Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Camper Life on a Budget

We all have dreams and goals. My dream was to live the Jeep Life on the road. I had a goal, a plan to reach that goal. There were many steps in that plan to live my dream. 

Well, sometimes life throws a wrench into your plan, and you need to adapt. The wrench in my plan - I had to start this dream a couple years early. I wasn't financially or emotionally ready, which is okay. I will adapt. 

Starting this dream a little earlier than I planned means I have to work a little harder and wiser financially. 2020 the dream became a reality, I packed up what I could fit in my Jeep and headed West. 

I met up with Neil, my adventure partner. He bought a slide in camper with a 1997 Dodge 1500. The Camper / Jeep Life begins.

We are in the process of remodeling out new home at the same time living in it, and at the same time working to pay for our new life. Being thrown into this dream by skipping several planning steps makes it a little harder, but we will preserver.  

So here begins "Camper Build on a Budget".

Neil bought the camper about 2 weeks before I got to Del Norte, Colorado, our home base. He began by stripping the camper so we could begin our remodel. He started by...

He painted all the wood walls a slate gray, then he covered all the cabinet doors with a tye-dye fabric. He covered the cushions with new black fabric which were black table cloths.

He upgraded the electrical system from 15 amps to 30 amps. He did this by scouring a salvage yard for the new parts. He also found a water heater.

After moving the camper from inside a garage to the campground, we found it took a lot to heat the camper. We needed to wrap the outside to protect and insulate it from the Colorado cold. We were told another camper had just tossed his tarps, so I went dumpster diving to retrieve the tarp. 

What a difference it makes. We are using an electrical heater since electricity comes with the campground. The propane heater rarely comes on. So we only use the propane for cooking. The $25 heater beats $25 every two days to heat with propane. 

Neil is also in the process of making us a wet bath. He has begun the framing of the wet bath along with my closet which is a lot smaller from my former walk in closet. 
For now the wet bath will have to wait until we get the funds and the time. We are at a campground that has showers and a bathroom.

When you are on a budget you need to get creative. Neil is just that. He has been working hard at making our camper a home. He is very handy with great ideas. I was lucky to partner up with a such a good craftsman. Pluse he can fix my Jeep.

Camper Build on a Budget

1992 Slide in Camper - $500
1997 Dodge 1500 PickUp - $400
1 can of paint - $20
Curtains - Free
Fabric (Black table cloths) - $10 Amazonm
Tarp - Free
Water Heater - $15
Wood for framing - Free
New Mattress - $150
Spray Adhesive - $20 
Electrical Upgrade - Free
Electric heater - $25 Big R
Rugs for flooring - $20 Family Dollar
Baskets (10) - $10 Dollar Store

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Wrenching Therapy


This second week of my new chapter in life started with a horrible loss. Neil and I took our Jersey the Jeep Dog to the vet. She was not doing good the whole week, and her health continued to deteriorate over the weekend. 

She had cancer. Sadly, it was her time as her quality of life was not a life at all. It was extremely heart-wrenching to watch Neil say good-bye. 

Neil said,the best therapy is to get back into the garage to wrench. So that's what we did. 

The next day we met up with Corey, the owner of an LJ, affectionately named Weed Brownie. Weed Brownie was damaged in a crash in Denver, her frame twisted, and she was declared totaled. Corey was devastated. A friend hooked him up with Neil and the build begins. 

Corey met us in Del Norte, Colorado to help get the build started. Neil and Corey cut out the engine. Yes, literally cut out the engine, as the frame was so twisted. Weed Brownie will be getting an LS Swap. 

Once the engine was out it was time to search for a CJ7 front clip. We heard there was one about 30 minutes away in Saguache where there was a Jeep/WW2 Museum. A must stop if you are in the area. Blog Post Coming Soon.

The end of the week was more parts searching as Neil and I went scavenging the area salvage yards. I believe Neil has picked them clean of Jeep Parts, so it's time to expand our search area. 

Even though the scavenging was a bust it was so worth the trip as the beauty in Colorado is breathtaking. We had to drive through Wolf's Creek. This time there was not one swear word, or gasp, or scream. I was even able to drive the pass myself. 

The wrenching therapy seems to work even though one day was pretty tough on me emotionally. I know I will take a step back once in awhile. This change in my life is extremely hard on me emotionally with missing my kids and the separation and scrutiny. I will push through it. I am a strong women who has dreams and deserves to have a great life. 

I have found some negative things about Colorado though. Yes,I know "GASP"! I find myself out of breath at times. Even when I am laying down. I know it takes getting used to the altitude. The San Luis Valley is around 7500 feet give or take depending on where you are at. 

The other negative about Colorado is it's so dry. Both my thumbs have very deep cracks in the skin. It is very painful. However, I found out from Neil using GOJO is not very smart. This just dries out the skin even more.

My second week ended with "There's always next year". Something only a Minnesota Vikings fan can relate to! 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Jamie - Celebrating the Jeep Life

My name is Jaime. I'm 43 year old woman from Ohio.

Growing up, my dad always had lifted trucks and I always wanted to do one myself.  

I got my 94 YJ back in 2013 from my dad by trading my truck. It took a few years, but I finally got my lift and installed it myself along with doing all the maintenance on it. Over the last few years I've been slowly modifying it to be more of a toy. Luckily, I have a good friend Justin Bito who owns JMB Garage. He helped me do the clutch and transmission swap on it right before WWD2019 "Women's Wheeling Day at Rausch Creek Off Road Park).  

It's not always easy for me to do the work on it because I have had 6 back surgeries. When I was 21 I was driving and was hit from a car behind me at 55 mph. I try hard not to let my disabilities stop me from the things I want to do and things I want to achieve. Some days are easier then others that's for sure. 

Last year I got to be a trail guide at the Bantam Festival and Woman's Wheeling day which was a big goal of mine. To me it was a big step up from being a spotter on the course at 4wd parts Jamboree. 

I started wheeling my Jeep a little over a year ago. I absolutely love doing it. My back, health issues and income keep me from wheeling as much as I would like to.

This year I'm heading out to MOAB with my Dad for 2 weeks. This will be the first time I get to go wheeling with him so I can't express the excitement I have for this adventure. Spending this time with him will be truly priceless.

Before I got my Jeep I raced stock cars at the local track. Which was alot of fun. but I always worried about messing my back up even more if something were to happen. 

So I decided it would be in my best interest to sell my race car and pursue my dream of building my own off-road Jeep. 

My YJ has been my daily driver up till a few months ago. I currently have Dodge Durango as my daily and a car trailer. I still got some work to do in order to haul the Jeep. Little by little I am getting there. 

Each day I try to do something to get me closer to my dreams. When I look back at how far I have come in the last year it amazes me. Never give up on your dreams no matter the odds. Even when all the odds are stacked against you.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Hardest Week of My Life

This new decade is going to bring exciting adventures, a new chapter in my life. I look forward to this new adventure, however, the first week of 2020 has been quite a struggle emotionally.

For years I have been having marital problems. As I struggled with my own issues of self-identity, my marriage also had it's issues. A few years ago we separated, but still lived together in our home. After returning from my adventure this past fall, I was told it's time to sell the house and get a divorce. 

For me selling the house wasn't an option... yet. My youngest just started high school and has many friends in the neighborhood. I grew up moving and going from school to school. It was one of the most difficult experiences as a young teenager, an experience that effected me emotionally on many levels. I vowed when my kids were born, I wouldn't let that happen to them.

Financially we couldn't afford two households, nor did I want my son to leave his school district and friends. I had lost my job earlier (unfairly by the way, which is a whole other story of discrimination). I spent weeks trying to figure out a solution that would be the best for my two boys. I discussed the options with both of them. Knowing my youngest would pick living with his dad, we decided the best for the three of us was for me to pack up and leave Maryland. The most difficult and heart-wrenching decision I have ever made. It was the best solution out of a bunch of awful options.

The county we live in is one of the most expensive places to live in the US and I was starting over from scratch. Finding a good paying job for a 50 some year old mom with a hole in their resume was difficult. I wasn't getting any responses from the hundreds of jobs I applied for.  For me to survive financially on the East Coast I would most likely have to work two maybe three jobs. That isn't the life I want to live. Yes, some consider that to be selfish, as I was told that by several friends and family. Even an ex-friend who I hadn't heard from in two years shamed me publicly on Facebook. It was very frustrating and hurtful to hear these opinions. But good friend and mentor from my days in television told me... "Don't second guess why you made the decision, you two are the only ones to know the reasons, we on the outside don't." 

Someone who hasn't been in my life for two years has no justification to judge me or my decisions, actually no one does. No one has been living in my shoes and knows what is going on behind the doors of my home. It has taken me a couple of weeks to accept this and not to care about other's opinions. I know deep down in my heart this is the best option for my boys and I. I have a lot of healing to do, and I need to be able to support myself once again. 

There are times I look back on the past 20 years and tell myself I should of done this or I should of done that, but I need to move forward and live in the future. We only have one chance at life so I need to make the most of it. 

Yes this living the Jeep Life is a dream of mine, but under the circumstances it wasn't how I dreamed it was to happen. I am making the best of it and forging forward. One thing I learned on my last adventure is to let the adventure lead you. My life's adventure lead me here to Colorado. 

I left my home and kids a week ago and headed West to Colorado. Del Norte, Colorado to be exact, this is were my adventure partner, Neil, is based. We thought we could start our second adventure early since my circumstances had changed.  

I left with $500 and whatever I could fit in my Jeep. I left everything in the house as not to disrupt the lives of my kids.  

I arrived in Del Norte one day before the New Year. Neil had already purchased a slide in camper for us to live in. It was in his shop garage as he had started the remodel. We are on a super strict budget so the remodel will take time. For now we are doing the basics.

It was a difficult four days trying to remodel the camper as well as live in it in the garage. We still have more changes and upgrades to make but for now it's out of the garage and in a campground. Our simple life in a tiny home begins. 

Not only dealing with our home issues, I have been dealing with missing my kids horribly, words can't even describe the true nature of these feelings.  I am a dedicated mom and would do anything for my kids. To leave them is one of the hardest , most unselfish things I've ever done. 

My life has taken a huge turn. I am back to the laundromat and living in a camper no bigger than my walk in closet. I have no job and am living thousands of miles from my kids. It's a struggle every day to keep pushing through.

Then there is the issue of Neil and I trying to make a life together as we begin our new adventure. It's quite an adjustment. Especially for a grumpy old man who has been living on the road by himself. To add another person to his life 24 - 7 has to be an adjustment. 

Add to the situation Jersey, poor Jersey girl suffering from cancer. We finally eased Jersey of her pain a week after I arrived. Losing a beloved pet is hard. Another piece to deal with. 

Neil and I both forge on making the best of our situation looking forward to the good days ahead. For now we are buckling down on spending and working hard to make enough to get by.

We have used my winch several times and I am getting pretty good at this recovery thing. Learning so much about it from Neil. We have rescued a couple of folks even a plow truck. 

We have taken a couple of vehicles to the salvage yard. Northside Salvage has been great to us. I am learning from Neil the great benefits of a salvage yard.  I will share those in my upcoming post on our On a Budget Camper Build.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Heading South

DAY 17 - October 29, 2019

Neil and I were pretty much at the halfway point of our adventure when we left Colorado. We sadly left Maggie May sitting in the garage in Del Norte. Still perplexed why she stopped running. 

I knew it was extremely hard for Neil to not have his Jeep on this leg of our journey. 
I couldn't even imagine if I wasn't able to take my Jeep. However, Neil persevered and moved forward.

We spent four days in Del Norte, Neil's home base, working on Maggie May. Okay, so we did some wheeling too and I was able to meet Neil's friends.   

Our next stop was the Grand Canyon, but before we hit the National Park we had to cross Wolf Creek Pass, a high mountain pass on the Continental Divide in Colorado. 

This was around the time of the Arctic Blast that blew thru the United States so the peak was close to a white out. 

Neil and I were both excited to finally be heading to the warmer Southwest. It also meant for some awesome wheeling ahead. Along the route to Arizona was Mesa Verde National Park, our first stop on the second part of our adventure.

When we reached our destination in the park we decided it was too cold and too late to be setting up our tent. We unloaded a few things in the Jeep to make more room. We  spent the night on the Mattress Firm mattress in the back of the Rubicon. I would give the mattress five stars for comfort for sure. It also really helped to have our own personal heater with Jersey. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Maggie May is Broken

Day 13-14-15-16

Neil and I finally rolled into Del Norte, Colorado late in the night. Del Norte is Neil's home base and where he left poor Maggie May to sit after many frustrating days dealing with problem after problem.   

Maggie May, his 1980 Waggie he was rebuilding to be his "Home". She was going to make the trip with us but he had some issues with the engine.

We planned on spending a day or two to see if we could get her back up and running. After four days of working on Maggie May she still wasn't sounding right. So we made the decision to stay in my Jeep and tent camp for the rest of the trip. It had been working great so far.

During our time in Colorado I was able to meet Neil's friends and visit his hang outs. One favorite was the Pronghorn Trail which he spent many days and nights camped out on this trail.

YouTube Video - Pronghorn Trail  Coming Soon! 

We also snuck in a day of wheeling. I learned about Elephant Rocks and got to see Window Arch. We also "got lost" on some of the trails around Del Norte. It was actually very peaceful and fun to be "lost".

We spent three of the nights in a Hostel in Del Norte. My first experience in a hostel and it really wasn't a scary dangerous thing as some folks make it out to be. It was a very nice hostel, homey & comfortable. 

You definitely need to check it out if you are in the area. 

Things between Neil & I were beginning to get a little intense. I was ready to keep moving on in the adventure. 

Neil was determined to get Maggie may started as he wanted to take her on the trail with us. I totally understood his frustration as I couldn't even begin to imagine wheeling without my Jeep. Plus Maggie May is his home.

However, I felt the need to get back home to find a job and get my life straighten out. I knew drastic changes were ahead for me when I got back. My personal relationship had been struggling for years and I knew things were going to have to change for both our happiness and sanity.

And boy are they a changing... but that's a story for another time.  

I was ready to move on and Neil wanted to fix Maggie. The weather eventually made the decision for us as an Arctic blast was heading our way. So we headed Southwest the next morning.