Me and the van went on our first major trip last weekend — from San Francisco to Santa Barbara — to visit my family for Thanksgiving. It was a weekend of firsts, so come along with me while I share the adventure with you.

my van in front of a mountainscape

The first major event that occurred was the odometer ticking over to 100k miles. I bought the van at 99.8k miles, so it wasn’t very far into the 300 mile trip that I got to see all six digits change at once. I recorded a short clip of it ticking over, which you can see below. Sorry for the poor quality… I was concentrating on driving :).

I drove halfway the first night and stayed in a Walmart parking lot. I wasn’t the only RV in the lot, but I played it safe and parked between some white delivery vans to stay stealthy. One would have to be paying very close attention to notice my van hiding amongst the others. It was a painless first night, and I got up at dawn to drive the remaining hours to Santa Barbara.

My aunt Katie moved to the mountains above Santa Barbara a couple years ago. She warned me that the drive to her house was steep and windy… she wasn’t kidding! Situated in the Los Padres National Forest, her house feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Dense forest, steep inclines, hairpin turns, and spectacular views surround her property.

the view of Santa Barbara from Los Padres National Forest

It wasn’t too much of a challenge to get there, however. The van took to the hills nicely, and I drove very carefully. It’s a fear of mine to total the van and have to cancel my bigger trip, and thank goodness I never came close to that.

I parked in my aunt’s driveway and I plugged into “shore power” for the first time. It took a bit for me to figure out why the outlets and AC weren’t working (I had to find the circuit breaker), but once I had that figured out I had everything powered up! It was really exciting to have AC on, my laptop charging, the interior lights on, the fridge running, etc. It actually felt like a home, and I can’t tell you how cool it was to be a houseguest but also have my own room with me. It’s going to get even better when I have the van made up all cozy; I can’t wait!

My aunt’s boyfriend is a handyman and he helped me fix some little things that were bugging me on the van. One of those things was fixing the latch mechanism that keeps the hood closed, and to do that we had to visit a junkyard. We ended up getting thrown out (long story), but I did get to see a glimpse into my van’s future:

a 1990 Dodge Roadtrek in a junkyard

When I wasn’t working on the van and spending time with my family, I was exploring the area. My aunt took me to a really cool area called Lizard’s Mouth, which is basically a huge playground of gigantic sandstone boulders overlooking the city of Santa Barbara. You can wander all you want, climb huge rocks and just feel like you’ve gone backwards in time. It was a really cool place, and I recommend it to anyone in the area!

Lizard's Mouth in Goleta, CA

That’s pretty much it. Family, turkey, nature. A great Thanksgiving weekend, all in all.

On the way home I snapped this picture of the sunset over Pismo Beach. I could get used to this lifestyle, and I think I will!

sunset over Pismo Beach

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