A Quick Update

Okay! I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but wanted to keep an effort of making semi-regular updates while I’m out and about. There’s lots more to say, but I’ll try to stick to just the major points.

Down And Back Again

On 6 April, me and Audrey hit the road bright and early and towed the trailer all the way down to Angel’s Camp. End-to-end, the drive took 16 hours – a long day, to be sure, but it felt much better than trying to find a place to camp or stay overnight with everything closed. I was pretty nervous about towing the trailer, since I hadn’t moved it since I put it in my backyard nine months ago, but after a hour or so I was comfortable cruising down the highway at 65. The drive itself was gorgeous, with grey overcast skies through Olympia giving way to a bluebird day once we hit Oregon, and a brilliant red sunset outside Sacramento.

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Down on the farm, we jumped into all sorts of things: planting apple trees, mowing grass, irrigation, fencing, all with plenty of good food and good company. It’s been far too long since I’ve done any solid farmwork (I’m tempted to use the phrase “real work”), and I found it incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating to be out under the sun, working with my own hands and body on physical, tangible objects again. I found myself reflecting often on how I want to do more of this work: live somewhere more rural, spend more time outside, reinvest in my relationship with the land, the air, the world around me. All of these thoughts right now feel early, undeveloped, but important nonetheless. It often feels as though I’m exactly where I should be, and I’m eager to continue to water these seeds over the course of this trip and see what bigger concepts emerge.

After about three weeks, it was time to say goodbye and move on. Now, the original plan was to head over to the coast, post the trailer up in a state park, and visit some old friends in the bay while building a treehouse with my good buddy John… but obviously, everything was still closed. We kicked around a couple of different options, and eventually decided the best move was to return to Seattle, regroup for a bit, and let things open up.

Returning home was unexpected, but incredibly warm and comforting. We caught the housemates up to speed, and spent a day or two walking around the neighborhood and trying to figure out what we were doing here (given that both of us are unemployed and were planning on being out of the state until June). I took the stay-at-home opportunity to dive into several big projects that had needed doing for a while: the “deep tracks” of my to-do list, so to speak. There were a handful of other projects as well (the stuck door, the leaky sink, the overgrown lawn) but the big ones that I want to talk about have to do with the truck and the trailer.

The Truck

For the past three years my truck’s had a small, but growing, oil leak from the valve cover. It doesn’t require extra oil in-between changes, but it makes a mess of everything and creates a bit of smoke where it drips onto the exhaust. In theory, this is a simple repair: take off the valve cover, replace the valve cover gasket, put the cover back on. In practice, well… I’ve been around enough old motorcycles to know that even the simplest operations can take a while, when you inevitably shear a bolt or strip a frozen screw. Additionally, I had never done any major work on my engine before, never worked on an engine too big/heavy for me to simply pull out and hoist onto a workbench. Finally, I was significantly concerned about creating a new problem during the process: my truck’s got over 240,000 miles, still runs like a champ, and I was counting on it having a fair amount of life left… unless I screwed up something big during this repair.

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Nerves aside, I’m happy to report that everything went off without a hitch. The work took me about two full days, plus a couple of trips to the store, and went remarkably well. The gasket clearly had some problems (hence the oil leak), and I also found a good amount (20 years worth) of sludge/grime in the valve cover, which I was happy to clean out. After I replaced the gaskets and got everything back together again, the engine fired up smoothly, and has been running like a champ ever since. A big job, and well done!

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The Trailer

Being on the farm gave us a great opportunity to test-drive living the trailer, and after just a few weeks we already had a long list of things we’d like to fix or change, from small-ticket items like drawers and bins to some much bigger items, like plumbing. Turns out, the sink is warped and doesn’t drain very well, and both our freshwater and greywater tanks are old and leaky! (Thankfully the blackwater tank is fine).

Despite a fair amount of searching, I couldn’t find any tanks online that matched the dimensions of the old tanks, and patching them was pretty much out of the question given their age. Much brainstorming and Internet-searching later, I figured out a solution that involved ordering some new tanks online (of different dimensions), affixing them to some custom-made brackets, and then bolting these brackets underneath the trailer. Just by the nature of how the tanks were installed, this also required replacing pretty much all the DWV waste plumbing, from the vent above the trailer through both the sink and shower and down to the greywater tank. It was a ton of work, maybe three or four full days, but really the only way forward. By now, I’m happy to report that both the tanks are now installed under the trailer and work great!

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What’s Next?

Right now, it feels like there’s a lot to do, and not a lot to do. All the major infrastructural work is finally complete: the trailer’s a functional, good place to live in. There are certainly some more projects we’d like to take on, from fixing some of the cabinet latches that don’t latch anymore to painting and replacing the flooring, but none of these projects are urgent or completely necessary. The big question now is where we want to go, or what we want to do… which is all TBD right now, obviously. As things open up in Washington, I’m currently planning to stay based around my house in Seattle and get out on some day trips. Once camping opens up (Phase 2 of Inslee’s reopening plan) I’m hoping to get the trailer out into the wilderness, probably somewhere in the Olympics, and start exploring. If different states open up sooner or later, I might pivot accordingly and try to find somewhere cool to get myself into. As always, thanks for reading, stay safe during these wild times, and stay tuned for more updates.

Published by Spencer

Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington. I work on expanding Internet access and connectivity worldwide.

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