Our 2013 journey (not mobile friendly – sorry!)

– Anthony, Dauphin Island, Alabama

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No more projects

home-project-drawings

Like many people on a Friday evening I have been geeking out with Evernote. I started learning about the Evernote Smart Notebook and that rapidly devolved a document curation effort.

I sorted through some old notebooks and moved them into my “archive” stack, which is the precursor to deletion. One of the notebooks I archived was “home projects” – the place where I cataloged and planned the many self-inflicted and unnecessary projects for our former house in Iowa.

The planning note shows 56 projects scheduled by year and quarter. These included planting trees, landscaping, two decks (and pergola, naturally), more than one patio, new moulding, cabinetry, flooring, appliances. Even a storm shelter which would double as a safe room. You never know.

I never formally estimated the total cost but it would have run into many tens – nay hundreds – of thousands, over the years. Likely as much as the house cost to buy in the first place.

Does that make sense? No. Perhaps it did if I could convince yourself, all evidence to the contrary, that I’d live in my house forever.

So our homes are projects with no end. We build them up as a representation of ourselves. Truthfully I suppose they are. We think about what others will think of us – the outward representations. Is this a tidy person? Is this a creative person? Is this a wealthy person? A friendly person? A welcoming person?

There are also introspective drivers. Nostalgia perhaps, dreams of a warm cozy fire on a snowy winter evening, or whatever Southern Living has put in our head at that moment.

All of this feeds some form of OCD. Your home becomes a museum of your life. It consumes all your money and all your time.

I know this problem is true for many. There are blogs dedicated to dedicating your life to your home. I suppose the question is whether this is a positive or a negative and I also suppose the answer depends on what’s important to you. Consuming and a source of great joy? Positive. Consuming and not important? Negative. For me the latter.

One interesting perspective is put forward by Robert Platt Bell, author of the enjoyable, refreshingly true, “Living Stingy” blog. In summary, treat your home like a rental, not an investment. I tried and couldn’t. Ultimately if I am going to own a home it is going to be a showcase. My name is Anthony and I am a DIY addict. If you have a multi-year project plan, and document even small projects with photographs, you may be too.

Self-diagnosed psychiatric disorders aside and assuming you were to embrace the Bell’s Living Stingy principles, what are you managing? At a minimum there are physical repairs big and small. There is upkeep (yard work, repainting, etc.), insurance, utilities, property tax and in many places an association fee.

When is this worth it? I am not at all convinced that home ownership has any financial benefit, particularly if you move with some frequency. But if it provides great joy, then perhaps it is worth it. Millions have voted with their mortgages in agreement.

For us it wasn’t worth it. So the home project list has been replaced with an Airstream maintenance & repair list, which is almost as long but it has a beginning, an end, and is mainly outsourced to the dealership.

Now, to be clear, we don’t think full-timing in an Airstream is less costly than home ownership. I’ll save that for another post.

– Anthony, Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

New chocks

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Out with the cheap, ugly, plastic yellow chocks from Wal-Mart. In with the new, expensive, surprisingly heavy and very shiny x-chocks! Thanks streamer_j’s mom, what a nice Christmas gift.

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We’re on the move again today – heading south for New Year.

– Anthony, Pomona State Park, Kansas

When you know it’s a bad idea

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The forecast for the next few days is grim. Lows forecast to be something between -8 and -4 (-22 to -20 celcius) depending on the source. But we’ve decided to stay put instead of heading somewhere warmer (Branson, MO in particular). We’re not sure this is a great idea but the roads are dicey. Pick your poison.

Cold weather is a problem in an Airstream. Assuming you have money to burn (on propane), the issue is not comfort. You can keep an Airstream as warm as you like I suppose.

The issue is water. Ultimately water has to come in and it has to leave.

For a while you can live in a closed system. The Airstream has a fresh water tank and both grey and black holding tanks. Two people, living glamorously, can go for a day on the fresh water tank and about the same before needing to dump the grey water. You can typically go for several days – about four – before emptying the black water (sewage) tank. There are extreme-boondockers who can turn a day into a week but we’re not interested in navy showers.

So what? The furnace ductwork in the Airstream has been designed to heat the tanks – fresh water, grey and black. So, theoretically at least, by burning propane you can prevent those tanks from freezing. Our experience in single digit temperatures confirms this.

The difficulty then is bringing in fresh water and eliminating dirty water in sub-freezing temperatures. These are actually two separate problems.

Inbound water is the easier of the two problems to deal with by far. Assuming the campground keeps the water supply turned on, you can ensure the water pipeline remains open by using a heated hose from the spigot to the trailer and a combination of heat wrap/insulation on the spigot itself.

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If we’re only staying a night or two, and temperatures rise above freezing during the day, we’ll usually just fill our fresh water tank and disconnect from the spigot overnight. No big deal and quicker than bothering to insulate the spigot.

Unfortunately outbound water is not an easy problem to deal with. Since the tanks themselves are theoretically heated by the furnace, the main problem is the exposed drain pipes. These are made of some sort of plastic and always freeze. There is a danger of them becoming damaged as a result, although we have been fortunate.

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When (not if) these pipes freeze you must resort to a hair dryer, heat gun or similar. We come at it from both ends and put boiling water down the sinks/toilet at the same time as heating from the outside.

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Ideally though you want to prevent the drain pipes from freezing in the first place. There are a few options here.

First you can go all out, skirt in the bottom of the trailer with some insulating material and add a heat source. ok if you are situated permanently but not really an option for streamers on the go.

Second there are some interesting options using heating pads or crafting a light-bulb based heating contraption between the dump valves.

Third, you can attempt to fill the drain pipes with anti-freeze. Since anti-freeze is denser than water, if you dump anti-freeze into the tanks it should, theoretically, settle at the lowest point (the exposed drain pipes), keeping the water itself in the heated area.

The third option is how we do it. After emptying the tanks we put three gallons of anti-freeze into the black and two gallons into the grey. Airstream suggests one gallon each. We’ll have a real test tonight.

– Anthony, Pomona State Park, Kansas. 25 degrees.

We’re houseless

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

On December 6th we sold our house. Closed without any fuss. We hope the new owners love it.

For us it was surprisingly uneventful after a few hard days emptying and cleaning the week before. We handled the entire transaction remotely from Arkansas and haven’t looked back. I thought there would be more panic.

We brought too much from the house so we just completed our first Airstream declutter. Out with a labeller, some large backpacks, books (if e-version available, out it went), ironing board, measuring jug, mouse, mouse pad and more. Tools next.

The biggest storage hogs are our folding bikes, dive gear and a large suitcase, between them filling up the entire truck bed. But the bikes and dive gear are must-stays. Thinking about a Thule rooftop carrier for the truck but reluctant to add any height to it.

– Anthony, Southwest Flight 724 above Indianapolis

Are we in the South?

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“So where is the South? Well, that depends on which South you’re talking about. Some places are Southern by anybody’s reckoning, to be sure, but at the edges it’s hard to say where the South is because people have different ideas about what it is. And most of those ideas are correct, or at least useful, for some purpose or other.” – John Shelton Reed.

It’s been fun to think about this question over the years. I have seen southern traits in places I didn’t expect to – southern Illinois, for example. And there are almost entire states that are apparently part of the South, but don’t feel at all southern to me – Oklahoma and Texas in particular.

What constitutes “the South” is a topic already tackled by others. By almost every definition, Arkansas is firmly in the South. Some even throw Missouri in at the fringes.

For me the South starts with Pine trees. And Bojangles. By the Bojangles map (below) we are not in the south.

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What about pine trees? The distinct smell when you get off the plane in much of the South the summer. In the map below, states where the Loblolly Pine is found are shaded dark green, with the actual counties where the Pines are found shaded light green.

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Although I haven’t investigated this thoroughly, I suspect there are some anomalies due to human plantation: the bright green in the middle of Oklahoma, for example, where Oklahoma City lies. But generally light green marks the south, for me.

So are we in the South? Not by my map. We are in Conway County, Arkansas, which is dark green. The county to the south is Perry County, which is a light green. So we’re very close. In the map below you can see the county line at the bottom. We are on the shore of Lake Bailey.

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So we have failed the Bojangles test and the Loblolly Pine test (but just barely). We’re still in the Mid-West.

– Anthony, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas