Travel Trailer Adventures Close to Home in New Mexico

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

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

Ruidoso, New Mexico

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

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

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

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

Valley of Fires Recreation Area

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

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

Eagle Nest & Angel Fire, New Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

Red River, New Mexico

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

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

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

Goodbye Motorhome, Hello Travel Trailer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broke out the tripod for a little group shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monkey making herself at home

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

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

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

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

Bring on the next round of adventures!

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Taos Pueblo

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

2. Snowshoeing Around Taos

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

3. Downtown Taos

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

4. Taos Ski Valley

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

5. Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

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

6. Earthship Biotecture

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

7. Snow Camping

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

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

8. Jemez Historic Site

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

9. Jemez Soda Dam

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

10. Valles Caldera National Preserve

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

11. Bandelier National Monument

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

12. Hotel in Los Alamos

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

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

RV Life to House Life Transition: Final Month #38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Placitas, New Mexico: Home OFF the Road 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Relive the journey one last time:

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

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

WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE IN NEW MEXICO!!!

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

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

Bernalillo, New Mexico: Home on the Road #124

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

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

Winslow, Arizona: Home on the Road #125

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

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

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

California Summer Road Trip: Home on the Road #126

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

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

Bay Area Days (so far)

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

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

Paintings, not food


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Okay, so back to the house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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

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

SOME FAVORITE HOMES ON THE ROAD THAT COME TO MIND

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

THE THINGS I’M SO OVER WITH ABOUT RV LIFE

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

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

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

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

Durango, Colorado: Home on the Road #121

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

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:

Beach & Bayou Life: Nomads Along the Gulf Coast in Month #33

I sometimes forget how peaceful it is to walk along the ocean. It’s been a while since we’ve been to a beach, so we spent the bulk of Month #33 of camper life along the Gulf Coast of Texas on Galveston Island. This served as a vacation destination for my parents, who survived yet another miserable Illinois winter and flew out to see us. It was also a welcome change of scenery for us.

To continue on with this spring’s Gulf Coast theme, we’re taking the next few days off for a long-distance bike trip along the Gulf with stops in FOUR states along the way!

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

Huntsville State Park, Texas: Home on the Road #110

Before we hit the beach and the bayou, we settled into the pine forests of Huntsville State Park in Texas. This was one of my favorite campgrounds in a VERY long time because of the spacious site that felt like having our own little backyard. It was also insanely easy to access pretty much every type of outdoor recreation. Finally being rewarded with the perfect 70s and sunny weather that we came to Texas for didn’t hurt either!

  • Highlights: Getting a little better at mountain biking, getting out on the lake twice to kayak and SUP, close-by hikes and trail runs, sitting in a hammock, painting with acrylic on canvas, few distractions meant getting lots of work done in advance of some exciting trips coming up.
  • Lowlights: Some party-hardy campers nearby who can still manage to stay up until 4am (how? why?! I’m old.), kinda sucking at getting a campfire started on two different evenings.

Galveston Island, Texas: Home on the Road #111

Although we’ve camped on beaches in our tent, this was the closest we’ve ever camped to a beach in the RV. We literally just had to walk across a parking lot to be greeted by sand and surf, and of course a few off-leash dogs. After getting settled in, my parents flew into Houston and we brought them down to Galveston for a little slice of island life as well.

The weather was rainy but not nearly as bad as last year in Oregon. Top sightseeing stops included an Amazon distribution center tour, a dolphin cruise in the bay, murder mystery show at a local theater, offshore drilling rig museum (because…Texas), beach time, and hanging out at our camper by the lagoon.

  • Highlights: A view of the ocean from our RV, great campground Wi-Fi, decent laundry facilities to catch up after recent state park stays, a successful parents’ visit with lots of solid quality time, spending time at the beach, staying active with biking/boating/lifting, feeling really on top of my work.
  • Lowlights: First sunburn of the season (you think I’d have learned by now), trying to hike and only finding mud pits instead, doing taxes and paying an insane amount to the government as usual.

Lake Charles, Louisiana: Home on the Road #112

Now it’s time to take a break from Texas and explore a bit further along the Gulf Coast! We’re staying at Intracoastal Park south of Lake Charles, under a bridge and among the huge barges passing by. It feels like we’re officially bayou people.

  • Highlights: Watching the huge barges pass by our camper (but what’s ON them?!), kayaking among the barges and swamps too, chill place with few distractions so pretty work productive despite getting slammed with every new project all at once, warm weather in the 70s-90s, winning $34 playing video roulette at the nearby Golden Nugget Lake Charles casino, finally buying new running shoes (bright pink!) to replace the ones my toes are sticking though. 
  • Lowlights: The insanely loud noises of camping pretty much under a metal bridge, no electricity for a day after 2 transformers blew out during a thunderstorm, mosquitoes galore, nothing ever dries in this humidity, camper leaks from ongoing rain.


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • I finally painted something! Working on my trees and landscape scenes here while enjoying some awesome weather and a big campsite at Huntsville State Park.

  • Wildflowers are in bloom in Texas! It’s nothing like the photos I’ve been seeing come out of California lately, but it’s still nice. These are some of my favorites. They’re called confetti lantana. They’re also reminding me that I want a garden.

  • I always enjoy a good game of mini golf and can get a bit competitive (i.e. belligerent) with it. This was a course near our beach campground in Galveston. Although the husband and I tend to be evenly matched at most games, I won this game by 2 putts…just for the record.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

I’m posting this a couple days early because tomorrow we’re setting out on an epic Gulf Coast biking adventure. We’ll be tent-camping in four states in four nights (Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana) between bike rides with Monkey in tow via dog trailer. There’s are heavy chances of rain and storms, so I have no doubt that this will be quite the adventure.

Afterwards, we’ll be coming back to our home base near Lake Charles, visiting our favorite chimpanzee nonprofit sanctuary (Chimp Haven) near Shreveport, quickly moving back through Texas, and then reaching Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pace quickens from here on out because literally days after returning from Japan, we caught the overseas travel bug and, on a whim, booked a week-long trip from ABQ to Hawaii! Neither of us has been to the islands before, and it sounded like a solid way to celebrate the husband’s birthday and our marriage anniversary.

But first, on with this bayou bike adventure. Wish us luck, sunny skies, and no flat tires!


Catch up with the journey:

Japan & Vegas: Pretty Much the Exact Opposite of RV Life (Month 32)

For nearly three years now, pretty much all of my blog posts have been about camper life and full-time RVing. However, month #32 of camper life was largely spent outside of this tiny home on wheels and in a random collection of hotels, hostels, and ryokans. It was just the kind of break I needed to feel like a traveler and not just an RV traveler.

To kick off the month, the husband and I flew to Japan for an international vacation. We’d grown frustrated with putting off international travel until camper life was over and honestly a bit America-ed out. So, we stashed Monkey in an awesome at-home dog boarding situation and hopped on a plane for my very first trip to Asia. From there, the randomness continued with a girls’ trip to Vegas with my college roommates and stays in some familiar Texas cities as well.

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

San Antonio, Texas: Home on the Road #106 (continued)

Our stay in San Antonio was a bit of a weird one. Our camper stayed put in one place for a full month (a record for us!) but we really weren’t in it all that much. It ended up being cheaper and easier just to pay a monthly campground rate and leave it sit empty than deal with an RV storage facility. For most of the time we actually spent in town, I was sick or it was raining. I’ve been to San Antonio a couple times before though, so fortunately I didn’t develop a case of FOMO.

  • Highlights: Finding an awesome dog sitter to take in Monkey for 8 days who sent us daily pics and videos (she and her new best bud, Radley, are pictured below!), finally getting to do a few touristy things by biking the missions and taking down some tasty veggie quesadillas on the Riverwalk.
  • Lowlights: Being sick much of the time we were actually in the city, another urgent care visit, campground was about 30 minutes from everything in town, non-stop working to make up for taking vacation days off, rain and more rain.

Tokyo/Yamanouchi/Kyoto/Nara, Japan: Home on the Road # 107

Japan was amazing, and I can’t say enough good things about my first experience in Asia. We flew into Tokyo and quickly mastered the train system to travel to Yamanouchi, Kyoto, and Nara. It was surprisingly easy to get around as a dumb American tourist, thanks to so many signs and menus with English translations and also because of how many people there could speak a little English. I had learned some basics (please, thank you, etc.), but I felt that most people were friendly and patient with me, especially compared to other places (I’m looking at you, France).

  • Highlights: Seeing snow monkeys in the wild, embracing the crowded streets of Tokyo, feeling comfortable among locals who are polite/non-intrusive and keep to themselves (unlike pretty much everywhere I go in the U.S.), amazing food everywhere we went (okonomiyaki is my new favorite), temples and shrines (Fushimi Inari was my favorite), roaming deer and the national museum in Nara, staying in a traditional ryokan with an onsen, giving public nude bathing a try, animal cafes with hedgehogs and cats, flashy show at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant, not as expensive of a trip overall as expected.
  • Lowlights: Airline lost our luggage so we had to wear the same clothes for three days and buy new toiletries/underthings, insane jet lag that had me totally loopy and talking out of my head like an emotional rollercoaster, being sick on the trip and getting sicker when we got back, a few frigid/rainy days but not too bad honestly.

Ladies-Only Trip to Vegas! 

Just one week after getting back from Japan, I was back on a plane for a much-needed girls’ trip to Las Vegas. My senior year college roommates and I hadn’t taken a trip together since just after graduation, so we were definitely overdue for some ladies’ nights out and husband breaks.

  • Highlights: Finally having a place to wear going-out dresses, getting 34K+ steps in walking up and down the Strip, fun Gwen Stefani concert, cheering on scantily clad men at Thunder Down Under, nice hotel room at NYNY, catching up with awesome long-time friends, doing a little bachelorette party celebrating with festive sashes.
  • Lowlights: Our fourth partner in crime’s flight was cancelled so we were a group of 3 instead of 4 (love you, Nicole!), mediocre/overpriced food options, not nice enough weather for pool time, clueless/unhelpful hotel staff, not being able to wear bachelorette party tattoos because we didn’t have a mini scissors to cut them out (first world problems).

Austin, Texas: Home on the Road #108

I’m sure the SXSW music festival is awesome and all, but it really threw a wrench in our Austin camping plans. Campsites were either totally booked out or insanely priced during the event, which means we had to cut our Austin stay short to just six days. We were staying in McKinney Falls State Park though, which meant easy access to outdoor recreation and being a safe distance away from the crowds and chaos.

  • Highlights: Getting on the wall at Crux Climbing gym, hikes and trail runs at McKinney Falls, the dog-friendly Uncle Billy’s Brewhouse & Smokehouse that had vegetarian options and a live band, pretty much everything being dog-friendly in Austin, seeing a live improv comedy show (it was just okay though) at The Hideout, randomly holding a baby goat, biking along the river downtown.
  • Lowlights: Only getting to spend a few hours really in downtown Austin, crowded trails with loose (“he’s friendly!”) dogs everywhere, cold days below freezing, remembering what a sticky mess cotton candy is and how truly terrifying crawfish are at the Austin Crawfish Festival.

Somerville, Texas: Home on the Road #109

With our Austin plans cut short, we fled further into Texas to camp near Lake Somerville in hopes of squeezing in some water recreation. It’s been a bit rainy and windy so far, so we have yet to get out on the boats (but maybe today!). But this has still been a super peaceful and low-key place to stay with pretty much nothing to do besides get outside at the state park every day and get work done. It’s pretty much exactly what I needed after Japan, Vegas, and Austin.

  • Highlights: Slower pace to relax and not be overwhelmed by options of things to do, camped about a mile from the state park for hikes and trail runs, board games and smoothies on a rare lazy Sunday, windowsill gardening.
  • Lowlights: The great laundry debacle of 2019 with a broken dryer and unexpected trip with dripping clothes to the nearest laundromat 20 miles away, rain and mugginess, mud everywhere, loud barking neighbor dogs that wake me up at night (makes me appreciate my mostly bark-free Monkey though!)



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

I’m now the proud owner of a Ninja mini blender! I’ve definitely missed making smoothies and protein shakes over the last couples years, but my old blender got tossed out in the downsizing efforts before we set out for full-time camper life. It’s been fun experimenting with tossing random combinations of things in these single-serving cups and feeling damn healthy about it.

Nobody likes to have lost luggage, but it’s particularly stressful after 15 hours of flying and upon arriving in a country where you’re too dumb to communicate in the local language. Somehow, we were reunited with our bags within a day and a half though, and I’ve never been so happy to see a silly backpack.

When I’m done with RV life and have my own house, I’m going to have the most amazing washer and dryer that money can buy. Doing laundry in nasty public facilities and with chronically broken machines has scarred me for life. I pretty much get the shakes every time another sock gets dirty these days.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Month 33 might not be as random or international Month 32, but it’s still set up to be an interesting one. This is somewhat because we’re having visitors in just a couple weeks! My parents are flying down to Houston for an extended weekend, so we’ll be checking out Houston and Galveston with them. After that, we’ve planned a brief, yet epic, bike ride/tent camping adventure along the Gulf Coast that will pass through the southern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida.

Texas has been a bit rainy for us lately, but it’s still nothing compared to Oregon last spring with the steady rain and crazy mold growth in the windowsills of the RV. So, I’ll keep reminding myself of that and hoping it clears up to get out on Lake Somerville at least once before we move things along to the magical land of Huntsville State Park to see yet another new part of Texas. Being back in Texas makes me miss Japan a lot though, and we’ve already started talking about the other places in Japan we want to visit on our next trip overseas.

Until next month, sayonara.


Catch up with the journey:

Living Large in Texas: Month #31 of Camper Life in the Lone Star State

There’s been a whole lot of Texas going on over the past month, and I’m happy to report that we finally found the magical warmth that we’ve been seeking in the south. Sorry to rub it in, Midwesterners who recently survived the polar vortex 😉

Month #31 on the road began with our second full week in Marfa, Texas, followed by a couple weeks further south and east in Del Rio near the Mexican border. Now we’ve plopped down in San Antonio for a month as our home base for non-RV travels to Japan and Las Vegas. While Month #30 encompassed the Christmas trip back east with lots of driving and rushing around, the pace of camper life slowed down in Month #31, which was exactly what I needed.

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

Marfa, Texas: Home on the Road #104 (continued)

Since the government was still shut down during our time around Big Bend National Park, we opted to visit Big Bend State Ranch Park instead, which was an awesome decision. This is a remote and rugged park with disbursed camping, some interesting hiking trails, and plenty of solitude. We left the RV behind to tent-camp here and then rounded things out with stops in the small random towns of Lajitas, Terlingua, and Alpine. There was also a nice desert botanical garden we checked out (I do love my cacti) outside the little town of Fort Davis.

  • Highlights: Camping out in a tent with a beautiful sunset and no one around, seeing a javelina up-close for the first time (surprisingly cute!), scenery at Big Bend Ranch State Park, sipping post-hike margaritas in the random resort town of Lajitas, driving through the bizarre encampments and pseudo-roads of Terlingua, super chill driving range to hit a few golf balls in Marfa, hiking around Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Garden
  • Lowlights: The relentless winds of West Texas, getting sick after the tent-camping adventure and being out-of-commission for a few days (is my body getting too old to tent camp?!), still not getting to visit Big Bend National Park, yet another campground that can’t figure out how to enforce dog leash rules, drinking tequila for the first time in ages and remembering why I don’t drink tequila anymore 

Del Rio, Texas: Home on the Road #105

Like Marfa, Del Rio was a place I’d never been before in Texas. Although there wasn’t a ton to do here, that was actually a really good thing because it helped me minimize distractions and get a ton of work done in advance of our upcoming trip to Japan. Also, the weather here was pretty perfect and got up to 70 degrees on several days. This was such a relief after having our RV pipes continually freeze and struggle through other winter-RV-related drama over the past couple months.

  • Highlights: Perfect boating conditions to take out the kayak and SUP at Amistad National Recreation Area, having access to a campground gym that actually didn’t suck and toning up some muscles by lifting weights, the surprisingly impressive frontier village of the Whitehead Memorial Museum, online ordering and campground delivery success so I don’t have to buy new clothes/shoes in an actual store, being super active with trail running and lifting to the point of actually seeing results, impressive campground Wi-Fi, another round of tent camping and a 15+ mile hike at Devil’s River State Natural Area
  • Lowlights: Taco trucks with no meat-free options, getting sick yet again and having to go to a shady urgent care clinic, popping a tire while mountain biking

San Antonio, Texas: Home on the Road #106

I booked us a campground for an entire month here in San Antonio so we have a stable place for home base during the upcoming non-RV travels. Unlike Marfa and Del Rio, I’ve been to San Antonio a couple times before but have always enjoyed the place. So, far, we haven’t really been able to do anything very fun or touristy here though, due to constant rain, working ahead, and being pretty far away from downtown.

  • Highlights: Warmish weather with no freezing nights, few distractions = more time to work ahead before our Japan trip, finding a local, cage-free home stay for Monkey during our vacation, finally breaking out the sewing machine again, boba tea and fro-yo
  • Lowlights: Crowded campground with lots of barking dogs tied outside, no fitness center or other campground amenities, crappy Wi-Fi, rainy and dreary weather, mud everywhere, surrounded by suburban sprawl, being 30+ minutes from all things to do in the city and from hiking too, a second trip to an urgent care clinic



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

I saw my first javelina at Big Bend Ranch State Park! They’re kind of cute and dopey, but apparently people try to hunt them for some reason.

We always try to find self-serve dog washes to give Monkey a bath every month or so, but in some places, that’s easier said than done. This little lady hadn’t had a bath since before Christmas and was starting to stink, well, like a dog. This campground actually had a dog washing sink and enclosed area, but the water was ice cold with no adjustment options. So, this happened: a bucket bath in the middle of a dead grass/gravel pit!

We recently celebrated Monkey’s 5th birthday here in San Antonio! We adopted her three years ago and threw a little camper party and wen on a rainy hike to celebrate.

In an effort to be a little healthier, I’m doing my best to drink more tea instead of booze. To make tea more of a “thing,” I’ve been experimenting with loose leaf tea and a tea infuser. I’m pretty into it, but it’s still a challenge.

Today is my 6-year freelanceaversary! I’m been full-time freelance writing for 6 years now as of today, which is kind of crazy. To kick off year #7, I’m in talks with a publisher about writing a book about gnomes. In other gnome-related news, I’ve also recently taken over the leadership position of the International Gnome Club.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Month #32 is set up to be one of the most exciting months EVER! Literally tomorrow, we jet off to Japan for a week of Asian adventures. It’ll be my first trip to Asia, and I’m pretty much all packed and ready to hit the mean streets of Tokyo, Nagano, Yamanouchi, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and wherever else we happen to land instead because of mishaps in complex train navigation. Sadly, my flashcard and Duolingo app efforts to learn basic Japanese have been in vain, and I’m exhausted with constant travel planning. We’ve figured out a few things, but have left quite a bit unplanned in an attempt at spontaneity.

Within a few days of getting back, I’m back on a plane again but this time to Las Vegas for a girls’ weekend. And in between all of this madness, I’m hoping to see bits and pieces of San Antonio too.

Until next time…sayōnara!


Catch up with the journey: