I’m Not Even Sure What to Say About 2020

Where to begin?

Every year I like to write a post that wraps up the previous year’s travels with a proverbial bow, reliving all of the joy and wonderment we experienced. You can see how this is usually a fun little project by checking out the posts for 2018 and 2019. Obviously, this year is different. Like, so, so different.

We started the year spending the winter in the San Diego area as full-time Airstreamers and ended the year living in a condo in Bozeman, Montana. To say things took an unexpected turn is a bit of an understatement. I know that COVID-19 affected the life of pretty much every one on the planet, in a wide range of ways. We are so very grateful to be able to say that, as of this post, we have not personally experienced the virus, or lost loved ones to it. We know there are so many that can’t say the same, and our hearts hurt for the pain and loss others have experienced during this time. We know it’s still going to be a long road for our community, our country, and our planet, but we’re hopeful and optimistic that 2021 will eventually bring some health and happiness.

Besides the isolation, frustration, and disappointment that the pandemic brought to our lives, we also had to deal with the loss of our third amigo, our travel buddy, our faithful canine companion — Max. We said goodbye to Max on February 25th, just two days shy of his 15th birthday. When we first started our full-time travel life, we were so unsure how well Max would adapt. It turns out there was no need to worry, because he was the BEST Airstream dog. He slept through travel days like a champ and preferred so stay ‘home’ whenever Travis and I would venture out. The strangeness of not having a dog around after 15 years was compounded by the weirdness of the early days of the pandemic. Ten months later, and we still miss him dearly, but the thought of him no longer triggers a twinge in the heart.

So, yeah, 2020 hasn’t been the most enjoyable year, but we did have some good times and we were able to travel to some great places. Let’s look at some of that joy and wonderment we DID get to experience.

We travelled 4,608 miles across nine states — California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Dakota. Our longest travel day (which we’ll never do again) was 738 miles (you can read about that here) and our shortest travel day was 19 miles. We averaged $36.78/night for site fees, which is almost $10 less per night than 2019, so, yay us!

Michigan was the only new state we added to our travel map this year, making it our 20th state that we’ve ventured to with the Airstream. We were very happy to be able to spend some time in Michigan in fall — such a great time to be in the area!

While we had originally planned to visit a number of new National Park Service sites this year, we were able to make it to only eight, with four being new and four being return visits.

The four new sites were:

Capitol Reef National Park

Check out more from our visit to Capitol Reef here.

Voyageurs National Park

Our visit to Voyageurs makes 19 national parks visited thus far! Check out more from our visit to Voyageurs here.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Pictured Rocks here.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Apostle Islands here.

The other four sites we were able to revisit were:

Zion National Park

Due to the pandemic, the only exploring we did of Zion during this time was to take a drive up the canyon, which is usually closed to vehicles, but was open because the shuttles weren’t running.

Check out more about our visit to Zion here. Read more about our previous visit here and here.

Yellowstone National Park

Check out more from our visit to Yellowstone here. Read more about our previous visit here.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Check out more about our visit to Roosevelt NP here. Read about our previous visit here.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 

Check out more about our visit to Little Bighorn here. Read about our previous visit here.

But our year wasn’t just about the parks! Take a look at some of the other things that brought us joy this year ->

We visited some of the ‘World’s Largest’ statues:

We ran into some interesting creatures in the Anza-Borrego Desert:

We tried a new sport:

We were able to meet up with a handful of other full timers:

We enjoyed some beach days and amazing sunsets:

Pre-pandemic, we were able to spend time with some of our favorite people:

And when we didn’t think it was going to happen, we ended up being able to spend some safe, socially distanced time with family:

The pandemic forced us to change our travel plans for 2020 (goodbye, hard-earned FL state park reservations!), so we made a decision. A big one. Even though the RV lifestyle somewhat prepared us for pandemic life (you can read about that here), it didn’t make sense for us to stay on the road. After dealing with multiple reservation cancellations and watching things close as the case numbers rose, we decided that the best thing for us was to get off the road and settle down for the time being. One of the best parts of full timing is not only exploring the natural wonders of our country, but also meeting new people along the way and checking out things in each city we visit — restaurants, museums, community events, etc. With all of these things closed, traveling just wasn’t that enjoyable. And we wanted to make sure we stayed healthy. So, we purchased a condo in Bozeman, Montana in July. Read more about what led to that decision here.

We’ve been enjoying safely exploring our new city:

And we’re learning to embrace winter (kind of):

But probably the weirdest thing to happen to us personally in 2020, is our appearance on HGTV’s House Hunters!

We filmed the episode in August and it aired in December. It highlighted our transition from full-time travel to part-time condo living. It was an interesting and tiring experience!

Which brings me to what’s next for us:

We plan to continue to travel in the Airstream — A LOT. It’s nice to have a home base to return to when we need a break or something comes up, but we miss being on the road. We’ll get back out there once we feel comfortable doing so, which for us means when we’re both vaccinated. It’s been nice to take a pause and enjoy some of the things you give up when you live tiny, such as a king-size bed, a dishwasher, a washer & dryer, and easy access to our mail, medical care, and good grocery stores. There’s still so much left to explore! And we aren’t really cold weather people, so we’re looking forward to seeking out warmth in the coming winters.

We’re wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2021! Hopefully, we’ll see you somewhere out there!

 

Another Harvest Hosts Win at Garvin Heights Vineyard

After our fourth day of driving, we spent the night at Garvin Heights Vineyard, a Harvest Hosts location. If you are unfamiliar with Harvest Hosts, you can visit their website here. The gist is that for one low annual membership fee, you get access to over 1,250 locations throughout the country that allow you to spend the night in your RV on their property for free. These locations can include wineries, breweries, farms, museums, etc. You are expected to purchase something from the host, and at this particular stay, we bought a bottle of wine and pack of cheese curds. If you use this link, you’ll receive 15% off.

Garvin Heights is a small property, and the parking provided to us was in their (also small) parking lot. Thankfully when we arrived, there were not a lot of cars parked in the lot and we were able to back in to our designated spot without issue. The winery is only open a handful of hours each day from Thursday to Sunday (we stayed on a Sunday), but received quite a few visitors while we were there. As we are still being diligent about our social distancing, we opted out of doing any wine tasting, and instead just picked a bottle of their Great River Rouge for purchase. The winery closed at 5pm, and from that point on, it was a VERY quiet evening. We had hoped to utilize more Harvest Hosts for the previous few nights, but Sunday was the first day it wasn’t crazy hot and the evening into overnight temps were comfortable. We spent the night with the windows open to thoroughly enjoy the crisp air and all of the chirping and buzzing of the various insects and creatures that make this area home. It was one of the best nights of sleep either of us had experienced in a long time!

After getting settled in at the winery, we drove around Winona a little bit. We found our way to Garvin Heights City Park, which offers fantastic views of the city, Mississippi River and Buffalo, Wisconsin. The city is super cute and in any other time (sans pandemic, that is), we would have done a little more exploring. Instead, we headed back to the Airstream to enjoy some wine and play Scrabble.

One Year on the Road

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:

California

Alabama Hills – Lone Pine, CA
Trinidad, CA
Poway, CA
Newport Beach, CA

Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, NV
Las Vegas, NV
Zephyr Cove (Lake Tahoe), NV

Utah

Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT
Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT

Arizona

Page, AZ
Antelope Canyon – Page, AZ

New Mexico

Santa Fe, NM (We were in Santa Fe for only one night and checked out Meow Wolf, which we highly recommend!)

Colorado

Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO

Kansas

Dodge City, KS (It was VERY cold and windy the couple of nights we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to explore.)

Missouri

National World War I Museum and Memorial – Kansas City, MO
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – Kansas City, MO
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum – Independence, MO

Iowa

(We spent two isolated, quiet nights in Cedar Point, IA and have nothing to show for it. Sorry, Iowa)

Wisconsin

Breezy Hills Campground – Fond du Lac, WI
Van Dyne, WI
Neshonoc Lakeside Camp Resort – West Salem, WI

Minnesota

Minneopa State Park – Mankato, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN

South Dakota

Dignity Statue – Chamberlain, SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Custer State Park – Custer, SD

Wyoming

Devils Tower, WY

Montana

Max was super excited for Montana!
Garryowen, MT
Billings, MT (with cotton from the Cottonwood trees floating in the air)
Along the ‘M’ Trail in Bozeman, MT

Washington

Spokane, WA
Spokane, WA

Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR
Otis, OR
Ona Beach State Park – Newport, OR
Reedsport, OR
Winchester Bay, OR
Coos Bay, OR

 

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…

Santa Fe, NM
Yachats, OR
Coos Bay, OR

…and some liquor…

Coram, MT

…and some wine!

Pahrump, NV
Temecula, CA

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!

Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN

Bunker Hills Campground is within Bunker Hills Regional Park in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. We stayed here a little short of a week so that we could visit a customer in the neighboring city of Anoka. The park had a really great feeling about it — the light always seemed magical, we ran into deer and turkey on a regular basis, and it has a really great trail system. The campground itself has restrooms with showers, which were pretty decent, even if there’s no temperature control and the water pressure could be a tad bit better. The sites are large and private with picnic tables and fire rings. There are three loops — one with 30 amp/water hookups (where we stayed), one with 50 amp/water hookups, and one with more 50 amp sites, tent sites and a couple of cabins. There is also a visitor’s center right as you enter the campground with a dump station nearby.

The park the campground is located in also has a lot to offer: A nice, paved trail system; golf course with restaurant (good food); playgrounds; picnic pavilions; restrooms; horse stables; archery range; disc golf course; and water park, which didn’t open until the day we left.

The nightly rate is $28, which is reasonable, but there was an $8 reservation fee as well as a daily access fee of $6 (or $30 for an annual pass), so if you aren’t staying long, it might not be very cost effective.

Address: 13101 County Parkway B, Coon Rapids, MN 55433

Phone: (763) 324-3330

Amenities:

  • Electric and Water Hookups
  • Visitor Center
  • Campground Hosts
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Playground
  • Dumpster with Recycling
  • Group Campsites
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
Magical light!
We loved the trails and took advantage of them to walk Max and to get some running in.
Again with that light!
Bunker Lake – The boardwalk (in the header photo) crosses the lake as part of the great trail system.

Minneapolis Southwest KOA

We decided to stay at the Minneapolis Southwest KOA on somewhat short notice. We had previously been staying at Minneopa State Park in Mankato, but were going to have to move from our site with electric hookup to a site without electric, as there were no electric sites available for the weekend. It was very hot and we were unsure of the park’s rules regarding generator use, so as we had to hitch up to move anyway, we decided we’d just move to a different park with hookups.

Both Travis and I felt the KOA had a creepy vibe — we’re just not sure why. The clientele was less than desirable, but that’s often the case on weekends at campgrounds like this. Whatever the reason was, we were happy to have full hookups.

We didn’t utilize any of the amenities except for filling our propane, so I can’t really comment on those. I can say that our spot was pretty tight, barely fitting our 28′ Airstream and Ford F-150. The ‘streets’ were even tighter and maneuvering within the campground was a little difficult, especially for big rigs.

Address: 3315 W. 166th Street, Jordan, MN 55352

Phone: (952) 492-6440

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Store
  • Indoor Pool
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Basketball, Volleyball, Horseshoes
  • Cabins
  • Propane Fill
  • Dog Park
  • Mini Golf
The streets were snug, especially when people parked their tow vehicles along the side.
We probably had abut a foot to spare at the end of our pull-through.
It was nice to have a little grass area out the door so we didn’t have to walk anywhere to let Max out before bed.

Red Fox Campground at Minneopa SP

We stayed at Red Fox Campground in Minneopa State Park in Mankato, Minnesota for three nights. The campground consists of two loops: A Loop has 34 sites and B Loop also has 34, six with electric hookups. The campground itself is very primitive, offering few amenities. However, the sites are very private, as you are in a heavily wooded area. We stayed here because we were visiting family in Mankato and there weren’t a lot of options in the area. We stayed from May 29 – June 1 and both the mosquitos and ticks were out in full force. When reserving online, there’s a $10 reservation fee in addition to the $29/night rate, plus a daily $7 park entrance fee (unless you have a MN State Parks pass). We paid a total of $118, or $39.33/night, which is too much for what you get, especially since we couldn’t enjoy being outside due to the bugs.

Address: 54497 Gadwall Road, Mankato, MN 56001

Phone: (507) 389-5464

Amenities:

  • 68 sites
  • Six sites with electric
  • A Loop has a restroom with showers
  • B Loop has one cabin for rent
  • Water fill is available in both loops
  • Dump station, though not within the campground
Site B12, as well as all of the other sites, was extremely private
We enjoyed the views out the panoramic windows!

The park is small and in two parts. One area has the park office, a picnic area, and the Minneopa Falls waterfall. The other area is home to a bison enclosure (which you can drive through), the historic Seppmann Mill sandstone windmill, and the campground. There is a hiking trail near the Falls, but it’s currently closed because it’s washed out. There seemed to be some hiking trails throughout the park, but because of previously mentioned mosquitos and ticks, we didn’t take advantage of them. We did a very quick exploration of the park (because, mosquitos) including driving through the buffalo enclosure (we saw them from a distance), a drive by of the windmill, and a visit to the Falls.

Seppmann Mill – A sandstone windmill that ground wheat and other grains from 1864 to 1890.
Minneopa Falls – The lower falls are 40′ high
Minneopa Falls – The upper falls are 10′ high
These stairs led from the lower falls down to the trail along Minneopa Creek, but the trail was closed due to being washed out.