Day 32: The TQ’s maiden voyage is complete

I’m proud to report that yesterday morning, the crew made it home after 32 days on the road! And get this: NO MECHANICAL ISSUES for the entire 3,000 mile return trip! Although we enjoy being smashed into 27-feet, I think this photo conveys our excitement to be home. Even Ava got pumped:

What an adventure we’ve had. After thinking about this for a few days, I want to convey the things I’ve learned. There is a LONG list (and I’m sure it’s enough for many blog posts to come), but for today’s post, I’ve compiled the short list… the down and dirty on what the TQ’s adventure taught me.

1. How to be a grease car mechanic. OK, not really, but I know way more than I did a month ago, thanks to our mechanic-extraordinaire, Russ. I think my biggest realization was that taking care of your car isn’t as scary as one might think. Just like a computer, or any other device, the TQ comes with a book of instructions that break down the parts, pieces, fluids, and troubleshooting. If you don’t know what’s going on, refer to the book. If you head out prepared with a tool box full of tools you could need, you may even be able to fix the problem when you break down. The only way to learn is to get experience trying. We—especially Sean—tried to soak up as much information from Russ as we could on this trip, which will inevitably benefit us in the future because we have experience. For example: Did you know that various fluids from a car have different colors? Transmission fluid, for example, which was something that we got very friendly with on the first leg of the journey, is RED. So if your car is leaking red—or BLEEDING, as I call it—you’ve probably got something wrong with your transmission.

In reference to the vegetable oil aspect of the trip, I feel extremely confident in Sean and my ability to collect our own waste vegetable oil (WVO), operate a motor home that runs on WVO, and keep the process clean. And keeping things tidy is a big deal when you’re dealing with something like WVO that stains concrete, etc. It’s a process we will continue to refine and maybe even someday get a car (like something smaller than 27 feet) that runs on WVO. For a couple like us who drives everywhere, it just makes sense, both for our family and for the environment.

2. How to live on less. This life lesson wasn’t so much about material things, but more-so about the things in life we take for granted. Water, for instance. When the TQ would get low on water, we would have to conserve how much we use for handwashing, toilet flushing, and dish washing. In fact, I don’t think any of us realized how much water we use when we do something as simple as washing our hands! On day 1, we noticed that if we used the sink on full blast, we would quickly deplete our water supply to the TQ. But, if we left the faucet at a trickle, it preserved water while still getting our hands clean. I don’t think a day will go by when I think about that experience and try to conserve water in our house.

Also, it’s amazing to think about how to conserve power. There would be cloudy days when we would simply not have enough power to run to our outlets (e.g. the plugs that charge our computers, phones, etc.) because more important things, like the fridge came first. Lucky for us, we really looked at the wattage of various appliances before we left, and prepared for such situations. For example, do you realize that LED lights pull minimal watts, say 2 or 3 watts while the average lightbulb pulls more than 10 times that amount?

Lastly, having to find your own fuel was a real lesson in “doing the right environmental thing.” It’s not easier to run off WVO—in fact, it involves way more work than pulling up to a gas station and filling up. Having to talk to restaurant owners, filter the fuel and keep fuel filters on hand to change is quite a process. BUT, in the end it’s worth it for us because we just traveled 7,000 miles on a few tanks of diesel, and over 300 gallons of FREE WVO.

3. How to know when it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU. At one of our last meals together, the group decided that this trip wasn’t about Mollie and Sean, or Britt and Russ… it wasn’t about the four of us at all. This trip was for the Travel Queen. Our TQ. It was her adventure, and we were just lucky enough to come along for the ride. She had her way with us, forcing us to change plans, rebook flights, stay in places we didn’t intend to stay. But through it all, our group showed some perseverance. There were days when one (or more) of us would get so fed up and angry, and yet we knew deep down: There was nothing we could do. When we needed brake pads to be shipped via Greyhound to Fort Nelson, we did nothing but hang around town for an entire day, and we made the best of it, finding places to slackline, take bike rides, explore museums and information centers. When the transmission needed to be rebuilt in Red Deer, we had a Mexican Fiesta in the Flying J parking lot because we could.

This trip was about taking what SEEMS like a crappy situation and realizing that at some point, being angry or frustrated or disappointed doesn’t do any good. When something is out of my hands, I will remind myself to continue to enjoy life in the process—no time should be wasted, and I believe there’s always a reason that everything happens in our lives. There is a reason the four of us agreed to take a crazy, month-long adventure in a 1977 motor home, and it means something different for all of us. I’ve shown three learning lessons from the trip, but I know I will continue to learn and grow long afterward.

4. Not all adventures are as crazy as they seem. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in your own life. Just because something seems like an off-beat “unadvisable” adventure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it. Do your research, prepare yourself, and go with the flow. We’re presented with tons of opportunities in life, and it’s easy to turn them down just because we have a preconceived notion that as a “responsible adult” we shouldn’t do something so crazy because that’s the world we live in. Sure sometimes we get burned. Sometimes life forces us to invest in a new transmission. But you know what? It’s just another stepping stone on our journey.


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