The Beginning Of The Journey

Living as gypsies for the summer between selling our house and moving east.

pexels-photo-696680We sold our house in May 2017. We needed to close before we could make a decision on a new place to live. We didn’t know how much cash we would walk away with after everything was said and done at the old place. I cruised craigslist for a couple of weeks looking for a trailer to live for the summer. Little did I know we would end up living in it for an entire year.

I saw one that caught my eye. It was a 20′ Jayco Lite with 2 canvas fold outs. It seemed sound to me, and had a few amenities we liked so we bought it. My son and I picked it up one evening and slowly pulled it out for it’s long adventure over the mountains to a new home.

I hadn’t pulled a trailer in years. The last time was with a 1962 Shasta hitched to a tiny Ford Escort with nothing but a chain-on hitch. That was a nightmare. It was me and my previous husband with 2  friends in the back seat. At one point the car began violently wavering back and forth along with the trailer behind us. Everyone yelled “pull over, pull over!” at once and I’m at the helm trying to gently coast the contraption slowly over to the side of the road. No sudden turns here.

I don’t know how we got that thing home. We took it on many a camping trip up the local county road to the national forest where we were mistaken repeatedly for meth cookers.  One time, we had been in town and were heading back out to camp with our supplies when a bunch of Sheriffs drove by fast. We were used to the routine at that point and I think we may have turned around and gone home until the smoke blew over.

Another time, I was taking a nap in the Shasta with my 6 month old baby and 8 year old son when I heard “I know you’re in there. Come out”. I got up and went outside with my infant in my arms and my son. Robocop was there with a man who seemed really embarrassed for the cop. He stood sheepishly near the squad car. Probably a ride-a-long.

Upon seeing the obvious threat we were, the cop proceeded to reem me a new one for having a BB gun leaning up against a tree stump. Apparently, the barrel was slanting slightly too far towards an adjacent abandoned camp site. Ooooooh. “Breaking the law breaking the law”. He asked for my ID while I kept stealing looks at the poor guy who had accompanied the sheriff as he almost visually winced at the “fail” factor on the cop’s part.

After running my ID and finding no evidence that me and my children were cooking meth, he proceeded to chew me out for having a messy campground.

Well, I didn’t take to kindly to the robo-incident and complained loudly to the sheriff’s department the next day when I went into town. I happened to run into the robotard going the other way while heading back to camp. I waved him down and let him know I’d complained. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. What an asshole. I don’t like authority figures who abuse their positions and scare the crap out of 8 year old children.

The Shasta finally met it’s demise after we began storing it in an unofficial yard where, ironically, meth cookers moved in next to it and trashed it. We hauled it down to an RV reclamation site down south. It was a good little trailer. 🙁 I won’t miss the busts though.

Back to new trailer. I was a little nervous hauling a rig for the first time in quite a while so both me and my son kept looking out the back window to make sure it was still behind us. It became a joke, saying “it’s still there”.

Out away from town and into the foothills near our old home we drove. Trailer still behind us. There was a truck stop near the entrance to the county road we followed to get to where we were setting up house. It had showers for only 14.00 a pop, a laundry, and a sort of gift shop setup with everything a trucker might want to ease their travels.

We stopped and “watered” the trailer before we headed out for the last leg of our day’s journey. It was getting dark and we wanted to get this rig out to where we were going to settle for the next couple of weeks before late.

The county just happened to be paving the dirt road out and had these annoying little red cones right smack in the middle of the entire length of the narrow road. I had to maneuver the damned trailer carefully around every single one of those things. We took a couple of them out. By accident, of course.

At one point we came to an already very narrow bridge that had been turned into a one-lane. I slowly rolled up to it, sizing the situation up in my head. It looked like I would have about 5 or 6 inches to spare on each side of the trailer. Some skill would be needed. Or stupidity. What if we got the rig stuck halfway over the bridge? I didn’t want to think about it and rolled forward, my son cheering me on. Gritting my teeth with my fingers breaking the steering wheel, we moved forward at a moderate speed. I figured if we had a little momentum, if we scraped maybe we’d be less likely to get lodged in place. Yes, speed would help us in a jam. Can you imagine if we’d funneled into the far end of the bridge? Oh my God. Better not to think about it.

Somehow we did it. We made it. As I recollect, we opted to pull into a regular campground that first night just to make things easier. Backing up the rig…I’m not so good at that but it happened.

Tucked in for the first night on the road to a new life.

I’m beginning to realize that there is so much to write about, I’m going to have to continue this in another post. Many many many strange and unusual things seem to happen with our family. I’ve been told countless times I should write a book. Again, a blog will do.

Next in “The Beginning”

  • Camping neighbors from hell.
  • Are you sure that’s the cat?
  • The limousine.
  • The glass menagerie.
  • The bear and the guy in the pickup.
  • Teenage drivers.
  • Crystal hunting!
  • Hopping campgrounds and really grouchy hosts.
  • Bartering with the really nice campground hosts.
  • Panning for pyrite.
  • The rocky beach trail.
  • I realized with horror one evening that we were going to be dealing with freezing temperatures and snow with canvas pullouts.

Bridgette The Truck

She waited proudly for her turn at the mechanic. There was only one problem….

We saw her in town yesterday; tucked in amongst the other vehicles being serviced at the auto mechanic. Only her tail end sticking out, we could tell she was feeling fine with her nose in the oats while they fixed her innards. I swear she has a personality and that she was standing up especially tall;  her bed crammed and bulging with a huge load of stinking garbage.

My husband and I were on our way to the dump with a half year’s garbage  when she started acting up. We had to turn around immediately and get her back home. My husband made an appointment with a shop right away but rather than empty the carefully compacted and piled-high garbage, he decided to take her in just as she was.

She sat at the shop for two weeks with that garbage baking away waiting for her turn. They had her on the cancellation list so she waited at the curb across the street but then they moved her closer to the shop. Every time my husband would see her while driving in town, he would cringe and mutter something about how “I couldn’t help it, I was on my way to the dump when she got sick”. I just point and laugh.

She’s supposed to be ready today. I’m popping the popcorn and grabbing my soda. I’ll be  hunched in a dark corner of our car, eyes darting back and forth, watching the doings as my husband picks her up. I want to know the obvious; how bad was the stench and are they going to give him grief about it? Will we ever be able to get the smell out?

Bridgette is a 1986 Ford F-250 pickup with a 460 engine and some Edelbrock under the hood. She is my husband’s other woman. He says she is sexy. I sometimes slip up and call her Gertrude or Gidget or whatever comes to mind but I always apologize to her immediately. She’s a good girl and has done us well. I don’t want to be on her bad side.

My husband acquired her as part of a deal where we helped a guy move out of his house. The man no longer had room for her and was in a pinch so Bridgette was offered as part of payment for the move out.

She was covered in green moss and her back was full of garbage when we first saw her.  My husband took soap and a toothbrush to her lines and hosed out her backside. A friend of ours gave her a once over with a tuneup and took her for a nice blast down the street, burning rubber. Man that engine is tough! I’m a chick and I even think she’s bad-ass.

She has also been indispensable.

She steadfastly delivered us and our trailer over the mountains from our temporary summer home near Snoqualmie Pass over the nights of September 17th and 18th, 2017 and they were memorable.

The moment we decided it was time to hit the road, it started raining. We packed her and the trailer up in a deluge. It was evening when we finally hit I-90 and headed up the fairly steep grade toward the pass. Then her headlights suddenly began to flicker on and off and panic ensued.

We had to pull over on the side of a major interstate. Thank God traffic was light. We popped the hood and messed around with the various wires, looking for something obvious that may have come lose. We found a wire coming out of the battery and tightened it and got the wagon train moving again. Everything was fine until I turned on the brights. That was the problem; the brights wouldn’t stay on.

We stopped at the pass for gas and messed around with the wires some more without any luck . I had to role up my driver’s side window which meant breaking into the door panel of the truck and manually pushing the window up. The decision was made to drive the rest of the trip over the night with only the low beams. I was driving and I couldn’t see much past the short strip of light so our trip turned from about a 7 hour to an 11 hour voyage because I had to drive slowly.

I was so relieved when I saw the first rays of morning light coming from the east. We were almost to Colville at that point and tired and grouchy. We just had to find our home as we had only been there once. Long story short; we couldn’t find our place on Google maps but our son found it. We were almost there…going up a long hill when we realized a previous washout had dead ended the road.

My nerves were frayed beyond frayed at that point and I had to back up the rig on a hill into a dirt area on an incline, pray that the tires would hold going forward again (thank GOD they did), and we turned around and chugged back down the hill. Luckily we managed to find another way up the hill to our new home.

Bridgette had done it. She was the hero of the day.

I could go into to multitude of stories about Gidget, I mean, Bridgette. She also got a flat tire whilst pulling the rig up a one lane road near a place where we had been camping. It was just my son and I that day and we had to limp her up the hill to a safe spot to pull over. We unhooked the trailer and AAA came and picked her up. The tow truck driver recognized her. Apparently, she already had a reputation in the area.

700.00 later in new rear wheels and an extra rim, she was back but we spent two days in our rig on the side of the road just outside of town. Interesting.

So today we pick her up. Oil changed, engine purring like a kitten and reeking of garbage that has percolated for 6 months. We’ll probably drive straight to the dump.

The Spring

The heart of our place.

When we first saw the property, it was late August and everything in eastern Washington was very dry, needless to say. Knowing this, we were trying to decide how we would have access to water. We considered a large tank and delivery. We asked our agent about a well and she said maybe a few hundred feet down we might find water.

I found water at about 1.5 feet.

The day we arrived, I explored every square inch of our newly acquired 3.7 acres and looked for likely spots for water. I had been online getting tips so I looked for green amongst the brown and signs of winter run off ditches. I found one spot on a hill on the property that actually had some green grass growing at that time of year. I decided to dig there.

I can’t remember how long it took; just a couple of hours I think, as there was solid rock right at the surface, but I chipped and dug away and to my disbelief, the soil turned damp and then…actual standing water.

I had found a spring.

It could have been runoff but all signs pointed to spring water as I continued to go a little deeper. It turned out that the whole hillside was either one massive spring with a multitude of outlets or tons of springs all over the hillside. Some sources were larger than others but you could almost dig anywhere up there and find water coming up out of clay tubes and cracks between rocks.

We decided to use it as a water supply and at one point, we trenched a tiny path down the hillside to a larger holding hole we had dug. We used our pump to put water directly into the trailer for washing and just got drinking water either from the city’s standpipe or bought jugs from the store.

All through the winter we got a pretty good flow and measured about 12 or more gallons per minute using the bucket method. Problem is, the flow almost dried up over summer. That’s why we didn’t try to tap it during the colder months. I ended up going down a little deeper during the summer months but we had water all year long!

Come fall, we called contractor after contractor to dig a shallow well to make things official but they were all booked months ahead. Faced with another winter with an amateur setup, we went and got a sediment filter to run the water through before going into the trailers. Our hoses froze last winter so we (as with everything we plan around here), have to think ahead for that. We had that flow all last winter so we’re thinking the only tricky time might be between when the freeze hits and before the water is flowing again. We’ll have to be careful to keep the hoses empty after each use. The water filter too.

Mind you, I know things are a bit dicy with water rights here in Stevens County so I’m still trying to figure out where we stand with all of this legally. We can have a shallow well dug no problem; that’s all we need anyway but I discovered something interesting while digging this summer.

Sure it was hot and there may have been surface runoff somehow making it’s way down well beneath the surface but I began to notice slightly hot spots in places at the bottom of the spring. It was coming up a rock face and was pretty consistent. I felt around day after day with my fingers trying to decide if this might be geothermal activity.

Just a month or two earlier, while looking at geological maps for prospecting purposes, we discovered that not only were we situated in the middle of a series of faults but that, by the look of things, we might be sitting right on top of one! That would explain the springs and, possibly, geothermal activity.

I called WSU’s (Washington State University) geology department and spoke with a geologist there. He seemed to think it might be runoff but trust me, I just have a hunch something else is going on down there. I called an attorney about buying the water rights but it sounds like a complicated process. We’ll see. We want someone to come out and drill to settle the matter of geothermal activity. Maybe next spring?

We’re also considering getting a micro water generator for electricity. More research is needed though.

All in all, we watered our garden all summer by siphoning through hundreds of feet of garden hose to the holding hole, then pumping it out to the sprinkler. Pretty nifty huh? When we dug the garden, we routed the water into the area and created a temporary mud pit to soften the clay rich soil to a point where it was a tad bit easier (bit still almost impossible to turn).

Our spring (or Stevens County’s spring), is the heart of our property. It represents life and hope for us and it’s the place I go when I need to think or just cry. It’s my place: and the yellow jacket’s. I had to share the space with them all summer long in that hole. We managed to get along, somehow, and everyone got their water.

20180928_180511
Looking up the hill with the hose for siphoning.

 

What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter

It was cold and it was solid and it wasn’t letting our dishes go.

25231901698.pngIt lasted for months; the block of ice that contained a good portion of our dishes. I even remember noting the date that the final dish broke free of the ice but I forgot it. Sometime in late spring, I think.

We had sold our house and moved to eastern Washington and were living in a trailer on raw land we bought.

When we first arrived in Colville in September of 2017 we met our neighbors and stories were told of winters in eastern Washington. Temperatures of -40, snow drifts up to the roof of your house. We got the all-knowing nod; the distant look in the eyes of the person who has just learned you are from “the coast” and that they must break the news to you of the impending doom that is winter in Stevens County.

Incidentally, you are from “the coast” if you are any where from the west side of the Cascade mountain range. It doesn’t matter how far inland you are; you are from “the coast”. I may or may not have heard people from that area referred to as “coasties” at one point.

But we heard the stories and they turned out to be true; for the most part. Winter sucked for us. Of course we weren’t prepared and me and our son went to live in an emergency shelter for 3 months while my husband stayed in our trailer on the property with the cat. I’ll go more into winter later but this story is about the block o’ dishes.

Our trailer is a semi piece of crap in that I bought it not really knowing what to look for in a trailer. It was too small and cramped and we had constant issues with the pipes. I can’t remember exactly why but I was doing dishes outside the trailer in the freezing cold. Things would freeze right up if I left them outside.

I think I’d come to get the dishes from the trailer to bring to the shelter when I piled them up in a tupperware sort of container just to get them out of the trailer. Our pipes had frozen up with no way to wash the them. I don’t remember exactly what happened but they sat in that container ready to go for a couple of days and, of course, the snow and/or rain happened. Before long they became one with a massive block of ice. And it was heavy.

Forks sticking out, pans, scrubbys; all manner of dinnerware was stuck in the berg and it was solid. No breaking it up because there was plastic, glass; things that would break if you did that. It ended up sitting there for a good couple of months before the spring thaw finally gave any hope of it melting. We must have bought more dishes or used what we had left but that thing didn’t finally release it’s icy grasp on the last dish until well into spring. I remember when it finally started breaking into smaller pieces that I could bring inside and run hot water over (we must have fixed the water system by that time).

This year we will be prepared. We are insulating.

Next post: Insulating or preparing for Armageddon?

 

More highlights coming:

  • The case of the missing coffee pot strainer lid
  • Mice: A trailer is a great source of food and nesting material
  • The cat – Asshole
  • Gobblers!
  • Deer: at first they were cute until they ate our garden

 

snow fun Not directly related picture of snow sculptures I made last winter to add interest to this blog. Hah!

Insulating For Snowmageddon

I’m trying to be “responsible”. I aspire to be more responsible. To plan things out and make them happen in a timely manner. Like getting ready for winter. I’ve found over the last year that not having a lot of money makes it a lot harder to be responsible. You are more likely to have to make do somehow rather than do what is prescribed but you don’t have a choice and you do your best and that is that.

Having more money on the other hand, makes being responsible a lot easier. If you need parts, money for fees and bills etc, life is a lot easier. This now means Amazon is my new BFF. We put up signs pointing to our property to make life easier on the UPS guy and took down various branches and one tree so he wouldn’t continue to scrape the crap out of his truck. In winter, we will have to pick up our packages in town.

We have ordered appliances, parts, supplies…things to improve our living situation out here including a solar power system and the questionable water heater. We’ve been debating about the best ways to insulate the big rv and the smaller one our son insists he wants to continue to live in for privacy.

The small trailer is much easier to insulate but the fifth wheel is like a barn on wheels. We have to find all the cracks and fill them in, skirt the lower perimeter to keep wind from circulating underneath, find a way to keep the “basement” warm (that’s what they call the lower storage compartment of a fifth wheel), etc. etc. etc.

I have had my head crammed in RV forums and on Youtube for weeks now trying to figure out the best way to do this. For skirting: foam board vs RV cloth skirting vs straw bales vs snap-on stuff vs vs vs vs. What kind of heater and where? Gotta keep those tanks from freezing. The water lines also.

When I told our counselor about this decision making process he asked if we were planning on -40 degree weather for weeks. I told him “yes, we were”. And snow up to the roof. No repeats of last winter when our trailer turned into an ice cube and half of us had to leave for town!

Must insulate: bubble wrap on the windows, a full body storage RV wrap..just wrap that whole sucker up baby, new seal on the front door, use that digital thermometer to get readings on the surfaces to find those air leaks, Great Stuff spray foam everywhere! Make sure all hatches are secure and maybe replace the doors with that foam board, insulate the pipes and the water pump, make sure the drains and outside hoses don’t freeze..but how?

Think The Ants and the Grasshopper. I don’t want to be the grasshopper freezing to death. Not this time. No repeats of being on my way to my first day of work and getting a call from my husband saying “I’m stuck in the trailer. The door is frozen shut!”

Better overkill than under. Winter is a comin’.

Goose On The Lose On Gold Creek Loop

Honkers

Posted To Local Facebook Group on Febrary 3rd, 2018……

“Goose on the loose on Gold Creek Loop.

Neighbors big white goose followed me and my husband up Gold Creek Loop about a mile from Corbett Creek road couple of weeks ago. He’s missing now. We thought he’d have the sense to return the whole half a block home but no, he seems to have upped and runned. We couldn’t turn back at the time and feel terrible. He might come to the name “Honkers” or message me if you know any thing.”

We met Honkers the first week after we moved in. He was a hefty white domestic goose with a lot of character. He seemed quirky like us and we quickly “adopted” him as the security system and gate guard.

He belonged to the neighbors who lived on the road going onto our property. You had to drive past their house on a common road to get to our gate. Honkers had a penchant for cutting us off while driving by and we had to start figuring in extra time when we left for the battle to pass. He came to know us and the sound of our truck and we were soon obligated to stop and say hi to him and a quick pet.

We were told by his owner that he had survived an attack by a predator and being hit by the owner’s vehicle. He would waddle up the dirt road next to my husband and they looked adorable together. I regret I can’t seem to find any pictures or videos of them.

Then one winter day, me and my husband were frantically trying to get our truck out of the long driveway, around the corner, and up the hill of the main road during a snow storm when Honkers waddled out. We were extremely stressed out and taking turns pushing the truck up the slick road but seeing Honkers was both funny and dismaying at the same time. He needed to go back.

By the time we got the truck to the top of the hill and hopped in, we didn’t have time to have one of us hop out and usher the goose back to the driveway just down the road. We thought he would have the sense to just turn around and go back home but he didn’t.

We’d like to think that Honkers found some other geese to fly away with but no one really knows as we never saw him again after that day. Miss you Honkers 🙂

Next: The Spring

The Beginning

How we got here.

My counselor told me to write a book so I’m writing a blog instead. I meant to start it a year ago but being at the bottom of the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs delayed things a bit.

Segue.

How we got here and what happened next:

The following stories are about how our family sold our home in suburbia and ended up off grid on the other side of the state a few months later; not for any philosophical reason or really on purpose. We like the outdoors and the quiet so we bought property that met our expectations only it didn’t come with a house, water, electricity, or sewer.

We packed ourselves into a twenty-foot trailer for the summer after we sold the house and really thought it was temporary. The three of us lived in that damned thing for a year. It had canvas pullouts and I remember waking up one mid-summer night in horror when it hit me we would be living in this cloth covered rig over the winter. I was right to be nervous.

Oh yes, who are “we”? “We” are a married couple with a fifteen-year- old son and two cats. We’re eccentric but we like that condition although we sometimes bite off more than we can chew.

Moving to raw land meant we had to learn how to live without things such as electricity and water from the city although we’re far from really roughing it. We finally have the internet. It took a year and three downed trees to pull that one off.

We lived off Wi-Fi for months. It became us vs the Google data pig.  Then the neighbors let us use their connection until we got into a fight and they changed their password.  Our trailer was just far enough away from their Wi-Fi that we could only get a signal from my husband’s spot in our bed – if it wasn’t raining.

For water we got lucky. We found it on our property and dug a spring.

For power we used a gas generator in addition to setting up a solar power system. Solar is a love-hate relationship with us but we’re not ready to break up. It took some doing to set it up but we now know nothing comes easily out here.

When you have to wake up at 6:00 am to put gas in the generator or spend two hours thawing hoses so you can refill the water tank you find yourself missing the amenities of the “civilized” world.

Then there’s the human factor of living off grid.  Like the new extremes in the weather in eastern Washington as opposed to those of the moderate rain belt we moved from, the emotional highs and lows have been in stronger contrast.

Blistering hot summers and frigid winters have been mirrored by a new deeper sense of happiness but bought and paid for with days and weeks of depression. I hope the depressed part is mostly behind me. I’m ready for the kiddie rides after the roller coaster that was our first year.

We arrived at our new property in September of 2017. It was autumn and we were very low on our budget. Still, it was new and fun and I repeatedly thought to myself “this might make for some good reading” and I made plans to start a blog.

Then winter came on fierce and with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. We experienced a reality smack-down like no other and any ideas I had of the self actualization of “artfully” documenting our adventures disappeared under the snow along with most of our worldly possessions.  I was too busy crying.

Zero degree temperatures forced us to make the decision to relocate my son and I to an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cat.

Three months later, we came back to the property  and picked up where we left off; still struggling financially and with very little to work with. Spring, then summer came with new challenges. We got a crash course on ticks and dealt with hordes of Yellow Jackets. The heat, and a continuing feeling of oppression made summer one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works.

We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden. We dug the spring and water delivery system. We used antiques we found buried on our land to construct things we needed such as the fence to our garden.  We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.

Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.

As fall arrived, our “eggs” began to hatch and we were finally able to make some huge changes to our living conditions and begin to build, literally and figuratively, the quality of our lives. We could stop trying to just survive and begin to live. 

It was time to take up that blog again…..

We’ve accomplished a lot since fall. We now have a solar power system, generators, a large shed, an upgraded RV (we decided to put off building until spring), and other necessities. We have a fireplace to  sit by, a wood pile, larger propane tanks and other means for which to stay comfortable and dry for the winter. So far, so good as of January 2019.

We have lot’s of plans going forward. We are excited and ready.

I’ve edited this first post several times and didn’t want to give up my original bullet list outline so though it may be a little redundant, here it is:

  • We are a husband and wife with a teenager who sold their house in western Washington and moved to eastern Washington.
  • We have two cats and want a dog but not before we put up a fence.
  • We are not perfect. Far from it.
  • We don’t care that we are not perfect and we are known to swear but we are nice people (although one neighbor said we are evil).
  • We sold our house in May 2017
  • We lived in a trailer all summer while we looked for property
  • We found property we liked. It “spoke to” my husband 🙂
  • We moved onto the property and continued to live in the trailer
  • We had a major reality check as fall progressed
  • We weren’t very well prepared financially and some things happened that made it worse but things are better now 🙂
  • We made the best of things but winter sucked
  • Summer then sucked
  • Fall is here and we’re doing WAY better but some things still suck but most things DON’T suck anymore

I love humor and aspire to write in the style of Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. I try to write poetry and you’ll find some in these pages although of a somewhat unconventional nature.

Now that I’ve acquainted you with our story, I hope you’ll enjoy those that follow.