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Bravery, Stupidity, and Tough Decisions

I feel it very important, in an internet filled with artistic pictures of smiling people in beautiful places, prose about the wonders of traveling where and when you want, and video clips of idyllic drives and expansive views, to keep it real on my blog by also talking about the bad days on the road. These posts aren’t as popular, they don’t receive as much attention on social media, and internet algorithms don’t favor them… which is probably why many travel bloggers, vloggers, and other creators avoid such content. But bad days still happen, and that’s crucial for new, and soon-to-be nomads to understand.

So with that intro let me present: September 7th and 8th.

* * *

After a relaxing stay at Interstate State Park on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota, it was time to put on some serious miles towards a national park I have never visited before: Theodore Roosevelt.

Sept 7, Saturday

There’s nothing like a rough day on the road to remind a person to appreciate all the good ones.

Today started innocently enough. I woke up at a Walmart in Dickinson, ND after a decent night’s sleep. I was slow getting started with the day. The light rain and long driving day yesterday combined to make for a lazy morning. Which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, my destination today was quite close, no need to rush.

But it had rained most of the night, and kept raining.

It’s not like it was unexpected, the forecast had been calling for it for a week. But it wasn’t a downpour that sets off alarms in the heads of experienced boondockers, but a light, consistent rain that adds up over time.

By 10 I’m finally on the road, and the wind is picking up. Originally the plan was to boondock at a spot right outside of the park, but a couple reviews say that it’s not a good place to go when the roads are wet. So I’ve gone with a lesser known option a bit farther away. It’s not far off the interstate, and the only review on the road condition said that it’s “easy access”.

By now the wind is up to a steady 20 mph with gusts up to 40, and the rain is getting heavier. Still no problem for Bertha and Tribble. She plows into the headwind with little effect. Yet again I find myself driving on I94 through Theodore Roosevelt in the rain, the conditions were pretty similar to this back in the spring of 2015 when I was heading west on this route to my summer work-camping job in Yellowstone.

As soon as I pull off of I94 onto Country Road 11, I know I’ve made a mistake.

It’s a wide road and well graded, but more dirt than gravel. I’m sure most of the time it’s perfectly fine, better than many roads I’ve camped down. But right now, it’s not. Tread marks run through mud. How deep is it? How soft has the road gotten from 12 hours of rain? How much HAS it rained, anyway?

Traction is nonexistent. The mud sticks to Bertha’s street tires and I slide all over the place with my entirely inadequate 2WD. But I don’t dare stop, for fear of not being able to get going again. Thank goodness there’s no traffic. Thank goodness the road is wide enough that my sledding impression doesn’t land me in the ditch. I plow through a low spot with standing water and coast up the incline on the other side. Bertha’s rear tires skip a little and my breath catches in my throat, but then they grab solid ground again and truck and trailer both make it over the rise.

This photos is from the road at Camel’s Hump after I parked. As I said, I didn’t dare stop on the main road!

There’s sometimes a fine line between bravery and stupidity.

And from what I’ve seen, it’s usually the outcome that determines what side of that line you land on in the eyes of society. I pull into the dispersed camping area of Camel’s Hump Lake Recreation Area in one piece. Not surprisingly, I’m the only one here. So, was my drive brave or stupid? It was certainly not my intention to test Bertha or myself in such a way. On one hand, you could say I should have been more cautious, being an experienced boondocker familiar with how rain can ruin a dirt road. On the other hand, you could say that if I never took chances, life on the road would become repetitive and lose a lot of it’s wonder.

Site #1 at Camel’s Hump. That’s a hard no!

It isn’t until I’ve been parked a while that I discover that the front window of Tribble has a sprung a leak, and the foot of my bed is quite wet. Naturally, this is going to change my plans. But there’s little I can do about it now, so I settle in for a long and uncomfortable day of cold temps, strong winds, and rain. Days like this are just as much a part of life on the road as those glorious sunny ones that hog the spotlight on Instagram and Facebook.

Sept 8

I don’t pull out of Camel’s Hump Rec area until later in the morning, hoping the road will be dry enough to pass over. It’s still a little tricky in spots, but I make it out.

I drive promptly to nearby Buffalo Gap Campground. For only $6 a night, this places offers showers with hot water and paved pads with firepit and picnic table – it’s rare to find campgrounds this cheap! Had I known about this yesterday I no doubt would have come here instead. As it is, this gives me a nice place to leave Tribble while I drive into the park today. With more rain in the forecast, I won’t have to worry about road conditions. Before departing I heat up soup on my stove, this is the perfect weather for it.

That towel hanging from the roof rack? That’s what I used to mop up after the leak.

The overcast skies lend the park a somber mood.

A feeling that is enhanced when I get on top of a hill just inside the park with better cell signal and learn from my parents that an uncle of mine has passed away. I wasn’t very close to him, but he was a good man. I could theoretically turn around and go back to Wisconsin for the funeral, to be there for my cousins and aunt. It’s not expected of me, but it would feel good to do so. And with this lifestyle, I could. It would be a lot of driving, but I could.

But then again, there’s the leaking window. If I route to Denver now, I can make it to the Hiker factory with less than a week left before Tribble’s 1 year warranty expires. If I go to Wisconsin for the funeral, I wouldn’t make it to Denver in time – plus I’d be subjecting the trailer to more water damage the longer I go without getting the window fixed.

This is another less talked about fact of life on the road. Because we have more freedom, we have more choices open to us. It’s easy to talk about the choice of whether to camp at Awesome Spot #1, or Awesome Spot #2. But sometimes, the choices you’re presented with won’t be so light.

Sometimes, the decisions you have to make as a nomad can be very hard.

In the end, I decide not to go to the funeral. In talking with my aunt, I discover that my uncle loved Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I sit in Bertha on top of the hill. The wind blows the grass in waves, the wide-open vista stretches before me, wreathed in low dark clouds. I mourn; not so much for my loss, but for the loss of those closer to my uncle. And it feels like the park mourns along with.

Given the weather, it’s really not a good picture day. I wish I could stay and see the park in the sunlight, but Denver calls. I’m in the more visited southern unit, and the Scenic Loop Road is the thing to do here. Part of it is already closed for the season, but I drive as much of it as I can, and I take one shorter trail out to a nice viewpoint. It’s cold and windy enough that a longer hike isn’t appealing.

I lightened and enhanced this photo. I really do think Teddy Roosevelt would be a beautiful place to visit in better weather

Signs of fall are all around, dashes of color that break up the drabness. Today may also not be a good day, but little things like this shrub remind me that there are brighter days ahead. There’s always tomorrow.

As it turns out, tomorrow involves a bunch of driving south towards Denver. So do the next several days, with shorter boondocking stops between. But it’ll be good to have Tribble fixed. Far better to have the discomfort of an unexpected detour now, than a ruined trailer a year from now.

Sept 17, Tuesday

Window fixing day! I pull into Hiker Trailer West around 11 am, prepared to spend the whole day in Denver while the factory fixes Tribble’s window.

Instead what happens is, I pull into the lot, speak with the owner of the company Rob and his right-hand man for about five minutes about what’s going on with the window, and then workers come out with a replacement window and have the job done in fifteen minutes without me even having to unhitch. No fuss, no having to ply information out of anyone, no arguing about what needs to be done, no waiting for parts or manpower. The workers show me the part of the old window that failed (a manufacturer defect that I haven’t been the only victim of), and compare it to the new one going in that has been pre-tested for leaks. It’s all very painless.

Windows new and old

This is the number one reason why I love small businesses.

The closer relationship between worker and customer, the personalized care, the attention to detail. Hiker Trailer doesn’t sponsor me, I have no professional relationship with them. They just truly care about the product they make, and they care about the people who camp in them. And I love them for it.

I’ll have to continue keeping an eye on the front window. Future Hiker builds will no longer have the front window as an option now that Hiker knows about the defect, the company that manufacturers the window is basically saying they aren’t going to do anything about it. It’s possible the new one I have will fail with time too, but knowing what the problem is, I’m now better prepared to deal with it if it happens again.

As far as water damage, I spotted the problem and got it fixed quickly enough that a person has to look reaaaallly hard to see anything, it’s pretty much non-existent. But Rob still made the offer that I could drop the trailer off for a week during their slower season and have the wood replaced if I want, still free of charge since I brought the issue to their attention before the warranty expired.

While I’m here now though, I get a tour of the machine they use to cut the wood, and I get to watch some drawers being made. It’s a pretty neat process!

I leave Denver early in the afternoon feeling much lighter than I did upon entering. It feels like the end of a rough patch. Now that Tribble is once again in perfect working condition, I’m free to travel about as I please, and don’t need to worry every time it threatens to rain. Bring on the moody fall weather. Bring on the idyllic road scenes and artistic photos shot in beautiful places. Bring on the highlights of life on the road, the rewarding parts that make this lifestyle so appealing.

Bad days happen on the road, but they serve a good purpose. They provide contrast, so that when the good days come again, you truly appreciate them.

Thanks Patreon Inner Circle members and PayPal donators for making this possible!

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Becky

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.

43 Comments

  1. David A MacNaughton on October 28, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you for your honest posts, Good and Bad, Im a trucker and full time Jeep Wrangler and DIY square drop camper 4×8. Im new to your blog and site, Really enjoying your posts.



    • Becky on October 30, 2019 at 3:43 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO David, thanks for following along!



  2. Ava on October 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I’m still pretty new to towing and I think my biggest concern on the road is getting stuck in a situation I can’t get out of without help. Glad things turned out good in the end.
    Ava recently posted..Exotic Resort Zoo — Wildlife Safari Experience in Johnson City, TexasMy Profile



    • Becky on October 30, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      That’s something even experienced towers need to think about. Fortunately in seven years on the road I’ve never gotten stuck, although I’ve had a couple situations like this one that were kind of iffy.



  3. Barrie Bochoff on October 26, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Thanks Becky,
    Life happens and sharing the full range of experiences keeps it real. How we deal with the bumps helps us appreciate the sunshine even more. Small businesses rely on satisfied clients to maintain and grow. It says just as much about your character as their’s that you support them.
    All the best!
    Barrie



    • Becky on October 30, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      You’re welcome Barrie!



  4. S. Kaeseman on October 23, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for talking about the good and especially the Bad days you have. It always helps us when we discuss getting our own trailer when we retire. Knowing
    some of the unexpected issues that come up while on the road helps with the pros and cons of owning a TT of any type. We are older, so one like your beloved Tribble is no longer an option for us due to health issues, but one like Bertha is on our list. Glad you are still having a great time on the road enjoying your nomadic lifestyle. We love to read about your adventures and see your pictures.
    Thanks again, Respectfully,
    S. Kaeseman



    • Becky on October 30, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      You’re welcome S. Kaeseman! Best of luck with your own RVing plans.



  5. Julia on October 20, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Love, Love your blog. Thank you for sharing the rough days too. Condolences on your uncles passing. Im glad you could morn for him and family in one of his favorite parks.



    • Becky on October 30, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      You’re welcome Julia, thanks for following along!



  6. Norm H. on October 18, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Just read this post. Thanks so much for sharing your realities for, as others have said, “life still happens on the road.” Your perspectives are most welcome as we are about to embark on a 6 week trip in our Casita. There will no doubt be a few of “those days” and I’ll think of your slip ‘n slide drive. Safe travels to you and “Happy Trails.”



    • Becky on October 19, 2019 at 2:00 pm

      You’re welcome Norm, and have a great trip! Yes, you’ll probably have a couple of “those days”, but may you have many more fantastic ones. 🙂



  7. Quinn on October 18, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Thank you for posting all sides of full time life! Most videos and Instagram pictures are of these amazing places and it can come across as unattainable. Glad to hear that Hiker Trailer took care of the problem quickly. I also want to thank you for emailing me back in regard to trailer choice. I’m still deciding!



    • Becky on October 19, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      You’re welcome Quinn! And take all the time you need to make the decision, most people who try to rush it regret it.



  8. Cary on October 16, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you for posting about a bad day. That’s how life works as you know. Hiker Trailer seems like they really do care about their customers and of course the products they produce!



    • Becky on October 19, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      You’re welcome Cary!



  9. Ellen on October 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    I loved this post! We went fulltime in March without any prior camping experience. Probably not the smartest idea but I looked at it this way. Camping is work. A lot of work. We both knew that starting out as weekenders probably would mean at some point, rather than leading to a fulltime life as we intended, would instead lead to a parked RV with “we’ll plan for next weekend “.
    Instead, we sold our home, bought a truck and jumped in head first with a 41ft beast. Probably not the best choice sizewise but so far so good. We’ve had a couple of mishaps. Some from not paying attention setting up and some from packing up for our next stop.
    We’ve come to the conclusion that we love this lifestyle. It’s not easy and if you’re afraid of physical work it’s probably not a good thing for you to try.
    Our last stop was probably the scariest ride yet but we made it through and now have not only a great story but an incredible feeling of “we CAN do this”. It’s blogs like this that let me know that everyone out there has a bad day too! Thanks for keeping the stories real!



    • Becky on October 19, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      I’m glad you got some value out of this post Ellen and congrats on making it past the six month mark! I always tell people the first six months on the road are the hardest, it takes time to adjust and figure things out (even for people with prior camping experience!) but from what I’ve seen, if you make it that far it gets easier. 🙂



  10. Mary on October 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for your update. Sorry about the rough couple of days. Live and learn, right? Funny you should mention Interstate S.P. I was just there for the first time last July. It was very fun to walk across the bridge and be in Minnesota lol. What did you think of it?



  11. CJ on October 16, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Loved reading your article. You’re so brave Boondocking alone. Were you fearful at first and then adjusted or have you always been that brave? I look forward to doing this in 2021 but going to have to find my Boondocking big girl brave pants. 😀



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm

      Bravery isn’t a lack of fear CJ. Bravery is feeling the fear… and then doing the thing anyway. 🙂 I frequently still feel some degree of fear, I just don’t let it make my decisions for me. Research, common sense, having a support group, and taking things one step at a time also helps tremendously. If you want to get into boondocking but are nervous, there are events where you can first start by boondocking with others, to learn the ropes. 🙂

      Also: https://interstellarorchard.com/2016/09/09/an-open-letter-to-new-full-timers-about-fear/



  12. CAROL TALLENT on October 16, 2019 at 10:16 am

    It is refreshing to hear the truth about nomad life.. I am sorry for the loss in your family but how wonderful to be able to celebrate his life at the park.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. The day for our travels are getting closer and looking forward to all the road has in store..



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      I’m glad you found this helpful Carol, and I wish you the best with your impending travels! Thank you for the condolences.



  13. Darren Elrod on October 16, 2019 at 9:13 am

    It is refreshing to know there are companies that will take care of their customers even when its another suppliers part that failed that is being used in their product. I am a firm believer in product reviews and customer satisfaction reports and I believe that your statement of Hiker Trailers is a great review of the integrity of their company. My wife and I purchased our camper from a well respected company that had great reviews also wonderful customer statements and they were wonderful to work with and went way over from just the sale of a used camper. With that being said, before we purchased the camper I searched reviews on it and they were not good. We decided to go ahead with purchase because it is a extremely large name brand camper and there are thousands of reviews with mixed reports. Well, it was one of the worst investments we made. We have been living in camper for 2 years now and we have had nothing but trouble with it, I will not mention the name here on your website but I will tell you that the company we bought camper from did everything they could to assist us. I am so glad there are still large and small businesses that are concerned with their customers problems and I believe formats like yours help them understand that the public uses them to make a decision on utilizing their services or product. Glad everything turned out well for you on this journey and I’m sorry for your loss of family member. Safe roads and clear skies.



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that your camper has given you such trouble Darren, and I wish I could say that yours is a rare case but sadly it isn’t. Plenty of big name RV brands suffer from inconsistent or sub-par construction, and buying one is like rolling a dice. You could get a good one, you could get a bad one. Which is why reviews are all over the place. But I am glad that the dealership is doing right by you and standing behind the camper! Thanks, and take care.



  14. Lori on October 16, 2019 at 8:59 am

    I loved this post, Becky–it was so real! Kudos to you for being honest and showing all sides of life on the road. And you’re absolutely right–the ultimate thing that defines bravery or stupidity is the outcome! ;-D



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Lori!



  15. steve on October 16, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Hey Becky
    Just curious. I guess I’m just thinking about the “Ant and the Grasshopper” story.
    I like to see an article on what your plans are financially when you reach your 60s.



  16. Travis Tilley on October 16, 2019 at 7:09 am

    Thank you for sharing all of your stories! I will be a nomad starting 1/1/20 – New Year, New Life! Oh, and yes, I’m scared to death!



  17. Dawn in Michigan on October 16, 2019 at 6:50 am

    I’m glad you didn’t get stuck. Could have been a long wait for help. Also glad the window problem got resolved so quickly, but I’d definitely plan on taking it back in for wood replacement to avoid problems in the future.



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      I’m glad too! There were other people on that road that day so I might not have had to wait terribly long, it actually services several houses. They all had beefy 4WD trucks without trailers though, haha.



  18. Sharron on October 16, 2019 at 5:49 am

    Thanks for the reality check. Great happy ending. Love your short hair.



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      You’re welcome Sharron, glad you enjoyed this.



  19. RGupnorth on October 15, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Good article – taking chances can get one in troubled situations – That window is in a location that appears to get direct wind on the road – normally you do find out how good your supplier is when you have a problem. Hiker appears to have passed that test – no questions asked.



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Yes RG, I’m pretty sure it was the strong winds that day that forced the water in. It rained more after that before my appointment in Denver for the fix but I never had any more water inside. Oh I’m sure it was still leaking, but the wind made it so much more obvious. For that I’m grateful, if I hadn’t driven in that wind I might have gone a lot longer before realizing there was a problem!



  20. terry on October 15, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    amazing you full time so nicely with so little. I enjoy the posts, i was wondering if you ever thought about a cargo trailer 6×8 ish and build it your way. We are in a 22 foot travel trailer full time and we are thinking about that idea of a cargo trailer. I dont really have a website just a you tube channel and Bess does a blog http://itmattersthat.blogspot.com/ i enjoy your well written posts.
    All the best , Terry & Bess
    terry recently posted..Ft-891 reviewMy Profile



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks Terry and Bess, and I’m glad you’re enjoying my articles.

      I’m really not a DIY person, which is why I went with the Hiker trailer. I got to pick exactly what I wanted, and then someone else built it for me, haha! I know a couple people who’ve built out cargo trailers though, and it’s worked very well for them.



  21. Rodolfo Tenorio on October 15, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Great article. Thanks



  22. Martha Goudey on October 15, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    So true—there are the bad days, bad decisions. But what I tell friends who tend to idealize this lifestyle, it’s still life. And stuff happens. In my case it was a cancer diagnosis 11 months into our travels. That’s a bad day. But we persevered through treatment (8 months), recovery (6 months), and we are back to our original plan of travel and work full time in our Casita. We had already sold our house so it was no going back.
    This lifestyle may have its hiccups, but it’s worth it to persevere through the hard times.



    • Becky on October 16, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      What an inspiring story Martha! I’m happy to hear that you’re back on the road now, and hope that your Casita is treating you as well as mine did. Journey well.



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