Broken Trucks and Broken Arms – Our August Adventure

As Kimberlee wrote in our last blog post, we’ve had a number of setbacks that have delayed the departure on our journey. Not wanting to feel like we’ve had to totally give up on our plan, we decided to go ahead and do a modified version of our August plan. Most importantly, the LAKE SUPERIOR CIRCLE TOUR!

I grew up spending a week each summer up on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. Many days were spent on the shores of Lake Superior – looking for agates, picking blueberries, skipping rocks, playing in the huge sand dunes, and every once in a while trying to brave the always cold water. Yet in all that time, I didn’t realize there was this whole official “drive around the largest freshwater lake in the world” thing.

We were originally going to just do part of the circle tour and then head east through Canada. Then the house sale fell through. So we figured we would just do the whole circle tour then come back to Illinois until the house sells. Then the truck broke. So sadly we decided to leave the “Houses Wheels” at home, and make the trip cramming as much stuff into our small Honda Fit as we could while tent camping along the way. So off we went to spend 15 days traveling through Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ontario.

The biggest challenge on the trip came when Kimberlee broke her arm protecting the children from a wild bear. Or… maybe she just tripped while hiking. Regardless, she hiked back 4 miles with her arm in a makeshift sling CARRYING A 30 POUND CHILD ON HER BACK (I was carrying the other child – I wouldn’t do that to her!) It was rather fitting that she was wearing a shirt that said: “Strong Women: Be Them, Know Them, Raise Them.” Damn right.

Thanks Canada for your national healthcare – $650 as a non-citizen is still cheaper than an ER visit in the states with insurance

Despite that setback, we still had a wonderful time. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

Spending time with friends from seminary

Going on a hike with our friends

Spending time with Nick’s parents and grandpa

Picking blueberries with the fam – had blueberry pancakes for dinner!

Camping together

Hello!

S’mores were a big hit, of course

Hiking together

We saw LOTS of waterfalls

Our favorite hike on the trip – the Southern Headland trail at Pukaskwa National Park in Canada

This was before the broken arm

Doing some cool stuff

“Mine” your own amethyst was a hit!

We went on a shipwreck tour

The boat had a glass bottom – pretty incredible to see a 100+ year old shipwreck!

Seeing some INCREDIBLE views!

A few of the views from our trip

The rest of the trip is still on a temporary hold as we wait to sell the house. We’ll have to redesign our planned route – but we knew we would have to be flexible with this whole thing. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for some web design work, feel free to send me a note 🙂

Our August “Plan”

Hahahaha. PLANNING. We did our best but the universe had some other ideas…

We had finally set a hard departure date of August 2 but a few items have set us back…

  • second house buyer “changing her mind”
  • broken front axel on the Fit
  • broken suspension on the truck
  • dying spark plugs on the Fit
  • dying spark plugs on the truck
  • dying VCT solenoids on the truck
  • undiagnosable engine shaking on the truck (Any ideas? Anyone? Nick’s tried everything.)
  • shaking bumper/bike rack on trailer
  • a leak (or two or three) in the truck topper
  • Eliza got an infected bug bite
  • Nick’s phone screen broke
  • I got an ear infection (at 36? REALLY?)
  • my computer screen broke
  • gas leak in house basement
  • kids deciding now is a great time to be interested in potty training

Nick reminded me the other day that we made a decision to trade stability and predictability for flexibility and spontaneity…so I guess we are getting that now, JUST NOT IN THE WAY I EXPECTED.

ANYWAYS, after a depressing few weeks, we’re finally getting ready for some adventure! In a while we’re going to head up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to meet up with some friends from seminary and then spend some time with Nick’s parents and grandpa. After all those festivities we PLAN to tent camp around and see a few sights. Hopefully nothing else breaks between now and then….I’m not holding my breath.

ALSO BECAUSE THE GAS IS OFF I CAN’T EVEN COOK A FROZEN PIZZA IN THE OVEN RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS LIFE.

I don’t believe that God tests people or sends tribulations to teach a lesson, but I do believe that we can learn about God and life in all our experiences, not just the happy ones. So what am I learning…

For a new plant to grow, first the seed has to die.  Maybe that is what’s happening here…our old life has to die in order to grow a new kind of life and it’s just a lot longer and slower of a process than I thought it would be. I was ready to pull the bandaid off and run away, but that’s just not how its working out. (We’ve been actively leaving since our announcement in February. FEBRUARY!) I’m now required to surrender my pride when well meaning people ask “When are you leaving?” and I just have to say “I don’t know.”

So guess I am learning that I am not in control? GREAT. DOING REALLY WELL WITH IT OVER HERE.

I AM at the wheel of control while Nick and his dad push the Fit down a busy four land road after the axle broke. Luckily I was a block from the Honda dealership so they didn’t have to push TOO far!

A Midsummer Night’s Update (Or How We Tried to Stop Worrying and Write a Blog)

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted because…well…things have been interesting. We’re trying to keep a good balance between our anxiety and being optimistic, and I’d say we’re doing a decent job as you can see from this chart:

How I'm Feeling
The biggest hurdle we’re facing right now is selling our house. Two weeks ago we had a contract with a buyer signed and we were excited to hit the road at the end of July! Unfortunately, the deal ended up falling through, so we’ve had to relist and start the search over. This means keeping the house clean, dealing with showings, and all that real estatey goodness.

There are other stresses as well: no longer receiving a paycheck and having a mortgage to pay, the fear of the Affordable Care Act being stripped down which would make our health insurance while on the road more expensive, and trying to decide which type of frozen pizza to buy from the grocery store. But those are all minor compared to the stress of selling a house.

We’re still optimistic we can hit the road this summer. In the meantime, I’ll be doing some freelance web design work to bring in some money as needed, and we might start eating frozen pizza for 2 meals each day instead of just one. Which wouldn’t be half bad 🙂

In all seriousness, sure, life has been a bit stressful. But we’re not being forced out of our home, we’re not one of 22 million people at risk of losing health insurance entirely, we’re not being shot because of the color of our skin, and we’re incredibly privileged to even have the opportunity to think about this sort of adventure.

Saying Goodbye to Our House

One of the hardest parts about setting off on our upcoming adventure is saying goodbye to our house. Here are some of my favorite memories from the past 4 and a half years living here.

Beautiful in the winter time – I won’t miss clearing the long driveway!

Welcoming Quintin and Eliza into the world and into our home. Both children were born during our time living here. Kimberlee designed an awesome nursery – including a changing table that her dad modified from a dresser for her when she was a baby (and which we again updated for our kids).

So many wonderful memories with these two sweeties.

The finished nursery. Kimberlee found the globes years ago on Craigslist for FREE!

The Frost/Redmond Christmas Light Show. I remember seeing an automated light show when I was a kid, and always dreamed of doing the same on my house. We had a blast sharing this with friends, family, and (very tolerant) neighbors.

Renovations Galore! We put so many hours of hard work (and plenty of money) into fixing up our house. I learned more than I ever needed to know about sump pumps, and we learned so many new skills as we made the house our own.

The family room before (top) and after (bottom)

The kitchen before(top) and after (bottom).

The most significant memories, however, have simply been the times we’ve spent together with each other. As we head off, the backdrop of our time together will change. We will hold this house dearly in our hearts, and we also look forward to making new memories on the road. Most of all, we remember that it’s time together that’s most important. In the words of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: “home is wherever I’m with you.”

Our new trailer license plate.

The Paint Job Part 2: Painting Our Vintage Travel Trailer on a Budget

After we decided on the paint job design (see part 1), it came time to start painting! We had read of people who had spent $1000+ on automotive-quality paint jobs, we wanted to find an option that would be less expensive, durable, and still look good.

Nick all geared up and ready to paint!

Up to this point, we had already:

  • Cleaned and repaired the aluminum skin (siding) – including replacing a piece on the front of the trailer that was in bad shape. Also replaced a lot of the underlying framing.
  • Removed all of the windows, doors, and other parts of the trailer we didn’t want to paint.
  • Cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned some more! The prep work took more time than the actual painting did. TSP, water, and sponges. Over and over.

After looking at various paint options (most of which cost a lot of money), we decided to use Valspar Tractor and Implement paint. It was relatively inexpensive, gets a lot of good reviews for its durability, and we could order it on Amazon – yes!

To begin, we put down two coats of gray primer and let it dry over several days.

Primer coats complete

Primer coats complete

The next step was to paint the entire trailer white. We chose to add enamel hardener to make the paint job even more durable as well as adding mineral spirits to thin the paint for use in our paint sprayer. We probably only needed two coats, but decided to go with three coats of white.

White coats complete

White coats complete

Next, we needed to tape off the scallop shapes. I created a cardboard arc that I used as a stencil to draw each of the arcs on the side with a pencil. We thin used very thin painter’s tape – since it was only 1/8″ wide, it was able to curve more than typical painter’s tape. We filled in the space between the lines with wider tape. To avoid the blue color bleeding under the tape, we brushed on a thin layer of white on top of paint edges.

All taped up and ready for the blue!

All taped up and ready for the blue!

Now it was time for the blue paint! Because we wanted our own custom color, we mixed one gallon of the white paint and one gallon of the “Ford Blue”. We tried several ratios, and the 1:1 was not only a lighter blue color we liked, but it would also make it easier to remix if we needed more paint in the future. We did three coats of the blue as well.

Blue coats going on

Blue paint going on!

Paint job complete! (We later also decided to paint the trailer tongue and bumper with black tractor paint as well)

It was tons of work, but well worth it! If doing it again, I would probably use a different paint sprayer – ours left a bit of the dreaded orange peel texture on the trailer – but it’s only noticeable if you get up close.

In total, we spent $365 on all of the cleaning and paint supplies (not including the tongue and bumper). We’re hopeful that it will hold up in the years to come!

Paint job complete!

Paint job complete!

Here’s some more photos of the trailer once we put everything back together: