Broomfield Family Builds Tiny House to Visit All National Parks in the Lower 48 of the United States

Broomfield residents Alex and Nate Cyr and their two young children and large dog are taking the adventure of a lifetime. They designed and built their own tiny home with the goal of visiting all the national parks in the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii, in just one year. How are they able to pull this off? Alex is a school counselor, and she has been granted a one-year leave-of-absence. Nate is in the residential construction business and was able to leave his job on good terms, so that he can possibly return to it after a year. They have two boys, ages five and four, and they believe this is the right time to take give them a unique and fun experience.

“We believe that it’s important for our kids to learn about the world around them before starting school, and not through excessive screen time, but by experiencing everything the outdoors has to offer, in person,” said Alex. “We have had to do a lot of downsizing which is exciting but also stressful. We have pared down excess stuff and rented out our main residence while we are gone.”

Planning and Preparation

There’s a fair bit of planning and preparation that goes into embarking on an adventure like this. Not only has the family removed the chaos of clutter, but they’ve taken time and energy to make their tiny house homey and suitable for mobility.

“When you have a tiny house on wheels you can move outside the strict regulations that are imposed on those who want a sedentary one,” said Nate. “We have taken strides to ensure our mobility is as seamless as possible.”

While Alex manages the planning process which includes conducting research, running errands, and establishing a doable itinerary, Nate was busy designing, building, and maintaining the tiny house and everything that went along with that.

Design and Construction

The Cyr’s tiny house on Wheels is built on a 33-foot goose-neck trailer. Seven feet of the trailer is above the hitch, where the master bedroom is located. The living area, kitchen, bathroom and boys’ loft is on the remaining 26 feet.

The base of the tiny house and floor of the trailer bed are one in the same. Nate and Alex disconnect the goose-neck trailer hitch from the truck’s ball hitch to separate the truck from the trailer/tiny house.

The house itself has 11-foot-tall ceilings with large windows, which let in quite a bit of light. Nate built a pitched roof and hopes to go solar with 14 panels in the future. For now, they can hook into 20/30 or 50 AMP hookups at an RV site or at someone’s home. They do have a generator as backup, but right now the home is intended to be plugged into the grid.  The generator is run on gasoline so they can be off grid with that as long as they have gasoline to run it, though they have not yet done so.

The tiny house uses three water tanks with the capacity for 108 gallons of fresh water and 72 gallons of grey water, in addition to a composting toilet. The exterior consists of a standing seam metal vertical siding which provides extreme durability. There is an outdoor shower with running hot and cold water, and there is electricity on the outside.

Inside the tiny house, the living room is a combination of entertainment center and workspace. The kitchen contains an efficient microwave/oven combination, a refrigerator and an induction cooker that can be placed on the counter.  The bathroom includes a full-size sink, composting toilet, shower with small tub and space for a combination washer/dryer.

The boys sleep in a loft located above the bathroom and the master bedroom is above the goose-neck portion of the trailer. The dog sleeps in the living room on his bed, though he sometimes can be found lounging on the couch in the morning.

The house includes many innovative design and storage features including multi-functional spaces such as a staircase with storage and a food pantry that also acts as a ladder to the loft, collapsible eating and prep surfaces, and hidden storage spaces.

The Adventure Begins

The Cyr family left Colorado to begin their adventure “lower 48” in October 2018, and made their way to Lincoln, Nebraska toward Chicago, then Milwaukee, visiting family, and then arrived in Ohio at Cuyahoga National Park.

“We’ve been on the road for 10-11 hours at a time, and as we move into spring, we’ll be able to establish firm dates for our destinations,” said Alex. “Though with the government shut down causing national park closures, the fact that we can be flexible is helpful.”  

Nate has found that backing up the truck and trailer has been no problem. The truck tows the 16,000 pound trailer and tiny house well and while they need space for U-turns, they’re able to mobilize easily.

But There Are Always Challenges

When he began the build, Nate purchased a ¾ ton GMC 2500 Diesel truck. However, upon weighing the tiny house for the first time, he quickly realized that in order to ensure they would have the appropriate towing capacity and peace of mind, he needed to get a bigger truck.  Just days before leaving on their trip, they traded in their ¾ ton for a one-ton GMC Diesel truck dually with a towing package and extending mirrors that can tow up to 22,500 pounds and haven’t looked back since. 

“I’m a planner, so I’m trying to forecast any problems that may arise,” said Nate. “At the same time, I’m embracing what happens, doing things like making sure the fridge and cabinets are locked down, and removing things that fall. We’ve gotten much better about that over the past few months.”

In Illinois, Nate realized that their water pump was wired incorrectly, so he had to search online for an accurate diagram and rewire the pump properly. In addition, he’s broken a door hinge to the bathroom vanity, laughing and remarking that he’s on a learning curve.

“We have to deal with less space, and re-adjust as necessary,” he added. “For example, we have no dishwasher and are surprised how easily we’ve adjusted to that.”

He also noted that they’re driving a tall structure, so staying on roads where the height of semi-trucks are allowed and keeping away from branches and trees is essential.

And Rewards…

The biggest reward for the Cyr family is that they are spending quality time as a family, every day, all day.

“We watch our boys walking through serene areas of nature, and exploring the wonders of it all, and that’s a priority,” said Alex. “It’s really breaking out of the routine to be present with each other. I’ve enjoyed watching my husband build – it’s impressive and I feel so blessed that we work so well together through the challenges and the excitement.”

Alex and Nate are impressed at how much the boys like traveling together and seeing the parks. They have enjoyed seeing and climbing on interesting rock formations, as well as watching animals such as bears and alligators in their natural environment.

“We love to leave our windows open,” said Alex. “It’s a peaceful way to live.”

The family has also greatly enjoyed meeting and chatting with people along the way. They’ve met others who are living on the road full time, and trading experiences not only helps them make improvements, but it’s a great source of friendship.

Advice to Others

When asked what advice they’d give to those considering building and traveling around the country in a tiny home, Nate said, “you need to be willing to live on top of each other. After you develop a routine, it gets easier.”

Nate added that the hardest parts of the project have been handling the finances throughout the building stages, and finding ways to live within their means. That means weighing options such as whether or not he should go cheaper.

“We prepared for mental strain through tough decision making, so that we could design and build a quality tiny home without a huge impact on the bank account,” added Nate.

Overall, Nate suggests that if this is something that if building and traveling in a tiny home is of interest, to trust your instincts, but warns that it’s also not for the faint of heart. Therefore, it’s important to realize that even if you’ve watched shows about building tiny homes, it’s not as easy as it looks. He also recommends that people give it the time it takes to build it right.

“You can make it work if you’re determined to do it,” said Nate. “Embrace every moment; try not to get stuck into a monotonous routine, and make it a priority to do what makes you happy in life. For us, our tiny house is important. Wherever we go, our tiny house is like living in a little nest. It’s our own little sanctuary.”

You can tour Alex and Nate’s tiny house by visiting: https://youtu.be/j9oWftA3zkE  and cyriousliving.com.

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