There was an unexpected frost covering the ground this morning as I walked Pixie around the RV park. Quite a change from the heat of Moab. The grass crunched beneath our feet in the wee hours of the morning (8am) as we cruised the campground checking out the various types of campers...big fancy fith-wheels, CruiseAmerica Winnebagos, all shapes and sizes of travel trailers (but no Creekside models), and an interesting camper-minivan rental called "Jucy". At the far end was a fenced field with some horses in it. Pixie had never been this close to a horse before and of course, she was afraid. She cowered and pulled away and wanted nothing to do with the black oversized dog-beast! So we moseyed on back to the camper for breakfast.
Since we left the trailer attached to the car, that took a big chunk out of our morning prep to leave. But there was one very important task to undertake…emptying the black and grey water tanks. Yes! We have officially christened the camper’s toilet! After a bit of wrestling with the pieces (trying to get the elbow on the poop tube and then screwing the tube into the sewer hook up), I successfully emptied the tanks! Now it’s official…we are real full-timers!
Having Pixie on this trip is not always the easiest thing. Most of the National Parks do not allow dogs to hike on any of the trails and there is the slight issue that Pixie actually HATES riding in the car (combination of motion sickness and just plain fear). But, she was part of the deal. As Summer would say, “If Pixie doesn’t come on the road trip, then neither will Summer”. So, I found a series of books called “Hiking with Dogs” and they have one for nearly every state. I found a hike in the Dixie National Forest at Singletree campground, so that was our first destination today.
We headed out on the Scenic Highway 12 around 11am. I am so glad that we didn’t try to do this drive yesterday in the dark. I mean what’s the point of driving a Scenic highway if you can’t see anything?
The landscape had changed from the red rocks of Capitol Reef into rolling farm land and then into pine forests as we started to climb up Boulder Mountain. Only about ½ hour into the drive, we reached the campground. I had taken special care to look this campground up online with google maps to be sure that we would be able to turn around. I wasn’t entirely clear where we were going to park, but it looked like the map showed a couple different options. As I turned left off the winding mountain road into the campground drive, I stopped hard! The gate to the campground was closed! Closed for the season! Ugh! So now the camper was fully committed facing the gate and with no way to turn around. I was going to have to back it out of here. Fun!
But in my usual fashion…we will worry about that later. For now, we have a hike to do.
(Not sure if you can see it, but there is a forest service gate/bar preventing us from driving into the empty campground)
It was very peaceful walking through the beautiful pine forest deserted campground. We found the trail head easily and began the just over a mile hike to some waterfalls (hopefully). We crossed a stream on a small wooden bridge, got awesome views of the broad valley below the mountain, and then descended down the rocky trail…our own private paradise! Pixie loves hiking off the leash! She sniffs and “hunts” and leaves her mark. Good to wear her out before the rest of the car ride.
When we got back to the truck/rig, backing it out wasn’t too big of a deal. The entrance road was actually pretty wide and so I was able to partially back it up and then pull forward…and we were on our way again.
We continued the drive up Boulder Mountain…this is Utah?? It looks just like home…pine trees and empty Aspens, except for the stunning new views at each (and every single one) of the pull over spots! There were also placards telling the history of the land and info about the plants/trees/etc. It’s road schooling at it’s finest!
The descent was somewhat steep and required a bit of focused attention from this newbie. But we made it to the “town” of Boulder and decided to stop for lunch. After doing a 3-point (well okay, I am sure it was more like a 21-point turn), I actually managed to maneuver the trailer around to park on a side street next to the restaurant. A truck with a pop-up trailer passed us as I was attempting my turn around and came back facing the direction I was maneuvering toward. I asked and sure enough there was an easy turn around spot just down the road. OMG! Well, chuck it up to much needed practice.
The lunch spot was expensive, and the waitstaff bored and bothered by actually having to serve food. Even though this was recommended in one of my travel books, I would skip it next time. Maybe just grab some coffee/tea at the little cafe next door.
And so, we continued on...
(The lunch spot was very picturesque.)
After winding through some more more typical Utah scenery, we made it to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument...it is amazing!!! The landscape is covered in rolling hills of rock. I don’t think these pictures do it justice at all. On one part of the road it was super narrow with steep drop offs on either side. I was thankful again that I was not driving this at night.
Most of the ride the kids just have their heads buried in their computers, racking up data usage. Hey! This is a Scenic Byway…look up and check out the incredible scenery!!!
We drove through the very small town of Escalante to our RV park, the Shooting Star. I was so excited to stay here based on all the reviews that I had read online. I had big expectations and was sorely disappointed. This RV park has an airstream vibe thing going on. You can actually rent one to stay in, like an airstream hotel. But, I was the ugly stepsister trailer and banished to the other lot. It was basically a gravel/stone parking lot right along the highway with no trees or anything. To be fair, just when I had finished setting up, there was a message on my phone from the RV park owners that said if I still wanted a lot among the "cool kids", one had just come available. Um, no thanks. Once we're set up, there's no moving.
(My thoughts on airstreams... My first introduction to an airstream was about 15 years ago. A friend of my exs had one, but it had lots of unwelcome critters running through it and it needed a lot of TLC. So first impressions, not so good. When looking to buy our first camper, we never even considered it. We were looking for a pop-up. Since then, after reading many blogs of travelers, I realize that the airstream is a "thing". There are actually airstream conventions and meet-ups and groups to belong to and dedicated RV parks...I never knew! I could have been in the "in" crowd! But...no. New airstreams are very expensive! Like more than double what I paid for mine. And I was pretty set on having something new because I am not very handy and hope to have less things to fix on a newer model vs. used. I could have bought a used/old one and spent a year remodeling it (with lots of help/guidance) but I hatched this travel plan around July and was on the road by October, no time for remodels.
But I do think airstreams are cool! So, if you see me out on the road, please don't leave me out just because of the way I look! Can't all we different kinds of trailers just be friends?)
It wasn't all bad though...parading down the main highway were real live cowboys driving cattle! Real-life entertainment at it's best!
More from Escalante next time...
We left Moab around 3pm which was later than I had planned, but we wanted to hang out with Shane as long as possible. For some reason I thought that the drive from Moab to Escalante would only be about 2 to 3 hours, but I was wrong, again. This has happened before…
One time on our drive from Crescent City, California to Mendocino, California, I thought the drive would be about five hours...after nine hours of driving, I finally pulled over at a hotel for the night and finished the drive the next day. If you ever have the chance to visit Mendocino, I highly recommend it! Beautiful coastline and beautiful town!!
(Photos from our Summer 0f 2014 road trip)
We drove south on Highway 24 with the typical Utah scenery…it was rugged terrain with boring shades of brown, arid desert landscape with rocky cliffs that just push up abruptly out of the basin/valley. As we continued, we got to the fork in the road...turn left to go to Lake Powell and right to head to Torrey. This was the “town” of Hanksville, home of the Hollow Mountain gas station. A convenience store carved into a cave in the side of a big rock. I wouldn’t really put this on my bucket list of “gotta-see-places”, but it was interesting in a slightly creepy kind of way.
(Photos are from the web. I didn't think to take pics, but I guess this place is a "thing".)
After we stretched our legs and checked out the store, I pulled out my pre-printed Mapquest driving directions, actually looked at them, and realized that this was going to be a much longer drive than anticipated, more along the lines of 4-5 hours. With the days already getting so much shorter and the daylight quickly fading, I made the executive decision to stop in Torrey for the night.
On the way, we drove past Capitol Reef National Park. Now this will be on my bucket list of “places-to-come-back-to”! It was so beautiful driving past the red rock walled cliffs contrasting with the green landscape. I wished we could have stopped, but this mama has a plan, so we pushed on.
Despite the spotty cell service, I was able to find an RV park on the outskirts of Torrey called Wonderland and it was such a lucky choice! This is a family run RV park and the super sweet daughter-in-law of the owner checked us in. She gave us one of the few sights left which unfortunately backed up to the highway. But fortunately, there was hardly any traffic at night. The site was another back-in but without an empty lot across from it (like in Mesa Verde), which means this was going to be interesting…especially since of course, it was dark out. Luckily, the lovely office woman called her husband to come help back’er in. I thought he would just give me some direction, but instead he asked right away if he could just do it himself…hmmm, let me think about this…for a nano-second…YES! Have at it!
If you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, I give this place two thumbs up!
(Not the most glamorous of sites, but it worked out well!)
(This was the view away from the road. Actually, quite beautiful.)
We decided to keep the rig hooked up to the car for easier departure the next day, so we never actually made it into the town of Torrey. I had it on good authority that it was a cute place to check out, so I will add that to the list as well.
Next stop...Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Sorry for the long break between blogs! I have been taking notes along the way, this entry is our trip from Mesa Verde to Moab around mid-October…
Our site in the Mesa Verde RV Park had full hook-ups which is really cool when you get the trailer all lined up to hook in to the hook ups. Or you’re a rookie and you just park her. Then when it’s time to check out, you can roll it forward to actually connect the sewer. Since we still haven’t officially fully christened her yet (you know, with #2) it wasn’t a big deal to drain the tanks.
I also thought it would be a good idea to get the propane tanks topped off after camping for about a week. But um,well, see, you don’t actually need to get them topped off every week because they are 50lb tanks each, 2 of them, and that’s enough propane to last more than a month!
Anyway, on the way to Moab whenever we would stop, I would smell propane and think, “Oh, crap! This is bad!”
No, this is just what happens when you overfill the tanks…the propane slowly seeps out and it smells. Rookie mistake number…already lost count.
Before we went on the trip, I asked the kids where they wanted to go…on Summer’s Bucket List was to visit the Four Corners. I decided that if we were headed all the way down there, then we would make a stop at Mesa Verde, so we will have already checked off 2 boxes!
The Four Corners is on Native American Indian land and you go through a gate to get to the Monument. You have to pay a fee to stand in 4 states at one time!
Here’s a tip for those wanting to check it out…they only take cash at the entrance, but if you scramble around in your brand new truck, no scratch that! There’s no loose change in a brand new truck! If you get all of the change out of the bottom of your purse and pull the quarters from your laundry stash, you can get in. (Or you can backtrack 4 miles to the nearest ATM.)
The monument is in the middle of a plaza of sorts, surrounded by vendors hawking their wares. It saddened me to see all the plastic Indian jewelry and touristy tchotchkes. If you’ve ever been to Santa Fe or Albuquerque, it was something like a cheap imitation of that. But, there was one guy who did have some beautiful hand-man jewelry, a true craftsman. Jesse picked out a cool pendant from him.
After all the ceremonious picture taking, we had lunch by the RV in the parking lot, then hit the road again.
The drive from four corners to Moab started out on a really flat road but then turned into a curvy, windy 25 mile an hour type stretch. The kids were of course sleeping and so they didn't even notice their mom having a nervous break down!
When we finally got back to US191 north (a normal road with nice wide shoulders), I was so excited! Now I just needed to keep it together back to Moab and make it to our next campsite.
When trying to decide where to camp… (I use Campendium.com, RVreviews.com, Campsitephotos.com, etc) I pick out a place online and then I see another place and then I wonder which place would be better and go round and round and round…that's just my process, it's how I work. So after much deliberation and lots of yummy choices, I decided on Kane Creek Road. I've camped out there before but that was about 20 years ago so I was nervous as to what to expect.
Actually the dirt road was in great shape, no problem except for the 2 - 180 degree curves that went straight downhill…felt like I needed a team of mules holding the trailer from behind so it wouldn't roll down over us and crush us to death. Other than that, no worries…yet.
(These were photos of us leaving Moab...just imagine it in reverse. And, of course, the pics don't show how steep the road actually was.)
I continued on the road about 9 miles to some new camping areas out there. We stayed on the loop called ledges A. I was pretty psyched just to make it there, and so I chose one of the first sites, number 4. If I could have thought about it a little more, I would've tried to get a site next to the rocks to block the wind. It ended up being really windy out there and that red Moab sand is still with us in the camper and all over everything even now (more than a month later).
The best part about this set up was that is was in the daytime…woohoo! Back’er on in…I got this! Unhook the stabilizer bars, unhook the chains, unplug the trailer from the truck…now we just needed to unhitch the trailer from the truck (ball out of the socket).
The camping spot wasn’t exactly level, it slanted upward towards the back of the site. Since we were at such an angle we decided to put down about five leveler blocks underneath the jack. The jack goes down, makes contact with the blocks…awesome! The hitch goes up and detaches from the car…great!
When the hitch so easily detached, the whole entire camper rolled backwards off the leveling blocks! In that split-second, all I could see was my brand-new 6000+ pound camper rolling down the hill and into the dry creek bed crushing Summer and Pixie (who were playing near the rear of the camper)! Luckily, the bottom of the jack slammed into the ground and stopped the backward momentum saving my babies lives and protecting our homestead!
Rookie mistake number…
Here's a tip…try putting wheel chocks underneath the wheels before you unhitch the trailer, eh?
After resuming a normal breathing pattern and being sure that I did not literally “shit my shorts”, I expertly placed the wheel chocks into position. We also decided to go ahead and hook the trailer up again to get the front end back up on the leveler blocks (otherwise you would be sleeping clutching on to the top of the bed or risk ending up in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the bed in the morning).
I went inside the camper to set things right while Jesse starts working on the hitch.
And then…the dreaded words escaped my co-pilots mouth…”Um, Houston, we have a problem”.
Since the jack was now firmly planted in the red earth, the hitch on the trailer was below the ball hitch part on the truck. Even when we raised the jack all the way up…still below the truck. This was not good. So I did what any sensible person would do…we went in town to get some dinner and wine 🍷
I'll deal with this problem tomorrow (said Scarlett O’Hara). We can sleep in a crooked camper tonight.
The next day, I went to a local RV repair shop got the name of a traveling RV repair guy who was happy to meet me by the Moab library and work on the truck in a parking space. The one armed repair guy had blond hair that had been shaved on both sides but was still long on top and hung down a few inches for a party in the back (a shaved mullet-type do). Jack was a nice guy and very quickly lowered the ball on our hitch down a couple spaces which should make it low enough to hook up the trailer. (Jono would move it back up when he came the next day)
Another crisis resolved.
After, we hung out at the library for a few hours…free Internet and free air conditioning, now that’s a good combo! Especially since it was well over 80 degrees outside. This mountain girl melts in that much heat!
Once all our equipment had been charged, I had set up my blog, and cruised FB and the net for a bit, we headed over to Mill Creek to see if there was actually any water in the creek. (A lot of the creeks only flow in the spring or after a hard rain.) I had been there once before with the kids on spring break but the water was freezing…it was a cold and windy April break that year. We wanted to see if this might be a good spot for the dogs when they came on Saturday.
It was a great spot! I think the water runs year-round. It was nice and cool, a welcome relief from the Utah heat. There is a swimming hole not too far up the trail, maybe a mile or so. But we didn't make it that far because I didn't actually know at the time that it existed. I finally asked one of the many people walking down the trail with bathing suits on and got the beta.
Do you know what the sweetest sound of the desert is? Jesse and Summer hanging out in hammocks just talking. This never happens at home. Be still my heart! It's such a simple thing, my kids hanging out together talking about nothing special, but it is these moments that really make the trip worth it! (Sorry, no photo. Didn't want to disturb them.)
On Saturday morning I got up around 8:30, went outside the camper and just sat...aaahhh
Nothing to run off and do, just time to sit.
I really needed this!!
I sat there for about a half hour and watched the sun creep up over the cliff/canyon walls into the blue sky filled with only thin wisps of white clouds. How do you describe the color of the blue framed against the red canyon walls? Can’t. The wind was blowing steadily and the trees by the dried up creek bed were rustling, not quite the same sound as Aspen tree leaves, but still reminded me of home. The leaves here were just starting to change...yellow mixed in with plenty of green. The breeze was welcome, hoped it would keep up all day to cool things off. Yesterday was waaay too hot!!
Finally on Saturday afternoon, Shane, Jono and the pups arrived. Yay!! I had been missing all of my babies!!
(These are some photos of the campsite at sunset)
On Sunday, the boys went into town and rented one of those four wheeled dune buggy razor type things. I think they are called UTVs. They drove it back to the campsite. It only had room for four so I elected to stay with the dogs while they tore it up on the slick rock. After taking a short drive with her dad, Summer decided to stay with me as well…smart move girly, those boy drivers are crazy!!!
(If you haven't already done so, check out Jesse's YouTube Vlogs. The one showing their 4-wheeling adventures is called "Hell's Revenge")https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5WJ2jhbxN0&t=325s
We took the both dogs back to Mill Creek. But again, we didn't make it to the swimming hole. We had made it maybe a half mile down the trail when the he boys called us back to the truck to have lunch. That's okay, hanging out in the creek, cooling off was good enough.
Not much else to report on this leg of the trip, thankfully. Just time spent with family…
A few side notes…
Shane just loves camping out in the middle of nowhere in Moab with no cell service, no Internet and nothing to do. Poor muffin! He threatened to get on his bike and ride the 9 miles back into town just so he could have cell service! Oh Lord, Shane, coming out of the bubble is hard!
And here's another tip geared towards camping out on Kane Creek Road in Moab…
Don't use the vault toilets if at all possible!!!
They smell so badly and when you exit the toilet stall, so do you!! You actually smell like a Port-a-potty, ugh!
But at this point in the trip, I was still afraid to actually Christen the toilet in the RV, especially since there were 5 of us off-grid for six days. I didn't want the black tank getting full and having to pull the trailer out to dump it mid-stay. So go in town if it all possible or make sure you go really really fast if you have to use the vault toilet!
That's about it for Moab… I really really love this place! It is so beautiful and peaceful. Other than the vault toilets and the prickers everywhere getting into everyone's feet, paws, fingers, shoes, socks, clothes…you get the picture, I really do love it here! Fell in love with Moab all over again!
P.S. A great place to take a shower is at the Rec center…cheap ($5) and if you want, you can to use the pool as well.
Favorite place to eat in Moab is the Moab Diner…soooo yummy!
Next stop, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
After a quick trip to target…ha! Does anyone ever really do a quick trip to target? Well, we finally get on the road sometime much later than I had planned. (Seems to be a pattern…) It’s about a 4 hour drive to Mesa Verde. Originally, I wanted to take the scenic route through Telluride, but snow is in the forecast and I don't think this rookie is ready for driving the rig in snow just yet! So we decided to drive out to Moab, Utah and then head down from there.
We stopped in Moab to stretch our legs and get some supplies at City Market. Right now, driving for two hours straight seems to be about my limit. My hands get tired from clamping on the steering wheel with the death grip!
But back on the road again…
I've never traveled south of Moab. First, you drive through the red rock scenery but eventually it changes and turns into rolling farmland with towns far and few between, sometimes with just a name marker to let you know that you are actually in one. The storm clouds can be seen over the mountains in the distance... thankfully we are not over there, too. Clear skies/no rain for the drive for us. I am just admiring the beautiful sunset with all the colors of pink, orange and blue. All of a sudden the truck lets out a loud "Beep!"
Low Fuel!!! I wasn't paying attention at all! I looked down at the fuel level, then looked up...and a gas station appeared out of nowhere! Whew, crisis avoided!
So we roll into the Mesa Verde RV Park...well, actually, I rolled past the Mesa Verde RV park, down the road a few miles until I could find a spot to turn around and come back, and roll into the Mesa Verde RV park. First time backing in and I get to do it in the dark! That's how we Ridler's roll...set up the RV in the dark. It only took me about 20 tries or so but I got her in the spot! Maybe a little crooked, but did not hit the tree or have any branches take off the air conditioning unit, so I call it good! (Actually, I was very lucky with this site because I was able to pull all the way forward, and all I had to do was back it in straight. Yeah I don't really know how to back it in straight, easier said than done!)
The site itself was very nice, pretty trees around and good separation from the neighbors. But the highway noise was VERY loud and constant. (Don't do our site #5, or any of the ones on the road.) I think one of the sites towards the back of the park would have been much better. The bathrooms were super clean and the showers nice and big and hot! Also, the RV park attendants were very welcoming.
Monday, we just spent the day running errands in town, Cortez, about 10 minutes away. Hung at the library for a few hours…very good/fast free wifi! Did some school work with Summer, first attempt at math homeschooling...it's going to be a very loooong school year!
Tuesday, we hung out for the day in Mesa Verde National Park. We did 2 tours, but should have only done 1 per day. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and informative, but the tours are about double the length that we would have liked, lots of standing around, not much moving. (We stopped and took a quick look at the Cliff Palace...really cool/impressive!)
We went to the Balcony House tour first...very fun tall ladder climb up and then crawling through one of the narrow passageways inside the cliff house. Loved those parts!
There is a really long drive between the Cliff House Tours. About midway, there is a nice little museum. Summer got her first Junior Ranger book and we went hunting through the museum for answers to fill in the booklet.
After lunch, we headed to our 2nd guided tour which was of the Long House. The day had warmed up quite a bit and the ¾ mile walk down and then back up for our tour was hot! This cliff house is much larger than the other one with tons of kivas. I really liked seeing the seep spring at the back of the cave. Water was such a valuable resource for the Ancient Puebloans. (There is a 5 mile bike loop (paved path) that seemed like it would have been fun to do, but our bikes had flat tires and needed some servicing before riding) At the end of the tour, we were too hot and tired to do the short hike to Step House. Overall, I really enjoyed visiting the park, especially at this time of year (way less crowds and cooler weather).
Mesa Verde is in the PJ forest...Pinyon Pines and Junipers.
The Ancient Puebloans used the Yucca plants to make all kinds of things...shoes, rope, clothing...
Next stop, Moab! Meeting up with Shane, Jono, Pixie and Scout!! Whoohoo!
The thing is…I don’t actually know how to drive a truck with a 28 foot trailer on the back! Jono drove the trailer home from GJ (and the truck from Denver, too) But then again, when I took the pop-up camper on our trip in 2014, I had only done one weekend trip before that to Highline Lake in Fruita. I guess I just have the attitude that if I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…then I can!
So, Friday afternoon when I pulled out of Vail on our trip, that was the first time I had EVER driven my truck with the trailer! (I probably should have taken it out for some practice…but na) When I got on the highway, the trailer seemed a little squirrely, so I just gripped the steering wheel tighter at 10 and 2, and slowed down. (It’s perfectly ok to drive on I-70 at 55 in a 75 mph zone, right??)
My plan was to leave Vail around 2pm so that I would get to Grand Junction around 4ish. But that would be too easy. It is much better to arrive in the dark to the RV park, make super sharp corners, maneuver around a dually parked with the rear half of the truck sticking waaaay out in the middle of the “street” and hook up for the first time. Who even really needs to hook up? I think shoving the boxes aside and just crawling into bed is good enough for a first night!
We stayed at the Junction West RV park on the western end of GJ, right behind the new Luv’s truck stop and next to the FedEx sorting center. You are lulled to sleep by the sounds of cars and trucks. Even though this RV park is basically a gravel parking lot, it is actually not that bad. The location is great for our purposes which is to load up on supplies at Cabellas, Target, etc. The sites are level and the bathrooms are VERY clean. The sunsets are beautiful. And best of all, the owners/workers here are so helpful and nice. It was a great first stop on the tour.
Well, we had our first “mishap”…something was obviously very wrong with the camper because the lights would only turn on if we were plugged in. So, on Saturday, we (Jesse) hooked up the trailer and drove it over to the kind people at Pine Country Trailers (Henry Fox was my guy who sold me the camper). I was absolutely sure that there was some major electrical issue. (I’ve had plenty with the Suburban…like the time the driver’s seat got stuck/jammed all the way back away from the steering wheel and I had to drive home from Vail with a backpack behind me so I could reach the pedals!) I am so glad we didn’t call first to ask about this issue and instead moved boxes around again, pulled in the slide, unhooked from the electric and water, rehooked the camper to the truck, and drove it straight away to get serviced. Henry came out to help me personally. He opened the pass through and showed me where to flip the switch so that the camper can access the batteries when you are not plugged in. Yep, that’s right…
he flipped a switch
Electrical malfunction solved! (Yes, my face is burning red from embarrassment even right now)
On Sunday, we loaded up and headed out right on schedule. Just need to make a quick stop at Target and then Mesa Verde here we come!
I think I have watched too many of those TV shows about real estate...Million Dollar Listing, Selling New York, etc. You know when they put the property on the market and there is a bidding war in the first 24 hours, a deal is reached for over asking price, all cash, and closing is in 12 days. Yeah well, that's not exactly real life, just real good TV!
I thought I would put the house on the market as soon as school got out and be on a road trip by July. Nope. But the house did sell quickly…about three months from the day we listed until closing. Not bad.
The whole summer was spent cleaning, sorting, organizing, packing and showing the house. And then, next thing I knew, it was crunch time! About 2 weeks out from closing, everything went into overdrive! I was packing all day long! We (Jesse, Jono and I…oh, and Shane helped out when his social calendar permitted) moved every single box and piece of furniture out of that house by ourselves! Pretty proud of that!
I put almost all of it in a storage unit 10 by 20 (Wish I had a picture of it! I am an excellent packer! Seriously! I may not pack light, but I can certainly pack a lot of shit into a small space! Have you ever gone camping with me? You should. I am exactly the kind of person you want to camp with because I bring everything you might ever need…like a large and small colander, one for pasta and one to wash strawberries; a tent with net sides to hang out in to avoid bugs, and every size and thickness of ziplock that was ever made…just to name a few of the essentials. All you have to do is show up!)
After a crazy week of moving, I jumped right into a crazier week of road trip prep! We closed on Monday, Oct. 3rd (which means we got the $$$ that afternoon). Tuesday afternoon, Summer, Jono and I drove to Longmont to check out trucks. (I started out wanting a Toyota…who doesn’t want a Toyota truck!?! But the Tundra doesn’t have the towing capacity needed for my camper. Then I thought about a Ram, but they seemed a bit pricey. So I went for a Ford.) Unfortunately, we went all that way and weren’t able to strike a deal. Better to walk away than get the wrong truck/price. Wednesday, Jono, Jesse and I drove to GJ to pick up the camper. (I had already put a deposit on it about a month ago. I chose Creekside model 23dbs by Outdoors RV. You can check out the floor plan online.) On the way to get the camper, we checked out trucks in Glenwood, Rifle (crap) and GJ, but no luck. I was looking for a Ford F150 6-cylinder twin turbo ecoboost (yeah, like I even know what all that means…all I know is that it can safely tow my camper) I also wanted a crew cab and not a black interior…black dog/black interior no go. And could it have less than 35,000 miles, good tires, no older than 2013, and a decent price??? I mean, that’s not that much to ask for, is it? I guess so, cause no ones got one.
Thursday, I got up and looked online in Denver again for trucks for a few hours. I had narrowed down a few places that might be possibilities but nothing for sure. Then, at 4pm, I got back online to call a few of the places and I saw this truck that wasn’t there before (cue sound effect…heavenly intervention/destiny). I called and the salesman hadn’t seen it before. He went out to the lot and called me back about 10 minutes later. “This is it! Exactly what you’re looking for!” Um, yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. I told him to go ahead and hide the keys and we would be right down (right is relative…we would be there in 2 hours)
9:30pm Thursday night…Jono, Summer and I were driving my new 2014 white Ford F150 6 cylinder twin turbo with ecoboost, 36,000 miles, tan leather interior, running boards and nice, big towing mirrors home to Vail!
The next day, I loaded up the camper…first real nice like and then just literally shoving cardboard boxes inside…and by 5pm, we were off!
The last five years or so have been hard. I think, maybe, I had it too good before, but you don’t know that until it gets really hard. No one goes through this life without hurdles and I guess it was just my time for them.
The turning point was when I broke my leg. It wasn’t the typical “break your leg, walk on crutches and six weeks later you are healed” thing. It was extremely painful and debilitating. I wasn’t able to care for myself or anyone else in the family for a while, and that was a new thing for me. Though I was very lucky to have such awesome friends and family support me!
For about a year and a half after the break, I thought I would be permanently disabled. Then, thanks to Dr. Hackett and Dr. Kim, I got a new knee and a new chance! I still walk with a slight limp, I can’t run, my knee swells pretty easily…but I feel like I can do almost anything I want to and I am so grateful for my knee replacement!
The other thing that broke during that time was my marriage. It was so very painful (still is), but it is better now. I don’t cringe as much when I say I am divorced, not as much. I don’t wake up every morning and burst into tears, or go to bed crying myself to sleep…only once in a while. I was married for 19+ years, with him for 24 years…my entire adult life until that point. It takes time, a lot of time, but it does get better.
There is a lot of stress and uncertainty after divorce. It was not only hard on me, but so tough on my kids and that guilt is almost unbearable. People say that kids are resilient, but I think that is a load of crap. Kids are vulnerable and impressionable, and I am responsible for mine. Each of my kids has dealt with the divorce in their own troubled way.
As if all that isn’t enough, finances started to get tight, really tight. It was time for this stay-at-home mom to not stay-at-home so much anymore. Time to make some bacon. (Ha! I don’t think any teacher feels like they are making much bacon!). I put myself out there, starting interviewing for teaching jobs, and got rejected. I was actually partly relieved because none of the jobs I interviewed for were just right. And then, it happened! I got my dream job! At the time, I didn’t know it was my dream job, but it was! I didn’t know I wanted to teach math, but I love math! I didn’t know I wanted to teach middle-school…who is crazy enough to like middle-school? Um, me, that’s who. It was the hardest and best year all rolled into one!
And then…my contract was not renewed. I was devastated. Am I a horrible teacher? No. I was an almost 50 year-old rookie teacher that needed time to find her stride, which I did. I LOVE teaching! I am PASSIONATE about teaching! And I can’t wait to teach again! I also LOVE Stone Creek Charter School and more than anything else…I LOVE the kids there!
But for now, it was not meant to be…
The final piece as to why now was the house. It was time to sell. It was actually time to sell a long time ago, but I wasn’t ready then. Now, I was as ready as I would ever be to sell the only house I have ever owned. Jono and I built the house and raised three kids there and created a lot of memories. It was really hard letting it go, but selling has allowed me to go on this amazing journey!
And so there I was…no job, no house, and pretty burnt out.
What was the universe trying to tell me? Is there fate? Or just bad things happen to everyone and there is no reason behind it?
I don’t know for sure, but I do find it interesting that for more than a year now, I have been reading about/following several families/couples that travel full-time in an RV or even just a VW van. Twenty years ago, I didn’t even like VW vans! And who the heck chooses to live in one??? I even said to my sister in June, “I have no idea why I am so fascinated with these people living in vans…I would never want to do that!” Ha!
Some of my favorites are:
Anyway, whether there is some element of destiny or just seizing the opportunity before me...here I am...living in a camper trailer for the next 9 months or so...ready to explore and recharge and connect...Happy trails!
(P.S. I really like ... and I don't always use commas correctly and I promise to post pictures next time)
I think I inherited my itch to travel from my mom. She has been all over the world, and when I was younger, she took my sister and I to some pretty cool places. She is also the one who introduced me to the love of snow skiing. Growing up in Florida, this was a somewhat unusual hobby. I have been so fortunate to have skied in Germany, Austria, Argentina, and all over Colorado. It's all her fault that I ended up living in the mountains of Colorado for the past 22+ years!
Besides just ski trips, we also did a few driving road trips, one in particular to California. We visited dude ranches and rode horses, went to San Francisco and rode the street cars, and went to Lake Tahoe and rode bikes. We visited the Redwood forest, hiked in the wilderness, went river rafting, and went to the movies (with my dad who never goes to the movies!) Great family memories!
In early 2014, my friend, Holly, posted pictures of her family visiting the Redwoods and that brought me back to when I went there with my mom as a teenager. Around that time, I also discovered Kirsten Dirksen on YouTube and FairCompanies.com. I was especially inspired by their movie “Summer of Love”, a documentary of their summer spent traveling with three young kids in a VW van while they went different places to interview people living in Tiny Houses and other small spaces. The videography of the the landscape made me really want to go explore Oregon and Northern California with my kids. I had spent almost every vacation for the previous 6 years either going to San Clemente (don’t get me wrong the beach is awesome) or visiting family in Florida (I love doing that as well), but wanted something different. I wanted to branch out and explore new territory with my favorite people, my kids.
So in February of 2014, I started to plan out a summer road trip with our pop-up camper. I had only done one other solo/not married trip with the camper to a lake about 3 hours from home (Highline Lake in Loma, CO...love that place!) So summer of 2014, all three kids and I (no dogs) went from Edwards, CO to Bend, Oregon to Portland, down the coast to Yachats, then to Jeddidiah Smith Redwoods, Mendicino, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and home. (The pop-up was really hard…it took a lot of time and effort to set up and break down camp. Sometimes we stayed in hotels just to avoid dealing with the pop-up. I knew then that when I did another camping road trip, I would want a hard-sided camper)
After about a month on the road, we headed home but I wanted to stay on that trip longer! I think that is probably part of the reason for doing this adventure…I finished that trip wanting more! I wonder if I will finish this being glad that it is done, or still wanting more? We shall see...