Mountaintop meadow where our
month started in Parowan, UT
Tractor show, Parowan, UT
John Deere rules
County fair in Parowan, UT
Kids love clowns and
Boondocking by a babbling brook
(brook not shown!)
Budweiser Clydesdales at the Cedar City western rodeo
Ore bucket in
Pioche, NV, ghost town, living history
and fading memories
One remaining saloon
out of 80 that once
thrived in Pioche, NV
The jailhouse in Pioche,
Cathedral Gorge outside
Moonscape at Cathedral Gorge
Cool shadowing cliffs at
Pricey Italian Colnagos lined up for test
rides at the Interbike Outdoor Demo.
Sailboats in San Diego Harbor
Cruise ship dwarfs the San Diego skyline
Local sport fisherman shows off his shark
before tossing it back to the sea
San Diego skyline at sunset
Sailboat headed out to catch the breeze
A day of fun in the sun on Coronado
Beach in San Diego
Scenic road through Red Rock Canyon, NV
What's It Like ??
What is it like to travel fulltime in an RV? It is a total blast. We have a sense of freedom and independence that we have not felt
since childhood. But the wonderful difference between living like this and being a kid is that there are no grownups around to tell
us what to do. Each day -- every moment -- we do whatever we feel like. And we never know what will happen next. We
structure our overall movements by seasons: we'll spend spring here, summer there, and by fall we should be over there. We
structure our daily movements by how much we like a place, what chores need to be done, and the weather. Sometimes we
arrive in a town to discover there is an event going on, and we get caught up in the local excitement. Sometimes the highlight of
a day is the hours at the laundromat: we have met some great people while folding
clothes. Sometimes we have a totally quiet day, filled with reading, writing, napping and
talking with each other. However we spend our days, by the end of each one we almost
invariably look back and say, "What a great day!"
For me, the best part of this lifestyle is the
unpredictability. I like not knowing what I am going to
do after breakfast. I like not knowing anything about
a town until I get there. I like studying maps and
wondering about the views from the tiny squiggly
roads leading into the hinterlands.
ONE MONTH IN THE LIFE
During September, 2008 we had a series of outstanding adventures. Those few weeks form a perfect snapshot of what it's like,
how repeatedly stumbling into unexpected good times can be so much fun.
We had spent the summer near Bryce Canyon, Utah where we had settled into
one idyllic location for a month. Gorgeous as it was, while August began to wind
down we felt like we were growing roots and were beginning to itch for new
scenery. Our overall goal was to get to Las Vegas, Nevada, by September 23rd
for the annual bike industry trade show, Interbike. Then we would meet up with
family in San Diego on the 30th. In between, we had a month to kill and very little
geographic distance to cover. That month held the essence of all that is great
about this crazy, traveling lifestyle.
County Fair in Parowan, Utah
We arrived in Parowan, Utah, September 1st. Missing the turn to our planned campsite, we stopped
in the visitors center for directions. While there, we discovered the town was hosting a huge Labor
Day county fair, complete with a 5K running race, in just a few days. Mark signed us up for the race,
and suddenly we were immersed in the fair's rides, kettle corn, crafts display and tractor show. We
saw a terrific seminar on local raptors, ran the race, talked at length with various residents, and
watched the parade. During the days of the fair we camped in a mountaintop meadow near a
beautiful reservoir, at 9,000 feet elevation amid aspen and tall pines. When the morning air got too
cool we found another spot at the base of the mountains, at a warmer elevation of 6,000 feet, where
we settled in next to a babbling brook, just a mile from town.
After the fair ended, we were doing our laundry, pondering what
might come next in our lives when, between washing and
drying, we met a delightful couple from Arizona who live in their 24' fifth wheel in a local
mobile home park every summer. They invited us to stop by, get water for our trailer, and
visit a while. What a glorious afternoon! Their fifth wheel had a stunning view of the nearby
mountains, and they were full of tales of their lifetime of international travel adventures.
Great American Stampede in Cedar City, Utah
Still caught up in their stories, we packed up the trailer and moved
a few miles south to Cedar City. We decided to stay in the Home Depot parking lot which put us close
to a lot of shopping that we needed to do, and allowed Mark easy access to Home Depot for purchases
and returns as he embarked on a trailer project. After six weeks in remote areas, it was fantastic to get
22 high definition digital channels on TV, so we sat in front of the boob tube for a few days, nursing our
sore running muscles and resting up after all the excitement of the fair.
We discovered the town was hosting a
western rodeo show over the weekend, so
once again we found ourselves caught up
in the small town celebrations of a rural
lifestyle neither of us has ever known. We
spent many hours with the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and
handlers before and after the parade, learning all about the recent
purchase of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, and learning about the life of
these magnificent horses and their dedicated caretakers.
More New Friends
While admiring the horses we ran into a friend we had met at the tractor show in Parowan, and he
invited us to stay a night in his driveway nearby. First we needed to watch the parade and sample a
little more kettle corn, but soon we found ourselves camped out in our new friend's driveway, learning
even more about tractors. He is an avid John Deere collector, and besides his many tractors, he has
a house filled with John Deere memorabilia: lunch boxes, quilts, vests, curtains, table cloths, coffee
mugs, you name it. His wife is a collector too, and our eyes were saucers when he swung open the
door to a bedroom that was filled, floor to ceiling, with Pepsi memorabilia. Posters, trays, cans from
every era, pens, mugs, buttons, statuettes, hats, clothing. Neither of us is a collector, and last year
we emptied our lives of almost all our worldly possessions. How amazing to stand in this house that is
a shrine to all things John Deere and Pepsi.
Pioche, Nevada - Living History
Talking a mile a minute about these amazing collections, we
made our way to Pioche, Nevada, a town of 700 where the
nearest grocery store is an hour's drive away. The town is so
far off the beaten path that their city RV park is free. Pioche,
NV, we discovered, is a living ghost town that is filled to
overflowing with real-life memorabilia of the town's rugged,
wild-west, mining past. As we pulled into town, we had to drive
under the ore-bucket tramway that was stilled 75 years ago
but still has buckets swinging in the breeze. Without the
slightest nod to tourism, this town is the real deal, authentic in
its living history and dying population. The caretaker of the
historical museum and courthouse has so many stories to tell,
of living citizens and long-dead historical figures, that I wished I had a
notebook to take notes as I listened to her. For three days we pondered
the brutal lives of the nineteenth century silver miners who lived in this
once rocking town of 10,000 where 80 saloons and 20 brothels thrived.
Everywhere we turned in this quiet, peaceful town, we were surrounded
by reminders of its rugged history.
Echo Canyon and Cathedral Gorge - Nature's Treasures
Seeking a little exercise, one day we rode our bikes 15 miles out to Echo
Canyon, a delightful desert oasis complete with herons fishing in the
reservoir and sheer rock cliffs. Another day we rode fifteen miles in
another direction to Cathedral Gorge. We hiked among the sandstone
towers, climbing deep into their cool, shadowed crevices, our heads
thrown back as we gazed up the immense, sheer walls. We would have
stayed in Pioche longer, but Interbike was calling and we needed to get
to Las Vegas.
We started our Las Vegas visit with a few days in Red Rock Canyon
where we enjoyed some gorgeous bike rides on the scenic road that
loops the western end of the city. The views were right out of a bicycle
touring company catalog. Once Interbike's Outdoor Demo got
underway, we joined the "Hangover" group ride on a stunning tour of
the eastern suburbs outside the city. I will never forget the thrill of the
peleton flying down the hill in Henderson, NV, going 40 mph and more,
as the stunning view of the bright blue lake set against the red and
brown mountains opened up before us.
Bike Gear and Lance Armstrong
The Interbike trade show is a five day blitz of shiny bikes, clever gadgets, cycling
celebrities, free beer, and endless free "swag." We test rode a Co-Motion tandem,
Co-Motion touring bikes with outrageously huge tires, top-of-the-line Lightspeed
titanium bikes (for the 24-mile "hangover" group ride), and an Orbea carbon frame
with the latest Shimano drivetrain. Mark studied Campagnolo's latest 11-speed
gruppo, and we each ended up with a free pair of Oakley sunglasses. Mark got
free custom insoles for his running shoes and a free set of Gore cables for his
bike. The supplements were flowing on every corner, and we left with a year's
supply of electrolyte drink additives and energy bars. The big surprise was the
night we aimlessly got on the free shuttle bus to go see a cyclocross bike race,
and arrived to find Lance Armstrong on the start line. He passed us on every lap,
just an arm's length away, close enough to see him grimacing as he fought to stay
in the second pack, a full minute behind the leaders. Why didn't I bring my
California Casino Hopping: Tiki Bars, Farmers' Markets and Swimming Pools
Las Vegas is insanely hot in September, and we had a week to kill before meeting Mark's daughter and granddaughters on their
vacation in San Diego. We wandered into California hoping to find some relief from the heat, but the road from Vegas to San
Diego is mostly through the desert. So we decided to casino-hop, planning on free overnights in their parking lots and air
conditioning somewhere in their buildings during the days. We aren't gamblers, but one casino gave us money to play the slots,
so our meager winnings meant we were paid to camp at their place. Even better was the delightful surprise that many California
casinos are set up as resorts. We jumped from one casino resort swimming pool to
the next, soaking ourselves in the hot tubs and enjoying the poolside tiki bars along
the way. What a great way to beat the heat for a few days while making our way
across the desert to the coast. Between tiki bar hops, we rode our bikes to Old
Town Temecula and happened to hit it on a Saturday, the day of their farmer's
market. We spent a happy hour talking with a 40-year resident who has been
bringing her homemade wheels of Gouda cheese to this market for 15 years. She
told wistful tales of riding her horses through the valleys where the freeways and
housing developments now stand.
Waterfront Life in San Diego
Once we got to San Diego we joined the local RV crowd that takes up
residence along the harbor-side streets on Shelter Island and Mission
Bay. We relaxed on the waterfront, checking out the latest yachts at the
nearby brokers, and watched the pelicans dive for fish while the
thundering Navy jets rumbled our chests on every take-off and landing.
A perfect 80-degree day of play in the sand and sun at Coronado
Beach topped off an incredible month of fulltime RV living.
Couldn't Have Planned It Better...
Looking back, it is amazing to think about the variety of good times we had that month. I couldn't have planned a more ideal
string of 30 days, yet every great adventure was something we fell into by accident, completely unplanned. From a 5K running
race to a county fair, western rodeo and parade, to meeting some great people we never would have met at home, to watching
Lance Armstrong race his bike, to sitting in a resort hot tub quaffing drinks from a tiki bar, to body surfing on a white sand beach,
we experienced a little bit of everything. If I didn't mention any down times, it's because there were so few. Sure, the drive
towing our 14,000 lb fifth wheel up and down the desert mountains was a white-knuckle affair. It was almost as scary as the
rush-hour drive down I-15 through Escondido, California, where I prayed nonstop that no one would rear-end us. The traffic jam
on I-15 between Baker and Barstow, California, really took the cake too, as we sat
motionless in 102 degree heat and wondered if we would ever get the truck out of
Park -- on the freeway. Sure, it was a little mischievous to sneak into one casino pool
knowing it was for hotel guests only, and it was frustrating to sit in a casino parking lot
with the trailer interior at 95 degrees, unable to use the generator to run the air
conditioning because security forbade it. And it was a little discouraging to do that
running race knowing that if I were living my old conventional life at home I would be
more diligent about my fitness and would be closer to true "race shape." But those
are tiny tiny prices to pay for a glorious month of total freedom, unexpected
adventure, and countless great discoveries.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
During this same month, the US financial markets imploded. Lehman Brothers filed
for bankruptcy; AIG collapsed into government support; Uncle Sam pointed his
finger at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and said "I want you;" Washington Mutual
had a coronary, narrowly revived by a buyout; Wachovia went begging to Citigroup
and Wells Fargo, and everyone born after 1940 was talking "Great Depression."
Taxpayers were hooked for $700 billion to save their own skins when we didn't even
know our skins needed saving. Cover photos on newspapers showed Wall Street
rank-and-file with their heads in their hands.
What a great time to be meandering happily between historic western towns, exotic
sandstone cliffs, swimming pools, farmers markets, boat-filled harbors and the
ocean, making new friends along the way.
What is fulltime RVing like? This month says it all: It's a great life. We are very lucky to be alive and to be living this way.