We’ve been chillaxin’ in Tennessee, cozily nestled in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is the view from our window:
Pretty awesome, huh? Ok, I didn’t actually take that picture from the window, but you get the idea. We have yards of romp-able grass and two fire pits AND functional internet, and we’ve somehow managed to scare all our neighbors away so we’re basking in the gloriousness of abundant space. When we let Koa out to run he starts circling the trees and growling under his breath and galloping like a horse. I’m pretty sure he’s trying to herd imaginary sheep, and my heart warms at the notion that he has space to let his imagination run free.
We’ve been three months on the road now, and we’re starting to enter a new phase of our journey. The first phase was the honeymoon period; we were giddy with possibilities and the flexibility to explore tons of new places we’d always longed to visit. We had stamina and energy and our initial euphoria to get us through. It has become increasingly obvious to us, however, that we need to transition into the next stage of full timing, where we learn to actually live on the road. Being a tourist has its perks, but there’s a reason most people do it for only short spurts at a time: it’s exhausting!
It was in Boston that we finally realized how badly we need to find ways to make this lifestyle more sustainable for us. We’ve been looking forward to visiting Boston for quite some time, but on arrival we found ourselves completely uninspired. It’s not that Boston isn’t great, it’s just that we were tired of being tourists and traipsing around the city and cramming as much sight-seeing as possible into one day. We barely took out our camera, mercilessly slashed sites from our to-see list, and eventually holed up in a random creperie reading outdated Time magazines as a way to escape and regroup. By the time we made our way home, we knew we needed to seriously re-evaluate things.
Boston was a wake-up call that we need to restructure our time, find more sustainable traveling options, and schedule in enough computer-time to satisfy the needs of our introverted and slightly workaholic personalities.
So we left the Boston area and headed for Cape Cod, determined to slow our pace and try a new approach. Up until now we’ve followed a system whereby we split our weeks more or less in half; we’d work long hours three or four days, then tourist/relax the remainder of the week (with our work/play days sometimes back to back and sometimes interspersed throughout). It’s become quite apparent that this division leaves us feeling rushed and stressed, so our new strategy is to fit small things in each day.
Provincetown was the perfect place to give it a shot; we found a great (nearly deserted) campground, so we chose a secluded spot in the back with just electricity hook-ups. When I paid at the office, the manager was fairly bemused — apparently the spot wasn’t meant for RVs, which explains why we had to practically fell a small tree and spend 20 minutes navigating the low-hanging branches to get ourselves in! From the campsite we could walk almost anywhere in P-town, which seemed to be the preferred mode of transportation for everyone on the cape. There’s one main drag (Commercial St) along the water, where pretty much all of the business is; it’s a one-lane, one-way alley that doesn’t really facilitate driving (as we discovered the hard way on our first day there).
One of our initial adventures involved our first taste of lobster. Seafood isn’t our favorite cuisine, but usually we can stomach crab and the occasional bowl of clam chowder or dip (if it’s light on the clams, of course). You can’t go to Cape Cod without eating seafood, though, so we choose one of the best-reviewed restaurants on Yelp (that was reasonably priced… for seafood) and ordered the lobster dinner and a barbecue shrimp pasta thing. When our food came we had to ask the waiter how in the world to dismember the crustacean, so he tied plastic bibs around our necks and showed us the proper technique for tearing off the claws and poking out the meat. Apparently the meal also came with mussels (which we had never eaten before), and our table neighbors giggled when we asked what they were and the waiter responded “little things that come in black shells.” So specific! They were indeed in black shells, smothered in marinara sauce, and very gross. Overall the meal was bleh, but the biggest disappointment was the lobster; it was very underwhelming, particularly give how much hype lobsters (in general, and even more so on Cape Cod) seem to have. As far as we’re concerned, all seafood should stay in the sea!
The rest of the week passed quietly. We would work a few hours, take a walk on the beach mid-afternoon, then work some more. One Pilgrim Monument here (the 252-foot tower we climbed), an exploratory bike ride there, a morning spent walking downtown and poking our heads into puzzle shops and used bookstores… overall more sustainable, more relaxed, and a heck of a lot more leisurely-paced. We feel rejuvenated!
We heard tales of murders and poorly-hatched assassination scandals and political intrigue. We saw the site of the old prison — shut down after the inmates sued due to inhumane conditions. Mostly, though, we learned about the witch trials and those who were accused and hanged.[..]
How can I convey to you the sheer awesomeness that is Vermont? Let’s start simple: it is amazing. I’ve heard from numerous sources over the years that it’s a beautiful state, the fall colors are gorgeous, and the people are rad… but I don’t think I fully comprehended the full scope of what they were trying to convey until I was there in person.
We stayed in Burlington, specifically in a campground nestled back in the trees along the shore of Lake Champlain. I’ve become used to the voracity of ocean waves and beaches, so I was pleasantly surprised at how calm the lake was and at the deep sense of peacefulness it evoked. It was far too chilly to go swimming, but we walked hand-in-hand along the empty beach and watched the sailboats glide slowly over the water. Koa broke the rules and frolicked in the lake when no one was looking, then chased falling leaves and bounded over the playground equipment like a goofy puppy. All in all it was a soothing way to recharge our batteries after the last few weeks of constant traveling.
We finally made it to Vermont! Our sprint across the country took only nine days of driving: three from Salt Lake City to Lincoln (where we paused for a quick weekend breather), and then another six from Lincoln to Burlington, VT. Our route took us through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Canada(!), and New York.
We probably could have shaved a few days off if we needed to, but it was much more comfortable for us to wake up late, drive a few hours, have a long lunch and read a little, exhaust Koa at a rest stop, drive a few more hours, pull off and see something interesting, drive a few more hours, find a place to stay for the night, and settle in for dinner and a few episodes of our favorite show(s) before bed. This schedule allowed us to make progress, but at a relatively sustainable pace.
UTAH STATE FAIR
We were eager to leave Boise and head to Salt Lake City because 1.) we were tired of Idaho, 2.) we really wanted to get moving so we can make it to the east coast by early October, and 3.) the Utah State Fair was taking place in SLC and we wanted to catch the end of it! For some reason we had built up in our minds that a state fair somewhere in the midwest would be drastically different – and more “country” perhaps – than the fairs we’ve been to in Oregon and Orange County. Apparently, though, that isn’t really the case…
We planned to explore for a couple hours but quickly found ourselves, bored, wandering the arts and crafts exhibits looking at statues of cows carved from butter. It had all the trappings of your normal fair — awful food, a ferris wheel, charming livestock, pig races — but nothing too spectacular beyond that.
On our way to Salt Lake City we saw a sign for Shoshone Falls on the Snake River; we were about ready for a break anyways, so we got off the highway and took the short detour.
All we knew about the Snake River came from the role it played in the old-skool Oregon Trail game that every kid our age played in the 4th grade. That impressive educational source taught us that while fording the Snake River is necessary, it’s also one of the more dangerous parts of the journey West. One is likely to lose at least a few oxen and some bullets, if not a relative or two (and if the river doesn’t getcha, dysentery certainly will!). The crossing was such a harrowing experience that I’d usually go out and shoot a couple thousand pounds of meat to feel better… of which I’d only be able to carry home about thirty. No wonder there aren’t any bison left!
Anyway, certain we’d find at least some broken wagon axles, we stopped at a vista point overlooking the river as it winds around a golf course perched on the edge of the canyon.
Despite Seattle’s notoriously cold and rainy reputation, the day we’d set aside to foray into the city turned out to be 80 degrees with clear blue skies.
Looking like the tourists we are with our camera at the ready, our first stop was Pike Market. I have a soft spot for fairs and festivals and farmer’s markets… basically anything with tents or booths draws me in. Kali never fails to tease me for this, but there is something so whimsical about looking at hand-crafted wares and sampling homemade goodies or fresh produce! Pike Market is like the grandparent of farmer’s markets, so it was an obvious destination.
We wandered and people-watched, ate a delicious turkish gyro, and then followed our noses to the most delightful pastry shop with a line out the door. The very first Starbucks ever was just down the street, so of course we grabbed a white mocha to complement our cinnamon pastry. The coffee shop was insanely overcrowded (sheesh, it’s like everyone else had the same idea we did!) and the coffee tasted like….. well, Starbucks. Nothing novel, just chocolately goodness.
We’ve been eagerly anticipating the Lady Gaga concert for months now, and the Tacoma Dome conveniently has a parking lot where RVs can stay overnight – with hookups! We were the only RV in the lot (I guess Gaga isn’t very popular with the typical RV crowd?), so the local security used it as their staging ground. We arrived early, spent the day relaxing and working, and walked over to the concert just before it started.
I imagine everyone has heard of Lady Gaga, but she’s most famous for the outlandish costumes she wears on a daily basis. She is a freak and openly embraces it, and she calls her fans “little monsters” and encourages them to love themselves and be true to their creativity. Anyhow, her fans have a tendency to dress crazily or mimic some of her most memorable outfits when they attend her concerts, so we were looking forward to the people watching almost as much as the opportunity to “just dance”… it lived up to expectations (but we weren’t allowed to bring our camera inside so our photojournalism of the event is unfortunately a bit limited).
Our trek up the coast to San Francisco was remarkably uneventful for it being our first long driving in Mayhem (and first time towing a vehicle). We’ve driven up I-5 to Northern California (and up to OR) a number of times, so we thought we’d be creative and take the coastal highways for a more scenic route (and also, to be honest, because they seemed less overwhelming than busy freeway traffic).
What we weren’t expecting, though, was that Highway 1 pretty much becomes the main street for all the small beach communities up through LA! We meandered through Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Long Beach on a sunny and lazy Sunday morning, which provided us with beautiful views of the ocean and flocks of beach-goers. While fun, it took about four and a half hours to reach LA, so we recalculated our plans and settled on Highway 101: more scenic (and novel) than I-5, but hopefully more speedy than 1.
This was our first time making navigation decisions on the fly, and already Google Maps on our iPhones has proven invaluable – we can easily track routes, see which roads are snarled with traffic (I’m looking at you, LA county), and estimate times quickly. What it doesn’t do, however, is provide any indication of elevation. We took a detour through Los Padres National Forest to avoid stand-still traffic, and soon found ourselves face to face with towering mountains lined with cliffs… deadly cliffs. Crawling at 30 miles an hour with dozens of cars lined up behind us, Kali tried not to get too close to the edge while taking advantage of every turn-out possible. Needless to say, it was a harrowing experience.