Category Archives: RV Life

What Are You Reading?

Back in February when we were just starting our trip, our friend Sean O’Shaughnessey sent us a list of possible blog topics.  When I feel inspired to write, I pull out his questions and pick one.  Sean wrote:

You are both quite intelligent but I don’t know if you have a hobby of reading – any good books that you have started now that you are care free?

As far as the “both quite intelligent” part of Sean’s question, Timm is indeed brilliant.  As for me, let’s just say tenacity, determination and old fashioned hard work can obscure intellectual deficiencies.  Regardless, I do enjoy reading.

I read books in both traditional book form and electronically on our iPad. For the electronic books, I borrow them from the wonderful public library system.  I have 3 library cards: Boone County, Kenton County and the Cincinnati Public Library.  Here are the books I’ve read during this trip.


Why We Are Selling Our RV

My friend Sean asked me why we will be selling our RV after our trip is over.  The simple answer is because we will be finished using it.

Our RV is for sale!


Our Typical Day

Even though we are visiting a new park every few days, and each day brings a new experience, over time we have adopted a routine that suits us well for life on the road.  Routines are not a bad thing.  They bring predictability, efficiency and comfort to what could be a very unpredictable, stressful trip.

Theresa, Timm, Darby and Shadow in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

In general we have three types of days: 1) Hiking Days, when we remain camped in one place and spend the day hiking in the nearby park.  Of course, these are the best days of all and the reason why we are on this trip.  2) Travel to Park Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the next park.  It would be nice if we could just teleport ourselves from one park to the next, but unfortunately we have to deal with 21st century technology and drive our RV there.  3) Come Down From the Mountain Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the nearest town so that we can restock supplies, do laundry, pay bills, run errands, etc.  These are also known as Reality Days.  We try to keep these days to a minimum.

Of course to keep life interesting, some days we mix up our routine, for example by hiking in the morning and driving in the afternoon, hiking on our driving days, visiting a city and doing something “touristy,” or by going to dinner and a movie.  But in general, following are the three typical types of days on our trip:


Found: An Ax!

My favorite find of the trip: an ax! I found it at a campsite in Olympic National Park where someone had accidentally left it behind. This whole trip, I’ve wanted an ax for splitting wood and kept telling myself I didn’t really need it because most of the wood we get is in small enough pieces.  However, there were a few campgrounds in the Yukon that gave away free wood and said “BYOA,” Bring Your Own Ax.  We heard people splitting wood all about the campground and I was envious, wishing I had an ax to BYOA.

Yesterday, I FOUND one!  We split a few pieces of wood last night for our campfire.  It’s going to take some practice to get good at hitting the same spot more than once but by the end, I was starting to figure it out.  Timm got into the wood splitting act too.  It was fun!

Here’s Shadow modeling the ax.  He has no opposable thumbs so he didn’t try his paw at wood splitting.

Shadow likes the ax because it means more roasted marshmellows!

Zipping Through Canada

Coast Mountains as seen from the Cassiar Highway

For one of the few times on our trip, we were on a tight schedule.  It was early August, and we had just made a deal to sell our house.  We had to travel from Alaska down through Canada to Seattle in just 10 days, so that Theresa could catch a plane back to Kentucky to close on the sale of our house and move our possessions into storage. 

To avoid storing the RV and boarding the dogs, and to save money, we decided that I wouldn’t return to Kentucky with Theresa.  We expected that Theresa would have to call, text and email me frequently to discuss the move and closing, so it was important that Theresa fly out from somewhere in the USA, since phone and Internet prices are outrageous in Canada.  We could’ve stayed in Alaska, but we had been there for well over a month, and that would’ve been a much longer and more expensive flight for Theresa, so we decided that Seattle was best.

There weren’t quite as many parks to visit on our route from Alaska to Seattle through western British Columbia, as there were on our route north through the Canadian Rockies.  But we realized we’d still have to bypass a bunch of neat parks to make our schedule. 

We calculated that just the driving itself would take 5 days at top speed.  For the most part, the Canadian highways on which we’d be driving were two-lane twisty roads through the mountains.  So we expected we could drive at most 350 miles per day, and that turned out to be correct.  Our plan was to drive for 5 consecutive days down to southern British Columbia, stopping briefly or spending the night in some of the smaller parks, then spend the balance of our time in one large park, which we chose to be Garibaldi Provincial Park.

To be honest, we didn’t like the rush, and we didn’t like being on a schedule.  For most of our trip, we’ve made no reservations and no plans.  We’d wake up, check the weather, see how we felt for the day, then decide whether we’re going to stay and hike in our current location or move on to the next wonderful place. 

But we made the best of this hurried time through Canada, and still managed to enjoy some relaxing hikes and see some beautiful places.  Please check out our photo tour from when we zipped through western Canada:

Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park
Sea-to-Sky Highway
Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

6 Month Trip Analysis

We left Kentucky on January 26, 2012 and have spent 6 months on the road, which is about 2/3 of our planned 10-month adventure of a lifetime.  Being the geek that I am, I’ve meticulously logged various aspects of our trip in a spreadsheet.  I produced a 3-month analysis back in April.  All figures below are for the 6 months from January 26 through July 25, which is Day 182 of our trip.  This may be a little boring to read, but potential cross-country travellers may find some of this interesting.

Our dispersed camping spot in Portage Valley, Alaska, with the beautiful Chugach Mountains in the background


Life is Good When You Are Roasting Marshmallows

This is one of my favorite T-shirts ever:

Favorite T-shirt: Life is good in Olympic National Park


Technology on our Trip

Ironically for a trip to natural lands, we rely quite heavily on modern technology.  It would be very difficult to plan and execute our trip without computers and other electronic gadgets and especially the Internet.  If we had taken this trip thirty years ago, we would’ve likely had to spend lots of time at the library and mail away for brochures from the dozens of parks we planned to visit long before we started our trip.  But today we can simply visit a park’s website immediately before our visit, download the latest brochures and maps, and make campground reservations. 

That is, when we have Internet access.  Even in this connected world, we’ve discovered there are still many areas in the United States and Canada that have limited or no Internet access.  This is especially true on our trip because the places we want to visit tend to be far away from civilization centers.  And when we are in Canada, Internet and mobile phone access is ridiculously expensive, so we have to seek out coffee shops and visitor centers that offer free wifi. 

Timm using his smartphone in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

(In the photo above, I’m fetching email on my smartphone many miles from civilization and on the edge of the Internet in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota)


Our First RV Camping Experience at Walmart

Theresa at our Walmart camping spot

From anecdotal reports, about half of the Walmart stores across the USA and Canada allow free overnight camping in their parking lots for RVs.  Apparently this policy started in the early days of the Walmart empire because founder Sam Walton was an RVer himself and wanted to do something for the RV community.  It also makes good business sense: RVers parked overnight at Walmart are likely to shop there too.


An Adventure, Not a Vacation

Recently Theresa was corresponding via email with a former coworker who was experiencing some family problems, and the coworker replied, “Easy for you to say, you’re on vacation for a year.”  The coworker didn’t say it with malice; it was just her perspective of our trip.  But her statement didn’t ring true with how we were feeling, so it got us thinking: How is our trip different from a vacation? 

Over the past 20 years of our relationship, Theresa and I have taken at least one vacation per year to a national park.  Before this trip, we had visited a total 26 national parks in the United States, a few of them more than once.  Our typical vacations last about 11 days: one day to travel there, four days of hiking, one day to travel to another part of the park, four more days of hiking, and one day to travel home.  Whereas this trip will hopefully last about 10 months.  So the huge difference in time between a vacation and this trip will naturally imply major differences in all aspects of our lives. 

Timm & Theresa at the location of the Athabascan Glacier when they met in 1992