Three years and 366 days ago, I saw this graphic on my phone:
Yep, four years ago today, I met my shiny new Safari Condo Alto F1743, production number 821. I had never towed a thing, never done any RV camping, and had absolutely no idea what I was in for. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I love my trailer and (yes, Yvette) I love my vagabond life.
My first year of Alto ownership was a steep learning curve. Dumping tanks was the easiest thing, learning to back up with a left/right learning disability was the hardest. The second year was the 12 months where everything seemed to break: two phones, two windshields, one tire, and one left hand. I was happy to see that year end. Third year, I was hitting my rhythm: longer stays in places, and then a few months wintering in Florida to recharge. The fourth year? Started great, loved Vancouver Island and getting back to the west coast, but the last three months I could have done without.
In these four years, Breeze has traveled over 44,000 miles and stopped at almost 350 places overnight, from state parks to RV parks to driveways, KOAs, and one really cozy side yard. We’ve seen 41 of the 48 continental US states and a handful of Canadian provinces (although, honestly, I feel like we barely scratched the surface of any of those provinces!). Breeze said farewell to her first sibling, Bella (a 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R), and hello to her new one, Luna (a 2019 Honda Ridgeline SE). We’re still waiting to actually hookup Luna to Breeze. I’m hopeful it will happen sometime in 2020.
The first two years, I didn’t make many changes to my Alto, as Breeze and I were getting to know each other. The last two years, though, I got serious about making the Alto my own, fit for a full-time vagabond.
- Replaced grey table with concrete/white table from Safari Condo
- Removed bathroom door, replaced with curtain.
- Lagun table mount
- Replaced the original cushion covers with new blue fabric after 3.5 years.
- Replaced fridge vent fan after 3.5 years
- Dawn sink, cutting board cover, and Kohler bar faucet
- Removed grey flooring and replaced with stick-on light gray tiles
- Two 17-pound viking tanks on tongue
- Longer dump hose mounted on tongue
- BFW replaced under warranty after 2 years
- Second keder rail added after 2 years (very handy for aluminet to shade the fridge)
- Trimetric battery monitor
- Progressive surge protector (interior installation)
- Battleborn Lithium-Ion battery
- Victron solar controller with bluetooth/phone connectivity
- Replaced rearview camera after 3 years due to water leaks in rainy weather
I’d be hard-pressed to pick my favorite mods. Each change I made was to make things easier or more useful. As a full-timer, I use my trailer every day, so I would expect some of these mods wouldn’t appeal to most Alto owners, but they work for me. That deep, wide Dawn sink? I love it after four years of trying to put dishes into the smaller, oddly-shaped sink and worrying about the faucet coming loose and giving me an impromptu shower. Was it a lot of work? Oh, yeah. Next time, I’d pay a plumber to do it! But now that it’s done, and I know how my plumbing works, I’m really happy with it.
When I started this wandering life, I never thought a pandemic would stop me in my tracks. But here we are. I’m sheltering in place in my Alto, reading, writing, and quilting the days away. The new hitch sits in the grass nearby, waiting for first use. A map of the southern states is pinned to the corkboard on the cupboard door, with pins marking a tentative path up the coast and then inland to the Blue Ridge and cooler weather. Here’s hoping the 365 days ahead bring us all pandemic relief, maybe a vaccine, and, if it feels safe, some travels on roads old and new for Luna, Breeze, and me.
They call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road.
(For my absolute favorite version of this song, go to 19:45 in this video.)