The date is set for my tour of the Southern US border. I’ll be leaving this March for So Cal, and taking my time riding and photographing the experience. And, it is to raise money for the people who try to cross that border, in search of a better life.
So there I was, minding my own business at a comfortable desk job, when my manager alluded to needing me to cover an extra shift over the next few weeks, while my coworker headed down to El Paso for a job. It was an emergency, and he needed to help with a crisis. So, I’d be required to work overtime - to help out on my end.
Eight years and thirty thousand dollars later; I am a debt free undergraduate. I learned more from those eight years of payments than the classes I took to accrue the debt. And, even after all that education, I am about as dumb as when I began.
We received a notice that we needed to move our vehicle this morning. Last week I was told I was not allowed to take a photo of someone. You can’t go back there, that’s not allowed. Boundaries pop up in life constantly, causing me to immediately feel shame about the rejection. I would feel embarrassed for having been talked to, or singled out, and my reaction would be to recoil, in order to prevent any future rejection. But, they kept coming. And the more they did, the more I knew I was living my best life.
We had only been back in Portland for a few months, but our outlook on staying much longer was sopping wet. There were many days that we stayed curled up in bed. The cold drained our spirits. We were too fatigued to do much else.
Bags of lunch meat. String Cheese. Bratwurst and potatoes. My eating had always subsisted off of the packages within a large, fluorescently lit food compound. I foraged in towering aisles, and sought the unobtainable - the perfect combination of nutritious, and instantaneous for my demanding lifestyle. I used to read food labels like a detective, looking for the highest quality ingredients for the lowest price. Often times, my demands would lag, inching price out as the primary deciding factor for purchase.
We were back in Portland by October. It didn't take long before the rain came. And then it never stopped. The bus windows were constantly opaque with moisture. We would wipe down the walls and windows with towels every morning, and wring out all the water as the rain fell. Our clothes were damp as we dressed in the morning, and fresh mold would grow overnight.
Before we met, Cody and I both fantasized about living in a van. Our reasoning was simple. We are both too fickle for the year lease required by most landlords. What a commitment! Bleed us dry! Think round pegs in square holes. It just never seemed right. But, we kept trying to make it work, In the hopes of becoming the adults we might one day be. Until the day Cody and I met. Then we bought the bus 6 months later.
People are always curious about where we find toilets, or if we have one inside, and isn't that uncomfortable, or does it smell. All sorts of folk, and not even people who are thinking about moving into a rig. They just want to gauge the lifestyle. Toss it over in their heads for a bit. Maybe play out a brief fantasy. And when they hear the word "bucket," the fantasy quickly ends for most.
If you hear the word "bucket" and think, "oh, do tell more," then please follow along as I give you my insights into this past year of camping toilets.
The summer heat gave as a sweaty, suffocating embrace the day we arrived in Grand Junction. Our morning routine became getting up at about 6:30am, making coffee, and walking the 100 yards to the gas station to use the toilet, fill our jugs with ice cold water, and grab a bag of ice for the cooler. At which point, we would have breakfast, and decide what to do once the temperature rose.
I began this website because I had time. That, plus a feeling of fullness in my chest; an internal pressure that needed to be released. I didn't have much of a choice really. I kept finding myself unemployed. It just kept happening, and I claim that to be my unconscious mind acting on my conscious state. My hands were available, so I turned them to a keyboard. With this impulse to create, and the time to do it, I began this shapeless website. And, it has been more confusing than I had ever anticipated.
When our lease ended, it didn't take long for us to begin making lists of places we wanted to move to. Our conversion at this point consisted of taking the furniture we owned and bungee cording it to the bus walls. We had a wooden dresser, a full book shelf, bikes, skis, and could only put the bed in the middle of the bus over the wheel wells. We donated what we considered all the non-essentials, but still had a mountain of things that needed to be organized an put away.
If you are interested in living in a bus, or a van, or a tiny home, and you are reading this post, then you have already put more effort into researching the lifestyle than we did. In March 2017, we bought a 1999 Ford E-450 v10 shuttle bus. With little in savings, we had a week to move in before our lease was up.
When I wake up, my breath is the first thing I see. My nose is impossibly cold, and I cup my hand to make a small fist igloo to warm it up. We have lived in this bus since May, and each day that goes by is the coldest day we have had. This time last year, I remember looking at the thermostat in the apartment, thinking “65 degrees?! I can’t take it anymore! Who cares about the energy bill?” These days, I would sleep in a t-shirt on top of the sheets in 65 degrees. We don’t have heat anymore. Not a single source to take the bite off the cold.
There have been many iterations in the design and remodel of our bus conversion. This happens to be the latest, and it will change again soon. We're experimenting with layouts, finding what works, and what is inconvenient. We've loved the changes to our tiny home, and enjoy the small improvments.
Last night, we lit incense and closed the windows. Then, began watching some unmemorable show. It was nearing bedtime, so approximately 8pm. We both had beers that evening, and then a knock came to our doors. I say doors because when we push the button on the dash, the two rotating doors open outward. At that moment, a bit of incense smoke came out into the street light and I saw the security guard whom had knocked.
I have such a long way to go. It has taken me 28 years to earnestly feel happy for another persons accomplishments, but I did make it. That isn't to say that I don't see what other people are accomplishing and think, "how much money does it take to be you?" or "I could do so much more if i had what you had," but today I thought about how someone I knew had been doing well in triathalons, and felt "that's so awesome. She is kicking ass." That is progress.