I’m a wee late publishing this one, but the turn of the year was so crazy and the future so uncertain. All our thoughts were consumed by selling Meriwether, moving into our Jeep Wrangler, and overlanding through the interior of Mexico for 2-3 months.
But we bought another RV home sooner than expected and are now straddling the RV and overland lifestyles. And since 2018 was such an epic year (our favorite year of travel yet), it seems a shame to drop the ball on the annual review…even if it is a few months late.
So here goes. In February 2019, we marked five years of full-time travel. The year 2018 started and ended at our home base of Austin. After speaking at RV Entrepreneur Summit, we embarked on our Western Mountain Loop Trip. It was an unbelievable journey through Arizona, all five national parks in Utah, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, the Dakotas, and more.
In the process, we drastically changed as travelers. We broke out of our comfort zone by dry camping for extended periods of time, driving our RV to a few crazy camping spots, and breaking our travel rhythm a number of times.
Eric found out I wanted to overland around the world; we decided to sell our RV home of nearly five years; we outfitted and moved into our Jeep; and we decided to travel to Mexico.
So yeah, 2018 was a big year.
Number of States: 13, including 7 new states (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma). We didn’t add any new states in 2017, so this was an exciting change.
Number of Overnight Stops: 45
This is a breathtaking stat if you compare it to any other year of travel. In comparison, we had 18 overnight stops in 2017. In 2018, we hit 18 overnight stops before the end of June.
Where We Stayed: 1 county park, 1 Elks Lodge, 1 fairground, 1 hotel parking lot, 1 National Park Service campground, 1 service center, 1 visitor center, 3 moochdocking spots, 3 Walmarts, 4 military bases, 5 state parks, 6 city parks, 8 national forests, 10 private campgrounds
That’s some splendid diversity! And of those 365 nights, 105 nights were dry camping. With only a 100-watt suitcase solar panel (so don’t say you can’t do it, too).
Free vs. Paid: Not all of our dry camping nights were free, though many were. If memory serves me, 22/46 locations we stayed at in 2018 were free.
I laugh reading our 2017 review when I said, “We are getting more flexible and adventurous with where we stay.” I mean, we were, but 2018 broke every mold. There were multiple times when our two-week-stay rhythm went out the window. We left early; we stayed longer. We just didn’t stress.
2018 Camping Fees
Total: $7,283.94 (we spent $8,525.46 in 2017 and $11,752.62 in 2016)
Monthly Average: $607 ($710.46 in 2017)
Nightly Average: $19.96 ($23.36 in 2017)
Most Costly Month: $1,068.68 (July 2018: I’m pretty sure this is when I reserved Clear Creek in Golden, CO, my favorite place to stay and also pricy)
Least Costly Month: $194 (September 2018: Clear Creek was already paid for, and most of the rest of the month was free camping)
In the past, our line was always, “We’re willing to pay more to stay where we want.” But in 2018, there was a shift as we sought dry camping spots off the grid, becoming a bit obsessed with awesome free camping spots.
Not surprisingly, our 2018 camping fees were the lowest they’ve ever been.
Now for the recap of our route and adventures…
Launching Our Western Mountain Loop Trip (January-March)
We always spend the holidays around Austin and Corpus Christi. The former is our home base where we have friends, clients, doctors, and dentists. The latter is where my parents live.
We stayed in Texas a while longer this year, since we wanted to attend the second annual RV Entrepreneur Summit. We gave a presentation and workshop on blogging, and loved spending time with our tribe.
The first night of our Western Mountain Loop Trip was spent dry camping at Sea Bee Park in Abilene. It set the perfect tone for our upcoming year of travel, and we followed it up with bison and prairie dogs at Caprock Canyons State Park.
➡️ Keep reading: Caprock Canyons State Park, Where the Texas Bison Roam Free
Heading west through New Mexico, we stayed at Santa Rosa State Park, Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, and USA RV Park in Gallup.
Gallup was a big surprise, with interesting National Park Services sites surrounding it, and the most amazing New Mexican food we’ve ever eaten. We’ve tried to replicate the experience. But even in Santa Fe, we haven’t found food as good.
➡️ Keep reading: Gallup, NM Reminds Us Not to Jump to Conclusions
Every National Park in Utah (April-May)
In Arizona, we mostly retraced our steps. A.k.a. we went to a ton of old favorites: Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. Spring Break fell during this time, and we had all five of our kids together for a few days.
We also spontaneously stopped in Page, Arizona, for one night. We dry camped at the amazing Lone Rock, finally toured Antelope Canyon, and stopped by Horseshoe Bend for a photo op.
➡️ Keep reading: You’ve Got to Park Your RV Here When You Visit Page, Arizona
Then it was north to Utah, and all five national parks in the state. When all was said and done, Eric’s favorite was Capitol Reef and mine Zion. I got to solo hike Angels Landing at Zion, which was fantastic.
Moab (basecamp for Arches and Canyonlands) was a milestone for us. At Sand Flats Recreation Area just outside town, we dry camped for 22 straight days (we dumped once, at 16 days).
I regret how little I blogged about our time in Moab. Nothing about Arches or Canyonlands. Maybe I’ll get around to it next time we visit (there will most definitely be a next time).
➡️ Keep reading: Moochdocking in Toquerville, Base Camp for Zion National Park (also has info on Bryce Canyon)
➡️ Keep reading: One Day in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah’s Hidden Wonder
➡️ Keep reading: 3 Straight Weeks of RV Dry Camping in Moab, Utah
➡️ Keep reading: Utah’s Beautiful Heber Valley and Jordanelle State Park
Grandeur of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks (June)
I get excited looking back on this phase of our travels and struggle to put it into words. We found a lakeside national forest spot in Idaho, struggled with the Internet at our most beautiful campsite of all time, and visited Yellowstone from two different directions.
During one full day in Yellowstone, we counted:
- 1,450+ bison
- 40 elk
- 33 pronghorn
- 10 big horn sheep
- 3 grizzly bears
- 2 black bears
- 2 mountain goats
➡️ Keep reading: Lakeside Dry Camping on the Idaho/Wyoming Border
➡️ Keep reading: Our Most Beautiful RV Camping Spot Ever: Upper Teton View
➡️ Keep reading: West Yellowstone: Base Camp for National Park Exploration
Glacier National Park and Our Emergency Change of Plans (July)
And then we pressed farther into Montana. By this time, we had Javen (17) and Silas (14) with us, and we were planning our visit to Glacier National Park.
But we had a health scare with Eric’s mom, and had to beeline for Seattle. Though it wasn’t what we intended, the pieces fell into place perfectly for us to focus on her.
We’re so proud of the way Javen and Silas selflessly gave their summer vacation time to their grandma.
➡️ Keep reading: Crisis Averted, Realigning With Return Trip East Through Spokane
➡️ Keep reading: Meet Me at the Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene
➡️ Keep reading: Dry Camping Just Outside Glacier National Park
Loving the Dakotas (August)
Heading into August, we added two new states to our map: North Dakota and South Dakota. The big destination in the northern state was Theodore Roosevelt National Park–the only national park named after a person.
While the neighboring town of Medora was a bit of a disappointment due to its touristy nature, AND the temperature was over 100 degrees, the national park was still gorgeous.
South Dakota was a thrill, all the way through. We spent more than three weeks in the Rapid City/Black Hills area. I’m not sure why everyone isn’t talking about how stunningly beautiful it is there, and how much there is to do.
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Confession: I didn’t know Wind Cave National Park was right outside Rapid City until we got here. 🤦🏻♀️ I knew the name, but never processed what part of the country it was in! Anyway, we made it out here and it was awesome. Two highlights: the cave system (various ticketed tours available) and the prairie lands. We’ve been so many places with bison this year, but this was our very best viewing experience. The herd walked all around us, with bison of all ages and gender, and the bulls were making sounds like we’ve never heard. It’s amazing how visitors to Yellowstone can stop traffic to see one bison in the distance, but a lesser known park like this can offer such an incredible experience. #rvwanderlust #westmtnloop #windcave #windcavenationalpark #findyourpark #bisonlove #gorving #rving #makemoments #rvlife #homeiswhereyouparkit #rvliving #rvadventure #rvroadtrip #rvlifestyle #homeonwheels #fulltimerv #fulltimetravel #rvtravel #lifeontheroad #seeyououtthere #findyourselfoutside
➡️ Keep reading: Buried in South Dakota’s Black Hills for Weeks
Colorado Favorites and Getting Back to Texas (September-December)
Nebraska was more interesting than we expected, with three National Park Service units to experience in the Scottsbluff area.
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<——SWIPE——> Scotts Bluff National Monument has a smaller visitor’s center with older exhibits, but does that matter when you have an opportunity to walk a portion of the actual Oregon Trail? We were filled with so much wonder as we contemplated the depth of spirit required to make this trip into the unknown. It puts our leap into fulltime RV (or Jeep) travel into perspective, doesn’t it? #oregontrail #rvwanderlust #westmtnloop #pioneerspirit #scottsbluffnationalmonument #scottsbluff #caspiantheodore #babynomad #rvingwithkids #fulltimefamilies #gorving #rving #makemoments #rvlife #homeiswhereyouparkit #rvliving #rvadventure #rvroadtrip #rvlifestyle #homeonwheels #fulltimerv #fulltimetravel #rvtravel #lifeontheroad #seeyououtthere #findyourselfoutside
➡️ Keep reading: We Finally Made It to Nebraska With a Stay in Scottsbluff
Mid-September, as the aspen were turning yellow, we pulled into the Denver area. Clear Creek RV Park in Golden is my favorite overall place to stay because of the RV park + town combination.
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Golden, Colorado, with Clear Creek flowing down from the mountains and right through our backyard. 🏞 We first stayed here in 2015 and were back briefly in 2016. This is a big statement, but this is my favorite place we’ve ever stayed. There isn’t too much to the RV park itself. But the setting is stunning and it’s within walking distance of everything in this charming little town. 🌳 #rvwanderlust #westmtnloop #goldencolorado #goldenco #clearcreek #colorfulcolorado #rvpark #fulltimefamilies #rvingwithkids #gorving #rving #makemoments #rvlife #homeiswhereyouparkit #rvliving #rvadventure #rvroadtrip #rvlifestyle #homeonwheels #fulltimerv #fulltimetravel #rvtravel #lifeontheroad #seeyououtthere
My youngest brother/sister-in-law live in Denver, and my parents and other brother/sister-in-law visited in October. We had a splendid few days of family reunion.
Eric flew out to Seattle for his 30th high school reunion. And we got our roof rack and roof top tent installed on our Jeep, in preparation for our trip to Mexico.
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<——SWIPE——> The catalyst for new adventures. Our friends at @altitudeindustriesllc installed our @ikamperexpedition tent, and we broke it in this weekend at Twin Lakes. Right now, everything is experimental. We’re not viewing it as “this is way cooler than the tent camping we’ve done before” because that has nothing to do with our long-term goals. Instead it’s, “what do we need to live out of this for two months?” Lots of experimenting, learning, and discussing. Beyond our Mexico overlanding trip in January (see our blog for more details), we don’t know what the future holds. That’s the fun of it. #rvwanderlust #jeepsies #westmtnloop #babynomad #caspiantheodore #jeeplife #rooftoptent #overlanding #overlandfamily #overlandingfamilies #twinlakes #offgrid #homeiswhereyouparkit #homeonwheels #findyourselfoutside #outdoorfamilies #travelingwithkids #goadventuretogether #outdoorfamily #adventurefamily #kidswhotravel #takethekids #takeyourkidseverywhere #toddlertravel #toddlertravels #adventureswithkids #exploringfamilies #toddlertravel
And with those landmark events behind us, we started making our way back to Texas for the holidays.
Santa Fe was a highlight, per usual, and we stayed at our first Elks Lodge in Oklahoma. We actually left the RV there, while we attended Overland Expo in Asheville.
Oh, and Caspian completed his first one-mile hike unaided, while he was still one-year-old.
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He did it! Caspian hiked a full one mile as a one-year-old. 🎉 We missed National Take a Hike Day (yesterday), but it was worth getting to visit Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and hike along Burford Lake. ⛰ We bundled up in *34-degrees* and loved witnessing our little guy accomplish this milestone. Our hope is that we’ll add an additional mile for each year of his life. We want to keep it fun for him…which clearly it is right now. 💕 <——SWIPE——> #rvwanderlust #westmtnloop #babynomad #caspiantheodore #hikeitbaby #wichitamountains #wichitamountainswildliferefuge #hikingwithkids #hikingwithtoddlers #runwildmychild #gorving #rving #makemoments #rvlife #homeiswhereyouparkit #rvliving #rvadventure #rvroadtrip #rvlifestyle #homeonwheels #fulltimerv #fulltimetravel #rvtravel #lifeontheroad #seeyououtthere #findyourselfoutside
And before we knew it, we were back in Texas. And it was a whirlwind. We rushed to get final maintenance done and officially put Meriwether up for sale. We painted over our bison on the front of the rig. We had a ton of Mexico preps to tend to. And it was the holidays with family in town. I was introspective as our last two weeks in the RV came around.
Before the end of the year we were able to announce that our RV home had a new family.
While our 2019 adventures seemed so daunting, here we are on the other side of Mexico, with a fresh RV home, loving life and making more crazy plans. We’re grateful for you, our community on the road.