Saturday, April 22, 2017

Getting the rhythm

I've often wondered what my natural patterns would be if I took away all external influences.  No alarm clock, no appointments, nothing but going to bed when I'm tired, waking up when I'm rested.  For the last 5 months I've had that, more or less. Now the report from the front lines.  I know this sounds boring but stay with me here.  I like to go to sleep between 10pm and 11pm, and left to my own devices (with no cat or dog intervention) I wake up at about 7am.  Basically my whole working career I've had what I call "ass in the seat" jobs.  Meaning show up on time, put your ass in a seat, work til lunch, eat, work til quitting time, go home, repeat. As I am entering an entrepreneurial business I need to find out what my natural work rhythms are.  For some things I'll be going back to the alarm clock.  For instance if I need to shoot some video on the road the best light is first thing in the morning, meaning pre-dawn departure.  My goal is to be doing what I am best at, when I am best at it. When I have a difficult problem I've discovered letting my subconscious work on it while I sleep usually has good results.  Same with this blog.  I woke up this morning with a pretty good idea what I wanted to say today.  So creative stuff 7am til 10am or so.  When I had my ass-in-the-seat job I would eat lunch at my desk and spend my half hour lunch walking in the parking lot.  Exciting right?  I think this helped my get passed the post lunch grogginess. So maybe chores from 10am to 11:30 followed by lunch and a walk.  The afternoon will be a good time to do the nuts and bolts of video production, downloading raw video, rough edits, location scouting, camera and motorcycle maintenance.  I also think there is some value in being bored.  I find if I put down my phone, turn off the TV and disconnect for awhile my mind seems sharper.  My focus improves and I actually feel better.  The longer I remain disconnected the more I can see projects, how they will work, what the snags are, and ideas for getting around them.  So maybe another creative period in the evening. Rest, repeat. Every day we are getting closer to our departure, and I'm looking forward to finding the rhythm of the road.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mom was right

My mom is an interior decorator.  She's always talking about the importance of surrounding yourself with colors that make you feel good.  Now I understand.

Up until Tuesday there was still this little voice in the back of my head now and then whispering that we were making the wrong decision.  That we should just hunker down in our house, push Lance to take another W2 job and continue to work for the man forever. Vacation for the two weeks of allotted time a year and be content with that.  Continue working to support the house until we're dead like the rest of America.  After all, we worked so hard on this house and it is finally in good condition.  We're basically happy here.

Until the interior of the house was painted white.  Up until Monday I woke up every morning happy to be greeted by the underwater blue. It made me smile first thing in the day.

Now, I wake up every morning and my first thought is I HATE it here. I can't wait to get out. I hit the ground with both feet running. I'm pushing the real estate agent for the next project.

The RV is still at the shop getting the hydraulic jacks and the water pump replaced.  In the meantime, we have piles to sort through because the painters evicted everything from every closet. Here I thought I was such a good little minimizer, and now that I see my entire closets dumped out onto the floor I realize we
have so, so far to go.

But now that little voice of doubt is long gone. I've just shifted from Low Forward to Second Gear. All eyes forward - let's go!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Being Erased by Ikea

Now that the shakedown cruise is completed, we have a short laundry list of repairs.

Some we can do ourselves. It's a relief to see that we settled into teamwork on the RV much like we always have on the boat - we discuss the plan of attack, gather the tools and attack one project at a time together. As usual one of us takes lead, playing to our strengths, and the other falls into a supporting role.

We were never this good together on house projects.  In fact, our 9 years of homeownership have been mostly a non-stop series of bickerfests over every angle of every project until one of us just throws in the towel from exhaustion.  There are a couple of exceptions  - one of which being the guest room drapes.

I designed a roman-type shade system with bamboo supports and sailing hardware, and there is none else like it. We shopped the fabric and built it together; Lance did the wood and bamboo cutting, gluing and painting, I found the bamboo and boat cleat, cut and sewed the fabric, varnished the cleat support to tie off, both of us hammered the grommets and together we mounted it to the wall, and ran the hardware and lines to the wall cleat.  It was one of our first projects together as new homeowners, and we were so excited that it was a one-off design we built together. From my brain to our hands to our wall.  We had high expectations that the rest of the house would come together the same way.  It did not.

Fast-forward 9 years and countless projects later.  I have come to loathe Every. House. Project. The bickering, the indecision, the time spent NOT on the boat, the money spent NOT on vacations.

But there it was, on the wall, a perfect example of something we could accomplish if we put our heads together.

Well, the real estate agent doesn't like the colors I chose for the bedrooms.  The master bedroom in particular is a very "interesting" shade of blue.  I love it because I am a scuba diver and I feel like I am underwater.  Apparently other people don't enjoy waking up and thinking they are underwater, the agent tells us it will be easier to sell the house if all the bedroom walls are painted white.  Rental house white.

I HATE rental house white.  Always have.  I've moved countless times and every rental is
the same soulless shade of white.  I swore that if I was ever a homeowner again I would paint the walls ANYTHING but white.

I'm trying to remain calm.  This officially does not feel like my house any more.  At least there are those interesting curtains, some sign that we were actually here, real people who tried to be good Americans and fit into the American Dream as prescribed by countless others.  We worked very hard, we put all our money and time into this house, we tried very hard to take care of it ourselves and make it our own home.

I took another deep breath.  Reminded myself that this was our plan, I needed to let it go.  I was working through it.  Until I noticed that they had spilled white paint on the shades that we built together.  The employee scrubbed on it for a moment before shrugging and saying "maybe my boss buy you some more" and wanders off.

Um, ok?!? Any evidence that I was here at all is about to be erased!
Like some cheap Ikea curtains are going to solve this problem!

Yes, I know, curtains are just things. And the house is just a thing. And collectively it is all one giant albatross holding us back from pursuing our life of travel. And that we will have so much more freedom once we're out from under the mortgage and on the road. And I am a person who will hopefully continue to exist long after curtains have been replaced.  I know all of that. And I will come around to all of these facts. Later.  Right now I need to be somewhere else - anywhere else but here in this house, somebody else's house, with these

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The shakedown cruise

For our shakedown cruise weekend we picked Pismo Beach - it's just under 200 miles away from home, it's a place we know and love with plenty of RV support, just about right for a shakedown cruise.
The RV park we picked turned out to be essentially a gravel parking lot, no grass or trees. After fighting the LA traffic and the wind to get there I would have been relieved to slip it into any parking spot at all, make a sundowner and call it a day.

Lance is still hobbling around on crutches and a knee scooter so we didn't roam far, all the same it was a good shakedown.

Things that work:
  • Love, love, love shopping at the grocery store and pulling the cart right up to the door of the bus, handing the groceries right in to the kitchen counter.
  • With the RV parked and the slideout open, it's so roomy.
  • With the windows closed the RV was much quieter inside than we expected, couldn't hear the neighbor kids hardly at all.
  • The bed is soooooo comfortable. I'm glad I spent some extra dough on top-shelf sheets and a duvet. My concerns about sharing a queen bed were unfounded - he didn't kick me with the cast-foot even once.
  • I love that when we get where we're going, we are totally there. Everything we need is at our fingertips. Want a sweater - got it. Want a swimsuit - got it. Want a steak and salad - got it. Want power for the laptop - got it. Want to close the door and enjoy alone time - got it.
Thanks that didn't work:
  • The RV parking was way too close for comfort at this park.  The 12 kids that Lance dubbed the "razor brigade" scooted around and around the park whooping and hollering, when they weren't splashing loudly in the pool.  Next time we'll choose our park more carefully to maintain some elbow room.
  • The hydraulic jacks weren't cooperating. Which made it difficult to get any work done without getting queasy, any hopping done by Lance and his crutches got my stomach to lurching.  In the end I carried the laptop outside to a shady table to finish the work.
  • We never did get the water pump or water heater working. Since it's a 12v problem we removed and replaced every fuse we could find. No dice there.
  • Both of which lead me to... the manuals that came with our Tiffin are pretty lame.  We know every inch of them backwards and forwards now and still can't solve our own problems and we usually can. It's clear we need a guru and some hand-holding.
  • We won't be doing any more trips until Lance has two proper shoes. He's supposed to be staying off his foot, but the call of the RV troubleshooting and nature outside had him hopping around way more than the doctor requested.
The cruise home was much better, mostly because there was no wind to fight and we selected a better traffic window for getting across LA, and also because I am getting more comfortable with the way the RV shifts and when the exhaust brake kicks in, so the overall effect is a smoother ride.

I've come to the conclusion that every sport has one particular skill, which when mastered makes everything else work better.  With scuba it's buoyancy control.  With sailing it's learning to balance the boat.  With motorcycle and horse riding it's unclenching your hips and releasing the death grip.  With RVing it appears to be spatial awareness.  I find that it's natural to allow it to drift to the right and hug the lane to my right, which makes Lance nervous and the resulting irritating noises are difficult to ignore.  I have found a spot on the dash which when lined up with the middle divider places us in perfect center of the lane, I will focus and and practice this until it's second nature for I believe this to be the kingpin skill in becoming one with the RV handling and all it's hugeness.

My Dad, a truck driver, calls this sideways drift a "novice mistake". 
Well, I am a novice but not everybody on the road needs to know about it, right?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hey! I paid for 7 new tires!

When we tried to apply the tire pressure monitoring system we discovered it. We'd been cheated! Lied to!

We have 6 tires on the rig, and one spare tire.
We'd asked for the best one of the bunch to be made into the spare, and paid for mounting/balancing of 7 tires.  When Lance was installing  the tire pressure monitoring system he noticed the "new" tires we'd bought were actually a year and a half old already (we're supposed to replace RV tires when they're 5 years old), and the original spare remains untouched. Irritating.

Two phone calls later, and the spare tire project was back on the schedule (the tire shop's response: "we forgot, sorry, we'll pull the best one off the pile now, come on back in", 3 hours of waiting room later and we have the best old tire as a spare now), and a conversation with Michelin "the shelf life for a tire at the factory is 3 years and still considered new, hold onto the receipt so the first year and half of the life of the tire doesn't count against you".  Rrrrgggh.

This is not a good beginning to our maintenance relationship with the RV.
But I feel better knowing that the tires are handled. I suppose it's no different from any other automobile or home repair - gotta find the right repair guys and hammer it into submission one project at a time.

On the upside, after the spare was handled, I drove on to visit a client in the neighborhood.  He owns a successful business which he built himself, and in a home near the beach which he doesn't get to visit as often as he'd like.  He too got a wistful look in his eye when he saw the RV and heard our dream of cruising across the open land to see new vistas.  I see that look a lot nowadays when I paint my picture of adventure, as I've chosen to explain it to each of my clients one at a time.  Maybe it's just that my clients are mostly entrepreneurs so they're already brave adventurers at heart, but I don't think that's entirely the story.  I suppose as we go along and I mingle more with the general public we'll see if I notice that same far-off look from the rest of the population too.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

This thing handles like a bus!

This vehicle is sooooooo big.

So we closed the deal on our coach on Tuesday, Lance had his (hopefully) last round of foot surgery on Wednesday, it was delivered by the previous owners last Sunday, and I've been driving it around the neighborhood trying to get a feel for it.

One thing is for sure... this thing is huuuuuuge. It's 34'... 4' longer than we wanted, but most of the other stars were aligned so we bought it anyways.  I suspect we'll be grateful for the extra space when we've been full-timers for a while, but for now I feel like I'm wheeling a bus around in L.A. traffic.  Because I am.

Now that we have it home and have begun crawling all over it, we see that the six tires range from 7, 9, to 12 years old. Even though the tread looks good, everything I read leads me to believe the likely fail point is the sidewalls from sun damage. We did buy this RV from the desert, and upon closer inspection I can see cracks in the sidewalls here and there.  So it's a new round of tires for us.

six tires = $2500
new tie rod ends, alignment, mount and balance = $800
tire pressure monitoring system = $300
Not having THAT rollover experience = priceless
The bus slips past the gate with two inches to spare on the fence,
and comes to rest with less than an inch between the bus and the house