The week I sent you all my last update (6/23) was certainly one of the longest of my life. I had several run-ins with not-so-earnest mechanics and found myself in parts of Las Vegas the resort lights don’t reach, thank god. The RV was towed to 3 different mechanics until I found one who quoted me the same price in person that they did over the phone. By the end of June, we ordered an engine from Phoenix which would take two weeks to build and one week to put in the RV after it was shipped.
Easier said than done.
I spent 13 days in Henderson living out of a 3-star hotel and eating food from the RV’s ice chest (mostly ice cream and cheese - the diet of champions) I filled with hotel ice every day. One disgruntled customer wrote on Yelp “Every employee there seems unhappy, buffet was unorganized and a let down, our in-room safe was almost cut out of the wall, lock was pried off, wifi is so miserably slow, Sbarro pizza has been closed for over 14 months and is still on the website!?” The Sbarro thing really got to me.
In the midst of working with the mechanics and tow companies that week (each tow took on average 4 hours and it was over 105 degrees everyday), I also worked full-time and had several big presentations to clients I needed to prep for. I’m also working on a continuing education program and was compiling final materials for a deliverable that was due the first week of July. And, as a nomad, I was trying to figure out a living situation/plan that could last more than a week. Let’s just say that those who called me between 6/19 and 7/3 had a fifty-fifty shot at listening to a grown man have an emotional meltdown.
Jokes aside, I made the most of my time in Las Vegas and actually enjoyed both the solidarity and the chaos. Just when it seemed like I would be in Las Vegas forever, I had some family surprise me at my door on Saturday 6/27. We spent a few days in Vegas, I finished up my RV business, and bought a one-way ticket to Washington on 7/1 to await word that the RV is back up-and-running (likely 7/27-ish (strong emphasis on the -ish)).
I spent a few nights with two of my younger sisters and two-year-old niece who reside in Seattle and got to wear a jacket for the first time since March. Not idle for long I ventured to Republic, Washington, near the Canadian border, to spend the Fourth of July at my friend Ashley’s childhood farm. Her family casually owns over 800 acres of the most beautiful forestry Washington has to offer, a fact that has seemingly slipped her mind during 3 years of friendship until I got the invite. We spent the holiday weekend lounging on mountaintop couches, setting off totally legal fireworks, kayaking lakes and rivers, and napping atop lake house roofs. I’ll be writing an interesting Safety Minute at work about that last one.
After Republic and Seattle, I rented a car and drove to Yakima where Brad has a handful of awesome friends with open doors. Our time in Washington took a pretty wild turn the weekend of 7/10 when Brad and I were invited to a “riverside camping” trip with 15 of his friends for a guy’s trip.
Having been to over 20 countries and a number of states in the U.S., I can say with 100% confidence that they party the hardest in the Pacific Northwest.
I pictured lazy tubes and a casual stroll down a river with some beers for a few hours, and found out the destination was actually in Oregon on the drive out. Needless to say, Brad did the planning.
Turns out, a few of Brads buddies are experienced at river trip guiding and what I thought was a lazy float (i.e. Phoenix’s Salt River Tubing) was actually white water rafting 40 miles down the Deschutes River. Remember, I found this out on the way to Oregon.
Imagine partying like you’re at a bachelor party in Las Vegas except you’re floating down a river for 9 hours along class 3 and 4 rapids with 16 guys in seven flotation devices. And there’s no bachelor to honor - the only cause for celebration is that it’s a Saturday and sunny in one of the most incredible settings known to man. So really nothing like a bachelor party in Las Vegas, but you get the idea.
We packed two days of camping gear on the rafts (mostly beer) and covered 25 miles on day one - which you would think would result in 16 men in their mid-thirties exhausted at the end of the day. This was the biggest surprise yet.
As you could imagine, it was good, clean family fun. We talked for hours about our mothers and wives, had a bible study around a campfire, and discussed in length about how much we all love our jobs. Nothing too out of the ordinary. And for those who are thinking “well that certainly sounds dangerous,” I want to ease your concerns by making it very clear we stuck by a strict “safety third” mantra all weekend.
Long story short, Bradley Michael Hoffa is an incredible person which is telling by who he surrounds himself with. I made some new friends that weekend and hope I get the invite to “Mancation 2021.”
Many “New Normals” in 2020
Both updates I’ve written so far have been in just the first 24 days of the trip. Interestingly, I feel like I’ve created my own “new normal” in just three weeks. While we have pockets of confirmed plans sprinkled along our path, not being able to plan just ten days ahead on what home, city, or even state I’ll be in has gotten to be just a “normal” part of my thought process. When Brad’s friends ask me “what’s next?” - a question I customarily have an answer to - I’ve learned that just shrugging and laughing is the best answer. Because it’s the most accurate. I was talking to a good friend earlier this week who told me she’d be spending some time in New Hampshire this summer. With her still on the line I yelled “Hey Brad, we’re going to New England after Wisconsin!” and he responded with “Hell Yeah!”
That’s how planning goes for us. And so far, three similar conversations have resulted in me seeing friends I haven’t seen for months or years.
This week I am heads down with work and waiting for word the RV is ready. I plan on some more quality time with nature here in Washington (unless I learn otherwise on the way there) and then will hopefully grab the RV in Vegas before heading to Wisconsin for time with the family. The contingency plan is grabbing the RV after WI on 8/10 and possibly going to Detroit. But, you know… planning.
My “kitchen” in Henderson. I’m used to eating take-out a lot but given the pandemic, RV costs, and the fact that my hotel was in an upscale enough area to have a Wal-Mart, I resorted to eating like I was in college again. It actually wasn’t that bad; you forget how delicious a peanut butter and honey sandwich is when you have more than $.36 to spend on a meal.
This may be my favorite photo of the trip so far. For 13 days my view in Henderson was of a Wal-Mart, In-N-Out, gas station, and miles upon miles of barren desert. A couple days later, my view is the Kettle Mountain Range. What a dynamic shift.
One of the best naps I’ve ever taken. “Relaxation mode” had finally set in.
Such an awesome crew to enjoy the outdoors with.
Ashley’s parents are incredible beyond words. To open their beautiful home to a complete stranger and treat it like a Bed & Breakfast really made me feel at home. I mean, all things considered, each bed I sleep in at night is my “home” as everything is temporary right now. Ashley might kill me but I’d like to take a moment to talk about how awesome her father Dan is (Ann is incredible too, but you really get to know someone when he takes you to the gun range (I taught Dan a thing or two, no big deal), shopping for underground oil containers, and to the high school football field his only daughter was crowned Homecoming Queen at).
He knows practically everything about Republic, including the old railways that ran through it, the amount of gold that was mined, the County Commissioner candidate’s father that he tried to pawn Nikki off to (the bargaining started with “I want a granddaughter”), and as an amateur botanist he clearly knew his land. He’s also a man’s man. He discernibly has a million projects on his properties and knows what needs to be done next on all of them. We’d be in the car ready to take the kayaks to the river and Ashley would be all “DAD LET’S GO!” and he’d respond with something like “One minute, I just have to replace the well water filter, change the tractor radiator pump, and skin this deer with a pocket knife!” Classic Dan.
Since he had no luck trout fishing, I told him I would photoshop something like a shark or the Lochness Monster on the hook. I’ll get to it Dan.
After floating down a river with these two, I made the assumption all river trips were this relaxing. Whoops.
Kayaking in Republic.
I made a pit-stop in Leavenworth, WA on the way back from Republic to Seattle. It’s a small Bavarian village nestled into a mountain-range akin to the Bavarian Alps. Definitely worth a visit on your next trip to the PNW.
This is literally only one of two pictures I have from the rafting trip with people in it. Probably for the better. And my mother would disapprove of me sharing the other so here’s a bunch of dudes sittin’ around.
This was our campsite on night two of the rafting trip, it was surreal. You can the see the train passing on the right, which was awesome when you’re all jacked up on Mountain Dew but not at 5 a.m. when you’re trying to trick your body into sleeping.