Saving Money on a Renovation

As we are on the final leg of our Avion restoration I thought I would share some money saving ideas we used during the process. 

Let me preface this by saying, a full restoration is NOT cheap but it is possible to save some money on some things that would otherwise be expensive or time consuming. 

Here is our list!

  1. Paint: Probably the cheapest way to make a dark RV interior come to life for very little money. I estimate we spent around $275 in paint and supplies.  Of course, the hours I put into painting were crazy but it was worth it IMO. It makes everything so clean and bright!
    Cabinets – before and after
  2. Reusing old hardware:  I admit I wanted new hardware but when I added up all the cabinet doors and drawers I quickly realized the cost was more than we were willing to spend. So for a $4 can of spray paint I saved us over $200! 
    Hardware – before and after
  3. DIY:  This is definitely the big one!  Being handy will save you BIG BUCKS!  Even if you don’t know how to do something, I can guarantee that there is a YouTube video showing you how to do it. If you can follow instructions then you can do it! Also, having friends who are willing to lend their expertise helps too. While we could have built our lounge area ourselves, our friend Doug is a master carpenter and he made it much better than we could have. Knowing your strengths is key! But don’t be afraid of researching how to fix something. Sometimes it is easier than you think!
    The Lounge – even though our friend Doug built it, I did the cushions myself!
  4. Modify:  for example, we had to replace our awning fabric. Since our Avion has curved sides there is a curved arm bracket for the hardware. It’s the original Zip Dee awning hardware. We called Zip Dee and got a quote – $1300 just for the fabric! 😳. So we looked around and found awning fabric on Amazon for $200. We modified the awning fabric on our original hardware and made it work. Now we have an awning for very little money! Think outside the box!! 
    Using rivets to attach a modern awning fabric to a vintage awning hardware
  5. Consider all electric:  the fridge in our RV was no good. We had no choice but to replace it. Again we wanted to save money and by going with an Energy Star all electric fridge we saved almost $1000! Money that will be applied to our solar that will easily run this fridge while boondocking. And if you don’t boondock then an all electric fridge is a simple choice! Also, we have the added benefit of having more fridge space as the electric models don’t have all the gear on the back that the propane fridge does. And it fit in the same cabinet! Amazon for the win again! 
    New “stainless” electric fridge!
  6. Consider whether it’s a “need” or a “want”:  Sometimes the best way to save money is just to not buy something! I know, what a crazy concept, right? But sometimes there are things you can just live without. For example, I really wanted a Precision Temp hot water heater when it was apparent we had to replace ours. But again, it was a $1000+ so we said no to that dream and went with a $380 6 gallon propane one instead. 
    New 6 gallon water heater
  7. I wanted to get new countertops but again, the cost was more than we could bear. So the next best option was to redo existing countertops with an epoxy makeover! I was skeptical at first that they could make our countertops look decent again but I figured for $90 it was cheaper than the alternative. And you know what? They turned out really well! The one kit had enough to be able to do the kitchen, bathroom, desk and shelf behind the lounge! Definitely a money saving win!  And the kit can be used on almost any surface. 
    New “granite” countertops!
  8. Electrical and propane:  sometimes these systems seem daunting but with a little research the problems can be easily solved. Get yourself a test light and learn how to check for blown fuses. The 12 volt system is a pretty basic system and is easy to learn. Now be careful with the 110 system! Unless you know what you’re doing we recommend an electrician. Propane is also fairly simple and with a little working knowledge you can easily repair minor leaks or install a new changeover regulator! Just be careful to follow all safety procedures. If you don’t know what those are then seek a professional. 
  9. Don’t be afraid of hard work! Putting the effort into your remodel yourself will save you a ton of money. Granted, it might take you longer than a professional but you’ll have the satisfaction of having accomplished all this yourself. It’s a great feeling! Obviously, know your limits (especially with electrical or propane) but don’t be afraid of getting dirty! ☺️

In conclusion, our remodel of this vintage rig has been expensive due to having to replace some of the main components but the fact that we were able to do these things ourselves made the cost more bearable. If we had taken this rig to Camping World or some other RV repair place the cost would have been sky high!

And while we are nearly done with all the major stuff we know that down the line we will need to do more repairs. After all, Armani is nearly 40 years old!  ☺️ But we also know if something comes up we have the skill and moxi to be able to fix whatever is necessary.  And it’s a lot cheaper than repairing something in a sticks and bricks!

That leads me to one other thing especially if you are hitting the road for the first time. This life is not magically perfect! The same issues you had in your home WILL happen in an RV. How you deal with those issues is the biggie. The key is having fun and being able to enjoy this beautiful country in the process of tackling these issues. That’s what it’s all about! 

Cheers!!

Shelly & Mark ~ Boondock or Bust

Our New Rig

Well, new to us that is. 🙂 We have downsized to a 1986 Lance 900 series truck camper!

The camper is in great shape and all systems work! The only thing it doesn’t have is AC but it is wired to have an AC unit in it. At some point we will add one in.

Our 1986 Lance 900 series and 2006 GMC 2500 HD

Looking good on the GMC!


Inside is a bit dated of course. What can you expect from the 80’s? So, our mission is to totally update it and make it a bit more modern! And as we are leaving for South Carolina on July 25th we better get cracking!

What will we do for AC in the south? Well, we are just going to throw a window unit in it as a temp solution. Yeah, it will be a bit redneck-ish but better that than melting in the heat!

LOVE the counter space in the kitchen!
The fridge works great!
Large booth seating with a nice window for views
Queen size bed with lots of storage space
Full bathroom but will be using our composting toilet instead

In the next couple of weeks we will be adding solar, repainting everything and generally just giving it a really good cleaning. There are some minor repairs to make but nothing that is too difficult.

We will get as much done as we can before leaving for SC and our daughters college graduation and will finish up all the renovations when we return in August!

Our plan is to leave our little off grid cabin before the snow flies (generally October) and then hit the road for the winter!

Stay tuned for our maiden voyage. Hopefully it all goes as planned but you never know with us. 😜

Snow Day in April!

This past week we knew we had a storm coming.  It mostly just showed rain but to be on the safe side we loaded up on propane, groceries and the like. And it’s a good thing we did!

Over the weekend we had a bit of rain and snow but it didn’t stick around and it really didn’t seem all that bad.  Then Sunday it all changed.  Around 3pm a little light snow started coming down.

A little light snow. No biggie!

And then around 5pm it really started falling.

Getting heavier!

The weather service predicted about 1-2″ of snow fall.  Boy, were they wrong!

Good morning! A good 6 inches or more and still falling!

The snow was supposed to stop by 10am.  But as of this writing at 11am it is still coming down heavy.  It’s supposed to turn to rain later in the day which will of course melt it all off and make everything a soupy, muddy mess.  As we are a mile and a half down a dirt road we will be staying put until everything dries out.  The 4 Runner can make it out if necessary but it’s better to stay put and enjoy this last (hopefully) snow storm of the season!  It really is quite beautiful and our new metal roof on the cabin is holding up well. Cheers!

Early morning light. Tons of snow!
The cabin looks so magical in the snow!  You see our wind turbine?  🙂

And the RV looks pretty damn cozy too.

Winter?? No wait, it’s spring! Hello, New Mexico! 

It’s a good thing we don’t have to be anywhere – we are pretty well snowed in for now. 🙂  We had to get up on the roof of the RV and clean off the solar panels and run the genny for a bit!  It’s always nice to have a back up system.

The road out. Not going anywhere!

Our tiny house homestead build!

We’ve been very quiet lately! We left Santa Fe back in early March and got ourselves up to our new hometown in northern New Mexico.  It was still COLD and there was still snow on the ground.  The road to our property was impossible to get through, but we were close and that’s what mattered to us.

The road to our property - a muddy mess!
The road to our property in late February – a muddy mess!

We did manage to buy ourselves a 4 wheel drive vehicle though!  We found a well maintained (older) Toyota 4 Runner and snatched it up.  It needed new tires but otherwise was in perfect shape.

Our new little Toyota 4 Runner! Perfect run around vehicle

After about a week or so of nice sunny weather our road managed to dry up and we made it to our cabin! It was nice to see that everything was still in great shape and it had handled the winter well.

Made it to the cabin after 4 months away

Our RV pad we had put in last fall looked in great shape too and we couldn’t wait to get started on our build.

RV pad on property looking west
RV pad on property looking west

Here is an update on our build.  As we are maintaining a separate blog for our Tiny House project you can read about that here:

http://offgridtinylife.com/2016/03/10/the-build-begins/

And the second installment:

http://offgridtinylife.com/2016/03/31/the-build-continues/

And yesterday (4/4), after spending a month at an RV park in town we were finally FINALLY able to get our rig up the mountain and set up on the RV pad!  The thrill of waking up this morning to the sounds of nature were beyond compare.  It is beautiful here and quiet and the wildlife abounds.

We are home! You can see the cabin on the hill behind the RV.

It is still a bit cold but nothing we can’t handle.  The solar on the RV is working like a charm!  We sure love this life.

Be sure to follow our Off Grid Tiny Life homestead blog!  We are building a tiny house cabin on 5 1/2 acres in northern New Mexico.  We are completely off grid and will still continue to travel in the RV from time to time or even do some truck camping!

Boondocking by Indian Creek Reservoir 

After leaving Scott Lake dispersed camping area, we made our way over to Indian Creek Reservoir.  Now, while there is a campground there ($20/night for RV… no thanks).  We were after FREE camping.  🙂

To get here, you will take Airport Rd off of HWY 89 that goes to Markleeville, CA.  Head toward Indian Creek Reservoir.  Right before you get to the “airport” (really just a landing strip – there are no outbuildings, etc), on the right there is a small little turn off with a little area that’s cleared off.  Keep an eye out, it’s easy to miss!

The sign on the road - don't overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!
The sign on the road – don’t overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!

There is a small road that continues up the mountain that you could easily tent camp at but unless you have a little tiny RV there isn’t room for a rig there.  Great views tho!

Can you see her?
Can you see her?

There were a ton of deer in this area and we were graced with them nearly every day.  Lots of does with older fawns but we did see a few bucks as well.

Our view
Our view
Another view
Another view

We spent our limit of 14 days here.  There was water to be had for free in the day use area of Indian Creek Reservoir and there is a dump station there as well ($10).  With our composting toilet and only grey water tanks we were able to stay the whole time with no trouble at all.

Ahhhh.... peaceful
Ahhhh…. peaceful
Great place to relax
Great place to relax

We had great parking for our solar and still plenty of shade in the afternoon.  The temps ranged about 80-85 during the day and high 40’s to low 50’s at night.  Perfect!

So nice!
So nice!

We were all by ourselves the entire time we stayed here.  We did have some people stop by who were curious, obviously, but mostly we had the place to ourselves.  There is a bit of road noise from the small amount of traffic that goes to the reservoir but all in all it was a very peaceful place!  We would certainly return.  And it’s FREE.  Did I mention that?? 🙂

Nestled among the trees
Nestled among the trees

This spot is located about 5 miles from Markleeville, CA (no cell service there but wifi to be had) and about 30 minutes from Carson City, NV and Lake Tahoe, CA.

We DID manage to get 1-2 bars Verizon 4g with our Wilson 4g booster.  I think if we could have raised the antenna higher we would have had even better signal.  No AT&T service though if we went to the top of the hill we could get one bar 4g.

All in all a really nice boondock!  Where are we headed next?  Well, our general plan is to make it down to New Mexico as we are going to the Balloon Fiesta!  But as we have a few weeks until then we are going to meander our way down 395.  Possibly go to Mono Lake!  But as our plans are set in jello only time will tell.

Boondocking at Scott Lake (Lake Tahoe area)

After leaving the Klamath Falls, OR area, we decided to head down to the Lake Tahoe area to check out some boondocking areas.  We first went to Carson City, NV and stayed at the Gold Dust West Casino and RV Park (not really recommended).  While there, we went and scouted out some areas we had heard about.

We first went to the Markleeville, CA Guard Station and spoke to the rangers there.  They gave us quite a few ideas and off we set to scout the area.  We located a few potential spots but the first one we settled on was Scott Lake.  Located less than 30 minutes from South Lake Tahoe and Carson City, we felt this would be a good choice.  GPS:  38.76618, -119.94187

Scott Lake dispersed camping
Scott Lake dispersed camping

There were a few other campers in the area but it was not particularly crowded – at first.  There were cows running through the area but they didn’t cause any trouble.  They were rounded up and moved out on the third day we were there.  Our dog Tank really enjoyed seeing them!

We got cows! :)
We got cows! 🙂
Fascinated with the cows!
Fascinated with the cows!

We set up camp and had wonderful sweeping views of the meadow and mountains in front of us.  There is some road noise from Hwy 88 that runs near the area but it wasn’t too bad.  The weather was really nice – mid 70’s to low 80’s during the day with a few clouds and a tiny bit of rain but the area needs it.  Perfect at night being in the mid 40’s.   The only downside was there wasn’t any signal – either Verizon or AT&T, even with our Wilson 4g booster. But the town of Markleeville, CA was only 13 miles away and there was plenty of free WIFI to be had.

Set up at Scott Lake
Set up at Scott Lake

Now, there is a lake at Scott Lake, but it is up a very rough dirt road that is only recommended for 4 wheel drives.  And at nearly three miles we didn’t walk up to it (steep road).  Not sure of the status of the lake but we heard it has some good fishing.

Dramatic clouds over the area
Dramatic clouds over the area
Tank loved it there
Tank loved it there
Shortly after this pic was taken they touched noses!  I don't know who was more surprised... :)
Shortly after this pic was taken they touched noses! I don’t know who was more surprised… 🙂

We spent 4 full days at this camp and had planned on staying longer, but unfortunately a group of campers came in and decided that even though there were plenty of other areas to camp that right next to us would be perfect.  :-/  So we decided to high tail it to a new camp.  After all, that’s why our house has wheels!

They ended up being closer by the time it was all said and done
They ended up being closer by the time it was all said and done.  Damn clingers!

So we packed up and headed over to Indian Creek Reservoir to a dispersed camping area by the lake.  As of this writing we’ve been here 3 days and this is much better.  No other campers in sight and plenty of wildlife!  AND we get Verizon signal for our MIFI which we didn’t get at the other camp.  Perfect!  But more on that in another post.   I will leave you with a few more photos of this camp.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad place but did get a lot of other people so if you’re looking for something more secluded this is not it.  But on the other hand if you want a free camp that is located close to Lake Tahoe then this is definitely a decent site.  We did enjoy it but was glad to move on.

Boondocking on the Williamson River

After spending a couple of days scouting out boondocking locations in the Klamath Falls/Chiloquin, OR area we settled on a fabulous location 30 miles east of Chiloquin in the Winema National Forest.

IMG_2586-0

Head Of The River Campground is a National Forest rustic campground situated at the spring that feeds the Williamson River. A small campground with only 5 sites and only two that could accommodate a 30 foot (or less) rig.   The other three sites would only work for tent camping.

With no one there, we lucked out and got the bigger of the two which was right on the river. A large sight with a fire pit, picknick table and large grassy area.

Our site right on the Williamson River
Our site right on the Williamson River

We spent a peaceful 7 days with no one else around. We saw the ranger twice and had a few people drive by but we were the only campers.  There were hardly any mosquitos or bugs and the weather was absolutely perfect tho we did wake up one morning to 29 degrees!  Brrr!  But the days warmed up quickly and we had perfect amount of sun on the solar panels to keep us going every day.

There is a 14 day stay limit at this campground and absolutely no fee which made it perfect for us!

The Williamson River
The Williamson River
Looking down the Williamson River.  The water was COLD!!!
Looking down the Williamson River. The water was COLD!!!
The river right behind our rig
The river right behind our rig
A perfect evening sunset on the trees
A perfect evening sunset on the trees

After running out of beer (we still had plenty of water and food lol) we headed back to town to figure out where to go next.  We ended up going to Rocky Point Resort for a couple of days to sit by Klamath Lake and catch up on laundry and to restock. More on that place in the next post!

For now we are back on the road and headed to Lake Tahoe, Nevada side.  While we really enjoyed Oregon and would love to explore it more, Lake Tahoe is on Mark’s bucket list so off we go!

Thanks for stopping by!! 😊

Shelly & Mark