I am a retired teacher, a seamstress and a mom of two adult children. Along with my husband Stephen, we are embarking on a journey across the U.S. in our teardrop camper. This small space requires us to live minimally but allows us to explore without limitations. We plan to visit all the National Parks across the United States. Join me as I journal about our travels.
After seven years of travel adventures, we decided in late August that it was time to sell our Vistabule. We purchased the camper in 2014 with a dream of seeing the country and then created a list of national parks and landmarks we both wanted to visit. Stephen kept this list tucked in our road atlas and periodically reviewed it. Our first two years with the Vistabule were limited to camping in the Midwest but when we retired and our children were launched, we began full time travel all over the country.
Stephen recently revisited our dream travel list and realized it was mostly fulfilled….except for Alaska. We fully embraced our goal of endless travel, living in a tiny space and enjoying the moment. Our hearts are full and we feel completely satisfied.
Once we made the decision to sell, it did not take long to find a buyer. Kathleen is a college professor from Utah and is nearing retirement. She drove to Arizona a few weeks ago and spent the day with us while we walked her through all the functions of the Vistabule. Afterwards, she confidently hooked up the camper and drove away with a smile. It was a seamless transaction and we are thrilled that Kathleen will carry on adventures in the Vistabule.
Even though we have set down roots in Arizona and enjoy a more stationary life, our travels will continue. We are not finished exploring. Alaska is still on our bucket list …and without a camper perhaps a cruise would be a good option.
After a long day of driving, we pulled into a beautiful campsite nestled in the mountains near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Stephen and I were tired but now we had a few days to relax and explore some hiking trails in White Sands National Park.
As I hopped out of the car, swarms of black flies and biting gnats attacked me. Yikes…this was bad.
Then I opened the Vistabule refrigerator and discovered that our bumpy ride had cracked all the eggs. What a mess!
While Stephen swatted the flies, I cleaned the sticky mess and seriously considered packing up.
Then, our camping neighbors dropped by and invited us to dinner.
Thank you Chuck and Jean for saving the day.
The next morning we visited White Sands National Park. I snapped a photo of the park sign and we headed to the nature trail. The sand was milky white and felt so soft but the temperatures were soaring. We had hats and lots of water but quickly realized it was too hot for us to hike any significant distance. It would not be safe and we didn’t want to repeat last year’s hike in the Oregon Sand Dunes.
This is not the day we planned and I’m certain that Stephen bore the brunt of my lousy mood.
When the weather is difficult, our default plan has always been a trip to the local public library. We found one with air conditioning and a comfortable couch.
Too bad the computers and internet crashed as we walked through the door.
Tomorrow we head for Silver City, NM. I hope the flies don’t follow us.
Last summer we attempted to visit Mesa Verde National Park but wildfire smoke and Covid prevented us from seeing anything. It was a big disappointment… so this summer we decided to circle back for a second look.
Mesa Verde is known for its nine-hundred year old Puebloan communities built into cliffs along a mountain range. I had seen photos of these ancient buildings on the front of our Benchmark atlas and always wanted to visit in person.
Although Mesa Verde was much busier than last year, we had a perfect day to drive through the park and witness these beautiful structures up close.
Stephen and I never set out to visit ancient Puebloan sites but as we were driving south to our next campground we passed by Chimney Rock..a newly designated National Monument near Pagosa Springs, Colorado and decided to explore. It required a lot of climbing but we discovered more interesting buildings and views.
When we crossed the border into New Mexico we saw a point of interest sign for the Santa Rosa de Lima ruins. We expected to see another Puebloan site but instead discovered the remains of a Catholic Church built by Spanish settlers circa 1734. I spotted the picturesque building in the distance and had to stop for a photo. It was beginning to rain and lightning was in the distance but I snapped a few pictures before the thunder began to roar.
Over the last two months we have experienced the comforts of our new home and created habits that provide a nice daily rhythm. Early morning walks on desert trails, coffee on the patio and late afternoon swims are just a few examples. I wasn’t quite ready to leave all the comforts but it was time to collect the Vistabule from storage in Colorado.
I dragged my feet up until we departed but the moment we hit the open road, I was excited for the adventure ahead.
After picking up our camper in Grand Junction, we drove to Ridgway State Park and dropped the Vistabule. This allowed us to make a day trip to nearby Telluride, a world renowned ski area located in the rugged San Juan mountains.
The drive up the mountain was a doozy with steep drop-offs and narrow switchback roads. I could feel my ears popping as we climbed up to 8,700 feet elevation.
Our first glimpse of the mountains was spectacular.
The drive through town was also lovely and the flower boxes that lined the streets made me feel as if I’d been transported to a European alpine village.
We started our day hiking up a very steep trail that provided a bird’s eye view of the city but once we reached 9,000 feet elevation my head began to spin.
It was time to move back towards the village where the air was not so thin!
After my dizzy spell, we rested on a bench near the river and watched anglers fly fish….
and then we finished the day with a free gondola ride.
It was a perfect day….and even though I am not a fan of cold weather, this is one town I would love to visit in winter.
Stephen and I grew up on opposite sides of the country…he is from Pennsylvania and I am from California. After we met and married in Washington D.C. , we planned to live near family but an unexpected job offer took us to Minnesota. We raised our family in Apple Valley (a suburb of Minneapolis) and over the course of twenty-five years we created a life with a wonderful circle of friends and meaningful work.
Now that our children are grown and living in other states, we decided it was time to move further west. It was a tough decision to leave Minnesota but we ultimately wanted a warmer climate. Last week we loaded our personal belongings in a U-Pack container and shipped the crate to Southern Arizona.
Before we departed Minnesota, we returned to some of our favorite spots and said farewell to friends. Even though we have moved across the country, a part of our hearts will always remain in Minnesota.
And now it’s official, we are Arizonans… or is it Arizonians?
Last September we stored our Vistabule in Grand Junction, Colorado and then I took a blogging vacation. I thinka case of Covid blues was a large part of this long hiatus but I’m happy to be back with a photo recap and highlights of the last seven months.
In October we travelled to Denver, Colorado and rented an Airbnb while awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild.
An extended house-sit in Fort Collins, Colorado allowed us to spend the months of November, December and January near our family and close to bike trails.
In search of warm weather, Palm Springs was our February destination….
…and Lucy visited for five days.
March took us to Southern Arizona where we fell in love with Green Valley…a smallish town 25 miles south of Tucson. In April we purchased a home and decided to make Green Valley our permanent residence. Currently we’re making a few updates to the house and preparing to move our belongings from Minnesota to Arizona.
Now that our vaccinations are behind us, we will pull the Vistabule from storage in July and explore Western Colorado and New Mexico.
We hiked so much this summer that Stephen wore through the soles of his shoes. Fortunately we found an REI in Grand Junction, CO and he was able to purchase a replacement.
With the changing weather, we finally conceded that summer is over and it’s time to move indoors. After winterizing the Vistabule, we found a storage space in Grand Junction and then performed the big switcheroo. Shorts and sandals pushed to the bottom of the suitcase and jeans along with fleece jackets moved to the top.
While not originally planned, we made a quick trip to Minnesota to collect our bicycles and tie up loose ends. This included a dentist appointment, arranging for absentee ballots and organizing our storage bin.
We also made time for one Minnesota bike ride along the Mississippi…the colors were spectacular.
Currently we are in Colorado…..and will remain here until mid January.
It has been a wonderful summer and we look forward to more adventures in the Vistabule beginning in Arizona early next spring.
As we turned the corner and headed for Natural Bridges National Monument the road sign in front of us clearly stated No Services for 121 Miles.
We knew this place was remote so we prepared with a full tank of gas and multiple jugs of water. Immediately after passing the no service sign, our check engine light illuminated. Ugh! If we were in the city we may have ignored this warning but not in this situation. Our car is seventeen years old and the odometer is nearing 200,000 miles. We’ve done all regular maintenance but one can’t help thinking of worst case scenarios.
Finding a mechanic in a small town is a challenge but fortunately Montella’s car repair was willing to run an engine diagnostic check immediately. Fifteen minutes later the mechanic returned with a smile and the results. The gas cap was not properly tightened.
Just a small hiccup in our day and we were off to see the beautiful natural bridges and arches deep in the wilderness of Utah.
We also hiked to several 13th century adobe ruins built in caves and on canyon rims. It’s amazing that these stone buildings created by the Ute Indians have remained intact.
Finally a small detour took us to Goosenecks State Park. Many years ago I saw a photo of this amazing sight…it’s the San Juan River carving its way through the desert. Seeing it up close was breathtaking.
Last week a women walked by our campsite and suddenly stopped in front of us. She looked at us, then looked at the Vistabule and then looked back at us and said “Wow, you must really like each other.” After spending three months together and seldom more than three feet apart, I’d say yes…we really like each other. Living “tiny” has been a great experience.
After six weeks in the Pacific Northwest we were headed for Colorado but wildfires in Grand Junction put a wrench in our plans. Instead, we extended our time in Green River, Utah. The river that runs through this small town is appropriately named with a lovely green hue. The temperatures were climbing above 100 degrees so hiking was out of the question. We figured swimming would be our best option. If only we could find access to the river.
Over the last several weeks most of our campsites have been by a lake, a river or a reservoir but we never had an opportunity to swim. Sometimes the water was too cold or the reservoir was too low or a NO SWIMMING sign was posted.
Although we could see the Green River from our campsite there was no shoreline. We were wilting and really needed a dip to cool off.
Stephen did some research and discovered a place called Swasey’s beach…a sandy spot with river access. I was hesitant because online reviews said it was twelve miles down a remote and partially paved road.
Even so, we needed a respite from the heat. It was a bumpy drive with craggy cliffs and bluffs along the way but when I spotted the cottonwood trees and the beach I knew we had arrived. We attempted to park in what little shade was available and quickly made our way across the burning sand. Even with shoes it was a tough go. As soon as we reached the water’s edge we jumped in and ducked our heads under water. Aah…that first douse of cool water was glorious.
Words can not describe the relief we felt from the heat. In the end, we returned three consecutive days and after each visit we marveled at the beautiful green river that flowed through this parched desert. It was so refreshing!
If you look closely at the photo you will see Stephen standing at the bottom of a sand dune amidst a wind storm….and if you zoom in, you might see a grimace on his face.
We were camping at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area near Coos Bay and decided to hike the six mile circle trail across the dunes to the ocean.
The information kiosk and our AllTrails app both stated that wood pillars with a blue stripe mark the trail. We easily sighted all the pillars on our trip to the beach but the return walk was a different story. We spotted the first two pillars and then they disappeared. The wind and shifting sand buried our markers…we were lost. While Stephen remained in place, I climbed up several dunes in hopes of spotting a marker but I could only see sand in every direction.
Fortunately we had cell service and Google maps came to the rescue. We were able to see our location on our phone and then slowly plot our way home. Traversing up and down the dunes in a sand storm was tough but two hours later we spotted a familiar pillar and finally exited the dune. Later that evening while resting our legs and enjoying a glass of wine we both agreed it was a rough day but we wouldn’t trade the experience.
We’ve been on the road for six weeks. Stephen and I have become very efficient with setting up and tearing down a campsite. With careful planning our refrigerator can hold nearly a weeks worth of food and I love cooking meals in the Vistabule kitchen.
Last week we visited Crater Lake….and I just had to share this photo!