#damselNOTindistress: Flooring … and a little bit more.

Last summer, when I went back to Washington for Edgar’s number retirement ceremony, I wound up replacing flooring in my mom’s kitchen, living, and dining room. Over the winter, Mom and I agreed that I would plan on doing the rest of the flooring this summer. I could drive up, bring Sprocket and my tools and knock it out.

Ha.

Her insurance also insisted that she replace the siding so she hired a contractor friend to tackle that. He figured, no big deal, it’s one story, no ladders needed.

Ha.

Her house is almost 40 years old which meant plenty of surprises as both the siding and the flooring projects proceeded.

Almost immediately, things went off the rails when I discovered a leak from the master bathroom shower into the living room when I pulled up the carpet. I replaced patches of subfloor from years of pets in the house. And the bathroom leak morphed into a full master bathroom renovation.

A full bathroom renovation included doing drywall. I hate doing drywall.

I sort of tortured my pup as a distraction:

Days and weeks crept by and by the time I was getting close to wrapping things up, life in Colorado started demanding that I come home. Sprocket and I were pretty happy to answer that call. I felt bad because there were finishing touches to be done but fortunately they were much smaller projects (baseboard, painting) that other family members volunteered to do for Mom.

Before I left, the flooring was all done, the master bath was brand new (isn’t her vanity gorgeous?),

She also got a new hot water heater! (Ughhhh, the lighting in this hall sucks…. I have Ideas.)

This vanity area turned out nicely though!

Her bedroom is also freshly painted and has a new floor:

Now, I just have to go back next summer and tackle this project that appeared during the process. It’s always something, but I’ve been promised I can learn to tile here.

#shedlife Patio

When I realized that last summer was not going to turn out to be one of crazy adventure but instead going to be one that presented me with the opportunity to make a house in Ridgway a reality for me, I also decided to take on a bit of a project.

While I was mowing a neighbor’s lawn around her raised garden beds (very similar to mine) I realized that it was a giant pain. I had to maneuver the mower around a million corners and it still needed to be edged with a weed eater. I needed to think of a different plan for my beds. Then I started to think about summer monsoons and tracking mud into the shed…

A vision for my shed patio was born. (Hurray for another #damselNOTindistress project!) I went to Home Depot and started browsing their options for patio pavers. I started out envisioning this as a relatively inexpensive project but as DIY things often do, the scope expanded and I decided to do a more “complete” job and I wound up spending about $1000 on pavers, sand, gravel plus delivery, and the rental of a paver cutter. Initially I thought, I probably should have put this project off for a few years but when we had multiple thaws over the winter it was totally worth it. (Not to mention it just felt like further staking a claim to the property!)

The project started out with digging out a level paver surface. Let me tell you, this turned into a way bigger thing that I thought! I wish I would have laid the pavers and installed the garden beds at the same time to eliminate the need for cutting pavers but hindsight is always helpful.

Taking a break in the shade

Since I don’t have a pickup truck, I splurged on delivery of gravel ($125) for the paver area rather than asking a friend to take multiple trips to Montrose. Spreading the gravel went extra fast thanks to help from a neighbor and from little Miss LC. The help was especially awesome since I was trying to do this amid 60 hour work weeks!

Fortunately, a friend volunteered to bring me some paver sand from Montrose which saved me another hefty delivery fee and signaled real progress on my project! Laying the pavers went fairly quickly and they’re pretty darn level. Once I had all of the whole pavers laid, I rented a cement/paver cutter from Home Depot and trimmed out all of the partial rows. I’m glad I didn’t stray from my pattern to force the pavers to “mostly” fit into the spaces. Everything looks so great this way.

Early in the fall, my friend moved to California and gave me her patio table and then my boss found me an old umbrella he wasn’t using so the whole thing feels really quite nice. I was really conservative about over planting this year since I didn’t have water on the property until just last week but they still look good!

English Paper Piecing Quilt, Part 5: The Finale

I finished it.

There were some tears when I tried to quilt it on my home machine: it was just too big to maneuver and handle and after all the work I’d put in, lackluster workmanship wasn’t acceptable to me. I caved and took it to the quilt shop in Montrose to have it longarm quilted.

Once I brought the quilt home again in late January, I decided I needed to finish binding it before the end of the school year. It had occurred to me that this quilt, in its long 4 year(!!) construction, had really encompassed a period of instability and transition in my life. Somewhere it felt important to wrap it up before moving back to Ridgway for good.

To reach that goal, I immediately attached the binding by machine to the front of the quilt and then tried to make steady progress on hand stitching it to the quilt back.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, after four years and three months in progress, it was done. I carefully photographed it and then packed it away to be used next winter in my very own home. The quilt of my wandering days is done.

Ridgway House: February 2017

Last fall flashed by before I could get any progress photos of the lot. Our mid-February spring weather stretch has melted all the snow off and I had an unexpected chance to catch up.

Sprocket models in the middle of our views to the east… hello, dear Cimarrons, I love you so. The sun comes up from behind those lovelies and they light up with alpenglow almost every night. There will be a coffee porch facing them.

Here’s a shot of the property looking southeast from the alley:

Looking northeast from the alley: the house will be in the center of the photo up by the street. Note that the dirt pile is gone along with all of the assorted logs and wood that were scattered on the property.

Here’s a (very skewed) panorama looking north from the property line.

And then, finally, a couple of views from the street. I’m going to try to be better about taking photos like this as things come together!

House Building: Plan Approval

Last Tuesday, the planning and zoning commission in Ridgway decided that my plans for the house were okay with them even though they differ from the home design standard a little bit. It was nerve-wracking although clearly it turned out okay. I treated myself to takeout Thai in order to celebrate.

That means that I spent the rest of the week giving the draftsperson the go-ahead to finish up with the plans, lining up an engineer, and starting the loan application process. I spend almost 30% of my nights in a shed and the other 70% in a rental house, I would really like to get this process going, you know?

This all feels so surreal. It also feels strange to talk about publicly because so much at this point leans on my finance and in America we don’t talk about finances because people feel bad about money and it’s “impolite.”  (I’d argue that dollars are just facts/numbers not value judgements but alas…)  So, here goes, if this whole house plan grinds to a halt at this stage, it’s because it’s tied up with my financial situation.

In the meantime, here’s the elevations and floor plans. Architect is … me.

#damselNOTindistress: XJ Alternator

School got out Friday afternoon and I could hardly wait to hit the road for Arizona. My plan was to camp somewhere near the trailhead for Mount Baldy (if not at the trailhead). Sprocket and I made good time down through Cortez, on to Shiprock, and then to Gallup. Before we knew it we were passing through St. John, Arizona. Somewhere just south of St. John, the battery light signal came on.

With just 30 miles to go to Springerville, I figured I should be just fine. I turned off the radio, didn’t use my brights and continued on. (This is where I should point out that #thehelpfulex suggested ages ago that I find a set of non-dummy gauges for RuthXJ and I said I didn’t need them…I would have noticed the issue way sooner if I could have seen the voltage drop rather than relying on the light to come on.) As the headlights started to dim, I was pretty sure the alternator was the problem. Then the clock went out and I was even more sure. Fortunately, this is a totally parking lot fixable problem for a #damselNOTindistress so I stayed nice and calm.

Google maps showed a couple of auto parts stores in Springerville that were open on Saturday so I had a destination: I was going to make it to Carquest to be there when they opened at 8am.

At the junction of US 60 and US 191, I felt the first sputter. I was less than 4 miles from town and really hoped that I could make it. Another mile and a half down the road, however, the fuel pump stopped getting enough voltage to work. I coasted into a ranch driveway with room alongside to camp just off the highway and crawled in the back.

In the morning, I flagged down the first car I saw which happened to be a Eagar Police animal control officer. He hung out with me for ten minutes charging up the battery so that I could drive into town and followed me to make sure that I got there.

Carquest had the alternator in stock and charged my battery while I swapped out the alternator. First I had to loosen up the power steering pump to remove the belt (it was a lot more cramped than my experience with the FSJ one!)I made it harder than it needed to be by trying to take it out without loosening the bracket but eventually I got it all sorted out by being smarter not stronger. I even changed out my belt since I had it loosened up although I certainly paid a premium for it.

While it sucked to be delayed a bit, it felt really good to know that I was capable of handling the problem on my own (including telling the men who passed by me on the way into the store that I really did have everything under control).

Small REAL Houses

Guys, I’ve done it.

I’m at the point where I need to pick a plan or hire someone to design a plan for my house. Once I do this, I can get bids and look for someone who can break ground in the spring. Basically, until I start making some at least basic decisions, there’s not much more that I can do (except keep saving money).

WHAT?

The first thing about this is that it’s terrifying. I’ve done so much thinking about what I need in a house and I know that I don’t need a big house. I don’t need a bathroom for each of my bedrooms. I don’t want it to be ugly. I don’t want it to be sterile. In some ways, buying an already built house suddenly seems appealing because fewer decisions. The reality in this area is that I can’t afford to do that. Somehow it’s still cheaper to build plus get something that doesn’t need to be remodeled, efficient, and small.

The other frustration is that I want both small and a real house.

If you get on Pinterest or browse any Tumblr of adorable small houses, at some point you realize that they’re not really lived in. The words “guest house” and “studio” and “sleeping quarters” or “cottage” start appearing.

When they do, you realize there is either a a giant 4,000sq ft monstrosity to support it just outside the frame. Or, they often have bedrooms so small they don’t have closets because they’re vacation homes where their owners store all their clothing. If you do manage to find a “full” house, in 2016 apparently “small” means less than 2,000 sq ft. TWO THOUSAND SQUARE FEET. I grew up in about 1,600 sq. ft. with a family of 4 and we had a whole giant formal living room and a big entry way we never used (and the dining room was barely touched). 

I’ve lived in 930 sq. ft. with another person and a dog and I know that we had so much wasted space. I don’t want to go too much smaller and I’m willing to consider plans up to that size but I really really don’t want to go bigger.

#shedlife Update

Um. Hi? How is it already more than a week into June? The last few weeks have passed in a blur of washing dishes, waiting tables, mowing lawns, and working around the shed. While this isn’t quite a crazy adventurous live-in-the-Jeep-and-climb-mountains-all-the-time summer, so far I’m happy as a clam being home in little old Ridgway and Making Stuff Happen.

#shedlife is treating me quite well. Summer in Colorado has arrived which means upper 40s and low 50s sleeping temperatures in Ridgway; with a big old cuddly dog that’s about perfect! Friends have been super kind about offering up showers and laundry. Thanks to my #vanlife background whipping up a meal on the two burner is no big deal (plus I eat at the restaurant when I work a lot). Between work, the library, and the park, bathrooms have been no big deal.

Mostly, it’s good to feel like I’m home.

I’m going to have to splurge on a lantern of some kind for evening reading. After a long day of working and on rare occasion, hiking, after a half hour or so I’m usually nodding off but it’d probably be helpful to not be propping my flashlight up on my shoulder. I’m eyeing either Goal Zero’s Lighthouse or Lighthouse Mini… I’ll probably be pulling the trigger on something in the next couple of days so if you have thoughts about these two or something else, give me a shout soon!

In addition to everything else, I’ve been moving some dirt around and making things happen in the garden; update on that coming really soon. Sprocket has really taken to his property he stays but sits and intently observes anyone walking past us.

One step at a time, things are happening and I feel really great about what’s happening. Just please, remind me of this in October when I am very sad about my low hiking level this summer. Sprocket tries to guilt me everyday.

Vehicle Living: What Route Is Right For You?

The internet loves #vanlife. #westielife, #RVliving, and so on and so forth are popular too. Maybe you’re starting to contemplate some time on the road yourself but there are so many choices: a Sprinter? A basic delivery van? A camper? Another RV?

I’ve done a fair amount of living and and traveling in a vehicle and there are pros and cons to pretty much anything you choose. The most important suggestion I can make is to not get too attached to any particular form of conveyance. Until you figure out your travel style and what is important to you, you won’t really know what the most practical choice is for you. Keeping your investment minimal can allow you to switch vehicle forms as you sort all that out. (But although totally impractical, if anyone wants to buy me a Pendleton Airstream, $120k, I wouldn’t be opposed).

Without any more ado, I present to you…

3Up Adventures Vehicle Living Comparison

| SPRINTER | CARGO VAN | TRUCK CAMPER |

|LARGE TRAILER | SMALL TRAILER |CAR/TRUCK|

Sprinter Van:

I traveled in a Sprinter van with my ex from November 2013 until late January of 2014. We had purchased the Sprinter with an eye to traveling to Alaska the following summer, a trip covering a huge number of miles and making the fuel mileage of the Sprinter a real boon.

Pros: Fuel mileage. Our 2002 Sprinter would regularly get about 26-28 mpg as long as we were driving about 55mph. I’m a firm believer that for the budget conscious adventure traveler driving a bit slower to maximize your fuel dollar is totally worth it.

Head room. Being able to stand up is a really amazing thing in your travel vehicle. Although by no means a requirement, over the long haul putting your clothes on or cooking dinner without being stooped over is a really nice option.

Comfortable driving arrangement. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more comfortable long haul road trip vehicle. When we purchased the Sprinter, we drove it from Florida to Idaho in just three days with a little time set aside to visit friends and I have no complaints about long hours in the drivers and passenger seats.

Impressive ground clearance. For a 2wd van, the Sprinter has pretty impressive ground clearance. Our Sprinter made a jaunt up Baby Lion’s Back in Moab just to prove that it could. Although too top heavy and lacking 4wd capabilities, with tall skinny tires we found that we weren’t very limited at all.

Durability. Early Sprinter (T1N) motors were known for their durability, many running to 500,000 miles. Transmissions are generally expected to last 250,000 miles.

Cons: Expense. Sprinters are expensive. Although they get pretty solid fuel mileage, you pay for that savings up front. It takes a significant number of miles driven to make up the extra cost of the vehicle. Sprinters do retain much of their value and you might recoup a significant portion of that extra capital cost when you sell the vehicle it can be an uncertain proposition depending on how long you keep the vehicle and what condition it is in. If you’re looking to someone else to do your conversion work for you, you can add to an already significant capital expenditure

Maintenance. This point is largely addressed in my post “Is A Sprinter For You?” but it is worth mentioning that a mechanical breakdown can be an expensive proposition if you aren’t able to handle the repair yourself. Even if you are a competent mechanic, parts for a Sprinter are more expensive than for a delivery van and a hefty repair bill can put a damper on adventures in a hurry. Since Sprinters have become very common I’d imagine that finding a mechanic familiar with them isn’t as hard as it once might have been but still might pose a problem.

Creature comforts. For my ex-partner, the lack of bathroom meant forgoing a luxury they really appreciated. This is a sticking point for some people and not for others. I found that for me this wasn’t ever a really major issue. I didn’t spend much of my van time in areas where this actually was a problem. (#backpacking experience FTW) I did, miss a comfortable place to sit and read or type that wasn’t in bed, an option I experienced in other configurations. We did have swivel seats which helped a bit and I probably could have come up with a good table option to fix this issue. We did purchase a Mr. Buddy Heater for use in the Sprinter but never got a chance to test out how effective it was at heating the space.

Note: A Roadteck or Winnebago type Class B conversion might have a bathroom and feel really fancy but they’re really heavy and gas mileage will take a significant hit. Although their mid-teens fuel mileage certainly beats a full size RV, it comes no where close to a lighter DIY conversion. Additionally, that extra weight puts more strain on the drive train (specifically the transmission) and can lead to earlier failures of parts.

Chevy Van (or Ford or Dodge):

Pros: Inexpensive. A gas powered Chevy van can be a really affordable option to hit the road. If you’re okay with simplicity, these plentiful vehicles can be converted quickly and you can hit the road with gas money in your pocket.

Fuel mileage. But wait? Didn’t I claim fuel mileage to be a Sprinter advantage? If gas is cheaper than diesel, getting 18-22mpg in a gas powered vehicle might be a better deal than 22-27mpg in a diesel Sprinter.

Parts & maintenance. Due to their ubiquity, parts for Chevy/GMC vans (a GMC Savanah and a Chevy Express are the same thing mechanically), are fairly inexpensive. You may be able to do the maintenance yourself or finding a mechanic should be a cinch.

ConsHeadroom. Being hunched over in your vehicle gets old. While you’re hopefully spending a lot of time outside adventuring, sometimes you’re stuck inside working, sheltering from the weather, or cooking and being stooped is less than fun.

Creature comforts. See Sprinter cons.

Truck Camper:

Pros: Comfortable. The camper had a refrigerator, a table, a bathroom, a cooktop (many even have an oven), and a heater. Our bed was always made and was out of the way.

4-wheel drive possiblities. I’d been really insistent that we find a 4wd truck for this project because I felt that we were getting our 2wd vans into situations where it would be really nice to have that extra bit of security. It was nice a few times but mostly the camper was too big for us to get where it was really helpful (see cons).

Not too big. For the relative creature comfort of the camper, we didn’t take on too much of a hit on size (there were some, see cons). There was a lot of storage (and in our flatbed configuration there was a lot).

Fuel mileage. Depending on the size of the camper, they can get really heavy. The Lance 825 that I traveled in was really lightweight and small compared to many other options so it didn’t impact our fuel mileage too terribly but most full size trucks don’t get amazing mileage so this can start to add up.

Cons: It’s pretty tall. The downside of our flatbed configuration was that it put the camper up really high. This made going down some Forest Service roads sort of hard as we tried to avoid damaging the camper.

Fuel mileage. There are pros and cons (see pros).

The dog is underfoot. I’m mostly kidding here but because the amount of floor space in the camper is tiny the dog was even more under foot than usual.

Travel Trailer (large):

Pros: I actually don’t have much that is positive to say about the toy hauler. We carried our toys with us which was nice but a small trailer behind the truck and camper was a much nicer option that accomplished about the same thing.

It had an oven, although again, many campers have that as well. Same thing goes for the bathroom (the large storage closet in the bathroom though was kind of cool: we rocked a gear closet in our mobile living space).

Cons: It was too big to heat efficiently and because of all the empty space around the bikes and the quad it just felt empty and kind of sad most of the time. (It was kind of cool to drop the back open on warm days though.)

Fuel mileage was dismal and it was just too damn big. We’d hoped to just move sometimes and mostly use the truck and our toys to explore but the simple fact is that I like wandering around too much for that. It cost us an arm and a leg to move plus we couldn’t get it into the good spots.

Travel Trailer (Scamp or other fiberglass):

Pros: ADORABLE. I seriously loved the Scamp so much. It wasn’t really meeting our needs at the time but I think SP and I would rock one with the XJ right now really well.

Compact. At only 13′ the Scamp was small and maneuverable yet it still had all the necessities inside. It had the dinette that I really liked in the camper, TONS of light (best in class with this!), the ability to stand up, a refrigerator and a really respectable amount of storage for its size.

Fuel mileage. We didn’t tow it like normal people for any long distances with the TJ so I don’t have a really good estimate on how it affected fuel mileage (we did, however, tow it across Arizona rather unconventionally) but I imagine that it probably wouldn’t be too big of a problem since they are SO LIGHT. Ours only weighed about 1200 pounds because it was so simple; newer ones with AC units and awnings (which I wouldn’t recommend) weigh about 1500. I would love to do a fuel mileage test with Ruth the XJ!

Cons: No bathroom. If this is really a con for you, current Scamp floor plan options have versions with a bathroom. This would reduce the “open” feeling that I loved so much but the loss of under bench storage would probably be made up for by the gain of an extra closet if a bathroom is really a big deal to you.

Trailer. It is a trailer and that does sort of reduce mobility. We also discovered that the frames are pretty lightweight for frequent off road use, however, the Jeep + Scamp size combination is only beat out by a van for off road maneuverability. They are much shorter than a full size travel trailer or the camper plus their lightweight nature makes them really easy to hookup and unhook leaving you with a Jeep (or a Subaru or a Toyota or whatever else floats your boat).

Straight up vehicle living (Cherokee, pickup, 4-Runner, Land Cruiser, etc.):

Pros: You’re in your vehicle, no encumbrances, no extra fluff. If you’re 4wd equipped you can just go (and often find yourself waking up to amazing views).

Fuel mileage: Okay fine, this pro is relative but I’ll happily take the fuel mileage of my XJ (18-25mpg) especially when I consider that I have full 4wd capabilities at my disposal all of the time.

It might already be sitting in your driveway. For all the glamour of being able to use the hashtag #vanlife on your custom build, I see way too many vans be built but then the builder either doesn’t use them or has spent way more on the conversion than they planned and can’t travel. You probably already know the maintenance concerns of your vehicle and they can be cheaper to fix (although not always) than a truck or van you purchase for a specific use. The lack of specific investment can also make it an excellent choice for seasonal or temporary mobile living.

Cons: Space. It’s a lot more like organized long term camping. You don’t have a nice table to sit at or a refrigerator or a bed you can sit up in and so on. This can kind of suck on a rainy day, although you have the flexibility to just drive to a coffee shop.

Bathroom/kitchen. Similarly to the space issue you’re going to have to do all of this outside your vehicle but if you’re only out for a couple of weeks at a time or maybe one big special trip, it might be cost effective to use the vehicle you already have.

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Summer 2016: Shed and XJ Living

It’s finally summer and I could not be more ready. Last summer, I made Francis (my FSJ) my home while I explored all over Colorado feeling free (and saving a bit of rent money in the process!). Since I’m moving again this year, I’ll be rocking a similar low-budget, high-adventure sort of lifestyle utilizing Ruth XJ and my storage shed.

This year, I’ve made the shed a bit more comfortable with an actual mattress, more consistent cooking area and better thought out storage of the things that I might want during the summer. It’s definitely not set up the way I would have it if I were living it full time since it is also doubling as a storage shed for someone who is eventually planning on having a house (albeit a smallish one).

Ruth is also a huge gas mileage upgrade from Francis (although I have sacrificed a bit in the space department) which will be great for chasing some more county highpoints this summer.

This summer is going to be one filled with working (yay, Provisions!), peakbagging, friends, adventures, gardening, dreaming, and long drives.

Summer 2016, I’m so excited you’re here.