Learning to thrive on the road…

We haven’t come up with a Getting Situated checklist for when we arrive at a new place. Mostly because the only negative consequences for failing to follow proper procedures might mean things take a little longer (= nothing too embarrassing or as life threatening) and, frankly, we haven’t yet been anywhere long enough to warrant pulling out all our gear. I would imagine our checklist would look something like this…

First order of business to get set up in our new space is the outdoor kitchen. All gear hauled out – complete.  Portable grill/burner hooked up to the propane tank – propane off, connected, propane on. Prep table set up – complete. Pull out the tablecloth to cover the site’s picnic table – check. Fish out at least six doo dads to anchor said tablecloth to the table so it doesn’t blow away – complete. Pull out Instant Pot and genuflect before putting it on the picnic table (more on that later) – genuflected and set.

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Outdoor kitchen set up

Second item, plug in to whatever amenities are present. Electricity – plugged in. Fresh water – line plugged in, RV water pump off (don’t need to compete with city water pressure). Sewage pipe connected – check. Cable input (I’m not making this up. We don’t have an appropriate cable yet, but intend to get one soonest – we need to catch up on Game of Thrones…) – check.

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Davista’s business side: from left to right, sewage, electricity, and fresh water hook-ups.

Third task, set up outdoor living room.   Before we left Maryland, we found The Clam. This piece of gear is awesome and the picture below (not the best, I know, but it’s the only one I have just now) is from our “Sea Trial” to Assateague Island earlier this summer.   Essentially The Clam is a portable hexagonal gazebo (with mosquito netting) that provides an outdoor room for us to sprawl into, one that is comfortable in most of weather conditions we plan to encounter. The bonus is that it takes minutes to set up, even without kid assistance. It can be staked in anywhere and I’ve seen many of our fellow campers put theirs right over a campsite’s picnic table. Like I said, awesome. Clam set up – complete. Unroll outdoor rug and bamboo mats to cover floor – check. Set up five camp chairs – set. Hang lanterns in Clam – check. If suitable trees are present, hang double hammocks. Getting Situated Checklist – complete.

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Up to this point we’ve been rolling into our next campsite just about dinnertime. Although we haven’t yet cracked the code on cooking en route (I’ve read that some folks will drive to their next destination with a crockpot bubbling away – !!!), we are doing reasonably well meal planning, especially given limited food storage and sporadic access to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and arrive with a solid dinner plan in place.   Our first night at Van Riper SP was no exception.

After the outdoor kitchen was set up, Flight got the bikes down for the kids who then promptly took off to explore.  He also set up our outdoor living room while I made one of America’s Test Kitchen’s skillet recipes (we are huge fans of Cooks Illustrated). It’s important to note that, as a family of Foodies, part of our being able to thrive on the road has everything to do with enjoying good eats regardless of where we are. I have felt a little guilty when preparing such meals amidst campgrounds thick with the aroma of hot dogs on a stick and “Tacos in a Bag,” but then remind myself this isn’t a weekend foray into the wild – this is our life for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, it’s been a fairly seamless transition to living in Davista, as far as the kitchen experience goes. We’ve baked Scottish shortbread and delicious brownies in the RV’s standard gas oven (using a small pizza stone directly above the heating element and an oven thermometer has made for consistent and accurate baking experiences – important for those of us whose foodie experience is incomplete without baked goods), grilled many a tasty morsel outside (swordfish tacos anyone?), scrambled eggs and made oatmeal on the stovetop inside (because they’re innocuous smelling enough), and witnessed magic happen in the Instant Pot.

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A relatively thin pizza stone evenly distributes the heat and the thermometer keeps it real.

Because we are space and weight limited (we actually ran out of weight before space – !!!), looking for multi-function tools was an important part of the research phase of this evolution. The Instant Pot was raved about everywhere on line and they had me when I read “7 in 1.”   Settings include vegetable steamer, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, warmer, sauté, and pressure cooker. The latter setting allows you to dump in a brick of frozen raw morsels and, with the press of a button, a perfectly cooked meal will present itself in 40 minutes. “What sorcery is this?!” you may ask (I did).  I have no idea how PV = nRT is used to make this so, but I have been blown away (fortunately not literally) by the result.

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup beats “Tacos in a Bag” any day…

After a delicious dinner and some more bike riding, there was a contented sigh as we settled into our new digs in Van Riper and called it a night. And then the alarm went off, almost before we went to bed. Kids were shuffled into the Outback and tucked in with blankets as we headed to the airport. I can’t speak to Flight’s commute experience this go around, but can tell you the sense of abandonment on my end was far less pronounced when we dropped him off.

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