Airstream Part Two: The Finale

From about six months ago I was supposed write an update or part two to the Airstream post. Well that didn’t happen and the following post is the summation of what happened with that project.

It is funny how hyped up you can get when you have an idea that seems to solve all of your problems. That is definitely how we felt when we started the Airstream project. I believe we thought it would provide us a place to live that we weren’t indebted to and that would give us some kind of other financial freedom. Plus, I think that we were a little bit influenced by some of what we saw on television as well as YouTube. Tiny living seems so easy. We landed up terminating the Airstream project in March. It happened like this; I was away in Mobile, Alabama and she was just returning from a trip out to Texas. She arrived back home before I did and we had an interesting phone call as she informed me that she just couldn’t do it anymore. Now from where I was listening when someone says they can’t do it anymore and they are your significant other I threw up the panic flag for a brief second. Fortunately, she just couldn’t do living in the Airstream anymore, it wasn’t that she wanted split up.

I think there were some factors at play that brought this decision about. We decided to move into the camper at the end of January which means constant rain living in the tidewater region. There was a mud pit right outside the camper that I attempted to fill with gravel but it sucks rolling out with your headlamp and crocs on and stepping in water when I would take the dogs out at night. We had decided to take out the regular plumbing for the toilet and install the composting toilet, just gets a little crazy walking the “piss” jug out to the sewer connection and dumping it without getting it everywhere. You don’t realize how much you pee until you have to empty your own jug. Truckers probably understand this all too well. The dog situation. Well there was no furnace in the camper so when we were at home we would run the space heater. I think that we were really worried about what would happen in the summer if the air conditioner went out and our dogs were there all day.

So within a month we were moved back into an apartment situation and considering our options. We still had to take care of the camper because it was still sitting at the camp ground and we had to get it to Bristol before the end of the month. When the morning came to take the camper away Murphy decided to strike as he always does. When we were living in the camper the cinder block that the jack was resting on decided to explode one night. I in my infinite wisdom stacked three paving bricks under the jack thinking that it was much more solid. So we are lined up to drop the tongue on the hitch and it is too high, I kept on cranking the handle on the jack until…..the handle pops off. When the handle popped off the pin that keeps the jack in place was sheared allowing the jack leg to free float. Crisis. Luckily with my leg strength I was able to kick out the bricks to finally have the tongue lined up. I was too lazy to remove some tie down rope from the back of the truck, it came in handy. My knot tying skills learned in the navy definitely paid off with hitches and half hitches galore. I had to keep that leg from dropping out and dragging.

With the jack broken off we were attached to the camper until we could have professionals remove it. There was no one local who could have helped us so we made a command decision. We made the drive to Bristol and the next morning at a RV store they were able to move it off using a forklift….lifesaver. As with anything in life a job can be so easy if you have the correct tools.

Let me preface this whole incident before the move with the fact that we had been talking to some weirdo out of North Carolina that was going to meet us the day we pulled up to Bristol. I will just say that guy was a talker and not much of a doer. He was all about talking about getting the camper and slow to take any action. We finally gave up on this dude because he was a total flake.

We ultimately landed up selling it to a couple in California who were chomping at the bit to get the camper. It was a done deal, easy day.

There are a lot people out there that think we are crazy but that really doesn’t bother us. We took a project from idea to execution in less than a year. This whole adventure had started as an idea sitting on the couch one night. The road of life is littered with people that have ideas and never land up completing them. My wife and I would rather go all in and if we fail we fail. So we tried and we didn’t fail. We just landed up realizing that tiny living no matter what reason you subscribe to, is that tiny living really sinks in once you move into a 22ft camper. Really quick. I think that YouTube and Instagram really romanticize a lot of this now and a lot I don’t have cable TV, I am wondering if that whole obsession with tiny living has hit a plateau?

Maybe or maybe not? I guess with watching the news and hearing about student debt I am surprised that there aren’t complete villages of mud huts or shanty towns popping up all of America. I guess that really isn’t funny. Student debt is a serious issue. According to this election cycles candidates and the evening news.

Do I think tiny living is cool? Of course I think that using just the right amount of resources and minimizing my impact on the environment is a good idea. I think that biting off more than you can chew is why there is tiny living. Most of the reasons I heard during my research period was to minimize debt. It all revolved around money and the fact of the matter is that we are trying to stay well within our limits. There is no need for a McMansion just because the bank will float you the money for it. I am sure I could fill a post with all the other reasons to move into a tiny house but that was my interpretation of people’s reasons.

On a positive note, we paid for the project in cash and we didn’t acquire any debt while we were working on this. Well, yes we did. Now we are the owners of a monstrosity of a truck a V8 Tundra, more like an armored personnel carrier. The RZA line comes to mind whenever I am driving it, “I got four ton whips sitting on Antares”. It does work though for both camping and moving our canoe around. But, it guzzles gas like Bukowski downed beer.

This leads me to the second part of this post. As I explained in the first Airstream post, one of the reasons we were looking at renovating the camper was a little matter of my ex-wife foreclosing on a house in Colorado. That was a big part of the reason, thinking that we were forever going to be paying out rent for the rest of our lives and getting nowhere. This all changed in June.

I was messing around on the computer and a pop up screen insisted that I check my VA home loan eligibility. I obliged, thinking what is the worst that will happen? They will say I am ineligible. Surprise, Surprise that was not the case. Landed up qualifying for the other half of the previous defaulted mortgage. I was shocked. I really had just been caught up with everything going on in our lives that I didn’t even realize that the seasoning period of two years had already gone by.

Cause and effect. Every event in life has a purpose driving me to exactly where I need to be. Finding a house would have never been possible without all that adventures and steps that went on over the last fifteen years. Did we go crazy? Well I definitely couldn’t go crazy in Virginia Beach with the budget that we had. If we would have stayed there it would have been a condominium or a townhouse. We were over that.

With a little bit of determination and luck were able to find an awesome house in an awesome neighborhood. I was gone on travel most of the month and my wife was working with a realtor who seemed to be functioning at half speed and I really can’t blame her because the commission she would have got from our budget wasn’t as much as a McMansion I am sure she pushed sometime that month. I was looking at Zillow while I was gone and I had a neighborhood in mind. I am not going to say which one because I am sure there is someone out there with nothing better to do than stalk me. Get a life!!!

I had found the neighborhood that looked promising and had a list of five houses down there. My mother-in-law was in town and we left on our little adventure to get eyeballs on these homes. The housing market in Hampton Roads moves at the speed of light. Well, as soon as we hit this neighborhood I knew that this is where we needed to live. So we got a visual on the five houses I had on my little list. I called the realtor and found out that we wouldn’t qualify for four out of the five based on some kind of flood zone thing. I was a little frustrated and discouraged. Then we pulled up on a house that wasn’t even on the list.

We got out to take a look and it met all the parameters. It had a fenced in yard for our little dogs, it was ranch style, hard wood floors throughout, long drive way, and a detached garage. What was even more is it had an awesome screened in back porch with the overkill of having two ceiling fans. So I wasn’t about to call our agent back and there were flyers for this house on the front lawn. I took one and gave them a call….straight to voicemail.

We were on our way to check out some other houses that didn’t quite fit the bill, then I got the call. The listing agents for the house called back and asked if we could meet them in thirty minutes. I was like hell yeah.

I was already into this house but it was love at first sight. My wife was at work and I asked them if they would be back after she got off to show the house. Thankfully, she loved the house as much as I did. As soon as we got done we put in an offer immediately. It was a good thing we acted quickly because the listing agent said he was supposed to show the house the next day to three different parties. The house had only been on the market for less than 24 hours. I guess that is good to know in the event we ever move out.

For the last month we have been adjusting and getting used to our new house. Funny to think back that all of the events of the past year lead up to this exact place in the cosmos. The grand mathematics of the universe, that every event has to happen exactly as it did to bring me to the point where I am at today.

A Quick Weekend in Raleigh.

One of the things I like best about living in the Hampton Roads area is that we live about three hours from family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Driving three hours is an easy road trip and this weekend was an all of a sudden type trip. Saturday morning my wife asked if I was into going out there to watch a movie and hang out for the night. Of course I was down. Plus, I had a little bit of an ulterior motive. Our cousin Greg is into fishing like I am so I knew that we would find some way to cast some lines no matter how little time we might have.

The drive to Raleigh is easy once we got past the traffic through Suffolk and then it was the speed limit to Emporia, the birth place of our Chihuahua Chola. After that it’s all about the speed down I-95. It’s a whole lot better than trying to fight tunnel traffic going to northern Virginia.

When rolling out on family outings unless it is implicitly stated, fishing is not the main activity. But, as any angler knows you make it work and “get in where you fit in”. I was more than ready I had received the TenkaraBum 36 a few weeks earlier and although I had success at the local pond, I really wanted to put it through its paces and do some river/stream fishing. How the rod was meant to be used. I didn’t really have any idea of where we were fishing because in Raleigh there have been so many different fishing trips from hitting up the local golf course to cruising for lake bass. So I was up for anything and all I knew was we were going to a river.

No sooner did we pull up and catch up we were getting our gear together to get out there. We were already a little behind the power curve because it was already one o’clock. So we were already feeling the pressure to get out on the water. Little did I realize the spot that we were going to was a five minute drive from the house. Cool. The place we landed up at was the tail waters of Falls Lake which is part of the Neuse River.

We quickly donned our waders and I was stoked because I had purchased a pair of the cheapest Redington wading boots and they fit perfectly. My other wading boots before this were from BassPro and had Velcro and felt bottoms and really never fit right. This part of the river is by no means a trout stream; I knew we were going to get into some nice warm water varieties with no problem. I rigged up with a size 12 pink beaded squirmy worm and a Palsa stick on float about 24 inches above on 6x tippet. I was ready to go.

My cousin about to get very serious. (Above)

This part of the Neuse River is a 27.5 mile greenway trail and very nice. We looked for the first place to put in and realized it was super shallow with constant riffles and nowhere that our quarry would find relaxing to hang out and possibly take our offerings. We decided to walk about a quarter mile down the greenway and then we found a little piece of stream that would suit us perfectly. Swift moving water and pools behind awesome outcroppings of Gneiss. Gneiss is a reddish rock that runs through this part of Raleigh. What is awesome is you can stand and cast from flat rocks into the seams and pools and not have to worry about footing.

My first casts were unsuccessful drifting through some seams and then into some pools, we kept on walking and found a rock formation that split the stream in two. The north part of the stream was quick moving with a lot of little pools and seams behind smaller rocks and the southern side was a slow moving pool with a fallen tree across it. Warm water varieties love their structure so this was the obvious place to get down to business. First cast, success. Little redear sunfish. Then another and then another. Greg and I were both on the fish. The pool that we were casting into I couldn’t quite get past the 12 foot mark with the tenkara but he was nailing fish with his fly rod from across the pool. Once, I figured that I had spooked my share of fish in the pool I moved to the other side of the stream to that swifter water.

At some point the phone call came into Greg that we were going to see the movie at five so once again the pressure was on to fish as much as possible in whatever time we had left. Like I said fishing wasn’t the primary objective of this trip.

I used the knowledge that I had picked up during my crash course learning how to fly fish in Pueblo, Colorado and aimed above every rock and let my fly drift through the seams and pools below them. I was rewarded with everything from sunfish, suckers, and fingerling bass. There were too many to count. Not that any of these fish were trophies but hanging out with family and fishing is always a blast. We both traumatized the fish population of the Neuse River that afternoon.

With our time running out we walked back up the river and tried our luck in a few other spots but I think the fish knew we were on the prowl and decided that they would lay low.

We were on to our next mission to get home and go see this movie. The theatre we all decided to go to is one of the cinema bistro type deals which is awesome if fishing was on your mind and somehow you find yourself forgetting that you have a stomach. This place is the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and is done up in with all the retro VHS décor and actual video tapes for rent. Much like fishing even if the movie sucks it is always better when you are enjoying it with friends and family. I thought that Bad Times at the El Royale was going to be a lot better than it was. I will always check out a Jeff Bridge’s movie because he will forever be the “dude”. But, the movie was definitely not what I thought it was going to be.

Good movie or bad, it is always nice to get out of town and see family. Especially when they live so close to us. Oh yeah and land a few fish no matter what the size.

The Airstream Part One…….

Before I get into the whole story about how my wife and I decided to move into a twenty two foot trailer, I need to foreshadow the events and thinking that was going on in my life. Before I met my wife, my plan was to purchase either an Econoline van or a Honda Element and convert it into a “stealthy” mobile living unit. I planned on doing nothing except travel around, fish and live off my military retirement monies. After I met MG, things changed and I dismissed my little escapist dream and carried on with the business of life.

I really need to frame that correctly. We just got busy with life in general and living out of van was one of those fantasies that I stubbornly held onto and would dredge up from time to time. Some people have a sandy beach in Belize, I imagined myself as a modern day hobo. I knew that between the both of us that there was eventually going to be some sort of left turn that would lead us to adventure. Both of are families are nomadic by nature. MG’s grandfather lived off his sailboat and travelled around the Caribbean. I knew that we would figure out something that was our own adventure and our own path we were going to create.

In May of 2018 while watching something I can’t even remember she turns to me and said, “Can’t we just say fuck it and move into a camper?” I had never heard more beautiful words spoken. It would be cliché and say that I saw golden lights drenching our couch while a host of heavenly angels sang in the background. But, that isn’t what happened. Still those were words I never expected to hear and that I was not the only one with a fantasy of dropping everything and moving into a camper.

So the day had come. So we finally pulled the trigger. So everything happens for a reason. We tried to get financing from the bank for 60K for our dream rig. An Airstream Bambi. Well needless to say with our credit such as it was we were denied by the bank. Got it understood. It wasn’t too heartbreaking.

I kind of expected to be denied by the bank. But, before you pass judgement on me and call me a dead beat with no interest in paying his bills….I will elaborate. This back story ties the whole story together.   I am going to reach back all the way to January 2009, I was going through a divorce and I was stationed overseas at the time. I really didn’t have any family in Colorado at the time. My sister was busy with her life and my parents were still living in Germany. I went by word of mouth to hire my lawyer and let’s just say that he wasn’t too gifted in the art of negotiation. Which you would think is a prerequisite for the job.

When the divorce decree was finally issued by the judge in Colorado, it basically stated that the house that my ex-wife and I owned would remain in my name for four years until she could either sell it or refinance under her name. I know you are probably saying…..hmmmm….You are probably thinking well it sounds reasonable and any reasonable person would be happy to have four years to get it together. Reasonable people pay for where they live right? Can you see it? Feel it?? The storm of financial disaster was brewing just over the horizon.

The first four years went by rather uneventfully. Then when it came time for her to take over the house, she just stopped paying the mortgage. Oh yeah. The judge also ordered me to quit claim deed the house to her, so I had no legal standing with the “ownership” of the house. Unfortunately, being a sailor I was protected by the Service member’s Relief Act. This meant that the bank wouldn’t evict her from the house for another four years. Those years went by rent and payment free for her. I was not going to come up with the money to save the house….I am not crazy. I called the bank so many times to beg them to foreclose on the house and they just couldn’t do it.

Eventually they did foreclose in guess? 2018. Crazy right? So what does this have to do with the adventures in this story? Well this left me wondering will we ever be able to make the move to get out of our current place.  Will we ever be able to have our own place? Am I going to be haunted by this bullshit the rest of my life? I just felt horrible as if I had failed at some part of my life. I have made my own mistakes in life and I will take credit for that long list, I hate being financial reminded of mistakes that I really didn’t have a hand in.

So the question was “what next”? We were asking ourselves how is it all these broke assholes somehow have money for houses they can’t pay for and a slew ridiculous toys. All we wanted to do was to buy an Airstream and that was the end of the story. You know actually be fiscally responsible. Shit that people don’t do anymore. Both of us were pissed because we really didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives in the same condo giving our money away and every month that we lived there we felt as if we were just burning our money.

At first the prospects looked grim. We began by looking at 25 foot travel trailers at the local RV store. But, the prospects of getting an ugly behemoth of a trailer were not exactly what we were looking for. We looked but our efforts were halfhearted at best. We were turned off after talking to the salesman and were told that in order to pull a trailer of that size we were going to need to purchase some kind of supersized rig that you need a CDL just to drive.

Part of the reason that we wanted an Airstream, is that both my wife and I love mid-century modern. We loved the clean almost perfect airplane look of the Airstream. We wanted an Airstream and not some camper that looked like a cheap box on wheels. Not a snow bird sarcophagus.

We were really only interested in two brands of campers; Airstream and Casita. We had convinced ourselves that a Casita was probably going to be in our price range. After the sharp sting of credit rejection had worn off, we decided that we were going to save for whatever camper we were going to get and pay cash. We are both super stubborn. The only catch with these two types of trailers is that even the older models cost a pretty penny, because they are so iconic.

We had been saving for a few months and we were getting to the stage where we had enough money to start looking at campers that would probably need some TLC with the amount that we had. After about two weeks of scanning Craigslist and RV Trader looking for a Casita that could fit our budget, Mary Glen happened to find one in Knoxville. She made the call to see if the camper was still available. However, the owner said that she wasn’t going to show it for about another week and that there were two people before us that were going to look at it.

So we decided to take a quick bike ride to the beach and when we got home MG had stumbled across a 1972 Airstream Argosy for sale in Alabama. Right way we were both in ADHD mode. Feverishly sending texts, nervous and the recent pain of the last Airstream rejection as if this was a mirage and it was too good to be true. We learned that this camper was a one owner and garage kept. Like that mythic Ford Escort that grandma has been keeping in her garage since 1993 and it has 12K original miles…. Yeah to us it was like that. The owner had restored it which basically means he freshened her up.

I think we made contact with this guy on a Wednesday and he told us that he had put the ad about a week prior and that there were supposed to be people travelling next Tuesday to look at it. When you have the fever and know that this is the one…you have to act and we acted quickly. MG got off the phone and we quickly put together our strategy which wasn’t much. We were going to offer to wire this guy the money to hold it and not show it so we could get down there first. You have to understand these campers are extremely popular and if you are slow you aren’t going to get it.

We got him the money and that would be the start of our adventure…….