Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Are You On The Bus Or Off The Bus?

 The School bus dream has been punctured.  I feel bad for my husband, who was really caught up in the whole romance of the nomadic retirement lifestyle.  Shit, it's something I've dreamed about doing for years.  But the thing is - this is no longer 1968.

The State and Federal government, not to mention the insurance companies, are all up in this whole nomadic lifestyle situation nowadays.  You cannot just jump into a bus, hang up a few posters of Krishna, fire off the incense and head out,  staying in supermarket parking lots and on abandoned beaches.  Those days are LONG FUCKING GONE.  And it was such a buzzkill to find out.  

The least part of your worries is the actual conversion process. The monster is Insurance, Licensing, Certification, Inspections, and how far off the grid you expect to live.  The further off, the more intimate you are going to get with the end results of digestion, and your tolerance of extremes in temperature and your companions' moods.  Not a good recipe for two old intrepid individualists with ADHD, OCD, PTSD and the rest of the fuckin' alphabet.

Then there's the fact that those old rust-buckets break down A Lot.  Oh, the Internet has been an enlightening and ultimately helpful place.  Look up 'Schoolies' and you'll find gazillions of sites.  These things will just shit the bed and there you are at the side of the road.  Fucked.  Imagine that tow bill.  Imagine that engine replacement, shit. 

When we used to nomad on a  motorcycle, it was pretty sweet.  You were in the wide open, just you, your comrade, and your credit cards.  You had the whole world, you could park anywhere, you could tent it if your back could take that hard ground (my husbands, sadly, cannot. And yes, chillun, that's my fault.  Oh hell yes it is and I am not sorry.) and if you did not wish to experience nature from within the confines of a nylon dodecahederon, surrounded by predators, you could sleep in a super cheap, shitty motel - hell, all you need is a place to lock up your stuff, catch some Z's and bathe, and then you're off on the road agin. That's why there's a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and not Zen and the Art of Keeping A Giant Tube of Steel From Blowing Over In A Windstorm.  Motorcycling really is spiritual.  You are In It.  It cleans out your mind and refreshes your soul.  You meet amazing people, not just average citizens, but folks with a story to tell, people with beliefs and experiences and things to say that are worth hearing.

So now we're thinking about maybe getting our house demolished and putting up a Tiny House, or a Single Wide in it's place.  Just staying right here, but in a reliable, up to code space that gives us room to be solitary when we need solitude and companionable when we have to watch the second season of The Umbrella Academy or videos of cats falling off the back of couches.  

We have always lived simply.  Even now that we do not have to live simply, we choose to continue to do so, because we are fundamentally flower children who agree that thinking globally while acting locally is a responsible way for humans to live on this planet.  But we also want to travel and do the whole 'See America First' thing too.  It's been our dream all along.

It seems like the ideal solution would be to purchase a reasonably sized motor home, a smaller one, like a Chinook, and use that to travel in.  Most parks will turn down a school bus, or anything older than ten years - fact! but they'll accept a well-kept vintage vacation wagon no problem.  It's the perfect compromise between simple living and cheap travel - our costs would be low, and we could take a motel room when we got to feeling grubby. 

Unfortunately it also means that your home, for the duration of your trip, is also your sole means of transport.  The Biker can no longer spend much time on a motorcycle, and I have a huge chunk out of my leg from the first and last time I tried to ride one (A tale for another day.)  I suppose a scooter would work, like a Vespa.  Two people's worth of groceries will fit nicely in the little storage panniers.  We've stripped out campers and carried a motorcycle, and that works just fine.  You really do not need most of the stuff they put in those things, like the cabinets and sinks and ovens and shit. That's why the Baby Jesus invented soft frame luggage.  It works like a charm.  All you need out of the space is a place to sleep and change clothes, a place to take a private shit out of the weather, and a way to keep the thing warm/cool.  You need to keep weight down to keep gas costs down. You have a little dorm room fridge, and you eat a lot of sandwiches and drink a lot of beer and buy bricks of bottled water.  That credit card gets used for restaurants, gas, repairs, fees and entertainment.  You've got your laptop, you've got a solar panel or two, and you don't stay on the road for interminable amounts of time.

This really works.  It worked when we had a little kid, and we've got it down to a science.  So we'll see.  

But damn, those dreams just...to be too old to do something, that's a bitch.  Back in the beginning we were going to buy a wooded lot, mill our own lumber, age it while we lived in a yurt for four years, then build ourselves an open plan cabin and live up on Highway 9. (Lest you think we dreamed, the Biker used to build cabins precisely this way up in Alaska for people.  Dude knows his construction.  He's badass.)  We'd sell the yurt, and be money ahead. Yes, there is a swingin' market for yurts here in Puget Sound. Imagine that!

Plan 2 was to live on the RiverFarm Commune, until we actually visited the RiverFarm Commune and saw how squalid life was for the communards; illiterate peopled with some really, really peculiar ideas about things all living off the income from illegal dope grows and meth production who had no electricity and were taking their water from the river in buckets, and shitting in three-sided outhouses. Nope. Full Nope. Nopeity nope nope.

So we bought the lot, which had a single wide on it already.  And that worked.  We didn't even have to mill any lumber!  We lived on a wooded lot up on Mt. Baker in a very nice single wide, and I had the whole place landscaped and looking gorgeous, and there we were, living our dream.  After all, a Tiny House is basically a singlewide.  I'd go back to it in a minute.  

Unfortunately, the school system sucked, so we had to move into the flatlands to get our daughter into a decent educational environment that didn't have quite so many meth heads and people living in bunkers preparing for the Y2K virus,  KKK sympathizers, religious nuts and violent rednecks.  That's the tradeoff.  You are living in the boonies.  The boonies are full of freaky people.  Whole extended families who lived in compounds deep in the woods and cranked out inbred babies.  And the cult-type religious communities.  Lots of those up off Highway Nine.  A leader who'd been given a message and gathered a group of believers, fire and brimstone, arranged marriages - you think that shit only happens in the Ozarks?  Oh no no no.  

So we moved into our little house here in our little dot on the map, and enrolled our daughter in a school where she was actually made to do her schoolwork and attend classes, and we were actually encouraged to be part of the process;  and most of the teachers could read, so we were ahead on that score.  She went on to do very well in life.  That wouldn't have happened had we stayed upmountain.

Now the effort of trying to talk to The Biker about this begins.  It will be difficult.  He gets caught up in his plans and cannot be swayed, and digs in his heels and...yeah.  I'm just as bad.  I skim the essentials, make up my mind, and everything else is just 'details'.  Also not conducive to rational decision making.  I mean, this is how things are going to end up.  We've been skirting this outcome for years, although why it should be a matter of unpleasantness or hesitation eludes me.  I dread the emotional turmoil that's going to take place during the next five years, as it goes from being my idea to it's being HIS idea. If that sounds unfair, listen.  The dude is German.  Now you understand, dontcha.

I wish we could just skip the bullshit and make the plan and just fucking Do It.  Now.  While we can still walk, and drive, and don't have to shit in a diaper.  You see these tremulous, ninety year old men clutching the steering wheels of their Unfeasibly Large Motor Yachts going up a grade, pallid with terror, and you know that old guy is not having a good time and that trip has not been planned out very carefully.  I don't want to be in my dotage out on the road in some behemoth vehicle freaking out hoping the brakes don't fail, on my way to a place I don't particularly want to visit.  I don't want to pay the criminally high insurance on one of those things, and I don't want to deal with the fees, the inspections and all the other shit.  I just want a little mobile...shed.  With a scooter.  I want to see the redwoods, and the Sur, and the less freaky parts of Montana and Idaho.  I want to have a destination and a plan and just be rational about this whole thing.  It doesn't need to be unpleasant or fraught.  

It just needs the ability of two people (who are never wrong) to find a way to plan a fun future worth looking forward to.  Oy.  Please God, just give me that much.  Please.


  1. I too am married to a german. thick as a brick.

    back in the 70s, I too wanted to get a small trailer and live off the land and travel the country. whatever happened to those free-spirit days?

  2. I prefer my walls made out of brick, and a garden, and shops within walking distance, and theatres and entertainment a short tube or bus ride away. I've never been the "outdoors-y type".

    Each to their own... Jx

  3. I think the only way this work now is if one gets a motor home, and then set up in camp grounds for sometime before moving on.

  4. anne marie: Comrade in Arms!!! Solidarity! The German Line must be overcome!!!

  5. Jon: Oh, our outdoorsy days are well behind us. I unnastan' completely. We just want a combination of cheap accommodation and drivability to and from destinations, because WE HATE FLYING. GAAH flying. In an rv, the trip is part of the vacation. You can hang out or stop somewhere on a whim. Flying? They hand you a parachute (if you're lucky) and shove you out the door.

  6. Mistress Maddie: See, you've got it exactly. We'd just be taking a series of long trips and then returning home.