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:

One Last Sweep Through the South: Month #34 of RV Life

We sought out springtime in the South in hopes of less rain than last spring in the Pacific Northwest. It’s kind of crazy how much more the weather impacts life in a camper compared to being in an apartment somewhere. The number of rainy days has been fewer in the South, but the storms have been bigger. We’ve escaped the tornadoes and hail you may have heard about in the news, but we’ve still had our fair share of thunderstorms knocking out power and scaring the daylights out of poor Monkey.

Month #34 kicked off with a Gulf Coast bike trip and then moved at record speed through northern Texas and Oklahoma. We’ve since made it back to our familiar home base of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with an island vacation just around the corner.

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

Biloxi, Pensacola, Orange Beach & New Orleans: Home on the Road #113

We called it our “MissFloBamaIana bike trip,” but unfortunately, not a whole lot of biking actually happened. The goal was 100 miles over the course of a long weekend, but we didn’t even reach half of that goal. This was because of the high 20+ mph winds, time-consuming bike repairs, thunderstorms, and the time constraints of scheduling in a social visit. But we still managed to tent-camp in four states in four days, thereby checking a few more places off our “full-time RV life map.”

  • Highlights: White sand Biloxi beaches, visiting my aunt and her husband in Orange Beach, delicious seafood, not getting sick after tent-camping, Gulf Island forts, walking around Pensacola
  • Lowlights: Consoling a dog terrified of storms, broken spoke, rain and mud, insane winds, no time to party in New Orleans, so much driving

Shreveport, Louisiana Area: Home on the Road # 114

Our stay in the Shreveport area was a short one – just a couple days for the purpose of visiting our favorite nonprofit sanctuary, Chimp Haven. It wasn’t a scheduled tour day at Chimp Haven, but as occasional donors, the staff let us drop by anyway to bring in some donation items and see a few chimps.

  • Highlights: Seeing some fun research-retired chimps being well cared for, mountain biking trails around the sanctuary where you could hear the chimps hootin’ & hollerin’, a surprisingly decent campground in Greenwood at a TA travel center, being invited by the campground long-termers to their Easter lunch
  • Lowlights: No time to actually check out anything in Shreveport, terribly maintained roads to get here in an RV that’s already insanely bumpy on the smoothest of roads

Tyler, Texas: Home on the Road #115

Tyler State Park was a lot like our stay in Huntsville State Park, and Texas’ state parks are by far the best things about Texas. Right from our spacious campsite, it was easy to get to mountain biking trails, trail runs, quiet paths for long dog walks, and a lake for boating. Lately I find myself much happier staying out in the boonies in a place like this and only going to town about once a week.

  • Highlights: Continuing to get a little better at mountain biking, peaceful campsite, magical time to hang out outdoors, eating dinner on a stand-up paddleboard without toppling over, working on a craft project for Mother’s/Father’s Day, the beautiful rose garden in town, True Vine Brewing’s super-sweet outdoor space
  • Lowlights: More thunderstorms, lots of mud

Roadside Stop: Argyle Texas

With the take-down, setup, gas/propane stops, slow driving speed, etc., RV driving days always take more time than you’d think. Finding a place to park this monstrosity often prevents us from making too many stops along the way on moving days, but we made an exception in Argyle, Texas.

I first heard about Gnome Cones in 2017, an all-natural snow cone stand in a Texas town of 4,000+ people. I finally got to experience the world’s only gnome-shaped snow cones for myself along this drive, and it was nothing short of incredible.

The shack is super-cute, the flavors are creative (I chose Troll’s Blood, which was a mix of cherry, strawberry, and coconut), the onsite gnome collection is pretty impressive, and they’re damn delicious too. I bought a keychain and t-shirt as souvenirs and arbitrarily joined their Gnome Cones club in hopes of making it back here someday for round two.

Transition Week Stop 1: Lake Murray, Oklahoma

Transition week, collectively Home on the Road #116, was a whirlwind week of state park stays in three states. This was an intentional plan to break up the long drive from Tyler, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first stop was Lake Murray State Park, which was our first-ever time camping in Oklahoma.

  • Highlights: Peaceful site with no neighbors, nice weather to work outside, adding the Oklahoma sticker to our RV life map, getting in a good run
  • Lowlights: Not enough time to take the boats out on the nice lake, not much in the way of hiking trails

Transition Week Stop 2: Copper Breaks State Park, Texas

Our second stop for transition week was Copper Breaks for a three-night stay to get substantial work done and spend some time on the trails. This was an awesome place to mountain bike and also see colorful wildflowers, with some landscapes that surprised me that they were in Texas.

  • Highlights: Nice hiking and mountain biking trails at the park, red rock landscapes, quiet campsite, amazingly colorful wildflowers
  • Lowlights: More storms to scare Monkey, Jeep tire issue that actually required a service from Quanah to come out to us, mounting fuel costs

Transition Week Stop 3: Caprocks Canyons State Park, Texas

The third stop on this very mobile week was Caprock Canyons, which was our last stay in Texas for probably a long while. I loved the scenery here for this one-night stay but never ended seeing any of the resident buffalo that are supposed to be roaming around the park.

  • Highlights: Red rock landscapes along a nearly 7-mile hike on the rim trail, watching the resident prairie dogs peek their heads up from dirt mounts and confuse the heck out of Monkey, sweet potato pancakes for breakfast
  • Lowlights: Where are the buffalo?!

Transition Week Stop 4: Sumner Lake State Park, New Mexico

To round out this multi-stop journey, we camped in a new part of a familiar state. New Mexico is certainly not known for its abundant water sources, but there are a surprising number of nice lakes here for chill boating activities. Sumner Lake State Park took me by surprise with how nice the campsites here, how blue the lake was, and the stunning lightning show under the desert stars.

  • Highlights: Cute outdoor casitas at each campsite that were perfect for working, campsite views of the lake, chill vibe, feeling at home back in the desert, fun lightning in the distance
  • Lowlights: Not enough time to get the boats out, not much in the way of hiking trails

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Home on the Road # 117

Albuquerque has become a familiar home base for us. This was our first destination for the 5-week camper life trial in 2016, it’s where we set out from for last year’s Christmas trip, and it’s now where we plopped down to fly out to Hawaii for an anniversary vacation. We’ve stayed at a different campground each time – this time north of the city more in the Rio Rancho/Bernalillo area.

  • Highlights: Discovering our new favorite “promised land” of Placitas between ABQ and Santa Fe that is more like where we would want to find a future house than anywhere else we’ve seen lately, a great mix of sunshine and storms, finding a local at-home dog sitter nearby via Rover to take care of Monkey while we’re in Hawaii, securing RV storage during our trip, chill hike in the Cibola National Forest, good times at the casino bowling alley, authentic New Mexican cuisine of sopapillas with green chile 
  • Lowlights: Almost getting screwed out of an RV storage space because campground owners are unreliable, hassles with campground mail delivery, not enough time to do more city things in ABQ with work and packing


Looking Ahead to Next Month

I’m sharing this monthly update a little early because TOMORROW, we fly out to Hawaii! It’ll be my first time in the islands, and we’re taking our tent gear for a more rugged and local experience vs. the going the popular all-inclusive resort route that’s not so much our style.

We’ll be spending a week on Oahu and the Big Island and renting a car on each one so we can check out whatever island life has to offer at our own pace. It’ll be a much-needed week of not working and celebrating our anniversary and the husband’s birthday in the mid-May beach tradition that we’ve kept up with over the last four years.

When our time in Hawaii sadly comes to an end, the almost the entire rest of month #35 will be spent in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The corridor between Albuquerque and Santa Fe has quickly jumped to the top of our potential plop-down list after discovering a disappointing lack of good housing options in Southwestern Utah. Post-vacation, we’ll be slowing down the pace of camper life to scope out the scene and take a breath of fresh air.

Until then, aloha!


Catch up with the journey:

The Cross-Country Christmas Journey from the Southwest & Back: 2.5 Years of Nomad Life

Although I grew up in the Midwest, I have little desire to be back there except for visits to family and friends. This means that every Christmas involves a cross-country journey and doing my best to avoid snow, ice, traffic, and delays.

These days, we opt to drive instead of fly for this particular journey so that Monkey can join us for Christmas and because well, air travel just sucks. It’s a Jeep-only endeavor since the RV is a gas-guzzler, but fortunately, we found a departure campground with onsite storage to simplify the logistics. This year’s Christmas journey began in Albuquerque, New Mexico, made a stop in Atlanta, Georgia and then finally onto the town I grew up in, Arthur, Illinois.

On the eastbound journey, we broke up the drives with overnight hotel stays in Henryetta, Oklahoma and Tupelo, Mississippi, visits to Fort Smith National Historic Site and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas, visits to Civil War battlefields in Mississippi, and breweries in Little Rock and Birmingham. Our stay in Georgia revolved around the husband’s business meetings, a company Christmas dinner, and getting an emissions test done in the Jeep so we don’t have to worry about that nonsense until August 2020.

It was Christmas traditions as usual at my parents’ place, with way too many amazing gifts and delicious things to eat. We tried to offset the impending fatness by running on their treadmill in the garage every morning. We spent a full week here in the house where I went to high school from and were able to get some much-needed downtime. I squeezed in work with every spare moment that didn’t feel like it was infringing upon the festive spirit.

I typically feel like I’m usually the one who makes the effort to visit people, but as an added bonus this year, everyone seemed to come to us! We had two sets of friends passing through Arthur who were awesome enough to stop by and say hello to break up their drives through the frigid corn fields. A few days later, a friend from high school came over to see us as well and scarf down some Mexican food to break up all the meals filled with casseroles and pies.

After spending a full week in Arthur, it was time to head back; however, all of the national monuments we’d planned to visit on the return journey were closed due to this idiotic government shutdown. So, we powered through Missouri and Oklahoma and stayed overnight in hotels in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Tucumcari, New Mexico along the way.

Central and southern New Mexico don’t typically get much snow, but the universe wasn’t smiling in our favor this year. The final leg of our return journey was riddled with icy roads and traffic accidents, and we were greeted by a busted pipe system and no running water when we got back to our home on wheels.

Now that we’re 2.5 years into this lifestyle and back at it again, here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Christmas Trip (Albuquerque, New Mexico > Atlanta, Georgia > Arthur, Illinois): Home on the Road #102

  • Highlights:
    • Being able to keep up with my work and even get ahead a bit over the holidays.
    • Good times with my parents, grandma, extended family, friends traveling through, an old high school friend, and my epic collection of Cabbage Patches that live at my parents’ house.
    • Pretending like I’m a teenager again by having all of my meals cooked for me and laundry done for me
    • Seeing tidbits of random towns in random states
  • Lowlights:
    • So many long hours in the Jeep
    • Treacherous roads in New Mexico to get back
    • Frozen pipe parts = no running water
    • The government shutdown = no visits to national parks/monuments

Las Cruces, New Mexico: Home on the Road #103

Tired of all the camper drama that comes with cold and snow, we booked a campsite in Las Cruces in search of warmth and sunshine. But wouldn’t you know it, it snowed right here barely north of the Mexico border. Regardless, this was a fun place to ring in the new year and transition back into camper life after the holidays.

  • Highlights:
    • New Year’s Eve Chili Drop festival downtown – we made it out until midnight!
    • A healthy Monkey report from her annual vet appointment and dental cleaning
    • Still the best campground bathrooms/showers I’ve ever experienced at Sunny Acres RV Park
  • Lowlights:
    • Why is everything in the RV breaking?!
    • Not nearly as warm or snow-free as it’s supposed to be here
    • Back to the grind with all work and not-so-much play

Marfa, Texas: Home on the Road #104

In 2.5 years of full-time RV life, would you believe that we’ve never camped in Texas? Sure, we’ve camped in Texas pre-camper-life in a tent and stayed in Texas hotels while making cross-country Christmas road trips. But our stay in Marfa finally warranted the adding of the Texas sticker to our RV travel map. I’d heard of Marfa’s mysterious lights and weird artist community, and I watched the one and only season of I Love Dick. This was our first time experiencing Marfa for ourselves though.

  • Highlights:
    • Checking out minimalist, abstract, modern, and just plain random art in the middle of the desert (a Prada store that never opens?!)
    • Scenic and secluded hike at Davis Mountains State Park nearby
    • Warmer days in the 50s and 60s
    • Slow pace of life and some rare downtime
    • Looking through telescopes at a “star party” at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis
    • Tent camping for the weekend at Big Bend Ranch State Park, an excellent Big Bend National Park alternative (I’ll kick off with this in next month’s post)
  • Lowlights:
    • Never-ending camper repairs, especially the plumbing system
    • The “donations suggested” campground washer/dryer machines that took 4+ hours to do one load of laundry
    • Strong and never-ending West Texas winds
    • Shops, galleries, and restaurants often closed and only seem to open when they want to
    • Not a good time to visit Big Bend National Park with the shutdown so skipped it



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Working in certain hotels on the Christmas journey really made me miss having a real desk and chair to put in my 8+ hours per day. Pictured here: LaQuinta in Dunwoody, Georgia.

  • For a while there, winter camping was further driving me towards calling this lifestyle quits in 2019. Winter or not, we’re working towards a plan to plop down by the end of summer in the Southwest. Therefore, 2 1/2 years of camper life = six months left of camper life (approximately). There is an end on the horizon, which is pretty unsettling but also pretty exciting to enter a new phase in a new place.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Month #31 is looking like a whole lot of Texas, including some new parts of Texas that I have yet to see. From Marfa, we’re heading to the Del Rio and plopping down there for a couple weeks. After that, it’s on to San Antonio, which will be our home base for a full month. We’ve never actually reserved a campsite for an entire month before! It’s usually cheaper to do that, but we typically have a harder time staying in one place than paying weekly rates. However, we won’t exactly be IN San Antonio all that time.

Not a campsite. This is a Dan Flavin art exhibit in Marfa.

I’ve been frustrated with putting off international travel just because of the logistics of camper life, so just before Christmas, we did something spontaneous and booked a flight to Japan! It seems like all we ever do is travel plan, so our Japan itinerary is still wide open. However, we’ll be there for a week, flying into and out of Tokyo, and looking to take trains to other places like Osaka, Kyoto, snow monkeys, etc. Please send any tips or suggestions my way. Thanks to my friends who have already offered great tips!

Custom Jeep decals with our silhouettes and favorite landscapes!

Then the non-camper living continues even after Japan for me. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be heading to Vegas for a weekend girls trip with some favorite ladies from college. So while month #31 is going to be all about Texas and trip preparations, month #32 is going entirely out of my normal routine. Bring it.


Catch up with the journey:

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:

Southern Utah & Northern Arizona: How We Spent Month #17 on the Road

It’s looking a lot more festive in this little home on wheels! And yes, those ARE crazy-colored gnomes hanging from the ceiling.

It’s now been a year and five months of life on the road, and the wheels keep on turning. The past month was based in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The weather’s been pretty great, and the scenery has been spectacular. There’s been a lot of work to do to prepare for upcoming holiday travel, but still some fun times for exploration in the wilderness and nearby towns.

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


Cedar City, Utah: Home on the Road #53 (continued from last month)

  • Highlights: Exploring ultra-peaceful and remote canyons. discovering crazy rock formation arches in a different part of the state, finishing more awesome handmade bedroom curtains, bike trails around town, a little snow that was still easy to hike in, surprising discovery of an Indian grocery store
  • Lowlights: Having to leave…this has been one of my favorite places to live in a very long time, minus the crappy internet and total lack of breweries (damn Utah beer laws)

Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah: Home on the Road #54

  • Highlights: Being off the grid with no internet reception, secluded and super-scenic hikes at Kodachrome, day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park with a solo hike, picked up a sweet new sweatshirt, enjoying a non-traditional Thanksgiving, awesome weather
  • Lowlights: Not being able to stay here longer due to no internet for working

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah: Home on the Road #55

  • Highlights: Also having no phone reception for the holiday, soft sand that Monkey absolutely loves, peaceful state park, packing breakfast (bagels and a thermos of tea) to watch the sunrise out on the dunes
  • Lowlights: Again, couldn’t stay any longer than we did because it wasn’t feasible with work

Flagstaff, Arizona: Home on the Road #56

  • Highlights: Checking out 7 breweries (six different ones) in 5 days, food trucks, visiting Native American pueblo ruins, Black Barts’ surprisingly entertaining dinner theater show next to our campground
  • Lowlights: Cutting our stay here short because of faulty weather forecasting of 10 inches of snow that didn’t happen, not getting to hike as much as we would have liked, no campground WiFi (as typical)

Camp Verde, Arizona: Home on the Road #57

  • Highlights: Somehow getting the best campsite in the park with a great views and short trails behind us, taking advantage of “resort” amenities like a weight room and hot tub, more affordable than Sedona and less restrictive (age and dogs) than Phoenix, cliff dwellings, browsing crystal shops, working outside a bit
  • Lowlights: Crappy WiFi once again (See a pattern for this month? Data overage hell!), finding Sedona to be more overpopulated and slightly less impressive than I remembered it from about 11 years ago, calling way too many local places to try to find RV storage for our upcoming Christmas trip


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • We bought a new tent! No, I’m not on-board with full-timing in a tent like we did back in 2013 (Montana/Wyoming/South Dakota) and 2014 (Maine/Vermont/New Hampshire). But it’ll be fun to leave the RV behind and take this out for some backcountry adventures soon.

  • I’m starting to think I’ll never be satisfied living in just one place long-term.
  • I need more solo outings.
  • We finally finished all 4 bedroom curtains! Love them!

  • I really enjoy lap swimming and want to look for more community pools in future homes on the road.
  • Coffee shops sound like a fun place to work, but they’re usually not. I keep trying them when I have a lot of data-heavy work to do. But the disappointing Wi-Fi, screaming children, cackling conversations, sun glare, and wind gusts from the door tend to suck the joy out of working in weird places.

  • I started writing a couple more short stories, but I haven’t finished anything.
  • Time moves so much slower without the internet, and it’s wonderful.

  • I’ve been keeping up with meditating at least a few days per week, the only form of spirituality that makes any sense to me.
  • Every service-oriented interaction lately has been mind-numbing, exhausting, and disappointing. It’s pretty ridiculous how archaic the campground industry is and that everything from reservations to storage requires an excruciating phone call with no efficient online alternative. My intolerance for humans is at an all-time high. If I have to spell our names one more time….

  • I had to finish some Christmas craft presents this month, but looking to pick back up with guitar in January.
  • With the exception of Flagstaff (oopsie daisy), I’ve been cutting back on beer and dessert in favor of wine and nonfat yogurt with mix-ins. But now with a 16-day road trip and Christmas on the horizon, making healthier choices will be a bit rougher.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

I’m posting this a day early because tomorrow we hit the road (Jeep only) and head east! With long days of driving ahead, we’re looking to make quick and overnight stops in eastern New Mexico, eastern Oklahoma, some day-trip fun in Arkansas (Crater of Diamonds State Park and Hot Springs National Park), and then finally onto Atlanta.

We’re still officially Georgia residents for tax purposes, and there’s no way around the emissions test requirement for the Jeep to renew the registration. The camper is exempt because it’s less than three years old…whew! It’s all pretty silly, but at least we’re using this inconvenience as an excuse to see friends and business partners in town. From there, it’s on to southern and central Illinois to do Christmas up right with my family.

It’s gonna be a weird month ahead of working on laptops in the passenger seat, staying in hotels while our gas-guzzler home sits back in Arizona, and being out of our usual routine. Daily routines are something I’ve clung to while moving from place to place to maintain a sense of normalcy and stay organized with everything I need to do.

But this is a crazy time of year for everyone, so no complaining here to close out a solid 2017! Okay, enough babbling…back to work and packing with perhaps a little hot tub time in there too.

Happy holidays, and thanks for keeping up with my journey!


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


June Lake, California: Home on the Road #49

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

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


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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

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

Before…

After!

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

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

Looking Ahead to Next Month

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


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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


Sacramento, California: Home on the Road #46

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

Clio, California: Home on the Road #47

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

Reno, Nevada: Home on the Road #48

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on…

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


More Random Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

ONE YEAR LATER: Nomadic Life, California Style

It’s July 14th, which means that we’ve now been doing this full-time camper life thing for a whopping 365 days!

To quickly recap, we’ve settled in something like 15 different states and made 43 new “homes on the road” over the past year. In some ways, it seems like the time has flown by. But in other ways, it feels like I’ve been living this life for way longer. Starting with the east coast, moving across the south, and finally up the west coast, we’ve been moving slow and staying in each place a couple weeks. Seven of these 12 months were spent in our little pop-up with canvas walls, and then the last five months have been in Dragoon, our upgraded Class-A RV.

On the day we left Atlanta last July, we really didn’t plan on being on the road for this long. Originally, the grand plan was to spend a few months traveling around and then pick a place to plop down “somewhere out west.” Well, we haven’t picked out that magical western place, but we sure have seen a lot by carrying on with this whole nomad thing for longer than expected.

We’ve never set a time limit or a goal for how long this adventure would last. But at this point, it feels the new normal, and it looks like camper life is here to stay for a while. In fact, we’ve already thrown out ideas for where to possibly end next spring and summer.

Camper life isn’t that glamorous stuff you see on Instagram (I still don’t understand Instagram). For someone like me with a restless spirit, living in a new place every few weeks makes me feel alive and satisfies my relentless curiosity. It’s easy to keep up with my work on the road, and I’m fortunate enough to have a husband and dog who are on-board with all of this as well.

But the lifestyle can also feel draining, lonely, claustrophobic, and even dull after a while. I don’t see the purpose of sugar-coating it, but I’m also not unappreciative of my opportunity to try this out for a while. But even with the ups and downs, it sure as hell beats arbitrarily plopping down somewhere just because “that’s what people do.” Twelve months later, I would still choose this lifestyle over something more stationary. After all, there’s plenty of time to do that later if nothing more interesting comes along. But I suspect that something will 🙂


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

Gilroy, California: Home on the Road #41 (continued from last month)

  • Highlights: Winery in walking distance of our campground where we met the owners and were invited to stay for a home-cooked dinner and basketball game viewing party, hiking through caves with flashlights at Pinnacles National Park, adult swim hours at the campground pool, finally found some light jackets for unpredictable Bay Area weather, seeing a Bollywood movie (thankfully with subtitles) in a theater
  • Lowlights: Sucking at golf pretty badly, missing out on visiting a friend before leaving Santa Cruz, quickly killing a mini rose plant, failed attempts at airing up the RV tires (have since bought our own portable air compressor to be self-sufficient)


Oakland, California: Home on the Road #42

  • Highlights: Trying a Hawaiian poke bowl for the first time and discovering it lives up to the hype, putting in a record number of friend and family visits, amazingly spacious campsite with eucalyptus trees and wild turkeys, some rare chill-out/do-nothing time, checking out the SF Pride Festival, seeing the places where my husband grew up, seeing the utility pole gnomes of Oakland still up and in-tact, a fun 4th of July with friends
  • Lowlights: Awfully long and twisty/turny drive to get anywhere from our campground, super challenging to find decent WiFi, trying to bike the insane hills of San Francisco, a bad dog boarding experience at Wag Hotels, two weeks of rib pain/ab soreness from flying on a trapeze


Napa, California: Home on the Road #43 (in progress)

  • Highlights: Decent campground at the expo center in town and in walking distance of downtown, Day trip to Calistoga with hot springs/massage/petrified forest, geyser, bike paths/lanes to get around, good doggie day care experience at Camp Rawhide
  • Lowlights: Traffic – everywhere and all the time, way too many wineries – how does anyone choose which one to go to???, not much hiking close by


“TOP 5” LISTS OF THINGS AND STUFF

To celebrate our one-year anniversary of living on the road, I’m doing something a bit different this month. Instead of my usual section of ramblings, I’m making a few “Top 5” lists. Limiting each list to 5 will really make me narrow things down and not get too annoyingly wordy like I tend to do. Besides, everybody likes lists, right?

Things I Like About Camper Life

  1. Never being bored
  2. Exploring potential areas to move to one day
  3. Being about to do my job just like I would sitting in an apartment somewhere
  4. Choosing to be in places with nice weather
  5. Easy access to nature and adventure activities

Things I Dislike About Camper Life

  1. Paying for fuel in the gas-guzzling RV
  2. Close quarters and shantytown-like conditions next to campground neighborhoods
  3. High cost of campsites in ideal locations
  4. Lack of reliable internet, a deal-breaker for remote working
  5. The exhaustion of constantly doing travel research

Things I Miss About Stationary Life 

  1. Drinking drinks with good friends on the regular
  2. Consistent Wi-Fi access
  3. Easy travel for holidays with family
  4. All my gnomes (now tucked away in storage)
  5. Easily doing arts and crafts

Things That Set Us Apart from Other Full-Time Campers 

  1. We’re not old
  2. We work full-time jobs
  3. Half of us isn’t white
  4. Free camping isn’t a priority
  5. We’re not big fans of people

Common Research Topics in New Places (pardon me while I break the 5-limit rule)

  1. Hiking trails
  2. Biking trails
  3. Comedy shows
  4. Bar trivia
  5. Local theater
  6. Dog-friendly breweries
  7. Wineries/distilleries
  8. Community rec centers
  9. Concerts
  10. Dance classes
  11. Driving ranges/golf courses
  12. Disc golf courses
  13. Arcade bars
  14. Archery ranges
  15. Dog daycare facilities
  16. Cafes with Wi-Fi to work at
  17. Neighborhoods to check out
  18. Dog parks
  19. Festivals
  20. Climbing gyms

Most Frustrating Moments

  1. Not being able to get internet reception/Wi-Fi
  2. Unreasonable pit bull bans
  3. RV sewer leakages
  4. Ant, moth, and other insect infestations in the camper
  5. Learning to drive an RV towing a jeep on treacherous roads

Things that Have Surprised Me About Camper Life

  • How easily I’ve adjusted to the lifestyle and how normal it feels (i.e. daily routines, eating/drinking/exercising the same as I would in a stationary place, the same things stress me out/piss me off)
  • I have become more introverted
  • After seeing so many new things over the past year, I’m not as easily impressed
  • I have become exhausted with travel planning
  • Even with more “me time” than I’ve ever had before, I still struggle to find time to do hobbies, chill out, etc.

Plants I’ve Grown (decently) in a Camper

  1. Cactus
  2. Succulent
  3. Begonias
  4. Orchids
  5. Mint

Favorite Areas from the First Year 

  1. Moab, Utah
  2. Red River Gorge, Kentucky
  3. San Diego, California
  4. Asheville, North Carolina
  5. Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Regions I’d Consider Plopping Down at for a Bit

  1. Santa Barbara, California
  2. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  3. San Luis Obispo, California
  4. Tucson, Arizona
  5. Salt Lake City, Utah

Daily Routines 

  1. 4 Monkey walks per day, alternating 2 per person
  2. Morning yoga in the RV
  3. Texting with my best friend throughout the day about anything and everything
  4. 8+ hour work days
  5. Guitar practice (not exactly daily but working on it)

Biggest Life Changes Since the Camper Upgrade 

  1. Not having to walk across a campground to pee in the middle of the night after one too many beers
  2. Avoiding the nastiness and awkwardness of public bathrooms
  3. Driving shorter distances from one place to the next because driving an RV is exhausting
  4. An extra monthly payment to budget for
  5. Being able to withstand more extreme temperatures/storms

How Monkey Has Made Camper Life Interesting 

  1. We’re always looking for dog-friendly places and restricted as to where we can do with her
  2. Way too many unwanted social interactions because of her extreme friendliness
  3. Keeps us on a schedule of waking up early…ugh
  4. Gives us something to focus on besides each other, ideal for a 24/7 confined space
  5. A steady source of entertainment (twirling!) and frustration (pulling!)


Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’ll be in Napa for a little while more, and I’m excited to re-visit one of my gnome collector friends that lives in Santa Rosa. LOTS of gnome pics coming up soon, so gettttttttttt readyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

From here, we’re headed to the coast to check out Mendocino and Fort Bragg. It’s pretty hot out here in Cali, so we figured the coast is the place to be as long as the campgrounds aren’t insanely overpriced. Things are a little up in the air after that, but it’ll all be figured out in due time.

But for now, it’s time to go track down some wine and celebrate this random little anniversary of ours. Thanks for following along for the past year and keeping me accountable to continue putting together these monthly recaps!

 

Catch up with the journey:

9 Months Later…Yup, We’re Still on the Road!

Howdy, and thanks for keeping up with my journey over the last NINE MONTHS! Month #9 has been entirely spent in SoCal, and yes, there’s been plenty of sunshine and lovely weather.

I’ve been practicing driving our new RV because I’ll be damned if we’ll turn into that stereotypical old couple where the guy drives everywhere while his lady passively sits in the passenger seat. As a self-sufficient and stubborn feminist, I’m determined to learn every little thing about how this baby works.

Work has been going well – not overwhelmed, but certainly not underwhelmed either. Here’s a typical work day scene in the RV: back-to-back laptops in the dinette-turned-office, old college t-shirt, messy hair, cucumber & cheese snack plate.

During month #9, we wrapped up “home on the road #34” in San Diego. Before hitting the road again, we hit up a driving range…

…checked out Old Town San Diego with its historic park and festive nightlife scene…
…squeezed in some stand-up paddleboarding in Mission Bay in absolutely perfect wind/weather conditions……spent some time at the dog-friendly portion of the beach at Imperial Beach……and felt bummed to leave the San Diego area because it was pretty much ideal in every way.

As we transitioned from San Diego to our next destination, Banning, we also embarked on our first DIY project for the new RV. Now that I have my sewing machine with me in the RV, I’ve been dying to start a new craft project. I kinda missed doing projects since hitting the road, but with all this newfound space and storage, I figured that now’s the time to get back into it.

The curtains aren’t gorgeous by any means, and certainly not perfect. But they’re homemade and a hell of a lot easier to operate than those cheap and impossible blinds.

Read all about it: Our First DIY RV Project: Homemade Curtains


Places We Were in Month #8

After San Diego, we relocated to Banning, California. We originally tried (very hard) to stay at a campground in Palm Springs and found it impossible due to high nightly rates, pit bull bans, 55+ restrictions, and lack of internet reception. There really is nothing to do in Banning, but it provided a somewhat conveniently home base for the places we wanted to visit in the region: Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs, Salton Sea, Slab City, Idyllwild, etc.

Then came the Los Angeles area. We stayed near Simi Valley and hit up everywhere from Burbank to Malibu, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and so on. Most recently, we’ve plopped down in Santa Barbara and are just getting settled into this new area.


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

Banning, California: Home on the Road #35

  • Highlights: Chill campground, cable TV hookup that allowed us to binge on Forensic Files, local brewery called Brew Revolution with lightning fast Wi-Fi, hiking a tiny part of the PCT, seeing gnomes in Idyllwild, amazing wildflowers, hiking through an oasis, epic found art at Slab City, hitting up a local bouldering gym
  • Lowlights: Abysmal service at Gastronome (a gnome-themed restaurant in Idyllwild), crazy high winds like all the time, being discouraged by the Palm Springs visitors center that there is “nothing” to do in town with a dog

And now…a slew of photos to go with those words! I was lucky enough to access some lightning-fast Wi-Fi at a couple breweries and cafes, so photos are aplenty in this blog post.


Los Angeles Area (Tapo Canyon) California: Home on the Road #36

  • Highlights: My parents flying out to visit us for a long weekend, doing all the Hollywood touristy stuff for the first time, archery at our campground, meeting up with my longest client of 4+ years and founder of Inside Philanthropy in the hippie mountain town of Topanga.
  • Lowlights: Not much to do outdoors or otherwise near the tiny Tapo Canyon Regional Park, crazy flying insects started coming in our camper and continue to do so – I have no idea what they are

Cue the mass of Los Angeles photos! Tapo Canyon felt like a million miles away from Los Angeles, but it’s only actually about 45.

I loved giving my parents the “grand tour” of our new home. Anyone want to book a tour in advance with me – spots are (not actually at all) filling up fast.I’m learning all about movie sets and whatnot on the Warner Brothers film studio tour here.Oh Rodeo Drive…how I cannot afford thee! Archery randomly happened at our campground Saturday morning…why not?! It’s pretty fun actually, and I’d love to pick up a bow more often. Paramount Ranch was a pretty cool place to walk around to see where some western movies and shows were filmed. I’ve gotten more into westerns after living in the west. There was a wedding happening here the day we stopped by. Malibu was gorgeous, as expected. We took a tour of the Adamson House and saw the most intricate and beautiful tile decor all throughout the historic home…totally worth the $7.Here’s a panoramic scene of the goings-on at Venice Beach on a Sunday afternoon.
Hollywood was essential to visit, but alas, it was time to move on. But not before Monkey posed with her favorite Walk of Fame star. She has no idea who The Monkees are, but neither do any of the other young whipper-snappers walking by. So, she gets a pass.

I’m actually going to save Home on the Road #37 for next month since we’ve only been here a couple days and haven’t experience enough of the area to really write about it yet. So far, our regional park campground is pretty sweet and we’ve got lots of fun things planned around work for the next week and a half.


Realizations & Ramblings from Month #8

In no particular order, these are some random thoughts that came to me over the course of month #8 on the road.

  • Less wasted time walking back and forth to the bathroom and to do dishes has meant less time to listen to podcasts. I’ve had to find other times of day to satisfy my podcast obsession, like while doing push-ups and squats in the RV. I plowed through all the episodes of S-Town last month.
  • I love working outside. Bright sunshine makes my laptop die at times, but I will continue forcing it out into the outdoors whenever possible.

Trying to navigate super-sharp shells and dead fish parts to take a dip in Salton Sea. OUCH!

  • We’re still working on training strategies to get Monkey not to pull so badly on the leash. It really makes hiking miserable, and we’ve tried all sorts of leashes and tactics. We’re trying a Halti harness/easy-walk type thing right now. Lately, we’ve been using tiny pieces of cheese as training treats and walking in front of her to stop her from passing us. Anyone else have an obsessive leash puller on their hands?
  • Camping with (what we at least think is) a pit bull in California continues to be a huge challenge. This state has a stereotype of being full of liberal and inclusive hippies, but clearly that mindset doesn’t apply to dogs. My latest strategy for campground booking is to answer the question “What breed of dog are you bringing?” is “She’s a rescue dog, so a mix.” After all, we don’t honestly know what she is besides a “mix”, and everyone loves rescue dogs, right? This strategy has worked a couple times for me already actually for upcoming stays.

  • Staying in a small town with not much to do (like Banning) really takes the pressure off of daily travel planning. Sometimes it’s nice not having so many options so that you can just be lazy instead of feeling obligated to see and do everything you’re “supposed” to.
  • It’s totally possible to feel stuck in a rut even when you’re moving to a new place every two weeks. Finding joy in the little things is a challenge no matter where you are or what you’re living in.

  • Sweetwater Regional Park campground outside of San Diego was one of my all-time favorite campgrounds so far. I love the onsite trails for running, the green space between sites, and the chill atmosphere. Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara is right up there too, especially since it has disc golf and a place to kayak.
  • I am STILL struggling with how to dress myself in the west/in the desert. When I go out for the day, I always end up either sweating through my shirt with pit stains or shivering cold and miserable. To remedy this, I’ve started packing a tote bag with multiple outfit changes anytime I leave the RV. It’s overkill, but I’m determined to understand how people in this part of the world dress themselves.

Looking Ahead to Month #9

As the next month on the road begins, we’ll be in Santa Barbara for a little while longer. So I’ll have more updates about SB next month. After this, we’re heading to Kernville and then to San Luis Obispo – staying on the outskirts of both towns to explore the regions. Our pace has settled into at least two weeks per place, which seems to be working well right now.

Life feels comfortable, which is something that’s easy to take for granted but I keep reminding myself not to. Being able to get to know the various personalities of California continues to be fascinating, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of this massive state. Thanks for following along 🙂

Catch up with the journey:

Spending a Day with Rich Humphreys of Gnome Countryside

One of my favorite things about being part of a community of gnome enthusiasts is getting the opportunity to meet other collectors and swap stories. As a writer with an insatiable spirit of wanderlust, my travels have led me to many amazing people who inspire me to keep collecting and spreading the joy of gnomes.

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet Rich “The Gnomeman” Humphreys at the one and only Gnome Countryside, tucked away in the peaceful rolling hills of Kirkwood Pennsylvania. For 35 years, Rich has been entertaining and educating kids and adults in his “Gnomery” and enchanted forest.

Rich, a long-time diabetic who nearly lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy, created Gnome Countryside after teaching school in Alaska for 12 years. He renovated this beautiful property and interwove the stories of gnomes into his nature tours. Rich first became enchanted by gnomes on a trip to Denmark, and he even dresses like a gnome in a wonderfully eccentric fashion!

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I first learned about Rich’s mission and Gnome Countryside in 2014 under tragic circumstances. Local news sources reported that a fire devastated his 220-year-old log home, destroying his possessions, but never his spirit. He has since rebuilt his home, and it’s just as beautiful as ever.

My tour of Gnome Countryside began in the Gnomery, a cozy room filled with wonderful gnomes where Rich shared stories, environmental facts, and songs with his captive audience. Then we followed The Gnomeman through the wooded trails, using our five senses to appreciate the rugged beauty that surrounded us. Small gnomes and gnome homes could be found along the trails (if you looked closely), and they were surely very happy here. Other highlights of the visit included listening to the waterfall sounds of Gnome Gniagra, participating in a drum circle, and building gnome homes and rock towers in the woods.

Gnomes and nature go hand-in-hand, and this is a place to embrace that relationship and celebrate stewardship of the environment and a sense of community in the outdoors. Through Gnome Countryside, Rich empowers visitors to return home with a renewed love for the environment and a commitment to protect nature. Gnome Countryside celebrates the legends of gnomes, teaches us about gnomes and nature, brings your senses to life. With a creative sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, Rich’s dedication to nature and all its creatures is contagious.

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You too can visit Gnome Countryside if you only travel to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country! Rich is an incredibly friendly and kindhearted man who loves to chat, so give him a call at 717-786-4928. Gnome Countryside is a favorite among school group tours, but he also leads individual two-hour tours at a rate of $10 per person. Morning and afternoon tours are typically available Monday through Saturday from April through October, rain or shine.

 

***A version of this story will be published in the upcoming edition of the International Gnome Club Newsletter!***