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high desert. small house.

Preparing to Head West

The Decision to Head West

Back in October 2013, we caught wind of the tiny house movement and the idea of an optimized lifestyle.  It only took a few documentaries to convince us of the endless possibilities one has when designing their own abode and living without a mortgage.  We decided we were ready for a change and set in motion the necessary steps to accomplish our new goal.  We love the idea of a liberated lifestyle; keeping things simple and fun with our two Aussies and Fred, the bird.

Kitchen utensils and supplies that we never used.  We sold this lot of goods for $20 on craigslist.

Kitchen utensils and supplies that we never used.  We sold this lot of goods for $20 on craigslist.

Fast forward one year…we are now free of our stuff – we sold the house and liquidated most of our belongings.  A year is a long timeline and it wasn’t without challenges.  Brian and I high-five every time we realize the follow-through that we have demonstrated. It’s exciting to strive toward a goal together, especially one of this magnitude.

Trip to Charlestown, NH to investigate Morningside Flight Park, a hang gliding center.

Trip to Charlestown, NH to investigate Morningside Flight Park, a hang gliding center.

We have both seen most of the United States.  Our recent trips include traveling between Connecticut and the Florida Keys, between Washington and Arizona and between Connecticut and California.  We’ve been all over New England and into Canada.  In addition to traveling, I’ve lived in 2 cities in the Southwest (Phoenix and Pinetop, AZ) as well as in Rochester, WA.  Having seen most of the country was very helpful in homing in on Arizona and New Mexico.

If you’ve never visited the high desert areas in the southwest, then you may not understand its allure.  You might also not get it if you love snow that falls in October and hangs around until April.  But once you’ve experienced the mile high grandeur, you’ll never forget it.  The high desert offers grand beauty, ponderosa pines, space, four gentle seasons, relaxed people and fun, cowboy towns.  It may not be for everybody, but we decided it was the place for us and our small house.

After extensive research, we boiled it down to 3 cities – Silver City, NM, Payson, AZ and Prescott, AZ.  More details will follow about why we chose those places as we are visiting them.

Preparing to Move

Our journey west would not have been possible without the past few days of intense preparation.  Moving a great distance necessitated making the decision about whether or not to drive our stuff in a rental truck or ship everything ahead via a storage unit.  Because of the cost and convenience, we decided to transport our belongings by U-Box.  While this did mean selling off a few belongings that we’d definitely need to purchase again, it was ultimately the best decision in order to have freedom and ease on the road.  Not having a giant truck to haul around meant we would be able to ride together as well as not worry about parking and frequent gas stops for the truck.

The 320 cubic foot u-box.

The 320 cubic foot u-box.

The U-Box is 5’ wide x 8’ long x 8’ tall.  If you have a lot of prized possessions or big items, you probably think that’s impossibly small.  But with very little furniture and patient packing, we were able to get nearly all of our belongings into it.  We donated several things to charities, gave things to family and packed immediate necessities in the car.

Picture of free stuff by the road.  Note:  If you really want to move things along, take a picture of your curb and post it on craigslist.

Picture of free stuff by the road. Note: If you really want to move things along, take a picture of your free stuff and post it on craigslist.

Our final day featured some nail biting moments.  Because U-Haul closed at 7pm, we ended up having to call it an early night on Wednesday instead of packing until completion.  This made Thursday our final pack day as well as our departure day.  The final two loads to the box were rather stressful because we knew we were on the verge of not fitting the remainder of the stuff plus random items kept popping out of the woodwork and needed to be accommodated.  In the end, due to 3 complete do-overs, lots of patience and great teamwork, we fit ALL of our intended belongings into the U-Box.

The last few trips took very creative packing in order to fit the remaining items in.  One positive aspect to having the box packed solid is the stability given to everything inside.

The last few trips took very creative packing in order to fit the remaining items in. One positive aspect to having the box packed solid is the stability given to everything inside.

Our Journey Commences

We hit the road at 5:30 on Thursday night, experienced some rush-hour traffic and finally got traction around Danbury, CT.  We called it a night around 1:30am Friday morning when we were getting tired.  Instead of trading who drives with who sleeps, we both stay awake – one person drives and one person navigates, entertains, attends pets, etc.  While it might mean we travel slower, it guarantees a pleasant and safe journey.

Fred is situated all the way in the back, with his cage on top of the cooler.  Like the u-box, we did not need any tie-downs.  The density of our stuff holds him in place.

Fred is situated all the way in the back, with his cage on top of the cooler. Like the u-box, we did not need any tie-downs. The density of our stuff holds him in place.

We stayed at the Rodeway Inn in Frackville, PA.  Nothing much to report here except that the wind was fierce and Sydney, our 7 year old Australian Shepherd, nearly lost her spot on the team because of poor behavior.  She has been known to lose herself to excitement (real or perceived) so we’re working through it.  Both Fred Bird and Trooper, on the other hand, did a stellar job.

Day 2 – On the Road Again

After a quick, slow-carb compliant breakfast (we’re both eating slow-carb/paleo), we hit the road, heading south on Interstate 81.  A word of caution to anyone traveling this road with cranky or fragile cargo.  The road is bumpy – not pothole bumpy; more as if you are driving a speedboat on choppy seas.  It’s as if the road is constricted of a series of concrete ramps. Nobody can sleep and carefully positioned items (or birds) get vibrated out of place.

Denver omelets at the Dutch Kitchen, Frackville, PA.

Denver omelets at the Dutch Kitchen, Frackville, PA.

We’ll update again as the trip progresses. We hope to hit at least Knoxville, TN tonight.  Our quest has just begun and we hope to fill this blog with tales of both the journey west as well as the entire build process.  Stay tuned!

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