‘Nomadland’: Both the Movie and the Book….

A very interesting read, indeed!

Since I started my current job about 1 1/2 years ago as a meteorologist for NORAD, I’ve returned to listening to audiobooks more. I had listened to them quite a bit for several years when I had to make 3-hour drives to and from my Air Force Reserve assignments in Virginia and South Carolina. But that was well over a decade ago.

With a 30-45 minute drive in each direction from my house to Peterson Space Force Base, I’ve realized I can use that time well catching up on the numerous books I’ve wanted to read, but didn’t get to read during the 6 years I spent teaching at the USAF Academy. During that time, I focused my reading on professional topics, depending on what I was teaching.

I’m currently listening to Nomadland, the non-fiction book, by Jessica Bruder. I think the majority of us might have first heard that title associated with the 2020 film starring Frances McDormand. It won the 2021 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director for Chloe Zhao, and Best Actress for Frances McDormand (her third!).

I had the chance to see the film on a flight between Anchorage and Denver in July, and it’s pretty powerful. It left me feeling even more emotional about the housing bubble burst from 2008. The film isn’t full of action or huge plot twists or anything: you’re following someone around the country for a year or so, as she travels the country in her hanging-on-by-a-thread converted camper van following the seasonal work. She works in an Amazon warehouse for the holidays, a sugar beet farm, Wall Drug in South Dakota, and as a camp host at Badlands National Park. She makes some friends and encounters a community who lives the same lifestyle through Bob Wells’ grass roots “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous” in Arizona.

The film follows a fictional character named Fern (McDormand), whose year on the road is based on accounts from actual people profiled in the nonfiction book. Several of those people, both their stories and the individuals themselves, are in the film.

The 2017 book is quite a contrast to the 2020 film. It profiles a number of Americans who chose to embark on this nomadic life, most of whom took it in the shorts from the late-2000s housing crisis, having lost value in the “forever” homes, of having lost virtually all of their retirement savings. Many of the individuals profiled dealt with horrific personal situations like divorces and declaring bankruptcy.

The book also profiles raw truths about these jobs that attract these RV camper nomads. Amazon gets a tax break for hiring older people, yet many of the employees are really taxing themselves with the physical demands of the jobs. Working as a camp host may sound idyllic in the advertisements, but in reality the hours can get long, and the risk can get high, especially for those who are not accustomed to this type of manual labor.

While many of the anecdotes about the individuals profiled are filled with light humor, the overarching themes in the book are more dire. Thanks the housing bubble burst, coupled with prices of goods and services rising beyond what wages can support, the outlook for many older Americans is bleak. They can live quite well by simply giving up their homes and living a nomadic lifestyle.

While it’s not a dream for me give up our amazing house and so many of my belongings to completely live in the open road that way (and it definitely wasn’t the dream for many of those interviewed in the book, either), reading Bob Wells’ incredibly-positive-sounding blog* will make you wonder what it would be like.

*It’s not the most sophisticated blog, which he readily admits. Start here and work your way chronologically.

Camping Trip Review: Mountain View RV Resort, near Cañon City, Colorado

Bojack all set up at Site #15 of the Mountain View RV Resort, just west of Cañon City, Colorado.

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe I forgot to write up our experience in Cañon City, Colorado from the end of September.

This trip inadvertently became our last camping trip of the season, thanks to COVID-19 running rampant through our family the following week, taking us out till mid-October. We ended up having to cancel our Columbus Day weekend trip to Mueller State Park, which was heartbreaking: it was going to be with friends and right around the peak golden aspen time of year. Maybe another year we can try it again.

Name of Campground: Mountain View RV Resort

Location: About 8 miles NW of Cañon City, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 50.

Dates Stayed: 24-26 September 2021

Miles Traveled: 65 miles.

Site #: 15, which was considered a “deluxe pull-thru”, but it was a somewhat tight, complicated pull-thru.

Hookups?: Full hookups!

Cost: $60/night + $10 for our 16 year old son

Amenities: Nice bathrooms with free showers, small playground in the shade, two dog walk areas

Cell Service/WiFi: There is WiFi, but it was very weak from our site. We ended up using our cell phones to stream Netflix in the camper.
Continue reading “Camping Trip Review: Mountain View RV Resort, near Cañon City, Colorado”

Meal Planning

Nothing fancy….

I wanted to share our primitive method of meal planning. One of the big perks of camping is that we can take our own food and cook it how we see fit. When the electricity situation allows, we can even take things like an Instant Pot or an air fryer. Depending on the menu choices. Continue reading “Meal Planning”

Royal Gorge This Weekend!

Highest Suspension Bridge in the U.S. - Attractions in Colorado
Our destination this weekend. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the U.S.. You can place the Chrysler Building underneath it!

This weekend we’re taking Bojack out again. We took a break for a few weeks, our last trip with him was over July 4th weekend. In August, we did go camping — tent camping — with our neighbors at Mueller State Park, near Divide, CO. This is the 4th year in a row that we’ve been out with our neighbors, usually on our anniversary weekend in early August, and it’s a highlight of our summer. Continue reading “Royal Gorge This Weekend!”

Set Up and Teardown Tales

Early morning Bojack, parked at Chatfield State Park, near Littleton, Colorado, October 2020.

Dave and I have now taken four weekend trips with our Bojack. Wow…four. We have two more trips planned this season, but not till September and October. Bojack’s on a break these next few weeks as we focus on our sons activities, including moving our oldest to college in August.

We’re slowly feeling like we’re migrating out of the “newbie” phase and starting to get used to things. Dave and I seem to have a great groove going, we communicate to each other what parts we will play in setup and teardown, and so far that has worked well. And our marriage is still intact after numerous back-up-the-trailer experiences.

As we get more comfortable and confident, we have started discussing being able to take longer trips, as well as venturing into boondocking: camping without electricity, water, or dump hookups. Continue reading “Set Up and Teardown Tales”

Traveling With the Whole Gang: Leveling Up on Space

Here’s Bojack’s layout — for the 2016 Palomini 179RDS — when the slide is extended. Not bad for two adults and a dog…but not great when you add in the two full grown kids.

This past weekend’s trip was the first one where our entire family of four, plus our dog, came along. It was a really tight fit. So tight, in fact, we kicked our youngest son (who is 6’1″) out to the neighbor’s Class A camper. They had plenty of room over there. Continue reading “Traveling With the Whole Gang: Leveling Up on Space”

Camping Trip Review: Mt. Princeton RV Resort, Buena Vista, CO

Another beautiful site, in front of another beautiful Colorado 14er: Mt. Princeton, elevation 14,196′. I took this photo not long after we arrived, so we hadn’t set out our chairs, rug, or set out our awning.

Statistics

Name of Campground: Mt. Princeton RV Park

Location: About 1 mile north of Buena Vista, Colorado, just off U.S. Highway 24

Dates Stayed: 2-5 July 2021 (3 nights)

Miles Traveled: 108 miles each way

Site #: B1,  Pull thru

Hookups: Full hookups!

Amenities: Playground, pay showers (50 cents per 3 minutes), activity room with books and puzzles, very active social scene, dog park

Cell Service/WiFi: The park has WiFi, but the further you are from the central part of the park, the weaker the signal is. Cell service was hit or miss. Continue reading “Camping Trip Review: Mt. Princeton RV Resort, Buena Vista, CO”

Buena Vista or Bust!

Summer Mountain Towns Close to Colorado Springs - Monica Shea

Definitely a perk of living in Colorado — having such beautiful places to visit!

This weekend we are heading out with Bojack to Buena Vista*, Colorado, a town near the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

*It’s pronounced “Bew-nuh Vista”. I don’t know why….but this history lesson may provide a little insight.

We have reservations at the Mt. Princeton RV Park, which has a lovely view of Mt. Princeton itself, but isn’t super close the other famous attraction with “Mt. Princeton” in the name: the hot springs, which we may visit this weekend. The RV park has very high reviews, but we were a little stunned at some of the policies. For example, there’s a limit of one dog per reserved site. Also, they are quite strict about not arriving after 6pm, they don’t want folks trying to set up camp late at night, waking up neighbors. We hadn’t experienced either of these policies before.

In an hour or so Dave and I will go get Bojack from storage, to load up and head out around lunchtime. He went out there a couple times earlier this week to do system checks and fix the carbon monoxide detector (it was factory-original: it was time to replace it since Bojack is now 5 years old).

That’s all I’ll write for now….you’ll hear more from me after the trip…maybe during? I don’t know! Ta!

Zapata Falls Hike: Get Ready to Get Wet!

I wish you could have heard how LOUD this is!

The day after our trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Dave and I took a trip to the nearby Zapata Falls trail for a short hike. Our neighbors told us to be sure to experience the hike, and we’re so glad we did! Like Medano Creek, Zapata Falls will be most exciting to visit when the snow is melting most aggressively: so the month of May is probably best, if you can.

The turn off to the trailhead road is about 3 miles before the main entrance to the National Park. There’s a 3 1/2 mile rocky unpaved road full of switchbacks that needs to be driven up to the trailhead itself. The views during the drive are gorgeous, but it’s also important to keep your eyes on the road — you don’t want to accidentally drive over a large rock! There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views of the sand dunes from up there.

Continue reading “Zapata Falls Hike: Get Ready to Get Wet!”

Great Sand Dunes National Park: What Can Be Done in One Day?

Relaxing in a camp chair on Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

I figured I’d peel off two of the activities from our weekend in the San Luis Valley into separate blog posts. I realized I didn’t find a ton of consolidated information about spending a day at Great Sand Dunes National Park, so I figured I’d write about our personal experiences.

The Great Sand Dunes are exactly that: this unusual feature of sand dunes sitting in the middle of Colorado. A geologic abnormality, although it is well explained why this fine sand ended up in a pile nestled up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains. You definitely experience the southwest prevailing winds — which are responsible for the piling of the sand against the mountain range —  while you’re there.

The creeks nearby and in the park also play a role in the geologic formations. Read about the park’s hydrology here. Continue reading “Great Sand Dunes National Park: What Can Be Done in One Day?”