The Last Hoorah
Instead of going out with a BANG, we are winding down with a comforting sizzle.
When you are on a course of change, and deep in your heart you know it is the right direction , it can still be difficult and sometimes painful.
We made the decision that our time of living on the road must end. And, though we love our Airstream, our time with her must also end. A tough decision, but the right decision.
I wanted to end our time with her somewhere special. Maybe visit a few more places we have yet to see, but it was not meant to be. As soon as we arrived in Florida, our schedule was a constant buzz of busyness with house hunting and the transition of moving from off the road into a stick and brick.
I realized then, what was most important was how we spent our last moments with her.
We found a house just as our time at the Sanlan RV park in Lakeland, Florida was ending. We had already made the arrangements to move the Airstream to Bay Bayou RV Resort in Olds Mar, just outside of Tampa. Bay Bayou was the first RV park we stayed in when we first came to Florida in 2021 and we were still newbies. It was only fitting to end our time with Betty Jo at one of our favorite RV parks and to come full circle while ending our time with her.
A last hoorah does not necessarily have go out with a BANG, sometimes all you really need is a comforting sizzle for closure.
RV Life has many "norms" to it — towing, travel days, setting up and breaking down camp, flushing the tanks, and more. But it will be some of the unexpected encounters, unusual locations, people we met, and the odd things about RV life which will be some of our most treasured memories.
Here are 10 odd things I will miss about RV life. The little things that add to the experience but many don't realize are part of it.
Driving down the highway and the view of Betty Jo (the Airstream) in the side view mirror. This one I will miss the most, the shiny views of her following us.
One of the many challenges of being 50' in length is GAS STATIONS. We usually go to truck stops and go through the same lines as the BIG BOYS (semis), but every once in a while there isn't one around and so we have to find a gas station where we can get in and out of. I wonder how long before I quit judging a gas based on whether or not Betty Jo fits. :-)
Parking by the BIG BOYS (semis) at a Rest Stop. One of the many advantages of RVing is having access to your own restroom and kitchen. Often, we would stop for a bathroom break, stretching, and a quick bite to eat. Man, am I going to miss that.
One of the perks about RV Life is the GEMS! The scenic highways you discover by accident (or on purpose). Then when you find a quiet spot to pull over to enjoy a meal and just absorb the surroundings, what more could you ask for.
The Unusual Locations we slept. RV Life is not all about RV Parks, State parks, National campgrounds, there is so much more to it. Some of the best night's sleep were in parking lots, on a farm, or while Boondocking.
The Airstream WAVE and Flash on the road, or how excited we get whenever another Airstream is in the same RV Park.
Cautiously opening up cupboards and doors. You never know what shifted during travel day.
The Oddities and Fun things you see on the road.
The Stars and the Spectacular Sunsets
The people we met. RV life provides an extraordinary opportunity to meet people from all over and all walks of life.
From the Pacific Northwest to the southern state of Florida.
We took our time traveling over countless miles and wandering through fourteen states to reach our final destination of Tampa, Florida. When we left Washington on September 21st, we had a goal of reaching the Tampa area by the first part of March.
Many would say, that is a long time to travel across country, but when you live on the road — it is just one day at a time, one destination at a time, one mile at a time. You will have specific dates and specific locations you need to incorporate into your plans, you then decide to either beeline it or take your sweet time getting there while enjoying the journey to the destination. That is what we did.
We had a few specific destinations on the route we wanted to visit, otherwise our plans were based on a whim of where to next. As usual, weather played a big role, often dictating changes to our routes.
As we got closer to the final destination, I noticed travel fatigue started to hit and a deep desire to just reach our last stop took hold. I was ready to just stay put.
Since I wasn't sure when exactly we would reach a destination, I wasn't able to plan too far ahead. Unfortunately, that meant it has been more difficult to find places to stay as we got closer to Florida. It was still Snowbird Season, meaning most places were full. I knew I was taking a huge chance, but sometimes life is not always planned. I just had to go on faith that we would find something or accept that we would spend a lot of nights in truck stops.
Gems Along the Way
The route from Washington to Florida had some beautiful twists and scenic turns. We picked up a National Park Passport and made it goal to get as many stamps as possible, not sure why we didn't discover it sooner. We journeyed back in time visiting historical places.
And, we discovered new campgrounds that became favorites.
Curt Gowdy State Park - Wyoming
This gem of a park is nestled in the foothills just west of Cheyenne and on the edge of Medicine Bow National Forest. The campgrounds are spread out with a focus on the lake and reservoir. In the summer, I imagine the lake is bustling with activities while the loud hum of boats and jet skies fill the air, but in the Fall, it was peaceful and quiet. A relaxing oasis that fed the soul with gentle quietness.
Some of the sites come with electricity only, a few with electricity and water, and the rest provide no service. There is no dump station in the park, so keep that in mind. There are bathrooms (vault toilets) spread throughout the park providing the basic needs. The sites are spread out so neighboring sites are nearby but not close. The sites come with a priceless feature no matter the location - A VIEW. Whether it is a view of the lake or the surrounding hills, nature provides a beautiful show.
There are a variety of trails weaving the way around the park, an invitation to stroll and enjoy each step. Cruise around on a bike to explore the many offerings within the park or enjoy the solitude of floating on the lake in a canoe or small boat. No matter how you experience Curt Gowdy State Park, it will be a memory to cherish for a lifetime. Visit the website.
Chatfield Dam State Park - Colorado
We stayed in D loop, a newer loop, which offered full hookup and large sites, most of which are pull-through. Well maintained and clean, you could see the pride in each campsite. No wonder it is a favorite with the locals. I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice building in our loop with clean bathrooms and showers. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find a nice size laundry room in the building.
This large park offers a variety of outdoor activities; miles of trails for walking or bike riding, fun on the water, fishing or bird watching, a model airplane park, wildlife viewing areas, a corral for horseback riding, and so much more. Visit their website.
Lost Dutchman State Park - Arizona
This state park made it to the top of our Bucket List of places to stay and the top of list of favorite campgrounds. We were in the new loop with electric and water. Nice sites with lots of space in between others. And the VIEW - that alone makes the park worth it. They take great care in this park, keeping the sites clean and well-groomed. The trails are marked and most are easy for just a stroll through nature. Quiet at night and just about dark enough for night skies. The Rangers here are friendly and helpful. Definitely a park everyone should stay at, at least once. Visit their website.
Twin Peaks Campground in ORgan Pipe Cactus National Park - Arizona
STUNNING! And tied with The Lost Dutchman State Park for favorites. We needed a night stay on the way to Tucson. As soon as we pulled in, I fell in love with it and so regretted we could not stay longer. I love campgrounds with a good layout and this campground had it. All sites are pull-through. Easy to navigate. Privacy in between sites. Gorgeous use of the landscape. Lovingly cared for. Fun and informative ranger programs. Clean bathrooms. Solar powered showers in some of the buildings, but wait until the sun as a chance to warm up the water. Dump station is there, but you have to drive all around the campground to get to it. A must stay.
Visit their website.
Too Many Favorites to list
Each place we visited was just as incredible as the last. There is a quote, "it's not the destination, it's the journey" but that quote is wrong. For me, it was the destinations that were the best part of the each journey.
These last five months was more of a journey of self. After two years on the road, we discovered more about ourselves and finally became more comfortable with some of our newfound skills.
We also decided it was time to change.
Staying focused - Routine and List
It is important to have a list for breaking down and setting up camp. You can't always rely on memory or routines.
One of the first things we learned when we started the RV life, was to make a checklist for setting up and a checklist for breaking camp. I have a list for the inside of Betty Jo and one for the outside and one for the Pro Pride Hitch. When we made the list, we went through the routine with the hopes of remembering everything — we didn't.
Part of our routine when breaking camp is to turn the fridge off before we turn off propane. During our first maiden voyage, I noticed the next day that the fridge wasn't on when we were breaking camp. I thought maybe it was broke. Turned out, I had forgotten to turn it on. Whoops! And, it was not on the list of things to do during set up. Double Whoops! It immediately went on the list and is now one of the top priorities when setting up camp.
We have developed a steady routine that works for us. My husband has ADD and it is critical to have a routine, to minimize distractions, and stay consistent, but sometimes — well, sometimes, routines get disturbed and staying focused becomes a challenge. Thank goodness for the LISTS.
We were in San Diego in January during the massive rainstorms. The campground we were at was soaked. The road into the park was narrow and only had room for one so I wanted out of the park before new people came in. Tony was still going through his morning routine, I was inpatient and I went out and started to break things down. This screwed up his routine for breaking down and it made him a little flustered. But, hey, we got out early.
While in Big Bend National Park area, during our routine for breaking down, I discovered a flat tire. As you can imagine this little bolt threw off our routine. We got patched up and left for our next destination (thankfully it wasn't far), but it disrupted the flow and it took us a while to get back into it.
We are in a wonderful boutique RV park in the Panhandle of Florida. The sites are all back-in and clustered together. We arrived on a Sunday, and of course, everyone was outside to watch. Thankfully, the generous Camp Host came over to greet us and guided Tony safely and quickly into the site. Unfortunately, it through off his rhythm for set up and we missed an important step, luckily we didn't break anything. It took Tony (and I) a little bit of time to get back into the rhythm.
Everyone is different. Some of us (me) like things organized and structured. If traveling with someone who easily gets distracted it is critical to have a routine. To set limits. To create a structure that helps them stay focused. We, both, check the other's work, just in case. Once Tony has a routine down, he is great at sticking to it and is methodical upon completing it. Then a distraction comes along and throws it off, that it is why it is so important to have a list to refer back to.
A Look Back at 2022
December 31st is a day we tend to look back before we look forward.
As I scrolled through photos of 2022, I was amazed at all that we did. Did we really do all of that in one year? It was our second year on the road and it was filled with some of the best memories and unforgettable tiny adventures.
Our Journey starts in January
Our year started as we headed up the east coast after leaving Florida, our destination was Mrytle Beach, where we spent a month on the Atlantic coastline. Our first stop was in St Augustine, it was too brief to explore. Then onto Savannah, Georgia. Everyone said I would love it, and I did, but not as much as I expected to. But I did love the state park - Skidaway Island State Park.
Myrtle Beach in January ranges from warm and pleasant to downright cold. We stayed at Ocean Lakes, right on the Atlantic Coast. All we had to do was walk out the door and walk over the dune and there is was in all its glory - the Atlantic Ocean. I am not an early bird but I did wake up to video an east coast sunrise and it was SPECTACULAR. Luckily, it was off season, during our stay, otherwise the campground would have been packed. With over 900 RV sites and around 2200 vacation homes, this place in the summer turns into a small city.
We had an enjoyable lunch on the water in The Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk. We visited Atalaya Castle, a beautiful historical home in Huntington Beach. We experienced our first Ground Ice Storm, waking up to find the truck and the Airstream caked in thick ice. And, oh, the SUNSETS. And the walks along the beach. It was heavenly.
On the Bucket List of places to visit was Charleston. I fell in love with this town and the area. If I had known, I would have booked a month here instead of Myrtle Beach, the 10 days we spent was just not enough time. I love history and especially older architecture, so I was in heaven in the city. And we visited the Boone Hill Plantation, such beautiful grounds. On our last night, we found our favorite BBQ at the Swill and Swine. We stayed at the Oak Plantation Campground, it was nice place to spend our time.
Top of my list of favorite adventures was a Ghost and Graveyard Tour in Charleston. We spent our Valentine's Day, dining on good food, then visiting the graves of Charleston's past. Unfortunately, we did not see any ghosts.
We left the east coast on February 17th, it was time to start the trek back to the west coast. But first, a detour - Route 66. A Route full of history and nostalgia. On the way to the route, we stopped in August, GA, staying at the Heritage RV Park. After a quick drive through Atlanta, our next stop was a new park, Time Away RV in Lincoln, Alabama. A delightful find was Tupelo, MS, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. We didn't stay but a few days, but it was small town of mixed history and today's culture. We really enjoyed it. We stayed at Campground at Barnes Crossing.
A favorite campground of RVers is Tom Sawyer RV park in West Memphis, Arkansas. It is located right next to the Mighty Mississippi River. While in the area, we had to visit Graceland. During our stay, the river was right at flood stage. We left a day early because a storm was coming and I was worried about flooding, not from the river but from the areas surrounding the park.
March/April - Route 66
Route 66 was a highlight of the year. We only did part of the route - out of St Louis to Needles, CA. It was fun, filled with nostalgia, and kept us engaged. You can read all about the route, including where we stayed, just visit the home page where we list all of the articles. Extraordinary activities while on Route 66, included; the Grand Canyon, Chaco Cultural Historical Monument, Palo Duro Canyon, Old Town Albuquerque, and Painted Desert/Petrified Forest.
End of April
After Route 66, our intentions were to travel Hwy 395, through California, Nevada, Oregon, and into Washington, but high winds, deep snow in the Sierras, and the high price of diesel required us to alter our plan — and it was worth the change of plans.
We ventured toward Las Vegas, staying a few days a the Lake Mead RV Village (the private park), while we explored Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire State Park — a must place to visit. In Vegas, we stayed at the Las Vegas RV Resort, nice park, clean, and close to action without being right in it.
May - National Parks and More
May was filled with scenic drives, breathtaking landscapes, and unexpected beauty. After leaving Vegas, we headed to St George, Utah, our first stop for National Park beauty — Zion. Traveling this time of year was perfect for weather and minimal crowds when visiting such scenic and popular locations. In St. George, we stayed at a new RV park - Desert Canyon RV Resort. Beautiful location, nice sites, and friendly staff.
Bryce Canyon was by far my favorite. The whole area surrounding it was filled with stunning beauty. Hwy 12, a scenic byway, aka “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway” is a road trip that should be on everyone's list of scenic drives. We stayed at The Riverside Ranch RV park in Hatch, Utah. There are some great campgrounds along Hwy 12, and a wonderful state park campground at Kodachrome Basin State Park, the park is worth a visit no matter what.
After leaving the beauty of the National Parks in Utah, we headed north to spend a couple of days boondocking at the Salt Flats. We opted to try Hwy 93 in Nevada and what a gorgeous drive. We stopped for lunch and experienced a relaxing location with a remarkable view. It was a long drive that day but the weather was perfect, so was the drive.
From the Salt Flats, we continued on Hwy 93 to Twin Falls, Idaho and grabbed Hwy 84 towards Boise. After a few days and doing laundry at the beautiful Ambassador RV park in Caldwell, Idaho, we discovered another scenic drive — Hwy 95, along the Salmon River.
Summer - Moochdocking
We spent the summer back in Anacortes, WA moochdocking on a friend's property. Spent time with friends and family and just enjoyed the downtime.
September - Time to hit the road
We took our sweet time heading to our winter location of Arizona, journeying through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and spending a week with our son in Colorado. Our two favorite campgrounds were state parks - Curt Gowdy State Park in Wyoming and Chatfield Dam in Denver area. Highlights were the Harvest Hosts we stayed at checking out Fall colors with our son.
October - Was filled with History
We spent a good part of October in the state of New Mexico, a state filled with history and rich culture and aliens and white sand.
November - Family
We spent the month in Tucson to visit my dad and my sister and her family. Our youngest son drove down from Colorado for Thanksgiving and to visit his Bucket List destination — Tombstone.
We finished the year quietly in the town of Camp Verde, AZ. We stayed at a delightful park — Verde Ranch RV. Visited historical monuments like Montezuma Castle and the historical town of Jerome. My Bucket List destination in Arizona was Sedona and it did not disappoint. Our favorite campground this year and in Arizona was Lost Dutchman State Park.
happy new year - may 2023 be filled with happy memories and tiny adventures.
As we roam the roads and highways, looking for that next fantastic stop, keep track of our travels in our Airstream - Betty Jo