Cool Mountain Air – We Arrived in New Mexico

We made it to Red River, New Mexico and woke up this morning to a wonderful 50 degree day. So far, I am in love with this place. The air is crisp, cool and smells like a mixture of campfire and pine trees, which happen to be my favorite smells.

The kids are much happier here than they were in Austin, mainly because they are not sweaty and there is plenty of new places to explore. Signs everywhere tell of bears and Josh is determined to find one and “fight him with his sword.”

Nate woke up at 5:40 AM because the one-hour time difference threw him off, but the other two kiddos slept until their normal 7:00 AM wake-up time. I was thankful for that because I was beat after two LONG days of travel.

Getting here was a little crazy. We broke the trip into two days and had flat tires both days. Thankfully, Caleb is now an expert tire-changer and we were able to get back on the road fairly quickly. I told him he could work in a pit crew now with all his experience. He didn’t think it was that funny, but I’m really very proud of him.

Caleb is planning on working in town most days, though finding an open coffee shop has been a challenge in this tiny little ski town. The population here is around 450 people and apparently there is only one barista in town and she just had a baby.

We will be here for six weeks and I have a stack of good books I’m hoping to devour in my down time. I’m also hoping to catch up on some writing too. Mainly I am hoping this trip will give our family time to relax and enjoy one another after the long season of grief and stress we have recently endured.

May the mountain air refresh us, mind, body and soul!

We’re going wheels down….to New Mexico

Doing whatever it takes to stay cool in 97 (feels like 100+) degree heat. The truck pool was a hit with the kids, especially when driven around the RV park.

Before summer even started we began dreaming of traveling to Colorado for the summer again. We didn’t know how we could survive another summer in Austin…in an RV…with THREE kids.

There were several problems holding us back though: finances, my work, and the fact I’m running another 100 mile race in Virginia in early October. July isn’t even here yet and we have already have a couple days over 100 degrees. But even before the last 100-degree day we decided we HAD to get out of Texas (we have figured out the temperature threshold for keeping the inside of the RV cool is about 93 degrees…at best).

So, I started doing some research on where we might be able to go to escape the heat, but not have to travel 1,600 miles and pay outrageous fees for campsites. At first it seemed a trip to the mountains wasn’t in the cards for us…that is until I discovered Red River, New Mexico.

We got a decent price on a lot at a local RV park for 5 weeks, and we have one week booked in a State Park nearby as well (for family vacation time). The travel distance is only about 1,400 miles round trip – nearly half the distance to our favorite Colorado destination. And the best part is; the average HIGH temperature is 77 degrees in the dead of summer. Thats even cooler than the Colorado front range.

Needless to say, we are excited to go wheels down in just two weeks. But before we roll out we have several things we have to take care of, such as repacking the bearings on the RV, rotating tires on the truck, and calling our bank to let them know we are traveling and to not freeze our debit cards (we have had this happen in the past at the worst possible time).

As with our past travels I will be able to work on the road….and some of my past concerns with being away from the office have subsided. I also came back with new vigor and rejuvenation after the last extended period of time away from the office.

On top of getting away from the heat, and getting some much needed rest for the family I will get to train for my next 100-mile race in the mountains! Which will put me at a good advantage going into the race in early October. Prior to knowing we would travel again I selected Grindstone 100 in Virginia as my 100 mile race of choice because I wasn’t going to get to the mountains, but now I will get to run a race at lower elevation after spending a good 6 weeks at higher elevations.

We are super excited to travel again and get the RV on the road. This was what we had hoped we would do from the very start of this journey…travel a lot. Life had more in store for us though…mostly our third child, but now that he is almost one we hope to be traveling a lot more.

Also, I plan on blogging a lot more here. I would love to know what full time RV related topics you might want to hear about.

Where have we been?

Thistle, parked at Midtown RV Park in Austin. We love this location.

For anybody that had been following our site, you may remember our last post was about expecting our third child. Well, a LOT has happned since then.

Baby Nathan is now eight months old, and surgical measures have been taken to ensure our family stays a family of five! Life has been pretty crazy since the birth of Nathan. Obviously…we haven’t posted here at all in nearly a year.

Things are finally starting to get back into a decent routine. Even though Nathan isn’t sleeping through the night yet, we are getting longer stretches, which makes life much easier.  Life is much harder when you lack sleep, and have no motivation to start your mornings early because you are up two or three times a night.

We even have plans to travel again this summer. It won’t be a long 3-4 month trip like we started this adventure with, but we are sure to get away for 4-6 weeks. I have signed up for my second-ever 100-mile Ultramarathon. This one is in Virginia. I have never been to the east coast before, so I’m looking forward to experiencing mountains east of the Rockies.

The race is the Grindstone 100, and is in early October. Idealy I wanted to run a September race in Colorado, but my work schedule dictated a need for something later in the year. The only major down side to this is I will have to do most of my training in the Texas heat, but that will also better prepare me for the humid conditions of the eastern mountains.

We are still snugly tucked into our lot in East Austin. I keep giving Kristy a hard time because she insists on creating a sense of permanency here by purchasing large plants that grace our patio. The best part of living here in East Austin though is the proximity to Downtown, and recreational spots like Town Lake, The Greenbelt, and Secret Beach.

Dad, hiking with baby Nathan on The Greenbelt (this of course was towards the end of the hike)

The simplicity (though cluttered and frustrating at times) that RV living brings is something we have grown to love. I honestly get stressed and overwhelmed when visiting friends with large houses. My mind races with how hard upkeep would be; mowing lawns, cleaning garages, and sweeping expansive floors, just to name a few time consuming tasks I would have to deal with if I owned a home. That is not to say we will never own a home, but we really do love this lifestyle.

Though we might not travel as much as some full time RV families, we look forward to the day my business provides more freedom to travel more. But for the time being we will enjoy the couple months out of the year we do get to travel, and the few weekend trips we take for my trail running adventures (such as our Guadalupe Mountains trip last year).

 

 

Waiting for Baby Number Three

Well, I haven’t made good on my promise to write every week. I’m sorry. To tell you the truth, I have been doing other things. Namely cooking up a baby and preparing our home to receive that baby in as much comfort as possible. I knew you would understand.

People who know we live in an RV often ask me lots of questions about where we will put the baby. This makes me smile inside because newborn babies are so tiny, you can really put them anywhere. I used to say (only part jokingly) that baby would be sleeping in the laundry basket. I didn’t think it was such a terrible idea, but it definitely got me some weird looks.

You may be relieved to know that baby does have a bassinet and that everything has come together quite nicely for his or her arrival. I’m amazed at how little we have needed this time around. I don’t know if it’s because this baby is our third or the fact that five people will be sharing 280 square feet of living space, but I just don’t feel the need to fill our home with baby stuff. About half of our small renovations have been for the big kids, to help them be more independent.

It’s been really freeing to keep it simple and only bring in the baby items that will truly add value to our lives. So, for those of you who are curious about how in the world we are making room for baby #3, here are some pictures of what we’ve done. It’s not much, but it makes life comfortable for us and that’s really all we need.

My mom handcrafted these beautiful ladders so we could move our two big kids up to the top bunk and give them more independence. They love being up top together and having the freedom to come down when they need a drink or potty in the night. You can also see we adjusted their bookshelf down a few inches so both kiddos can easily reach it. It’s amazing how a small adjustment like that makes my world so much better. No more crouching down to fetch books or put them away!

bunkladders

bottombunk

The bottom bunk will be baby’s when he or she gets old enough. For now, we will use it for changing diapers and storing stuff. I got each kid a set of three plastic bins that house their folded clothes: undies, pj’s, shorts. This has also given the big kids more responsibility for picking out and putting on their own clothes.

rv_baby_cosleeper

My friend Chelsea gave me this tiny co-sleeper that fits PERFECTLY between my bed and the window. Baby will sleep here for the first few months. My mom built a shelf that goes all the way down my side of the bed for the bassinet to rest upon.

rv-storage-hooks
On the back side of my bedroom door, I have employed an arsenal or command hooks to hold various baby necessities out of the way: diaper bag, Ergo carrier and nursing pillow. The beaver bag holds diapers, wipes and burp cloths.
I hope you enjoyed this little “tour” of our home. Now all we need is baby!

Cooling Down Kiddos

It’s summertime in Texas! And that means the heat is ramping up. My little hooligans have become sissified, though and are out-right refusing to go outside. What the heck!?!? It’s only 90 degrees… And it’s only getting hotter. I blame Colorado. 
We spent all of last summer in the crisp, cool shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It was glorious. And it made my kids think that summer is a breeze, unlike the pit-of-hell we Texans are accustomed to. Oh, well. This summer we are staying put, so they better get used to it. 
We have gotten creative with some cooling-down strategies for outside play. Here are some ideas we are trying this summer:
– Water guns

– Water sidewalk chalk – Wetting the patio first makes the colors more vibrant and the patio cooler. 

– Sprinkler play

– Bucket o’ water – I know, it sounds stupid but they never tire of pouring, splashing and dunking their toys. 
– Water balloons
– “Surprise! Mama’s got the hose!” – I like to sneak attack them when they are fussing about the heat. It cools both mind and body. And gives us a good laugh. 


You got any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!

One year living in an RV with two toddlers

Full Time RV Family

Our whole family thought we were crazy. Our friends all said it was cool, but inside they probably thought we had lost our mind. What parent in their right mind would live in 250 square-feet of space with two toddlers? Our minds had been made up though, and nothing was going to change it.

Almost one year ago today my wife and I had just finished paying off our debt. We celebrated by visiting Dave Ramsey in Nashville Tennessee and did our “Debt Free Scream” on his nationally syndicated radio program. Just prior to making the trip I had sold my 2009 Subaru Outback and paid cash for a used RV.

The RV was our new home. In just a few short weeks our lease was going to be up on our apartment in South Austin. We would then kick off our new tiny home lifestyle with a trip to Colorado and Utah to promote Bearded Brothers (our family business) in a new region of Whole Foods. I was also going to use the time in the mountains to help train for the Wasatch 100, which I completed in September in a time of 36 hours and 20 minutes.

We spent several weeks leading up to the big move repairing our RV, that we affectionally named, Thistle, for reasons I can’t go into detail on. But we finished the repairs just in time, and actually managed to move out of our apartment, into our tiny home on wheels, three days early.

After one month of living in various RV parks around Austin, we hit the road for our Summer tour. Thankfully at that point our kids had pretty much already grown accustomed to living in the RV. They didn’t mind it one bit. There wasn’t a single dose of complaining about the tiny space. That’s the beautiful thing about toddlers, it’s easier to make big life changes like this because they just roll with the punches. To them it was just life…it was their normal.

Throughout the summer we rolled around from RV park to RV park, including some family vacation time in Estes Park. The entire time our kids, Abigail and Joshua, just rolled with the punches. To them it was just one huge adventure. They actually loved not having structured days, and loved having LOTS of time outside in nature.

Estes Park KOA RV Park

Estes Park KOA. We parked here for a week to enjoy a family vacation.

We were usually parked next to a river or right under the mountains. One of my favorite spots, and one of the most breathtaking was Leadville, although the wife despised it because of the altitude. The kids loved it too, and the RV park actually brought back fond memories of being in the mountains as a child, and it had turned out I had stayed in that exact same park when I was nine. We even recreated an old photo of my sister and I with my own kids in a play fort they had at the playground.

The trip wasn’t all fun and games though. Most of the days we lived a normal life. I worked most days, usually doing product demos at Whole Foods to promote our energy bars that had just landed on their shelves. But our kids never complained about being away from “home” because to them, “home is where you park it.”

The apex of the trip was late September in Utah when I ran the Wasatch 100. It was my dream race, and I conquered it — but by then my wife and I were missing Austin more than our kids were, and our journey wasn’t quite over. We still had to stop in Arkansas for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, a 24 Hour Climbing Competition that Bearded Brothers was sponsoring.

The journey of this part of the trip was pretty epic. It included tire blow outs, run-ins with the local rednecks, declined credit cards, and not having use of the RV bathroom for the last week of the trip. And who do you think struggled the most with this? Was it our kids? Nope…it was the adults.

We made it though, and we couldn’t have been happier to cross the state line into Texas. Even then we still had several hours before we arrived in Austin, which is where our tiny home on wheels remains parked.

Since the big summer expedition we have taken Thistle on two other journeys. One of them being to the Guadalupe Mountains to summit Texas’ highest mountain, Guadalupe Peak. We have the most fun when we travel, that is for sure, but for the next year or so Thistle will remain parked, as we are expecting our third child in September (we are not looking forward to the Texas summer in an RV)!

Guadalupe Mountains RV

Thistle, parked in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Of course our family and friends are now asking us, “Are you going to move back into an apartment now, or find a house?” And our answer is simply, NO. We love tiny living, and our kids do too. I’d venture to say that many people use their kids as cover up for their own fears. Our kids have never raised an objection to how life is, they just roll with the punches, and they have taught us to do the same.

Four Crappy Things About RV Living

Dumping the black tank: Caleb’s crappy chore.


We’ve been doing the full-time RV thing for a year now and we love it. But just like anything, there are some not-so-great aspects to living in a home on wheels. I wrote a post on this topic after being in the RV just a few weeks. It’s funny to look back and see that most of the things I thought would be a drag turned out to be fine. After being at it for a year, here are my top four gripes about living in an RV:

Noise from outside. The walls in our RV are thin. So thin that I can easily hear my kids’ conversation as they play in the yard (good thing), but can also hear my neighbor talking on his cell phone (not a good thing). We’ve all grown accustomed to the ambient noises of our RV park: the highway traffic and Tejano music. But there are two sounds that still wake me up at night: thunderstorms and police sirens. 

Swaying with movement. Even when we have our RV completely leveled and the jacks tightened down there is still a fair amount of “bounce” to our home. It doesn’t bother me at all during the day, but at night it can keep me awake. I can FEEL it when one of our kids is tossing and turning in their bed or if someone gets up to go potty. 

No bath tub. Ah… my one, continuous gripe about living in a tiny space! This would not be a big deal if I didn’t LOVE taking baths with an unnatural passion. But after a year of living in an RV, sadly I am not cured. I still jump at the chance to soak in a tub. And when we eventually upgrade to a newer RV, a full-size bathtub is already on my must-have list. 

Tough to keep cool. Our 30-foot rig has one central A/C unit and it works tirelessly to try to keep us cool in the summer. The thing is, we live in Texas, where summer temps are in the triple digits. It’s almost impossible to keep this tin can cool in sweltering conditions, especially if we are parked in direct sun… Forget it! 

As with anything, you can choose to focus on the bad or the good. We still think RV life is amazing, even with these drawbacks. Next week I will revisit the top five things I love about RV living and see if they still hold true a year later. 

Putting Down Roots (as a full time RV family)

MomsPlants

Today we went to our local nursery and bought up a bunch of plants to adorn our front porch. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but had been dragging my feet because I wasn’t sure when we’d be traveling again. And who wants to lug around a dozen potted plants for months of travel?

Okay, so the day has finally come. We have swallowed the harsh reality that we will not be traveling, anymore this year. Sigh.

It’s a hard pill to swallow because we live in an RV for crying out loud… Travel is the whole point, right? Well, for us, it’s part of the point. We also choose to live in an RV because we love the closeness, the amount of time it forces us to spend outdoors and the money it saves us. And it’s mainly for this last reason that we are putting the wheel covers on for a while.

Staying put will not only save on fuel costs and park fees, but it will also keep Caleb in the office, where he can most effectively grow our family business. He has set some pretty lofty goals for the business in 2016 and he has been working diligently to bring them about.

Staying put is not a total bummer though. We have gotten to know many of our neighbors in the RV park and look forward to deepening those friendships. We are going to have a baby soon! And of course, there’s the flowers. I get the joy of tending my own little container garden, something I’ve always wanted. I guess choosing roots over wheels isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Our 1st Year of Debt Freedom: We Made Some Mistakes

Our "debt free scream" with Dave Ramsey

Our “debt free scream” with Dave Ramsey

Today is the one year anniversary of our debt freedom! We celebrated one year ago today by driving out to Tennessee to the Dave Ramsey headquarters to tell our story live on the radio and scream to the world, “We’re Debt Free!”

That moment was something we had looked forward to for nearly three years as we struggled to pay off over $60,000 in debt. Becoming debt-free was exhilarating and, looking back, I think we got a little “drunk” off the feeling and made some poor choices. We share this with you in hopes that you can side-step these mistakes on your journey to debt freedom.

Mistake #1: Not having a fully-funded emergency fund. 

Step Three of Dave’s baby steps prescribes you save up three to six months living expenses for emergencies. We were so excited to FINALLY be free from debt that we minimized this crucial step in the program. Immediately following becoming debt-free, we purchased our truck and RV… And two months later we were on the road!

Looking back, we should have waited until we had at least $10,000 in the bank before we did anything else. But that’s not what we wanted to hear at the time. We had just scrimped and scraped our way out of debt and we wanted to celebrate. Understandable. But as Dave always says, without a full-funded emergency fund as your rainy day umbrella, you are just inviting trouble.

And trouble is what we got. This last year has been fraught with the unexpected; little “emergencies” that have constantly derailed our progress. The timing belt went out in our car, the transmission went out on our truck, we’ve had to buy 10 new tires and replace the motor in our slide-out. And that’s just the big things.

We are still working on completing baby step three. I would advise anyone who is newly debt-free to continue with intensity until you have completed this critical step.

Mistake #2: Not sticking to a budget while traveling. 

We spent three months on the road after becoming debt-free. During this time we lived within our means, but we did not live on a budget. I think we wanted to cut loose and have some fun after being so tight for so many years. Looking back, I wish we would have settled on a budget for our trip, which included extra money for fun but also allowed for some continued saving.

Since we basically spent every penny during those three months, we were left hanging when our transmission went out mid-trip. We had to borrow $5,000 from Caleb’s dad just to get it fixed. That debt hung over our head for the remainder of the trip and made all our indulgence seem much less sweet.

Mistake #3: Continuing to use a credit card. 

I know, I know… True Dave Ramsey followers cut up all their credit cards. Well, truth be told, Caleb was in love with our REI Rewards Visa and was reluctant to let it go. We were really good about using for budgeted monthly expenses and paying it off every single month… For a while.

Recently, we have slacked off and forgotten to make our payments on time, which has caused us to be charged interest and late fees. Ouch! I think we are finding out the hard way that credit cards just aren’t working for us. We plan on cancelling our beloved REI card posthaste.

I hope what we’ve learned will help you on your journey to debt freedom. We certainly have learned the hard way! We are staying parked this summer (even though we have an itch to travel) because we really want to buckle down and get that $10,000 in the bank. It’s going to take a while, but the piece of mind will be so worth it.

Where Have You Been?

It’s been about four months since I’ve written anything on the blog. So sad! Well, I thought I should explain where we’ve been all this time and why it’s taken me so long to get back to writing.

It all started in December, just after my last blog post. I had started a 30-day get dressed challenge for myself. The idea was to stop looking so slobby and, well, it worked. I guess you could say it worked REALLY well because I ended up with more than just my soaring self-esteem (wink,wink).

EggoIsPreggo
Yep, You guessed it… I’m pregnant!

We found out just after the New Year and will be expecting our third little one in early September. Needless to say, I’ve spent the three months since in survival mode, just trying not to throw up, honestly. Then we had a massive parasite invasion that took the whole family out for a month. Oh, and I got a terrible stomach virus, which took me back to Pukesville for a few days.

Anyway, the tide seems to be turning and we are all feeling well again. I’m about half-way through the pregnancy now and feeling really good. My goal is to get back to writing once a week for the blog. I’ve missed it so much! I hope you’ve missed us too. Stay tuned for more Simpson family adventures!