Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

After over two years of preparation, the day finally arrived: my husband Mikey, our three kids (ages 1, 3 and 5) and I were off on our Overland Adventure. We had sold almost everything we owned and packed up the truck we call Myrtle for an epic road trek that would take us from our home in San Francisco all the way to Argentina.

Before the real start of our adventure, we headed north to Humboldt County to say goodbye to family. From there, we went to Manzanita Lake in Lassen National Park, headed for Reno, Nevada. We drove through huge meadows full of snow, heavy sky. Trees. The air felt blade-cold, like it could slice through you if it wanted to – but it smelled so sweet from the trees.

When we arrived in Reno, Nevada, little city in the big desert, we went straight to load up on food for camping in the boondocks – and water, propane. Everything we’d need. No more – our budget is pretty tight; no less – we are staying warm and fed!

Then hit the road again.

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

Since our Garmin GPS led us on scenic dance through 395, the sun was hanging low when we were finally looking at Reno from our rear mirror. Mikey wasn’t keen on setting up in the dark  – and I wasn’t too eager to hang out with the kids in the freezing weather while he popped the camper up and all that. It’s kind of like plucking splinters from under your nail. You know you’ve got to do it but boy, talk about no fun! “Stop, Moxie!”, “Don’t push Mac!”, “Micah, get out of the snow!” – run, chase, run, chase, kid falls, SCREAMING ENSUES, and then the inevitable, “Nooooooooooooooooooooooo MOXIE!” – Because Moxie is nothing if not appropriately named.

Camping at Topaz Lake, Nevada

So when we saw the blinking light for the Topaz Lake Casino RV Park – $20! Showers! $3.95 all-you-can-eat-spaghetti – we knew that was out stop for the night. Yes, a casino RV park.

And it was cool. Sure, it was camping in a parking lot, but we did get nice, long, hot showers in the RV shower area, the bathrooms were really clean and that $3.95 all-you-can-eat spaghetti was delicious. The next morning, I took the kids back to the casino for breakfast ($1.99 biscuits and gravy!) and I gotta say… I was surprised at how much I liked it all.

The waitstaff were awesome – a bunch of sweet/stern/sassy Grandma types – and old men kept coming around to stop and say hi in non-creepy ways (one old guy, literally with his cane, gave each kid 25 cents and said, “Don’t spend it all in one place now!”). The food was good, the gravy was peppery.

Mikey broke down camp while I was enjoying those biscuits and gravy with the kids, and then we hopped in and took off for a return to the Long Valley of California and all of the hot springs therein.

First Stop: Bridgeport, California

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelinMom

Now, the last time we were in Bridgeport, it was busting at its seams with tourists right off of their buses. The last time we were in Bridgeport, we’d had fish and chips or something like that, and snickered our share at the bright colors that the tourists favored in their clothing selections. The straw hats, sandals, and pale legs gleaming in the sun … we thought it was really funny, like we were somehow above that. Ha.

This time, Bridgeport was a different town.

The lady in the local store (white bread: $3.99; regular/nice grain bread, $6.99!) said the campground by Buckeye Hot Springs was closed and that the road to Buckeye might be closed as well, due to the freezing weather.

We shrugged and decided to skip Buckeye and go straight to Travertine since that was a sure thing: an incredibly lovely hot spring, definitely open, and on the way to the hot springs by the town of Mammoth.

Next Stop: Travertine

The hot springs at Travertine makes me think if you were an atheist, you’d believe in God after soaking here. It’s like transcendent bliss, man.

After three hours – which felt like 30 minutes – we were ready to go. And what was unbelievable was that we’d had three hours to ourselves (one guy came briefly by, dipped in and left – but he doesn’t count since he was so fast and my back was to him so it was like he wasn’t really there, right?), and then just as we were leaving, people upon people, car after car, truck after truck arrived. When we pulled away with our own truck, which we call Myrtle, headed toward Mammoth, there were probably 20 people there.

We were so lucky.