I have been fulltiming in my Airstream since 2018. I sold my house, left my job and downsized so that I could focus on making art and traveling. Even with the events of our world today, I have no regrets and am having the time of my life.
Folks ask me all of the time, “Aren’t you scared traveling solo as a female? Do you carry a gun?”
My answer is a combination of, although I did enjoy growing up shooting for target practice on the family farm, I’m not a huge fan of guns plus I feel very safe way out in the middle of nowhere. And the RV/Trailer community is the most friendly group of people I have met. Plus, I did carry bear spray once and it ended up falling in my dish water and going off inside of my trailer, so I have no business carrying a gun.
However, this road trip did start with a lot of anxiety. Unknown to me, I needed four new truck tires which altered my budget and plans. I had to ditch my boondocking plans for Alabama Hills due to 70 mile an hour trailer rolling winds and almost a foot of snow. And several things started to not work and break down on my fancy Airstream. So after a late start I ended up going further up the 395 where the weather is a bit cold and propane is expensive. Now my my trip is back on track. I landed in one of my favorite small towns, Lee Vining, which overlooks Mono Lake.
The other night I thought I heard a trailer pull in next to me but there was nothing out there, and then later I heard the noise again, I felt a lump in my throat as the following scene unfolded. My bedroom is closest to the hitch and truck. I heard the noise and Dudley seemed to also, but he had already curled up for the evening and seemed unconcerned. It was after all midnight. Something told me to peek out the front window. My mouth dropped as in the pitch black I could make out a large figure kneeling on top of my truck cover working on undoing the lock.
I flew out of bed in nothing but my nightgown, grabbed my keys, turned on my side outdoor light, slammed the trailer door, locked it and headed right at the very bold intruder. When I came around the front end corner and they were still up there working at the lock, I couldn’t believe it! I let go of a spew of cuss words and threats, that I really can’t write here, calling the intruder way outside of their name. They jumped down on the other side of the truck. As I stood silent I could not hear them run away so I started to worry that they were not planning on leaving. Fear replaced my anger and I ran back into the trailer asking myself “Where did I put that darn bear spray?!” I grabbed my flashlight and found the spray, added pants and boots to my wardrobe, slammed the door again and locked it and set off my horn on my truck a few times.
Then I crept around the other way to the front by the truck. The intruder had left. I noticed they had successfully torn off the top rubber cover of the lock on the truck cover. Anger returned and I marched out further into the darkness swearing some more horrendous threats, letting them know they better keep on trucking. Ok, yes, I do have a little cray cray in me. Maybe that’s why they left.
Thinking to myself, they will be back. How bold! I looked around for any trailers with lights on, since my cell phone has no reception here. Breaking the rules of trailer park etiquette I started knocking. The first trailer ignored me. Then I met Terri from “Myrtles Meanderings”. She actually opened her door, helped me call the police, and brought out blankets to stay warm while we sat out until the police got here.
(Dudley did courageously take on this bear in town earlier in the day. And he picked up the scent of the real bear the next day. As for the cover on my lock, I think I will just reattach it with duct tape. I’ve tended to like the little dents and bruises along the way that represent our Tiny Adventures.)
Once the police arrived, you may have guessed it, we discovered, it was not a person at all. It was a bear that had been trying to break into my trailer. It was a bear that I chased after cussing out and came within a couple feet of. What an amazing, agile, strong, smart, graceful creature. And ironically silly me had my dog food in my REI bear canisters in the back of my truck. We found the prints on the sides of the trucks. I was sure it was human as it was working at the lock. I guess it’s that time in the Eastern Sierras where the bears are waking up and hungry.
While I got my canisters into the trailer, the officer stood watch. But she knocked over the can of bear spray which went off, sending us both hacking and coughing, and later laughing. I told her she would have a great story to tell about the dumb camper with the bear canisters of dog food that attracted a bear that she ran after in her pjs, and then how she caused the officer to get sprayed with the bear spray instead of the bear!
(Yep, the intruder was not human. Bear prints on the back of “Beast” my truck.)
I will say, I was incredibly relieved to know it was not humans trying to break in. Humans can be a lot scarier than bears. I stick with my beliefs that things are pretty peaceful and safe when you get out further into the wilderness. And now I am not as scared of bears as I was when I first hit the road.
I’ll be leaving camp to head further north on the 395 just in time to miss a whole bunch fishing opener folks. Then the peace and quiet will really be gone.
In my next post I’ll try to share a little more of this beautiful area where I’ve been parking just north of the Tioga Pass which leads into Yosemite.
You know by now when I am getting ready to hit the road, I am not as cool as all of those other bloggers and YouTube travelers. I get anxious as heck. I spend a lot of time planning, although the more I do it, the easier it gets. Routes become familiar. Travel tools become second nature. Still, there are so many things that could go wrong and my budget is only so big. However, the reality is, when I lived in a sticks and bricks a lot could have gone wrong at any one time. Whether it’s a health care issue or loss of a job as so many folks experienced during COVID, we are all a couple paychecks away from relating to Fern in Nomadland.
When I heard the buzz about the movie I had to see it. Although the main character is a favorite actress for me, I was a little disappointed in the movie because it over simplified those of us who live and travel full time in trailers. I know there are plenty of Instagrams and YouTube channels that over glamorize this life as living the dream, but in Nomadland, they went to the extreme opposite viewpoint, making the choice not really a choice but more of a desperate sad last hope to survive. It also seemed to be more of a statement about the health care system and the economy. One major health issue can put anyone under financially, and small towns dry up and disappear all of the time. After seeing the movie I realized I had bought the book, by Jessica Bruder, early on but picked up on the negative view of Nomad life a while back, which is why I had set it aside.
On the other hand having lived in the desert near Quartzite I also think the film captured some of the beauty of living in the desert. It painted a picture of loving one’s life, and loving one’s own company, something many of us had to face being isolated in the pandemic. It made statements about not needing the big house with the picket fence, the marriage and material things to be happy. Fern had a chance at romance but chose to enjoy her time with herself. Or possibly she was still grieving her husband she lost to cancer. She says if she doesn’t go back to those areas that they had lived in it is as if her husband never existed.
When I went back and started reading the book I have to admit it was fun to hear description about areas I lived and worked in. Their descriptions of Lake Arrowhead area in the mountains north of San Bernardino were fun to read about. I confess I have not finished the book, but I plan on it. The book seems to delve more into multiple characters rather than just focusing on Fern. Although it still portrays nomads as desperate and down trodden rather than living a life they chose because it is fulfilling.
As you know, jumping in a van or trailer and hitting the road is highly popular. Nomadland shows one very slim sliver of the pie of folks who have chosen a nomad life. There are folks who still own their big beautiful homes and rent them out. There are folks who have a couple of trailers. There are those who travel around the globe and rent trailers to live in. Some of us are still working jobs in a city or town. Some of us work from the road. It’s true some of us are retired. And sometimes, since retirement is a fixed income we pick up a work camp job or camp host. For me it was bartending for a bit to raise a cushion for travel funds. Sure, it’s not a ladder climbing, title seeking career move, but it definitely was fun to just do a little work for some extra cash that has nothing to do with politics, or breaking that glass ceiling. For me, bartending was simply fun. And of course, as in any segment of society, there are some who fit the image portrayed in Nomadland.
After the film I accidentally stumbled upon another portrayal of van/trailer nomad life. Well in all honesty it put me to sleep a little at first, until I realized that is what it was about. It follows a guy in the late 70’s who is living van life, traveling the country. “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon touches on many of the things we experience living mobile. It is fascinating to comparing van life back then to van and trailer life today. I relate to both Fern in “Nomadland” and William in ‘Blue Highways” who question what their lives are about and focus on simplifying what they need, having a smaller footprint on the planet and focusing on what is really important to them. They both leave employment and face the end of a big relationship delving into a life that requires learning to love their own company, gaining courage to face the unknown, and letting go of future outcomes. They live in the moment and focus on what is important. In “Blue Highways” we also learn a lot of trivia about the history along the road which is something I love.
When I have the typical things happen that can create stress like having to buy new tires for the truck, changing road trip plans due to weather, learning how to navigate vehicles through the mountain passes, and handling things on a small budget I sometimes find myself full of anxiety. Then I think, am I that sad character in Nomadland? For just a flash, I doubt myself. But I quickly realize no. Living this life has its stuff to deal with just like living in my old sticks and bricks home. I’m just living my life. And I feel so fortunate for all of the experiences I have had thus far.
At my next destination on my 395 trip I’m reminded of my answer when people ask me “Aren’t you afraid for your safety traveling alone? Do you carry a gun?” I appreciate the follow!
From a year and a half of pandemic desert life I’m finally hitting the road again. Living full time in my trailer makes things like doctors visits, vet visits and annual trailer inspections and maintenance a bit of a challenge. So, my first stop will be back in the LA area for lots of self care appointments.
Having a few family connections in the northwest area of the country, and having gotten a taste of the beauty of that area on my first towing trip, I decided to make my next destination Portland. If I could make it through extreme heat in the desert, I should be able to handle winter camping, that is pending I like it there and decide to stay put awhile. I had passed up an opportunity to work camp at a beautiful park right in Denver because I wasn’t sure if I could handle the cold in a trailer. Portland seemed like a more gradual introduction to cold and snow.
This trip, will be all about the backroads. My goal was to actually not have to maneuver steep grades and mountain passes. I’ll be exploring some of the sites along California’s 395 and then up through central Oregon where I’ll come in to the city along the Columbia River from the east. I look forward to some true boon docking in Alabama Hills, and some time checking out sites along the Eastern Sierras from the perspective of living in a trailer.
First things first, I packed a few weeks schedule full of doctors, vet visits, and trailer maintenance. I knew my trip to Airstream would likely be more than the usual in and out in the same day. I thought it important for them to inspect things like bearings, brakes, axels and wheels. I found it funny on my way in, how comfortable I was with sitting in six lanes of semi’s in LA traffic vs being way out in the sticks on a two lane highway by myself with nobody to help if things went wrong. I decided I’d finally check out that tent I bought but had never used to allow the mechanics the needed time to do the work. I thought why not go to where it all started, Bonelli Bluffs.
Normally, for trailer maintenance I stay in fancy hotels and treasure bath tubs and luxury. However, this time, my fancy hotel was closed down. Apparently it is being used as a COVID hospital. So much for all of those reward points. Camping was also hard to find. I settled for Bonelli which was the closest to where I needed to be, however they only had tent camping available Wednesdays through Sundays. I’ve learned to work with what I have in trailer life. It was actually a beautiful spot. I had a water front view with shade and sun and lots of space.
It was great being back and seeing all of my SoCal friends and visiting some of my favorite establishments. There are a lot of good places to eat in downtown Pomona and LaVerne, and it looked like they were still here. Even though I know we have been in a pandemic, it was still strange to come back and see the effects in my old neighborhoods, the masks, the distancing, the struggling businesses. It felt good taking care of me, my dog and my truck and trailer. And Bonelli, well, Bonelli is Bonelli! As much as I hate that they pushed out all of the full time folks who had been there forever, it still is one of Southern California’s more beautiful RV Parks. Plus it’s close to everything city. I did miss all of my old park neighbors though and wish California was more full time trailer life friendly.
My tent, from REI, the xxxx I absolutely loved! I have a front and back door with a “back porch” which came in handy. I had a lot of creature comforts to make my stay in a tent feel like home for a few days. My self inflating air mattress which blows up on its own with a turn of a knob and deflates when you roll it up was way more comfortable than the traditional blow up mattress that you plug in at home and refill half way through the night. I love my solar lights, which created a comfy ambiance in the tent. I had my Mr. Buddy propane heater just in case I couldn’t hang with low temperatures, but at 45 degrees at night, I was cozy and comfy under my down comforter and sleeping bag. I used my Wool rug from Peru for the base of the rest of the tent. My collapsible cooler was cool since it allowed me food for those days, and I can flatten it to store now that I’m out of the tent. I’ll also confess, I’m a plant smuggler. I felt like I had a back yard patio with my potted veggies and succulents. All in all my stay in my tent was a success. It was nice to live simpler than I do in my trailer, however, I think the next time I stay in my tent will be simply because I want to go camping.
Next blog I’ll share some of my thoughts on “Nomadland” the movie, “Nomadland” the book by Jessica Bruder, and “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon, which feature van and trailer life on the road. Thanks for the follow!
As I get ready to launch once again it can get overwhelming with all I have to do. The more I do this, I get a little better each time at fine tuning the process. As a creative mind I am definitely random abstract in my thought process. What this means for both my art and my travel, I definitely need checklists, singular focus at any given time and the ability to say no as new sites, sounds and opportunities will always be on my path. So, let me see… what did I want to tell you? Squirrel!
People keep asking me if I’m all packed and ready to go. I used to save it all up for the last couple days and they stay up all night plowing through everything I have to do taking me back to that familiar stress of the j.o.b. which piled so much on everyone in any given day. This time I heard that little voice saying easy does it! I made a huge list of everything, and spread it out on my calendar, doing just a few things a day. It feels like growth being all balanced about my plans and preparation. Anyhow, I thought I’d share a random couple of my pre trip to do’s that are taking me to my departure date.
I had to take one last trip to the local furniture store in Havasu to collect my paintings. To the artists out there, it has been an interesting alternative way to show my work, especially in an area that does not have a lot of creative venues for artists. Granted Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs are all within a few hours so there were plenty of options there. But Havasu Furniture wanted to show local artists rather than commercial art. I thought that was pretty cool, especially as a beginner. There is also an artists’ collective in town which I was in the process of joining only the pandemic hit. I would have had to be in the storefront studio for ten days a month so I backed out. My takeaways on alternative locations to show art. I am a true believer all efforts payoff somewhere down the road if you keep up the momentum. I love and support anytime a person is promoting local artists so kudos to the owner of the store. It was nice seeing my art in furniture setups and knowing what it might look like and I know customers like to see that too. I’m pretty sure I was not likely to sell the thousand dollar and up pieces, and that folks buying there were more likely to purchase limited prints verses original art and not spend more on their art then they did on their sofa. Leaving business cards near my art on a coffee table was another way to introduce myself to new fans and collectors. Interest in art, and specifically my art was established with folks who might not traditionally end up in a gallery and therefore would have missed me. Also, having my work on their walls, meant I had more room in my truck and trailer to do more creating. So all in all, it was a great experience. The store graciously said, even though I was traveling I could still leave my work there, but I decided to collect it all, have another “gallery walk” in my park and bring it with me to my next destination.
I always think it’s a good idea to survey the place you have been and see if there are any last sites you want to see, or simply appreciate where one has been. The drive from here to Havasu is gorgeous on both sides of the Colorado River. There is so much to explore here, and so much to get inspired by. When I first came out here I didn’t know it existed. My first stay was here at ECHO lodge with lots of snowbirds from as far as BC, Alberta and Ontario as well as the Long Beach locals who owned little homes here and knew how to party it up and have fun. The views from either side of the river are breathtaking and it was amazing to have parked my trailer right on the beach enjoying the dreamy magic reflection of moonlight and stars on the river each night and waking to beautiful shimmering sunrises in the morning. The amazing sand dunes hold memories of hours of off road exploring in ATV’s where one gets lost in thought and feels the spiritual presence of the desert. I have a photo of my dog and I sitting on the sand looking down at the river from earlier on. That was before I knew the snakes like to hide under the sand. And just beyond the sand dunes, like all over the area there are endless amazing hikes to go on. I made it up to the high peak where the flag is on the far right as well as to an area back beyond know as the Canadian Rock Art garden. Along wiith Sara Park, London Bridge, and the Quartzite Gem show, I would defintiely recommend these off the beaten path sites.
Of course inbetween remembering the beauty that is out here and all of the great experiences I have gotten to have here, I have to do some of the mundane like fill up the tank with water. My actual water tank has been sitting half full since I arrived in the area. No matter how many water softeners and filters I was not going to put the local water into my tank as it seems to leave marks on everything and I wanted to be able to use my tank for drinking water again. So I figure I will give my tank a good clean bleach out once I get back to Bonelli Bluffs. So off to the water store I went to load up my five gallon jugs. I was really taken aback to see three water machines out of service. So on to other options. If you are ever out here and want to know where my special secret spring water is, which I enjoy for cooking and coffee, just send me a private message. They just ask that you donate a dollar. Seeing all of my water service centers out of water was a harsh reminder how fragile life is and how dependent we are on some simple things that we often take for granted. Luckily I found another source that hopefully proves to be just as good for drinking water.
And of course, since we are talking about water, you must make some friends with boats, kayaks and other toys and get out on the water. So of course I’ll take fun memories of the area from the offshore perspective! (Full Disclosure: The boat and kayak photos were all pre-pandemic) There is no view at the river like the view from being on the river. With a responsible driver, it’s fun to bar hop at the piers up and down the river, stop for a yummy burger at Big Bend park and pull over at random buoy spots for a picnic lunch. And if you can get a group together and kayak or paddle board, you will definitely feel the benefits the nexty day!
I realize I have totally detoured from the mundane writing of preparing to take off to a new location. That’s ok, there are plenty of blogs out there to give you the details on that.
I’m reminded daily how rich I am in health, friendships, landscapes, experiences, adventures, and opportunities. I am fortunate for the fact that I can throw in some nap times inbetween the hustle and bustle of getting ready to take off for the next destination. I get to enjoy one area and be excited for the next. I don’t move about every other week like some folks do, because I love connecting with the community and experiencing the off the beaten path areas. I also love that I get to share my adventures with you! I am full with gratitude.
OK, this is not my typical post, but it’s been on my mind. It has a different flavor and touches on topics of money and cost. Everyone wants to know how much an Airstream costs. Well, you can go to the Airstream website for that, and Airstream Groups to learn about used Airstreams for rennovating. What I didn’t realize getting into this was all of the cost of all of the extra stuff. As a rule of thumb I have found when I have the extra tools and gadgets, I have not needed them, and if I have not had them I wish I did. So, yes you can roll right out of the dealership and start camping, but all of the extra toys help you have peace of mind and save you money in the long run. After all, your home on wheels is an investment. And with that said, I tend to like buying quality. I’m not going to spend time on the dollar amounts and have your eyes glaze over even more, but I thought I’d throw a few of the things I’m glad I bought, all together here to get you thinking.
In the beginning I debated generators or solar. One of the people I was listening to encouraged me away from solar as new developments are happening daily improving the technology and the expense is coming down. Since I had literally never camped they were encouraging me to start out in a campground where you don’t typically use solar. Do I wish I had solar now, yes, but like many folks, my budget allows for just a little at a time, so I went with two generators. I went with two because they are smaller so I can actually lift them each up, and when I connect them they have a combined power that is enough to run one of my air conditioners. That is super important in these warm climates. Everyone said Honda is the way to go. The day I found my Hondas the clerk couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t ring up. Google! Yah, I was the one to figure out and inform the store that at that time there was a serious recall. So I went with Yamaha. They purr like a kitten, empty and refill easily and I have no complaints. But like I said, I have not needed what I have bought, yet. And with the generators I have put in a lot of time running them because once you put the gas in, you have to run them regularily. But, I know, if I didn’t have them I’d need them.
As you may have figured out in my “Four Dead Batteries” story, I did not have jumper cables or anything related to battery care. And of course, I ended up needing gadgets for batteries. I was grateful that I had upgraded to the AGM batteries that did not need water added to them. If I hadn’t have, I would have had to when I killed all of my batteries. Now I am the proud owner of a solar trickle cell battery charger. It’s awesome. I also have a way fancier than I actually know how to use meter for my battery. You Tube is my friend. The weather radio that got me through my Tornado Hopscotch fullfilled it’s purpose but I have moved on to this sleeker model shown in the photo. And as for safety, my first can of bear spray fell into my sink and went off in the camper so needless to say, I’m not a gun person when it comes to safety, but I did get another bear canister after the Bobcat jumped from the tree and landed just feet in front of me.
I love that living tiny in a trailer has made my footprint on this earth much smaller. Yes, I used to be a bath person. In the winter I could go through a lot of water. Now, showers are short, and sometime sailor like… that’s all I’ll say abou tthat. Gear to manage my water has been one group of gadgets I bought that I use daily. Buying water in bulk at water stores was something I didn’t know existed before living in the desert. There is no need for me to dump tons of water bottles into the trash. It costs $1.25 for a five gallon jug vs $6.00 and up for a 24 pack of bottles. My first hoses were plastic and would often burst midday on a hot day. I switched to these hoses I got at a hardware store that is now out of busines so I can’t even remember the brand. when I do my first winter camping I’ll need to get heated hoses, or insulate them which reminds me of insulating my pipes in my old house in Minneaplis. One important think is that the hoses I use are hoses certified to drink from…. What?! All of those years growing up playing all day outside barefoot drinking from the garden hose. Oh my… Well. You get the idea. Make your own choices.
My trailer will be in the shop. I ussually enjoy some luxurious hotel stays when that happens but my ussual lovely high end hotel was converted to a COVID hospital…..soooo…. I’ll be tent camping. I got myself the well debated Mr. Buddy in case temperatures get down to where it is actually cold. Folks will say they are very safe, and others will say beware since carbon monoxide is a silent killer and I don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in my tent 😳😂😊 So… I’ll likely turn it on with a flap a little open while I’m awake for extra safety.
My gas jug, again, I have never actually used. I think I’ll get another one. (Laughing to myself.) No seriously, one for diesel for my truck on those long back road stretches…. since my next ventures will take me off the beaten path. And, another for gas for my generators. If I need to run them I definitely won’t want to run out of gas, although it does seem like they will run for a good eight hours before running out, so likely not needed.
And that last photo, no matter how I tried to make it look pretty, well, it just won’t. I found the black tank hose my trailer came with was not always enough. In some sites the dump hole was too far away to reach, and in this site, a neighbor actually gifted me his broken looking attachment piece which worked perfectly because my site acrtually went uphill and the regular attachment made dump time really fun. Has anyone seen that post on the internet “How To Know When You Are A Fulltimer?”
There are tons of great Apps I use regularily to show things like where to find BLM land to boondock on. I love my memberships such as Harvest Hosts where I can find parking for the cost of my annual membership and a glass of wine if it happens to be a winery I’m parked at. Of course I love the security I can have knowing my Tripple AAA Trailer and Truck plan means if towing is needed neiver vehicle will be left behind, and it gets me good discounts at campgrounds as do a few other memberships. My Boondockers Welcome membership gives me more optins. And Escapees membership gives me access to good information from actual lawyers on residency, mail and other issues that effect my ability to still be able to vote. My Airstreaming Women’s Network (Shoutout to Lindy who created it.) allows me to have an entire sisterhood to rely on for support, advice and help, as do all of my other groups I’m in and youtube blogs I follow.
In summary, these are just some of the toys and gadgets I bought to compliment my travels. I’d estimate I spent somewhere between 5 to 10 thousand dollars on the extras, and I still don’t have solar or jumper cables or the fanciest batteries. Soon I’ll likely need to replace tires and batteries which can both be big expenses. And every year basing out of California, I pay a hefty fee for tabs and insurance. That may change soon. Most of the things I have I have not needed, but when I don’t have them is when I will need them. They give me piece of mind. In life, it’s always good to have a plan B and in my art, when it comes to buying quality tools, my theory is you get what you pay for.
Thanks again for the “follow”. Share with folks you think might like going on the journey with me. Possible future posts, my thoughts on Nomadland, Changing It Up With Tent Camping and My Trip Up the 395. Chow!