A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Tag: Driving Days

Homeless but Happy and Chicks without Bricks

So we spontaneously sold our RV a week and a half ago. And tried to packed everything into a tiny U-Haul. It seemed appropriate that the sun was setting as…

So we spontaneously sold our RV a week and a half ago.

Little Uhaul big trailer

And tried to packed everything into a tiny U-Haul.

Family on the Road

It seemed appropriate that the sun was setting as we took our last family picture before saying goodbye. This “house” cost a fraction of what our home in California had cost but it was a 1000 times harder to say goodbye. So many memories in such a small space.

New Buyers

We couldn’t be more thrilled with the new owners who share our passion for adventure and simple living. They are planning to take off soon.

Best Friends

We said goodbye to my best friend and her family who had generously let us stay with them for 15 days. She’s special this one. There are not many people who would welcome our family and all four pets for that long and not once make us feel like we were over staying our welcome. And frankly, there’s not many people who I’d want to spend 15 days with in their house. 🙂

A bigger uhaul

Then we left Austin in our slightly bigger U-Haul.

Boys and Beignets in Baton Roughe

Our first stop was Baton Rouge where we had beignets for breakfast. So bad but so good.

Hotel Hopping

Getting all of our stuff and the menagerie into the hotel room was quite the effort. Another reason why I love RVing so much.

Road Trip without the RV

The next day we drove and drove.

Winter Storm Shot

And got to Florida just in time.

Moving into Storage

We stored our stuff until we find a new home.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week. Along with moving to Florida, establishing our new residency, and searching for a doctor to deliver our baby who is due in a few months, I was a contributing writer for a new book!

It’s called Chicks Without Bricks, a compilation of travel stories from other unconventional women and starting today you can pre-order it now through Dec 23 for just $2.99! After that the price goes up to $7.99.

Chicks without Bricks!

Considering our present situation I couldn’t think of a more fitting title.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 31: On the Steps of the Admiral Nimitz Museum

We slept comfortably at the rest stop last night.  This morning we even got up and made pancakes. After walking the dogs and picking burrs (I’ve never encountered such villainous flora.) out…

We slept comfortably at the rest stop last night.  This morning we even got up and made pancakes. After walking the dogs and picking burrs (I’ve never encountered such villainous flora.) out of our shoes that had tagged along from Marfa we hopped back on the I-10 towards Austin. When people say Texas is big, they aren’t kidding. It stretches on for miles and miles as if it’s its own country.

I had been anticipating driving through Fredericksburg on our way to Austin. Although, I had only been to Fredericksburg once before and for no longer than 30 minutes it holds a significant memory.

My freshman year in college in Santa Barbara I took French. In class with me was a girl with porcelain skin and strawberry blond hair from Texas. She and I would often chat in class. When I found out she too wanted to pursue the career of an actress, despite not really knowing her, I casually suggested that we move to LA for the summer instead of back home. Much to my surprise she said yes and we made plans.

She went back to Texas and I went back home to Indiana for a week to visit family and get my car, “Peanut”. Then my dad and I drove off to Texas.  I’ve always loved road trips with my dad, they are some of my most favorite memories and this one was no different. He went with me as far as San Antonio and I dropped him off at the airport early as the sun was rising. I’ll never forget the ache in my heart that morning as I pulled out of the airport by myself watching the planes take off through the the streaked sky.

I felt alone, excited, and scared.

After spending a few days with another college friend in San Antonio, I headed to Fredericksburg where I was to meet Juliana, my friend from French class, and her dad on the steps of the Admiral Nimitz Musuem to begin our journey west.

My map skills must have been better back then because I found the museum on my own without the help of an “app”. I didn’t even own a cell phone.  It was just me and my little red Peanut who was on her last leg all too ready to overheat on a hot Texas summer day. (Driving through El Paso without air-conditioning and the windows down in 100 degree weather is not fun.)

Today, I wanted to relive those first steps of that pivotal journey in my mind. I wanted to remember driving the hilly highway 290 through the pecan trees while listening to the Tori Amos Little Earthquake album. I wanted to remember what it felt like to be 19 and free from responsiblity. I wanted to remember looking through the pink lenses of my sunglasses. I wanted to remember seeing Juliana and her dad finding me on the steps to begin our adventure. I wanted to remember the exhilaration of being an excited 19 year old girl as we headed west.

I would not drive back east for another 15 years.

A crazy LA summer, a fifteen year old friendship, and a new life later, I find myself again on Highway 290 passing those steps where I naively felt like my “adult” years began. The dreams I had did not fold out as I had hoped. I would have never imagined I’d be driving back east, my home in tow by a big diesel truck filled with boys. My boys. Boys who I love with with every cell of my body and my spirit beyond.

Life looks different at 34 than 19. Prescription lenses have replaced pink lenses. Responsibility has replaced most of those old freedoms but inside I hear her. As we drive past the steps of the Admiral Nimitz Museum, I hear that 19 year old girl. She reminds me that her heart is still wide open for whatever God sets out before her. Wide open like the road ahead.

Love and Laugher,
Jenn

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Day 30: I Am Home

Last night, before we went to bed we made a difficult decision. Not a life-death or always-regret decision, mind you, but a decision that we had been chewing on for…

Last night, before we went to bed we made a difficult decision. Not a life-death or always-regret decision, mind you, but a decision that we had been chewing on for a few days.

We decided not to go to Big Bend.

Big Bend was our original destination of West Texas before heading to Austin to spend Thanksgiving with my best friend. I’ve heard it’s wild and rugged and there is supposed to be a wonderful little ghost town called Terlingua nearby but we are learning that we can’t see everything. It’s a difficult lesson. Sometimes it leaves me feeling like a child wondering if I should have picked the mint chip over the cookies-n-cream.

It’s a good problem to have but on mornings like this, driving east instead of south, my insides stretch and twist. We could fit it in if we leave early enough but that would mean two looooong days of driving, a rushed visit, a big gas bill, a husband who can’t work due to lack of internet.

Trying to fit it all got me in a lot of trouble in the past. A tired, overwhelmed, and anxious wife/mama/friend is not a lot of fun. So east it is and Big Bend will have to wait.

We packed up and headed out of Marfa. For having mixed feelings about the town I was sure sad to go. Driving east on the I-10 we passed hundreds of miles of golden ranch land speckled with windmills.

Halfway to Austin we pulled into a rest stop and decided to stay the night instead of continue on to the next campground.

I experienced a funny sensation, we all did, that night. After dinner we played a game of Clue and began to get ready for bed.  Being with my family in our cozy RV, I forgot we were parked in a noisy rest stop near the interstate. I forgot we were in Texas. I forgot we had traveled nearly 1500 miles from home because I was home.

I am home at a rest stop. I am home in Walmart parking lot. I am home in a driveway. I am home at a campground.

I am home because we are together.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Uh-Oh.

Today, we left Carlsbad, New Mexico, bound for Marfa, Texas.  We weren’t too far down the road when we came upon a pleasant surprise- Guadalupe Mountains National Park. How one…

Today, we left Carlsbad, New Mexico, bound for Marfa, Texas.  We weren’t too far down the road when we came upon a pleasant surprise- Guadalupe Mountains National Park. How one just stumbles upon a national park, I don’t know. If we were better planners we would have noticed that we would be passing another national park.  It’s not exactly rest-stop-sized. If we were better planners we would have made sure we made time for it.  However, we are only sort-of-kind-of following a plan so what’s a few hours to stop and drink up God’s beauty and get my “passport stamp”. I gotta have my stamps.

There are only 2 National Parks in Texas, Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Guadalupe Mountains is actually an ancient coral reef and now home to many animals like rattlesnakes- I don’t think there is a place out west they don’t exist- elk, mountain lions, black bears, mule deer, turkey, and golden eagels.  (I learn stuff from the Jr. Ranger programs too.)  However my favorite part was the The Pinery, ruins of a mid-1800s stagecoach station. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable in the RV, I can’t imagine a stagecoach.

Remember what I said about planning? Well my map app and I don’t get along too well.  We had been on the road about an hour after leaving the park and I was talking to my dad when Brent says, “I need to talk to you.”

Uh oh.

Brent  – Were we supposed to turn back by the park?

Me – I don’t think so. This is our road. I think…

(Please God, let it be so.)

I look at my phone which has horrible reception and the map page won’t load.  Of course.  Finally, it loads and…we missed the road.

We. missed. the. road.

Again.

What is the navigator supposed to do??

Cry.

Sob.

Sob big giant tears and choke out, “Maps are just so hard for me. I’m a girl. My brain doesn’t work like yours.”

Yes, I admit I actually said, “I’m a girl.”

I know. (Boo. Hiss.) For the record, I don’t really believe that but I’m not above using it when it could get me out of potential trouble.

Brent, the sweet loving husband that he is, told me a few minutes later that it was okay because I was just “lost in the moment enjoying myself”. Enjoying myself I was. The vast barren landscape of west Texas is almost too beautiful for me to bear. I could stare at the horizon for hours. It’s a good thing because we had hours to go.

We pulled into Marfa, an eerily quiet town, hungry. It was already dark so we stopped at the first and only place we saw with a light on, Pizza Foundation. Unfortunately, they were out of pizza which was our first indication that nothing about Marfa is normal.  The folks at the pizza shop without pizza, sent us down the empty street to Cochineal. One minute it felt like we were in a nearly deserted ghost town and then next minute it felt like we were in a trendy LA restaurant. Chochineal was full of hip folk and couldn’t seat us for 45 minutes. We headed back out into the empty streets to find Jett’s Grill at the Hotel Paisano.

The hotel is best known for housing the cast and crew from the classic movie, Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. Which got me thinking if I was going to see ghosts those two wouldn’t be so bad.

After driving up and down the quiet streets, we finally found it and stumbled in tired and hungry and cranky from the long day of driving. Like Chochineal the patronage of the restaurant didn’t match the town. I suspected I’d see cowboys or rugged oil men but instead there was a Woodey Allen lookalike in one corner, a hippie with skin tight purple capri pants and pilgrim shoes in another, a family whose young child disappeared halfway through dinner a few tables over, and us.

After finishing dinner we headed to our campground and we pulled into Tumble In campground to this…

An empty “office” in an empty campground. At least they didn’t forget the holiday cheer.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

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Day 26: Content to the Bone

Golden plains stretch as far as the eye can see.  The sun beats against my face.  I shift in my seat but cannot escape its glare.  James Vincent McMorrow’s voice…

Golden plains stretch as far as the eye can see.  The sun beats against my face.  I shift in my seat but cannot escape its glare.  James Vincent McMorrow’s voice fills the cabin and his lyrics stir my heart.  My body is tired and achey from hours of sitting yet I’m content.  Content to my bones.

After there days of go, go, go.  I’m ready for a day on the road.  We are headed to Carlsbad to experience the mystery of the caverns.

Eastern New Mexico is desolate.  We passed nothing but flat land and run down buildings that are slowly returning home to the soil.  I love it and prefer it over a cityscape any day. I will miss the west.

I open up my computer to try to write for a few minutes.  Suddenly after hours of silence I get a barrage of questions.  Thing 1 needs to know all about the campground.  Brent is wondering if I can make calls.  Traveling as a family is wonderful yet it is not without frustrations (as you might imagine).  Solitude is scarce these days.   I must carve it out in my mind amidst questions, quarrels, and cramped quarters.  The vast plains out the window help.

After hours of driving, we come to Roswell, New Mexico.  The store fronts are plastered with little green cartoon aliens capitalizing off the supposedly UFO crash of 1947.

Meow Cow wakes up from his slumber on the console to take in the town.

“So that explains it.”

We drove off into the sunset straight to the Walmart parking lot.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 24: Neurotic Nomads – Montezuma Castle and The Petrified Forest National Park

At Montezuma Castle, it is easy to imagine being Sinagua people making our way through the sycamore and cottonwood trees to gather water at Beaver Creak before climbing up the…

At Montezuma Castle, it is easy to imagine being Sinagua people making our way through the sycamore and cottonwood trees to gather water at Beaver Creak before climbing up the ladders to our home way up on the cliffs.  Except that I’m afraid of heights.

Montezuma Castle was mistakingly named after the Aztec king by settlers in the mid 1800s.  As it turned out, it didn’t belong to the Aztecs, in fact, it’s not even a castle.  It is an adobe community clinging tight to the cliffs.  Like Tuzigoot, it was built by the Sinagua nearly 2000 years ago.  Until 1951, visitors could go inside Montezuma Castle but due to vandals it was closed.  Now visitors can stroll the path among the white barked sycamores and imagine, if you are like me, life as a Sinagua, your life depending on the whims of Beaver Creek.

Back to the reality of being a newschool nomad, after both boys were forced to earn earned their Jr. Ranger badge, we hit the road and headed hurriedly east on I-40.  There would be no long bathroom breaks or food stops.  We were on a mission to get to the Petrified Forest National Park to see the highest concentration of petrified wood in the world and the painted desert by 5:00 pm.  As long are you are at the gate by 5:00 pm the park lets you in and you can at least take the 28 mile drive through the park to soak up the beauty.

A National Monument and Park in one day.  Maybe we should be the neurotic nomads.

At 4:15 we pulled into the gate with just enough time to visit the visitor’s center (sometimes it pays to be bossy) and stroll among the ancient stubborn trees who refused to fall prey to decay.

The boys climbed on trees that were as hard…as well…rock.

I had doubted our decision take the time for a detour but the first glimpse of the hills covered in Saturn-like rings of color (my photos do not even to begin to capture their beauty), my doubts were put to rest.

It was otherworldly lovely.

The boys kept exclaiming we were on Tatooine (a planet in Star Wars).

As magical as the sunset was I was sad to see her disappear and leave us in darkness as we drove the last 5 miles back to I-40.

If you ever get the chance, drive through the painted desert at sunset.  You will never be the same.

I couldn’t imagine a day filled with more beauty despite going to bed in an Alburquerque Walmart parking lot.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 19 : Pit Stop

  Driving days are my favorite.  The endless black snake of pavement makes me feel like each cell of my body has a breath of it’s own. While on the…

 

Driving days are my favorite.  The endless black snake of pavement makes me feel like each cell of my body has a breath of it’s own.

While on the road my mind wonders.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m running from something.  I search every nook and cranny of my mind and heart looking for the thing that draws me to the open road.  If there is something, I’ve yet to find anything except the love of adventure that is around every corner or behind each mountain.

Today we didn’t get far in our exploration when we noticed at a rest stop that our two back tires on the right side of our rv were rubbing together.  A few days ago I mentioned to Brent I smelled burning rubber but he didn’t hear me and when the smell dissapated I passed it off as “the brakes”.  Have I mentioned we are newbies?

The rest stop was still a good two hours from the nearest town.  Brent contemplated fixing the tires himself but we decided for the safety of our family to take it to a shop.  Only problem was the nearest shop was a hundred miles away and the afternoon was slipping away behind the mountains.  I began making phone calls and found the closest tire shop in Fort Mojave. I told the woman we should be there by 4:30 just before the shop closed at 5 pm.

Wrong.

Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time. When I called her to let her know we were just around the corner she said they had closed.  Awesome.

I must have sounded pathetic desperate because she said one of the guys could take a quick look at it.  Unfortunately, it looked as if a bolt had been “sheared” and a leaf spring needed to be replaced.  They said they could take a better look at it in the morning.

As luck would have it, a campground in our RPI network was just two blocks away.  Literally.  Full hookups for $11. Living in luxury in Fort Mohave.

We set up camp and I set to “work” worrying about how much tomorrow morning’s repair was going to cost.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 18: Goodbye Yosemite

I could see my breath as I lay in bed this morning. It was even cold for Meow Cow.  He regularly sleeps on our feet but last night I pulled…

I could see my breath as I lay in bed this morning.

It was even cold for Meow Cow.  He regularly sleeps on our feet but last night I pulled him under the covers.  At first he stiffened, “I think not, human.” but the warmth outweighed his ego and he cuddled beside me resting his little head on the pillow next to mine.  I love that cat.

We are getting better at packing up to leave.  Last week when we left Morgan Hill we didn’t pull out until after check out.  Today, we made check out time by a few minutes. 😉

Slowly, we wound down the mountain roads leaving Yosemite behind.  We drove through a small town called Chinese Camp.  This was literally a “blink and you’ll miss it” sized town.  I saw a solitary white church on top of a hill next to a cemetery filled with above the ground tombs.  I wondered who was burried there and how their lives led them to be buried in the small town of Chinese Camp.

We turned left down a old bumpy road called “Red Hills Road”.  I may or may not have failed as navigator again.  Good thing I’m not getting paid for this.  However, sometimes mistakes are really blessings in disguise.  I don’t know if I have ever been on a road as lovely as Red Hills Road.

Oak trees, horses, hills, boulders all placed like art on the hillsides.  The sort of road that you think of in storybooks.  It was only 4 miles long but I could have driven it for four days.

\

We scarcely saw a car except for a lone UPS truck.  Modern day cowboy.

In the evening, we stopped to visit Brent’s aunt for dinner.

We enjoyed our visit very much and the boys especially enjoyed relaxing with the dogs.  Have you ever seen a dog sleep like that???

Finally, we stopped for the night at Walmart in Bakersfield.

I’m a little sad.  It’s hard being so close yet so far from home.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

 

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