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:

Our Last Full Month of Full-Time RVing: Winding Down Life on the Road (Month 37)

Did you just do a double-take when you read “our last full month in the title? Well, it’s not a click-bait gimmick or an April fool’s joke. That would be weird and totally unnecessary. But it is totally true because…

WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE IN NEW MEXICO!!!

My days of full-time RV life are numbered (literally 12 left), and I’m a messy mix of emotions over it. We’re beyond ready for a next phase, a new adventure, and something totally different to throw ourselves into. At the same time, it’s pretty terrifying for a lifelong renter and RVer to make as big of a commitment as her first real adult house and transition away from something that has come to define her for over three years now.

More on the house situation in a bit, but before I get ahead of myself, here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Bernalillo, New Mexico: Home on the Road #124

After the Great Summer Midwest Road Trip, we made a plan to stay in Bernalillo for really one reason: to house shop in Placitas nearby. We stayed at a historic site campground 10 minutes away from where we had focused our real estate search so that we could really start diving into our post-RV life phase. Ironically, we actually put a bid on our house the very day we rolled into town, which was our three-year anniversary of RV life. So, with that out of the way, we used the next two weeks to pretend like we were locals and scope out the things we’d do regularly in our future home region.

  • Highlights: Swimming laps at the Rio Rancho Aquatic Center, Climbing at Stone Age Climbing Gym (which we learned is opening up a second location even closer to our house!), beautiful storms for monsoon season, painted kiva at the Coronado Historic Site, Bosque Trail for biking in ABQ, Indian vegan food at Annapurna, finding dog-friendly indoor things to do (antique store, book store), mountain biking and hiking in the forest that’s practically in our new backyard, comedy shows and bowling at the nearby Santa Ana Casino, frequenting our new local brewery (Bosque Brewing)
  • Lowlights: Multiple trips to the laundromat (but I’ll have my own washer & dryer soon!), super hot and steamy days, public showers, second-guessing the whole house commitment thing and being all wishy-washy

Winslow, Arizona: Home on the Road #125

*Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona*

Yep, I did that. And I also learned to crappily play the song on guitar and even more crappily sing along to get into the local vibe. We camped nearby at Homolovi State Park, which was all 100-degree days but had peaceful desert scenery that made up for it, for me at least.

  • Highlights: Walking around ancient Hopi structures, local history museum in Winslow, playing guitar outside where no one could hear/judge me, checking out the famous Meteor Crater landmark
  • Lowlights: Over 100 degrees every day, public bathrooms full of crickets, only safe time of day to go running was insanely early in the morning

California Summer Road Trip: Home on the Road #126

As one last big hoorah, we’re in the midst of our second summer road trip to see family and friends – this time to the Bay Area of California. From Winslow, we embarked upon three days of grueling RV driving in the hottest temperatures I’ve ever experience in my life, with overnight stays in Needles and Bakersfield.

  • Highlights: Bragging rights of being in one of the three hottest places in the world at that time (others were Saudi Arabia and Algeria), oddly feeling like I was on another planet when it was pitch dark and still 107 degrees for Monkey’s bedtime walk, having 2 working air conditioners in the RV, takeout pizza in Needles, Temblor Brewing and sushi night out in Bakersfield
  • Lowlights: 117 degrees actual temperature – enough said (went down a degree before I could capture the pic below), Camper rattles and shakes so much that I’m pretty sure it’s going to collapse in on itself before we close on this house, not being able to really work in the RV because of how insane it drives, Jeep air conditioning that still doesn’t work well, how shaking and miserable Monkey is while riding in the RV so long

Bay Area Days (so far)

The Bay Area is a pretty terrible place to try to go camping; there’s really no way around it. You’re either paying insanely high prices, packed in like sardines into a parking lot, or sitting through traffic no matter what. In the past while visiting the husband’s family, we’ve stayed at two different campgrounds in Napa and a state park near Oakland. To try something different this time just for the heck of it, we’re giving the Alameda County Fairgrounds a try in Pleasanton. It’s cheap for the area but little more than a parking lot with sewer hookups and about 10 inches between you and your neighbor. It’s the kind of place that makes me ready to be done with camper life, which I guess is a good thing since it is almost done. No complaints about the food or friendly company though 🙂

  • Highlights: Golf driving range nearby, temperatures in the 60s that feel downright cold in the evenings, fast and free Wi-Fi, meeting up with a few local friends, learning the art of acrylic paint pouring with the sis-in-law, easy routes so I could rock 5.10ds at the Diablo Rock Climbing Gym, biking across the Bay Bridge
  • Lowlights: How dumbly sore my right bicep and left rib get after hitting just a couple golf balls, back into the 100s again, lots of not dog-friendly activities to work around, always traffic

Paintings, not food


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Okay, so back to the house.

Where in New Mexico, you ask? Well, I’m glad you did, hypothetical question-asker.

Our soon-to-be home is in a magical land called Placitas, an incorporated village of less than 5,000 people between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It’s in the mountains and where the desert meets the forest, with a couple acres of our very own land and plenty of wide-open spaces all around. It feels rugged and remote, while still being within 30 minutes of the ABQ airport and 45 minutes from all the quirky artsy stuff in Santa Fe.

Sneak peek at my soon-to-be, very own backyard

The house itself is in great condition but a bit older, so we’ve already started a long list of YouTube-fueled DIY upgrades to make it our own and help fill the void of not traveling full-time. I’ve gotten mixed reactions from people I’ve told so far about the house news, but mostly positive and encouraging.

Folks who know me well aren’t surprised by my choice to try living in New Mexico out of all the places we’ve temporarily lived in over the last few years. Yet others are disappointed that I didn’t pick a place closer to them or that I’ll be giving up a lifestyle I’ve been so “lucky” to pursue for something more ordinary. First of all, luck has nothing to do with it since I’ve busted my ass to build a profitable career from the ground up that I can do anywhere. While I wouldn’t trade my full-time RV experiences for anything, the RV lifestyle is over-rated and over-romanticized by sexy Instagrammers and delusional types with their heads in the clouds. I’ve tried to provide balanced coverage of what it’s really like out here on the road, but honestly, it’s mostly just working at a makeshift desk in the passenger seat of the RV while staring at the back of other campers, with a few fun things squeezed in between that are photo-worthy. I’m sure that shifting to a lifestyle with a stable home base will be a shock to my system, but it’s not the end of adventure – it’s the start of a new one – one of getting to know the Southwest like a local, traveling internationally, and having a more well-balanced life with hobbies and learning new skills.

My post next month will be all about this transition since about half of it will be on the road and the other part moving into a non-wheeled home. So, Month #38 will be my last “home on the road” series post, a monthly tradition of sorts I’ve managed to keep up with since July 2016 for some reason. But don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll come up with something else to endlessly blabber on about to fill the void!

Have a wonderful month, my dear blog-reader, wherever you are.


Catch up with the journey:

Anniversary Edition: Three Years of Full-Time RV Life!

Today officially marks three full years being a nomad! After this long on the road, I barely remember what it’s like to not live in a camper. I’m not sure what people are supposed do with their time if they aren’t in a constant state of figuring out where to sleep, looking up what to do in a new temporary home, or driving a glorious monstrosity down the highway. It’s been a wild ride of ups and downs, and while I wouldn’t trade the last three years for anything, we’re also looking at this milestone as turning point.

To round out year #3, it’s been a long, weird month that has been lots of fun at times and downright miserable at others. Month #36 featured our annual summer jaunt to the Midwest and back, without the RV and just with the Jeep and tent. With a gas-guzzler that gets less than 7mpg, you don’t jet across the country and back for just a few weeks – you just don’t do it.

This past month, I got to bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding, see a bunch of old friends that I love, and spend time with my family for an “early birthday” visit. Meanwhile, I’ve also been sweating, itching, and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life while being stuck in a 95-degree tent where sleeping is impossible, menaced by biting insects, feeling nastier after using campground bathrooms than before using them, and complaining a lot. As you can tell 🙂

More on that in a bit, but first, here’s a little three-year RV life reflection to kick things off:

SOME FAVORITE HOMES ON THE ROAD THAT COME TO MIND

  • Boise, Idaho
  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
  • Wenatchee, Washington
  • New River Gorge, West Virginia
  • Santa Barbara, California
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • June Lake, California
  • Cedar City, Utah
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Cortez, Colorado
  • June Lake, California
  • Marfa, Texas
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Bend, Oregon
  • San Diego, California

THE THINGS I’M SO OVER WITH ABOUT RV LIFE

  • Calling incompetent old-timers to make campground reservations every week in the most inefficient way possible
  • Campground pit bull discrimination
  • Hauling laundry across campgrounds, only to pay for laundry machines that don’t work
  • The lack of personal space, privacy, peace, and quiet
  • Other campers – whoever says that meeting people in campgrounds is the best thing about RVing either hasn’t been full-timing very long or is way more extroverted than me
  • Trying to drown out the husband’s work phone calls to focus on my own work in a tiny space when noise-cancelling headphones just don’t cut it
  • Loose dogs in campgrounds despite supposedly enforced leash rules
  • No room to work on crafts or do hobbies
  • Being unable to wash my hair and shave my legs in the same shower due to the lack of hot water in an RV shower
  • Hassles of trying to find RV storage and dog boarding in a new place every time we want to catch an international flight
  • Researching new places every week so that travel planning feels like a burden instead of an adventure
  • Questionable internet reception = questionable work productivity
  • Being generally cranky because my heart just isn’t into this like it was in the beginning

THE THINGS I’LL TOTALLY MISS ABOUT RV LIFE WHEN IT’S OVER

  • Waking up to new scenes and landscapes each week
  • Having access to new trails and outdoor experiences on a regular basis
  • How much money I’ve been able to save over the past 3 years by doing RV life instead of paying rent or a mortgage
  • The general concept of living a non-standard, un-boring life
  • Following the good weather with the seasons
  • How easy it is to live a minimalist lifestyle in an RV with very little stuff to weigh me down

And now, here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Durango, Colorado: Home on the Road #121

Before hitting the road for the Midwest, we stayed in Durango for a week. We’d visited this outdoorsy Colorado town once before a couple years ago and knew we’d like it here. It was beyond easy to get active here, and it’s a place we’d probably look to plop down at for a while if it weren’t so expensive and far away from an airport for international trips.

  • Highlights: Animas City Mountain hike, biking the Animas River Trail, beers at Animas Brewing, probably many more things that have the name Animas, getting back on the rock wall for some climbing 
  • Lowlights: Crappy cell reception AND campground Wi-Fi for working, more campground laundry machines that don’t work, long hours working in advance of the Midwest road trip

Journey to the Midwest: Part of Home on the Road #122

After a week in Durango, we set out for the Midwest on a day that started off all bundled up at 35 degrees. Little did we know (well, we really did know because we obsessively check weather) that we’d soon be living in 100-degree temperatures with high humidity with no easy access to cool off for the foreseeable future. The Jeep’s air conditioning has been on the fritz and tends to completely die on the absolute hottest days after you’ve been driving for 8+ hours.

The idea of camping every night along the way and knocking out a few new states to camp in sounded good in theory. But in reality, some of these days were especially rough for trying to get work done, keeping Monkey from overheating and burning her paws, dodging mosquitoes, and basically not strangling each other.

  • Highlights: Colorado sand dunes, dinner meet-up with our good friend in the Denver area, Grateful Gnome Brewery in Denver, exploring the cute Colorado town of Golden, saying I’ve camped in Nebraska for the first time ever, walking up and down the Indiana sand dunes
  • Lowlights: Insane heat and humidity, insane bugs, trying to sleep in a tent next to a train, disgusting bathrooms that even challenge my low standards, trying to work on a laptop in the passenger seat without puking

Chicago and Arthur, Illinois: Part of Home on the Road #122

Chicago was a whirlwind visit filled with good beer, great friends, and a cozy place to stay with some awesome buddies who set us up with an actual bed and the best shower ever. There was lots of eating and drinking while catching up with old friends and my sixth bridesmaiding experience in a suburban wedding. From there, we headed a few hours south to spend time with my family for an early birthday trip. I can’t claim another year around the sun for another month and a half, but isn’t making what’s supposed to be a single celebratory day into an entire season of celebration what being an only child is all about?!

  • Highlights: Staying with good friends that are dog parents to Monkey’s favorite friend, brewery meet-up with favorite folks at Great Central Brewing, experiencing the chaos of the Montrose Dog Beach with Monkey, catching up with my girls from freshman year of college over dinner, not falling off an electric scooter and busting my head open, getting to be an indoor bridesmaid in the A/C instead of sweating and getting soaked at an outdoor wedding, wedding reception open bar (enough said), having my parents take care of me like I’m 15 years old again (they’re the best), spending time with my grandma
  • Lowlights: Chicago traffic, non-stop heat and humidity, freak (Monkey-caused) rope burn accident that ripped apart my ankles, trying to hike in Illinois and remembering why people don’t hike in Illinois  

Journey Back from the Midwest: Part of Home on the Road #122

After a few days staying at my parents’ house, we hit the road for the westward journey back to our home on wheels, but not before making a bunch of tent-camping stops along the way. To knock a few more states off our list, our route back to Colorado included campgrounds in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas. Some of these overnight adventures surprisingly sucked (hey there, Tennessee!), while others were surprisingly pleasant (oh hi, Kansas!).

  • Highlights: Saying I’ve now camped in Missouri/Arkansas/Kansas for the first time, surprisingly fun mini-golf and good Indian food in Branson, sunsets, a little magical time to read a book, swimming in a lake, second visit to the Hopping Gnome Brewery in Wichita, Boot Hill Museum with a dinner show and gunfight in Dodge City, reaffirming that I oddly now enjoy water parks in my mid-30s
  • Lowlights: Not being able to work in the passenger seat due to a busted cable and having to frantically find a new power adaptor on the road, insane bugs, insane heat and humidity, tough working conditions, stupidly being surprised by the tough working conditions even though we’ve done this sort of thing countless times before

Bloomfield/Aztec, New Mexico: Home on the Road #123

Our original plan was to camp for two more nights in Colorado, but we’d had enough of the tent life and decided to power through nearly 13 hours of driving instead to get back to our comfy, cozy RV back in Durango. It was a grueling day, but after it, my RV bed and memory foam pillow had never felt better. We found a campground near Aztec Ruins National Monument that could take us in at the last minute and finally settled back into that New Mexico life.

  • Highlights: Exploring the Native American ruins and kivas with low crowds, getting caught up with post-trip laundry/groceries/cleaning, checking out a new part of New Mexico we hadn’t been in before
  • Lowlights: Super hot but it’s okay because we’re back in the RV with A/C, meh pizza takeout for dinner, dead Jeep battery (Chief was clearly exhausted and needed a break after this road trip)


Looking Ahead to Next Month

As you might assess from my current lists of “loves” and “hates” about RV life at the top of this post, this three-year milestone is making me more and more ready for a next phase as the days go by. Full-time camping has been an adventure for sure, but there are lots of ways to have adventures, and I’m curious to explore what those are all about too.

Just today, we got back into the Placitas, New Mexico area, where we are interested in scoping out houses that are not on wheels. We have a couple weeks here to dive back into the local real estate scene before hitting the road again – this time westward to California to put in a friends and family visit on the husband’s side of things. Staying put never seems easy for us, but honestly, that will never change whether we are full-time RVers or just occasional RVers in the future.

Thanks for following along for the past three years, my friends! Life on the road can get a bit isolating at times, so having people to share my journey with, even if it’s just through the internet, has helped me feel more connected to the rest of the world at times. Three years is a milestone, but it’s also a turning point towards something that may be entirely different, and hopefully just as exciting.


Catch up with the journey:

From the Islands to the Desert: Hawaii, New Mexico & Colorado for RV Life Month #35

Unlike every other month over the last couple years, this one didn’t start out in an RV. Instead I woke up in a tent on a beach in Hawaii. I won’ lie…it was a pretty awesome way to kick off month #35 of life on the road, as well as our anniversary and the husband’s birthday.

However, we did Hawaii a bit differently than the average tourist. Instead of going the insanely priced, all-inclusive resort on Waikiki Beach route, which really isn’t out style, we camped in a tent for five nights and treated ourselves to a cabin for two nights. Then after a refreshing non-working vacation, we checked into Santa Fe, New Mexico for a whole three weeks, an area we’ve really enjoyed in the past and may be enjoying even more of in the future.

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

Oahu Hawaii: Home on the Road #118 (part 1)

Our few days in Oahu were filled with a mix of touristy things and trying to get off-the beaten path as much as possible. We hit a couple of the famous must-dos, but ditched the super-popular hikes for more chill ones that were just as scenic. Definitely one of the best parts was falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of ocean waves just a short distance from our little blue tent on the beach.

  • Highlights: Successful beach camping (it’s not easy to find good camping on Oahu!), learning how to use outdoor showers, poke bowls, having scenic Ka’Ena Point  all to ourselves, non-stop entertainment at the Polynesian Cultural Center, surprising the husband with a birthday luau, delicious chikoo boba tea in Honolulu’s Chinatown, random Hawaiian diner food, all the beautiful plants, wonderfully warm weather, Dole Pineapple Plantation for touristy indulgence, getting daily updates about Monkey from our dog sitter back in Albuquerque 
  • Lowlights: Other people’s loud late-night parties at the campground because we’re old and tired, remembering how awful air travel is and wondering why the hell one of my post-RV life goals is to travel more internationally, rain and humidity, the trafficky and stressful Waikiki Beach area, missing Monkey and knowing how much she’d love these sandy beaches

Big Island, Hawaii: Home on the Road #118 (part 2)

While Oahu was definitely nice to visit, the Big Island was more our style. It was a bit more laid-back, less-touristy, more outdoorsy, and had plenty of wide-open spaces. To go “all out” for our anniversary, we booked a stay in a cabin at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and let the tent dry out from the recent rain showers.

  • Highlights: Rainbow Falls and checking out Hilo, a real bed after all those tent nights, anniversary dinner with a view of volcanoes at the national park’s Rim Restaurant, tasty Korean and Thai food, black sand beaches, checking out a real estate open house and legitimately considering buying it, the self-guided tour at Pu’uhouna o Honaunau National Historic Park, swimming in the warm ocean water, snagging a free trial day at a Planet Fitness to do some yoga and get a much-needed shower, free coffee samples from Kona coffee farms, that got me through the jet lag phase, delicious honey and macadamia nuts from Paradise Meadows farm, public beach camping that wasn’t as loud as I expected, lava rocks galore, shave ice with ice cream underneath, the mostly-outdoor Kona airport that puts all other airports to shame, seeing a rainbow just before we flew home, getting updates that Monkey is doing amazing at the dog sitter and playing well with as many as 8 (!) dogs at a time in a backyard 
  • Lowlights: Bummer there’s no lava flowing, lots of national park trails closed after the 2018 earthquake and volcano damage, struggling to find a shower when you need one (thanks for the free trial day, Planet Fitness!), never could find rental snorkel equipment when we wanted it (should have brought our own, I guess), more getting rained on, disappointing service at the Kona Brewing Company

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Home on the Road #119

After flying back to Albuquerque (with a brief layover in Phoenix), we collected our little Monkey from the dog sitter’s place, headed straight to a self-serve dog wash to scrub away all that stranger-dog grime, and collected our RV from the storage lot. That same arrival day, we made the short journey up to Santa Fe, a destination we’d settled on plopping down at for three straight weeks. Not only were we feeling exhausted with all the moving around, but the corridor between ABQ and Santa Fe has emerged as real possibility for post-RV life.

  • Highlights: Meeting up with awesome fellow full-time RVers Jamie and Ross for African fusion dinner, experiencing the bizarre world of Meow Wolf, drinking at a couple local breweries, house shopping in nearby Placitas and Eldorado at Santa Fe, checking out some remote national historic sites, dry and warm weather for the most part, super-chill vibe over Memorial Day, hikes and trail runs nearby, Shakespeare performance in the botanical garden, quirky Currents New Media art show, best community center I’ve ever been to (Lap pool swimming and ice skating in one afternoon? Sign me up!), hanging out with alpacas at Blue Mesa Alpaca Ranch
  • Lowlights: Literally having snow here the day after getting home from Hawaii, waking up to 34 degrees in a tin box with no insulation in late-May, crazy winds for biking, trying to navigate the strange world of real estate and having our first-ever offer rejected, post-vacation laundry chaos, ran out of time to mountain bike and rock climb

Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Home on the Road #120

It’s been a long time since we’ve set up camp in Colorado, and there are still lots of this state I’m dying to see. We’ve somewhat put off Colorado because we’re pretty confident that we’ll plop down in the Mountain West eventually, which means that Colorado destinations will be right in our backyard. But for now, we’re checking out the small resort town of Pagosa Springs, which is beautiful, peaceful, and has just enough to see and do without being overwhelming for a week-long stay.

  • Highlights: Easy access to hiking and mountain biking trails in the San Juan National Forest, hopping back on the mountain bike again, cute downtown area to walk around, hot springs even though our days here topped 85 degrees, lots of sunshine, snow-capped mountains in June, cutting out of Friday work early here soon to go for a long mountain hike followed by hot springs and dinner as rewards
  • Lowlights: Having to pay for electric meter usage at a weekly RV site for the first time ever (WTF?), the exhausting annoyance of trying to communicate with inept campground workers to make future reservation, lots and lots of hours working ahead in advance of the upcoming Illinois trip, crappy Verizon reception, lugging huge laundry bags across a campground only to pay high prices for machines that don’t work


Looking Ahead to Next Month

From here, we’re heading to Durango…a Colorado spot we’ve day-tripped to in the past but never spent a whole week in before. Then, this upcoming month will be our annual RV-free summer road trip to Illinois and back for a friend’s wedding that I’m bridesmaiding in, to squeeze in some Chicago meetups with old buds, and to put in an early birthday visit with my family. Like last summer, we’ll be tent-camping between Colorado and Illinois to check out some new parts of states we never spend much time in across Middle America.

When we get back to the West, property-hunting mode starts all over again. I’m perpetually torn about the concept of buying land and a house, because on one hand, commitment freaks me out, it’s all a big money suck, and I don’t want to lose this grasp I have on the minimalism lifestyle. Then on the other hand, I’m beyond ready for a next life phase after nearly three years of RVing, I don’t have much more energy for more full-time travel right now, and I despise the idea of settling for a crowded apartment environment as our next move. Full-time RV life has somewhat come to define me at this point, but I can only do the same thing for so long before becoming restless and wanting to experience something else, and that time has come.

We’ve put an insane amount of time, thought, debate, and conversation into where this next phase should begin, and at least right now, the stars are aligning over Placitas, New Mexico. The St. George, Utah area, the previously-agreed-upon promised land, proved to be far less affordable than expected for the type of property we’d be happy in, and somehow, we’ve gotten pretty picky with what we’re looking for.

These are my top priorities:

  • Over an acre for good neighbor distance
  • Scenic landscapes and views
  • Separate offices for work
  • Tons of windows and natural light
  • Solar panels if possible
  • Backyard with a fence for Monkey to play in
  • Outdoor space for growing plants and food
  • A place for my gnomes to come out of storage
  • Deck or patio to hang outside in my very own space
  • Laundry machines that actually work
  • Separate area for crafts and hobbies
  • No HOA or overbearing rules
  • Onsite camper parking
  • Able to put a little hiking trail in/around the property
  • Remote location but not totally inaccessible
  • Decent airport distance for international travel
  • Not insanely priced

That’s not too much to ask, right?! 🙂

I’ve learned that I care more about the outside than the inside of a house, and the husband’s list looks a bit different than mine, but we’re mostly on the same page. We went out on a limb and actually put a low-ball offer on a house and it fell through…live and learn. When it comes to “adulting” with things like real estate, I still feel like I’m 15 years old. But I’m learning along the way slowly and in no huge rush until this magical “home off the road” decides to emerge from the universe and present itself.

Until then, you can find me feeding alpacas in my dreams.

Next month will be my “three-year anniversary (eeek!) of full-time camper life” post, so tune back in on the 14th for some more rambling if you’re game. Thanks for reading along!


Catch up with the journey: