Our journey has taken us into the past before. We have seen the graves of famous gunslingers. We have walked in the forests of the ancient Redwoods. We’ve slept just outside of buildings so old that they had collapsed under the weight of history.
So, where to now?
Hold on to your butts.
“Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA, the building blocks of life. A DNA strands like me is a blueprint for building a living thing.” – Mr. DNA, Jurassic Park
So, where does one find ancient mosquitoes that have been trained in the old ways as bloodthirsty assassins and DNA traps?
No, really. Have you seen the amount of mosquitoes that Michigan has? It’s like a mini-vampire breeding ground. There could be all kinds of things being transmitted by their mutant mosquitoes…DNA, malaria, the ridiculous stupidity it takes to come up with plans to abduct and murder their governor. Sorry Michiganders, but if the mitten fits…
Welcome to Jurassic P… er. Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park. Abandoned.
Located about 25 miles from Ann Arbor, the Prehistoric Forest was first opened back in 1963, and was quite the attraction for its time. Life-sized fiberglass dinosaurs where just the tip of the tail for this amusement park. There were cavemen, waterfalls, an active man-made volcano, a Safari train, and fossil digging pits.
As with so many old roadside attractions, Prehistoric Forest fell victim to the interstate that routed traffic away from memory making roadtrips and into the fast lane. Attendance dwindled in the ‘80’s, but Prehistoric Forest managed to limp along until 2002, when it closed it’s gates for good.
The park is private property, and there are plenty of signs letting you know that. Immediately upon our arrival, a police officer arrived to give us the stink eye and let us know that we can take pictures, but not to trespass. There is one large dinosaur visible from the parking lot, and a few fake trees and cacti scattered around.
Taking a sneaky peak into the forest, you can find the king of dinosaurs, Mr. T-Rex. In a sick twist of fate, time has only made short-arm jokes more painful for him.
Rumor is that the owner of the Prehistoric Forest still has big dreams of re-opening the amusement park. I think that ship has probably sailed, but perhaps…if they spared no expense.
As it sits, the property is just going the way of the dinosaur. I do hope the prehistoric decay is left to be enjoyed by those that are eager to hear stories of the past whispering through the trees and flimsy fences.
Just a reminder for those that want to visit abandoned places…take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but…nothing!
After a short visit with half of our spawn, we knew we’d have to go into a 2-week long quarantine before trying to visit a more elderly member of our family. So we searched our maps, discussed a couple of places we’d like to see, places we had already seen, and we found out that it was a nice day (2 weeks) for a White River trip.
A dispersed camping area in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, right alongside the White River would suit our purposes nicely. We had food, water, a beautiful view, and a way to walk our canine writing assistants off leash and without other humans.
What did we learn about the White River area? Not much ‒ come on we were quarantined, not partying with the locals. We did discover that our little section was right next to a popular dirt bike riding trail. And cars just kept coming and coming and coming into our little dead end spot.
Our annoyance turned into a bit of embarrassment when we discovered (thanks dude who knew how to have a conversation at medically prescribed social distance) that Google maps says that there is a road there. Apparently a storm years before had washed out the road. No one bothered to repair it; they just restrung a power line, added a jersey barrier, and let Google keep thinking the whole road was there.
The traffic was the only negative thing for the whole two weeks, and once we realized that we were parked in the middle of the “road” it didn’t really bother us much.
We visited Mt. Rainier and marveled at its beauty from the pandemic-safe enclosure of our car. We even found ourselves an empty picnic spot, but we did have to share with a rather large crow who had absolutely no shits to give.
The rest of this two weeks was spent with him carving, sanding, staining, and wrapping a walking stick, that he would later break, while she re-potted her succulents and watched Umbrella Academy season 2. A 2-week long scrabble championship event was hosted by the dogs, and he lost. Then with a day left to go, she points out what a lack of wildlife we had seen in the area – except for the mosquitoes and endless hordes or raiding field mice.
So what is the point of this blog? Is it just a rundown of two relatively uneventful weeks in the middle of nowhere, Washington? Nope. You read this entire thing just so you could see this beautiful creature, and her spawn, who spent half of our last day hanging out with us.
Vampire Slaying, Stephen King, and a Grand Forking Idea
It all began on a cool, windy, spring day in Bandon, Oregon. Bandon is a beautiful beach town along the Southern Oregon Coast. At the time we lived just a short twenty-five mile jaunt away. We were treating ourselves to a day-date in the “old-town” district.
We went to the Face Rock Creamery, and after sampling enough cheddar variations that we were in danger of being asked to leave, we thought it best to purchase ourselves a couple of blocks to take home.
We walked along the edge of the harbor and darted in and out of the gift shops. We browsed the bookstore (of course), and we left with two books that explain more than I care to admit about our personalities – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and the Star Wars Bounty Hunter’s Code.
We dropped our purchases off in our vehicle and decided it was time to feed the beasts that were growling inside us (the more you feed them, the less likely they are to burst from your chest and face-hug all of your friends and family – if only John Hurt could have eaten faster…). Remember, this was an all-day date, so we went to a nice restaurant instead of the seafood stand on the waterfront. I mean, come on, we even got dressed in real pants for the day!
We laughed. We held hands. We ordered an appetizer that was an experiment for both of us. Our food arrived. It was amazing. This is where we would recommend the meal choices, yet, the food is the fuzziest part of the memory. You see, we had always talked about how we wanted to go and visit new things. We shared pictures of places we wanted to go. Someday, we said; someday.
“You know, we could get a travel trailer and strip it out, and just make a library. Yeah, it’d be a library on wheels with nothing but a bed, books… oh, and a toilet,” he said.
She laid her fork down gently as he stuffed another bite in, proud of himself for the lame addition of the toilet joke. Finally a pause in his babbling. She looked directly at him.
“What’s stopping us?” she asked.
“Um…” he said as he tried to swallow down the over-sized bite.
“Seriously, what’s stopping us?”
His lips twisted in thought as his brow furrowed. He looked down at the table and his eyebrows began to raise. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes.
“Uh… I dunno,” he said.
From that point on the rest of the day was spent dropping back into that conversation. The children were out, or old enough to be out of the house. They had their own jobs. But could we? Was this really a possibility or was the mixing odors of new books and seafood causing misfires in the synapses of our brains? Had someone drugged the vampire-slaying cheese?
That night we broke out pen and paper and began a three-day research project. We spoke of it to no one. This was serious deep spy stuff. Satellite images were passed through secret drop spots and we spoke through encryption devices when anyone was around that might hear. (We texted each other from the same room and sent pictures to each other through our social media accounts. Yes, we know, the NSA could have been looking in on our super-secret spy game.)The fate of the world was resting on our shoulders, and the pressure was on to find an answer.
We read blogs of full-time RVers. We did lots of math (well, he did the math, as she has come to believe that math is just a foul language that should not be used in mixed company).
How much will our income drop? Can we afford to live that way? We considered the emotional states of the children, and us. We considered the health of our aging parents. We talked through scenario after scenario. What if we do and something happens back home? What if we do and there’s a major breakdown or one of us gets really sick? What if we get out there and I can’t stand you? (The answer to this one involved a shovel and the use of one of our kids as an alibi.)
We walked around the house and looked in every room and cried out: “What in the world will we do with all this stuff?”
Those questions were answered, and then we tried to break those answers with as many what-ifs as we could. By day three, we realized the truth.
What was the truth you ask?
We were nervous, because we could, we could really do it. Nervousness became excitement which became…
“Oh crap, we have to tell the family.”
Before we get into the trauma (and drama) of the next few days, let us discuss the how-to part of what we did. Believe us when we say we are not the ultimate authorities on how to transform your life into a full-time RVing adventure. In fact, we are regularly learning something new, or getting frustrated at what we don’t know, all the time. (This is a nice way of saying we really don’t have a clue about what we’re doing, but we hope you’ll continue reading anyway.)
The beginning of the “how-to” part boils down to coming up with your recreational vehicle size and type. Everyone has different desires, different needs, and different wants.
That’s a broad statement, how do we translate that into an RV type, you ask. Well, what we did was make a list.
Actually, make three lists.
First, what do you NEED to take with you to survive, we’ll call it the essentials list. We strongly recommend taking clothes, a jacket or two, and maybe even splurge for some soap and a toothbrush. Then a second list of the things that you want – things you think you need. This second list is the almost essential list. Like a regular can opener instead of an old Army P-38 can opener – or a camera instead of the stone tablets and chisels to create a visual record of your adventures. The third list is the I don’t think we need thisbut wouldn’t it be nice to have list. You know things like the espresso machine, or the Roomba™.
These lists are not the final packing lists for your new life. Nope, not a bit. Those “final” lists will change several times and will not be finalized until you are twenty miles down the road in your new rolling forever home on wheels. (Even then, it will change as you discover new things and go more places. Basically, you can throw the lists out.) No, these lists are to give you an idea of what kind of space you need. Do you want something tiny, the size of a Scamp™ or a conversation van? Or do you need a 40-foot 5th wheel behemoth? We’re not judging you either way. This is entirely up to your preference, and because it is, we’ll just walk through the wonderful way we found our first little towed home…
To start with we had a Dodge SUV. It had the bigger V-8, and it’s tow capacity wasn’t horrible so we thought we were halfway there. It meant that 5th wheels were out, and we weren’t fond of towing it behind a motorhome due to its own weight. SUVs tend to be heavy, as heavy, if not more so, than their pick-up truck cousins. So that discussion was fairly short; Travel trailers it is!
New? Used? How old? Fixer-upper? What do we want? Well, with the drastic change (also known as a drop) in income, let’s try to avoid adding a new debt. Let’s go for used, maybe even a fixer-upper, I mean we are crafty people right? Yes dear; and so that part of the discussion was a bit longer, but still relatively short. It’s all settled now, we want a used travel trailer, no leaks, appliances work, other conditions are open to negotiation.
Two days later. Mike is at home performing his house-husband duties (watching cat videos and posting food pictures to social media all while claiming to be writing an important section of his barely started novel manuscript.) when MeLisa contacts him from work. She found something while browsing the internet on her break.
“What’s that?” he asked.
An RV to go check out. Okay, I can do this, he thinks, but wait… did you say it was a motorhome? Yes. We had come to a decision – Travel Trailer it was, and now Mike was off to take a look at a 24-foot Winnebago Class-c motorhome.
It was the first official look either of us had taken at a used RV. It was spacious for its size. Good sized bed. Functioning kitchen area… lots of carpet. It even had carpet up between the front seats and around the console housing. Between the dogs, and an inability to decide what to do with the SUV, we walked away from it. It was on the high end of our price range anyway, we said to ourselves. Secretly both of us had wanted it, and were afraid to admit it until many months later, but we walked away all the same.
That was a Thursday.
Friday we were back to looking at travel trailers and calling on a few. Mike even stopped to look at one that was being sold with a truck. Interesting idea, but alas, still not quite right.
Then came Saturday.
We had been up late Friday. Had a big family dinner, a few drinks, all with music played at one-half notch below the piss-off-the-neighbors level. We both woke early – too early for the tequila and beer from the previous evening. We took care of a few things around the house and decided an early afternoon nap would be just the thing…
Then MeLisa found it. Someone was selling a travel trailer on Facebook.
“Oh, there’s a number. You should call,” she said.
“Wait, how big?”
“It’s only a thousand. Like one-thousand dollars,” she said.
“And it says it all works?”
“And how big?”
“And no leaks, “ she said.
And so he called. No set time, just come down. It’s right here and we’re having a yard sale too, they said. They also said lots of people were calling and that the first one there with the cash takes it.
And so we went. While we were looking it over – at only sixteen feet that takes a LONG time – two other people showed up inquiring about it. Standing alone inside we quickly discussed it…
“It is small,” she said. (Yes, that’s what she said.)
“Might be too small,” he said. (And then she giggled.)
“The cushions are ugly. What is that, Pepto-pink puke color?” she asked.
“Nah. It’s more purple and puke,” he said.
“Do you really think the dogs and us can even fit in here?” she asked herself more than him.
“Look at it this way, I could give it a once over and sell it for more. There’s a line waiting. Let’s take it home, and decide later. If we don’t want it, we can sell it,” he said.
Afraid that someone would get there first we had skipped stopping by the bank on the way, so MeLisa waited there to have awkward introverted conversations with the seller, while Mike ran to the ATM and pulled the cash we were short. We skipped our nap that afternoon as we towed an old tiny trailer to our driveway.
There it sat for a week, while we debated back and forth if it was big enough to handle our needs, while we also kicked the idea back and forth about what we were going to use to tow it. Our inexperience reigned supreme as we learned what tow ratings versus actual weight meant. Our new acquisition was heavy for its size (though we thought it was all normal – remember, inexperience supreme). At a dry weight of 2900 lbs. the math worried us. The tow rating of our SUV was only 4900 lbs. Our assumption was with the stuff we’d pack we’d be at 3600-4000 lbs. if we kept the trailer we had. That was just too close to the rating to make us feel all warm-n-fuzzy when we thought about the Rocky Mountains or the long haul across the high deserts. And what if we get a bigger one? So while we considered whether the tiny trailer taking up all the space in the driveway would work, we set off on selling our Dodge and finding a more capable tow rig.
Again, MeLisa came through.
Eugene, Oregon is just a couple hour drive from our home on the coast and we setup a day trip to look at both privately sold vehicles and a dealer’s lot in Eugene. The long story short; we said no to two different private vehicles and no to the 3 lots we looked at while waiting on our creditors to approve or deny us on the truck that had both of us salivating. An older F-150 with dual shock systems, shift assist, overdrive kill switch, tow package, no rust, all OEM equipment. Shiny! We had to have it.
That same week we decided. The Serenity was christened (geek alert!). The tiny travel trailer was named and a full remodel/refit began. So, because it would be towing the Serenity the truck was named Hoban. (Most people give their vehicles female names, but Hoban just felt male. He even gets a little hot under the collar, but more on that when we get to Nevada.) Yes, as in Hoban Washburne. The Browncoats were going to take to the open roads because “you can’t take the sky…” er… road “from me.”
We had it all set now, we were sure:
We had our tiny (ultra-miniscule is likely the more correct term) home. We had a tow vehicle that we loved and was nice enough that we frequently got compliments on. We had informed the two children still living with us, and the family members who mattered. We had survived the guilt trips from the daughter who had spent years trying to convince us that she was never moving out of the house. We handled all the interpersonal drama from our family that supported and was going to miss us, and those who thought we had lost our collective minds. The latter were certain we must be the first victims of a soon-to-be pandemic level brain devouring disease.
What was left? Just the little details right? You know, things like finishing the remodel of the interior (piece of cake) and then downsizing into our tiny home.
We’d be ready and capable of leaving within a week we were sure. (There was 23 days in that “week” before Serenity was ready. And another month of donations, giveaways, and yard sales to downsize and choose what was truly important to us.) We walked around the house several times and looked at all these things that we seemed to hardly use; yes, downsizing would be as easy as conquering northern Siberia in the dead of winter.
Serenity served us well over the next 10 months. We learned a lot; saw a lot. We followed the trail of Billy The Kid.
We taught a couple of college kids how to play poker (by taking their money at the table).
and we discovered what happens when you leave a window open in a sand storm. We should’ve brought the Roomba™.
We fell in love with this RVing life, and it was time to plan for the long haul. Serenity found her way into the needy arms of a young couple and we found ourselves a new vessel on the roads of adventure. A magical home with wheels that came to be known as Matilda.