What It’s Really Like on the Road

Right now we’re in Illinois staying at the campground beside the state historical park called Lincoln’s New Salem. I’ll post about this place once we figure out anything about it—I’m not even sure if it’s a state or national historic park or what because much of it is still closed. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about life on the road now that we’re on it.  Don’t be fooled by my occasional grumpy posts—it’s wonderful out here! We’re enjoying the driving, stopping for breaks, seeing towns along the way: living out in the world instead inside our trailer, finally.  It’s glorious. 


Here’s how it works when we’re on the road.

Tracy drives. I knit.

Tracy notices and comments on diesel prices. I keep the music going.

Tracy sees interesting sights. I miss them because I’m catching up on tasks while I have WiFi in the truck.

  • An example of an interesting sight: the Hi-Tek (sic) Redneck Karaoke & DJ Service in Elkhart, Illinois. 
  • Examples of WifI tasks: downloading books and music, uploading blog entries, paying bills. 

Seriously, we’re both enjoying driving through wind turbine farms and small towns where they still have video stores (how does that work, exactly?), and watching the landscape of the Midwest develop alongside us.  

The looks on people’s faces as we pass through small towns are fun, too: with our bikes up front, kayaks on top, and big silver trailer behind, we must be the strangest thing people see all week. Universally, old men wave and young people stare.

Banjo just keeps sleeping in the back.  Sometimes we forget she’s there. 


This we haven’t perfected, so if you have a better solution, please tell me. 

We like driving the backroads, but some are too narrow or bumpy or otherwise dicey for the truck and trailer. We can carefully choose a route via Google Maps on a laptop before we set out, but we can’t save that exact route to send to my phone, which is what we use to connect to the truck navigation screen. So …

  1. We turn on the satellite map in the truck so Tracy can see our real-time location. 
  2. I have my laptop handy with the precise Google Maps route we picked out earlier (if I haven’t accidentally clicked away from it and lost it).
  3. I have a live version of Google Maps on my phone so I can search for interesting places without losing the chosen route on the laptop. 

In an ideal world we’d be able to save our route to my phone, connect that to the truck’s screen, and I’d be able to search the map without disturbing the navigation.  

There’s always the paper atlases!


Our best breaks are when we pull into the truck section of rest stops or off the side of the road at waysides. We cook lunch inside the Airstream and eat it out on a picnic table, or we open the windows inside and eat at the kitchen table, looking out at the new landscape beside us. 

Banjo wonders what the heck we’re doing and is glad to get back in the truck. She thinks we’re not there yet, but we’re enjoying the trip. 

Sometimes I’ll use my phone to find a restaurant with carry out, and Tracy will drop me off to pick up lunch then swing around to grab me again. We haven’t had luck with good take-out though; farm stands in the midwest will be super welcome, plus local breweries once it’s safe to go inside again. 

Parking and Hitching

It’s all getting easier: this tricky part of backing up the truck and trailer and parking in tight spots, plus coupling and uncoupling our fancy hitch.  Tracy is definitely getting the hang at backing up and parking, and I may be getting better at giving him directions, as long as I remember how to use the walkie talkie!

Our special hitch is designed to decrease sway, but it has a precise coupler that involves exact aim. Then we use a breaker bar, a power drill, and a measuring tape to secure it (and to unhitch when we leave).  Tracy knows his stuff (as usual), and I’m getting good enough at it that I consult my checklist on my phone only after we’re all done to check everything off. 

Living Outside

Finally, no more days upon days of living inside this trailer. 

When we know we’ll be parked in one spot for several days, we pull out of the back of the truck the full portable living room: plastic rugs, sofa and chairs, coffee table, Banjo’s bed, tablecloth for a picnic table (our own if there isn’t one there), and we string lights around our site. The whole nine yards.

You’d think we look like sillies, but we’re actually conservative compared to most RVs in campgrounds with their flag poles, potted plants, decorative signs declaring who they are, TV satellite dishes, dog pens.

The only way we stand out is the Airstream. So far in campgrounds we’ve seen only two small Airstreams and an Airstream-brand Mercedes sprinter van.  I’m sure some people don’t know what to think of us.

Back to being outside though!  We’re nearly always out walking or doing stuff in the outside living room; we come inside only to use the bathroom, to cook, to sleep.  Yesterday Banjo stayed outside from 8am to 10pm. 

No more TV, no more YouTube, no more endless scrolling through social media. Lots more listening to the outside world and watching birds, soaking in the landscape, and hiking, 

My workouts have changed from routines on my phone to walking with Tracy and Banjo.  

Inside is now the uncluttered, bright, clean oasis I had envisioned it to be.  I put away the rugs so the wooden floor is cool under our feet, and I leave most of the doodads stored in cabinets for travel. It’s still our home, just paired down, which I like quite a lot.

I’m getting good at showering every three, four … five days without feeling gross. Baby wipes and hats are my best friend.

The only tricky new aspect of life inside the trailer is that I can’t easily recall which hook-ups we have currently: electric, water, sewer?  We always have propane for the fridge and stovetop; we always have some water from the storage tank; we always some electricity from the battery. But I have to stop to think which I should be conserving when. 

Cell Service and WiFi

Managing data use is an art.  We have Tracy’s phone, his phone’s hotspot, my phone and its hotspot, the stand-alone hotspot that’s part of Tracy’s data, and the truck hotspot that’s part of mine.  

The rub is that my phone and computer like to join a different hotspot than the one I’ve assigned them—without me realizing. Sneaky rebels. 

To better control data use, I’ve had to turn off my iCloud connections so that when I’m on wifi I don’t suck up all our data with synching my kazillion Apple devices. That means I now have to remember where certain photos are; ditto with ukulele music and blog post drafts. Poor poor me. I also disabled automatic updates. 

I would say I have too many devices, but I DO NOT.  🙂  I have my phone as a camera, my watch as a timer and workout buddy, my iPad as a Kindle, and  my laptop. I love them all, but they don’t all need to talk to each other like they used to.

I’ve begun to do a lot of tasks offline and save them for later up- or downloading: blog drafts, long emails to and from friends, news I downloaded previously.  


Banjo is the Best Dog in the World for travel. She jumps way up into her bed in the truck, sleeps the entire trip, then waits for someone to lift her out (we do that so she doesn’t hurt her back jumping down). When we’re sitting outside she sleeps on her bed beside us or finds a sunny spot. 

When we’re camped away from people, we connect our two tie-out lines and her to the trailer so she has the run of the whole area and is learning quickly how to untangle herself.  She’s a Good Dog.

Funny though: inside she still is clueless about how the bathroom door works. It has a gap at the floor of several inches, and she lies in front of it, with her paws or her muzzle right in the way of the door. When you open it just a little and tap her with it, she refuses to acknowledge that she needs to move. You have to move her head or legs with your foot to open the door, and immediately she puts herself back where they were so you have to do it again when you come out of the bathroom. 

Either she’s got some kind of vacant spot in her brain where she would be understanding how this situation works, or she just doesn’t care and is happy for us to move her body for her. This all would be super amusing if only we didn’t have to do it in the dark in the middle of the night.

And right now she seems calmer when dogs walk by, like she’s feeling safe in our outside living room. 

This life on the road thing is calmer for us, too.  Just so you know the real truth.  🙂

5 thoughts to “What It’s Really Like on the Road”

  1. I used to work at New Salem State Park!

    I was John Wilkes Booth! I shot Abraham Lincoln 97 times over the course of two years!

    If you’re in the visitor’s center, look for a picture on the wall by the front desk of the old amphitheater in Kelso Hollow. You’ll see a photo of a bunch of early 90’s earnest young college theatre kids. If you look closely, one of those kids is someone you know….

    1. Doug, that is beyond wonderful. Unfortunately the visitor’s center is closed – we’ll have to come back!

  2. Ken is reading along with me and we both loved the Banjo bathroom story. I vote for her actually thinking you enjoy moving her every time, like shes doing you a favor by allowing you this fun activity with her!