Posts By Judy Nichols

Yellow Pine upgrade, Part One: The bloodletting

  • When we arrived in Yellow Pine, our friends Jeff and Ann were helping Nickie and Merle build a log house. Nickie, above, sprays some of the logs with borate, a preservative.

Somebody going to emergency, somebody’s going to jail. – Don Henley

Well, no one got arrested, but by the time we left Yellow Pine, Idaho, a guy we don’t know was lying at home with more than 30 stitches in his hand, and our friend Ann had routed off the end of her pinky finger.

Yellow Pine upgrade, Part Two: The bed

  • The Epic Van bed as it came from the manufacturer, a convertible couch that went up and down, with a push of an electric switch. We slept parallel to the long side of the van, our feet on seat cushions that met the couch when it was flat.

We bought our Roadtrek RS Adventurous in 2014 and it was perfect. I loved every square inch of it, every cabinet, every drawer, the four rotating captain’s seats, the combo bathroom and shower, the tiny kitchen with its dorm fridge, two-burner propane stove and little sink with collapsible faucet, the awning on the side, the solar panel on the roof, the back doors that swung open all the way to the sides so you could zip a screen into the back, the television and VCR installed on the wall, the pump and macerator that sucked all the stuff out of the waste tanks, making dumping a breeze, and the convertible couch/bed in the back.

I marveled at the years of design and thought that created this perfect vehicle, so perfect that Tom and I could sell our house and live in it. I couldn’t imagine anything I would do differently.

I loved it so much, I agonized when a cabinet latch broke, or one of the covers for the LED lights fell off. My heart broke when Tom backed over a log at a backcountry camping spot, taking out a chunk of the fiberglass skirt that hid all the valves for the tanks and propane.

And I didn’t want to change ANYTHING, in case SOMETHING HAPPENED – one of us got sick, the stock market crashed, camping was outlawed – and we needed to sell it. I wanted it to be in pristine condition, just as it came from the factory.

Fast-forward into our sixth year in the van. It has matured and so have I.

Turns out The Epic Van is hedonic thwarting machine

  • Daybreak at our camp at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California.

There are some things you just know. In your gut. But it’s nice when science proves you right.

Like I know that I’ve been measurably happier in the six years since Tom and I quit our jobs, sold our house and started wandering the country in our fancy-ass camper van. When people ask, I tell them, without irony, that I love every minute. Every minute.

Now I know why. Scientifically. And it’s called thwarting hedonic adaptation.

From the archives: Big Bend National Park

  • A roadrunner welcomed us to the last site at Cottonwood Campground.

While we’ve got the emergency brake on, I thought we’d share some of our favorite spots from our five years on the road.

One of the top 10 is Big Bend National Park. Here’s the post from our visit there:

Big Bend National Park: Two campsites, four hikes and a burro ride

Emergency brake on

  • The beach at La Manzanilla.

Like everyone across the world, our plans have been disrupted by coronavirus.

We’re grounded, grateful for a place to shelter, dreaming of the day we’ll be back on the road, and reviewing the fabulous times we’ve had in five-plus years of nomadic living.

West to East Chronicles – A report card on our coast-to-coast adventure

  • Rolling along the highway.

Judy and I renewed our nomadic vows for our longest Epic Van journey since we began in 2015. We vowed to use best practices learned over nearly 100,000 miles of wandering to make our 2019 journey from Oregon to Maryland, and back to Arizona, our most rewarding adventure yet. For us, best practice revolves on leisurely rhythm and simplicity: wake up at 9 a.m., stop for a couple of hours every day and appreciate our natural heritage and neighbors; witness our history, through trails, landmarks, national parks and forests, historic downtowns, museums and roadside oddities; read something from a book and share one together; improve healthfulness through better diet and frequent hiking, and blog about it a little bit more! So here’s our report card on 10 weeks and 8,449 miles on the road:

 

Translucent vision: The Corning Museum of Glass

  • Endeavor by Lino Tagliapietra. A flock of birds, a school of fish, a fleet of boats - the abstracted shapes of this sculpture lead us to find meaning and beauty in form, pattern, and repetition. Here, Tagliapietra was inspired the fleet of ornately decorated gondolas that gather in the Venitian lagoon for the Fiesta della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin.)

“It does not matter what material we use. We need the technique and we need the idea. And then we need the poetry, the love that transforms the material into a piece of art.” – glass artist Lino Tagliapietra

Our recent visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in Rochester, New York, was an awesome kaleidoscope of color, texture, history, passion and whimsy. We spent hours wandering its halls, learning of the ancient making and uses of glass, watching glassblowing in the museum’s demonstration studio, where New York-based artist Deborah Czeresko, winner of the recent Netflix competition show Blown Away, was making glass potatoes with sprouts, and walking wide-eyed through the contemporary galleries. It is inspiring to see the infinite viewpoints of the artists and the deft manipulation of the delicate medium. Here are some images, with the museum’s descriptions, for your visual enjoyment.

Joy comes in the morning … with knitting needles

  • Knitting fingerless gloves for Christmas gifts the first year in The Epic Van.

We ran into another pair in the laundromat yesterday. A couple whose eyes burned with unfulfilled desire as they peered into the van. “You live here?” “Really?”

As we give them a tour, extolling the virtues of our “Minimal home, maximum life,” listening to their longtime dream of a life on the road, talking about where we camp, how many miles we’ve driven, all the places we’ve visited, we gently broach the subject of hobbies.

It’s the one subject that can kill the dream. If you like to garden, you need a patch of dirt. No go in The Epic Van. Although I have seen campers with hanging plants outside their rigs. Totally weird to me. You’re a woodworker with a lathe? You better hang onto your workshop. Taxidermy. Not enough walls.

Our hobbies – books, hiking, history, yoga, museums, food, photography, blogging – neatly tuck into our home on wheels. Almost. There is the knitting challenge.

‘What are you reading?’ he asked

  • Road reading with sunset and bugs.

I once read (and I can’t remember where) that a man greeted friends and family not with the usual, “How have you been?” but with, “What are you reading?” I thought it was a brilliant place to begin a deep and insightful conversation about what someone is thinking. And if it’s not the first thing we ask people, it usually comes up fairly quickly.

We just spent a week with cousins Patsy and John Grady, two of our favorite readers, and shared many suggestions that were quickly typed into our iPhone notes under Books Not Yet Loved.

We read on our iPads, digitally checking out books from our Scottsdale library, and from “real” books we bring with us from our holiday book exchange, and others we pick up in our travels. And we read aloud to each other, me reading to Tom while he’s driving or cooking, Tom reading to me at night, because my voice instantly puts him to sleep.

What are we reading? Get out your iPhone. Here’s some of them:

Trees, trees, trees … and a snake

  • View through the leaves of a blackgum.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

Here are some lovely trees, and flowers, and fungi, and leaves, and water, and a snake, all seen at the Holden Arboretum near Cleveland, Ohio. Enjoy!