As we enter the month of February, we close out three years as full-time RVers, and enter our fourth year! These stats describe our travels from January-December of 2016, the year of our “Grand Loop Trip:”
Number of States: 8 (6 new states with the RV: Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Montana)
Number of Overnight Stops: 26
Where We Stayed: 1 BLM dry camping, 1 national forest, 1 national recreation area, 1 county park, 1 state park, 1 service center, 4 parking lots (hotel, restaurant, Walmart), 4 military bases, 12 private campgrounds
Free vs. Paid: Staying free isn’t our goal, but 8/26 locations we stayed in 2016 were free, including 2 in-kind trades with private campgrounds
The state and overnight stop numbers are almost identical to 2015, but the two years were quite different. We had a number of long (month+) stays in 2016, broken up by overnight stops. In 2015, we stuck to our pattern of staying two weeks in each location.
Monthly Average: $979.39
Most Costly Month: $1,438.42 (January 2015: private campgrounds in Fredericksburg, TX, Las Cruces, NM and Tucson, AZ)
Least Costly Month: $0 (September and October 2016: in-kind trade with private campground in Texas)
Nightly Average: $32.20
Based on what we learned from our first year of travel, we continued to be willing to pay more to stay where we wanted to stay. Our annual camping costs increased $3,231.19 from 2015.
Our biggest splurge of the year was in Sedona, AZ, which was high on my dream-stay list. Rancho Sedona RV Park is almost across the street from the beautiful Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village. Another 10 or so minutes of walking puts you right in the middle of town. The downside? Sites range from $41-64/night with a Good Sam discount, for RVs over 25-feet long. That adds up fast!
After two weeks in Fredericksburg, TX–a charming German town in Texas Hill Country where we always love staying–we made tracks through barren West Texas. We spent a quiet couple of weeks in Las Cruces, NM, where the highlights for me were hiking at Dripping Springs National Area and getting the best tortillas ever from Andele.
Seeing New Things in Arizona
We finally made it into Arizona, our first new state for 2016 and home for the next couple of months! First stop: Tucson. Justin’s Diamond J was well outside of the city, but the scenery was sublime. Every day we hit the trails behind the RV park, which eventually connect to Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park. We loved this area and the Sonoran Desert. I’d definitely go back for another extended stay.
–> Read “Our Spontaneous Afternoon in Downtown Tucson, AZ”
–> Read “Meet the Beautiful Sonoran Desert in Tucson”
–> Read “Things to Do in Tucson, Arizona”
–> Read “6 Reasons to Be Amazed by the Sonoran Desert’s Saguaro Cactus”
Trying International Travel
We left Meriwether, Trogdor and Rhythm in the hands of a friend while we spent two weeks in Cancun for Valentine’s Day. This was our first time taking an extended international trip, and it empowered us to dream of taking more. In 2017 and beyond, it’s easy to be a digital nomad almost anywhere in the world.
Change of Plans
After staying in the heart of Sedona, we took a leap and headed to BLM land outside of town for another full week of wild camping by ourselves! Imagine our disappointment after setting up our whole site, when we went to turn on the generator and it didn’t work. We’ve never had generator issues before! (Note: we haven’t invested in solar power yet, so we typically run the generator three times a day when we’re dry camping, just to recharge.)
We had to change our plans and scramble to find a place to stay, and a place to fix our generator. We detoured north to Flagstaff, where the military campground had just opened for the season…that day. We had an incredibly tight squeeze into our space (seriously, we almost took our some trees–or vice versa), but we had the place all to ourselves. Between the snow on the ground and the towering pines, we felt a bit better about giving up our dry camping spot.
We really enjoyed the town of Flagstaff and spent a few afternoons wandering around the shops downtown and hiking Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
After a week in Kingman, AZ on Route 66 (also unplanned), we circled back to our intended Grand Loop route. I loved our day trip to Oatman to see the wild donkeys roaming the streets!
Springtime in the West
The temperature started to warm as we hit mid-March in Arizona. We spent a week in Lake Havasu City (where we got our generator repaired) before meeting up with friends for a night of wild camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Finishing up our two months in Arizona, we headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. This was Eric’s pick, but I ended up loving the military campground where we stayed, as well as the natural areas around the city. We also took a day trip to Death Valley National Park, which was only two hours away.
Change of Pace With Life-Changing News
Life changed at the beginning of April when we found out we were expecting a baby! Through the rest of the year until Baby Nomad arrived in December, I had varied levels of energy and appetite. Since our adventures revolve around constant activity and food, this amounted to a real change of pace for us. I’m so grateful to Eric for never complaining about all the things we didn’t/couldn’t do. It was often frustrating for me, so I can’t imagine how it felt for him. Good thing our RV adventures have no foreseeable terminus. We can always go back.
We spent Highland Family Spring Break 2016 in Bakersfield, CA. Not our first choice, but where we landed mileage-wise. We loved exploring co-located Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with Javen (15) and Silas (12). In fact, on the way home, Javen announced that he’s considering becoming a national park ranger when he grows up. Since then, we’ve been working with him to pursue the studies and activities that will put him in the best position to achieve his goal.
We spent the next few weeks traveling west and north, staying in Monterey and Petaluma with a day trip into San Francisco. The weather was sublime the whole time, most especially during our drives through Big Sur and along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Mid-year in June, we made the announcement that we were cutting our Grand Loop Trip short to return to Texas for the birth of Baby Nomad. Eric and I are already discussing when we’re going to tackle the places we didn’t make it to this year. We’d like to combine visits to Glacier National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota–all part of our Grand Loop Trip itinerary–with seeing all the national parks in Utah, and spending more time in Wyoming and Colorado. We definitely adore the western United States and there are so many places we still want to experience.
After our friends at Premier RV Resorts kindly hosted us in Redding, CA, we arrived at Emigrant Lake County Park in Ashland, OR. This was probably one of our favorite stays in our travels so far, and definitely one of our favorite campgrounds. We were located on a gorgeous lake we could swim in, within a long bike ride or a short drive to the quaint town of Ashland.
Ashland’s claim to fame is its Shakespeare festival which runs nine months out of the year. I absolutely loved all the restaurants and shops, and found a coffee shop and bookstore that made my heart sing. I really feel like Ashland is an undiscovered treasure not many people know about.
Trouble in Paradise…Portland
We were having a great time exploring Portland, OR, when our Jeep Commander Smaug decided to bite the dust. It was totally unexpected and we basically lost our second of two weeks in Portland dealing with the issue and finding a new vehicle. On the upside, Eric got his Jeep Rubicon that he wasn’t supposed to get until March 2017. He pretty much loves it.
–> Read “We Had a Great Time in Portland, Oregon, But RV Life Isn’t Always Fun”
–> Read “When Your Tow Vehicle Gives Out During a Cross-Country RV Trip, Part I”
–> Read “When Your Tow Vehicle Gives Out During a Cross-Country RV Trip, Part II”
Summer in Seattle
If you ever visit Seattle, hit us up. Eric was born and raised there and has a huge Facebook page about the city, and we were married there. So we know all the places.
We kept busy during our month there with family–Eric’s mother lives there, and Arianna (17), Javen and Silas came out for Highland Family Summer Vacation. Meanwhile, I was getting pretty pregnant. So at this stage, my faithful blogging throughout the year started to take a hit. Sorry about that!
2,300 Miles in Five Days
Seattle was the last place we reached that was on our Grand Loop Trip itinerary. I was overdue to see my obstetrician back in Austin, so we needed to make tracks. My dad flew up to drive Meriwether back to Austin, while Eric and I drove separately with the Jeep.
Anticipating Baby Nomad’s Arrival
Since the end of July, we’ve been in the Central Texas area. We camped in San Marcos through October at Pecan Park Riverside RV Park, then moved to La Hacienda RV Resort near Lake Travis (Austin) on Nov. 1. My life has resolved around preparing for baby, having baby, and taking care of baby. Eric’s life has resolved around baby and his other baby…the new Jeep. He started a blog called Jeepsies and has plugged in with the Austin Jeep community, which is huge. We’ve done a few modifications, with more planned for the near future. Our goal is to be able to explore all the beautiful spaces out west when we return.
Austin is home base for us, so we’ve been doing a lot of things normal stick-and-brick people might do. We’ve met with clients and our blogging team at The Austinot, gone to our favorite restaurants, reconnected with local friends. It’s good, but we miss the road. Our plan is to be here in Central Texas until June 3, 2017, when we’ll launch out on our next adventure. Thanks for sticking with us during this interlude. We’re far from done.