Traveling Tiny House - Stories & Tips

Tiny House GJ at Ye Olde' Mill Campground in Burnt Cabins, PA

Hi All -

Now that we've been on the road for a few weeks, Guillaume and I wanted to share our stories and travel tips. We will be scooting along the highway for the next year. So stay tuned!

Our official trip began September 2nd with our departure from Shelbyville, Illinois. If you're confused it might be because we built half of our house in Los Angeles, but at the beginning of the summer we decided to move the build to the midwest (where my family graciously let us take over their driveway). Read about our move from California to Illinois here

The construction of our house had taken over our lives for the past year, and yet, we were still scrambling to finish right up until the final gargantuan moment of our tiny exodus. It was 6pm before we slowly rolled away from my family's quiet farm town and began an 800 mile journey to our first destination: the Tumbleweed Philadelphia workshop, where our house would make its debut. Check out the below video tour of our home taken by Philadelphia workshop presenter Deek

I had never been to the east coast before, so I was very excited that the first section of our trip would take us to somewhere exotic - a place where locals don't even blink an eye as they shuffle past 300 year old buildings, coffee is served strong and meant for drinking on the go, and lobster rolls are considered a common lunch. 

Philadelphia really surprised me. I spent days just walking the streets, reading plaques and snapping photos. I'm not used to living in a place that has history, and I allowed myself to feel proud and at home. The words: "I could live here," occasionally crossed my mind.

Our Parking Spot in Philadelphia - across from the workshop

That being said, I was full of contempt for the city as we pulled our (what seemed like) enormous house through its narrow streets. Parking was impossible, which I expected. Our trailer jack clawed at the ground more than once, and every time it felt like the house was collapsing. 

Tiny House GJ Parking Illegally in Philly
Watch out wire - Here we come!!

Tips for Towing a Tiny House in North Eastern USA:

1). KNOW YOUR HEIGHT. REALLY KNOW IT. There are many low overpasses along the east coast. Our house is 13'4" and we had a few close calls. One in particular in New York City, where an overpass boasted a low clearance of 12'6"! We slowed down, frantically discussed our options and then realized that our house would fit. The sign was a lie, or a terribly un-funny joke. Either way my heart skipped a beat at the thought of reversing in NYC traffic. I cringe at the idea of a convertible tiny home. A wonderful purchase for us was an RV GPS. It alerts us of any low overpasses, weight restrictions, horizontal clearances, propane restrictions, etc. If you are going to travel often with your tiny home, buy one!

2). Watch for potholes, steep inclines / declines. Our trailer jack and chains will usually take the hit first, but I wouldn't recommend it. Take it slow and be alert. 

3). If you are still in the pre-build stage, consider placing your door on the passenger side. When parking on the side of the street, exiting the tiny house on the driver's side (or the side of traffic) can be dangerous. This tip really applies to travel anywhere, but especially relevant in an east coast city where streets can be very narrow and traffic heavy. 

4). KNOW YOUR WEIGHT. Tie down everything inside, and distribute your weight evenly. You can weigh your house at any trucker scale (LOVES or similar). Ours is a bit heavy - 9,800 lbs. This means we have to be very careful about our tongue weight. Semi-tedious work, but we often shift our belongings to the back of the house for travel to alleviate our heavy tongue. We are looking for a bigger truck to compensate for this. Currently we have a 3/4 ton diesel Ford F-250, but would like a 1 ton dually. If anyone has any advice for us about this, please feel free to comment!

5). In New York City, watch for gawking pedestrians and flying hotdogs. 

Tiny House in Central Park 

Yes, after leaving Philly we drove the house through New York City. No, we aren't insane.. well, maybe a little. A short-lived cruise through central park ended with us being kicked out; we had permission but ended up causing trouble when we couldn't navigate properly. Our tiny home crawled away with its tail between our legs to a campsite in Croton-On-Harmon, about an hour outside of the city.

Our Campsite in New York - Croton Point Park

Before leaving New York City we snapped a few photos of the tiny house amongst the skyscrapers. It was September 11th, and the significance of the anniversary was not lost on us. We tried to visit the memorial, but it was closed for family members only - a respectable request.

As the new One World Trade Center proudly served as our canopy, we remembered. 

Currently we are on our way to Montreal. My next update will be about crossing the border and staying overnight in campgrounds, truck strops or similar. Wish us luck!

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Check our OUR ROUTE and follow our journey on our website and facebook

For more photos of our journey, follow us on INSTAGRAM

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Jenna Spesard is currently living and traveling around North America in a self-built Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop host. They are photographing and writing about their adventure that began in September 2014. Occasionally they will be hosting an open house. More on their tiny house and giant journey here.

Where in the World is Tiny House Giant Journey?

As some of you may know, Guillaume and I have been building a modified Cypress since last September. The build experience has been more of a marathon than a sprint, but I can finally say we are on our last lap! Here's the interior as it stands now - with an unfinished bathroom, kitchen, etc.

As we prepare to cross the finish line, we decided to move our tiny house from Los Angeles to my home town in central Illinois. It's going to be an exciting summer spent building and catching up with family and old friends!

Guillaume and I were nervous to tow the house, but also eager to become comfortable with taking it on long road trips. We drove slow, bumping down the interstate at 45 mph and traveling only 250-300 miles a day. We could have easily gone 65 mph, but at 45 mph we were getting just over 10 miles per gallon (at 55 mph we were getting 8.5 mpg, etc). Going slow saved us approximately $150 in gas over the course of the trip. Ultimately it took us about a week to cross the 2,000 miles, but we did it without incident!

Interstates are required to have at least 14 feet of vertical clearance, which is necessary for our 13’ 4” house. For our trek, we stayed mostly on I-40, traveling through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Once we hit Oklahoma City, we turned north east onto I-44 toward St. Louis and onward to my small hometown in central Illinois.

Here are a few highlights of "Tiny House Giant Journey's" trip:

 THGJ @ Painted Desert

 THGJ @ Petrified Forest

 THGJ @ "Breaking Bad "House in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Moments after taking the above photo, that ominous sky began to alternate between hail and rain! It was the first substantial bath our tiny California abode ever received. We were worried how the reclaimed wood would hold up, but it dried out just fine. Although the back of the house (front of the trailer) tolerated the unintended power-wash from us driving down the road during the downpour, the vigorous shower did remove some of our beloved patina. Next time, we will pull over and wait out the storm.

New Mexico is also home to a quirky campground that we stumbled upon - Kiva RV Park, right on Route 66. Check out the tiny trailers built by the owner! 

 

THGJ next to "Betty Boop travel trailer" at Kiva RV Park 

Teardrop Trailer Designed and Built by Kiva RV Park Owner on Display

 THGJ @ Cadillac Ranch in Texas

The horse towing our precious wagon was our 2006 Ford F-250 Diesel 4x4. The last time we weighed our house it was creeping up on 8,000 pounds, and that was without our belongings! Luckily we built on a Tumbleweed trailer, so we knew we were within the weight limit and that our axels were specifically designed to handle towing. That being said, we still made sure to evenly pack and disperse our belongings inside the house for travel. We also bought a no sway weight distribution system from Andersen Hitches - which was extremely helpful. We highly recommend it!

 

Our Weight Distribution System

We had no trouble finding places to stay along the trip. Every campground was excited to welcome our curious cabin. Setting up was easy with pull-through campsites with electric and water hookups. The scissor jacks on the trailer supplied us with stability, and we leveled-out easily using a camper leveler, tuff pads, and rapid jack. By the end of the trip, we could setup or teardown in less than 15 minutes!

Guillaume & Our Dog Relaxing in THGJ's Almost Finished Loft

It was a lot of fun to see people react to our home. On the road, travelers would often give us a thumbs-up or snap photos. Many times we answered questions and gave impromptu tours. Only once were we pulled over by a police officer - for going 43 mph in a 45 minimum - did I mention we were being cautious? The officer gave us a verbal warning mixed with praise for the tiny house. Secretly, we think he just wanted a closer look!

When we finally pulled into our new build site, it was bitter-sweet. We loved our mini-adventure and can’t wait to continue traveling when our house is complete. I think we caught the tiny-traveling-fever!

Our New Build Spot in Central Illinois!
*Build updates from Tiny House Giant Journey here. Like them on facebook here.
*All photos taken by Guillaume Dutilh. Check out his photography here.

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Jenna Spesard is a writer by trade. She is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here

Written by Jenna Spesard — June 16, 2014

Filed under: Build it yourself   builders   Downsizing   Jenna Spesard   Rv Parks   See a Tiny House   small house   Tiny House Giant Journey   Travel   Tumbleweed   Weight Distribution  

Little House on the Ferry

Once upon a time, Arianne and Sean lived in two separate houses in Las Vegas. Between the two dwellings, the couple had over 4,000 square feet combined. So how did they end up spending “happily ever after” in an Alaskan abode surmounting to no more than 150 square feet? Well, it all started with a newspaper clipping… 

Arianne had always considered downsizing and living tiny, but it wasn’t until her mother sent her a crinkled photograph of a Tumbleweed featured in the Denver Post that she truly fell in love. “I used to dream about it.” Arianne admitted. “Sean and I wanted to live a greener lifestyle.” Her partner is an engineer in sustainable and renewable energy. Minimizing would help open other doors for the couple as well, including a big move to a certain beautiful and adventurous state. 

With an Alaskan tiny house on the menu, Arianne and Sean teamed up with Tumbleweed’s Meg Stephens to design their perfect abode - a modified Elm. The couple knew the main course of this particular tundra was best served cold, which meant a higher R-value insulation and electric heating in the floors. They also customized their house to have a galley kitchen, four skylights, and two lofts!

But once the house was complete, Arianne and Sean faced another challenge – getting their house from the Tumbleweed build site in Colorado to Anchorage. Their journey began with a cross-country road trip, including a stroll up the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway.

Next the couple took to the sea, as they boarded the Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry.“Most people were boarding cars, but we pulled up towing a house!

The workers were surprised to say the least.” Arianne chuckled, remembering. “They said it was the first house they ever loaded onto the ferry, and it barely fit!” She recalls seeing numerous whales along the swaying careen up the west coast of Canada and Alaska. Finally, they docked in Anchorage, and set out to begin their new life.

Now, half a year later, Arianne works locally for the Air Force piloting C-17s – a plane that could fit six Tumbleweeds inside! She and Sean are enjoying their new house, new location, and new neighbors – most recently a curious moose greeted them one morning, resting his head on their front porch!

Who knows, maybe he is interested in a tiny house with a little extra antler-room?

*All photos provided by Arianne and Sean

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Jenna Spesard is a writer by trade. She is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here

Written by Jenna Spesard — June 11, 2014

Filed under: alaska   Elm   green building   green living   Jenna Spesard   See a Tiny House   small house   Tiny House   travel   Tumbleweed  
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