Skip to main content

Musings from the Road

A fairly typical road trip morning.

We are now nearing a month and a half of road trip traveling, and probably around 3,500 miles into our cross-country adventure (give or take, I would check the odometer officially but I'm cozy indoors and it's absolutely freezing outside). In the last 5 1/2 weeks, we've slept in a variety of forests and deserts, city streets and hotel rooms, and now that we are in New Orleans, a youth hostel. Living out of the Honda Element has not only allowed us to go wherever we like whenever we like--for the most part--and change plans at the drop of a hat, but it has been an experience living day to day with only the bare necessities...and being okay. 

By making a home in a car that is actually too small for both driving and sleeping systems to be operable at the same time, no bathroom, and an outdoor kitchen only, you find you discover what is actually necessary to be comfortable and what comforts are able to be let go. 

Turns out, though it's fun and socially acceptable (and makes laundry less frequent) to have a variety of outfit choices for any given activity, one only really needs a few basic clothing items. Multiple showers a week are certainly preferred--and I now have a particular appreciation for those long, hot ones where the bathroom gets steamy--but not a requirement for survival. Just some decent deodorant, some face wipes, and for the desperate moments when you don't want to look like you live in the sewers, a travel bottle of dry shampoo will do the trick. Despite usually having an overflowing fridge at home, only having what you need to make meals (so that everything for the week can fit in a small cooler and a reusable grocery bag) is just fine. And you can keep yourself alive eating primarily hot dogs for longer than you think.

Nana and Grandad, spoiling us rotten in Vegas.
We've been spoiled this trip, of course, with luxurious breaks from car camping, courtesy of our loving families across the states. Six nights in a row of cooking in the dark on the tailgate and doing dishes with paper towels is made easier when flanked by stays in relatives' guest rooms, featuring meals out, sinks, showers with enough room to shave your legs, and laundry facilities. I'm also fairly sure we haven't felt the significant pangs of homesickness yet that come with intense trips like this because we've had these bouts of relaxing with our familiar people, even if the places are all new. We are indeed very lucky people to get to be so surrounded by love wherever we go, and that is not something we take for granted. 

It's not all glamour...sometimes your breakfast
cookin' spot is in actual garbage.
Ultimately, our trusty Element has done us well, and we are pleased with the set-up we have. There is something pretty fantastic about the routine of rolling into a free campsite in some national forest, cooking dinner, possibly sitting by the campfire for a few hours, and snuggling up for bed... and then being able to pack it all away into our box on wheels in the morning and continue onward. However, now that it's mid-November, both of us are willing to admit we're getting tired. The colder nights mean we're seeking shelter in bed earlier and earlier, and if I may say, I can't pee outside three times a night with these blustery Southern winds many more times while remaining sane. I think we planned this road trip for just the right amount of time. 

Though I think we'll be ready to be done sleeping out of the car pretty soon, overall, I've surprised myself with how natural the transition was into this simplified form of living. Occasionally I wish I had maybe a couple more sweaters to choose from, but that thought evaporates immediately when I find myself squinting through the dim light of the famous Carlsbad Caverns. We have a bed, and while it's small, we both fit. We have food, and the ability to cook. We have clothes and a means of transportation. Honestly, the only thing the Element is missing is a bathroom, and I suppose a heater.

About to see some CAVERNS!

Tonight, to stay warm and dry, we are staying for a second night in a youth hostel in New Orleans. I'd like to deviate from my narrative to insert a plug for this place; Atlas House on Magazine Street is great. It's a converted classic New Orleans house, with several dorm rooms as well as private room options. It's colorful and cozy and has a delightful energy. We only paid $13 a bed, which includes pancakes for breakfast. 

The mentioned hot springs camping location.
As I sit here on this antique velvet couch, listening to the sounds of twenty-somethings from France, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and Los Angeles playing Cranium in the communal kitchen where Andrew is caramelizing onions, I find myself thinking about all the different people we've had the pleasure to meet on this trip. It's incredible how once you're out there doing the thing, you become aware that there are people EVERYWHERE who are also doing the thing. Everyone we've talked to in this hostel has experience with Couchsurfing and Workaway, which are things we're planning on doing in Europe. Several weeks ago, while we soaked in a hot spring just east of Yosemite, we were joined by an Australian couple who were also living out of a small RV and enjoying a nomadic lifestyle. The next morning, at that same campsite, a family of five from Maine came by who were also roadtripping and living out of their van, eventually headed to Florida to move to a sailboat. 

Last night, we stood in a packed little bar in the French Quarter, listening to a New Orleans cover band and swaying to the music beside the friends we just made from our hostel. We love our Element, and we still have a few weeks (and at least 1,500 miles) to go before we head to Paris, but it feels like we are reaching a transition phase of our trip now, from boondocking to backpacking. These few weeks of sitting alone together by our many fires, surrounded by incredible American wilderness, have been emotionally restful. We got a lot from all the time spent just with our own thoughts and conversations, but we are both social beings, and we are excited to experience more of the world than just the gorgeous natural phenomenons; people are pretty amazing, too.

- J

The face of a man who needs more socializing...?




Comments

  1. I love your blog writing style <3
    I'm going to start car camping myself and was wondering how you found your free camp spots? I know about BLM land but any tips would be appreciated! I'm doing my first solo car camping trip for Thanksgiving but hope to do many more all around!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, so glad your coming to us for advice! We use a website, https://www.campendium.com/ , for much of our initial research. Once we have a place, we will google it to see if other people are mentioning it. Some places have been word of mouth, but for the most part we use that website. We have found our best free spots in National Forest. Best of luck to you! Don't hesitate to ask more questions, we don't know much but we like to help!

      Delete
  2. Great post. I am glad you have met so many adventurers like yourself. Part of enjoying the big, beautiful world is enjoying the people along the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes definitely! I think after our initial decompression phase, we are now prepared for some social hosteling and CouchSurfing.

      Delete
  3. You guys are our heros. Just saw you on I40 in NC. We love our Element too! 12/25/18

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh that's awesome! This just makes our hearts warm. Thank you!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

We Do, and We Did!

Greetings loved ones! Life never seems to slow down, but we are now about T-minus 3 weeks until our departure. Things are starting to piece together, and it is maybe a tiny bit sinking in that we are about to leave on this crazy adventure...

The biggest recent accomplishment was our FREAKING WEDDING. What a huge undertaking, and the whole thing was a fabulous reward for all our hard work! Those of you who attended or sent your love and support from far away will be hearing from us directly, but we still can't thank you all enough! So here is another thank you. It was an awesome party, we could not have hoped for a better time.

(Though you stuck us with way too many leftover chocolate frogs...)

For readers who weren't present, a sum up of the wedding looks like perfect weather for a short-and-sweet ceremony under a gorgeous willow tree overlooking Commencement Bay, followed by a dancing-heavy Harry Potter themed cocktail party. Andrew and I shut down the dance floor (as any go…

A New Home

Many things go into a planning a trip, especially one as extensive as ours, and yes, we have spent many hours looking over places to stay and sights to see... but nothing has been more pressing than readying our vehicle. Indeed, building a bed platform and camping system for our beloved 2004 Honda Element was one of the last things that we did. (Just behind getting "his and hers" travel wine glasses.)

Little did we know, getting a small car ready for an extended road trip with almost no motel stops is a real chore. All this time, it has been our intention to remove the seats from the back of the Element and build a bed/storage system enabling us to live in the car for the whole two months, minus some stops with family. Naturally, we hadn't really put much thought into this hypothetical bed platform, and our only real concept was a vague sketch, stored in my sieve-like brain, for something that may not work at all. As I've frequently been taught to expect, though, thi…

Story Time: The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

The morning dawned on our campsite, at the normal time mornings do, but unlike most mornings, instead of sleeping later than necessary and then having a slow, luxurious breakfast that takes until the afternoon to complete, we woke up with a chiming alarm at 7:30am. The air was cold—it had dropped to at least 40 degrees in the night—but we knew it would heat up to around 80 as the day wore on. We made a decision to do something we had not yet done in our micro-camper travels: we would return to this same campsite that evening again. Sleeping in the same spot twice, located about thirty minutes outside the Yosemite National Park, meant we could spend all day exploring by foot without worrying about searching for our next place of rest.
We had purchased our 7-day pass into Yosemite the day before, so once we were dressed and our camp tidied up, we made a relatively quick journey into the park. We drove around the valley for a short while, wondering where we ought to leave our car and begi…