by Kate Houle
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:
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. This 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 theGood 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.Stop # 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. The 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…
This 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.
We 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.
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.
This 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.Stop #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.
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.
Kate Houle is a RV and tiny living geek, writer, musician, and Yogi always lusting for the next adventure. Blogs about the full-timing lifestyle, minimalism, RV travel and much more at MassiveTinyDreams.com