We had been talking about getting in an RV to do some traveling for a couple years now. I think at first, it was something that we would mention in an almost joking way, like it would never really happen but it would be cool if it did. The more we talked about it, the more it became clear that it was definitely something we wanted to do. We would search the internet at nights just pulling up RV blogs or Tiny Home tours, just to see how people really did it. It made total sense to us, the more space you have, the more you fill it with stuff you convince yourself that you need. Then the more stuff you have, the more trapped you really are. Trapped both in a consumer lifestyle, a habit of needing and wanting more, and also trapped in the sense that all those things tether you to a location just because it would be difficult to move with all of that stuff. We decided that we wanted to take a first hand look at this life, as a spring break project, to test the amount of space we could really get away with in our family.
It is just the 4 of us including the big puppy, Toaster, but we didn’t want to look at something too small that we were on top of each other all the time, or too big where it would be difficult to maneuver through streets. Luckily for us, Cruise America, is a rental company close by (about 30 minutes south in Newark) and offered rental RVs that we would be able to try out and test our own spacial needs. We decided on their “standard” model which is 25′ long, has a separate bathroom with shower, kitchen, top bed above the captains chairs, another full size mattress in the rear, and a dining banquette that also converts to a small bed (shorter in length, it would be more appropriate for kids rather than an adult). We brought our own blankets, pillows, cookware, and dishes, although these things are rentable with the company. From the point of getting there to driving away, it was about 30-45 minutes. This time was spent loading the RV, going over the dumping and the generator information on our model, and getting a tour of all the locations of meters and supplemental manuals inside so that we can monitor everything on the road. They also have a hep call center and roadside assistance for the occasion of not being able to troubleshoot something on your own. This made us feel more confident and we were able to just leave without questions.
We started our trip in central California, specifically Paso Robles RV Ranch & Campground. If you are not familiar, Paso Robles is so scenic, beautiful mountains and vineyards when you start getting off the main roads. They are known for some great wine, so it’s a perfect place to go tasting and find some new bottles to enjoy later. The weather can be very hot in the daytime, so we weren’t prepared for the cold night that happened after the sun set. Being the newbie RV-ers at the campsite, we went all out with the multiple connection spot. This means we were connected to water, electricity, and a dump site, where you can basically unload the contents of your waste and waste water directly into the sewer. This was our first spot, so we didn’t even have anything in the tanks at this point. Also, there is generally an open use dumpsite at the campground for everyone’s use, so paying extra for the luxury to have one at your campsite seems a bit unnecessary. Like I mentioned, it got really cold that night. Unfortunately we didn’t bring enough layers to keep us warm, so we found ourselves adding on all of our clothes, blankets, and even towels to try to stay warm. Why didn’t we turn on the heater with the generator, you ask? Well, because we were the newbies. We thought the generator running would be too loud in the quiet campsite, and possibly bother our neighbors. So we suffered through that night, and tried the heater in the morning. Guess what? It wouldn’t have made as much sound as we were expecting and probably wouldn’t have woken anyone. In the words of Homer Simpson, “DOH!”
Moving on from Paso Robles, we drove to Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is so relaxing with the lands that stretch up into Los Padres National Forest. We would spend the day on long walks, since the pool was closed at the time. The sunsets from their playgrounds were vivid with colors, and the songbirds would all sing in the daytime. Evie spent a lot of that time running Toaster around outside the RV. What’s really nice about living in the small spaces with a little one, is when they are absolutely stir crazy with energy, you can open the door and they can go nuts. Santa Barbara is where we learned what cooking meals feels like, what getting on wi-fi and doing work on the road feels like, and what having what seems like unlimited space as your backyard feels like. We really started feeling comfortable with the RV as a home and really starting to stretch out a bit inside. We tried to test the limits of our personal space, but found that when needed one can just open the door and find solace at the park, on a picnic bench, or out walking the lake. Seems a bit unconventional to most, but we were really liking it.
Before the sun rose, we pushed off to the next part of driving through part of Los Padres National Forest into the city of LA. Yeah, we were a bit crazy to leave such a peaceful environment for the craziness of an RV in LA. We were going to a design showcase called West Week at the Pacific Design Center. This was our test to do a couple of things:
1) Maneuver through a busy city with a 25′ RV
2) Get showered and changed in our more business attire to meet and chat with professionals without looking like we are hobos
3) Parallel park (yikes!)
4) Meet with family to share the experience with them. We don’t really have our family close by so we love seeing them when we can.
Plans were changing on the road and we were making arrangements on the drive there. The RV was going to be parked at a cousin’s workplace with the dog at a sitter close by, but that cousin was stuck in another city waiting on a flight back. We didn’t know what we were going to do with the RV or the dog while we were going to West Week. We decided to still bring the dog to the original sitter on the other side of town, then park somewhere in LA close by the Design Center. My niece came up to meet us and was going to babysit Evie while we did our grown-up business. For the most part, our plan was a success. We got dressed up, saw some very cool products and people at the Design Center, and didn’t look like we were homeless. Getting through LA traffic is hard in whatever you are driving, but there was new driving stress in the blind spots you may get on narrow streets. My husband parallel parked LIKE AN RV BOSS, just down the street from the center. I was super impressed. However, we did end up getting a parking ticket for not being of the standard size for that street. I guess people don’t like random RVs parking in front of their neighborhood because it looks like squatters are moving in, so they call the police and ticket. Toaster had a great time with the sitter, and Evie had an even better time on the beach with my niece. All in all, the LA test was a success.
We ended up spending the remainder of our spring break in a serene, beachside RV resort in Malibu. We had a cliffside view and within walking distance from the beach and restaurants. Two of my nieces and my cousin all came to share the time there and we had a blast cooking, eating, and general beach bumming it until it was time to go back. I still remember how great it was to wake up and have morning cereal with the smell of seawater in the air. It is intoxicating, and I want that again… like now. I think the best part of the trip, was the time spent in Malibu. Sharing our adventures with family you love and that you don’t see too often, and on top of that, sharing it in an RV. Maybe the closeness you feel to your family is relevant to the square footage you share, hahaha.
There was a lot RV learning that we did in that short time on the road, but we know we all immediately loved it. Driving can be difficult at times, long hours on the road or just city driving in narrow spaces, but everything else can be such a reward. We have talked about doing more road trips in an RV… hopefully… soon…
Sunset on our 25′ Cruise America RV at Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara.
Bundled up baby on a cold morning in Paso Robles.
Big dog and little girl bonding happening in small spaces.
Evie and her Ate Rachel in Malibu before the sun sets.
Ate Allison (renamed “Ate Taco” after this trip) making an Evie-mermaid on the beach in Malibu.
See, we cleaned up well.
Night lights from our Malibu cliff with my cousin, Mike.
Fearless toddler picking up a crab on the beach in Malibu. I’m glad it was not alive to pinch her.