There are many ways to approach the journey of life and we have explored a bunch of them. This is about the different beaches where we have lived for a time.
One of Kaye’s favorite activities in the whole world is beach walking. I love sitting and soaking up the sun and synthesizing vitamin D. So beaches work for both of us.
It seems that the ultimate destination in the Caribbean is the beach and we have had the experience of enjoying many of them, mostly in the Dominican Republic, one of our favorite island winter respites.
Playa Rincón, Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic.
Because of it’s remoteness, this beach is still largely undeveloped. It is possible to be alone and unbothered. We first visited this beach in 1990, camping in a tent in the coconut grove. Our last visit there -via a rented quad runner – was in the winter of 2016 and it was still unspoiled and beautiful.
La Playita, Las Galeras, Dominican Republic.
The Little Beach offers snorkeling on the reef just offshore, and there is a beach restaurant and masseuse on hand. It was a 15-minute walk from our last vacation rental in the little fishing village.
Las Galeras Municipal Beach, Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
A short walk from our vacation rental, the “town beach” offered beach bars and “tipico” restaurants and shuttle boats to other beaches nearby.
The Cove, Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic
This beach is smack in front of the resort by the same name and is shared with the local fishermen who store their boats on shore every night. The local kids love to get attention from the tourists and will put on a show whenever there is a camera around. We stayed here for the winter of 2013.
West Coast Beaches
Santa Barbara Beach, California.
This large beach is nicely maintained by the city of Santa Barbara. There is a bike path, volleyball courts, an art show every Sunday, and a wharf with restaurants on stilts. We visited several times when we were doing the work-camping thing at nearby Fillmore, California, in the winter and spring of 2014.
While in California for the winter, we also explored Mugu Point Beach and had lunch at the famous beach diner, Neptune’s Net pictured in movies and TV shows.
We also enjoyed camping at the beach at the linear park at Seacliff where the beach was walkable for miles. Boon docking at its best (no hookups).
The Gulf Coast and East Coast
Dauphin Island Beach, Dauphin Island, Alabama
In the winter of 2015 we set out to spend the entire winter on island beaches. Dauphin Island was our home for January where the beaches are white sand. They are walkable for many miles.
St. Augustine Beach, St. Augustine, Florida
We spent the month of February in this historical town where driving on the beach is permitted. Bonus!
Emerald Isle Beach, Emerald Isle, North Carolina
In March, our RV site was a short dune walk from this beautiful white sand beach.
The Great Lakes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan
Being Michiganders most of our lives, this is probably one of our most frequent beach destinations. Of course, Lake Michigan is too cold for swimming except in the late summer and early fall.
Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, Michigan.
The closest beach to our house for over 40 years, this beach and several others along the east shore of Michigan were our favorite sun-and-sand destinations in the summertime.
So this is a sampling of the many beaches where we have spent some time.
This is the first in the Life’s A Trip series featuring different ways we are approaching this journey of life.
Life’s a journey – whether you are on the road to adventure or parked in one spot for a while. There are many different stops along the way.
This is about the places we have discovered while venturing around the U.S. in a four-wheel-drive pickup truck for the last couple of years.
We had lived in the same place for over 40 years when we looked around one day and saw that our kids were grown up and moved away and exploring distant horizons. We looked at each other and decided we could do that too. Selling the 30-acre homestead, we downsized our stuff, upgraded the RV and took off. We spread a map on the kitchen table, closed our eyes and jabbed a finger at… Alaska. (It wasn’t quite that random; we had a daughter living and working in Alaska every summer and had been wanting to go there for a long time.)
Summer was months away, so I got a work-camp assignment at an old campground in Fillmore California for the winter and spring.
Michigan to California
We had family nearby at Santa Barbara and accompanied them to the beaches and eateries in the area.
California to Alaska
Summer came and leaving our work-camp assignment, we headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway toward the Canadian border.
We drove 1900 miles before reaching the beginning of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, British Columbia.
After 15 days of driving we arrived at Denali Park where our daughter was working and living for the summer. We stayed through the middle of the summer.
Our trek back to Michigan in the late summer took 11 days returning over the same mountain passes and open prairie.
Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.
After spending the late summer and fall in Michigan, we set our sights on the south, again hoping to escape the harsh northern winter. Leaving at the end of December, we arrived in Memphis on New Years Eve for dinner and a party at B.B. King’s Blues Club.
The local Mardi Gras parade marched right by our campground. We also visited New Orleans on a day trip.
Alabama to Florida
I was delighted to arrive in St. Augustine, Florida and discover that driving on the beach is a thing there, four-wheel-drive required.
At low tide the beach is 100 yards wide and allows plenty of room for drivers, bikers, and walkers.
Up the East Coast
In the spring, we wandered up the east coast through Georgia and South Carolina, staying for a month at Emerald Isle, North Carolina, then stopping for a few days in Virginia from where we made day trips to Washington D.C. visiting the major sites by means of the double-decker bus.
Arriving back in Michigan, we spent the summer at a campground with a bike trail and a small lake.
At the end of the year, we parked the rig for a while and flew to the tropics for the winter. That’s another story.
In the spring we decided to take a break from the gypsy life for a while. We moved into a small apartment in a small town in Michigan.
West again to Utah – the Pickup Camper
We were enjoying staying put for a while, but for some time I had been planning a return to the southwest for a photo shoot in the canyons of Utah. Rather than haul the RV, I switched to a pickup camper that was just big enough for one person.
His book is called Travels With Charley, and John Steinbeck did his research for it while on an extended circle tour of the lower 48 states in a Chevy pickup camper that he called Rocinante.
We stayed two nights at Salinas, California, so we could spend some time at the birthplace and museum of John Steinbeck. We feel a connection with the author as similar travelers a generation apart. Kaye writes about it here.
(Kaye writes) Travels with Charley is John Steinbeck’s story of traveling the country in an early version of the pickup camper “in search of America” in the fall of 1960. I had read it several years ago, but it seemed only fitting to re-read it while on our epic journey. I carried it in the cab of our pickup truck to read while driving across the country in January, but discovered very little time to read – maybe because I was too busy observing America on my own journey.
Once we settled in at our new spot in southern California, I pulled out the book and once again appreciated Steinbeck’s writing. I did a bit of research on his life and decided to read some more of his stuff. In that process I discovered that he had grown up not too far from where we were living. When we began to plan our journey northward, we decided to drive through that area that had shaped so much of his writing. So we did that two days ago, up along the Salinas River, past the town of Soledad which provided the setting for Of Mice and Men, and then to the town of Salinas where we became tourists for a day. We took pictures of the house where Steinbeck was born, we walked the streets he walked and we ate lunch where he had eaten. And yes, we toured the National Steinbeck Museum which by the way is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to a single author – and learned much more about his life and his writings and about the area that provided the background for so many of his stories.
I enjoyed the exhibits which are arranged according to the geographical settings of his many titles, but the culmination of my quest was to see Rocinante, this vehicle that has inspired so many of us. It was a good day, a fun day, and an educational day.
But more than the area, more than the historic sites, more than the accolades (and there were many!) even more than Rocinante, what I like best about Steinbeck and what I can carry with me are his words.
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. … We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
“I saw in their eyes something I would see over and over in every part of the nation – a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every state I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.”
“I pulled Rocinante into a small picnic area… and got out my book of maps. And suddenly the United States became huge beyond belief and impossible ever to cross. … It was like starting to write a novel. When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myslf to contemplate… So it was now, as I looked at the bright-colored projection of monster America.”
(Bob writes) Our epic trip to Alaska has to be advanced in small sections too, a day at a time, so that we aren’t overcome with that “sick sense of failure” that Steinbeck experienced.
Today we head north only 130 miles, to visit some of Kaye’s relatives in Ashland, Oregon, then on to Portland the next day, “gradually writing one page and then another,” like Steinbeck.
(This is our last post under the category, The California Quest, as we are leaving the state today after 5 months of west coast residency.)
Yay! We have finally re-started our epic road trip to Alaska! We left Michigan last December to get away from the harsh winter, and for five months we work-camped at Kenney Grove Park, a private campground at Fillmore, California.
Finishing our duties there and leaving in the afternoon, we decided on a short jaunt to the sea coast where we found a campsite right by the ocean. There are a few places in the world where RV camping is allowed virtually on the beach, and Seacliff, California, is one of them. We set up in the middle of a 2-mile stretch of seashore lined with more than a hundred RV’s parked for the night in a sort of linear campground, if you will. This is classic boon-docking, as there are no services, no hookups, so only self-contained rigs can do it.
We clambered down the rocks to the beach for a long walk before sunset, then went to bed early.
This morning we did a U-turn and headed north over the pass to spend much of the day crossing another dessert and through the vineyards at Solvang to end up at Salinas by mid-afternoon. We moved into a site at the KOA campground at Prunedale just north of town. Salinas was the home of John Steinbeck, who inspired us with his American road trip epic, Travels with Charley. We are planning to see his home place tomorrow and visit the Steinbeck museum before we break camp and continue north toward San Francisco.
It looks as though our route will need to be kept rather fluid, since we keep discovering changes that need to be made. One of the latest is the news that our route north of the Redwoods requires a white-knuckle climb through a dangerous mountain pass that has travelers leaving fingernail marks in the upholstery. We might have to skip the Redwoods this time around. Maybe we’ll come back some other time and do that one in the red convertible (we’ll rent one somewhere).
We are trying to keep the main thing the main thing here. Getting to visit our kids in Alaska at Denali is the main thing, and having an enjoyable time doing it is the next main thing. A route that delivers too much stress may result in a change of direction.
I’m not sure where we’ll be the next time I post. Our mobile internet has been quite dependable so far, but we may be boon-docking some more, and that means no electricity to run the computer. We can still post from the iPhone or the iPad like we did last night on the Facebook page (“Like” it in the right sidebar to join the Facebook group or click here) but I prefer the photo editing programs on my Mac, so my posts from the other devices are short and not very aesthetic.
Tomorrow we’ll take the next step and see where we end up by evening.
The countdown has begun and the anticipation is building with every passing day now! In just a few days, we’ll be pulling out onto the highway and heading north on our epic 4000-mile journey to Denali. We have spent the winter and spring in our first work-camper assignment at Kenney Grove Park in California but our time is about up and the open road beckons.
Our original plan was to spend only the winter in California and then wander across the south and head up the east coast back to Michigan in the spring, but our park manager talked us into staying here for five months. We have really enjoyed living in California for awhile, but the restlessness has started to set in over the last few weeks; it’s time to move on. Our route to Alaska has changed since we are heading there from California rather than Michigan. It’s a triangular path that gets us back to Michigan by mid-August.
We have been studying the route via Google maps and the standard Alaska highway resource, Mileposts, a 760-page volume that includes every detail of the route, from fuel stops to campgrounds to historic sites. I don’t think we’ll get lost if we stick to the main highway. Then again, this is all about adventure and exploration, so what are the chances we’ll stick to the main highway?
All right, then, we are going to get lost.
We are loving the Pacific coast and plan to follow the shore for the first few hundred miles, first visiting the hometown of John Steinbeck who inspired us with his novel, Travels with Charlie. Then we’ll rubberneck our way through the giant Redwoods and north through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver where we cross into Canada.
Our goal is to make it to Denali before the summer solstice when they are experiencing more than 21 hours of daylight. Cool!
If you’d like to see where we end up each night along the way, subscribe to the blog on the left sidebar above, or Like the Facebook link on the right sidebar. We will post updates whenever we can find an internet connection, which might not happen every day while we are traveling the actual Alaska highway, because the hotspots are few and far between.
Our planned departure date is Thursday, May 29th. Yippee!
It’s not every day that we get out the chainsaws along with the heavy equipment to remove a huge fallen oak tree. Last night the vicious Santa Ana winds knocked down one of the charter trees here at Kenney Grove Park, and it partially damaged the camp office, a vintage motorhome. We used the backhoe and a chain to pull sections of the tree off the old camper.
Every work-camp location has its unique set of tasks that comprise the typical day. My current jobs include tree trimming, painting, weed whacking, raking campsites, prepping for groups who are coming in and then cleaning up after they have left. I have repaired golf carts, sharpened chainsaws, and replaced rusty hardware. Most days require a string of light duty tasks; it’s an unusual day when we have to clean up a massive oak tree.
Actually, the timing of that was pretty good, since I’ll be moving on in a month and there may not be another helper right away to help Rona, the manager who usually works alone. Apparently, I’m the first chainsaw operator she’s had here in four years.
It’s important that the worker matches the job requirements, and it helped that I had a lifetime of experience with the chainsaw, the backhoe and antique manual-shift trucks that date back to 1957.
Since I am not a morning person, it helps me that starting time is 9:30 or 10:00 and there’s a half-hour break for lunch and then another two hours of work in the afternoon. I’m often done by 2:30, so evenings are open for going out to dinner or meeting with friends or visiting some of the plentiful attractions along the southern California coast.
Though it was the mild winter weather that drew us here from cold Michigan in the first place, Kaye and I have enjoyed an assortment of local sites, including the Reagan Presidential Library, the Old Mission at Santa Barbara, the historical railroad museum in Fillmore, the national forest wilderness, and of course, the beautiful Pacific coast beaches that line the shore from Malibu up to Santa Barbara. And then there are the eateries which run the full spectrum of world ethnicities from the local Mexican cuisine to — well, you name it, you’ll find it nearby.
I am retired, and I like to feel like it. I wasn’t sure that work-camping would actually work for me, because I haven’t worked a full day in several years. But the placement here at Kenney Grove Park has been just about perfect for me. I usually work for 3 or 4 half-days, and then get a couple of days off before reporting in again. The campsite that I am working for is beautiful and secluded with a canopy and storage shed on site. This was probably the best first-time work-camp assignment that I could have hoped for and I might try it again. But I am also an adventurer, so I will likely not return to the same location for a five month stint again.
Have at it, friends! The west coast awaits you! The link to the Workers on Wheels listing for Kenney Grove is here.
Some days I can’t believe where we are. In fact, some days I don’t know where we are. I wake up in the morning and open my eyes with a bit of surprise to see the inside of my fifth wheel bedroom loft and see the California sun peeking in through the mini-blinds – and I remember again. We moved out of our big house after the kids all grew up and left. We sold or gave away much of our furniture and tools and extra clothes. And we hit the road.
It had been a dream of ours for a long time, but we’d been anchored to a large property by debt and a mortgage. There was no money for traveling more than a few miles from home. Having raised our three daughters – as well as 17 foster kids, 5 foreign exchange kids, and a few other extras – all on a solitary public school teacher’s income, we reached retirement age still carrying a mortgage. And we still had liabilities from my log home construction company that had closed when the housing market tanked in Michigan in 2006.
Here’s how we were finally able to realize the impossible dream:
Downsizing the property. Many of our friends have had two-income households pretty much all of their lives. They are able to keep the home place and still afford another place in Florida. Or a brand new RV. Not us. We had to be willing to part with our homestead of 40 years. There was just no way around it. And it was pretty much empty with the kids gone anyway. Every time the furnace kicked on in the wintertime I cringed at how much it was costing to heat a 10-room house with only two people in it.
When we couldn’t sell after two years, we put renters in the big house and moved ourselves into a one-room log cabin on the same 30-acre property. Finally, we split the property, sold 10 acres to a neighbor, paid off the last of our credit card debt, sold the farm tractor, and then bought a strong 10-year old pickup and a used RV.
Downsizing the possessions. We sold the construction equipment on Craigslist along with the extra furniture and the SUV, and then we took many loads of extra clothing and housewares to the local thrift store. We gave as many of the family heirlooms to our kids as they would take. They finally told us we didn’t have anything left that they wanted. We put the rest in storage.
Buying depreciated vehicles. Did you know that a car loses about half its value in the first 5 years? And the quality of American-made vehicles is so much improved over the last 30 years that a diesel pickup may well go a half-million miles before it’s done. We were able to find an RV that had been given much TLC by the previous owner – he even waxed the outside – and even buying from a dealer, we paid $8,000 for a 12-year-old RV that had cost $27,000 new (That’s 70% depreciated). It had been parked much of the time, had new tires, and no roof leaks ever. It is probably the last RV we will ever buy, ’cause with standard maintenance it will last longer than we will.
Okay, that was all just to get started. But how could we afford the gypsy life? We looked at campground costs and freaked. A one-night stay in a typical KOA was $45. At this rate a month in the same park would cost $1,350! Yow! And then we discovered the monthly rate.
Stay long-term. The same private campground almost certainly has a weekly, monthly, and seasonal rate that reduces long-term costs significantly. Most private parks have monthly rates under $400, including all hook-ups, even cable TV and Wifi. And if you want to stay for an entire season, you’ll do even better. Of course, parks along the ocean and near popular attractions will not be so reasonable. They don’t have to be, because people will pay the premium rate to be on the waterfront or next to Disneyland, etc.
Stay for Free. When you are on the road, it is possible to save camping costs by not setting up for the night. Most Walmarts (but not all) will allow overnight stays in their parking lots if you don’t unhitch.
Of course, truck stops are available, but you need to be a sound sleeper who won’t be wakened by the rumble of truck engines all night. Friends and relatives are a resource for backyard camping, but you need to be socially savvy enough that you don’t invite yourself where you are really not welcome. And don’t over-stay your welcome. State and National Forests allow camping just about anywhere, for free or for $10 a night, within certain guidelines. This sort of off-the-grid camping is called boon-docking and there are various websites dedicated to the practice. RV’s are designed for self-contained camping with storage tanks and batteries for several days of service – off the road and off the grid.
Work-Camp. You’ll find a plethora of websites that will help you get started earning a free campsite by working half-time at a campground. Our first experience here at Kenney Grove Park in Fillmore, California, has been working out fine for us. I am doing tree trimming and handyman work for the park and enjoy a beautiful campsite surrounded by live oak trees, cacti, and Bird-of-Paradise. In keeping with the higher costs in southern California, the campsite is valued at $1000 a month and includes full hookups, private patio, and storage shed. Malibu and Hollywood are nearby (a film crew was parked onsite last week while filming just down the road). Kaye and I are living here for free this winter and spring by helping out around the park.
When I first looked into work-camping I found many kinds of assignments available, from park hosting to nature trail guiding. One spot in the desert was needing a host for a campground at an off-roading racetrack. I passed that one up thinking that all-night security duty would be part of it and I didn’t want to play bouncer to a bunch of rough-and-tumble monster truckers. Matching the worker to the job is definitely important. Many work-camp arrangements run for 6 months but are negotiable.
These are some of the most significant endeavors you can undertake to achieve and then pursue the wandering life. There are many more, from gas cards that offer discounts on fuel, to memberships in camping clubs, and yearly rates for state and national park access. And a whole lot more. I think we will be in the discovery stages of this for a long time.
There are many dreamers in the world. But turning dreams into reality is a pro-active pursuit, and it doesn’t happen by wishing, and it doesn’t happen by accident. It might start with wishing, but making it happen takes careful planning and determination.
Oh, one more thing. Many of my readers are looking forward to a wandering lifestyle after retirement, but a few very lucky – or very determined people are making it happen sooner. One couple I know sold their business in Seattle and left the rat race to live in the desert in a 40-foot motorhome. They are total boon-dockers, living completely off-grid, operating on solar energy and batteries and running an internet-based business by satellite uplink. Way out in the wilderness, legally living for free on government land, and totally connected. Cool.
See? There are ways to get where you want to be. Start planning now and make the lifestyle changes that are necessary… and you’ll get there! Maybe Kaye and I will bump into you somewhere along the way.