I’ll be completing the drive home soon. While I’m hanging out in Jacksonville waiting for the ice and snow to clear in Birmingham, I thought I would write a few notes on this one month road trip. Given the weather in Birmingham, the timing for this trip was truly serendipitous.
I’m traveling in a Roadtrek 170. It looks like a high-top conversion van, but it’s actually a very small motorhome with all the conveniences you normally find in a larger motorhome. Only with smaller capacities.
I met some wonderful people in coffee shops, on bike rides, in restaurants, at vegan meetups, and in campgrounds. And, for one night, I visited some groovy relatives in Pensacola on the way down. It would be easy to feel isolated while on the road. But in meeting such interesting, friendly people, and by staying in touch with family and friends back home, I never felt isolated. Much.
I intentionally didn’t do a lot of touristy stuff on this trip. I just wanted to enjoy the weather, visit a few parks, walk the beaches, go for some bike rides, and enjoy a few healthy meals. The kind of things locals do. That was enough. More than enough.
The beaches and parks are beautiful, and there are so many of them. The roads are mostly bike friendly, and, of course, flat. I enjoyed meals at two vegan meetups, 3 vegan-friendly restaurants, and at the Whole Foods hot bar and salad bar a few times. Most of the time I just prepared food in the van.
Much of this is described and pictured in earlier blog posts if you’re interested, so I won’t rehash it here.
While on the road, I managed to post 28 entries to the blog, including this entry. During the first few days I integrated the blog with Facebook and Twitter, and worked out a few bugs and problems with social media integration by writing a WordPress plugin. I also tried to get better using a new camera, and improve my batch image processing skills.
One of the questions I hoped this trip would answer is the viability of overnighting inside the Roadtrek in parking lots. Of the 29 nights I’ve been gone, I slept in a home 1 night (thanks Andy and Crystal), in campsites with hookups 4 nights, and in parking lots 24 nights.
The parking lots were not the usual ones RVers overnight in. They included Starbucks, Publix, Whole Foods, restaurants, and an auto repair shop. Not one Walmart.
For 22 of the 24 nights I stayed in a parking lot, I asked a store manager for permission to overnight there. Everyone said yes. A few times I got some qualifications, like “we can’t be liable”, but no one said no. During the night, I never felt like I was in danger, and I was never bothered or roused. Well, one time I was concerned about a car outside the van, but that was a false alarm.
Another question I hoped to answer is, how long would I be content living in the Roadtrek. One month was great, I speculate three months would be great, but I still don’t know for sure if I would be happy doing this full-time.
I travelled, slept, cooked, cleaned, and often prepared meals and ate in the van. I took a shower once at a YMCA, several times at campgrounds, but otherwise washed daily inside the van. The van has a shower, but haven’t used it much because of the small capacity of the water tanks. Instead, I would just use a wash cloth.
When inside the van, its windows gave me a sense of connection with the outside. I never felt cramped or claustrophobic. And because I was otherwise active and usually not in the van while I was awake, I had the sense of living out of the van, rather than living in the van.
My employer is gracious in allowing me to work on the road with flexible hours. I worked at Starbucks, Panera Bread, Whole Foods, 2 times using campground wifi, once at a library, and infrequently using my iPad’s hotspot capability for wifi. It was usually easy to find a spot inside these places where my screen was not visible to others. I did this even though I was never working with sensitive data. I had no trouble concentrating, even with high noise levels. I think I was just as productive as I would have been in the office – maybe even more so.
It’s been a very enjoyable adventure, and I’m already gathering some thoughts for the next one. In the mean time, I look forward to returning to Birmingham and resuming a more normal way of living for a while.