Why We Decided to Stop Traveling Full Time

925 days.

16,807 miles.

19 states.

96 different overnight site locations.

2 countries.

18 national parks.

 

Listing the stats of our full-time travel as above reminds us of how much we’ve experienced and how far we’ve traveled, though our last few months on the road have felt anything but adventurous.

When the seriousness of COVID was realized in March, we had just left Southern California where we had spent the winter. We were at a state park in Southern Nevada and had an amazing itinerary ahead of us: Some fantastic state parks in Southeastern Nevada; the Mighty 5 in Utah; Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes National Parks in Colorado; a brief stay in the Rapid City area for a doctor’s appointment; and then on to Minnesota and Wisconsin to spend time with family and celebrate holidays, a high school graduation, sporting events, and birthdays. We were then going to explore more of Wisconsin, the state we grew up in. We also had a large part of our winter mapped out, and we were finally going to hit the Southeast and East Coast: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc. We researched and planned and mapped and reserved sites the day they become available, anywhere from 6 to 13 months in advance. We woke up a handful of mornings before 5am in California to book sites that became available at 8am in Florida. We. Had. A. Plan.

And then it got blown up.

State parks started to close. Then national parks. Then counties and states started imposing non-resident travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine requirements. When a lot of our full-timing cohorts got off the road to shelter in place with family, we stayed out there. We didn’t really have anywhere to go, so we stayed as socially distant as possible and crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t receive a knock on the door, email, or phone call saying we needed to move on because our current location was closing. After three reservations in a row were cancelled, we finally found a private RV park in Torrey, Utah to settle in for a month while we regrouped and figured out our next move. The uncertainty was uncomfortable. We felt in our gut that COVID was sticking around for a while and questioned whether we wanted to continue traveling during a time when the best thing to do is stay home as much as possible.

And we decided we didn’t.

We didn’t want to keep traveling at this time for a handful of reasons, some of which became more apparent as the weeks and months went by:

  • Above all, we wanted to stay healthy. And we wanted those around us to stay healthy.
  • It just wasn’t that fun to be on the road during a pandemic. People always asked us how long we were going to live this lifestyle, and our reply was always we’d stop when we didn’t enjoy it anymore. We weren’t enjoying it much, mainly for the reasons listed below.
  • It’s too damn busy out there now. A number of people around the country have turned to RVing as their preferred way to travel this summer. It’s wonderful that families are finding new ways to vacation and spend time together, but the huge uptick in RV sales and rentals means there are a lot fewer places to stay. And crowds. Campgrounds that are usually nowhere near capacity are now booked with a line out the gate waiting to get a site. A lot of people are visiting national parks during their travels, many for their first time – and they’re trashing them. Vandalism, trash, avoidable run-ins with wildlife, and human excrement have now become common place.
  • In our experience, many people aren’t being as cautious as they should be. This makes us incredibly uncomfortable and reinforces the importance of finding a safe place where we can live comfortably and keep ourselves healthy. Wear a mask and distance yourself from others whenever possible!
  • We knew when we decided to live in an Airstream we were giving up space. However, we were perfectly fine with that knowing that in return, we’d be visiting beautiful places and having some pretty great experiences. Well, when there’s a pandemic and it’s best to stay home, that once quaint and cozy small space feels smaller.

So, friends, we bought a condo in Bozeman, Montana. We had spent time in Bozeman the last two summers and really enjoyed our visits. We’ve been fond of our travels through Montana in general, and in fact, Montana is the state we’ve spent the most time in outside of California (where we would spend the winter months).

Why Bozeman?

We love its location. Three national parks – Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier – are all within a 5-6 hour drive. Bozeman is a very outdoors-oriented town, catering to hiking, fishing, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and various other outdoor activities. Montana’s busiest airport is in Bozeman, which is important for when business trips become a thing again. While the cost of living is higher here than in other parts of the country, we find it affordable after living in San Diego County for seven years. When considering a place to settle down, we always wanted to make sure it was somewhere where we wouldn’t have to sell the Airstream due to budget constraints. Bozeman also has some great restaurants and breweries, and is incredibly dog friendly, if we ever decide to get another pupper. Also, Bozeman residents seem to be very active and welcoming. Have I mentioned that Bozeman is beautiful? From the cute downtown to the endless trails and green spaces to the mountains in all directions, the landscape really sold us.

What does this mean?

Well, it means we will no longer be living in an Airstream full time. Instead, we’ll be spending part of the year in our spacious-to-us 1100ft2 two bed, two bath condo with doors that offer privacy, a large fridge, a washer & dryer, and a king-size bed. We will definitely still travel in the Airstream as much as we can. In spite of the reasons we chose to stop full timing, we still love it and can’t imagine not traveling. There are so many places we want to visit and revisit, we’ll just do it more sporadically. In fact, we have plans for a 3-week trip to northern Washington soon, but are waiting out the heat and crowds before we embark. I think we’ll really enjoy having the luxury to decide when we travel and when we don’t.

 

Bozeman Hot Springs Campground – Third Time’s A Charm

We returned to the campground at Bozeman Hot Springs (aka Bozeman Campground) for the third summer in a row this June. As stated in my previous post ‘Limited Options in Bozeman, Montana‘, there are only a few options in the Bozeman area for RVs and none are that great. Bozeman Campground is definitely the nicest of the options, but it’s also the most expensive. (I guess when you don’t have a lot of competition, you can charge whatever you want.) I’ve highlighted the campground amenities and local attractions in our previous posts regarding Bozeman (July 2018 and July 2019), so in this post I’m going to compare the different site options at Bozeman Campground.

A Row: These are tent sites and cost $42.95/night. Seeing as that’s usually an average price for an RV site, you can see already how expensive this campground is. The tent sites are a decent size, all grass, and have a fire pit & picnic table. No electricity.

B Row: We stayed in B6 for seven nights in June 2020. These are water and electric (30amp) only sites that are pull thru. They are labeled to range in length from 25-28 feet, though our Airstream (28′ from hitch to bumper) and truck fit fine with room to spare. There is an area available to park your tow vehicle if it doesn’t fit in your site. The sites are gravel, level-ish, and have a fire pit and picnic table. At $64.95/night, these are the least expensive sites for traditional RVs. We enjoyed our stay in this site and would book a site in this row for any future stays. There is a dump station available if you need to empty your tanks before, during, or after your stay.

Site B6

C Row: I have never seen a site in C Row available via the campground’s reservation system, so I’m not sure if you have to call in order to reserve a site here. These sites are gravel, back-in, full-hookup, 30-amp sites. They have a lot of trees overhead for shade and a large grassy area behind each site which is where the fire pits are located. They sit at a 90° angle to the road, so backing in is a little more challenging than other sites. Also, these are the closest sites to the hot springs, so there may be some noise from the pools.

G Row: We stayed in G0 for five nights and G4 for two nights, both in July 2019. When we stayed in it, G0 was a pull-thru site with lots of sun that they used as an emergency site. We we were supposed to stay in H row, but had an electrical issue there, so we spent our time in G0 instead. It appears that this year G0 is now a back in site, but I’m not sure if it’s still used as an emergency site or if it can be reserved. We also stayed in G4 for two nights and really enjoyed our stay here. The G row sites are super long pull throughs and actually have hookups at both ends, so you can decide what works best for where to park your rig. There is decent shade in this area as well, and the sites are very spacious with large green lawns between them. These sites are $74.95/night.

Site G0
Site G4
Site G4

H Row: We were supposed to spend five nights in H4 in July 2019, but had a hot skin issue after hooking up electricity. We don’t know if there was a ground issue with the electrical pedestal or if the fact that we were sitting in a huge puddle of water was the issue. Regardless, they moved us to G0. These sites are back-in, full-hookup sites, and seem pretty decent. These sites are also $74.95/night.

I Row: We have not stayed in I row, but these sites seem pretty comparable to H row. They are also back-in, full-hookup sites that are available for $74.95/night.

J Row: We stayed in site J6 for three nights in July 2018 and J7 for one night in July 2019. In our opinion, the J row sites are the worst sites the campground has to offer, which is disappointing, seeing as they are also $74.95/night. They are pull-thru, gravel sites with very snug ‘grassy’ areas that have a fire pit and picnic table. I say ‘grassy’ because weedy might be a better description. These sites don’t seem to get as much attention as other sites and really should be priced less. The B row water and electric sites are much nicer. There are hedges between the sites which offers some privacy from your neighbor, so there’s that, I guess.

J6
J7
J7

K Row: K row and the two L row sites are the only sites that have cement pads. We stayed in K2 for two nights in June 2020. These sites are very large and very long back ins and nice to be in during the rainy season (which ends early to mid-July) so you don’t have to deal with the mud the gravel sites might have. We had nice, green hedges behind us, so this site felt fairly private. These sites are the most expensive in the campground at $89.95/night.

Site K2
Site K2

L Row: There are actually only two L sites mixed amongst the sites in K row. They are water and electric only back-in sites that are quite small and best suited for vans or a small Class C. They are $49.95/night, which seems like a steal considering the tent sites aren’t much cheaper.

Bozeman Campground accepts Good Sam, so if you are a member, you will get 10% off your stay.

This year’s stay at Bozeman Campground in sites K2 and B6 was so much more enjoyable than the two previous years when we had a crappy site in 2018 and an electrical issue in 2019. We wish there was a more affordable option in the area, but the price does include entrance to the hot spring pools next door as well as breakfast every morning, which came in the form of a carryout brown bag this year due to COVID.

Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park – Livingston, MT

After spending a week at one of the worst places we’ve ever stayed (see previous post), we were over the moon when we pulled into Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park and saw how beautiful and well cared for it is. Yellowstone’s Edge is about 15 miles south of Livingston, Montana (where you’ll find a grocery store) and about 35 miles north of Gardiner, Montana (where you’ll find the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park). It’s nestled between the Yellowstone River —  with a number of sites backing right up to the river — and Highway 89, though the traffic noise is pretty minimal. We had originally reserved only a week long stay, but as soon as we pulled in, we decided to extend. We had no idea where we were headed next, and Yellowstone’s Edge seemed like a great place to hang out while we figured out our next destination. We actually extended our stay three times, and ultimately stayed 5.5 weeks from May 9th to June 16th. The owners of the park (fellow Airstreamers!) were super accommodating and did their best to not make us move sites multiple times. We did end up staying in three different sites, but they were all within a few sites of each other, making moving very easy.

Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park

3502 US Hwy 89 South, Livingston, MT 59047

www.yellowstonesedgervpark.com

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Waterfront Back-In Sites (Yellowstone River)
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Gameroom
  • Store
  • Community Fire Pit
  • RV Storage
  • Picnic Table

While there’s no enclosed off-leash dog area, there is a lot of grass throughout the park and plenty of room to walk your four-legged friends, with a number of dog waste bag stations throughout. There’s no pool and no playground, so Yellowstone’s Edge doesn’t necessarily cater to kids, but I think they would still enjoy staying here.

When you make a reservation at Yellowstone’s Edge online, you actually are submitting a request for a reservation. There’s a spot on the request form where you can ask to be in a specific site or site type. After referring to their park map and looking at Google Satellite, I requested to be in one of their back-in south sites (S1-S12), as I thought they would have the best views. (I was right.) Someone from the park called to confirm our reservation and site type, and we were all set! This park is VERY popular during the summer, and we talked to more than one person that was spending at least three months there. We were very lucky to get in with only a week’s notice and be able to continue extending our stay.

We stayed in sites S3, S5, and S6 and site S6 is pictured above and below. They all had a little different view and were sized a little differently, but basically all the same quality.

Sometimes we stay at a park or campground for an entire month and never get our chairs out; other times we pull them out on the first day. This is a put-the-chairs-out-on-the-first-day-and-take-a-seat kind of place. We loved sitting by the river with a view of the mountains, watching all of the fly fishers floating down the river.

But don’t let those sunny pictures above fool you, it can definitely still snow in this area when it’s crazy hot in other parts of the country already. Yellowstone’s Edge’s season doesn’t start until May 1, and there’s good reason for that. Over Memorial Day Weekend, we woke up to snow!

The only other time our Airstream has seen snow was a year prior, in nearly the same area. We were in West Yellowstone towards the end of May and woke up to snow there one day as well — so be prepared!

It was calming to watch the snow fall and the birds feed at our neighbor’s bird feeders.

As quickly as the snow came, it was gone, and the lilacs and budding trees replaced it.

It was pretty great to be able to watch the sunset over the Yellowstone River and the mountains every night from our window!

Of course, the main draw for staying in this area is visiting Yellowstone National Park. When we arrived at Yellowstone’s Edge on May 9, the park was still completely shut down due to COVID-19. The south and east entrances (located in Wyoming) reopened on May 18. Due to Montana having a 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone that traveled from outside the state (both residents and nonresidents), the west, north, and northeast entrances (which are all located in Montana) didn’t reopen until the 14-day quarantine was lifted. On June 1, all entrances of the park were finally open and we were lucky to be able to start exploring the park via the north entrance (in Gardiner, MT) less than a half hour after it opened.

We went into the park three times during the remainder of our stay at Yellowstone’s Edge, and were overjoyed at how few visitors there were. We have previously visited Yellowstone NP twice in the past two years, both during summer, and it’s usually crazy town — hard to park, selfie sticks everywhere, and large crowds at the most popular attractions. While we did see an increase in traffic throughout our visits, it was still incredibly enjoyable and easy to get around.

We made sure to visit some areas of the park we had never visited before, like Lamar Valley and the Lower Falls, and we returned to some we had previously seen, like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. The last two times we visited, the Fairy Falls Trail that leads to the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook was closed, so we made sure to take advantage of its accessibility this time.

Here are some pics from the park:

This park is such an interesting place and definitely worth a visit, but prepared for a lot of driving — like, a lot. The various sections of the park are very spread out and will require multiple hours in the car in order to explore. Probably the best way to visit Yellowstone is to stay near each entrance — or at least near the south, west, and north entrances — for a couple of days each.

There is still so much of Yellowstone that we have left to explore, but it will have to wait until our next visit!

Prior to Yellowstone opening, we did some nice hikes in the area that weren’t too far from Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park:

Pine Creek Falls – Pine Creek/Livingston Area

This is a 2.6-mile moderately difficult trail that starts just beyond the Pine Creek Campground in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness in the Gallatin National Forest. There’s a decent size parking lot with pit toilets at the trailhead, but this is a very popular trail and other trails leave from the same area, so the earlier you start, the better. It’s a beautiful little hike with about 486′ of elevation gain that culminates at Pine Creek Falls. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say the trail culminates at the falls, as you can continue on beyond the falls to Pine Creek Lake, which is about 12 miles roundtrip.

In order to get to the trailhead, you have to drive through private land where cattle graze, so heed the signs that say, “Slow – Cows On Road.”

The Hogback (aka Hogback Ridge) – Pine Creek/Livingston Area

My Apple Watch logged 865′ of elevation gain and a little over 2.5 miles of distance, but there are varying accounts of how long this trail is, probably because it’s hard to know where the trail ends. That being said, this was such a fun hike — mainly because of these two:

This is Daizy and Boaz and this is their property. The Hogback Trail is on private property that the owners graciously open to public enjoyment. Note the signs below:

The trail is steep with loose rocks, and apparently rattlesnakes are a common sight, though we saw none. There are some pretty great views throughout.

Daizy and Boaz stuck with us for the entire hike. While Boaz’s job seemed to be to terrorize Daizy, Daizy seemed to take her job of leading hikers very seriously. We got off trail a couple of times (it’s not very well defined) and she waited patiently while we found it again. We wish every trail came with canine trail guides!

Joe Brown Trailhead – Gardiner

You’ll find the Joe Brown Trailhead along Hwy 89, north of Gardiner, Montana. The trail access is across the road from the Yankee Jim Picnic Area (where there’s a pit toilet) and a boat launch. I have no idea how long this trail is, as it’s not listed in AllTrails, and a Google search doesn’t yield any results. However, I can tell you that it meets up with both the Cedar Creek Trail and the Slip & Slide Trail. We stopped to check this trail out as we were returning to Yellowstone’s Edge from Gardiner one day, so weren’t super prepared in regards to water and snacks and only hiked 1.63 miles out and back. In that short distance, there was almost 500′ of elevation gain, which mostly came at the beginning. Besides the steep beginning, I’d say this trail is fairly easy (at least what we hiked) as it winds around the side of a grassy hill/mountain. We ran into a trio of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep along the way who were incredibly disinterested in us.

While at Yellowstone’s Edge, we picked food up from Follow Yer’ Nose BBQ in Emigrant a few times. Follow Yer’ Nose is often named the best BBQ in the state, and I can assure you, the brisket was the best we’ve ever had. We also had the pulled pork and a turkey sandwich as well, and all were delicious. Wildflour Bakery is also onsite and serves breakfast and baked goods. We made sure to pick up some local beer as well!

There are a couple of hot springs in the area that we weren’t able to patronize because they were closed due to COVID. Hanging out at Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa looks like a great way to spend a day and it’s only a 10-minute drive from Yellowstone’s Edge.

Also during our stay at Yellowstone’s Edge, we were able to meet up with four other full-timing couples at Eagle Creek Campground in Gardiner. This is a National Forest campground with good Verizon signal, pit toilets, campfire rings, bear boxes, and large, somewhat unlevel sites, for $7/night. From these dry camping sites, it’s about a 10-minute drive to Yellowstone’s north entrance.

We really enjoyed our time at Yellowstone’s Edge and will definitely stay here again if we’re in the area. And while Yellowstone is not one of our favorite parks, mainly due to how much driving is involved, it’s definitely an interesting, worthy place to visit that we will return to again so we can continue to explore its expansiveness.

 

 

Limited Options in Bozeman, Montana

There’s just something about Bozeman, Montana that has drawn us back for the third year in a row. That something is definitely not an array of options for RVers, however. There are three RV parks/campgrounds within the city, and none of them are anything to write home about. We stayed at Bozeman Hot Springs Campground and RV Park the last two years, and you can read about those visits here and here. The other two options are Bozeman Trail Campground (formerly Sunrise Campground, which is how it’s still listed on Campendium) and Bear Canyon Campground. Another option is the Gallatin County Fairgrounds as well as a handful of national forest campgrounds.

When we were in Bozeman last year, we drove through Bozeman Trail Campground and Bear Canyon Campground to see what the other options offered. At the time, they both seemed average-ish, with smaller sites that were close together. Even though it’s pricy and some of the sites are not nearly as nice as others, in our opinion, the hot springs campground is the nicest place to stay in Bozeman.

Bozeman Trail Campground

31842 Frontage Road, Bozeman, MT 59715

www.bozemantrailcampground.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Dog Run
  • Propane Fill
  • Wifi

Bozeman Trail is the closest to what the city has to offer, being literally a 1-minute drive from Bozeman’s historic downtown. Bozeman Trail was also the only place open for us to stay when we made our way to Bozeman this year. We arrived May 2nd, and the hot springs didn’t open until May 15th and Bear Canyon didn’t open until June 1st. I don’t know if those are the opening dates every year or if they delayed opening due to COVID-19. Speaking of which, the fairgrounds and area national forest campgrounds were all closed due to COVID when we arrived. So, Bozeman Trail was literally our only option.

I had tried to glean from a number of reviews as well as Google Map satellite images what the best sites were — and I think we actually did end up with the best site. We made our reservation online, I selected site 37, and a message popped up stating that they can’t guarantee the specific site I chose unless I pay a $25 site lock fee. Seriously? Even though I definitely wanted site 37, as it was a pull-through at the end of a row, I did not pay the fee and hoped for the best. The day before we arrived, I called Bozeman Trail to request a non-contact check in and get our site number. We had done this at the last three places we stayed — actually, the last three places we stayed had contacted us. When I hadn’t heard from Bozeman Trail, I called to get our site number and they said they wouldn’t definitively know our site until the next day when we arrived. I then asked if I was able to call as we were pulling in to find out our site number so that we could have a non-contact check in and she said no, she needed me to come in to sign something. Again, seriously? During this pandemic, we kept our traveling to a minimum and our contact with others to none except for grocery stores, and that’s all we were trying to do here. But we weren’t allowed to and it pissed me off.

The next day, we arrived, I went in the office and found that zero precautions were being taken to protect staff or guests. I was wearing a mask, but the employee was not. There was no partition in place. She stood behind a podium and expected me to stand a foot away from her while signing a paper that didn’t need to be signed and writing down our license plate numbers that could have been collected during the reservation process. I grabbed the paper, walked over to a table, and signed it with my own pen. I returned to the truck and we followed a guy in a golf cart to our site. Between the site lock fee and the lack of COVID-19 precautions, we already didn’t feel great about this place.

Site 37 is on the end of a row of pull-thru sites that face every other way so that you share a front yard with your neighbor. However, seeing as 37 is on the end, we did not share a front yard, but had a decent sized grassy area. The parking pad was gravel, narrow, and a bit unlevel. It seemed as though they had just put in a new sewer hookup, because the area around the hookups was dirt, though this time of year it’s actually mud. The hookups were pretty spread out, but we didn’t have an issue hooking the electric up at the back of the site and hooking the water up towards the front of the site. Our site was large enough to park the truck, but I’m not sure that would be possible in all sites.

The campground itself is decent. The layout of some sites is a little wonky, and at first glance, it seems really run down, but that’s only because there were a number of rigs that looked as though they could never hit the road again. There are a number of RVers that get frustrated with places that have an age limit on RVs, but this campground is an example of why some places choose to have an age limit. Could it use some sprucing up? Yes; however, if you can look past some of the dilapidated vehicles, this place is okay. Ish.

But, the noise. Oh my goodness, the noise! The noise is unlike anything else we have ever experienced. The campground is nestled between a frontage road that has an active train track running parallel and I-90. This is the absolute loudest place we have ever stayed. We are not normally disturbed by highway noise or a distant train, but here, the noise was endless. And even with the door and windows closed, we could still hear the traffic. The train ran a number of times through the night, whistle and all. Some reviews for Bozeman Trail say the noise isn’t that bad, so I don’t know if it was the location of our site, or we have overly sensitive hearing, or those reviewers have diminished hearing, but it was bad. The noise is our main complaint and the reason we hope we’d never have to stay here again.

We didn’t use any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on those. They claim to have a playground, but it consists of one swing and one of those little boxy, plastic Little Tykes-type play sets. There are plenty of places to dispose of trash throughout and as I said earlier, the location can’t be beat for visiting downtown Bozeman.

Site 37 fit our 27′ Airstream and tuck without issue. When most other sites had picnic tables, we had that weird permanently-in-the-ground table.
Our front door faced the gravel campground road, but it wasn’t bothersome.

 

 

 

A Brief Stay at Aspen Grove RV Park – Tremonton, UT

When we left Torrey, Utah, we knew we were headed to Bozeman, Montana. As Idaho was under a 14-day quarantine rule for anyone traveling from outside of the state due to COVID-19, we wanted to drive right on through to Montana without stopping. We found the furthest north RV park in Utah that was along our route, where we stayed for two nights until we made the final push into Montana. We typically would have only spent one night between drive days, but both days were long travel days and we remembered how not fun driving north on I-15 was last year. For some reason, even during a pandemic (though Utah had somewhat lifted it’s stay-at-home orders by this time), the drive from Provo through Orem and Salt Lake and past Ogden just kind of sucks. It’s trafficky, the road is wavy (which is much more noticeable when pulling a trailer), and there was construction (isn’t there always). We figured the two nights of rest would be appreciated, which they were, and we were all rested and ready for our last leg when we left Aspen Grove RV Park in Tremonton, Utah.

Aspen Grove is a fairly new park with very large, paved pads and lots of grass. While the park is very clean and well manicured, there aren’t any trees, so it could be a bit toasty during the height of summer. When we arrived, we were instructed to call the office for a non-contact check in. Someone came by in a golf cart to lead us to our site. We had previously received all rules and a map via email and paid in full the day before arrival.

Aspen Grove RV Park

700 West Main Street, Tremonton, UT 84337

www.aspengrovervpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Propane Fill
  • Bathhouse with Showers and Laundry
  • Clubhouse
  • Dog Run
We were in site 24, which was an end site with a huge front yard and views of the mountains.

Besides getting gas, we didn’t leave the Airstream, so I’m not sure what else the immediate area has to offer. Aspen Grove’s website does list some area attractions, including hot springs, a bird refuge, and the Golden Spike National Historical Park.

 

Capitol Reef NP and Wonderland RV Park — Torrey, UT

We left the Zion National Park area on April 3rd and headed to Torrey. Originally, we were supposed to spend a few nights by Bryce Canyon National Park before making our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park, but due to COVID-19, we wanted to keep our travels to a minimum. We had one week booked at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, but after arriving and feeling it out for a few days, we decided to extend our stay to a month. Our next three reservations had been cancelled anyways, so it was nice to find a safe, quiet place to land for a bit.

The small town of Torrey (population ~250) is the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park and home to Wonderland RV Park, a very well kept, small RV park only three miles from the Park’s entrance. We received our site number before arrival, so we were able to do a contactless check in and drive right to our site. The owners disinfected the common areas regularly and made sure there was plenty of room between occupied sites. We spoke to the owners at one point during our stay and they said they had been at about 95% capacity for the months of April and May, but when the coronavirus struck, almost everyone cancelled. During our month-long stay, there was usually only about 6-8 other RVs. We’re really glad we chose to spend our time here and help out a small business that needed it. They were very gracious hosts, allowing us to receive FedEx deliveries, and even wiping the boxes down before they brought them to our site. (The FedEx guy eventually just started delivering right to our site, cutting out the need to involve the staff.) Our site was a long, level pull-through with lots of green grass between us and the next site, though no one was ever next to us. The only amenity we used was the laundry, which has four washers and dryers each. Whenever someone was in the laundry room, they would just keep the door open, signifying to others that it was in use. Between that and all of the surfaces being disinfected a couple of times a day, we had no worries with entering the common space. The only complaint we have about our stay here is that the water pressure is pretty low. We ended up filling our fresh water tank and using our water pump most of the time so that we had better pressure.

Wonderland RV Park

44 South Highway 12, Torrey, Utah

www.capitolreefrvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Car/Van Sites
  • Picnic Table at Each Site
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi (Pretty Decent, Actually)
  • Restrooms
  • Individual Showers
  • Laundry
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Large Dog Run
  • Basketball Court
Site 6 is a level pull-thru with a few trees for shade.
It was this empty for most of our stay, so Wonderland RV Park was a great place to social distance/quarantine/shelter in place.
We got a visit from the resident ducks on a daily basis.
The RV park is surrounded on two sides by fields where cows and horses graze.

Capitol Reef National Park was still open to visitors when we first arrived in the area, though all services such as restrooms, visitor centers, gift shops, the campground, etc. were closed. We didn’t know much about Capitol Reef before we arrived in Torrey, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise — the park is gorgeous!

We took a post-dinner drive through the park on our first night in Torrey to check things out. We were lucky to experience the strangest sunset we’ve ever seen as it looked like the horizon line was on fire!

In the photo below is the Pendleton Barn, part of the Gifford Homestead. The Gifford family lived here, in what was then the small town of Fruita, until 1969. The Fruita Historic District, as it is now known, is still home to orchards containing approximately 3,000 trees, including cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, quince, almond, pecan, and walnut, including the orchards own unique strain, the tart Capitol Reef Red apple. Visitors to the park are able to pick fruit from designated orchards — visit the NPS website here to find out more info about the orchards. The Gifford House today, in the background, is part museum, part store and sells what are rumored to be the best pies ever. Unfortunately, due to being closed during our visit, we didn’t get a chance to see if that’s true.

There’s also a beautiful campground in this area, appropriately names Fruita Campground, that is the nicest national park campground we’ve ever seen. It’s dry camping, though there are restrooms; however, there is no cell signal if that’s important to you.

We were lucky to get two hikes in in the Park before it closed completely to all recreating. Both of them were surprisingly great with amazing views. The first was Chimney Rock Trail, which is a 3.75-mile loop trail with (according to my watch) about 870′ of elevation gain. It’s labeled by the Park as strenuous, and I’d agree, as all of the elevation gain is in the first 1.25 miles. We were surrounded by fantastic views during every part of this trail, and honestly, this trail made us really fall for Capitol Reef.

The second hike we did was the Hickman Bridge Trail. It was approximately 2 miles out and back with about 450′ of elevation gain. The Park rates it as moderate, and again, I’d agree as there are quite a few steps and the elevation gain is noticeable, but is definitely doable by most able-bodied people, including kids. The trail starts along the Fremont River, continues up a couple of switchbacks, and after snaking through some wide open spaces, culminates at the Hickman Natural Bridge, which spans 130′ and rises 125′ above the trail. This was another really enjoyable trail that again was very scenic throughout.

After the park closed completely, we found another hike within a short drive from Wonderland RV Park. It’s called Sunglow Trail and starts in the Sunglow Campground in Fishlake National Forest near Bicknell, Utah. AllTrails lists it as a 1-mile out and back, but we logged a little more than 1.5 miles. We also recorded almost 350′ of elevation gain, as opposed to AllTrails 213′. This trail is very fun but involves A LOT of scrambling and an unclear path, though you’re in a canyon, so you can’t get lost. The trail ends when you reach the canyon wall and a tree growing out of a boulder, cracked open like a pistachio. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but there are quite a few little prickly cacti along the way and at times, very large boulders to scramble over.

Pretty much everything was closed in Torrey while we were there, except for the two other RV parks, gas stations, hotels, and a burger stand. The closest grocery store is about a 20-minute drive to the town of Loa, and is pretty decent considering how remote the area is. If RV parks aren’t your thing, there is a lot of boondocking to be had in the area.

Please note, we understood and were very considerate of the impact travelers can have in a rural area during COVID-19. We visited the grocery store as infrequently as possible, always wore face coverings, wiped down the cart, and hand sanitized frequently. When we got gas, which was only once, we used a disposable glove. When we took the truck and Airstream to a self-serve carwash, we wiped everything down that we touched both before and after use. When we went on hikes, we made sure to give plenty of space to passing hikers, which were few and far between. As full timers, we don’t have the option to ‘stay home’. After spending a few nights at Wonderland RV Park, we felt that it was the perfect place to isolate, so we extended our stay to a month. The owners of the park were incredibly welcoming and thanked us for staying with them. If anyone needs a place to stay near Capitol Reef National Park, please consider Wonderland RV Park — it’s a great property run by amazing people.

A Week at Zion River Resort in Virgin, UT

Zion River Resort is a beautiful little RV resort located less than 20 minutes from Zion National Park’s south entrance. The grounds are well kept and welcoming. Amenities abound, but because our stay was during the coronavirus pandemic, we didn’t take advantage of any of them. The office, gift shop, and what seems to be a pretty extensive convenience store, were all closed to guests. We received a pre-arrival check-in email the day before arrival that let us know what our site number was with a map attached. It also stated that staff was able to deliver ice, firewood, and grocery items to our site and they would charge the credit card on file. As we pulled in, guests vacated the site across from us, and a staff member showed up immediately to wipe down the picnic table and electric and water hookups. They took every precaution they could to keep staff and guests safe, and were flexible with us when we called on two different occasions to adjust our arrival and departure dates.

Zion River Resort

551 E State Route 9, Virgin, UT 84779

www.zionriverresort.com

  • Full Hookup Sites
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Private Restrooms with Shower
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Take-Out Grill with Sandwiches, Salads, and Soups
  • Convenience Store
  • Gift Shop
  • Pool
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Dog Park
  • Propane
  • Social Hall with Events, TV, and Board Games
  • Shuttle to Zion National Park
Site 72 is a Back-In, Full-Hookup Site

The bulk of Zion National Park was closed before our arrival in Virgin, including shuttle service, visitor centers, restrooms, campgrounds, stores, Zion Lodge, and many trails, including the ever popular Angel’s Landing. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, usually only accessible by shuttle, was open to vehicles. We took a drive through the park on a Wednesday evening and were happy to see that there were few cars parked throughout the canyon. Two days later, the day we checked out of Zion River Resort, Zion National Park was closed completely to all visitors.

While we didn’t get to do any hiking in the park during this visit, we did a great hike in the area that had some pretty epic views of the park. Eagles Crag is a 7-mile out and back rated as hard on AllTrails, but is closer to moderate. The trail is a combination of loose rock and sand with some elevation gain. There were only four other parties on the trail, so it was easy to practice physical distancing. Dogs are allowed, but there are A LOT of prickly little cactus along the way, so I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a small parking lot and pit toilet at the trailhead, which is an adventure to get to in itself — I would say a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is a necessity.

Parts of the road were this muddy and rutted, which is why a high-clearance, 4×4 vehicle is a good idea.
Even the parking area has a nice view!
The trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Beautiful views throughout the hike!
This overlook is about 2.5 miles into the hike, so you don’t need to do the entire hike in order to get the best views.

I wish I had more to report from our stay at Zion River Resort, but due to the coronavirus, we really didn’t do much — we were just happy to have a safe place to stay for a week!

How Living in an Airstream Prepared Us for a Pandemic

Things people sheltering in place due to COVID-19 might be saying:

  • I’m on day three of not washing my hair.
  • I don’t know the last time I wore pants that don’t have an elastic waistband.
  • I’m proud of myself – I brushed my teeth before noon today.
  • My neighbor has seen me wearing the same thing ??? days in a row.
  • Feeling fancy – I shaved today.
  • Bra? Who wears a bra?
  • When’s the last time we talked to someone face-to-face that doesn’t live under this roof?
  • Did I shower today?
  • What day is it?

Just add, ‘I’m about four months past due for my biannual haircut’ and this is what full-time RVers are saying on the daily. Welcome to our world!

It’s been interesting watching friends and family, and society in general, adapt to life during COVID-19. About a week after stay-at-home orders were issued, we started seeing social media posts from friends and family that made us chuckle. People were already “losing their minds” after being home with their loved ones for seven days. Seven. Days. In 1800sqft homes. With a yard. And a finished basement. And multiple bathrooms with doors that actually give them privacy. And a full-size kitchen refrigerator and a garage refrigerator and a basement refrigerator. And a washer and dryer.  With grocery delivery available. And numerous nearby eating establishments offering takeout and delivery service.

We chuckled.

Here’s the thing: We are on day 820 of living in ~200sqft. Short of a combined handful of weeks of business trips, we have spent 24 hours a day together, every day, during those 820 days. When we say we live, work, and travel full time in an Airstream, what we are really saying is we are ALWAYS TOGETHER. This togetherness has REALLY prepared us for all of the sheltering in place, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders on the planet. Here’s what else has:

  • Isolation – While we aren’t usually in complete isolation from other humans, we ARE usually in complete isolation from other humans we know and love. We’ve had friends and family visit us sporadically since we’ve been on the road, but for the most part, it’s just the two of us.
  • Working from Home – This is a super new concept to a lot of people, but Travis has been doing it since 2011 and Missy has been doing it since 2009. Owning a business that allows us to work from home is actually the main reason we were able to become full-time RVers. However, we do understand that working for ourselves as opposed to working for an employer is a completely different ball game from what most people are experiencing now.
  • Stocking Up – Sometimes we’re going to be traveling through areas devoid of a real grocery store or a Walmart, so we have to stock up on items we’ll need in the upcoming weeks and months, including frozen foods, dry goods, hand soap, dish soap, shower soap, mouthwash, paper towels, paper plates, and yes, the ever-so-popular toilet paper, disinfectant spray/wipes, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer. RV-safe toilet paper can be hard to come by on the road, so when we find it, we stock up. Disinfectant spray/wipes are used to clean areas commonly touched by others, such as in RV park laundry rooms, laundromats, and the water, electric, and sewer hookups at sites. Disposable gloves are used when dealing with the sewer hose (and now gas pumps). Hand sanitizer is used after doing all the things at the laundromat, hookups, sewer hose, gas pumps, etc.
  • Eating at Home – We eat at home a lot. Much more than we would like. While we often find ourselves in beautiful locales, we don’t often find a lot of amazing food options. But when we do, we fully take advantage of them. Right now, though, we’re able to pack enough food into our limited cabinet space and 7 cubic foot fridge and freezer to last about three weeks. And we’re eating all three meals a day at home, seven days a week, without the benefit of having a dishwasher. I would give multiple rolls of toilet paper for a California burrito or an açaí bowl right now.
  • Working Out – Pre-road life, we were gym people. While we’ve been able to join gyms for short periods of times or get multiday free trials, depending on having a gym just isn’t feasible. We travel with Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells and the BodyBoss 2.0 Portable Gym. These two things have the weight training aspect of working out covered. Travis runs and we both hike in order to get a good cardio workout in. Hikes have become more difficult with all of the park and trail closures, but there are still quite a bit available to us in our current location. The constant wind and cold temps are not helping our activity level, though!
  • Entertainment – Movie theatres, sporting events, concerts, or drinks out with friends aren’t usually available to us, so we aren’t missing them like many probably are right now. To entertain ourselves, we do the things that many people are finding themselves turning to now: Binge TV shows, read, do puzzles, play video games, do crossword puzzles, play board games, have campfires, go for walks — and most importantly, FaceTiming or Zooming with friends and fam. (And sometimes we even clean and organize.)

So, as you can see, social distancing and its side effects are nothing new to us. For the most part, our daily lives haven’t been impacted too greatly. We’ve had to readjust travel routes and cancel some reservations, both willingly and unwillingly, but we’re doing what we need to do in order to keep ourselves and those around us safe. When you live in an RV, you automatically live a simpler life. At a time like this, we’re very grateful for this lifestyle, as we seem to be experiencing less disappointment and monotony than others.

We know that this time has been difficult for many people in many ways, and this post is in no way meant do discredit the feelings people are feeling or the difficulties people are experiencing. We miss our families too. We worry about the effect all of the closures will have on the people we love and the communities we love. We’ve cycled through fear, anger, disbelief, annoyance, disappointment, and many, many other emotions. We do not take the seriousness of our country’s current situation lightly. But we do believe that it’s okay – needed, even – to smile and laugh and make lighthearted jokes and get through these weird times with a bit of humor.

Social Distancing at Sand Hollow State Park

We arrived at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah on March 16, 2020 and spent 12 days there. Sand Hollow was never on our itinerary, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we altered our route from two state parks in Nevada so that we could stay somewhere familiar and with full hookups (so we didn’t need to use the public showers). We spent two weeks at Sand Hollow during almost exactly the same time last year. You can read about that stay along with our review here.

Due to last minute reservations and extending our stay to longer than we had originally planned, we stayed in three different sites during our stay. All of the sites are full hookups, and many of them are pull-thrus, though the back-in sites are large and easy to maneuver into. The campground is comprised of one-way roads, so the pull-thrus on the right side of the road have the hookups on the roadside of the trailer, with your door opening to your ‘front yard’. The pull-thrus on the left side of the road have the hookups on the front yard side of the trailer, with your door opening to the road. Those sites aren’t ideal, and two of our sites, 32 and 19, had that layout, though site 19 was still decent due to its size.

Our ‘front yard’ in Site 31
View of Site 31 from the road
A sunset from Site 19
The view from our door at Site 19 – as you can see, our door opened to the road at this site.

Even during a pandemic, the day-use area of the park was pretty busy on the weekend. There’s a reservoir where people fish and sand dunes where people ride OHVs. Also, the campground was full on the weekend, but fairly quiet during the week. Because we weren’t a fan of how many people were around on the weekend, we didn’t extend our stay to the 14-day limit allowed; instead checking out on a Friday to move to a nearby RV park. This ended up working out well for us, as the governor of Utah finally issued a ‘stay home, stay safe’ order for the state on the Friday evening that we left, which included all state parks being open only to residents of the county they are located in. So, it’s possible we may have gotten kicked out.

It’s easy to see why this place is so popular!
Beautiful views throughout the campground!

We did our part to social distance during our stay. We walked a lot, taking in the beautiful views, and saying a polite hello as we passed others that were out getting fresh air. We worked out a bit with the equipment that we carry with us, and Travis also ran. We skipped hitting the laundromat in town and instead washed some laundry in the kitchen sink and hung it to dry from the awning.

Never thought we’d have to do this, but here we are.

The nights at Sand Hollow SP are very quiet and very dark, lending to a perfect atmosphere for stargazing and sitting by the fire. Firewood can be purchased at the entry kiosk. There’s a Maverick gas station and Walmart close by for necessities.

Big Bend of the Colorado SRA – Laughlin, NV

Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area is part of Nevada’s state park system and is located on the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada. As with all of the state parks in Nevada, it’s a first come, first serve park. The sites are huge and well spread out, with a shade structure, picnic table, grill, and fire pit at each. The public restrooms have individual restrooms and showers that seem clean enough. The campground sits back a bit from the river, so there are no sites with river views.

Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area

4220 Needles Hwy, Laughlin, NV 89209

www.parks.nv.gov

  • 24 Large, Well Spaced Sites
  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Dump Station
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Shade Structure
  • Grill
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • First Come, First Serve
  • Access to the Colorado River

The sites are large and spread out, but could use some love. There was a wildfire here last August that burned all of the vegetation throughout the campground. It appears that the now burned out vegetation provided a lot of privacy between sites. There are still blackened, dead bushes remaining, but it seems a lot of what burned was pulled up, chopped up, and sent through a wood chipper, with the wood chips being spread throughout the campground. I’m sure it’ll take a few years, but hopefully the plant life will grow back and the campground will be a little bit more visually appealing.

We stayed here during the middle of March, so the day use area of the park was not very active. However, during the summer months, it seems to be a popular spot for boating, jet skis, fishing, and hanging out at the beach. The water is very blue, clean, and clear here, so I can see why it’s a destination during the summer.

As for the city of Laughlin — there’s not much there. Before our stay here, I didn’t realize that only about 7,500 people call Laughlin home. There are a half dozen casinos along the river, but really, not much else. There’s a post office, some gas stations, and an In-N-Out, but for almost anything else, you need to cross the river into Bullhead City, Arizona. Bullhead City is a city of about 40,000 people, so you’ll find more services there, like grocery stores, Walmart and a laundromat.

When we first pulled into Big Bend of the Colorado SRA, we weren’t sure how long we would stay. It wasn’t the most attractive place, but as COVID-19 started spreading throughout the U.S. and it became clear how destructive this virus could potentially be, we decided staying put was the best option. We stayed nine days before moving on to a state park in Southern Utah, skipping our next two destinations of Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, Nevada and Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca, Nevada. While we are disappointed that we didn’t get to visit some beautiful areas of Nevada, it ended up being beneficial for a few reasons: 1) The weather in Cathedral Gorge took a turn and called for snow and below-freezing temps while we were supposed to be there; 2) Nevada State Parks ended up closing their campgrounds on March 18th due to COVID-19, so we would have had to scramble to find somewhere else to go; 3) We ended up making a last minute reservation at a state park in Utah that we stayed at last year, so we were able to hunker down in a familiar place in a more populated area than Valley of Fire and Cathedral Gorge — we didn’t want to be putting more pressure on the few services these small towns offer.