Earthships, Mud Baths and The Taos Pueblo

We have been to New Mexico every year for the past six years. We normally stop in to see some of our favorite kinfolk in ABQ. We love New Mexico and as residents, they obviously love New Mexico too. Inevitably our conversation drifts towards other great places in New Mexico to visit and Taos always rises to the top of their list. So, this time around, we decided to stop in Taos to see what all of the hoopla was all about. We are glad we did! What a fantastic place!

We only had two days up our sleeve so we decided to book an RV spot at the Taos Monte Bello RV Park, which sits about fifteen minutes northwest of the city center. The park was clean, gated and provided a beautiful backdrop for our big ol’ rig, “Celu.” We paid with cash and used our Good Sam discount, paying a total of $76 for the two nights.

We pulled in to our site around 2 pm and spent a few hours settling in, putting together a picnic. At 5 pm we drove 40 minutes west, popping in for a quick view of the Rio Grande Gorge, then on to Ojo Caliente’ Spa and Resort to enjoy a sunset soak.  We arrived at Ojo Caliente’ at 6 pm. The sunset soak runs from 6-10pm and is $17.50 per person. It includes 7 different mineral soaking pools, a mud bath that stays open for the first half hour, as well as, a sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The price also includes a towel, the use of a locker, fancy essential oil soaps, and other amenities in the locker rooms.

The facility was clean, beautiful, quiet, and the calm incense of sage wafted through the grounds. We soaked, laid in hammocks, read books and soaked some more. Then about 8 pm we dried off and went out to the picnic area to refresh with veggies, hummus, cheese and crackers and a fruit bowl, then we went back in for a final soak, sauna, and steam. We made it back to the bus about 11 pm and slept hard through the night.

The next morning we enjoyed a lazy start, eating breakfast on the bus before heading into town to do a little thrifting.  We found a few great thrift stores but our favorite was Pieces. The items were higher end and the prices reflected that. So, we went straight for the sale tags and found a few reasonably priced treasures, including a beautiful tunic from India and an NM Turquoise ring.

After our treasure hunting thrill, we drove through the touristy downtown and snapped a few pictures, then made our way to The Coffee Spot to refuel. I ordered their house made Chai with Almond Milk and was pleased with the blend of spice and flavor.

Craig had looked up things to do in Taos and discovered the Earthship Village. An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by the architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970’s. Taos, NM has a large village and a building school where you can go to learn the craft. Craig, being the learner and builder that he is, was very interested in hearing the inside story of this place.  We inquired about a tour but found that the cost was prohibitive for us wanderers. We decided to trek over anyways, just to have a look and despite the signs that read “no trespassing,” we ended up doing a drive through the neighborhood. Our roadside view allowed us to see just the tops of the homes but we were fascinated and declared that next time around we’d seek out a local to show us the ropes.

Another finding of Craigs was the Taos Pueblo, which is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. This special place is the only UNESCO Site in the United States and the Taos Pueblo has been one of the only continuously inhabited neighborhoods since time immemorial. We found it a remarkable example of preserved traditional architecture from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas and learned it is unique to this region. We also learned that because of the living culture of its community, it has successfully retained most of its traditional forms up to the present day. And so, we trod lightly through their neighborhood, respecting their desire for tourist to withhold from taking photos. In fact, the only photo I took was a view from the parking lot. However, there are several really good shots on the UNESCO Site.

After a quick bite to eat we made our way a few miles down the road to the Taos Mesa Brewery to see our friend, Nahko, and Medicine for the People, perform at the breweries amphitheater. The facility and grounds were artsy, industrial and funky with mountains off in the distance and the staff was laid back, which made for a very relaxed evening. While at the concert, we met a few locals around the bonfire and had an opportunity to hear stories about what life was like in Taos. We also met folks from the Earthship school and were able to pick their brains about what they were learning, which rounded out our curiosity and made some of the things we had seen in our driving tour make more sense.

The next morning, we sat and had a coffee, enjoying our view one last time and then drove off into the distance towards Colorado Springs.

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Hashtag Community

instagramWhat the heck is a hash tag, and why should I use them? We get this question all the time and usually answer it by saying the # is a way of “filing” your photo into a world-wide folder with photos that also have that same hashtag. The purpose is to link up people who have similar interests. So for instance, say you were into tea, you could start an instagram and use it as a way to document different tea shops you’d visit, teas and big hats via photo and then when you post those photos, you’d hashtag something like #teaaddiction. When you had a moment, you’d click on #teaaddiction and find all sorts of kinfolk who love tea. You could look through their photos and maybe even click on their profile, eventually making friends, finding solace in your tea fanaticism.

For us, social media outlets that use hashtags, specially Instagram have allowed us the privilege of meeting so many wonderful traveling kinfolk along our way. Just hashtag #busconversion,  #familyontheroad, #ditchingsuburbia, or #homeiswhereyouparkit and boom, they are all there; nomadic kinfolk, wanderlust rangers and road-school families. These tools provide opportunities to make an initial contact, where we can develop a slow adoration for those we follow, bonding over shared experiences and eventually leading to a #meetup. That’s when the real fun starts for us! Those moments of serendipity when we find ourselves in the same neck of the woods as fellow travelers, reaching out, setting a meeting time and place and making that first face to face connection, is sheer excitement and delight.

IMG_2192We’ve met up in MI with fellow bus owners, Herd of Turtles (The Shanks Family riding in an Eagle) and Scott and Heather Bennet (MCI owners), sharing a meal, stories of our bus conversions, and music by the campfire. Also, fellow bus owners Technomadia, who we met up with in California. When we pulled into the state park, they heard our 2stroke engine and came a running. We spent that evening sharing bus stories and tricks of the trade.

Our nomadic community isn’t just limited to bus owners, as we’ve met up with “The Van With No Plan” brothers, Josh and Matt in Phoenix AZ, where we learned about their adventures in multiple vehicles and drive to bring joy wherever they go. We met up with “meredithmarieyo” in Austin TX and learned the Texas Two Step. Also, in Austin we met up with world troubadour, Andrew Jones, from Jonesberries, one of our greatest inspirations and in our opinion, the original traveling family. And, then there was that quick but fruitful breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lafayette, LA with One Year Road Trip (The Webb Family). We can’t forget The Wayfaring Family in Lexington, KY hosting us for a few nights, sharing stories of their one year of world travel, and adjusting back to home life. Then there was our recent link up with 5th wheelers, Wandering Jess (The Marshall Family) in Pensacola FL and The Boyink family (aka Ditching Suburbia) at Silverspring State Park, Florida. Both of which shared stories of faith, motivation for full-time travel and raising teenagers on the road.

They all have their own beautiful stories of how they transitioned from life on the ground to life on the road. They all make their way doing different sorts of jobs, some work remote corporate jobs, some IT jobs, some bloggers, some pick up odd jobs, some do photography and some are film makers. Some have children and those who do have all sorts of ways they home school, from online resources to unschool. Some have pets, some have spouse and some have both.  They all travel in an array of vehicles from 5th wheels, classic airstreams, campers, buses, vans, to cars & bicycles. Some have converted their vehicles and some have bought them off of the lot. Some folks, downsize all the way, some still have homes, etc… Some have an abundance of resources and some live day to day. One thing they all have in common however, is their commitment to swimming upstream, seeking freedom, asking tough questions about societal norms and pushing against the status quo.

IMG_0155Everyday a new traveler, family or couple ends up in our different hashtag folders and when they do we reach out welcoming them to this community of drifters and wanderers. We’re always keeping an eye on the whereabouts of our fellow travelers, hoping that the wind might blow us together sooner than later. These moments of connectivity with our nomadic community are inspiring and reassure us that we’re not odd or alone, we are part of a bigger picture, in it together. #neverstopexploring #community

You can find us on Instagram at The Hollands and on Twitter at The_Hollands

Canada, Oh Canada

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We were only an hour from the border, so why not. We made our way up to Vancouver, BC on cloudy afternoon. The city was vaguely familiar with the electric bus line, the tall shrubs that fronted most houses and the fashion sense.

As we made our way through the city streets, Stanley Park, the Vancouver Yacht Club and Kits Beach we found that the city was the spitting image of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. We were in awe and conversations of migrating to Vancouver abounded.  We lunched at The Local Pub Eatery on Kits Beach which could have easily been mistaken for Brighton and enjoyed shopping on Granville Road, which mine as well have been Burke Road. The down side was that our Aussie family wasn’t there but we now know that if we’re needing a quick fix between visits home, that Vancouver is the place to go! By the way, the Fish Taco’s at The Local were out of this world.

When Push Comes to Shove

Have you heard the saying that, “at the end of the day, we do what we care most about.” For us that is community. It doesn’t always come natural to be in community with others but at the end of the day, we push through to honor the “tie that binds” us all together.

When we choose to make relationship a priority over logistics we experience the miracle of community… and more problems get solved.

This past weekend we had intentions to go and spend a few days alone as a family in the Redwoods of California. We had just come off of a full Holiday season with family and friends and then, recording in Portland. We were really looking forward to the down time. And, mind you we don’t often seek “down” time. So, when the time came for our departure and the bus didn’t start, all heads sank low. We had made plans that morning to share breakfast with the Nolan family that had moved from our old stomping grounds in Wisconsin to Vancouver, WA and were very near to where we were parked. We were meant to load up and drive the bus over to their neighborhood, have breakfast and then be on our way down to sunny California via a stop over for a few gigs in Cottage Grove and Roseburg, Oregon.

OK, so shift gears, this bus is not only our home but our means of transportation and we really are not mechanically inclined. So, when something goes awry it can throw a real spanner in the works. All of our minds efforts go mush and there is a paralyzing feeling that comes over us. Add to that the overwhelming amount of logistics that we have to process each day that we travel and it’s a recipe for disaster. However, when this challenge came we decided to lay it down, set it aside and go for breakfast. It was a challenge not to worry about our issues but in the end we had a lovely visit.

We made our way in our mini-van, four hours south to Cottage Grove and Roseburg, where we stayed with strangers turned kinfolk.

Arriving back in WA, accepting the fact that we were not going to see the redwoods but rather spend the needed time fixing the bus, we dove in. Travis Nolan who we had shared that breakfast with a few days prior just happened to be a diesel mechanic in the Coast Guard for years and offered a helping hand. He and his wife, Cindy, came over at 8am and plugged right into bus life with us. We shared lunch, kept problem solving, looking at the batteries, starter, wires, etc and about 1pm Travis began scouring the manual to find a little blurb about gears. He asked Craig, “What gear is it in?” Craig went and looked, and said with a loud exclamation, “Fourth, it’s in forth!!” That was it, simple as that! The bus wouldn’t start because it was in the wrong gear. We laughed, rejoiced and laughed more. Then Cindy and I ran some errands and gathered together one last time as families to share a meal and celebrate.

We departed the next morning towards Oakland, CA via Redding. Originally we were going to miss Redding but because of our waylay this was our new route. This opened the door for us to link up with our dear old friends, the Nero’s. And, our host in Oakland, Josh Harper, called and connected us with his parents who live in Redding for a late night coffee. We pulled into Redding after a 8 hour drive and found that our electrical was out of order, so in the same vain we had a decision to make. Craig pulled a few bold moves and fixed up the electrical, woofed down his meal and off we went. The door to the Harper home opened and we immediately felt like we were with family. We settled in for a few hours and shared precious time with these kind folks. This morning we were able to connect for breakfast at the Cottonwood Eatery with the Lori and John and share stories and encouragement.

Had we decided that previous Saturday morning when the bus wouldn’t start that we were going to make fixing it the priority things may have turned out similar but I’m not sure we would have experienced the joy of community. The joy of sharing in one accord and problem solving together. In that 72 hour period we had the opportunity to connect with multiple folks on all sorts of levels, all the while getting things done. This choice to keep relationship on the for front allowed for the gifts to flow and for faith to rise up! And for that we are most grateful.

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Bus Conversion- Painting

Inspired by the historical street cars in San Francisco, specifically the 1946 “Philadelphia,” and this little potting planter, we have chosen to paint our bus what some folks call sea-foam green. We had the paint organized and Craig had been slowly stripping  the sides of the bus. It was one of those projects that was sure to take a long time, chipping away at it here and there. However, upon arrival at our host home in Mt. Vernon Iowa, we found an eager and expert set of helping hands in the Anderson fellows. They are the one’s who actually brought the subject up in conversation. Asking, if we had any desire to paint the bus. We answered, “well, sure, someday.” That someday was this weekend. With tools in tow and paint, they sanded and cleaned up the remainder of the bus. Taped it off and away they went.

We couldn’t have organized or asked for a better scenario. Besides, a helping and encouraging hand at painting the bus, we enjoyed the delights of solace amongst the fall colors, sharing meals and inspiring conversation, and plenty of activity for the kids on the  the Anderson’s farm.

We didn’t see it coming and the blessing will continue to go with us as a reminder as we continue down the road. Serendipity!

Below showcases the process.

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Some day, day down the line, we’ll add a red pin strip and art work on the back.

Galena, IL

Although we prefer to park and stay with host families, on occasion we pull into an RV park and spend a few days on our own. These are photos from our two night, mini-vacation in Galena, IL.

If you’re ever passing through this part of the country we highly recommend a stop in Galena.

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Bus Conversion – Progress

Slowly but surely the little things that are being shored up:

Craig has built and installed all of our kitchen cabinets, dining room light, book shelf, trim around the doors, bathroom cabinets, curtain around the toilet, even a few decorations hung. And, last but not least, our bedroom door.

Next on the list is plumbing. We are thankful for the graciousness offered by those we stay with for showers and washing dishes but are so ready for a little running water.