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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Napa, California: Home on the Road #61

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

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

Grass Valley, California: Home on the Road #62

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

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


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

Speaking of that…

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


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

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


Mendocino, California: Home on the Road #44 

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


Bodega Bay, California: Home on the Road #45

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


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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

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