Two Days in Washington

The trip has started! We left Vancouver Monday afternoon around 2:30pm. It was a total rush-around, getting the RV packed up and we ended up throwing a load of still-damp clothes into the back of the camper. We just wanted to get on the road. I had a bit of a lump in my throat as we left our apartment. Silly, I know. We’re only gone 3 months, but somehow leaving our home felt like a momentous occasion. Maybe it’s because we’ve been planning this trip (in one way or another) for so many years. Anyways, the traffic down to the border was light, and we were through in less than 20 minutes. We were slightly worried about getting through with a big van – wondering if the border patrol would want to look through the camper, etc.

Any fruit or vegetables? Any alcohol?

Yes, we have 3 bell peppers… and two bottles of beer

The patrol officer smiled at us.

How about I just take the peppers, and we’ll forget about the rest.


And just like that, we were officially heading south! | Jonty filling up DEF into Sprinter van

We made it as far as Bellingham before our first “Warning light” came on. The “Diesel Exhaust Fluid” indicator light came on.


“You only have 16 vehicle starts left before you can’t re-start your vehicle anymore”.

Double awesome.

Jonty topped up the DEF tank and re-started the van.

“You only have 15 vehicle starts left”.

Crap. It’s now past 5pm.

Well, we’ll head down towards Seattle, stop to pick up some groceries, then fill up the DEF tank again. Stopped in at Trader Joes in Lynnwood, WA. Jonty tried filling up the DEF tank some more.

“You only have 14 vehicle starts left”.

What the??! It’s now 8:00pm.

Well, let’s try finding a place to sleep for the night and figure this out tomorrow. We quickly found out that many of the Walmarts in Washington do NOT allow overnight freeloading parking, as we were banking on. But one lovely employee said “Well, unofficially, we don’t allow overnight parking… buuuut… there’s a gravel lot right behind the store where people park all the time. You should be fine there”. She was right.

So we spent our first night in the RV on a gravel pit, sandwiched between multiple big-rig trucks. We celebrated with our un-confiscated beer. It was good. | Road trip beer, first night

The next day, we needed to figure out this DEF situation. Jonty was trying to fill the tank, but was only managing to top up the tank at a rate of about 1/4 cup per 20 minutes. We’re pretty new to RV-ing, but even WE knew this wasn’t right.

“You only have 12 vehicle starts left”.

After some Googling, we ended up emailing Traveland RV to see if we should find a dealer for service. “Yes, yes, you should”. We found a local Mercedes-Benz dealer not too far away and they were able to get us in for service while we ate (a very late!) lunch. Turns out the DEF tank was already full, which was why it was taking such a long time for any additionally-added liquid to go down. At some point in this van’s history, someone let the DEF get critically low before filling the tank. When this happens, the system requires a software re-calibration by a Merc Benz dealer. So now we know!! | Mercedes-Benz dealership, Lynnwood WA

Finally, more than 24 hours later, we were on the road again. The clouds lifted as we passed through Seattle. A good sign, we thought. | Sabattical road trip leaving Seattle WA

We assumed we would be close to Portland on the second day, but the Travel Gods had other plans. As with the night before, we were pushing 8:00pm, tired, hungry, and not in Portland. We phoned another Walmart and, although they did not allow overnight parking, the loop-hole was that the store was open 24 hours, so technically, they wouldn’t know if you were sleeping in your RV or just shopping at the store. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was RV-central! There were campers EVERYWHERE! So no worries about being towed 🙂

So our first “proper” meal in the RV was eaten at 9:30pm, in a Walmart parking lot. It was good. | Avocado spinach egg on Ryvita cracker

We plan on spending a bit of time in Portland tomorrow before heading east, towards Smith Rock for the end of the week.


  1. All I did was laugh when I read the blog! Somehow I knew that it was gonna work out for you guys- I just hoped that there wasn’t going to be a big dollar sign behind the solution! Keep on truck in’ and keep on post in’! Love you! Mom Sent from my iPad



  2. Brilliant! That’s how adventures are supposed to be! Now I suggest you find some gaudy bumper stickers for your RV and (at least) give it a name. I suggest Monty – Mo (ira) (Jo) nty – but of course, this is your trip and (sadly) not mine. I’m curious to know what you’re cooking on? And how are you storing cold foods?

    1. El – Take a look at our previous post. We’ve named our van Eddie! And I took some video of the inside of the van. We have a 2 burner stove top + microwave, and a fridge/freezer that runs on propane or electricity (if we’re hooked up to power)

  3. Love this… what fun! (OK, a little stressful but nothing bad happened). You have each other, there are plenty of Wall Marts… and you are in a Mercedes!!

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