Monday, March 12, 2018

A Realization Of Progress

When I last wrote, I was thinking I would be back on task again, pumping out blog articles. But, my muse only really sails on calm waters. Try as I might, my life seems to be occasioned by squalls. But I am motivated and have things to say.  I will again try to rededicate myself and get back on my regular schedule.

A year ago today I was sitting in this exact same spot, the corner of my big cities’ bonsai garden.  I was here for the exact same reason. My employer had asked me to attend an IT conference that ran over a Friday-Saturday, leaving me unwilling to make the hundred and eight mile round trip home just for one very short day. I elected instead to just stay over. The visitor traffic is heavy this morning and it isn’t the tranquil spot of reflection it really could be. Still though, it is a nice place to be. Working at home for so many years I got fairly good at tuning out distractions. Children specifically.  Did you know “bonsai literally means tray planting or tree in a pot”? I do because I am sitting next a sign saying so and every parent walking through reads it to appear a genius to their kids.

Another thing I am reminded of by being here is just how far my van project has progressed. A couple of days ago Facebook was kind enough to remind me of my post the night I hooked up the house batteries. I also remember it was the night before this conference last year that I got the gas pipe and wires run to hook up the furnace. It was my original plan to spend my first overnight in the van on the Friday night. I was hoping to park within walking distance so I could have a very short commute Saturday morning.

In the end, this plan was foiled. When I left Friday evening, I could smell propane as I walked up to the van! When I opened the driver's door the smell was overpowering.   I had a gas leak in the pipe connections I had plumbed the night before. I had to turn off the gas and then very carefully go around and open all the doors to let it air out. I was just lucky I hadn't had to explain to police it wasn’t a car bomb that went off just a matter of stupidity. I spent the next several months with off and on gas leaks until I determined I had used the wrong connectors and replaced them all. But that night I had to seek other accommodations.

Back then, I had just the barest shell of what I have now. I had no mattress, I had no insulation.  It wasn’t going to be a comfortable night, it was going to be a milestone night. This year was a different story. The conference was about half an hour drive from my normal parking grounds and the check-in time was eight AM. I really shouldn’t be driving without coffee and though I am in much better shape van-wise than what I am now, I am having a few battery issues (which I will post about in the next few days). I don’t really have the spare power to run my coffee maker.

I discovered via google maps there was a metro train station with a park-and-ride lot which allowed overnight parking in a few designated spots. This lot was just four stations away from where I needed to be. I drove down there on Thursday evening and it was really great being able to wake up in the morning so close to my destination. I woke up, hopped the train and fifteen minutes later I had a cup of free conference coffee in my hand.  It was wonderful!

This isn’t a huge surprise but parking in a completely new spot doesn’t make for the best sleep the first night. There are all the new sounds and always the concern something unexpected could happen. A sign saying overnight parking allowed is one thing, quite another if some roll-through security suspects my living situation. Overnight lodging is not the same as parking and I could suffer the police pounding on the door at 3am. The second night is always much better for some reason.  Maybe someday I will be over this. I will realize the truth I have been preaching to you for over a year now. Cargo vans are invisible and that it is a much safer world out there than the network news would have me fear.

At the IT conference one of the sessions I attended was a grammar in technical writing. Put together for attendees to learn to write better documentation. I enjoyed it, a room of geeks debating the Oxford comma. But one of the points the instructor pushed was to not double space after a period. It will be a matter of the old dog new tricks dilemma to try to train myself out something I learned all those years ago from Mr. Richardson in twelfth grading typing class. I am going to try. I have been hearing this from other sources as well and finally need to make the jump.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Snow Days and the Stealthy Couple

Good scheduling, the gods, and twelve inches of snow all conspired to allow The Wife and I to spend ten days straight together.   She joined me, the two of us living in the van for three nights while I spent my work days in the office. We had the van in a good spot, we didn’t move it all week. During that time however I didn’t write a single word for this blog.  I was in a way, quite proud of myself. —Because I have obsessive tendencies.  Instead I devoted myself strictly to quality time.  Even so I had a bit of a backlog.  I was able to publish three times despite my total inactivity.  After this time though I fell prey to Newtonian physics.  I was an object at rest that stayed at rest for the next month and a half.

It has been consistently cold here in the Northland.   What we locals call “a cold winter.”  Most nights have been below zero, sometimes the daily highs are as well.  Weather like this makes me not want to move the van much.  I have found a couple pretty good parking spots and content myself with revolving between them. I work.  I either hang out at work until eight or nine, or I find a pub to drop into until then.  I open up my blogging tool.  I read the couple of paragraphs of what has eventually become this post.  I diddle with grammar and tense.  I ponder the orphans, the stray sentences I have written.  Then I spend the next couple of hours Trolling for Trumpets on Facebook and reading news sites.  It hasn’t been an exciting existence.

Snow buildup on the solar panels.
It was really fun having The Wife come and spend three nights in a row with me.  Lately we spend a lot of time talking about the future.  She and I are roughly five years out from empty-nestdom.  We love our children (no matter what they say about us) but seriously, this is a moment we have been anticipating for just over nineteen years.  As it inches closer we spend more and more time talking about what life will be like and what we plan to do with ourselves.  I have untested gypsy-like thoughts.  My bride is very much a homebody who has no idea where in the world she wants that home to sit.  Overlay that on an X-Y matrix of what we like -vs- what we can afford and you pretty much have our discussions in a nutshell.

What we are both pretty sure of is we have grown tired of six (or more) months of ice.  Last month when The Wife fell on our icy stairs was the turning point for her.  It has been a couple months and she still is moving gingerly.  She has to be careful sitting and one arm won’t reach the same as the other.  She went from cavalier-post-teen to "done with snow and cold" literally overnight.

The thing is neither of us have lived anywhere else and this is a very big country.  I dream about spending some time exploring it.  Likely we are always going to be urban dwellers and so a vehicle like the BV in some ways could be perfect for living on the road.  Rolling from city to city.  Seeing the sights.  Seeing where we like.  More important, seeing where we don’t.  A couple of years ago I did two interviews for a job down in Little Rock Arkansas.  It was winter here and those seventy degree forecasts were looking pretty appealing.  It ended up not working out (obviously) but in the meantime of the interviewing process I wrote a couple of friends of friends who live down there.  The realization my Bernie Sanders sign wouldn’t be welcome in most neighborhoods was a factor in our realization just how much we wouldn’t fit in.  …Almost more than the fact the position reported directly to the governor and paid $67,000.

So we know there are places we don’t want to live, how do we ferret them out? What I wax poetic about is living a life where we would travel around, finding towns where we would like to stay a while and landing in an AirBnB.  Live there a couple of weeks or even a month but in-between we would be living out of some sort of stealth camper.

The Wife seems to believe this would be entirely too much me in too confined of space.  As I look at it, the only way to dissuade her into any sort of nomadic lifestyle is to simulate it.

These are the types of things we need to figure out.  Five years from now I hope it will be van version 2.0.  Maybe by then I will have the money for a Sprinter van instead of the fifty inch ceiling I deal with now.  Being able to stand up isn’t critical for me, just needing four night a week cheap lodging.  Seven days a week for an indeterminate length of time is another story.

I just know my digital photo album is full of screen shots from Instagram.  Van dwellers who shoot pictures looking out the backs of their vans.  The view out that back window is limitless.