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When our boys were little we thoroughly enjoyed weekend ‘camping’ trips in our motorhome. In 2013 our family desires changed and we sold it. But we always figured we’d buy another for longer exploration trips when we retire. Over the years we’ve toured a couple of larger coaches and kept tabs on the industry. “VanLife” sprang up just before CoVid hit and exploded when international travel was curtailed. There is a certain appeal to driving a smaller RV without concern for campsite size, disappearing off-grid into some beautiful area of the world and being totally self sufficient. Dave has recently done a ton of reading on the Overlander concept; smaller, 4-wheel drive recreational vehicles that can literally go anywhere.

We started wondering if we could be comfortable in a camper van for longer than a weekend. After reading so many blogs and watching dozens of YouTube videos, we decided to rent a van and test it out. Dave found a Winnebago Revel on a site called Outdoorsy, the AirB&B of RVs. We rented for 10 days, 9 nights from a couple in Bellingham WA.

This is The Beast (as we named it):

Winnebago Revel 44E

19 feet, made up of kitchen, bathroom, bed, seating area and space under the bed to store gear. None of it very big. We spent our first few days banging our heads on the low ceilings front and rear and got a few good scrapes from the sliding bars on the passenger seat!

Here is a quick tour Kris did for a friend of ours:

It is small enough to go anywhere (it mostly fits in a regular parking spot at the mall) but comes with the amenities of a small studio apartment.

Day one, we crossed over the border in the afternoon and picked up The Beast. There was a short introduction where we learned about cassette toilets (versus black tanks) and what all those wall switches do. Then we played Tetris in order to fit our small grocery shop and some fancy cheese from Twin Sisters Creamery into the tiny fridge.

Our first campsite was up on the bluff above Bellingham. High Bluff Campground contains about 10 sites within a stand of nice deciduous trees.

Once we settled in and opened the wine we made a simple but nice steak and salad for dinner.

With limited space, coffee cups double as wine glasses…

Unfortunately, the bed turned out to be brutally hard, and we had difficulty cutting our steak with the supplied plastic knives. So, we found the closest Target in the morning. Two inexpensive but puffy quilts as a mattress pad, some real metal cutlery and a couple of actual wine glasses were on the list.

Lunch was at the Penny Farthing Restaurant followed by a whiskey tasting at the neighbouring Chuckanut Bay Distillery. Their Dock Line sweet whiskey is going to come home with us!

And in the afternoon, we took a lovely walk around small but beautiful Lake Padden just north of the much larger but less accessible Lake Samish.

Campsite #2 is deep within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, chosen both because it was one of the few sites with a free space and because they claim to have very good cellphone service – Dave is still working this week, and needs to be able to do Teams calls and email.

The route took us through Concrete WA. So yeah, we had to stop and take a photo or two.

At least the town sign is concrete!

Clear Creek Campground

Unfortunately, the ‘good’ cellphone service turned out to be pretty much nonexistant. So after a nice chat with a group of cyclists and a quiet night we packed up early the next morning and headed to the town of Darrington. The local library had very nice fast Wifi for free. Yay. In between calls Dave booked the last spot at Deception Pass State Park, which promised 5G fast service. So off we went once the morning calls were finished.

The last site was the last site for a reason. Very much not flat and right on the main access road heading up a steep hill. And fast internet is available in the park, but not at our site!

The picnic table is probably 15’ lower in elevation.

Deception Pass is pretty though, no complaints on the views.

If one is going to sit on work calls or do crosswords, we can highly recommend the day use/beach parking. Fast 5G internet and views to look out over.

After a nice walk at Rosario Beach on the other side of the pass, we had to beeline home, as Kris had one shift of work. We were a bit concerned about crossing the border in a rental van with Washington plates, but they barely looked at us!

While Kris worked in her office, Dave worked at his desk. We were off again as soon as Kris got home.

Bayview State Park is on the coast of Padilla Bay west of Burlington. This is where the small size and simplicity of parking helped in a huge way. We got to the park at 9:50pm. Gates closed at 10pm. And it was dark! Kris helped Dave park in our site by the light of our phones.

The next morning after Dave’s early calls we headed into Bow-Edison towns to taste some cheese (amazing), sample the local blueberry ice cream and have lunch at Terramar Brewstillery. Whiskey, beer and pizza. Oh yeah, and great wifi for more work calls.

Amazing cheeses here.
Blueberry farm with fresh creamery blueberry ice cream. MMMM.
Highly recommend. Beer, whiskey and pizza (gluten free and regular) were all very good.
Interesting sketches/flow charts on the walls.
Wide range of ciders and beer to taste.
Fun signs in the bathrooms.

Bow has a series of interesting shops.

Metal shop next door.
Kris found some incredible baguette. This would later become sandwiches for the rest of the trip.
The view of Padilla Bay.
Not a bad place to hang out on a summer morning. Note Dave’s work shirt.

After our time at Bayview we headed south to Mount St Helens. On I5 around Lynden there is a big red barn with CIDER in big letters painted on the roof. We’ve never stopped and were curious about it. Turns out not all cider is alcoholic. It’s just apple juice. Organic, fresh tasty juice.

Apples being loaded into the presses.
Post press.
Smelled a little like day old apple cider vinegar. It goes to farms for animal feed.

We got to Seaquest State Park just in time for dinner due to some insane traffic between Seattle and Olympia.

Beautiful site with lots of trees and shade.

The next morning we stopped by the local Burger King. No, not for food, but yet more work calls using their wifi. Our luck finding internet/cel service was cursed.

We both remember the day that Mount St Helens erupted in 1980 so it was very interesting to drive the access road and stop at the informative Visitor Centers.

View from the visitor centre.
You can just see on the left part where she blew. It looks like two mountains now but that big gully in the middle used to be mountain.

The Forest Learning Centre is run by Weyerhaeuser (the forestry company). It was very well done but the emphasis was on sustainable forestry business and not so much about the volcano.

Bigfoot is also a big deal around here. The North Fork Survivors museum has lots of volcano memorabilia but also do Bigfoot “research” in a HMMW fitted with thermal cameras and such.

made out of volcanic ash

They also have a very well done display of vehicles and an A frame house buried in the 1980 explosion.

This house was buried to the level you see here.
What’s left of one of the local’s car.
A reporter’s burned out car.

We couldn’t drive all the way to the end of the road due to a recent rockslide. Very pretty Cold Water Lake was as far as we could go.

A nice walk around Cold Water Lake near the end of the road. This lake was created my the mud slides from the explosion.

After the nice walk we were starving and headed back to a very very late lunch.

We did not order this, nor get the t shirt.
Our patio lunch view. Beautiful!

The next morning it was time to head north and return The Beast. We appreciated being able to rent one and try it out. Ultimately it’s just that much too small for our desires. We will continue to look for our perfect travel platform.

On our way home we toured Western Washington University’s outdoor sculptures. Another highway sign we’ve driven by many times but never stopped.

The wedge.
ferrite iron rock ring sculpture.
Little copper people holding and moving rocks.

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