Having owned a business and worked together every day since before we were married in 2010, the thought of hitting the road and living in less than 300 square feet never gave us even a moment of pause. It’s almost funny how frequently before, during, and since returning home we’ve heard, “are you guys still married?”. In answers to everyone’s question, we are still very happily married. In fact, I’d say that we’ve even more happily married having removed an immense amount of stress from our lives by selling the vineyard and winery.
During our trip, we learned a few things about how we like to travel and what works best for us as a couple and as travelers. It’s probably become clear if you’ve followed our blog or social media posts (check out our Instagram and Facebook for photos of our travels) that we are “those” people that pose with Jack Daniels (Lynchburg, TN), sit atop a giant fiberglass jackrabbit (Joseph City, AZ), eat a Pork Chop Sandwich because it’s the local delicacy (Butte, MT), and seek out the building that was used as a fictional restaurant (Fillet of Sole) in a James Bond movie (New Orleans). Seeking out off-the-beaten-path tourist traps, taking silly photos at popular roadside stops, and popping into kitschy souvenir shops (because you can never have too many books about mid-century modern architecture or Route 66) requires the ability to make spur-of-the-moment decisions to stop, pull over quickly, or turn around to go back to get that perfect photo. As you can imagine (or maybe know firsthand) this is difficult, if not impossible, when pulling a 30′ trailer behind your 22.5′ truck.
Perform an online search or peruse an article for Airstreams and other RVs and more often than not you’ll see a gorgeous photo of one sitting in a wide-open area surrounded by nothing but fields of wildflowers and beautiful mountains, alongside a flowing stream, or on the sandy shores of a beach. If you choose to visit national parks, wilderness areas, and other areas throughout the western part of the country, there is high probability that this could be your backdrop. However, head east and the spaces suddenly become a lot less open and the emptiness is increasingly harder to find based on the much denser population. Living in the West, we thought that heading east to explore a part of the country that for us was virtually unexplored, except for Jay’s time spent in the greater Boston area and trips to Florida that we had both taken as kids, was a great way to unwind from our seven years of winery owning craziness and see some of the most famous sites in the country. Don’t get us wrong, we had the trip of a lifetime and saw a large amount of our country in a relatively short period…but it had some unexpected challenges.
Living in Western Colorado, it’s not a struggle to find a quiet road or wide shoulder on an off-ramp to pull over and hop out of the car should the need arise. To be honest, it’s something that we took for granted until we were in the east. There were times when we had to drive more than 100 miles to find a place just to pull off the road, whether it be to stop and pop into the trailer for a minute or to park long enough to have lunch. As for finding gas stations with diesel and a large enough space to get the truck and trailer into and out of- well, that is another discussion entirely (seriously East Coast, what is your aversion to having diesel pumps??). If the only viable places to stop throughout much of the east are designated roadside rest areas, gas stations, and big box store parking lots, you can see where pulling over to take pictures of Big Betsy, the Giant Lobster (we’ll be back someday, Islamorada) is pretty much impossible. And stopping at Fayard’s, a lunch counter “serving the Greatest Poboys man can offer” in the back of a gas station in Biloxi, Mississippi- nope, not going to happen.
It was on Day 88 as we were driving through a mix of fog and snow in the Texas Panhandle that we started to talk about our next trip. Part of the motivation to buy a trailer and travel the country was so that we could fulfill a dream of driving Route 66 from start to finish, and taking a full three to four weeks to be sure that we saw every bit of it- even the crumbling tourist camps, rusted neon signs, and dusty abandoned desert towns. Having mulled over it for some time, I finally worked up the courage to admit that I thought that pulling a trailer on Route 66 would be more of a hassle than not and would detract from the overall experience. As something that I have dreamed of doing for a long time, I admit that I’ve read an embarrassing number of books about Route 66 and know that the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona is one of three remaining Wigwam Villages (motel chain), the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma is supposed to have THE best chicken fried steak, and the corn dog was invented and originated at the Cozy Dog Drive In in Springfield, Illinois (and we must try one…for research purposes). Thankfully, Jay agreed that towing a trailer was not how we wanted to experience Route 66.
It wasn’t long before we started discussing when and how we wanted to travel Route 66 and we decided that being a vintage road, it could be fun to travel it in our one vintage car- a newly rebuilt 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser. A member of the Christianson family since it was purchased new by Jay’s dad, the Land Cruiser is now just shy of 390,000 miles and has found a new lease on life with a rebuilt engine and new suspension, an upgraded 5-speed manual transmission (it came with a 4 speed), and tons of interior upgrades (seats not welded in place was a nice change- especially for me, since they were welded in place for Jay’s 6’10” dad). If you’re feeling technical or want to brush up on your car mechanic lingo, check out a comprehensive list of everything we’ve done to the car so far. Admittedly, I haven’t driven the Land Cruiser much as it spent most the time that I’ve known Jay sitting in the vineyard barn making a nice home for the local rodents and wasps; but it was Jay’s first car and in traveling back and forth to high school in Colorado Springs and college in Manchester, NH, they’ve shared many miles and lots of quality time together. As such, Jay was pretty excited (ok, borderline ecstatic) for the opportunity to take the old Land Cruiser on an epic road trip. And me, being me, just happens to know that Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985 (which you may notice is the same year as our Land Cruiser), so we agreed that the stars had aligned, all signs pointed to yes, and the decision was made- next time we hit the road it will be in the Land Cruiser (name to be determined with your help).
So, since we are planning our next few trips (trial run to Death Valley and Joshua Tree in February) in the Land Cruiser, what has become of Stan the Airstream, you ask? After the Route 66 discussion plans and for the remaining five days that we traveled home, we had many conversations about future travel plans, did some serious soul searching, and ultimately decided that selling the Airstream was the best course of action- at least for now. Stan has found a new home with some excited new owners in Southern Arizona- in fact, he’s probably loving the warmer weather already. One of my biggest worries in selling was that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel more and explore the places on our bucket lists. But we haven’t changed plans, just the method in how we travel from place to place. Will there be another trailer in our future? Absolutely. Will we still follow our dream of posing with a Gemini Giant (Wilmington, Illinois) and Standin’ on the Corner (Winslow, Arizona) and sleeping in a Wigwam? Absolutely.