Truck Camping Platform 2.0

During our time in New Hampshire over Christmas, Rebecca and I went back and forth quite a few times about how we wanted to travel this year. We had originally been planning on taking the camper, but during our Appalachian Adventure we discovered that regular camper towing was just not always super fun, and decided to give extended #vanlife a shot.

I began researching a number of different vehicles, everything from Chevy Astros (gotta love that AWD!) to 12 and 15 passenger vans (after truck camping, they seemed so spacious!). We even looked at some really cool little Toyota RVs that were only about 20 feet long. However, everything in each category was either A) too expensive, B) rusted out (thanks, New England winters!), or C) more of a project than we were looking to take on.

So eventually, we decided to use our trusty Tahoe for 2017 — and I decided to reconfigure our entire camping system. In January ’16, I had built our first camping platform in the back of the truck, and it worked GREAT. We camped all over Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma, and then used it over the summer in Virginia and West Virginia.

Sexy.

It was great — it let us use our rears seats when we needed, it stored a ton of our camping gear, had special areas for our camp chairs and food, and it even boasted a slide-out table! We loved it and used it to death.

However, as we traveled, we realized that as organized as we felt, there were still a number of things that we still didn’t have a dedicated place for — things that were constantly rolling around on the floor and being generally annoying. So when we decided to go for a full 9-10 months camping in the truck in 2017, I realized we’d really want some increased functionality and storage. My motto on this new build quickly became “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

To accomplish that, I needed to free up every inch of available space. So after I finished giving Franklin the Tahoe his well-deserved makeover of cleaning, repairs, and improvements, I pulled out the middle seats. Already there was a ton more space!

So much room for activities!

I was trying to be as resourceful and thrifty as possible, so my brother-in-law Jay (who helped me every step of the way as we got the truck ready for 2017) and I pulled apart the first build, and were able to reuse almost all of both the lumber and the hardware.

Just like last year, I drew up pretty extensive plans, and we started to rebuild based on them. Since I didn’t have the living space of a van, I decided to try to make the interior of the truck as multi-functional as possible this time around. For this build, that meant designing a modular couch/bed platform with storage underneath the entire thing. I had grand visions of us parked out in the desert, platform in couch mode, working away on our computers in home-like comfort, sipping lemonade and occasionally looking deep into each other’s eyes with that peaceful, we’ve-finally-arrived way that Hollywood keeps promising me if I follow my heart and just believe ;-D

Measurements, measurements, and more measurements.

The platform actually came together pretty quickly, and my experience building the first version really helped as I hinged and mounted and supported and braced everything together.

And pretty soon we were ready for a dry-fit! I basically designed it to be 78 inches long (a 6 inch increase over the last build), divided into 3 26-inch panels. The front one would be removable to make legroom when in couch mode, and the back two I hinged to access the storage beneath them.

I took the indoor/outdoor carpet we’d removed from the top of the previous build, and put it underneath the new build to protect the floor underneath. It also seemed to be an easier way to clean–I can pull out the carpet and shake it out whenever I need to, no vacuum necessary!

The front part of the front panel sits on top of two supports behind the front seats, and the rear of the panel sits on on the front of the platform, held in place by several dowels that it nestles down onto.

When it’s all laid out, it’s very spacious!

I gave it the weight test, and was very happy with the results.

Confident that it fit, we pulled it out, sanded it, and got to painting. I had spent a ton of time applying multiple coats of stain and poly to the first build, but this time, it was 15 degrees out, and I was cold and impatient. So instead of all that loving care, the Mach II got 2 coats of Rustoleum spray paint. It looks just fine, and matches the interior of the truck nearly perfectly.

Couch mode activated!

Another change we had decided to make after using the first build was that we wanted to upgrade from backpacking air mattresses (though we love our Thermarests!) to a sturdy foam mattress. We had been fine during 4-6 week trips with the air mattresses, but since we are going to be travelling consistently over such a long period of time, we wanted to be as comfortable as possible. The foam we’d gotten for the couch in our camper has been very comfortable and worn very well, so we went back to The Foam Factory and got a queen-size cut of 4-inch thick foam.

I measured it all out (protip: it is NOT perfectly square when it arrives), and cut it down to size using an electric bread knife. If you ever do this, make sure you get one as well — I’d tried previously with both a razor blade and a circular saw, and those were both utter hack jobs.  This time, however, it came out rather nicely.

We really wanted the truck to be adventurous looking, and bright and vibrant, and we spent a lot of time both in Joann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby trying to find the perfect fabric for our cushions. Finally we found a crazy, loud, Aztec-style fabric that we both loved, and Rebecca put her secret seamstress skills to work upholstering our new bed cushions!

The other thing we wanted to do differently this time was to cut more Reflectix for the front windshield and front side windows. On the last few trips, we’d hung curtains right behind the front seats, and while we still have that option, we wanted to have easier access to the front seat at night, and also for the whole space to feel roomier. By getting rid of the curtains, and covering the window, it feels significantly more open when we’re inside at night.

We also wanted the Reflectix to look a little nicer from the inside — if you woke up in the night in the truck and turned on a flashlight, the inside lit up like noonday. So, we bought some inexpensive felt, and I used a heavy duty 3M adhesive spray to attach the felt to the Reflectix. So far, it’s held great, and the inside of the truck is much darker and cozier when we set up at night!

Finally, with all those projects done (and a few more I’ll be writing about soon), we were able to assemble everything! And let me tell you — we LOVE the final product.

Shelves and cushions and colors, oh my!

As you can see, our cushions came out great, and are super fun to look at! They also happen to be a perfect mixture of firm and comfortable, so we’re very happy with them. I’ll show the shelves more in detail soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you that we really needed a space for our books, glasses, and other nighttime loose items, and these have been the perfect solution.

We also have the option to switch to couch mode! The rear panel swivels up, the supports pop into place, and we have a very comfortable place to read, work, eat, or even watch a movie! We’re excited to discover all the different ways we use our couch this year all over North America.

When the platform is in couch mode, there is a tremendous amount of legroom, adding to the comfort level. I’m 6 foot, and when I’m sitting on the couch, I can’t even touch the front seats with my feet. To protect the floorspace there, I covered the carpet with two trimmable cargo floor mats from Walmart. They make cleaning that floor area super easy — you can sweep it or wipe it with paper towels, no vacuum needed!

And obviously, this platform was created for storage — and there’s a ton of it.  When the platform is in bed mode, the entire floor area underneath the front panel is wide open for storage: lately, that’s where we’ve been keeping our duffel bags and extra shoes so they’re nice and handy as we jump from house to house, visiting our way south.

The back two platform panels are hinged, and open to display a tremendous amount of storage space under them.

In the very back, the couch back supports also serve to keep the panel from falling on you when you’re digging out fresh pants! 😀

Below, you can get a better view of how I bolted the couch supports in place, ready to swivel up and brace the couch back when needed.  There’s also another hinge at the bottom right of the picture that shows where that part of the 2×6 frame can be swung in toward the middle of the truck to allow access to the jack panel. As we found out in Big Bend last year, that jack can come in handy!

All in all, we are very, very happy with how the new platform came together, and very excited to use it this year as we explore the western US all the way up to Alaska! We love our adventure rig — here’s to getting another 100K miles out of Franklin the Tahoe, and sleeping comfortably the whole way!

Why We’ve Downsized … Again

As we’ve alluded to a few times here on the blog and on Instagram, we’ve decided to make some big changes to our travel style for upcoming adventures in 2017. So we wanted to share our thoughts on why we decided to leave our camper behind as we set off to criss-cross the country this year!

Boondocking in Gila National Forest, New Mexico

On our drive north after wrapping up our Appalachian adventure Ryan and I began discussing what our 2017 travels would look like. We’d previously assumed we’d be taking the camper with us around the country, but after six weeks of having it on the road with us, we weren’t as excited about the prospect as we’d expected to be. Fortunately, we were in agreement that for the next leg of our travels, we needed a better — and smaller — plan.

We began discussing options. Our first idea was to leave the camper behind, sell the Tahoe, and purchase a small (<18′) RV that would lighten our travels but still provide the comforts of home. Ryan did some research, we found several on Craigslist, but pretty quickly discovered that for what we wanted to pay, we’d definitely be getting a fixer-upper — and we weren’t sure we had the time (or the energy) to do that again. And, since we were heading north, any projects would have to be completed while braving a frigid New England winter. That prospect was less than thrilling.

Next we considered trading in the Tahoe for #vanlife … in fact, Ryan had already built out into an epic road tripping home on wheels in his mind. But, while we’re still positive a van is in our future, we struggled to find one at the perfect intersection of price point and specs we were looking for. (And Ryan wasn’t thrilled at the idea of buying a van that had endured salty New England winters.)

Those options having fallen by the wayside, we were back to square one. And at that point we realized — Franklin, our trusty Chevy Tahoe, was already a pretty sweet road trip machine! Ryan went back to the drawing board and had soon sketched out plans for a new car camping build, including an awesome new kitchen design. He took on some projects to make Franklin look and run better. And before too long, our current vehicle had transformed into a comfortable and reliable mini home on wheels! 🙂

All that is the what of our upcoming travels, but I also wanted to share why we found ourselves wanting to downsize in the first place. Minimalism has been a big driving force in our lives over the past couple of years, and I always loving talking about why we love living small and the things that drive us to a lighter, more adventurous life.

Our Camper Fall 2015

1. Towing the Camper Can Be a Drag

There, I’ve said it. After getting off to a rough start towing the camper through the mountains of West Virginia, it took us a while to settle in to pulling 6,000 lbs behind us wherever we went! That’s the cost of carrying all your creature comforts with you, I suppose — but after about a week on the road, we were already tired of setting up, breaking down, not being able to get drive through … the list goes on. And it was also frustrating that Ryan was the only one able to drive; hats off to you ladies who are skilled at towing, but I’m just not! While he’s usually happy to be behind the wheel, there were times when he was tired, or not feeling well, or just didn’t want to drive, and we missed the flexibility of me being able to take the wheel. Overall, while we adapted pretty quickly to the vagaries of life with a camper in tow; it just seemed like a continuous, low-grade hassle, and one we didn’t feel like dealing with for the next nine months.

Car Camping Seminole Canyon Texas

2. We Want to Cut Costs

You had to know this one was coming! You guys, camper spots, even without sewer hookups, are expensive. Of course, there’s always boondocking, but if we were going without things like air conditioning and an electric hookup to run the fridge, what was the point of having the camper with us, anyway? This trip we’re looking to do a lot more boondocking … maybe even check out a Walmart parking lot or two … and just generally rough it in the interest of adventuring more, and saving money. (The sacrifices seem totally worth it if it frees up more cash for things like rafting the Rio Grande in Big Bend, or taking an air taxi to Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska!)


3. We’re Comfortable with Less

After selling 90% of our stuff, taking two six week car camping trips, and figuring out we don’t miss our stuff, even the camper was just feeling extravagant! And after another summer parked in Harpers Ferry, and a three month stay with my parents (plus a very generous Christmas!), we were both beginning to feel the weight of our stuff again. (Can I just say — going through every nook and cranny to pack for this upcoming trip was highly therapeutic!) We’ve learned that with car camping we have just enough to feel comfortable … but not too comfortable. We’ve been joking that the next step in our downsizing process is a backpack apiece! (Spoiler alert: we already have them 😀 )

Ryan in a Tree at Big Bend National Park

We’re Craving More Adventure

One more thing we learned on our last trip — somehow, having the camper ended up putting a damper on our adventurous spirits. I often think of Jess Curren’s excellent post, I Don’t Trust Myself in Suburbia, and somehow, the camper was starting to feel like our own personal version of suburbia. (If you haven’t read her post — and even if you have — go read it. Seriously.)

“We are advocates for an active, outdoor, adventure, family-oriented lifestyle so what does that say about me when I can’t even get us out the door in over a week? It says that life in Suburbia is hard and we are cheaters.” — Jess Curren

Traveling with the camper we found ourselves sleeping in later, spending more time watching TV on the laptop (seriously, we watched three seasons of Chicago P.D. in six weeks), forgoing campfires in favor of nights on the couch, and generally sucking at getting out the door and exploring. I can’t explain what it was, other than that we were just too comfortable. And comfort is not why we upended our lives and moved into a camper.

And That’s Why We’re on the Road with Just Our Tahoe

So, here we are — on the road, headed southwest, with all our stuff packed into our Chevy Tahoe. We’re planning on mixing it up this trip; it’s not going to be nine straight months of camping. In fact, in the two weeks we’re taking to get from New Hampshire to Louisiana, we don’t have a single night of camping planned — our route is formed by waypoints with hospitable and welcoming friends and family. So, while we will be doing lots of car camping this year, we’ll also be stopping with friends, and we are also hoping to dip our toes into the world of professional house sitting. And I’m sure we’ll pepper in some hotel stays and tent camping, too.

That’s all, folks! Thanks for reading along 🙂 Tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite method of travel? RV, van, car camping, tent camping, backpacking?

Franklin’s Well-Deserved Makeover

By late this past summer, our trusty and beloved Chevy Tahoe Franklin had carried us safely almost 40,000 miles, through almost 40 states, and was getting close to hitting 200,000 miles. And honestly — he was starting to look like it. The carpets looked terrible; some small tears in the leather seats had turned into not-so-small tears; one of the rain guards was coming loose; the wheel wells had all kind of garbage in them — he was just looking old and run down. I’ve always cared about the vehicles I drive, and although I’ve always bought higher mileage older cars, I’ve also managed to buy ones that look good, and then try to keep them that way.

So in August, I started what turned into a months-long visual restoration project on Franklin, to help him look his best again. I started with the one that was annoying me the most — the loose rain guard over the driver’s side window. Whenever I got up over 40mph or so, it would start relentlessly flapping and driving me nuts. So it had to be the first to go.

That turned out to be a pretty quick and easy project — I bought some 3M tape designed for rain guards, scraped off the existing tape and residual adhesive, cleaned it with Goo Gone a few times, let it dry, and applied the new tape. Took me about 45 minutes, and it hasn’t budged since!

Oh yeah.

The item I was most excited to upgrade was the radio. Before I bought the truck, I checked to see that the radio worked–but didn’t think to check the CD player. The first time I tried it was at the beginning of our first road trip out to the PNW — and no dice. So, we spent a year with JUST THE RADIO. I’d previously owned one of those little am transmitters you can plug your phone or iPod into, but  was never really impressed. The broken CD player didn’t have an audio input jack either, so we were pretty much SOL. And on top of that, the paint was coming off of the knobs, a few of the lights were out so the display always read in a weird language — it was rough.

Apparently, it was so bad,  I avoided taking any pictures, because I can’t find one anywhere. But I saved up over the summer, and before we took off for Maine, I was able to get a brand new system with all the works — CD player, DVD player, Bluetooth, aux in, hands free, and it was even wired for a backup camera! This system ended up being my possibly my favorite — and certainly my most used — purchase of 2016. We listen to music, enjoy Audible books together, and answer phone calls while keeping both hands firmly on the wheel!

New hotness!!

Those two projects got me through our Maine vacation and fall road trip, but once we got up to New Hampshire in late October and set up shop through the holidays, I jumped back to it.

First up was the carpets — and they. were. ATROCIOUS. Faded, dirty, stained — even after several rounds of vacuuming and OxyClean (my all-time favorite vehicle carpet cleaner), they were only moderately better. So, I did some Interneting, and discovered that carpet dye was a thing! I watched some videos, and quickly decided to give it a shot — even if it went horribly, it couldn’t possibly look worse!

What, am I gonna mess THAT up? (This doesn’t even show the red koolaid stains in the back!)

I decided on the Dupli-Color Vinyl and Fabric coating in charcoal grey, grabbed a stiff brush from Home Depot to scrub the paint down into the carpet fibers, and taped everything off.

And let me tell you, spraying this stuff on was pure catharsis. I’m the kind of guy who could watch powerwashing videos all day long, and this was right up there with that. The difference was night and day — just look at that!

Ohhhhhh yeah. Seriously — check out this line.

Greatly encouraged, I taped off the rest of the truck, and went through a few more bottles of spray. It was fun, easy, and made for some great before and afters. This one is my personal favorite:

It’s been about 8 weeks since I did it, and I will say — the spray is not a huge fan of water. I’ve already done a few small touch ups, but frankly, that’s still wayyyy better than what it was before. If every six months I buy a can or two and my carpets keep looking awesome, I’ll still consider this project a complete win.

So next up was the leather. This was one of those creeping problems — small tears had gotten much larger, and needed to be dealt with. I actually priced out professional leather repair just out of curiosity, and it was going to be over $800 to fix it — not even remotely an option.

So instead, I headed over to Joann Fabrics, and was really lucky to find a pleather material that was an almost perfect color match for our seats! Rebecca sent me a coupon, I got 2 yards for $8, grabbed some Gorilla Super Glue Gel, and got to work. This was not difficult, just rather painstaking. The material cut with scissors, I matched the curves and seams as best as I could, and then superglued it to death. This was the most visible spot, and it came out great!

It’s been almost 2 months since I did the glued repairs, and they haven’t budged at all, even in the high traffic areas! The other repairs were right along seams, and my lovely wife really saved the day here. She got a strong needle, some matching thread, and closed up big gaps in 3 or 4 very visible areas in the front seats. Another cheap win!

That pretty much completed the inside projects I wanted to do, and I turned my attention to the outside. The paint job isn’t in terrible shape, and with a decent wash, I’m fine with it. However, the chrome tape that was on the door trim had almost completely peeled off on both sides, leaving hanging plastic bits and glue residue, instead of a nice clean shiny line. That I knew I could fix with a little time and a can of spray paint — in this case, Rustoleum Metallic Finish.

As you can see, it was just dirty and nasty. I went around with a razor blade and tweezers, pulled off as much of the leftover plastic and tape as I could, then gave the whole thing a good scrubbing with the firm side of a dish sponge. That worked even better than I’d anticipated, and left everything looking significantly better already.

Smooth and clean, but still not shiny!

Then came the fun part — a very careful taping job, then wrapping the surrounding area in paper. However, I ended up doing this on a really gusty day, and I had to upgrade and put old tarps all over the rest of the truck to keep the overspray off. However, it came out pretty well!

So shiny! Inspired by how relatively easy that was to do, I turned my eyes on another cheap and easy spray paint fix — the nasty, dirty wheel wells. Below are a few “before” pictures, and just so we’re clear: that residue was all caked on there. These pics were taken after I scrubbed the wheel wells.

I upped my game, and went after them again, this time with a degreasing soap and a very firm scrub brush, then covered the tires and carefully taped off all the trim. A lot of guys I saw online used more expensive truck bed spray or high temperature engine spray. But at this point I was getting tired of putting money into this project, so I just went with the no-name-brand flat black spray paint for 87 cents a can from Walmart. Frankly, it was a solid decision.

Seriously, how much better does that look? I think I used 7 cans overall, it went on smooth and nice, and when I got my truck washed last week after 6 weeks of New Hampshire snow and ice and road salt, the wheel wells still looked this good. Success!

And obviously, when you spend all this time making your vehicle look so much better, you get it washed, and take great pictures. So please enjoy this short montage of Franklin in his Sunday best.

 

 

 

I’m more than a little proud that after 45,000 miles of camper towing and off-roading and road tripping, Franklin looks and runs better than he did when we got him. But this was only the beginning — stay tuned for my sleeping platform redesign, and our best new idea — the Hitchenette!

2017 Travel Plans

A constant surprise in our 18 months of full time camper life is just how cyclical it has been. Instead of endless days on the road, a pattern has emerged: six (or so) weeks of intensive travel, twelve (or so) weeks of localized travel. And while our parked weeks have proven immensely valuable in terms of cost-cutting and business-building, another constant is just how itchy we get to hit the road again after being in one place too long.

With that in mind, 2017 is going to be different. We have a full nine months of travel in the forecast, and the big challenge of our year will be learning how to balance travel, life, and work without the “breaks” that extended parking have afforded us up until now.

We have one other big adjustment planned for this year: When we head south later this week, we’ll be leaving our camper behind at my parents’ house. Yup, that’s right — we’ll be hitting the road with only our trusty Chevy Tahoe. We’ll share more on that decision when Ryan writes about the sweet new camping rig he and my brother have been hard at work building. For now I’ll just say that we learned on our last extended trip that dragging a 26′ trailer with you everywhere you go is actually kind of annoying.

So, without further ado — our planned itinerary for 2017!

January //

Congaree National Park Our Streamlined Life

  • We’ve kicked off January still at my parents’ home in New Hampshire — the plan is to head south this weekend! While I love winter, it has been freakishly cold here, and I’m just a little excited to stick my toes in the Gulf.
  • Our journey south will be pretty speedy, and peppered with stops to see family and friends. We played around with revisiting Charleston and Savannah on our way, but nixed that idea in favor of getting to the southwest as quickly possible.
  • It will probably take us a little over a week to get from New Hampshire to Baton Rouge, with tentative stops planned in New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. Most of those will be visits to friends and family, but we’re also hoping to stop off at Congaree National Park and Andersonville National Historic Site on the way. We’re also playing around with taking a longer route and visiting Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, which we’ve been trying (and failing) to visit since last January. After catching up with family in Baton Rouge, we’ll head west!

February //

Big Bend National Park

  • February will be all about TEXAS! We’ll be taking the coastal route to South Padre Island, where swimming and beach camping are on the agenda. (We’ll also be taking tips from Amanda’s super-adventurey list of 10 Things to Do on South Padre Island. I’m dying to paddleboard!)
  • Once we’re all beached out (so, maybe never?) we’re headed north again towards Big Bend National Park. We loved it so much last time that we’re planning on staying a full two weeks (the longest you’re allowed to visit during the popular winter months). We’ll probably do some repeat activities, but this time we’ll also do some primitive camping, hopefully snag a spot in the gorgeous Chisos Basin Campground, visit Boquillas, and get in some river and mountain hikes (after lots of desert hiking last time!). Last time we visited the moon was full and crazy bright, so we didn’t get in any stargazing … this time we’ll try to time our visit a little better. And I know Ryan would love to get in a river trip as well! (Suddenly, two weeks doesn’t seem like nearly enough time.)

March //

Rocky Mountain National Park

  • The last time we explored New Mexico we headed west across southern New Mexico, then east through northern New Mexico on our return trip. This time, we’ll be travelling north – south. Planned stops include Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Roswell, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. (Hopefully we’ll be out of New Mexico before the juniper — which almost destroyed Ryan last winter! — starts blooming.)
  • We’re taking a bit of a risk heading to Colorado in the winter — but we passed it up last time and I’m determined not to skip it again. We have three awesome national parks on the agenda — Rocky MountainBlack Canyon Of The Gunnison, and Mesa Verde — and if we’re feeling fancy I’d love to do a little skiing. I’m thinking Colorado would be a great place to try to land some housesitting gigs as well, and I’d also love to visit my brother at Fort Carson.

April //

Zion National Park

  • We are both DYING to get to Utah — it’s a little crazy that, other than a quick stop-off in Salt Lake City, we’ve managed to skirt it during all our western adventures. Obviously, the big five national parks are calling our name, and Currently Wandering’s recent post has me totally drooling to visit Snow Canyon State Park, too. I have the feeling Utah is going to be difficult to leave!
  • Fortunately, we have a little love affair going on with Arizona, which should soften the blow of heading south again! Our itinerary is a little up in the air. We’re debating retracing some of our steps from last winter, and hitting up the Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Sedona, and Prescott again … but we’re considering skipping some of the southern portion in favor of spending some time in Vegas.

May //

Yosemite National Park

  • We’ve allotted ourselves a month to travel through California, but I’m guessing a big chunk of it will be spent in southern California. Our current route is pretty zig-zaggy — we’re going back and forth between the coast and inland wonders like Yosemite! We’ll probably revisit San Francisco and the redwoods, too. Even though I was born in California, I’ve only been there a few times — but in my imagination, at least, California in May is weather perfection!

June //

Mount Rainier National Park

  • June should see us in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying early summer in Oregon & Washington. Since we’ve spent some time exploring coastal Oregon, we plan to head inland and check out Crater Lake National Park as well as Bend. Next we’ll take a few weeks and criss-cross Washington state!

July //

Denali National Park & Preserve

  • Six months later, we finally reach the whole point of this trip: ALASKA. Honestly, it seems totally surreal even typing that! We’ve had a little trouble planning out the route due to current road closures (because, January in Alaska) but we plan to make our way up through Yukon, to Anchorage, and ultimately all the way up to Prudhoe Bay. Naturally, we’re also going to hit up as many epic national parks as we can, including Denali and Glacier Bay. If you’ve been to Alaska, or are planning to go to Alaska, let’s talk — we need All Your Wisdom on things like avoiding the legendarily horrible mosquitoes. And bears. And serial killers.

August //

Banff National Park Photo by Tony Webster
Photo by Tony Webster
  • After 4-6 weeks in Alaska (guys, that place is HUGE) we’ll make our way back to the lower 48 via Canada. After some great travel experiences in Niagara Falls and Quebec City, we’re excited to spend some time in British Columbia and Alberta. But really it’s all just part of my grand scheme to lure Ryan into spending a night or two at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. (Hi, my name is Rebecca and my birthday is in August.) Anyway — Banff National Park is a bucket list stop for both of us, and we’re excited to spend some time exploring our friendly northern neighbor.

September //

Glacier National Park

  • In September we’d love to still be pretty far north — but the weather will play a big part in that decision.  We’ll be slowly tracing a path home via Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan & Wisconsin — and with lots of gorgeous national parks along the route, I know we’ll be eager to linger as long as temperatures remain friendly. (Last summer when we were in Acadia I had a mild case of traveler’s envy seeing everyone’s end-of-summer travels through northern Michigan in particular — I’m dying to get there!)

October — December //

Acadia National Park

  • Fall and winter finally bring unknown territory. Our late summer & early fall plans hinge on mild weather continuing in the northern reaches of Canada and the United States, and I’m guessing we’ll probably be pretty happy to get back to our camper! We’ve tossed around the idea of spending fall in upstate New York and New England, and at this point the holidays are also a question mark. Either way, we’ll have to head back to New Hampshire to reunite with our home on wheels!

By the end of 2017, our hope is to have visited the majority of the continental United States! At that point, we’d love to turn our attention to international travel, because we’ve both been totally itching to get overseas. (Dream destinations include Germany and Iceland for both of us, Scotland and New Zealand for Ryan, and Thailand and Greece for me.) I have the feeling that our 2018 travel plans are going to look totally different, and totally epic! What do your 2017 travel plans look like?

2017 Travel Plans

2016 Year in Review

2016 flew by and was absolutely packed with adventure. In the past year we’ve seen ourselves grow more comfortable in the full-time travel life, spent a lot of time with family, and traveled to many new cities and states. Despite a few stressful moments, 2016 was a pretty great year! Here’s the 12-month recap of trips we took, people we saw, and adventures we had!

January //

January 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • January found us still in Louisiana with Ryan’s family after enjoying a wonderful holiday season with them. We helped his parents move into their beautiful new home, saw his youngest brother Kennan become the third Rogge boy to become an Eagle Scout, and said goodbye to his brother Landon as he headed off to Officer Candidate School for the Marine Corps.
  • While lots of work happened in January, we did make time for some fun adventures. Ryan and his brothers went to WizardCon New Orleans; we saw Breaking Benjamin at House of Blues New Orleans; we visited Rosedown Plantation; and Ryan installed a new refrigerator in the camper!

February //

February 2016 Our Streamlined Life

March //

March 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • If February was epic, March was … well, what’s a bigger word than epic? Basically, March was just a continuation of our favorite road trip to date.
  • We kicked off the month at what is surely the most gorgeous state park in all of Arizona; were spoiled rotten in Cave Creek; fell in love with Prescott; found our new favorite wine in Jerome; were awed by the Petrified Forest; visited dear friends in northern New Mexico; and were sobered by the Oklahoma City Memorial.
  • Oh yeah — we also saw the Grand Canyon. NBD.
  • And somehow, by Easter weekend we were back in Virginia to see Ryan’s brother Landon be commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps. It was such a proud moment for our family, and a blessing to be able to spend Easter with them (as well as my sister Katharine, who joined us from Illinois).

April //

April 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • We kicked off April with a long weekend of business (a wedding) and pleasure (a sweet hotel) in the Charleston area.
  • Finally settled back in Virginia, we settled into what we didn’t realize would be one of the rainiest springs on record in the DC area. (And I quote: “From April 27 to May 11, D.C. logged measurable rainfall on 15 straight days, the longest streak on record by five days.”) All  I know is, 15 straight days in the camper, surrounded by muddy footprints, watching the rain pour in buckets from the sky, had us both screaming, “What fresh hell is this?!”
  • But all that rain did have one positive effect: When the rain is falling, the river is rising, and Ryan got to experience some pretty sweet whitewater on the Shenandoah River, which is usually more of a pleasant paddle than the epic torrent it became.
  • At the end of April I headed to the Atlanta area to see my baby brother graduate from Army basic training. My brother Adam joined us from Texas, and we had a great time traveling with my parents.

May //

May 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • As the rain continued in May, I was so ready to escape. Ryan was hard at work ziplining and rafting, but I jetted off to Colorado Springs with my mom! Ostensibly we were traveling to bring my brother’s car to him at Fort Carson, but we had a great time road tripping together, visiting my sister along the way in Illinois, and even (barely) outrunning a tornado in Kansas! And in Colorado Springs we got to visit the Air Force Academy, see my brother’s Army digs, and spend some time in the Garden of the Gods.

June //

June 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • June 6 was our eight year anniversary and we headed to Niagara Falls for a fun and relaxing getaway (after spending a few days visiting my family in New Hampshire). We had a great time exploring Niagara’s parks and drinking lots of Niagara wine!
  • Another highlight of my year also happened in June: visiting Chicago with my sister Michaela. We had such a fun time running all over the city — I absolutely fell in love and can’t wait to go back soon with Ryan!

July //

July 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • We didn’t go anywhere in July … instead, the fun came to us! My parents and three youngest sisters stayed at the campground with us for a week of ziplining, whitewater rafting, hiking, and campfire relaxing. They rented a cabin near our camper and we all had a great time. (The picture above is from when my dad and I hiked Maryland Heights — the best view of Harpers Ferry!)

August //

August 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Ryan and I parted ways once again at the beginning of August. I headed to New Hampshire to spend a week with my family; Ryan traveled to southern West Virginia to do some disaster relief work for the flooding that happened there earlier in the summer.
  • And then we headed to Maine for two glorious weeks! We hiked. We ate blueberry pie. We tent camped. We loved every minute of it. And on the way home, we visited with my family again and stopped off in New Jersey for a few days, too. It was a great way to cap off the summer.

September //

September 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Come September we breathed a giant sigh of relief to get back on the road! (Editor’s note: Despite all evidence above to the contrary, it totally felt like we spent a housebound summer after being parked on the mountain for four months. Apparently that was less true than I thought!)
  • The first leg of our journey had us running alllll over West Virginia. (We absolutely loved Morgantown, the Gauley River, Charleston, and Pipestem State Park.) And we rounded off the month with two trip highlights: visiting the Biltmore in Asheville, and finally making it to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — one of our new favorite national parks!)

October //

October 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • Ryan’s birthday is October 4, and we celebrated it with rock climbing in Chattanooga. By this point we were on the return leg of our journey, and chasing fall into Kentucky: we spent a night in Nashville, explored caves in southern Kentucky, drank lots of bourbon, and rounded out our Appalachian adventure with Bridge Day back at the Gauley River.
  • After a quick stop at home base to get some maintenance done on the car and to say our goodbyes in Harpers Ferry, we were officially New England bound. Our stop-off in New Jersey was perfectly timed for some of the best foliage we’ve seen in years … and we also got in some history by visiting a few national park sites! (Read our guide for visiting all four of New Jersey’s national parks in a day here!)

November //

November 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • After a busy early fall, November was time to hunker down and get some work done. We parked the camper at my parents’ and settled in to enjoy the remnants of fall and take care of business.
  • That said, November wasn’t all work and no play: we enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with family (even our military brothers joined us — mine from Fort Carson and Ryan’s from MCB Quantico!) … went into Boston for our traditional Sam Adams brewery tour … and visited Louisa May Alcott’s childhood home and Minute Man National Historical Park.

December //

December 2016 Our Streamlined Life

  • In December, the coziness continued. We decorated the camper for Christmas … and even got a little snow! The month was busy with Christmas shopping, Christmas cookies, and general good cheer. Family started coming in from around the country and we celebrated a fun holiday weekend with plenty of presents and lots of good food.
  • And here we are wrapping up 2016 grateful for a wonderful year bookended by January in Louisiana and December in New Hampshire, with lots of glorious adventures in between. (And you’d better believe a not insignificant part of our month was spent making travel plans for 2017. That post is coming tomorrow, but I just have to say — it’s going to be awesome!)
  • And just for fun, here’s our 2015 Year in Review!

Happy New Year, friends! Tell us in the comments: What were your highlights of 2016? (Feel free to share your blog recaps … we’d love to read them!)

2016 Year in Review Header | Our Streamlined Life