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.

 

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Little Red Riding Toad

Until about a month ago, we owned a beautiful, big, blue 2007 Chevy Tahoe LT. We had gotten it a few years ago when both boys were still at home. You see, our family is a big family. It’s not that we have tons of kids or animals. We are all just large people.

At the tallest, the oldest is 6’5″ tall. He’s no string bean either. This is a man who has worked on a farm since he was 14 and has hands big enough to hold a calf bottle in one hand. Size 15 feet needed some room in the back just to sit in the car.

When we bought this behemoth of a vehicle, Jeremy was the largest he’d ever been and the largest in the family. At 6′ tall and 290 pounds, he was a mountain of a man. The youngest took in his foot steps already at 12 years old. At that time, he was 5’8″ tall and 260 pounds and had size 12 feet. We knew that he’d keep growing taller and probably get stronger, thus maybe heavier. He has since gained some size 14 feet and is about 6′ tall. He’s still around 245 pounds, so he’s slimmed down, but still tall.

So, a full sized SUV was not a frivolous buy for us. It was also WAY at the top of our price range. When we went in, I knew we could handle about $100 a month for insurance and about $300 a month for a payment comfortably. When we came out, we had signed a loan for $412 a month, plus the insurance was still $100 a month. On top of that, this large of a vehicle only got about 14 miles/gallon of gas. Less if you used the flex fuel option. So that we could have a comfortable vehicle, we tightened our belts, worked some extra hours, and paid a hefty sum.

The need for the Tahoe changed about 2 years later. The oldest was an adult and moved out of our house. With his own vehicle, he could get himself where ever he wanted to go without our monstrous motor. Jeremy’s ex moved to a town 20 miles away. That meant that the custody agreement for the youngest had to change. He started an every other weekend schedule of visiting us and we agreed that he would stay longer during the school breaks. We started paying some child support so that he had everything he needs when we couldn’t be there. So, we stopped having to drive him to work & school events.

We held onto the Tahoe for a while longer just because it was nice to have all that room. With a massage business, taking a portable massage table anywhere either means you give up your back seat or you need a big vehicle to haul it. Eventually, though, that payment “adjustment” caught up with us. We were no longer able to pay so much for such a large car.

At the same time, we decided that we would soon be changing our living situation. If you’re unfamiliar with RVing, you probably don’t realize how people with RVs get around. Our RV is a Class A motorhome. That means it has its own motor to pull the “house” part. Most people that have one of these also tow a smaller vehicle behind (a towed vehicle or toad). It gives them the flexibility to leave the motorhome where it’s parked and use the smaller car for errands. So, in short, the grocery-getter is really used for getting groceries and the RV sits parked. A large SUV like the Tahoe is not really conducive to tow behind a Class A.

We started the process to get rid of our luxury blimp. At first, we thought we’d downsize by just getting rid of the Tahoe and keeping our 1994 Chrysler Concord to tow behind our RV. We parked the sizable wheels right outside our office with a “For Sale” sign on it with our info. We waited… and waited… and no one called. We reduced the price each time that we made a payment so that maybe someone would bite. The Tahoe’s picture ended up on Carsoup.com, Craigslist, and even Facebook Garage Sale sites. No one was biting. Apparently, our unseasonably warm autumn made people far more comfortable with their tiny little gas-getters.

After 2 months of trying to sell it ourselves, we started looking into consignment, trade-ins, and dealerships that might buy it outright. Jeremy spent one Saturday visiting the local dealers. Eventually, he came back with some numbers. Most places would give us $2,000 less than we wanted as a private buyer and a few didn’t even feel the need to have us buy a different one from them. He finally did find one place that would trade-in the Tahoe for only $1,000 less than we wanted.

In the meantime, I took the Chrysler for its regularly scheduled maintenance. The mechanic did not have a good word for me when I picked it up. He told me that he wouldn’t put very much more money into this car. The body was rusting and he didn’t see it lasting too much longer. One of the bolts holding the engine on had already rusted through and the others weren’t far behind.

Back at the dealership, Jeremy did some test driving. After a few hours, he called and told me he’d found the one for only $6000. That means a total debt reduction of $6,000. I showed up to test drive a 2010 red Ford Focus, manual transmission. I was ecstatic that we were looking at a manual. She is gorgeous and drives very well. The number one plus: We can tow a manual transmission “4-down” very easily. That means that we will not need a tow dolly. Plus, we will not need to disengage the transmission when towing. I like the feeling of power I get when driving a manual transmission.

So Ruby became ours. She’s only $160 a month payment, $100 a month insurance, and gets 35 miles/gallon. Plus, she’s a cute little speedster once you get the handle on second gear. Now, we’re ready to hit the road with Ruby and The Girl Next Door. What do you think? Stay warm everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

New Year; New Life

I am the same person that I was yesterday; you are too. The only differences are that we’ve learned things that we didn’t know then. We may have learned good things: knowledge, love, efficiency, patience, kindness, wisdom, how to avoid cheesecake. We may also have learned bad things: pain, hurt, betrayal, anger, loneliness, and ignorance. In the end, we are still the same people; we have the same minds, the same bodies. We might have changed what we do on a daily basis or the way we wear our hair. All of these things aside, I am the same person today that I was a year ago with a lot of things I’ve learned.

I learned that my family was struggling so much more than they had let on. I learned that our kids were both struggling with drugs. I learned that my perception of what my husband and his children go through every day is not the whole story. I learned first hand what it is to have your brain attack you. It’s not a physical battle when someone is struggling inside their brain. Fighting with your own delusional thoughts is exhausting and hit my family this year. When you have cancer or diabetes, muscular dystrophy, or asthma, there are physical symptoms that show on your face, hands, and speech. You may slur, you may be unable to walk, you may throw up, you may have a hard time breathing. You may have to use a wheelchair or walker. Other people can see those symptoms.

When the war of mental illness is involved, it isn’t so visible. The vomit is an emotional vomit that often comes out sideways that has nothing to do with the person you’re spewing on. The slurring is in your inability to stay on one subject for long. The stumbling is in how you treat the people you love, even though you really want to show them love and respect. Your brain may tell you that it isn’t worth it to get out of bed today; that you are better off staying in the warm dark and letting your job fall away. Your illness tells you that your psychiatrist doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that the drugs do a better job than pharmaceuticals. There are no wheelchairs for someone who is so depressed that they are paralyzed. There are no walkers to help you find the thoughts that got lost somewhere in the racing conversation of your brain.

Thankfully, we have doctors that are beginning to know how to help my family. This year, we were able to find some stuff that is finally helping. I got some antidepressants that help me feel like a real person again; I can actually get out of bed daily, smile when something’s funny, and I am  not having random crying sessions for seemingly no reason at all. Jeremy’s doctor and he have decided to go back to the medicine that worked for so long even though he got a rash from it. Hopefully they can increase it slow enough that no rash happens this time. He also found a chiropractor and nutrition doctor that is helping him do better to fuel his athletic pursuits. The current doctor for our youngest took Jeremy’s past into account and found a medicine that seems to be helping him feel like himself for the first time in 2 years.

This year, Jeremy learned that he can do so much more than his brain tells him that he can. He ran his first marathon in June. He did multiple half marathons, tons of 5ks, and Ragnar Great River. Jeremy participated in 3 triathlons, one duathlon, and hundreds of group fitness classes. He ran his second marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon in October. This year, Jeremy continued his weightloss from last year; at his lightest, he was 215. He’s learned that Lithium is not a med that will work for him. He learned by gaining 25 lbs on it and experiencing some pretty severe depression symptoms during his trial-and-error phase of his med change. He learned millions of hours worth of information about RVing, motorhomes, fulltiming, and heaters. His phone  has been stuck on YouTube videos for about 6 months. By the time we move in, he’ll be an expert at all things RV.

We learned to coexist in work and home life. We learned a little harmony in our life; we learned a little struggle. We learned that 1200 sq. ft. is just too much space for the two of us. We learned that we have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!! We learned a little bit of Spanish by using the Duolingo app. We learned to lighten up and to relax some. We learned that we want to have a life, not just be alive.

We are looking forward to 2017. Both of us have some physical goals, financial goals, and household goals. Resolutions aren’t our thing, but we do review our goals regularly and today is as good as any day to do that. We hope that everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve. Stay warm and we’ll see you on the road.

Well…. That was fun

Yesterday, we parked The Girl Next Door in her spot for this winter. She’ll be “stored” this winter just because we still need to get rid of an apartment full of things and we’re not quite ready to be full time yet.

Her winter spot is between a large shed and a smaller shed at Jeremy’s parents’ place. There, she will be shielded from the wind and some sun, as well as out of the eyes of the neighbors. She’ll be close enough for us to work on making her our own, while far enough away that we (probably) won’t try to sleep in her during the cold of winter.

Anyway, back to moving her. It took us 8 tries to get her out of the spot next to the house (not ideal) and  situated just right before Jeremy and his dad thought it was perfect.  In one of the attempts, we caught a tree branch. Jeremy got a bit impatient and kept backing, hoping upon hope not to do any permanent damage. Unfortunately, that happened. Now, there’s a pretty fist sized dent in the right rear panel. Thank God for aluminum siding; it should be an easy fix.

This little slip of land that was finally settled on is fairly level, although pointed just a little down hill. It’s also grass. To prevent any sinking into the grass, we put some wooden boards under the leveling jacks to help them stay above the mud. In the front, we put 2 boards; in the back one. As the jacks came down, my father-in-law climbed off to see what a certain noise was. All of the sudden, the whole rig crashed forward!

With the tires back fully on the ground, Jeremy sat stunned, holding the brakes. I hurtled myself outside, expecting to see a splattered man under our new home. Thankfully, he hadn’t climbed underneath. THANK GOD! Although, he did say that he had been thinking about it. I’m glad his conscience got the better of that inkling.

After we gathered ourselves, turned the key off, and took a few breaths, we found out what happened. The first sound that my Father-in-Law went to investigate was one of the back boards breaking in the middle. We also found that the falling was created by one of the front boards slipping out from under the jack. Lesson learned: use boards that have some kind of divot that helps them stick together or something. It was a freezing day, so there was a tiny sheet of ice on the boards. Thankfully, the jack fell backward, so it was not broken. The spring needed reattaching, but we got it working again after a few minutes. This time, we weren’t working for level, just to take the weight off the tires. We’re not living in it this winter, so we don’t need all of the appliances to work perfectly. After that scare, we just wanted it to be stable and off the tires.

Once she was happy in her spot, we put on her tire covers, took the batteries in the house, dumped some fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, and stuck some dryer sheets in the tail pipe (to keep the mice out). She already had the water lines winterized, moth balls and dryer sheets in all compartments, and all of the cabinets open to let the smells permeate the crevices. I think Jeremy will have a hard time smelling mothballs in the future.

Today, we got an email from our landlord that we will be able to stay for 1 extra month. YAY! Now we don’t have to move twice. This means that we will have until April 1 to move out of the townhouse. We both agree that April is the perfect time to start out.

The Girl Next Door still needs to get a little work over the winter, but all in all, she’s ready for April. Now, we need to get rid of our stuff and find ourselves a semi-permanent place to park next Spring, Summer and fall… and maybe Winter… we aren’t sure yet. Have a good day and we’ll see you on the road!

First blog post

This is our very first post. Yay!! Most of the “me” and “I” discussion will be by Candy. If Jeremy takes over for an entry, we’ll make sure to make that clear.

We have been talking about doing a tiny house for about 3 years. Early in 2016, we decided we needed to get really serious about paying off our debt. The main thing taking income from us is our rent. Right now, we’re paying $850/month just for the place we stay. It’s beautiful and the perfect size if we still had a family life. The problem is that we don’t.

We never really have had a regular family life. Jeremy was married and divorced before I came along. In that first marriage, he was blessed with 2 boys. Those boys have now grown into young men. When I came along, they were 10 and 5. So, I’ve gotten to be a part of their life for half of it so far. Because of the blended family, our “regular family life” consisted for years of the boys going back and forth every other week. They’d stay with us one week, the next week with their mom. Thankfully, she lived in the same town for most of it, so they didn’t have to be driven for school or miss their friends. But we’ve always had an ever changing schedule of kids/no kids, sports/no sports, triple laundry/no laundry.

Our “regular family life” ended a few years ago. Jeremy’s oldest was out of school and getting ready to go on his own. The youngest was still at home and his mom wanted to move 20 miles away into her fiance’s house. Youngest had been having trouble with bullies and his grades. Everyone agreed that it might be good for him to move to a different school district. This also meant that the week-on/week-off schedule wasn’t going to work anymore. We switched the schedule to every other week and some extra in school breaks. Recently, his illness has created some turmoil in our lives that made it so he won’t be coming to our house at all for a while. We hope he’ll get to visit us in The Girl Next Door at some point, but probably will not be living with us in the motorhome.

That all being said, we no longer have a need for a second bedroom. We also don’t really need the living room or dining room. We own a massage business. To accommodate for our 1000 clients, we need to be at our office a LOT. So, during the week, we pretty much use the refrigerator, the toilet, and the bed. We even shower at the gym most of the time, so we don’t really need that much. Out of our 1400 sq. ft. townhouse, we probably only use a good 500 sq. ft. on a day to day basis and half of that is only because of the hall way and the empty space between our kitchen and bedroom. On top of rarely using it on weekdays, our weekends are crazy!! We are part of so many different social groups that we rarely stay at home on weekends. We visit my parents in Southwestern Wisconsin, we visit friends in the Greater Minneapolis Area, and we travel all over for races. We are almost never home on weekends.  So, the tiny house seemed FAR more within our reach.

To remedy that rent situation I discussed earlier, we decided to start looking into the tiny house a lot sooner than we had planned. Once we started looking, we realized that we might have the same exact problem on our hands. There were lots of draw backs. The cheapest tiny house we could find that we liked was $25,000!! And most banks won’t finance them as a home because they’re often built on wheels. Therefore, at a 5 year loan with a 5% interest rate, we’d be paying about $600 a month just for our “mortgage”. That didn’t find us a place to park it, which was another problem. Most RV parks and trailer parks don’t take tiny homes because they’re built as a house. Most residential areas have a specific type of house that needs to be on a property, which tiny houses usually don’t fall into the requirements. If we buy our own land, we pay another $300/month. We are then right back to where we don’t want to be with the payment.

In April, Jeremy came up with a solution: Isn’t an RV just a tiny house that’s already been built? It would take care of where to stay for races sometimes too! We started looking through some ads. Of course, we saw that many RVs run at a quarter of a million dollars or more and got a tad discouraged. It wasn’t long before we found out that the vintage models tend to go MUCH MUCH  cheaper. After a small inheritance from his grandma, we decided to start getting serious about an RV. So many to choose from. Class A, B, C, Travel trailer, 5th wheel, camper van, truck topper, converted busses, and other custom models…. and within those different classifications, there are thousands of floor plan layouts.

Oh my, we had our hands full looking, but we knew that it was what we wanted. This way, we don’t need to worry about building a custom model. We don’t need to find a plot if we don’t want to. We can really use it to travel when we desire. So, we picked a few floor plans and classifications that we liked and got busy. We checked out CrankyApe.com to see if an auction would have “the one”; we scoured Craigslist and Facebook sales sites; we even checked the paper. We knew that we had time, so we wanted to find the exact right place for us. My grandpa was even selling his 1999 Winnebago Grand Tour and we looked it over. It was slightly out of our price range and didn’t have quite the right layout for us, but it felt comfortable to sit and hang out in. In the end, it wasn’t for us. We knew we had time and wanted to get the one that fit in our budget AND in our hearts.

Then, one day, Jeremy found the perfect one on Craigslist. It was $2200, class A, no slide outs, and a floor plan we liked. She’s a 1990 Tiffin Allegro 30′ motorhome. We looked at it and instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready to drive away. The fuel pump had recently gone out on it while it sat without the previous owners’ knowledge. He was very gracious and replaced it for us before we could take it away. While we waited, we came up with names, got our cash in order, and prepared Jeremy’s parents for her to be parked in their yard for the winter.

3 weeks later, we went and picked up The Girl Next Door. She was a little rough around the edges when we picked her up. Little things here and there that need some fixing. But, she’s pretty, she’s homey, and she gets the job done. She’s not right for everyone, but The Girl Next Door is just right for us.

We are done with our lease on April 1 of this year. Before then, we will be going full time in the RV. We will stick around Wisconsin for now. We like our business and we want to be close to our friends and family. This little town has treated us really well so far. While we are around here, we have some little things to fix up on The Girl Next Door. We need to redo the caulking and trim; they’ve been weathered while she sat. She has a bump in her back bumper; we’ll probably try to fix that. Her exhaust pipe is rusting through. Her windshield is cracked and there’s a dent in her side. Little things here and there just need a fix and a straightening. However, she’s road worthy and she is livable. Starting sometime in March, home is where she goes.