Hey Guys! So it has been over two months since either one of us has written anything here. We’ve had a lot go down since we’ve been back in the states. So, before we really fall behind, it’s time for a life update. We’ve been on the road, back in Truckee, California for a few weeks, jetted back to Austin for a long weekend to attend the final wedding of our spring wedding season, and now we’re officially settled in Truckee for the remainder of the summer.
In our last blog, I talked about how we were mentally preparing for our return to the US and I hinted at the plan for our spring road trip and wedding travels. So, let’s pick up right where we left off!
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Weddings #1 and #2
Shortly after I wrote our last update, we hopped on a flight to Richmond, Virginia for the first of our spring weddings. The wedding was for one of Katie’s friends from her studies at the University of Virginia (UVA). I got to meet a lot of her friends and acquaintances from her college years. It was my first time meeting all of them and I was overwhelmed by the ease with which they made me feel like part of the crew. We stayed in a perfect Airbnb just north of downtown with several of the other wedding attendees.
The wedding itself was at the Redskins Training Facility and it just so happened to land on the same day that the UVA men’s basketball team was playing Purdue in the Elite Eight. So, as soon as the wedding festivities concluded, everyone shared Uber or Lyft rides to the nearest bar to see the end of the game. We were all on our seats as the Hoos made the game-tying shot to send it into overtime and then won in the extra period. It was a fitting end to a UVA-wedding and a memory that I hope everyone will take with them for a long time!
The day after the wedding, we had a slow morning before getting an Uber back to the Richmond airport to pick up a rental car. We had decided to rent a car so that Katie could show me around her college campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is just over an hour drive from Richmond.
We drove up late in the afternoon and rolled into a beautiful mountain property just south of the city. We had connected with a couple who are friends with my parents, dating back to the days when my parents were living in New Jersey (where I was born!). They were incredibly gracious to allow us to stay with them for a night and we enjoyed a nice Thai dinner out as we caught up on where our travels had taken us, what our future plans hold, and how long they’d been in Virginia and on that property. They also told us a lot about their scuba diving adventures and showed us pictures of some awesome wreck diving off the coast of North Carolina.
The next day, we rose early and enjoyed breakfast with them before taking off for the UVA campus. I was astounded by the beautiful architecture and the design elements of the buildings. I also really enjoyed touring through the library, bookstore, and grounds. It took me back to my own time at university and, in some way, made me feel like I could go back and really get the most out of it this time around. But anyhow, the past is the past. Only forward can we go!
When we returned to Austin, we attended the wedding reception of another of Katie’s friends, this one from her yoga teacher training. It was a small after-party compared to the wedding of the previous weekend, but it was exactly what we needed; a chance to catch up with more friends without expending too much energy or over-consuming on the alcohol front. So, with those two wedding celebrations behind us, we shifted gears to packing up Katie’s Honda CRV (nicknamed ‘Oveja Blanca’) and heading west.
The Road Trip
Part 1: Austin to Flagstaff
Our road trip began in Austin, Texas on the 8th of April. We decided to make a big push to get out of Texas (the hardest part of the trip) on the first day. So we drive for almost 10 hours to get to our reserved hostel room in the small mountain town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. The hostel we stayed in was called the Cloudcroft Mountain Park Hostel. It is owned by Stephanie G, who was our gracious host. We stayed in one of her private rooms and used the WiFi to tune into the UVA National Championship game on my phone. We set it up leaning on an unpeeled banana and enjoyed the winning moments sending texts back and forth to the crew with whom we had attended the wedding the previous weekend.
After UVA got the dramatic (but well deserved) win, we drifted off to sleep so that we could get an early start the next morning. We woke up with the sun, walked our precious Hoolie man, and then took off for White Sands National Monument. I wanted to get there early in the day so that we could hike before the sun really started heating things up. We nailed it! We were in the park shortly after 8 am and on the Alkali Flat Trail by 9 (I’m pretty sure on that timing). After hiking for two or three miles, we grabbed a cup of Joe from the gift shop and kept on our way down into Las Cruces, New Mexico.
We restocked our food supplies and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in a park on the outskirts of town. Then we continued our drive for a brief time on I-10 before popping off onto 180 towards Silver City. The drive up to Silver City was a breeze and we were making really good time, so we stopped for a quick “power hour” at a coffee shop there.
Quick aside: our “power hours” now are much different from the “power hours” we used to do in college! Instead of seeing how many libations we could consume in an hour (oh, to be young and “invincible” again), now we stop to get a quick hour of computer work done before continuing on the road. Whether it’s emails, finishing an article, or prepping for a future article, it’s amazing how much you can get done in just one hour when you really sit down and focus (and don’t spend the first 20 minutes perusing Facebook, Instagram, or ESPN every time you sit down at a coffee shop!).
Anyway, once we were done with our power hour in Silver City, we continued northwest on 180 up through a few small towns until we reached our destination for the evening: the Cosmic Campground just north of Alma, NM. The campground is dubbed a “Dark Sky Sanctuary” because of its breathtaking views of the night sky. It’s more than 200 miles (driving distance) from the nearest city (Las Cruces, Tucson, and Phoenix are the closest cities).
We settled in well before sunset and set about collecting wood in anticipation of lighting a fire. Our purpose for the fire was mainly going to be for warmth, as we had my backpacking stove to cook our soup for the night’s dinner. But as I lit the fire and watched it grow rapidly, it became apparent to me that I hadn’t looked up any information on fire restrictions in that part of New Mexico. Although it was spring, things were very dry and that evening a strong wind made our fire pick up steam quickly.
I started to feel uneasy about the prospect of keeping a fire going in that much wind, so we set about using a combination of minimal water (there are no amenities aside from a pit toilet at the campground), leftover beer (sorry Santa Fe Brewing Co!), and dirt to put the fire out. Aside from the fire danger brought about by the wind, we also realized that many folks travel to that campground specifically for unfiltered views of the night sky. We didn’t want to be rude by causing any light pollution, even if it was only in the form of a minimal campfire.
We spent a beautiful, although a little chilly, night in our tent and I woke up to an incredible sunrise over the mountains to the east of the campground. We enjoyed hot cups of coffee and tea alongside a warm Mountain House meal for breakfast before packing up and getting on the road. The rest of the day was spent on the road for about five hours making our way up and over to Flagstaff.
Part 2: A Week in Flagstaff
We’ve learned from past road trip experiences that we can make the most of our time on the road if we actually give ourselves several days in one or two locations to keep up with work. So, on this trip we decided to stay for a whole week in Flagstaff, Arizona. That way we’d be able to work for 2-3 full days in addition to seeing friends, exploring the city, getting down to Sedona, and making a day trip up to the Grand Canyon.
We rented a great pet-friendly Airbnb in Flagstaff and our host was super accommodating. We ended up in a perfect location not far from downtown but also not too close to be caught up in too much action. We enjoyed walking Hoolie around Bushmaster Park in the mornings and evenings (which was just around the corner from our Airbnb) and went for a nice, mellow day hike in Buffalo Park one day.
Our go-to spot for getting work done was Kickstand Kafe, but we also worked one day at Eat N’ Run Route 66 Market & Cafe. We enjoyed beers at both Dark Sky Brewing and Flagstaff Brewing Company (although we definitely preferred Dark Sky). We also ate dinner one night at a funky spot called Pizzicletta, but other than that we really enjoyed making our own meals at the house. Another highlight of spending time around Flagstaff was a spot called Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. We grabbed a few new books there, but it was WAY more than a bookstore. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in Flagstaff.
A Day in Sedona
On our trip down to Sedona, we left early in the morning so that we could get to a trailhead before most of the other visitors arrived as well. Our strategy paid off, as we got the first parking spot at the Boynton Canyon trailhead. We quickly hiked up to the vortex location, took some pictures, and then came back down to continue on the main trail up the canyon. It being my first experience with a Sedona vortex, I must say I was a bit underwhelmed. I’d heard stories of powerful energetic experiences at vortices around Sedona, so I was hoping to feel at least something when we got to the top of the trail. And, in all fairness, it may have required us to really sit down and tune in for a bit longer than we did. There were a lot of other people coming and going on the trail, so it was a difficult task to tune out the distractions and tune into the land.
But despite those distractions, we did have an amazing encounter as we were nearly back at the trailhead. We were passing by an older gentleman on the trail when he stopped to talk to us. He was wearing a long-sleeved, button-up shirt that was the same color as the Sedona Red Rocks. He was holding a stack of rocks in his hand. As he unfurled the rocks, he revealed that they had each been carved into the shape of a heart. He told us: “These hearts are filled with thousands of positive energies, magic, and love. I’m gifting them to you to spread unconditional love around the world. And the only way we’ll do that is by changing one heart (points at all four of our hearts; the three of us and Hoolie) at a time.”
Being that I have searched for heart rocks when I hike for years, I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed with love, appreciation, and sense that I was right where I belonged. I took his heart rock and placed it on my heart. We each kindly thanked him for the generous gift, and passing this story along is our little way of spreading more love and light into the world. I still have that heart rock and, to me, it’s worth so much more than any of the overpriced rocks I could’ve bought in a boutique store in uptown Sedona.
After our morning hike, we hopped over into Uptown Sedona looking for lunch. The place was packed! We felt a little bit like we had just landed at a theme park, with the throngs of visitors crowding the sidewalks, a cafeteria in the middle of the strip, and parades of vehicles from Sedona’s apparently infamous Pink Jeep Tour company. Needless to say, it wasn’t our preferred scene, but we did enjoy a tasty lunch at Wildflower Bread Company.
Our Experience at SpiritQuest
Then, we proceeded to our afternoon appointment. Aside from just wanting to show Katie around Sedona, I had reached out to a local company in hopes of booking a guided vortex adventure. But when I stumbled upon SpiritQuest Retreats, I found that they offered much more than just that. While I’m sure their outdoor adventures are also rewarding and educational, we opted for a session at their local headquarters. I booked a 1.5-hour Couples Tantra session with the hopes of learning more techniques and information for us to deepen our emotional and spiritual connection. Tantra, as we were informed by our guide, literally means “to weave.”
I, for one, certainly had a more sexual definition in my head before we arrived at our session, but I honestly had very few expectations for the session. I knew that whatever it was would be educational for both of us. For obvious reasons, I won’t go into any personal details here, but I will say that I felt the session to be well worth our time and energy. We learned several new breathing techniques that we now use (both separately and together) to tune into our individual energies and weave our shared energy more intricately together as well.
If anyone out there is reading this and willing to make an investment in deepening your relationship, I’d highly recommend checking out what SpiritQuest has to offer. Honestly, I did leave with the feeling that they don’t get many people that are just passing through town opting for the session that I chose, as there are obvious benefits to recurring sessions. But I will say that the introduction to tantric breathwork could be beneficial to many couples out there.
Wrapping Up A Full Day in Sedona
After our session at SpiritQuest, we decided to hit another trailhead for our second hike of the day. We selected Cathedral Rock because neither of us had ever been there and it seemed like sort of an iconic Sedona rock formation. We also saw that it looked like a pretty quick hike up and down. What kept us from reaching the top, however, is that we elected to bring our pup, Hoolie, along with us. About a third of the way up the trail, it became too steep and slick for us to feel comfortable continuing upward.
So, we turned back amidst the crowd of sunset hikers and opted for a much less frequented side trail called the Templeton Trail. We followed this for a while until jumping off to find ourselves a little overlook from which to enjoy the colors of sunset. We soon found ourselves getting hungry, however, so we climbed back down to our car and stopped into Javelina Cantina for dinner before heading back to our Airbnb in Flagstaff.
The Grand Canyon
The final adventure we took during our time staying in Flagstaff was a day trip up to the Grand Canyon. Prior to our brief stop at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, Katie had informed me that she didn’t think she’d ever actually been in a national park. So I was determined to change that on this trip. We woke up before the sunrise, walked and fed the Hoolie man, and took off for the hour-long drive from Flagstaff to the gates of Grand Canyon National Park.
As we approached Tusayan (last town before entering the park), we decided to park outside the park and take the shuttle in. It costs the same amount as entering the park with your own vehicle and you don’t have to worry about waiting in line to enter the park or fight with other visitors for a parking space. It turned out to be an excellent call, as the shuttle enters the park via a private entrance and you get the satisfaction of looking at all the cars waiting in line at the gate as you skirt around them and into the park.
We found the public transportation system in the park to be more than adequate, and we made a bus change at the main Visitor’s Center to head out to the South Kaibab trailhead. Despite getting a relatively early start, we found ourselves packed into a full bus with many other guests. We didn’t plan on an all-day adventure or anything, but we did make our way down the trail to Cedar Ridge relatively quickly. We were grateful for the outhouse there and we found a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy a snack while gazing down into the canyon and discussing the forces at play way, way down at the canyon’s bottom (aka, the Colorado River).
After a nice snack of apples and Clif and RX bars, we started the climb back up to the trailhead. We wanted to check out the Geology Museum before we headed back to our car and back to Flagstaff, so we only got maybe a little more than a 3-mile hike in. We did notice the surprise on some folks’ faces, however, when we greeted them with smiles and good attitudes on the way back up though. It dawned on us that many of them were probably already dreading the climb back uphill, despite the fact that they were still allowing their legs to take them further down into the canyon. It was a great reminder to us that a friendly smile and generally good attitude can go a long way out on the trail!
Once we got back to the trailhead, we hopped on the bus back to the visitor’s center, which ended up being the same bus that would take us to the Geology Museum. At the museum, we learned that the entirety of that area had long ago been under salt water and that the relatively even uplifting of the Colorado Plateau (unique in relation to the uplifting that has occurred in other areas of the country) is one of the reasons why the Grand Canyon has formed to the magnificent natural wonder we see before us today.
From the museum, we walked along the South Rim back to the Visitor’s Center, where we hopped back on the bus that returned us to our car in Tusayan. All things considered, it was a very quick trip to the park, but it reminded us of what we feel is most important when we recreate in nature. And that is that it’s not necessarily the beauty and uniqueness of Nature itself that we are seeking. Instead, it’s the opportunity to experience Nature free from the distractions that technology, modern infrastructure, and other people so often create. Indeed, it is the opportunity to re-align our internal vibrations to the vibrations of the natural world.
Part 3: Flagstaff to San Diego (And Onward Home!)
After returning from the Grand Canyon, our time in Flagstaff had just about come to an end. From there, we re-packed the car, stopped briefly in Prescott, AZ for lunch and a quick walk around town (made friendly conversation with a peace officer outside of the County Courthouse) and proceeded to drive the windy road out of Prescott and down into Yuma, AZ. We laid up for the night at a Motel 6 (which experienced a power outage for much of the night) and ate dinner out at our favorite chain restaurant, Chili’s. I actually wound up leaving my Knockaround sunglasses at the restaurant, but they were waiting there for me at 8 am the next morning when we stopped by on a lark hoping (but not very confident) that someone would be there (yes, a manager and cleaning crew is getting shit together at Chili’s at 8 am y’all!!).
From Yuma, we beelined it for San Diego. It was Easter weekend and I have a TON of family in Southern California. In fact, that family is seemingly expanding daily at the current rate! It was amazing to celebrate my cousin’s baby shower and Easter with a lot of my extended family and their friends from the area. We spent most of the weekend playing with my niece and nephew, who are about 2 and 3 years old, respectively. I mean no disrespect when I say they were just more interesting to hang out with than the adults!
We also crashed for a couple nights with one of Katie’s friends from the time she studied abroad in Costa Rica during her final years in college at UVA. It was really nice of them to allow us to crash at their place in Hillcrest and I was able to catch up with a few of my friends from my days at SDSU, both in San Diego and in LA on our way back up north.
Speaking up heading back up north, we left Southern California on the Tuesday after Easter weekend and made the push all the way up to Truckee in a day. Initially, we had considered stopping somewhere along the Eastern Sierras, but the excitement over getting to Truckee and finally laying eyes on the RV we were buying (but had only seen in pictures to that point) was just too much. It only took us a few days to finalize the purchase of our new mobile home, and the rest, well, the rest I’ll explain in the next paragraphs!!
Our New Home
On the way to the Grand Canyon, I received the email I had been waiting for. Months earlier, Katie and I had begun exploring the possibility of purchasing an RV to live in for the summer in Truckee and then move down to Santa Cruz for the next four years. As our vision became more clear, we also recognized the need to find a convenient location to park the RV for the summer.
Dating all the way back to last summer, we had talked about how amazing it would be to live on the Truckee River and close to downtown. As fate would have it, I hopped on Craigslist one day back in Costa Rica and found the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District looking for park hosts for several of their local parks. I immediately reached out to the Park Supervisor, who I happened to know from many years back when I worked for the rec department as a summer camp counselor.
At that time, he informed me that all the positions had been filled. But he let me know that we would be first on the waiting list if anything should change. And so, we kept our hopes alive as we spoke to several other people about the possibility of parking our RV on their property for the summer. And then, we stopped for a bathroom break on the way to the Grand Canyon and I quickly checked my email to find a message from the Park Supervisor informing me that the park host they had lined up for Truckee’s Regional Park had taken another position and inquiring as to whether or not we were still interested. I replied in the affirmative and the rest is just boring details working out the logistics!
Where We’ll Be Spending The Summer
We are officially park hosts at Truckee Regional Park for the summer of 2019. Yay! Our RV is parked just steps away from the Truckee River. It’s still kind of surreal to believe that we manifested the exact situation we first spoke about during the summer of 2018 and, yet, here we are!
Katie is spending the summer completing several online prerequisites so that she can begin her coursework in Traditional Chinese Medicine at Five Branches University in the fall. She is also continuing her coaching work with several new clients and is excited to grow her offerings as we settle into a more permanent home. She is currently taking on new clients as well, so if you’ve ever thought about working with a success coach, send her a DM on Instagram.
She will also be training a replacement in the office for the Tahoe Adventure Company and will be filling in as a guide in the field on larger corporate trips. She’s teaching a donation-based Yoga, Meditation, and Breathwork class at Alibi Ale Works on June 15th at 10:30 am if you happen to be in Truckee on that Saturday! If you donate at least $15, you will receive a drink voucher for a beer/cider/kombucha/cold brew of your choice.
I will largely be spending the summer guiding and organizing logistics for Tahoe Adventure Company. I arrived back in town to the news that I have been promoted to Head Guide for this summer, so I’m both excited and nervous for the added responsibility. We just completed guide training this past week and I’m really pumped to be working with some fresh faces and some familiar ones as well. My passion projects for them this summer are mainly related to guided backpacking trips, so if you’re interested in experiencing the Tahoe backcountry and the mountains that John Muir called ‘The Range of Light’, DM me for more info!
What’s To Come
At the end of the summer, we will be relocating to Santa Cruz, California. Katie will likely move down sometime in the middle of August and I will follow her with the RV towards the end of September when our contract with the rec department is up. We are currently investigating a park host position at Sunset State Beach (south of Santa Cruz) for the fall, but we are also keeping our eyes and ears open for folks with private property that have full hookups and would be willing to negotiate a mutually beneficial work-trade arrangement.
Katie will be in school full-time and I will be working on launching my own guided backpacking offerings, but I am also interested in sustainable agriculture and property development. We firmly believe that there is always more to learn and the past couple years of our lives have shown us that it is ALWAYS possible to cultivate win-win relationships. If you are interested in learning more about us and what we bring to the table or what our long-term vision is, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
The Slow Life Guides
If you’re interested in speaking to us about such an arrangement, shoot us an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would also love to connect with anyone along our journeys about collaborations or simply to build new relationships. We love the idea of leaving places better than we have found them and know that we can provide considerable value for the right property owner. If that’s you, we look forward to hearing from you!
2 thoughts on “Back in the States: A Life Update”
Wow looks like you guys have had a busy few months! The white sand in Mexico looks absolutely amazing. I must say my wife and I are very jealous of the new home. It’s one of our life goals to live in a van for a while (I think ours will be a lot smaller than that though!!) Do let us know how you get on in there. Very excited to see what it’s like and all the tips and tricks to living that van life!
Thanks Mike! It has been an awesome 6 months in the RV so far. I have lots of updates to share but haven’t made the time to sit down and write about it/document the photos yet. It should be coming in the next few weeks and I’m happy to drop a link back here in this thread for you to check it out when it’s done!