Surviving the Heat

The good Lord made us all out of iron.
Then he turns up the heat to forge some of us into steel. —Marie Osmond

Stress is always a strong force in our house. Not only are we business owners, we are spouses, parents, workers, caregivers, adult children, siblings, friends, competitors, athletes, and “home” owners. All of these titles bring with them a different set of expectations. As the oldest children, we both feel the need to meet ALL expectations.

This weekend, the gap between the expectations and the reality had a fall out. On Friday, we approached a weekend not knowing what the expectations were, but knowing that we weren’t meeting many of them.

  • We had expected that 5 years into our business, we would be able to start reducing our hands on work in the business; maybe have 3-4 other therapists and 1-2 other reception/bookkeepers.
  • We had expected that we would have the water, generator, and 12V electric hooked up and regularly being used; we are required to be plugged in and bring water in by the 5-gallon jug.
  • We had expected to be comfortable in our relationship and marriage, unconcerned with the stability of our household; those of you that are married know how tenuous this is.
  • We expected to be almost out of debt by now; we took Financial Peace University 7 years ago.
  • We expected to be at a race this weekend; the Spartan Sprint that I planned to do was yesterday. I decided not to because of some financial & family issues that have arisen lately.

All of these expectations falling short, along with a few critical or harsh words bring us to a halt in life. We snap at each other, we snark, we hold grudges, we fail to really show the love that God instructs us to. That leads to heat in the relationship.

It definitely doesn’t help that the heat outside was going to be super high this weekend. Friday, we got home and it was warm in the RV. 80 degrees F is uncomfortable and we knew it would be worse the next day. The forecast for Saturday was 95. We hadn’t tried out the air conditioning yet (another failed expectation: we thought we would know if any of our appliances didn’t work). The anxiety over the following day definitely played a part in our Friday breakdown.

Saturday came and neither of us had the energy to take a proactive look at the AC. We turned on the fans, rested most of the morning, and talked about how hot it was starting to get. Jeremy even watched some videos on YouTube that showed the maintenance necessary to keep an RV AC unit running well. And we remained hot and sweaty.

Toward the end of the day, I wanted to turn the fan on that’s attached to the AC. Jeremy told me to turn on the air “just to check”. I turned it on and it felt just like the fan at first. He told me that one of the videos he watched stated that it takes 15 minutes for cold air to work. And he was right. We were both so excited to shut down the vents and the windows to let ice cold AC air come in from the unit. Standing directly under the entry made it even a little icy.

The cold air helped us reconcile our hot-headed argument. By Sunday afternoon, we had a conversation about our finances for the first time in years and it ended well. We figured out an app to use to help us keep our spending down and we started the process of coming up with a budget. This time, we want to keep with the principals of Financial Peace, even though we won’t be using their app. Mint.com offers an app that allows us to link all of our accounts to have transactions automatically uploaded. The app from Financial Peace, EveryDollar, does not allow us to link our business account because of of a glitch in their syncing process. Both are good apps and if you like one over the other, please use it.

Now that we’re on the road to working together faithfully on our finances and the AC is working, the heat in The Girl Next Door has dropped considerably. It doesn’t hurt that a thunderstorm, complete with hail, blew through on Sunday. It was colorful and exciting; So exciting that our hosts asked us to come into their sticks & bricks house for safety! We all came out the other side of the storm, both literally and figuratively.

So, as we move toward our debt free life, join us in enjoying the small things:

  • The AC is working.
  • Our budget is started.
  • We made it through the hail.
  • We have each other to hold onto.
  • We still have things that we can expect… we just need to be a little gentler on ourselves when the expectations don’t get met in time.

What are your small things? Make sure you tell us when you see us on the road.

Oh, What Projects You Will Know!

The weekend was filled with projects.

First, I did not finish the bathroom yet. I did get closer, though. I got some fabric from the neighbors. Now I need to spend some time sewing and stapling before we ate all the way done.

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We spent Saturday doing most of the projects. First, we worked on the engine. She’s been chugging along with some fuel issues. Jeremy and Jason thought it may be the fuel regulator. We learned very quickly that neither of them were going to take care of that with our current equipment. The space under the regulator is only about an inch deep. The bolts holding the regulator on must be removed from that side of the plate. An Allen wrench is used to get those small bolts out. Someone with smaller hands was needed; I ended up being that person.

The guys are the brains of this type of work. Jeremy told me what I needed to do and coached me on doing it right. The Allen wrench was tiny, it had to be “just so” to fit in the bolts, and I couldn’t see my hands at first. I got a bright idea from Jason to use my phone camera so that I could see.

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Eventually, we got it back into the spot and tried it out to see if it helped. We found out that it’s not the fuel regulator. But, while Jeremy drove The Girl Next Door into the spot again, Jason’s wife Ona and I noticed that it’s bogging down and there’s air coming from somewhere under the coach. We’ll see what happens when Jason and Jeremy get back underneath.

Saturday we also helped Jason and Ona get their garden started. We’re really grateful for them letting us plug in and we like to help whenever we can. They decided that this weekend was the weekend to till up their corner and create their awesome veggie garden. We all 4 worked hard to get it started on Saturday, then it got finished up on Sunday. They also got the fence to keep rabbits and dogs out measured by Sunday evening. What a great weekend project.

In other news, I got to be a local tourist with Erin on Sunday. We went to Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls, WI. It’s about 40 miles from Baldwin, where we’re parked. Positioned right along the river, there is also an Interstate Park in Taylors Falls, MN. We only hiked a few short trails, so we’ll have to go back to hike the rest another time.

While we hiked the Pothole Trail, along the water, we ran into a troop of rock climbers. It was really interesting to see them setting up, which ones wore helmets, hear them talk to each other, and imagine the rush of going over the edge of the cliff. Some day, maybe we’ll try climbing a local cliff or traveling somewhere to climb.

When I got home, I did my workout. The hiking was just for fun, you see; the workout was pretty fun too. I chased Jason & Ona’s dogs, Summer and Winter, around the driveway while everyone else was working on stuff. They have some pool rings that the dogs like to pull on. For some weighted squats, I pulled the dogs while using my legs instead of my arms. I was sore a few days later, but it was worth it. Those dogs are so much fun.

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Jeremy and I are intending on transforming those fabrics sometime this week. With both of us working extra to pay off debt, we don’t get around to projects like that nearly often enough. When we do, it’s a labor of love. We both agree that we love The Girl Next Door and Ruby. So, we’ll keep on keeping on and hope to see you on the road.

You Take Your Toilet For Granted

WARNING! I talk about pooping and other bodily functions…. do not read further if you are grossed out by biological processes.

I used to take my toilet for granted also. I’m not talking about those people that do not have in-home toilets for whatever reason. (BTW, more power to you if you’re one of those people. You’re a badass!) I’m talking about just being able to use your toilet in a comfortable manner.

I didn’t realize that this was a thing until the first time I went on our RV toilet. It wasn’t the lack of water that was a problem (we started full-time before it was done freezing, so had no water for the first month so far). I can handle using antifreeze instead of having running water. We had water jugs for drinking from and have been washing dishes and clothing at our friends’ place that we’re parked at. They’re so generous to us!

I also do not have a problem with the shape of the toilet itself. It’s pretty close to a regular toilet, although it’s a bit shorter, both floor to top and back to front. It’s usable, even though petite.

What really has been irking me (and I found out Jeremy as well) is the inability to take care of the “aftercare”. Wiping was impossible. The reason: the sink cabinet was WAY too close to the toilet and bathroom wall. We are big people, so our legs pressed on the cabinet and the wall when just sitting, much less wiping afterward.

This changed the “routine” a lot! First, add a little antifreeze to the bowl and move the jug out of the way so you can sit down. Then, sit and wiggle enough to be able to “go” in the toilet. Next, wiggle a little so you don’t drip when you stand at a half squat to try to wipe. Throw toilet paper in garbage (we don’t want to change to RV toilet paper, so that has to be where it goes). Close lid and flush.

I DID NOT like the half standing squat that was necessary. I still felt like I couldn’t get clean. And when “that time of the month” came around… forget about it!! I kept waiting to go at the gas station down the street and empty my menstrual cup there. (If you want more information about what the heck I’m talking about, please please please, let me know!! I’m passionate about this thing.) Feeling clean during my period was not even an option after using the toilet. I just showered double that week.

Rain prevented Jeremy from working on the engine on Saturday morning. Lucky us; he’s a handy guy. So, we decided to renovate the bathroom. I know that sounds like a huge undertaking to you sticks & bricks dwellers, but an RV is much less involved. It is especially so because we didn’t want to change the wall coverings or the toilet. All we wanted to do was take the cabinet out and move the sink higher and closer to the window.

Between a pair of drills and a saws-all, Jeremy removed the counter, cut the cabinet in half, and cut the counter in half. He ended up spending time under the cabinet to remove the counter, so it made for some fun pictures. Once we had done that, we noticed that there was still quite a bit of restriction when seated from the cabinet. So, we’ve decided on a fabric covering for the pipes and “storage items” instead of the wooden cabinet.

I even got to do some work with the power tools! He let me pick where the garbage holder and the towel holder had to go. Now it is so much nicer in our toilet. There’s even some like-new carpet that was under the cabinet. And The Girl Next Door is just a little closer to perfect.

When placing the sink back, we had to make sure that we put it where it would be out of the way. I’m really blessed to have a creative man as my husband. He put the sink back together and did some funny looking yoga to get a working sink into the right spot. He even cleaned up afterward with our little vacuum. We gave the whole area a once over, discarded the refuse, and marveled at how much larger our little bathroom felt without a countertop and cabinet.

It was a good experience to work on the inside for a while instead of just engine work. The Girl Next Door feels more and more like a home every day, thanks to the efforts of Jeremy. I’ve been working so much that I haven’t been able to help much. That was another fun part of this project; we could work on it together. So, remember, not all rain is going to ruin your day, not all projects are long ones, and it’s nice to have a handy husband. Love your family, love your life, and we’ll see you on the road.

Full-Time Times

This will be quick. I’m still reeling!!

Ok, first off, I’m sorry to our loyal followers for not writing more in the last month. IT’S BEEN CRAZY AROUND HERE!!

Let’s start with The Girl Next Door. She’s full and being worked on as much as possible. Jeremy has been spending days with Jason, our new neighbor, working on the engine, the electrical, and the fuel issues. She’s moving better than she was when Jeremy crawled at 20 miles an hour into Jason’s driveway; she’s also still not in what we would call “mobile” shape. She moves, but not too quickly. I think Jeremy said he got her up to 35 miles an hour. They’ve changed spark plugs, checked for fuel vacuums, and emptied the old gas. They’ve also re-wired quite a bit of our internal work, including the male end of our 50 Amp electrical hookup, which promptly created some sparks. Now our microwave doesn’t work anymore, but there was no further fire. Thank God.

We’re still not “moved in” either. We haven’t quite had time to work on going through all of our stuff stored at Jeremy’s parents’ place. So there is quite a bit of stuff that is stored there that we want to fit into the RV. That being said, it might never happen. She’s not quite organized inside yet. We have stacks of clothing and stuff on the kitchen table, the couch, the doghouse, and in the passenger seat. Any advice would be helpful. Even more helpful would be a life coach or something to come and go through this stuff with us!!

Jeremy is still working on the rollercoaster of Lamictal reintroduction. This medication works well once it’s up to therapeutic level. The problem is that he has to go very very slowly toward that level because of his rash last July. We’re hoping he’ll be all the way up to it by June. Right now, he’s on the down turn from the most recent increase. By next week or the week after, he should be stabilizing again and we’ll see where he’s at with is moods. In the meantime, he’s riding a wave of cycles, anxiety, and coping skills.

My job change went smoothly for the most part, but I’m now waking at 4am, driving Ruby over an hour one way, and not getting home until 6pm. Most days, I’m tired.  Even though I’ve done this job before, those are old brain cells that haven’t been used in 10 years. Even though it’s a change, I still feel like going back to the QA job is like moving home. There’s a familiarity of the lab; over half of the people in the lab are the same people that were there before. Every single shift has someone who was there when I was there 10 years ago. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying being back on someone else’s payroll.

It’s also a huge change in routine for getting dressed in the morning. I can’t stand in the bedroom anymore, so have to dress in the living room in the mornings. Eating is a change; I’m very close to the bedroom, so I don’t want to use the blender for fear of waking him.  Showering and bathing is different too; we do not have water in her yet for fear of freezing, so we need to go to the gym or the neighbors’ place to shower. Just getting out my clothes has changed because I need to do it the night before so that I don’t have to crawl all over Jeremy every morning.

I’ve been missing meds right and left. With the change in routines, I forget almost daily. Because of this, my depression symptoms have been going a bit haywire. And I’m drinking coffee again too. I need the boost in the morning to be able to drive. Luckily, I found a great recipe for Unicorn Fuel, so I don’t need to add sugar to my diet to enjoy my boost. Food is a hard thing to keep up when there’s this much spinning around, but we try when we can.

We are both in deep athletic training right now too. Jeremy is getting ready to do the Eau Claire Half Marathon in May. My next race is June 10th in Chicago for the Spartan Sprint Obstacle Course Race. Running has become a regular event around the house. Being parked in a new town makes it interesting to find trails, roads, and routes that work for us. I have an extra bonus of strength training for my race too, so I’ve added some of that at my new job; they have a gym available to me.

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Jeremy took The Girl Next Door once to dump and checked out how she’ll look when she’s finally parked in one of our summer spots. This round barn is one of the coolest back drops we didn’t ever imagine would be a parking spot.

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All in all, this new life is working for us, even if we are a little frazzled. Once we’ve gotten in a groove, things will be easier. We are still in the stage where you don’t know where anything is because you just started keeping it there. We’re learning how to prepare for moving her, we’re learning how to take care of the business without me there, and we’re learning how to interact with each other when we’re exhausted from our busy training schedules. We’re both still very happy we made this switch.

Now, as Jeremy plays with the neighbors’ dogs (Dying of cuteness!!), enjoy your life, live healthy, and we’ll see you on the road.

Full-Time Happens

We now have an empty townhouse and a very very full RV. We went full-time this weekend!! Both of us are overjoyed to be embarking on this journey and learning what a great adventure life can be.

Beginning on Friday, Jeremy spent most of the time after work packing up things in the townhouse that weren’t already in the motorhome. The Girl Next Door was already parked at Jason & Ona’s place, so we had to take all of what was left by the car load. There was clothing, kitchen utensils, and bathroom products that all needed to be moved. Both cars were packed to the gills more than once to bring things over.

You can imagine that that much stuff did not fit easily into The Girl Next Door. We’re definitely finding that there’s a deficit of storage space, even with the extra cabinet above the bed. We determined that it might be best to find any space for everything and get it in the “right space” later.

We also will need to change our routines. I will need to set out my clothing the night before so that I’m not crawling over Jeremy at 4am when I’m getting ready for work. We will need to find a space in the living room or bathroom for hair and makeup space. Another thing I can’t really do in the dark. We will no longer have the space for our medicine to sit out on the counter all of the time. Reminders to take medicine will have to come in a different form. Before bed, we’ll need to put the door insulators on. Routines will need to be changed and learned.

That’s not the only thing that’s changing. I started my new job. A few weeks ago, I accepted a position with the QA Lab at Aveda Corporate. Now, my routine won’t revolve around Jeremy’s client schedule. I will have a steady wakeup time, a commute, coworkers, and rush hour. At 62 miles from our current parking spot, it’s quite a hike every morning. Luckily, I’ll be going right past our office, so Jeremy and I will still get to ride together sometimes. I can drop him on my way. I’ll miss controlling my own schedule, but this new adventure will afford us things like a retirement fund, health insurance, and paid vacation.

With me not in the office anymore, Jeremy needs a little more support. We were able to have a friend, who has been in the massage business for years, join our team starting this Friday. She’ll not only help with office/reception work, but she is a licensed massage therapist. Every massage therapist is different in their technique and Chris is no exception. We’re excited that she may be able to offer our clients another layer of services that are drastically different than what we’ve been doing. We will probably be taking on more office support staff as her days fill with massage as well.

Today being the first day of spring, I also decided that my hair needed updating for the new season of our life. Friday morning I got a hidden rainbow added to my hair. It’s been fun playing with how to wear it, how to hide it, and how it looks both up and down. It did my brain some good to be pampered.

By Saturday at noon, we had most of the stuff moved out of the townhouse and into the RV, so Jeremy and Jason spent the rest of the day working on wiring. There were lights that were starting to flicker because of degrading wires, some antennae that had broken off and were no longer used, and battery cables that needed a replacement. They’re not done yet, but they’ve gotten a good start on cleaning up the wiring where it needs it. And on Saturday night, we spent our first official night as full-timers.

Until we started this journey, we hadn’t realized what a movement this lifestyle has become. We began talking about tiny houses about 4 years ago. We had hoped that a smaller house would free up more of our finances to pay off bills, but still give us the space we needed to live. As we talked more and more, we realized that the typical tiny house just wasn’t for us. We want to move every few years, so it needs to be on wheels. Most parks and campgrounds to not allow a “tiny house” because it’s a house. On top of all of that, there are places in the US where tiny house owners are being penalized for having “domiciles” under the “required size” or for going “off the grid”. There are even places that tiny home owners are being forced to pay for electricity on the grid even though they’re not using it and sewer even though they have a self contained system. We didn’t want to deal with these kinds of regulations.

Then, one day, Jeremy said “You know who does get to park at campgrounds? RVs.” That started the conversation that has lasted until now. We found that there are many people, especially Gen Xers and Millenials like us, that are embracing this lifestyle of living on the road or in a tiny space. Can I tell you how many? Not really. Another blog addressed this question HERE with research and everything. I won’t rehash their work (Thanks for saving the me the work, George & Sandy.

Either way, we’re among the estimated 1 million fulltimers now and we are not looking back. So, follow your dreams and make sure they’re really your dream. See you on the road.

 

The Wheels on our House Go Round and Round

Jeremy has taken to singing this song now that we’re on the way to our “new home” for The Girl Next Door. Please don’t sing “The Wheels on the Bus” to me or mention the wheels on our house… I think I may lose my mind.

It’s amazing how fast this all is happening!

Once the windows were done, Jeremy wanted to start moving as soon as possible.

So, one day I came home to this. The Girl Next Door was parked in front of our townhouse. She just barely fit in the yard. You can see in the big picture that she really didn’t get to be level while there. Our yard and driveway are slopped so that rain and snow melt run away from the building. That kept her a little off kilter. So, front door to front door, we started moving in.

Jeremy and his parents had wrestled our regular queen mattress into the bedroom. It hangs a bit over the end of the platform, but it is so much more comfortable than the foam mattress that existed. We don’t know if it was the original from 1990, but we wouldn’t have been surprised. Now we have a pillow top queen mattress stuffed right in where it’s supposed to be.

Jeremy and I moved most of our things from the townhouse into the belly of The Girl Next Door. We made some organizational decisions on the fly, like who gets what closets, where the spices go and if we’re going to use the under cabinet appliances or not. So, the toaster went bye bye, the “pantry” became Jeremy’s closet, and the spices are above the sink.

Saturday and Sunday nights, we decided we were going to try it out. This way, if it was too cold, something broke, or we changed our minds unexpectedly, we could just go back inside and sleep in the guest bed. It was actually very pleasant with a heated blanket for most of our heat. The more of our stuff we moved, the warmer the place stayed. It also helped that I finished all of the Reflectix window insulators.

Monday morning, Jeremy had gone to workout when there began to be a knocking on the townhouse door, then on the door of the RV. When I opened it, I found our association manager. He told me that we needed to move the RV somewhere else; that it wasn’t allowed and there had been complaints. At the same time that he was talking to me, Jeremy got home. So we jumped into action.

Everything that would fit from the counter and table got thrown into the sink. Jeremy took off the window insulators and started scraping off the frost that had accumulated both inside and outside of the windows and windshield. I put the larger things away where we planned to keep them later when we move around, including the basement, the closets, and just tied up in a chair. Once Jeremy unplugged her cord, we were on our way to our next destination: our friends Jason & Ona’s house.

Jason & Ona will be helping us with making sure she works well. Jason has some experience working with big engines like this. He was the one that helped so much with the exhaust back in February. They’ll also help us out a bit to make sure the appliances and electrical system are working correctly. We’re more than a little grateful for their hospitality and help.

We weren’t able to stay long when we dropped her off at their house. Jeremy had to get back for a massage immediately, so we left her sitting in their driveway and Ruby took us to the office. That night, we got home and looked around.

Our living room, guest room, and kitchen were 90% empty. We were excited that we got that much done and ready to take on the next steps of moving. I finished going through my clothing that night.

This morning was the first time we were able to eat at home since then. We found out a very important bit of information about moving gradually… keep the spices and most food where you’re living!! For eggs and porridge, we had no cinnamon, nutmeg, very little ginger, and our pepper is getting very low; we have all of our walnuts and almonds in the RV.

Jeremy picked up what we needed most at Walmart and we went without the other stuff. When I roasted our spaghetti squash for dinner, I did so in a cast iron sauce pan because all of our baking sheets are in the RV. We even made our spaghetti sauce in the microwave at the office because we ran out of time from having to run to the store for seasonings.

We won’t have to worry about this for too long. We are planning on moving into The Girl Next Door mostly full-time starting this weekend. The rest of our things will be moved and all that will be left to be done is cleaning the townhouse and giving them back the keys. T-minus 4 days to full-time. We’re both excited now and ready to have it done with.

There are still things to get rid of and there are communications that we haven’t had yet on the things that need to be done before we can be done at Jason & Ona’s place and move to our semi-permanent location closer to our office. No matter what, we’re happy to still be moving toward embarking on this journey together, no matter how far the mercury falls below zero. Stay warm all, snuggle your loves, and we’ll see you on the road.

If I can’t see it, it didn’t happen

A visual journal is much like a diary, but instead of just writing things about your life, you make art with your life included. I’m excited to be starting my visual journal as part of this Lent writing every day goal. So far, I have written 3 letters, a few diary entries in my physical diary, started layering a few of my visual journal pages, 2 in my prayer diary, and now the second entry here.

The fun thing is that a blog is a visual journal of sorts. I can include pictures and videos of what is going on very easily. I have some pictures to share with you of what’s been going on with The Girl Next Door.

She got moved into the shed at Jeremy’s parents’ place a few weeks ago when one of the windows was found leaking. It’s a good thing with all the wind over the last week.  Thankfully, we got the windows out with no problems. Jeremy and his dad started insulating the front wall right away for when we put the windows back in. 17193715_1873220836247273_144457305_o

In the meantime, we took the windows home and started cleaning them off to change the glazing. One day, while I was at our office and Jeremy was at home working on the windows, he came to the office. He informed me that he had cracked a window pane. We had to go to Indianhead Glass in New Richmond to get the glass in the frames replaced. Then, they gave Jeremy some pointers on replacing them in their spots and he did it last night. They look great!

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While we were waiting to get the windows back from Indianhead, we had to find some work to do to keep moving toward our move in date. We decided on creating some window insulators that can be removed when we want to use the windows. We took some foam siding insulation that Jeremy’s dad had, taped the ends together, added a Reflectix wrap around it, and placed velcro around the window to hold it in. Now, we’ll be nice and toasty.

Jeremy also got busy with some other insulation that we had been planning: the interior vent covers. He added reflecting foam to the inside of it just big enough for the vent hole. Then, he added Reflectix to the outside to provide even more protection from heat and cold. We had just enough of the foam to add it to the bedroom window as well. Instead of Reflectix there, we’re able to get a little bit of light still.

When it was all done, I tried out how well it worked. The bedroom heated up in about 15 minutes with our little electric space heater and stayed warm for a long while. We are more and more ready to move in on the 18th.

Our next step is to finalize the list of things that need to be done before we park at our semi-permanent location. We have already gotten so much done that it’s hard to remember when we hadn’t started yet. And, like every household, there’s a running list of things that need to be checked, fixed, and maintained. Let’s raise a glass to home ownership, whether it be on wheels or not. Enjoy the almost spring weather and we’ll see you on the road.

Tires, exhaust, and brakes. ….Oh my!

I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

— Thomas A. Edison
Working has been almost our whole life for the last 2 months. When we’re making money, we’re working at our massage business about 50-60 hours a week. When we’re not making money, we’re working on the Girl Next Door.
In a previous entry, I said I would write about the work we’ve been doing soon. Now it’s been weeks and I still haven’t taken the time to catch you up. Consider this your knowledge restoration.
At Somerset Auto Salvage, we finished sealing the roof and trying to fix the brakes. Pat even helped us fix some leaking tire hose extensions by removing them. We had to take the tires off to find out that the extensions were the problem and not a leak in the tire itself.

On a Monday morning, we went to clean her up and move her home. We paid our rental fees and Jeremy drove her while I followed with Ruby.

Before we could go too far, we needed to add some gas to move her home. We stopped and Jeremy added $25 worth. He cleaned the windshields and checked the oil, just to be safe. He got in, turned the key, and….. near silence. There was a light grinding, but no movement and no roar to life that we were accustomed to. So, the Holiday Gas Station’s gas pump became a shop for a few hours.
While she sat at Holiday, Jeremy and his dad changed all solenoids, the starter, and a post cable. They learned that they need to listen to me earlier; I had commented on the loose looking cable before they replaced all that other stuff. We’re glad we found and and were able to get out of there without a tow truck. Finally, Jeremy got to drive her home.
“Home” for The Girl Next Door right now is at Jeremy’s parents’ place. When we got there, he said that he spent the entire drive wondering if he would make it because the brakes were still not working correctly. Thankfully, she made it safely and he with her.
After getting her to the home base, we continued working on her regularly. The holey exhaust has been removed and replaced. That, in itself, was a huge project. An important reminder: The Girl Next Door is a 1990. That means that there are almost no parts still being made for her. This includes the exhaust. Jeremy made numerous trips into town, talked to people at Fleet Farm, NAPA, and the Muffler Shop. He bought more than 16 ft. of 2″ straight pipe and 3 different mufflers. He consulted many mechanics and enlisted our friend Jason to help weld. 2 weekends after the bad exhaust pipe, catalytic converter, and muffler were removed, she has a beautiful new whole exhaust system.
We also were blessed to find out that the front windows did not seal well enough when we put them back on last month. When it rained one day, Jeremy visited the Girl Next Door and found her front window wet. Tom & Lisa moved the RV inside their shed for us so that we don’t have to tarp the top.
 So, we removed the windows again, cleaned off the butyl tape that we had used, and bought some professional grade window/windshield adhesive. This weekend will be the beginning of putting the windows back in place and finishing up the front wall.
We both finally agree that this is going to be a full summer of projects. We’ve accepted the fact that The Girl Next Door will probably need constant upkeep. That’s alright because we love her and are looking forward to living in a vintage beauty. We’re looking forward to working together to problem solve and supporting each other through the transition. Be sure to check back from time to time to see how far we’ve come. I’m sure I’ll post more on our journey. We’ll see you on the road.

Working on the Weekends

“These are homes that are under constant earthquake conditions and thus subject to more wear and tear through normal use.”–Cherie Ve Ard,”The Sucky Sides of RVing: 10 Things We Hate about Full Time RVing”, Technomadia

I know I haven’t written enough lately. As a result, this is a very photo congested entry, so give it time to load. It’s hard to focus on anything when you work full time on the weekdays, then spend so much of the weekend wearing yourself out. Jeremy and I haven’t been working at our office every day for the past month, but we haven’t exactly taken any days off.

The Girl Next Door wasn’t perfect when we found her; she’s not even really perfect now. However, now she is mostly sealed on the roof and ready to have windows put back in, brakes repaired, and exhaust replaced. Here in is the essence of optimism: we HAVE to focus on all the major work we got done or the mound of work we’re looking at moving forward will overwhelm us.

This started out as a very simple resealing project. It was in our budget’s best interest if we took care of this ourselves. The sweat equity in her hull and our home will help us really feel at home in this space, even if it’s horribly cold or feels too small.

Speaking of cold, we live in Wisconsin, so doing this outside wasn’t even an option. This is why we are really blessed to have friends. One of our friends rented us a large bay in his repair shop at Somerset Auto Salvage and Repair. Being inside a heated garage was invaluable to us, even though it will cost us some once we figure out the shop hours we’ve put in.

We thought we would take the old lap sealant off of the roof, scrape off some putty, and replace it all with newer, better sealant options.

We removed vents and began scraping off the icky, sticky putty and sealant. Things were going quicker than we expected at first. It helped that we had many extra hands. Jeremy’s parents, Lisa & Tom, and our close friend, Erin, all came to help us with the first day of deconstruction (and what we thought would be the beginning of reconstruction).

As Jeremy and Tom removed vents and trim, Lisa scraped the putty and old sealant off of them. Erin and I worked at removing the remnants from the actual roof. There were scrapers, putty knives, razor blades, and screwdrivers involved, along with a rotary sander and some mineral spirits. The hallway vent was removed and exposed a dirty secret: rotten wood. We had known there was a leak in the shower vent. We had been hopeful after finding no mold in the shower wall that there might not be any need to destroy more of the walls and wood. We were wrong. After finding the rotten vent hole, we knew we needed to remove the whole roof to replace the rotten pieces of plywood. Thus began a HUGE undertaking that has, so far, taken us 3 weekends.

We had to remove all of the screws, every piece of equipment attached to the roof, and even tarp The Girl Next Door over the week between the first and second weekends. In the process, we replaced rusty screws, broken vent caps, and the screens on the vent covers. Lisa was a champ at cleaning putty off of trim, vents, and vent covers; she spent about 90% of the time doing just that. Friday-Monday of our supposed “staycation” 4-day weekend, we worked on The Girl Next Door. Jeremy said “I need to go back to work just to get a break.”

We even worked on it at Tom & Lisa’s house for a while on Sunday, since we couldn’t get enough garage time. At the end of the first Saturday, we had everything removed,  and the roof ready to take off. By Monday afternoon, we had finished removing the roof, fixing the plywood, adding some HomeGuard building wrap , and putting the roof back on. We tarped her and put her in the yard for the week while we all went back to work at our day jobs.

In the process of removing the roof, we found we needed to lift the upper part of the cab to release the aluminum. To get it to hinge upward, Jeremy had to remove the windows. As he removed them, he found that the interior walls had some wet wood. It isn’t enough to be concerned the way we were with the Shower, sweet, shower post. We think it probably came from being tarped at Lisa & Tom’s for the last few months. No matter how the water got there, it needed to be removed. Our overhead windows came out and the wall on the front cap came down. More scraping on the windows happened at home.

Jeremy and I showed up very early on the next Saturday. We untarped The Girl Next Door in the dark. Once we got inside, we scraped more on the roof, reinsulated the cap with 6 cans of Great Stuff, and started the resealing process. Jeremy also added the leftover housewrap under the cap to add some extra water resistance.

We decided to go with Eternabond for our resealing. This stuff sticks to EVERYTHING. Thankfully, we had done some research and knew this already. It’s kind of a hybrid between butyl/putty tape and a smooth backed packing tape. From the reviews we’ve seen, this stuff isn’t going to leak or need replacing for quite some time. It is also very easy to get straight lines with it.

Eventually, everything went back on during the second Monday. The tape is pretty compared to the ill-conceived silicone that was on top of the original lap sealant and butyl tape. Really, if you’re working on an RV or camper PLEASE DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD SILICONE! It was hell to get it off and it cracked in multiple places. That’s not something you want with a house under constant earthquake conditions. We got all of the seals closed up with the Eternabond and all of the vents back onto the roof. So far, we have a total of 33 shop hours in the last 2 weekends. This weekend, we are planning to get back at it again for a few hours Friday, maybe a little on Saturday, and hopefully a few hours Monday morning.

Eventually, all of the major problems will be fixed. We are lucky that we found the rot when we did. Starting out knowing that The Girl Next Door is put together right is going to be a bit load off of our mind throughout at least the next few months, longer if we decide this is definitely the life for us and stay in her for another few years. The peace of mind will be worth it. Either way, be sure to check for leaks everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

Shower, sweet, shower

When one is buying a used RV to live in full time, you must know what you’re looking at. Yes, you’re looking at a 1990 Tiffin Allegro 31B; but you’re also looking at a potential money pit. Yes, you’re looking at a conceivable adventure; but you’re also looking at a fairly fragile piece of hardware. Yes, you’re finally a “home owner”; but you’re also making constant fixes and upgrades.

One of the things that you have to do regularly with RVs is check the seal in the roof and siding. The Girl Next Door did not get this treatment quite regularly enough while she was parked by her previous owner. As a result, there was some cracks and leaks in the shower vent that let some water in. The first time we visited, it was drizzling and we got to see the slow steady drip into the shower pan. Seemingly, she didn’t have any mold, but we could see a bulge in the shower wall that concerned us.

Thus, one of the first things Jeremy did when we got her home is to pull down that wall and some of the surrounding ceiling. He was delighted to find out that the bulge was from a spot that was badly insulated getting too much sun and warping the particle board wall with the heat generated. There was no mold present. Yippy!!

What was left was a missing panel in the shower wall and part of a ceiling panel broken off. Also, the insulation that was stuck to the wall surrounding the hole had pulled away a bit from the walls. We had to replace the shower wall to be sure that we will be able to use the shower when needed.

After a little forum research, we decided that we would get a piece of Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) to replace the wall instead of the “waterproof wallpaper” that is so often used in the factory models. On January 10, we decided to go shopping for what we needed to complete some of the projects in The Girl Next Door. We shopped online a little beforehand, checked Home Depot, and finally settled on getting a 4’x8′ panel at Menards.

There was only one problem: Ruby is our main vehicle and neither car has nearly enough size to haul a 4’x8′ piece of anything. Thankfully, Jeremy’s dad was willing to let us borrow his truck to transport the FRP. He and Jeremy went together to get it and brought it back. Then, we set to replacing the wall.

Job #1- Cleaning it up. We had to remove the old caulking from the walls & sides. We also had to replace the screws holding the moldings on. Jeremy took out the pieces of broken “wall” from when he checked for mold. We tossed all the refuse in the garbage.

Job #2- Replace insulation. We used Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant to spray into the open wall. Jeremy flattened the bumps so that the FRP panel would sit flat on the insulation.

Job #3- Replace the wall. Jeremy had to measure and cut the FRP board to size. He left a tiny bit extra on each end to be sure there wouldn’t be any gaps and he shaved it to fit perfectly when he placed it in.

Job #4- Reseal. We used a stretchy bathroom caulk from Sashco in a white color. Neither of us work with caulk regularly, so it isn’t the prettiest caulking job, but it’s functional. I think Jeremy did a great job with everything he had to do mostly on his own. I’m daily impressed by my handiman husband.

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This was the cheapest, most water proof way for us to fix the shower for now. We did some dreaming while we were shopping about what kind of tile we would some day like in our shower. We both agree that mosaic glass tile is very nice and we’d love to have a shower that showcases it. But for now, the FRP wall is going to have to do. As we continue to make upgrades and find out what we like, we’ll continue to love The Girl Next Door even more each day. Until the next time, stay safe and we’ll see you on the road.