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!

Catching up in Cali

Sometimes when you travel, you just never know what you’re going to see. For example, you could just happen to look to your side and see a Dinosaur. True Story. Photo location: Cabazon, California

Roadside America Dinosaur

We’ve been in Chino, California for about a week now. The day we arrived I had planned to blog about our trip, knowing if I don’t write immediately – it won’t happen. Well, obviously, it didn’t happen. I took photos the moment we arrived, but the park where we were staying was, well… horrible. Sure, it looks pretty, but looks aren’t everything.

This is where we’ve been for the last few days, Prado Regional Park in Chino.

Prado Regional Park

What you can’t see in the photo is the experience, photos don’t tell you the whole story. The park is about a mile away from an outdoor olympic shooting range, and gunshots are heard from just prior to sunrise and continue past sunset every day. Three days a week the range is open for 12 hours and we were treated to gunfire sounds for more than 12 hours during those days. It was lovely. Frodo was usually able to be outside just long enough to do his business but he was quite the unhappy dog while we were there. Walks barely happened, he would get too freaked out (understandably so)!

In addition to the sounds, there was the smell. Have you ever been near a dairy farm? There are several in Chino, quite a few right near the Prado Regional Park. For most of the day the smell was so bad we were unable to use our fan or open our windows. In fact, you can smell cow manure as you drive around Chino. Feel free to knock this city right off your to-visit list.

Oh, but of course, we weren’t in Chino to sightsee, we were there to have our hot water heater system replaced – which we did. We have working hot water now! It’s a miracle! I have another RV Repair shop to recommend, thoughts to share about our experience of going a full month without any hot water, and tips about how to go about having your hot water system replaced – all… coming soon.

For a few more days we are kicking around near the shop where had our hot water system replaced, just to continue testing and make sure all is well before we depart. Currently we are in San Dimas, California and though the current place is well above our budget, it is well worth the change in venue. Even Frodo approves!

Frodo Living it Up

Hopefully the lack of gunshot sounds throughout the day will get me back into a writing mood so I can write more about the last week, and month.

San Dimas California

Until next time…

Basking in the Quiet at Craggy Wash in Arizona

Is the rest of Arizona as beautiful as Lake Havasu City? Throughout the day, I find myself staring at the sky, the mountains, and clouds.

Clouds and Mountains

Every few minutes the scenery changes and I wish I was better skilled at landscape photos, but, that’s Dave’s speciality. I usually take better photos of people or things. Like our van.

I took this photo shortly after we arrived at Craggy Wash, our home for the night.

Boondocking at Craggy Wash in Arizona

No, I do not miss having a house thank-you-very-much. I mean really, what is there to miss from a house?

In related news, over the past few days I learned I do not need Hot Water. Honestly, the fact that we don’t have hot water right now has been no big deal at all. I’m shocked that I feel that way, and I’m grateful for this little life-lesson. I thought hot water was a necessity. Apparently, it isn’t for us.

After dinner I sent Dave to grab some of his amazing sunset photos. He didn’t disappoint. Can you believe that sky? Thank you Arizona, you’re being an amazing and gracious host!

Craggy Wash Sunset Photo by Dave

 

Chilling Out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

It looks like we’ll be staying in Lake Havasu City for a little while longer. Though our Hot Water Heater was working a tiny bit, it is now completely dead. Poof. It lives no more. As of yesterday it had a little life left in it and the manufacturer was going to send some parts our way. By last night, the Hot Water Heater was totally dead, so we went back to the local shop we’ve been working with, and more parts are on the way.

Since Thanksgiving is this week and Girard is shipping us parts via slow travel, we’ll be without hot water for quite a bit longer.

I have to give a quick shout out to the local shop we’ve been working with, Canyon Country RV, Truck & Auto Service Center. They have done everything possible to try to get us up and running, balancing calls between Pleasure Way (maker of our van), and Girard (maker of our hot water heater), and have spent a lot of time working on this issue. I overheard one of their calls today and they were requesting on our behalf that Girard overnight the parts because this is our home – of which I definitely appreciate the request! Girard declined though, but wow, huge thumbs up to Canyon Country RV! They are clearly acting as advocates on our behalf, not something I’m accustomed to at repair shops!

After spending a good part of the day at the repair shop again today, Dave and I headed over to Lake Havasu State Park for the night, and I have to say, it’s beautiful here!
Lake Havasu State Park

Though one of the reasons we chose this park was because of the high reviews of their showers (because… no hot water… remember?), we still chose to use our own bathroom this evening for a shower!

We have a Class B Van, with a wet bath. From what I’ve read, many folks (possibly even most) who have wet baths never use their shower, instead opting for campground facilities. We chose this van knowing the pros and cons of a wet bath and fully intended to use it as it is part of our home. I think by opting to take a full, 100% cold water shower, over using a shower just a hundred feet away that fully works – marks as completely and totally crazy. But you know what? That’s okay!

Why We Are Counting Down: 3.5 Weeks to Go

Have you ever had to live without hot water? Most people I know were born and raised in the U.S. and have probably never given much thought to hot water. You turn on the hot tap, and a few seconds later, hot water rushes forth. It’s almost miraculous when you think about it.

I’m not sure if it’s worse not having any hot water at all, or having a water heater that only works on occasion. Flip a coin – are you feeling lucky?

We’ve had our hot water “fixed” once already, when it was working less often than it is now, but it’s still finicky, and even when it works “as designed” – it won’t work properly for us. It also isn’t always even working as designed, but I’ll get to that.

We have a Girard Tankless Hot Water Heater. For some reason, some RV manufacturers have decided to forgo traditional hot water tanks and use a tankless system. There are a lot of marketing claims involved such as: “instant hot water” and “endless hot water” (neither of which is actually true). You can spend hours reading all the complaints about Girard Tankless systems if you like, there is a lot of chatter out there.

When you have a hot water tank, the water is heated and stored in a tank for your use. If you run out of hot water, you need to wait for more to be heated. In a tankless system, the water is heated AS IT FLOWS through the pipes. This is a huge difference, and can be very problematic in an RV.

The way our hot water system works, I mean, the way it is designed to work, is you must turn the hot water on to it’s fullest setting, wait about 12 seconds, and then you should have hot water. However, if you turn off the faucet while you soap up dishes, or wash your hair, then turn the water back on, it will NOT be hot anymore. If you are only turning the water off for about 2 or 3 seconds it will be okay, but there is a short point of time where it isn’t. Instead, the water will often be lukewarm, then very cold again, then maybe it will start to get hot again. Or, you may need to turn the faucet off, wait until the system stops entirely (a few minutes), then turn it on and wait again. All the while, wasting quite a bit of water. Perhaps gallons.

In other words, the our tankless water heater gives us the worst shower experience possible. Sometimes there has been screaming involved. I also don’t mind hand-washing dishes in normal circumstances. I DO mind washing dishes with ice cold water.

Now, keep in mind, we have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. If we are connected to water service (and sewer service) at a campground then sure, we can take a long hot shower as long as we never turn the water off. Many campgrounds do not offer full hookups, so here is where the physical limitations begin.

Our shower head is rated for 2.5 gallons per minute. Due to the Girard design and high flow needs, we are unable to switch to an Oxygenics shower head with a lower flow rate. We are also unable to practice any water conservation methods, such as using the pause button on our shower head (pausing the water while soaping and shampooing can save several gallons of water).

Here’s what I’m trying to say…

  • Our water heater works only on occasion
  • The Girard tankless water heater encourages horrible water conservation practices (it prohibits them entirely)
  • The Girard tankless water heater makes bookdocking (dry camping) impossible. Want to get way from a campground? Better have huge water tanks!

Since our water heater only works on occasion, I’ve had my share of ice cold showers (I don’t recommend it, it’s excruciating), and washed dishes with cold water, making myself freezing in the process.

One of our main goals for getting the van we did was to dry camp in remote locations and go off grid. The way things are now, being at campsites with only partial hookups is stressful because we don’t have the tank sizes to allow “endless water!” It also takes a person near the water temperature dial in the kitchen to alter the hot water temperature as needed because if you alter the temp at the faucet and add cold water – you’re pretty much screwed and have to turn everything off again, wait, etc. These are not things you want to be doing while you are mid-shower. And yes, every single shower Dave or I have had in the van has included asking the other person standing in the kitchen to adjust the dial. Girard – what were you thinking when you designed this system?!

Obviously living with our current hot water system is not an option.

After much research, we have decided that switching to a water tank may be too much retrofitting (surgery) for our van. There is a different make and model of a tankless water heater that supposedly will continue to allow hot water even when pausing the water flow, or lowering the rate (using a water conserving shower head). Although we would much prefer a water TANK, switching to another tankless shouldn’t be too hard with our current van configuration.

Once we decided on the water heater to get, we then researched the available service centers that work with these water heaters – and found a highly rated center in Chino, California. We have an appointment in a few weeks and I am counting down the days! I can’t wait to take a hot shower the proper way – pausing water and all! Boondocking, here we come!

Frodo Playing in the Snow

There is a time and place to be cold – such as your dog playing in the Snow!

Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – 4 Paws Up

Our poor dog. In the last few weeks we have traveled through Arizona, Nevada, California, and now Arizona again – and in that time he has not set his paws-to-grass. Thankfully he’s fairly adaptable and was able to adjust to rock gardens but still… he’s a dog! He likes grass! We were also quite busy moving out of one RV into another, in a very tight timeframe. I think Frodo was feeling neglected. It was way past time to get this dog to a DOG PARK!

Thankfully, we discovered Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona!

Lions Dog Park in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

The off-leash area was HUGE, and very well cared for – and – it has grass. In Arizona! Real grass in a dog park! Sadly we’ve seen too many parks recently labeled “dog park” that were sand pits – um – that doesn’t count!

It was really awesome to have such a large area where we were allowed to let Frodo just be himself. He’s very well behaved and loves socializing (in the photo below, he had just greeted the man on the bench, before running back to us).

Frodo Having Fun

And Frodo makes friends everywhere he goes, this was just one of his playmates today.

Frodo and a Friend

Since Frodo got to run and greet people and dogs, he was able to wear himself out from play. It’s a great thing to see him tired from playing! A tired dog is a happy dog!

A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog

We may stay in Lake Havasu City for a few days so I hope to have an opportunity to take him back to this park. If you are traveling with your dog, Lions Dog Park a must-visit park! Frodo gives it 4 paws up! For real, he’s sleeping on his back snoring right now, all paws in the air. It was really nice to give him a good play day!

Our Day Ended in Needles, California

Today was a busy day. We planned to leave Las Vegas and it’s windy, windy weather by heading just a few hours south – but had several errands to run first. We worked in the morning, then buttoned the van down and headed to Whole Foods, Home Depot, and a Gas Station for propane. It took us a long time to get everything done so we were glad our actual travel time would only be two hours. Errands still happen though, it’s just a fact of life!

We lunched at our propane-fill location but got kicked out by security because we were apparently in a (unmarked) commercial parking only lot. Okay then. It was at Home Depot then when Dave ran in to get some necessary supplies, that I finished up from lunch by washing dishes and brushing my teeth — yes — in the Home Depot parking lot. That felt odd, and hysterical at the same time.

Our Van

It was wonderful today to reach nicer weather in Needles. Last night in Vegas we experienced winds with gusts of 50mph, which, is WINDY. And chilly wind is COLD. And cold, windy weather makes me unhappy. A two hour drive straight South from Vegas gave us weather ten degrees warmer with less wind. Talk about a win-win!

Needles, California is just a small town on the Colorado River – so some folks who live here have a spectacular view!

Cool View

But it also has a lot of character.

Town with Character

And interesting plants.

Cactus

Some that look half alien. We didn’t get to look too close at this cactus/tree/thing, because it had things on the ground near it that were prickly, and Frodo appeared to get one up his nose. He didn’t like that (he’s okay), so we just kept on walking.

Alien Cactus

Tomorrow we need another trip to Home Depot so we plan to drive to a nearby larger town so we can get a few more household chores done. You can leave the house behind but not all the chores!

Over and out!