When we bought Davista, one of the many shiny objects dangled in front of our overwhelmed faces was a free Thousand Trails membership for a year, to include 30 nights at any TT campground within a certain region that we would later get to select. Unlike many of the other shiny objects (extended warranties, discounted accessories we would “absolutely need,” RV-safe toilet paper…), this one was free, so we signed right up. Though we knew nothing about the company or the campgrounds, our membership did come in handy in the northwest, both in Bend (Sunriver actually) and here in La Conner, which sits right across the water from Fidalgo Island and Anacortes.
We opted to burn the rest of our free nights with a two week La Conner stay. The Sunriver campground had earned mixed reviews from us. It seemed well-appointed, but not especially well-maintained. La Conner is similar. The setting is gorgeous, as would be just about any Puget Sound waterfront campground. But… something was off. What was it? The facilities maybe? A little too mossy and neglected? The clientele? A little too permanent? Difficult to say.
We did enjoy it, as it was quiet, relaxing, and fit our mood, which could be described as coming down from gobsmacked. With Annapolis and the house sale freshly behind us (save for a frustratingly lingering dispute over a refrigerator that we should’ve handled before closing) and the reality of Plan Moon’s new year of travel ahead of us, we felt a bit unmoored, or at least more so than usual. Adding to that was the quiet of late summer/early Fall. School was starting without our kids in it, the weather was cooling, leaves were changing colors… we had quite a bit of walking along the rocky beach time to talk things over and try to figure out what on Earth we were doing.
Bonus: if you read the post about Seattle and remember my extended digression on an unconventional work trip I flew, you’ll remember that I said it came into play later. Well here’s how… essentially that all took place during the time I was bidding for my September schedule. That’s all submitted and processed via computer, and evidently something about the way that trip was encoded interfered with its ability to award me a schedule for September. I’ll spare you the intricacies of what happened between my bidding and the final result, but ultimately I lucked into a once-in-a-career-if-ever paid month off. Yes. September off, for pay, no vacation time deducted.
So along with figuring out what exactly to do with this extra year of travel & homeschooling for the kids (and the attendant uncertainty that we’d made the right call), we had a month of no commitments whatsoever to play with. That’s a lot of strategizing!
I previously mentioned an impossibly cozy restaurant in La Conner at which Tacco and I had, on several occasions, dug in over cider and stouts to work out our lives. We returned. Unfortunately we discovered that they had moved to a waterfront location, selling their original building to another restaurateur. Quick dilemma – is it the restaurant we need for the planning-our-lives vibe or the location? We opted for the location. Good call, we think.
I’m not going to say we figured it all out. But we did put a sizable dent in it and managed to gain at least a bit of control of the rudder. We started big with the free month thing, reasoning that this was an opportunity we’d likely never have again. So… Thailand? Munich for Oktoberfest? Normandy? Head back east to New England, which we’d missed before? Or maybe better to just slowly make our way down south as planned, but take advantage of the fact that we wouldn’t need to be anywhere near an airport all month. We figured we’d get some input from the kids as well since, you know, they’d be going with us.
And as far as everything else – the staying on the road, homeschooling for an extra year, doubling our travel time. I think more than anything else we, and by “we” I mean “mostly I” needed to just chill the heck out. My overarching concern with this entire endeavor is that we give our kids a unique and valuable experience without ruining them. Emphasis on the not ruining them part. And yes, that’s overstated, but missing 6th grade is one thing, missing most of middle school/junior high is another. Also, roadschooling is different than homeschooling. Homeschoolers who are staying in one place tend to connect with a network of other homeschoolers and pool their resources. In our case, it’s just us. Our kids are troopers and quickly sought out the positives once we told them we would be staying on the road, but they made no secret of their preference to get back into school and start interacting with other kids their age again. And frankly I don’t know how well we’re doing with their education. They are ahead of the game in math and probably a few other subjects, definitely so with respect to life experience, but I don’t have a clue what I was learning (and they might be missing) in 7th/4th/1st grade. I suspect that, just like life in general, there’s a lot of “playing well with others.” They’re not getting much of that, other than with each other. This is the call we made, though, and Tacco did a great job of teasing out all the ways that this will continue to be just as, if not more, valuable than our being settled somewhere. I knew all this, but having her say it was helpful. Tacco and I both experience and express our concerns in very different ways. She’s an ocean and I’m a river. There are things to be concerned about, sure, but there always are. In the grand scheme, we’re doing fine. We plan to spend quality time with my parents, we plan to use our Epic Passes to do a whole lot of skiing, and we plan to use our time to further refine our choice of where to settle. It’s going to be a great year.
Back in La Conner at the campground we spent some more time lazily playing on the beach with the kids and reading them into our plans, as well as getting some more input. Ultimately we decided to spend our September checking out parts of the Washington Cascades and then rolling back south via California’s highway 1, which had been closed last year due to a landslide. The Coronado Beach Cottages had been a highlight last year, and I managed to get us another reservation there. So rather than doing a crazy overseas thing, we’ll extend summer. Nothing wrong with that.
Thousand Trails had a few more interesting experiences in store for us as well. This one we’ll file under Interesting Neighbors. The sites at this campground were pretty heavily wooded, just as the one in Sunriver had been, so we were mostly isolated from our neighbor to the north, but we couldn’t help but notice his multiple projects-in-progress as well as his seemingly cobbled-together rig. It appeared he had been parked for a while. At a certain point he strolled into our campsite and asked us if we smelled anything interesting. Not a question we get a lot, but we answered honestly:
“Well…. yeah, I guess we have. You mean the weed?”
“Oh no, not that, that was me. I mean something like rotten crabs.”
“Hm. Well, no, but we’ll keep our.. uh.. noses open.”
“Yeah, please do, because I think the people who stayed there before you caught some crabs, cleaned them, and then just threw them into the woods, and it’s stinking up the place, and that’s pissing me off if so.”
“You know we did smell what you were talking about, but didn’t see any crab carcasses in the woods. I think it might just be the smell of low tide coming off the water.” [spoiler: that’s exactly what it was]
“Oh no, that’s not it, it’s crabs. You’re not pissed off about this!?! Cuz let me TELL you, I’m a TT platinum [or something] member, and if this doesn’t upset you then… *storm around storm around storm around*… I oughta get that guy kicked out of Thousand Trails!! *mumble mumble storm into RV and slam door twice*”
The next day, after more cannabis clouds wafted through our site:
“Good morning! Hey, have you ever read this book?” [Shows me about a 1000 page tome on American History]
“Don’t believe I have, no. Good morning!”
“Well man, you gotta read this, it’ll blow your mind, I’m telling ya! Here!” [hands me his book]
“Ummm.. thanks, I mean we’re leaving in the morning so I don’t see how I’ll have time to –“
“No man, c’mon, take it! Just check it out before you go, you can just leave it on my table when you’re done!”
“OK. Sure. Thanks!”
So… though we appreciated the free camping this year, we decided not to renew our Thousand Trails membership.