The Big Tiny Tour Diary: On The Road With Jolene

By Dee Williams

I’ve been dreaming about a possible downsize for a while… and especially since I busted my butt falling out of my loft a few years ago. Limping around for six months with my sacrum slowly knitting itself back together, I started wondering what it would be like to live in a smaller house. Would it take five minutes to clean instead of ten? Could any other structure still feel so much like home?

I contacted my friend Katy Anderson, the master craftswoman who built PAD’s original Don Vardo, and a few months later, a new tiny house was born. I’ve taken possession of my home-away-from-home, where I can stay when visiting Portland, and where I’ll explore what it means to call any place ‘home.’

Home On The Road

My business partner Joan and I named the house Jolene as we took her for a big spin all the way down the west coast for some Big Tiny readings and a workshop in Oakland, California. We spent the first hour of our trip pulling over at every rest stop imaginable, repeatedly checking lug nuts, the hitch, the doors, windows, the hitch again, and eventually relaxed a little and felt the thrill of pulling a tiny house down the road! Though that thrill was somewhat tarnished when we noticed the gas tank of our heavy-duty truck draining a full gallon every 11 miles.

Here’s a little tribute video we made for our trip with Jolene, including some action shots of what it’s like to take a tiny house on the road:

Things got better when we arrived at Tammy and Logan’s ranch (of Rowdy Kittens and Smalltopia fame) outside Yreka. They had cold beer, good food, and a view of Mt. Shasta that helped us shake off the first day road jitters. There was something surreal and kind about seeing their tiny house, Jolene, and Joan’s tent cast against the rolling hills and grasslands of Logan’s family farm.

Dee Williams visits Tammy Strobel
Real life tiny house jamboree

It reminded me of the tiny house jamboree the fantastic Rebecca Green dreamed up when I commissioned her to make some art inspired by my story, which will be available soon as a set of note cards.

Animal tiny house jamboree by Rebecca Green

Making Friends All Over

We woke the next morning at the crack of dawn hoping to roll into Oakland before the traffic. Driving down the highway with Jolene was a hoot, lots of horn honking and thumbs up, and people would amble over to take a peek in through the windows at every stop. It made people smile, like looking at photos of sleeping puppies. Like they saw Jolene as a cute baby animal that would someday grow into a full-sized house.

Dee Williams tiny house on the road

We arrived at The Crucible, an awesome maker’s space in Oakland, and pushed Jolene a few feet in through the big doors, which was a perfect sunny spot for our classroom antics. Workshop attendees had a great time studying the house, examining the placement of tension ties and discussing design strategies for road readiness. They also loved having a chance to see a tiny house up close, to see how materials and expert skill come together to make a craftsman-style space.

The day culminated in a special Oakland PAD Tiny House Mixer and “Big Tiny” reading. I met a lot of folks interested in building tiny, simplifying their life, or simply having fun. It was awesome to reconnect with Sienna Wildwind, a PAD workshop graduate in the area who started building her house, and started a Bay Area Tiny House meet up group. Check it out if you’re in the area!

After Oakland, we stopped at Tammy and Logan’s ranch again. My dog OluKai seemed to love the ranch even more than me, seemed to sense how much I love Tammy and Logan, and how I wish we lived closer. She lingered in the tall grass for a long time on Monday morning, before we headed north for a reading in Eugene, Oregon.

Where Home Is

The University of Oregon campus bookstore let us pull Jolene into their commons across from the Library. We met students, faculty, local community members, tiny house enthusiasts and at least one fellow tiny house builder. It was a real treat to read a little excerpt from my book about how we keep or let go of things.

Dee Williams tiny house at the University of Oregon
Jolene the tiny house at the University of Oregon

It was interesting to hold that story with the question of whether or not I could move into Jolene, if I could let go of the sense of home I’ve felt for so long in my “big” tiny house. Or maybe I can come to a place where home is where my friends are, where the rain sounds like BBs pinging off the metal roof, and my dog can be a goof-ball whether we’re sleeping in Olympia or Portland. We’ll see… I’m curious.

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