Image used under Creative Commons: Birthday Cake by Will Clayton

It’s the roamantics’ birthday! It’s hard to believe it was two full years ago that I leapt out of bed in the middle of the night and purchased the domain that would turn into this site…but not right away. The best of intentions turned into three short posts the following week to family and friends during a trip to Vietnam, and then…silence. But then one year ago, on July 14, 2010, I started blogging regularly, through what’s been a hugely transformative year in my life and the life of this blog.

So when Mike and Lucy from 1000 Places to Fight Before You Die nominated me to participate in Tripbase’s My 7 Links project, I thought it would be a great way to celebrate the past year and highlight some older posts that new readers may have missed.

Tripbase asks each blogger who participates, to provide a link to a post for each of seven categories they’ve chosen. I’m mixing it up just a little by changing the order I list them in, so that readers will travel through these posts in chronological order, getting little snippets of this year of my life and blog as things happened. Just click on the post titles below to read each.

So since it’s a birthday party, let’s get the party started with a post about my birthday suit shall we?

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

First Nude Solo Getaway- Conquering a Fear

I had this experience during the one-month separation leading up to my split with my partner of ten years, and I’ll be writing more on this in future posts. I felt this one could have received a little more “exposure” don’t you? ;)


Your most helpful post

How to get a Good, Safe Tattoo Abroad

My ex and I took a trip to Rarotonga in September and it inspired me to write this detailed how-to. I’m proud to call it a must-read for anyone considering ink.


A post whose success surprised you

Out of the Mouths of Babes: Travel Lessons

There’s a saying that goes “No man is a friend, no man is an enemy, every man is a teacher.” I learned a few things from some tiny “men” in my life during my separation, and it was a hit.


Your most beautiful post

Squatting in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Having just split, this post was a birthday tribute to a happier birthday past. I chose it as most beautiful for the sentiment, the writing, and the photos.


The post that you are most proud of

And Then There Was One

I’m most proud of this post on so many levels. First, I’m proud that I had the courage to change the course of my life after ten years when I was deeply enmeshed but it wasn’t working anymore. Second, I started this blog because I wanted to get over my intense fear of putting my solo creativity on display, as I’d avoided doing so by being a creative collaborator my whole life. With this post, I took my boldest creative leap ever (to me) at the most emotionally difficult time possible. I’m proud of that! Third, I’m proud of the blogging community & readers for demonstrating what incredibly supportive, compassionate, thoughtful, inspirational, and kind people you are through the comments on it. So glad to be among you!

Your most popular post

Cute + Green = Creen! Buying a Creen House on Wheels

Newly single, I cooked up a plan for my first big solo adventure, an epic road trip with an eco-minded, minimalist twist… and the support for my tiny new life was huge!


Your most controversial post

The Vancouver Riot- Thoughts and Photos

I don’t really write extremely controversial posts, but on my first stop on my road trip, I experienced a massive riot that had me reflecting on how negative experiences can color our perceptions of places. For some the riot did that, for me…


It was quite a year. I learned how to tweet, to make a blog, endured a breakup of a long-term marriage, made genuine friends, learned from, got inspired by and processed through this blog, received and offered support, overcame enormous fears through it, sold everything, made a new home on wheels, and now I’ve started sharing my biggest dreams in life- I’ve taken off to travel indefinitely with this blog. I can’t wait to see what roam antics this year holds and I really hope you’ll stick around to find out as I do. We’re just getting started! Now let’s eat some cake while these awesome bloggers I’m nominating put together their 7 links. Cheers and Thanks so much!

Locationless

One Step 4ward

35 Summers

A Cruising Couple

Quirky Travel Guy

“My friend Anjel says she wants to paint your Chinook! You’d like her, she rides a Ducati to work and when she unzips her riding suit she’ll have a dress on underneath!” This from my close pal Camille, who I’d just picked up from her apprenticeship at Olive-Route. Camille went on to explain that while I’d been on the phone waiting for her, Anjel had come out to take a look. She thought it would be a cool project to work on, as she’d just taken an auto-body class.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Sure, it was love at first sight when I saw the Chinook, but partly because I could see passed the 1976 veneer to what could be- a much hotter little earlier-vintage-styled number. And in spite of the fact that I have painted the interior and exterior of my house, have ripped up carpets, sanded and installed floors, installed a toilet and sink, made furniture, roto-tilled soil, smashed and removed concrete- you name it, with my own hands- I did not have the bandwidth to take on a first-time do-it-yourself project alone with all that I had to do to get ready for my road trip. At best I was hoping to do it along the way or get a sponsor to do it.

But I didn’t have to, and the Chinook would be better for it! After a few email exchanges and meeting in person, it was clear that Camille was right, that I had the perfect partner in crime- someone who shared my love of rat rods, and had the skills to transform the Chinook. And the cool surprise? Anjel and her husband Connal write a travel blog! They’ve had some pretty fantastic adventures like traveling the world for over a year, clocking many of those miles on their motorcycles. Checkout their site 35 Summers to learn what they’ve done and about the foundation they’re starting- it’s amazing.

And what became of the Chinook is pretty darn amazing too!

Here are some photos of the process:

Anjel and I suited up and ready to go (photo by Connal Hughes)-

Anjel using an eraser to get rid of the trim line-

Sanding, and removing the raised Chinook logo (photo by Connal Hughes)-

A little Nevr-Dull on the hubcaps makes ‘em shine-

A wire brush drill bit removes sharp peeling chrome-

Anjel carefully taping off lines for the stripes-

Starting to paint the grates-

I stuck to the prep and rims and let Anjel handle the expert stuff. Doing the primer-

Finally- Paint! My goal? Make it match my lips ;)

Um, yeah, I may have slept in this strange creature that night-

Ready for some before and after magic??

Cheers! That’s victory wine in there…we should have worn dresses!

Amazing right? I’m so grateful to Anjel for volunteering her time and skills, to Connal for helping so much behind the scenes, and to Via and Chris for lending us their driveway…for days…and for meeting new friends to share traveling adventures with. Thanks to them, I can take my road trip in style. And to think, it only took a couple hundred bucks, some sweat and a few days…and Anjel’s mad skills. What do you think? Like it? Ready to hire Anjel to pimp your ride? To tackle your own DIY project? Now just wait til I get my hands on the interior… ;)


In the wake of my separation, I temporarily began spare-bedroom hopping and relying on friends, public transportation or my own two feet to get where I wanted to go. And while incredibly grateful for it all, I craved the ability to have my new independence reflected in all parts of my life without having to commit to more permanence than I was interested in. I wanted a little space of my own and I wanted a way to get around to be free and see loved ones.  And then one day I had a crazy thought. It came in an instant, and felt like it took over my whole face. You know that part in the Grinch that stole Christmas when the Grinch gets the “wonderful awful idea” to pose as Santa Claus and steal Christmas from Whoville? That one right there < ? Well, kind of like that…except that this green gal uses her ideas for good rather than evil ;)

The seed for this idea was planted long ago, when I was an actress in Hollywood. I worked with a cute young guy on many sets, he became a friend, and I was fascinated with him. He had the simplest life. He lived in his car- a station wagon of some sort- with just a cooler on the floor at the passenger seat and a bar between the front and back seats to hang his clothes.  He worked, like many of us did, on different sets every day, and between the craft service table, free meals, and long hours, he didn’t have to worry about buying food or even having a place to hang out. And with a gym membership to shower and stay healthy, he was pretty well set up.  It was the freedom- the unencumbered nature of his lifestyle- and the adventure of it that appealed to me.

Over the years I’ve thought of him and wondered how long he ended up doing that. I’ve often mentioned to friends in those “would you ever?” conversations how while I wouldn’t want to have to live in a car, I think I’d want to, to see what it was like. As I got older, fewer and fewer friends would agree and more and more would say I was crazy.

I’ve also become a much more environmentally aware person in the last decade, and began following the tiny house movement and minimalist and green lifestyle proponents. I started reading Natural Home Magazine, and oodles of books and websites, eating up info and using what I’d learned to renovate our fixer-upper house and try to create a smaller footprint.

So it was, fresh off a split from a ten year marriage, of giving up a house and most of my possessions with a plan to give up more when the dust settled, when I was craving all that I’ve mentioned here, that this crazy thought would nearly topple me with excitement…my eureka! moment.

I want to live in a vehicle. Not just travel in a vehicle, but live in a vehicle. A space in which I can live, work and travel with all, or at least most, of what I own. I told my friend Leslie, who studies sustainable systems my plan. She loved it. “But it can’t be some big, ugly old, gas-guzzling thing that makes me feel like divorce is leaving me destitute!” I said. Or absolutely kills my budget for that matter. She cracked up, knowing that I am debt-free (aside from the house we’re likely selling that Francisco currently pays for) and have good savings. “It has to be CUTE and GREEN!” I went on. At some point, with a slip of a tongue (Leslie’s) cute and green became CREEN, and with that portmanteau as my umbrella criteria I began the hunt that led me here

Where we gleefully agreed that this 1976 Toyota Chinook was most definitely creen. How?

SHE PUTS THE GREEN IN CREEN:

She’s Used (but not used up!)- buying a vehicle produced 35 years ago means the large carbon debt to manufacture it has long since been paid. And speaking of debt, the real kicker is that I own my car (house!) outright, and it cost less than my MacBook Pro. Yes, really!

Her Emissions are Low- she passed California’s strict smog test with flying colors.

She’s Fuel Efficient- the Toyota Chinook is one of the tiniest RVs ever made, with a 4-cylinder engine that according to vintage ads got a whopping 29 miles per gallon, and still gets around 25. That’s fantastic for an RV, and rivals that of many new economy cars. Of course buying a used diesel RV and doing a veggie-oil conversion would be greener, but that was way too cost-prohibitive for me at this time.  But I really, really want to do that in the future!

Her Condition is Good- the interior living space, the coach, is in remarkably good shape for it’s age, so I’m able to lightly modify and not tear out and redo. That keeps material out of the landfill and means I have to purchase fewer replacement supplies.

She’s Off the Grid- she’s what is referred to in the RV world as “self-contained,” meaning that she doesn’t need to be plugged into a campsite’s utilities to be functional for living. She’s an independent lady. ;) She has a functional 2 burner stove, a small refrigerator and a heater that all run off a clean-burning efficient propane tank, a sink with potable water storage, a camping toilet, and an extra deep-cycle battery that powers the coach electricity and recharges while driving.

She’s Tiny- the coach is less than 50 square feet- smaller than the average bathroom in the U.S.- which means I’m forced to have less stuff and consume less energy.

SHE PUTS THE CUTE IN CREEN:

This, of course, is totally subjective, but think she’s really cute and I have a low-waste, eco-friendly vintage decorating plan that will make her even cuter.

OTHER THINGS I CONSIDERED:

Safety- buying this RV, where I can jump from my bed to the driver’s seat without going outside, rather than a truck hauling a vintage trailer (which I adore!) felt like the safer option for this solo gal and my intended use.

Ease of Driving- as I said, she’s tiny, is an automatic, only 16 feet bumper to bumper, and small and narrow enough to easily fit in a compact parking space or single car garage.

Stealth- being so small and looking similar to a truck with a cab makes her less conspicuous than a big RV or truck & trailer, and will hopefully enable me to park and sleep (dry camp) wherever I want and blend in.

So now that the Chinook and I have found each other, in the next couple of months I’ll be getting her ready to be my new home. We’ll then take off on a big adventure through the U.S. and parts of Canada until my free flight benefits start in 2012. Stay tuned for more details about the eco-renovation, how I’m prepared (or not) to live in 50 square feet, what environmentally-minded antics I’ll be getting us into on the road, and where we’ll, and then I’ll, be going in the next couple of years. :)

1. Eu·re·ka A city of northwest California on Humboldt Bay, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Lumbering, fishing, and tourism are important to its economy. Population: 25,400.

2. eu·re·ka interj. Used to express triumph upon finding or discovering something.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

I took a little break. Okay, maybe in the blogosphere it was a big break, but I really needed it. I’ve taken a little time to take care of myself post-breakup by going to Arizona to meet my brand new niece and spend time with my family, by spending time with close friends and spare-bedroom hopping, and by working with Francisco to amicably handle our divorce and maintain our friendship.

I also started to think about what I want my life to be like.  If you read my last post, you may recall that the silver lining part of me has been thinking, “You can redesign your life radically and you have the courage to do it- the sky’s the limit!” But what to do out of all the possibilities? So I started thinking about the things I’d always wanted to do. And then I decided I wanted to buy a little house on wheels.  And then I scoured the RV and car/truck listings on nearly every U.S. city on Craigslist. I did Google and Ebay searches to do research and catch anything I might have missed. I Google image searched relentlessly so I could see what the options looked like. And then I actually found what looked like the perfect fit…in Eureka!

Tuesday night Leslie offered to have she and Dean make the 5-hour road trip up to Eureka and by Wednesday morning our whirlwind adventure began. Shortly after we got on the road, we saw an awesome rainbow, my second in a month, when I can’t remember the last time I saw one before that. Making our way up the 101 Freeway, we saw sweet little towns, too many signs for a place called Confusion Hill, endured a littering accident coincidentally in front of a litter fine sign just after an anti-littering rant- oops for me!- and saw trees growing out of classic cars.

We drove through it all- sun, rain, sleet, hail, and the hugest snowflakes I’ve seen since I left New England.  The weather cycled through these so quickly that rather than becoming white-knuckled, we rolled through it all in awe.  Dean was fantastic- a happy little adventurer who never once complained about the long drive.

By the time we arrived to Eureka, the hail was so strong it was bouncing off the tiny motorhome. I confess that it was love at first sight, but I did my best to treat it like the business transaction it was.  The great thing about vehicle shopping in hail and rain? You’ll know if it leaks! Fortunately, this awesome little 1976 Toyota Chinook did not. After riding along with Nathan, the seller, we made the switch for me to test drive and the rain let up, and there was another rainbow! Driving it sealed the deal, so I offered $300 under his asking price and he took it.

The plan had been to check into a well-rated hotel that had a pool for Dean and spend the afternoon checking out the area- possibly Humboldt Bay, Redwood National Forest, etc., and swim at night. But we got in later than we’d hoped, things took more time than expected, and the weather wasn’t conducive to our plans. And when we got to the hotel, we discovered the pool was outside- um, no thanks.  I would never have imagined that a Super 8 would save the day, but it did, with an indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, continental breakfast, wifi, and a clean, decent room with two queen beds for $69 (and no, they didn’t pay me to say that). Our plan B involved getting a bite at a restaurant close by, getting back to the hotel to use the amenities, sleeping like babies, and bumping the site-seeing to the morning.  And then Leslie noticed the broken tailpipe hovering just above the ground.

Thursday morning I took care of getting insured to drive back while Leslie & Dean swam. We made a quick trip to the DMV, got $100 back from Nathan, and then on to Leon’s Car Care Center to replace the tail pipe. We got a bite to eat and took Dean bowling while Leon’s worked on the truck.  I wouldn’t have guessed that the only tour I’d get in Eureka would be of the underside of a Chinook, but it was fantastic. I got the tailpipe replaced and a clean overall bill of health for the truck with the mechanic pointing out everything good going for it- including that “It’s a Toyota, and it’s cute.” Did I mention how incredibly nice everyone in Eureka was?

With a thumbs up from the mechanics, and a need to get home so I could house-sit, we caravanned back to the Bay Area, and my new home did just fine on its 5 (okay maybe 6) hour audition…with the exception of being a bit of a Grandma on the steep mountain hills.

I wish I could say I felt like I’d actually been to Eureka, but I really can’t.  In the 24 hours we were there we saw a bank, a gas station, a motel, two restaurants, the DMV, an auto repair shop, and a bowling alley. But it gave us a nice little window onto the place, and the home that will take me on my next big adventure…which may actually include a real trip to Eureka. :)

How about you? Been on a whirlwind trip lately? Been to Eureka? Ever lived in a house on wheels? Tell me about it!

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