Not all who wander are lost.

Our Wandering Minds

It’s been awhile since we updated the blog because last week, even though we spent most of our time in one place settling in to our new lifestyle, our minds were out wandering plenty as we were trying to figure some things out.  And let me tell you, they go much farther than we ever could in a week.

Before we left and throughout the entire planning process, I knew there would come a time early in our journey that we would wonder what the hell we were doing and if we are completely insane.  I just hoped that we would recognize it when it happened and we would be able to work through it and understand that it was all part of making a change this big.  Moving out of our comfort zone is well….not very dang comfortable! We had a beautiful home, our kids were running in and out with their friends making us laugh every day, we had our family all around us, and no matter how much we like to travel, Ames, IA is actually a great city with everything we needed.  So why would would we want to leave all of that??  Because as much as we loved our lives there, we knew that we wouldn’t be content if we didn’t at least try this new life we had been dreaming about for a long time.  Even though we did countless hours of research and thought we talked about everything we could fathom that could happen, we found out pretty quickly that there were a lot of variables that we hadn’t figured into our planning.

The house not selling was a huge set back that we are still trying to work through.  The sale was supposed to provide us with a little financial cushion to help us early on because we knew the beginning phase was probably going to be the most expensive.  Since that didn’t happen we have no cushion and things ended up being a little more expensive than we realized.  For instance, we knew the truck wouldn’t get great gas mileage but pulling the RV here cost over $300.  We also didn’t budget in the $70 for the park passes and the $8 every time one of our kids wanted to come visit us. When we move to our next place we will need fork over $90 for a county pass because we can’t stay in a state park for more than 28 days in a 45 day period.  We have to pay for these passes on top of the regular camping fees.  Nowhere in our planning did we figure in our cost for our regular living expenses on the road as well as all of our utilities and expenses for the house at the same time.  In hind site the best thing to do would have been to wait until the house sold to leave but we were anxious to get going and tired of the stress of trying to sell the house while we still lived in it.  But in no way did we think we would still be trying to sell the thing in November.  So needless to say, finances have been a strain on us for the last couple weeks.  We knew we would need to be more careful with our budget and we were ready for that.  It was part of the plan.  It was our choice.  What wasn’t our choice was the way the house sale collapsed and with it our sense of security in our financial situation. I’m still trying not to be bitter towards that woman and her realtor, and I’m trying to let it go but its taking a lot of work!

Jason was sick most of the week the first week, and Sam had to be taken to the dentist to get his infection taken care of.  Sadie was at home really sick and there was nothing I could do for her to make her feel better being 700 miles away.  Obviously none of this was in the plan but we knew illness or dentist visits accompanied by trying to figure out what places would take our insurance would be part of living on the road.  You can’t avoid that kind of stuff all together but we didn’t picture our first week in beautiful Colorado sitting in the camper while Jason felt miserable and I felt helpless.  But who would ever picture that kind of thing?

We didn’t realize that there were actually things we would miss about home besides our families.  Like, we will have to find a new favorite coffee house every where we go! How are we a going to find a coffee joint that has the black bean burgers, cinnamon rolls, and cheesecake that Cafe Diem has that we love?  We loved riding our bikes around the paths in town through Brookside Park and I enjoyed being able to run all my errands through town on just my two wheels.  With my terrible sense of direction, it would take me months to figure out the way to get everywhere by bike and then we would leave and I’ll need to figure it out all over again.  Familiarity creates a strong draw to a place and we didn’t understand quite how much until last week.

So it took a broken iPhone which let to entire meltdown on my part for us to start doubting our decisions and re-thinking our plans.  I was upset about something, probably a really dumb thing like dropping one of my cookies in dog hair or something,  and Jason said the words “Do you just want to go back?”  Since things weren’t going quite as we had planned it was very easy for us to start picturing the life we left behind and suddenly wanting the comfort of being where we used to call “home”.  We quickly put the RV and truck up for sale on Craigslist in Fort Collins and we planned to stay here until Thanksgiving, then move back to Ames to our house.  Our very. empty. house.  The next day after realizing that we didn’t want to go back to our same exact situation, our plan was to try to trade the RV for a smaller Class C which would allow us to get our cushion back and travel a little cheaper because we could sell the truck and pull the Mini behind us.  We even went to look at a few but now that our 5th wheel was starting to feel a bit like home, I had a hard time picturing myself actually living in one of those dinky things, tripping over my dog, possibly dislocating my shoulder…AGAIN.  We liked the idea of having a home base and traveling so we first thought about selling the house, finding a smaller place to rent in Ames, and then still traveling the country like we wanted to but having a place to land from time to time when we were missing home or Vesuvius’ wood fired pizza.  The idea of renting an apartment and asking someone if we could paint our walls pink or whatever wasn’t sitting well with us.  Plus we didn’t know how we would afford such a lifestyle.  At one time we came up with this brilliant plan: What if we asked our kids here in Colorado to let us rent a room in their house when they found a bigger place so we could have a place to come “home” to?  We quickly regained what was left of our sanity and chucked that idea because it really didn’t make any sense and honestly, what late teen and 20 something kids would want their parents renting a room in their house??  So in the matter of a few days our minds had wandered all over the country, to Ames, and back to Colorado and we still handed landed on a solid plan.

Then one morning I was out walking Lucy.  It was 9AM or something like that and I had on a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt…in November.  The sun was out and it was so warm and in front of me there was the lake that we’ve gotten used to looking at every day and walking around with the dogs.  I turned my head and before me were the Rocky Mountains with all of its beautiful colors and snow capped peaks.  I recalled the previous day where we took a drive up to Estes Park and even though we couldn’t go for a hike like we planned (because we learned that you can’t take your dogs on the trails in the national parks) it was still an amazing drive with views that we’d never see in Iowa.  I thought about our plans for the day which was to pick up Sam and Tater and go for a hike at Eldorado State Park since it was such a nice day.  I suddenly remembered that this is the life we have been striving for. We’ve been planning and dreaming about being gypsies for years and now that we’re finally doing it, why are we sitting here trying to figure out a way to do something else?  Were we EVER going to be satisfied with the life we were living at that moment and stop planning for something different?  It finally hit me that this was the time that I knew was going to come, that I thought I’d prepared for.  That time where we would wonder what the hell we were doing and if we were completely insane.  And No, we didn’t recognize it when it hit us.

When things aren’t quite going as you hope, its really easy to want to fall back to the comfort of knowing what lies around every curve.  But that is what we were trying to get away from in the first place.  So now we are back on plan and still keeping our 5th wheel even though we have spent the better part of the day trying to thaw out the lines in the front half.  We haven’t ruled out the idea of traveling in a Class C, if we can find one that will offer a few more comforts than what we looked at before.  We like the idea of traveling together and pulling the car which would save us a little money on gas.  We would be able to sell the truck which would get us our cushion back we would lower our insurance bill which is already significantly high with a teenage kids’ “not so great” driving record attached to it.  But that is something we will probably look at later.  I was able to sell some of my fiber for a little extra money and we still had a little downsizing to do as we found things that we’re lugging around but not using (gotta love Craigslist!) I’m going to start putting together a few things to sell in our online store which will be coming soon to our blog, so hopefully I’ll be able to contribute a bit financially.  So even though things aren’t perfect, we know that they aren’t anywhere.  We are far better off that the few people that are living in tents out here in the 15 degree weather, moving from campground to campground because they don’t have a home.  We also know that after just a couple weeks we’re bound to struggle here and there because this is all new to us.  And that is okay.  That’s part our journey.

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RVing in Winter Weather

So we are officially rving in winter or at least winter temps. We have been staying at Boyd Lake State Park since we been in Colorado. Weather has been VERY nice upper 60’s to lower 70’s. Woke up Monday morning to 64 degrees outside by Monday afternoon temperature  had dropped over 40 degrees. Monday evening we were in the teens. We have been using a radiant heater with furnace set to about 60 so not to use so much propane (this may not have been a good idea). IMG_2048Sunday we knew colder weather was coming so we put window plastic on 90% of the windows and weather stripping around door. By 6pm Monday night we decide to go to Walmart and purchase another small heater. Our rv runs on a 30 amp connection. This sucks when trying to run two small space heater. We were constantly popping breakers. Late Monday night half of our water lines are frozen (the bathroom half). First thing that happens when your lines freeze is panic. Second thing is search Google to find out what to do. We turned the furnace up to about 72 degrees and opened all cabinet doors to get warm air to water lines. We finally decide there was not much more we could do at this hour so grabbed our blankets and went to bed and figured we would deal with it in the morning.

Woke up this morning to about 15 degrees outside. Kitchen water lines still work bathroom lines still frozen. Ran an extension cord from the power pole and set the new small space heat in the bottom compartment of rv to try and thaw the frozen waterlines. IMG_2054The power pole has a separate breaker so I could run both heaters without popping breakers in the rv. So far lines are still frozen but hoping that after heater runs for awhile they will thaw out. At this point we wait it out and use the campsite facilities and hope the weather warms up sooner rather than later but I think the cold weather is here for at least the next few days. I guess this is part of living the rv dream if your living it in northern parts.

Not feeling well and figuring out insurance.

Not feeling well sucks to begin with but not feeling well in an RV is a new experience all together. For the last few day I have not felt well at all. So finally I decide it was time to go see a doctor because I was feeling worse everyday. The problem is, I have not seen another doctor in almost 15 yrs. I would normally call up McFarland Clinic and ask if I could be seen. Now I am out of my home town and even out of my home state. We got a new insurance company at work and haven’t had to use it any where but at the same clinic I have been going to for years. The insurance is called CoOpportunity Health. I created a web account before we left home so I could look up medical centers in our network. Once logged-in to the site I went to find a network provider, set the location, and clicked on search and a list of doctors came up. One thing I noticed out here in Colorado is the medical clinics are open a lot later and a lot of them are open 7 days week. I called to make sure they would take my insurance and then tried to make an appointment. Since it was a Saturday all appointment were walk-ins. We arrived at the clinic mid morning filled, out all the paper work for new patient, and gave them a copy of my insurance card and drivers license and in about 5 to 10 min I got in to see the doctor (Nurse Practitioner). I am glad I went! I found out I had an ear infection with bronchitis. Hoping for a speed recovery, it’s no fun feeling sick. At least I know how my insurance works and how to find a doctor now that we are traveling. We also got to test our dental insurance as well. Our youngest son, Sam, has also just moved out here to Colorado. A few weeks before we left to come out here, Sam had all 4 of his wisdom teeth pulled. About 4 or 5 days after he got them pulled he was still having pain so he went back and found out he had dry socket. They gave him something for that and everything seemed to be good. The 3rd day we are here he tells us his mouth is sore and his cheek is all swollen. We found a dentist office and made him an appointment for the next day. He got something in one to the holes where the tooth was pulled and it had gotten infected. They had to get some of the infection out and then sent him home with antibiotics. They took our insurance but didn’t know what would be covered so we had to pay for the service and they will reimburse us a check when they find out how much our insurance covers. Needless to say, this as been a new experience…just not the one I was hoping for when first starting out. Also Sam is doing well.

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space/ Horsetooth Rock

Where it is: This 2,886 acre park is located on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, 4 miles west of Fort Collins and 12 miles northwest of Loveland.
Trail Use: Hiking, biking, horseback riding. Hike to Horsetooth is foot traffic only
Cost: Need to pay the $6.00 per car day pass for all individual walk in, bike, or drive-ins. Self –service station takes Visa, MC credit and debit cards. Larimer County yearly passes also available for $65 for residents and $85 for non-residents
Pets Allowed? Yes- Must be on leash at all times
Elevation: 5,815′ – 7,256′ (7,256′ max elevation)
Other Park Uses: Boating, camping, fishing

Although there are many things you can do at this park we’ve only hiked here. We have checked out the campgrounds and they definitely look nice. They have full hook-ups right next to the reservoir and there was plenty of space between each site. We initially came here to check out the campground but we’re not sure if driving the RV up there is something we’re ready for just yet. The name of the park is Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and although there are many trails, we hiked the trail towards Horsetooth Rock which is the park’s tallest feature and can be seen from Fort Collins. Horsetooth Rock - thumbnail 2Native American legend says it is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock looked more like a horse tooth which is how it got its modern name.

At first, we weren’t quite aware of the fees involved to get into the parks in Colorado (which are also added on top of your campsite fees.) We’re just used to driving into a park and wandering around and not needing to have our wallets with us. Not the case here. So, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado make sure to budget that into your travel plans. The parks we’ve been to so far have been beautifully maintained and the fees are relatively cheap. It’s pretty difficult to find a day of entertainment for more than 1 person for 6 bucks these days so I’m not complaining. For frequent visits the yearly pass is definitely the way to go and will get you into all parks in their system, which is this case is Larimer County.

The trail head has the self-pay station which takes credit and debit cards but we were paying cash so we couldn’t figure out how to pay for our pass. The first time we came here, there was a booth with an actual person so we could pay that way but this time, since we couldn’t shove our cash into the self-pay machine, I kind of felt like we “stole” our hike. Maybe I’ll pay double next time? Bathrooms, a picnic shelter, and water fountains (along with a super short one for dogs) are available there as well. Once piece of advice: Bring water! We weren’t really planning on hiking this so we weren’t prepared. It gets pretty dry up there, and obviously water for energy and hydration is always important.

The hike up was a little tough for us due to the constant incline, but our biking legs are kind of new to hiking. Plus we had only been here a couple days so the elevation change probably came into play as well. For someone that hikes regularly, we figured it would probably be considerate moderate in the difficulty range. The surface of the trails are pretty easy to walk on which is basically smoothed over rocks. You still have to watch your step, but it’s not like walking on loose gravel. The first part of the hike is through what seemed more like a prairie and then as we got higher up we were hiking through more timber and rock. When we first started we ended up walking by what we assumed were Texas Longhorn Steer (we don’t really know our cattle) and these things are HUGE. I don’t know how they lug around those horns on their head all day long! There are places to stop and rest along the way with park benches, stations go get free dog waste bags, and garbage cans. The trail system is marked very well also so we always knew where we were and how to get back. There are lots of places to stop along the way and enjoy the views of the foothills or reservoir below.

When we got to the area just below Horsetooth Rock, which is where it changes to foot traffic only, we decided to start our climb down since we are not climbers…at all. Sam and Reid came to hike to that rock so they kept on. From what we were told, there was a bit of a climb to get to the top but the views are breathtaking! Our descent down went much quicker than the climb obviously, but we were happy to get to the trail head to get a drink of water and wait for our son. Overall, we think this a great place to hike. The park is well taken care of and the facilities they offer are clean. Definitely worth the 6 bucks for a little exercise, beautiful views, and just a generally peaceful experience.
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Getting Settled

We decided to stay at Boyd Lake State Park for the first week and a half.  This would give us time to get the RV more organized and scout the area for a more permanent spot until January.  We spent the first day putting the rest of our stuff away and figuring out where everything is going to go.  One thing that we both realized pretty quickly is that we’re going to have to pick up after ourselves frequently because it doesn’t take much to make this small space seem messy.  5 dirty dishes makes it look like the counters are full of dishes waiting to be washed (pretty sure I’ll be missing my dishwasher very soon.)  Laundry could easily start taking over the place if not done frequently.  As we travel more we’ll probably soon be able to give reviews and locations of laundry mats across the country.

Sadie, Reid, T, and Heather all came here to spend a few days with us and Brooke and Ben live in Fort Collins so we decided to invite them over and have our first official family dinner to break in the place.  Plus we had a jar of Apple Pie Moonshine that we got from Molly that needed to be cracked open! After pouring a round for all of us legal drinkers, it was gone pretty fast!  I kept telling everyone we were going to have our first family Thanksgiving dinner in the RV and everyone was skeptical (except me of course!)  There were 9 of us total and no one had to sit on the floor so we learned two important things:  We will be able to accommodate this group plus 5 dogs for the holidays and Molly is going to have to send us more moonshine!

Photo Oct 27, 8 10 00 PM We’ve had some really beautiful weather here so one of the days we decided to take a hike up the trails at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space.  When I say hike up the trails the operative word here is “up” because we did hike up….A LOT.  Some of the trails we’ve been on will go up, then level off a little, then up but not this one. We’d hiked here before when we visited Brooke & Ben last summer and we chose the trail to Horsetooth Falls which is an amazing hike that ends with small natural pools that waterfalls from the rocks above flow into.  It was a hot day so there were quite a people just hangin’ out, wandering through the water, hammocking, or just sitting there enjoying the space. This time Sam and Reid wanted to climb to Horsetooth Rock so we went the other way.  All the way up there are breathtaking views and I find it difficult to take it all in at times.

Photo Oct 28, 4 12 46 PMPhoto Oct 28, 4 10 14 PM

Photo Oct 28, 4 11 48 PM

One of my favorites of the day was this photo where I was able to capture moon and the sun in the same picture.  I was trying to get a picture of all the different peaks and didn’t see it until I looked at it later. I love it when you get a cool shot of something that you weren’t trying to get.

Photo Oct 28, 4 46 11 PM (1)
Sam and Reid wanted to climb to Horsetooth Rock which involved a little bit of climbing so Jason, Heather and I headed back down about 1/2 mile or so before the rock.  I blamed it on not being used to the altitude yet…definitely not age related!  Sam sent this picture after they had reached to top of the rock.

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The next day was a bit of an emotional day for everyone.  It was our 20th wedding anniversary so taking a day to remember one of the best days of our lives is always a good thing for which I can feel nothing but complete happiness.  Sadie and T had come to Colorado to go to a concert the evening before but now they had to go back to work in Iowa.  Reid and Heather were riding with them so they were leaving too for school and work as well.  When they came to say “Good Bye” I think we all kind of tried to ignore that they were going to be 2 states away  but its tough to leave the people you love and start a whole new life no matter how much you want it.  We’re hoping to see them all at Thanksgiving which is only about 3 weeks away so that helps.  And of course we can all remain hopeful that they’ll decide to come live here one day.

Although our plan was to spend the day just relaxing and doing absolutely nothing, we spent the rest of the day moving the RV to another space in the campground but that is a whole other story that we will share later.

The Journey

It took us little longer to get everything packed up and into the RV than we originally thought.  Our plan was to hit the road by about 1 PM but leaving just before 3 didn’t put us too far behind.  With right around 700 miles to go my travel buddy and I settled in for the long drive.  For those of you that travel with small-ish pets, this little basket was a god send.  Normally, traveling with Lucy involves constant jumping from seat to seat (her..not me) and me trying to get her out from under my feet or under the break.  I got this from Amazon for about $20 with free Prime shipping and it attaches to the seat and has a place to secure her so she has to stay put.  After a few minutes whining, she finally settled in and went to sleep.

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The drive was pretty uneventful for the most part which was fine with me.  It was long and we drove along Hwy 30 for the first half, but since we didn’t have to worry about the people racing along the interstate next to use it allowed me to take some time to enjoy the Midwest scenery.  I love these railroad bridges and there were quite a few along the way.  This is the one that crosses the Missouri River.

 

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I had a mixture of emotions and fears as we drove away from what had been our home for 24 years.  I was so looking forward to seeing Brooke and spending some time with her in Colorado, but as happy as I was to be seeing her soon I was also that sad knowing that Sadie will be living in Ames, IA.  I worried about Sam as he left his friends and would be starting a whole new life on his own (with the help of his big sister)  As much as I know that Colorado life will suit him with better snowboarding, mountains and boulders waiting to be climbed, and just the general atmosphere of the place, I know he’s going to miss his friends and might feel a little alone for awhile before he settles in and starts working and meeting people.  It takes a lot of courage to move away from the only place he’s known and I really commend him and Brooke for that.  When I was cutting hair and working in a college town, it allowed me to meet people from so many different countries.  One of the conversations I had more than once was how people from other countries come here and many of them see more of our country in a couple of weeks or months than a lot of Americans do in their entire life.  That stuck with me all of these years and I didn’t want to be one of those people who only get so see a small fraction of this country that is ours.  I don’t want that for my kids either.  Its always been important to us is that our kids never lose that sense of curiosity and adventure and not be afraid to move away from what might be considered “normal” if it means finding a way of life that is just for them.

When it started getting late, we ended up staying in Kearney, NE at a Roadway Inn.  I have to mention that as we have traveled the last few years we have been surprised that some of the best and cleanest places to stay have become hotels like Super 8 and Roadway Inn.  We’ve had some of the worst stays in some of what would be considered higher end hotel chains.   Here is the last view as we drove through Nebraska looking for our spot for the night.  Who said there are only cornfields in the Midwest?

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After a decent night’s rest and some free breakfast, we hit the road again anxious to get to our campground.  We drove the interstate the rest of the way finally stopping at Boyd Lake in State Park in Loveland, Co.  We were then faced with the task of unloading all of the kids stuff from the RV to the truck and then taking to Brooke’s place in Fort Collins.  We were looking forward to getting our space set up and the RV organized so we could finally stop moving for a bit.

 

 

Our first cross country haul.

Well, we have finally started living in our RV. We have arrived at our first extend stay location. We will be staying in Colorado for at least the next few months. We started our cross country haul late Saturday afternoon. I had to back up the RV (5th wheel) for the first time and it really was not as bad as I thought it would be. Tip: Tow mirrors makes a hug difference. Ok, I will admit the thought of pulling a 10K pound RV 700 mile was making me very nervous. I have never pulled anything this big or heavy.  It’s not only pulling the RV, but I am pulling it with a used GMC with almost a 150k miles on it. At this point the only thing to do was to feel the fear and do it anyway. We stopped by JJ’s to say bye to Sadie and then jumped on Hwy. 30 to start our journey west. The plan was to travel as far as we could Saturday and then stop for the night somewhere in Nebraska. We traveled Hwy. 30 all the way to Grand Island, NE. and stopped and stayed at a pet friendly Roadway Inn.  I will have to stay I am glad we decide to take the the hwy. rather than Interstate 80. We drove around 55 – 60 which was fast enough, at least until I got used to pulling the RV and how it would feel behind the truck. When first getting started down the hwy. the ride was very bouncy. I was thinking to myself “I hope this is normal” then I thought “I don’t know if I am going to be able to stand 700 miles of bouncing in this truck” It Felt like my insides where being bounced all over the place. I think my co-pilot (Jude) was feeling the same as me but all and all he did very well traveling. JudeFinally everything smoothed out and I could hardly feel the RV behind me. So after the first 100 miles I figured out that all of the bouncing was due to the road surface. New blacktop very smooth, old blacktop very bouncy! My nerves had finally started to settle after I knew the bouncing was from the road and not something wrong with the RV or truck. The other thing that took awhile to get used to was breaking. When going down the hwy. you don’t think much about stopping. But when traveling hwys instead of interstates you have to slow your speed through towns and in the bigger towns you will be stopping at the stop lights. I have learned to start slowing down way before the lights because it takes awhile to get that much weight stopped. We woke up Sunday and had some hotel breakfast and got back on the hwy. This time we decided to jump on to the interstate. Even through the speed limit through NE is 75 I think the fastest I ever got up to was 70. I tried to stay around 65 as I felt pretty comfortable cruising at that speed. The last thing about the 700 mile journey I learned about hauling the RV and driving this truck was the poor poor gas milage we got. I would say we averaged between 8-10 mile per gallon. The truck had plenty of power with a 8.1 liter motor but it also consumes the gas.