Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tragedy Strikes

Well, you hear stories from fulltimers about how you should prepare for family emergencies, but you always figure it won't really happen.  Well it did for me, and it changed everything pretty dramatically.  My sisters husband (pictured helping fix the rv in the previous post), and my good friend, suffered a massive heart attack.  This was just about right before I was supposed to be heading out.

He survived but had to have quad-bypass surgery and I pretty much decided i needed to stay and help my sister and their 4 children until he had recovered.  Of course my personal plans were pinned on me working as a camp host this year, so i went from plan A straight to plan E in no time flat, as B, C and D both included a job.

So now all plans for travel are on semi-permanent hiatus until i figure things out.  Plan E involves me living out of the van here while recuperating my finances,  by flipping stuff on E-bay as best I can.  I should say plan D was the same plan but it involves finding work right away, which is looking less likely until I have some medical problems of my own resolved.

So bad news all around (did i mention my new laptop broke and my new to me pickup is running rough?), though there is a glimmer of hope.  While I have tried flipping online in the past to nearly no success, I think I might be more successful this time, in fact I have inventory now that I've nearly broke even on just by selling my first 2 items.  I'm going to use part of my profit for my looming bills, and the rest for more flipping.

Wish me luck.  I know I rarely post here as it is but now I don't have much to contribute.  I may update as situations change, well see.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Update, 2 weeks to hit the road and I'm not ready!

Progress continues on the RV Repair.
Just a quick progress update.   Last post I mentioned that I was fixing up an RV in the hopes of taking it with me to my camphosting job.   Progress has been slow up to this point, but some was made today.   The floor is starting to be framed, and I have a better idea of how to attack the problem.

Working on the floor, we had to  pick a spot to begin repairing from.
Look under the cabinet at the wheel well box on the left sharply angled,
this is how bad the 'extended width' has sagged.

The rv is on a 6 foot wide trailer frame, but they wanted to make it 8 foot across.   They put a couple of flimsy metal extensions meant to hold the weight of the walls.  They have bent, sagging both side of the camper.  We are going to have to try to jack up the sides and brace them (since there isn't time or money to redo the whole RV)/   I wish they just made the thing 6 feet wide.   We are rebuilding the floor with joists that run on top of the metal frame, with the 2x4 joists across it for stability.   They had 2x2s running in parallel with the trailer over these thin rails, it made no sense. 

Exhaust being repaired at a friends garage.
As for the new to me truck, turns out it was having a misfire.   After replacing plugs, wires, distributor cap and button, we concluded it must be the distributor itself.   Hopefully sometime this week I can get it replaced with a used one.   I also had my exhaust worked on and it is pretty much squared now.  I also will replace the brakes, though I may not have time for the rear ones before my trip.  The brakes work ok, I just want to be cautious.

I've got my medical in good shape, just need to see the dentist.   I made the mistake of waiting to have a chipped tooth pulled last time I took off, and it cost me a lot in Reno.  I wanted to hit the road by the twelfth to give me a good week and a half to make it to California before I have to be at work, but its starting to look like it will be a tight finish if doable at all.

I hate to admit, that I am at the mercy of other people who are volunteering to help me get stuff done for the most part.  I'm very grateful for a helping hand, but it is a daunting feeling being subject to the schedule and whims of others.   Its a feeling I have striven to avoid by living the van life, and here I am again. 

Oh well, life is all about ups and downs, hopefully I can re-stabilize and come out in a better situation for it when all is said and done. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

WTF am I doing?

Honestly I'm not sure anymore.   I've made so many changes, I'm not even sure how things are going to turn out.  With about a month left for me to get to my work camping job over 3000 miles away, a used truck I'm not familiar with, and a rather tenuous living space situation; I am a little nervous to say the least.  A lack of a decent safety net or disposable cash too.

Will you fail me new friend?   Will you make it?
My original plan was to get a cargo trailer and build that out, but that kinda went the way of the dodo as my funds dwindled.   I still plan to do it, but ill have to re-save up some money.

So I moved onto plan B.

I had bought a very old and cheap pop up camper.  How cheap? $300.    But it is banged up and the canvas is rotted and not salvageable.   My plan was to somehow fashion hard sides on it that could pop up or failing that, just permanent hard side.   Id have to cram a shower in it somehow too. It would need new tires and more worriedly for me, it would probably need new bearings and grease.    It had small wheels which I have read are very prone to overheating and failing if they aren't changed often.   The popup wasn't my favorite idea but it was better than nothing and I was running out of time and options.

But then came Plan C

8 x16 ft, single axle k-160 RV by Dutchmen/Thor/Scamper. I don't know lol. 
About 2600 lbs dry with lpg tanks.  
Now, as circumstances would unfold, I got a deal on a small 'hybrid' RV.   The size is about what I like in an RV (though actually a little bigger than I'd like).   But I didn't need or like the pop out beds, so I will get rid of them (dinette makes a bed, or ill build one).   It was much heavier than the pop or dreamed cargo trailer, but the pickup I had, in theory, will pull it fine.   I did pull it from the seller to my family's property, but I could feel it back there.   Part of that is probably the poor gravel and dirt road they live on though.

Since the front part needed to be rebuilt/reframed anyway,
I decided to just remove the front bunk that folded down.
The catch of course, is that the trailer is in need of a lot of repair.   It has water damage.   Yes I know, you should never buy something with water damage, unless you are getting it for free and are a masochist.  Well I got it for nearly free, about $600 bucks, plus trade for the little popup I mentioned earlier.  I estimate about 150 in lumber etc, and maybe another 100 on miscellaneous.    I'm hoping i can just transfer the tags from the popup trailer and save that way.

This front side from ceiling to floor is trashed from a leak.  The dinette has been removed...
the floor was disintegrated to this state under the linoleum. 
Even though I have to basically rebuild the front part of the trailer from ceiling to floor, value wise I still made out way ahead.   If I deconstructed the rv down to the trailer and sold the frame plus  appliances and parts, I'd probably double my money.

But that is all irrelevant, because I'm not looking to flip it.   I need a place to stay for the next year (or however long it takes for me to get another solution).  What it does cost me is precious time.   I need this to be both road safe, and sleep safe (no mold) in a very narrow period of time and for practically no additional money beyond some lumber costs.

Possible?   Yes but it is gonna be tight and a lot of work.   Bad weather here isn't making it easier, sunny days are still interspersed with snow for Pete's sake!  On sunny days I'm working non-stop from morning to sunset, deconstructing it.   Luckily I have a carpenter in the family who is gonna be giving me advice and help supervise me with the building aspect.   I will, of course, supply most of the grunt work.

One the bright side, one of my main wishes for my rig is there, a shower.    And it is back behind the majority of the water damage, as is the kitchen. Whether it works or not is the question.   Despite being only 16 feet long, it has a shower, toilet, 3 way fridge of decent size, ducted heat , stove, microwave and an AC.  I have no idea if any of it works yet. 

The original source of the problems?   My favorite is how they went OVER not only the molding with this crappy sealer,
but over the awning molding and brackets as well.  

The electric I'm dubious about because it has a plug on the outside like most campers, but there is a converter box just sitting on the floor hard wired into the breaker/fuse box thing in the wall.  The battery hookups on the outside are three unlabeled wires, 2 of them are white with red ends and one is all not sure wtf that means.   Red usually is positive, sometimes white does too, so where is the negative?

I really don't want to remove this water heater, piping and furnace,
but I need to rebuild the floor underneath them :(   
The plumbing has been redone I think, as it looks fairly new and done with plex.   There is a fresh water tank and 12volt pump, and there is a city connection too.   A hot water tank.  Im reaaaaaly hoping that the water heater, at least, works, as does the sewer system.   Well see I guess but right now I am focused on the framing and sealing it all up, I can probe the other stuff at my host site.

To seal it, I am going to use Eternabond Tape on the roof seams and down the seam on the sides.  This stuff is supposed to be a miracle worker for RV leak repair.  I used it on my old popup and it held up well.

I removed the molding already on one side.   I am going to tape it, then butyl caulk over it and then replace the molding.   I also got some self leveling lap sealant, and will go back over the roof features like the vents, AC, some old antenna, etc.  I will coat the roof and new exterior wall with elastomeric paint too like what I used on the van roof, which held up for 3 years so far.

Removing the old molding and caulking is extremely hard, but I discovered that a cheap oscillating tool with the smooth blade is amazing at getting the stuff off initially.   One of the few things I've bought lately i had no regrets about.   Ill use a wire wheel to clean up the metal before applying the Eternabond though, as it will not stick to silicone.  And the last idio..err...owners of the RV loved that silicone crap.   Ill post another blog post about the actual progress of repairing this thing.
So worth it, buy brand name blades though.
Road worthiness aspect, I had to buy some new tires, as expected of a new to you RV.  At least they were ridiculously cheap through amazon.  It is a lot newer than the popup and has larger 14 inch wheels, so I am hoping I can get away without having to get the bearings done. I just don't have the money or time for it now.  If i cant get to the host site, this too can be something i work on there.   I have 5 months to work on it then.

I bought a cheap taillight for it and a trailer plug adapter for my truck from amazon.  I also bought mirror extensions, because unfortunately my little trucks mirrors cant see around it.  The clip on extensions are cool, as replacing the mirrors will cost me way more time and money.   If they work as intended, I'll report back after I took them a few hundred miles.

I might have had more money if i did sell the van.   I am still kind of tempted.   But I am nervous about my rig having so many unknown factors going into this long trip, I wanted to keep the van as an absolute fail safe, fall back measure.  If this all goes to crap, I will make my way back home somehow and move back in the van to start over.

Lets hope that this doesn't happen though, and everything goes smoothly from here on out.

Thanks for reading.   If you to help support my content, consider using any of the amazon links in this post, because amazon shoots me a couple bucks at no cost to you when you buy something after clicking one.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Farewell to the Van?

Half of the New Rig

After 4 years of faithful service, I have decided to retire the old van!  I will probably end up selling or trading it.  After making the long trip back to West Virginia from California in a week, I came to the decision to let the old blue van go.  Although it ran good enough for it's age, it was apparent that the van was just not comfortable to drive long distance.   Although I did my best to make the van into a converted home, it was always intended to be a work van, and the cab portion reflects that.   The steering wheel is the old hard, thin kind (no airbags btw) and it actually messed up the nerves in my hand from holding it for long periods.

Super nice interior.  Jump seats in back.

I also wanted to find a solution that would let me stand and take an indoor shower.   Although I got by on the road with truck stops or a solar shower when hot, sometimes I had to go uncomfortably long without one.   Also when working (and sweating) it becomes less feasible to do it that way.  I needed a trailer or something to pull, and I kind of wanting something i can separate for fuel savings when set up for long stays.

With the help of a friend, who is the king of hustling for used vehicles, I was able to get the above chevy S-10.   My criteria for a vehicle was super demanding considering my lack of funds.
  1. I wanted a v6 (for better gas mileage)
  2. automatic
  3. reasonably comfortable
  4. front wheel drive or four wheel drive
  5. able to pull at least 3500lbs
  6. less than 150,000 miles
  7. for $2000 or under.    
Yeah, so I was delighted that this wizard managed to find all of those criteria except one in about a week, when I had been looking for months.   I had to add about $1500 more dollars to that pot.   It's unfortunate, because the plan was to get a cargo or other small trailer to pull behind it with the money I had left over.  So now I am scrambling to find the cheapest solution for the other half of the rig.   Wish me luck. (I have some tentative plans to buy a gutted popup trailer for 200 bucks and convert it to a hard side...)

That said the truck is in really great shape, with 140,000 miles.  It is a 1995, so older than I was expecting, but it only had one owner since new.  They kept up on most of the maintenance.    And it is CLEAN, the body, engine, underneath.   Everything.

The engine looks detailed!

Not surprisingly it needed some small things, like a tune up, the steering tightened up, and a new catalytic converter (i could get by on the old one but I wanted to maximize power).    I plan to add this cheap back up camera, just to make my life easier, especially when trailoring.  The 4x4 is amazing, I already had to use it several times in the sudden blizzard that hit here.   Its a little picky about locking in, but most of them are at this age.  Oh and it has cruise control!   I've wanted that for forever.

Soon I will be taking it across country again to return to my work camping job, and then head down for the RTR for some RnR and then maybe looking for more work.    Pray I find a cheap camper soon, as my time to skidaddle is fast approaching.  If i have to, I guess I can always throw a bed in the back right?

So I guess I will have to use a much more loose interpretation of "van life" from now on?   Caravan life?   So European!   :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Some Changes. Warning, nerdy post.

Did you know I have a youtube?  If you missed the link above or my occasional posts being augmented with youtube videos, this may be news to you.

Up until my youtube has been pretty sparse.  I know that vandwellers have swarmed to the platform in the last year, it was kid of funny to see a group of 5 or 6 people at the rtr, all pointing cameras at each other while talking.  I'm not disparaging them though, the more people that can do this life style and support themselves, the better.  I found someone i talked to on the road about youtubing on there and it made me really happy.

I think the drama whoring for views is irritating though, but I try to just stay away from that, especially the guys who create drama by complaining about the drama lol.

However, they do make me realize just how bad my videos have been in the past, at least production quality wise.  A big part of that is that i don't have any special equipment nor could i afford any.  So i just used what i had, the cheapest go pro and whatever cell phone i had available.

But i still feel the information i provide is good, genuine, and useful to people.  I also use it myself to go back and remember where i have been with a fond smile.

So even tho i haven't made a penny off youtube yet (they only pay when you reach $100 in ad revenue), and despite youtube cancelling my partnership, because they now require 1000 subscribers, i decided to improve it a bit.  The money would'a been nice to upgrade my equipment but its not why i was making them in the first place.

Price dropped, 1/3 off!

I caught a sale on a piece of equipment that allows me to at least stabilize my camera, called a gimbal.  Sometimes you gotta pull the trigger even if you hadn't planned to yet.  If you watched my videos you will have definitely noticed painful amounts of shaking.  Part of that is a severe limp I have from gout.  This device will hopefully erase that problem.  You can also do some pretty cool, professional looking effects with it.

 A cheap Lav Mic, has good reviews on youtube

I also bought an external mic.  Audio is always terrible with the built in microphones of the go pro and my phone.  As i went back to edit clips of my gopro, i had to abandon whole places i went to because the audio just made it un-watchable.  This will hopefully help at least the cellphone footage.  Of course part of it is my dull voice, but I'm working on it.  I'm not a public speaker or a hyper-energetic, coked up werewolf type person to start with. lol

I wish i could afford a decent camera for video (and earth porn photos) but that just isn't possible (maybe if i get a few patrons on patreon eh?).  But in a way i am excited to see what i'm capable of now given the limitations i have.

Ahh, one day.  One day.
I also plan to make my videos a bit shorter in the future.  I often try to give every bit of info i have on a subject and want people to see all aspects, but i now realize that it just bores viewers and loses focus on the important points.

I plan to convey more of the essentials and gloss over the other stuff.  So more skips.  I think ill trust in my blog to go into more depth and send viewers here if they are interested to learn or see more.  I may do multi-parters as well.   I hate em personally but i can see how a 2 parter might be easier to digest.

So anyway, just a little bit of a technical update.   If you want to see how i improve, head over to youtube and hit the subscribe button to get my videos when they drop.  There will still be some older footage for a while as I don't want to completely abandon all I have from the past few months (mostly campsite reviews), but soon I will be adding in these changes moving forward.

Here is a video I made early on, which i felt had ok production given what I had to work with, lets see if i can top it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A troubling and confusing situation.

So I have pretty much outlined my plans and goals for the year and so far things were on track.   With the money I had saved from camphosting, combined with my unemployment, I was going to look to change my rig before heading back to my next hosting job in the spring.  Just had to come home and get mom in her new senior living setup, get my license renewed and buy my rig.

You served me well my blue friend, but
its time to retire.
Everything was going swell, but of course the government decided life can't be that easy and interjected itself in my plans.

A seemingly innocuous demand, do your civic duty, and serve on a jury.   Be on call for 5 months, ok getting a little ridiculous now....but I don't know anyone who had to serve for more than a few days or at most weeks.   After confirming my job start time to be later in the year, I calmed down.  I don't mind serving, I just don't want to risk everything to do it.

But as I got my unemployment packet and looked over the bi-weekly 'certification' form (they use to make sure you are looking for work, always available to work, and not making money any other way), I came to a pretty scary realization.  Because my forced duty, I may lose my unemployment benefits.

I started doing research online, wondering why they would even count jury duty at all, as it is mandated.   Well apparently they do and you must report it.   From multiple sources I found online you are required to report it, and how much you make (40/day for me).  Putting any other income is going to get your certification rejected, especially if you also answer the 'were you available to work' question with a NO. 

Oddly accurate...
I dug some more, and found that the law actually says that jury duty, or any summons to court still counts as 'being available to work'.   The problem is that a yes response to this combined with entering anything in the 'money you made from work or other sources' will still also trigger a rejection.

So, I am faced with 2 things happening.   The application is rejected (i have to do a paper one as well, instead of online, whenever you don't give standard 'acceptable' answers), and they will delay my payment and call me for a phone interview.  Hopefully I can explain the situation, at which point they will deduct the $40 from my unemployment, and issue my payment eventually.

Or as what happened to some others, they will just cancel my claim altogether, and I will have to fight to get it reinstated by contacting them, and wont even get the pay for those weeks.

Anyway, it leaves me wishing that I had went to my doctor right away and gotten an excuse to get out of jury (I do actually have a spinal defect that makes sitting or standing for any prolong period of time progressively more painful, that's why I can only drive 1 hour or 2 max at a time).  But I was snowed in the last 3 weeks, and out of time to see the doctor.

   As it is, the best case scenario is I go to court all day for free, and worst case is I lose nearly $4,000 in benefits (assuming I stay unemployed till spring) over 40 bucks.

I wish they just made an across the board exception, with a little checkbox, for 'did you serve jury duty' and leave it at that for 'doing my civic duty' like im supposed to do.  Since you have to go and employers aren't even suppose to prevent or penalize you for going.

Actually, I think I know...

It all seems odd and confusing to me.  The timing is terrible, if I coulda just got a couple checks in the bank I wouldn't mind but they almost perfectly conspired to conflict with each other (i found it more than a coincidence that just days after paying my states 'personal property tax' on my van, I got a notice to serve, I should have waited till my registration was expired in February).

Oh well, maybe I can find a shitty retail job if all of this falls through that I can just quit later.   Just felt like bringing up a strange situation that you may find yourself in if you do the camphosting/unemployment route.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Get a Job Easily: Everything You Need to Know About Camphosting

Job Sweet Home

I've wanted to do this blog post since I finished camp hosting back in October, after I completed my first season.   I decided to upload this blog post now because the time to get a camp hosting job, is quickly approaching.   Camp Hosting companies usually do the bulk of their recruiting at the end of January for the following spring (May and June typically).  Since I want to be thorough, it will be a lengthy post, so sorry about that in advance, I will try to break it up as best as I can.

If you are more of the "Show don't tell" type, I also made a video covering these points and giving a demonstration of typical camp hosting day.

What is Camp Hosting?

You may not even know what Camp Hosting is, so let me explain.   Camp hosting is a job where you manage a campground for a concessionaire (company) to take care of the area, collect fees, and make campers happy.   It is nearly always a seasonal job (but not always) and most jobs take place in the spring-autumn months (but not always).   The specifics of these jobs vary widely by not only the particular company you work for, but by the location even in that same company, and even by the particular land owner/planner (typically government or utility) that contracts that company. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Everything You Need to Know To Stay Warm.

West Virginia, cold as ever.

As I sit here, the temperature is a balmy -2 degrees in Wild and ahem Wonderful West Virginia.   So, I decided to talk a little bit about how I keep warm while living in my van for years without becoming a popsicle.

More often than not, people always worry about me in the winter freezing in a van.   It's kind of amusing to me, as the hot weather is much more dangerous for me than cold.   You can always warm up, but you can only cool down so much.  It got to the point that one cold day around 0 degrees, I had to send out a picture next to my thermometer reading around 80 degrees, I was in my shorts :)

Obviously the best way to stay warm on the inside of your dwelling, is to simply make sure it is warm on the outside of it.  You probably heard the term snow birds, usually associated with seniors and retirees in RVs moving from a summer home in the north down to a summer home or rv park in the south (usually florida, at least in the East). 

Panama Beach Florida
Our elders are wise, so why not learn from them.   As a vehicular nomad, one of your greatest strengths is to be able to move your home at will.   Why not just drive to where temperatures are moderate and where you like them.   If the weather turns extreme again, move on!

Colorado River, Ehrenberg Arizona
Most often, people consider snow birding as moving from one end of the country to the other with the seasons, but remember that distance is not necessarily a requirement, just a change in temperature.  Another, often cheaper, way to get that is altitude.   For instance, you can live in warm Ehrenberg or Quartzite Arizona and stay in the desert through the cold winter, then move in the harsh summer by driving UP to Flagstaff or Prescott, Az where it is much cooler.

Near Winslow Az, Higher Altitude

But if you are like me, sometimes it isn't possible to move, for work or family reasons.   Or you may have missed your window of opportunity, and might become stuck in a cold weather situation.  It's nothing to worry about, as long as you are prepared.

Cheap Garbage

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

I hope you have a terrific 2018 wherever you are!    

My only resolutions are to get a new rig and a way to take a warm shower indoors this year.   That's right, I plan to actually get out of the van, and into something more comfortable to drive long distance, and with more room inside for a shower.   Right now I am not sure what form this will take as I have very little money, but I am currently looking at getting a used minivan, suv or small pickup and either a used small camper to refurbish, or an empty cargo trailer to build out.  

Since my work ended in October, my funds are set for now (savings), but I am hoping to receive unemployment soon while I'm out of work to give me a small boost toward my goals.  I might also be able to sell or trade the van once I know I have a suitable replacement.

Well see, as always if my upgrade plans fall through I still have the van to fall back too.  

To my friends out on the road and on the way to the RTR or already out there, safe travels, I'll be joining you next year :)