If you don’t follow me on social media, you probably wondered where I’ve been for the past few weeks. Let me start by saying my break from blogging was not intentional. I try several times each week to load the WordPress editor. Unfortunately, it uses a lot of add-ons and graphics that require more bandwidth than I have to spare. I’m actually writing this in Google Docs and may need to bring my laptop with me the next time I head back to civilisation.
That brings me back to the question at hand: where have I been? Well, the story goes much farther back than just the past few weeks. In August, I bought a travel trailer and spent several weeks preparing for a cross-country trip. I didn’t tell my friends and only informed my parents three weeks before I planned to leave. Why the secrecy?
That’s a story for another day, but a strong suspicion encouraged me to leave Atlanta and that suspicion proved true. My parents were 100% supportive of my journey and my reasons for leaving. In fact, they immediately took time off from their busy jobs to drive more than 2,000 miles across the country with me, in just three days.
Prepping for the Move
When I bought my Keystone Bullet, I had never spent more than 15 minutes — at the most — inside an RV. My first night under its roof was 600 miles from home. Consequently, I knew only what I read in books and saw on YouTube. Lucky for me, the gentleman I bought my RV from was an absolute saint. Not only did he allow me to leave it parked up at his friend’s acreage, but he and his friend coached me through towing.
The whole process flew by so quickly, I barely had time to catch my breath. I bought my FJ Cruiser in July, bought the RV in August, and left in September. During that short period of time, I had to learn how to properly handle a top-heavy SUV in place of the tiny city car I had driven for two years. I then had to learn how to hitch and unhitch my trailer alone and how to back it up without a back-up camera. If you’ve ever gone RVing, you know that most people who tow do so as a duo.
During that time, I was also downsizing my belongings. Everything I own right now is either in my RV or in a closet in my Atlanta home. Yes; I still have a home in Atlanta, though, when I will return to it, I have no idea. What I do know is that I plan to stay as far away as possible from Atlanta until my divorce is finalized.
I’m already in talks with family and friends to get that tiny-house-in-the-desert plan back underway. In the meantime, I’m having the time of my life, in my vacation home, on a semi-sabbatical.
Driving Across the Country
I originally planned to drive across the country in 10 days. I wanted to take my time, enjoy the sights and only drive for an average of three or four hours per day. That plan changed when my parents decided they were coming with me, come hell or high water. I’m sure Shadow also liked knowing he didn’t have to hop back into the carrier for a few hours every day for 10 days.
My parents travel as much as I do, so it offered a welcome break for them, after being cooped in the house all year. To add to this, my license wasn’t even two years old at the time and I had never towed anything before the seller gave me lessons. So, they also felt much safer doing the towing with me.
My dad offered to drive the 10 to 12 hours each day that it would take for us to make it across on such a short timeline. I refused. The first two mornings, I hitched up and towed for the first five hours before turning over the reigns. On the final day, Dad and I switched every time we made a pit stop. The one downside of the fact that I actually did quite a bit of towing myself is that I have very few photos of the trip.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Our first stop was in Arkansas. The city of Little Rock was nothing like we expected. It was bright, beautiful, diverse and friendly. Also, as first-time RVers who had never set up an RV before, neighbours came rushing to help. They showed me:
- How to properly reconnect my batteries
- How to turn the propane off
- How to check the flue before turning on the furnace
- How to check the fridge vent
- When and how to turn the water heater on
- How to turn the fridge on and keep it on auto
- How to safely plug my RV in
- When and how to use the water pressure regulator
- How to connect my water supply
While they walked me through these processes, others reassured my parents that I was in good hands, on the road. Mom still talks about how our stay at that RV park really gave her peace of mind. She says everyone was so welcoming and they had so much information to share with her about what to expect as the parent of a young miss on the road.
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Driving through New Mexico was one of my most terrifying experiences. While towing, I got distracted by all the beautiful views and stopped watching the gas gauge. New Mexico has long stretches without gas stations, and by the time I realised we were at quarter tank, we were well on our way into the middle of nowhere.
We drove for about 20 minutes on E with the gas light on before we found a gas station. I could literally feel Samson slowing to a crawl as we pulled in. We came so close to not making it! Dad and I cut it close a few times before on the gas, but this was the worst and we learned our lesson here. After this, we filled up at half tank for the rest of the trip.
I didn’t take any pictures of our campground in Santa Rosa. The neighbours were the exact opposite of Little Rock. We got there after dark and parked up next to a grumpy old man with a noisy dog. It was also ridiculously cold that night. We got up as early as possible the following morning and bolted out of there. I do think New Mexico is stunning, though, and the food is amazing.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The final stop was Las Vegas. My parents wanted to be close enough to the airport so they didn’t have to worry about making their flights back. I also had to get a few things sorted, which ultimately led to me becoming a Nevada resident before my 31st birthday. It felt amazing to sever that last tie with Georgia, even though I have no idea what my future plans will hold.
I have since left Las Vegas and ventured into more rural areas, which is why I never have reliable WiFi. My playground now includes Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In exchange, Mother Nature has provided me with unforgettable mountain views, stunning sunsets, beautiful hiking trails, and a wonderful community of fellow RVers.
Yes; more often than not, I am the only Black person at a campground. Yes; there are tonnes of Trump supporters in the rural areas I visit. Yes; I am quite often completely outnumbered by Mormons, especially when I go into small towns for gas and groceries. And, yes, I enjoy every second of it anyway.
Planning for the Future
I always have a plan. It’s in my nature to know precisely what the next week, month, year and lifetime will hold for me. This allowed me to seize opportunities as soon as they appeared. For instance, knowing I fully intended to tow with an FJ Cruiser was why I didn’t need to deliberate when Samson showed up as the exact model, year and upgrades I wanted, within a price I couldn’t refuse.
Similarly, it was why I was able to put my bid in for Jasmine the day she was posted. This gave me the opportunity to secure a barely used, reasonably priced RV in the middle of an industry-wide and nationwide shortage. During this time, waiting lists for brand-new RVs were three-to-four months long at every dealership I called, from Georgia to California.
However, for the past two years, all my plans have been with one goal: to get me to where I am now. So, for right now, I have none. I can finally relax and take it one day at a time. In the interim, I am soaking up the experiences and the places. This will help me better decide where to place my tiny home, when the time comes.
Over the next few weeks — when the internet allows — I’ll share more about my experiences as a Black woman RVing alone in the boondocks. Do I feel safe? Has anyone been aggressive toward me? What has my interactions with the police been, so far? What’s it like RVing during a pandemic under rapidly changing state restrictions? How is Shadow adjusting to RV life?
If you have specific questions, feel free to post them in the comments below. I’m also open to advice from experienced RVers. For more timely updates and responses, consider following me on social media. Until next time — whenever that is — stay safe, stay sane, stay isolated, and VOTE EARLY!
PS: I would like to give a special shoutout to Elizabeth Slaughter, who told me about the time she drove across America as a young woman. This is the second trip I’ve taken where you are most certainly part of the root cause. Thank you for always being an inspiration!