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Old 05-26-2015, 03:36 PM   #1
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Seven months a Full-Timer ... The Big Picture

We’ve landed back at Snow Canyon State Park in Utah to take care of some medical checkups. Fortunately we were able to get our camp hosting gig again for a few weeks. This past May 14th marked our seven month anniversary of jumping the rat race and onto the full-timer’s slower and hopefully more meaningful path. Seven months’ worth of experiences pales in comparison to those earned by the many veteran full-timers here on this forum but it at least offers a meaningful sampling with which one can perhaps decide whether to continue this life on the road. And with all that, we face the even more defining litmus test - we travel back to our old digs, southern California, to help our youngest son get better situated in hopefully just a couple months or so. We knew this temporary detour was in the works but it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. For those familiar with metropolitan life and especially southern California, the trip back home is fraught with complications, inconvenience, greater expenses, and once familiar noises, smells, and proximities. While we are anxious to help our son get started with adulthood, the dread of entering the fray that is southern California pretty much answers our question of whether we made the right choice last October. Uh... that would be a yes.

Many of the experiences gathered on the road in the past seven months pretty much validated those discovered the first few weeks: the newness of each morning; a sense of discovery in even the most mundane task - for instance, finding a decent grocery market in a small town; and acknowledging the goodwill and generosity of fellow travelers as the norm in America. Leaving our camp hosting gig in an established state park campground this past March for more exploration led to further discoveries: deciding to abandon the superhighways and travel down two-lane routes across empty expanses of landscapes of endless variety; following a BLM road off the established asphalt and finding a spot all to ourselves; the crunch of our boots upon a dirt road that we trusted to lead us through quiet and unfamiliar terrain with no one in sight or within earshot; the wind rustling through the high pines and aspens like an ocean roar; gaining a new appreciation for a starlit night sky undimmed by neighborhood lights; respecting the climate differences between elevations of 3,000, 5,000, and 8,000 feet; slowly losing consciousness to sleep with that exciting last bit of realization of only thin panels of aluminum separating us from the deer, the coyotes, and the late winter elements found in canyon lands and mountains; opening one’s eyes from sleep to see a true blue circle of sky through our Fantastic Fan and knowing when we open the door, we won’t see another building across some sidewalk or even another camper.

Here is a list of the important things we learned while on the road so far:

1. We own two six-gallon, one seven-gallon, one three-gallon, and a two-gallon water jug. When you’re dry camping the first thing after finding a good spot is to find a nearby water source. We were able to obtain drinking water from ranger stations, visitor centers, a grocery store, and a motel. When we were moving a distance greater than a couple hundred miles and/or up a grade, we’d make sure our water jugs were full and empty our fresh water tank as we moved on down the road.
2. We own a five-gallon and two-gallon gasoline container. When we were dry camping, those seven gallons were plenty for morning and evening generator (Honda eu2000i) charging and use for about 10-12 days although I never let them get near empty.
3. We’re still thinking of spending a couple thousand on solar but then we’d have to give up some weight somewhere else. We just bought two different sized solar-powered lamps for the interior and am anxious to test them out. If they work out fine and our battery runs our water pump and furnace through the night, then we’ll be happy to spend $40 on solar lamps and spend the $2000 or so towards new Michelin tires.
4. Candles. A bunch of candles. All sizes.
5. I almost bought a more expensive inside/outside temperature gauge but decided to go cheap and just bought two plastic temperature dials with sticky backs or perimeter so that it could be stuck outside but seen through the kitchen window.
6. We bought two solar lights with sticky backs for above the door and the rear of the trailer. They are solar powered, light up on low upon darkness and through the night, and brighten upon motion detection.
7. You definitely need a shovel - I carry a smaller camping shovel. There were a couple times on BLM land where I had to dig down in order to fit a piece of wood or a leveler under the trailer’s jack.
8. When you live full-time, it’s a bit tough to give up the nice china for a well-prepared meal but a couple trips to Indian ruins over unimproved Indian routes will help start the conversion to plastic.
9. A Verizon Jetpak is good to have. I Facebook a lot and like to keep up with current events, so a 6.0 gig data bucket has been about right to cover those needs along with e-mail. It’s not 100% successful so local libraries and cafes are good to have nearby. I forgot to check my bill but I think it’s about $60-80/month.
10. I thought about mail forwarding using Escapees or the outfit out of South Dakota but we use the St. George, Utah area as our home base for our health insurance,and so established a post office box there. We made friends with the postmaster there and when we told him we were taking off for a few months, he said I could prepay $50 or so worth of large mailing envelopes and call from the road and have him send my mail periodically to General Delivery to the local post office. I was able to receive mail in Escalante and Monticello, Utah, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Alamosa and South Fork, Colorado. Most of the time I just had junk mail and would wait another week or so before calling again. I had Amazon deliver to General Delivery to whatever local post office I was near and it was hit and miss - one time I had to have it forwarded to a nearby UPS store and keep in mind Amazon takes longer to deliver to a post office box or general delivery. So if you do expect a delivery, you’ll have to stay a week or so.
11. We managed to cut our health care costs significantly by switching from our old California plan (Aetna) to the Arches carrier in Utah. We use St. George as our home base (six months out of the year) for our medical plan. What St. George may lack in cultural flair, it makes up for it with what we perceive as superior medical facilities and physicians.
12. In our almost eight months since we left California, we’ve experienced both staying in an established campground for a lengthy stay and shorter stays for free on BLM and National Forest spots. While we can honestly say we prefer the solitude, privacy, and challenge of dry camping, we can see the benefit of returning to a home base campground and/or area with hookups to stay fresh. We found that although we prefer the smaller towns, it was curiously refreshing to enter back into St. George and have choices in outlets for food, fuel, and supplies again. We’re pretty sure after a month or two in the city, we’ll need our fix again and want to venture out away from the masses.
13. I don’t want to jinx us and so will only say our used 2005 Airstream International performed as well as we hoped and never felt in want of a newer model.
14. Our used 2012 Toyota Tundra 5.7L 4WD worked very well towing our home. I used the drive shifter quite often while climbing and descending steep grades. We did end up parking our trailer in some spots where if there was a big rain, we might have had to wait a day or so to get out but that never happened. We did use the 4WD a lot while scouting out possible camp sites on BLM and National Forest roads.
15. I liked the tonneau lid a lot. I thought it was easier to access stuff loaded nearer the back of the cab from the side rather than scooting in from the end inside a shell and having to pull things out to get to them. I also like the fact nobody could see our generator through a shell’s side window. Our BakFlip G2 model kept all our stuff dry through rain, snow, and hail. A lid is generally cheaper than a shell too.
16. Make sure you have a cordless drill so you can add the socket and crank your stabilizers up and down faster.
17. If you’re thinking of visiting the southwest: The first map I bought was a Benchmark Series Utah Map. It’s great but the map I used after leaving St. George was the Indian Country map from AAA and it covered large portions of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. I also kept an eye out after doing an internet search for BLM offices and bought the maps of areas I thought we’d visit. I was very impressed by their accuracy in depicting dirt roads. They are relatively cheap and do a good job distinguishing between national forest/BLM land on which you can disperse camp and Indian reservation land. Very important in AZ and NM.

Places to stay for free:

BLM off Scenic Byway 12 east of Escalante, UT
Harts Draw in Indian Creek Recreation Area, east of Canyonlands NP, UT
BLM roads off Highway 95, east of Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
The Silver Thread, CO

All of the information listed above has been covered by others here before me in greater detail and with more experience.The most important lesson I want to relate is more about the big picture. Somewhere along our nation’s history the driving force behind the American Dream became to consume when really the validation of Americanism should be to experience. I count myself among the fortunate ones that have made the jump to living on the road but it’s about recognizing and working toward this new way of life. Even though the conversion may still be in the works for some, it’s that recognition and pursuit that separates us fellow travelers/adventurers from the Walking Dead - zombie-like people in the fog of consumerism.

We have been able to renew our working relationship with a young woman at Snow Canyon State Park campground upon our current return. Since we left that original working gig two months ago, this young woman and her husband have decided to leave their current rented apartment, take their infant son, and join the ranks of full-timers in an older trailer at the end of June - a decision that came about after discussions with my wife and me, and other friends this past winter. Taking similar cues from the Tiny House movement and its minimalist living, they too are choosing to dump the paradigm that is paying a landlord a monthly rent and instead own their own home, albeit a much smaller and older living space. No doubt the idea of ownership, self-determination, and a sense of adventure more than make up the loss of mere square footage, much of which is typically filled with disposable material goods, or… well, junk.

I’ve changed as a result of walking a different path. I am less concerned with the accumulation of things previously thought to be of great importance and appreciating the idea that less is more. I am less a spectator of staged entertainment (e.g., organized sports, media events) and more engaged with physical activity and the natural world around me. I am meeting new people of all stripes every day, whether I’m helping them as a camp host or asking them for help or information in a new area or town. It’s been a wonderful benefit to strike up new friendships and acquaintances across small towns in Utah and Colorado, and although the duration of those interactions is relatively short, they no doubt can and will be renewed upon return visits over the years to come.

If I had to narrow our experiences down to two other lessons learned, it would be: 1. The outdoors are everything I had dreamt and hoped they would be; and 2. Our Airstream has enabled our dreams and hopes. I have previously cited the writer Michael Pollan and his book, A Room Of My Own. I just read a couple passages in which Pollan again is better able to translate my thoughts. He’s talking about an office hut he built and compares its essence to a garden; for my purposes, I related the hut and garden to our Airstream and the outdoors. He concludes, “ For it is the outdoors that manages, in a way few things in this life do, to celebrate the here and now (with its full complement of sensory satisfactions) while at the same time summoning the there and then by means of its symbolism. The outdoors’ mode is not a metaphor exactly - one thing for another - but something else: one thing and another. Unlike a painting of a landscape, say, or a poem about nature, behind which stands nothing but pigment or marks on a page, the outdoors offer us an experience whose power does not depend on codes or conventions or even the suspension of disbelief, though all those things are at work here too, making the experience that much richer.”

He goes on to say, “So, I guess I liked my roof well enough. Already it had proved itself capable not only of keeping rain off my head, which you’ll have to take my word for, but also of housing the far flung speculations of its builder, whose soundness you can judge for yourself. Thoreau regretted he hadn’t put a somewhat bigger and higher roof over his head at Walden, since ‘you want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make port… Our sentences want room to unfold.’ My roof, my place, promised at least that much: to offer a decent habitation for my thoughts. But something more too, something specific to my life and perhaps my times as well. Out there in this new room of mine, dryly enjoying the summer rain with its fine tang of ozone, it seemed just the place to sit and compose a word or two on behalf of the sights and sounds and senses of this, our still undigitized world.”
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Old 05-26-2015, 03:43 PM   #2
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Harts Draw and The Silver Thread...
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Old 05-26-2015, 04:18 PM   #3
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Beautiful! Move over, here we come! We have sold our house and jettisoned the stuff we don't need or want and will be hitting the road on June 10th! Hope to see you out there someplace, sometime!

Thanks for the pictures and the affirmation of your choice. I am sure we will be right there with you in our assessment.

John
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Old 05-26-2015, 04:24 PM   #4
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Congratulations John on your big jump!

Just let me know if it's "Roll Tide" or "War Eagle" before we cross paths.

Jeff
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Old 05-26-2015, 05:47 PM   #5
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Great pictures.

Life is good, yes?


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Old 05-26-2015, 05:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by westcoastas View Post
Congratulations John on your big jump!

Just let me know if it's "Roll Tide" or "War Eagle" before we cross paths.

Jeff
Ahem...it is Geaux Tigers!
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Old 05-26-2015, 06:04 PM   #7
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Nice write up. Curious on item #1. It sounds like you dump your fresh water tank if you have to travel any distance. Any particular reason that you do that?
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Old 05-26-2015, 06:13 PM   #8
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Great pix and inspiration! Are you satisfied with the Tundra as a TV? We're pulling our 25FB with a 2011 4WD tundra?
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Old 05-26-2015, 06:14 PM   #9
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Great update and wonderful pics! Happy Travels!
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Old 05-26-2015, 06:52 PM   #10
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Ghayes I wondered about that also. I took it to mean their gray tank. We'll see
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Old 05-26-2015, 08:26 PM   #11
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Oh la vache, mrprez! A Mad Hatter fan! After living and dying with Coach Miles, life on the road should be a cinch!

As for emptying perfectly fine fresh water, some of the unknown (to us) portions of our travels required going up and down some steep grades (Scenic Byway 12 in Utah and Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado), so I lessened the load in the trailer by opening the fresh water stopcock below and left the stored water jugs full over our tow vehicle rear axle in case we couldn't find water near our disperse camping spot; we always dumped gray and black water at a campground before travel over a big grade. Btw, the brakes were pulsing big time going down the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, even in 3rd gear.

I don't know when the Tundras went to 5.7L but so far the 2012 has pulled our 28-footer loaded at 7,000 lbs fine while fully loaded itself in the bed. We have a transmission cooler that came with the truck as well as trailer brakes hooked up. The one time I used the 4WD while towing was up a short, sorta steep S-curve on a BLM dirt road (pictured) but the truck probably could have towed it up without it. I'm still learning the limits of the towing capacity and hopefully will never find out.
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Old 05-26-2015, 08:27 PM   #12
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And yes, Maggie, it sure is.

Thanks.
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Old 05-26-2015, 08:38 PM   #13
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Great write up, we're one month in now. Maybe we'll see you guys when we make it out west this summer.
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Old 05-27-2015, 06:14 AM   #14
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For those of you out there roaming this beautiful country of ours.....the Moraine View rally is the second weekend in June......Leroy, Il, off Interstate 74.

Good folks, longstanding rally.

Come by and introduce thyselves, if you're in the neighborhood.



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