The story so far…..

17 Sep

We were just a couple of blue collar workers, who met working for the Canadian Coast Guard, fell in love and got married. We moved to Campbell River, B.C., where we bought a home and raised a family. Richard working in the local pulp mill and me, the only female salmon fishing guide on the east coast of Vancouver Island, that however is another story altogether.

We had planned on retiring at 55, and wanted to travel by road.  All of the commercial built RV’s that we looked at were poorly built, too small and crowded, didn’t have a big enough bed, or it was in the wrong place, and they wanted way too much money for them, so Richard decided he could build our own. He did all the work and a fine job he did too. We bought a used 26 foot, 1986 Grumman Step van that had been used as a Frito Lay delivery truck and customize it. All I asked for were a queen size bed and a full working shower and bathroom.

Grummy's smile

From the front, it has captains chairs, including building a platform for the passenger seat because all they come with is a jump seat, if there’s a spot for a passenger at all. The passenger seat swivels completely around and there is a full length and width blackout curtain that zippers and snaps into place with the passenger seat behind it. Looking in, all you can see in the front compartment is a drivers seat so it still looks like a delivery van, You would actually have to look long and hard to notice the cupboards above the front windows and the roller blinds on all 4 windows. Who needs sun visors that are built for giants, when the rollers can be lowered to any height  to reflect the sun.

I guess the first thing folks notice as you move through the curtain, is that there are no windows in the body of the van, but it’s full of light. That’s because there are two skylights that can be opened in any direction, one in the middle of the van the other in the back. Both are 2 feet square, built out of Plexiglas and held in place by cam locks. These are also our emergency exits. We have all the privacy one could want as well as all the light one needs.

Curtain cuts off the rear from the world, and the sun for those who like to sleep late.

On the driver’s side, is a Dickinson marine propane heater. When it’s cold outside, this little baby keeps us warm and toasty. Next is a love seat with lots of dry storage underneath it, then the bathroom. On the wall outside the bathroom is a Bosch demand hot water heater. The bathroom has a fully functioning toilet and shower, but no sink. Inside the bathroom carefully hidden away in it’s own compartment is the water pump which services the toilet, hot water heater and the kitchen sink.

Bright colours, yea! Demand hot water on the left, fireplace on the right

On the passenger side,  the passenger seat can be turned completely around, to face the end of the counter. In the counter sits the Dickinson stove, again propane powered, and the sink. Below the counter sits the 12 volt fridge, cupboards with shelves on sliders, three large sliding drawers, and of course the ubiquitous “cupboard under the sink”. Above all of this sits large cupboards with dishes, more dried goods and the electrical cupboard with a 300 watt inverter in it, because everything is run by two large 123 watt solar panels mounted on the roof. There is also a 1000 watt inverter at the front of the van. We have more than enough power to run all our toys, which includes two Apple laptops, 11 different  LED lights, and the vacuum cleaner. Throughout the Grummy are small but powerful 12 volt fans. Three are set to move air around the rig, and one acts as the stove fan, blowing the smoke from cooking out the skylight.

Bright colours make the inside look so nice. See the bed folding down in the back?

The back compartment looks like it’s only storage, with large cupboards for clothes and lift up lid boxes where the water tanks are. This is actually the bedroom and the queen size bed is the left hand wall. It folds down and fills the entire room, but at night who cares? It’s not like one of us is going to get up and dance.

At the very back is a door that opens into the rear of the van and we have a two foot wide storage area back there for tools,  and other things that we don’t want in the vehicle itself.

Tools bike ladder you name it

I mentioned water tanks earlier. We carry two 25 gallon fibreglass tanks built inside where they can’t freeze. We also have the same amount of storage capacity for black and grey water, so we can boon-dock for up to 10 days at a time before we need to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water.

I told you we had decided that we were going to retire at 55, but at 52, Richard and I were looking at our property tax bill and realized that the house, which had long since been paid for, had appreciated considerably in the last few years. As well, both our daughters were grown and had no intentions of returning to the family house. Both had announced that they would consider themselves failures if they had to move back home to Mommy and Daddy. So we started talking. We had no debts, (thanks to a bequest from my late sister) and working for the next 4 years was only marking time till we could retire. I crunched the numbers and with the value of our home in the bank, plus our RRSP’s, we could make enough interest, if invested wisely, to see us through until we could collect Richard’s pension.

Neither of us had ever put down deep roots and the only reason we had stayed where we were for so long was so the girls could grow up in one place, with life long friends and a feeling of familiarity and continuity.  Selling the house was a simple decision, and neither of the girls were too upset about it. We had always taught them that memories were in the mind, not in things and as long as you’re  alive, and remember, you keep the past alive. The next step was selling everything  we owned.

You see, we planned on moving into our RV and making that our home until such time as we could no longer physically do it , so leaving anything in storage was a waste of money and space. What were we going to do? Come back once a year, open the door to the storage bay and say,”Hi stuff.” ?  All the childhood memorabilia, that we had carefully collected over the years was sorted into boxes for each child and it was all given back. Here was every picture, card, tooth, even the hospital bands from their birth. They took great joy in rediscovering all of the things that had been part of their growing up.

Family heirlooms were offered to any in the family that cared to have them. Some were taken, some not. What wasn’t wanted by anyone, went to auction. We were amazed at how much money we made from just “Stuff”. The only thing we didn’t sell was an original acrylic painting of me, in the early morning,  heading to the fishing grounds, which proudly hangs in our daughters living room.

We set sail on October 18th, 2006 and headed south fast. We were under deadline because Richard had promised his Dad that we would arrive in Juncolito at the same time he arrived to help him fix his car. We made it, fixed the car, then headed off to explore. I should explain that at the same time we were preparing to leave Campbell River, we were also in the process of selling our home and the deal was finalized on October 15th. The realtor told us that we would be able to do the closing, which was to happen on January 5th 2007 from Mexico. We were soon to discover that wasn’t going to happen.

While we hit the paths less travelled, we also tried to find a way to complete the sale of our home via the internet, and phone, which in the Baja was a hit or miss proposition at the best of times. I finally contacted the family lawyers and they suggested we give Power of Attorney to our youngest daughter Elizabeth and she could sign on our behalf. We agreed and were told the only person who could sign the prerequisite forms was the Canadian Consul in San Jose del Cabo as the Mexican legal system was totally different than the Canadian one. So we set out for the bottom of the peninsula and got 30 miles away when the transmission blew.  My stress level started to reach volcanic proportions and I’m sure Richard’s wasn’t doing very well either.

Ruben Montoya, wonder mechanic

We asked around and were told by a retired Baja 1000 racer that the best guy for the job lived in Loreto and so we met Ruben Montoya. He told us to come back a week later and allowed us to live in our rig inside his walled compound, while he fixed it. Ruben was quite the character. He spoke broken English, enough to to make himself understood, but  he was obviously a very smart man. He rebuilt his first car engine at 7 and his first transmission at 11, and when he was finished with our rig it was probably better than new, and a whole lot more heavy duty than anything we could have found at home.

Finally on the road again, we made it down to San Jose del Cabo,  got the papers signed, and shipped off via courier. However we were not finished with the repairs. In what seemed like a continuing saga, we replaced the sway bar bushings, the bushings in the rear leaf springs, the shock absorbers, two new tires, muffler hangers, repaired the leaf springs, new ball joints, got new brake anti rattle clips and had the muffler welded for the second time.

While we spent our time waiting for one repair or another we also found great places to just simply be. Beautiful beaches, great celebrations, wild races, wonderful, friendly people and a place we wanted to come back to.

This is going to be that continuing story. We’re going to tell you about the places we go, people we meet, the food we eat, the fun we’re having and how we managed to retire and continue to have fun on not a lot of money.


5 Responses to “The story so far…..”

  1. Helene September 17, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    We lived in Comox for 3 yrs. Sold in the house in April and travelled for over 2 months in the States with our travel trailer. This is what we want to do in couple years when my son graduates. What a different life when you travel full time. Good luck!

  2. Elizabeth September 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Great story so far! I can’t wait to hear about all the shenanigans you guys get up to when nobody’s looking…:)

  3. Linda Goudelock September 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Just discovered your blog, one of your daughters posted it on FB. We are full timers too! Have fun with your travels!


  4. Ruth Woodhouse September 17, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    so far you are off to a good start. How about a photo page??? And please keep it up to date as you go along, some many blogs stop, even though the writer is still out there having adventures. I try to follow a few and have given up because there is no new news after six months or more!!! Have fun.

  5. byron October 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Consider changing your chevy transmission out a 46RH found in early 90’s dodge D350 Cummins Diesel pickups. The 46RH has a non-locking torque converter and a one-wire electronic overdrive (connect wire to 12V to turn on overdrive in 3rd gear, or wire to a 45psi pressure switch and make it happen automatically at 45mph). By doing that, you now require the Dodge adapter plate, the dodge flexplate, and the dodge torque converter. But…now you have parts that were intended or a diesel, they’re stronger, more reliable, and more capable (overdrive)….and most importantly, easier to service, find, maintain, and work on. The shifter will be adaptable. The speedo cable won’t be a big deal either. You will have to fabricate a transmission crossmember and redo the driveshaft. The transmission parts should cost you about $500 from a bone yard or private party that is converting to a manual transmission (common thing to do among dodge pickup guys). Anyway, if you want more info about it, you can find my email on

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