Category Archives: Family

Touring with Project LiveWire: Chicago

Touring with Project LiveWire: Chicago

DrivingIntoChicago

We left Milwaukee around 5 o’clock on June 30th, following the truck. As an intense storm rolled in, we kept our eyes on the iconic bar and shield in front of us. We pulled into McCormick Place a  couple of hours later and paid $30 to stay overnight in a pothole-filled parking lot with no services.

We were up at 5 to unload bikes and get them polished up for the day’s events. The first stop was the Route 66 sign in downtown Chicago. I hitched a ride in the PR team’s car. I had my window down to take pictures, and I could see Mike in the side mirror, talking to other drivers about the bike. (He looked like Marvin the Martian with the GoPro mount on his helmet!) People had lots of questions. One person even asked him to pull over!

The next stop was the Merchandise Mart. Mike and a marketing exec rode the bikes into the freight elevator up to 1871 Chicago, a co-working space for technology startups on the 12th. There was a media interview and a presentation about the project. In a few hours, the event wrapped up, and they rode the bikes out again. Apparently, the LiveWire rides very smoothly at 2 mph and, of course, it’s quiet. Perfect for darting in between the laptop-packed tables.

The freight elevator was kinda neat. It was large enough to hold a small car. It had its own attendant, who in turn had his own folding chair and a hard-wired telephone.

When all the promotional stuff was done, we disconnected the Jeep from the RV and grabbed a late lunch with John, the truck driver, at the White Palace Grill, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We had less than 24 hours in Chicago, but we made the most of it!

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Project LiveWire

Project LiveWire

Project LiveWire launches at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee on June 19th

Since early this year, Mike’s been working on a top-secret project for Harley. He couldn’t even tell me about it. Project LiveWire is an electric motorcycle, Harley’s first. Mike’s unique blend of old-school mechanic skills and an affiinity for the latest technology made him ideal for this project. He’s the lead mechanic touring the West Coast to show off these handcrafted, limited edition electric bikes. We spent several weeks in Milwaukee as Mike, along with the East Coast lead mechanic, helped the engineers build bikes, tested them, ordered parts, and learned everything about the roadshow.

The project was announced on June 19th, and the West Coast tour kicked off at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee on bike night. I got to see the bike and sit on it and meet the crew that we’re touring with. It  was a great evening. I was – and still am – so proud of Mike!

The bike is very sleek and weighs just 464 pounds. There’s no back seat, unfortunately, so I haven’t gotten to experience it. But Mike says is the most fun bike he’s ever ridden. It goes about 50 miles on a charge, but it can’t be plugged into a standard outlet. The truck we’re following in the RV contains the specialized chargers and holds 11 LiveWires as well as two Streets. Our tour is taking us down Route 66 to California. Then we’re veering north to Denver, Bellevue and Portland before heading back to California and wrapping up in Texas in December.

Right now, Harley execs are part of the caravan, riding the bikes for a few miles down Route 66 during the day and staying in hotels at night. There’ve also been a couple of meet-n-greets at dealerships. It’s been stressful because Mike’s working long hours – getting the bikes ready, swapping them out and waiting for people and supplies to arrive – and driving the RV, although I help out with the driving as much as he’ll let me. We’re in a different city every day, so there’s almost no time to go sightseeing. In a couple of weeks, though, we’ll be lingering in one city for a few days, which’ll be really nice.

The tour has its challenges, but it’s amazing to be part of history in the making.

Creating an RV Patio

Creating an RV Patio

RV Patio: folding chairs, indoor/outdoor rug, white picket fencing for a dog pen

Even in the most spacious motorhome, things can get tight. Creating an outdoor room lets you spread out and also take advantage of nice weather. We’re back in Milwaukee right now, and it’s still only in the mid-40s. 🙁 But for a little while, we were in Florida at Sun-n-Fun, volunteering and hanging out with our aviation friends. It was the perfect place to create our first RV patio.

RV Patio: folding chairs, indoor/outdoor rug, white picket fencing for a dog pen

We popped over to Home Depot and headed straight to the garden section. We bought an indoor/outdoor rug ($69) and a stretch of white picket fencing (25). The fencing made a nice pen for the bark babies. Sadie and Meeko used to have a back yard to lounge around in, and they don’t get nearly as much outside time now that we’re in the rig. So it was wonderful for all of us to be outside together. The folding chairs we’d bought for camping a few years ago went really well with the rug, and we didn’t have to worry about ants or grass stains on our toes.

RV Patio: folding chairs, indoor/outdoor rug, white picket fencing for a dog pen

The best part of our RV patio was chilling out as a family with friends every evening. And when the fly-in was over, everything rolled up and fit into our basements.

Easy Pesto Sauce

Easy Pesto Sauce
recipes, pesto, parmesan, parmesan cheese, basil, fresh herbs, healthy, weeknight dinner, easy, healthy, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, vegetarian

Gluten-free angel hair pasta with homemade pesto sauce, topped with halved grape tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese

While Mike was holding down the RV last week, I was doing a tour of Spain, enjoying all the sights, sounds and food of the country. I never knew I liked pesto until I had it freshly made and served on the side in a gravy boat at Los Alfonsinos in Barcelona. As soon as I got back to the States and our coach, I knew I had to make it for Mike.

The two primary ingredients in pesto offer a lot of health benefits. Basil’s flavonoids and volatile oils have unique anti-bacterial properties and health-protecting effects on cell structure. Olive oil protects against heart disease, lowers cholesterol, normalizes blood clotting, and benefits insulin levels and blood sugar control.

To make this super easy, super healthy meal a snap, I used the RV-sized Magic Bullet Blender to make my own pesto sauce. I love, love, love the Magic Bullet because it handles all of our blending needs without taking up valuable countertop real estate. It also makes the perfect amount for two people.

Because Mike is slightly gluten-intolerant, we used gluten-free angel hair, but you could make this with any kind of pasta or even ravioli. I left out the pine nuts, but feel free to add a couple of tablespoons if you like. A little pesto goes a long way, so this batch should be enough for a half box of angel hair, cooked.

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients in your Magic Bullet or blender.
  • Process to a paste.
  • Stir through cooked pasta and top with sliced grape tomatoes and more parmesan cheese.

Every day is Valentine’s Day

Every day is Valentine’s Day

 happy couple, husband, love, marital relations, marriage, marriage tips, photography, positive relationships, travel, Valentine's Day, wife

Some say that spending every moment together kills the romance. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. Not for us.

Mike’s never been a flowers-and-chocolate kinda guy, and he’s still not. Instead, he’s a subtle sweet talker. He woos me with simple words that show his love more than a pretty bauble ever could. Constant togetherness equals more wooing. It means every day can be Valentine’s Day.

words by mike daniels | photo by elisabeth daniels | photo editing by picmonkey

Celebrating Love

Celebrating Love

 happy couple, husband, marital relations, marriage, guest post, marriage tips, positive relationships, travel, wife

Hi, Everyone! Today I’m guest posting over at God Life Happy Wife for the CELEBRATE LOVE series. Just in time for Valentine’s Day (which also happens to be Mike’s birthday!), I’m sharing my love story.  I talk about how giving it all up to move into an RV with Mike got me more than I’d ever dreamed.  It hasn’t always been easy, so I offer some tips on making our relationship work in such close quarters.

Seven months ago, I did something crazy. I gave up my high-paying job, my house and the community I’d lived in for 12 years to move into a 300-square-foot RV with my husband, two dogs and a cat. Permanently.

Mike has been traveling nearly every week for his business as a technical trainer since we began dating.  Before the motorhome, he was gone during the week, back on the weekends, while I worked at my day job, took care of the household, and did freelance writing and taught painting classes on the side.  The lifestyle got old, so we decided to buy an RV and travel as a family to Mike’s gigs.

It sounds romantic: two lovebirds and their fur babies traveling the country, working side-by-side during the day and walking hand-in-hand at night. Despite that rosy image, it wasn’t easy for me to make the leap. Part of me felt like I was giving it all up. Giving up everything I’d worked for, my friends, my beloved community.

Would it be worth it? Would Mike and I survive being together all the time when we’d hardly spent more than a week together for our entire relationship? And doing it all in a hallway on wheels??

Read more >

6 months on the road!

6 months on the road!
travel, photography, Waco, Texas, RVing, full-time, full-timing, living on the road, Riverview Campground

The whole fam on a rainy morning at Riverview Campground in Waco, Texas, on our six-month anniversary of full-time RVing

Today is our six-month anniversary of full-timing.  Woohoo!  We bought the rig on May 21st, spent several VERY hot weeks clearing out our rental home and rehabbing the rig, and ultimately left Vegas on July 8th.  It’s been a quite an adventure ever since.

Highlights:

  • Cheapest campground (with full hook-ups): $16 a day at Main Street Station (would be $14 but they charge $1 per dog)
  • Most expensive campground (with full hook-ups): approximately $70 a day (can’t remember which one exactly; gotta keep better records of that)
  • Average stay in one spot: 1 week
  • Longest time spent in one spot so far: Milwaukee for five weeks
  • Miles driven: 13,467
  • States: 28
  • Most epic commute: driving over 2000 miles in 3 days from Milwaukee to Vegas in late December through snow, sleet and ice storms
  • Easiest commute: driving from Brookline, New Hampshire, to Stowe, Vermont, in late November under clear skies and light traffic
  • Sweetest moment: There have been so many sweet moments!  But if we had to choose, it’s been seeing all three of Mike’s daughters in the same year.  (That hadn’t happened since our wedding in 2009!)
  • Toughest moment: Leaving Vegas for the second time after visiting over Christmas

Work

Mike’s business as a technical trainer was already going well before we left Vegas.  The constant travel involved was what prompted us to hit the road in the RV in the first place.  Transitioning to the RV lifestyle has opened up other work opportunities for him.  This summer, during his normally slow period, he had the chance to work as a mechanic on Harley-Davidson’s demo fleet.  And now there’s a brand new, very exciting gig he’ll be doing for Harley, starting in a couple of weeks.  Those two opportunities would not have happened if we hadn’t been mobile.  And there’s the prospect of more cool stuff on the horizon.

I gave up my job as Deputy Administrator for the State of Nevada’s Housing Division to do freelance work on the road.  It’s been hard for me emotionally to shift from my identity as an accomplished professional.  Although this change is allowing me to nurture a creative career, it’s been discouraging to make a quarter of what I made before.

Freelancing is fickle and challenging, as I’m learning firsthand.  I’ve been sussing out my niche, and I think I’m on to something with Coffice Girl.  I frequently work in coffee shops and teahouses that offer free Wi-Fi, and I’ve started to profile those workspaces that I call “coffices” (cafe + office = coffice).  Over the next year, I will continue to develop Coffice Girl into my brand – focusing on my freelance writing, social media and illustration and celebrating the freelance lifestyle as well as small, local coffee and tea shops.  I am lucky in that I have consistent paying work (social media posting and strategy, writing, web design, virtual book marketing) and have had interesting, unexpected gigs (like working Harley’s 110th) come my way.  And, if we lived at Main Street Station (or someplace equally as cheap), I could even cover my own living expenses without Mike’s salary.  Still, staying positive about my new career is sometimes a struggle.

Friends & Community

When we got back to Vegas, after 5 1/2 months away, my friend Kimberly asked me, over dinner, if I’d been lonely.  I thought about it for a moment and realized that I had not been lonely, which struck me as odd initially.  I think, though, that it was because we’d seen so many people on our travels up to that point.  We saw all three of Mike’s daughters within a couple of months.  While we were on the east coast, we saw my mum and dad and their significant others, and I saw a girlfriend I hadn’t seen for seven years.  We saw my aunt and uncle while we were in North Carolina.  In Viriginia Beach, Mike was reunited with a cousin he hadn’t seen for over 20 years.  Mike’s brothers visited us in DC a few months after we left Vegas.  Then, we were back in Vegas to see all of our friends for Christmas.  I Skyped with one girlfriend a couple of times and kept up with everyone else through Facebook, e-mail, text messages and phone calls, which helped me feel connected.

Returning to Vegas and then leaving again was heartbreaking.   Being back in the nice weather, getting to see all the people I love and love to laugh with, seeing how my cherished city is blossoming was so wonderful, and I just wanted to stay.  Even Mike, who hadn’t been missing home as much as me during our first six months, felt it.  He has especially missed his North Las Vegas airport community and being able to fly regularly.

Milwaukee is as close as we come to a home base, since Mike teaches there one week a month from October through March, and thankfully, we have great friends there.  So, there is a community for us in Milwaukee, especially for Mike because he’s been working there for several years.

Health

One benefit we anticipated from moving into the RV was that Mike would get healthier.  In some ways, he has, and in some ways, he hasn’t.  The RV lifestyle is more physical than sticks-and-bricks living, so Mike’s moving more than he was.  But, he’s not eating as healthfully as we’d hoped for two reasons: 1) the tendency to nosh while driving and 2) eating out more than cooking in.

I am in my 12th year of a lifestyle change in which I lost over 100 pounds.  One of my biggest fears, going on the road, was that boredom and depression over leaving my friends and work would lead to overeating.  I am about 20 pounds heavier than I want to be right now, but I am maintaining my weight, just like I had been in Vegas over the last couple of years.  With the bad weather we’ve encountered on the road, I’ve had to change up my exercise routine.  I’ve found great workouts I can easily do in the rig (JessicaSmithTV.com), and I exercise about six days a week.  Mike bought me a FitBit Flex for Christmas, so I’m back to logging my food intake, as I did in the beginning.  Controlling my eating will always be difficult for me, but at least it hasn’t been made worse by RVing.

I am an avid obstacle racer, and traveling has both helped and hindered that.  It’s been hard to have a consistent OCR schedule because we’re not in one place.  Conversely, I’ve had the chance to do races in differenct locales that I normally never would.  It’s been easier to find running races at the last minute, so I’ve done more of those than obstacle events.  Mike has started coming along so that we “wog” (walk-jog) them together!

travel, photography, Waco, Texas, RVing, full-time, full-timing, living on the road, Riverview Campground

Expenses

We figured that Mike’s salary and the money he previously spent on airfare, rental cars and hotels would more than cover our living in the RV.  We figured right.

I used my retirement money from the State to pay for the rig in full, so we have no mortgage or rig payment.  We have no other debt, and we saved as much as we could before we hit the road to cover emergencies and lean times in Mike’s work.  We’ve had a few things go wrong mechanically like the air conditioner’s compressor seizing and snapping the fan belt and water issues, but with Mike’s ingenuity, we’ve kept moving without too much of a hit to our savings. So far, it’s all worked out beautifully.  We have money to cover our expenses and still have funds left over for dinners out and entertainment.

Our focus now is building our retirement fund and figuring out our insurance through Obamacare.

Another challenge has been reducing our Internet costs.  We currently spend $450 a month for two smart phones and 40GB of data.  About $200 of that is the data that we use for Netflix and Amazon as well as web.  We are continuing to investigate options to bring that cost down.  Thankfully, we can afford it right now, but we’d like to be as lean as possible going forward.

Pets

Traveling with two dogs and a 23-year-old cat has been, um, interesting.

Charlie, our cat, is marvelously adaptable, and it’s a delight to see him stretched out on the dash, soaking up the sun as we motor down the highway.  However, dealing with his litter has been a nightmare.  With almost no carpet and only 300 square feet of space, the crystals get EVERYWHERE.  I’m continuously appalled by where it turns up!  I simply can’t vacuum or wipe or sweep enough!  And, to put it bluntly, his stinky poops overwhelm the senses in such a small environment.  When Charlie moves on to the great cathouse in the sky, we will not get another cat.

The biggest issue we have with Meeko and Sadie, our Rat Terrier and Boston Terrier, is the lack of a doggie door.  In our house in Vegas, we had a doggie door and an enclosed back yard. So, the bark babies could dash outside to potty or sunbathe whenever they wanted to – whether we were there or not.  Now, one of us has to be up between 6 and 6:30 in the morning to take them out to do their business.  And someone has to take them out around 10 at night for their last potty of the day.  In the nice weather, it’s not that big a deal, but when it’s 5 degrees out, windy and snowing in Milwaukee, it kinda sucks.

Small Space Living

Living in 300 square feet hasn’t bothered us.  Ironically, that’s almost been the easiest thing to deal with!  We downsized a ton before we moved into the rig, and we’ve downsized even more along the way.  We’ve learned the most effective organizing techniques for our stuff.  Some things we thought would work (like silicone baking pans) haven’t, and some ideas have worked exactly as we expected.  We have a general policy that if something comes in, something else goes out.  Keeping the rooms tidy and putting items away is fairly easy – once you’ve figured out where and how to put ’em away.  And, it feels spacious when our one living room slide is out.

Decorating has been harder than anything because of the movement and things not sticking to the textured walls.

Other than that, we don’t feel cramped in our  hallway on wheels, and it’s starting to feel like home – with reflections of us and what we love scattered about.

Summing it up…

Overall, our first six months on the road have been extraordinarily wonderful.  We’ve gotten to spend every day together, a first in our seven-year relationship.  Sharing all the triumphs, the hardships and the ordinary moments has strengthened us as a couple and brought us even closer than we were before – which hard to believe since we’ve been super close from the beginning!  We’ve already seen so much of this amazing country, and we’ve done all kinds of fabulous stuff like ziplining, flying in small planes to historic places, ropes courses, shooting competitions, paddle boating, cooking classes, scenic bicycling, and much more.  We’ve visited far-flung family and friends.  We’ve explored new communities and checked out the fun and funky small businesses that give those communities their unique flavor.

When we started, we committed to a year.  I’m excited to see what the next six months brings.