Wild Fires


Since entering Montana, the first week of our travels, we have been exposed to the smoke from the forest fires. We didn’t really notice how bad the air was until we ended up in Bend, Oregon. Vinny’s friend Dom felt kind of bad that we couldn’t get a sense of what Bend was really like; we could barely see the mountains. There were a couple days where it cleared out and we saw the amazing Smith Rock. I had a head cold and cough that wouldn’t go away. I had been at an eclipse festival in Big Prairie outside Prineville, Oregon in the dust the week before, so that was no help to my lungs. Then i’m in Bend injured from my burn and I could not do very much about it. Oh, how badly I wanted to climb Smith Rock. The best place to climb in the USA. I couldn’t put a harness over my thigh and too much movement would exacerbate my burn. We at least got a nice hike while we were there. I was depressed that I could not float down the river, when I had a chance. I just wanted to be in water because it had been over 90 degrees while we were visiting Bend. We spent a week there and then headed over to Crater Lake.

The signs of the fire really started to show, it was so smoky, you could not tell where the fire was coming from. There was a campsite we were planning to stay for the night, but the conditions were so bad that they closed it. We almost skipped Crater Lake, but decided to give it a try despite the questionable conditions. There were a few people there, good sign, we were not the only idiots. We could barely see the lake from the top. I’m glad we stopped by, even if it wasn’t in perfect conditions. We stayed there to make dinner and headed off, unsure of where we would sleep. The fire hazard was at extreme and it was getting too dark to drive. We drove a little further than we felt comfortable in the dark and ended up at Deschutes National Forest along side Odell Lake. It was so smoky that we could not see the other side of the lake, but it wasn’t effecting us too much. It was a very peaceful place, we could have stayed there for a while. The smoke was in and out of our site for the next two days that we were there. There is no forecast for smoke, it keeps changing, we realized. Sometimes you just have to sit it out and it will be an amazing day and sometimes not.


After the forest we ended up in Eugene and the air quality was good. At this point I remember the fire was really bad in Bend and people were wearing masks. We had a day where we rode up to Skinner’s Butte, that was the most proper ride I had in a while. The next day, Vinny and Zane went hiking up Spencer’s Butte. I had this cough that still wouldn’t go away and my chest was congested, so I didn’t go. Vinny and Zane came back saying it was a bad idea. Their lungs were paying for it, the smoke was worst than they thought. The next day they decided to go out and play a round of disc golf and came back with dust masks on. We drove to the coast with Zane and his family to get out of the smoke. The last day in Eugene, we tried to check the city out but the smoke was so heavy, that a mask wasn’t going to cut it. I felt really bad because there were homeless people laying in the streets without protection. One guy in particular was splayed out on a free couch, in the middle of the block, passed out. The next couple of days, we went to visit Vinny’s aunt, outside Eugene and the smoke had cleared for a bit. There was a fire that had just started outside of Portland, where our next destination was. We decided to change our route a little to stay clear of the smoke, so instead of Portland, we’d go to Seattle first. But first a jaunt to the coast to make our way up, instead of heading to Mount Hood. We had no real timeline, but had to change plans with friends that we are visiting. Seemed like the smoke was following us everywhere for a month. Finally after a few days on the coast, my sinuses and lungs cleared up!

I have never experience the heavy smoke from forest fires first hand before. In Minneapolis we notice the Canadian wild fires, but it doesn’t effect our breathing as much, we mostly notice how beautiful of a sunset it creates. My heart goes out to those who have to stay in those conditions and those putting the fires out.

What did I do to combat the smoke?

I tried as many naturopathic remedies as I could to boost my immune system. I tried my best to stay inside. Though we are living in an RV, it can be a little stuffy and not any better. I drank as much water as I could to stay hydrated and to get rid of the toxins from my body. I didn’t do the outdoor activities that I wanted to do. My go to in the morning was hot lemon water with some salt to jumpstart my digestion and the boost of vitamin C. I also took extra vitamin c along with my usual probiotics, fish oil and digest enzymes. My evening drink was a ginger tea, to help reduce inflammation. I even made a concoction of ginger, garlic, tumeric and salt to drink. I also made some weird concoction with apple cider vinegar. I ate more veggies than normal to detox my liver, so it doesn’t have to work so hard. I put garlic in everything! I did eucalyptus steam for my sinuses (the thing that burnt my legs in the first place) and the nettie pot. Foot bath with epsom salt for the extra minerals and relaxation. And my favorite, lots of sleep.


Week Two: Total Eclipse Shift

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I’m hanging in the RV in front of Vinny’s friends Dom & Annie’s house as Vinny is scraping tar off all the tires. At some point, we drove over some tar and didn’t realize it. Vinny thought the steering was a little funny. We just had the brakes checked out because we’d been getting a squealing sound. We stopped by Brakes for Less and they examined our brakes and said they were looking good, still 80% left. Well, we have squeaky breaks now, probably from when we drove through the mountains heading to Glacier.  Thank goodness, it just seemed like one thing was happening after the other! On the drive from the brake shop, the car started to shake and we thought maybe they had done something to the brakes. Once we got to Dom and Annie’s, Vinny checked out the tires to discover we had lots of tar on the tires.  A lot of WD40 and elbow grease and a few hours later,  the tires are clean.

Before Bend, Oregon, we were at Big Prairie Summit in the Ochoco National Forest for the Global Eclipse Gathering, where we watched the total solar eclipse. It was a huge gathering of live music, lots of electronic, some folky stuff and some in between. I was sold on the health and wellness seminars and aerial and yoga classes that were held all day, everyday for a week. We bought early entry tickets so that we could find the best spot to camp. We met up with some of Vinny’s friends in the town beforehand so that we could all caravan there together. His friend Selena organized the whole group of 10 vehicles, which to me sounded like a lot of work. I applaud her for getting us all together. We all got organized in Prineville to drive about 30 miles to get to the festival. Little did we know that it would take us 12 hours to get to our campsite! As we inched our selves closer to the festival, we stopped about a dozen times. Everyone got out of the car to mingle after a while, not knowing this was going to be an all day ordeal. At some points we tried take naps, but as soon as we did that, we had to start rolling again. While in line, we snapped some pictures, made lunch, then made dinner and did some complaining, laughing and tried to make the best of the situation. There were people biking and skateboarding back and forth, from their cars to the event many times over, giving us an update on how far we had left to go. This whole time, I had a head cold coming on.

Finally we get to the event after midnight and they pushed a couple dozen cars aside so that an emergency vehicle could pass by. I think at some point they forgot about us, but finally gave us our wristbands and car pass without questions. We found an area of camp to enclose our group together. As we were setting up in the dark, it looked like a mess, but when we got up in the morning and walked around, we saw how organized the paths were. The camp was so dusty, actually the whole festival was dusty, but they had an amazing set up. It was a temporary village of markets for food & merch, cafes, installations, live painting, lots of cool spaces to hang out (tree houses, hammocks, benches, floating devices, little personal huts). They also had lots of music stages, open buildings for yoga, dance, wellness, permaculture classes. The most popular spaces were around the beach, where they had hundred and hundreds of floaty devices and some slides. It was a play area for adults. It was a safe space for people to express themselves, from the nearly nude to the most colorful of outfits and totem poles. Most people walking around covering their faces with scarves and bandanas to protect themselves from the dust.

I spent a lot of time in the RV because I was so sick and had my period. I couldn’t really do anything active. I wasn’t feeling social and the dust was not helping. We had the RV door open to get some cool air flowing through, but that also brought in a lot of dust. Our newly painted and cutely styled home was now a hot mess! 

Remember our 12 hour wait to get into the event? Vinny decided to pick up a book to read and it was soaked. We found out our water pump broke and flooded the area around the pump, under the bed, soaking our belongings. Another issue to deal with! We decided to empty the fresh water tank, so that we could dry up the area, which meant no running water. No big deal, we thought, most people at the event were roughing it, we were glamping, compared to them.

Thursday we walked the event to scope it out. Friday I finally decided to go out and about to check out some seminars and hang out at the beach for the day. It was awesome to hang out in the sun in a bikini all day! That night, I decided to make a facial steam with eucalyptus for my sinuses, but before I could put my face over it, I dumped the whole pot of boiling water all over my lap, while still in my bikini. I shot up from my seat panicking as I only had a small amount of water to dump over myself. I found the aloe gel and rubbed it all over. The burn was just radiating! We ran about a mile to get to the medical tent and they offered a small amount of ice and triple cream ointment, but that just wasn’t enough. Luckily we had a freezer, so Vinny made some ice all night and swapped the melted ones for the partially frozen bags. It wasn’t until morning that the pain resided. Vinny’s friends offered up all sorts of creams and lotions and bandages and I went to the medical tent everyday to get them to redress my wound. Every doctor and nurse got to see my privates, not a good area for a burn, if I had to pick one. I ended up with first and second degree burns. I had to stay out of the dust because i had open wounds and blisters around my buttocks, belly and legs. Also a very hard area to bandage up. Makes it hard to use the bathroom, ride a bike, hike, climb, do yoga, swim in the lake, hangout in a hot spring…all things I can’t wait to do! We decided to stay at the festival until the eclipse ended because there wasn’t much we could do. We figured it was crazy in the town outside of the festival because it was the best place in the country to see the eclipse.

I went to urgent care to get the wound checked out when we got to Bend, Oregon.  Luckily no infection and I got a prescription to a cream to apply on the wound for the rest of the week. We were planning on staying at a campground to hookup our RV to city water. We needed to get rid of our trash, dump out black and grey water tanks, clean up the RV and finally take a shower. I needed to be in a clean environment. Luckily, Vinny’s friends Dom and Annie live in Bend and let us park in front of their home. They gave us a place to shower, let us do laundry, showed us around town, and were wonderful hosts and great company.  All of which we are so grateful for! So glad I got to get to know them.

Sadly, I didn’t get to do any of the active things at the festival and only got to attend a few seminars, but witnessing the eclipse with my best friend on top of our RV was an amazing and unforgettable experience. It can only get better from here, right?


Week One: What we learned during our first week living in an RV.

It’s been about a week since we set out on our journey in an RV, with no particular place to go. What we did know was that we were going northwest for the Global Eclipse Festival to see the solar eclipse in the middle of August and then head down the west coast. We were busy getting the Winnie ready for the road. Before we left, we painted, had the engine checked, the generator serviced, tires replaced, cracks sealed and other little things. We kept the projects as minimal as we could, to make it feel like our home. Along the way, we are sure to collect some knick knacks and memories.

It has only been 7 days, but we have learned a lot this past week…


1. We were planning on leaving on a Saturday.  That day, Vinny went to put the tire pressure monitoring system on and realized he couldn’t get to the tire valve, which also meant that he couldn’t put air in the tires. When Firestone put new tires on the week before, they didn’t put the valve extensions back on.  When he asked them about it, they said that they are more hassle than they are worth.  Since it was the weekend, they were closed and we had to wait until Monday to deal with it.  Lesson #1:  Don’t always listen to the “professionals”.

2. We did not do a few things before we left; either because we did not have time or wanted to learn as we go.   An important lesson this week was the emptying of the grey and black water tanks. The first night of glamping, we sanitized the fresh water tanks. This is our water source when we are not hooked up to an external source.  Since it was our first time using this system,  we read that we should disinfect the fresh water tanks before using.  Which meant, pumping a bleach water mixture through the system and flushing it within four hours. We had to flush it twice to get the chlorine smell out of the tank. After disinfecting, we had to fill it with fresh water. We couldn’t use the water until we had the chlorinated water emptied. We didn’t end up filling the fresh water tank right away because the water fill station seemed a little iffy, so we went without water for a another day. We were at Cabela’s in Billings, Montana when we finally got some water to do our pile of dishes. Water filling at Cabela’s is free and dumping is $5 (in Billings) unless you buy something at their store, then it’s free. We finally did the dishes and got to use the RV toilet.

3. Water filling is the easiest process, but when we stuck our hose in the fresh water fill tank, the water kept over flowing.  There was barely any water in the tank and again we were confused. Thankfully a fellow RV’er at the Cabela’s gave us some sage advice, “With these older models, you just have to take your time.”   The water pressure was too high, the water just needed to go in slower. I’m sure we would have figured that out eventually. The level checker didn’t seem to read, until it was actually full, so we couldn’t tell how full the tank was. We also learned from the RV’er that it was a good idea not to fill your water too full, so that we don’t carry too much weight on the road. The heavier the load, the more you spend on gas. It’s a good idea to only have as much as you need and fill up and dump when you need to. So with all that, we learned about conserving water, energy and zero waste on food.  Thoughtful conservation is a part of the lifestyle of living on the road that we realize we really love.  We’ve only showered once this week, and it was at a friends house. lol.

4. This week we also stayed at a friends house in Rapid City, SD. We didn’t think to ask about the terrain. When we got there, the whole area was very hilly.  This is not good for the fridge, systems or sleeping. A level RV is a happy RV.   The fridge will actually stop working if it’s not level. No amount of blocking was going to get this Winnie level on that street. The fridge was completely full, Matt & Stephanie were gracious enough to let us cram all our food into their fridge & freezer.

5. We descended into St. Mary’s on the east side of Glacier National Park and Vinny noticed smoke coming from the hood. As we pulled off the road we realized the brakes were nearly on fire. We parked in front of a hotel at the main intersection of St. Mary’s and had a small freakout thinking of all the worst case scenarios. There were no repair shops for at least 50 miles and we were in some of the most mountainous roads in the country. No brakes means, no France and Vinny and a Winnie.  After we calmed down we decided to find an RV park to set up camp. While at the RV Park, we did some research on the internet and inquired with some helpful knowledgeable friends over the next day and our fears subsided realizing that our brakes probably weren’t shot. Vinny checked them out and felt we could proceed and stop if we needed. After a short test drive and also learning about the first and second gear correct uses, the journey back towards Browning and the southern end of Glacier was a smooth and beautiful one. The best we’ve seen so far.  Side note:  We drove into Glacier to ask some questions and found that there is a 21 foot vehicle limit through the “Going to the Sun” road, so we couldn’t get to West Glacier that way. This would have been nice to know before hand.

6. We learned that we have to organize and clean all of the time.  The space is too small, so it gets cluttered real quickly. Also, when driving, you can’t really have many loose objects or else things go flying everywhere. Life in a RV is slow and steady, everything takes more time.

7.  We have been on a time crunch. Luckily, only for the first week of the trip; we’ve been driving a lot. Our meals have been at random times.  We prefer the home cooked meals instead of going to restaurants and as little junk food as possible. It’s awesome to be able to stop anywhere to make food when we get hungry, with any backdrop of the country.

8. Staying hydrated has been hard because it’s dryer and we are at a high altitude. It seems like we keep drinking water and can’t get hydrated even though we have plenty of purified water which we keep in a 5 and 3 gallon bottle. Its nice to have a toilet in the vehicle. We just keep sipping water throughout the day. Stay hydrated!

9. Finding a place to camp earlier is also important; especially when looking for something free. We’ve wasted some time trying to find a place to stay.  It’s been too late in the evening, which doesn’t allow us as much time to explore the area. But hey, any Love’s gas station is free if you want to hear the rumbling sounds of the semi-trucks and huff a lot of gas for the night. Some even have free water fill and dump stations. This won’t be a problem when we slow down after the Global Eclipse Gathering. We are also trying to manage our time better, so waking up earlier has been something we’ve been thinking about doing.

10.  We love this life.