RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #5: The Return Trip, Big Blogging Dollar$, And A St. John Update

As predicted it was technically very tough to post from Mexico. The cold, hard truth of the matter is we just totally dropped the ball on this whole blogging thing. We’re already back in the states and we’ve been back for quite a while. Weeks. Maybe months. I’d love to say that we’ll never disappear like this again but the fact is we make zero blogging dollars. As a result, there are very few consequences when we drop out like this. Our scholarships are not on the line. No endorsement deals are in jeopardy. I can honestly say that no one is more disappointed by our lackluster commitment to posting than we are. How’s that for chicken and egg? Let me tell you what happened anyway.

After Todos Santos, we started the long journey northward. We had about 1000 miles of rough road ahead of us to make it back to the border. Luckily, there were a few towns  we skipped on the way down so we wouldn’t just be retracing our steps. In all honesty, our expectations were pretty low. Baja didn’t really seem to be panning out and we were ready to cut our losses. But, lo and behold, the return trip was full of hits! Our first stop was a town called La Ventana. It’s just outside of La Paz and we went because a server at the coffee shop in Todos Santos thought we’d like it. You know, because he knows us so well. And we pretty much always take travel trips from strangers. Turns out he was right. It was wall-to-wall kite-boarders. Literally. But they were all from Quebec and speaking French, which somehow made it way more interesting. Loved La Ventana. We ended up spending a couple of days there.20180207_162344

Next up was Loreto. Which we also liked. It’s a little town with a pretty impressive  (and absurdly Jesuit-positive) mission. Also, there was a carnival going on the night we were there. It was charming and we had some of the best tacos ever. The carnival taco stands in Loreto have table service. Enough said.


From there, we headed to Bahia Concepcion which is a big bay on the Sea of Cortez. It’s a fantastic destination for RVs because there are several beaches that you can camp on for just a few pesos. We chose Playa Requeson and it was stellar. We were literally parked right on the beach. Vendors come by selling vegetables and fish and tamales, so if you manage your water and dumping situation you can stay for a while. We were there for three or four nights, just chilling and giving ourselves a little rest. We also stopped in a few other cute towns like San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, and we checked out some very cool cave paintings in Catavina.


This is so Baja. Beautiful. But also kinda oppressively depressing.


Beachside camping.


We were out of cell reception for several days in a row. When we finally got back on the road and the cell service kicked in, we had inboxes full of bad news. Jennifer’s grandfather passed away and she needed to get to New Jersey ASAP for the funeral. The best plan we could come up with was to make a bee-line for San Diego (which sounds so much easier than it actually was) and hope we could get her on a flight in time. And instead of spending a couple of weeks visiting friends and family out west, as planned, I would start driving from San Diego towards Indiana (with the dogs) and we would pick Jennifer up somewhere along the way.

It all worked out. She made it to the funeral. I got to spend one night with friends in LA. The pups and I listened to a bunch of Audio books, ate some Sonoran hot dogs and In-Out burgers, and picked Jennifer up at the El Paso airport. After that, we spent a few days at Guadalupe National park before driving to Indy for another work week. We spent a lot of that time processing our Baja trip. Here’s what we ended up with:

  1. We’re glad we went, but it was tough. The desert almost beat us.
  2. We definitely wouldn’t do it the same way again. If we did it again, we would only rv as far south as Bahia de Concepcion. If we wanted to go back to Todos or La Paz, we would fly. And the Valle de Guadalupe (wine country) is super accessible by plane, rv, or car and we will definitely be going back there.
  3. There are no really great fish tacos in Baja. Get over it. The mariscos/ceviche is amazing, though. Go with that.
  4. There are sooooo many Canadians. Prepare yourself. I think they might be responsible for the fish taco problem. Just a guess.

I mentioned we’ve been back from Mexico for a long time, right? I wasn’t joking. After that week in Indy, we drove down to Florida so that my mom (World’s Greatest Dog-Sitter) could watch the pups while we did a short trip to St. John to meet with contractors. It was our first time going back since the storms.

Here are some befores and afters. (If you’re reading this, stop what you’re doing and go out and take same nice pictures of your house. We never did this. We have lots of close ups of food and flowers, but this is at good as it gets for the house).



 Before: That’s me in front of our house.


After: This is me in front of our used-to-be house. Same shirt! That’s my sad face.



Before: View up from pool/workout area.


After: New open concept.


Before: The Shack.


After: The Invisible Shack.

It’s weird. We’ve been traveling like crazy since the storms and even though we always thought we’d go back to St. John and rebuild, we’ve also been sorta open to the idea that we might find somewhere even better for us out there on the road. Have you ever seen that movie Away We Go? With John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph? It’s fabulous. You should see it. Anyway, it’s about this couple who are visiting friends in different places and trying to decide where they want to live and how they want to be. It’s probably about some other stuff, too. Who can remember? I see a lot of movies. Anyway, we’ve felt a little bit like we were in that movie this whole time. Like we’re constantly going on interviews and first dates with all these different places. Like, could we live here?  But nothing has really clicked. We’ve spent a lot of time in super random places recently and when I look around I’m always wondering (sometimes aloud) how did these people get here? I mean, were their ancestors wagon-training-it to California and they just got distracted? Or they ran out of hardtack and salt pork? Did the wheels literally fall off the wagon? Are these the descendants of failed settlers?

Well, that’s the old me.  After all of this time on the road I’m starting to get it. I see how you could end up saying, “Yeah, this is good enough. Forget about where we were headed, let’s just stay here. There’s probably no gold in them thar hills anyway.”  Going back to St. John was a great reminder of where we want to be. Yes, the house is still gone. Our neighborhood is insane. But we can’t wait to rebuild. We like it way better than Mexico. Or anywhere else.


Plus, we still have the terrible house sign. Our neighbors found it. It’s tucked away in a closet at my mother’s house. For now.

Happy Easter/Passover, everyone. Until next time.


Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

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It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.



Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.


That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.


Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.



Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.


Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.


This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.


That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.


Sweet Spice Down. Irma Update.

Well, it’s official. Sweet Spice, our island paradise home is gone. We’re still stateside and so we haven’t seen the damage in person, but the words that have been used to describe it are “destroyed”, “totally destroyed”, “missing”, and “not much left.”


Weirdly, one of our neighbors found our high-quality sign in the rubble. It outilved the house.

We’re fine. We’re in Indianapolis where Jennifer is finishing up a week of work. We were supposed to head back home in a few days, but that can’t happen now. Not just because we don’t have a house or any possessions left, but also because the whole island is just devastated. I mean, really devastated. The pictures we’ve seen and the few messages we’ve gotten from friends, neighbors, and the coconut telegraph have been totally heartbreaking. As far as we can tell, it’s just a complete disaster zone. Here’s a picture I stole from an interweb page about our neighborhood.21761666_10209811717829745_5002246930315855434_n

The media coverage of the Virgin Islands was super sparse, especially in the first few days  after the storm but there are some reports coming out now. Like this article in the Washington Post about how the people in our neighborhood, Coral Bay, are coping. Read it. It’s totally amazing. And speaking of things that are amazing, almost everyone we can think of has been accounted for. If you see the pictures, you’ll know how crazy that it is.





And then maybe if you’re feeling generous you could make a donation so that the people in STJ can buy chainsaws and diapers and tarps and mosquito repellent, and hopefully maybe some beer because my neighbors have been huddling under mattresses in a Category 5 hurricane, dodging power lines and dead donkeys, cutting each other out of barricaded houses, and just generally surviving for 8 days already and I think they deserve some beer. This is St. John we’re talking about after all. Withdrawal is a real consideration.

As far as our plans go, we really don’t have any yet. I think we’re a little shell shocked. We just sold our Winnebago, by the way. That was actually one of our goals when we planned this trip. Things were going so swimmingly with all the improvements at Sweet Spice we decided to just focus on the house. Good timing. Go us.


Coachese in happier times.  So long, Coachese!

I don’t know much about blogging, but I’m pretty sure I read that it’s really important to pick a specific subject and stick with it.  That’s going to be fairly fucking tough since this blog is supposed to be about our travels in our Winnebago and our life in our house in St. John…and we don’t have either of those things anymore. So, unless you’re super stoked to read about whatever it is that we end up doing from here on out, feel free to un-follow us or de-subscribe or whatever. Who could blame you?

Our post-Tuesday reality will most likely involve driving down to Florida to stay with family while we figure out what’s next. Ultimately, we’ll rebuild and live in STJ. We know this. We just have to figure out how. I mean, we’d like nothing better than to go home on Tuesday. Because clearly what St. John needs right now is two more homeless, middle-aged ladies. And their dogs.  Probably not. So for the immediate future we’re completely open to suggestions. Seriously. Ideas currently being batted around include: another RV (that actually works), a tent on our property, a container house. We’re spinning. Who has ideas?


Back At Square One

Okay, okay. We learned our lesson about blog procrastination. While our last post made it seem like we’re still in Florida, that is not actually the case. We left Florida almost two weeks ago. It just took us forever to do the post on Gulfport. Whoops. Here’s what happened (approximately in order):

  • We got word from the mechanic that Coachese was STILL NOT READY.
  • Jennifer accepted an offer to work another month back in Indianapolis which is pretty close to St. Louis where we eventually (hopefully) will have to pick up the Winnebago.
  • We packed up the Chevy Cruze and raced (through the Hurricane Matthew evacuation zone) up the East Coast to Washington, DC. Why? To attend the All Things Go Fall Classic. It’s a music festival. It was amazing. Totally worth it. Sadly, I was worried about drunkenly losing my camera so we don’t have any photos. But they do. As an added bonus, we got to kick it with family/friends in DC for a couple of days. Killer.
  • From there, we drove onward to Indy. We got a flat tire somewhere in Ohio but eventually made it to the fabulous extended stay hotel we’ll be calling home for the next few weeks. So glamorous!


  • Got another call from the mechanic. Three miles into the post-repair test drive, a totally different part of Coachese almost caught on fire and he had to be towed back to the garage.* Stellar.
  • Saw a terrible movie called American Honey. It was so bad, I had to mention it. Don’t ever see it. (See Hell or High Water instead. Now.)

Looks like you’re all caught up.




*For those of you who are interested: we are now in the market for a new rear differential after the un-lubricated wheel bearings “burnt up” and caused all kinds of automotive chaos.




No one will be shocked to hear the Winnebago’s still not ready, right? Truthfully, we’ve almost forgotten about Coachese. It seems like we’ve been in Florida forever. There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, so we’re not complaining. But, sadly, our much anticipated, genre-defining guide to Gulfport is not quite ready yet because, well, we’re still here working on it.


Coachese, who?


As you may know, we’ve been away from our island paradise for more than seven months. We didn’t plan to be gone for that long and were starting to get the feeling maybe things weren’t going so well at our house in St. John. We came to this conclusion because we are thoughtful, intuitive people with loads of good, common sense. Also, we were getting distressing texts from our island neighbors. So, last week, we left the pups here in Florida with my parents and flew down to STJ to check on things. We were not optimistic.


Donkey poop. We hope.


Grill down.

Things degrade quickly in the tropics. And seven months is a long time. But, I have to say, things could definitely have been worse. Apparently, the drought is over so everything was pretty overgrown. It also looked like someone had been squatting in our shack. But the main house (although covered in dust and lizard poop) was pretty much OK. We’d had the pool recently drained after we heard it turned green when the power got shut off. We didn’t bother refilling it. I think not having a pool will make the place less attractive to squatters. I mean, people have standards, no?


Jennifer, armed and dangerous, tackles the yard.

So we spent a few days cleaning up, sorting out the power situation (in person, because nothing ever happens if you just call in-trust me on this), cutting back weeds, hiring a property management company to keep the place secured, trying to find contractors (which is harder than you’d think-more on that later) and putting big padlocks on everything. We also took this opportunity to transport even more IKEA furniture. If you live on a small island your luggage gets pretty sketchy, pretty quickly. Who gives a shit  about underwear? We checked six chairs, a bench, and an outdoor table that seats four. For free. Not even kidding. We’ve accumulated like 90% of our furniture this way. Which is less impressive than it sounds if you saw how much furniture we actually have.


Luxury luggage. Classy.


The reality is our house in STJ is still very much a work in progress. Or a disaster zone, depending on your mindset. The Winnebago’s interior is way nicer than our house right now. Zero  exaggeration, friends. But it is an amazing place and we absolutely love it. Yes, there are squatters, and droughts, and donkey poop, and ridiculous obstacles to accomplishing basic things. But there’s also so much beauty and so little marketing and crazy stuff just happens all the time. I mean, while we were gone our friend Hugo, a huge Wembley fan, somehow planted all these orchids on our trees so we’ll eventually have an orchid alley leading to our house. Who does that? That’s wonderful. I mean, probably our negligence and general irresponsibility shouldn’t be rewarded, but fuck it, we’ll take it. Thank you!


Orchids for Wembley!



Thanks Hugo!





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?









The Truth about Our Winnebago

20160411_121941Our Winnebago Brave is kind of a wreck.

Originally we’d planned to buy a pretty inexpensive, probably very ugly, RV in fairly good working order. Maybe a Class C from the nineties. Something practical we could use for a relaxing road trip in the states before we head home to St. John. We thought we could either sell it after the trip or store it to use whenever we’re over here. You know, something practical. Because as much as we love older vehicles, we knew that we were in no position to buy a project. We’ve been living out of a seemingly endless string of Airbnb’s in Indianapolis for months as Jennifer’s work assignment keeps getting extended. We have no tools. We have no contacts here. We don’t reliably have a driveway or a garage. We literally have our two dogs, our luggage, and a couple of hard-to-find-on-island goodies that we’re planning on taking home. But after a couple of weeks of scouring the internet for possibilities, we saw an add for a “90% restored” 1974 Winnebago Brave D19.

It was so cute! It was so much cooler than modern RV’s. Plus, it was small enough to fit in most parking spaces. And it has a bathroom, which is a huge upgrade from the 1977 VW bus we loved and traveled in before. We couldn’t resist. So I flew down to Florida to check it out, in hopes of driving it back to Indianapolis for some minor updating.


The Winnebago looked much rougher in person than in the photos. Shocker, right? This was not “90% restored”, even from a distance. It had obviously been sitting neglected for a very long time. The tires were dry rotted. The inside was pretty filthy and moldy. The appliances had not been tested. There was some water damage…but it had such a better feel than a modern RV. It was like a cabin on wheels.

Then came the test drive. It was a disaster. It barely ran. The brakes were pretty much non-existent. None of the gauges worked. There was absolutely no way I could drive it 1000 miles. Or even 10 miles. The price was way too high but I negotiated it down (still way too high) and called Jennifer. After maybe five minutes discussion, I bought it and the seller’s son bravely coasted it over to a nearby shop. And I flew back to Indy empty-handed. Here’s some of what it took to get it stable enough for me to be able to drive it to back to Indianapolis:

  • 6 new tires
  • Full tune-up and replace intake manifold gaskets, timing cover gaskets, etc.
  • A very hard to find water pump
  • shocks
  • batteries and terminals
  • fix and/or replace all the wiring for brake lights, signals, wipers, horn, headlights, etc
  • brakes: master cylinder
  • reroute generator fuel line (safety issue)
  • new oil pressure gauge

It stayed at the shop for like six weeks. When I finally went back down to pick it up it was running. But it was leaning pretty heavily to the right and the steering wheel was not aligned. Basically I had to steer at an angle to go straight. And I kind of felt like I was going to fall out of my seat a lot of the time. I needed to get an alignment and to have the suspension looked at, but I didn’t have time. The mechanic who’d been working on it wasn’t set up to do it and none of the truck places could fit me in. SO after much discussion with the mechanic, I decided just to drive it like that and get it looked at in Indianapolis-if I made it.

Kind of a sketchy decision. Also, in general, it is not ideal to go on a 1000 mile/three day trip in a vehicle that has been sitting so long. I pretty much knew SOMETHING would go wrong, just not exactly what or how bad it would be. I had gotten used to this feeling when we had our ’77 bus. Without knowing much about engines or cars in general I was always having to figure stuff out with the bus. I wasn’t sure how much of that VW technical experience would carry over to the Winnebago, but I knew how to expect the unexpected and keep on rolling.

This journey was made even more interesting by the fact the speedometer, odometer, and gas gauge were still broken. Not running out of gas would get tricky but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be speeding. My first stop was a Wal-Mart where I picked up a decent GPS  I could stick on the dash that would give me a rough idea of how fast I was going and how many miles I’d traveled. I also bought a pen so I could keep a log of how much gas I was going through (a lot). High-tech meets low-tech. My plan was to drive in daylight and sleep in motels because nothing had been done yet to the interior or any of the camping equipment/systems. And, just to be clear, the Winnebago was still really gross.


On the road!

The first couple of hours, bouncing along at 50mph in the right lane, were absolutely terrifying. But then I got used to it and it was amazing to be cruising down the highway in such a fine, fine motorcoach. Obviously the radio didn’t work, but I eventually downloaded a book on my phone and stuck one headphone in so I could be entertained and also stay alert for scary noises.

Sometime on day two I noticed the gas pedal wasn’t really bouncing all the way back when I let up on it. I pulled over, did some googling, did some looking around under the Winnebago and decided it was probably a spring of some kind, or maybe the cable, but I had no idea how to make it better so I just took off my shoe so that I could physically pull the pedal back with my toes. This was not a practical solution for everyday driving but I thought it would be manageable since I was pretty much only on the highway. Okey dokey.

Then in Tennessee at the end of day two, maybe 600 some-odd miles in, I hear a scary noise. A loud continuous THWAPPING sound, like a belt gone crazy or something. So I took the next exit and heard some sputtering, like backfiring. As I’m coasting into this gas station to check it out I hear the loudest backfire. Ever. I did a quick inspection and saw that there was indeed a belt hanging loose, but I couldn’t figure out where it went. I ended up calling AAA and getting hooked up with a very cool local mechanic and his girlfriend (thank you John and Ashley) who met me at the gas station. John showed me how a bolt came off the alternator causing the belt to slip AND showed me where the spring for the gas pedal had broken off AND fixed both things right there. No tow. Great conversation.


Whoa! Muffler explosion.

The downside was the huge backfire was basically my muffler exploding. Serious exhaust problems and a very loud Winnebago ensued. John’s opinion was that I wouldn’t actually be doing more damage by driving it that way, so the next morning I fired it up, opened all the windows and actually made it to Indianapolis. Rejoice. However, when I was taking pictures of Jennifer and the dogs in front of the RV, I noticed that the rooftop AC unit was in tatters. Somewhere along the way the shroud (and various ac parts) must have blown off. So scary.  I had no idea. So scary.

Once in Indy I took it pretty much immediately to get aligned and have the suspension adjusted (although the wheel still needs to be straightened). And then on to another shop where they replaced the muffler and the exhaust manifold…but it’s not a perfect fit so they’re looking for another manifold (and a shifter cable, too) and in the meantime it’s at yet another shop (two hours away, near Cincinnati) where we are having some stuff done to the interior (new a/c, water tank, composting toilet, checking all the propane, etc.). I took it all the way to that shop because I’d seen pictures of the work they’ve done on older campers and because when I called they were nice. Also, we have friends in Cincinnati . Very scientific reasoning, I know.

On our way to Cincinnati I noticed that the oil pressure seemed kind of low compared to when I was driving back from Florida. Also, there were a couple of low popping sounds which I think might have been from the exhaust leak? Anyway, I stopped. I didn’t see any leaks. I checked the oil and there was some brown oil on the dipstick (which is hard to read) but it was arguably a bit low. So I put in maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a quart. But when I checked the dipstick again…I couldn’t see any oil at all. Seriously. Jennifer and I both dipped and looked and dipped and looked and nothing was on the stick. Where’s the oil??? I didn’t want to keep pouring it in without any idea of what was going on. So I fired it up. The pressure was better. We continued on our way and made it to the shop, although the oil pressure seemed to be creeping back down a bit. This shop doesn’t really do chassis work, they’re just doing the camper stuff, so I’ll have to figure all that out when they’re finished. I just need to make sure I can drive it two hours back to the shop that’s finishing the exhaust work.

Basically we’ve done exactly what we said we were not going to do. We bought a project. And because of our current situation (time and space) we have to just keep paying different people to work on it for us. Although, honestly, most of this stuff we would have had a mechanic do no matter where we were living. We have about six more days in Indianapolis, and we can probably stay with our friends in Cincinnati for a while after that, but we are really, really hoping to be on the road within the next two weeks. That way we can travel in the Winnebago for at least six weeks before we head back to the Virgin Islands. So, instead of buying a practical  RV that would have been easy to part with at the end of our adventure, it already feels like we have a new family member.



Adventure Limbo

We’ve heard there’s a lot of satisfaction in carefully planning an adventure, in taking the time to map out a route, buy the necessary supplies, and prepare for all contingencies. We know the excitement of the last minute decision to take off with its frantic packing and unknowable future. But right now our pre-travel state is neither of these. We’re in adventure limbo.


Our home in St. John

Four months ago we left our home in beautiful St. John to come to Indianapolis to make money. After four months we’d planned to take a trip around the country in an RV. Then we’d leave the RV stateside when we went back to St. John so we’d always have a home and vehicle in the states. In the dreaming phase our trip around the country was purposefully vague-we’d see how much money we had and where it seemed good to go depending on the weather or people we needed to visit.


Coachese in Florida

We bought an RV in Florida about two months ago. It’s a 19′ 1974 Winnebago Brave we’ve named Coachese. It was in pretty bad shape. It kinda ran and barely stopped. But it’s perfect for us! We love vintage vehicles, its small enough to fit in a parking spot, it has a bathroom, and its exactly as old as we are. So we left it in a shop in Florida for six weeks before it was safe enough to make the 1,000 mile journey to Indianapolis. We’ll write a separate post about the mechanical stuff but in short fixing Coachese was like playing with Russian nesting dolls, every time they worked on one problem another one was uncovered. Now its outside of Cincinnati awaiting a camper overhaul. Nothing fancy, just things like fixing the leaking windows and roof, getting the appliances and plumbing working, and checking the electrical system. You know, everything.



Coachese dinette and toilet.


Coachese kitchen and toilet.

We have eight days left in Indianapolis. We have no idea when Coachese will be ready. There are tons of things we need to do to get ready for our trip. We have no basic camping supplies, no sheets or towels, no sleeping bag, no pots, no pans, no flashlights. It’s crunch time, or is it? Welcome to the uncertainty of our lives. Stay tuned.