Monday, December 16, 2013

Where the motorhome at?


There it is! Lately, it's been getting buried more and more on a daily basis. It will likely stay there through the winter, unfortunately.
It's still the plan. I haven't abandoned it. However, I've "come to my senses" if you will and have more or less worked things out with my current employer. It really was just poor timing on my part and was based on nothing more than an emotional reaction of coming up on my 2 year anniversary at one job, having no money, and feeling like I'm not necessarily headed in a direction I want.
I've got a new focus on spending as little money as possible and SAVING money, as much money, as I can. Part of that plan is to move into the motorhome as soon as I feel that I can. Once things start warming up again. I kind of want to live in it "in the winter" and do this whole blog/youtube angle of living in a motorhome in REAL winter. Another one of those situations in which I think I'd do just fine if it was just me and if I didn't have to be concerned about my cats. Oh well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Got a GoPro

So I got myself a GoPro, and there's one of the first two videos I've done. I don't want to do too many time lapses because I'm not a big fan of them really. They definitely have a place, but I feel they are overdone a lot of times.

I was also more or less forced to come clean to my manager today about my plans to leave in a month. They want me to take on another role but I didn't feel right just going along with it and having them invest that time in me if I was leaving in a month anyway.

We had a long talk about it but in the end it was a "well, think about it" type deal and we'll get back together next week. My plan was to deal with this on my own and then in 3 weeks I would either let him know I was leaving, or just stay and never have mentioned any of it.

I wish I could be more confident about which way to go. As it stands I have very little money and no plan. The only real thing I have to go on is that I feel like I need to trust myself, and myself is ready to move on. Overall I'm scared, no matter which way things go, I'm still scared.

I wish everything, every decision, in my life didn't feel so final all the time.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Still not much to talk about, still in a holding pattern. The snow is finally starting to fall and stick, but there still hasn't been much here. Probably only about an inch on the ground. It's enough to make the road slippery at times and the salt trucks have been out and about. And since salt and old vehicles don't mix that means the motorhome is pretty much where it'll be until spring or until I decide to take off.

Maybe I've mentioned it, but this time of year really makes me feel domestic and desiring all of that junk that we're all told we want growing up. All of those material things and then such concepts as stability and comfort and security.

I'm starting to feel a real time crunch as my self-imposed date of action approaches. I start telling myself that maybe I'll push it back a little, again. Right now I don't have a plan. Or, I do, but once that one small part of the plan is done I don't have any plan AFTER that. I haven't yet told myself, 'After that I take off in my motorhome' or... any other option.

Truth is, I don't think I'm brave enough to take off in my motorhome with no plan other than 'drift aimlessly until the money runs out'. Brave enough, or stupid enough, depending on your preference.

Then my timing isn't the greatest either. It's in between hiring seasons for seasonal jobs.

One option that opens up is Spring Training jobs down in Phoenix. It's so far away from here. But it gives me a destination, and a reason. I just started looking into and thinking about this today so I'm still rolling it around in my head.

I feel like parts of this have been vague because my assistant manager (hi!) has found my blog, I believe. I don't have anything to hide though. My current plan is to leave my job around the middle of January. In the end that plan will either happen, or it won't. Simple.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Major Lacking

Major lack of updates, and pictures for those updates. I apologize. I've done a few more YouTube  videos since my last update here but still not much.

I'm coming off 5 days off from work. Before that I worked 8 days in a row and I go back tomorrow to do 8 days in a row again. Back when I worked at a greenhouse I worked 22 days in a row, but I was in desperate need of money. 8 days is a little much for me now.

Since my last update I've gotten the solar panels installed on the motorhome. Like last time I used 3M double sided tape to mount them on the roof. I also redid the entire propane system on the motorhome, including a new regulator.

A few days ago I tried to put everything away and secure the inside of the motorhome so I could take it for a drive. Still not that far, but it had been a while since I had driven it at all. The solar panels stayed right where they were supposed to. I'm still bummed by how exhausty and rich it smells all the time.

So, there's that. I'd like to say updates will get better soon but winter is on my doorstep and the motorhome will soon be trapped in snow.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Catching Up and Thoughts

A quick update on what I've been working on in the motorhome. Got the new roof vent in the shower installed. I still had a leak, which was discovered to be coming from some screws to the cargo rack thing a few inches away from the roof vent. No big deal, the old vent was still cracked and old junk. There's still a leak showing up on the side of the motorhome under that big window I redid. I sealed up other possibilities on that side. I took the cargo rack off the back of the roof completely and caulked up all of those holes. Also took some big cross pieces off the top of the roof to make room for my solar panels. Been patching a lot of holes. I need to finish cleaning up the brackets on the solar panels so I can put new tape on them and secure them to the roof. Very close to finishing that but it got dark, and I've been dodging rain here and there all day.

I'm hoping to get the panels installed tomorrow and the wiring run down through the old fridge vent. I will wire it all back up but I doubt I'll have my charge controller mounted in a permanent location yet. I have a new propane regulator and hoses coming next week, and I have to run all new lines to the stove and the Wave 3 heater.

And other stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting. All of that above was more than I planned to say today about that!

Mostly, I've been thinking. I've been on vacation this week and it's rained almost the entire week, so I didn't get much done.

I don't even know if I've mentioned it here, but I'm feeling like around the first of the year is when I'll be leaving my current job. It's a fine job I guess. I feel a part of something, and I'm in a position of control which is good for me. The problem is it doesn't make me enough money to have a 'normal life' but overall it's not something I enjoy. I don't have an immense passion or interest in automotive parts. I love being able to do my own repairs, but I'm not fanatic. But anyway..

I definitely feel the stress starting to rise when I give myself a deadline. There's just so much I want to get in order that doesn't even involve a motorhome or anything about actually traveling. Just general things in my life. Stuff, mostly. It's even more difficult to deal with while living here with my parents. Even if I completely make up my mind to get rid of something, or do something to deal with an issue, I immediately am confronted with what my PARENTS thing I should do with it, or about it. And so I end up doing nothing. Which is probably how it will be in the end. My old car and junk that I want to get in order before I go will simply sit here in the yard when I leave. That will be the most likely outcome.

I've been putting a lot of thought into, and TRYING to look into, the Forest Service this week. Hard to find any real, and practical, information about it for some reason. That's kind of my plan at this point when I hit the road. Find an area of the Forest Service that will hire me for temporary work. Hopefully something that is hands on and outside, but that doesn't keep me away from the motorhome for too many days in a row so I can keep an eye on the cats. I guess I'm worried that all the jobs I feel I'd be most interested in would require overnight hikes and stuff. Which would be great if it wasn't for my cats.

Money is always an issue, of course. At my current job, and putting money into the motorhome, I save pretty much nothing and I'm still paycheck to paycheck. That's why  getting hooked up with the USFS appeals to me so much. I'm interested in it, and I could still make money. All while taking in some new scenery and life situation.

Lately I've been wondering how serious I am. This week I suddenly realized if I was dead serious about all of this I should have taken a third shift job somewhere a long time ago. At the same time, without the motorhome that's not very practical since I live an hour away from work as it is. But if I can get the motorhome buttoned up soon, and then find a third shift factory job or something close to my current job I could be making crazy money working 80 hours a week. And I'd feel a lot better about hitting the road. I would have legit places to park 24 hours a day.

I wrote this post 3 hours ago, and I got frustrated when I reached this point. So I just saved it as a draft. But now I'm going to publish it anyway, even though I feel like it shows just how much I walk myself around in circles in my head, or how much resistance I add to my own situation even though I've put all of my time and energy into the dream of getting back on the road (and TRULY on the road) for the last 2 years.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flooring and Leaks

The motorhome is feeling crazy lately. Crazy AWESOME.

I had last Sunday off from work and decided to start working on the new flooring for the motorhome. The above picture shows the beginning, and also one of my issues I had to get around. There's a couple big bolts that go through the floor that used to be under the dinette benches. I honestly don't know what they go to or if I could remove them. (I was too lazy to get under there and look) Instead I went to Lowes and bought a 1" hole saw for the drill and just drilled holes. Amazingly, I drilled the holes in the exact right places the first time. The flooring itself is vinyl plank flooring. Very easy to cut and just as easy to put down.


I used two boxes of the planks and I fell just short of completing the project. That's the end right there up above. At $40 a box I really didn't want to go back and buy another box for just a few more planks. I sat on it for a few days (okay, I was working) and then when I had a chance I went to the big box store. In the end I came up with something I really like, and I think it looks like I planned it that way all along. Can't beat that.

That hose there is a propane line. Originally I was going to tuck it behind the carpet like it was when I bought the motorhome but I didn't like the way it bulged out with this type of carpet. I haven't looked into that one too much yet. I figured I'd just get clips to go over it and screw it to the step, and possibly put some poly loom or more rigid plastic over it first. OR, I will reroute the hose all together.

So the flooring is done, in my opinion. I'll probably need to get some trim to go along the edges to give it a more finished look. It really doesn't look bad as is though.

I'm a guy, I don't know if the floor matches the walls or not but I've been planning to eventually paint the walls anyway.

With the new flooring in place it's time to get another leak fixed up. Every time after it rains the passenger side wall has water along the bottom. Not good. There was a vent for the old furnace here below the window too so I took that off, put some new butyl tape along it and also took off the vent part and cut out a piece of tin to cover it all up. That was good, but the main leak was coming from the window. I took that off, cleaned it all up, and put new butyl tape all along it. It was leaking on both bottom corners, the front corner having some decent damage. I went so beyond on getting that thing taped up that if this thing still leaks I will be absolutely amazed.

You can barely see it there I the picture but that lens up top there is brand new! I got it for $0.50 from the clearance bin at the local RV place. I bought it not even knowing if it'd fit and to my surprise it's the exact same brand and style of the originals. There was a red light there, which was wrong, and I'm picky about lights.

Other key things of recent times: Got a new shower curtain for the shower. Got myself a Catalytic Wave 3 heater that I still need to install. I also got an electric tankless water heater but now that I have it I'm not sure it'll work for me. I still think it's possible to do with the proper solar power system in place but I'm not so sure about the actual one I have. That project is a little ways off still.

With those, I think I'm done with my 'major' purchases. I need to get a whole new roof vent assembly for the shower which looks like it'll cost me a little bit but mostly everything else left is small things that will add up to be a lot! Har har.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Do you live in your van?

I went to the store this evening to buy a small desk for the motorhome. I had found it on Target's web site and thought I had to order it online but then I found it at Meijer, the Midwestern version of Walmart.

I was in there for only a short amount of time and when I came back to the van I found this note on the windshield. It made my day, even though I've mostly abandoned the van plans in favor of the motorhome. I've still got the solar panels on the van so it sticks out a bit if you're in that frame of mind.

The only problem being that it looks like a dude's handwriting. Harhar.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Whynter Fridge

Check out my fancy new Whynter fridge that I got from craigslist for less than half the price of a new one. It works great, and so far I love it. It has been used but it's only a year old. Manufacture date on the side proves it. It's the 65qt model, also known as the FM-65G. It runs on AC power and also DC. I believe that once I get the solar panels moved over from the van, and another battery or two, that I will be able to power this unit with no problem. It's pretty quiet too. It can get down to -8 degrees, but I don't plan to ever use it to freeze things so that should help conserve power.


It's nice to be able to have one of these as it's one of the larger expenses for the motorhome that I didn't expect to ever be able to afford. And the fridge that came with the motorhome didn't work. Which, as of purchasing this I got right to ripping the old fridge out. Turned out to be a bit of a Tetris game getting it out of the motorhome but by turning it just the right way at just the right time, it's now out.
.... and I had to take the door off of the fridge. And off of the shower. And off of one of the cupboards. Haha. It's out now, though. Obviously the new chest doesn't fit in the old spot. So far it looks like the new one will be going where I ripped out that dinette part the other day. It probably would be a lot easier if I never did that as now I have to build pretty much the same thing again. Oh well. I can build it a tad bit narrower and give myself some extra inches of space. The old fridge spot will just end up being more storage space, and now it gives me an awesome spot to put the litter box for my cats, so I'm excited about that.
As of right now, I don't think I'm going to put the door back on the shower. It's bowed out quite a bit anyway and makes opening and closing it difficult. It's also heavy. I plan to just put up a curtain and call it good. That should work fine with just me in the motorhome and it's already been nice to have the extra light in the rest of the motorhome from the roof vent in the shower. Whether smells from the waste tank are an issue or not will remain to be seen.
Otherwise I spent the day cleaning the motorhome out and getting ready to put the new flooring down. Sadly  I didn't get that far, and I only have one day off from work. I'm finally really feeling like I'm on the home stretch though and that the end of this project is near. The picture below is before I cleaned it out. It looks much nicer inside now, I promise.

Friday, September 20, 2013

New Showerhead and Possible Fridge

I'm moving into the interior of the motorhome after the recent shocks. The other day I drove it around in a big 60 mile circle and everything went well, even on bumpy back roads that I don't travel very often. Still debating if I'm going to drive it to work on Sunday when traffic is virtually non-existent.

I have some flooring ready to go down, but just haven't had the time to do anything with it yet. I need to move my tools and whatnot out of the motorhome before I can work on the new flooring too. Flooring might be on hold again even still. With the work I did on the shower the other night the next day there was some water on the floor. Not sure if that was from the shower drain, or because it rained hard that night, or where it came from. Need to fix that before I put flooring down and cover it all up.

The shower has always worked, but the water kind of dribbled out. I probably could have cleaned up what I had on there. So I put that fancy new faucet on there as well as the new showerhead. Now it's pretty much like a real shower in a house. So much better. Just need to figure out if the drains or anything are leaking now. Very excited about that.

I also decided to rip out this area above the wheel well. It used to be the base for a dinette chair kind of. I got to looking at it and realized the wheel well doesn't take up as much of that area as I thought and that I may as well just rip it out (and get rid of more nasty, stinky carpet). This area sits directly across from the bed I made and I've planned to put a computer desk and chair over there. I've also wanted to find somewhere to stick my cat tree. I admit it's getting torn up and close to the point where I might just throw it away but it's the one piece of furniture that has gone everywhere that I've gone. Just a little something to keep my cats feeling safe. It also provides an easier way for my cats to reach the area above the cab easily. I had the same type of setup in my travel trailer and they loved hanging out and hiding up there. Either way, taking this box out opens up probably a good 12 inches of space to work with, and I figure I might build some sort of bookcase/shelving  over the wheel well.

I haven't been able to get the fridge in the motorhome to work. I'd probably have to take it out, tip it upside down, and reinstall it all if I had any hope of getting it to work again. But even with that I don't know how much juice it'd use on DC power, and I don't trust propane fridges. I believe I once read propane fridges are the number one cause of RV fires.

There's a handful of 12 volt fridges on Amazon that I've heard people talk about and they work well, and seem to play well with properly sized solar electric systems. Most of them are more or less around $700, which is a ton of money and I don't have anywhere near that to put into a fridge. I'd rather just go with no fridge at that price. HOWEVER, on a whim today I did a little searching and found a guy very close to me selling one of these models for less than half the cost. I am ready to jump on this deal, I'm just waiting for the guy to get back to me. If I don't hear from him tomorrow I'll actually give him a call and try to make it happen. Definitely a worthwhile purchase to me and I'm hopeful and excited about it. Just imagine, I could have cheeses and sandwich meat and other things!

Stay tuned on that one.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today is Saturday

Pretty impressed that I managed to get all four shocks replaced on the motorhome today. I didn't even start until around 2pm. The rear shocks were a breeze. In and out in only about 15 minutes per side. I didn't have to jack it up, or do anything fancy. Easiest shocks I've ever replaced, and I'm a big fan of that.

Front shocks were more difficult. Mostly due to accessibility reasons. I did end up using the sawzall to chop the top nut off the driver's side. Made things go a lot faster. I got it all done in about 3 hours I think. I do have a short video for youtube that I plan to upload about it but it's really not that great. I didn't get any photos though. Maybe I'll take some tomorrow and add them to this post.

The motorhome still drives and handles like a boat but I think the tires might hold the road a little better, and overall I feel more confident knowing that all the shocks are brand new. The old ones didn't extend back out on their own at all. Completely frozen up.

Did I ever end up mentioning that I replaced the headlight switch? It used to work, but the twist function to dim or brighten the dash lights would cause them to flicker off completely. Also, one day while driving with the lights on there was a weird smell and I noticed the knob for the headlight switch was too hot to touch for more than a second at a time. Now it all works perfectly. I planned to reuse the original knob but it wasn't long enough to snap into the new switch for some reason. So I bought a new knob and rod that I had to cut to length. Looks fine and should hold up, even though the new knob is plastic instead of the nice metal that the original was. I'm one of those people that likes to drive with their lights on all the time, so this was an important fix for me.

I'm running out of excuses to not drive the motorhome on a more regular basis with increasing distances. I have Tuesday off, so I'm thinking I might drive the motorhome to go geocaching or find a trail to hike somewhere.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Now That's a Shocker

If you didn't catch it before, I currently work at an auto parts store. Which, thankfully, makes any repairs on the van or motorhome substantially easier on the wallet, though still costly. I also, very regularly, hear a million horrible puns. (That's shocking, you look exhausted, strutting your stuff, etc)

Today's horrible pun is the title of this post about, none other, shocks for the motorhome. I have four new shocks in my possession, and with any luck I'll have them installed this weekend. To be honest I've done nothing more than give a quick glance at the rear shocks. Other than the likely old and rusty mounting bolts, they should be a breeze. Massive amounts of clearance and space in which to work. Front shocks I haven't looked at ever, and might be challenging to reach, but I'm not sure yet.

Yesterday I took the motorhome for another drive. Around a bit and then to the gas station once more. This time I actually put 22 gallons or so in there. My confidence continues to grow. With the new shocks I'm hoping it will almost be darn near delightful to drive. Right now it's awful on back roads. I learned that on my first trip out with it when I hit a small dip in the road and I pretty much took flight. Now if I see anything that even remotely looks like a dip in the road up ahead I slow down to 10mph. Not exactly a safe driving technique.

The ONLY other thing after the shocks that I could see myself replacing are the front brake shoes and rotors. Once they warm up there's a decent amount of shaking. Warped rotors, I'm sure. Another $100, but when you think about it isn't bad. A brake job on a motorhome with parts and labor could easily be 5 times more, I'd imagine. However, I plan to hold off on the brakes until I drive it around more and get a full grasp on the situation.

I really want to drive it to work a few times but it's a rough 25 mile, one way, journey. Lots of stop and go, lots of traffic. Lots could go wrong, so I'm fearful to take the plunge. Maybe the next time I work a Sunday since the traffic is so light.

I have a soft goal in my mind of the end of October, but I don't really see it happening. Unless that goal is simply to live in the RV and stay around the area, but then it will be cold and snowy. I actually find that the easier condition to deal with, especially with pets. But ice and salt and rust are my real concerns with driving the motorhome around this area in winter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Past Part 2: Iowa

I spent 5 months back in Michigan after I went to Kansas.  I don't remember a lot about the 5 months I was here. I had my 'previous life' to tend to and a lot of loose ends to take care of. Some, like my storage unit, are still loose ends even now. Anyway, I took the above picture when I was finally far enough from Chicago that the land flattened out, the trees decreased in numbers, and the traffic vanished. I've always been drawn to the plains. So empty and vast. They speak to me, but I've never listened enough to hear exactly what they're saying. It's good, I'm sure.
My next destination was Iowa. Just outside of Des Moines. I spent the summer working at a small amusement park named Adventureland. The pay was terrible and that summer there were about 11 days in the 90s. I was a rides operator, and a pretty good one if I do say so myself.
I operated a number of these smaller rides. The first picture being the Scrambler, which I operated my very first day. The second picture is the Der Flinger. I had more people throw up on that ride than any other ride I operated all summer. Biggest rides I operated that summer were the 'Giant SkyWheel' or whatever they call it, and the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder was a popular ride and I felt like I was running a big show on that one. Haha. Oh, but actually.. The river rapid ride was incredibly popular. They had me operating that for WEEKS.
I just remembered I even found a Youtube video with me in the background as I was operating the Scrambler, but I've long forgotten the link. Haha.

You know, it was actually a fun summer. It definitely wasn't the bounty of appropriately aged women that I was hoping for. It was mostly middle schoolers, maybe some high schoolers, and then co-workers were usually of retirement age. I met a lot of great people and had fun.

The worst part of the summer was being plagued by car troubles right from the start. My gas tank had previously had a leak and I repaired it with JB Weld and it held up great until I was in Iowa for a little while and the ethanol in the gas out there ate through my repair. Nothing I tried to fix it could stand up to the ethanol. You can see in the pictures above the gas leak on the pavement. It sucked and I hated it but I was in a bind. I was working open to close most days, doing double shifts so I could pay for things. No overtime either. On top of the gas leak, one day as I was driving back to my campsite in the campground one of my tie rods broke. Another day I was at the gas station (putting in only a gallon at a time, due to the leak) and my starter gave out so I had to be towed. Shortly after getting that squared away I got a knock on my door in the middle of the night by one of the campground security guys telling me I had to IMMEDIATELY remove my car from the property due to my gas leak. This was towards the end of the season anyway. I was going to stand my ground and wait to talk to his supervisor but I decided it wasn't worth it and parked it at the McDonald's across the street until morning. I ended up playing a game of 'where to park my car' for a week. Ranging from the Walmart a mile down to the road to the casino across the other street. But enough was enough, I told the HR guy they kicked my car out of the campground and I was leaving.

I had the new gas tank and everything but I didn't have the time to do it myself, or the money to have someone else do it. And all the shops in the area wouldn't install customer supplied parts. I wasn't going to spend another $200 on a new tank that I already had.


I could have persevered, taken care of the issues at hand, and continued on. No doubt. But I let circumstance and negativity get the best of me. Now I've been living with my parents for the last year and a half. Even with all the car problems, I do not regret going to Iowa and working this horribly paid job for one second. If anything, I regret leaving the way I did.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Past Part 1: Kansas

I don't think one is ever ready to finally travel, especially if it's a foreign lifestyle to your family and your upbringing. You will spend years 'getting ready' and never get anywhere. This is something I've been remembering lately. I've forgotten it while living here with my parents, thinking everything needs to be perfect. It never will be.

Other than just random road trips to no where, back in 2010 was my first real 'on the road' experience. Probably a year before that I bought the travel trailer (1962 Yellowstone) shown above and intended it to be a weekend camping trailer. My life was changing and I'll admit my hand was forced. I had the option of going back to my parents house but it sounded awful. Ironically that's where I wound up but I delayed it for a year.

I did not have that much money. The car I used to tow with had been parked for several years at this point as I had another car I drove. But at the end of October, I hitched up my old travel trailer to my old worn out car and headed south. I had never towed a trailer like that very far, and here I was towing it 850 miles across the country. I'll might even mention that until about Missouri I didn't even have insurance on that car anymore. Irresponsible, I know. But, nothing will ever be perfect when you embark on your journey. I even lost the trailer license plate somewhere in Illinois shortly after the following pictures were taken.

My destination was the Amazon distribution center in Coffeyville, KS. A 2 month job during the holiday season. My trip to Kansas went without any problems, other than the license plate thing. Working at Amazon was great. I lost 35lbs pretty quickly and Amazon provides a free campsite so I was saving practically all the money I was making there. My job there was to pick items for orders. 4 days a week, 10 hour days. Close to Christmas it became 5 days a week and overtime was nice. I even turned some voluntary overtime down. I worked the night shift and if my memory serves me, I went in at 5 or 5:30pm and got out at 3:30am. According to the pedometer I picked up, I was walking around 14 miles every day back and forth through the warehouse. I had huge blisters on my feet, they were incredibly sore, and my thighs killed from all the bending down. I loved it all, until the last few weeks when I was tired and worn out. I was ready to get out of there.

I had plans after Amazon to go volunteer with the National Park Service at the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico but while I was waiting to go there apparently administration at the site had changed and they lost some of my information or something and in the end it became an easy excuse for my doubts to get the best of me. I was nervous about towing the trailer all that way, and the road to the dwellings was supposed to be steep and narrow. In the end, at the last second, I returned home to Michigan. I had some things I needed to take care of, they weren't going to go away on their own. I was back for about 5 months before I took off again, but that will come in Part 2.  Oh yeah, on the way back to Michigan I got pulled over in Illinois. His excuse was my cracked windshield but in the end he searched (with my consent) my vehicle and trailer. I guess I looked suspicious towing my hippie camper up into the snowy lands of Illinois and Michigan on Christmas Eve.

I met some great people at Amazon that I'm still in touch with today. Older folks, of course, but they're still out on the road doing what they do and occasionally poking and prodding me to get back out on the road.

For the fun of it, here's pictures of my two cats. They adjusted to the small trailer just fine, even despite all the time and energy I put into thinking and worrying about it beforehand.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Dominator

The other morning I was driving the 25 miles to work, getting frustrated at all the other drivers and how absolutely busy that road seems to be getting lately. Also grumbling about the night before when I had to close the store that I work at and how I had difficult customers and nothing went easily for me. Key holder is an iffy position because I'm not management, but I'm in charge. Weird. All of that melted when I came across THE DOMINATOR (shown above, poorly). For those of you that don't know, The Dominator is a vehicle featured on the Discovery series Storm Chasers (and also on MythBusters) designed to sit in the path of, and withstand, a tornado. The guy behind the vehicle is originally from my area and his parents live nearby my work apparently. Also for those of you that don't know, which I'm assuming is all of you, I used to be in a life position where I could take off at a second's notice and drive across the country and chase storms. Which I did. I wasn't good at it, and I never saw a tornado, but it's the thought that counts. It made me remember why I want to hit the road.

As mentioned, I've been given a key to the store. I close regularly now. I feel good about this because let's face it all most of us want in life is to belong. And I start to feel like I belong here. It's why we stay in relationships we know are bad for us. That's pretty much how I feel about this job. I learn more, I feel more comfortable, I could endure if necessary. But I'm not happy, it's not what I want to do with my life, and I know there's something more meaningful, to me, out there. I'm just not sure how soon I'll be able to break it off and tell her we'd be better off just friends. Does this make it sound like I've had a lot of break ups? If so, I've only ever had one girlfriend and the break up was more or less mutual. If not drawn out and complicated.

Overall, things are still at a stand still. I'm gaining confidence in the abilities of the motorhome. I'm also realizing I'm becoming too cautious. Each time I've traveled with my travel trailer before I've had about as much money in the bank as I have right now, and I just trusted things would work out. I need to find my faith in the journey and adventure again. Just leap.

In the past, I had started to write about my previous 'adventures' on the road. I think I ended up scraping them. However, I'm thinking of seriously sitting down soon to write about them. I need to dig up pictures and whatnot to accompany them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stuff Makes a Heavy Heart

Yesterday's go-get-em attitude with cleaning out my storage unit was met with much resistance today. I had too much time to think about it all overnight I guess? It seemed like suddenly everything was worth keeping. Or even if it wasn't worth keeping for ME it was worth donating, or trying to sell, or something other than simply throwing it in the back of the van to take to the dump. This is when things get complicated for me because the longer I have to think about what to do with something the harder it becomes for me to get rid of, or the more frustrated I become with it.

I would love to come out of this little experiment with money in my pocket, but when it comes down to it I just want to not deal with it anymore. But I'm not quite yet to the point where I can just ignore the monetary value of things completely.

The internet has helped me out through this. Today when I came home frustrated after my first trip to the storage unit I started searching for articles about how to get rid of stuff, how to let go emotionally.

It gives me some extra motivation but it's still difficult.

On top of cleaning out my storage I'm trying to sell my old car this week. I have it listed for $500, and will take $400. It doesn't seem like it'd be that hard to get rid of, but it is. Both in finding a buyer and in letting go without thinking I'm selling it too cheap. It has served its purpose for me over the years and now its purpose is over. It needs to go, no matter how cheap.

Something like that.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander

The title is from a song of the same name by a band called The New Trust. One of the bands I've enjoyed over the years. ANYWAY..

How long has it been since I've been here? Seems like forever. Probably is. I have this week off of work. Vacation time, oh yeah. It's wonderful so far. I slept in until 11am today just because I could, and because I wanted to. I know so many people in life that get bored or can't stand not going to work. I am not one of those people. I could do this every day.

I continue to not know what I want to do with life anymore. I'm right on the edge of being sucked back into a normal lifestyle and forgetting all about this traveling and living in a van or RV thing. Overall I've taken a bit of a step back from everything and I'm just seeing where things start to lean.

I cleaned out the van a few weeks ago. It was really messy. With it cleaned out and with taking the bed frame I built out of there also, I can start to see my old vision with it again. When I decided I wanted a twin size mattress in there it just took up too much space and snuffed out the entire vision. So I might go forward with more van work again. If nothing else it'd make a nice weekend getaway vehicle until something else happens and would possibly increase value or chances of selling it if I ever reach that point.

As for now, the van is about half full of JUNK. I magically, and suddenly, reached a decision to get at least one van full of stuff taken to the dump this week while I have the time off. Not only that, but I'm in an 'act now, think later' mindset about all of my STUFF. I've been paying for this huge storage unit for 2 and a half years now and I doubt any of what's in there is actually worth the money I've paid over that amount of time. Even with that knowledge, I don't expect to get rid of everything.

I don't like going through my stuff. Especially the stuff that is left over from when I had my own house. Memories. And to be honest if I had the money for another place of my own, I'd probably do it. I like having a home base, and it doesn't mean I can't still travel. Anyway, it just makes me sad and makes me deal with emotions I like to ignore.

Today I also gave away 8 chairs. 2 computer chairs, 2 beach chairs, and 4 rolling dining chairs. For free, on craigslist. There will probably be more of this to come, and I'm also making a pile to give to Goodwill. Kind of depends on what my thoughts are on the item about whether or not it goes to craigslist or goodwill. I might try to sell some stuff too, I don't know. My ultimate goal is fast and easy. The chairs took up a lot of space in storage and now I'll actually have room to move around and sort through all the other stuff.

I wanted to get something fun done this week during my time off from work, but it's looking like I'll just be hanging around home, trying to get things cleaned and organized. I'll probably feel a lot better about that in the long run than I will if I had gone somewhere fun.

Don't get me wrong, I already drove up north a ways and hiked a nice trail and had some close encounters with wildlife and whatnot.

I've also decided I have analysis paralysis with practically every aspect of my life. Really I just learned I could put a name to it. Haha. I think everything out and all of my choices until I overwhelm myself and in the end just don't do anything. I'm working on that.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Geocaching in the Dunes

Coming off of working for 7 days straight. So I haven't been able to do a whole lot of anything lately. I had today off, and I'm back to work tomorrow for a day before I get the weekend off. I'm getting burnt out on everything. At work, the motorhome, everything. I finally had to request some vacation time at work. I had a different plan but I just need some time off now.

More on all that later maybe. For now, today. I had the day off so I drove up to a beach I've never been to on Lake Michigan and did some geocaching. This particular beach had three multicaches (more than one stage) and the final one you could only do after you got the GPS coordinates from the first two. It was hot (92 or so?) and the dunes are steep. These caches had me going up and down steep ridges all day. My legs are jelly tonight.  The third one I had to give up on. I couldn't find the clue to get to the 4th stage. Overall it was a great time with some crazy hides.

I'm just burnt out on everything. I don't really know what my next move is. And that makes me even more burnt out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Up, running, and out of gas

Well, the motorhome is back together and running. It's not the amazing success I had hoped for. It almost seems to run the same as it did before. Which I had decided would probably be 'good enough' before I decided to rip everything apart so I guess now I decide it's good enough again?

I actually started it up for the first time on Sunday night. Started on the first try. Today I gave it an oil change and took it for a drive to the gas station. It smoked a lot at the beginning but I'm hoping that's just left over from before all the big repairs.. As that is one of the reasons why I decided to replace the heads in the first place. Time will tell.

The motorhome actually died on me on the way to the gas station. It started stuttering and almost feeling like the transmission was slipping bad. Not long after that, the steering went hard and I realized the engine had shut off. This would have been a great photo opportunity but sadly when I'm sitting on the side of the road I'm not yet to the point where I think to take a picture (or make a YouTube video).

I called my mom to bring me some gas. I sure was hoping I was just out of gas. I knew I was getting close, that's why I was going to the gas station, after all. Luckily, a little bit of the good stuff in the tank and I was off the rest of the way to the gas station. Very happy about that, I was envisioning the worst and getting ready to call Progressive to cash in on a little towing benefit.

There's some doubt in my mind now about what to do next. I should probably just start driving it and see where it goes from there. I just wish it ran a smidge better than it does. In the spirit of honesty I do consider selling it and bagging this whole plan. While I KNOW that I would never regret actually getting out on the road and living life, a big part of me is getting tired of spending money and feeling like I'm getting no where. It sure would be nice to be putting more money in the bank. Just get a nice small car with decent MPG and go to work everyday, yeah?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Set back #37

Or something, I'm not actually counting the set backs. Thursday after work I was able to get (mostly) everything hooked back up and came to the point where I could fill the engine back up with coolant. Not long after I had most of the coolant in was when I noticed the 4 bolts on the ends of the exhaust manifolds were leaking coolant slowly. Crap. Also a slow line of coolant was forming around the thermostat housing gasket.

I went to a bad place that night. Feeling like a failure and like this whole project was turning into a giant, expensive mess.

I regrouped. Researched, talked to guys at work. Tonight after work I drained all the coolant again, took those four bolts out, and put some sealant on the threads. They have to sit for 24 hours to fully cure and then after that I can try adding coolant again to see what happens. I'm really hoping my leak is fixed after this. I'm feeling better about it all at this point, but there's still the potential for major failure.

Also checked out the thermostat gasket tonight. It's junk. I put the gasket on top of the thermostat instead of underneath, so when I tightened everything down the edge of the thermostat cut a line through the gasket. No big deal. A new gasket is less than $1.00 and I already have the coolant drained anyway.

The 24 hour mark on that thread sealant doesn't come until 8pm tomorrow so it's likely I won't be putting coolant in again until TUESDAY. No biggie. I've waited this long already on this project.

Right now I'm thinking I might possibly be able to get the Y Pipe hooked back up to the exhaust manifolds tomorrow, and also get that oil change out of the way. Then, all I'd be waiting for would be to add coolant before the big, scary moment. Trying to start it back up.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Progress Finally Continues!

Yesterday shortly after I arrived at work my new remanufactured heads showed up. About a week later than the company originally said, but oh well. I just happened to have today off of work so it worked out more or less.

One of my pretty new heads! Everything seems to be the same as the ones I took off of there, so that's a good thing. The day started off rainy and didn't clear up until around 1:30pm so I got a late start on the project. Like usual.
First up was to clean up any dirt that had fallen into the cylinders during all of this, so I got out the shop vac and got out everything that I could. Then at the last minute I decided to take the AC compressor off since it wasn't hooked up or working at all anyway. That opened up a good sized space on the front of the engine. I had been thinking about maybe fixing the AC eventually but only one vehicle I've owned has ever had working AC, so I'll just make do without.
I haven't run into any real problems yet. Of course everything takes longer than I think it will and the most simple tasks usually end up being incredibly tedious and time consuming. Case in point, replacing the radiator and bypass hose. The screws on the hose clamps were in impossible locations and I had to reach in while bending down underneath the steering wheel. 

Both heads have been installed
Exhaust manifolds are on and so is the intake manifold.
In the picture above the intake isn't bolted down all the way yet. It is now, as I type this. There were numerous brackets that went under some of those bolt heads and I had to take a look at all the pictures I took to remember exactly what went where. Thankfully, I took good pictures. 
I didn't manage to get it all back together today. I got close, but in the end I didn't make it. I think I have even less to do than I think I do, but I know it's still a couple of good hours work. Carb needs to go back on, brake booster vacuum line, need to reconnect the exhaust pipes to the exhaust manifolds. There's one bolt for the alternator that screws into the side of the head that I can't get to line up properly and thread in. Spark plugs need to go in, figure out which wire goes to which plug. I'm probably forgetting something but then just fill it up with coolant again and give it an oil change!  Then, finally, I will be able to have the old moment of truth when I try to start it back up.
Not sure when I'll work on it next. Back to work tomorrow until the weekend. Thursday I go in earlier than usual and get out early because of Independence Day so I might be able to get things wrapped up Thursday afternoon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ready and Waiting

Serious lack of photos with the last few posts, I apologize. Not so much a lack of me taking any, but how many pictures of a torn apart engine can I show you.

I'm still waiting for my new heads to arrive. I have pretty good reason to expect them to be in my hands tomorrow, but I'm still prepared for otherwise. I had this weekend off, but I chose to be very lazy and not get much of anything done. My excuse was the heat, which was true, but I also just didn't feel like putting on my 'motorhome clothes' which are literally covered in dirt and grease. It was nice to do nothing and not have to clean up afterwards.

I did manage to do some kayaking yesterday, and checked out some newer hiking trails a little north of here. I wasn't planning on hiking, and the mosquitoes were terrible. I had my first lost-in-the-woods panic. It wasn't so much that I was lost, though I was on criss-crossing trails that I had never been on before. The mosquitoes were swarming so bad I actually looked around at one point for a swarm of bees, they were that loud. It brought on a 'get me out of here asap' panic and I didn't know which route was the fastest route back out. I made it back out, safe and sound. Another car had pulled in while I was on the trails. It left me wondering if maybe they saw me along the way swatting and running down the trails like a madman.

Tonight I found some motivation to get something done and I cleaned up the engine block and got all the mating surfaces on the block and various manifolds ready for their new gaskets and for everything to be slapped back together. I'm completely ready for my new heads now. And I'm waiting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Change of Plans

Machine shop took a look at my heads. With labor and new components they steered me towards just buying remanufactured heads. So, that is what I've done. I won't be getting them until next week so I won't be up and running this weekend as hoped. Cost is also more than triple what I was expecting. But at that point when I've got everything torn apart what options do I really have?

Turning into an expensive little motorhome but considering what people pay for RVs these days I'm still doing exceptionally well.

I have returned to edit this post to candidly admit that the financial cost of today's turn of events has struck me quite hard mentally. However, I find myself strangely driven forward. Knowing that all of this should equal a more dependable motorhome in the end. Also, for whatever reason, I'm more committed than ever to my dream of not only living in this motorhome but also reaching the point where I roam the country in seek of adventures of all kinds.

Open Engine Surgery

I got the new exhaust fully on the motorhome the other day. Took it for my normal spin. Like normal lately, it gives off a lot of blue smoke (oil burning) after I start it up after it has sat for a day or two. It clears up just fine once all the oil gets burned off.

Today was another day off. I talked to the machine shop at work yesterday and the price they quoted me for a valve job wasn't too bad. Substantial, but not too bad. I don't think I even get any sort of discount on that one for working there. Not a big deal.

I got a late start on the project today, didn't even start until 2pm. I did it though. I pulled the heads off. This is by far the deepest I have ever gone into an engine. No parades in my honor until after it's put back together and running again though, please.

The passenger side was a delight. All the exhaust manifold bolts came out very easy. I only had difficulty with getting one head bolt out and that was the lower one at the front of the engine. Just weird spacing but with a longer extension it was a breeze. Only after bloodying up my hands in a few places by trying to do it without an extension.

There was a point tonight that I didn't believe I'd get both heads off today. I was even running a scenario through my head that involved taking the entire engine out. The exhaust manifold on the driver's side proved difficult to remove. 3 of 6 bolts came out easy. The remaining three put up a fight. I finally got one of them to play nicely and come out the way it should. The other two ended up breaking off. Annoying, but considering the alternatives I was looking at in my mind I still consider it a win.

Now tomorrow I bring them to work with me for the valve job. I'm not sure how fast the guys in the shop will be able to get this done, but I'm really hoping they'll have it done by Friday afternoon so I can reinstall it all this weekend. Fingers crossed.

Seems I've been doing a lot of that. Finger crossing. Not much else you can do when you're doing work like this for the first time in your life. But hey, it's going to run like a champ again when I get it all put back together, right? If it does, my focus will turn to the interior of the motorhome. Just a few odds and ends.

Could I be a week or so away from really making the motorhome thing happen? I don't know how soon I'd move into it still, but it seems like the obstacles are becoming few.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Old Exhaust is Out

The old exhaust is out! The passenger side bolts to the manifold came out pretty easily. The driver's side bolts ended up being cut out with a reciprocating saw. Try getting one of those things up and into place in such a tight and awkward space. Luckily my dad helped me out.
By the time it got dark I had three of the four bolts for the new Y-pipe in place and ready to be tightened up. The 4th bolt is in place and has a nut on it, but I need to take the nut back off and add some washers and a lock washer. So that's the plan for after work tomorrow. Hopefully get the Y-pipe in place and tightened up. At that point the rest should be easy. Muffler slips on, and then the tailpipe slips on. Fingers crossed, I'll have the new exhaust in place by the end of tomorrow night.
This all might seem pointless with my previous post mentioning that major engine work might be needed/done very soon but I figure it should come back off pretty easy now should I need to again. I've still been leaning in the direction of taking the heads off, but at the same time I'm tempted to drive it a little more (maybe to work a few times) and see what I think after that.