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 Apex

We bought our camper, The Apex by Coachmen, in the fall of 2011.  We had been casually shopping for our RV for about two years and then quite seriously, with the intent to buy, for about one month.

We got serious at this point for three reasons:
1. We had just been on an excruciatingly long tour of the Midwest where we were constantly crashing with different people.  This led to some very serious talks about getting the camper sooner rather than later.
2. When we returned from our tour, it turned out that our friend who had been house sitting for us had started feeding a stray cat.  Of course, we now had a cat.  We travel a lot.  We needed a way, to bring our new cat, Sunny with us!
3. Summer was turning into fall.  The end of the summer and in the fall are the best times to go RV shopping because dealers are trying to move the current years RVs fast and get them off of the lot so that they can make room for the new seasons inventory.  This means you can get a good deal!

A couple of weeks prior to buying the Apex, we almost bought a different trailer.  It was a situation of “the one that got away.”  It was our first day of serious shopping and about the fourth or fifth dealership of the day.  There was an incredible deal on a Jayco Swift that tickled our fancy.  It met all of our necessary requirements, and even had some bonus features like a big back window as well as the dinette AND couch set up. It was also on sale for the ridiculously low price of $10,000.

It was our first day out though and we were scared, so we said, “we’ll think about it.”  A few days later we decide that we were going to go make the purchase!  When we pulled up, our dreams were shattered. There was a big SOLD sign on what we now had built up in our minds to be “the camper of our dreams…”  This happens, especially when there are mad sales going on.  Don’t worry about it.  Move on. There are literally tons of different campers that will be the camper of your dreams.

After looking at many more campers, both online and at dealerships, we were headed out for a day of RV shopping. We were in the middle of the one of the worst droughts in Texas history, and suddenly there was a downpour so heavy that we opted to get off of the highway and go no further.  We decided to go to a small dealership that was close by that we had not been to before.  We did not think that they would have any RV’s that would meet our “Ultralight” requirements.  BUT, we had to go there!  We were glad that we were getting rain, but at this point, if we didn’t look at RVs that day, we would have gotten proverbial “RV shopping blue balls.”

This unexpected dealership is where we met an RV salesman that was like a cross between Burt Reynolds and Don Knots.  We climbed onto his now soggy golf cart and he took us to see the only two campers on the lot that he thought would even come close to meeting our needs.  He showed us the more fancy, high end, featured one first, of course.  I barely remember the second one.  The first one he showed us was The Apex by Coachmen.

We told the salesman that it was way out of our league at $19,900.  He said that it was a 2011 and that he would see what he could do about pricing it to move…  He said that the absolute lowest he could get it down to was, $15,900.  We said we would “think about it.”  We called him when we got home and told him that we wanted to put money down so that they would hold it for us while we talked it over and took a closer look at our finances to see what we could do…   I wasn’t sure… I thought it was too big with a 21ft. interior, and 24ft. exterior with the hitch and weighing in at 4111 lbs.  It was the biggest and most expensive camper we had looked at or considered.  Rob was smitten, he was so convinced that this was the travel trailer for us, that I really couldn’t help but trust his confidence and instincts.

We saved money like mad!  We sold some of our possessions on craigslist and ebay and came up with a solid down payment in less than 2 weeks time.  We officially bought the camper on September 21st.  After we signed all of the paperwork, the dealership called us and said that they had made a mistake, the camper was actually a 2012.  It was their mistake, so we got to keep the “low price”, but we had to go back and re-sign all of the paperwork to reflect the different year.

We had to have an Equal-i-zer Hitch as well as a break controller on the 4Runner.  They did all of this for us at the dealership.  Just, put it on the loan with the rest of it….

A few days later we went to pick up our rig.  When we arrived, it was all hitched up and ready for us to dive off of the lot.  To me, it looked insane!  I drew this picture to illustrate what I thought it looked like in my minds eye.

At this point we have had the camper for nearly a year now and been on a couple of major trips with it.  We both love it, and so does Sunny.  We have made tons of wonderful memories camping around the country and we are both very happy with the Apex.  Honestly I think we would have been happy with almost any camper we bought, but this one has features that we absolutely love.

The selling points that won us over:
– Massive four point locking slide-out with an extra large dinette.
– Kinro mirrored windows so you can’t see into the camper from the outside during the day.
– Flat screen HDTV on a swivel that can face the living space or the bed.
– Curtains separating the sleeping space from the kitchen area.
– Dual axle aluminum wheels.
– A big bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink and a lot of storage space.
– Electric awning.
– Neutral decor with dual colored light and dark wood cabinets.
– Really gorgeous counter and table tops.
– Centered bed, so we each had our own side.
– Two individual closets.
– Nifty slide out food pantry.
– Stove, Oven, Fridge and Freezer.
– Enough space to comfortably spend a lot of time in.
– Insulated bottom wrap, making it cold weather appropriate.

Stuff that is annoying:
– You can’t really be in the camper with the slide-out pulled in.
– Weird storage places without shelves.
– The “short queen” bed is a bit too short for Rob.
– The mattress that came with it is complete crap (this is typical of most RV beds). We are planning to buy a new mattress for it.

All in all we are very satisfied!  We always look forward to camping and spending time in the Apex (model 214RB).  We have made many incredible memories and trips already and are very excited about making more!