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:

TWO YEARS on the Road?! Camper Life Celebrates a Big Milestone, Takes a Turn.

Two years ago today, on the morning of July 14, 2016, we pulled out of a cookie-cutter apartment complex in Atlanta, Georgia with a Jeep towing a tiny pop-up camper.

The long and winding road has taken us up the East Coast, across the Southwest, up the West Coast, and into Canada. Two years, 18 U.S. states, 2 Mexican states, and 2 Canadian provinces later, here I am still living in a camper – although a much larger and nicer one than what we started with and from the middle-of-nowhere, Montana.

It’s our two-year camper-life-aversary, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. At times, it feels like the blink of an eye. At others, it feels like I’ve been doing this forever. We didn’t plan to still be doing this, and in fact, our initial plan was to just travel for a few months and then plop down somewhere in Oregon. That didn’t happen, but a lot of other stuff did, and now it’s hard to imagine life any other way.

What I’m Still Loving About Camper Life After Two Years:

  • Getting to spend time outdoors in so many beautiful places
  • Being able to work on the road just as well as I could in any house
  • Not having to be committal and settle on just one place to live
  • Less stuff and living minimally
  • Never bored
  • Getting a good amount of exercise
  • Can follow good weather

What Makes Me Ready for a Post-Camper Lifestyle:

  • Living in close quarters to strangers 24/7
  • The exhaustion of non-stop travel planning
  • Wanting to travel internationally without so many logistical issues
  • Wanting to grow plants and my own food in a garden
  • Monkey needs a yard and a dog friend
  • Wanting more time and space for hobbies and volunteering

On a hike a few days ago, the topic of this two-year anniversary came up and lead to a bold and semi-arbitrary commitment that I’d like to stick to. Either we find a place to officially cease camper life by our three-year anniversary or we force ourselves to plop down wherever we are because we weren’t decisive enough to figure out something better.

The more places that I travel to, the more difficult I find it to pick just one to stop full-time camper life and just stay there. Yet I keep mentally coming back to a few places, such as New Mexico, Utah, and the Central Coast of California. Since we aren’t geographically restricted by jobs or other obligations, the big factors in play are cost of living, availability of open land to buy, access to outdoor recreation, weather, proximity to airports/highways, and the overall vibe of a place. It looks like we’ve got our work cut out for ourselves over the next 12 months.

I can definitely say that camper life has changed me over the past two years. I’m better at my full-time job of freelance writing, I work a lot more than I used to, I’m less into being social, and I’m more introspective overall. I’m better at research, still not making enough time for hobbies, still have no patience, and am way more reliant upon getting my daily dose of outdoor time.

More on all of this later, but for now, here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.


Month 24 kicked off with our last few days in Revelstoke, which was an awesome Canadian mountain town I will definitely visit again. On our last few days, we checked out a paddling film festival and hiked the Summit Trail at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

Banff, Alberta, Canada: Home on the Road #74

For many people, Banff is the epitome of Canadian travel. For me? Not a fan. Sure, the Canadian Rockies are beautiful. But there are so many other parts of this region that aren’t riddled with selfie-stick wielding tourists on tour buses blocking the views and petting your dog without asking. Lake Louise and the town of Banff were both incredibly stressful, even on a Wednesday morning.

We spent a week in Bow Valley Provincial Park safely outside of Banff though that was actually very nice and chill along the river. I also wish I had gotten to spend a bit more time in the neighboring town of Canmore up here as well.

  • Highlights: Legacy bike trail, making some campground art, the surprisingly uncrowded Banff Upper Hot Springs (I guess people don’t soak in 104-degrees when it’s 85-degrees outside?), cooking outside over an open fire, watching Canadians be funny at the Canmore International Improv Festival
  • Lowlights: Crowds, people, traffic, anxiety 

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada: Home on the Road #75

After all that chaos, I was ready for something a bit simpler…say, life on a farm? We crossed over from British Columbia to Alberta to stay at Elbas Farms near Lethbridge. Aside from the plethora of off-leash dogs that made you feel like you were living in a dog park at times, this spot was super chill.

The best part was visiting the farm’s alpacas, donkey, and sheep. This was also where we took care of an insane number of Jeep maintenance issues and also an RV oil change because the exchange rate made everything cheaper to do in Canada.

  • Highlights: Fun animal neighbors, doing art in the park, one great brewery, buying a new pair of (Canadian!) hiking boots to replace my 4-year-old ones falling apart, paying for lots of vehicle stuff
  • Lowlights: Pushing my bike towing a 45-pound Monkey in a 25-pound trailer up steep hills in the heat, one not-so-great brewery, driving an hour to Watertown National Park only to find that all the trails are still closed post-wildfire

Alberta: Wild Rose Country

Glacier National Park, Montana: Home on the Road #76

Unlike our drive into Canada, which prompted a border control search of our RV because of my pepper spray, we had no search getting back into the U.S. Instead, we had a 1.5 wait in line to get up to the agent.

From there and once safely into Montana, it was just a short drive to Glacier National Park. Unlike Banff, I absolutely loved GNP.

  • Highlights: The surprise of seeing actual icebergs in Iceberg Lake, insane wildflowers everywhere, success in having a dog sitter come in our RV to walk Monkey while we were on a long hike, driving Going to the Sun Road in the 46-degree rain and crazy storm clouds
  • Lowlights: The most expensive campground we’ve ever booked ($80/night cringe), crowded campground

Monkey’s only experience in Glacier National Park – no dogs allowed 🙁

Townsend/Helena, Montana: Home on the Road #77

Our tour of Montana continued with a stay in the middle of nowhere, Canyon Ferry, which is between Townsend and Helena. Out here, there hasn’t been a ton to actually do, which has been wonderful. Not having so many options of things to do has helped us spend time more simply outdoors and get ahead with some work in advance of a major cross-country Jeep road trip coming up.

  • Highlights: Being close to a lake to get the kayak out, finally hot weather that feels like summertime, good campground Wi-Fi, a chill day to check out Helena, National Forest trails with no one else on them, cheap brewery beer, fun cows, more gorgeous wildflowers, going to a rodeo for the first time since I was a kid – people-watching at its finest
  • Lowlights: Crowded shantytown-like campground conditions, not-so-great boating conditions with nasty lake water and unexpected waves, 90+ temps that Monkey hates

Huckleberry everything is delicious – Montana is onto something


Looking Ahead to Next Month

While we’re celebrating this two-year anniversary here in Montana, things are getting pretty nuts in month #25. We’re moving to Bozeman for a couple days and then stashing the camper in storage and heading east. We’re first on a mission to attend a wedding in Chicago and put in a family visit in SoIL.

THEN, because the emissions place in Georgia (that we made a special trip to go to last December from Arizona as a requirement to renew the Jeep’s license plate sticker) put the WRONG VIN NUMBER on the test form, we have to GO BACK.

On the day I found this out, I literally had a 24-hour panic attack. Last December’s trip to Georgia was apparently a complete waste of time, because after multiple calls and faxes to the DMV and emissions tester, the verdict is unanimous – we have to take the Jeep back to Georgia before the sticker expires in August to have another test that reflects the correct VIN number. Essentially some idiot’s simple mistake is costing us a huge hassle, wasted time, and more gas money. This is yet another reason I’m nearly ready to call it quits on camper life – the logistical nightmares of not being stationary.

But to make all of these endeavors a bit more fun, we’re packing our tent in the Jeep and planning to tent-camp in random states that we’d probably never RV in otherwise, like the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa. We’ll actually be staying in a different state every day on the way there and back in the tent, so that should be interesting! Next month’s recap will be a little unorthodox and all over the place, but a summer adventure for sure.

Thanks, as always, for those of you still following along and making all of this typing worthwhile. Happy two years to us!


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:

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:

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

Ahhh Utah…it feels good to be back.

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

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

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


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

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

Lone Pine, California: Home on the Road #50

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

Death Valley, California: Home on the Road #51

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

Las Vegas, Nevada: Home on the Road #52

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

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

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


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

Sporting some new western wear

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

Ticket to Ride board game

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

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

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


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

Cheers!


Catch up with the journey:

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:

It’s Been 11 Months on the Road…Will We Make it a Year?

Ummm….yeah. So that was a silly question, but perhaps I had you fooled.

In all seriousness, we have no intention of switching up our lifestyle anytime soon because frankly, no better-sounding lifestyle has presented itself. When it does, that’ll be the day we stop moving from place to place every couple weeks.

I left off last month right before our two-year “marriage anniversary” in Oceano, California. It was a pretty sweet anniversary actually. We took off after half a day of work, soaked in some hot springs, hiked to some beach caves, destroyed some sushi for dinner, and watched an in-jeep movie at an old-timey drive-in theater. Good stuff.

As you might have noticed, we’ve been zig-zagging across the state of California from the coast to inland and back again. This past month started right by the beach in Oceano, then went inland to Frenso and back out again towards the coast to Gilroy.


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

Oceano, California: Home on the Road #39, Continued

  • Highlights: An ultra-random and low-key beach anniversary, more time at the sand dunes, retro dinner inside a renovated train car, kayaking/SUPing Lake Lopez
  • Lowlights: A painfully hot and thorny hike around Lake Lopez, thorns that can penetrate hiking boots/socks/skin

Chief looks good at vineyards

Touring a luffa (AKA loofah) farm…who knew they grew in greenhouses and not in the sea?!

Private hot springs…ahhh. Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Beach.

At the bottom of a very steep hike down by Avila Beach

Avila sea caves…crazy impressive and worth the ultra-steep hike

Rock ‘n’ Roll Diner in Oceano…in a train car!

Kayaking with the Monk on Lake Lopez

Ouch. No way I’m getting all those thorns out. Hiking socks = trash.


Fresno, California: Home on the Road #40 

  • Highlights: Finding fun indoor things to do because it was consistently 100+ degrees (bowling, billiards, arcade games, movies, climbing gym), good campground Wi-Fi, cheap campground, farm tour at Naylor Organic Farms and learning all about nectarines & apricots, lots of dog-friendly places, FINALLY hiked among the giant sequoia trees, washed the RV ourselves in the campsite and saved $100+
  • Lowlights: The fact that it was consistently 100+ degrees, homeless people pushing carts everywhere around our campground, hard to find farms open to the public and that give tours, the epic frustrations of trying to sew a dress

How is this even possible?

Indoor activity #1

Indoor activity #2

Indoor activity #3

Kind of obsessed with fancy, flavored, locally-grown olive oil right now

Blueberry farm, The Berry Lady – too busy to give us a tour but now I know what blueberries look like in a field

Farmer Naylor teaching us about nectarines

Feeling pretty pleased about this apricot

Kings River Winery

Farm things, continued…

The giant sequoia stumps left behind from the massive logging operations of the late-1800s/early-1900s. So sad for the fallen. So happy a few of them still remain.

Hiked out to the Boole Tree…makes me feel so small

Rub-a-dub-dub


Gilroy, California: Home on the Road #41, In Progress

  • Highlights: The smell of garlic in the air (because I actually like garlic), local farm stands everywhere to buy fresh produce, biking and scenic drive in Monterery, seeing my husband’s childhood home and schools in the Cupertino area, seeing seals, watching the Golden State Warriors win the finals at a walking-distance winery by our campground with the owners and their family cooking us dinner, comfortable weather
  • Lowlights: No garlic farms to visit even though this is the garlic capital of the world, super cramped campsites with no personal space

Visiting the one and only real garlic-themed attraction in town, a shop called Garlic World

Garlic ice cream…this exists and it’s not as terrible as you’d expect.

Scenes around Monterey #1

Scenes around Monterey #2

Scenes around Monterey #3


This Month’s Realizations & Ramblings from Month

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

  • We are making use of the breadmaker we resurrected out of storage! Don’t worry that isn’t mold…it’s olive bread and it was delicious.

  • I’ve also resurrected my shaker and love of bartending. Using some mint leaves from a plant I’ve been growing and some agave nectar here. Anyone have any recommended cocktail recipes to share? I’m always up for new booze challenges.

  • I can’t believe it’s mid-June, but that may be due to the fact that I never really felt the impact of the seasons for the first time in life. We were in Tucson in December, for example, where it was in the 70s. But unlike a lot of people (husband included), I don’t really miss the seasons because I love warm weather. But I’m just taking note that time passes by a bit differently when seasons aren’t a factor.
  • Some of the burnt sequoia trees look like artistic sculptures that belong in front of libraries and museums.

  • Claustrophobic campgrounds are really getting to me and feel like living in a shantytown. Full-time RVers who don’t work internet-heavy, full-time jobs can boondock in remote and beautiful places. But our situation usually plants us down in RV parks, and you never really known what you’re going to get until you show up. The close quarters are not fun at all and I spend a fair amount of time developing strategies to avoid neighbors. We are definitely overdue for a boondocking experience like we had in the Mojave Desert…hopefully soon.

Close quarters = no bueno

  • We bought a new board game called Ticket to Ride – it’s super fun and travel-themed!
  • Sewing is so freaking hard. I found a pattern idea in a blog titled “The Easiest DIY Maxi Dress Ever,” which was supposed to take one hour to make. It took me four. After much cursing and a couple of those cocktails referenced above, I did it. It sure isn’t perfect, but IT IS DONE. And I’m pretty happy with it.

  • Here’s the finished dress! Whew.

  • Work is still as busy as ever for us both, but we do our best to squeeze in one fun activity per day somewhere in every 8-10 hour workday.
  • The new RV (we’ve had it nearly 4 months…when will I stop calling it “new”?) makes me feel like I don’t always have to be on. I can be sick, lazy, or sad in here and that’s just fine.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’ll be in Gilroy for a little while longer and then moving on to Oakland. After that we’re headed to Napa Valley. From there it’s all unknown, so I guess we’d better figure that out sometime soon. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Toot-a-loo!

We Upgraded! How Our New RV is Making Life More Awesome…and Complicated

This is the major announcement that I alluded to in my last blog post!

Ten days ago, we went from living in this 2002 Starcraft pop-up camper for the past 7 months…To this 2017 Fleetwood Flair Class A motorhome! Talk about an upgrade, right?!

At noon on a Thursday, we packed everything into our little pop-up and headed over to RV World in Yuma, where we finally decided to “go big or go home.”
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and I lost a ton of sleep getting to this point. But now, I couldn’t be more excited for my new home. Although camper life just got a whole lot more awesome, it’s also gotten way more complicated.

I’ll touch on some of the reasons why in between a series of photos to share some views of my new home!

Why it was time for an upgrade:

  • Canvas walls and a recently busted heater/AC made it hard to travel places with less-than-pleasant weather
  • Tired of walking across a campground in the middle of night to go to the bathroom after having one too many beers
  • Doing dishes was a huge hassle
  • Doing well financially
  • Enjoying the lifestyle, but getting fed-up with little logistics
  • Next to nothing for storage
  • Craving a little more personal space between the 3 of us
  • Yuma is a snowbird mecca with a good selection of RVs to choose from
  • If we didn’t do it now, we probably wouldn’t for a very long time, if ever

Favorite features of the new camper:

  • Toilet and shower
  • Cupboard and drawer space
  • TV and chairs to swivel back to watch it
  • Lots of windows to let natural light inside
  • Comfy bed
  • Enough room for 2-person yoga inside
  • Separation between work space and chill-out space
  • Leather sofa
  • Bunk beds so Monkey can have her own space and one for storage

What I’ll miss about the old camper:

  • All the memories made in it during the last 7 months on the road and shorter trips before that
  • How the whole thing shook when it was windy
  • A bed that was surprisingly comfy
  • How easy it was get around with
  • How cheap it was to buy and maintain

Why life just got more complicated:

  • Had to drive to Georgia (still our “official” state of residence) – the exact opposite of where we are trying to go – to take care of licensing/registration and a slew of other issues
  • The new RV is a gas-guzzler and didn’t make financial sense to quickly drive across the country and back when you do the math. So we had to leave it behind out west in storage, all alone and confused, until we took care of multiple logistical nightmares.
  • Decided to clean out and eliminate the Georgia storage unit once and for all – trying to sell and donate most things and keep a few to take back
  • Selling stuff via Craigslist/Facebook groups/Nextdoor is a nightmare. I’ve had 3 sale days so far…2 good and one terrible. It’s exhausting, and people are flaky idiots. I’m currently sitting on a storage unit hallway floor, taking a packing break and waiting on buyers as I finish this post – which was originally supposed to have a way more positive tone than it’s turning out. But we have an RV – yay!
  • An insane number of trip to Goodwill to drop off donations
  • Those “few” things to take back won’t fit solely in the Jeep to get back so we have to rent a small Uhaul to tow behind it back to Arizona.
  • My Jeep’s registration expires and August and I’m sure as hell not coming back to Georgia to take care of it. You can do it by mail, but you have to have a Georgia emissions test done first. I can do that now and still have it valid for August by-mail renewal; however, the Jeep has a check-engine light on due to an ongoing sensor problem so it won’t pass emissions. See the web I’m tangled in? That’s in the process of getting fixed now.
  • Oh and the Jeep needs and oil change before it goes back across the country too.
  • We also need to get a tow bar installed on the Jeep to hook it up to the RV
  • Other things I’m too scatterbrained to think of at the moment

Monkey’s take on all of this:

  • Little Monkey isn’t sure what to make of all this change yet and she hasn’t taken to our camper quite like we have yet. She seems to be very thrown off by all the space that she now has and by the fact that her new home “moves” from time to time. And now we’re moving from place to place all across the country, so it may take her extra time to adjust. But she’s a resilient pup and a true adventurer, so I’m not too worried 🙂

Since we’ve only gotten to spend three whole days in our new home, we’ve still got a lot of things to figure out about it. First and foremost, how to handle the sewage system. Yuck.

Where we plan to take the new camper next:

  • Eventually we WILL get out of Yuma…EVENTUALLY. It’s become our accidental second home that we are looking forward to leaving. I actually have some ideas for a short story about being stuck in Yuma, based on true events but much more dramatic.
  • From Yuma, the plan is still to head to Southern California and slowly, but surely, work our way up the west coast. I am so physically and mentally exhausted with the logistical nightmares and can’t wait for this next chapter to begin.

Here are a few more photos, just because I uploaded them and ran out of topics. Below is the only moment when our two campers met each other. We had to move everything out of one and into the other one in the RV dealership’s parking lot before the sun went down.
Fuel costs are a serious concern. But alas, this is a camper for short drives and long stays, not long drives and short stays.
Stashing stuff away in cupboards and drawers felt stupidly exciting to me. Life just feels more manageable when things are organized and not creating clutter that echoes the clutter in your mind.
Although I’m hard-core missing our new home right now while we’re all the way across the country without it, it’s ours and will be forever…until plans may take another sharp turn WAY down the road.

With the good and the bad, I welcome the next phase of life on the road. Despite all the hassles it has sparked, I’m totally ready for whatever happens next. I just keep trying to remind myself about how awesome it’ll be when we’re reunited with our camper again and back to our new-normal lifestyle. West Coast, here we come (well, soon anyway)!