There have been very few places that we’ve felt uncomfortable leaving the Airstream to go out exploring. This is one of the few. Possibly because no one else was staying in the ‘RV Park’ the same time as us. Possibly because there were rows of vehicles parked just 30 yards from us that didn’t seem to belong to anybody in the vicinity. Possibly because the owner is a tad creepy and his father (they both live above the office/store/restaurant) was apparently watching our every move – he didn’t like the way we parked in our spot and called down to his son to let him know. Whatever the reason, even though we paid for two nights, we decided to bug out early after just one night. We also learned the lesson to pay day by day at places that allow it; places like this that don’t take reservations or even write your name down – just take your money.
Why would we have chosen to stay at a place like this, you might ask? We needed a place along our route (there wasn’t much to pick from) and this place actually had a few decent reviews on Campendium. RV park reviews are so incredibly subjective and it can be difficult at times to glean the important facts.
Regardless of where you stay, this part of the country is incredibly beautiful, which is why we wanted to visit. Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods made for some fantastic views during our drive.
We spent two weeks in the Westside Campground at Sand Hollow State Park. When I made the reservation, I made sure to research the best sites in the campground and I feel pretty confident in saying that I booked one of, if not, the best. During this time of year (March 9-22), you probably don’t need to book a site right when they become available, which I believe is four months in advance, unless you’re staying for a few weeks like we did or you want to have a choice of spots, also like we did. We were in site 18, which is on the edge of the campground with a nice view of the mountains. I would recommend this site as well as 20, 22, 23 and 26. Our site was a super long pull through with full hookups, a picnic table with shade structure, and a fire pit. There are two other campgrounds in Sand Hollow State Park — Sandpit Campground and the Primitive Camping area that is tent only along the shore of the reservoir.
A major draw for this park is the OHV area on Sand Mountain. Even with OHVs, the Westside Campground is still pretty quiet as all OHVs must be trailered in and out of the campground unless they have current street legal registration and plates. Even then, they can drive on the asphalt only and only at 10mph.
While we didn’t use the restrooms, they were nice and clean and the separate, individual showers were as well. Also of note is that we had great cell signal on both AT&T and Verizon here.
Things To Do
While at Sand Hollow, we used our Kokopelli Packrafts for the first time. When the wind is calm, the reservoir is great for personal watercraft.
Zion National Park is a 45-minute drive from Sand Hollow. We only went into Zion once during our stay as we’ll be returning to Hurricane soon and will be staying a little bit closer. We took Max with us and walked along the Pa’ Rus Trail, the only trail in Zion that allows dogs. We also drove the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway to the east entrance and back. The main route through the park is Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and is only accessible by park shuttle.
There are many hikes in the area but the only trail we made it to was Mollies Nipple Trail. It’s a VERY steep trail of clay soil and loose rock that is, according to my AppleWatch, 2.75 miles and has 1,277 feet of elevation gain. While the hike is tough, the views at the top are amazing and totally worth it!
After many months of being in RV parks, our two weeks at Sand Hollow was just what we needed. While we enjoyed it, if we were to stay at a state park in this area again, we would probably go back to Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah. The terrain there is more interesting and the park offers a number of great trails. However, Sand Hollow does make a long stay easier due to the full hookups, whereas the sites at Snow Canyon are water and electric or electric only.
Oasis RV Resort has every amenity you would expect from an RV resort, and some that you wouldn’t — an adults only pool, an onsite RV wash company, and a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, to name a few.
We stayed here for a week, trying to kill a little time between Desert Hot Springs and Hurricane, waiting for the weather to improve a bit in other parts of the Southwest before we moved on. Oasis is the largest RV park we’ve stayed in with 935 sites. As you’d expect, there are both positives and negatives to staying in such a large RV park in Las Vegas:
Adult Pool and Hot Tub
Large Convenience Store
18-Hole Putting Course
Horseshoe Pits and Bocce Ball
Individual Restrooms with Showers
Security Guard at Entrance
Dog Park and Individual Dog Runs
Great Location to Las Vegas Strip and Airport
Sites Close Together
Lots of Lights at Night
Noise from I-15 and Overhead Planes
The location to everything Vegas can’t be beat! Depending on where you’re headed, you can be on the Strip in 10-20 minutes. (Just a tip, we found that The Venetian has oversized vehicle parking on the first level of their parking structure and it’s free, which has to be one of the only hotels on the Strip that doesn’t yet charge for parking.) My mom and sister flew out from Wisconsin during our week in Vegas, and Oasis’s location made it very easy and not too annoying to drive back and forth to their hotel on the Strip. Also in the vicinity of the RV resort is the very nice Town Square mall with restaurants and movie theatre. Any service or store that you’d need is within a reasonable distance from Oasis.
The biggest drawback to this park is how bright it is at night. There are so many lights that, unless you have blackout curtains, they may keep you up at night. I guess a benefit to how bright it is is that it’d be pretty easy to pull in after dark and set up.
If we needed to be in Vegas again in the future, we would definitely stay here again, but a week is probably our limit due to all the people and noise and lights — though, I guess that’s what Vegas is all about.
We spent one month at Catalina Spa and RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California. We really enjoyed this property as well as exploring the Palm Springs area. CatSpa, as it’s referred to, is a mineral hot springs resort with five different pools of varying temperatures. They’ve recently undergone some renovations including new restrooms, a new clubhouse and store, a new fitness center, a new dog park, and a new office. Many of the guests are snowbirds, retreating from the cold winters of Canada and the Northern U.S., but there are a few full time residents. While most stays are long term, we were in an area that seems to be for shorter term stays, with neighbors coming and going fairly often. All the sites are back in and some can be tight, but the staff helps direct you in to your spot, which was much appreciated. We were in site 6, which is on the smaller side of their sites, though we fit fine with our truck parked parallel in front of the trailer. We backed up to a tree line along the front of the property, which meant we had a little road noise, though not bad, but we also didn’t have neighbors behind us, which was quite nice.
Activities including live music, water volleyball, water aerobics, and food nights
There are a lot of things to do and places to explore in the Palm Springs/Desert Hot Springs area:
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The tramway is used to access Mt. San Jacinto State Park, which offers hiking and primitive camping, as well as some great snowshoeing during the colder months. We were lucky enough to be able to visit after a recent snowfall. If nature isn’t your thing, the ride up is still beautiful, as well as the sights. Between the Valley Station at the bottom of the tram and the Mountain Station at the top, there is a museum, theaters, nature exhibits, visitors center, gift shops, and cafes & restaurants.
Unfortunately, not long after our visit, Palm Springs experienced a once-in-a-century rain storm that washed out the road that leads to the tram. It is currently closed indefinitely.
Palm Springs Air Museum
CNN Travel rates the Palm Springs Air Museum as one of the top 14 air museums in the world. Its collection is largely aircraft from World War II, but also contains some planes from Korea and Vietnam. Sorry, I don’t know any of the details of the aircraft, but there were some beauties!
If you’re interested in planes or are a WWII history buff, then you’d probably really enjoy this museum. If you’re not, then you probably won’t. We were disappointed that the only plane, besides the cockpit pictured in the first and second pictures, that you are able to go inside is an additional $10 fee.
Palm Springs Art Museum
Located in downtown Palm Springs, the art museum is a nice little museum with an impressive collection. In addition to the artwork, there’s also a museum store, a small bistro to grab a bite to eat, two outdoor courtyards, and a theatre. If you enjoy art, I would definitely recommend a visit; I especially enjoyed the modern art wing.
Desert Adventure Red Jeep Tour
We did the San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour with Red Jeep Tours. It’s a three-hour tour on the company’s private preserve along the San Andreas Fault zone. There are six people per Jeep, and the other four in our group was a family — a grandma, mom, uncle and son. I fee like we missed out exploring a bit because the grandma had a hard time getting in and out the Jeep. The tour was just okay and I wouldn’t recommend it, but we did learn some things about the fault that we didn’t know before.
Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
Thousand Palms Oasis is located in the Coachella Valley Preserve and has 30 miles of trails, multiple picnic areas, wildlife, oases, and if you time it right, wild flowers. There’s a parking lot, pit toilets, and a visitor center housed in a 1930s palm log cabin. We followed the McCallum Trail to McCallum Pond, which is a pretty little oasis with picnic tables. We then continued on the Moon Country Trail, which is a 4.1-loop trail that’s not too strenuous, but gave us some great views of the recent wildflower super bloom.
Vintage Trailer Show During Modernism Week
Every year, Palm Springs hosts Modernism Week which celebrates midcentury architecture and design. There are a lot of different events, ranging from home tours, to films, to lectures, to bus tours, to the Vintage Trailer Show, which is the event that piqued our interest. The show displays vintage trailers, campers, buses, and motorhomes — some restored, some original. One trailer in particular stood out to us — the 1959 Airstream Traveler that was painstakingly restored into a masterpiece:
Of course, there were also a number of other beautiful, interesting, and quaint trailers:
We really enjoyed our time in Desert Hot Springs and would definitely stay at CatSpa again. There is so much to do in the area in addition to things we’ve already done, so it’d be great to be able to explore some more!
This was our second stay at Wine Ridge RV Resort. Follow this link to read about our first stay. We stayed for one month in order to take advantage of their great monthly rate — we paid $370 total including electricity. This time around, we requested one of the sites in the 900 row which, besides being pull throughs, offer great views of Mt. Charleston (see above pic).
During our stay, we spent a little time in Las Vegas. Travis’s sister and her boyfriend came to town to celebrate her birthday, so we were able to hang out with them a bit. I also was able to catch the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, which played at The Smith Center in Vegas. And Travis had two business trips to the Midwest while we were in Pahrump, which is one of the reasons we decided to stay there for a month.
We explored a few new places that we didn’t get around to the last time we were there. We took a day trip to Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, as well as the neighboring ghost town. Next, we headed into Beatty for lunch, where we met some of the locals (see pic below). Finally, we drove through Death Valley, making stops at Badwater Basin, Furnace Creek, and Artist’s Drive, then headed back to Pahrump.
Goldwell Open Air Museum – Began in 1984 by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski
Rhyolite Ghost Town – Historic gold mining town of the early 1900s. The population in 1908 was estimated to be 5,000 to 8,000; by 1920 just 14.
Beatty, Nevada – The Gateway to Death Valley!
Death Valley National Park – Established as a National Monument in 1933; Redesignated a National Park in 1994.
Surf and Turf RV Park is a bare bones park located in a prime location in Del Mar, California. It consists of a large, gravel parking lot with water and electric hookups, surrounded by a wall. It’s so inconspicuous that people that have lived in the area for years have no idea it’s there. It’s surrounded by a Hilton Hotel, the Surf and Turf Tennis Club, an indoor volleyball club, mini golf, a driving range, a swim school, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Race Track. It’s a mile from Del Mar’s off-leash dog beach and within a few minutes drive of everything Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have to offer. There are no restrooms, no showers, no laundry and no dump station. If you’re looking for an RV resort — this isn’t it. However, it was perfect for us, and at $45/night, $230/week, and $650/month, it’s the cheapest place to stay in the San Diego area with hookups. Due to events held at the fairgrounds and race track (San Diego County Fair, horse racing season, Kabboo Music Festival), the RV park is closed to the public from mid-May to mid-September. Any stays longer than three weeks need to have a long-term application filled out.
We’ve had to deal with something this winter that was not an issue for us last winter, even though we’re staying at the exact same place — moisture under the mattresses. It’s not unheard of to have moisture on the windows when it’s chilly outside and cozy, warm inside. I mean, that’s just science. However, I think our particular Airstream layout (27fb Twin) contributes to the moisture issue. There are two storage areas under each twin bed — one is interior where we store clothes and one is exterior where we store various outside things. I think that because half of what’s under each bed is an external compartment with no heat, it causes moisture when a warm body lies on the bed all night.
At first, we tried to remedy the moisture issue by lining the exterior storage compartments with Reflectix insulation and putting Reflectix under each mattress. That may have helped, but one morning while making the bed, I noticed a considerable amount of moisture on the interior walls of the Airstream. I checked under the mattress for moisture and found that not only was the underside of the mattress damp, but a small amount of mold started to grow.
Operation Decontamination began. We stripped all bedding from the mattresses and everything was laundered. For the mattresses, we mixed equal parts isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and warm water in a bucket, dampened a cloth, and scrubbed the areas where mold had started to grow. Next, we (sparingly) sprayed Lysol across the bottom of the mattresses to kill any bacteria that may be present. Luckily for us, it was a sunny day, so we moved the mattresses outside to dry and allow the sun to inhibit mold growth (sunlight is harmful to the growth of mold).
In the picture below, the discolored part of the plywood in the center is where the dampness occurred — clearly a result of body heat on top of the mattress and cold temps right under the plywood.
Then we Googled. We searched what options were available to prevent something like this from happening again and we landed on the Froli Sleep System. Originally manufactured for use on boats — you know, where there’s lots of moisture — they now market it to be used on boats, in RVs and at home. It’s a modular system that’s components snap together to fit any size and shape bed. It functions like a box spring mattress in that it creates a more comfortable and orthopedically correct sleeping surface, but it also elevates the mattress about an inch off of (in our case) the plywood, which allows for proper airflow under the mattress, meaning no more mold.
If you visit the Froli website, you’ll find a number of different options. We purchased the Froli Travel System in Queen. The Queen has exactly double the number of components of the Basic size and is exactly double the price, so we could have purchase two Basics and they would have worked equally as well. It took six days for it to be shipped from Lexington, KY to our location in Pahrump, NV.
Our package contained two boxes that looked like this:
The first step was to lay out the gray base elements and determine which of the three holes we wanted to use to snap them together. According to the installation instructions, the wider the setting, the softer the feel.
We ended up using a combination of medium and wide hole spacing in order to get the coverage we were looking for.
Next, we trimmed off the excess bits at the rounded corner. Froli does offer expansion packs that consist of smaller elements to use along edges or curves so you don’t have to make cuts, but seeing as we didn’t know how many, or even if we would need them, we didn’t order them.
Next, we added the dark and light blue spring elements to the base elements. The light blue are softer springs that are recommended for use in the shoulder area, which are the third and fourth rows.
These too had to be cut, and were a little more difficult to get through than the base elements, but it was manageable.
After attempting to put the mattress on and realizing that the Froli System would move around anytime we made the bed, we decided it needed to be secured a bit. Froli doesn’t offer anything to secure it, probably because the main use is in boats where it’s installed in a sleeping berth that has a lip on it and the Froli System won’t move around. I picked up these wood staples from Home Depot that are fairly easily installed with a few taps of a hammer.
I didn’t place many, but just enough to keep things from moving around. It should be noted to be aware of placement. The first one I hammered in is over the interior storage compartment where I keep my clothes and the staples are long enough that they went all the way through the plywood and are poking through the other side. I’ll have to be careful when digging around in that compartment so that I don’t poke myself. After installing the first one, I made sure that the rest were installed in safer locations.
After everything was secure, we put the mattress back in place. It’s difficult to get a great shot of how the mattress sits, but it definitely raises it up quite a bit, at least an inch.
Conclusion: The Froli System is a life safer! While expensive ($378 for the Queen), it would be even more expensive to have to replace our mattresses and the plywood if the mold had gotten out of hand. We’ve only had it installed for two days and it does seem to add some comfort, but the biggest payoff is the peace of mind that there will be no more moisture.
We were supposed to spend four nights at Death Valley over the New Year holiday, but due to a government shutdown, we had to change our plans. We were able to stay an additional three days at the RV park that we were at in Del Mar, CA, but had to find someplace to move to for the fourth night. We called ahead to Wine Ridge Resort, which was to be our next stop, to see if we could check in a day early. They were fully booked, so we looked to Harvest Hosts for a place to stay.
Harvest Hosts is a collection of wineries, breweries, museums, farms, golf courses, and other such locations that allow RVers to stay for free on their property for one night or more. The only thing that is asked is that you patronize the establishment in some way, whether it’s buying a bottle of wine or touring the museum or something similar.
We found a second winery in Pahrump, where Wine Ridge is located, that is a Harvest Hosts property — Sanders Family Winery — and made arrangements to stay there for the night. The winery is a beautiful, quiet property and seeing as it was New Year’s Day, it was closed and we were the only ones around. The owners, Jack and his wife, live on property. Jack stopped out to meet us, and seeing as it was super cold (low of 22 that night), said that we could use our generator.
We made it through the night without anything freezing (yay!) and stopped in to the tasting room for some free wine tasting the next day. The wine was delicious and we ended up purchasing three bottles. I’d also like to note that they are very dog friendly, and invited Max into the tasting room (which we did) and said we could let him run around off leash on property (we didn’t do that, but it was a nice offer). After the tasting, we hooked up and moved on to Wine Ridge Resort. We stayed at Wine Ridge in February 2018, and you can read about that stay here.
If you’re interested in signing up for Harvest Hosts, get 15% off with this link here. Harvest Hosts Classics, with 600+ locations, is $79/year. Harvest Hosts + Golf, with over 1000+ locations, is $119/year.
We stayed at Newport Dunes for two weeks — the last week of November, arriving during the long Thanksgiving weekend, and the first week of December. We were originally supposed to stay at Malibu RV Resort during this time, but the Woolsey Fire, a wildfire that devestated large parts of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, burned through Malibu the second week of November and forced the RV park to close due to damage. Newport Dunes had great reviews on Campendium, so, even though it was ridiculously expensive, we thought we’d try it.
We pulled in the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and the place was packed. Many of the sites are barely large enough to accommodate most RVs, so tow vehicles were parked in the street at the end of each site, making the already somewhat narrow streets even narrower. Luckily, we had reserved one of the larger beachfront sites and the street was clear of trucks and people playing cornhole, which allowed us to back in to our spot without any issues. By Monday, the RV park had really emptied out and was pretty quiet the rest of our stay. We stayed at Newport Dunes during the off season, so some amenities, like the inflatable obstacle course water park and watercraft rentals, were not available. I can only imagine how busy the resort is during the high season (and how much more expensive it is).
Most of the beachfront sites are grass with a fence at the back. On the other side of the fence is a walking path, the beach, and then the bay. However, our beachfront site was sans grass and completely sand. It would have been nice to have the grass so Max didn’t get sandy paws when we let him out before bed, but seeing as we booked our site somewhat last minute, we only had six sites to choose from and the one we chose was the best option.
We didn’t use any of the amenities during our stay except for the fitness center, which wasn’t anything amazing but was better nothing. The pool looked very nice, the laundry room was large, and when we walked through the onsite market, it seemed pretty well stocked. There’s a walking path with pedestrian bridge around the bay that made for a nice 1-mile loop to walk Max every morning and evening. There’s also a security gate that is manned 24 hours, which is definitely a nice perk.
The best thing about Newport Dunes is its location. It’s minutes from the Fashion Island mall, which, besides all of the high end stores, also has great restaurants and a movie theatre. Within 20 minutes you can be at the beach in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, or Laguna Beach. Crystal Cove State Park is a short drive up Coast Highway. John Wayne Airport is less than a 15-minute drive and any store/service you could need is within 20 minutes. Also, Disneyland is a 30-40 minute drive. So, if you want to explore Orange County, Newport Dunes is really the perfect location.
Our stay at Newport Dunes was nice, but not necessarily because of the resort itself. We loved exploring the various beach towns and were able to spend quite a bit of time with a friend that lives in Laguna Beach. There was so much rain while we stayed there, and the wet sand was kind of a nightmare to deal with, but the biggest issue is the price. Even though we were paying winter rates, our cheapest night there was $99, with the most expensive night being $173 — and sorry Newport Dunes, you’re just not worth that much.
Today marks one year since we started living, working and traveling full time in our Airstream. One year ago feels both so incredibly distant, but also like it flew by! We have learned a lot in the last twelve months — about ourselves, about our airstream, and about what we hope to get out of this lifestyle. Here’s a look back at our first year as nomads:
We travelled 7,997 miles across 16 states:
(We spent two isolated, quiet nights in Cedar Point, IA and have nothing to show for it. Sorry, Iowa)
We visited 24 National Park Service sites:
Joshua Tree National Park
Death Valley National Park
Saguaro National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Badlands National Park
Wind Cave National Park
Glacier National Park
Redwood National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Yosemite National Park
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Manzanar National Historic Site
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area
…and one ghost town (Bodie, CA)…
…the world’s only corn palace (Mitchell, SD)…
…and a cheese factory (Tillamook, OR).
We drank some beer…
…and some liquor…
…and some wine!
We boondocked for the first time in Wisconsin on a family friend’s farm…
…and stayed at a Harvest Hosts for the first time in Nevada.
Travis ran a half marathon in Death Valley…
…and we learned how to play pickle ball.
We did a lot of hiking…
…and a bit of relaxing.
But most importantly, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends!
As you can see, it was a great year! We have a lot of amazing adventures planned for 2019, and we look forward to sharing them with you!