The band is back together

Lake Hattie helped us create some memories. Some good, some not as good. We learned that the rocket fireworks with the large wax wicks just blow up in your face when lit. We learned that this location is either VERY windy or clouded with swarming hungry mosquitoes. We’re learning how to co-habitate as one big happy family of emotions and different needs and desires. We’re learning how precious of a commodity fresh water, tank capacity and power can be, and we’re learning how to manage our messes in such a small space. I think we all feel a bit beat up with the roughing it, but it’s been a great way to learn what we really need.

The first day the band was back together, the weather was beautiful and sunny. The lake water was cold, but the air was nice and the wind wasn’t insane, so we swam, fished and made little clay sculptures. No fish caught, but enjoyed anyway.

The reception was so unpredictable at the lake that I had a hard time staying connected for work. We’re now looking into adding another phone carrier for some redundancy and connectivity.

Eric taught us some tips on how to skip rocks. Crouch low, flick your wrist and voila! We all practiced skipping rocks and we eventually all got it.

Jillian skipping rocks

Then finally, we caught some fish! Eric said Jillian has some of the best luck fishing, and sure enough, she caught the first one!

Then Eric, and then Joe! Eric taught us how to clean the fish, which I think secretly was his favorite part of the whole catch, and I tried be strong and not think of them as pets but as food. Joe played with his fish’s head, stuck a screaming chaser into it and asked if he could set it off. I wasn’t thinking the head would go far and I had visions of fish shrapnel flying everywhere. We had three little headless trout (their heads fell off, ok?) in our fridge waiting for consumption.

Joe’s first fish

Jill and Ethan are really blossoming in facing their fear of bugs and crawly things. Jill was playing with a lady bug and a giant beetle and Ethan has named all moths Greg so they are less scary. They are even saying “hello” to the little bugs that are flying around now.

Gabe decided to play either Boba Fett or do a modified yoga triangle pose, while squirting water from the squirt gun straight into the air. The wind was so strong that it blew away and not even a drop landed on him!

On our way back to Lake Hattie from Colorado, Joe bought a bunch of fireworks. The first couple of nights, when we had many neighbors staying with us for the weekend, Eric and Joe put on shows with the big-uns. Even Gabe, who has been afraid of fireworks until now, joined in and lit off some bottle rockets. PSA – lanterns don’t work very well in windy Wyoming. We’ll have to try again somewhere calmer.

On our last night at the lake, Eric and I attempted to float in the lake just off the shore. It was windy, so we basically just ended up constantly on shore, but we still got in the water for a bit and enjoyed the peace. We then burned the last of our firewood, roasted hot dogs over the fire, cooked up the trout and talked about things both serious and silly around the campfire.

Eric noticed that Ethan has a lot of Chimpanzee sounds, and now we all laugh when Ethan plays off of it. Here’s a goofy video of Ethan playing it up and us trying to get him to recreate his sounds. Probably going to have to “catch” him doing it and hope the camera is nearby in order to share the authentic sound.

Waking Ethan’s inner chimp

Some quality Eric and kiddo time

Eric, Gabe and Jill enjoyed a few days alone at Lake Hattie while Ethan and Joe spent time with their dad and I spent time with my sister and tied up some more loose ends back in Colorado.

They enjoyed pizza and rode bikes around our new site. Jillian sported some of her new birthday clothes even though it was a bit cold and windy for the summer gear.

Eric found a momma, we think fox, and her pups who hung around the bathrooms and trash scavenging. The sanitation group hadn’t picked up trash in a while, so it was overflowing and easy grabbing for the fox family. I hope they ate their veggies.

Then, mid-June…it snowed at the lake. Inside the camper they popped some popcorn and cuddled up to watch movies and watch the slow fly outside. Thankfully, the heater works great and they were cozy and warm.

The next day, the sun came out and although it warmed up some, it was a typical windy day in Wyoming. Eric made extra efforts to make sure camp was wind secure so we lost a minimal amount of stuff. RIP blue chair cover.

The sunset was absolutely beautiful that night, and Liberty gleamed like a post card.

Eric has Gabe and Jill convinced that he makes THE best macaroni and cheese. There is no doctoring, it’s literally followed directions on the box of plain old Kraft macaroni and cheese. The actual gourmet stuff that I’ve attempted to make them, with cream and cheddar and al dente noodles just isn’t as good to them…Dad makes the best, I won’t even try to argue with that one! Makes me laugh every time.

“The World’s Best Mac and Cheese” by Kraft & Eric

In other news, Eric lost the finger split, so he used his resourcefulness and put a small comb as a brace and taped it up. It does the job, and if he has any messy knuckle hair, it’ll be taken care of also.

While at the AT&T store to get more sim cards, Eric met Chris and Crystal Pohl, a kind couple who owns a mobile RV & Automobile repair business. They offered to come out to the site and take a look at some of the damage from the ‘incident’. They came out and helped install the new brake controller. We were so grateful and wanted to make sure they knew how much we appreciated them coming so we invited them for dinner whenever it worked for them. If anyone is in town and needs some mobile repair work done, we highly recommend them. Here is a link to their Facebook page with their company information

Help from All Season RV & Automotive Mobile Service in Laramie, WY

Chief’s successful weight loss plan

We had great intentions of using the wheelchair lift in the bus as a deck or aid to help us move heavy tools and generators, etc. Unfortunately, the bracket on the other side of the lift broke. We don’t have the time for setbacks on this, so out it goes.

Thankfully, Joe’s friend is an aspiring welder and is awesomely mechanical. He wanted the system for its hydraulics and scrap metal. Four hours later and we had more room, less weight, and peace of mind that it will not break in Chief again.

A silver lining in all this was that Eric now has a power source to tap into for use in the back and more room for storage!

Memorial Day and moving

We spent most of the day moving and sorting and organizing and getting rid of ancillary items as we could. But it was also Memorial Day, so we spent time talking with each other and the kids about what it all means.

Eric is a really effective teacher. I knew that this day was for honoring our fallen servicemen heroes, but in the past it has felt like a celebratory day to kick off summer and have a BBQ.

PTSD is a deep and painful wound. It’s something that can overwhelm a person’s life to the point of not being able to live a life like before. One of Eric’s closest friends, Chief Walker AKA Uncle Bob, suffered tremendously from PTSD and took his life. Another of Eric’s friends, Chief Blake AKA TJ, has been running 100 miles to raise funds to stop soldier suicide. (Here is a link to the Facebook fundraiser if you’d like to follow or contribute ) In a report from September 2019, at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide from 2008 to 2017. The veteran suicide rate is 1.5 times that of a civilian’s. Why is that? Of course, we all have our ideas, but here is mine from the little I know.

Our military is put through harsh conditions, survival challenges, and literal emotional and physical torture, and this is only during training. They become sharpened tools and experts at their niche throughout their careers. They move up the ladder and into life-threatening positions. They are taught to be honorable, humble, work together, and fight for what makes our country worth it all. They build tight-knit friendships, some of whom they lose in battle, and they are taught to cope all while moving foward and continue fighting.

Once they leave active duty, there is a 5-day course that is aimed to assimilate them into civilian life. Many of these men and women have spent their entire adulthood up until that point serving. To me, this does not seem like a proportionate amount of time to figure it all out and become even half as successful as they were during their service. Nonetheless, it is a good start. If a veteran is lucky, they will find some jobs that are aimed toward veterans. These heroes are now going through life without the intense sense of purpose they once had, and have to start at the bottom of the ladder all over again. Their military friends disperse back to their home towns and go on with their lives. It is easy for them to feel forgotten and useless. Add in some boredom, some PTSD, some financial hardships, and a complete change in lifestyle and the new world these men and women face can be quite depressing.

This is such a common issue that the VA has set up classes during their service, and support after veterans serve. One of Eric’s friends finished a 100-mile run to help the cause and sent him this care package that meant the world to Eric.

TJ’s touching care package includes a Chief’s challenge coin, picture of Eric’s Chief induction, a decal of Eric’s “office” and his “office view”.

Please show your love to our heroes. Let them know they matter during AND after they dedicate their life to serving our country. Demonstrate gratitude for their sacrifices and embrace them as our teammates so we can collectively make the world a better place than we found it.

The beginning of Chief’s renovations

Eric and I have a deal. I get to decorate and organize the inside of the trailer, he gets to do the same with the bus. Ideas have been thrown around about what we want to do with the bus from a garage, to a kid room, to a man cave to storage and combinations of those.

But first, off comes the ceiling.

What LOOKS like mold and bugs thankfully turned out to be glue and carpet fibers. (phew!) First layer of batting on!! Easy to glue and stays put!

The next steps were the fabric.

This stuff was hard to get on AND pull straight AND not get dirty AND secure somehow during a very blustery windy day! We used spray glue that dried way too quickly in the wind and screws that twisted the fabric. Our arms were tingling from being held in the air so long. The result needs a few tweaks, but is good enough for now.

Then he stapled a sexy, manly, heavy, gray alligator print pleather for the center section. Our little helpers Jill and Gabe were very needed to get this big center guy up and screwed in without it flopping down on our heads!

And here is the mostly finished ceiling (we should have glued the center too, but I didn’t think it was necessary, oops).

Hard, frustrating and rewarding bus reno

Eric has been hard at work getting Chief jazzed up to be the man-cave/escape area when one of us needs to get away. This week has been full of events.

The wheelchair lift has been bittersweet. We want to keep it. It’s a great place to load/unload the generator and could be a cool little deck spot on the bus. We even joked about using it as a diving board if we parked near a cliff (sooo safe I’m sure). But this thing has been problematic since day 1.

When we picked it up, the seller was showing us how everything worked and mid-demonstration the lift stopped. We have decided there must be a short somewhere in the circuit, so now we only lift and lower the deck manually.

As Eric was prepping to install some flooring, the wheelchair bracket snapped. We called the manufacturer and they wouldn’t help due to liability issues, so Eric was on his own trying to come up with a fix. Four hours later, he was able to temporarily fix by drilling another hole in the bracket, but we’ll need to figure out something more permanent. If you have ideas, please feel free to share…we’d like to get this thing working because it’s pretty cool when it does.

After a couple really late and body abusing nights, Eric got the temporary floor laid down. He didn’t want to lay sub-floor yet, so considering it’s floating, it looks really nice! He’s also installed some temporary window coverings, and of course, surround sound that is obnoxiously loud. He’s having such a great time turning this beast into a fun escape and it’s been a great learning experience!

Added perk: Gabe and Jill are enjoying some “quality time” with Dad on the bus. In the heat. Gabe is especially thrilled.

We’re more excited than we should admit about these Zero-G no tangle hoses…just look.

Also, PSA…tools are sharp, m-kay?

Meet Chief

I was inspired by somone in the RV community who pulls their rig with a converted bus. Out of curiousity, I got on the ole Google and searched away. Somehow down the rabbit hole I stumbled upon a government auction site. I registered, not thinking I was qualified to do so, and bid on a shuttle bus Eric and I liked.

And…we won. It was a real thing. We bought a bus. For real.

Won the bid on a Wednesday, needed to drive to Minnesota within 10 days to pick up the bus and I still needed to work full-time. This meant taking off mid-day Friday and driving to Minnesota during a pandemic. We had barely left the house, I got all my hand sanitizers and masks and we trekked out to drive and stop for nothing but bathrooms breaks, fill-ups, and sleep.

The first night we stayed in a cute campground in Nebraska, near Omaha. We got in late, pitched a tent and hit the hay. This campground is a bird sanctuary. We woke in the morning, not to a rooster crowing, but to dozens of geese and ducks honking. sqawking and quacking right next to our heads. We were giddy so we laughed and realized that meant it was time to get back onto the road.

Day 2 of our driving marathon meant we got to pick up the bus and drive it part of the way back home. I couldn’t stop giggling…never in a million bazillion years would I have thought I wanted to be a bus driver…or own one, or any combination a person could think of in regards to buses with the exception of having a tour maybe my childhood dream…and that’d be a fancy tour bus.

But here we are…picking up a real live bus and planning to actually drive it. A lot.

We hit the road to stay at a different camping spot to check it out in Vermillion, SD. Dad said the city was named after relatives, or so someone told him, so we needed to check it out.

I thought for sure we were lost because the camping spots were actually just spaces next to a building in a park. There were hookups and grills, so it must be the case. We had a long day and were so tired that we stayed. Covid caused the toilet areas not to work, which was SUCH a bummer. We hadn’t showered since Friday and I was really looking forward to one. Tent camping woes – haha! Since it’s a small town, even the gas station closed at night so in order to use the bathroom the awesomely nice store person let me in.

The ride went smooth and we were so grateful that the bus made it with no issue!

Have I mentioned? We own a bus. Like, you know, a wheels on the bus kind of BUS. Still in shock here.