After months of preparation, which seemed to be endless, we marked the start of our travels with a hike to the top of Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park on August 9, 2016.
But first, I have to tell you just how hard and long the process was to get to day one of our travels. Taking a year off to travel may sound like a romantic and carefree idea, but it’s an unusual lifestyle that requires a LOT of preparation, and there are lots of bumps along the way that are not encountered in your regular home-to-work-to home lifestyle. Plus, life has thrown us more than a fair share of curve balls in these last few years. Getting started was just plain complicated, but we didn’t give up!
Our first dilemma was which kind of rig would suit our travels. Way back when we first played with the idea of taking a year off from our routines and traveling, we imagined outfitting our pickup truck to comfortably sleep in the back and store a minimal amount of stuff needed to survive. We would live out of our truck for a year! When we left our home in Ventura for Michael’s yearlong job in Houston, we were starting to consider a teardrop trailer for the added space. However, the reality of my health issues (more on that story is here), my special diet, and other needs led us to dive head-first into the RV lifestyle, and we ended up debating between two options: Motorhome plus Dinghy (small vehicle for exploring) or Truck plus Trailer. We put together a table of thoroughly researched pros and cons for each choice, and after many weeks of going back and forth, we settled on the Truck plus Trailer.
At the end of February, with a generous donation from my dear father, we traded in our Chevy Silverado 1500 for a new Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with a Duramax diesel engine. The 1500 may have handled a teardrop trailer just fine, but to tow a larger trailer through the mountains of the western U.S., we needed a heavy-duty truck. Next, we nearly bought a Jayco Eagle HT fifth wheel but decided we wanted to be able to use the bed of our truck for more than just a fifth wheel hitch. Then, we nearly bought a Jayco Jay Flight or White Hawk travel trailer. Finally, after reading about the weatherproofing and off-road capabilities of the Arctic Fox travel trailers, we made the final decision. The only problem was that there were very few Arctic Foxes on the East Coast, and at the time, we were living in Macon, Georgia. We managed to find one with the options we wanted in Longmont, Colorado, just north of Denver. We secured it by phone and then had to travel there to pick it up.
Back to California
Since Michael’s job in Macon was finishing up, we packed up our minimalist apartment in a U-Haul trailer and donated some of the stuff we knew we couldn’t fit into the travel trailer to charity. On May 5, 2016, we drove from Macon, Georgia to White Stone, Virginia to drop off some more of our stuff at the Danko family home and visit with some of my family there. Next, we towed our U-Haul trailer to Longmont, Colorado, moved our stuff into a small storage unit there for a day, picked up our new Arctic Fox, and then moved our stuff into our new “home on wheels!” We spent our first nights in “Foxy” at the Loveland RV Resort in Loveland, Colorado.
From Colorado, we had to return to Riverside, California, our official place of residence, for the rest of our preparations. We broke in “Foxy,” traveling through southern Wyoming, down through Utah, and Nevada, camping in a couple of Wal-Mart parking lots along the way. We descended the steep grade south of Cajon Pass on I-15 into the crowds and smog of the Inland Empire on May 17, 2016.
Preparations in Riverside
We stayed in the Riverside area for what seemed like an eternity, thinking every week that we were nearly ready to head north and start our travels. There were many tasks to complete before we could start wandering around the Country. We downsized our storage unit, finally registered our new truck and trailer after several return trips to the DMV, enrolled in health insurance, and took care of a long list of odds and ends. We learned to set up and break down camp in our travel trailer going from weekdays at Rancho Jurupa County Park to weekends at other campgrounds when Rancho Jurupa was full. We spent weekends at Mojave River Forks campground in San Bernardino County, Lake Perris State Recreation Area, the Banning Stagecoach KOA, which was a base camp for exploring the San Jacinto Mountains, and Lake Casitas when we visited our friends in Ventura.
We finally made it up to Red Bluff, California in mid-July to visit with Michael’s friends and family there, and then I ended up flying to Maryland to help with a family emergency, leaving Michael in the Red Bluff RV Park for three weeks!
Let the Travels Begin
Finally, for real this time, approximately three months after picking up “Foxy” in Colorado, we started our traveling adventure with the Cascades, and we kicked that off with a hike up to Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park!