Written by: Jeremy
As I am sitting here enjoying the new found freedom of a wife with growing confidence behind the wheel of a truck and pulling a travel trailer, I have had some extra time to take in the expansive state of Kansas via the well traveled but admittedly dull stretch of Interstate 70 cutting through the heartland.
Although we are new to full-timing, road trips across I-70 from Denver to visit family in the Midwest is not something new. We have made this trip many times. In fact, the state of Kansas has become sort of a punch line for us and our cool Colorado friends. Long flat, odoriferous, boring stretches of road broken up only by hate fueled, ethnocentric billboards wedged in between an even greater number of billboards for “Adult” bookstores, junk food, and signs luring you into a dilapidated farm for the privilege of looking at a five legged cow. We could only imagine the disappointment on a child’s face when they find out the World’s largest Prairie Dog is just a somewhat large ceramic statue that looks somewhat like an actual Prairie Dog.
One of our very favorite activities was discussing with other travelers about just how bad that trip across I-70 sucks and what a joke Kansas is. When travel planning, we actually discussed whether or not we even wanted to stop for one night in the this state, let along the two we ultimately settled on.
Our first night at a local KOA, just across the border into Goodland Kansas, was somewhat charming with a putt-putt golf course and large dog exercise area. It was, friendly, clean and respectable, but ultimately , the highway noise, and overall experience was about what we expected which wasn’t much. As we moved on for day two we contemplated if we wanted to make the second stop we had planned in Kansas or if we should just blow through.
Fortunately/unfortunately, a couple of urgent work emails for me caused us to need to find a place for the evening. Wanting to avoid another noisy night by the highway, we drifted a few miles off course to Milford State Park near Junction City. As we wound our way through the expansive, but relatively empty State Park in October, we began to experience Kansas in a different light.
Having no idea which of the seven available campgrounds would accommodate us best, as usual Robin headed into the State Park information area to make some friends out of the locals and to get the inside scoop. There she met Mel, the campground host from the “Woodland Hills” loop. He immediately pointed us away from the more expensive full hookup sites encouraging us to forgo the onsite sewer dump sites at the more crowed campground loop for the quieter and shady loop he hosted and that has level concrete pads but no sewer hook-up. He even offered to let us follow him there in his truck so he could show us the grounds and point out the sewer dump that we could easily use on our way out after our short one night stay.
Mel did not disappoint and pretty soon we were set up in an absolutely gorgeous, shady, level, and private spot where I got set up in my new office for the evening just before the sun began to set.
Mel was by a little later to drop off a load of firewood that he thought we might find useful. Again, Mel was right. Although I had a mountain of evening work to do for my business, the dogs were not about to let us settle in to computers and then go to bed without exploring this place at least a little. Certainly not after we spent over five hours in that truck. What we soon found, less than 10 miles from the dreaded Kansas I-70 corridor, was a beautiful lake and sunset walk that rivaled any expensive island vacation sunset that we have ever experienced. Considering the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves, that our dogs got to join us, and that I got to sleep in my own Sleep Number bed for less than $20, it actually beat those sunset vacation beach walks by a long shot. Within a few minutes waking around taking pictures, living and breathing in this wonderful place, my heart changed and this blog basically wrote itself into my head just like that.
What we could see and feel almost immediately was that this new journey would be far more than just a series of punch lines as we rush on through to our next destination. This is what our journey is about. In our previous life as typical Americans racing down the highway, trying to get in a short family visit in Missouri before our paid vacation time was used up, we had never really taken the time to stop in Kansas and see anything let alone actually meet a person. Our minds were already made up as we held our noses and plowed through. As we strolled through Milford State Park the error of our previous way of thinking and living became even clearer.
How much else of our lives to-date have we missed because we were too busy speeding through with a predetermined and fixed viewpoint? For us, where we are right now, is where we are in life. The state of Kansas is a state of mind. It is very easy to view what people post on social media, the television news or even the messages of billboards and to see this as what life is all about. In reality these things aren’t even real.
Rv Lesson #2: Every once in a while, you have to pull off the highway, slow down, breathe and actually experience the present world in front of you instead of creating the experience in your own head.
Kansas, just like life, can be whatever we want it to be! It can be a hell-hole of a state that’s primary redeeming quality is the 75 mile per hour speed limit, or it can be the place where campground hosts like Mel, make you feel like you are at home visiting family and sunsets make you feel like your are on a world class vacation. It really doesn’t matter that in reality, you are at a campground in the middle of Kansas on a Monday night in October for no particular reason.
It is all up to us! I guess it is a good thing we figured this out now considering our next intended states are Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia.
I personally, can not wait to see these places again for the first time!
Full-Timing with Pets / Meet the Family
Written by: Jeremy
I mentioned in a previous blog that we have talked about living in a travel trailer or, full-timing, for as long as we can remember. As a family, that has two big dogs and two cats, including three seniors, the idea of full-timing with pets was almost always at the top of the list of excuses for why we could not do it. We are just not the type of people that would make other arrangements for any of them based on life plans that may have changed since we said “I do” to these strange creatures how ever many years ago. In fact, we had all but decided that we would at least wait until we had a couple fewer cats and maybe one less dog before we entertained any type of full time expedition.
After we bought the travel trailer, we soon found that our thirteen year old cats Helen and Omar love the trailer. After living in it for a few months while we were in between houses, we knew for sure that this plan could work. If not “for sure”, we knew we were willing to give it a try. After we moved from the RV into our mountain cabin this summer we found that Omar wanted nothing to do with the musty old cabin and he mostly preferred to stay in the adjacent and newer RV. Given our future plans, we let him stay there most of the time this summer as the rest of us prepared to join him in the Fall.
The cats have lots of large windows to look out and the same comfy queen sized bed that they basically live on in our normal house is still always there; including when we are driving. Sure navigating through the dog gauntlet can be a challenge for them, but overall, I think they like the feeling they get when they have to swat and dominate the big dogs every now and then.
We even have little cat leashes and a cat play pen so that they can all get some fresh air! You should see some of the looks we get when people stroll by our camping spots and see Omar sunning himself on the picnic table.
Yes, it can be tight quarters, and finding a good spot for the litter box and other issues had to be dealt with. With senior cats, we decided to make prescription medication and food arrangements up front and all of our vet records are on board and digitally available. Our pets are also registered in the Banfield nationwide veterinary network so if we need routine care we don’t have to go through the whole process of transferring records to a new vet. So far, the cats have done well and they seem happy; or at least as happy as 13 year old indoor cats that live in an RV with big dogs get.
As for the 160 lbs of mutt we are taking with us – what can I say, dogs are dogs and we love them but they are not necessarily easy or cheap. Our older lab mix Hank’s is still pretty spry but most of his over-active collie puppy years are well behind him. Even though he doesn’t really know it, he has been looking forward to dipping his feet in the ocean for the first time for over ten years now. We can feel his excitement and anticipation growing as our excitement and anticipation grows for him.
Although our younger, big-boy, Rufus, can be a handful, the question, “you want to go for a ride?!” is, without a doubt, the most thrilling sentence he has ever heard a human-being utter. He has no idea where we are going or why and yet he has been up for this journey with us since the moment we met him down at the shelter.
Like his older brother, he does not spend one moment of his life focusing on the “what if?” obstacles and fears associated with travel and he certainly does not perseverate on his past. Staying one hundred percent focused on the potential opportunity ahead is not a problem for either one of our dogs. In accordance with our similar philosophy in life, why should we not be primarily the same?
I can see why dogs were good companions for the early pioneers. Surrounding yourself with energy forms that only look forward and never back can be a very good thing when living on the move.
We have a nice set up for them in the back of the crew crab and with quite a few miles under our belt already, they have been fantastic truck riders and travel companions. The cat crates double as a level platform support area for the dogs and this also provides another options for the cats if they aren’t traveling in their preferred position in the trailer bedroom. A dog ramp helps Hank get into the truck and it also provides a nice agility obstacle for Rufus to bound over when he enters the truck using his preferred full-speed, airborne launch method.
Yes, I am sure a couple of lap dogs like the ones we see everywhere we go, would probably have made better full-timing companions, but then again, probably not for us.
RV Lesson # 4: We are who we are and we can make this trip what we want. We can and will live, breathe, and move with our family instead of with excuses or regret.
Besides, indoor space and a fresh, clean smelling house are way over-rated when you have an entire continent to explore. All you need is a comfy place to lay your head at the end of the night. Hank and Rufus agree!
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