leg 1 – nevada to florida (post 3 of 7)

This is a guest post by Kim Bagby, Steve and Mimi’s daughter-in-law. At Mimi’s invitation, she and her husband, Joe, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recently completed trip:


Las Vegas, NV

Flagstaff, AZ

Algodones, NM

Amarillo, TX

Dallas, TX

Baton Rouge, LA

Dauphin Island, AL

Fort Walton Beach, FL



“What are we doing? We’re really doing this??” is the sentiment as we roll out of Las Vegas. It’s late in the day, way later than we should be leaving. We’ve frantically thrown the finishing touches on the car. I run through the house picking up. “Please universe, don’t let us get into an accident. If we roll the stupid car, someone else will have to clean this disaster of a house. How mortifying.” My anxiety levels might be a little high.


Our neighbor, Chicago, has been watching days of our rushed planning and building from the comfort of his garage. As he stands in our driveway and agrees to keep an eye on the house, I tell him we will be home in a month or maybe 3 days – could go either way. I mean these words. He shrugs.


Back to “What are we doing?” You may not be familiar with that moment where your big-talking, sass-ass catches up with you…I, eternally the loud mouth, most certainly am. That moment and I are long, fast friends. That moment is where I live (although I also now live in my car). There’s a bit of warm fear in the pit of my stomach, followed by one of two things: backing down or following through. I’m not one to back down, and I’ve been talking about living in my car for weeks. The moment is here. I won’t lie – I’m in disbelief. We’ve been doing all of this work, yet my brain struggles to wrap itself around the concept. I’m actually supposed to live in my car now?


Oh shit.


It’s snowing in the Grand Canyon. Thirteen years in Las Vegas and neither of us has ever seen it. We confirm the weather; our Grand Canyon-less streak continues. Plan A is out the window. We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know where we’ll stay. Trying to avoid snow, we rule out Sedona or anywhere closer to Las Vegas. Holbrook. What’s Holbrook? Has literally even one person ever heard of it? Well, it’s a city near a National Park where the temps are supposed to be above freezing. There’s at least one Walmart where we can probably park. Sounds like our first stop.


We roll out of town, past Lake Mead, and across the Colorado River. The wind is fierce. I’m driving a square with a Thule on top (that is now officially our home) across the country in winds strong enough to toss around semi-trucks. We’re all cool here, no big deal. Right?


a camper, and a river

After a short while, we reach a scenic overlook of the Colorado River. Should we stop? Sure, why not. It starts to set in that we can do whatever we want. Whatever we want. Yes, we are hours behind schedule. Who cares? The sun is low and the river is winding through some valley I should know the name of. The dogs are wild and the wind is crazy and everything is really, really pretty (except for a pair of tourists who are overly aggressive in their scenic-overlook-make-out-session. Get a car house, already).


We roll on. My anxiety calms down a bit, giving more space to my excitement. Day turns to night and it dawns on us that we aren’t going to get anywhere near Holbrook. I watch the temperature gauge on the dash sink, my heart a long with it. It’s foggy, drizzling, and there’s snow on the ground. It’s late at night now and the roads are wet. They’re not yet icy but promise that outcome. Well. I guess we’re going to stay in Flagstaff, where the low is 28°. I’ve camped one night in my life, as a child in a neighbor’s pop up. It was summer. My violently purchased (when at an REI Garage Sale, do as the violent hippies do…) sleeping bag is rated for 45°. Um, Joe? How cold are we going to be? Like kinda cold or dying cold? He doesn’t know. Google (yes, I do actually try to Google this) proves useless.


Maybe I should have legitimately camped just once before this trip. What a newb. What a mess. The needle moves on the anxiety-excitement spectrum.


Walmart, an establishment I visit as infrequently as possible, is often the choice of RVs in need of overnight parking. We locate one near the interstate and circle the lot. It seems as if Walmart allows overnight parking…unless you’re in Flagstaff, Arizona. Signs are posted everywhere that we will be towed. It’s midnight, so Covert Walmart Parking Ops it is. We walk the dogs down the street, return, and somehow convert our car without opening any doors. We never intended that to be possible, nor practiced it. High five, Buttry.


Immediately, a chill runs through the car.  We burrow into our sleeping bags. I’m not sure who’s idea it is, but one of us grabs a dog. The dogs, not usually allowed to sleep on our bed, are THRILLED. Or maybe they’re cold, who knows. We all end up surprisingly warm. If you’ve read our “process” post, you know that at some point in the night I wake up sick to my stomach and tear up all our chemical-laden blackout panels. So much work went into them, and so little time is taken to determine they are unusable. I fall back asleep and awake the next morning warm, comfortable, un-towed.


SUCCESS. You guys – am I a legitimate camper now??! I am, right?! Just watch, I’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail in no time.* Do I feel gross brushing my teeth in a Walmart bathroom? Absolutely. But hey, it looks like I might actually be able to do this. I’d almost describe myself as giddy. Dirty, and almost giddy.


this photo is colder than it looks


We chat with another couple that parked in the night. They are clearly professionals, they pull out their camp grill, eat, and clean up in what seems to be 5 minutes. Must be nice to be the Walmart parking lot cool kids.


We pack up and move on. Woefully behind schedule at this point, we have a lot to see and a lot of miles to cover.


But we made it through our first night and it wasn’t even hard.


The next several stops are a blur. We see crater holes (totally underwhelming), a calmer night at a casino truck stop (legitimately delightful), farmer’s markets (delicious), and a giant blue swimming hole (worth it in Santa Rosa). We hop on Route 66, and off, and back on again. We stop and stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and we see Santa Fe. We make dinner and clean up at midnight in an Amarillo campground, to the dismay of our neighbors. We begin the exhausting cycle of finding fast, cheap, gluten free to-go meals when we need to cover more miles quickly.


santa rosa blue hole


dog-friendly hotel under the threat of storms

We encounter the threat of tornadoes in Oklahoma and decide to go south through Texas. The threat turns to reality for several unfortunate Oklahomans. We opt for a hotel in Dallas when hail threatens, and luckily watch the storm amount to nothing more than lightning and rain. We wake the next morning in Dallas bored with our options for stops. We decide to go further south to Baton Rouge. We invite ourselves to Joe’s mothers house.


photo taken from Mimi’s refrigerator

Our car skills are building, and we’re more than willing to sleep in the car in Baton Rouge. Mimi offers us the guest bed, a shower, and the kindest travelers gift of all – wifi. Showers are few and far between, wifi is desperately needed. We take over her home. Leeeroy and Harry meet their Uncle Duffy, resulting in an unholy cacophony of barking at the slightest neighborly sound. Three small dogs have never protected a home so well, or so loudly.



The next day, Joe’s mother is off to the airport for her own journey and we’re off to the Gulf. We’ve spent every night of the past week in a different location and promised ourselves a few easy days on the water. We didn’t anticipate how difficult it can be to secure a campsite on the Gulf. Our idea was far from original.


After extensive research and numerous fruitless phone calls, I locate an RV park in Alabama (now doesn’t that sound like something two youngish, liberal adults are dying to experience?). It has space for one van. If we leave immediately, we might make it before they close for the night. Cue the mad dash for the Deep South.


Oh, the Southern United States. Where life moves slower, people are more talkative in the grocery store, and then they blow by you in a shit-kickin’ pickup with a Confederate Flag or a “This is My Peace Sign” (crosshairs of a rifle) bumper sticker.


I don’t know about this, Joe.


I don’t know about this, Harry and Leeeroy.


I’m already uncomfortable with the overly friendly strangers and proud display of Confederate flags Alabama brings. To assist with the emotional discomfort, the universe layers on the potential for physical distress.


Are you aware that Alabama is one of the top five worst states for fleas? Coming from Southern Nevada, where fleas don’t exist, I certainly was not. My first day in the state of Alabama includes educating myself on dog fleas via spotty cell service. Unlike the moments of fear facing whether we would freeze to death in our car in Arizona like dumbasses, Google proves quite helpful with fleas. Now aware of Alabama’s flea rank (#3, according to Banfield), our second day in this fine state is largely occupied with locating preventative treatment. And this is how I find myself gloved, spraying down two agitated Yorkshire Terriers, in the dirt, with presumably highly toxic pesticide, behind an RV park in Alabama.


Joe’s RV park kitchen skills on display

Dauphin Island is a slow, sleepy town of small shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. It was cut in half by Hurricane Katrina. A structure built to offer protection from the BP oil spill helped re-deposit sand and make it whole again. We select the area because it’s home to one of the few dog-friendly Gulf beaches. The beach is wide, thanks to the new sand deposits, pristine, and almost deserted. The dogs are confused by the noise of the ocean and respond by biting at the waves. They withdraw with mouths full of seawater and sand. We stay for two nights. Joe cooks amazing meals, we politely but very briefly interact with our RV neighbors. Everyone is “Southern Nice” but it’s obvious we don’t fit in here. It could be our age, it could be how we vote. It could be that we’re sleeping in a car with trashy Reflectix window panels instead of a behemoth luxury RV complete with actual window coverings and portable flower beds. Who knows.


dauphin island, hashtag no filter


We pack and politely leave after our last night. The eastern/southernmost point of our journey is Destin, added specifically so Joe could cross Florida off his list. The drive there brings torrential rain.


Just as I’m not interested in a flea infestation, I’m not interested in wet dogs sleeping in my car. We Hotwire a hotel, one of the few still available. The drive is short. We arrive anxious to stretch out, do laundry, and visit the beach. I check in, look at the room, and return to the car where Joe and the dogs await.


“This place is kind of a dump, dude. I don’t know if we should stay here…” I can tell he thinks I’m being a princess.


“Also, Hotwire didn’t mention they charge fifty dollars each night for the dogs…” Joe is not swayed, thinking we can sneak them in.


“Fine. Give me a dog. It’s room 131, I’ll text you when I’m in and then you can sneak in your other son.”


I sneak in undetected and text Joe that he’s free to begin his own dog smuggle. Although he has the room number, I ensure he knows that he can stop at the giant hole in the hallway ceiling – our room is the one right underneath it. His mind begins to change before I open the door. The smoke detector is wrapped tightly in a bag, someone has been smoking (Cigarettes? Meth? Both?). There is heavy spatter of something(s) on all of the chairs. The beds are full of hair and the dogs keep finding floor mysteries to snack on (the dogs are still alive, if you’re wondering). A woman in the next room is screaming expletives about a swimming suit.


We check out.


We wind up the coast in the rain, seeking a dog friendly hotel anywhere. Our standards are low – no ceiling holes, no mystery spatter, hopefully in Florida. Traffic snarls, the sun sets. Reviews on TripAdvisor guide us to a Fort Walton Beach La Quinta using adjectives like “beautiful” and “superb.” I roll my eyes and book it. I’m tired, I’m hungry. Yes, let’s go see how superbly beauuuuutiful a last-minute Floridian La Quinta can be.


The manager is quiet and seems kind. You can tell he is proud of his property. We’re already 10 steps ahead of the last place. I open our room to find wood (ok, wood laminate) flooring and vaulted ceilings. There’s a giant, comfortable, hair-free bed. The décor is more up-to-date than my own home. Our wet dogs cost nothing and are not the worst behaved in the building. It’s win/win/win/win, and I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never roll my eyes at a La Quinta again as long as I shall live, so help me God.


We’ve done nothing but drive, eat, and socialize for days. How are we exhausted? We drag in our bags, we drag in our dogs. We sleep well, leave the dogs at dog daycare, and lounge on pristine, sugar-sand Florida beaches. The temperature is perfect but the wind is brutal. No swimming allowed today. I watch the waves roll in; I listen to them crash on top of one another, crash onto the shore. At ease, at peace in a beautiful place. I wonder if we could have driven to California instead and saved ourselves about 2,000 miles.


fort walton beach


We do a deep clean of the car. Laundry, coffee, car wash, coffee. We pick up the dogs and sleep well again. We find ourselves at the end of the first leg of our trip.


The dogs are tired and surprisingly well behaved. They’ve taken to the car better than we ever thought they would. Neither Joe nor I have threatened divorce yet. It dawns on me that this trip will be the longest amount of time we’ve spent together since meeting 14 short years ago. I look forward to the next few weeks with my favorite person as navigator. He possesses a razor-sharp talent for finding exits that bear both gas and gluten free menus. He remembers to clean the windshield at least 75% of the time. His Texas highway ad-libbed rendition of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” is sublime.

Oh Bagggbyyy you, you have a disseeeeaase…

They call it Cel-i-ac, they call it Cel-i-ac

And Bagggbyyyyy youuu, you can’t eat wheeeeeaaat…

Cuz you’ve got Cel-i-ac, you’ve got Cel-i-ac

(chorus below)

He excels at repeating the Google Maps Navigation for his mildly hard-of-hearing driver. His patience rivals that of the great Steve Buttry himself. The more kind words and memories I hear about Steve, the more I see Steve in Joe. Strange that it’s taken so long to see how the father shapes the son.


So it’s been a week and a half. It’s been freeing, it’s been exhausting. Tomorrow we head to Baton Rouge for the first of the memorials. The time moves quickly and slowly, slowly and quickly. I’m both eager to move on, and loathe to leave each place.




* I will literally never, ever, ever hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s unlikely I will ever even lay eyes on it.

leg 1 – nevada to florida (post 3 of 7)

This is a guest post by Joe Buttry, Steve and Mimi’s middle son. At Mimi’s invitation, he and his wife, Kim, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recently completed trip:


When we finally left it seemed underwhelming. We kinda just got in the car and went. Like we were going to the store, but with the dogs. We didn’t even make it all the way down the block before we realized that I had not locked the door. I don’t know what I expected, but that was not it.

I guess that part of it is that we don’t really take road trips anymore. We take the occasional weekend drive down to the ocean, but anything more than that involves a trip to the airport. That has a much more involved send off. There was no TSA for this. The magnitude of this trip did not match what we had to do to actually leave. Maybe there should have been someone there to ask “Are you sure that you want to do this? Do you know how many miles 6,000 is? That little rescue dog is not great at riding in a car. Do you know how hard your father would roll his eyes at the prospect of having a dog on his lap for 6,000 miles?”

I have always been prone to impulsive ideas. As a child they were kept in check by my parents and the fact that impulsive ideas usually require some money and I spent my allowance on baseball cards as soon as I got it. College was nothing but a series of impulsive ideas. Even the act of going to college was a snap decision. I never lived up to my potential in school. I had no real plan for what I would do after High School. I had taken the ACTs and done well, but that was mostly to get my parents and teachers off of my back. I remember sitting on the couch as Dad walked through the room. I stopped him in the middle of something and his mind was clearly elsewhere. I said “Hey, I think I am going to go to college. What do I need to do to apply?” My father was a pretty unshakeable man. It is one of the few times I saw him totally at a loss. He stammered out something about getting me all the stuff that I would need and that he was so happy that I had made this decision. I’m fairly certain that if asked him to give me a piggyback ride down to the registrar’s office he would have done it.

Without a doubt, the impulsive idea that has had the greatest impact on my life was moving to Las Vegas to be with a girl that I had been dating for a little over a year. I knew then that this was one of those crazy ideas. I knew that it could end poorly and if it did it probably wouldn’t end just a little poorly. But this girl was unlike anyone I had ever met (and is still unlike anyone I have ever met). If you had told me that it was going to end in a year, I would have gone to have that year. Just like this trip, as I pulled out of Omaha there was no one telling me I was being crazy. There was no one encouraging me to stay and work a 9-5. I don’t know if it is just that my parents have always been that supportive, or if they knew I wouldn’t have listened and they were saving their breath. They did get married at 19. They could teach me a thing or two about crazy.

But back to our current insanity. We both had our reservations. Messes stress Kim out, but they seem to follow me around. We would be sharing a 36-square foot space. Could we really do this for a month?

Harry, our rescue dog, has never been good in a car. He no longer gets sick, but he always wants to be on the driver’s lap. For long drives (like halfway across town long, not road trip long), he will eventually settle for the passenger’s lap, but this drive would be much longer than any he has ever been on. We took him with us to the beach once and tried a sedative, but it never seemed to really calm him down. He was tired but still managed to whine a lot of the way. And a whining dog gets on both of our nerves.

We changed plans before we crossed the state line. There was snow in the Grand Canyon. I always think of Arizona as just a desert. Hot when Vegas is hot. Less hot when Vegas is less hot. That is not the case. In late March, when the snow has melted from the mountains around Vegas, there is still plenty of snow in northern Arizona. (Thanks, public school) We chose Flagstaff to stop for the night. The low overnight was a little below 30 degrees. We found a Walmart just off the interstate and claimed our spot among the RVs. Why ease into hotelement life? I have always felt like if my life goes off the rails and I end up an addict or homeless that my rock bottom would happen inside a Walmart. Good thing we were in the parking lot. We switched over from car mode to sleep mode and settled in. It was quite comfortable, but in the middle of the night Kim had to pull the fabric off of the window coverings because they smelled strongly of fire retardant (something we didn’t notice in the expanse of our normal house, but was pretty overwhelming in our car house). Between the construction of the bed platform keeping us up off of the floor of the car, sleeping bags and the two dogs that we shoved inside of them, we stayed perfectly warm. The next morning, we pulled up stakes, said a quick hi to our fellow car camping neighbors, and took off. First night was a win. The only downside is I can no longer say that I have not brushed my teeth in a Walmart bathroom.

We stopped off at a privately-owned meteor crater. It’s a tourist trap and no dogs are allowed inside the crater. Kim ran inside and reported back that it was better in pictures, so we hit the road quickly. We caught a little stretch of Route 66 through Winslow, AZ (Cause if we are doing tourist shit why not?) and I took a Big Lebowski themed version of the picture everyone else was there to take. Fortunately, a street corner in Winslow, Arizona is boring for kids so all of them were more focused on their phones than my questionable sign.

Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, AZ really hating the Eagles

We stopped down the street for a nice lunch on the tailgate of the Element and got back on the road toward New Mexico. Kim looked up parks along the drive and picked out Petrified Forest National Park as a good place to hike with the dogs. It sits along the edge of the Arizona/New Mexico border. The hike we chose winds along fallen petrified logs. There was beautiful scenery and the dogs loved the exercise. We even optimistically bought a year park pass with intentions of hitting more on the trip and when we take the dogs out to parks close to Vegas when we got home.

We passed into New Mexico and headed to Albuquerque. Our plan was to hit farmer’s markets along the way and at least try to eat healthyish for a little while. I googled for a bit and found that the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is better than Albuquerque, so we adjusted the plan to go through Santa Fe the next morning.

We struggled to locate food in Albuquerque (Why doesn’t everywhere stay open as late as Las Vegas? It is one of the few things this town gets right.) and settled for some BJ’s Brewhouse. Then we rolled up the road toward Santa Fe and struggled for a little bit to find a place to stay (The Santa Fe Walmart does not allow overnight parking). Eventually, we found a nice truck stop/ casino and set up for the night. We learned something important on that night; Truck stops beat the shit out of Walmart. It becomes easy to find the nice ones (Love’s are consistently nicer than all of the others). They know that people plan on sleeping there. It’s not weird to brush your teeth in the sink. Also, it has the distinct advantage of not being Walmart. For real though, Walmart sucks.

We drove to the farmer’s market and parked with relatively little trouble. I went in and got eggs, tomatoes, and chicken sausage while Kim dealt with the dogs. Harry found a nice spot with heavy traffic on one side and people eating on the other and took a giant shit. Then I found a unicorn restaurant. A place with a dog friendly patio and gluten free options. Kim decided she didn’t want to go in though so I grabbed order to go.  It was great. We made a quick stop at the Santa Rosa Blue Hole, because Kim loves swimming so much that she will stop just to look at a place where people like to swim.

We learned our lesson from the night before and made a new rule; We should figure out where we are sleeping before we need to sleep (not a bad rule for life). We planned our stopping point ahead of time this time and decided to try a campground (read: we stink and need to shower). I booked a tent site at the KOA in Amarillo, TX. They didn’t even bat an eye when I asked if we could sleep in our car instead of a tent.

I feel like we were in an unusual situation. The people who were there to camp probably looked down on us for not bringing a tent and drum like the rest of the hippies. The RV people might have looked down on us for not having a real RV. Is the sizeist nature of the RV community just something I made up? Do the little old people in the GIANT RVs look down on the RVs that don’t require a special class of driver’s license? Do the ones towed by giant trucks look down on the vans we looked at renting? Am I never going to be a part of that culture if I don’t tow a car behind my RV? Does all of this just exist in my head and these people are just happy to be out on the road?

What I do know is that my father, who loved a well packed vehicle, would be immensely proud of how much shit I fit in that car. Everything had a place. For the first leg of our journey we had a little extra space, but once we picked up the guitar everything had to be in its place in order for us to close the doors. The Thule storage box on top was the only place to add cargo, unlike the behemoth Semi truck sized RVs that we parked next to. That space was very limited.

We got to the camp site just before dark. I whipped up a quick meal of chicken tacos. It was my first time cooking on a camp stove and I did it mostly in the dark. It didn’t go too poorly. Sadly, washing the dishes in the dark went much less smoothly, and after a battle with a stubborn cheap dog poop bag Kim was ready to have some car wine and go to bed.

Kim, in her Element

The next morning, we discovered that we are headed into some rough weather. We decided that the best plan of action was to head south to Dallas and find a hotel. This got us off of the interstate and onto a state highway which made the drive through Texas much more bearable. It was still Texas, but a better version than what the interstate shows. We found a La Quinta in Arlington and head there. La Quintas allow dogs and have Wi-Fi, and this one was in a good area allowing us to get out of town the next morning without experiencing much morning rush hour. It also had nearby food, so Kim ran some errands and grabbed us some Mexican takeout. The storms we were dodging (and the hail we were worried they may bring) barely missed us.

The next day we got up and started to plan for the day. Our planned path took us through northern Louisiana on Interstate 20, but when we looked at what a good stopping point would be there were few options. The best course of action was to drive a little longer today and head to Baton Rouge. My mother, always a good sport for my flights of fancy, told us she would love to have us. She pointed out that she wouldn’t even have to wash the sheets because we would be there soon anyway. A longer drive also gave us the chance to get the dogs more accustomed to the marathon drives that were ahead.

It is great to see my mom. We invaded her house like something out of Christmas Vacation, unloading the contents of our hotelelment into her pristine house, slightly bleary eyed from a long few days of driving. The dogs introduce themselves to their uncle dog, Duffy. Leeroy promptly dumped all of Duffy’s toys on the floor, found his favorite then immediately eschewed it for his new favorite until all toys had a turn, then began over, repeating the process until it was time for bed. Harry, always quick to spot a sucker who will let him on the couch, made himself at home cuddling with my mom.

Leeeroy, Harry, Uncle Duffy

I made sure that the guitar fit in the space I had allotted (it did, but a second far less nice guitar did not, so there is still a guitar of mine at my mom’s house) and ran a load of laundry. It was a nice visit, but very quick. My mom was getting ready to travel to see my aunt and cousin, and we were getting ready to travel…… somewhere on the gulf coast. We retired early.

The next morning, I got up early to send Mom off to the airport. We took our time getting loaded up and started to work on a plan for the day. We researched some campground options near the beach and discovered that many are farther from the water than they may let on in promotional materials. We originally wanted to go to Destin Florida for a few days, but decided that a better plan was to start by car camping on Dauphin Island, Alabama and continue on to Destin. The only problem was that to make it to the campground we had to leave. That second. We left like it was a scene from the movie Twister, only instead of life saving weather research, we had to get our car/house to an RV park before it closes. Also, there are dogs.

The drive was short because we did a long day getting to Louisiana. It was also interesting. We were in the no bullshit south.  The drive to Dauphin Island took us through a rural area south of Mobile. The last recorded lynching in America occurred in this area in 1981. Confederate flags became more and more noticeable. Looking back, that rural area seemed to have a darkness to it. As if it was trying to work off a karmic debt that it had only recently started making payments on. The kind woman who ran the RV park was a little unsure of the long-haired van dweller she was now confronted with. Fortunately, I didn’t want to discuss Satan, I just wanted a soda and a bag of ice.

Harry surveys the Dauphin Island causeway

For all of the darkness and mixed feelings, Dauphin Island is kinda cute. For the first time in our trip we had more than one day in the same place. We got there in time and headed for a quick walk on the beach, but it is getting dark so we cut our walk short so we (I) can get our dinner cooked. I made a stew with purple potatoes from the Santa Fe farmer’s market, chicken, pinto beans and some bone broth I stole from my Mom’s freezer. It was really friggin good.

We spent the next day running some errands (It turns out that we needed to get some flea treatment for our dogs before they caught fleas and infested our car/house. Something that I never considered living in the desert) and hitting up a local store called “Ship and Shore Supplies” for some food and a little liquor. Kim got a swim suit (because she forgot hers, even though swimming is her most favorite thing ever) and headed to the beach for a while. I sat and read and watched the dogs. It was a nice quiet day. I’m sure that Kim would have liked to spend more time at the beach, but I enjoyed a little time doing nothing.

The next day we moved on to Florida. The drive was not too bad, but we had to drive around the bay of Mobile, so it was twice as long as it could have been. The forecast called for rain and lots of it so Kim booked a hotel, whose name I will withhold to save them embarrassment (Extended Stay America. 4615 Opa Locka Lane, Destin, Florida 32541. Oops.) We arrived around 3pm. Kim checked in while I stayed with the dogs. She came back out to the car and told me that the room wasn’t quite up to her standards in the “the last person’s hair has been cleaned up” department. She grabbed Harry and headed in while I took Leeroy to go to the bathroom. I texted her and ask the room number and she response was “131. Stop at the giant hole in the ceiling.” Her directions, while unusual, were completely accurate.

I mean, really?!

I found our room under a large hole in the ceiling. I’m talking about a hole that looks like a man has fallen through the ceiling. Maybe while carrying something. Like a truck tire. Comically large. I went inside and I was a little surprised. I typically have a lower standard when it comes to hotels than Kim. But this place was gross. The smoke detector was wrapped in a plastic bag, because the last people in here were smoking. And it didn’t smell like cigarettes. Or weed. More like old batteries dipped in Windex. I am a generally hairy person, and, as a man in my mid-thirties, some of that hair stays behind once I have left. My shedding ass was stunned by how much hair is in the beds. (Extended Stay America. 4615 Opa Locka Lane, Destin, Florida 32541) The chair (which was a basic black office chair, pushed up to a rickety dining table, none of them real furniture) looked like it had been used to beat the makeup off of a sad clown. It was so gross I sat on the bed. For a second. Then I stood. For an hour while we tried to find a new place. We could hear every word of our neighbor’s conversation. It was colorful. And Loud. And Angry. With no promise of stopping anytime soon. Even the dogs didn’t want to sit down. I may be anthropomorphizing here, but they looked at me as if to say “I know that twice a day you have to yank on my leash to stop me from sticking my head into my dog brothers stream of urine. I know that every time I vomit I try to eat it, then while you are stopping me my brother does eat it. But please don’t make us stay here.” We looked over our options and found a La Quinta down the road a few miles in Fort Walton Beach. We booked it. On the way, out a man who was visibly a drug addict told me he likes my dogs. Both of them growled. I considered doing the same.

In the time that we were in the murder hotel (For clarity, the Extended Stay America. 4615 Opa Locka Lane, Destin, Florida 32541. Look it up on trip advisor.) a storm rolled in. Kim shot a quick boomerang of the rain through the windshield to put up on Instagram. The drive to our new hotel took a while, but it was quite nice. It had a nice clean bed, and laminate floors, and an area to walk the dogs with poop bags and a trash can. But we were really just happy to be out of the Extended Stay America (4615 Opa Locka Lane, Destin, Florida 32541).  I looked up a place where we could get some gluten free food and ran out and grabbed some tacos and something to drink. I thought about burning my clothes just to be safe. I didn’t, but I kind of wish I had.

I brought the food and drinks back to the hotel and we had a nice little meal. We planned a trip to the laundromat and to clean the car/house for the morning then some beach time in the afternoon. We went to sleep with no concerns of what living creatures might be sharing our bed with us.

The next day we got our plan rolling. We dropped the dogs off at a daycare, because freedom. We parked at a public beach and walked down to a resort’s chairs. An attendant informed us that we could rent them and we do. I sat in the shade and read while Kim walked the beach and pined to get in the water, but there were high winds so she could only watch the waves. We hit the laundromat and I stayed with the clothes while Kim went to a car wash. We met back up and headed for the beach with clean clothes, linens and some of the bugs washed off the grill of the car. We grabbed the dogs and loaded them up into our clean car/house. I got more tacos from the same place (what? They were good. You find a different place with gluten free options every night. It’s a pain in the ass.) and settle in to our bed where the only hair was mine. Gross.







process (post 2 of 7)

This is a guest post by Joe Buttry and Kim Bagby, Steve and Mimi’s son and daughter-in-law. At Mimi’s invitation, they are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their on-going trip:

So you want to turn your Honda Element into a #hotelement? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a handy-dandy guide, complete with photos! This post will have a lot of details, so Kim (purple text) and Joe (green text) will be working on it together. No sense in boring everyone with the same post twice, and if anyone is insane enough to try this all of our research will be in one spot (you’re welcome, hippie). Should any of the following text be confusing, we’ve linked two video tours of our Element at the end of the post. Two things to note:

  • All of this is merely suggestion, it’s what’s worked for us.
  • This stuff is EXPENSIVE. We hit up a lot of sales (including a perfectly timed REI Garage Sale for a crazy cheap Thule) and did a ton of bargain shopping. We don’t suggest you pay full price for almost anything on the gear list.

With that said, let’s get started!


K: Step one! Know a bunch of dirty hippies. They love this shit and will be your most valuable resource. Don’t know any hippies? Start eating Non-GMO/organic, drinking kombucha, and using essential oils. Hit up a drum circle. You’ll be on your way in no time.


J: My step one was to figure out where I was going to build our #hotelement. I chose my garage. Step two was to remove all non-essential equipment from the space. I skipped this step and made a giant mess, which will be waiting for me when we get back home.


Phase 1: Research

K: OK for serious – I started this project with a ton of research. Well, as much research as I could get done on the clock while at work. Pintrest and Google image searches were helpful in narrowing down the type of build we wanted to do. YouTube tours were my holy grail. Here are a few great starting points:





There are also a few apps we’ve used that have helped:





Find Me Gluten Free (sorry)

Google Maps (duh)

Instagram (so our families could tell we were still alive)


J: I drew inspiration from my favorite childhood vehicle, the A-Team van. I began my research with Netflix. Additional research indicated I am a tall person. This meant that the bed height had to be as low as possible to make it easier to get in and out.


Phase 1 Summary:

For our build, we made the following overall decisions:

  • Full bed with driver and passenger seats flat to accommodate tall person. Back seats would be removed.
  • Roof cargo would be necessary.
  • Bed platform would have to be tall enough to fit all kitchen and guitar cargo underneath.
  • Blackout windows, Reflectix, and mosquito netting all needed.
  • We would have to buy like a ton of stuff…we don’t camp.


Phase 2 – Build

K: I highly recommend you marry a carpenter that owns both a table saw and a chop saw.


J: As a carpenter, when I design something like this I tend to start by looking at specific challenges I’ll face.


K: I’ve been told I think catastrophically, so this is me in my element (HA IN MY ELEMENT). What if we get a flat? What if we get into an accident? What about clothes for the memorials? HOW DO I CHARGE MY PHONE? We had a lot of topics to address.


J: Let’s start with the bed. It consists of two main components – understructure and bed platform. I used 3/4” ply for everything. Understructure started with a box running crosswise.

Understructure box – secured

This box is not flexible or hinged, it’s secured with ratchet straps to the backseat floor anchors. From this box, all other supports are hinged. This way we can easily access the spare tire. I based the storage compartment measurements off what we planned on storing (guitar, books, water jugs), but these compartments can be any size.


Bird’s eye view of the understructure layout – we might have forgotten to get a real photo of this one


K: Height of the bed platform was also determined by our storage underneath – specifically, the guitar and the stove. Our platform is 15” overall, with 14 ¼” clearance underneath.


J: The bed platform (top) has two pieces – one piece that is secured and unmovable (attached to the box) and a second piece that is hinged to both the other top piece (piano hinge) and the structure below (loose pin hinges). To secure the hinged portions and eliminate road noise, bungees attach the bed platform to the two rear tie-downs. I painted all of the structure and put cheap outdoor grill matting on the top of the platform to protect our mattress.


K: Structure built! High five! Extra points if you color match the bed structure paint to your car trim…which Joe did. I hear that Ikea has mattresses which exactly fit the width of an Element. We found that our futon mattress did as well, and saved money by using what we already had. Ikea was our Plan B.


Full size bed, cargo netting, battery operated lights. Neighbor’s car – he thinks we are crazy


J: We were left with empty space between the guitar and the bed platform. I installed two drawers for kitchen utensils and dishes to utilize the space.

Joe showing off his kitchen drawers


K: We tried to keep the rest of our kitchen supplies near the back of the car so cooking would be convenient. We ended up storing our clothes and packs towards the interior, with our food/cooler/stove/dog food to the rear.


Kitchen layout – cooler, stove, drawers. power supply (in empty guitar storage area)

J: Let’s talk storage. Our biggest challenge was transporting our clothes for my dad’s memorials.


K: We discussed several options, and decided we couldn’t properly transport formal clothes without some type of rooftop cargo box. This space has proved invaluable. Initially purchased specifically for our suit/dress/shoes, it’s become home to our cold weather gear, extra dog food, and a catch all for rarely needed supplies (tool box, extra Reflectix, portable dog crate etc.).

#hotelement with thule

One of our hippie van dwelling advisors (thank you, Karolina) suggested cargo netting for the interior of the Element as well. We purchased two bicycle cargo nets and used sash cord to rig them to the interior roof. The nets reach from the rear of the car to just behind the front seats. We’ve found this space to be most useful holding our bath towels, pajamas, and basically anything you’d need going to bed or waking up. Also great for keeping paper towels easily accessible.


J: I found the door storage pockets convenient for human and dog toiletries.


K: One of our biggest and continued challenges was/are the windows. We experimented with several options for blackout panels and mosquito netting. I’ll cut to the chase – Reflectix was by far the fastest and most effective way to block the windows. We started out with black duvetene around the Reflectix. It was fabulous – total blackout, basically no gaps. And then we slept in the car for the first time and realized how heavily duvetene is fire treated.


J: There was a smell issue. It was, for once, not dog-related.


K: I was able to sleep about two hours before it made me sick. The covers we had so lovingly sewn were torn up and thrown away not even halfway into our first night. Perfect blackout product, completely unusable. We haven’t worked on a better blackout solution yet.

Mosquito netting was one of the items we ran out of time for. We purchased several cheap dollar store mosquito nets and cut them to window size with about 2” of excess on all sides. When we want to sleep with the windows open, we throw the netting up with some magnets. Each net is stored in each door’s storage pocket. There are definitely better solutions for this, but we haven’t had time to find them.


Reflectix and mosquito netting – a horrifically ugly solution, but a solution nonetheless


J: Once we figured out how to blackout the car, we had to figure out how to light it.


K: I had two runs of battery operated LED wire string lights that I had purchased for my office at Christmas. I zip-tied the battery packs to the “oh shit handles” over the rear seats. The lights wound to the rear roof tie downs and back to the driver/passenger “oh shit handles.” BOOM! Done. It was enough light and we each had a string for our own side of the car. It was probably the fastest project undertaken on this build.


J: One of the YouTube video tours listed above discussed fans and power supplies, which turned out to be total necessities. We found a fan that could be powered by both battery and USB. One has worked for us, but two would have been better. We also purchased a GoalZero Yeti 150 power supply to charge our phones and laptop on days we don’t drive.


K: This power supply is awesome because you can charge it with 110V (normal outlet in your house), 12V (cigarette lighter), or add a solar panel. In theory, this is the perfect solution for our power needs. However, it’s brand new and doesn’t seem to be keeping a charge very well. Further investigation into this will happen when we get home…


Phase 2 Summary:

Make sure your bed structure is flexible enough you can access your spare tire, and secure enough that it won’t go anywhere in case of an accident. We based our entire build off our cargo needs. Various window coverings are a must. A power supply isn’t necessary, but sure is (should be) awesome.”


Phase 3: Gear List



Stove – Coleman Classic Propane Stove (2 burner) http://www.coleman.com/classic-propane-stove/2000020943NP.html

Cooler – Stanley Adventure Cooler, 16Qt http://www.stanley-pmi.com/store/stanley/en_US/pd/ThemeID.39334800/productID.325306100

Water storage – WaterBrick 3.5 gallon (with spigot) http://www.waterbrick.org/product/waterbrick-standard-3-5-gallon-blue/

Dog food – OXO Good Grip POP Containers https://www.oxo.com/products/storage-organization/food/pop-container-big-square-4-0-qt-3-8-l

Various bins, dishes, cookware, and kitchen utensils – either previously owned or purchased to fit our drawer size


Grill matting – Cheap from any hardware store http://www.homedepot.com/b/Outdoors-Outdoor-Cooking-Grill-Accessories-Grill-Mats-Pads/N-5yc1vZbxc2

Mattress – standard futon size with washable cover

Sleeping bags – evrgrn Crash Sack (Kim) https://www.rei.com/product/882939/evrgrn-crash-sack and Ozark Trail Deluxe XL Warm Weather (Joe) https://www.amazon.com/Ozark-Trail-Weather-Rectangular-Sleeping/dp/B00N375Y8A

Previously owned sheets, pillows, one heavy blanket



Roof – Tuhle Force (Large), 50” square bars with 460 feet and 3109 fit kit https://www.thule.com/en-us/us/cargo-carrier/car-top-carrier/thule-force-l-_-1688652

Interior ceiling – Topeak bicycle cargo net (2) https://www.topeak.com/global/en/products/basket/324-cargo-net



Power supply – GoalZero Yeti 150 Power Station http://www.goalzero.com/p/164/goal-zero-yeti-150-solar-generator/

Fan – Honeywell Turbo On the Go Fan http://www.target.com/p/honeywell-turbo-on-the-go-black/-/A-16974338

Lighting – Cheap Walgreens battery operated LED strings



Windshield – ACE Hardware Solar Shield reflective mylar sun shade http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1401283

All other windows – Combo of Reflectix and black fabric http://www.homedepot.com/p/Reflectix-16-in-x-25-ft-Double-Reflective-Insulation-with-Staple-Tab-ST16025/100012574

Windows capable of opening – dollar store mosquito netting



Fire Extinguisher – First Alert Rechargeable http://www.firstalert.com/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=item&id=936

Carbon Monoxide detector – Kidde Battery Operated http://www.kidde.com/home-safety/en/us/products/fire-safety/co-alarms/kn-cob-lp2/

First Aid Kit – Sportsman Series Big Horn medical kit https://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Medical-Kits-Sportsman-Bighorn/dp/B008CZZV6I



Chairs – Moon Lence Outdoor Ultralight Camp Chair (Joe) https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Lence-Ultralight-Portable-Backpacking/dp/B00Y2A6OAO/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 and Compaclite Oversize Folding Chair (Kim) http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=121006756

Bath Towels – Gaiam Microfiber Yoga Towels http://www.target.com/p/gaiam-thirsty-yoga-mat-towel/-/A-51130084

Dog Crate – Nature’s Miracle 26” Port-A-Crate http://www.petsmart.com/dog/supplies-and-training/crates-gates-and-containment/crates/natures-miracleandtrade-port-a-crate-dog-crate-5163317.html

Tool Kit – made from our own tools, including screwgun, pliers, multi bit screwdriver, channel locks, electrician’s scissors, mat knife, super glue, assorted bed hardware, webbing, carabiners


Phase 3 Summary:

Buy whatever it is you think you need, these are just the items that worked for us. We feel that we’re using everything we have and that we are not missing anything major.


Our #hotelement video tours:


  1. Drive Mode https://youtu.be/2Ab8dbiUDHw
  2. Sleep Mode https://youtu.be/Cn4AprZUqzI



K: I did the majority of the research, but Joe did the majority of the building. He did an amazing job and will be accepting future offers for Honda Element conversion work. I’d recommend giving yourself more than 4-5 days to do a project of this size. We probably wouldn’t have needed the Thule if we didn’t have the guitar and formal clothes, so look for it on a Craigslist near you soon. A 45° sleeping bag is surprisingly warm (good to 28° so far) with one Yorkie added. Overall, the build was pretty fun – I got to exercise skills I haven’t used in 15 years (turns out, I do remember how to thread a bobbin). Our Element has been super comfortable, I’d call our build a success…just don’t ask me about going to my first REI Garage Sale.


J: This type of construction and problem solving plays to my strengths. I got that from both of my grandfathers. I took over the construction of any prefab furniture at the age of 12. My father had almost endless patience, but it was no match for cheap pressboard and allen wrenches. I have a great appreciation for the efficiency required for a trip like this to happen. There isn’t much room for clutter. Just about everything must have a place and it must be in that place. Now I just need to spread that into my garage…



the decision (post 1 of 7)

This is a guest post by Kim Bagby, Steve and Mimi’s daughter-in-law. At Mimi’s invitation, she and her husband, Joe, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their on-going trip:


It’s been a hard year.


It’s been a hard year and I’m not a writer. I don’t know the first thing about telling a story people want to hear. I wish Steve was still here, he could probably give me a pointer or two. But if he was here, I suppose we wouldn’t be living in my car right now. I might be a bit ahead of myself already (the first of what I’m sure are to be numerous writing blunders).


Well ok, I’m definitely ahead of myself, but that’s how I roll. Fifteen steps ahead, hypervigilant, mapping out A, B, and C choices for each and every detail. Nevermind that we can’t finalize any details until we get to them, I’m still mapping out our options. I like love well-laid plans. Apologies for how that translates to my writing (or if you end up playing in any part of this journey).


I am (We are?) such a cliché. Mid to late thirties, so done with our jobs. I had taken a chance with a job outside of my industry in a position for which I seemed quite well suited. It turned out that the position was not well suited for me. It had been a year of struggle, preceded by three years of entertainment struggle that led me to search outside the industry in the first place. Steve’s precarious health situations had always been woven into our life together. He’d long since recovered from his first round of cancer when Joe and I met. The lymphoma diagnosis came, and Steve’s path through it was brutal. He made it, though. We barely had time to catch our breath and pancreatic cancer struck. Another good friend of mine had been living with pancreatic cancer. It hadn’t ever seemed like a walk in the park, but still. He’d been living. So maybe that’s partially why my ever-cynical outlook turned hopeful. That was always Steve, defiant in the face of looming threat. He seemed ok at Thanksgiving. Not great, definitely not robust, but ok.


It was terminal.


An unassuming question became the theme for our next few months: now what? Joe had just quit his job to go full time with our own lighting company. I was the adult with health insurance and a regular paycheck, and I was miserable. We were about to leave on a trip; we had to make a decision within days.


I quit the week after Thanksgiving.


I went back to freelance trade show coordination. I committed to a massive show in the spring, a show big enough that we could pad the bank accounts and secure health care for the rest of the year. I would end up vested in my pension. All of the adult boxes were checked, which pleases me so, and like that (poof!) we were going to leave Las Vegas for Baton Rouge. We would help Joe’s mom and dad, we’d take the dogs and get an apartment. Joe could spend those last few invaluable months, weeks, days with his dad. Like I said, fifteen steps ahead with A, B, and C options. I’ve read Joe’s companion post to mine and – spoiler alert – his words are impolite yet precise: “Cancer does not give a shit about your plans.”


Before my show went onsite, Steve was gone. The speed both merciful and cruel, a devastating relief.


For at least the second time in three months, now what? Joe stayed in Baton Rouge to help sort the “things” of death. I was thrown into 14-16 hour days for weeks on end. We both emerged foggy. We’d quit our jobs (stupid?). We’d saved a bunch of money (smart!). We could take a few weeks, months, whatever without freelance work if we so chose (questionable?).


Joe was ready to go back to work. I was done. I needed to be away. We’ve spent our years in Las Vegas working unbelievable hours, multiple jobs, and creating our own company. The last year was rough in a new way and I’d reached a limit.


But again, now what? What a rare occurrence, to possess both free time and money saved (although both in finite amounts). We’re childfree, still 100% able to be irresponsible adults. We do have dogs. Those sweet, loving, irritating creatures cost a fortune to board, so they’d need to come along.


Looking at us, you might think Joe possesses more dirty-van-dwelling-hippie friends. WRONG! The results of a quick, unscientific count: Joe (0) Kim (at least 5). Not only was I aware that people willingly drove around the country living in their vans, I knew people that had done it (and 4 of those 5 people took their dogs!). But we, in the exact words of one dirty-van-dwelling-hippie friend, “are NOT van people.” If we tried it, it would be unlike any trip we’ve ever taken. I owned a vehicle that lent itself to the project (shout out to all those Honda Element owners – ugly but versatile!). It already had its own hashtag on Instagram, FFS. Let’s recreate that first conversation:

Kim: “You know, we could build a bed in my car and drive around the country for a month or so. The dogs could come.”

Joe: “No.”

In his defense, the man is 6’4” and has a bad back. But something stuck. The next day, Joe had found a luxury van (he gets me) with kitchen, bathroom, king sized bed, the whole nine. DONE DEAL. Yeah, what is that saying about champagne van taste on a Honda Element budget? Further research proved RVs were cheaper…but neither of us were ready to commit to being 75-year-old retirees just yet (no judgement, just not ready for that step at 35). We researched, we ended up out of options. But somewhere along the line, Joe’s hard no became a soft yes. He started talking about #hotelement life more frequently, he seemed to settle into the idea. A few days later, an actual yes. I was, and continue to be, dumbfounded. I grabbed a calendar – we did have a few work commitments lined up, along with a group trip to New Orleans and two memorials for Steve. This left us one week to figure out how to do it – how to build it, what to pack in it, how to live in it, and where we were going.


So here we are, as I so frequently find myself – with an overall plan, back up plans A-B-C (more like A through M), unable to finalize any of the details until the last second. Still asking “Now what?” on the daily, along with the slight variation of “Now where?”, dragging you kind readers along with my mediocre (at best) blogging skills. I’ll at least try to include some pretty pictures ( https://www.instagram.com/2roadsdivergedblog ), and to park in as few of your driveways as possible.




the decision (post 1 of 7)

This is a guest post by Joe Buttry, Steve and Mimi’s middle son. At Mimi’s invitation, he and his wife, Kim, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their on-going trip:

I probably wouldn’t have turned my wife’s SUV into a camper and driven five thousand miles with my dogs if FEDex hadn’t broken my guitar.

Sure, taking a turn as a guest blogger is a good way to honor my late father who died seven weeks ago from pancreatic cancer. But I could have found a way to do that without googling “Walmart overnight parking”. (Many allow it.) And my brothers and I are already planning a trip to a Royals game. Every time any of us watch a game we will think of the time we spent at games with our Dad. (It is unclear if we will be sleeping in our cars.) I could have (and still may) gone with the memorial tattoo. Some little symbol that holds a meaning that few would understand. I could throw myself into religion, or drugs, or therapy, or working out. But none of those sound that appealing, and they don’t solve the problem of my guitar.

Oh, the guitar. It’s a long story. And here it is. I play left-handed guitar. It stems from a deep seeded desire to be a little bit different. It was a horrible decision. Left-handed guitars are hard to find. There is, however, a store in Houston that sells nothing but leftys. It’s a thing in the left-handed guitarist community. Last October my wife and I went to Austin for Halloween with some friends, but we decided to move our departure from Las Vegas ahead a few days and surprise my Dad for his birthday. We then drove from Baton Rouge to Austin through Houston, stopping at Southpaw Guitars. And I bought a guitar. It is a nicer guitar than a musician of my talent deserves. Jim Duncan, who started the shop in 1980, told me he could ship it to me and even waited until I got home from Austin to do so. About a week after my return, I got the package, immediately unboxed it and strummed a chord. And something was wrong. I had never really heard an acoustic guitar do what this one was doing. I flipped it over and discovered that perpendicular to the neck, just below the headstock was a crack. Not a hairline, “probably nothing” crack. It was a “is this guitar just pretty firewood” crack. Just to underscore the point, the crack ran right through the Gibson Custom Shop logo as if to say “well, it was a custom shop instrument …..”
I called up Jim, sent him pictures and he had it shipped back immediately. (For what it’s worth, anyone looking to buy a lefty guitar should do it from Jim at Southpaw Guitars.) His in-house guitar tech fixed it (no small feat), even hand painting the spots in the custom shop logo. The only problem left to solve was that neither of us felt safe shipping it. It languished in the shop for several months.
I ended up driving from Baton Rouge to pick it up almost a week after Dad died. It had been an intense week and I felt like some time alone in a car would do me good. So I drove from Baton Rouge to Houston and back in a single day. The next problem was getting the guitar from Louisiana to my home in Las Vegas.
Which brings us back to how we made the decision to turn my wife’s car into a camper, which is without a doubt the weirdest of my life. We had planned to spend a significant portion of our time (think months) in Baton Rouge to support my Mom and Dad. But one thing that anyone who has dealt closely with cancer can tell you is that cancer does not give a shit about your plans. So, when Dad’s death came sooner than we had steeled ourselves for, we were left with choice. We could either try to return to life as normal or we could take that time and do something with it.
A quick side note: “Life as Normal” for us is not actually normal at all. We both work freelance which means we work in brief sprints that send our life into upheaval followed by periods of relative calm. We already had sprints planned that would make space in our lives for a long stretch of calm. We each had gigs that we had committed to back in Las Vegas (Kim’s much larger and draining than mine) before anything could commence. And they gave us time to figure out what that “anything” would be.
The other big thing we had to consider were actually two small things; Leeroy and Harry. Leeroy and Harry are two Yorkshire terriers (Harry weighing in at 8lbs, Leeroy tipping the scales at a robust 10lbs) who dominate entirely too much of our lives. They both can be a handful. They both have their issues. We could not, in good conscience, foist these issues onto a friend who offered to watch them. And the vet charging us a fortune to board them is a different problem. When we travel we can end up spending a lot on boarding dogs (for which they never seem grateful). The original “move to Baton Rouge for a while” plan included the caveat that we would have to bring the dogs with us. So, for a new plan to work financially, the “anything” would have to include the 2 dogs.
The clear answer was an RV. We could rent one and it would have everything we needed. We would have all of the space for all of the guitars and yorkies that one could dream of. I even found a large van that was outfitted as a small RV. It was perfect. At least it was before we learned that they charge more for mileage than they do to rent the vehicle. We looked at the budget we had set and it became clear that we would have to come up with another plan. Kim’s internet research had already revealed an option that I immediately shot down. YouTube is full of videos of people showing off their #hotelements. (Yes, her solution was an effing pun.) Turn her Honda Element into a hotel. Hotelement.
Yet it seemed that the only feasible option. It was decided. We would get an Instagram, buy a bunch of plywood and turn my wife’s 2009 Honda Element into a rolling pun/camper for the two of us. And our dogs. And a guitar. For a month.