Job Market Be Damned: Quitting Our Jobs and Hitting the Road!
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Thread: Job Market Be Damned: Quitting Our Jobs and Hitting the Road!

  1. #1
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    Job Market Be Damned: Quitting Our Jobs and Hitting the Road!

    The first time that the dream of going on a long trip transformed into a realistic opportunity is difficult to pin down...


    I (my name is Adam) moved to the Chicago area while my partner (name Marissa) was still earning her Undergraduate degree in Ohio. Shortly after graduating, she joined me where we currently live in Berwyn. I work as an Engineer in the far-west suburbs and she as a Preschool teacher on the near-west side – it’s regrettable how well our chosen professions tuck into our gender-roles so perfectly.


    We love the city. The museums, the food, and the public transportation that we wish we could use more often, the music, the bustling people, the anonymity of sinking into a large crowd, and the urban landscape. I’ve had a keen interest in Chicago since High School and having lived here, the city has lived up to my expectations. I hope to revisit the city again, maybe years from now – but who knows? There are an endless number of great places to live and visit all over. I feel like it’s impossible to have a favorite when you’ve experienced so few.


    But just as she followed me here, I will follow her to the next city. Marissa plans on getting her Master’s and class begins in a few short months. Our lease expires mid-March and what better an excuse than to take a few months to ourselves, quit our comfortable jobs, travel and learn, and to experience all or many of those “must-see/do-before-you-die” phenomena of the Western United States? Call us naïve, but every single person with whom we share our plan expresses more genuine enthusiasm than disheartening trepidations. We’ve made ourselves so anxious, that at this point the trip is an inevitability - we will go or die trying (or slightly less probable, both).


    We’ve designed a route spanning only small stretches of Interstate Highways and hitting every destination that we’ve chosen over the last year. Roughly, we’ll be departing from Chicago after St. Pat's Day Parade and heading south to the Gulf. From there, it’s up through the High Plains to Colorado, over the Divide, through to the West Coast and up to Seattle. The return trip will take us through Yellowstone and miles of nothing back down along the coast of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and terminate back in the City with Big Shoulders. In all, the route will encompass over 8000 miles, more than 21 states, and countless destinations. All of which demonstrating what are arguably the most iconic and beautiful landscapes that our country has to offer.


    Stay tuned for logistical planning, vehicle preparations, nonsensical babble, and various rants. Trip updates may include, but are not limited to; gear reviews, restaurant reviews, potential expletive-laden repairs, plenty of pictures, and hopefully a few mildly-entertaining anecdotes.

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  3. #2
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    The Van

    It took some time and considerable discussion to finally decide upon a vehicle for the trip. First let me preface by saying that we have no intention to be hotel-dependent. That is, we will require not only an affordable means of getting around but also one of accommodations.


    Brilliant Plan #1: At first we considered taking my Civic Sedan. On the highway I can get about 40 mpg with a passenger and our gear. The car is safe, reliable, economical, and convenient in the sense that I already own it, it’s already insured, and I know what to expect out of its performance.


    The hitch would be sleeping in those seats (difficult, I imagine, for anyone, let alone someone over 6’-0”). Even one night would at best yield minor discomfort and poor sleep-quality, and at worst, physical and psychological torture so obscene as to trigger the only rational response: a spiteful, murderous rampage.


    Okay, so we thought to pack camping gear and each night find a place to set up camp and enjoy comparatively plush air mattresses, room enough overhead to sit and change clothing, and enough breathing room to feel comfortable. One problem with this approach, although it sounds lovely and relatively economical as I already have the gear we would require, campsites (legal ones, anyway) are not quite abundantly available in more densely populated areas and are certainly not truly cheap. Additionally, and what I would consider the most important factor, our patience with the routine of setting up and taking down camp each morning and night may grow so desperately thin, that we would convince each other that hotels were necessary.


    Brilliant Plan #2: Use the still-economical civic to tow a trailer in which we could sleep each night. We researched this one pretty heavily. We fell on a couple conclusions that ultimately buried the idea. In order to preserve the major advantage of taking a small car, the fuel economy, the trailer would have to be designed for just such an application – not only aerodynamically efficient, but also very light weight. This left us with pretty much one option: a teardrop.


    Teardrop trailers are awesome. And after doing the math on the materials, if we were to build one, we would probably be able to sell the trailer when we were finished and make quite a bit of money from the whole deal. But that ended up being the demise; we’ve simply no time to construct such a trailer. Further, there’s still the chance that after having invested money and time that could be spent traveling, the trailer could wreck the Civic’s mileage so unacceptably that the advantage would disappear.


    Brilliant Plan #3: A minivan; a machine that can be customized to accommodate two sleeping adults but still achieve at least decent fuel economy at 60 mph. Having had whimsical conversations with my oldest brother about the 1st Gen Odysseys, outfitted to haul around a few 29er Mountain Bikes and a ****load of gear on top, plus three full-size adults in comfort, the choice seemed obvious. And as a matter of fact, after Marissa’s and my whole escapade is over, that is likely just what duty the van will see.

    So began our search for an affordable, acceptable-condition 1st Gen Honda Odyssey. We searched for only a few weeks, and found an LX in Black Currant. A purple minivan… awesome. And we’ll still be taking the camping gear for National Parks and the like.


    Some new tires, replacing the exhaust manifold, and giving it a fresh oil change is all it'll need and we'll be ready. Driving it back from to Toledo from Chicago on the Turnpike at around 15 degrees, I recorded 28.5 mpg. So great.

    Next posting, I will be tackling coverage of removing the back seat, the bed install, some cleanup and work to be done to the van, and a bit of gear we'll need for the trip.

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    Registered User wetamup2005's Avatar
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    I think your writing is brilliant and I am looking forward to updates on your adventure. Subscribed!

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    Quote Originally Posted by wetamup2005 View Post
    I think your writing is brilliant and I am looking forward to updates on your adventure. Subscribed!
    Thanks very much, wetamup! More to come!

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    Registered User BigBoat's Avatar
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    Cool, sounds like fun. A refreshing thread for a change. Good luck!

    - 2011 Honda Odyssey EX-L w/RES (theirs)
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    Route

    Before I get into the bed-building, van cleaning, repair-detailing, equipment lists and general outfitting, I figured I would post in a little more depth of our route.


    I have attached below an illustration of the path we will approximately travel to hit many of our chosen destinations. This map is somewhat incomplete, but should provide a jist of our plans.

    Route.jpg



    And as a special President’s Day Gift, I’ve drawn up an even more approximate graphical representation of our tour, state by state – full of sweeping generalizations and just awful over-simplification.

    Route (Roughly).jpg


    Happy Early Birthday, George Washington! Good going with the whole Revolution thing.
    And Happy Belated, Abe! (And maybe next time, don’t wear such a tall hat to the theatre; you can easily irritate those people sitting behind you.)


    Soon, very soon I promise, I will provide photos of the bed install. If there’s enough interest, I can provide a walkthrough and plans in the DIY Forum.

  9. #7
    Registered User BigBoat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no_code View Post
    And as a special President’s Day Gift, I’ve drawn up an even more approximate graphical representation of our tour, state by state – full of sweeping generalizations and just awful over-simplification.
    [SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]
    Route (Roughly).jpg
    Nice. Yup, no road trip around the US is complete without stopping by New Orleans.

    ...the Wisconsin cheese...

    Years ago I followed this Croatian family road tripping across Europe. Not apples-to-apples but I hope it gives you some tips. They were driving a 1st generation Mazda Premacy (Mazda5 here), which, if we look at its dimensions, they are very similar to the 1st generation Odyssey

    GREEN MAZDA EUROPE ROAD TRIP

    Thanks for updates

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBoat View Post

    Years ago I followed this Croatian family road tripping across Europe. Not apples-to-apples but I hope it gives you some tips. They were driving a 1st generation Mazda Premacy (Mazda5 here), which, if we look at its dimensions, they are very similar to the 1st generation Odyssey
    Well, that's awesome. Very impressive with a family of four, especially. I feel like it's going to be difficult enough maintaining sanity with just my partner. Add two kids and I can see the headlines; "Traveling Family Axed By Crazed Father", "Man Careens Intentionally Into Oncoming Traffic: Officials Say Mouthy Kids Were Forewarned", "Ohio Driver Plummets Into Grand Canyon: Man Loses Van, Life".

    I really like the proportions of that Premacy. Their website seems very artistic, but I am having trouble navigating it. I wonder what kind of mileage they saw with that much of a load...

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    Bed Build


    Like I mentioned originally, the benefit of the Odyssey over my Civic is most obviously the relatively cavernous interior. It was my intention before I purchased the van to fit up a bed frame or platform of some sort that would also serve as a physical divider for stowed gear underneath.

    Tearing Out the Rear Seat

    This topic has been covered to a sickening extreme amongst these forums, so I won’t detail out our procedure. Just take a look at the images because we all know that the reason many of us like getting onto forums in the first place is to see candid images of things being torn apart, reassembled, cut apart, or otherwise modified!


    IMG_7226.jpg

    I zip tied the seatbelts to some of the metal underneath the molding to keep them out of the way.

    IMG_7225.jpg


    Bed Frame Design

    Marissa and I had some discussion on the specifics like materials (read: weight and durability), features, and stowage space.


    At first, the design was your basic platform of ¾” plywood, perhaps wrapped in matching gray fabric that would be built in 2+ removable sections to allow for easy access to the gear below. If properly supported, continuous sheets would be inherently adding strength to the design which would be plenty strong for our applied load (approximately 360 pounds total weight, with bedding). Simplicity of design was also a pro for this style platform.


    A couple of cons ended up sinking the platform design. Continuous sheets of plywood are heavy. Both plywood and solid Pine have a similar density between 37 and 44 lb/cu. ft. Treating that as roughly constant, whether made with plywood or solid Southern Pine, volume reduction equals weight reduction.

    Further, continuous sheets of plywood are opaque. It may prove tiring to search for stowed gear that gravitates towards the center of the storage area. The process would require lifting the mattress, lifting the plywood shelf, and then searching for the item. (Much of this may be resolved with a drawer system, anyway)

    We decided to build a bed frame that uses traditional slats to support the mattress similar to a cheap Ikea frame. With this approach, the bed frame would be lighter weight, easily removable, and conveniently offer windows through which your gear could be found or even reached.

    Cleaning and Construction

    While my friend Justin and I started working on the bed frame, Marissa shouldered the task of scrubbing the carpet. Initially, she wanted to buy a large piece of carpeting and field-fit it into the van. Admittedly, the carpet in the vehicle was pretty nasty. I took solace in the fact that visually, it was all going to be covered by the bedding anyway… my partner felt differently. But the carpet really cleaned up well! Even so far as to pass Marissa’s acceptability limits! Here’s the product she used to scrub them up.

    IMG_7224.jpg

    And her results; Before:

    IMG_7221.jpg

    After:

    IMG_7234.jpg

    Falafel was eaten. Arnold Palmers were had. And so came and went the installation of the bed frame.

    IMG_7231.jpg

    IMG_7253.jpg
    IMG_7254.jpg
    IMG_7263.jpg

    In the very rear, I chose to use true lag bolts instead of screws to secure the legs. These legs were actually not even necessary with the shelf necessitated around the rear wheel-wells. Anyway, I chose bolts so that these legs may even be collapsed upwards for better access to the deep pit now exposed from the lift-gate. I plan on posting a list of gear that we will be dragging along with us and it will include a moderately-sized cooler and a stove. My thought process is that this area will be used for the “kitchen” since the extra room should accommodate what may be a fairly tall cooler.

    Next...

    Thought about staining the frame, strictly aesthetics, but I think I can find some sitting around and it may make it all look more complete. Beyond that, I think this portion of outfitting the van is complete.

    IMG_7268.jpg

    We still need to choose a mattress. We’re looking to avoid air mattresses (beyond my Therm-A-Rests for outdoor use). Futon mattresses are fairly comfortable without box-springs, and I am hoping to find something relatively low-profile to minimize any additional loss in bed-to-ceiling height. Still searching.

    Also, I have plans to suspend a lightweight gear-loft out of elastic netting above the bed. We’ll also be crafting some curtains – so much to talk about! More to come.

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    Based on camping in my Land Rover in many wild and wonderful places, I'd suggest you raise the bed a few inches and construct a drawer that slides out of the rear door, as well as "boxes" that you can access by lifting the mattress.

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    Registered User BigBoat's Avatar
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    Nice bed, it looks comfy , how are things coming along?

    Quote Originally Posted by no_code View Post
    Add two kids and I can see the headlines; "Traveling Family Axed By Crazed Father", "Man Careens Intentionally Into Oncoming Traffic: Officials Say Mouthy Kids Were Forewarned", "Ohio Driver Plummets Into Grand Canyon: Man Loses Van, Life".
    No way, driving with kids is always so pleasant, sorry, but I don't understand what you are talking about

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    Registered User BigBoat's Avatar
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    Saw this this morning, it sounded familiar. I think it is crazy, but hell, as he said, "we lost 3 friends on their 30's, who knows if we are going to be here tomorrow..."

    Note: just don't mind the political yara-yara...

    Family sells all, travels around the country (CNN Video)

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    No Real Update ...yet

    I think that I've heard of this family before, but maybe I'm mistaken...

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBoat View Post
    Note: just don't mind the political yara-yara...
    Can't say I approve of his hat. Or that reporter's makeup. And I'll do my best not to mind the shear political brilliance of "we don't care about the big picture anymore". While an inspiring lifestyle, that land-yacht they live in probably cost more than any house I ever lived in (albeit, I've never lived in an 8200 square foot one).

    But to answer your original question, things have been coming along slowly. The van has been awaiting it's next set of modifications in Ohio (my folks have the space to store it for us city-dwellers), and we've been trying to close things up here. Marissa and I have now both put in our two-weeks notice. And while work is starting to unwind a little bit, there is still plenty to do.

    When we get back there next weekend we'll be tackling the inverter install, an oil change, curtains, and overhead storage. Each project will be relatively small, but all are worthwhile will be described in a later post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rockwood
    Based on camping in my Land Rover in many wild and wonderful places, I'd suggest you raise the bed a few inches and construct a drawer that slides out of the rear door, as well as "boxes" that you can access by lifting the mattress.
    I appreciate your suggestion about drawers. In fact, the pictures are deceiving with exactly how much room we have under the sleeping platform. In fact, we have been planning all along to use 12"-14" tall Sterilite containers that will slide laterally from underneath the bed towards the opening of either door: each of us will have our own drawer to hold our clothing and maybe a few personal items. Just abaft the clothing containers will rest various containers and duffel bags to hold a first aid kit, camping gear, shoes, a toolkit, a full-size spare, an extra blanket, laundry bag, and toiletries. Camera gear (DSLR and a Point+Shoot) and our computers will be held up front with us as well as a small cooler hold perishable food items. At the very aft, accessible only from the opened lift-gate will be our stove, towels, extra water, a portable shower, and non-perishable food items.

    I don't have much to add yet as far as images, but I do have an abridged list of essential music for the road. Our shortlist includes, but is not limited to:

    Neil Young,
    Neko Case,
    PJ Harvey,
    Fleetwood Mac,
    The Who,
    The Rolling Stones,
    Simple Minds,
    Echo and the Bunnymen,
    Zeppelin,
    The Smiths,
    Sonic Youth,
    The National,
    Modest Mouse,
    The Big Pink,
    Galaxie 500,
    Pavement,
    The Pretenders,
    Grant Lee Buffalo,
    Fleet Foxes,
    The Jayhawks,
    Springsteen,
    The Jesus and Mary Chain,
    Nirvana,
    more Neko Case,
    U2,
    Van Morrison,
    Roxy Music,
    Depeche Mode.

    There are many more, and sorry if I am losing your attention, but Marissa and I are both looking forward to the music element of the trip almost as much as the traveling itself. Some of the exciting cities will be made more exciting by PJ Harvey's pounding wail. Conversely some of the hopelessly isolated Modest Mouse should be made even more desolate by long stretches of just vacant desert. It's going to take a lot of music to stay sane in a car this long. I have the patience of a pack of wolves in a pig pen, as it is so distraction will be a good thing.

    Soon, I plan on formalizing a total inventory and posting a spreadsheet on here at some point before we depart. I also plan on dedicating an entire posting to our discussions had thus far concerning everyday eating on the road.

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    The Gear List

    Alright, so below is a list of some of the gear Marissa and I will be taking with us. It's actually somewhat incomplete, not mentioned on the list are towels, shoes, spar fuel, food, water/bottles, flashlight, emergency cash, bedding, a paper atlas, cd's, a laundry sack, coffee mugs, sunglasses, a pocket knife, and a diary/notebook. Peruse the list and let me know what you think, particularly the tools and cookware...


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    Quote Originally Posted by no_code View Post
    Alright, so below is a list of some of the gear Marissa and I will be taking with us. It's actually somewhat incomplete, not mentioned on the list are towels, shoes, spar fuel, food, water/bottles, flashlight, emergency cash, bedding, a paper atlas, cd's, a laundry sack, coffee mugs, sunglasses, a pocket knife, and a diary/notebook. Peruse the list and let me know what you think, particularly the tools and cookware...
    A couple of ideas to add:

    • An extra phone, it can be old, but working, preferably from another carrier, just in case the one you have does not have coverage or runs out of battery
    • Emergency water bottles and emergency packed food (like power bars, Kellogg cereal bars or similar)

    - 2011 Honda Odyssey EX-L w/RES (theirs)
    - My other people mover w/6MT (theirs)


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