GETTING COMFORTABLE

Hey there, everyone. If any readers have stuck around, that is. We haven’t been good about keeping up a blog since we got home, obviously. Normal life resumed and the summer of a lifetime came to an end. But I am here to dust off the old WordPress and say hello once again! Because you guys are very important to us, and we feel the guilt of neglect settling in. Having a place to share our experiences makes them that more real and special, and we really appreciate all the support and help along the way! The New Oregon Trail would not have been the same without you.

That being said, we have a couple more adventures to share with you. And yes, inevitably, the sale and parting of our greatest accomplishment so far. But just because we’ve chosen to move forward does not mean we are done exploring. This trip has only opened our eyes to all the opportunities that lie before us in all their glorious shapes and forms. Our story doesn’t end with the bus, it started with the bus.

It’s easy to get comfortable in life, but that doesn’t mean we will stay stagnant. We take no shame in enjoying the amenities of a real house, though we may still long for the road. But we feel at home, feel grounded, with our families close by and our familiar landscape around us. This is just the jumping off point. Thanks for joining us.

To be continued…

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA

We’d been looking forward to San Francisco for a very long time. We have both visited the city in the past, but never together. And this time we had some very good friends to see! The first hurdle in getting to the bay area was figuring out what to do with the bus. I ruled out SF completely. Just the thought of those hills and the density of people scared away any idea of trying to park the bus there. So we took to the Boondockers website for help and found it in Stockton! A couple weeks ahead of time (one of the most pre-planned parts of the trip), we secured a safe parking spot at a private residence a little over an hour away from the city. We looked into getting train tickets, but our friend was gracious enough to pick us up and take us back into town.

So we came to land in Trevor and Julie’s apartment on a Friday night, and as soon as we had arrived there a near-week of fun ensued. When Julie had asked me previously about what we’d like to do while in town, I replied with “Eat and drink.” By this point in the trip, Steven and I are more interested in enjoying our company than anything else. Especially now that we’ve reached the West coast, any thing that we’ve missed can easily be remedied with a couple days off work and a car to get us there quickly. I think Julie and Trevor were very glad to hear that, and we were all able to relax and go out without a plan, enjoying time spent together and whatever trouble we could stir up by the seat of our pants.

Some highlights of the weekend included lots of delicious food, both out and at home, two picnics at two different sunny parks, and rooftop shenanigans. There was a dancing robot, late night jenga, shipping container storefronts, and watermelon in my beer. And folks, that was just the weekend.

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Things continued going well as my cousin Benjamin returned from out of town on Tuesday morning. It’d been too long since we’d seen him, and it was great to catch up. He’s been living in SF for a few years now and knows his way around town pretty well. While talking about Steven’s need for a haircut and the top dollar demanded from the local barbers, Ben volunteered to do the job himself since he does his own hair all the time anyway. We thought that sounded like a good deal so we made our way to his apartment. He also has a nice rooftop for hanging so we sunned ourselves before breaking out the clippers. I think he did a great job, and we ended the night at Julie and Trevor’s with homemade pizza.

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All in all, SF was everything we’d hoped for and more. We hated to leave it and our friends behind but we feel good that we won’t be too far away. We ended the trip with one last meal out, then J&T drove us back out to Stockton, where our bus patiently awaited us and the journey north ahead.

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

After our adventures in Utah we were headed toward Southern California. Our plans had included some more camping and exploring in the deserts of Utah, but we decided to re-route and head towards the ocean after looking at the weather forecast. We have already spent enough time in hot weather in our bus without AC, so we told ourselves that we would just have to come back in the spring.

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Leaving from Park City, it took twelve long hours for us to reach Riverside, where Lindsey’s Uncle and Aunt live. We rolled into their neighborhood and parked the bus on the curb a little after 11PM, exhausted and fried after driving through the desert all day. Coming into the house for a shower and air-conditioned guest room was a welcome relief.

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We spent the weekend enjoying the company of family, and visiting some great breweries and restaurants in the area. It felt so nice to be back on the West Coast! Clair and Heidi were amazing hosts, and we had a great time playing with their dogs and checking out the tortoises they have in the backyard. When we told them about our plans to head down to San Diego to visit friends they quickly offered us the use of their spare car, so we wouldn’t have to find a place to park our bus in the city. We were happy to take them up on the offer! Clair had been using a repair shop close by for many years and had become friends with the owner, so we told him our story and he agreed to let us park the bus in his back lot for a couple nights while we went south.

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Cruising down the highway in the old Buick we marveled at how fast we could go up hills and how easy it was to get around traffic! When you drive a giant bus everywhere you forget what driving a car is like. In no time we had reached Escondido, where we met up with Lindsey’s friend Krista. It had been a while since they had seen each other so there was a lot to catch up on. Krista took us over to the Lost Abbey, where we enjoyed a few samples of their delicious beer while we hung out in their brewery/warehouse. After getting some pizza down the street it was time to head further south, where we would meet up with Krista’s boyfriend in San Diego and spend the evening exploring the area.

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While we were in the area I also wanted to visit my friend from school that is in the Navy now, and stationed at North Island out on Coronado. I called Cody up and let him know our plans to go out and visit breweries and get food and he was excited to come join in the fun. We all piled in the car and went out to Ballast Point, a popular local spot, to have a couple pints. Their most popular beer is Sculpin, a tasty IPA that isn’t too hop forward. They also do two variations on Sculpin; one with grapefruit and one with habanero. We tried the grapefruit and it’s a nice fruity addition to the already citrusy flavor. Ballast Point also offers many other great beers, as well as some nicely designed merchandise. We had to use a lot of self-restraint to keep from buying up several shirts and hats in the store. Our next stop was Urge, a trendy Gastropub with a large beer selection and fried cheese curds to die for.

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The next morning while Krista and Paul were at work we wanted to meet up with another friend of ours from back home who just happened to be in San Diego on a work trip the same time we were there. We haven’t seen Ruben for a long time, and we were excited to spend the day hanging out at the beach. We picked Cody up at the base in the morning and drove up to Del Mar, where we met Ruben at his hotel. It was so nice to spend the whole day with friends from back home, relaxing on the beach and playing in the ocean. We found an interesting little bar in a lush garden area and enjoyed a slew of happy hour drinks and fresh tacos.

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Sadly our time in San Diego came to an end, and we made our way back to Riverside where we picked up the bus and spent one more evening visiting with Heidi and Clair. The next morning we continued our drive north, around LA and along highway 101 up the coast. Once we got out of the city traffic the drive along the coast was so enjoyable, it is amazing to be back on our familiar Pacific ocean. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch at an awesome authentic taco joint, with a line down the block. We had just finished our lunch and were starting to walk through town toward the beach when I got a call from a strange phone number, with an LA area code. It turned out to be the Santa Barbra police, they had been getting complaints about where our bus was parked and asked us to move it. We were parked legally along the curb so they didn’t give us a ticket, but we were taking up a large section of the street so we were happy to move out of the way. I am just curious about how they got my phone number, as it isn’t anywhere on the bus, and it is licensed and registered in Lindsey’s name. Feels a little weird, but I guess that is what the police do. It would be a lot easier to get around in these small towns in a little VW Westfalia!

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We pressed on up the coast, our stopping goal for the night was Pismo Beach. Arriving in the early evening, we drove down to the beach access road in Oceano looking for a place to camp. Of course all the state parks where filled up, and the only area available for camping was out on the sand. I really wanted to drive out on the beach, but after standing at the top of the hill and watching several other trucks with campers and RV’s get tuck in the soft sand I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Instead we found a quiet street a few blocks from the beach to park along for the evening.

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A strange coincidence occurred that night; just after we drove up and parked at the beach we got an instagram message from a guy I knew in Portland, he said he had just happened to open his curtains and look out the window as we drove by his house. He said his jaw dropped in disbelief, and he immediately sent us a message. Jay and I exchanged a couple quick messages and he came out to check out the bus. It was so awesome to see another familiar face, and none of us could believe the random chance that we decided last minute to go to Pismo and he just happened to look out the window at the right time. Jay invited us back to his house to have dinner with his family, so instead of eating leaftovers for dinner we enjoyed delicious local beer and pizza with friends. Funny how the world works sometimes.

That night we slept soundly in our big cozy bed, with the cool ocean breeze drifting in the windows. This is what bus life is all about; having the freedom to park most anywhere and have your own little home with you is a very liberating feeling.

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RANDALL, KS

Leaving Michigan was difficult, but we have a long ways to go until we are back in Oregon. After spending several days exploring the areas around Holland and Grand Rapids we have grown to love the state, it is full of delicious craft beer and beautiful scenery. Saying goodbye to Allison and her wonderful family we hit the road again, with Colorado in our sights.

This next leg of the trip was going to be interesting; we had a lot of prairie to cross and we didn’t know what to expect. When we would tell people of our plans, most everyone told us that the drive through the Midwest would be the most boring and desolate part of the trip. And while it is definitely a change from being in the mountains we found ourselves enjoying the drive, there is a lot of beauty in the patchwork of farmland that makes up the heartland of America. Leaving Holland on Friday morning we quickly found ourselves cruising through Indiana and Illinois, once we got out of the Chicago area we drove on through countless miles of corn and soybeans.

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Our stopping place for the night was another Wal-Mart parking lot, in Hannibal, Missouri. We discovered that Hannibal is where Mark Twain grew up; there were a lot of buildings and stores in the area with Tom Sawyer themed names. Unfortunately by the time we arrived there wasn’t much time left in the day to explore the area, so we contented ourselves by making some dinner and watching a movie on the computer. Parking overnight at Wal-Mart sure isn’t the most romantic place to camp, but they actually work out pretty well. We haven’t been bothered by anyone yet, and there’s always a quiet corner of the lot to park in.

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Getting back on the road in the morning we headed across Missouri, the big straight highways inspired Lindsey to take a turn at the wheel, the first time she has driven the bus so far. She did a great job, and drove for almost 2 hours while I got to lounge around and relax. It is an interesting experience to hangout in the bus while it is in motion, it was pretty fun to sit at the table and work on the computer while she drove. I was also able to pay more attention to the funny looks we get from other people on the road, it is interesting to see all the different expressions on peoples faces when they pass us.

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Crossing into Kansas we noticed more wheat fields along the road, and lots of interesting old farm buildings. We pulled off the highway onto a dusty county road in Randall and followed directions out into the prairie, where we found Roger and Jan’s house and shop, where we would be spending the night. Once we had the bus settled and plugged into the barn, we sat and talked with the couple for a while. They live in a buried concrete home they built themselves in the early 80’s, the entire roof, sides, and back side of the house are buried under a large dirt hill with grass growing and vent pipes sticking up. Their reasoning behind the interesting construction was to keep it extremely energy efficient, and to provide a safe shelter from the occasional tornado that comes through the area. The foot thick concrete walls and several feet or earth really make for a good insulator, we walked in from the oppressive summer heat to find the house cool and comfortable.

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Roger then took us out on a little tour of their farm, his family has been farming the same area since the late 1800’s, although now they have 2000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and milo, instead of the ~160 they started with. We got to see the original homestead, with the home built in 1878 still in use by Roger’s son. Listening to Roger made us realize how adaptive you must be to stay in farming for so long. His family used to make their money hog farming, until Tyson came in and monopolized the industry. Changes like that, as well as massive changes in technology keep farmers on their toes. It’s a constantly evolving environment.

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Also on their property are several abandoned buildings and homesteads, the most interesting one is an old school house, built in the late 1800’s and used into the 1950’s. It is still standing, although very run down. Roger’s mother actually used to teach there, and he himself had some schooling in it. He said that back in the day, all the kids lived within 2.5 miles and would walk or ride their horses to school. Grades 1 through 8 were taught at the same time, with about 20 students total. It was an amazing time capsule to walk through, making sure to avoid the rotten floorboards and rusty metal. This building would make such an interesting bar or restaurant, our minds were full of ideas.

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To cap off the day, Lindsey and I climbed up to the top of the 120ft tall grain leg, a giant grain-sorting tower. It provided some spectacular views, it was a clear day and the land is so flat that you could see for miles. It was a great place to take photos from while the wind pushed us around. We enjoyed a peaceful night sleeping next to the wheat fields, after a quick breakfast we were back on the road, headed for Colorado.

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