Tag Archives: Florida

Our Growing Girl

The Gopher Tortoise is 6 months old. She’s grown so much (literally – I think i need a trampoline to get in now) – lets get a run down on all the stuff we’ve done:

So last update was we bought a truck and made some plans… well those plans are almost complete – so much for taking our time!

So far we demo’d the inside…

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Did a lot of painting….

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Please note: Spray painting inside the truck was a bad idea. Don’t do this.  It was messy and dusty and difficult to control. Paint with brushes or a real paint sprayer would work best.

Installed a 6″ lift from Rough Country

suspension

New (used) 37″ Military Tires (so a total of 9″ higher)….

That tiny thing in the background... oh that's just our house. You know, the one without wheels.
That tiny thing in the background… oh that’s just our house. You know, the one without wheels.

2 8″ Bully Side steps (But lets be serious… they only drop down like 6″ so its still a BIG step to get in – no skirts allowed in this ride unless you plan to give the world a show)

Installed custom cabinets, counter tops, a bar sink (bought locally) and an Atwood 2 burner stove

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Cabinets were used (read: cheap)- an old office filing cabinet and an old gym locker (one courtesy of an used office supply store, the other from craigslist). We sort-of fabricated the counter using some garage shelving plus sheet aluminum and some plywood for the counter top base. When I say we: I mean Mike did the work, with my uncanny supervision and artistic direction. I also helped carry stuff.

Mike installing our stainless steel sheet countertop.
Mike installing our aluminum on plywood countertop.

sinkandstove

Double-duty cabinet doors…

Cabinet doors double as tables/workstation
Cabinet doors double as tables/workstation
Me mixing the epoxy for the cabinets... see I do stuff besides blog and take pictures!
Me mixing the epoxy for the cabinets… see I do stuff besides look cute, blog and take pictures!

We might be changing the cabinet doors… we have found through use that these are just too big. Something maybe half the size would be good so we can still maneuver around them when open, and still big enough for eating/working.

4 sliding windows…

Mike cutting in some window holes
Mike cutting in some window holes

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An Engel 60 quart SR-70 Front-loading Fridge/Freezer

Stays cold, uses very little power from the solar, can be used on an uneven surface, worked well with our layout. Top loaders probably have a little more room.
Stays cold, uses very little power from the solar, can be used on an uneven surface (parked on a hill), and worked well with our layout. Top loaders might have a little more room.

Got ourselves a custom mattress/couch made by Karen’s Canvas Shop

Couch mode
Couch mode
Bed mode (bow-chika-wow-wow)
Bed mode (bow-chika-wow-wow)

We used high density marine grade foam for the bed and Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabric. The foam and fabric are mold/mildew resistant (made for boats) and super solid… We couldn’t try it out by laying on it and its a little too stiff for us, but we hope it will soften a little from use.

Installed an 600W Samlex Inverter….

Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter Samlex PST-600-12 L

Installed 3 100W Renogy Solar Panels and Charge Controller… Purchased Here. 

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Ewwww look at all those dirty footprints. Also, please note those are bare feet footprints, only possible because of the fancy schmancy white paint. We painted the roof with Kool Seal – white roof coating that reflects heat, really makes a huge difference in heat absorbed into the truck, and onto the roof of the truck.  Totally worth it.

Added a cabinet we built to house all the solar components, wiring and fuse block. We decorated it using beer bottle caps that we saved from our last trip and a few maps from a thrift store + more epoxy (love that stuff)….

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4 V-Max 6Volt AGM 225 Amp Batteries for the battery bank, as of now we are powering our fridge, fan, water pump and inverter off of the solar battery bank but we have tons of available solar energy to still be utilized…

Added a roof vent, with a fan (purchased locally)…. Sorry no pictures of this one – its really not that exciting to look at anyway.

Changed out the old, non-functioning a/c unit for a new one that can be plugged in at RV parks or where ever “shore” power is available… Small problem is when we run it, we accumulate some water and when we drive it comes out in the truck…. so we need to work on that…

Put in a 11 gallon water tank and 55 psi Shur-Flo water pump…

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We also have a secondary tank that isn’t installed (both bought used from a local RV repair shop for $40 total) but we will probably put it in before taking any big trips – especially when we get that outdoor shower (hint hint Michael  – we ARE getting an outdoor shower – with HOT water).

And there might be some more murals added (so what was the point of painting the inside again?)

First attempt at immortalizing the GT. Doesn't she look majestic amongst the pines?
First attempt at immortalizing the GT. Doesn’t she look majestic amongst the pines?
Also works well as a fake halo in a photo.
Also works well as a fake halo in a photo.

A lot of the little things (sink, roof vent, paint, windows…) we got at a local store The Mobile Home-Depot. They had pretty good prices on most things (either comparable to Amazon or cheaper)and some pretty knowledgeable staff. Most of their stuff is for real Mobile (manufactured) homes, but they had RV supplies as well.

All told, we have spent about $17,000 on the truck, parts, supplies and professionals. We still have some work to do, like the spare tire mount (in process), second fuel tank to give us more range of travel between fill ups, adding shore power plug in, water fill port, hook up the stove (we need the propane lines run and tank mounted outside), that hot water outdoor shower I mentioned, and some more storage. We also plan to add a small microwave.

What is PRICELESS however is the help we got from our wandering pals; most specifically, Richard from Desk to Glory. Mike would probably be at least half electrocuted, and we probably would have needed new panels or something when he blew them up, if he didn’t have Richard to guide him in this electrical wonderland.

Other helpers:

stickers

Neli’s Big Adventure, Slow Car, Fast House, and Exploring Elements.  Thanks Everyone!

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Planning for the Future AKA The Birth of a Tortoise (and a baby (NOT ours))

Did you guys think we were done?? Nah… Just a rest stop.

So… Recap of the last 4 months….

We returned to the states, visited some family in NY and the Carolinas, then got the hell out of the cold and made the official move to Florida (YAY!)

Mike on the Melbourne causeway
Mike on the Melbourne causeway

florida map

 

This thing decided to visit one evening. I check the sheets now.
This thing decided to visit one evening. I check the sheets now.

We spent the first week recouping, unpacking and whatnot… Then job hunting began. Mike got a job first and I had my job offer a week or so later… Then had to submit to a background check, pee in a cup (good thing we turned down all that ganga) and essentially wait two weeks before I could start makin that money honey.

We built a chicken coop and run and some raised garden beds… Bought 6 chickens (no we didn’t raise them we wanted eggs right away and I couldn’t bear it if one died or something) and planted a garden. Chickens are good and laying about 3-4 eggs a day. The garden didn’t fare so well… But we can replant next month and try again. We also remodeled our kitchen and finished the Florida room rebuild…. Now that I think about it that’s a lot of sh*t to do in like a month… We’re pretty amazing (pats self on back).

Raised garden beds. Failed mostly. We got corn tomatoes and salad greens though.
Raised garden beds. Failed mostly. We got corn tomatoes and salad greens though.
The old kitchen mid-tear-down
The old kitchen mid-tear-down

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I got a little creative with the coop.
I got a little creative with the coop.

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After weeks of effed up transfers (we hate our bank), poor communication and generally stressing ourselves to insanity, we are now officially Belizean landowners!

And….Probably the most exciting thing is we are officially Auntie Tiff and Uncle Mike! Check out this handsome devil.

Ozias
Ozias

Ok, so…. What now? Well.. Now… WE BUILD!

Meet the GOPHER TORTOISE:

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Why gopher tortoise? They’re the first critters we spotted around our new home. They’re kind of like our own personal mascots. We live a short walk for a preserve that these guys thrive in… And they need the protection. It wasn’t until 2007 that Florida put in a law protecting them from essentially getting bulldozed to death during land development.  Now, around here you see turtle crossing signs and people stop their cars to move them off the roads. So… We like these guys. They’re cool and eat grass and dig holes and walk slow. Other reasons we chose gopher tortoise… Well the truck is green, our home is inside the “shell” and this big galoot is slow. Like tops out at 60 mph slow. Hence, the Gopher Tortoise was born (cue angelic choir).

Now the real fun begins. We essentially get to creat our own custom four wheel drive camper. For under $20,000 (based off current estimates should be about 18-19k). Eat your heart out XP camper and adventuremobile! (**disclaimer: we would love to buy either of these great vehicles we just can’t afford it. We know people who have XP Campers and love them.) Progress details coming soon!

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America… 7 States in 6 Days

Here’s a little trip recap from Florida to the Mexican border….

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Mike and I posing with the Jeep, all packed and ready to go!

We left Florida on a Friday morning, with plans to stop in Pensacola at a free campground I found on www.freecampsites.net (great website BTW, has a lot of information on free camping especially in south and western US, and also has pay campgrounds listed). It rained, and rained and rained, so when we were thinking of stopping and setting up camp for the night, we decided to just keep driving instead, and hope for no rain soon. It was during this part of the trip we discovered that the lovely people at Healy Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Beacon/Fishkill didn’t calibrate the Jeep correctly when putting on the after-market wheels and tires. Apparently for every mile we drive, according to the odometer, we actually drive .1 miles farther. Also, Mike’s speedometer was 5-6 mph under what we were actually driving. This would be good to know for the remainder of the trip to avoid speeding, and to properly record MPG and miles driven.

We made it as far as central Louisiana that first day, and camped in a Wal-Mart. It was gross and smelly outside. There were a few homeless types wandering around and there were groups of kids coming and going at all hours, walking in from these fields behind the store. Mike, being the researcher he is, looked up this lovely town’s Wal-Mart on his phone and discovered that recently a body was found behind the store in those fields. Wonderful. I was too tired to care at that point, and fell asleep. That is, until a train came blowing through every hour for the entire night. Oh well, we slept a few hours, used the facilities in Wal-Mart, and headed back on our way shortly after sunrise.

Our plan was to get to Houston, and we were already two-thirds of the way there, so we got to town in time to hit a grocery store (Kroger, which is huge, and apparently only sells beer to people with Texas ID’s) and a BBQ (Texas Original Rib Tickler. Delicious. Closed Sunday AND Monday though, so don’t try to go there those days like we did). We stayed at Spring Creek Park in Tomball, TX. It’s a nice spacious park, not a lot of camping, but it’s free (found on freecampsites.net) had full hookups and bathrooms with hot showers. You can’t really ask for more than that. We also left our camp set up for the days we had to go into town and nothing was stolen or anything like that. For this portion of the trip we used the 8 person ground tent. It really is an instant tent and set up in like 3 minutes and broke down in like 5. This was our first time using it so now that we know how it will probably go faster. This park is also for RV’ers but you do have to call in advance if you plan on going there to see if they have sites available.

Just inside Houston we went to a very nice vet, Parker Road Animal Hospital. We got the international health certificates for the dogs (about $100 each) and they got their Lepto shots (not required in NY but it is in most southern states and suggested for Central America, and cost about another $100 for the shots and the visit). Afterwards, we found a local cigar shop, Serious Cigars, since Mike had a hankering for a good cigar. He was smiling from ear to ear when he came out because it was the biggest and best cigar shop he’d ever been to, and tobacco isn’t taxed like it is in NY so the prices were much cheaper. He spent his grocery money for the week in there, and managed to remember to buy me my little flavored CAO’s I like. While in Houston, we discovered we didn’t need to visit any consulates, and all necessary paperwork for the dogs and vehicle should be taken care of at the borders. We learned this from other helpful travelers on the Drive the Americas Facebook group. So we cut that visit short, and instead of staying the full week, left on Tuesday morning. As a side note, it rained every night in Houston (not a ton, but enough to soak the ground and tables) except the last night before we left. I was starting to think rain was going to be our constant companion until that point.

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Our campsite in Tomball, TX with my fanny sticking out of the tent.

On to Arizona… we decided the “drive until we can’t see” (aka drive until Tiffany gets cranky because she needs sleep) plan would be in order again. En route, we drove past Juarez in El Paso. I wish it was daylight so we could have seen more, but as it was, you could see the border fence from the highway, and the distinctive difference was astounding. It went from bright lights and strip malls and chain food shops on the right, to 1 or 2 room cinderblock homes with sad little street lights on the left, just over the fence. We stopped that night in Deming, NM, at a Wal-Mart again. This was WAY different than the last one. The lot was full of RV’ers spending the night, the people in the store were friendly, and, while there were the occasional homeless types wandering around, they seems more like hippies than homeless. Oh, and there was a train again. Another poor night of sleep and then it was, Onward! to Why, Arizona!

Trip Part 1 006  Trip Part 1 007  Trip Part 1 023

Pics from the road

Why Why? Well, we were originally going to sleep on BLM land in Ajo, AZ (another free gem from freecampsites.net), but decided one more night with a bathroom and showers was in order, so we paid $8 to camp at Coyote Howl in Why.  We stopped in Tuscon to print our Mexican Insurance paperwork ($599.60 for a year from ICI including full vehicle coverage), and make some final photocopies. Why, AZ has pretty much nothing. Two gas stations with little markets (not much of a selection, we got hot dogs), and a café/diner type place open for breakfast and lunch. While there isn’t much around that bodes quite well for the awesome sunsets over the desert, as well as crazy star-gazing. This would not be the first night I wished I had a book on constellations. Coyote howl had decent spaces, a lot of permanent residents, fresh clean water, and available showers. If you ever make it there it’s nice to know to bring quarters. The showers are free but the hot water is not. I think a quarter bought about 5 minutes of the good stuff. Since we only had two quarters for two people, that was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken. Mike spotted a scorpion in the men’s showers so we tossed the pups up in the tent and went to bed early, after our delicious hotdog and white bread dinner (topped with BBQ sauce and salsa – I totally got my veggies in). During the night, not only did we actually get to hear coyotes howl, we also got another night of freight trains. Apparently, if its not raining, we must deal with super loud trains all night.

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The Jeep at Coyote Howl in Why, AZ

That is the end of our American adventure (for now), because the following morning, Thursday, we packed up, and headed south the 27 miles to the Lukeville border crossing. Coming up next… Mexico!

Oh and if you’re wondering the 7 states we drove through/stayed in were: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexicio and Arizona.

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Our trip sign. It came down that night.

Moving, Parties and Whatnot

OK so it’s been well over a week since the last blog post (already slacking, sorry)… in any case here’s an update:

There was a small going away party at Mom’s the weekend before we left. Thanks to everyone who came, it was a fun night for us. Also, thanks to Mom and Danny for allowing us to hijack their home the night before they left on vacation. I hope it wasn’t too stressful. While gifts were not expected, we received a few lovely bottles of alcohol (always a good idea with us) and I got a handy dandy Swiss Army knife! Though, I hate to disappoint, I’ll probably only use the cork screw and bottle opener. Sorry, no pictures, I was in hostess mode, so cameras were not on my mind. I blame Mike for the lack of photographic evidence.

We also had a lovely dinner with Mike’s Mom, Sue and Stepdad, Steve, the night before leaving at Lilianna’s. The food never disappoints there, but avoid the cappuccinos… seems no one knows how to operate their machine.  

We had many offers for dinner, but there were only so many days between moving out of our house and leaving, that we couldn’t fit everyone in. If we missed you before we left, we hope to see you all in a year(ish) when we return to NY for my car and the few boxes we left behind. Or… if you’re planning a trip to Central America in the next year, check in with us, and maybe we can meet up!

(Helpful tip to starving friends: Mention you are moving and everyone will want to take you out to dinner… though if you never move, they may catch on.)

We left NY on November 1st and spent a weekend in Denver, NC with my dad. There was a small soiree held in our honor, complete with mariachi band and a dance troupe. Best of all, Amy Loo came down for a visit! Again, aside from the few pictures below, I have none. I blame alcohol for that one.

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The people of Verdict Ridge were very friendly and all offered some warning/advice/encouragement on our journey. Dad, in true dad style, had to bbq SOMETHING, so he chose this

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This picture of fatty deliciousness is a 17 lb. brisket. It just barely lasted the night. After a relaxing Sunday that involved laying on the couch until 11 am, Cookout shakes for lunch, and me begging for some vegetables, we hit the sack to prepare for another early day on the road.

The remaining drive to Florida was uneventful and we arrived early Monday afternoon to a surprisingly clean home. We were expecting a bit more insect/lizard activity in the 2 months we were gone, but thankfully a little sweeping cleaned up any mess.

For the last few days we’ve just been working on the house, at our own pace. It’s very nice to not have a set schedule, and just roll with the obstacles and speed bumps you’re dealt.

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We also got to stop work for the day, and spend some time with Mike’s Aunt and cousins from West Palm. His Dad was also in town visiting, so it worked out rather nicely.

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Hopefully we will be on the road by the end of next week and will give more updates. Until then, remember, “It is better to travel well, than to arrive.” That Buddha really knew his stuff.

PS: This is our first post using our Huawei hotspot. So happy it works! We will be using this on the road when free WIFI is unavailable . Only 2G service in the US so using multiple devices at once doesn’t work so well.