Disclaimer: This post is a bit long because we have four weeks on the road to catch up on so bare with me. I promise they won’t be this long every week.
This week marks one month on the road.
Four weeks ago we hopped in the truck with the tin can in tow and started driving. We had two weeks to make it to South Carolina where we will spend the summer volunteering at a national wildlife refuge in exchange for a free campsite. Until then, no plans.
If there is one thing that James and I have in common it’s planning. We love itineraries. We spend months researching vacation spots. Now, here we were on the road to nowhere. It was scary and exhilarating. I was determined to fight my planner instinct and improve on my improv.
As we jumped out of the car to search for the “Welcome to Arkansas” sign at our first state line, it occurred to us that a good friend lived in Little Rock. Our first detour. Success!
We spent a night in Memphis listening to blues on Beale Street after chowing on some phenomenal ribs at Rendevous. Outside of town, we stopped at Century Farm Winery on what turned out to be National Wine Day and met a man who’s family has owned the beautiful property for 150 years.
Turns out, we’re better at spontaneity than I thought.
Next up, a stop at a state park for our first night of hookups before meeting up with some friends in Nashville the next day. Our half day in Nash-Vegas, as our friend calls it, turned into two days. Bluegrass and country music ruled much of our stay but a quick beer with James’ friend from high school was a nice surprise. I love that city.
Why not go to Louisville and check out a distillery or two? And, hey, Churchill Downs is there so add a horse race to the list.
Near the top of James’ bucket list is Gettysburg. We still had more than a week before reporting to Conway, South Carolina, plenty of time to see some Civil War history. Northwest we went. The battlefield tour that is supposed to take about three hours turned into two days of gawking at incredible monuments and staring at the site where so much American history was made.
We had three days to go about 450 miles, so we made another pit stop in Charlottesville, Virginia. We found a killer cream soda stout at Starr Hill Brewery, stopped at a street festival for some food truck fun and spotted my name in the travel section of a local bookstore, twice.
Onward to Conway… wait, is that smoke? Yap. In the middle-of-nowhere Virginia on an interstate on-ram the wheel bearing on our tin can caught on fire. As in James got to practice using our fire extinguisher on the flames spewing from our tire. It was now two days before we were supposed to start our first volunteer job and we were stranded four hours away with no camper and no mechanics available until Monday.
After watching terrified as a tow truck hauled our home down the interstate on a flat bed, we got a hotel room and spent the weekend hunkered down in a comfy king bed binge watching “Blood Line” and anxiously awaiting news on the tin can.
Monday afternoon we paid $723 for a new axel and the tow and got back on the road to Conway where we arrived for work a day late to a very understanding boss who said, “everyone with a camper gets here late. There’s always a problem.”
We traveled more than 2,000 miles in 14 days and covered 10 states. I deem us experts at improv.
After settling into our site and hooking up the tin can, we discovered a new surprise. Our first leak. Yes, I said first. We’re up to four now. Three leaks (in the shower, kitchen sink and ceiling over our bed) have been fixed thanks to the redneck innovations of James Bryen involving a bike tube, FlexSeal and clamps. We don’t really need a bathroom sink right now so leak No. 4 will just have to wait.
So far, this trip has been a lot more exhausting than anticipated. I was imagining relaxing with a book on the beach. But 3 weeks in and I hadn’t made it to the beach or read a word.
Oh, and did I mention my birthday was in there somewhere?
We were fixing leaks and building a kiosk for the refuge. We did manage to make it to the beach just before sunset and then decided we were too exhausted to celebrate. Don’t worry. James planned a perfect birthday weekend the following week. Stay tuned for more on that or check out some photos from our weekend on Instagram.
Four weeks later, we are starting to settle into our site and our new lifestyle.
The camper seems to be in good shape (knock on wood). James finally got to go fishing. I even picked up a book the other day. Progress.
I’ve learned more in the last month than in the decade before.
The biggest lesson: it’s OK to be a planner.
I left Oklahoma last month with a goal to become more spontaneous and plan less. In my head that seemed like the way to maximize our experiences.
As it turns out, planning is just part of my personality. I like planning. I like researching places that we’re going and knowing that I’m getting everything out of the experience because I knew what to expect.
The new goal: be myself but be flexible.
James reminds me that we should embrace who we are, especially our strengths. If we are planners, let’s plan. But we also know that we need to be prepared for changes, detours and exciting adventures that we could never anticipate.
Moving forward, we’re making “potential plans.” We’re letting our instincts be in control until there’s a reason to deviate.
Stay tuned to see how our potential plans play out.
Are you a planner or spontaneous? Do you fight your instincts when it comes to travel plans? Join the conversation in the comments below.