tranquility tour

Category: tranquility tour

The last day before turning home

It is literally crazy to start lamenting the end of this trip… we’re on the other side of the country, and we have a ton of great adventures ahead of us.

But still…

Tomorrow we turn east for the first time since September 11th. After 7,616 miles of highways, freeways, toll roads, country roads and dirt roads we are beginning the long ride back to DC. We have just shy of 4 weeks scheduled and there are 5 more events following tonight’s San Diego event. No doubt there will be memories ahead, but it’s definitely a different feeling as every mile brings us closer to the starting point rather than taking us further away.

Pacific

Lots of new ideas on the horizon… I was flirting with the Bike RV idea a few weeks ago, but now with the roaring success of my AirBnB cabin rental, I’m looking into the possibility of adding another rental property to the mix. I’m really enamored with tiny houses and I think Portland would be the perfect place for one. There are tons of issues in the way, the biggest being where to plant one… most zoning and housing codes, even in tiny-house friendly-ish Portland won’t allow a tiny house to be the sole house on a piece of property. That was my ideal, particularly since there are some cool places in upper NW Portland where a small plot of land is (relatively) inexpensive and a tiny house would fit spectacularly.

The idea (after all that yammering) is to have a tiny house situated in a cool spot, preferably Portland, that I can live in from time-to-time as I find myself in the NW. When not there, I’d rent it out on AirBnb as a supplementary income source.

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Tiny house built for a surfer and parked along the Pacific Ocean. Photo and build by Molecule Tiny Homes. H/T to tinyhouseswoon.com.

So, as I focus on some of the logistics (and practicality) of getting a tiny house, I’ll keep my mind open to other opportunities like house boats on the Willamette as another alternative. I have a lot to learn but I have a strong desire to have a presence in Portland after over a decade away, plus I know a tiny house rental has a strong chance to succeed when I’m not using it.

Last thought before bailing… I like my dog. Here he is dropping his ball at my feet as we were playing fetch on the Pacific Ocean today…

louis playing fetch

Oil is good for engines, Les Schwab is Wegmans and my appreciation for biking

Hey, it’s another installment of the Tranquilty Tour “DVD extras”… As always, you can learn more about Tranquility Tour at tranquilitytour.com, follow us at  #tranquiltytour on Twitter, Like Tranquility Tour on Facebook, and come back here to An Uncommonly Silly Blog anytime for the extras.

oil

Public service announcement: look, if you drive an older vehicle, you need to check your oil. I drive a newer car (well, newish…) and I haven’t pulled the dipstick once in 7 years. Not once. Oil systems in newer vehicles just don’t need the maintenance like older ones do, and now I have learned my lesson.

So, in Banff we started seeing the oil light blink on and off periodically. I chalked it up to the cold. That may have been true partially… the big thing was the camper had burnt off a substantial amount of the oil put into it during its oil change in Western NY, many thousands of miles earlier. Worse, because the guys put in a lighter weight oil thinking I was sticking around the frozen tundra for a few months, the oil burnt off faster. Burning oil is a regular thing… you lose a little bit just from driving. Again, newer cars, a lot less. Older RVs (for instance) running a lighter weight of oil (for instance) means you could hypothetically burn MOST of it off. Most is bad… engines like oil to keep pistons lubricated. If you don’t keep those parts lubricated you get BAD THINGS.

Bad things begin to manifest with the gentle clicking of metal on metal. Clicking like a clock is a bad thing for an engine. So, by the time we got to Seattle our engine was just starting to manifest this clock-like sound. I was literally unaware of the situation until this point…again, I thought eh sensor was giving a false reading in the cold. Turns out, we had burnt off well over half of our oil over the weeks of driving, and only adding a full quart stopped the sound. Turned out we needed much more.

At the oil change place today, I got a full monty package (insert joke here) – flushed the engine twice, got the oil conditioner and the viscosity booster and a higher weight oil. Basically, Lillie purrs like a kitten now and all is good. I will be checking the oil every morning now… no way we let this happen again!

tires

Speaking of bad things… let’s rap a bit about bad design. Back in the late 80s – as I have learned – Chevy decided to hell with convention, let’s put unconventionally sized tires on our vans! Standard size tires are 16 or 17 inches. They did 16 1/2. Then they failed. Then they stopped making them. Problem is, RVs like ours still had 16.5″ tires and finding replacements became hard and expensive. I learned all this at Les Schwab tires in Portland, literally the best place in the world to deal with tires. And because of this, I give them my highest rating… they are the Wegmans of tires. If you know nothing of Wegmans, it’s only the best grocery store on the planet… family owned, amazing service, among the best businesses to work for, and very good prices. Top notch. A+. Highest rating possible. Les Schwab gets that form me now, because within ONE HOUR they were able to replace not only the very old and failing tires on our RV (PS this was expected when we started) but also get us new wheels so we could now roll on standard sized tires. To replace the nonstandard tires alone would have cost almost as much… instead, we future proofed our RV and have seriously sweet looking chrome wheels.

So, Les Schwab… remember them.

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bikeerrand

With all of this driving around close in Portland with a small RV (which is still a big effing van)… I get a new appreciation for how much better it is to bike to places within 1-3 miles of where you’re at. The time to get there is a little more, but marginally not significant. Your ability to maneuver is much higher, and parking is rarely an issue. I love living in cities where services are easier to get to under human power… it feels more natural than hopping in a vehicle.

Quick mileage update… the shock of the trip is mountain mileage is higher (maybe from long downhills?) and when you have tires at the end of their life… mileage goes way down. Check out Mileage Keeper… good app. I like that we can track overall cost and ebbs and flow of mileage.

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Listen to the most recent batch of Tranquility Tour podcasts featuring Kimberly and yours truly…

Portland

Seattle

Calgary

Insane beauty, again with the wind and I like Calgary

Hey, it’s another installment of the Tranquilty Tour “DVD extras”… As always, you can learn more about Tranquility Tour at tranquilitytour.com, follow us at  #tranquiltytour on Twitter, Like Tranquility Tour on Facebook, and come back here to An Uncommonly Silly Blog anytime for the extras.

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I took some of the best pictures I ever snapped on the ride between Kalispell and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Just because the federal government is shut (and therefore the US national parks… still) the views from the open state and US highways were breathtaking. I can’t imagine what I was missing inside Glacier NP, because the views from outside of it were insanely gorgeous.

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The wind in Alberta is something to behold. I thought the Wyoming wind was something else, but the gusts off the lake in Waterton National Park last night literally ripped the plastic housing from the top of our camper’s AC unit. It reminded me of the tropical storm winds I’ve been in, but nastier and gustier. The mountains of Glacier gave them a push off the lake and across the border… it was crazy. Although the plastic AC housing is clearly beyond repair (despite my overnight efforts in the sub-freezing winds to tie things down), I managed to use duct tape and zip ties to get the thing stable again. If you don’t have duct tape and zip ties on you, stop what you’re doing and get some. Seriously… throw in epoxy and you just listed the three things I use the most to hack together semi-permanent fixes. I need a fourth for my Mount Rushmore of fixing stuff. Maybe I’ll figure that out by the end of the trip…

I walked around downtown Calgary during the “Tim is banned from the Pop-Up” portion of the pop-up (i.e. hours, 1, 2, and 2 and a half). I got a beer at the Black Cat Cafe and watched some of the Leafs game. I came back and had a drink at the restaurant where we had the pop-up and chatted with the owner for a bit about Canadian politics and the oil sands. Once again I was told I know more about Canada than Canadians by a Canadian. I chalk it all up to CBC podcasts and poutine… and yes, I got more of that today too. Thank you Canada… your federal government is open, you embrace hockey, and you celebrate the holy trinity of fries, gravy and cheese curds (or shredded cheese in Alberta it seems). What’s not to like?

Banff tomorrow. I hear good things…

Windy rides, snowy weather, and dealing with an RV in the cold

Quick hit today in the “DVD extras” blog for Tranquility Tour. As always, you can learn more about Tranquility Tour at tranquilitytour.com, follow us at  #tranquiltytour on Twitter, Like Tranquility Tour on Facebook, and come back here to An Uncommonly Silly Blog anytime for the extras.

If you listened to the SLC podcast, you heard me refer to the wind in Wyoming as, “like being pushed by the hand of God,” which is hopefully not as blasphemous as it sounds, but felt literally true. The gusts were over 50mph and the sustained winds were 30mph. Basically, it felt like flying through bad turbulence, which is probably not good. Steering into the wind while going straight was not a tranquil experience, but the landscape was amazing and it was the first time it really felt like we were “out west.”

Take a listen to the SLC podcast:

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We got our first snow of the Tour… pictures tell the story better than I can type:

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Sadly, the shutdown means we won’t get much closer to the snow-covered Tetons than the US highway. Hopefully we’ll get some good looks, although I know we miss out on Jenny Lake, which is a real bummer for me.

RVing tips… freezing cold weather is a bad thing for campers, unless they are specifically built as 4 season vehicles. Why? Water lines for important things like sinks and toilets are exposed in typical campers (like Lillie) so more than a day or two exposed to sub-freezing temps can mean burst water lines or (worse…) ruptured holding tanks. So, after some googling, here’s the recommendation: drain and dump your tanks, blow out your water lines as best as possible and pour a gallon of windhield washing fluid in your gray (waste water from sinks) and black (um, do I need to say what this has in it?) tanks. This isn’t a full winterization thing, it’s just for handling a few freezing nights like we will. The ambient heat inside the camper is usually enough to handle things, but this gives extra piece of mind. The downside, of course, is no running water… but that’s a small temporary price to pay for piece of mind.

RVing knowledge is highly specialized I’m learning!

What to do with that old iPhone

Today, I finally justified saving my old iPhone 4 by making it into a true international phone. If you travel outside your home country and find yourself tethered to your phone’s data plan like I am, crossing a border can either be (a) beyond expensive from the roaming rates or (b) beyond frustrating as you realize how much you rely on cellular data to do… everything.

Crossing into Canada for the first time on Tranquility Tour meant my trusty iPhone 5 and it’s fancy turn by turn directions would go away… with International roaming turned off (as anyone without a huge bank account and desire to spend frivolously should do), your iPhone turns into a glorified iPod touch upon crossing a border from your home country. But I had a plan. But before that, a surprise. A nice one.

If you use the app Waze, apparently the app preloads the entire map with turn by turn before you cross the border… that was great, because it meant I didn’t need my copilot to read from a PDF’d version of the directions. You know… old school style. Instead, Waze behaved exactly the same as it would have had it been guzzling down data. Very cool… good to know when you cross a border. I only tried this once, so your effectiveness may vary.

On to the plan. Today, I walked into a Rogers store to pick up a SIM card for my old iPhone 4. I had previously worked with AT&T to “unlock” it (see info here on that). This means it isn’t usable only on AT&T. Once that’s done, any compatible network SIM card in any country that runs on the same system can work on your phone. In Canada, I decided Rogers was my best bet. For the next month, I have 1GB of data I can rock over cellular, plus a Montreal number and unlimited texts for about 70 bucks. Granted, not cheap, but WAY cheaper than roaming on my iPhone 5. This will come in super handy next week in Toronto and for the week or so we’ll be in Alberta and BC. I typical burn 2GB per month in the States, so 1GB ought to be more than enough. In tribute to my old phone becoming Canadian, it’s sporting a new look:

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So, now I have two iPhones that work… I’ll just switch back and forth as I hop across borders. Plus my Canadian one gives me street cred with my friends north of the border…

Serpentine belts are important

Keep up to date with all things Tranquility Tour at tranquilitytour.com

By now you may have heard about the mechanical issues we’re facing with the busted serpentine belt. I thought I’d share what I learned in the moment and afterwards…

The serpentine belt runs everything that matters in a vehicle. If it goes, the click starts ticking on a few things…

– power, because you’re running purely on the charge in your battery. The alternator isn’t recharging without the belt! If your battery is old, the second you do t have enough juice to spark the spark plugs, you stop.

– heat buildup, because your water pump doesn’t cycle coolant into the engine. This is the number one issue because an whine that gets progressively hotter will eventually damage beyond reasonable repair. Pay attention to your heat guages!

– some things go away right away – power steering, AC… All the good stuff.

So, you hear a flutter and a snap like we did? You can drive a bit further… But I wouldn’t recommend it. We had 4 miles coming off the highway and getting “home” to the campground was such a compelling thing we risked it. If you’re not in a similar super close place, pull the heck over. Call AAA or roadside service of your choice… The belt is pretty easy to get and replace. Some savvy car types (cough cough not me) carry an extra one and are skilled enough to put one on. The things the belt loops around (tensioner and pulleys) are often to blame though, so a new belt can only get you so far.

Driving a vintage RV means parts aren’t always on hand – the dealer near here can get them all tomorrow but first appointment is Wednesday… So, we wait.

Super close to NYC.

Boo hoo, right?

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Post RV renovation

A week later and here we are…

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this rug smelled like wet dog and contained more sand than a beach.
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under the rug was a shiny carpet pad, presumably to keep heat in.
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initial tile layout
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nearly done!
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fancy schmancy transition pieces… a professional look from an absolute amateur!

Camper renovation week

pre reno Lillie

This week, I’m working on our camper Lillie as we prepare for the Tranquility Tour in (!!!!) two (!!!) weeks. I’m planning on a video montage thing for it, but here’s the scoop on the tasks this week:

  • priming and cleaning up the (awful and fake) wood paneling
  • painting the newly less awful surfaces
  • shoring up some of the looser panels in the ceiling
  • installing a battery meter panel so we can tell how much juice we have when we’re not attached to an electrical line
  • cleaning and refilling the water tank
  • washing and waxing
  • cutting out the (very old) carpet and retiling with a new floor
  • re-attaching all the doors and drawers that have been removed for painting
  • getting a quote on a paint job (maybe)

I’ve already taken Lillie to a local mechanic and she got a clean bill of health outside of the cruise control. Apparently the part that is needed is no longer made… I might be able to replace it with a newer version of a cruise control system that doesn’t include a balloon (apparently that was how it worked back in the day… then we invented “computers” and Steve Jobs took all my money before he went to Valhalla or wherever he is now). We’ll see… but I digress.

More to come this week… I am currently covered in primer and need to take care of that.

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PS I have a lot to write about the bike trip still. I may need to do that soon.

More Tranquility Tour announcements

We’re up to 14 cities as of right this moment…

More to come… I’m happy to be able to write about biking this weekend though. Stay tuned!

Tranquility Tour Card