We schedule all of our doctor, dentist, and vet visits in a single month so that we can travel most of the year. For very real reasons we decided we would move all of those to March instead of April this year. In hindsight, that was incredibly stupid.
Let me start at the beginning. With my new job, I wanted to remain in Arizona for one week longer than we originally planned. This meant major changes to our travel plans, which included two harder weekends of travel than we care for. As the launch date approached so did winter storm Piper. Cute little name for such a badass storm.
On the first weekend, we took US Route 101 and made it from Yuma to a small campground in Northern California. I was excited to find out it was behind the “Camping” sign above. I had driven past that sign a few times before and always wanted to check it out. If you haven’t had the opportunity to drive route 101 through California and Oregon, you should add it to your bucket list. An absolutely gorgeous scenic road.
I was excited. It was a nice older campground with big trees and a river. It was so amazing to be out of the desert and back into territory that makes my soul rejoice. And then Piper hit.
The temperatures stayed above freezing but we had a wintery mix coming down for more than a full day. Even knowing that we weren’t parked where a tree could hit us it was disturbing listening to branches and trunks break under the weight they were ill-accustomed to. Twice large trees came down close enough we could feel the ground shake under us. Also, many of our neighbors moved or abandoned their RV and fled.
All major roads around us closed, including 101, our route to the next destination in Oregon. Saturday morning we got up, packed, and discussed what to do. We decided we would travel as far as we could get and pull off wherever that might be.
Above is where that location was, just before the windy two-lane section of Redwoods on 101. We weren’t the only, or first, people to make that same decision. We sat in this line for a couple hours. We gave a guy some aluminum foil so he could make himself a quesadilla on his engine, equalized the tire pressure in the honda, reprogrammed the tire sensors, ate, and read books.
Finally, it opened up as one lane for about ten miles. We didn’t get to go through with the first group so about ninety minutes later we popped through the redwoods — admiring the way they propped up power lines just high enough for us to pass beneath — and continued our journey to a small casino outside Crescent City.
We hit one patch of black ice, and one small section of slushy snow, then tucked into a campsite just before the weather turned really bad again. We were exhausted, and grumpy and tried several campsites before we found one that we thought had enough internet for my work.
We thought wrong. The next morning I see dropping packets pretty frequently, and long enough interruptions to disconnect me from my work environment. I call in an early lunch and Kendra calls a nearby RV park where we land on the Siuslaw River for the week. That is pronounced sigh-you-slaw. It was inside the city of Florence which is adorable. It has been a wonderful place to sit out the nasty weather as Piper continued to pummel us.
So, yeah… in hindsight we should have waited one more month in the desert. Tomorrow we will land at our home base.
In celebration of our last trip around the sun, my job gifted me with a pink slip. Covid was hard on the company, with ripple effects that resulted in budget shortcomings going into the new year. Apparently, being laid off isn’t something that gets easier with age, because I hated it.
If I had to be laid off, January is the best time. It is basically open draft season for developers. My glass is half full side believes they timed it that way on purpose. I wasn’t ready. I needed to whip together a resume — I made five different versions in all — and figure out where programming jobs were posted now. I hadn’t had to do cold interviews in over a decade and felt a bit overwhelmed with the entire process. Kendra scrambled to change our itinerary — multiple times — to minimize expenditures. If you want to live on the road you better be able to work as a team when things go wrong.
With forty-six resumes sent, more than ten interviews, and stress dripping down the walls, an offer has arrived. I was up against over one-thousand other developers and a dozen other interviews, but lightning struck and this should be a minor bump on our journey looking back. I miss my old team, but I think I may end up liking my new team even more than the last.
Typically days in the shop are challenging. Without needing to juggle the responsibilities of a job, it is a lot easier. We had the engine, slide, levelers, seals, and propane all serviced. Also, we — mostly Kendra — replaced a damaged decal with paint. That last part was a little scary, but it came out amazing. Can you tell which decal above is now painted?
That may sound like a lot of money going out while none is coming in, which is true, but we had the money earmarked for these items, and they were all important. The decal could have waited, but we only needed a little extra painter’s tape and four days to do the work. An RV that travels needs a lot of loving attention, and ours definitely travels.
Life on the Road
Even though life was tumultuous, the beat goes on. We had a lot of chores, but we still found time to enjoy existing where we were. We fit in a nice hike near Pheonix and parked at some of the most beautiful BLM lands to visit old friends and make new ones.
The Kofa Wildlife preserve is lovely and peaceful. I received an interview-ready haircut from an Iraq veteran, met a graphic designer I may collaborate with on a future project, enjoyed a group fire, had dinner with old friends, and did my best to relax. My best wasn’t all that good, but it truly was my best.
I’ve always enjoyed the rain. While at KOFA I managed to get in a three-mile walk in the rain. It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but a varying mild rain with mottled sunlight on the mountains. That, combined with a job offer, went a long way toward restoring my own peace.
The desert is a nice place to visit, but I am missing the ocean and trees of the Pacific Northwest. Glad we will coddiwomple that direction soon.
I desperately want to like Las Vegas. Dean Martin is possibly my favorite performer of all time, and who doesn’t love Viva Las Vegas by Elvis? I grew up watching Rat Pack movies, I love music, I love shows, I love food, and I love drinking, so I should love Vegas.
It isn’t anything like the old movies with cheap drinks, food, and shows. I paid $22 for a mediocre old-fashioned on the strip, we didn’t go to any shows because everything we wanted to see ranged from over one hundred to over one thousand a ticket, and you would need to eat like John Pinette to find a buffet a good deal. Aside from the strip, the city is dirty and shady, and about twenty percent of people drive like they are on the race track. I do not recommend.
Even so, Kendra pulled together a wonderful New Years’ Eve celebration for us. She arranged for tickets to the Neon Museum where they had all the old signs, which I find to be far more appealing than the modern screens on every surface. This was the first museum I did two full laps of everything on display.
After the museum, we had reservations at a lovely Tapas restaurant which had amazingly good food and one of the finest old-fashioned I have ever had. Kendra told the bartender to make her a special martini and she ended up with flames on top when it arrived. Overall, we had a delightful celebration.
On our six-hundred miles of weekend travel, we took a left turn out of BFE and drove through the desert to a town with no name. It lies outside of Death Valley with a low three-digit population. Cell phones have no reception here. I was unaware we are still allowed to call a gathering of people without a cell tower, a town. Technically, with a population this low, it would be a village, but a village with no name doesn’t have as nice a ring to it.
The two of us have found the absence of people to be absolutely charming. We canceled our week inside Death Valley, opting to stay here instead. Obviously, you cannot have a town without a name, but Kendra was nervous that my power as an influencer could overrun this remote destination. I think she has overestimated the popularity of my writing, but I can roll with a town with no name… in a desert… where there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.
The area has much more to offer than just a delightful lack of people. It is a vast expanse surrounded by small mountains that make for amazing views. Every sunrise and sunset is enjoyable and amazing. A small cafe offers great food and coffee. The area is rich in history with many old mines you can find while hiking.
Kendra and I were stoked to find a slot canyon on our hike this weekend. We had been through Antelope Canyon, but it was a tourist trap that annoyed me, and this one we had all to ourselves. Kendra called it our first slot canyon in the wild. It was exciting to move through it and involved a little climbing. Near the other end a more enormous pile of debris turned us back, but we had a great time and might go again before we leave.
Last, and likely most important, there are active hot springs nearby and we have access to a couple private pools we can soak in. Combined with the top shelf peace and quiet, it recharges our batteries nicely. We had one of the colds going around that lasted over a month, so a recharge is due.
On our journey, Thanksgiving has become one of our favorite holidays. There is zero chance of us attempting to cook a big meal in our tiny living space, and many restaurants have fabulous Thanksgiving offerings. This year Thanksgiving finds us in a remote part of California among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Yuba Pass
In the past, I have driven significant portions of Highway 101 along the Pacific coast and assumed it was the windiest road in our country. I assumed wrong. California Highway 49 through these small mountains is constant curves for the better part of an hour. The drive is gorgeous, the roads in good shape, but with the danger of ice and snow almost no one takes this route in late November. Last weekend we only saw three cars in the hour through the pass as we went to the hot springs for a day of soaking. We found another route home that was a half-hour longer, but a lot less windy.
Thanksgiving day we decided that another soak before our big meal would be just the ticket. I was feeling spritely, so through the mountains we went again. We are badass travelers after all. In the darkest section of the pass, we slipped on some black ice, but good tires and all-wheel drive saw us safely through.
Sierra Hot Springs
If you have never walked through the snow to soak in hot water, you really should. Kendra describes the results as the most relaxed state she is capable of being in. I find it to be supremely peaceful. This walk was a bit longer than most but well worth it. The geodesic dome had a pool with water temps over 105F, a large swimming pool had 95F water, and the sauna was the best I have ever experienced.
After three hours of relaxing in hot water — and on soft couches by a real wood fire — we took the longer route to Grass Valley and stuffed ourselves in true holiday fashion. The selection of a restaurant is always a risk, but our choice was perfect this time. They had outdoor seating that was warmer than their indoor seating, soft music, great service, and delicious food.
We hope you had a wonderful holiday. May peace find you.
At times life will conspire to keep us in one location for a while. It doesn’t take much of that before the urge to wander consumes us. After two months of being in the same location with nights getting colder and the big dark descending, we took off like our tail was on fire.
Night One of Travel
After my work day, we wanted to hop a couple hours south as this was going to be a long journey in a single weekend. Kendra is a fantastic planner with a near-perfect record, but not absolutely perfect. She had selected an exit with three possible free overnight spots. Should have been a pretty safe bet.
The Walmart parking lot was full to overflowing, so we went to the Home Depot right next door where they told us they didn’t allow overnight parking any longer. Frustrated, we grabbed Taco Bell and went to the third location, an old KMart lot that UHaul was using. The manager at UHaul looked at me like I was something smelly she had stepped in, and informed me they didn’t allow RV parking.
Sitting in the cab as night descended we were cranky and of two minds. Kendra wanted to return to the Walmart and circle until we could find space. I didn’t like the feel of that Walmart and wanted to go a half hour south and use a rest area. Rest areas can be loud and hard to sleep in about two times out of three, but Kendra acquiesced and we hit the lucky one in three odds. The big trucks woke me a few times, but overall it was a pretty good night’s sleep.
Night Two of Travel
Saturday was a long driving day with us pushing so we could start the next morning close to the pass over Mt Shasta into California. Kendra had us booked at a Harvest Host winery, which was an absolute delight. The space we were in was fantastic, with a nice view and in a quiet area. The winery had four beer taps, good soup, and excellent bread. The pets enjoyed some outdoor time before sunset and we slept peacefully.
Sunday began with us driving separately over Mount Shasta, which was a gorgeous drive. It was a very foggy morning, and we drove up out of the fog as we climbed the mountain. It was surreal and beautiful. We stopped for breakfast in the town of Mt Shasta and hooked up to tow the rest of the day.
I wasn’t completely well from my cold and Kendra was a week behind me so still fairly miserable. However; it was terribly exciting for us as this was the first destination that allowed us to flex our new Starlink muscles. It is a remote lake in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and has no cell signal.
I believe this is the quietest spot we have had the pleasure of staying for any length of time. It has no major roads, or towns, nearby. It has bears, mountain lions, and a crazy amount of deer. I have fallen in love with all the manzanita which are the most prolific plant in the area. The lake has been drained for dam repair, and the campground is showing its age, but I love it and suspect we will return.
Sitting idle at home base for two months leaves little to blog about, I felt the urge to write, so I decided to tell the origin story. This is the tale of my travels to purchase and return home with Tortuga, including the embarrassing bit.
Fall of 2018
Kendra and I completed five years of planning and selected the RV we wanted to try living in. A 24j Winnebago View at a small RV sales spot on the north side of Columbus. It was small, nimble to drive, and big enough that I could work at the dining table.
As part of our due diligence, we checked online for the same make and model. We found the exact same RV being sold by a private owner for ten thousand less. That felt like a significant price variance to us. We went back to the shop, showed them the price, and asked them to reduce the price to half the difference. We thought that was completely reasonable, but they disagreed.
Our future RV was being sold in Arkansas, eight hundred miles away. The expense to fly there, rent a car, overnight in an Air BNB, and drive it home was less than two thousand. And so the adventure began.
If you have read past entries, you likely know Kendra did the planning for the trip. She suggested I get an Air BNB right in Tulsa, the closest airport to the RV, but it was going to be fifteen whole minutes in the wrong direction so she found me a tiny house thirty minutes toward the destination instead. If you ever find yourself in a situation where my wife is helping you plan a trip, and she advises you to do something you think is wrong, you are probably wrong. Almost definitely wrong.
Flying to Oklahoma
Due to the paperwork necessary for the transaction, we arranged for me to arrive on Friday. So, Thursday after a workday — which likely didn’t get my full attention — my wife shuttles me to the Columbus airport. Two planes and several hours later I arrive in Tulsa with a kink in my neck and a case of yawns. Why did I think it was a good idea to drive further tonight?
The rental car company was having issues, and the first two cars they attempted to put me in had something wrong. Thirty minutes later they finally put me into a van instead of a compact car. It would cost me a little more in gas, but it was also going to be more comfortable to drive so I happily hopped in and headed out.
Ten minutes later I had the roads all to myself, not another car insight. Well… almost to myself. I’d been driving on country roads for about fifteen minutes when I noticed a weird twinkling reflection in my headlights. It wasn’t stationary and it was definitely in the middle of the road, so I slowed down.
When I got close enough for the headlights to show me the scene, I see it is three raccoons arguing over, or playing with, a beer can that has been crushed completely flat. The two without the can high-tailed it off the road, but the one with the can hanging out of his mouth turned directly toward me, raised his little paws like it was a stickup, and — at least in my memory — his eyes got very big. When I came to a complete stop he finally recovered from the shock and joined his buddies, with his beer. Party animals I guess.
Late at night with no other cars on the road, you would think that one adventure in thirty minutes of driving would be it. Nay nay. Soon after the raccoon incident I turned left and had to come to a complete halt as five deer were fast asleep on the road. Not on the edge of the road, not off to one side, completely covering the road edge to edge. My arrival did not startle them. In fact, I had to give a tiny honk to get them to move, and they managed to look put out as they slowly shifted to the shoulder and laid back down.
After a very long thirty-minute drive I arrived at the tiny home, well after midnight, and took my bag inside. It was perfectly clean, but the outside temperature was 89F — which may explain why so few people were around. A tiny window air conditioner was off upon arrival, didn’t blow much air when I turned it on and was on the ground floor while the bed was in the loft on the opposite side of the cabin. As a cherry on top, the ladder into the loft faced the wall and came up through a hole on the left so I needed to rotate 180 degrees and crawl onto the floor. As a teenager, I would likely have enjoyed the challenge, but as an aging programmer at the end of a very long day, I felt like a beached whale trying to make it offshore. I didn’t break anything, and no video of the event exists, so I’ll call it a win.
The temperature in the loft felt like it was in the triple digits, so I flipped on the fan to blow air across me and let my head hit the pillow. At just that moment a helicopter flew in and hovered above the cabin. Looking out the window I didn’t see any spotlights. Why would a helicopter be hovering in the middle of nowhere without a light at this time of night? It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize it was the vibrations of the fan causing the sound. Unamused I moved the fan hoping to reduce the volume with no success. I really should have taken the place in town my wife recommended.
Driving to Arkansas
Surprisingly, I awoke feeling pretty good. The temperature had broken through the night, the humidity was down, and I was going to pick up our adventure mobile. It was all country roads leading to Arkansas, and super quiet. I watched carefully for coffee and enjoyed the sunrise.
Turns out I was on a country toll road. That was a new experience. I see there is a gas station at the next turn-off. I pulled off to find there is a fifty-cent toll, cash only. I had a dollar bill with me, but this was quarters only. Oklahoma was beginning to feel like a foreign country. Who carries quarters around? I never paid that toll.
The gas station continued with the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land as I pulled into the Kum & Go. Not a porn shop, just fuel stop with a convenience store and a messed-up name.
I am still riding the excitement of the event when I pull up and find her sitting in the driveway. I snapped the above selfie before ringing the bell and sent it to Kendra. It took several hours to do a full walk-through of the RV and shuttle to the attorney to sign all the paperwork. By the time we were done with it all and I was pointing the nose homeward I was tired.
I was also pretty disappointed. The previous owners had never actually used it like an RV. They would go from home to a site with full hookups and use city water, then return home. They had never used the fresh water tank, so it needed a full cleanse before it could be used. That also meant the bathroom was not useable so my vision of a leisurely two-day journey to the house while enjoying having a home on wheels was a no-go. The temperature was back in the nineties, the humidity was awful, and I needed a fill-up. I was tired and getting grumpy.
The Embarrassing Bit
I pulled into a Walmart with diesel and filled up the tank. As I went to pull out I took too tight of a left turn and managed to scrape the driver’s side along the big yellow and blue pole. No structural damage, but my very expensive purchase was damaged in the first hour of ownership.
By this point, I am physically and emotionally a wreck. I cussed a lot, then took the below photo and called home. Kendra and I decided we will deal with insurance and repairs in Ohio. Thankfully, we were very careful to coordinate the pickup with State Farm and they didn’t hassle us at all about expensive repairs immediately after purchase. Probably the main reason we are still with State Farm.
I pointed the nose northward, set the AC as high as it would go, and pushed for St Louis. I was targeting a rest area on the far side of St Louis, and by the time I arrived at the edge of the city, it was dark. Today I would know I should probably take the outer belt instead of going through the city center, but this was my first time driving an RV so I let Google maps guide me right through the middle.
There was heavy construction, and heavy traffic, the vehicle was making loud scary noises, and one section had lanes that were the exact same width as the RV. It was less than a mile, but it felt like an eternity as I chanted “please don’t hit me” in my head like a mantra. I could see the lines passing under the edge of the house instead of the outside. The noise, traffic, and stress had me tremendously freaked out.
As I am exiting the super narrow section, the seam in the pavement gave me a particularly hard bump and the air stopped blowing. I could hear the fan, but nothing was coming out of the vents.
By the time I get to the rest area, I am ready to explode. It was in the ’80s out, the thermostat said it was 88, the side was damaged, the air was broken, I was sweating, and I wanted to beat on something. Instead, I fired up the generator, turned on the house air, and went into the rest area bathroom to brush my teeth.
It was much cooler when I returned. I got the bed set up, turned off the air and generator, and passed out. I was awoken through the night by trucks coming and going, the temperature getting hot enough that I needed the generator and air again, and my mood kept getting darker. What in the hell were we thinking that we could live in an RV? We were out of our fucking minds and had made a huge mistake. We should have just moved to Portland.
Final Leg of the Journey
I gave up trying to sleep at 6am, fired up the air again, and snagged a Starbucks double shot from the now-cold refrigerator as I searched the internet for information on the failed air. A working refrigerator and strong caffeine lifted my spirits significantly.
As I opened my second can, I fired up the engine and found that the air was working. Likely ice built up somewhere in the system and melted overnight. I pulled out behind a trucker who turned out to be perfect to follow. They slowed down just before rough sections and sped back up when roads were better. As I polished off the four-pack of double shots — and listened to music — I let the miles flow behind me having a much more relaxing day. I was sad when the call of nature required me to pull off and lose my guide.
I stopped for lunch and found that Torta fits neatly into a single parking spot if you can back up over the curb. From there the trip home was smoother sailing, but overall I would give the trip one star tops. Thankfully we have ironed out the kinks and usually have superior trips to this awful pick up.
Undeniably, the most common question I am asked as a full-time RVer is “What is your favorite spot?”. Our country is overflowing with landscapes that will take your breath away. Literally, you can stand in places where you forget to breathe. I’ve watched other people do it, it’s not just me.
The question brings a plethora of images to my mind which always includes a couple of the big postcard spots like Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon —which are both spectacular —, but those definitely wouldn’t be the favorite spot.
I will immediately attempt to waffle on the answer. Do they mean favorite for desert, mountains, waterfalls, trees, ocean views, culture, or … something else? If they hold to their guns and say “No no. just the one.” then my answer is going to be the Oregon Coast. You may feel that declaring 350 miles of coastline as a single favorite spot is cheating — and you would probably be right — but it is my blog so my rules.
On this visit, we set up base camp in Seaside but threw out a wide net for exploration. We made it as far south as Tillamook where we saw a lovely old lighthouse and devoured some amazing ice cream and cheese. We took a scenic railway ride, hiked my favorite easy hike on the coast, and ate so much excellent food. I had been craving spaghetti and meatballs and managed to talk the crew into eating at the same Italian restaurant twice. … So much excellent food.
Bathroom of Note
In the town of Garibaldi exists the bathroom with the most godawful smell you will ever encounter. It is this perfect union of moisture, male waste, and fish cleaning station that generates a particular bouquet that one cannot forget. I have tried.
Our home base is close enough to Canada that I occasionally listen to Canadian radio, and my phone will sometimes tell me I am on a Canadian tower. However; with the pandemic, we hadn’t actually gotten to visit Canada since our arrival.
Recently the border reopened and we connected with friends to rectify this. With an early start, we went to Port Angeles and took the ferry into Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was a lovely ninety-minute ride with a big deal made when we hit international waters and they sold duty-free liquor. Bottom shelf stuff with no taxes was a huge draw. People really hate taxes.
My only visits to Canada in the last three decades involved a canoe and remote woodlands. I arrived assuming it would be pretty much what I was accustomed to in the US, and on the surface that was true. It was very similar to a US city if you spent thousands of hours polishing it. Remove most of the litter and graffiti, make the buildings posher, and landscape the shit out of everything. If Victoria is indicative of Canada at large, it is a very nice country.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the British obsession with tea and the ceremony around it. When Boris Johnson was being harassed by reporters and came out to offer them tea I had a coworker from England tell me it was the most British thing he had ever seen.
Kendra booked us at the Tea Room of the Empress in Victoria for a proper tea. As excited as I was, you would think I would have ended up disappointed — it is just tea and snacks after all. It was an absolute delight. Each of us had our own different pot of tea and shared it with the table. All four teas were good and two of them were downright delicious. The ambiance was great, the food was tasty, and the experience was very enjoyable. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend taking tea at the Empress.
One unifying trait of travelers is a passion for variety. Kendra and I love being remote, far from society and people, but we also love being in a city. Being immersed in the culture of a city is fantastic. You get access to music and a plethora of delightful eating experiences. However, cities are large, and most restrict traveler parks to the edges. When we visit Portland, we have wonderful experiences, but often find ourselves spending hours on public transit or driving.
Point Hudson delivers the fully immersed city experience in a tight little package. You park almost on the water, right off of downtown. A five-minute walk took us to any of a dozen different restaurants, a movie theater, numerous bars, shops, and music venues. Staying here was mad fun, and something we will repeat.