There are absolutely wonderful aspects to this lifestyle, including the opportunity to travel at will, the luxury of time for in-depth exploration, and the excitement of discovering new places. There are moments of magic and serendipity that somehow seem easier to recognize when traveling, perhaps because everything is viewed with a fresh perspective.
But It’s Not All Fun And Games
At the same time, life on the road calls for the ability to adapt to the unexpected, with more or less grace. We’ve endured flat tires, malfunctioning water pumps, water leaks, hailstorms, high winds, and every variety of biting insects. We’ve arrived at campgrounds to find them unexpectedly closed. We’ve gotten kicked out of a national park because of government shutdowns.
While it’s useful to possess skills such as being able to read a map, change a tire, and figure out why the water pump is making that weird noise, the two best attributes for full-time travel are flexibility and a good sense of humor.
Which brings us to our current adventure: Caravanning with our dear friends Ted and Katherine. They’ve generously made their lovely property in Ashland our home away from home. Each time we travel through our hometown, we stay on their land. We spend a lot of time together—gardening, cooking, and playing Hearts. Our most recent visit to Ashland lasted from October until the first week in January, much longer than we had originally planned. But the time flew by with visiting our many wonderful friends in town, a few short trips to the Oregon coast, and various appointments. As the holidays rolled around we thought, “What the heck—we might as well stay through Christmas!” The idea was made even more appealing because our daughter and grandson planned to visit.
How Our Caravanning Adventure Came To Be
Hanging out in the evenings with Ted and Katherine—under the influence of good times and a bottle of wine—we cooked up the idea of an extended trip together. Ted and Katherine have a small and adorable 17-and-a-half foot Bigfoot trailer. They’ve traveled extensively, but never for more than a few days at a time in their trailer. January and February, we collectively decided, would be the perfect opportunity for a long road trip.
I tried my best to warn our dear friends about the reality of preparing for a road trip of this magnitude. “Oh, we’ve got it covered!” Katherine reassured me. “No, really,” I said, one week before leaving. “It’s not too early to start loading the trailer now.” “No worries!” said Katherine.
In addition to preparing their trailer, they had to close up their house, take care of their wine making operation, put the garden to bed, and make sure everything was situated for leaving for two months. Oh, and they also had their grandsons staying with them for a couple of weeks. We promised Eliot and Jonah a wonderful adventure, including camping at a sweet small state park in northern California, a morning at a wildlife refuge, and a campfire before we returned them to their home in Santa Cruz.
We were all so overwhelmed with trip preparations that we postponed our trip by a day. It still wasn’t enough time. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that our departure was complicated and arduous. The morning of our exodus, as we trotted back and forth between the house and the trailers, Katherine turned to me and said, “You didn’t tell me it was going to be like this! It’s all your fault!” We collapsed in laughter, continued loading the trailers, and finally managed to pull out of Ashland at noon.
Our first night on the road did not go as planned. We arrived at Colusa River State Recreation Area at dusk to find it barricaded and temporarily closed for repairs. There is nowhere else to stay within 100 miles. The boys were hungry. We were all delirious with exhaustion. We ended up in a restaurant parking lot, a first for us. We slept reasonably well, despite the sirens and searchlights of a police chase at midnight that involved every police car in town and a helicopter.
It was not the grand introduction into RV travel that we had hoped to present to our friends. Nonetheless, the boys thought it was a wonderful adventure. Ted and Katherine and Eric and I are still friends. As far as we’re all concerned, we’re off to a fantastic start, simply because we managed to get out of town. It can only get better from here.
(Header photo: Camping with my family, circa 1963.)
What an adventure! We all know how that goes but your poor friends received a “baptism by fire”. Glad they didn’t unravel. It should look up from here. These unexpected surprises make for good story telling, eh? Hope the rest of the trip is awesome. Congrats on the new rig. Tell us more about it.
Ha, it was definitely trial by fire, Jo! And you’re right, it makes for good stories. Katherine thinks we should be doing a reality RV travel show.
I can so relate…. safe travels :-)
Thanks, Ingrid — I know you can definitely relate, having had your own RV travel “surprises.”
Such a wonderful story, with so many truths. I must say that I am glad that you have finally debuted camping in a parking lot. It is an experience not to be missed, and needs to be in your emergency repertoire. We rarely travel with friends, but have taken a few two week long excursions with Mo’s brother and his wife. It is fun, but a lot more work making sure people who aren’t cognizant of all the little details are OK. Great times. I’ll look forward to reading more about your adventures.
Sue, it’s amazing that we’ve traveled this many years without having to resort to a parking lot (until now). I agree, it’s good thing to have in our bag of travel tricks. (Although I wouldn’t want to do it very often.)
Well I’ll admit it, I laughed! If it was on TV I’d watch it and I hate TV and especially reality shows that are stupid but this one looks like fun – well at least after the fact. :-) I’m surprised that park didn’t tell you or have on its website that it was going to be closed. That was one thing we learned early on, call wherever you are going to be “tonight” just to make sure they’ve got it down. Can’t wait to read more of these adventures. Don’t know if I could do 2 months of caravaning or not. I suppose I’d have to try it to find out.
Oh good, Sherry, we’ll have one viewer for our reality show! ;-) We’ve been to Colusa campground many times, and this was the first time ever in our travels that I haven’t called a campground ahead. It will also be the last time! Stay tuned for more adventures!!
Ahhh… the ubiquitous parking lot. Have done that only twice, which turns out to be twice too much… Having said that, nothing much happened except for people parking in front of, and behind the motorhome, effectively blocking us in…. Fortunately, they left… :). Happy trails, hope to see you along the journey!
Seems like all RV’ers have at least one parking lot story! I’m hoping there won’t be too many in our future, but it definitely saved us that night. Hope we see you guys sometime soon, too!
I smile as I imagine you all snuggled into your rigs in the parking lot. Flexibility is certainly the best feature in RV ing, or life as far as that goes, and I think you all would be very good at it. Looking forward to more of your adventures and am I remembering that you will be in the desert (Anza Borrego)sometime during the month of February. We take off next week and will be there the month of Feb. Sure would be fun to circle the wagons under a Borrego moon.
Circling the wagons with dear friends under a Borrego moon sounds just perfect to us. We’ll be there on the 22nd for a week — looking forward to some good desert time with you guys. Happy trails, and see you soon!
Every RVer has a story to tell, don’t they? Hopefully that is the only mishap you will have with your friends. Flexibility and a sense of humor are probably the two most important aspects of this lifestyle.
We are not far from Anza Borrego and I see you are going to be there in late February. It would be lovely to meet the two of you.
We do all have our stories, which makes the journey more interesting — at least in retrospect! We would love to meet up with you and Terry, LuAnn. We can share traveling tales. :-)
Yep, we’ve done the parking lot thing, not too often but we’ve spent a night in a South Dakota visitor’s center, a closed for the season museum parking lot, etc. Here’s hoping your trip with friends has leveled out and the gremlins are leaving you alone!
Thanks, Janna — we’re happy Ted and Katherine didn’t turn around and head back to Ashland!
Sounds like moving day – you’re sure you’ve packed everything and then you’re throwing stuff in boxes from every corner of the house while the movers are pulling in the driveway! Adding two young boys to the mix is a great “plot line” for the show :-) So you started out with this being a new experience for your friends and the very first night is a new experience for you two as well – serendipity at its finest. This is going to be a grand adventure!
Jodee, your moving day sounds exactly like every moving day we’ve ever been through, including every time we packed up to leave for a big trip! That’s one reason we decided to go full-time, so that we didn’t have to endure the packing and unpacking several times a year. :-)
You summed up this lifestyle perfectly with a capital letter for Flexibility!! Being flexible and able to change things around at the last minute is what makes this a wonderful time!
We have stayed in many places but never a restaurant parking lot. Glad you could stay there:)
Pam, we were so grateful for that restaurant parking lot! They were really nice to us to let us stay there. And you’re right, cultivating a flexible attitude definitely makes full-time RVing a lot more fun.
If you have survived the first hundred miles and the first closed campground and still are friends, then I’d say the rest of the two months caravanning will be a breeze.
I can just imagine what goes thru your minds as these realities unfolded.
Good luck and have fun and enjoy each other, there is more to explore out there than whine.
Green Jays are just cute and they are hanging near my window and we are not yet in Mission, TX.
ML, we were so excited when we saw Green jays in Mission — they’re one of my all-time favorite birds! You’re right, we’re having a lot more fun than we are whining. :-)
I believe traveling is one of the sources of Murphy’s Law. I do hope that you resume smoother passages.
It’s all soooo much better now, Sheila!
I love this post, all SO true. Sometimes breaking all of those rules makes for great stories of mis-adventures – the helicopter chase is pretty funny (I’m sure you didn’t find it funny at the time). Glad it worked out in the end.
Great to hear from you, Brenda. Ha, yes breaking the “rules” definitely makes for good stories!