Last month I flew out to Portland and rented a van from Escape Campervans. The trip started because of meetings but it kept getting extended as I tacked on more places to visit. I posted some photos while I was on the road, which I’ll link again below, but I wanted to summarize a few thoughts now that the trip is over and I’m back in Austin.
It was a fantastic experience. I figured at the end of it, I’d either be completely burned out on the van lifestyle or ready to stay on the road. I’m glad to be home, but not burned out.
My daughter and son joined me for a few days at the beginning and end of the trip, too. It was great to share part of the experience with them and helped avoid loneliness while so long away.
Here are the main camping locations from the trip:
- Ainsworth State Park, Oregon. Literally the last night the camp was open before winter. Had the Multnomah Falls basically to myself because it was cold and rainy and kind of a miserable early morning outside.
- Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon. Loved exploring around Astoria. Planning to be back.
- Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon. Rained all night. Not good beach weather, but a good stop while heading down the coast.
- Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, Oregon. Still want to eventually visit all lighthouses on the west coast.
- Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California. Beautiful trees, so much to see in nearby parks. Driving through Avenue of the Giants was a highlight.
- Salt Point State Park, California. Beautiful rocky views of the ocean after the twisting turns of Highway 1.
- Courtyard at Fisherman’s Wharf, California. A hotel! Ditched the van in a parking lot for a day to explore the city. Felt luxurious.
- New Brighton Beach, California. Outside Santa Cruz, stayed here 3 nights. 10 minutes to nice coffee shops to catch up on work.
- Terminal 4, California. Interesting campground on the water, north of the Richmond Bridge. Abandoned buildings everywhere, felt like a post-apocalyptic drive to a view of San Francisco.
- Marriott at Union Square, California. Splurged on a hotel again for the final night. Saw Bono’s show at the Orpheum Theatre.
Stopped at many other parks, coffee shops, bookstores, and beaches along the way. I’m going to publish my check-in history later.
The timing wasn’t ideal because it felt like Twitter was imploding as I was on the road. There was a lot of new interest in Micro.blog. I worked a little every day, but some days not enough. Even so, having the flexibility to just pull over into a park and use my laptop on the table inside the van from anywhere was pretty great.
I can’t overstate how different it is to have a van to eat and work and sleep in compared to tent camping. It rained for a significant part of the trip, pretty much every day in Oregon, but it never ruined anything.
Feel very lucky to have been able to take this trip. I learned a lot of what to do and not do. Wasted some money on food I could never finish using. Spent a fortune on gas. Nervously navigated cities in a van larger than what I’m used to driving.
But the good days made it so worth it, and even with occasional extra stress of last-minute planning I felt that time slowed down… Awake with the sun, coffee and work, beautiful vistas, some driving, cooking dinner, popping open a can of wine, then reading and bed when it got dark. It was very freeing. I don’t think it was a midlife crisis, but I did feel a few years younger, reminding me of backpacking in Europe ages ago. After some months back at home, pretty sure I’ll be ready to get back out there.