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October 31, 2007

GYPSY RIDES!

gypsy rides

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring

gypsy rides

At 9 a.m. on October 30th we pulled out of Marion’s Connecticut driveway, collectively holding our breath as we headed for Interstate 84 and Gypsy Rose’s first road test – the 320 mile drive to her new home in Vermont. Marion shot many photos as she drove behind. In the picture above, the text on the cell phone reads, “Kevin on the road.” We shared what amounted to a 7 hour phone call over the course of the drive.

gypsy rides

There were anxious moments as we passed through Waterbury and Hartford, Connecticut and then Springfield, Massachusetts, but by the time we were rolling through the less populated valleys of northern Massachusetts we felt pretty comfortable with Gypsy’s road-handling skills.

gypsy rides

Running with the "big boys," Gypsy looks more than a bit out of place. We could only imagine the conversations we were starting among motorists passing by.

gypsy rides

Nope, we don’t need an ambulance. All is fine on this stellar late October day.

gypsy rides

We had been planning to drive to Boston later in the week for the anticipated victory parade for the 2007 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, who had clinched the series in a four-game sweep two days before, but an hour before we departed Connecticut we found out that the victory parade would be held at noon that day. Bummer. There was some hesitation as we passed the intersection of MA Route 2. It wouldn’t have been unlike us to take a detour for the celebration (we attended the parade in 2004 with 2.5 million other fans), but we stayed on course northward to Vermont.

gypsy rides

The sign above points to bus parking, but there was no indication of where houses should go when we pulled into the Vermont Welcome Center.

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Welcome (back) to Vermont!

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Much of Marion’s view was from behind, but this shot gives a good sense for the whole load.

gypsy rides

Rolling along Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, I towed my new home near the land of my youth (Bradford, Vermont).

gypsy rides

For those who may be wondering if I'd traded the small pickup for the full-sized "hauler," I must mention that the little green truck is waiting back in Vermont. For the task of towing Gypsy, however, we needed more muscle (which was generously provided).

gypsy rides

Even with Gypsy in tow, our fuel economy was better than a Hummer’s, but we still could not make the trip on a single tank. Pulling into the filling station in Springfield, Vermont, we drew a lot of stares and many questions from curious travelers who don’t normally see such a sight on the road. When one man came up to me and remarked, “It looks like a house on wheels,” I knew that we’d been successful at building something that is recognized for what it is.

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Gypsy rides through Vermont’s Green Mountains and sunshine along Interstate 89.

gypsy rides

One more stop before the final leg of our journey. The Sharon rest area is not far from where Gypsy will find herself next spring when we move her to Tunbridge for the warm half of the year. How many other travelers can enjoy lunch on their own front porch while on the road?

gypsy rides

Mid-state Vermont. We’re almost there.

gypsy rides

Gypsy arrives in Burlington, just in time for rush hour traffic down Route 7 to Vergennes.

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Five minutes later than our prediction of 4:30 p.m., we turned into the driveway of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum where we were greeted by friends Jeff and Nick, museum staff and all-around terrific folks, who had been awaiting our arrival.

gypsy rides

After Jeff had shown us the spot they’d picked out, Marion and I were left with only one more task for the day, unhitching Gypsy and leveling her on blocks in her winter home (complete with a view of the lake). Finally, in the darkness at 7 p.m., we were settled in.

gypsy rides

October 29, 2007

Preparing for the Move

show ne

Many family and friends have been following the progress of Gypsy Rose through this blog. Marion's mom is one of those faithful readers. We wanted to be sure that she got a chance to see Gypsy in person before the move north, so last Thursday we brought her over for the tour at the end of the day. In the photo above, Marion explains the layout of the kitchen and bathroom.

move

Today was perhaps the most anxiety-ridden day of the entire project. Almost exactly one year after we started building Gypsy Rose, we took her off her blocks and hooked her to the hitch in preparation for the drive to Vermont.

move

From where we built Gypsy, the tongue extended over the end of the driveway and into the adjacent woods. After cutting a couple of saplings I had a clear path to get the truck to the hitch, but you wouldn't know it from the picture above.

move

While I backed Gypsy around in the driveway, Twilight (Marion's daughter's kitty) basked in the late October sun warming the corner of Gypsy's porch.

move

We wanted to check our tongue weight to be sure it was within design limitations for the ball mount. After a bit of research, we opted for a simple method that utilizes a bathroom scale and an offset fulcrum (above). By placing the tongue on the plank spaced at three feet from the scale and one foot from the fixed side of the support we were able to weigh the 600 pound tongue weight with a reading of 200 pounds on the scale. (Hard to explain without a diagram, but the principle uses a fulcrum that is one unit (one foot) from the fixed (non-scale) side of the support, and a multiple (in this case, three feet) from the scale side. Simply read the weight on the scale and multiply by times the number of units that the scale is away from the fulcrum, in this case three feet, so the 200 pound reading is multiplied times three which equals 600 pounds at the hitch).

move

Next, we had to install the lights and license plate.

move

In the shot above, you can see the last minute addition of the shed door.

move

License plate, lights, and the remaining tongue and groove to finish the interior once we arrive in Vermont.

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Hitched up and ready to roll.

move

October 20, 2007

The Space Inside the Floors and Walls

insulation

Today’s temperatures were in the mid-70’s, but cooler weather is in the offing. In another week or two we’ll be towing Gypsy Rose to Vermont and getting ready for winter. Before heading north I want to have all the insulation in and the walls closed up. I began with the underside. By the end of a day of inching my way around on my back and driving screws from awkward positions, I was beat.

insulation

The floors are insulated to R-19 and then sealed with a hardboard skin.

ladder

Next, we took a break from the insulation to build the ladder to the loft.

ladder

Marion has been spending lots of time with a brush and polyurethane, sealing the pine and fir.

ladder

While brushing the bottom of the ladder, Marion glanced up and was struck by the patterns of wood and glass.

plumbing

Moving into the kitchen and bathroom, I set about creating new patterns of red, white, and blue PEX piping for Gypsy’s water system. I had originally thought I’d be plumbing in copper. That’s what I grew up with and I’d hardly given a thought to other options. When I sat down to design Gypsy’s plumbing layout I did a bit of research and discovered that flexible PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) has a lot of advantages. The most obvious for me was the ease with which it can be snaked through the walls. (All of our plumbing is installed in the exterior wall cavities, in contrast with homes where the majority of the plumbing is run from basements or crawlspaces up through interior walls). Because PEX does not require 90 degree elbows, very few fittings are required and less energy is needed to push water through the lines. PEX is less vulnerable to freeze damage, it looses less heat in the transfer of hot water, and it scores high marks among the various green builder networks. As an added bonus, PEX is much cheaper than copper.

plumbing

In the photo above, you can see the bathroom water lines as well as the run of 12-volt electrical wires. Tomorrow, I’ll insulate the bathroom and kitchen and start sheathing the walls with more pine.

October 15, 2007

The Quest for an Authentic Life

authentic kevin 

"When I was a young man, I was consumed by practical considerations. I measured my progress by external matters: the balance in my bank account, the kind of house I lived in, my advancement on the job. I divided my time into compartments, commuting daily between work and play. I was striving, constantly striving, without even knowing what I was striving for.

"Now I am weary of struggling; I do not want to struggle anymore. I do not want to please; I do not need the trappings of money, power, or success. I do not seek a trophy on my wall or a corner office with a potted plant. I do not desire a house that others envy every time they drive by. All I want is a life that is my own."

Richard Bode, Beachcoming At Mirimar

October 10, 2007

Gypsy's Tunbridge, Vermont Home

Gypsy in Tunbridge

It'll be another eight months before Gypsy Rose gets located on the Tunbridge, Vermont land, but a quick digital copy and paste gives us an idea of how she will fit in her new surroundings.

tunbridge

I couldn't pass up some autumn photos shot while enjoying the solitude and peacefulness on Marion's Tunbridge land. The picture above was taken in the lower meadow - the one with the apple orchard.

tunbridge

The shot above was taken from the road, looking into the orchard meadow. The timber-frame barn that we'll begin building in the spring of 2008 will be sited in the foreground.

tunbridge

Walking to the top of the upper meadow (above), and the view from the top (below).

tunbridge

 

tunbridge

Frye Road shows no signs of any traffic since the leaves began to fall. In fact, rarely does a vehicle of any type pass by.

tunbridge

The photo above is a view into the central meadow. Gypsy Rose will be sited at the lower end of the meadow. If you look carefully, the outhouse is visible on the lower right corner of the picture.

tunbridge

Solitude.

tunbridge

October 08, 2007

Window Frames Complete, Time For The Plumber's Hat

gable window

“Site built” windows are a rarity in today’s building environment. Before taking on the framing of the gable windows, I searched for “how-to” information online. The search came up very thin. The best help I found was in the form of a single illustration in one of my Taunton Press books, labeled “traditional window.” From there, I set out to make it work on Gypsy’s gable windows. (My son, Jackson, calls them “house windows” because they’re shaped like the houses he drew at an early age.) I framed them in Meranti for weather resistance and contrast with the pine on the interior walls. Like a wooden puzzle, the pieces were all cut and fitted into an interlocking frame to support the glass. The upper triangle will eventually be fitted with stained glass artwork. The lower sash (yet to be built) will be a split window that opens outward on shutter hinges, but for this winter we’ll temporarily install fixed glass in both top and bottom.

loft

With the loft paneled and the gable windows framed, it’s time to move the work downstairs.

pile of pine

En route from Vermont to Connecticut, we made another stop at W.R. Robinson Lumber in Massachusetts for some more tongue and groove pine. Marion took on the task of sealing the wood with polyurethane (one hundred and twenty one eight-footers).

wiring

Before installing the pine on the living/dining room walls, I ran the wiring for the d.c. lights through the studs and installed the insulation.

plumbing design

Next will come the electrical wiring and rough-in plumbing for the bathroom and kitchen. Things will get a bit more complicated in that space. The one thing that becomes abundantly clear when working in a small house is that forethought in the design phase is critical. With very little room to fit the various elements of the house it becomes a tightly fitted puzzle. Inches (and even fractions of inches) matter. Before cutting pipe and running wire I took some more time to sort out the specifics of how it will all coexist along the back walls. At the drawing board (aboard Raven), I wove together the water heater, the pressure pipe manifold and pipe runs, the drainage pipes, the 12-volt battery banks, battery charger, a.c. wiring, distribution panel, etc.

marion

Through it all, Marion keeps me going with a smile.