Sunday, June 25, 2017

Road life – on and off, it all counts!

Wrapping up our fourth week of homelessness, or at least living without having a bricks and mortar home, all we can say at this point is that it has been an adventure, with perhaps just a tinge of regret. We sure do miss our former home, no doubt about it. And barely a day goes by without a reference or two to the only home Margo and I ever built together. On the other hand, these are such different times and each of us breathes a deep sigh of relief knowing full well that we had to end that chapter before we could begin another. Yes, it is pretty simplistic, but very real – we so much wanted to move on and try new things.

So, what has life been like working and living out of a coach? Have there been any dramatic changes to our lifestyle? When you read the commentaries of full-time RVers, and there are plenty of sites where you can find such stories, what you quickly realize is that these folks are passionate about the lives they now lead. It would be hard for many of them to come off the road even as it would be harder still to be confined to the walls of a permanent dwelling. Margo and I haven’t reached that stage yet, but after just a month living out of the coach, we can more readily identify with these full-time RVers even as we can see how seductive this lifestyle becomes.

We have covered almost 3,500 miles since we left our former home in Niwot. We have crossed numerous state lines and passed several checkpoints. In America there is always a need to pull you over for a chat whether it’s at agriculture and quarantine checkpoints, immigration checkpoints or even the state park ranger posts. Fortunately, we have had no need to pull over for failing to adhere to traffic regulations, although at times I wish we could have had the ability to pull over some of those we share the roads with – the amount of attention being paid to what’s happening around them seems to no longer be a priority for many drivers and we have seen some terrible efforts being made to simply keep a vehicle heading in a straight line.

We are now camped in the second Colorado state park St Vrain, having made a reservation months in advance to ensure we had a spot to park. At this time of the year all Colorado state parks are busy and you cannot simply show up at the gate and expect to find an open camp site. Previously we had been camped at Boyd Lake and when our two weeks are up at St Vrain we will be returning to Boyd Lake as you can only spend fourteen days at any one park over any forty five day period. It has been a big surprise for us to have “discovered” state parks so close to where we lived for nearly two decades that are as nice as these parks have turned out to be. St Vrain may be close to an interstate highway and Boyd may be a tad too close to a dairy farm, but all things considered, they have provided sanctuary at a time when we have no other place to go.

One of our requirements to stay close to the front ranges and in close proximity to the grandkids, has been our desire to be near to where our new home is being constructed. If the home we had up until very recent times could be registered on a scale of any kind then our new home would need to be registered at the opposite end of that scale. It’s not just a case of less square footage or being a smaller lot but rather, a complete change in style. From the striking appearance of a Tuscany villa to a quaint Craftsman cottage, the extremes couldn’t be more pronounced. 

And yet, as have watched our new home develop, we have grown to like it a lot – it may be Craftsman on the outside but it is most definitely urban-modern on the inside with wide open spaces radiating from a combination kitchen / bar. The interior is shades of gray with white trim including use of white quartz. The hardware is all brushed nickel that has not been embellished. And there are trey ceilings with dropped crown moldings that all feature rope lights in major rooms, including the master bedroom, kitchen / bar and dining rooms.

However, it is the “new” view that we like the most. It’s new for us as we have not lived alongside a golf course before and being situated almost pin-high at the seventeenth green, where approach shots are taken from the other side of the fairway, we are out of range of even the most errant of golf shots. With ample ceiling to floor windows and doors, we have a great view and one that even in winter with snow on the ground should prove to be the equal of the mountain views we had in the past. Well, at least we hope so as we don’t have any mountain views at all, save for a small sliver of a view from the room we are calling the office. 

Move-in date is still in flux as anyone building a home can relate to – there will be a two week period following closing with the builder still needing a little extra time to finish a couple of items. However, early to mid-August seems to be a reasonably expectation for this all to take place which means we face another five or six weeks of camping. But the road hasn’t been kind to us nor have the days been easy. Within the first hour of leaving our former home, the dreaded “Check Engine” light came on so our second morning on the road was spent at a truck maintenance facility.

The cause of the problem was traced to the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) system – introduced in 2011 to help reduce pollutants pumped into the atmosphere by diesel engines – but as for the fix, they were unable to do much more than inspect and clean. So, for a month we drove with the check engine light on the whole time.

It wasn’t until we retraced our steps over the Rockies that we noticed two things – we hadn’t been using any of the DEF we had pumped into the tank even as we were way down on power climbing up to the summits. The engine wasn’t in “limp mode” but down on power all the same. Once we had returned to Colorado we booked the RV in for service with a shop that has looked after the chassis and engine since we purchased the RV – only to find that the problem had gone critical. The check engine light had been replaced with a new message; Stop Engine!

Three days later and having camped overnight on the parking lot at the shop, all has been repaired. A slow leak from the DEF tank had corroded the wiring harness, taken out a computer and destroyed a pump. Ouch! Basically, DEF is a highly corrosive acid but the leak was so small it hadn’t showed up previously in any diagnostics run against the powertrain. But all is good and the coach now pulls more strongly than I recall it ever did – it’s amazing what can be done when all it takes is money! As fortune would have it, the warranty on this part of the coach expired in January – missed by just “that much!”

While on the road, we have encountered just about every weather condition imaginable. We traversed flooded roads in Texas as torrential rains poured down on us. We have been the sole camper at a high dessert park where the temperatures passed 110 degrees, Fahrenheit. We have been hit with sever winds driving up Utah’s Interstate 15 and we have even encountered sleet up high on the Utah plateau. In June! However, we have to admit; we have never seen the countryside as green as it is in any previous journey through the southwest and the rivers are truly running at flood levels pretty much everywhere we turned. They are even above their banks here on the front ranges and the St Vrain River passing by us is no exception.

Perhaps the most dramatic of all weather changes happened only a few days ago when we were camped on the parking lot of the truck maintenance shop, which looked a tad like a gulag (see picture, right). As we retired for the night, what had been 90+ degrees all day had dropped suddenly to just 70+ degrees as a weather system moved through the area complete with thunder and lightning! That morning, we awoke to temperatures in the low 50s – a drop of 40 degrees in less than 24 hours. One unexpected consequence given that it is now summer, both Margo and I have succumbed to summer colds and while they aren’t serious, they are annoying and have just sapped the strength from us over the course of a couple of days.

With each passing day, the sense of adventure remains and the tinges of regret are lessening with time. We drove by our former home a few days ago and already it was clear that it was no longer our home and that we had moved on. We didn’t even stop to take a longer look at what had been our life for such a long period of time. Adventures will continue as business will take us back to Southern California in July and even as the word adventure can be so overused at times, there really isn’t any other way to describe the trip we began just a few short weeks ago. We aren’t fulltime RVers and we aren’t gypsies either, but life on and off the road? It’s all about the experience and the memories and for that, we have no regrets whatsoever!  

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