It’s been an incredible year–our sixth as full-time RVers. We’ve traveled so quickly that between work and family commitments, microblogging on Instagram has been most manageable! I’m excited to finally share these experiences with you here.
This is the companion piece to “2019 in Review: Stats and Camping Costs.” Make sure you read that article for a big picture view of our year.
And now, you’re in for a treat! We’re counting down from #19 to #1, with #1 being our top highlight of 2019. How many of these places have you visited?
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19/ Seeing Our New Home on Wheels Arrive
Our lives were transformed when we downsized from a 40-foot RV to a 25-foot RV. Those 15 feet mean a completely new style of travel, especially when you have 420-watts of solar on the roof.
18/ Easter Morning Service in Big Bend National Park
Our first bucket item with our new home was visiting Big Bend National Park on the border of Texas and Mexico. We knocked out a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail on Saturday and went back into the park on Sunday for Easter morning service. It was a beautiful time of worship and community, surrounded by stunning creation.
We stayed at Stillwell Ranch Store & RV Park outside Big Bend.
➡️ Keep reading: Off-road Adventures Through Big Bend National Park
17/ Harvest Hosts Stay at Licon Dairy in El Paso
Licon Dairy wasn’t our first stay as newly minted Harvest Hosts members, but it was one of our first. And, most significantly, it thrilled us and got us really excited about this program for RVers.
We woke up in the morning, stepped out of our front door, and took a self-guided tour of an amazing petting zoo. It was every two-year-old’s dream, and a privilege for me to have such a fun educational opportunity on our doorstep.
If you’ve read our Stats and Camping Costs report, then you know we ended up staying at more Harvest Hosts than any other camping category. Twenty-five total Harvest Hosts locations!
➡️ Keep reading: How a Harvest Hosts Membership Can Supercharge Your RV Adventures (an article I wrote for our friends at AdventureKT)
16/ Third Annual RV Entrepreneur Summit
Building community on the road is essential if you’re going to make it long-term as a full-time RVer. We’re members of several RV-related organizations and have found friendship in so many circles, but the folks at RV Entrepreneur Summit are our inner circle.
We presented at the first two summits and hosted our annual campfire at the third, while attending more sessions than ever since we didn’t have to “worry” about speaking. (I do worry sometimes!)
In many ways, this was a difficult year at summit. We had lost a big client a couple of days earlier, and then the business-related sessions I attended were challenging. I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be as a business owner, and I struggled to come to grips with that.
Of course, recognizing the need for change is the first step. Now nine months later, Eric and I are taking big steps to course-correct.
We will deeply miss attending the fourth RV Entrepreneur Summit in 2020. We just can’t make it work, route- and schedule-wise, with commitments we have in the western United States. We love you all. ❤️
15/ First National Park Campground at Acadia in Maine
Yes, you read that right. It took us over five years and more than 30 national park visits to actually stay at an RV campground in a national park! Two reasons for this: first, the length and size of our previous RV, and not wanting to navigate windy, narrow roads. Second, the lack of Internet connectivity, which we need for work.
But finally the stars aligned at Acadia National Park in Maine! We’re extremely maneuverable at 25-feet and Seawall Campground has great Internet.
It was so fun when our long-time RV friends, Eric Udell and Jeanette Hobbs, spent the night just a few sites down from us!
We also got to camp at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in December, which was a thrill.
14/ Camping on the Street in Burbank
My brother Adam and his wife Linia have lived in the Los Angeles area for years, but we’d never made it out to visit them. All it took was a printed city permit and a few dollars, and we were able to legally camp on the street just around the corner from their apartment.
While we weren’t sure we’d ever get out, with vehicles parked nearly up to our bumpers on either side, we had a lovely weekend in the area.
13/ Charming Cooperstown, New York
Both Eric and I loved Cooperstown in our own ways. A baseball fan from childhood, Eric had always wanted to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For my part, I loved our Harvest Hosts stay at Fly Creek Cider Mill. But really, the whole town was just so charming. I could’ve stayed much longer.
12/ First Foray Into Canada by RV
I’m Canadian by birth and almost all my family lives north of the border. But for some reason, RVing in Canada always seemed intimidating, between Internet connectivity worries and the logistics of storing our weapons stateside before crossing.
But in 2019, we finally did it! From Buffalo, New York, we drove north of Toronto. We parked in a corner of my Grandpa’s apartment parking lot for a week of family reunion. While our actual driving time in Canada wasn’t extensive, we felt empowered for sure. We even got to use our Harvest Hosts membership!
11/ Voyageurs National Park and Woodenfrog Campground
Unless the border of Minnesota and Canada is home for you, you will never get to Voyageurs National Park unless you go out of your way…far, far out of your way.
Woodenfrog Campground was blissfully peaceful, and we had lakeside access just across from our site and down a short trail. After all the summer dry camping, I definitely washed my hair in the lake one night (with biodegradable hiker’s soap).
The national park itself is so beautiful. Most of it is water, so we took a boat tour and got to see bald eagles, a loon’s nest up close, and so much more.
10/ Wild Camping in Coconino National Forest Near Sedona
The Sedona area has been a long-time favorite. Still needing to make up for our botched dry camping attempt in 2016, we went back to Coconino National Forest to find a wild camping spot. This time, we could drive much farther in with our shorter rig.
The pull-off we found was mind-blowing, and it was so fun to go bouncing on the trails with our Jeep whenever we wanted to go anywhere. We revisited the old mining town of Jerome (Haunted Hamburger!) and Caspian earned his first Junior Ranger badge at Tuzigoot National Monument.
9/ Lake Superior as Our Front Yard
Spending summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been on our list for years. Coming in from Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, our first exposure was to the much less-touristed western peninsula.
In late July, we found a spot at Ontonagon Township Park, and Lake Superior was literally our front yard. It was amazing.
8/ Retracing Our Steps and Seeing How Much We’ve Changed
This highlight of 2019 isn’t so much about the destination as the journey. Two times this year, we stayed at campgrounds we’ve been to in the past. Returning to the same place, we could reflect on how much we had changed.
Last time we were in Macon, Georgia, we went kicking and screaming. This time, it was a breath of fresh air, as we took a deep breath after our son Silas’s successful brain surgery. It’s all perspective.
Then, Sopchoppy, Florida. We hadn’t been to this tiny city park since 2014 when we were newbies. We’ve told so many people about it over the years, so we wondered whether we’d still love it. We did, though the 100% price increase in five years was a bit surprising. 😉
7/ Appreciating the Possibilities of Free Camping
2019 was our year of free camping. If you’ve already read our Stats and Camping Costs article, then you know 57 percent of our overnight spots in 2019 were free, or 86 out of 150 places.
Two free camping spots stand out: Bayside Campground in Navarre, Florida, and Raco Field on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Bayside Campground is an established campground with numbered sites that can be reserved online. The waterfront sites are about 20 feet from Blackwater Bay. Caspian and I had an amazing hike through the Wildlife Management Area in the morning. We couldn’t believe this find.
Another free camping spot we loved was Raco Field. To get to there, I slowly drove our RV over a single-lane dirt road. In a clearing, surrounded by trees, there was a concrete pad to park on. This cool place is located within sight of an abandoned air field.
6/ Entire Oregon Coast
Eric is from the Pacific Northwest, and he’s been telling me about the Oregon coast’s beauty for as long as I can remember. This year, we traveled most of Highway 101 up the California coast, and the entirety of the Oregon coast from Brookings to Astoria.
Our favorite campgrounds were Cape Blanco State Park (tidepooling, lighthouse, seclusion), Beachside State Recreation Site (perfect location between Yachats and Waldport), and Cape Lookout State Park (unbelievable coastal beauty outside of Tillamook).
➡️ Keep reading: RVer’s Guide to Oregon’s Beautiful Coast (another of my piece’s at AdventureKT)
5/ Washington D.C.
When visiting Washington D.C., you have to come to grips with the fact you’ll only be able to see a fraction of what you want to. We had an action-packed visit this time, with firsts for both Eric and me.
Our biggest adventure was walking the National Mall at night, doing a huge loop from the Lincoln Memorial across the water to the Jefferson Memorial, returning to the Lincoln. In between, we stopped at:
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Korean War Memorial
Electric scooter highly recommended, but be warned that parking is restricted by the Lincoln Memorial. Thirty-five-pound toddler in carrier = not recommended.
Other highlights included the National Zoo, National Museum of Natural History, Holocaust Museum (Eric went while Caspian and I were at Natural History), Washington Monument, and Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown.
We were in D.C. for three days.
4/ Free Forest Camping at the Doorstep of Yosemite
In June, we spent a week wild camping in California’s Sierra National Forest. The south entrance to Yosemite National Park and the famous Mariposa Grove were only seven miles away.
Two-year-old Caspian did his first unaided two-mile hike in April. But he really upped the ante in June, with THREE two-mile hikes in five days.
➡️ Keep reading: 3 Unforgettable 2-Mile Hikes in Yosemite
3/ Bayfield, Wisconsin and Apostle Islands
Dalrymple Park & Campground in Bayfield, Wisconsin, was one of my favorite overall stays in our six years of full-time RVing.
Caspian and I walked about half a mile to main street Bayfield every morning, where we got local coffee and pastries, played on the lakeside playground, and marveled at the beauty of the water and harbor. The weather played a starring role during our late July visit–it was absolutely perfect during our stay.
I could spend a whole summer right here.
2/ Disney World Differently
Oh, I unashamedly love Disney World. I spent more than half of 2019 listening to podcast episodes, slaving over TouringPlans.com itineraries, and daydreaming in general.
We own a timeshare week in Kissimmee, so this was my fifth time visiting Disney World. But we’d always been spontaneous in our Disney visits, with next to no planning.
This time, we rope-dropped at least twice (meaning we were there at park opening), enjoyed dining reservations galore, explored multiple resorts just for fun, and generally did the whole thing up right.
It was so much fun to have our friends Eric and Tami Johnson of TechnoRV join us for a few days! They treated us to breakfast at Chef Mickey’s and chased Buzz Lightyear around Hollywood Studios with Caspian. We love spending time with them anywhere we are, but this was extra special.
I hope to write a full article with my Disney World tips in 2020! The magic is not overrated.
1/ Overlanding Through Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Range
It may surprise you that our #1 highlight of 2019 was done sans RV. During the three months of the year we didn’t own an RV, we explored the interior of Mexico with our Jeep Wrangler.
The Sierra Gorda mountain range was especially exciting, as we spent a weekend off-grid with local overlanders we met through a forum called Overland Bound. They planned the whole trip for us and we had an amazing time thanks to their hospitality.
This was our shakedown trip to determine whether we’d love international overlanding as much as we expected.
We did. And our lives will be forever changed because of it.
Looking Ahead to 2020 and Beyond
A highlights-driven article was the only way to go, with a year as overwhelming as 2019.
But the highlights mask so much that has consumed our thoughts and prayers. In October, our son Silas was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within two weeks, we had four cross-country flights from Virginia to California and back again, as we met with doctors and loved on our son. His 11-hour surgery was a beautiful success, though recovery continues.
And as I finish writing this on Dec. 30, Eric and I are celebrating the birth of our first grandchild, Maxon Elias. We look forward to being with Silas, Maxon, our daughter Arianna, and our son Javen in January.
In other news, we just announced our 2020 travel plans on Jeepsies, our blog about overlanding and off-roading. We typically share our travel plans here on RV Wanderlust, but you’ll understand more when you read.
If you have any questions at all about specific campgrounds, area activities, or anything from our travels, then just ask in a comment! I couldn’t include all the details above, but I’d be more than happy to elaborate for you.
Thanks for joining us on this journey.