Rich and I had a great time last Sunday, venturing out for a day trip from Orange County to Joshua Tree National Park. Of course we’re always up for travel – but we were also looking forward to this day because we were meeting some new, fellow-travelers named Howard and Linda.
This post will be a bit longer than most, as there’s a little back story I’d like to share. Howard and Linda are an adventurous couple who are “full-time RV’ers”–and who have been living and working from their fifth wheel, traveling the U.S. for the past 8 years. I’ve been reading their blog, RV-Dreams Journal for about 4 years now, where their unique life story unfolds daily.
Until several years ago, they had a very successful ‘normal’ life, as business professionals who started -and later sold a company. Like most accomplished Americans, they had very busy lives filled with work, home care, and spending time with family and friends.
One day after an especially enriching vacation in the wilderness, they had an epiphany. They began thinking about changing their lives significantly, so they could enjoy nature more often and enjoy a slower pace. They investigated the idea of living a mobile lifestyle, and as people who still wanted comforts of home, they decided to buy a fifth-wheel RV.
Meanwhile, I’d bumped into their website in 2008 and started reading their blog while thinking about dramatically changing my own life. Howard and Linda’s story was one of the influences that inspired me –and helped me find the courage –to hit the road with Rich in 2010.
We’d thought about buying an RV at the time, but instead wanted to try out the mobile lifestyle while we built our new online business- which is what we did. For 18 months we enjoyed being unencumbered – with no regular rent or mortgage, and we learned a lot about ourselves, which we’ve shared on TrekWithUs.
Then last winter we decided that we wanted to continue the mobile lifestyle, but we wanted an RV since like others, we wanted the comforts of home, and a consistent place to work from as we travel.
Fast forward to today. After tons of research we finally bought our Winnebago Aspect earlier this year! Since then, we’ve remained in Orange County, living in a quaint RV Park in Old Town Tustin CA.
It’s been a busy year, as we’ve been customizing our new home to suit our travel needs. We’ll talk more about that in future posts, but for now suffice it to say that Rich and I love the RV lifestyle so far- even though we only went to one campground in the Winnebago in April.
So back to this past Sunday. You could understand why I was very excited to meet Howard and Linda, and hike with them in Joshua Tree. It was a perfect day, with brilliant blue skies beckoning us to the high desert as we drove the 2-plus hour drive, listening to tunes from our new Travel play-list.
Soon we arrived in the Twenty-Nine Palms area just north of the J.T. National Park, where Howard and Linda were boondocking. They greeted us with warm smiles and welcomed us inside their home on wheels. We visited for a bit, and it was great fun talking with them. I felt like I knew them to some level, after reading Howard’s posts for so long.
Heading out, we stopped in town at a local Mexican Restaurant for lunch and chatted about how much we love Mexican food, sharing a few fond memories from our 4 month stay in Mexico in 2011.
We also had an abundance of questions for Howard and Linda, about traveling and living in their RV full time. They’re a very friendly and down-to-earth couple, and they openly shared their knowledge with us. (They offer RV-Dreams Rallies a few times each year, and if you’re considering becoming an RVer I’m sure you’ll find their seminars to be chock full of great information.)
Next we entered the park and took the short drive to one of our favorite hikes, called Hidden Valley Nature Trail. It’s an easy one-mile loop, which circles the interior of a small valley. The landscape is dotted with a nice variety of native desert plants like Prickly Pear Cactus, Teddy Bear Cholla and Mojave Yucca. Only a few Joshua trees peek into this particular trail.
We all admired the beauty of the landscape, with funky boulders framing the plant life against the crisp, blue sky. Howard and Rich both stopped to take photos, as Linda and I chatted. She mentioned how the landscape almost looks like a Disney ride. I laughed because that’s exactly what I thought last time I was at Splash Mountain.
As we left the parking lot I spied the a particular cropping of rocks, which were the inspiration for an oil painting I did a few years ago. I named it ‘Nightlife in Joshua Tree’ and added it to my Western Trails Fine Art Collection. I love how the vivid sunset in J.T. ushers in the nocturnal activity for the many desert animals.
Next we decided to head over to Barker Dam for another short 1-plus mile hike. This one loops through the “Wonderland of Rocks” and surrounds a small reservoir. When it’s full of water, I understand it’s a favorite watering hole for the animals, in an otherwise arid landscape. But no luck for us today, since the water line on the rocks was the only evidence of the small lake.
Further on we noticed a sign and brief turnoff from the trail, pointing toward some Native American Petroglyphs. Rich and I like to running into finds like these–which almost looked too colorful to be real. (I read afterward that they actually were ‘color-enhanced’ by a film crew from Hollywood during a film production there.)
We’re are always on the lookout for something unique in nature in each hike we take. Sometimes a desert tortoise or cool lizard that crosses our path. Other times it’s a volcanic rock, a cave, or some stunning flowers. Often, these finds are inspirations for my future paintings- or a photo opp for Rich.
Anyway, we left the path and headed out of the park, and I reflected about how great it was to have two fellow hiking companions with us today in Howard and Linda– who are so tuned into nature, and so respectful of it, like we are.
We wound our way out past Jumbo Rock, Skull Rock, and collections of Joshua Trees- all part of the unique landscape that makes J.T. one of our favorite parks in America!
Back at Howard and Linda’s fifth-wheel, we went inside for another visit. Linda graciously showed me some of their RV modifications, such as special drawers, cupboards and such -which they did when they bought it. This subject interested me, because this is just the kind of work we’re doing right now.
Linda also has a creative eye, and I loved seeing her flameless candles, which are even on a 5-hour timer. Some of the smaller ones even have a remote control! In RV’s you always have to consider weight, size, function and safety when buying home decor.
Then Linda brought out her beautiful beaded jewelry. I loved hearing how she is inspired by the places she visits, often integrating the natural elements into her jewelry– a method I share in creating my paintings.
Linda aptly named her jewelry DreamLife Creations, and I liked her work so much I bought a set of ‘Cluster’ bracelet and earrings.
As the sun started to set, Rich and I said our goodbyes to our new friends, thanking them for their hospitality, their time and much-appreciated tips for the RV- travel lifestyle.
Our Sunday day trip was a true highlight for both Rich and me. We’re so busy preparing for our life on the road right now that we don’t get out into nature like this as much as we’d like. Hiking with Howard and Linda was a breath of fresh air, and a glimpse into our future- set in the backdrop of our favorite places. Can’t beat that!!
Until next time, happy trekking!