August 15th marked our one-year anniversary of being full-time rv nomads. One year, 11,000+ miles, 22 states, 2 camp hosting jobs, 5 kids and spouses, 6 grandchildren, countless national and state parks,……it’s been a busy year! We’ve been blessed to see a lot of beautiful and remarkable sites and we are gearing up for year number two!
As we have spent time with family and friends here in Ohio this summer, one of the questions that is frequently asked is, “How do you know where to go?” Meaning, “What/who directs your travels and how do you find places to stay/visit?” Our first year of travel was primarily scheduled by our kids. With 5 sons spread from sea to shining sea, it was one of our desires to be able to spend a big chunk of time with them rather than the too-brief weekend visits that usually happen. In addition, the arrival of 2 new grandbabies, one on each coast, gave us the framework to begin our planning.
Driving the schedule were babies,….Baby number one in Virginia and Baby number two in Washington state—-yep, they couldn’t do things the easy way and be on the same coast.
The Virginia baby needed some grandparent time while Mom and Dad adjusted to their “back to work” schedule, so that began our year of travel.
The Seattle baby was due in September, our next major stop.
Then our Air Force son wanted us to see some rocket launches in California.
In February, the Seattle baby needed some grandparent time while Mommy finished up a work commitment.
Back across the country to Virginia to help son number 2 install flooring.
Next on the list was an Army graduation for a daughter-in-law in North Carolina and some help with their landscaping.
A grandson’s graduation in the North Country of New York state and time spent with family in Ohio finished up our first year.
We had the framework (the dates and locations) for our first year of travel, so how did we fill in the gaps? We got out our old trusty paper maps and took a look at what was between points A and B and discussed what was worth stopping for. We scoured the internet, reading other rv blogs for advice and suggestions. We talked to other campers, asking where they had been and what they would recommend. We love our state and national parks, so obviously any close to our route we planned to visit. We also have several friends and extended family members we wanted to spend time with, so on the list they went.
Because of the size of our rig, we tend to stick to US routes or interstates. Since we have little experience driving a motorhome or towing anything, we are rather cautious about the roads we take. Near our former sticks and bricks house was a low bridge that numerous trucks and campers would crash into, damaging their vehicles and spreading debris up and down the road. With that background, you could say we are a little gun shy when it comes to “taking the road less traveled.” However, the more we tow this fifth-wheel around, the more comfortable we are becoming.
Another question we get asked a lot is, “How do you know where to stay each night?” That’s where the wonder of the internet comes into play. Honestly, I really don’t know how folks did this before the World Wide Web! Having so much camping information at my fingertips makes this job very easy.
After choosing the route we are taking, several factors determine where we stay. If we are making a quick dash from here to there, we may choose to dry camp overnight at a Walmart, Camping World, Cabelas, Pilot or Flying J, or a rest area. There is a fantastic shopping mall in Eugene, Oregon that allows overnight rv camping. When parking at any of these “free” spots, we use common sense. We pulled into a Wal-Mart in one town and just didn’t have a good feeling about it, so we left.
If we are in need of electric, water, or sewer hookups, I will look for a campground close to our planned route. We are members of Passport America and Good Sam Club. Passport America offers a 50% discount on camping fees BUT each individual campground sets its own guidelines about when the discount applies so you must read the FINE print carefully. Good Sam Club members receive a 10% discount on camping fees, not a huge savings, but every little bit helps. Other sites I use to find campgrounds are Campendium.com, freecampsites.net, and yelp.com. We have learned (the hard way) that sometimes the internet makes campgrounds look waaay better than they really are. I’m thinking of the run-down little rv park with “co-ed showers.” (Ewwww!) And then there was the other one with free-range chickens running around. So, I’ve learned to carefully do my homework to the best of my ability.
Another group we joined last year is Harvest Hosts and what a delight that has been! Harvest Hosts is a group of wineries, small family farms and orchards, and even some museums that allow FREE overnight rv camping on their property with the understanding that you patronize their business. We have spent the night in an apple orchard, at an alpaca farm, and in the midst of rolling hills of grapevines.
If the camping site itself IS the destination, such as a state or national park or a remote boondocking site, I will research that as much as possible, using Google earth to get a bird’s eye and a street view of our location. Many state parks around the country have detailed descriptions of each site, including the length and width of the site, whether it is shady or in full sun, where the site is located in relation to water, restrooms, etc., and some states have photos of each site making it really easy to determine if your rig will fit in the space.
Looking toward year 2
Like most first year full-timers, we drove A LOT during year one. We had planned all along to take the loop around the country and knew it would be a high mileage year, but our purpose was to spend time with our kids and driving 11,000 miles was the only way to do it. Year two will be different. We leave Ohio and head to Colorado for our youngest son’s wedding. Then from October through March we are scheduled to camp host at four different Texas State Parks. April and May, it’s on to New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. After that,…….who knows? We’d like to head up to Glacier NP, and perhaps even slip into Canada to visit Jasper and Banff. But nothing is carved in stone and we have some time yet to research and dream.
We feel so very blessed with all the people and places God has brought across our path this first year and are looking forward with great anticipation to what He has in store for us next year!