The KOA in Billings, MT

This was our second stay at the Billings KOA — read about our first stay here.

Billings KOA Holiday

547 Garden Avenue, Billings, MT 59101

www.koa.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cable TV
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Wifi
  • Game Room
  • Swimming Pool with Hot Tub
  • Family-Style Restrooms with Showers
  • Mini Golf
  • Playground
  • Basketball Court
  • Laundry
  • Convenience Store and Gift Shop
  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • Ice Cream Stand
  • Fishing Pond
  • Picnic Table
  • Dog Run
  • Fire Pit (Some Sites)

We again found ourselves in Billings over the July 4th holiday, and Travis again had to make a trip to the Midwest for work. We arrived on a Sunday to check in for our two-week stay, and the woman behind the desk told me they didn’t have us checking in until the next day. I’ve never made that mistake before (reserving a site for the wrong day(s)), but luckily they had a site for the night that would accommodate the Airstream. They put us in a spacious water and electric site that backed up to the fishing pond. The next day, we moved to our new site, but stopped at the dump station first to empty our tanks. The site we had reserved was also only water and electric, which meant we were going to have to rely on the public restrooms and showers in order to make it through the two weeks without a sewer hookup.

Site 162 was a spacious back-in site with water and electric hookups and a nice view of the pond. The only downfall is that people hang out by the pond, so they’re sometimes only a few feet from your window.

We were assigned site 121, which is a narrow pull thru with water, electric, a picnic table, and a good amount of shade. The site was plenty long for our 28 foot trailer and truck, but the surrounding fifth wheels barely fit in the neighboring sites, with some of them having to park their tow vehicles perpendicular to their trailers or on the grass in their sites.  When we first hooked up our electric, our surge protector had an ‘open ground’ error. Thinking it was a fluke, we flipped the power off, unplugged the surge protector, plugged it back in, and then flipped the power back on, this time with no error. Everything worked fine until that night, when at 2am-ish, I woke up and realized we didn’t have power. I went outside and performed the same process I had done earlier in the day, and power was restored; however, we now knew there was something up with the power at this site. An open ground means that the safety path is open, or incomplete, which can result in fire, shock, or electrocution. This is why a surge protector is so important, as it alerts you to any unsafe conditions and will cut the power to the trailer if an unsafe condition should arise. The next day I reported the power issues to the office and an employee came over right away to check things out. He opened the electric box and tightened all of the connections after finding one a little loose. We had no more issues for the next nine days.

On day nine, which was a very hot Wednesday that found Travis in Wisconsin, I started having issues with the power kicking off and the surge protector reading ‘open ground’ again. I spent about 15 minutes flipping the power on and off and unplugging and re-plugging the power cord back in, but nothing was working — I kept getting the error. I went to the office again with my issue and they sent someone over again. He opened the box, checked all the connections, and couldn’t find an issue. I went back into the office to see if we could move to a new site. The guy behind the counter, who seemed to be some type of manager, said the power issue was probably because of our surge protector and that, most likely, there was nothing wrong with the power being supplied to the box. I respectfully disagreed and returned to the Airstream. He came over to the site and along with two other employees, tested the electric box with a volt meter, which read normal. I explained that just because the right amount of power is coming through the box doesn’t mean that the power is grounded properly. I also explained that in our almost 550 consecutive nights in our trailer, we have never had an issue anywhere else. He said there’s no way of knowing if there was an issue with the power cord or with our trailer as opposed to the electric box. I explained that the site we stayed at there our first night gave us no issues and the site we stayed at there the year prior gave us no issues. He again tried to blame the use of a surge protector as the culprit, saying they only have issues with power with people who use them. I said of course that’s the case, a person without a surge protector won’t know if there’s an issue with the power unless something serious happens. I told him I’d plug in without my surge protector if he would sign something saying that they would be responsible for any damage caused by faulty power — he didn’t go for that. I showed him how both of our surge protectors (we had recently bought a new one) were giving the ‘open ground’ error even before we plugged the power cord from the trailer in, meaning the issue had to be with the electric box and not the trailer or power cord. They plugged both of our surge protectors into electric boxes at other sites and did not get the ‘open ground’ error. Finally, without admitting something was wrong with the power, the guy said he could move us to a different site, two sites down from where we currently were.

This was both great and terrifying at the same time. Obviously, I wanted to be at a site where I didn’t have to worry about the power kicking off on a 90°+ day, but I have NEVER hitched the trailer up and moved it by myself — neither of us have. Travis and I each have our own tasks that we do during arrivals and departures, and hitching up is always his thing. Also, I’ve only towed the trailer once, and that was on a wide-open highway, not within a campground with narrow streets, tight turns, narrow sites, and kids running around everywhere. I didn’t really have any other option, so I had to bury my apprehension deep down inside of me and just get it done. My neighbor put the very heavy hitch on the truck while I got everything else ready and then he directed me while I backed up the truck to hitch up. I very slowly pulled out of our site, drove through the campground, and pulled into the new site where, again, the neighbor let me know when I was positioned properly. All in all, it was an uneventful, quick move that gave me the confidence of knowing that if the occasion were to ever arise again where I needed to bug out solo, I’ll be able to do it.

I’m happy to report that we had no issues at our new site for the rest of the stay. I’m dismayed to report that the KOA put someone else in our old site immediately, though I did notice an electrician van at the site the morning after we moved.

Site 119 was our third site, just two sites down from our second. Both were shady pull-thrus with a picnic table and water and electric hookups.
We were able to see the Billings fireworks from our window!

After our second stay here, these are our takeaways:

  • Close to downtown, which has good restaurants, a grocery store, and gas stations.
  • Close to the airport, which is super easy to get in and out of.
  • There’s a lot of turnover. Most people seemed to stay only one night as they were making their way to somewhere else. The positive of this is that for a large chunk of the day, many sites are empty and the place is fairly quiet. The negatives are that people are up and leaving early, making some noise as they do so. Also, a lot of people arrive fairly late, again making noise as they do so.
  • We never ate the dinner that is offered, but we did eat breakfast a few times, and it’s pretty decent.
  • The family-style bathrooms are pretty nice. They’re very busy in the morning when people are trying to get showers in before they leave. The bathrooms are cleaned about 11am, so if you wait until about noon, you can shower in a freshly cleaned bathroom.
  • The maintenance wasn’t as pristine as it was during our visit a year ago. During our two-week stay, the water at one of the dump stations had an out of order sign the entire time. There was always as least one restroom with an out of order sign, but usually at least two. About half of both the washers and dryers had out of order signs. During our first day, the grass was mowed at most of the sites, but not ours. We kept waiting for them to come back and finish the job, but they never did. After more than a week of waiting and when our grass had gotten pretty long (which is annoying when you have a dog and it rains a lot, which it did), I went into the office to request that they mow the grass. They did mow it, fairly quickly, and then mowed all of the other sites in our row that had been missed as well.
  • The staff is pretty great and accommodating, minus the one guy who seemed to think I was overreacting when we kept losing power.
  • There’s another RV park right down the road. We drove through it out of curiosity and found that the sites are even tighter than the KOA and after looking it up online, it’s more expensive than the KOA. It looks really nice from the road, though.
  • Cottonwood trees. While we were super thankful for the shade the cottonwoods provided us, they were losing their ‘cotton’ during this time and it’s quite a mess. It attaches to everything — window screens, awnings, chairs, clothes, dog, etc. and it’s difficult not to track it into the trailer or truck. We haven’t cleaned it up yet, but a serious vacuuming of the awnings and screens is needed, as well as checking to make sure it didn’t clog up any vents or the air conditioner.

While in Billings, we visited Pompeys Pillar National Monument, which is a half hour drive from the KOA. The only remaining evidence of the Lewis & Clark Expedition can be found at Pompeys Pillar, located on the Yellowstone River 25 miles northeast of Billings. Amongst an abundance of Native American petroglyphs and early pioneers’s initials, William Clark carved his name and the date into sandstone. He documented the deed in the expedition journals and named the rock formation Pompy’s Pillar (the E was added later) after the son of expedition member Sacagawea, whom he had nicknamed Pompy. Unlike any other national monument we’ve been to, dogs are allowed here. However, no dogs are allowed in the Interpretive Center (which is pretty great) or on the stairs leading to the signature and top of the pillar.

Pompeys Pillar is part of the Bureau of Land Management and is a beautiful property along the Yellowstone River that is worth a visit.
“The natives have engraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals &c. near which I marked my name and the day of the month & the year.” -Lewis & Clark Journals – July 25, 1806
W. Clark – July 25, 1806

Would we stay here again? Last year I would have said yes. This year my answer would be only for a night if we were on our way to somewhere else. This isn’t necessarily because of the KOA, but more so about the city itself. We noticed a drastic increase in the number of sketchy people, most likely drug abusers, around the downtown area. Apparently, violent crimes related to meth have increased dramatically in recent years in Billings and with a few interactions we had with some residents, it’s very obvious there’s a drug problem. While there is definitely more to Billings than downtown and safer areas elsewhere, it’s the part of the city that’s closest to the KOA. Because of this, I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out on my own very often while Travis was gone, and that’s a sign to us that we should just keep on driving.

Medora, ND: Boots Campground & Theodore Roosevelt NP

Medora, North Dakota is probably one of the busiest small towns you’ve never heard of. It’s definitely worth a few days’ visit; however, we were only able to stay one night. Because we work full time, we try to keep our driving relegated to the weekend. As we definitely wanted to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park (and fill in North Dakota on our travel map), we drove from Spearfish, SD to Medora for Saturday night, and then moved on to Billings, MT on Sunday.

There are a handful of places to park an RV in and around Medora, but since it was so hot and we needed to have electricity to run the a/c, there were three options: Medora Campground, which was completely booked; Red Trail Campground, which had availability, but seemed quite snug; and Boots Campground, a first come, first served, no frills campground a few minutes outside of town. We opted for Boots Campground, hoping there would be a site available for us, but knowing we could fall back on Red Trail Campground if there wasn’t. Thankfully, there was a spot open — a handful, actually — and we were happy to pull in next to another Airstream.

Boots Campground

3576 East River Road, Medora, ND 58645

www.bootsbarmedora.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins

When I say no frills, I really mean no frills. According to their website, there are 16 full hookup sites, but there seem to be about eight that are readily available for temporary stays. The other eight are kind of scattered around the property amongst the cabins available for rent, occupied by what look to be longer term residents. The sites are snug, both length-wise and width-wise, and there would be great difficulty in parking tow vehicles if they were all occupied. The sites are half dirt, half weeds, but level enough that we didn’t need to use any levelers. If you look at the photos below, there is actually a site open on either side of us, which shows how narrow they really are. There no restrooms, no showers, and no laundry. There are three bonuses to staying here over the other two options: 1) There are great views of the badlands out the back window of the trailer, 2) it’s very quiet away from the crowds in town, which is less than five minutes away, and 3) it’s cheap! Boots Campground is part of the Passport America program, so the regular rate of $35.00 is discounted to $17.50, which is paid at the Boots Bar in town. This area felt very safe and we had good cell signal on both Verizon and AT&T.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There are a number of things to see and do in Medora, but number one is the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The entrance to the park is right in town and about a five-minute drive from Boots Campground. The visitor center has a nice little museum devoted to Roosevelt’s life here in the 1880s. A number of his belongings are on display, including the shirt he was wearing during an assassination attempt in Milwaukee in 1912.

Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin can be found just behind the visitor center. Built in 1883, the cabin was Roosevelt’s first home in North Dakota, though it was located seven miles south of where it now sits. The cabin was larger than most frontier homes of the time, with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and sleeping loft for the ranch hands. While the rooms are partitioned off with plexiglass, you get a sense of the way he lived as a few of his personal items are on display.

The 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive offers a number of overlooks and access to the various trailheads. When we visited, a portion of the road was closed, so visitors could only drive to a certain point before they had to turn around and drive back. Because of this, and because we forgot to get gas after making our long drive from Spearfish that day, we weren’t able to drive the entire road. We drove as far as the Boicourt Overlook before we needed to turn around. During our drive, we saw a bison, a wild horse, and oodles of prairie dogs. We had heard that this park is great for viewing wildlife, but I think it was just too hot when we visited. Out of curiosity, we drove through Cottonwood Campground in the park. It sits along the Little Missouri River, has no hookups, tons of tall cottonwood trees, and the sites are surrounded by long prairie grass. Despite the heat, the campground was full.

We spent less than 24 hours in Medora, but we really enjoyed our time there. Besides getting to enjoy the gorgeous badlands of North Dakota and visiting a great national park, we also became friends with our Airstream neighbors, Aaron & Valerie, and spent the night chatting, getting to know one another, and sharing tales of the roads.

 

River’s Edge RV & Cabins Resort – Evansville, WY

We spent one night at River’s Edge as we drove from Grand Teton National Park to Custer, South Dakota. We had a pull-thru site with water and electric that backed up to the North Platte River. River’s Edge was fine for a one-night stop, but I’m not sure if I’d stay any longer. It’s all gravel, no trees for shade, and quite buggy with the river. Anything you might need is probably found in Casper, a 10-15 minute drive. We did use the laundry facilities, which were fine.

River’s Edge RV & Cabins Resort

6820 Santa Fe Circle, Evansville, WY

www.riversedgervresort.net

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Full Hookups
  • Wifi
  • Cable
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Rec Room with TV, Pool & Book Exchange
  • Playground
  • Picnic Table
  • Cabin
  • Tent Sites
Site 70 is an end site that backs up to the river.

 

Henrys Lake State Park – Island Park, ID

We spent two nights at Henrys Lake State Park – the Thursday and Friday night of Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly, for a holiday weekend, it was very quiet and peaceful, though the less-than-ideal weather might have had something to do with that. Henrys Lake is a big trout fishing destination, and on Saturday morning, the fisherman woke up to a glassy lake with a bit of sunshine. The park is home to beautiful mountain views, some nice hiking trails, and quite a bit of wildlife including moose and a variety of birds. The west entrance of Yellowstone National Park is 25 minutes away.

Check in wasn’t until 2:00, but seeing as we were arriving from West Yellowstone where we had an 11:00 check out, we arrived pretty early. Our check in day was the first day of the season the campground was open, so we had no problem checking in; though, the ladies in the entrance kiosk were VERY nice and I think as long as no one is in your site, they’ll let you check in at any time.

There are a few decent restaurants and a very small grocery store in Island Park, which is a little bit of a drive from Henrys Lake, so I’d recommend to come prepared with all of the supplies/food you need.

Henrys Lake State Park

3917 E 5100 N, Island Park, ID 83429

www.reserveamerica.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table
  • Firepit
  • Dump Station
  • Lake Access
  • Firewood for Sale

We had a pull-thru site with full hookups, though I’d recommend one of the back-in sites numbered 46 through 51 (Caddis Loop) with water and electric only. These sites offer great views of the mountains and lake through the rear window of an RV. The bathrooms are probably the nicest and cleanest we’ve seen anywhere, offering individual shower rooms for safety and privacy, so for that reason and the fact there’s a dump station, you could get by without a sewer hookup for a week or more with no issues. Each site has a firepit and picnic table and the cell signal is strong on both Verizon and AT&T.

Hot Pools and a Friendly Campground in Lava Hot Springs, ID

We stayed in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for four nights in mid-May. Lava Hot Springs is located in Southeast Idaho on the Portneuf River along the old route of the Oregon Trail. The city is known for its numerous hot springs and rough tubing on the river, which draws thousands to the city of about 400 residents. There’s a small, historic downtown with shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as a grocery store, a library, and a number of places to rent tubes for a river adventure. In addition to the hot pools, there is also an outdoor swimming complex open during summer months and an indoor aquatic center open year round. There are plenty of options for accommodations, ranging from a place to pitch a tent to a resort with tiny homes, a lodge, and it’s own hot springs pool. There are a number of places to stay with an RV and we chose Lava Campground.

Lava Campground is a private, family-run campground with 13 RV sites, 4 retro campers, and a number of tent sites. A fabulous couple named Cameron and Annie turned part of their alfalfa field into this quaint campground about two years ago. This is a low-frills place, offering water and electric at each RV site, and a picnic table and fire pit at every site. There are a couple of really nice pit toilets throughout the property, as well as a couple of community water spigots. Currently, there is no dump station and no showers available, but they are considering adding those features in the future. There is a dump station available 15 minutes up the highway at the Pilot Flying J in McCammon, which is also where you get on I-15. If you visit the hot pools in town, showers are available there.

Lava Campground

11759 E Fish Creek Road, Lava Hot Springs, ID 83246

www.lavacampground.com

  • Water & Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Retro Trailers for Rent
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Pit Toilets
  • Swingset
There are four adorable trailers on the property available for rent.
Who knew a pit toilet could be so cute?!
And I know this may sound weird, but they smell good inside too!
We were lucky to have one night without rain during which we were able to enjoy a fire.

Unfortunately, when we were in Lava Hot Springs we had a lot of rain. The driveway to get in the campground is gravel and was in rough shape when we arrived. Apparently, the water lines are being replaced in the city and the company that is laying the new pipes needed to use Lava Campground’s driveway and other parts of their property for access. This left the driveway in rough shape which got very mucky when it rained, which is what it was doing practically nonstop. Any time we came back from being out, we had to spray inches of mud and rock off our truck with the hose. The driveway was supposed to have already been fixed by the contractor, but it took one final, strongly-worded call from Cameron in order for it to finally be done. New gravel was poured on Saturday and we were able to drive out without incident (or mud) the following morning. Cameron and Annie felt so bad about the conditions that they refunded us for two nights of our stay. They really seem to go above and beyond to make sure their guests are happy, which is why if we ever find ourselves in Lava Hot Springs again, we will definitely stay with them!

The two main draws to Lava Hot Springs are their hot pools and river rafting. It’s not river rafting season yet, so we did not partake in that, but we did visit the pools twice. There are five different pools, with one ranging from 102ºF-105ºF, two at 105ºF, one ranging from 106ºF-111ºF, and one at 112ºF. Most of the pools have structures that protect from the sun and rain. It costs $6 per person to enter the pools, and there is a locker room with showers and a small gift shop with snacks onsite.

Above image from Visit Pocatello website.

Lava Hot Springs is small, so there aren’t a lot of great food options, but I think we found the two best places. We had dinner at Portneuf Grill & Lounge in the Riverside Hot Springs Inn. The restaurant is downstairs (kind of in the basement) and isn’t the fanciest of fine dining establishments, but the food was fantastic. We split the seared scallops and the butternut squash gratin and both were delicious.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s a little hard to find, but you won’t be disappointed!

We decided to get lunch at the Mexican food truck (bus, actually) one day before heading to the pools. Taqueria Pelayo is a converted school bus that sits at the front of the property of the city center KOA. The beauty of using a bus instead of the typical food truck setup is that there is seating inside, which was nice on the cold, rainy day we visited. We both had quesadillas and rice, both of which were tasty.

While the weather didn’t really cooperate, we still enjoyed our time in Lava Hot Springs. The city is about 15 minutes off of I-15, so staying in McCammon or Pocatello might be more appealing to some. If you’re looking for a place with more amenities (FHU, laundry, restrooms, etc), then the Lava Hot Springs KOA Holiday might be a better fit. From what we could tell as we drove by, it’s a very nice KOA and is a couple of minutes closer to town. Just a warning for staying in Lava Hot Springs in general — the city is nestled along the Portneuf River, as well as Highway 30. You’ll have highway and train noise pretty much anywhere you stay; however, we didn’t find it very disruptive at Lava Campground.

Lakeside RV Campground – Provo, UT

After leaving Hurricane, we hopped on I-15 North to start our trek to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. We spent one night in Provo, Utah along our route before we continued on to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The stretch of the 15 from Provo to Ogden is pretty rough, with a bit of construction, heavy traffic (even at 10:30am on a Wednesday), and bumpy/wavy roads that caused quite a bit of upset in the Airstream.

Lakeside RV Campground

4000 W. Center Street, Provo, UT 84601

www.lakesidervcampground.com

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Full Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Dump Station
  • Propane Fill
  • Dog Park
  • Store with Snacks & RV Supplies
  • Cable
  • Wifi
  • Pool
  • Playground
  • Picnic Table

We were assigned site B1, which is a full-hookup, pull-thru site. When we stay somewhere for just one night, we get a pull thru if possible, as it makes setting up super easy and gives us more time to relax between drive days. We typically won’t get full hookups for a one-night stay, or if there are full hookups, we generally don’t use them. However, since our next location was going to have water and electric only with no dump station on the property, we hooked up the water and electric upon arrival and emptied the gray and black tanks before departing the next morning.

Lakeside RV Campground is located a third-mile from the entrance to Utah Lake State Park and directly across the street from the Provo Airport. There was some road noise and plane noise, but nothing too disruptive. The property is very green with a number of mature trees. As with most RV parks we’ve stayed in, there are some full-time residents, but everything is kept nice and orderly. The onsite dog park is one of the nicest we’ve seen with a huge fenced in, grassy area. We didn’t use any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on the restrooms, showers, or laundry. The pool was not yet open (we stayed the night of May 14), but they appeared to be repainting it and getting it ready to go. The water pressure was pretty light, so we ended up filling our freshwater tank so we’d have good water pressure for showers.

Site B1 is a large, nicely shaded end site with a large, grassy front yard.

After dinner, we walked up the road to Utah Lake State Park. Utah Lake is the state’s largest freshwater lake and is popular for fishing, boating, personal watercraft and swimming. There’s a campground with 31 sites with water and electric hookups, fire pit, and picnic table, and has restrooms with showers as well as a dump station. There are both pull-thru and back-in sites for $30/night. We didn’t stay in the park long as the bugs, including mosquitoes, were pretty bad.

Beautiful Views at the Marina in Utah Lake State Park

WillowWind RV Park – Hurricane, UT

This was our second stay in Hurricane this spring, with our first being for two weeks at Sand Hollow State Park. After two weeks of getting things fixed up in Albuquerque and a very active week in Moab, it was nice to settle in to WillowWind RV Park for a month. It was also nice to get a great monthly rate ($500 + electric) in order to absorb some of the unexpected costs of our time in Albuquerque.

Hurricane has all of the necessities a person needs — grocery store, gas stations, fitness center, Walmart, pharmacy, some restaurants, movie theatre, community pool, car wash with RV bay, etc. The nearby cities of Washington and St. George can provide anything else — Target, In and Out, Petco, Barnes and Noble, better restaurants, etc. It’s a 35-minute drive to the main entrance of Zion National Park from WillowWind and less than 30 minutes to the Kolob Canyons (west) entrance. Sand Hollow State Park, Quail Creek State Park, and Snow Canyon State Park are all within 35 minutes.

The location also worked well for us work wise when Travis had to drive to Las Vegas for a conference (2-hour drive) and fly to Wisconsin for a business trip (St. George Airport is 25 minutes away).

WillowWind RV Park

80 South 1150 West, Hurricane, UT 84737

www.willowwindrvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable
  • Wifi
  • Fitness Center
  • Laundry
  • Communal Fire Pits
  • Tent Camping
  • Horseshoes
  • Dog Wash Station
  • Clubhouse with Kitchen & Pool Table
  • Dog Run

WillowWind is a nice, fairly quiet, very clean RV park located right in the middle of Hurricane, within walking distance to the grocery store, Walgreen’s, movie theatre, and a number of places to eat. We were in site 31, a grassy back-in site that got shadier as the month progressed and the leaves on the trees came in. There are A LOT of trees on this property which comes in handy when the temp starts to rise, which it did while we were there (April 13 to May 14). If you visit during the warmer months, I recommend looking at the satellite image on Google Maps to see which sites receive the most shade as not all sites are created equal — I’d recommend sites 110-122 (pull-thru sites) and sites 124-153 (back-in sites) for maximum shade. The electric and cable hookups are at the back of the site while the water and sewer hookups are at the middle of the site, which may require longer cords/hoses depending on where the hookups are on your rig. The office doesn’t accept mail on your behalf, but FedEx and UPS deliver directly to your site and the post office, which is a block away, accepts general delivery mail.

 

Site 31

It was nice to have a month of having a normal daily routine. While we were in Hurricane, we joined Performance Fitness 24/7 gym for the month. They don’t charge any initiation or cancellation fees, and at $15 for the month, it’s the best deal we’ve found to date since being on the road. There’s no fancy pool or classes, but the machines are nice and they have saunas, hydromassage beds and tanning for an extra fee. We were also able to get an issue with the timing chain fixed on the truck at the Ford dealership in Washington. We had our mail sent to us a handful of times at the post office and we were able to order some things from Amazon that we’ve been needing for a bit. All three of us got haircuts and we were able to stock up on dog food and the good RV toilet paper from Walmart. Before leaving, we washed both the truck and the Airstream. Basically, Hurricane and the Washington/St. George area were perfect for getting errands done that we usually have to put off. We enjoyed our stay at WillowWind and would definitely return.

Of course, we also explored Zion a bit, but that’ll be another post!

USA RV Park – Gallup, NM

We stayed in Gallup for one night as we drove from Albuquerque to Moab. The park is clean, the people are nice, and it seems to be a place where people stop for a night or two as they’re making their way somewhere else. It looks like it was once a KOA, so it offers everything that a KOA Journey would. We were in site 1, a very spacious end site.

USA RV Park

2925 W Historic Hwy 66, Gallup, NM 87301

www.usarvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cabins
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Playground
  • Pool
  • Propane
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi
  • Pet Run

The city of Gallup is a decent size, with a Walmart, a Home Depot, and plenty of places to eat. There’s a municipal airport not far up the road from the RV park that receives flights around the clock. It’s so close and loud that planes coming in for a landing set our truck alarm off a couple of times, including in the middle of the night. I’m not sure why planes are landing at this tiny airport in the middle of the night, but between that and a nearby train track, we didn’t have the most restful night of sleep. After getting set up, we went into town for lunch and ate at Jerry’s Cafe, a Mexican restaurant that seems to be pretty popular with the locals. We also drove past the Hotel el Rancho, a hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by film director D.W. Griffith’s brother in 1937 on Route 66 and served as a temporary home for many movie stars that filmed Western movies in the area. Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne all spent time there, and now each room in the hotel is named after a previous famous guest.

 

Albuquerque: The KOA, a Bad Converter, and a Long Hotel Stay

Where to begin? I guess I’ll begin with how we ended up in Albuquerque when it wasn’t part of the plan.

We were in Hurricane, Utah and were supposed to be moving on to spending the weekend in Zion National Park at Watchman Campground. We drove through the campground a week before when we visited Zion and we weren’t super impressed. Due to the crazy winter the area had been having, there were parts of the campground that were under water. The original loop that we had reserved our site in was all torn up and closed. There was also a lot of work being done in the area surrounding the campground and nearby visitor center. I don’t know if this was due to weather-related issues or planned. Regardless, we weren’t super pumped about the current conditions of the campground, but we would deal with it. As the weekend approached, the weather outlook was not so great, adding to our apprehension. We made the decision to cancel our two nights, which would’ve been Friday to Sunday, and start driving towards our next destination, Santa Fe. We didn’t want to stay in Zion just for the sake of staying in Zion — we wanted to enjoy it, including the site and the weather. Besides, we’d be back in Hurricane in a month, staying at a place a little closer to Zion than Sand Hollow State Park is, and we’d make sure to explore the Park more then.

We found Valles RV Park in Mexican Hat, Utah on Campendium. Mexican Hat is home to Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. I had seem so many pictures of the area and wanted to see it for myself. We decided to spend two nights here, Friday and Saturday, before we moved on to Santa Fe. After spending one night, we decided to leave Mexican Hat early Saturday morning. You can read more about why here.

I know, I know. We’re starting to sound super picky about the places we stay. We really aren’t, but when something doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, we listen to our instincts. It’s done well for us so far, and as you’ll soon read, our instincts didn’t fail us here.

While we were still in Mexican Hat Friday night, we had already decided we were leaving in the morning; therefore, we needed to figure out where we were going. We had a reservation for one night in Kirtland, New Mexico on Sunday, as our original plan had been Zion –> Kirtland –> Santa Fe. We decided our new route would take us from Mexican Hat –> Albuquerque –> Santa Fe, with two nights (Saturday and Sunday) at the Albuquerque KOA. Yay, we had a plan!

When we arrived in Albuquerque Saturday afternoon after six rough hours of driving on Northern New Mexico’s lovely highways, we pulled into what is the nicest KOA Journey that we’ve stayed at. As we were getting set up, I noticed an issue with the converter fan. The converter is what converts the 120 volts of AC shore power to 12 volts of DC to supply power to all of the 12 volt appliances and accessories in the trailer. The converter basically prevents the batteries from draining when you’re plugged in. The converter fan helps to cool the converter unit down when needed. There was no need for the fan to be kicking in, yet it was — very, very often. We also noticed that any time the fan kicked in, the battery voltage would drop from the usual 13.6 to as low as 12.3, which is pretty low but not quite in the danger zone yet. By danger zone, I mean so low that the batteries won’t recover and recharge and are basically dead.

We had no idea what was going on so we got on the Google and various Airstream forums. From everything we read, it seemed as though our batteries were on their way out. This made sense, as the batteries were still the factory installed batteries which are not known to have the best longevity. We looked online to find a place nearby that we could get new batteries and low and behold — Airstream of New Mexico was only a half mile away! We drove over to Airstream and explained what was happening and they agreed with us; it sounded like the batteries. We bought two new ones and made our way back to the KOA where we figured out how to swap them out.

Here’s the thing, neither one of us is very mechanically inclined. Anything electrical is foreign to us and the idea of having to fix something electrical is a bit terrifying. This is a good time to mention that I have no idea if I’m using the proper terms for everything. Please do not take anything I’ve typed here as sacred, legit information. Before pulling the old batteries, we took pictures and notes. We successfully removed the old and installed the new! We were so proud of ourselves that we fixed our issue. That is, until we plugged back in and realized that, in fact, the issue had not been fixed. The converter fan still kept running for seemingly no reason and the battery voltage still kept decreasing when the fan kicked in. We started to notice exactly WHEN the fan would kick on, and it seemed to be whenever there was a certain level of movement in the trailer. Whenever the door was slammed or a cabinet or drawer was closed, it would kick on. So this changed our course of thinking. By this time, Airstream of New Mexico was closed for the day, so we weren’t able to get their input. We eventually figured out that if the fan kicked on, we could get it to kick off by pressing on the metal panel that is in front of it. This made us think that something was loose, so Travis removed the metal panel and removed the circuit board. He sprayed the area with air and made sure all of the connections were tight. He put everything back together and it seemed to work for a while. The fan didn’t kick in and the batteries stayed at their normal level — until they didn’t.

Just a reminder, this was on Saturday. Not only was Airstream of New Mexico closed for the day, but they were closed until Tuesday — they aren’t open Sundays and Mondays. We were supposed to be driving to Santa Fe on Monday where we would be spending two weeks. And to make things more complex, Travis was supposed to fly out of Santa Fe on Friday for a week-long business trip to Minnesota. We decided that we would definitely need to book a third night, Monday, at the KOA so that we could call Airstream Tuesday morning and try to get the trailer in to get looked at. We made it through the weekend by being careful about making the fan kick in, pulling the panel off for a second time to make sure everything was connected tight, and unplugging the trailer whenever we left just to be on the safe side.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. We called Airstream and….

….they told us they had no service appointments available until May, a good five or six weeks away. Well, crap.

Due to Travis’s impending business trip, we needed to make some decisions. We felt that no matter what, we would be staying in Albuquerque and not going to Santa Fe. This meant we needed to change his flight. We wouldn’t be able to stay in the trailer in its current state, so we booked a room at the Homewood Suites for the next week and a half. This still didn’t take care of what to do with the trailer, so we decided to go in to Airstream to plead our case. We explained our situation. We explained that we’re full timers so unfortunately, this wasn’t as easy as just not using the trailer until it could get fixed. Even though they weren’t able to look at it, they did have a solution. They recommended another RV service center (Tom’s) down the street from them that they do work with often. Airstream called Tom’s and they said if we could bring it in right now, they could fix it. Yay! We hurried back to the KOA and quickly got the Airstream hitched up to take over to Tom’s.

For those of you that aren’t RVers, let me explain what ‘quickly’ means. We had to disconnect the sewer hose, water hose, cable cord, and electric cord. We had to raise the stabilizers. We had to put the hitch on the truck and back it up to hitch up the trailer. We had to remove the chocks and roll off the levelers. As we weren’t getting on the highway, we didn’t hook up our sway control bars, which saved us a step. Inside, we had to get everything off the kitchen and bathroom counters and secure them for towing. Thankfully, the night before we had proactively taken everything out of the fridge and freezer and shut it off, thinking we would be dropping the trailer off at Airstream in the morning. I then ran into the KOA office and extended our stay again, as we were supposed to check out and leave by noon. We extended our stay for a week and a half, thinking we could just cancel the hotel. After all that, we got it over to Tom’s and they started working on it immediately. After checking things out, they agreed that the converter needed to be replaced. Only one problem — they didn’t have one to replace it. The parts supplier in town that they usually get their parts from didn’t have one. Airstream didn’t have one. It was determined that they would order one, receive it the next day, and then install it, meaning we were taking the Airstream back to the KOA for the night and would bring it back again the next day.

Fast forward a few hours and we receive a call from Airstream. I don’t know what was discussed between Tom’s and Airstream, but all of a sudden Airstream was like, bring it in so our certified Airstream technician can take a look at it and we can see if it’s covered by warranty. So, we did. We hadn’t hooked anything back up again when we returned from Tom’s, so we were able to get it over to Airstream pretty quickly.

Also, please keep in mind that we have a small, 14-year-old, grumpy dog that usually gets a bit anxious on travel days. He had no clue what was going on and his anxiety added to our stress as well.

We got the trailer to Airstream, the technician inspected it, confirmed there was an issue with the converter, and they submitted it to Airstream (corporate) to make sure it would be covered under warranty (we’re still under our two-year warranty). Thankfully, it was. But again, the issue arose that they didn’t have the part to replace and would have to order it.

At this point, Travis and I decided that we just wanted to leave the trailer with them and stay in the hotel. He would be leaving on his trip in three days and felt more comfortable with us being in a hotel rather than the trailer. The other issue is that I don’t tow the trailer, so it wouldn’t have been possible for us to go back to the KOA and for me to bring the trailer to Airstream when the part came in. They were 100% fine with that, so then the process of packing everything we needed to take with us began. Sounds easy, right? Well….

Again, we had already assumed we weren’t going to be in the trailer for a few days, so we had packed some stuff. It was Tuesday. Travis was leaving on Friday and would return the following Friday. We wouldn’t be able to pick the Airstream up until Saturday after he got back, so this meant we’d (me & the dog) would be in the hotel for 11 nights. Travis needed to pack everything he needed for his business trip. We needed everything necessary in order for us to work. We needed clothes and dog stuff and bathroom stuff and we packed up all the dry food too, not knowing what we would need. After getting everything we needed loaded into the truck (though I did make another run to the Airstream after realizing we forgot some things) we handed the keys off, stopped at the KOA to cancel our remaining stay, and made our way to the hotel.

The next ten days were pretty uneventful. Airstream called to say they’d be receiving the part on Tuesday. Travis went on his business trip. When Airstream received the part, they called to say that they put us on the schedule for Thursday morning. Travis was able to shorten his trip by a day and fly back Thursday night. This allowed us to pick the Airstream up Friday and stay one more night at the KOA to make sure everything was working properly before we left town on Saturday. We were able to get everything moved back into the trailer, do laundry, clean, and get the fridge turned back on to get it ready for food.

For some reason I did something that I never do the day before we tow — I turned the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on to make sure the tire pressure was good. It wasn’t. One of our tires was reading at 33psi when it should be about 65psi. We inspected the tire and didn’t see anything wrong with it. We measured the pressure with both a tire pressure gauge and the air compressor to make sure the tire pressure monitoring system wasn’t acting up. Everything showed around 33psi. There were only really two explanations. One, someone let air out. Two, the tire was punctured. The first option didn’t make sense so we had to assume that it was the second. While you can pick up a nail or some other sharp object anywhere, the only thing we can figure is that something happened to the tire when the trailer was at Airstream. Seeing as anywhere that could help us was closed for the day, we filled the tire and waited until the next morning to make phone calls. Even though we didn’t think they did, we called Airstream to see if they sold tires. They do not, but said they use Discount Tire for all their tire needs, which was going to be our next call anyway. We called Discount Tire and they said all of their appointments were booked, but they weren’t busy yet, so if we could get there soon, they could take care of us. We had already prepped the Airstream for towing that morning as we waited for Airstream and Discount Tire to open, so we were able to hitch up and get there pretty quickly. They had us checked in even before we pulled in the driveway and they changed out all four tires in about 45 minutes. We decided to buy four new tires because the tires that come on an Airstream aren’t the best quality. We upgraded to Goodyear Endurance, which can carry more weight, have a higher speed rating, and just seem to more durable all around. We didn’t even have them look at the flat tire to see what was wrong with it, because it didn’t matter to us at this point.

So, after new batteries, a new converter, and new tires — we were finally on our way! If you’re ever in the Albuquerque area and are need in of assistance, I cannot praise these businesses enough: Airstream of New Mexico, Albuquerque KOA Journey, Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown, and Discount Tire located at 1119 Juan Tablo Blvd. Everyone was so nice and helpful and understanding and they all provided excellent service on a moment’s notice.

As you can see, a few of the gut decisions we made brought us to Albuquerque which brought us to Airstream of New Mexico. If we hadn’t cancelled our weekend in Zion and instead booked in Mexican Hat, where we then left a night early and skipped Kirtland, heading straight for Albuquerque instead, we probably would have been in Santa Fe when our issue with the converter started. Santa Fe is only an hour drive from Albuquerque, but we wouldn’t have been able to just stop into Airstream and plead our case face to face. For some reason, we ended up in the right place at the right time!

Now, about the places we stayed…

Albuquerque KOA

12400 Skyline Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87123

www.albuquerquekoa.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi
  • Picnic Table
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Dump Station
  • Dog Runs
  • Pool with Hot Tub
  • Playground
  • Propane Fill
  • Mini Golf
  • Horseshoes
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Camp Store

As I stated above, this is a very nice KOA Journey. Like most Journeys, the sites are close together, but our site (128) was was plenty long. The people that work here are so nice and were super flexible when we added a third day, and then added a week and a half, and then cancelled a week and a half. The location is pretty decent to everything Albuquerque has to offer and we would definitely stay here again if we were to return to the area.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Albuquerque Uptown

7101 Arvada Avenue NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

www.homewoodsuites3.hilton.com

  • 1 or 2-Bedroom Suites with Kitchenette and Living Room
  • Dog Friendly
  • Free Breakfast
  • Social Hour with Snacks Monday – Thursday Evening
  • Accepts Mail Delivery
  • Swimming Pool
  • Guest Laundry
  • Fitness Center
  • Wifi
  • Business Center
  • Snack Shop

The Homewood Suites in Uptown was a great place to stay for a week and a half. The room was nice, the breakfast was decent, and the social hours with food during the week were a nice perk. Not only does the hotel allow dogs, but they also have a grassy area outside complete with dog waste bag station. The location is absolutely fantastic — the Uptown area of Albuquerque offers great restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, fitness centers and every possible service needed, all within walking distance. Travis was in Minnesota for work during most of our stay, but Max and I enjoyed sleeping in a king size bed, lounging on the couch, and generally just taking advantage of having more space. Personally, I enjoyed the long, hot showers and having dry towels of my very own every day. One of our favorite places to eat nearby is Fork & Fig, but there are so many options. And by the way, Uptown is only a 10-minute drive from the KOA and Airstream dealership, so it was also convenient to drive back and forth.

With all of the ‘excitement’ we had in Albuquerque, we didn’t get out to explore too much. We did a very brief, self-led Breaking Bad tour one evening and visited one of the sites of Petroglyph National Monument one afternoon.

Breaking Bad’s Walter and Skyler White’s House
Breaking Bad’s Walter and Skyler White’s Car Wash
There are five locations for Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque: the Visitor Center, Volcanoes Day Use Area, Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon.
Dogs are allowed at three locations, including Piedras Marcadas, which is where Max & I visited. The trail is an easy 1.5 miles round trip, level, sandy and, has dog waste bags with a trash an at the trailhead.

 

 

Valles RV Park – Mexican Hat, UT

Valles RV Park

US 163, Mexican Hat, UT 84531

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Store w/ Restaurant

There have been very few places that we’ve felt uncomfortable leaving the Airstream to go out exploring. This is one of the few. Possibly because no one else was staying in the ‘RV Park’ the same time as us. Possibly because there were rows of vehicles parked just 30 yards from us that didn’t seem to belong to anybody in the vicinity. Possibly because the owner is a tad creepy and his father (they both live above the office/store/restaurant) was apparently watching our every move – he didn’t like the way we parked in our spot and called down to his son to let him know. Whatever the reason, even though we paid for two nights, we decided to bug out early after just one night. We also learned the lesson to pay day by day at places that allow it; places like this that don’t take reservations or even write your name down – just take your money.

There are 11 or 12 sites with full hookups. See the random rows of vehicles parked behind us? Yeah, that was a little weird.
This building houses the office, restaurant, restrooms, laundry and the owner’s apartment.

Why would we have chosen to stay at a place like this, you might ask? We needed a place along our route (there wasn’t much to pick from) and this place actually had a few decent reviews on Campendium. RV park reviews are so incredibly subjective and it can be difficult at times to glean the important facts.

Regardless of where you stay, this part of the country is incredibly beautiful, which is why we wanted to visit. Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods made for some fantastic views during our drive.

The infamous Forrest Gump Point — watch for people in the middle of the road!
“Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run at this spot (1980)”
A very over exposed pic of Mexican Hat Rock. We drove past it as the sun was rising when we ducked out of Mexican Hat early. There was an Airstream boondocking right next to it — they had the right idea!