I have heard of Palm Springs for my entire life, but never really knew what or where it was and why it was so popular even in the Northeast of the country. TBH, still kind of confused about that…

We are camping East of Palm Springs, so the town is out of the way for us but when it rained all night recently, we needed something to do while we waited for the area to dry back out. Palm Springs it was! Before we made our way there, I did some research via google to see what there was to do and also why? (LOL). Turns out, Palm Springs is *most* famous for it’s mid-century modern architecture, but they don’t have any free formal walking tour to see the architecture, makes no sense to me, but I’m a problem solver not a finder, so I made up our own walking tour 🙂

Pretty much nothing is next to anything. Meaning you have to walk over the damn place to string things together, so I broke the town up into 2 sides and we parked on one end and explored that half and then moved the van the other half and did the same thing. We still missed a few things though! Also, because we have Rufio, we couldn’t really go into any galleries or buildings so I am sure that limited us from a decent amount. The vibe in town was very retro and #instaworthy, at some of the more popular places, there was even lines for people to take the same photo. I would have been in said line if I had patience or the ability to take a normal photo in front of others (LMAO).

Street and Public Art aren’t overly abundant but there are definitely some cool pieces worth checking out. Personally, I loved the crawling Babies and the Rain Maker Fountain, but I would like to see more murals throughout the town, and just more art and sculptures in general. It was hard to tell if the area was starting to resurge after a drop-off, or if the town itself was slowly dying out, as there were abandoned buildings and for sale signs every where, and some famous murals painted over. If you’re headed to Palm Springs, start mapping your route now! I would have much preferred if I had the time to map all the destinations out so I could walk smarter not longer, but that’s just me!

When it was time for lunch, we decided that instead of heading back to the van to make PB+J sammies, we would treat ourselves to lunch. KIDDING. We were hangry and needed food ASAP so that’s why we ate out. We chose Ruby’s Diner because it was the busiest and most normal/affordable. Both of us got the Cobb burger w/ fries, our firsts in months and it was sooooo good, though I’m sure my taste buds were just happy to have something other than the same 3 things. There were so many restaurants to choose from, but most of them didn’t have more than 1 or 2 tables seated. Seemed like the market was very over saturated, but Ruby’s was slamming. It was $37 after tip for 2 burgers and a strawberry lemonade, not bad! But also, can’t help but think that $37 is like half our food budget for the week.

After lunch, we finished walking around and checking off sights from my home-made list. When we got back to the van, we drove up town to see a few more popular spots and pop into the Visitor’s Center to inquire about the best sunset spot. Unfortunately, the man working was not very knowledgeable on anything other than rich people activities and he just kept trying to give us restaurant recs even though we look like the dirtiest hippies haha. When I asked about sunset, he told me that “Palm Springs doesn’t ever have a sunset and anyone who told me different was a liar”. I’M SERIOUS THAT’S A DIRECT QUOTE. So, I took what he said with half of a grain of salt and we set off to find a place to watch the sunset behind the San Jacinto Mountains. There is a pretty #instafamous windmill farm that everyone takes a picture at, and I wasn’t going to miss that op! So off we went and found a secret little hideout, far from the droves of people on the side of the road trying to get the shot. It was perfect! We had great unobstructed views of the mountains and windmills, watched the sunrays dance across the valley, and finally set behind the mountains. It was not the epic sunset I was hoping for, even with all the cloud coverage, but it was still cool to watch and experience the epic af wind gusts.

Once the sun set, it was time for us to head to our resting place for the night, about 30 minutes away from Palm Springs. We took one last look as we got onto the highway and talked about what our favorites were on the drive back, for me it was definitely the vibe! They really leaned hard into the mid-century modern and I loved the collective cohesiveness of it all together. I don’t think we will ever be back in Palm Springs to hangout, but you never know either!

Scroll for all my favorite pictures from our day-

Summer is just around the corner, and with warmer weather comes plans of adventures, trips, and long hauls in the car. After 5 years of spending long stretches on the road, and now living full-time in Bernie, we have a few tips that we always share when asked. Don’t see your favorite way to not only pass the time in the car but to really enjoy it, below? Drop yours in the comments for us + others to see!

Tip #1: No Passengers
Everyone in the car should be engaged with the driver. It helps avoid long lulls and makes the time go faster for everyone. Ways we like to stay engaged: pointing out landmarks, weird signs, singing along to the radio (v badly), and just simply conversing (about books, life, childhood, etc) with one another.

Tip #2 Local Radio Only
Skip Spotify and save your data, you won’t have service for long stretches anyway. Local radio is always on in Bernie, usually we find a gem hidden in the low 90.0’s, but most times there is only 1 station that comes in clear. It is always funny and super entertaining to hear the local high school English teacher heading the station, or our favorite, a station in western Arizona that you can call into and list your (very very) random item for sale, which the DJ then just repeats what you said and moves on to the next caller. It’s what they call, “good radio” hahaha.

Tip #3 Make the Most of Stops
We try to Google a local park or attraction to stop at and stretch our legs at instead of trying to stretch quickly while we get gas. Bonus: you get to explore a little area that you never would have saw had you not gotten off the highway. Which leads us to the next tip…

Tip #4 Stop When You’re Intrigued
See a sign for Tiny Town? Stop! (No seriously, if you see it, stop, so so cool.) For us, a 6 hour drive to Google is usually a 10 hour drive for us because we stop at every scenic overlook, and tourist trap along the way for fun. Sometimes you’ll have to rush, but when you can take your time, seize the moment and stop every chance you get. A good reminder to tell yourself is that, it’s about the journey not the destination.

Tip #5 Take Pictures
The trip is part (or most, if you’re us) of the fun so take pictures in the car to help capture the memories. You’ll never regret taking too many, but you’ll be bummed when you get home and realize that you didn’t get a single shot of all the car fun!

Tip #6 No Cell Phone Zone
Other than taking pictures and getting directions, try to keep the phones away! It’s not fair to the driver for one, and for two, you can’t fully experience the road if you aren’t looking. It takes only 1 second to miss something good when on the road, don’t get caught slippin’.

Tip #7 Dress Comfortably
We have specific sweats that we wear on long trips, and we are always in our Teva Mocs for even more comfort. It’s important for us to feel comfortable to move around and switch positions so having something stretchy helps us last longer on drives.

Tip #8 Eat Local
When it comes to eating out, try to find a smaller local restaruant. Support the local economy and get a much better meal than fast food for often only a few bucks more (Tips should be 20% of your bill, if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.). We found that we feel like crap if we eat fast food, especially if we eat 2 or 3 times in a day or two to save time. Recently, we were in an old town that kind of shut down 25 years ago, all that is left is a gas station and a small cafe. While at the cafe having the best French Dip, a huge motorcycle gang pulled up and came in, it was something we never forgot! We kinda ran out of there as fast as we could because I (Ashley) was scared to death haha, but cool memory nonetheless!

Tip #9 Sing-A-Long
There is no better way to generate belly laughter and pass the time then to sing loudly and badly to every last song that comes through those speakers! Dance weirdly. Our favorite dances to do are the Egyptian and the shopping cart. Being relaxed and silly makes for an easier and more memorable trip. Don’t know the words? Never stopped us!

Tip #10 Enjoy It!
This might seem like the most basic and common sense tip, but it’s easily forgotten! Often, we hear people dread long trips in the car, or avoid traveling some where out of fear of spending an extended period of time in the car, embrace it! Look at a drive as part of the destination, not a means to an end.

Tip #10 becomes easy when you utilize tips #1-9!

We hope this post has left you feeling inspired to plan that road trip you always wanted to take, to maybe enjoy that commute instead of dreading it, or give you a little push to sing-a-long to “Wildwood Days” on that drive down to the Jersey Shore this summer. Either way, we are wishing you an adventurous summer, filled with sights and sounds you have never experienced before. Life is short, take the long way.

Ashley here, coming at you from Ecklectia Cafe in Moab, Utah.

This past week we have done a lot of adventuring + traveling.

Sedona- Bell Rock Climb


Last Monday we were in Wickenburg, Arizona where we were able to tent camp for 12 glorious days. Before we left, we were determined to finish hiking Trail A (read the saga here), come hell or no water. During our hike, we ran into a group of volunteers working to maintain the trail, we got to talking to one of the women, and she gave us a few secret spots to check out. But halfway through our hike, we realized that we were nearly out of the 6 liters of water we brought, and immediately began to abort our hike and head for the road (I know, I know). Almost as soon as we got onto the road, trucks began to pass us, and we recognized them as the volunteers we saw on the trail. Stuck between not wanting to look like rookies and wanting to flag them down for a ride or water, the trail Angel revealed herself, pulled over and filled up all 6 of our liters of water + offered to give us a ride. We declined; determined to now finish trail A with plenty of water. I am happy to report that we did in fact complete the trail that day.

Halfway through Trail A

We planned on bunkering down for an impending storm in Happy Valley, AZ, but last minute decided to stock up on supplies and head for Sedona regardless of the forecast. Our first stop was at one of our favorite places to hike around; Bell Rock. Only, this time was even better because all the rain had caused the desert to turn into an oasis and every where we looked there were the most beautiful pop-up waterfalls.

pop-up waterfalls make good showers

We stayed in a rest area that night because more rain was expected. We woke up at 5AM and headed for Courthouse Butte, another famous formation that we had never hiked. I fell into a cactus pretty early on and spent the rest of the day pulling needles out of skin and clothes, good times. We hiked a few trails (about 10 miles in total) and headed to our favorite camping site to take a nap and relax for the evening. When we woke up from our nap, we looked out the window and saw a couple parking themselves FEET from us, with nothing but wide open spaces around….we were annoyed to say the least. We kinda felt bad after because we made it pretty clear that we were frustrated with them, and decided that next time we would react more friendly + welcoming. It’s not often that we camp around others, so it probably wouldn’t kill us to be near someone every once in a blue moon. Meh. Thankfully they left early, so we had the place to ourselves.

right before falling into a cactus

We went looking for one of Sedona’s more known Vortex hotspots, Boynton Canyon, and found a trail that took you straight up the formation and away from the droves of people, and when we were tucked in a little cave, we sat + had lunch next to a still-barely streaming waterfall, pure magic. We decided to head back to the van after lunch and look for another hike to do, and saw one right up the street called Fay’s Canyon. Like every parking lot in Sedona, it was jammed pack but we got lucky and scored a spot- a nod from the universe that we took as a good sign of what’s to come. We did the short hike to Fay’s Canyon and unbeknownst to us, you can hike up into the box canyon once the trail ends, and that is exactly what we did. It was incredible + a rare chance to get away from people. A great ending to another successful + eventful day.

Fay’s Canyon

The next morning was especially windy, so we took the opportunity to do some van hiking + check out roads that have been catching our eye. We were stoked because we found a ton of primitive campsites that we plan on taking advantage of on our next visit. While driving, we saw a sign for Tuzigoot National Monument, and knew we had to stop to learn more about the Sinagau people the land belongs to. Our National Park Pass had just expired so we picked up our new one while there, and got a National Park Passport while we were at it, I am PSYCHED about it. It turned out to be an awesome stop, and lit a fire in us to see the 2 other National Monuments nearby, Montezuma’s Castle + Well.

Tuzigoot

That night, we decided we wanted to try out a new camping site, and found a dirt road to drive down. We found a few spots, but wanted to see where the road would lead, and much to our surprise, we started to see what looked like a cult where the road would end. The closer we got, the weirder the place became. A giant heart + peace sign were made out of rocks on a big grass space facing the road, a rainbow bridge could be seen in the distance, and the 3 cars that passed us by all had the same white dream catcher hanging from their rear-view mirror. With no where to turn around, we drove down the hill and headed for the cult. Turns out it was just some hippy healing center that had steam rooms and salt caves and a spa or something. Dream catchers helped identify the cars of guests vs visitors. Liked it better when we thought it was a cult. We turned around and pulled into an empty site next to another van that had the best view of any site we ever stayed. As we were enjoying the sight, our new neighbor and his dog started walking towards us. Sean and I looked at each other and laughed because the universe was testing us already. Turned out to be a really nice guy and his wife was just as rad! They used to work for BLM in Salt Lake City, so they gave us so many awesome recommendations, we felt very lucky to have met them, still bummed we didn’t get their Instagram handle to keep in touch (Jeremy, Pam, + Callie, if you are reading this, reach out!)

sunset from a great site

We woke up to watch what we assumed (+ were right) would be an awesome sunrise, and then headed for a hike Jeremy recommended, Cockscomb. We got their super early and had the whole trail to ourselves right up until the last mile, it was such a nice way to start the day. Once we finished that hike, we went straight to Bell Rock determined to climb to the top. We quickly hit a spot that we could get Rufio up, but weren’t sure how we would get him down and decided to look for another place to keep climbing. We found a small trail that took us straight up to the top, Rufio was rock climbing better than us (fun fact: Rufio LOVES rock climbing) and we made it straight up to the viewing platform and were rewarded with the most stunning view, epic even.

Ultimate Crag Dog

Wanting to camp alone with no one else around, we went to a secret spot we reserve for times when we need solitude. It seemed like as good of time as any to shave our heads, so I went first. The clippers weren’t working, so we took the attachment off, cleaned them, and then they were as good as new. Sean shaved straight down the top of my head before yelling “oh my god NO!!”….we never put the attachment on, so my head is as shaved as shaved gets LOL! Oh well, thankfully hair grows back.

Bald + Beautiful

The next day, knowing it was our last (at least for a little while) day in Arizona, we wanted to check out Montezuma’s Castle + Well and we are so glad we did. Truly incredible! We learned so much, and found ourselves doing research after leaving to learn even more. Next, we wanted to check out what is described as one of the most well preserved Petroglyph/Pictograph sites in the country, and our minds were officially blown. The walls were covered in 1000 year old rock art and showed a functioning calendar that uses sunlight to tell what day it is. Even as a person who searches for rock art often, this was impressive beyond belief.

Montezuma’s Castle
Montezuma’s Well

We left Sedona for Moab, and got here a little earlier than expected, couldn’t contain our excitement! Today (3/20) is Rufio’s 5th Birthday, so we wanted to celebrate with him in our favorite place. We plan on being here until summer starts, so if you’re in the area, shoot us a message and let’s hike or climb together!

Since transitioning to Vanlife we have been incredibly lucky to experience so many peaceful and relaxing moments. But, amongst all the quiet sunsets, there have been some truly challenging times. We learned pretty quickly that the difference between a trip and an adventure is something going “wrong”. Many of our favorite stories stem from something going haywire, our challenge is to stay calm and laugh about it while it’s happening. We thought it would be fun to dedicate a post to all those times (+ there has been plenty these past 10 weeks) that a trip has turned into an adventure. Hope you can find the humor in them like we do!

For starters, we planned on moving into the van and leaving Denver at the end of January. We were fortunate enough to work together, and when our jobs found out about our plans, they asked for us to give them as much notice as possible, so they could hire and train replacements. Without a second thought, we gave 7 weeks notice. 3 weeks later, on our first shift of 2019, they “honored our notice early” and told us that we no longer worked there. A devastating blow for the first 10 minutes, but for some odd reason, we drove Bernie to work that day instead of our normal ride in on our bikes. As soon as I (Ashley) turned the key to the ignition, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” blasted through the speakers, we looked at each other and said “LET’S DO THIS!”, we recognized what the universe was doing and we were ready. When we got home, we remembered the van was actually not even close to being ready. Sean thought it would take a week, I was firm we’d get it all done in 1 day. And that next day, on January 3rd, we got every last thing done. On the 4th, we went to all of our Denver favorites for one last horrah, and then eagerly (+ very nervously) went to sleep on the floor of our empty bedroom with plans to leave at 4AM.

After driving through freezing New Mexico for the first few days, we headed west for a wilderness area in Arizona that we planned on camping for an extended period. It took almost an entire day to get there, we were ansy and excited for our first night sleeping in the van the way we had been picturing it: all alone, in the middle of no where, off some old dirt road. That excitement quickly turned upside down when we were met with quite literally a river flowing across the road. We considered driving the van straight across, but with no one around for miles (probably because the forest was flooded out) we decided to turn around and look for somewhere new. Except there was no where. The closest town at this point, was Douglas, a small border town, hours away. Turns out there is no camping near border towns (imagine that), and no overnight parking (especially cargo vans without windows) at Walmart’s. With no where else to go, we called Walmart and pleaded our case, they agreed to let us stay, but couldn’t promise Border Patrol wouldn’t harass us and make us move during the night. We decided to risk it and stay, and thankfully they never came to hassle us. You could cut the tension with a knife in Douglas, it felt very militarized and VERY scary, even as citizens, we left before sunrise happy to get away from the swarms and angry faces of the border patrol.

We found a beautiful hike we could do through a National Forest, put that into the GPS and headed straight there. As we are driving, we see a sign for a bird mating area, but didn’t think much of it. The sky was still dark as sunrise was looming, and as we were driving, out of no where, a giant ass bird came into view, smashed into the windshield with a loud “CAW” noise that we can still hear, and then just as fast, it was gone. Not even as much of a crack in the windshield, but it certainly got our blood going and scared the crap out of us. Right as the sun was rising, we were getting to the part where the pavement ends and the unmaintained dirt begins when we were met with yet another flooded out road that prevented us from going any further. Once again, we were in the middle of no where, with nothing else around to do. So we got back in the van and headed north. Around 7:30AM we saw a sign: “Border Patrol Checkpoint Ahead” and 30 feet later another that read: “All Cars Must Stop. Roll Down ALL Windows”. Another 20 feet, we see a makeshift checkpoint with heavily armed patrolmen and dogs sniffing every vehicle. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we realized that my (Ashley’s) Medical Marijuana Card and medication, may give us a wee bit of trouble. The dogs flagged our vehicle, they asked if we had any “drugs, hidden people, or weapons” in the van, we tell them the truth: No. He see’s what were doing here, and says “What about medication, do you have any medicine on you?”, I stared kinda blankly at him, and he said “Marijuana. Do you have any marijuana on you?”. We tell them yes, they ask us to pull over for a secondary inspection. They separated us, I had to sit with the van and Sean and Rufio had to wait outside the tent. Trying to avoid them ripping the van apart, I tell them exactly what we have and where it is. They don’t listen. They rip off insulation and wallpaper, and quickly realize that there’s nothing in the ceiling. Eventually, they find some of our medicine, but not everything. Nervous the dogs would come back to see if we were telling the truth, I direct them to where we actually kept it. He informs me “if you didn’t have this card, I’d be calling the townies on you”…great story, we have the card now let us go. They do, but not before telling us “We wish we didn’t have to do this. Go to Tucson to get more medicine.” which is not how it works at all, but felt like they tried to save face at the end when it turned out we were just citizens abiding by ALL state laws who now had their van trashed. Sign of the times, we chalked it up to.

The checkpoint was obviously extremely stressful, so we decided the border patrol were right and we headed to get more medication. Needles, CA seemed to be the closest, and we drove 6 hours straight to get there. On our way out of Needles, I felt a change in a tire, and turned into a gas station, just feet before getting onto the ramp for the highway, Sean probably laughed because I am a freak when it comes to checking the tire pressure, I do it daily! Took one look at the drivers back tire and you could see it loosing pressure, we quickly googled a tire shop, and it prompted us that one was a mile away and was “closing soon!” but we made it in the nick-of-time. The tire was patched and we asked the guy to check our spare, just to be sure. Turns out the spare was dead flat. Couldn’t save us, not even if we were drowning, a good lesson in everything happens for a reason and to always check your spare tire before a trip.

If you thought a flat tire would be the last of our car trouble, you’d be wrong. Haha. After getting a full inspection and oil change in Flagstaff, we headed south to Phoenix. About an hour away, we stopped for gas and when we went to leave, our (brand new) battery was dead. After popping the hood, it looked like corrosion could be the problem, so we went inside and purchased jumper cables (yeah, probably should have had those already) and we waited for someone to come in a truck or bigger that could not only jump us, but also knew how to use them. HAHA. Luckily, a Daisy Mountain Fireman pulled in after about 10 minutes, and even though he was running late, he jumped us, and told us the corrosion caused the cables to loosen and that we should go straight to Pep Boys to have them fix it. Which we did and they had us back on the road by 10AM, even though it was Superbowl Sunday. Luck struck again.

More recently, we were about an hour outside of Flagstaff when we kept getting whiffs on antifreeze before we realized that there was antifreeze leaking through the floor vents in the van. It was a Sunday night, and expected to be ten degrees out, so we got a hotel because we were afraid to sleep in a fully closed van with antifreeze leaking inside. We were hoping we could get Bernie in to Pep Boys first thing in the morning, but with no way to call we just had to hope they had availability. When we dropped Bernie off the next morning, they weren’t very hopeful she’d get done that day or that they even had the parts they would need so we paid for the hotel for another night and hoped for the best. They called at 4:30PM and told us that she was all fixed and that it would only be $650. We learned a long time ago to (pro tip) always ask if they have a coupon we can use because they almost always do. This time was no different, and it brought the total down almost $100, just for asking. Since we already paid for the room, we took advantage of the time by doing laundry, taking long hot showers, and lounging around indoors, we definitely got our moneys worth. It ended up being a really nice 2 days in Flagstaff after all.

Troubles come and troubles go, so don’t think we are sharing these so you’ll feel sorry for us! These are some of our funniest and favorite memories since living on the road. However, despite these tough moments, we wouldn’t change a single thing about this journey so far! Time has taught us (remember, we have had 4 years experience of spending extended time on the road) to try, and wait for it…enjoy the challenging moments. Stress will sour the experience, and we have learned to just laugh in the moment, it’s all a crucial part to the story. “You can laugh or cry”, that’s your choice!

As for us, we’ll take an adventure over a trip any day. Call us crazy.

Plans for the Future

Happy Hump Day! If you read our last blog with answers to all of our most frequently asked questions, then you’ll remember we saved question #10 for its own blog; What are your plans for the future?

Before we jump right in, it’s crucial to mention that we barely ever stick to a plan. Frequently, we make announcements of exciting things to come, only to never make another announcement that our plan changed. For example, we announced a move to the US Virgin Islands in 2016, except 3 months later, we were announcing our new home in Denver, CO, quite different than an island. So with that being said, take everything below with a grain of salt because things change quick ’round here.

Spring:
We are currently just outside of Phoenix, AZ in a little town where we can gear up on supplies and get some work done before starting our journey North. We plan on getting to our favorite place in the world, Moab, Utah, sometime in the last week of March. Which at this point, gives us about 2.5 full weeks to make the voyage up there. With the weather much colder up North, we tried to wait for it to start warming up before leaving the 70’s we grew accustomed to in Central Arizona. We have about 8 stops planned along the way, which is a lot, even for us. The good thing is, if we don’t make it to all of them we can always come back, we won’t be far.

tentative stops on the way to Moab, UT


We plan on scoring seasonal jobs while in Moab so we can experience everything we always wanted to do while there. Something we could only do if we commit to working a few days each week. Some of our goals while in Moab for the spring are: rock climbing along Potash, solo skydiving, learning to canyoneer, and renting a jeep to go off-roading in. We are really stoked on our Moab plans, but we are trying to not wish the time away in the meantime, and really enjoy each day and place we experience. If all goes well, we will be staying there until Summer begins.

Summer:
When we decide to leave Moab, the plan is to head west to San Diego, CA. Of course, we have a ton of places we’d like to stop along the way: Capitol Reef NP, Fishlake NF, Dixie NF, Zion NP, Red Cliffs, Grand Canyon South Rim, Valley of Fire SP, Red Rock Canyon, and the Mojave, to name a few. Once we get to San Diego, we want to spend the summer traveling up the west coast all the way up to Canada. On our way back down, we will go inland before heading south, stopping at every National Park and Monument along the way. Places like Olympic NP, Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Steamboat NP, Crater Lake NP, Lava beds, Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite (so stoked on this after watching Free Solo last night!), Death Valley, Kings Canyon, and Pinnacles are some of the stops we plan on making. We may have to post up to work at some point towards the end, it all depends on how fast we spend our savings.

Fall:
Come fall, we will probably venture back through Utah, enjoying the fall colors in places we have always dream about, like Ogden, before heading North to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Idaho has some of the most incredible hot springs and scenery to explore, we hope to get there in prime time to fully enjoy all that they have to offer. Once we get our fill, we will head over to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, before getting up to Glacier NP for our first visit. When the cold becomes too much to bare, we will start heading south for warmer weather as Winter begins to roll in.

Winter:
After this winter, we have definitely figured out what works best for us, and that means, the warmer the nights are, the better. Cold mornings and nights can make even the most basic of tasks difficult to complete, so we will take that into consideration before posting up for the season. We are thinking we will probably work for the season, or at least part of it to take advantage of the shorter days, snow birds, and holiday season while we can.

Spring:
At the moment, it looks like we will be headed to the Southeast! Our best friend from our time living in Beaufort, SC is marrying the love of her life and they invited us to celebrate with them. Naturally, we will have to utilize the miles as a way to experience a completely different part of the country. We are dying to see New Orleans, LA and it’s probably the one city we can’t wait to experience. We haven’t even began to think about where we will stop because it’s over a year away, but we are really looking forward to seeing our good friends again.

Well, there you have it. Our verrrrry *tentative* plans for the next year. In 2020, we hope to turn our travels international; with extended travels through Canada and Mexico. Our dream is to drive all the way through South America to the tips of Chile and Argentina, but we have a little while to go before we are prepared for a trip like that.

If you have a suggestion on places to stop or visit, let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Hello Again! We’re coming at you from a Panera Bread in Happy Valley, AZ. We will be posted up here in town for the next day or two getting supplies and ourselves ready to start making our way North (our post on Wednesday will go through all of our upcoming plans). In the meantime, we thought we’d answer some of our most asked questions. If you have a question we didn’t answer, leave a comment and we’ll answer it there. So, without further ado…here’s our most FAQ’s:

What about all of your stuff?
Always a favorite! Basically, we don’t own “stuff” any longer. That sounds really hippy-dippy but it’s true. Sure, we could pay a ridiculous amount of money each month for a small room to hold things we collected throughout the years, but we didn’t see much sense in paying for a room to hold things we cared so little about that we didn’t need to see them for the foreseeable future. Before moving into the van, we probably did 10 “sweeps” through our house over a 3-month period. Each time we felt less attached to things we couldn’t bare to part with the sweep before, and we did that until everything could fit into a storage bin…and then, we went through that storage bin and I (Ashley) cried and cried at the thought of parting with all the homemade cards Sean had made me through the years, but nevertheless, we persisted and got rid of some very sentimental items. What was saved can fit into a shoe box (every last card made the cut haha) and we travel around feeling at home because we have that special box stored carefully under our bed. The gear and clothing we own now, are good quality, long lasting, and backed by the companies we purchased them from. We found that with less stuff, comes more happiness, more time, and better living. 

How do you make money/afford vanlife?
Before we move into the van full-time, we worked as much as humanly possible together at a restaurant in Denver and we were able to save up $10,000 after all the van expenses and insurance were paid. We discussed what number we would feel comfortable going down to before finding temporary jobs and decided that $3,000 was the magic number. Once we get close to it, we will find restaurant jobs and work for 4-6 weeks, saving everything we make before hitting the road again. To make money last as long as possible, we try to budget and keep living expenses, like food, low. Usually coming in around $600 a month in expenses. One thing to note is, we aren’t miserly when it comes to money either, if we see something cool, we do it. Our motto is “thats what the money is there for”. Plus, we aren’t afraid to work hard so we can play harder + longer.

Where do you park the van?
Most people don’t know that we have never paid for camping or parking. We utilize free public land, typically managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). If you aren’t familiar, this land is scattered bountifully all throughout the southwest and offers endless amounts of monuments, parks, and dirt roads where you are free to pull over and camp. 90% of the time, there are established sites with fire rings for you to use. (READ: If you plan on using this land please visit the Leave No Trace site and learn how to not be a human piece of garbage when you are outdoors!) These sites offer boondocking camping and have no services (no bathroom, trash or water) but the sites have lots of distance between them, offer solitude, and give you a view of the backcountry that you just can’t see from a paved road. When we are traveling through cities, we check with the local Walmart or Cracker Barrel to see if they allow overnight parking (70% allow it!) and if that isn’t an option, we stealth camp. Which is just parking the van in a neighborhood and hoping no one notices this weird van that just came out of no where. 10 weeks in, we haven’t had to pay once or been unable to find a safe spot to park, so we’re stoked on that.

How do you go to the bathroom?
If we are camping on BLM land, then we go in the great outdoors! Meaning, we dig what is called a “cathole”: a 6-8 inch deep hole that we then go to the bathroom in. It is imperative that these holes are at least 200 feet (70 paces) away from camp, water sources, and trails to minimize our impact on the land that we love so much. Toilet paper get’s burned or packed out, which may seem gross but it’s better than destroying the land and leaving used toilet paper for animals to find. For a full lesson on what do with your waste when in the out of doors, read this. When we are posted up at Walmart, we use their bathroom, which can be awkward when the door guy sees you bolting in at 5AM and going straight to the bathroom, but that won’t stop us. Starbucks has been another great treasure, they open early and have a public bathroom policy. If all else fails or if it’s an emergency, we keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the van, which I can use too, with a Female Urinary Device (this one to be exact).

What if something happens to you?
Then something happens. Kidding, but I mean…not really. We are prepared as anyone can be: stocked outdoors first-aid kit, knowledge of poisonous snakes and insects and what to do in the event of a bite, and ability to stay calm in emergencies. Sure, we’ll probably get a satellite phone one day or another, but we take precautions before any hike or ride out to desolate areas. Like checking the van completely, stocking up on water, food, and emergency supplies. As far as a person bothering/hurting us…well, we just don’t see the point in worrying about someone driving down windy roads with endless turnoffs, looking for people in the wilderness to kill, because that seems a bit unrealistic.

What if something happens to the van?
With all the driving we do, van trouble is bound to happen! From big to small, cheap to expensive, it can and will happen. We’ve had a flat tire in a small town on a Sunday night to leaking antifreeze inside the van from a busted Heater Core. One time our brand new battery just stopped working at a gas station. We are pretty faithful to Pep Boys, so if we have a problem we try to make it to them. If we are out in the middle of nowhere, I have a copy of the Haynes Manual for the van (get yours here) and a full tool box so I can at least patch us up to get us to service for a tow or better, a mechanic. The key is to not freak out in the moment, but of course that’s easier said than done. Time has taught us that van troubles turn a trip into an adventure, and when you have that mindset, it’s hard to get frustrated in those moments.

How do you shower?
……..we don’t. In the past 65 days, we have showered 3 times, all 3 times we had a hotel room for the night and it would have been crazy for us not to shower. No shower, no shaving, no problems.

What if Rufio gets dirty or smelly?
Chances are if he’s smelly + dirty, then we are far worst so what does it matter? There’s dirt and sand and mud every where all the time and it makes us so happy. A month ago, Rufio rolled in what we assumed was mountain lion pee and oh-my-god did he stink, which made our blankets stink and us and it was, BAD. So the next rainy day, we found a pet store with a self wash station and had a BLAST (not Rufio)! More recently, he hardcore rolled in fresh coyote poop and quite literally mashed it into his fur and smelled like…poop. We were in the middle of the desert boondocking, so we just kind of washed off what we could and tried to forget what happened by the nighttime when we had to share a bed with him.

How long do you plan on doing this?
Ten weeks in, we feel more confident then ever about our decision to move into our van. To be honest, we don’t see an end in sight, or even how we could go back to living in “normal society”. We will of course have to stop to work from time to time and we are stoked at the thought of all the cool and unique jobs we will get to experience, but we think we will always be vagabonds of some sort. However, our favorite part about this new lifestyle is how quickly things change and plans get thrown out the window, so we try not to plan too far ahead or predict where we may be a year from now. Right now, all we know is that we want more travel and more adventure, and we plan on leaving ourselves open to experience both in any capacity!

We hope you enjoyed reading the answers to our most frequently asked questions and remember you can comment your question below if you didn’t see yours above. No question is off limits, so shoot!

Make sure to check back on Wednesday for a full blog on question #10: What are your plans for the future?

On the Road with a Dog: What Works for Us

Rufio at the summit of a mountain in Arizona.

Greetings, from Rainy Arizona! Today we wanted to talk about our most asked about subject: traveling with a dog, in our case, The World’s Best Boy™; Rufio. Living on the road, or even a roadtrip can be tricky when you have a dog, and by tricky, I mean it takes sacrifice, and a willingness and eagerness to make those sacrifices, because it means having your best friend by your side. We took Rufio on his first long roadtrip when he was just 5 months old, and to date, he probably has been on over 50 long trips. Even cooler than that, he has touched every corner of this country and almost every state in between.

Before we jump into what we found works best for us, let’s go over all the obvious things first. It is imperative that you know your dog. Know how they communicate; when they are exhausted but can keep going, and when they are exhausted and can’t. We don’t recommend just jumping into long trips in the car with your pup, if it has only been for rides to the vet. It takes practice and repetition for them to get used to it and even longer for them to like being in the car. Make sure your pup is up to date on shots and takes heartworm medication, on time every month- even if it’s not a *big* (not the point) problem in your area, it may be where you travel. Lastly, talk with your vet before any major travel to make sure there aren’t any other precautions you can take to protect your 4-legged best friend.

Okay, so now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive right on in. Here’s what we found that works not only best for us, but best for Rufio too.

The first thing we do before starting any long car ride is to make sure Rufio gets a little more exercise and running in then usual. Time has taught us that he is a better co-pilot when he is thoroughly exhausted. For us, that means the day before we leave we run him multiple times throughout the day, and on the morning of, we wake up early and give him one last run before we get in the van to go. On the ride, it always helps us to have a comfortable place for him to lay, we use both a dog bed and a blanket and it keeps him still for longer and out of Sean’s lap. On long trips, making the most of stops can make all the difference. Often times, we will find a park to stop at instead of a rest area; it gives Ruf a chance to run off some of that pent up energy and a little space from the noise and chaos of a gas station.

When we get to our site, whether we are staying for 1 night or over a week, we have a routine (visual clues for Rufio) that we try to do before anything else. First, we lay out a large blue rug right outside of the van, put his bed, blanket, food and water bowls out, and find a stick or two for him to play with. This habit let’s Rufio know that this is home for now and he can relax, play, or wander- whatever he wants. Though, he is usually asleep 5 minutes after we setup.

Rufio is always communicating in one way or another, even more so now that we live on the road. We try our best to always listen, even though sometimes what he is saying, is that he is not up for what want to do. A handful of times, we have been eager to go do a hike and Rufio was just not having it, so we all take a nap, even though he is the only one sleepy. This ties into knowing your dog and being confident in those listening skills, understand when they need a break and facilitate it, it builds trust between you.

Rainy days have proven to be the toughest days yet, but we are starting to figure out how to manage them without Ruf getting too stir crazy. Rufio is not a fan of the rain, so we try to keep him active by walking around local pet stores. Each trip can last an hour easy, and we get to inspect every last living creature in the store while Rufio smells every last treat, win-win. Book stores and coffee shops can be another way to beat the rain, just ask first and you’ll be surprised by the amount of eager “yes please do!”‘s you’ll hear. When Rufio starts to get smelly, we’ll take note and use the next rainy day to hit up a nearby self dog wash station, we (not Rufio) have so much fun and (bonus) are usually the only ones there. Finding a balance on these days is part of the fun, lean into it.

If you’ve read our other blog posts, you know that we travel verrryyy light, and when it comes to Rufio, we don’t stray from that principle. We eliminated all toys aside from 1 small frisbee we keep in case we can’t find his real toy- a stick. We found that it was just too much clutter traveling around with multiple dog toys when they are just as happy with a stick and you throwing said stick. Get at it!

Benadryl is a van staple. Rufio has very reactive skin, and can in an hours time, break out in what looks like chicken pox all over his body. Both plants and insects can cause the reaction, and when it happens, we cram 2 pills down his throat (literally), and when he wakes up from that deep slumber he looks brand new. Our vet recommended 1 MG per pound, but consult YOUR vet before administering any OTC medication to your dog (obviously!!).

Lastly, a common question theme we frequently get always surrounds safety: cactus, coyotes, mountain lions, chasing after animals, and every last thing in between. The long story short, no we aren’t worried about him (not in that sense at least). The first few times Rufio hiked around cactus he stepped on what felt like, every single one in sight. Yanking those fishhook needles out of his paws (over 20 once) was no fun for any of us, but he quickly learned not what they looked like, but what they smelled like. It is so fun to watch him run through the landscape that is a littered with cactus so carefully, and much to our dismay, narrowly, missing each and every one. Our boy is learning how to survive in this harsh environment just like we are. He needs the freedom and our confidence to do that, so we let him learn the lessons. When it comes to large dogs and cats in the wild, we respect them, but aren’t afraid of them. Rufio is almost always off leash and you can still find him right at our side. He does not chase after livestock or large animals (sorry rabbits, beavers, and chipmunks), which is important on the land we are often hiking. When we see a plethora (and it happens) of mountain lion tracks, we take caution for all 3 of us, watching behind us, listening closely, and staying alert. Wild Coyotes are just not something we are worried about, they are well fed in the desert, a 75 pound dog with 2 humans is not something a coyote would typically attack. Know your dog and respond accordingly.

Living or being on the road with your dog has a learning curve for you both. It takes time to establish best practices, routines, and to really feel like you have a rhythm, but you will get there with consistency. Seeing the world through your dogs eyes can completely change your perspective and teach you an entirely different way to explore a new place. Sure, we can’t hike every National Park trail, or check out a museum on a whim, but there is so much that we can do, that we don’t care about missing a few things, that often cost money anyway. As long as Rufio is by our side, we are delighted- everything else is just a bonus.

Rufio in his bed on the blue rug

Today marks day #48 living in the van and while that is just a drop in the bucket, it has certainty been enough time for us to gain our “road legs” and have some helpful tips we can share, whether you’re preparing for vanlife, a roadtrip, or just enjoy reading our blog (thanks!). Sean had the great idea that we should both share our top 5 tips/lessons and I thought that was a fun way to kick off our new blog! We hope you enjoy reading our different styles of writing, and be patient with us as we will probably make some grammatical errors along the way- it’s been a while! So, without further ado, here are our top 10 tips to living in your home on wheels!

Tips 1-5 are written by Ashley, and 6-10 are written by Sean

  1. “BLM Office Closed Due to Lack of Federal Appropriations” Vanlife is made possible largely in part to free land owned by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). You are allowed to stay in any one area for up to 14 days for free. Most places are considered “boondocking” which means no amenities (toilets, water, trash) and you MUST pack in and out everything…and I doo mean everything. To find these lands, you need good topographic land status maps, available for purchase at the BLM office stationed in the area you are visiting (about $5 a map). These maps are essential, to get away from people, to find hidden gems, and because service sucks, they will save you, time and time again, trust. The first few weeks living in the van was so difficult because the government was shutdown and all BLM offices were closed and we couldn’t access any maps that showed us the land we desperately rely on. We were stuck in well known, easy to access places, an RVers wonderland, and our personal nightmare. Find the office in your area and hit it up, you can thank me later :).
  2. “Illegal Dumping $500 Fine” Because we aren’t garbage human beings, we pack out every last bit of trash (+ then some) from where ever we are staying/hiking/exploring. We made the mistake of buying 13 gal trash bags at first and waited for it to be filled before trying to throw it out and that made things a bit tricky, because most places have a lid on their trashcans to avoid this exact thing LOL. We try to repurpose shopping bags, but when they run out, we now use 8 gallon trash bags and don’t pack them in too much. 
  3. “Wake Up and Smell the Routine” Establish a routine for daily tasks early on. It took us about a month to learn daily chores became much easier when there was a process set in place. Dishes are easy for Sean now, our prep for dinner is the same every night, breakfast is made the same way, and coffee too. We make the bed together and organize all of our little belongings every morning, in the same exact way, even down to how we fold the comforter we put on the side of the bed during the day. It may seem like a no-brainer but the first month is about getting your bearings, and things don’t come as quickly as they do when it’s all brand new. 
  4. “Sorry for What I Said When I was Hangry” Have a consistent meal schedule, and stick to it (hello routine), having at least 3 healthy meals a day with snacking in between is crucial. Vanlife is entirely more active and stressful (new, different stresses that take getting use to), adding an empty stomach and grouchiness can zap the fun out of any moment. Especially important if you aren’t solo…it can get ugly. Not that we would know……hahaha totally kidding we don’t eat and fight over stupid things like, all the time, :).
  5. “Drive Less, Explore More” It’s so easy to get caught up in traveling from fun place to even funner place, only spending a day or two in each area before checking out the next ‘gram worthy destination. However, learning to stay in one place for a week and longer, while, is a learning curve, is so worth the brain training. Slowing down, and combing through an area can be incredibly rewarding (when you have maps!!). We find hidden gems, walk paths that have been forgotten about or grown over, and try to really explore an area. Sometimes, we’re surprised and decide to stay longer, while other times we immediately regret the decision and hightail it outta there or to the nearest Walmart. We have spent all of February in and around Phoenix, Arizona and the longer we stay, the more we find to explore- you always find what you’re looking for- so make sure you’re looking for something good :).
  6. “An Organized Van is a Happy Van” With less space and less belongings, organization becomes more important, not less. The first week was tough, and one thing I remember was having to search for every little thing. If I wanted to make coffee, I needed to know where 8 different things were stored in the van. I can remember often looking for one crucial tool to complete a simple task. The answer was to over organize everything. Sort every bin and every shelf. Once I knew where everything was, it became easy to make dinner or clean up a campsite quickly. Now the tough part is keeping the van that way.
  7. “It’s Free for a Reason” Always pay the 20-30 cents a gallon for water. It sounds exciting to find free drinkable water at a rest stop or the 711 in Mexican Hat, UT, but you can always taste the difference. 28 gallons of water that tastes, as Ashley puts it, slimy, can be hard to go drink. Sometimes its better to just dump it out and pay for the good stuff.
  8. “Where Would We Have Pooped in the Morning??” Knowing the weather, and the changes in the weather has never been more important. We learned this on what was supposed to be a rainy day in Flagstaff. We planned to run our errands, to avoid being outside or feeling too cooped up in the van. But, the rain never came. We were able to get everything done without a drop of rain. After deciding to stay in town for the night, we found camp outside of a Cracker Barrel, planning to leave town in the morning. As the rain finally started, I checked the weather for the night before I went to bed. The days rain was late and instead going to be tonight’s 10 inches of snow, with 40 mph winds. Our 2 wheel drive van would have been stuck for at least a day. I woke Ashley up and we drove in the rain to warmer Sedona and slept out the rain storm in a rest stop, instead of being snowed in outside a Cracker Barrel.
  9. “Plus Their French Toast is Delicious” Cracker Barrel is the most Vanlife friendly restaurant there is. Twice now, with nowhere to camp for the night, Cracker Barrel has come to our rescue. Walmart is known for letting campers stay the night in their parking lot, but we have found that sometimes Walmart security has different rules. In towns where Walmart has turned us away, I would have never guessed that it would be Cracker Barrel to the rescue.
  10. “They Only Came in Pink” There is one tool that makes my life easier every day that I did not even have when we started our journey. My favorite new accessory, Dish Gloves. January and February in the desert can be very cold in the mornings and at night. Without running water, I clean our dishes  with the help of our trusty blues(we have four 7 gallon blue water jugs), and that water can get cold. It was a frosty morning in Tuscon, AZ when the dishes, as well as my hands, were all frozen by the time I was done and ready to dry them. That was when Ashley suggested dish gloves, which I had never used. They instantly made it so doing the dishes was no longer a chore. Since then I have even done dishes in the snow, but with my gloves my hands were as warm and happy.

So, there you have it! Our top 10 tips we wish we knew before starting on this wild journey! We hope you found this insightful, or at least fun to read our different takes. Thanks for reading and joining us on this journey, sign up to receieve email notifications for future posts, and if you aren’t already, follow us on Instagram (@thebeirnes) to see our day to day adventures!

‘Till next time,

Ashley + Sean

 

Thanks For Joining Us!

Sean and I are so excited to be sharing this wild journey with you. We have been on the fence on whether or not we would start a blog, and well, after 40 days living in the van, here we are! The next few days are going to be rainy here in Phoenix, Arizona, so we are going to use this time to work hard on getting this thing up and running, and aesthetically pleasing, so please bare with us!

We appreciate all of the love, support, and encouragement you all have sent us these past 40 days. Can’t wait for you to hear and see what all we have been up to! I am going to post some polls on our Instagram (@thebeirnes) relating to content and topics that will be on here, so if you have something you have been wondering- let us know!

Talk Soon Friends + Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Ashley, Sean, + Rufio


“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” 
― Alexander Supertramp