Our Tiny House Towing Adventure: Part Two
This post is a continuation of Our Tiny House Towing Adventure: Part One
Though it took some careful planning one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the process was being able to stay in our tiny house almost every night of the trip. We found it much nicer to have nearly everything we needed when we stopped for the day (and a comfortable home for our dog), preferring tiny house nights to hotel stays. By doing research ahead of time and planning out stops where RV parks were located, we knew we’d always have a place to stay. The RV parks we stayed at turned out to be prefect. They never denied us entry because we were a tiny house and not a normal RV, and they offered the amenities we needed to travel comfortably. Though KOA’s tended to be a few dollars more per night, they were consistently good and very accommodating.
The KOA in Flagstaff was even forested and quite pretty. Most others were not at all scenic, but were generally conveniently located close to the highway. Here are a few things to consider about RV parks:
Call ahead to check not only general availability, but to make sure the park has a 40+ foot pull-through spot available. You definitely do not want to be backing the house into a tight space unless absolutely necessary.
All RV parks will have 30/50 amp hookups, so as long as your house was built with an RV style power hookup, you’ll be fine wherever you stop.
Weather And Unforeseen Delays
Though we took the most Southerly route possible to avoid winter weather and high-mountain passes, we still couldn’t have guessed what Mother Nature had in store for us. After just a couple days of travel, having made it through an ice storm in Oklahoma we were met by a large, early-season snowstorm that blanketed much of the southwest and south-central states. Though we had plans to keep driving, we were forced to stop in Amarillo, Texas just after lunch to avoid dangerous snow-pack and ice on the roads. We were snowed in the next day as well and took the day off to get some exercise at a local gym and treat ourselves to a movie. When towing your tiny house longer-distances, be prepared for delays like this. Give your self at least a day or two extra to make it to your destination. Even in summer months you never know what might happen (think wind and rain!).
We had planned on an approximate duration of 7 days (SE Iowa to N. California – over 2300 miles, taking I-40 west from Oklahoma City). We felt that was conservative, allowing us to stop before dark each day. But with a day and a half lost in Texas and another half day to fix the truck in Modesto, our trip ended up taking 9 full days.
Finding a Place to Park/Live
This is a big topic. There are rules and regulations about where one can live and how permanently based on how your tiny house is classified and where it is located. This is far more than can be covered in this short article, but here’s the simple version of our story.
We had advertised our need for a place to park on Craigslist and other local Sonoma County bulletin boards and ended up having great success. I think the trick was being thorough in our postings, describing our needs in detail, introducing each member of our little family, showing lots of pictures, and making it clear we were expecting to pay rent and offer services in return. Within a few days of putting the word out there, we were on our way to an agreement for a nice place to park in Sebastopol. But the story is not without its drama. Just a couple of days before leaving for California, our potential host talked with some county authorities and became a bit spooked by the answers they received. They didn’t know the right questions to ask, but more importantly they were the kind of people who didn’t want to take the risk of our living there being even somewhat illegal – for it is, in truth, in somewhat of a legal gray area. They retracted the contract we had drawn up just two days before our departure date. We left Iowa without a home to go to, hoping and praying for someone to step up and fill the void.
And they did! After sending desperate last-minute emails to other potential hosts and to the greater tiny house community, our current hosts got in touch with us and were happy to offer temporary parking, if not a long term home for our house.
With this arrangement in place, we made it safe and sound to Sebastopol to meet our future hosts thinking the hard work was over. In fact, another phase had just begun.
Relying on images and email descriptions of the property alone prior to arrival we were not fully prepared for how much work it would be to navigate the house through a narrow gap to one side of the “big house” and down to their large back yard.
Huge piles of scrap wood and heavy concrete pavers needed to be moved, an entire shed and its contents relocated, and countless trees needed serious trimming and sometimes complete removal to clear a path at least 13.5’ tall and 8.5’ wide. Not only that, but the only suitable locations for our house were not at all level, meaning more work to level the house to prevent it from shifting over time. It was tiresome work, and at times we thought once more we were crazy for trying. Surely there was another potential spot close by where we could simply pull in and be done? But our hosts were so incredibly kind and flexible, encouraging us to continue, and we just knew it was the right fit.
In the end it all worked. It was tight; very tight. As we pulled through to our final resting place the house came within an inch of the main house roof and we couldn't help but to scrape past a few tree branches at times. Anjali had to climb on top of the truck as we moved, using a push broom to lift power lines a couple of feet higher to clear the tiny house roofline.
Once parked in our final location, holes were dug, earth packed and leveled, and concrete pavers set in place to make room for, and to support, the 4 jack-stands placed at each corner in order to level the house.
I had leveled the house a few times before in different locations during the building process, but not on soft, sloped earth like this. Using a heavy-duty bottle jack, lifting the house one corner at time was not difficult but digging, leveling of earth, re-digging and re-packing to make small changes needed to level the house as it sank into the soil was a long, slow battle.
Here are some things to consider when looking for a place to park – this doesn’t touch at all on codes and legal issues, but simply the location itself:
- Is there adequate access to the final parking spot, or can it be made large enough for entry without too much work? Look up, check nearby tress, the roofs of other houses, etc.
- How flexible are the landowners to allow changes to their property?
- Is there a down-sloping grade for water run-off and/or room for a French drain to handle gray water exiting the house?
- How far is the house from a reliable power outlet and water hose connection?
- Is the power outlet on it’s own circuit, and is it rated for the amperage your house will require?
- Will you be within range of the property owner’s WiFi, or do you need to arrange your own Internet connection (if desired)?
- And most importantly, are your potential hosts cool, laid-back people willing to bend a few legalities in order to support your chosen way of living? We’ve learned that the people you are living “with” can be even more important than the location itself. (We are so lucky to love our new host family!)
Building and living in a tiny house is an incredibly rewarding experience, but towing a tiny house is no easy task. Neither is finding a place to park, for that matter. You need to be prepared for potential delays and setbacks like snowstorms, car/truck problems and theft. And that’s only if you’ve done the pre-construction planning and design work needed to ensure safe travel in the first place. You’ll need to do a lot of research and networking, both to find places to stop along the way, and more importantly, a spot to park and live legally (or semi-legally) once you get where you’re going.
That said, we did it and so can you! Choosing to build close to your final parking place is wise, but wherever you start out, living on wheels means you have the freedom to move and find your perfect spot. Our current spot is excellent, but admittedly it's not perfect. However, with more than 8 months of full-time living in our tiny house, my girlfriend, small dog and myself are extremely grateful to be living in our lovingly built little dream home!