It's been a while since I've updated the blog and I thought now would be a good time to share a bit of some inside info on what's really been going on. My weekdays are now consumed by going to what Katie refers to as "my fake job". Fake in the sense that because I work with my dad I must just get to screw off the whole time. The reality is in fact that I work my ass off at this place. I've taken it upon myself to set the pace of the work environment when I'm there. Things are in a constant state of movement and the plant is coming together nicely. In just a couple of short weeks there will be pre-packaged sandwiches and beef jerky pouring out of this plant and into the hands of consumers. My current role is constructor-in-chief. It's a self made title that basically means I've got to be able to build it all, whenever it is needed. It's strange to go back to construction as my means of income. Approximately ten years have passed since that was my last official title. Funny how the world work out.
sIn between the hours of work there is still real life things that need to be taken care of. We have moved into the house and Roo needs to be put away for the winter. Katie stripped the ol' girl of all our worldly things and placed them into the new abode. After that she gets a good cleaning and all of the plumbing systems get winterized. Part of the winter process is stripping off all of the parts I added to make our trip better. The focus changes to all of our improvements. There's no sense in leaving these expensive add-ons for the next owner. The strip down process takes me to the propane tank where I had added an extend-a-stay kit. I pulled off the regulator from the tank and some goo starts to drip out. That's not good. Propane is a gas.. not goo. A quick google search tells me that it's a result of overfilling the tank and all of the chemicals to make the propane stink have accumulated and sat in the lines. No big deal though. I let it drain out and hook the regulator back up. All is well.
Roo gets parked on the street after her full washdown and I can't help but snap a picture. It's a polarizing moment. Our house on wheels is parked in front of our house on bricks. She's been so good to us. It feels as though we have given up on her and that breaks my heart. The miles of asphalt under her wheels have taken us on the greatest trip of our lives. Now she sits under the cloudy sky in cold temps waiting to be put away.
Faithful she has always been.
Resiliency she has always provided.
Security she has always encompassed us with.
We will miss the miles you delivered under our feet my dear. We both shed a tear for the loss of our travels together. Know that we love you, and all that you have given us.
There are things in life you take for granted. Running water, flushing toilets, and hot showers. For most people these things are everyday life activities that are basically forgotten. I would be willing to bet that less than 1% of people out there worry about having running water still working in the house. Perhaps less than 1% of people out there contemplate whether or not the hot water heater has exploded and left a torrential flood in the basement during there work day. These are things I currently think about with the house in it's current state of disarray. To thwart the ever pressing thoughts of peril I took the pro-active approach and replaced the 12 year old water heater with a brand spankin new one.
Is it propped up off the floor on bricks? Yes it is. Is that the correct way to do things? NO it is not. However sometimes you've got to make do with what you got. The water heater will be placed into a code correct position somewhere else in the renovation timeline. For now it's good enough. That means I don't have to have all of those plumbing conundrum nightmares racing through my head on the way home from work.
This is it. The swanky new house in New Athens Il. For a grand sum of $27,500 we picked up a house that was still standing and hasn't been condemned. Built in 1892 it definitely shows it's signs of age on the inside. Due to the many problems with it we had to pony up the cash out of our own pockets. No bank is going to touch this decrepit monster.
After the signing party we headed from the realtor's office to the house to check it out. This flip will be a little different than anything else we've done so far. Our offer was placed on this house sight unseen, and this would be the first time laid eyes on it. We took a ten minute look around and then went back to my dad's house. Roo was uprooted from her resting spot and driven towards her replacement. We'll be boondocking in our own back yard until a few things get fixed. The city water valve is leaking horribly and we can't use water in the house.
My attention turns towards the electrical box as I scan through the labels looking for AC. I decided to tap into the AC power on the outside of the house to wire in the RV outlet so we can continue to live like normal for the next few days. Turns out that was a bad idea.
The screwdriver above isn't being held by me. It's welded into the box. Yep. Welded in there. Turns out the breakers weren't labeled correctly and shame on me for not double checking the power. I disconnected a fully hot wire from the box which then touched the screwdriver and arc welded itself to the ground screws. Oops. Hopefully the rest of the flip won't be so exciting.
Four days ago we were in Houston Texas enjoying what could have been a 75° day of absolute bliss. Instead we woke up to a 20° morning with a 20 mph wind blowing across the parking lot. The weather decided to throw a bit of wispy snow in for good measure. I went out to start the truck and all I heard was "click". Nothing. No start. Son of a bitch, I'm 450 miles from home and the truck won't start. I headed inside and broke the good news to Katie. After walking around the motel room flipping through truck forums I came to the conclusion that the starter was most likely crap. Typically when this happens you can just smack it with a hammer and it starts. Well, I didn't have any tools with me. So another 20 or so turns of the key did the trick and it finally fired off.
From here we traveled about 60 miles west to one of my dad's properties to drop off the tractor and trailer in order to grab our enclosed trailer that had a bunch of our housewares in it. I turned the corner and checked my mirrors like I always do. I noticed that the one of the rear tires was sticking out further than normal. Within seconds I saw the tire roll right off the trailer and pass me on the highway and slowly roll into the ditch.
The bearings had seized up and broke the hub in half. I can honestly say it's the first time I've ever seen this.
I was able to hobble to the old restaurant and drop the trailer off with little fanfare. The parts will be ordered and I'll slap on a new hub assembly when we get up to grab the combo on another trip. For now the enclosed trailer will be strapped onto the "Beast" and driven home. For those of you not in the know the "Beast" is a nickname my old neighbor Mario coined for my truck. She's a 2009 Dodge 2500 regular cab diesel. Equipped with a 6 speed manual trans and 4 wheel drive she's nothing to snuff at. Especially after the full emissions delete and custom tune to make it a little more fun to drive.
And drive we did. Another 450 miles of pounding the asphalt would lead us back to St. Louis to continue the set up of our new lives. Upon our arrival we were greeted with another treat. The main furnace for the RV stopped working around 2000. A ceramic ignitor had failed and would no longer light the fire needed to keep us warm. It just so happens that I had already ordered an identical part weeks ago for the secondary furnace that suffered from the same problem. With the ignitor in my hand the repair was able to be made in a few minutes. The heat was back on and life was good.
Let's recap the day:
With Roo parked at my old man's house we needed to start putting the pieces back together of a normal life. Our late arrival meant I had to wedge the 40' rig into a tight twisty driveway in the dark. The very next morning came up and we were on the road by 0700. The goal for the day was to turn Shirley's tires and get to the our parents shop to grab the truck, trailer, tractor, and Katie's car out of storage.
Let me digress for a second. "Our parents" is a phrase we coined for our particular situation. I'll try to keep this as simple as I can for you guys who don't know how Katie and I met.
Okay, back to the story. We got to our parents place late in the day and pulled my truck and Katie's car out of storage. Shirley had to do her share of the grunt work. The building was a bit tight and I asked her to move 7,000 lbs of load around the tight quarters.
Shirley did her job and moved around in the cold weather like she's done it everyday. A week ago she was driving through Houston, today shes moving trailers in 20 degree weather. For the grand finale we grabbed my truck and headed towards Waupaca, WI. There we picked up a hotel room for the night and let Eli have his very own bed. That's one happy dog. The next day however is a different story...
It is a beautiful late fall morning in northern Arkansas. The air is crisp and we awoke to the naked trees bristling in the wind. A glance through the front windshield during our morning coffee reveals a sight we were not prepared for. A stark white school bus with two white trucks arrive just to the left of our campsite. A bakers dozen of men in white jumpsuits come out of the bus and start raking the leaves that have fallen from the frost. Then a gentleman in blue appears and seems to give direction to the working men. He carries himself as a stern man which is only exacerbated by the gun on his hip. WTF? Why the hell does this guy have a gun? Oh shit... there are a dozen prisoners walking around our RV looking through the window. Thanks Arkansas. We're so glad we paid $27 to wake up to your prisoners cleaning the leaves in front of our RV.
This is how we end our RV trip. After all the days on the road this was probably the sketchiest thing to we have woken up to unexpectedly. From here out it was time to burn some miles and end up at my dad's house just outside St. Louis. We parked for the night and came to the realization that this was it. It was over, and our journey had just entered chapter 2.
What lies forth from here remains unkown to me and my dear wife. Will I continue the blog? I don't know. Will we hit the road again next year? You can bet your ass we will. For now I must depart with this: Thanks for reading and paying attention to our travels. It's been my pleasure to fill you in on the tidbits of our life. Hopefully, somehow, some way, this journey will continue on for years to come.
Although we are headed to St. Louis for work that doesn't mean we should stop enjoying the trip. This would prove itself to be the weirdest National Park I've experienced yet. The land owned by the federal government is literally in the town of Hot Springs.
It's the least preserved feeling National Park of all. The main attractions of the park consist of bathouses from the early 1900's that used the natural springs to lure in customers. Today approximately 3/4 of these buildings are privately owned and still ran as businesses. One of the buildings has been turned into the visitor center and invites guest to take a walk back to the early 1900's. Keep in mind as you scroll through the following pictures: this was the lap of luxury back then.
After a couple hours of moseying around it was time to hit the streets and check out a real hot spring. Here's one behind a bathhouse still doing it's thing today.
With another National Park knocked out it was time to hit the road. By 1400 we were stacking on the miles and heading north toward Jacksonport Arkansas. They've got room for big RV's at a state park and we want a decent place to stay for the night. This will be our last night on the road and we don't want it to suck. Yep.... last night on the road. A somber thought considering this was supposed to be a year long trip. By the time we got there it was 1700. The weather had stayed cold and gloomy for most of the drive. We parked and did our normal set up to settle in for the night. A storm was on it's way in and we were both excited about that. This would be the first time we had seen rain since the Redwoods almost two months ago. We'll get to experience it all to ourselves. Nobody else is stupid enough to go camping in the cold weather.
The time had come to hit the bricks and make our way towards St. Louis. The house closing was coming up soon and we had some miles to start stacking on. We left Houston bright and early and were jamming through the gears by 0800. Mile after mile clicked by as the vast expanse of Texas rolled by through the windshield. We had no plan. No destination in mind. The goal for the day was to gain as much traction northward as possible. It was late in the day when we finally rolled into Hot Springs Arkansas. Four hundred miles of asphalt passed beneath Roo's tires before we laid the old girl to rest for the day. Our arrival at 1700 was to little fan fare. The park was almost empty and signs of late fall were abound. All of the trees had shuddered their leaves due to the cold. We went from summer to late fall in a single day. The low temps took us by surprise and reminded us that we were headed back to the land of winter and frost.
One of the reasons we stopped to see my old pal was his invitation to go sailing. Tony has always been a man of the sea and considers himself a sailor. Prior to setting off for the marina we had to make a few pitstops to stock up. One of the stops was at the local market to pick up some bay caught shrimp that was still whole. That means it has the head and all the guts attached to it.
Afterwards it was off to the Kemah district to indulge in the marina.
Here the boat rests at it's dock as the loving hands of Tony and Jen bring it back to life. The 30 ft Catalina started off in it's new life as a rough project. She was half sunk and full of mold upon their declaration of ownership. Following a full engine rebuild, and a cabin to hull cleaning it was ready to set sail. Amidst it's upgrades she departed from the dock and took us out to open water.
Out across the bay we saw other boats and a couple of oil platforms in the bay. Autonomous drilling rigs out here pump the sweet crude back to the mainland without a soul on board. It's kind of a creepy thought. Heading around the circle and back to the marina we pulled in for the night and started dinner.
Tequila marinated shrimp was the reward for our day on the water. Eli agreed this was a good idea and was happy to see the dock again. I'm pretty sure he's not an animal that would acclimate to the sea life.
The rest of the night was sitting around and just hanging out with friends. Overall a good time in southern Texas. Regardless of our time their, we still haven't seen the real Houston.
This post will be short. Just a day hanging out with Tony working on his girlfriend house. We spent the afternoon working on the bathroom and trying to get it set up for a tub. The walls were too wide, the plumbing was off center, and the floor was uneven. Another adventure of working on someone else's poor planning. We capped the day off with the local mexican joint right across the street.
I'm just a guy, with a wife, a dog, and three cats. Watch us travel the country.
Months of travel
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