I can’t believe one year has flown by already! So much has happened over the past year and it is hard to share all the details and lessons I’ve learned in one post. So, I’ll share some of the highlights below!
I had signed a 5 month lease at an apartment in Austin. But after moving in, the condition of it did not live up to expectations, so I put in a 30 day move out notice. That meant on Nov 4th, 2017 we officially had no place to live. I’m so thankful, as that was the push I needed to get on the road. That meant 30 days, selling and storing the rest of my stuff, and deciding where to go. My job at the time required ethernet connection, so I started searching AirBnBs. I found one in Albuquerque and boom! Booked it for two weeks.
On November 4th, we took off from Austin and drove straight to NM. The Airbnb was interesting to say the least (my host would be spritzing his sprout plants at 4:30am), and one of the rules was no leaving the pets behind. That meant, Napoleon joined us at the peak of Sandia Crest at 10,500’! He hiked in my backpack for the most part, but as you can see, he took every opportunity to try and escape. When we weren’t so close to the ledge I let him hike through the woods and he loved being outside and sniffing around. Needless to say, the three of us were hooked on this nomadic life.
Albuquerque was a two week test run for us. I wanted to make sure the boys were okay with traveling and that it worked out for my job. So after our two weeks, we headed back to Austin for Thanksgiving, via the long route!
New Mexico is one of the most beautiful and diverse terrains we’ve been through. We started in the desert mountains of Albuquerque, drove to the amazingly blue reservoir of Elephant Butte, through White Sands, and left NM near Las Cruces, which has the most jagged peaks I’ve ever seen. Somewhere along the way we also drove two hours along a dirt road to get to the SpacePort, but was stopped by security and couldn’t get in.
At White Sands, the Alkaline Trail was only 5 miles. I packed up the bag and Jasper and I set off (It was cool enough Napoleon slept in the car). Well, 5 miles in the sand dunes is not easy! Especially when you are crawling on your hands and knees up the dune and Jasper thinks it’s a game. He would come running straight across the dune and tackle me, both of us sliding back down. I’ve never had so much fun, and been so exhausted, after just a mile of hiking.
We then made it back to Austin, where we had Thanksgiving with our amazing friends. We were also able to prep and plan for our next long drive.
In early December, we set out on the 1800 mile drive to Central NY, where we would join family for Christmas. But when passing through Nashville, one must stop! I was lucky enough to meet three amazing friends in Nashville to see Garth Brooks and enjoy some amazing food!
From there, the boys and I continued into KY where we spent the week in a really nice basement apartment AirBnB. Who knows if the area was nice as we hid from the 15 degree weather all week (Thanks to binge watching Godless on Netflix.)
The next weekend we finished the trek to CNY and had enough time to head out and hunt for a Christmas tree. It was Jasper’s first wagon ride, and no, he was not a fan! Just look at that face…
It was amazing to spend so much time at the holidays with family! Jasper was gifted his moose, and to this day still cuddles with it. We also had time to make some customizations to the 4Runner including the attic netting and leveling out the trunk.
After NYE, we were packed and ready to hit the road. I had AirBnBs booked in OK and Phoenix, AZ. Then 3’ of snow hit Erie PA which was on our route out. We waited until the next weekend, but Erie got another foot! Finally we were able to hit the road mid-January. But that meant only three weeks until I had to be in TX again for a new job.
I knew I wanted to check out some areas in the west before heading back to TX, so I changed our plans and booked AirBnBs in CO & NM instead! With being on a tight timeline, that meant leaving CNY at 4am on a -15° day and making it to Fort Collins CO by 9pm the next night! But the places we saw and the fun we had was totally worth it!
These next few weeks are some of my favorite.
The Midwest had just seen some insane snow storms. As we drove the 1700 miles from CNY to Fort Collins CO, it was astonishing to see how many accidents there had been. Tractor trailers were just left abandoned all along the side of the highway, stuck in snow banks. It was not like any drive we had done before.
This started our three weeks of seeing as much as possible before heading back to TX. At our first stop in Fort Collins, we spent several days exploring the local hikes and sights, including a gorgeous hike up Greyrock Mountain.
From there we headed to Rocky Mountain NP. It was mid-January so many of the roads were closed and covered in snow. Since dogs are only allowed on roadways in national parks… this was actually a perfect problem. Jasper and I hiked for miles up the snow covered roads, surrounded by woodpeckers echoing in the trees, and beautiful snow capped mountains.
From there we headed down to Colorado Springs, where we only had 5 days to explore. Old town made for very nice evening strolls, and Garden of the Gods was spectacular. But our favorite spot was the red rock open space, where Jasper could run free, with views of Pikes Peak off in the distance.
Then down to Santa Fe we went! This was our favorite AirBnB in a classic adobe home. The owner was the friendliest and most interesting person we’ve met on the road. She and I would have dinner together so I could hear her stories of training search and rescue dogs, and traveling the world.
Not only was the AirBnB amazing, but Santa Fe is one of our favorites. We hiked through the white rocks of Plaza Blanca, saw amazing red desert, climbed snow covered mountains, and hiked to see petroglyphs. All of that within two hours of the city. One place locals recommended was the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. It is the most remote monastery in the Western Hemisphere, and a beautiful drive down dirt roads to get there. It’s was also extremely peaceful, until a monk scared Jasper and his barking echoed off the canyon walls!
We spent February until the beginning of May in Austin. I had just transitioned into a new job with my company, so the intent was to slow down for a few months and focus on work. This gave both Jasper and I the opportunity to spend time with our amazing friends in Austin!
We spent weekends hiking and camping in the hill country. Eating as much amazing food truck food as possible. Taking a weekend trip down to Big Bend NP (a 3-day weekend with 18 hours of driving).
In my three months, I stayed at three amazing AirBnBs and house sat for a friend.
Let me share my house sitting resume with everyone: First, I managed to lock myself out of the house with the hidden dead bolt. Took two locksmiths and two hours to get back into the house, and they had to drill through the front door. Then the next day, I look out the window and I see firemen in full gear with police tape blocking the street. Luckily, they were just removing bees from a neighbor’s yard. But it was a perfect opportunity to send this photo to my friend just so she knew her house was in good hands 🙂.
In April, Austin had a RV show, so my friend found tickets and we went. I had been researching small trailers for awhile so we went to check out the teardrops. Airstream had a Basecamp there, so I stepped inside to check it out. Funny part is I spent all of two minutes in it, and said nope this will never work! Then proceeded to look at other RVs. Little did I know just three months later I would own one!
The slower pace also gave me the opportunity to set up a mattress and camping area in the back of the 4Runner. That would later become our weekend home!
After leaving Austin, I drove up through CO and into Utah. We checked out Arches NP for a couple of hours then had to head to Provo where we stayed for the week. Talk about breathtaking mountains. We hiked an intense 6 mile, 3400’ elevation gain trail to overlook Provo, and all Jasper wanted at the top was a belly rub.
From there we spent a week in Salt Lake City. Who knew the saltiest lake would be so beautiful. And we saw bison!
Then up to Boise, Idaho for two weeks where I whitewater rafted, saw the incredible Stanley Mountain Range, and ate a potato ice cream sundae. And oh the waterfalls in Idaho Falls!
Then off to west Idaho to see Craters of the Moon. The miles of lava fields were staggering, and the lava tube caves were incredible. To just sit there and take in the destruction from a volcano was astonishing.
Next was truck camping in the Grand Tetons. BLM land is amazing, and the Teton Range was the view from the bed in the 4Runner. Other than the swarms of mosquitos, it was my favorite camping spot to date. .
From there, up to Yellowstone we went. It is a much larger park then I realized. Half way into the park I decided to look at a map and found that the next day was already a 16 hour drive. So I turned around and started back to CO.
Then a week in CO, and it was back across the country to Central NY to help my brother prep for his wedding. First time I ever needed 2 oil changes in a 7 week period!
*Tune into our Instagram for the remainder of the story, or check back here in a few days!