Greetings from Utah! A Look Back at Month 16 of Camper Life.

Ahhh Utah…it feels good to be back.

Ironically, we spent last November in Utah as well, but further up north around Salt Lake City and Moab. This November, we’re exploring Southern Utah and soaking in all these red rock views. There’s always been something that appeals to me about this state – perhaps its ruggedness, dramatic landscapes, wide open spaces, or uncrowded places. Whatever it is, it just feels right.

Month #16 has been a month of moving a lot, and we’ve actually lived in three states over the past 30 days. It’s also been a month of big adventure and taking care of all the practical crap that piles up with nomad life. After wrapping up our longest stay ever in June Lake, we moved on to Lone Pine, Death Valley, Las Vegas, and now Cedar City.

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


June Lake, California: Home on the Road #49 (the final week)

  • Highlights: Going to the MountainFilm festival in Mammoth Lakes with awesome outdoor adventure films & winning the raffle, hiking my longest and highest elevation hike ever (White Mountain, 16ish miles, 14,252 feet), seeing ancient bristlecone pine trees that are thousands of years old, decorating a pumpkin for Halloween, more kayak/SUP time on Gull Lake, scenic bike ride along the highway, revisiting our favorite outdoor natural hot springs
  • Lowlights: The hangover that resulted from the abundance of free beer provided at the MountainFilm festival, continued freezing temperatures, puking from the Mexican food I gorged on after hiking my longest hike ever, nearly falling on every step on the snowy/icy hike in the Lakes Basin area

Lone Pine, California: Home on the Road #50

  • Highlights: FINALLY warm weather again, free coffee and muffins in our campground clubhouse, lower elevations that made it easier on my lungs to go on runs, campground pool & hot tub, mini arches and lots of wide open space in the Alabama Hills, checking out the Museum of Western Film, kayaking and SUPing on the totally empty Diaz Lake
  • Lowlights: Some regret of not joining the husband on his epic Mount Whitney climb (but it was his solo outing and I’ll do my own soon), disappointing restaurant scene in town

Death Valley, California: Home on the Road #51

  • Highlights: Coming back to one of my all-time favorite places 5+ years later, giving boondocking a try in this camper, surviving 104-degree temperatures with no A/C, exploring the backcountry roads on foot, chill tech-free time playing board games and spending lots of time outside, nighttime photo shoot under the stars at Badwater Basin, solo outing along Artist’s Drive, successfully using an RV dump station for the first time
  • Lowlights: Discovering that our generator leaks gasoline and can’t be used (it’s under a safety recall UGH), all the non-dog friendly places in the national park

Las Vegas, Nevada: Home on the Road #52

  • Highlights: Actually getting all of our practical matters and appointments taken care of in one week (dentists, RV oil change, all new Jeep tires, haircuts, bike repair, iPhone and Garmin watch upgrades, etc.), fro-yo, an amazing all-you-can-eat sushi experience at Sushi Hero, squeezing in one hike, revisiting Lovelady Brewery, Penn & Teller magic show (eh, really more of a midlight than a highlight or a lowlight)
  • LowlightsThe stress of cramming month’s worth of practical crap into one week, taking a free craps lesson at a casino and still not understanding how to play, not winning any money gambling (womp womp), not having time to make Halloween costumes or do much to celebrate my favorite holiday, crappy campground Wi-Fi, crowded campground spaces (but we knew that because this was the same Vegas campground we stayed at in January)

Cedar City, Utah: Home on the Road #53 (in progress)

  • Highlights: Awesomely sized town (28,000ish) with lots of stuff to do but non-stressful, paved Coal Creek Trail for running, picture-perfect views at Cedar Breaks National Monument, finally feeling like I have a good handle on my workload, not as cold at night as expected (usually only in the low 30s), swimming laps at the local aquatic center (been so long, feels so good!), buying a new cowgirl shirt at a western wear shop (maybe boots next?), watching a Mozart orchestra performance, delicious Indian food that hit the spot at Bombay Cafe (palak paneer and naan, please), attending a local parade, canyoneering at Red Caves, exploring a new area of Zion National Park
  • LowlightsCrappy campground Wi-Fi once again, this place is centrally located but all the cool stuff is still over an hour away, National Parks have become way too crowded (even on cold Monday mornings in November)


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Going back to my “age blindness” thing, the husband thinks he’s older than everyone in the bar when I think they’re the same age as me. Ironically, he’s younger than I am.

Sporting some new western wear

  • I love chill days at home in the camper. I always feel guilty staying at home and not being out and about because we’re only in each new place a couple weeks. But that starts to feel like just checking things off a list after a while. I think I’d be happier scheduling more chill time into my days.

Ticket to Ride board game

  • I have a bad habit of looking at my phone first thing in the morning. So, I’m trying this thing where I get up a bit earlier and before I check my email, scroll through Facebook, or read the news, I meditate for 5-10 minutes. I’m doing the guided meditations on an app simply called Meditation and on the Yoga Studio app too. I’ve stuck with this new routine for the last four days!
  • Things I’ve been watching/reading/listening to: Lore podcast and show, Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart book, Stuff You Should Know podcast, Spooked podcast, Bates Motel show, Mozart in the Jungle show, This American Life podcast, Snap Judgement podcast, the Moth podcast, Orphan Black show, Boardwalk Empire show
  • SUPing really takes my mind to another place because all my energy is focused on not falling down and into the water. When I’m on a SUP, I don’t have the capacity to stress about work or how to cram all the stuff to do in our schedule. I actually look around me and notice things.

  • Things I WON’T miss about camper life when it’s over:
    1. Short showers with cold water
    2. Sharing a work desk with the husband, especially when he’s gabbing on the phone with his business partner
    3. Being around people all the time in close quarters
    4. Using and paying quarters for public laundry facilities
    5. Inconsistent internet connection for work
  • I’ve really been wanting to start writing creative fiction short stories again in addition to journaling and my day job’s writing work. It’s so hard to have the mental capacity and squeeze in the time, but I started (but haven’t yet finished) my first story in a very long time.

  • I absolutely hate going to salons for haircuts. Must be something to do with the awkward chit chat with no escape, guilt trips about how long it’s been since my last haircut, and being made to feel like crap about how I look by some degenerate “stylist.” How hard is it to cut your own hair? Or invest in wigs?


Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’ve extended our stay here in Cedar City already two times because there are so many awesome things to do in this area. From here, we’re headed to a couple state parks in Utah for brief boondocking stays: Kodachrome Basin and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. From here we’ll also be checking out Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is also where we’ll be spending Thanksgiving! I’m definitely thankful for getting to spend the holiday in all these fun places and finishing off the year with lots of new adventures.

Cheers!


Catch up with the journey:

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:

7 Months in the Pop-Up, Now 7 months in the RV

It’s been a year and a couple months on the road, and something occurred to me during month #14. We’ve now spent just as much time living in the new RV as we spent in the old pop-up camper…7 months in each!

However, pretty much all of our RV life has been in California. We started in San Diego in early-March and have been here ever since! It’s not like we’re obsessed with the state or anything. It’s expensive, but it has the most diverse landscapes of anywhere I’ve ever seen. That’s a trade-off we’ve been willing to take, so it’s been a whole lot of zig-zagging from the coast to the mountains and back again.

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


Sacramento, California: Home on the Road #46

  • Highlights: Living right next to the American River bike trail, nice downtown area with parks and labeled trees, tons of breweries, best campground Wi-Fi ever, whitewater rafting birthday trip to Coloma (an awesome way to turn 34!), visited the president of the International Gnome Club in Auburn, dim sum is amazing, seeing 79 percent of a solar eclipse, climbing at one of our favorite gyms
  • Lowlights: Crazy hot all the time, campground was a glorified parking lot for RVs, disappointing dog boarding experience due to pit bull discrimination, yet another flat tire on the jeep – on the way to go bowling (not off-roading) of all things

Clio, California: Home on the Road #47

  • Highlights: Unlimited scenic and dog-friendly hiking trails, peace and quiet, spacious campsite, photography from mountain summits, mutually agreeable weather, the best outdoor space ever for a brewery (The Brewing Lair, Blairsden), nice laundry facilities, seeing snow, local fire station pancake breakfast, picking hops on a farm, meeting a soapmaker who gave me a free lesson
  • Lowlights: Not a ton to do in towns with populations of 66 and 737, overpriced groceries and hard to get supplies, almost toppling the jeep off a ridiculous cliff and dying, unreliable campground electricity made us too nervous to ever leave Monkey behind in the RV on hot days with no A/C

Reno, Nevada: Home on the Road #48

We’ve only been in Reno a couple days, and I’ll be honest…it’s been a rough couple days. The biggest issue is due to these crazy thunderstorms that we’re having every afternoon/evening. After checking out the Midtown neighborhood yesterday, I came back to find a leak in the camper. A single leak coming from a recessed LED light, but guess where the rainwater was directly dripping down onto? MY LAPTOP’S KEYBOARD.

And now, it’s fried. Several keys don’t work at all, which is tragic when you consider that typing letters is how I make a living. Right now, I’m using an old external keyboard for our media center, but it’s awkward and killing my work productivity. The only reason we’re actually in Reno at all is to catch a flight to Chicago in a week. I’ve been frantically trying to work ahead to take a week off for a wedding/friends/family visit trip, and the sheer volume of things to do in advance is killing me.

“But Alyssa, don’t you work for yourself? Can’t you take time off whenever you want.”

Um, no. I’m over-committed, over-extended, can’t say no, and losing my mind. But thanks for asking. I am also convinced that I’m developing arthritis/carpal tunnel/something-freaking-wrong with my spacebar-using thumb. Ouch.

Meanwhile, our campground here is reminiscent of a police state, but with more cramped conditions. There’s no reasonable place for dogs to pee, and I’m constantly getting the evil eye from an excessive number of staff members flying by in golf carts. There is a nice marina nearby for runs, and a pretty stellar clubhouse/pool area…if only there was more hours in the day to use them.

Sigh. Whine. Did I hear someone say wine? Or perhaps legal recreational weed?

Moving on…

Despite its desert reputation, Reno continues to be a land of rainbows. I’ve been here twice in life and seen rainbows both times. This one presented itself before a big storm in a Target parking lot, of all places.


More Random Ramblings from the Road

  • We really fell hard for the “Lost Sierras” area around Clio, CA. I love all the hiking, mountains, and peacefulness. But I’m not sure if I could be happy living in such tiny towns long-term.
  • I continue to be obsessed with boba tea. You can’t find it everywhere. But I get it every chance I get.

  • I’m pretty sick of getting flat tires in the jeep. It seems to happen all the freaking time. Here’s a shard of metal sticking out of one in Sacramento. At least it’s not happening with the RV yet…that’ll be a nightmare when it does.

  • My creativity is dead. I am not creating anything interesting these days due to a total lack of spare time and motivation. I have plenty of inspiration and ideas, but just can’t bring myself to actually do things like sewing, crocheting, learning new guitar songs, sketching crappy drawings, poetry, etc. Inspiration followed by guilt over not doing anything about it. I feel like that side of my brain is slowly dwindling away.

  • Monkey slept with us in a tent for the first time and did great! For my birthday trip to go whitewater rafting, we stayed in a rental tent at the campground affiliated with the rafting company. We wondered if she would eat our faces off being on the ground all together and at her level. A four-person tent was key to making this set-up comfortable, but it gives us hope now about doing multi-day backpacking trips with her once we pick up our tent from the storage unit in Yuma.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

After spending a little more time in Reno, things get interesting. We’re boarding Monkey, storing the camper, and flying to Chicago. This trip will include a very quick visit to meet up with friends, followed by a wedding in Lake Geneva, and then putting in a belated birthday visit with my family. The logistics of making this all work were rough, but they’re squared away now, so it’ll be nice to see some folks and switch things up for a change.

When we get back, the plan is to start heading south because as the characters of one of our favorite shows always say, “Winter is coming.”


Catch up with the journey: