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.
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.
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!
While we were in Lone Pine, or possibly when we were in Bridgeport, we decided to change our upcoming plans a bit. After Lone Pine, we were originally supposed to drive around the south end of Sequoia National Forest, up the west side, and spend a few days right outside Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We were then going to spend a night in Bakersfield and then drive to Escondido, where we had booked four weeks. But we were tired and it was going to be a lot of driving in a short amount of time, which wasn’t very appealing at the time. We scrapped the trip to Kings Canyon and Sequoia (there really should be an east entrance into the parks from Lone Pine) and booked a week at Pechanga RV Resort in Temecula. We already had plans to stay at Pechanga for three weeks later in the fall, it looked really nice, and we were familiar with the area, so it made sense to us to stay there.
Gas Station with Mini Mart, Diesel, Car Wash and Propane Fill
Fenced Dog Run
On-Property Shuttle Service
Security Patrol 24/7
Walking Distance to Casino and Restaurants
Pechanga is a resort and casino run by the Pechanga Band of Luseño Indians. The resort itself just underwent a 300 million dollar renovation, doubling its size and becoming the largest resort/casino on the West Coast. It really is beautiful and with nine restaurants, a buffet, live entertainment, clubs, lounges, retail shops, a concert venue, a golf course, and a spa — it’s more than just a casino. And if you sign up for a player’s club card, you get a 5% discount at the shops and restaurants.
During both of our stays, we stayed in one of their deluxe sites. While the deluxe site is the lowest level of their sites, it’s one of the nicest sites we’ve ever stayed in. It is a back-in site with an 18’x55′ concrete pad and nice, green grass separating you from your direct neighbor and a tall hedge separating you from the sites behind you. The other more premium sites have amenities such as pull-thrus; sites with picnic tables; sites with a gazebo, grill, and fire pit; and buddy sites, which are sites that face each other so that if you are traveling with friends, you share a large patio area. The pull-thru sites are a little longer at 67′, but otherwise all the sites are the same size as the deluxe sites. Pechanga is probably the cleanest, most well-maintained place we’ve stayed. The pool, laundry room, and restrooms were attended to every day and spotless. Actually, the entire resort/casino property was super clean.
For the most part, things are fairly quiet at Pechanga. However, the weekends can get a little rowdy, especially if it’s a long holiday weekend like we experienced (Thanksgiving). During our four weeks there, there was one incident with one of the guests of the RV park where security had to be called who then called the Pechanga Tribal Rangers, who responded very quickly and handled the situation quite efficiently. Because of the 24/7 security and prompt response from law enforcement, we felt very safe there. I’d also like to note that the Pechanga Fire Department is directly across the street from the RV resort, which is especially reassuring during fire season in Southern California.
Pechanga is part of the Passport America network, which is a discount camping club that gives you 50% off at participating parks. Each property applies it’s 50% off savings differently, and at Pechanga, it’s Sunday through Wednesday on deluxe sites only. Sunday through Thursday has a rate of $50, while Friday and Saturday are $60, unless there’s a holiday which increases the price. The whole reason we got the Passport America membership was because we knew we’d be staying at Pechanga. During our four weeks total that we stayed there, we saved $350 (14 nights at $25 instead of $50), which really made the annual membership fee of $44 worth it.
The one drawback is that guests staying at the RV resort aren’t allowed to use the main resort’s fitness center and pool, which are both sooooo nice.
While Temecula is located inland in Riverside County, it’s just north of San Diego County and east of Orange County, at about a 45-minute drive from the coast. It’s location and lower home prices have led to an increase in residents in the past few years. Because of the increasing population, there’s been a building boom when it comes to both commercial and residential properties. It seems as though most parts of Temecula are brand new and everything is beautifully maintained. While every store and/or service you could need is available, the one thing Temecula lacks is the small town, local charm you find in the beach cities of San Diego and Orange Counties — that is until you drive to Temecula’s wine country. Temecula Valley is home to about 50 wineries scattered throughout the rolling hills. You’ll also find a number of horse ranches and the opportunity for hot air balloon rides. The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is held each June, pairing the two things the area is best known for. Whether you prefer reds or whites, you’ll find something for everybody at the various wineries — some with just tasting rooms; others with restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and spas.
As we had lived in North County San Diego for a bit, we have visited Temecula a handful of times over the years — it’s always a nice place to take people that are visiting from out of town. During our stay at Pechanga, my sister and brother-in-law were celebrating her birthday in San Diego and drove out to Temecula with some friends to spend the night. Travis was out of town on business, but I was able to join them for an afternoon of lunch and wining. We started our day with a few tastings and lunch at Wilson Creek Winery, known for their Almond Sparkling Wine, and then moved on to Akash Winery & Vineyards, then Oak Mountain Winery’s tasting room, which is known as The Cave. If you’re concerned about drinking and driving, you’re able to hire a car or book a wine tasting tour that will drive you from one place to the next.
Another part of Temecula to explore is Old Town. Old Town is the historic center of Temecula. It has an Old West vibe and offers restaurants, shops, museums, and a community theater. The area is becoming more modernized with some great, modern restaurants (1909 has great food, cocktails and beer) and new condos being built.
I didn’t take many photos of our time in Temecula because to us, it’s not a new place. That’s why it’s also a little difficult for us to give an objective review of our time at Pechanga. It’s a great RV resort and we would stay there again, but definitely for a shorter amount of time.