Tornadoes, cousins and the cats we love.

Recently we migrated from Oklahoma, down through Texas, across Louisiana, and to Demopolis Alabama. The drive from Oklahoma was nice, we love the windshield time every time we drive, and family was waiting in Demopolis. Christina’s Aunt Linda (affectionately pronounced Lind-ee), and her three cousins. We had not seen them for years, and this visit was long overdue. Linda found a boondocking spot for us at polo pony ranch just outside town. We pulled in along the side of the practice field, right along a fence housing a herd of horses in training. The first day or two, I’d ride my bike over and chat it up with the ranch hands. These were the guys who take care of the property, and every morning ran the horses up, down, and around the field. They’d smack balls with mallets, turn in circles, let the dogs bark and work up a regular pony sweat. Athletes in the making.

It was early spring, and heavy weather was moving from the Gulf of Mexico, across Texas, and building in threat the further east it traveled. I asked the ranch hands where they went if there was a tornado. All three chuckled, making note that there were no shelters. The eldest and apparent leader of the crew said in a deep southern drawl, “trust in the Lawwwd”. That’s “Lord” for those of you wondering, but I swear he said Lawwwd. And as luck would have it, within two days of us arriving at the sunny polo pony ranch, so did the heavy weather boiling up from Texas. Christina announced that the Lord had given her a brain, and we would stay in town at her Aunt’s house. I said “good luck, that’s a crawlspace house, with no place to go in a tornado, not for me”. Knowing she’d insist on staying anyway, I suggested I’d drop her off and go back to the polo pony ranch since I wanted the van hitched up for extra weight in the case of high winds. I had a gully picked out to jump in, my full-face mountain bike helmet at the ready, and a cold beer. If a tornado came through I’d be low in the mud, toasting all things wild and natural. Christina is not fond of plans I make risking death, so she called her Aunt who drove out and picked us up. Perfect, if I died in a muddy ditch drinking beer, Christina would be mad anyway. Linda arrived to find the van hitched up, all the patio and outside gear inside the van, and the jalousie windows duct-taped down. We threw our gear in her car and rode into town to Linda’s house, where she dropped us off and went back to work at the local hospital. I wasn’t done planning yet, so I scouted the house and yard and found the back porch steps were cast concrete with an open back. Basically, a small but heavy and strong tornado shelter. I told Christina our plan to go under the stairs in the case of a tornado, and took my post in the front yard, standing in the rain watching the clouds. Christina kept an eye on the local news broadcasting weather maps colored in red, yellow, and green with tornadoes scattered about.

As I stood on the front porch looking west, I observed a big funnel drop out of the clouds and settle along the ground. It was less than a mile away and headed north along the river that was visible from the porch I was standing on. I stuck my head in the door, suggesting Christina put on her coat, the leashes on the dogs and, to get ready to get under the stairs. Whatever look was on my face said it all, she got right on the leashes. That tornado was going to continue north or take a right and plow through town and maybe the house we were in. I don’t know how it is for you the reader, but just typing this has my heart rate up. It was pretty crazy watching a funnel wall a half-mile across, cruise past town, and out of sight into the rain. Once we knew the tornado had passed the town, we settled back down watching the news. Shortly, Linda arrived home, as did Christina’s youngest cousin. We sat and watched the news for a while, and the area was being hammered by the wind, flash floods, and twisters. The whole time we had no idea if Luna and Sunny the van were still in place, or blown away. Suddenly while watching all the damaged roofs, downed power lines, and turned over RVs on TV, Christina’s cousin jumped up and said, “that’s across the street from my house!”, and drove away into the night to check on his house and cats, almost one hour away. He returned in the middle of the night, with one cat, a guitar, and some paperwork, quietly sharing the news, “the house is destroyed”. I’ve heard people say the house is destroyed before. That might mean that a tree fell on the roof, a water pipe leaked or the kids had a party while the parents were out of town, but the destroyed part has always been less than expressed. We drove up to the cousin’s house the next morning, wanting to bring him moral support while he searched for the missing three cats and tidied up a little bit. We’d probably have to climb a ladder and put up some blue tarps, maybe shop vac some water, and likely move some wet stuff.

But no tarp was needed, the house was destroyed. 5 full-size trees had been blown down on the house. It was a long mobile home, and every tree on the south side of the house was blown over, leaving 6′ tall root balls in mid-air. The trees were big, 24-36″ across the trunk, two of them fell so hard and so heavy they crushed the house to the floor, knocking the whole thing 4″ off its footings. There were electric company workers in the road, and all kinds of people at the storage lot next door checking on their RVs, many of which were torn up. There was sheet metal roofing all over the place from a barn several hundred yards away. It was shocking. It wasn’t even our house and we were stunned. Christina’s cousin Michael was amazing. Not even did he keep his head on straight, he had a plan. He set out food and water for the two out of three cats not yet seen (one was sitting on the porch when we arrived) and walked straight through downed limbs, sheet metal scraps, a power line, blown down pole barns, and past huge holes created under the root balls to his now open-air music room. And from a wrecked floor on a 15-degree slope, with rubble everywhere, began to gather the next most important things in his life after the cats. Music gear. Drums, guitars, sheet music, amps, speakers, stands, more guitars, and all the decorations, memorabilia, and personal belongings from what had been his favorite room in the house. We filled his pick-up bed and our van with music stuff. It was amazing how dry everything was. Either the roof blew off after the rain, or there wasn’t any rain, because most of his music stuff was barely damp. The process was quiet, respectful, and acknowledgment that this man who had suffered the loss of his father just years before, was now living in loss once again, and plucking photos, and memories of his dad from the wreckage of his home. Christina and I were speechless. A second and third cat was found, so spirits were a little elevated, but after a long day of loading the trucks, and soaking in the whole thing, we drove quietly home, had a big supper, and wished cousin Michael sweet dreams. I returned to the wrecked house the next day with Michael. I used a chain saw to cut a path along one side of the house, while he crawled through two openings in walls to get to his bedroom stuff. We held our breath the whole time, since we could hear the house pop and groan, and on occasion settle a little more under the weight of the trees. Again, and quite amazingly he recovered a lot of personal belongings. Picture this, you’re walking through a house, normal, filled with furniture and a TV, but with limbs in the living room and kitchen, poking through the roof and floor, and down a hall, and through a bedroom door. Opening the bedroom door, you see blue sky and a forked tree laying across a roof, and ceiling, crushing a dresser, bed, nightstands, bathtub, and walls. And all your most personal things are in here. This was our day, one trip after another, clothes, pictures, horticulture gear and books, and all the things you leave in your room on your way out the door to mom’s house. And thus the week continued, Michael, salvaging his stuff, attending classes, and coming back to his mom’s house for dinner with the rest of us. In the meantime, we had gone back to the polo pony ranch to find Luna unscathed. There was no indication any storm had been near the place. We untaped the windows, unhitched, and settled back into our daytime chores, returning to Linda’s house to spend a couple more nights, eating dinner with the family, and staying up late talking and giving Michael all the support we could.

It was the kind of family reunion you would never imagine and never forget. Our stay was nice. All of us were glad to get caught up and see each other. And despite the utter destruction of a family member’s home, the time together was fun. After about a week we packed up our little Luna, hitched her tight, and hit the road. We were supposed to go south to Gulf Shores, but after checking the weather report and the storms it promised, we bid farewell to Alabama and headed north. We drove in heavy, windy, rainy weather for two days, leaving behind us, many more tornadoes and several deaths due to the storms. Times like this remind us, we are but feathers in the wind. Vulnerable to the slightest of weather, naked to the forces of tornadoes, and blind to chance. Those of us who make it long in life are lucky. Lucky to make our best choices when weather threatens, lucky to find all three cats alive in a destroyed house, and lucky to trust the Lord, driving headlong into foul weather ahead, with the devil himself twisting up fencelines, mobile homes, barns, and human lives in the rearview mirror.

Living with solar in Luna.

Part of living full-time in a travel coach means being somewhat independent. Solar voltaic energy has always been a dream for us. Once Luna became a place we planned to live, solar was at the top of the list. Solar energy installed onboard has provided plenty of 12 volt and 110 volt electricity, to allow us a completely comfortable life. Except for A/C, we utilize electricity in our lives very similar to a normal home. Everything you can imagine gets charged, we sleep on a heated mattress pad, bake bread in an electric countertop oven, watch movies on a big TV, and cook, make coffee, dry hair, defrost the fridge, and all kinds of other stuff on the solar system. We started by doing an energy audit on our belongings, utilities, and accessories. Listing every electric item in the house, we estimated how many hours a day, week, or month we thought we use it. Everything was listed by voltage, wattage, and/or amperage. We sent the audit to Battleborn Batteries where they estimate a 4-5 battery system, including Victron electronics. Christina and I had already estimated a 4-600 amp hour system, so this sounded just about right. We purchased 5, 100 amp hour batteries and all the electronic components, the charge controller, battery monitor, Multiplus, and various smaller components.

After determining the wire gauge and length I ordered it, wire lugs, heat shrink, big fuses, shut-offs, a rachet drive crimper, by-pass cutters and dug out the heat gun. Our panels came from HighTec Solar. 5, 200 watt PV panels are up there now. We installed all of the batteries and electronics on the curbside, just inside the rear of the wheel well, under the cabinetry, and just inside an exterior access door, that used to reach under the bed. I strapped the batteries, mounted on black pipe insulation as a pad, to the floor.

Once I wired the inside of the battery/electronics compartment, I pulled the old converter, glass fuse panel, and 110V breakers, replacing them with a new 12 position, spade fuse panel, a new 30amp main breaker, and new A/C and outlet breakers, all in new boxes.

I installed an electrical management system between the main breaker and the exterior 30 amp connector, which is installed just outside the access door and allows the coach to be connected to shore power, without a cord hanging out the access door.

The new A/C breaker is fed from the Victron Multiplus, auxiliary output, and the outlets’ breaker is fed by the Multiplus main output. Both are backed up by the Multiplus, and battery bank in the case of a shore power reduction. However, that only works if the electric management system is bypassed, as the EMS shuts down shore power at 104 volts anyway. All of the electronics and neutral bus bars are grounded to a freshly bright spot on the trailer frame, directly below the compartment. The compartment is ventilated to the interior for air movement, and a smoke detector is installed inside. None of the components are on top of the wheel well cover, nor directly behind it. The solar charging wire goes up the same route the greywater vent stack takes, to a boot on the roof, leading to a junction box, leading then to each panel.

Each panel is wired with an in-line 30 amp fuse. These panels are wired in parallel. This system works great and we use a lot of electricity, however, we will soon order 3 more panels and wire those in 4 parallel sets of 2 series. It’s a long story, but we camp in a lot of cold, cloudy weather, so we are “over paneling”. I mounted the panels to the roof, low and close. None of the rooftop accessories are covered. The mounting brackets are made from 1/8″ sheet aluminum. I made them at Machine Head in Kansas City, and use stainless steel fasteners on the assembly and installation. All the wiring between the roof and panels is suspended using lots of black zip ties. We keep a Honda 2000 inverter generator on the van and use it when we find ourselves in long cloudy spells and short winter days. Adding 3 more panels will reduce that need somewhat. The crew at Battleborn always answer quickly or call us back, when we have questions. The electronics come pre-programmed, and when we did need to make one adjustment they did it with us over the phone, through our phone app blue tooth connection. We love the freedom the system provides. We don’t watch much TV during the days but watch movies at night. All of the light bulbs in the coach have been replaced with LEDs, the fridge is built for solar living, so it runs on 12v, and can run on 110 if we plug it in. The fridge/freezer has run on solar for over 18 months, 24/7. In sunny weather in the summer, we can’t burn through enough electricity to run the system low. In rainy, cloudy weather or short winter days, we are careful to time and conserve our electric usage.

Overall the solar system has provided a lot of freedom, and comfort. If we stop overnight in a Walmart, we can watch movies, bake food, charge everything and sleep warm, without firing up a generator. When we stay at state parks we park in sites with no hook-ups saving a lot of money. And of course, boon docking in amazing locations is made comfortable with solar. It’s one of our favorite investments.

Empty the tanks to sleep.

We learned a couple of things this winter.

Last fall was a little quiet for me.  Over 10 years ago I started a youth organization called Donderdag! Youth Cyclocross Clinics in Shawnee Kansas.  You can find it on Facebook or at Donderdag.bike.  We coach kids and their families into the sport of cyclocross.  I was inspired by the sport when my son raced in high school.  But last fall we didn’t have a season, because of Covid-19.  It was quiet, with no Thursday night clinics, no races, and no crowds of noisy kids at the park. 

No organized clinics at the Donderdag! Park, meant lonely riders and quiet days.

We stayed just past the end of November, quietly slipping out of town between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Our winter digs were on my Mom and Joe’s driveway in Maysville Oklahoma.  A nice flat driveway, with dumps, a 30 amp hook up, a fenced yard, and a barn with heated workrooms 5 feet behind us.  And of course, Mom and Joe.  Those two would feed us and have us in every day if we let them.   This was our second winter visit here, the year before was our first winter living full time, so we stayed a couple of weeks and raced south to warm weather.  But in the winter of 2020, we kept staying.  We’d think we would leave in a week or two but then stayed longer.  The weather was typical Oklahoma, unpredictable, but mostly warm for winter.  My mom was having some medical issues, so we helped with that, and I cleaned the barn and outbuilding and emptied a sunroom on the back of the house that until just a few years ago was part of their previous small business.  Helping out, as good boon dockers do.  But the most interesting part of the visit was exactly what we were hoping to avoid, cold weather.  We’ve been in weather below freezing, and we are ok with it.  We’ll take 25-35 degrees all day compared to 85-90.  But this winter set record lows, and we rode it out.  We started getting a little snow in January.  It was pretty and kind of heavy.  I kept the roof swept, because that’s how I am, and shoveled the driveway so we could get in and out of the coach, and drive out of the driveway.  I shoveled all the snow around Mom and Joe’s house too.  I like the exercise enough, but also know Mom and Joe well enough to know they would be going out in their little electric car no matter what the weather was.  If they didn’t leave in the car, they sure wouldn’t skip a walk to the mailbox.  The wind blew and the weather got colder, so the time in the snow was nice.  Lots of drifts.  But the Arctic Blast forecasted by the news kept moving south, and that air was super cold. 

Our Luna has interior storm windows, which have proven quite effective, a wood-burning stove, a skirt all the way around, and a less than two-year-old furnace.  We stay warm.  But I was worried about the tanks and plumbing inside the belly pan.  We were supposed to see a record-breaking cold front.  I worried about the 3 tanks enough, but what really worried me was the drain pipes full of grey water.  I wasn’t going to sleep at night if I thought I was laying awake listening for the sound of a black ABS pipe splitting.  I had to find a solution.  A day before the real cold set in, I set a small thermostatically controlled heater inside the waste valve compartment, set it on low, and left it plugged in.  We’ve always had heat tape on the supply lines behind the fridge, so I plugged those in.  But the thing I did to make things truly worry-free was to drain the waste tanks.  Empty, down to nothing.  Then I put plugs in the tub, bathroom, and kitchen sink, and tossed a sink bowl in the bathroom sink and a washtub for dishes in the kitchen sink.  I finally relaxed.  Most of you are thinking, “but the furnace blows hot air into the belly pan”, yes it does, right over the freshwater tank.  Or, “but the skirt and heater will keep things from freezing”.  Ok, probably, but guys like me don’t sleep on probably, we seek certainty.  So off to bed we went, waking up to the coldest three weeks we’ve been in so far as full-timers.  It was below 10 degrees for several days, we saw nighttime lows of around -14 degrees.  The whole time we were amazed at how cozy the little coach stayed inside, but mostly, I was relieved knowing there was no water in the waste pipes to freeze.  Of course, as Oklahoma goes, as fast as the snow and cold set in, it also melted off.  The bitter cold was replaced by above-freezing weather, sunshine, and thaw.  By the time we headed for Alabama, the northwestern winds had been replaced by gulf shore warm air, and we switched from winter storm warnings to tornado watches.  We bid farewell to Mom and Joe, kissed their dog, and headed south to Demopolis Alabama, via New Boston Texas.  Sitting behind the wheel, pulling our little home on the way to Texas, I was relaxed and proud.  Relaxed knowing there is a solution to almost any challenge, and feeling proud as an urbanite, who normally lives winter in a solid, well-insulated, modern house, managed not only to avoid freezing to death with my wife and dog in the bed, but did it relaxed, and almost completely worry-free.  But enough of winter and cold, I’m going to fill every tank we’ve got drainpipes and all, and hitch up the van, high winds are headed this way, and I plan on sleeping through it all.  

Installing the Winter Skirt.

Living in a travel coach full time is a lot like a normal house.  It takes some work, especially when seasons change.  In 2020 we purchased a skirt kit for our 1979 Avion 34V.  Skirts are a barrier installed between the bottom of the trailer and the ground.  They can be made from rigid permanent materials, semi-permanent, or from materials that are easily removed and stowed for travel.  Our skirt is 18# black vinyl.  We travel regularly so a bulky rigid skirt wouldn’t be practical.  We ordered a kit from idahocanvas.com. 

Measuring our coach, we knew we wanted to be able to use two sections of the skirt as summer shade for the tires and wheel wells.  That left a long skirt for the front section of the coach, and another for the rear.  I ordered the skirts six inches longer than the distance to the ground, knowing we’d be parked on unlevel ground at times, and realizing we would not want a gap.  The skirt kits come in different mounting styles, hook and pile or snaps.  We chose the hook and loop type, and decided we would fortify the installation with twist snaps every 12”.  After racing sailboats for a few years, I knew that twist snaps are easier to deal with than friction snaps.  They don’t corrode and lock up, and you don’t have to pull hard on the vinyl to release them.  I ordered black twist snaps, matching twist snap grommets, and the punch tool used to make a hole in the canvas that includes four slots for the grommet tangs to stick through.  I also ordered two zippers for the wastewater access and four zippers for the two wheel wells.  The black vinyl skirt kit arrived perfectly folded in a box that weighed about 40 pounds.  As I opened the shipping box, I laughed knowing I’d never be able to get that skirt kit folded into anything that small ever again.  Starting with the wheel well pieces, I cleaned and installed the 2” self-adhesive “hook” to the coach a couple of inches above the wheel well.  The black twist snaps were installed in the center of the hook, every 12” with stainless black screws.  It’s important to install the twist snaps, THEN install the grommets to match the spacing of the installed twist snaps.  This is made clear in the kit’s instructions and makes a difference, so don’t rush in and install the grommets in the vinyl first, it will reduce the effectiveness of the whole install.  I installed the first grommet and hung it on the first twist snap.  Of course, being on a learning curve makes this seem slow and clumsy, but once the tools are all out and the pattern and rhythm are found, things start to move right along.  Pulling the vinyl straight, but not stretched, to the next twist snap, I made a pencil mark on the center of the twist snap, used the punch tool to make the hole and slots, and installed the second grommet.  Then the third, fourth, and so on.  Within a short period of time, I had two really nice skirts covering both wheel wells.  The front and rear skirts were more complicated, but having warmed up on the wheel wells I felt comfortable moving on.  To prepare our coach for the front and rear skirts, a hanging point had to be chosen.  Our coach has a piece of horizontal aluminum trim all the way around at the same height, down near the bottom.  It normally has a black filler in it, that cover’s the screws.  Most of the filler on our 40-year-old coach was damaged or missing, so I pulled the rest out.  On Avions it’s a good idea to add some extra screws to this section.  I drilled a hole and installed 2”, pan head, stainless screws about three inches from the original screws all the way around the coach. Each hole got a shot of Trempro 635 before running the screw in. With all the new screws installed, I primed the aluminum and let it dry a day or two.  The kit comes with 2” wide, self-adhesive, hook to match the length of all the skirting ordered, so I cut the hook to 7/8” width, with a fresh utility blade and straight edge, and installed it into the trim where I had screwed, sealed, and primed. Using a plastic screen spline roller I must have rolled the entire length of the self-adhesive hook, all the way around the coach at least four times.  Remember, most of these self-adhesive products stick at first, but are only load-bearing after about 24 hours. With that done, I shot the tiniest bead of silicone along the top and bottom of the hook to help keep out water and hold the edges in place.  I know, everyone says never use silicone on an Avion, but it is a sparing application, and really makes the install complete. 

After giving all this a few days to cure, I  starting on the driver’s side, at the back of the wheel well, hanging the first 4 feet of the skirt, overlapping the wheel well skirt about 6 inches for added wind resistance.  With the first 4 feet in place, I marked the position of the zipper that would connect the rear skirt to the wheel well skirt.  Using the recommended contact cement, the first zipper was installed.  Moving aft, I installed zippers on each side of the waste valve access, marking the needed zipper position, taking it down, cutting it, and gluing the two zippers in.  Once I reached the back corner, I had to figure out how to get under and across the bottom of the belly pan to the other side of the coach.  I made a little hanging tab for the section that runs across the bottom, at the back of the belly pan, then installed the 2” hook on the bottom of the belly pan after cleaning it well.  At the passenger side of the coach, the pattern was repeated, rounding the curve and finishing the section all the way to the rear of the passenger side wheel well.  Just like the driver’s side, a zipper was installed at this point.  The front section of the skirt was again started at the driver’s side wheel well, forward end.  Again, after hanging the first four feet, the zipper was glued into place and the long run toward the front of the trailer began.  Since it’s a long straight run I found myself rounding the front curve and headed for the tongue A-frame pretty quickly.  Once I reached the driver’s side A-frame member, I marked and cut a center slot, with a V at the bottom to fit snuggly over the frame member.  Crossing the front a second slot was created for the center A-frame member, then just a few inches further a slot to accommodate the propane pipe and 7 pin connector pigtail exiting the front of the coach.  All the while, carefully marking, punching, and installing the grommets and hanging the skirt as I progressed.  The third A-frame member slot was cut and around the front, passenger side curve, and away we went.  Skirt, tools, punch, and grommets.  The last run was along the passenger side, under the door, and finishing at the front of the passenger side wheel well.  Once all the grommets were installed, I took down the whole thing and fortified the slots for the A-frame members so the vinyl would not tear out in the wind.  I also added a 5” piece of the hook to the top gap of the slot, so each side of the slotted skirt could be snuggly closed.  Grommets were included in the skirt bottom when it arrived, but I added a few to fill in more tie-down points.  There is also a place stitched into the bottom that a piece of pipe can be slid into for rigidity and weight. 

All in all the skirt looks quite nice.  And it definitely makes a difference in cold weather.  It takes a couple of days for the ground temperature to warm up, but with almost no wind blowing under the trailer, the whole place is quieter and warmer.  It also reduces the chances of freezing waste drains, which is about the only thing other than the high wind that keeps me awake at night.  I picked up three big duffle bags at Savers, storing the two wheel well skirts in one, and the front and rear skirts each in the other two, making it easy to stow them in the van.  After several times of installing and uninstalling the skirts, I have found them pretty easy to deal with.  I’ve even put them up one time when we only parked on a driveway for two nights, knowing it was going to be windy and in the 20s.  The whole thing has just become part of the checklist I use.  I think the coach looks handsome with the skirts too.  They are not totally impervious to high wind.  We are in Oklahoma right now, and as I type this, sitting through a wind advisory with 55 miles an hour gusts.  The skirt billows a little, but the grommets and ground stakes keep it in place nicely.  You may be wondering about accessing the lower “basement” storage boxes, and that’s no problem.  The turn snaps and zippers make it easy enough to loosen a section above the access door I need to get into.  Since I put a zipper on both sides of the waste drain access door, that whole panel can be removed so waste water doesn’t get on the vinyl.  I hope this helps, and if you live full-time in your Avion or another travel coach, I think this is a nice upgrade.  If you have any questions, just post them below, or send me an email at lunaandtheseekers@gmail.com.

Happy travels friends! 

PS. Just before publishing this article, we were in the coldest weather we have stayed in so far. Here in Maysville Oklahoma, it reached -12F below zero at night, and was in the single digits for severals days. Before the temperatures fell below 10F degrees, I emptied the waste tanks. We use a composter toilet, so the black tank stayed water free, and I put a dishpan in the kitchen sink, and a basin bowl in the bathroom, so no water went down the drains. Since it was super cold outside, about all we did was burn a fire and work inside, so we didn’t use the shower for a few days. This left only the fresh water tank to keep thawed. I used a tiny, thermostat controlled heater inside the waste dump valve access. I think things would have been fine without it, especially since the furnace has a 4″ duct blowing into the belly pan. The empty waste plumbing meant that I didn’t lay awake at night worried about the plumbing freezing, or worst yet, breaking. We were both amazed at how well the coach felt during the super cold weather. The floor was comfortable, none of the indoor plumbing supply lines froze, and with the help of the small electric heater in the back, and the wood burning stove, the only time the furnace ran was at night. Since a few inches of snow had fallen, the skirt was weighted and sealed to the ground. The one time I did check under the coach, I stuck my hand in a zipper in the skirt, to find it warm inside. The skirt did a great job, and is really worth the investment.

Cooking, Sleeping, and the Tiny Life of Work.

Our house does not lack amenities; it’s just really small.  Cooking, eating, bathing, and sleeping areas seem small, but that’s just another word for cozy.  Our layout is simple, walking in the front door and you’re looking straight at our kitchen.  It’s just a single countertop full of the sink, cooktop, and kitchen gadgets.  Just like a regular kitchen in a house, just way smaller.  The bed is to the right, built into the front window area of the coach. A 1979 Avion 34 V, we call Luna.  It’s our first king-size bed. With windows on three sides, a built-in TV and pillows on both sides, lounge style, it’s multi-functional.  At the opposite end of the house is the bathroom, filling the first 5’ of the back of the coach, full width, 8′.  In the travel trailer world, that’s a pretty good size bathroom. Two cabinets are in the bathroom, so all our essentials are at hand.  Since the walls are vinyl over aluminum and the ceiling and bulkhead are fiberglass, the whole room serves as a place to shave, bathe and relax.   When the furnace runs, it’s the warmest room in the house. 

 We’ve lived in Luna for just over 18 months, during which we remodeled one space from a bed to a desk, moved all kinds of things all over the place, and changed a table to a bench.  We’ve laughed at how many things we’ve re-done, and how many skills we’ve had to learn, to manage changing weather, temperatures, and surroundings.  As predicted, we work on this house just as much as the one we sold in 2019.  Well, maybe a little less, but still.  The nice part of getting so many things dialed in becomes apparent as we finish ticking off our to-do checklist.  The projects we are working on now, are cooler.  Projects that deliver exactness of personal preference.  Things that make the living space tricked out and tweaked.  Whatever you call it, that place when the house is singing.  

We reached that point just recently, after dialing in two workspaces.  A standing one for me, and the art desk for Christina.  She has the desk totally laid out for the work she does.  Everything from managing paperwork, to working on watercolor illustrations.  It looks like a professional designer’s office.  My standing desk sets over the bed, utilizing a re-purposed art table.  Same here, flatwork when I want and tilted for artwork.  In between,  the kitchen, bench, and warm fireplace.  In our marriage, this is basically a dream come true.  Separate workspaces, with a lovely home tying it all together.  A space we occupy together for long hours, relaxed and comfortable.  Doing our thing.  It’s practically magic.  These are the moments we understand as foundational.  When we realize our good fortune.  And hold it close. 

Our ability to work, and to live comfortably like real people, means living in a tiny house achieves our goal. To have less house and have more life.  Living more, thinking more, looking more, and seeing more.  And in the center of it all, a little kitchen and two cozy drawing tables.  

This tiny life is huge.

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Peaceful living friends.

Monday is House Day.

We don’t clean our house all the time, but when we do it’s easy.  Our place is only 268 square feet inside.  Monday is house day.  It’s like Saturday, but Monday is our Saturday.  We start by getting weekly chores done that come naturally from living in this house.  Swap the compost toilet, empty the waste tanks, fill the fresh water tank, chase leaks, tidy up…and on the inside, we oil the counter tops, defrost the fridge, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.  It’s like a real house. And it gets lived in 24/7. This week we wired our TV antenna for local broadcasts.  We stream some live networks on our smart TV, but it’s mostly national news.  Christina really likes local news and programs.  She likes having local news in stormy weather and the holidays.  I can’t blame her.  It’s free and every time we move the newscasters, dialects, and culture change.  It’s fun.  We’ve been on the road for 18 months and just got local TV.  We’re pretty excited.  The antenna came white, so I painted it black.  Pulled a coaxial cable through the tongue area, under the belly skin, and up through the floor just under the TV.  Secured the cord and sealed the hole.  It’s only about 10 steps between the TV inside and the antenna on the tongue.  Working on a travel coach is almost laughingly small.  We’re at my mom and Joe’s house, boon-docking on smooth concrete, so working under the coach is practically relaxing.  A forgiving Oklahoma winter.  I’ve been wanting a hubodometer for the coach.  Call me crazy but I’ll never keep a straight enough log in the cab of the van to keep track of rolling mileage on Luna.  The hubodometer is ordered according to the tire size, and rotations per mile.  None of the universal mounting brackets fit our wheels, so I headed down to Machine Head in Kansas City Mo.  Machine Head is pretty much an art studio machine shop.  It’s pretty, has lots of natural light, a perfect tin ceiling, and tons of raw metal and glass.  They’ll let you help,  and they do the skilled and technical work.  I love that place.  When we were in KC several weeks ago I spent the day there and made the bracket for the hubodometer, the shower curtain rod for the outdoor shower, and aluminum braces for the front stone guard.  So the hubodometer is on and I can’t wait to see it work!  I finished a simple adjustable support post for the shower curtains I have coming to hang on the outdoor shower curtain rod.  When the curtains are hanging there will be room for the folding tub in the outdoor shower.  This is not our first outdoor shower, we had one at the house we sold, and having this one up and running means a lot to us. 

On Sunday evening the sink started draining slow.  I figured the trap was full of food and saved it for house day, Monday.  My grey water tank coupling is clear so I can see how things are going.  The tank seemed slow, so I had Christina fill the kitchen sink full with hot water, and drain it straight through.  I was amazed at how much debris came out of the tank and plumbing.  We’ve been in this house 18 months, and I can’t figure out if the debris was from us or if it was from its 40 years before we moved in. We’ll keep an eye on that. 

So we do these chores all day long.  Together we go to the grocery, get fuel or run to the post office.  This week we filled a bottle of propane too.  Most of the time Christina cuts up a bunch of the vegetables for the week and loads them in the fridge.  It’s kind of nice to have a house day.  We moved out of our last house a year sooner than we planned, so we were working like crazy on the coach, a lot of the time.  Our work week is not like it used to be, so moving our Saturday to Monday works great for us.  Especially considering if we are staying at a park, or campground, we’d rather be visiting friends camped near us.   Not to mention waste stations are always crowded on the weekends.  But for now our little house is parked at mom’s house.  Home living.  Good coffee and Saturdays on Monday. 

Installing the PrecisionTemp Water Heater.

When we bought our ‘79 Avion 34V, we knew we’d be replacing all the appliances.  The water heater was probably original, and crusty and dirty.  After a lot of research, we settled on the PrecisionTemp tankless water heater.  It was mid-range in pricing for these units and made in the US.  We’d had a tankless water heater in the house for years.  We understood the way it worked, loved the constant water temperature and endless volume of hot water, delivered at exactly 104 degrees.  The PrecisionTemp arrived well protected in its shipping box and ready to go.  The old water heater came out easy enough and went on the pile for the metal scrapper.  The hole in the sidewall was smaller than the PrecisionTemp unit.  So I cut the wall opening larger, added some frame support and a drip pan in case the unit ever springs a leak toward the interior. 

The drip pan was also tilted to match the outside wall angle. A couple of hand made aluminum brackets fortified the bottom corners of the opening.  Once the hole was ready to go, the unit slid in with no problem.  White urethane tape was used along with stainless screws to secure the unit to the sidewall.  PrecisionTemp sells their heater covers separately, so you can buy the one you prefer for your coach.  We ordered the aluminum, unpainted cover for our coach.  The water heater is located inside the bathroom cabinet, under the electrical panels, and below the storage area.  I had to do a little modification to the cabinet interior walls to fit the unit.  When we replumbed the coach with PEX, we tied into the unit with two simple ½” to ⅜” SharkBite couples.  A new flex LP line and shutoff were added, and the wiring was connected to the original switch upfront at the Avion control panel.  The unit uses 12 volts, for the electronics, lighting spark, and cold temperature protection. No 110v supply is needed.  I also added a tiny red LED bulb to the outside of the cabinet.  This shows when the water heater is powered up, this is important since the unit requires power to protect against freezing.  We live full time in our coach, using hot water for dishes, quick cowboy showers, regular showers, and long showers at our outdoor shower.  The unit works flawlessly.  It even works fine during low flow usage, and the water is plenty hot.  We’ve been full time for over 18 months, so far so good.  We are really happy with this little water heater.  

Coating Luna with Toon Brite.

I’ve watched a lot of posts about the finish on Avion coaches. The debate about how to manage the anodized aluminum ranges from painting them to soaking them with WD40. I was looking for something in between. If you own an Avion, you know how they look pretty splotchy, they are hard to wash, and the dirt sticks pretty hard because of the porous surface. I tried some different waxes and aluminum polishes, but they either collected in the oxidation or faded quickly. The cost of having a body shop clean and clear coat the coach was out of the question, and I wasn’t so sure it would be a good solution anyway. After quite a bit of reading, I settled on Toon Brite.

Toon Brite is a two step process. Cleaner first then clear coating.

I called the company and talked to the technical department. Filling them in on my challenge, they assured me that if I wasn’t satisfied I could bring the cleaner and coating back for a refund. I wasn’t about to jump in and do the whole coach right out of the gate, so I did a 2×2 foot test patch. The test patch has been on the coach for about a year and looks great. Toon Brite and Everbrite are similar products, but I went with Toon Brite since it’s readily available at retail stores. Toon Brite calls for the aluminum to be washed with their cleaner. A super mild acid wash. This is a really important step and cannot be skipped. It’s the key to removing as much oxidation as possible and prepping the surface for the coating application. We landed in New Mexico about a month ago, the perfect location for this project since the weather is cool in the mornings and with really low humidity. Starting from the top I washed the roof, following manufacturer’s directions on rinsing and protecting glass and awnings from the cleaner.

I used white scrubby pads to clean the aluminum, rinsing them often in clear water.

Our ZipDee awnings proved to be quite watertight and keeping the cleaner off the fabric wasn’t hard at all. I used the cleaner at a 1:1 ratio mixed with water. I was amazed at how much grime came off. Once the roof was clean I coated it the next day. The coating allows for a pretty quick turn around, so I applied two coats on the same day. Toon Brite calls for a foam brush application, or to rub it in with a cotton cloth. I used a foam roller to put it on the coach and back brushed it with a foam brush. Working my way from the gutter line down I cleaned and coated the upper walls, the front, and rear top caps and then moved my way down to the lower walls. Finally, I worked my way through all the storage doors and lower section of aluminum curving under the coach. About noon or so I’d quit putting the coating on, since it was too hot, do some more cleaning on the shady side of the coach, then in the evenings apply some more coating as the temperature cooled. The entire coach got two coats. I think I’ll put one more coat on the front where road debris is a challenge.

The results are quite nice. The coach has a warm, shiny appearance. Water beads up and runs off like a paint job with a fresh coat of wax. There are a few areas where the oxidation is not 100% invisible, and I have some areas I’ll need to wash out with acetone and redo. I got a little orange peel when it was too hot, and a few drips when I wasn’t looking. But overall, I’m thrilled. The chalky, streaky look is gone, and I can’t wait to wash the coach at my next destination, knowing the dirt will come off freely. By default, every rivet and seam on the coach has now been sealed. I expect that this is a protection, not a permanent product. Based on what I’ve read, I’m thinking I’ll re-wash and re-coat the project within 18 months, and probably every 2-3 years after that. I don’t mind the work, because the old chalky look made me crazy. Driving back from the store the other day, Luna looked bright and shining on the sloped pasture we are staying in. When I got up this morning after last night’s rain, there she was, shiny, clean, and happy to get the attention she deserves. To finish things off nicely I added a fresh coat of gloss black paint to the tongue, visible frame, and rear bumper. Luna is shining brighter now than ever and feels loved and cared for. Just what every little house wants.

Where is your adventure in life?

Living full time in a travel coach has a lot going for it. We don’t thrive on super exciting adventures in white water, zip lines, or action-oriented activities. The lifestyle we live is exciting enough. Going outside at 2:30 am in a sudden wind storm to tie down awnings and covered bikes can be very exciting. Pulling the coach with the van in traffic, tight parking lots and rough roads provide plenty of heart-racing moments. And living so close to the outdoors means bugs, mice, birds, horses, and all kinds of other critters invade our space. Just yesterday a pony flipped my work table, covered in tools, over onto the ground. How do you shoo a pony away?! This lifestyle is an adventure at its very foundation, almost every day. So for us, the real adventure is in the heart and mind. Since we are alone a lot, we find ourselves living deeply within. And even though our little house is only 34 feet long, we can sit and read, listen to podcasts, watch videos and focus on the things we love the most, without being in each other’s way. Christina loves to cook. She can surf recipes for hours, pick one out, and make the best vegan pizza I’ve ever tasted. Fluffy crust with a decoration on the edges, simple ingredients laid carefully in place with an artful eye. All measured, mixed, and baked in our solar-powered kitchen. It takes time, and yesterday I could smell the cooking outside while I worked on the coach making repairs. I couldn’t wait to see what she was making and the whole field smelled like beautiful food. Christina also loves artwork. She spends time at her desk, felting, sketching, and creating. From the heart. From the mindful adventure inside. Thriving in the open space of her thoughts and emotion, interests, direction, and journey. Not once have I ever heard her complain of boredom, she lives this life fully.

For me, I still live the adventure of tools and materials. We left our house a year sooner than we thought we would, so I’m still making improvements to the coach. In the last few days, I’ve rebuilt all the access doors, added wind braces to the chimney and presently I’m fortifying the front exterior wall over the tongue. How can that be an adventure? Easy, we’re in a field, with no pavement, no shelter from the rain, and a limited set of tools. I’ve learned to throw everything into the van in seconds when a cloudburst tries to soak everything. Kneeling may include rocks, cactus, or big black beetles everywhere. The sun is relentless at 8,360 feet, and the wind blows until my dried out arms look like leather.

Yesterday I woke up to a flat tire on Sunny the van and had to change it, on a slope, in dirt and rock. It took two tries since the van slid off the jack the first time. In between chores, I enjoy jogging, cutting firewood, and being near the land and sky. I don’t think a day goes by when I am not awestruck by a bug, critter or bird, and the skies always remind me I’m barely attached to the earth and free to live so. I feel fully alive in these moments. One adventure after another. Simple moments, hours, and days and nights. The adventure of a lifetime, living fully from our hearts, following the direction our minds seek the most, and practicing gratitude for the opportunity to do so. Today we hope you find your adventure. The one you follow daily, expressing yourself and the passions you feel, living fully from your heart and mind, no matter where you are.

Driving the rig is half the fun. Most of the time.

The last 4 days have been pretty interesting if behind the wheel adventures are your thing. Driving out of Clinton Lake State Park, in Lawrence Kansas on Thursday, the temps were already over 80 degrees, with humidity around 75%. Pretty sticky and hot, unless you’re naked, and I keep hearing stories about the laws against that. We jumped on I-70 heading west about an hour. At exit 225 we exited onto state Highway 156 heading southwest across the state, two lanes all the way. This is the drive most people complain about, that there’s nothing out there or it’s flat and boring. I’d be happy to argue that notion. The land is varied in terrain and a gradual climb in altitude. Along the way the flora and fauna change. In the Flint Hills, bison appear on the slopes, surrounded by prairie dogs, pronghorn, and coyotes. Flora is represented by scrub brush, sage, and plants that are tough enough to live in arid conditions. Some say it looks a little pre-historic. Eventually, the landscape changes from natural to farmed. Grain elevators are just yards off the highway every 30 miles or so. The highway passes through towns so small the speed limit is reduced from 65 miles an hour to maybe 50. There is almost no traffic anywhere. Mostly cattle trucks, agriculture chemical tankers, and occasionally a local pick-up. Passing farm equipment and tractors on the road is a regular occurrence, and watching crop dusters sweeping across fields and making low flying u-turns over the highway kept us on our toes. The corn grows from horizon to horizon, in all directions. We wondered how much of this food is grown for markets overseas and how much of it stays here. We thought about family farms and the changing way of life. We passed a few cattle feedlots. 25 to 30 acres of bare dirt with cattle separated into a hundred different pens. Thousands of cattle, all fed a rich diet to fatten them up for their last ride in a cattle truck to a factory that will render them into packs of meat for markets. We pondered these great plains and the planting, growing, and harvesting. At times we felt a little quiet soaking it all in. Arriving in Garden City Kansas, we fueled Sunny the van and slipped into a row of over the road trucks in a Walmart parking lot. While I took Indie for a walk, Christina cooked dinner. We ate, reflected on our day, and the scenes we witnessed. After washing the dishes and reading a little, we settled into our lovely little bed, snoozing away to the sound of purring trucks. In the morning it was funny to wake up realizing half the trucks had left. We didn’t even hear them pull away. We made coffee, ate breakfast, checked the fluids in Sunny, and hit the road again. Heading south on I-83 from Garden City we exited onto state Highway 160 for our trip to Trinidad Colorado. The two-lane road on this route cut through the land, rough and with no shoulders. Tallgrass and scrub grew right up to the white lines on both sides. At one point for several miles, the road looked like a ruffled ribbon headed for the horizon, at 60 miles per hour we were riding what felt like a little roller coaster. The pavement was un-even and for the first time in our travels, some things inside Luna came out of the cabinets and broke. Not one single other RV or camper was seen until we crossed into Colorado. It was the most desolate section of the country we crossed so far. Highway 160 took us straight into Trinidad Colorado. A beautiful little city, with lots of stone buildings. It reminded us a little of Jackson Hole Wyoming, a ton of tourists and bustling shops. We did some shopping for supplies and were glad to see the store practiced COVID-19 safety. Leaving Trinidad heading south on I-25 the climb continued. Sunny the van did fine, keeping a steady pace and running at normal temperatures. Passing through Raton we crossed our first mountain pass. About halfway up the climb construction was being done and the highway was only one lane. I was a little nervous we might slow down a lot and hold up traffic, but we kept a good speed, gained just a little engine temperature and crossed the top in good form. The road down the other side was forgiving and not too steep. It was good practice for things to come. We exited onto Highway 64 and headed toward Cimarron Canyon. This drive was fun. Sharp curves and rollers for an hour or so. Christina said it was a pretty view, but I didn’t see anything but curves in the road, and trees hanging low. Finally, after several long hours of driving our destination was just minutes away. We drove into the north end of Eagle Nest New Mexico late in the afternoon. Tired from driving all day we were ready to get to our destination, and we were glad to find Squash Blossom Lane just off Highway 64. Parked on the side of the rocky road we google earthed the location and thought we had the spot figured out. Worn out and hungry we headed for the driveway leading to our parking spot. The driveway heading up the mountainside had a decorative wood beam over the gate, and as we approached we both agreed the rig would clear the beam. This would be the last of our worries, then a drive up the lane to our spot. As we started to climb the slope it became very evident the grade was way steeper than it looked from the road. No problem I thought, if in doubt power out. Putting the pedal down we took on the slope, climbing a narrow rock drive that we could not stop on safely at this pitch. Within yards, the drive became a washed-out gulley. I felt like we were about to meet our maker, if I stopped we’d likely slide backward. Giving Sunny the adventure van even more gas we held on tight, steering between almost knee-deep gullies in the drive and bouncing like crazy we took the second right, the drive leveled out, and had no erosion, but as soon as we turned left again, not only was the drive washed out, it was grown over with brush, hard to see and almost as steep. My heart was racing and my mind was reeling in hysteria, so I gave Sunny all the pedal he had. The little Duramax motor revved up like a champ, new Michelin all-terrain tires spun and threw gravel but kept getting a grip. Luna closed her eyes and held on tight. Roaring up and around the last curve we pulled into the parking space next to the house we had so carefully determined to be our destination. We both laughed out loud at our crazy antics. Getting out I let the van idle for a few minutes to let the turbo cool down, and almost immediately Christina started to say we were at the wrong spot. She was right. We had climbed a slope when all we had to do was turn right instead of left at the bottom of the hill and park near another horse barn. Christina said she was considering punching me, especially since I had just almost killed all three of us. Fatigue had been our enemy, and my sense of judgment was skewed from a long day of driving. We should have never attempted that climb. Texting the landowner, our host who lives in another state, he was amazed that we had climbed that mountain, not only pulling a 34-foot trailer but also with only two-wheel drive. We were, you know, screwed. Our rig measures 53 feet total and we had about 44 of driveway width along a ledge to turn around on. But by now we were shot. I walked Indie, and Christina made supper. Worn out and feeling stupid, and knowing I had to figure out how to get our rig down the mountain, I had a tumultuous night, to say the least. What little sleep we got was good. Christina gave up the idea of murdering me in New Mexico, and I was pretty sure I had a plan to turn the rig around. After breakfast, we got to work. Reducing the air pressure in the front and rear axle tires meant we could swing Luna hard toward the ledge. I’d need to get the back tires within about 18 inches of the ledge to make room to un-hitch Sunny the van and move it to the other side of the tongue. About the time I had the back tires almost to the edge of the ledge, I saw a Dodge 2500, four-wheel-drive quad cab coming up the hill. Arriving at our little project Ed and Jackie got out and walked right up, staring at us both like we were crazy people. Ed said, “did you drive this rig up this road?”. Yes sir. “Well that makes you one heck of a good driver, I don’t know how you did it!” I was relieved, I was prepared to be laughed at out loud. But Ed and Jackie were there to help. The landowner had let them know we had arrived, at the wrong spot, and we may need some assistance. Christina and Jackie started to chat it up while Ed and I continued working on getting the coach swung around. Ed and I may have a few things in common, and he’s a few years older than me, so I’m pretty sure Jackie was congratulating Christina for keeping the murder rate to a minimum the night before. Ed and I backed Luna right out to the ledge, chocked the wheels and un-hitched Sunny. As planned I moved Sunny to the other side of the tongue and backing up swung the ball under the coupler and hooked up. The little Duramax did it’s work and tugged Luna across the slope and to a point where the whole rig was pointing straight toward the downward slope. The rig was turned around, and that was a huge relief, but now I had to get the whole thing down the mountain without breaking free and either getting stuck in the ruts or sliding of the ledges. Jackie and Ed are easy-going folks, so they made us take a break and check out the house we were parked near. They made sure we were drinking plenty of water since we were affected by the altitude and had some laughs with us while we checked out the place. On the way back to our rig, I asked Ed if he’d be nice enough to strap to the rear bumper on Luna and dead man the rig down the road with his Dodge. He said sure, and we got him hooked up. So off we headed down the slope, me steering with one hand, and managing the brakes with the controller and the braked pedal. The trailer brakes slid several times and I was pretty happy to have that Dodge back there keeping things on track. It took a little time to get back to the road and a flat spot to take the strap off Ed’s Dodge. I’ve never been so happy in my life to have a job done. We drove 50 yards to the gate across the street, backed into the pretty field we are in now, parked Luna, and breathed a deep breath of relief. Ed and Jackie shared a few minutes before they left, and I helped Ed change a tire he punctured on an elk skeleton while he was turning around in the field. Left alone, in the correct parking spot, with the sun in the sky and wind blowing through our little house, we reflected on the lesson we had lived. The adventure isn’t always on a trail or in a kayak. The thrill of this lifestyle comes in all different kinds of places. We learned a lot from our little climb up the mountain, and back down, and we’ll never forget it.

The Luna Journals. We’ve been busy.

We’re making the best of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We watch only a little bit of news, just enough to get some of the science and medicine recommendations, avoiding the rest.  We’ve kicked into isolation and distancing.  A few friends have come by our campsite, we make our own colloidal silver, so they come by and pick up a quart.  Everyone knows the drill, set your jar down on the ground, and stay 10 feet away.  So we haven’t been completely isolated, but the few friends who do come by, come and go without our usual hug.  Yah, we’re the hugging kind, because we love people.  A lot.  We run to town about once a week to pick up our mail and packages from two different places.  Christina stays in the van while I open and clean all the arrivals.  Our groceries are delivered to the park entrance now so we don’t have to go to stores.  We really miss the road.  Traveling and meeting new people.  So we stay busy and out of each other’s way.  Christina is a nester.  She likes a quiet, comfy place near a nice view and her dog.  She’s been baking a lot.  Which is pretty cool since we live off-grid on a solar system.  I never thought we’d be able to bake bread all day and sleep on a heated mattress pad at night, all on solar.  So she bakes.  Whole wheat bread, English muffins, and cinnamon rolls.  Initially, I was afraid we’d both plump out eating so much homemade bread, but that’s not happening.  She gives most of it away.  Especially to the park rangers and manager.  I’d like to say they love us, but they don’t.  They love Christina, I’m just the guy married to the cute girl cooking all the bread.  She also has taken up felting, creating little figures of leopards, bears, and anime characters, she sits for hours jabbing the felt or fleece with needles to create the perfect felt finish.  I often imagine her mumbling my name while jabbing away.  Christina is also a jigsaw puzzle fan.  I don’t know how she does it, sitting for hours collecting pieces of what was once a perfectly printed picture, cut into 1000 pieces.  She loves them.  I’ve done quite a bit of jogging.  It clears my mind and gets me in a place of meditation.  I’ve regained some distances I thought were long in my past, so I’m happy to imagine I’m reversing my age.  That lasts just long enough to get up the next day and try to walk.  Indie and I cut firewood a couple of times a week.  It gets us out in the woods and in the tick zone.  We cut a bag full, bring it back, and split it.  I’ve also been going to the archery range.  Kind of like running it’s a little bit of exercise and meditation at the same time.  Keeps the crazies away.  To spend time together, the three of us walk the campground, always wary of others, and keeping our distance.  We hike the trails, once after a rainy night with no shoes on.  A few days ago we rode our bikes over to the other closed campground and picked out our sites for May and June.  We’ve always enjoyed cooking together, which means I chat or mix drinks while Christina cooks.  Then I wash all the dishes, while she doesn’t.  That’s cooking together, right?  We read in the evenings or surf the net, but mostly we like to watch movies.  We watched every Avengers movie, in story order.  On some evenings we join Zoom dinners or groups, together or on our own.  We are witnessing a historic time together.  Watching carefully and with balance and discernment.  We’ll be glad to get back on the road, but in the meantime, we have bread to bake and calories to burn. 

We’re staying positive and busy. We focus on calm voices and thoughtful replies. Sometimes we miss the mark, but we love the journey together and are happy for what the universe has handed us.

Breakfast for Two

You will hear both of us say often that we are “mostly” vegan. We use that term because it became obvious that if you said you were vegan, you were fair game at any brunch or dinner party if you happen to pick up something made with egg, or butter. So yes, we eat mostly vegan and cook vegan in our home. We also will gladly share a meal that someone has made for us that might have something we wouldn’t normally eat, and we will be grateful for the time and food. A favorite phrase I like is “Mostly Better”.. as in, we are always trying to eat and do mostly better, but it isn’t going to be perfect. And that’s cool with us.

A Breakfast Banana Split! So good.

I always notice on Facebook and Instagram, the posts that get the most attention are our dog, Indiana Jonas Adventure Dog.. and my food. It feels natural to share food that we love and how we prepare it, so I hope that you enjoy it, and will share it with someone else.

Butternut Squash Soup with Quinoa… delicious and super easy.

I am NOT a chef, but I am a pretty darn good cook, or as my son says ~ I’m a Feeder. I want to feed everyone, which makes learning to cook for two a little challenge for me. When we first moved into the camper, I was still cooking in my mind for us, our kids, our friends, and anyone else who looked like they needed to be fed. I’m getting “mostly better” at this now.

This week I will share on our YouTube channel some of the ways we share breakfast, and some ideas you might enjoy! Until then, I’ll share some photos of things you might look forward to learning about cooking. My cooking style is definitely – make it easy on yourself, so you will continue to do it. Not extra fancy, but definitely extra tasty.

Let us know if there are specific vegan foods you are interested in, or questions you have about eating “mostly vegan”. If we have answers for you, we’ll be happy to share. If not, we’ll be curious with you and try to help you find answers.

Welcome to our kitchen in Luna!

The Luna Journals. Covid 19 and the perspectives we choose.

22/Mar/20

Right now it’s easy to imagine a lot going against us. We’re watching a virus shut down commerce, social gatherings and our sense of security. Folks around us are buying shelves bare, standing in lines outside gun stores and blaming whoever they can. Many are being sent home without pay, those who are promised pay may never see it, and plenty of these people don’t have a lot in savings. Like the last recession, personal bankruptcy is going to wear a lot of Americans out. The small businesses that do manage to keep cash flowing will be operating in a stumbling economy. Media provides a flurry of perspectives, from simple science that has long predicted pandemics to conspiracy theories pointing fingers at communist countries or rogue labs. From the top down, things are weird. Here in the Luna household, our imagination runs the gambit. We can imagine a lot is going against us, personally or as a society, or we can imagine things going for us. We practice positive thinking. We were in sunny Florida not less than a month ago, planning our trip to Texas for and Avion rally, when Christina said, “let’s surprise Michael (our brother in law) on his 50th birthday”. We snuck all the way, 1342 miles, from Parrish Florida to Kansas City Missouri, without anyone figuring it out. As planned we surprised Michael, with some help from Christina’s sister, at a breakfast restaurant in Kansas City on the morning of his birthday. We hugged, shared some tears of joy and ate breakfast with him, his wife and our nephews. We kept the secret until the next night when we surprised our grown sons, with the help of their girlfriends, again, sharing hugs, eating great food and watching movies together. All along we listened to the growing news and watched as our nation succumbed to the undeniable truth of Covid-19. While it’s been a challenge to shop for food and sundries, we see the good fortune we have been gifted. The universe put us in our home town, at our favorite local Kansas State Park (that remains open to this day), close to our kids and close to our primary care physician and familiar local hospitals. What amazing luck. How could our situation be any better? Staying focussed and calm, we’ve sorted our food stocks, kept the van fuel tank full, and top Luna’s freshwater tank regularly. We’ve also continued our daily walks outside for fresh air, sunshine and general release of anxiety and cabin fever. We’re practicing social isolation, and when we do go shopping Christina stays in the van while I do all the shopping, disinfecting as I go, carefully cleaning myself up before I hop back in to drive. When we get home from every outing, we wash and wash and wash, and hit the nebulizer and colloidal silver. As usual, we eat like kings, cooking our favorite foods, having a cocktail and loving every day given to us. Funny movies and movies having nothing to do with sadness or fear are our evening escapes. While we work hard to fight off C19, our number one goal is to kick fear to the door. Reminding ourselves we are strong, courageous people. We hold our kids, family, and friends in our hearts. Our message to you, fear not. Keep your heads and practice known strategies for success in this situation. Don’t risk your health or others by ignoring C19 guidelines. And most of all, get outside, feel the warmth of the sun, work up a little sweat and breathe deeply the air around you, all the while reminding yourself to make good choices, to be courageous and to take action that is positive and up-lifting. Onward friends. Your family, community, and nation will be inspired by your positive acts.  

About our Luna

Avion travel trailers were built from 1955 to 2002.  Ours is a 1979, 34V, built on a 2” x 6” steel frame, with bumper hitch. The body is built of an interior aluminum skin, coated in vinyl to look like canvas wallpaper, riveted to an aluminum frame.  The lower exterior walls are storage compartments all around the coach, and a rear trunk holds the spare tire, freshwater hoses and access to the bathroom plumbing.  The outside of the frame is covered in anodized aluminum. The cavities between the skins are filled with spray foam insulation. The belly pan is enclosed and the floor is a layer of rigid foam sandwiched between two layers of plywood for insulation. We rebuilt the roof of the coach. Stripping a white latex coating, repairing and resealing all the seams, rivets, and joints, and adding all-new utilities to the roof.  Bath vent, both cabin roof vents, the A/C and all the vent covers were replaced. Over 415 rivets were replaced on the roof alone. Five 200-watt solar panels are installed at the back of the roof coach. The windows are jalousie style and provide a lot of ventilation, even in the rain. All the awnings are ZipDee. The 22’ main awning is brand new, and all the other awnings have new fabric. We went with a really bright and cheery yellow awning, and certainly don’t regret the choice.

All the interior utilities have been replaced. Water is heated by a PrecisionTemp on-demand hot water heater. The LP furnace is the Suburban, 32K BTU. The fridge is a NorKool from Canada, 12V over 110V. It operates on 12 volts, drawing only 4.3 amps. A tinywoodstove.com wood burning stove is located just inside the door. It works like a charm. 

The countertops in the kitchen area are made from cherry wood harvested and milled at our house. About 80% of the cabinetry is original, and has been painted. One of my favorite parts is that the drawers are nice dovetail joint boxes and on ball bearing glides. We sleep in the front of the coach, on the first king-size bed we’ve had as a married couple. The bed doubles as a lounge during waking hours. All the sinks, tub and toilet have been replaced. We use a Natures Head composting toilet in the bathroom. The liquid waste part of the toilet is plumbed into the black tank or can be collected in the factory pail. We operate off the freshwater tank most of the time, rarely hooking up to city water. All supply lines have been replaced with PEX. A carbon block water filter is located under the kitchen sink for drinking and cooking. A 55-gallon freshwater tank is located over the axles, the 30-gallon grey water tank is fore, and the 30-gallon black water tank aft.  The freshwater and city water inlet has been upgraded and an outdoor shower was added to the curbside, rear. The back access door also gave us a sweet spot to bathe our pal, Indie.

Five 100AH lithium Battleborn batteries are located below the rear twin bed, along with the Victron solar charge controller and 3000-watt Multi-plus inverter. The electrical system is 30 amp. We installed a Progressive Systems EMS and an exterior weather boot for the shore cable.

The coach sets fairly low, and the overall height is only 10’. Two 40 pound LP bottles are mounted on the tongue, near the hand crank tongue jack.  The only battery on the tongue is a small battery powering the emergency breakaway switch. The suspension has been rebuilt with Dexter Easy Flex Equalizers and aligned, and all the brakes, drums and hubs are new. I was happy to find the coach included all 7 aluminum tire rims when we bought it. Since the coach is low to the ground, with rounded corners, and three axles, it tows quite nicely. We don’t feel the effect of trucks passing and wind like other taller coaches do.  A hardwired camera is located at the back of the coach, and is viewable, along with a second camera on the van, on a large color screen in the cab. All the running lights, brake lights, and lenses have been replaced. We are impressed with the stability of the coach. Items in the interior are in their places after a day of travel, and the coach feels solid when we are parked in high wind. We tow the coach with our van, Sunny. We’ll include a run-down of the van soon.  

Old Dogs, New Tricks!

You know that moment when you are knee deep in learning a new skill, something you have a genuine interest in, for example it could be starting a new blog, or You Tube, or renovating a vintage coach.. anyway, that moment when you have to sit back and say “This Sh*t is HARD!” Yep, that’s where we are right now.

We romanticized this living on the road and thought our old brains were prepared for new brain tricks.. and yes, we are learning. Again, this sh*t is hard!! It really isn’t that it is too hard, it’s that it’s so out of our wheelhouse that we feel like we have no idea where to start. Thankfully, age does give us one advantage on youth’s brains. We know how to ask for help!

We ask for help from a dear friend who is conquering the learning curve with her blog “The Older Mom”.. check her out! We scour You Tube for every how-to on every subject we don’t know. We sit together and laugh at how much we just don’t know. Then we get back on You Tube and Google and figure it out.

So here we are, almost 8 months into this journey of tiny living on the road, and we finally in a groove of working and playing on the road, being curious and learning new skills as well as adventuring to new places. The blog was much harder to keep up with than we thought. Not because it is so hard, but because there are so many fun things to do out there.. but now we want to share some of those things with you.

So… here it is. Look for a blog update every couple of weeks and …. DRUMROLL PLEASE… A NEW YOU TUBE CHANNEL!!! Yep, Luna and the Seekers will be posting our first video in the next week. We hope you’ll join us!!!