Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Expedition Day 1: Leaving the Nest

After a morning of packing the camper and a tearful goodbye to Ma and Pa LaBoube, we finally set off on our expedition! First stop: Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. 

Our workhorse, a 2014 VW diesel Golf TDI, worked like a champ. We encountered what we expect to be some of the worst winds we'll experience on this trip and still managed 17-18 MPG towing just under 2,000 pounds. In more favorable conditions we averaged 21-22 MPG going 55-60 MPH in the flats of mid-Illinois. There's room for improvement, though.

We've got some good news for Chicagoland on the status of summer because not only do the trees in this part of the state have leaves, they are also blossoming and we saw dandelions! 

We discovered that, in addition to tons of music, Spotify also has audio books and educational materials, so we learned Chinese and listened to some classic Sherlock Holmes. 

Hello from Shawnee!

Friday, April 25, 2014

F-Yeah Friday!

Hooray for today and finally having a win with the car!

First, a note on the meaning of F-Yeah Friday! Back when Ryan and I were working folk with regular Monday through Friday, 9-5 jobs, instead of bidding each other a TGIF on Friday mornings, we declared them F*** Yeah Fridays! It seemed to better represent our sentiment.

Well, today, Friday, we finally have something to celebrate. As anybody who has checked in with us recently about our trip knows, we have been waiting and waiting on the wiring for our car. We had a fantastic team of professionals who specialize in German cars working on ours so that the brakes and blinkers from the car would transfer to the camper. For safety.

As it turns out, our car is incredibly computerized which is both a blessing and a curse. After several attempts at wiring things the 'right' way, as they do in Europe, our mechanic finally gave up and we picked up our car yesterday. Having never done anything like this before, we decided to give it a shot.

Ryan has clocked about a million hours with online videos, studying how to splice and ground wires specific to our car and its computer, with our fate entirely in our hands. And it worked! Below is the moment immediately following the first successful use of the blinkers and breaks on the camper. It doesn't look like much, but it means everything to us.

Not only did we get the wiring to work, but we partially managed to do one thing our expert mechanic could not, which was to get one of our first options to work. We're practically wiring geniuses. Also, we are grateful for the internet and all those before us that took the time to write articles and post videos detailing everything we had to do.

Originally the wiring for the car would have been one small step in the process of leaving, but it has become a giant leap in the right direction and the only thing between us and adventure. Neither of us still believe it's actually real.

Only a couple days to launch now!

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Beginnings

I would like to begin with gratitude for everyone and everything that have helped us to get this far. We are thankful for our wonderful family and friends who have assisted in even the tiniest of ways, from simply supporting our decision to travel and sharing in our excitement, to those who have recommended their favorite places across the country and tips for how to get by, and especially those that crawled under our car in chilly temperatures to install the hitch.

We are particularly grateful for everything Ryan's parents have done for us, whose kindness and generosity have been integral in our success. Without them we would be living in a parking lot without a car. It wouldn't be pretty.

It is not lost on us how fortunate we are to be setting out on an adventure like this. While we have made this trip our priority and have worked very hard to get here, we also acknowledge how fortunate and lucky we have been. Thank you to everybody who has played even the smallest role in helping us!

We are officially one week into a fresh chapter of our lives, having moved out of our apartment in Chicago last Monday, putting most of our belongings into a storage space and now living out of our camper in the driveway of Ryan's parents.

On top of the usual moving stresses, it has been a lot of hurry up and wait with the preparations for our car and with getting the camper de-winterized and ready for the road. We have gone from knowing very little and having spent a minimal amount of time with the camper, to being elbow deep in the workings of things like the water pump and the German-controlled computer that powers every aspect of our car.

The transition has been bittersweet, bidding farewell to our dear friends and colleagues while at the same time eagerly anticipating our grand adventure. It has been a lot of work, both mentally and physically, but we are ready and it will all be worthwhile.

Even though we thought we would be on the road by now, this is not a setback. Every extra day we spend preparing is an extra day we can travel and we are fortunate to have it in a place where we can run a hose from the house and pop into the hardware store when needed as opposed to being stuck out in the desert somewhere, millions of miles from a water hookup or a hardware store, and certainly without an address to which we can have parts from Amazon delivered.

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