Whether it’s your ass or your RV: the weight of that thing behind you matters

You know how it is when you’ve put on a little weight. Jeans don’t fit, hips bump into things they didn’t necessarily hit before, things just feel bulgy, and you notice.

But you don’t get ticketed or fined.

Those of us who pull fifth wheels have to pay attention to a number known as our GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating): the maximum weight for the BFT and the Toad combined. That includes fuel, food and water stores, and we three sentient beings, in addition to all our belongings onboard, and of course the two vehicles themselves.

In most states, including the one in which we’re licensed, titled and registered, that magic number is 26,000 pounds. If you hit 26,001, that puts you in CDL (Commercial Drivers License) territory, and may subject you to the aforementioned consequences.

This is our most recent weight reading, from March 12. You can see we have no wiggle room here.

This is our most recent weight reading, from our March visit to Castroville.
You can see we have no wiggle room here.

In other words, even if we have the space for a new thing, we might not have the weight allowance, and that’s why it’s so important to keep up with our “new thing in, old thing out” method of owning less. And it’s why we request that if you must give us a gift, that you make it something consumable. Like wine. Or a box of tacos.

Item in: I found this book in the RV park library. I read it more than a decade ago, but I was so damn happy to find something other than the usual bodice-rippers and Reader's Digest condensed novels, that I brought it home.

Item in:
I found this book in the RV park library. I read it more than a decade ago, but I was so damn happy to find something other than the usual bodice-rippers and Reader’s Digest condensed novels, that I brought it home.

Items out: These two things went to the library.

Items out:
These two things then went to the library to make up for it.

That said, sometimes we are given an item so heartfelt and endearing that we must keep it, and adjust our accumulated possessions accordingly. Last weekend, we received our Christmas present from my nephew (long story involving a different auntie), and even though it weighs less than a pound, it prompted me into a highly productive and cathartic Flurry of Purging.

Item in: An adorable Airstream-esque bank, hand-painted by my nephew, Cole, at his mama's shop. We're using it for laundry quarters!

Item in:
An adorable Airstream-esque bank, hand-painted and personalized by my nephew, Cole, at his mama’s shop. We’re using it to store our laundry quarters!

Items out: Three bags of stuff we thought we'd use but haven't since we started full-timing in August. They're on their way to the nearest donation box.

Items out:
Three bags of stuff we thought we’d use, but haven’t, since we started full-timing in August. They’re on their way to the nearest donation box.

Item in: Sassy silver and purple ear cuff, the purchase of which supported a local artisan. There is no corresponding item out, but I've lost another pound this week, and that more than makes up for it!

Item in:
Sassy silver and purple ear cuff, the purchase of which supported a local starving artist here in San Antonio.

There is no corresponding item out, but I’ve lost another pound this week, and that more than makes up for it!

Walked our butts to the Butteville Store

From our site here at the Champoeg State Heritage Area just south of Portland, OR, we took a little trip back in time along the Willamette River.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.  Yep, in the rain.  Because it's the Pacific Northwest, and if you don't get out and move, you'll mold.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.
Yep, in the rain.
Because it’s the Pacific Northwest, and if you don’t get out and move, you’ll mold.

The bigger picture

The bigger picture

It was a gray and drizzly day...

It was a gray and drizzly day…

Oregon's longest operating store is closed for the season, which we knew before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway.

Oregon’s oldest continuously operating store, established in 1863, is closed for the season. We knew that before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway. Worth the walk to peer inside the wavy glass and see the old tables, chairs and countertops inside.

"But Emily," you inquire. "We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?"

“But Emily,” you inquire. “We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?”

Paved trails, bitches! I win.

Paved trails, bitches!
I win.

Here’s where I go all gypsy and foretell our future. Sort of.

1987. I was a gypsy in a high school play. Wasn't everyone?

1987. I was a fortune teller in a high school play.
Wasn’t everyone?

When we hatched this full-time RV plan, our primary mission was to find our future home, and I wrote a little about that here. However, since moving aboard in August of 2015, we’ve been choosing our parking places out of necessity — for working on one house (Norfolk – rental) or another (San Antonio – on the market), for medical appointments, or for this current long and necessary-in-a-good-way visit with family in WA.

That changes in 2016, but not until April. We’ll be heading back to the San Antonio area for the first quarter. It’s our home base for medical needs, and we’ve both got follow-ups to manage over the coming months. I won’t go into details here, not because they’re secret, but because they’re private, and not the focus of this blog. Let’s just leave it at nobody’s dying. Fair enough?

Anyway, while we’re there, we’ll also go ahead and get the last of the furniture, left behind for staging purposes, out of the house.

After that, it’s time to start selecting places we may want to live permanently, and go park there temporarily. We’re thinking of staying maybe 6-12 weeks at a time, to get a feel for the place, its neighborhoods, perks, and people. Some of our wants and needs, in no particular order:

  • Access within a couple of driving hours to forests, lakes, rivers and/or ocean
  • Longer summers than winters
  • Small house on large plot
  • Mid-sized town with small college or university
  • Military retiree friendly
  • Major airport within a 3-hour drive

Yes, we regularly review various online lists with exuberant titles like “Great Small Town Living!” or “15 Places You’ll Want to Retire!” or “America’s Best Beach Towns!” And those are helpful, in that we can focus on cities that appear on more than one list. But we are also open to personal endorsements of places you’ve lived or visited, and you are welcome to put a sales pitch in the comments below. In fact, we’d prefer recommendations from friends to those generated by editors who are merely compiling statistics, and who have likely never set foot in the cities they endorse.

And since I hate asking something of you, while giving you only one photo in return, here are two more. I just… well, I haven’t found another use for them yet, so you get them here. My pleasure.

We have an emergency exit in our bedroom. Jealous? I know what you're thinking. "If only these had been a thing back in college..."

We have an emergency exit window in our bedroom. Jealous?
I know what you’re thinking. “If only these had been a thing back in college…”

And every morning I wake up to this on my ceiling. I think it adjusts the TV antenna, but to me it's a friendly lion-elephant bidding me a silent good day, and I think everybody should have one.

And every day I wake up to this guy on my ceiling. I think it adjusts the TV antenna, but I see a friendly lion-elephant bidding me a silent yet cheerful good morning, and I think everybody should have one.

First I was going to die of I-5 traffic. Now I am going to die of mud.

But then that’s what happens when you spend a week traveling up the 5, all the way from San Diego to just north of Seattle. ‘Twas dry and warm and overcrowded at the bottom; and it’s sopping wet and chilly but slightly less crowded at the top.

The ground is saturated here in the PNW, so wiping muddy boot and paw prints off our little entryway now makes for a full-time hissy fit job.  But we saw more people we love along the way, and we are parked for a good 3 weeks surrounded by even more people we love — including our big boy! — so it’s all good.

On Dec. 11, we drove from Escondido to Travis AFB. Other than the rainbows, the journey up the 5 was really rather unpleasant, and we do not intend to take on LA traffic in an RV ever again. Ever.

On Dec. 11, we drove from Escondido to Travis AFB. Other than seeing rainbows, the journey up the 5 was really rather unpleasant, and we do not intend to take on LA traffic in an RV ever again. Ever.

Took the wrong exit for Travis AFB, but lookit who we ended up behind!

Took the wrong exit for Travis AFB, but lookit who we ended up behind!

We spent two nights at the home of Tim's cousin Kim and husband, Rajiv, in Lafayette. She fed us, shared wonderful wine (it's her job), and let us borrow her car to drive into San Francisco to visit even more cousins. Four stars!

We spent two nights at the home of Tim’s cousin Kim and husband, Rajiv, in Lafayette. She fed us, shared wonderful wine (it’s her job), and let us borrow her car to drive into San Francisco to visit even more cousins.

The view from Kim's kitchen

The view from Kim’s kitchen

Across the Bay Bridge we went, on the dreariest possible day.

Across the Bay Bridge we went, on the dreariest possible day.

Parking in San Fran: Mercedes, Mercedes, Audi, potty

Parking in San Fran: Mercedes, Mercedes, Audi, potty

Family time! This is my cousin Mark's wife, Claire, and their son Ryan. Mark was out of town, but we'll catch him next time. Hadn't seen these two for 20 years!

Family time! This is my cousin Mark’s wife, Claire, and their son Ryan. Mark was out of town, but we’ll catch him next time. Hadn’t seen these two for 20 years!

Claire and Ryan took us to their favorite place for crepes...

Claire and Ryan took us to their favorite place for crepes

... and then down the street for a smidge of ice cream for dessert. A smidge!

… and then down the street for a smidge of ice cream for dessert. A smidge!

Ryan gave Tim a demo of Google Glass. Those two tech-heads are a lot alike!

Ryan gave Tim a demo of Google Glass. Those two tech-heads are a lot alike!

On Dec. 15, the mountain passes between California and Oregon looked clear and thus safe for travel, so we headed northward and enjoyed fantastic views of Mount Shasta from the valley.

On Dec. 15, the mountain passes between California and Oregon looked clear and thus safe for travel, so we headed northward and enjoyed fantastic views of Mount Shasta from the valley.

Hello snow in Oregon!

Hello snow in Oregon!

On these mountain passes is where I learned to use the manual shift mode on the BFT. Nothing like learning while doing, by necessity, according to that man I married and who coached me through it. Really, it's a wonder we're still married. And not at the bottom of a cliff.

On these mountain passes I learned to use the manual shift mode on the BFT.
Nothing like learning while doing, and/or by necessity, according to that man I married and who coached me through it. I may or may not have shouted something about STUPID, STUPID MECHANICAL THINGS during the process.
Really, it’s a wonder we’re still married. And not at the bottom of a cliff.

Dec. 15: We spend 16 hours on the road. Dec. 16: Lola gives me this look when I strap her into the truck, again, for the umpteenth time. Not. Fucking. Again.

Dec. 15: We spent 16 hours on the road.
Dec. 16: I got this look when I put her back in the truck.
Not. Fucking. Again.

Today, we finally arrived at our Christmastime destination, Bay View State Park. Family surrounds us in Mount Vernon, Port Townsend, and Bellingham, and Dane will fly up from San Antonio to join us next week. We get both sons with us for Christmas this year, and that is a gift!

Today, we finally arrived at our Christmastime destination, Bay View State Park. Family surrounds us in Mount Vernon, Port Townsend, and Bellingham (too far north to fit on this map), and Dane will fly up from San Antonio to join us next week.
We get both sons with us for Christmas this year, and that is a gift!

Our view of the bay, from our spot at Bay View

Our bay view, at Bay View

And someone is very happy to be not-in-the-truck.

And someone is very happy to be not-in-the-truck.

Happy all-the-holidays, y’all!

That day I ate part of a cactus

Today we hiked out the Bear Canyon Trail in Tucson, AZ. Thanks to our excellent tour guide and Rohrer family friend, Eric — a horticulturist who has lived here for 25+ years — we gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the Sonoran Desert. Talk about a value-added experience!

Although I didn’t take photos of all the edible/usable berries and plants Eric showed us, I can now recognize hackberries, desert lavender, Mexican oregano, wild grape vines, wolf berries, and fishhook barrel cactus fruit, and I ate teensy tastes of several of those. Hey, I’ve always been a bit of a whore for free samples. Now I won’t starve if I’m ever lost — or deliberately left behind — in the desert!

Enjoy the day with us through these photos. The weather was perfect!

We're staying at the blue dot. Our hike took us into the Coronado National Forest.

We’re staying at the blue dot. Our hike took us into the Coronado National Forest.

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Desert lavender

Desert lavender

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Christmasy-looking cutie from the mammillaria family

Christmasy-looking little cutie from the mammillaria family. The fruit is edible, and tastes like a sour strawberry.

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Can you see the switchbacks in the trail we hiked?

Can you see the switchbacks in the trail we hiked?

The seven falls, from too far away to see all seven, but I wanted to capture the grandeur

The seven falls, from too far away to see all seven, but I wanted to capture the grandeur

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These little beauties were about the size of a pencil eraser.

These little beauties were about the size of a pencil eraser.

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A little perspective on the size of those saguaros

A little perspective on the size of those saguaros

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It might not look like much, but this little cactus fruit could save you from dehydrating and starving in the desert. The flesh contains sugars and water, and the seeds are high in protein. Tastes kind of like a cross between a lemon and a pepperoncini.

It might not look like much, but this little cactus fruit could save you from dehydrating and starving in the desert. The flesh contains sugars and water, and the seeds are high in protein. Tastes kind of like a cross between a lemon and a pepperoncini — which makes it a “don’t eat unless near death” kind of thing anyway.

They come from the Fishhook Barrel Cactus.

They come from the Fishhook Barrel Cactus.

Tim and Eric on the trail. Their parents have been friends since college days, but these two hadn't seen each other for at least 30 years. That's a lot of catching up to do!

Tim and Eric on the trail. Their parents have been friends since college days, and these two hadn’t seen each other for at least 30 years. That’s a lot of catching up to do!

The stunning saguaro. They live for 150-200 years!

The stunning saguaro. They live for 150-200 years!

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