Utah Wrap Up

Ok readers. Things have got to change around these parts. As you may have realized by now, I am ridiculously behind on blogging! 2 years in fact! It turns out trying to document my story in long form while traveling is not an easy feat. So here’s what I’m going to do.


I’m going to use this post to summarize my time in Utah (which felt like a chapter closing anyway), write a few more catch up posts and then I am going to try a new blogging style. One that is less focused on recounting all the details and is instead geared more towards short stories and highlighting places I visit. Hopefully, if I make this change, I will start showing up here more often! Sound good? Good! Let’s wrap up the Utah drama, shall we?

With Atreyu on the mend, I moved into the vacant house and drove a very stressful 35 mph on a highway to the transmission shop. It was my 1 year anniversary of becoming a nomad and I was not going to be traveling or even living in my house for the milestone.

 

Another amazing woman from Instagram, Megan, offered to pick me up and bring me back to the vacant house. The cats and I settled into the room and I settled into a depression. There was something about being on a thin mattress, on the floor of a room with no heat, that felt like the final punch that brought me to my knees.

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You know, I think most "vanlifers", "buslifers", "rvlifers" would never post this photo. It's certainly not glamorous and it's probably not gonna make it past the Instagram algorithm. I bet some people will even unfollow me. But at the end of the day, this account is my photo journal. I don't wanna skip over parts because they aren't pretty. And while I'm at it, I may as well tell you that although I try to keep a positive outlook on my situation, it's been a tough last couple of days. Along with gratitude, hopefulness and excitement, I've been feeling sad, pathetic and stressed. I'm not ruminating on the negative feelings but I think it's important to acknowledge them. Because sometimes the freedom of the open road comes with having a broken down home that you have to move out of. And sometimes staying in a vacant house with no heat is in between all those breathtaking views. Life has it's up and downs and #vanlife is not free of that.

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After a few days passed, the mechanic called and said that it wasn’t the transmission after all! He said that the bearing in the fan clutch had gone out, which was making the fan spin faster and faster as I accelerated which is why it sounded like the RPMs were off the charts. I was relieved that this was going to be a much easier fix. I gave him the go ahead to do the job and decided to have him replace the water pump and fan belt while he was in there. Those were both things I had opted not to do when I pulled the radiator and I wasn’t going to ignore them twice. I breathed a little sigh of relief but still felt very down. Something told me it was premature to celebrate.

Towards the end of the week the mechanic called and said that after a quick test drive, Mander was ready to be picked up. I called Megan for a ride and 10 mins later I got another call from the mechanic. On the test drive Mander had started spewing coolant out of the side of the engine block. The mechanic thought it was the head gasket or best case scenario, a freeze plug. Since I knew that a bolt had been drilled out on that side I encouraged him to look at that area, hoping that one of the bolts that goes into the water jacket had just come lose. This was going to require much more time…and money. I called Megan and told her to turn around. I was crestfallen yet again.

The next week they took off the exhaust manifold to get a better look and sure enough, that bolt hole was leaking quite a bit of coolant. I’m not sure if the previous mechanic had messed up when he drilled it out or time had just done it’s thing, but the bolt was able to wiggle pretty freely inside the hole.

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As you can see, this bolt hole isn’t very circular anymore.

When the mechanic called to tell me what they had found, the solution he suggested was to get a new cylinder head. I just about lost it. That was a MAJOR repair that I could not afford! After thinking about it, I asked him why he couldn’t just helicoil it. He said they could try. Not very reassuring to hear but what can you do when your rig is already taken apart and in someone else’s hands? 1 week turned into 2 as I waited for them to fix Mander. They messed up the helicoil so they had to go up a size which meant they needed to order a new bolt. Oh and did I mention they also discovered that my exhaust manifold was cracked!?

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Cracked

I told my amazing followers on Instagram about everything and one MOPAR enthusiast said he was pretty sure he had a manifold in his shed that I could have. We made sure they matched and I’ll be damned if he didn’t clean that thing up and ship it to me! I paid for rush shipping and was able to get it to the shop just as they were ready to put everything back together again.

Eventually, after 2 weeks of waiting and $2,000, I could go get my house. My resilience had been worn away by months and months of trials and tribulations. Emotionally, I had hit the lowest of lows since living on the road. I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I had decided to throw in the towel but shockingly the ass kicking brought on a totally different realization. I knew now, more than ever, I wasn’t going back to what my life looked like before. And believe me, I entertained the idea of giving up more than once. Through the cloud of stress and despair, I could still see what I was fighting for. Or shall I say against? I was fighting for adventure and against mind numbing routine. I was fighting for growth and against stagnation. I was fighting for my independence and against the status quo. I was fighting for a life that belonged to me and that’s just not something you let go of once you have it.  So I moved back into Mander with a renewed love for her and prepared to, once again, Mander on.

 

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Regardless of which way you may decide to help, your donation goes straight into my heart and into Mander’s tank. We split it 50/50. 😉 That being said, my blog will remain free and I will always appreciate you coming along for the ride, even if it’s as a silent reader. 

Until next time, much love and Mander on! 

13 response to "Utah Wrap Up"

  1. By: Shannon Lee Posted: July 20, 2020

    Oh my gosh, what a journey you’ve been on! I was wondering what happened to you. Glad you’re ok, your cat’s ok, and that Mander is now ok! <3

  2. By: Bob Posted: July 21, 2020

    I, too, wondered what happened to you. Major breakdowns suck with a motorhome. Its the one advantage of a trailer. Last year i stayed for only three nights in the parking lot of the mechanics shop after brake failure. Lucky he let me as this was in Sedoda where they are no cheap places to stay.
    Fingers crossed you dont have any major problems this year!

  3. By: Elizabeth Denny Posted: July 21, 2020

    7-21-2020 Wow-WHAT a ride you and your fur babies have had!!!I’m proud of you for carrying on. Yes, we all have felt defeat and down days. You are so normal. LMK if you ever head to North Carolina. We live in a sticks and bricks, however, you and your babies would be welcome to park her and enjoy our fabulous state. Elizabeth

  4. By: PJ Posted: July 21, 2020

    $2000 is a lot of money, but compare that to rent and utilities every single month and it doesn’t seem so bad. Buying an older rig, it just stands to reason that there were going to be some costly repairs. But hopefully after you get all those done it will be cost effective in the end.

  5. By: Jay Stokes Posted: July 21, 2020

    is it hard to find places to park the RV? do most places charge a fee for you to be on site? I am interested in doing this also and trying to research. thanks

  6. By: Janice Boynton Posted: July 21, 2020

    Hey sweets- Do you like looking back on these old escapades? 😉

  7. By: James Kennedy Posted: July 23, 2020

    I congratulate you for living for 3 years on the road in the commander and doing all your mechanics and your update work all by yourself there’s not many of us nomads like that left! It is a very great thing to be self-sufficient and to have that drive to be able to live this lifestyle

  8. By: William Posted: July 28, 2020

    Very nice all you do on the free life ,congratulations .hope one can do the same thing

  9. By: Glen Posted: July 30, 2020

    Wow. I stopped following you quite a while ago. Just looked you up to see if there was anything new. Glad to hear this update on such a positive tone. Forge ahead, you’ll be just fine.

  10. By: Agent/Officer/EMT Thomas A. Porter D.P.O. Posted: August 2, 2020

    I sincerely feel for you. Had to have a transmission replaced was 10 miles from turn off to get back to home base another 60 miles through high mountains & transmission turned to toast & smoked for 1 1/2 hours. Thankfully it never flamed up just burned up! I was able to just get off the interstate as traffic zipped by at 80 & 90mph. 3 hours later a Semi-Tow Truck Arrived! Yea! The most expensive tow in my life $355 bucks! I get an out of body experience when these things happen. From my profession I go into respond mode & deal with & once back at home base debrief myself complete. Not a good Zen Moment! The money to get fixed that is 2nd mode of respond & having a trusted & gifting mechanic it finally turned out great after 2 months. You are a survivor in real time & for your time & your fury love’n kids. You got spunk & I admire & like people with spunk. Live life one minute at a time as there are 1440 minutes in every 24 hours & drum roll, the next minute has yet to appear.Your back to being Free Again in your life! Take Care, Be Safe, Safe Health & Safe Travels!

  11. By: Gazsi (Kaspar) Posted: August 9, 2020

    Your RV Commander is so awesome. You are awesome! Of all the rebuilt RV’s I’ve seen, yours would be my choice. You have created a home with atmosphere and nostalgia. A home with space and mobility. And I love your scooter on the back of the RV.

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