We stayed at Newport Dunes for two weeks — the last week of November, arriving during the long Thanksgiving weekend, and the first week of December. We were originally supposed to stay at Malibu RV Resort during this time, but the Woolsey Fire, a wildfire that devestated large parts of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, … Read more Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort – Newport Beach, CA
Today marks one year since we started living, working and traveling full time in our Airstream. One year ago feels both so incredibly distant, but also like it flew by! We have learned a lot in the last twelve months — about ourselves, about our airstream, and about what we hope to get out of … Read more One Year on the Road
A little less than a month ago, we were sitting in Spokane, complaining about the endless heat that we had been experiencing for the previous eight weeks, and we decided enough was enough. We had a route planned from Spokane through central Oregon (Deschutes/Bend areas) to Crater Lake, where we were going to run the … Read more The Oregon Coast – Part One
We spent five glorious days at North American RV Park & Yurt Village in Coram, MT about 5 miles outside the West Glacier entrance of Glacier National Park. The RV park itself is nothing fancy. Site F8 was a pull-thru with full hookups and a decent-sized patch of grass to make Max happy. If we … Read more Five Days in Glacier NP
I usually do a separate post for each destination we’ve traveled to, but I felt that Badlands National Park area, Custer State Park area, and Devils Tower area could all be combined into one post about the places to stay and things to see in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. First up… … Read more The Badlands and the Black Hills
We are Travis and Missy, originally from a small city in Wisconsin. After living in San Diego for seven years, we decided to purchase a 2017 Airstream International Signature 27FB. We launched our full-time life on the road on January 15, 2018. Read more About Us
Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Send a message, leave a comment, or visit us on Instagram. If we’re on the road, connectivity may be an issue, so give us bit to get back to you. Read more Contact
Surf and Turf RV Park is a bare bones park located in a prime location in Del Mar, California. It consists of a large, gravel parking lot with water and electric hookups, surrounded by a wall. It’s so inconspicuous that people that have lived in the area for years have no idea it’s there. It’s surrounded by a Hilton Hotel, the Surf and Turf Tennis Club, an indoor volleyball club, mini golf, a driving range, a swim school, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Race Track. It’s a mile from Del Mar’s off-leash dog beach and within a few minutes drive of everything Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have to offer. There are no restrooms, no showers, no laundry and no dump station. If you’re looking for an RV resort — this isn’t it. However, it was perfect for us, and at $45/night, $230/week, and $650/month, it’s the cheapest place to stay in the San Diego area with hookups. Due to events held at the fairgrounds and race track (San Diego County Fair, horse racing season, Kabboo Music Festival), the RV park is closed to the public from mid-May to mid-September. Any stays longer than three weeks need to have a long-term application filled out.
We’ve had to deal with something this winter that was not an issue for us last winter, even though we’re staying at the exact same place — moisture under the mattresses. It’s not unheard of to have moisture on the windows when it’s chilly outside and cozy, warm inside. I mean, that’s just science. However, I think our particular Airstream layout (27fb Twin) contributes to the moisture issue. There are two storage areas under each twin bed — one is interior where we store clothes and one is exterior where we store various outside things. I think that because half of what’s under each bed is an external compartment with no heat, it causes moisture when a warm body lies on the bed all night.
At first, we tried to remedy the moisture issue by lining the exterior storage compartments with Reflectix insulation and putting Reflectix under each mattress. That may have helped, but one morning while making the bed, I noticed a considerable amount of moisture on the interior walls of the Airstream. I checked under the mattress for moisture and found that not only was the underside of the mattress damp, but a small amount of mold started to grow.
Operation Decontamination began. We stripped all bedding from the mattresses and everything was laundered. For the mattresses, we mixed equal parts isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and warm water in a bucket, dampened a cloth, and scrubbed the areas where mold had started to grow. Next, we (sparingly) sprayed Lysol across the bottom of the mattresses to kill any bacteria that may be present. Luckily for us, it was a sunny day, so we moved the mattresses outside to dry and allow the sun to inhibit mold growth (sunlight is harmful to the growth of mold).
In the picture below, the discolored part of the plywood in the center is where the dampness occurred — clearly a result of body heat on top of the mattress and cold temps right under the plywood.
Then we Googled. We searched what options were available to prevent something like this from happening again and we landed on the Froli Sleep System. Originally manufactured for use on boats — you know, where there’s lots of moisture — they now market it to be used on boats, in RVs and at home. It’s a modular system that’s components snap together to fit any size and shape bed. It functions like a box spring mattress in that it creates a more comfortable and orthopedically correct sleeping surface, but it also elevates the mattress about an inch off of (in our case) the plywood, which allows for proper airflow under the mattress, meaning no more mold.
If you visit the Froli website, you’ll find a number of different options. We purchased the Froli Travel System in Queen. The Queen has exactly double the number of components of the Basic size and is exactly double the price, so we could have purchase two Basics and they would have worked equally as well. It took six days for it to be shipped from Lexington, KY to our location in Pahrump, NV.
Our package contained two boxes that looked like this:
The first step was to lay out the gray base elements and determine which of the three holes we wanted to use to snap them together. According to the installation instructions, the wider the setting, the softer the feel.
We ended up using a combination of medium and wide hole spacing in order to get the coverage we were looking for.
Next, we trimmed off the excess bits at the rounded corner. Froli does offer expansion packs that consist of smaller elements to use along edges or curves so you don’t have to make cuts, but seeing as we didn’t know how many, or even if we would need them, we didn’t order them.
Next, we added the dark and light blue spring elements to the base elements. The light blue are softer springs that are recommended for use in the shoulder area, which are the third and fourth rows.
These too had to be cut, and were a little more difficult to get through than the base elements, but it was manageable.
After attempting to put the mattress on and realizing that the Froli System would move around anytime we made the bed, we decided it needed to be secured a bit. Froli doesn’t offer anything to secure it, probably because the main use is in boats where it’s installed in a sleeping berth that has a lip on it and the Froli System won’t move around. I picked up these wood staples from Home Depot that are fairly easily installed with a few taps of a hammer.
I didn’t place many, but just enough to keep things from moving around. It should be noted to be aware of placement. The first one I hammered in is over the interior storage compartment where I keep my clothes and the staples are long enough that they went all the way through the plywood and are poking through the other side. I’ll have to be careful when digging around in that compartment so that I don’t poke myself. After installing the first one, I made sure that the rest were installed in safer locations.
After everything was secure, we put the mattress back in place. It’s difficult to get a great shot of how the mattress sits, but it definitely raises it up quite a bit, at least an inch.
Conclusion: The Froli System is a life safer! While expensive ($378 for the Queen), it would be even more expensive to have to replace our mattresses and the plywood if the mold had gotten out of hand. We’ve only had it installed for two days and it does seem to add some comfort, but the biggest payoff is the peace of mind that there will be no more moisture.
We were supposed to spend four nights at Death Valley over the New Year holiday, but due to a government shutdown, we had to change our plans. We were able to stay an additional three days at the RV park that we were at in Del Mar, CA, but had to find someplace to move to for the fourth night. We called ahead to Wine Ridge Resort, which was to be our next stop, to see if we could check in a day early. They were fully booked, so we looked to Harvest Hosts for a place to stay.
Harvest Hosts is a collection of wineries, breweries, museums, farms, golf courses, and other such locations that allow RVers to stay for free on their property for one night or more. The only thing that is asked is that you patronize the establishment in some way, whether it’s buying a bottle of wine or touring the museum or something similar.
We found a second winery in Pahrump, where Wine Ridge is located, that is a Harvest Hosts property — Sanders Family Winery — and made arrangements to stay there for the night. The winery is a beautiful, quiet property and seeing as it was New Year’s Day, it was closed and we were the only ones around. The owners, Jack and his wife, live on property. Jack stopped out to meet us, and seeing as it was super cold (low of 22 that night), said that we could use our generator.
We made it through the night without anything freezing (yay!) and stopped in to the tasting room for some free wine tasting the next day. The wine was delicious and we ended up purchasing three bottles. I’d also like to note that they are very dog friendly, and invited Max into the tasting room (which we did) and said we could let him run around off leash on property (we didn’t do that, but it was a nice offer). After the tasting, we hooked up and moved on to Wine Ridge Resort. We stayed at Wine Ridge in February 2018, and you can read about that stay here.
If you’re interested in signing up for Harvest Hosts, get 15% off with this link here. Harvest Hosts Classics, with 600+ locations, is $79/year. Harvest Hosts + Golf, with over 1000+ locations, is $119/year.
Our very first week as full-timers was spent in Escondido, in San Diego’s North County. We rolled back into Escondido 266 days later. We had quite literally gone full circle. Seriously, check out our travel map — we actually went in a full circle, extending as far east as Wisconsin, between our stays at Champagne Lakes RV Resort and Escondido RV Resort. We had 7500 miles, 16 states, and 50 different stops under our belt. We stayed for six weeks, which is the longest we have stayed anywhere. We were looking forward to being in familiar territory — the house we sold that allowed us to buy our truck and Airstream was literally 15 minutes away in San Marcos — and spending time with friends. We were looking forward to California burritos and the ocean and trivia at the brewery and being able to slip back into a normal routine. We were looking forward to having a temporary home base that actually felt like home. And we definitely got all of those things while staying at Escondido RV Resort!
As I try to write this review, I keep typing and deleting. On the surface, Escondido RV Resort is a great place to stay. It’s well landscaped, well maintained, and the people who run it are very nice. It’s right off I-15 and one exit north of the 78, which is the main east-west highway in North County San Diego. As we lived in North County for a bit and most of our friends live in North County, we were able to get to where we wanted to go within a decent amount of time. The trade off is that the resort is RIGHT off the 15, which means the sound of traffic is pretty audible most times of the day from most parts of the park. We were lucky with our particular spot (site 110) as it backed up to a tree line that helped buffer the traffic noise. The Wi-Fi was decent but in order to access it we needed to set up a (free) account and reconnect to it daily. They had great HD TV, but in order to use it, we needed to borrow a cable box from them to hook up in our trailer. There is very nice landscaping throughout, but it’s watered every night and the sprinklers tend to be pretty aggressive with their spray field and leave behind hard water spots on the lower half your trailer — so, obsessive trailer cleaners beware. There isn’t one blade of grass in the park, which is understandable as it’s Southern California, but leaves a little to be desired when walking a dog. There are two different dog areas, one on each level (the park is set up on two different levels). The one on the lower level is fenced in, so it’s off leash, but is quite a hike to get to if you’re staying on the upper level. The one on the upper level is small, but doable. Both have wood chips as a base. Rod McLeod Park is located right next to the RV park and is accessible through a locked gate from the upper level of the RV park. It’s a big grassy space with a playground and restrooms, and was a nice alternative for walking Max. However, due to it’s seedier side — people living in cars in the parking lot, a handful of homeless people, and quick transactions of some sort taking place — I didn’t feel comfortable walking Max by myself and would only visit the park when Travis was around. The laundry room was nice and clean and the machines used credit cards instead of coins, which is fantastic. The only issue is that the credit card machines didn’t always work. A few times I had to try multiple cards and one time, the person in the office had to run a special card through the reader in order to get the machine to work. Also while we there, someone tried to steal a bike from someone’s site. Luckily, the maintenance guy saw him and stopped him. The bike was retrieved, but the would-be thief ran off before the cops arrived. Obviously, there is potential for theft at ANY place we stay, which is why we never leave anything of value outside.
With all of that being said, none of those issues are anything that would prevent us from staying there again. But there is one thing — the AT&T signal in that area is terrible. Basically non-existent. Luckily, we also have a phone and hotspot on Verizon, so along with their Wi-Fi, we were able to work without too many issues. We just weren’t able to use our personal phones very dependably, which was pretty inconvenient.
And our very last issue with Escondido RV Resort was the price. When we first booked our stay there, if was originally for four weeks, so just shy of a month. At that point, we understood why we weren’t getting the monthly rate. But we changed our travel plans and a couple weeks before arriving, we extended our stay an additional two weeks. Six weeks. Which is more than a month. Which means we should have received the monthly rate. But we received the weekly rate. While they were very nice and gave us a nicer site — we were supposed to be on the first level, but they moved us to a larger site on the second level — I didn’t understand their explanation as to why we weren’t getting the monthly rate, and honestly, I don’t even remember what their explanation was anymore. The only benefit to paying the weekly rate versus monthly rate is that electricity was included in our rate and is not included in the monthly rate. We paid about $1900/month with the weekly rate when the actual monthly rate for the spot we reserved was $1100, so yes, we were frustrated. To add to the frustration is what I recently found on their website:
$800 if you’re in an Airstream?!? Must be nice!
I don’t want to sound like a complete Negative Nancy about Escondido RV Resort. There are some really great features too:
They make filling your propane tanks very easy. You just set your tanks at the end of your site and they’ll pick them up, fill them, and return them.
There’s a small swimming pool and spa that are nice.
They have a deal with the nearby LA Fitness where you can get a free 2-week membership.
You can have packages delivered there.
The close proximity to I-15 can’t really be beat!
Things To Do in the Area
We were pretty busy during most of our stay in Escondido, but most of that entailed hanging out with friends and visiting our favorite restaurants, stores, local sites, etc. However, here are a few things you should check out if you’re in the area:
Pretty much everyone knows about the famous San Diego Zoo, but a lot of people outside of the area have not heard about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. While the zoo is located down in San Diego, the safari park is in Escondido, just 20 minutes from the RV park. Like the zoo, you’ll find gorillas, tigers, lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhino, giraffes, and a variety of other animals. Unlike the zoo, you’ll find the park’s rhino, giraffes, antelope, wild ass, zebra, and buffalo roaming about in a free-range exhibit called African Plains. From the tram, you’re able to see how the animals interact with those within their species as well as with animals from other species. The newest exhibit, Walkabout Australia, is home to kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, and other animals from the Outback. You are able to walk through the enclosure and get up close and personal, sometimes even pet, the resident wallabies.
While staying in Escondido, we went on two hikes. The first hike is kind of a San Diego bucket list hike. Anyone who’s been in San Diego long enough has heard about the hike to Potato Chip Rock. The hike begins at the Mt. Woodson Trailhead along the shores of Lake Poway in Poway, which is about a 20 minute drive from the RV park. It’s one of those hikes that you need to start early, for two reasons: 1) The sun gets blazing hot in this area year round and 2) you want to beat the crowd that makes the journey to get THE shot for Instagram. There’s a parking lot with restrooms and a place to fill water at the trailhead. It’s free to park on weekdays but there’s a $10 fee on weekends. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. The trail is 7.6 miles roundtrip and is rated hard on AllTrails, probably due to the 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We hit the trail at 6:30am and were in shade the entire way to the top. Once we made it to Potato Chip Rock, we ate some breakfast while we waited in a short line to get some photos. It took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes, not including down time at the top. The way down started to get hot as we were in direct sun, and we were very glad we started early. Make sure to take water and sun protection!
The second hike is the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail out of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido. It’s a moderately difficult, 6.4-mile trail that’s about a 15-minute drive from the RV park. There’s a parking lot with small visitor center, water fill, and restrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed. There are actually a number of different well-marked trails within the reserve that lead to various overlooks with picnic tables and shade structures.
You won’t have a difficult time finding some great craft breweries in San Diego County. One that you should definitely check out if you’re in the area is Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which is about a 10-minute drive from the RV park. Besides being a brewery, Stone offers a full menu as well as wine. The interior of the facility is nice, but the draw here is the outdoor patio and one-acre beer garden, complete with koi ponds and fire pits. It’s a beautiful property and while I don’t have any photos to post, trust me that you won’t be disappointed.
While we were in Lone Pine, or possibly when we were in Bridgeport, we decided to change our upcoming plans a bit. After Lone Pine, we were originally supposed to drive around the south end of Sequoia National Forest, up the west side, and spend a few days right outside Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We were then going to spend a night in Bakersfield and then drive to Escondido, where we had booked four weeks. But we were tired and it was going to be a lot of driving in a short amount of time, which wasn’t very appealing at the time. We scrapped the trip to Kings Canyon and Sequoia (there really should be an east entrance into the parks from Lone Pine) and booked a week at Pechanga RV Resort in Temecula. We already had plans to stay at Pechanga for three weeks later in the fall, it looked really nice, and we were familiar with the area, so it made sense to us to stay there.
Gas Station with Mini Mart, Diesel, Car Wash and Propane Fill
Fenced Dog Run
On-Property Shuttle Service
Security Patrol 24/7
Walking Distance to Casino and Restaurants
Pechanga is a resort and casino run by the Pechanga Band of Luseño Indians. The resort itself just underwent a 300 million dollar renovation, doubling its size and becoming the largest resort/casino on the West Coast. It really is beautiful and with nine restaurants, a buffet, live entertainment, clubs, lounges, retail shops, a concert venue, a golf course, and a spa — it’s more than just a casino. And if you sign up for a player’s club card, you get a 5% discount at the shops and restaurants.
During both of our stays, we stayed in one of their deluxe sites. While the deluxe site is the lowest level of their sites, it’s one of the nicest sites we’ve ever stayed in. It is a back-in site with an 18’x55′ concrete pad and nice, green grass separating you from your direct neighbor and a tall hedge separating you from the sites behind you. The other more premium sites have amenities such as pull-thrus; sites with picnic tables; sites with a gazebo, grill, and fire pit; and buddy sites, which are sites that face each other so that if you are traveling with friends, you share a large patio area. The pull-thru sites are a little longer at 67′, but otherwise all the sites are the same size as the deluxe sites. Pechanga is probably the cleanest, most well-maintained place we’ve stayed. The pool, laundry room, and restrooms were attended to every day and spotless. Actually, the entire resort/casino property was super clean.
For the most part, things are fairly quiet at Pechanga. However, the weekends can get a little rowdy, especially if it’s a long holiday weekend like we experienced (Thanksgiving). During our four weeks there, there was one incident with one of the guests of the RV park where security had to be called who then called the Pechanga Tribal Rangers, who responded very quickly and handled the situation quite efficiently. Because of the 24/7 security and prompt response from law enforcement, we felt very safe there. I’d also like to note that the Pechanga Fire Department is directly across the street from the RV resort, which is especially reassuring during fire season in Southern California.
Pechanga is part of the Passport America network, which is a discount camping club that gives you 50% off at participating parks. Each property applies it’s 50% off savings differently, and at Pechanga, it’s Sunday through Wednesday on deluxe sites only. Sunday through Thursday has a rate of $50, while Friday and Saturday are $60, unless there’s a holiday which increases the price. The whole reason we got the Passport America membership was because we knew we’d be staying at Pechanga. During our four weeks total that we stayed there, we saved $350 (14 nights at $25 instead of $50), which really made the annual membership fee of $44 worth it.
The one drawback is that guests staying at the RV resort aren’t allowed to use the main resort’s fitness center and pool, which are both sooooo nice.
While Temecula is located inland in Riverside County, it’s just north of San Diego County and east of Orange County, at about a 45-minute drive from the coast. It’s location and lower home prices have led to an increase in residents in the past few years. Because of the increasing population, there’s been a building boom when it comes to both commercial and residential properties. It seems as though most parts of Temecula are brand new and everything is beautifully maintained. While every store and/or service you could need is available, the one thing Temecula lacks is the small town, local charm you find in the beach cities of San Diego and Orange Counties — that is until you drive to Temecula’s wine country. Temecula Valley is home to about 50 wineries scattered throughout the rolling hills. You’ll also find a number of horse ranches and the opportunity for hot air balloon rides. The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is held each June, pairing the two things the area is best known for. Whether you prefer reds or whites, you’ll find something for everybody at the various wineries — some with just tasting rooms; others with restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and spas.
As we had lived in North County San Diego for a bit, we have visited Temecula a handful of times over the years — it’s always a nice place to take people that are visiting from out of town. During our stay at Pechanga, my sister and brother-in-law were celebrating her birthday in San Diego and drove out to Temecula with some friends to spend the night. Travis was out of town on business, but I was able to join them for an afternoon of lunch and wining. We started our day with a few tastings and lunch at Wilson Creek Winery, known for their Almond Sparkling Wine, and then moved on to Akash Winery & Vineyards, then Oak Mountain Winery’s tasting room, which is known as The Cave. If you’re concerned about drinking and driving, you’re able to hire a car or book a wine tasting tour that will drive you from one place to the next.
Another part of Temecula to explore is Old Town. Old Town is the historic center of Temecula. It has an Old West vibe and offers restaurants, shops, museums, and a community theater. The area is becoming more modernized with some great, modern restaurants (1909 has great food, cocktails and beer) and new condos being built.
I didn’t take many photos of our time in Temecula because to us, it’s not a new place. That’s why it’s also a little difficult for us to give an objective review of our time at Pechanga. It’s a great RV resort and we would stay there again, but definitely for a shorter amount of time.
This post will discuss all of the financial aspects related to RVing full time, including initial costs, static bills, cost of gas, lodging costs, and the amount we’ve been able to save over the past year. This is an account of our personal financial experiences with regards to full-time travel — other people’s experiences may vary. There is A LOT to cover, but first…
A Little Background Info
Different people choose the full-time RV lifestyle for different reasons. There was not an ‘aha moment’ for us that made us decide to trade our life of living in a rented condo in La Jolla, California for life on the road in an Airstream. We had recently sold our home in San Marcos, which is in San Diego’s North County. We had no need to or set plan; it was just a really good time to sell as we were able to make a healthy profit from when we purchased three and a half years earlier. We moved to La Jolla, enjoyed ocean sunsets from our balcony, and took advantage of living in the walkable Village of La Jolla.
We had talked about full-time RVing at different times during the previous years, but there was always a reason not to. We owned a house. We had a dog with a lot of health issues that needed regular access to his vet. We had finally established a good friend group after years of living in the San Diego area with only knowing a handful of people. Travis has to travel fairly often for work and we didn’t know how easy it would be to fit that in. But all of a sudden, those reasons fell away. We sold the house. Our sweet golden doodle had passed away. We’d be able to visit our friends whenever we wanted and they could meet us somewhere on the road as well. And planning business trips would just have to be part of the route planning process, making sure we were near airports at certain times.
When the option of full timing started to creep into our conversations again, we decided to look at what RV options are available and what they cost. We visited a place in San Diego that sells Airstreams as well as every other type of RV — fifth wheels, travel trailers, motorhomes, etc. Travis had always been stuck on an Airstream, but I wanted to make sure we explored all options. Of course, we ended up deciding on an Airstream. This particular dealership didn’t have the exact layout we were interested in, so we scoured the interwebs for both used and new in the length and layout we wanted. After looking at a used Flying Cloud, we decided we definitely wanted to buy new and we definitely wanted an International. We found what we were looking for at Airstream Orange County. To read more about the buying process, check out our post Buying an Airstream.
How We Make Money on the Road
Before I get into specifics about what we paid and what our monthly expenses are, I should explain what we do for work. We own an ERP consulting business. I won’t get too detailed about what that is exactly, but the basic gist is that we install, upgrade, and customize a particular software that manufacturing companies utilize. We owned the business for six years before hitting the road full time. We typically work remote from home, but depending on what projects we’re currently working on, Travis might travel to visit a customer on site once or twice a month. As far as work was concerned, we were already living a lifestyle that made transitioning to full-time travel easy. If you’re interested in more information about our business, check out our website here: Bird Rock Solutions
There are two major expenses when choosing to travel full time — the Airstream and the truck to pull it. As stated above, we purchased our Airstream brand new from the dealership. This is definitely NOT necessary. Used, almost new Airstreams can be found if you have enough patience. Some people sell their trailers after only using them a handful of times. Now that we know what to look for, we would feel confident buying used. While Airstreams do hold their value pretty well, it’s definitely cheaper to buy used. Many people buy vintage Airstreams and renovate them, which is definitely a cost saver, but you need the right skills, a lot of time, and a good work space — three things we did not have. We ended up purchasing a 2017 27fb International Signature. We had the dealership install solar panels, Maxxair vent covers, and a Blue Ox weight distributing and sway control hitch. The total cost for the trailer with the add-ons and tax was $87,612.11.
Next, we had to buy a truck that could tow the trailer. We knew NOTHING about towing or trucks, so we did a lot of research. We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine with complete tow package. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. There was a rebate if we financed, so of course we did that, but we paid off the loan when the first payment came due. The total price for the truck with tax, which we absolutely love and has every feature we need, was $47,138.56. To read more about the truck buying process as well as it’s features, read our post Choosing a Truck.
All in, we paid $134,750.67. That’s a big number. Huge. Thanks to the proceeds from the sale of our house, both vehicles are paid off, so we own our ‘home’ outright. Again, this aspect of the full-time lifestyle can be done for much cheaper. We bought both vehicles brand new — many people buy used. We bought an Airstream — many people by SOB (some other brand) because they’re less expensive. We had decided that because we planned to full time for quite a while, we wanted to start out with two vehicles that we would know the entire history of. We would know the maintenance. We would know about any damage or malfunctions. Everything would be clean and we would be the first to use it, sit in it, sleep in it, shower in it, and use the bathroom in it.
Static Monthly Expenses
Just like anyone in a bricks and sticks house, we have monthly bills. Our static monthly bills consist of the following:
RV Insurance ————$112.20
Truck Insurance ———-$92.40
Life Insurance ———–$219.58
Disability Insurance —–$76.92
Health Insurance ——-$480.46
Storage Unit —————-$59.00
You’ll notice that phone and internet are not included in our monthly bills. Those items are paid for by the business, so I don’t include them in personal expenses.
Cost of Gas
This is going to greatly depend on how much you travel, your vehicles gas mileage, how much weight you’re pulling, and what speed you drive. When they first start out, many full timers spend a lot of time moving from one place to the next. We did. It’s exciting to be out there, exploring, being able to go anywhere you’d like. But it’s also expensive. And time consuming. And exhausting. We hit the road January 15, 2018 and as of November 24, 2018, have spent about $3,040.00 on gas while towing. That’s just while towing — gas used while exploring or living our everyday life is not included. We also put on over 7500 miles. Again, those are just towing miles. While towing, we generally drive 60mph and we get about 14mpg.
For lack of a better term, lodging costs include the cost of the actual site where we park the Airstream, but also reservation fees, taxes, pet fees, electricity, and park entrance fees. We’ve paid anywhere from $0/night to $75/night. There are so many options when choosing where to stay. We’ve stayed at private RV parks, KOAs, city parks, county parks, state parks, national parks, casinos, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) campgrounds, and on a family friend’s farm.
Private RV parks usually offer nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Staying somewhere for a month is a good way to save on monthly costs; however, where the park is located is very important. We’ve paid $340 for a month in Pahrump, NV, but have also paid as much as $1900 for a month in Escondido, CA (San Diego County). While city, county, state and national parks don’t offer different rates correlating with your length of stay, they also don’t raise prices for weekends and holidays like private parks and KOAs do. For example, we’re paying $85/night for the Thanksgiving weekend at a casino RV resort, when it would usually cost $50 for the Thursday night and $60 for the Friday and Saturday nights. In contrast to that is our four-night stay in Death Valley National Park over the New Year’s holiday. The campground in Death Valley is always $36/night, regardless of day of the week or if it’s a holiday.
In addition to the nightly, weekly, or monthly rate, you may find yourself also paying for:
Reservation Fees – Expect to pay a reservation fee at state or ACOE parks. The reservation fee is the same price whether you stay one night or ten, so this is something that can add up if you move around too much.
Electricity – Electricity is generally always included unless you are staying a month or longer somewhere. When you stay a month, expect electricity to be an additional charge.
Pet Fees – Some places charge them; some places don’t. Since January 15 until today, we’ve paid $32.00 in dog fees, so it’s not a very common thing.
Taxes – This is another one that can sneak up on you. Some states don’t have taxes. Some places include the tax in the rate. But some places tack on the tax at the end and you end up paying quite a bit more than you thought you were going to.
Park Entrance Fees – Another thing to consider when making a reservation is if your site is within an area that requires a daily entrance fee. National parks, national recreation areas, and state parks are definitely places that have daily entrance fees. Sometimes it makes sense to just pay the daily fee; sometimes it makes sense to pay for an annual pass.
From January 15, 2018 through November 24, 2108, we paid a total of $13,236.46 for all lodging costs. That’s an average of $42.29/day or $1268.67/month. That’s definitely higher than we would like and we’re going to work on lowering that number next year. We have about 5 and a half months worth of reservations booked next year already and we’ve been able to lower the number to $33.63/day or $1008.90/month.
There are a number of memberships that will help lower your lodging costs; these are the ones we use:
AAA – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. Member rates vary.
Good Sam – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. $27/year. I can’t even calculate the amount of money we’ve saved with our Good Sam membership; hundreds, probably.
KOA Value Kard Rewards – 10% off at all KOAs. Earn points that can be used as discounts on stays. $30/year. We’ve saved almost $100 this year with our membership. Additionally, we’ve earned enough points to get $25 off our next stay.
Harvest Hosts – A network of wineries, breweries, farms, museums and similar locations that allow RVs to park one night overnight on their property for free. Currently $49/year; increasing to $79/year 1/1/19.
Passport America – Save 50% at over 1800 campgrounds/RV parks across the country. $44/year. We’ve saved $410 this year with Passport America alone.
America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (aka Interagency Annual Pass) – Free entrance into federally operated national recreation sites (such as national parks). Free entrance for up to four individuals at National Park Service sites where per person entrance fees are charged. If you are camping in a national park, you will need to purchase either a weekly pass or annual pass specific to that park. Prices vary from park to park. The other option is to purchase an Interagency Annual Pass for $80. Because entrance was free our Interagency Pass, we’ve visited a number of national monuments we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.
Our Current Financial Situation
Our average monthly cost to date for lodging and gas is $1560.04. This amount includes water and electricity. Pre-Airstream life, we were paying $3400/month for rent for our 2-bedroom condo in La Jolla, not including utilities. Obviously, our basic living expenses have decreased dramatically. Thanks to our lower monthly expenses and the fact that we’ve had our busiest year to date business-wise, we’ve been able to concentrate on building our savings, investments, and retirement accounts. Our business is set up as an S-Corp, allowing us to have a SEP IRA to which we can contribute up to 25% of our gross salary, which we were able to do this year. We’ve also been able to save about 16.5% and invest about 15% of our gross income. We don’t have any loans and we don’t carry a credit card balance. We are truly in the best financial state we have ever been in and the only reason we’re able to save and invest so much is because we live in our Airstream full time. While some people live the full time life in order to lower their expenses so they can work less, we plan to work the same amount for the foreseeable future in order to continue to contribute to our financial future and set ourselves up for true financial independence.
Besides the financial benefit, full-time Airstream life has allowed us to see places in our country that we would have otherwise not seen. There have been amazing places, there have been some not-so-amazing places. Every person we’ve met, every city we’ve traveled through — everything has helped us understand and have more compassion for our neighbors. Except maybe our current neighbors who allow their dogs to poop in our site and don’t clean it up.
After Bridgeport, we continued south on the 395 to another equally interesting location — Lone Pine. Lone Pine, California is best known for the numerous Western movies and TV shows that used the unusual rock formations of the Alabama Hills and the peaks of the Eastern Sierras, including the lower 48’s highest peak — Mt. Whitney, as their backdrop. John Wayne, Gene Autry, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and Mel Gibson all starred in Westerns shot in and around Lone Pine. As the Western era died out, the filming in Lone Pine slowed, but didn’t stop. Kevin Bacon’s Tremors, Kevin Costner’s The Postman, and Russel Crowe’s Gladiator all shot at least partially in Lone Pine. Over 400 films, 100 television shows, and countless commercials have used Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills as filming locations.
Lone Pine is also home to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center, which is run by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. The center provides visitor, wilderness, and highway information for the Eastern Sierra, including the Inyo National Forest, Death Valley National Park, Manzanar National Historic Site, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks wilderness, Alabama Hills & BLM Bishop Field Office public lands, and Owen Lakes and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power public lands. Panamint Springs, located on the west side of Death Valley NP, is 55 miles from Lone Pine, while Furnace Creek on the east side is 100.
There are a handful of restaurants, a small grocery store, a hospital, an airport, a golf course and numerous services, including a car and RV wash, located in Lone Pine.
We stayed at Boulder Creek RV Resort for three nights. It’s a very nice resort, with trees for shade and the largest dog run we’ve ever seen at an RV resort. It was quite hot during our stay, so we explored during the mornings before the temperature got too high, worked during the day, and spent a lot of time at the pool and hot tub in the late afternoons and evenings. They serve muffins and coffee every morning in their clubhouse, which for some reason is home to birds and baby tortoises — you’ll find the adult tortoises outside in an enclosure.
Things to Do Around Lone Pine:
As stated above, Lone Pine has been the backdrop to numerous film and television shows. The Museum of Western Film History can be found in downtown Lone Pine, just a short drive from the RV resort. The museum is a very comprehensive, very interesting collection of Western film and television memorabilia that also contains exhibits from more recent pop culture movies that also filmed in the area. There is no entrance fee, but a $5 donation is recommended (I think this helps keep their non-profit status). And leashed dogs are welcome!
Seven miles north of Lone Pine is the Manzanar National Historic Site. Manzanar was one of ten war relocation centers built during World War II to temporarily house people of Japanese ancestry following FDR signing Executive Order 9066. Between March of 1942 and November of 1945, more than 10,000 men, women, and children lived at Manzanar — most of them U.S. citizens. While almost no original structures remain, there are re-creations of barracks, a mess hall, and a latrine. The visitor center features exhibits about the camp and area history. There’s also an informative film and a pretty comprehensive bookstore and gift shop.
Manzanar is a National Park Service site and entrance is free, but we made sure to buy a couple of things in the gift shop in order to support the site, which is a very important, yet sad, part of US history. Dogs are allowed in all outdoor areas.
Manzanar was arranged in 36 blocks. Each block contained 14 barracks, a men’s latrine, a women’s latrine, a laundry room, a mess hall, an ironing room, and a recreation hall. In most blocks, up to 300 people crowded into the barracks. Everyone ate in the mess hall, washed clothes in the public laundry room, and shared latrines and showers with little privacy. The ironing room and recreation hall offered spaces for classes, shops, and churches. Over time, people personalized their barracks and most blocks evolved into distinct communities.
The Mobius Arch Loop Trailis the most hiked trail in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, which is well known for free, dispersed camping with interesting vistas. The trail is accessible by driving Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine and turning right on Movie Road. Obviously, Movie Road is so named because this is where many of the areas movies and television shows were filmed. The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce has a great self-guided tour on their website that guides you to some of the more well-known filming locations. There is a parking area and signs at the Mobius Arch Trailhead to let you know you’re in the right place. The trail is only 0.6 mile long and is a nice, easy hike with beautiful views.
The roads in this area are gravel and can be quite rough at times. There are a number of small roads that branch off from the main roads, and while you can never truly get lost because Mt. Whitney is always in view and acts as a compass, it would definitely be possible to lose your way just a bit. Do some research before heading out into the Alabama Hills and know that summers are very hot and there isn’t much shade to be found.
Of course, the main attraction to the area is Mount Whitney itself. The most popular route to the top is the Mt. Whitney Trail, a 22-mile out and back trail with about 6500′ of elevation gain. It can be done in one day, but you must start early (like, really early) and it takes 12-16 hours. You can also spend a night on the trail at various camps, the most popular being Trail Camp, located at about 12,000′. This helps you acclimate to the elevation, but means you have to pack more gear; however, most hikers will leave their extra gear at camp while they complete the trail to the summit and pick it up on the way down. Permits are required any time you hike Mt. Whitney and there is a daily quota from May 1 to November 1. To find out more information about permits and summiting the highest peak in the contiguous United States, check out recreation.gov, AllTrails, and this blog post by the Hiking Guy.
Bridgeport sits at almost 6500′ of elevation along the 395, which is one of the most interesting and beautiful highways we’ve driven. The town is small, maybe 500 people, there’s no real grocery store and the few services offered include a couple gas stations, a couple hotels, an auto parts store, a couple restaurants, a post office, and a Mono County Sheriff’s office. Gas is ridiculously expensive and along the Bridgeport Reservoir where Paradise Shores is located, there was a cloud of flying bugs like we’ve never experienced before. At first glance, Bridgeport — and the surrounding area — is somewhere to pass through as you drive to some other destination, enjoying the view of the Eastern Sierras as you go. However, after spending four nights at Paradise Shores with zero signal from our AT&T phones (no worries — our Verizon phone & hotspot worked well), we felt we definitely could have spent more time there. According to Charlie and Kelli of Instagram’s SlowDownSeeMore, who were Work Campers at Paradise Shores for the season (which is April to October), the best time to visit the area is June, when the snow has melted, all of the roads are open, and the waterfalls, rivers, and lakes are at their best. We’d love to return to the area and experience some of the amazing hikes and hot springs that we missed out on on this visit.
Paradise Shores is by no means an RV resort. While it has all of the amenities you’d find at an RV resort, it offers them in a very laid back, kitschy, hippy kind of way. If it were a restaurant, the sign on the door would say, ‘No Shoes, No Shirt — No Problem.’ This is definitely not a big rig friendly place, and that seems to be by design. The owners seemed to have planned the park in a way that makes its visitors hang out outside, whether they’re chatting with neighbors or relaxing in the broken-in couches around the community fire pit; though, preferably when there are fewer bugs. The sites are snug, even for our 27, and there’s not a whole lot of privacy. Some people may be turned off by the overall size and coziness of the park, but it worked well for us. Honestly, when we weren’t eating, sleeping, and working, we were out exploring, so there was no need for a place that’s a little shinier and more manicured. Besides the lack of AT&T signal, which is obviously not Paradise Shores fault, the only other negative mark I would give it is there wasn’t a great option for walking Max. First, because it was small with no grass. Second, because it’s right on a highway, so the only place to walk outside the park is along the shoulder of the 182. And third, the owner’s dogs wander around off leash, and while they’re very good dogs, Max takes issue with off-leash dogs that approach him. We definitely will return to the area at some point, but may try staying about 30 miles further south down the 395 in Lee Vining due to its proximity to Yosemite and its cute, small mountain town vibe.
There are SO many things to do and see in the area, and we ran out of time for most of them, but here’s what kept us busy during our stay in Bridgeport:
Yosemite National Park
“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” -John Muir
Yosemite is our country’s third national park, established in 1890. The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center, managed by the US Forest Service and operated in partnership with the National Park Service and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, is located in Lee Vining, about a half hour drive from Paradise Shores. The visitor center is a wealth of knowledge for how to experience the natural wonders in the area, including Yosemite. From the visitor center, it’s a 15-minute drive along the stunning Tioga Pass to the east entrance of the park. From there, it’s about another 20 minutes until you arrive in Tuolumne Meadows. All of Tioga Road is closed during winter, approximately November to May, which means you can only enter the park from the west side during that time.
We were in Bridgeport from a Saturday afternoon to a Wednesday morning and would only have Sunday to explore Yosemite, as week days = work days. Because of Max and the fact that we don’t like leaving him alone in the Airstream all day, we had to decide between staying on the east side of the park where we could go for a hike and get back home to him in a timely manner -or- bring him with and drive through the entire park, knowing we wouldn’t be able to do any hikes because dogs aren’t allowed on trails. We chose to bring him with so we could take our time driving through the park to Yosemite Valley, which is where the bulk of Yosemite’s annual five million visitors hang out. Obviously, not the ideal way to visit Yosemite, but our day trip gave us a good idea of what, where, and when for a future visit.
For those that have never been to Yosemite before, Yosemite Valley is basically a small town. There are hotels, a medical center, a museum, a visitor center, restaurants, a grocery store, a post office, and even a courthouse that handles misdemeanors that take place within the 750,000-acre park. Of course, there are also campgrounds and waterfalls and trailheads to what I’m sure are amazing hikes that we hope to experience in the future, sans dog. Yosemite is a lot like Glacier National Park, as in you CAN just drive through the park on the main road and see some great sights, but in order to really experience the park, you need to get (miles and miles) off the main road via your own two feet.
Mono Lake in Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area
From the information received at the visitor center: “One of the oldest lakes in North America, Mono Lake is at least 760,000 years old and has had many fluctuations in size. Mono Lake has no outlet. For thousands of years, streams have carried minerals into the lake and evaporation has removed fresh water from it. As a result of this process, the salinity content is over twice that of the ocean. Because of these high salt concentrations, the lake offers a delightfully buoyant swimming experience. Although no fish can live in these alkaline waters, Mono Lake is one of the most productive lakes in the world, supporting trillions of brine shrimp, alkali flies and migratory birds.”
There is a road that encircles the lake from which you can turn off to various parking areas and trails that offer views of the tufa, as well as access to the surrounding Mono Craters, a series of rhylolitic domes. We visited South Tufa, known to have the best tufa formations. There’s a .75-mile loop trail that parallels the water’s edge for a bit, and then loops back to the parking lot through the beautiful golden sagebrush. Dogs are allowed on the trails but not in the lake.
Again, from the visitor information: “The tufa (too-fah) tower formations show what nature can do with a few basic elements. The strange spires and knobs formed when fresh water springs containing calcium bubble up through the carbonate-rich lake water. The combining of these waters forms calcium carbonate, a whitish limestone deposit that forms the basis of the tufa formations. Tufa is found in many alkaline lakes throughout the world.”
After we visited the tufa towers, we planned to drive the June Lake Loop Road based on the advice of SlowDownSeeMore. We made it as far as June Lake Brewing, which was also a recommendation from Charlie and Kelli, and the fantastic Mexican restaurant across the parking lot, Gordos. After we were done eating and drinking, we were tired and decided to head for home. Next time!
Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie State Historic Park is a 30-35 minute drive from Paradise Shores in Bridgeport. The last three miles of the road is rough and rutted, requiring a speed of 10-15 miles per hour. I would not recommend driving it with an RV of any type — we actually saw two different RV’s (one motorhome, one travel trailer) make u-turns and drive back out because of how rough it is.
Bodie is a true Wild West, gold rush ghost town, once home to 8,000 people, 30 mines, and over 60 saloons. While only about 5%, or 110, of the buildings remain from the town’s 1877-1881 boom, it’s easy to picture what life was like in this harsh climate. Bodie is at an elevation of 8,379′, which makes for hot summers and long, cold winters. The boom years were over quickly as unsuccessful mines began closing. The population dropped fast and continued to dwindle into the 1900s. Mining continued until 1942, which is also when the last residents fled. Bodie was designated a California State Park in 1962 and is now preserved in ‘arrested decay,’ which means the buildings’ roofs, windows and foundations are repaired and stabilized, not restored.
Entrance is $8 per adult and an extremely informative booklet with map is available for $2. There are restrooms, but that’s it as far as services. You may want to bring water and snacks if you plan to spend a few hours, which is definitely possible. Dogs are allowed, just not in any of the buildings.
Back in Bridgeport, there’s not a lot to see, but the beautiful courthouse, which serves Mono County, is the state’s second oldest courthouse and has been in continuous use since 1880. Around the backside of the courthouse is the old Mono County Jail. It was opened in 1883 and served Mono County until 1964. It had six cells, two washrooms, an office and a dining area. It’s very small and only takes a few minutes to explore, but it’s free, so it was worth a quick look.
Bridgeport is an interesting area that is definitely worth a stop for a few days, or a even a few weeks, though we offer these tips:
Visit in June or late September, as it was still pretty hot during the second week of September while we were there.
Fill your gas tank beforehand. Gas was $5/gallon when we were there and there was nowhere within reasonable driving distance where it was cheaper.
Hit the grocery store before heading to Bridgeport. There is a little market in town, but it’s really the only store in town and is more like a grocery/hardware/pharmacy type of store. Slim pickings, for sure. We drove down to Lee Vining where the market is also small, but much better stocked, with better choices and some actual produce.
Bring bug spray. I don’t know if it was the time of year or the fact that where we stayed was right on the reservoir, but the bugs — mosquitoes, flies, moths, and anything else that flies — were out in full force.
We loved Zephyr Cove! This is such a beautiful campground and we are already looking forward to the day we can return. It’s also a very expensive campground, the most expensive to date for us, but we treated our five nights there as a mini vacay and that helped us justify the price ($75/night). We were in site 134, which is a nice, long pull-thru. We were so glad we got a pull-thru due to the roads being narrow throughout the campground and the smattering of trees everywhere, which made getting into sites very difficult, especially for larger rigs. Our site was considered a ‘standard’ site, though I’m not sure what the difference is from the ‘premium’ sites, most of which are back-ins. We watched many Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels struggle with both getting in to and out of their sites, so even though the website says they can handle 40+ feet, I’d say this is not a big rig friendly campground.
We pulled into Zephyr Cove on Labor Day, so it was very busy, but really cleared out the next day. The week was peaceful, with the campground filling up again on Friday night — Zephyr Cove definitely seems like a summer weekend destination.
Zephyr Cove Resort RV Park & Campground
Address: 760 US Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV 89448
Phone: (775) 589-4906
Airstreams for Rent
Restrooms with Showers
The RV park and campground is across the street from the main lodge of the resort. The resort offers cabins, a restaurant, a gift shop, a beach on South Lake Tahoe with beach bar and volleyball courts, lake cruises, marina with rentals, and horseback riding. We spent a lot of time at the beach relaxing and enjoying the amazing weather. The lake is so clear and refreshing!
Heavenly Village is a short drive from the RV park, and has shops and restaurants as well as the Heavenly Mountain Resort Gondola. The gondola, which only operates on the weekend during summer, offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe as it carries you the 2.6 miles to the top. There’s an observation deck, cafe, and gift store at the first stop of the gondola. Continue to the top of the gondola for the Tamarack Lodge, where you can get a typical ski lodge lunch that’s of average quality and overpriced. Bar 9150′ is also located there. During the winter, Heavenly Mountain offers 96 different ski trails. During the summer, visitors can enjoy climbing walls, ropes courses, zip lines, a roller coaster, tubing and hiking trails. You can also take the chair lift further up the mountain to get better views of Lake Tahoe and access more hiking trails.
Our time in Tahoe was all about relaxing. We enjoyed sitting by the fire every night (buy your firewood before getting to the campground where it’s $$$). We also enjoyed meeting up with fellow full-time Airstreamers Marc and Paola (Instagram’s Cruising Slow). The weather was perfect and the only thing we’d change is how long we stayed. We wished our stay had been longer at Zephyr Cove, which will definitely happen during our next visit!
This is a great little RV park with 50 sites; all but two are pull-thrus. It’s a couple hundred yards from the California/Nevada border, hence the name, and a 20- to 25-minute drive into downtown Reno. The sites have long, level, concrete pads with beautiful green grass. The laundry and restrooms are a little dated, but are clean and get the job done. Upon checkin, we were each given coupons for the casino for $5 in slot play, a free drink, and a $1 off food at either the deli or restaurant in the casino — and we happily used them all. The casino is small with all slots, a bar, a deli counter and a busy restaurant with phenomenal prices. The people that run the RV park are very nice and extremely accommodating and all of the other guests were very friendly. While there isn’t much to do in the immediate area, we would definitely stay here again — it’s clean, quiet, and convenient to the highway.