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Road Trip: Westminster, CO to South Lake Tahoe, CA. 3 days 1,098 miles, 18+ driving hours.
Leaving behind our home of the past few years, we officially embraced our new life as digital nomads. At the time of writing this, we have officially been living and working from the coach and on the road for eight weeks!
We’ve done much driving, had a few glitches and learned to change plans on the fly – it’s all part of the adventure! So the time has flown by, which is hardly surprising when we take a moment to reflect on what a whirlwind of a time it’s been.
Note: don’t be fooled by the map info above. It may say it takes 16 hours and 8 minutes to drive this distance in a car, but it takes a whole lot longer in a coach!
Leaving our home in Bradburn
Our last day in the hood was a hectic one, with Marc working from the coach while I finished cleaning and moving our last things out of the townhome and into the coach, in between entertaining the stream of last minute visitors that popped by to see the rig and say goodbye. We officially drove out of Bradburn Village, the lovely neighborhood and community we’d lived in together for 3.5 years (many more for Marc and Coda) around 7pm on Friday the 13th of June. Yet, it didn’t feel like a Black Friday at all. Admittedly, I had some wistful feelings about who and what we were leaving behind, but mostly, the reality of the exciting adventure we were embarking upon began to dawn on us – this is for real now! There’s no going back, at least, not right now. Will we go back at all? Honestly, we don’t know. That’s not a decision we need to make anytime soon.
Marc was definitely very excited. Having lived in Bradburn Village for 9 years and Colorado all of his life, he was ready for a change. Ready to not only travel to new places and meet new people, but to experience more of life and the world. As a Colorado native, he hadn’t spent a lot of time traveling outside of the state, except for the occasional work trip, and he’d always been the ‘safe, secure, stable job kind of guy’ who had a nice house and car, went to work, paid the mortgage etc – so this lifestyle is definitely a step out of the box for him in many ways. As for me (Julie) surprisingly, I was a litte more apprehensive. As a reasonably well travelled Australian who had moved from Sydney to Colorado alone back in 2008, the idea of change and moving to another location wasn’t new to me. And while I was looking forward to the adventure, I was also processing a lot more emotions than Marc. I’ll share more about the impact and adjustments we’ve both had to make in a future post as I am still trying to work through some of them!
We didn’t travel far our first night living in the coach – just 25 minutes north to Boulder where we spent the weekend catching up with friends and “driveway surfing” – that is, parking your RV overnight out front of someone’s home that you’re visiting.
Marc loved the change of scenery, after 9 years of walking Coda around the same neighborhood her entire life and Coda loved it too, sniffing out all kinds of exciting new things!
We dressed up in our finest for the famous Boulder Airport 1940s Ball and had a blast dancing the night away with over a thousand others also dressed 1940s style.
The next day we hosted a small farewell soiree in the coach with more friends in an ideal location by the mountains in north Boulder, before heading to Bear Creek Park in Lakewood, CO for a few nights.
Our final farewell get together was with Marc’s family, enjoying drinks by a campfire and s’mores for the kiddos.
Finally, six days after we’d vacated our ‘stick and brick’ home, we left Colorado on Thursday June 19, 2014, en route to California!
Farewelling friends and Miller moths in Cheyenne, WY
Our first stop was Cheyenne, Wyoming, where we driveway surfed yet again – this time out front of our friends, Linda and Tracy’s home – friends from our Bradburn neighborhood.
A great meal of barbecued kebobs, fabulous company and their sensational home made “Rhubarb Slush” with Captain Morgans Spiced Rum made it a fun night. After dinner, discovering a fully landscaped Zen garden, pond and waterfall in their backyard was an unexpected treat. Who would have known such an urban oasis existed in Cheyenne, Wyoming?
When we got back into our coach, we were greeted by a dozen or so Miller moths who had gotten wind of our adventure and decided they wanted to tag along! That provided about twenty minutes of entertainment by Marc, who (after my quick Google search for tips) was eventually successful in catching and removing them so we could get to sleep.
Dry camping in a Walmart parking lot at Rock Springs, WY
Late Friday afternoon we hit the road again. There’s not much to see west of Cheyenne, WY, so after driving 3-4 hours, we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Rock Springs, WY. Yes, camping overnight at Walmart is allowed at some (not all) stores – you have to call ahead and check first! It’s actually a very convenient place to stop and sleep on your way to somewhere else and also very common – in fact, there are entire directories dedicated to the Walmarts nationally that welcome RVers who dry camp. We parked out back by the big trucks and other RVs (there were even a few Prevosts = million dollar coaches), grabbed some supplies and had a good night’s sleep before hitting the road again early on Saturday – our biggest driving day of the trip.
If you’ve ever driven across I-80, you’ll know understand when I say there isn’t a great deal to share about the experience. It’s a long, fairly barren highway, with lots of trucks, some rest areas, fuel stops and not much else.
Intuition saves the day in Utah
We found a nice rest area as we entered Utah, where we stopped at Echo to take the obligatory “state line” pix. It turned out to be just as well we did stop there for lunch and a short walk. On our way back to the coach, I suggested it might be a good idea to check all of the tires, just to be safe. So check he did, at which point Marc discovered the safety chains had fallen off somewhere along the way and, more importantly, that one of the tires on the tow dolly (towing the Mini) was shredding and missing half it’s rubber! We exchanged a look of surprise, relief and gratitude all at once – glad we’d listened to my intuitive nudge to check the tires. Fortunately, Marc being the organized guy that he is, had a new spare on hand, so was able to change the dolly tire in the parking lot, before heading westbound again.
Online shopping on the road to woop-woop
Despite the fact that I-80 is a long, lonely stretch of road, somehow, I still managed to find enough of interest or beauty to take some photos and video…even if only to capture the fact that it’s a long, lonely stretch of road! Being the drivers that we are, we enjoy open roads and long drives and never find them boring, especially with good company, a stack of CDs and the internet. Our WIFI hotspot worked beautifully almost all the way across the country, even in the middle of ‘nowhere’ or ‘woop-woop’ as we Aussies would say. I even managed to place a couple of online orders – with Amazon and eTrailers.com to order a new spare for the tow dolly – to be delivered to our first campground in Lake Tahoe – all while Marc was driving at 65 mph. OK I’ll admit I was pretty excited about that!
Surreal and eerily beautiful is how I would describe our drive through the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah, the largest of many salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake. It’s known for land speed records at the “Bonneville Speedway” and was featured in the movie The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and TV series such as Knight Rider and Top Gear. The road is long and mostly deserted, with blue skies that seem to go forever along with miles of hard, crunchy white salt lining each side of the highway.
Locked in at Winnemucca, NV
Around 7.30pm we arrived in Winemucca, NV – a popular overnight spot for travelers on I-80 as it’s pretty much surrounded by nothing else. Winnemucca has a population of around 7,500 and is famed for a 1900 bank robbery by Butch Cassidy who got away with $32,640, and numerous brothels, though there are far fewer now than back in the 1980s.
Thanks to our trusty iPhone Yelp app (don’t know what we’d do without it), we quickly found a great place to eat at Pig’s BBQ and Pub where we shared a surprisingly good meal and a Fat Tire beer that was almost as big as me! Did someone say buzzed?
Although Winnemucca boasts a few gambling houses, the closest we got to one was dry camping in a truck stop behind the Model T Casino, pictured below at sunset.
We awoke on Sunday to discover yet another glitch – we were unable to get out of the coach main door. Bugger! The inside door latch had broken. It’s moments like these we are thankful we ended up with a coach that has a driver side door – an uncommon but very handy option. Oh well, nothing we can do about the broken door latch now, we would deal with it later. At least we had a backup door to get in and out of the coach in the meantime.
We hit the road, headed for our final destination – South Lake Tahoe, CA, loving the change of scenery more than the actual road to get there! Highway 50 between Reno, NV and Lake Tahoe, CA took us on a journey of twists and turns and increasing elevations that slowed us down at some points to speeds as low as 30mph. Not to mention a tunnel that’s only 12 feet high – except in the very middle where it’s 14 feet – our coach is 12 and a half feet tall! It’s times like these I’m glad Marc is doing the driving – it’s definitely not for the faint of heart!
The last leg seemed to take forever as we wound our way up then down the mountain. We were excited to finally be surrounded by the towering green pine trees, as we caught glimpses of the beautiful clear blue body of water that is Lake Tahoe.
OK, we’ve enjoyed the journey so far, but we’ve had enough driving, lonely highways and mishaps for one weekend. We’re ready for some lush scenery, a two week stay in one location and the time to really adjust, settle in and have some fun!
Experience Lake Tahoe in this short YouTube video.
What 12 things did we love most about Lake Tahoe? Find out here.
3 thoughts on “First 9 days living on the road: Denver to Lake Tahoe”
So great. We did the same trip a few years ago and loved it. So much open space! Happy travels.
Thanks for sharing Kathleen! There can even be beauty in ‘nothingness’ huh?