This year has been my second calendar year as a full-time RVer. In many ways, it proved much different from 2018 when I was still trying to figure out this whole RV living thing. In 2019, I completed five Bucket List items which was both satisfying and thrilling. Then there was a whole lot of other firsts along the way.

This is actually my second post with a list of firsts. The first one, I wrote with only two months RVing experience under my belt when everything was new. The lists are very different.

Here are the 2019 highlights:

Bucket List Items

Three items converged together in October when I attended the 48th annual International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. First, there was attending the event itself. During the years of planning for RV life, I watched videos and read blog posts from other RVers about the event. The more I watched, the higher the event rose on my “must do” list.

Blue badge with Balloon Fiesta info as well as my name and website name. Hanging on a black lanyard with two pins attached.
Media pass also included a media pin. The other pin (top) was from the guy who gave me my first balloon ride.

While there, I was given a media pass (bucket list item number two that I hoped for all the way back in early 2017). I also got the opportunity to take a balloon ride which is on most people’s bucket list. Mine included.

I have multiple posts coming about my experiences during the super fun event. Watch for those in the next few weeks.

The fourth and fifth bucket list item I completed in 2019, I wrote about just last week. During November I participated in National Novel Writing Month and won by writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Participating has been on the bucket list pretty much since they began two decades ago. I wrote my desire to try it in only the twelfth entry of this blog.

Then during a November adventure, I stood under a moonless clear night sky and learned a little bit about astronomy at a star gazing party. My education has a long way to go but it was a start to a long-time dream of learning more about the universe.

Food and Drink Firsts

While I went to my first vegetarian restaurant in 2018 and ordered vegan food, it wasn’t until early in 2019 that I went to my first vegan restaurant. I didn’t talk about this in my post on Desert Hot Springs, but I visited Native Foods in Palm Springs twice during my stay. It is so wonderful to taste such creative non-meat meals. I didn’t make it to another vegan restaurant—or, I should say, I never found another one—during the rest of the year, but I’m always on the lookout.

The next two firsts I experienced in Missouri. I tasted moonshine for the first time. I wrote about it in one of the Branson posts.

The College of the Orzarks was on my top three things I did in Branson. We stopped in at the restaurant on campus for lunch. In addition to the yummy corn and bean salad I ordered, my friend and I shared an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. Another first. I’ve wanted to try those ever since I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book and later the movie of the same name. They were yummy.


I learned to play ladder ball. Now, I admit, it may not have occurred to me to add this to the list had I not, then, went on to take 2nd place in the ladder ball tournament. My partner (who’d also just learned to play) and I played a total of seven games before claiming our prize.

The tournament took place during the Oliver Owners’ Rally. One of the people they had on hand was a representative from the manufacturer of the axles that Oliver uses, Dexter. A friend of mine bought a torque wrench but wasn’t sure how to measure the torque on our wheels. So, the guy came to her rig and we learned how to use a torque wrench. Then we got to practice and made sure all four wheels on each of our rigs were at the correct torque.

I still don’t own a torque wrench, but I’ll know how to use it when I finally buy one.

As you know from last week’s post, I am now practically a Picasso after my first ever painting class at a Sip and Paint event at a winery.


Black and yellow butterfly with its wings closed sitting on a fake red flower.
My fake flower and Gatorade mixture filling this guy’s belly.

It’s funny. As I write this, many of the items are from my time in Branson, Missouri, a place I didn’t particularly like. I think it just goes to show that if you are open, you can find fun anywhere.

Three adventure firsts I had in Branson were feeding a butterfly, visiting an outlet mall and visiting a Croc store (at the outlet mall).

In New Mexico, I visited my first ghost town. You’ll read more about it in an upcoming post on the area but—spoiler alert—I saw no ghosts. But heard tons of stories about the days during the three waves of mining for town, including a gun battle that erupted over an egg. Yes, an egg. As a result, one man ended up dead. Town lore never said who ate the egg. But, based on the story, I think it was in the dead man’s stomach.

Light blue container with Escapees sticker and various trinkets that were inside the bucket including a orange plastic skeleton, a Wet One, a pink heart, pins and more.
My first geocache find. You are allowed to take a treasure if you add something but I just looked.

Then, also in Deming, on a hike I saw my first tarantula. First, it scared me. But it immediately crawled under a rock and I wished for it to come out again so I could get a closer look. I wasn’t fast enough to snap a photo.

During the Oliver Owners’ Rally, I volunteered to help. They needed someone to teach GeoCaching. And, although I’d never done it before, it became one of my assignments. It actually has a fascinating history, one that I want to share in a future post. After I have more experience and have found more treasure.

It turned out that the time allotted for me to teach the class wasn’t enough for us to go on an adventure to actually find one of the hidden treasures. So, while I knew about how it worked, it wasn’t until New Mexico that I went on my first GeoCaching treasure hunt. There was one in the RV park where I stayed which made it an easy one to get to and a great beginning to a future filled with more treasure hunting.

Other Firsts

I’ve talked before about my experience at some fun Harvest Hosts. Prior to 2019, I’d only stayed at wineries. Not by design as much as location. But during the year, I added a farm and a museum to my stays. Both were great fun.

The reason I tell you this is not to highlight those as firsts, though they were. But to remind you that with Harvest Hosts, you have to go in a self-contained rig. That means you don’t need anything from the Host such as to use their bathroom or hookups. While these nights are, technically, boondocking, I’ve never felt I had a true boondocking experience by staying just a single night.

This year, however, I remedied that with two separate boondocking stays. First, I stayed for 12 days at the Meriwether Lewis State Park in Tennessee. It’s not far from the Oliver Trailer Factory where I’d gone for service. It was also where Solstice took her last walks and her last breath. She was so sick I wanted to remain in one place until the end so I stayed at the free no-hookups state park for 13 days.

They did have a plumbed bathroom. No showers but I stuck my head under the sink to wash my hair. So, I still felt like maybe I didn’t have the true boondocking experience since I didn’t have to conserve water.

White small travel trailer with the front door open. A chair and small table are set up outside the door with a black camping mat underneath.
Arrived and set up in the North parking lot at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta for my 12-day stay. This photo was before more RVs were packed in around me.

Then at the Balloon Fiesta, I boondocked again. This time there was no running water. However, my nervous-about-boondocking-self did go over to a friend’s house twice to shower. I was heading to her house anyway and decided to shower because I wasn’t sure how much water I’d go through during my 12 days at the Fiesta. Turns out, I used less than half of my on-board water in the 12 days so I didn’t need to use her shower. Now I have an idea of how long I can truly boondock in the future.

Finally, I feel brave enough that I’m planning more boondocking in the coming year. I don’t know. I might feel like I deserve the label of boondocker after that.

The other first I had this year is another Missouri one. Now, depending on where you’ve lived you might have experienced this with regularity. But it was certainly a first for me. One day, in the middle of the afternoon, it suddenly got so dark that my solar turned off thinking the sun had set. Then there was a thunder, lightning and down pouring rainstorm. Within half hour, it wasn’t so dark and solar came back on. Start to finish, it was weird and cool and creepy, all at the same time.

Reflections on a List of Firsts

At the time it happened, there was one item on this list that caused me to pause. Actually, more like I stopped and contemplated the item and what it meant. For days. Any guesses as to which item? I think it’s going to surprise you and I doubt anyone would guess correctly.

Eating fried green tomatoes for the first time.

So ordinary, you might think. You might wonder why wouldn’t I pick one of the greater grand items like attending the largest balloon celebration in the US and second largest in the world?

White rectangle plat with four fried green tomatoes covered in a jalapeno jelly and a small scoop of salsa on the side.
A close up shot of the fried green tomatoes. A tasty treat on my list of firsts.

But the reason I spent so much time thinking about a tomato is because, it seemed to me, it was an example of how anyone can make room in their life for a list of firsts. So, you don’t have to quit your job, sell your house, leave your friends to live in an RV and travel.

Supersizing your life is a broad term I’ve always said includes everything from the small to the grand. Will eating fried green tomatoes change your life? Will it change mine? No, probably not. But I prefer to look at it as a step along the path of opening one’s heart and mind and world.

I thought about finding joy in simple things and how little it takes to expand our world. So, in 2020, try to put more “firsts” in your life whether it’s simple like trying a new food, driving a different route home from work or trying a new activity or whether it’s as big as a balloon ride.

Would love to hear about one of your firsts from this past year. And maybe one you hope for yourself in the coming year.

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