Friday, May 31, 2019

Tales from the Back Road Artists, Mary and Al Hone

Tales from the Back Road artists RV

Riddle: If you are a couple who are living the full-time RV life--and are also professional artists, a sculptor and a photographer--how do you store all your necessaries in a tiny trailer?

Answer: You buy a "tiny trailer" that is a 39-foot Heartland Bighorn 5th wheel--and pull it with a Ram 1-ton dualy.

Mary and Al Hone are artists who have been "livin' the dream" of full-time RV life for seven years, and all the while also living the dream of being full-time artists: Mary a photographer and Al the sculptor.

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

They now roll with their 5th wheel Bighorn but started off with a different 5th wheel, changing to their current rig when they realized the old rig "wasn't going to work out. It didn't have the storage we needed for our art, and it just wasn't built for full-time life." They chronicle their adventures and their art on their travel blog, Tales from the Back Road, sharing their journey with their two dogs, Roxy and Torrey.
We live and travel full time in our 5th wheel trailer, going to art shows to show our wares, and just exploring every new place we find ourselves in. We travel to so many places, see so many great things, and meet interesting and fun people along the way. We create our art and get our inspiration from all the beautiful places we land. How can you not be inspired when this is your 'yard.'
Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

When asked whether they had ever considered going more "tiny" in their travels, the answer was a "yes, but . . ." Living in their rig full time and carrying equipment requires substantial space. "We would love to go smaller, but right now it's just not possible. We have to carry an art show tent, bronzes, wall art, just so much stuff. We need every square inch of storage we have now, and could probably use more so we could carry more inventory."
I carry all my photo equipment, and even have a large 13" professional printer so I can print smaller stuff on the road. Al will sculpt in the RV, or even outside then take the finished clay to the foundry to be cast. We create the mixed media pieces when we are in Utah near our shop/studio. Two years ago Al had a custom order for a carved bar and actually brought his carving tools and wood, and worked on the piece most of the winter in the desert. We have solar power, so he was able to operate his power carver in the middle of nowhere, which was very nice.
Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

Al creates sculptures in bronze and in wood since 2001. Al's work with wood includes both sculpture and hand-carved furniture. He feels his art and craft is "always evolving, improving," and that he is continually "trying new things." His work can be seen at Al Hone Fine Art, and at art shows throughout the year. Tales from the Back Road has an Artwork and Art Shows page for more information.

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone
"The Storyteller," Al Hone

"I have been creating art most of my life," says Al. "As a third generation woodworker, I learned from an early age about balance, design, and most of all quality in the finished product. My art really came to life when I began creating functional pieces of art. Sculpting the wood, designing each piece, and making something completely unique enabled me to explore my art even further. Seeing the positive reaction from the new owners of a one of a kind piece, whether it’s my own design, or theirs, gives me great satisfaction."

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone
"Rainy Days," Al Hone

"Taking the step into bronze sculpture was a natural progression," Al continues, "and I love the freedom of artistic expression I can achieve with that medium. In every sculpture I  infuse emotion, a story, and a connection to the viewer.The ability to express yourself through art is a gift, and should be shared with others. As an artist I believe art can not only be visually pleasing, but should also touch on the viewers' emotions."

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

Mary is the photographer, who works in mixed media art, which can be found at outdoor art shows and Lunds Fine Art Gallery in Park City, Utah. "What started as a way to chronicle our journey on the blog, my photography has become a full blown passion."
When you travel full-time in an RV, there is always something to see and photograph. Wonderful scenery, great wildlife, and a variety of interesting things. My art has grown and evolved, and I'm always pushing myself to be better. I want to bring the viewers of my photos a new way of looking at the world around us.
Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

Roxy and Torrey are the Hones' pets, "the best dogs ever." Roxy is described as "a spunky Pomeranian/Chihuahua who loves snuggling, hiking, and meeting new people." Torrey, a miniature Australian Shepherd, "is the happiest dog and has a real love for life. Hiking, exploring, and hanging with her people are her favorites." The dogs love their life of travel and "having a new back yard all the time."

And life with the Hones is a life of travel. They generally go the same route through the year, although they always try to go new places within those states. They spend the summer months in the Jackson, Wyoming, area and also in Montana and Idaho. "We promote three shows in Jackson so that definitely dictates us going there. We also do an art show in Bozeman, Montana, and have done some in Idaho in the past. Fall and spring we are in Utah where we still own a studio. This is where all the art is actually created. Winter we spend in Arizona, doing art shows there."

Basically, they create their art in spring and fall, then hit the road to sell it. "We boondock probably ninety-five percent of the time. We will stay in campgrounds if there is nowhere else near art shows to stay, as sometimes happens in Arizona." Even though they boondock a lot, they still usually at least have some cellphone receptivity. "Coverage has gotten so much better over the years. We might only have 3g, or it's really slow in general but we can usually at least check emails."

If you are interested in the nitty-gritty of how the Hones boondock--sometimes with their big rig for two weeks at a time--and deal with water, electricity, food, and disposal, their blog article "How We Full Time RV and Boondock All the Time" explains how they do it, with words and photos.

One of their favorite places to camp is near the wild horses in Utah, and that is also photographically motivated. They also enjoy the Jackson, Wyoming, area, which Mary feels is "a photographer's paradise." Al find inspiration for new sculptures or his digital art from the wildlife encountered during their camping travels. He takes photos as references for his art.

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone
Multi-media photo by Mary; table by Al

There is definitely a relationship between their art and their lifestyle. For Mary, "it's the wildlife we encounter everywhere." Wildlife photography is her photographic passion. "My new fine art photography pieces, and in turn the mixed media art created from them, wouldn't be possible without good photo subjects. I am always looking for something different in regards to photographing wildlife, and that is the start of the art process for me."

As a sculptor, Al watches the movements of the animals, and studies their bodies and muscle structure. Mary says that he "is very accurate in the anatomy of his sculptures, and a lot of that is simply from observation." Al sums up his inspirational lifestyle with the observation that creating his art on the road "allows me the freedom of expression that art needs in order to grow."

Tales from the Back Road artists Mary Hone and Al Hone

The Hones feel they will continue their full-time RV life for some time "and have no plans to quit until we have to. "We would like to relocate our shop/studio to someplace better, and that is hopefully something that can happen in the near future. We like Arizona and will probably try to find someplace there. We would like to eventually have a small home there, too, as it's where we would like to 'retire' if that's a thing."

In the meantime, as Al says, they will continue to find artistic inspiration "from all the beautiful places we go."

(All photographs in this article were taken by Al and Mary Hone, used with permission. Contact the Hones at their webpage if seeking permission.)



(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping art and craft articles, check out the Art and Craft Activities label URL, which aggregates all similar posts.)

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. For instance, a specialized utilitent article may not be posted on a campfire cooking page. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Review: The Green Elephant Utilitent

The Green Elephant set up on the campsite cement slab. We camped for six days, finally leaving because of continual wind.

First of all, after I purchased the Green Elephant Utilitent last July (2018), the company owner sent me an email stating that if there were any issues to please contact him. I wish I had kept the letter for this review, but didn't. My wife and I have used the utilitent as an outside restroom for our tiny trailer's portable toilet last year and the early season of this year for a combined total of about a month.

Using the 5-star system of evaluation, the Green Elephant Utilitent receives 3 stars.

Pros

  • The tent is easy to erect. It opens easily and stakes well. The guylines work well in the wind, even though one reviewer had an issue with the tent in the wind. My experience is that the tent is guyed well if the tent is staked well at the bottom and the guylines are secured on all four sides and staked at the optimal angles.
  • Folded and bagged, the tent is compact and easy to store. The flat shape takes up little space and can easily just be placed on top of any stack of items in the back of our SUV.
  • The tent is large enough to easily hold a portable toilet. I don't mind that the tent doesn't have a floor. Almost always, the tent is erected on gravel or cement. I can even mount it on the plastic "carpet" we usually spread out on gravel to keep down the dirt in our tiny trailer.
  • The tent "cap" attaches easily and keeps out the rain. If you're shorter, try putting it on prior to setting up the tent, or open the tent four-square on its side and add the cap. I'm 5'8" and have to stretch to add the cap when the tent is erect because the utilitent is a good height.
  • With the "cap" off, the venting is good with the net top, which has a hole in the roof for a shower hose. We've never used a shower in the tent, but I think it would work well. Inside there is a net bag hanging high of the back wall where shower supplies or a camp towel could be stored during a shower.

Cons

  • The tent is difficult to fold. If I watch a "how-to" video for folding just prior to breaking down the tent, it's easier. I know it's my fault and that I'll eventually gain the muscle memory technique to easily fold the tent, but at this point, it's still an iffy procedure. I even once just stuck the unfolded, flat tent in our tiny trailer and then folded the tent on the garage floor when arriving home (and reviewing the folding video again).
  • As one reviewer stated, the toilet paper Velcro attachment places the toilet paper against the inside surface of the tent. Come rain or morning condensation dew, the paper is damp. I just sit the paper roll on top of the portable toilet so that the paper is not touching any tent surface. All tents get condensation, so the Velcro attachment is more for a day-use situation.
  • The first thing I did after buying the utilitent was to buy larger tent stakes. Those provided by the company with the purchase are wimpy and easily pulled out with a wind. 
  • I'm not sure if this is the tent's fault, but in the photo at the top of this review, the tent was staked on cement for six days in wind (two sides staked to the edge of the grass, two bottom sides secured with cord and tied to the trailer stabilizer and a cement parking block). After six days of wind, the fabric at the bottom of the tent which surrounds the plastic bottom frame was frayed, worn through by the movement of the tent against the cement. Is this just expected wear in the circumstances? Should the tent have more sturdy fabric on the bottom? I'm not sure, but I went home and added duct tape to the four bottom edges. I would suggest any buyer to proactively add the duct tape prior to using the tent. 
  • The bottom of the storage bag is beginning to fray or pull apart. This, obviously, is not wind damage.

Here is a YouTube video from the Green Elephant on how to unfold and fold the utilitent.


It's probably obvious after this pro/con list as to why the Green Elephant Utilitent has been given a 3-star rating. It goes up quickly, and when mounted, the tent works well for its purpose. The tent functions well in rain and wind. When bagged, the tent is easy to store, and, honestly, the tent looks good when set up. On the negative side, buying larger tent stakes is necessary, and there are some issues regarding how well the tent will hold up with frequent use in contrary weather.

The portable toilet sets up well. The Velcro strip can be seen on the left side. The mesh net can be seen holding toilet paper in the back. The zipper door works well.

Duct tape (silver) has been added along all four bottom sides of the tent where the yellow fabric containing the integrated pole system has frayed. The tape seems to work well.

I like this tent and hope it holds up. It does a good job serving our camping purpose as an outside bathroom. I intend to use the tent until it falls apart, and I intend to wrestle the tent into submission when folding it up until I finally get the knack of twisting it just right into its neat little circle fold.

I'll add to this review if an update is appropriate at the end of our second season of using the Green Elephant Utilitent.

(Note: this product was bought by me. Any free or replaced items provided by the seller/manufacturer will be noted.)

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Friday, May 24, 2019

The Tear Droppin' Ladies at the Dutch Oven Cookoff

The two ladies who won the Dutch oven cookoff arrived in these teardrop trailers.
The Tear Droppin' Ladies' rigs, Michelle's (left) and Marlyn's (right)

It was our ninth night of camping at Jefferson County Park, and it was Friday night. The next day the Dutch Oven Cookoff was to be held at the park, so we thought we might have more company . . .

And yes indeed, when we arrived at our tiny teardrop "standy" trailer from our day in town, where we had been the sole occupants of our camping area (with four other campers around the bend and over the hill at the end of the park), now all the campsites were filled. We were one-in-twelve at our neck of the woods.

All the activity was a bit dampened by the constant threat of rain, but the novelty of all the campers in a campground kept us looking and listening. Tiny trailer camping is much different than with the big rigs, but it was interesting to experience how the "other half" does it, and it was also great to see families camping together, parents and children, and to also see some set-ups where more than one family had come to spend the weekend together with people moving freely from one site to another.

Our attention was more focused, though, on two particular sites when we came back to the campground. We were set up in Space 6, and in spaces 3 and 4 were two teardrop trailers. And what about Space 5, you may wonder? Of course, a huge RV was parked there, blocking out the two tiny trailers from being with us.

We were planning on visiting our teardrop neighbors after dinner but were happy to welcome two ladies to our camp as they walked by and asked about our trailer. They were, of course, the owners of the two teardrops, Michelle and Marlyn. They had arrived and were one of the teams for the Dutch oven cookoff on Saturday. We chatted for a while about all things teardrop and also about Dutch ovens, then promised to drop by after dinner and check out their rigs.

Marlyn's Teardrop

This teardrop trailer was one of seven made by an enthusiast.
Marlyn's teardrop (and the Green Goddess in the background, Saturday morning)

Marlyn's teardrop is a home-built that was built by a gentleman from Manchester, Iowa. It was built in 2015 and has a 1940s design. It was his seventh teardrop and is eight feet by five feet. He has since built two more. Randy owns his sixth one that resembles Marlyn's a lot but his is a 4’x8’.  Marlyn says, "I took it to Ohio a couple of years ago for the National Dutch Oven Gathering. I also go to a number of teardrop rallies during the year."

This teardrop trailer has beautiful interior veneer.
Marlyn's interior (owner photo)

The interior woodwork of Marlyn's teardrop is beautiful, lovingly finished by the builder. She is fortunate to have connected with a private builder who pursues his passion with such attention to creating a solid, cozy tiny trailer. For those of us who love them, this is just eye candy. Marlyn did mention, though, that her husband won't sleep in it. Such tiny nests aren't for everyone!


Marlyn now pulls her rig with a big Ford Expedition SUV, so she has plenty of room for all her cast iron and cooking materials. A person of diverse interests, she also has a rack on top of her new black Expedition for kayaks.

Michelle's Teardrop

This Big Woody teardrop was at the Dutch oven cookoff.
Michelle's teardrop (Saturday morning)

Michelle's teardrop is a Big Woody teardrop. Big Woody teardrops are home built by owners, but Big Woody provides detailed  plans, kit materials, and all the support you need. Here is a description of their program from the website.
Based on the designs of the 40's and 50's, BIG WOODY CAMPERS teardrop trailers are built to provide years of enjoyment and a "look" that will turn heads, whether it's towed behind a classic car or modern vehicle. These sturdy, durable teardrop trailers are lightweight and can be pulled behind any size car. There is no need for electric brakes or extended mirrors. The "cabin" is 4' x 6' or longer, and sleeps two people comfortably. Use a futon mattress, or we can supply a custom fit mattress and cover. The rear "galley" is your "kitchen on wheels" and can be as simple or as elegant as you choose. BigWoodyCampers.com is your one-stop-shop for detailed PLANS, plus the PARTS AND ACCESSORIES you need to build your own Big Woody Teardrop Camper!
I wasn't able to get more than the outside shots of Michelle's Big Woody, but I really liked the colors of the wood stain and the overall beauty of the unit. Below are some photos of other Big Woody teardrops from the company's website, to give an idea of the galley and interior. From the website's photos, many options are available for customizing the basic teardrop plan.




The Dutch Oven Cookoff

Saturday morning we made it up the hill to the cookoff area, wearing our rain gear and bringing an umbrella. We were slated for a rainy day. The cookoff participants had set up on the grass so they could anchor their pavilions. They could have set up on the asphalt, but as one participant said, "What if the winds came? Kind of hard to move with all our cast iron and coals." Good point. However, that meant the cooks slogged along, standing in mud. These were hardcore cooks, though, who believed the saying "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen" works just as well if you replace heat with mud.

Dutch oven cooking on a metal table
Cooks had steel tables for their cookware and charcoal.

Dutch oven cooking at the Jefferson County Park
Harold, who patiently explained the cooking process while his stuffed pork loin cooked.

Pork loin in a Dutch oven cooker
Harold uncovers the cooking pork loin for a look. 

The cookoff participants were quite helpful and patient in providing information, even though they were focused on cooking. Two participants, Harold and Gordon, had competed with Marlyn and Michelle before. These guys were active in Boy Scouts and were really good at interacting and explaining outdoor Dutch oven cooking. Sandy and I wandered through the kitchens of the contestants, asking questions and observing the busy cooks, learning quite a lot.

  • Cooking with charcoal is easier than with wood because achieving and maintaining the desired heat is more controllable.
  • Dutch ovens for outdoor cooking are different than home Dutch ovens. The outdoor ovens have legs and a top that can hold coals.
  • Most of the cooks have metal tables to cook on so that they don't have to cook on the ground.
  • The charcoal is lit in a separate starter so that the coals can be added when ready, eliminating ups and downs in temperature. 

JCP Dutch oven cookoff winners
Michelle and Marlyn preparing to bake their lemon bread

Our tiny trailer contestants, team Tear Dropin' Ladies, were busy preparing their entries, so Sandy and I continued scooping the loop, peering into pots, enjoying the glowing coals, and asking questions. It was a friendly group and an enjoyable day, not even the rain dampening spirits.

Michelle and Marlyn did well at the Saturday Dutch Oven Cookoff event, even though it was only the first year they had cooked together. Their cookoff entries are listed below.

Lemon Bread Dutch Oven Cooking
4th Place, Lemon Bread

Dutch Oven Cooking Dutch Letter Cheesecake
3rd Place, Dutch Letter Cheesecake

Dutch Oven Cooking cookoff at Jefferson County Park, bacon-wrapped, stuffed loin pork
1st Place, bacon-wrapped, stuffed pork loin

Marlyn and Michelle are already thinking of recipes for next year. "Needless to say, it was so much fun cooking with Michelle. We have always competed against each other but always cheered each other on in competition."

It was Sandy and my pleasure to meet such friendly and helpful people. We learned a lot about Dutch oven cooking, but mostly we just had a fun weekend doing something different. The National Dutch Oven Gathering 2019 will be at Sunset Lakes RV Resort, Hillsdale, Illinois, on October 11-13. The site has some great photographs of beautiful food. Who knows? Sandy and I might head on over come fall! Whether we make it or not, the Tear Droppin' Ladies have assured us that tiny trailers will be well represented among the cookoff contestants.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

My Tiny "Standy" Trailer Is My Dacha Just Outside of Town

Tiny teardrop trailer camping with outdoor cooking station and utilitent

"Dacha," according to Merriam-Webster, is "a Russian country cottage used especially in the summer."

Russian dacha: green but without the wheels

Right now I'm just loving my "dacha" on wheels. My wife and I are comfortably camped four miles from our house at our local Jefferson County Campground. It's our summer cottage for the next ten days, where we will have our grandchildren over to play after school, and where we can enjoy some peace and quiet while our house is being rebuilt to get rid of some water leaks that manifested during April with the ice storms that were followed by rainstorms. Off to the dacha, we said!

Tiny teardrop trailer camping RTTC Polar Bear
Our "dacha" on a rainy evening

Actually, the taking off was a bit of Keystone cops chaos. We were going to leave Thursday so that we would be sure to get the spot we wanted before the weekend crowd arrived. The weather, however, was cold and rainy, so we decided to wait until Sunday afternoon to head on over.

Then my son-in-law, who is working on our house, said, "I've made arrangement for the dump truck of gravel to be dumped on a tarp in your driveway once you leave. They're arriving around 2 P.M."

So, OK, I guess we are going camping on Thursday--if I want to be able to get the trailer out of the driveway. We decided to have a casual take off and to park the camper in our spot on Thursday with the plan to begin camping on Friday evening, me gradually ferrying our supplies over Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

It's definitely a "dacha just outside of town" kind of experience, living and working in two places--Friday me doing the packing, my wife working; Saturday and Sunday with our grandson at our house, with some swinging first at the park; Monday my wife working at home in the morning and at our mobile office camp in the afternoon; sleeping Friday through Sunday at our campsite. It's been a see-saw of camping experience so far, but fun: rain, sun, home and campsite, together and apart: but now we are here together, my wife working at the dinette table, me on my laptop, relaxing and writing before we both take off for a late-afternoon walk.

Tiny teardrop trailer camping RTTC Polar Bear
Baking potatoes
This morning at home, we transferred some clothes we'd tossed into duffles over to our cloth storage bags which stack in our camper. We'd had two nights of the chaos of the duffle bags and packed according to protocol even though we're camping so close to home. I packed our three storage bins in the car and then rode my bicycle over to the campground. For the rest of the week, whether my wife works in her office at home or in her mobile office, I'll be able to ride my bicycle and leave her the car. We cooked a good lunch today, baked salmon for my wife, a quesadilla for me, with vegetables--our first bonafide meal cooked at camp, outside and without rain. We did, however, cook baked potatoes the other night, inside the camper because it was raining. Baked potatoes in a toaster oven . . . is that too easy to count as "cooking"?

Today it's been raining off and on, sprinkles and downpours. I rode my bike this morning back to our house in town from our campground dacha, light sprinkles but a nice time through the park and across town. It's an interesting experience just hopping between two places. The guys are pretty much finished with putting up new siding on the lower half of the house, so the pounding is less. Since it's been raining, though, the priming  is going slowly.

The next two days are scheduled to be sun and clouds, and then the forecast is rain and thundershowers for the next seven days. Wow! We have it scheduled for the north side of the house to have additional drainage to be put in, but with so much rain, we will probably be put on hold. I hope the forecast changes.

This weekend there's going to be a Dutch oven cookoff event at the picnic are of the park above the campground. Sandy and I were planning on going, but we'll have to see about the weather. It may be a Dutch oven swimoff . . . and I doubt that cast iron is great at treading water. Maybe it will be a borsch cookoff, better suited to the excess of liquid. We could have borsch in our dacha and then brew some tea in our samovar.

Today is the seventh day of our camping locally. This morning was a beautiful morning--cool yet no wind. I built a fire, and Sandy and I sat by the fire drinking tea. It was a beautiful way to begin the day. Later, we drove into town to our house, Sandy taking off to get her hair done. I spent the day in the garden, weeding and transplanting volunteer raspberries. We brought our ice boxes home to refresh the ice. We have a small freezer downstairs, so we freeze water jugs and "bricks" of ice. They last a lot longer than the cubes.

Spring camping between the rain showers

Today is the eighth day of our "dacha" stay just outside of town. Privyet! Yesterday temperatures were in the high 70s and the high for today is forecast to be 87. It's morning, and I've come home to weed the garden some before it heats up too much. Tea by the fire again this morning. We slept well last night because we switched out our heavier down sleeping bags for the summer weight bags. It's amazing how such a thin, light sleeping bag can keep you warm!

Yesterday temperatures rose to 90 degrees, so we stayed at home. It rained hard last night and early morning, so I'm glad we were at home. I had to go out in the hard rain and re-work the drains that had been disconnected because of outside reconstruction. No flooding, though, and the hard rain gave us a good look at what needs to still be done outside. There was a silver lining to that storm cloud!

Sandy and I are heading back to camp this afternoon so that we can enjoy the weekend at the campground. There will be a Dutch oven cookoff this weekend, and we're curious as to how that will go. I think, though, that I'll make that a separate post so I can focus more on the weekend activities. It seems that weekends can be quite different than weekdays at campgrounds--and that seems like it might be a fun post. Until the next post, just know dark rain clouds and thunder will most likely be our weekend experience.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Pacific Coast Tiny Trailer Meander with Nancy Rushefsky

Tiny teardrop trailer camping Oregon coast
Hug Point Recreation Area, Oregon
Bears in the Wild

One woman.  One dog.  One tiny camper . . . together for six thousand miles. The result? "My confidence restored!" says the woman.

In late summer in 2018, Texas resident Nancy Rushefsky took off for a 6,000-mile jaunt with her dog Mayla and her Rustic Trail Teardrop Papa Bear camper, gone for five and a half weeks for an epic solo journey. "Traveling solo has many advantages, but one huge disadvantage is having to do all the driving.  In the beginning I was able to cover 400-500 miles per day.  By the end I was exhausted after 300 and got hotels the last two nights." The disadvantages of solo driving, though, didn't touch the positive experiences.
"I made the journey to recover some confidence lost in a nasty divorce, and I was pleasantly surprised to also regain some confidence in my fellow humans. I was amazed, almost daily, how helpful and kind people were. I think that is one of the things I love most about camping--that people from wholly divergent backgrounds can come together for conversation around a campsite--and for those moments accept each other openly and completely. 
"This was my first big trip, solo--with a dog. I made the decision not to leave her in any campground or the car for site seeing purposes, so I’m sure I missed some things, but to me that was well worth it. After all, I did drag her 6,000 miles so wanted her to have fun, too. We hiked a lot and explored many a small town together. I was surprised how welcome she was in most small towns that we toured about in. So many shops had water bowls and treats etc., especially in Colorado, Idaho  and Oregon, which made the trip very pleasant for us both 
"I learned to manage bathroom breaks on travel days by finding local parks where we could both stretch, play, and relieve ourselves.  When at a gas station, I paid at the pump to minimize our time there.  When I wanted restaurant food, I either found one that had dog-friendly patio seating, or ordered food to go and found a park to eat at.  It was super easy to keep us both happy."
The word Nancy used to describe her experience of traveling with a tiny trailer was "fabulous," and she provided several reasons.
  • Gas mileage is terrific so I don’t feel guilty for traveling long distances.
  • It’s not stressful to have to park it or navigate with it.  I feel it's much more forgiving than a large trailer would be, especially being a solo traveler.
  • I always met my neighbors because the trailer is so cute!  I think people are also intrigued by a woman traveling alone.  Neighbors always looked out for me, brought me food, invited me to take walks and hang out, etc.
On an epic trip like this, Nancy experienced the great variety of the American West, so much so that her journey breaks down into at least five segments: Texas, Colorado, the Great Basin, the Oregon coast, California, and the Grand Canyon country. That's a lot of diversity!

A Texas parade

Segment One

Driving out of Texas was "a feat of and by itself.  We passed through a small town, Post, Texas, that I frequently stop at to walk and stretch, but found a ton of traffic which surprised me.  Turned out they were having their rodeo parade, and all the roads were blocked off.  So, luckily my camper is tiny and I was able to park easily and we got out and enjoyed the festivities."

Mayla enjoying Colorado

Segment Two

Spending a total of nine days camping in Colorado, Nancy included Pagosa Springs and Durango on her route.  "I stayed in private campgrounds in both places (Pagosa River and Lightener Creek), and loved each immensely, but particularly Pagosa.  The hikes are amazing there and the hot springs make a truly wonderful way to end each day. The town is cute and easy to navigate.  While in Durango I went to the town of Silverton and enjoyed the Million Dollar Highway, and stumbled into a wedding at an alpine lake, so that was pretty cool.  One thing I really like about Colorado is that if it’s hot where you are, you can drive ten minutes up a mountain and need a jacket."

Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Layton, Utah

Segment Three


The Great Basin country of Utah, Idaho, and Eastern Oregon was next on the map. Nancy visited friends in Boise, Idaho, and then drove to Bend, Oregon. "We didn’t camp at all during these days, but we did sight see a bunch.  It was great to see old friends, do laundry, and take it a bit easy.  Boise, Idaho, is a great little town, and I hope to visit again sometime.  We spent some time in an art alley, which was quirky and urban. Bend, Oregon, has amazing parks and breweries, which we got to explore a little bit.

Depoe Bay, Oregon. Many whales this day!

Segment Four

When Nancy, Mayla, and her Papa Bear reached the Oregon coast, they stayed a while, at three state parks for four nights each: Fort Stevens, Bullards Beach, and South Beach.   "I loved each in their own way and really enjoyed exploring the lovely coast and eating the seafood.  I probably ate my body weight in smoked tuna and salmon.  Hah!  Oregon is super dog friendly, which made me super happy, too."

Fort Steven State Park, Oregon. Low tide revealed a bit of history

Camper about the size of tree circumference

"Words cannot express the beauty of [the Oregon coast], whale watching, beach combing, hiking, etc., all in a breathtaking setting.  Plus, for me being directionally challenged, all I really had to do was know north from south. One hike in particular stands out though, and it was recommended by a local who said a shipwreck was revealed at low tide, which would be around sunset.  So Mayla and I hiked the two miles or so through the woods from our campsite, and we certainly were not disappointed!"

Mayla adding some glamp to a California redwood campsite

Segment Five

Nancy designates the fifth segment of her journey as traveling through California, from Trinidad to Lake Tahoe and then down south to the Grand Canyon area. She was at first disappointed because she was an avid hiker but discovered that her dog wasn't allowed on any trails in the state and national parks.
"Bad on me for not researching it more thoroughly.  It all worked out amazingly well tho!  First off the campsite at Emerald Forest was possibly my very favorite of the entire trip.  It’s a privately owned piece of redwood forest and was simply beautiful – moss covered giant trees and tree stumps all over the place!  I wish now I had scheduled more time there, but such is life.  There was a beautiful beach in the town of Trinidad just minutes from the campground, and we also drove to Arcata (upon the campground owner’s recommendation) where we were able to hike in a redwood forest that was municipal, so dogs were welcome."
Nancy enjoyed her stay at Lake Tahoe, finding the Sierra Nevadas beautiful. "Lake Tahoe is so amazingly blue! I was lucky to have a friend who lived there, and she took me on a hike to down to Seal Bay that I never would have found otherwise. That day was the highlight of the area for me.  I camped in a private campground called Coachland in Truckee, and I would never recommend it to anyone. It was jammed packed with zero privacy or space between sites. Live and learn."

Lake Tahoe beauty

Traveling south, Nancy left behind the beauty of the Sierras and headed into drier country, ending up at the Grand Canyon.
"The Grand Canyon, was of course, GRAND.   I hiked the rim trail because it was dog friendly and soaked in all the views – or tried to at least.  Perhaps the picture that best sums up the trip was taken by a man from Germany, who saw Mayla and me sitting and taking a rest.  He thought we looked peaceful so he took our picture.  Then he offered to text it to me, so this pic is one of my favorites – it captures my dog and me taking in the world together, and it came from a kind stranger, which I learned are everywhere!"
Grand Canyon vistas

Although Nancy mentioned that driving the long miles was fatiguing, that wasn't the most challenging part of her trip. Her description of her greatest challenge was both shocking and unexpected.
"Without a doubt the most challenging day was driving in California from Trinidad to Lake Tahoe.  I chose the forested road, which happened to be having fires. I could barely see, had no cell service, was on a road too tiny to turn around on, and I was ALONE. This is the only day on the entire trip that I doubted I could handle this all by myself, but in fact I was able to. Which is pretty cool. At one point I stopped and prepared an emergency bag in case the dog and I had to abandon the camper due to burned road ahead. I had no idea what we’d do to stay safe, but felt better at least doing that. When we finally made it across the forest and to HWY 5, my phone blew up with concerned friends. And I broke down into tears from relief and exhaustion."
Boise, Idaho. Freak Alley Gallery
Sometimes the best or most significant journeys are not just those with pretty sights. Sometimes what we gain from a journey is not only from the outer journey but also from the corresponding inner journey. Sometimes our greatest journeys are not those we count by miles. Nancy grew stronger from her solo experience, weathering long distances, fire, and solitude--and from her experiences gained strength and resilience.
"I embarked on this journey as part of divorce recovery. I needed to know I could have a full and interesting life on my own, without a human partner. And I must say, I feel like this experience was the last thing I needed to do to be whole again."
With her experience has come wisdom, not just universal wisdom but personal wisdom about what camping experiences she enjoys best, which Nancy intends to use. "I did learn on the great 2018 NW journey that while I’m solo, I prefer to be near towns, and I prefer to have cell service.  I’m more comfortable knowing other people are around, so I’m tending toward state and private campgrounds and not sleeping in national forest land.  I’ll take a day trip to serene forests, but find I sleep better in more populated parks."

Nancy is taking her well-earned strength and experience down the road again in 2019. She and "the pup" will spend three to four weeks in Colorado, driving less than last year. She's looking forward to cooler temperatures than central Texas once they hit the higher elevations.

Tall mountains and a tiny trailer--what a perfect combination for happiness.

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