Americans have an on-again, off-again love affair with teardrop trailers. At the height of the real estate bubble—a 3,000-square-foot home, media room, and eat-in kitchen for every family!—there wasn’t much innovation in the industry. But since the 2008 financial crash, more and more trailers have appeared on the scene. “There’s just something attractive about being fully self-contained and on the road,” says Ashley Grimes, founder of Utah-based Moby 1 Trailers.
Take the So-Cal Krawler, which has a reinforced steel frame, adjustable shocks, and a burly roof rack for gear or a tent ($16,195). And the military-grade Schutt Xventure is a utilitarian beast, with 19 inches of ground clearance ($11,995).
For sheer ruggedness, however, no trailer can compare to the Moby 1 XTR ($18,500). Measuring 54 inches wide and 108 inches deep, and weighing in at 1,600 pounds, it comes equipped with a queen-size mattress, a loaded galley kitchen, multiple rechargeable power sources, and, most important, an adjustable five inches of suspension—because sometimes the open road isn’t so open.
Moby even has add-ons, like a solar package to take it completely off the grid ($350) and a rooftop tent to fit the whole family ($2,400).Grimes knows a guy who’s living in his unit full-time and another who uses the trailer as a beachfront shack. “There’s an inclination to pack them with amenities,” Grimes says. “But the beauty of these trailers is that they force you to be minimalist. You have to get outside to cook and shower and do everything except sleep and read a book.” Now that’s an American dream we can believe in.
Soak in the Pacific on this 250-mile trip from Eureka to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area—it’s every bit as stunning as California’s iconic Highway 1, but without the crowds.
Packing List: Sunscreen, hammock, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds
Highlights: Take a 6.5-mile round-trip hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 50 miles north of Eureka, where you’ll trek along Gold Bluffs Beach and into Fern Canyon, a chasm so lush that Steven Spielberg filmed part of Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World there.
In southern Oregon’s self-proclaimed banana belt, named for its warm climate, take a guided four-hour Pacific kayak tour and paddle past sea stacks, arches, and kelp forests ($105). Reserve one of six yurts at Harris Beach State Park, then head to the sandy beach and fly a kite or explore the tide pools ($43). Splurge on a riverside suite at Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, on a hilly bend of the Rogue River, where you can have an en suite massage next to the woodstove and eat pole-caught salmon for dinner (from $415).
When you reach Port Orford, fuel up at the Crazy Norwegian’s Fish and Chips (541-332-8601), then spend the night in a cabin suite at WildSpring Guest Habitat, an off-the-radar eco-resort on five acres, where you can score a hot tub overlooking the ocean (from $288).
Drive north to Floras Lake, a pine-studded body of water that offers some of the state’s best kiteboarding and windsurfing ($199 for a kite lesson, $60 for a wind-surfing lesson). Once you make it to Coos Bay, head over to the Charleston Boat Basin, pick up a crab-fishing license, and rent a crab ring at Basin Tackle Shop ($11.50 for three days, non-Oregon residents; 541-888-3811). Catch your legal limit (12 Dungeness, 24 red rock), then take them back to the Charleston Crab Shack (541-888-3433), where cooks will clean and serve them to you hot.
Blame the weather, the color of the Thames, or the historical moniker of “The Big Smoke,” but London doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to the great outdoors. In reality though, Britain’s capital city is an urban runner’s paradise, housing 5,000 acres of parkland in the city’s eight Royal Parks and countless other canals, hidden routes, and greenspace.
The city’s collective grit and sense of can-do ambition means that Londoners understand running. A national aversion to being a nuisance means that pedestrians will generally move out of your way if you let them know you’re behind them (hint: apologetically saying “sorry” is the British way of saying “get the hell out of my way”). And if you’re worried about not knowing which way to look when you cross the road, don’t fret. Always fans of orderliness, the Brits have painted “look right” or “look left” on the cross walks for tourists’ convenience.
So put on your trainers, and hit the tarmac.
It’s not really fair to call a run in Richmond park “urban running” because as soon as you enter the enclosed 2,500 acres, you’ll feel far from a double decker bus or black cab. Rolling hills, woodlands, plenty of mud and wildlife, and an amazing view of St. Paul’s Cathedral (12 miles away) at the park’s highest point make it worth exploring. A perimeter run around the park will put you at just over seven miles, but getting lost in the park’s inner trails is the perfect antidote to city life. Oh, and thanks to Henry VII who was a fan of hunting, you’ll find plenty of deer to keep you company (they’ve been roaming freely since 1529).
Though it’s not a Royal Park, Victoria Park has the distinction of being the closest to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and thus served as the workout spot of everyone from Kenyan distance runners to Paralympic cyclists during the 2012 games. Its roughly 220 acres are a perfect place to run grassy and shady loops and catch your breath at one of the park’s three serene lakes—though you might have to dodge some hipsters thanks to its trendy location in the East End. The easternmost entrance at St Mark’s gate is roughly one mile from the impressive Olympic Park, which is still open to the public.
Grand Union Towpath/Regents Canal to Primrose Hill
If loops aren’t your thing and you want to cover ground while seeing the city, start your run at the Grand Union Towpath behind St. Pancras International Station at Kings Cross. Follow the canal path (you can peek into the windows of all the quaint narrow house boats while you’re at it) to Camden Lock Market, where you might have to dodge a few punk rockers. Once you’re in Camden, you’ll be running along the Regents Canal, take the signposted staircase exit for Primrose Hill and run to the very top to get one of London’s best city views. An out an back will put you at about 5 miles, or you can finish by running around Regents Park, which is adjacent to Primrose Hill.
There’s no doubt every English literature professor has at some point referred to the River Thames (pronounced “Temz”) as “liquid history.” If you’re a runner visiting London, it’s also a very efficient way to get your sightseeing in. Start at the Tower of London and cross Tower Bridge so you’re on the southern bank of the river. From there, turn right and you can run along the path and take in some of its most iconic sights: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Millennium Bridge, Big Ben, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Definitely bring your phone to snap a picture, but try doing this run early in the morning, as tourists will predictably descend on the path.
The Pall Mall/Hyde Park
There’s something about incorporating a palace into your running route that feels fittingly British. Start at the corner of The Mall and Horse Guards Road (right on the corner of St James’ Park). Run straight down The Mall and when you get to Buckingham Palace (how’s that for a landmark?), bear right. Run along Constitution Hill, which serves as the finish of the London Marathon, and you’ll reach Hyde Park Corner and the entrance to Hyde Park. From there, you’ll have 630 acres to explore in Central London’s largest park. Don’t miss the famous Speaker’s Corner, in the northeast corner of the park.
We shuffled off the plane in Miami at 6:30 in the morning, our stream of passengers merging with other streams of passengers all flowing toward Baggage Claim and Customs. We entered a wider portion of the hall where large armed men held their ground in the middle of the crowd, scanning for people to pull aside and question.
“Wow, not too warm; not even a smile,” our daughter Molly noted.
“Pick up the ball! Pick up the BALL! PICK. UP. THE. BALL!” It took our son Skyler a minute to realize the uniformed man with the rearing German shepard was talking to him. Chagrinned he snatched up the soccer ball he’d been dribbling with his feet.
“Don’t worry Skyler. The dog just wanted your ball,” I said, pulling him closer.
We were returning home to the U.S. after a year living in Brazil. These returns are always an eye-opening jolt and, for me, a long, slow adjustment. It usually takes me a full year to reintegrate into life at home.
We managed to find all our bags, make it through Customs, recheck the bags and enter Security. There we stood one-by-one in the beam-me-up-scotty Imaging Station, our hands raised over our heads, while our bodies were stripped to their bones.
I wondered what our Brazilian friends from the small, rural town where we'd been living—a town where for many people the luxury of running water was erratic—would make of all this and the self-flushing toilets, and automatic paper towel dispensers.
As we were repacking and redressing (the TSA agents had even scrutinized our flip flops) we were put through not one but two episodes of shouted, “Halt! Everybody, Don’t Move…. Okay, you can go, just a drill.”
We were definitely not in Brazil.
“Whew, this is intense,” Skyler said. “Let’s get out of here, before they do another one.”
Things had gone smoothly, until we hit the First World. Then things began to go awry. Our flight out of Miami was delayed for maintenance, which was okay. We happily rounded up a breakfast of things we hadn’t eaten for a year.
"That’s what they don’t have in Brazil: muffins, whipped cream, and vending machines,” Skyler exclaimed seeing one for the first time in 12 months.
This is why it's worth all the trouble of leaving one's job, renting one's house, learning other languages, uprooting one's kids, and struggling through cultural adjustment: for this chance to pull back. And especially so our kids can get that perspective at young ages. But the return is hard.
What do you say to all your old friends asking, “How was it? I bet it was so fun.” I don’t know if I could really say living abroad is fun. Certainly it can be exhilarating. It's definitely stimulating, but it's also painful and hard. It’s more like giving birth to a child. Not fun, but so worth it. Worth if for the connections we’ve made with people so different from ourselves, culturally, racially, economically, socially; and the pride, and I hope the increased confidence for our kids, because of the obstacles we had to overcome.
So what’s the sound bite that will somehow encapsulate our hearts cradling the people of Penedo (our small town in Brazil), the quilt of sherbert colors, palms clacking in the breeze, horse hooves on cobblestones?
I settled on, “Well, it was really rich, and well, really hard, so I feel relieved to be back and—sad, too.” It was lame, but the best I could do. Then I’d flip the conversation.
There was still too much to say. It would take months to boil it down. So it seemed simpler to say nothing. Besides no one really wanted more than that ten-second sound bite anyway. We'd warned our kids not to expect lots of interest from their friends. It's both disheartening and understandable.
Home was so familiar, too familiar. Had we ever left? I resented it a little. I wasn’t ready for this huge experience that my family and I had just had to be reduced to a dream. As I rode my bike and drove around our Montana town in my car, I realized we couldn’t have chosen a foreign town more the opposite of home. Penedo’s hard surfaces and chute-like streets were met with Missoula’s sprawling-wide, leafy-soft avenues; Penedo’s bright oranges and pinks with Missoula’s muted greens; Penedo’s constant scraps of ricocheting sound with the quiet, steady susurration of Missoula’s water.
I kept finding myself thinking "here, there, here, there."
In my next life, I dream of lobbying Congress to create a program to send every American teenager abroad, preferably to a developing country. It would change our relationship to the world, as individuals and as a nation, completely. Those kids would come back with a visceral understanding of why they’re so lucky to have been born in the U.S.—recognizing how precious is their ability to speak out without risking their lives; seeing how well the law works, mostly. But they’d see, too, that we’re not so different, nor are we "ahead"; that our breakneck speed might be breaking us down; that our touted 24/7 access to work might be sapping our energy and stealing time, time we could be spending with others, face to face, as families do every Sunday in Brazil. Those U.S. kids would learn that maybe we need to look a little farther afield before we claim the bragging rights some of us seem to cherish as Americans. They would be shocked, as I was, that we have Congressional leaders who have never left our shores, have never been issued a passport, but make our foreign policy.
Some of those kids would decide they never want to leave the U.S. again, that they’re in the place they love. Others might decide, like me, that the world is their home, and it’s both inexhaustibly big and very small; that it’s full of people just like them, trying to find their place, their role, their identities; trying to take care of people they love. Then together they could change the world.
I hope that my children will be able to see how they can fit into that larger world—one bigger than nations, broader than race—and feel comfortable enough in it to know they can jump and then look, because they’ll know they can cope when they land.
I think they will and when they do I hope they take me with them.