The blog is moving…

I’m moving the blog now to my new domain: freerangedreams.com which I will be working on over the next few weeks.   I hope you’ll check back in with us at the new address!

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Driving the MotorHome Around Town

*I wrote this on 26 January, but it didn’t get posted until now–documents my first driving experiences with Benny*

It’s true, we plan to fulltime in the motorhome without a toad, or pulled (towed) car.  That means that we will use our motorhome for all of our errands, grocery shopping, and any other getting around.

I’m getting plenty of practice.  We transferred the registration from my car, to Benny the Brave, which means Benny is now my only means of transportation.  I learned to drive it this weekend.

Monday I drove to the health food store.  I drove around the parking lot until I found two empty spots, back to back.  Benny fits in the width of one parking space but is just a couple of feet too long.  So I usually center the vehicle with the front in one spot and the back in another.  Also saves me from having to back up when I leave, which would not be safe in a busy parking lot without someone to guide me.

Benny also takes up the full width of the parking spots, so squeezing in between two parked cars would not be easy, nor appreciated by the owners of those cars when they returned.  So I look for two spots front to back, and space on both sides.  Grocery stores usually have plenty of wide open spots in the back of the lot.  Maybe I won’t go to the mall on Black Friday, though.

The drive was so easy and comfortable that on the way home from the health food store we stopped at the Salvation Army to look for wooden plates and metal cups (I want our dishes to be not-delicate, and not-plastic).  Most of the parking is only one space deep (we wouldn’t fit) but behind the building are several unused spots and I just pulled into them horizontally, making sure I had room to pull forward when we were ready to leave.  No problem!

Tuesday we stopped to mail a wrap to a customer at our tiny corner gift-store/post office.  They definitely don’t have parking to accommodate Benny, but across the tiny residential street is an unused storage building with plenty of open paved space.  I just pulled right onto the paved space which is sort of like the shoulder of the road.  Trotted across the street to the post office, then back to Benny where I could have pulled forward to leave, but because I wanted to head in the opposite direction, I did a tight little U-turn that Benny is remarkably good at.

Then we headed for Goodwill, hoping to find what we hadn’t found at the Salvation Army the day before.  Goodwill is in a shopping center and it was easy to find a pull through spot (2 spots, really) near the rear of the parking lot.

Today (Wednesday), I drove to my weekly Moms Group which takes place at a church.  I almost parked in the corner, where I felt we would be out of the way, and then remembered the no-backing-out-if-possible rule.  I circled around and found a double spot near the back where I’d be able to pull forward and out when it was time to go.

After Moms Circle, I headed to the bank to deposit some cash.  Totally forgot I wouldn’t fit in the drive through.  I circled the building optimistically hoping to use the ATM for my deposit but it had a little roof too.  I realize now I could have just parked a yard out from the ATM and hopped out the drivers door to do my business, but at the time it didn’t occur to me, so instead I parked at the grocery store next door.  I was planning to go there next, anyway.  Then I trotted across to the bank and made my deposit inside at the counter, then went over to the grocery store.

What I didn’t think about when parking at the grocery store was that pulling through the two front to back spaces had me facing the wrong way when I pulled forward to leave.  This parking lot had the diagonal spaces where each row is supposed to be one way traffic.  Of course, it’s not a big deal when you’re in a sedan to go down the wrong way, but with Benny’s bulk I didn’t want to block up the passage.  However, there were no cars parked on either side of me and this made it easy to pull out and turn back in the correct direction (a partial u-turn) to leave.  I’ll remember to be more careful with diagonal spots, and park where there are very few cars around to give myself plenty of maneuvering room.

Next learning experience, when leaving the grocery store’s parking lot, I drove around a bank in the same lot, as it looked like the way around the smaller building would be more straightforward and clear of traffic on my way out to the street.  Unfortunately, the far side of the bank was a drive-through with a roof, and no way to go around it.  I had to back into a parking spot to turn around and go another way.  Luckily, the parking lot was not full or busy!  From this I resolved not to go around buildings that I didn’t have to, if I didn’t know for sure what was on the other side!

So, learning more every day, but so far nothing nerve-wracking has come up.  Benny isn’t so hard to drive.  In fact, he’s a really fun drive, with a great view.  And it feels nice to have so much space (our whole house!) around us in the “car” instead of walls and ceilings so close together.

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Benny the Holstein?

Black Cow by Petr Kratochvil

Today I learned that when you say, “I’m just going to get some milk out of Benny,” it makes him sound like a cow.  And a girl.

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I drove on veggie power!

Today I drove on veggie power for the first time!  I’ve been driving on diesel for a couple of reasons:

1) learning curve was slightly curvier than expected and we had to iron out a few kinks in our use of the vegetable oil system (which David could only do on the weekend because he’s still tied to his job, unfortunately).

2) several of my daily errands are so close to the house that I don’t get a chance to switch the engine to vegetable oil.

Number 2 is still true.  When I just go from home to the grocery store, I won’t be using vegetable oil.  Because vegetable oil is thicker than diesel, it needs to be heated to run through the lines (just like when you heat oil in your frying pan it becomes thinner).  So Benny must always be started on diesel, and switched to veggie only once the engine has warmed up.  Then, a few minutes before arrival, we switch back to diesel so that no vegetable oil is left to congeal in the lines for the next time we need to start er up.  A five minute trip just doesn’t allow the time for all that waiting and switching.  On the up side, a five minute trip doesn’t use up a great deal of diesel.

And of course, once we’re on the big adventure, there will be fewer five minute trips and a whole lot more hours and hours of burning vegetable oil.

This weekend David tested the engine to make sure that the veggie oil glitch was truly solved (it was) and filled up the veggie oil tank so this week I am veggie powered and loving it!

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Driving on Veggie Oil

David and I strongly believe in the importance of taking actions that support our personal survival as individuals, as a  family, as part of our various groups, through the survival of mankind, living things, and the material universe, as well as spiritually, because we are intimately connected with each of these dynamics and our survival is linked to each of them.

So when we first thought of living a traveling life in an RV, we immediately thought of the ecological impact.  Sure, we’d be doing less consuming, adding less to landfills, and at least the meaningless and repetitive drives to and from work and errands would be replaced with more meaningful commutes so that the gas used would at least be better justified.  But for a family that always thought we’d like to discover a lifestyle that was not dependent on cars and gas, it would be awfully nice to find someway to mitigate the crude oil factor of our plan.

Enter vegetable oil, able to fuel a diesel engine in place of gas.  Benny the Brave had a veggie oil conversion performed by his previous family that makes it easy and reliable to run him on used oil from restaurants–recycling an already used up commodity and greatly reducing carbon emissions as well as many other nasty side effects of gas/diesel.

There are other significant perks to running on vegetable oil, most significantly 1)it can be found free around the world and 2)my family will not be smelling and breathing diesel fumes.

Vegetable Oil was an integral part of our plan, and when we saw Benny for sale, we couldn’t resist.  Benny fleshed out our motorhome dream perfectly, and it is a worthwhile bonus to know that he has spent the last year with a family who shares our values and whose lives have been filling up this little motorhome with love and laughter rather than . . . anything else!

In fact, Benny came customized with both “vegpower” and unschooling bumper stickers.  That’s right, the previous family is a family of unschoolers as well!

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Learning to Drive the MotorHome

The first weekend I spent 20 minutes driving around a parking lot and parking in the spaces.  This weekend I drove us to the library, and later to the health food store and Grammy’s house.  Today I drove the girls to the health food store by myself.  On the way home we stopped at the Salvation Army.

Benny seemed impossibly huge that first day.  When I started on a real street, I could barely watch the road, I was so busy studying my mirrors to make sure I was inside the lines.  Because Benny JUST fits inside the lines!

But it’s not taken long to come a lot easier.  It takes a lot more of my attention, but I can put my singing-to-Annabelle-so-she-won’t-cry on autopilot and still have all my attention on the road.  I was really happy with my self sufficiency, driving the girls around without David to babysit me today.

I’m also becoming comfortable with backing up using only the mirrors (and without turning to look over my shoulder, because it’s pointless).

I wanted to stop by where David’s working today and bring him warm-from-the-oven chocolate cookies but he wasn’t answering his cell and without his confirmation, I was leery of driving down the tiny neighborhood street.  What if parked cars made the street too narrow for me to proceed?  I’d have to back down the whole street, and for that I would need someone guiding me, and what if David wasn’t there because he had made a run to Home Depot?  Nope, couldn’t risk it!

So, I’m still tentative.  But I love driving this thing.  It feels so good!  And people like waving at us.  And we made a friend of the security guard at the Health Food Store because he liked the looks of Benny.  I’ve heard so much about RV people being the friendliest people, but now I’m wondering if RVs don’t just bring out the friendliest in all kinds of people.

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What if you just took a month long trip?

What if, instead of renting out our house and living in our MotorHome fulltime while traveling the United States, we just saved up money and went for a month long trip?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer this question.  What if we did?  Then we would probably have a very nice vacation, not get very far from home (driving only a few hours a day), and come back and resume living in our house and sending David to his 9-5.

Never mind the fact that we have no way to save up money for a month long trip because we use it to pay our mortgage and groceries.  But playing along with the “what if” I reply with the above scenario.

But are you asking whether we are interested in doing that?  Whether it will fill any of our needs or wants?  Whether it could replace the plan of living on the road?  Of course not.  Are you implying that it is a better plan than re-inventing our lives?  Better in what way?  What problem are we trying to solve here?

Because I don’t have any problem with the plan to live fulltime on the road.  It’s not that we’re getting evicted and have nowhere to live but our vehicle.  It’s not that all my friends are doing it and I’m under some sort of fulltime peer pressure.  And it’s not a mid-life crisis.

The fact is, that we have formed a plan that is our ideal scene, that fits with our goals and purposes, that inspires and excites us, and that solves the problems we have with our more conventional home, lifestyle, and schedule.

So don’t worry about it.  We’ve solved the problems, and there’s nothing left to solve.  We’re just revving up now for the grand adventure we can’t wait to embark upon.

Don’t worry.  It’s not a mistake, it’s an adventure, and I refuse not to make mistakes OR have adventures so don’t try to talk me out of it.

I know that the people who want to live fulltime in a motorhome with children are few and far between, so I can imagine that to most of you, this doesn’t sound ideal.  But it does to us.  It’s not a life that will be tough but we’re going to man up and live with it because of whatever-old-reason.  It’s what we dream of doing, and we’ve decided that dreams were made for doing.

Don’t worry.  And thank you for your concern and your love.  And if you have any more theoretical lifestyles to propose to us, perhaps an explanation of what you think would appeal to us about it?  So we have some idea how to answer, “What if?”

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Just a Glitch

Saturday we spent the day running errands on diesel fuel, and then we headed out on our first road trip–30 or so miles to my parents’ house in Tampa.  All was well until David switched over to vegetable oil.  The engine died.

Well, seems there was air in the line.  David called Justin (Benny’s previous owner) and got some advice on getting rid of the air without having to stand out in heavy traffic, a police car showed up to sit behind us with lights on and make sure no one ran into us, Annabelle (busy cutting a tooth) became distressed and I went to sit at the dinette and nurse her, and David got the engine started.  We buckled back in and decided to head for home, because the evening was darkening and we no longer felt up to a long two-way dinner trip.

New plan: we would drive over to my parents’ house in the morning to show off Benny, and leave Ada with them for the day.

Morning dawned as early as it does with kids in the house, and David thought he’d drive around for a little why, try switching to veggie oil, and make sure everything seemed fine before he’d get us all in and start across the bay.  I guess it was a good idea because when I called him a few minutes ago he was working on the engine again.  Again it died when he switched to veggie oil.  More air in the lines.  And his pump wasn’t working.  He sounded impatient to get back to work on it so I let him go.

I don’t think we’re making it to Tampa this weekend.

But you know what, somehow none of this is disheartening.  I have a real fondness for Benny and this seems like the inevitable sort of thing we need to go through as new owners/drivers/mechanics as we get to know each other.  Even David told me last night after our breakdown that he still thinks Benny is great and really admires the machinery.  I think with each glitch he learns more and understands more about how it works, and that can only be good.  We’ll see how he feels when he gets home from his current mishap…

And then I have Tara’s account of some of their mishaps and imagining teetering on the edge of the bumper, in the rain, while my bed is getting soaked, just emphasizes how convenient our breakdown was.  We were able to fix it from inside the motorhome (the engine is accessed from between the drivers and passengers seats) where dark, cold, and wet don’t really effect us.  I was able to move about the cabin freely, seeing to my baby’s needs and if either of the girls had needed to get up and move around, they could have gotten out of their seats, used the bathroom, gotten a snack, played on the bed, etc.  What’s more, the size of the motorhome makes it a much safer vehicle to occupy on the side of the road than a family car.  All in all, it turns out I don’t mind breaking down with Benny, and once we’re moved in with all the comforts of home, so much the better!

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Less Is More

Less stuff is less time spent cleaning things and putting them away.  Less space spent storing them.  Less money spent on the space to store them.  Less tripping over or reaching around them for other things, and less trying to remember where all our stuff is.

Less stuff is more freedom.

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The Plan

My perfect husband, our two amazing daughters, my belly and I are going to move into a 22′ MotorHome named Benny.  We are trading in all our savings for Benny because, well, we’d rather be traveling than staying at home with savings.  David is going to quit his day job and be a musician.  I am going to take my wrap business with us on the road.  And the soon-to-be-five-of-us will spend our days together on a journey of adventure, discovery, and living our passions.  I can think of nothing more educational for me or my kids.

Problems to solve (and here “problem” is not a dirty word, but part of the fun, challenging nature of the beast):

  • Rent our house out for enough money to cover our mortgage payments.
  • Find a home for our cat, who was our first baby and is more than just our cat.
  • Earn money to pay for six months of RV insurance, cell phone and internet service, and an emergency fund.

One of my favorite things to do is simplify.  This doesn’t mean lack of ambition, by the way.  It means that everything you do is part of your dream and aiming at your goal, and the other things . . . have been simplified away.

Ways that the new lifestyle will simplify our lives:

  • no more lugging gabillions of things from my house to my car and back everyday, while carrying a one year old, and no more tremendously messy, disorganized car because I can only carry so many of them back to the house again when we get home.  Instead, everything we need will come with us . . . . neatly put away in it’s drawer at home.
  • no more dragging worn out kids on another errand.  They can stay home with one of us in the parking lot of the errand that the other one of us runs in to do.
  • no more having to walk away from my six year old while she’s talking to me and she has to chase after me to finish.  In our tiny home, all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, diapers, and babycare will happen in one place and I can keep up with things while staying in her line of sight.
  • no wondering if my one year old is climbing a bookshelf in the other room while I’m nursing the baby in the living room.  The living room IS the other room, and whatever she falls off of, I’ll only have to extend my arm to catch her!
  • no more scheduling meals and lives around my husband’s 9-5.  We’ll sleep, cook, eat, and play when convenient.
  • no more waiting for daddy to come home and missing him all day.
  • no trying to figure out how to take care of a newborn and a one year old all by myself.
  • no more wondering how to go turn off the burner in the kitchen with a sleeping child on my lap.  Two parents will make everything easier.
  • no more endless hours of cleaning just to get it up to the point of “messy.”  With so few things, and such small space, cleaning will take 5 minutes.
  • no more of our life taken up paying the mortgage.  Instead we’ll spend our money on festivals, concerts, events, and attractions that we can’t resist.
  • no worrying about my husband being able to work the next day if we have a rough night.  We can take turns sleeping in, or nap during the day as needed.

Things that I can’t tell you yet how they will work, but I look forward to finding out:

  • Nighttime parenting of a newborn and a one year old who still wakes several times a night in a single room domicile.
  • Nighttime parenting when our RV is parked near neighboring RVs that expect “quiet hours” to be respected.
  • Driving for hours a day with 3 children aged new, one, and six.
  • Running two businesses and storing inventory in a 22 foot home that only has two dresser drawers for the five of us to share.
  • Fitting our clothing, a few toys, musical equipment, CD inventory, wrap inventory, a laptop, 3 books, kitchenware, towels, diapers for two, coats and jackets, barbecue, box of important files, first aid kit, games, arts & crafts, printer, car seats, tools, camera and video camera, bedding, and my wraps in the rig.
  • Finding a post office in every town to ship out products to customers.
  • Rainy days or sick days spent at home.
  • Finding hours each day for David to work on his music.
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