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Monday, September 5, 2016

Long Overdue Update



We have been full-timing for over 10 weeks now. For the first two months, we stayed at an RV park a few miles from our house so that we could keep the yard looking nice while it was on the market. Honestly, I don't think we would have stayed there otherwise; it did not have many amenities and was in a fairly noisy location. The next closest RV park had more amenities (a pool!) for the same cost but was just too far away for the twice-daily trips to the house.

Adjusting to the RV lifestyle has not been without its challenges. Heavy summer thunderstorms revealed more leaks in the bedroom slide and high winds tried to rip off our awning a few times. Dealing with these issues, the lack of space compared to a house, and the stressful process of selling a house had me seriously questioning why I thought this was a good idea.

The past two weeks, however, have reminded me why we made the choice to downsize to an RV. We are camped at Catalina State Park just north of Tucson. This is a park we visited often to hike, bike, walk the dog, and go birding. I remember being envious of the folks camped here when I'd see them slowly biking up the road, obviously enjoying themselves. Well, we are those happy campers on bikes now!

We ride our bikes around the campground, to the Ranger Station to report sightings, and to go birding. We even tried looking for snakes on the road one night by bike. We can step out of our RV and be on a trail almost immediately. We can pause while washing dishes at the campground's dish-washing station and look around to see if any hawks are soaring over the cliffs. When I wake up at 4 in the morning, I can listen for owls right outside my home.

RV life will not always be like this, but we are enjoying ourselves right now. We do have to take care of minor issues like earning money at some point. This week, we'll be pulling out of here and heading to Texas to establish residency there. It is likely to be an interesting trip, full of surprises for us as newbie full-timers.

I have  been thinking of features I'd like to include on this blog, such as RV and campground reviews, product reviews of items we are happy with in our RV (and perhaps Amazon sponsor links), a tour of the RV, what we're finding works well in the RV and what we're struggling with, and so on. If I can drag myself away from the great birds (and snakes! and mammals! and butterflies!) outside, I will share more with you. For now, enjoy this gopher snake we saw on the road last week.





Sunday, July 31, 2016

Having Fun Where You Can

I know I haven't written in the month since moving into the RV. It's been a rough transition, which I promise to write about soon. Tonight, however, we've made plans to have some fun.

For the first time ever, we get to watch a Sharknado movie on the original air date! The office building has satellite TV and they get the SyFy channel. Woohoo!

Before you judge us for considering this fun, remember our choices at present. It's almost 100 degrees outside, muggy, and the mosquitoes have taken over. Inside the RV, it's muggy, crowded, messy, and the mosquitoes are trying to invade. We have DVDs but no satellite dish.

And sometimes you just need to revel in complete silliness to make the rest or your life seem a little better. I have learned to appreciate 'B' movies and we find the Sharknado series to be so ridiculous that it's fun. Sharknado 4 is exactly what we need  right now to counteract the stress of selling our house. (Appraisal is tomorrow.)

To make our 'movie-going' experience complete this evening, I'm going to make a big ol' mess of fancy nachos, starting with a bag of organic blue corn tortilla chips. I've dug out my recipe* for nacho "cheese" sauce, using soymilk and Daiya cheddar cheese shreds. There's salsa and guacamole to go on top and I think I'm going to chop up some of my own cured black olives to sprinkle over it all.

The only question now is whether I kept a big enough pan to put all this in. It was such a harried rush there at the end to load up and move into the RV that I still am not entirely sure what we kept and what we donated in the end.

Hope you have a fun evening planned, too. Watch out for sharknadoes!

*ETA: Here is the requested recipe for vegan nacho cheese.

Vegan Nacho Cheese  
1 tbs Earth Balance (vegan butter)
1 tbs flour (I use whole white wheat flour for everything.)
1 cup soy or other non-dairy milk
1 ¼ cups shredded vegan pepper jack or cheddar cheese (I prefer Daiya brand.)

In a medium sauce pot, melt the Earth Balance.
Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes over moderate heat.
Whisk in the soymilk, stirring well to smooth out any lumps.
When the sauce comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese (not with the whisk unless you want an annoying clean-up job!)
Remove sauce from heat and pour over tortilla chips.

Sprinkle with any of these foods for even more flavor: sliced green onion, chopped fire-roasted green chiles, chopped fresh or canned jalapenos (remove seeds for less heat), chopped fresh cilantro, and/or chopped black olives.

Note: this can easily be made with dairy ingredients instead of the vegan versions.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Moving In to the RV

Before I tell you about the moving in process, I must warn you that I will not be providing a falsely cheery version of the facts. What you get is the real, and sometimes bitter, situation without any sugarcoating to make it easier to swallow. Some may call me negative but I prefer to think of myself as a realist.

It seems like we have been moving in to the RV for weeks but we'd really just been taking a few things out here and there to see how they fit and to start to clear out the house. The moving in process began in earnest this week, right in the middle of another heat wave. Temperatures in the Tucson area this month are the highest they have been in 20 years. Moving from a house, albeit a manufactured house, into an uninsulated RV has had me seriously questioning my sanity!

To avoid spending too much time outside during the hot part of the day - and for good reason considering that several people died from the heat here this week - we transferred our stuff from the house to the RV during the cooler morning hours. During the day, I worked on figuring out where to put it in the RV while my husband worked on the house getting it ready to sell. At the end of the day, we went through the house, gathering and sorting whatever would get moved the following day.

While I already understood that space was at a premium in the RV, I quickly discovered exactly what that means. It means that I don't get to keep everything I want to keep. As I sorted through load after load, many items got tossed into the donate pile. I've been by the local charity shop every day this week with donations.

Here is what the RV looked like last night. After taking the photos, I worked for several hours to clean up the mess but I want you to see what the real moving in process looks like.



I'm not actually a slob or a hoarder. It's just a difficult process getting moved in to a tiny space.


This is the view that greeted me when I came in the door. (I almost turned tail and ran!)


How is all this going to fit?!




Even the refrigerator is ridiculously crowded.


The freezer, too.  That black ice pack on the top shelf goes on my twisted ankle every night.

Someday I'll show you some 'after' photos. Right now, I'm too tired and it's time for ice cream.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chile in a Hot Tin Can

Oh my gosh, people, it is so incredibly hot here right now! I just met some folks for craigslist sales and my car's thermometer read 107 degrees. There are heat warnings in place through Monday. Thank goodness we decided not to hold our final moving sale this weekend. We had planned it but had to postpone because the tow dolly for the car was delivered yesterday by a large freight truck that would not have been able to get to our driveway with a bunch of yard-salers parked in the way.

So, I keep hearing the same questions over and over: "When are you leaving?" One variation often seems to be "You're still here?!"

Yes, we're still here. Contrary to what some RV bloggers may imply, the transition process takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r! We bought the RV in August of last year and honestly thought we'd be out of here by late winter. What a fantasy that was. With all of the repairs and cleaning we had to do, we're lucky it's ready now. The condition of the RV was misrepresented, to put it nicely. Many, many repairs were necessary, including replacing a dry-rotted bathroom floor that had been subject to long-term leakage. Even the steel frame underneath had rusted out.


The cleaning has been just as time-consuming and infinitely more frustrating. Somehow, the sellers were able to disguise the fact that they had smoked in the RV. I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke but did not detect it when we went to look at it. The sellers did not smoke in our presence, either. It did not even occur to us to ask whether they were smokers. After we'd purchased it and driven it home, it sat closed up overnight. The next day when we sat inside, the smoke smell was overwhelming. Within 10 minutes, I was wheezing!

We have spent hundreds of hours cleaning the entire interior from top to bottom. With our new carpet cleaner, my husband went over the carpeted ceiling (carpet helps with condensation issues) multiple times to not only remove the smoke smell but to clean the grime. You can see the before and after in this photo with the yellowish square the last bit he had left to clean.


He removed and cleaned all of the blinds, which was a good step because they had to be restrung anyway. We replaced the bed. I have cleaned every hard surface inside the RV at least once, many of them twice (or more) as I worked out what solutions I needed to use to remove the odor. We ended up replacing the convection microwave because the smoke smell had permeated it so badly that it was not salvageable.

Visitors do not detect the tiny bit of lingering smell that is left and my husband thinks it's in my imagination at this point. I mostly do okay inside as long as there are exhaust fans running. Before we move in, we'll need to toss the pans of charcoal and baking soda sitting in every room, as well as in a few cabinets.

The exhaust fans are not an option today because of the heat. We'll have to run the generator in order to run the air conditioning units to keep it cool inside. Thank goodness we are not yet living in it, although if we were, we would be parked where we could plug into an outlet and run the A/C without the generator.

I did plan to continue loading the RV today but the heat changed my plans. Opening and closing the door frequently would let out too much of the cool air, just like for a refrigerator, so I am continuing to do final sorting in the house. More than half of the kitchen has been moved into the RV, a challenging process during which I had to let go of many items I wanted to take with us. We will not have the joy of grinding our coffee beans by hand or making pasta from scratch with the manual pasta machine. If I take those, I can't take food. What good do kitchen gadgets do if you have no food to prepare?!

The house is looking sparse. Today I literally sold the chairs out from under our rears so we are left only with the folding chairs purchased for the RV. The table holding the TV went last week and the totes that served as our temporary TV stand are going tomorrow. There is very little furniture left. What is left are piles of stuff to be sold or donated and piles of stuff to go in the RV. And, sadly, in the office, there are piles and piles of paper files that I still need to deal with. For every piece of paper I'm able to ditch, it seems like half a dozen more come to take its place. I suppose the next few days will force me to deal with this because it's just too hot to do much else.

If you are thinking about downsizing to the RV lifestyle, be sure to give yourself adequate time to get rid of just about everything you own. Most blogs devote a single post to the downsizing process. Perhaps those full-timers did not go through the angst that I have in giving up a houseful of possessions. I know it is all just "stuff" but it is MY stuff that I have spent years enjoying. Some of it is stuff that I made or my husband made, making it just a little bit harder to see go away. Just this week, we decided we really don't have room to take the long bike that he built for me.


He BUILT this bike for me from a pile of tubes ordered in the mail. It was gut-wrenching for me to decide not to keep it but the reality is that the RV lifestyle means limiting your possessions. Hard choices are necessary. Hopefully the pay-off will be worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crunch Time

I really wish that "crunch time" meant that it was time to sit and eat a bunch of crunchy chocolate chip cookies, but that is not the case. Crunch time means that we have finally set a target date for getting into the RV: end of May.

Holy guacamole, that is only a few weeks away! Most of the repairs and remodeling have been completed in the RV, we have a realtor, and the house is almost ready to go on the market. All that's left to do on the RV is get new tires and have the windshield gasket repaired. Once those are complete, we will park it in a nearby RV park and start moving into it.

We hope to stay in the area for a little while to keep the property looking really nice while it is on the market. Eventually, though, we will have to head out for work. It's hard to think about that right now because we're having lots of fun with the birds of spring migration. If you want to read more about that, I've started a new blog focused just on birding.

Now I just need to get rid of everything in the house that won't fit in the RV!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cleaning Frenzy

Holy moly! We've made an appointment to talk to a realtor Wednesday evening. That means we have three days, count 'em - only THREE days, to get this place ship-shape.

You would not believe the mess it is right now. It's not surprising given that we are in transition, but still... Considering how cluttered every room of the house is, it's hard to believe how much stuff we've already ditched. How can the house still be crowded when all of the following is gone? Chest freezer, exercise machines & equipment, Christmas tree & d├ęcor, about 30% of the furniture so far, loads of kitchen stuff including many of my beloved canning jars, clothes, linens - donated for doggie use at the shelter, and more. Even food has been donated, given away, and/or fed to the birds. The shed is still crowded, too, even though some bike stuff and tools have gone away.

The next three days will be devoted to organizing the clutter so it looks neat and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. We're mainly meeting with the realtor to get a sense of what we need to do besides empty the house in order to have it market-ready. But, we want him to have a positive impression when he comes in, not think, "OMG, these people think they're almost ready to sell?!" So, that means I cannot allow myself to be distracted by all the Spring birds coming through. Well, other than going out to bird the yard right now because there was a storm last night and something cool may have come in. And tomorrow morning when I'm meeting with a friend to help him identify birds on his large property. Other than that, no, I won't be distracted.

Okay, I will probably look out the window this evening to see if the cormorants fly by, but that's it. Really. I mean it.



(Checking e-mail.... What?! There's a Heermann's Gull just 8 miles away? Gotta go!)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lack of Interest

I'm considering retiring this blog due to lack of interest; mostly mine, but also yours. One of my favorite parts of blogging has been the conversations that happen in the comments. Without comments, I don't know what my readers are thinking. It could be any of the following or maybe none of them.

"Hm, I never thought of it that way."
"What happened to the old, funny Chile we knew and loved?"
"Yikes, this is booooring!"
"Where are the recipes?!"
"OMG, not another recipe!"
"Where are the cute dog pictures?"

When I started blogging again, I wanted to write about how one downsizes to an RV, the transition process from home with garden to mobile RV, and then life on the road. As I struggle through deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, I wondered why nobody on the full-time RVer blogs really talked about the agony of this process. Well, now I know. They didn't have time! There is so much to do. Here are some of the things on our to-do list:

1. Clean and fix up the RV to make it livable.

Believe it or not, we are still not done with this phase. Almost all of the cleaning is done but I have yet to muster up the courage to tackle the microwave. I seriously considered just buying a new one, but at more than $200, that just isn't in the cards when the other one functions perfectly fine (as far as we can tell). The only other cleaning projects left are the windows and screens. Oh, and the Corian kitchen countertops. Don't forget the light fixtures. Yeah, not done yet.

Most of the modifications are finished. My husband has done all the necessary repairs, built in a couple of shelves for books and multimedia, and installed the solar panels. He still needs to build in a surplus water storage area so we are able to boondock longer. (Boondocking is RV-camping without hooking up to water, sewer, or electricity.)

2. Decide which personal belongings will go with us in the RV.

This obviously does not include furniture since everything is built into an RV. The only exception is my student desk and my small kitchen cart will fit in the living room/office/kitchen area. I've gone through everything we own and gotten rid of a tremendous amount already but as I look around the house at what remains, I know that more will have to be left behind. In the end, it will probably come down to trying to cram it all in and realizing most won't fit, requiring a last minute huge donation to the local charity thrift shop.

3. Clean and fix up the house to sell.

Every house we've ever lived in has looked its very best on the day we put it on the market to sell. We fix it up nicer for other people than for ourselves. We've been working on spackling holes in walls left by the previous owner(s) and doing a bit of painting. We've cleaned half the carpets and will clean the others when the rooms are emptied out. We're cleaning up the yard and my hubby just planted some flowers this past week. We think we already have a realtor lined up; he's just waiting for us to get to the point we can talk about listing it.

4. Do the admin prep to change from a permanent home to full-time RVing.

There's a bit of work involved in setting up your life to live on the road. We're working on figuring all that out.

5. Have fun and not work ourselves to exhaustion.

Part of the reason for doing this whole RV thing in the first place is to enjoy our lives more. Pushing ourselves now to the point of exhaustion defeats the purpose of making these changes. What this means is that we regularly take time off to go birding, get out for a hike, or watch a movie. This is slowing down the schedule for leaving, but is important for our personal well-being.

In the midst of all this work, all the regular chores are still there needing to be completed. Dinner has to be prepared, laundry has to be washed and dried, and the dog has to be fed and walked. It sometimes feels like we are never going to get out of here!

Let me know if you are interested in reading about any of this. I may decide to just ditch all of this if nobody's interested and go start a new blog devoted to my birding adventures!