We are back from our cross-country van-life travels (most recently at Ramsey, Erin and Fiona’s place in Lawrence, Kansas), and are enjoying the comforts of home. It is nice to have a house, turns out. It is nice to have a kitchen we can both be in at the same time, and a real bed that is stationary. Plus it looks like we missed winter! Our magnolia tree is blooming and the daffodils are out. It is a balmy 60 degrees. Feeling Lucky.

As we sped down the Mass Pike towards Newton Corner yesterday we went over the stats:

  • 130 Days away from home
  • 12,000 miles
  • 365 Hours in the Car
  • Highest Elevation: 11,300 Feet/Altitude (Monarch Pass, CO)
  • Lowest Elevation: 200 Feet Below Sea level (Death Valley CA)
  • 46 People Friends/Family
  • Highest temp: 82/Death Valley CA
  • Lowest temp: 3/Gunnison CO
  • Most Water: Portland OR
  • Most Snow: Mammoth Lakes CA
  • Driest Spot: Death Valley CA
  • 56 nights sleeping in the Van
  • 74 nights sleeping inside a building (that’s me: James enjoyed the van alone a few more nights than I did 😊)

Traveling from Kansas we put in three full days of driving, two nights on the road. Our approach to the evening was stopping around 6 pm wherever we got to, eating take-out in the van, and then finding a place to park & sleep. We wanted to get home ASAP but without driving at night, as we did in our youth. Even with round-the-clock coffee those days are past. Past St. Louis there is not a lot of public land, so we chose to camp stealthily in civilization. The key to choosing a good parking spot for the night in small town USA is finding an anonymous place within a familiar setting. In Cloverdale, Indiana we slept outside a mom and pop mattress store. In Berwick, Pennsylvania we stopped on a pleasant small-town street with multi-family homes next to the Susquehanna river. As long as the inside of the van was not visible we were invisible, right? We were someone’s van or someone visiting someone’s van. Anyway, we were gone early the next morning, before someone/anyone could get worked up.


Small-town Eastern USA has a different flavor than those in the West. Historically speaking we were reversing the steps of the pioneers, and it felt comforting to be back in the hills, deciduous trees, older architecture. The modest towns we stopped in were not desperate-looking like some of the places we drove through in Kansas or the Nomad-land like RV camps in Arizona. They were reassuringly alike.. post office, town hall, various flavors of churches, a graveyard, Main Street, Masonic Lodge, IOOF hall, POW/MIA flags, the local industry, the local bar. There were some Trump signs but not too many, masks more visible in some places than others, tidy towns waking up to spring. It was a small sample size, but a reminder to me that we might share more than we think.

Our Covid vaccinations are scheduled for tomorrow. The house is still in one piece. The people we love are intact. Even the sourdough and kombucha starters are still going! I never could have predicted a year ago that this was how we would spend the winter.

Thanks a million to everyone we visited, everyone who held down the fort, everyone who read this blog. Thanks for your help, hospitality, emails, thoughts and good wishes. You have sustained us. Happy Spring and stay safe (until it is safe).

March 30, 2021