The VanDOit Adventures of "Backroad Buddies" Keith & Ann Huffman
Updated: Apr 22
Hi! We’re Keith and Ann Huffman, otherwise known as Left Buddy and Right Buddy. We live in Broomfield, Colorado and document our travels using photos, blogs and vlogs as the "Backroad Buddies of Red Tail Lodge."
Back in 2001 (yes, 19 years ago), we toyed with the idea of running a bed and breakfast someday. In trying to come up with a name for our bed and breakfast, we put together our initials, KH and AW (using my maiden name), we came up with Hawk. However, Hawk sounded a little harsh, so we thought of types of hawks, such as a red-tailed hawk, and came up with the name Red Tail Lodge. In order to lay claim to the name, we went ahead and bought the redtaillodge.com domain for ten years and renewed it again in 2011. In the meantime, we started using our domain for our personal email addresses and became beta testers for Google Apps. We have since abandoned the idea of running a B&B, but don’t want to give up our free access to Google Apps. Fast forward to the summer of 2018. While on our summer vacation, we contemplated what to do when we retire and thought starting a travel blog would be fun and brainstormed some ideas for a name, settling on Backroad Buddies as it reflects our traveling style. However, we didn’t want to give up our domain or buy another domain, so we decided the vehicle we travel in would be our “Red Tail Lodge” so we’d be the “Backroad Buddies of Red Tail Lodge." It wasn’t until Nov 2018 that we decided I would quit my job and make the travel blog a reality now instead of waiting until retirement. In January 2019, we discovered VanDOit and took possession of our van in June 2019, with one of my pictures of a red-tailed hawk plastered on the sides of our van. Some of this is explained in our video “Our Story."
I'll say that looking back, running a B&B (although a neat idea) would have been a blow to our love for travel as in order to host guests in your "lodge" you have to be there. Being able to take our "lodge" with us on a whim or a planned vacation to somewhere beautiful, relaxing, and exciting is much more suitable to the life we want to lead.
We used to be tent campers, but just wanted something to keep us out of the weather and off the ground, something we could stand up in to change clothes, something we could work remotely in, something not too expensive, and something we could also use around town so there was nothing to put into storage when we were not traveling.
We did quite a bit of research on Class B camper vans and the Recon Camper, but none of them quite met all of our needs. Building our own on a Ford Transit van was also under consideration. Last January, as part of our continued search, we attended the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show in the Denver Convention Center. As we were leaving the Convention Center, feeling frustrated that we didn’t see anything we liked, we glanced across the street to see a camper van in the parking lot with a large VanDOit logo plastered across it. When we got home, we immediately started researching VanDOit. An email to VanDOit revealed that they were at the International Sportsmen Expo in the Denver Convention Center, right next door to the show we were at earlier that day. So we went back to the Convention Center the next day and spent several hours with Alan Kline who showed us the van and answered all of our questions. It didn’t take us long to realize that this was the camper van we were looking for. Before we left the Convention Center, we were already starting to work on our van build sheet.
It’s hard to believe that we picked up our Red Tail Lodge van from VanDOit about a year ago. In some ways it feels like more than a year ago, and in other ways it feels like just yesterday.
Our van worked out better than we envisioned. It met all of our needs as we traveled and worked in it for over three months during the summer of 2019. We spent most of the time outside of the van, enjoying the outdoors and the places we were visiting while our VanDOit van provided us with a relatively inexpensive, but comfortable place to cook, eat, work, and sleep. It’s small size along with having everything we needed gave us the flexible to stay at a variety of places from private campgrounds with all the amenities such as electrical hookups, water, flush toilets, showers, and coin laundry to boondocking in the National Forest with nothing but a place to park for the night.
Our favorite part about the VanDOit camper van is the ability to pick and choose the options we want and its versatility to reconfigure, add options later, and add our own customizations. We have never traveled for such long stretches like this before, so we are expecting that we will learn a lot along the way about how we will use the camper van. Having a camper van that can change and grow with us as we learn is very important to us along with keeping our initial investment low. We have two grown children who will not be traveling with us, but we want to be able to haul them safely as passengers when we are home or we happen to meet up. The VanDOit camper van allows us to do that.
Carrying 12 gallons of fresh water, 12 gallons of gray water capacity, a water heater, sink, and a garden hose spray nozzle provided all of our water needs to cook and wash with. Our single burner butane stove, 3 qt. Instant Pot, and our electric tea kettle met our cooking needs. The 26 liter Dometic refrigerator along with our homemade storage was ample capacity to store about a week’s worth of groceries, supplies and leftovers. The memory foam, queen-sized mattress along with the MaxxAir fan, a couple of small fans, and, when we had electrical hookups, the roof-top air conditioner allowed us to sleep very comfortably.
The four-foot long table top that Left Buddy (LB) built allowed us to work comfortably on our laptops inside the van. However, we also worked on our laptops in other places such as McDonald’s, coffee shops, campsite tables, and beachside chairs. We had plenty of room to haul about two weeks worth of clothing, so we only needed to visit a coin laundry about every seven to ten days. There was also plenty of room for our backpacking and bike gear, with our two bicycles on a hitch mount off the back. For more details on the modifications we made to our van, check out our “About Our Van” page on our website which contains links to our three part blog series “The Great Camper Van Debate” and a link to our VanDOit Factory Tour on our YouTube channel.
Our 2019 travels were basically three loops from our home base in Colorado. The first loop was to the west and included Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada), Sequoia National Park, Redwoods National and State Parks, Leavenworth Washington, and Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis Wyoming. The eastern loop included Taos Pueblo New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns, Mission Trail in San Antonio Texas, Fort Pickens in Pensacola Beach Florida, the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Last, but definitely not least, was a small loop to the Grand Canyon for our Rim to Rim backpacking trip.
We have even more travel plans for 2020. We have been hiking once a week around Colorado as part of our 52 Hike Challenge that we signed up for in November of 2019. We originally had a three week trip to Ohio planned for late March and early April, but cancelled it to help with the containment of COVID-19. Hopefully the rest of our travel season will go as planned, leaving on June 1st and returning just before Thanksgiving, with the highlight of the trip being in Maine for the fall colors. For more details, check out our video “Season One Recap of 2019 and Season Two Plans for 2020."
Even though we were happy with our van during Season One, we learned some things about how we like to live in the van through our experiences. Our video “Campervan Tips & Tricks From Season One 2019" contains the tips and tricks that we discovered along the way. While we’ve been home this winter, we’ve also been making some modifications to our Red Tail Lodge van. The major changes were installing an Espar heater, installing a weBoost cell signal amplifier, and adding more storage shelves. You can check all of our Season Two changes in our blog post "Preparing Our Campervan for Season Two" and also in this video.
We are excited and looking forward to Season Two of the Backroad Buddies of Red Tail Lodge. We invite you to follow along with us by subscribing to our YouTube channel and our blog, and following us on one of our social channels: https://www.facebook.com/backroadbuddies,
Keith and Ann Huffman
(Left Buddy and Right Buddy)