Home Sweet New Home!

Yes! It’s true. We have a new home. When we were on our last leg of the tour in the Pacific Northwest, we had decided in our rain-induced stupor, that we were done traveling and we were going to settle down. Luckily, the sun came out the next day and we snapped out of that madness :) We happened across a Camping World in Burlington, WA that had recently taken a trade-in and it was exactly what we were looking for. We loved it as soon as we walked in. It was spacious, had a large countertop, HUGE windows, a tall full-sized shower, and more. The most important feature we were looking for…a coach chassis. When an RV is on a coach chassis, it sits up higher, drives smoother, is safer, and has tons of storage in the “basement”.

After many negotiations, we closed on the RV and drove it directly to Green Eye Auto in Eugene, Oregon to have it converted to run on veggie oil. Finding Green Eye was a huge blessing. We definitely did not want to drive the RV back across the country to have it converted at Golden Fuel Systems…simply because it would have cost us thousands of dollars in diesel!! We have nothing against GFS, just didn’t want to pay for the gas :) We talked with Clark at Green Eye on our way through to Portland to make sure he was willing and able to do larger systems, and he was. After a week in the shop (and a lovely visit in Eugene!), we were back out on the road with Matt’s custom “dream” veggie oil system. A big thanks to Clark and crew…they know their stuff and we highly recommend them to anyone looking to “go veg”!

After one last stop in Washington, we arrived in back in Bozeman (home of our first RV remodel!). While we were there, we spent a lot of time with our friends at the Refuge Sustainable Building Center talking about flooring and paint options. We finally decided and got everything painted and built a loft for Bella. A few weeks later, we traveled on to Matt’s parent’s home in Minnesota and finished the bamboo floors and other small projects. There are always little projects going on of course, just like a “real” home, but we have finished the big remodel. All in all, we LOVE our new home. It suits us perfectly and we’ve loved every minute in it. I know you have been patiently waiting for photos…so here they are!

Click here to be magically transported to the Flickr set of our new RV. Some of the photos have notes on them, so if you click on the main page for the photo, you can see the notes.

Here are the specs:

*1998 Western Alpine Coach (small company out of Yakima, WA, now out of business)
*325hp/8.2 liter Cummins Engine
*Onan Quiet Diesel/Veggie Oil Generator
*36′ long by 8′ wide (4 ft longer and same width)
*12′ tall (3 feet taller)
*Fresh Water: 100 gallons
*Grey Water: 10 gallons
*Black Water: 60 gallons
*6 gallon hot water tank
*Automatic leveling system
*Central air/heat
*Central vacuum system (possibly my favorite thing about the RV!)
*Flat panel HD television (we love our movies!)
*Combo convection oven/microwave
*Bamboo floors
*Zero-VOC paint
*King-sized bed with loft

Veggie System:
Custom 150 gallon system by Green Eye Auto
50 gallon “dirty” tank (allows for quick gathering of grease)
100 gallon filtered tank (dirty filters to clean while driving)
100 gallon factory diesel tank (for start up and shut down)
18 second “quick purge” for shut down
Averages between 5-8 mpg

And now to answer some FAQ:

Where is the big blue RV now?
We sold it to Jeff, Kim, and Parks…in Plano, TX. Jeff flew into Seattle to pick it up and drove it back to Texas. Just in case you missed that blog post, you can read more here. They have been busy making it their own and will start traveling as soon as they get everything in order.

Why did you need a new RV?
We didn’t NEED a new RV…it was not essential to our survival on the road. However, we knew that we wanted to make our life on the road more permanent and the new RV allows us to do that. It’s heavier, easier to drive, has more room to stretch out/entertain, I could go on and on, but it’s just better all around.

Are you going to continue doing demos around the country?
We are still going to be traveling around the country, but we are not planning a lot of public demos this year. We aren’t opposed to doing them, but we aren’t seeking them out as actively as last year. This year will be specifically for processing all of our thoughts from the past year…along with doing a lot of writing, catching up on blogs, and photography. We’re settling into “real life” on the road…which means more time with just us as a family (instead of being with other people 24/7) and enjoying the beauty of our country without a super strict timeline. Our loose plan right now is to travel to NYC in a few weeks, then down the East coast, hitting the south and the west in the winter after we fly back to the Midwest for the holidays…similar to last year’s route without as many stops. We love life on the road!

Movies on the Road

Last fall, when we were traveling through Maine, we made a discovery that would change our entertainment options forever. We found Redbox! Redbox allows anyone to rent movies with just the swipe of a debit/credit card (no memberships, no late fees, etc)…and each night is only $1. The kicker is that you can return your movies to ANY Redbox around the country. We’ve been enjoying movies this way for the entire year and we love it! Just today, in Ogallala, NE…we went early this morning and snagged a few new releases. We’ll watch them and return them somewhere in Colorado. They also have free rentals on Mondays and Wednesdays…and you can reserve titles from your computer too! Most communities have Redboxes now…or DVD Express, which is basically the same thing.

Happy movie watching!

P.S. We have no affiliation with Redbox, we just love them :)

Composting on the Road…Help!

One of the best things about staying at the farm was their giant compost pile! Whenever I have access to a compost pile, I am absolutely giddy. You can imagine how many scraps and peels we produce while eating raw…it’s amazing. I try to keep it, so we can dump it strategically, but not everywhere we are staying has a compost pile. We’ve been very blessed that FOUR families have had compost piles this month…it’s been great being able to dump it.

However, this isn’t always the case. We are currently searching for a composting solution that is RV friendly! We found the NatureMill…and that is my DREAM composter! I saw one in person at Dwell Smart in Charleston, and oooooh how I loved it! I want one desperately…but alas, they are a little too spendy for our little budget. If you are looking for a composting solution for a small space, do check it out!

I have also looked into vermicomposting, but found that the temps need to stay in a range that probably isn’t do-able in the heat of the summer. I have even tried collecting it in bags and bringing it to coops, etc. who compost, but most will not take it unless it’s their own scraps.

We need your help! If you have solutions for us, we’d love to hear them. We need a way to store the scraps until we find a compost pile…or, preferably a way to compost it ourselves. C’mon all you green thinkin’ people…I know you have ideas!

Reflections From The Road: Months 3-6

Transitioning back to our Traveling Lifestyle
In a few days, we will set out on the second leg of our tour! We’ve been “off the road” for almost 3 months now, and we are anxious to get moving again. On Feb. 18, we flew back into Raleigh, NC from Minneapolis, MN…staying overnight at Patrick and Jen’s house and then continuing on to Florence, SC (Becky and Rocky’s) where the RV has been parked.

When we arrived at Becky and Rocky’s house…we were excited to move back into our home. We had really missed having our own space and our own king sized bed! It was a pretty easy transition, although when you haven’t been living in that small of a space for awhile, it takes some re-adjusting! We discovered that that fridge door had closed inadvertently, and it was full of mold. Yuck! It took many hours of cleaning and soaking and scrubbing to get it ready to fill with food again. I had stopped at Whole Foods in Raleigh to stock up, so I had to load everything into Becky’s fridge first and then back into our own later.

Another fun thing was that our kitchen faucet was leaking water everywhere when we turned it on. Matt needed to do some work on the counter top before re-installing a new faucet, so we ended up being without running water for several days. Of course, we were able to take showers and wash dishes inside the house, but carrying them back and forth was a nuisance. I am TRULY thankful for running water. You don’t even realize how much you love it and need it until it’s gone! I am so humbled to think of all the women around the world who have to walk miles and miles to a well to carry water back to their homes every day. Isn’t God good to teach us thankfulness in such an unexpected way?

We found that we had accumulated quite a lot of “stuff” in our travels and consequently, the RV was busting at the seams. We filled several boxes with clothes, shoes, and toys and made trips to the Salvation Army so we could actually move around the RV. Bella grew so much while we were gone…she outgrew many of her clothes too! I always have to remind myself that we really don’t have much stuff…we just have a really small living space! It always feels sooooo good to make space and to give away things we aren’t using anymore.

Physical and Spiritual Renewal
When we left the RV on Dec. 12, we didn’t know that we would be spending 6 weeks longer than we had planned away from it. As we were flying out, we got a call from Matt’s parents…asking if we would be able to stay longer and help out while Matt’s dad had back surgery. Of course, we said yes! We had only purchased a one way ticket to get home, so God had all of this perfectly worked out and planned long ahead of our knowing it.

We had a wonderful time at Christmas and New Years’ with my family in Iowa and then headed up to Minnesota to be with Matt’s family for the next 6 weeks. The time we spent there was such a blessed time…but it was a big change from what we were used to. Every day was virtually the same…with a few variances here and there. When you are used to something new happening every day on the road, we had to adjust a bit! Once we got into the swing of things, it was clear that God intended that time to be one of physical and spiritual renewal for all of us.

We were able to make some much needed changes to our diet, and we started working out again regularly. The routine of each day made it so easy to have a consistent daily time in God’s word and in prayer. Matt was also able to play on the worship team at church and lead worship for a father/son retreat at Camp Shamineau. We had lots of hot tub time and Bella learned to ice skate. The wonderful, quality time she was able to spend with Grandpa and Grandma was so precious. By the time we were leaving, we were completely rejuvenated and refreshed…ready to hit the road again. All of the changes we made in our life have been easily continued now that we are back in the RV.

About a week before we were to fly out, we received word that my Papa (my mom’s dad) was experiencing complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He passed away a few days later. The funeral was the weekend before we had booked tickets to fly back to Raleigh…again, we saw God’s hand in the timing. We had booked that return flight quite randomly based on a “guess” of when we would want to return…but it was exactly the timing needed to attend the funeral across the state, and get back to Minneapolis to fly out.

After the funeral, my family joined us in Minneapolis and we had a great time there celebrating Matt’s 30th birthday and enjoying each other’s company. It was so hard to say goodbye, but we have plans to meet up with my parents in Phoenix, AZ in late April….and will hopefully see my 4 other siblings around the country somewhere as well.

We were definitely looking forward to leaving the cold temperatures of the Midwest and getting back to warm weather! However, we had no such luck! North and South Carlolina have been unseasonably cold while we’ve been back…it was actually the same temperature here in Florence as it was in Bozeman, MT yesterday! 50 degrees! Brrrrrrr! It was 25 degrees overnight…and our heater just died too. Luckily, we have other heaters we can use…but boy! How far south do we have to go to find some warmth!!?

I’ve added many photos to our Minnesota sets. Click here, here and here for those albums. I will be posting more of Florence soon.

We have just a few more days here…we head to Lexington, SC on Monday to “officially” re-start the tour. We have so many fun families to see and events planned…we’re really looking forward to meeting everyone. Check the Route page for updates on our locations!

Off we go!

Reflections from the Road: Month 2

If Month 1 felt like a whirlwind…Month 2 was a HURRICANE :) We saw so many cites, met so many people, walked so many miles…and loved every minute of it. Never in my life did I ever imagine I would have the opportunity to explore so many places…including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. in ONE month! Here are a few thoughts from Maine to Tennessee…

In the Fast Lane
Weeeeeee! We’ve been going fast fast fast since we started this journey…and I’ve started to get “behind” in my blogging, as many of you have noticed :) I ask that you will be patient with me…I have soooooo many photos to edit and it takes up a huge chunk of my time. When time is pretty much a luxury, blogging gets put on the back burner. I am catching up though…so you can expect to see more entries over the next couple of weeks. If you really need to read something in the meantime, jump over to my other blog for a bit. The archives should keep you busy for awhile.

Life on the Road
During the first month of the tour, we were still transitioning into our new life as “vagabonds”. Now that we have about 4,000 miles under our belt, we feel like we’ve hit a comfortable stride. We have routines and ways of doing things. Most of the things you learn on a trip like this come out of trial and error. We are constantly revising and editing our methods. For example, it’s good to have ONE person with the job of adding the enzymes to the black tank (why don’t they just call it what it is…it’s a POOP tank…poop tank is more fun to say anyway) after dumping. We’ve had several occasions where we have both added one because we thought there wasn’t one in there. It’s an interesting thing to carry your bodily waste around with you in your car/house. Another example…we’ve learned over and over that you always open cupboards and doors very slowly after the RV has been moving/driving. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had a waterfall of books fall on me…or every single personal bathroom item from the cupboard dump onto the counter. It makes me crazy…and yet I forget much of the time! But I’m learning… We are getting better at knowing how to keep life sane (i.e. keeping the RV clean ALL the time!). I am so, so happy to be blessed with a husband who helps me with “domestic duties”. In this past month, he has made the bed everyday, does the laundry, keeps the trash empty…and even has a hot cup of perfectly brewed coffee waiting for me when I wake up. On top of this, he excels in his role as a father…loving and teaching Bella with a heart full of grace. I love this man!!

Bella has continued to have an enormous amount of playtime with other 3-5 year olds. She has had so much fun and loves meeting new people. It’s been great to watch her change and grow as she experiences more and more of the world around her. She is speaking so clearly now…it’s fun to listen to her talk on the phone and have lengthy conversations with other people. Whenever she is referring to friends we have met on the tour, she points towards the back of the RV and calls them “our friends back there”…as in, friends we have had to leave behind…friends who we waved at as we drove away. It’s so cute :) She had a great time bonding with my family in NYC and DC…and is looking forward to seeing her other Grandpa and Grandma at Christmastime. Much of the time, she insists on being called Erica. Or Annaliese. Or Dorothy. Or any other name of a princess that she has decided on for the day. Her imagination is in full swing right now…and she and the little girls on the tour route have oodles of fun dressing up and pretending to be royalty.

Staying Healthy on the Road
Miraculously, we have managed to stay relatively healthy so far. We’ve somehow outrun strep throat, colds, and the flu. We’ve had bouts of sore throats from talking so much and from dry weather…and Bella currently has a runny nose and cough. But it’s nothing that a little homeopathy and herbal remedies can’t cure. We take our vitamins religiously and Bella is taking an echinacea/astralagus blend to strengthen her immune system. I love to drink echinacea tea as well…the Yogi brand is particularly yummy (you have to love a company who makes the INSIDE of the box pretty too).

Eating on the Road
I strongly believe that food is medicine…and eating on the road is definitely taking it’s toll on us. It’s not that we’re eating badly all the time…but generally, when you take a road trip, you give yourself “permission” to partake in food you wouldn’t normally eat (because you’ll go back home and make up for it by eating healthy). The only problem is that we do that everyday! So we are working on eating REALLY nutritiously while we are in the camper…and then enjoying the indulgence when we are eating out or with someone else. Everyone has blessed us with cookies…or bars…or other sugary goodness. We love it. Oh so tasty…but it makes learning the art of discipline and moderation harder :) I’ll be consulting Jessie about some good detox remedies to try while we’re back. Of course, avoiding sweets during the holidays will be a giant task!

Spiritual Life on the Road
When you are in a different place nearly everyday…and any sort of “routine” is a dream instead of a reality. It seems much more difficult to engage in a daily time with God. This is definitely a problem, because in this whirlwind of a trip….where everything is changing all the time, being focused on Jesus and taking strength from His words and teachings is even more important. When my physical strength is sapped, I can still be strong in mind and spririt when I have been abiding in Him. We have been focusing on making a deliberate effort to get back into the groove of worshiping Him throughout the day…whether that be reading the Bible, praying, listening to a sermon on podcast, or taking in the beauty of His creation. It is my heart’s desire to start getting up earlier again (before sunrise!) to spend time in the Word…this discipline flew out the window when we hit the road. The late hours and weariness has taken it’s toll on me…and it’s so necessary for me to have that extra time right now!

The Timeline
Speaking of going south…we are in South Carolina right now and will be “resting” here for a bit at a good friend’s home. We will fly back to Minneapolis on Dec. 12 and will spend time with both of our families throughout the holiday season. We have a one-way ticket…so our return date is up in the air. We will be working for my dad and Matt’s dad to make money to continue to tour while we are back in the Midwest. We’ll fly back to SC to pick up the RV and continue south when we have an adequate amount in our bank account. It may appear that we have “big corporate sponsors” :) but the cost of the tour has all been out of our own pocket…with occasional help from generous supporters. When I say out of our own pocket…I do mean out of God’s pocket…everything we have is truly His and given to us by Him. We have been amazed and delighted with how He has provided for us on this tour. When it seems that our resources have been depleted to nothing, He has provided in miraculous ways. Our product and service sponsors have been a great help as well…thank you to you all!

The Future
While we are taking a break from the day to day travel…we will still be working at making contacts at colleges in the South. If you went to a college in Florida, Georigia, Texas…or any other Southern state (and you have contacts), let us know. We are also available to do demos at private schools and businesses as well. Our best stops have been a result of a personal contact from someone who reads the blog or someone we’ve met along the way.

Friends on the Road
We have been so incredibly blessed by the families we’ve stayed with…and the new friends we’ve met. These are people that I know we will stay in touch with for a lifetime. They have opened their homes and their hearts to us and provided a resting place for three weary travelers. We are so thankful for all of you who faithfully follow our journey (those we have met in person and those who are online friends)…we’ve gained so much “family” since hitting the road. You have blessed us with your words, your hugs, your talents, your children, your food…may God bless you richly in return.

Reflections from the Road: Month 1

It’s been exactly one month since we started the tour. Wow! It seems like it’s been so much longer than that. We’ve seen so much and met so many people…and most importantly, LEARNED a lot about living on the road, about each other, and about the RV. Each month, I’ll do a “reflection” on everything that has happened and how things are going so far.

Life on the Road
Everyday is an adventure and life is constantly in flux. We are meeting amazing, inspiring people and seeing God’s stunning creation at every turn. It’s wonderful to be able to move your home wherever you want…and yet, there are still struggles. Just like in “normal life” :) There are joys and frustrations…excitement and exhaustion. When you are gone away from family and friends who have known you for a lifetime, you really start to miss the consistency and familiarity of those relationships. You wonder what is going on “back home” and you start to long for the things that felt comfortable. By comfortable, I mean…things that you could count on. A steady paycheck, scheduled playdates, familiar surroundings, favorite coffee shops. But during this transition to life on the road, we have learned to rely so much more on Jesus and in his provision than anything else. To say that WE have done any of this on our own would be foolish and untrue. We are on this incredible adventure only by HIS hand moving in our lives. He alone provides for our daily needs…and then He goes above our needs and provides little treats that surprise and delight us. When all stability is taken away (even if you still have the “comforts” of your home)…the only place to turn is to the One who holds all things together. In other words, our tour tagline could be changed to “sustainable living in an RV powered by Jesus”.

Living in Close Quarters/Family Time

Matt and I are very used to doing everything together…throughout our married life, we’ve worked for the same companies and also from home together for some of that time. We love each other’s company and when we are apart…it’s like something is missing! We are definitely best friends. These facts make it very simple to go on the road for a year in a tiny space. When you spend this much time together in close quarters…you REALLY get to know each others quirks and passions. There is really no where to go to “get away” :) It’s been so wonderful for our family to have all of this time together…especially the bonding time we get with Bella. It’s pretty special that she gets to see her mommy and daddy 24/7 for this length of time. She lets us know it too. Sometimes, if I’ve been in the back of the RV for awhile…when she sees me, she will exclaim, “Mommy…I missed you sooooo much!”. She does the same thing with Matt if he’s been outside working on the car/RV. Time is measured so differently in her eyes! We love watching her learn and grow before our eyes.

Bella and The Road
One of the most common questions we get asked on the road is “How is Bella doing with all the changes and transition?”. This always strikes me as funny. I think people tend to think of children as these little people who need strict schedules to function properly…but that’s just not the case with Bella. She goes with the flow. She has never had a strict schedule and she follows our lead. She has everything she needs to be happy and then some. She has way more toys than she even plays with. She has a new playmate every week. She eats when we eat (and she eats the food we eat). She naps when she is tired. She runs. She laughs. She plays. She jumps. She climbs. She watches movies. She reads books. She “does school”. She is learning more about life and people then she ever would in a preschool classroom or any other traditional setting. I am so glad she is able to experience all of these things…and she is learning to be flexible in the process. She has learned how to meet a variety of different people and is quite the conversationalist as well. As long as she has mommy and daddy, all is well in her world.

The RV

We have put over 9,000 miles on the RV running veggie oil (and pumped about 1000 gallons of grease!)…and the blue beast is still going strong. The little problems that we have here and there are common for an “older” RV and older engine. Although we hate spending money on repairs…we just look at it as “house maintenance” :)

It’s hard to miss us as we travel down the road…and we frequently have people honking, waving, and staring at us. It’s fun to meet new people this way…and educate them about sustainability.

We are obviously quite large…which makes it difficult to maneuver in urban areas with ease. We also don’t have the “get up and go” of a normal car…so merging, accelerating, etc. are harder. We try to avoid busy interstates and stick to the smaller country roads. We end up getting to see some amazing scenery that way too! When we are in a city, we will find a place to park and unhook the car so we can buzz around more efficiently!

When we are in between cities or when we don’t have a “host family” in an area…we park overnight in parking lots (WalMart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, churches). Some people have asked why we don’t just camp at a campground. There is really just one answer…and it’s MONEY! Campgrounds with full RV hookups are expensive (averaging $35+) a night. Parking lots are free. We like free. They aren’t as pretty (although we have found some with nice views!)…and sometimes they are loud. But we can always find one to park in…especially if we are coming in late at night. If we are the only people in the lot, it’s rare…we are almost always joined in our cement endeavors by fellow RV’ers. We’ve found that to be especially true in the Northeast, where most traditional campgrounds close on October 1.

Ahhhhh…the Internet. The coveted wi-fi connection. It’s like the holy grail. We have often contemplated buying an air card from Sprint so could have wireless whenever and wherever we wanted (well, it’s not always that easy, but in theory it works). We haven’t made the plunge, however, because we’ve gotten better at searching out connections. There have been times when I have resorted to driving around residential neighborhoods…refreshing every block or so…to see if I could find that precious wave. But we have had a much easier time in the last couple of weeks…Panera has been our best friend. Plunk down $1.35 for a cookie, bring your own teabag and mug…and you’re good to go all day :) They have a fast connection and it reaches far and wide. We have also been able to find several parking lots to park in overnight that had wireless nearby. Those are the jackpot spots. It’s a luxury to have a connection INSIDE the RV! The last three stops, we’ve had this…so we’re feeling very blessed. Of course, most of the host families have had internet for us to use as well. Libraries also work well…although I’ve been really surprised at how many DON’T have wireless. I guess I was spoiled in Des Moines and Bozeman…both had brand new libraries with state of the art amenities. Local coffee shops are good too…if you can find one with free wi-fi. Many times, they are in downtown areas that are hard to maneuver the RV through…so we opt to stay to the outskirts (hence, Panera and other chain stores).

We are very blessed to have phones that have internet access as well…thanks to a generous donation from my family, we have access to this technology and can use them to receive emails and we also use them for finding things in each city (mapping function). It’s a little hard to type a blog on a cell phone though! It does allow me to communicate with contacts at future tour stops via email without having to stop and find a connection. For this I am so grateful!

Eating and Cooking
Due to the pace of our tour…it’s definitely been harder than I thought to eat healthy on the road. I have made some concessions and given myself some slack lately. We’ve been buying more packaged items like organic mac and cheese or organic canned goods instead of making them from scratch. But now that the weather is colder, I have been making homemade soups…which has made me VERY happy. There is nothing I love better than that. It made me realize how much I miss real cooking in a big kitchen! Our kitchen is totally suitable…but it’s hard to make a big meal. Our oven works, but it’s not perfect. There is only one heating element…which makes it harder to cook evenly. Our staple meals are sandwiches, noodles with sauce, soup, eggs, wraps (burritos/tacos). I try to mix it up a bit so we don’t get bored. Because when we’re bored with eating in the RV…it’s easy to overspend at a restaurant! That is one of the hardest things on the trip…we don’t have the budget to be eating out a lot…but the temptation is there because we are always around amazing local restaurants! After a long day doing a demo…it’s hard to pump myself up for cooking a big meal. When we do eat out…we have become masters at the cheap meal. College towns are especially great for cheap eats. Pizza for $2 a slice is a great deal. We can all eat at Subway for about $6 total. You have to be creative on the road! I would love to hear your favorite “cheap” spots for eating on a budget while traveling.

Green Living on the Road
Many of you have asked if I’ve stopped doing some of the “green” things I used to do when we had a house without wheels. I have changed some things and modified others…but I am always still focused on doing the best I can for the environment with the resources I have. We are no longer using cloth toilet paper…for obvious reasons. Sometimes we don’t have a chance to do laundry for a LONG time. And I’m not going to spin cloth TP in the Wonder Clean. Just can’t do it :) I miss it though…paper TP is just not as effective as cloth.

We still recycle diligently. We have 2 bins in the shower that hold everything, and when we see recycling centers we drop them off. Or, we leave them with our host family and have them put it in their curbside recycling. Our trash can is super small on purpose…it forces us to take the garbage out once a day (otherwise it attracts fruit flies, stinks, etc). We did consider vermicomposting (worms that eat your food scraps), but found that our temperatures were too extreme to create a good environment for it (inside or out).

We have started to use more bottled water because we’ve had some concerns with the water quality in our fresh tank. We buy gallons of water and refill them at water stations in the grocery stores or at the tap. I used to get upset over so many RV’ers using bottled water…but until we get a system-wide filter ($$)…I don’t feel comfortable using the water sitting in that tank. Ish. Towards the bottom of the tank, it comes out black. Not really something I want to be drinking. We do still use our reusable stainless steel water bottles as well.

We still use our cloth grocery bags…and they come in handy for tons of other things as well…like hauling water. I think string bags are the greatest thing ever invented. It’s been interesting to see the reaction across the country to cloth grocery bags. It was funny…at the Ann Arbor coop, I think I might have been stoned to death if I didn’t bring my own bags. I don’t think I saw ONE person walk in without their bags while we were there. It was a wonderful sight!

Now that we are selling Shaklee, I’ve started using their Basic H organic concentrate for all of my natural cleaning needs in the RV. I’ve also loved the laundry soap and laundry booster for getting out stains. It seems like Bella gets 10 times dirtier now than before we were on the road!

One of the easiest green things we do on the road is just to not buy stuff. It’s a really great feeling to walk through a store and have a great excuse not to buy anything! It won’t fit in the RV! The items that I have purchased have been thrifted clothes for Bella and myself..and as soon as I bring them in, I give away an equal amount of clothes to make room in the closet. We have also bought RV related items…but those don’t count in my mind because they were necessities and not frivolous.

The Next Steps
We are working on planning our next leg of the tour right now. We will head south out of Maine early next week…to Boston, New York City, Philly, and beyond. It will be a whirlwind from now until Christmas as we race to beat the weather. We are looking forward to learning more about the history of our nation, teaching about green living, and meeting more new friends!

It’s Cold Up Here!

After we left SIT, we headed over to Vermont RV and had our heater looked at. Now Matt is a really handy guy…but we didn’t have time to order a part ourselves and figure all of it out. So, we went to a professional. Apparently, the computer in the furnace blew out and we had to get it replaced if we ever wanted to be warm again! So we had the repairs done and headed back to our slab of cement in front of Home Depot to relax and go to bed. All was going well…until we tried to turn on the heat. It wouldn’t work! We eventually figured out that our battery bank was too low to kick it on. We have been “camping” in a lot of parking lots lately (otherwise known as “boondocking”)…and we’ve been running down our battery. Our solar panels charge it during the day, but we just don’t have enough batteries to keep up with it. We are in need of a few more batteries…but they are about $200 a piece and that’s not really in the tour budget right now. If you’re interested in helping out with this specific need…please click the donate button found here and designate it for “solar power”. We are still looking for a solar power company to sponsor the tour as well (to provide us with an inverter/charger)…if you know of someone with these resources, please let us know.

Needless to say, it was a little chilly in the RV that night. It got down to 32 degrees outside and it was about 45 degrees inside. Oh my. We hung quilts over the windows in an attempt to block the breeze coming through our bedroom, but it didn’t help much. I froze all night. Matt seemed fine. And Bella…well, she is cold-blooded for sure…she kicks those covers right off. I’m a Midwestern girl…and went to college in freezing North Dakota (Go Sioux!) so I’m not afraid of the cold.:) I just like to be warm when I’m sleeping!

We have slowly figured out how to keep our heaters running…just like everything else on the tour, we learn as we go! The RV was definitely not made for winter climates…the veggie system is fine to -20F, but the blue beast is not insulated well and is cooooold! I’ve been wearing layers of clothing, a stocking cap, and fleece pants to bed. I’m looking forward to the south…bring on the sunshine!

Food on the Road


We have had MANY people ask about our eating habits now that we are in the RV full-time. And because I LOVE food more than the average person…I thought I would go into detail about it :)

Going Smaller
The fridge is small. It’s 6 cu. sq. ft. as opposed to our apt. fridge which was 18. However, I really enjoy it. It forces me to only buy what we need, and because we’re buying less at one time, not as many things go bad before we can eat them. I am able to fit a lot of things in there. The freezer is just enough for some frozen fruit, ice cream, and chocolate…but not big enough for a large frozen pizza.

My pantry is actually larger than I’ve had before. I love it. I have it organized and labeled so we can find things easily. We have sufficient cupboard space for plates, cups, etc. and also for the pots, pans, food processor, blender, toaster, etc. I was amazed at how much we could fit in there. We downsized our kitchen gadgets considerably, but when you only keep what you use everyday, it’s quite easy.

I love that everything is within reaching distance. I would go crazy in a large kitchen where I actually had to walk several steps to put something in the sink! It makes cleanup easier as well.

What Do You Eat?
Our meals have not changed a great deal. I still have a fully functional kitchen. I’m not cooking over a campfire every night :) Bella and I are vegetarians and Matt is a meat-eater. I try to keep some sliced turkey on hand for his sandwiches…but other than that, he eats vegetarian at home. We make a lot of sandwiches because they are quick and easy. Some favorites are hummus and avocado, almond butter and jelly, and grilled cheese. Salads are always nice and refreshing. I love making big, meal-sized salads with all the fixins so it fills you up. Soba noodles are also a common meal…either with red sauce or my favorite cilantro lime sauce (see photo above). When we want something fast and cheap…eggs are great! As is scrambled tofu and toast. We do occasionally have some boxed meals…organic mac and cheese or cous cous with fresh veggies…but I try to stick to whole foods whenever possible. When it cools off a bit, I will start making soups again. I love making curries, bean soups, potato soups, etc and pairing it with some crusty bread and good salad. Yum! The crock pot is my friend.

Here are some of the staples that I have on hand right now:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Cheese
  • Earth Balance
  • Homemade Hummus (see recipe below)
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (heirloom…from the Farmer’s Market, yum!)
  • Vanilla Soy Coffee Creamer
  • Almond Milk
  • Almond Butter
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Blue Corn Chips
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Black Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Watermelon
  • Popcorn (we pop it on the stove)
  • Other condiments, raw baking supplies, canned goods, etc.

We eat hummus nearly everyday…for sandwiches, dip, you name it. Here is the BEST hummus recipe I’ve ever found:

Creamy Hummus
Vive Le Vegan by Dreena Burton

2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is ok, soaking your own is best)
3.5 – 5 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (adjust to taste)
2-3 T tahini (optional)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 small to medium garlic clove
1/2 t toasted sesame oil (important…so tasty!)
1/2 t sea salt
3-4 T water (or less/more as desired)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth, adding a little water at first, then more if desired to thin it. Scrape down sides of bowl several times throughout and puree again until very smooth. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice. Serve in a large bowl, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

More Things I LOVE
The gas stove. I really, really love gas stoves. They cook things so much better and the heat is instant on and off.
My cast iron cookware. It’s really old and it works great. Perfect for on the stove, in the oven, or over a campfire.
Our table. Booth seating works great for a toddler. Comfy too.
Cooking/preparing meals while driving. So convenient!

New Challenges
Getting coffee grounds out of the french press is a little harder than usual. We don’t have a sprayer and obviously don’t have a food disposal. I have just been going outside and using the outdoor sprayer to clean it out. In the apt, I would just clean it out in the sink, and the drain screen would catch it. In the RV, my drain screen is smaller, so it fills up and then the grounds just float around the sink in the water. If anyone has a great solution, let me know!

Another challenge…it’s hard to change the mentality of wanting to dine out whenever you’re traveling. We do have it in the budget to go out once in awhile, but I think it might have to be increased as we pass through all of these amazing cities with amazing food! :) As I said above, being able to have your entire kitchen wherever you go is so convenient and can save so much money…but experiencing local culture and food is fun too!

If you want to read more about my food obsessions…check out my food blog here. I haven’t updated it for awhile, as I haven’t been trying many new dishes lately, but there are some great recipes on there! I have a separate Flickr set for food now as well. Check it out here.

I really enjoy preparing food in the RV. I love a challenge…I don’t ever want to say “Oh, I could never….”. That holds you back from so many new things that you might love if you tried them (like having a 6 cubic sq. ft fridge!).

If you have any great “on the road” or campfire recipes, let me know!

Living Deliberately

One of the best things about living in a small space and living on the road is that it helps us to live deliberately. We can no longer float through the day without thinking…everything we do requires us to act with the future in mind.

Water Consumption
There are no long, luxurious showers here. We have a 6 gallon hot water heater, so showers are now “in and out”. There is a quick shut-off valve on the shower head, so you can pause the water to shave, lather, etc. Very handy. When it comes to baths…we fill it up just enough for Bella to get clean and have some fun. After she is done, I will often use her same bathwater and rinse off. Even with these “limitations”…showers and baths in the RV are a wonderful treat. I’m kind of a shower snob…I love good water pressure and HOT showers, and the RV has both. There is also a sunlight in the top, so it’s nice and cheery. Even Matt, who is 6’5″ can kind of shower in it. :) He’s a good sport.

When you know exactly how much water you have in your tank (40 gallons full), it’s much easier to conserve it. It’s not like living in a house where leaving the water running while you’re brushing your teeth has no immediate consequence. I’m always amazed when I go to the bathroom in a “normal” toilet. Sometimes after I flush, I just stare at it as it fills up with all of that water…mind boggling. :) When you flush the RV toilet, it’s just “swoosh!” and it’s gone. So little water. I like it.

We are more aware of what we are putting in the dirty laundry…especially if we’re going to be washing it in the WonderClean. We wear clothing over and over until it truly needs to be washed, as opposed to just taking it off at the end of the day and washing it regardless (3- year- old girls LOVE to change clothes 5 times a day, so this is sometimes a challenge! As I am writing this, she just brought out 3 dresses to get ready for her “party”). We’ve only been producing one load a week…which is WAY less than when we had laundry facilities whenever we wanted them.

I’ve had many people ask me to talk about what we have in our wardrobe now that we have limited space. It’s funny how your perspective changes over time. It seems like we still have A LOT of clothes, but when I compare it to what we used to have when living in our house or even compare it to someone else’s closet…it’s pretty minimal. Matt and I share a small closet and Bella has her own. I keep more than just the bare minimums…especially in the summer when you’re sweating all day, more changes of clothes are nice. We do have some of our winter coats/clothes stored under our bed. Clothes don’t have to take up a lot of space…especially if you store them correctly. We hang everything…and I hang 2-3 skirts on one hanger and 2 pairs of pants on one hanger…a big space saver. We have our shoes in a hanging shoe organizer. Shoes are space killers. So we don’t have many. The key is to pick shoes that are versatile and comfy so you can wear them on any occasion. We LOVE our Chacos!

When you don’t have a regular “payday”…you MUST live deliberately! We don’t have a nest egg stashed away for this trip…we are working (see 2nd question of FAQ) and saving as we go. Our goal is to have 2 months of living expenses in our account at all times, but even that is sometimes hard. An important concept that I’ve learned is the power of DELAY. When there is something that I want…even something as small as a fancy coffee…I ask myself if that is REALLY what I want to spend our money on…and do I have to splurge on that treat right NOW? The answer is usually no. Especially when it comes to coffee…I would much rather wait until it’s a really special occasion (out with friends, on a date, etc) so that I can enjoy it thoroughly and not have it become an everyday thing. We went through a big Dave Ramsey kick and learned how to budget and live with cash…it definitely taught us how to spend deliberately.

Energy Use
After moving into the RV, I learned very quickly how much I love electricity :) I would often forget that we weren’t plugged in and then be baffled as to why my computer wasn’t charging. It’s so easy to take it for granted when have a seemingly endless supply of it in a house/apt. It’s much easier to keep track of exactly what you are using and when. We use it for our computers, the stereo/DVD player, electric tea kettle, and the air conditioner (when the heat index is 105 degrees as it is now…we sure LOVE the AC!). Most of the lights run off of solar/battery…I do have a few lamps that are electric. The small fridge runs on electric or gas, and was brand new when we bought it (so it’s efficient). We haven’t had to boondock (no hookups) very much yet…but I suspect we will as soon as soon as we start the tour. We are looking into getting an inverter and more batteries for our current solar power setup. We do have a generator, but it runs on gas and it’s pretty loud, so we don’t like to use it. We would love to get a diesel generator someday…and then convert it to run on veggie oil.

Keeping House
It’s essential that we are deliberate about housekeeping in such a small space. When I am cooking, I need to continue putting things away as I go to make room for other things. I go through at least 2 times a day and “tidy” things up. I start in the front and work to the back…grabbing everything that is out of place and putting it back in it’s place. That’s key. Everything MUST have a place. It makes cleaning up so easy. If I find something that doesn’t have a place, I either make a place for it, or it goes out the door. I also make the bed every single day…because it’s in plain sight of the rest of the RV. If the bed is unmade, it makes everything look sloppy. When things look sloppy, I get crabby. Crabby mama in a small RV…not good. :)

Family Unity
Speaking of being crabby… when you’re in a small space, it’s so important that you like the people you’re living with and that they are not crabby! Every morning, we have the chance to deliberately CHOOSE what our attitude will be that day. I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is fun-loving, caring, kind, and always in a good mood. It certainly helps set the tone for the entire family! It would be easy to lose patience in such a small space…but we LOVE being together and we are used to being with each other 24/7. I feel so lucky to be able to spend so much time together.

Laundry Love

Spinning Laundry

I’ve always liked doing laundry. Even when I was very young, I remember thinking how wonderful it was that you could put your clothes in a big machine, press some buttons, and they would come out clean. That wonderment never left…I still find joy in this simple task. So MUCH joy, that I even take photos of our clothes blowing in the wind on a beautiful day.

When we decided to go on the road, I was never really worried about where I would do laundry. I always figured that we could either go to the laundromat, or use a washer/dryer at someone’s home. So when we came across a great device to help us keep up with our laundry on the road, I was excited! It’s called Wonder Clean.

Wonder Clean is a pressure washer that is powered by hand. It’s a simple design, and by the above photo…you can see that even Bella can get in on the action! One load can consist of about 10 shirts or 2 pairs of jeans (roughly 5 lbs). We put our laundry, soap, and water (the outdoor shower on the RV works perfectly) into the compartment, seal tight, and spin! The best thing is that we only have to spin for 2 minutes, and then drain and rinse for 1-2 minutes. After that, we just wring the clothes out and hang them to dry.

I love the spinning, but I also love hanging clothes to dry on the clothesline. And a clothesline that is strung through some big pine trees is even better! :) If it’s raining out, we have the option of hanging them inside on the retractable clothesline located in the shower.

Teaching Bella how to do laundry is easy when it’s so simplified. There are no buttons, no huge/loud machines…just simplicity. She LOVES to help me wring out the clothes and hang them up. So it’s FUN, and she is learning at the same time. She is able to join me in the daily chores and it gives her ownership and understanding of how we take care of our belongings.

Spinning our laundry is something Bella and I both look forward to…there is magic in the mundane if you are willing to find it!


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