Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our burrow in our Burro

A large bathroom.
A small kitchen.
A reasonably grand entrance to a home.
Or all of the above in a pretty small trailer.
We’re calling 98 square feet home, have done so for nearly a month and have three more months planned. The weather has turned cold and wet in Marathon, Ont., where we’re stranded without a clutch and master cylinder for our truck, so we’re learning to live inside that 98-square-foot bubble.
Don’t forget the two cats getting underfoot, often tied to a cupboard door in case they make their way outside when the outside door opens.
Kitchen items from food storage to utensils to dishes.
Bathroom items stored away so the tiny alcove can function as toilet, sink and shower all in one.
Two wardrobes: one for summer temperatures and the other for near freezing.
A double bed, permanently in place where the space could have been a four-person dinette. We’d rather have a proper mattress than fiddle with a variety of cushions and make up a bed every night.
A couch across the front end of the trailer, which with the removal of one cushion and a little work, can become a two-person dinette. We rarely turn it into a dinette but prefer an extra-long couch that allows each of us to sit with our legs stretched out across the cushions. Invariably we each have a cat in our laps.
To make the tiny space workable took some thought. We’ve been out before in the trailer we call Harley (it’s vehicle identification number, before we brought it across the border from its previous U.S. home kept turning up in Ottawa as belonging to a motorcycle. Finally, it said trailer so we decided this is one trailer that really wants to be a big bike. Hence Harley).
Previous trips of a few weeks, once in snow, let us know we had to make every inch of storage work for us. We had stuffed this, that and the other thing in the open space under the bed. It’s now organized with two plastic under-bed storage bins that house whatever clothes aren’t suitable for this week’s weather.
The littler box, a necessary evil, is also under there in a little private corner but unfortunately it’s next to Ian’s CPAP machine. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he inhales more aroma than he cares to with his forced-air apparatus. A small bin of extra litter also is stashed under the bed, while the Costco-size box rides in the back of the truck as a refill.
What serve as supports for our bed, or would-be benches for a four-person dinette, also have storage under them but we’ve always found them difficult to access. Lying on your belly, after moving everything under the bed onto the top of the mattress, is a pain. Ian ordered two access panels from a marine supply shop to put on the outside of the trailer as alternative routes into those spaces. Unfortunately, by the time we hit the road, only one had arrived so Ian uses that access for storage of all the early setup items for the trailer plus some of his tools. Under the other seat, we have winter coats, hats and gloves that we hope we’ll not use on this trip. If it gets that cold, we’ll work up quite the sweat unloading everything from under the bed so we can open up the inside hatch to get the warm stuff out.
Beside the head of our bed, hanging from hooks attached to the wall, is a half-dozen pouches sewn together. Years ago it hung on the back of a door in Winnipeg and housed a variety of mittens and hats. Now it holds reading materials, journals, maps and serves as a great place to hang our glasses last thing at night.
Ian found a similar system made to attach to the visor in a vehicle. He fixed just inside our front door as a place to deposit keys, wallet and whatever else he finds in his pockets.
Under the couch is an open space where our feet sit if we’re using the area as a two-person dinette. Since it’s usually in the couch setup, that space is used to house assorted footwear, the computer bag and a Rubbermaid container full of our supply of prescription drugs and supplements. In this area are also what serve as two benches, again with storage bins underneath. It takes a little manoeuvring to get to them but extra canned goods, a propane camp stove for outdoor use, a cast-iron frying pan and a large pot plus a first-aid kit all reside there for occasional use.
The bathroom had become its own little nightmare until our enforced exile in Marathon when we found wall-mounted bars from which hang metal mesh baskets. We now have most of our assorted bathroom supplies in the baskets, easy to lift from their support bars and set on the bed when we each shower, wetting down that entire room.
Harley comes equipped with a three-burner propane stove and a three-way fridge, plus a few small cabinets, as its kitchen. We’ve added a small 12-volt cooler since Vicki requires a certain amount of space to keep her drugs for MS constantly cool. We also put a fairly large convection/toaster oven on what little counter space there is between the tiny kitchen sink and the stove top because it expands our culinary capabilities. Buttermilk biscuits for breakfast yesterday and lasagne for dinner tonight. If we’re set up somewhere for a few days, it is moved outside onto a small aluminium camp table.
Kitchen implements hang from 3M hooks on the walls and a magnetic spice rack clings to the tiny range hood.
On a previous three-week trip, we borrowed an iPod from friends and found it indispensable. Since we don’t have TV at home, we don’t miss it on the road but we do need music. Ian recently mounted a white wire shelf to hold the docking station that supplies speakers for our system.
To communicate with the outside world, we coughed up for a laptop that goes everywhere with us, often in search of WiFi. And when we find it, we’re in touch with the world. Family and friends can receive a phone call from us using a Skype program that allows us to call any phone in the U.S. or Canada for $3.99 a month. We check e-mails, head for Facebook and update our blog.
We also carry a little-used cell phone that we think of as emergency communications. It’s the one that rang one week after we left home to say that Vicki’s eldest brother had just had an unforeseen triple bypass. He’s doing well, and she talks to him often on Facebook.
Are there things we brought that we haven’t needed? Well, the cats’ playpen is going to a local thrift shop since they really don’t like it. That will please our 25-year-old daughters, who thought it meant their parents had lost all perspective on cats as pets. We had read about large enclosures for cats and found a playpen worked well after Ian made a top for it. Trouble was, they simply don’t like it. They are happier on their harnesses and rope.
Is there something we didn’t bring that we yearn for? Not yet, but as it dipped to freezing last night in Marathon, Ont., if it gets much colder, we could change our minds on that one.

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