Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Last Week at Home Before Leaving to Travel Full-time

After we returned from our trip to Indiana, we never moved back into the house. With trying to pack things up, having boxes all over, and much of our daily stuff already in the trailer or packed, it was just easier to stay in the trailer.

Besides, we needed that time in the trailer to really see how it would work for us, and to decide what we needed yet to make it comfortable. We backed the trailer into the same spot behind the house (and out of sight of the road) that it was before, hooked up to utilities, and made ourselves at home.

As a side-note to all this...although we had been avid TV watchers before the trip to Indiana, during the trip and afterward, we found ourselves too busy to watch TV. Also, we knew that we would run into two main obstacles, data usage if we watched on the web, or (coach) battery consumption if we were out boondocking. The latter was experimental at this point, and our main concern was keeping the refrigerator running. Anything else was secondary.

And after our first trial run of the new antenna to make sure everything worked, and getting only four channels of PBS at home in Arkansas, we really had no urgent desire to mess with setting everything up, when we had so many other more urgent tasks at hand.

We were too busy to take photos of the mess we were in inside the house, but anyone who has had to pack everything up as quickly as possible can relate to having boxes and packing materials all over. Whatever didn't go with us was left where it sat. Other things had to be divided into four different groups, (1) Haulmark trailer, (2) Harbor Freight trailer, (3) Chrysler minivan, and (4) Chevy conversion van.

The first Chevy van load before we unloaded it, went to Indiana,
and then reloaded it again, with even more stuff!

We had originally started loading stuff into the Chevy van before we left for Indiana, thinking we would stay gone and head north from there. But as the season got later, and the weather got colder, we decided to empty out the Chevy van, go to Indiana, and then reload the van upon returning. We would head south from home, rather than north.

That turned out to be a good choice, after seeing how low the van was to the ground with just that smaller amount in it. We would have never made it to Indiana fully loaded, without the Air Lift air bag suspension we had installed while in Indiana. Let's not even discuss having to have a transmission replaced while there!

The minivan was just as bad, and during the last couple weeks we were at home, we had to research and order new Timbrens for the Chrysler. Timbrens are the rubber bumper stops that mount between the frame and axle so that when you hit a hard bump it doesn't smack metal-to-metal on each other. The ones that come stock on vehicles are only the very least required. After-market companies can provide much heavier ones, designed to actually hold the suspension up to carry much heavier loads, so that is what we bought. And seeing the results and handling first hand, they were a very good choice. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to load the van fully, let alone put the tongue weight of a trailer on it!

The load in the side door of the minivan.

The load in the back door of the minivan.
As you can see from the photos above, the vans were loaded to their maximum limits, always putting the heaviest stuff forward and low, with lighter stuff toward the rear and on top.. We didn't get any photos of the smaller trailer loaded, as it was inside the garage and the lighting was bad (plus, we were too busy).

As far as the house, we had been in contact with a realtor we knew, but there was so much stuff we were leaving behind, that we couldn't just let them have it in such a mess! To get rid of the contents, we had contacted a couple of buyers, but none were interested. The last one recommended a combination auctioneer/realtor which has a very large following in this area, and he would be able to handle both the contents AND the real estate, so we called him that same day and met with him that evening. We signed a contract for an "absolute" auction, which theoretically meant it would sell regardless of price on the 11th of December.

Unfortunately, it didn't. The weather was great that day, the turn-out was huge, but he couldn't even get a bid at rock bottom dollar, and the auctioneer wisely refused to go any lower, so he stopped the bidding. Whether it was too close to Christmas, the house was that bad, or what...we don't know...and neither did he.

However, a couple days after the auction, one of the locals decided he would still take it at the minimum bid. That bid is much lower than we intended to let the property go at, but at this point we just want to be done with it, even if we have to pay some extra on the mortgage ourselves to clear the deed. So that's where we're at as of this writing. We have a signed offer to purchase, and are waiting for a financial institution to make up the difference.

So until that is done with, and we are fully clear of it, it is still a worry on our minds until the closing, and then continuing to make a few more payments beyond that. But at the time, we thought we would be free and clear of the real estate as of the 11th of December!

And if that weren't enough worry, we were coming home from Walmart on the Saturday night before we left, and a deer jumped out in front of us in front of the old hospital in Cherokee Village. Thankfully, the speed limit there is only 30 MPH to begin with, and by the time we saw the deer and hit the brakes, we were probably doing less than 5 MPH, but we still hit him in the left flank with the left half of our front end.

He cracked the grill in a couple places, and broke the lens of the turn signal, while breaking the housing loose on the parking light to the inside of it, as well as breaking a body panel between the bumper and the grill. It could have been much worse.

Lower body damage and cracked lower grill divider.

Broken parking light housing and turn signal lens.

Broken upper divider on grill.

Overall deer damage to front end.

After we stopped, we looked back to see where the deer went, but he was nowhere in sight. He must have bounded off into the woods, a little sorer for his bad judgment. The deer damage has been turned in to our insurance company and we have a year to get it repaired...anywhere in the country. We were going to get it done after we got to Arizona, but we'll explain why there may be a delay after we get caught up on travels to get here. 

The very last thing to get loaded was the piano, and that took some fancy maneuvering, both of the vehicles as well as the piano itself! In our early posts, we mentioned being able to load the piano through the back door, through using a removable bulkhead wall between the storage area and the living area. But with a cabinet in front of that, and too many other things to be removed first, we abandoned that idea and decided to load it through the side door. 

First, we had to move the trailer to a crosswise position in front of the garage door. 

The Chevy van and trailer crosswise in front of the garage.

If that weren't challenge enough, the driveway also slopes off sharply outside the garage, so we had to use the Chevy jack to raise and block the trailer on the low side, so that the piano wouldn't go crashing into the cabinets once we got it inside the door. To be perfectly level would have required nine inches of lift on that side, but we got close...maybe seven.

The Haulmark trailer jacked up to load the piano.

Then we had to use a 3/4-inch plywood ramp to get from the garage door to the threshold of the trailer door. The piano was on a 4-wheel moving dolly, so it could roll easily, but getting it in the door proved to be quite a task. Despite my most careful calculations, the front leg was the biggest obstacle.

The front leg had to come off!

I ended up having to disassemble everything above the keyboard to get to one lousy screw that they put in from the inside down into the top of the leg! Another three were accessible from the bottom, behind the leg. But even after getting the leg off, we had to practically pry about a half-inch of the corner through the doorway...but at least it went...barely.

I had already installed a half-inch eye bolt through the one-inch-thick floor (before we put the piano in) for the rear mount, and drilled the hole for the one by the door, so all I had to do was put the bolt through the floor and install the nuts, followed by a heavy-duty two-inch ratchet strap over the front of the piano at the very top curve, just below the lid. This way, the keyboard is fully accessible without having to remove the strap to play it.

Also, because of the curtain tracks hanging down below the top of the piano, as well as the heads of the bolts for the extra cam bar hasp, I installed an upright piece of 1 x 6 board at each end to hold the piano out from the wall. So far, we have put a couple thousand miles behind us, and everything is working as planned, with no signs of anything becoming loose.

The day after we put the piano in, we pulled out of the driveway for the very last time, without even looking back or waving a goodbye to our residence of the previous ten years. Good riddance to bad real estate!

The story will continue in the next few posts, as we work our way west, after a stop over Thanksgiving in Texas. So stick around, and if you haven't signed up for notifications of new posts, please do so with the form at the top of the right margin. If you are on a mobile device, it might show up below the post, but it's there.

And as always, feel free to comment or ask questions.

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