Last May, we left Alaska and ventured out on a year-long (give or take) RV trip. It has been a unique year in our lives—no work, no house, no obligations, no agenda, lots of change. Some parts of the trip were expected, other parts were a surprise. We did not have any epiphanies and I don’t think we changed much. In fact, we knew ourselves pretty well in planning this as a year-long trip. The length was just right for us. Road fatigue is starting to set in and we are eager to settle into a community again, get our hands in some soil, dive into some creative projects, and do some serious cooking. So, in another week or so we will park our trailer and move into a sweet little hillside house with an expansive view. Our no-longer-new truck will start hauling lumber, compost, and tools for building projects and gardens.
We covered a lot of territory this past year. Our truck logged over 31,000 miles and we traveled through 23 states with the trailer (26 with the truck) and 2 Canadian provinces.
We saw a staggering amount of beauty out our truck’s windows, at our campgrounds, and on day trips.
We gawked at and photographed mountains, ocean, farmland, and city architecture.
We hunkered down through an extended bout of cold weather, forcing us to spend hours inside our tiny home, mostly reading and watching some really addictive (and mostly excellent) TV series (Orange is The New Black, The Vikings, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, House of Cards, Luther, The Walking Dead, Fargo FX, The Black Mirror (yes, we have eclectic taste and spent many evening hours in really cold, wet nasty weather, confined in a small trailer in remote campgrounds when it’s too cold to be outside)).
We met a variety of people—but not a wide variety—most were white and middle aged or retired. Some were interesting and engaging, others … not so much. We stayed in state and provincial parks, national forests, private RV parks, RV “resorts,” beach cottages (during George’s shoulder surgery rehab) and relatives’ driveways.
We knew the road trip/camping routine pretty well, having driven to Alaska and back from the Lower 48 several times over the years and having traveled around Alaska with an RV and a trailer. But, it had been about twenty years since we had camped outside of Alaska and we were not entirely prepared for the sheer number of people RVing these days. The roads and campgrounds were crowded, sometimes oppressively so (I know, we’ve lived in Alaska too long).
The biggest surprise—and disappointment—for me on this trip was how difficult it now is to camp without reservations. It’s all about reservations these days. Some state parks take them a year in advance and people hover online waiting to pull the trigger at a minute past midnight for their favorite campsites for the year. And, once school gets out in the summer, forget it—if you don’t make reservations for the weekend, you likely will be searching for a Walmart parking lot or staying in some decrepit RV park next to hollow-eyed, meth-ridden neighbors in a rusty trailer that looks as if it hasn’t seen a highway in twenty years. The necessity of planning out routes and destinations far in advance has sucked much of the spontaneity and freedom out of Rving—at least during the summer. It’s a shame. Moving when you want, where you want, at ANY TIME you want, is at the heart of a good road trip.
Another thing we didn’t expect was the abysmal state of so many roads, bridges, and highways. Some states were worse than others (Pennsylvania and South Carolina come to mind), taking a pounding from heavy truck traffic, which makes it even more stressful to drive. There’s nothing like hitting a long series of crater-like potholes while travelling 65 miles an hour towing a trailer, while a massive truck barrels and sways along beside, sucking you into its turbulence. Sweet.
Crowds and crappy roads aside, some things are a vast improvement from two decades ago. I felt almost a personal bond with the modern joys of back up cameras (with a microphone no less, I didn’t have to appear as a screeching harridan giving back up directions into a tight site), tire pressure monitors, and RV GPS. It’s a harsh world for Luddites these days (oops, your RV won’t fit through this 1910 tunnel, try turning around, sucker!). I proudly embrace any stress-reducing technology out there, including phone apps for weather alerts and radar so that you will know when a killer tornado is heading your way. Not that there’s much of anything you can do about it in a trailer.
I’m fatter and happier than I was a year ago. As a warning to anyone contemplating a long road trip—it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly when you are traveling. We’re looking forward to some good eats and being less slug-like when we get into our house. We will take many more road trips, but none quite like this. This one was essentially a year-long celebration of retirement. It was a sweet, fascinating interlude.
I don’t know if I will continue blogging. I expect to be immersed in setting up our new life in a new place and don’t know if I will have the time or desire to blog. If I do, obviously, it won’t be a road trip blog anymore, but will focus on exploring Maine, gardening, building stuff, and—of course—Zoe. In any case, I will be taking a blogging break while we settle into our house and then I will see how I feel.