Tag Archives: van

Van Problems (Part 1)

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I had van problems on April 1st, and it was no April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, the problems went on well into the first week of the month.

The Man had already done a full brake job–front and back–and it was no easy task. The front brakes were pretty simple, but those back drum brakes–Lord! The brakes were done, and now he just had to stop the coolant leak in the front.

The coolant leak had started a week or so before. I’d driven the van to the laundry room. When I returned home, The Man asked, What’s that? while pointing to the liquid dripping into the dirt. We thought the lower radiator hose was loose, so he tightened the hell out of it and called it good. I drove the ten miles to town to run a few errands and didn’t see any leak, However, when I got home, fluid was dripping from under the van at a quick and steady rate. Don’t worry, The Man said. We’ll get a new hose. I’ll put it on for you.

We got the hose, but with one thing and another, it was nearly a week before The Man installed it.

First came the brake jobs–first one on my van, then the back brakes on The Man’s minivan. The Man had never replaced back brakes before. I never had either. He watched videos on YouTube. He took photos of the brakes before he took them apart. Still, the job was a challenge, and there was a learning curve to get past. I was impressed by his perseverance and attention to detail, but I was ready for the whole brake experience to be over. I know The Man felt the same way.

We thought he was finished with my brakes, but after spending all day working on his and learning a couple of new drum brake replacement tricks from videos, he decided my brakes needed more adjustment. He said he’d do the brake adjustment after he got the new hose on.

He got under the van and used brute force to tighten the new hose. We drove down to a friend’s house to pick up a mattress she was giving me. When we got to her place (less than half a mile away), we saw fluid coming out from under the van. The Man was mystified; he thought he’d tightened the hose pretty good. I drove the van back home and we let it cool before The Man crawled back under the van. There was more tightening, some coolant in The Man’s eye (no damage, thank goodness!), frustration. Finally, he got the hose clamps even tighter. Hopefully the problem was solved.

We loaded our big garbage can into the van so we could dump it while we were driving around waiting for the engine to heat up. We deposited the trash in a dumpster, then drove back home. Fluid was still dripping from underneath the van. I think it’s gotten worse, I said.

By that time, the sun was almost down, and The Man shook his head. He was tired, but the real problem was getting his big hand into the appropriate small space. He couldn’t get the leverage he needed. He needed an extender for the ratchet he was using. We’d have to go to town the next day to get one.

Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem to finish tomorrow what we hadn’t completed today, but I was supposed to leave on a road trip on April 1st. I was supposed to meet The Lady of the House that very afternoon and start the next day on an epic two week adventure. I was disappointed, but not devastated. I’d have to drive a couple of hours longer than planned the next day, but we could still get where we needed to go when we needed to be there. We’ll have you on the road tomorrow by noon, The Man told me.

On Monday we drove to town in The Man’s minivan and paid too much for a set of ratchet extenders, even though we only needed one. We didn’t have any options in that small desert town. We drove home, and The Man got under my van again. He used the ratchet on the extender and all of his power to tighten the clamps on the hose. He was confident the problem had been solved.

Drive the van until you get it up to temperature, he told me. Don’t stop anywhere.

I did as instructed. He was waiting for me when I pulled into the driveway. I saw him glance at the ground, and I saw his face fall. I jumped out of the van. Coolant was dripping heavy and steady from under the van.

It must be the water pump, The Man said. He looked as demoralized as I felt.

I called the auto repair shop in the closest town and explained my situation. When I told the owner of the place the make and model of my van, he said he’d changed water pumps on those vehicles before: It’s a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. He told me he had the water pump my van needed in stock and quoted me a price. I told him I’d get back to him.

I got off the phone and gave The Man the news. He said he’d never changed a water pump and it might take him three days to do it. He said he didn’t really want to do the job. I totally understood. He was already burnt out on automotive repair, and I didn’t want to wait three days for him to get the new pump put in. I wanted to be on the road ASAP.

I called the repair shop and told the owner I wanted him to make the repairs. I asked him if he thought I could drive the van slowly and make it the dozen or so miles to his shop. He said I could try driving it if I wanted to. If you burn up your engine, he told me, I’ll sell you a new engine. I told him I’d get it towed.

I have my auto insurance with Progressive. For a small fee, I have roadside assistance coverage. With that coverage, I can get locksmith services if I lock my keys in the van, I can get a flat rire replaced with my spare, and I can ge the van towed within 15 miles of its broke down location. So I called Progressive roadside assistance and told the friendly representative where I was and where I needed to go. She told me she’d text me the name of the company that would provide the tow and the truck’s ETA.

I waited an hour, and no text came. I called the Progressive roadside assistance toll free number and spoke to a differnt representative who told me the first representative was still working on my case and would send the text in the next ten to twelve minutes. I said thanks and we ended the call. An hour later I still hadn’t received a text, so I called again and reached a woman who said she’d figure out what was going on and call me back.

She called me back within ten minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to accept the call on my new phone. I got three calls within as many minutes, but I couldn’t answer the phone.

I called Progressive again and the representative transfered me to a supervisior who’d been working on my case. He said because of my remote location, they were haing trouble getting a tow truck out to me. He said only one company in town would take the call, the boss was at lunch, and the driver couldn’t leave!

I don’t blame the roadside assitance people for the delay. I was certainly in a remote location. There may have only been one tow truck in the whole town. I just wish the second representative I talked to had figured out what was going on and given me an honest assement of the facts.

Finally, the tow truck arrived and loaded my van. The Man drove his minivan behind the truck, and I watched my van make its slow way into town.

This is an epic tale! I’ll share the rest of the story tomorrow.

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/auto-repair-workshop-brake-disc-1954636/, https://pixabay.com/en/wrench-sockets-tools-workshop-2619217/, and https://pixabay.com/en/hand-mechanic-carburetor-707699/.

 

 

Tires (A Cautionary Tale) Continued

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After crying for a couple of hours after arriving at my house sitting job, I calmed down a little. Actually, I calmed down after crying for a couple of hours, eating lunch, and communicating with my friend Mr. Prius through instant messaging and then an actual voice conversation. Mr. Prius helped me clarify my thoughts by asking questions and making suggestions, but never told me what he thought I should do.

The more I thought about the offer from the salesman at Discount Tire to give me a free tire if I bought three, the sketchier it seemed. I didn’t believe the tires I’d bought should be worn to the point of needing replacement after a year’s use.

As I told Mr. Prius, after the salesman saw the front tires, he acted surprised by how worn down they were. That’s when he told me I needed to get two new front tires too. I thought if the tires were wearing down faster than they should have been, it was Discount Tire’s responsibility to replace them. If the tires are supposed to last x number of miles and the tires were not going to last that long, I didn’t think that was my fault.

Once I was calm, I called the Discount Tire regional office. I explained the situation to the woman who answered the phone. She suggested I  talk to a store manager, but I said I wanted to talk to someone higher up. She said she would have a vice president call me back.

The VP called me back that afternoon. He was very nice to me, listened to me, and answered my questions. He said they could  give me $50 to $60 (depending on what replacement tires I bought) credit on each tire. That seemed like a better deal than getting one tire free, which is the “deal” the salesman was going to give me to “help me out.” Also, by giving me a credit on the prematurely worn tires, I felt as if Discount Tire were talking some responsibility, which made me feel better.

The next morning I paid a visit to the Discount Tire location closest to where I was house sitting. I talked to Larry, the manager. I felt good about what he told me.

First, despite what I understood the vice president to say, the manager said they could not give me a credit for the two tires damaged due to improper alignment. The manufacturer viewed that damage as due to my negligence and would not accept them as a return. While that decision didn’t make me happy, I understood it and thought it was fair. While I didn’t think it was my fault the tires were damaged (I didn’t even know the van was out of alignment and as soon as I did, I had it repaired as soon as possible), I could accept the damage to the tires as my responsibility.

The salesman I spoke to initially told me I needed bigger tires. The manager said it was not bigger tires I needed, but stronger tires. He said vans and big trucks are heavy and need really strong tires. Lesser tires simply wear out too fast.

The first four new tires I bought were a higher quality than what the manufacturer recommended for the van. When I went in to have the tires mounted, the recommended ones were out of stock, so they gave me a free upgrade to the next higher quality. But as far as I can remember, no one tried to tell me maybe I needed better tires. Of course, I would have probably just thought they were trying to upsell me and not bought the better quality tires anyway. Also, I was working with very little money then, so I don’t know if I would have been able to afford the better, more expensive tires.

Larry made two recommendations to me. He said Michelin tires are the best of the best. They were running about $109 per tire. He said second best, but still very good, are Yokohama tires. They were running about $10 less per tire than the Michelins. He told me he has Yokohamas on the Jeep his family uses for both driving on dirt roads and hauling around kids.

He also told me both companies were running rebate specials. He said Michelin would give a $70 rebate on the purchase of four tires, and Yokohama would give a $60 rebate on the purchase of four tires.

I had a really difficult time deciding which tires to buy. Was it woth $50 out the door to get Michelins? How much difference would having Michelins make? Would I be sorry if I bought Yokohamas in order to save a few bucks? I thought reading online reviews would help me make my decision, but my research only made making my decision more difficult. Plenty of people hate Yokohama tires, and plenty of people hate Michelin tires. What to do?

I’d decided to go with Michelin shortly before arriving for my installation appointment. However, when I told Larry I wanted the Michelins, he got a pained look on his face and said he didn’t have them in stock. He said he thought I’d decided on Yokohamas and had made sure he had those available for me. I’m not sure how he reached his conclusion, as I don’t recall a conversation when he said, so you want to go with the Yokohamas?  and I answered, yes, Yokohamas, please. As far as I was concerned, I’d only made a decision an hour before. But whatever. Larry offered to reschedule my appointment for Monday, at which time he’d have the Michelins, but I said no. I was ready to be done with the entire tire situations. The universe spoke, and the universe said Yokohama.

I got another surprise when it was time to pay. I told the worker running my debit card that I needed whatever I needed for the rebate. He said he thought the rebate hadn’t started yet. Larry was walking by, and when the worker asked him about the rebate, he said to give me an instant rebate. So the worker deducted $60 from the total, which was awesome.

This is the point in the post where I was going to give advice on buying tires. However, I realized the only advice I have about buying tires is to spend as much as you can afford to buy the best, strongest, tires you can get. Vans are heavy, especially when one is hauling around a bunch of stuff. I suspect when the manufacturer made their tire recommendations, the experts were thinking the van was going to be driven around town and/or on camping trips a few times a year. They were probably not thinking folks were going to be hauling around all the things people living in their vans are hauling around.

Invest in the best. I’ve been told the best are Michelin and Yokohama. Other people may have different opinions. That’s fine. But apparently, when it comes to tires, we get what we pay for.

 

 

Tires (A Cautionary Tale)

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In April 2015, I went to Discount Tire and bought four new tires for my van. I was so excited. I’d never had four new tires before. Heck, I’d never even had one new tire before. Any time I’d replaced a tire on any vehicle in the past, I’d bought a used one.

The four new tires cost around $400 out the door (which is tire sales speak for including installation, balancing, and tax). My host family paid for a warranty for each tire. The Discount Tire website says,

This warranty, called the Certificate for Repair, Refund or Replacement…cover[s] the tire problems that really frustrate people-road hazards and defects-from the moment they bought the tires to the final mile of legal tread depth (3/32″).

In October, I proudly took my four new tires in for their first rotation. My good mood was shattered when I was told the front tires were wearing unevenly because the van needed a front end alignment. When I took the van in for the alignment, I was further disappointed to find out the van needed $300+ dollars worth of work on the front end before it even made sense to do an alignment. I worked, worked, worked, saved my pennies, and within a week had enough money to pay for the repairs and the alignment.

Fast forward to April 2016. I stopped at a Wal-Mart and noticed a Discount Tire location across the street. I’d been meaning to find out if I were due for a rotation, so I decided to pull in. I thought if I did need a rotation, maybe the shop could take care of it right then and there.

I told the guy working the counter what was up. We walked out to my van to look at the tires. The salesman showed me the silver metal threads showing on the back passenger side tire. WHAT!?!?!?!?! I told him the tires weren’t even a year old. He said the tire (and the one on the back driver’s side too) were prematurely worn because of the time they’d spent on the front when the van was out of alignment. (Yes, I told him about the alignment problem and the uneven wear. I figured it was in my permanent Discount Tire record anyway.) He said driving the tire in the condition it was in was REALLY dangerous. He said I needed two new tires back there.

I asked about the certificate on the tire. He told me it didn’t cover wear, only road hazards and defects.

I asked him if it would be ok if I only bought new tires for the back wheels and kept the two that were on the front. Well, as a matter of fact, he told me, the tires on the front were worn way more than they should be, dangerously worn, and if I were going to buy two new tires, I really needed to buy four new tires.

By this point, my head was spinning. I thought I was just going to deal with a tire rotation, but suddenly I needed to replace four tires that were barely a year old.

He’d do me a favor, the salesman said, because he wanted me to be safe. If I bought three new tires, he would throw in the fourth one for free. I explained to him that I didn’t currently have the money to buy four new tires. He tried to tell me about the Discount Tire credit plan. I shook my head while laughing ruefully. Discount Tire was not going to approve me for any credit, I told him. Perhaps I could get a co-signer, he countered. When I told him that wasn’t going to happen either, he said I should at the very least let them (free of charge, thankfully) replace the badly worn tire on the back passenger’s side with the spare. I thanked him for the offer and handed him my keys.

While waiting, I called a couple of friends and ranted and cried. While I was ranting and crying, the service technician came out and asked me what tire needed to be changed. I probably sounded like an asshole when I told him he should change the tire the service order he was holding in his hand specified. He told me the salesman had written two different things on the service order. So I stopped ranting and crying long enough to walk over to the van with the guy and show him which tire was in the worst shape. After the guy got the van into the repair bay, he walked back over to where I was sitting on the sidewalk (once again ranting and crying) to ask me if he could get me into four new tires today. It took all of my self-restraint not to yell, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I explained (while trying to refrain from laughing maniacally) that I didn’t have money for four new tires. Then he tried to suggest I use the Discount Tire credit plan. So I explained I had already told the other guy that wasn’t going to happen, and he finally left me alone.

I cried all the way to my house sitting job. Just when I thought I’d have a couple of hundred dollars (the extent of my savings left after paying for transmission work in February and a new fuel pump in March) to live on until my temp job scoring standardized tests started, I needed more money than I had for tires. I’m tired of being a burden, I thought. My life is not sustainable.

But also, I was really mad. What’s the point of buying new tires if they’re just going to wear out in a year?

Once again, what I thought was a short story has turned into a saga, which I will continue tomorrow.

 

Barbie Heads

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12568309_976809452404963_1329684302_nIt started in Arkansas. Mr. Carolina and the Okie and I had spent the night in in my van, in a Wal-Mart parking lot. In the morning when we tried to go about our business, we found that one of the tires was flat. We then had to go about the business of getting the tire fixed. Mr. Carolina borrowed an air compressor (a testament to Southern hospitality and Mr. Carolina’s powers of persuasion) and pumped up the tire enough to drive the van to the automotive repair entrance at the back of the store.

Somewhere between eating our McDonald’s sausage burrito breakfast and the actual moving of the van, I walked across the parking lot to the Dollar Tree. I went in and bought a fat black marker for sign-making, then stopped at the Dollar Tree dumpster to get a big piece of cardboard upon which to use the marker. On the ground near the dumpster, I found the head of a Barbie doll.

Of course, the doll whose head I had acquired had not been named Barbie. Real, true, name-brand Barbies are not sold at Dollar Tree. The head I had acquired had once belonged to a nameless “fashion doll.” What happened to this “fashion doll’s” body, we will never know.

As I walked up to the boys, I hollered in an exaggerated Southern drawl, Look what Santa left! as I waved around the cardboard in one hand and the doll head in the other. Then I commenced to poke a hole in the top of the not-a-Barbie’s head so I could impale her on the van’s radio antenna.

Once the doll’s head was on the antenna, Mr. Carolina started laughing. Oh, Blaize, he said, thank you. That’s what I hoped you were going to do with her.

The doll head stayed on the antenna as I traveled through the South. It was in Asheville, NC when the Okie and I delivered Mr. Carolina to his brother. It was at the truck stop east of Asheville where I dropped the Okie off to hitchhike to his further adventures. It went all the way to Austin, TX where I landed in the guestroom of my friend Lou and her new husband.

My first night in Austin, Lou gave me a pair of cowgirl boots I loved (RIP cheap, non-repairable cowgirls boots I wore to shreds) and invited me to a roller derby party.

I’d just spent two months in a warm fuzzy hug of the Grateful Dead, the kindness of strangers, and sweet-young-man friends who recognized and appreciated my inner goodness. My blissed-out hippy self was not quite prepared for the hard-drinking, rather jaded, rough playing, urban roller derby women I met at the party. It’s safe to say those women were not quite prepared for me handing out quartz crystals I’d dug from the Arkansas mud and trying to have real conversations with folks.

Two things at the party got my attention, the first thing being a van parked in the backyard and decked out with colored lights and cushions so people could hang out inside. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that to these house-dwellers, hanging out in a van at a  party was somehow exotic. I was asking Lou perplexed questions about the van, trying to understand, when she gently reminded me that people who don’t live in vans might think it exciting to sit in one at a party.

The second thing that caught my attention was a woman wearing a hat in which the legs of Barbie dolls (real, true, hard-plastic, name-brand Barbie dolls) had been used to fashion a Mohawk. Lou told me the woman had fashioned the Mohawk on the hat herself, and I got really excited, wondering if she still had the Barbie heads lying around.

I was by no means calm when I approached the Barbie-leg-Mohawk woman. I was babbling, it’s true. I told her I loved the hat, then said, I need the heads. She continued to look at me like and who the fuck are you? until I managed to explain live in my van, Barbie head impaled on antenna, need more to fill entire antenna. I think I got her with impaled.

A couple of days later when I went to see Lou play in a roller derby exhibition bout, a grocery store bag filled with Barbie heads was delivered to me. It didn’t take me long to make holes in all of the heads and add them to the antenna lineup.

For the next couple of months, people in Austin noticed those Barbie heads. While stopped at traffic lights, I saw people taking photos of the heads. More than once I saw people stop on the quiet street in front of Lou’s house to hop out of their cars and take photos of the heads. I suppose those heads unexpectedly jammed onto the antenna were an answer to the plea to Keep Austin Weird.

I loved the way those Barbie heads caught people’s attention, and I loved them because the one had so amused Mr. Carolina. But when I hit the elk and left my van behind, I left the heads too. It seemed silly to pack them in my backpack and tote them around as I hitchhiked, but mostly it seemed silly to try to prolong an era I knew had come to an end.

Photo of the Barbie heads on my van’s antenna taken by me. Special thanks to RenRen who helped me get the photo off my phone and into this post.

 

Little Van Lost

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While I was house and pet sitting for C. in Austin in December of 2012, there was some excitement with my van.

When I got home from Christmas supper, there was nowhere to park the van on the block where I was staying while house sitting, so I parked it around the corner. I didn’t drive the next day, so I just left it where it was, hoping that when I did drive it again, I would be able to park closer to the house when I returned.

Around three o’clock in the  afternoon on the second day after Christmas, I decided to go out, drive to the post office and then the auto parts store to get some oil for Old Betsy (the van) who burns up the stuff fairly quickly.

When I turned the corner, I didn’t see the van, but I thought I would see it as I got closer. I got closer, but no van. Then I realized it was gone. Finding the van gone is one of my biggest fears. Not only will I lose my home if I lose my van, I’ll lose all my stuff too. I started panicking. Where did it go?

I started looking for no parking signs, but there were none. I started knocking on doors, wondering if there was some parking code the people in the neighborhood knew about. Did someone call and have the van towed because it had been parked on their block for a day and a half? Maybe at least someone would know how to find the van if it had been towed. But no one answered the doors.

I saw a woman turn and walk down a nearby alley and started running after her, yelling, “Excuse me.” She didn’t live in the neighborhood, just came over to walk, so she had no idea about the parking situation, but she agreed with me that if I were in a no parking zone (or a no parking on Wednesday zone) there should be a sign.

Right about then, I looked at the street and realized the edge of the road had been torn up in preparation for some kind of road repair. Then I remembered vaguely that this morning when I was walking the dog and we turned the opposite way down the alley, I had heard a bunch of noise, as if some sort of road construction (destruction) was going on.

I looked down the street and way at the other end I saw some heavy machinery. I started walking briskly (half running, really) toward a city streets truck. When I got to the truck and started frantically explaining I thought my van had been towed, the driver man was very nice. He said, “You walked all the way from Tom Green?” (That’s the name of the street I was staying on.) He said it as if I had walked six miles, but i couldn’t have gone more than six blocks. He offered to drive me back. I was trying to make him understand that my van was GONE, but then I realized he was telling me it was just moved. Not impounded. Just moved. Maybe just around the block. He asked me if I had looked for it on Tom Green. I hadn’t, but I assured him that if it had just been moved, if it had not been impounded, I would find it. “You saved my life!” I told him. I had been imagining impound fees, tow fees, being hundreds of dollars in debt to the city of Austin. But thankfully, no, it had just been moved and was parked on Tom Green, one block from where I was staying.

Betsy had herself an adventure.

Pulled Over

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The events in today’s post happened several weeks after the events of yesterday’s post, in August 2015.

I got pulled over by a cop on the way back to my campground after my day off in Babylon. The funny thing is that I know the cop! It was Officer S., my co-worker’s neighbor. Officer S. is a sheriff’s deputy, and I’ve talked to him in my campground and in the parking lot. He’s always been very nice and polite to me, but the bottom line is, he’s still a cop.

We passed each other going in opposite directions on the road up the mountain, and when I looked over, I thought There goes Officer S. in his sheriff’s department truck. The next thing I knew, the sheriff’s department truck was coming up behind me like a bat out of hell with the lights flashing. I thought he must have just gotten an emergency call to head in the direction I was going.

I pulled off the road, into a turn-out, expecting him to pass me, but he pulled in behind me. WTF?!?!? I wasn’t speeding. I wasn’t driving weird.

I wasn’t scared because I hadn’t been doing anything wrong. I hadn’t been drinking (I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in over two years), and there were no guns or drugs in the van. But I sure as hell was wondering why he was pulling me over.

I turned off my music and sat with my hands on the steering wheel. I didn’t want him to think I was digging around for a gun while I was digging around for my license and registration and insurance card. I figured I could dig around after I told him what I was digging for.

When he walked up to the driver’s side of the van, I told him through the small side window that the main window doesn’t roll down and asked if I should open the door. He assented by reaching to open the door himself. When the door opened and he saw me, he looked sheepish and said he thought I was someone else.

I thought, Yeah, Alfonso Gonzalez, but I didn’t say that aloud.

Turns out he thought I was someone else other than Alfonso Gonzalez. He thought I was some other little gal in a van. He thought I was some crazy lady (he made the swirling finger next to his ear sign), some lady who’d told him her van (with Illinois plates) was in storage in Babylon. He thought she’d taken her Illinois plates off the van and put on New Mexico plates. At least he had the decency to look embarrassed when he realized he’d pulled over the wrong little gal.

He asked me where I was heading, and I must have given him a strange look because he said, Oh, the campground, just as I said the name of my campground.

I asked if he wanted to see anything (meaning license, registration, insurance card, but I should probably rephrase the question in the future because I realized after I said it that it might sound like a come-on line). He said no, which was good, as I don’t think he had any probable cause to pull me over, since I wasn’t the little gal he thought I was.

I guess now I’m one of the locals who knows the cops.

Update on the California Adventure

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On Sunday, April 26, I arrived at the campground where I’d been told to report. Within a couple of hours, I met the boss and was told there was no training the next day. She seemed unsure as to why I’d been told to arrive a week before my training, although she said she could put me to work. (On the voicemail I have saved, the woman who works in the office said she’d just talked to the boss who said I should be at a specific campground for training on the 27th.) No one has explained why I was told to arrive a week early. The boss was certainly not expecting me.

On Monday, April 27, my van wouldn’t start. I flagged down an elderly man who was hard of hearing, and he used my cables to jump start the van. I drove into town (where I was headed anyway) and proceeded directly to the Car Quest auto parts store. Thankfully, I had a small monetary cushion, because I used that money to pay for a new battery.

The battery in the van when I bought it had been doing weird shit for months. I’ve had to have it jumped six times since I bought the van last July—six times the battery was dead for no obvious reason. When I started the van, it kind of stuttered before starting, and it often died when I tried to back up immediately after starting it. I had it checked out at a Car Quest in Southern New Mexico—they charged it for eight hours, then checked it and said it was fine. But I decided I can’t be having a dead battery out in the woods, so I bit the bullet and bought a new battery. Now the van starts right up, no stuttering, and no dying when backing up. Am I glad I had to spend my money cushion on a new battery? No. Am I glad to have a new battery? Yes.

I spent small parts of Tuesday and Thursday filling out paperwork and getting some training for the job (from the women who gave me the message to show up early). I also spent a couple afternoons that week at the Burger King in town (WiFi, an electrical outlet, and free refills on sodas) writing and mostly catching up on email. I explored a pioneer cemetery and the local history museum.

On Friday I was finally taken out to the campground to work temporarily. The camp hosts of my temporary campground had not arrived yet. I don’t know why. However, the company was having yurts built in the campground, to they wanted a staff person around to keep an eye on materials and supplies after the builders go home. They decided I would be the staff person on duty. Since I’d be at the campground anyway, they decided to open it to campers two weeks early.

The campground is much bigger than the one I’ll be working at for the rest of the summer. This first one has 32 sites, plus five or six large group camping spots, compared to just ten sites at my campground. I’ll be parking on one of those sites, so I’ll actually only be responsible for nine camping spots once I’m out there. Although I’m only expected/allowed to work five hours a day here, the first couple of days kicked my ass. Just the walking was wearing me out. At night, all I could do was eat dinner and read a bit before falling asleep early. On the first two nights, I was in bed before it was dark out. When I woke up in the morning, I did not feel recovered. It was very depressing, and I wanted to give up.

On Sunday, I was given a golf cart, and that helped a lot. At first I was scared of the golf cart, but when I told the guy who delivered it that I’d never driven one before, he told me it was just like driving a car. And then I realized, yes, I drive a giant van, I should be able to drive a golf cart. And you know what? I can drive it! (And it’s fun!)

In van driving news, I am able to back into my campground host site. Granted, it’s a pretty big area, and I don’t have to be in one strict spot (like between lines or on an asphalt slab), but backing in is a HUGE step for me. I’m learning!

I did see my campground on the way to the temporary spot, and I love it! It’s so cute! It’s ½ mile off the main road down a dirt road, and there are lots of trees and a meadow. I can’t wait to be there.

I’ve had mixed feelings about being out here.

On the one hand, the landscape is absolutely stunning, and the wildlife is incredible. There are mountains, a river, and tall trees. There are many ponderosa pines where I am stay and they are soooo tall. I saw four deer (two mammas and two youngsters, I think) in the campground the other morning around 6:30 when I was making my rounds. That afternoon, I saw the biggest chipmunk I’ve ever laid eyes on—it was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of chipmunks. One day I saw a blue jay so blue I gasped. One night as it was getting dark, I heard a sound I thought was the panting of a dog or maybe a bear about to attack, but it turned out to be the sound of the flapping wings of two low-flying birds.

On the other hand, I’ve had moments of intense loneliness. I feel very far away from the people I love. When I see co-workers, it’s not for very long, and I haven’t found any common ground with any of them yet. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that my favorite prat of the job is welcoming campers and talking to them while I’m filling out their paperwork. I hope I’m not coming across as desperate for human companionship, although I do feel a bit that way.

It’s been cold hour here at night; the temperature starts dropping around 4:30 in the afternoon (or 16:30, for those of us currently using military time). Once I’m snuggled in bed, I’m warm, but 12+ hours in bed gets uncomfortable, and it’s difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning when it’s cold. Fortunately, I don’t have to be out and about at any particular time, although they do want us to a “sweep and hang” (sweep restroom floors and make sure there’s enough toilet paper) early in the morning. I do have my propane heater, but it’s still packed away. I think I’ll get it out so it’s easier to get a blast of hot air to get me going in the mornings.

I’m also bummed out because every time I drive on the tightly curving mountain roads #1 all my neatly stacked plastic crates tumble all over the back of the van (but it’s easy enough to put everything away again) and #2 I get car sick. I suffered a lot from motion sickness as a kid, but as an adult in a moving vehicle, as long as I don’t look at the floor (like to tie my shoe) or turn around to talk to someone in the backseat, I’m fine. And I’ve never before gotten even a twinge of motion sickness while driving. But these roads are something else. I’ve driven on curvy, twisty mountain roads in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and New Mexico, but none of those places compare to the sheer number of miles made up of tight curves I’ve been experiencing.

In the last week, I’ve thought many times about quitting and going back to New Mexico, but I realized that while New Mexico would familiar, it wouldn’t necessarily be better. I’d still be dog dead tired at the end of the day. I’d be hot instead of cold, and also windblown and dusty. I’d still be lonely a lot, because when I’m working I don’t do much socializing because I’m tired and concentrating on making money. So running away to New Mexico doesn’t actually seem to be an answer.

I just finished reading a book of first-person accounts of single women homesteaders in Montana in the early days of the 20th century called Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own, edited by Sarah Carter. I am finding inspiration in those tough, determined foremothers. Many of them lived alone in tiny shacks, with no electricity, often with no water on their property, sometimes with no neighbors for miles and no transportation. They depended on their neighbors, but they depended primarily on themselves. The loneliness was intense, the labor backbreaking, the weather destructive. Often the crops didn’t grow, the garden didn’t grow, and they had to work additional jobs for survival. One woman mentioned hurried to do her own chores on her claim each morning so she could walk six miles (and later six mile home!) in order to earn cash doing laundry for other people.

I’ve got so much more than those women did. Surely I can be as strong.

Book Review: How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells

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Yesterday I mentioned reading How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom by Bob Wells. Today I am posting a review I wrote of Bob’s book. This review might help you decide if you want to read and/or own the book.

How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom
This book is a quick read. I finished it in a couple of hours. However, just because I’m finished reading it doesn’t mean I’m finished with it. This is a book I’m going to hold on to.

Not only does the author tell the reader the hows of living in a car, van, or RV, he explains the whys too. If you have been considering moving into your car, van, or RV but everyone in your life (from the media to your mom) tells you you’re crazy, read this book!

Once you have decided that mobile living is the life for you (save money! live simply!) Bob Wells will walk you through every step of the process, from deciding what kind of vehicle to purchase (if you have the option of choosing) to getting electricity and keeping your food cold.

This book is for the absolute beginner, but even though I’ve been vandwelling for a while, I learned a thing or too, and the chapter on electricity gave me some food for thought.

I wish I’d had this book when I was starting my vandwelling odyssey.

If you are considering this way of life, get this book and read it cover to cover.

The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: How I Decided to Go

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When I started writing about the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I realized the topic is huge. First I thought I’d write one post about the event. Then I decided to write two separate posts, one about each week of the gathering. Then I decided I should write a post about how I decided to attend the event before I actually wrote about the event. So here’s Part 1 of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous saga.

While spending the winter in Truth or Consequences, NM, I met a traveling artist named Sue. I met Sue because she introduced herself at the coffee shop after seeing me around. Twenty minutes after our initial conversation, we ran into each other at the thrift store. Such is the joy of living in a small town.

While chatting in the thrift store, Sue asked me if I’d ever checked out the Cheap RV Living website. I had not, but I soon took a look at it.

I was very excited to find that the Cheap RV Living website is more about van dwelling than it is about RV living. It’s a website by and for people like me, people who live simply, who live in their vans and travel. I was super excited to explore the website and learn more.

The first thing I learned is that the guy who does the website, Bob Wells, lived in a van for many years. He now lives in a tiny trailer, but he still lives on the road. Bob wrote the book about living in vans. No, I’m not speaking metaphorically. Bob actually wrote a book about living in vehicles. The book is called How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom. I ordered it and was quite excited to read it. (Read my review of the book.)

The more I poked around Bob’s website, the more I learned.

The most exciting thing I learned was about being a camp host. I’ve already written about my misconceptions about that job, so you know that Bob’s description of being a camp host really opened my eyes. I began to think that I might want to be a camp host at some point in the future.

I learned that in the past, Bob had organized and hosted gatherings for people who live the van/car/RV dwelling life. He called this the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

On day in early December of 2014, I was on the Cheap RV Living website and clicked on the “Gatherings” link. I was surprised to see that the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was scheduled for January 6-20, 2015 in Quartzsite, AZ. That was in just a few weeks! I already had the rest of my winter, as well as my spring and summer, mapped out. Should I change all my plans?

I immediately wrote an email to my closest friends: “The idea of attending is both terrifying and exhilarating. Terrifying: New People (will anyone like me?  will I like anyone? will I make friends? Social anxiety!) No toilet facilities (Hmmmm, I thought I’d have a whole big list of terrifying, but I guess those are really the only two things I can come up with. But the new people part is HUGE.) Exhilarating: New People (possible new friends under the age of 50, people who are also living in their vans [or at least want to] Lots of New Information (like maybe how to get a job not involving sitting it the scorching sun all day and convincing people that the fruit of my heart and fingers is worthy of their dollars) Seeing Places I’ve Never Seen Before

So should I change all my plans and go to this gathering? Probably yes, right? Do I have anything to lose?”

(The Lady of the House sent me the shortest, sweetest response: “You are very likable!  You would make new friends.”)

So I decided to go. I decided to leave Truth or Consequences a month earlier than planned. I decided to go to Quartzite and meet new people and see things I’d never seen before. I decided to learn more about being a camp host. I decided to let go of my plans and start all over again.