MILL CREEK — They wanted to be more than weekend warriors.
Ching Fu, 33, and her partner, Jerud Crandall, 36, didn’t want to wait until they retired to travel and see the great outdoors. They found a weekend or a one- to two-week jaunt wasn’t ever enough to really experience a place.
So they went to work in Asheville, North Carolina, rebuilding a silver fifth wheel, outfitting it with solar panels, electric appliances and even an waterless composting toilet. They converted a rusty, red and tan 1991 Ford F250 to run on waste vegetable oil.
Once their sustainable travel rig was in line with their commitment to living a green lifestyle, Crandall, a mechanical engineer, and Fu, a marketing professional, quit their jobs. They packed their stuff, rented out their house and hit the road in March.
“We wanted to show people you can live sustainably whether it’s in a home or on the road,” Fu said. “For us, we wanted to travel and see things.”
The couple is now camped out in Mill Creek, visiting family.
However, they hit a bump in the road two weeks ago when Fu’s touring bike with an attached dog trailer was stolen from the parking lot of the recently closed Mill Creek Safeway.
That’s made getting around more difficult. The couple depends on their bikes for local transportation.
Tybee, their 12-year-old Labrador-rottweiler mix, has arthritis and relies on riding in the dog trailer behind Fu’s bike. Tyki, a 2-year-old blue heeler mix, is able to run alongside the couple as they ride.
The couple has no itinerary. They stay in each place as long as they like.
“Our goal really is to visit smaller towns with a lot of outdoor stuff,” Fu said.
They plan to keep rolling as long as they can or until they decide they want to do something else.
Fu and Crandall earn money to keep traveling by doing odd jobs and with small real-estate investments.
“We’re not rich, we’re just ordinary people,” Crandall said. “The important thing to note is it doesn’t cost us a lot to live this way.”
They don’t have to pay to stay in RV parks because the solar panels power their rig anywhere there is sunshine. They avoid costly wastewater dumping fees because of their waterless-composting toilet.
Their fuel costs are lower because they only use diesel to start up and shut down the truck. They ask restaurants to give them used vegetable oil to burn and convert into fuel.
There is a cost to getting the oil ready to burn but it’s fairly inexpensive, Crandall said. The couple can travel about 400 miles on each 37-gallon tank of oil.
They also don’t spend much on propane because the only time they have to use it is when they want to bake in the trailer’s oven.
Their rig also has other eco-friendly features, such as LED lights and a low-flow shower. They go through about 40 gallons of water a week.
The couple said they invested about $30,000 to buy and rebuild their trailer and truck with sustainable features. They spent a year working on it before they hit the road.
“She’s always the one who comes up with ideas that make me do a lot of work,” Crandall said, pointing to his partner.
The couple decided to take to the open road because the 9-to-5 daily grind didn’t work for them. They weren’t interested in climbing the corporate ladder.
“For us, material goods aren’t as important as quality of life,” Fu said. “You have to be true to yourself about what you want and why you want it.”
The couple said they’re happy living on the road but the nomadic lifestyle doesn’t come without a lot of work.
“When you’re living on the road things don’t ever go as planned, you have to roll with the punches,” Fu said.
Still, they’re living small and enjoying the freedom that comes with it.
Follow the couple’s travels at livesmallridefree.com.