A Nomadic Sweep Through Familiar Lands: Month #28 in NorCal

While last month was all about getting off the grid and exploring new places, we’ve spent this month getting back onto the grid in familiar lands. The shift wasn’t because we couldn’t bare life outside of developed campgrounds no hookups. Quite the opposite! However, it was just that time of year to put in a trip to the Bay Area to visit family and friends for Halloween and Diwali.

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

Grass Valley, California: Home on the Road #90

Figures. Just when we start trying to narrow down our list of potential plop-down places, we end up adding one more. This was our second stay in Grass Valley, but it resonated with us more this time than last. It’s halfway between the mountains/ski resorts of Tahoe and big city offerings of Sacramento, yet chill and un-trafficy. There’s ample and affordable land here and mutually agreeable weather for much of the year too.

  • Highlights: Alpaca show to welcome us to our fairground campground, getting to know the downtown areas of both Grass Valley and Nevada City better, meeting up with my gnome friend Liz at a brewery/pumpkin patch, perfect fall weather with colorful leaves, biking around Tahoe and the ski resorts
  • Lowlights: Not much coming to mind, which is why this place became post-it-note-worthy

Napa, California: Home on the Road #91

While most people go to Napa for the wine, we go for the closest reasonable campground to visit my husband’s family. This is actually the third time we’ve stayed in Napa during full-time camper life, but we stayed at a different park this time that was almost half the price of our previous spot. This home on the road involved a lot of annoying driving and some crazy smoke due to the latest NorCal wildfire, Camp Fire, in Butte County. We were fortunately at a safe distance from the closest fires, but I still had nightmares of flames coming toward the RV in the middle of the night and trying to decide what to grab before running out the door.

  • Highlights: Dog-friendly Halloween winery party at Trefethen Family Vineyards where we did a trio costume of “s’mores,” our familiar bike routes along vineyard roads, celebrating Diwali with the in-laws, stuffing face with good friends, being a tourist on a fun day in San Francisco, being a safe 2.5 hours from the latest NorCal wildfire, letting Monkey play on a San Francisco beach
  • Lowlights: The usual traffic/crowds/costs that you expect from Napa/Bay Area, crowded campground with annoying neighbors, more devastating California wildfires and the smoke and haze they sent our way

Yosemite National Park, California: Home on the Road #92

This was our second trip together to Yosemite, but our first visit to this oh-so-popular national park was over six years ago. As you’ve likely gathered from following my camper life journey, we detest crowds…especially while spending time in nature. So, we planned our Yosemite trip for (1) the week before Thanksgiving to beat the holiday rush and (2) only on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds.

  • Highlights: Impressive mountain views from the campground, 12 miles of dog-friendly paved paths for exploring the park with Monkey, biking around the park, low crowds due to the time of year, seeing a mama bear and two cubs cross the road in front of us hiking at a safe distance
  • Lowlights: Being cold 24/7 due to no electric hookups and limited propane for occasional heat, public showers, sub-par photo ops due to cloudy days and wildfire haze

With our remaining time in Yosemite, the husband and I are going our separate ways to do some epic solo hikes. I’ll pick up with that in next month’s report.



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • ‘Tis the season for everything pumpkin! My favorite, although the West is notoriously awful for having pumpkin beer. Of all the breweries I go to, not once did I find pumpkin craft beer on draft this fall. Sad times we’re living in.

  • For Diwali this year, I experimented with henna for the first time. I’ve always been curious to try it but too intimidated to go to a salon. My sister-in-law showed me the basics and created a design on my left palm. So, I picked up where she left off and did some feet designs.

  • We finally went “all out for Halloween this year with costumes and festive plans. It’s my favorite holiday, but we’ve skimped on it the past two Halloweens due to being over-consumed with everything camper life entails. It felt awesome to put some gore on my face again.

  • Thanks to living in civilization for a while, we’ve been able to get in some good indoor climbing. In fact, we were able to hit up gyms in Grass Valley, Berkeley, and Napa. Feeling pretty strong, despite the fact that I didn’t actually complete this upside-down bouldering route (womp womp).

It’s articles like this that make me want to move on from camper life. Over a million “modern nomads” are now living out of their RVs? I’m glad I got into it back when I did because clearly this lifestyle has become too common and this niche too saturated! I’m half kidding and half not kidding 🙂

However, the decision of what to do post-camper-life has been hanging over my head in a big way. I’m so comfortable in my current routines with working from the road and moving every couple weeks that anything else scares the crap out of me. I know that sounds silly and that if anything, this lifestyle should make me more adaptable for whatever comes next. But I’m still feeling resistant, non-committal, and dragging my feet.

Shopping for our next home…where does Monkey want to live?

Yet change is healthy, and we never intended for this little lifestyle experiment to last forever. So, I mustered up some courage to narrow down (and share) my personal “maybe” list to these seven regions (in no particular order):

  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Cedar City, Utah
  • Wenatchee, Washington
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Grass Valley, California

Looking Ahead to Next Month

We actually didn’t have a plan for this upcoming month until just about a day or two ago. We were waiting to see if Tioga Pass would be closed by this time of the year, but with no snow in the forecast, it seems good to go. I always enjoy getting to be more spontaneous with trip planning at this time of year (versus the summer) because campgrounds are now so rarely booked up in advance.

The current plan is to cross over into Nevada because it’s a state that we honestly haven’t explored much beyond Reno and Vegas. There’s something called the Extraterrestrial Highway in remote Nevada that’s been calling our names for a while now. Also, I’m looking forward to spending Thanksgiving in the middle-of-nowhere and hopefully staying warm with some electric hookups because well, these fingers and toes aren’t gonna warm themselves.

My new Diwali outfits put my usual hiking clothes to damn shame.


Catch up with the journey:

Adventures Off the Grid: Month #27 of Camper Life

As my last post hinted at, month #27 was a bit of a unique one. Somewhat suddenly, it seems that we have entered a new phase of full-time camper life – a phase that’s more off-the-grid, more self-sufficient, and a whole lot eco-friendlier.

It all started with a solar panel system investment while we were staying in Bend, Oregon for a couple weeks. The research, ordering, and setup got off to a rocky start thanks to components that didn’t work together as expected. After some irritating returns and Plan Bs, we emerged with a battery and inverter that look like this and are connected to cables running out the RV window to connect to the solar panel.

Initial Off-the-Grid Observations from week #1:

  • We are moving the solar panel for a more optimal sun position more than once an hour
  • To save energy, I’m wearing a headlamp to do dishes, brush teeth, eat dinner
  • Usable electronics with solar power: laptops, phones, watches, essential oil diffuser, electric toothbrush
  • Non usable electronics with solar power: electric blanket, space heater, dog heating pad, hair dryer, TV
  • Sleeping in hats, sweatshirts, gloves
  • Allowable generator use hours are exciting! Charge everything all at once!
  • Filling up water with an outside spigot in a jug to save tank usage
  • Watching TV shows on laptops/iPhones instead of RV television
  • My new laptop has a really long-lasting battery – yay!
  • No distractions out here = crazy work productive
  • It’s pretty hilarious to watch my husband use his dental Waterpik over the kitchen sink and plugged into an extension cord connected to the inverter after warming up water in the tea kettle
  • 1 solar panel is enough to keep our devices for the week charged but our RV batteries are running low…something we didn’t anticipate
  • Using public showers again just like in the old pop-up camper days
  • Don’t flush just for pee
  • Made it 7 days without dumping tanks – success!
  • ABC: Always Be Charging
  • ABS: Always Be Strategizing (about how to keep this going for as many days as possible)
  • Only enough propane to heat up the RV for less than an hour each morning to get out of bed in the cold….oops rain touched the circuit board and now the heater is broken
  • Man, this is cheap living
  • Washing dishes with cold water
  • Using decorative Halloween pumpkins as lights – ’tis the season
  • How is there internet out here?! Hooray!

But backing up a few steps, here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Bend, Oregon: Home on the Road #84

I’m torn about Bend because yes, it’s a bit crowded, trafficy, and becoming overdeveloped, but it’s also still an outdoor lover’s dream with every type of recreation you could ever want. This is also where I checked off a long-time bucket list item: riding in a hot air balloon!

  • Highlights: Super peaceful hot air balloon ride over beautiful landscapes, hiking Smith Rock State Park, best indoor climbing gym I’ve been to in a while, breweries galore, decent campground laundry facility, got a yearly doctor checkup taken care of, nearby visit to Newberry National Volcanic Monument, seeing a local play at 2nd Street Theater
  • Lowlights: Not having time to climb at Smith Rock State Park or go mountain biking in the area, traffic, more (un-monitored, dog-groping) kids at breweries than adults, catching up on shopping and spending way too much money, crowded shantytown-like campground

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: Home on the Road #85

I’d never been to Crater Lake before, and now seemed like the perfect time to check it out: late enough in the year to avoid the worst crowds but not yet too cold and snowy to close campgrounds.

  • Highlights: The stunning blue color of this crazy lake, surprisingly few crowds on hiking trails, hiking a new section of the PCT with Monkey, playing our current favorite board game (Ticket to Ride) outside at the campground with the new India expansion location
  • Lowlights: Having to move to 3 different campsites to escape partying teenagers and lack of shade to leave Monkey behind in this dog-unfriendly park, nightly lows in the 30s

Keno, Oregon: Home on the Road #86

Staying in southern Oregon was our first foray into what I like to call goondocking. Boondocking has more of a connotation of free and pulled off the side of the road in a random place. We can’t necessarily do that because we work full-time. So goondocking is our compromise between that and crowded RV parks, inclusive of a good internet connection but not really anything else. Also, “Goon” is one of the many nicknames we call Monkey. This random spot we goondocked in a couple miles outside Keno, Oregon felt more like a magical piece of property than any campsite we’ve been to.

  • Highlights: So much room to spread out, playing guitar and working outside, trails for running and dog walks, no distractions and great work productivity, surprisingly awesome public showers nearby, nice Monkey trailer-friendly bike trail in nearby Klamath Falls, decent beers at the one brewery in Klamath Falls, sunrises and moonrises over the Klamath River from our campsite, super peaceful afternoon of kayaking and SUPing on the river
  • Lowlights: Failing at our first goondocking attempt at the Topsy Campground because of crappy internet, the craziest dust that permeated everything

Lava Beds National Monument, California: Home on the Road #87

About four years ago, we did a quick visit to Lava Beds on a late-summer vacation. It’s one of the coolest national monuments I’ve been to because you can explore lots of caves on your own without a guide and without lots of tourists everywhere.

We originally didn’t intend to camp overnight at all here, but then we discovered that the area had surprisingly good AT&T and Verizon internet. Yes, I realize that this post makes me sound like I’m obsessed with internet, but oddly it’s really the driving force of where we go these days. With national monument campsites at $10/night, we first booked two nights, then a third, and finally a fourth. This extra time allowed us to check out nearly every cave in the park after work days!

  • Highlights: Taking headlamps and bike helmets into caves to explore the underworld on our own, reasonable generator use hours to get all our stuff charged, good but not great internet, peaceful, lots of space, making up our own “cave loop 5K race” even though I came in last place out of the three of us, getting better at conserving water/electric
  • Lowlights: Painfully bumping heads and backs on sharp cave roofs, some rain and cold but not too bad, no public showers equals more days of grossness

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Home on the Road #88

Although national parks and monuments certainly aren’t off-the-grid, they are places we never used to be able to camp due to lack of hookups and our 24/7 reliance upon campground amenities. We originally planned to spend three nights at Lassen, but cut that short to just two. The campground walk-in reservation system was confusing, and the temperatures were downright frigid up in the mountains. Regardless, I’m glad we finally made it here to check out the sights.

  • Highlights: Interesting geological features from the eruptions 100+ years ago, waterfall hike, bubbling mud, campfire
  • Lowlights: Confusing campground check-in situation with no staff onsite to help, morning temperatures in the 30s with no heat, trying to shower in a freezing RV, nothing is dog-friendly

Oroville, California: Home on the Road #89

We’d never been in the Oroville area of California, and honestly it was a bit of a disappointment throughout the week. The state park we stayed at had some crazy rules, most of the trails were closed and all are dog-unfriendly, the area was filled with shady characters, the park conducted a series of controlled fires leaving us smoky and worried what might happen if they got out of hand. Things got even more interesting when another camper set a car on fire and was threatening suicide while being pursued by rangers with big guns. At least it was warm, and my oh my how life is better when I’m warm.

  • Highlights: Amazing weather in the 70s and 80s, sitting outside to work, going bowling by the casino, making do with our solar energy and generator with no hookups once again, decorating for Halloween, surprisingly great casino buffet and brewery, a nice day trip to Chico to check out Bidwell Park and the brewery scene, dog-friendly 8+ mile waterfall hike to Feather Falls
  • Lowlights: The reminder that much of California hates dogs, smoke and haze, weirdos everywhere, businesses/boat ramps/trails closed unexpectedly, so much laundry to do at a really dirty laundromat, too much work to squeeze in personal time and fun, being on lockdown at the campground while cops investigated a madman on the loose


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Saturday morning pancakes are my culinary specialty.

  • I’m trying to draw better landscapes in my sketchbook, starting with trees. This little workbook is helping.

  • We’ve missed playing tennis since living in our posh old apartment complex in Atlanta. Our old rackets got lost in the move, but we’ve picked up a couple new ones and have played twice at local parks in places we visit. Spoiler alert: I always win 🙂

  • Holy shopping spree! We pretty much cleared out the clearance section of the Columbia Outlet store in Bend. But when all you pretty much wear is hiking clothes, it’s justifiable!

  • My favorite new place to work: patch of dirt with a view of the Klamath River and a steady internet connection.

  • We’ve been coloring pages in our national park coloring book as we visit new ones. Just finished up with Lassen!


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Now back in California for a while, Month #28 will feel oddly familiar. While Month #27 was all about getting off the grid, Month #28 will be all about going to places we’ve already been. We’ll actually be staying in a couple of the same campgrounds as last year and different ones in familiar cities in order to visit the in-laws and celebrate Halloween and Diwali.

The days ahead should be pretty warm, which is good news since our heater still doesn’t work and this aging body of mine is having serious trouble heating itself up. Our needs for solar energy may be a bit less as we get back into the civilization of Northern California life for a little while, but hopefully I can still find some peaceful places (like this one below) to take a deep breath in and think about what lies ahead for this camper journey.

We’re looking to narrow down and reevaluate our wall of post-it notes identifying potential plop-down places to start planning ahead for our next phase. It’s something I’ve been personally procrastinating for a long time because committing always makes me feel a bit sick to my stomach. There are some things that make me feel really excited for whatever our next phase is, and other things that make me nervous as heck because this has been my “normal” for two years and three months now. Change is never easy, even when you change your home every week or two. Right now, I’m only able to narrow down my list of plop-down places to about six or seven. So, it seems I have some soul searching and real estate research ahead of me in the month ahead.

Until next month…


Catch up with the journey:

RV-Free Road Trip to the Midwest & Back: A Nonstandard Month #25 of Camper Life

It’s been a long, weird month. Most of month #25 on the road was actually spent outside of the RV and in other people’s houses, a tent, and on long drives in the Jeep instead.

What do I have to show for it? Lots fun times with family and friends, a crazy number of photos (brace yourself, readers), way more miles on the odometer, and a whopping seven more state stickers* added onto our camper life map.* The West: conquered.

*Note: we only add a state sticker if we have camped overnight in a state (hotels and people’s houses don’t count, nor does just driving through) since full-time camper life began on 7/14/16.

To attend a friend’s wedding in Chicago, visit buddies in our old stomping grounds, and put in my annual summer family trip to Illinois, we decided to make a tent camping adventure out of this journey. On the way from Montana to Chicago, we camped for one night each in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa. Then on the way back from Arthur to Montana, we pitched the tent in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Sure, checking states off a list is a bit arbitrary, but having silly little goals helped make the long driving days more bearable and it was fun to see parts of the country that we probably wouldn’t be visiting otherwise anytime soon.

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

Bozeman, Montana: Home on the Road #78

Back in April 2013, we stopped by the Bozeman Hot Springs for a much-needed warm-up and shower after tenting in Yellowstone National Park with no facilities and 19-degree temperatures. With fond memories of the place, we brought our RV here for two nights to treat ourselves before heading out on the cross-country road trip.

  • Highlights: Refreshing hot spring pools with live music, lovely sunsets, the chill and semi-dog-friendly Outlaw Brewing nearby, free campground breakfasts
  • Lowlights: Insanely expensive to camp here, crowded and traffic-y in town

After ditching our RV at a storage facility just outside of Bozeman, we headed east and made overnight stops in each of these places.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Monkey wasn’t a fan of braving a thunderstorm in a tent, but the storms resulted in an epic double rainbow and a peaceful hike around this crazy rock formation the next morning.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

This was our second time to both Devil’s Tower and the Badlands, both areas I really get a kick out of. In between these stops, we also checked out Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore Brewing, and Mount Rushmore.

We rarely get to camp in national parks and national monuments due to the lack of RV hookups for workweek convenience and internet reception for actually getting work done. But on these road trip days, we were getting in half days at best and most of that was done in the Jeep’s passenger seat between driving shifts.

Nations Bridge Park, Stuart, Iowa

Tenting here was a bit rough due to ruthless mosquitoes and no showers yet again. Iowa: check.

Chicago, Illinois

The main reason for this whole road trip was going to my awesome friend from college’s wedding in Chicago. A couple amazing friends in town let us stay over for a couple nights and soak up the luxury of a real bed, shower, and even a couple games of shuffleboard. Monkey particularly loved this part of the trip because she got to hang out with her new best friend, Moki, and coexisted with another dog quite nicely to my surprise.

In addition to two nights of wedding stuff, we managed to squeeze in a brewery outing with a bunch of friends, brunch with gal pals, and a visit to my favorite family in the ‘burbs. It was a whirlwind of visits and conversations that reminded me that I haven’t entirely lost my social skills just yet. This was also a great opportunity to show off our four- minute and 20-second “RV Life Film Festival” trailer that my crazy-talented husband finished on the way here. If you haven’t seen this epic video and would like to, send me a quick note!

Arthur, Illinois

After the wedding bliss came to an end, it was time for a family visit a few hours further south. My parents were cool enough to celebrate my birthday a month early and planned lots of things for us to do together, including an Amish buggy ride, lunch out with Grandma, a sightseeing tour of over-sized roadside attractions in Casey, Illinois, yard games, and a backyard spa day for my Jeep.

NOT GEORGIA!

When we set out for this trip, there a reluctant side trip to Georgia hanging over our heads. Last December, we made a special trip back to Atlanta to get an emissions test so that we could renew the Jeep’s license plate sticker and continue driving legally as nomads. Long story short, some idiot typed the VIN number wrong on the report, the DMV wouldn’t accept it, and no one would help us resolve the issue. However, that silly sticker was expiring at the end of August, so we had to take care of it ASAP.

After starting the eastbound journey, I had this strange feeling that I should make one final attempt to get out of driving all the way back to Georgia for the sole purpose of doing the test all over again. I got a different person on the phone who was strangely willing to help this time. We completed some forms, provided proof of campground stays and recent auto repairs, waited a few days, and magically, we were granted an exemption literally on the day before we would have begun the Georgia journey! What a relief not to have to waste 20 more hours on the road with two more back-to-back driving days!

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

With Georgia off of our itinerary, we spent a few more days in Arthur and then headed north to Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin. Spending that extra time at my parents’ house was exactly what I needed to recharge and do nothing. Wissota was a spacious and wooded park that felt nice to call home and be back on the road again.

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

I’ve been wanting to visit Minnesota really for just one reason lately: the Happy Gnome restaurant in St. Paul. This was an amazing spot all around: dog-friendly outdoor patio, 90+ beers and lots of Belgian ones, mutually agreeable food menu, and gnomes all over the freaking place. From there, we kept heading west to the tiny town of Fergus Falls to set up camp for the night at Delagoon Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Prior to this month, there were two states in the lower 48 that I had never been to: North Dakota and Idaho. After crossing into North Dakota for the first time ever, we stopped at in Jamestown to see the world’s largest buffalo and check out the roadside tourist shops.

From there, it was a Panera lunch and a brewery stop in Bismarck and then on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. By the time we rolled into the park, it was 100 degrees outside and since national parks hate dogs, so we took turns going on hot hikes and making sure Monkey didn’t melt back at the campsite.

Lewis & Clark Caverns, Montana: Home on the Road #79

After another grueling day of driving, we finally got back to our RV in storage – safe and sound. To transition back to normal life, we spent the weekend at Lewis & Clark Caverns for our last Montana home. The caves were accessible by group tour only, which was a bit annoying but totally worth it. As an added bonus, the park provided free and shaded dog kennels onsite so we could do the two-hour tour together without having to worry about Monkey boiling in the heat.

  • Highlights: Felt so good to be back home and in the mountains specifically, awesome cave tour, great dog kennels, peaceful park
  • Lowlights: Super stinkin’ hot outside, still using public showers here

Arco, Idaho: Home on the Road #80

Our first-ever visit to Idaho began in the tiny town of Arco (population 995) to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument and the atomic energy historic stuff. This was a great place to fully transition back into standard camper life because there wasn’t much to do here, making it ideal for catching up with work and settling back into normal routines.

  • Highlights: Hiking at Craters of the Moon, pulling off the side of the road to take a dip in natural hot springs, learning about the disturbing world of nuclear testing and fatal meltdowns
  • Lowlights: Not being allowed to go in the caves at Craters of the Moon because of bat drama, most things are out of business and boarded up here


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Work, work, and more work – so much of it.

  • One out of three machines working isn’t too bad, right? Laundry on the road can be rough at times.

  • Monkey really gets a lot out of having a dog pal around. Having two goons in a camper sounds like a really bad idea, but she’ll get a dog sibling one day when camper life comes to a close. In the meantime, she’s literally the best road trip dog ever.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’re hanging out in Idaho a little while longer – Bellevue and Boise – before making our way into Eastern Oregon by Labor Day. Bellevue is a fun stop because we actually have a couple friends that live here – former full-time RVers that we met on the road last year. Then I’ll ring in the big 3-5 in the Boise area next week with apparently, some surprise shenanigans planned.

After that, we’ll try being Oregonians again in a different part of the state (the John Day and Bend areas) that promise to be much warmer and drier than our spring on the coast. Constant travel research and planning feel more tiring and burdensome to me than even before the road trip, which doesn’t bode well for keeping this lifestyle going for the long-term.

While tenting for a couple weeks was a fun adventure and reminiscent of the four- and six-week tenting trips we did back in 2013 and 2014, it feels damn good to be back in our comfy and cozy RV. The experience reminded me about all the things that make tent life harder: sharing a bathroom with strangers, walking outside to pee in the middle of the night after a few too many beers, trying to get work done, keeping devices charged, showering every three days at best, etc. It’s funny how the little creature comforts of this home on wheels make this lifestyle so pleasant and sustainable – little things like my amazing bed pillow, not having to say good morning to strangers on my way to release a morning pee, and not worrying how I’ll put in another long day of writing work. But while I’m not cut out for full-time tenting right now, I do still love it for a few days at a time so we can get off the grid in ways that RV life doesn’t allow.

On that note and before this rambling carries on any longer than it already has, I’m signing off. We have a lot more to see and do in this rugged wilderness of potatoes in month #26 and until Christmas before another RV-free road trip is in the cards.

Happy trails!


Catch up with the journey:

Temporary Canadians: Camper Life Goes International in Month #23

We’re just a month away from our two-year (!) nomadic anniversary, and we’re kicking things off in a foreign country. Okay, so Canada doesn’t really feel all that foreign. But we did have a bit of a sketchy border crossing and I’m hearing more languages around the campground than anywhere I’ve stayed in the U.S.

Although I’ve been to Canada several times before this, here are some first impressions of after living here for a more extended time in an RV:

  • Don’t bring pepper spray across the border – it’s considered a weapon and will be confiscated
  • However, border control doesn’t care much about dogs
  • Gas is expensive
  • But medical care (vision exams, new contacts, dental surgery) is considerably cheaper than in the U.S. if you don’t have good insurance
  • Finding kilometers instead of miles on the dashboard is hard to do while driving
  • Everyone here camps in RV rentals made by Canadream
  • The internet connection kind of sucks, even in cities/suburbs
  • But the campgrounds have surprisingly great free Wi-Fi
  • Canadian news is funny to watch, but my favorite new show is “Canada’s Worst Driver”
  • Food, household, and toiletry products you buy have labels printed in dual English/French languages
  • Late-May weather is pretty spectacular
  • But some places have snow in June?!
  • Ordering online from Amazon in Canada is expensive and the selection is crap
  • This place is just riddled with parks
  • The Canada-U.S. money conversion works in our favor
  • The Canadian dollar is called a “Loonie” – hilarious!

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

San Juan Islands, Washington: Home on the Road #70 (continued)

We kicked off Month #23 still back in Washington with our anniversary celebration in the San Juan Islands. It was an awesome time involving a ferry ride from Anacortes to Orcas Island, backpacking with tent gear to overnight in a remote place, and renting an adorable log cabin along the sea.

  • HighlightsDog-friendly ferry ride, getting back to our camping roots again with tenting, living in a cabin for a day and wanting to keep it, finally finding a great place to kayak and SUP with calm water and a beach to pull over onto for lunch, perfect weather in the 70s
  • Lowlights: Discovering how vague and unhelpful the information about where to kayak in this region was and actually having to ask a real person (gross), having to leave the island life behind (sad)

Vancouver/Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #71

After crossing the Canadian border at Blaine, Washington, we headed to the Vancouver area because we really enjoyed this part of Canada when we visited six years ago. Like many cities, there were no good camping options actually in Vancouver, so we settled for the nearby suburb of Burnaby, which we will forever refer to as “Burnbaby.”

  • HighlightsTaking care of our vision exams and contact ordering for way less money than in the U.S., revisiting old touristy haunts like Granville Island and the Stanley Park area, discovering a gnome trail, great Belgian beer at Dagaraad, getting caught up with a ton of work, pleasant weather in the 60s-70s
  • Lowlights: Crowded campground with Canadians being just as annoying as Americans, the husband got his wisdom teeth removed so much of our stay here was committed to recovery rather than exploration

Lake Country, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #72

We actually never intended to camp in Lake Country, BC and had booked a site in the nearby area of Vernon instead. But about a week before our reservation, the campground sent me an email that they were at a serious flood risk due to the massive amounts of snow from last winter now melting and flooding the nearby lake. Fortunately, they refunded my non-refundable deposit so we could seek shelter elsewhere. Lake Country, near the city of Kelowna, is where we ended up to check out another part of BC and still get in some paddling.

  • HighlightsCamping right next to a marina so we didn’t have to pump inflate and deflate the boats with each use, quiet campground with good Wi-Fi, the most scenic winery I can ever remember being at, finding a great self-serve dog wash station
  • Lowlights: Rain, feeling old age creep up on me with post-paddling and post-hiking soreness and struggling to keep up with the pace

Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #73

We spent a week in this Canadian mountain town with a badass name and badass scenery to match. If it wasn’t for the average 150 inches of snow this place gets each year, paired with lot of rain and not lots of sunshine, I think Revelstoke would make it onto our wall of “places to possibly plop down in someday” post-it notes.

  • HighlightsHiking in Canada’s Glacier National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park, checking out at the least the 5th railroad museum during camper life so far and deciding that this is now a “thing,” good campground Wi-Fi for working, everything you’d want in a little mountain town
  • Lowlights: Snow and 42-degrees in June, way too much rain, mud, very unpredictable weather, only having a week here

This is my “why the hell am I hiking in snow in June” look


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

As soon as we arrived in BC, it looked like it was snowing. However, it was May and 70 degrees outside. What the heck was it? Thanks to a well-marked hiking trail, I learned that tiny pieces of cotton were floating through the air courtesy of Black Cottonwood trees. I love learning about which trees are what. More trails need to teach me things.

I’m finally feeling ahead of the game with work. Woo hoo! At least something good came out of spending more time at home playing nurse for a recovering “less wise” husband with fewer teeth.

Something else I did with this magical extra time was break out my sewing machine again. Been awhile! Check out these recovery PJ pants covered in crazy dogs, posed next to our crazy dog.

Speaking of crazy dog, this new toy (a stuffed Canadian goose) didn’t stand a chance.

Month #23 required me to take on some new responsibilities during the wisdom teeth recovery period, such as grocery shopping. While I’ve certainly picked up a couple items here and there as needed, I haven’t done a full-blown weekly grocery shopping outing for literally years. In our division of labor, that’s the husband’s job.

Of course, being out of practice, my grocery endeavor didn’t go exactly as planned. Of course, I chose the one grocery store in the Vancouver suburbs that was going out of business in a month and had half the shelves empty. Of course one of the pre-packaged salads I bought gave me horrific abdominal cramps to the point of googling “symptoms of e-coli.” Fortunately, I was back to normal by the next day. But on the plus side, it was kind of nice getting to stock up on all of the vegan stuff that I like but that doesn’t necessarily get bought without me behind the shopping cart. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime soon. Or not.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Next month is a big month because we’ll hit year #2 on the road on July 14! I wish we could stay in Canada longer and get further north, away from the main east-west highway and to the more remote areas that no one visits. However, internet reception for work is a major concern, and we have a Midwestern wedding to go to in late-July. Alas, Canada will always be here (or so we assume) for a later trip with perhaps a bit more time and advance planning.

We’ll be in Revelstoke for a bit longer and are then heading towards Banff National Park, the epicenter for Canadian outdoor tourism. Banff is insanely popular, so we couldn’t find a place to camp even months in advance. So, we’ll be staying at a provincial park about 40 minutes away. And since we hate crowds and traffic, we’ll definitely be visiting the national park on a weekday and swapping that workday out for a weekend. From there, our last Canadian home on the road will be camping on a farm near Lethbridge in Alberta. Thanks for making it this far down the page, and as the Canadians say “bye.”


Catch up with the journey:

Life as Washingtonians: A Year & 10 Months of Camper Life from the Evergreen State

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! Last month’s report from Oregon was a pretty dismal one….a downer, a real bummer of a blog post. But I’m happy to report that our time in Washington has been a serious morale boost. This is largely due to much less rain, much more sunshine, a manageable workload, and more time spent in the great outdoors.

This past month, I celebrated my sixth anniversary with my trusty 2010 Jeep Wrangler, a true adventuremobile in every sense of the word. After living the city life in Portland for a couple weeks, we were more than ready to get remote and venture off the grid. That’s why we started month #22 on the road in the town of Vantage, Washington – population 74.

From there, we moved on to the Seattle area for a week and then to those weird little islands off the coast of Washington. Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Vantage, Washington: Home on the Road #68

Vantage proved to be exactly what I needed to renew my faith in camper life. The wide-open spaces reminded me more of the southwest than the northwest, it was easy to spend time outdoors, and the weather was amazing. From the landscapes to the weather and every type of outdoor recreation you could hope for, Central Washington definitely took me by surprise.

  • Highlights: Lots of state parks, very few people, getting back to our camping roots with some tent camping, falling in love with the town of Wenatchee, day trip to Leavenworth, hiking to the waterfall at Frenchman Coulee, ginkgo petrified wood, affordable campsites, good internet connection for work, securing two raises with work clients, wildflowers, apple and cherry blossom trees in bloom
  • Lowlights: Crazy strong winds that all the campground reviews warned us about, 40 minutes to reach any services/non-expired groceries/etc.

Seattle/Bothell, Washington: Home on the Road #69

I missed Vantage the moment I left, but alas, Wanapum State Park had a 10-day limit and it was time to move on. Since cities aren’t really our “thing” lately, we planned to only spend one week in the Seattle area. Not surprisingly, there aren’t any good camping options in the city of Seattle, so we settled for the northeast suburb of Bothell. We’d been to the city before, so this stop was more about making some social visits to old friends and taking care of practical things, like package delivery and stocking up on supplies.

  • Highlights: Drinking beers with my old rock climbing classmate/kayak instructor, Bob, from my Chicago days, Thali dinner and neighborhood brews with my old DC buddy, Marisa, and her husband Krzystof, Decent campground for a private RV park with a little lake and trails around the perimeter, successful Amazon package delivery, awesome Seattle weather that defied stereotypes, revisiting the Fremont Troll, biking with Monkey on the Burke Gilman Trail
  • Lowlights: Suburban traffic, city traffic

Oak Harbor, Washington: Home on the Road #70

I’d never been to any of those little islands off the coast of Washington before but was always curious about these tiny, scattered land masses. We’re about halfway through our stay on Whidbey Island near Deception Pass State Park and totally into it so far. We thought this would be a fun place to celebrate the husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary, because islands….right?

  • Highlights: Coastal views from the Deception Pass trails, the Decent campground Wi-Fi, throwing a birthday party for the husband, excellent seafood, watching traditional Native American dancing and canoe races at the Penn Cove Water Festival, reading the story of the Maiden of Deception Pass
  • LowlightsStandard/non-scenic campground with crowds and annoying people, learning how expensive/logistically challenging it is island hop between ferries



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

Creating art hasn’t been a top priority of camper life thus far, but I’d love it to inch it up the list a bit more going forward to break up the monotony of never-ending work. To that end, we recently stocked up on a small set of acrylic paints, mini-canvases, and sculpting clay. Here’s my first crappy abstract landscape creation.

The husband makes some seriously delicious stuff in this camper despite the challenges of cooking in a tin box on wheels. Here’s a recent example with fresh shrimp, rice, onions, peppers, and the insane amount of spices we’re gotten accustomed to scarfing down. Meanwhile, I mostly stick to making tofu, salads, and pancakes.

Work is still aplenty and totally overwhelming at times, but it’s settled into a more manageable level thanks to turning down some assignments and putting in extra hours on weekends when needed. Working outside in places like this on beautiful always makes me shut up about my work complaining and be thankful I do what I do.

We’re also experimenting with taking weekends on Sunday/Monday or Monday/Tuesday to avoid spring/summer crowds. I mean, we’re already living a non-traditional lifestyle and working non-traditional jobs, so why stick to everyone else’s definition of a weekend?


Looking Ahead to Next Month

TODAY begins our big anniversary ferry adventure! We’ll soon be driving on-board a ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island for a few work-free, celebratory days of kayaking in the islands, tent camping, cabin camping, and island town exploring. I’ll be reporting back on this little island excursion to kick off next month’s post.

Upon our return to Whidbey Island, our time in Washington will soon come to a close, but I must say that this state has treated us considerably better than Oregon did. It’s probably our fault for arriving in Oregon too early in the season, or maybe it was the universe’s way of pushing us along. Either way, I really have enjoyed my last several weeks in the Evergreen State and will be back sometime, somehow.

From here, we’re taking this camper trip international! We’ll soon be heading up to British Columbia to spend some time in Vancouver and then start moving eastward towards Banff. We’ve confirmed that our internet/phone coverage will work up there and that no special dog certificate is needed to transport this Monkey over the border. Canada promises wild adventure, even though it’s kicking off with vision and dental appointments. With our crappy health insurance coverage, Canada is actually way cheaper for stuff like that.

Looks like we’ll be needing to get some Canadian stickers to add to our RV life map though!


Catch up with the journey:

Life as Oregonians: Month 21 on the Road

For the first time ever this month, I heard myself say aloud, “I think we need to come up with a camper life exit strategy.”

Uh oh. Is this adventure slowly coming to an end? Not quite yet, but the lifestyle has been wearing us down a lot lately. It’s not all Oregon’s fault, of course, but the constant rain certainly isn’t helping.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Trip research and planning for places to stay and things to do was fun for a good long while, but doing it every week for nearly two years has become exhausting and so time-consuming. And since the campground booking industry is so archaic, every new place involves an excruciating reservation phone call to some dimwit that involves spelling my “weird name” a dozen times.

  • Also exhausting is the social aspect of full-time RVing. It’s a very public lifestyle with close neighbors and no viable way to get away from strangers, especially with a dog in tow. Unfortunately, we can’t go off-the-grid like all those free-spirited #vanlifers because of our all-consuming jobs. Yet being a hermit in the middle of nowhere is sounding better and better every day.

  • Our RV is falling apart. You’d think buying brand-new would prevent this, but the truth is that most RVs aren’t designed for full-time living. We’ve been having issues with everything from plumbing to heating, leaks, and a nasty case of mold growing inside the windowsills from the never-ending rain.

  • Now that it’s spring and summer is just around the corner, everywhere we want to go is crowded, expensive, and all booked up.
  • So many campgrounds in pretty much every state out here have discriminatory pit bull bans, which continues to be infuriating. I’m so tired of conversations with ignorant baffoons judging my little Monkey when she’s done nothing wrong.

  • The excitement of seeing and living in new places is starting to wear off and we’ve become stuck in routine. I know, cry me a river, but routine feels stifling no matter what lifestyle you’re living.

With all that said, we aren’t pulling the plug on the lifestyle just yet because frankly, we have nowhere else to go and no current inspiration to plop down somewhere in particular. But as those musings continue to develop and fester, we’ve continued to check out Oregon stuff and even flew my parents out to visit and see some of the state for themselves.


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

Salem, Oregon: Home on the Road #65 (continued from last month)

This was our second home on the road in Oregon, a rainy one, but also one with some fun things to do and an welcome social visit.

  • Highlights: Rock climbing gym with its own bar (too bad it was too early in the day for it to be open though), more lap swimming at a community pool, great campground Wi-Fi, a fun St. Paddy’s day with live music and lots of beer, visiting my friend Kelli and meeting her adorable little twins, seeing Sherlock Gnomes on opening day, shooting a gun at a gun range for the first time and not shooting my foot off
  • Lowlights: Crappy city traffic, rain pretty much every day, a 5K tulip farm race that turned into a mud pit with hardly any tulips in bloom


Welches/Mt. Hood, Oregon: Home on the Road #66

We stayed in the Mt. Hood area for just a week and for really just one purpose: a last round of snow sports. I left my snowboard behind and took up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this time around, while the husband mastered the downhill slopes.

  • Highlights: Good ski conditions on the second day, giving cross-country skiing another try and loving the peacefulness and stress-free vibe of it, snowshoeing in the backcountry with Monkey while listening to podcasts, nice pool/hot tub/fitness center at our campground
  • Lowlights: Crappy ski conditions on the first day, lots of rain, cold, loud families everywhere for spring break, expensive to camp here

Portland, Oregon: Home on the Road #67

Five or six years ago, we came to Portland on vacation and loved it…so much that we actually shopped around for apartments and scoped out neighborhoods. This time around, Portland didn’t charm my socks off like that. Instead, I mostly felt bogged down by the rain, traffic, and not-so-awesome campground. But we were near the airport, which made it easy to drive around my parents and play tour guide for them on their first trip to the state.

  • Highlights: Bike/running trail nearby, checking out all of this with my parents on a fun 4-day weekend: Columbia Gorge, Multnomah Falls, fish hatcheries, hiking trails over the Washington border, Pfriem Brewery in Hood River, having my Portland-based cousin randomly visit our RV, International Test Rose Garden (with no roses though), Alberta Street, Vietnamese food, Oregon History Museum, Tillamook Cheese, Blue Heron Cheese, Seaside Aquarium, Hi Tide Oceanfront Inn in Seaside (a much-needed RV break with a fireplace and hot tub!), Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria boardwalk and column, and so on and so forth.
  • Lowlights: MORE RAIN EVERY DAY, crowded campground with nowhere for monkeys to pee


 

Looking Ahead to Next Month

Our time in Oregon hasn’t been all that pleasant, but we’re cutting out this weekend and heading up to Washington. Perhaps Washington is the land of endless warmth and sunshine? Ha!

We’re starting inland and hoping to dry out a bit. From there, it’s on to the Seattle area, all those weird little islands off the coast of Washington, and then up to Canada. We both got our renewed passports in the nick of time, so this journey is going international before we hit the 2-year mark.

Since this post was a bit of a downer, I’ll close with a happy photo of tulips and daffodils that I’ve managed to keep alive on the RV windowsill for the last couple weeks.

Oh, and maybe some alpacas…because who can’t resist smiling when there’s a fluffy and ridiculous alpaca next to you?

Over and out. Toot-a-loo.


Catch up with the journey:

Making Our Way Up California (yes, again): Month 19 on the Road

Last month, I left off with our nomad journey in Yuma, Arizona, a familiar place where we bought this RV we’ve been living in for the past year. Month #19 of this journey was spent in California and mostly in places that we already visited within the past year.

After having different scenery every two weeks, it’s weird being back in the same places. But the simple fact that everything isn’t new and needs to be figured out is kind of relaxing and helping us with our goals to slow down and not stressing out over constant trip planning.

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


San Luis Obispo, California: Home on the Road #60

Unlike most places within the last year and a half, we visited SLO with a mission. We stayed in nearby Oceano, California last May and began to fall in love with the area. So, we make plans to spend another couple weeks here, this time in El Chorro Regional Park, which was about halfway between SLO and Morro Bay.

  • Highlights: Great downtown area with weekly farmers’ market festival, rock climbing gym and film documentary, breweries galore, super easy traffic, bike lanes everywhere, running along the beach at Morro Bay, free live performances, Oceano sand dunes nearby, finally touring the famous Hearst Castle
  • Lowlights: Disappointing news from a real estate agent about how hard it is to find land to plop a camper onto (without a house) around these parts

Napa, California: Home on the Road #61

Unlike SLO, I have zero desire to live long-term in Napa or in the Bay Area of California. We stayed in Napa at the Expo Fairgrounds in town last summer and found ourselves back here again….not only in the same campground but in the very same campsite too. The main reason for staying in Napa this time around wasn’t a wine vacation but rather to spend some time with my in-laws.

  • Highlights: Great bike lanes along vineyard roads, perfect weather, seeing Reefer Madness the Musical in Vallejo, visits with the in-laws that went well, making origami boats, old-school rock climbing gym, new breweries opened up in town, catching an Olympic curling match at a dive bar since our RV cable sucks, celebrating Monkey’s 4th birthday / 2-year adoption day
  • Lowlights: Awful traffic at all times, the insane price of wine tastings, expensive everything, still way too many wineries to choose from (that one’s for you, Lara, if you’re reading this)

Grass Valley, California: Home on the Road #62

We made a point to stay in Grass Valley for a few days for one reason and one reason only: snow sports. It’s been a couple years since I’ve dusted off my old snowboard, but I broke it out again to hit up the resorts nearby. Fortunately, this didn’t include breaking any bones and only being very mildly sore. We’re also celebrating Valentine’s Day here by going out to a Hawaiian poke & BBQ restaurant for dinner in nearby Nevada City. For the rest of the week, there are possibilities of more snowboarding or perhaps snowshoeing with Monkey instead for some variety and dog inclusion.

  • Highlights: Spacious and quiet campground among tall trees and few neighbors, a fun ski resort day, getting NBC on the RV antenna to watch the Olympics 
  • Lowlights: Cold nights close in the 30s, still being a pretty crappy snowboarder


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • While staying in SLO and going for a run, we passed by a developing botanical garden and stopped by. The place was clearly in need of some volunteers, and volunteering is something we’ve been interested in doing but never seem to make time for. So, one morning, we ditched computer work and opted for manual labor instead, clearing away branches and debris and loading everything onto carts. There’s something very satisfying about working outside that typing eight hours per day just doesn’t provide. I’d love to find a way to work outdoors (and get paid for it somehow) for half my time and write for the other half.

  • Collecting souvenirs is a fun part of travel, but finding space for a bunch of crap in a tiny house is not. I’ve been collecting (space conscious) iron/sew-on patches for a few years from places I’ve enjoyed and shoving them in drawers, thinking someday I’d come up with a really cool craft project to display them. But for now, they’re new fridge decorations! I taped up as many as would fit for a little camper decor ‘til a better idea comes along.

  • Sometimes my work feels like a lost cause…like I’ll never catch up and get ahead. I’m working too much and feeling burnt out, but I’m often not sure how or where to scale back or whether that would be a totally regrettable decision. But today, I actually turned down some work and it felt oddly satisfying and like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

  • Last month, I introduced you to my lifelong Cabbage Patch companion, Isabelle. While in storage, she was wearing a dress way too short for any 33-year-old. So, I sewed her some pants! Now she matches our bedroom curtains because I made the pants with leftover curtain fabric.

  • We bought new dishes for the camper! Goodbye old scratched-up plastic crap. We fancy now.

  • Yes, our camper is nice and only a year old. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t falling apart already. We’re slowly realizing why some campers are so much more expensive than other: craftsmanship and quality materials. It seems ours wasn’t really made for full-time living, so things keep breaking. Are any campers made for full-time living? The kitchen sink leaks, the floor squeaks, the propane alarm keeps going off, and I’m pretty sure that the shower floor is going to collapse any day now (which is going to be incredibly awkward).


Looking Ahead to Next Month

I’m really looking forward to Month #20 for a couple reasons. One, we’ll finally make it as far north as Eureka, California, an area we’ve never been to and failed to get to last year. Two, we’ll finally make it into Oregon! Goodbye Cali, it’s been fun, but it’s time to move on and take this camper journey to the Pacific Northwest.


Catch up with the journey:

Happy 4th Birthday / 2-Year Adoption Day, Monkey!!! (A Biography of Sorts)

Today is my little Monkey’s birthday. Okay, fine. To be honest, I have no idea when her birthday is. But February 10 is the day we celebrate her special day because this is the day we picked her up from the Fulton County Animal Services shelter in Atlanta and never looked back.

Well, maybe a couple times, but only on days when she’s really annoying. Kidding! Sort of.

After dog sitting as a side-business for a couple years in Chicago and Atlanta, my husband and I finally felt ready (as ready as we’d ever be) to adopt a pup of our own. We started volunteering at Fulton County Animal Services to get to know the dogs and staff there, because frankly, it seemed like the facility in town that was most in need of help.

I’ll be honest here, and it’s a little sad but true…Monkey wasn’t our first choice when we started narrowing down candidates at the shelter. In fact, she was probably about choice #3. One day when we went to the shelter to volunteer, we decided to try their “dog for a day” program, which involved taking a dog out for the day – to your home, the park, pretty much anywhere to give it a shelter break and experience life outside of bars for a little while. We planned to take out a brown and white pup named Brandy for the day but were a little disappointed (and simultaneously relieved) to find that she had already been adopted by the time we arrived. Another small black dog named Otis was also on our potential shortlist, but he had gotten adopted already too.

There was a larger black dog named Sasha that was in the back of our minds too, and Sasha was still there. She was in a cage all by herself, rather than the group cages that most of the dogs were in. She was labeled as a “lab mix,” although she was pretty obviously some kind of pit bull, just like almost every dog in the Atlanta shelter was. We had met Sasha once before and thought she was a little too high energy, a little too nippy, and a little too big for our small apartment with no yard.

But with our top picks already out the door, Sasha became our “dog for a day” companion and we headed for the door together. Sasha had been picked up as a stray in the College Park neighborhood a few weeks earlier after giving puppies. Her nipples still hung to the ground, but her puppies were nowhere to be found.

She was so weak that she couldn’t even jump up into my jeep. I had to lift her. She was so exhausted from the chaos of the shelter that she slept the entire day sleeping on our living room floor. On walks, Sasha was sweet, she never pulled on the leash, and she walked in a fairly straight line. In the house, she never had an accident, never barked, and never got into anything she wasn’t supposed to.

Sounds like a pretty perfect dog after all, right? Maybe it was meant to be!

That’s what we thought, and perhaps Sasha’s first impression wasn’t the best one…or the truest one. So, after weighing all the pros and cons before the shelter’s closing time, we decided that Sasha would join our little family to make three.

On the drive to the shelter to fill out paperwork and make it official, we debated over names to call her. She sure didn’t look like a Sasha…there had to be something better. Aubergine? Obsidian? Olive? Monkey?

We had always toyed around with the idea of having a dog named Monkey. “She kinda looks like a monkey, but she doesn’t ACT like a monkey,” my husband said. He had a point. This pup seemed pretty calm and sleepy, but we liked the name better than anything else so we just stuck with it anyway. Little did we know that she would soon live up to her name and pure nut-baggery would emerge within a matter of weeks!

Monkey’s adoption fee was $14 because the shelter was running a Valentine’s Day adoption special. What a deal, right? Well, that is until you make your first trip to Petco as a new pet parent and drop a couple hundred dollars on all the essentials (and non-essentials): bed, food, treats, leash, collar, tags, toys, shampoo, brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and later a festive wardrobe too.

Monkey, formerly known as Sasha, settled in quickly and found her groove with two stay-at-home parents who worked full-time remote jobs. She also got a crash course in our traveling lifestyle the very next weekend after being adopted because we had previously planned a weekend camping getaway to St. Augustine, Florida. A few months earlier, we had bought a pop-up camper and wanted to see how well she adjusted to camper life.

If you know how this story ends up, you’d be right in guessing that Monkey adapted to camper life quite well!

In the pop-up camper, she had her very own “big girl bed,” but she was still too weak to jump up onto it. Slowly but surely, we helped Monkey build up her strength by hiking, running, and playing together. Before long, she was strong to the point of beefy, agile to the point of fearless, and her body totally recovered from giving birth and nursing.

***FLASH FORWARD TWO YEARS***

Monkey has been our third partner-in-crime for two years now, and a year and seven months of that time has been spent on the road, living the nomadic life in a camper. A few months ago, we actually sent in a cheek swab for one of those dog DNA tests to learn about her genetic makeup: 50% American Staffordshire Terrier, 12.5% Boxer, 12.5% German Shepherd, 12.5% Chow Chow, and 12.5% “unknown.” As one asshole stranger once put it to us, “Wow, that’s like wrapping all of the undesirable breeds into one dog!” If the DNA test isn’t bogus, there’s no Labrador in her at all!

Life on the road with a pit pull mix, hasn’t always been easy. Campgrounds in certain states (California, Arizona, Colorado) are riddled with discriminatory and unfounded anti-pit bull language in their polices. Meanwhile, other campgrounds’ polices more generally state, “no aggressive breeds,” to which my response about her “breed” is that she’s a rescue mix who’s not aggressive at all. Totally true, and most places don’t press it for more details.

But there are two issues that have come up with dog ownership that I had never anticipated before adopting Monkey that have nothing to do with her breed.

The first issue is the intrusive nature of strangers who refuse to acknowledge dog owners but proceed to bombard their space with open arms to fawn over a dog. Just because a person has a dog doesn’t mean they social at all times. In fact, remote working and nomadic living has taken me beyond the point of introversion and to the verge of reclusive. This is especially problematic when you live your entire life in public places and have a really cute dog that looks like she’s a puppy even though she’s four. Having to fend off unwelcome advances from strangers wanting to meet Monkey is a huge source of anxiety for me. It also defies the stereotypes about pit bulls being big, bad, and scary. I never set out to become a pit bull advocate, but here I am rooting my girl on even when I’d rather hide and be left alone. And Monkey is proof that these dogs are amazing companions, even when they are too social and friendly for their own damn good.

The second big dog drama for me if off-leash dogs in on-leash places. Want to let your dog off-leash? Great! Take it to a dog park, off-leash trail, or your own backyard. Leash laws are in place for a reason: for the safety and comfort of other people and other dogs. She loves every stranger and would love nothing more for each one of them to come up and pet her while she rolls over for a belly rub and licking session. But with other dogs, she is very high energy, and that energy is often off-putting to other dogs, who respond by snipping at her and causing a big ruckus. It’s incredibly unfair to put another dog owner in a position to solely break up a kerfuffle with a strange dog while you lolly-lag half a mile behind calling out, “He’s friendly!”

We do occasionally go to dog parks, but I’ll admit that they stress me out and that I’ve put that activity in my husband’s domain for now. She loves them though.

But I digress. This was supposed to be Monkey’s biography, not a rant about pet owner pet peeves. My bad.

So anyway, Monkey is a healthy and happy four-year-old (or so) and living a dog’s dream…we hope she thinks so anyway. I’ll close with a quick list of the things that I love about Monkey to celebrate her special day and help myself always remember her unique personality that is nutty, sweet, and hilarious.

Things I Love About Monkey

  • She does 360-degree twirls on walks (initially super annoying, now a defining characteristic).
  • She is very adaptable and can live in a new place every two weeks (I don’t think every dog could do that).
  • She is incredibly food motivated (loves meat and I don’t, but that’s okay, I’ll give her a pass).
  • She loves to cuddle and put her head on your lap (my favorite bonding time).
  • She is an epic hiker and climber (better than me…ugh).
  • She has no health problems (yay for affordable vet bills!)
  • She isn’t picky about anything (a girl after my own true heart).
  • She looks amazing in brightly-colored coats and costumes (fashionista to the max).
  • She is so excited to see me every time I come home (no one else will ever be that excited to see me).
  • She doesn’t judge me when I’m inebriated (can’t say that for everyone).
  • She hangs out every day while I work (best coworker ever).
  • I can’t imagine nomadic life without her (it would be so boring).

It’s Officially Been a Year & a Half of Camper Life!

A year and a half? Whoa. Pop some champagne, because this sounds like a reason to celebrate!

Eighteen months ago, we hit the open road and never looked back. Well okay, that’s a lie. We’ve actually been back to where we started twice since then due to nomad logistics. In fact, that fact ties into the theme for month #18 of camper life.

It was a milestone month, but also a weird month thanks to the holidays. On the first day of it, we stuck Dragoon the RV into a storage lot in Arizona and headed out on a cross-country Jeep road trip to Georgia and Illinois.

From there, there were lots of cheap motel stays (fortunately no bedbugs, but unfortunately with plenty of neighbor noise), visits with family and friends, and a few fun national park/monument stops to break up excruciatingly long drives.

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


Christmas Road Trip: The Eastbound Journey

  • Highlights: A chill, dog-friendly driving break at Sierra Blanca Brewing in Moriarty, New Mexico; Gorging on our favorite Torchy’s Tacos in Amarillo, Texas, not getting sick from $4 Chinese takeout in Texarkana, Arkansas; digging for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park (sadly, we didn’t strike it rich though); checking out the historic bathhouses at Hot Springs National Park
  • Lowlights: 8-10-hour days in the car; very boring stretches of road (I’m looking at you, Central Texas), the annoyance of every stranger hassling us to meet Monkey in Hot Springs, Arkansas; not uncovering any sparkling diamonds while digging in the dirt, eating too much and exercising too little

A Few Days in Atlanta 

  • Highlights: Hanging out with my best gal pal and her kiddos for the day; dinner at a great Japanese restaurant with another old friend; boba tea and Asian grocery stores; finally going for a run (in the rain, however); the expansive salad bar at Fogo de Chao which made up for my distaste for all things meat on a business partner + family dinner
  • Lowlights: Lots of rain (totally forgot what rain was after being in the desert for so long); the loudest and most annoying hotel stay ever at Studio 6 in Chamblee (seriously, who does crossfit and sings every night between 11pm and 5am?); terrible hotel pillows

Celebrating Christmas with Family 

  • Highlights: Feeling like a kid again in my parents’ house; Monkey got to stay with us!; seeing real reindeer at a reindeer ranch; some well-timed snow that looked nice but didn’t get in the way of our travel plans; card games with Mom and Dad; running on my parents’ treadmill 5 days in a row to fight the fatness; hanging out with my 94-year-old grandma; meals out with friends in the area; not having to work much at all; ummm….presents!
  • Lowlights: Blisteringly cold and below-zero temps that will never make me miss Illinois; that day when Monkey ate half a box of animal crackers left behind in my parents’ SUV

Christmas Road Trip: The Westbound Journey

  • Highlights: Drinking beer and gnoming out at Hopping Gnome Brewing in Wichita, Kansas; motel hot tubs and free breakfasts; breweries and food trucks in Albuquerque; taking a day off driving to check out El Malpais National Monument and El Morrow National Monument in New Mexico; final stops at Petrified Forest National Monument back in Arizona
  • Lowlights: Also very boring roads (This time, I’m looking at you, Kansas); all the money spent on gas

And with that, we were reunited with our home on wheels and set to dive back into camper life. The road trip (versus flying) plan went off without a hitch, but this may not have worked out so well if the weather turned crappy or the Jeep broke down. However, none of that happened, so it was great to be able to spend additional time with family and friends for the holidays and also make some random stops in Arkansas, Kansas, and New Mexico to break up the monotony of driving. And the best bonus was that Monkey could come along for it all, rather than being boarded back in Arizona like last year!

After picking up the RV from storage and crashing for one night in Black Canyon City, Arizona, we moved on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to ring in the new year.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Ajo, Arizona: Home on the Road #58

  • Highlights: Awesome campground that actually had internet coverage so we could extend our stay from two days to seven; backcountry and off-road hikes where dogs are allowed; starting the year off with a slow pace; making it up ’til midnight on NYE (barely) by listening to podcasts and playing board games; managing to use the four hours of daily allowed generator time to charge laptops enough for working; an awesome day trip to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico for a day of eating good food and being beach bums
  • Lowlights: Only 2 dog-friendly designated trails; old people who stick their noses in others’ business; the ordeal of driving over to fresh water and dump stations every few days

Yuma, Arizona: Home on the Road #59

  • Highlights: Swapping out stuff in our tiny storage unit here (tent camping gear now in tow!); taking care of Monkey’s annual vet appointment and dental cleaning; revisiting the one and only brewery in town; getting a lot of work done and continuing a slower pace of life; finding a campground that allows in people under 55 and that doesn’t enforce its pitbull ban
  • Lowlights: Surrounded by snowbirds everywhere you go; the insane cost of Monkey’s vet bill (but she’s worth it)


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Time passes by differently in different places. For example, it always seems to move so slowly in Central Illinois where I grew up. It also moves slowly in places like Organ Pipe where there’s really not that much to do or be in a hurry for. The slower pace is refreshing to me right now, after always feeling in a frantic hurry to get to everything all at once for the sake of checking things off a list.
  • I brought my 1984 cabbage patch, Isabelle, out of storage and she is now an active member of this camper life journey! This little lady went to college with me and survived the 120+ degree heat in a non-climate-cooled storage unit in Yuma. I think that deserves a medal and a shot of something strong. She is 33 years old, after all. She’s a little worn and dirty, but then again, aren’t we all?

  • Also, having Georgia license plates is exhausting. At this point, I’ve lived longer on the road than ever in the state of Georgia. But everyone has to have license plates, and that’s what ours say. In the west/southwest, it’s a constant barrage “Georgia?! Well aren’t you a looooooong way from home? Whataya doin’ out here?!?” If I had a nickel for every time I had to endure this exhausting conversation, I’d have a couple bucks by now.
  • We’ve been redecorating and personalizing the RV! These are the cupboards above our bed, and we printed out panorama photos to display on the otherwise-boring surfaces. I love the way they turned out!

  • We also finished our replacement DIY curtains in the living room and office. These ones actually reach down to the windowsill and block out some light.

  • Another project (that was all S and no me) was building a second workstation for the RV. It’s bolted into the dash board and slides out like a drawer. Now we don’t have to sit next to each other all day and kick each other trying to scoot out…amazing!

  • There’s still something very appealing to me about New Mexico – something rugged, mysterious, and alas….uncrowded.
  • I love campground and hotel fitness centers, no matter how outdated or tiny. There’s never anyone in these mysterious places and I can finally lift something besides resistance bands and my own body weight.
  • While in Yuma, we went to a wood carving expo and I bought this necklace – totally obsessed. It’s a carving from mesquite wood from the desert and turquoise chips with copper and a leather chain. It reminds me of the mountains I’ve been hiking in, southwest landscapes, independence, and enduring strength despite getting a little worn and rough around the edges over time. One day, when I uncover magical free time, I’d love to make jewelry, and for it to be something like this.

  • A fellow full-time RV friend of mine recently commented how non-retired/full-time working RVers have very little in common with snowbirds, and I couldn’t agree more. Living in snowbird country is pretty much like living on Groundhog Day and having the same awkward interactions and forced conversations every day. Yet we are terribly outnumbered.
  • I’d 2018 to be my year of slowing down and being more spontaneous. Living a life on the road might sound inherently spontaneous, but it’s really not. All of our homes on the road are very planned out in advance, largely to accommodate our work schedules and find some normalcy while constantly moving. However, starting the year off at Organ Pipe reminded me of a few things. #1: Slow down and stop rushing because no one else cares what I do, where I go, or how many things I check off a list. And #2: Build in time for spontaneous time. In a rare wine-fueled moment, we decided to take a day trip to Mexico the night before crossing the border atLukeville, Arizona. It was probably the best decision we’ve made all year. With a super-easy border crossing, cheaply priced everything, and perfect weather for sand and sunshine, I need more Puerto Peñasco-style days in my life.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

From Yuma, we got back into California, but this time with goals to only stop by a few key areas in order to reach Oregon by early March. Rather than spending eight or so months in California like last year, we’re blowing through a bit faster this time so we can spend spring and summer in Oregon, Washington, Canada, Idaho, and Montana.

Our first Cali stop was a quick overnight at Pyramid Lake to break up the drive to San Luis Obispo, where we’ll spend a couple weeks revisiting an area that we really enjoyed last spring. SLO has made it on our short list of possible future plop-down spots, so I’m looking forward to getting to know the area better. From here, we’re northward bound with two-week stays being standard protocol.

Thanks for sifting through my rambles for the past year and a half! I’ll close with our fortunes for the new year, courtesy of $4 Chinese entrees from Texarkana, Arkansas.


Catch up with the journey:

Lucky #13: A Recap of Nomadic Life One Year & One Month In

Well, our one-year anniversary of life on the road has come and gone, and we’re still out here in California. We’ve actually been paying comparatively unfair attention to this state, considering that we’ve been lurking around here for over six months. With this slow pace, we’re only staying at two or three new places each month, but I’d honestly hate moving any faster with all the setup, take down, and research involved in each relocation.

We’ve started working on a printed photo book project with highlights from our first year to keep for ourselves and gift to our families. It’s in the tech planning stages now, which is my other half’s territory. But soon, it’ll be my turn to start adding poems, stories, and antidotes about each of our first year of homes on the road.

Speaking of that…

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch:


Napa, California: Home on the Road #43, Continued

  • Highlights: Day trip to Santa Rosa to visit my gnome collector friend, biking to a wine cave tour, guided tour of the DiRosa Art Museum and home, trying to solve a 1915 murder mystery and treating ourselves to a fancy dinner on board the Napa Valley Wine Train, free model railroad exhibit next to our campground, observing the happenings of a Latino (human only) circus next to our campground
  • Lowlights: How expensive everything is in general, 105 degrees, very small laundry facilities, traffic everywhere


Mendocino, California: Home on the Road #44 

  • Highlights: Incredible and dramatic coastal views, seeing a dozen seals hanging out on rocks, coastal hikes in areas where dogs are allowed, the awesome trails and flowers at the dog-friendly Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, nice coffeehouse nearby for WiFi work and photo downloads (hence there being so many in this blog post!), free jazz shows and great beer at North Coast Brewery, catching a performance at the Mendocino Theatre Company, big arts community with galleries and classes, beating the inland heat of 100 degrees in favor of more like 60 degrees, creepy mystery novel-style fog pretty much every day, no traffic anywhere
  • Lowlights: Lack of sun and warm days, trailer park-style RV camping with 3am domestic fights and close neighbors with way too many kids, state parks that don’t allow dogs on hiking trails, crappy campground WiFi, learning that the iconic sea glass of Fort Bragg is really just litter and trash, no laundry facilities and running out of skivvies, very few bike lanes or sidewalks anywhere, lots of vagabonds/hitchhikers lurking about


Bodega Bay, California: Home on the Road #45

  • Highlights: Going sailing on the Pacific waves, front window view of boats in a marina, biking to Bodega Head, uncrowded beaches (Pinnacle Gulch, Point Reyes National Seashore), checking out the creepy film sites from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds, minimal traffic
  • Lowlights: The ridiculously twisty-turny Highway 1 route to get here in a monstrosity on wheels, discovering 2 tears in the seam of our inflatable kayak and not knowing how to fix it, the awful campground plumbing system making mechanical noises next to our bedroom and causing sleepless nights, very little sunshine, nothing much going on in tiny towns, expensive campground


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

In no particular order, these are some random thoughts that came to me and that I jotted down over the course of last month on the road.

  • We had a pantry moth infestation in Napa and had to throw out all of our food from the cupboards. To stay sane throughout the ordeal, we tried to keep track of how many moths each of us killed per day as a competition. And if we accidentally ate any of the moth larvae, well, we didn’t get sick. Bonus!

  • Speaking of moths, after attending a live show of the storytelling podcast, “The Moth,” we decided to give storytelling a try for ourselves. We chose the topic, “lost,” out of a hat and have both been working on 5-minute true stories to tell each other, the dog, and our stuffed creatures.

  • I started this trip with a Fitbit and now wear a Garmin GPS watch every day. It’s still helping me get more exercise on most days, and I also use Monkey as an excuse to stay in reasonably okay shape.

  • Most people don’t start planning for Christmas this early, but when you live in a camper and a long way from your family, you kind of have to. Surprisingly, planning for Christmas has somewhat dictated the rest of our camper life journey and probable end date. For me, the driving force to stop RVing is to travel internationally. For S, it is to buy a cool piece of property and build something on it. But we’re both on-board with each other’s driving forces.

  • We miss our tent. It’s sitting in a tiny 5’x5′ unit in Yuma, Arizona. But as part of the overall route plan, we will pick it up, along with the rest of the tenting gear so we can have more backcountry experiences. And for my upcoming birthday, we’re tent camping in a rental as part of a multi-day whitewater rafting trip. Never tried to sleep with Monkey in a tent before, so that should be interesting to say the least.
  • It smells like sewer a lot in our camper lately. We thought there was a leak in our black tank hose and bought a new one, but alas no leak. It’s the worst on really hot days and when it gets too full of poop before dumping it. Glamorous, right?

  • We have a cluster of Post-It notes on our bedroom wall in the RV next to some maps that list places that we’d consider plopping down in after camper life. The Mendocino area is the most recent addition to that list. It’s remote, but not too remote. It’s cool and foggy, but there is some warmth and sun just a few miles inland in the forests. The landscape is amazing. There’s no traffic. And it’s more reasonably priced than elsewhere along the coast. The people are pretty freaking weird though.

  • I really enjoy small town theaters more than big-name, big-city productions. It feels like your attendance matters and that you’re supporting something good in a place that needs support. I also appreciate small crowds, no parking drama, low costs, and $5 drinks. We went to a show called “The Open House” at the Mendocino Theatre Company recently, which made me think of this.

  • A person walking with a dog (regardless of how cute the dog may look at you) is not an open invitation to invade a stranger’s space. Walking a dog does not translate to “Hey, come over and bother me for a while!” Why is this hard to understand? Unwelcome, dog-caused social interactions are a constant pet-peeve of mine that no one else seems to have. (That and letting your dog off leash in leash law areas so that I have to deal with the scuffle while you irresponsibly lolly-gag behind without a care in the world.) Headphones and snippy comments rarely deter the perpetrators, and no one would ever believe this little nut bag is a service dog no matter how convincing a fake vest was. Small town folk are the worst. Curmudgeonly rant over.

  • I’m still into sending out postcards. If you haven’t gotten one from me and would like that to change, email me your physical mailing address! – [email protected]

  • My immune system gets run down every month or two and I come down with a very predictable, mild sickness of headache and sore throat that lasts about two days. I never had this sort of thing before camper life. But before that, I would get sick less frequently but for longer and with more severe symptoms. I’ve found that the best cure is to not drink booze or exercise for a couple days, drink a bunch of water, and get more sleep. Always seems to do the trick. I’m thankful for my good health because regularly seeing doctors with this lifestyle would be a nightmare.
  • I recently downloaded a book on Kindle that has audio narration. This has been a great way for me to get through books faster and stay engaged in them even when I don’t have the focus to sit down and read.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

We only spent a week in Bodega Bay because of no campground availability and the high daily rates around here. Just yesterday, we arrived in the hot and sunny capitol city of Sacramento. From here, we’ll head to the tiny mountain town of Clio, California and then Reno, Nevada.

Time passes in a weird way when you’re on the road, but the calendar reminds me that I’m turning 34 (gasp!) in 10 days. I can’t think of a better way to beat the Central Cali heat than setting out on a multi-day whitewater rafting/tent camping trip on the American River. I’ve been a couple times before in West Virginia and British Columbia, but it’s been a while and I think it’ll be a great adventure to welcome in a new year.

To reward you for reading THIS FAR DOWN in this month’s blog post, here’s a rare photo of my little Monkey actually looking at the camera for a seaside selfie 🙂