If You Build It… They Will Come.

Little Van Library is Open

Our Little Van Library is officially open! We could definitely use more books, so today we will let folks know this is here and we’ll see if word-of-mouth will fill the gaps.

I still can’t believe we have actually pulled this off. But hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Little Free Libraries are like handing out smiles. I’m very happy to be able to take part!

Want to more about our Little Van Library? You can read more about how this all came together by checking out: The Makings Of…A Little Free Library

Current location: Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The Makings Of… A Little Free Library

Today was an amazing day. I accomplished a handful of things that made me extremely, joyously happy. For one thing, I now have a library card for the local library in Lake Havasu (as a full-time traveler, most counties will not provide such a gift, but as I’ve said before – Lake Havasu is a very special place). And, as I left the library, I left with an amazing book haul of purchased books – as much as I could carry in my arms. Yes, I did this. Yes, I still live in a van. But no, these books are not for me, they are for my library. Yes… my library.

This is how many books I can carry at once.

Little Van Library Book Haul

Shopping for our Little Free (Van) Library was so much more fun than shopping for myself! And since I purchased these in the “Friends of the Library” room, the money I spent goes directly toward supporting the local library. Besides, this amazing book haul cost me $6. Local Libraries are one of the best used bookstores ever that everyone forgets! 

Okay, let me back up a little bit now and give some background. What is a Little Free Library you ask?

A Little Free Library is a book trading zone, usually setup in front of someone’s house, or place of business. The person who establishes the Little Free Library buys or builds a location to house the books, and then will usually collect some books to kick things off, or donate from their personal collection. After that point, it should be fairly self-sustainable with people following the rules of the slogan, “Take a Book, Leave a Book”. You can take a book now, leave one later, pass along the book you picked up from one Little Free Library and return it to a different one (which Pays it Forward), or give to a friend to read. Basically, you share the joy of reading. It’s very simple really. 

I first heard of Little Free Libraries years ago and have wanted one ever since. I love sharing books with people, and I love talking books. Once we decided to travel, I figured there was no way we’d ever have one of these. I mean, who ever heard of a Little Free Library that moves? Well, you have. Now YOU have. Because we are making this happen.

A few months ago I mentioned to Dave that as crazy as it would be, I would still love to have a Little Free Library. I told him I knew it wouldn’t be possible, we most certainly do not have the room for it! But his response was priceless. His eyebrows shot up, and he told me the idea was brilliant. That’s pretty much all it takes for me to start brainstorming solutions. So that officially kicked things off.

The trick is, we live in a 22′ foot van. What would we use to store the library? They’re often pretty bulky (see examples here), and they need to be able to sustain being outside in the wind and rain. And for us, they need to be able to be transported on a regular basis.

At this point, we were committed to figuring out some way to do this, and some way to make it fit in a cargo box. So, we moved forward with obtaining a cargo box, which added 16 cubic feet of storage to our van. Wohoo! It was like adding on a basement! Do you know how LARGE 16 cubic feet of storage is when you live by way of spare inches? It’s ginormous! But I digress…

As much as I would love to have a super cute, adorable Little Free Library, like this one we saw in Columbia, Missouri – we knew we needed to be more creative.

Little Free Library

It’s taken me months to figure out a solution, but now that we have, we are just a few days away from having this fully setup!

Storage BoxOur Little Free Library will be housed in a Sterilite Storage Box, and available for use outside our van on a portable camping table that rolls up and fits in our cargo box.

This covers the weather issue, and the portability issue. Because the box is see through, books will be visible from the outside. Before you think I’ve abandoned the cuteness, don’t give up! I have absolutely not!

People will need to know that this is not just personal property, but something that is there for THEM to use and enjoy!

I have made some colorful attention-grabbing flyers for display next to the library box. I’m still working on the final touches, but I’ll go ahead and show you a sneak peek:

LFL Fliers

No, don’t bother trying the domain name, it doesn’t work yet silly! (Edited to add: The domain works now – yay!) I’m still working my way through my to-do list, but I am just too excited about this to not blog about it.

Anyway, the flyers. I’ll have a few of those printed next to the box of books so it’s clear, the books are meant to be touched, taken, and read.

This has been an amazing project to pull together, but now that we have the cargo box, the book-storage box, and an idea of what to do – I am very excited. It makes perfect sense to me to have a shareable bookshelf just outside my van door, ready for one and all to take, borrow, share – and talk books.

Our Little Van Library is almost here! Just a little more yet to do… stay tuned!

Our Update from Lake Havasu, Arizona – January 2016

Home Is Where You ParkOur last update was almost a month ago, so I wanted to write about what’s been going on with us – which to be honest – has been very little.

Yes, we are full-time travelers. Yes, we live in a hyper-mobile RV and are ready to change locations at the drop of a hat. And yes, I have a chronic illness. Kerplunk. You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

Tomorrow is my 6th anniversary with Gastroparesis. To put it simply for anyone unfamiliar, it’s a chronic digestive disorder. I’m not able to eat all the food my body needs, and, I’m not able to absorb all the nutrients from the food that my body is able to take in. That combination of factors places me in a constant state of malnutrition. And, as a result, I’m often exhausted.

Interestingly enough, Gastroparesis is really a moving-target kind of illness. It has a lot of ups and downs, mostly driven by patterns. It affects women more than men, changes with the hormonal cycle throughout the month (I think most women with GP can time their cycle based on their digestive discomfort), changes throughout the day, and even seasonally.

Every winter – I tank. I hit bottom. You’d think after 6 years, I’d remember, and plan accordingly, but after having energy in the summer, I always forget. I always think I’m getting better (when in reality I’m probably just in a state of remission). In fact, yesterday I realized every life-changing idea we’ve had over the last few years was launched in the summer time. Summer is when I tend to feel somewhat closer to normal, for longer stretches of time.

We hadn’t planned to be in one place for several months like this, but I have to say, Lake Havasu, Arizona is an amazing place to be “stuck”. Knowing what we know now, I plan to be stuck here every winter!! Obviously, I don’t feel stuck at all… but you know what I mean.

The weather in Lake Havasu has been constant since November, with temperatures ranging from 40-60 each day. Most days are gorgeous, some are extremely windy (up to 20 or 30 mile per hour winds) – but that doesn’t even happen every week. And the people? Everyone is friendly – and I mean everyone! The locals and the seasonal folks are all extremely nice. I think we actually know more people here than we have in any neighborhood we’ve lived in over the past several years.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been up to doing anything social, but there are many days when we head out to walk Frodo and that’s at a nice time of day so everyone else seems to be out chatting, or walking their dogs as well. As you drive around town, you’ll notice stickers on quite a number of cars that say, “No Bad Days – Lake Havasu” – and it’s true. There are NO bad days here.

Lake Havasu quickly became a favorite place of mine and I already view it as a sort of “home-base” for us, likely at the RV Park where we are spending this winter.  As the days progress, you see people come and go, and folks who come year after year run up to each other and give a pat on the back or a hug. It’s like summer camp. Only in winter. For adults. For reals. Who wouldn’t love it here?

And relatedly, I think there is a lot of benefit in living full-time in a setting such as an RV park, or a Trailer Park. I know if I’m not seen for a few days, our various neighbors would ask Dave about me, how I’m feeling, and if there’s anything I need. You just don’t experience that standard suburbia. (Places like this sound very cool!).

Until next time…

2015 Year in Review: 3,872 Miles Traveled & 53 Books Read!

If I had to describe 2015 in one word, I’d probably call it busy. If you grant me two words, I’d say life-changing. Can I have two words please?

We kicked off 2015 as new residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Not long after settling in we experienced the Asheville Snowmageddon 2015. It was fun… at first. Much better after we got a snow shovel. Though, I have to say the Fall of 2014 was a lot more fun – especially for Frodo.

Asheville 2015 Pisgah National Forest

We experienced the joy of living in a National Forest, definitely an experience I’ll never forget. This also included fighting a little bit with the creatures that lived near our house. There were the birds, and the spiders. And Dave protecting our house from critter invasion…

Dave on a Mission

I finally had a chance to photograph our bedtime routine with Frodo. Yes, we still brush his teeth every night. He loves it, and so do his teeth! You can tell from the photos he has a good time.

In May, we watched a life-changing documentary, and have been vegans ever since. It’s been almost 8 months now and I only wish we had made the change sooner.

Early in July we decided to take our life on the road, and began the process of downsizing our belongings. In a few short months we sold most of our stuff, our house, our car, and purchased a truck and a travel-trailer. It was a whirlwind of activities.

We hit the road October 17th, officially house-less, beginning our journey as nomads. After leaving Asheville, we traveled very quickly to South Dakota to get our driver’s licenses. On the way, we stopped through some pretty areas I look forward to re-visiting. Columbia, Missouri was gorgeous! 

Stephens Lake Park_The Lake

Rock Port, MO had a lot of character. I wouldn’t mind going back for a few days, especially during warmer months.

We were only in Amarillo, Texas for a short time, but long enough to see some interesting things. Like a donkey. And an emu.

And then, we got crazy with it. It was at this point we further downsized and sold our truck and travel trailer, and switched to a van. Once comfortably settled in our new van, the race was on to get somewhere warm. We headed to Arizona, yet at the same time, experienced a month without hot water. Go figure.

Now we are wrapping up 2015, living in a van, living a vegan life-style, and currently chilling out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – while we recover from the whirlwind that this year has been. And it’s been a doozy. With only traveling the last portion of the year, we still managed to cover 3,872 miles. The speed was purely insane and I hope to never need to travel that far at that pace ever again! But, we managed to get our domicile squared away, improve our travel setup, get our van repaired, and… rest in the quiet of the southwest. I’d say the travel part of this year was smashing, though speedy. But, it was worth it. Every crazy minute of it.

2015 - 3872 Miles Traveled

There’s still one aspect from 2015 I haven’t had a chance to address yet, and that’s my reading life. I set out to read 52 books, and did it (read 53 books actually), and though some were good, and some were great, many were fantastic. I figured I would highlight my favorites from this year and tried to narrow down my selection to a Top 5. I couldn’t.

Out of the 53 books I read this year, here are my Top 8 Favorites:

2015 was a great year, and 2016 will be even better. I wish everyone a happy, healthy new year!

Lake Havasu City, Arizona is Nature’s Etch a Sketch…

Lake Havasu City in Arizona has to be one of the most beautiful places in this country. The appearance of the sky changes continuously all day long and is a bit like nature’s version of an Etch A Sketch.

The view of the clouds over the mountains in the distance, the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds – it just never stops. It’s drawn, and re-drawn, and re-drawn, over and over again. I stare at the sky often and just feel better when I do.

And sunrise? It’s breathtaking. And sunset? Even more-so.

Lake Havasu City Sunset 1

These photos are from tonight’s sunset.

Lake Havasu City Sunset 2

And yes, it’s like this every day.

Lake Havasu City Sunset 3

Every. Single. Day.

Lake Havasu City reminds me of the movie The Truman Show. The sky seems too beautiful to be real, as though we’re witnessing a staged production all day long.

Lake Havasu City Sunset 4

And of course, Lake Havasu has more than just sunsets, there are really cool cars. There are classic cars everywhere here, and though this car doesn’t fit that description, it caught my attention. It has character, oodles of it.

Lake Havasu City Cool Cars

Someday soon I hope to capture some of the amazing classic cars here, but until then, goodnight…

Lake Havasu City Sunset at Dusk

They Say it’s my Birthday…

Life Level Up!Do you know what the best part of any game is? Leveling Up!

As you play a game you get to learn what works best to achieve your goal, maybe learn some hacks along the way to make things easier, and all in all, have fun.

Conversely, End Game is the most boring part of any game. You’ve finished the game – congratulations! Now what? Most people will start a new game and go through the same process all over, sometimes rushing through the leveling process again, forgetting that leveling is what it’s all about.

Just like life.

Life is a journey, not a destination. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take your time. Enjoy the leveling up process. 

P.S. This photo was taken several months ago, by me, with a 35mm lens, camera held backwards. I’m having fun leveling up my Photography skills – no one said you had to do things just like everyone else!

This post is brought to you from Yuma, Arizona

Fun with Photography

Lately my camera has been resting much too often. It was time to take it out to play…

Because we chose to live in a 22′ van, we simply can’t have everything with us we want – like a tripod. This adds complexity to the fact that I really want more photos with BOTH of us in the actual photo. Challenge accepted.

I told Dave I could take a selfie with my 35mm lens, no problem at all. He had the nerve to doubt me.

Selfie of Sharon and Dave

Yes, I really did take this photo holding the camera backwards, composing it blindly.

Because I can’t just let things go, I wanted to further prove to Dave that I can focus where I want, such as in the foreground here:

Selfie Focus in Foreground

Or in the background here:

Selfie Focus in Background

For anyone curious, here is a behind the scenes photo taken by Dave (the boring way, with the camera facing frontwards).

Backwards Photography

And no photography outing is ever complete without a photo of Frodo. Though I think I prefer Arizona over California (so far), Frodo just can’t seem to hold still if there’s grass under his feet. He is really digging California for that reason. He must run and play!

Frodo likes to play like no one is watching… as he should!

Playtime

In all seriousness, it was great to get out today and play. I have my ups and downs with Gastroparesis and the last few days have been pretty rough and a bit painful. But today, today was a good day. And that makes me happy.

Today we are in San Dimas, California.

RV Water Heater Replacement – Girard vs. Truma, Tank vs. Tankless

For anyone else out there in RV-land stuck with a barely-working hot water heater, this post is for you!

Our hot water heater wasn’t functioning correctly from the very first day we had our Pleasure-Way Van. The first time we attempted to have it fixed we went back to our original dealer in Las Vegas where they replaced the Sail Switch. That got us by for a few days until it broke again, at which point we were in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

At some point in this process we realized our existing hot water heater wasn’t going to work well for us, even once it worked as-designed.

Here’s the quick scoop…

The Girard GSWH-1M tankless hot water heater has several issues with it’s design. The Gas Modulation Control dial that adjusts the flame (and temperature of the water) must be adjusted constantly. It is recommended to set it “at the beginning of your camping trip” but when the temperature swings 20-40 degrees in a given day, in reality, it must be adjusted all day long throughout the day.

With the Girard, the water will only begin to heat once the water is turned completely to full blast, with hot water running completely open. Adding any cold water will make the emergency cut off switch turn the hot water heater off – and – it’s back to square one. The only way to use our water was to attempt to ONLY use the hot water faucet and adjust the temperature from the kitchen wall, without ever using the cold faucet (we learned this from reading forums).

Showers took a kitchen-assistant to attempt to keep water at a decent temperature by adjusting the Gas Modulation Control dial upon request of the person in the shower. Girard definitely wins the Rube Goldberg award for hot water systems…

Okay, enough about the Girard. Actually, one last thing – most people spend about a year trying to make it work before finally getting something else. We skipped right to the end of the line and decided to get the “something else” immediately.

Here’s the process we went through when we realized it was time to figure out what to do next… The 2016 Pleasure-Way Plateau TS has no ability to hold a 6 gallon water heater, or even a 4 gallon water heater anywhere on the chassis. There’s simply no room within the existing floor plan. We did want a working hot water heater, but we did not want to do any remodeling.

After extensive research, we discovered the Truma AquaGo (Basic) tankless water heater would fit in the same spot as the Girard, with limited surgery required to the van. The Truma also sounded like a better designed product.

Once we made the decision to go with the Truma AquaGo we searched their website for AquaGo dealers located across the region of the country we were in, or planned to be in (California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas). We found several of interest, checked reviews online (Yelp was a huge help), and then called a few for estimates. Of the repair shops we contacted, only one was so familiar with the AquaGo that they were able to immediately give us a quote and talk knowledgeably about the product and installation required. They also provided the most reasonable quote!

McBride’s RV in Chino, California was our winner. And, they did a remarkable job!

The change from any factory-installed item to an aftermarket will likely cause a few snags here and there. For us, the main issue was the hot water heater door on the outside of the van that was designed for the Girard would not work with the Truma. We knew that was a possibility and we all hoped for the best, but – no luck. The venting needed by the Truma was in a different spot and it simply wasn’t going to work.

The downside of needing a new door meant a few new complications. The Truma door is white (our van is silver) and it has a frame around the door that if used, would stick out from the body of our van. It was unsightly at best, and possibly problematic.

Truma AquaGo

McBride’s tried several options beginning with altering the door we had, then adjusting the Truma door to be frame-less (after calling Truma to make sure that would not void our warranty). The frameless door turned out to be the best bet. If you look closely at the photo to the left, you can see the frame.

McBride’s included us every step of the way once there was a snag, giving us a choice and letting us participate actively in the outcome rather than be surprised or suffer from sticker-shock at the end.  Once everyone decided on a plan, the door needed some cosmetic adjustments. Namely, it needed to not be white!

McBride’s gave us a head’s up on the added cost of painting the door (got our approval), then got their onsite paint-matching guy to match the body paint we have. The added task of painting meant a little more time before we were ready to roll – but McBride’s had us covered. The let us stay on their lot (with water and electric hookups!) until the next day when the freshly painting door could be installed. They even gave us a walking tour of the shop and made sure we were totally comfortable before they departed for the night.

The next day, the newly-painted door was ready to be installed, and with that, we were ready to roll!

BEFORE Girard Water Heater

The photo on the left is the BEFORE picture from the body of the van, with our factory-installed Girard water heater.

It’s now been a few days and our water still gets hot when we turn the faucet to hot – something that feels like magic after a month without hot water.

For anyone in need of switching to a Truma AquaGo, though it’s only been a few days for us, I think I can safely recommend it. In a word, it works. You turn the water to hot, it heats the water. You can adjust the flow of water to be barely on and still get warm or hot water as desired (great for boondocking and those conserving water), and McBride’s is definitely a shop to consider. I’d happily have them do more work for using the future, it was definitely a 5-star repair experience!

AFTER Truma AquaGo Water HeaterThe photo on the right is the AFTER picture, with the Truma AquaGo, minus the frame – and – painted to match our van. McBride’s spent time giving attention to detail to make this work for us, and they did a great job.

And, now we have hot water. It’s very strange I tell you, strange indeed.

Chino California