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:
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:
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…
and paddled, and paddled, and paddled…
and soaked, and soaked, and soaked.
We chased waterfalls…
but we also stuck to the rivers…
and the lakes that we’re (not) used to.
We drank beer…
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…
and where Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff.
We saw lots of wildlife…
and visited the geographic center of the country.
We added four new tires,
two new batteries,
four new solar panels,
and a couch and a desk.
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!
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!
We spent one week in beautiful Paso Robles at Wine Country RV Resort. The city of Paso Robles is located in central California, about 25 miles from the coast. The area is known for its wine, olive oil, and almonds. It’s an area we would definitely like to return to and explore more; though, probably during a cooler time of the year — practically the whole state was under a red flag (fire danger) warning while we there due to the hot and windy conditions. We had a pretty peaceful week that involved wine tasting, delicious dinners, lounging by the pool, and strolling through the cute downtown.
Harvey’s Corner (Outdoor Beer/Wine Bar Open on Thu, Fri and Sat)
We stayed in two different sites during our stay due to adding an additional night when we arrived. We spent the first five nights in the first site and the sixth night in the second site. Our first site was Site 10, which was a back in site with deck and patio table. A large oak tree provided nice shade, but also provided plenty of acorns for the resident squirrels, one of which decided to take his snack up into the engine area of our truck. (We got him out eventually.)
Our second site was Site 79. It was another back in, but backed up to a hill and had a grassy front yard. While we had less shade from the sun here, we preferred this site for its grass and location.
The RV resort is owned by Sun RV Resorts, who also owns the other popular RV resort in town, Cava Robles RV Resort. Sun resorts can be pricy, but they also are typically a part of the Passport America program. At Wine Country, Passport America can be used for four nights max Monday through Thursday. That’s exactly what we did, so we ended up paying an average of $75/night over our six nights as opposed to approximately $95/night. If we hadn’t added on an extra night when we got there, Friday, which has a higher rate than weeknights, our average would have been $66/night. That price is still high, but expected at such a nice resort in California, and this is a REALLY nice resort.
We visited three of the more than 200 wineries in the area: Tobin James Cellars; J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; and Glunz Winery. All three had delicious offerings and we made sure to purchase ‘souvenirs’ at each.
If beer is more your thing, Firestone Walker Brewing is also located in Paso Robles. This property is HUGE! They offer tastings and brewery tours at their Visitor Center, delicious eats at their Taproom Restaurant, and any Firestone Walker products/paraphernalia your heart desires in their Brewery Emporium. Not knowing there was so much to explore, we only stopped in for a beer on the patio with Max in tow.
Between working, the heat, and hanging out around Paso Robles, we didn’t get a chance to explore other sites in the area. Hearst Castle is 40 miles away in San Simeon and the beaches of Morro Bay are just 30 miles. There are also great restaurants, museums, and shops throughout Paso Robles, so it’s definitely easy for a week or more to fly by in this great city!
Our stop in Lodi, California was another two-night stay as we made our way south through California. We stayed at Flag City RV Resort, a Passport America member, which made the usual rate of $67/night only $33.50. Flag City is easily accessible from I-5 and there’s a Blue Beacon, Love’s and Flying J nearby.
With longer drive days than usual and only staying two nights at each stop, our driving schedule allowed us to cover a lot of miles but didn’t give us much time to explore the places we stayed. However, seeing as we were in Lodi over a weekend, we were able to get out and make a visit to Michael David Winery, one of more than 80 wineries in the region. Michael David is only a 5-minute drive from Flag City and probably the most popular winery in the area. Lodi is the self-proclaimed ‘Zinfandel Capital of the World’ as 40% of California’s Zinfandel comes from this area. We made sure to leave with two different varietals from Michael David’s popular Freakshow line — the Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Michael David also has an onsite restaurant at which we ate a nice lunch.
This RV park — as well as the hotel, casino, truck stop, golf course, and gas station that are part of the property — is easily accessible from I-5. We made a reservation a few days in advance, but probably didn’t need to. Check in is quite easy. After you pay the $35/night fee, you drive through and find an open site. All sites are long, gravel pull-thrus with full hookups and a few bushes for privacy. It appears as though they recently expanded the size of the park by adding two more rows of sites, and it looks as though they’re ready to expand again as the area beyond the two newest rows was cleared and graded. The RV park itself is pretty low frill, with the restrooms, showers, and laundry being located in the Traveler’s Center, which are also use by the truckers. The onsite casino is nothing special and quite smokey, with a couple of restaurants, none of which we tried.
There was nothing special about this RV park, but it was clean, quiet(ish), cheap, and easily accessible. It’s a good place to stop for a night or two while driving along I-5. It’s one of those places that is fairly empty early to midday, fills up by late evening, and then empties out again in the morning.
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!
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 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!
Our very first week as full-timers was spent in Escondido, in San Diego’s North County. We rolled back into Escondido 266 days later. We had quite literally gone full circle. Seriously, check out our travel map — we actually went in a full circle, extending as far east as Wisconsin, between our stays at Champagne Lakes RV Resort and Escondido RV Resort. We had 7500 miles, 16 states, and 50 different stops under our belt. We stayed for six weeks, which is the longest we have stayed anywhere. We were looking forward to being in familiar territory — the house we sold that allowed us to buy our truck and Airstream was literally 15 minutes away in San Marcos — and spending time with friends. We were looking forward to California burritos and the ocean and trivia at the brewery and being able to slip back into a normal routine. We were looking forward to having a temporary home base that actually felt like home. And we definitely got all of those things while staying at Escondido RV Resort!
As I try to write this review, I keep typing and deleting. On the surface, Escondido RV Resort is a great place to stay. It’s well landscaped, well maintained, and the people who run it are very nice. It’s right off I-15 and one exit north of the 78, which is the main east-west highway in North County San Diego. As we lived in North County for a bit and most of our friends live in North County, we were able to get to where we wanted to go within a decent amount of time. The trade off is that the resort is RIGHT off the 15, which means the sound of traffic is pretty audible most times of the day from most parts of the park. We were lucky with our particular spot (site 110) as it backed up to a tree line that helped buffer the traffic noise. The Wi-Fi was decent but in order to access it we needed to set up a (free) account and reconnect to it daily. They had great HD TV, but in order to use it, we needed to borrow a cable box from them to hook up in our trailer. There is very nice landscaping throughout, but it’s watered every night and the sprinklers tend to be pretty aggressive with their spray field and leave behind hard water spots on the lower half your trailer — so, obsessive trailer cleaners beware. There isn’t one blade of grass in the park, which is understandable as it’s Southern California, but leaves a little to be desired when walking a dog. There are two different dog areas, one on each level (the park is set up on two different levels). The one on the lower level is fenced in, so it’s off leash, but is quite a hike to get to if you’re staying on the upper level. The one on the upper level is small, but doable. Both have wood chips as a base. Rod McLeod Park is located right next to the RV park and is accessible through a locked gate from the upper level of the RV park. It’s a big grassy space with a playground and restrooms, and was a nice alternative for walking Max. However, due to it’s seedier side — people living in cars in the parking lot, a handful of homeless people, and quick transactions of some sort taking place — I didn’t feel comfortable walking Max by myself and would only visit the park when Travis was around. The laundry room was nice and clean and the machines used credit cards instead of coins, which is fantastic. The only issue is that the credit card machines didn’t always work. A few times I had to try multiple cards and one time, the person in the office had to run a special card through the reader in order to get the machine to work. Also while we there, someone tried to steal a bike from someone’s site. Luckily, the maintenance guy saw him and stopped him. The bike was retrieved, but the would-be thief ran off before the cops arrived. Obviously, there is potential for theft at ANY place we stay, which is why we never leave anything of value outside.
With all of that being said, none of those issues are anything that would prevent us from staying there again. But there is one thing — the AT&T signal in that area is terrible. Basically non-existent. Luckily, we also have a phone and hotspot on Verizon, so along with their Wi-Fi, we were able to work without too many issues. We just weren’t able to use our personal phones very dependably, which was pretty inconvenient.
And our very last issue with Escondido RV Resort was the price. When we first booked our stay there, if was originally for four weeks, so just shy of a month. At that point, we understood why we weren’t getting the monthly rate. But we changed our travel plans and a couple weeks before arriving, we extended our stay an additional two weeks. Six weeks. Which is more than a month. Which means we should have received the monthly rate. But we received the weekly rate. While they were very nice and gave us a nicer site — we were supposed to be on the first level, but they moved us to a larger site on the second level — I didn’t understand their explanation as to why we weren’t getting the monthly rate, and honestly, I don’t even remember what their explanation was anymore. The only benefit to paying the weekly rate versus monthly rate is that electricity was included in our rate and is not included in the monthly rate. We paid about $1900/month with the weekly rate when the actual monthly rate for the spot we reserved was $1100, so yes, we were frustrated. To add to the frustration is what I recently found on their website:
$800 if you’re in an Airstream?!? Must be nice!
I don’t want to sound like a complete Negative Nancy about Escondido RV Resort. There are some really great features too:
They make filling your propane tanks very easy. You just set your tanks at the end of your site and they’ll pick them up, fill them, and return them.
There’s a small swimming pool and spa that are nice.
They have a deal with the nearby LA Fitness where you can get a free 2-week membership.
You can have packages delivered there.
The close proximity to I-15 can’t really be beat!
Things To Do in the Area
We were pretty busy during most of our stay in Escondido, but most of that entailed hanging out with friends and visiting our favorite restaurants, stores, local sites, etc. However, here are a few things you should check out if you’re in the area:
Pretty much everyone knows about the famous San Diego Zoo, but a lot of people outside of the area have not heard about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. While the zoo is located down in San Diego, the safari park is in Escondido, just 20 minutes from the RV park. Like the zoo, you’ll find gorillas, tigers, lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhino, giraffes, and a variety of other animals. Unlike the zoo, you’ll find the park’s rhino, giraffes, antelope, wild ass, zebra, and buffalo roaming about in a free-range exhibit called African Plains. From the tram, you’re able to see how the animals interact with those within their species as well as with animals from other species. The newest exhibit, Walkabout Australia, is home to kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, and other animals from the Outback. You are able to walk through the enclosure and get up close and personal, sometimes even pet, the resident wallabies.
While staying in Escondido, we went on two hikes. The first hike is kind of a San Diego bucket list hike. Anyone who’s been in San Diego long enough has heard about the hike to Potato Chip Rock. The hike begins at the Mt. Woodson Trailhead along the shores of Lake Poway in Poway, which is about a 20 minute drive from the RV park. It’s one of those hikes that you need to start early, for two reasons: 1) The sun gets blazing hot in this area year round and 2) you want to beat the crowd that makes the journey to get THE shot for Instagram. There’s a parking lot with restrooms and a place to fill water at the trailhead. It’s free to park on weekdays but there’s a $10 fee on weekends. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. The trail is 7.6 miles roundtrip and is rated hard on AllTrails, probably due to the 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We hit the trail at 6:30am and were in shade the entire way to the top. Once we made it to Potato Chip Rock, we ate some breakfast while we waited in a short line to get some photos. It took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes, not including down time at the top. The way down started to get hot as we were in direct sun, and we were very glad we started early. Make sure to take water and sun protection!
The second hike is the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail out of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido. It’s a moderately difficult, 6.4-mile trail that’s about a 15-minute drive from the RV park. There’s a parking lot with small visitor center, water fill, and restrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed. There are actually a number of different well-marked trails within the reserve that lead to various overlooks with picnic tables and shade structures.
You won’t have a difficult time finding some great craft breweries in San Diego County. One that you should definitely check out if you’re in the area is Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which is about a 10-minute drive from the RV park. Besides being a brewery, Stone offers a full menu as well as wine. The interior of the facility is nice, but the draw here is the outdoor patio and one-acre beer garden, complete with koi ponds and fire pits. It’s a beautiful property and while I don’t have any photos to post, trust me that you won’t be disappointed.