Episode One – Getting Started
Memorial Day weekend, we left Colorado. After three months of trying to sell our house in what was supposed to be a seller’s market, we failed. We had a string of bad luck experiences (as our agents said), so we opted to rent our home to three lovely young ladies, and we hit the road. It was the maiden voyage for Wanda (previously known as Ethel) and Anaka left a day or two before me, while I moved the last of our stuff from our home, cleaned and welcomed the new tenants into the house we had made memories in for the last three years.
Our departure was anti-climactic to say the least, but we had a time commitment where we were headed and needed to be in Gallup, NM before June 1.
We did not say goodbye to friends, rather packed up things we needed and hit the road. To me, it felt like we were not celebrating a new chapter but sneaking away with our tails tucked between our legs. We do plan to return to Denver for a proper goodbye-for-now and celebration.
With Wanda packed full of our essentials, she was far from looking like a home. Our bed was on the floor, our food and dishes in boxes and plastic totes, with nowhere to store them, we bought a refrigerator before we left, but no way to power them and one of the best decisions we made was to keep our couch. It was an “L” shaped couch that I got rid of the little short part, making it a perfect addition to our home on wheels.
In our first few weeks, we found Cibola National Forest and relished in the privacy, seclusion and natural beauty of our free campsite. The dogs loved it! They were able to romp, play and sniff stuff, find dead things to eat and lounge wherever they wanted for two glorious weeks. On the flip side, it was 30 minutes to town, an hour for Anaka to drive to for her travel nursing assignment at the Navajo Tribal Hospital and void of water, power and most importantly cell service.
Our first few weeks into that first month was really getting our bearings and learning how to live in our bus home. Nothing is made for skoolie life (skoolie = school bus converted to RV), so you have to adapt and modify…everything. Side-note…in our wedding vows, I promised to rid all the spiders (I actually like them) for Anaka and she promised to rid all the moths (creepy assholes that dive-bomb your head…they are so dumb). Our first night in the bus, we were so excited! There were stars galore and we thought we could sleep with the windows and back door open and stare into the night sky.
It was beautiful. And then we saw a moth, which I promptly deployed my fearless wife to eradicate from the planet. But then there were two and before we knew it, they were flying everywhere and we were both up performing murder sessions with shoes, as they went on counter attack. As it turned out the next night was more of the same and therefore a solution was essential.
We stayed two ½ weeks in Cibola at the Hilso Trailhead. Besides being free, it was beautiful. Anaka and I moved to Colorado for the natural beauty and don’t get me wrong, that has not changed at all. What made this area unique was how quiet it is and there are miles and miles and miles of beautiful trails. Pine trees, rocks, a little water and soft rolling trail that you can get lost on for literally days if you wanted to, because you would likely not see another person. It was so foreign to go out for a jaunt, take the dogs and not run into a single person. The few people we have run into, are nice and friendly and greet the dogs and it’s been so refreshing to get back to that.
You know that phase, careful what you wish for?? Well, in my case, the phrase should be careful what you make fun of. When I was 20, I visited Florida with my family. It was my first time as an adult, and I looked at it from the lens of could I live here? I mockingly thought, nope…lovely to visit, would never want to live here. Seven years later, I was leaving the state of Florida for what I hoped was the last time. This past February, we stopped in Gallup on a return drive from Phoenix. Maddy and I laughed at the town and commented on how we would never want to live here. Yet three months later, we are setting up home here, even if it is just for a short spell.
Starting this adventure in Gallup was not our ideal, but it was a foot in the door to how we were trying to live and work that felt like forward momentum. Starting this adventure in Gallup was not our ideal, but it was a foot in the door to how we were trying to live and work that felt like forward momentum. I’d like to think that Anaka and I are both pretty positive and optimistic people. So, when we arrived in Gallup, our first goal was to figure out how we fit in, get immersed in the town and enjoy this part of the country as much as possible. Moths aside, we learned that Gallup, NM, was much larger that we realized. We had a Walmart and a Home Depot, a Safeway and new restaurants to try out. We could make-do here because we had the essentials. We learned there are flea markets that happen every Saturday where you can buy amazing tamales for $1. There is tons of natural beauty all around because Cibola National Forest essentially wraps around eastern Gallup. We have learned that Gallup is known as the heart of the Navajo Nation and we discovered their slower way of life is both admiring and infuriating. We have learned the community is really geared towards the Native Americans and as a result, the resources available to everyone else are quite inflated. While the town is quite poor, things are expensive if you are not Navajo.
We opted to leave Cibola and Hilso and move closer to town. As much as we continue to love that area, it was too hard for where we were at with our build. I run my business online, so the internet isn’t just a luxury to surf Facebook, it’s my livelihood. We had downsized our cars before we left, so driving back and forth to the hospital to drop Anaka off was costing us immensely in gas and wear and tear on the jeep, plus 4 hours of drive time for me in each day. I started driving the bus into town. This was a great way to get used to driving Wanda, but with no way to power the refrigerator and no storage, so moving everything to a safe spot, it was an event every time I had to drive down the hill. To add to the logistical challenges, as much as the dogs loved living up in the woods with all that freedom, it appeared to be taking its toll on their bodies. Annie got some kind of virus, which she still has and Gunnar and Rigby had developed rashes from sand mites as a result of laying in the dirt. Finally, even with Anaka driving the jeep, it was a difficult commute after a long 12-hours on her feet.
It was not an easy decision to move down the hill and it felt a bit like defeat. We weren’t thriving at Hilso and surviving felt like really hard work and we were drained. We took a much-needed trip to Sedona for a weekend and oh wow, what that did for some perspective. All three dogs got much needed baths and getting out of the environment gave us the opportunity to reassess. We decided to try out a hotel/campground arrangement to take some of the pressure off. As it turned out, our brief stay in hotels was not what we wanted. The bus was far from being the kickass home we imagined, but it had quickly become our home and we missed it, sitting all alone in the parking lot. So, after 1 week of hotels, we moved to a campground.