Hello family, friends, and fellow adventurers. I hope this post finds you well and surviving this crazy year. For us, 2020 has been a year of unimaginable unpredictability and change. We want to catch you up on the big change we never saw coming.
2020 started simple enough. On January 1st, after a beautiful sunrise, we enjoyed a quiet hike behind our camp at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. We had been on the road for a few months and were loving the adventuring. Our plan for the year was well-defined and seemed simple enough to execute: finish our winter travels in our class C motorhome with Jeep Wrangler in tow, return home to SE Washington in the spring, downsize, move our remaining belongings into storage, and officially become full time RVers by the end of August.
Our first major detour occurred in January when we decided to change our RV and tow vehicle combination. By the end of the month, our 2018 Jayco Greyhawk motorhome had a new owner and we had ourselves a brand new Ford F-350 Super Duty capable of towing any RV we’d ever want. By February, we were home in SE Washington and shopping for the RV that would be our full time home for the foreseeable future. After much research and consideration, we went with a 24RKS Timber Ridge Outdoors RV for its rugged build, massive tanks and storage, and livability.
As COVID-19, social distancing, and shutdowns became part of our daily life, we settled in at home. We endured some of life’s hard realities as we lost Jason’s dad, two aunts, and our lovable Jake. It was a rough spring, but we aren’t ones to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. Jason busied himself with a massive RV power system upgrade complete with lithium batteries, whole house inverter, and rooftop solar. I volunteered for extra hours with my biotech employer. The extra money paid for the RV upgrades and I enjoyed getting to interact with my coworkers, many of whom are close personal friends. On my off days, I thinned our possessions and boxed the majority of our belongings and we tried our best to responsibly visit our parents (masks and all). By the Fourth of July, we were moving boxes into a massive storage unit and movers had been scheduled for August 21st to help with the furniture. It was all coming together as planned, we would be full-time RVers by August 22nd. Having worked with infectious diseases most of my career, I had apprehensions about traveling this fall and winter, but D-day was quickly approaching.
And then life took another major turn. But before I tell you about that, I’d like to tell you a little about the family home we’ve been caring for.
The Family Home
When my Grandpa Rod passed away in the summer of 2017, my mom and uncle inherited the family home. The white house, as we affectionately call it, is a custom-built home designed and built by my grandpa and decorated by my grandma in 1977. My two uncles helped build the house. Dave, the oldest brother, has since passed away. For Don, the surviving brother, this is the last house he built with his father and brother before moving to L.A. You can imagine the special place this home holds in his heart.
The white house was the third and final family home that my grandpa built on a quiet block at the edge of town where deer and quail are still more visible and vocal than any of the neighbors. We refer to the three homes based off their color, hence the name “white house”. Construction on the first home, the gold house, began in 1965. It was a lovely home with beautiful views to the west. Construction wrapped up on the bigger and more impressive black house the year I was born. My earliest memories come from that house. I can remember walks with my grandparents in the fields out back, the indoor fish pond, and the big garden that grew on the site of the eventual third and most impressive of the homes, the white house.
The white house was the accumulation of all the favorite things my grandpa had seen during his decades of building homes. The man was a prolific builder and he had a lot of experience to draw from by the time ground broke on the white house. He took all the very best features and designed a home that remains one of the more unique homes in our area with its Spanish arches, fountains, courtyard, massive vaulted ceilings, and large rooms designed for entertaining. My grandma had an eye for color and a flare for the fashions of the day. You can still see her touches everywhere in the home’s interior. This is especially true in her massive kitchen where she loved to entertain. When a realtor friend of mine toured the home she said to me, “I see a lot of homes, do you realize how far ahead of his time your grandfather was?” Yes, it is a very unique and well-built custom home. Grandpa was a master of his craft and a perfectionist. The white house is the crown jewel of a long and productive career.
When the local construction market bottomed out in the early 80s, my grandparents moved to Portland where my grandpa found steady work building a retirement center for their church. At about the same time, my mom and I were living in a small, two bedroom home and she had just married my stepdad. It made no sense us living in such a small home while that big beautiful house sat empty and keeping it was a financial hardship for my grandparents—so we moved in. With my parents caring for the white house and covering its expenses, my grandparent’s dream home could stay in the family. My parents cared for the home for 16 years and Jason and I even lived there for a year when he first got out of the Navy and we were poor college students. Since then, my parents built their dream home and my grandparents moved back into the white house, remaining there until grandma’s passing in 2010 and grandpa’s passing in 2017.
Please pardon the long story, but to understand the magnitude of our recent life changes, you need to understand how special this home is to my family. Yes it is a beautiful and impressive home. But it is so much more than that. It is a home full of 43 years of memories made by a small, close knit family. It is the home I have known most of my life. Even before I moved in with my parents, I spent week days there with my grandma while my mom worked hard to raise me as a single mom. For those familiar with Gone With the Wind, the white house is my Tara. When I sit in this home, I am surrounded by a lifetime of memories of the most formative people in my life—some still living, some passed. I look around me and I see all the special touches my grandparents put into the home. I see additions made by my parents during their years there. I remember all the holiday dinners cooked with love in grandma’s kitchen. I remember all the happy hours that Jason and I shared here with our friends—my grandparents were more than family, they were also our friends.
This is the house we were moving out of. After three years of serving as caretakers, we were moving out so that my uncle could retire there after spending most of his adult life in L.A. This had been the plan since my grandpa’s passing. The house would be staying in the family and that was the most important thing to us, my parents, and my uncle. But in early summer, my uncle’s plans changed and a move was not in the cards. My mom and uncle began the process of listing the house for sale, but neither of their hearts were in it. It was hard for all of us to believe that our family would be leaving this block after 55 years. It was the end of an era.
Generous, Humbling, and Overwhelming Offer
And then the most unexpected thing of Jason and my lives happened. My parents and my aunt and uncle offered to gift us the house. Keeping this special home in the family was more important to them than the money. They made the offer without strings or expectations, making it clear they knew we had other plans and they understood if the house would tie us down too much. But that it was ours if we wanted it.
Jason and I were humbled and overwhelmed. No words can describe what we were feeling as we processed it all. We just stared at one another in silence and disbelief. The generosity of this offer can not be overstated. I do not come from a wealthy family. Anything and everything my family has they have worked hard for. Nothing has ever come easy. Keeping the house in the 80’s through tough times was a real financial struggle. But my family joined together and the home survived. Now, thanks to the extreme generosity and selflessness of these four individuals, this special home will remain in our family.
Yes, we accepted their overwhelming offer. Of course we accepted it. Does it change our full time travel plans? Sure. But our goal for early retirement was never about living in a 28′ long box. Full time RVing was but one means to an end. The goal was to build a life that we didn’t need a vacation from. To have the financial freedom to live a life full of new experiences with the ability to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. To value experiences and memories over things. And we could think of no better memories than the ones we have in this home and future memories yet to be made. Thank you Mom. Thank you Dad. Thank you Don. Thank you Becky. We still cannot process or fathom your selfless generosity.
Yes we will still travel and we will travel as much as possible! But now we’ll have a home base. This is actually a growing trend in the young RVer community with many popular YouTubers seeing the advantage of a home base in these uncertain times. We see this as an opportunity to have more varied travel opportunities and adventures. And we think it will help us to better appreciate living in the moment—our travels making us appreciate time at home and vice versa. Travel is precarious at best right now with COVID numbers soaring and flu season starting soon. Many of the places we wanted to visit this fall and winter are completely or partially closed. Meanwhile, our new home could use some deferred updates that we’ll need to be home for (new flooring, counter tops, etc.). This fall and winter seems like a perfect timing to tackle those projects and prepare for a brighter 2021.
We are currently busy with late summer travels and we have some fall travels planned, but we expect most of our late fall and winter will be spent at home. Our current hope is to resume extended travels in the spring, travel restrictions willing. So stick with us—this is not the end of our adventures, just a happy fork in the road!