In two weeks my husband, Spanky, and I drove approximately 2,100 miles, ran 26 miles and hiked 10 miles.
We dropped in to one Crossfit session then drank our aches and pains away at nine wineries and three breweries (not all in one day, of course). We visited two sets of college friends and two family members. We watched Roger Federer play in the BNP Paribas Tournament. We camped three nights in a tent, stayed in two hotels and shacked up at four friends and family members’ houses.
We unhooked from our home on wheels, left it parked for two weeks and set out on the road untethered. It’s one of the perks of being a romad—leaving it all behind on a whim. And, when you’re a full-time RVer, camping means sleeping in a tent so we set off on our spring road trip without the comforts of our home-in-tow.
San Luis Obispo
First stop: SLO, which in local speak means San Luis Obispo. Well, technically, our first stop on our two-week road trip was Modesto, Calif. to visit family, but I have a hard time considering Modesto a vacation destination.
In SLO it’s OK to beach and wine all day; in fact, it’s encouraged. So that’s just what we did. My college friend Megan took my husband, Spanky, and I down to Avila Beach then we went wine tasting at three different wineries including Kelsey See Canyon, Edna Valley and Saucelito Canyon.
When in SLO:
Last time I was in SLO for a girl’s weekend Megan took me to four other wineries. My personal favorites so far are Kynsi and Talley. Tastings are a bit steep for my liking at $10 a pop, but if you are a wine connoisseur you have to get this area under your belt. For dinner we hit up Eureka!, which has great burgers and a wide varieties of beer on tap. Don’t miss out on the most important meal: Dessert. Choose your cookie and ice cream for a homemade ice cream sandwich from Batch.
Other notable discoveries:
While in SLO, we also caught live music at the Creeky Tiki Bar & Island Grill and discovered Scottish singer Natalie Clark. She’s got an Adele vibe with uplifting lyrics and a hauntingly spiritual sound.
Next stop: Quartzsite, Ariz. OK, it’s about as tourist worthy as Modesto, but I must mention it because it was two days of the road trip itinerary and still provided plenty of writing fodder. Quartzsite has a population of nearly 4,000, which blossoms to several hundred thousand in the winter due to the snowbird invasion, a demographic that includes both Spanky’s grandmother and great-aunt and uncle. No, I didn’t say grandma is a “snowboarder”—she’s a snowbird. Bird. She flies south for the winter. We stopped to visit grandma and she had plenty planned. First she took us to a working gold mine in the desert, as I also write for a small-scale gold prospecting organization and my husband is a prospector. We became members of the Mariquitta Mining Club for a small fee of $5 and a photo of us groping mannequin Molly’s boob. In return, we get to bring all of our own drinks to club functions. Hey, wait a second. I think we got scammed by some geezers. After a day in the desert, Spanky’s grandma Phyllis and her husband Ed took us dancing. It was about as awkward as a high school dance, as Spanky and I sat in the corner watching the gray hairs parade around us two-step-by-two-step.
When in Quartzsite:
While it’s more of a stopover place (from retirement to you know where), the Sonoran Desert has miles of trails worth navigating with an ATV in the winter months when it isn’t 110 degrees and snake infested. Aside from riding quads, it’s also such a peaceful place for a long trail run. Just make sure you memorize the area’s natural landmarks or bring a GPS so you don’t get lost.
Other notable discoveries:
Quartzsite is where grandma and grandpa go to relive their college years. Can you say “Grandmas Gone Wild”? Maybe it’s not that bad, but it is a bit of an experiment to put yourself among an entirely different generation. I learned that in 40 years or so all I will be able to talk about is who died or had surgery most recently, which meds I picked up in Mexico and which route I’m going to take to drive home (even though I’ve already been driving it for 20 years). At least I’ll be old enough to get a license plate like the one I saw on our way to Quartzsite: BADAGMA.
After Quartzsite, we made a pit stop in Wickenburg, an old Arizona mining town and then continued on to Sedona. Hello, red rocks. After driving nearly 1,000 miles, I was itching to get out of the truck so Spanky had a hike picked out for us. We drove straight to the Grizzly Mountain trailhead and took off for the top, a 2,000-foot elevation gain and 5.4-mile trek. The hike offered a challenging, stair-stepper climb, but rewarded us with panoramic views of the entire valley below, which made forgetting my daypack and snacks totally worth every tummy-growling step.
When in Sedona:
Hike, hike, hike! Springtime is the perfect time to visit and still enjoy some 70-degree days. Aside from Grizzly Mountain, Cathedral Rock is also a popular day hike and not as difficult. There are also plenty of mountain biking trails in the area. If you feel like taking it easy, Pink Jeep Tours are a tourist favorite for a four-wheel version of an open-air bus tour.
Other notable discoveries:
While Sedona is all tourist glitz and glam—the desert answer to Tahoe—it is pretty expensive. I suggest staying just 20 miles southwest of Sedona in Cottonwood. We stayed at The Iron Horse Inn, a boutique hotel that is in the process of a facelift. From the historic inn, it’s an easy walk to three different tasting rooms as well as Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House, which, as you would expect, has a rich, buttery spread of turf and surf selections. From Cottonwood it’s just another nine miles to Jerome, an old copper mining town and “America’s Most Vertical City” at more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Grab breakfast at Flatiron then take a stroll around this charming Old West town.
After a five-night Arizona stopover, we made our way back to California by way of Palm Springs, where we camped at Thousand Trails’ Palm Springs RV Resort, and Orange County, where we stayed with another college friend for a couple of nights. We rounded out our road trip with two nights at Limekiln State Park, just south of Big Sur, Calif. At $35 a night, Limekiln charges more than I would like to pay to toss a tent out, but it offers the best of both worlds: beach and big trees. Camping spots are limited and reservations are a must, but campers have the option of sleeping beachside, creekside or under the shade of the redwoods.
When in Big Sur:
The camp host at Limekiln State Park recommended the 4.5-mile Ewoldsen Loop hike at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The hike has a 1,500-foot elevation gain with views of the expansive Pacific Ocean below, including the iconic McWay Cove, the poster child of every Big Sur postcard.
Other notable discoveries:
After your hike, continue north to Big Sur. I made the mistake of taking advice from a travel magazine and eating at the Big Sur Bakery. While there’s nothing wrong with the place, and the food is fresh and savory, the prices cater to the big city crowd. This small town girl isn’t used to paying $15 for a grilled cheese sandwich. Instead, go to the Big Sur Deli next door and grab a loaded deli sandwich for half the price. The deli also makes a mean breakfast burrito.
Besides providing you with an epic spring southwest road trip, this article is another shameless plug for RV living. For simplifying. For traveling. For throwing cares to the wind and unleashing your inner wanderlust. Before buying an RV my husband and I considered ourselves “outdoorsy,” but we had only gone camping and hiking together a handful of times. Sure, I packed a bag for weekend sleepovers with our old college friends during visits to “town,” but for the most part we had to be home to maintain everything from mowing the lawn to feeding the dog. The beauty of living in an RV is that you can unhook and leave it all behind in a split second. There’s no fussing over watering plants or finding a house or pet sitter. Just park her and go! I’m not against owning a home, but if you want to experience all that this world has to offer it’s just easier to do without that extra baggage—in which a home is a 1,500-square-foot checked bag. How much are you willing to pay for that luggage?
Still considering the romadic lifestyle? Check out these tips on purchasing the right RV for you. And, read more about Sarah Reijonen’s nomadic lifestyle in her bi-weekly column called “Home on the Road.” If there’s a topic you’d like her to cover, please comment below. Follow her on Twitter @spankyandsarah and on Instagram @countrygrlswrld. Happy Trails!