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!

The Chicken or the Camper

When we finally got our camper home from the dealership, after the much drawn out purchasing process, we sat in it and looked around and when faced with the reality of the size, decided that unfortunately, it would probably not be livable.  I mean, how would we do that? How could we possibly get rid of that much stuff?  How could we go without having our individual offices anymore?  Where would we put our guitars?

Last year, after we made our big trip to Big Bend in the Apex to shoot the Deadly Beauty music video over Thanksgiving weekend, we made an even bigger journey for Christmas.  We went to Florida to visit our families. We played a couple of shows and got a bit of press while we were in Sarasota. In a lot of ways this trip seemed smaller or maybe just a bit easier because it is a drive we have done at least a dozen times.  It is a relatively flat drive in comparison to that last journey.  Also there were just two people in the 4Runner instead of four like when we went to Big Bend.

This time the trip to FL was different though because we were now towing our camper, more than 4000lbs and had the back of the 4Runner filled with guitars, amps and monitor speakers. Neither one of these things was new on it’s own, but the combination certainly was. This was the farthest we had ever driven with the camper.  Also it was Sunny, the cat’s first big road trip!  She is a trooper.  I might even go as far as to say that she likes road trips.

This was a cool trip because we finally felt like we were really using the camper for the reasons that prompted us to buy an RV in the first place.  We got to visit friends along the way, it kept us dry and comfortable in inclement weather, gave us and our loved ones privacy while visiting and we were even able to rehearse for our shows in the camper.  So what if Rob had to put his guitar amp in the bathroom…?

Also we stayed at some really cool campgrounds!  Yacht HavenBlackwater River State Parkand my parents yard!  I think I might have to start a page with my own campground rating system.

This trip was more than just a road trip to see family and play a show over the holidays.  This was two weeks of living in and really getting to know our camper.  This was a test! Two weeks.  How would we handle it?  Would we be anxious to to get home and back into a bigger space?

The result was that when we got home, we actually slept in the camper in the back yard for two nights.  We decided that it absolutely would be possible to live in the camper as long as we had some sort of office. We would figure it out.  We could make it work.

We started the process of shedding our belongings in mid January.  We started dividing our stuff into categories.

 Categories:
-Sell
-Give Away
-Donate
-Trash
-Keep

Visually, you would have never known, but we actually did make a sizable dent.  We planned to have a garage sale… We put little price tags on all of our belongings. We chickened out.

We chickened out!!!

We never got to the point where we were serious enough to tell our landlords that we were going to move out.  The plan was still in the back of our minds, but it just seemed overwhelming.

You may not know this, but your stuff OWNS you!  Sentimentality OWNS you!  AND fear OWNS you!  Well, if you are anything like us, it certainly did.  Also, you probably don’t realize that you are storing stuff that is actually trash.  Like, did I really need that monthly calendar from 7 years ago?

You see the thing about people like us is that we like to conserve “supplies” and “information”. We love projects, which makes us kind of hoardy because, you might need that “thing” for some kind of future project… But also, we truly want to be minimalists.  We don’t want to throw something useful away and we don’t want to waste – but then here we are with this double edged sword because you end up “saving” everything that “might” be useful in the future yet the less stuff you have in the first place, the less wasteful you tend to be.  Know what I mean?

I started Yoga Teacher Training in February 2012.  This is not something you can do without it changing you.  Additionally, I did a particularly intense program where I left home when it was still dark out and then didn’t get home until it was again, dark out.  It was ten hours per day for ten days straight in Feb and then we had 3 weeks off,  then did another ten hours per day for another ten days in March.  The learning, the evolving, the enlightening, the hours, trying to keep my blood sugar under control with this radically different sleeping and eating schedule, it really was very exhausting…

In any case throughout this process, I learned to meditate. This was not easy for me, at first, sitting still and breathing slowly made me want to climb the walls and hyperventilate!  I decided that my wanderlust was a symptom of a greater internal problem; which is that when I become settled, I become dissatisfied, and I want to take off and move.  I decided that it was imperative that I make peace with myself independent of my location.  I thought, “I need to find happiness where I am right now instead of constantly looking at it as something that would be waiting for me somewhere else.”

I decided that my rented home was serendipitously a perfect space for a small yoga studio on account of the massive living room and hardwood floors.  I would endeavor to be content andteach yoga in the small town of Manchaca!  Clearly this was the prudent thing to do.   Rob and I both read the Bhagavad Gita.  We were to be egoless and content with the present.  We were to attend to our duty, which for me meant humbly bringing the benefits of yoga to the people of my small community.  We both convinced ourselves that we had been crazy to think of moving into our travel trailer!  We decided that we felt a calm and a sense of relief now with this new, and more “sensible plan.”

That is where it all ended.  Until it didn’t anymore.

I am sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger like that after our Big Announcement, but you will have to continue to read my blog to find out how we got to our current present, which used to be the future, but like I said before, the future is now!

The Big Announcement

If there is one thing I can say about my approach to anything that I am focused on or committed to, it is that I am thorough.  Very thorough.  If I can’t be thorough, I generally just don’t bother.  Before we bought our RV, a lot of research was done.  I scoured the internet for all things RV related.  There is an interesting twist though because I am also very impulsive.

In the past my thoroughness has perhaps slowed me down and caused me delayed decision making and even tons of late homework assignments in my school years.  My theory is that my impulsiveness is a learned mechanism that I have incorporated into my psyche to balance my thoroughness…Or maybe it is the other way around…?  Anyway, balance is important.  Perfectionism and the intense anxiety surrounding it can make a person physically ill if they don’t lighten up and go with the flow every now and again. Trust me, I know from experience.

There are all these slogans and quotes like, “Just do it” and “Perfection is the enemy of good enough” and “You will regret the things you don’t do more than things you do.”  These are all pretty good for me to an extent, they are words of wisdom that I try to remind myself of when I start over thinking things… Or as my husband, Rob says, “being German.”

Having said that, I tried to convince Rob that we should live in a van and become “van dwellers.”  I was very serious about this. This conclusion that I reached with such confidence was a combination of both my tendency to “over think” as well as this newly embraced impulsive nature.  Rob never outright said “no”.  He just tried to keep me focused on the task at hand which was, RV shopping. He said, that I was “changing the plan” and “confusing him” and that we should just do the thing we set out to do in the first place which was “get an RV!”  He didn’t want to just jump in all at once and said if we loved extended periods of time in the RV, we could talk about being “VanDwellers” at some point in time, when we had more experience… Well played Rob, well played!

You see, in all of my scouring of the internet in search of the “perfect RV”, I found this wonderful and brilliant website, Cheap RV Living and it’s sister sight, Cheap Green RV Living.  It spoke to me in so many ways!  And even though “RV” is in the title of this site, it is more about “VanDwelling”. Please, please, please take some time to explore these sites and read the stories!

Why it appeals to me:

  • Conservation of resources, the idea seems so logical, this would be a great way to save money!
  • DIY! I love a project! I love the idea of converting a van to a living or working space. The conversions on the site are quite inspiring.  And the size of the project is manageable!
  • Independence and self sufficiency.
  • Ability to pick up and travel any time. I embrace and welcome a change of scenery.
  • Simplification of lifestyle.  I honestly believe that the more stuff one has, the more complicated life becomes.  People actually spend time and energy WORRYING about their stuff.
  • Sense of adventure and a longing to really “live”, serious wanderlust.
  • I still harbor a spark of rebelliousness.  “Fuck the establishment!”  Amiright???

In any case, I read all of the stories and experiences and that led me to search for more such accounts of adventurous living.  I worked up a pretty fabulous and romantic fantasy in my head of how we would live life on the road in a way cool van!  It would be like living inside of a fucking stealth Transformer van/house that we perfectly customized with all of our desired requirements, like secret passageways, a crazy slide and a candy dispenser in the dashboard! It’s gonna be so rad!!! Dude, how could you not want that?

When I get what may initially seem like “harebrained” ideas, Rob doesn’t shut me down. He goes along with me and slowly neutralizes the situation until we both distill the essence of what it is I am after.  Though, I still think that van dwelling is an excellent idea, I concede that it is not ultimately the best situation for us.  Though someday, I am totally going to convert a van into a living or working space.  I want to do that project!

Some people would say I have A.D.D., like the overmedicating shrink I had in high school. Personally I think I just like to multitask and explore my options. Life is short and the world is vast, which can be overwhelming. There is a lot to see and do. I don’t want to limit myself with the constructs of what is socially popular.  I would hate to make the wrong decisions as a result of not thoroughly exploring my options.  I know I’m not alone in this sentiment.

In any case the idea of “full timing” in our travel trailer, maybe, possibly down the road in the long and distant future was now something we were sort of, kind of, maybe thinking about… And it was something that we were definitely keeping in the back of our minds while we were RV shopping.  Even if it was just something we tried out for a few months or just for a summer… we were thinking about it, and we purchased our RV accordingly.

Guess what? The future is here!  The future is now! It will probably take a few more blog posts to get you up to speed on how exactly we arrived here at this exact junction in the “future” but nevertheless, we are arrived.  Incase I have been too cryptic, we are moving into the Apex!

We currently live in an 1800 sq. ft. foot house, built in 1939 on over an acre of land.  After living in a 700 square ft. apartment near downtown Austin built in the 1980‘s and being in a band and trying to rehearse, write and record albums in that space with paper thin walls, it was incredible to move out to this semi -rural, very private land in South Austin, and finally finish our third album in a huge old house with lovely wood floors…  It was great to have space to practice and teach yoga, it was great to make an outdoor shower and fire pit in our back yard. It was amazing to be able to use the house and land for several writing, photography, film and music video projects. And to each have our own offices to work out of.  And make as much noise as we wanted… This is a great house in which to realize and see any number of artistic projects through. We even made our own batch of wine here!

chateau-du-voyage

But now we are ready for a change.

We want and need to be more mobile.  We want and need to save more money.  We want and need to be able to afford to commit more time to our creative pursuits, as well as leisure pursuits like hiking, surfing, dancing, climbing, skiing or visiting family in other parts of the country.  We are ready to be a little more social and closer to downtown again.  We crave water; lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, or even just a pool or hot tub. It is time to move…

What one needs in life is not a static and fixed thing. Human beings are dynamic creatures that ebb and flow like a winding river.  What we have come to realize is that we absolutely DO NOT NEED all of this space. We do not have or want kids, we do not have or want a mortgage, we don’t have a big dog, Rob hates mowing the acre of lawn we are living on and we want more freedom both physically and financially to move about.  After all, we need to save money so we can find and buy land to build that tiny house we have been dreaming of!  Also, we are really compatible (perhaps to the point of codependence) when it comes to sharing small spaces together for extended periods of time, it doesn’t bother us.  So, why the hell not?  The status quo will always be there, waiting for us, if we choose to return.

The house, that we are living in is amazing; and living in it has fostered a tremendous amount of creativity as well as clarity. There will be plenty of things that we miss about living here, but it is time to move on. We can’t forget that being in this house is what prompted the creativity and unorthodox, yet totally logical decision making that led us to the new experience that we are about to embark upon.  It is time for someone else to live in this house and let it nurture and push them to be brave in pursuing their hearts desires*.

We officially made the decision in mid July after returning from a glorious trip West (that is another blog on the burner, coming soon!).   Our last day here at Casa 1626 will be September 30th. In the meantime, we are giving away, selling and donating the vast majority of our worldly possessions. Be sure to follow along and subscribe to my blog as we make this massive transition to tiny living and continue to live, learn, travel and explore!

*A side note to this blog is that coincidentally, the three hippies that were renting this house prior to us moving in, left by way of a school bus that they converted into an RV and drove to Costa Rica.  Makes you wonder…