Once the decision was made, the logistics started. My partner Gabby and I were going to fly out to Sacramento to pick up the RV and start our journey home, but there was some preparation that was needed. First, this is COVID times, and we needed to lay some ground rules. We would stop only to refuel, buy groceries, look at pretty scenery, and sleep. When we went to stores out of necessity, we would wear masks, and sanitize both our hands and items we bought to keep ourselves from becoming vectors. Some people think this is overkill, some people don’t, but our view is that if we can do something that is a very minor inconvenience to us in order to keep others safe, why on earth would we not do that?
As we prepared for the trip, we inevitably told some of our close friends what was happening, and as is so frequent in impromptu adventures, our great friends Lizzie and Bruno wanted to join. We’ve road tripped and backpacked with them before, so we knew it was a great travel dynamic and were very excited to have some additional company on this journey. The plan was hatched that we Gabby would fly out first to buy the RV, Lizzie and I would meet her in Sacramento to enjoy a weekend of any repairs/cozying up the RV we needed, head out to Yosemite National Park, and then come back through to get Bruno the following week and begin the trek east. As we are all navigating working remotely, our schedules varied and we needed to fly in on different dates, and at different times, but we were all very flexible with when we got going, what we did, and how we would go about adventuring in our own country.
Skipping ahead to the first leg of the actual traveling, Lizzie, Gabby and I found quickly that:
- Yosemite National Park is very difficult to get reservations for in normal times in the summer,
- COVID had decreased the capacity of the park significantly, and
- We weren’t going to Yosemite.
While it was very disappointing news (Yosemite is a bucket list place for sure!), we brushed it off and decided on heading to Lake Tahoe instead. I had a friend who lived there, and we could park our RV in his yard, and see a beautiful place we had never been to. A win in our book for sure.
As we headed out of Sacramento up and over Donner Pass to get to Tahoe, we discovered that a 2005 RV struggles to climb 6,000 ft in 105 degree weather. Since RVs can’t talk, ours communicated to us non-verbally by overheating on the highway. At the time, we were unaware that it was simply an overheating issue, and there was some general concern that we had just spent a bunch of money on a real heap of garbage that left us stranded on the side of a highway in northern California. Despite this concern, spirits were high and we were all pretty calm.
One thing I have learned in years of travel is that things will go wrong. They just will. You can plan as thoroughly as you want, take every possible precaution, and still things will go awry. To be a good traveler, and to truly enjoy traveling, you must be flexible and have the ability to roll with some punches. When things go wrong, the key thing is to keep a level head, evaluate your situation, and think critically about best next steps. While these moments tend to be the most stressful while they are occurring, they are often looked back upon with laughter and a good story. Good experiences and bad experiences are both meaningful when they are shared experiences, and when you take the time to learn and grow from them.
Once we determined that we would be able to get the last stretch to Tahoe and evaluate further from there, we were back on the road and pulled in just in time to catch a great sunset over the lake with my friend Kyle.
We spent the weekend hiking, kayaking, swimming, and social distancing in the funnest ways possible. We were learning the ins and outs of the RV, like how to use the generator, empty the black water, and fill the water tanks. Just learning about the RV and how to operate it, as well as learning about the culture surrounding RV lifestyles could fill an entire blog, but that’s a bit less entertaining I think.
Lake Tahoe is a huge lake, the second deepest in the country at 1644 feet at its deepest point, and it is FREEZING! My good friend Ben (Kyle’s brother) ran a kayaking rental place on the shores of the lake and invited us to take a few boats out for the day to explore the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the wind made for some pretty big swells that were challenging to paddle through. A little bit of sunburn and some very cold swims later, we went back to the RV to cook some ramen as the inaugural meal in the new rig (no, college students, you don’t have a complete corner on the ramen market). We sat around playing board games and telling stories, while planning our hike for the next day. We wanted something that was challenging, but not crazy, and that would give us a classic Tahoe landscape. Kyle suggested the Five Lakes Loop near Alpine Ski Resort, and it was decided.
This hike was extremely beautiful, bringing us up around 9,500 feet and giving us great views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. So, another thing that we learned is that oxygen is extremely important, and there is significantly less of it when your hike starts around 8,000 feet! We were struggling for breath the first mile or two, but we got a little bit used to it, and when we finally reached the fourth of the five lakes, we stopped to have a swim and some lunch. The lunch was good, the swim was freezing, and the company was spectacular. Travelling solo is fun, and there is definitely a time and place where that enhances your growth, but I absolutely love sharing my travels with the folks that I love. Shared experiences form some of the strongest bonds, and that is true of all parts of life, not just traveling.
We finished our hike, went back to the lake to jump in one more time, then packed up and prepared to leave early in the morning. We said our goodbyes to Kyle, shooed a bear away from our RV (yes, really! He was eating out of a nearby dumpster.) and went to sleep. The next day we would head back into Sacramento to get Bruno, and then begin the journey in earnest!