Saturday, September 05, 2015

Life in 38 square feet

I arrived in Sanford on Sat, 6/13/15.  On Sunday, 6/14/15, I deployed my temporary home on its spindly legs and pulled the truck out.  This is always a stressful time, especially so in this case because the site pitches down in front of the pad, bringing the back edge of the bed precariously close to lifting the front edge of the camper when pulling out. 

I immediately drove the now-empty truck to a local Home Depot where I bought a sheet of outdoor 3/4" plywood and had them quarter it for me into 4 pcs 2' x 4'.  Using a jig saw and clamps that traveled with me (explicitly for this purpose), I bridle-jointed two together to make a pair of "X"'s to take some weight off the jacks.  In addition to making the camper very stable, they provide some cover for under-camper storage. 

I took this pic a day or two before bugging out, which would have been around 8/15/15, almost exactly 2 months of full-timing in the camper at this spot.  I used the overhang as a moto port, and the curbside wing as a bicycle port.  Both spots keep their charges fairly dry.

The trailer had bunches of stuff stored in it - anything not essential in the camper or able to sit out in the weather was in there.  A cheap Walmart camo tarp keep everything dry for months of mid-summer Florida monsoons.

Two Months of Maintenance and Mods:
There is a 2' long paracord rigged to the passenger side front gutter and a little stand-off made out of wire and duct tape which holds it an inch or two away from the siding at the loose end.  The water running off the roof from the A/C flows to the gutter, then the string wicks it down to drip on the ground instead of running down the siding and over the exit window seal.  I was proud of the ingenuity of this and texted a pic to my wife, who promptly said, "oh, a 'rain-chain."  Wheel: reinvented.  Still, I was self-satisfied every time I walked past a dry camper with a 'drip-drip-drip' coming off the end of the string.

The front driver side overhang developed a leak at some point, and I cleaned and re-caulked most of the seam between the plastic nose and rubber roof.  Following my repair, the ceiling seemed to be drying out.

After a week of continuous rain, I noticed the ceiling panels drooping.  The camper had been uncomfortably humid for days.  The A/C duty cycle is not long enough to do any real dehumidification.  I clocked it one sleepless night at 2 minutes running every 15.  In that two minutes the temp would drop 7 degrees, making it cold and humid.  I bought a residential dehumidifier from Lowes which pumped 30 pints of water out of the air the first 4 hours it ran.  I think cooking, washing, and breathing, produces more humidity than the camper can deal with.  Extended rain just adds insult to injury.  An ideal solution would be a smaller A/C unit with a longer duty cycle, which would likely also reduce overall external height and power consumption - to the point of enabling a generator, maybe.  On the other hand, I routinely turned my A/C off during the day when leaving for work.  This saved 11 or more hours/ day of running.  The A/C cools a roasting hot camper down to the setpoint in 5 minutes.

The one closet in the overhang has a useless hanger rod in top.  Another trip to a big box for some plywood and shellac, more fiddling with clamps and jigsawing on a picnic table, and I have shelves!  This is a big deal given how little storage there is, and how many clothes are aboard.  The pantry similarly had no shelves.  Before leaving, I'd installed one.  I added another the same day I added them to the overhead cabinet.

Opposite the overhang cabinet, I installed a bracket for the TV which worked out great.  We'd bought the bracket from a dollar store or clearance store for this purpose, and being able to swing the TV between viewing from 'upstairs' or 'downstairs' was super convenient.  Not using counter space is another huge plus.  The TV quickly disconnects, which will come in handy on the road:  I wouldn't trust the hardware to hold the weight of the TV while bouncing down the highway.

Life in the park:
For all but the last week or two of my camp-out, this old Airstream was parked next to me.  After fixing multiple roof leaks (in PA and in FL), I envy the solid Aluminum roof.  I met the owner the day he was leaving, and helped him hook up the trailer to his tow vehicle.  The park model across the street from me has a fenced yard with a lawn.  For $390/month rent, this has got to be the cheapest living there is.

I zip-tied a milk crate to the bike rack.  By chance, the collapsible Walmart laundry basket fits it like a glove.  It also helps out with hauling trash bags to the dumpster, and a gym bag to the showers.  I can't imagine long-term campground life without the bike.  I settled into a rhythm of riding to the laundry, dumpster, and showers with little fuss.

The Anoles really screwed with my peripheral vision the first few weeks I was in FL.  If you haven't lived with them, it's a novelty for a while.  Here a green one checks out the camper:

The Live Oak tree which shades site 600 always has a lot of brown Anole activity:

One day, this was in the middle of my door.  It's about 1/2" tall.  I assumed it was bird poop, or tree debris or something.  Closer inspection revealed it to be some kind of camouflaged snail.

In the dark of my early commute, I also encountered my first live armadillos (a pair) and also an owl of unknown species.

The Live Oak which shades the site is full of Spanish moss.  Wherever there isn't Oak, there is Palmetto.  I picked a very good spot.

After two months of solo full-timing in the camper, my wife joined me.  We tandemed for about a week before moving into an apartment.  The following day, I trucked up the camper, hitched up the trailer, and drove the rig over to the storage area of the RV Park, where it awaits our next adventure.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sandbox tagging

Roar to the Shore

After my first week of work, I decided to visit Titusville.  Titusville's cheap housing - resulting from NASA sinking the space shuttle - was the original draw for us to FL.  If Zillow is to be believed, houses in Titusville were selling for about a third of what they'd be worth in PA.  

It wouldn't be a horrible commute, but Titusville itself (at least the main drag of it that I saw) was very quiet - and not in a "what a nice, quiet, little town" sort of way, but rather in a "wow, nobody lives here and most of the businesses are boarded up" sort of way.   Early on a Friday afternoon, it felt like a ghost town.

I randomly turned towards NASA signs, and eventually passed thru Port Canaveral, heading south to Cocoa Beach.  I turned left until I ran out of road:

I passed some older bungalows and pictured Maj Anthony Nelson living in one of them with Barbara Eden.  The late 60's seemed almost tangible in this place - as if the unmitigated audacity of the Apollo program was so intense it left a timeless, indelible mark on the place.  I felt a sense of loss for the optimism that must have flourished here a few decades ago. 

Down Shift

After finishing my last two weeks at work, I had another two weeks to triage everything I own as “take”, “pack,” or “liquidate” and get myself ready to relocate to Florida. A relentless flurry of Craigslisting, yardsales, and countless hauls to Goodwill, recycling, and well-wishers followed, and the “take” pile finally started coalescing the day after I was scheduled to leave.

The truck's charging problem was resolved with a $75 junk yard alternator; the camper's plumbing needed some new hoses and a new toilet valve assembly. I learned minutes before leaving that there was a problem with the LP, too: gas wasn't flowing to the fridge or stove – a problem I'd have to deal with in Florida, and not the end of the world as I'd have full electric hookups once camped. Over the winter I'd re-wired the trailer, added landing gear to the tongue. It had already been rigged with a moto tire chuck for picking up the Super T in March.

The truck was crammed with tools, a mini fridge, and moto gear. The camper was stocked with clothing and enough food for a few days, plus all the housewares it normally has. The trailer carries the moto, bicycle, and whatever other garage-y stuff I could fit in. I bought a HF ramp for the trailer a few days before loading, and rigged a cheap wireless camera from Amazon looking back at the trailer, monitored in the truck.

Around 1pm on 6/12/15, I said goodbye to the first 45 years of my life.

It was a little nerve-wracking having so much financing all chained together, but once on the interstate I relaxed a little. Truckzilla's huge tank means I'd only have to re-fuel twice, and the interstates carried me for all but the first and last few miles, so giant, pull-thru, back-up-free travel stops were expected. It's a diesel, after all.

The back-facing wireless camera seems to be the best $40 I've ever spent. The trailer is not visible from the truck, being so much narrower and shorter than the camper. It being so short makes backing up a challenge in the best of circumstances.

The camera went out a few times, which turned out to be due to a loose connection somewhere in the mass of wiring I'd hastily soldered and shrink-tubed together to get the camera and monitor to each play with their respective wireless transmitter and receiver. It was comforting to be able to see everything upright and in it's place back there as I was moving. The camera also shows tailgaters not visible from the truck. The camera is stuck to the dash, and a new cheapo Nuvi GPS is right above it on the windshield. The tech relieved a lot of stress.

Heavy thunderstorms hit just before I crossed the PA line, at which point the reality of what I was doing finally started sinking in. The constant rush and preparations meant I'd had no time to think much about what lie ahead, which was, of course:

The weather cleared and I kept the cruise set near (under) the speed limit. I'm normally all for pushing 5 over the limit, but I had visions of the trailer tires exploding at the 65 and 70mph legal limits I was traveling thru as it was.

If there was any drama during the first day of driving, I don't remember it. I congratulated myself for the wisdom of taking 81 instead of 95. I stopped for fuel and sandwich at a Flying J somewhere in Virginia. The original plan was to make Charlotte, NC on the first day, nearly the midway point of the trip. Leaving a day later than planned had me arriving on a Saturday – I wanted to get to camp as early in the day as possible in case the office had curtailed hours. So, feeling as rested as I had in a month, I just kept driving. I eventually got tired enough and resolved to stop at the next rest stop for the night. It was after midnight, and I'd been driving about 11 hours. The next rest stop was closed for repairs, and the sign told me I'd have another 30 or so miles to go. With few other options, I soldiered on to the next rest stop, which was in South Carolina a few miles from 95. I parked next to a horse trailer and climbed in the back for much-welcomed sleep.

I guess everyone ignores the “no overnight parking – 4 hour parking limit” signs, because everyone parked around me was still there when I woke up. The horse trailer next to me even had a generator going.

I Cliff Bar'd up and was back on the road. Logging the extra miles the prior day had me figuring to arrive at the campground in Sanford early in the afternoon. Slog on.


Somewhere after Jacksonville, I pulled off for fuel and saw a red Super Tenere. He checked me out, because I had his bike in gray on a trailer behind me. He pulled in for gas. I followed.... and got myself stuck. The back up camera was out again, and I didn't have enough radius to get alongside the pump island. I had to back up blind, and just gave up and left. The next light turned left onto a long access road to a Camping World, (which will fix my location when I look it up). I decided to take a break and checked them out. On the way out, they were giving away hot dogs and sodas, so I let them buy me lunch. I got the camera working in the parking lot and did some full-lock turns left and right and got out to confirm the trailer wouldn't hit the camper.... the sort of thing I should've done days ago.
One more stop to get fuel (I made it to the pumps this time), and back on the road.

Daytona Beach, my last turn - onto I4:

Exiting at SR 46, a few lights from I4 is my destination and home for the foreseeable future:

I checked in and was whisked around in a golf cart to scrutinize the available sites. I picked one with shade, and the staff helped get me parked, which was made very easy by dropping the trailer first.

I found that the campsite management is pretty free with the patrons. I can store my trailer on the site, I can dismount the camper from the truck, I can put up an awning, etc. The seem laid back, permissive, and accepting. I don't know if it's this place, or Florida, but so far, so good. I deployed the bikes from trailer to have local transportation. It's getting late in the day and jerking around unloading seems like more hassle than it's worth. Tomorrow is Sunday – I have a full day here to deal with such issues. I'll spend the first night here attached to the truck.

I'm thankful that all that could have gone wrong in getting to this point, didn't. I have three PA plates on this site and a PA driver's license, but I guess I'm officially a Florida resident in that I don't expect to leave for at least a few years.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Maintenance log

1800 miles:
Oil and filter change
Final drive oil change
Lube shift pedal pivot
Lube shift lever pivot

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Romney 2015

Left work around 3:30 Friday and slogged 78 to 81 to 50, arriving in Romney at 8PM, a few minutes before dark.  Hastily set up the tent and sleeping gear and signed in.

Having not made any arrangements and knowing no one, I milled around.  By strange chance, I recognized a Strom pilot and his wife whom I'd talked with at Deal's Gap last fall.  Chatted for quite a while - very nice people.

Woke up COLD Saturday around 6AM.  Met some nice Canoodians (is there another kind?) in the breakfast line, and had a nice chat with my campsite neighbor, from DC.  I had no GPS, maps, and didn't know the routes, so I tried to find a group to tag along with while in line.  Ultimately decided that I'm a solo rider, so I headed out solo, 28 W, after my sausage and egg muffin.

WV seemed especially pretty and sweet-smelling with everything blooming.  I jinked around a little, scoping dirt roads leading off of 28.

Soon I was behind a trio of S10's led by a GS.  Figuring this was my tag-a-long pack whether they invited me or not, I followed them at a painfully slow pace to Petersburg.  At a light I pulled up and the trailing S10 rider said they were heading to Seneca Rocks and Dolly Sodds.  They were turning right on 28; my failing memory was that 220 was the N-S route so I split off.

Perfect ride: cool weather, clear skies, no traffic, no stops.  The ST continues to impress: "sport" mode, hanging off, and the endless sweepers of 220 was moto flow.  I passed slower traffic at will and without drama.  Eventually I noticed things weren't looking familiar - I should've been seeing the Seneca rock formations, and the Smoke Hole stuff.  I realized I was on the wrong side of the ridge.  I remembered that 220 hits Franklin, and a road twists west over the ridge south of Seneca Rocks.  Franklin is where I came for cell service on WVSADVWE.  Within the hour I was having lunch at Seneca Rocks and perusing a free WV tourist map, having beaten/ missed the rush.

I planned to take 33W to 32N to 72 - 72 was a featured road.  Somewhere along the way, I passed a sign for the "Eastern Continental Divide".  Not knowing there was such a thing, I stopped for a photo op.  What I should have been paying attention to is the fuel gage and range of "37" when this pic was snapped.

On 32, I passed a sign that said "Dolly Sodds - next right", and my short attention span torpedoed my planning.  Bonner Mt Road is a mostly one-lane, unmarked road connecting a string of farms and woods, ending in a ranger station and a gravel climb up into Dolly Sodds.  Again the ST made short work of the road, turning "terror" into "fun.
I meant to get gas at Seneca Rocks but forgot.  Now somewhere in the wilderness, the bike was reporting range-to-empty as 11 miles.  Ahead I saw an ADV bike and stopped to ask where the closest gas was.  His POI told him 26 miles, and the the "T" I'd just passed thru was the quickest way back down to 28.  He said, "it's steep."  I said, "well, I'll use less gas."

...and use less I did.  As I covered more and more ground coasting downhill, my range kept recalculating in favor of not being stranded.  A drama-free descent of intermittent back brake dragging and pothole dodging delivered me to the 28 with 26 miles to empty showing on the dash.  Near the bottom, I became aware that the ADV guy (on a Honda Africa Twin), had followed me down the hill.  We parted ways as he headed for lunch S and I headed for gas N to Petersburg.  
I resolved to buy a GPS on the road, and after fueling, remembered passing a Walmart further north on 28 earlier in the day while following the 3 ST/GS group.  Ready for a break, I stopped at the Moorefield super center.  No GPS, no maps, nothing of interest.   In the background, 48 seemed to have hardly any traffic on it.

42 looked squiggly to Storm Lake, so I planned to slab 48 to 5 to 42.  A few miles up 48 is a scenic overlook.  I filmed while riding a circle around lot and got back on 48, then off at 5, then onto 42.
Again a "Dolly Sodds" sign and again I was sucked in like a magnet.  The approach road hugged a stream.  I looked for a spot to pull off and wash my visor, which had accumulated a distracting film of bug guts.  The good pull-outs were whipping by too fast, tho.  After a few turns and a pack of local kids on ATVs, I was again climbing a dirt road to the wilderness.  Pretty far up, I came to a hairpin with a gated two-track.  I pulled off to rest and take it in.

I walked back on the logging road and could hear water running.  Near the path was a run-off stream, so I went back to grab my helmet, and soaked the visor for far, far, longer than needed.

The absence of human-generated sound, the smell of Spring, the perfection of the day, the bike, the ride... the solitude and natural beauty of this spot ... was restorative.  I felt like a part of nature, instead of an observer of it.  I briefly envied the countless humans of prehistory who lived whole lives in nature, self-reliant, connected, and whole... albeit without wifi.

Refreshed, I trudged back to the bike lamenting the transience of such moments.

Moments later, I manufactured some deja vu:



I road the gravel to the other end where I'd met the Africa Twin rider earlier, turned around and rode it back.  Midway I had to brake hard because an owl flew across the road in front of me, with what looked like a 4" long stringy tail sticking out of its mouth.
I came back down the way I entered, but bypassed the curvy part of 42 for 93 because it was getting late in the day.  I averaged a very illegal speed on 93, and was in the zone on 50, carving curves until a few miles before Romney when I came upon another group of ADV bikes.... again going annoyingly slowly.  I prefer to ride solo.


Back at the campout, everyone was in good spirits telling stories of the great days they all had.  I talked for a while with a pair of French Canadians who were interested in the S10 - the main interest from a long-time BMW rider.  I have a growing sense that showing up on a $15,000 bike means your dues are paid to the "club"... as if the mount was a reflection of the rider.

A cafeteria-style dinner of meatloaf, beans, and mac and cheese was greatly enjoyed.  I changed, contacted HQ, then strolled around for a while after eating checking out other S10's to see the different accessories mounted, and met a guy who'd had some trouble the day before while following an injured rider to the hospital.  He bodged his back back to rideable with JB Weld and a bolt welded to the side stand - just generally 'got her done.'  I was talking to him when the drawing started, and watched until it ended in darkness.  I wasn't long for festivities after dark, and zipped myself into a cold, tossy-turny sleep.

I woke up Sunday 6AM cold again.  The down jacket I nearly didn't pack was getting some miles on it.  On the way back from coffee, I recognized a camper from NEPA/ PA tag threads.  He's got the lightweight, practical aspect of ADV touring totally smacked down  with a plated dirt bike, Giant Loop bag and bivy tent.  I felt like an RV-er by comparison.  He gave kind feedback on the S10, and called over another guy from PA.  It's weird meeting the humans behind screen names you've seen for years.
Another breakfast sandwich and I locked and loaded for an early get-home.  In typical fashion, I wasn't rolling until 9AM.

I took 50E out of Romney, to 29N, 9N/E, 522, PA turnpike.  The route seemed to cover ground quickly without too many stops or traffic.    PA turnpike, 81, 78 - a terrible slog, but the cruise control is a game-changer.  Since it's impossible to ride past Cabela's, I stopped... and scored some bargain cave pants.

I wasn't sure about "rallying," and thought on the way down how this might be a "do it once so you can say you did" thing, but it's hard to imagine having a better time.  I'll try to make Romney an annual trip.  WV doesn't seem likely to run out of roads or hospitality.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Maintenance log

624 miles:
Yam 10W-40 and filter, 3.6 quarts
Final drive oil change
Throttle cable free play
Triple tree and exhaust bolt torques
Seat mod, Altrider rack installed

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chapter 4

A cold drive down to Manheim, PA:
Goodbye, old friend.

And an even colder drive home:
Welcome, new friend.