Australia, Canada & USA, September – December 2021
Resfeber: The restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together (Language: Swedish)
For a while we felt shocked. We were actually home. We were allowed to go out in public, with no limits to how far we could go, and we didn’t need to wear a mask. We found ourselves in crowds. We hadn’t been in a crowd in over two years. It felt wrong and illegal. We were seeing people in real time, not FaceTime. Conversations got deeper, were more raw and full of emotion in person. While we knew of several tragedies we missed, we also learned of absolute heartbreaks and struggles some friends had endured since we saw them last. We felt terrible for having been unaware and thus unsupportive. However, our friends are resilient people and love us no less for living far away. When we reunite it is as if no time has passed. Many of our friend’s families had grown and we got to meet new little people and pretend we were sharks and read books and use our imaginations. Our nieces and nephews had grown up far too much in the years since we’d seen them. We swam and tubed in the vicinity of loons and biked beautiful paths in Minnesota, camped by a river and hiked trails in Canada, and soaked up all the moments we could with the beautiful people in our life.
After a busy month of reunions in Minnesota & Ontario, we flew to Seattle in mid-October to pick up Francine…at last! It had been nearly two years since we purchased her sight unseen from Australia. We spent a day learning about our house on wheels. It was frigid, rainy, and windy, which made driving through Seattle traffic very nerve racking. I was exhausted realizing how little I knew, which was absolutely nothing, about trucks and campers. Lucky for me I am married to a relentless man who will not stop until he figures things out, and fortunately for us, our brother and sister-in-law owned a house near Seattle where they allowed us to park Francine. None of us realized our home would remain in their front yard for four weeks!
The 1992 Ford F250 ended up in the shop getting serviced for three weeks. It needed a good tune-up and new battery. It didn’t have air conditioning, so after getting a quote we decided to have that installed to make the journey more comfortable (we were shocked when the final price for that was more than double the estimate!). Another issue was that of the two fuel tanks in the truck, only the front gauge was working to tell us how much gas we had. Fixing the rear gauge was a significant repair cost so we chose to skip it and I would keep track of mileage to monitor fuel. New tires were also needed, but we opted to wait until Mexico where it would be cheaper.
The Lance camper also required far more preparation work than I had anticipated (turns out Will had figured this all along…I just didn’t believe him). It wasn’t super clean before it sat waiting for us, and some critters had made their home inside. Everything needed a deep clean. We ordered custom blackout blinds to provide privacy and make us a bit stealthy while wild camping. Will plumbed in a water filtration system that gets rid of viruses, bacteria and bad taste so that we would be able to fill with water anywhere along the way, which was great because you can’t drink the water south of the US border. I organized every inch of the camper and spreadsheeted costs and timelines. We are forever grateful to have had a warm home base as we prepared for the adventure ahead!
November 11th rolled around, and we were finally ready to hit the road. We felt anxious and shed tears as we hugged my little brother and rolled out of his driveway. The rain would not stop for the first week of our trip. Our inaugural night was spent in a torrential downpour, alone in a wooded area in a tiny Washington town. It all felt a bit eery and I started wondering what in the world we were doing. I was stuck inside Francine, taking my emotions out on Will, and couldn’t find any alone space in my house! Rain, branches and pinecones pelted the roof the entire sleepless night.
We only made it two nights on our own before we stopped to see a dear old friend in Portland, Oregon. She shares our fernweh, so we ended up staying five nights having heart to heart chats over Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (closest we could find to Tasmanian Pinot Noir!). She quit a thriving career for solo global travel years before us and has been an inspiration. Next stop was Bend where we caught up with friends we had met in Australia, then through snowy roads to check out Crater Lake, the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world. After a few chilly nights and pipes freezing we chose to bolt south to California for warmer weather! We filled up with gas on our southern journey, and to our unpleasant surprise the front fuel gauge also quit working. We now had no idea how much gas was in our tanks. Life on the road on a budget was presenting challenges.
While in Bend we met a man named Bill at an RV store. We had made an urgent stop to buy a new water hose because I was convinced the used hose we had was full of mold and disease and would no-doubt kill us (I tend to think of the worst possible scenarios). I was in a hurried pace attempting to make the purchase, but Bill caught a glimpse of Francine and his eyes lit up. He launched into travel stories. He was probably in his late 60’s and had travelled in a similar rig decades ago. He had pulled his daughter out of school to travel up to Alaska for a year. As he reminisced with us, he looked off in a nostalgic way and said, “You know, those are the only trips I remember.” I was thankful for a kind person to force me to slow down and feel gratitude. This would be one of many moments on the journey thus far where we have paused to recognize the beauty of this adventure and feel no regrets.
California provided extreme highs and lows. From sleeping in the majestic redwoods and the magical scenery, winding roads, and elephant seal colonies of the Lost Coast to being sidelined in Mendocino, sleeping in the parking lot of a sketchy mechanic, paying heaps of money for shoddy work that we ended up revising later. The fuel gauges still didn’t work. It was stressful to have the truck in hands of people we didn’t trust, but we were lucky to get out with them only touching the bare minimum to make it driveable. As Will says, “you can’t win them all,” and this was a clear loss. However, the silver lining was that wonderful old friends were waiting in Southern California, and one of them happened to have experience working on old Ford trucks.
With a solution down the road, we grew more confident with Francine and began wild camping along sides of the road and random fields and parking spots. We explored Joshua Tree National Park and then spent our last days in the US in comfortable homes of friends. In Rancho Santa Margarita we caught up with old friends, met their 4-year-old twins, and got our fill of In-N-Out Burger. In sunny La Quinta we stayed with a couple whose three boys I had babysat decades ago. It never ceases to amaze me how much I relate with them. Having done RV life themselves they were eager to offer laundry, hot showers, comfy beds, delicious meals, wine, etc! Their middle child is the talented Ford mechanic, so we made our final stop at his house in Oceanside where Francine would get her final tweaks before heading to Mexico. This sweet little boy I used to babysit had become an unbelievably gracious gentleman, and helped us far beyond what we expected. While fixing the truck, he and Will learned the batteries that operate all mechanical things in the camper were shot. More money and time was spent fixing this, but we would have been in a sorry state if this hadn’t been detected until Mexico!
Our stormy Francine departures continued. After days of sunshine, a massive storm rolled in the day we departed for San Diego and the border. The anxiety and anticipation were boiling inside and once again I began to question what we were doing. Countless warnings came from family and friends about the danger of travelling through Mexico. Despite a long streak of Duolingo Spanish lessons I couldn’t communicate to save my life. This could be a huge mistake. But we were prepared, and the excitement was overpowering the fear. Tiujana was a short distance down the wind-blown highway. Vamos a Mexico!
3 thoughts on “Reunions & Preparations, Anxiety & Anticipation”
Beth, this was beautiful to read! Can’t wait to read more, love and hugs to you and Will, take care and keep having fun!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Wendy for following along. What a ride it’s been! Currently sweating in El Salvador trying to figure out how to cross from here through Honduras and into Nicaragua in one day! Hope you and the family are well!
Beth, I agree with Wendy… a great read! I’m so glad you are taking the time to document this journey, Looking forward to the next chapter! Safe travels🙏🏻🙏🏻