‘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.

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”

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”

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!

Excited for Our Next Trip!

Great Sand Dunes
Image credit: NPS.gov

Hi! This is Patricia! As I’d said before, Dave and I have reserved weekend camping trips with Bojack for almost every month during the “warm season”…April through October.

Our 2nd trip of the year is coming up this weekend, and I’m getting excited for it! This will be the longest trip Bojack will have taken with us, to Base Camp Campground east of Alamosa, Colorado. Alamosa is a 2.5-3 hour drive from Colorado Springs, in the heart of Colorado’s San Luis Valley, home to many of of the state’s potato, lettuce, and (interestingly) quinoa farms.

Continue reading “Excited for Our Next Trip!”

How Are We Going to Remember All of This? The Art of the Checklist

We’re working out ways to remember all of the things required to take Bojack out for a trip.

Next weekend we’re taking Bojack out on his maiden (Wait…is there another adjective I should be using instead if Bojack is a “boy” camper? Does it matter?) camping trip!

Our plan is to head somewhere local, and we primarily plan to spend the time figuring out systems. We got a campsite at Chatfield State Park, which is about an hour northwest of us, near Littleton, Colorado. You can see it on the map to the right. We lucked out, too, when we learned that the water would be turned off in the park right after the weekend we’ll be there.

So one of the things we want to figure out is a “to do list” of tasks and things to be checked before you hit the road. This will be a pretty long list, right? Continue reading “How Are We Going to Remember All of This? The Art of the Checklist”

Welcome Home Bojack! The Adventures of Finding RV Storage in Southern CO

Bojack Hanging Out at All Outside Storage in Monument, CO. This was a brief, temporary home while we negotiated his permanent home. It was a good sized space (12’x30′) and easy to park, but access to the storage lot was pretty complicated, and the lot was somewhat far from home.

With this boom in RV purchases across the country comes a boom in the need for RV parking. Continue reading “Welcome Home Bojack! The Adventures of Finding RV Storage in Southern CO”

The Terminology is…Different

We have a lot to learn!

I had mentioned earlier that we were trying to wrap our heads around some of the new terminology we’re seeing in the RV communities. Dave and I are learning what we can, but lately we’ve been seeing new terms at every turn in the forums and community groups we’ve joined.

Rather than try to provide you a glossary of our own, I will link you to some of the glossaries we’ve relied upon in our searches for definitions. After all, so many RV websites have glossary pages, and I think among them all, one can always find the definitions one is seeking. Continue reading “The Terminology is…Different”