Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Weight of My World

One of the things that has been weighing heavily on me about my plans to hit the open road has been the strain and stress on my car - I'm worried I'm going to kill her hauling the tearbaby and all my stuff.  I really like my car - "Tawanda" (Ford Focus Wagon) - she is sleek, comfortable and easy to drive, has a large cargo area that is easy for a shortie like me to load / unload and even access the roof.  She's not too big, not too small.  She's just about right - the Goldilocks of cars.  All very important things for my physical, mental and financial well-being!  Except when it comes to being a tow vehicle.

One of the many reasons I wanted the teardrop that I got was for it's weight.  Egon knows how to build not only a GORGEOUS trailer, but a light weight one too - about 650 lbs. - light enough for my car's 1000 lbs towing capacity.  Since I was going to be towing the teardrop constantly, I really needed a light weight trailer. Yes, I knew I would be adding weight to the tearbaby when I started packing her, but thought I could easily keep it right around the 1000 lbs.  Easier said then done.  Sometimes you don't realize how much something weighs or how fast the weight adds up (Oh, how I can relate!).

In preparation for a trip north to visit family and friends (introduce them to the tearbaby and haul some things to be stored), I needed to know what the trailer weighed so I would know how much I could pack in it and the car (I had my new mattress and a few other things added).  It was time for a trip to the CAT Scales!

I had called ahead the week before to the Pilot Travel Center to ask about using the CAT scales.  I got a very nice and helpful young man who graciously answered my questions.  "Was I allowed to use the scales for my little trailer and car?" - "YES!"  "Could I get a weight for both vehicles individually?" - "YES!"  "How did the scales work?" - "You just pull up onto the scales, making sure each vehicle is on a separate scale, then push the CALL button and give them your tractor number and come inside to get your printout!"  Seemed easy enough.  (I really should know better by now).

I get to the rather busy exit, about 25 - 30 miles from my house, turn left and head to the Pilot Travel Center.  I pull in, but don't see a sign for the scales - I am in the "car" refueling area.  I drive through to the other side and then see way in the back behind the building the sign for the CAT Scales.  I wait for traffic to clear for what seems like forever and pull back out and head down the access road.  By now I am a bit frazzled by all the traffic at the travel center so am glad to get to the Big Rig section where everything moves much slower.  I find the scales (have to go around to approach from the other side), and pull forward onto them.  I open my door to check to see if I have each vehicle on a separate section - not quite - so I pull forward about another foot and that does it.  I hop out of my car and start looking around for the CALL button I was told to push.  It's not there.

Who took the CALL button????

Now really, how far could a CALL button go?  I look and look, and then the light in my brain goes on - I look UP.  Way up high in the clouds above me is a big yellow and black box on a pole with instructions and the CALL BUTTON!

Not my car nor my picture - I forgot to get a picture of my car on the scales, but you get the idea.

You've GOT to be kidding me!  Yeah RIGHT!

How the heck am I ever going to reach it?  I think for a few moments then go digging in my car and come up with my crumbling 18 year old compact umbrella.  I climb up on the concrete piling that the sign post is bolted to, then tippy-toe up onto the giant bolts, and holding onto the post I stretch as far as I can and just barely touch the CALL button with the end of my umbrella and push.

Did it push?  I can't be sure.  I wait.  

Just as I was about to push it again a young woman's voice comes over the speaker asking for my tractor number.  I give her a made up number (like the young man from the week before told me to do) and she then tells me to come inside to get my printout.

Now, I would have LOVED to know how many truckers were doubled over laughing at me through this whole CAT scale "initiation".  Of course no one came over with an offer to help - how could they, it was probably all they could do to keep from peeing their pants laughing at me.  But I was happy to do my part and provide some lunchtime entertainment to those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to view the "show".

Oh, I did get the weights (minus me - remember I was up on the pole!  Thank the "Powers That Be" for small miracles!).  The tearbaby came in at 740 lbs. nearly empty!  Yikes!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Rainy Night (and Day) in Georgia"

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted.  I had promised myself that I would do a better job at posting more often and I've done an even worse job than before!

To catch everyone up. . .

I went camping with the Dixie Chapter of the Tear Jerker's September 20 - 21 at Cloudland Canyon State Park on top of Lookout Mountain in Georgia.  

Cloudland Canyon State Park  (Note: Not my photo)

For those of you who have never camped at a Georgia State Park, they have what I consider to be a rather unusual and frustrating reservation system.  You can make reservations in advance, but you can't pick your campsite - those are on a first come, first serve basis.  Now normally if I were camping alone like I will be doing in the future that wouldn't be a big deal, but when you are camping as part of a group like we were, it makes it very difficult to get campsites close together - at least for us later arriving folks.  Cloudland Canyon State Park is a beautiful park and very popular, so by the time I arrived on Friday afternoon around 1:30 (check-in was at 1:00) there were only 4 open sites left in the loop I needed to be in (the more favored loop too!).  I had made my reservation in advance, but that didn't guarantee me a site in that loop.  Needless to say, I ended up on the far side of the campground from the rest of the group, but that was O.K. at least I got in the loop I needed to be in and it was a nice walk to the other side to visit everyone.

However the challenges didn't end there . . .

Heavy rain fallin', seems I hear your voice callin' "It's all right."
A rainy night in Georgia, a rainy night in Georgia
It seems like it's rainin' all over the world

- Benton Brook

Yep, you know what's coming. 

Friday was a lovely day which I spent visiting with folks I hadn't seen for a while, but I knew rain was in store for Saturday and Mother Nature didn't disappoint.  The rain started lightly about 4:30 a.m. and continued through the afternoon on Saturday.  I had my awning up, knowing I would have to take it down when I woke up Saturday, before it really started raining hard, and I almost made it too.  Of course as soon as I went to take it down, Mother Nature thought it would be fun to see how wet she could get me in 5 minutes and let er' rip!  

I love my awning - Egon (the man who designed, built and made everything on the tearbaby) created what I consider to be a most ingenious awning.  The only problem (for me) is it can be hard to hold the long pole that feeds through the loose end of the awning while trying to bend the first tent pole to fit through the hole to attach and detach it.  This is made even more difficult when you have buckets of water pooling in the awning. I had to continually empty the water off / out of the awning to try to get it detached.  Unfortunately this created a waterfall over the exterior light by my door.  I knew I'd be lucky if I didn't have any leaks from all that water. Luck was not on my side that day.

Later that day when I returned from my outing I found the carpet pretty soaked by the door.  Since it was damp and overcast out, I couldn't really hang the carpet out to dry, so I left it inside with the fan blowing on it to try and dry it out - but to no avail.  Every time I got up during the night I had to step on cold, wet, squishy carpet - Ick!  And it was a chilly night too - and you know I had to get up more times than normal!  Of course Sunday was beautiful, sunny and warm and I had to leave.  I did get the carpet hung up when I got home and all is good now.  I resealed around the light and will be adding an extension of the rain guard over it to help with any future times that I can't get the awning down fast enough!  Guess I need to practice more with connecting and disconnecting the awning tent poles.  

In honor of the rainy day I give you "falling water" at Cloudland Canyon State Park  (Note: Not my photo)

It is a good thing for me to have to learn how to fix things with the tearbaby.  Living on the road on my own I will have to rely on myself to take care of minor repairs.  I am grateful to have a dad and brother who are not only knowledgeable about how to build and repair things, but also for their making me have to learn how to use tools and repair things myself - though I do get nervous about screwing things up.  All in all, it was still a great weekend with great folks!  

(Sorry, with being gone most of the day Saturday and all the rain - I never got out to take photos of the park - the ones of the park posted are from the Park's website).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Camping at Old Stone Fort State Park

The tearbaby and I went camping this past weekend at Old Stone Fort State Park in Manchester, TN with the Tennessee Chapter of the Tear Jerkers.  We were celebrating the chapter's 5 year anniversary.  The campground hosted 32 Tear Jerkers with 18 unique teardrops and tiny trailers (the people were unique too!).  Great bunch of folks and a wonderful weekend.
Tearbaby resting in its campsite.

If you are interested in teardrop trailers or other tiny trailers out there I HIGHLY recommend that you go to one of the Tear Jerker gatherings.  You don't have to camp, just visit for the day.  Everyone in this national / international group is warm and welcoming, and they love sharing their knowledge and experience with anyone interested in these tiny trailers.  Just to go the Tear Jerkers forum and click on CALENDAR along the top banner of tabs to find a gathering near you or join the forum for even more helpful information.

These people are also packed full of ideas and ingenuity!  Two of my favorite qualities!  I have learned so much from them after attending just 2 gatherings, of which I'll touch on more in future posts.  But for now, I wanted to share with you some pictures of Old Stone Fort.

Old Stone Fort is "a hilltop ceremonial enclosure begun 2000 years ago and used at least through the fifth century".  The spectacular setting occurs where two rivers converge creating a high, isolated "bluff" between them.

The Woodland prehistoric period people constructed wall-like mounds around the edge of this 50-acre high bluff, with two parallel mound walls oriented to the summer solstice sunrise.

This mound site was most likely used for ceremonial purposes.  There is a 1 1/4 mile trail that takes you around the perimeter of the Old Stone Fort where several of the mound walls can still be seen.

With beautiful views of the rivers and falls (several side trails take you down to the rivers edge).

There is also a small museum and gift shop and other trails throughout the park.

Now I am quite embarrassed to admit this next part.  I am a backpacker, primitive camper from way back and know the proper provisions for hiking - good shoes and plenty of water.  However this day I was not properly prepared.  Shoes - Teva sandals - WRONG!  Bottle of water - left in the car - WRONG!  Now in all fairness, I hadn't intended to go hiking - just went to tour the museum - or I would have been better prepared.  That said, the 1 1/4 mile trail was relatively easy and I managed quite well even though I lacked the necessities (though that bottle of water in the car didn't last long once I returned!).  All in all it was a lovely hike and a beautiful area of middle Tennessee steeped in unique history.  Check it out if you are in the area.

*(Note: Pictures were taken with my phone - still learning how to use it, it's new.  Again, had I been prepared to hike I would have brought my camera!).


Fear.  We all have things we're afraid of.  Most of us probably suffer from the same handful of fears like: fear of finding yourself naked in front of an audience; fear of being stranded with a flat in some remote location without a spare tire (and no cell service); fear of being eaten by a ________ (shark, bear, spider, snake, killer white rabbit). Then we have our own "personal" fears.  Mine include fear of crowds (probably because I'm short), malls, falling (not heights, just the falling part), and fire.  [I won't make fun of your fears, so don't make fun of mine!]

I want to address the last one - fire.  Now, I'm not afraid of hanging out around a campfire or BBQ or anything like that.  My fear is in the lighting of said fire.  As a Girl Scout many years ago, one of the last badges I earned was my fire starting badge - NOT because I couldn't build a fire (that was easy), but I couldn't light the darn match.  With much time and moral support from my friend and neighbor (also a Girl Scout), I finally managed to do it and got my badge.  Today I can light a match and start a fire. . . I just couldn't light the stove in my tearbaby.  Yes - I am a wuss!  I had been afraid to light my stove since I got the tearbaby - something about blowing the trailer & myself up when I put match to stove.  I hate lighting gas stoves - they always make that exploding sound when they light and it scares the bejeebas out of me every time!  I think my fear lies in exposing explosive gas to flame.  Now, I'm not Einstein, but WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT??????   Explosive gas and fire to me is like worms and Tequila - just because we put them together doesn't mean they should go together.  (Then again, my one and only experience with Tequila proved that after drinking Tequila you just don't give a damn about the worm - "Worm?  What worm?").  But we are talking about my fear of lighting my stove not my night with Tequila.

So, I knew I had to get over this fear or live on PB &J sandwiches and cold showers for the next several years - not what I envisioned for my new life.  While camping with the Tear Jerker's group back in July, someone reminded me that my little stove was removable from the counter-top and could be set-up on top of a table.  Oh boy, a safe way to light the stove and NOT blow up the tearbaby!  Finally a solution.  So I decided that when I got home, I would take the stove out and set it up far away from the trailer and practice lighting it before my next camping trip. 
Stove in it's place in the counter
Stove removed for use on a table top
Jump ahead to this past weekend - I'm off on my next camping trip - has the stove been lit?  NOT!  But with much thanks to my camping neighbors for their moral support and the wife's volunteering her husband's assistance should I need it, I DID IT!  I LIT MY STOVE!!!  It wasn't scary at all - didn't even make a noise when I lit it!  No little explosion burst or anything!  What a perfect stove.  I LOVE IT!  I really like the versatility of it - that I can take it out of the counter-top and use on a picnic table if I want or leave it as is.  I'm going to have my dad make me a little cover for the hole for when I take the burner out - so I don't lose things down in the cupboard.  

Now the story doesn't end there.  You know how you often get yourself all worried into a tizzy the longer you put something off - and come to find out that you made it so much worse than it actually was? (mountain / mole hill scenario)  Well, I am an expert at that, so much so that I fail to see anything else.  All this time I was so afraid of lighting the stove for fear of it malfunctioning and blowing up the tearbaby that I hadn't thought about any other potential problems in regards to lighting it.  So here I am, stove all set up on the picnic table, stove instructions laid out in front of me (read over several times just to be sure!), and I reach for my lighter thingy to light the stove.

I pull on the trigger and nothing happens.  I try again and it doesn't move.  I go to the camper and pull out the package it came in and read the instructions - "Depress safety mechanism.  Depress trigger. Adjust flame". O.K. easy enough.  I depress safety mechanism (darn that is hard to depress and hold while depressing trigger), trigger is depressed - Look Flame!  Oh, flame goes out.  Couple more tries, realize must keep safety mechanism depressed to keep flame lit.  Hmmm.  One hand to hold down safety mechanism, one hand to depress trigger.  Oh look, I'm out of hands.  Now how the heck am I supposed to turn the knob on the stove?

By the way, dinner was delicious!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Need Your 2 Cents Worth

I would love to get some input and feedback from you on a couple of things I'm trying to decide on.  Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

1)  To have ads or not to have ads?  That is my question.  How do you feel about ads on blogs you visit?  I love the way my blog looks (took me long enough to get it just right) and I don't really want a bunch of ads flashing and ruining the effect.  I also have strong feelings about advertising for things I personally don't agree with (from what I can tell with Google Ads, I can block some types of ads, but I don't think to the extent I want). There might be a way to have only ads I choose (instead of Google Ads), but I don't know how to do that.  Now on the other hand, having ads would help generate a little extra income for me.  Easy extra income is good!  I know it might not be much, but every little bit helps.  So, ads or no ads?  What do you think?

2)  I have to buy a cooler for my refrig.  I have narrowed it down to 2 Coleman Extreme coolers:  Coleman 52 Qt. Extreme cooler and the Coleman 58 Qt. Marine Ultimate Extreme cooler.

Coleman Extreme 52 Qt.

Coleman Marine Ultimate Extreme 58 Qt.
The marine cooler costs twice as much as the other one, but has some upgraded features.  Both have ratings of about 5 days, which I realize is totally dependent on how you use it and many other factors.  I take that rating with a grain of salt - and don't expect miracles, but if I can keep my food cold for 3 - 4 days on average, I'd be a happy camper.  I would love to know if any of you have used either of these coolers and what you thought? Also, I am NOT an experienced cooler user.  Other than maybe using a small one to carry my lunch to work, I really haven't used a big cooler very often (did learn the hard way to put even packaged food in plastic containers before going into the cooler!).  How do I pick a cooler size when  I don't know how much food I'll be keeping in it on a regulars basis?  I don't need room for drinks, just food.   Is there a ratio of ice to food I should maintain?  Guess I could always just camp in really cold places and not worry about a cooler, but then I'd be bothering you about recommendations for heaters.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions and input.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Got those Garage Sale Blues

It's been a little longer than I had hoped to get back to posting here.  I've got several different projects going on and was busy setting up for a garage sale on Saturday.  Speaking of garage sales, I think I'd rather have a root canal.  Going through all your stuff, organizing it, cleaning it, pricing it,  laying it out and making it look nice is challenging enough, but it's the people that drive me crazy.  This year has been the worst for obnoxious people!  Now as I see it, there are basically 3 reasons for someone to have a garage/yard sale.

1) They ENJOY having garage/yard sales.  I suppose there are a scant few out there that fit this one and as they say down south, "Bless their hearts" - (personally I think they need their heads examined) - but to each their own and I commend them for bravely going where most of people won't even go.

2) They just want to be rid of their excess stuff and either don't want to or can't haul it to a donation center [or the Misses plans to get rid of those old golf clubs that haven't been used in 10 yrs. (among other things) and can't alert her husband by asking to borrow the truck].  Those in this group may also be part of a larger neighborhood sale, making it a perfect opportunity to get rid of things without all the hassles of doing a sale solo.

3) They need money!  I fall under this one and #2.  I have to get rid of almost everything I own before I move into my mobile 50 sq. ft. tearbaby and I need to make all the money I can before then.

Now, people who come to garage/yard sales are looking for a deal - I understand that - but I have a real problem when they try to take advantage of you.  C'mon people!  If you don't like the price, then you are free to go to Wally World and pay a whole lot more!  If I wanted to give it away, I have a very long list of people I'd give it to long before I'd give it to these folks!  I'd rather donate it then sell it to some people.

If I may share a personal request - if you are a garage/yard sale shopper, please keep in mind that some of us are struggling and need to make all the money we can however we can.  Taking advantage of the person selling their stuff isn't cool.  If you think it is overpriced and you really want it, make a reasonable offer and see.  If they say no or counter back with something in between, then don't keep badgering them into going lower. Gracefully decline or say "WOW! Thanks, I'll take it!".  Remember, you are still saving money from buying it new, reusing something and potentially keeping it out of the landfill, and are paying it forward by helping someone who might really need it.

Now go Shop Considerately!  (And stay strong - keep walking past that gently used Elvis Soap on a Rope - even if it is only 25 cents)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome to My Teardroppin' Life

After receiving an overwhelming response to a guest posting on the Tiny House Listings blog and the interest people had in what I was about to do with my life, I decided to start documenting My Teardroppin' Life now.  Though I haven't started my life on the road in my teardrop yet (that will be later this fall), I am however, doing a lot in preparation for the adventure and thought others who want to embark along a similar path might find this stage helpful.  So, after a couple of weeks trying to figure out how to create a blog, what I wanted to call it, and how to design it, I am finally getting it together and posted.  This has been my toughest challenge yet!

So, what have I done in preparation for this big change in my life you might ask?  Well, first off I had to grasp the concept that yes, I could live in a 5 x 10 ft. rolling home.  Then I had to figure out what this teeny house would need to look like.  I did entertain the thought of building a teardrop myself, but after about 2 minutes, realized that was insane!  Now, there are MANY designs for teardrops out there on the internet (many of which are free) and many people have built their own from simple to luxurious, so it's certainly not impossible.  The insanity of my idea was in what I wanted vs. my skill level (I can't cut a straight line to save my life!) and time alotted (within this decade).  I am very creative and can come up with unique ideas to solve problems, but executing those solutions is sometimes another story.  So, I went shopping for a teardrop that came as close to what I envisioned as I could find.  I did a lot of research and searching and finally found the teardrop of my dreams!  I truly believe we were meant to find each other.  The timing was perfect and within two months I was off to pick up my tearbaby and bring it home.  I will admit that those two months were bit terrifying - everything happened so fast - but I was sure of my decision that I needed to follow this path I chose for my life, and a teardrop was the way to make it happen.

Since then I have been trying to figure out what I will need (or think I will need), how to organize things in the teardrop and how I will survive financially while on the road - oh yeah, and how I'm going to make all this work with 2 geriatric cats riding shotgun!  So, stay tuned to find out how I plan to achieve My Teardroppin' Life.