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!