A monthly travel journal from two full time RV nomads about the reality of RV living and full-time travel.
I have always loved January.
When the kids were little and we were in that time of life when December was too busy to breathe (school performances, holiday parties, teacher gifts, craft projects, family gatherings, work Christmas parties, SO MANY presents to buy and wrap, cookie baking, Christmas tree decorating, birthday celebrations, and on and on and on), January was a welcome opportunity to rest.
We used to dub the day after Christmas "pajama day". It was the excuse we all needed to stay inside in our pajamas, eating candy, playing with all our new toys, and taking lots of naps. (Honestly, I would have dubbed the entire month of January "pajama month" if I could have.)
Our holiday season is considerably more manageable these days, and I no longer need the whole month of January to recover. But, I still love this time of year, primarily for 2 reasons:
- It's the month that kicks off a new year of travel.
- It's the month we get to escape winter.
Funny that. As a Colorado native, I never minded winter. Now that I can escape it, I desperately want to.
This past week Colorado was hit with snow storms and sub zero temperatures. Meanwhile, I am writing this from sunny San Diego, and I'm not mad about it.
RV Life Perk: Escaping Winter in SoCal
Desert Hot Springs, CA
We visited Desert Hot Springs for the first time in July of 2015. It was our first long motorcycle trip and the plan was to ride from Colorado to Southern California, then up the coast to San Francisco.
In a little town right outside of Palm Springs, some long time friends of Steve's family owned a hot springs spa. Their names are Jeff and Judy Bowman, and in 2015 we didn't know them very well. But Jeff is a motorcycle guy, and asked if we wanted to stay at their spa for a couple of days before heading up the coast.
We took him up on that offer and fell in love with the place. So much so that we've been back 11 times since.
These days, instead of heading to Desert Hot Springs on our motorcycle, we bring our entire house with us. We've gone from packing light, to packing everything. 😂
The ground was covered in snow and ice when we left Colorado on January 7th. (Ever tried to ride a motorcycle through snow, over icy roads, and up a ramp into an RV? Zero stars. Do not recommend.)
But, it was sunny and warm in Desert Hot Springs.
Highlights from our 2 weeks in Desert Hot Springs
- Shoutout to Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a membership program that offers access to thousands of wineries, breweries, golf courses, farms, and other local businesses who welcome RVers to park on their land for an overnight stay. On our way out to California, we stopped for a night at Starr Brothers Brewing Company, a Harvest Host location in Albuquerque. Not only did Starr Brothers have a huge lot for us to park in, the food and beer were fantastic.
- Cooking with Judy. Our friend Judy is a fabulous cook and THE pasta making queen. A few years ago, she taught me how to make fresh pasta - How To Make Homemade Pasta with Judy - so while we were there, the two of us worked on a Ravioli recipe that I can't wait to share with you later this year. She also spoiled us with many loaves of homemade sourdough bread and other goodies. AND, we made a giant pot of Cioppino that was positively fabulous.
- Dirt bike riding with Jeff. As I mentioned earlier, Jeff is a motorcycle guy. He rides a Victory road bike and two dual sport bikes. Steve and Jeff spent a Saturday on the dual sports riding all over the desert. During the ride, as Jeff put it, Steve and the bike decided to take a little nap in the sand. 😂 The good news is that he was not hurt, just a bit sore for a couple of days.
- Dinner at Copley's. We spent a delicious evening out with friends eating dinner at Copley's on Palm Canyon. The restaurant is housed in Cary Grant's former 1940s guesthouse, has a gorgeous patio, and fantastic food.
- Recipes I worked on while in Desert Hot Springs: Crispy Corn Tortilla Quesadillas, Ravioli Stuffed with Mushrooms and Swiss Chard, Cream of Broccoli Soup with Vegan Cheese Sauce (recipe to be published very soon!), Chocolate Brownie Loaf Cake, and extra thick and gooey Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies.
San Diego, CA
We love San Diego, but who doesn't? Last year, we spent two weeks here in February and it wasn't nearly long enough, so this year we're back for 6 weeks.
We are staying at the San Diego KOA, which we love for several reasons...
- We are roughly 10 minutes away downtown San Diego and places like Coronado Beach and Sunset Cliffs. Close enough that we can hop on the motorcycle and get to a beach by sunset any night we want, even on workdays. Or, head to City Tacos on Pacific Beach, our favorite place to get fish tacos.
- This particular KOA is super clean and well maintained. The staff are many, and they are accommodating and friendly.
- The park is a vacation destination kind of place. One thing we've learned about ourselves in the last 20 months of full time travel is that we love being in places where everyone is on vacation. There's something fun about the energy of "vacation" parks... Everyone is just so happy to be here.
- Quiet during the week, lively on the weekends. Because this park is a vacation destination, it tends to clear out during the week and then fill up on the weekends. We like this aspect as well. During our work week, the place is mostly quiet. But, during the weekends, people are outside grilling food, sitting around campfires, riding bicycles, and just having a great time. It's a fun place to live for a while.
Last weekend, we rode the motorcycle to Ocean beach to watch surfers and eat sushi. This weekend we plan to do a longer ride, and in a couple of weeks, we will take off for a few days and ride up the coast to San Francisco.
And, our girls come out to visit at the end of February (hooray, hooray!!!!).
San Diego is a lovely place to spend a chunk of the winter, and we are grateful to be here.
RV Life: 3 Storage Solutions that Help Us Get the Most Out of Our Tiny Kitchen
I had the privilege this week of writing an article for the July issue of Rootless Living Magazine, a digital and print publication written for digital nomads and full time RVers.
The article focuses on cooking and baking in a tiny kitchen and writing it helped me consolidate some of the things I've learned about how to make the most use of space when you have very little space to spare.
Maximizing the use of space is something that RVers excel at. I am constantly learning from other nomads who post photos of their creative storage solutions on social media.
5 ways we maximize the space in our RV kitchen
# 1. Utilize the space under cabinets. I didn’t want to give up mugs and wine glasses but didn’t have the cupboard space for either and wasn’t sure how to keep the glasses from breaking on travel days.
The solution was to hang them underneath our upper cabinets. The mugs are suspended on simple hooks (see photo below). The wine glass rack is a genius design, created by my talented brother. The rack holds 8 bottles of wine and 6 glasses, all nestled in felt-lined compartments that keep them secure and protected during travel.
We have broken several wine glasses since moving into our RV but none while traveling. 😊
#2. A flat spice rack built on the outside of one of the cabinets. Another genius design built by my brother.
When we first moved into our RV, I had no idea what to do with spices, so I just dumped them into a basket that I kept on the floor where this gorgeous spice rack now lives. Finding the spice I needed was a huge hassle so I asked my brother if he might be able to come up with a solution.
You can see the spice rack on the wall next to the oven in the photo below.
#3. A magnetized knife strip.
It's a little thing, but being able to grab the knife you need when you need it is kind of a big deal to me. I didn't want to take up any more counter space with a knife block, so Steve installed a magnetized strip right above the stove.
#4. Adding a couch and ottoman with storage. Soon after moving into our 5th wheel, we removed the typical “RV style” couch and replaced it with a couch and ottoman from Home Reserve.
Besides loving the look and feel of our new sofa, each seat, and the ottoman, includes storage. If you lift the cushions of our sofa, you'll find sparkling water, bottles of tonic water, juice, and ginger beer, the hose and attachments to our vacuum, several baking dishes, and my food processor.
People always laugh when I tell them that our ottoman is full of baking supplies, but it’s 100% true!
#5. Convenient storage for a lot of flatware.
We've done a lot of entertaining since moving into our 5th wheel. Much more than I would have thought. We do not have space for plates and bowls for a crowd, so when feeding more than 6 people, we opt for paper.
But, I hate plastic utensils for so many reasons. So, we have flatware for 36. Because I don't want to give up an entire drawer to flatware, we keep them in a wicker container on the countertop, next to the stove.
This also makes it easy for guests to load up their plates and grab the utensils while they're at it. Or, if we're eating outside, I can just move the whole thing out there.
The Tools Of Our Lives: What a Fine Mess You've Gotten Me Into
Let me tell you about something called a macerator. This device is pretty awesome, but also a little gross.
First, the setup: One thing that you have to get used to when RVing is dealing with waste.
We have pretty big rig, so we have 5 total waste tanks: 3 grey tanks and 2 black tanks. Three of the tanks are up front, attached to the washing machine, the shower, the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, and the toilet in the master bath.
Each tank holds about 35-40 gallons of waste, which is a decent amount. In the back of the rig we have much smaller black and grey tanks that are there for the sole purpose of holding the waste from our second, very tiny bathroom.
When we are at an RV park or campground with sewer hookups, we just connect hoses to the sewer tank and that's that. But, if we are boondocking or dry camping, the waste tanks just hold onto the waste until we do something with it. (What is Boondocking? Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about boondocking.)
The macerator allows us to stay for weeks, or even months, in a location without sewer hookups, without having to haul the RV to a dump station every time the waste tanks are full.
It's truly become a somewhat invaluable part of our life. Here's how it works:
The macerator connects to the output of our sewer system and will suck out all the waste, grind it up, and send it out of a normal garden hose.
What makes it so convenient for us is a 40 gallon portable waste tank that sits in the bed of our truck. Having the ability to pump the waste into that portable tank means all we have to do is drive the truck to the dump station, not the whole rig.
We love spending weeks in places without sewer hookups and the idea of packing everything up, dumping, and then coming back and setting up all over again, just wasn’t working for us.
Also you wouldn’t believe how often we find a dump station that is just too small for our 43-foot RV. The macerator and portable waste tank solve all the problems.
One other time the macerator came in handy, was just after the Thanksgiving weekend. We had 30 something people in and out of our RV over the course of 6 days, including a lot of little kids.
When everyone left and I was cleaning out the tanks, I discovered that we had a giant clog. I mean.... GIANT.
After trying several thing to break up the clog, I hooked up the macerator used it to just suck everything out. Worked like a charm.
And, just to throw in a funny story about a sewer mishap...
When we first moved into our RV, some friends of ours said that everyone has a sewer horror story. We had ours right out of the gate.
The very first night we spent in our RV (in any RV), we took it to an RV park about 40 minutes away from the dealership we had just purchased it from. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the park and I didn’t know what I was doing, so I decided to wait until morning to set up the sewer lines.
Little did we know that all of the waste valves were in the open position and the cap on one of the sewer outlets was off.
Throughout the night, we used the shower, sinks, and both toilets, and the next morning I realized that most of our waste was just dumping out onto the ground. The open line to the waste tank that did have the cap attached was completely full of waste. So, pulling off the cap to empty it would cause a literal shit show.
I went to a local hardware store so I could buy a bucket and dish gloves to empty the full sewer line and, and a hose sprayer to spray the pad down. I'm sure there were plenty of RVers in that park shaking their heads at the newbies.
Fingers crossed this was our one and only sewer horror story... but it probably won't be.
What We're Reading and Listening To
I read three books in January that I would highly recommend:
- The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last Chance Journey Across America
- Crying in H Mart: A Memoir
- 100 Years of Lenni and Margo
The Ride of Her Life chronicles the journey of 63 year-old Annie Wilkins, a farmer from Maine who decides to ride her horse to California in 1954. The author does an excellent job of helping the reader get to know Annie and what she went through on her journey, while includes a lot of interesting history along the way.
In Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner writes about growing up in an Asian American household in Oregon, and her complicated relationship with her Korean born mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer when Michelle was just 25. The book touched me on many levels while sparking my interest in Korean food.
I am not quite finished with 100 Years of Lenni and Margo, but I'm completely enamored with the main characters. The author tells the story of 17 year-old Lenni who lives on the Terminal Ward at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital and her relationships with Margot, an 83-year-old fellow patient.
I wish with all my heart that both of these characters were real and that they were my friends.
Audiobooks and Podcasts
The very first sentence grabs your attention with "The moon blew up suddenly and without warning." It's an interesting take on how the world mobilizes to find ways to save humanity before the resulting pieces of the moon break up and cause devastation.
Character development is great, but if you aren't interested in bouts of technical information about orbits, physics and mechanical engineering, it might not be for you.
I (Rebecca) just finished listening to 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. This book really met me where I'm at right now, reinforcing my thoughts about only spending time on the things I feel are most important and abandoning the rest.
Which is a fabulous segue into a fabulous podcast I just discovered....
A friend of mine suggested that I listen to an episode with Kate Bowler titled "What to Do With Our Short, Precious Lives" and I just loved it.
In the episode, Kate talks about coming to terms with the fact that none of us are ever going to be able to do everything we want to do. That's just the truth. We know it, we just don't always like to acknowledge it.
As a remedy to all the trite little lies masked as motivational phrases that we like to toss around, she said something I found so refreshing...
"Some things are possible."
Not everything. Not all things. Not most things. Possibly not many things. But, some things are possible. You can do some things.
Now, I've discovered that most people don't love this. It does not make me the most popular person at the party. Tony Robbins is not going to read this and ask me to step up to the podium. 😂
So far, every time I've brought this idea up in conversation it's met with serious resistance and a strong desire in the other person to encourage me back to a belief in unlimited potential.
But, the truth lights me up, and Kate speaks the truth. I cannot do everything. I cannot go everywhere and have every experience. I cannot accomplish every goal I'd like to set for myself. I cannot be every woman. And, seriously, who even wants to???
But, I CAN do some things. I can have some experiences, and accomplish some goals. So, they better be experiences and goals that are meaningful to me.
As Oliver Burkeman writes in 4000 Weeks, this is how I’ve chosen to spend the portion of time that is my life that I had no right to expect in the first place.
And, I can let go of any pressure to do more than that. Hallafuckinglujah.
Full Time RV Life FAQs
A: Both terms refer to camping without any hookups - no water, sewer, or electricity.
The difference is that boondocking refers to camping on land without a developed campground, generally on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
Dry camping can occur on developed and maintained campgrounds and state parks.
For more information, here's a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about boondocking.
A: Every time we post photos of our kitchen we get this question. The big silver thing on our countertop that looks like a giant coffee pot is a Berkey Water Filter.
We LOVE our Berkey. The filter removes bacteria and viruses that conventional filters cannot. This is important because we cannot always be certain that the water we're filling our tanks with is safe.
A: Living in a small space is actually something we love. It's not for everyone. But, the simplicity of owning fewer things really works for us. We also love the challenge of maximizing the space we have to make it work for us.
Since moving into our 5th wheel 21 months ago, we've changed and altered and remodeled nearly every square inch. The result is a compact 400 square feet that includes everything we need for our daily lives. We are able to comfortably live and work from our RV in any location and haven't had to "give up" anything that's truly important to us in the process.
Do you have questions for us? Comments, concerns, or recommendations? Please leave a comment below!