The Personality of our Journey

In his book about his travels across 1960’s America, Steinbeck describes his preparations for his trip as futile.  I want to start this post with a quote from his novel; he has a way with words that I can only dream of possessing.

“A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys.  It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness.  A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.  And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.  Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.  Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it.  Only then do the frustrations fall away.”  – Travels with Charley (Pages 1-2)

Life on the road has some serious challenges.  But when all you see are the “happy moments” on Instagram, it seems like life couldn’t be more perfect.  Those moments are amazing for sure, but like anything good in life, there are set backs and obstacles all along the way.

Hoping to curb the frustration of not being in control of everything on this trip, we planned to move into the RV a week before we “officially set off” on our journey.  We thought we would work some of the kinks out before we were “alone on the road”.  We traveled with our friends Jace and Giddi ( who also live full time in their van.  We figured if we ran into trouble, they would be able to help out.

And boy, did we need their help.  Here is a short list of what happened as we became acquainted with the personality of our journey:

  • Before we even pre-launched the kinks started working themselves out.  I came into the RV with the keys in my hand, a few of our friends came over to bid us farewell, and when we got up, the keys were NOWHERE to be found.  Madison and I looked for over three hours.  We pulled everything out of the RV (including a few cans of V8 from the 90’s that we discovered in the depths! Ew.)  We went through it all.  Nothing.  Luckily we had a spare key to the truck ignition, but the key to the main door was our only copy.  So, we drove to a locksmith and got the front door re-keyed.  (I also went to Best Buy and bought a little key tracker so I wouldn’t lose them again!)  Cees rookie move #1.


  • That night, we found a really neat camp spot, but there was a thick tree branch that was kind of in our way.  We weren’t sure that  we would be able to clear it if we pulled in.  Being our first night out, I bravely decided, “forget it, I can make it!”  As I was pulling in, the said branch proved me wrong and punched a hole in the side of the RV.  Not just a scratch, a fist-sized hole straight into our closest.  Our clothes had pine needles on them the next day.  Cees rookie move #2.


  • The next morning, we were taking some pictures of the sunrise with the camera on the tripod.  We walked away from the camera for about 30 seconds, only to hear a CRASH.  We look back to see the camera on a rock and what appeared to be a huge spiderweb crack on the lens.  Luckily it was just the 20 dollar UV filter that was cracked and the lens itself was unharmed.  Cees (and I guess Madison) rookie move #3.


Here’s Madison feeling really sad when the camera cracked.  She needed to snuggle some of the sorrow away!

By this time, we were done making rookie moves, but that didn’t stop the temperament of the trip:

  • The next night, again as we were looking for a place to camp, we were driving down the road and my dash lights started to dim.  I noticed that my headlights also were going down.  I said to Madison, “This happened to me in my old truck!  Our alternator is going out and we are losing power!  Look for the nearest pullout!”  So, our search for a place to sleep was quickly ended as our vehicle made the choice for us and coasted to a stop.  We slept in the dirt pullout that night and took care of it in the morning.  Here is where we coasted to a stop – honestly, out of all the places to be stuck in the world, this one wasn’t too bad!

FullSizeRender 5

We took Jace and Giddi’s van into town, bought a new battery, and drove the RV into the shop to get the alternator replaced.  While it was there I got some Bondo and patched the hole I punched in the side the day before.  Jace was on double duty with the pets.


  • After the alternator was replaced, we seemed to be having some serious misfires as we were driving down the road.  We looked under the hood and realized that one of our spark plug wires had melted and was arching out.  So, we drove to the nearest auto parts store and got a spark plug wiring kit.  We were going to be in the parking lot for a while, so Madison, being the domestic goddess that she is, decided to make some cookies.  She lit the oven, set the lighter on the stove top, and sat down to work on something on her computer.  As she was doing this, I was under the hood with both hands in the motor trying to rewire the spark plugs so that the wires wouldn’t get melted by the exhaust manifold.   And then out of nowhere,


There was a huge explosion!  I slowly pulled both arms out of the engine, and then, after realizing that I was not limbless, I ran inside the RV to see what had happened.  All I found was a speechless Madison with her hands near her ears trying to speak.  I asked several times, “what happened?” But all I got were a few confused looks and a bit of babbling as she flapped her hands up and down.  I did about two seconds of detective work and found tiny little pieces of the lighter all over the RV.  The lighter had gotten too hot and spontaneously combusted.  Luckily all was fine, and nothing else caught fire.


Here are the gathered remains of the lighter.

We still have minor hiccups here and there on the road, but for some reason a lot of them happened when we were “getting aquatinted” with our trip.  It was unreal how all of these problems came down on us in such a short period of time.  We would be lying if we didn’t admit that during all of this (especially when we lost the keys) that we said to ourselves, “Is this a sign?!  Should we just give up on our trip?!”  Luckily we didn’t give up, but pushed through the frustrating moments.  It taught us the life lesson that there will ALWAYS be roadblocks and resistance along the way and particularly in the beginning!  Whenever you set out to accomplish a dream or do something big, the universe will send problems your way.  But honestly, that’s half the fun!  When you roll over those speed bumps in life, you become a better human.  Ironically, it is the bitter struggle of the journey that makes the  sweet sense of accomplishment all the more satisfying.



  1. You guys. I love you both so much. Thank you for sharing ALL aspects of your trip with everyone. I don’t want to say I’m glad you’ve had troubles, but I’d be lying if I said knowing it hasn’t all been sunshine and daisies makes me feel a teeny bit better. It’s always hard to be honest about the crappy stuff, but it’s way more authentic and I for one always appreciate authenticity. Don’t ever hesitate to let me know if you need anything! Seriously. #numberonefan

    • Cees

      Thanks Jen! You’re so kind. It has been an AMAZING adventure so far… but I really do think that it wouldn’t feel as glorious had we not had these issues along the way. It’s like anything in life – if it wasn’t hard, you don’t feel accomplished.

    • Cees

      haha, oh man! Thats right! That was epic. Seriously though, it was SO GOOD to have you around that week. Madison and I talk about that all the time. We would have been hosed had you not been there with us. We miss you guys!

  2. Hey guys! Love following your blog since I saw your “ourvie” in Canyonlands. We, too, are traveling full-time(ish) in our camper. This post reminds me of our beginnings back in September. What a great quote above… Truly, the trip takes you.

    Our trip is a little different in its skeleton. We have our two year-old son, Eli, with us and my husband, Dave, is working full-time out of the camper. So some days, the adventure only goes as far as Eli’s storybooks. Either way, I feel you….

    If you want to check out our blog, which pales in comparison to your beautiful spread (re pics, website designs, etc), you can READ about our travels, and the many hiccups along the way 🙂

    We are in Madison, Wisconsin for the summer. If you pass through, let us know!

    • Cees

      Your adventure is awesome! I loved looking through your posts and your blog looks amazing! And when we are up north we should definitely try to connect. We’d love to meet up with you and Little Eli!

  3. This is such a great post! It’s seriously a great reminder to people that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time but still can be so good and worth it to go on adventures like this. Keep making it through those hiccups! 😉

    • Cees

      Yeah, we get worried when all we post are the “happy times” that people think that we live in some perfect fantasy land… we want to keep it real! haha

  4. Dawn from Camano Island

    Gosh, it’s such a relief to read this post! I thought we were the only ones…our first winter in Arizona, we ripped the top edge of the roof on branches while looking for a camp site at Las Cienegas. Drove down to Sierra Vista the next day to buy Dicor to patch it. The repair isn’t pretty but it’s functional (and I have to fight the urge to take it off & put one nice long strip on there–stuff like this is why I meditate for 30 minutes every morning). This December as we’re packing to leave for Arizona, I discover the puzzles in one of the upper storage cabinets are damp. Yup, a tear in the roof membrane. Jim putties it & it’s fine but I worry about the putty…wouldn’t Dicor be better? This is why I meditate for 30 minutes every morning. Woke up one morning in a boondock near Lake Havasu–rain on our bed. Wow–how did that vent cover get broken? Fortunately, we found a great guy in town who put al new ones on. I think this is about it so we’re really fortunate, actually. And this is why I meditate for 30 minutes every morning. We’re loving your posts–we’re changing things up in 2017 & will be spending 2-3 months in Utah & New Mexico in the fall (the higher elevations are too cold in the winter). You’ve already given us lots of great travel tips–thank you! Happy, safe, Steinbeckian-like trails!

    • Cees

      You’re not alone! Life on the road is gnarly! Well, actually, I think it has just as many problems as life in an apartment or in a home… it’s just that they are different. It takes some adjusting as you get them all ironed out. Sounds like you guys have had some good adjustments with the roof! Ain’t nobody got time for soggy puzzles! So frustrating! Good luck out there!

  5. So relatable ? Our van has so many quirky problems at the moment, but it’s all part of the journey! At the moment, we have to knock on the dashboard for the clock to light up, and the boot doesn’t open unless it’s pulled straight to the left, BEFORE pulling it away from the body. It took me a long time to figure that one out, and I may have sat down grumpily like a child and refused to help a few times after struggling with it.
    Glad that everything was okay after the BOOM, and that no one was hurt! I love how you’ve framed your RV troubles – each vehicle does seem to have it’s own personality, quirks and strengths/weaknesses! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Safe travels.

    • Cees

      Oh man, I can totally relate to that frustration! I’ve sat down and refused to help before too! It’s a good thing for Madison and our teamwork… Otherwise we’d never make it through this whole journey!

  6. Andy Kralick

    We tented for decades and could go on for days about all the mishaps we’ve had. From ants to cicada swarms, skunks and raccoons, chased by bison and encounters with moose and bears, hail storms and tropical storms, many snapped tent poles, and even being struck by lightning! It’s all part of the adventure and the great memories you will share forever.


  7. It’s interesting that you quoted that book, I have it checked out from the library but haven’t gotten to reading it yet. It must be the traveler’s vibe. I got it specifically because of our National Park to Park Highway trip (Stage 1 starts Monday). Now I’ll HAVE to read it.

    • Cees

      Yeah! It’s a good read for sure! So excited for you guys to get out on the road! Good luck with the launch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *