Leaving the driveway

  • Tom, Judy and Pippi.

Well, it seemed like it took forever, but we finally left the driveway. Tom and I, and our 16-year-old cat, Pippi, are official “full-timers,” living in our fancy van down by the river, or on the mountain, or by the beach, although most of that hasn’t happened yet.

So far, we’ve quit our jobs, sold our house, put our stuff in storage, and left the driveway. Our plan is a long, slow loop around the West, returning to my mother’s house in Scottsdale for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We’ve been dreaming and planning for this day for months. We want to go where the wind blows us, hike, read, knit (me), and see the USA.

Getting ready wasn’t easy. First, there’s the psychological adjustment. Can we really retire early? For us, the answer was a qualified yes. One of the things that had to go was the house. We couldn’t afford it and the fancy van, too.

For some, this may be a hurdle too high. Some might like their job too much, or their house. For us, the ongoing demise of journalism and the call of the wild won out.

Once we jumped that hurdle, it was a great feeling of freedom. We started sorting, pitching and packing and, after a few months, our house was nearly empty. We put the family antiques, photographs and a few other possessions in storage and moved our bed and dresser into my mother’s house across the street.

Our house sold quickly to a wonderful young couple who fit well into the neighborhood.

Then we had to buy our van. I had been researching this for years, and Roadtrek was always my favorite. The Canadian company takes Mercedes Sprinter vans and turns them into fabulous rolling homes, complete with kitchen (refrigerator, microwave/convection oven, and sink), bathroom (including shower), electrical couch that converts into a king-size bed, and solar panel on the roof to keep the batteries charged and run things inside at night. We wanted to be able to park anywhere, never needing to stay in RV sites or to plug into electrical sources.

We met the regional manager for the company and he helped us locate an RS Adventurous, the model we wanted, in Las Vegas. We took the plunge.

Then we quit our jobs, Tom as an editor at The Arizona Republic, and me in communications at Arizona State University. Tom quit first and kept telling me how great it was. I kept telling him to shut up until I quit.

We began outfitting the van, finding just the right things and trying not to cram too much in. In: a few pots and pans for cooking, a 5-gallon refillable water jug (the van carries water that we use for washing dishes and showering, but we wanted the jug for cooking and drinking), our folding bicycles so we can ride on the road, laptops, camera, clothes, bedding, toiletries, a handful of books, a couple of maps, camp chairs, a grill, a camp table, flashlights, my flute, my ukulele, my big bag of knitting, toilet paper, the cat box, a special press to make coffee and my favorite coffee cup. Out: Everything else.

There were seemingly endless delays at the end. A couple of things in the van needed fixing. Too minor to dwell on, but taking time and a trip back to Las Vegas. We couldn’t seem to get all the financial, mail, health care and other details done. And every day, we chafed to get on the road.

So today, we did it. We left the driveway and headed for Oak Flat in central Arizona. Freedom.


  1. Reply
    Ann Forster August 29, 2015

    Finally, I figured out how to follow you! So happy that you decided to become American Nomads and share your adventures, photos & mostly your friendship. We cherish the time we have spent together both in Arizona and Idaho. Looking forward to many years ahead.
    Jeff & Ann

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols August 29, 2015

      Back at you. We had such a wonderful time in Yellow Pine. Love, love, loved it. Thanks so much for being such wonderful hosts.

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