit in the morning and at 11:30 took a half hour for a light lunch.  That was nice, I sat outside in a patch of sun and decompressed a bit from a couple of stressful morning conference calls.  I also saw a toad when I walked out my front door, which was pretty cute and not something you get to see in your average work environment 🙂

The quiet did get to me about 1pm.  There was less bird noise so I turned on the overhead fan to get some air flow and white noise.  I also discovered sitting at the desk that a few ants have snuck into the camper so Lee will be getting some Bug Stop on the way home.  Nothing more distracting than an ant crawling up your leg 🙂  It sounds like I was distracted a lot but not really.  Certainly less than an office environment when people walk up to your desk all the time.  I got quite a bit accomplished.

 

Around 2:30 things started to get uncomfortable again.  I have only sat on this chair for short periods of time and it’s really not comfortable…my butt is hurting not comfortable and my neck is hurting from not being at the right level with the table for typing.  So good to know.  It also got to 82 degrees in the camper right before it started raining and cooled down.  I had the fan on high but it was definitely a bit to hot for comfort.  Air flow was not that great.  So new chair and next time turn on the AC earlier 🙂

Around 3:45 we got a pretty serious thunderstorm…I am getting all the weather today.  I made sure my files were backed up i case we lost power, but nothing..not even a flicker which was nice.  We have really good surge protection on the camper and another surge protector on the computers, so I wasn’t worried but it was loud.  Plus the temperature dropped from 81 to 73 outside so that was good 🙂  One of the best things was I had a 6 pm conference call and instead of needing to leave late or take it from the car I was where I needed to be.  so I didn’t lose my whole night.  So overall it was a mixed bag.  I definitely need to gt the chair problem solved and the temperature controlled.  But it was quiet and I got a lot of work done.  Have to try it again and see.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Buy a Bon-Aire water blaster 
  • Use grey water tank smell product to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waste is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping turn the FanTastic Fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us

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