While we had settled into the condo as best we could by the end of May, we needed to keep our sights on a trip to Denver. As mentioned in prior posts, the bulk of our household left from our 2018 downsizing was in climate-controlled storage with CubeSmart in the Denver area. It would take easily ten days to make the trip and move out of the storage unit.
Our first step was to discern the size of a moving truck i.e. U-Haul or Penske that we would ultimately need. Diane revisited the household inventory list and photos of numbered boxes. One of the reasons we rented a climate-controlled space was because of family heirlooms, artwork, archives, and photos that were more sensitive to temperature extremes. Some of these items would ideally ride back to Pullman, Washington in either the backseat of our air conditioned pickup or in Tranquility the Trailer, which is nicely insulated. While our CubeSmart unit was 10 feet X 10 feet, we hadn’t packed it to the ceiling.
Next we confirmed with our daughter, Stephanie, and son-in-love, Shane, in Denver, their availability later in the summer. Steve began to research moving truck rentals based on dates. We estimated that we would need at most a 20 foot U-Haul truck with an “attic” over the cab of that truck. Bingo! Steve had some dates for us to consider.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, we weren’t keen on staying in hotels, eating in restaurants or fast-food places, or using public restrooms. Instead, it made good sense for us to travel with our trailer in order to remain self-contained. This decision led Diane to reserving campsites for ten days. The key reservation was for the Denver area. There aren’t many options for camping except at two state parks. Both are extremely popular and weekends especially, book a year in advance. We were in a unique situation where between our truck and trailer combo, we are 53 feet in length. AND, we wanted to fit the 20 foot U-Haul in our pull-through site. Nabbing a reservation for a four-night stay at Chatfield State Park outside of Littleton, Colorado, beginning on a Monday and leaving on a Friday, worked out well. Using Google maps’ satellite view, Diane was able to locate a campsite to easily accommodate all three vehicles.
For the trip down and back, we opted to reserve sites at KOA campgrounds. Especially along this particular route, we’ve stayed at several KOAs before. Reaching out to each KOA by phone first was helpful. A caveat to our return trip would be traveling with an additional vehicle. We needed to ascertain if there was an overflow parking area where the U-Haul could be parked without incurring additional fees. A few phone calls later, we had reservations in Butte, Montana; Buffalo, Wyoming; and Cheyenne, Wyoming going to Denver. On our return we only stayed in Buffalo and Butte. The fantastic news was both of their KOAs had an overflow lot where we could park the U-Haul at no charge.
Steve reserved the U-Haul for a one-way trip from Denver to Pullman. For the distance, we could have the truck for five days. We knew that the truck needed to be unloaded and returned to the U-Haul in Moscow, Idaho on Monday, August 3. It meant that we’d have to really push ourselves on our return to Washington, but we were open to that plan. Our trip schedule was finally determined, leaving on Friday, July 24 and returning to Pullman, on Sunday, August 2.
The trip to Denver was non-eventful. Although the best part was being back on the road, towing the trailer, and watching the beautiful landscape unfold across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Our stay in Cheyenne, Wyoming was a perfect pause. On Monday, we were able to time our arrival through Denver to avoid the glut of afternoon traffic.
On Tuesday we drove to CubeSmart storage and began our work of dismantling the archive shelves, packing loose items into boxes, and loading items that could ride back to Pullman in the trailer.
Fortunately, the weather was nice so that we could take walks at Chatfield State Park on two evenings. We’ve stayed here on numerous occasions and love the setting.
On Wednesday evening we picked up the U-Haul truck. We immediately drove to Stephanie and Shane’s apartment building where Steve, Steph, and Shane moved the sofa, loveseat, and two lamps. The apartment manager gave them permission to hold the elevator in order to get two loads down to ground level. Whew!
Thursday morning had us up early so we could arrive at storage by 7am. We sensed that a Thursday wouldn’t be as busy as weekend days, plus the earlier the better to avoid as many other people as possible. We were worker bees for five hours. Diane rolled carts to and fro while Steve loaded the carts and unloaded them into the U-Haul. We were two very exhausted “puppies” by the end of the day.
The toughest part of this trip from an emotional standpoint was not getting to have the typical time we so enjoy with our family due to COVID-19 and respectfully taking precautions. We were able to have several visits with Steve’s Mom over morning coffee and lunch. Seated apart on her driveway with her in the garage worked out. Stephanie and Shane came to our campsite at Chatfield State Park on the last evening. It was nice to share a meal with them and have conversation. Yet still, it wasn’t enough!
Up at the crack of dawn, we set off just at sunrise. Steve drove the U-Haul truck. Diane drove the truck-trailer combo. Despite trying to avoid traffic, we ended up in the thick of it for an insane stretch AND the sunrise was right in our eyes. Yet, once we shifted from I-70 and were a few miles north on I-25, the traffic seemed to settle into a manageable pace.
The drive to Buffalo made for a VERY long day. We tried to switch driving vehicles for 60 miles or so, but Diane’s back wasn’t pleased. Needless to say, Steve had quite the ride with the U-Haul, which struggled on inclines, had no cruise control, and when the engine RPM increased, the air conditioner decreased.
Two more long days with a night in Butte, found us back in Pullman on Sunday afternoon. Once Jeremy and Michelle knew that we were at home, they immediately drove over to lend their support. In about an hour’s time, they completely unloaded the U-Haul and helped Steve with the pick-up bed.
Aww! Now we’ve become fairly settled. We will let the COVID-19 pandemic play out, hopefully with good health and a future vaccine we can resume travels to visit family, friends, and special places in the U.S.
In the meantime, be well. And, if we encourage you to Subscribe so that you’ll receive an email notification when we have a new blog post.
Diane & Steve
Living Life at the Speed of Sanity….even in one place!
Our previous post alluded to Hope on the Horizon. In fact Hope rode with us as we left Denver on Saturday, May 9, 2020 towards the Pacific Northwest. Our sights, dreams, and Plan C were counting on Hope! Thankfully Colorado lifted its shelter-in-place order that morning. This gave us increased confidence that we were okay to leave. What a relief. After 52 days of sheltering-in-place as part of Colorado’s Stay-Safe-at-Home measures, we were ready to get Plan C on the road with “AZ IF the Truck” towing “Tranquility the Trailer.” Yet, perhaps you are curious: “What was it like to hunker down in Colorado during the interim?”
Our Stay-Safe-At-Home Stage
Beginning on March 20, 2020, two days after arriving in Denver, we noted the number of novel coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, cases were at 15,000 for the United States. Keeping tabs on the cases in Colorado, Idaho, and Washington were important to us over the next seven weeks. We felt reassured knowing that Tranquility the Trailer was safely stored and just chilling with a very full RV storage lot at Dove Valley Storage. Needing to keep our mental and physical health healthy, we walked dozens of miles on the sidewalks in the neighborhood where we were staying. Barb’s home provided more than ample space to hit the pause button. The views from her back windows and deck gave us solace with opportunities to watch different birds, snow falling on the landscape, gorgeous sunrises, rains followed by rainbows, and then spring blooms and green grass. With her large kitchen, we made more involved meals, unlike in the trailer, which limited more elaborate meals. Indeed, we were extremely thankful for Barb’s hospitality during her absence. In return, it was nice to be able to keep tabs on her home for her.
Our outings were few, dictated by the governor’s orders. We managed with bandanas and coffee filters, which we slid between the bandana layers for added protection. Thankfully we could shop during early shopping hours designated for 60+ of age or at-risk individuals. Whole Foods was within two blocks and our best place for groceries, with fewer shoppers and better protocols early in the game. In order for Steve’s Mom to stay safer, we shopped and delivered her groceries. For us, some dental care and lab work couldn’t be postponed, so we managed safely with our providers taking extraordinary measures. In April we had a socially-distanced sidewalk visit near Stephanie and Shane’s high-rise apartment building to get some of our mail from them and to have a brief conversation. The weekend before we left Denver, we had them over for a socially-distanced pre-birthday lunch for Stephanie with Shane, her, and us on the deck. On one of our last days in Denver, we ordered takeout from 5 Guys and had lunch with Steve’s Mom, socially-distanced on her driveway. For all of us, it was quite difficult to not have our usual hugs and not be inside one another’s homes. More than anything, we were all trying to keep each other healthy.
We had numerous phone calls or Zoom sessions with family members and friends. Those were a boost for our psyches, sensing the feeling was mutual. It seemed that we were all needing those connections and time to anchor to loved ones, albeit virtually. We challenged ourselves with a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Projects included scanning family documents and photos. Devouring the news seemed to be an obsession, yet thankfully it wasn’t cable news. We tried to limit news watching until 5pm local news followed by national news and finally PBS NewsHour. Each morning we jumped onto our New York Times, NPR, or Guardian apps to get different news sources. The detriment of this pattern of news binging was the added anxiety as the reports of rising numbers of cases and deaths was relentless.
Preparing for Plan C
Before we left Denver, we shopped ahead for groceries and other supplies. We weren’t planning to shop in Moscow, Idaho or Pullman, Washington upon arriving there as we were on a mission to diminish the amount of contact with others during these uncertain times. Surprised at that number of shortages of certain categories in the Denver area stores, we erred on the side of being as prepared as possible before leaving Denver because Moscow and Pullman had fewer stores.
Knowing that we would soon be leaving our beloved state of 10 years, we had one brief outing to higher elevation before we left Colorado. On May 4, we packed a picnic lunch and drove U.S. 285 into the mountains. Once at the summit of Kenosha Pass, we parked so we’d have a view over lunch. Kenosha Pass is where we’ve taken countless hikes and snowshoed. The gold aspen in the autumn and purple and white columbine in the spring are breathtaking. Whenever family or friends came from out-of-state, this was one of our favorite places to take them. It doesn’t take too much of a hike to achieve expansive views of South Park’s valley rimmed with beautiful mountains under sapphire skies. Thank you Colorful Colorado for the memories!
Besides, keeping close track of COVID cases in Colorado, we included Wyoming and Montana, through which we’d drive and stay; and Idaho and Washington, where we’d conclude this trip. Having Colorado plates and in the event that there were checkpoints where we’d need to provide proof of our destination, we had reservation details along with us.
While many campgrounds in those four states were either closed since it was still early in the season or closed due to the pandemic, we needed to plan ahead for our stays. Sometime in mid-March we received an email from KOA corporate that many KOA campgrounds across the U.S. were doing their best to remain open knowing that there were snowbirds on the move to northern states or Canada plus full-time RVers. Although many KOAs had limited service and all but the offices were closed, so no restrooms, laundry facilities, camp stores, pools, cabins. Some KOAs are open year-round, while others are seasonal. This communication from KOA provided a boost for us. We knew that our route would take us along interstates from Denver to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Being acquainted with several KOAs on the route through prior stays, certainly helped. We called ahead to verify that they were open. Then using our KOA app, we reserved for one-night, pull-through spaces in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Buffalo, Wyoming. In Cheyenne, our paperwork was taped to the office door. In Buffalo, Steve had to step into the office for less than two minutes. We knew that the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana was open, but we planned to call them after our Buffalo stay in case the weather was unfavorable.
Pacific Northwest Bound
Friday, May 8: Last minute shopping, laundry, a trip to the storage unit to grab a few items, taking a load to the trailer (we had taken quite a bit to Barb’s for our extended stay), and top off AZ IF’s (the truck) diesel, made for a full day.
Saturday, May 9: We were up at 6 a.m. to make a final grocery run to Whole Foods, launder linens and towels, clean the house, water plants, and load the truck with the remainder of belongings. At RV storage, we hitched up Tranquility the Trailer and pulled out by 1pm for our 125-mile drive. Arriving at the KOA in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a pull-through site with full hookups was a good call. We opted for a shorter drive that day because we knew we would get a late start and the trailer needed some attention. First, we needed to de-winterize the trailer after having to winterize it when we arrived in Denver during a cold snap. Secondly, we needed to get the fridge and freezer turned on. Next, it was time to move items from the truck to the trailer yet again. Lastly, we were exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep!
Sunday, May 10: Happy Mother’s Day calls came from Stephanie and Shane in Denver and Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman. We were treated to a 300-mile day with sunshine, NO WIND (this is atypical for Wyoming), and Sirius Radio over the many miles. We kept tabs with another full-time couple, Beth and Bruce, who we met just briefly the year prior at Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona. We follow one another on Instagram and Facebook plus have exchanged messages. Interestingly, they were spending a couple of nights at the KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming, our destination for the night. A few minutes after we pulled into our site and were situated with our hookups, they came over for a socially-distanced chat. It was great to see them even briefly. Knowing that we had two more big days of driving, we vegged on a movie that evening and hit the hay a bit early.
Monday, May 11: We were up early. We had 427 miles to cover to get to Deer Lodge, Montana. The forecast called for potential snow near Livingston, which we’ve experienced on the pass between Livingston and Bozeman before. No thank you. We kept our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed. Fortunately, there was just a dusting of snow. As we traveled along I-25 and then I-90, we called the KOA in Deer Lodge to request redeeming our KOA ValueKard points and that we didn’t see how to do this through the KOA app. It was then that we learned that redemption had to be done in person and the city of Deer Lodge was having water issues, so there would be no water hookup. Bummer! Because we opted not to add more water to our fresh water tank in Buffalo, we had to conserve water for one more night and morning. Gulp! Once we arrived in Deer Lodge late that afternoon, we were greeted by winds and gloomy skies. Only one other RV was in the campground. The KOA owner was cheerful, welcomed us, and apologized for the water issues.
Tuesday, May 12: We were up early again. Although, without much water in the tank, there were no showers to take nor dishes to wash. Off to tackle another 330 miles on the last consecutive day of driving. Through the western part of Montana and across the panhandle of Idaho we appreciated the valleys, the open spaces, Clark Fork River, and the ranches. We traversed the mountain passes of the northern Rocky mountains and descended into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It was there that we exited I-90 to take route 95 south along the western Idaho border. The beauty of the forests thick with Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Engelmann Spruce, et al gave way to the rolling Palouse Hills the further south we drove. It was with great relief that we pulled into the Rambler RV Park near Moscow, Idaho. We could be here for an open-ended period of time based on our pre-arrangement with the owner. It was a fairly nondescript park with some sites serving as a longer-term situation for some RV owners. Unfortunately, the water quality of our water hookup was not the best. We paid a brief visit to see Jeremy and Michelle and to fill our water containers to add water to our fresh water tank.
Wednesday, May 13: Over breakfast, Steve developed a Google maps route from the list of 15 rental properties that Diane created. In the afternoon, we set off for Pullman to drive the route, make notes, and take photos. En route to one of our final drive-bys, we noted a For Rent sign on a lawn. This address wasn’t on our list. We noted the contact number and Steve called it later. Bingo! We had an appointment for the next day for a walk-through with the owner.
Thursday, May 14: We met Jo, the owner, to walk through the condo. Within 15 minutes, we sensed that this would be a good fit for us. She had two other parties scheduled for a visit and noted that she would make a decision in the next day or two. We asked for an application. As soon as we were back at the trailer, we completed the application and sent it to her. We put out calls/texts to family and friends who would be references. Thankfully the application was easy to share via email, so no need to arrange another appointment. Plan C seemed to be unfolding at the speed of lightning…or was it the Speed of Sanity?
There WAS Hope on the Horizon! Plus, We Moved During a Pandemic!
In our next post, we will share what happened on May 15 and a bit of our journey on what it’s like to get situated into a new home and new community during a pandemic after full-time RVing for 22 months! It’s definitely been interesting! Stay tuned!
These times during the COVID-19 Pandemic have up-ended our intention for adding new updates to our 12mph blog. Thanks for hanging with us!
On Friday, March 6, 2020 with a smidgin’ of phone service available at our campsite at Kartchner Caverns State Park, we placed a call to an RV park in Santa Fe, New Mexico to secure the final reservation as part of an upcoming 12-month, 56-stay, 31-state trip. What a huge relief! It had taken us months with dozens of hours in coffee shops or public libraries for WiFi in order to accomplish this immense task. Unbelievably, we began making some of our reservations in October and November 2019.
Why plan so far in advance? We learned during our first year of full-time RVing that it was necessary for us to plan nearly a year prior to reserve in private, state park, and national park campgrounds depending on their reservation window. Reminders were added to our Google calendar as to when the reservation needed to be secured. We devised a list of all 50 states and the earliest a reservation could be made in each state park campground. Another rule of thumb was national parks are typically six months in advance UNLESS they are managed by an outside vendor who can take reservations sooner i.e. Florida Everglades National Park. Another list indicated when to make reservations for private and national park campground stays. Then from these lists, we knew when to reserve. It was kind of bizarre to be making reservations in Texas for March at the same time we were making reservations for a campground in Georgia for a November visit. Plus, we reached out to family and friends months to a year in advance, mainly because of planning for an entire year for an extended trip not likely to be done of this depth or breadth again. Details, details!
The evening before, we would review the campground website (namely county, state, or national parks where one selects a specific campsite) to see which sites would work for our situation using advanced search filters: hookups required, length of trailer, and having one slide. With the campground map that included site numbers juxtaposed with a Google map of the campground in satellite view, we’d look at each potential site. We often were able to discern which site provided the most direct sunlight. Sometimes this was desired and other times we’d be looking for shade. We also learned over time that if possible, a longer site really made it easier with our big pickup truck. A list of sites was created and kept handy for reserving bright and early the next morning.
The morning that we’d need to reserve, our alarm would be set 30 minutes prior to the time and time zone for the earliest a reservation could be made. (Sleepy-eyed in Arizona for the Florida reservations). Learning early in the reservation process that it takes roughly 10-15 additional seconds for the “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA to complete before the reservation is submitted was a helpful caveat. Unbelievably we lost a couple of reservations to others making reservations early in the morning. Kind of crazy! Yet it worked fairly well and our year was planned! Whew!
The trip was created with several goals in mind: visit family and friends; camp near the southern edge of each of the five Great Lakes; prefer county, state, or national park stays; conduct genealogy research; visit numerous cemeteries related to Diane’s heritage in OH, PA, NY, CT, WV, and MA; help Diane pick up VT, NY, MA, RI, and CT for her list of states visited; have Thanksgiving with cousins; spend December-March along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts; welcome Christmas and New Years in the Florida Everglades; take a couple of day-trips to the Florida Keys; spend a month in one place near Gulf Shores, Alabama; tour NASA near Houston; visit Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Fast forward to March 19 in the midst of Plan B and the first three days of sheltering in place at our friend’s home in Colorado. We spent hours over those days emailing or calling all family and friends, campgrounds, state parks, and national parks to cancel our 56 stays. It took two weeks for the last of the credits to be applied to our credit card. It seemed absolutely surreal that everything was cancelled! Not one reservation remained on the books or in the works. The good news is that we were able to recover 89% of what we put down as deposits, some stays being completely pre-paid in-full. It’s still a loss, but it could have been worse.
Vanished. Just like that 56 stays were off the calendar!
Yet, the good news was that there was hope building on the horizon! By Friday, March 20, we had a gut feeling that we needed to keep the engine moving and commit to the next plan, our Plan C. Knowing that we wanted to find a home base abode to rent in Pullman, Washington, we explored our camping options between our arrival in the Pullman area and actually finding a place to rent. Not only were we in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also knew that there may be other full-time RVers needing a longer term site or an influx of snowbird RVers heading north prematurely. We discovered several longer term RV park communities in the surrounding towns. The closest was in Moscow, Idaho, 10 miles from Pullman, placing us strategically with easy access to Jeremy and Michelle and looking for a home. We paid a month’s non-refundable deposit on March 23 in order to hold a spot for an open-ended time at the RV park with our arrival set for May 12. This was a huge relief. At least we had an anchor at the other end.
Throughout our 52-day stay at Barb’s home south of Denver, we kept tabs on the home rental market in Pullman. Thankfully between Trulia, Zillow, and Craigslist, we had a nice list of 15 rentals by the time we left Denver. Trying to imagine what a home-base would look like after having downsized as much as we could, we knew that we’d like ample space to resume projects once we were settled. A three-bedroom or 2 bedroom plus den would provide room to spread out. Having at least a one-car garage would be helpful for storing much of what was in the pickup bed, bicycles, etc. A yard that would require minimum upkeep would certainly make it conducive to hitch up Tranquility the Trailer and at least enjoy some camping trips in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon.
How did the hope on the horizon turn out? Stay tuned for the next post!
Diane & Steve
Living Life at the Speed of Sanity….even after full-time RVing!