Badass Travelers

Many years ago, before working from the road was on my radar, I saw a picture from an airport that stuck with me. It was a picture of one of those overhead banners like you will see at a festival and it read, “No one in their right mind comes to Helsinki in the winter. Except you, you badass. Welcome!” For some reason it really stuck with me and I thought to myself, I want to be a badass traveler.

I think Kendra and I have accomplished that. We aren’t going into extreme environments, but we are moving freely around disconnected from “the grid”. Our last plug in was a month ago and the only reason we had it was to resolve an issue with the battery monitor system. We had a couple very stormy and cloudy days where we ran our generator exactly twenty five minutes, just long enough for Kendra to make a baked potato in the toaster oven. Other than that solar has covered all our work and cooking needs. On sunny days we generate far more power than we use. Eventually our black tank drives us back to society for a dump, but we have gone twelve days out and think we could make it fourteen if we played our cards right.

Heron Lake New Mexico

New Mexico has a reputation for being poor and rundown. We have certainly seen some of that, and you should avoid driving through the reservation land in an RV as the roads are in pretty bad shape. Even so, I have very much enjoyed the state. Heron Lake was just gorgeous with great hiking and the rangers and hosts were all very pleasant and seemed happy to be there. Also it was very cheap per night, which a Ranger pointed out when I mentioned we were headed toward Colorado to keep ahead of the summer heat.

We pulled in on Memorial Day weekend, and it was fairly crowded, but we got the best spot on the lake by luck of someone cancelling. By Tuesday it had cleared out and we had the entire campground to ourselves. I find it a bit crazy that no one but us used that amazing park for four nights. On Friday night just two other campers came in. This is my vote for most underutilized camp in the country. The lake water is lowering as it suffers years of drought, but there is far more here than just the lake.

It was over seven thousand feet up and we both felt that thinner oxygen a bit, but got in great workouts. Probably my favorite workout hikes I have done to date. We are definitely going to return another year.

Eleven Mile Lake Colorado

Insanely gorgeous is the best description I can give. At 8.7k feet we had views of snow covered mountains and hills that looked like the shire across the lake. The site itself had big stones, and our cat was in heaven. We couldn’t hardly get her to come in for meals.

On the downside, the services were raggedy as hell. The state invested in very nice signs that read “Road Damage”, and boy was there. We have gone into distributed camping that was in better condition. The showers didn’t always have hot water, and if you put in quarters for a cold shower that was tough luck, no refunds. All the rangers seemed lazy and like they didn’t want to be there. There was no actual hiking to be found, so my walks were mostly on roads. While it was some of the best views we have seen, it was an overall disappointment and I don’t think we will return. Additionally, my lungs got tired and I didn’t sleep well. I woke up feeling like I couldn’t breath. I am sure I would eventually adapt, but I didn’t in the week we stayed.

Next week we travel to Denver to visit with old friends. The forecast shows temperatures in the nineties, which is sad as we will be at a park with plugins and need to run our air. We’ve been spoiled by lovely weather and sleeping with the windows open.

May peace find you.

Wind and Rain and Solar

They call the wind Mariah

We’ve been in some wind on our journey. A snowstorm in Indiana with 30+ mph gusts hitting us sideways as we tried to drive the hell out of Indiana. On the bluffs overlooking the ocean in Oregon and California with 30 mph gale force winds and gusts up to 50mph. On Chimacum ridge of the Olympic peninsula with 60mph gusts. None of that prepared us for a windstorm in the mountains of Arizona.

The windstorm lasted for three days. It was unrelenting waves of wind that would drop off to about 5mph and then slowly build up until the camper vibrated. About three or four times an hour a truly severe one would come through. It would hit what was the normal cap and then a much strong wind would strike like a hammer blow. I have no idea what the windspeed of those blows was, but definitely more than the sixty I had experienced in the past. We weren’t in danger of being flipped, but we had to have the slide in, everything locked down, and we were largely trapped inside. It was so loud sleep was difficult. The first day and a half it was so dusty it looked like scenes from The Mummy. We had windows slightly open on the opposite side from the wind and yet everything was coated in a layer of grit. Late evening of the second-day rain, Tess, rolled in and stayed steady for about eight hours. The terrain soaked it up like an overly dry sponge, but the dust level was much reduced after that. In the future, we will take wind more seriously and get out of dodge.

The Solar is Joe?

Our plans originally involved a great deal of getting off the grid. World events thwarted that but are still what we see in our future. However; the solar setup was having issues and to Arizona, we came for upgrades and fixes. We had a faulty color panel, picture below, a faulty breaker, and two external panels that were a royal pain to use. As of yesterday, we are fully set up. In the below picture the 719W is our solar coming in, which includes about 150W from a new suitcase with stand. That is enough power that we don’t have to monitor energy consumption during the day even on rainy and cloudy days. Also, we added WIFI capabilities, can check the system from the web, and getting firmware updates all happens on its own. Today makes seven days off-grid, our longest ever, and we are hoping to hit thirteen before we leave. Our limiting factor is now our black tank.

The fun stuff

This part of Arizona is amazing. I love that this area has been so impacted by music. Every little town that Route 66 went through has kept it up so you can drive on it all over the place, and I am pretty sure Winslow wouldn’t have survived without the Eagles. There is far more to do and see than we will get done in our couple of weeks, but we shall return. Image gallery, the real reason people come to my blog, is below.

May peace find you.

Flagstaff – Solar Work

This is our second visit to Flagstaff, and I find it to be an absolutely beautiful area. Windy nearly all the time, but beautiful. Probably not more windy than Chimacum ridge was, but they get very little rain here so you can get a lot of dust with the wind. Yesterday we had 20 to 30 mph gusts and at one point it looked like a scene from The Mummy as dust swirled around the vehicle and came plunging in through our screen door. No one died, but the cleaning we had done earlier in the day was more than undone. Both of us are suffering with some sinus issues from the dust.

Solar Issues

The main reason we came was to get our solar system up and running properly again. We had a breaker that was tripping between the panels and the batteries, so we could generate power but it wasn’t getting to us most of the time. Obviously we decided to camp without power the first few nights. While deciding to rough it with no working solar panels wasn’t our finest planning, Fort Tuthill was very pleasant. It has great hiking, a gorgeous 18 hole disc golf course, and a pine scent you cannot get from a bottle. I wanted to do more hiking and golfing yet when it was time to leave.

Boondockers Welcome

With the top solar repaired I ran updates on some of the devices I could connect to with Bluetooth. Did you know you shouldn’t update the battery monitor unless the batteries are fully charged? Well, I did not, so my monitor started saying I was fully charged, which was a flat out lie, leaving us a little clueless on a very important piece of information.

To fix it we need to fully charge the batteries and neither of us wanted to run the generator for several hours to accomplish this. Off we went to a friendly drive way with a plugin. This was in the mountains West of Flagstaff which is rural farmland mixed among national forest. Was a lovely area and I did some scouting back in the woods. I found an incredibly remote site that we may try on another visit, though it has a 10 yard section of seriously rocky terrain that will be scary to bring Torta across.

Cali is a desert cat for sure. Every time we get into arid areas she wakes us up by 3am wanting out, and rolls in the dust until she looks like Pigpen. She can literally make a cloud by shaking now.

Walnut Canyon

We still have parts coming to improve the solar, but we are doing well enough that we decide it is time. Thirteen days in the mountains East of Flagstaff. We scouted heavily the day before, brought our routers with us and finally found a spot with sun, a view, and a route that we felt we could get Torta into. We didn’t realize it came with dust storms, but for free camping it is glorious. Should get three of the four parts we are waiting on today and should be generating around 700 watts tomorrow. That is more than enough for me to work all day and us to cook with electric and never need a generator. It is exciting to be this independent.

May peace find you.

Set My People Free

Our country called for our help and we did our civic duty. We halted our perpetual travels, accumulated a collection of masks, and got our vaccinations. That is all we can do for our fellow countryman. The current fluctuating closures looks to be the new normal for years to come, so off we go!

Night One: Snoqualmie Casino

We had originally intended to spend two weeks slowly travelling our way to Arizona for some solar repair and upgrades, but fate laughed at that. Four days of all day driving was called for instead. We are out of practice at all our traveling skills, but they will come back. We hopped a couple hours Wednesday night after I got off work and crashed in a casino parking lot. I didn’t get as many pictures in this area as I would have liked, because it was absolutely gorgeous.

Night Two: Grande Hot Springs

After our first long day of driving it was great to relax in some warm water. I don’t think this is a place we would come back to, but it was nice to have full plugins for one day on the trip so we were set for the next two days off the grid. We had become too accustomed to unlimited water and power. Working our way up to three weeks off grid soon.

Night Three: Remembering it is about the journey as much as the destination

For our third night Kendra had found this off grid boondocking spot at Sublett Reservoir in Idaho. This was very off grid. Seven miles of dirt road on which we passed a full size bulldozer pulling a columbine and saw no other traffic. As you can imagine, a dirt road that a full size bulldozer utilizes frequently has a vibration that will loosen fillings.

There was no cell reception, no power lines, no people, and amazing peace. This is where the joy of travelling returned to me and I remembered that we aren’t just going from point A to B, but getting the opportunity to really see this amazing land.

Night Four: Utah High Desert

As far as I know the place we stayed had no name. We just pulled off the road north of Kanab Utah and joined many other people doing the same. Looked like many of them had this as there destination and had setup for a long camp. Gorgeous views of the red cliffs and many dirt tracks that people used to ride bikes and four wheelers on. We might stay here a couple nights in the future as it had excellent cell reception too.

Landed: Flagstaff Arizona

So here we are four days and 1,500 miles later. Flagstaff is such a beautiful area. At 7,000 feet it is much cooler than most of the state, and it has a very interesting environment dominated by the local pines. It is sunny, not too hot, and smells like warm pine needles. Our spot has too much shade so we need to run generator some, but it has great hiking and a disc golf coarse I can walk to.

Many miles of hiking trails just the other side of Torta.

May peace find you.

An amazing Hoh

As we do repairs and get ready to travel full time again, we are also taking the time to do some hiking. There are so many amazing hikes in Washington it would take a lifetime to do them all. Recently we did six hours of driving to see the Hoh Rain Forest. Since our house has wheels, we typically don’t drive that far for a hike. It is far easier to move the house and stay closer to the hike for a week or two. That didn’t fit into our timeline and I have been dying to check out a rain forest since we arrived.

The rain forest did not disappoint. One of our best friends thinks it is funny that I am so into moss, but moss is gorgeous. If I ever own a home again I won’t have grass, and will have moss everywhere. So many types of moss in the Hoh, and so many big trees! Rather than write your ears off, I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

May peace find you.

How do you work from the road?

By far and away the most common question I have been asked is how I work while living on the road. To be honest, it is the only question I have gotten, but I have been asked twice. Considering the tremendously limited popularity of my blog, any question at all is astonishing.

Connectivity

If you are reading this as a how-to article you will likely want to look into Starlink. This is a satellite service that Elon Musk is rolling out which is touted as fast, cheap, and coming soon. Being a Musk service the fast is probable, but the cheap and coming soon are neither likely. Historically, satellite broadband has been good for downloading, but the ping rates are far too slow to allow conferencing making it unviable for work. The Starlink service is touted as breaking this barrier and early reviews agree that it does. Time will tell.

In the meantime, the only broadband option that is versatile enough is cellular. If you just walk into a cellular store looking for a broadband account, they are going to price gouge you so hard you will think you’re passing a kidney stone. I recommend following Technomadia. This couple is on top of every deal from every cell service and will also have the newest information available about the Starlink product. We subscribed to their full feed about a year before going on the road and managed to get deals that don’t charge a pound of flesh.

The newest version of the RV WeBoost system. Ours is one version back with the major difference being antenna upgrades.

My connectivity equipment consists of a WeBoost, AT&T router with 100 gigs a month, Verizon jetpack with “unlimited” bandwidth, and two T-Mobile phones with “unlimited” bandwidth. There are quotes around the word unlimited as both companies will throttle you down to half the speed of smell if you use a lot of data. With Verizon, we can get approximately 100 gigs and both phones 50 gigs. This is more bandwidth than I require for work, but we also use it to stream entertainment many evenings. The WeBoost helps a lot if the signal strength is on the low side, giving you a bit better download and much better upload than you could get without it. That may not sound like much, but it has made the difference between being able to stay where we want, and having to move many times.

The office configurations

My very first efforts at work environment. A lot of thought went into it. An A for effort, but B- performance.

If you have a giant fifth wheel you might have room for an office with an office chair, but in a small RV you have the dining table or the cabin seats to use and that is all. I began our journey with my laptop as my primary monitor and an energy star rated 17″ side monitor as seen above. This was passable, but a lot less monitor than I was accustomed to, it dominates the dining area, and the comfort is less than ideal.

It’s bigger on the inside

My new office space. Lap desk, with wireless keyboard and mouse sitting in the passenger seat facing into the living area.

I like to keep up with all the newest tech gadgets because I am a big old nerd. I stumbled across a video review of a VR product called Immersed done by Cas and Chary. The last time I had tried VR it was fairly primitive, but that was likely in the ’90s. It was certainly not good enough that I would consider working in it. Add to that my aging eyesight, and I was fairly skeptical, but with the Oculus Quest priced so low, I felt it behooved me to give it a try. So glad I did. I now have four huge monitors in a virtual coffee shop where I spend my workdays. Are there downsides, you ask? Twice I have attempted to set my very real cup of coffee on a completely virtual table. Sorry, no video of that. In the video below, on your monitor, it may look small, but in VR these monitors are huge. I would estimate I set mine at around 36″, but the upper limit is far bigger.

Showing off three of the environments available to work in. Starts in my café of choice, heads over to a public area that no public was in, and ends up on a space station.

May peace find you.

Why we do the things we do

To be honest, our timing couldn’t have been worse. Five years of planning to downsize into an RV, approximately three months on the road, and then a world pandemic. WTF Mate? You have to make real sacrifices to live in a tiny nimble RV. No oven, no bathtub, no washer and dryer, no extra room you can go into and shut the door, and no damn space for anything extra like wet clothes and shoes. If you thought the pandemic was tough in your home, imagine shrinking down to a single small room with a curtain hiding the privy. After a year of sitting in one spot, because we are good citizens trying to do our part, we were feeling irritable and beginning to question our life choices. There are no upsides to living in an RV that goes nowhere.

Our home for most of a year.

Finally, we see our numbers are dropping, people are being vaccinated and we take the opportunity to spend a week at the beach. It rained half the time, our site flooded with 3″ of water, gale force winds for over thirty hours straight, and it was fucking glorious. We walked on the beach every day, even in the rain and wind. It reminded us that there are upsides to the RV lifestyle.

We initially landed at Ocean shores state park. It was supposed to have good broadband on all our carriers, but instead, it had full bars and no internet on all but AT&T which worked a little. I tested hoping I could work there, but it was not possible. This is only the second time we were forced to move because of internet issues. We spent the weekend there, enjoyed amazing Thai and pizza from the local restaurants, and scouted for a new spot. I wanted to put some pictures below because it was very pretty, but with the stress involved neither of us snapped a single shot.

I am calling it kismet that we had to move, because Pacific Beach was a half-hour drive north, much closer to the ocean, and the sound of the surf pounding the beach made for great sleeping. The sites were smaller and without trees, but the beach was huge and flat and glorious to walk on.

Was a little tricky starting it on the wet sand, but the steady winds made for a warm fire.

We are now settled back in near Chimacum to do some maintenance and get ready to hit the road again. Posts should come more often, and the world should be a better place for all of us. The pandemic isn’t over, but most of us are more prepared to deal with it. We will avoid the States with governors that have wet soil between their ears.

May peace find you.

The Big Dark

My last entry was in March of this year. My wife and I found ourselves in Mendocino CA with the world locking down and me having a health issue. You truly don’t want to know more on that subject, trust me.

We wanted to be responsible and do our part to help. At first we thought that would be sitting still, but when we realized the pandemic was going to be a marathon, we opted to return to where we have our own doctors. Washington or bust!

Washington hiking trail

My health issue was severe enough to prevent most activity leaving Kendra holding the bag for the logistics of getting us to our home state in a time of confusion and chaos. She found us a one month stay in Gig Harbor, and during that month she found a ten acre plot with full hookups we could rent for a year. I literally could not do this without her.

Eventually I made it in for a out-patient surgery and am feeling great today. I am working up my endurance for longer hikes as we sit near Port Townsend Washington. It is still a time of chaos with an American citizen dying every thirty seconds of a virus that millions of Americans think is being faked. Meanwhile our area is one of the safest, and insanely beautiful. Hope you enjoy the images below. Regular entries will come when we get to hit the road again.

Oh! I almost forgot to explain the title of this entry. Today sunrise was at 7:45 and sunset is at 4:18. This is the furthest north I have ever spent a winter and it is weird being a dark night at 5:00 PM. I know it is much more severe in Alaska with some towns that won’t see another sunrise until late January, but this is enough darkness for me.

Tortuga Living Locations

Hiking Pictures

The other residents

May peace find you

The Pandemic Entry

All citizens of Earth will have this experience in common for the rest of their lives. There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, a little chaos, and a lot of hero’s doing everything they can to help. Sun-Tzu said that in the midst chaos there is also opportunity. It is my fond hope that we come out the other side of this a little more connected and kinder to each other.

How does this impact a couple on the road? That is exactly the question we had to ask ourselves two weeks ago. If we were a traditional family, returning home would be the obvious choice, but today our home is where we park it. We do have a vet, and doctors in Washington and considered returning, but we decided the most responsible thing we could do was to stay put and isolate.

As luck would have it, we found ourselves in a remote port town in California. Kendra talked to the owner and we are officially monthly tenants of the park which is within walking distance of a lovely beach. Our plan is to stay right where we are and social distance until the lock downs are over.

Our entire lifestyle is about existing in the world, not in our home. Our home is twenty-five feet from bumper to bumper and takes us to the amazing places we want to explore. A luxurious space it is not. If I were in a home I would be baking pastries, and would have many options for entertainment. Kendra has read six books in two weeks, I have read four. We are both sick of everything we can easily cook with our limited kitchen and our dog really doesn’t get why she cannot greet anyone.

I had hoped I would be able to play disc golf during this, and I have walked over twice, but the local course is crazy busy. Additionally, both times I came back with a tick. It is amazing that their is such a strong community around the sport, but they aren’t distancing properly. The second time I commented and was told that you can play and stay ten feet apart. That is true, but I looked at the group sitting next to each other on benches, petting the same dogs, doing fist bumps and elbow bumps, handing disc’s to each other and couldn’t comprehend how they felt that was distancing.

Stay safe out there people! May peace find you.

On the Road Again

Our two month stint in Washington was enjoyable and productive, but it felt nice to wheels up and point our nose south. I like a nice rain, but two months of cold rain wears out its welcome, even with me. We couldn’t have asked for better travel weather with sunlight falling on spring blossoms.

Into Portland

Friday I worked from a rest area so that we could land on the Sandy River just outside Portland for Friday night. We had a few errands we took care of, took a short hike and had breakfast at my favorite spot, The Fireside. We never get to spend as much time as we would like in Stumptown, and less than twenty-four hours left us looking forward to returning later in the year.

Boondockers Welcome

There are so many different ways to find a place to park for the night that I have lost track of the ones we are members of. One of the many is Boondockers Welcome and it payed off for Saturday night. Just a couple hour drive south of Portland we pulled off onto a super quiet plot a fellow traveler put up just to be friendly to other people on the road. It was a great place to spend a rainy Saturday night and we met someone we might caravan with at a later date.

Brookings or Bust

The pictures pretty much say it all. It is an amazing place to be and offers up two of my top three nature sounds. The gusty ocean breeze whistling through the spruce and cedar trees is tremendously relaxing and the beat of the waves with a cliff to echo off of is powerful and peaceful at the same time. If you like nature, Harris Beach State Park should be high on your wish list.

May peace find you.