Making an Airstream a Home

When we decided to purchase an Airstream, we chose to purchase new as opposed to renovating an old one. Actually, renovating wasn’t even a discussion, for many reasons: 1) We didn’t have the time to renovate; 2) We didn’t have the space to renovate; 3) We didn’t have the skills to renovate; and 4) We legitimately love the clean, modern interiors of the new Airstreams, especially the Internationals. The only drawback of purchasing new, as far as interior design goes, is that the new trailers don’t have the homey feel of the renovated ones. Over the past few months, we’ve been making sure to add personal touches to make our Airstream feel like home. We recently made some modifications to our International Signature that add comfort and warmth to the clean, modern feel.

The Dinette – BEFORE
The Dinette – AFTER

As you can see from the above photos, we changed out the curtains and table, as well as added sconces to the puck lights above the table.

We had the curtains made by Carey Boland of AirDrapes. The four panels with tiebacks for the dinette area in a 27FB cost $780. See the closeup below to see the beautiful herringbone pattern.

As we are currently in our home town, we looked to two family businesses to get the table made. My mom’s cousins own Smith Builders, and they had their cabinet guy make the table ($50). My uncle owns Wirtz Painting, and he stained and sealed the table for us ($50). It’s possible we got family discounts, so don’t quote us on the price. We absolutely love the new table! The color matches the dark finish of the cabinets perfectly.

We purchased the telescoping pedestal ($438) from Silver Trailer Supply, though I wouldn’t recommend ordering from them as we had a few issues. We really didn’t care for the flip-up table leg on the old table as it didn’t feel very stable, and the table even collapsed once while towing. The telescoping pedestal is easy to use with air-powered height adjustment and comes with all of the hardware needed to attach the table top to the pedestal and the pedestal to the floor.

Helpful Hint: When putting the table down to use the dinette as a bed, the table no longer swings out and away from the wall, but goes directly down. This means that the size of the table top needs to be smaller than the original or else it won’t be able to retract completely due to the inward slope of the wall of the trailer. The original table top was 37″ x 39″ and we made the new table top 37″ x 35″. We have about a 4″ gap between the edge of the table and the wall now, which we actually prefer to the table being right up against the wall.

Throw pillows are from Target

We ordered the sconces from EzClipse. They’re technically made to spice up recessed lighting, but they work well with the under cabinet puck lights too. To install, I just attached three small magnets on the cabinet around the light and attached the sconce to the magnets.

Another change we made a few months back was to replace the accordion dividers with curtains. The curtains are actually shower curtains from the Target. We purchased the sliding eyes and the hooks from Amazon, and removed the clamps from the hooks.

We did a few things in the bedroom to make it as comfortable as possible. First, we bought extra deep sheets and memory foam mattress toppers from AB Lifestyles. Then, we bought the comforters, Euro pillows, and throw pillows from Pottery Barn Kids. Anyone who has visited us as commented on how comfy the beds both look and feel. We added a little ‘bunk bed’ for Max by cutting a piece of 3/4″ plywood to fit under the mattresses, stained it, and then added his Petsmart ED by Ellen Degeneres bed on top. Since the photo directly below was taken, we’ve also added a Crosley Keepsake turntable, a succulent (real one replaced by a fake one), and a shadowbox frame of our golden doodle, Ace, who is no longer with us. The geometric planter is from Wildwood Lettering on Etsy and the shadow box is from Social Print Studio, where I get all of my Insta pics printed.

And then of course, PICTURES! We’ve been able to add in a few pictures here and there from our travels as well as our life in San Diego. The picture/plant holder below was purchased at The Queen Bee Market in Del Mar, California from Wildflower California and the delicous-smelling candle is by Paddywax but purchased at the cutest little shop in La Jolla, California called Hi Sweetheart (definitely check it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood). P.S. The plant is a horsetail palm.

Good Vibes frame from Target. Picture frames from Michaels.

We also displayed photos using magnets on the wall pockets from The Container Store, which we use to hold some of our vinyl albums. The faux fur blanket Max is lying on is a favorite in a our house, which is why we have three — one for each of us! They can be found at Restoration Hardware.

And lastly, we collect pins along our travels and display them on cork strips that we’ve mounted in the dinette area using 3M tape. Just a little something to remind us where we’ve been! Cork strips purchased on Amazon.

 

 

Our First 109 Days

I meant to write this post on our 100th day of full-time travel, which was April 24th, but as tends to happen, we got busy and I just didn’t get around to it soon enough, so 109 days will have to work. There are a lot of people out there considering the full-time travel lifestyle or those that are fairly new to it, like us, so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned thus far. Although, I’ve got to be honest – 109 days in and we don’t feel like newbies, even a little bit. It’s amazing how easy it was to adjust to life on the road and how quickly our Airstream began to feel like home.

Things We Thought Would Be Hard and Scary Aren’t So Hard and Scary:

  • Figuring Out How Everything Works: There are a lot of things that make an Airstream function properly and we got a brief, incredibly overwhelming introduction to them during our walkthrough when we picked the trailer up from the dealership. That was five months before we actually hit the road, so we Googled and YouTubed everything when it came time to travel. Don’t worry – everybody does it. It’s how you learn. You also learn by asking questions of those that are more experienced than yourself. The Airstream Addicts Facebook page and the Air Forum website are great places to get additional information (just know you’ll find lots of opinions there too). Also, the Airstream Instagram community is pretty great as well.
  • Emptying the Black Tank Isn’t That Bad: While it’s still gross, mainly just because of the odor, it really isn’t as awful as we thought it would be. Just be smart. Only use RV-friendly toilet paper and always drop a tank treatment packet in each time it’s emptied. We empty it about once a week and always give it a good flushing with the hose.
  • Hitching Up: This was probably the scariest thing for us. If you screw up hitching up, you can cause serious damage to your trailer and your tow vehicle. Go slow, have two sets of eyes on everything, and YouTube what needs to be YouTubed until you don’t need to YouTube anymore. A lot of people have checklists, but both of us knowing what needs to be done and double checking everything before we take off seems to work just fine for us.
  • Towing: You know how I said hitching up was probably the scariest for us? Well, I lied. Towing is scary, but it’s a lot less scary now after doing it for over 3000 miles. Unfortunately, the things that make it scariest (other drivers) are out of our control. People will constantly pass you on the highway – get used to it and don’t let it distract you. They’ll cut you off. They’ll sit in your blindspot. For anyone out there who has never known the fear of towing a 28′ trailer — be considerate and give these vehicles lots of space. Also, you will most likely learn to hate semi drivers. Travis has done all of the towing so far. I plan to get behind the wheel at some point, because we think it’s important for both of us to be able to do it. When purchasing a tow vehicle, get every option available to make towing easier. With our Ford F-150, the trailer break and blind spot monitoring are essential. Some people may feel the Trailer Backup Assist is too, but we’ve never used it.
  • Backing Up: Here’s the thing about backing up – it hurts your brain – but once you’ve figured out which direction and how far to turn the wheel, it’s easy enough. Speed is your enemy. Go slow and make small adjustments along the way so you don’t get yourself in a situation that’s hard to get out of. Figure out if hand signals or walkie-talkies or using driver side/passenger side versus left/right works for you and go with it. And never, ever get mad at your partner for the words that come out of their mouth while backing up the trailer. By the way, we opt for the pull-throughs when available.

Things We’ve Learned About Our Airstream:

  • Many people will tell you to buy a used Airstream that’s a few years old so that all of the issues have been worked out of it. We felt it was important to buy new so that we knew exactly what the trailer has been through and how it’s been maintained. Just as buying new doesn’t guarantee everything is going to be perfect, buying used doesn’t guarantee all of the kinks will be worked out.
  • Smoke Detector: Super sensitive. As in, ‘I’m just trying to make some toast in the toaster but the smoke alarm goes off ‘ sensitive. The vent hood gets turned on whenever anything is cooked and we put a shower cap over the smoke detector until the cooking is done. Of course, we never, ever leave the trailer when the stove or oven is on and we always remove the shower cap immediately.
  • Fresh Water Tank: The fresh water tank is literally under lock and key as you need to unlock a small access door in order to fill it. Our fresh water tank, however, likes to fill on its own while we’re hooked up to city water. This apparently is an issue many Airstreamers encounter and is due to a faulty valve on the autofill relay (whatever that means). We know how to temporarily remedy the issue, but will have it looked at at some point in the future. It’s important to check the level of your tanks regularly. If you notice your supposedly empty freshwater tank is taking on water or is full, turn the city water off at the spigot. Turn the water pump on and use up the water that’s in the fresh water tank. You can then turn the city water back on and hopefully the issue is corrected. I know some people avoid this issue by strictly using the water pump and others turn their water off when away from their trailer so they don’t have to worry about an overflow situation. If you ever return to your trailer and see water pouring out of the area where the tanks are located, this is probably the issue.
  • Windows: They stick and need to be (carefully) unsealed from the outside. Never try to force a window open, as they can shatter. Use a credit card or something similar to stick between the window and the rubber seal, and gently slide it along the bottom of the (unlocked) window until it’s unstuck.

Things We’ve Learned About Living in a Small Space:

  • We’ve lived in a small space before. When we first moved to San Diego, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment where we also both worked from home, so we’ve experienced tiny home living before as well as spending 24 hours a day together. The transition to the Airstream was not that difficult for us.
  • When living in a small space, it doesn’t take much for the place to feel messy. Keeping things tidy is essential: Make the beds. Do the dishes. Put things back where they belong immediately. Close cabinet doors and drawers.
  • There’s Not Much Privacy: You can’t be bashful about bodily functions in an Airstream. There’s a fan in the bathroom that helps mask noise, but there’s no hiding what’s going down in there. There are two curtains that separate the front from the rear of the trailer, so you can get some visual privacy, but not really any sound privacy.
  • We Downsized Too Much: This probably wouldn’t be the case for most people. Neither Travis nor I are sentimental people. We had no problem throwing away, donating, or selling most of our stuff. The must keep items are in a storage locker in San Diego. The rest fits in the trailer with room to spare. There are a few items that I wish I personally would’ve kept (cute little jean jacket and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs) that definitely would have had a place in the trailer. If you have the luxury of a slow move in, bring everything you want to keep and toss as you realize you don’t have room or a need for something.

Route Planning/Travel Days:

  • I wish that we could be people who didn’t need to plan our route ahead of time. We own a consulting business and Travis has to travel to visit customers about once a month, so our route planning is a lot less spontaneous than we’d prefer.
  • We’ve found that we really enjoy State Parks. They typically have a good combination of nature and basic amenities. Every one we’ve stayed at has had water and electric hookups with pretty decent showers, which means you can make your grey tank last longer. The longest we’ve gone without being hooked up to sewer was seven days. The sweet spot is probably is four. State Parks also tend to be pretty dog friendly.
  • We’ve found that we prefer to drive no more than three hours a day. During our drive to Wisconsin, we were driving up to six hours a day, and that is way too much. It feels like an entire day is wasted and it makes us cranky. Plus, we like to try visit a landmark or attraction of some sort wherever we stay and long travel days can interfere with that.
  • Keep time zones in mind when figuring out departing and arrival times.
  • Always keep your eye on the weather a few days in advance for not only where you currently are but also where you’re headed. We once had to make a change when our originally scheduled travel day was forecasted to have 35mph winds with gusts up to 60. No bueno.

Miscellaneous Nuggets of Information:

  • Always fill fresh water before you hit the road – you never know if the next place is going to have it for sure.
  • We’ve become champions of short showers. When at a place with decent showers – use them! Washing my hair in our shower is difficult, so I always take advantage of the showers.
  • We share a towel because there just isn’t a good place to hang two to dry.
  • There’s a Dollar General in EVERY town/city even if it’s not actually a town or city. Seriously, every one. I started noticing this phenomenon early in our travels when we were on our way to Death Valley and it has held up.
  • Regardless of what others think, we do NOT feel like we’re on vacation all the time. We still work, do laundry, clean, do the dishes, make the beds, etc.
  • I’ve always hated having stuff (sweatshirts, empty bottles, etc.) lying around inside the car. I was a firm believer the interior of a car should be clean. Well, that goes out the window when you travel full time. A storage bin, two water cans and a dog backpack live in the backseat of the truck – and I’m okay with that.
  • If you’re a lover of watching TV, you may want to consider getting satellite. We just use the built-in over-the-air antenna — sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. We’ve gone as long as six weeks without picking up any channels. That’s where DVDs come in handy.

If you have any questions about things I mentioned above, or things I didn’t mention above, please comment below or send a message and I’ll do my best to address them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

We spent a week at the fantastic Blue Springs Campground in Fleming Park in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, which is right outside Kansas City. The campground is run by Jackson County Parks + Rec. It’s well maintained, gated, and has two camphosts onsite that take turns manning the entrance booth. Travis had to travel to Minneapolis while we were here, which is why we picked this particular campground — it’s about a 40-minute drive to Kansas City International Airport. The Royals and Chiefs stadiums are about a 15-minute drive and downtown is about a 25-minute drive, so the location is pretty fantastic. It was quiet and peaceful during the week, while the weekend was a little more lively with the arrival of weekenders. We had full hookups at a rate of $33 per night. If we ever travel through the Kansas City area again, we will definitely return to Blue Springs Campground!

Address: 5400 NE Campground Road, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064

Phone Number: (816) 503-4805

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Tent Sites
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Gated
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring
  • Water Spigots Throughout Campground
  • Playground
  • Ice
  • Firewood
Site 6 was one of the more level sites. The Jackson County Parks + Rec website has a list of the sites with lengths, shade/sun info, and flat/hill info.
Max loved the green grass and sunshine!

There are so many things to do in the area that we easily could have spent another week here!

The campground itself is located in Fleming Park, which consists of two lakes; Blue Springs Lake and Lake Jacomo. There are plenty of seasonal water-centric activities such as fishing, sailing, swimming, and boating as well as a number of hiking, biking, and horse riding trails.

Blue Springs Lake

There is also a reproduction of an antebellum farming community, Missouri Town 1855, comprised of buildings and homes that date from 1830-1880 that were dismantled in their original locations and moved here to be reassembled. There are chickens, sheep, a horse, a mule and pigs that live on site.

The Church – c. 1850
One of two bedrooms available for rent above the Tavern, c. 1850

In another area of Fleming Park, there’s a native hoofed animal enclosure where you can feed elk and American bison.

There are some great museums in Kansas City that I highly recommend visiting.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial was designated America’s official museum dedicated to World War I in 2004. I spent two hours there and barely scratched the surface. The museum tells the story of the Great War and related global events from their origins before 1914 through the 1918 armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

The Liberty Memorial Tower stands atop the musuem. At the top, four 40-foot-tall Guardian Spirits (Courage, Honor, Patriotism and Sacrifice) watch over the memorial. The tower is flanked by two Assyrian Sphinxes. “Memory” faces east toward the battlefields of WWI, shielding its eyes from the horrors of war. “Future” faces west, shielding its eyes from an unknown future.
The view of Kansas City from the top of the tower.
The entrance to the museum is across a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each one representing 1,000 combatant deaths.
This flag flew over the U.S. Capitol when President Wilson made his “Make the world safe for democracy” speech. Four days later, Congress declared war on Germany.
This is a French Renault FT17 Tank that was damaged by a German artillery round.
The U.S. supplied more than 20,000 motorcycles like this 1917 Harley Davidson for use in reconnaissance, communications, and medic operations.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, no chemical warfare protection devices were in use. This is a US CE Box Respirator copied from the British.
“Gassed” by John Singer Sargent

After the museum, I ate lunch at The Russell, just a short drive up the street. The menu is limited, but I had a hard time choosing as everything sounded amazing. My sandwich was delicious and I grabbed a yummy cupcake to go.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art maintains a diverse collection of over 40,000 pieces of art including contemporary, photography, African, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European, Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, American Indian, and American. Whatever your flavor — they have it. The best part?! The museum is free!

The museum is probably most well known for the four 18′ shuttlecock sculptures in their outdoor sculpture garden.
The museum was most recently in the news when, last November, a museum conservator was examining Vincent Van Gogh’s “Olive Trees” under a microscope and found a grasshopper embedded in the paint. Since Van Gogh often painted outside, this is not unusual, but it made news around the world, because Van Gogh.
The museum is a beautiful facility in and of itself. This is the Rozelle Court Restaurant, which offers lunch most days of the week and dinner with live music on Fridays.

Lee’s Summit is also in close proximity to Independence, Missouri, which is the hometown of President Harry Truman and the location of the Truman Home and Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. The house, which he and his family lived in before, during and after his presidency, was bequeathed to the United States upon his wife Bess’s death and is taken care of by the National Park Service. Nothing has been touched and it’s so interesting to get a glimpse into their lives after their White House years. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the house.

After the house, we visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, with a replica of his Oval Office and other mementos from his life and presidency. He and Bess, as well as their daughter Margaret and her husband, are buried in the courtyard.

Also in Independence: His childhood home and high school, Clinton’s Drugstore (his first job), the church where the Trumans were married, and the Jackson County Courthouse where he served as judge.

We loved exploring the area around Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs Campground and hope to make it back in the future to what else the area has to offer.

Fort Dodge RV & Camping Resort

As we continue our journey towards Wisconsin, we made what was supposed to be a two-night stop, but became a three-night stop, in Dodge City, Kansas. The weather along our route has been cold and windy and we decided to sit tight an extra day when our original travel day had a forecast of sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts up to 50.

Fort Dodge RV Park is a fairly new, well laid-out park. We had a long pull through site with full hookups. Due to the below freezing temps, we filled our fresh water tank upon arrival and put the hose away for the rest of our stay so it wouldn’t freeze. During our stay, we left the trailer once to go to the grocery store and once to drive around town to check things out. Otherwise, we stay snuggled inside to avoid the brutal wind and cold temps.

Even though the park was nice, we wouldn’t stay again, for two reasons: 1) Dodge City doesn’t really have a lot happening, and 2) The park just doesn’t feel secure and we felt like sitting ducks at times. Surrounding the RV park is a soccer field, a dog park, a city park with free zoo, and a water park. The soccer field is so close to the RV park property that on our first night there, people watching soccer parked in the RV park parking lot and sat at their picnic tables. Anyone and everyone had access to the RV park, because there’s no gate. This must be a continuing issue for them because the main building (office/store, bathrooms/showers, laundry room, storm shelter) has a sign on the door that says ‘No Public Restrooms’. At one point, we were the only ones staying in the park and seeing as the office is only open from 4pm-8pm, we were often completely alone. I usually use the showers at parks/campgrounds if they’re decent because I like to take a long shower when I can and it’s easier to wash my hair than it is in the Airstream, but the accessibility of this place to the outside world made me uncomfortable – anyone could walk into the bathroom at any moment. The facilities, however, are very nice, and when there are more people around, I’m sure there’s a different vibe.

Address: 701 Park Street, Dodge City, KS 67801

Phone Number: (620) 371-7177

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • PicnicTable
  • Fire Ring
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Storm Shelter
  • Store
  • Adjacent Dog Park
Nice, Long, Concrete, Pull-Through Sites — Almost (But Not Quite) Level
All Alone

Lake Pueblo SP

We stayed at Northern Plain Campground in Lake Pueblo State Park in Pueblo, Colorado for two nights. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Lake Pueblo, rated a fishing “hot spot,” provides over 4,600 surface acres of water, 60 miles of shorelin​​e and almost 10,000 acres of land. The park has three campgrounds and all three have very limited availability during the time of year that we visited, which was April 10-12. Reservations for Northern Plain Campground need to be made on www.reserveamerica.com. This particular campground has 217 campsites, but only 14 are open (and only five were occupied) this time of year, which made for a very quiet and peaceful stay.

Unfortunately, we did have one issue. When we arrived at our site, someone had piled stuff on the picnic table and placed a reserved placard in the site marker. The campground registration office was not open, as it’s off season, and there’s a self-pay kiosk. There is also a note posted on the window of the office that sites are available by reservation. We assumed that whomever put their stuff in our site did not know a reservation was needed and since a vehicle was not there, we just pulled into the site and started setting up. When we were just about finished, a man pulled up in his truck camper pulling a boat, yelling at us that this was his site. As we figured this might happen, I already had my confirmation email pulled up on my phone. I showed it to him and he just kept saying, “How was I supposed to know. No one told me.” He was incredibly angry and almost ran over my toes as he gunned his truck up the road to the next site. He moved all his stuff, but he wasn’t happy about it. It was an uncomfortable situation and we were happy when he decided to leave altogether a couple hours later. From that point on, it was quiet and relaxing. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the next day a park ranger came through the campground and put reserved placards with dates on all the site markers. We used the showers once, and they’re pretty decent, although there’s no temperature control — luckily the water heated up nicely.

The site was $24/night, plus $7/day for the daily park entrance fee.

Address: 640 Pueblo Reservoir Road, Pueblo, CO 81005

Phone Number: (719) 561-9320

Amenities:

  • Electric Hookups
  • Pull-Through Sites
  • Water Available
  • Bathrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Free Showers
  • Dumpsters
  • Covered Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring
  • Playground

We went out for dinner and drinks one night to Brues Alehouse, located along the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk. Travis raved about the Leadhead IPA. Not a beer drinker? No worries — they serve cocktails too! We split the Charcuterie and Cheese Plate as well as the Berry Margarita Salad with Chicken. Everything was delicious and the location along the river can’t be beat, but most importantly, their patio is dog friendly! After dinner, we went for a walk along the riverwalk where we were lucky enough to see an otter grooming himself.

Our stay in Pueblo was a relaxing one, but that was probably due to the fact that we were there during the off season. I imagine that when the campgrounds are open fully and at capacity, the vibe is a little different.

A Very Brief Stay in Santa Fe

We stopped in Santa Fe for less than 20 hours and saying that’s too brief an amount of time in that city is an understatement. We look forward to when we’re able to return and explore more. That being said, while in Santa Fe, we stayed at Santa Fe Skies RV Park. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the RV park, but from what we experienced, it’s a nice, clean, quiet park located 15-20 minutes from everything Santa Fe has to offer. The gentleman that checked us in was very nice and we were able to get our propane filled while there.

Address: 14 Browncastle Ranch, Santa Fe, NM 87508

Phone Number: (877) 565-0451

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Through Sites
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Propane
  • Mail Service
  • Walking Trail
  • Dog Park
  • Picnic Area

After getting settled into our site at Santa Fe Skies, we went to get a bite to eat at a local brewery, Duel Brewing. For drinks, Travis had the Bad Amber ale and I had a Pinon Kola — both were great. To eat, we split the Frankenthaler (smoked trout sandwich) and the Pollock (meatball sandwich) and they were so, so good. If you’re ever in the area, stop in.

And while you’re still in the neighborhood, check out Meow Wolf, an immersive interactive art experience. From their website: “Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is an explorable, immersive art installation filled with technology and fantastic environments to inspire visitors of all ages. The wildly imaginative art space is a collaboration of over 100 local artists and is a unique combination of children’s museum, art gallery, jungle gym, and fantasy novel.” It’s really something that needs to be experienced firsthand in order to understand it.

 

Holbrook/Petrified Forest NP

We are making our way north towards Wisconsin from Casa Grande, AZ, so we needed a place to stay for two nights along our route and Petrified Forest National Park seemed like a decent place to stop. As there is nowhere to camp within the park, we stayed at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA for two nights while visiting the area. The KOA is nothing to write home about. It’s basically a gravel parking lot. There are restrooms with showers (which we never checked out), a laundry room (the most expensive we’ve seen yet), a little store, and a decent dog run. There’s also a broke down basketball court, a broke down volleyball court, and a pool that was not in use due to it being out of season, but that also looked broke down. Amongst the piles of miscellaneous stuff lying around, there is also a grassy area for tent camping and cabins for rent.  We paid $49/night for full hookups with cable, which seemed high for the quality of the park. When driving out the south end of the National Park, we noticed there was free overnight RV parking at the Crystal Forest Museum Gift Shop – no hookups, but if you’re looking for a place to stay for a night near the Park, you can’t get any closer or any cheaper.

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

Address: 102 Hermosa Drive, Holbrook, AZ 86025

Phone Number: (928) 524-6689

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups Available
  • Pull Throughs Available
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Dog Run
  • Laundry
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Play Area
  • Swimming Pool
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Store
  • Seasonal Pancake Breakfast and Cowboy Cookout
Our Site – #17
The RV Area of the Park – Gravel with Picnic Table and Fire Ring at Each Site

We weren’t quite sure what to expect at Petrified Forest National Park. We had seen petrified wood at a few other places we had visited before, but obviously nothing to the extent of what’s found in the park. There is more to the park than just crystalized wood, however.

The north end of the park has views of the Painted Desert, which extends all the way to the east end of the Grand Canyon and north to the Navajo Nation.

View of the Painted Desert from Tawa Point

There is a 28-mile scenic drive from the north end of the park to the south. We arrived in Holbrook at the KOA at about 1:30, got set up, and decided to do the drive to see what we wanted to explore more thoroughly the next day. The north and south entrances are both about a 25-minute drive from the KOA. We drove from north to south, stopping along the way at different viewpoints. As we had Max with us, we did not visit the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark. The building functioned as an inn starting in the 1920s, but the maintenance required became overwhelming and today the building is used as a museum.

Petrified Forest is the only National park in the country with a portion of Historic Route 66 within its borders. A 1932 Studebaker sits where the road once cut through the park.

The Crystal Forest Trail is 0.75-mile loop trail that offers the best opportunity in the park to see petrified wood deposits. The trail meanders among hundreds of petrified logs of all sizes and shapes, allowing you to see the colors of the crystalized wood up close. If you’re just passing through the area and only have time to see one thing in the park — this is what it should be.

When we came back to the park the second day sans dog, we stopped at the Rainbow Forest Museum and strolled the neighboring Giant Logs Trail. This is where you’ll find Old Faithful, the park’s most massive log, which measures 35 feet and weighs approximately 44 tons.

We walked the Agate House trail, which is 2 miles roundtrip, to see the eight-room ruin inhabited beginning about 1050BC that’s constructed of chunks of petrified wood and mud mortar.

Our favorite part of the park was the 1-mile Blue Mesa Trail off of the 3.5-mile scenic Blue Mesa loop drive. This area is called the Blue Badlands (even though I would refer to the color as violet) and it’s clear to see how it got its name. The trail is quite steep at the beginning, and since it’s a loop, at the end, but it’s such an interesting departure from the rest of park. You’ll still find petrified logs here, of course, and paleontologists have also found numerous plant and animal fossils in the sedimentary layers.

Petrified Forest National Park was an interesting site to see. You can definitely do it all in one day. It’s the most accessible National Park we’ve been to, as all of the trails are almost completely paved, which means strollers and wheel chairs will be able to make it to most parts of the park. It’s also the most dog-friendly park we’ve been to, as dogs are allowed everywhere except in buildings. The roads are all paved and smooth, so those with RVs will have no problem maneuvering within the park, and there’s a decent amount of RV parking at most points of interest as well. Beware that this area gets VERY windy. During the winter, winds can reach 60mph. We didn’t see any wildlife while in the park, but on our drive back to the campground, we saw two female pronghorns along the side of the road.

Casa Grande, AZ

We were in Casa Grande, AZ for two weeks and stayed at Casa Grande RV Resort & Cottages. We chose this resort because of its proximity to the Phoenix airport and we thought Travis was going to have to travel to a customer during this time (he didn’t). This is a LARGE resort, with over 350 RV sites and 17 cottages. We stayed during the last week of March and first week of April, when the temperature really started to creep up. This is a place where snowbirds winter, and during the two weeks we were there, we saw a dramatic decrease in numbers as people started to leave to return home.

As we had stayed at Wine Ridge RV Resort & Cottages in Pahrump, NV in the past, which is also a part of the RV Management Services resort group like Casa Grande, we were expecting a clean, well-maintained, friendly resort with great amenities. The staff is pretty friendly and the amenities are plentiful, but the resort is a little tired and definitely needs some love. Half of the cottages face the dumpsters and maintenance building, along with all of the junk (tools, fence posts, etc.) piled up in that area. The bathrooms have falling down ceiling tiles and some showers with two temperatures — really hot or scalding hot. They have a fantastic dog play area but the fence needs attention in places as dogs of all sizes can escape. And the entire property could use a good weeding. Maybe these things are taken care of during the slower season after a long winter of hundreds, maybe thousands, of guests using the facilities. The day we left we noticed a prong on our surge protector had been fried. Apparently, according to our neighbor, the people that stayed in the site prior to us had backed into the electrical box and sort of knocked it over. I don’t know if that is what caused the issue. When we brought it to the attention of the staff, they made it seem as though it was our fault and said that we wiggle the surge protector when removing it from outlets and this loosens the prongs which then makes them go bad. They didn’t even come to our site to look at the electrical box, so that was disappointing.

Amenities

  • Full Hookups
  • Large, Level Sites
  • 2 Swimming Pools
  • Laundry Room
  • Free Showers
  • Pickle Ball
  • Bocce Ball
  • Mail Service
  • Lending Library with Books, Games, Puzzles and Movies
  • Propane Service
  • Fitness Center
  • Card Room
  • Dog Park
  • Billards Room (Very Impressive with 8 Full-Size Tables)
  • Daily Activities
  • Coffee & Waffles (Monday-Friday November-April)

Address: 195 W Rodeo Road, Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Phone Number: (520) 421-0401

Things to See and Do in the Area

I’ll be honest — we didn’t do much while we were here. It was hot. Really hot. Unseasonably hot. Plus, I went to San Diego for four days during this time while Travis stayed in Casa Grande with our dog, Max.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument: Casa Grande, or Great House, was built by ancient Sonoran Desert people around 1350. It’s unclear what the purpose of it was, but it’s four walls face the cardinal points of the compass and there are various openings that align with the sun and moon during certain celestial events, like the setting sun at the summer solstice. We visited because it was close and we have a National Parks pass, but, while interesting, I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

Saguaro National Park: It’s a little over an hour drive to Saguaro. We visited Saguaro West, which is west of Tucson, while Saguaro East is 33 miles away, east of Tucson.  Saguaros are slow growing, only growing about an inch in their first 6-8 years. It may be 70 years before they sprout their arms, and they reach full height, 40-50 feet, at about 150 years. These majestic plants are found only in a small portion of the United States. Our visit was a quick one, as the temperature was a tad too high for us during our visit, which is why we got to the park by 8:30am. We drove the 6-mile Bajada Loop Drive, which is labeled as being suitable for low-clearance vehicles, but it was a rough ride in our Ford F-150 (which I switched into 4WD), so be cautious. Along this loop is where you’ll find the Signal Hill Trail, a short trail at a nice picnic area that is home to petroglyphs. After completing the loop, we drove to the Red Hills Visitor Center to learn a little bit more about the area. This park seems to have some nice hikes and it has great picnic areas, both sheltered and unsheltered. I would not recommend bringing a dog to this park, as they have limited access, and there are so many things that can cause them severe pain and discomfort: cactus spines, thorny brush, rattle snakes, scorpions, open mine shafts and heat stroke.

 

Zane Grey RV Village

We spent only one night here as we drove from Page, Arizona to Casa Grande, Arizona, so this will be a quick one! What a delightful find this place was! Zane Grey is a fairly small, incredibly clean, ridiculously cute RV park sitting amongst beautiful trees next to the West Clear Creek. Our site (#50) was incredibly level (yay!), large, and easily accessible.

Address: 4500 E. Hwy 260, Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Phone: (928) 567-4320

  • 96 Full-Hookup Sites with 14 Pull Throughs
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Communal Fire Pit
  • Walking Trail
  • Dog Run

Seeing as we were here for less than a day, the only site we took in was the Montezuma Castle National Monument, which is a five-story, twenty-room pueblo built by Sinagua farmers. It was less than a 20-minute drive from the RV park and was neat to see. Entry is free for up to four adults with a National Parks Access Pass or $7 per person.

 

Two Weeks in Page, AZ

We spent two weeks in Page, Arizona on Lake Powell, which, at this time of year, is at least a week too long. The winter offseason doesn’t end until about mid-April, so some of the best things Page has to offer, like the boat tour and hike to Rainbow Bridge, aren’t readily available until later in the year. Even so, we were able to take advantage of some nice-weather days and experience some of the awe-inspiring local attractions.

But first…

We stayed at Wahweap RV & Campground located on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The campground is huge and caters to all types of campers, from tents to enormous fifth wheels and motorhomes; however, there are only a couple of ‘loops’ open this time of year. When making the reservation, we were told the best views are from C loop, but when checking in, were told C loop was closed and we’d be in F loop. Disappointing, yes, because the views ARE better from C loop, but understandable as they only want a few bathrooms (that need to be cleaned) open and access to only a few dumpsters (that need to be emptied). Seeing as Wahweap is part of a national recreation area, there is a $25 National Parks Service fee that is good for seven days. Your National Parks Access Pass will cover it. The campground and the neighboring Lake Powell Resort are part of an area called the Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas that include five campgrounds, three sticks & bricks lodging options, and five marinas. During prime season, they offer a slew of boat trips on the lake, as well as watercraft rentals, house boat rentals, fishing, and multiple dining options. It’s clear that this campground and the resort are seasonal destinations and I’d love to see the vibe and atmosphere during busier times. That being said, we tried to make the best of our time here, even though the weather didn’t often cooperate (lots of rain and wind) and Travis had to fly out to visit a customer onsite for five days.

Address: 100 Lakshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040

Phone Number: (888) 896-3829

  • 130 Full Hookup Sites
  • 112 Tent or Self-Contained RV Sites
  • 36 Tent Only Sites
  • 6 Group Sites (9-30 People per Site)
  • Restrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Coin Laundry
  • Showers ($2/15 Minutes)
  • Wahweap Swim Beach
  • Campground Store

Things to See and Do in the Area

Antelope Canyon: Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in Page on Navajo land. Because of this, you need to book a tour with one of the local tour companies in order to experience the canyon, which has two distinctly separate sections; Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. We toured Lower Antelope Canyon with Dixie Ellis’s Tours. Visit their website here. Check our Instagram post here for tips and information regarding our tour. If you don’t want to take part in a tour but still want to see slot canyons, there are others in the area. Waterholes Canyon is just south of Horseshoe Bend, but a permit to access Navajo land is needed.

Horseshoe Bend: Horseshoe Bend was not at all what I expected! While I knew it was a bend in the Colorado River (270 degrees, to be exact), I didn’t realize it’s beauty would take my breath away. This is definitely one of those cases where photos won’t do it justice — you have to see it in person. It’s located a couple miles southwest of Page on Hwy 89. You can’t miss the parking lot, which has port-a-potties, but no other services are (currently) available. There is a three-quarter mile (one way) hike to the viewing area for Horseshoe Bend. I call it a hike, because part of it is uphill and part of it is downhill, both of which are over loose surfaces. Bring water and an umbrella or hat if it’s especially warm out. As the number of visitors has increased dramatically over the last few years, there are a handful of updates underway to make visiting Horseshoe Bend more accessible and safer. These include an accessible 1-mile long trail and rim viewing platform, restrooms, potable water, and a parking lot expansion.

Glen Canyon Dam: A 710-foot dam on the Colorado River in Page that helps ensure an equitable distribution of water between the states in the Upper Colorado River Basin and the Lower Basin, although critics argue that the dam is responsible for evaporative losses of Lake Powell and ecological impact on the Grand Canyon, which lies downstream. Tours are available.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Utah’s newest national monument, Escalante spans nearly 1.9 million acres. Needless to say, it takes a lot of time to come close to exploring a fraction of this area. If you’re a hiker, this is the place for you. There are hikes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. If you opt for a multi-day hike, a free overnight camping permit is required. We made the smallest of dents here. I wouldn’t even call it a dent; a nick, really. We drove the 25 miles from Wahweap northwest along Hwy 89 into Utah to the southern edge of the Escalante to the Toadstool Trailhead, easily found between mile markers 19 and 20. The hike is short and of easy difficulty, and you’re exposed to the toadstool hoodoos, balanced rock formations that look like mushrooms.

Hiking: We didn’t do much hiking while here, unfortunately, although we did hike the Hanging Gardens Trail. The trailhead can be found at a parking lot right before the bridge on the Page side of the dam. It was fairly easy and is only about 1 mile roundtrip, unless you follow the wrong path, like we did (stay straight when it looks like you should go left). There’s also an 8-mile Rim Trail that circles the city of Page that we didn’t get to.

We did not get to visit the following places this time, but that just means we’ve saved stuff for next time!

Rainbow Bridge National Monument: Deemed the world’s highest natural bridge, Rainbow Bridge is accessible by a boat ride from Wahweap Marina at the Lake Powell Resort plus a mile-ish (depending on water level) hike or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike 16-18 miles around Navajo Monument to reach Rainbow Bridge. We would’ve loved to make the trek via boat, but there aren’t many boat trips scheduled this time of year, and the ones offered just didn’t work out for us.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument: This national monument is located directly west of Page, but straddles the state line, so part of it also lies in Utah. The Navajo Bridge Visitor Center is a 40-mile drive from Page.

Zion National Park: Page is known as the “Center of the Grand Circle” due to it’s proximity to Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Zion is located 115 miles west of Page.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Known for its crimson-colored hoodoos, Bryce is located 133 miles northwest of Page.

Grand Canyon National Park: Both the North Rim and the South Rim are located about 115 miles from Page and both will take about two and half hours to get to. The North Rim is considerably less crowded, cooler, and at higher elevation than the South Rim; however, it’s only accessible by car May 15 to November 1. Backcountry permits are required by hikers and cross-country skiers the rest of the year.

Kaibab National Forest: The 1.6-million-acre forest borders both the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon. If driving to the North Rim, you’ll enter Kaibab 75 miles southwest of Page.

As for the city of Page itself, there isn’t a whole lot there. It seems the town exists strictly for tourists to come and check out the natural wonders in the area. There’s a grocery store and a Walmart, some gas stations and a Denny’s, a post office and a municipal airport. We ate at a few of the local restaurants; Big John’s Texas BBQ (the ribs were fab) and Slackers, a burger joint that was surprisingly good. We also ate dinner at the Driftwood Lounge at the Lake Powell Resort, and that was  also surprisingly good. I think the biggest draw to Page, besides Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, is the lake. Unfortunately, it’s not very usable this time of year. If we pass through the area again, we’ll make sure it’s a little later in the year.