#Vanlife Part Two

Part One of our USA #Vanlife adventure has come to an end! Starting in Melbourne, Florida, we’ve driven 11,000 miles (17,700km) through 14 states over the course of 48 days. We met some amazing people along the way, and sampled the spectacular natural beauty of the United States. Now it’s time to start the second leg of our journey, starting with a week in Boise, Idaho. Get ready for #Vanlife Part Two: Family on the West Coast.

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A Week in Boise

The first “official” stop on this part of the adventure is Los Angeles, but we couldn’t just skip straight to LA without writing about the fun we had along the way. Our first pit-stop was a week in Boise, Idaho for Josh’s birthday. It was a whirlwind of repacking (time to switch to winter clothes), parties, and fun with the nieces.

As a birthday gift, Josh scored two tickets to see Boise’s premier burlesque act, The Red Light Variety Show at The Visual Arts Collective. It was terrific and included some really impressive performances. Josh’s big #35 was spent with his mom and our Boise friends. We went out for dinner, hit the bars, and had a fun night of youthful debauchery.

Sushi Cake Challenge

One of our more involved adventures during this week was our small obsession with the Netflix show, “Nailed It!“. In the show, amateur bakers compete to recreate amazing baking challenges. The bakes almost always come out hilariously horrible. After binging nearly every episode, we decided we had to try it for ourselves. Enjoy!

The Challenge: Sushi Cake (recipe here)

The Drive to LA

We couldn’t drive through Utah without stopping to see some of our favorite peeps along the way. The first stop was Salt Lake City to catch up with coworkers and friends. It was so wonderful to see everyone and catch up on all of the gossip. Next up was St. George, Utah to share lunch with one of our Oregon friends who had recently relocated. I could go on forever about how much I love all of these people, miss them, and appreciate them for taking the time out of their day to be with us. Thank you everyone!

From there, we had a quick overnight stop in Las Vegas to see my sister and her family. We arrived late in the day, just before the kids went to bed, so we woke up a little early so we could see them off for school the following morning. It was hard to show up and leave again so quickly, but we’ll be seeing them again for New Years, so I guess I’ll just have to wait.

#Vanlife Part Two

Three days and 1,000 miles later, we finally arrived at our house sit outside of Los Angeles, California. This is where we were originally scheduled to begin our #Vanlife adventure before Mom got sick. From Australia, we had booked one more month in China and two in Thailand. From Thailand, the plan was to fly to LA for this house sit. The change in plans was quite costly, but it was worth it to be there for mom, and #Vanlife Part One was a lot of fun, taking us to many places in our home country that we’d never been to.

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So now begins The Places We Live #Vanlife: Part Two. We will be spending the next 14 days here house sitting for my aunt and uncle in their beautiful California home. The temperature is warm, the fridge is stocked with beer, and our new fur babies are over-the-top lovable. I think this is going to be an excellent start to our next set of adventures!

The Great Purge of 2017

“OMG, we still have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!”

A week ago, I really wanted to take one more trip to Zion. The drive is a little over five hours which just pushes my tolerance for a single-day trip. So I thought to myself, “We’ve gotten rid of a lot over the last few weeks, but I bet I still have enough supplies for camping.” I went through the list in my head: tent (check), sleeping bags (check), flashlights (check) .. cooking supplies (check) … camp chairs (check) …. “OMG, we still have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!”

The Purge started two months ago with the entertainment items. Books and movies were the first to go. I separated them all into groups:

    • Donate – Entertainment items worth less than $0.50
    • Low Sales – Entertainment items worth $0.50 to $3.00 received_10159520086060293
      • sellbackyourbook.com – A convenient way to sell all of my low priced books. I scanned the UPC on my phone, was usually offered between $0.60 and $1.50, then packed everything up using their free shipping label.
      • Amazon Trade-In – The down side is that they only pay in gift cards, but let’s be honest, I will 100% use those gift cards. The search setting isn’t particularly convenient. I had to type in each individual item, confirm that the product details match, and verify the quality. Amazon offered me between $0.69 and $13.00 for most of my dvds and blu-rays along with the free shipping label.
      • High Sales – Entertainment items worth more than $3.00
        • Facebook Marketplace – In Oregon, I had far more luck selling locally on apps like LetGo, but not so much in Utah. People here were using the marketplace. It had the usual problem of people texting me at 2:00AM with “I’m interested” then never responding again. It was one of my best resources for selling furniture, but not so much for the books and movies. On average, I made between $1.00 to $6.00 per movie.
        • EBay – Besides for the furniture sales, we made more money selling books and movies on EBay then anything else. USPS Media Mail ships for an average of $2.50 per envelope. I had to spend some time researching the value of each item, but the time was well rewarded. Each item was put up for auction with a Buy Now option and free shipping. The Buy Now price was the full value of the item parked at slightly less than the average of similar items for sale that day. The auction price was set a little less than half of the Buy Now Price, but always greater than $3.50 (to make sure I got at least $1.00 in profit after shipping). My best selling entertainment item was an original copy of Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King for $19.50!

      Everything else (non-entertainment) was separated into Keep, Sell, and Donate. The majority of our things were donated in six carloads full. The Sell pile was put individually on Facebook Marketplace and posted on the Facebook wall of my apartment complex. Neither were particularly large successes… until Thursday night.

      Thursday night, I posted a small flyer on the community board and on the apartment Facebook wall that we would be have an Open Door Sale. Josh and I placed our bets as to how many people would show up. I bet two total and Josh bet zero. We had two hours planned for the sale that day; we spent the first hour and a half watching TV, because no one showed up.

      And then, a miracle.

      12 Chinese people walked in and immediately started buying EVERYTHING. They purchased all of the furniture and 75% of everything else that was on sale. In one hour, we sold all of the big ticket items (minus the bikes and computer) and were left with only one more car load full of donation items. We were left without a mattress, dishes, and chairs for the last three days before moving, but backaches and awkward eating seemed like a small price to pay for such a lucky visit.

      Our goal was to pack as light as possible. We ended up stuffing the car to the brim and were forced to donate two boxes worth of stuff at the last minute, but we managed to fit it all in. The five hour drive to Boise was tight and slow, but we set off into the sunset with a car packed with everything we owned and our hearts were free.

Donut Falls Hike

We have a million and one things to do before we move out of our apartment this week, so why not take a half-day break to go on an adventure?

Today, we drove about 20 minutes out of town up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Donut Falls Trailhead. We had done this hike before, but were very disappointed that it didn’t look anything like the pictures we had seen. Turns out we didn’t actually get to the end of the “trail” last time. We did some further research and gave it another go.

The trail is usually pretty heavily trafficked, but we went early in the afternoon and in the off season. We had the place to ourselves on the way up and the ground was frozen and patched with snow. On the way down, we had plenty of company and the ground was super muddy and wet.

The hike is pretty basic and nothing to write home about. The star of the show is the waterfall tucked away at the end of the hike. There is a sign at the end of the trail warning hikers not to climb on the rocks, but we are rebels (In reality, I spent the whole time chanting “stay safe, no insurance”).

Not only was it just a nice reprieve from our daily chores, it was our first chance to try out the GoPro. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be like Samantha Brown. Well girl, here I come.

Week One Review

Each day I have felt more and more confident in our decision. I am having so much fun and feel more alive than I have in a long time. We are moving out of the apartment in less than a week and I can’t wait!

I just wrapped up my first week of quitting my job and working “location independent.” One of the things that stands out the most to me is how long the days have lasted. I can’t believe it has only been a week. I feel like I do “The Jerk” routine almost daily with Josh:

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Goals: Since it was my first week off, I decided to keep things simple and set myself only one major goal: Get completely ready for the day by being fed, showered, brushed, and completely dressed by 10AM. Seems like a pretty easy job, but taking the time to actually do my hair, accessorize, and set my desired shoes next to the door seemed like a daunting task knowing that I would be far more comfy in my house clothes. But, by the end of the week, I accomplished my goal six of the seven days (everyone needs at least one day off).

Productivity: The sound of that daunting goal might give you the wrong idea about my week. I actually accomplished a ton of stuff this week. Some of the things I’m most proud of include doing yoga every-other day, completing over 8 hours of language study, selling over $1000 worth of our stuff online, planning mini-adventures for us each day, and being social at least half of the days. Again, these may sound silly, but my days off of work usually include a lot more sleeping. I’ve been more productive in the last week than I have been in the last month (which I considered a very productive month).

Money: Josh spent the week cooking most of our meals. We ate very well and wanted for nothing (except maybe more soda and beer). I’ll be posting a more detailed budget blog at the end of the month but, for week one in general, I would say that we totally nailed it! We stayed within our budget and achieved our goal income.

Fun: For the most part, this was a relax week. I wanted to spend some time just catching up on sleep and quieting my mind. Every morning I scheduled an optional activity for us. We didn’t actually do many of the activities, but enjoyed knowing we had the option. The highlights of the week included Pub Science (a neuroscience lecture at our favorite pub), our Asian burrito food invention (fried rice and sweet pork wrapped in a burrito), our theatrical trip to Walgreens for a year’s worth of medications, and a night of drinks and laughs with friends.

Each day I have felt more and more confident in our decision. I am having so much fun and feel more alive than I have in a long time. We are moving out of the apartment in less than a week and I can’t wait!

Bonneville Salt Flats

My feet hurt, but my pictures are top notch.

My mother in-law came to visit this weekend, so we took the opportunity to check another Utah adventure off of our to-do list: The Bonneville Salt Flats.

I read a lot of reviews before we left. About 50% said something like, “one of the major stops in Utah.” That is a pretty strong statement considering that Utah hosts some of the most amazing national parks in the country. The other 50% of the reviews were a little more meh: “I wouldn’t drive out of my way to see it, but if you’re there, get out of the car.” Those are two very different reviews. I was intrigued and had to know which was right. After a few hours of driving and a little poking around, I’ve written my own review, posted below:

It photographs well.

– Jen on the Bonneville Salt Flats

First of all, there’s no park associated with the salt flats; in fact, there isn’t even a road sign. We happened to pull into a rest stop to check the map and realized we were there when we saw people out walking around on the salt. We got out of the car and walked across the gravel to the edge of the flats. There was a pool of inch deep water covering shards of spiky, flesh destroying salt rocks.


I slowly picked my way through the pool. The water was very clear and thick. Cupping the water in my hand almost felt like holding a handful of fine sand. The pool reflected the landscape making a mirror effect that was quite pretty.

It wasn’t nearly as large as I had expected, but it was still an interesting view. The picture opportunities were amazing. I might even go so far as to say my pictures are way better than the actual view. You’re welcome.


The Bonneville Salt Flats is also home to the Motor Speedway where land-speed records have been set. Challenge accepted!

Antelope Island State Park

Hell on earth.

It was just one of those days. We woke up and knew we had to go somewhere. Not somewhere important, just somewhere. When we use to get this feeling back in Eugene, we would do something crazy like take the two hour drive up to Portland just to eat at our favorite taco restaurant, Por Que No, then drive right back home again. It’s a total waste of useful time, but I kind of think that is the point.

So, after much debate, we decided to go to the near-by Antelope Island State Park, which came highly recommended by just about everyone we know here in Utah… It turned out to be another case of what we’ve come to call Utah Colored Glasses.

Utah Colored Glasses: Utahns have such a positive outlook on life and can have fun doing nearly anything. I’m happy for them, but it makes it very difficult to get useful recommendations out of them. “Oh, you like every taco restaurant in town? Great…” 

Antelope Island was the worst. As we tried to find the perfect catch phrase for the place, we kept coming up with names like “Hell on Earth” and “Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland.” Our first stop was at the pier to see if I could spot any birds and to touch the water. We realized our mistake the second we opened the door. Our noses were immediately filled with the smell of rotting flesh and sulfur, the car filled with small flies, and my horror reached peak levels when I saw that every branch had a thumb sized spider hanging from it. It was horrifying.

Next, we headed to the “beach.” We got pretty excited when we saw the excitement of the other visitors. The parking lot was full of vans packed with picnic baskets and umbrellas. Many of the people were wearing swim suits and holding frisbees.

Turns out, this was not that kind of beach. It took a minute to make it all the way out to the water. The dirt (not sand) was super crunchy and littered with small, dead animals. The closer to the water we got, the stronger the smell and the worse the flies. I looked down at one point and couldn’t even see the blue of my jeans, only a mass of tiny moving creatures all over my legs. We, of course, ran.

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We decided to spend the rest of the trip in the car. It was a pleasant drive with some nice views. We saw some of the ranched buffalo and eight out of the listed 250 bird species, but since we refused to leave the car, we missed the antelope and big horned sheep that are also said to live there.

Overall, we had a great time. I’m sure it would not have gone so well had we not already been in one of our adventure moods. But we had a blast just spending the day playing out scenes of post-apocalyptic scavenging, practicing our Utahn version of the story, and playfully complaining about every little thing.

I’m so lucky to have a partner that makes nearly every moment fun. Maybe we’re becoming a little more Utahn after all.


Salt Lake Overlook Hike

Salt Lake Overlook is a great after-work hike in the Mill Creek Canyon and totally worth the 10 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.

view of Salt Lake City Overlook

Salt Lake Overlook is a great after-work hike in the Mill Creek Canyon. It is a 4.5 mile, there and back hike up Desolation Trail. The hike up was very pretty, but with a decent amount of elevation gain. There were only a few other hikers and a good number of dogs on a Thursday evening, but I’ve heard it can get quite crowded on weekends. Once at the top, we had an amazing view of South Salt Lake, the Great Salt Lake, and the beautiful green canyon with patches of jagged rocks. I could sit up there all day.

There is a $3 fee on the way out of the canyon that requires credit/debit card or exact change. Totally worth the 10 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake though. It is particularly worthwhile if the hike includes a colorful sunset.

sunset Utah yellow blue