The Corner Pieces – Part IV: Full Circle

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost two years to sit down and write this post.  It feels right and appropriate now, the idea of finishing it feels as if I am on the precipice of completing something major.  I am closing one book and opening another.  This post completes a major life journey that started out with a single road trip to California for a friends wedding in the summer of 2012. It is the how and the why of where we are right now at this exact moment.

Those of you keeping up with my blog know that my husband and I in addition to being musicians are full-timers (we live in our RV full-time).  “The Corner Pieces” are four posts about the very journey that resulted in our decision to pursue this lifestyle.  Here we are, the final installation.  What made us finally seal the deal?  And as always, where are we now?

If you need to get caught up, here are the other 3 Corner Pieces:

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

Driving West, is always inspirational but also usually somewhat harrowing and fraught with challenges.  We do it anyway and you should too!  It makes you pause and remember the Gold Rush and that people used to do this with horses and wagons and no actual roads…

After our Summer of 2012 Journey to Malibu two week Odyssey, we had the task of returning back to Texas.  If you remember my blog post, “No Idea”, you will have a clear picture of exactly why we had to choose a different route home from the West Coast.  Oh, we learned so much on that trip!  The original plan was to take I-40 home and stop at the Grand Canyon on the way.  We now know better than to attempt those mountainous and changing elevations with our vehicle/travel trailer combination (our rig).  I was sad to change our plans but I wanted to, you know, live.

Since I had spent many hours over many weeks painstakingly planning our trip, Rob said that he would re-plan the drive home for us to assuage my disappointment of missing out on the Grand Canyon.  His plan was for us to have a leisurely drive home without spending more than seven hours driving per day.  We would take I-10 this time as it is much flatter and more direct.  His method was to find the most interesting RV parks along the way with the best pool and hot tub situations.

People love the idea of going on vacation but tend to loathe the journey home.  For some reason this journey home was different. We loved it!  And There was magic in it… We relaxed, we fell even more in love with RVing, our super awesome, traveling fur child, Sunny the cat and most definitely each other. J1936x1936-03978This journey home marked an internal shift that would manifest itself into a much larger external shift and culminate in the definitive action of moving out of the house we were renting and into our RV.  We would become full-timers! We would be able to travel more frequently, spend more time in California and not be sad about leaving places. It would be our new way of life and we were both on board!

Something about what we had learned on the road, how we had dealt with adversity, and the unbounded joy we were experiencing made us realize that what we wanted was possible and that we were going to actually do it!  Where there was once fear, there was now excitement. Looking back, I know now that what we had discovered was our true selves and a way to live in the present moment. 

Los Angeles to Austin: The Drive “home”. 

Stop #1: July 3rd, Tempe, AZ – Apache Palms RV Resort – After leaving California, our first stop was near Mesa, AZ.  We parked our RV at a strange little RV park that Rob found using the Good Sam RV app. It had a great pool and hot tub and was walking distance from a very bizarre liquor store/head shop with some interesting, if not shady characters.  I’m not entirely sure that liquor was the only thing being sold there.

For some contrast, my great aunt and uncle who are in their 80’s and lived nearby came over and took us out to dinner at the local Applebee’s.  They definitely do not drink.  In fact, we all held hands and prayed before we ate, right there in the middle of the restaurant, in front of God and everyone!  To make things even more interesting, another uncle and his wife happened to be visiting at the same time.  This particular uncle is the sort with dirty jokes and uncanny inappropriate timing.  Rob and I had to do our best to steer this particular uncle away from telling everyone about his family trip to Thailand where he took the wife and kids to see a “ping-pong” show. It was genuinely nice to have some family time and we were very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, but we were also kind of eager to get back to that pool at the RV park.

At the pool, with our now much needed cocktails in hand, we met a father and his tweenaged daughter who had just moved to the area and were in the process of moving the whole family from Colorado for work… They were temporary “full timers”, living in their RV until they found a house while still commuting back and forth to CO.  We enjoyed getting to know them. RV Parks are fun, because people interact, socialize and like to talk about traveling. We turned in early so that we could get an early start the next day.  We were New Mexico bound.J1936x1936-03917Stop # 2: July 4th, Deming, NM – Little Vinyard RV Park. – For the rest of our journey, we would be on our own, not knowing any friends, family or familiarity.  This is where it all really started to sink in. This part of the trip was really fun for me because I had let go of the planning and got to be surprised.  Rob had found a real hidden gem of an RV park in Deming too! It was vintage for sure, but immaculately clean and mostly empty, even though it was the 4th of July holiday.  Something tells me that Deming isn’t a booming travel destination. J1936x1936-03920 J1936x1936-03922 J1936x1936-03923The RV park had a really unique indoor pool and hot tub that we spent hours in.  That night we stood outside and watched fireworks in the distance from in front of our camper.  We didn’t know if we were going to be able to see any or not, so that was a nice surprise. It was chilly out too. We were, after all, in the desert at night.

After getting ready for bed we watched perhaps the greatest RVing movie of all time, The Long Long Trailer, staring Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz.  I should write a whole post just to review this classic movie.  Right now what you need to know is that the world of RVing has not changed much in the last 60 years.  If you tow a trailer, you will relate to this movie.  We laughed until we cried and had to rewind parts just to watch them again.

Stop #3: July 5th: Balmorhea, TX ? (Definitely No Website) – Between Deming and the Texas border there is a lot to see.  People will try to tell you that there isn’t. People complain about this drive. Geologically it is fascinating. You cross the Continental Divide. Also, you get to a point where you are right on the border of Mexico.  Sociologically it is fascinating.  To your left it looks like the suburbs, to the right it looks like a ramshackle border town. And when I have the chance to do it again, I would love to visit Las Cruces.  It looks like a pretty neat destination when you drive through…

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J1920x1920-03940This particular overnight was unplanned. It was weird, wild and wonderful. And it was really cheap, but just a little scary.  I had a spot booked at Balmorhea State Park, which is known to be a great state park in West Texas.  It boasts the worlds largest spring-fed swimming pool, right in the middle of the desert! Unfortunately when we changed our route, it changed the the date we would arrive. They were completely booked up on our new arrival date.

We kind of started to panic because we were indeed in the middle of nowhere at this point.  It was starting to get late and we were both tired and hungry.  There was no wireless service to look for a place to stay either.  All we had seen for miles was desert and there was no end in sight.  Eventually we came across a gas station, the kind that you don’t go to unless you have absolutely no other choice. I noticed a bunch of RVs parked behind it.  In spite of our reluctance, it would have to do.

The clerk inside seemed shocked or amused that we asked to stay there.  But she gave us a spot, $19 per night.  This was no Good Sams rated park,  there certainly was not a hot tub, no pool, and no showers. Rob had to dig the water hookup out with a spoon because it had been so long since anyone had used it. But it had an untamed beauty and we were just grateful to be somewhere, anywhere.  We bought some beer at the gas station and hiked around the area. We took in our surroundings and took some pictures. J1936x2592-03951

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J2592x1936-03957We were mostly out of food at this point and had not seen a grocery store in several days.  We combined the remaining staples we had and tried to make some kind of edible food patty.  They fell apart.  We ate food debris and were nourished.J1936x1936-03963J1936x1936-03964
A frightening storm rolled in while we were there and shook the whole camper.  I might have prayed a bit. It was a fast and windy storm with a lot of thunder and lightning. It rolled out just as fast as it had whipped in.  The storm left behind the kind of sky that artists dream of and a scent that perfumers fail to replicate.  Desert rain is a real fragrance and the laundry detergent doesn’t even come close. J1936x1936-03955

J1936x1936-03962This is why we do this!  This place is now very special to us. This was not planned around any kind of luxury and we absolutely had to just go with it. This rush of forced spontaneity led to us not wanting to land back on our home planet just yet.  We watched the sunset and we decided to take an extra day.  Instead of going straight back to Austin the next day, we would stop in the adorable German town of Fredericksburg, about two hours outside of Austin. One more night of freedom, of living this new dream we were curating.J1936x1936-03966J2592x1936-03972Stop #4: July 6th, Fredericksburg, TX – Oakwood RV Resort – For us, trips through the desert seem to do something to us spiritually or emotionally… Having time to gently return to “civilization” after being in the modern day Wild West really helped.  It softened the blow of the post vacation blues too.  Our first order of business upon arriving in Fredericksburg was to go to the grocery store for “treats” and snacks, otherwise known as wine and chocolate.  We took a dip in the pool and walked to dinner at a restaurant called The Cabernet Grill.  That night we pulled out the Atlas and excitedly talked and dreamed of all of the places we would go… And our next trip West.  I took this picture on that night. J1936x1936-03983

Full Circle:  On July 3rd, 2012 I did not want to leave Los Angeles.  I wanted to stay forever with all of our old friends, go surfing and hiking and explore the coast. What kept me from getting too bummed out about leaving was that we could go home and start planning. We would make preparations for a bigger,  much more extended return.  I was happy that Rob and I were on the same page.  I was happy that we were finally making this decision together.  I was happy that he wanted to come back to L.A. too. He wanted it as much as I did this time!

Pro tip:  This is my advice to myself and everyone else: if you know what you want, just go get it.  Don’t talk to any unnecessary, possible detractors about your plans. They will take it as an invitation to offer their two cents, with love, of course. Ultimately their two cents is a huge distraction and a major form of resistance because it encourages doubt. It makes you want to give up before you even start. Just do or get the thing that you know is right for you! You know more than you think you do!  Sometimes I feel like I have spent more of my life weighing the pros and cons of things instead of just doing the things.

We knew it would not be fast or easy.  We scaled down, moved into our RV, lived tiny, saved our pennies and made our dreams come true, one step at a time.  We didn’t talk about it much with other people because we didn’t want to jinx our intensions or deal with possibly negative input… Even while we were actually doing it, I didn’t blog about it out of some kind of fear of commitment. We knew what we wanted to do and we wanted to follow through without having to explain ourselves to anyone. We wanted to be doing the thing before telling people about the thing.

We have come full-circle. Here we are back in L.A., after two years.  Our arrival date was once again dictated by an epic wedding of dear friends. This time the wedding was in Paso Robles.  And this time we had the option to say, “let’s stay for a while.”  L.A. and the West Coast is our new adventure, and current journey.  There shall be many more.

Since our arrival we spent Thanksgiving with a big group of friends that we have known for well over a decade at this point; they are all of the people I am usually texting on Thanksgiving. I have been waterskiing almost weekly with the swivel ski coach I had when I was eleven years old who just happens to live 10 minutes away from us now. We have met up for happy hour with friends from my summer camp days and had dinner with one of my oldest friends, from preschool.  We know a lot of people out here and we are meeting so many more.  And this really doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. I am so grateful!  We stayed focused and made it happen, and I am so very grateful to be here.

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

There are many pieces to the puzzle of our decision to become RV full-timers.  One of the big corner pieces was the last road trip we went on.  The ups, the downs and the time spent renewed our energy, fervor and commitment to a simple life of embracing the things that are closest to our hearts.  It reconfirmed our values and ultimately forced us to act.

This was a long and action packed journey full of many lessons, so I am going to have to write this particular blog post in several parts.

Very dear friends of ours were getting married in Malibu California and asked Rob and I to perform a song in their wedding.  We were so excited about the two of them tying the knot and felt so honored to be a part of the ceremony, we started planning the trip immediately.  This was to be our first real RV trip. We were going a significant distance, traveling roads that were new to us and stoping in towns we had never been to before.

I want to just stop for a moment and tell you that this trip was amazing!  We learned so very much! I kid you not, the number of times each of us uttered the phrase, “I had no idea!” is literally off the charts.

From Austin, TX. to Malibu CA. there are two routes you can take.  I10 or I40.  I did some research and it truly seemed as though I40 was our best bet.  Everyone on the internets said it was prettier and more serene… Bullshit!  I40 was one of the most harrowing and terrifying drives I have ever been on.  ”I had no idea!”

Lets start at the beginning: Yay!!! Big drive! The freedom of the road! California here we come!  Sunny the cat is our co-pilot! (yes, we took our cat to Malibu. She loved it by the way.) Desert, mountains, beach, friends, awesome!!!!!! So cool!!!!! 

There is a lot of land between Austin and Malibu and some of it really isn’t so pleasant.  To reach the nightmare that is I40, you have to go through Northwest Texas and a town called Clovis, NM that boarders Texas.  For about 20 miles you pass a lot of industrial cattle farms, some still operational but there are also many abandoned factories and plants used for processing god knows what.

This area of the country seems as though it at one time enjoyed significant agricultural success.  It now looks like something from a B Science Fiction movie.  The cattle “farms”, I am using that word very loosely, are the kinds that you see in documentary films about how terribly cattle are treated.  The cows are packed in like sardines and clearly wallowing in their own feces.  The stench is unbelievable and the sadness is palpable!  It smells like rotten death and putrid disease, but mostly like a whole lot of cow shit!  The shit of poor, abused and mistreated cows that probably end up at chain restaurants and regular grocery stores and eaten by people who don’t know any better. Call me an elitist, snob or health nut if you want.  When it comes to food, I will not deny that claim.

After 12 hours of driving, Clovis was to be our first overnight stop.  “Yay we are finally stopping! Boo! We have to stop here.” I had made a reservation in advance at a clean RV park with good reviews.  This was a Good Sams rated park and it was right on the highway which was perfect so we could get up early and get on the road…

When we got all set up and settled in, the Natural Gas Detector alarm in our RV started  piercingly ringing!  We were a bit panicked.  We kept checking the propane and turning the alarm off.  We were confounded.  What was the problem?  Methane!  Methane gas from cow shit and farts was setting off the alarm!  We closed the door and the windows  to keep the gas out and hunkered down for the night.

We woke up, had some breakfast and didn’t waste any time getting on the road.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  This was to be our most stressful drive to date. It started with our first fuel up.  Rob had to get something out of the trailer.  You can’t get anything from inside of the trailer without slightly opening the slide out.  He forgot to pull the slide out back in.  Mind you, it wasn’t out far, maybe a few inches.  Nevertheless, when he realized it and told me and we both realized that there was no place for many miles to pull over and fix the situation, I had what was to be my first meltdown of the day.

We had a 570 mile drive ahead of us.  According to Google Maps it was supposed to take us about nine hours and a few minutes.

When we eventually got to I40 more insanity followed.  It was quite literally all uphill! – But more like up MOUNTAIN!

Here is the long and short of it:
– Within the first 6 miles of being on I40, like a huge warning, we saw the skeleton of what was once a travel trailer, completely burnt out and reduced to a big black smudge on the road.

– The grades kept getting bigger, steeper and scarier.  We were really starting to question if our rig would be able to handle it.  ”We had no idea!”

– Many of the truckers were perfectly polite and fantastic drivers.  In fact I can specifically praise the drivers of the Swift big rigs. They keep it classy on the road! Unfortunately most of the other truck drivers, on that day, were clearly all on some sort of insane Crystal Meth bender – and there were a lot of them! Sometimes it really felt like they were literally trying to kill us.

– We have to travel at about 55mph.  That was not acceptable to some of these fast hauling psychos.  While on a seriously steep incline, one of these assholes decided to pass us. His tire started smoking and then completely shredded, and flew at us while he was passing us.  The big rig went all squirrely and I begged Rob to please put on the breaks and stop.  Rob’s response was that if he stopped there, we would never make it all the way up the incline!  I knew he was right.  We slowed to a snails pace which felt almost like going backwards while the reckless truck driver pulled off to the side, axel still smoking.  So that’s how all of those shredded tires make it to the side of the highway!  ”We had no idea!”

-We encountered temperatures up to 107 degrees and elevations over 7000 ft.  “We had no idea!” – When it rained, we were relieved.

– I40 around Albuquerque should be avoided at all costs. We hit it at rush hour. “We had no idea!”

– At one point we had to sit and idle in the direct burn of the intense sun for about 1.5 hours because of a big rig wreck that was blocking the road.

– We were definitely feeling strange from the altitude and could tell that Sunny was not really feeling too great either.  She had this white ring around her nose which was of concern to us.  ”We can hazzed no idea!”  Eventually we realized that it was basically cat boogers.  Her little wet nose had dried out just like ours had.

– Food. There was barely any to be found on this route.  “But you have a fridge and pantry in your trailer!”  Interestingly, there is seldom a good place in the mountains to pullover and get said food.  We did once.  It was terrifying.  In this situation, a motorhome would definitely be the rig of choice.  Your food would be at your fingertips if you were crazy enough to take off your seatbelt!

– Also, there are grifters at about every gas station with the same predictable story. “We had no idea!”

– AND just when we could not take it any longer, it went on longer and longer and longer and we thought we would never ever reach our destination in one piece.  We seriously almost gave up several times.  We had been on the road in hellish conditions for over 13 hours at this point.

Alas we saw signs for 17, the road that would lead us towards our destination for the evening, gorgeous, mystical, Sedona, AZ. Some relief was certainly on the way.  Or so we thought. There were trees along the road shielding us from the harsh and unrelenting sun that had beamed at us all day, there were no longer massive trucks recklessly careening past us and we were now only 20 to 30 minutes away from our intended destination.

Soon the gently sloping road turned into 20 miles of switchbacks down the side of a mountain. There was a sign, warning that rigs longer than 40ft should not attempt this route when it was already too late to turn around. We descended over 3000 ft, hairpin turns the whole way!  If I didn’t die from death, I was sure, I would die from fright!

This narrow road with a steep abyss below, seemed to wind endlessly as dusk was ominously turning to dark. What kind of cruel joke was this?  It was just one surprise after the other and it did not seem to be stoping any time soon. At this point we were so white knuckled, frazzled and fried we started to seriously doubt the actual existence of our destination.

After 14.5 hours, we finally reached the little town of Sedona and then Rancho Sedona one of the coolest little campgrounds we have stayed in yet!  Even though it was now dark and we would have to back into our site which had a lovely tree in the middle of it (not so good for backing in), we were very relieved. – Yet the surprises didn’t end there.

After many attempts and much yelling, “left, no, right, come straight back, nope, pull forward, try again, don’t hit that tree, watch out for that car….” and attracting the attention of several neighboring campers, we finally got all situated, unhooked the vehicle from the camper and started hooking up water, and electricity – in the dark.

I went into the trailer to put out the slide out and deposit Sunny (World’s most patient cat) inside to relax, only to discover that the one time we stopped to get food out of the trailer, in my haste I had failed to latch the pantry properly.  ”I had no idea!” More surprises!  The entire pantry had become completely dismantled.  The shelves and everything that was in them was now strewn about the camper.  The extreme disarray of the contents of the camper was a true testament to the insane ride we had been on.

“Kate” I hear Rob calling from outside the camper.  “This is full hookups, right?”  Yes, I had made the reservation for full hookups!  “Can you help me find the sewer hookup, I can’t find it.”  After some digging around in the lovely landscaping of our site with a flashlight in hand, we found the hook up!  Hooray!  Not so fast!  Our sewer hose was exactly 1 inch too short to reach!  ”We had no idea!”

We had to hook the truck back up to the trailer in the dark and back it up yet again. More yelling and attention from the neighbors.  We decide to keep the trailer connected to the vehicle until everything is definitely in order with the hookups.  What could possibly go wrong now?  Well, the sprinklers came on and completely soaked us.  At this point there was nothing left to do but laugh. It was all we could do.  Now it was dark and everything was wet, including us. We laughed and laughed as we finished outside and went to tackle the disaster that was awaiting inside.

We took off our wet clothes and put them outside on the picnic table to dry. Wearing towels, we set about to clean up the pantry situation; gather all of the loose items off of the floor and return the shelves to their proper place.  But, something was missing!

There was an entire wire shelf missing!  It was impossible!  How can you lose an entire shelf inside of a 21 foot travel trailer?  “Where the fuck did it go?”  We looked high and low.  And then we noticed that something about the carpet looked strange on the front of the slide-out.  Somehow the pantry shelf managed to cram itself under the slide-out.  We had already put out the slide-out!  How were we going to retrieve the damn shelf?  We were a bit dumbfounded.  ”We had no idea!” Fearing damage and destruction, we carefully brought the slide-out back in. Success!  We were able to fish out the approximately 4ft deep shelf from under the slide-out unscathed.  Let’s celebrate!

We both collapsed on the dinette seats.  Rob pleaded with a higher power, “Please, no more surprises!”  We were exhausted and starving but decided that what we really needed was a stiff drink.  We put on dry clothes, unhooked the the 4Runner from the trailer and set out for the liquor store we had seen on our drive into town.  Of course when we arrived, the owner was locking up and said we were three minutes too late.

Back at the camper we made a simple meal of soup and beans, took showers to wash the day off, got into bed and promptly fell asleep.

We had no idea!

This was just the first part of a very long journey from Austin, TX to Malibu, CA and back again.  Subscribe to my blog if you want to be notified about every exciting and information packed installation!  Next I am going to talk about the incredible majesty of Sedona, how we fell in love with it and why we can’t wait to go back!

My goal with this blog is to educate and entertain.  We share our mishaps so hopefully you can avoid them!