The year 2021 marked my fourth calendar year as a full-time traveler. Wow, it’s gone fast. One of the best things about this life style is seeking opportunities for firsts. Firsts takes many forms from tasting something I’ve never tasted before to first experiences and adventures. Here is my list of firsts for 2021.

Ready. Set. Go.

Food Firsts

Two halves of a dragon fruit on a countertop.
Dragon fruit. Beautiful name. Beautiful fruit.

With so many things to do and see remaining closed, the biggest category of firsts for me was trying new food. This was a conscious effort. It’s amazing how we get into our own habits and ruts. Much of the new food I tried was simply a matter of looking around the grocery store. Because I’m a whole food plant-based vegan (most of the time), I searched the produce section for my adventures in food. You should try it. It’s easy and fun. Here us what I discovered.

Golden Berries. They reminded me of cherry tomatoes and, turns out, they are related to the tomatillo. They were good but one caution: they were super sticky. The stickiness made not only the outside of the berries sticky but the entire container and everything it touched in the grocery bag. Certainly not a deal breaker for purchasing them in the future but it was annoying.

Dragon Fruit. Seriously, this has to be the prettiest fruit on the planet. I’ve actually had it dried before but the difference in most fruits between fresh and dried is dramatic so I’m counting this as a first. I had no idea even which parts were edible so I had to look up how to eat a dragon fruit. Sadly, as pretty as they are, I didn’t much like either the taste or the texture.

Lemon Plum. I didn’t make a note about this one and now I cannot remember what it was like. It had a pointy-ish end which I found interesting. It may have tasted like an acidic (sour) plum.

A dragon fruit, lemon plum and a container of golden berries sitting on a counter.
Dragon fruit, golden berries (still inside a bag because of how sticky the container was, lemon plum.

Guava. This was another one I had to research as I wasn’t sure if the outside was edible. In case you are wondering, it is. The seeds, which are really hard, are also edible but to get the nutrition from them you need to crush them with your teeth. Just swallowing them doesn’t work as they will go through you whole.

A container of guava fruits with two of the fruits on top of it.
Guava fruit.

Star Fruit. I have always had it in my mind that star fruit (feature image) was super tart. But it wasn’t at all. I wonder where that notion came from? The package describes them as “these tropic treats combine the flavors of orange, apple and grape.” Not sure I would agree with that assessment except the texture did remind me of an apple.

Dill Pickle Adventures

I love dill pickles. Love them. In last year’s list of firsts, I tasted moonshine pickles which was fun to try though I wasn’t a fan. This year I added two more dill pickle items to the list. Both are going to sound gross and weird but both proved surprising in a good way.

Pickle Pizza. Okay, at the beginning of the last section, I said I was vegan though added on “most of the time.” Pizza (aka cheese with bread and veggies) is often my exception. I started this eating journey as a New Year’s Resolution in 2018. The first post of 2019 was about the first year attempt. Then, I described myself as 98% vegetarian, 89% vegan. Today, I would describe myself as 100% vegetarian, 95% vegan. And that last 5% is almost always cheese. Cheese and ranch dressing.

But I digress. Pickle Pizza. So yummy. I don’t even know what else to say. It has a cream cheese based (the equivalent to the red sauce on a traditional pizza), pickles, then covered in cheese and baked. Given the opportunity, you must try it.

A small pizza with jars of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
What can I say? Once I discovered this gem in Long Beach, pickle pizza may be something I tasted many more times during my stay.

Dill Pickle Taffy. Yes, I absolutely know how icky this sounds. But when I saw it in my favorite candy store in Long Beach, I knew I had to give it a try. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it except to say it has a very dill pickle flavor but at the same time is as sweet as any other taffy. I’d eat it again.

A jar of pickles with three green pieces of taffy in front of it.
Dill pickle taffy. Weird, fun and surprisingly not terrible.

New Food-Related Word

Do you like edamame? Edamame is immature soybeans that are boiled in the pod. In many sushi restaurants, they are brought out the way chips and salsa are at a Mexican restaurant or bread is at an Italian one.

I really like them on salads, added to stir fries and simply plain. I buy them in packages in the freezer section at the grocery store. However, when I can find them, I prefer to buy them already shelled. That’s hit and miss as I go grocery store to grocery store in my travels.

One time this year, I found them (can’t even remember where I was) but the packaging said “mukimame” which I’d never heard of before. I scrutinized the package and it sure looked and sounded like edamame so I added it to my cart. When I got home, I looked it up. Turns out mukimame is another name for edamame beans that have been removed from the pod. Have you ever heard the term? I’ve only ever called it edamame regardless of whether it was shelled or not.

One More Adventure in Food

This year I decided to try my hand at sprouting seeds and grains. You may know that sprouting provides more nutrient-availability to you.

Mason jar with a lids and three little packages of seeds.
Sprout seeds only take a few days to cultivate Sprouted grains might take one or two days longer..

I thought it would be fun, a kind of inside mini-garden. I have done both seeds and grains, usually the results I add to salads or put into tortillas with other things. The process is quite easy. You just need a jar and lid with holes in it. I bought a little sprouting starter kit to make it easier, but you don’t even need that. Growing your own sprouts means you’ll always have what you need (as long as you have a good supply of seeds and grains on hand) without having to count on finding them in your grocery store.

Sprouted beans on a white paper towel.
Sprouted beans.

Campground-Related Firsts

Though I have driven through many state and national forests, I’ve never camped overnight in one…until 2021 when I spent a few days in the Scout Mountain Campground in the Caribou National Forest near Pocatello, Idaho. Now, if I’d known what RV troubles awaited me less than 100 miles down the road after I left, I might well have moved into that national forest campground. But I didn’t and, the RV breaking down on the side of the road was also a first in 2021.

I’ve stayed at a lot of RV parks in my four years. But in 2021 I received my first bedtime pillow mint when I checked into one in Rawlins, Wyoming. Yep, at check-in at the Desert Rose Campground, I received a nice note that said, “You brought the five-star hotel with you. Let us put the mint on your pillow.” Isn’t that clever? Kitty also got a little bag of treats.

A note that reads: Welcome to Red Desert Rose Campground. A little cowboy comfort in the heart of cowboy country. You brought the 5-star hotel with you, let us put the mint on your pillow. Have an enjoyable stay with us. Y'all come back now, ya hear!" Photo also incudes two Andes candies mints.
Two mints for the RV pillow. A little cowboy comfort indeed.

Other Firsts

During my workamping stint at the Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge, I drove a Gator which I continually referred to as a golf cart on steroids. While I’ve driven golf carts before, I’d never driven a Gator. Now I have.

A Gator parked next to a gray building.
The Gator parked outside the Visitors’ Center. This was taken one week before I left. You can see the tamarack trees on the hill turning yellow.

A while ago, I remember writing in a blog post that I’m not particularly keen on dining alone. I tried but could not remember in which post. I go alone on walks, to museums, to other adventures but dining alone, for some reason, often just feels sad to me.

However, one challenge I gave myself this year in an attempt to be more socially adventurous was to go to a bar alone. While I have dined alone, I’ve never gone to a bar alone. I know this will sound silly to most of you but I was really nervous. Still, I did it. I went to a local sports bar and watched a Seattle Seahawks game. You know, when in Washington you cheer for the Seahawks.

Photo in a bar with a closeup on a Rolling rock beer and a tray with a bucket of fries and tatter tots and a small container of ranch dressing.
A couple of beers, a bucket of fries and tatter tots, a football game on a Sunday afternoon. Really, alone or with friends, it’s kind of an unbeatable combination. And, yes, that’s ranch dressing.

In 2021, I embraced my curls and have gone full tilt experimenting with the Curly Girl Method. Okay, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. The 2020 stay-at-home resulted in many of us spending a lot more time on YouTube. I ended up finding fellow curly girls. Basically, the curly girl idea started as a movement in the African American community for women to embrace their natural hair and it spread.

I knew I had wavy hair but when I cut it short when I first got on the road, I quickly discovered it was actually curly. But when long, the weight would straighten it. Now, by following the CGM, I am discovering I can have curly long hair. Sort of. It’s still a work in process.

Holiday First

In 2018, while in Walla Walla (my first real stop as I began RV life), I saw my first Christmas light parade. This year, I went to a tree lighting ceremony. Now, that wasn’t a first. In my NYU college days, I once made it to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting which was great fun and a quintessential New York City experience.

No, the reason this year’s tree lighting makes the list is that they didn’t actually light a tree. In the fishing town of Ilwaco, which is also on the Long Beach peninsula, they lit crab pots. They tied a bunch of crab pots together into the shape of a tree and that was the “tree.” So, attending a Crab Pot Tree Lighting for sure belongs on the List of Firsts.

I attended the festivities with some new friends and it was lovely. What a unique way to kick off the holiday season.

Man and woman standing in front of a bunch of crab pot tied together to form a tree. Several yellow buoys are placed through the "tree."
My friend, Jim, and I in front of the crab pot tree. If you look at the top, you can easily make out the crab pots. And…want to see something funny? We were at the Ilwaco Crab Pot Christmas but we stood just perfect so the signage says Waco Crappo Christmas. That cracks me up!

Saddest First

As of a couple of weeks ago, I am now petless because Kitty died. Technically I was petless all my adult life prior to July 2005 when I brought Kitty in from the weeds. But, it’s the first time on the road and so I’m counting it as a first.

Even though I know Kitty was probably gone from this earth within a few hours of dashing out of my rig, three weeks later, I still find myself opening the door and calling her name…just in case. At the end, she almost did nothing but sleep. Even so, I miss her presence in my trailer which makes me think of Solstice and then I miss her presence too.

Losing pets is hard. So hard.

And, Of Course…

The big first of 2021 on my list of firsts was more than 30 years in the making. Of course, you know what I’m talking about…I Sold My First Novel.

As this post goes up, we are five weeks from the book being released. It’s crazy cool. And, from my side of things, crazy surreal. When you spend such a long time trying to reach a goal, fulfill a dream there is a strange sensation of “now what?” that comes along when it finally happens.

What Did You Do, See or Taste for the First Time in 2021?

If you made a list of firsts for 2021, what things would be on it? I’d love for you to share.

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