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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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.