Blessings in the Delays

Being in limbo was so hard and mentally and emotionally draining. We were delayed by about 3 weeks and we didn’t know when we could leave. As hard and frustrating as it was, there were so many blessings in the delay!

The kids got to see their friends and catch up after Christmas Break! For 9 extra days they got to go to school and be with their friends and their teachers! Some kids would not be excited about going to school, but our kids were thrilled! They love their teachers and they were so happy to be with their friends. It was also good to get them back into school mode. We’ve never home schooled and I think it would have been harder for all of us to get into the school mode after the flurry of Christmas and packing.
Another blessing – during Christmas so many people are traveling or busy with family. I was soooo blessed to see and spend time with friends from church, school, and our community during our delay! So many people I was glad to have one more conversation with, one more hug, one more laugh. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends that I love and adore – thank you for being you! We also got one (sometimes 2!) more dinners with parents, siblings, nieces and nephews!
We were able to meet and find the right renters. I truly believe God had a hand in the timing. I had prayed for the right people to come our way and I believe they did. Whether it was to help us, or to help them, I might never know.
I believe too that we will never know some of the blessings in our delay. It might be bad weather we avoid, an accident we would have been in, or some other disappointing event. We probably will never know, but I trust the timing was for a reason.
And in the end I was finally ready to go. It’s not a secret that I was a little reluctant to be gone from my wonderful home, family, friends and community. I love to travel, but the length of time and the small space was a bit much. But I was finally ready to hit the road and take on this adventure!
So delays can be disappointing and frustrating, but they are often lined with many many wonderful blessings!

Steph’s Pre-launch Thoughts

Some people have verbalized my own feelings about this adventure – you are crazy! However, a LOT of people have said this is their dream and they want to travel around the USA in an RV someday and they are going to live vicariously through us. Well let me give you a view into reality. It’s not all whimsy and dreaming. This is HARD! Especially if you are frugal and you don’t want to go into debt. If you have kids that are in school and LOVE their school, teachers and friends, that adds a level of difficulty you have to navigate.
To Do list:
– Finding the 5th wheel was easier than expected.
– Huck had clients that he could work for while on the road.
– Given the tight market and our desirable location, we thought finding a renter would be the easiest part. Wrong! Whether it was time of year, the 6 month lease, or no pets were allowed, we could not find renters. This added a long list of to-do and stresses.
– Figure out the school/home school situation and curriculum
– “Do” all the holiday stuff
– Figure out what we HAD to take, what we COULD take, WHEN it could be packed and moved, and how to fit it all in 300sqft, staying within the truck and 5th wheel weight limits. Remember 5 of us will live, work, play and do a small space.for 6 months.
– Support Huck and kids through all of the difficulties, worries, and transitions
– The worst part: Clean the house again and again and again to show potential renters.
– My to do list never got shorter, more and more things kept coming up
– Then there was the truck. Huck’s posts covered all of that. Let’s just say that created many problems. And much limbo.
LIMBO is hard. Really hard.
Being caught in Limbo was mentally and emotionally difficult. We thought we would leave right after the New Year. Get the house packed up, get the rig loaded and off we would go! Or not. The truck problems left us in limbo…for weeks! I felt paralyzed. What could I pack and when? We had no idea when we could/would leave. It was the question everyone asked and we couldn’t answer. It was all dependent on the truck. When would it be fixed and would that stinkin Check Engine light go on again? Mentally and emotionally it was hard to be in limbo. Was this the last time I would see this friend? Would we be gone in a few days or a few weeks? Should the kids stay in school or start home schooling?
Finally, saying goodbye for now to our friends, family, and our house. We are so fortunate that we live near family we love, we have amazing, wonderful friends and we have been in our house for 16 1/2 years. It was very weird leaving the house knowing that someone else would live there for the next few months.
Now to figure out how to cook in the very small space. I’ve heard the oven is hard to bake in – even though it’s small nothing cooks evenly. There is almost no counter space for prep. I hope I can do this home school thing. We kind of have to figure out a new way of doing most of our normal daily activities.
Off we go!

Free fall

The last few days have been crazy hectic as we moved stuff to the rig and got our house ready for the renters to move in.  And so, at 3:30pm yesterday we handed the keys to our renters and officially moved out of our home of the last 16 years.  It felt really weird.  Like free fall from a jump.  School was letting out and so we got to say our goodbyes to our neighbors…the Wieders, the Briggs, Liam, Graham and Riley.  It was hard, but comforting knowing that we’ll return in the summer.  I cannot imagine moving away for good.

The trailer is full of our stuff but not put away.  My brother and sister-in-law are putting us up for a couple of nights while we’re in free fall.  The truck should be done by noon today…praying that this is the end of its issues for a good long time.  I’m thankful for my awesome wife and kids who have powered through this big change in our lives with such positive attitudes.  I’m blessed beyond belief with family….there is no other team I’d rather take this journey with.  Maybe on the road tomorrow!

How I Feel

         I feel sad about leaving. I am sad about leaving because I will miss my friends, family, school, church, and house. I will miss my friends because they will play with me, they are nice, and they will always lend me a helping hand. I will miss my family because they are so loving, fun, and will not forget about me. I will miss my school because of the amazing, kindhearted staff. I will miss my church because they are nice people, and know me well. I will miss my house because it is comfortable, fits my needs, and is what I like. That is why am sad about leaving.

         I feel excited about the trip. I feel excited about the trip because we will meet lots of family, friends, new people, and we will get away from the cold weather, and see lots of fun places. Some fun places I am excited for are Carlsbad Caverns, San Antonio, Big Bend, Kennedy Space Museum, The Mississippi River, Disney World, Cape Canaveral, World of Coke, Smithsonian, Washington D.C, Hershey, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, World Trade Center, Cape Cod, Niagara Falls, the smallest state, and the first state.


When CELO met Ava

After several “dates” our truck CELO (not his official name yet) and our fifth wheel Ava finally got hitched.


I borrowed the truck from the dealership since the DPF won’t get here until Tuesday.  My good buddy Eric (this guy and his family have been truly amazing) helped me finish the install of the hitch and we hooked ’em up.  We took the pair out for a test spin and Eric, who has his CDL and lots of 5er experience, coached me through some turns, adjusting the brakes and into our church parking lot for some practice backing up.  I think it went pretty good!

Do or do not

My favorite Yoda quote of all time is when he encourages Luke to do something seemingly impossible: raise up his space craft using the force.  Luke says “I’ll try” and Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try”.  Now, I don’t dig too deep into this and get hung up on semantics.  I think the spirit of what he is saying is “Go for it….and don’t hold anything back.”  Like being up on the high dive at the pool.  If you just “try” to jump you will never do it…you either do or do not jump.  And that is a bit how it feels right now with our adventure.

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Failure to launch

I never saw the movie Failure to Launch, but unlike the main character in the film we actually WANT to leave our house  but can’t due to mechanical issues.  To recap:

  • We bought a used 2011 GMC 3500 truck on Dec 8 after the dealer had dealt with a check engine light related to the exhaust system (I know, I know….it sounds so stupid now but I did it).  They replaced the DEF injector and NOx sensor #1.
  • On Dec 21 after 57 miles the check engine light came on and we took it back to the dealer
  • $800 later we had a new DEF tank and heater and were rolling again Dec 27.
  • After about 150 miles the check engine light comes on again Jan 6
  • After a week in the shop and me calling every day to figure out what they found, today (Jan 13) they say that the catalytic converter (aka SCR), diesel particulate filter (DPF) and NOx sensor #2 must be replaced to the tune of $4200.  Oh, and it will take a week to get the parts.

My first reaction is that I feel like I was sold a vehicle that was known to be bad.  I want justice.  Three check engine lights in 200 miles….there is no way this JUST started happening now.   I don’t think there is anyone to blame but me.  With a check engine light I should have stayed far away!!  But still I feel like somebody knew this was a lemon.

My next reaction is to ask, is that REALLY the problem?  The current error is an “exhaust fluid quality poor” message and I believe the tech is following the procedure laid out in PIP5007.  When you get to the end of the procedure it says “If all conditions above appear to be functioning normally, SCR replacement may be required but is a very rare occurrence” (emphasis added by me).  If you read the entire PIP5007 forum topic linked above you will find many who say just replacing BOTH NOx sensors usually fixes the problem.  And it seems to make sense.  From my understanding of the system (about half way down the page here is a description and diagram)  a properly running system will have a large delta between NOx sensor #1 (at the beginning of the exhaust system) and NOx sensor #2 (after the SCR).  When there is a small delta it can mean that the SCR is bad….but the engineer in me says it could also mean that NOx sensor #2 is bad.  Compared to the DPF and SCR, the cost of the NOx sensor is wiz in the ocean.  So perhaps we just replace NOx #2 and see if everything tests out?  Where in that document does it say that the DPF should be replaced?

My third reaction is to ask, do I cut my losses and trade the thing in for something else?  But this just seems so wrong on so many levels.  Such a waste of money.

Maybe I suck it up and have everything replaced.  Then I have an entirely new exhaust system.  It should come with a hefty parts and labor warranty from GMC so any other problems with it will be covered right?  Like I’m buying an extended warranty on the exhaust system.  By the way, we did purchase an extended warranty for the truck.  I really did not want to but since I didn’t want truck issues to spoil our trip, I bit.  Its a great plan except for the one extra page that says “diesel exhaust system not covered”.  Have I told you how I believe bikes are superior to the automobile?

And your reaction is probably, (a) you should not have bought that truck in the first place and (b) if people read this blog they won’t after too many posts like this one.  Touche!

So let me wrap up with the good.  Our family is happy and healthy.  We have awesome family, friends, and neighbors.  I have a job.  We live in a free country.  We have plenty of food to eat, clean water to drink and comfy shelter over our head.  We even have a renter (not a done deal yet but looks really good!!).

Still waiting

On Wednesday morning I call the shop about the DEF issue on the truck and made an appointment for 10am.  This is apparently not an appointment to have your vehicle looked at but rather an appointment to get your vehicle in the long queue of vehicles waiting to be looked at.  Sort of like a Disney FastPass that gives you a spot at the end of the standard line!  Today it made it to the front of the queue but as of 4pm (54 hours after my “appointment”) they still do not know what is wrong.  They will work on it tomorrow and said they should have an answer by Monday.  I suspect the implementation of any fix will take some time as well…ugh!

So we are still waiting.  We are stranded.  But if you are going to get stranded somewhere, home is really not a bad option!  If you can judge a location by its name these places might be much worse places to get stranded.

Told you so

I’ve heard many stories of people who announce to family and friends their intention to try the nomadic life and are met with raised eyebrows, stern warnings and questions in judgement.  Not so in our case! Our peeps have been nothing but supportive and encouraging.  And so when we hit yet another bump in our journey I received an onslaught of encouragement: “read John 14:27 and Proverbs 2:3-8“, “what can I do to help” and an absolutely amazing offer of assistance which is so incredibly gracious it brought me to tears.  Not once did I hear “I told you so”….except from mine own self!!  My wife has every reason to say this to me but she is staying positive and supportive….she is beautiful!!

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I do not like to ask for or accept help.  I want to serve not be served.  Its stupid but thats the way I am.

Hitch in the plans

I’ve had that post title prepared for a long time, ready to whip out when I finally got the hitch installed on the truck.  And the post starts something like this…

Our truck came with a B&W turnover ball goose neck hitch so we decided to get the much loved B&W Companion 5th wheel hitch that goes with it.  We had a small bump in the road to getting it the first try,  but I had found a great deal on a brand new one locally so I scheduled to go pick it up last night down in Denver.  But this is where the story starts to veer away from my expectations. Read more