Musings From Spud: 10 things We've Learned on the Road

Well, here we are. I can hardly believe what I'm about to write, but we have officially spent a third of the year on the road. Crazy to think we drove away from Durango on June 15th with knots in our stomachs but excitement in our hearts. All in a short amount of time has been everything we hoped it would be, and sometimes more. Sure, we have rocky moments with kids in tow but at the end of the day we wouldn't want to be anywhere else. With the constant change we've surely had many opportunities for growth over the last few months. So we compiled a list. You know I love me a good list! Behold the list of: 10 Things We've Learned on the Road...

1. we dread weekends

What? Why would anyone ever dread a weekend, you ask? Never have we loved Sunday evenings like we do now. The weekends, for camping, quickly became the bane of our existence on this trip. Loud motorhomes. Traffic everywhere. Crowds. No availability at campgrounds. People. Everywhere! Are we starting to sound like a couple of old geezers?

We found that we really love rolling up to a site mid-week, late in the day, and stress-free because the "spot" is not already taken. Often, the very best are still available for the picking (With views. Of lakes. And mountains!). It's more laid back. Surroundings are quieter. The boys can drive their annoyingly loud dump trucks around and we don't have to say "Shhh!!" every five seconds. There is something marvelous about staying at a place during the weekdays. How do we escape the weekend, you ask? Well, the first two months we just happened to plan almost ALL of our weekends around visits with friends or family. If we weren't crashing with them then we had to plan ahead during the busy summer months and book campgrounds in advance. Lame, but it worked.  


Our quiet campground in Lake of the Ozarks was one of our favorites and would have been a totally different experience if we came on the weekend. 


2. Toddlers talk way too much

Mothers and fathers out there in parentland, do your toddlers talk all the time, or is it just us? They are a walking run-on-sentence from the second they wake up to the second they rest their pretty little heads at night. And even then sometimes they talk in their sleep (gah!). If they're not talking to me, they're talking to Chip. If it's not Chip, they're talking to each other. If not each other, then they're talking to random strangers. Reid recently stopped a waitress (picture waitress with trays in her hand zipping around a busy restaurant) with Reid loudly but politely saying "Excuse me" over and over until she heard him) to tell her that the beach outside can have cars driving on it. Bennett recently let a nice lady at the beach know he just farted. Great. 

They offer rocks to people. Show them their cars/trucks. They talk to random people on the street about how "yesterday" we had to put our cat in a box to take her to Casie's house and that she didn't like being in the box because she was meowing so loud and her name is Re-Re. It is often a very detailed conversation that only lasts a minute or two and then it is on to the next person to harass. I mean converse with. I joke, but deep down it has been fun to hear their little voices and their vocabulary grow. It can be quite endearing and I am grateful for their little talkative personalities. They have (and will have) some great stories to tell the world.  


The boys' rendition of 'I like to move it, move it' while driving on a supposedly peaceful road. 

Reid mastered the skill of pushing dump trucks through a river in his underwear (But can you see him blabbing away?!)


3. Good Deeds are Medicine for the Soul

We knew from the get-go that we wanted to incorporate random acts of kindness into our daily travels. Quite honestly, we wanted a reason to focus our energy on others instead of ourselves. So easily we can get caught up in the daily grind of life that we often forget to take a moment to show kindness towards someone else. We didn't want the trip to be entirely about us. We also know how wonderful it makes us feel to help others and know that we have had to and will have to rely on others' help during this trip.

As if we need more reasons, the main one is that we want to show our children that kindness can be effortless as a part of our daily routine. The boys have heard us say the words random acts, good deeds, donating, volunteer - the list goes on and we can't believe how much they have picked up on it. By no means are we trying to be boastful, and we know some of the acts are simple, but we simply wanted to challenge ourselves and put forth some of our energy during this trip to helping others. We are realizing it is something fun we look forward to acting out each day. 


4. The world is our _________ (Fill In The Blank)

This one is easy, pictures are worth a thousand words. We have learned that the "outside" world can serve many purposes when you're forced to use it for almost everything. Needless to say, we have enjoyed being outside nearly all day every day. 


5. What Can I Get You?

Why don't you relax on my couch? Here's a blanket and a pillow. Would you like a beer? Here, let me open that with this bottle opener. How about some chips and salsa to go with that drink? I have that right here. What's that? You'd like some music on? Okay, done. And you want to trim your toenails? Absolutely. 

What I'm getting at is that every single thing we need is with us and within an arms length. Westy engineers were so incredibly smart with the design of these vans that every item has a home and almost every ounce of space is usable. You can be spitting out your toothpaste one minute, handing suntan lotion out the next all while putting on your clothes for the day. We surely don't have a lot of stuff with us but what we do have gets used every day. I love that it's never hidden or too far away for me to grab (even if it is in that tiny crevice in the upper back end of the van - yeah, you know what I'm talking about Westy people...).

Do we miss the space and stuff we have back home? Honestly, we don't really think about it. It's packed away in storage just like it's packed away in the back of my brain. Are there things I wish I had some times? Sure, I miss a big plush bath towel (we share one of those camp towels. For the four of us...). I miss warm (no, hot) running water from the faucet. And a toaster would be great for cooking the ten waffles the boys consume each morning. And when we start feeling claustrophobic in the morning, we head outside to our "backyard."


Smoothies!  Chip is currently in the kitchen while the boys watch from the dining room.  I'm taking pictures from the lanai.


6. Sick of the kids? 

Why yes, I do get sick of hanging out with my children 24/7/365. It would probably be kind of weird if we answered 'No,' don't you think? We have definitely gotten in a groove with all this family time (which is priceless!) but about every three weeks or so we start craving (begging!) for a break from tending to our mini-humans. If crying to the boys' grandparents to come visit doesn't work, we have found a few places that offer one to two hours of daycare (score!) and sometimes that is all the peace and quiet we need (revisit #2 if you're not sure why we're not getting a whole lot of peace and quiet on this trip). 

YMCAs and Community Centers - Not only do they have incredible pools, gyms, and office space but YMCAs and Community Centers also offer DAYCARE! We even scored a free guest pass at one facility in Washington so the cost ended up being a whopping $6 for two kids/one hour of daycare. That's it. Others offer day passes so you can have some family time first before throwing your children to the hopefully germ-free (wink, wink) kid-zone.

Grocery Stores - We have run into a few grocery stores that offer DAYCARE while you shop! Genius idea! I'm not sure if Fred Meyer stores are located throughout the whole U.S. but here in Oregon we've taken advantage of whole hours of kid-free grocery shopping (and also squeezed in a break at the food court to scarf down a glazed doughnut and surf the internet (thanks Fred). 


Bennett looks pissed, yes those are ear plugs in our ears. Looks like it's time for some cheap daycare!


7. The Highs are Higher. The Lows are, you guessed it, Lower.

Traveling in a van is like living every day as a 13 year-old girl. Early on in the trip we noticed we would have the highest of highs and lowest of lows all in one day (or maybe all in one hour for that matter). We might pull into a beautiful place and settle in. Happy hour would begin with music. The boys would likely be grabbing their giant trucks and parading them around the campsite collecting sticks and rocks. Fast forward two hours later and everything could go dramatically south. Maybe we didn't make dinner in time and everyone is hangry. Or bedtime routines were mixed up leaving the boys either looney and giddy or tired and crabby.

There were many evenings during those first couple of months when Chip and I would barely have enough energy to put the boys to bed. We would come out of Spud defeated and a couple times in tears (me). I remember the first month I'd have to stay in Spud until everyone was nearly asleep for fear of mass chaos. Often I would fall asleep right along with the boys. Chip would wonder why I never snuck back out of the van to hang out with him (whoops). 

So what do we do to keep things even keel? 

  • exercise daily 
  • have dedicated solo time away from family
  • ensure the few hours after the boys are in bed is designated couple time
  • if it's a driving day, then we plan to spend 2-3 hours or under in the car
  • get a vacation rental or hotel if it's persistently crappy out or if we need a change of scenery/to do laundry/shower
  • stick to a bedtime routine with a designated spot to sleep (currently both boys are in the top bunk and we sleep below)
  • ensure the boys nap several times a week so they don't get overtired
  • laugh often! Which trust me, even in the most lovely of settings, we still have to remind ourselves to loosen up and have a good time

This campground was heaven sent after a long day in the car not knowing where we might camp (And two parents with short fuses, might I add). We were REALLY happy to be here.


8. you won't automatically accomplish your goals

So maybe you'd like to get really fit, meditate more, learn how to play the ukelele, kitesurf, and be better about keeping in touch with family and friends. And maybe you have sucked at accomplishing those things in "regular life" the last few years? Well, guess what! You're still gonna suck at them now. Living in a van with pretty much your entire day left to your discretion is a real eye-opener. If you had asked me why I hadn't accomplished those things in the past few years, I'd have given you the same excuse you hear from everyone else:  "I just don't have the time". Only now I do, and those items remain (partially) unchecked off the list. This trip has stripped away excuses I've believed and used in the past and forced me to reassess why we're actually able or unable to accomplish our goals. As to solutions...well, that's a whole 'nother post..


While maybe it's not kitesurfing, Chip is learning to surf...

...and play the ukelele.

...and play the ukelele.


9. North America Is Beyond Stunning!!!

We can't stress it enough but where else can you see the variety like you do in the U.S. and also have good roads getting there?! Not to mention, it's safe. And there's plenty of gas, and food, literally everywhere. We have been blown away with the sights we have seen and places we have fallen in love with from the lakes of Missouri and Michigan to the mountains of Glacier and Canada to the coastline of Oregon and Washington to the free campsite we found in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. Seriously, we should be so proud of our country's (and the ones bordering us) sights and national parks. We enjoy and sometimes take for granted the ease of travel and varied landscapes that are literally at our fingertips. 


Just north of the U.S. border sits one of the most stunning places we've been - Island Lake, B.C.

Glacier National Park took our breath away every single day. This is the Two Medicine area.


I dreamt Oregon would look exactly like this. Here is Ecola State Park, Oregon. 

Sunsets on Lake Michigan are some of the most beautiful we have witnessed. This is Fisherman's Island State Park, Michigan.


10. Don't leave the Passenger Door Open At Night

2 am: Lindsay from up top: "What are you doing down there?" Chip: "SHHH, I think I hear something chewing. I think a mouse got in."  *Headlamp clicks on*.  "Yep, it's a mouse.  I'm gonna **** him up."

Despite lying in wait for an hour with crumpled chips on the floor and a washbasin that he had eventually fallen asleep holding, we did not catch Mr. Mouse. Given the van is supposedly "mouse tight" we couldn't figure out what was up until the morning. The passenger door, which we had failed to close the night before, was still open a few inches. We assume he left the same way he came. Or, we'll start to smell "dead dash mouse" right about now. We'll let ya know.....

Well, that rounds out our list of things we've learned on the road so far, with plenty more life lessons in store for a future post I'm sure. Currently we are enjoying the Oregon Coast on the off season and I'm finding it harder and harder to pull myself away from the sun and sea to blog so bear with us...
-Until next time, 
Lindsay,Chip, Reid, & Bennett