You know I like to keep it real here in Val in Real Life land. And let me tell you, the last year has been an utter shit-show. And not just because of the pandemic but that’s certainly added to the absurdity of our journey into full-time nomad-hood.
My newsletter readers know much of the story as I’ve relayed it piecemeal each month. But it’s finally time to put it down in one place and get it all out of my head and put the swirling memories to rest through the catharsis of writing. It turns out it requires thousands of words of mental release, so brace yourself, this is going to take a few posts.
Let’s rewind a bit
My dear man and I bought a little house in Dayton, Nevada, several years back. We intended it to be a temporary landing place for us—an investment, not a dream home. And as life goes, we were there longer than we planned.
In the booming northern Nevada economy, getting contractors to even call us back about our little project, much less get work done, turned out to be nearly impossible. They’re not interested in our modest, one-off deal. They want to build high-profit mansions or massive subdivisions. They hold all the cards in that kind of market and we were going nowhere fast.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
In the meantime, the value of our little investment house was clearly nearing its peak as pressure from surrounding new construction mounted. Plus, all indicators in the economy started pointing toward the beginnings of a recession. We knew we had to sell to get the maximum value. So we listed thinking it would take a several months to land a contract and get through the sale process.
In conjunction with that, we happened to find a contractor who would build a driveway out on our property. Keep in mind, for our oddly-shaped 10-acre patch of dirt and sagebrush, we’re talking about over a quarter-mile of driveway. With a ditch at the road encroachment and a large swale to cross half way in. The project is substantial as driveways go and, in the midst of the construction boom, we were given the we-don’t-really-need-your-business, fuck-you price.
It was heart-stopping. But we needed access to the property to move forward with any other decisions and construction. So we signed on the dotted line with the understanding that the contractor would handle all necessary permits and work would be done within a few weeks.
Why the rush? Well, the house went under contract like lightning. We were deer in the headlights at first. But we figured, we have our toy hauler so we have a place to live. No biggie, right? And with the driveway going in, we would be able to drop some shipping containers on the property to store all our stuff and still have access to it, especially the motorcycles. It was a golden plan.
But our plan fell apart in spectacular fashion. Out of the blue, the contractor pulled some last-minute bullshit about us needing to get a grading permit. Yes, even after we expressly said he was to obtain all necessary permitting and he agreed to the terms.
By that time, we were in full-on moving mode. Even if we had the time to navigate the permit process, it was painfully clear the driveway wouldn’t be done in time for us to put our belongings in storage on the property. If you know me at all, you’re well aware of the string of profanity that spewed forth from my mouth.
Clearly the contractor simply didn’t want the job. I’m not sure why he wasted his time and ours. It cost us months of time, energy, and anxiety—just to name a few of the swirling emotions we had in the process.
After our heads stopped exploding, we dove into problem-solving mode. We frantically switched gears, found a 400-square-foot storage unit nearby, and started the process of emptying the house. Closing day was approaching like a runaway train.
With everything happening so fast, we didn’t have time to manage things well at all. We simply had to react and get it done, even if the result wasn’t ideal. Decision fatigue rained down on us. We busted our asses for weeks on end—trying to keep working in the midst of packing while also attempting to prepare for life as full-time nomads.
All of this was, of course, assuming the house sale went through. Real estate is fraught with about a million ways contracts can fall apart, as we all know. Turns out we were buried three-deep in contingencies. Sure enough, our buyers’ contract on their home in Tennessee fell through.
Now what? We were half moved out. Do we keep plugging away? Do we stop running ourselves ragged until we know what’s going to happen? There wasn’t much time to worry about it, fortunately. Their house was back under contract in quick order. It did buy us a little more time, though. And we wouldn’t have to close on my birthday.
With barely a pause, we were back at it.
If you’ve followed along here for any length of time, you know we have a substantial adventure fleet—the Power Wagon (our tow vehicle), my Subaru Forester, our toy hauler, my motorcycle, my dear man’s motorcycle, the sidecar rig, and—wait for it—two non-running motorcycles.
When you’re transitioning to life on the road, having that much overhead is a really big problem. Our plan was to store the Forester and our motorcycles and take the sidecar with us. With the adventure dog along on our journey, we needed something he could ride in.
We needed to sell the non-running bikes. We’d been planning on it for some time anyway and we sure as hell weren’t going to have them take up vital storage space. Fortunately my dear man is a wizard with words and his ads for the defunct motorcycles worked like a charm. The “project” bikes sold quickly but the added time suck and complication in the midst of everything else was less than optimal.
And, of course we’d neglected the sidecar rig and she was not in great form. She wasn’t running well, if at all. Our fabulous BMW mechanic agreed to get her back up to snuff for us even though the shop doesn’t have a lift for a sidecar rig. The only catch was that he needed extra time to be able to manage the special job. So we schlepped Betty to the shop a few weeks before closing day, hoping he’d be able to finish the work before we had to leave town. It turns out in a dumb luck sort of way, that having it out of the mix during the height of the moving chaos was one of the best things we could have done but we weren’t certain we’d have her back in time.
And, in our attempt to be proactive about heading out to live in the trailer full-time, we took the toy hauler to the RV shop for some minor repairs and upkeep that we didn’t have time to manage on our own. Because we didn’t have enough complications already, delays on a few parts kept it there until two days before we had to be out of the house.
Yep. The “home” we were moving into wasn’t even with us to start moving into as we were moving out. We had no way to prepare it or get settled in. By the time we got it back, we were in the death throes of exiting the house. There wasn’t time to sort life in the trailer so we unceremoniously threw any remaining overstock of food and clothing into the trailer in a fit of desperation. It was pure chaos. There was so much extra stuff in the trailer we could barely move.
No rest for the weary
Exhaustion overtook us in the last few days. There were moments I thought Frankenleg would collapse under me. I was in supreme pain with no other option than to just keep pushing through.
And just for extra fun, the weather went to shit. Snow and rain slowed us down. As did my mistake of renting a little moving truck from our storage facility, not paying attention to the fact that it didn’t have a loading ramp. Fuck me. So we made the best of it for that day and rented a different truck—with a ramp—for the final days. That mistake cost us a lot of crucial time and made everything harder than it had to be.
On closing day, we thought we’d be done by mid-afternoon. What a laughable delusion! And for good measure, the buyers’ funding ended up posting earlier than expected. By mid-morning we technically no longer owned the house. We weren’t even remotely done packing by that time.
Then the cleaners showed up two hours early. We needed to be out of their way so we frantically jettisoned all last remaining flotsam into the garage, adding exponential new levels to the chaos of trying to organize things for storage. But it had to be done.
So we spent the rest of the day exiled to the garage, trying to deal with all of those annoying last bits of stuff, tripping over ourselves, and generally kicking ourselves for not being more pro-active in simplifying our lives before now.
Flinging random items into boxes, it felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. For hours, every box and truckload didn’t seem to make a dent in what was left. Yet our storage unit was filling up quickly.
Finding the finish line
You’ve seen marathoners crawling to the finish line, their bodies shutting down. That was us. We had no choice but to keep working relentlessly. Eventually we started to see the garage floor. It finally felt like we’d make it even if we were supremely late exiting the house.
The new owners finally stopped by late that evening. They were simply delightful and friendly. They mentioned that they weren’t planning on spending the night there but asked if they could do their laundry. They’d been living in their RV in a nearby park for months and were tired of plugging quarters into the machines in the laundromat there.
I just laughed and said, “Well, it’s your house so have a ball!”
But wait, there’s more
Other full-timers plan for years to transition to life on the road, selling all their belongings and whatnot. We had to be set up to be on the road indefinitely and with the intent of being back in a house one day. So unlike simply moving to a new house, we had the added complication of fitting everything into a storage unit.
The need to arrange it in a way to still have access to certain things from time to time was an absurdly complicated puzzle. The level of decision-making required while exhausted and out of time was beyond overwhelming.
To top it all off, we still hadn’t secured storage for the Forester and motorcycles! Yep, right up until the last hours of the last day. We’d been bogged down in analysis paralysis in trying to figure out the best place to store them. We considered keeping them near the airport for access in quick trips back to town. But the truth is we really had no idea what our returns to the area would look like.
In a last-ditch decision while still packing up the rest of our crap, I called the manager at our storage facility and asked about the size unit we needed. She said, “Well, I have one more but a man is coming to look at it tomorrow to see if he wants it.” I told her I wanted it sight unseen and I’d be there in five minutes to sign the paperwork. She laughed and said, “I guess he’ll just have to do without!” And off I went to rent yet another storage unit.
Seeing us scramble, the new owners of the house offered to let us keep the motorcycles in the garage until the next day. It was a tempting offer but the truth is, we just needed to be done. Mentally, we needed to not have to come back to the house. They were amazingly understanding. I’ll be forever grateful for their kindness and compassion for our situation.
Hitting the road
In one moment of decent decision-making in all of this—maybe the only one—we deliberately planned to stay in the area at a full hook-up RV park for our first week as nomads. We knew we would need to get our feet under us and put some finishing touches on our affairs in Nevada before being gone indefinitely.
We chose full hook-ups not because we enjoy RV parks but because we wanted to reduce what we had to manage at first. Not having to stress about water and waste storage removed a lot of extra mental cycles from the equation. Plus, it was winter. Remember all the rain and snow during the move-out? That meant we needed to make sure we could protect our systems from freezing. That’s way easier to do while fully connected.
We had a stroke of good fortune just as we were preparing to leave. Our mechanic got the sidecar rig finished the afternoon before we were due to blow out of Carson City. So we dropped everything to blast up to Sierra BMW in Sparks to retrieve her. And she ran beautifully!
With our first week behind us and feeling a little bit more together, it was time to become full-timers in earnest. Our first stop was Scottsdale, Arizona, to spend Christmas with our friends there. So we headed out for the 700-plus-mile journey, giving ourselves what we thought was a leisurely four days to make the trip.