• sparkfireswan

A&A Return From A Summer Hiatus With Key Updates

End of Week #114 - #123

Moochdocking, Stone Lake WI > Lake Elmo Park Preserve, Lake Elmo MN > Birch Coulee Battlefield, Morton MN

Miles traveled since my last post = 236 miles

Total miles traveled to date = 16,002 with trailer

I'm finally back! Did you miss me!?

It's crazy to think I really did take about 3 months off from posting this summer, as I never planned or anticipated to do so, but I think it was just what I needed at the time. Admittedly, it's been hard to get back into the swing of things now, and I've had this very post pending in my drafts page for over a month now, ahh! But the procrastination is done and over with, and I'm officially making my debut back into the travel blogging world.

So let's kick things off with some of the key updates you've missed the past few months...

Trailer Renovations, Bengal Cat Teeth, & Work, Oh My!

We spent just over 3 months in Stone Lake, Wisconsin this summer, moochdocking at my mom's cabin. All in all it was a really great, and really fast summer, with a lot of time spent working and enjoying the best things northern Wisconsin has to offer. For the most part, we did not have a lot of crazy huge life events happen, or at least not anything that we were not already totally equipped to handle and deal with. With that being said, we do still have some updates in terms of the trailer, the Bengal cats, and our jobs, so I wanted to take the chance to dive into them now!

Trailer Renovations

Ironically, the day after I posted my last blog update on the challenges of RV living (the one and only post I made in July), we discovered a major issue with the trailer that we had never dealt with to this scale before. We had a significant water leak! And when I say significant, I mean our carpet on our slide was absolutely SOAKED, and had huge puddles of water on top of it... Now as you can imagine, this came as a huge surprise to us and was a quite frustrating thing to discover. We assumed it to be leaking from the window on the side of the slide, as there were small bubbles under the wall paper, but to be sure of the damage we had to start ripping things apart...

First, we ripped up a small chunk of carpet in the corner, to assess just how "soaked" it really was, and to see if it potentially soaked through to the wood on the floor. (I did this by myself while Adam was at work!) Upon discovering that the wood on the floor was also completely soaked, the real "holy shit" moment started to sink in. At this point we had to commit to ripping ALL of the carpet out, and even parts of the wall as well, to be sure we now did not have structural damage on our hands too!

Within just a few days we were able to completely rip up all of the carpet on this half of the slide, and Adam also cut the wall out from the window down. To our continued dismay, we discovered that there was liquid BEHIND the insulation that was behind the piece of wall, meaning that had to come out too! Before we knew it we had our first full blown RV renovation on our hands... and it wasn't one we were looking forward to do!

We allowed the floor and the wall to dry out for a few days, or maybe even a week's time, before deciding that we believe that to be the extent of the water damage. The only other option would have been to take the trailer to the Twin Cities in MN, to an RV dealership, and have them completely replace the wall and floor on the slide - which could have ultimately taken WEEKS to complete. It was already August at this point, and time was not on our side because we would have to begin traveling again. Not to mention that most dealerships were backed up for months in order to get any kind of work done, or parts ordered.

In the meantime, while things continued to dry - with box fans lined up, and the entire trailer a complete and utter mess - I researched some new options we could use to replace the wallpaper and the carpet. We both agreed that we did NOT want to put carpet back in, which was a good choice anyways because the carpet we had was not reusable and smelled horrible from all the water damage. Thankfully we both agreed that vinyl tiles was going to be a way better option for the floor, and a new twist of wallpaper would be great too.

I am super grateful that most of this project was something Adam was able to complete himself, in between his work schedule at the Chit Chat Bar in Birchwood, WI. As we were able to get things ordered off Amazon (which took FOREVER), he was able to slowly chip away at our renovation. We even made sure to order enough wallpaper to do another accent wall in the main living space, and eventually we will add another accent wall in the bedroom too. I have to say that the entire project actually did turn out better than I expected it to, and I'm quite pleased with our results.

I think this "project" also inspired me to low key want to do more renovations in the RV in the near future... such as a tile backsplash in the kitchen, and maybe even some painting!

Van & Trailer Maintenance

As always after sitting still for periods of time, there is some maintenance and upkeep to be done on both the van and trailer to get them ready to go for travel again. Thankfully, there wasn't anything too extreme to be done this time around, and we were able to order any supplies needed off of amazon and have Adam complete the maintenance tasks himself. (Again, such a handy man!)

In terms of the van, the first thing Adam did was replace our brakes. I hate to admit it, but they were in pretty bad shape and it was something we had started to notice when we were out on the east coast. Anytime we would brake, the entire van would shake, and it was quite scary at times! The second task didn't happen until we were in Lake Elmo last month, and that included 2 new front tires (ours were getting bald), an alignment, and an oil change!

With the trailer, we didn't really have anything else major to address (aside from our whole water leak fiasco) and mainly did maintenance tasks such as re-greasing all of our wheel bearings, and re-sealing our roof. We were able to get some new special roof tape that Adam put on our slides as well, and he was also able to take all four tires off right in the driveway at my mom's cabin in Stone Lake.

Bengal Cat Appointments

It was on my to-do list for our summer in Stone Lake to get both of the Bengal babes into the vet in Hayward for some check-ups. This was the same vet that we went to when we first moved into the RV in the summer of 2019, and that performed Roscoe's first tooth extraction surgery. Nothing major was going on with the fur babies, I had just wanted them to get a check up, and to refill their gabapentin prescriptions for travel. I also kind of assumed that Rahja may need a teeth cleaning as she was having some bad breath issues and would occasionally paw at her mouth when she chewed.

Turns out, after a thorough check up from our favorite vets, both Bengals ended up needing dental surgery! Roscoe's last two molars were taken over with the same autoimmune disease that caused him to lose all of his other teeth, and they were quite red and in rough shape. Rahja definitely did have some plaque build up, which was so bad in one spot that the entire tooth had to come out. I was relieved to have these dental surgeries scheduled while we were in Wisconsin, as this was a vet I trusted, they had already performed a similar surgery on Roscoe in the past, and I knew their prices were fair and affordable.

I am happy to report that both Bengals recovered very well, and quite fast. They both were super "drunk" when Adam brought them home from the vet the day of their surgery, as they were completely loaded with pain meds. I had to spend that evening babysitting them to make sure they did not try to jump up on high places, as they had absolutely no coordination, and to make sure they did not try to break their kibble container open.

Within a week or so they were back to their normal selves as if nothing had even happened. Roscoe now officially has ZERO teeth in his mouth, at his prime age of 9 years old. (His birthday was September 16th!) And miss Rahja no longer paws at her mouth or smells like rotten fish. We were also fortunate to be prescribed a large amount of their gabapentin pills for travel, to ensure we will not need to figure out more vet visits or more prescriptions for quite some time. I am very thankful for the entire team at Leading Edge Vet in Hayward, WI, and I know that we will be back again for another checkup our next trip to the Midwest.

Amanda's Remote Job

A few days after we arrived in Stone Lake this past May, I started working part-time, temporarily online with Affinity Plus FCU - which just so happens to be the last place I worked prior to RV life. I worked remotely from Stone Lake for over 3 months all summer and everything went really great! For the most part I didn't really know when the position would end, and had just been hoping it would last long enough to cross over this fall while Adam was working the Sugar Beet Harvest. I knew there was a lot of restrictions and limitations in place to allow me to work in other states, remotely long term, etc., so I had just been doing my best to go with the flow and remain hopeful about things.

By July, someone in my same department, Human Resources, departed and a full-time permanent position opened up. I hmm'd and ha'd for awhile, on if I wanted to take the chance to apply for it or not, and ultimately decided to just go for it and see what could happen. I really, truly assumed that there was no way I was going to be offered the position and ultimately figured I would then have to search for another opportunity online.

To my surprise, in early August while we just so happened to be on a road trip to the Apostle Islands, I missed a call from my coworker in charge of recruitment and the message she left me sounded pretty optimistic. When we returned and I was able to connect with her she let me know that the team decided to take a chance, and the company was going to take a step forward and work with me on being a completely remote employee working from multiple states. I honestly was surprised, and extremely grateful, for this offer and felt a lot of immediate relief for our future and all of our RV goals and plans ahead.

I have now been working fulltime, in basically my same role, since August 16th. As things continue to transition this fall I will be learning new tasks in the Human Resources department, and eventually I will be taking on our company's entire payroll system, and benefits administration. Things have been going really well and I am starting to have a system and a routine down in the RV. It really does feel great to be back at Affinity Plus, as it is one of the best companies I have ever worked for, and they put a lot of time and effort into caring about their employees. This role is also quite a gamechanger for Adam and I in general, as it will ease a lot of stress we have on the road and ultimately eliminate the need for us to work another summer campground job.

While we were in Lake Elmo last month we also purchased an additional MiFi router through AT&T, with 100 gigs of data and a lot stronger of a connection, to continue to improve my digital nomad experience.

Adam's Job(s)

For the entire summer while we were in Wisconsin, Adam worked at the Chit Chat Bar - the same place he worked for a few weeks while we were last in Wisconsin the summer of 2019. This summer he was actually their only employee, aside from their own daughters, and he worked every weekend (and several weekdays) for a little over 3 months. His last day with them turned out to be Labor Day, as we actually packed up and left Wisconsin the very next day after that.

Adam's next gig, for the fall, is the Sugar Beet Harvest in southwestern Minnesota. We are here now, and arrived just over 3 weeks ago. The official harvest itself has not really kicked off yet, as it has unfortunately been delayed several times due to rain, due to excessive heat, and due to the beets not being ready for production yet. Thankfully, the family farm he is hired through has allowed him to help with other farming tasks, in harvesting grain and soy been as well.

For all of the harvesting he assists with, Adam drives a huge 53 foot semi truck & trailer, and hauls around various crops from field locations to drop spots in the area. This week things have really picked up for his work schedule and for 3 days in a row now he has been working about 15 hour days. I will say, he actually really enjoys everything he is doing here, he loves driving the big semi, and for the most part he doesn't have to leave the truck much. He always talks about how much he likes working on a farm, and we often reminisce about our time spent on a family farm in South Dakota.

Depending on how long the harvest lasts, and if there are anymore weather delays or not, we will either be here for another 1-2 weeks, or at the very latest - until about October 26th. Right now the 26th is our ultimate cut off date where we will have to head out and start making our way south. We have reservations that start in Savannah, Georgia on Saturday October 30th, and from there we make our way into Florida for Christmas Trees...

Christmas Tree Camp - Year 2

Yes, we are still heading to Florida to sell Christmas trees for the holidays! This will be our second year in a row managing a retail lot in southeastern Florida, and we are super excited for the season to get started. As you may remember, we had the pleasure of visiting the Christmas tree farm in North Carolina this past spring, and had a really enjoyable season overall last year, for our rookie year. This year we will be at a new lot location, a busier lot, and are pumped to make the transition.

With me working full-time online, we will primarily have Adam run our lot during the weekdays, and I will assist with nights and weekends, with the exception of a few days I took off for our kickoff training and our busiest day - the day after Thanksgiving. We feel a lot more prepared for the action the second time around and plan to recruit a lot of our old lot helpers to move to our new lot with us this year.

More to come on this next workamping gig, as Fall continues on!

New Purchases

This summer we were able to make a few new purchase for some pretty simple, but exciting things that have been on our list for awhile! One item is a 12x12 screen tent, that basically serves as an additional room to live in, and we can use it to escape from bugs, I can work remotely from this room, or I can workout in there too. It's quickly one of my favorite new spaces to be in, as it allows you to enjoy the great outdoors without having to swat all of the Asian beetles, boxelder bugs, mosquitos, and wasps away! Additionally, we also upgraded our camping chairs to two zero gravity chairs. I have been wanting these chairs for so long, as they are so much more comfortable than a standard camping chair, and plus they allow you to lean back too!

It really is the simple things in life sometimes that end up making all the difference...

NEXT WEEK: As I get back into my regular posting schedule, you may be surprised to hear this, but I already have a game plan for the rest of 2021, yay! Next week's post will dive into what it's like for us to grocery shop on the road, especially after continually spending so much time in very small towns - oftentimes that don't even have any real grocery store options.

Amazon Storefront

I have recently become affiliated with Amazon, through the set up of my own storefront page. Here I am able to list and link all of the items I have purchased through Amazon and would recommend for various needs. I have lists set up for fulltime RVing, camping in general, traveling with cats, health and wellness, and even curly hair! Plus, as an added bonus, I will make a small commission on any items purchased through my link. If you want to check out more of my storefront page, here is the link: Spark Fire Swan's Amazon I will continue to add items as time goes on, as we are always finding something new on there that becomes quite useful to our lifestyle or for our feline friends. As a rule of thumb, I only ever link things we have actually purchased, kept, and use on a frequent basis! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For more reviews, content, and other adventures, be sure to follow me on Instagram at Spark Fire Swan. xoxo

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