S4:E8 – Our Gear’s Year

Our gear lives a tough life. After fourteen months on the road, how have things fared? Paul’s going to share all the dirty, rusty, dusty details. Plus, an update on our travels over the past two months. 

This episode was written by Paul Olson and Lisa McNamara. It was produced by Lisa McNamara.

Theme music by Michael Kobrin from Pixabay. Drivers’ Ed intro music by Ahmadmusic from Pixabay.


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This is Road Tripping in America, a podcast about life on the road. I’m Lisa and I’m Paul.

We’re exploring the US in a pickup truck with a camper – we named our setup The Bobs. We’re in search of off-the-beaten-path adventures and new experiences. Join us as we share our stories from the road.

Today: Our gear lives a tough life. After fourteen months on the road, how have things fared? Paul’s going to share all the dirty, rusty, dusty details.

This is series four, episode eight: Our gear’s year. (plus two months. Because “our gear’s fourteen months” just doesn’t sound as catchy.)

But first – the last time we shared a day in the life episode, it was the end of May and we were in New Mexico, headed to Colorado for a few weeks of housesitting at our friend’s place. And now, it’s mid-August and we’re back in Colorado again. We did leave! Somehow, we managed to drive a few thousand miles between then and now. Where have we been for the past few months?

After we both got covid in Colorado, we limped to Wyoming to finish healing (away from other people) and then to South Dakota. I didn’t have the stamina to do any serious hikes or bikes, so we missed a lot along the way. Our July destination was the furthest north you can get in Minnesota – the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. There, after I finally tested covid negative, we met three friends for a three night canoe trip. That trip was so refreshing and affirming. It was really hard and really buggy and incredibly peaceful and beautiful. It was one of those trips where I came out amazed by what my body can do, especially after feeling so covid-sluggish for weeks.

Then, we plunged into the chaos and fun of friends and family visits, from Wisconsin to Chicago to Ohio. Plans were made and cancelled and rescheduled as covid continued to impact our friends and family.

Finally, in early August, we started back west. But not before going all the way back north again, to Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Madeline Island in northern Michigan and northern Wisconsin. We were going to go back to the north shore of Lake Superior to go mountain biking with a friend, then head west on route two from Duluth to Idaho, inspired by the trio from our last episode, but then something came up that changed our plans and caused us to turn the Bobs back to western Colorado on the most direct route possible. But Paul’s going to talk about that later…

Let’s get into the gear next.

The camper has been great. We’ve spent about 200 nights in it at this point. The pop-top still pops. The vents vent. In Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, we used the rainflys more than ever. Utah dust does sneak its way in past the door’s weatherstripping, and I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it. That dust has basically filled the back exterior light, which we’ve still never used.

L: Because we don’t want to attract any more bugs than necessary! I’m really impressed with how well the camper is holding up. We live in it pretty hard and it’s been able to handle everything we’ve put it through – so far.

We’ve had the camper shift in the bed slightly to the driver’s side, which we were able to nudge back a month or so ago. We check the shackles pretty frequently and they’re nearly never loose. We’ve also had one pack rat scamper around underneath the camper – that same one in Gunnison that tried to nest on the engine. Since we’ve started using rodent repellents, we’ve had no issues. Might be luck.

L: When we pop the hood, we can see footprints of tiny creatures in the dust on our engine cover. Lizards, mice, chipmunks probably. So they’re still checking it out, but they’re not hanging around.

The truck has been pretty boring – which has been great. Just a bunch of oil changes, some new air filters – regular maintenance stuff. When I replaced the air filter, I found another spot the pack rat had invaded. That fucker. We killed the truck battery by parking it too long over Christmas – had to use our jump pack to get started at 2am on a chilly December night. But it’s been fine since. Our tires are wearing out, though. We’ll need new ones soon, maybe this spring. They’ve gone over 30,000 miles at this point. They’re all terrains, and we’ve been enjoying them on all terrains. And we had add-a-leaf helper springs installed this spring – they make the truck drive even better and help support the camper load.

The battery in the camper has been good too – we’ve just lost one charging port. We used to be able to have the solar panel and alternator connected and charging the battery at the same time, but now we have to pick one. We usually pick solar. The battery has powered the lights and the furnace, and most importantly, the fridge, fine. It’s a bit under-sized for cloudy weather, we’re learning. That’s not a big deal in the west, but power was a little tight in the midwest and when camping in shade and rain.

We’ve both gone through a pair of shoes. We’ve both bought more sun shirts. We’ve both refreshed our sock supply and bought new pairs of glasses. We’ve also shifted to clothing that can withstand laundromats and not need to be hung dry. Lisa’s due for a new backpack after scraping through so many slot canyons. I think she’s had her current one at least 5 years.

L: At least. I love the look of the old, busted gear carried around by our fellow dirtbags and desert rats. But this daypack would need half a roll of duct tape to cover all the issues at this point. Time to start fresh.

On the tech front, Lisa has had one broken phone screen which was promptly fixed in Chicago. Then Lisa got a new phone this spring. She also just got a GoPro – watch out, YouTube. My Kindle still works great, even though I’m powering through a lot of books. We’re less stingy with data lately – we switched to an unlimited plan. Power is our weak point.

L: I have to carefully time charging my electric toothbrush. Sometimes I don’t quite time it right and it becomes a manual toothbrush for a few days.

The two items having the toughest year of their lives have been our bikes. When we have them, they live outside in the dust and rain. They’re getting rocked. We had our suspension forks serviced last fall in Durango which breathed some life back into them, but they’ll need a full overhaul this winter. I have a lot of rusty bolts to clean and everything needs regreasing. They got rained on constantly in Michigan. I just realized water has been getting into the frames and only drains when I hold them vertical.

We’re still working on our supply of corporate-supplied hand sanitizer courtesy of Lisa’s former employer. Someday we’ll have to buy some more. Maybe January. We’re still working on the bottle of bitters we brought with us thinking we’d maybe make cocktails sometimes. We never do. And we’re still working on the bottle of dish soap we started with that was half full. Some things last a long time.

L: I still have a pile of books that I haven’t found time to read, and I continue to find books I have to have in library used book stores and on free shelves. My book pile is much less space-efficient than Paul’s Kindle, and it continues to grow larger..

This summer, we stowed our off-road recovery boards before heading east thinking it would be unlikely we’d need them. So far, so good. We also grabbed our bigger, more comfortable camping chairs. They’re better for napping. We currently have a lot of gear for backpacking and canoeing – we’re about due to cycle some of that out. We also have our tennis rackets after enjoying a few games in Colorado while housesitting this June. We haven’t used those since we left. But we did play a game of pickle ball in Minnesota. We’re looking forward to playing again.

Our biggest gear addition on the horizon is a home base. That might be finally coming together. It’s been tricky without jobs looking for houses across the country. That’s why we hustled back to Colorado. More on that next time.

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Next episode: how do you know when it’s time for a change?

That’s next time. Thanks for listening.