Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.
Jared worked a half-day on March 10th as I finished packing the fridge (which would cause issues later,) gathering Quinn’s items (as she started to recognize the pattern of going on a trip,) filling the water cups (that we managed to only wash once during the two-month expedition,) packing snacks with extras to share with Quinn, and preparing the truck for the 8,373-mile journey to the pacific ocean and back to the Land of Oz.
Being the year we turn 30, what better way to celebrate than buying an old RV from a stranger on Facebook Marketplace, doing quick renovations, adding solar power and a composting toilet, and traveling the West with your soulmate and the world’s cutest dog? I can’t think of one.
January 2020 | Terlingua, Texas, near Big Bend National Park
The journey getting to this point was the slowest time seemed to move. In September, we purchased the RV, and at the end of October, we took it on the maiden voyage to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. We spent the next few months working on it and gathering the last bits we felt would be beneficial – spoiler, some were useless! – at the end of January, we traveled to Big Bend National Park for the first long road trip and work-while-traveling test run!
We needed to make only a few more changes by the time we got home.
• Secure the food in the fridge and replace the filtered water pitcher with something smaller… we may have had water and pickle juice everywhere after a large bump and swing in the road.
• Pack two pillows per person… one was not enough.
• Buy a second 12-amp computer charger. Sharing is caring, but not when both our work laptops are close to dying simultaneously.
• Remove the hanging bar and add shelving to the closest for better use of space to store clothes and coats.
By the end of February, we watched the days move at the pace of ancient glaciers. We felt ready to go but were waiting for the weather to hit the optimal temperature range so we could comfortably survive without the need to be bundled in all our layers. (This may or may not be foreshadowing what was to come.)
2006 Jayco Jay Feather 19H | Before & After
The First Weekend
We left Wichita around 2 p.m. by being waved off by our sweet grandma-like neighbor Carol; she said she didn’t want to miss the chance to stand by our old gravel driveway and say, “See you in June!” I noticed her tear up.
Jared and I had no idea what could lie ahead.
Quickly we learned it was a traffic jam. Wichita-level traffic, which is not even actual traffic… just a 5-minute slowdown on Kellogg. We couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that we were already stuck in the middle of a rubbernecked-merge around a vehicle broken down on the left shoulder.
That is one great thing about pulling a trailer. You are not inclined to weave in, out, and around to find the quick route to the front of the line only to be passed by a semi-truck ten car lengths behind you. With a trailer, you just sit and crawl with the mess.
Driving through one tiny Kansas town to the next, eventually, we crossed into Oklahoma and another small town. It was uneventful and an easy drive of 180 miles to where we would stop for the evening. We pulled into Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward, Oklahoma right before last light and cozied in for a bowl of ramen and early bedtime. We knew that by chipping off the first three and a half hours from what we had planned to be a super long-drive day, we would feel less guilty about Quinn’s long hours of being buckled in the backseat for such long stretches.
Jared loves to sleep in; my mom trained my internal clock so well as a kid, I’m lucky to sleep until 7:30 a.m. But when we’re away from our bed, we’ve always found ourselves naturally awake long before our bodies would typically pull us from a REM cycle. We joked before falling asleep in Oklahoma that we would probably be out of there by 6 a.m. To our surprise, we shared a slow morning. A cool, but not cold daybreak where we sipped our coffee, I read a bit of a book, then we started planning our day. We had an end goal 5 hours and 280 miles away according to Google Maps (which means add an extra hour and half pulling a trailer) with a couple of stops on the way. First up, The Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas.
When we pulled into the parking lot at the restaurant I noticed something sprayed all over the side of the RV. As it would turn out, our bottle of avocado oil was knocked over by a bottle of wine which also flung the coffee pot out of the cabinet and crashing into the floor. The only casualty was and entire bottle of oil that had spilled into the wall, and somehow made it out of the window while also being poured into the spice basket I had in the sink annnnnnd all over everything. So while we waited for our table to be ready, we were soaking up oil with Simple Green and paper towels. I wish I could say that was the only time that cabinet took a beating.
The Big Texan is an iconic stop along I-40 and Route 66 and “Home of the Free 72oz Steak.” If you’re up for the challenge of eating a 72-ounce steak smothered in onions, side salad, baked potato, roll, and three butterfly-fried shrimp in 60 minutes or less, it’s free. If you fail, your meal now costs $72. (And they live-stream it on YouTube!)
We saw two dudes take on the challenge – we left before they ran out of time, but I’m pretty confident they did not succeed based on how they looked 35 minutes in – while we enjoyed our meal of Smothered Texas BBQ Fries, chicken fried steak and sweet tea. We had plenty left over to have for lunch the following day. It was super fair pricing and delicious food. Driving through Amarillo, I would totally stop again. Maybe don’t stop if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, but it was a fascinating place to witness.
From lunch, we had one more stop in Amarillo: Cadillac Ranch. Truthfully, I had it built up in my head to be a cooler stop than it ended up being. I’m 100 percent someone who loves and appreciates community interactive art displays. But so much trash and litter was thrown around, which made me sad. The art is very cool. The trash is very uncool.
We had around 110 miles and 2-ish hours to where we’d sleep for the night: Oasis State Park in Clovis, New Mexico. Pulling in right before sunset, we could fill our water tanks for the first time on the trip, finally being far enough south that we thought any chance of snow would be behind us. (Again, foreshadowing because we’re idiots.) We took Quinn on an evening walk and called it a day. And then the couch broke.
(I take full responsibility for this error but also blame Jared for not helping me re-install the couch after the flooring and painting were completed. Ha! Basically, we *cough I* didn’t put enough screws in… or I didn’t put the right ones in… I’m not really sure, but it was an issue either way. And with both of us on it, one jump from Quinn later, my two screws snapped. Oops. But it was totally fine for our first two trips! We stopped by Ace in Roswell, and it was an easy fix. The first of many fixes on the road.)
The last big drive day of the first weekend! We’d already covered over 500 miles of the trip with another 210 planned for the day. Nearly 10% of our driving came in the first three days! Quinn was OVER IT. We learned this about her when we went to Big Bend National Park in January; she refused to get into the truck when she is done with long travel days. It requires us to lift her in or bribe her with treats.
Leaving Clovis, we headed to a kookie must-see stop on any southwestern road trip: Roswell, New Mexico, before making it to our official “starting point” of Whites City outside Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
I had not known much, if anything, about Roswell before this trip. Overlanding Sophia, a YouTube travel couple we watch, visited a few months before we did, and that was my first introduction. If you’re like me, the TLDR of it all is that an infamous UFO crash happened just outside of Roswell in 1947. While there are no definitive answers to whether it was or wasn’t real, the story unquestionably shaped the town. Now home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell is a perfect day trip. We visited the museum, took selfies with our friends from space, and admired the ability to commit to a bit of this town. I am #TeamAliensExist, but I don’t believe they crashed here in the 40s. But it still was amusing to stop and explore.
Finally, we were reaching our first destination! A small area for wild camping (aka boondocking) outside of the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park! This part is a little bit of a blur and I remember Jared saying “I should listen to you when you say we should not drive down a road.” but at the end of the day, we safely arrived to a camping spot that we could settle into for the next few nights and celebrate our first big accomplishment of the trip. The following afternoon, we would get to explore our first National Park of the trip.
Thanks so much for reading! It’s fun looking back and mapping out our travels! I’ve decided that rather than one massive post, I’m going to break down the travel diaries into smaller, more digestible reading chunks.
More coming soon!