We spent two weeks with our toes hanging over the edge of the diving board, parked in San Diego, both working furiously and dragging our feet as we oscillated between dying to dive over the border and being paralyzed with the standard American fear of everything unknown. Chelsea's old friends (or as Ricky would call us, family ["And he's right," says Chelsea]) took us in and let us park in the front yard of their newly acquired and very beautiful home. Even Lolou made herself comfortable, meeting and making friends with Rick and Ashley's Australian Shepherd, June.
We arrived just before Thanksgiving, and spent the day leading up to the holiday helping Ashley and Rick paint and troubleshoot problems in their home. As paint was splashed on walls, furniture moved around rooms, and seats added to toilets, we realized it was fantastic to be needed and be helpful. Chelsea and I often talk about "having purpose" on our trip, and I think that having small projects that help others is like a methadone clinic for those addicted to the American mentality. We're trying to quit the rat-race, but we can't go cold turkey. Sometimes we need to feel like we have immediate, purchased-through-labor value to other people, whomever they may be. A normal person, or perhaps just a normal American, could find this value in a 9-5 job, a vocation, a profession. Because we are wayward travelers now, having no purpose can become a source of major anxiety. We need some help as we let go of the American rat race. We need small jobs, and for two weeks in San Diego painting walls, cooking meals, and repairing plumbing were the little hits of the value-drug we needed. Rick and Ashley, you were our dope clinic!
Our time was split between 4 major themes: working on the house, working on Little Foot the Pinzgauer, meeting Chelsea's extensive family of friends (many, if not most, of which were connected through a SPECTACULAR CHURCH called Barabbas Road), and exploring bits of San Diego. I'd help Rick with projects he had (including rolling around in sewage under the house one day, replacing a bunch of cast iron plumbing with nice, new, rot-free ABS pipe) or I'd wrench on Little Foot. Chelsea would connect with friends and plan our evening as I rolled around in sewage, gear oil, or sometimes both.
My list of projects for Little Foot included: drain and refill all 12 gear-oil chambers under the rig, change the oil, check the valve lashes, rotate the tires, replace two axle boots and patch a third, rebuild our shower, install a water pump for the kitchen, add a few racing stripes to the paint job, and rework some solar/house wiring. By the end of our stay we felt okay about where Little Foot was in the world of maintenance and livability. We had reliable power, running water, new oil(s) and a flashy paint job that was less army and more German Flag than ever. The color choice was TOTAL CHANCE!
We also got Loulou her papers. A rabies shot, a general wellness certificate (signed in pen in triplicate... just in case) and eight months of flea medications got her ready for a border crossing. We didn't really plan on getting her the flea vaccination, but she actually got fleas at some point between Montana and San Diego, so now we have it. Its probably a blessing, because she probably will meet some mangey critters at some point in her travels (not the least mangey to be us).
Ricky also built us an AWESOME step to making getting to Little Foot's roof much easier. It has a single hook on the top and uses the roof rack mounts as an anchor. it has three hand holds, for easy climbing, and a 2x6 as a step. It makes climbing to the roof much easier, which is good because we have been articulating the solar panels more often lately, as we are now using them as our sole provider of energy to the house circuit.
With some jobs finished, we reluctantly left the warm embraces of a stick-n-brick house with a functioning kitchen and bathroom. We spent our last day planning our route and finishing paperwork. We bought insurance for Little Foot, and our travel permits for Mexico, and downloaded apps and maps like crazy. And you know what? At the end of our last day in the US we didn't feel ready to cross the border. So, instead of worrying, we drank a beer, played a game of Settlers of Catan, and the next day we crossed anyways.