Independence Day with Luna!

Our friends Nick and Aimee.. he handmade this awesome sign for us!

About a  month and a half before closing on the sale of our house, we booked our first campsite for Luna.  The planned date for departure was July 3rd. We knew we would have some things to finish on the road and were good with that… but the closing date on the house was July 5th, so the schedule was determined. 

 As July 3rd approached, we worked hard to get the coach ready.  All of our friends and family kicked in to make this happen. The weather didn’t cooperate, it was either super hot or raining.  Add to that, we were also still emptying our house, and trying to organize the remaining things to take with us. These last days were hard.  Fatigue and emotion were deep and stirring. Added to all the logistics of the house sale and remodeling Luna, we lost two dogs to old age in the previous 5 weeks.  Dear family members that had been with us for more than 15 years. It would be an understatement to say we were done. Done with hot weather, interrupting rains, and done with sharing tears.  

Mica and Skeeter… we had planned on starting this adventure with them along side. It was so difficult to not have the choice. We will miss them dearly.

July 3rd rolled around and the coach was just not ready to leave.  To this day I cannot recall what was not ready, but the fact was.. it wasn’t.  The last few weeks were like that, a blur. I had been working on the coach until midnight or later for several days, at 1:30 am on the 4th of July, I rolled into bed to let Christina know… today is the day we leave. 

We fell asleep knowing the hardest days were behind us.  On the morning of the 4th of July, we woke up to cool, cloudy weather.  I hitched the van to the coach and started finishing details needed to pull out.  A friend in the Avion community was coming over to take my first drive with me. I met him on a Facebook page for Avions last year, and he had been a huge help, visiting the house and cluing me in.  When he arrived we jumped right into the van to go for a drive. 

I had no experience pulling a coach this size, and the brand new brakes had not even been set in.  I looked at him and joked about my first drive in a downpour. All he said was “trial by fire”. After a rainy test drive and a visit to the scales, we shook hands and bid farewell.   Our sister and brother in law showed up like the National Guard and helped us finish up details we hadn’t even thought of until we were supposed to be leaving. We threw more gear into the van, the station wagon, and into our new home on wheels.  Christina headed out to make a couple stops on the way to the lake, and I drove out of the driveway into the rain, headed for long roads and broad horizons. 

I have to admit it felt pretty powerful, and emotional at the same time, but I was so busy clearing corners and gripping the wheel, I had no time for any distractions.  I headed out of the city to highway K10 west, toward Lawrence, Kansas, about one hour away. Settling into the right lane, at 60 miles per hour, with a solid rain coming down, it hit me~ Independence Day.  While the whole country was busy icing down coolers, setting up tents and gassing up boats, we were experiencing our own amazing journey of independence. Independence from mowing the lawn, living in one place year after year and independence from decades of “normal” life. We will always stand at the edge of America’s most celebrated  summer holiday, knowing we too declared our own independence. It inspires us to know this, and to hold it in our hearts. So cheers! Cheers to living in a country where freedom and independence are so readily available. Cheers to hard work and changes in life, and cheers to living out dreams of wide open spaces, windy days and restful nights, and cheers to relishing well earned, independence.  

8 Days to Go!

We are 8 days away from leaving our driveway with the next house. 11 days from closing on the sale of the sticks and bricks home we have lived in for 14 years. It feels insane.

Every time a storm blows through I realize we’ll be in an 8500 pound aluminum tube during future thunder storms. Every morning I walk through an almost completely empty house, comfortably make a pot of french press coffee, waking to the fact that these wide open rooms will soon be behind us. And every morning my lovely bride shuffles out of the bedroom, half asleep and ready for a cup of joe. Within an hour, she’s making lists, kicking me in the can to get to work and joking about our adventure. Rock. Fucking. Solid. A champ to the enth degree. She inspires me. She props me up when I wobble and she hold me tight when I hold her first. This is where the truth shines brightest.

These are the moments when I know, as sure as the sun rising in the east, that we are a team. This project has taken everything we both have. Courage, ingenuity, creativity, strength and above all a sense of humor. This journey would simply not be the same without Christina Jonas. Onward!

Take a breath… let’s catch up!

A year ago we were dreaming of a different life. A tiny house, an adventure, all of the excitement that could come from just selling everything we own and hitting the road. Well.. we bought our beautiful (to us) Luna, we worked hard on her for a year. This coming Friday we close on the sell of our sticks and bricks home. Dreams are coming true..

We started this blog to share out story and our progress, and somewhere between home and “the new house”.. we couldn’t figure out what to share, how to time it, what to say to explain what was happening in our lives. Our emotions were high.. and have only gotten higher! Our physical strength and endurance has been challenged, mostly for Jonas for sure. He is a work horse. Plain and Simple.

So here we are today, the 2nd of July.. and we want to update you! Our Luna is almost complete, but in the words of one of my dearest friends Dad…she’s plenty good enough. We will have some odds and ends to finish on the road, but we can live quite beautifully in what we have made. In fact, we may be pretty smitten with her.

Our plans are to head out tomorrow afternoon and drive to Clinton Lake where we will home base for the next couple months and get our plans more defined. So when you ask… where will you go next? We will tell you soon, or when we decide.

The blog will now be updated regularly, and we can’t wait to share more photos and tell you what we have been up to and where we are planning to be. We are greatful for all the love and support we have been given.. we could not have done this in the ways and with the peace that we have, without each of you. Thank you, and Thank you for sharing our story with others.

Heading back out to paint! Wish us luck… tomorrow is pretty soon.

The Dreaded Roof

It was a hot, muggy spring day when we surveyed Luna for the first time.  Damp and stuffy inside, we did our homework and checked everything out. Borrowing a ladder I climbed the side of the coach to see what we were dealing with on top.  We already knew a big limb had fallen on the coach, but when I reached the top of the ladder my heart sank. The roof was a mess. It was coated in a white “lifetime” coating, messy and several layers thick.  The rear skylight was completely gone with a piece of plastic screwed in place. There were 5 holes in the roof where the limb had fallen. I dreaded the work ahead, but knew it was part of the job.

Once the coach was home, we thought the bathroom would be our first job, but the rainy weather let us know, that wasn’t the case!  I went to work on the roof straight away. Using 15 minute paint stripper I started at the back, curb side on a ladder. Working in sections about 2 feet square I stripped the plastic coating. It took two or three applications of the stripper for each section.  Using plastic scrapers, razor blades, a stainless steel wire brush, idle threats, paint thinner and scrubby pads, I work on the roof day and night. Buried in the coating were TV coax cables, unused hardware and lots of loose or broken rivets. I worked up the curb side, it tooks several weekends and evenings, then down the driver’s side from the ladder too.  Every rivet got a drop or two of sealer, then a 1” round Eternabond dot on top. All the long seams were scraped clean and re-sealed. The gutter line got a good cleaning and seal too. Then the center section. The worst. Heavily coated and beat to smithereens by years of weather, foot traffic and of course the limb crash.

Temporary indoor stud wall to crown the roof

Before I climbed on the roof and started, I built a temporary stud wall inside the coach.  Driving in studs, all cut to the exact same length, the ceiling was “crowned” and lifted. Toward the front and rear ends, the ceiling barely felt the push of the stud wall, but in the middle, especially around the AC, the studs had to be driven in pretty hard, and the ceiling got up to a half inch of lift.  What this meant was that the whole time I worked on the center of the roof, not only was my weight not taking a toll on the roof, but the roof was being rebuilt with a nice crown. I stripped all the coating in the center section. Under the coating were water pockets and air bubbles. The center seam had lots of broken or rivets, probably from trapped moisture and freezing.  I pulled the old 17” vents, the AC the bathroom vent, plumbing vents, a satellite dish, TV antenna and an assortment of screws and odd hardware. Every square inch had to prepped and cleaned for new rivets and sealers.

Dirty work… let’s get going!

We installed almost 500 rivets working on the roof.  Both vents were grommeted and replaced with 14” vents.  A new AC was installed, so was a new bathroom vent. The fridge vent cover and kitchen exhaust cover were reinstalled. I put 5 small patches on the holes where the limb fell.   The roof was finished just in time for winter and we had a lot of snow. Everything stayed dry and clean. I’m looking forward to being able to manage the roof long into the future now that it is not coated.  Annual inspections should keep us current on seams and joints. I also bought an 18 volt leaf blower that has worked great to keep leaves and needles off the roof and awning covers. It was the most dreaded job I faced.  I’m glad to have it behind me.

Rivets, rivets, rivets… repeat.
Grommet to retrofit 14″ vent into a 17″ hole.
New Maxxair Vent… we love these!
Patches where roof was punctured by limb falling.
Finished product! She looks beautiful!

Our next house…

We’ve always had cool houses.  Early in our marriage we bought a 1915 craftsman house, worked on it like crazy.  It was cool. Tons of character and a formal first floor where dinners and parties flourished.  Our next house, the one we live in now, is a 1952 mid-century modern. With 27 feet of floor to ceiling windows across the back, it has an amazing view.  It boasts a one-off Belgium glass wall in the kitchen, and of course, a dining room that has hosted any number of parties. We like our houses like we like our friends, easy to be around and full of character.  I had settled on a company that delivered tiny house trailers, with the house framed in metal studs, ready to be finished. Christina was convinced she wanted more freedom of movement than a tiny house, and the search for a travel coach began.  

We are not what most consider “normal”.  We are a little off the beaten path, and full of texture and richness.  We like our coffee, tools, electronics, cookware and cars made with quality and care. We don’t want a lot, but we want it to be good. And if it’s a few years old, we’re ok with that too.   We looked for the same in a travel coach, our next home. We wanted to be able to handle at least a little bit of cold weather. And we knew that if we were going to make it, we needed some space, even though there will only be two of us and a dog.  We wanted a coach that is low profile and streamlined. Being the creative, funny, zany people we are, we definitely wanted a ton of character in our home. Coming home from work one day, I found Christina headlong into another of her online expeditions, she discovered Avion travel coaches.  We fell in love. For Christina, the coach had that cool look of an aluminum and rivet exterior. She loved the use of real wood cabinetry inside. And she really liked the floor plan of the 34V. I too love the aluminum exterior, and even more, the aluminum interior coated walls and aluminum wall and roof framing.  When I read the words “aircraft style construction”, my little tiny gear head brain was hooked. I love the heavy duty frame, three independent axles and a fully enclosed belly pan. When I saw the dovetail joint drawers, I was impressed. We wanted a fixer upper, knowing we would be making some changes to the floor plan to fit our style.  A fixer upper meant we could stay in our budget too. Reflecting on some of our friends fifth wheels, I noted the lack of a “basement” in the Avion. Ok by me, we have lived in a slab house for 14 years, and I’ve rarely missed having a basement. Less junk piling up, and less to keep clean. Another thing we like about the Avion is it’s low stance.  Only one step into the coach. This will be challenging for us in some road conditions, but being low, out of the wind and having such ease of movement means a lot to us. Overall the Avion demonstrates careful construction, rivets everywhere and nicely installed cabinetry. A heavy duty frame, doubled up over the axles ensures long lasting service. The interior floor is three layers, with a foam insulation layer laminate in the center, and walls, years ahead of their time, filled with solid foam insulation.  The tow vehicle we just purchased for our Avion is a 2012 Chevy Express 3500, with the Duramax diesel. The Chevy and the Avion are very similar in height, especially with the kayaks on top. For me, this creates a slipstream with the van punching into the air with little resistance from the low profile coach. Even with almost no experience towing a 34 foot trailer, I can’t wait to get this rig on the road. With a planned speed of no more that 60-65 miles per hour, some books on CD and a windshield full of American landscapes, we think our Avion 34V will make for amazing adventures.  Thanks for joining us.

Why THIS Avion?

Avion coaches are a little rare, and can be hard to find.  We wanted a 34 foot coach as it will be our full time home.  We found a coach in Michigan that we felt was a perfect fit. After several phone calls and emails with the owner, and agreeing to a price, I took time off work and we drove the 9 hour trip to Michigan.  We visited the coach and took a good look at things, we were ready to buy. As we discussed on the phone, I offered the amount we discussed..  cash.  He glanced at his wife, who shook her head “NO”!  The price I offered was already a premium price for the condition of the coach, so I thanked them for their time and left the house.  I think I had steam coming out my ears, my wife could tell from the inside the car, the deal fell through…

We still had a night in the hotel booked and decided to make the best of it.  After hours of searching, we found a 34V just south of St. Louis, that just came on the market.  It also happened to be on our way home. We called the seller and told him our story, he agreed to meet us on a Sunday.  Arriving around noon, we found all sorts of travel trailers, with several aluminum coaches in one section. Avions, Airstreams, and a 1940’s Spartan.  He had an Avion slide out camper, too. There she was, our dear Luna. On a slope, and with the tongue high. The coach looked a little rough, but we knew what to look for after hours of reading online articles.  The seller opened the door and we walked in. Summer heat and a closed coach with some water coming in, make for a pretty musty interior. I think Christina was barely breathing. I toughed it out and opened everything. Every single thing. The coach was quite intact.  All there, but had hosted some rodents, and mildew was found inside some cabinets. I carefully inspected floor, finding only one soft area. That was good news. The bad news was, climbing the ladder I found the roof coated, and it was a mess.

But the coach was smiling at us.  She was solid and proud. Deserving of love and attention.  We struck a deal with the seller, several thousand dollars less than we would have paid in Michigan.  We even made arrangements for the seller to deliver the coach to our home 4 hours away in Kansas. We laughed all the way home, realizing our dreams were coming true.  We were freaked out that we had taken these steps, but so excited to move forward. Several weeks later, the coach was delivered to our home. The seller was amazing. A true aluminum trailer fan, he carefully backed the coach onto our driveway and parked it right in front of the house.

We had to fight our friends off from coming by,  Luna had to be cleaned.  I went to work pressure washing the exterior, including the insides of the lower storage areas.  Opening all the windows I vacuumed everything I could get to. We pulled out the awnings and were glad to see them in great shape too. When you wash something from top to bottom, you get a good look at things.  The coach was in better shape than I remembered. We left an ozone generator running in the coach for days to reduce the odors, it worked great. After days of cleaning we had a “before” party. All our friends finally got to visit Luna.  We had cocktails and snacks and hung out in our new home. Our friends have always known us to live our lives fully, and choose the path we love the most. None of them were surprised at our adventure. Luna was home, scrubbed clean and loving the sun.  Blessed by laughter, and life giving friends, Luna began to shine brightly, ready to see her days extended with her new found family.

Who the Heck are these Peeps?  

Christina comes from a small town in Missouri, just north of Kansas City.  Her Mom was an avid outdoors woman. Her knowledge of native edibles, mushrooms, and the land turned an after lunch hike into unforgotten discoveries.  Her Dad was retired Navy, and enjoyed fishing by row boat on the local river. Christina is a simple blend of the two. She’s strong, smart and caring.  She enjoys cooking, nurturing friends, and entertaining. Christina worked in banking for many years, and became a full time mom at home when our first son was born.  During those years she practiced art and self employment at home. She and a girlfriend ran a small business making hand crafted luxury soaps. She enjoys photography and editing and has a dozen other small crafts she hustles around her studio.  Christina has a clear connection between her mind and her hands, and it always shows when she is working. Christina works with Heartconnexion Seminars. She helps organize and leads the volunteers in the Breakththrough seminars. She has a strong heart to listen and support others.

I was a commercial artist for over 11 years.  I always enjoyed the work, and found the most peace at work at a drawing table.  I switched careers when we started a family and ran a nice auto shop in Kansas City for several years when the kids were young, then became self employed, working on antique houses.  The work is pretty creative and after 18 years of it, I still find it quite rewarding. Our youngest son became involved in cyclocross when he was in high school. Christina did all the driving and managed his road trips.  I got involved with the local team coach and started a program we still lead called Donderdag! Youth Cyclocross Clinics. Donderdag! has grown into a 501 3C Non-Profit and I serve as board President. I will definitely share more about it at a later time. We coach kids and families from September to January every year.  I love the sport, and working with the kids and families inspires my heart and mind. It’s a place where simple time and attention to a young person can make all the difference in their lives.

We’ve always enjoyed the outdoors together.  Early we liked to car camp with our friends locally, and a couple times a year we’d go backpack something fun and off the beaten path.  Favorite times. We had kids about 3 years after we married and they were in tents and backpacking early and often. Our oldest son was nursing in a tent at 6 weeks old. They both vacationed, camped, and backpacked with us in Colorado, New Mexico, and the Grand Tetons.  One of our favorite trips with the kids was in the Black Hills in south Dakota, watching a big cabin tent come loose and blow across the campground while we we sitting up on a bluff looking down…. It was ours! Life and connection with the earth spills over into our kitchen. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, and when we married, Christina had no problem finding recipes she liked to cook.  We’re mostly vegan now days, and I’m still the luckiest guy in town when it comes to great food at home.

Christina and I surround ourselves with things in life that instill joy in the human spirit.  We love funny movies with our kids, and laugh so loud that it surprises other people in the room.  We hosted my family reunion together for 30 years, in our home. Basically a weekend dog pile of food, laughter and zaniness. She’s always been a good sport.  We loved going to musicals, band events, and art shows our kids were in at their schools. We love to be inspired. And so here we find ourselves. The kids have been out of the house for a couple years. We are nowhere near retirement, and I’m ready to change my job.  We’ve been wishing for an off grid house forever, but never thought we could afford one. We joked about getting a tiny house and moving onto our friend’s driveways. We tested the water in a little A-frame camper about 4 years ago, and every time we drove toward home after a weekend in the little camper, all we talked about was how great it would be to hit the road.  To live fully in the dreams we keep sharing. To take a dare before we grow up enough to know better. So this is our place in time. We’ve always been seekers.

To Seeking Less and Finding More!

Jonas