Happy 10th Anniversary Camper Van!

EXACTLY Ten years ago we hit the road. We had been living in the Washington DC area and had just sold our house. Dave had just sold his company, was on a semi-retired hiatus and perhaps feeling the success of his early internet dreams fulfilled, he had this crazy-crackers scheme to travel for a year or so in a Camper Van. I am not making this up.

See, earlier in the summer he proposed the idea to me. We were sitting in our office. The kids were asleep. I could tell he had something important to say because he turned his chair toward me, looked at me and said, “Beth, I have this idea.” Let me just preface this next part by saying that anytime Dave has an idea I am equally excited and traumatized. His ideas are big. His ideas have taken us far and once in a while his ideas seem a little too crazy for this world. I like what Dave’s close friends have said, “Beth, you and Dave are a great fit. When he gets one of his crazy, big ideas, you know how to reign him in.” They are right – and better – maybe I am the balance, or at least have the most excellent organizing and in this case, packing skills, to enable Dave’s brilliant and brave dreams. At least that is how I like to see it.

Yes, it is true. After I heard his hey-lets-take-our-wild-toddler-and-spazzy-baby-around-the-USA-and-Canada-for-a-year-or-so-in-a-camper-van idea, I absolutely thought he was nuts. “How are we going to travel with a baby and a toddler (we hit the road when Eli was eight months and Kyle was two and a half)?” I asked him. “That is a loooonnnnngggg time on the road!”

After a lot talking, I insisted that, before we buy the van, at the very least we take a substantial road trip before we made this gigantic life change. Although the boys had already logged in thousands of airline miles, up until then the boys had only flown long distances or taken short road trips. We packed, gathered books, snacks, dvds and our laptops. Back then in-car dvd players were new and the iPod Touch was a thing of future dreams. We strapped our boys into their Britax car seats in our truck, and hit the road, traveling to Minneapolis, my hometown. Lovely. The trip was lovely. Bringing Dave to my favorite memories is magic I always hold close. He saw the Brainerd, MN Paul Bunyan statue in the flesh. How awesome is that? On our way to Duluth we had to make a stop at dusk only to be attacked by a horror movie’s worth of Mosquitos. I laughed as Dave quickly rushed back into the car swatting mosquitos for another twenty miles. Sharing these experiences together, he saw Duluth for the first time and we both saw the rolling fog of Grand Marais for the very first time too. The kids were great. I mean, so much better than I could have hoped for. After making it all the way to Northern Minnesota from Washington DC, I actually believed we could pull off this traveling-as-a-family-in-a-camper-van dream.

Those early travel days were dotted with slides, walkways and sandboxes. We learned that stopping at any park along the way was an important part of the journey. If we could find a park, the boys could get out their wiggles. And honestly, I think through their eyes, through our necessity to stop and let our kids breathe, I have been able to see a whole and very cool new world. Even now we always look for a good place for the boys to explore and roam.

After spending time with my family and friends we made our way back home. I gave my OK and after Dave bid for it on eBay, we flew to Southern Florida where we purchased our 2002 Eurovan Camper. Excitedly we drove off the lot on that very hot summer day when the Air Conditioner stopped working just miles from the dealership! True Story! We spent another week at the beach while it was fixed (Summer in South Floria with no AC is no fun) and then made our way back to DC. Favorite stops: St. Augustine, FL. Who would expect this super old Colonial town just down the road from the Spring-Break-Capital of the world? Other favorite stop: Savannah, GA. I hope the gold-tooth-grill-kiosk is still at the mall on the town’s outskirts.

Back in DC, our house sold, we packed our things and said our goodbyes. The goodbyes I said back then are still some of the hardest. Kyle and Eli were leaving their good pals Quinn, Max, Emma, Maddie & Winston, and Dave and I were saying goodbye to our dear friends. Bittersweet were those moments. I remember my friend Stephanie as we said our last goodbyes saying, “You know I can’t say it. It is hard to see you go.” I felt it. In her words I felt our worlds change. She and I had spent nearly everyday watching our husbands dream and watching our boys grow. With tears in my eyes and the frog in my throat huge, I choked back my sobs. I did not want to go, yet I was excited to fulfill our dream.

We left our little piece of Heaven in Northern Virginia, made our way only as far as West Virginia, spending our very first fancy-camper-van-night at cold and rainy gas station on the side of the road. I had to hold Eli until fell asleep as my excitement quickly faded into fear. Mornings and the laughter of toddler Kyle in his pajamas on the side of the road erased my panic. It was a new day. I took a deep breath and we drove west, establishing rules of the road and labeling an old Nalgene bottle “Pee Cup.” Man it is nice to have boys. We stopped in St. Louis to see my brother Bill. Leaving Bill and his boys we drove through my favorite college town, Columbia, Missouri and unto Colorado, where we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park on the highest paved through road in the Continental US. We were on our way and were once again following our dreams.

We chose Utah as a home base, never ever planning to stay here long. My mom was here. She could watch our things while we were away and our friend Kim graciously let us crash at her condo while we were in town. We wanted to explore the west and Utah made sense at the time. We usually took three week trips and made our way through Canada and all over the Western US. I loved it. I hated it and once back in Utah, I could not wait to hit the road. Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is still one of my favorites. Watching Kyle canoe on the beautiful mountain water was divine. And then getting to stand on the dock during a helicopter mountain rescue was pure delight. I wish the boys remembered as much as we do. We have pictures. They hear stories and this was our time to be parents of these beautiful little boys.

I fell in love with Vancouver, BC and tried to figure out how we could move there. Border Patrol was so much more intense near Seattle then it was in Montana. We had to get out of the car because I had apples, and see my Fuji Apples from the Vancouver Farmer’s Market were not allowed to enter the country. Eventually we made it through onto Seattle, then Portland. Our camper van took us to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Big Sur, Moab, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona. I am sure I am missing a state or two in there.

My very favorite part really was the kids. They thought living in a camper van was the best thing ever. Kyle was over the moon to be able to sleep in the pop-up part with Dave each night. Eli was too small and wiggly. I loved those seconds as his little body released in my arms as he drifted off to sleep. I miss those moments of snuggling him close. Towards the end our camper van journeys Dave and I were able to sleep on the same level. I liked that best.

I think it was those camper van days that have made the boys open and fearless. They know how to travel. They entertain themselves best while on the road. In the van when they had watched one too many “Land Before Time” movies, I would hand them a book of stickers or some dollar store Band-Aids. They spent hours covering themselves with every last one. It was hilarious and it is these moments that have forever changed and bettered my world. I am grateful. Happy Tenth Anniversary, Camper Van! We miss you!

PS: The links I have added to this post link back to original camper-van-travel posts. I am surprised at how different my memories of those times are. I love the Eli-barfing story on the Moab link. It is sad and hilarious! Enjoy!

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VW Eurovan Camper Travel: Eureka, Nevada

Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada

“Well, there were sure a lot of people sitting there at the bar at 3:30 in the afternoon,”Dave says as we drive out of this middle of nowhere, middle of Nevada town. “Home of the Vandals,” he remarks as Coldplay’s “The Scientist” plays in the background (accompanied by Eli’s cries).

“You don’t have a tethered pacifier?”

“No, I can not find it.” I blurt out.

“I am trying to write,” I think.

“What”  Dave asks and I pause and take a deep breath, “a remote little town.” Dave continues,

“Think about how far Eureka is from anywhere. At least there is a road going through it. Though it has been a long time since anyone has used Route 50 as their main way of getting across Nevada.” I say.

Eli’s cries have thankfully turned to bursts of laughter. Kyle is hooked up to our traveling DVD player watching his scary Dinosaur movie, “Land Before Time IX: Journey to Big Water.”

Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada

We are headed eastward.

It was several years ago when I last drove through these dust-filled parts. I was invited for Thanksgiving to a college friend’s home in Yerrington, NV, a sleepy town much like Eureka. At the time I arrived in Yerrington they were just installing the town’s first stop light, a much needed and talked about improvement. Like Eureka, the locals were hanging out at the bar in mid-afternoon, smoking their cigarettes, playing the slots, and sipping their drinks with the big screen TV playing sports and news in the background.

We drove up to my friend’s parents’ home (a half complete trailer park trailer), which was plunked down amidst a scrubby dirt patch. I walked into the door of their half-completed home as I saw my friend’s father sitting in the bare, unfinished room, cigarette in mouth, watching the only item in the room, the television.

“Dad, this is my friend, Beth.”

There was no response. As my vision blurred and my sweat glands overloaded I thought to myself,

“What the hell am I doing here?”

I was eighteen. I had just moved from lush, populated Minneapolis to go to college in the west, and now I was in the middle of nowhere; nowhere in a cold, smoke-filled, and partially complete trailer home.

“Dad, are you going to answer me? This is my friend Beth.”
With that, he briefly turned his greasy head towards me and said, “Hi.”

Then she gave me a tour of her home. When we reached the bedroom where I would be sleeping, I said,

“Do you mind if I take a nap? After all that driving I am exhausted.”

I could see that my request gave her relief, because I could see that she was embarrassed about her surroundings. Mostly, I realized that in my inconsiderate haste and worn-on-my-face panic I had made her feel that way.

See when I was eighteen, I really felt like I not only came from the right place (Minneapolis, Minnesota), but because I came from a city that somehow I was more sophisticated or enlightened (not true). Now I realize that my projected “sophisticating” was simply disguising my needs-medication-styled homesickness and separation anxiety.

I had not been napping long when my friend and her Mom came running to my room. Because I was asleep I did not realize I was screaming,

“Mom, Help me.”

I know. Not only was I wearing my uncomfortable feelings on my face, I was screaming them in my sleep.

The rest of my Yerington, Nevada weekend is a blur. I do remember that my friend took me with some of our other friends to the local bar. At the bar, my friend’s boyfriend gave me a roll of nickels for the slots, which I burned through in about ten minutes. My friend and I also the trip to the big city of Fallon, Nevada to see a movie at the local sticky shoe movie theater. I loved it. And then there was the car accident we saw as we drove back to Utah on Interstate 80. A man driving a big old truck had gone over the embankment. When we drove by we saw smoke and then his truck over the edge. We pulled over and hiked down to see if he was ok. Remember none of us had cellphones. We had to go old school and stand at the edge of the interstate in an attempt to wave an oncoming vehicle down. We waved down a semi. He pulled over. We told him about the accident, and he immediately radioed for help.

The man, who was thrown from his truck, was disoriented (of course), and was bleeding heavily. As I watched the blood gush from his head, all I could think about were the brand new bath towels. My mom new I needed new towels and had just bought them for me. I never had such nice towels and cherished them so much I brought them along. They were packed away and sitting in my friend’s car. At that, I took a deep breath, hiked back to my friend’s car and got the towels. I put the towels in my arms and walked them back down the steep embankment. I handed them to the man. And someone (I can’t remember now) wrapped them around his bloody head. The ambulance arrived. I don’t know his name. I don’t know if he lived or died. I do not know what happened to my towels. We just drove a way.

Today on Highway 50 I drive across all those memories. I see the white crosses and flowers of roadside memorials zipping by. I wonder if there is one for the man. Then we stop in dusty, lonely Eureka. I am reminded of that Thanksgiving. This time I am with my husband and sons. This time Kyle and I take a walk and pick up pinecones. This time we laugh at the fun we are having. This time I am a mom, and this time I do not scream.

Eureka, Nevada
Eureka, Nevada


  • Best Driving in a camper van advice ever:  when we were driving on this same Nevada Highway 50, I took over the wheel. I asked Dave what I should do if I saw a deer in the road. He said, “whatever you do, DO NOT SWERVE!” (True Story) Moments later a Jurassic-Park sized jack rabbit (jack-a-lope I am certain) ran into the road and immediately stopped when it saw me. I did not swerve. I promise. I would have. Instead the jack rabbit lost his life and I saved ours. High fives to Dave and his most awesome camper van advice!
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VW Eurovan Camper Life: Moab, Utah

(Originally posted February 25, 2003)

Moab, Utah, Arches National Park, February 2003
Moab, Utah, Arches National Park, February 2003

Moab was blissful, warm and a true lazy weekend. We did our daily eating at the Moab Diner. I always go for the Biker Buckwheat Breakfast. Marianne and Dave went for a little more variety ordering something different each time, and Kyle wanted his usual Chicken and French Fries. Eli was good eating off of all of our plates. He especially loved all of our pancakes. He inhaled them. He is a true pancake fiend.

Ok, we were in Moab, the Mountain Bike capital of the world and all we did was hang out. Marianne gave us haircuts and colored my hair, we watched movies, looked at real estate (something we do everywhere we go), and rested. By Sunday, the coldest day, we were feeling like we had cheapened the experience so we made our way over to Arches National Park. It was spectacular. Every time I go there I can’t believe how incredibly amazing all the red rock formations are. Kyle was in no mood to hike so I carried him on our half mile walk to see the Turret Arch in the Windows Section of the park.

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah, February 2003
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah, February 2003

Eli was falling a sleep in Marianne’s arms and Kyle had gone beyond melt down point. Their little noses were still running like faucets, and we all felt generally crappy, so we decided it was time to head back up to our temporary home. I drove, something I rarely do, and Marianne kept me company. I knew when we hit Price that I wanted Dave to drive. The road gets more crazy and I wasn’t so sure of myself in the van. At about the same spot we hit fog on the way down we hit a white out. Snow had blanketed the area. Cars were off the road. We had to stop every few miles to shake the ice off our windshield wipers. Like the fog, we couldn’t see the car in front of us. We put our hazards on to help cars see us, a trick we learned from the Fed-Ex truck driving in front of us on the way there, and made it through the windy long stretch of Soldier’s Summit.


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VW Eurovan Camper Life: A Many Part Series

I am extremely tired so I have posted some pictures of this past week. Just click on the word, “more.” I will begin to fill in the details tomorrow. In brief, we are still sick. The boys are very sick. My friend, Marianne came to town. We took her to Moab. On the way to Moab, I slammed Kyle’s hand in the van just after spending a few minutes with our friend, Mike Darne at The Little America Hotel. Kyle has a new friend. His name is buggy. See the pictures. So much more to say, but I said I was tired and I am. I will fill in the blanks soon.The Pictoral Story

Dave, the boys and Mike Darne
Dave, the boys and Mike Darne

Our Friend Mike Darne with Dave and the boys outside the Little America Hotel
(It was pouring rain and this was the best picture we could get.)

Kyle Hand
Kyle Hand


Kyle and Buggy
Kyle and Buggy


Kyle’s goof friend Buggy


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Traveling to Portland, Oregon in our VW Eurovan Camper

Kyle & Justin, Portland, Oregon
Kyle & Justin, Portland, Oregon

As you know or don’t know we went to Portland, Oregon. We went up to see friends past and present and to check Portland out as a viable place to reside. Have I mentioned all of this before? We are SO frustrated. It seems the more we travel, the more we do not have a place to live, the more schizophrenic we become.

Ah ha, but this entry is supposed to be about to our trip to Oregon.

Ode to Oregon

Ode to Old Friends
Even though they may skip school and spend tons of time with us,
We must remember that if we move to Portland things won’t always be like that.

Ode to good friends that not only play with our kids, they love our kids.
Ode to friends who put us up and put up with us,
(As long as we do not play Texas Hold ’em and we do sing Barry Manilow into the wee hours).
Ode to Justin and Stephanie.
We miss you.

Ode to boogers. Because no matter where you go, there they are.
Should I be starting so many lines with “Ode?”

Ode to Eli. You travel so well.
The Pacific Northwest Rain gets us down
But not you. You are our peace.

Okay, more than schizophrenic I think I am sounding run-of-the-mill crazy. Portland was beautiful, cool, and groovy. We looked at real estate, talked about the good schools, found the Target, and then it rained…

Me, Suzie, Jill & the boys, Mcminnville, Oregon
Me, Suzie, Jill & the boys, Mcminnville, Oregon

Thankfully through it all, the love is still there. Dave and I feel stronger even though our life is so crazy.

Please help us find a place to put some roots down.
Post your suggestions. Thank you

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