Far Away Places: Announcing Our Year-Long Cross-Country RV Trip

27 February 2015 · 39 comments

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains…” — John Muir

Whenever I conceive of some bold idea, it comes with a potent mixture of enthusiasm and fear. I’m eager to pursue my new plan but worried about the consequences that might come as a result. What if something goes wrong? What if I haven’t thought things through? What if I fail? What if I succeed?

Sometime last spring, Kim came to me and said, “We should buy an RV, and then we should take a trip across the country.”

I embraced the idea immediately. I’ve always wanted to do a cross-country road trip, but never felt like I had the time or the resources. Plus, I didn’t have anybody to do it with. (Kris was never keen on this kind of adventure.) Now, however, I have all three: the time, the resources, and the companion. Kim planted the idea in my head — and it took root.

We didn’t do anything about this theoretical cross-country RV trip for a long time. Neither of us has ever owned a recreational vehicle. And although Kim has spent some time in motorhomes and trailers, the whole notion of buying and owning an RV seemed somehow overwhelming. For me, it was a brand new world filled with unfamiliar jargon and terminology, a world full of big expenses. Plus, making a trip like this poses massive logistical challenges:

  • Where would we store an RV before and after our trip?
  • How would we budget for the upfront expense? The ongoing expenses?
  • What should we do with our condo while we’re away?
  • What would Kim do about her job?
  • How would we handle mail? Friendships? Other ongoing obligations?
  • Could our relationship survive months (or more) in close quarters?

We spent several months cogitating on the idea, taking no action. We talked with others who had made similar trips, picking their brains about the pros and the cons of long-term travel on the road. We looked at trailers and motorhomes, trying to decide which features we liked and which we loathed. We read. We watched videos.

Last autumn, we finally started making some moves. We attended the Portland RV show and began looking at RVs on Craigslist. After a few months, we purchased an RV of our own: a 2005 Bigfoot 30MH29SL. We spent a few weeks prepping the rig for adventure and, finally, last weekend we took it out for its maiden voyage.


Here’s a quick video tour of our rig…

I’m pleased to report that everything went swimmingly. We love it.

As I say, whenever I make a big move like this — and this move cost us $38,000 up front and will take about a year of our lives — my excitement is mixed with trepidation. In this case, the trepidation appears to be unfounded. During four days in the Columbia Gorge, Kim and I had a hell of a lot of fun. Sure, we encountered a handful of challenges (a water heater that wouldn’t heat, a campground next to a busy rail line, a dead battery, etc.) but we resolved them easily and moved on. We worked well together.

It’s clear to us now that we can do this crazy little cross-country trip. We don’t know exactly what we’re getting into, but we know we can muddle through whatever misadventures might await. Kim and I have decided that we really will do this crazy thing.

We have an official launch date: We want to hit the road on April 1st. (Yes, we know that’s April Fools Day. Yes, we think we’re funny tempting fate like that.) In four short weeks, we’ll board Bigfoot and drive south, spending some time in northern California (we’ve already booked a camp spot in the Yosemite Valley on April 12th) before winding our way through the Southwest. By mid to late May, we intend to be heading north through Colorado, then Idaho and Wyoming (hello, Yellowstone!) and Montana.

At some point, we’ll head east (through Canada? through the Dakotas? we’re not sure…) to Minneapolis. We intend to be in Charlotte, North Carolina in mid-September for a conference, but our plans between Montana and North Carolina are vague. After the conference, we’ll stick on the East Coast to see the fall colors and to explore New York. As autumn moves to winter, we’ll wend our way to Florida, and then to New Orleans. By Christmas, we think we’ll be exploring Texas, which everyone tells us will take at least a month. And after that? Who knows?

Our map of places to see
Our current map of potential places to see. There’s so much!

As you can see, our plans are a little nebulous. That’s fine with us. Our motto as a couple has been, “Go with the flow.” We intend to keep it that way. It’s not the destination that’s important to us, but the journey. We want to embrace the spirit of adventure, to take time to get to know the people and the country we encounter. We fully expect our plans to change along the way.

Note: As we travel, I’ll continue to publish here at foldedspace. I’ll even share bits and pieces from the road. But if you want to read travel-specific info, you should subscribe to Far Away Places, our travel blog. Over the past two months, I’ve quietly been prepping that site for prime time. It’s ready enough now to point you in that direction. At Far Away Places, we’ll publish photos and stories documenting our trip, plus lots of other stuff about life on the road. If you don’t want to follow another site, have no fear. If there’s anything truly important, I’ll cross-post it here.

When this trip is over, we’re not sure what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll return to the comfortable life we currently enjoy. Maybe we’ll pack up and repeat this process in Australia or Europe or South America. Maybe we’ll become even bolder, reduce our belongings to a bare minimum, and then backpack across the world (as our friends Scott and Chelsea are doing this year). Or maybe we’ll find someplace along the way that feels so much like home that we stop and stay and never leave.

Whatever our future holds, we’re eager to get started. Our test run last weekend was wonderful, and now we feel like high-school Seniors. We know we have to finish some final work, but we can’t wait to get out there and live on our own in the Real World.

Adventure awaits!

1 Thegoblinchief February 27, 2015 at 07:55

Have fun! Overlanding in an RV seems to be the ideal way to really see a place, and be super flexible about itinerary at the same time. The only irritation is dealing with how crazy peak camping season can be, but even intentionally low-tech folks like Bumfuzzle seem to have little problem rolling with the punches and finding a place to camp, even if the first place or two are packed.

2 Finke February 27, 2015 at 08:35

Hey JD. Finke here. If you happen to come within a couple of hours of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, give me a shout. I’d love to meet you at a campsite with my camper (a trailer that I’ve had for a year and half – love every minute of it). There are some beautiful spots in Kentucky, southwest Ohio, and Indiana. Have fun with your preparations!

3 Cheryl Batton February 27, 2015 at 09:59

Congratulations! How very exciting. Reading your post brought back physiological responses as I remember my cross country trips with my two teenage daughters. And when you mentioned backpacking around the world……oh, what an adventure! I hope you do it. The 11 weeks my daughters and I spent in Spain, Morocco, and France were life altering. Both girls are now art historians, most definitely influenced by the great works of art they saw first hand. I so appreciate that you are open to the idea that this WILL create new paths for you and Kim. I look forward to following your adventure. I could recommend a few places if you’d like. As you travel around New England I can give you some great side routes that will wow you, take you back in time and in beauty. Living there for 23 years…..I too appreciate its beauty in fall. Did you know that Vermont does not allow billboards on the highway. You’ll see why! God’s country……much of this land is. The diversity in landscape touches the spirit. No need for me to say “enjoy” because I know you will. Carpe diem!! -cheryl

4 FMF February 27, 2015 at 12:09

JD —

If you come to OKC, let me know in advance. We have a guest room (if you need it).

Or if you’re in Dallas, let me know too as I could drive down and meet you.

Have a great trip!

FMF

5 Silver February 27, 2015 at 14:06

Incredible. So exciting :-)
Glad I just crossed path with your blog[s] after listening to your podcast with Steve Chou. I really enjoyed + appreciated your down-to-earth personality and overall approach to life. JD + Kim, be safe on your journey and blessings…

6 Harlan February 27, 2015 at 14:14

Good luck with your voyage! I hope we’ll get to meet up somewhere other than at a conference.

Funny, circumstances with my current living situation are changing and I may find myself without any specific home in the coming months. Maybe I’ll go on the road.

7 JR February 27, 2015 at 14:56

Sounds like an amazing trip! My wife and I are planning to do something similar (not taking an RV, but quitting our jobs to travel the world) at the end of the year, and we faced many of the same questions you guys have. I’m eager to follow along with your journey!

8 Jeremy February 27, 2015 at 16:18

Sounds like a lot of fun. Travel safely.

For fall colors in New York, you cannot beat Western, New York. You should spend a day in Letchworth State Park (plenty of camp sites) – The Grand Canyon of the East. You’ll be amazed.

9 Donna Freedman February 27, 2015 at 17:37

Doubt you’ll drive as far north as Anchorage (although you *could* put the RV on the ferry — just sayin’), but if you do you better let me know.

10 JoDi February 28, 2015 at 04:55

What a fantastic opportunity! It’s so great that you embraced it despite the fear and potential challenges. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures, and I hope you’ll share the more practical aspects too for those of us who might dream of doing something like this too. What did you do about the mail, the condo, Kim’s job? I hope you’ll share more in upcoming posts!

11 Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions February 28, 2015 at 04:55

Awesome! I’ve done a few cross-country trips, but never in an RV. It’ll be nice to have your own space every night instead of wondering what the next place will be like.
Are you taking bikes so you don’t have to drive the RV everywhere?
We have a place for you to park if you make it over our way!

12 Carol C February 28, 2015 at 06:45

I, too, am curious about Kim’s job and the mail. Do tell.

PS ~ What a great adventure you’ve planned!

13 jdroth May 18, 2015 at 15:35

Kim’s job: She had to quit it. That was a big leap of faith for her, but it’s worked out well so far. What will she do when we’re done? We’re not sure. Part of it depends on whether or not we return to Portland.

Mail: Our housesitters forward it to us once per month. They’re awesome!

14 Sue February 28, 2015 at 08:02

Have a great time on your cross-country journey. I enjoyed reading your Far Away Places blog too but didn’t see a place to sign up to get updates. Also when I clicked on the the “new start here” link I got the dreaded 404 “Houston we have a problem” error. I look forward to living vicariously through your adventures and hope to try it myself some day.

15 Scott February 28, 2015 at 08:39

Awesome. Have fun. We spent 6 months in our RV traveling around the West and loved it. It’s great to experience amazing places but be able to sleep in you own comfy bed every night.

We have decided to retire early next year and full time in a class A. Maybe we will see you on the road.

16 PawPrint February 28, 2015 at 09:54

That sounds like so much fun! I loved traveling in the RV with my sister. Looking forward to reading about your travels. And I’m curious what you plan to do about the condo?

17 Tom Erceg February 28, 2015 at 18:38

Let Amy and I know if you make it to the Bay Area. We live in Hayward and would love to see you guys.

18 jlcollinsnh February 28, 2015 at 21:31

Hi JD….

If you make to NH be sure to let us know.

And it looks like we’ll be on Lake Michigan in WI most of July and into August, in case you’re passing by there around then.

19 Kate E March 1, 2015 at 17:53

Hi JD,
How exciting! If you are in Indianapolis, please give Amy and I a shout. We would love to meet you and Kim. The end of May is a great time to visit Indy if you like race cars. Based on your plans, as I understand them, May is not likely but mi casa es su casa.
Best regards, Kate E

20 Jean March 2, 2015 at 08:27

I think my husband would be in for an adventure like this, but not sure I’m up for the challenge. I think we’ll just continue to explore via air travel – hard to pass up when we can fly for free/nearly free (airline employee). Hopefully you’ll let us know ahead of time where you’ll be and try to set up some meet-ups. Sounds like a lot of people are anxious to see you!

21 Josh R March 2, 2015 at 10:43

Hey JD: Check out “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon if you haven’t already. It’s a wonderful account of the interesting characters the author meets on a cross-country backroads RV trip following a divorce. Bonuses: deep thoughts; frugality.

22 Deirdre G_C May 19, 2015 at 13:38

I second this book – “Blue Highways.” Pick up the paperback for the RV. Great read.
Enjoying your journey!

23 Del March 2, 2015 at 12:31

So happy for you both! Good Luck!

24 Jeff March 2, 2015 at 13:41

JD –
This sounds like a lot of fun. I recently found a site that will probably help you plan your travel a bit more. Its called road trippers; https://roadtrippers.com/

25 Lisa March 3, 2015 at 04:19

So, what did Kim do about her job? Those are the details I’m always curious about! What happens when you get back? Are you planning to keep your RV?

Happy and safe travels!

26 jdroth May 18, 2015 at 15:36

No, we don’t plan to keep the RV. Part of our search process entailed finding a high-quality rig that would retain much of its value. That meant buying something ten years old that had already taken the hit for depreciation. Plus we kept our eyes open for a good deal, and we think we got one. With luck, we should only lose a couple of thousand dollars when we go to sell this.

27 Naomi March 5, 2015 at 14:39

Yes! Please answer your own questions! Where did you store the RV? What are you doing with your condo? What did Kim do about her job? Mail?

28 jdroth May 18, 2015 at 15:37

Believe it or not, we stored the RV at my ex-wife’s house. Kris was generous enough to let us keep the rig in her driveway. In exchange, we have to let her and her boyfriend borrow it for a while when we return. :)

29 LJ March 9, 2015 at 22:04

Disappointed to not see Alaska on that itinerary. The Alaska-Canada HIghway (we call it the Alcan) goes through some of the world’s most beautiful country, the road is a thin ribbon of “civilization” in an wide, wide ocean of wilderness. And that brings you to Alaska, full of wonders, wildlife, interesting people, cultures, art, music. Adventures! Hope this was a conscious decision to save Alaska for a lengthy future exploration!

30 Lindsey March 18, 2015 at 22:08

That is great. I took a two week road trip last year on Route 66 from Chicago to LA in a 1955 Chevy bel air and it was pretty much the best. I wish I could’ve taken more time, but two weeks was all I had so I used it. I read about a couple from the LA area that bought an RV and did Route 66 backwards, then drove west along Lewis and Clark’s route to Seaside, OR, then down the CA coast. There are so many great options.

31 AEBinNC April 7, 2015 at 13:23

What conference in Charlotte are you going to? It’s my home town and I’d like to meet you.

32 Chris April 17, 2015 at 18:07

So is this blog going to pretty much be on hold for the next year?

33 jdroth May 18, 2015 at 15:39

Well, that’s not my intention. That said, it’s true that I haven’t had time to update it in the past couple of months. I hadn’t anticipated that. We’re almost constantly on the go. Combine that with a struggle to find reliable internet — I’m on a sketchy connection right now and don’t know if this comment will go through — and you’ve got a recipe for reduced content around here. But I’m not folding it! You all know how much I love to think and write and learn and grow. I plan to keep sharing what I’m loving and learning.

34 Stacy April 23, 2015 at 15:38

Your map skips over Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi (the heart of the South.) Don’t overlook it … much to see and experience here. I’d highly recommend Natchez, Mississippi (the Natchez Trace is an incredible route for biking and driving, the town hosts a fantastic hot air balloon festival each October and good food, good folks abound); Windsor Ruins, Vicksburg, Miss., Oxford, Miss. (home to William Faulkner) … you get the picture.

35 ali April 26, 2015 at 01:52

Have fun

36 Joe May 6, 2015 at 09:25

We live in the suburbs of DC, and have a 500-foot driveway in which you could park your RV. Always happy to meet new adventurers.

37 Jason Kennedy June 3, 2015 at 06:54

Hey JD, this is Jason from the first Chautaqua in Equador. Man I’m so excited about your RV trip – something I have seriously considered since retiring about a year and a half ago.

Would love to see you when you come through Texas – I retired to a community called Hideaway Lake, close to Tyler (east Texas) and about an hour from Dallas. I have an extra bedroom or the community has guest RV hookups in a park by one of the lakes if you want to go that route. I’d also be happy to make the trip to Dallas if that works better with your itinerary.

Thanks for all the good advice during our one-on-one session, I’ve tried to put it to good use~

Jason

38 jdroth June 3, 2015 at 07:04

That’s awesome, Jason! And yes, of course, we’d love to connect when we come through! Probably going to be winter-ish sometime…

39 Krishanu June 30, 2015 at 14:17

Do you have an idea when you’ll be passing through Minneapolis, if at all? Or did you already?! Would love to meet up for a beer or two.

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