Night Falls on Colorado

September 23, Sunday

Last night was my first night sleeping in the Hiker Trailer, and I underestimated how many layers I’d need under me when sleeping. It’s getting quite cold at night here in Leadville, CO.

Eventually I’ll get a custom sized mattress, but I wanted to wait to order until I figured out the exact dimensions I wanted. So in the meantime, one of the things I bought at REI two days ago when I picked the trailer up was a good closed-cell sleeping pad – I’d been planning to buy one for backpacking anyway. I’ve been tent camping in cold weather before and am usually pretty good at staying warm, but I underestimated the chilling effect of air running underneath the teardrop. I was plenty warm on top, but cold on the bottom despite the pad and having a second sleeping bag overtop the pad. So I slept poorly, again.

For those keeping track, this is the third night in a row of bad sleep. Fortunately I had nothing important planned for today other than trailer organizing, which doesn’t get done.

Instead, Kelly, Bob, and I go take a hike along Turquoise Lake, where I camped for a while in the fall of 2016. It’s a chilly day, but the sun peaking through the clouds helps.

In the evening, we go out to the Silver Dollar Saloon in town to celebrate the sale of Cas, a historic building that looks much the same as it did 100 years ago – old uncomfortable booths included. Because it’s Sunday evening they aren’t selling food, but we have a drink there.

Kelly and Bob

After that we go to Casa Sanchez 2, where I have a chicken chimichanga. It’s quite good and the portions are huge for the price.

Tonight, I go to bed prepared with loads of blankets underneath me and I sleep well, hurray!

September 24

It’s amazing how a good night’s sleep can change everything. Where I’d been pretty numb about the Hiker pickup and sale of Cas the past couple days, today I have the spare energy to actually feel something about this big change. And I feel pretty good!

And I make sure to write about how this went down here on the blog, because it seems quite common for people to make big changes in their life… and then get a bit anxious when they don’t immediately feel good about them.

Big changes take a lot of energy mentally and emotionally… and sometimes physically too. So it seems to me like it would be pretty normal to not have a big emotional reaction directly after a big change happens – you’re simply too worn out from bringing the change to life to have leftover energy to feel gratitude and happiness.

Gratitude and happiness come later. Or at least, this is certainly the case for me. This is much like how my first days of full-timing went too. I didn’t feel the immense swell of happiness at hitting the road my first night on the road, or even my first few nights. It happened after I arrived at Sioux Falls and set up my South Dakota residency, when I had a couple nights to chill and hike and just relax. That’s when I knew I’d made the right choice.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t fret if you hit the road, or buy a new RV, or start a new job, or any other big change, and don’t immediately feel satisfaction from it. Give yourself some time to recover from the exhaustion leading up to the change.

It’s a gray day today with on and off rain showers which makes organizing hard, but my general feelings of happiness are reflected in the weather when a rainbow comes out in the afternoon. I got a similar shot of a rainbow landing on Cas my first year boondocking, and this seems like a good sign of things to come!

October 1, Monday

If IO were a movie, the week between Sept. 24th and today, October 1st, would be a montage of organizing an buying supplies (primarily storage containers) for the squaredrop, hanging out with Bob and Kelly, taking a trip to Denver with Kelly to see a concert, and end with a view of the local forecast, which is calling for copious amounts of rain and snow from the remnants of a hurricane pushing north from Baja.

Bob left a couple days ago and Kelly and I decide to leave today, our camping area is pretty obviously in a low spot that gets boggy when wet, as evidenced by the deep ruts in the grass. Plus the color is pretty much done here in Leadville.

Our destination is somewhere Kelly has camped before, but is a totally new area for me! Silverton, CO.

It takes me longer than expected to get hitched up and ready to go. Well, not needing a weight distribution hitch, the actual hitching up is quite quick. It’s just that this is my first time moving the Hiker with everything in it, so it takes longer to make sure everything has a safe place to travel in. As I develop a system, the preparing-to-travel process will get quicker.

By the time I pull out of Leadville it’s well after noon. I go south on 24 and then 285 to Salida, then turn west on 50 to cross Monarch Pass at an elevation of 11,312 feet. A light drizzle is already falling up there and the road is wet, but not snowy like it’ll be this weekend. Bertha performs admirably, there is a noticeable difference in towing the Hiker vs. the Casita.

50 is a pretty drive. The cottonwood trees growing along the banks of the Gunnison River are turning yellow. Further on the canyon walls of Curecanti National Rec Area are sheer and stark, offering a different kind of beauty. But I can’t stop to enjoy them further, time is of the essence.

After a stop for gas in Montrose, I turn south on 550. The overcast skies are bringing sunset early. The jagged peaks in the distance are beautiful, but tell of a difficult road ahead. I approach the outskirts of Ouray right at dusk.

Things get interesting south of Ouray.

It seems like the road should end at the edge of town, but instead it takes a sharp right curve at the base of a cliff and ascends in a series of switchbacks. I’m now on what I later learn is called the Million Dollar Highway, but I can make out little of it. Vague looming shapes in the twilight tell of tall peaks and deep canyons, and Bertha’s headlights point out sharp drop offs without guardrails. It’s an exciting drive, although I wish I’d made it before dark.

By the time I make it to the top of the pass, true night has fallen. The heavy clouds have become fog and it’s drizzling, reducing both visibility and traction. It’s at this point that the drive stops being fun, and starts being a bit unnerving. Especially as I start back downhill. Downhill always worries me more than uphill.

But I make it down to route 7/585, where Kelly is already waiting at our boondocking spot. It’s literally right along a creek, although I can only hear it in the darkness. I do the absolute minimum setup before crawling inside the Hiker. The rest can wait until daybreak!

* * *

Spoiler alert: I do make it back along the stretch of 550 between Silverton and Ouray during the day and get pictures and videos. Those coming in a future post. 😉

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Mister ed on October 12, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Go to your local hardware store and pick up 2 in, piece of foam board they come in a 4 x 8 sheet
    Cut The same size as your sleeping bag on the floor
    Insert That 2 inch piece under your sleeping bag or mattress
    You won’t get that cold radiation From under your trailer
    Think of it as a Styrofoam coffee cups that how Styrofoam works

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Thanks for the advice Ed. 🙂

  2. Wendy Bestward on October 11, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    I’ve had my teardrop since March and am having fun still making modifications so I can switchover from queen bed to super single daybed/couch during inclement weather to free up more inside living space. That’s the magic of a teardrop…changing it to suit your needs.
    P.S. I bought a 12 volt heated blanket I use in the winter as a mattress warmer… preheats the bed then I turn it off when I get in…and stays warm all night long.
    Happy trails

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:29 am

      I’m ready enjoying all the customization possibilities too Wendy! You’re not the first to recommend a 12v heated blanket. I’ve got my bed made up to the point where I stay warm now, but if it becomes a problem again I’ll look into it.

  3. Norm H. on October 11, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    My DW and I appreciated your words od wisdom about how your emtional transition went when moving from Cas to your Hiker. We went through a very similiar transition when picking up our new Casita last week. Only now, about nine days later, are we rested enough to start experiencing the joy of ownership and travel. Thanks for reminding us that we aren’t alone in having those feelings.
    Loved your pictures and word description of your drive over toward Silverton! Nothing like some adventure to make your first days with “Hiker” memorable ones.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:32 am

      I’m glad you found this helpful Norm. I wonder if this is where a lot of buyer’s remorse comes from. Not that a person made the wrong decision, but that they haven’t recovered enough from the hassle of purchasing yet to realize it was the right decision. I’m glad you’re enjoying your Casita now!

  4. Blue on October 11, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Ah, yes, Red Mountain—and Molas—Pass. Or as we locals say: just “Red”. Not for the faint of heart. Hope you’re enjoying (enjoyed?) the area. Looking forward to photos. 🙂

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Yes Blue I enjoyed the area a lot! I got out shortly after the rain last week turned to snow.

  5. Regis on October 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Done the MD highway several times and always a beautiful drive, even in the snow thanks to 4X4 that time.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:34 am

      It is so beautiful!

  6. GK on October 11, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Am enjoying your transition chronicle – including your excellent images. Agree on being careful with your mattress and condensation. We are using the Froli travel system. T@B uses this in the 400 model. You might find it a good buy for both comfort and condensation prevention.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Glad you’re enjoying this GK, and thanks for the advice.

  7. Sandy on October 11, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    MY palms were sweating reading your account of the Million Dollar Hwy! We traveled that in similar rainy conditions but during the day. My fear of heights did not sit well with the trek and we didn’t have the Casita at that time, but I relate!! Congrats on your new abode, look forward to your continued meandering and blogging!


    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:40 am

      Well, at least in the dark I couldn’t tell how far down those dropoffs went, haha! Thanks Sandy and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you.

  8. Jodee Gravel on October 11, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Driving a new set up in the dark on a winding road – I bet you slept like a rock that night! The fall color along the highway is beautiful. We’re in Virginia with zero color 🙁 Can’t wait to see more pics of that gorgeous area.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:42 am

      I did sleep quite well! Virginia does get color in the fall, right? Is it just too early still?

  9. Upriverdavid on October 11, 2018 at 1:54 am

    Ooohray Co. and you must have never heard about Box Canyon Blog. with Mark & Bobbie..I’m sure they would have welcomed you and shared the town hot springs…..
    Re: your being cold: Car Part stores have reflective stuff to keep the heat out, maybe they could work for you to keep the cold away?…..As in placed on the floor of your new rig?
    I have viewed how you researched everything before making a change in your “humble” abode…I have a 27′ Winnebago which is too large since my wife passed away…But I’m betting you will figure out how to make things work to make your travels just swell for you..
    Looking forward to your next adventures..A quiet follower…usually…..(:+)…..Ride-On!!!

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:45 am

      After that first night I had the right mix of blankets above and below to stay warm all night. 🙂 I have not heard of Box Canyon Blog before, but I was traveling with Kelly at the time anyway so wouldn’t have been able to stop over. I believe you that the hot springs were worth it.

      Glad you’re enjoying these transition posts. I’ve having a good time of it so far!

  10. RGupnorth on October 10, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Silverton to Ouray is a beautiful but unnerving drive in the daylight the first time. Silverton to Durango is very nice and if you have the time Durango to Pagosa Spirings.

    Teardrops are very cool from the bottom up and do trap moisture under the mattress. I added Hypervent under mine – it is used in marine applications under mattresses in close quarters – sound familiar.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Oh it was beautiful when I finally got to see it RG, I have no regrets. 🙂 Thanks for the mattress advice, I’ll figure something out!

  11. Rob on October 10, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Hwy 50 in Colorado? Is that the same hwy 50 as the long one in Nevada? I had to look… sure is! Runs all the way to the Atlantic ocean…
    I’d never heard of (or thought of) custom made beds before, I have a friend who could use one. Maybe she’s never heard of them before either?
    Two new things in one blog! Thanks!!
    Safe travels.

    • Becky on October 14, 2018 at 11:59 am

      There are several companies out there that will make mattress to whatever size and thickness you need – it’s especially popular in the RVing and boating community where bed sizes don’t always match standard mattress sizes. You’re welcome!

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