Phoenix and Bartlett Lake

We’ve had enough of cold mornings and not using our water system for fear of freezing our holding tanks over night.  This was supposed to be a warm retreat for the winter months after all.  With that in mind, we left Flagstaff, which was still dipping below zero for a few hours each night, for Phoenix.  The forecast was overnight lows of 7-8 Celsius there.  We followed highway 98 South from our campsite to Sedona.  That drive is a real unexpected treat.  After a quick descent of 1000 feet or so, we found ourselves following a snaky canyon floor, lush with green and the first flowing river we’d seen in weeks.  Oak Creek Canyon was beautiful.  Still covered in green growth, the brown canyon walls began to brighten until they became a rich red, littered now with cacti and sparse leafy growth of almost a neon green color.  The contrast is stunning.  Along the hour or so drive through this canyon we spotted numerous campsites and parks we took note of to visit upon our return.  I’m beginning to think 6 months is nowhere near enough time to see all we want to, as everyday our list of places grows.

We stopped briefly in Sedona for wireless service to figure out where we were going next.  A highway side RV campground provided a spot to stop and rest for the night, as well as a nice long hot shower in their facilities, unburdened by limited water supply.  Arriving in Phoenix late in the morning gave us time to do some shopping and errands, empty our tanks, fill up with fresh water, and consult some locals we met while doing so on where to go next.  Bartlett Lake was tagged as a maybe, but after a keen suggestion from another camper at the dump station we opted to give it a go.  It was evening by the time we were getting out of Phoenix, driving through a town called Carefree.  What a fitting name it was as a last greet before entering Tonto National Forest.  Just outside of Carefree we were forced to stop and take in a stunning sunset.  From high over Phoenix area we witnessed a lively orange and pink sky drape the mountains in the distance in layers like you’d see in a painting.

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It was dark when we arrived at Bartlett Flats dispersed campsite.  We stopped on high beach and slept, waking early as the sun rose to explore the nearly vacant beach and pick our spot to set up for the next week.  The miles-long beach had only 3 other campers scattered around it, leaving us with choices galore.  We opted for a sandy little peninsula at the water’s edge that offered a 200-degree view of water out our door with cactus-covered mountains all around.  The first day it rained, as forecasted.  That allowed for some maintenance work on the trailer to get done without feeling like we were missing out on the outdoors.  The second day is when we felt we’d made it to the warm vacation we were in pursuit of.  The near vacant peace of the lake and the endless beach was soon interrupted by a low growl in the air, quickly followed by a roaring flyby directly above us of a fighter jet.  This repeated every couple hours, Monday to Thursday.  The air force training base just outside of Phoenix seemed to take advantage of the lake and river valleys for swooping, high-speed training exercises.

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The next couple of days the beach slowly began to line with campers.  When I say campers, I mean rv’s.  It was the start of a long weekend.

We basked in 25 degree afternoons with Margaritas and Coronas, periodically getting out for a paddle in the kayak or on the board.  One thing we didn’t buy (and I never will) is firewood as I’ll happily collect it from the surrounding dead-fall and keep my $6 in pocket.  However, a cactus covered desert doesn’t provide much for burnable dead-fall.  The opposite side of lake didn’t seem too far away, so I took one of recently acquired, used kayaks out for it’s inaugural paddle to go explore.  I found on the other side, in one of the runoff valleys feeding the lake, a pile of dead-fall hardwood branches and logs that had washed down from higher elevation.  With dreams of an evening fire I loaded up the kayak with enough wood for a couple nights, cautiously climbed in and planted my feet firmly on my find and began to paddle back.  Sound travels quite well across water, so as much as I could hear the comments from nearby boaters as to what the hell I was doing, I’m sure they could hear my expletives as I almost lost my load a few times breaking through the wake of other boats.  Maybe if I put a Canada flag sticker on the kayak next time they’ll understand, or at least not question my actions so much and just acknowledging me as yet another crazy Canuck.  What wood I had gathered would later that evening fuel one of the stinkiest bonfires I’ve ever sat around.  I’m still not sure what it was we were burning, but despite the odor, we burned the rest the following night.  No way was that hard earned haul going to waste.

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Pumphouse Wash campsite, South of Flagstaff

About a 15-minute drive South of Flagstaff, on the highway to Sedona, we found our site for the next couple nights.  Deserted but for us, the squirrels, 1 coyote, and 2 other campers that showed up late and departed early the next day, we had our own private forest it seemed.  This was another great National Forest Service campsite, well laid out with lots of room and privacy.  These were a real kick back and do-nothing couple of days, with a few exceptions…

My previously sore neck felt a bit better.  There are few better ways I can think of to explore an area than by bike, terrain permitting of course.  One thing a lot of the places we’ve gone seem to have in common in horse/hiking trails.  Too rough and narrow for any motorized vehicles, these are often the trails I find myself riding, with a few areas requiring walking through.  This was no different.  The rolling hills full of lodgepole pine we’re hiding secrets.  Behind and between, dry creek beds snaked around.  If one wasn’t careful hiking or biking above you could quickly find yourself tumbling down 80-foot cliffs of stone, washed smooth high above the current day water line, giving a glimpse into the history of what the landscape may have been.

Mine wasn’t the only excitement there.  While Angela had Jake for an off-leash walk a coyote wandered near.  Jake has been experiencing a bit of stimulation overload lately with all the new scenery and wildlife.  And the coyotes here seem much healthier than the scraggly bunch back home.  I’m guessing the fact they don’t have to survive on scraps through a chilly winter contributes.  Fortunately, Angela spotted the wild dog first and was able to quickly grab the attention, and collar of Jake before he spotted it.  I don’t think that would have ended too well had she not.

All this stimulation has more than just Jake on high alert all the time.  Gus was secured to the site post with a 30-foot line made of standard leash material when he spotted something.  I happened across the doorway of the trailer when I noticed a white blur moving quickly away.  I cringed anticipating the violent snap back he was about to experience when he ran out of slack, but only for a brief moment.  I quickly recognized the weathered maroon colored streamer flapping behind him, now at least 50 feet away!  The old line was no match for an 80 lbs Gus, bent on catching – a pine bow, that had fallen from a gust of wind.

Grand Canyon!!!

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The word Grand isn’t enough.  Using 5 letters to describe and name this place, this world within our world, just doesn’t do it justice.  I guess The Greatest Most Massive Ever Upside-Down Mountain Range You Could Never Imagine National Park doesn’t fit on a map very well.  That name doesn’t do it justice either.  In fact, without being there to witness a part of it in person you can never truly understand, and even then, you still won’t be able to describe it accurately.  It simply isn’t possible.  All one can do to describe the Grand Canyon is relate their experiences being there and the emotions experienced when standing on the edge.  And we stood on edges (mostly Angela).  In some cases, I lied down at edges because looking down so far gave me a sensation I hadn’t felt before.  I’m pretty comfortable when it comes to heights, or so I thought.  I love cliff jumping into lakes and rivers and have spent a fair bit of my time working on ladders without fear.  I’ve stood on glass floors of skyscrapers in Asia and looked down without worry.  This was different.

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When I stood on the edge of a point and looked straight down to my left, right, and ahead, I felt my balance was off.  After gingerly stepping back and heading further on the trail one gets the opportunity to look back at where they once stood from another perspective.  What we stood on is no more than a small landing surrounded by 300-500 foot cliffs all around, straight down.  These are proper cliffs.  My lack of wings gives me assurance that these feelings of vertigo are warranted.  Man isn’t meant to be here.  At least not this man.

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Angela, however, seemed unconcerned about the imminent death that lay below if one took a minor misstep.  I noped out of many perilous viewpoints while Angela, who normally questions my behaviour, is the one who needed a sanity check here.  She confidently strode up to each point, surefooted to the edge.  And she made sure to mention I was a chicken.  A few times.

 

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That was the experience.  As for the emotions, small and insignificant are words that come to mind.  Looking down to the canyon floor below, occasionally catching a glimpse of the Colorado River, some 2 miles away makes on feel almost absent.  Seeing the layers upon layers of rock dating back millions of years will do that.  Between the history and the size, over 15km across in points, I can’t help but compare us to two flies buzzing over the truck windshield once at some point on our trip.  And even then, the time of our presence still doesn’t compare.

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We camped 2 nights here, at another free site, just outside of the Nation Park, but only accessed from within the park.  We were alone but for 1 other camper we passed on the way in.  Speaking of passing on the way in, the wood worker in me spotted something incredibly strange.  A towering pine at least 2 feet wide had a low branch coming off with the remnants of a large root mass growing out the end of it.  I still don’t know what could cause this anomaly, but here’s a picture and maybe someone else does?

This site was another gem of the US Forest Service.  Most of these sites are on National Forest land, are user maintained (as in no services, haul out what you bring in) and are free!   The sites we’ve visited are generally quite large with ample room to maneuver and park our home on wheels, seldom having to uncouple the truck.  This particular site sat next to a forest service fire watchtower.  The tower was open for us to climb even!  This was my chance to reclaim my manliness “grunting”.  Many flights of steep metal stairs open to below and we made it as high as we could go.  The trap door into the lookout perch was locked shut.  From there we could see for miles in every direction, including a glimpse of the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Well, we couldn’t actually see the edge.  What we saw was a void where the land we were on disappeared, and never did come back into sight through the hazy air above.  Short of a few odd vehicles driving through we spent an uninterrupted 2 days out there and did a whole lot of nothing.  It was great!

We spent one more day exploring the Grand Canyon, vowing to return on our way back up and explore the North Rim.  There are a couple great campsites along the North Rim but the road to them is seasonal and closed in the winter.  They say the South Rim gives an idea of the depth of the canyon, with the North highlighting the width.  We can’t wait!  On the way out of the park we stopped at the Imax theatre to watch the 1984 National Geographic film on the history and adventures of the canyon.  I had seen this film once before years ago as a child but vividly remembered scenes from it.  I highly recommend anyone who has the chance to view it.  And view it at an Imax theatre.

Great Sand Dunes National Park  and Zapata Falls

A couple hours South of Poncha Pass the valley widened and the mountains grew shorter with peaks more dispersed.  We neared Great Sand Dunes National Park.  40 miles (roughly 65 km.) we spotted a beige cluster in the southeast distance.  The fact it was visible from such a distance suggests the scale of it.  We stopped for a quick bathroom break off the highway at a pit stop with no more than 2 of any item in stock, and less than a ¼ of the shelves with anything to catch the dust at all.  There was a diner attached.  If crickets paid they might make ends meet.  How these communities and places survive is a mystery to me.  The sandy, infertile, and incredibly inhospitable land was littered with mobile homes and trailers whose tin roofs were weighed down with old tires so not to fly away with the winds that whipped the land into it’s current condition.  Living in Edmonton and Saskatoon I’ve been questioned by many as to how we survive seasons.  The seemingly unfathomable cold is nothing compared to the un-growing, unproviding lands these are.  With cold brings snow, brings melt and feeds growth.  The native plants seem to barely survive here.  It’s hard to imagine this land providing in the sense we are accustomed to in the fertile, frozen north.

We lucked out coming into the park.  It seems those at the gate were on break.  The typically manned pay window was closed tight with a sign saying “gone, will collect payment on re-entry”.  Awesome!  National Park entry fees are $30.  Based on our cheap living budget that’s 3 days of meals for the two of us.  The dunes were barely visible from about 1km before the park gates until almost 2km after.  By that point they seem to quadruple in size.  What looked once like a sandy first rise up a desert mountain was suddenly a deep mass of sun warmed wash.  From the sandy, mostly frozen creek-bed below the dunes there is no camera lens that can capture the volume of what lies before you.  Carefully we skipped across 100m (300 feet) of partially frozen, still running, wet sand wash to get to the dry warm beach that is the base of the dunes.  And a beach it was!  This is by far the cleanest, softest, purest sand I’ve ever seen or set foot in.  It was dry 6” deep and I just can’t explain…  think the “champagne powder” of sand.

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With a quick preview and a plan of making the 750 foot vertical climb the following day, we left the park and headed up the next mountain south to a free campsite at the base of Zapata Falls.

I have a thing for waterfalls.  I find them absolutely fascinating and am obsessed with seeing and participating in as many as possible.  How exactly does one participate in a waterfall?  Good question.  I haven’t really given this much thought until this moment, the first time I’ve tried to explain or justify my obsession.  There is such a power behind any waterfall.  The only way they exist is because of thousands of years of water, something that seems so soft and gentle, forming rock; something so hard and un-formable.  You can participate by hiking nearby, ascending the same landscape they have cut through with no regard to its previous shape.  We swim and bath in the pools they form.  We jump off cliffs with them, feeling for a brief second the same power plunging into the pools below.  That’s all if you’re lucky. In most cases we participate simply by being there to observe and feel a power and force that cannot be measured by any man-made unit.

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Zapata Falls was all of that, but frozen.  Paused in time as for what you can see.  Your ears and feet disagree though.  Under thick, cracked ice, mostly clouded with air but for a few glimpses through a clear block.  This flow was alive and well beneath a frozen cloak of cold trying its best to put you on your backside with every slippery step.  I feel winter may be the best and possibly only real time to view these falls.  From the end of well groomed trail leading to them, the frozen state allows you to climb back into the tight and tall canyon, around a bend where the giant falls stand.  Without the solid water I’m not sure we would have witnessed this sight.

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Half-way back to the main parking area, the trail forks and leads an alternate route back to one of the best laid out campsites we’ve stayed at yet.  Two large loops, one for tenting and one for RV’s are lined alternately, either side with pull-through stalls, each complete with a bear-proof storage bin to keep food items in overnight, as well as picnic tables and steel fire-pits including removable grilling grates.  It seemed there wasn’t a site that didn’t offer beautiful panoramic views of the valley below, with the city of Alamosa to the South, the distant peaks of the San Juan Mountains to the West, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park to the North, slightly dwarfed by the Sangre De Cristo Mountains behind.  But just slightly.  From this elevated viewpoint we were able to, for the first time, really view and comprehend the 31 square mile sprawl of the dunes.

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Truck and Trailer- sunset view
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Rubix looking at the sunset from the trailer.

Hitting the road

Colorado wasn’t the first stop, but it was the first stop beyond a Wal-Mart parking lot or a roadside sight that demanded more than a drive-by “Hey look!  Oh you missed it?  Oh well.”  It was/is the first real stop, other than Devil’s Tower, which was incredible!  Forgive the grammatical past tense and present tense contradictions.  I write this recalling what happened as it happens.  If that doesn’t make sense it’s because it doesn’t.

Colorado is the first real stop.  Everything up until now since leaving Canada has been a step on the way here.  It started with the border.  Neither of us have had anything to be afraid of crossing a border in the past but this is different.  We are towing a trailer that’s 45 years old with no visible serial number, registered as something it isn’t because nobody knows what it is, peppered with bullet holes.  Add to that we have 4 dogs with us entering a country with security that is at an all time high, with inaccessible compartments in the trailer.  I’ve watched a few episodes of Border Patrol and have seen people’s setups ripped apart for less to justify this fear.  The process was surpisingly  smooth though.  The usual questions of “do you have any firearms?” or “any drugs or alcohol?”  to which our answers were yes and no respectively.  Of course we brought along some of our local brewery’s finest fun juice.  And then they asked about food, plants and so on, specifically dog food.  We admitted having about a 1/3 bag of dog food with us, to which we were asked if it contains any lamb or pork.  I’m not sure why that would matter other than maybe some little known disease concerns.  Of course we said “no, pretty sure it’s bison”.  The border agents asked for trailer keys and went back to take a look for themselves.  Upon returning they welcomed us to the country and wished us luck on our trip!  The sense of relief after that was almost overwhelming.  High fives were exchanged between Angela and I and at least one dog.  The other good high fiver was in a kennel (Jake the asshole) and unable to exchange accolades.  We were over the moon.  The adventure has officially begun!  Fast forward 4 hours and it’s time to feed the dogs.  We pull out the bag of bison dog food to see there is no bison at all.  The first two ingredients are pork and lamb!  I wonder what they actually looked at in the trailer?

I’m not sure what I was expecting but for some reason I was surprised to see that Montana looked a lot like the Saskatchewan we just left.  Maybe the high of the start of an adventure deluded me into expecting something completely foreign.  It wasn’t.  Not at the start at least.  But as I stopped counting kilometers and started to count miles it started to change.  The endless flat landscape began to roll.  The horizon became pock marked with brown pimples.  The scenery was changing.

Along with the scenery I noticed the quality of road had changed.  Saskatchewan roads are well known for being some of the smoothest in the universe.  That is when compared to the cratered surface of the moon.  When it comes to North America smooth is not a word I would use to describe them.  It’s typical in other provinces to hear complaints about drivers from Saskatchewan, but it’s not their fault.  I’ve spent a lot of time in a vehicle mostly as a driver, but also as a passenger in multiple provinces.  One observation I’ve made is that when someone displays any sort of below acceptable driving behavior the immediate reaction is to look at the plate, and then the person.  “Damn Alberta drivers” or “of course it’s an Asian woman”.  Well Saskatchewan drivers get as bad a rep as anyone else.  But there is a reason for it.  We drive like we’re lost looking for a street sign everywhere because we’re actually just trying to navigate potholes.  Even if the road is smooth, I believe it has become genetically engraved.  That said, as I realized all I had to do was keep it between the lines I began to observe my surroundings more and enjoy the new sights I was seeing.  Montana is a beautiful state!

The rolling hills slowly grew tall.  And the smooth rolls began to tear apart exposing sharp cliffs of brown sand supporting tufts of yellowish green grassy bushes looking ready to fall over the edge.  The further south we drove the bigger the cliffs grew and more jagged the hills formed.  Soon it became layered sand towers sticking up 50 feet tall from a monotone desert looking field.  With no water in sight.  So what force shaped this place?  Water did.  Millions of years ago.  The entire landscape we were taking in was formed by ancient seas at a time so far past I can’t even associate it with time as I understand at all.  It’s a humbling thought.  To think our presence there is not even a blip in history.  And yet the current impact in my own history I will never forget.

As we continued winding our way South through Montana the sandy towers changed back to rolling hills and back to sandy towers again.  Dry creek beds were lined with ancient looking trees that rose 80 feet in the air, dwarfing large barns.  Many of the leafless trees looked like they’d been through hell twice at least.  The 15 degree weather likely tricked the mind into expected fall leaves but none were seen.  Instead what stood were ragged broken, fallen and regrown relics that appeared burnt.  Dinosaurs not buried with many dead neighbors lying about.  Who knows the last time they had water was.  Soon though we saw green again.

The hills on the horizon grew spikes.  Pine trees started to scatter about the landscape providing some much missed color.  And the ground was stained red in places.  We’re close to Wyoming now.  Within minutes of crossing the border it’s as though a page has turned.  We are almost instantly in a mountain pass winding through spindly pine forest and trying to focus on the road while spotting deer around every bend.  This is more like it.  Something about being in the mountains just feels like home.  Always.

The real work begins…

Anybody that has done any do-it-yourself type of renovation or construction project will relate to my next statement.  Everything is more work than you think it will be.  Of course, there were aspects that went incredibly smooth, but even those took more time than expected.

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Pre-gut Video Tour of Trailer

As far as the condition of the trailer goes; remember when I said at first glance it wasn’t that bad?  Well, subsequent glances really started to contradict that statement.  A few pieces of the aluminum sheet that lined the walls were loose.  They were bent up and dented so the intention was to replace them, and now that we owned the trailer we could remove said panels and look in behind the walls.  What hid there was nasty.  Mice had made a home.  And I learned that mice will shit where they sleep.  With one panel off we could see the mice and their shit carried on behind the next one, so down it came too.  And the next one, and the next one, and the next one.  It became apparent very quickly that we would be gutting the trailer shell completely.  Haz-mat suits and masks were donned and the demo began.  The cabinetry was removed as well as appliances, water tank, water heater, furnace, shower and so on.  You get the idea – everything.  Everything was cleaned and treated with a kill all type spray to which I can’t recall the name of.  Typically, demolition work in a home can often be done with a few basic tools (Sawzall, hammer, big pry bar) and brute force.  Aluminium trailers are nothing like that.  Everything, and I mean everything, is secured, joined and fastened using rivets.  Lots of rivets.  Did I mention that shit loads of rivets were used?  I could happily go through the rest of my life without touching another rivet.

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With the walls all stripped and the trailer empty the next logical step was to repair the floor.  Fortunately, there were no rivets used on the floor.  But that is not to say that the floor wasn’t a royal pain.  It may have been one of the most difficult components to repair.  And now, with all the cabinetry removed we could see the condition of the entire floor.  Sitting for years, not covered, with broken roof vent covers allowing in all the elements it is not how I would suggest one store a camper they intend on using again one day.  All around the perimeter, there were soft spots and signs of rot.  The original 5/8” plywood all had to go.  We began that pain-staking process.  5 feet at a time a process of steps was followed and repeated.  The original construction of the trailer before any indoor buildout went as follows; build frame out of steel, lay thin fiberglass insulation across the top of the frame, cover the frame with plywood and screw down, drop upper shell onto plywood and secure upper shell through plywood and into the steel frame below.  So here lied the problem.  We did not have the means to lift the upper shell off the floor.  Many professional restorers will do just that.  And it makes sense because it really would be easier, if you could.  But we couldn’t.  5 feet at a time we removed the plywood, chiseled and broke it out from where it sat under the walls, supported the walls while we cleaned up everything below, including a squirrel’s winter stash.  I hope he’s doing ok.  The squirrel that is.  He had at least 2 lbs of sunflower seeds stashed below in the floor and I think he may have been sleeping there.  He certainly didn’t shit there.  I like squirrels.  Mice, not so much.  After a week or so we had the floor replaced with new 5/8” plywood, new r20 insulation below, and repaired a few broken welds that tied the cross supports onto the main front to back frame rails.

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With the floor mostly done and a flat surface to stand on again it was time to look at electrical and plumbing.  Just like a regular home, these items need to be completed before any walls are closed in or new cabinetry is installed.  Fortunately for me, I’ve met some great people through the years that were both excited and willing to help with the aspects I’m not well-versed in.  Electrical and plumbing would be what I’m referring to.

Fraser, who own NextGen Automotive and is a shop neighbor came through and did all the wiring except for the 120V wiring.  Starting with the exterior, all marker lights (18 I believe), which were a mix of numerous assorted styles as they’d been slowly replaced over the years, were replaced with new LED lights.  The original taillights were disassembled, cleaned up, repaired and re-installed.  All wiring associated with those lights, the trailer brakes, a new break-away kit, and the harness was replaced and re-wired with a new harness to connect to the pickup.  Cory, from Rooter Man, also a shop neighbor, came over and replaced the old propane lines and installed new regulators for the tanks as well as shutoffs prior to each appliance (water heater and furnace).  And I did the 120V wiring.  In a later write-up, I’ll detail all the electrical components and a review of their performance after we’ve had some time to use everything.

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With the “behind the walls” work is done we were ready to start finishing the inside.  But first, insulation.  The trailer appears to have been spray foam insulated from the factory.  Impressive for 1973.  I feel though that it was less about insulation and more about providing rigidity to the aluminum walls.  It worked.  It held up quite well over the years but was thin in many places.  We called in a spray foam company to top up the spray foam and try to fill the 2” thick walls as best as possible.  And of course, that didn’t go smoothly either.  We were experiencing slightly cooler than ideal temperatures so the foam didn’t set quick enough.  It pushed all our wiring outwards instead of setting around it.  It ran and pooled and cured in grapefruit size lumps, most of which would have to get cut off.  I need a beer break.

Soon the fun stuff begins…

The start of things to come

Building a home is no easy task.  In fact it’s an assembly of numerous not so easy tasks all performed by people who’ve spent years learning and honing their skills.  In part I’m sure that’s why it looks easy.  But as I said, it isn’t.  And yet despite knowing full well that it wouldn’t be easy we decided to do it, telling ourselves “we’ve got this, it will be easy!”  So with with the delusion meter set on full we jumped in and began the frustrating, tiring, maddening, infuriating, defeating and not the least of which; rewarding process of building our new home – on wheels.

It was sometime in June or July of 2017 when we decided it was time for an adventure.  We left the beautiful province of British Columbia in 2011, I think.  I really can’t remember.  I think that’s part of getting older?  So, let’s say in 2011 we moved to Saskatchewan.  At the time it was the land of opportunity in western Canada.  A booming province with good paying jobs was exactly what we needed to kick start life.  Make money, buy house, save for retirement and general adulting.  Fast forward to June 2017, or was it July?  The point is it’s been 6 years and we’ve made money, not bought a house, not saved for retirement, and the idea of adulting in some respects is less appealing than ever.  It’s time for a change.  We want to move back to B.C.  We are outdoorsy, mountain loving folk and we miss it.  B.C. will be home again.  Before it becomes that though we knew we needed a break.  We need to “find ourselves” again and put some perspective on life.  We need an adventure.  We need to spend time with each other and with our much-loved furry friends experiencing new things.  So, with that in mind we set out to travel and explore a bit of the U.S.A. prior to our move to B.C.

Planning for the Adventure

If it was just the two of us we’d throw a tent and the usual camping gear in the back of the truck and hit the road.  But it isn’t.  We have 4 dogs.  Yes, 4.  And none of them fit in Angela’s purse.  Erika, a 12-year-old black lab that thinks she’s 2. Jake is a 9-year-old Australian Shepherd – he’s awesome but he’s also an asshole.  Rubix is another Aussie, she is 5 and has the energy of 5 other dogs in her at all times.  And then there’s Gus.  Gus is a 2 or 3 year old Great Pyranese mix (border collie maybe?) that sort of landed in our lap and has stayed, and he’s scared of the world.  Jake is a jerk to Gus.  So we needed an adventure home for the next 5-6 months that would comfortably accommodate 2 adults and 4 dogs (1 asshole).  We began looking at travel trailers that would work with some minor modification such as removing the dining table and putting some kennels in place.  We found a few that would have worked but upon closer inspection each had issues such as soggy floor, leaky roof, rotten walls and so on.  Then we came across a 1973 Streamline.

“Hey Dylan check out this Airstream!”  Angela has a thing for Airstreams and VW camper vans.  I thought they were cool but I was skeptical.  The ad said things like “great shape” and “all original”.  I didn’t really want or have time to get into a big project.  In July we discussed leaving at the end of October.  So that was only 2-3 months to get our shit together.  We had to deal with our possessions, be it selling or storage or whatever, wrap up work, find a trailer, modify trailer, get the rest of our shit together and get on the road.  Multiple times a day for weeks on end we were scouring the classifieds across 3 provinces looking for “the one”.  Finally in mid August I called the guy about his Airstream.  “Well it’s not actually an Airstream, it’s a Streamline”.  What the hell is a Streamline?  Well it’s what you think an Airstream is but a different brand.  “But it’s in excellent condition, all original, just has a couple bullit holes in it”.  Excuse me?  “Ya well it’s been in storage in a yard and some kids decided to use it for target practice.  But the holes are just in glass that can be replaced.”   So after many questions and a couple days of back and forth with assurances from the seller that it is exactly as he says it is, we agreed on a price and I sent him a deposit to hold it until we could make the 700km trip to pick it up.

2 weeks later we roll into High River, AB to pay the balance on the trailer and take our new future adventure home home.  We met the seller at his place and followed him a few blocks to the storage compound to see the trailer.  First impressions were good.  It appeared straight, the bullit holes weren’t as bad as I’d pictured in my head, the tires looked new, and it appeared to be in original condition.  Then we went inside.  The inside is where the “great shape” stopped.  At first glance it wasn’t too bad.  A few soft spots on the floor, mostly in the corners, appliances were rough looking (I still have no idea if they worked), the bathroom needed a serious cleaning, and it seemed the front 7 feet was missing whatever was supposed to be there (chairs? booth? couch?).  After a fairly thorough inspection Angela and I got back in our truck to discuss.  There was no way we were paying what we’d previously agreed to.  But it was cool.  It was really cool.  Thoughts of what it could be overwhelmed the reality of how much work it would be.  But we just drove 700km and the seller has a sizable deposit that I have a feeling he’d already spent.  So, we negotiated further until reaching a number I was comfortable with considering the extra repairs needed.  700km later we had the beast back home.  We were excited!  What did we get ourselves into?

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The real work begins.

to be continued…