Year four begins slowly: We’re already recalculating

  • Year four began as we headed out of Arizona on US 60 near Globe.

Best laid plans often don’t work out. Sometimes it’s because you need a colonoscopy. Sometimes it’s more than that.

This life of freedom, of endless road trip, of permanent vacation, hangs by a silver thread of health, ours and that of our family. We’re always acutely aware of it and cherish every day in The Epic Van.

And as we continue to make ambitious travel plans, we recognize that, blowing where the wind takes us, means keeping plans fluid.

That’s how year four of our travels in The Epic Van have begun.

We meant to leave Scottsdale, Arizona, in early February, taking a leisurely path across Texas, stopping to see President Johnson’s ranch in the Hill Country, connecting with our friend who’s starting a year on the road in a Casita trailer. Next, a slow roll through the south, highlighted by the Everglades and the Florida Keys, a visit to our “second son” (Nate’s college roommate) and his fiancée in Miami, a stopover with Tom’s childhood friend and wife near Orlando, on to South Carolina to see Tom’s sister, up the East Coast to visit more friends and family in Maryland and New York before heading back to Arizona via the Erie Canal, Ohio River valley and mid-South. Then it’s on to a Roadtrek rally near Glacier National Park in June and volunteering at Big Sur in California for July, August and September.

We had a plan. Weeeeeellllll.

One of the things we do when we’re home at my mom’s for the holidays is catch up on doctor’s appointments, cramming them in along with festivities and working with my friend Tami on our “business,” Periwinkle Polka Dot, sewing upcycled children’s clothing that we sell at craft fairs. This year, we had a hugely successful booth at the Tempe Art Fair. We also squeezed in a trip to Mexico with my friend Jackie for two weeks of family celebration on the Pacific. (More on that in a later post.)

As we get older, even though we’re relatively healthy, those doctors appointments seem to multiply: Dermatologists for our aging, sun-speckled skin, dental cleanings, well-checks, sleep specialists for my sleep apnea, lab tests, and colonoscopy/endoscopy procedures for my celiac disease. I’ll skip the nightmare of trying to get everything approved through the insurance blockade and just say that it held up our departure, and some of our planning, because we couldn’t commit to a departure date. I finally threw in the towel and scheduled the colonoscopy/endoscopy for May, when we’ll make a quick loop back through Scottsdale.

And then, just before Christmas, our brother-in-law, in South Carolina, suffered a stroke. So we want to spend some extended time there.

Recalculating. Good thing we wrote in our calendar in pencil. And that we have gracious friends and relatives who put up with our last-minute changes.

We finally left on Washington’s Birthday, Feb. 22, erasing stops in Big Bend and San Antonio. We’ll compress our visit to Hill Country, unfortunately miss connections with our new road warrior friend, and drive like bats out of hell to the Florida Keys, then back up to South Carolina.

We’ll get to do most of our wish list, just in shorter bursts and, depending on how long we stay in South Carolina, we may bag the East Coast leg and re-route a quicker return to Arizona for, oh joy!, my colonoscopy.

As Tom says, even this recalculated three-month loop, including a 12-day dash from Phoenix to Key West (starting with pit stops on US 60 and Interstate 10), would be the road trip of a lifetime for many folks.

I agree.

So we savor the days, soaking in the cloud formations over a Texas road after the rain, marveling at the length of a windmill blade passing by on the bed of a semi, and watching for unique roadside attractions, like in Fort Thomas, Arizona, where there is a memorial to the birthplace of Melvin Jones, born to a U.S. Army captain who commanded a troop of scouts there. Melvin later owned an insurance company in Chicago, joined a business organization, and thought, “What if these men, who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition, were to put their talents to work improving their communities?” In 1917, Lions Clubs International was born, dedicated to the quaint idea, in part, “to aid others by giving my sympathy to those in distress, my aid to the weak, and my substance to the needy.”

I like Melvin’s spirit and will think of it as we meander down the road.


  1. Reply
    Jeff & Ann February 24, 2018

    Enjoy the journey! We’re traveling in our “Endurance” van soaking up the Arizona sun without you two! ?.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 25, 2018

      Ahhhhhhhh. We caught some sun here in Texas today. Yea! Miss you guys.

  2. Reply
    Peter Corbett February 24, 2018

    Glad you are finally back on the road with a lot of fun adventures ahead.

    It’s hard to believe it’s year 4 for you. Good on you.

    Enjoy the travels. With you in spirit and living vicariously.

    ontheroadarizona is always out exploring Arizona. Last week it was SR 286 to Sasabe — Arizona’s No Country for Old Men — Arivaca and Tubac.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 25, 2018

      Thanks, Peter, We love your blog and highly recommend it to everyone. J

  3. Reply
    Michael February 24, 2018

    I hope your travels ahead are full of adventure and most important good health. Thank you for taking us along when you can and remember it’s the journey not the destination.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 25, 2018

      Thanks, Michael – The journey is everything!!!

  4. Reply
    Keven February 24, 2018

    Our about-to-be-initiated road warrior hearts are with you both as you do this recalculating…. Drive safe and we’ll hook up with you another time!

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 25, 2018

      Keven, Thanks. Absolutely. We may be up in the northwest in October, so maybe we could meet up there.

  5. Reply
    David February 25, 2018

    Glad you guys are back on the road. How does it feel to begin Year Four? What’s different from previous years?

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 26, 2018

      David, Great to hear from you. Year four seems more relaxed, and we seem to be much more efficient in our travel, both in our tourism and our daily living duties. In five days, we’ve traveled a lot of miles, seen several great sites and eaten some great food. Knock on wood, but we haven’t had any difficulties, and we seem to be getting the hang of this. 🙂

  6. Reply
    Meredith March 7, 2018

    I have to admit your extended time in AZ meant some more fun times with you! And yet…the plan. Crazy how something like insurance can effect soooo much for soooo many. Toms thought about you shortened trip is way more than most peoples is also mega true. So happy you both are having this wonderful experience and sharing it with your fans. Xxoo

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols March 11, 2018

      Miss you, Mer. You need to become a road warrior!

  7. Reply
    Harkavy March 29, 2018

    Hey, Judy! Hey, Tom! If you’re still making it up to NYC, let me know. I’ll take the train into the city to meet up.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols April 2, 2018

      Ward, Unfortunately, Tom’s sister, Ronda, is having some health issues, and we’re here in South Carolina for awhile to help out. We’ll probably roll New York over to next year, but let’s meet up in Arizona again next winter!!!!

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