Well, F#ck Us.

The Winnebago is not ready.

We talked to the mechanics and found out we’re looking at another 10-14 days. Minimum. We made the very best of being in St. Louis for almost two weeks, but we’re done now. Really, really done. The level of despair in this crew is nearly unprecedented. Curses have been cursed. Flights have been researched. Decisions have been regretted. Plans have been scrapped.


Seemed like such a good idea.

We usually have no problem walking away from unfinished projects (not a good thing, just a fact)  but what it comes down to is- we can’t leave the Winnebago. Even if we can’t do the extended trip we were planning (big possibility) we need to get him running so we can either sell him (gasp) or get him safely stored somewhere. We have to find a place to stay for two more weeks. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, we are in fact blowing more and more of our trip budget each day we’re out here. So we need some damage control. We need to do something responsible.

We’re going back to Indianapolis. To live in cheap corporate housing outside of the city.

Crusher. Backwards sucks. But here’s our reasoning:

a) it’s only a few hours away

b) we already know Indy so we won’t be tempted to blow all our dough running around a new city (we’ll blow all our dough on a carefully curated itinerary instead)

c) they have a very solid movie theater

Off we go.


Eastward ho.




Things to do in St. Louis when you’re totally stranded.

It’s been about ten days since Coachese, our seemingly doomed Winnebago, crapped out on us in St. Louis. At that point, he had literally millions of mechanic’s hours, buckets of sweat and tears, and actual American Dollars in him. On the other hand, we had several days worth of fond memories of camping in him. So when the good people at this latest shop gave us the bad news and asked us to think seriously about what we wanted to do about him, we did. For like 5 minutes. Then we told them not to give up. This might be like calling in the transplant team for your 99 year old grandma, but there it is. No question, he will ride again.

In the meantime, we loaded some of our stuff into big, blue Ikea bags, rented a car and headed off to yet another airbnb, because money is clearly no object for ballers like us. To be honest, we were all pretty much over this whole experience. We were feeling defeated. We suspect Frances doesn’t even remember St. John. We were burnt on the midwest. We debated going home for a week while Coachese was in surgery, but ultimately, that didn’t really make sense. Plus, I had serious doubts we’d actually come back.


Airbnb. Here we go again.

To pull ourselves out of our depression, we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into our area of greatest expertise: recreation. We decided to treat St. Louis like we were actually here on purpose. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last ten days:


The Arch. It seems kind of dumb and it’s hard to accurately describe, but if you find yourself with a day in St. Louis you definitely have to go. See the movie in the visitor center before you go up. Really. It’s a piece of late sixties gold, like an episode of Quincy, but it also puts the whole thing in context. Possibly the whole city. Plus, you go up in these crazy little Buck Rogers elevator cars. It’s surreal.


Get ready for the movie.


Your ride to the top-it goes sideways too!

The World Chess Hall of Fame. Not even kidding. It was in the first neighborhood we stayed in (Central West End), so we just walked over. We don’t play chess, but the museum is totally worth a stop if you have some time to kill. They had an exhibition of paintings inspired by the chess games of Marcel Duchamp. I still have no idea how to play chess but it’s always cool to see a bunch of people so into one thing.

St. Louis Art Museum. Good times. And free! They have a huge Max Beckmann collection, it turns out. Now we’re big fans. Beckmann, who knew?

Cahokia Mounds State Park. Do you guys know about the Mound cultures of the midwest? I’m not going to explain it all here but it’s basically like our version of the Aztecs. That neither of us ever learned about in school. Definitely look it up. There are sites throughout the midwest, but this one was especially cool because you can actually go up on the mounds and really see how it was all laid out 1,000 years ago. Also the visitor center is kind of incredible. Not that much science in there (think 4th grade field trip) but their life-size diorama game is top notch. World Class.


Life-size, my friends.


We stumbled on an outdoor movie at White Flag Projects. They were showing A Film To Be Determined by Cindy Sherman. They basically have a series over the summer where a different artist will pick a movie and they screen it outside for free with free refreshments. Stellar. The catch is they don’t tell you what the movie is, just the artist who picked it. Then attendees are sworn to secrecy about what the movie was.We love Cindy Sherman and we absolutely loved the movie. If you ever find yourself here, maybe check them out to see what’s going on.

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion. No idea what that is? We didn’t either. We moved to a new neighborhood, Cherokee Street, a few days ago and we were out walking the dogs when we saw this sign saying there were tours available at The Chatillon-DeMenil House. When we went over to see what was what, the guy working there said there was a tour starting and he would watch our dogs for us on the porch. What??? Are you kidding??? Our tour guide was fantastic. He was one of those guys who was so into what he was doing that it was absolutely impossible not to be interested. We got the whole history of the city in this one tour. It’s so much cooler than it sounds. Also, the dogs had a blast. $8 well-spent.

The St. Louis World’s Fare in Forest Park. There was a World’s Fair here in 1904 and it was a really big deal. Turns out  we were here for the annual celebration they have on the old fairgrounds which is now a beautiful city park. We’ve both been World’s Fair geeks since reading Devil in a White City, which is a true story about a serial killer operating in and around the 1893 Chicago World Fair. So this was right up our alley. Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of art, some amateur bellydancing, a cook-off and eight million dogs. What more could we want? It was fantastic. The pups had The World’s Greatest Day.


Wembley was very into the belly-dancing hula-hoopers. Very.

Laumeier Sculpture Park. We drove out to this place because we were looking for a dog-friendly way to spend the day. This totally exceeded our expectations. They have acres of paths with tons of sculptures, including a huge eyeball which everyone enjoyed. They also have bathrooms, water fountains, shady spots. Everything you need for an afternoon with canine art-lovers. Totally free.


Everyone loves a giant eyeball.

And, finally, The Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour. To be honest, the only reason this was even on our radar was we heard St. Louis sits atop this huge network of caves which is why beer brewing  really took off here. I’m not talking about the 47 million craft breweries you can find in every American city these days. I’m talking about the German immigrants who needed cool temperatures to make the beer they missed from home. In the pre-refrigeration days, caves were key. Kind of fascinating, right? So, we bit the bullet and headed over not quite sure what to expect.

They have a few different tours that range from totally free to really cheap. We’re fairly dorky  and picked the history one, so of course we were the only ones in our group. This happens to us a lot. We basically spent almost two hours with a personal guide walking around the historic Budweiser campus drinking beer and meeting Clydesdales (in their incredible barn which is itself a National Landmark). The brewery has been in continuous operation since the late 1800’s and the heft of that was actually pretty mind-blowing. Oh, and the Beechwood Aging is a real thing. We saw it. Warning: there may be a lot of Budweiser propaganda on this tour. I mean, there must be- it’s now my favorite beer.

So, if you’re ever stranded in St. Louis with two dogs, there’s some stuff to check out. We’ve had a surprisingly solid experience here. It’s a good town, but we’re very ready to get back on the road. We’re hoping to get Coachese back today or tomorrow, but who knows?









Wait…what’s that smell???

From Mammoth Cave we made the decision to head west to Colorado. And like all great Western adventurers we headed to the gateway of the West-St. Louis. Things were going swimmingly. Cruising down the highway at Coachese’s maximum speed we made almost as good time as a covered wagon. As soon as the Legendary Gateway Arch came into view the camera came out.


Somewhere out there is the Arch…really.

And that’s when it happened. First there was a terrible squealing noise, then a lot of shaking, then more squealing. Then the sensation the engine was about to fall out of the chassis. We pulled off onto the safest place we could find-a narrow median strip straddling a truck filled highway and an on-ramp. Super fun.

Once stopped we noticed smoke coming out of the engine. A lot. But it dissipated quickly. After a somewhat sketchy and terrifying attempt to check out what was going on we found nothing obviously wrong. Huh. After a few minutes we were able to start up Coachese and limp him off the highway to a nearby KOA.

We were 300 miles into our trip.

It’s important to pay attention to signs. This was not a great one. Still, as we camped at the KOA we weren’t ready to give up on our journey.We got some fairly optimistic advice we might be able to make it to Colorado if we just kept an eye on Coachese’s fluids. In the meantime there was a storm rolling in but we had an electric hook-up and could finally get Wembley comfortable with air conditioning. We had wifi and could stream the Olympics. We had our beautiful, water-tight mobile home to keep us dry when the downpour started. And in the morning, after checking our fluid levels, we were headed for Colorado.

Then the electricity at the campground went out. No problem, it was much cooler with the storm. But that also meant the wifi was down. No Olympics. Our positivity was starting to wear thin. But as the wind howled and the rain beat down at least we were dry.

Until…reaching into an upper cabinet water ran down my arm. In a massive rush to find the leak and move everything in its path we broke one of our favorite bowls. We discovered our ukulele had miraculously caught most of the water-shocking how much it could hold-so the water damage was minimal. But looking at our carefully organized upper shelf contents scattered on the floor was very disheartening. When we finally sat back down it was hard to keep seeing things in a positive light. But I tried.

“At least its only leaking in one-” I started to say.

And on cue drip, drip, drip splattered my arm from another upper shelf.


It was a bleak night. But we woke up mostly dry and still dedicated to our Western Dream. We topped off our fluids, started the engine and headed out of the KOA. We lasted maybe 20 miles. This time there was a terrible burning smell and hollow whistling followed by a deeply disturbing wail. We were not going anywhere.


Coachese Gets A Lift

So here we are, in St. Louis, Gateway to the West. It seems like a lot of the mechanical work we put into Coachese to start this adventure has come undone. This is actually a pretty big deal. Right now Coachese is in the hands of yet another mechanic. Why should anything go differently this time?

A few signs seem to be pointing in the right direction. We found a pet friendly airbnb in St. Louis in a great neighborhood a few blocks from Jeni’s Ice Cream. We have unlimited Olympic TV coverage and wifi. Wembley hasn’t panted in days.

And it looks like we’re going to get a much closer look at that Arch.


Westward Ho.






Rolling Meth Lab

Well, we did it. So far. We’ve been camping for almost a week in Coachese. And I have to admit, he’s beautiful. On the inside. Where it counts. On the outside, well…cropped-0603161407.jpg

The week before we hit the road we did a lot of work on the inside with the help of our friends Erin and Ope in Cincinnati. More about that here. Our first night hanging out at their house they started to chuckle huddled over Ope’s phone. He read out his neighbor’s text.

“Who’s cooking meth outside your house?”

Yep, our beloved Coachese drew that reaction from our friends’ tony neighborhood. And I can’t say I blame them. In pictures its hard to tell but Coachese’s rusted and warped aluminum, wavy siding, and dry rotted window sealings do not make for regal attire, or even a presentable outfit. He looks more like a stout tramp in ripped and worn, but mostly clean, clothes. Ones with a wild stripe.

It’s not like our VW bus, which we had repainted so it looked new.

My beautiful picture

VW buses are so loved and associated with hippie culture it always brought smiles to people’s faces. Peace signs flew up as we rolled down the street. No one has the same associations with the ’74 Winnebago Brave. No one walks up and tells us how they grew up camping in one of these with their six brothers and sisters. Thanks Breaking Bad.

20160411_121941Looking at him you know he’s old. The passage of 42 years has left every dent, scuff, tear, hole, and irregularity marring his once pristine exterior. For that he gets his bad reputation. But his age is why I love him.

Is it just nostalgia that makes me love him, that misguided notion everything was better in the past? Now is likely the greatest of all times. But it doesn’t stop me from romanticizing the way things were. Especially the way I think they were in the ’70’s from my formative Sesame Street watching years-a messier, grittier, less sanitized time when people were figuring out their new places in a world trying to be free of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

So I’d like to keep all his outer wrinkles and signs of wear, prevent him from becoming too precious, too perfect. Sure he’ll continue to look like a rolling meth lab to a lot of people but to me he’s a nostalgic vision cruising into the future.





Ikea To The Rescue


Sorry there have been so few posts. It took a little longer than we thought to get on the road. BUT…We Are On The Road! There were a variety of mechanical glitches (honestly too boring to write about here) that delayed our start. We got them sorted out by some pros and hopefully things will hold up. When we finally got the Winnebago in our possession our amazing friends in Cincinnati let us crash with them while we cleaned it up and made it liveable. Thanks guys!!! And please apologize to your neighbors for the plummeting home values in Hyde Park while we were parked there.


Over the course of about a week (and with tons of help from Ikea, our friends, and the Hyde Park Ace Hardware) we cleaned out all the cabinets (so gross) and reinforced the falling down shelves. We also yanked the crumbling yellow laminate counter and old sink out of the kitchen and installed a deeper sink and a butcher block counter from Ikea (who was conveniently having a ridiculous sale-hello $39 countertop!). This all sounds simple but it somehow became sort of insanely complicated due to our lackluster mastery of plumbing. Here’s the “before”:

And the “after”:


New Ikea counter and sink

Demolition with friends:


Here are more shots of the finished product:

We also vacuumed the shit out of everything. And then we vacuumed again. We threw out the old sketchy mattress (which was only about 41″ wide) and put in a full-size mattress (also from Ikea) using a handy extension an RV guy named Josh built for us. Then we had to ACE hardware/MacGuyver a way to keep the bed from crashing down on our heads because the new bed is way heavier than the old one. This sounds risky and the full size bed extension was a pain in the ass to do, but SO WORTH IT. Otherwise, we’d never be able to roll over. Ever. Plus, we really wanted to be able to sleep with the pups. We’ll post some better pictures of the bed a little later, but that’s it over the driving seats, and that’s the latch system we made, and that’s Wembley getting excited to sleep in a loft.

We also made all new curtains WITHOUT ACTUALLY SEWING. We used an inspired combo of blackout curtains from Lowe’s and several miles of fabric tape. We’ll see how long that lasts. Also, the new seat cushions we ordered from an online RV surplus place finally came in. They were 4 weeks late but 10 times better than we were expecting. We chose the material online and really had no idea what it would look like.Our  expectations were pretty low but they look incredible! We love them. We’re thrilled.

Here’s how things were looking when we left Cincinnati:

When were about 90% done we decided we just had to go. If we waited until everything was perfect we’d never get started. We had no more deliveries scheduled at our adopted home so we finally  piled the rest of our stuff into the Winnebago and headed out of Cincinnati. We decided we could finish up our remaining projects on the road. And that’s what we did. We spent the first night at a state park in Ohio trying to hang our new front curtains (we succeeded) and getting the bathroom into shape.

We’ve been at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky for a few days…trying out the composting toilet, figuring out where to keep everything, trying to hook up the solar, touring the cave. So far, so good. No major mishaps. We’re currently trying to decide if we should head out to Colorado or up to Maine. Any suggestions?

RV Equipment Wishlist

(We are really late getting this post out! Starting writing it a few weeks ago. We decided to post it in its original form to keep things in sequence.)

We haven’t actually camped in our Winnebago, Coachese, yet. We haven’t even had him in our possession for most of the time we’ve owned him (more on that HERE). But hopefully, sometime this month, we’ll set off to travel and live in him for a couple of months. So, how do we know what we’ll need to make the trip a success? We don’t. But that hasn’t stopped us from dreaming/planning. Some of the things we’re keeping in mind are:

  • Camping without hook-ups. Private campgrounds can be a drag (and expensive) so we want to be able to take advantage of some amazing National Forests and other free public lands.
  • Space efficiency. Coachese is pretty small for an RV, just 19′ long and no slide-outs.
  • Food. We cook a lot. We want to make smart choices about what to bring so we can eat the way we want to without dragging a lot of crap around.
  • Money. We came to the states to make money, so ideally, we don’t want to spend it all before we get home.

With those goals in mind, here is a list of things we’re hoping to have for this trip-  we’ll let you know what we are actually able to get and how everything works out as we go:

  •  Nature’s Head Composting Toilet. Pros: I know, it sounds gross but stay with me. It uses no water at all and there is no black (sewage) tank to dump.  We know from our experiences renting RV’s that we HATE emptying the black tank. Plus, it’s an insane waste of water. So this should allow us to convert our black tank to a gray tank and keep us from using a lot of our fresh, drinatures head picnkable water to flush poop.This one piece of equipment should allow us to camp in the wild, without dumping, for much longer periods of time. I’m not going to go into all of the science-y details of how this works because other people on the internet have already done a much better job than I can do. Check them out.                        Cons:  It’s bigger than our existing RV toilet and it  might be a tight squeeze in our very tiny bathroom. If it doesn’t fit where the old toilet was, we’ll put it in the shower stall, essentially turning it into a wet bath like in a sailboat. Another drawback is the expense. The Nature’s Head costs about $950. Yeah, American Dollars. It’s a big investment for  an RV we’ll only be using a couple of months at a time, but we’re also considering one for our house in St. John where water conservation is crucial. This’ll be sort of a test case. Verdict: We are definitely getting this. It’s being shipped and/or installed right now. We’ve never actually seen one in person and I know some people might be as curious as I am about it, so we will be sure to post about it every (possibly disgusting) step of the way.


  • Solar Power.  After looking at a bunch of fancy rooftop solar renogy generic picsolutions, we decided to just go small. We think it will be easier to be careful about how much power we use than to go super high-tech. We’ll be using the batteries for the lights (which we’re changing to LED), a couple of 12V fans, phone and laptop charging, the circuit board for the fridge (which will run mainly on propane) and the very small vent fan for the toilet. We ordered a 100W RENOGY Solar Suitcase to charge our batteries. We also got this Renogy 30 Amp Charge Controller and some extra long cables so that we can park in the shade and leave the panels in the sun. The whole setup cost about $350. You can also get the suitcase with a built in controller, but those were out of stock when I ordered. The whole package is on the way and we’ll let you know how it works out.


  • Water. We’re big fans of clean drinking water without disposable plastic bottles.goberkey You should be too. To filter our cistern water in St.John we use a Big Berkey Water Filter. We love it. It’s easy, it tastes amazing, it uses no power. For this trip we need something small and easily stowable, so we opted for the tiny 1-qt Go Berkey and a couple of Berkey sports bottles, neither of which we’ve used before. Our plan is to use the GoBerkey to fill up a bigger container of water we’ll keep in the fridge or wherever.These are all items we can take back with us if we need to. The Berkeys just came today and when we try them out we’ll let you know how it goes.


  • Kitchen.  The sink in the RV is tiny and we know from experience that doing dishes will be a challenge. Remodeling the kitchen is out. Bringing along a couple of collapsible tubs is in. We love this one. 61ezv9UVilL._SL1200_We used it for years when we were camping in the VW. Wash in the sink and rinse in the tub. Super easy. Very cheap. We also ordered a slightly larger one as a general purpose bucket. Because you never know…                                                                                                             And, finally, we splurged on this nesting set of pots from Magma. Seem to be high quality pots that take up very little space. Can’t wait to try them out!magma pots

Disclaimer!!! Just to be clear, we are not getting any compensation at all for trying these products out. Zero. Really. We bought them all ourselves and we are just writing about it because we’ve gotten a lot of pretty good info from people on the interweb and we think we should contribute something. We’ll keep you posted on how this stuff works out for us, and if you have any questions or comments about something specific just leave us a note. Thanks!