The Midnight Train to Birmingham

After a few weeks of noticeable silence on our part, you will be pleased to hear the hiatus is over – we’re back!

Though I’m sure you are living in suspense as to what shenanigans occupied our time during the months of October and November, rest assured that nothing too nefarious took place *insert wink.

Rather than regale you with stories of autumn past, allow me to spin another tale. A story unique and solely our own – the journey and happenings of our time in Birmingham, AL.

Like all great adventures, this particular odyssey began at the crack of dawn. After having driven 8 hours from Corpus Christi the day before, we woke up groggy but well-rested on my parent’s property in Tyler, TX. All members of the Bentley family (my family) happened to be in town, and before we took off, Joe and I, along with all other subsequent family members were treated to pancakes and bacon.

Bellies full and cups of coffee in hand, Joe and I began the 8 hour drive to Birmingham. Naturally, 8 hours ended up being more like 10 hours, but we burned the midnight oil and traversed through state lines until we arrived at our destination, Oak Mountain State Park, the largest state park in Alabama.

After traveling approximately 950 miles in one weekend, it’s safe to say we were exhausted upon arrival.

Despite the long journey, Birmingham quickly became a favorite destination. Every day Joe, the dogs, and I enjoyed hikes along the park’s trails and the peaceful silence of the forrest. In the evenings, we ventured out to various places around the city and winded down by watching the new Netflix series, Wednesday.

The weekend was when our true exploration took place.

Friday night, Joe and I partook in the city’s offerings by tasting the local brews and appreciating its fine cuisine. We went brewery hopping and gelato hunting. One of our favorite breweries we visited was Good People Brewing Company, Alabama’s oldest and largest brewery. After our patronage to this historical venue, we began our late night jaunt in search of good gelato.

1 mile later, we found the pièce de résistance of gelato, Cannella Gelato. I chose the lemon, lavender, honey and goat cheese gelato, and Joe enjoyed a butternut squash, pecan gelato that tasted like a slice of pecan pie. Needless to say, we ate well in Birmingham.

Although it’s clear we appreciated the city through our stomaches, we also took time to acknowledge the city’s deep history.

One of our most profound stops took place at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. I’m not often at a loss for words, but I find myself lacking in trying to describe the emotion we felt as we visited this national monument.

It’s impossible to pin-point the most impactful exhibit, but certainly some of the most powerful displays are the ones featuring Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Prior to reaching these exhibits, the museum walls are enclosed without windows. However, as soon as you reach the Kelly Ingram Park exhibit, which details the brutality civil rights protestors faced by Birmingham police and firefighters, one of the walls disappears. In its stead, panes of floor-length windows face Kelly Ingram Park.

Looking out at the park across the street, I immediately felt chills.

Continuing on in the museum, the walls close yet again until the 16th Street Baptist Church exhibit. Suddenly, a window appears, this time facing the 16th Street Baptist Church where white supremacists detonated a bomb killing 4 young girls and injuring 22 people.

Any words I could use to describe the affect of these exhibits are inadequate, and although each exhibit in the museum was difficult to see, Joe and I are grateful for their existence.

Finally, not only did we appreciate a key cornerstone of human rights history, but also we enjoyed the world’s motorsports history. After all, to know Joe is to know his love for motorcycles!

To bask in the glory of all things motorsports related, Joe and I visited the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. This museum consists of 5 floors and a race track. Upon entry, it appears as if someone brought their childhood, hot wheel dreams to life!

There are vintage motorcycles and cars everywhere! Joe genuinely didn’t know where to look first. He continuously skirted from one motorcycle to the next, vacillated between which motorcycle was his new favorite, and took/sent pictures of each favorite motorcycle to his brother, Rick. I was 100% the third wheel! Ha!

Clearly, this destination was a hit! In Joe’s words, “This would be my aquarium. I would 100% own an annual pass to this museum if we lived here. I wish we lived here.”

It’s safe to say, we enjoyed our time in Birmingham and can’t wait until our next visit! There were several attractions we didn’t have time to see. After all, Birmingham was just a pit stop on the way to our final destination aka Savannah, GA. Stay tuned for more adventures – until next time!

National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month, and because diabetes impacts our life on a day-to-day basis, Joe and I wanted to raise awareness by explaining the challenges we face because of diabetes, the positive technological improvements that have been made in durable medical equipment that allow for greater ease in diabetes care, and how I manage my diabetes while traveling on the road.

After all, with a bit of planning, Joe and I have been able to kayak in Arkansas, hike beautiful trails in Big Sur, and create countless memories. And by planning, I mean Joe has been the literal pack mule carrying glucose and snacks in case of low blood sugar on every adventure!

For those who don’t know, I have Type 1 Diabetes, an incurable autoimmune disease that affects my pancreas; specifically, the insulin producing cells in my pancreas (islet cells). In essence, my immune system attacked my pancreas rendering my body unable to produce insulin, a hormone necessary for regulating blood sugar and processing food.

Without the ability to process food and regulate blood sugar, the body begins to form ketones, a bastard form of energy. 

Now, some of you might be wondering about the description I gave for ketones. After all, isn’t the keto diet a popular fad? Don’t people want to develop ketones?

Let me explain.

Ketones are chemicals that appear in blood and urine when fats are broken down for energy which can occur when not enough carbohydrates have been eaten to provide glucose for energy.1 Because the keto diet requires people to eat little to no carbs, the keto diet follower’s body is forced into ketosis, a starvation state which breaks down fats for energy (ketones) instead of glucose. For the non-diabetic person, who still produces insulin and regulates his or her blood sugar, ketones are a viable form of energy and will allow someone to lose weight.

For a diabetic, ketones are not only extremely dangerous but also life threatening. High ketone levels make your blood too acidic. When this happens, people develop a condition called ketoacidosis. The most common type of ketoacidosis is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a medical emergency that can lead to a coma or death if not treated quickly.2

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, my body had begun to go into DKA. Because my body wasn’t processing food, producing insulin, nor regulating my blood sugar, my ketone levels became dangerously high which caused my blood to start turning acidic. Thankfully, we caught it early, and after hospitalization, I was able to receive treatment for DKA. For those who are wondering, the treatment for DKA is insulin, electrolytes, and fluids.

Though my insulin pump now regulates my blood sugar and provides a consistent stream of insulin, DKA is always a risk. Poor blood sugar management or even sickness can cause a person to enter DKA, and to be clear, poor blood sugar management isn’t always a choice. The largest reason for this is the cost of insulin.

Challenges of Diabetes

The Cost of Insulin

The cost of insulin is one of the greatest challenges diabetics face, myself included. How can that be? Doesn’t health insurance cover it?

No, not always.

In fact, when I was working as a teacher paying for health insurance through my state job, Novolog, the short-acting insulin I use, was not covered through the top-tier health insurance plan. The insurance company wanted me to use an older insulin called Humalog instead. The only problem is that I am allergic to Humalog. 

Despite a pre-authorization from my endocrinologist, a medical review from the insurance company, and several calls to the insurance company, in the end, they refused to cover the cost of my insulin.

Well surely that can’t be a huge problem; insulin is a life-saving drug. How much could insulin cost without health insurance footing the bill?

According to JDRF, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of type 1 diabetes research, the cost of insulin has risen 600% since 2002. In 2012, the average prescription cost for insulin was $344, and in 2016, the average prescription cost of insulin increased 92% and became $666. 

In light of this information, I feel it’s also important to share how much the patent for insulin was sold for. 

Dr. Frederick Banting sold the patent for insulin to the University of Toronto in 1921 for $1.00. He found it unethical for a doctor to benefit from a discovery that saved lives. In fact Dr. Banting was quoted saying, “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” 

Prior to Dr. Banting’s discovery, with the help of his colleagues, James Collip and Charles Best, diabetes was a death sentence. 

Quite frankly, 100 years later, for some people, it still is.

When my health insurance refused to cover the cost of my insulin, I was privileged enough to have options. My dad is a physician and could have financially helped Joe and I cover the cost of insulin, but my in-laws were selfless enough to drive down to the border and cross into Mexico in order to purchase my insulin. They did so until I could be added to Joe’s health insurance.

Ironically, after being on Joe’s top-tier health insurance plan for a year, his plan then refused to cover my insulin. This led him to leaving his company in order to find a new job with better health benefits so that my insulin would be covered.

I am incredibly privileged. Not everyone has options. Not everyone can afford the insulin they need to stay alive which is why nearly 1 in 5 Americans with diabetes ration their insulin.3 When 40% of an individual’s income is the current cost for many with diabetes just to stay alive, what other choice do many have?4

Daily Diabetes Management

Though the cost of insulin is one of the greatest challenges diabetics face, the management of the disease itself is just as difficult.

Type 1 Diabetes is a 24 hour gig. Literally.

Lack of good diabetes management can lead to serious health complications like blindness, limb amputation, heart disease, nerve damage, and ultimately, death.

In the next section, I am going to outline how I personally manage my diabetes every day, specifically while living on the road.

For simplicity and clarity purposes, I am going to break down my diabetes management, as well as some of the logistics of living with diabetes on the road into various categories. Here we go!

Insulin

I survive via multiple daily injections of insulin/a continuous flow of insulin via my insulin pump, but how do I purchase said insulin while living on the road? Walgreens aka a national pharmacy chain. Thankfully, because of Joe’s health insurance plan, no matter where we find ourselves in the United States, through Walgreens, I am able to fill my prescription.

When it comes time to refill my insulin supply, (via the Walgreens app) I transfer my prescription to the nearest Walgreens in which we are located and request for my insulin to be filled.

Technology

Thankfully, durable medical equipment (DME)/diabetes technology has come a long way, and I rely on it to help me manage my diabetes. Specifically, I rely on an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.

The insulin pump I have/use is the Tandem T-Slim X2 with Control IQ Technology. This insulin pump is amazing and the closest thing we have to a bionic pancreas. What makes this insulin pump so incredible is that it connects with my continuous glucose monitor via Bluetooth to keep my blood sugar within a certain range and delivers corrections, as well as ceases insulin dosages in order to do so. The Tandem T-Slim has been a complete game-changer in my diabetes management.

My pump’s infusion set (a cannula/hollow tube that sits 90 degrees under my skin that allows for insulin delivery) and insulin cartridge (the vial that holds my insulin in the pump) must be replaced every 3 days. 

Now, you might be asking yourself…what is a continuous glucose monitor aka a CGM? Well, a CGM is a device that continuously checks my blood sugar and communicates with my insulin pump in order to keep my blood sugar within a certain range. How does it do this? Well, via a needle, I insert a wire that is left just under the skin that transmits my blood sugar data via Bluetooth to my receiver/phone, and in turn, my receiver/phone communicates with my pump to adjust my insulin dosages. I use the Dexcom G6 CGM.

My CGM alerts me when my blood sugar is high, and it also alerts me when my blood sugar is low. I must replace my CGM every 10 days. 

Without a CGM, people prick their fingers and test their blood sugar using a glucometer. I sometimes still have to use a glucometer because every time I replace my CGM, it currently takes 2 hours to warm-up before I am able to get my blood sugar’s reading.

DME (Durable Medical Equipment) Re-Supply

So, for insulin vial refills, I go to Walgreens, but how do I refill my insulin pump supplies and CGM supplies while traveling? Great question. I receive my insulin pump supplies, specifically my infusion sets and insulin cartridges, as well as my Dexcom CGM sensors and transmitters from a private medical supply distributor. I usually buy my supplies in 90 day increments or 3 months worth of supplies at a time.

To receive my supplies, my medical distributor ships the supplies to me via UPS. Now, when we are traveling, I either make plans to mail the supplies to our home address, my parents’ house, or to an address close by. Basically, I have my medical supply distributor mail them to a place where I know we are going to be! 

Diet and Exercise

It may be true that I won’t be magically cured from Type 1 Diabetes with a low-carb diet and regular exercise, but that doesn’t mean neither of these things aren’t key to excellent blood sugar control.

Regular exercise, a low-carb diet, a consistent schedule, and discipline are vital components to my diabetes management regimen. In all honesty, all these things are required for tight control over my blood sugar. 

Joe and I are very intentional with meal planning and consistently attend class at various Orangetheory’s (a gym specializing in HIIT cardio workouts) around the country to maintain the type of discipline diabetes requires.

Doctor(s) Appointments

Lastly, doctor(s) appointments. Type 1 diabetes requires a visit to the endocrinologist every 3-4 months with corresponding blood work to check my A1C aka a test measuring my average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months, as well as to adjust my insulin levels if needed. Typically, I aim for an A1C between 6% and 7%. For reference, the average person’s A1C is below 5.7%.

As I mentioned earlier, poor blood sugar management or a high A1C can lead to serious health complications. Tight blood sugar control helps ensure a person continues to live and doesn’t develop serious health complications down the road, but remember, not everyone can afford the insulin nor the technology in order to ensure good control.

Though Joe and I are constantly on the road, we make return trips based on my doctor’s appointments schedule; though, occasionally, I have been able to meet with my endocrinologist via Telehealth appointments.

Conclusion

Type 1 Diabetes isn’t easy, but I am so thankful Joe and I have been privileged enough to still travel and seek adventure despite diabetes.

With access to insulin and good medical care, living a full life with Type 1 Diabetes is very possible. However, I hope from reading this blog post, you have become aware of the challenges many face and the realities of a person living with diabetes.

I leave you with this plea: advocate for affordable access to insulin and call on Congress to act. Join the Fight for Five, a campaign championing a world where insulin and diabetes supplies cost no more than 5% of a person’s income by the year 2025.

Access to insulin is a human right. Sign this petition to Congress demanding action on insulin now! 

A few photos of our adventures with diabetes!

An Exhaustive Guide To RVing Logistics In The Modern Age – Part 1

Author: Joe Garcia

I’ve always been a fan of a good adventure novel. The plucky space crew who takes off in their spaceship that barely runs or the group of kids taking off into the sunset on their bicycles was more of an aspirational goal rather than a fun story for me.

Rebekah was well prepared for this lifestyle considering the fact that while we were dating in college, I was shopping for a van to live in. Thankfully, she talked me off that ledge, but I never let go of the dream of a great American road trip.

After 6 years and many hours spent perusing Instagram and Pinterest, we finally decided to take the plunge and get into full time RVing. We had to make a few minor adjustments along the way, such as Rebekah quitting her job to work remotely as a curriculum designer, and I made sure to take a job as a software developer at a company that was fully remote.

Once the minor issue of paying the bills on the road was taken care of, then all we had to do was the simple task of putting everything we needed to live and work in a trailer and carry it across the country. As you might guess, this was not as simple as Instagram may have had me believe, but after many lessons learned on the road, we managed to get a good system down.

In this blog post, I’d like to share with you all the things we have learned on the road from this past year, and hopefully, provide some tips and tricks for any readers who are interested in getting into RVing.

Location, location, location!

This part is where years of daydreaming really paid off since we already had a number of campgrounds and locations picked out that we wanted to visit, but it is not quite as simple as picking a place on the map and going there. There are a few critical things to consider while traveling, specifically, for those who want to work on the road. 

The primary considerations are: accessibility and cell signal. 

We’ve learned the hard way on our journeys that a campground that looks great even from Google maps, may actually just be a flat spot in a mountain range. Never forget to zoom out while scoping out a campground on Google maps! This information may save the life of your truck’s transmission.  

One powerful tool that we use now to scope out potential campgrounds is a site called Campendium. It gives great ratings on accessibility, cellular connection, and has a community of RVers that leave reviews on things that are important to RVers.

Now before we pick our next spot, we’ll look up the reviews on Campendium, double check the road via FlatestRouteMapper, and for good measure, take a quick look via Google maps terrain view. With those few precautions, we’ve managed to avoid having to turn around at an RV park, and Rebekah’s only had to get out of the truck once to lighten the load so that we could get up a mountain.

To wrap up this discussion on location, I wanted to give an overview of the three most common places to stop: RV parks, state parks, and public camping areas. 

If you want to just hit the road with limited experience and equipment, RV parks are the way to go. Think of a hotel that you bring your room to, generally speaking, everything is provided. Most good RV parks will have water, electricity, sewer, wifi, laundry facilities, and sometimes even a grocery store. While RV parks can be the most expensive option in regard to daily camping rates, some offer weekly and monthly rates that become very affordable. 

The next option is state parks which often blend some amenities with a better access to nature. State parks will generally have a reason for existing such as a lake or natural feature that people want to visit. So while the creature comforts might not be as numerous, they make up for it with their scenery. Most state parks will still have water and electricity available, but access to other amenities will vary wildly. State parks generally have cheaper daily rates than RV parks. This would be another great option for someone new to RVing that still wants to squeeze a little bit of adventure and nature into their first trip. 

The final option, otherwise known as the boss level, is public camping; otherwise known as dispersed camping. Here, nature is your host, coyotes are your annoying neighbors that make too much noise, and your dogs are the security guards asleep at the front gate. Amenities are what you bring with you. If you like to shower, be prepared for a good workout since water is 8 lbs. a gallon and the easiest way to get it to the campsite is with water totes. The upside to dispersed camping is two-fold. It’s free, and it provides the closest access to some of the most beautiful areas of this country. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on sipping coffee in the morning and opening up your door to a mountain side where your nearest neighbor might be a quarter mile away. As you might guess, this is the most difficult option to get into at first. While it is free, the equipment required to be able to live and work off grid is a big upfront expense. 

Despite the effort, this is my favorite way to camp (Rebekah’s on the fence), although we do like to spoil ourselves and mix in some RV park camping. *Rebekah is a big fan of the RV parks 💁🏻‍♀️🍷

If you’re interested in taking on the challenge of dispersed camping, this next section will summarize some of the things we’ve learned on the road to be able to work and stay comfortable. 

Water is life.

I don’t think I realized how much water we go through until I started having to carry it to the RV. I’ve become a radical environmentalist as a result of my water fetching duties and believe the solution to our global water problems is one RV for every man, woman, and child in America. 

On average, two people showering, using the restroom, and washing dishes, use about 20 gallons of water per day. 

We have a 40 gallon onboard fresh water tank, but so we don’t have to move our RV after we get it setup, we picked up four 7 gallon portable water totes. These are easy to refill at water stations that can be found in grocery stores and outside of gas stations.

This section would not be complete without discussing what happens to the water after it has been used.

Our RV is only able to hold 60 gallons of wastewater; so if you’ve kept count, we’ve got to take care of that after a couple days. The easy solution would be to pull our dump valves, but that is a crime and goes against my radical environmentalist morals. Seriously, don’t do this; it gets camping areas shut down, and it’s just a really uncool thing to do.

What we do instead is carry a 32 gallon portable waste tank on the back of our tow vehicle. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, and by someone, that’s me. It’s not all bad, many gas stations have dump stations, and we normally take care of this on the way home from the gym. 

There’s no easy way to transition from wastewater. It’s my least favorite job. If you can get past this, you’ll make it on the road. Next section.

More power baby!

Keeping the lights on has two meanings while working on the road: the literal one and the one that involves maintaining enough power for work electronics. Our current power setup includes: 400 watts of solar, a 1.5 KWh lithium power bank, and a 3500 watt silent generator.

By selecting areas with good weather, we’re generally able to run off of solar and battery for half the day and all night. For our remaining power needs, we’ll run our generator to charge up our battery and run the A/C during the hottest hours of the day.

The equipment I mentioned earlier is one of the most expensive parts of getting into RVing outside of the initial RV purchase. You can get creative and source used solar panels or dumpster dive for old laptop batteries, but otherwise plan on spending at least $1500 for an entry level lithium and solar kit if you want to camp/work off grid.

To conclude my manifesto, I leave you with one more section on miscellaneous work and comfort related questions.

The extra stuff.

Since this next section includes a lot of commonly asked questions, I felt it would be best to structure it as a Q&A.

Q: How do you access the internet for work, especially in remote areas?

A: We double check cell coverage using Campendium and use Verizon cellular hotspots, along with a directional cell signal booster that I have mounted on a 12 foot pole. 

Q: Do you guys ever get tired of being in such a small space together?

A: No, we love each other, and we specifically chose an RV that has two rooms with a door in the middle. Take that information as you will. Joking! We share space very well, but we were purposeful with the rig we chose. 

Q: How do you stay cool in the desert?

A: Lots of fans, parking in the shade, and running the AC/generator during the peak heat. 

Q: Is sleeping comfortable in the RV?

A: Yes, Rebekah bought a Tempurpedic mattress topper since the mattress that came with the RV was not super comfortable. 

Q: How do you both work in the RV?

A: Our current rig is a 33 foot toy hauler, meaning we have one room in the back, and a room up front which holds the living quarters. Since there’s a door in the middle, this has worked well for us. We are able to both take meetings and not interfere with each other’s calls. In addition to this, since the area in the back of our RV is one big room, we’re able to put a desk and computer monitor in there. 

Outro.

So if you’re just looking to get out for the weekend, or if you’re ready to take the plunge by becoming one with nature on the open road, there are plenty of options for getting into RVing. My advice is to just go for it! Find some areas around you that you’ve always wanted to see and start planning that first trip. You won’t regret it; I know we haven’t!

Deep In The Heart of Texas

We traveled. We saw. We returned. After 3 months of continuous travel, we are finally back in Texas!

Before I fill you in on our plans now that we have come home to our native Lone Star state, allow me to write about our last week in Las Cruces, NM.

You may or may not be surprised to hear that our last week in New Mexico was fairly uneventful. Joe and I took it easy. What can I say? We were tired!

Though we were feeling a bit weary from weeks of travel, we had a peaceful week filled with mundane, normal tasks. Joe had work to catch up on, I had miscellaneous chores and meals to prep, and so…we worked, we ate, and carried on with our usual day-to-day activities.

As shocking as it might seem, not every day nor every week of life on the road is glamorous!

Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t have any fun during our last week in Las Cruces…after all, you’ve met us, right?

Our last night in town, Joe and I went out to eat at a nice, favorite restaurant of ours, and afterward, we walked to a 90’s themed arcade downtown. Naturally, this led to Joe and I spending at least $20 in tokens so that we could compete against each other in various arcade games.

Nothing says true love like glowing screens, chiming bings from a pinball machine, and a little competition of the toggle variety! Who does’t get competitive while jabbing at buttons?

Needless to say, dinner and the arcade was a perfect way to end our travels.

The following morning, Joe and I packed up the RV and began the 2 day journey back to Austin, TX. I will spare you the details of the drive because the trip was uneventful! Sure, West Texas was rather blustery, but other than a little wind, we had no issues on our way home.

So, now that we are back…what’s next?

Reconnecting with friends, spending time with family, a 10 year high school reunion, Texas football, bridal showers, and doctor(s) appointments!

Really, we won’t be back very long…justttt long enough to accomplish the tasks above. We will be taking off again just before Thanksgiving. So, stay tuned for more adventures!

Until next time!

The Final Stretch

Last week we made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where we boondocked near the base of the Organ Mountains and interacted with fellow RVers.

Naturally, this interaction and meeting leads to Garcia’s Moving Castle’s next segment of RVers in the wild.

In today’s segment, we begin with Joe. After all, he is the one who encountered the RVer in his natural habitat. The RVer, our new neighbor, approached Joe late in the evening around the local watering hole aka our collection of 7 gallon water totes. Joe was replenishing our water supply and our fellow RVer was curious if he could borrow our totes to fetch water for himself and his wife.

Joe agreed, and naturally, as all conversations do, this evolved into Joe and our fellow RVer discussing the pros and cons of a black water waste disposal system vs. a composting waste disposal system. The RVer began to passionately argue that an expensive composting system wasn’t worth it, especially because a person could buy everything they needed for a composting waste disposal system from the Family Dollar.

Color Joe both horrified and intrigued.

The RVer then proceeded to give Joe instructions on how to build his own composting system from a bowl, paper towels, and ziplocs, as well as give Joe advice on how to keep a black water system from smelling. Apparently, it’s all in the essential oils.

Don’t use water to flush! Simply spray peppermint and lavender oil after every use, and you won’t need to dispose of the black water system’s contents for 3 months.

As if this conversation wasn’t memorable enough, the RVer switched gears and began regaling Joe about government secrets. The RVer couldn’t divulge everything, but his government source had informed him that President Biden hadn’t been alive for a few months. The government was using CGI and a body double to emulate the late president.

Never a dull moment!

Stay tuned for future segments of RVers in the wild. In the meantime, allow me to fill you in on our happenings from last week.

As I mentioned earlier, Joe and I boondocked near the base of the Organ Mountains. Not only did we camp off grid near these well-known mountains, but also took some time to visit and hike around the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

The National Monument is home to an old mine shaft, sanatarium, waterfall, and way station. Joe and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these historic sites, as well as the hike to each of them. Along the way, we came across a few tarantulas and several noteworthy plants! What can I say, Joe loves to identify local flora!

Overall, we had a great time visiting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument; it is always one of our favorite things to see when we come to Las Cruces.

Because we are still a little weary from traveling and adventuring, we have decided to stay in Las Cruces one more week, but instead of spending it boondocking, we have moved to an RV park. Is there a story there? Yes, yes there is.

When Joe took our portable waste tank into town to dump at the local RV park, the front office staff told him it would cost $50 to use their dump station. Now normally, it costs about $10 to use a park’s dump station. So, Joe was both surprised and intrigued as to why this park was charging $50.

Apparently, in the last few months, someone had dumped their meth lab at the park’s dump station. So, to discourage others from utilizing their facilities, they implemented a $50 fee for all patrons wanting to dump, as well as installed a lockbox over the dump system’s entry valve.

After explaining the RV park owner’s rationale, the front office staff then proceeded to sell Joe one of the park’s spots for the day. For $34, Joe could use that spot’s septic and dump his tank.

At that point, it made more sense to just buy 6 days and move our RV over to the park. Joe knew I wasn’t going to complain about full hookups!

So, we are now enjoying the luxury of full hookups as we finish our time in New Mexico. Next stop Austin, TX!

Until next time!

Where Dreams Come True

“Would Rebekah like to go to an amusement park when you guys come to visit us?” – Rick Garcia (Joe’s brother)

That’s a rhetorical question, right?

For those who don’t know, I am an amusement park junkie. That’s right! I enjoy and appreciate every aspect of a good amusement park. Cheerfully maniacal rollercoasters? Check. Deliciously fried, sugary treats? Check, check. A continuous theme? Check!

So, when Rick asked Joe if I would be interested in either going to Disneyland or Universal Studios when we visited him and his family in L.A., the answer was a resounding yes, especially since Rick’s wife, Andrea, also shares my love for amusement parks. In essence, we would be able to match each other’s enthusiasm.

When it came time to decide which amusement park we would be visiting, Andrea and I carefully weighed the pros and cons of each park, and ultimately decided on Disneyland. Neither of us had ever seen the recently added Star Wars section, so going to Disney to both see it and experience it was a no brainer. Did I mention both of us are major Padawans?

After counting down the days, minutes, and seconds, until our trip to the magical land of Disney, finally, the day of our Disneyland adventure arrived. Joe and I woke up at 5:30 AM to beat the Los Angeles traffic and made our way to Rick and Andrea’s house to drop off our dogs and carpool to the park.

Having donned my Star Wars themed mouse ears, sequined Minnie Mouse themed backpack, and an excessive amount of sunscreen, I was ready for Disney!

Though we purchased park hopper tickets, we decided to begin the day at the main Disneyland Park. Moseying our way to the back of the park where the Star Wars section is located was first on the agenda, but before we made it there, we stopped to ride Splash Mountain, a thrilling log flume ride with a 5-story drop.

Have I disclosed Joe’s complete abject terror of all rollercoasters and high-thrill rides? I have included a snapshot of our time on Splash Mountain for your enjoyment – I think our faces say it all.

Needless to say, Andrea, Rick, and I laughed until we cried at Joe’s expense. He may or may not have screamed an expletive as we made the drop.

After disembarking Splash Mountain, we wrung out our t-shirts and splished and sploshed our way to Star Wars! We had a fantastic time riding the Star Wars themed rides and wandering around the outpost market. Later, we would come back for themed cocktail drinks at the Cantina!

Following our fun in the Star Wars section, we decided to jump over to the California Adventure Park for more rollercoasters and adrenaline inducing rides. Some of our favorites were the Incredicoaster and the Guardians of The Galaxy Mission Breakout tower drop! Joe “conveniently” opted out of the tower drop to run back to the house to walk our dogs, but Rick, Andrea, and I enjoyed it!

Well…mostly Andrea and I enjoyed it. Rick on the other hand had an awkward experience with the man sitting next to him. Apparently, during the ride, the man couldn’t find the hand rest, so he clutched onto the next best thing. Rick’s hand.

Despite the uncomfortable encounter, Rick still had a great time, and before we knew it, we were zipping around the park finding other rides to fulfill our thrill quota.

Overall, we had an incredible time at Disney! It was everything I hoped for and more, and after 12 hours of non-stop fun, we piled into the car and made our way back to the house. Once we returned, Joe and I scooped up our puppies and drove back to the RV where we fell asleep immediately.

The next afternoon, Joe and I drove back to Rick and Andrea’s house to spend some time together for our last full day in California. We decided to visit a local aquarium and walk along the beach to search for tide pools. Later that evening, we would go out for street tacos and churros. It was the perfect ending to our California trip.

Spending time with family is such a gift, and visiting Rick, Andrea, and Harley has been a highlight of our 3 month long adventure. We already have plans to see them again, and I know Joe is already counting down the months until we are reunited.

For now, Joe and I have started making our way back to Texas. We, and really I mean Joe, drove us from Los Angeles, California, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the span of 2 days! We stopped in Phoenix, Arizona, after the first day, and left as soon as possible the next morning due to the fact that Phoenix is completely uninhabitable. How anyone lives there in its hellacious, extreme heat is a mystery I have no desire to solve!

Thankfully, Las Cruces is much more temperate, and we have plans to spend at least the next week here. After all, we still have a few adventures planned!

Until next time!

Life is a Highway

Before embarking on this trip, Joe and I outlined our “must see” locations and attractions. For Joe, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was at the top of the list. Now, you might be thinking to yourself…what’s so special about a highway? For Joe and all motorcyclists alike, the PCH is the Mecca of all motorcycle trips! Why? Well, the Pacific Coast Highway boasts incredible ocean views, winding roads along the west coast, and endless miles of rock cliffs. In essence, the PCH contains all elements for a motorcyclist’s wildest dream. So naturally, when Joe and I were mapping out our return trip to L.A. from Santa Cruz, we chose to return via Hwy 1 aka the Pacific Coast Highway!

Now, we couldn’t drive straight to L.A. along the PCH without stopping for a few days! That would be a complete travesty. Thus, we found ourselves camping in Big Sur.

For those unfamiliar, Big Sur is the “longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States” (Google), and let me just say, it is absolutely breathtaking.

As we drove in to Big Sur, we crossed the famous Bixby Bridge and marveled at its engineering. Later, we would drive back on the motorcycle to take pictures of it and its surrounding landscape.

After admiring Bixby Bridge and taking a few pictures, Joe and I continued along the coast until we reached Andrew Molera State Park. What we thought would be an easy, quick stop to see the park’s beach and its famous, purple, sandy shore ended up being a 1.5 mile hike, but the juice was worth the squeeze! There’s something profoundly special about watching the sunset on a beach, and we finished our jaunt to the coastline just in time to see it.

Of course we took some pictures, but not before we took time to sit, breathe in the fresh, salty air, and look out upon the ocean’s waves.

It’s moments like these I find myself reflecting on the blessings in my life, and traveling around the country with Joe is one of my greatest blessings.

One of my favorite things about traveling with Joe are the unexpected friendships we make and the adventures we find ourselves undertaking. For example, during our trip to Big Sur, as we were hiking trails around Pfeiffer State Park, we came across an area of the park involving a clear river and large boulders. As we were contemplating which direction to take, a young couple appeared, and before we knew it, all four of us were helping each other clamor over rocks upstream.

Though our game of “don’t touch the lava” was fun or in this case “avoid the icy clutches of the river,” the true excitement came from the waterfall and swimming hole we eventfully found.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see a waterfall and/or a swimming hole, I have to jump in and swim! After an arduous hike, the frigid temperature of the river was a welcome respite, and we spent ample time enjoying swimming with our new friends as we laughed and explored the gorge.

Joe and I both agree that our time at Pfeiffer State Park was a highlight of our trip to Big Sur. We didn’t get to see everything we hoped to, but we definitely plan on coming back soon!

For now, we are enjoying our remaining few days in California. We have a few fun things planned before we take off on our return trip to Texas.

Until next time!

P.S. On our drive from Big Sur to L.A. we came across wild elephant seals! *insert squeal

Woman and Poodles vs. Mountain

It has been an eventful past few days! Joe had his work retreat in Santa Cruz, CA, this week which meant that the dogs and I found ourselves in an RV version of Survivor. Let me explain.

When Joe booked our current campsite, Mt. Madonna County Park, he did not realize that the mountain in which the campsite resides lacks cell service/Wifi, and with Joseph needing a vehicle to drive the 40 minutes to Santa Cruz, this left myself and the dogs alone on a mountain for 3 days with no means of transportation.

Well…technically that’s not true. Joe did leave the motorcycle, but who doesn’t know how to drive one and has refused to be taught by Joe? Moi.

Minor planning oversight…right? But not to worry, I had our SPOT device! For those unfamiliar, a SPOT is a GPS tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking. So, with our SPOT device, I was able to send and receive a few text messages to confirm proof of life.

Meanwhile, Joe was living his best life in Santa Cruz socializing with his co-workers.

Now before you give Joe a hard time, know that the circumstances were unintentional, and he feels terrible. Did I mention that he’s taking me to Disney in a week? Needless to say, all is forgiven!

Despite the less than ideal cell service and Wifi situation, I did have some form of entertainment during my 3 days of solitary confinement – a ticket to an exhibit like none other. What exhibit you may ask? RVers in their natural habitat.

My favorite full time RVer was a woman I met during my quest to find at least 1 bar of cell service. The conversation started out like any other until she casually mentioned that her first bigfoot encounter was in 2017.

She and her pitbull named Sophia Lorraine were on a hike when all of a sudden someone started throwing rocks at her – the kicker is that no one was around her while these rocks were being thrown. Naturally, she went home to conduct some research and discovered that what she had encountered was a bigfoot.

Because of this chance encounter with a bigfoot, my new friend began a YouTube channel and found herself driving like a bat-out-of-hell to Kentucky for a 2 week bigfoot enthusiast meetup. The meetup involved tent camping in the snow, and though she and Sophia Lorraine were freezing, the trip solidified her belief she was capable of RVing full-time.

And so, she sold her house for a cool 1.2 million, bought a brand new RV, and hit the road.

I have to say, meeting and chatting with new people is probably one of my favorite parts of life on the road – everyone is unique, and quite frankly, you never know where the conversation is going to take you!

I could continue to regale you with stories of other RVers that I have encountered in the wild, but you’re probably wondering about the other 7 days that I have left unaccounted.

Well…Joe and I took advantage of our location and visited a local vineyard/winery! We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the owners’ daughter-in-law as we tasted various wines and watched adrenaline junkies skydiving in the distance.

Not only have we enjoyed tasting the local wines but also the local beers. The night before Joe’s work retreat, Joe and I met one of his co-workers and her husband for some brewery hopping. Afterward, we ate dinner on the Santa Cruz Wharf and saw some seals playing in the ocean!

Overall, visiting this area has been magical – we have enjoyed the serenity of the beach, as well as the cool comfort of the redwood trees. Hiking through the forrest has been rejuvenating and my somewhat exaggerated tale of solitude aside, it has been nice to be unplugged for a few days.

Until next time!

The Not So Little RV That Could

In each city we visit we have our fair share of adventures, but have I mentioned that the adventure isn’t solely limited to the activities at every stop? Cue the driving between locations. Let’s just say traveling from Simi Valley, CA, to Coyote Lake, CA, was no exception.

Now before you worry, the RV is intact, all poodles and humans emerged from the odyssey unscathed, and we did in fact make it; however, we may or may not have prayed for Jesus to take the wheel along the way!

So what incited our prayers to a higher power? Buckle in friends, allow me to take you on our journey.

Like all great stories, we must start at the beginning…the morning of our departure. You will be pleased to hear that Joe and I managed to wake up early, pack the RV, and walk the dogs prior to readying ourselves for the task ahead – crossing Slide Mountain.

Honestly, the name of the mountain says it all, doesn’t it?

Allow me to set the scene.

It’s 100 degrees outside, and the main characters consist of 2 poodles, 2 humans, a Suburban, an 8,000 lb. camper, and a mountain named after its vertical prowess.

People….we climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation in the span of 25 minutes. Oh. And did I mention that the mountain has a 14 1/2% grade?

Despite the steepness of the mountain, we inched our way up slowly but surely. As we made our ascent, we noted several trucks pulled over to cool off their engines. Before we reached the peak, we too would need to pull over for a quick cool down!

On the way up, Joe made sure to pull out all the tricks – turning off the A/C and blasting the heater to draw heat away from the motor and pulling over occasionally to open the hood.

If only the descent was easier than the climb! We counted at least 4 runaway truck ramps on the way down as we descended from 4,100 ft. to 150 ft. in elevation. Hence, the prayers!

Thankfully, we made it in one piece and will be avoiding said mountain by taking an alternative route on our return to L.A.

So, we survived the mountain and the drive to Coyote Lake, but what were we up to prior to leaving?

The day before we left, Joe and I met Rick, Andrea, and Harley for dinner at a Casa Blanca themed restaurant. Joe chose it based on its quirky decor and reputation for tasty tequila. What can I say? Marry a man who knows that you’ll find a themed restaurant endearing!

The Casa Blanca themed dinner was delicious, and despite the promise of tequila, we decided to forego margaritas in favor of driving to a mini golf course after dinner. There’s nothing quite like a friendly family competition involving putt putt!

Now, not to brag…but Rick and I may or may not have tied for mini golf champion. *insert flex. I had two hole-in-one’s though so really who’s the REAL champion? Marinate on that.

Needless to say, mini golf was a blast, and we can’t wait to come back to see Rick and the fam in a few weeks!

For now, Joe and I will continue to enjoy Coyote Lake and later, Santa Cruz! We have gone shopping at the outlet mall, hiking along the trails at the park in which we are staying, and working out at the local Orangetheory gym.

It’s both peaceful and beautiful here, and we are enjoying the respite from the big city.

Stay tuned for what’s to come!

Until next time!

Party In The U.S.A.

We have had a busy week! So busy, the change of pace has almost been a bit jarring. After all, we went from living off grid in the mountains to trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of L.A.

In our effort to inundate ourselves with the big city, we inadvertently jam-packed our schedule with a plethora of activities. At the beginning of the week, Joe and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. When I found out we were staying 10 minutes away from this museum, I knew we HAD to go!

Why was I so excited about visiting a presidential library and museum? Well, growing up, almost every time I visited my grandmother (my mom’s mother) in Bryan/College Station, TX, she would take me and my siblings to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. I suppose presidential libraries are just synonymous with my childhood! So, naturally, when I saw we were close to a presidential library and museum, I told Joe that visiting was a top priority!

Admittedly, it also doesn’t hurt that I’m a bit of a history buff and was excited to see if the library and museum had a piece of the Berlin Wall. After all, Reagan is famous for his speech where he challenges Soviet Leader Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” In case you were wondering and much to my awe, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library DOES have a piece of the Berlin Wall, and it was so surreal to both see it and touch it.

Not only is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library home to a piece of the Berlin Wall but also to Air Force One. I may or may not have squealed after seeing it because not only did we get to see it, but also we got to go inside it!

No pictures are allowed inside the famous plane, but a museum employee was setup at the entrance to take visitors’ pictures. I have included a few of the pictures taken by various museum employees during our visit to the presidential library and museum below. Feel free to laugh at our expense – the pictures are far too reminiscent of cringe-worthy family photos from the 70’s/80’s that you see plastered all over the internet!

Despite the high definition yet low quality pictures, touring the inside of Air Force One was incredible! Various curators are stationed throughout the plane, and their expertise allowed us to fully experience and appreciate Air Force One’s monumental impact and history.

I could honestly write an entire blog post about our visit to the Reagan Presidential Library, but it is only one of our many stops from this past week! I have much more to write about!

A few days after our presidential library and museum visit, Joe’s brother, Rick, and his family took us to Hollywood! From national history to the entertainment industry’s history – history is history, am I right? Ha!

Joking aside, we had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Walk of Fame, placing my hands in the handprints of Hollywood stars at the Chinese Theatre, having a family photo op at the Hollywood Wax Museum, and competing with different family members in various challenges at the Guinness World Records Museum. We stayed out way too late laughing and enjoying each others company!

Though we stayed out late, Joe and Rick were awake bright and early the next day to do some work on our towing vehicle aka the Burb.

“It should only take an hour and a half, 3 hours tops” – famous last words from Joseph Garcia.

Let’s just say 3 hours turned into 10 hours…but hey! Joe and Rick worked everything out, and by the end of the day, Joe was bringing me street tacos and a new and improved Suburban! It wouldn’t be a Garcia family get together if the men weren’t working on some sort of project!

So, that was it, right? Presidential Library, Hollywood, and Rick’s garage? Nope! This week held one more stop! Camp Pendleton.

Yep. Saying we had a busy week was no exaggeration!

My cousin, Evan is a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and we were too close not to make the drive to see him!

We met for Sunday brunch and afterward, Joe and I piled into Evan’s car so that he could drive us around Oceanside and give us a tour of Pendleton! It was beautiful, intimidating, and amazing. Joe and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of national pride and gratitude as we toured the base.

After driving around Pendleton, Joe, Evan, and I went downtown in search of ice cream and to spend more time with each other. Both ice cream parlors we attempted to visit were closed so we found a doughnut shop and ate doughnuts as well as drank iced coffee outside as we enjoyed the sunny, breezy afternoon.

It was so good seeing Evan – who knew California would turn into such a family stop?

We have one more week in the L.A. area before we make our way north for Joe’s work conference. Who’s to say what this week will hold?

Who knows! But Joe and I are enjoying time with family as we make the most of California.

Until next time!