Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break Shakedown

    Last week I (jesse) had my spring break and fortunately did not have to work any outdoor program trips. I love these trips but they keep me from spending time outdoors with my family. Well, we decided to pack up and go on a quick shakedown trip. Shakedown is a rally-car racing term for a pre-ride of special race sections of roads before the actual race. It gives drivers a chance to see the road first hand and test their equipment and vehicle setup. This would be our second overnight with the tent mounted on the Land Cruiser and the first night with all of us sleeping together. (The sane ones stayed home during "lightning rod testing" the weekend before.)
   We departed leisurely Sunday after church and headed towards Rock Island State Park where we camped at state run campground. The camping was easy - running water at the campsite and bathrooms very close. Luxury (well, more or less) compared to what we will have this summer. Also, we drove less than one mile of gravel roads throughout the entire 'shakedown,' so vehicle testing is still yet to be determined. 
   On the way to Rock Island we stopped at a Sav-a-lot in Spencer (middle of no-where Tenn) and caused quite a spectacle. An older country couple (read - teeth missing, long unkempt beard, sweat-suit clad) stepped out the pick up truck next to us, looked at us, then the roof rack, which was loaded with fuel cans and pelican cases as part of 'testing', and looked backed at us quizzically, befuddled. The gentleman then asked us where exactly we were headed. In order to ward off other inevitable and questioning glances at our supplies I replied that we were headed across country on the most deserted paths and tracks we could find. (No matter the fact that we won't actually be doing that for two months, right?) He proceeded to give the "You're nuts" look that we are getting so used to and walked on into the store. Writing this now serves as a reminder that I need to photograph these run-ins with 'locals' along the way this summer.  
   Anyway, the short of it is that we had a wonderful time. Within minutes of arriving at the campsite Bailey and Harper were in the dirt playing cars. I think everyone slept well and the kids slept late (7:30) the next morning. On to the pichers:

    The rest of the break was spent making and hanging trim in our real house, not the second home (aka Land Cruiser). I think that brings us now to 4 of 8 eight rooms that lack crown-molding. It was good progress but you will just have to stop in and see it as I don't have any pictures of the work.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

First Night in Tent; Lightning and Rain

What do you remember about last night?

Bailey -The thunderstorm was really bad. It was hard to go to sleep. We didn't sleep very well but I loved the tent and the fire. When can we go again?
Harper -Uh, nothing. (That's good; she didn't remember crying at 4:15 and wanting to go home.)
Jesse -We found a beautiful place to camp on Lookout Mountain. We set up camp on top of a hill with views all around. It made for a great sunset. Around one in the morning a storm front moved through. It was very windy and it didn't rain torrentially but the lightning was fierce and all around us. Needless to say, I rethought the merits of the 360 degree exposed views from the bare hilltop. It was an intense 30 minutes as the storm moved over us. Other than acting as the perfect lightning rod, the tent performed well and kept us dry. The kids didn't wake up until the second round of storms started rolling in the distance. I wasn't going to play lightning rod again so I moved the kids into the back of the truck just before four a.m. and we moved down into the trees where we spent the rest of the night testing out the 'downstairs' sleeping arrangements. More pictures here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

the SPOT Personal Tracker

 There are times when I get pretty nervous about our trip. There are two things that bring comfort to my soul: The first is Jesus and the second is the SPOT personal tracking device! Check out the link to see what it's all about!
Land Cruiser Update:
-Drawer/sleep platform built for rear cargo area. It's not finished: still lacks drawer front, tie-downs    for cargo on top and, well, finish (probably an oil finish).
-Pelican cases, fuel and water cans test fitted to roof rack. They survived a test run, but on pavement.
-Water tank fitted to belly of frame. Hopefully welded in place next week.

Here is what I've done so far for the drawer/platform. I have a ways to go.

And lots of thanks to my third helper. She's holding a drill!

I snapped a few more photos that you can see here. 

Spring Break starts this week and I hope to put a lot of time in on the Cruiser and on the house (the real house). I should be able to install both the winch and tent. Who knows, maybe I can even start fabricating the rear tire carrier and get the auxiliary headlights mounted.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A little update on the fam:

Larkin continues to be the dream baby. She is 9 months old and still does not roll over (she has accidentally rolled from stomach to back a few times) still can't crawl (though she's getting pretty good at scooting) and hasn't cut a single tooth!! She is so sweet and smiley, we love her so!

Who, What, When, Where and Why???

People ask a lot of questions about our trip so I thought I'd take the time to answer them on the blog:

Who is going and when do you leave? Jesse, Steph, Bailey, Harper and Larkin are going on a back-road trip this Summer. We plan to leave the first week of June and return sometime in July. We will be living out of our slightly modified 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser that already has almost 200k miles.

Why? It's not because we're crazy, although we've been called that before. Jesse loves to travel and he loves exploring. Steph is a homebody who doesn't mind seeing the world from her living room sofa. Somewhere in the middle our two worlds collided and now we're going on a road trip and we are all super excited about it.
       (Jesse jumping in here - I remember Bailey and I coming up with the idea for the trip and then inviting Harper. Truth told, these plans drove the purchase of the 'family' vehicle we bought last May. We didn't know how Mama would react to the idea of a summer outside on the move in tight quarters, but we assumed she and the then-unknown baby would not be coming. However she caught wind of our 'covert' plans and would not be left out! Larkin was left little choice but I like to think she's just as excited - a shame though that she won't remember anything from this trip.)
       But really, WHY NOT? It is a sacrifice to be sure. It will be hard. It will be costly - and not just financially. But we want our kids exposed to different ways of life, different cultures (ok, this one is a stretch), different terrain. We hope to give them an appreciation for what they already have at home - the comfort and stability. I (Jesse) haven't taken more than an extended weekend vacation with the family for over three years. I'm excited about the time with family-the moments of wonder and awe, the difficult moments, the uncomfortable, the growth.

 Where will you camp each night? mostly on BLM (Bureau of Land Managment) land, national forest land and other designated campgrounds. "Boondock" camping is allowed with a few slight regulations anywhere in the first two areas mentioned. Designated campgrounds are either state or nationally run pay areas. The fee is usually small and sometimes free. We also have a few friends along the way who are not too far off route who have offered porches, spare rooms, front lawns, etc.

Where will you sleep? It will probably take some time to get a routine going but our options will be for some of us to sleep in the back of the land cruiser with seats folded down and some in our roof-top tent.  We may also take a ground tent to use as well.

Every night? no, not every night. We'll be visiting our friend in Salt Lake City first and then we'll head to Bend, Oregon and stay with  Marshall and Katherine for as long as they'll let us.

Why the roof-top tent and not just a regular tent? It will do a much better job of keeping snakes, spiders and other creepy-crawly things out of our sleeping quarters :). And, it's awesome! It's like sleeping in a tree-house (or car-house) every night.

What about showers? We'll take them when we can get to a KOA or when a kind little family who takes interest in our trip offers to let us use their showers:) Jesse has fitted the Land Cruiser with a 15 gallon water tank(plus 10 more gallons on the roof rack), pump, hose and nozzle. So we will at least be able to spray each other down at night.

What will you eat? Mostly, we will be stopping at grocery stores and stocking up on non-perishable food items to take on the road with us. We will have a cooler that plugs in to a cigarette lighter for short-term storage of perishables. We have a coleman 2 burner camp stove that we'll use to cook our meals.

What about emergencies? Well, we will travel with an extensive first-aid kit and we will have cell phones. The problem with communication is that most of the time we will be off the grid and far out of range. In case of a life-threatening emergency we will be carrying a GPS emergency location beacon.

....I guess that's all for now. If you have other questions email me and I'll answer them on the blog.