The first month of our 90-day van life trial was up. Things were starting to get real. It was becoming more like regular life, with trials and tribulations and sometimes a BUNCHA drama (mostly coming from the vanabus with her, “mechanical issues”).
I said I would post this blog as one full month. When I saw the length of it, I was like woah. That’s a lot. So, for your sake (and mine), I have broken this portion of the trip into 2 parts. Would you ever go on a 90-day road trip? Would you ever commit to living in a vanabus? We would love your advice, inquiries and general banter in that box down at the bottom!
Van Life Day 31, 32:
Camping next to the Rio Grande River was nice for a few days. We enjoyed catching up on work, looking for new work, writing and of course smoking! We spent our evenings cooking for each other and watching great movies, snuggled in our California King bed.
One night when we were all snuggled in, and very asleep, we woke up to see our breath. It was freezing in the vanabus. Our electricity was out. We knew our 50 amp wire was giving out, shoot it was already duct taped and you could hear it make a popping sound on occasion, but now it was really going.
Damien spent at least 30 minutes trying to get it back on, but to no avail. We decided to plug a heater into an extension cord and continued to sleep. Luckily, the wire was just hot in the morning and we didn’t burn anything down. Go ahead, tell us how naughty we are in the comments below. Or, share your own electrical horror stories.
Van Life Day 33:
Time to go outside. Today we went to Alameda Public space to skate our brains out. We haven’t been skating as much as I thought we would, so today was a great day for just that. We took to the trails with some weed and some water, searching for a little fun and some good sesh views. We brought along the drone and got a great video of us at the river.
Booger loves to play in the sand, so he took this opportunity to get his freshly washed and cut hair full of wet sand. He gives the cutest looks when playing this way. Such a fun little pup.
We ended the night with Texas Hold Em and a couple of rounds of beers in the Cabella’s parking lot. I am loving our home on wheels!
Van Life Day 34: Upon waking up, we went and parked at Lowe’s. We had been planning on doing some work on Serendipity and we wanted to get an early start.
After getting some coffee and having a little smoke, we got to work. Damien worked on the generator, and tried to figure out why it was turning on by itself. I worked on fixing our plug and wiring. I cut off the wire a few feet up and took off the plug. Then, I stripped the wiring down and put it on the new plug, screwing it all into place. I put the wiring back into it’s box and felt like I really accomplished something. We still haven’t tested it, so we will see if it actually worked. Damien wasn’t so successful. The generator is still trying to start on its own. He has narrowed it down to a piece on the control board and so now all we need to do is order the control board.
Van Life Day 35: It was Monday and we decided to stay in the Target parking lot overnight, so we could get up and have our first official Travel and Vanabus meeting at the Starbucks right inside. When we dry camp, we run anything electrical solely off our secondary battery, or the house battery. Because of our back up solar power, we can hang out in the vanabus for about 3 days with the ability to charge our phones and laptops, use our water pump and run our refrigerator. But, after that, we have to plug in or take a drive (the vehicle’s alternator charges the secondary battery). Our fridge was still running, but we were nearing our 3 days and it was time to charge up.
It was also time to charge up on our cannabis supply. So, we decided we should head back to Santa Fe to meet our new connection. Just in the suburbs of Albuquerque, the vanabus puttered to a stop. We thought we were out of gas. Again. Our fuel tank sensor isn’t working, so we have just been working out how far we can go based on how much gas we put in the vanabus and how many miles per gallon we think we can get.
Longboarding to the gas station was actually pretty fun. It was just a mile down the road and it was pretty early in the afternoon still. Damien put the gallon of gas into the tank and we tried her again. Nothing. She turned over, but wouldn’t start.
Damien spent the next several hours going over the coach, checking out fuel lines that he could get to without putting her up on the ramps. He checked the fuel pump and it wasn’t working, so we went and bought one, as well as some new fuel filters. He installed all 3 items.
That didn’t work either. We debated on getting a hotel since it was getting dark and we were off the road and in the dirt. In the 6 hours we had already been there, no one had stopped. Not even the police. The speed limit was 35 mph and the traffic was slow. We spent the night.
Van Life Day 36: Sleep is such a good way to generate great ideas. Damien woke up and got right to it. He found a busted fuse and replaced that. Now we can hear the fuel pump going. Excited, we went straight to the carburetor bowl and pushed on the gas pedal to see if any gas squirted out. Nothing. Saddened, Damien kept up the search.
Around lunchtime, we finally decided to call AAA. They gave us a tow to Advance Auto Parts, our favorite parts store and we jumped into a Lyft to the airport to pick up a $21 a day rental car.
We had plans for the night and we didn’t want to miss them.
It was dark when we pulled up the horseshoe driveway. A giant glass chandelier greeted us when we opened the door and a grand entrance smiled upon us as we walked in. We spent the next 45 minutes going through the 3 story, 4 bedroom, 5 bathroom home. The top floor was almost an art gallery, with completely unique pieces, all of them lit just perfectly. The basement had a huge projector and comfy couches for movie night (that would have been our chill zone if we spent a 2nd night here). Our favorite part? The indoor pool! (Next time you’re in Albuquerque, stay there: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12508970.)
That’s right, this home has an indoor pool! We checked in with our Airbnb sponsor, Victoria and tried not to gush on her stupendous home too much before ordering pizza, getting in the shower and heading straight for that pool.
We spent the rest of the night in the pool area. It had chairs for sitting, a bathroom and a sauna. There was a door to the backyard, which gave us easy seshing action. A couple of hours after entering that room, we finally decided to jump into the pool. Naked!
Van Life Day 37:
Waking up in the master bedroom of this home kind of felt like I was back in Houston. The bedroom was huge, the floors were cold and walking into the bathroom made me feel like a princess. The hot pink Jacuzzi tub was just begging for me to get in.
Soon, it was time to say goodbye to this stunning home and head back to our vanabus. But, not before smoking our last bowl in the backyard and remembering we didn’t have any more flower. We took the quick 2-hour round trip to Santa Fe and got back into Albuquerque with smiles on our faces.
The closer we got the where we parked the vanabus, the more we had to control our breathing. I reached for Damien’s hand and both of our palms were sweating as we approached Central Avenue. We were worried. Maybe the vanabus wouldn’t be there. Maybe the windows would be broken or the tires would be gone. We never left our Serendipity anywhere we didn’t know and trust.
She was fine. As soon as we got there, we changed our clothes and got outside. I was totally pumped because I was going to help with this project. We tied the rental car up to the vanabus. I think I will skip the rental car company’s name since we pulled this crazy stunt, but… we pulled the vanabus up on the ramps with the rental car. It worked just fine and we could get underneath and take down the gas tank.
While Damien looked at what needed to be done, I hooked up our dead house battery to the running rental car. We couldn’t start the vanabus or plug her in, so our house battery was so dead, the refrigerator wouldn’t work.
At the end of the day, we had the tank dropped and the rental car back at the airport.
Van Life Day 38:
We fixed the vanabus! A couple of new lines, blowing out of another and she was running like a champ. It was time to tackle the feat of putting that gas tank back on. That took the rest of the day.
Van Life Day 39:
We are still putting on the gas tank this morning. Damien found a kinked hose and had to fix that, but was done around noon. We warmed her up and was ready to go.
It was finally time to leave Albuquerque. We only drove about an hour before we stopped to plug in for the next couple of nights at Dancing Eagle Casino. Laying in the dirt, underneath the vanabus with gas everywhere leaves one very dirty. The house battery was deader than a doorknob and we were exhausted from the fuel system work.
We plugged in and nothing came on. My plug work didn’t work. We had to start over. Disconnect the battery, cut the cord, bare the wires, attach them and screw everything back together. This time, Damien helped me and we got the plug into place faster and much more secure. To top that, it even worked! I think we are learning what it really means to be a team these days. And dang are we good at it!
After some really good showers (Damien said it is the dirtiest he has EVER been), it was time for some rest. We really deserved it.
Van Life Day 40:
40 days. We have been on the road for 40 days. It doesn’t feel long enough yet.
Relaxing is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t know if it’s an adult thing, or what, but I really enjoy laying around doing nothing. This is what these days were all about. And in the vanabus, it’s the little things that count. The ability to take a hot shower, cook a good meal, have space to work and plenty of room to sleep. Those are the things that make life feel luxurious in the vanabus.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like we are moving fast enough. I feel like someone could call us home and we would have no reason to say no because we are only 7 hours away. Other times, I feel like we are really doing it. Like we are actually living the van life!
Van Life Day 41:
It was time to move west. We took the vanabus on Highway 117 and it was one of the prettiest drives we have taken in our lives. There were black lava swirly rock formations with ferocious cracks here and there, huge mesas erupting right next to the road with strange coloring between each of its layers and mountains sprinkled with snow off in the distance. And our 1973 GMC RV, our vanabus, performed like a champ.
We pulled up to High Country Alpaca Ranch early afternoon and were instantly pumped with the choice we made. This would be our first night of using Boondockers Welcome. We paid a $30 fee for the year and have access to free RVing spots. Some hosts just have a piece of land you can park on, while others have electric, water, dump stations or Alpacas!
Carolyn got us set up and showed us her cute shop that has so many alpaca things, I need to go back before we leave. I know I need an alpaca something!
We plugged in and let P-Moe play with their pups while we hung out, puffing on some red haired buds and watching the Walking Dead, for the rest of the day. This is the life!
Van Life Day 42:
Still learning what 50 amp, 30 amp and 15 amp plugs can do. We are on a 15 amp one now and have figured out (that is by tripping the circuit breaker) we can run the coffee pot and one heater on low. Or, we can run both heaters on low.
Up early, we went for a hike at the ranch. The family pup accompanied us up the steep hills, he and PMo zig-zagging their way through the steep grades, Damien and I unable to keep up. We made it to the top of the long hill and could see the vanabus from the top. Ready for a break, the bowl was packed and the drone was pulled out. A great last morning in New Mexico.
Plans for the day?
- Head to the Alpaca shop for the finger puppets.
- Hang with the Alpacas.
- Drive to Arizona.
- Do some laundry.
- Find a place to sleep for the night.
Van Life Day 43:
We did everything on our list yesterday, except the laundry. Hey, who needs clean clothes when you’re on an epic road trip anyway? Not us obviously. Haha.
Pulling into Show Low was a bit of a letdown as we just didn’t feel a welcoming vibe from the townies. We grabbed a couple of things from the grocery store and some coffee from Starbucks and were ready to leave town. We hunkered down for the night and tried to be as incognito as possible. We pulled out of Show Low early in the morning and only gassed up and grabbed another cup of coffee before heading down/up the mountains into the Phoenix area.
The vanabus did a great job! We drove up and down some major hills for over 2 hours, with a little break in the Tonto Mountains for a smoke break and a cool down. Other than that, she soared through the mountains like a champ. Damien’s work has really held well. I am so proud of my guy.
We decided to boondock in front of the casino in Ft. McDowell for the night. We pulled over to the hotel parking lot and for the first time since we bought Serendipity in Florida, felt the heat. We have been cold (or in the warm coach while it is freezing) for months now. It is a welcome change. Definitely an adjustment, but still a welcome one.
We sat around and had a couple of beers and smoked on our good ganja during the hot afternoon just staring out of the windows. Pleased with our progression, we talked about how far we’d come, some of our favorite moments and where we are heading next.
Within the first 30 minutes, we saw them. There were at least two dozen of them. They were just walking through the middle of the parking lot. Wild horses! They were so beautiful and gracious in their movements, it was a beautiful sight to see.
We started shooting right away. I even came outside with my Nikon to get some up close shots. They kept moseying on by. We oohed and ahhed over them while they just looked right past us as though they’d seen this a hundred times. Another onlooker came by and asked if this was normal. We kind of shrugged and said we think so, pointing at the poop all over the parking lot. She hardly said a word as she walked away, as entranced as we were with it all.
After the beers and bud, it was time to get some food in our bellies. So, we headed to the all you can eat buffet in the casino. It was actually really good. The fruits and veggies were fresh. The meats were on point and there was a good variety of desserts. After all of that, we were ready to crash. And we did.
Van Life Day 44:
We started our day with breakfast and some work at the hotel’s restaurant. Sitting outside in the morning is so nice. We were there a couple of hours, getting things done with the free wi-fi before heading back to the vanabus, just out in the parking lot.
We lounged around for a good part of the afternoon, getting bored out of our minds. We decided to finally get up and take our longboards out for a spin. Out and back in less than an hour, we were hot and ready to chill.
Van Life Day 45:
We woke up not sure of how we wanted to spend the day. We were getting warm and it was only 9 a.m. We are running low on the fire and our house battery was on E too, plus it was time to dump. Feeling grimy and warm, we were ready to plug in again.
We got to West World before noon. It really looked like, what I imagine, the entrance to the TV show, “West World.” The entrance had two horse statues and everything. I was like, ‘maybe it really does exist.’
Alas, it is really Scottsdale’s fairgrounds. Still, pretty darn interesting. There are horses everywhere (no wild ones though). From show horses with long tails and funny looking manes to real rodeo horses, there must be some kind of event going on around here. There are also almost 400 RV sites here, like a little town. A little cowboy, West World type town!
We met up with a friend I met in Denver and who’d moved to Phoenix. I love how Instagram (and social media in general) can help keep people connected. Sometimes, I just feel like I am so awkward and so it is hard for me to reach out to people through text or phone. It is so much easier for me to reach out in response to someone’s words or an image. Then, when I am in the same town as they are in, I can see their bright and shining face.
Knowing people from all over the world that consume cannabis is pretty awesome too. It is because of Instagram, High Times and Chalice Cups that we have such an abundant family of connoisseurs. I feel as though I could go almost anywhere and would have no problem getting bud if I just looked through my contact list. I guess this trip will be a bit of an experiment in that sense as well. New Mexico and Arizona have kept us well supplied thus far.
The day was almost over before we realized we were half way through our 90 day trip. It was then I knew that this van life, this vanabus life, was just beginning for us. We were already in a strange routine, not one I can explain exactly, but yet it was a routine. We even have different routines based on whether we have full electric capabilities verses when we don’t. We are almost a well-oiled machine when it comes to getting things done together. We don’t have specific duties really (except Damien fixes all the mechanical things), but we know what needs to get done and we do it. Sometimes, without even talking to each other.
Even Booger has been settling in nicely. He’s such a versatile and adventurous guy, I’m not all that surprised. As soon as we begin to stir in the mornings, he gets out of his little bed and comes to snuggle with us. We eventually get up and he stays in his newly found warm spot, sometimes for hours.
As soon as he decides to get up, he does his morning yoga (downward and upward dog are his favorite) and goes right over to the door to be let out. In Denver, he would generally only ask to be let out once a day (I guess he understood the hassle of the elevator and going through the lobby and such to get out). Now, he wants to go out for a quick moment in the morning, a nice walk in the afternoon and will get restless and whiny if we don’t do something physical at least every other day. It is so cute.
I feel at home, but in a very different way than I ever have. It is harder to live on the road than it is to live in a home, no doubt. We have to dump our waste every so often. We have to turn on our hot water heater and wait for the water to warm up, only to take a quick shower before running out again. We have to make up our bed every day, so we can sit on the couch. We have to turn on pumps and fill up the toilet before using it. The vanabus gets hot. The vanabus gets cold. Somehow though, living this way is ever so fulfilling. Like I’ve earned my hot shower, the warm food, the California King bed, even the cross breeze through the windows.
There’s more to it than that though. There’s also the freedom we now have. We can leave the town we’re in whenever we want. We will never miss another family celebration! We are able to work to strive for the success we want in our professional lives while on the road. We can pick the climate we like best and chase it all around the continent if we want.
This is going to be more than a 90 day trial. This is going to be our lives. Me, Damien, our Booger, cannabis and the vanabus.