Rather than bombard you with more pictures of our experiences in Northern California and beyond (don’t worry…I will eventually), I thought I better share with you what’s going on before most of you catch on via Instagram.
This journey has been kicking our asses.
As of late, anyway. Something funny happened in Bend, Oregon. We couldn’t wait to get there. We thought everything would click. We thought our future would unfold before our very eyes as the sun shone through the evergreen trees of the mountains and reflected off the gentle waters of the Deschutes River.
Instead, we kind of hated it.
Maybe hate is a strong word. We drove through town, both of us trying to point out the positive things about what we saw. Kind of reaching. This not to say that everyone who loves Bend has been dead wrong or lying, it just turns out we don’t agree with them. And we were shocked by this. I was actually more shocked that Matt felt this way, too, and for the first five days, I kept my disappointment to myself, not wanting to spoil his perception. I didn’t want to do anything, or see anything. I wanted desperately to want to float down the Deschutes in an innertube but couldn’t find the energy to go and do it. I walked around our RV park feeling hopeless and alone, tearful, and not yet coming to terms with the truth, just knowing I felt wrong.But when the disappointment and sadness and loneliness started to wear me down, I finally blurted it out, apparently channeling the 7-year old in me and listening to my own child-like admission: “I hate it here! I wanna go home!”
First, Matthew said, “Where is home, Michele?”
Touche`. We have no place to call home anymore.
But “home” isn’t necessarily a building, or even a town.
I said, “I don’t know,” with anguish. “….Back East.”
If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really love any part of the West Coast. With the exception of wine country, the climate and the landscape doesn’t make my soul sing. I get why most people find the mild temperatures of this area to be ideal weather. You never get snow (apart from the mountains anyway) and it never gets super hot (apart from the desert of course). Herein lies the trap of stereotyping: Everyone thinks the Pacific Northwest is cloudy and dreary, but this is only true of the coastal towns, and only during winter months, at that. On the other side of the Cascade mountain range that runs through Washington and Oregon, it’s basically desert. So it gets really hot, and also really cold, at night and in winter.
I really hated going to sleep with the temperature outside in the high 60’s and waking up to mid-40’s in the middle of summer. It made me angry. Like, unreasonably angry…that I couldn’t wake up in the morning and take my coffee outside to the picnic bench. No…I was cranking up the heat and running back into bed under the warm covers. Suck.
I suppose I prefer the more temperate and seasonal climate of the East.
Yes, I’ll even take the harsh winter back in exchange for my lost summer, as long as I have a fireplace. I want thunderstorms. Humidity. Warm-me-to-the-bone warm, not-scorch-my-skin while my feet are freezing because it’s actually only 68 degrees, not 78 as the “Real Feel” gauge will have you embrace. I don’t want to feel the boundary of where my skin stops and the air around me starts because I want to meld harmoniously with the summer warmth. The sun seems to shine differently across the country.
And as it turns out, our predilection for historic towns, architecture, infrastructure, etc turned out to be stronger than we realized. We knew we wanted to live near a “cute” town, but for us, that means bumpy sidewalks that tilt under the pressure of the roots living under Maple tree-lined street. It means residences with old growth gardens, not sprawling lawns or meticulously placed shrubs and mulch. It means 100+ year old Victorians and one way streets downtown. All the cute towns, even our most favorite like Santa Barbara, Petaluma and Eugene, OR were very new-ish. Too perfect and landscaped, somewhat lacking in the charm that makes us love Society Hill in Philadelphia and Charleston, South Carolina.
We simply prefer Old World charm to New World polish.
You see, part of the purpose of this trip was to find an ideal place to settle that hit many, if not all, of the items on our wish list. Matt wants to Mountain Bike frequently and start a business. I want to grow a garden and tend to roses and have trees. With leaves. We want Marcella to develop friendships, and hone her own innate skills and creativity. We want her to appreciate the outdoors, while having opportunities to connect with society and make the world a better place. We really thought the Pacific Northwest would provide all that. And it WOULD. Except something just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like home.
Matt surprised me by saying next,”I don’t like it here either. I thought I would, but I don’t”. The relief came swiftly and the knot in my stomach started to dissipate. We began having a serious discussions about what this meant for our next steps.
What unfolded was an admission of a shared affinity for the Asheville, NC area.
We had visited several years ago and really loved the town. So we started exploring our options in the entire area, and decided. That was where we needed to go. And right quick.
So in case you’re ready to say, “BUT, but, but…you looked like you’re having so much fun!?” Honestly, what you have seen thus far HAS been fun, overall. And a memorable experience that we will never forget or regret. I’ve only shared the best moments with you, of course, because the worst ones are deeply personal and probably inappropriate to share in detail on a blog. For us. There have been MANY difficult moments from the beginning. Matt and I knew from the start that this experience would either make or break us. It got dangerously close to breaking us. But the good news is, I believe we are walking away with more strength than we started. A sort of, “If we can get through this, we can get through anything!” realization.
I know many couples have said, “We would kill each other in that small space”. Truthfully, the smallness of the trailer and our constant proximity to each other were actually the least of our problems. True, spending more time together gave us somewhat more opportunity to bicker over things, but probably would have bickered over the same things if we were in each other’s presence as was the case pre-RV.
That’s not to say certain things didn’t start to get annoying. Like, having only 4 minutes of hot shower water. And constantly hitting my head on the space above my bed. And even more frequently banging my hip into the corner of the kitchenette which is strangely sharp. AND trying to bake exclusively in silicone, which I have concluded, is NOT the same as cooking in a metal or glass. OH, and occasionally running out of propane at an inopportune time, like in the middle of the night when it’s in the 30’s.
Those are all small, everyday annoyances though. Nothing that would prevent me from this lifestyle. But there were bigger problems. Bordering on insurmountable with things status quo.
Some of the other big problems we’ve been facing:
The Dog. The old, deaf, blind, senile dog. Who has taken to taking a dump in her outdoor pen and then stomping in it repeatedly. Every. Day. And that is after a long walk. It’s like, she saves it up for the pen and then unloads and forgets she did that, doesn’t see it, and steps in it. Over and over again. When she’s not stepping in her poop, she’s peeing in her crate inside the RV. Over night. We let her out before bed and if we don’t wake up by 7am, you can bet there will be a urine-soaked crate I will have to hose down and sun dry (It’s a pop-up, travel crate). And certainly, we can’t even let her walk around the RV freely because she will happily take a dump in the middle of the room if the mood suits her. (Stop laughing. I’m not ready to laugh about it yet.)
This is maddening. I know she doesn’t mean to do it, but after this happens enough times and wears on your sanity, you start to think your canine is purposely trying to piss you off. And then you resent the poor beast. (I say “you”, but I mean “us”.) We feel pretty badly about how much we’ve grown to dislike our beloved dog, especially because it’s mostly due to her aging and is beyond her control. We are terrible people.
And we also recognize the end may be near for her. She hasn’t slowed down energetically one iota, which is surprising since she clearly is arthritic at the ripe old age of 14. But she’s not right in the head. She’s got doggy dementia, for real. She zones out and doesn’t hear her name being yelled in her ear. She berzerks and bangs violently into things and hurts herself. She paces in her crate even after a long walk. She bit Matt REALLY badly when we were in Petaluma, CA because her legs got caught in the bench swing they were sitting on and he tried to free her. She clamped on and gave him 3 good puncture wounds. Had that been a child, she would’ve been put down. He doesn’t even want to handle her anymore, and I don’t blame him. (I mistakenly believe she will never bite me like that so I have no fear).
Our angel, our trooper, our road warrior. Honestly, she has been GREAT this entire trip over all and travels well, especially 5 months later. But in most of our stops along the west coast, the temperature would vary wildly from bedtime to morning, so I found it very difficult to dress her in something that would be cool at bedtime, but keep her warm in early morning. I think she was often uncomfortable and consistently woke up 1-2, sometimes 3 times a night. And then up for good at 5am, when I would bring her into our bed and she would snooze, all the while writhing around, another hour or two. Needless to say, my rest severely suffered. Far more than when she was an infant and slept close to me all night, nursing at will, barely waking me.
So what do you get with a sleep deprived mommy? A grumpy mommy. Way more than I’ve ever been
Also, the reality is, without people we know or reliable childcare we can’t do anything in the evenings because we can’t leave the trailer. We could do solo things, but, we just never did.
Lastly, without implying like Cella is the sole reason for our departure from the full-time lifestyle, is that it’s hard to fully immerse ourselves in the outdoorsy things here as a family because she’s simply too young. We can’t really hike longer than an hour (we learned that lesson during a 4 hour hike in Tucson) and she’s in that stage where she has no social regulation or impulse control. In other words, any time we try do something adventurous, we run the risk that she’ll have a meltdown or be distracted or just plain not give a $*#T. So after a while, we started just doing toddler-friendly activities, and put aside the things we really wanted to do. Sort of takes the wind out of the sails of “life on the road”.
Moving too frequently
Most folks who full-time do so by planting themselves firmly for a month or two, or even permanently, in a particular place. The longest we stayed anywhere was San Diego a month. Most stops after that averaged around 4 days, some shorter some longer. If you read any of our initial blog posts you might remember that our truck and trailer set up is not the most ideal for travelling full time. Most people who do this do it in a Class A Motorhome, but we can’t with a toddler as there is no safe place for a car seat in a motorhome. We have an ultra light trailer able to be towed by a light duty pickup truck. Our bikes, the bike trailer and the fire pit have been in the back of the truck. The inflatable kayak has been stuffed into the space that the outdoor fridge used to be in. It weighs about 40lbs.
Point is, it is a LOT to unhitch and level the trailer, hook up the water, electric, cable and sewer, unload all the equipment and then reverse the process again a few days later. The whole process stresses Matt out a lot. I can’t help a heck of a lot because I have to watch Marcella, who loves to run now, so I can’t take my eyes off of her if there are vehicles near by.
The moral of the story is…
…the whole of this has started wearing us down the last month or two. We also got tired of constantly trying to “do” things. You start to feel an immense pressure to see and do as much as possible when you visit someplace new. We weren’t allowing ourselves rest. Believe it or not, this last week of just driving, parking, sleeping, and driving again has been somewhat relaxing!
Add to that the realization that we really don’t want to be so far away from our families. Even if they’re scattered all over the Eastern Seaboard, we’re far more likely to see them living a 3-10 hour car ride away rather than a 5 hour plane ride. It will probably never happen. When you have toddler as awesome as Marcella you start to feel really badly that everyone you love is missing out on her.
We can’t go back to Pennsylvania right now, and truthfully, we don’t want to. So, we’re following our gut as we have from the beginning and are just crossing our fingers that it pans out how we want it to. If not, back to the drawing board, right? We’re nothing if not flexible!
I write this as we pass over the Missouri River. We are three days of driving away from Asheville, where we will stay a month and look for a house and jobs or a business to run within the city and surrounding towns. We think this location will allow us to live in an affordable house that is (hopefully) walkable to a downtown-area, while also giving us access to nature’s best offerings like waterfalls, hiking/biking trails, and gardening, and still be close enough to our family to visit frequently.
So that’s it folks! Five months on the road before we decided to call it quits and settle down somewhere nowhere near where we intended to.
I thought I should catch up before I finished the back log of blogs going back to May. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any. If not, look forward to my Northern CA blogs soon to come!
Thanks for taking the time to visit Life As We Tow It…. soon to be Life As You All Expected It… Ha ha.