Thursday, July 31, 2014


What?  Shunpiker?  What does that mean?  New words have been popping up in this new RV life we're researching.   Hum, read on...

Fullltiming describes individuals and families who live full time in their recreational vehicle.  Not a very sexy term but I guess that's what Ed and I are about to become.   I wish the term was more fun, like shunpiker.  

fulltiming might be a family in a bus

other times, it's a cutie in a friend's garden
or, like us, a van called home.
Boondocking is stealth camping, most frequently in the back country without the use of commercial campgrounds or hookups.  The boondockers can be creative, if not always very stealth.  

Sometimes in the dessert.

Other times in the mountains.
But always off the grid.
Boondocking is a part of our family's history and is great fun if not a little anxiety producing from time-to-time.  On  road trips with Brad he's found us some amazingly wonderful boondock spots.  One of the rules we used was if it had a fire ring it was a camp site.  Our kayak trips always included boondock camping but its pretty easy to look like a piece of seaweed in the vastness of the sea.  Nevertheless, I'm a worrier so I aways thought lightening would strike in the form of the coast guard, but it never did.   

Fran boondocking on the beach on a remote San Juan island

Shunpikers avoid highways to instead drive the back roads, with some shunpikers being more adventuresome than others.   Seeking out roads that turn into trouble, or adventure, or a deadend has always been this family's recreation  -- for several generations.  I can remember my mom, my role model in worry, fretting about getting stuck or running out of gas or being lost, way back when I was a kid.   A couple of the best memories from my childhood were from shunpiking.  Once we found the perfect swimming hole for washing off the road dust and on another occasion two abandoned puppies were rescued from a culvert.     Brad might be the best shunpiker of all leading us one summer, after miles and miles on a rugged-where-does-this-road-go road, to a ghost town, where we boondocked for several days. 

Oops, where did the road go?

Or, this isn't the main highway but isn't it nice?

Freebies are free spots for the night.  Different from boondocking because you don't really camp and it's definitely not for the view.  It's just a parking space to spend the night, like at a WalMart,  Casino,  or rest area.  This will be a new experience, if we do it, because we have a huge aversion to WalMart and casinos, plus too many rest stops seem dangerous or otherwise unwelcoming.  I'm glad to know the term but am happy to continue to avoid the experience.

Perhaps the most famous freebie, WalMart parking lots
Casinos often welcome RV overnighters too.


"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.  Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine."

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our Intended Travels

The only way that we can live, is if we grow.  The only way that we can grow is if we change.  The only way that we can change is if we learn.  The only way we can learn is if we are exposed.  And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open.  Do it.  Throw yourself.
~  C. JoyBell C.

We are throwing ourselves.  North America is our destination.  We want to visit as many National Parks as we can; ride as many Rails to Trails as we can; see as many sunrises and sunsets, across strange landscapes, as we can; travel as many backroads as we can; be trail angels on as many trails as we can; read as many books as we can; learn as much as we can; love as much as we can; share as much as we can; volunteer as often as we can; and live our lives fully as much as we can.

A few years back we set out to ride our tandem on all of Whidbey Island's roads.  What a delight we felt as we marked off the miles.   The discovery of new island treasurers made us giddy; revisiting old time favorites rekindled our love of this place.  From traveling the roads of Whidbey to traveling the roads of North America is a huge leap, but from a bicycle to a van is a bit of a big leap too, and one that will allow us to expand our horizons in ways we hadn't imagined possible before we dreamed up the idea of becoming full-time RV adventure seekers.

A thistleing we will go!  


"Maps encourage boldness.  They're like cryptic love letters.  They make anything seem possible."
~ Mark Jenkins

Planning the "New" Life

This past year has been one of health issues for Fran.  It has also been a year of deaths of friends and celebrities that has been stunning.  We decided, given the evidence, to take seriously our ages and to get going on our next adventure.  In other words, it was time to grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round.  

Our research has begun for loading our van.  Most of the blogs I've been reading suggest that for two people to live full time in a van they need a Class A or Class C recreational vehicle.  Ours is a Class B, meaning it is much smaller than an A or C.  In fact it is only 18.5 feet long and 6 feet wide.  The largest Class B, called a Class B+, is both longer and wider.  A Class B+ might also include a pull out for a bed or the dining area.  That means we're going about as small as one can go for  "fulltimers" as we will be called. 

Not having had a van before, buying Thistle is a jump in faith.  We had a small tent trailer for a few years, but used it only for weekend trips and vacations, the longest being about 8 weeks.  Before the tent trailer we were tent campers.  Lots of car camping but also some backpacking.    Although we have strived to live small and with few possessions, van-small is a new game.  Our current home is only 870 square feet, almost 8 times larger than our new van.  Although some of our friends think we're already living about as small as one can live they haven't seen anything yet.

Fredley Main Living
seems spacious and almost too big
(This home is For Sale, Windermere Real Estate, 360 221 8898)
Our first van modification was to remove the microwave.  We have remodeled homes twice and built a new home once, yet never designed in a microwave.  Never having had one, we see no reason to start now, and, quite frankly, we want the space for what we really, really want -- our Vitamix.  The previous owners of our van removed the television set and given that we have lived without television for 30 years now, a TV will not be put back in.  We do enjoy movies, but with each of us having a  computer we'll have plenty of movie and news viewing power. 

Our biggest storage dilemma will be bicycles (two singles and a tandem) and the associated bicycle gear.    We will be looking at bike racks but that doesn't address biking shoes, helmets, tools and all the other gear that goes with biking.   Will we need a small trailer?  I'm hoping not, but we have some major issues to resolve.  Other issues of overflow include outdoor chairs, ice chest, BBQ, and clothing needed for non ordinary situations like snow or dress up occasions.  Our heads are churning with thoughts of what is a necessity and what is a luxury; what goes to the thrift store and what do we keep; do we need bulky boots or can we get along with hiking shoes only?  We do not want to be tripping over too much gear.  On the other hand, we want to have what we need to hike or bike or compute or go to a wedding or to put on chains.  We do indeed have a puzzle.

Both Ed and I are virgos so we know all about tending to details and we like the puzzle of figuring out spaces so we're having fun with the challenge -- at least for now!


"Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Saturday, July 26, 2014


It seems like if we're in our van, named Thistle, traveling will be thistling.   Spell check wants to make thistling, whistling.  I'm hoping as we thistle we will whistle!


"Driving down the wrong road and knowing it,
The fork years behind, how many have thought
To pull up on the shoulder and leave the car
Empty, strike out across the fields; and how many
Are still mazed among dock and thistle,
Seeking the road they should have taken?"
~ Damon Knight


Well, the good news is we no longer have to worry about the first scratch.  We were out and about looking for items to outfit Thistle when the 5:00 traffic in Oak Harbor did us in.  Bummer, but at least we've got that behind us!!    Thistle is now in the body shop as we impatiently await completion of repairs.   It's been slow because parts needed to be ordered from Germany.  

Thistle goes for a ride 
We had barely driven 300 miles when this accident happened and hadn't even packed our toothbrushes yet.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  We were close to home and so we're not crammed in some ratty motel in some strange town, as we await repairs.


"On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use"

On your mark, get set, go...

Here we are, in our early 70's and ready to launch a new adventure by downsizing-in-the-extreme to live and roam in our Sprinter Westfalia van, Thistle.  A friend of ours, Josh, owner of the Moonraker Bookstore in Langley, WA, once told us she and her husband, Glen, were going on a thistle vacation.  When we asked what a thistle vacation was, Josh replied, "Where we get stuck,  we stay."  This image delighted us enough that throughout the years we never forgot the idea of a thistle vacation.  So now, with our new van named Thistle, we are about to begin a new adventure.

Thistle is a 2005 van, imported from Germany by Airstream.    Airstream imported 250 vans in 2005 and our Thistle was the 214th.  We had been looking at newer Sprinters but were not impressed with the layouts or the materials used in the conversions.  We wanted an honest use of materials and a  more contemporary design.  We wanted a wise use of space and efficient design throughout.  No wasted space for us.   No fake wood for us.

We stepped into Thistle and couldn't believe our eyes.  It was perfect!  Every inch was used effectively.  The layout made sense.  Good ventilation, workable kitchen, functional and pleasing bathroom, bug screens as well as privacy covers for the windows, would sleep four and buckle up four so we could invite another couple to join us from time-to-time, and so on.  Our son, Brad, had seen this van on Craigslist and it was nearby.  We called immediately and you know the rest of the story.   Here are a few photographs of the interior.

Looking from front to back.  The two doors open into bath and wardrobe



Dining with driver's seat and passenger seat turned around
to create the dining area

Our van, although it is a 2005, had only 35,000 miles and looked new.  The previous owners had taken superb care of it, including making improvements with new tires, new sky light, and other upgrades they thought important.  We are delighted.  Although we were not going to purchase our travel van before selling our home, this van changed our minds.  It was almost too good to be true so we took the leap.

Now, of course, the challenge is figuring out how to spend the next 10 years, or so, with so few possessions, as we travel.  Our goals are to ride as many Rails to Trails and visit as many National Parks as we can.  We also want to spend time near major trails so we can be trail angels and do some hiking ourselves.  We think we might stop from time-to-time to volunteer in the parks, or other public places that need a helping hand.  We don't want to feel any absence of purpose in our wanderings.

Both Ed and I have our hearts set on reading, writing, exercising, helping others and learning.  We plan to add solar panels so we won't be stuck on a concrete pad "hooked up" and so we can keep our computers humming.  Traveling the back roads is our desire, avoiding all interstates whenever possible.  We also want to eat well, meaning interesting and healthy meals, so shopping and cooking will be an important part of each day.

As we look at our Thistle, we wonder how we will squeeze our "necessities" into the limited spaces.  Then we think of our son, Brad, who traveled for a year and walked 5,000 miles with a 30 lb. pack.  If he could do that surely we can squeeze into an eighteen foot van.  Having a van that would fit into a regular parking place was one of our goals, and not having it too wide for easy navigation was important as well.  It is both narrow and short for a travel vehicle, but eleven feet tall.  The height keeps it from feeling too claustrophobic without adding to the space it occupies in a lane of traffic.

This is the very first posting marking the beginning of our travel adventure.  We will not take any big trips until our home sells, but we will be headed out this summer for some shake down trips and a spell on a section of the PCT in Washington to be trail angels.


"Life if not waiting for the storm to pass…it's about dancing in the rain."  ~ Vivian Greene