Tag Archives: Before we go

The Incredible Weight of Simplicity


“Wow, 190 day trip.  How would you even pack for that?”  a first question of a coworker upon reunion.

Well that really brings together old and new thoughts, pre and post trip musing.  In the planning stage was the same question.  Now, I look around my home and life and wonder what all this crap is.  I wonder why I have all this stuff and how I can make sense of it, or ever get it organized.

Packing, we knew we’d be facing four seasons.  We knew the sports we’d ply.  Lists sprouted: Skis, boots, poles, long undies-tops and bottoms, coat, shell, ski pants, helmet, goggles, glove and mittens.  Hand warmers for Jane, so many accessories- but all easily listed and known.  Then the bikes with their shorter list, kayak with only paddles and life vests.  Hiking, the simplest, added only hiking boots and a day pack.   All easily splayed out in the house or garage, but a bit harder to condense and fit into a tramper and 4Runner.  The obvious and self explained necessities!

Next came clothing.  We heard the wise words of a traveling PT friend.  Bring less, he said.  “I’ve been to China for two weeks with no more than a small knapsack carry-on”.  Wise indeed, but it may have been months before we really “got” it.

Rebuilding the Tramper gave me time to ponder and plan.  Each drawer, shelf and cabinet was to have a purpose.  Some I left as in 1957.  Others had to be removed and revised.

The kitchen, including ALL pots, pans and tools

The kitchen, including ALL pots, pans and tools

The toilet room became a shower and storage for soap and shampoo, the grey water tank, our little commode, laundry detergent and sport wipes.  The table had drawers for 4 forks, spoons,  and 2 knives (one butter, one sharp).  Another drawer, the requisite “junk drawer”, post-its, pens, pencils, a sharpie and small details.

Two drawers, nicely added by a previous owner, (date unknown...1950's 60's?)

Two drawers, nicely added by a previous owner, (date unknown…1950’s 60’s?)

I had built a deep cabinet next to the fridge with 4 shelves above the right wheel well.  The bottom was purpose built to hold two boot-bag knapsacks.  Each of our indulgent boot packs “always” houses those big, heavy ski boots, a helmet, gloves/mittens, neck warmer, sunblock and just a few small accessories.  System organization.  My favorite!  And it works at home, as one can keep the categorized toys or tools of one need in one place, “always” knowing just where to look.

This puzzle piece was 17″ high though.  The boot bags ate a big chunk of space, but their weight nests right over the trailer axle.  Above was divided into 2 shelves each 2 for Hers, 2 shelves for His.  On two were baskets to hold ALL of each of our “normal” clothing.  Into the house they went and piles of underwear, T-shirts, long sleeve shirts, short and long pants were tossed.  Not long before they were overflowing, you can imagine!   Out came a few things.  Then more discussion.

In talk with our selves and travel consultant, John, the PT we knew less was going to be plenty.  Only we could decide how much less.  Clean socks and underwear a necessity, how often would we do laundry?  Having the small shower stall and hot/cold running water was a luxury we knew afforded hand washing as needed.  We settled for about 5 pairs of socks and undies each, washing them nearly every day.  Twas fun to note humidity’s effect on drying.  The dank week of Hurricane Sandy in Rosendale threatened us with that “sour” laundry smell.  The arid deserts and Western mountains dried things overnight or faster and the air we breathed was softened by the humidity.

Of course the mesh laundry bags that piled with bigger loads and heavier clothes were relieved mostly in campgrounds, occasionally in towns at laundromats.  So there we were, with the fewest clothes we thought we could make it with.  Several waves of subtraction left us each with one basket to live from.  And live we did!  An astute observer might notice the small selection in our pictures.  (They always wore the same few clothes)  We didn’t mind a bit.  Prompted me to get rid of and donate quite a pile on return home.  Jane has “halved” her closet compared to before the Voyage!


(I’ll try to get some more pics of our total clothing basket)

“How the Heck Can They Do That??”


That’s the question. How is it that we, David and Jane, managed to temporarily quit work and travel for 3 months or more?


Kitchen table Command Center!

First we started dreaming and discussing.  Our own inner conversation was perhaps the biggest obstacle to deal with.  What if?  What if something happens?  What will we do with our house, cars, bills, cats?  These and countless other thoughts are probably what keeps most people from trying out their own dreams.

Having a wonderful, mature, self-sufficient daughter helps more than we knew.  Our home and cats are in capable hands,  The house has more people living in it now than before this whole trip was conceived.


Jane, Olivia and David on launch day

Jane and I are able to imagine options and dream without internal criticism sometimes.  We imagine big choices, brainstorm without reserve or critique and just see the routes that might unfold.  We do this with a lot of decisions, money management, future ideas, loans, projects, and any old dream.  While allowing a possibility, we get to outline many of the unfolding details without ever taking a first actual step.  Remember when you were thirteen?  Just paint a picture.  Don’t block  your own thoughts.


Tents were considered, we love tent camping, but the thought of taking down a tent every day for months was eliminated early. Bed & Breakfasts were entertained, but the prices and fixed distances between could have precluded that possibility.  We hate generators and have an aversion to the fields full of “Rock-star buses” (big RV’s), KOA’s and campgrounds that look  like parking lots.  I researched those options and older RV’s and came up with a renovation/revival as an “off-grid” solution.  In our Tramper we are capable of warmth, showers, light, cooking, music and all the comforts of home without any hook-ups or support for more than three weeks at a time (other than filling our tanks with water and propane).


Next, we had to look at our present lifestyle and bills.  This began in earnest more than 2 years before the Voyage.  But even before this, our lifestyle included numerous preventions to inordinate debt.  We drive old cars with “liability-only” auto insurance.  We live in a small older house, much “smaller” and cheaper than our realtor suggested for a two income family.  We try not to buy things we don’t “need”.  Thrift stores have surprises waiting as they also have fine clothing for your normal needs, especially used work khakis (for $10 instead of $80).

Pins on the map...

Pins on the map…

During our direct preparation, we eliminated ALL credit card use and other debts possible.  I paid my student loan in double payments, managing to pay 9 months in advance.  Nearly all materials for renovation came from weekly paychecks and not from savings.  This gradual approach fit the tasks as I spent 2 years rebuilding.  The first stage was on a new frame, brakes, tires and lights to create a safe “outline” to work with.  My car rebuilding, machinist, creative, research and contacts all formed the background assembly.


The second year followed with three test trips where we took notes on what the interior needed, how to rearrange and how to weather a real Winter.  I even did a solo trip to the Catskills for the cold test at 12 degrees F.   The second stage of renovating started this March, after that cold test, when I gutted the interior, insulated, wired, plumbed, ran gas pipes and lines and finally recreated the warm Birch  interior I liked so much about the original.

camper progress 045

The ‘in-process’ view. The finished view is above.

– David


There are three things that came together that made this trip possible:

1. We both have professions that will (hopefully) allow us to step out for a year. David is a Physical Therapist and I am a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. When there are job openings, we could plug right back in. In the past, we both tried the management route and found it to be more of an irritant than it’s worth. So, we are now well-paid cogs in the wheel and content to be so. If I had finally attained my “dream job” after many years of climbing the ladder, well, I probably would have been a lot less likely to leave it.


2. We have a small house. We bought it in 1999. It’s 1000 sq ft or so. Much less house than the realtor wanted us to buy. Much less house than we could have gotten financing for. We drive used cars. We have one TV. We have “dumb” phones. Our credit card balances are zero. Neither of us likes to shop particularly much. The sum of all this is that our expenses are relatively low. So, cash is available for a trip like this.


3. Our personalities make this possible, as well. We are willing to take a calculated risk (leave our jobs and travel) for a really cool benefit (leave our jobs and travel)!


Other things make the Tramper Voyage, if not possible, then a lot easier. Our daughter is 26 and is living in our house while we’re gone, so we didn’t have to sell or rent our residence and it’s in good hands. Our investment house actually makes a small income each month. Our child-rearing days are done. David’s mom, who needs constant care now, is in the excellent hands of David’s three sisters. (Hmm, wonder if it will be a lot more on us when we return? Well, that would be okay!)


Moonrise in Texas

So, the circumstance fell into place; because we made it happen and because we’ve been fortunate in life.

the great Rio Grande!

the great Rio Grande!

But, the one thing I haven’t mentioned, the one thing that brings it all together is – David Grant! David can assess used cars and determine if they’re OK. He can do the work necessary to get those cars through inspection and keep those cars on the road. He can rehab a 1957 trailer so that it’s not only quite livable, but luxurious to live in! His common sense and his good ideas keep us happy and healthy.

Feb mar 11 067

On the road and at home.

– Jane

It’s Not All Good

We try to write in a positive, upbeat or optimistic style. Why accentuate the negative when so much good stuff is happening?

However, that may lead readers to believe that the Tramper Voyage is one big ball of constant sunshine. That nothing bad, or even sort-of bad, ever happens. Not true!

To illustrate this point, I will indulge in a completely negative post. Here is a sampling of some of the not-so-great things along the way:

1. Day One, we forgot to pack some important stuff. debbie-downerThe generator, our passports, our bike helmets and the contents therein – gloves, glasses, etc. Also, Jane packed not one pair of reading glasses. (As a bonus, the passports were expired. Fortunately, we found a Postal Service employee who helped us through the renewal-on-the-fly process).

2. We’ve lost a couple of things, mostly laundry. A pair of lavender plaid pajama pants, a 65-year-old hand towel that was my grandmother’s, one grey sock.

3. On a hike in New York, we discovered to our horror, that a half dozen ticks were crawling on us or attached to each of us.

4. On the Kingdom Trails in Vermont, we became hopelessly lost and circled back to the same place 3 times. It also began to hail during the farthest point of the ride.

5. Jane fell on the rocks hiking back down from Sterling Pond in Vermont. Got a nasty scrape on my right forearm. I have a lovely jagged purple line from wrist to elbow.

6. Blog readers already know about this one: We blew a head gasket and were stranded in Rosendale, NY for 2 weeks. Not to mention the enormous repair bill.

7. Jane locked herself out of the trailer (and the truck) while David was out on a bike ride. Usually, we are never apart. Just this one time, David took an extra lap. I managed to pry open a storage door and found a screwdriver but the screws on the trailer entrance door are all burglar proof with nuts or washers on the inside. I waited for David to return and we pulled out one of the screens. This only worked because the windows were open and also because the keys were on a table immediately below the window we pried the screen off of.

8. We’ve been using a friend’s Hiking Trail GPS. We totally missed tracking a couple rides or hikes because we forgot to enter an endpoint to the trail or we only entered one waypoint for the entire day. This is no big thing, though, because mostly we don’t track much.

9. Drove away without the trailer lights hooked up. Fortunately, a friend was following us and gave us a call to let us know that we had no brake lights.

10. David broke a key off in the latch on an outside storage bin and had to be replaced with parts from camping World in NC.

11. Several (poorly made) door latches in side the trailer broke. David promptly fixed them by drilling a screw in to secure them.

12. The 4Runner bumper pinched the right trailer turn signal wire against the hitch and blew a fuse. Again, promptly fixed.

13. David’s butt doesn’t like too much driving.   ‘Nuff said.

14. We have spent the night in a couple of truly ugly campgrounds. Mostly these are private, not in a state or national park. In North Carolina, we pulled into a camp with 6 sites. It was basically a small gravel parking lot in a level space created by scraping a hill out of the way. The only green was the small septic drain field, also used as a dog walk (poop) area.

15. The biggest problem of all: traffic and other drivers! On the New Hampshire/ Massachusetts border a pickup abruptly pulled out halfway across our lane. He was coming out of a bar parking lot and seemed to have no awareness of us as we swerved and screeched. With David at the wheel, already talking about the safety margin driving slower than the speed limit on a mountain downhill, we came out of it without a scratch but our hearts were racing when we were safely on our way again.

So, that’s about it for the negative things. All in all it’s been quite a lovely and trouble free trip.

– Jane


The post topic I love most is You!  the people we love, the people who MADE THIS POSSIBLE.  Yes, of course, I’m the one who rebuilt the camper and truck, sacrificed a bit, planned relentlessly and jumped into the gap with my lovely wife  Jane.  But people are behind us.  Here begins a partial list and I hope anyone who feels left out comments and gets posted.  First are all the sick patients recovering or not, without whom I wouldn’t have had a job.  I treasure the trust they placed in me every day as they stood (willingly or not so much), and attempted to walk again with my help.  Now, more concretely:  I found the Tramper in its moldy, shattered and neglected state on Craigslist in Delaware.  The seller was an entrepreneur named Chris who mostly collected the “more desirable” Airstreams from all over the country to sell mostly to Europeans.  He was gracious and neither over or understated what he had for me.  His 1957 Yellowstone that was “right up my alley”, he thought.  My long-time friend Joe rode along with me in a borrowed truck (from John and Melanie) as we wondered what we’d find.   I was prepared to abandon the prospect, put it on top of a U-Haul, or just drag it to Ocean City temporarily.

Yup, flat tires, no lights, mold, rot, but pretty cool possibility in my eyes.  (Another friend Ray who saw it on the maiden trial in Lykens, PA, said, “You’ve outdone yourself on this one-I mean I know you have a penchant for reviving old junk, but this really takes the cake!”)  I’m sure Joe thought I was insane as I rolled around underneath checking it out, rusty frame, cobwebs and all.  Temporary lights and Joe’s motorcycle trailer tag led me to believe I could sneak it home over the Baybridge.  (Glad I remembered to avoid the tunnel where propane tanks are restricted and scrutiny would have been likely).  Somehow we made it and Jane didn’t leave me after seeing it lumbering into our driveway.  (Although she wouldn’t step inside until way after I had cleaned it out….A LOT).


I will be posting lots of people as we travel; please respond, you are who make us!


Good News!

We are celebrating! The frozen section done during surgery was NEGATORY for cancer! Whew!! Dodged a bullet on that one.

There are more pathology results to come but I believe they will also be negative since the frozen section was negative.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers. It means so much.

We leave tomorrow or Sunday. We’ll do a phone consult with the surgeon next week. I won’t be able to bike for awhile but I don’t really care ’cause I’m in the cancer-free zone! Woo hoo!!


– Jane

at the Rattling Creek Single Trackers’ Mountain Bike Bash a few years ago