Going For It!

I have this great friend, Katie, who when she sees an opportunity that might be useful to you, will send it your way. She is one of those wonderful people who truly wants the absolute best for her friends. And she wants to help make that possible when she can. A few months ago she came across a casting notice for GoRVing. Since Katie knows we live the lifestyle and are avid campers she sent it along to us.

The idea was simple, take photos of your family enjoying camping and the outdoors and send them to the casting director, whom Katie put me in touch with. At first we were reluctant to try since we are a childfree family and figured that it was more the “nuclear family” that they were looking for. We decided to go for it anyway. We set up our own photo shoot and had fun with it. We are DIY types, and enjoy a bit of spontaneity (I think these are some characteristics of RVrs in general), so this was a perfect little project for us!

The casting director was really nice, thanked me for the photos and told me he would send them along to the client, GoRVing. Ultimately, we were right, they were looking for photos with children. A couple and their cat is not the most obvious RVing demographic. I suppose the target market is usually families with children and/or retirees. But, I feel like that is changing and expanding. We have been meeting more people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s without kids who find the open road and tiny living appealing; and they are doing it!

The photo shoot was not entirely a waste of time. A couple of weeks ago I saw another casting notice for a TV show for “An outdoorsy couple in their 30’s who enjoy camping” and I sent one of our photos from our impromptu GoRVing shoot, and we booked the job! Not only did we book that job, but it also led to Rob and I both getting our first SAG vouchers. I can’t tell you what the show was yet, but I will when it airs… Also, now I have a bunch of new photos for my website and social media. Yay!

The moral of the story is, always “go for it” because even if you don’t get what you set out to get, it might lead to something else wonderful. Also, Katie is a great friend with an amazing podcast, she is truly an Enthusiasm Enthusiast, and incidentally, that is what her podcast is called, so go check it out. Listen to it on your next RV trip! There is nothing better on a long road trip than a great Podcast!

Here is a sampling of the photos we took! And since I love RVing and talking about it and generally geeking out about RVs, I am going to give GoRVing a bunch of free advertising even though they didn’t pick us for their ad campaign! editedcamper-2 editedcamper-3 editedcamper-0027 editedcamper-0030 editedcamper-9893 editedcamper-0124 editedcamper-9966

 

Massive Tiny Recordings

Our newest EP, “Paradoxes”, has been sent off for duplication. I will be able to hold it in my hands in about a week or so. I can’t wait. This is the first recording we have made since living in our RV, having a drummer in our band and living in Los Angeles! It is the first recording we have made as the band, JagLyonz!

When we first moved into our RV, Rob and I stopped making music together. We had recorded three albums and played countless shows and tours as the alt/indie/electro duo, Before Dawn. And then we just stopped. In fact, we took an almost two year break. Of course, Rob played and wrote things on his own, because he can’t stop. He mostly focused on scoring some indie films and honing those particular skills. But we quit playing rock music together. We were burned out on touring and we just couldn’t quite figure it out, the tiny living plus the rock and roll.

There is a lot to figure out when you move into an RV. Stuff like, “where am I going to put this thing that I absolutely need?” When your needs are guitars, amplifiers, microphones and recording gear it can get a bit overwhelming. Our amps stayed in a storage unit for many months after moving in. Also, I barely noticed. At the time I had no room in my life both literally and figuratively to focus on music. I wrote some lyrics, but that was the extent of it for the time being.

The first song we ever wrote and recorded together in our RV was our single, Light the Way. We recorded it in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the summer of 2014. We were in a decidedly acoustic phase for the moment and doing some touring around the woods playing gigs at local bars and open mic nights. We spent that summer parked in my parents driveway/yard. We had access to their house and our amps lived in their basement for the summer. It was a pretty neat time. We would practice in the camper all summer and that became the norm. We even got radio play with our song, Light the Way on WXPR.


At the end of that summer we drove from Wisconsin to California and moved to Los Angeles, in our RV. Rob wanted to continue composing music for film and television, and this is where the work is. It is a good thing that we love it here and that so many of our friends are here, because we have to be here.

After getting over the shock of the move and getting a bit settled, we mutually decided that we missed making the rock and roll together and we wanted to do it again and that we wanted a drummer this time around. Not too long after making this decision, JagLyonz was formed.

A Jaglion is a hybrid cat, not unlike a “Liger”. It is the offspring of a female lion and a male Jaguar. We changed the spelling for Internet search purposes. There is a road near us called, Lyons and we liked that spelling. And lets face it; the letter Z is just cool. The name spoke to us because it is exciting sounding, it is rare, wild and a cat. We love cats! Also, have you seen one? They are gorgeous, fascinating and healthy creatures!

The choosing of the new name definitely inspired us to finally start playing again regularly. The name has also very much informed our sound, which is a bit heavier than Before Dawn, but still rock and roll and super fun with a dash of L.A. glam cheese sauce. If you don’t love us immediately, it is our hope that we will become your guiltiest pleasure.

In August, we were offered a gig as Before Dawn, but we took it as JagLyonz and approached a kid, I say kid because he is only 23, who lives and works in our RV park that we knew played drums. Brett was just super excited to play! It was an incredibly serendipitous mash up. Brett learned our songs and we played our first gig four weeks later. We wrote some new songs, played a few more gigs and started making our first recording.

The five song EP, “Paradoxes” is the first JagLyonz recording. We recorded it entirely in the RV Park in Northern Los Angeles County that we all live in.  The guitars and bass were tracked in our 21ft. travel trailer with the majority of the vocals being recorded there as well. For the song “Tonight We Ride Again,” we used the cab of our GMC Sierra as a vocal booth.  The drums were all recorded in a community space on the premises of the RV Park.

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Recording is never easy, though it is often fun. You definitely have a different set of obstacles when you are recording 1. In a non-studio environment and 2. In small spaces. One’s obstacles tend to inform one’s philosophy and in our case, our recording philosophy.

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Ironically, one particular obstacle is our cat, Sunny. She loses her little cat mind when people sing. I don’t know if she thinks we are in pain or what, but she wants it to stop, especially Rob. She paces and tries to walk on the computer and paws at you… So while producing each other’s vocals we have the added job of trying to keep Sunny calm and away from the recording equipment. Fun Fact: In the recording of the song “Up in Smoke” you can audibly hear Rob scream, “Nooooooo!!!!!” at the beginning of the song. Sunny had decided to walk on the computer keyboard and started pushing buttons. Rob chose to keep this organic exclamation in the final mix.

JamminGIFDrums were recorded in the room we often rehearse in, it is about 8’x 8′ and sort of a room within a room down a dark hallway. We had to sneak around a little bit to get the tracks done on the down low, which isn’t always easy to do with drums. Drums are so loud, it is kind of hard to keep them a secret.

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Why be so damn DIY you might ask? This goes back to our obstacles, which as I mentioned above informs our philosophy. Most of our obstacles revolve around time, space and money, but the short answer really is, because we can. We want full control and we take pride in our resourcefulness. The recording environment is both important and absolutely unimportant. Recording technology today is such that with some skill, it is possible to make your recording sound like it is anywhere you want to be and the real magic happens in the mixing and mastering.

Speaking of mixing, mastering and resourcefulness check out this device Rob made to facilitate the process, it is quite innovative and helped him be more fluid and efficient with his mixes.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post all about our newest Massive Tiny Recording, “Paradoxes”, by our band, JagLyonz as well as and our adventures in DIY, RV Park recording.  If you want to see more recording photos or to know when we play live shows or make more recordings you can follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

If you want to support a hardworking, independent band, PLEASE BUY OUR MUSIC and tell other people to buy it too!  You can purchase our newest recording through this link, http://www.jaglyonz.com/

 

The Corner Pieces – Part IV: Full Circle

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost two years to sit down and write this post.  It feels right and appropriate now, the idea of finishing it feels as if I am on the precipice of completing something major.  I am closing one book and opening another.  This post completes a major life journey that started out with a single road trip to California for a friends wedding in the summer of 2012. It is the how and the why of where we are right now at this exact moment.

Those of you keeping up with my blog know that my husband and I in addition to being musicians are full-timers (we live in our RV full-time).  “The Corner Pieces” are four posts about the very journey that resulted in our decision to pursue this lifestyle.  Here we are, the final installation.  What made us finally seal the deal?  And as always, where are we now?

If you need to get caught up, here are the other 3 Corner Pieces:

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

Driving West, is always inspirational but also usually somewhat harrowing and fraught with challenges.  We do it anyway and you should too!  It makes you pause and remember the Gold Rush and that people used to do this with horses and wagons and no actual roads…

After our Summer of 2012 Journey to Malibu two week Odyssey, we had the task of returning back to Texas.  If you remember my blog post, “No Idea”, you will have a clear picture of exactly why we had to choose a different route home from the West Coast.  Oh, we learned so much on that trip!  The original plan was to take I-40 home and stop at the Grand Canyon on the way.  We now know better than to attempt those mountainous and changing elevations with our vehicle/travel trailer combination (our rig).  I was sad to change our plans but I wanted to, you know, live.

Since I had spent many hours over many weeks painstakingly planning our trip, Rob said that he would re-plan the drive home for us to assuage my disappointment of missing out on the Grand Canyon.  His plan was for us to have a leisurely drive home without spending more than seven hours driving per day.  We would take I-10 this time as it is much flatter and more direct.  His method was to find the most interesting RV parks along the way with the best pool and hot tub situations.

People love the idea of going on vacation but tend to loathe the journey home.  For some reason this journey home was different. We loved it!  And There was magic in it… We relaxed, we fell even more in love with RVing, our super awesome, traveling fur child, Sunny the cat and most definitely each other. J1936x1936-03978This journey home marked an internal shift that would manifest itself into a much larger external shift and culminate in the definitive action of moving out of the house we were renting and into our RV.  We would become full-timers! We would be able to travel more frequently, spend more time in California and not be sad about leaving places. It would be our new way of life and we were both on board!

Something about what we had learned on the road, how we had dealt with adversity, and the unbounded joy we were experiencing made us realize that what we wanted was possible and that we were going to actually do it!  Where there was once fear, there was now excitement. Looking back, I know now that what we had discovered was our true selves and a way to live in the present moment. 

Los Angeles to Austin: The Drive “home”. 

Stop #1: July 3rd, Tempe, AZ – Apache Palms RV Resort – After leaving California, our first stop was near Mesa, AZ.  We parked our RV at a strange little RV park that Rob found using the Good Sam RV app. It had a great pool and hot tub and was walking distance from a very bizarre liquor store/head shop with some interesting, if not shady characters.  I’m not entirely sure that liquor was the only thing being sold there.

For some contrast, my great aunt and uncle who are in their 80’s and lived nearby came over and took us out to dinner at the local Applebee’s.  They definitely do not drink.  In fact, we all held hands and prayed before we ate, right there in the middle of the restaurant, in front of God and everyone!  To make things even more interesting, another uncle and his wife happened to be visiting at the same time.  This particular uncle is the sort with dirty jokes and uncanny inappropriate timing.  Rob and I had to do our best to steer this particular uncle away from telling everyone about his family trip to Thailand where he took the wife and kids to see a “ping-pong” show. It was genuinely nice to have some family time and we were very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, but we were also kind of eager to get back to that pool at the RV park.

At the pool, with our now much needed cocktails in hand, we met a father and his tweenaged daughter who had just moved to the area and were in the process of moving the whole family from Colorado for work… They were temporary “full timers”, living in their RV until they found a house while still commuting back and forth to CO.  We enjoyed getting to know them. RV Parks are fun, because people interact, socialize and like to talk about traveling. We turned in early so that we could get an early start the next day.  We were New Mexico bound.J1936x1936-03917Stop # 2: July 4th, Deming, NM – Little Vinyard RV Park. – For the rest of our journey, we would be on our own, not knowing any friends, family or familiarity.  This is where it all really started to sink in. This part of the trip was really fun for me because I had let go of the planning and got to be surprised.  Rob had found a real hidden gem of an RV park in Deming too! It was vintage for sure, but immaculately clean and mostly empty, even though it was the 4th of July holiday.  Something tells me that Deming isn’t a booming travel destination. J1936x1936-03920 J1936x1936-03922 J1936x1936-03923The RV park had a really unique indoor pool and hot tub that we spent hours in.  That night we stood outside and watched fireworks in the distance from in front of our camper.  We didn’t know if we were going to be able to see any or not, so that was a nice surprise. It was chilly out too. We were, after all, in the desert at night.

After getting ready for bed we watched perhaps the greatest RVing movie of all time, The Long Long Trailer, staring Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz.  I should write a whole post just to review this classic movie.  Right now what you need to know is that the world of RVing has not changed much in the last 60 years.  If you tow a trailer, you will relate to this movie.  We laughed until we cried and had to rewind parts just to watch them again.

Stop #3: July 5th: Balmorhea, TX ? (Definitely No Website) – Between Deming and the Texas border there is a lot to see.  People will try to tell you that there isn’t. People complain about this drive. Geologically it is fascinating. You cross the Continental Divide. Also, you get to a point where you are right on the border of Mexico.  Sociologically it is fascinating.  To your left it looks like the suburbs, to the right it looks like a ramshackle border town. And when I have the chance to do it again, I would love to visit Las Cruces.  It looks like a pretty neat destination when you drive through…

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J1920x1920-03940This particular overnight was unplanned. It was weird, wild and wonderful. And it was really cheap, but just a little scary.  I had a spot booked at Balmorhea State Park, which is known to be a great state park in West Texas.  It boasts the worlds largest spring-fed swimming pool, right in the middle of the desert! Unfortunately when we changed our route, it changed the the date we would arrive. They were completely booked up on our new arrival date.

We kind of started to panic because we were indeed in the middle of nowhere at this point.  It was starting to get late and we were both tired and hungry.  There was no wireless service to look for a place to stay either.  All we had seen for miles was desert and there was no end in sight.  Eventually we came across a gas station, the kind that you don’t go to unless you have absolutely no other choice. I noticed a bunch of RVs parked behind it.  In spite of our reluctance, it would have to do.

The clerk inside seemed shocked or amused that we asked to stay there.  But she gave us a spot, $19 per night.  This was no Good Sams rated park,  there certainly was not a hot tub, no pool, and no showers. Rob had to dig the water hookup out with a spoon because it had been so long since anyone had used it. But it had an untamed beauty and we were just grateful to be somewhere, anywhere.  We bought some beer at the gas station and hiked around the area. We took in our surroundings and took some pictures. J1936x2592-03951

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J2592x1936-03957We were mostly out of food at this point and had not seen a grocery store in several days.  We combined the remaining staples we had and tried to make some kind of edible food patty.  They fell apart.  We ate food debris and were nourished.J1936x1936-03963J1936x1936-03964
A frightening storm rolled in while we were there and shook the whole camper.  I might have prayed a bit. It was a fast and windy storm with a lot of thunder and lightning. It rolled out just as fast as it had whipped in.  The storm left behind the kind of sky that artists dream of and a scent that perfumers fail to replicate.  Desert rain is a real fragrance and the laundry detergent doesn’t even come close. J1936x1936-03955

J1936x1936-03962This is why we do this!  This place is now very special to us. This was not planned around any kind of luxury and we absolutely had to just go with it. This rush of forced spontaneity led to us not wanting to land back on our home planet just yet.  We watched the sunset and we decided to take an extra day.  Instead of going straight back to Austin the next day, we would stop in the adorable German town of Fredericksburg, about two hours outside of Austin. One more night of freedom, of living this new dream we were curating.J1936x1936-03966J2592x1936-03972Stop #4: July 6th, Fredericksburg, TX – Oakwood RV Resort – For us, trips through the desert seem to do something to us spiritually or emotionally… Having time to gently return to “civilization” after being in the modern day Wild West really helped.  It softened the blow of the post vacation blues too.  Our first order of business upon arriving in Fredericksburg was to go to the grocery store for “treats” and snacks, otherwise known as wine and chocolate.  We took a dip in the pool and walked to dinner at a restaurant called The Cabernet Grill.  That night we pulled out the Atlas and excitedly talked and dreamed of all of the places we would go… And our next trip West.  I took this picture on that night. J1936x1936-03983

Full Circle:  On July 3rd, 2012 I did not want to leave Los Angeles.  I wanted to stay forever with all of our old friends, go surfing and hiking and explore the coast. What kept me from getting too bummed out about leaving was that we could go home and start planning. We would make preparations for a bigger,  much more extended return.  I was happy that Rob and I were on the same page.  I was happy that we were finally making this decision together.  I was happy that he wanted to come back to L.A. too. He wanted it as much as I did this time!

Pro tip:  This is my advice to myself and everyone else: if you know what you want, just go get it.  Don’t talk to any unnecessary, possible detractors about your plans. They will take it as an invitation to offer their two cents, with love, of course. Ultimately their two cents is a huge distraction and a major form of resistance because it encourages doubt. It makes you want to give up before you even start. Just do or get the thing that you know is right for you! You know more than you think you do!  Sometimes I feel like I have spent more of my life weighing the pros and cons of things instead of just doing the things.

We knew it would not be fast or easy.  We scaled down, moved into our RV, lived tiny, saved our pennies and made our dreams come true, one step at a time.  We didn’t talk about it much with other people because we didn’t want to jinx our intensions or deal with possibly negative input… Even while we were actually doing it, I didn’t blog about it out of some kind of fear of commitment. We knew what we wanted to do and we wanted to follow through without having to explain ourselves to anyone. We wanted to be doing the thing before telling people about the thing.

We have come full-circle. Here we are back in L.A., after two years.  Our arrival date was once again dictated by an epic wedding of dear friends. This time the wedding was in Paso Robles.  And this time we had the option to say, “let’s stay for a while.”  L.A. and the West Coast is our new adventure, and current journey.  There shall be many more.

Since our arrival we spent Thanksgiving with a big group of friends that we have known for well over a decade at this point; they are all of the people I am usually texting on Thanksgiving. I have been waterskiing almost weekly with the swivel ski coach I had when I was eleven years old who just happens to live 10 minutes away from us now. We have met up for happy hour with friends from my summer camp days and had dinner with one of my oldest friends, from preschool.  We know a lot of people out here and we are meeting so many more.  And this really doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. I am so grateful!  We stayed focused and made it happen, and I am so very grateful to be here.

We Are Doing it Now! That traveling thing…

My Summer Vacation. 

My New Life (so far) by Kate.

One of the many things I love about travel is how time seems to be manipulated.  On the road I feel like I am in another dimension where time stops or at least I have more ownership of my time.  Travel forces you out of old habits. I think that is a really good thing.  However, if you need to get actual work done while you are traveling, you must have some very strong work habits in place.

On June 1st, we uprooted ourselves from our cozy and comfortable RV Park in Austin TX, because we knew summer was coming… In Texas, that means EXTREME heat. We have done the heat many times before and we wanted out. In 2011 we had ninety days in a row with triple digit temperatures in Austin. That is when we first started plotting our summertime exit.

Fast forward to now. After living in our RV for a year and some change, we rationalized, our house is on wheels. This is why we live in a tiny travel trailer, so we can roll, so we can chase some good weather…

We did something that we knew how to do. We headed North.  Almost as far North as you can possibly go in the US.  We also played music.  Our band, Before Dawn, has always been a great reason to travel.

We had a great time playing shows at Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Then, we went even further North to my parents remote cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, near Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We parked our tiny house on wheels in their yard and continued to live in it.  We were in the warm embrace of family and far from the scorching Texas heat.

One of the main reasons my parents got this cabin was to have fun, relaxing, “family times” together in the summer. We were going for it damn it!  All the way!  All family – all the time!!! What could possibly go wrong?  This was Clark Griswold and Chet Ripley’s biggest fantasy come true.  National Lampoons Vacation meets The Great Outdoors!

The Northwoods has a culture and lore that is all its own. Without getting too esoteric, it is something that cannot be explained, it has to be felt.  If you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. It is magical. It is densely populated with trees and wildlife, but not people. There are more stars than you know exist, and tons of lakes, both named and unnamed.  Sometimes the silence, peace and solitude are so intense that it feels almost violent. Eventually you get used to it and realize that it is exactly what your brain, your heart and your soul needed.  Your cellphone and internet are nearly useless. You are forced to be with yourself, with nature, and with your family. Without being distracted.  Perhaps it is disconcerting at first, but it is ultimately glorious.

I have to admit it took me about two and a half weeks to quit flipping out.  “What have we done???” I missed Whole Foods and Planet Fitness something fierce. City life in Austin was comfortable and familiar.  I had not spent this much time with my parents as an adult since I moved out when I was eighteen. How would this dynamic work? We are all living in the woods together! I felt very overwhelmed by this life change and feared the loss of my autonomy.

I fully expected my mother and I to possibly have some friction, after all when I was a young adult and a teenager, we fought. I was rebellious, she was strict. She is a Taurus and I am a Scorpio. Growing up, we pushed each others buttons, played devils advocate and often accidentally insulted each other in the name of love.  Now my husband and I were spending three months living in my parents yard!?!?  What was I thinking? Who came up with this insane plan? I did!

We got along the best we have since I was four years old. We had so much fun together.  We did crafts, we played games, cruised around the lake and took day trips to cute little nearby towns.We were totally on the same team. My mom even taught me how to hook. I went to weekly hooking parties with all of her hooker friends.  Trust me, this sounds far more scandalous and scintillating than it actually is.

My father and I have never really fought much. To my surprise we actually did have several spats this summer.  The thing is, in the woods, you really tend to want to work these things out quickly because 1.)there is fun to be had and 2.)slamming a door and leaving really isn’t that easy.

Our quarrels weren’t serious, but it caught me off guard.

I feel closer to my parents now than I ever have before.  We all took a risk immersing ourselves in each others lives and it really paid off in both fun and love!  Rob and I both think that this just may have been the best summer of our lives!

Despite being in the woods, we had goals this summer.  Some of them we attacked immediately, others took longer to get rolling. The first order of business was finding ways to make money. This was the perfect opportunity to tryout and hone our ability to have location independent income.

Rob got to work immediately by turning his ten year old computer repair business into something that can be done remotely.  As I mentioned before, decent internet access is not easy to come by in the Northwoods… Rob paid a premium to have the good stuff installed at the cabin which was still far from city internet speeds; but it was good enough to support his clients.  Rob also made sure he had a few associates in Austin that he could call on should a technician need to be physically present to assist a client.  This all worked out really well!  Survival income accomplished.

I kept teaching Yoga.  Prior to going “Up North”, a friend of a friend of my mom was interested in having Semi-Private Yoga Therapy sessions with her friend and her daughter twice weekly.  We set a weekly schedule as soon as I arrived.

Sometimes multiple family members of my Yoga clients would be visiting and I would teach “Family Yoga” to three different generations! It was beautiful to develop these different Yoga practices and through word of mouth I picked up several more clients.  This was not just survival income but something that I looked forward to and enjoyed thoroughly.  Helping others toward greater health and wellbeing has become my hearts work.

Our passion project is our band, Before Dawn. We love writing, recording and performing music together.  We had a mission to do all of theses things this summer. We were in a different environment, in the woods, far from Austin. We played at tiny Northwoods bars and open mic nights, and made recordings in our little travel trailer. A change in environment is always good for creativity.

This change of scenery was a wonderful adventure that created many unexpected outcomes, opportunities and new relationships.  Every time we played in front of people we were offered more opportunities to play. We seemed to play live shows minimally once a week in the various small towns up north like Minocqua, Land O’ Lakes and Iron River.

Sticking to a regimented writing and recording schedule was difficult, especially if the sun was out and the lake was calling. We were able to record our next single, “Light The Way“. It was a crowd favorite from our most recent tour.

We even got the chance to do a radio interview on WXPR.  The DJ, Jeremy Starz, played four of our songs and debuted our new single, before its official release on September 30th.  This was a first for us. The single is now available on Itunes.

Rob also made some summertime fun videos in the Northwoods. He also composed all of the music!

Amphibious Airplane from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

Whisker Cam from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

This is what we did this summer. This is what we did “Up North” with family, in our tiny house on wheels.  It was all possible because we live tiny.

Stay tuned! More blogs, more music and more videos soon!  By the way we are in Los Angeles now.  How did we get here?  Well, that is an interesting story.  Sign up for blog updates and find out soon!

Taking A Leap

We are excited! We are actually doing what we set out to do. We have been living full time in our travel trailer for the past two years and we have been working towards making the dream of full-time travel a reality.  For many, and admittedly us too, this is a scary but exciting prospect.  We are not retired, we still have bills, debts and obligations that most definitely make this endeavor more complicated.  But, what is life if not one giant experiment?  We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the lives and gifts we have been given, it is time to trust, and boldly move forward.

Since we have been living in our RV for almost two years now, getting ready to “move” wasn’t really a big deal, and the idea of traveling in our RV is normal, we have done it many times for both work and pleasure. The main difference now is that we gave up our permanent spot at Oak Forest RV Park in Austin and plan to wander somewhat indefinitely.  We were ready and it was time to move on…  

Change of any kind can be stressful and takes some planning. We used this awesome app called Wunderlist to assign each other tasks and make lists of things that needed to get done prior to our departure from Austin.  It was really helpful.  Our lists were full of things you would do before going on a road trip, like vehicle, RV and tire maintenance.  We also had to make sure Sunny’s shots were up to date etc.  The item on the list that caused Rob the most stress was setting up our mail forwarding service.  It turned out to be relatively simple and now we can receive our mail anywhere in the world and keep our Texas residency.  Most full timers have some kind of mail forwarding service.

Before we moved into our camper in the fall of 2012 we eliminated the majority of our extraneous belongings. We have continued to purge our possessions every three months or so.  Everything we own is either with us or in the small 5×10 storage space we keep in Austin. We keep this space because we do plan to eventually buy land and build a tiny house…. But where? We must travel first!  For this “move”, we did not need to pack or unpack any boxes and that was refreshing.

“Where are you going?” I have heard this question a lot recently, and I have found it really difficult to give people satisfactory answers.  “When will you be back?”  Well, I’m not sure… Some people seem almost offended by this… “Are you coming back to Austin?”  Probably, but most likely not permanently. Again, “Where are you going?”  Hopefully, everywhere.  You know how people always say that, “life is about the journey, not the destination”, well we are taking that quite literally.  Exploring and being on the road makes us feel good, and it speaks to our souls, so we are listening.

“How are you going to make money and live?”  This is something that will continue to develop.  Here is what we are doing right now, in a nutshell… We both have multiple jobs. Rob repairs computers remotely and in person.  I teach Yoga and write both as a freelancer and for my own blogs.  Together we do commercial low voltage wire and hardware component installation.  Together we also play music in our band, Before Dawn. This is a labor of love and we are passionate about bringing our music to people everywhere we go.  We would love to make music our full time job… This is just a very general overview of what we do, I will write more about the things we do in another post.

This is what our past ten days consisted of, since leaving Austin:

Day 1. – Austin TX to Mesquite TX.

Day 2. – Work in Mesquite, installing low voltage wiring for internet, phones and sound system in a gym franchise.  Band rehearsal in camper in the evening.

Day 3. – Drive to Tulsa & visit with great friends!

Day 4. – Rob did remote computer work for some Austin clients from the RV park in Tulsa as we dodged some “severe weather”  before taking off for Kansas City.  We parked our house in a friend’s driveway.

Day 5. – Rob had more remote clients in the morning… We went on a walk, got some groceries and rehearsed in the afternoon. We played a show on the rooftop of Phosphor Studioin downtown KCMO with some really talented bands in the evening.  Shout out to The Dynamite Defense and Kodascope!

Day 6.- Did some laundry, rehearsed more and helped our hosts move some furniture in their house… Played a show at Coda in KCMO. It was a great time with great people and more fantastic music.  Check out Ren.

Day 7. – We got a late start because we had a late night.  We drove to Iowa City and stayed the night in an RV park along I80.  We watched Game Of Thrones on HBO Go with a really crappy internet connection and then fell asleep.  We were exhausted! 

Day 8. – Rob sent out a trusty friend/contractor/tech guy in Austin to do some computer work on his behalf. We drove to Illinois Beach State Park where we met up with family!  A big family dinner and campfire ensued.

Day 9. – It was overcast, cold and rainy. Rob had more remote computer clients and I had time to write.  In the afternoon we took a trip with my sister and parents into Kenosha, WI to Chester Electronics where Rob was able to find some parts for several projects and then to a huge and super authentic Italian Market called Tenuta’s.

Day 10 – We are headed to Sturgeon Bay, WI where we are playing a music festival called,Steel Bridge Songfest.  We are very much looking forward to this festival which runs June 12th to June 15th.  We are playing both on the 13th and 14th.  If you like my writing and love discovering new music, I will be blogging about the festival on our music site, for our band, Before Dawn.

Currently we are planning our lives in approximately three month chunks…Maybe?  That is what seems to be happening right now anyway… But this way of life is made for spontaneity, so nothing is written in stone.  For the summer we plan to be in and around Wisconsin playing music as much as possible, writing and recording new songs.  We may or may not head back to Texas before making our way out to California for a wedding in September/October.

This is an amazing and beautiful country, we want to see as much of it as possible; we love America, it would be a shame not to explore all of her nooks and crannies!  Every time we see more of this gorgeous country, we love her more.  Travel is an ideal vehicle for both personal and creative growth. If we can successfully navigate this lifestyle, then why wouldn’t we?

A non-traditional life most definitely takes a lot of work and preparation, but we think it is worth it. Every journey starts with a single step. This is a huge step but we are doing our best to do our due diligence and we are finding the bravery to trust the Universe!

Christmas in the Camper

There are different kinds of RV full timers. Some travel constantly, never staying in one place more than a month or so, others just decide that they like the RV lifestyle and the relatively inexpensive cost of living and decide to make an RV their permanent home.  Those who travel full time are usually either retired or have figured out how to make their living from a non-location dependent source. Some do so off grid and others stay in parks or in the yards of friends or family.

We land somewhere in the middle of these… We live in an RV park in a somewhat permanent way, although we have no lease agreement and could theoretically leave whenever we want to.  We travel frequently for work and pleasure and we are working on creating our non location dependent income.

We took a few short trips over the past year and a couple of bigger trips too.

In July we took a two week trip to Northern Wisconsin to visit family and friends in between doing short jaunts around Texas for work.  In the Fall we did a big trip, about a month, to Florida for a combination of work and visiting family.  We even managed to get a little bit of beach time in too!

So, what do “trailerites” do over the Holidays?  We decided to take a quick trip to a historic German town in Texas called Fredericksburg.  We had a ton of fun.  This town goes all out decorating for Christmas!  It was really wonderful to be able to enjoy all of the lights and decorations without having to put them up or take them down ourselves.  We kept it simple in our tiny dwelling. Our camper decorations consisted of two strands of lights inside, our stockings, a decorative throw blanket, a bathroom hand towel and one strand of lights outside.  Decorating took about ten to fifteen minutes at most.

What to do with all of that extra time???  Well, we wrote this new Christmas song, Christmas in the Camper, and made this video while on our Holiday in Fredericksburg.  It is our Christmas gift for friends, family, fellow full timers and those interested in the lifestyle. We had a ton of fun recording the song and making the video in the camper… We had to do something to keep ourselves busy after all!

I hope you enjoy it!

Rob had been working on this melody that he came up with for a few weeks and I said, “that sounds like a Christmas song.”   We finished the lyrics and recorded it on Christmas day with the spirit of the season in our hearts.  We were able to finish filming the video and Rob had it edited by Christmas night.  It was a really fun project.  May the spirit of Christmas be with you and yours throughout the whole year!

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.

Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu?  Pretty much everything. Except, liquor.  For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.

The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though.  Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good!  Sunny loved Malibu too.

 

We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica.  We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain.  It was glorious!  We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door.  I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!

Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment.  A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer campSharon, and her husband, Brian.

One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen.  Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!  

 

Rob stayed back at the camper.  He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu.  That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating!  The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.

                                                ^^^^^ Malibu Seafood^^^^^

At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!

Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot.  Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”.  It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with.  After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week.  I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.

Did I even mention the wedding???  We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds.  The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica.  It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.

Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point.  We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!”  “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”

AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!

One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city.  You know what?  When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever!  They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks!  This pretty much describes paradise to me.

I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is.  And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly.  Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city.  Fame and wealth don’t impress me.  A generous and kind heart does.  Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me.  All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.

 We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now.  We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time.  I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.!  A big piece of my heart is there.  No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there.  He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”

In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living.  I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time???  Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer.  We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living.  You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true!  Viva Malibu!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Yoga Therapy training program that I did was full of amazing ladies from all over the country. Toward the end of my training program, I was really looking forward to Rob and my trip out to California for our friends wedding.  I started asking people in my training program, where to stop on our way West.  Kathy, from Arizona told me about Sedona.  I put it at the top of our list.

Now, if you read my blog, you know what a harrowing drive it was to get to Sedona.  In this blog, finally, Part II of “The Corner Pieces”, I will tell you why it was so worth it!

The first and most obvious thing to say about Sedona is that it is beautiful, gorgeous, picturesque and breath taking in fact!  Those words all feel trite and plain as I attempt to describe the spectacular majesty of this place.

Sedona sits in the Verde Valley between the Mingus Mountains to the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau to the northeast.  These formations and the geology there are really old, ancient in fact.  If you are a geology buff, you probably already know about Sedona, if you want more information, you might enjoy this site: http://www.arizonaruins.com/sedona/sedona_geology.html

The obvious activity to do here is go hiking!  We were still exhausted from our hellacious drive, but we were determined to power through and enjoy all that Sedona had to offer (for free) to its fullest.  YEAH!  We were going to hike the shit out of that place!!!  Only, secretly, neither one of us was really up for it.  We pressed on because we didn’t want to disappoint each other or regret having not done it.  Our day of hiking was starting to resemble our previous day of driving. 

Despite getting explicit instructions from the front office on how to walk to the five mile hike trailhead from the RV park, we couldn’t find it.  We were wandering in circles, retracing our steps and becoming frustrated and cranky.  Again we began to doubt the existence of said hiking trail.  After walking around for about an hour in the hot sun and never finding the trail, we gave up.

It was the right thing to do.  Sometimes, you just have to surrender your plans to actually have an enjoyable time.  Forcing your agenda rarely turns out to be pleasurable. Later we decided to drive to the trailhead just to see if we could find it.  It turned out we had been been milling about and searching approximately one hundred yards away from it.  Oh well, next time.

We decided that instead of the long hike, we would go check out one of the vortices or rather “vortexes” (that is how they say it there) that Sedona is so well known for.  When people say that Sedona is magical, they are being quite literal.  What is an “energy vortex?”  My short definition is that it is a subtle swirling of spiritual energy that can be detected in the physical world; as it does leave a small, though measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is the strongest. It is a geo-physiological anomaly. – I just made that up, but is sounds right doesn’t it?

Though I tend to be sensitive to subtle spiritual energy, I am also skeptical and struggle with trusting myself. Rob is sensitive too, but he trusts himself more.  Like many people who live in Sedona, we could definitely feel the energy of it all over town. Somehow this swirling energy brings a sense of clarity and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about these Energy Vortexes in Sedona, there are a ton of web sites about them.  I think this site does a great job of getting into some of the specifics: http://www.lovesedona.com/01.htm

Many people swear by the healing properties of these vortexes.  They have been in use for healing and spiritual purposes for centuries and very specifically by the early Native American populations.

Somewhat blindly and uninformed we drove to the Airport Vortex trailhead and started hiking around… We were there for the views and the vortex – though we still were not really sure what that meant. We climbed to the highest peak and we were in awe! You can see a spectacular 360 panorama of truly awesome vistas from this vantage point.

 

Eventually, we respectfully made our way to the Vortex to meditate (the juniper trees in the area are spiraled and twisted, they say, from the energy of the vortex). – You don’t want to disturb others who are there to meditate.   This is what our bodies and brains really needed after our long days of intense driving!  We sat there and soaked it all in.  We felt the the vibrations of the earth, we felt the history of the ancient people who knew that this was a holy, healing and magical place. It was magnetic and we could have stayed there for many hours!  We were kind of hogging the vortex. This is when we hilariously came up with, “Quit hogging the vortex!”  We respectfully stepped away from the vortex to give others the opportunity to experience it.

Following that bit of recharging, we went to a grocery store to get items for dinner – this is really a great way to save some money while traveling.  The rest of the day unfolded beautifully.  We strolled around Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village stopped and had an appetizer and margaritas at a little cafe, walked back to our RV, put our bathing suits on and went swimming in the gorgeous little creek behind our RV park. It was cold and refreshing.  There was even a rope swing! 

On our jaunt to the creek, we met one of our neighbors, Pat, who would prove to be crucial to the rest of our journey!  He was a fellow RVr who was staying at Rancho Sedona with his family for a few days.  He was very familiar with the drive between L.A. and Sedona, both on I10 and I40.  He also happened to be a fire and rescue worker in the L.A. area (read, he has scraped a lot of bodies off of the freeway).  He gave us some invaluable tips on how to drive a camper through L.A. without killing ourselves.  We traded some stories about I40. He also gave us his contact info incase we needed anything.  What a great person to meet!

The weather was so beautiful we decided to cook dinner and eat outside at the campground.  We took Sunny outside on her leash as well.  We were finally relaxing!  “Lets not leave here, ever!”  In all seriousness, Sedona is now at the top of our list places to buy property and build a sustainable tiny house.  

Cocktails in hand we talked and reminisced about the day.  Met a few more campground neighbors strolling by and talked about what we were going to do the next day before we left for our final destination, Malibu.  Our playlist for the evening was Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, Led Zeppelin, IV, and Pink Floyd, Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Earlier in the day, when we were at the top of the Airport Vortex Trail, we remarked that it looked like something from a yoga video.  I had been wanting to make some RV traveler yoga videos, so we decided to go film one the next morning before embarking on what would be a 13 hour drive to Malibu.

We went to bed early and woke up early.  We woke ourselves up by going for a swim in the chilly creek.  We then headed back to the Airport Vortex Trail for some yoga on top of a mountain!   It was interesting and quite challenging doing balancing poses on top of a mountain with no immediate or close points of visual focus.  – So if you decide to do my yoga video, bear with me through that part… :)(Coming soon)

When we got back to the campground we had some breakfast and took our time packing up the camper.  Our strategy, as per Pat’s instructions, was to hit L.A. after 9pm and just avoid the traffic altogether.  This proved to be a pretty good strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, the drive was still long and exhausting and driving the trailer at night comes with its own set of challenges, but at least we avoided the heavy traffic.

It was really HOT in the Mojave and really windy in Hot Springs.  At one point, up hill in a head wind with the pedal to the metal we couldn’t go faster than 45.  There were dust storms and dust tornados everywhere!  At this point however, we were so much more seasoned and experienced from our day on I40, that we were ready for this difficult day of travel.  We were mentally prepared for a long day on the road after our lovely break in Sedona.

Driving through downtown L.A. towing a travel trailer in the dark was insanity.  We felt like we were in a spaceship.  It felt like we were flying at light speed.  We eventually reached Malibuat about 10:30pm. I finally unclenched my jaw, took a breath and released my fingernails from the upholstery.  We set up in the dark again and looked forward waking up on the Pacific where we would spend the next beautiful week of our lives!  

Here are some driving tips from Rob:   

– Don’t use overdrive when towing

– Speed up before you hit hills

– Make sure your vehicle and trailer tires are inflated to the reccomended PSI listed on the tire sidewall, you will waste a lot of gas if they are not!

– Don’t drive faster than 55 unless you want to burn through tons of fuel. You are allowed to drive 55, legally, so don’t feel bad about going slow, if people have a problem, they can go around you.  Don’t let other drivers bully you.

– In general, your trip is going to be much longer than you think.  When towing, driving more than 6 to 8 hours a day is just too much, plan accordingly.  If Google Maps says it will take you 8 hours to reach your destination, it could take you 12 to 13.

– If you are going into unfamiliar territory, especially out West, check out the elevations on your route before you leave.  What may seem like a faster route could actually take you up and down very steep grades.  You want to avoid that if at all possible.

– When getting gas or in other situations when you may be close to objects, get out and check your distance if you have any doubts about your clearance.  It is so much easier to check and make sure you have clearance than it is to go through the hassle and cost of a repair.

Stay tuned for Part III of The Corner Pieces (our decision to become full-timers), The Houles go to Malibu!  We are only very slightly more sophisticated than the Beverly Hillbilly’s.  The Beverly Houlebilly’s!

Moving in: Blessings in Complicated and Expensive Packages

It is official! We live in our RV!  It has not been easy getting here. And really, nothing important or worthwhile usually is. There is always a barrage of resistance when one sets about to make some kind of significant change.

I might be in shock. Maybe a little bit.  Not really. I don’t know.

There is this saying, and I don’t know who to attribute it to, but, It has been speaking to me lately:  “If you want something you have never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

Here is how I feel:
I am glad not to be in a big house anymore, it did not suit me and I was counting down the days to a more minimalist lifestyle.  I was tired of living in the location we were in.  I have a sense of relief that the actual move is over and that we have parked in our new living space!  Also, so far, I really like the RV park we are in.  It is sort of rural, but only 8 miles from downtown.  We are bike riding distance to a lake.  There is a pool, hot tub and gym on the premises.  And we are paying half of the rent we were paying before.  I feel grateful to be here.

Getting here and the craziness that consumed our lives leading up to our big move was beyond overwhelming. It was numbing.  It was numbing because we have learned that panic solves nothing. I am not going to lie, I had an emotional breakdown and then resolved to be stoic and get shit done.  I am learning to recognize the blessings in certain hardships.

We knew the month of September would be intense.  After all we were making a major life change.  It didn’t end there though.  It got kicked up by about 5 notches. And as we all know, when it rains, it pours!

The Month and Days Leading up to our Big Move:
If you have been following my blog, you know that I was cast in a dance show at the last minute.  I had about 6 rehearsals before opening night.  The show in and of itself was intense. It was a lovely, beautiful, profound and fulfilling experience, that confirmed my inner need to dance more, but intense nonetheless. I was zip lining off the roof of a 82’ high building, The Long Center.

Additionally, we had a trip to Northern Wisconsin planned for my father’s 60th Birthday.  The plan was to take Sunny (the cat) with us.  Now that I think about it, even purchasing the plane tickets was a difficult affair that resulted in me getting charged three times!

Eventually that all got sorted out.  And when I got cast in the show, we figured out the logistics of changing my ticket, Rob leaving two days earlier than me with Sunny and then me flying up before the crack of dawn the day after closing night of the show.  Best laid plans! Right?

In the midst of all of this I would say that we were about 65-70% moved out of the house.  Most of the big furniture was gone.  We were sleeping on our mattress on the floor.  We had given away, sold or stored most of our worldly belongings to the best of our ability.  We still had stuff that fell into the category, “I have no idea what to do with this!”

The day before Rob was to fly out to Wisconsin, we took Sunny to the vet to get her certificate to fly.  This is when things started to go from “stressful in an exciting way” to “stressful in a bad, sad and scary way”.   Sunny’s skin was a yellowish tint, which indicated that her liver was not functioning properly.  She was sick.  The vet said that it could become very serious and that she recommended that she not fly.  Rob had to cancel his flight.

We still did not quite understand what was happening and still had hope perhaps I could go see my dad for his Birthday.  After several more trips to the vet and various tests, Sunny was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome.  This was very serious.  She was not eating and her body was breaking down her stored fat and her liver could not process it.  I had to cancel my trip too.  Our baby, Sunny’s life was now in clear and present danger!

Why wasn’t Sunny eating? According to the vets, she was stressed out, probably from a combination of things.  1.) We had been trying to switch her to wet food from dry food and she was not into it.  She wanted her damn carbs!  But we thought she had been coming around and maybe starting to like the wet food.  Not so much.  2.) We were moving.  Apparently this is a major source of stress for cats when they see boxes, of stuff and furniture being moved around and disappearing, especially favorite chairs etc. 3.) With the move, the show and Rob getting some work in Tulsa, OK. our lives and schedules had changed drastically.  Sunny was used to being the center of our universe and suddenly she wasn’t.   4.) AND the icing on proverbial perfect storm was that she had killed and eaten the head off of a coral snake in the garage one night while we were  at one of my performances (I know, very disturbing).  While apparently cats have no issue with digesting and breaking down snake toxins, it might have upset her stomach enough to make her not want to eat for a couple of days despite the obvious pride that she had in her kill.

By the end of the week in spite of multiple techniques to jumpstart Sunny’s appetite, including begging, pleading and praying for her to eat, she was not having it!  She had to go to the emergency 24 hour vet and have feeding tube inserted and spend 4 days in intensive care with all food and 9 different prescriptions being administered every 4 hours via e-tube.  We were very concerned kitty parents to say the least!

Then, there was our vehicle.  The ever important Toyota 4Runner that was just shy of 200,000 miles and entrusted with the task of towing our RV, to it’s new location at the end of the month.  It was acting weird and we had just put $1500 into it at the beginning of the summer.  It seemed like it was about to fail and we did not want to put anymore money into it.   Now amidst everything going on, we had to go truck shopping with less than a week until our move out and with our beloved Sunny in the hospital.

I am just going to go ahead and give a shout out to Champion Toyota here in Austin.  This is the second vehicle we have purchased through them.  While Sunny was in the hospital, we traded our 2000 4Runner for a 2009 GMC Sierra.  We found the vehicle we wanted online, we went and bought it.  It was relatively painless as far as these things go.  This is my tip here – Always find the vehicle you want online before you go to the dealership, it is usually about $1000 cheaper.  Also it is always better to go to the dealership already knowing what you want.

After that we had to make an appointment to have the hitch and brake controller installed on the new vehicle, we are now at t-minus 4 days till move out.  Sunny had to go back and forth to the hospital in North Austin for check ups and bandage changing, we lived in South Austin and the brake controller had to be installed in Kyle.  For those of you who are not familiar with Austin, that is a lot of driving.   AND those are a lot of new bills, so we were trying to work as much as possible as well… Oh yeah and move!  Also, feed Sunny gruel through a tube every four hours around the clock in addition to managing her overwhelming schedule of medications.  There was no time to freak out, panic or complain.  Head down, missions accomplished, one thing at a time, reflect later.

When we brought Sunny home from the hospital, in the interest of not stressing her out we decided to move her into the RV immediately instead of the house which was in a state of moving disarray. We obviously moved ourselves into the camper as well.  We didn’t have water or sewer hooked up, so we had to go into the house to use the restroom, shower and do dishes, but for the last 6 days we stayed in our RV in the yard while we moved out.  This was one of the hidden blessings.  I think staying in the RV made the rest of the packing and moving quicker and less painful.  We were able to visually and physically separate our “living situation” from our “moving situation.”

Anxiety runs in my family.  I have tons of crazy anxiety that seems ready to strike at any moment.  Yoga has helped me with this tremendously!  I also have chronic autoimmune diseases which are exacerbated by anxiety and viceversa.  My life and most certainly my quality of life has depended on finding solutions to this anxiety.  Yoga, meditation, breath, and self talk are all part of the equation.  I know how to “trigger my relaxation response” ie. take myself from my sympathetic nervous system to my parasympathetic nervous system.  This has been invaluable over the past couple of weeks and really helped me find the value in some of our difficulties or rather how to take advantage of negative situations for positive outcomes.

So, here we are in our camper, one week after our big move.  Sunny still has a tube in her esophagus, but she is eating on her own now and doing normal Sunny things like grooming herself, playing and rolling over on her back to get belly rubs.  We have encountered some new RV related challenges…  We had a war with some black ants that decided to invade our camper the second night here, we have siliconed the edges of the shower, bought some damp rid and had a heroic fight with the sewer this morning.   We have also gone to the hot tub for a soak every night before bed and I have done some baking to make things feel homey.  Mostly, we have not stopped working since we arrived.

Life is a constant series of tests and challenges.  I have found that how I react in times of difficulty is ultimately what determines my happiness. After all being happy in the easy times is, well, easy.  The challenges are what make a person grow.  Holy man!  We are growing!

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

There are many pieces to the puzzle of our decision to become RV full-timers.  One of the big corner pieces was the last road trip we went on.  The ups, the downs and the time spent renewed our energy, fervor and commitment to a simple life of embracing the things that are closest to our hearts.  It reconfirmed our values and ultimately forced us to act.

This was a long and action packed journey full of many lessons, so I am going to have to write this particular blog post in several parts.

Very dear friends of ours were getting married in Malibu California and asked Rob and I to perform a song in their wedding.  We were so excited about the two of them tying the knot and felt so honored to be a part of the ceremony, we started planning the trip immediately.  This was to be our first real RV trip. We were going a significant distance, traveling roads that were new to us and stoping in towns we had never been to before.

I want to just stop for a moment and tell you that this trip was amazing!  We learned so very much! I kid you not, the number of times each of us uttered the phrase, “I had no idea!” is literally off the charts.

From Austin, TX. to Malibu CA. there are two routes you can take.  I10 or I40.  I did some research and it truly seemed as though I40 was our best bet.  Everyone on the internets said it was prettier and more serene… Bullshit!  I40 was one of the most harrowing and terrifying drives I have ever been on.  ”I had no idea!”

Lets start at the beginning: Yay!!! Big drive! The freedom of the road! California here we come!  Sunny the cat is our co-pilot! (yes, we took our cat to Malibu. She loved it by the way.) Desert, mountains, beach, friends, awesome!!!!!! So cool!!!!! 

There is a lot of land between Austin and Malibu and some of it really isn’t so pleasant.  To reach the nightmare that is I40, you have to go through Northwest Texas and a town called Clovis, NM that boarders Texas.  For about 20 miles you pass a lot of industrial cattle farms, some still operational but there are also many abandoned factories and plants used for processing god knows what.

This area of the country seems as though it at one time enjoyed significant agricultural success.  It now looks like something from a B Science Fiction movie.  The cattle “farms”, I am using that word very loosely, are the kinds that you see in documentary films about how terribly cattle are treated.  The cows are packed in like sardines and clearly wallowing in their own feces.  The stench is unbelievable and the sadness is palpable!  It smells like rotten death and putrid disease, but mostly like a whole lot of cow shit!  The shit of poor, abused and mistreated cows that probably end up at chain restaurants and regular grocery stores and eaten by people who don’t know any better. Call me an elitist, snob or health nut if you want.  When it comes to food, I will not deny that claim.

After 12 hours of driving, Clovis was to be our first overnight stop.  “Yay we are finally stopping! Boo! We have to stop here.” I had made a reservation in advance at a clean RV park with good reviews.  This was a Good Sams rated park and it was right on the highway which was perfect so we could get up early and get on the road…

When we got all set up and settled in, the Natural Gas Detector alarm in our RV started  piercingly ringing!  We were a bit panicked.  We kept checking the propane and turning the alarm off.  We were confounded.  What was the problem?  Methane!  Methane gas from cow shit and farts was setting off the alarm!  We closed the door and the windows  to keep the gas out and hunkered down for the night.

We woke up, had some breakfast and didn’t waste any time getting on the road.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  This was to be our most stressful drive to date. It started with our first fuel up.  Rob had to get something out of the trailer.  You can’t get anything from inside of the trailer without slightly opening the slide out.  He forgot to pull the slide out back in.  Mind you, it wasn’t out far, maybe a few inches.  Nevertheless, when he realized it and told me and we both realized that there was no place for many miles to pull over and fix the situation, I had what was to be my first meltdown of the day.

We had a 570 mile drive ahead of us.  According to Google Maps it was supposed to take us about nine hours and a few minutes.

When we eventually got to I40 more insanity followed.  It was quite literally all uphill! – But more like up MOUNTAIN!

Here is the long and short of it:
– Within the first 6 miles of being on I40, like a huge warning, we saw the skeleton of what was once a travel trailer, completely burnt out and reduced to a big black smudge on the road.

– The grades kept getting bigger, steeper and scarier.  We were really starting to question if our rig would be able to handle it.  ”We had no idea!”

– Many of the truckers were perfectly polite and fantastic drivers.  In fact I can specifically praise the drivers of the Swift big rigs. They keep it classy on the road! Unfortunately most of the other truck drivers, on that day, were clearly all on some sort of insane Crystal Meth bender – and there were a lot of them! Sometimes it really felt like they were literally trying to kill us.

– We have to travel at about 55mph.  That was not acceptable to some of these fast hauling psychos.  While on a seriously steep incline, one of these assholes decided to pass us. His tire started smoking and then completely shredded, and flew at us while he was passing us.  The big rig went all squirrely and I begged Rob to please put on the breaks and stop.  Rob’s response was that if he stopped there, we would never make it all the way up the incline!  I knew he was right.  We slowed to a snails pace which felt almost like going backwards while the reckless truck driver pulled off to the side, axel still smoking.  So that’s how all of those shredded tires make it to the side of the highway!  ”We had no idea!”

-We encountered temperatures up to 107 degrees and elevations over 7000 ft.  “We had no idea!” – When it rained, we were relieved.

– I40 around Albuquerque should be avoided at all costs. We hit it at rush hour. “We had no idea!”

– At one point we had to sit and idle in the direct burn of the intense sun for about 1.5 hours because of a big rig wreck that was blocking the road.

– We were definitely feeling strange from the altitude and could tell that Sunny was not really feeling too great either.  She had this white ring around her nose which was of concern to us.  ”We can hazzed no idea!”  Eventually we realized that it was basically cat boogers.  Her little wet nose had dried out just like ours had.

– Food. There was barely any to be found on this route.  “But you have a fridge and pantry in your trailer!”  Interestingly, there is seldom a good place in the mountains to pullover and get said food.  We did once.  It was terrifying.  In this situation, a motorhome would definitely be the rig of choice.  Your food would be at your fingertips if you were crazy enough to take off your seatbelt!

– Also, there are grifters at about every gas station with the same predictable story. “We had no idea!”

– AND just when we could not take it any longer, it went on longer and longer and longer and we thought we would never ever reach our destination in one piece.  We seriously almost gave up several times.  We had been on the road in hellish conditions for over 13 hours at this point.

Alas we saw signs for 17, the road that would lead us towards our destination for the evening, gorgeous, mystical, Sedona, AZ. Some relief was certainly on the way.  Or so we thought. There were trees along the road shielding us from the harsh and unrelenting sun that had beamed at us all day, there were no longer massive trucks recklessly careening past us and we were now only 20 to 30 minutes away from our intended destination.

Soon the gently sloping road turned into 20 miles of switchbacks down the side of a mountain. There was a sign, warning that rigs longer than 40ft should not attempt this route when it was already too late to turn around. We descended over 3000 ft, hairpin turns the whole way!  If I didn’t die from death, I was sure, I would die from fright!

This narrow road with a steep abyss below, seemed to wind endlessly as dusk was ominously turning to dark. What kind of cruel joke was this?  It was just one surprise after the other and it did not seem to be stoping any time soon. At this point we were so white knuckled, frazzled and fried we started to seriously doubt the actual existence of our destination.

After 14.5 hours, we finally reached the little town of Sedona and then Rancho Sedona one of the coolest little campgrounds we have stayed in yet!  Even though it was now dark and we would have to back into our site which had a lovely tree in the middle of it (not so good for backing in), we were very relieved. – Yet the surprises didn’t end there.

After many attempts and much yelling, “left, no, right, come straight back, nope, pull forward, try again, don’t hit that tree, watch out for that car….” and attracting the attention of several neighboring campers, we finally got all situated, unhooked the vehicle from the camper and started hooking up water, and electricity – in the dark.

I went into the trailer to put out the slide out and deposit Sunny (World’s most patient cat) inside to relax, only to discover that the one time we stopped to get food out of the trailer, in my haste I had failed to latch the pantry properly.  ”I had no idea!” More surprises!  The entire pantry had become completely dismantled.  The shelves and everything that was in them was now strewn about the camper.  The extreme disarray of the contents of the camper was a true testament to the insane ride we had been on.

“Kate” I hear Rob calling from outside the camper.  “This is full hookups, right?”  Yes, I had made the reservation for full hookups!  “Can you help me find the sewer hookup, I can’t find it.”  After some digging around in the lovely landscaping of our site with a flashlight in hand, we found the hook up!  Hooray!  Not so fast!  Our sewer hose was exactly 1 inch too short to reach!  ”We had no idea!”

We had to hook the truck back up to the trailer in the dark and back it up yet again. More yelling and attention from the neighbors.  We decide to keep the trailer connected to the vehicle until everything is definitely in order with the hookups.  What could possibly go wrong now?  Well, the sprinklers came on and completely soaked us.  At this point there was nothing left to do but laugh. It was all we could do.  Now it was dark and everything was wet, including us. We laughed and laughed as we finished outside and went to tackle the disaster that was awaiting inside.

We took off our wet clothes and put them outside on the picnic table to dry. Wearing towels, we set about to clean up the pantry situation; gather all of the loose items off of the floor and return the shelves to their proper place.  But, something was missing!

There was an entire wire shelf missing!  It was impossible!  How can you lose an entire shelf inside of a 21 foot travel trailer?  “Where the fuck did it go?”  We looked high and low.  And then we noticed that something about the carpet looked strange on the front of the slide-out.  Somehow the pantry shelf managed to cram itself under the slide-out.  We had already put out the slide-out!  How were we going to retrieve the damn shelf?  We were a bit dumbfounded.  ”We had no idea!” Fearing damage and destruction, we carefully brought the slide-out back in. Success!  We were able to fish out the approximately 4ft deep shelf from under the slide-out unscathed.  Let’s celebrate!

We both collapsed on the dinette seats.  Rob pleaded with a higher power, “Please, no more surprises!”  We were exhausted and starving but decided that what we really needed was a stiff drink.  We put on dry clothes, unhooked the the 4Runner from the trailer and set out for the liquor store we had seen on our drive into town.  Of course when we arrived, the owner was locking up and said we were three minutes too late.

Back at the camper we made a simple meal of soup and beans, took showers to wash the day off, got into bed and promptly fell asleep.

We had no idea!

This was just the first part of a very long journey from Austin, TX to Malibu, CA and back again.  Subscribe to my blog if you want to be notified about every exciting and information packed installation!  Next I am going to talk about the incredible majesty of Sedona, how we fell in love with it and why we can’t wait to go back!

My goal with this blog is to educate and entertain.  We share our mishaps so hopefully you can avoid them!