There are moments in life when you have to commit 100% and there is no going back. It’s like that moment when your heart is racing as you’re standing on the edge of the cliff and you worked hard to get up there, but you’re hesitant to jump because once you start, you can’t stop until you hit the water. The day we left our home to begin the journey to our off-grid land was not dissimilar to the feelings of jumping off of a cliff.
As you will see in our 2015 highlights, the year was no walk in the park for us. In fact, it was one of the most stressful years of our lives. Long story short, after we got the call the land was officially ours, we were on the road with all of our belongings just five days later. Here is our story of moving to our land.
For the a glimpse of the emotions we felt that day, watch the video below. Then continue to read the post to see why this day was borderline traumatic and behind the camera, things weren’t so peaceful.
Note: In addition to the video below, we’ve also included a bonus video at the end of this post!
All Systems Go: The Day of Our Move
The day of our move we had planned to leave as early as possible so that we could make the 650 mile drive in one day. We knew the drive was going to be awful so we wanted to get it over with as soon as possible, even if it required burning the candle at both ends. As Jesse’s dad would say, “Overconfidence flies again!” What can we say, we’re optimists but aren’t afraid to rip the bandaid off fast!
The night before we left we packed as much as we could, until we were down to ourselves, an overnight bag and the kitties. We set our alarms for 5:30 in the morning.
Since we didn’t get to bed until well after midnight, we were groggy and exhausted when our alarms went off. We pressed snooze and decided to sleep an extra hour.
6:30 came quickly, and while we still felt like sleep zombies, we sprung out of bed to hit the road. We packed up our sleeping bags, got dressed, brushed our teeth, fed the kitties, and tossed the remainder of our belongings into the car.
Jesse got straight to hitching up the trailer. Because the back end of the truck was so heavy and riding low, and we were trying to hitch the trailer at an angle on a steep driveway, it wasn’t pretty. The truck was having a hard time running. To put the cherry on top, I did a poor job at guiding Jesse down the driveway. Things were not off to a happy start.
As our departure was nearing closer and closer, we loaded the kitties into the car in their cat tube. The yowling was strong – animals have a way of sensing high stress levels. They normally do a small amount of yowling upon being transferred to the car, but this time it was on an entirely new level.
As soon as we were hitched up, we did a few walks around the property to ensure we didn’t miss anything, we locked the door, hid the keys for the landlord, and left. That was it. This house and rehabbing project had caused us a lot of stress (like our cat coming home one night, basically suffocating and dying, due to someone unloading a canister of bear spray on him). Needless to say, we didn’t look back and felt a twinge of nausea at the thought of what we endured during our 9-month stay.
Time to Hit The Road, But Not So Fast!
We were officially on the road. Jesse had left a few minutes before me since he was going to be slow-moving. As I left the property and nervously cruised down the country road for a few miles (the road I was happy to never have to drive on again), I saw Jesse in the middle of the road up ahead with his emergency flashers. “Oh no… we’re already having problems?” I thought to myself.
We were missing a critical tool that would be important to have if we had to unhitch for any reason. We thought we had left it on the bumper of the truck, or hitch of the trailer, and maybe it had fallen off on the way out of the driveway. Our only choice was to go back and look for it.
I drove back to the house and walked the driveway for a good twenty minutes trying to find the tool with no prevail. We decided to take our chances and proceed anyways.
We proceeded to drive into town where we would re-level the trailer on flat ground and get our caffeine fix. If you’ve never towed an RV, even a small one, without a proper leveling hitch, it’s VERY dangerous because the front has no weight on it, making it VERY subject to crosswinds and “the whip of death.” We’d be covering high desert cross winds, holiday traffic and the wind surfing capital of the world, the Columbia River Gorge. Not what we needed that day at all.
We checked that our newly-purchased walkie talkies were working, gave each other a hug, and decided to get on with the show. This was our last stop for nearly 300 miles, and there was no looking back. The cats continued to express their unhappiness which didn’t help our already high stress levels.
Our entire family was loaded up, with all of our belongings, and we were on the road. It was going to be weird to take such a long drive without talking having Jesse to talk to. I followed Jesse and the trailer closely, staring blankly at the road ahead.
Normally, this particular drive out of town meant that we were going camping, to lay by a river, to go rock climbing or to dinner on the river, but this time it meant that we were leaving everything behind to start a completely new life that might not even work out because it was going to be such a challenge. Oh, the feelings were strong!
Settling Into the Drive: It Was Slow-Going
To be honest, I don’t think either one of us remembers much of the drive. I think we were both staring blankly ahead with our heart rates higher than normal as we white-knuckled the wheel with both hands while being defensive and offensive to protect ourselves against the holiday traffic. Yes, we were making the move on Labor Day weekend which we knew was a terrible idea, but it wasn’t really an option to delay it.
At some point, the cats did settle down which reduced my personal stress level by 50%. As we drove along, my heart was really in the truck with Jesse because I knew he was much more stressed out than I was since he was the one towing the heavy trailer with an under-powered truck.
Mind you we had just purchased our truck less than 2 weeks prior and hadn’t had time to vett it or test it properly. The morning after we got it home the starter solenoid stuck open nearly frying the starter and killed the battery. We were heading into this journey with a lot of faith.
We drove across the long stretch of High Desert heading North. At times, we were driving up mountain passes at just 30mph, getting passed by the antsy, okay MORONIC, holiday traffic. We tried to accept that this wasn’t going to be a quick drive and keep our cool.
We would check in with one another semi-frequently via our walkie-talkiesto make sure things were okay. In the weeks leading up to the move we had slept very little, not to mention the fact that we only got a few hours of sleep the night before. Under normal circumstances, this would not be a good time to take a long road trip.
We had both envisioned this day for months… the day we would leave everything behind and begin our dream life. We thought that this would be one of the happiest days of our lives and that our move would bring us great joy. Why did it have to be so stressful?
Were we making the right choice? Were things going to work out? Were we going to make it without a major breakdown or being ran off the road by impatient holiday drivers? We had no idea, but we stuck with the plan.
To top our anxiety off, most road trips have a comfortable place to crash at the end. This one didn’t. We knew that we would be arriving probably in the middle of night onto bare land in an unknown area with a car and trailer full of stuff, plus a couple of stressed out kitty cats. We wouldn’t even be able to drag ourselves out of the drivers seats to crawl into bed. Genius right?
We wondered if when we arrived, we would just toss our stuff out into the dirt for the night and deal with it over the next couple of days. We didn’t know if the cats would tolerate the trailer as they were both indoor/outdoor cats, so we wondered if they would run away from all the stress. Again, everything just felt really uncertain. We pressed on and figured if we survived we would deal with it when we arrived.
And Then, Late At Night, 12 Hours in, Things Got Ugly
Around 10pm we estimated that we were approximately three hours from our destination. At least that’s what Google Maps said. All day long we had consumed one cup of coffee and two chicken strips each, so energy was low. We were sleepy. It had started to rain and it was a dark night making visibility worse and roads slick. The cats started getting grumpy. One of the cats (Nikolai) peed in his cat tube and that’s when things starting going downhill quick.
If you have ever driven in a car full of cat pee, it doesn’t fit the bill of a good time. I had all windows open which made for a urine-scented, windy drive. Both cats were yowling, and they actually started fighting. They were in an all-claws-out brawl. I had to pull over to separate them, and ended up shoving Malek into a small box in the front seat. Unpleasant, but least of all evils.
Both of our heads were pounding and it seemed that we were having a hard time keeping things together, so we mutually agreed that we had to call it quits for the night. Even if we were able to hold it together a few more hours, what would we do once we got there at 1am, exhausted and in the rain? There are times when you get a gut feeling to not proceed with something, and our gut feelings were strong to call it quits for the night.
We frantically called all over town until we found an available room that allowed cats. Luckily, we had luck after ten minutes of calling around and found an availability just ten miles away.
As mentioned in this post, one of the reasons we got a great deal on our travel trailer was because it had a small leaking problem, as well as some dry rot in the front. This was okay with us because we had planned on keeping it covered. However, here we were in the pouring rain with no choice but to let it get pounded with water all night long. We had caulked the trailer a few days prior, but we had no idea how it would hold up with this much water. In the end, we couldn’t do anything about it so we stumbled into our dry, cozy motel room.
Once in the motel room, the stress diminished quickly. We let the cats out of their tube, put out some food and water for them, they used the toilet (yes, they use the human toilet), explored a bit, and they were almost content in about thirty minutes.
Jesse and I took a shower and then crawled into a soft, cool bed. Jesse passed out within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, and I vaguely remember trying to post an update to our Facebook page while gently and simultaneously rubbing his head. I passed out shortly after.
Waking Up Fresh & Hitting the Road Again
The next morning, we awoke at around 10am. Again, we awoke much later than we had planned, but it felt so incredible to be somewhat rested. We loaded the family back up into the cars and hit the road.
No breakfast and no coffee. Since we left the house over 24 hours ago, all we had still consumed was one cup of coffee and two chicken nuggets. We simply wanted the trip to be done. There was no time for food, and to be honest, we didn’t have much of an appetite anyways. Here is a quick video I was able to shoot that morning.
It was still raining. After just a few minutes on the Interstate, while cresting a rolling hill that was also curved, the truck began understeering. Understeer is when you turn the wheel a lot but the truck doesn’t turn. Jesse felt sick to his stomach as he thought that he actually might wreck in that moment. It happened so fast that I couldn’t even tell what happened, but before he was out of control he was back in control by gently letting the truck drift back onto the highway.
All Jesse had to say after the event was, “I’m so thankful for having driven really fast cars on slick roads at a track for so many years. That training, or goofing off, came in very handy today. Otherwise our journey could have ended right then and there.” We came within 8 feet of ramming the concrete barrier on an interstate full of morning traffic. Remember what we said earlier about the importance of a proper load leveling hitch? That.
We drove for a couple of hours before stopping for coffee. Jesse checked the tire pressure of the truck and trailer as he thought maybe this was contributing to the drivability issues. I ordered us a couple of mochas which always increases morale.
The barista was extremely nice… I told her that we were journeying to our newly purchased off grid land. In response, she shared that came up to the area for a visit 10 years prior and loved it so much that she never went home. This was a pleasant reminder that we weren’t crazy, there indeed was a reason why we were moving so far from home, and that this stress was going to be worth it. She gave us our mochas and we went on our way. Those mochas tasted so good.
Houston, We Have Another Problem
While we had a steady rain all morning, it one again began pouring cats and dogs… in August! This area hadn’t received rain in months, and it looked like there were at least a few more days of rain in the forecast. We knew that we shouldn’t let our trailer be pounded with water for who knows how many days, so we went over numerous solutions in our head. We had planned on having a timber frame barn built before the wintery weather arrived, but this was obviously way too optimistic. We needed an affordable solution to protect our RV… now.
Arriving Into Town & Still Had Problems
Finally, we found ourselves rolling into town. Because we were too foggy-brained the month leading up to this trip, it didn’t even cross our mind that we would need a storage unit. We thought that we could build a simple storage shed on our property the first week, but now we didn’t feel so certain. Here we were on a Saturday afternoon on Labor Day weekend sitting in a grocery store parking lot in the pouring rain, calling every storage unit we could find a number for.
We left lots of voicemails but nobody called us back. We thought that our chances were good in a small town as a lot of businesses are small and family owned and because of this, many don’t have a set work schedule. We felt so desperate. We couldn’t toss our stuff out into the mud, and until our trailer was empty, we had nowhere to go. We really didn’t want to check into a motel for a second night when it was broad daylight and our property was just miles away.
We already knew from looking for land, there’s not active Craigslist for the area. So I decided to see if there was a community group on Facebook… there was! I joined the group, and immediately asked if anyone knew of someone that had a storage unit available and could let us dump our stuff off… LIKE YESTERDAY. A stranger gave me a number of someone we hadn’t yet called. We called the guy, left a message, and he called back within minutes. He had a unit available and said he would meet us there. THANK YOU FACEBOOK!
A Few Additional Unmet Needs, Just Miles From Our Property
We then realized that we had a dead trailer battery and no water or propane in our RV. We probably could have taken care of this before we left Oregon, but did I already mention that we were foggy-brained and had too much to get done before we left? Something had to give.
We stopped by the local auto parts store to pick up an RV battery and discovered a place where we could fill up our water tank and grabbed propane.
But wait. More problems… After filling our the water tank on our RV we headed out of town up a steep 3 mile long hill. Jesse radioed the truck suddenly had no power. In fact he was slowing down with the pedal to the floor. The truck engine was vibrating heavily. We’d have to pull over to diagnose. Before we could even find a safe place to pull over the problem suddenly cleared up and the engine regained power. UGH! Can you say emotional roller coaster?!?
Even though we were tired and ready for the trip to be done, we went to the storage unit a few miles out of town and quickly unloaded ALL our stuff. Yea, ALL of it!
Finally, we were headed to our property. The kitties had been so patient that day. They even got some attention from the receptionist at the tire store where we got our RV battery. All of us were more than ready to get out of the car, for good.
All Set, Time To Arrive On Our Land
As we got off the main road and headed down a beautiful country road to our property, I finally started to feel excitement. I took out the camera to video tape this portion because I felt so emotional, and knew I would want footage of the arrival on our land.
Jesse had stopped ahead just before we arrived at our driveway. He told me to go up first so that I could video tape him coming up with the trailer. I happily obliged.
Surprise, We Have Guests!
I drove up the driveway while filming and was shocked to see a couple of people in a green pickup truck on our property. I got out of the car to go talk to them to see what was up, and they quickly rolled up their windows and drove out as quick as possible. They clearly were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing (drugs?). I don’t know who was more shocked to see the other… me or them?
I somewhat followed them as they layed rubber down the driveway. The look on Jesse’s face was priceless. I smiled at him, shrugged my shoulders, and waved him up! There was no time for questions, we had finally arrive on our off grid property!
Jesse rolled up the driveway, did a small loop, parked the trailer, and got out of the car. We were so happy that we had made it, and enjoyed a long, embracing hug. If I were an emotional crier, I would have cried, but I’m not, so we just hugged and enjoyed the moment.
The first thing on the agenda was to get the cats out of the car. I took them into the trailer one by one and they were pretty happy to be back on solid land. They cruised around the trailer for a bit, used the bathroom, and eventually settled down to take baths.
We took a few celebratory photos on the property.
After the cats were in the trailer and we had taken our photos, we looked at each other and said “Now what?” Specifically, we were referring to the fact that there was a lot of rain in the forecast and we had no time to rest. We had to protect our investment and get the RV protected.
Time to Get Back on The Road, We Had Critical Problems to Solve
While we were initially wrapped up in the romantic idea that we were going to build a timber frame barn for the trailer before the wet weather arrived, we admitted defeat and turned to our iPhones for a solution. We discovered that there were some large RV carports in stock at a Home Depot just thirty miles away. It seemed crazy to jump back in the car but it had to be done, so we found ourselves back in the Subaru putting our seat belts on. I happily volunteered to drive to give Jesse a much-needed break.
When we arrived at Home Depot, we quickly priced out the cost of building a minimal pole barn. We thought that it would be quicker than doing a timber frame structure and that it could be a short-term solution. After seeing that it would cost thousands of dollars, nor be a permanent solution, it seemed that it would be a huge waste of money and a distraction from building what we actually wanted.
We ended up buying what we saw was in stock online: this Garage-in-a-Box by ShelterLogic. As it worked itself out a very kind gentleman name Jeff helped us that day. Jeff, if you’re reading this, we appreciate you very much. You have no idea how much your help meant to us that night. Read more about our RV garage shelter and see how we took it even a step further by putting together an RV deck.
Heading to The Property For Good, We Indulged in Bad-For-You (But Delicious!) Pizza
We felt a little defeated that on day one, we splurged on a large, $500 expense for our property. The entire idea of this journey was to not use money to solve our problems and here we were, off to a bad start. One thing that we really want to hammer home is that you can only do so much planning, but you can’t plan for it all. It’s a great idea to try to not use money, but sometimes it can’t be avoided and that’s okay.
The idea is to shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you will still land among the stars. Our travel trailer cost $2,500 and the Garage-in-a-Boxwas $500. $3,000 wasn’t a bad price to pay to own the roof over our heads. If we had rented an apartment for $500/mo we’d eat up the same amount of money in just 6 months. As I’m writing this we’re entering our 6th month and we’re still in our RV cozy, dry and happy.
As we rolled back into town with our Garage-in-a-Box in tow, we suddenly found that our appetites were back – HARD! We quickly were approaching a local pizza joint so I slammed on the breaks, cranked the wheel, and made a fashionable entrance into the parking lot.
We ordered two medium pizzas… one Hawaiian and one BBQ. I think we both ate almost an entire pizza EACH. We literally stuffed our faces, and we may have even washed it down with a high fructose corn syrup-laden root beer. AND we enjoyed it, take that! We didn’t even feel bloated or regretful the next morning. I think our entire dinner conversation consisted of us saying “HAH! We made it! Can you believe it? We are here! We are alive! Damn, this pizza is GOOD!”
We drove back to our property to find it just as we had left it. Both kitties were sound asleep and all was peaceful in our new home. We put the few slices of leftover pizza into our little refrigerator, crawled into bed, and passed out in anticipation of waking up to our first morning on our property.
Bonus Video: Time to Get Some Shut Eye After Two Long, Stressful Days
Before we passed out the first night on our property, Jesse recorded a short video on our Sony Handycam. I actually completely forgot that he did this until about five days ago, and I’m happy he recorded this! We had so much stress leading up to the moving to our land, so in a way this was the first peaceful night of sleep we had after many months, knowing that we’ve accomplished a huge milestone.
Check out this bonus video by “liking” or sharing this blog post!
Moving to a Property is Stressful But Rewarding
I’ll keep this summary short… but if you plan on embarking on a similar journey, don’t expect it to be rainbows and unicorns the entire time. Moving to bare land to homestead is not stress-free. It can be very stressful and very scary. Nothing feels certain, and nothing IS certain! There is risk, and things may not go your way. Our goal in sharing is to motivate others to take the leap even if it seems like you’re going to die along the way. When times are rough, remember why you are embarking on your journey in the first place and push harder until you see blue sky, and you will see blue sky!
All things considered, everything worked out well for us. We dodged a lot of bullets. For all of these reasons, we will not soon forget the emotions that came with leaving our life behind and venturing to start an off grid homestead. Even though it was/is stressful, it is our land, we own our trailer outright(our home), and we finally feel an odd sense of stability in our lives. We’re finally home.
Do you have fears of moving to your own property, or have a vivid imagination about what that special day will be like? If you’ve done it, what were your experiences? Were they similar to ours or was it everything you had imagined and more? Let us know in the comments below! As always, we love to hear your stories!
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