Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day Before Our Departure...

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Hi all!

We started this blog for anyone who is interested in following our 30 day adventure road trip throughout the entire US.  Our mission is simple:  Eat at food trucks, learn as much as we can about food trucks, travel to as many possible US cities as we can in 30 days, and to have the time of our lives!  

Back in March 2012, we spent an entire day driving around looking at real estate trying to find a house to buy that could eventually become our 'home'.  As we lay in bed talking that night, we really started discussing what we wanted for our future.  I was a student and worked full-time as a graphic designer and bartender.  Mitch, an accomplished chef in Milwaukee, who worked 75 hours a week.  Were we going to stay in Milwaukee, happy and content, with a comfortable income, amazing friends, and near Mitch's parents?  Would we buy a house in Door County, the wonderful place I grew up in 3 hours north of Milwaukee, where we got married the year before, and where my parents live?  

OR would we look outside our comfort zone and move 'away'?  

The answer was easier for us than we thought it would be.  Mitch had dreams of working for himself, owning a food truck and catering company.  I had dreams of living somewhere 'exotic'....probably subconsciously taking a cue from my little brother who has lived in Alaska and Australia, and who was now on his way to living in New Zealand.  I always knew Mitch was meant for greatness, but that there was always so much more to learn about his craft.

But this meant moving.  Farther than nearer.  

We discussed different cities.  We knew we wanted to stay in the US for now, so that narrowed our options.  When we discussed Austin, a place Mitch had been to but I hadn't, he knew it would be a great match for us.  The next day we began our research and picked a final moving date.  We gave ourselves 6 months to the day to make our plans, get our finances in order, and plan our move.  

A few months before our departure date, we decided we wanted to explore the food truck business more.  We wanted to go to as many food trucks as we could before opening our own.  What better way to do this then to take a road trip through the entire country in search of the best food trucks out there?  We knew it would take a lot of planning, money, and at a least a month to do so, but we also knew it would be a trip of a lifetime!  

We began hunting for a older camper trailer that we could fix up and take on our journey.  We found one about mid-summer and couldn't wait to get started on it.  It was a 15' long, 7' wide, 1963 Pathfinder aluminum camper.   It was the most horrible looking thing I've ever seen, but we saw the potential and knew it could look amazing.  Our parents were skeptical, but we were so excited.

Exterior of our gem.


Interior (Back) with the cupboards scattered on the floor.

Interior (Front) with the awesome original couch.

Pathfinder camper - Made in Spencer, WI!

Also, there was a dead bird in the corner when we bought it...

Here were some inspirational campers we wanted to model our camper after :

The first thing we did was get a Home Depot credit card.  Bad idea.  We went to Home Depot so many times in a 2 month period that we knew most of the workers at our local store by name and they knew our entire road trip/camper story and probably thought we were insane.

Showing off my sawing skills at Home Depot.

Lucky for us, Mitch's parents, who live about a half hour outside of Milwaukee, let us keep the camper in their driveway.  This was a huge help to us!  We gutted it, tore out the walls, added new walls, re-wired the entire thing, painted the interior and exterior, built seats over the tire wells, got brand new tires, installed cupboards, a counter, and a sink, and decorated it.

Pre-restoration front of camper - parked at Mike and Debi's house.



Inside - cleaned out and ready for demolition.

Mitch and I didn't agree on everything the entire process.  We fought.  I cried.  We laughed.  We often got drunk sitting in it wondering what the hell we got ourselves into.  

The camper 'cried' too...

Mitch's parents would come out and check on us every once in a while.  The neighbors popped in to see what all the commotion was about it.  We had power tools and the shop-vac going at all hours of the night, which, surprisingly, no one complained about.

Most of all, we had so much fun.  Probably the most fun I've ever had doing anything in my life.  We decided to model our camper after the ship in the Bill Murray movie 'The Life Aquatic' which is Mitch's favorite movie.  We even named the camper 'Belafonte' which was the name of the ship.

The process took a little less than 2 months.  We set a deadline of September 14th so we could unveil it at our Going Away party.  We literally worked on it up until 2 hours before the party.

Here was the entire process from Day One....

We picked up the camper in Janesville, WI (about an hour away from Milwaukee) and attempted our first gas station stop.  From there we drove it to Mitch's parents house and got right to work.

Mitch removing the rotted wood panels.

Removing the rotted insulation.

Removing the cupboard doors.

Beginning to build the wheel well frames and eventual seating area.

Painting the interior white.

Re-wiring the camper and installing new break lights with the help of Mitch's dad and friend, Scott.

Took a trip to the grossest salvage yard EVER to find spare 'parts'... No luck.

Installing the floor and building the seats over the wheel wells.

Beer break.

New floor and walls.

Newly painted blue cupboard doors.

New tires at Tires Plus in Delafield, WI.  These guys were awesome!

Painting the cabinets blue that I found on Craigslist for $10 TOTAL.

Scathaine Metal shop in Milwaukee helped us cut our "counter top" (a solid wood door I scored for $5 at the Habitat for Humanity store!!) to fit the width of the camper and they also cut out a hole out for the sink to fit in.  These guys were SO nice and helpful.

Seeing it all come together FINALLY.

The futon we ordered FIT! Thank god.

Hand and power washed the outside so it would be ready for paint.

Painting the first exterior coat of white.  It turned out great!

We jumped the gun and painted the blue layer of paint on late in the day right before the temperature dropped into the 40s and it started raining!
When we woke up the next day, that's when the camper looked like it was crying.  We nearly started crying too...  Luckily it dried and we were able to re-paint the blue section.

Counter top fit too!  This was a huge relief.

Almost final 'kitchen' area.

Homemade curtains.  Decor.  Finishing touches for the unveiling at our party.

Almost final sleeping and sitting area.  We added a clothes bar and hangers too.

So happy and relieved to be almost done.

Cork board map (to track our road trip stops) that has a flat screen TV installed above it (not pictured) :)

Made it to the Going Away Party on-time to unveil the camper! 

We hand-painted 'Belafonte' on the side, added an anchor decal to the door window, installed white trim to the bottom edges, and added a yellow accent strip to finish the exterior.

Now it's September 22nd and we are leaving on our road trip tomorrow morning.  When we set this date, it seemed so far off.  Now it's here.  The anticipation and excitement has built so much that I almost don't even know if this is really happening.  

Once we return from our road trip at the end of October, we will spend a few days with our parents and friends before trekking back to Austin and settling in to our new life.  I will update the blog daily, sometimes more than once a day, so we can share this road trip adventure with you.

Yesterday we had a photo shoot with the amazing Katie Donoghue, our neighbor and professional photographer.  Here is a preview of the shoot with some pictures Mitch's brother took with his phone that I edited.  We are so excited to see the final pictures that Katie took!  More to come....

Here is a list of the cities we will be visiting and the dates we will be there:

Day 1 - Sept. 23:  Chicago and Cleveland
Day 2 - Sept. 24:  Effort, PA to visit and stay with Laurel's cousin, Britta, and her family.
Day 3 - Sept. 25:  Hamden, CT to visit Mitch's old boss and chef, Tom.
Day 4 - Sept. 26:  Seaside Heights, NJ, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Richmond, VA, and Virginia Beach, VA.
Day 5 - Sept. 27:  Myrtle Beach, SC, Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.
Day 6 - 13 -- Sept. 28 - Oct. 5:  Orlando and Bonita Beach, FL.  We will be staying in Bonita for a week in our friend, Scott's, condo that he gifted to us as a wedding gift.
Day 13 - Oct. 5:  Morriston, FL to visit and stay with another one of Laurel's cousins, Marianne, and her family.
Day 14 - Oct. 6:  Tampa, Mobile, AL, Biloxi, MS, and New Orleans.
Day 15 - 18 -- Oct 7 - 10:  Baton Rouge, LA, Houston, and Austin, TX.  We will stay in Austin for 3 nights with our friends Colin and Dusty.
Day 18 - Oct. 10:  Las Cruces, NM and Tucson, AZ.
Day 19 - Oct. 11:  San Diego
Day 20 - Oct. 12:  Oceanside, Venice, and Santa Barbara, CA.
Day 21 - Oct. 13:  San Francisco, Napa and Humboldt County, CA.
Day 22 - Oct. 14:  Eugene, OR
Day 23 - Oct. 15:  Portland, OR
Day 24 - 26 -- October 16 - 18:  Seattle, WA.  Stay with our friends, Krista & Ryan, who live in Mukilteo, WA for 2 nights.
Day 26 - Oct. 18:  Boise, ID and Salt Lake City.
Day 27 - 30 -- Oct. 19 - 22:  Breckenridge, CO to stay with Mitch's brother and cousin for 2 nights.
Day 30 - Oct. 23:  Kansas City and St. Louis, MO.

Rules of the road trip:

*We can ONLY eat at food trucks, food stands, street vendors or farmers markets.  We will purchase food and beverages prior to leaving that we will bring along to eat and drink on the road or while camping/staying at the condo.
*Always order something new and different that is popular to the region we are in.
*No ordering drinks at food trucks (to save $) unless it is something popular to the region we're in that we've never tried before.
*Keep all receipts and literature so we can document everything.
*Stop at regional landmarks as much as possible, especially if we've never been there before.
*Follow the food truck food daily budget, gas budget, campground budget, and incidentals budget spending no more than $6000 total for the entire trip.

Thank you all for your support!  

Mitch and Laurel


  1. love you rascals!!! i am so excited to follow your journey. can't believe the moment has arrived for you...enjoy every second.

  2. Hey guys...I just completed a similar type of mission, but hitting 50 food trucks in just in Chicago. So I absolutely love and support what you're doing. Best of luck!

  3. I don't know you personally but we just started a business too...and I love this idea! I can't wait to hear about your adventures...(we have kids, so this is not possible)
    Have fun and good luck!

  4. SO FUN! Can't wait to follow you guys on your trip. Good Luck! Eat a Korean Taco for me in Portland.