RV-Free Road Trip to the Midwest & Back: A Nonstandard Month #25 of Camper Life

It’s been a long, weird month. Most of month #25 on the road was actually spent outside of the RV and in other people’s houses, a tent, and on long drives in the Jeep instead.

What do I have to show for it? Lots fun times with family and friends, a crazy number of photos (brace yourself, readers), way more miles on the odometer, and a whopping seven more state stickers* added onto our camper life map.* The West: conquered.

*Note: we only add a state sticker if we have camped overnight in a state (hotels and people’s houses don’t count, nor does just driving through) since full-time camper life began on 7/14/16.

To attend a friend’s wedding in Chicago, visit buddies in our old stomping grounds, and put in my annual summer family trip to Illinois, we decided to make a tent camping adventure out of this journey. On the way from Montana to Chicago, we camped for one night each in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa. Then on the way back from Arthur to Montana, we pitched the tent in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Sure, checking states off a list is a bit arbitrary, but having silly little goals helped make the long driving days more bearable and it was fun to see parts of the country that we probably wouldn’t be visiting otherwise anytime soon.

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

Bozeman, Montana: Home on the Road #78

Back in April 2013, we stopped by the Bozeman Hot Springs for a much-needed warm-up and shower after tenting in Yellowstone National Park with no facilities and 19-degree temperatures. With fond memories of the place, we brought our RV here for two nights to treat ourselves before heading out on the cross-country road trip.

  • Highlights: Refreshing hot spring pools with live music, lovely sunsets, the chill and semi-dog-friendly Outlaw Brewing nearby, free campground breakfasts
  • Lowlights: Insanely expensive to camp here, crowded and traffic-y in town

After ditching our RV at a storage facility just outside of Bozeman, we headed east and made overnight stops in each of these places.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Monkey wasn’t a fan of braving a thunderstorm in a tent, but the storms resulted in an epic double rainbow and a peaceful hike around this crazy rock formation the next morning.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

This was our second time to both Devil’s Tower and the Badlands, both areas I really get a kick out of. In between these stops, we also checked out Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore Brewing, and Mount Rushmore.

We rarely get to camp in national parks and national monuments due to the lack of RV hookups for workweek convenience and internet reception for actually getting work done. But on these road trip days, we were getting in half days at best and most of that was done in the Jeep’s passenger seat between driving shifts.

Nations Bridge Park, Stuart, Iowa

Tenting here was a bit rough due to ruthless mosquitoes and no showers yet again. Iowa: check.

Chicago, Illinois

The main reason for this whole road trip was going to my awesome friend from college’s wedding in Chicago. A couple amazing friends in town let us stay over for a couple nights and soak up the luxury of a real bed, shower, and even a couple games of shuffleboard. Monkey particularly loved this part of the trip because she got to hang out with her new best friend, Moki, and coexisted with another dog quite nicely to my surprise.

In addition to two nights of wedding stuff, we managed to squeeze in a brewery outing with a bunch of friends, brunch with gal pals, and a visit to my favorite family in the ‘burbs. It was a whirlwind of visits and conversations that reminded me that I haven’t entirely lost my social skills just yet. This was also a great opportunity to show off our four- minute and 20-second “RV Life Film Festival” trailer that my crazy-talented husband finished on the way here. If you haven’t seen this epic video and would like to, send me a quick note!

Arthur, Illinois

After the wedding bliss came to an end, it was time for a family visit a few hours further south. My parents were cool enough to celebrate my birthday a month early and planned lots of things for us to do together, including an Amish buggy ride, lunch out with Grandma, a sightseeing tour of over-sized roadside attractions in Casey, Illinois, yard games, and a backyard spa day for my Jeep.

NOT GEORGIA!

When we set out for this trip, there a reluctant side trip to Georgia hanging over our heads. Last December, we made a special trip back to Atlanta to get an emissions test so that we could renew the Jeep’s license plate sticker and continue driving legally as nomads. Long story short, some idiot typed the VIN number wrong on the report, the DMV wouldn’t accept it, and no one would help us resolve the issue. However, that silly sticker was expiring at the end of August, so we had to take care of it ASAP.

After starting the eastbound journey, I had this strange feeling that I should make one final attempt to get out of driving all the way back to Georgia for the sole purpose of doing the test all over again. I got a different person on the phone who was strangely willing to help this time. We completed some forms, provided proof of campground stays and recent auto repairs, waited a few days, and magically, we were granted an exemption literally on the day before we would have begun the Georgia journey! What a relief not to have to waste 20 more hours on the road with two more back-to-back driving days!

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

With Georgia off of our itinerary, we spent a few more days in Arthur and then headed north to Lake Wissota State Park in Wisconsin. Spending that extra time at my parents’ house was exactly what I needed to recharge and do nothing. Wissota was a spacious and wooded park that felt nice to call home and be back on the road again.

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

I’ve been wanting to visit Minnesota really for just one reason lately: the Happy Gnome restaurant in St. Paul. This was an amazing spot all around: dog-friendly outdoor patio, 90+ beers and lots of Belgian ones, mutually agreeable food menu, and gnomes all over the freaking place. From there, we kept heading west to the tiny town of Fergus Falls to set up camp for the night at Delagoon Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Prior to this month, there were two states in the lower 48 that I had never been to: North Dakota and Idaho. After crossing into North Dakota for the first time ever, we stopped at in Jamestown to see the world’s largest buffalo and check out the roadside tourist shops.

From there, it was a Panera lunch and a brewery stop in Bismarck and then on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. By the time we rolled into the park, it was 100 degrees outside and since national parks hate dogs, so we took turns going on hot hikes and making sure Monkey didn’t melt back at the campsite.

Lewis & Clark Caverns, Montana: Home on the Road #79

After another grueling day of driving, we finally got back to our RV in storage – safe and sound. To transition back to normal life, we spent the weekend at Lewis & Clark Caverns for our last Montana home. The caves were accessible by group tour only, which was a bit annoying but totally worth it. As an added bonus, the park provided free and shaded dog kennels onsite so we could do the two-hour tour together without having to worry about Monkey boiling in the heat.

  • Highlights: Felt so good to be back home and in the mountains specifically, awesome cave tour, great dog kennels, peaceful park
  • Lowlights: Super stinkin’ hot outside, still using public showers here

Arco, Idaho: Home on the Road #80

Our first-ever visit to Idaho began in the tiny town of Arco (population 995) to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument and the atomic energy historic stuff. This was a great place to fully transition back into standard camper life because there wasn’t much to do here, making it ideal for catching up with work and settling back into normal routines.

  • Highlights: Hiking at Craters of the Moon, pulling off the side of the road to take a dip in natural hot springs, learning about the disturbing world of nuclear testing and fatal meltdowns
  • Lowlights: Not being allowed to go in the caves at Craters of the Moon because of bat drama, most things are out of business and boarded up here


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Work, work, and more work – so much of it.

  • One out of three machines working isn’t too bad, right? Laundry on the road can be rough at times.

  • Monkey really gets a lot out of having a dog pal around. Having two goons in a camper sounds like a really bad idea, but she’ll get a dog sibling one day when camper life comes to a close. In the meantime, she’s literally the best road trip dog ever.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’re hanging out in Idaho a little while longer – Bellevue and Boise – before making our way into Eastern Oregon by Labor Day. Bellevue is a fun stop because we actually have a couple friends that live here – former full-time RVers that we met on the road last year. Then I’ll ring in the big 3-5 in the Boise area next week with apparently, some surprise shenanigans planned.

After that, we’ll try being Oregonians again in a different part of the state (the John Day and Bend areas) that promise to be much warmer and drier than our spring on the coast. Constant travel research and planning feel more tiring and burdensome to me than even before the road trip, which doesn’t bode well for keeping this lifestyle going for the long-term.

While tenting for a couple weeks was a fun adventure and reminiscent of the four- and six-week tenting trips we did back in 2013 and 2014, it feels damn good to be back in our comfy and cozy RV. The experience reminded me about all the things that make tent life harder: sharing a bathroom with strangers, walking outside to pee in the middle of the night after a few too many beers, trying to get work done, keeping devices charged, showering every three days at best, etc. It’s funny how the little creature comforts of this home on wheels make this lifestyle so pleasant and sustainable – little things like my amazing bed pillow, not having to say good morning to strangers on my way to release a morning pee, and not worrying how I’ll put in another long day of writing work. But while I’m not cut out for full-time tenting right now, I do still love it for a few days at a time so we can get off the grid in ways that RV life doesn’t allow.

On that note and before this rambling carries on any longer than it already has, I’m signing off. We have a lot more to see and do in this rugged wilderness of potatoes in month #26 and until Christmas before another RV-free road trip is in the cards.

Happy trails!


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Makes Me Ready for a Post-Camper Lifestyle:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alberta: Wild Rose Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huckleberry everything is delicious – Montana is onto something


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

Temporary Canadians: Camper Life Goes International in Month #23

We’re just a month away from our two-year (!) nomadic anniversary, and we’re kicking things off in a foreign country. Okay, so Canada doesn’t really feel all that foreign. But we did have a bit of a sketchy border crossing and I’m hearing more languages around the campground than anywhere I’ve stayed in the U.S.

Although I’ve been to Canada several times before this, here are some first impressions of after living here for a more extended time in an RV:

  • Don’t bring pepper spray across the border – it’s considered a weapon and will be confiscated
  • However, border control doesn’t care much about dogs
  • Gas is expensive
  • But medical care (vision exams, new contacts, dental surgery) is considerably cheaper than in the U.S. if you don’t have good insurance
  • Finding kilometers instead of miles on the dashboard is hard to do while driving
  • Everyone here camps in RV rentals made by Canadream
  • The internet connection kind of sucks, even in cities/suburbs
  • But the campgrounds have surprisingly great free Wi-Fi
  • Canadian news is funny to watch, but my favorite new show is “Canada’s Worst Driver”
  • Food, household, and toiletry products you buy have labels printed in dual English/French languages
  • Late-May weather is pretty spectacular
  • But some places have snow in June?!
  • Ordering online from Amazon in Canada is expensive and the selection is crap
  • This place is just riddled with parks
  • The Canada-U.S. money conversion works in our favor
  • The Canadian dollar is called a “Loonie” – hilarious!

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

San Juan Islands, Washington: Home on the Road #70 (continued)

We kicked off Month #23 still back in Washington with our anniversary celebration in the San Juan Islands. It was an awesome time involving a ferry ride from Anacortes to Orcas Island, backpacking with tent gear to overnight in a remote place, and renting an adorable log cabin along the sea.

  • HighlightsDog-friendly ferry ride, getting back to our camping roots again with tenting, living in a cabin for a day and wanting to keep it, finally finding a great place to kayak and SUP with calm water and a beach to pull over onto for lunch, perfect weather in the 70s
  • Lowlights: Discovering how vague and unhelpful the information about where to kayak in this region was and actually having to ask a real person (gross), having to leave the island life behind (sad)

Vancouver/Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #71

After crossing the Canadian border at Blaine, Washington, we headed to the Vancouver area because we really enjoyed this part of Canada when we visited six years ago. Like many cities, there were no good camping options actually in Vancouver, so we settled for the nearby suburb of Burnaby, which we will forever refer to as “Burnbaby.”

  • HighlightsTaking care of our vision exams and contact ordering for way less money than in the U.S., revisiting old touristy haunts like Granville Island and the Stanley Park area, discovering a gnome trail, great Belgian beer at Dagaraad, getting caught up with a ton of work, pleasant weather in the 60s-70s
  • Lowlights: Crowded campground with Canadians being just as annoying as Americans, the husband got his wisdom teeth removed so much of our stay here was committed to recovery rather than exploration

Lake Country, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #72

We actually never intended to camp in Lake Country, BC and had booked a site in the nearby area of Vernon instead. But about a week before our reservation, the campground sent me an email that they were at a serious flood risk due to the massive amounts of snow from last winter now melting and flooding the nearby lake. Fortunately, they refunded my non-refundable deposit so we could seek shelter elsewhere. Lake Country, near the city of Kelowna, is where we ended up to check out another part of BC and still get in some paddling.

  • HighlightsCamping right next to a marina so we didn’t have to pump inflate and deflate the boats with each use, quiet campground with good Wi-Fi, the most scenic winery I can ever remember being at, finding a great self-serve dog wash station
  • Lowlights: Rain, feeling old age creep up on me with post-paddling and post-hiking soreness and struggling to keep up with the pace

Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #73

We spent a week in this Canadian mountain town with a badass name and badass scenery to match. If it wasn’t for the average 150 inches of snow this place gets each year, paired with lot of rain and not lots of sunshine, I think Revelstoke would make it onto our wall of “places to possibly plop down in someday” post-it notes.

  • HighlightsHiking in Canada’s Glacier National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park, checking out at the least the 5th railroad museum during camper life so far and deciding that this is now a “thing,” good campground Wi-Fi for working, everything you’d want in a little mountain town
  • Lowlights: Snow and 42-degrees in June, way too much rain, mud, very unpredictable weather, only having a week here

This is my “why the hell am I hiking in snow in June” look


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

As soon as we arrived in BC, it looked like it was snowing. However, it was May and 70 degrees outside. What the heck was it? Thanks to a well-marked hiking trail, I learned that tiny pieces of cotton were floating through the air courtesy of Black Cottonwood trees. I love learning about which trees are what. More trails need to teach me things.

I’m finally feeling ahead of the game with work. Woo hoo! At least something good came out of spending more time at home playing nurse for a recovering “less wise” husband with fewer teeth.

Something else I did with this magical extra time was break out my sewing machine again. Been awhile! Check out these recovery PJ pants covered in crazy dogs, posed next to our crazy dog.

Speaking of crazy dog, this new toy (a stuffed Canadian goose) didn’t stand a chance.

Month #23 required me to take on some new responsibilities during the wisdom teeth recovery period, such as grocery shopping. While I’ve certainly picked up a couple items here and there as needed, I haven’t done a full-blown weekly grocery shopping outing for literally years. In our division of labor, that’s the husband’s job.

Of course, being out of practice, my grocery endeavor didn’t go exactly as planned. Of course, I chose the one grocery store in the Vancouver suburbs that was going out of business in a month and had half the shelves empty. Of course one of the pre-packaged salads I bought gave me horrific abdominal cramps to the point of googling “symptoms of e-coli.” Fortunately, I was back to normal by the next day. But on the plus side, it was kind of nice getting to stock up on all of the vegan stuff that I like but that doesn’t necessarily get bought without me behind the shopping cart. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime soon. Or not.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

Next month is a big month because we’ll hit year #2 on the road on July 14! I wish we could stay in Canada longer and get further north, away from the main east-west highway and to the more remote areas that no one visits. However, internet reception for work is a major concern, and we have a Midwestern wedding to go to in late-July. Alas, Canada will always be here (or so we assume) for a later trip with perhaps a bit more time and advance planning.

We’ll be in Revelstoke for a bit longer and are then heading towards Banff National Park, the epicenter for Canadian outdoor tourism. Banff is insanely popular, so we couldn’t find a place to camp even months in advance. So, we’ll be staying at a provincial park about 40 minutes away. And since we hate crowds and traffic, we’ll definitely be visiting the national park on a weekday and swapping that workday out for a weekend. From there, our last Canadian home on the road will be camping on a farm near Lethbridge in Alberta. Thanks for making it this far down the page, and as the Canadians say “bye.”


Catch up with the journey:

Life as Oregonians: Month 21 on the Road

For the first time ever this month, I heard myself say aloud, “I think we need to come up with a camper life exit strategy.”

Uh oh. Is this adventure slowly coming to an end? Not quite yet, but the lifestyle has been wearing us down a lot lately. It’s not all Oregon’s fault, of course, but the constant rain certainly isn’t helping.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Trip research and planning for places to stay and things to do was fun for a good long while, but doing it every week for nearly two years has become exhausting and so time-consuming. And since the campground booking industry is so archaic, every new place involves an excruciating reservation phone call to some dimwit that involves spelling my “weird name” a dozen times.

  • Also exhausting is the social aspect of full-time RVing. It’s a very public lifestyle with close neighbors and no viable way to get away from strangers, especially with a dog in tow. Unfortunately, we can’t go off-the-grid like all those free-spirited #vanlifers because of our all-consuming jobs. Yet being a hermit in the middle of nowhere is sounding better and better every day.

  • Our RV is falling apart. You’d think buying brand-new would prevent this, but the truth is that most RVs aren’t designed for full-time living. We’ve been having issues with everything from plumbing to heating, leaks, and a nasty case of mold growing inside the windowsills from the never-ending rain.

  • Now that it’s spring and summer is just around the corner, everywhere we want to go is crowded, expensive, and all booked up.
  • So many campgrounds in pretty much every state out here have discriminatory pit bull bans, which continues to be infuriating. I’m so tired of conversations with ignorant baffoons judging my little Monkey when she’s done nothing wrong.

  • The excitement of seeing and living in new places is starting to wear off and we’ve become stuck in routine. I know, cry me a river, but routine feels stifling no matter what lifestyle you’re living.

With all that said, we aren’t pulling the plug on the lifestyle just yet because frankly, we have nowhere else to go and no current inspiration to plop down somewhere in particular. But as those musings continue to develop and fester, we’ve continued to check out Oregon stuff and even flew my parents out to visit and see some of the state for themselves.


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

Salem, Oregon: Home on the Road #65 (continued from last month)

This was our second home on the road in Oregon, a rainy one, but also one with some fun things to do and an welcome social visit.

  • Highlights: Rock climbing gym with its own bar (too bad it was too early in the day for it to be open though), more lap swimming at a community pool, great campground Wi-Fi, a fun St. Paddy’s day with live music and lots of beer, visiting my friend Kelli and meeting her adorable little twins, seeing Sherlock Gnomes on opening day, shooting a gun at a gun range for the first time and not shooting my foot off
  • Lowlights: Crappy city traffic, rain pretty much every day, a 5K tulip farm race that turned into a mud pit with hardly any tulips in bloom


Welches/Mt. Hood, Oregon: Home on the Road #66

We stayed in the Mt. Hood area for just a week and for really just one purpose: a last round of snow sports. I left my snowboard behind and took up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this time around, while the husband mastered the downhill slopes.

  • Highlights: Good ski conditions on the second day, giving cross-country skiing another try and loving the peacefulness and stress-free vibe of it, snowshoeing in the backcountry with Monkey while listening to podcasts, nice pool/hot tub/fitness center at our campground
  • Lowlights: Crappy ski conditions on the first day, lots of rain, cold, loud families everywhere for spring break, expensive to camp here

Portland, Oregon: Home on the Road #67

Five or six years ago, we came to Portland on vacation and loved it…so much that we actually shopped around for apartments and scoped out neighborhoods. This time around, Portland didn’t charm my socks off like that. Instead, I mostly felt bogged down by the rain, traffic, and not-so-awesome campground. But we were near the airport, which made it easy to drive around my parents and play tour guide for them on their first trip to the state.

  • Highlights: Bike/running trail nearby, checking out all of this with my parents on a fun 4-day weekend: Columbia Gorge, Multnomah Falls, fish hatcheries, hiking trails over the Washington border, Pfriem Brewery in Hood River, having my Portland-based cousin randomly visit our RV, International Test Rose Garden (with no roses though), Alberta Street, Vietnamese food, Oregon History Museum, Tillamook Cheese, Blue Heron Cheese, Seaside Aquarium, Hi Tide Oceanfront Inn in Seaside (a much-needed RV break with a fireplace and hot tub!), Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria boardwalk and column, and so on and so forth.
  • Lowlights: MORE RAIN EVERY DAY, crowded campground with nowhere for monkeys to pee


 

Looking Ahead to Next Month

Our time in Oregon hasn’t been all that pleasant, but we’re cutting out this weekend and heading up to Washington. Perhaps Washington is the land of endless warmth and sunshine? Ha!

We’re starting inland and hoping to dry out a bit. From there, it’s on to the Seattle area, all those weird little islands off the coast of Washington, and then up to Canada. We both got our renewed passports in the nick of time, so this journey is going international before we hit the 2-year mark.

Since this post was a bit of a downer, I’ll close with a happy photo of tulips and daffodils that I’ve managed to keep alive on the RV windowsill for the last couple weeks.

Oh, and maybe some alpacas…because who can’t resist smiling when there’s a fluffy and ridiculous alpaca next to you?

Over and out. Toot-a-loo.


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Flagstaff, Arizona: Home on the Road #56

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

Camp Verde, Arizona: Home on the Road #57

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


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

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

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

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

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


Sacramento, California: Home on the Road #46

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

Clio, California: Home on the Road #47

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

Reno, Nevada: Home on the Road #48

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on…

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


More Random Ramblings from the Road

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

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

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

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


Looking Ahead to Next Month

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

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


Catch up with the journey:

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 🙂