It never stopped feeling just a little bit crazy… even after we arrived.
Back in June/July, in the slog of quarantine and covid, the Digital Insiders were hankering for some sort of in person event. There was no way we could do a traditional mastermind, but I thought that if I could find a place with perfect weather and wide open spaces, we could have a safe get together outdoors.
Turns out the only spot in the country with truly perfect 24 hour outdoor camping weather is the high desert in Utah. So Moab it was. I booked four campsites, told people to show up with whatever they wanted (RV, camper van, tent, sleeping bag) and figured we’d wing it.
It wasn’t until about two weeks before we left that I started to feel the craziness of this idea. For me, Alex, and William, it meant a five day 33 hour drive across the United States as first time RVers.
The learning curve was steep. Less so for Alex who has a natural aptitude for cars + outdoorsy things.
But for me? I have a leg full of bruises to remind me that my “idea” of making lunch in a moving vehicle was far more aspirational than realistic.
Thankfully no sharp objects came flying out of the RV as we drove. William was an incredible trouper. We’d drive for 8 hours, stop once or twice for gas, and then camped at night. He basically had three hours a day of “non moving” time because by the time he woke up the next morning, we’d already be an hour into our drive.
Alex and I got really good at quietly securing everything in the RV so as to not wake William.
We also realized about halfway into day 2 that we needed to alter our driving schedule some because four days in a row of 8 hours was too grueling. So we stayed an extra day by the lake in Nebraska.
Ya’ll it took three days of the longest driving in my life to get to just the center of the United States. It’s incredible. And during all that driving, really the only thing you can do when you’re prone to carsickness is eat, sleep, and listen to stuff. All my grandiose ideas of writing and working were promptly buried about 4 hours into the first day.
RV life is pretty comfortable I’ve gotta say. I slept well…well except for the fourth day when we tried to pull an all nighter as Alex drove through the mountains of Colorado. That wasn’t a good night sleep. Basically – no sleep. It was far to windy and bumpy. By 3am I begged Alex to pull over so we could sleep, and with no hookups or generator running, we settled in for a toast 30 degree mountain winter slumber.
Arriving in Moab the next day, it was so strange to watch the lush green Colorado rockies turn into desert red rock with sand and cactus everywhere. I gotta say though, high desert camping is the best. No humidity. No mosquitos. Just a SHIT ton of dust, but for someone like me who loves the beach, I’m used to sand.
As we set up camp, Digital Insiders slowly started showing up. By nightfall, we had almost everyone.
- Matt + Heather in their Rugged all terrain car and adorable little airstream.
- Julia + Neil in their pop-up tent and truck looking like an advertisement for Patagonia.
- Tyler flying solo with his itty bitty tent.
- Robin + Ken with their two dogs and their trailer (after taking a more reasonable 6 days to get across the country).
- Cathy, Erik, Maizen, and Aven… oh yes, and Lucky their dog.
- Ausi + Ron who flew in with their tent.
- Chris, Jen, + Jack came in with their tent and Christmas lights for some flair.
- Stephanie, John, Josiah, Jude, Jocelyn, and Journey – PACKED to the gills in their Honda Odyssey.
- Katie + Caitlin who rolled in with their minivan while smartly waiting for their fully prepared RV to be dropped off (no idea why we didn’t think of that).
- Christina and her horse Shadrick and her dog Bella (she’s legit a badass).
This was the crew the first night. It was hard to believe we’d all made it – from all over the country, now sitting in the quiet desert rock of Moab – not a streetlight or wifi signal for miles. We were all ready to dry camp.
Well it wasn’t quite all of us yet. There were still a few missing.
Roxanne + John had gotten held up on their way out with a broken down RV. When they finally showed up Monday afternoon, we realized they were also pulling some pretty cool side-by-side and ATV vehicles on the back of their trailer.
Sean (aka Elon we nicknamed him) came in his Tesla in the middle of the night, and showed us all how it’s done with “camping” mode in the Tesla. No tent. No supplies. Just him and this weird little “almost chair” he brought for campfire chats at night.
And last but certainly not least, Dani came rolling in with her truck and crazy cooking supplies (she’s a food blogger and knows camp food like nobody’s business).
We did it. We overcame all the headache of packing for four days of dry camping where you begin your day in a down jacket, gloves and hat, and end the afternoon wading in the frigid waters of the Colorado river in your bathing suit.
- Where there is no cell service.
- No water.
- No electric hookups.
- No stores for at least 45 minutes.
For experienced campers, this is still glamorous of course. With an RV and only a 45 minute ride to town, it’s hardly roughing it. But if you’re not a camper, this is a stretch.
Nonetheless the promise of four days of just being together in nature, with nothing to do but chat, cook, hike, and enjoy the outdoors, it was enough to pull everyone into the adventure despite the headache it was to get here.
Most everyone woke up between 6-8. In fact, I notice without my phone, my body QUICKLY adapts to the rhythm of the sun. I am nearly asleep by 9pm at the campfire, and I open my eyes just as the sun starts to cast that pink glow on the mountains.
We all just huddle around in our jackets and hats, with tea or coffee in hand, and just chat. Make plans for the day. Some go hiking. Some go off roading. Some just want to sit and stare at that rock and have nothing to do and revel in the absence of the crazy modern world.
At lunchtime, there’s usually another transition as people return to eat lunch, strip off all their morning clothes and change into full on summer weather gear, and settle in for the hot afternoon.
By 4pm, there is nothing to do but bring your chair down to the river where you can wade into the water about to your knees. The water is FRIGID and moving quickly. It’s too dangerous much beyond that but it’s a good way to cool off.
Around 6pm, we’re all back. The campfire gets lit, food comes out, and it’s time to just sit and be together. The kids run around in the dust and sand chasing each other with glow sticks.
Erik puts on his Russian Siberian winter hat and comes out with his tray of S’more fixings.
There’s lots of talk about the sky, which is littered with stars, and a crystal clear view of the Milky Way galaxy.
People retell their harrowing stories of climbing mountains, or nearly dying in some Hell’s Revenge car trail that seems like utter madness to me, but they love it.
It’s easy for me to get choked up in moments like this. I know that the investment into the Digital Insiders over the last three years has created a network that almost acts like a family. I mentally thought about all those that weren’t able to make it, and try to figure out how I can plan more of these adventures that bring all of us together.
I am so blessed.
I am sad today is the last full day. It went by so quickly, and I know that this will probably be the last time until spring that I see people other than my immediate family.
Last night William (I wish you could have seen him)… he was still in his bathing suit from the day, but it was so cold he had on a down jacket on the top, bathing suit on the bottom. Covered head to toe in sand from rolling around in it playing some game of tag. He was so sad to have to go to bed. This was just the kind of vacation he needed after 7 months of staying in CT without any friends other than his siblings to play with.
We plopped him in bed and I saw a plume of dust land on his pillow, but I didn’t care. It’s been about 8 days since we’ve had a shower. They’ll be time for all that later.
Tomorrow we pack up and begin the long drive home. Our schedule for home was EVEN more ambitious than getting here, which just points to our naivety about RV life. I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’m a little worried about the cascade of notifications on my phone when we go back into civilization, but just one day at a time right?
People asked me, “What do you think about RVing now that you’ve done the mother of all trips?”
I would say I REALLY enjoy it, but you have to go at a slower pace. 6 hours of driving a day. Staying one or two nights at a stop. I LOVE the high desert which is hard, because it’s so far away from home, and even if I can handle the trip, it does mean at least 2-3 weeks away from home, which is a lot.
Katie’s “drop off the RV” and fly in idea wins in my book. When we do this again, that’s what we’ll most likely do.
People also asked how hard was it to eat vegan the whole trip? Hard. We broke the rules a few days, but not as bad as you might think.
We did a few ham sandwiches for lunches on the road because to whip up beans + rice or some soup wasn’t feasible. Dinners were easy because we were stopped and could cook. Breakfasts were toast + jam or avocado toast, so… not as hard as you might think.
We did try a few dehydrated vegan camper meals, which were pretty tasty!
Lastly people asked, “Would you do it again?” The answer is most definitely yes. If we can make this work in the middle of Covid, we can do anything.
It is always worth it to do these things, even when it’s hard. Like John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill all the way.”
**Photos not included because I’m doing this all on cell data hotspot and I wasn’t in the mood to upload photos!