Ever since Jim retired twelve years ago we have been RV nomads,
wandering all over North America in a comfortable 5th-wheel coach pulled by an
aging diesel pick-up truck.
We have a serious case of wanderlust. There are so many fabulous
places to see in the U.S. and Canada and, now in our mid-60s, we aren't
getting any younger. We want to see and do as much as we can before we
can no longer enjoy this lifestyle.
It's a moderately difficult
3-mile hike to iconic Delicate Arch in Arches NP but
definitely worth the effort! This
is the arch depicted on Utah's license tags.
When we started our new life of freedom from work schedules we
didn't know that more than a million people live and travel in their
RVs full-time, with no sticks-n-bricks abode somewhere.
Ironically, we sold our house in Montana in the middle of the winter
and lived in a 32-foot HitchHiker fifth-wheel trailer for several
months and didn't even know we were full-time RVing. We knew we wanted
to travel a lot but our focus -- and mistake -- was on finding a new, warmer
home base from which to make forays across the continent.
We thought we found the best of both worlds in 2004 for our dream
retirement -- a spacious house on twelve acres of forested land
in the scenic Roanoke, VA area + the freedom to travel as much as we
Big house, little house
What we underestimated was how much wanderlust we had. In retrospect,
we never should have bought the place.
We were gone two, three, then four and sometimes five months at a
time, usually out West, returning to Virginia in the spring and fall to
take care of business there. Our dream retirement property became a
burden -- more work, worry, and $$$ than retreat.
By the time we realized how many people live and travel full time
in their RVs the housing market crashed and we didn't think it was
cost-effective to sell our property. During our lives houses had always been
an investment, not a liability like they became during the Great
Recession. We waited it out and finally sold our house (at a loss, all
told) in mid-2014.
We have been full-time RVers since then and we love the freedom.
We aren't "homeless." We are simply "house-free." Home is
wherever our camper is parked.
Winding Roads cartoon by Joe
In the next entry I'll explain how our RV lifestyle has morphed over the last twelve years.
Right now I'll focus on the development and content
of this website -- the activities we enjoy, the types of articles
and photos you can expect -- and our tentative travel plans for 2016.
TWELVE YEARS AND COUNTING . . .
I can't believe this is the twelfth year we've been publishing our website!
We started it in 2005 when we did the Appalachian Trail Adventure
Run-Hike. Keeping the web journal was so much fun, and we had such a great
response, that we just kept it going each year.
Celebrating the finish at Mt. Katahdin in Maine
I (Sue) do almost all the writing and photography. Jim is the computer
guru who set up the website and maintains the bones of it. Occasionally I
can get him to take a few photos or post an entry about camper
modifications he's done, a race he rode, or some other type of entry
like the humorous piece
recently about Casey, but it's mostly
And since it's just a hobby, not a job, and we stay busy exploring our
fascinating world, I often get behind on uploading new entries -- seriously
behind. Right now, spring of 2016, I'm still working on entries from
July to December of last year.
I date entries in chronological order on the topics pages but they
are often uploaded to the internet months later. For example, I'm writing this
introduction in late April on an unusual rainy day in Moab, UT, the
first real rain Jim and I have seen in several months. That's why there
are some photos from the first part of 2016 in this entry.
Sue at the Fire Wave rock
formation, Valley of Fire SP in Nevada (4-6-16)
I get behind primarily because I take too many pictures; they
literally take more time to edit than shoot. I'm still using PhotoShop 2
(yes, TWO) to edit photos on my laptop computer. One day it's gonna crash and I'll have to
learn a new program, which will put me even more behind on the
Most of the photos on this website during 2015-16 were taken with a
20.4-megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400 digital "bridge" camera with a
fixed lens, 50x optical zoom, and 50x digital zoom. I most often use
automatic settings when taking pictures (part of trying to keep my life
more simple) and do any necessary editing on my laptop --
cropping, lightening, resizing, etc.
We also occasionally take photos with an older compact 16-megapixel
Sony digital camera or our new 16-megapixel Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smart
phones. (We had simple little flip phones until November, 2015).
Our new phones take wide-angle photos like this one
from the S. Laguna Conservation Area
along the Colorado River in far
southwestern Arizona. Castle Dome is in the distance. (12-21-15)
I do maintain a daily journal on my computer so I can go
back and use parts of it in website entries. My memory isn't good enough
to start from scratch on the text every time.
The best way to keep up with our location and activities is to look
at the current year's journal topics page. Even though there may be no
links to click, at least you can see where we are. I'll get to the
actual entries if and when I have time . . .
Young male bighorn sheep perched precariously above
me on the
awesome Observation Point Trail at Zion National
As mentioned, we began the website to chronicle our A.T. Adventure Run-Hike.
Subsequent years focused on our ultra-distance running races, trail runs, and RV
travels. You can read all about it, or just look at the pictures, in the
previous eleven web journals.
For the last few years neither of us has been able to run because of knee
problems and we no longer attend foot races. We still keep in contact
with some of our running friends and I read the ultra running internet forum regularly.
We miss running after 30+ great years of training and competing but
we have adapted with new sports interests so we can stay fit and happy. We will
continue to be endurance athletes as long as we can.
Jim at the end of the grueling
Leadville Trail 100-mile bike race at high altitude
in Colorado, where he took a
nasty fall at about 90 miles but kept on going. (8-10-13)
Jim has morphed into endurance cycling on his Specialized Stump
Jumper 29er mountain bike. He enjoys doing long rides on his own, like
the 108-mile Michelson Trail in South Dakota, and participating in
occasional gravel grinders, road races, and long trail events like the
popular high altitude
Leadville Trail 100-miler in the Colorado Rockies
Fireweed 400 in Alaska.
He also does some hiking but cycling is kinder to the knee he hurt in
a bike accident several years ago. Surgery didn't help much.
Despite severe osteoarthritis in both knees I can still hike all day
-- it just takes longer to cover the miles than when I could run. My
favorite trails are in mountains where I can climb above treeline and
get panoramic views of the scenery in all directions:
The incredible views from Mt.
Ripinsky above Haines, Alaska made the
gnarly climb to the summit well
worth the effort to me. (June, 2015)
I also do some cycling on my Specialized Tri-Cross, a cyclocross bike
that can negotiate a variety of terrain. I left my Terry road bike in
storage when we sold the house. Jim would like a road bike, too, but
it's all we can manage to haul two bikes with us around the country, not
three or four of them.
[Sad addendum: My bike was stolen out of our minivan on
April 2 while I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southern
California. I was parked at the trailhead at Walker Pass west of
Ridgecrest. The thieves smashed the window in the passenger sliding door
to get to the bike, which was inside the car. They took a few other
items that can be replaced easier than that
bike. Although it was seven years old, it was still in good shape. The Tricross models
are no longer made; the Specialized CruX series is the closest
replacement. I'm happy with the new CruX I got because it's
lighter and has hydraulic brakes. We are pleased that our renters'
insurance mostly covered the value of the items stolen, as well as the
This is how I found my car at the trailhead when
the window on the sliding door and stole my bike.
Other than deteriorating rotator cuffs in our shoulders and osteo-arthritis in
most of our joints, we're in good health for our age. We thank genetics, an
active lifestyle, and good choices for that.
We joke that between the two of us we have only one good knee. We're
probably looking at three knee replacements eventually, when a combination
of cortisone and Orthovisc or similar gel-type injections no longer provide
the cushioning and pain relief we need to function the way we want.
OUR ATHLETIC FUR-KIDS
We share our lives with two Labrador retrievers that love this lifestyle as much as
we do. They are always eager to head out the door for a ride, run, hike,
swim, or other adventure. They have adapted well to day-long drives to
new campgrounds and living in a tiny house.
They are happy to be with us, no matter where we are or what we're
doing. No wonder Labs have been the number one dog breed in the U.S. for
the last 25 years!
Cody and Casey can snooze for
hours on the back seat of the truck or in the van
when we're driving; the vibration
lulls them to sleep. (June, 2015)
Cody, our shiny black Lab, was 13 in March. He's been with us
since before we began this website. Although he's aging he has the same
sense of adventure that he's had all his life -- just like Jim and me!
All three of us have had to modify our activities as we've gotten
older, but we still love an active life. Cody's still able to hike for a
couple hours at a time with me.
At three years of age, Casey, a cuddly little yellow Lab, still has a
puppy brain. She's an exuberant little girl who's full of life, love, and energy. Almost everyone who sees
her comments on how "happy" she is -- her tail wags her whole
body when she sees another dog or person and she thinks everyone wants
to be licked.
The essence of happiness: Jim runs Casey on
his bike. (July, 2015)
It's hard for me to wear
Casey out just hiking, even for several hours, so Jim plays ball with her at least
once a day with a Super Chuck-It to launch tennis balls for her to chase --
seemingly endlessly. She's very fast and cunning and usually beats other dogs at
dog parks to the ball.
Jim also runs her slowly on his bike about five miles
a day with a handy gadget
called a "Walky Dog," shown in the picture above.
CURRENT FOCUS OF OUR WEBSITE
What kinds of journal topics can you expect on the website this year?
- Our outdoor activities -- mostly hiking and cycling, plus
occasional kayaking and whatever new sports we might try
- Lots of scenic pictures of places where we travel
- Points of interest like historical sites and various types of
Jim examines Native American petroglyphs at Valley
of Fire SP, Nevada (4-9-16)
- Nature photos -- geology, flora, and fauna, including wild
critters (from birds and butterflies to moose and bears)
- RV-related topics like travel routes, campground reviews,
modifications Jim has made to our Cameo, full-timer RV issues, etc.
We prefer wilderness to cities, peace and quiet to a lot of people or
activity around us. We usually shun large events.
Flowering yucca and rounded rocks
at Joshua Tree NP (3-22-16)
Iconic multi-armed Joshua trees
along a trail at Joshua Tree NP (3-25-16)
We don't eat out much but when we find a bakery or restaurant we
like, I'll mention it. We don't enjoy browsing in shops along the way.
When you live full-time in an RV, you simply don't have room for
extraneous "stuff." We have learned to live very simply, without all the
"stuff" we used to think we needed.
I try to avoid controversial topics on this website. We have our
well-considered opinions and standards, of course, but I don't want to
alienate readers with personal views. Sometimes I slip up, however, and
you may be able to guess our political or other opinions.
View of Denali from a
fireweed-strewn trail across from the Eielson Visitor Center in
Denali NP, Alaska; many visitors
never get to see the mountain because of clouds. (7-21-15)
This is my favorite photo of Denali; I took it in
August, 2012, after the taiga began turning red.
I don't write about all of our activities and I rarely mention other
people, including our relatives, in my journal entries because I respect
their privacy. There is so little of that on the internet these days.
do not use any type of social media besides this website, e-mail, and
internet forums. We aren't on Facebook, e.g., and we rarely read the postings of friends or family
members there or on Twitter. We just don't have the time or internet capacity.
I do occasionally mention the first names of running, hiking,
cycling, or RV friends when relevant and I sometimes include links to
personal websites I like.
TENTATIVE 2016 TRAVEL PLANS
We arrived at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), where the U.S. Army has tons of space
to test its equipment, arsenal, and troops, on October 25 and stayed until March 20,
the longest we've camped in any one spot.
The price was right and the location in far southwestern Arizona
proved ideal this winter for some of the best weather in the country.
Rabbitbrush provided bright color in the
low desert at the S. Laguna
Conservation Area near YPG from fall to
Before inertia set in and the temperatures rose too high, we
moved to three other military installations in southern California and Nevada
for a week each to explore some new territory:
- Twilight Dunes RV Park at 29 Palms, CA, a large Marine base near
Joshua Tree National Park
- Sierra Vista RV Park at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, with
access to Death Valley National Park and the Pacific Crest Trail
- Desert Eagle RV Park at Nellis AFB in north Las Vegas, NV near Red
Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, and Lake Mead
The Watchman watches over Zion Canyon RV
Park in Springdale, UT; that's
our camper in the foreground, surrounded by
several flowering trees. (4-16-16)
We spent an enjoyable week in a private campground just outside Zion National Park,
then moved to the Moab area farther east in Utah so we could visit Arches and
Canyonlands National Parks. This was our first time in Moab -- we soon
discovered why it's such a popular vacation spot for active outdoors folks and
After three nights in a nice but pricey campground in
town we found a spacious, inexpensive BLM campground high on the mesa near
Canyonlands and moved up there for eleven days. We had fun exploring numerous
trails and roads on thousands of acres of public land.
Jim rode his bike down the perilous Shafer
Trail, above, a 4WD road in Canyonlands NP
that switchbacks over 1,600 ft. to the
White Rim Mesa above the Colorado River, then another
1,500-foot drop through more canyons on
rough Potash Rd. (below). He loved it! (4-22-16)
Meanwhile, we cancelled reservations for late April and May at
Monticello, UT and Dolores River, CO when we decided to stay longer in
the Moab area and spend the month of May in Red Canyon, UT instead of
We'll be going
"backwards" to get to Red Canyon but we had such a good time there last fall
that we wanted to return. We can explore more of southeastern UT and southwestern CO in the
fall or another year.
We'll probably spend most of the summer in Colorado Springs and
Leadville, CO but our plans could change
at any time for any reason! We have medical considerations (possible surgery on one
of Jim's hands, more knee injections in August), as well as hiking and cycling
One of my favorite hikes in the
Leadville, CO area is to Timberline Lake. (6-26-13)
Current plans are to spend next fall and winter out West again. I'd
like to return to Kings Bay Sub Base in southeastern Georgia but the
entire southeastern part of the country has had such volatile weather in
recent months that we hesitate to go back. We had much better weather
when we were there the three previous winters.
What will next year be like, we wonder? High winds, tornadoes, and
flooding aren't any fun in a stick-built house. They can be downright
deadly in an RV.
So Plan A is to spend autumn in Colorado and Utah, then head back
to Yuma Proving Ground again. Even though we got tired of
mostly-brown desert down there -- not nearly as interesting as
high desert areas -- last winter's warm, dry weather can't be beat.
Plan B is to return to the Southeast for the winter. Our tentative plans often change, so check back periodically on the
2016 topics page to see where we are at any given time.
LIVING THE LIFE OF RILEY?
Not exactly, although we have many blissful days.
This lifestyle is not without its own set of stresses --constant trip
planning, traffic en route from place to place, weather issues, vehicle
problems, etc. -- but it's so much better not having to worry
about our house and property any more.
Following the Cameo from China Lake, CA
to Nellis AFB, NV on I-15; pronounce that road!
Living in a rolling residence AKA "tiny house" with so much less
stuff is incredibly liberating, not to mention 'way less expensive
than maintaining a house, condo, or apartment somewhere while we're
satisfying our craving for wanderlust.
How much longer will we live and travel like rolling stones?
Who knows? Something like a serious medical problem or complicated surgery
(new knees!) might force us off the road for a while, or even permanently.
Or we might simply get tired of it. People who know us know that we frequently
change our minds about our travel and other plans.
Canyonlands NP: almost as
spectacular as the Grand Canyon but without the crowds.
We liked the Moab, UT area so
much we decided to stay a week longer. (4-19-16)
That's why readers need to take the section about our tentative
2016 travel plans with a grain of salt. We're as likely to change our
long-term plans as our short-term ones. We aren't so much fickle as
flexible. That's one of the benefits of full-time RVing.
Or, as my brother
jokes when he calls and discovers we're somewhere different than he
thought, "You can do that!"
Next entry: the evolution of our RV lifestyle --
how and why it's morphed over the years and the type of camping ("glamping?")
we prefer now
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil