Oh, what we learned and how we grew
Our second season was going to be another season full of new experiences. We decided that we were going to try living together in the RV and Ben was going to experience his first winter living in the snow and YES in the RV. We decided that we were going to work at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California. Lauren would be working as a ski school supervisor and Ben would be driving busses for the ski resort.
That winter was unlike any other. The mountain got more snow than it had seen in years. The ski resort was busy and so were we. We were working a lot and when we weren’t working we were shoveling out the cars and the 5th wheel. That winter we learned a lot about maintaining and living in an RV in the snow. We tried all kinds of solutions to keep moisture down in the RV and us warm and comfortable as well as our water from freezing. We were not efficient at achieving these goals in the slightest. We were burning propane like crazy and needed to refill a 7-gallon bottle almost every three days. These challenges were also coupled with learning how to live together and things were not always easy. Our relationship had progressed so quickly because of our lifestyles and now we had to slow down and learn how to blend our lives together rather than living two separate lives. It wasn’t always perfect but we knew we loved our adventures together and started to make plans for the next one.
Because we were in California and not too far from where Ben grew up, we were treated to a visit from Ben’s cousins. His cousins Rosie, Cydney, and Christian came to stay at the resort for a few days. They rented equipment and tried their hand at snowboarding as well as sledding. We didn’t have a lot of time off but it was fun to play the part of tourist at the resort with them and we even went ice skating one evening. It was nice to be able to share this adventure with family.
A benefit of working at a ski resort is usually a free season pass. We took advantage of that pass on the few days off we had when we weren’t shoveling snow. And, Ben learned how to ski. This was such a great experience to share as snow sports are Lauren’s passion. In fact Lauren had been working on advancing here career in the ski industry that season and was attending leadership classes through our employer and finished the second part of her Level 2 ski instructor exam for the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
In the spring when it warmed up we brought Ben’s grandmother to the ski resort and rode the gondola up the mountain. It was a beautiful day an we enjoyed showing her around the place we worked. On another occasion Ben’s grandmother insisted we go to see the oldest bar in Nevada. It was something she did not want Lauren to miss.
As the season came to a close we made plans to do some maintenance on our vehicles and put Lauren’s car in storage for the next season. So, we headed back to the Monterey area and prepared for the trip to the next job. While we were there we took part in driving for the Big Sur Marathon again. It seemed like it was becoming a tradition.
Even with Ben working at the school district and preparations to leave we had to take advantage of time with family and friends. We did find time to go on a weekend camping trip with Ben’s friends Travis and Tina for their maiden voyage with their new 23ft travel trailer. We spent a few days at Coyote Lake enjoying each others company and the beautiful weather. And Lauren was invited out for a girls day at a local winery where she got to know some of Ben’s friends and family better.
The route we had planned would follow the majority of Route 66. We went to the Route 66 museum and stopped in a few small towns along route 66 to check out antique cars and drink milkshakes from a drive-in diner. We stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona and toured La Posada Hotel which was a part of the Fred Harvey mission to make train travel more civilized and bring westward travel to a greater number of people. Stopping to see this hotel was a highlight for Lauren. One of the ways Fred Harvey made train travel more civilized was by creating a system of hotels and restaurants for which he hired young single women from the east coast to work in, who would be known as Harvey Girls. This did two things, it helped to make the customers more comfortable and it helped to populate and civilize the wild west towns when those young women would marry the local cowboys. Lauren fancied herself a modern Harvey Girl as she had gone west like so many east coast girls before her seeking adventure and a new life. She had even worked for the company that had acquired the Fred Harvey empire. It was incredible to be witness to one of the pioneering structures that helped to make westward expansion possible.
Our route even took us through Gallup, New Mexico.
From there we were going to meet up with Ben’s Mom and Step Dad for a short camping trip. Where we were staying in New Mexico wasn’t too far from Taos so we did some exploring there and went to a mission called Santuario de Chimayo. There is a legend that this is the location of Our Lord of Esquipulas’ crucifix. The hole in the ground where the crucifix was placed is said to have healing powers. People come from all over to take some of this dirt and use it for healing illness or injury. And although people continue to take the dirt, the hole never gets any bigger.
We were having a great time enjoying the campground and exploring the area but we had to cut the trip short and make an unexpected trip to Colorado when we discovered one of the bearings in the drive line on the truck was failing. We were able to get the parts we needed and fix the bearing at Ben’s Mom and Step Dad’s house. At this point we decided we did not have the time to back track and continue our journey along Route 66. Instead we would head north towards I-80 and start to make our way east.
In Nebraska we found an amazing campground just a few miles off the highway. It was on a small lake and we were the only ones there that night. The next day by chance, we saw an attraction sign for Antique Archaeology (which is the antique shop the show American Pickers came from) on our way to the next campground. We made a quick decision to take the exit in La Claire, Iowa and stop. It was spur of the moment and something we were not expecting to see on this trip.
That night we stopped just across the river in Illinois. We stayed at a beautiful Army Core of Engineers campground on the Mississippi River. It was pretty cool to be standing on the shore in Illinois looking at Iowa on the other side. Our neighbors were extremely friendly. We found out when we pulled in that our site was between two parties that were camping together (to be more specific two brothers and their wives). When we got there they immediately invited us to come join them that evening. We politely declined as we were preparing dinner and winding down from our day. When we went out to get some pictures of the river they invited us again but this time they told us their invitation was a little self serving. They planned on playing music and making a little noise and didn’t want us to complain about the noise. With an invitation like that we couldn’t refuse. So, we grabbed a bottle of wine and our chairs and headed over. When we got there we found out that the brothers were musicians and would play gigs together. Prior to that one of the brothers (Chuck Abney) was formerly an English teacher and had started writing music about novels and English topics for his students. They played both covers of popular music and some original songs. We weren’t sure how we had been so lucky to be treated to a private concert. And, as they played guitar and sang the sun went down over the Mississippi.
We met up with the originally planned route in Elkhart, Indiana, the RV capitol of the world where we had plans to tour a few RV manufacturers . Getting the opportunity to see how an RV is constructed and the manufacturer process was eye opening. The other excursion we planned was to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame. When you purchase an admission ticket they allow you to boondock in the parking lot for the night. Seeing the evolution of RVs over the years and how technology has changed was fascinating. It is certainly a must see for any RV enthusiast. This was to be the last big hoorah for the trip though. We needed to get to our job and our travels would need to turn north.