When we left Torrey, Utah, we knew we were headed to Bozeman, Montana. As Idaho was under a 14-day quarantine rule for anyone traveling from outside of the state due to COVID-19, we wanted to drive right on through to Montana without stopping. We found the furthest north RV park in Utah that was along our route, where we stayed for two nights until we made the final push into Montana. We typically would have only spent one night between drive days, but both days were long travel days and we remembered how not fun driving north on I-15 was last year. For some reason, even during a pandemic (though Utah had somewhat lifted it’s stay-at-home orders by this time), the drive from Provo through Orem and Salt Lake and past Ogden just kind of sucks. It’s trafficky, the road is wavy (which is much more noticeable when pulling a trailer), and there was construction (isn’t there always). We figured the two nights of rest would be appreciated, which they were, and we were all rested and ready for our last leg when we left Aspen Grove RV Park in Tremonton, Utah.
Aspen Grove is a fairly new park with very large, paved pads and lots of grass. While the park is very clean and well manicured, there aren’t any trees, so it could be a bit toasty during the height of summer. When we arrived, we were instructed to call the office for a non-contact check in. Someone came by in a golf cart to lead us to our site. We had previously received all rules and a map via email and paid in full the day before arrival.
Besides getting gas, we didn’t leave the Airstream, so I’m not sure what else the immediate area has to offer. Aspen Grove’s website does list some area attractions, including hot springs, a bird refuge, and the Golden Spike National Historical Park.
We left the Zion National Park area on April 3rd and headed to Torrey. Originally, we were supposed to spend a few nights by Bryce Canyon National Park before making our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park, but due to COVID-19, we wanted to keep our travels to a minimum. We had one week booked at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, but after arriving and feeling it out for a few days, we decided to extend our stay to a month. Our next three reservations had been cancelled anyways, so it was nice to find a safe, quiet place to land for a bit.
The small town of Torrey (population ~250) is the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park and home to Wonderland RV Park, a very well kept, small RV park only three miles from the Park’s entrance. We received our site number before arrival, so we were able to do a contactless check in and drive right to our site. The owners disinfected the common areas regularly and made sure there was plenty of room between occupied sites. We spoke to the owners at one point during our stay and they said they had been at about 95% capacity for the months of April and May, but when the coronavirus struck, almost everyone cancelled. During our month-long stay, there was usually only about 6-8 other RVs. We’re really glad we chose to spend our time here and help out a small business that needed it. They were very gracious hosts, allowing us to receive FedEx deliveries, and even wiping the boxes down before they brought them to our site. (The FedEx guy eventually just started delivering right to our site, cutting out the need to involve the staff.) Our site was a long, level pull-through with lots of green grass between us and the next site, though no one was ever next to us. The only amenity we used was the laundry, which has four washers and dryers each. Whenever someone was in the laundry room, they would just keep the door open, signifying to others that it was in use. Between that and all of the surfaces being disinfected a couple of times a day, we had no worries with entering the common space. The only complaint we have about our stay here is that the water pressure is pretty low. We ended up filling our fresh water tank and using our water pump most of the time so that we had better pressure.
Capitol Reef National Park was still open to visitors when we first arrived in the area, though all services such as restrooms, visitor centers, gift shops, the campground, etc. were closed. We didn’t know much about Capitol Reef before we arrived in Torrey, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise — the park is gorgeous!
We took a post-dinner drive through the park on our first night in Torrey to check things out. We were lucky to experience the strangest sunset we’ve ever seen as it looked like the horizon line was on fire!
In the photo below is the Pendleton Barn, part of the Gifford Homestead. The Gifford family lived here, in what was then the small town of Fruita, until 1969. The Fruita Historic District, as it is now known, is still home to orchards containing approximately 3,000 trees, including cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, quince, almond, pecan, and walnut, including the orchards own unique strain, the tart Capitol Reef Red apple. Visitors to the park are able to pick fruit from designated orchards — visit the NPS website here to find out more info about the orchards. The Gifford House today, in the background, is part museum, part store and sells what are rumored to be the best pies ever. Unfortunately, due to being closed during our visit, we didn’t get a chance to see if that’s true.
There’s also a beautiful campground in this area, appropriately names Fruita Campground, that is the nicest national park campground we’ve ever seen. It’s dry camping, though there are restrooms; however, there is no cell signal if that’s important to you.
We were lucky to get two hikes in in the Park before it closed completely to all recreating. Both of them were surprisingly great with amazing views. The first was Chimney Rock Trail, which is a 3.75-mile loop trail with (according to my watch) about 870′ of elevation gain. It’s labeled by the Park as strenuous, and I’d agree, as all of the elevation gain is in the first 1.25 miles. We were surrounded by fantastic views during every part of this trail, and honestly, this trail made us really fall for Capitol Reef.
The second hike we did was the Hickman Bridge Trail. It was approximately 2 miles out and back with about 450′ of elevation gain. The Park rates it as moderate, and again, I’d agree as there are quite a few steps and the elevation gain is noticeable, but is definitely doable by most able-bodied people, including kids. The trail starts along the Fremont River, continues up a couple of switchbacks, and after snaking through some wide open spaces, culminates at the Hickman Natural Bridge, which spans 130′ and rises 125′ above the trail. This was another really enjoyable trail that again was very scenic throughout.
After the park closed completely, we found another hike within a short drive from Wonderland RV Park. It’s called Sunglow Trail and starts in the Sunglow Campground in Fishlake National Forest near Bicknell, Utah. AllTrails lists it as a 1-mile out and back, but we logged a little more than 1.5 miles. We also recorded almost 350′ of elevation gain, as opposed to AllTrails 213′. This trail is very fun but involves A LOT of scrambling and an unclear path, though you’re in a canyon, so you can’t get lost. The trail ends when you reach the canyon wall and a tree growing out of a boulder, cracked open like a pistachio. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but there are quite a few little prickly cacti along the way and at times, very large boulders to scramble over.
Pretty much everything was closed in Torrey while we were there, except for the two other RV parks, gas stations, hotels, and a burger stand. The closest grocery store is about a 20-minute drive to the town of Loa, and is pretty decent considering how remote the area is. If RV parks aren’t your thing, there is a lot of boondocking to be had in the area.
Please note, we understood and were very considerate of the impact travelers can have in a rural area during COVID-19. We visited the grocery store as infrequently as possible, always wore face coverings, wiped down the cart, and hand sanitized frequently. When we got gas, which was only once, we used a disposable glove. When we took the truck and Airstream to a self-serve carwash, we wiped everything down that we touched both before and after use. When we went on hikes, we made sure to give plenty of space to passing hikers, which were few and far between. As full timers, we don’t have the option to ‘stay home’. After spending a few nights at Wonderland RV Park, we felt that it was the perfect place to isolate, so we extended our stay to a month. The owners of the park were incredibly welcoming and thanked us for staying with them. If anyone needs a place to stay near Capitol Reef National Park, please consider Wonderland RV Park — it’s a great property run by amazing people.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
After leaving Hurricane, we hopped on I-15 North to start our trek to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. We spent one night in Provo, Utah along our route before we continued on to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The stretch of the 15 from Provo to Ogden is pretty rough, with a bit of construction, heavy traffic (even at 10:30am on a Wednesday), and bumpy/wavy roads that caused quite a bit of upset in the Airstream.
We were assigned site B1, which is a full-hookup, pull-thru site. When we stay somewhere for just one night, we get a pull thru if possible, as it makes setting up super easy and gives us more time to relax between drive days. We typically won’t get full hookups for a one-night stay, or if there are full hookups, we generally don’t use them. However, since our next location was going to have water and electric only with no dump station on the property, we hooked up the water and electric upon arrival and emptied the gray and black tanks before departing the next morning.
Lakeside RV Campground is located a third-mile from the entrance to Utah Lake State Park and directly across the street from the Provo Airport. There was some road noise and plane noise, but nothing too disruptive. The property is very green with a number of mature trees. As with most RV parks we’ve stayed in, there are some full-time residents, but everything is kept nice and orderly. The onsite dog park is one of the nicest we’ve seen with a huge fenced in, grassy area. We didn’t use any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on the restrooms, showers, or laundry. The pool was not yet open (we stayed the night of May 14), but they appeared to be repainting it and getting it ready to go. The water pressure was pretty light, so we ended up filling our freshwater tank so we’d have good water pressure for showers.
After dinner, we walked up the road to Utah Lake State Park. Utah Lake is the state’s largest freshwater lake and is popular for fishing, boating, personal watercraft and swimming. There’s a campground with 31 sites with water and electric hookups, fire pit, and picnic table, and has restrooms with showers as well as a dump station. There are both pull-thru and back-in sites for $30/night. We didn’t stay in the park long as the bugs, including mosquitoes, were pretty bad.
This was our second stay in Hurricane this spring, with our first being for two weeks at Sand Hollow State Park. After two weeks of getting things fixed up in Albuquerque and a very active week in Moab, it was nice to settle in to WillowWind RV Park for a month. It was also nice to get a great monthly rate ($500 + electric) in order to absorb some of the unexpected costs of our time in Albuquerque.
Hurricane has all of the necessities a person needs — grocery store, gas stations, fitness center, Walmart, pharmacy, some restaurants, movie theatre, community pool, car wash with RV bay, etc. The nearby cities of Washington and St. George can provide anything else — Target, In and Out, Petco, Barnes and Noble, better restaurants, etc. It’s a 35-minute drive to the main entrance of Zion National Park from WillowWind and less than 30 minutes to the Kolob Canyons (west) entrance. Sand Hollow State Park, Quail Creek State Park, and Snow Canyon State Park are all within 35 minutes.
The location also worked well for us work wise when Travis had to drive to Las Vegas for a conference (2-hour drive) and fly to Wisconsin for a business trip (St. George Airport is 25 minutes away).
WillowWind is a nice, fairly quiet, very clean RV park located right in the middle of Hurricane, within walking distance to the grocery store, Walgreen’s, movie theatre, and a number of places to eat. We were in site 31, a grassy back-in site that got shadier as the month progressed and the leaves on the trees came in. There are A LOT of trees on this property which comes in handy when the temp starts to rise, which it did while we were there (April 13 to May 14). If you visit during the warmer months, I recommend looking at the satellite image on Google Maps to see which sites receive the most shade as not all sites are created equal — I’d recommend sites 110-122 (pull-thru sites) and sites 124-153 (back-in sites) for maximum shade. The electric and cable hookups are at the back of the site while the water and sewer hookups are at the middle of the site, which may require longer cords/hoses depending on where the hookups are on your rig. The office doesn’t accept mail on your behalf, but FedEx and UPS deliver directly to your site and the post office, which is a block away, accepts general delivery mail.
It was nice to have a month of having a normal daily routine. While we were in Hurricane, we joined Performance Fitness 24/7 gym for the month. They don’t charge any initiation or cancellation fees, and at $15 for the month, it’s the best deal we’ve found to date since being on the road. There’s no fancy pool or classes, but the machines are nice and they have saunas, hydromassage beds and tanning for an extra fee. We were also able to get an issue with the timing chain fixed on the truck at the Ford dealership in Washington. We had our mail sent to us a handful of times at the post office and we were able to order some things from Amazon that we’ve been needing for a bit. All three of us got haircuts and we were able to stock up on dog food and the good RV toilet paper from Walmart. Before leaving, we washed both the truck and the Airstream. Basically, Hurricane and the Washington/St. George area were perfect for getting errands done that we usually have to put off. We enjoyed our stay at WillowWind and would definitely return.
Of course, we also explored Zion a bit, but that’ll be another post!
We absolutely loved our time in Moab. We had a tough few weeks before arriving in Moab. We had problems with the Airstream, a large project for work that was wrapping up, and a longer than usual business trip. We needed time to decompress and unwind, and our week in Moab was just that. From the red arches to the deep canyons to strolls along the Colorado River, we spent more time in nature this week than we had in months. Moab was everything we had hoped it would be and so much more!
We visited Moab April 7th-13th, which ended up being the perfect time of year. While the temps got cold at night, it wasn’t cold enough for us to worry about pipes or tanks freezing. Even though it tried hard to snow one morning, our days were mostly sunshine and mild temps perfect for hiking. We left Moab the morning Jeep Week started, which is when 4×4 vehicles are allowed on trails they aren’t otherwise allowed on. According to locals, it gets pretty crazy in town — very busy and trafficky — and should be avoided unless you are participating.
We stayed at Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground during our time in Moab. It’s a little pricy at $420 for the week (that’s with a 10% Good Sam discount), but the location is perfect. We were minutes from the entrance to Arches NP, about 35 minutes from Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse Point SP, across the street from Lions Park which has a nice green space and paved trail along the Colorado River, and a short drive into downtown Moab for restaurants, groceries, and anything else you might need. The sites are a little shorter and narrower than other RV parks we’ve stayed at, but our 28′ trailer and truck fit with no issues. Unlike other RV parks, they have plenty of overflow parking for people whose vehicles can’t fit in their sites. In the full hookups section, the sites are laid out in every other direction, meaning you share your ‘front yard’ with the people next to you, although there is a picnic table for each site. While this layout can be a little awkward, we had very nice neighbors during our stay and the benefit is that you aren’t looking at your neighbor’s sewer hose while sitting outside your trailer. There are a lot of tent sites which were pretty popular during our stay, even though it hovered around freezing during some nights we were there. The pool is small but nice and I’m sure it’s incredibly refreshing when Moab starts to heat up. We will definitely stay here again when we return to Moab.
Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Trail: The trailhead for this 3-mile roundtrip, strenuous trail can be found at Wolfe Ranch, which is a 25-minute drive from the Park’s entrance station. The most popular times to visit are sunrise and sunset, but we made the trek at about 10am. There isn’t much shade on this trail, so make sure to be prepared with sun protection. The first half mile is a wide, fairly easy trail. Next, is the slickrock portion of the trail. This is where you’ll feel the elevation gain, which is 480ft overall.
Next, you reach a 200-yard-long ramp that hugs the side of a cliff. It’s here where people that have an extreme fear of heights may have an issue. However, the path is quite wide — wide enough for two people to walk side by side, so just stay close to the inside of the path and you’ll be fine.
Finally, you come around the corner and there it is, all 60 feet of it. It was much larger than I expected, probably because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of Delicate Arch with people in it.
We did the hike on a Thursday, entering the park about 9:30am. When we reached the arch, which took us a little over a half hour, there weren’t that many people. Everyone took a few pics under the arch and then most would sit and enjoy the views for a bit before making the hike back. It was considerably busier on our way back (the picture above of the slickrock portion is from our hike back), so what we’ve experienced in other national parks seems to hold true here — the hours between 10 and 3 are the busiest and are best to be avoided, although Arches is one of the least busy parks we’ve visited. Delicate Arch is a must if you visit Arches!
Double Arch: This is any easy, half-mile trail that should be combined with a visit to North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Double Arch is the highest arch in the park and is very impressive in person.
Windows Trail: The park’s busiest trail leads to North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. It’s about 1 mile roundtrip and fairly easy.
Balanced Rock: There’s a short, third-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved trail along the base of balanced rock.
Fiery Furnace: Our only experience of Fiery Furnace was from the viewpoint, but we definitely want to explore this area in the future. The Furnace is a maze of slot canyons, arches, fins, and bridges with no real trail. Because of this, a permit is required; though unless you know the Furnace well, it’s recommended to take a ranger-guided tour.
Three Gossips: The Three Gossips stand in the Courthouse Towers section of the park. Other rock formations nearby include Nefertiti, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel. The Park Avenue Trail is a one-mile, one-way trail from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, passing the Three Gossips along the way.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore the Devils Garden portion of the park. Arches is on the smaller side for a national park, but there is a lot to discover!
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is a difficult park to visit. The Colorado and Green Rivers have divided the park into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab, just 35 minutes from Moab Valley RV Resort. Even though the pictures below show blue sky and sunshine, not long after we entered the park, storm clouds rolled in and it began snowing. We drove the main road to the Grand View Point Overlook, but it was a white out. It seems that to thoroughly explore this park, one needs to venture onto the unpaved roads (second picture below), many of which require 4-wheel drive. As we had Max with us, we weren’t able to get any hiking in. We decided instead to head over to Dead Horse Point State Park, a short drive from Canyonlands, where Max was welcome to get out of the truck and enjoy the park with us.
Dead Horse Point State Park
The road to Dead Horse Point State Park is right outside the entrance to Canyonlands, so if you’re visiting one, you should definitely visit the other. The views at Dead Horse definitely rival those of its neighbor. The park is a popular destination for mountain biking, but it also has about seven miles of hiking trails that connect eight fantastic overlooks, with Dead Horse Point Overlook offering up a view of the muddy Colorado River and Canyonlands NP. The best part for us is that the park is completely dog friendly, so Max was able to explore with us. There are great picnic areas throughout the park as well as two campgrounds with some sites offering electricity. The entrance fee is $20, good for three days, or $75 for an annual Utah State Parks pass. Fun Fact: The final scene of Thelma & Louise was filmed here. State parks never cease to amaze us, but Dead Horse Point is one of the better ones we’ve visited!
Corona and Bowtie Arches
There are plenty of great hikes in Moab outside of the parks and the hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch is a good one. The trailhead is about four miles north of Moab and has a large gravel parking lot. We did the hike on a Friday at 10:30 and there was hardly anyone on the trail. Dogs are allowed on this trail; however, there’s a ladder and steep section with a chain handhold, so they either need to be very agile, or you’ll need to be able to carry them. The hike is 2.5 miles roundtrip, fun, and has great views. There aren’t any signs marking the trail along the way, but there are green marks on the ground that will keep you going in the right direction.
We ate at a few different places while in Moab, but two of our favorites were Moab Garage Co. and Quesadilla Mobilla.
Moab Garage Co.
Open most days from 8am-8pm, Moab Garage serves up delicious food that feels good in your tummy. The menu isn’t large, but everyone should find something they like, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also have a great coffee bar and make nitrogen ice cream on the spot.
You’ll find this quesadilla food truck on Main Street, near the entrance to Moab’s Food Truck Park. They serve up delicious cheese and tortilla concoctions from 11am-6pm daily, or until they run out of food.
Our week in Moab was one of the best weeks we’ve had since we started Airstreaming full time. We look forward to returning in the future and exploring more of this amazing area!
Where to begin? I guess I’ll begin with how we ended up in Albuquerque when it wasn’t part of the plan.
We were in Hurricane, Utah and were supposed to be moving on to spending the weekend in Zion National Park at Watchman Campground. We drove through the campground a week before when we visited Zion and we weren’t super impressed. Due to the crazy winter the area had been having, there were parts of the campground that were under water. The original loop that we had reserved our site in was all torn up and closed. There was also a lot of work being done in the area surrounding the campground and nearby visitor center. I don’t know if this was due to weather-related issues or planned. Regardless, we weren’t super pumped about the current conditions of the campground, but we would deal with it. As the weekend approached, the weather outlook was not so great, adding to our apprehension. We made the decision to cancel our two nights, which would’ve been Friday to Sunday, and start driving towards our next destination, Santa Fe. We didn’t want to stay in Zion just for the sake of staying in Zion — we wanted to enjoy it, including the site and the weather. Besides, we’d be back in Hurricane in a month, staying at a place a little closer to Zion than Sand Hollow State Park is, and we’d make sure to explore the Park more then.
We found Valles RV Park in Mexican Hat, Utah on Campendium. Mexican Hat is home to Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. I had seem so many pictures of the area and wanted to see it for myself. We decided to spend two nights here, Friday and Saturday, before we moved on to Santa Fe. After spending one night, we decided to leave Mexican Hat early Saturday morning. You can read more about why here.
I know, I know. We’re starting to sound super picky about the places we stay. We really aren’t, but when something doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, we listen to our instincts. It’s done well for us so far, and as you’ll soon read, our instincts didn’t fail us here.
While we were still in Mexican Hat Friday night, we had already decided we were leaving in the morning; therefore, we needed to figure out where we were going. We had a reservation for one night in Kirtland, New Mexico on Sunday, as our original plan had been Zion –> Kirtland –> Santa Fe. We decided our new route would take us from Mexican Hat –> Albuquerque –> Santa Fe, with two nights (Saturday and Sunday) at the Albuquerque KOA. Yay, we had a plan!
When we arrived in Albuquerque Saturday afternoon after six rough hours of driving on Northern New Mexico’s lovely highways, we pulled into what is the nicest KOA Journey that we’ve stayed at. As we were getting set up, I noticed an issue with the converter fan. The converter is what converts the 120 volts of AC shore power to 12 volts of DC to supply power to all of the 12 volt appliances and accessories in the trailer. The converter basically prevents the batteries from draining when you’re plugged in. The converter fan helps to cool the converter unit down when needed. There was no need for the fan to be kicking in, yet it was — very, very often. We also noticed that any time the fan kicked in, the battery voltage would drop from the usual 13.6 to as low as 12.3, which is pretty low but not quite in the danger zone yet. By danger zone, I mean so low that the batteries won’t recover and recharge and are basically dead.
We had no idea what was going on so we got on the Google and various Airstream forums. From everything we read, it seemed as though our batteries were on their way out. This made sense, as the batteries were still the factory installed batteries which are not known to have the best longevity. We looked online to find a place nearby that we could get new batteries and low and behold — Airstream of New Mexico was only a half mile away! We drove over to Airstream and explained what was happening and they agreed with us; it sounded like the batteries. We bought two new ones and made our way back to the KOA where we figured out how to swap them out.
Here’s the thing, neither one of us is very mechanically inclined. Anything electrical is foreign to us and the idea of having to fix something electrical is a bit terrifying. This is a good time to mention that I have no idea if I’m using the proper terms for everything. Please do not take anything I’ve typed here as sacred, legit information. Before pulling the old batteries, we took pictures and notes. We successfully removed the old and installed the new! We were so proud of ourselves that we fixed our issue. That is, until we plugged back in and realized that, in fact, the issue had not been fixed. The converter fan still kept running for seemingly no reason and the battery voltage still kept decreasing when the fan kicked in. We started to notice exactly WHEN the fan would kick on, and it seemed to be whenever there was a certain level of movement in the trailer. Whenever the door was slammed or a cabinet or drawer was closed, it would kick on. So this changed our course of thinking. By this time, Airstream of New Mexico was closed for the day, so we weren’t able to get their input. We eventually figured out that if the fan kicked on, we could get it to kick off by pressing on the metal panel that is in front of it. This made us think that something was loose, so Travis removed the metal panel and removed the circuit board. He sprayed the area with air and made sure all of the connections were tight. He put everything back together and it seemed to work for a while. The fan didn’t kick in and the batteries stayed at their normal level — until they didn’t.
Just a reminder, this was on Saturday. Not only was Airstream of New Mexico closed for the day, but they were closed until Tuesday — they aren’t open Sundays and Mondays. We were supposed to be driving to Santa Fe on Monday where we would be spending two weeks. And to make things more complex, Travis was supposed to fly out of Santa Fe on Friday for a week-long business trip to Minnesota. We decided that we would definitely need to book a third night, Monday, at the KOA so that we could call Airstream Tuesday morning and try to get the trailer in to get looked at. We made it through the weekend by being careful about making the fan kick in, pulling the panel off for a second time to make sure everything was connected tight, and unplugging the trailer whenever we left just to be on the safe side.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning. We called Airstream and….
….they told us they had no service appointments available until May, a good five or six weeks away. Well, crap.
Due to Travis’s impending business trip, we needed to make some decisions. We felt that no matter what, we would be staying in Albuquerque and not going to Santa Fe. This meant we needed to change his flight. We wouldn’t be able to stay in the trailer in its current state, so we booked a room at the Homewood Suites for the next week and a half. This still didn’t take care of what to do with the trailer, so we decided to go in to Airstream to plead our case. We explained our situation. We explained that we’re full timers so unfortunately, this wasn’t as easy as just not using the trailer until it could get fixed. Even though they weren’t able to look at it, they did have a solution. They recommended another RV service center (Tom’s) down the street from them that they do work with often. Airstream called Tom’s and they said if we could bring it in right now, they could fix it. Yay! We hurried back to the KOA and quickly got the Airstream hitched up to take over to Tom’s.
For those of you that aren’t RVers, let me explain what ‘quickly’ means. We had to disconnect the sewer hose, water hose, cable cord, and electric cord. We had to raise the stabilizers. We had to put the hitch on the truck and back it up to hitch up the trailer. We had to remove the chocks and roll off the levelers. As we weren’t getting on the highway, we didn’t hook up our sway control bars, which saved us a step. Inside, we had to get everything off the kitchen and bathroom counters and secure them for towing. Thankfully, the night before we had proactively taken everything out of the fridge and freezer and shut it off, thinking we would be dropping the trailer off at Airstream in the morning. I then ran into the KOA office and extended our stay again, as we were supposed to check out and leave by noon. We extended our stay for a week and a half, thinking we could just cancel the hotel. After all that, we got it over to Tom’s and they started working on it immediately. After checking things out, they agreed that the converter needed to be replaced. Only one problem — they didn’t have one to replace it. The parts supplier in town that they usually get their parts from didn’t have one. Airstream didn’t have one. It was determined that they would order one, receive it the next day, and then install it, meaning we were taking the Airstream back to the KOA for the night and would bring it back again the next day.
Fast forward a few hours and we receive a call from Airstream. I don’t know what was discussed between Tom’s and Airstream, but all of a sudden Airstream was like, bring it in so our certified Airstream technician can take a look at it and we can see if it’s covered by warranty. So, we did. We hadn’t hooked anything back up again when we returned from Tom’s, so we were able to get it over to Airstream pretty quickly.
Also, please keep in mind that we have a small, 14-year-old, grumpy dog that usually gets a bit anxious on travel days. He had no clue what was going on and his anxiety added to our stress as well.
We got the trailer to Airstream, the technician inspected it, confirmed there was an issue with the converter, and they submitted it to Airstream (corporate) to make sure it would be covered under warranty (we’re still under our two-year warranty). Thankfully, it was. But again, the issue arose that they didn’t have the part to replace and would have to order it.
At this point, Travis and I decided that we just wanted to leave the trailer with them and stay in the hotel. He would be leaving on his trip in three days and felt more comfortable with us being in a hotel rather than the trailer. The other issue is that I don’t tow the trailer, so it wouldn’t have been possible for us to go back to the KOA and for me to bring the trailer to Airstream when the part came in. They were 100% fine with that, so then the process of packing everything we needed to take with us began. Sounds easy, right? Well….
Again, we had already assumed we weren’t going to be in the trailer for a few days, so we had packed some stuff. It was Tuesday. Travis was leaving on Friday and would return the following Friday. We wouldn’t be able to pick the Airstream up until Saturday after he got back, so this meant we’d (me & the dog) would be in the hotel for 11 nights. Travis needed to pack everything he needed for his business trip. We needed everything necessary in order for us to work. We needed clothes and dog stuff and bathroom stuff and we packed up all the dry food too, not knowing what we would need. After getting everything we needed loaded into the truck (though I did make another run to the Airstream after realizing we forgot some things) we handed the keys off, stopped at the KOA to cancel our remaining stay, and made our way to the hotel.
The next ten days were pretty uneventful. Airstream called to say they’d be receiving the part on Tuesday. Travis went on his business trip. When Airstream received the part, they called to say that they put us on the schedule for Thursday morning. Travis was able to shorten his trip by a day and fly back Thursday night. This allowed us to pick the Airstream up Friday and stay one more night at the KOA to make sure everything was working properly before we left town on Saturday. We were able to get everything moved back into the trailer, do laundry, clean, and get the fridge turned back on to get it ready for food.
For some reason I did something that I never do the day before we tow — I turned the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on to make sure the tire pressure was good. It wasn’t. One of our tires was reading at 33psi when it should be about 65psi. We inspected the tire and didn’t see anything wrong with it. We measured the pressure with both a tire pressure gauge and the air compressor to make sure the tire pressure monitoring system wasn’t acting up. Everything showed around 33psi. There were only really two explanations. One, someone let air out. Two, the tire was punctured. The first option didn’t make sense so we had to assume that it was the second. While you can pick up a nail or some other sharp object anywhere, the only thing we can figure is that something happened to the tire when the trailer was at Airstream. Seeing as anywhere that could help us was closed for the day, we filled the tire and waited until the next morning to make phone calls. Even though we didn’t think they did, we called Airstream to see if they sold tires. They do not, but said they use Discount Tire for all their tire needs, which was going to be our next call anyway. We called Discount Tire and they said all of their appointments were booked, but they weren’t busy yet, so if we could get there soon, they could take care of us. We had already prepped the Airstream for towing that morning as we waited for Airstream and Discount Tire to open, so we were able to hitch up and get there pretty quickly. They had us checked in even before we pulled in the driveway and they changed out all four tires in about 45 minutes. We decided to buy four new tires because the tires that come on an Airstream aren’t the best quality. We upgraded to Goodyear Endurance, which can carry more weight, have a higher speed rating, and just seem to more durable all around. We didn’t even have them look at the flat tire to see what was wrong with it, because it didn’t matter to us at this point.
So, after new batteries, a new converter, and new tires — we were finally on our way! If you’re ever in the Albuquerque area and are need in of assistance, I cannot praise these businesses enough: Airstream of New Mexico, Albuquerque KOA Journey, Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown, and Discount Tire located at 1119 Juan Tablo Blvd. Everyone was so nice and helpful and understanding and they all provided excellent service on a moment’s notice.
As you can see, a few of the gut decisions we made brought us to Albuquerque which brought us to Airstream of New Mexico. If we hadn’t cancelled our weekend in Zion and instead booked in Mexican Hat, where we then left a night early and skipped Kirtland, heading straight for Albuquerque instead, we probably would have been in Santa Fe when our issue with the converter started. Santa Fe is only an hour drive from Albuquerque, but we wouldn’t have been able to just stop into Airstream and plead our case face to face. For some reason, we ended up in the right place at the right time!
As I stated above, this is a very nice KOA Journey. Like most Journeys, the sites are close together, but our site (128) was was plenty long. The people that work here are so nice and were super flexible when we added a third day, and then added a week and a half, and then cancelled a week and a half. The location is pretty decent to everything Albuquerque has to offer and we would definitely stay here again if we were to return to the area.
1 or 2-Bedroom Suites with Kitchenette and Living Room
Social Hour with Snacks Monday – Thursday Evening
Accepts Mail Delivery
The Homewood Suites in Uptown was a great place to stay for a week and a half. The room was nice, the breakfast was decent, and the social hours with food during the week were a nice perk. Not only does the hotel allow dogs, but they also have a grassy area outside complete with dog waste bag station. The location is absolutely fantastic — the Uptown area of Albuquerque offers great restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, fitness centers and every possible service needed, all within walking distance. Travis was in Minnesota for work during most of our stay, but Max and I enjoyed sleeping in a king size bed, lounging on the couch, and generally just taking advantage of having more space. Personally, I enjoyed the long, hot showers and having dry towels of my very own every day. One of our favorite places to eat nearby is Fork & Fig, but there are so many options. And by the way, Uptown is only a 10-minute drive from the KOA and Airstream dealership, so it was also convenient to drive back and forth.
With all of the ‘excitement’ we had in Albuquerque, we didn’t get out to explore too much. We did a very brief, self-led Breaking Bad tour one evening and visited one of the sites of Petroglyph National Monument one afternoon.
There have been very few places that we’ve felt uncomfortable leaving the Airstream to go out exploring. This is one of the few. Possibly because no one else was staying in the ‘RV Park’ the same time as us. Possibly because there were rows of vehicles parked just 30 yards from us that didn’t seem to belong to anybody in the vicinity. Possibly because the owner is a tad creepy and his father (they both live above the office/store/restaurant) was apparently watching our every move – he didn’t like the way we parked in our spot and called down to his son to let him know. Whatever the reason, even though we paid for two nights, we decided to bug out early after just one night. We also learned the lesson to pay day by day at places that allow it; places like this that don’t take reservations or even write your name down – just take your money.
Why would we have chosen to stay at a place like this, you might ask? We needed a place along our route (there wasn’t much to pick from) and this place actually had a few decent reviews on Campendium. RV park reviews are so incredibly subjective and it can be difficult at times to glean the important facts.
Regardless of where you stay, this part of the country is incredibly beautiful, which is why we wanted to visit. Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods made for some fantastic views during our drive.