Below you’ll find all of our 2020 RV life updates from the road in one place.
1/2/2020– 1/4/2020: Almond Tree Oasis RV Park in Coalinga, CA
We started 2020 with a quick two-day stop off I-5 that basically served as a break in our travels from the San Francisco area to the Las Vegas area.
While in town, we had the added bonus of meeting some family members I’ve wanted to meet for years, the Wyatts!
1/4/2020 – 1/20/2020: Las Vegas RV Resort in Las Vegas, NV / Walt Disney World
After the holidays, we decided we wanted to spend the winter exploring Arizona and New Mexico while also taking in their warmth. However, before doing that, we had a Disney marathon to run with family!
We chose to fly out of Las Vegas for our Florida trip. Plugging in there was almost entirely to protect the rig, keep it close to the US’s southwestern area, and give the cats a cool place to hang out for ten days. (Also, flights and RV parks were cheaper out of Las Vegas than where we were back in San Francisco.)
We arrived at the Las Vegas RV Resort only to find out that we didn’t actually have a reservation. Luckily, after a period of nervousness, it all worked out! We were super relieved since we had limited time before our departure, already researched the area, picked this park, and booked a local cat sitter.
So, the RV was parked, the cats were introduced to their new sitter, and we took off to Tampa, where we spent a night with my parents.
Next, we woke up the following morning and took off toward Orlando for what was an epic week of family time!
This trip would have gone down as a 2020 highlight, even without the impending global disturbance. This magical week included a day trip to Sea World where we rode all the rides and ate dinner with sharks, feeling like James Bond villains:
Cheered on our family from Wales, and the rest of the American Cancer Society runners, during their half marathon:
Ran a full marathon with our family from Wales:
And then preceded to wake up the next four mornings in a row to hit up all four parks together:
We did it all! We even made it to Star Wars land, where we encountered Kylo Ren, and I quickly got the hell out of there and left my sister-in-law for dead. 😂 Sorry, Sabrina!:
The entire trip was incredible! However, I’m also not 100% sure how my body did it. It must have been all those Florida hot tub sessions!
On the last day, all of our family left, but we still had one more day in Orlando. We had initially planned on hitting up Fort Wilderness, maybe go to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and check out the Disney RV park. But we were so worn out. We ended up just getting a hotel room near the airport and proceeded to consume tons of junk food and TV instead.
We got back to Las Vegas, knowing we wanted to stay in the southwest warmth until winter was over, but with no specific plans beyond that. So, we decided to head to Lake Mead for a week of recovery and future destination planning.
1/20/2020 – 2/23/2020: Lake Mead RV Village in Boulder City, NV
When we arrived back in Las Vegas, one of our cats was pretty sick. It was a bit of a shock to me. After a day or two, she got better, but we realized we can’t leave her with a sitter for that length of time anymore.
After Vodka (and for those who don’t know, that’s my cat’s name) got better, Barrett then proceeded to get sick and slept for what I swear was three straight days, which I’ve never seen him do before. Then… a couple of days later, I got super sick and was out of commission with terrible exhaustion and congestion for almost two weeks!
(In retrospect, we believe we may have actually brought the 2020 illness back with us from Disney, but this was pre-modern day virus awareness. At the time, the health clinic tested us for the flu and said we didn’t have that, just a nasty cold.)
Our other cat, Squirt, seemed to be the only one to come out of the Disney trip unscathed. However, eventually, we all started to feel better. So, we sat down and figured out our travel plans for February through June.
We decided we would leave Nevada at the end of January.
This was when everything started changing, and the year that would teach us plans are futile started for us. What was supposed to be, “Let’s spend a week or two by Lake Mead, relax, catch up on work, make some future travel plans and then continue on…” turned upside down.
First, my phone’s logic board up and quit one day. We had to head into Las Vegas and spent most of that day running errands and getting a new phone. Simple enough.
But then, we decided to go see the Hoover Dam the day before we traveled onward. On the way, while waiting in the Hoover Dam security line, our truck stopped. Barrett turned to me and said, “The truck stopped.” My gut reaction was, “Well yeah, we’re in a line.” Barrett quickly says, “No, the truck is completely stopped. It won’t turn on.”
So there we were, in the middle of barricades and cones, waiting to enter the Hoover Dam area, completely stopped. Barrett tried multiple times to turn it back on. Nothing. We got out, popped the hood. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We were baffled. The people in cars behind us started getting out, asking us what was wrong. It was a mess. So logically, Barrett walks up to the security stand and asks for help.
Somehow (I still have no idea how), Barrett managed to sneak up on and scare this man. He jumped and grabbed toward his gun. Barrett quickly clarified that we just needed help. They came down and helped us push the truck out of the way so the accrued line could keep moving.
I jumped on the phone, got us a tow. The Hoover Dam’s folks sent out the bomb-sniffing dogs to take a few laps around our truck. This all happened in a manner of minutes, but to me, it felt like an eternity.
We then proceeded to sit there and wait three hours for a tow truck. Because while moving the truck out of the way, we managed to push it under a freeway overpass, which ended up confusing multiple tow companies. But eventually, we got a tow!
The next day, while waiting to hear back on the truck, we decided we had to do something other than just sitting around and worrying. So we went and saw the Hoover Dam by boat instead. I was still trying to pretend what happened with the truck would not be a big deal and doing my best to enjoy the surroundings.
But, we got a call at the end of the boat ride, and that was not the case. The truck problem was not small.
Part of our fuel system blew up, sending metal shards throughout the whole thing. Our entire fuel system, along with some other parts, had to be rebuilt. We were going to be hanging out at Lake Mead for a while.
In case you have the same truck as us, here’s an article that will shed some light on what exactly happened to our truck. I can’t guarantee reading that article will help you sleep better at night, but it may help you realize you should probably start using fuel additives earlier than we did!
We came back from our fantastic vacation (which I kept feeling like I didn’t even deserve for some reason while we were there) to what felt like complete chaos. Everyone was sick. Our Austin tenants suddenly decided to break their lease early. I was now playing middleman between GMC and our extended warranty company. My phone broke, and then it actually broke once more. EVERYTHING was falling apart all at once. That entire time felt utterly unsettling.
To top it off, the campground we were at would not let us extend and stay in our spot. At first, they implied we needed to go elsewhere. We were calling around to tow companies trying to find someone who could move us to another RV park. We figured worst comes to worst, we could get a tow from our insurance company. But then the campground found a spot for us that was available for an extended stay. We were so relieved. We found a friendly neighbor to help move us.
Then, one random afternoon, a week or two later, the park decided it was time to give that spot to someone else and that we only had 45 minutes to move along. We reminded them we had no truck to use to move us and were able to agree on extending a bit longer. Which was great, but the rest of the time we were there, I was nervously worrying whether or not that would happen again.
We did, however, go on to make the best of a cruddy situation. GMC gave us a convertible Camaro as a rental! That was pretty cool and a reasonably significant change for us! So much of a change that one of us went on to get a speeding ticket… 🙄 😫
But that didn’t stop us from taking our new Camaro friend out on a few adventures! We took it to Valley of Fire State Park for some classic road trip fun:
And explored some more hikes around Lake Mead:
We even took it out for a weekend of Valentine’s Day fun on Fremont Street!
One more exciting thing that happened during this time was that we got an opportunity to partner with Escape campervans for a 3-day journey to Death Valley! (You can read more about that experience here.) That trip was amazing! I whole-heartedly believe that spontaneous adventure was necessary to get us through that challenging period. I cannot thank them enough for letting us play in one of their campervans for a few days! Also, Death Valley is beautiful and highly underrated, in my opinion.
Want to get away and play in your own Escape campervan rental for a few days?
I highly recommend it!
Use this link to get 10% off an Escape campervan rental.
Still, even with all that fun and beautiful scenery, the period at Lake Mead felt unnerving. I am, of course, never looking for pity when I share these stories. At the end of the day, I love the adventures and stories that RV life gives us.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that those few weeks were really hard on us. Our moods were all over the place. We were getting testy with each other and anxious for regained control of our time and space.
Eventually, though, we did regain control, fixed everything, and then immediately got the hell out of dodge!
2/23/2020 – 3/2/2020: Big River RV Park in Big River, CA (outside of Lake Havasu, AZ)
Sweet, sweet freedom!
While in Big River, we explored the surrounding Lake Havasu area for a couple of days. We hiked SARA’s crack:
Fed some wild burros and saw a gunfight show in Oatman, AZ:
Took a very bumpy ride to The Desert Bar in the middle of nowhere:
And even met up with our friends Meghan and Aaron for a day of catching up and exploring in Joshua Tree National Park:
Things were starting to feel back on track.
The hard times in Lake Mead generated many conversations around the future of RV life. While here, we also decided to reassess all of the future plans we made for March-June. We knew we needed to take a moment to cut out some of the fat and ask ourselves what was still fitting.
Were we still focusing on the end goal of finding our future home and doing our best to not get distracted by “all of the things?”
Since Colorado was high on our possible part-time home list, we decided to cut down on a few upcoming stops and get to Colorado in May instead of June. However, we would stay in the warmth of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico during what remained of winter.
3/2/2020 – 4/30/2020: Cactus Country RV Resort in Tucson, AZ
Welp, between our previous week and the beginning of this Tuscon stay, we had about two to three glorious weeks of enjoying our regained feelings of “control” and our newly reassessed plans. 😹
We first showed up in Tucson as we do any other spot. Excited to explore the area, with a list ready of places we wanted to see! And we actually did get to visit a lot of those places before all of the closures started.
- We hiked in Saguaro National Park
- Joined Anytime Fitness (since we see them EVERYWHERE, whether we’re in a big, small, or micro-city)
- Took a tour of Biosphere 2 (which was awesome):
- And went on an incredible hike with my friend Lindsay’s parents Jeff and Diane:
- We even saw a show at the Gaslight Theatre!
But then, obviously, everything changed come mid-March. All of our Utah and New Mexico plans from mid-March until the end of April were scrapped, just like everyone else’s plans.
We decided to stay put where we were in Tucson. We spent most of that time hanging out inside the Cougar with our cats, biking the Julian Wash Greenway Trail, hiking the trails around our campground, Tucson & in Saguaro National Park, working, going live on Insta, and once again, reassessing.
All of the trails we covered in the National Park and the surrounding area during the “Stay at Home” period include:
- Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls
- The Mica View Trail, to the Pink Hill Trail, to the Loma Verde Trail to the Cholla Trail, to the Cactus Forest Trail Loop
- Agua Caliente Hill Trail
- Hope Camp Trail
- Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail
- Part of the Arizona Trail: Marshall Gulch to Aspen Trail
- Molino Basin Trail
- Green Mountain Trail
The last few days in April brought high temperatures of 105 degrees. Since we only have 1 rinky-dink air-conditioner that cannot keep up with that kind of heat, we took it as a sign that it was time for us to resume RV life and head out of Tucson.
Our initial plan was to stay within Arizona by moving up to Flagstaff and Sedona’s cooler climates.
At the time, we were still trying to figure out how to navigate the US’s “new normal.” Arizona had looser restrictions than other US states, so we figured we’d stay within the state we were familiar with for a bit longer.
Awesome Date Night Mention: The Gaslight Theatre is fantastic, and when it reopens, it should be experienced by all!
4/30/2020 – 5/2/2020: Greer’s Pine Shadows RV Park in Flagstaff (& Sedona), AZ
Once we arrived in Flagstaff, everyone was super happy to be back in the cool temperatures and pine trees! While parked there, we had multiple other RV owners approach us, which is not uncommon. RVers are almost always super friendly; however, it hadn’t happened in a while. One neighbor was even following Barrett around, latching up all our side panels for him after he closed them. 😂
The night we arrived, we met up with some friends for a social distancing hike near their Flagstaff boondocking spot. The views were beautiful, and honestly, it was also wonderful to converse face to face with friends for the first time in almost two months.
While in the area, we also took a day trip to Sedona. Many of the #Instafamous trails were closed, but the one I really wanted to hike, Bear Mountain Trail, was not! I was excited because this trail was recommended to us months prior by a hiker we met in Havasu. He said it was “the most beautiful hike in Sedona!” and I have to imagine he was right because I can’t believe another one would be much better! This hike blew me away! We saw a handful of people on the trail, but not many, and for the most part, it was easy to stay apart.
On the drive into town, though, we went by a State Park SWARMED with people and got a juice at a spot flooded with locals. In some ways, it felt like nothing was even happening in Sedona. In other ways, it felt ghostly because the downtown area was entirely shuttered up.
Soon after arriving, we heard Colorado was opening up to visitors and decided it was time to attempt to get back to our part-time home search!
We took a bit of an extended path to Colorado, driving through Monument Valley because I had always wanted to see that area.
We spent most of that drive traveling through a weekend curfewed Navajo Nation. The only things that were operating were gas pumps. We saw a grand total of one person walking around, one person biking, one wild horse, and countless closed businesses and stands. It was one of the eeriest drives of my life, and it put the realities of how hard that area was hit in perspective.
We stopped at Forrest Gump Hill to take some pictures with the RV.
While there, we saw approximately five other families in vehicles, all parked in separate pullouts. That was the most people we saw at once the entire day.
5/2/2020 – 5/6/2020: Vallecito Resort in Bayfield, CO
Moving along during the state of the world in 2020 was emotionally taxing. At this point, I had no idea if leaving Arizona was the right decision.
I’m sure some people will praise us for continuing to live our mobile lives while others will condemn us for moving along too quickly and not staying still.
All I know is we interacted with just about no one in Tucson, and it was getting hot! Our RV’s one little air conditioning unit is not meant for 105 degree days. And since the RV is all we have as a home and it needed to be parked somewhere cooler, we came to Colorado hoping that life would start to become a bit more normal while we were there.
We just had to do what felt right to us.
Our first RV stop on our Colorado lake town tour was at an RV resort near Vallecito Lake. We were planning on staying in the area until mid-May; however, we ended up shortening our stay due to non-existent internet, as well as realizing pretty quickly that the surrounding area was a bit too small for us to consider living in part-time.
It was, however, beautiful! It was also a great place to transition into post-lockdown life because it was calm, quiet, and the temperatures were moderate once again.
While in this area, we actually had better cell service and internet at the public picnic tables around the lake than at our campground. So we spent a great deal of our time picnicking and working around the lake.
We also spent one day hiking the local Vallecito Creek Trail, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in the Durango area!
5/6/2020 – 5/16/2020: Alpen Rose RV Park in Durango, CO
Okay, I’m not going to lie; our relocation from the lake to Durango was another move that felt a little odd.
We drove straight into a city in a moment of transition. The state of Colorado had started opening to visitors. Still, we didn’t realize that Durango’s county had not fully opened to visitors yet, even though the RV park accepted us. We spent the first couple of days feeling like invaders.
We arrived in what felt like a ghost town and then quickly watched it turn into a lively summer town during the subsequent ten days. We went from being the only people in our RV park to seeing the park become half full. Grocery store shopping went from mellow to the most substantial amount of people we had seen in one place since early March.
I found all of it super overwhelming.
While there, we went on a day hike on the Colorado Trail to Gudy’s Rest to get the beautiful view pictured above. This is a hike that’s also open to mountain bikers and was reasonably busy the day we hiked it. We spent a lot of our walk jumping off to the sides, but the view at the end was phenomenal and worth it! 😃
Restaurants never fully opened while we were there. But we did get some fantastic takeout, including a Mexican restaurant called Switchback Taco run by a couple from Detroit!
While there, I also got the opportunity to talk to Good Morning Texas about summer RVing with your family!
To say my mind was a tornado of feelings doesn’t even begin to cover it.
5/16/2020 – 5/30/2020: Ouray RV Park in Ouray, CO
Next, we arrived in Ouray THE day they were opening the city to visitors. Yet again, we spent the first part of our stay feeling a bit uncomfortable in the tranquil town.
However, we had three super impressive experiences while in Ouray!
- We hiked the entire perimeter of the town on the aptly named Perimeter Trail. It was wildly beautiful. We saw multiple waterfalls, mountains, meadows, amazing views of the city, and deer.
- We rented a jeep for a day of traversing the local jeep roads. This was incredible; we literally took the jeep over a mountain! (Which we had never done before.) And we arrived on the other side into Silverton, only to find out they had just opened to visitors on that day. We had a beer at a bar for the first time in months.
- We also took a day trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I wish we would have stayed the night here and walked down to the bottom because I believe that’s probably the most beautiful way to see this park. Nonetheless, the Warner Point Nature Trail, Cedar Point Nature Trail, and Oak Flat Loop Trail were lovely. We had a very peaceful day visiting the park.
As for the Ouray RV Park, this is an RV park you stay at for the location to town and the beautiful 2-mile walking loop right outside your front door! You don’t stay there for the RV spot. I hate to say it… we had nothing but good experiences at the park and with the staff… but the sites here are the tightest we’ve ever encountered. I could hear conversations on either side of the RV at almost all times.
When it was time to leave, you wouldn’t have known the town was ever shut down. Shops were bustling, and restaurants were opening. The only thing I feel we really missed out on in this area was the gorgeous Hot Springs complex in the middle of town (which never opened while we were there). We’ll definitely have to go back and experience that someday!
At this point, it was starting to feel like summer.
Notable Food Mention: Taco Del Gnar in Ridgway, CO. I’m not much of a foodie, but I’ll be dreaming about those tacos for a long time! 😋 Yum!
5/30/2020 – 6/3/2020: River Bend RV Park in Montrose (& Crested Butte), CO
We were never originally going to stay in Montrose or Crested Butte. Crested Butte was walloped with illness early on. They completely shut down the town to tourists and issued $5000 tickets to anyone trying to come in, even if you had a second home in the city! We figured we would miss it, but then our friend messaged us and told us the town had reopened to outsiders. So, we decided a visit was necessary before moving along.
We figured we could make it easy on us by parking the rig in Montrose. That way, it would stay on our path to our next destination, and then we could simply take a day trip out to Crested Butte to visit with our friend Val before moving along to Grand Lake.
She gave us an epic tour of the town, including a stroll through the first farmer’s market of the season, a fantastic lunch on the patio at Coal Creek Grill, and a drive to a ton of scenic mountains and lakes spots! We spent the rest of the evening consuming as much of her alcohol and snacks as possible and playing Uno into the wee hours of the night.
At this point, we had watched multiple towns in a row reopen to the public, and I was starting to feel some pretty serious Groundhog Day vibes.
What We Thought Broke: When leaving Crested Butte, we had some concerns about our brakes because they just didn’t feel they were working quite right. We decided to stay put in Montrose for a few extra days and have them looked at before moving along to Grand Lake. However, nothing was technically wrong with them. The man at the shop thought the Million Dollar Highway probably just overheated them. He said it was super common and told us he’d feel wrong about selling us any brake parts because ours were fine. So we carried along!
While staying put at the Montrose RV Park, we should also mention we made use of the trail directly outside of the park’s entrance. Between this stop and Ouray, a nearby walking path has quickly become one of our must-have features for any campground spot we now book.
Also, What We Thought Broke: One afternoon, we heard a horrible noise come from our air conditioner while sitting in our RV. Then we heard something shoot through our entire ceiling air conditioning ducting. We were at first convinced it somehow ate an animal. 😂 But we knew that wasn’t technically possible. So we next assumed some part of it must have broke. We decided to turn it off and not address it again until we got to a bigger city with more RV repair options. So, to be continued on this one… (more on this down below in the Fort Collins section!)
6/3/2020 – 6/13/2020: Winding River Resort in Grand Lake, CO
Winding River Resort in Grand Lake, CO is hands down, no contest, my favorite place we’ve ever taken the RV.
This stay will forever remain one of my happiest periods of RV life. Winding River Resort is a gem of a campground that we honestly didn’t see coming. We merely booked a spot there because we wanted to explore Grand Lake, and it was the closest campground to town.
However, here’s why it ended up being so surprisingly awesome:
- First of all, this is a fantastic campground for anyone who loves animals! They have a small animal farm with bunnies, ducks, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and even three little pigs! During our stay, we visited them every morning and evening. They were always adorable!
- Second of all, the horses! They offer horse trail rides going into Rocky Mountain National Park during the day and have at least 30 horses on-site to accommodate large bookings. In the mornings and late afternoons, before and after trail ride time, if you’re staying at the campground, you get the bonus perk of watching the Cowboys wrangle up the horses! (Which is what you see above, and that’s our camper in the background!)
- As a second bonus perk, some of the horses roam free in the mornings and evenings. I woke up many mornings and found my cat staring at a horse munching on the grass right outside our window!
- Directly from the campground, we had a secret trail entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side, which we loved and used frequently.
- We also had a trail entrance into the Arapaho National Forest from the campground.
- The whole time we were there, we saw countless elk and at least 10-20 moose!
Our time here was legitimately magical! To top it all off, on June 8th, we got at least a few inches of snow. We were pretty much the only people in the campground. We ended up spending a fair amount of the evening running around, acting like kids in the snow.
And that’s how you know it was a great time because I hate the snow…. 😂
While here, we spent a full snowy day on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, took a few drives into Grand Lake, and hiked numerous west side trails, including North Inlet Trail, East Inlet Trail, Coyote Valley Trailhead, and checked out the Holzwarth Historic Site.
We also hiked and rode horseback on the Green Mountain Trail and hiked the Supply Creek Trail in the Arapaho National Forest from the campground.
Notable Food Mention: The delicious homemade ice cream from Miyauchi’s Snack Bar and the burgers from Squeaky B’s.
6/13/2020 – 6/25/2020: Fort Collins / Lakeside KOA in Fort Collins, CO
We next moved along to Fort Collins, which holds a special place in my heart. I grew up taking summer trips to visit Fort Collins with my mom, brother, and grandparents.
When my mom was young, my grandpa used to relocate their family to Fort Collins during the summers to operate the stands and train at the city’s City Park.
So I grew up visiting Fort Collins and the park during some of my summers as well. I even went to CSU for a leadership program there one summer while I was in High School!
The Fort Collins / Lakeside KOA was adorable. It had mini-golf, a pond with fishing and paddle boats, its own little train that circled the campground tooting its horn, and it even had campsites with hot tubs! (No idea why we didn’t book one of those…)
While in town, we decided to make use of all the excellent bike trails and breweries by creating our own bike & brew tour. (If DIY bike & brew tours are your thing, here’s one I devised, with step-by-step instructions, for Traverse City, Michigan.) We had intended to visit five locations… we made it to three 😂 … New Belgium, Odells, and Funkworks.
We also took a day trip to nearby Lory State Park to hike the Arthur’s Rock Trail that looks out over the Horsetooth Reservoir, as well as one more day trip back to Rocky Mountain National Park, except this time to the East Side to conquer the Sky Pond Trail via Glacier Gorge Trail.
We also had a wonderful evening with our friend JJ before leaving. We spent most of our time walking around town, eating, drinking, and catching up on life.
Honestly, while looking forward to our adventures with friends and family ahead, we were super sad to leave Colorado. Two months did not feel like enough.
An Update on What We Thought Broke in Montrose: The air conditioner was not broken after all. An RV repairman was able to come to our campsite and look at it in Fort Collins. He thought the auto-setting we were keeping it on caused some of the water to freeze up, which would have sent ice shooting through throughout the ducting, not parts. We were very grateful for him and once again turned our a/c back on!
What Broke: This was when things with the truck started getting messy again. We noticed it was starting to leak a black substance near the end of our stay in Fort Collins. However, we were on a mission not to miss an upcoming family get-together in Delaware. So we decided to address the leak when we got to our next stop, Omaha.
6/25/2020 – 6/26/2020: Firefly Meadow in Wood River, NE
Our night in Wood River was just a stop off the freeway on our path to Omaha. We stopped at Firefly Meadows for the night. It’s worth mentioning that while this park was pretty basic, it did have one of the nicest bathhouses we’ve ever seen!
6/26/2020 – 7/3/2020: Moochdocking in Omaha, NE
We rolled into Omaha and immediately put our truck back into the shop. It ended up having to stay there for a week’s worth of repairs. So, what was supposed to be a few days of moochdocking in our friend’s brand-new driveway in Omaha turned into a week of moochdocking.
This is also when the global health situation really started to get to me mentally once again. Cases were on the rise. And despite us wearing masks, trying our best to stay as secluded and out of town and society as possible, we still occasionally encounter new people.
It was awesome seeing friends, but also weird in some ways due to the virus. While there, I put a tremendous sense of personal guilt on myself for traveling around and then stopping by our friend’s house.
A brief glimpse into my head:
What if someone we crossed paths with, at some point, was sick, and we ended up bringing that sickness to their family? Or what if someone my friend worked with was sick, and then she brought it to us? And then, after visiting them, we would be seeing family. What if we then brought something to them? Or what if someone we would see next week worked with someone who was sick.
You get the point… This was the first time we were mixing loved ones with these confusing times. I did not adjust flawlessly.
On the plus side, I got to play lots of Mario Kart and Mario Party on the Switch with my mini-me from another mother, Annabelle! I also got to watch #2 (aka Hayden) slowly destroy Sarah and Josh’s brand-new home, day by day!
While in Omaha, we spent our time:
- Enjoying all of the food Josh cooked for us on his new grill.
- Belting out Hamilton show tunes.
- Laughing, a LOT.
- Tossing poppers at each other.
- Lighting Fourth of July firecrackers, fountains, and sparklers.
- Tanking down the Elkhorn River.
- And exploring Omaha – Including getting the always mandatory Sarah car tour, checking out a Saturday Market, and meeting OMAR the bridge troll!
Remove the new level of global health crisis anxiety, and it was a truly wonderful visit!
What got fixed: Let the impending truck saga officially begin! The truck went in and out of the shop. We learned a hose was put in backward during the February repair in Las Vegas. However, we were not entirely convinced that was actually the problem. (We find out later, it was not.) But I guess it was a problem that they could fix.
Josh and Barrett also climbed up on our roof and connected our new antenna that we received back in Tucson!
A quick reminder, our antenna flew off our roof mid-drive back in May 2019. It took from then until April 2020 to receive a replacement. And then from April 2020 to July 2020 to find the time and helping hands to install it. 😂 So basically, we watched no local TV between May 2019 to July 2020.
(The short version of the bigger antenna story: Keystone would not replace it or admit to the faulty manufacturing. Camping World knew it was a problem and decided to give us one. Thanks, Camping World! Oh, and a few months in the future, this will become a recall.)
What broke: Our brand-new generator. We had never used it before. We bought it in mid-March 2020, just in case we would need it. It lasted for 4 hours. 😂 Thank goodness for warranties.
7/3/2020 – 7/5/2020: Two Cracker Barrels, Omaha, NE <-> Ocean View, DE
2020’s 4th of July will always be remembered as the 4th of July we woke up and fell asleep in two different Cracker Barrel parking lots. 😂
As I said above, we had not intended on being in Omaha for a week, so
in hopes of regaining some of the time we lost, we took off late on the 3rd, making it to the Cracker Barrel in Davenport, IA, that evening.
Then on the Fourth, we stepped out of our front door and started our morning off with their 7 am breakfast.
We then ended our day at the Cracker Barrel in Hagerstown, MD, after spending fifteen long hours behind the wheel that day.
7/5/2020 – 7/11/2020: RV-less in Ocean View, DE
On the morning of July 5th, we drove our last little stint from Hagerstown to Gettysburg to put our RV in storage for one week. We packed up everything we needed, as well as our entire refrigerator, and then headed to Delaware!
Our time in Delaware was all about seeing a small group of family. The whole group of us spent about 90% of our time at the rental house.
We did have some outdoor excursions, though, including:
- Going to the beach a few times and boogie boarding our hearts out.
- Walking along a few boardwalks, all masked up.
- Eating a bunch of fries and ice cream.
- Kayaking in the bay near the rental house.
Our indoor activities almost exclusively involved lots of games and drinks. 😂
Crowds around Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach were pretty minimal.
Then we went into Ocean City, MD, for a night. While fun, the difference between walking along a boardwalk in Maryland and walking along a boardwalk in Delaware was eye-opening.
Rides were going, shops were open, and people were out! It was the first destination we’d been to since the start of the virus, where I would say almost no one was wearing masks beside us.
We went from trying our best to not interact with much of anyone and honestly even feeling kind of uncomfortable about bringing our traveling selves to our friend’s home in Omaha to full-blown Ocean City madness.
It was around this point that Barrett and I decided that in order to keep enjoying this phase of RV life, we needed some household-specific 2020 travel rules.
Since our federal government had diverted regulations around handling the spreading virus to the states, we’d seen some pretty varied practices over the past few months. And since every state has different rules, each family across America has been forced to make some travel decisions for themselves in many ways.
And honestly, imposing those family guidelines and rules has brought us so much sanity and comfort, even though they can also sometimes make me sad.
Our new rules are pretty simple, but help:
- We decided even though we LOVE Amusement Parks and were currently near a bunch of them, those and other places with big crowds were not in the cards for us until this virus passes. No visits to anywhere where parking is overly complicated or parking attendants are needed to direct traffic.
- We’re only going to say yes to invitations to hang out in small groups. Right now, we’re saying no to the large group events that usually call to us. (Such as weddings or tubing with a bunch of strangers.)
- We wear the mask. Why not? We move around frequently and could possibly be picking up something and bringing it to the next place.
- We don’t take part in activities that entail being indoors. We’ve now eaten inside one restaurant in May and one in June. It felt uncomfortable both times, instead of freeing. Outside is okay, though!
- We’re using this time to remember to appreciate the great outdoors. It’s been our safe haven. Before March 2020, we already spent a great deal of our time hiking and outdoors. Still, we didn’t realize how much we’d missed checking out all of the things small towns have to offer, too, until it was taken away from us.
Again, what works is going to be different for everyone. But those are the rules that have been working for us.
What broke: Well, we just got our truck back, and it was a champ getting us quickly from Nebraska to Delaware. But then, once we got to Delaware, the truck started to occasionally decide it didn’t want to turn on all of the time anymore. Some days it would start; some days, it would not. Strangely, no one in the family wanted to pack into the truck during that week to go to the beach. 😹 Can’t imagine why.
7/11/2020 – 7/17/2020: Brunswick Family Campground in Brunswick, MD
Once our time in Delaware came to an end, we drove to Gettysburg and picked the RV back up from the storage lot. The whole time we were there, we never turned off the truck. Partially in fear that we may end up living out of the storage unit parking lot for the night but also to, of course, keep the cats cool!
Once on the move, we drove straight through a packed Gettysburg Bike Week. This was also a couple of days after militias had just flocked to Gettysburg to stop what they believed was a flag burning event. (Which ultimately ended up being a hoax that was created on social media.)
Needless to say, the scene there was bustling with people, energy, and not a mask in sight.
After the time with family, we knew getting the truck looked at was important. We also knew we were in the peak of summer with no reservations and no plans for moving forward.
Once again, we found ourselves in need of some post-family regroup time to figure out what we were going to do next. We found a campground near family in Brunswick that could hold us for a few days, but nothing long-term enough to put the truck into a local shop. (Because, at this point, we know when it goes in, it’s not coming out for at least 5 days.)
Our first night at the campground, they squeezed us into a “spot” where we plugged into a shack. The shack did not have sufficient power, and our internal surge protector never allowed in any of that shack’s power. So the following day, we packed the RV back up and moved to a new spot, grateful that our truck decided to cooperate once again.
The campground overall was pretty neat. It was tucked away off the C&O Canal in Maryland, which provided us with tons of biking and hiking options. We went on as many bike rides and walks as possible, chatting about what’s next for what felt like the 12th time this year.
While here we:
- Took the bikes in for some TLC
- Biked the C&O canal one night.
- Returned our broken generator.
- Saw our nephew Logan’s first-ever baseball game!
- Did a little summer cleaning and dropped a few more items collected along the road off at our storage unit.
- Found a solo whitewater tube float we could do on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, just Barrett and me.
- Spent a day biking to Harpers Ferry, walking around the shuttered historical town, and hiked up to the top of the Loudoun Heights trail overlook.
- Visited with friends outdoors at both Harpers Ferry Brewing & Glory Days.
- Got Barrett some new glasses. (I forgot to mention this at the last spot! Barrett lost his glasses in the ocean while we were in Delaware.)
What broke: The truck continued to operate but also kind of not operate. There were numerous days it would not start.
The women in the site next to ours kept asking us if we needed a jump. 😂 “That’s very nice of you, but that’s not the problem” became a regular phrase of ours around town.
I ended up figuring out that an old trick I used to use on my first car ever in high school (a beautiful 1988 Caprice Classic) would get it going. Basically, I’d give it gas while trying to start it. Nothing really explains why this worked during this period, but it did. Still, you could tell it was not running right.
In retrospect, I realize we probably should have thrown the towel in on the truck around this time. Barrett had already been done for a while. Enough had been enough. But I am incredibly frugal, and new diesel trucks are not cheap. Also, I tend to give ideas, lifestyles, objects, and even people as many chances as possible. Sometimes it works fabulously. Sometimes I hold on too long. This was the latter, and it’ll take me about two more weeks to figure that out.
7/17/2020 – 8/5/2020: Appalachian RV Campground in Shartlesville, PA
We next found a quiet and “free” Thousand Trails RV park not too far away that we knew could hold us for at least two weeks during the summer in Shartlesville, PA.
We made plans to relocate there, hopefully briefly, get the truck fixed, and use that time to wait out the visitor restrictions that existed during that time between Delaware and New York. (There were none for visitors coming from Pennsylvania.)
Then our plan was to head into rural New York for the remainder of the summer.
Life-wise, our time in Shartlesville was refreshing. We caught up on workouts, work, errands, TV binging, video gaming, and it was quite literally everything we needed after a few hectic weeks. Our excursions were pretty limited during this time. Still, we also experienced a socially distanced concert in the RV park and hiked the Schuylkill River trail in Hamburg, PA.
This, however, is the point when the rollercoaster that has been owning our GMC truck finally got to us. We realized we weren’t having as much fun as before. Partly, of course, due to the state of affairs in 2020, but much more so because we kept having to cancel or reconfigure plans repeatedly in exchange for diagnosing and fixing our truck.
The number of emails I had to send between February and July, starting off with “I’m so sorry, our truck broke down again, and I haven’t been able to focus on….X,” is staggering. It had really started to get to me.
I’m going to keep the truck saga short from here on out, for both of our sakes:
- 7/20 – We put the truck into the local GMC shop.
- 7/25 – We pick up the truck. The technician re-fixed the oil leak that was supposed to be fixed in Omaha, as well as some other leaks and a loose hub bearing. On the way home, Barrett feels the truck is in worse condition and that something’s wrong with the transmission.
- 7/27 – Something is really not right with the truck. I am driving it, make a turn, and there is a rattle throughout the entire truck that honestly made me think it was all just going to split into a billion little pieces right there and then.
- 7/28 – Not wanting to drive it any further, we get the truck towed back to the shop. We get a rental and go to Setter Ridge Winery and talk about the truck. We then go to Saucony Creek Brewery and talk more about the truck. 😂 We eventually come to terms with the fact that it is time for the truck to go. This truck had been dictating our lives for too long. We decide that our beloved Trucko deserved a life with someone else whose life didn’t entirely depend on it running. And with someone who’s more mechanically inclined than us. For us, we merely want to live on the road with a vehicle we can depend on, not be full-time car mechanics. If that meant we’d have to spend a small fortune on a new truck, then I guess that’s what we were going to have to do. (Still, months later, that’s so hard for me to write out!)
- 7/29 – We test-drove a 2020 Ford F-250 with a diesel engine as well as one of the new 2020s with the 7.3L gas engine.
- 7/30 – GMC, as usual, finds something minor that they believe is the problem. This time, it was a gasket they felt need to be replaced. We went back to GMC and got our truck back early, thinking we’d be trading it in on this day. We drive the truck to Ford, purchase the F-250, but we end up having to wait on an integral towing part to be installed in the truck bed before we can use it with our fifth wheel. We also realize we were never officially sent our truck title after paying off the GMC. We end up owning two trucks and having to drive the GMC home.
- 8/3 – After some investigation, we found out that our title is not in Texas but somehow tied up in Ohio (we purchased the truck in Ohio, registered it in Texas). Luckily, we were not too far from Ohio! Anxious to get this all finalized, we decide to drive to the Harrisburg Airport, rent a car, leave the truck in the airport parking lot, go to Ohio and get the title! We even stopped in Hagerstown that evening on the way back for dinner with Barrett’s parents and to pick up Barrett’s new glasses.
What else broke: Besides the truck, we did also notice something else fun during this time. On the day we left Shartlesville, we saw metal shards were coming out of one of the fifth wheel’s tires. Barrett rotated two of them. We proceeded on to our next destination, knowing once we got there, we’d have to look into it further.
8/5/2020 – 8/12/2020: Mountain Vista Campground in East Stroudsburg, PA
We decided if we were going to be waiting on this truck part, we:
- Didn’t want to go too far (due to still having the GMC truck).
- Wanted to be somewhere “outdoorsy.” Waiting on our new truck while parked on the side of I-78 was not really working for us.
The Poconos was the closest area that fit the bill, so we headed that way. The Mountain Vista Campground was beautiful, tucked away in tall trees, and overall a lot of fun! It had tons of amenities, including a mini-arcade, tennis, and ping pong, and we made sure to use them all.
Overall, the Poconos did not overly impress us. I’m 100% sure part of that was because of our mindsets during that time. So please don’t be offended if the Poconos is your favorite place.
We’ve also become spoiled, having a lot of the outdoorsy places we visit all to ourselves.
Well, we had nowhere in the Poconos to ourselves. Its proximity to NYC and Philadelphia, merged with city dwellers ready to escape from their small spots in the city, meant there were summer crowds everywhere.
We did, however, explore a few fun spots:
- We hiked the Mount Minsi via Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We got drenched on this hike but loved it. We were just happy to be out hiking!
- We biked 14 miles along the Lehigh Gorge Trail in Jim Thorpe to what Barrett refers to as the smallest named waterfall known to mankind (Luke’s Falls) and then 14 miles back. 😹
- We attempted to hit up a public beach on Lake Wallenpaupack, only to find it at capacity for the rest of the day. We moved our vehicle and parked at the visitor center next door, followed the trail behind the building, and popped the inflatable kayak into the water right there! We were probably about 200 feet away from the public beach, at our own little mini oasis that was people-free!
We also ended up going to a few destinations and simply turning around due to overcrowding.
To give you an idea of how busy the area was during this time, one day, we drove to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to do some waterfall peepin’. Once we arrived, we were advised by a ranger sitting in a chair on the side of the road to come back later in the evening or early another morning. She suspected all of the parking spots within the park were already full.
We returned later that evening, still waited a while to park. Once we finally got a parking spot at Raymondskill Falls and walked to it, we found a straight-up party taking place at the fall’s base: giant portable speaker, hooka, and all.
Another day we went to see Bushkill Falls, the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” You would have thought we were arriving at Disneyland. The parking lot was PACKED with families and parking attendants. We turned around and left. I’m guessing that’s a destination best explored before or after the summer crowds.
What Broke: Soon after arriving in this area, the truck started smoking again. And then kept smoking the next day. We rented a car for the rest of our time here and let the GMC rest.
We also put a spare tire on the trailer tire we noticed had metal shards coming out of it and ordered four new tires. We made a Camping World appointment to get the new tires put on the trailer, as well as an overall check-up for 8/26.
Lastly, we decided it was time to get rid of all of our dining area carpet and ordered flooring for the slide to install ourselves, with my brother, at the end of August.
8/12/2020 – 8/26/2020: Timothy Lake South Thousand Trails Park in East Stroudsburg, PA
Same area, new campground. Somehow our GMC truck managed to get us and our home 12 miles across town to a new, cheaper Thousand Trails RV park.
Again, we still didn’t want to move too far from where we bought our new Ford truck. We were also still waiting on the part it needed and still stuck with our smoking, ticking time bomb of a GMC truck.
The silver lining to this time is that all of this waiting made it the perfect time for me to dive headfirst into my podcast and finally make that happen! So there’s not a tremendous amount of adventures to talk about during this time. I was practically glued to my computer for most of August! 😹
We did, however, have at least one excellent adventure biking the McDade Recreational Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area along the Delaware River.
All the sitting also made us realize we were anxious to get back on the road and gave us time to plan out what we wanted the rest of our year to look like travel-wise. We wanted to go spend some recuperation time in some of our nation’s less-explored National Parks.
Our time here came to a close because, as mentioned earlier, we made a Camping World appointment in Apollo, PA, approximately 275 miles from East Stroudsburg, during the beginning of August.
Three things to know at this point:
- When I spoke with Camping Wolrd in early August, August 26th was the next available appointment time. If we were to cancel that appointment, we would have to wait another month before getting our new trailer tires put on.
- We made the appointment there because it was relatively close and the staff there were already helping us with ordering our new flooring. It just made sense to also get the new tires put on while we were there picking up the flooring.
- We thought for sure we’d have the new truck by August 25th, but we still did not. The parts shortage that occurred in 2020 due to the state of the world was directly affecting us. For a while, Ford simply did not have the part we needed. Then once it was produced, the local FedEx did not have enough people working to unload their trucks. A month after purchasing our new truck, we still did not have it.
Notable Restaurant Mention: We had a few great meals at Sango Kura while in the area. It is Pennsylvania’s first and only sake brewery! Beyond sake, they serve noodle, rice, ramen poke, and sushi dishes as well.
8/26/2020 – 9/4/2020: Ohiopyle State Park in Ohiopyle, PA
We ended up leaving super early on August 26th to make our 10:00 am tire appointment on the other side of the state. A deal was struck with Ford to deliver the new truck and drive the old one back once the final install was complete. I should note Ford also threw in a ball hitch, upped the offer for the GMC, and covered our first truck payment.
Just having customer service that was genuinely customer service was incredible!
After getting the new tires installed on the trailer, we took the truck to one final new GMC, hoping they would find something new that was causing all of the smoking. They came up with another sketchy-sounding possible solution that would have cost us a considerable chunk of change. We threw in the towel and drove the truck back to our new campground in Ohiopyle without any modifications.
On August 28th, the new truck was delivered! The GMC left us for good, and despite all the chaos, I, of course, still cried because that truck made so many of our dreams come true.
It took me about a week to come around and acknowledge that the Ford was alright.
We also had a tornado warning on that day. I spent 30 minutes of that day in the bathhouse juggling cats and crushing White Claws.
The day before the truck delivery, my brother Bill arrived to help us install our new flooring! We spent the next couple of days making trips to Camping World, Home Depot, ripping up carpet, and installing flooring. As if the flooring install wasn’t enough, my brother Bill also made us brisket while in town!
In a matter of two days, three huge issues that had been hanging over our heads for months came to a close!
To thank Bill for all of his help, we treated him to an Ohiopyle whitewater rafting trip, which was pretty wild. All three of us had turns being launched out of the boat, and I went home with a black hip. 😹
We also had a day walking around Ohiopyle with Bill and another day walking around the local trails with Barrett’s dad and stepmom.
There was lots of hiking directly from this campground which is our favorite! On multiple occasions, we were able to take the Campground Trail Connector to the Great Allegheny Passage and the Great Gorge Trails. Instead of driving all the time, we could use the trails to get into town and to get to Cucumber Falls.
Before leaving town, we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary in the city where the RVing adventure began, Pittsburgh. We had a great day hitting up all of our old favorite places, including Burgatory, Barnes and Nobles, the Strip District, the Point Park Fountain, the Grandview Overlook, Frick Park, and even stopped by for dinner at Point Brugge and an evening stroll past our old house.
9/4/2020 – 9/5/2020: Cracker Barrel in Brighton, MI
Our stop in Brighton was a quick overnight stop at a Cracker Barrel on our way up through Michigan, toward Traverse City.
9/5/2020 – 9/6/2020: Gladwin City Park in Gladwin, MI
If right around now you’re saying, “I thought RV life was supposed to be fun?!” well, we couldn’t agree more. So let’s start getting back to some of that!
Our stay in Gladwin was a one-night quick stop to see my oldest buddy, Nicole, and her husband, Ben. (Not old like a grandma, old like we go way back to childhood.)
It was a spur-of-the-moment stay, but we realized we were crossing paths and couldn’t miss out on the chance to see each other. We spent that evening sipping cider and munching on donuts at The Fruitful Orchard And Cider Mill in traditional Michigan fall fashion.
And I’m so happy we saw each other because it was here she told me she was preggo! 🤗
9/6/2020 – 9/11/2020: Traverse City State Park Campground in Traverse City, MI
The next morning we took a quick walk around Gladwin City Park and then made our way to Traverse City to meet up with my brother Bill, and his wife, Sabrina.
We made a pit stop at Camping World to consider buying a cover for the vent that had been leaking. We had temporarily duct taped it shut because we wanted to upgrade that hole with a second fan instead of a new cover.
However, the chaos of 2020 created a parts shortage in the RV industry. It was proving pretty tricky to find this fan anywhere. So we kept cruising around with the duct-taped hole because the weather was lovely, and we could put a Rubbermaid tub over it on any rainy days.
Well, when we walked in, we found the fan we’d been looking for online and at other Camping Worlds, just sitting there on the shelf! It was technically the wrong color, but we decided to make the sacrifice and go for it. We soon would see the end of our duct-taped and Rubbermaid tub roof shield and instead be bringing cool air into the RV.
This campground is notorious for really tight spots, so Bill and Sabrina arrived while Barrett was (for the one-hundredth time) denying the ability of our rig to fit into our site. Four moved cars later, we got in. 😹
Labor Day in Traverse City was a time of fun and relaxation with my brother and sister-in-law. We mostly hung out around the RV, making fires. Bill once again cooked up a storm. Despite the rain, we enjoyed treats such as campfire steaks.
We also spent an afternoon tasting around Traverse City and Suttons Bay. It was one of our most touristy moments of the whole year. We found the entire affair very social distancing friendly.
9/11/2020 – 9/13/2020: Michigamme Shores Campground in Champion, MI
After our time in Traverse City, we crossed the Mighty Mac into the Upper Penninsula of Michigan.
Unbeknownst to us, we arrived at an RV park in complete Halloween mayhem, in mid-September. We had no idea, so we didn’t have any candy, but we saw tons of trick-or-treaters and were invited to find a quiet spot to watch what ended up being one of the most insane fireworks shows I’ve ever seen.
To say that the aftermath looked post-apocalyptic is not far off. The fireworks were LOW, the sky was orange, and kids in ghoul costumes were running amuck while crying.
Overall, it was a weird stop. We moved along.
9/13/2020 – 9/23/2020: Wooden Frog Campground in Kabetogama, MN (Voyageurs National Park)
Dry camping at Wooden Frog Campground in Kabetogama, right outside of Voyageurs National Park, during the fall, was just what the doctor ordered.
We bought a new Honda generator on the way to this destination. We had a great time playing around with it but found ourselves out and about during the days and mostly only needing it in the evenings between dinner and the start of quiet hours.
While here, we rented a canoed and made full use of it! We took it to some of the nearby islands, the Locator Lake trailhead, and the Ellsworth Rock Gardens. We also got a water taxi over to the Cruiser Lake trail one day.
There was a camp spot with chairs at Cruiser Lake. We popped a squat, enjoyed lunch, and swam in the freezing cold lake for a bit.
Both trails were INCREDIBLE. The fall colors were in full effect, and we never saw another person on either trail, either day.
The whole time here was quite magical and felt rejuvenating after all the chaos from the past few months. It was an incredibly peaceful reset that would help us face what was to come…
9/23/2020 – 9/25/2020: Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, MN
As we next traveled from one lesser-visited National Park to another, we stopped at Buffalo River State Park, right outside of Fargo. We spent a day touring Fargo, including seeing the famous Fargo woodchipper, exploring downtown, and enjoying cider and tacos at a spot we loved, Wild Terra.
9/25/2020 – 10/9/2020: Boondocking in Medora, ND (Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
In retrospect, being in quiet BLM land in Medora, North Dakota, was possibly the best place we could have ever been for this upcoming chapter.
This was our first time ever officially boondocking. Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a north and south section. We were parked outside of the south portion of the park.
While here, we explored both parts of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we car toured the entirety of both parts and hiked the Big Plateau, the Painted Canyon Nature Trail, and the Caprock Coulee Loop. This park is teeming with wildlife, including wild horses, bison, longhorns, elk, deer, turkeys, and TONS of prairie dogs.
Also, during this time:
- I wrote an article for Thor that meant I got to test out some fun new gadgets
- My best furry friend passed away.
Yet again, I was greeted with a whirlwind of both fantastic and terrible emotions at the same time.
On a Saturday evening, we found my cat Vodka limp and seizing. We located an emergency vet clinic and drove about 100 MPH down 40 miles of I-94 while she repeatedly seized in my arms.
The clinic we took her to was amazing. I was heartbroken and wildly upset, and they came in and dealt with me late on a Saturday evening like it was nothing out of the ordinary. They gave Vodka the best care in the end, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
I was shocked by how hard her death was for me. After all, we had seen it coming for a while. She had cancer. She was taking chemo. Her passing was coming, no matter where we were or what we lived in. The brevity of life is just something we cannot escape.
I cried for days and started wondering just how much more I could take in one year.
In retrospect, though, I am so happy we had our little furry buddy on the road with us as long as we did. RV life meant we got to be with Vodka even more during the end of her life. She saw so much, and she loved it all right up until the end.
Also, I hope I’m not making you sad. My goal with this website is only to inspire, encourage and provide joy. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit this was a challenging time.
The silver lining here is that this particular instance was not sad due to RV life. This was just life.
However, my heart was empty. I had lost my best friend. It took only a few days back at the RV to realize I needed a new furry friend to fill the void.
Enter Allie, now known as Dakota.
We had friends in big cities in search of new pets and having the hardest time finding one. Yet here we were, in North Dakota, and the same spot that took such great care of Vodka in the end also had a rescue organization with multiple kittens available for adoption. We took it as a sign and took in our dear Dakota.
Then, that same week, we got a call that we came up next for a puppy on one of the Corgi lists we had been on since the beginning of the year. Oh boy! There was no turning back now. We had signed up for an RV circus, and that was what we were going to get!
At the end of it all, I had a hard time leaving this spot. I found Medora an incredibly peaceful place to be after Vodka passed. I loved being there and found myself walking the backcountry roads constantly to clear my head.
If we were ever stressed, I simply suggested we go into the park to get water and say “Hi” to the prairie dogs. It was a simple time and place.
10/9/2020 – 10/10/2020: Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, MT
Eventually, we decided it was time to leave Medora, ND, and started heading toward Stanley, Idaho. We had heard fantastic things about the forest and mountains in Idaho. We wanted to spend a week exploring the area before heading to Utah to meet up with my mom.
We found the Missouri Headwaters State Park along the way and decided to stop there overnight.
10/10/2020 – 10/13/2020: Side of the Road in Wisdom, MT
If some of the previous tales have sounded like a sob story, I’m sorry! It was a particularly challenging time.
But, the good news is, better times are once again ahead! They really are!… Right after this last big challenge we had to go through.
Wisdom was not a planned stop. While on our way from North Dakota to Idaho, we had a weld break apart under the RV.
While driving toward Idaho, Barrett looked in the mirror and saw smoke coming from under the trailer. He also noticed chunks of rubber flying into the road. Neither of us felt a thing; it was all visual.
He very quickly navigated us off the 70 MPH road into the first spot we saw about 1/4 of a mile down, which ended up being, we believe, a 4×4 trailhead or fire road.
We didn’t know that in the beginning, though. We spent the first day convinced we were possibly blocking someone’s driveway and even called the police asking for the best advice on how to go about letting them know.
In case you didn’t believe there are still spots in the United States that are considered “untouchable,” I’m here to tell you there are and that Wisdom, Montana is one of those places.
The closest police were located hours away. Since no one was injured and there wasn’t any big debris in the road, we never saw an officer.
We proceeded to spend the next three days going back and forth between our camper and the 20-25 minutes away town of Wisdom because that was the only place we could get either AT&T or Verizon cell signal.
We spent this time driving back and forth, thinking multiple times Progressive or AAA had a tow headed our way. However, after two days and many emotional ups and downs, we were eventually told both companies had exhausted all of their resources and that we were on our own.
This was a genuine, “How are we going to get out of this?” situation.
However, we felt relatively safe. This wasn’t that different from boondocking. We had our generator. Propane and gas were for sale in Wisdom. They also had a small grocery store, a couple of restaurants, and a coffee shop.
I’m pretty sure we made use of every establishment in town. I even mailed my mom and dad a postcard from the post office and bought a Wisdom shirt. Kindness was abundant in all of the people we met.
When we felt discouraged during the whole ordeal, we tried our best to focus on happy things. Like watching our new kitten seeing snow for the first time! And the fact that we had everything we needed to survive.
In the evenings, while wondering if we were going to actually get a tow the next day, we watched a lot of Alias DVDs and discovered Dakota’s affinity for action on the TV.
After calling every tow company we could find within 200 miles of Wisdom, we finally were connected with Dave of Speeds. He was a godsend. At first, he was going to come out and see if he could do the repair on his own.
He had us get under the RV and send him photos of everything, which is how we discovered it was not just a blown tire. There was a bigger problem with a weld. Also, all four of our new tires were toast from being dragged who knows how long, and our leaf springs were also cooked. We needed a big boy tow.
Ultimately, he made it out to us, towed our entire truck and rig setup to Missoula, and then recommend a welding place to fix the problem.
It poured rain the entire day of the tow, but we were off the road and headed north for repairs!
10/13/2020 – 10/16/2020: Staybridge Suites in Missoula, MT
Missoula is where we discovered Staybridge Suites! (We’ve really grown to love suite-style hotels while on the road.)
We got to Missoula and once again were forced to wait. This time though, not for very long. Our RV was fixed in a few short days.
While the weld and leaf springs were being repaired, we took our tires to the closest Discount Tire in snowy Helena, MT. (Everyone in Missoula thought this decision was nuts, but it worked out well for us money-wise and meant we got to keep the same type of tires we had just purchased two months earlier.)
We also spent one afternoon checking out downtown Missoula.
Lastly, we enjoyed the hotel’s space and amenities while waiting for our RV to be repaired. We laundered everything we own in the free washers and dryers. The hotel also had free beer, wine, stew, and pizza happy hours, a bathtub, and a hot tub! In the evenings, we took it easy and watched Halloween movies with Dakota and Squirt.
I think it’s safe to say that we wondered if we should be slowing down and perhaps finding a part-time home by this time. The road seemed to be challenging us with every twist and turn. It was also trying its best to drain our funds. Luckily, insurance covered almost everything involved with this repair.
10/16/2020 – 10/19/2020: Mountain View RV Park in Arco, ID
Back on the road, and it felt so good!
Before the Wisdom incident, we had planned on being in Stanley, Idaho, for a little over a week.
By the time we got to Idaho, we only had three days before we had to be in Utah to pick up my mom from the Salt Lake City airport and then head down south for our Mighty Five adventure. Also, Stanley had a lot of impending snow, so we decided to spend a few days at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve instead.
Craters of the Moon was a fun stop. While there, we thoroughly explored the park, including embarking upon North Crater Trail, Inferno Cone, Devil’s Orchard Trail, and Broken Top Loop Trail. This is a really unique and easy to explore park that’s totally worth the stop if you like otherworldly-looking places.
10/19/2020 – 10/22/2020: Cherry Hill Campground in Kaysville, UT
Next, we arrived in Kaysville, outside of Salt Lake City, UT. The morning we got into town, an RV shop assessed the remaining damage to our rig and told us to come back tomorrow, and they would fix it.
The next day we dropped off the RV, ran errands, picked up my mom from the airport, then returned to pick up a wholly fixed RV!
The following day, we took the new truck in for its first-ever oil change, did all of our group grocery shopping, and overall prepared ourselves for what was ahead – a month of exploring the Mighty Five in Utah.
While errand running, we also made sure our new kitten was prepared for the trip by getting her her very own tent. 😹
10/22/2020 – 10/26/2020: Boondocking in Torrey, UT (Capitol Reef National Park)
First up on our Mighty Five journey was boondocking in Torrey, close to Capitol Reef National Park.
While in the park, we hiked the Grand Wash Trail, the Rim Overlook Trail, the Chimney Rock Trail, and the Capitol Gorge Trail. To get to the Capitol Gorge trail, you have to take the Scenic Drive all the way to the end. If you aren’t in a large vehicle, I highly recommend taking this drive. You’re in a tight winding canyon with incredibly high rock walls all around you. In my opinion, this part of the park (and this park in general) are very underrated.
This park also has petroglyphs to admire, as well as a tiny town, complete with orchards and a bakery selling pies, cinnamon rolls, and bread.
Pro Tip: Get to the bakery minutes after opening. They sell out of almost everything within the first hour of being opened. On our last day in town, we got up early for sunrise at Gooseneck Overlook and then hit up the bakery upon opening to stock up on pies.
We also took my mom offroading directly outside of the park on Hartnet Road. Complete with a river ford and all!
10/26/2020 – 10/31/2020: Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground in Bryce Canyon City, UT (Bryce Canyon National Park)
Next, we trekked on over to Bryce Canyon City to see Bryce Canyon National Park.
While there, we again did the car tour, but also tons of hiking! We hiked the Queens Garden Trail, the Navajo Loop, the Peekaboo Loop, and lastly, the beautiful Fairyland Trail. The Fairyland Trail is hands down one of the best hikes we’ve ever encountered. It’s full of beautiful and unique sites to be seen as you hike across various landscapes and throughout the hoodoos.
Notable Dessert Mention: The Banana Blueberry Cream Pie at Bryce Canyon Pines, featuring Ethel’s top-secret cream topping that, in my opinion, rivals Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding. It’s a must-try after a long day of hiking!
Notable RV Spot Mention: For some reason, we were placed at the most randomly private site (#243) in the very back of Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground. It was wonderful and is worth looking into if dirt and gravel work for you!
10/31/2020 – 11/5/2020: Zion Canyon Campground in Springdale, UT (Zion National Park)
The next stop on our Utah National Park trip with Mom was Zion National Park. This stop was a little bittersweet because we were supposed to host a group trip here earlier in the year in April 2020, which I ended up canceling.
Due to social distancing limitations, there is currently a process involved in getting shuttle tickets for this park. If you plan on visiting Zion soon, I recommend looking into shuttle tickets a month or so beforehand.
The shuttle tickets are only $1 per person per day. Since I had no idea what we would be doing each day, I purchased 3 for the early morning shuttle for each day we were there ahead of time, and it worked out really well for us. There were two days we did not use our tickets, and on those days, someone waiting in the “day of” line ended up getting on the shuttle instead of us, so they got a happy surprise!
While in the park, we hiked Emerald Pools, the Pa’rus Trail, Angel’s Landing and went 1-1/2 miles into the Narrows. We would have gone further into the Narrows, but it was getting dark, and we didn’t want to miss the last shuttle of the day.
On another day, we also drove to the lesser-visited part of the park and saw Checkerboard Mesa.
Mom and I also took on a sunset hike up the Canyon Overlook Trail one evening.
As you can imagine, despite the shuttle tickets, this was still definitely the most crowded of the Utah National Parks. We did Angel’s Landing early and the Narrows later in the day; both helped us avoid some of the crowds.
Angel’s Landing is impressive, but we LOVED the Narrows and are anxious to go back and get further along on the trail. We were honestly so giddy on this trail. It was like nothing else we’ve done and gave us a natural high.
11/5/2020 – 11/13/2020: Boondocking in Moab, UT (Canyonlands & Arches National Park)
Last on our Utah National Park journey was Moab, UT, which we could use as a home base for Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.
Our friends Sean and Alli locked down an excellent boondocking spot for us there. Sean had built a firepit which led to an evening of stories and smores. Precisely as boondocking should be.
While there, we were able to go jeeping with them one day on Shafer Canyon Road in Canyonland National Park.
Mom and I also had a snowy day in Canyonland National Park. We hiked a few trails but couldn’t see over any overlooks on that days. We all went back later, checked out some of the outlooks, and hiked the Grand Viewpoint Trail.
At Arches National Park, we had a day of hiking with Sean and Alli, where we took on the Devils Garden Loop trail, seeing 7 different arches over a span of 8 miles.
We also had a car tour day of Arches National Park, checking out all of the rock formations and arches they have to offer, including the Double Arch trail.
Barrett and I hiked to Delicate Arch that evening for the sunset, along with everyone else in the park. 😹
What was repaired: That fan we bought back in September was finally installed! Our awesome friend Sean from Here then Gone had all of the materials and knowledge to help us get it up and running in no time!
11/13/2020 – 11/15/2020: Denver East KOA in Strasburg, CO
We started our trek to return Mom home on November 13th because November 14th was adoption day for our new Corgi puppy, Marty!!
We spent the 14th getting everything we would need for a new puppy and then met him later that day for the first time ever!
Things have never been the same since! 😹
11/15/2020 – 11/16/2020: Ellis Lakeside Campground in Ellis, KS
On this day, we trucked from Colorado to Kansas. We stopped for the evening at Ellis Lakeside Campground, which was right off the highway. It had nice easy-access pull-throughs with power, in a city park that we had all to ourselves.
11/16/2020 – 11/17/2020: Peculiar Park Place RV Park in Peculiar, MO
My birthday! This year, my birthday was all about making progress on our way down to Florida. We spent it traveling from Ellis, KS to Peculiar, MO, and eating takeout from one of my fav travel day eateries, Panera Bread!
11/17/2020 – 11/19/2020: Whitewater RV Park in Mountain View, AR
The next day, we stopped in Mountain View, Arkansas, for a quick breather and celebrated my birthday!
While in Mountain View, we did something we’ve never done before. We explored a place as recommended in a Locals Know Best podcast episode!
It was the absolute best! Even though we were in Mountain View during a quiet time, we still had a great day!
We hiked routes Becky suggests in her episode, explored the beautiful amphitheater behind her RV park, watched Marty run through countless leaf piles, played disc golf, ate delicious Mexican food, listened to pickers play, and purchased a few too many antiques for two people who live in an RV. (I hunt for old cameras. Barrett pursues Hot Wheels and wants you to know he found an unopened Lamborghini Diablo from 1996 for $2. 😹)
11/19/2020 – 11/20/2020: Graceland RV Park & Campground in Memphis, TN
Our night in Memphis was purely that, a night in Memphis, across the street from Graceland. In retrospect, I wish I took a picture of Graceland all lit up for the holidays! It looked beautiful.
The state of 2020 was once again in flux. Cases were on the rise. Travel was once again being condemned; however, we had the rest of our year pre-booked in Florida near family. So we were just crossing our fingers we could make it to our reservations and then continue to do our best to keep to ourselves once there.
11/20/2020 – 11/21/2020: Gunter Hill COE Campground in Montgomery, AL
The Gunter Hill COE Campground was beautiful! I highly recommend it!
We wished we could have stayed longer, but this was just another one-night stop.
This is the first spot we got Marty to actually attempt a walk around the campground. It was super cute.
11/21/2020 – 11/22/2020: Gibson County Park in Jasper, FL
Yet another stop off the highway for just one night.
Funny story about this spot, right as we were getting ready to take off, Dakota escaped the RV. She made us look like FOOLS chasing her around for what was probably 5 minutes but felt like hours. The whole campground was trying to help us get her… 🤦♀️
11/22/2020 – 11/25/2020: Little Manatee River State Park Campground in Wimauma, FL
Our arrival at Little Manatee State Park meant we had successfully dropped my mom off back home! After five weeks, we were back to it being just us and our furry friends in the RV.
Since this small state park is close to my parents, we were able to have an early Thanksgiving with my mom, dad, and uncle while here.
Staying here also came with some “full-circle” feelings.
This was one of the first parks we ever stayed at with our RV back when we started our journey. While hiking the park’s trails, we both remembered sitting around the lake pictured above.
The last time we were there, we talked about all of the things we wanted out of RV life and all of the adventures we were looking forward to.
Now, here we were, two years later, in awe of everything we had seen and accomplished so far!
11/25/2020 – 12/10/2020: Miami Everglades Thousand Trails RV Resort in Miami, FL
We then headed to Florida’s east coast to see Barrett’s dad and stepmom in Fort Lauderdale for Thanksgiving.
While in Fort Lauderdale, we had the most random jet skiing experience ever.
What was supposed to be an hour of zooming around on the Intracoastal waterways turned into multiple hours of being toured around by our guide.
Some manatees had entered the area, and the authorities were doing a great job of protecting them. After skiing around aimlessly for over 2 hours, we were eventually brought out to the ocean for some big boy waves, and it was awesome!
We then proceeded to stay tucked away at a Thousand Trails RV Resort in Miami’s farmlands for two weeks, away from most people.
My cousin Brad and his girlfriend Deysi came from Naples one day to hang out with us. We ate tons of incredible food (thanks, Brad!) and played lots of mini-golf.
We also spent one fantastic day at Biscayne National Park on a small group Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure with Biscayne National Park Institute! We spent the first half of the day snorkeling in the coral reef, then had lunch on Adams Key and ended the day with paddleboarding throughout the mangroves. The entire day was spectacular! It was definitely one of the highlights from our time in Florida, and I would recommend it to anyone interested!
And one last thing, before we left, Marty walked his first continuous mile along the campground path! 🎉 While here, he upgraded from a blob that hated walking to a blob that was okay with walking!
12/10/2020 – 12/21/2020: Long Pine Key Campground in Homestead, FL (Everglades National Park)
Barrett refers to this stop as our “hot and sticky dry camping experience.”
Much of Everglades National Park was flooded during this time. So even though ranger tours had begun for the season while we were there, most of the trails the tours would have taken place on were covered with water.
While there, we walked the park’s most popular trail, the Anhinga Trail, a few times and saw tons of alligators and birds along the way. We also hiked the Gumbo Limbo and Mahogony Hammock trails, toured the Nike Missle Site, and hiked along the Guy Bradley Trail in the Flamingo area where they are building a new lodge.
We loved the Flamingo area and found it thriving with wildlife. One day we had lunch on a dock in the area. We saw the unique Everglades crocodiles, manatees, pelicans, and osprey! (Yes, the Everglades has alligators and crocodiles due to this area being where saltwater meets freshwater.)
We also had biking plans, but the flooding caused those to never come to fruition.
If you’re planning a trip to the Everglades, one adventure I’d highly recommend is renting a canoe and paddling through Nine Mile pond. It was interesting to do this right after Biscayne National Park and seeing the contrast in Everglades vs. Biscayne mangroves.
12/21/2020 – 1/1/2021: Terra Ceia Thousand Trails RV Resort in Palmetto, FL
Ta-da! That’s 2020, folks! We wrapped up this wild year with my family in Parrish, Florida, for the holidays.
LESSONS LEARNED IN 2020:
- Listen to your gut. It has rarely steered me wrong; however, it took me years to truly step back and listen to it often.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Something is not right in your schedule and/or priorities. Take a day, step back, look at it all. Ask yourself what doesn’t fit and why it’s not fitting.
- Build a team around you who supports your dreams. Support them back equally. Lose those who do not.
- Let yourself evolve as a person. I believe it’s the only way to continue being happy in this world.
- Feeling stuck? Get outside. Go for a walk. Sit on a boulder under the sun and let its rays soak in. Do you know what you will regret? Staring at a computer for hours. Do you know what you won’t regret? Moving your legs.
- Eat the salad because you want to take care of yourself and live a long healthy life, not because you wanna be skinny. I promise you it tastes a lot better.
- Drink the alcohol because you want to have some frivolous fun with friends and family, not because you wanna escape moments of anxiety.