This one's for the noobs

Hi there, RVing noobs here. We've made it to Ojai and we're camped out (or baby "boondocking" as I have now called it) behind a hotel where the owner is a trailer enthusiast. We came here a few weeks back on a day trip with A, had some canned wine and pizza and met some Airstreamers. Ojai has been so beautiful (and surprisingly not too hot!), and the people are fantastic. The hotel here is even letting us use their electric, ice machine and showers... so it has been a great place to get our feet wet! Sean even ran into an old high school friend staying here on her honeymoon. We sat outside last night drinking the beer from the brewery they are starting in Oakland.

Getting to Ojai, however, was a bit of a slog. Admittedly, I've never really fully grasped what people mean when they say, "The devil is in the details." Well, I most definitely do now. Detail upon detail built up on us, where every day there was yet another fire to fight! We'll spend the next few days adjusting to our (official) new life on the road, making sure we've worked out a few of the kinks before heading a bit further east.

For a laugh, here are some glaringly obvious lessons we have learned in our departure:

  1. Renovations take WAY longer than your contractor will tell you. Go ahead, snicker at this one. And yes, my love of Property Brothers made me think that any renovation could take six weeks flat. One tricky part about renovating an Airstream is that it's small so you can only fit so many people inside at once, which means you can only go so fast. There is no hyper speed.
  2. You have to know what to ask. and then repeat yourself often We had all hell of a time getting our vehicle up to towing ability. U-haul didn't ask us about what kind of trailer hitch wiring we wanted. So we assumed that telling them WHAT we were towing would be enough. WRONG. They wired it for the wrong thing, and we were left trying to find someone who knows how to work with a vehicle that isn't common. The Touraeg is one of the best vehicles for towing out there, but U-haul mostly wires Ford trucks and the like. Thank goodness for Conejo Vacation Trailer in Thousand Oaks, who fixed our wiring (ran power from our battery back to the trailer connection and installed the correct piece). 
  3. You're going to need a checklist. And then you are going to need someone to QA your work. There are so many things that need to happen before you can safely tow. 
  4. Things are going to break. Or, maybe you just don't know how to use them yet? I dunno. Ask me again once we figure out how to get our refrigerator running and our light sconce rewired (flipped off on the drive down). 

By no means is this an exhaustive list. I'm sure we still don't know what we don't know. I bet that makes you all super excited for the post following our first time having to dump out our black water tanks! Huzzah!

Well hey there, stranger

It's been a little while since I last posted (ok, it's been way too long). And the reasons are a bit endless. As the renovation noobs that we are, we underestimated how long it was going to take us to get Lady Betina in her top, most roadworthy condition. 

But the day has come. We are in a sprint to the finish, with plan to hit the road by midweek. Most days we are scrambling to get the final few things we need before we shove off. Today we finally got to see the trailer in her close-to-finished glory. Avery loved checking out the bed and the dinette (how sweet do those cushions look?!).

Just a few tweaks to the schedule, and you'll be hearing a lot more from us. For now, here are a few sneak peeks at Betina. More to come by the end of the week!

Baby A looks pretty comfortable on the bed. Maybe I shouldn't be worried? 

 

Did you hear me? I'm not afraid anymore (actually, yes I am)

Anxiety and I are old friends. I check the backseat every time I get in the car. I investigate every bump in the night. A big truck drives by our house, I think to myself "this is it!" and I brace myself for "the big one" (ok, this is a slight exaggeration)... 

I'm a worrier. And I'm working on it. 

Sharing my fears helps me release them into the air. They don't totally disappear, of course, but they spend more time outside of my head and are more manageable. And yeah, sharing my fears helps me laugh at myself. I know they are ridiculous, but here we are. So, with that: below are the top seven things I'm worried about as we embark on our trip.

1.  Baby sleep. Baby Sleep Rule #1: If your baby has been sleeping, don't ever speak about it out loud. Just as fast as you can say, "It's so great that Baby sleeps straight through the night now," you will find yourself right back in the trenches at 3am, negotiating with a small human.

2. My sleep. This goes without saying, but if baby doesn't sleep, mama doesn't sleep. But that's the tip of the iceberg (see below things that would also prevent me from getting some shut-eye).

3. Safety on the road. Have we ever towed anything before? Not really. Ever been RVing? Nope. But mostly I worry about other drivers and the stupid sh*t people do while driving. 

4. Severe weather. What I can't get out of my head is how many news stories about severe weather talk about the weather destroying an RV park. Add bad weather to the above idiot drivers, and I've got a major anxiety attack on my hands. 

5. Trailer theft. We tow her so how hard would it be for someone else to steal Betina? Fairly easy, but then again if a thief wants to steal something, they will find a way. Most RVs and trailers are stolen from storage facilities or off of dealer lots. We'll be taking a few preventive measures to make sure Betina is safe: buying a hitch lock, making her more recognizable, only parking in secure spots. 

6. Bears. Don't think I need to explain this one, but in case you need convincing: read this, this or this. And then there we are, in a shiny Twinkie in the middle of the bears' living room.

7. Critters. Spiders, more specifically. This one stems from some gross pin I accidentally found on Pinterest. 

So there you have it. I'm sure I will add more to the list as time goes on. One of my biggest goals for this trip is to come out of it a little bit less of a scaredy cat.

Is there anything else I should be afraid of? Terrorize me in the comments! 

We're mapped!

It was all very surreal this morning, particularly not having to immediately jump into our routine to get out the door and into the office. It was a very weird feeling knowing that our old lives were continuing just as we left them on Friday afternoon. We started pairing down our things-- albeit very slowly-- and Sean locked in our route using Batchgeo (and a very elaborate Excel spreadsheet): 

Some of the highlights of our trip include visiting friends and family, and checking out new cities (for potential relocation). It's hard to see on the map, but the list really runs the gamut from Los Angeles to Marfa, TX to Savannah, Ithaca, Nova Scotia, Boulder, Salt Lake City and Seattle. 

One of the biggest reactions we get from friends and family is, "Well that seems like A LOT of driving." And we get it: looking at this map, the distance kind of sinks in. But we've done a ton of planning and have been able to plan so that we'll drive no more than 6-8 hours every week (basically just 57 minutes a day, if you break it out). 

Have any suggestions on must-see places, spaces, or things? Leave us a note! 

Renovations begin!

A 40 year old trailer comes with a lot of history... and a lot of work. Despite the craziness of it all, we are excited to be able to completely customize the inside of our living space, instead of getting stuck with something out-of-the-box.

 Betina gets stripped down. Photo: Townsend Travel Trailers

Betina gets stripped down. Photo: Townsend Travel Trailers

We have totally gutted the inside of the trailer and are starting with an empty space. Betina's makeover includes:

  • Paint
  • New floors
  • New appliances
  • New cabinets
  • Remodeling the bathroom
  • Building a new dinette
  • Adding solar panels
  • Polishing the exterior
  • Building a custom bed for Avery

This past week we finalized all of our design decisions, selected all our appliances and finishes. We're going for something that will feel big and bright after a few months on the road. What we arrived at is what could be best described as "mid-century modern bohemian":

  

Here's an early sketch of what's to be, courtesy of Townsend Travel Trailers. Note the cute side bed for Avery! We wanted to have a safe sleeping solution for her, and most of the other options we saw were lofted beds (cue: Gillian's massive anxiety). Aside from safety, the best part of this bed is that it can covert back into a storage drawer once she is old enough to sleep out in the convertible dinette.

Betina-sketch-1.jpg

This week, we head into our last week at work. Then we have two weeks to pack up our place and hit the road to Santa Barbara! It's about to get real.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you can track our progress!

Meet Betina: Our new home

Why an Airstream? First: riding in the car is the safest option for Avery. Ride-in RVs aren't crash-tested, and there is no place to securely install a carseat. Second: who wouldn't want to live in an iconic piece of Americana? 

Meet Betina ("good lady"): a 1973 Airstream Trade Wind

We set out to check out some new Airstreams and get a feel for what size we would realistically be able to tow without buying a gigantic pickup truck or Suburban. Shiny, new and modern, the new Airstreams were a retiree's dream. We wanted something a little different, something we could live in for an extended period of time and be reminded of the purpose of our trip. Gillian had the idea to find a vintage Airstream and renovate it to make it our own. 

We were surprised to learn that Santa Barbara is kind of a hot-bed of airstream renovation (Aluminum Valley, anyone?). Lucky for us, we came across Townsend Travel Trailers -- an Airstream renovation up-start, started by Thomas Townsend. Thomas found the listing for Betina and set off to Norco to pick her up and tow her back to the yard in SB. 

Renovations are already underway as Betina gets a bit of work done. More on that soon!

A shot of Betina getting picked up in Norco. Image credit: Townsend Travel Trailers

Fun fact: More than 70% of Airstreams ever made are still on the road today. Pretty incredible when you consider that they have been making Airstreams for 80 years! Demand has totally surged recently and the company has seen the strongest sales in 40 years. 


Stepping In a New Direction

Everything you want is on the other side of fear. -- Jack Canfield

 Stepping in a new direction, with six feet

Stepping in a new direction, with six feet

If you know me, you know it's no secret that I've struggled going back to work after Avery was born. When I look back on the last few months, I realize I was a complete crazy person most of the time. In retrospect, I probably should have sought out some help for postpartum anxiety. I would look around at all of these moms going to work, with their tiny babies at home, and wonder how they did it. Weren't they exhausted? Weren't they also up from 3am to 5:30am trying to convince a baby to go back to sleep? What was their secret?

At first, I thought it was my job. I was frustrated with my "transition" back from maternity leave. I struggled to get into a rhythm, and thought starting over would help. It didn't. I couldn't shake the feeling that something was not right. Yes, I was incredibly grateful for having a wonderful job, an amazing apartment with fantastic city views, a beautiful daughter and loving husband. But spending 2 hours a day during the week with this gorgeous little new person in my life just wasn't enough. Each minute with her felt like I was uncovering a new piece of her personality. I had a sinking feeling that this just wasn't the life I wanted. 

In December, after a particularly frustrating day at work for both me and my husband, I blurted out, "I dunno maybe we should just quit our jobs, pack up our stuff, and travel the country in an RV." (Side note: before Avery was born, Sean would playfully ask me "When are we going to quit our jobs and travel?" So, not exactly a revolutionary idea in our house.)

With that, a seed was planted. We tended it on occasion, dreaming of discovering new cities to raise our family in, looking at schools and houses in different parts of the country. "But really, what better way to see if we really like a different place than to just take some time and live there for a little while?" I asked Sean. 

As the methodical, rational one in our relationship, Sean took some time to come to his decision. After a day spent visiting open houses in San Francisco (following a weekend of visiting open house on the Peninsula), I was depressed. "I can't get excited about getting locked into a $1 million+ mortgage on these places," I bemoaned. 

The next day, Sean woke up and said "I want to do the RV thing. Let's do it." Every cell in my body tingled, and in typical Gillian fashion - I tried to bail. I got nervous. Scared. But we started planning, staying up night after night until after 11 (you new parents out there know this is beyond unreasonably late when your child wakes up at 5:30am). We broke the news to our parents, who were extremely supportive and pretty excited at the prospect of spending an extended amount of time with their first grandchild. This weekend we will start to tell our friends, and I plan on telling work this week. Since we've started taking a few steps toward making "our RV thing" happen, I've felt peace. I feel like I'm finally breaking through my fear and am already getting started on a path to finding and becoming my best self.

We've given ourselves 6 weeks: find a trailer (and a new tow vehicle), tie up loose ends, plan our route, pack & move our things, and hit the road. We will chronicle our adventures and share our memories here.