We made it to Denver. The mecca of all twenty-somethings who consider themselves adventurers, yogis, foodies, craft beer lovers, amateur snowboarder/skier/mountain biker/trail runner/skateboarders, music lovers or anyone who still says “that’s far out, man”. Wherever we come from, we all feel the wanderlust of Denver tug at our heartstrings and point our feet west. And Dusty, Ethel and I finally made it.
We’ve been dreaming about Denver for months, since we began dreaming about our RV life. Dusty knew a guy who had been part of the Reserve unit out here and a twenty minute conversation was all it took to convince Dusty that if he was going to leave active duty for the reserves, then he’d do it in Denver.
After the movers came to get the rest of our household goods to put into storage for the next so-many months, the three of us officially moved into our RV and headed west. Thanks to the modifications for accessible living for a wheelchair user inside our small Class-C RV, I’ve been comfortable from the first night. It helps that we traveled so recklessly, frugally, and dangerously through Europe, sleeping on train cars, waking up to puking hostel roommates and car camping through rain and snow. Our standards for how to travel comfortable are way WAY low. Moving into a recreational vehicle is luxurious. I mean, this is way cool.
It took two days driving west from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to get here last night. Two long days. I mean, Kansas never quit. No wonder it took a tornado to get Dorothy out.
Dusty towed my little car behind the RV and I followed in our small SUV filled to the brim with things we might need over the next year. We had carefully packed away our winter clothes, extra medical supplies if/when I run out, some of Dusty’s toys in the way of a mountain bike and skis and a gracious gift of a racing wheelchair I have on loan from a friend. The two cars will stay here in Denver in a storage garage so that when we return once a month for Dusty to drill with his Reserve unit, we can exchange clothes and toys out as the seasons change.
Without having done much exploring, I’m already impressed with this cool little city of Denver. The views are incredible and reminiscent of driving in southern Germany headed to Switzerland or Austria and catching the first glimpse of the Alps. But the western scrub brush terrain is nearly identical to Portugal, minus the trees stripped of bark. It’s beautiful here and that’s an understatement. Well done, Denver, well done.
We’re parked right now at Cherry Creek State Park, where we’ll be for a week. And get this, there are handicapped accessible RV parking spots. Everything is paved, no gravel in site at our spot, which makes getting around in the chair so much easier. Even though we’re still within city limits, Denver just happens to have this large, beautiful state park filled with deer so close Ethel went after one (we had a talk afterwards. Deer are definitely a leave it and she knew that before chasing her friend). I’m not sure if it’s the park, the craft beer or the infamous weed of Denver, but every person we’ve met so far hasn’t stopped smiling.
And after a day of puttering around town doing errands, I have to say I haven’t either. Pretty good for Day 1.
Day 3: Denver
Our first week in the RV, our first week in Denver and our first week of learning that RV’s are VERY SMALL.
The purpose of this week was not to begin exploring the coffee bars and marijuana dispensaries but to set up Denver as our home base. We had a PO Box to set up, Army orders to finalize, catheter and pharmaceutical strategies to finalize and more importantly, friends-closer-than-family to see and their baby to kiss.
We’ve been living in the campground of Cherry Creek State Park in the southeastern village Aurora of Denver. How cool of a city to have these pockets of state parks spread throughout their city. We’ll return to this same park every month when we circle back to Denver for Dusty to drill with his Army Reserve unit. Smoothly paved bike trails leave the campground where we’re parked and circle along the shore of the Cherry Creek Lake. Ethel and I run together each morning along these trails. She wakes us up with whimpers at seven for breakfast and then is so excited to begin our run, she’s knocked over a few coats with her wagging tail. When we run, I simply hold onto her harness and direct her along the path and she sprints her heart out. Her focus is on finding the numerous prairie dogs that scamper all over the park or to meet one of the domesticated deer that sleep on the grass in between RVs in the campground. She’s not allowed to do either and it only takes one “leave it” to reminder her, but the girl still dreams.
Every adventure begins with fumbling and falling as a groove is found and apprehension overcome. So far in the start of our adventure, I’ve managed to spill water over the tub lip and bathroom door onto the flooring after a shower, our heating has come and gone as a switch was found broken, my wheelchair lift suddenly would not turn on and the most unfortunate, Dusty failed to properly connect the poop tube when dumping at a gas station. Yikes.
(Ethel and I were on a walk when this happened and I returned to find a shell-shocked husband muttering to himself, “A shower. I need a shower”)
Thank goodness we’ve traveled together before. Thank goodness I learned in Brussels to nicely tell Dusty when he’s trying to push me over cobblestones without invitation that “if you touch my chair one more time I’m going to scream”. Thank goodness we’ve shared a tiny bathroom at any number of hostels and know that a skidmark, no matter how small, is never acceptable. Thank goodness we know how to take a step back when the adventure just becomes an overwhelming mess. Thank goodness we know it’s more important to say “I’m proud of you. We’ve got this. I love you” than “I was right”.
Ethel’s input in this experience is one of hilarity. She loves Denver, mainly for the numerous dog parks and trails that have smells never before smelt. She’s even ventured out into the lake in an attempt to chase ducks, which is quite an accomplishment for a girl who despises water or getting wet. She’s adjusted well to the RV and knows her bed well, which is a bench placed over the two front seats on which an old yoga pad supports her thick foam mat. When we’re parked, the bench is her place when she’s inside and at night. When we’re driving, the bench is up against the wall and her mats lie behind Dusty’s chair so she can still keep an eye on me. She had a few moments of acting out when we were leaving Missouri and on the road, but now I’m looking at a smile lifting her cheeks as she watches the deer.
It’s a good Day 3.
Day 7: Leaving Denver
What a week. We’ve been living as full-time Rvers for a full seven days and I feel like I know nothing about the mechanics of our house on wheels. Dusty is very patient as he explains why we need the generator turned on to make coffee when we’re driving the RV or why the back outlets won’t charge our phones at night unless we’re plugged into a campground. I feel like I’m living in one of the Circuits & Electricity problems from undergraduate Physics.
We’re headed out of Denver now and making our way to Salt Lake City. We both have family there and we’re excited to see them. As great as it was, the Army life gave few opportunities to see distant family or attend family reunions and it’s exciting to take this opportunity now. As I write this, we’re on the outskirts of Denver at an RV dealership while Dusty gets educated on some sort of switch that has to do with our propane (again, I think I had to solve this problem in a Physics lab and I have no idea how I did it then). It’s been a business day of getting both our cars that we took out here in storage and changing all the details of our insurances. We drove both cars out here for convenience; we didn’t want to leave them in Missouri and we figured they’d be nice to have whenever we circle back to Denver. Through a stroke of genius on my husband’s part, however, we figured out we could stock both cars with items that we may want during the year at some point but couldn’t fit in the RV right now. As simplified and streamlined as we tried to make our life, items like winter coats, skis, my awesome stock of yarn for crocheting and a hand cycle just couldn’t be left out. So they’re in storage and when we need them, we’ll swap them out form something in the RV. We won’t be returning to Denver for two months this time around and we planned our route enough to know we won’t be in winter weather and it would be okay to leave those items behind.
Days 4, 5 and 6 bred a sense of comfort that was small at first but now is pronounced. This RV is definitely home and I’m at peace here. Now that some of the bugs have been worked out, Dusty the Engineer is starting to clock in earlier and beginning to relax sooner. We’re finding our groove and now that we’ve finished all the “moving business” and are hitting the road, I have a feeling our Zen is just around the bend.
Update: Denver very clearly did NOT want us to leave. Just as we were going through Golden, CO northwest of the city limits of Denver on a very busy highway, we ran out of gas. Dusty had been watching the gas gauge and was convinced it was reading wrong. “I just know we haven’t gone through all of the gas we had this past week. There’s no way.”
Ten minutes later I was frantically calling “My side is clear!” as we crossed two lanes of pull off the highway sputtering on fumes.
Because we’re two of the luckiest, blessed sons o’ witches if there ever were, we happen to have two friends in Golden and I dialed one of their numbers hoping against all odds they were home. He was and happened to be close by (again, read the part about us being followed by a rainbow of lucky stars) and ten minutes later was pulling up behind us with a five gallon jug of gas. As Dusty drained the jug into our tank, our friend got the tour of the RV that we hadn’t been able to show when we had dinner earlier in the week (we had left the RV at our campsite and driven our car to the dinner). A few #ranouttagas #butdidn’tdieonthehighway selfies later with heartfelt thanks and we are back on the road.
Follow us on Instagram to watch us move state to state, national park to national park and campground to campground at @butmaybeshewheel !