Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Final Push

* Caution: The following  post is picture dense.  Images contained may cause tiny house envy.

Wow, after a four day weekend, I think I'm actually ready for the work week- just so I can have a brief break from house building!  Its been a tiring last two weeks, what with planning my Pacific Crest Trail trip and hosting two work weekends.  But, as of last night, all of my "major materials" projects on the house are complete.  And just in time, because as of the end of this month (Friday), I will be moving out of my rental!

What do I mean by "major materials projects"?  These are the things that, well, simply take a large volume of "stuff" to build, such as siding or flooring or drywall.  My current storage capacity includes a little shed attached to the house, a cheap, leaky Walmart tarp covering a pile on the ground, and the house itself.  Since I'll be "camping" in the house next week before my trip to California, it would be really, really nice to not be tripping over boxes of nails and 2x2s in the middle of the night, so I wanted to be done with these big projects beforehand.

The first push was to finish sealing up the exterior by completing that dreaded soffiting project that was rained out last time.  My brother David and his girlfriend Connie generously agreed to come down last Saturday and help out.  After a day of being perched up on ladders and Connie getting gassed out by the fumes from oil-based polyurethane, we had the soffit and gable trim up and the yellow poplar inside coated!

Using the brad nailer on the soffit.  Maybe not the correct way to attach it, but hammer or drill wouldn't fit.

Securing the gable end trim.

Still alive after a long day of work!

My dad and brother Nick arrived on Saturday to help out with hanging drywall.  The plan had been to finish all the drywall, and hook up all of the electric.  Unfortunately, they were only able to stay for the day, but we still got most of the drywall up, and I was able to finish and plaster it over the following two days.  Yes, it took two days to smooth every corner and joint.  I've about had my fill of that task, but at least the drywall putty was a tasty looking pink, kind of like cake frosting :)

Installing electrical box for exterior light

Notching drywall with the keyhole saw

Applying Liquid Nails before hanging the sheet rock

My finger after slicing it on the edge of the roof

Here's a picture of the difference between the unfinished ceiling and the whitewash pickling.  It really brightens up the place!

I'd love to get a coat of paint up and the floors sealed before I move in, but we'll see.  After working on drywall all weekend long, I was able to finish hanging the remainder of the siding under the eaves, and Voila! A new Tumbleweed!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Off to Californy!

Well, its official.  I'm heading to California to do some hoboing (without the house).  I requested a month off in June, and got approval yesterday, so I've purchased my cross-country Greyhound ticket and am makin' plans!

When I quit my old job and switched to a wage position with State Parks, I had a few objectives in mind.  First was to free up time on a daily basis, so I could do more relaxing, reading, hanging out with friends, etc.  Second was to free up time to build my house.  And third, I wanted to be able to take off at least a month to do a section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Objectives #1 & 2 are continually "in progress".  Objective #3 wasn't really even started until today, May 18th.  My bus leaves in less than three weeks, on the 8th.

Initially, I figured pulling off a section hike of the PCT would be simple, similar to going out for a weekend hike on the Appalachian Trail (throw some gear in a pack, drive to the trail head, put one foot in front of the other, return).  My brother asked me a couple weeks ago how my planning was going.  I shrugged my shoulders, "Planning?  Not really doing much, other than planning on getting a train ticket to California and hiking to the trail, then buying another ticket back.  Or not."  But as I started reading about the trail some more, I realized that I didn't even know how to get there.  What town would be a good start?  Where to end?  What buses run where?

So, I invested $46 and purchased Yogi's PCT Handbook, a handcrafted collection of trail wisdom from various individuals that have thru-hiked the PCT.  Let me say here that I am glad I did.  By the end of my hike, I think I'll say the same.  Originally, I thought I would hike a section from Oregon to Washington, since I've never been to those states before (that was honestly my only reasoning- I didn't care where I hiked, just that I could claim that my shoes had crossed state lines).  CLOSED.  Not legally, but physically closed to hiking until sometime in the mid-summer.  Most hikers start in Campo at the Mexican border late April/early May, hike an average of 25 miles/day, and arrive in Canada sometime mid-October, not because that's the nicest weather to hike- its the only weather to hike.  Until mid-June, the Sierra Mountains are basically impassable due to snow and ice (a mind blowing concept to this east coast native).

With this knowledge, I've rerouted my itinerary to arrive in Palmdale, California and hike 20 miles to the trail at Agua Dulce, where I'll head north (destination?  TBD).  Why Agua Dulce?  Well, mostly because the name sounds sweet (sorry, I had to), but it also should position me for entry into the Sierras after some of the snow has melted.  Some.  It looks like ice ax and glissading techniques may still be required, but I'll face that challenge another day.

Other challenges:  Its hot in the desert.  Its cold at night, every night.  Bears like human food- not me, per se, but things like Cheetos and Twinkies tickle their taste buds, so much so that sometimes food has to be carried and stored in bear canisters (think giant Nalgene bottle).  Snow is slippery.  And it hides trails.  Cacti puncture stuff.  And, I'm gonna be spending a solid two and a half days on a bus.  Each way.

Why am I taking a bus?  Well, hobos don't exactly hop rides on planes, at least that I or the TSA are aware of.  I've flown to Reno before (my only time flying), and it was cool, but I really didn't get to see anything along the way.  I've never been to any of these states before, so ground travel will give me the opportunity to see some new sites and check places off my list.  Originally, my mode of transportation was going to be Amtrak.  But, as I got closer to departure date, ticket prices started going up, well beyond the reach of my wallet.  Advance ticket purchase for Greyhound cross county: $140.

Yes, after working a low paying job for the past year, and building a house, I am broke.  And, as of right now, I still don't have anywhere to live in my house (its not even finished!).  Some would see this as a terrible time to take a month long expedition.  In some ways, yes, that's true, but the one advantage of having such a small income is that when its gone, do you really even miss it?  Right now, most of my wages are going towards taxes, gas, and rent.  Well, actually mostly just taxes.  I will have bus ticket, gear, and food expenses while traveling, but otherwise, everything else will be limited.  My plan is to move out of my current house at the beginning of June (to where is still unknown.  Walmart.) so I won't have to pay rent while I'm gone.  Insurance, credit card bills, property taxes, etc. I'll pay before I leave.

If you couldn't tell, there's a lot of uncertainty with this seat of the pants trip.  I predict I'll face a lot of challenges along the way.  But, isn't that what hoboing is about?  I can't wait to see all of these new places and once again live simply from just what I can carry on my back.  Thanks to everybody who has supported me in my crazy endeavors in the past, and to those who can spare a minute, please say a prayer for me!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Resources for the Modern-Day House on the Move

In my ongoing hunt to find a home for my house, I've stumbled upon a couple interesting and useful websites: Tiny House Listings and the Tiny House Map.  Tiny House Listings is similar to a lot of real estate websites, except instead of advertising respectable cookie cutter homes in the suburbs, it offers tiny houses for sale and possibly illegal parking spaces for rent!  In addition to such fascinating classifieds, the website hosts a neat little blog on all things tiny housing, including, oh hey! House for a Hobo!  Check out the summary here.

Sweet rides such as this show up on Tinyhouselistings.com

The Tiny House Map just came out last month, but I think its sheer genius.  The movement to smaller housing has definitely been growing (when I first learned about Tumbleweed and joined their Facebook page last year, they had 24,000 some fans- now its well over 42,000!), but its really hard to gauge how many people have actually taken the plunge from dreaming to making life in a 120 square foot box their reality.  "Not many" appears to be the answer.  Check it out- I'm the only tiny houser in the state of Virginia!

Its interesting to see the distribution of tiny housing across the country.  With a bit of demographic information, one could probably come up with good guesses about what it is that makes people interested in tiny houses, e.g. cost of rent, environmental surroundings, age distribution, etc.  Any theories?      

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Little" Progress, Lotsa Fun

Since the start of this project back in September, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to not have a single team work weekend rained out.  This has been fantastic for me because not only do I get to maximize the working hours of my helpers, it also means that they haven’t wasted a 2.5+ hour drive to Chester.

Of course, this trend wasn’t going to last forever, especially now that spring is upon us.  Last Saturday started out sunny enough, even though the weather man was calling for rain all day.  After having plans needlessly cancelled multiple times due to “possible bad weather”, I’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring the weather and setting out with a determination to enjoy myself no matter what.  Normally it works, but by noon the skies were overcast and a deluge forced my dad and I inside to sit it out while having lunch. 

The rain didn’t really go away for the rest of the day.  I don’t have any pictures of us working under the gloomy, overcast sky because, naturally, we weren’t much in the mood for taking pictures.  The plan had been to work on installing trim and soffit under the roof, a task that I wanted to be done with so that we could move on to more glamorous projects.  So of course I wasn’t too thrilled to have progress slowed by the steady drip of water onto my face and the threat of electrocution from the mixture of water and power tools. 

Sounds like the weekend sucked, doesn’t it?  Well, not really, actually.  I was primed for the rain by last weekend’s backpacking adventure in West Virginia.  It was a similar situation of forecasted rain, sunny morning, wet and dreary afternoon.  When it started to rain while we were on the ridge above Seneca Creek, I could feel the temperature drop and the waterproofing on my rain jacket fail.  I thought “This sucks.  Like, I’m really uncomfortable, and I’d rather just be somewhere warm and dry with somebody taking care of me.”  Then it occurred to me that there was a day (in my “younger years”) when I would have gotten the jollies from such miserable weather, you know, the thrill of "braving the elements and overcoming obstacles".  I decided then that I wasn’t going to let a little discomfort ruin the trip, so I saddled my pack back on and had a great time with some wonderful people in an awesome place!  (I go hiking with a group called Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers, so you know they’re not going to let a little bad weather get them down!) 

So instead of falling into a bad mood because of some drops of rain on my work weekend, I considered everything I had to be grateful for, and my dad and I pressed on, albeit at a reduced pace.  And I had bucket loads for which to be thankful!  My buddy Eric came down Friday afternoon, and we got to spend some time at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum, after which we hit up the taco truck caravan outside, walked out to Belle Isle after dark, made a little fire at El Tiny House and camped out in the “Great Room” (I’m hoping that Eric’s starting to catch on to how AWESOME RVA can be!).  It was great to have both my dad and Eric helping out the next day, and by taking our time, we were able to get some pretty good work done.  And, last but not least, how cool is it to have your own house to duck into when it starts raining?!

Despite some of the problematic weather recently, I have been able to make some progress on the plumbing and the kitchen.  My last update described some of my excitement over finally having running water in the house.  Well, I’ve decided that, for the most part, I kind of like plumbing.  After a little practice, I’ve figured out that, like most things, if you take some time to plan it out and fit everything together properly, the stuff actually has the potential to function like it should!  Here’s some pics of the drain I installed from the kitchen sink, where it connects with the shower drain underneath to make up the “gray water” system:

Also in the kitchen, I have been busy framing up the kitchen cabinets.  My planning on these wasn’t exact (the framing was back ½” too far), but, all in all it looks pretty decent and is really sturdy.  I used 1x4s for most of it, which I screwed together with a “pocket jig” where I wanted to conceal things.  At $15, a pocket jig is another one of those brilliant inventions like the door handle installation kit.  If you couldn’t tell, I like devices that lock things in place so you don’t have any room for error!

Speaking of tools, Mr. Makita, my new hammer drill, started making some knocking noises Saturday when I was cutting out vent holes in the soffit.  It was some tough, rather dangerous work in the rain (the drill got ripped from my hands a couple times- I recommend easing the hole saw into the wood instead of plunging straight down), so I can understand why Mr. Makita may have been a little grumpy, but I decided I had better take it safe and return him to Home Depot before the warranty ran out.  They replaced it with what they said was the last one on the shelf, but when I got back to the house I noticed this:

Ha, dirt on a brand new drill?!  It was obviously a return or rebuilt, and a lot of the parts were dusty or sticking, so I went back to the store once again and picked out a new Milwaukee.  It just drills, doesn’t hammer, but seems to be sufficiently zippy so far.  It did a good job with the pocket jig, so I have some high hopes for this new tool.
As of right now, my game plan is to basically complete the house by the end of this month, move out of my current rental, and, if I haven’t found another home by then, I’ll move the tiny house to one of the local mobile home parks (but before that happens, I still have to finish siding, dry walling, electrical, trim, and painting!).  I have a variety of prospective adventures rapidly coming up in my life, so I’ll keep you all updated as things unfold!

Tiny house under the oak tree on a perfect spring evening