Travel Trailer Adventures Close to Home in New Mexico

Most of what I’ve written about on this blog from the beginning has been about travel, which is something that often feels like a distant memory these days. Between the the pandemic and the arrival of our little “Chikoo,” I’ve spent more time at home this year than any other time I can remember in my adult life.

Here’s a little recap of the sweet new places we’ve been able to explore close to home lately in our new(ish) travel trailer camper.

Ruidoso, New Mexico

As far as New Mexico towns go, Ruidoso is a sizable one with a population of over 7,000. Ruidoso was on our must-visit list for quite a while because of what we’d heard about its lovely forest, lake, mountain town vibe. We had actually planned to be here in the summer for a trail running race and had booked an Airbnb here (pre-pandemic and pre-baby). Obviously, the race was cancelled and a camping seemed like a better option, but we still made it here in a different way.

Ruidoso is a little over three hours from where we live, which ends up more like four hours when you consider “camper time” – i.e. striking out at gas stations looking for a propane fill, having to drive no more than 67 mph, and mandatory pull-overs for baby meltdowns. It was our first camping trip with the travel trailer and second camping trip with a baby, so we booked a private campground with full hookups for convenience that was honestly not so great. It was like no one in the entire campground was aware that there was a pandemic going on or had ever heard of a face mask. Although the tall pine tree scenery was pretty, the sites were close together, and the other residents had no qualms about coming up to you to breathe on your baby because they missed their own grandkids.

The close quarters and intrusive people made it impossible to spend any time outside our camper to enjoy the outdoors whatsoever, which is pretty much the whole point of camping. However, the hikes in the area were pretty great. With “Chikoo” in a carrier, we knocked out quite a few miles on the hiking trails in the area and also checked out Grindstone Lake. I was super glad we got an early start on the hiking trail around the lake because this place got crowded as the morning crept into afternoon. Swimmers in the lake had no intentions of social distancing, forcing us to rush through the rest of our lakeside adventure to find less-crowded spaces.

Ruidoso had a cute downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants, and a lot of things were actually open. There were some other people walking around town but it wasn’t too crowded overall. The only place we stopped into was Noisy Water Winery, which has multiple locations but a couple tasting rooms in this downtown area. We did a wine tasting outside on a back patio where we were the only people and had a wonderfully sleeping baby, so yeah, that was pretty much a perfect afternoon. We even bought a bottle of our favorite cabernet to bring back to the camper and definitely made use of a those pumped bottles I’d brought along for “Chikoo” for untainted milk!

Valley of Fires Recreation Area

The Valley of Fires Recreation Area was an impromptu stop on the drive home from Ruidoso and exactly what we needed after finding ourselves in more crowded conditions than expected. This is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area by the Malpais Lava Flow, where a volcano erupted about 5,000 years ago and left behind a bunch of black molten rock.

It was a super-chill place where we were the only people camping as far as the eye could see. There was one paved travel that went through the lava rocks and desert terrain, which was perfect for pushing a stroller and walking a dog who has a tendency to get cactus spines stuck in her paws. Although I’m glad we checked out Ruidoso, this empty BLM spot was exactly what we were actually looking for in a little camping getaway and well worth extending our outing for an extra day.

Eagle Nest & Angel Fire, New Mexico

While the Ruidoso/Valley of Fires trip took us Southeast of home, our next travel travel camping trip took us Northeast to the Eagle Nest/Angel Fire area of New Mexico. This was another place I’d wanted to check out for a long while because we’d never been further than Taos in that direction.

I went into this trip expecting beautiful mountains and forests, but what I didn’t expect was how colorful the fall foliage is. Largely covered by desert sand and sagebrush, New Mexico isn’t known for its fall foliage in the way that say Vermont or even Oregon is. But I was absolutely floored with how stunning the bright yellow aspens were here, strategically tucked among the dark green pines and exposed rugged rocks. On the way back home, we took a longer scenic route down to Las Vegas, New Mexico and got to see some amazing oranges and reds along the roadside.

Unlike Ruidoso, nothing we experienced in this area was crowded, and I could count on one hand how many people we ever saw on any hiking trails combined during the trip. It certainly doesn’t hurt that when we plan these mini camper getaways we always do them on Sundays to Wednesdays to avoid weekend crowds. A perk of being self-employed. We stayed at a campground in Eagle Nest that was wonderfully empty, with no one around us at all and nice views of Eagle Nest Lake. It really made me wish we’d packed the SUP to take out on the lake, but this trip was more about trying out our brand-new baby hiking backpack among the fall leaves. Just before the trip, we picked up an Osprey Poco Plus from REI.

We had to wait until little “Chikoo” was strong enough to hold up his head before we could use it, but he did pretty well overall here at just over five months! We could get in a few miles before he had enough of it, although sleeping sitting in such an upright position was a bit of a challenge for him. We had perfect fall days here with chilly mornings and hot afternoons that involved stripping down from winter-wear to summer-wear as the hours ticked by.

We also walked through the town of Eagle Nest to check things out but absolutely everything was closed on a Sunday evening, so that was a quick endeavor.

Red River, New Mexico

On this same trip, we headed up a bit to the mountain town/ski resort area of Red River, which was an instant favorite spot for us. We went hiking in the Enchanted Forest cross-country ski area, which we basically had all to ourselves. Then we headed to the adorable little downtown area which was way more established than I was expecting for a town with a full-time population of just over 400 people.

It’s a resort town and touristy, but also obnoxiously quaint and with a nice brewery/distillery in town for beer/spirit flights. As a souvenir, I bought a fun winter hat from a local shop, although it’s been around 80 degrees back at home every day since we’ve been back so that poor winter hat is getting the shelf treatment for a while. A future wintertime ski trip to Red River is definitely in the cards.

Visiting all of these places has really been helping me get to know the different sides of New Mexico better while preventing me from going absolutely insane in homebody mode. Little “Chikoo” is proving himself to be quite a decent travel baby, and we’ve found our COVID comfort zone for getting out and about…at least for now. Although we haven’t yet decided on our next destination, we’re already looking forward to another New Mexico camper trip in November sometime between Election Day and Thanksgiving. Yes, times are tough, but it’s also a great time to be in a place that you love and still have so much more to learn about.

Goodbye Motorhome, Hello Travel Trailer!

Many moons ago, we started out as tent people…young and dumb in our late-20s, braving the snow, rain, and mosquitoes under a thin layer of fabric. In 2015, we went out on a limb and bought a tiny pop-up camper off a dude in Georgia via Craigslist. This one random decision led to us deciding to ditch the sticks and bricks to hit the road full-time in 2016. After seven months, the lifestyle was appealing but the accommodations were not, so we made a massive upgrade to a 33-foot, Class A motorhome in the snowbird capital of Yuma, Arizona. But after traveling non-stop throughout the west and parts of Mexico and Canada, eventually falling for New Mexico and buying a house here, and introducing a tiny human to the world during a pandemic, our travel needs changed and priorities shifted. But we still longed for the open road and the kinds of adventure we knew well and wanted to introduce our baby son to.

This long-winded recap is all just backstory to announce that we got a new camper!

Our last photo with our old Class A motorhome, all masked up for safety at the dealership

Since buying our house almost a year ago (eek!), having this glorious beast (pictured above) parked outside seemed a bit like overkill. It was a perfect full-time residence for a while but definitely more than what we needed for part-time travel with occasional weekend trips and half-cross-country jaunts to visit our families.

Aptly named Dragoon-a-Saurus-Rex de la Mantequilla, this motorhome served us well during full-time camper life, but it certainly didn’t come without it’s issues. The gas mileage was abysmal, it shook and rattled so loud while driving that you couldn’t even have a conversation or hear the radio, and navigating it through gas stations/winding roads/parking lots was a chore-and-a-half. Yet it was so comfortable inside and felt more like home than pretty much anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

It was a bit sad to let the big guy go, bit it was time to move on and make new memories in a camper that makes more sense for us right now. So after checking out several models at three different dealerships in Albuquerque and Bernalillo, we rolled home in this new Pacific Coachworks Tango 26-foot travel trailer!

I thought it might be easier to park the new camper on our property….WRONG!

Although the listing says the trailer is 26 feet, it’s more like 29 feet when you factor in the outside components for the actual length. By comparison, our previous motorhome was listed as 31 feet but more like 33 feet in total. So, I guess you could say we downsized, but not by much. This trade-in was more about switching up the camper type without making ourselves feel crowded as a party of four.

Broke out the tripod for a little group shot

There are a few reasons why we finally settled on this particular set of wheels. First of all, it can be towed by our Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s at the top of the weight limit but still considered safe, so we maximized our capacity with this Tango. It also offers a safer driving situation with a baby car seat in the back of the SUV rather than the front of a motorhome.

Wide angle view of the kitchen, sofa, bedroom in back

Inside, it has a layout that feels spacious with some separation between the main sleeping area and living area. Compared to other models we looked at, there’s more floor space for a travel crib, plus bunk beds for Monkey right now and for little Chikoo when he’s a bit older.

Wide angle view of work station, kitchen, bunk beds, bathroom door

The kitchen’s pretty nice and even has an oven – something that our last camper didn’t have. Helloooo homemade pizza and cupcakes! The only thing seriously lacking is counterspace, but the crafty husband has already ordered supplies to make himself a cutting board extension area between the sink and the sofa.

It also has decent storage cupboards for part-time living. The storage really doesn’t compare to our old motorhome, but then again, we’re not trying to cram all of our worldly possessions into now that we have a legit house.

Monkey making herself at home

Perhaps best of all, Monkey still has her very own room in the new camper – the bottom bunk with plenty of room to spread out and play with her toys.

Many travel trailer’s bathrooms leave a lot to be desired, but we were particularly into this one because the sink is separate from the toilet and shower and because there’s a mini bathtub. I can’t really imagine myself taking a soak in that little thing, but it seems pretty ideal for little kid baths to wash all that future camping dirt off our little man.

Otherwise, there’s an awning outside for chilling out, indoor/outdoor stereo speakers, and air conditioning to keep cool on these sauna-esque New Mexico days. Unlike our last motorhome that had three TVs, this camper has none. But we’re more internet streaming TV people than on-air cable TV people anyway and can totally make do watching stuff on a laptop or iPad. Better yet, we got a great deal on the trade-in so this is a more economical option as well.

All in all, we’re pretty pumped for our new part-time home on wheels and can’t wait to try it out. In a week, we’ll be testing it for the first time at a nearby campground to check out a part of New Mexico we have yet to explore. In this era of sketchy coronavirus travel, being fully self-contained and stocked up in our own space feels like the safest way to go right now. It also sounds like a fun way to celebrate this little guy turning three months old while avoiding going too stir-crazy at home.

Bring on the next round of adventures!

I Thought I Was a Camping Expert….Then I Went Camping with My Baby.

During my three years of RV-ing full-time and several years of frequently camping before that, I encountered all sorts of crazy conditions. From below-freezing temperatures to nonstop rain, wildlife encounters, mechanical breakdowns, and madmen on the loose, I thought I had pretty much seen it all from either inside my tent or out the window of my tiny home on wheels.

But then, I decided to take my two-month-old baby camping, and that overconfidence quickly got shattered and the great outdoors felt a little less familiar. Here’s what happened the first time I introduced my tiny human to the world of camping, which ironically coincided with my first time camping during the pandemic.

The Trip

For Chikoo’s (a nickname, not his real name) first camping trip, we wanted to keep it simple and close to home. So, we booked a campsite in the Grants area of New Mexico, which was about an hour and a half away from home and a place we hadn’t spent much time in before.

Due to COVID-19, travel is sketchy right now to say the least. Any trip outside the home feels like a calculated risk and a balancing act between staying safe and stay sane, especially as a first-time mom of a tiny human with a developing immune system. Yet going on a trip in our own RV where we could use our own kitchen and bathroom felt safer than any other option at the moment. So, we just went with it and took out the good ole’ RV for a couple random weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.

Packing for a Baby

Between my husband and I, I’ve always been the packer for our trips. I have list templates for each kind of trip we take and usually start laying stuff out about a week in advance because I hate scrambling around at the last minute and always end up forgetting something important otherwise. But this was my first time ever packing for a baby.

Even after moving from an RV to a house, I’ve still stayed pretty minimalist with the amount of stuff I have, even with a newborn in the mix. But to accommodate the little guy on-the-go, we recently bought a fold-up travel crib that ended up working really well in the RV. In fact, he slept better in there than in the house and set a personal record of 4.5 hours of straight snoozing! For my first time packing for a baby, I definitely over-packed. But there was plenty of space in our former home-on-wheels, so there wasn’t much harm in having a few extra diapers and drool rags lying around.

Baby-ifying the RV

Little Chikoo isn’t mobile yet (unless you count his non-stop wiggling and kicking) so we haven’t had to truly baby-proof the camper yet. However, for a two-month old, we still did have to make some adjustments to our RV setup to accommodate the little guy.

This involved turning the sofa into a travel crib spot, the workdesk/dinette into a diaper changing station, and the top bunk bed into a storage area for baby gear and breastmilk pumping supplies. Of course, Monkey got to keep her bed on the lower bunk bed and continues to be an awesome big sister to little Chikoo.

Slowing Down the Pace

The main difference I noticed between my old camper life days and camping with a baby was the pace of travel. I quickly realized that I had to scale back my expectations of what we could seriously accomplish in a day and that I’d have to be more flexible around Chikoo’s needs – namely his demanding to eat about every two hours.

Pre-baby, the husband and I would have powered through a hike, checked out all a small town’s local attractions, and drank at two breweries by early afternoon. However, little things now like needing to stop and feed Chikoo along the trail gave us some awesome opportunities to take in the views, give a panting Monkey some much-needed shade, and just let the fact sink in that we are starting to introduce this strange and wonderful creature we made to the great outdoors.

Planning for Downtime

Part of slowing down the pace of travel involved scheduling in downtime at our campground and not spending the entire day out and about. Being out every moment of day was a bit too much for this little guy (and for us with him in tow!), so we spent more time than usual in the campground just chilling out. Being near El Malpais National Monument meant that we had some sweet lava rock landscape views from under the camper awning for a little shade from all that New Mexico sunshine.

Baby’s First 5-Mile Hike

But even with a slower pace and scheduled-in breaks, I’m happy to report that Chikoo did his first five-mile hike on this camping trip! By “hike,” I mean he rode in a front-facing carrier as the husband wore him on the hiking trail.

Our big hike was on a portion of the Continental Divide Trail that wasn’t overly challenging but still really beautiful and interesting to check out. Chikoo was super chill pretty much the whole time until it was time for a snack. However, poor Monkey got bit on the paw by something (spider? ant?) and was limping for a while until my tough gal worked it out and fixed herself back up again.

Our second hike the next day was to the Bandera Volcano and ice cave, which was a little shorter but still a pretty unique and dog-friendly place to check out on an uncrowded weekday morning. We wore masks everywhere we went, including on the hiking trails, just to feel as safe as possible. In my opinion, New Mexico has done a better job than a lot of states at controlling the spread of the virus, which makes me happy to live here. However, this particular area of the state seems to be known for its lack of compliance with public health orders, and even the mayor of Grants is now facing a $5,000 fine for hosting a 4th of July parade.

Avoiding Other People

As a pandemic baby, Chikoo isn’t getting the kind of socialization with family and friends that most babies have by this point in life. While we have been going stir-crazy quarantined at home, we intentionally chose a not-too-touristy destination, traveled on a Sunday-Tuesday rather than a weekend, and brought our own food and bathroom supplies to minimize contact with other people.

Fortunately, after over three years of full-time RVing, one of my greatest acquired skills is avoiding other people in campgrounds. Feeling claustrophobic and being bombarded by strangers at all times was one of my least favorite things about full-time camper life, especially towards the end of it. This skill came in handy now more than ever.

Although our campground got more crowded than I was expecting, people generally kept their distance from each other and most resisted the urge to hover over the most adorable baby of all time. This is about the only silver lining to the pandemic that I can think of right now, but I’ll take it.

What’s Next?

Although there were definitely ups and downs, I’m calling Chikoo’s first camping trip an overwhelming success…so much so that we’ve already booked his second camping trip in less than two weeks!

We’re planning to check out the Ruidoso area of New Mexico, a region that we have yet to explore as residents here. Not only will this be an exciting trip because it’s a new place but also because of another BIG CHANGE, which I’ll reveal in my next post!

Until then…stay as cool as this dude, who clearly has camping in his DNA.

Motherhood Month 1: Tales from the Newborn Zone

Greetings, friends! This blog has always been a space for me to chat about traveling and getting outdoors to do cool stuff. However, I couldn’t help but interject something a little more personal as a follow up to my last post, Preparing for a Baby in the Era of COVID-19.

When I wrote that about a month before my baby boy’s due date, I was stressing out about the whole childbirth thing, bringing a baby into the world during a global pandemic, and pretty much everything in between. Well, I’m happy to report that everything worked out just fine and that I’m now the MOM of a healthy and hilarious little guy who just turned one month old yesterday!

Note: On this blog, I’ll be referring to my son by one of his nicknames, Chikoo, which is a delicious fruit that grows in India and Central America. Chikoo isn’t his real name, but he does kinda look like a small, round, light brown fruit anyway!

As I mentioned in my last post, Chikoo was flipped upside down in belly, proving that he would already be stubborn from an early age. This resulted in me needing to have a c-section to safely retrieve the little guy and bring him out into the world. On Chikoo’s birth day, hospitals were still really crazy with COVID-19 safety protocols. But fortunately, my husband was allowed to be with me during every part of my hospital stay. This included him being in the operating room to actually watch part of the birth (EEEEK!) and staying overnight with me and Chikoo in the postpartum room.

I was required to wear a mask at all times while hospital staff was in the room with me, including during the actual c-section procedure and every time when a nurse came into take my vitals in the middle of the night. As far as childbirths go though, I couldn’t have asked for a better care team and recovery experience. My doctor and most of the nurses who took care of us explained everything to me really thoroughly, answered all my questions, and helped guide me in my first hours of being responsible for a newborn.

Thanks to Chikoo and I both being healthy and doing well, we were able to get out of the hospital in just two days, the very earliest that I was hoping for after the c-section. Meanwhile, our awesome local dog sitter took care of Monkey while we were in the hospital, plus a few extra days so we could get used to having a baby at home before introducing Monkey to her new baby brother. Spoiler alert: she’s been great with him over the past month – cautious, curious, and protective.

Fast-forward a month and here we are back at home, still social distancing but getting to know each other a little more each day. The whole lack of sleep thing at night is a real struggle with Chikoo, as it is I’m sure with all newborn babies. Breastfeeding and pumping are challenging, time-consuming, and sometimes painful – especially when food is loudly and frantically demanded every 1-3 hours. Getting work done is feasible for a few hours on some days but a total joke on others.

Meanwhile, I’ve been pooped on, peed on, and spit up on all within the same hour. But he’s also a little cuddle bug, makes the silliest faces that crack me up, makes the cutest sounds that melt my heart, and already seems to enjoy being outside and on the move.

With a newborn in the house, me recovering from major abdominal surgery, and due to just plain common sense, we’ve been pretty much homebound lately in this continued era of the coronavirus. My outings have consisted of a postpartum OBGYN visit and a pediatrician visit, while the husband ventures out for groceries and supplies once every couple weeks. Yet we’ve been getting outdoors a lot to enjoy this beautiful New Mexico springtime weather and the awesome plot of land we live on that is tiding me over until travel is a safer thing to do.

I hike with Chikoo in a carrier and Monkey on our little trail every day, and we’ve recently invested in some really comfy lounge chairs for the front porch.

To make our yard feel more like a brewery space, we’ve also picked up some new yard games – bags, bocce ball, and Yardzee (a large-dice version of Yahtzee).

There’s a forest road at the end of our little unincorporated village where we’ve gone out for some stroller rides. It’s usually more deserted than the popular trailheads nearby, but with everyone getting restless to get out while maintaining a safe social distance, even our little “secret” area is getting overrun by others.

A couple weeks ago I got to celebrate my first Mother’s Day. The concept of being somebody’s mom felt really surreal and still does. I spent most of my life never expecting to ever have a baby, but here he is, and it just seems to make sense right now.

Chikoo sure is cute in the newborn phase, but what I’m really looking forward to are the days ahead when we can start introducing him to amazing places, traveling with him, and helping him learn about the world around him. Hopefully all this frequent eating is helping him grow big and strong so he’ll soon be wearing his first pair of hiking boots and going camping for the very first time. And hopefully by then, all this pandemic craziness will have subsided and be nothing more than a great story to tell him about his first few months on earth.

But for now, Chikoo’s face is scrunching up, turning red, rooting around, and letting out a howl so loud that I would have never expected such a small being to make. This could only mean one thing. It’s feeding time…yet again.

Preparing for a Baby in the Era of COVID-19

As I sit on a yoga ball at my home office desk trying to focus on work, I can’t help but glance at the calendar and realize that my tiny human’s due date is only 31 days away.

In this era of COVID-19, it’s a crazy time to be bringing a new life into the world. But someone’s gotta do it, right? That someone has to be me? Really?!

When I first took those three pregnancy tests last August (five days after my 36th birthday and three days after buying a house in New Mexico), the idea of a global pandemic never crossed my mind. Now at the end of March, this crisis is affecting everyone in different ways. For some people, that’s being laid off from work, trying to home-school kids for the first time, or trying to care for a loved one who’s become sick. While those things aren’t my situation, navigating the uncharted territories of pregnancy, labor, and delivery are now front and center in my little world.

I read an NPR article today that hit home with many of the things that have been keeping me up at night lately. By around May 1st, will there be a shortage of beds or staff at the hospital where I’ve been planning to deliver? Will hospitals still be safe places to deliver babies then? Will I have to give birth alone with no one by my side for support? What if the baby or I get the virus while we’re in the hospital? Are birthing centers or home births viable alternatives? What if this little guy doesn’t flip around to the right position and a C-section is recommended?

My hospital has already limited the number of support people to just one per patient at the maternity ward, while some hospitals are saying no visitors at all. In spite of the risks, some hospitals are apparently suggesting that pregnant women get induced after 39 weeks to get their deliveries over with now before hospitals become more overcrowded. My parents planned to drive across the country to be here for their grandson’s birth and help out during our first few days as parents. But as with all travel plans, that’s now on hold indefinitely.

But it’s not all doom and gloom around here!

I’m happy to report that all of my friends and family are safe and healthy (although sanity is questionable), and so are Baby Boy and me. At each checkup we’ve had, he clocks in with a strong heartbeat and impressive growth at the 70th percentile for weight and length. I’ve been so fortunate to have an easy pregnancy with no complications so far, which seems to baffle every medical professional I see because of my “advanced maternal age” that still seems to get referenced at every visit.

With just a few weeks still to go before I get to meet my little guy, here’s what I’ve been learning along the way about preparing for a baby in the era of COVID-19.

Stocking Up on Gear (within reason)

I’m no hoarder and don’t support unnecessary hoarding in any way. I’m also a minimalist who cringes every time someone insists that “babies need a lot of stuff.” But in challenging times like these, it makes sense to be prepared with some essentials in case everyone else depletes the supply of what we end up needing.

With toilet paper now this country’s hottest commodity, we figured diapers may be next and that washable cloth diapers may be a more sustainable solution. I’d wanted to try cloth diapers anyway because of their alleged eco-friendliness and long-term cost savings, but now there’s even more of a reason to give it a go. We’ve bought a couple boxes of disposable diapers already too so we have some options as we muddle through our first few days.

My parents had planned to bring a bunch of baby essentials they’d bought over to us when they came to visit. But instead, they shipped us everything by mail in case it’s a while until they can get out this way.
As soon-to-be, first-time grandparents, they have been getting a real kick out of buying the little guy clothes in sizes ranging from newborn to nine months. I’m not a fan of shopping at all, so this was more than okay with me! Thanks to good ole’ mom and dad, he’s stocked up with a brand-new wardrobe…and totally starting to take over my office closet.

Gear Testing Makes for Fun Distractions

Within the last few weeks, we’ve also stocked up on a few pieces of baby furniture and such via online orders without having to risk our health by going into stores. We weren’t in any rush to buy baby stuff pre-COVID-19, but quickly stepped up our game now to allow for delayed delivery dates and out-of-stock items.

First of all, a car seat so that if a hospital delivery works out, we’ll be able to safely transport the little guy back home upon discharge. Quality tested by our stuffed pink chimp named Ginger “Dunkey” Bromeliad.

Next up was something for the little guy to sleep in. We had originally thought about just starting off with a portable travel crib/Pack-n-Play for our small bedroom space. But with travel now suspended until who-knows-when, we opted for a really basic stationary crib with a changing table attached instead. I don’t think our stuffed animal collection (testers) are going to want to give up their new sleeping space though.

Another priority for us was a rugged-wheel jogger stroller so that we can get outside and be active with little guy when he arrives. Here’s me testing it out in our gravel driveway. 

An awesome friend surprised us with this fun bouncy seat gift, giving Little Man additional seating options upon his arrival. The tester here is my 35-year-old Cabbage Patch named Isabelle.As someone who doesn’t like to sit still very long, I’m also intrigued by the whole baby-wearing concept. There are an overwhelming number of options available for this and I’m sure we’ll try out a few different ones over time, but here’s the first ring sling I’m trying out with Sapote the Cabbage Patch. Playing with all these new toys has been a fun break from the news and social media and gotten us more pumped for our tiny human to arrive.

Taking Baby Classes Online vs. In-Person

As first-time parents, we signed up for five classes at the local hospital to become a bit less clueless: newborn care, infant CPR, a just-for-dads class, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding. Before everything in life got cancelled, we were able to take two of those classes. Two of the remaining ones offered online versions with videos/quizzes/etc., which were actually really helpful.Of course, our stuffed creature collection came in handy again when it was time to put what we’d learned into practice. We’ve had this pink chimp for over seven years but she still became the diapering test subject – a perfect fit!

I actually have my next routine prenatal checkup tomorrow at the OBGYN’s office and they still want me to come in for it. It will be my first time out into the real world in about 2 1/2 weeks. Just in case the little guy decides to make an early appearance, I’ve already packed a hospital bag and made arrangements with our local dog sitter to come pick up Monkey and take care of her so she’ll be in good hands when I go into labor.

Staying Healthy and Active

Aside from genetics (thanks, mom and dad) I attribute much of my easygoing pregnancy so far to my being able to get outside and stay active. Although we’ve been avoiding parks and crowded trailheads, we have an amazing piece of rural property that makes it easy to get outside while social distancing.

With pleasant temperatures in the 60s lately, it’s been a great time to focus on yard work projects (in moderation), like weeding and building our very own little hiking trail. Our high desert temperatures are finally staying above freezing, which means I can try planting some flowers and vegetables soon too.We’re also fortunate to live near some remote forest roads and trails that you can hike along and never see another soul. When we moved here in August, we rescued an old home gym system from my in-laws that was collecting dust at their place and put it together in our garage. That’s really coming in handy these days too with all the gyms shut down. I do miss swimming though because pre-COVID-19, I was swimming over a mile in laps every weekend and really into that.

Trying to Stay Positive and Flexible

Between trying out new baby gear, getting outside, and having more than plenty of writing to keep me busy while working from home at my day job, it hasn’t been all that hard to stay positive while pregnant during COVID-19. When I start to feel stressed out about the state of things, he gives me hope. When I feel him kick (punch? roll over? I dunno…), I’m reminded that he needs a positive place to grow and learn, and that it’s up to his dad and I to make sure he gets it. And believe me, those little reminders happen a lot these days, especially after 9pm when I’m trying to get comfortable in bed and fall asleep.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but after all, no son of mine would come into this life without it being an adventure.

A Day of Trail Volunteering in Albuquerque (Back When We Still Could)

When my husband and I were transitioning out of full-time camper life last summer, we made a list of things we wanted to do when we plopped down somewhere. On this list were travel goals like doing more intentional trips, creative goals like taking craft classes, and domestic goals like growing an edible garden. There’s are many things you can do while living nomadically on the road, yet lots of other things that work out better when you have a consistent home base.

A couple other goals on this list were doing some local volunteering and making new friends wherever we ended up. Over the past couple months, I started browsing meetup groups and event pages to see how we could break out of our little bubble and start building a bit of community here in New Mexico. An Albuquerque REI events page listing led me to discover a group called New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors, which is “an all-volunteer, non-political organization that is dedicated to improving trails and outdoor facilities throughout the state.”

This sounded pretty rad, so I signed us up for a trail-building project at Embudo Canyon, which is part of Albuquerque’s Open Space trail network. One of my favorite parts about the Albuquerque area (and New Mexico in general) is its wide-open spaces, so this seemed like a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot just before 8am and found a couple tables set up for volunteers. One table was packed with coffee, juice, and breakfast foods, while the other one had sign-up sheets and waiver forms. Compared to other outdoor volunteering projects I’ve joined in the past, this group really had its act together and was impressively well-organized.

There were about 20-25 volunteers who showed up this particular morning to build a new trail through the foothills terrain and close off an old trail that had become really eroded. Volunteer leaders from NMVFO and a few guys who worked for the Open Space Division briefed us on the different tools to use and where to collectively focus our efforts on various portions of the trail.

Before committing to this trail work project, I tipped the volunteer coordinators off on the fact that I was 33 weeks pregnant and might be taking it a bit easier than some of the other people who showed up. They reassured me that this was a chill environment and that there would be plenty of different assignments to do with varying degrees of intensity. I felt great working out there with a tiny human in my belly and largely attribute my easy and positive pregnancy so far to my staying active and getting reasonable exercise every day. Fortunately, there was also a port-a-potty at the trailhead for those frequent pee breaks that pregnant women around the world know all too well.

During the course of the morning, we used pick axes, McLeod tools, and shovels to remove brush, rocks, and cholla and prickly pear cacti from the new trail. Then we worked to level out and stamp down the terrain with a good slope to make it more hikeable. The most challenging part to me was figuring out the best slope/grade/angle for the new trail. Rather than stress about or waste time, I mostly just dug up stuff and left the planning work to the leaders who had done this countless times before. Other volunteers did “rock work,” collecting and carrying rocks to bank steep edges of new trail, and later transplanted removed debris to the old trail to block it off and discourage hikers from using it.

The group leaders and other volunteers were really friendly, welcoming, and just seemed like genuinely good people. They were patient while showing us the best ways to go about trail building and appreciative of even the smallest contributions during the day. Group shot!

By the end of the day, our group built 700 feet of new trail and closed off 600 feet of old trail in this beautiful open space. One of the volunteers, Kevin, made this great video that shows what trail work is all about. My interview even made the final cut – scroll to 1:09 to hear me blabbing about why I signed up for the project.

As the self-quarantine lifestyle has become our new normal, NMVFO’s upcoming volunteer meetups have been cancelled, along with pretty much everything else across the country right now. It’s necessary to keep people safe, but I’m just glad we were able to participate in one of these events before going on a more serious lockdown.

Although we can’t join any other meetup events for the foreseeable future, we’re already taking what we learned in Embudo Canyon and applying it to our own property. To make the most of our 2+ acres, we started building our very own trail around our house last weekend. There’s obviously a lot more work that needs to be done here, but once it’s complete, I think this will be an awesome place to take Monkey and Baby Boy out for walks – perhaps even being where the little guy goes on his very first hikes to explore the beauty of the New Mexico wilderness.

There are no safer places to be right now than in the outdoors at home, so while we wait for the next volunteer opportunity to get involved with, this little trail in our yard gives us a fun project to focus on while staying active and giving us an extra boost of hope for the days ahead.

One Last Road Trip Before Pandemic Panic Shut Down the World

Are you stuck at home on a Friday night worrying that the world is ending or just bummed that your plans got cancelled as a “social distancing” measure? I’m in the latter category since the Banff Film Festival screening in Albuquerque got called off, just like everything else it seems. So, to fill this unexpected spare time I’m having at home and provide you with a little hysteria-free reading material, here’s a new blog post about a 2+ week road trip to California and Nevada that we got back from last weekend…just in time to hunker down and embrace hermit life.

Far before the words “Coronavirus” and “COVID-19” began bombarding our lives, the husband, dog, and I began planning a trip to the Bay Area of California to visit his family and check out a few fun places along the way. We opted against taking the RV since that would have added significantly to our drive time and also because Bay Area camping is notoriously expensive, unavailable, or inconveniently located. Instead, we stayed at a local Airbnb in Point Richmond, California which was wonderfully cozy and really felt like a home away from home.

At seven months pregnant and with a dog in tow, flying never really crossed our minds for something as easy as this 17-hour drive. The main purpose of the trip was to visit my in-laws before my due date in case it takes a little while for us to get back out there again. Fortunately, I’ve been feeling healthy, and Baby Boy is already a great traveler.

My favorite things about visiting the Cali side of the family is doing art projects with my super-crafty sister-in-law and pigging out on my mother-in-law’s home-cooked meals. Plenty of that happened, but we also made time to hike in a few really cool places and check out some live performances too before cancellations started being the norm. Here are a couple of the craft projects we made together: the creepiest dolls ever and hand-painted rocks!

The road trip had a little bit of everything weather-wise: rain in New Mexico, snow in Arizona, and warm sunshine in California. Our new Jeep Grand Cherokee proved to be an awesome road-trip-mobile on this trip, the longest we’ve driven with it, with a smooth ride and plenty of space to work in the passenger seat and store stuff (and a dog) in the back. How we’ll fit a baby and all his stuff back there though in a couple months is still a baffling mystery.

While in the Bay Area of California, I also got to check out Muir Woods for the first time. We’ve been in that area lots of times before but were always turned off by the high crowds, mandatory shuttles, and no-dogs-allowed policy. But with Monkey stowed safely back at the Airbnb, we went on a non-shuttle-required weekday and surprisingly had the whole place to ourselves for a little while.

The husband has one of those little national park passport books that he gets stamps in and I collect national park patches, so we always make a point to stop by any NPS site along the way during our travels. For a lunch stop, we tried to visit the César E. Chávez National Monument around Bakersfield. However, there was some utility issue that closed down the visitor’s center that particular day, meaning that we could do no more than walk outside the grounds. At least the flowers were pretty and the sun was shining.

In fact, the blooming flowers all over California really wowed us after being in the desert during winter for so long.Another random roadside attraction we stopped by was Seven Magic Mountains, a bizarre art installation in the Nevada desert just outside of Las Vegas. This is a series of colorful boulders stacked into towers over 25 feet high, made by a Swiss artist named Ugo Rondinone. It isn’t far off of I-15 south of Vegas and a sweet place to get out and stretch your legs…especially while wearing pregnancy compression socks because some blog told you to.

On the way back to New Mexico, we stayed in Vegas for a few days to party it up…well, as much as one can party it up at 32 weeks. With a taro-flavored boba tea in hand, I made my way down Fremont Street, reminiscing about the last time I was here a year ago ziplining high above the crowds with my gal pals.

Since Vegas resorts are notoriously un-dog-friendly or charge exorbitant pet fees, we stayed in a LaQuinta in the suburb of Summerlin, which worked out well for our low-key vibe in Sin City. The trend of pretty spring flowers continued as well.

Since the weather was absolutely fabulous during our time in Nevada, we planned a few hikes to get outside and active. One hiking spot was the Desert Wildlife National Refuge, which had a dog-friendly trail that was pretty chill and well-marked for almost two miles.

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the newest additions to the NPS system and doesn’t have really anything in the way of designated trails or signage. While I’m not totally sure what I was looking at or there were really any fossils where we were, it was super peaceful to blaze our own path and wander through the low-lying rock formations and wide open desert.  Our last outdoors stop on the trip was the Lake Mead Recreation Area, which was a first for me. The rock formations were more impressive than I was expecting, and the crowds much lower than I expected too. We only got a taste of what’s in this huge park, so I’m looking forward to exploring more of it again later – hopefully in a camper next time.

Before every concert and event started getting cancelled due to virus panic, we were able to squeeze in two really fun shows. The first one was a Korean band called Black String, which played at Freight & Storage in Berkley, California. This was a unique show featuring a geomungo (6-stringed zither), bamboo flute, electric guitar, and traditional drums with instrumental music that was jazzy, catchy, and improvisational. Apparently, the little guy inside my belly was a big fan because I’ve never felt him move as much as I did that evening.

The next show we caught was Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine at the Red Rock Casino in Vegas, which was also fun in it’s own weird way. Mr. Cheese is a parody-style lounge singer that we’ve gotten a kick out of listening to for many years and finally got to see live in concert at our last night in the city. After the show, we played video roulette and walked out with a $4 profit, making $24 on a $20 initial bet. Big gamblers over here…watch out! 

So, as I sit here click-clacking away on a Friday evening, I’m feeling super happy that we made this trip work because virus-pending and baby-pending, who knows when our next little getaway will be. This two-week California/Nevada trip tided over my wanderlust for a little while so I can enjoy the first days of springtime in New Mexico with no regrets. Fortunately, it’s a beautiful time to be here and get outside, which seems to be the safest and healthiest place to be right now anyway.

Stay safe and sane, my friends!

Embracing Winter in My New State: Recent Northern New Mexico Adventures

If you haven’t spent much time in New Mexico, you’d probably think winter here was warm, sunny, snow-free, and quintessentially Southwest. Well, you’d be right about the sunny part, but that’s about it – something that I quickly learned after our first big snowstorm on Thanksgiving Day and several more since then.

I’m a summer gal, born in August and loving hot weather more than anything else. But for a variety of reasons, we didn’t buy a house somewhere that’s 70-degrees year around. Once again, I live in a place with four distinct seasons, so I’ve been trying to shift my mindset to embrace the winter and the beauty this season brings to New Mexico.

Over the past month, the husband, pup, and I have taken two regional road trips to get to know our new home state a bit better. The first adventure was a ski/snowshoe trip to the Taos area in the RV…actually (and sadly) the first legit time we’ve taken the RV out for an overnight trip since plopping it in front of the house when we moved in. The second adventure involved a little tour of nearby national monuments to celebrate our dog Monkey’s sixth birthday.

Even without the steady pace of full-time RV travel, we’re no homebodies. Yet these trips were a welcome change of pace from the DIY renovation projects that have been filling up our weekends lately and a reminder of how much more of the Southwest we have yet to explore.

Here are the highlights of our recent Northern New Mexico travels within just a few hours of our new home base!

1. Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community that’s also a heritage site and historic landmark at the same time. That means it’s open for tours but also a place where people live and stray dogs roam free. While my expert skier husband was hitting the slopes, I did a little solo outing with a self-guided tour to see it. The only building I could go in was the church, but the multi-storied structures were still undeniably impressive in this mountain landscape.

2. Snowshoeing Around Taos

During this trip I was in my sixth month of pregnancy, which meant that breaking out the snowboard wasn’t the best idea…especially considering that any time I hit the slopes, I spend just as much time falling on my ass as actually gliding down the mountain. But not one to miss out on winter fun, I strapped on my snowshoes, grabbed a couple poles, and took Monkey out into the wilderness. The Carson National Forest near Taos has some nice snowshoeing trails that we checked out together, even one near Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

3. Downtown Taos

Downtown Taos is lined with random boutiques, hippie shops, and interesting restaurants. After checking out the Taos Pueblo, I took a stroll around the area and bought myself some cool new rock/gem dangly earrings, just because.

4. Taos Ski Valley

Meanwhile, Ski Husband was loving his first experience at Taos Ski Valley, which I’m told has lots of challenging runs and is geared more towards skiers than snowboarders. Here are a couple scenic shots he snapped while I was out doing my own thing.

5. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the fifth-highest bridge in the U.S. and not a destination for the faint of heart. It’s along Highway 64 and has rest area where you can park and then get out to walk across the bridge on a pedestrian sidewalk, where it always seems to be windy. I’d walked across the bridge once before in the summertime but was curious to see how it looked in the snow. The snow cover was minimal, but that didn’t make the views any less impressive.

6. Earthship Biotecture

Sure, I recycle and buy eco-friendly bath products, but I have yet to go as far as building my own earthship. Earthships are self-sustaining, off-the-grid, and otherworldly housing structures that have a big presence in the high desert outside of Taos. Outside the Greater World Earthship Community (which sounds suspiciously like a cult but is probably just a cooler version of my house’s HOA), there’s a visitor’s center that I popped into to take a self-guided tour. The tour involved a short film, museum displays, and getting to see a couple of the structures up-close. They sound like a lot of work are inspiring nonetheless.

7. Snow Camping

During our time in Taos, we stayed at the Taos Valley RV Park, a private campground that was close to town and had some great bathrooms so we didn’t have to bother fixing up our broken fixtures in the RV. Better yet, it had full hookups so we could plug in a space heater to supplement the propane tank that we’d filled up before the trip for some extra warmth.

Although we didn’t have snow in this RV park, we got stranded on the trip back home from Taos due to a snowstorm that got kind of crazy. It was actually the worst snow that we had ever driven the RV in, and this monstrosity named Dragoon was nearly swerving off the road, totally unable to handle the slick conditions. So, we cut our losses and pulled off at Piñon RV Park just outside Santa Fe. We were less than an hour (in normal non-blizzard traffic) from home so it felt kind of silly calling it quits that close to home. But driving any further in the RV felt unsafe and stupid. Besides, we had our laptops with us, so it was a good opportunity to squeeze in a snow day workday.

8. Jemez Historic Site

A few weeks later, we set out on our second Northern New Mexico adventure on a Sunday-Monday “adjusted weekend” to celebrate Monkey’s birthday. Our first stop was the Jemez Historic Site, which is a well-preserved Native village that dates back 500+ years. There’s a short trail that goes through the ruins, as well as a kiva you can climb a ladder down to see and a self-guided brochure to read as you walk around the site.

9. Jemez Soda Dam

Between the Jemez Historic Site and the Santa Fe National Forest, where we did a little icy hiking, lies a weird roadside spot called the Soda Dam. It’s along New Mexico State Route 4 and a neat geological feature formed from calcium carbonate that’s thousands of years old. It’s a natural dam, not a man-made one, and a place where you can park along the side of the road and get out to snap a few pics.

10. Valles Caldera National Preserve

Remote, snowy, and sometimes inaccessible, the Valles Caldera National Preserve had been on our regional bucket list for a while. A volcano erupted here 1.25 million years ago and created a big depression that’s 13-miles wide. We broke out our snowshoes to explore this area and its deep snow on a couple of the trails that allow dogs so Monkey could join in the snow-filled fun.

11. Bandelier National Monument

We tried to visit Bandelier National Monument on our first little winter weekend getaway to Taos but had to scrap that plan because the snowstorm shut down the park. However, we beat the snow on our second attempt and pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was awesome. Ancestral people lived in these dwellings carved out in the rock from about the years 1150 to 1150 and left behind some neat spaces to see. We climbed ladders to experience the dwellings first-hand while hiking along the rugged canyon and mesa country and seeing some petroglyphs along the way.

12. Hotel in Los Alamos

While the RV served as our once-again home on the road for the first new adventure to Taos, we opted for a comfy Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos for the second weekend trip to the national monuments. While once beloved, the RV caused us more headaches that it was worth on weekend #1, with lots of things breaking and causing drama. The second time around, we splurged for the sake of not getting stuck in another snowstorm and treating ourselves to a little warmth and comfort. On an unrelated note, the birthday outfit I got Monkey will never cease to make me double over with laughter. I mean seriously….that tutu!

So, with those 12 highlights, that’s a wrap! We have lots more New Mexico to explore from our new home base, not to mention the rest of the Greater Southwest region. But we’re chipping away, taking our time, and really loving what we’ve seen so far.

After a 3-Month Hiatus, Here’s a Glimpse of Life in New Mexico & Spain

Long time no see, eh?

Since full-time RV life ended with we former nomads buying a house in New Mexico at the end of August, I’ve been at the crossroads of an identity crisis. Traveling around the country in a camper defined much of my existence for over three years. With that suddenly gone, I’ve been getting used to new routines and not entirely sure what’s blog-worthy. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve been sitting around twiddling my thumbs and bored out of my wits. A ton of stuff has been going down over the past three months, including…

Filling an entire house with furniture (much assembly required)

Muddling our way through never-ending DIY renovation projects

Getting in my outside time doing yard work (I always thought my mom was crazy for saying she enjoyed pulling weeds, but I totally get it now)

Running (and winning a medal!) a local trail race with Monkey

Getting to know our local area with fun events

Finding out I’m pregnant with a baby boy!

Experiencing our first snow, which turned our property into a winter wonderland over Thanksgiving

Hosting three sets of visitors in our Placitas casita

Attending Albuquerque’s big hot air balloon festival for the second time

Celebrating holidays in our own weird ways

Getting back into crafting with some new artsy projects

All of this (especially this whole crazy-awesome pregnancy thing) has been a big learning experience and a welcome change of pace for me. But there are definitely some things that I am missing and feeling nostalgic for about our old RV life days.

It’s sad but true that our beloved home on wheels hasn’t moved (except for a trip the DMV to get it registered in our new state) since we pulled up to our home on closing day. I really expected that we would take it out for a camping trip or two by now, but it just sits in the driveway unused as we continue to make monthly payments on it. We do want to sell the RV and downgrade to a smaller size trailer in the near future, but that’s just one of many things on a long list of things we can’t seem to get to.

Easy access to ever-changing outdoor recreation was one of my favorite things about full-time camper life, but that has been lacking somewhat since plopping down in one place. The good thing is that we are just a couple minutes from an awesome national forest trail system with lots of rugged trails. We’ve been there lots over the past few months for short hikes and runs. But our weekends lately have been more filled with DIY house projects than epic long-distance hikes and exploring new places. I must say though that I do love getting in my outside time while working around my property on nice days. Meanwhile, our long-time, full-time jobs have been the great constant in all of this transition and keeping us on a pretty similar routine as we were living during camper life.

We have yet to explore too many new areas of New Mexico or the greater southwest region, but we did recently “go big” with a super-memorable travel excursion. Before moving into the house, we toyed around with the idea of taking an international trip in the fall but tabled the idea because it seemed like too much to plan (and possibly afford) with everything else going on.

Three days after our house closing, I found out I was pregnant, and as my checkups revealed that everything was looking good and healthy, the idea resurfaced in the form of a babymoon. After weighing a few options, we decided upon Spain for eight days during my early second trimester.

Baby boy has been very chill so far, so I was excited to take him on his first international trip. Although someday he’ll probably be so pissed to learn that he went to Spain and never got to see a damn thing! Meanwhile, Monkey was having a blast at her favorite local dog sitter’s house while we were gone, playing with an adorable 11-week-old puppy and getting cuddles from a family who adores her.

These were my favorite parts about the overseas adventure!

Madrid, Spain

  • Beautiful Christmas light displays in all the plazas
  • Our accommodating and affordable private room in a quiet, conveniently located hostel
  • Finding random free museums on our own
  • Artwork at the Reina Sofia museum
  • The impressive Royal Palace self-guided audio tour
  • Delicious paella
  • Finding a vegetarian/vegan restaurant in this very meat-heavy and not-pregnancy-friendly food country
  • Buying myself a cool new ring from a street vendor

Granada, Spain

  • Lively plazas with music, outdoor dining, and endless activity
  • Ease of public transportation to get around
  • Getting outdoors to hike in a huge public park filled with olive trees
  • Tile work and food in the Arab Quarter
  • Wandering around the hilly, stone streets
  • Architecture inside the Granada Cathedral

Bubión/Capileira, Spain 

  • Crazy-scenic bus ride through the mountains to get to the Sierra Nevada region
  • Adorable villages tucked into the mountainside
  • Peaceful vibe away from city life
  • Still able to get by in small mountain towns with our mediocre Spanish language skills
  • The hostel we booked turned out to be an awesome villa with a separate living room and private patio
  • Hiking from one village to the next at sunset
  • Finding a restaurant that served alcohol-free wine, a safe-for-baby treat after being surrounded by Spanish wine every day and not being able to drink it
  • Being able to catch our bus out and flight home despite getting insanely cold/flu sick here

So, while I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this blog in these days after RV life, I finally felt inspired to create an update. BAM – THIS IS IT! In the interim between the Spain trip and Christmas, I’m basically just catching up with work, fighting the tail end of this cold, and soaking up the comforts of my New Mexico home – which I’m still totally into and so happy that we made our own.

Until inspiration strikes again, happy all the holidays and thanks for reading, my dear friends!

RV Life to House Life Transition: Final Month #38

I’d like to start off this post by thanking my supportive friends for following along and sporadically commenting on my full-time RV life journey for the past three years and two months. Only half of month #38 (the last of the months I’ll be numbering, don’t worry) was spent on the road, but I wanted to write one final post in this series to chat about those final two weeks and the transition to house life in New Mexico.

If RV life does anything, it makes you super-adaptable to whatever comes your way. This is probably why making such a dramatic move hasn’t been an insane shock to my system like I once worried it might be.

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on (and off) the road.

California Summer Road Trip: Home on the Road #126 (continued)

We wrapped up our time in the Bay Area of California with a few more visits with friends and family and then started the journey back to New Mexico – by way of Yuma, Arizona to clear out the random five-foot by five-foot storage unit we’d been keeping there. Storage unit clean-out day was a stifling 113 degrees, as it often is in Yuma. But finally for the first time in several years, all of our worldly possessions were in one place: fully contained in our RV and Jeep.

I also had the pleasure (?) of turning 36 on this return journey, which I can’t say was exactly the most fun way to spend a birthday. However, we made up for it with a refreshing hike and fun night out in Flagstaff, Arizona. Then we spent our last night of full-time RV life at a campground in Bernalillo, New Mexico that was only about 10 minutes from our future house that we would get keys to at the real estate closing in the morning.

  • Highlights: Lovely Bay Area weather for bike rides and outdoor lap swimming, buying myself an early birthday present of new cowgirl boots, campground pool on a 113-degree day, squeezing in a national forest hike after 6+ hours of driving on my birthday, vegan Thai restaurant for birthday dinner followed by a visit to our favorite Flagstaff beer hub (Dark Sky Brewing)
  • Lowlights: Long days of driving the RV and Jeep separately due to the heavy weight of carrying all of our worldly possessions, insane hotness, feeling guilty about not feeling more emotional about these last RV days but eh whatever because there’s plenty of adventure that lies ahead

Placitas, New Mexico: Home OFF the Road 

We’ve now been in our New Mexico house for a couple weeks, and it’s been a whirlwind of logistical hassles, cleaning tasks, furniture delivery and assembly, and early-stage DIY projects. But beyond all that practical crap, I must say, I’m really loving this house so far. The layout makes perfect sense in my mind, there’s plenty of space but it still feels cozy, and everything’s in good condition but just in need of some aesthetic updating.

It’s been a lot of upfront costs to get started with house life since we moved out of an RV and previously had zero furniture to our names. However, the previous owner of the house left behind some of her old furniture, which has been a great starting point. Besides, we saved a ton of money by RVing for 3+ years, so dropping a sizable amount of cash all at once hasn’t really felt like a bit hit.

  • Highlights: Introducing Monkey to her new home and seeing her run around and play in all the big rooms, picking out furniture that we actually like rather than settling for hand-me-downs, becoming a master at furniture assembly, getting New Mexico driver’s licenses and registrations at a DMV that was actually not miserable, eating dinner outside every day while watching the sunset, starting to learn how to keep fish and plants alive in my very own backyard pond, going for a little hike around my property and realizing that I am HIKING around MY property, starting to get my very own office set up with a minimalism/Japanese theme equipped with a tatami mat and mini tea table, checking out local events like a garden tour and jazz concert, first pizza delivering to the house by my new favorite nearby eatery, scenic runs and hikes on the national forest trails just a few minutes away, so much sunshine, so peaceful going outside my home and not being surrounded by people (no neighbors in sight!)
  • Lowlights: Lots of drama trying to get trash and recycling set up, exhausted all the time, paying for and accumulating lot of stuff and slowly losing my minimalist lifestyle, many gnomes still in boxes, having to call and talk to people to get house things set up and feeling like an idiot all the while

Random impressions about the RV-to-house transition so far:

  • Everything is just easier and more comfortable now
  • I’m obsessed with taking showers in my new bathroom vs. the RV bathroom or public facilities
  • I have more personal time now that I’m not constantly running around
  • I feel more relaxed and less anxious and irritable in general now
  • I’m doing all the same things I did during RV life plus a few new hobbies (for example, the husband got me an electric piano as a birthday gift so I’ve been reteaching myself to play and pick up where I left off with my 10 years of childhood lessons)
  • Transitioning is really easy when you busy yourself with a ton of new distractions
  • I don’t feel a void from constant change yet, but that may come later
  • Interactions with people aren’t just temporary like they were with life on the road, so I’m trying to be chatty(ish) and friendly(ish) with local folks – you never know when they’re gonna pop up unexpectedly again, right?

We’re keeping the RV for now, and it’s parked right out front of the house. That was a big factor in choosing a house because we didn’t want to be inundated with overbearing HOA rules about camper parking or simply not have the physical space to store it. It’s too big for our camping needs now since we aren’t living in it full-time, so we’ll be looking to downsize to something smaller after a while once things calm down a bit and we can wrap our heads around that. We’ll take it out for a least another trip or two before that as well, possibly for a RV trip around Thanksgiving.

It’s not “settling” if you consciously choose your path. It’s not “settling down” if you find it impossible to stay still for very long.

As you might expect, this is my last monthly post about “homes on the road” since my home is now firmly stuck on the ground and down a winding, gravel road where the desert meets the forest. I’m thinking that occasional future posts I write here will be about “becoming New Mexican,” exploring awesome new places in my new state and the greater Southwest region, and also about trying to wrangle a wild property and grow things that are pretty to look at and delicious to eat.

Until then, thanks for reading along. It’s the end of an era but a new beginning that feels like right where I’m supposed to be. And what more can you ask for than that?


Relive the journey one last time: