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!
We spent two nights at Henrys Lake State Park – the Thursday and Friday night of Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly, for a holiday weekend, it was very quiet and peaceful, though the less-than-ideal weather might have had something to do with that. Henrys Lake is a big trout fishing destination and on Saturday morning, the fishermen woke up to a glassy lake with a bit of sunshine. The park is home to beautiful mountain views, some nice hiking trails, and quite a bit of wildlife including moose and a variety of birds. The west entrance of Yellowstone National Park is 25 minutes away.
Check in wasn’t until 2:00, but seeing as we were arriving from West Yellowstone where we had an 11:00 check out, we arrived pretty early. Our check in day was the first day of the season the campground was open, so we had no problem checking in; though, the ladies in the entrance kiosk were VERY nice and I think as long as no one is in your site, they’ll let you check in at any time.
There are a few decent restaurants and a very small grocery store in Island Park, which is a little bit of a drive from Henrys Lake, so I’d recommend to come prepared with all of the supplies/food you need.
We had a pull-thru site with full hookups, though I’d recommend one of the back-in sites numbered 46 through 51 (Caddis Loop) with water and electric only. These sites offer great views of the mountains and lake through the rear window of an RV. The bathrooms are probably the nicest and cleanest we’ve seen anywhere, offering individual shower rooms for safety and privacy, so for that reason and the fact there’s a dump station, you could get by without a sewer hookup for a week or more with no issues. Each site has a firepit and picnic table and the cell signal is strong on both Verizon and AT&T.
We stayed in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for four nights in mid-May. Lava Hot Springs is located in Southeast Idaho on the Portneuf River along the old route of the Oregon Trail. The city is known for its numerous hot springs and rough tubing on the river, which draws thousands to the city of about 400 residents. There’s a small, historic downtown with shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as a grocery store, a library, and a number of places to rent tubes for a river adventure. In addition to the hot pools, there is also an outdoor swimming complex open during summer months and an indoor aquatic center open year round. There are plenty of options for accommodations, ranging from a place to pitch a tent to a resort with tiny homes, a lodge, and it’s own hot springs pool. There are a number of places to stay with an RV and we chose Lava Campground.
Lava Campground is a private, family-run campground with 13 RV sites, 4 retro campers, and a number of tent sites. A fabulous couple named Cameron and Annie turned part of their alfalfa field into this quaint campground about two years ago. This is a low-frills place, offering water and electric at each RV site, and a picnic table and fire pit at every site. There are a couple of really nice pit toilets throughout the property, as well as a couple of community water spigots. Currently, there is no dump station and no showers available, but they are considering adding those features in the future. There is a dump station available 15 minutes up the highway at the Pilot Flying J in McCammon, which is also where you get on I-15. If you visit the hot pools in town, showers are available there.
11759 E Fish Creek Road, Lava Hot Springs, ID 83246
Unfortunately, when we were in Lava Hot Springs we had a lot of rain. The driveway to get in the campground is gravel and was in rough shape when we arrived. Apparently, the water lines are being replaced in the city and the company that is laying the new pipes needed to use Lava Campground’s driveway and other parts of their property for access. This left the driveway in rough shape which got very mucky when it rained, which is what it was doing practically nonstop. Any time we came back from being out, we had to spray inches of mud and rock off our truck with the hose. The driveway was supposed to have already been fixed by the contractor, but it took one final, strongly-worded call from Cameron in order for it to finally be done. New gravel was poured on Saturday and we were able to drive out without incident (or mud) the following morning. Cameron and Annie felt so bad about the conditions that they refunded us for two nights of our stay. They really seem to go above and beyond to make sure their guests are happy, which is why if we ever find ourselves in Lava Hot Springs again, we will definitely stay with them!
The two main draws to Lava Hot Springs are their hot pools and river rafting. It’s not river rafting season yet, so we did not partake in that, but we did visit the pools twice. There are five different pools, with one ranging from 102ºF-105ºF, two at 105ºF, one ranging from 106ºF-111ºF, and one at 112ºF. Most of the pools have structures that protect from the sun and rain. It costs $6 per person to enter the pools, and there is a locker room with showers and a small gift shop with snacks onsite.
Lava Hot Springs is small, so there aren’t a lot of great food options, but I think we found the two best places. We had dinner at Portneuf Grill & Lounge in the Riverside Hot Springs Inn. The restaurant is downstairs (kind of in the basement) and isn’t the fanciest of fine dining establishments, but the food was fantastic. We split the seared scallops and the butternut squash gratin and both were delicious.
We decided to get lunch at the Mexican food truck (bus, actually) one day before heading to the pools. Taqueria Pelayo is a converted school bus that sits at the front of the property of the city center KOA. The beauty of using a bus instead of the typical food truck setup is that there is seating inside, which was nice on the cold, rainy day we visited. We both had quesadillas and rice, both of which were tasty.
While the weather didn’t really cooperate, we still enjoyed our time in Lava Hot Springs. The city is about 15 minutes off of I-15, so staying in McCammon or Pocatello might be more appealing to some. If you’re looking for a place with more amenities (FHU, laundry, restrooms, etc), then the Lava Hot Springs KOA Holiday might be a better fit. From what we could tell as we drove by, it’s a very nice KOA and is a couple of minutes closer to town. Just a warning for staying in Lava Hot Springs in general — the city is nestled along the Portneuf River, as well as Highway 30. You’ll have highway and train noise pretty much anywhere you stay; however, we didn’t find it very disruptive at Lava Campground.