Day Eight February 4, 2021. Oh my goodness! I (Mel) woke up feeling so refreshed, rested and peaceful. Content. It was 4:30 am and I just stayed there in my cozy sleeping bag thanking God for such a blessing. Any non-van-life outsider looking in might think, “Oh how sad. They are living in a van.” With how clustered it all is right now, I wouldn’t blame them. We aren’t very far into our build and it’s pretty messy looking. But the feeling of freedom is unexplainable.
We tried to return our vent cover but Walmart wouldn’t let us. They said our return time had past. We also got fed up with Kate’s knotted hair, so we ran to Great Clips for a brush out and braid. (Mel is not great at braiding hair- not in a way that looks pretty, anyway.) Kate did not like it. She cried.
It was so windy that sand was flying through the air and all of the palm trees looked like they could just fall over. We decided that getting pelted with sand didn't sound like fun, so we opted to stay in our little mobile shelter and get lots of work and school work done. It was very cozy… and productive!
We stayed at Love's again. I wonder if there is a limit on how many consecutive days we can stay in one spot? I hope we aren't breaking a cardinal vanlife rule, but we really do love Love's.
Day Nine We drove to Kingman and explored the history of the town by visiting the three museums. They were so interesting and we really enjoyed them all. (It only cost $4 for Mel and Kate was free.)
We thought we should head toward the Grand Canyon and figure out where we should stay for the night along the way, and quickly stumbled upon BLM land!! Literally, just stumbled upon it! Well, the equivalent of drive stumbling, anyway. We happened to see a few RVs off to the side of the highway and went to check it out. When we arrived, we saw a sign that read Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area. I googled it and, sure enough, it is BLM land.
We went on a little hike and met another family. Kate had fun climbing on and exploring the buttes. The stars at night were glorious! We previously hadn't been able to see many stars at the travel stops due to the lights from the business, so this was a special treat!
Kate still doesn't really "get" the level of awesomeness that she's experiencing yet. She said today, "What's the big deal?" I told her that she might have to wait until she is older and looks back on her childhood to appreciate all of the adventures van life gave her. She is, however, getting more schoolwork done now that we are on the road. She also began a growth spurt. I think it's due to reduced stress from leaving the aforementioned precarious living situation, but that's just a guess.
Day Ten Yay, we are in double digits of days of van life. Turns out, Kingman is much colder than Lake Havasu. It got down to 35 degrees last night and we were cold. Keep in mind, we only have the floor insulated. The walls are not! It was also weird to have such dark and quiet since we have been around the truck stop lights and humming of the big rigs for over a week. We put the Grand Canyon on hold for a bit and headed back to Lake Havasu City, where the temperatures are 10 to 12 degrees higher overnight.
That cold weather made us reevaluate our Havasu Falls / Grand Canyon plans. Do we really need to see a giant hole in the ground if it means we will freeze overnight? It's supposed to be even colder there. Plus, the Native tribes have limited access due to covid.
We tried to get laundry done again and found out that we should always bring cash if not the actual quarters. By the time we hunted down a Wells Fargo, we were over the idea of laundry and had gained interest in other things. Laundry can wait.
We checked out the local Goodwill for some new-to-us treasures (remember the aforementioned rushing out of California thing... we didn't get to plan and pack appropriately), then spent some time at the lake (since it was such a sunny, beautiful day). Kate built a sand castle and I worked out. (Working out on the beach was as amazing as it sounds.)
We found three BLM spots near the lake: Lone Tree, Craggy Wash and Lake Havasu BLM. I was previously unable to find these on my search of the BLM website and believed that there was no BLM land near Lake Havasu, which is why we originally headed straight to Love's. I found the free campgrounds by searching "Lake Havasu BLM" on maps on my phone. Go figure.
We also discovered that there are 73 BLM shoreline campsites around the lake. (We later found out these particular sites are only accessible by boat, but how awesome for those with a boat!) These sites require a pass, which is $100 for a season, and does not guarantee a spot, as they are first come, first served. Here is another link to another map.
And, we finally found a 12 volt coffee maker... right under our noses at Love's. After searching online and in stores since before van life even started, it was right there, hidden in plain sight. I am excited to try it out in the morning. (Remember, the original coffee pot required too many watts to work off of our portable battery bank and buying coffee every morning is not cost effective.)
Finding local free camping and in-the-van coffee. Good day. We are still scattered and adjusting to our new lifestyle, but we are loving it.
Day Eleven Lake Havasu City is poppin'. The BLM lands and the travel stops are full. We haven't been to the State Park since we first arrived, but I'm guessing it's busy, as well.
It was cold this morning, even here. I am so thankful we didn't stay in Kingman. Our uninsulated walls wouldn't have been kind to us. I didn't try my new coffee pot upon rising because Katie was still sleeping, and trying to rummage through our bins and laundry baskets of supplies to find my coffee would have woken her up.
We got laundry done early at the laundromat, then tried out the coffee pot over in the Lowe's parking lot. It works, but oh lordy, is it slow. (It's working with 12 volts of electricity, so it's to be expected. Bless its heart.)
We headed back to the lake and tried to rent a kayak but they only had single seaters. Katelyn isn't ready to go solo yet, so we enjoyed the sunshine and spent some time trying to get work done.
Also, lately I've been thinking, we are in such a weird spot. Technically homeless, but so mentally prepared and so much happier than when we were housed. I'm so thankful for the blessing of wanting to do van life for years, and for buying the van back in July, and for getting the subfloor done, and for doing oodles of research on van life. I can't imagine being in this position without all of this preparation.
Well, that's enough existentialism for today.
Day Twelve We stealth parked for the first time last night. I think that has to be the initiation into full time van life. We parked on a street near the UPS truck depot. We checked for "no parking," "private parking," or various other signs first, of course. There were none. It was a city (public) street and we stayed away from the UPS parking lot and driveways. Mind you, we don't know if the city has a "no overnight parking" ordinance or not. We have, however, seen plenty'o "no overnight parking" signs in various parking lots throughout town. As law-abiding citizens, we have avoided those.
No door knock all night long. I think that means we successfully pulled it off. Problem is, I couldn't fall asleep. Just like the night on BLM land, I was missing the truck stop noise, but mostly worried about that dang door knock. I keep thinking that any moment, someone is going to tell us we can't be here - or worse, try to break in and/or hurt us. I knew it was my brain being overactive with its imagination, but it keep me awake, nevertheless.
Katelyn, on the other hand, slept great. She was out by 7:30 pm.
After I heard the second truck pull out of the UPS parking lot in the morning, I peeked out and saw that employees use the street as parking, so we took off. We made it to the community park as the sun was rising. It wasn't long before other vans, RVs and even a skoolie, arrived, too. I think that might be the mark of the seasoned nomad. Sleep where you sleep, then get to a legal - or at least a more socially acceptable- location early.
We ventured out to a more remote part of the lake in search of the 73 BLM campsites. (This is when we discovered they are only accessible by boat. This was not due to our awesome scavenger skills, but due to a call to the local BLM office.) We did get to see Rattlesnake Island. From afar. Who wants to actually step onto an island with that kind of name?
My existential transition has carried over into today, so I'm going to continue to share it with you. I keep thinking that what we are doing is not really roughing it. While we live in an un-converted van that still looks like a crack house, as compared with much of the world, we are unbelievably spoiled. We have a cooler with ice to keep our perishables from perishing too quickly, we have other food, water, supplies, gas in the tank, clean clothes, access to laundry facilities and plenty of quarters, computers, access to nice private showers and the money to pay for them, a cell phone, mobile wi-fi, and most importantly, each other. We even have a coffee pot that provides fresh coffee and hot water.
In addition to all of that, we also have spectacular weather (well, during the day), mild enough weather at night, and the ability to change locations to keep this our truth. We have access to grocery stores, truck stops, and should we need it, medical care. We have access to maps and directions. We have access to information about weather in various locations. The people around us speak the same language and our country (as of right now) is not under physical attack. (We will leave the discussions regarding moral and philosophical attacks to other bloggers.)
In sum, we have freedom. We have the freedom to roam and wander and explore. Then, we have the freedom to go somewhere else. We have freedom from rigid schedules, timelines and expectations. Our scenery thus far has been beautiful sun rises and breathtaking sunsets, interesting landscapes, and the wide open road. Our internal experience has been increased peace and joy.
I'd say we are pretty rich.
Oh, and today we heard something about the Superbowl...? Ha, it's so nice to be relatively off-grid.
And, on a happy note, the 800 number for Walmart actually did help. They are refunding me for the vent. Weird, though, they don't want it back and told me to give it to someone. I tried posting on Facebook Marketplace, but it wouldn't let me change my location from Chico. I'll figure something out. Day Thirteen We stayed at Love's last night and we both slept amazingly well. We found an RV repair company that took our vent cover (and the giant box it was in) and offered us a place to stay. I admit, I felt a little like Cheryl Strayed's Wild when she got a ride to a stranger's house for a shower and dinner.
Our stranger took us to an RV resort, showed us a great parking space, and gave us the key to the community shower area.
It's nice to have that large box out of the van. That box was large enough to hold Katelyn. You know how shipping is. That's like 1/4 of our space that we just got back - haha.
It was cold and cloudy today, so we worked in the van, but not on the van. Just work and schoolwork.
Day Fourteen Our two week anniversary! We made mango smoothies to celebrate. We ran an errand in the next town over (Kingman) for our host while wondering if this was some major set up. I think we have heard too many crazy stories or something.
Weather was 77 degrees so we spent time at the lake. We went back to the RV resort for the night.
Just so you know, if you don't shave for two weeks, and then you do, you feel extra sexy. And you also wonder if you are going to clog up the drain. Hmm, I think my existential phase is over.
Single mom and kiddo set out on a nomad, van life, roadschooling lifestyle. Watch the beginner diy van conversion, first time homeschooling, first time build, first time on the road experiences, and newbie family van life adventures unfold.
We will share van life travels and tips to encourage other people to get out and explore the open road.