Zelda and I had the shortest morning walk we’ve had on this trip (except maybe for times when I’ve been sick), because it was seriously cold. The degrees didn’t look bad — 46, I think — but the wind had a chill to it that cut straight through my coat and my scarf. And it was a moving day, so I had to disconnect the water. The hose was stiff and unyielding, and the metal of the connector was so cold that it felt like it was burning my hand when I was unscrewing it. It was nowhere close to freezing, but felt like a definite warning/reminder that my van life is not compatible with a northern winter.

I’ve sort of been figuring that out anyway. It’s been a while since I whined about dirt here, but it’s still my least favorite part of van life. And the combination of cold weather, limited water, and abysmal campground showers means that I’ve spent a lot of time recently feeling Not Clean. I used to fantasize about baths, but now the combination of a hot shower and clean sheets has almost as much appeal. I’m again thinking seriously about joining Planet Fitness and planning my travels around their locations, at least once a week or so. Real showers, plenty of hot water, and (at least sometimes) the ability to overnight park in their lot is probably worth $22/month. Plus exercise! That would be nice, too.

Meanwhile, though, I’m in Nebraska, at Blue Valley Camping Area. It’s basically a parking lot with electric hookups. When I drove in, along a curving dirt road, I thought I might be the only person here, but actually there are three other campers in a fifteen or sixteen site lot. The campground is truly a parking lot — one site lined up next to the next, minimal space between them — but there appears to be a pretty nice park around it. I’ve been sitting in the van, watching the leaves fall from the trees, and considering exploring, but… well, brr… I know it’s cold out there and I’m finding the cold very un-motivating.

Plus, it was one of those long days, in the way that travel days can be. I didn’t make it very far, but I wanted to find a Target, because Target reliably has gluten-free shampoo and I a) left my shampoo behind somewhere, probably Albuquerque and b) had to buy non gluten-free shampoo the last time I bought shampoo, which is generally not the best option for me. So! Target. As best I could tell, the closet Target to my Kansas location was about two hours away, in Kearney, Nebraska. Nebraska hadn’t been on my travel plans, but why not, right?

Then I needed gas. Then the dogs needed to be walked. Then I needed some minimal groceries — fresh salad greens and fruit, basically. Then I needed to find a place to camp. And suddenly, the day is essentially over and I’ve really only traveled a couple hundred miles away from my starting place. It doesn’t feel like an impressive set of achievements.

On the other hand, I’ve got an acorn squash in the instant pot, which I’m planning to turn into soup before the end of the day. I ate scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, green onions, sweet potato and avocado for breakfast. I’ve washed all the dishes, the van is mostly clean, I tweaked a few lines from a previous chapter of Grace this morning, I wrote morning words, and here I am, writing a blog post.

camper van under a tree

My campsite

And while I dread the moment the dogs need to go out again — it’s cold and dark out there! — my campsite is really quite pretty. It’ll be a nice place to try to write tomorrow.

PS Made the soup, ate the soup, shared the soup with the dogs. And somehow it pleased me greatly that Zelda chose to first lick up all the squash soup before eating the bites of chicken I’d dropped in her bowl. It’s always nice when the audience is appreciative! I liked it, too — for future reference for myself, I used turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and paprika, plus onion, acorn squash, and an apple; chicken broth and the water from pre-cooking the squash; finishing it off with sour cream, honey, and a sprinkle of salt.