I’m 3,011 miles, 6-states, and two-weeks into my epic 10,000+ mile road trip. I’m currently hunkered down in a Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe, California, while the rain pours down outside, catching up on the less glamorous parts of living on the road such as laundry, photo processing, and trying to get clean after a stretch on the road. I’ve seen some amazing things this past couple of weeks though and learned some important lessons. Overall I’m having a fantastic time and thrilled with the experience so far.
True to form, there have been a few misadventures along the way. The first occurred just before reaching my campsite in the Olympic National Forest on the very first day. I had been following a car on Highway 101 for a while and suddenly, there appeared to be some sort of commotion up ahead. There were two women on the road and three cars that were once headed our way pulled to the side of the road. The first woman was raising her hands up in a “stop” motion to the car ahead of me. That car stopped while I had already slowed way down much sooner. The woman then jumped on the car’s hood, while the car began to then take off, and then walked up onto the roof and sat down for a second before jumping off the trunk and heading toward the passenger side of my car. The other woman was chasing after her and yelling at the lead car to stop. Not wanting to have my car walked upon and still unsure what was happening, I veered to the left and passed the whole situation as quickly as I safely could. I heard the second woman who was chasing after the first woman yell to that first woman that she was going to call 9-1-1. I’m not sure what came of that whole situation but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. Quite the initiation into the first day of my road trip!
Later, while I was in southeastern Idaho, even though I had a half tank of gas when I passed a gas station, I almost ran out of gas before I found the next one. Apparently, the powers that be in that part of the state don’t believe in posting warning signs of the distance to the next services as other areas do. When I realized I was in trouble, Google would not connect but luckily I had just enough signal for Siri to point me toward the nearest gas station, 30-some miles away. My distance-to-empty gauge said I had a range of 40-some miles. As I got closer and closer to the gas station, I watched my range drop until about 10-miles from the gas station when it went blank and I started to panic. I repeated “please, please, please” out loud over and over and gripped the steering wheel tight as I kept driving, hoping I wouldn’t run out of gas. Fortunately, my gas level held out and I rolled into the gas station on fumes. Interesting side note, since the gas station was closed on the inside, I had to go across the street to the only other business that appeared open in that town – a bar with no cars out front. I opened the door and was met by the strong smell of cigarette smoke and loud, classic country music. I quickly found the odd proprietor unpacking a box and no patrons insight. I asked if I could use her bathroom and she pointed in the direction to go. While I walked across the room, I noticed a cat litter box and cat tree on that side of the room but no cat in sight. I have to say it is the strangest bar I have ever been in.
A campground, like many I am finding, I had hoped to stay at near Craters of the Moon in Idaho didn’t take reservations and was full by the time I got there. I wasn’t able to find another place for the night for another 2-hours worth of driving. I thought I had a lead on an RV spot 7-miles off the main highway at one point but unfortunately, that just brought me to a closed gas station with no RV park, although I did find a woman with a dog and her litter of puppies. I had no choice but to turn back and keep heading toward Twin Falls. At 8:30 PM, I finally rolled into the Motel 6 and ate my second meal of the day, over 12-hours later from breakfast. Needless to say, I never did see Craters of the Moon which is a shame because it looked like a cool place to photograph. In my search for places to stay along the way, I’ve also run into some sketchy RV parks. Some don’t have bathrooms, some appear to be in someone’s junky back yard, and others are just simply overpriced plots of grass next to freeways and airports. Not knowing where I’m staying each night has proven to be the biggest challenge so far on this trip. Most campgrounds do not allow you to make a reservation without 3 to 4 days’ notice and since I never know where exactly I’ll be in 3 to 4 days, I’m left seeking out the first-come, first-serve sites on a daily basis.
A week or so into the trip I discovered that mice can easily get into your car and your securely sealed tote and eat your food. Luckily I only lost a few pieces of bread and one banana. I stopped at a Super Walmart in Twin Falls, Idaho and picked up some lock/seal containers for my bread, cereal, snacks, etc. My food has since stayed intact but that doesn’t seem to stop the mice from coming in and trying to get to it, leaving fun piddles of urine and droppings on top of the containers and in the tote box. This is just one more thing to add to the dirtiness of living on the road.
While staying at a hotel in Alturas, California, I ran into a group of men who were also staying at the hotel, clearly some sort of laborers in town for a work project. One man, in particular, made me feel uneasy with his language, referring to me as “sweetheart” and asking if there was “room for two in my trailer” as well as asking how much I paid for Cole and the trailer which seemed inappropriate. He also made me uneasy with his unwanted hold-on-too-long handshake and then saying he hopes to see me around more. Apparently, my signals of not wanting to engage in any of this went unnoticed each time I went out into the parking lot. I was a bit afraid to walk Cole before I went to bed so I waited until around midnight or so and hoped they would be asleep when I went out there. Luckily, I was right. They were gone for the day before I got up the next day so I told the lady at the front desk I would be checking out a day early and why and she seemed completely unphased. I guess repeat business by that crew was more important than their solo-female customer’s safety and comfort.
Not only are the mosquitos plentiful in California, so are the bees, not to mention aggressive as well. Two days in a row I almost drove off the road because of bees that made their way into the car unbeknownst to me. One extremely large bee appeared next to my face on the driver’s side window as I flew down the road at 60+mph. I quickly rolled down the window hoping it would fly out but instead it fell down. I was unsure whether it was next to my leg on the seat or between the seat and the door so I lurched to the right, trying to keep the car on the road while I searched for the next safest place to pull over. Once I found a spot, which seemed like it took forever, I quickly threw the car in park and hopped out to locate the bee. I found it crawling up the door jam and with the help of a park brochure in the door swatted it out back where it belonged. The second incident happened while I was also flying down the road at 60+mph. This time I felt a tingle on my leg and when I looked down, I was unpleasantly surprised to find a bee crawling up my leg. Luckily I wasn’t towing the trailer at the time and found a spot to pull over quicker as I shook the bee off my leg. Once stopped, again, I quickly hopped out of the car to find the bee on my floormat walking around. I got it to crawl onto my notebook and relocated it to the ground on the side of the road.
The aggressive bees here in California are also making it difficult to do anything with food outside so I have resorted to not cooking and eating cold food in my car or hot food in restaurants. Some places where I stop to take pictures I never even get out of the car because the bees instantly start bouncing off my windows. Gas has also been really expensive here in California, over $4 per gallon, and I’ve been staying in hotels more frequently than expected due to the lack of shower facilities in the campgrounds throughout my trip so that’s throwing my budget a bit out of whack. I’ll be checking in on where I stand financially later today and adjusting my road trip accordingly, if necessary.
Cole and I were checking out the beach at Lake Almanor next to the campground we were staying at the other day. A lady with two dogs off-leash further down the beach grabbed her one down by the collar when we got closer. I told her Cole was friendly if her dog was. She said her dog was young, I’d guess around a year or so, and she said he was funny around other dogs…sometimes. She held onto him while he sniffed Cole and without warning, he bit Cole. Luckily, he either didn’t do it hard or it was because he got the extra skin around his face/neck but Cole didn’t yipe, he just reacted with aggression and tried lunging at the dog to fight back. Luckily we were both able to keep our dogs apart and went out separate ways. Sadly, that lady throughout the next couple days kept letting her dog run around off-leash and several times we came close to running into them again while walking around. Luckily I was keeping an eye out and was able to change direction when those close encounters came up. For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would let their dog off-leash in public places if they know it can be aggressive toward other dogs.
Finally, somewhere between Idaho and Oregon, I noticed a crack in my trailer. I had no idea whether it had any bearing on the structural integrity or not. When I got to the first gas station in Jordan Valley, Oregon, I asked the mechanic inside to take a look and give me his opinion. He took a quick look and told me it wasn’t anything to worry about. He suggested I stop at an RV sales place somewhere along my route and see if they can fix it or order a new piece. I continued on and then, when I got to the RV park in Rome that I was staying for the night, one of the maintenance people there took a more thorough look and explained in more detail that the piece is just cosmetic and it covers the frame of the trailer. He said it was nothing to worry about whatsoever. After the second confirmation, I felt more comfortable that my trailer was not going to suddenly fall apart somewhere on the road.
On a more positive note, I’ve met some really nice people along the way and seen some spectacularly beautiful areas of the country. From the Hoh Rainforest on the Washington Coast to the emerald blue water of the mountain lakes in the North Cascades. Wide-open spaces in the Oregon desert with sagebrush as far as the eye can see and not much else. I’ve seen boiling mud pots and steam vents at Lassen Volcanic National Park and the geological phenomenon of Fort Rock and Hole-in-the-Ground. I’ve seen beautiful sunsets over lakes and a variety of both wildlife and farmed animals. I’ve seen many forests surround the thousands of miles of road from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and California. Cole has been good company and we even celebrated his 11th birthday our first week on the road complete with gifts (treats), a hot dog cake, and a birthday hat. My Spotify playlist created with the input of friends and family has been a nice soundtrack to the scenery and it’s been fun to listen to whole albums for a change. I’m quickly becoming a pro at backing up my trailer, something that was giving me a lot of anxiety before I embarked upon this trip. The trailer is quite the talk of the town wherever I go. So many people have come up to me and asked about it and how I like it. It seems lots of people have considered getting one but ultimately decided they needed something bigger but lucky for us it’s the perfect size for me and Cole.
The weather has mostly cooperated with my plans but due to a week of rain in the forecast, I had to cut Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks from the trip. I’ll have to be careful as I continue south to keep an eye on the forecasted high temperatures, anything above 85 or so is a no-go for Cole. Overall though, things are going well. Cole and I are healthy, I’m even getting a nice tan, something this Oregonian hasn’t gotten much of these past five years. My car and trailer are in good shape, and we haven’t hit any crossing animals on the road or been hit by any other cars. Tomorrow I head out to continue on the next segment of this journey with the lessons learned from this first part of the adventure. I’m looking forward to checking off a few bucket list places like Mono Lake, Yosemite National Park, and seeing the Sailing Stones in Death Valley among seeing old friends in Arizona and Colorado. All in all, I’m excited to see where the road takes us in the next weeks to come.