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

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

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

Grass Valley, California: Home on the Road #90

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

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

Napa, California: Home on the Road #91

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

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

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

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

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

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



This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

A Very Idaho Birthday & Back on the Oregon Trail: Nomad Life Month #26

Mountains, wide-open spaces, and plenty of sunshine…just how this time of year should be.

Idaho was the last of the lower 48 states that I have visited, and I’m really not sure why it took me so long to get here. Before spending a month in Idaho, I really didn’t know what to expect from the state. Even now, I’ve only scratched the surface of exploring Idaho, but some things surprised me in a good way, so I’ll be back.

Idaho was where I had the pleasure of ringing in a new year of old age, where I got to hang out with some folks that truly understand full-time camper life, and where I discovered my new favorite city. Then as month #26 came to a close, we hopped back on the Oregon trail to check out Eastern and Central Oregon, which much to my relief are much drier and warmer than the six weeks of spring we spent in the state.

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

Bellevue, Idaho: Home on the Road #81

We delayed our arrival to Bellevue due to wildfires, but everything was looking and fire-free by the time we arrived. Camper life and spending way more time by myself over the past two+ years has made me more introverted, so social settings leave me feeling more drained than they used to. Regardless, it was fun to step out of normal routines and schedule in some fun social plans with awesome people.

  • Highlights: Hanging out with locals/full-time campers Sara, Mike, Phoebe, and Aaron; free outdoor concerts galore, cheap campground right in town, great bike trail, forest road hikes with no one else on them
  • Lowlights: Crowded shantytown campground conditions, injuring my knee on a trail run which put me out of the active game for several days, negligent dog owners who have clearly never heard of leashes

Boise, Idaho: Home on the Road #82

Boise kind of took me by surprise. I’ve been pretty anti-city lately because they stress me out with all those people hovering about and traffic on the roads for no good reason. I’ve put in my city time dues while living in Chicago and Atlanta. Yet Boise was a refreshingly small city with just enough to do but not too much, and just enough people to see from a distance but not get too close.

  • Highlights: Nice-sized city with parks/breweries/downtown area; birthday weekend road trip to Malad Gorge State Park/Hagerman Fossil Beds/kayaking the Snake River, Banbury Hot Springs, camping and hiking at Brueau Sand Dunes State Park/low key concert in Eagle/Western Idaho State Fair; great city bike trail; chill breweries; responsible dog owners who know what leashes are; my first-ever waterpark
  • Lowlights: Not booking enough time here to hike very much or do a bunch of city things that we wanted to

John Day, Oregon: Home on the Road #83

Have you ever been somewhere
Where time slows down
The pace isn’t hasty
You’re not rushing around

There’s a river nearby
It’s small but it flows
I have it all to myself
A place nobody knows

Water over rocks
Enveloped by trees
Last hours of sunlight
Barely a breeze

Today feels endless
In a wonderful way
Didn’t expect to find peace
In the town of John Day

  • Highlights: Super chill and uncrowded Labor Day, boating on Lake Magone, painting on the side of the lake, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument’s Painted Hills and Blue Basin; feeling strangely relaxed and peaceful; solo hike to Strawberry Lake and Falls; able to walk to everything in the small town of 1,700+; cheap campground
  • Lowlights: Nothing really coming to mind



Ramblings from the Road

  • Semi-sewing project: No, I can’t claim to have made this purse – I wish! I actually won it at a paddling film festival raffle in Revelstoke. But it didn’t come with a strap, rendering it pretty dang unusable. So, I bought some webbing, made it into a strap, and BAM! Sadly, I found no time for crafting otherwise this month. But my favorite holiday of Halloween is coming up, so homemade costumes may be in our future.

  • I’m a big fan of boba tea. Small towns fall short in this regard, but Boise had a great spot downtown.

  • 35 years and not a single cavity! Thanks for the cleaning and checkup, random dentist in Boise that I’ll probably never see again.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

From John Day, we’ve recently moved onto Bend, Oregon, which I’ll save for month #27. Somehow, this is my first time to this outdoorsy destination, and we have some big adventures coming up here. First impressions:

  • Bend campgrounds are insanely crowded or insanely expensive.
  • This has prompted us to invest in our first solar panel system! It isn’t cheap, but it feels like our key to getting more off-the-grid and staying sane.
  • Our practical shopping errands have really piled up and I’m pretty tired of buying things and then finding places to stash them in our tiny home.
  • There are more kids than adults at Bend breweries (kids that love groping strange dogs without asking and then cry when you send them back to mommy and daddy).
  • Best rock climbing gym I’ve been to in ages here.
  • The traffic red lights are brutal.

But thus far, Eastern and Central Oregon have been much kinder to us than Portland, Salem, and the Oregon Coast. Unlike our six weeks of Oregon springtime, it’s not raining, it’s not cold, and the camper isn’t filled with mold and mud.

Right now, my #1 dislike about camper life is being surrounded by people all of the time. That’s why I’m putting a lot of muted faith in this solar panel system that is a work in progress. If all goes as planned, we might be able to stay off the grid more often and avoid these dreaded RV parks that are the sheer definitions of claustrophobia and annoyance. Either way, my next month’s blog could be substantially more interesting…


Catch up with the journey:

Month #3 on the Road: A Full-Time Camper Life Update!

Today marks three months of life on the road…and finishing month #3 strong in this tiny camper home with the spouse and pup!

Unlike lots of other solo travelers and couples doing the full-time travel thing that I keep up with, my blog here is just a hobby and a personal outlet. Although a monthly update is about all I can manage with my work my schedule, it’s still something I’m holding myself accountable to on the 14th of each month. And BTW, work is going great…never a dull moment!

Places We’ve Been: Month #3

Month #3 marked a huge transition for this camper journey and a big move from the east to the west. After spending time just along the East Coast so far, we made a quick stop back where it all began (Atlanta) to swap out gear from the storage unit and put in some social visits. Now we’ve moved on to the West/Southwest and will be here for the foreseeable future!

img_5874-1

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

  • Charlotte, North Carolina: Home on the Road #14
    • Highlights: Last kayaking & SUPing of the season at Lake Wylie, discovering Lucky Dog Bark & Brew (off-leash dog park + craft beer bar!), campfire storytelling
    • Lowlights: Police shooting riots downtown

img_5795-1

  • Atlanta, Georgia: Home on the Road #15
    • Highlights: Taco dinner & great conversation with my BFF, hiking up & camping at Stone Mountain, stocking up on Indian sweets for Navratri
    • Lowlights: Navigating all the excess stuff in our storage unit and wondering why we kept it

img_5883-1

  • Morrilton, Arkansas & Amarillo, Texas: “Passing Through” Homes on the Road #16 & 17
    • Highlights: Hotel stays to treat ourselves after 8+ hours of driving per day, nice trail behind the Amarillo hotel, soup on the side of the road, free Wi-Fi and breakfast!
    • Lowlights: Getting nauseous trying to work on a laptop in the passenger seat

img_6710-1

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: Home on the Road #18
    • Highlights: Finally checked out the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, new alpaca sweater and hats, scenic dog park, started biking again – feels great to be back on a bike!
    • Lowlights: Weather prevented the balloons from launching on the one and only morning we had in ABQ, no dogs allowed at the festival

img_0183-1

  • Cortez, Colorado: Home on the Road #19
    • Highlights: 2 weeks in one place, Mesa Verde, Canyons of the Ancients, Southwest hikes & landscapes, very comfortable town with pretty much everything I want, went to yoga and belly dancing (first ever!) classes, got a good haircut, fall festival in Dolores, boarded Monkey at doggie day care for the first time and that went ok
    • Lowlights: Low of 27-degrees at night with no good camper insulation, annoying locals, not many dog-friendly businesses

img_0330-1

Realizations & Ramblings: Month #3

In no particular order, these are some random thoughts that came to me over the course of month #3 on the road.

  • The East Coast was nice but isn’t long-term for me. I felt ready to leave it and head west.
  • Weather really affects my mood, motivation, and how I spend my days while living outdoors – Cortez has been full of sunshine 🙂
  • Clotheslines are incredibly useful in a campsite – especially if you’re by a beach or doing water sports and trying to avoid a mildew infestation.

img_5661-1

  • I love camping next to trails and have been trying to get into trail running, slowly but surely.
  • Despite all the new environments, I haven’t really gotten sick on this trip so far. Yay! But my immune system gets run down every once in a while with symptoms of a headache and a sore throat. Fortunately, it’s been going away within a day.
  • Bag salads with toppings and dressings are my favorite semi-healthy lunch.

img_0296-1

  • This lifestyle reinforces my lack of attachment to places.
  • The social interactions that every other travel blogger talks about being the “best part of travel” still mean very little to me. Random encounters bring me anxiety, annoyance, and disinterest. Perhaps it’s a phase. Or maybe just me getting older and working/living remotely for so long. Either way, I’m cool with it. And I feel like someone needs to share the perspective of how introverted long-term travel can be just as fulfilling, if not more.
  • Hotel stays are a fun occasional treat – especially after long driving days.

img_0044-1

  • We played a fun storytelling game one night that was really fun. It goes like this: Tear up pieces of paper and on each one, write (a) characters, (b) characters’ goals, and (c) an obstacle to characters’ goals. Randomly draw one piece from each category pile. Grab a small notebook and Person #1 writes one page to start the story. Person #2 only gets to read the very last sentence of what Person #1 wrote and then keeps the story going with one more page. Go back and forth 3 times and then read your story aloud at the campfire. Our story involved a park ranger who dreamed of making the best grilled cheese sandwich ever but had debilitating social anxiety.

img_6699-1

  • For the first time on this trip, we stayed somewhere more than a week: Cortez. We really need more than a week to get beyond the tourist highlights and get into a good work groove to discover local stuff. It’s nice to get to a point of comfort in a new place where I can do normal things like get a haircut, go to a yoga class, and try belly dancing for the first time (hip scarves are hot).
  • Small decorations for fall make the camper feel more festive for the season.

img_0462-1

  • I enjoy the hassle-free lifestyle of small towns but the anonymity of larger cities.
  • Playing disc golf with a dog is impossible – never again!
  • I have no idea how to dress for fall. Living most of my life in Illinois, hot summer basically turned into cold winter before I had a chance to think about fall clothes. I went shopping for some layered outdoor wear, but I still struggle with what to put on myself when it’s in the 60’s. I’m open to advice on this one!

img_5828-1

  • Desert landscapes make me feel peaceful.
  • Chief Surfs with Manatees, my Jeep, hit 88,888 miles (now over 91K) and is still going strong!

img_6691-1

Looking Ahead to Month #4

Month #4 will continue our exploration of the West in Colorado and Utah. We’re skipping the familiar parts of Colorado that we already know and sticking to the southwestern part of the state between Cortez and Grand Junction.

Other than an epic canyoneering trip in Zion a few years ago, Utah will be totally new to me. So I’m definitely looking forward to checking out Salt Lake City, Moab, Arches, and all the amazing landscapes here. I recently upgraded my iPhone to the 7+ so I’m also planning to snap some awesome photos to share!

A quick look at the calendar tells me that Halloween is also coming up, which is my favorite holiday of all time. So we’re planning to celebrate with a pumpkin patch visit, perhaps some cheap & easy costumes, and plenty of pumpkin-flavored desserts and beer!

Thanks for following our adventures and definitely looking forward to what month #4 brings!

 

Related: