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.

A Few Days in the Desert: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The drive from Temecula to Anza-Borrego is a bit curvy with grades, so our short drive day took a little longer than expected, but it was worth it! As previous San Diego residents, we had never been here before, which feels a bit blasphemous now. The nights are quiet, the sky is huge, and the stars shine bright — all things everyone could use a little bit more of in their life, I believe.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the lower 48 and lies in three Southern California counties, making up one-fifth of San Diego County with its 600,000 acres. It’s also a certified International Dark Sky Park, which is “a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”

There are multiple campgrounds throughout the park ranging from no reservation, dry camping to reservation needed, full hookups. As with many California State Parks, and state parks in general, getting a reservation isn’t the easiest and does require some planning. We were able to reserve two nights in the no hookup section of Borrego-Palm Canyon Campground a few months ago, and at a later date, after a cancellation, were able to reserve two more nights in the full hookup section.

NOTE: Check in time is 2pm with no exceptions, and they definitely adhere to it. We arrived at 1:38 and they let us preregister, but would not allow us to go to our site. We drove over to the Visitor Center where there is RV parking, and bought some souvenirs and picked up all of the literature we would need for our visit, before heading back to the campground.

Borrego-Palm Canyon Campground

200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA

www.reservecalifornia.com

  • Dry Camping Sites (Max Length 25′)
  • Full Hookup Sites (Max Length 35′)
  • Dump Station
  • Restrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Token-Operated Showers
  • Water Spigots
  • Fire Pits
  • Picnic Tables
  • Shade Structures in Dry Camping Sites
  • Firewood for Sale

Our first two nights were spent in Site 72 in the dry camping section of the campground. The literature for the campground states that the max length of these sites is 25′. However, our trailer is 28′ from hitch to bumper, and we were able to squeeze in while still being able to park our truck at the front of the site. When reserving a site here, I looked at not only the listed length on the website, but also the Google Map satellite image where I could see that we’d be able to back up quite a bit further than the length of the pad. Not all of the sites would have fit us, so do your research if you have a longer rig — we were definitely the longest trailer in this section of the campground! The sites in this section are sporadically placed and offer more distance from your neighbor than the sites in the full hookup section.  The sites with the best views are 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 84, 85, and 87. The restrooms and showers aren’t anything special, but they are clean and all individual, so you have privacy and safety.

An iPhone photo in no ways does the night sky any justice, but as you can see, even with bright moonlight and campfires burning, the stars were out in force.
We just fit into our site!
We backed up as far as we could without hitting the shade structure and still being able to deploy our awnings — which is key in the desert without A/C.
Our site was a little odd in that the fire pit and picnic table were opposite the door side of our trailer, but the site itself is spacious with nice views.

We spent the next two nights in site 33 in the full hookups section. All of the sites here are pull throughs and the sites with the best views are 50 and 51. The sites here are definitely longer, with us being able to park our truck in the same direction as the trailer, as opposed to perpendicular to it. Also, when friends visited, they were able to park their car at an angle behind the Airstream.

At site 33, there is shrubbery and a palm tree to give some separation from the neighboring site.

Borrego Palm Canyon is one of the quietest places we’ve ever stayed. People seemed to go to bed pretty early, but especially in the dry camping section, where there are a lot of tents and vans.

There are about 110 miles of hiking trails throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and there are three trails that leave right from Borrego Palm Canyon Campground:

  • Trail to Visitor Center — Dog and bike friendly; Flat; Easy; Paved; .7 mile one way.
  • Panoramic Overlook Trail — Moderate with loose rock and 300′ of elevation gain; 1.6 mile roundtrip.
The wildflowers are out in force!
View of Borrego Palm Canyon Campground from the overlook.
  • Borrego Palm Canyon Trail — Fairly flat with loose rock and some scrambling; 375′ of elevation gain; Currently open portion is about a 2.25-mile loop.
The landscape along the trail is absolutely beautiful!
We were lucky to see at least a half dozen endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.
Friends from Oceanside drove out to spend the day with us and the Ocotillo.
Due to a fire, the portion of the trail that leads to the palm oasis and waterfall was closed, but there was still a lot of beauty to see along the way, like these beavertail cactus.

Another fun hike that’s about a 25-minute drive from the campground is The Slot, which, in cased you haven’t guessed, is a slot canyon. The road to the trailhead, where you’ll find pit toilets and a parking lot, is about 2 miles of washboard gravel, but not awful. It’s an easy, 1.6-mile out and back hike through a narrow slot. There’s an option to make it a loop if you continue past the end of the slot, but as we didn’t have the AllTrails app open to follow the correct route (there’s no defined trail) we turned back after a bit because we didn’t really feel like getting lost in the desert that day.

This is what it looks like when you exit the end of the slot canyon — it’s pretty wide open and difficult to tell what direction to go, so make sure to have a map!

Galleta Meadows is privately owned land in Borrego Springs that’s home to over 130 metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda. The Meadows are unfenced and open to the public — and definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area!

Our stay in Anza-Borrego was our last stop before wrapping up our winter in California and it was definitely a highlight! There’s a lot of boondocking to be had in this area, but seeing as this was our first time here, we took the safe route and stayed in a developed campground. And as it got really hot on Friday of our stay, we were glad to have an electric hookup to use A/C. Of note, gas is extremely expensive out here. Make sure to fill up before the trip out and search for gas stations a bit removed from Borrego Springs if you need to fill up again. About 45 minutes outside of Borrego Springs, we passed a gas station that was at least $1.50 less per gallon. Also, there’s a small market in town that is a catchall type of store and has the necessities — but I would not call it a grocery store. If you need specific items, bring them with you.

A Couple Days in Temecula

After leaving San Diego on March 1, we drove all of 55 miles to spend a couple of nights in Temecula. The main purpose of this pitstop was so that we could drop the Airstream off at Airstream Inland Empire and have the brakes checked. You may recall, back in September we had an issue where one of our brakes needed to be replaced fairly emergently. Before heading back on the road, we wanted to make sure everything was copacetic. And it was. While in San Diego, we also had the brakes checked on the truck and the rear brakes replaced, so now we can continue our travels with one less thing to worry about.

We spent one night at the RV park at Pechanga Resort and Casino, one night in the hotel of the resort while the Airstream was getting looked at, and then another night at the RV park in order to get the fridge back up to temp after being shut off and to stock up on groceries as we’d next be heading to areas without real grocery stores.

For more about this RV park, read about our previous stays here and here. Of note, the Pechanga RV park is a part of Passport America and offers half off of the deluxe site rate Sunday through Wednesday night, making the stay very affordable at $30/night.

The Deluxe sites at Pechanga are the lowest level site, but they’re super nice and huge — and the only sites you can use Passport America on.

San Diego’s Best Kept RV Park Secret – Surf and Turf Del Mar

We decided to slow things down a bit this winter and spend four months in San Diego. This gave us the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time with friends; take care of doctor, dentist, eye, and vet appointments; join a gym; eat some good, healthy food; order all the things we couldn’t while on the road (big thanks to our friends that let us have packages sent to their houses); go on a few hikes; and Travis even got a trip with friends to Germany in. As we had lived in San Diego before Airstream life, we didn’t really do any touristy things during our stay. If you need recommendations for anything, send me a message and I can help you out.

We also had ample opportunity to clean out the truck and Airstream to get rid of junk, give away things we didn’t need anymore, and transfer stuff we wanted to keep to our storage unit. Even though we live pretty minimally, we still clean our cabinets, closets, and storage compartments on a quarterly basis, and there is ALWAYS stuff we aren’t using.

Surf & Turf RV Park

15555 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014

www.surfandturfrvpark.com

  • Water & Electric (30 amp only)
  • Three Sewer Pumps per Week
  • Propane Fill Once per Week
  • Nightly, Weekly, & Monthly Rates

This was our second stay at Del Mar’s Surf & Turf RV Park. Read about our previous stay here.

We spent all four months at Surf & Turf in Del Mar. At $650/month (including electricity), I don’t think any other RV park or campground in the San Diego area comes close to being this affordable. The bonus is that the location is perfect – you can get anywhere in coastal San Diego County in about 30 minutes (without traffic, of course).

As stated in our previous post, Surf & Turf is a pretty barebones RV park. With wide gravel sites, you park your tow vehicle next to your trailer, instead of in front of it. The electric could use some updating. They currently only offer 30 amp, which is fine for us. However, when we first pulled in and hooked up, our power kept tripping at the box. An electrician came to check it out and found a loose connection. After tightening everything up, we had no more issues, but it sounded as though it was not an uncommon occurrence. The pump truck comes around on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday – which generally works fine for two people, but you do need to keep an eye on your water usage. A propane fill truck comes through every Wednesday. Four months of having to go to a laundromat to do laundry got a little old, but the laundromat (Beachside Del Mar Laundromat) was very nice and it’s always great to get all of the laundry done in an hour and a half.

Del Mar’s Dog Beach is a short drive and a great place to take doggos to run around and get some exercise.

Surf & Turf is within walking distance of the Coast to Crest Trail at the San Dieguito Lagoon, which is a flat, 4.8-mile out and back trail. It’s a great trail for walking, running, and biking and is dog friendly.

I should also note that if you need full hookups, the Del Mar Fairgrounds (who owns Surf & Turf) has about 50 full hookup sites for $38/night. There are also restrooms with showers and laundry. We visited some other full-time Airstreamers that stayed there, and it’s definitely an acceptable place to stay for a bit — if you don’t mind being right next to the train tracks.

Food/Drink Places Nearby

There are a never-ending amount of food and drink options throughout San Diego, but our favorite restaurant in this particular area is Jake’s Del Mar. It’s one of those rare places that hits the restaurant trifecta – great food, great service, and great views. Make a reservation for about a half hour before sunset and request a table by the window – you won’t be disappointed!

When we’re traveling in more remote places, we REALLY miss having healthy food options. Thankfully, San Diego, and Southern California in general, does not disappoint on this front. Within a few minutes’ drive from Surf & Turf, you’ll find some great, healthy, fast-casual options in Mendocino Farms, Flower Child, and Urban Plates.

The Taco Stand has multiple locations throughout San Diego, but the closest one to Surf & Turf is a short drive up the 101 in Encinitas. If you’re not in the mood for one of the many taco options offered, get one of San Diego’s most popular eats — a California burrito.

For beer, check out Bottlecraft in Solana Beach. It’s a bit different than your average tasting room, as it’s part beer shop, part tasting room. They sell hundreds of bottled beers from multiple brewers that you’re able to carry out or drink in house. They also have about 20 beers on draft that are regularly rotated. Not a beer fan? They also sell wine, cider, and kombucha, as well as offer a menu of tasty sandwiches. If you’re in the mood for beer AND pizza, head to Pizza Port in Solana Beach. Bottlecraft is dog friendly, but 21+ only. Pizza Port is family friendly, with seating outside for your pups.

And of course, ice cream. Portland’s famous Salt & Straw recently opened a second San Diego location in Del Mar at the One Paseo shopping & dining complex. It is seriously the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Semi-national chain Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream recently opened its third San Diego location at the Del Mar Highlands shopping center. And if you want something a bit healthier, Yogurtland frozen yogurt is right up the street at the Del Mar Flower Hill Promenade.

 

 

A Synopsis of Our Second Year on the Road

Our second year as full-time Airstream dwellers/digital nomads/travelers has come and gone. We added a few new states to our travel map (North Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho), crossed the northern border for the first time (it won’t be the last time), and traveled 7,607 miles (just 61 miles less than last year). Our longest drive day was 377 miles and our shortest was 6.5 miles. We averaged $46.63/night in lodging costs, thanks to spending 45 days in a condo/hotels at various times throughout the year while our converter was fixed, solar panels were installed, and modifications were done to the interior.

We continued to learn more about ourselves, our Airstream, our country, and the nomadic lifestyle. Here’s a look back at our second year on the road:

We visited 13 National Park Service sites, with 8 of them being new to us:

Zion National Park
Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Jewel Cave National Monument
Mohave National Preserve

We also revisited Death Valley, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, and Mount Rushmore.

With our return visit to South Dakota, we were able to conquer the remaining 3 sites of South Dakota’s Great 8, the other 5 of which we saw last summer:

Crazy Horse Memorial
Deadwood
Jewel Cave National Monument

The other 5 are Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and the Missouri River.

We hiked, and hiked, and hiked…

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve | Desert Hot Springs, CA
Mollies Nipple Trail | Hurricane, UT
Hidden Falls Trail | Grand Teton NP
Little Devil’s Tower Trail | Custer SP – Custer, SD
Hidden Lake Trail | Glacier NP

and paddled, and paddled, and paddled…

Sand Hollow SP | Hurricane, UT
Jackson Lake | Grand Teton NP
Lake Louise | Banff NP
Moraine Lake | Banff NP

and soaked, and soaked, and soaked.

Lava Hot Springs | Lava Hot Springs, ID
Bozeman Hot Springs | Bozeman, MT
Catalina Spa RV Resort | Desert Hot Springs, CA

We chased waterfalls…

Kanarra Falls | Kanarraville, UT
Hidden Falls | Grand Teton NP
Bridal Veil Falls | Spearfish, SD
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls | Banff NP
Virginia Falls | Glacier NP

but we also stuck to the rivers…

Firehole River | Yellowstone NP
Colorado River | Moab, UT
Missouri River | Helena, MT

and the lakes that we’re (not) used to.

Utah Lake | Utah Lake SP – Provo, UT
Jackson Lake | Grand Teton NP
Lake Agnes | Banf NP
Avalanche Lake | Glacier NP
Moraine Lake | Banff NP

We drank beer…

Miner Brewing Co. | Hill City, SD
Nordic Brew Works | Bozeman, MT
Deschutes Brewery | Portland, OR
Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Paso Robles, CA

and wine…

Prairie Berry Winery | Hill City, SD
Michael David Winery | Lodi, CA
Glunz Family Winery | Paso Robles, CA

and cocktails…

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise | Banff NP
Sky Bistro | Banff, AB
Glacier Distilling Company | Coram, MT
Jake’s Del Mar | Del Mar, CA

and tea.

Lake Agnes Tea House | Banff NP
Portland Japanese Garden | Portland, OR

We rode a gondola in Palm Springs…

and one in Banff.

(Have I mentioned I don’t like gondolas?)

We saw where Forrest Gump ended his run…

Mexican Hat, UT

and where Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff.

Dead Horse Point SP | Moab, UT

We saw lots of wildlife…

Death Valley NP
Beatty, NV
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Yellowstone NP
Glacier NP
Banff NP

and visited the geographic center of the country.

Belle Fourche, SD

We added four new tires,

Discount Tire | Albuquerque, NM

two new batteries,

AM Solar | Springfield, OR

four new solar panels,

AM Solar | Springfield, OR

and a couch and a desk.

Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR
Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR
Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR

We had visitors in Las Vegas; Hurricane, UT; Custer, SD; and Glacier National Park:

 

Our second year on the road was fantastically fun and memorable, even with the issues we encountered. (I’m looking at you flat tire and junk converter.) All of the inconveniences we deal with are by far worth the amazing places we get to experience. Thanks for following along and we hope you stick around for 2020, our third year on the road — although we’re not really sure what’s in store yet!

 

All About Them Apps

These days, it feels like life revolves around our phones. I would love to say that living a nomadic lifestyle allows us to be more disconnected than the average person, and in some ways it does; however, in certain ways we’re more dependent on technology than we’ve ever been. As people (and a dog) who live, travel, and work full time in an Airstream, there are a number of iPhone apps that we utilize regularly in order to make our lives easier and safer.

Navigation

To start, we need to know where we’re going. We are very basic when it comes to navigational tools and most of the time depend solely on Google Maps. In more than 15,000 miles, Google Maps has done us wrong only once. It directed us down an 8-mile washboard gravel road with nowhere to turn around as we made our way to a one-night stop in Cranbrook, British Columbia. (There was a sign posted at the campground regarding this issue, so it seems it’s a common occurrence.) When we’ll be entering an area with little to no cell signal, we’ll often use the GPS in our truck in conjunction with Google Maps, just in case. Now that I think about it, it might be time to invest in a dependable paper road atlas as a fallback!

 

Weather

It’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the weather both while towing and while parked. Knowing whether rain, snow, freezing temps, or high temps are in the forecast helps us to be prepared. Do we need to get more propane to run the furnace? Do we need to start our drive a day early or delay it a day due to probable thunderstorms? Do we need to put the awnings in because it’s going to rain? These are all things we look at on a regular basis to keep us, our dog, and our Airstream safe.

 

The WindAlert app is very beneficial on days we plan on towing. It can get downright dangerous when you’re pulling a trailer down a highway and there are gusts of 50mph or more. This app allows us to look at what the projected hourly sustained wind speed and wind gusts will be, which helps us determine if we need to hit the road earlier or later than planned or if we need to pull off for a bit and wait out the wind.

 

Places to Stay

Campendium is our go-to resource for finding campgrounds and RV parks, along with reviews. Besides reviews, the amenities (no/partial/full hookups, showers, laundry, etc.) offered at each location are listed, as well as cell signal. In addition to searching for campgrounds and RV parks, you can also look for public land, free camping, overnight parking, and dump stations. This app/website is free to use and because it is essential to our travels, we make sure to financially support it when they have their annual fundraiser.

 

Another place we check when looking for places to stay is good old dependable Google. Sometimes we find RV parks or campgrounds on Google that we don’t find when using any of our other resources, so we check it when we aren’t finding a lot of options for a particular location. The reviews on Google are typically different than you’ll find on the other RVer preferred apps and websites; probably because long-term or full-time travelers are looking for a different experience than the occasional weekenders, who seems to do most of the reviewing on Google.

 

The Recreation.gov app and website help us find places to stay on federal lands at more than 3,500 facilities across the country. There are over 100,000 reservable sites throughout our national parks and national forests, and Recreation.gov is where we go to not only make reservations, but to also get information about each location including maps and amenities. Most recently, limited permit lotteries have been incorporated into the app. The app also conveniently stores all of your reservations in one place for easy access.

 

Harvest Hosts is a membership program that offers unique overnight (dry camping) experiences at 1300+ wineries, breweries, farms, museums, golf courses, and other attractions. You can stay at an unlimited number of host locations throughout the year. We utilize this program most when we have multiple drive days in a row and just need a place to park for a night. The two main rules are to call 24 hours in advance to let them know you’re coming and to patronize the establishment in some way, like buying a bottle of wine.

 

Staying at a KOA is not for everybody, but we’ve had more positive experiences than negative, and they really seem to be everywhere. For example, if you want to stay near Devils Tower for a night or two and need hookups, the KOA is your only option. Also, KOA has a rewards program that is quite beneficial if you stay at a couple each year, which we usually do. We also like that KOAs have cabins, which two of our friends took advantage of this past summer when they joined us at the West Glacier KOA near Glacier National Park.

 

Passport America is another membership program and we find it can be real hit and miss. We went all year this year without staying at a place that offers PA discounts until late October, when we then stayed at three places in a row. Properties that participate in the program offer 50% off, with certain restrictions (of course) which can include such things as two nights discount max or discounts on weeknights only. However, when it works out, it can really work out. We ended up saving about $300 in a 2.5-week span, so the $44 annual fee was definitely worth it.

 

The Dyrt and Allstays are similar to Campendium. I personally find the Campendium app to be easier to use, but some people prefer one of these two as their primary site locator — it all comes down to personal taste. With that being said, The Dyrt only has site listings available for within the United States. Also, I’ve found sites on Campendium that aren’t listed on The Dyrt. However, when a I find a site on Campendium without reviews, I’ll check both The Dyrt and Allstays to see if it’s been reviewed there.

 

In the Airstream

The VictronConnect app is what we use to monitor our battery levels and the amount of power our solar panels are generating. It’s a good idea to check in with your batteries from time to time to make sure they are staying charged properly, but the app is most useful when we don’t have an electric hookup and need to monitor our power usage. The app is a tool to teach us how to use the furnace, water heater, TVs, etc. in such a manner to live within our energy means. To find out more about our solar panel and lithium battery setup, check out this post.

 

The Mopeka TankCheck app allows us to monitor the amount of propane that is in each of our two 30lb propane tanks. A standard Mopeka sensor is attached to the bottom of each of the propane tanks. Using the app, we can see how much propane is left in each tank, as well as the battery level and signal strength of each sensor. An LED display does come with the standard Mopeka sensors, but using the app gives us a much more accurate reading of how much propane is left in each tank.

 

We use a Blink Home Monitor camera to keep an eye on Max when we are out of the Airstream. The app and camera give us peace of mind when away from home as we’re able to look at Max, hear what’s going on in the Airstream, and make sure the temperature is comfortable. The accompanying app is pretty customizable, allowing us to choose if we want alerts sent to our phones with certain levels of movement. It also alerts us when the temperature inside the Airstream has gone outside of the range that we’ve predetermined.

 

We installed a Ring doorbell on the Airstream more so for security than to have a functioning doorbell, because really, you don’t need a doorbell on an Airstream. As the doorbell has a wide-angle camera that records whenever it senses motion, it’s one additional layer of security that gives us peace of mind when we’re away from the Airstream. As with the Blink app, the Ring app is customizable to have alerts sent to your phone when various activities take place.

 

Mail

As residents of South Dakota who use Americas Mailbox as our mail forwarding service, the iRVMail app might be a bit specific. I’m sure other mail forwarding services use this app, but I couldn’t tell you which ones. Anyways, this app allows us to see what mail has arrived at our mailbox in Box Elder, South Dakota. Each piece of mail is scanned, assigned a reference number, and uploaded. To read more about how we receive mail on the road, visit this post.

 

The Arrive app is perfect for anyone that receives a lot of packages in the mail. Instead of having to go to each carrier’s website to track where your package is, this app keeps all of the tracking info on one screen. Regardless of carrier, enter the tracking number for your package and the app will track your package’s journey with a live map. Give each package a name (e.g. Sewer Hose) to make things easier and set up notifications to let you know the status of the package.

 

Hiking/Destinations

The AllTrails app helps you discover the best hiking, running, and biking trails around the world. It uses your location to provide a list of trails in the area, including such information as length and elevation change. A map of the trail, directions to the trail, photos, descriptions, and current weather are also some of the features. Available filters include dog friendly, wheelchair friendly, level of difficulty, and attractions along the trail including waterfalls and hot springs. We use this app whenever we’re in a new place where we want to get outside and explore nature.

 

I admit that we don’t use this app nearly as much as we should. The REI Co-op National Parks Guide app has all the info you could need about any national park in one place: Visitor center hours, hiking trails, family friendly activities, camping & lodging info, shuttle & tour info, restaurants, maps — you name it! Sometimes stopping into a visitor center as soon as you enter a park isn’t possible, so this is a good resource to have.

 

 

So there you have it — all the apps we find to be essential in our full-time Airstream travels!

 

Of note, we are in no way associated with these companies and therefore are only promoting these apps because they work well for us. All app icon images were screenshot from the Apple App Store.

 

 

A Return to Temecula – Pechanga RV Resort

This was our second stay at Pechanga RV Resort, located at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA. The main reason for this particular post is that I can only add a location to our map of where we’ve been if I have a blog post to go along with it — so, this is that post. Please click this link if you’d like to read about our last stay at Pechanga. Nothing new to report about the resort — it’s still well maintained with large sites and a great discount with Passport America and the casino is still really, really nice!