As I sit inside our little home watching the rain drizzle down the windows, I daydream of what our next adventures may be. We talk about it often, maybe travels up to Alaska, or spending months exploring more of the great North-West, or even figuring out just how warm of weather we really can tolerate down South.
But, as I think of these of wondrous ideas, I’m reminded of the first day we left last year. It’s been just over a year since we took off in Vanna and set off on an adventure of our life, an adventure that would forever change the way see life.
I just want to share a few #throwback photos from our adventures last years. Some of my favorite.
Jeff and I may have woke up to frost covered grass this last Sunday but we were determined to crawl out of our little trailer and get some sunshine. This past winter had left us so cold and overwhelmed with cabin fever, we really needed to get out. Springtime in Idaho, you never know what to expect each day with the weather either. But, by the time we were done sipping our coffee on Sunday, the sun was shining and the frost was gone.
The lot we’re renting for our trailer right now has more dirt than grass. We wanted to start feeling a little more at home here, so Jeff planted grass seed and then we got to work on some flower beds. A neighbor of ours also gave us some trellises she wasn’t using anymore and we strategically placed them around the yard to help hide some of our eye sore areas. Between the flowers, bushes and seeds we planted, our yard should be looking pretty spectacular in a few weeks!
Our next step in making this place feeling a little more home like this spring, is getting a garden put in. When we were living in the van last year, one of the things we missed so much was having a garden. So, while we’re here in Boise trying to get to some kind of normalcy, we must put in a garden. Jeff has rotatilled the area a couple of times already and the other night we got all of our seed starts going inside the house. This coming weekend we plan on fencing in the garden and rotatilling in the manure/ compost. And then the fun stuff begins!!
Man oh man was this winter a harsh one. A record year for us here in Idaho really, labeling us ‘coldest in the nation’ at one point. I can’t even remember the last time we had this much snow fall down in the valley. So, when temperatures drop into the single digits and living in a fifth wheel , we often got asked ‘how we stay warm?’ or ‘if we’re staying warm enough’?
Thankfully this winter our furnace was back in working order, however that just meant more propane expense. We’ve been refilling our tanks about every other week. (Also doesn’t help I’ve been on a baking streak either!) During the months of December and January, we even needed to add two space heaters in our living area just to keep up. (Our power bill was almost $200! yikes) Our sweet dog Manko also has a hard time keeping warm with her tiny stick legs and minimal fur, so she can often be found traveling from one heater vent to the next. We do stay pretty cozy though, just always have a sweater handy or an extra blanket on the couch.
Of course with the frigid temps, one of our biggest worries was our pipes freezing. Jeff has covered just about every inch of hose and necessary pipe outside with heat tape, so we felt we had it covered. However, one very chilly morning I prepared myself for a shower and as I stood there in my birthday suit shivering, I turned the knobs of the faucet and got nothing. We had water every where else in trailer but the shower, not even a drop dripped from the faucet. We have an access panel in the wall of our bedroom that thankfully gives access to the backside of the shower. So with the power of ingenuity, we thawed out the shower using my hair dryer from the access panel. The access panel (and blow dryer!) became a life saver several times over the winter.
Keeping snow off our roof was another big concern. Jeff climbed up on top several times to scrape snow and ice our roof. A couple neighbors down the street had carports collapse with the weight of the snow, so we felt pretty lucky to not have any major issues this winter. We did have a couple leaks come through from the roof but nothing Jeff can’t fix this summer.
Now that spring is here, we can crawl out of our den and start enjoying the great outdoors.
Almost a month has passed since we have moved back into our fifth wheel. Jeff and I have been busy unpacking, getting settled, going through boxes we haven’t seen in over a year and finding just the right place for all of our vintage treasures. (We still have a nicely sized storage unit full of our things that needs a good cleaning, but downsizing all of those things will happen in time.) Jeff’s new job seems to be going really well too, he comes home happy and is learning a lot about RV’s. This new job will definitely give him some great experience to take forward if we were to move out of state or go on the road again.
These last few weeks we have been slowly remembering how to live tiny and acclimating ourselves to a new routine. Everything is different when you live tiny, your water heater is smaller, the counter space is slim, and the walls are thinner. It takes less time to clean up the fifth wheel though, but just as fast as you can clean the place it can become cluttered with the minimal square footage. We love it though, living more simply has been one of the best decisions we’ve made.
So far we’ve had fairly good luck with trailer and everything running well after sitting for several months. We had fixed all the leaks and water damage, and haven’t really had much rain or anything since to ensure there aren’t anymore. (But the snow is coming!) Our heater is working perfectly, it’s so nice to have it this year and not have to use space heaters again. We bought a new shower head specifically for RV’s that helps save water and works with the water pressure so you can have a longer, warmer shower. It’s amazing!! Our plumbing has always been a little troublesome and we were so happy we weren’t having any trouble, until a few days ago. Our piping under the toilet clogs very easily and seems to clog now every other day. I’m sure we will eventually figure it out but at this point it’s really frustrating and kinda gross.
Jeff has found a job, he’s on his second week of work. It’s the perfect job for him, Wilson’s RV , working as a RV Repair Technician. Now that he’s working, we can now move our fifth wheel somewhere. We were lucky enough to still be in contact with the property manager for the neighborhood we parked the trailer at before we left on the road. I called him and it just so happened that our exact same spot had became available around the same time Jeff was offered the job, we felt very blessed. We will be moving back to Boise this weekend and can finally start living in our fifth wheel.
With the move coming up so soon it got me thinking about the big move we did just a year ago. Just over a year ago we were selling our big beautiful country home and making some big changes in our lives. Jeff and I decided to live a more simple life, and downsizing was our first big decision towards this. A year ago we transitioned from 1700 sq. feet to just about 275 sq. feet. We lived in our fifth wheel for about 5 months until we left for our adventures in Vanna, were then on the road for 6 months and have since been staying with Jeff’s parents. So, although we may have learned to live closely together in the van, we haven’t lived in the fifth wheel for quite some time and will have to get reacquainted with tiny living. I am reminded of the feelings we had after closing on our house, pulling the beastly trailer over to our new neighborhood and then laying on the floor looking at Jeff saying, “We’re actually doing this”. So many emotions and butterflies running through, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our little place is all ready! It’s absolutely adorable and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Jeff did a fantastic job with the renovation and we’ve collaborated quite well with the designing aspect. Our next step is to of course move in, Jeff is currently job hunting since we’ve taken a break from our road adventures. Once we have cash flow, we will be able to find a spot to park the trailer and move in. We still have a lot more downsizing to do too. No photos or decor have been unpacked since we sold our big house and I know we have a ton of boxes to go through. We’re both very excited to get moved in and start living tiny. (*Crossing fingers Jeff finds a good job soon!)
With all this renovation on the fifth wheel, we thought we’d share our two cents on products or techniques to use. Now, we’re no pros but we have spent our fair share on the internet researching and watching how-to videos. Renovating your trailer can be pretty stressful time consuming, especially if you’re planning on living in it afterwards.
I mentioned before Jeff re-coated our roof and sealed up seams. We’ve read you should only have to re-coat your roof every 4-5 years. Now, this may vary from state to state given all of our different climates and various weather fronts. So, Jeff spent an afternoon up our roof scraping off old chunks of rubber, scrubbing it clean with some Dawn dish soap and hand held bristle brush. Then once the water had completely dried, he was able to get back to the important work. He went around on the roof filling in any holes with butyl and a sealant. Then came time for coating the roof with the rubber coating (He used Henry’s brand of elastomeric coating), the coats went on with thin layers gradually and as each layer dried the roof was assessed to determine if an additional coat was needed. Jeff ended up doing only two coats at this time and will look at the roof after winter. He then took off all the moldings and screws one by one from the outside of the trailer and resealed all of the seams(The brand of sealant used was an Ultimate MP Sealant by WeatherMaster ). It was really hard to tell where exactly the water leaks were coming from on the two walls, but the leaks were high up somewhere so we figured we’d cover all of our bases. We had to wait a day or two for all the rubber to dry before Jeff could test the leaks again. He let water run down the roof and over the side of the trailer for several minutes then we waited and watched inside the torn down walls for any sign of wetness. His roof coating and resealing work! No sign of wetness in the walls, so he was ready to put up the new wall panels.
Rubber coating for roof
We scoured the aisles at Home Depot and Lowes looking for the right type of material to use for wall panels. The previous walls were / are quite thin so he didn’t want something thicker because that would make it harder to patch back together. Weight was another factor, when restoring fifth wheels or any camper for that matter weight is always going to be a big factor. If your tiny home is going to be stationary and never travel anywhere, then maybe you can have a little leeway but for most of us, mobility is one of the key reasons for moving into a trailer or tiny home. So, Jeff searched for thin wood that was light weight but still sturdy enough we could possibly hang decorations or photos on it in the future. He ended up using a smooth coated hardboard. (Here’s a Link to Lowe’s for the panels.) which can sometimes be used as a backing behind shower stalls and seemed very similar to the exact panels we had before. One side of the panels he bought was coated with a water resistant coating making it nice just in case we have any more water leaks in our future (fingers crossed!!). Jeff also replaced any of the moldy insulation inside the walls, we just used the cotton candy pink stuff! The walls went up nicely, only putting up a little bit of a fight.
Texturing and painting was next on the agenda. We used (Sheetrock)brand of putty for filling holes and patching around the trailer. Jeff looked at different types of texture there was out there but given the small space, spraying it on wasn’t a really good option. We found a roll-on type of texture by (Homax). Jeff’s never used it before, he watched a video or two and got a little advice from my dad who’s an all around carpenter and then he used one of our bedroom walls for practice. We figured that wall would end up being covered in photos so it would be ok if it looked a little funky. We prepped all the walls first by cleaning them, going over them quickly with the electric sander and then wiping them back down before getting started. It took Jeff a few tries to get the hang of rolling the texture down, getting the technique just right but our walls look outstanding. The texture really does give the fifth wheel more of a home feel rather than a camper vibe. When it comes to paint, I usually prefer Behr products, which here we find those products at Lowes. But given our budget we used a mixture of these brands (Olympic and Glidden.) We opted for the paint with primer included, it’s always nicer to be able to just do your 1-2 coats and call it good. We chose to go with satin on the sheen of the paint for the walls and semi-gloss for cabinets and moldings. After living in the trailer last winter we know how much condensation can build up on the walls, so we chose a sheen that would stand up to moisture and cleaning.
Sheetrock brand putty
We also added bead board on the bottom half of the bedroom walls with a thin layer of insulation (This Kind) to help keep us a little warmer in the winters. In a fifth wheel the bedroom is on the goose neck aspect so when our siding/insulation is put up for winter the bedroom gets left out. We can use all the little extra warmth we can get. The bathroom also seems to get pretty chilly, maybe it’s the tiny water tank, and short, cooler-temped showers but we decided to add a little extra insulation in there too. We put in galvanized corrugated metal halfway up on the tiny little walls, placing the insulation just behind that. Crossing our fingers the little extra work will do us a little good.
We have three different types of flooring in the trailer. In the bedroom, we chose to go the cheap route given our bed takes up the majority of the floor. We like to shop at Lowes, it’s in most of our bigger cities so it’s easy to access and one store may have what another didn’t. We found one of the cheapest wood pergo styled flooring Lowes had to offer. Again we don’t expect much traffic on the floor but the few inches around the bed. Jeff laid this down last fall when we first moved in. We then put in vinyl peel and stick flooring in our bathroom and hallway.(Luxury Vinyl) This flooring is pretty neat, it is grout-able flooring, which gives it a stone like look. My dad even got down on his knee to scratch at it because he thought it was real stone. Our living area we wanted something sturdier, something that would stand up to more traffic and moisture. We found out about resilient vinyl flooring and thought it would be perfect for little home. You can find flooring like this at Lowes, Home Depot and most likely at any retail flooring store. Jeff recently laid this same type of flooring down for his parents. Their flooring came from Lowes and is of a much sturdier product (Shaw) We ended of buying ours from Lumber Liquidators (Tranquility Flooring). We compromised on color a bit, Jeff wanted something grey and I was leaning more red, so we went dark, ha! The price helped a little bit too, we found our flooring for only $1.29/sq foot! Nice find when you’re on a tightly squeezed budget. The color we chose looks perfect with everything we’ve done thus far. And of course to continue on our path of helping to keep us warm during the cold months, insulation was laid under the flooring. (Flooring Underlayment.)
We moved into our fifth wheel last October after we sold our big country home. We had been looking at trailers for weeks but by the time we sold the house it seemed as if we had run out of time and needed to purchase one quickly. Jeff found ours on Craigslist for $2,000, which we thought was a pretty good deal. The fifth wheel is a 96′ model, faded teal carpet, padded window coverings, carpet in the bathroom and awful wallpaper galore. It pretty much looked like the nineties threw up everywhere.
We lived in the trailer from October-March, up until we took off on the road. In those five months we were saving up money for our trip and making sure some of our bills were paid so we didn’t do too much to the trailer. We lived with the trashy carpets and I dealt with not unpacking decor and the rest of my kitchen. However, I did make sure we got rid of that yucky carpet in the bathroom. I just don’t understand why carpet is laid into bathrooms?! We also needed some more storage space, so Jeff built us a really nice bed with a storage compartment underneath and while he was at it he tore out the ugly carpet and put in pergo in our bedroom. We chose to use the cheapest pergo wood flooring that we liked for our bedroom as the bed takes up about 80-90% of the room so you can’t see much of the floor anyways. Then before we knew it, it was time to leave for our trip so the fifth wheel was parked over at my dads.
We pulled the trailer over to Jeff’s parents a few weeks ago and demolition started a week or so later. The gross carpet was the first thing we pulled up and the amount of dirt piled up underneath was unbelievable, yuk! I’m just so happy to see that ugly stained carpet gone! We also knew we had a bit of a water leak on the inside of one of the walls, so that was Jeff’s first big challenge to tackle. As he pulled the wall panel off we realized it was more than just a ‘little’ water leak and turned into a much bigger project. He found moldy insulation under one of the panels he had ripped off so he continued to investigate only to find more mold. He ended up replacing two walls and insulation before we started texturing. To ensure we wouldn’t have anymore issues with leaking, Jeff rubber coated our roof and thoroughly went around the outside re-sealing all of the seams.
Icky water damage
One of the walls we replaced
Texturing the walls was the next big step for us to tackle. We had a lot of holes and areas where the vinyl wallpaper was peeling up. I’ve never done any hole patching before, Jeff usually does all that kind of stuff but I learned quickly and had a lot of fun helping. We decided to texture the walls instead of just painting over the wallpaper as the texture gives a more ‘real’ home like feel. It took a few practice tries with the texture before we felt confident enough with rolling it on all of our walls. Jeff handled it just like a pro though! We painted all of our cabinets and walls, tore down the padded window coverings and even painted the couple of the doors we have inside the place.
But, my most favorite project we tackled in the trailer was our reclaimed wall. My dad does a lot of wood working and collects wood from all sorts of places, he gave us some old cedar fencing that was beautifully weathered. The wood came to us already torn apart (thanks Dad!!) so I sanded each of the planks and made a paint wash for a few boards as Jeff cut and nailed them up. The wall turned out so amazing, I’m quite proud of ourselves. I’m actually really proud of Jeff, he’s been working so hard on this renovation and doing such a great job too. There has only been so many things I have been able to help with. Either my back hurts, my hands are too swollen, having a weekly flare up or I’m just too tired. Jeff is an incredible husband, always making sure I don’t over do it and that I’m feeling well. He’s done a great job in our little home, I can’t wait to move back in.
Tearing stuff down
Look at that gross carpet!
Yay! No carpet and there’s new paint
Prepping the reclaimed wood
Jeff hard at work
More photos to come once we are completely finished with the place. We’re getting real close!!
I’m back in action! Apparently tape and rubber bands aren’t a proper means for fixing broken computer chargers… We’ve been quite busy since we returned back to Idaho from our big adventures. Jeff and I left in March with Vanna, a little van we converted into our own camper, a van we would soon come to call home. We left with so many emotions in tow; fear, excitement, anxiety, etc… No one could have told us what we were about to experience, we were in for the ride of our lives. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were selling our home, six months ago we were heading out on the road and just a couple of weeks ago we were starting the renovation on our ‘tiny home’.
We left our busy lives behind and headed into an unknown territory of exploration. Jeff and I started our adventures by traveling SE to Florida, onto California and up the west coast from there. We saw so much in the six months we were out there yet there is still so much more to be seen. Many National Parks, wild animals, birds, crashing waves of the ocean, the clearest blue waters, and some of the biggest trees in the world. However, some of the best parts of our trip though were all of the times spent with the family we don’t get to see often.
While on this first trip of ours, we learned so many things, we learned more about ourselves and each other, how to live frugally, and most importantly how to live harmoniously in a small space. So, what’s next for this crazy couple!? Well, our adventures are far from over, from how we see it they have just began. Now that we are back in Idaho, Jeff will soon be looking for work again. (Can’t travel far without a nice wad of cash in your pocket) And we are going to start the remodeling of our fifth wheel. We dream of turning it into a lovely tiny home that we will be able to take with us on any future explorations. So no more van life for us, it’s now time to take on the tiny living movement.
We embarked out on our last leg of our adventures a couple of weeks ago. A journey full of excitement yet also bitter sweet, the van we had come to love and call home the past few months had died and we knew the road would be ending soon. With Vanna now out of commission, tent camping was our only option if we wanted to continue exploring, so we packed up all of our things into my tiny car Bessie and left the van behind.
Tent camping had me worried, sleeping on the hard ground with my back and chronic pain but I couldn’t let that stop me from having a good time, it already stops me from a lot of other things. We ensured I had plenty of padding for my side of the bed though so I was feeling a little more encouraged. Our first stop was my families annual camp out up at Silver Creek Plunge here in Idaho. We’ve been going up there for years, some years we have everyone up there and others it’s just a small group. This year we had a smaller group and celebrated my cousin’s 40th birthday as well. In the late summers as the forests get drier here, we generally get a few big forest fires which end up to campers not being able to have campfires in dispersed sites. So, this year we ended up not being able to have fires while we were up at Silver Creek since we don’t camp at the actual campground. It’s not a huge deal for us but I know some of the kiddos were a little bummed. My cousin is pretty resourceful though and figured out ways every night to make our nightly desserts! We also ended up having a camp visitor every night, a sly little skunk. The first night he was noticed, our Grandma saw him first as she saw the garbage sack being dragged away ever so slowly. Then we started looking for him every time the sun started to go down and sure enough, that sly skunk was there trying steal garbage or someones dropped hot dog.
We left camp after four fun days spent with my family and headed north. We knew we couldn’t make all the way to Northern Idaho all in one day, nor did we want to, so we stopped in the McCall area. Jeff and I have camped in the area many times, he and his dad also come up to the area often for hiking. We ended up camping near Hazard Lake and stayed for a couple of nights. Our spot was secluded enough for showering yet we still saw a car or two pass every few hours. We set out on a hike one afternoon thinking we were heading to one set of lakes only to realize we were on the wrong trail and the lake we were headed to was twice as far. That day my back and hips were in no condition to continue on so we turned around disappointed we never made it to the lake. Our day however was ended quite well with an elk and her companion coming into the near-by meadow as we were headed to bed. She called to her friend several times before they were completely out of sight. And in the middle of the night as we slept, deer came sniffing our tent and running around our camp. That’s one neat thing about tent camping is being so close to nature.
Jeff and I had every intention of being on the road for a handful of weeks, getting up to Glacier National Park and then down to Yellowstone as well. But, after a good conversation about our finances and the mileage we’d be putting on the car (it’s on lease), we decided it would be smarter for us to hold off on going to the parks. This traveling thing isn’t going to end after this summer, this is only the beginning of a new way of life for us, so Glacier and Yellowstone will just have to be visited on another time. However, we did decide that going all the way to Northern Idaho was a must. Living in Idaho all of our lives, we’ve never traveled north, we had to see what all the hubbub was about.
We drove clear into the panhandle of Idaho and spent the next few days exploring through Couer d’Alene, Sandpoint and then into Bonners Ferry. We camped near the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, which was really nice. Lots of birds have found sanctuary in the area, especially wild turkeys. We also came across two cow moose, one of them was with her calf too! Our camping spot was next to a creek, Trout Creek I believe, we didn’t hike around much but we did walk up and down the dirt road several times trying to work off our dinner. We enjoyed Northern Idaho, the farther north we got we definitely saw why everyone raves about how beautiful it is.
We drove into Missoula, MT after our Northern Idaho exploration. After about 40 minutes of driving down a dirt road, we finally found a camping spot along a beautiful river. They had a few particular rules for dispersed camp sites given the amount of bears seen in the area. One of the rules that I found a little different from something we’re use to was that they require you to set up your tent / sleep 50 feet or less from the fire ring. Montana was very pretty, ‘rugged’ would be a great way how to describe it. The river we camped next to was so pretty, Jeff was desperate to fish it but didn’t have a Montana license, so he settled for chasing minnows instead. The day we left we ran into a herd of big horned sheep crossing the highway. A young one, just barely old enough to trot, wobbled across the road with his family and up onto the hillside. Jeff and I still have yet to see a ram but hope to someday.
On on our way home, we traveled through the Eastern Idaho on our way back to Marsing. The drive back could have been again made in one long day, but when you’re squeezed in a tiny car and not comfortable in the van, we made it into a couple of days. Our first stop was overnight at Birch Creek Campground, a free dispersed site a few miles long just right off the freeway. It’s more of a sagebrush and deciduous tree kind of campground and definitely not the kind we’re use to, but it really wasn’t too bad at all. We planned on staying two nights there, however as the sun set we noticed smoke rolling in from a nearby fire and when we awoke the smoke had come in even more we could barely see the sky or breathe, so we packed up and left. Jeff and I stopped at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge to do a little more birding and hopefully find another moose. I think we came a little too late in the year for this refuge as most of the ponds besides one main one were all dried up and so were most of the fields. We did see a ton of water fowl though. We ended up staying our last night on the road at 1000 Springs Resort in Hagerman. Jeff and I have seen the place before and I have wanted to stay but we usually don’t pay for camping, however we decided to splurge this once since it was our last night on the road. Besides us, there was only one other couple tent camping, it was really peaceful. The resort is right on the Snake River and Thousand Springs is across the river and visible from the several docks. We had a great time, sunset was beautiful, their pool was nice and it was just a great way to spend our last night.
Life on the road with Bessie definitely wasn’t as easy as living in Vanna, not that van life was easy either but car life is quite different. No easy stops at Walmart for the night because we drove too long to look for camping. In a car, you have to drive to find camping or you’re stuck sleeping upright in the front seats of your car. The cooler isn’t as easily accessible as before, so more stops for snacks. Even Manko was cramped in the car, she had to lay on the floor board at my feet on passenger side since the car was so packed, before she had the whole back of the van to herself. We made it though and we enjoyed our last couple weeks out on the road.
My sweet grandma and I
Family sitting around listening to cousin’s imaginative short story