A Month Split Between the West & the Midwest (#15)

Howdy! Month #15 on the road has been a bit of a weird one. That’s because right in the middle of it, we booked a flight to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding, celebrate my belated birthday with family, and drink beer with our favorite friends.

After getting back into Reno, we relocated to the Eastern Sierras near the ski slopes of Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s not ski season yet (which is absolutely killing my other half), but this place is seriously an outdoor lover’s paradise for all seasons.

New inflatable kayak! Our old one got a puncture that couldn’t be repaired. Monkey’s in there too, lying down like a good boat dog.

Fortunately, we’re nowhere near the wildfires in California right now…separated by about six hours and a huge mountain range. However, it has made me think more about the possibility of evacuation in case of an emergency. If it ever came to that, I think we’d be better off than most people because with just a little notice, we could drive our home and all our possessions as far away as possible. Hopefully we never have to put that to the test though.

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road:


Reno, Nevada: Home on the Road #48 (continued)

  • Highlights: Winning $11 in a slot machine, bike routes are improving in town, a positive dog boarding and RV storage experience while we flew out, easy airport, switching things up with a short hotel stay after flying back
  • Lowlights: Losing at all other casino games, Limited hiking nearby due to over-development and suburban sprawl, the red lights here take forever to turn green when you’re driving

And now…a few scenes from our last few days in Reno!


Side Trip to the Midwest: Chicago, Lake Geneva, Arthur

  • Highlights: So many of our favorite friends managed to come out to see us during just 36 hours in Chicago and even let us crash overnight, hiking and playing games with my retired parents on weekdays made all that working ahead worth it, visiting the pumpkin patch in my hometown, eating Mexican food with my nearly-94-year-old grandma, actually taking a couple days off work, birthday cake
  • Lowlights: The pitfalls of air travel in general, renting a car from Budget, driving in Chicago – definitely don’t miss that!

Here’s what the side trip looked like in photo form…


June Lake, California: Home on the Road #49

  • Highlights: Epic views absolutely everywhere, surviving my longest summit day hike in life (15 miles), first snow of the season, natural and free outdoor hot springs, mountain town festivals, lakes everywhere to break in the new inflatable kayak – even around tufas, colorful fall leaves, ridiculous rock formations
  • Lowlights: Temperatures in the teens at night with limited propane and only being able to run one space heater at a time, RV pipes freezing, fat swollen toes from hiking so much

It’s hard to choose my favorite June Lake photos because they’re all so beautiful and I’ve taken so damn many of them. Here’s a sampling…


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • My biggest professional setback this month has been a broken laptop keyboard. On a rainy night in Reno, our RV had a single leak that strategically fell onto my keyboard and destroyed the “k” and “w” keys. Ironically, I couldn’t even type the word “work,” let alone get any of it done. Here’s a pic of me pissed off and trying to dry it out with a hair dryer in vain. Rather than hastily invest in a new laptop without doing enough research, I opted for a wireless external keyboard to place over the broken one. Surprisingly, I’m making it work with our very small shared desk in here, and it’s more ergonomic too, which I’m hoping will help reduce my thumb and pinky pain from typing insane amounts of words every day.

  • I’ve stopped closely following the full-time RV-related Facebook groups that I initially joined when starting this lifestyle. The focus of some of these groups involve trying to figure out how to make money as a nomad and get more work (I’ve got that figured out and I actually want to work LESS!) or being retired and a know-it-all about everything (bring on the trolls!). I thought I’d be able to relate to people in a similar living situation, but the truth is I’ll always relate better to people from my past who actually know me, regardless of how different our lives are. Aside from the occasional question about RV maintenance or a campground reservation, I’m way more connected with my best friend who’s a stay-at-home mom and my old Chicago friends that are so easy to talk to about more than just catch-up chatter.
  • It’s almost my favorite holiday of the year…Halloween! I decked the campsite out with zombie gnomes and got Monkey a pumpkin costume to get in the festive spirit.

  • The logistics of keeping up with annual doctors appointments while moving so frequently and having to transfer records is a huge pain that I forgot about. Thank goodness I don’t have lots of health issues or this lifestyle totally wouldn’t work.
  • After 8 months in this RV, the newness/perfection has worn off and we’ve been getting more into personalizing it. For example, we printed out a fun photo of Monkey and some rocks along the Mendocino shore as a metal print and hung it by our work desk. Another idea is to print out landscape photos of our trip so far to display on the front of interior storage cupboards…more to come on that soon.

  • Typical priorities when looking for a next campground: internet access, cool things to do nearby, spacious sites, reasonable cost, dog-friendly, full hookups.
  • I’m obsessed with Hawaiian poke bowls…anyone else? Found a pretty good one at this food truck next to June Lake Brewing Company, which is right by our current campground and we’ve already been to 3 times!

  • Right now we’re having the coldest temperatures so far in the RV. There aren’t readily accessible propane fill spots nearby, so we’re making the best of it with tiny electric space heaters, an electric blanket, and hand warmers. We’re learning a lot though about keeping the water regulator and awning from freezing and how we can’t run two appliances at once. One space heater + an iron or hair dryer = bad. Two space heaters = super bad. I do miss the days of just sliding on flip flops to go walk the dog. Now it’s a 10-minute process of gearing up for the cold, not to mention an hour-long process just to get out of bed in the morning.
  • You know how I was whining last month about how I can never find time for creative projects and how that side of my brain is slowly dying? Well…I started a new sewing endeavor! It took longer than it should have, but I’m happy with how it turned out and going to give this handbag to my mom as a Christmas gift. Shhhh! Next up, I want to get back to the camper curtain project and replace the 3 bedroom blinds with something more functional and fun.

Before…

After!

  • I’m the only blogger I know who doesn’t try to make money off their blog. This old WordPress site I started in 2012 has no ads, I don’t do affiliate marketing, I’m not trying to get more readers, and I steer clear of guest posts most of the time. Monetizing my day-to-day life on the road would ruin the experience for me, make it less authentic. I’m slammed with work projects that are all about SEO and keywords, so I get enough of that in my full-time job. This is my personal space to share things with people who care about me as a person without all that bullshit in the way.
  • Off-leash dogs in on-leash places continues to be my #1 pet peeve. It’s simply not responsible or safe for anyone. Locals in the June Lake area seem to be notoriously bad about this.

  • Mountain people seriously love their plaid flannel shirts. I only have one, and I’m feeling totally left out.
  • It took a lot of years, but I really like hanging out with my parents these days. I’m so happy they’re taking more little trips and spending more time out in nature in their retirement. Just a couple months and we’ll be back for Christmas, but this time driving and not flying.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

Planning the logistics of Month #16 has been a bit of a pain, but we finally have it sorted out. From here at June Lake, we’ll be heading to Lone Pine to climb Mount Whitney, then to boondock in Death Valley, and then on to Vegas to take care of a bunch of things that cities are good for. If all goes as planned, we’ll be spending Halloween in Vegas and looking for something fun to do. Maybe wearing something like this???


Catch up with the journey:

Half a Year on the Road! A Six-Month Camper Life Update

It’s a new year in a new state, but the journey continues in 2017!

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Month #6 has been a weird month. It was holiday month, which means that everything was thrown off a bit – but in a good way. It’s also been the longest we’ve stayed put in one place so far.

Places We’ve Been: Month #6

Month #6 started finished up our stay in Tuscon and then we moved up to Phoenix. A while back, we had booked flights to travel from Phoenix to Champaign, Illinois to visit my family for Christmas. So everything leading up to this moment had to work around the flight schedule.

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Since Monkey’s too big to fly, we had to board her, but did so at the best pet resort we could find in Phoenix called Tailwinds. For Christmas, we spent a few days in my hometown or Arthur, seeing family and friends and doing little-to no work. We had a Monkey to get back to in Phoenix, but our flight was cancelled due to FOG of all things. We’d packed extra food for Monkey in case of emergency, but were still anxious to collect her. So my parents graciously drove us the complete opposite direction to Indianapolis to catch the next flight out in the morning.

The Indy flight went as planned and we made it back to Phoenix, then drove to Las Vegas the same day. So in a 24-hour period, we lived in four time zones: Central, Eastern, Mountain, and Pacific. Totally exhausting, but we got Monkey back and got rave reviews about her behavior (and even a report card!).

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of “homes on the road”:

Phoenix, Arizona: Home on the Road #27

  • Highlights: Having dinner with my old co-worker, Maria, for her husband’s birthday bash, hot tub at the fanciest Motel 6 I’ve ever seen, short hikes around town

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  • Lowlights: Getting a traffic cone stuck under the Jeep and nearly starting a fire on the highway because of it, having to leave Monkey behind at a “pet resort” while we got on a plane

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Arthur, Illinois : Home on the Road #28

  • Highlights: Hanging out with my parents, grandma & extended family, seeing a couple of my favorite people from high school, meeting our mutual friends’ new baby, seeing “Moana” with my parents, eating at a really good Mexican restaurant that popped up in my hometown since I left, impromptu trip to Indianapolis

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  • Lowlights: Having our flight out of Champaign cancelled at the last minute, having to ask my parents to drive us to Indianapolis

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Las Vegas, Nevada: Home on the Road #29

  • Highlights: Fun pre-NYE day on The Strip, Cirque Du Soleil show that was impressive but made me feel fat and lazy, first NYE celebration with Monkey in the camper to ring in 2017, Valley of Fire State Park hiking

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  • Lowlights: Flat camper tire and cracked windshield on the drive to Vegas, Homeless people lurking around our campground and the staff doesn’t care, dental visit, crowded parking lot-style campground, no Wi-Fi

Random Ramblings: Month #6

In no particular order, these are some random thoughts that came to me over the course of month #6 on the road.

  • I’m obsessed with podcasts. I listen to them while walking the dog, doing dishes, washing up in the bathroom, etc. They really get me through the day. Ones I’ve been listening to lately: This American Life, Snap Judgement, Undone, Stranglers, The RV Entrepreneur with Heath Padgett, Lore, The Moth, Radio Lab, Hidden Brain. New podcast suggestions welcome…hit me up!
  • Motel stays make me feel really appreciative of the little things in life. Like not having to walk across a campground to pee in the middle of the night when I’ve had 3+ beers. They’re even better when they have a hot tub, especially after a long day of hiking. Campgrounds with hot tubs are awesome too.

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  • I really have no desire to live in a place with frigid winter temperatures ever again. These snowbirds have the right idea, but stealing the idea shouldn’t require Medicare eligibility.
  • I’m super appreciative of my parents. Understandably, they were skeptical about this whole camper life thing at first. But I’ve never really been a daughter to follow all the rules. Them driving us to Indy on Christmas day night was a lifesaver. I’m seriously lucky to have them. Too bad it too me so long to realize it.
  • I can’t stand being around other campers. The second I walk outside to use the bathroom in the morning, there are people all around me. I’m feeling claustrophobic by the close proximity of campers and drained by the constant sight of human beings. (1) Old retirees with nothing better to do than chat, (2) families with kids that have no regard for anyone but themselves, and (3) homeless riff-raff lurking around campgrounds when the staff doesn’t care are really getting to me. Friends always ask me about cool people I’ve met on the trip. The honest answer is none. Admittedly, I’m in an introverted phase of life and not putting myself out there. But honestly, that’s not what travel is about for me right now and I have no regrets.

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  • This month was a BIG time for repairs. The camper needed a new tire, the Jeep needed a sensor repair and a new windshield, the husband needed hardcore dental surgery, and the dog needed yearly shots at the vet, and I needed a routine dental cleaning. Somehow this all snuck up on us at once. But it just goes to show that you don’t need to be grounded in a place to get all the practical things in life taken care of.
  • Cities are making me feel claustrophobic. Most strangers seem like an entirely different species, I’m becoming a worse driver, and stupid things make me anxious. I’m hoping to find some quiet coastal towns in California.
  • Vegas is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere so far on this trip – 19 days! Not because we are in love with Vegas, but due to so many appointments and practical things piling up all at once. At least there were plenty of distractions to take our minds off them at the end of the day.

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  • I don’t like the format of these blog posts I’ve been doing, but I can’t think of a better way to structure them.
  • We looked into upgrading the camper and would seriously love to, but I don’t think it’s going to work right now. Mostly because a two-door jeep has embarrassingly low towing capacity, so a camper upgrade would mean a vehicle upgrade too. Looked at A-Liners, which were nice (especially ones with an in-camper toilet and solid walls!), but they’re not enough of an upgrade to justify the investment right now.
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  • This is my dream house.
  • It was nice to be able to take holiday time off like the rest of the traditional working world this year. This is always an awkward time as a freelancer, but things finally slowed down for me and I finally got some much-needed chill time.
  • Also as a freelancer, I have to keep track of every invoice and pay quarterly taxes, which is a huge pain in the ass. However, I made more this year than ever in life. So many full time travelers hate on freelance writing as a way to make money but clearly they aren’t doing it right. This is something I feel really proud of since 2017 is my 4th year of freelancing!
  • I am obsessed with self-serve frozen yogurt.

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  • The best reason that has come up so far for calling it quits on camper life is international travel. I feel like I’ve seen so much (but obviously not all) of this country, but so little of the rest of the world. Simply flying to Illinois for Christmas taught us how difficult the logistics are of finding a dog sitter, Jeep parking, camper parking, transportation, etc. After six months, I’m feeling the itch for international travel. This makes me amendable to finding a place to rent (somewhere) for a year so we can plop down and get slightly established so we can catch a flight to bust of America soon. This will likely be the one thing that makes me call it quits on camper life, at least for a while.
  • Valley of Fire State Park renewed my faith in Nevada hiking trails after several disappointments…what an incredible place with something different to see on every trail!img_3014
  • Everywhere I turn these days, I seem to come across a #vanlife post or some other young couple’s Instagram-perfect photos of full-time travel. I am mildly obsessed with creepily stalking other full-time campers to see what they’re up to and judging myself against my better judgment. It feels like this movement is gaining momentum, but perhaps I’m just seeking it out. But unlike so many of these other couples essentially doing what we’re doing, I’m not into going full publicity over it or trying to make money from it. That’s not my style, and I’m already stretched too thin. Also, my husband is a private person and I respect his wishes to not include his photo or name on my blog. I also have no desire to reinvent the wheel here or project an image that everything about this lifestyle is perfect. It’s not, and it pisses me off from time to time just like any lifestyle would. I’m being me, being real, and sharing my experiences as creative outlet rather than a means of self-promotion. Thanks for being along for the ride.

Looking Ahead to Month #7

TOMORROW, we’re celebrating our 6th month “full-time camper life anniversary” by crossing over the California state line and dry camping in Mojave National Preserve. This means no reservations, no electric, no internet, and only backup tank water…but hopefully some amazing scenery and hikes.

After that, we’re heading to the Palm Springs area of California, which will be totally new to me. But I will say though that California campgrounds are looking pretty expensive so far. I’m a newbie at pretty much all things Southern California, so I’m definitely excited to spend a good amount of time here. Please send any SoCal recommendations my way!

Cheers!

Catch Up on the Journey: