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.

Chris's Tiny House in the Country

Chris with his Tiny Retreat in upstate New York

This past weekend Deek Diedricksen presented our Philadelphia workshop and we met a lot of wonderful attendees, many of whom aspire to build or live in a tiny home. Last year at this very same workshop, Chris Schapdick attended with a similar goal: specifically to build a tiny vacation home in the country for himself and his nine year old daughter, Mia.

"I really want my daughter to have a connection to nature." says Chris, who currently lives in New York City but has recently purchased land upstate. "Ideally we'd have a tiny home as a weekend getaway, and later I could retire in it." 

After the workshop Chris felt inspired to build his own tiny home, but like many of us, he had other obligations that took priority. "I thought about buying a trailer," Chris admits, "but I was moving slow and, honestly, the whole idea (of building my own home) was daunting."

Finally, in early 2014, Chris found his solution with the announcement of Tumbleweed's tiny house starter kit - or "barn raiser." The barn raiser was ideal for Chris because it would expedite the build process AND allow him to finish the house himself. Within a few weeks, Chris received a photo and notification that his tiny home was ready for pick up.

Tumbleweed Barn Raiser / Photo by: Tumbleweed Tiny Homes*

"It might sound corny, but when I received that photo it reminded me of seeing the first ultrasound of my daughter. I had an immediate connection with my tiny house. " Chris recalls giving countless tours of his new home while towing it from Tumbleweed's Colorado build site to his rural property in New York. "It really resonates with people." 

Chris chose a Linden Horizon floor plan which features a second downstairs bedroom for his daughter. Mia thinks her dad's tiny home is really cool, and Chris hopes she'll want to be involved on some of the interior build.

A few interesting pieces Chris has added to his tiny home include an incinerating toilet and a library rolling ladder. He also has exciting plans for the front door:  "I'd like to have a bright colored entry door, like Ella's house. I also bought an old brass ship porthole for a window insert."

Chris even installed a motion detection camera to see what wildlife might trek up to his tiny home, but one day it malfunctioned and took a photograph every minute. If you're feeling a little scrambled from your busy schedule, take a moment to watch this "day-in-the-life" video created from Chris's camera's happy accident. 

"It's amazing to see a day go by and have absolutely nothing happen...it's like that everyday." - Chris

Once in a while, there are a few furry visitors! 

Three Pieces of Advice From Chris:

1). Take your time.

2). Know that there are resources out there to help you.

3). Be confident in your own abilities and have the confidence that you can do it.

We will check back in on Chris's build later this year. In the meantime he is looking forward to receiving advice and answering questions. He is about to embark on electricity and plumbing, so any research, links or tips are welcome!

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Contact Chris through his tiny house website here.

*All photos provided by Chris unless otherwise stated.

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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's Nara's House?

Wondering where this college girl's house is? If you haven't heard, Nara is in the process of obtaining a Fencl to live in for her last semester of school. Her plans have been delayed ever so slightly, but she's keeping strong. Read about her initial process here, and find out about how black ice, blizzards, and mandatory driving bans can be small impediments to tiny house transport below. 

Last Friday, I learned one important thing about a housewarming: you need a house. Upon failing to produce one of those despite a good deal of self-promotion, I felt a little something like ashamed. "Is it so tiny I can't see it?" asked my supportive friends. A very patient staff stood by day after day, while I postponed the Facebook event not once, but thrice. 

But it just so happens that when other things aren't warm, like say the roads in Ohio, pretty much anything can go wrong. In other words, some pesky black ice led to a minor hiccup with my house delivery. After already being behind schedule, the waiting game continued through the weekend as the trailer awaited repair some hundreds of miles away. Finally, I got word that it would arrive by the end of that week. And then....

A blizzard hit the East Coast. 

Window viewA lovely Saturday morning view 

Yup. We got slammed. As much as I want to say "just my luck," I have enough life experience (and access to news channels) to realize that I'm far from being the only poor soul affected by bad weather conditions, and that ultimately my tiny house woes are very, well, tiny. I'm glad to be warm, safe, and kind of well fed. 

As some of you may have heard, this whole state-wide driving ban thing led to a bummer of a weekend for everyone planning on attending the Tumbleweed workshop. Several Californians flew out on Thursday only to be cooped up in a hotel for a long weekend. I myself drove up from Western Massachusetts in the early hours of the snowstorm to find a ghost town. And most importantly, my apologies to all of the would-be-attendees. 

On the plus side, all this time lounging around in a king sized bed has certainly given me the opportunity to think things over. 

What can you doWhat can you do? Watch HBO, I guess. 

It's hard to have things that directly affect you be entirely out of your control. I've come to peace with it, for the most part, but I won't deny that I've been going through a little bit of emotional turmoil. It's been over two weeks since I expected a delivery, and I still don't know when I'll see the house!

I'm learning everyday that it's important to be flexible, and it's an amazing source of comfort to have a network of friends that will help you out. I will have squatted with my dear friends in Northampton, rent-free, for exactly a month. They've been incredibly patient and supportive, even if they think they're entitled to all of my groceries. I guess it's fair: my backpacks and suitcases have lined the living room wall, half unpacked, day in and day out, and my ferret has been eating everybody's headphones. 

FerretWreaking havoc on personal electronics AND personal relationships 

But as all of the older, wiser folks in my life have told me, it's a part of the experience. My mom's number one piece of comfort for me in darker days has always been "it will give you something to write about." So here I am, writing about it. (That said, my first attempt at 'writing about it', during which I was seeing red and occasionally punching the table, would probably make my mom disown me.) 

The reality is, it's no one's fault. These things happen, and there's a certain risk involved in pulling any kind of trailer when the roads are icy- I knew that at the beginning. I appreciate the work of all of those involved, like the truck driver who went through hell and still sent me a very sweet apology note. 

This is not so much a lesson about transporting tiny houses as it is about remaining patient. It's not the end of the world. It's important to keep weather in mind when you're attempting to transport a small house in the winter- just ask Molly- but it's also not inevitable that something will go wrong. You just have to keep your chin up, and be grateful that a better future is on it's way, storm or no storm.

Thanks for your patience, everyone, and thanks for being so understanding about the workshop cancellation- we'll make it up to you! 

More soon, 

Nara 

Written by Nara Williams — February 12, 2013

Filed under: change in plans   Massachusetts   patience   snow   storm   stranded   tiny house   workshop  

Mixer before the workshop

The Santa Rosa Workshop 2012 was a blast. On Friday evening we had a mixer with Tumbleweed staff and fans at the Sandpiper Restaurant in Bodega Bay. Great time! Pictured below is the view of the bay from the Sandpiper.


Each month we visit 2 cities around the US. You can learn more about other upcoming workshops here.

I wanted to also thank our many presenters:

  • Kevin Casey from New Avenue Homes spoke about the process of building a backyard cottage
  • Mark Fallin, a Sonoma County local, shared his knowledge on HVAC and energy
  • Austin Hay dropped in to share his journey of building a tiny home (see his blog)
  • JT told his story of building and now living in his Tumbleweed (read more)
  • Pepper Clark of Bungalow To Go helped people design their own models and let everyone tour her two homes under construction
Just for fun, pictured below is me at the mixer enjoying a glass of wine. I'm the guy with the big goofy smile.


Written by Steve Weissmann — October 19, 2012

Filed under: Workshop  

Thanks Chicago Tiny House Fans

 

THANKS to all the amazing, friendly-as-all-heck, and enthusiastic tiny house fans/geeks/addicts that I was lucky enough to meet while teaching the Chicago Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop. Chicago (4th visit now) still remains as one of my favorite cities ever- and man oh man does that town have some amazing musicians and blues joints! 50 people, all about tiny houses- it was a blast!

See you in NYC next! Oct 20th weekend! -Deek

Derek "Deek" Diedricksen is the mastermind behind Relaxshacks.com and is the author of 'Humble Homes, Simple Shacks'. Deek also hosts Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops around the country.

Written by Derek Diedricksen — September 20, 2012

Filed under: Chicago   Deek   Workshop  
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