5 Truths About Our Life on the Road

When we first decided to live full time in Waldo, I had a very different idea of what our life would be like. In some ways, it has far exceeded my hopes and in other ways, it has fallen drastically short. Here are 5 things I have learned about myself and our lifestyle:

1. We are NOT on vacation.

While most of my posts deal with all of the cool places we visit, the truth is we have to work. Neither of us are old enough to collect social security, nor do we have any type of retirement. Our only source of income is from the workamping we do. I had visions of living in Waldo the way my parents did, never staying anywhere for more than a week or two before moving on, sooner if the weather turned cold or rainy. But the fact is, we usually end up being somewhere for several months, after all, we made a commitment when we took the job. Quite often I find several months to be too long. I either get bored with a place once we’ve explored the area or the job isn’t really to my liking, but again, we made a commitment. For me, selling Christmas trees in Florida was nearly the perfect job. It was short term, it was warm and the money was great. If there was a “downside”, it was we didn’t have any time to explore the area.

 

2. Two people in 400 sq/ft can be a challenge

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We had been married for 14 years when we made the leap to full-timing. I thought I knew everything I could possibly need to know about us – nope! The biggest difference between living in an RV and living in a house is if you find you need some “space”, there isn’t any. I had a home office in our house, now my office is in the same room as the kitchen, living room and steering wheel. Steve had a garage to go putter around in, now he doesn’t. We don’t generally get on each others nerves, but it happens. We don’t generally have disagreements, but they happen. The difference is we can’t go to our separate space. Living in the confines of 400 sq/ft has taught me that I need my space more than I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve with all my heart.  I would never want to live this life without him, but sometimes I just need my space.

3. We’ll never get to see it all

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Thanks to my grammar school teachers, I know there are 50 states. If we spent 3 months per state, we could only see 4 a year – that’s 12 1/2 years (assuming we could drive to Hawaii). While we could probably hit the highlights in each state in 3 months, we’d never have time to seek out the out-of-the-way places we both enjoy so much. Oh yea, back to #1, we aren’t on vacation. By the way, I’ve added travel maps to the blog. You can check out where we went by year. I hope to keep it up-to-date from now on.

4. We are 6 wheels away from homeless

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I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far off the mark. There isn’t much worse than seeing everything you own put on the back of a tow truck. I mean nobody ever towed off our stick and brick when it needed repairs. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate, nearly every time we’ve needed repairs, we’ve been able to stay in Waldo while the work was being done. The only time we couldn’t was when the roof was done. That wasn’t an issue because we were staying at my dad’s house. Every now and then, I get a little panicky when I think about what “could” happen. I know, no sense borrowing trouble. I just can’t help it.

5. We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

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When I compare our stick and brick life to our RV life, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our life. We have met some of the most wonderful people, in person and online, because of the way we live. We have seen places lots of people only talk about seeing. We visited 15 National Parks in 2018 plus countless state parks. And we are doing it together! I doubt it really gets any better.

 

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Out With The Old

Almost all of the bloggers I know do a special post to mark the end of the year. I always enjoy reading them. Inevitably, it makes me reflect on our own travels, trials and triumphs.

2018 held lots of promise for us as we began our first full year of RV living and working. We knew we’d be starting in Florida, but had no way of knowing for sure December 2018 would find us back there. Hell, there were times when we were broken down, I didn’t think we’d ever make it back to Florida. But we did. We met so many wonderful people along the way. People who changed our lives, possibly without ever knowing so.

I count us a dang lucky…our adventures have been many and our trials have been relatively few, given our lifestyle.

I thought long and hard about how I was going to commemorate 2018. Usually I end up trying to pick a favorite picture from each month – a top 12, if you will. 12? Who was I kidding? We took pictures in at least 13 states, visited 15 national parks/monuments/preserves and drove through western Canada. I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to 12!

My solution was a collage made from every state we spent any real time in (and Canada will just  have to forgive my exclusion of them in this post). The following collages are in alphabetical order, not the order we visited. So without further ado, here is 2018 in review…

Arizona

Alaska Collage

California

Florida

idaho

Louisiana

Nevada

New Mexica

Texas

Washington

Wyoming

I don’t know for sure what is in store for us for the next year. We have some tentative plans and lots of hopes.

I sincerely hope 2019 brings health and happiness to you and yours! Thank you for wandering along with us.

The Day Facebook Saved Our Lives

I try pretty hard to keep my posts in order, even if it means getting behind by weeks (sometimes months) where we actually are in real life. But, something happened recently that  I think is too important to wait.

We’ve been meandering our way back to Florida. My last post was about Yellowstone NP and since then, we’ve visited Grand Teton NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Staircase NM, Carlsbad Cavern NP and finally Guadalupe Mountains NP. This found us once again in Texas. Our plan was to catch up with some friends from our job last summer then head to NOLA to check out the WWII Museum before making our way to Crystal River, FL to visit with Daddy. We were unemployed at the moment, so taking our time was fine.

Just outside of Odessa, TX our plan, and Waldo, came to a screeching halt. We were broken down. Naturally, this happened on a Friday afternoon. With the weekend looming, no one had any interest in getting us on our way. One company Steve called said sure, they’d come look at Waldo, but “Be prepared to pay ALL the money.” Gee thanks, but no thanks.

What do you do when you are broken down in a strange place and no one seems to care? You reach out to whoever you can think of, anyone you think *might* know someone in the area. Last year, when we were working at Wind Point Park, we met Ben Miller, the promoter of Turkey Drag. I was hoping with all of his car club connections he might know someone who could help. I reached out to him via Facebook and then something incredible happened. Ben posted a “looking for recommendations” on our behalf on his page and within minutes, people started leaving suggestions, tagging friends and offering help. Someone sent Ben a screenshot of a contact on their phone. It was Jake from DropTine Auto in Midland, Texas.

Steve called Jake and explained our situation. Despite the fact DropTine is a very busy shop, Jake said we could bring Waldo there. When Steve explained he was a mechanic and could do some of the work himself, Jake said – “Great.”  To make a long story short, not only did Jake allow Steve to do 99% of the work himself, but he let us stay in Waldo in the yard. It turns out the problem was related to what caused us to break down in Alaska, only this time, there wasn’t a “band-aid” fix. The gear which runs the hydraulic pump is located on the mainshaft of the compressor and it was toast! Steve called Caterpillar and they said sure, they could get a new one for $2200 in about 6 weeks. I just cried. “6 weeks, stuck in Midland? $2200 we can’t afford that!” Jake called the manufacturer of the compressor to see if there was a replacement available. The unit had been discontinued. WHAT? But, they offered to rebuild ours for $250 plus shipping.  All we had to do was get it to them in North Carolina.

In the meantime, I had been looking for winter work. I found a seasonal job in Fort Lauderdale selling Christmas trees. Would Waldo be repaired in time for us to get there? We had already been broken down for 15 days, now we had to ship the compressor to NC and hope for the best.

DropTine is a busy shop with several great employees, but Jake allowed Steve to help out in the shop when he wasn’t working on Waldo. That was awesome! It gave Steve something to do and helped make us feel like we weren’t just taking up space in his yard.

The rebuilt compressor showed back up on Monday the 5th…

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with its shiny new gear. Isn’t that sexy?! It took until Tuesday afternoon to get everything back together. When the work was complete and we were ready to hit the road, we asked Jake for our bill. He said we didn’t owe him anything. He took into account the work Steve had done around the shop and called it even. I was floored. He also said if the shop was still busy in the spring, Steve could come back and work for him for a month or so before our next workamping job. It makes my heart happy to know there are still people in this world like him.

Happiness through the windshield…

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We have since arrived at Daddy’s house and are leaving on the 14th to head to Fort Lauderdale. I’ll keep you posted on how selling Christmas trees goes and promise to eventually go back and write about the places we’ve been.

A heartfelt thank you to Ben, his friends and all the guys at DropTine Auto!

(Wild) Life on the Road

After spending 4 1/2 months in Alaska, it was time to return to the lower 48. I spent weeks reviewing our route. We had already driven the Alcan, so I wanted to travel other roads. It was a horrible year for wildfires in British Columbia, so I changed our route several times. BC has a great website I used to make sure the roads I wanted to take were open. Eventually, I settled for returning on the Alcan. It just seemed safest.

We had seen some pretty cool wildlife while we were in Alaska, but we always want to see more. Not long after we crossed into the Yukon, we got our first chance…

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These wild horses were contently munching on the grasses along the highway. I felt pretty lucky to see them, apparently there have been efforts over the years to capture the remaining wild horses. I don’t know how many are left, but it can’t be many.

When we crossed into BC, the first thing we saw was a highway sign warning us of bison in the road near Muncho Lake. Herds of wood bison move pretty quickly and we spotted them long before the lake. At first we saw lone males hanging out by the road…

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Or in the road…

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It’s always a good thing to remember, these are wild animals and to always keep your distance.  Steve did that by taking his pictures out the window…

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A short while later, we came across a herd of wood bison. We stopped and watched as a calf nursed…

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After a while, we had so many pictures of bison, we didn’t pull over to watch the next few herds we saw.

What there weren’t any warning signs for was the herds of mountain goats. Early one morning, as we were driving along, we had to stop because they just wouldn’t get out of the road…

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I took this picture looking through the windshield…

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Mooned by a mountain goat! Finally, they moved off the road. One stopped to look back at us as if to say, “NOW you may go”…

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I liked seeing them on the upper slopes better than in the road…

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We had seen a couple bears along the way, but they were always heading into the woods. By the time I got the camera, they were gone. Until this guy came along…

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We saw more wild animals in 4 days in Canada than we did in 4 1/2 months in Alaska. And that’s the wild side of being on the road!

Up next, the wonders of Yellowstone.

Have you ever had to stop because an animal wouldn’t get off the road?

We Made It!

As we passed from the Yukon back into the USA, not much changed scenery wise.

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One thing was certain, the road conditions turned to crap. The Yukon has done a great job of road repair and Alaska – not so much! But that’s okay – we were in ALASKA!!! After two months and over 6000 miles we were within a day or two of being at our summer home. Or so I thought. We woke up on May 1st, our first full day in Alaska, to some seriously ominous skies. Then it began…

Snow so thick we could hardly see the road. This wasn’t what I had planned! But, you know what, it was the 1st of May and had to be expected. We were trying to reach Anchorage, where we would resupply before heading to Moose Pass. Once you get on the Kenai Peninsula, shopping become more expensive in two ways: 1 you have to pay the tax and 2 you have to drive at least 45 minutes to get to the nearest store. We were just about to crest a big hill we’d been climbing when Steve got very serious looking. He pulled over as best he could and I asked what was wrong. Waldo had lost it’s power steering – completely. We got out to see what had happened and found a giant puddle of oil under Waldo. Oh man, this isn’t good! We were in the middle of nowhere! Glenallen was an hour behind us and Anchorage was 2 1/2 hours in front of us. We called for roadside assistance from Good Sam’s and waited. And waited. And argued with them on the phone about exactly where we were. I gave them our GPS coordinates and told them we were at mile marker 37. Yes, 37 – I can see it from here! Finally, the tow truck arrived and Waldo got carted off…

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We were towed back to Glenallen, the closest “qualified repair center”. I was not a happy camper! Despite the bad luck of being broken down, we had the good luck of being towed to Glenallen Fuel and Service. First thing in the morning, the lead mechanic, Dawson, came out to talk to Steve. While the 2 of them conversed, I sat in Waldo and stewed about our situation. It could have been a lot worse. GF&S let us stay in Waldo in their parking lot, so we weren’t “homeless” When Steve came back inside, he explained what had happened. A bolt had come backed of the power steering pump and broke the other bolt holding drive on the pump. I just nodded my head as if it meant something to me. How long to fix it – that was my question! The part we needed was in Anchorage, naturally. But again, luck was with us. Scott, the tow truck driver, had to go to Anchorage anyhow, he’d pick it up for us. Dawson was quite happy to let Steve do all of the work he was capable of and loaned him any tools he didn’t have.

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All in all, we ended up being there 3 days and with Steve doing most of the work, it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been. We were back on the road and I was just blown away by the scenery. Every time I thought the view couldn’t get any better, it did!

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We finally made it to Anchorage and got all the shopping out of the way. Only an hour and a half until we are home for the summer! Yea! I wasn’t prepared for the amazing scenery yet to come…

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The Seward Highway leaving Anchorage

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Driving along Turnagain Arm

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Well, here we are in Moose Pass. We parked at the bottom of the driveway and walked up to meet our new bosses, Gary and Treva. They pointed out our spot and Steve brought Waldo up the hill. I wasn’t sure Waldo could make the turn and get enough traction in the dirt drive, but he made it…

Whew, that was a climb. But what a view…

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Our backyward

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Our front yard

Wow. Now that we made it, it’s time to go to work. Up next – settling in.

Thanks for coming along. I’m getting caught up on posts, I’m only 4 or 5 behind now. If you want the latest, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Hanging Out the Window

Time was getting short and we still had almost 3000 miles to go. We were due to arrive at our job in Moose Pass as close to May 1st as possible. Here it was the last week of April and we were only half way there. Of course, we had taken the really long way. From here on out, it would be one night stops, often not even unhooking the Jeep. Our planned travel route would take us through about 13 miles of Idaho. What could possibly happen in 13 miles? Just before we crossed the state line, I saw a sign stating all boats MUST stop and be checked for invasive species. My first (and only) thought was “Gee, glad they are taking it so seriously.” What I never gave a thought to was our 2 kayaks strapped to the roof of the Jeep. I mean they hadn’t been in the water since we left Florida. We were half way though our 13 miles when Steve pulled over to give the car with the red flashing lights pass by. Much to our surprise, they pulled right in behind us. What had he done? He wasn’t speeding or driving erratically. Nope – kayaks are boats and we hadn’t stopped. The sheriff was very pleasant about it, but we had to turn around and go back to the state line. The kayaks were inspected and we got a little sheet of paper stating so. I threw it on the dash as we began our 13 mile drive though Idaho again. We breezed through Oregon and Washington state before I ever thought about that little scrap of paper again. Several times I remarked to Steve that the landscape wasn’t what I had pictured. There were no tree covered mountains or lush forests. Only more of what we’d been seeing all along, giant rocky mountains with little or no vegetation. We finally got to the border crossing, produced our passports and were welcomed into British Columbia, Canada. For the first hour or so of the drive, we passed grove after grove of fruit trees. Every kind you could imagine. Apples, peaches, plums, pears. All in bloom, waiting for pollinators to do their jobs. I didn’t get any pictures because there just never seemed to be a good spot to pull over. We knew our biggest problem would be finding campgrounds that were open in April, most of them don’t open until May. I had picked out a few possibilities and figured we’d just stop in rest areas or truck stops if they didn’t work out.

We got to see our first wildlife in BC. Large herds of wood bison hanging our on the side of the road…

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As the scenery began to resemble more what I had expected, I spent a lot of time trying to capture it…

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Our best stop in BC was at Liard River Hotsprings. The provincial park wasn’t open yet for camping, but they had a large parking lot we were told we could dry camp in. In the morning, we headed over to check out the springs…

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The boardwalk to the springs

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Taking a nice soak

In a word – it was awesome! We were so tempted to spend another night, but we really did have to move on. We got to see a little more wildlife…

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We didn’t see near as much wildlife as I thought we would. Maybe it was too early in the season.

We crossed into the Yukon and stopped for the obligatory picture…

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I spent much of the next few days hanging out Waldo’s window. Every time I thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, it did!

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Yes, that’s me with my camera out the window

When we got to Watson Lake, we stopped at the Sign Post Forest. It’s hard to describe and the pictures don’t really do it justice…

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I don’t know how many signs there are, but I can tell you, it is A LOT! It took my quite a while to go through all of the pictures and here are some of my favorites from the Yukon…

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And finally, we were heading back into the USA – Welcome to Alaska…

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Well, we made it to Alaska! Up next…Oh Waldo, you’re so……..

Our Hinkey Summit Adventure

Page had told us about another drive we would enjoy. “If you follow the road through Paradise Valley, you will come to the base of Hinkey Mountain. There is a road to the summit, your Jeep wouldn’t have any trouble,” he said. Frankly, the prospect of getting to do a little 4-wheeling really appealed to me.

First we had to find the road to Paradise Valley. Page had said it was easy. “Head out Hwy 95 for 25 miles or so, when you see a gas station in the middle of nowhere, take that left. That’s the road to Paradise Valley.”  Seems simple enough. Steve and I were enjoying the drive, just chatting about our adventures the previous day (you can read about that here) when I noticed these tiny heads popping up along the side of the highway. “Did you see that? What are those? Look, there’s another one. Slow down, I want to see what it is.” Well, there were cars coming up behind us so slowing down wasn’t an option. Lucky for me, our “middle of nowhere” gas station was just up ahead. Hopefully when we made the left, there would be more heads popping up. Sure enough, as we made our way down Paradise Valley Road, there they were. Steve pulled to the side of the road and I waited anxiously for the critter to makes its appearance. I didn’t have to wait too long…

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They reminded me of the pocket gophers we had seen in Texas but these were prairie dogs. It was comical to watch them pop up and scurry around, only to disappear into another burrow. We watched for a bit then resumed our drive. All the sudden, without a word, Steve banged a u-turn. Huh? What had he seen that I missed? He pulled over again and pointed to one of the prairie dog holes and said “Isn’t that an owl?” We got out the binoculars and sure enough, it was a burrowing owl. The problem was, it wasn’t feeling like being social. Every time we tried to get a picture it either dropped back down into the hole or it would fly off to a fence post just out of camera range. With a little patience we were finally able to  get a few shots…

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Leaving the owls to their activities, we drove on. I was thinking “Wow, Hon, get catch with the owls!” when a pheasant flew into the road. Naturally, it didn’t stay long enough for either of us to get a shot. Now it was my turn…”Pull over!” I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I wanted a closer look. When I walked over to the fence line, this is what I had seen…

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Hey, it’s still wildlife, it’s just long dead wildlife. As I was getting ready to get back into the Jeep, I looked down the fence line and saw something a little more photogenic…

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Wow, I was loving all this wildlife! Once again, we started back towards Paradise Valley. Finally, we made it and had to get a few pics while we were there. It is another ‘has been’ town with more abandon houses/businesses then occupied, but it has a saloon too…

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We finally found Hinkey Summit Road. It wasn’t going to be 4-wheeling unless the road got a heck of a lot worse further on. With no other vehicle in sight, we crawled along, ever ready for our next wildlife encounter. Steve stopped by a pond and I got out to check it out. Lots of ducks and geese and a couple birds I couldn’t identify at the time…

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American Avocets – Thanks Google!

We came to the entrance to Homboldt National Forest where the road to the summit truly began. I oohed and aahed at the scenery…

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I took pictures of the winding road…

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As we neared the summit, I noticed a natural bridge…

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At the summit, we almost got to go 4-wheeling. There was still snow to play in…

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OK, not really enough snow to 4-wheel in. Perhaps it was the elevation getting to me but I had an idea – I would take a video on the way back down the mountain. Maybe not my best idea ever, but what do you think…

Thanks for coming along.

I am almost caught up. I have one more post about our trip then I will start on arriving in Alaska and our adventures so far (there have been some cool ones!)