Voices from the Road

A coast-to-coast RV trip in search of donuts, work, and a new place to call home

This past summer, I made what had to be my seventh job related move across the country. After spending months in quarantine on the East Coast, I decided it would be best if I looked for work on the West Coast. It was July. Like most of y’all, I had been out of work since March. Money was scarce. Time was abundant. During a casual conversation with a dear friend in California, I found a job on the Central Coast. I had nothing holding me back except for a hellish heatwave, the worst wildfire season on record, and a pandemic in a country rife with civil unrest.

Who would do such a thing? Leave the comfort and monotony of their small seaside hometown for a mad dash clear across the county to a state, and through states, that were burning? All the while dodging a virus, which was also spreading like wildfire. Had I lost my mind or did I know exactly what I was doing?

I didn’t have time to figure that out. What I did have time for was scrolling through internet ads for single-axle, self-contained travel trailers. The perfect one popped up. A vintage 1988 Jayco Express. It was exactly what I had been looking for. One owner, very good condition, all the appliances worked, and it was tagged until November. I took what savings I had left and went to snag it before someone else did.

Now the only problem with owning a travel trailer while living in a residential neighborhood is storage. Where was I going to park this without pissing off the neighbors? Maybe this is a crazy idea. Who do I know with a driveway big enough? I hit up my cousin in Maine. If she’d be so gracious as to let me store it in her yard, I’d take it. 

Sold. Things were starting to fall into place. I was at my cousin’s house every weekend in July getting the trailer ready for the trip. On my way to her house I would stop at Holy Donuts (I recommend the dark chocolate sea salt). 

Staying safe 

My route was planned. A straight shot along the interstate. No stopping for roadside attractions or sightseeing. Only stopping for gas, treats, and sleep. I had my dogs Pip and Nacho with me. Pip is a seasoned traveler, this was Nacho’s first trek. They did fine and slept most of the way there. Social distancing on the road was easy with the trailer. I didn’t have to worry about motels or public restrooms. I used hand sanitizer after getting gas. I felt safe from the virus. Getting sick on the road had been a fear of mine, but once I settled into my cautious routine and days passed without feeling, I was able to focus on getting to where I was going on time. 

It took two days to get to my friend’s place in Boulder, Colorado. I found a spot in front of her apartment complex to park my rig. Here’s a tip: Don’t back your trailer out of a driveway with a slope. You will get stuck in the pavement and have to have a tow truck get you out. (Thank you Marv’s Quality Towing.)

I spent two days in Boulder because the tires on the trailer were down to the wire mesh and needed to be changed. It was a nice break for the dogs. If you are traveling through Boulder with dogs, check out Valmont Dog Park. It’s huge, completely fenced-in with a really nice layout. One of the best dog parks I’ve ever been to, and the dogs had a blast!

After Boulder we headed to Moab to meet up with a friend who was on a solo motorcycle trip. I booked us a dog friendly spot at Portal RV Resort. It was a well maintained park right off I-40 with full hook-ups and great views of the surroundings. Red rocks and blue skies. I was stoked to find out that the A/C worked well. It was very hot in Moab, 110 degrees in late August. Too hot for the dogs to be out hiking. We were happy relaxing in the trailer while we waited for my friend Jack to roll up.

Rising temperatures

Towing the trailer cross country was pretty easy with a Ram 1500, but once I got outside of Moab, I started to worry. Temperatures were rising. The new tires on the trailer were wearing out fast. I was off the interstate and onto some back roads that my friend Jack recommended. Specifically RT-24 off I-70 toward Hanksville, Utah—it reminded me of that one scene in The Hills Have Eyes where a family takes a shortcut through the desert and ultimately meets their demise.

It was a desolate road. The vast expanse of desert can have you feeling like you’re treading water in the middle of the ocean. It is a vulnerable place to be alone with two dogs and all of your belongings. Who’s going to help you out there if something goes wrong? Most of the time I didn’t have any cell phone service. What if I got a flat? I didn’t have a spare. Noted for future trips: Always bring a spare trailer tire. The further I went down this two-lane desert byway, the more anxiety built up. At one point I pulled over and contemplated going back the way I came to I-70 and have a boring yet predictable drive to Bryce Canyon. 

My sense of adventure kicked in and I kept on the way I was going. After the Hanksville junction, RT-24 starts to follow along the Fremont River, which made for a nice change of scenery, winding through Capitol Reef National Park. More red rock, blue skies, and green trees—less nuclear waste horror fantasy scape. I stopped at another RV park for the night. The dogs and I did not go into Bryce Canyon (most of these park trails were not dog friendly). At this point, I was really tired of driving alone and trying to power through the last leg of my trip toward my friends house in Twentynine Palms, California.

I had one more unforgivingly hot desert to traverse—the Mojave. It was 117 degrees. I was constantly checking my oil and transmission temperature readouts, hoping I wasn’t causing irreparable damage to my truck. Mojave is beautiful. Dotted with little rustic dwellings, Joshua trees for miles and miles. It wasn’t as creepy as the Utah desert. It felt like a place you could break down in, if you had to. 

When I hit Amboy Road off of Route 66, I knew I was home free. In another hour or so I’d be at my friend’s house. Our dogs would be happy to see each other and we could hit up our favorite spot, the Jelly Donut.

From the Holy Donut to the Jelly Donut, this apocalyptic pandemic road trip turned out to be quite uneventful. On the open road you hardly knew the rest of the world was going through some heavy stuff. It is a privilege to find that kind of escape these days.

Matteo’s trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Matteo Montone