On the Road: The Good & The Challenging

That’s right, you read that correctly – we finally started traveling in our bus! It was two years in the making, with plenty of sweat, tears, and yes, even a little blood shed along the way, but we’ve actually launched. And it feels pretty darn good.

At present, we’ve been traveling for just two months, and while this isn’t a very long stretch of time (just ask Charlie, our campground host in SD who has full-timed for 15 years), it has given us a chance to get a sense of both the fun and the challenging aspects of travel. We still have a lot to learn about extended traveling, but here’s a snap shot of our experiences thus far.

The Challenging:

Navigation & Route Planning:

Turns out that google maps isn’t always great for navigation when it assumes your default vehicle is a car. During our first trip, we learned that we’d have to make some adjustments in how we route plan based on our engine’s capabilities, elevation, road grades, and bridge clearances. Our engine is about 25 years old and doesn’t have quite as much horsepower as later models, so we try not to push it too hard and make travel plans accordingly. While visiting mountainous areas, we consult the Mountain Directories app to find out about any steep grades in advance. Keeping our vehicle’s abilities in mind adds a whole new layer of complexity to route planning that we hadn’t previously experienced with cars.

Steep Grades

Story of our lives now πŸ™‚

Secondary Transportation:

Prior to departing, we decided to leave our car in east Texas under the care of Ryan’s family and opted to pack bicycles as our primary mode of off-bus transportation. This has been really nice in that we’re getting more exercise, but does make us somewhat beholden to the weather, the road conditions, and the local terrain of our destinations. (While staying in Cheyenne Mountain State Park outside of Colorado Springs, heavy thunderstorms meant we skipped the 7 mile bike-ride into town and opted for an Uber instead.) We’ve talked about other options (::cough:: dirt bikes ::cough:: cough::), but for now we’re just going to stick it out and keep biking.


Given that it’s the thick of summer, the main consideration in traveling with our pets is heat. The air conditioner we installed enables everyone to stay cool whenever we’re parked, and driving with all of our windows open provides enough air-flow to keep us all comfortable while on the road. However, when preparing for a drive, we do take a few precautions in case we encounter heat-issues (stocking up on ice packs, water, and running our 12 volt fans, etc.).

With respect to actually driving with the pets in the bus, we’ve had to make a few modifications to make sure everyone is comfortable. Our cats weren’t too happy riding alone in their original kennels at the back of the bus, so we installed a large crate for them in the front near us. It took a few trips to get used to all of the road noises, but they’ve adjusted fine to the concept of road tripping. Our dog seems most happy when she can snuggle into the couch cushions, so we’ve installed a doggy seat belt allowing her to stay safe and cozy on the couch while driving.

The Good:

Warm Welcomes:

One of the nice things about traveling in the bus is the reaction we get from people once they realize what it is. In just about every place we’ve stopped – from gas stations to main streets to campgrounds – people have approached us to share their enthusiasm about our bus. Having a big blue bus behind you is a great icebreaker when meeting new folks and it’s been a nice feeling to have strangers seem glad to see you.

Seeing the Country:

Though we haven’t been on the road long, we’ve already had opportunities to experience the excitement of new places. Yes, it can be weird to roll into a town and not know where to get a decent meal, whether you can buy beer after 5pm on weekdays, where the nearest grocery store is, why that guy is wearing short-shorts, or really, just anything else about a place – but it’s pretty fun to discover new things at every stop. We’re getting to see both major destinations (think national parks, major cities, etc.) and smaller, off-the-beaten path locations as well (hidden gem state parks, funky small towns, etc.). I’m already excited about the kick-ass new additions to my post-card collection!

Oh, and did I mention – great photography opportunities too? πŸ™‚


Seeing People:

The combination of Ryan and I each having large families and each having attended college outside our home regions has added up to us both having a network of people we care about that sprawls large areas. Between the two of us, our friends and family are spread out from coast to coast. We’re trying to make it a point to see as many folks as we can along the way. So stay tuned peeps, we may be coming to a town near you soon!

We can hang our hats everywhere:

In contrast to the potentially disorienting element of traveling, it’s nice to feel like we’re never far from home. So far, road tripping in the bus has given us a way to balance the new/unknown aspects of traveling with the comfort and reassurance that comes with home. Home is where you park it. πŸ™‚


Sure, we’re in an extreme, searing desert plain, but gosh, it sure is homey inside!


Good vibes:

Despite the challenges inherent in being on the move, we both feel pretty darn good about what we’re doing. Sure, I’m prone to the occasional bout of, “Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?!”, but truth be told, traveling on the bus makes us both very happy. Knowing how long we worked to make this idea a reality just makes the whole experience extra satisfying.

7 thoughts on “On the Road: The Good & The Challenging

  1. Pops says:

    As one of those far flung family members, it was absolutely great to see and work along side you and Ryan in Colorado. We are so happy that you have been able to fulfill your dream. Can’t wait to see the BBB pull up in front of our house.


  2. Grandma says:

    I’ve been anxiously awaiting these posts and seeing pictures as you make your way to wherever. What an adventure! So good to hear that all the blood, sweat and tears has been worth it. Best wishes for things to continue so beautifully.


  3. Tyler says:

    Inspiring stuff–thanks for sharing all the logistics and ups and downs of your adventure. It’s something Helen and I are seriously considering.

    –Tyler (Darby’a bro, Aaron Bell’s bro-in-law)


    • Justine says:

      Thanks for reading, Tyler – let us know if y’all ever have any questions about planning/logistics of living on the road. We’re still figuring our all the ins and outs but are always happy to share what we’ve learned along the way!


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