No joke! On April 1st, one year ago, Mike and I finished packing up our lives and moved into our RV. We had just spent a long white winter at my Dad’s house minimizing, storing, donating, and trashing all of our things, and at the first sign of spring—or, to be more specific, at the first break in snowy weather—we piled in our View and hit the road.
Joining the ranks of the few full-time RVers under 40 has been an amazing experience. Not more than a day or two passes without one of us mentioning how grateful and fortunate we are to have this opportunity.
I don’t really have anything else for this intro—a year on the road won’t make you a better writer, but it will make you a better traveler! So, with that, here are some things that have made an impression on us over the past year.
Notably Awesome Experiences:
- Camping in Friends’ Driveways.
There is nothing better than visiting old friends, hanging out until the wee hours of the morning, occasionally over-indulging, and only having to walk across the driveway to get home. It was great to see everyone again and we are truly grateful for the hospitality.
- Hiking/Camping At Rio Grande Del Norte.
The national park here was gorgeous. Nestled at the top of two gorges, you can see where the Rio Grande and the Red River meet. We hiked down the 800ft gorge to see the Rio Grande up close and personal and then hiked all the way back up. This place had the absolute best view from our camping spot to date.
- Hiking/Camping At Yosemite National Park.
The campground itself was just okay—it does get pretty packed on the weekend—but the camp hosts were fantastic to talk to and really nice people. Now, the hiking is another story. This was the best hiking experience we have had in our travels so far—for me, in my entire life. There are trails for all skill levels and the views are spectacular. The next time we’re passing through this portion of California, we’re definitely going to make it a point to spend more time here.
- Discovering Free Community Camping.
When you start out traveling, you are lucky if you know about boondocking at all. It takes time to get into public lands and roadside rest stops, and when you do they’re a great, short-term, free camping alternative as you move from place to place. But did you know that there is something better? There are magical little oases scattered across the country in small towns that you’d never think to visit or pass through, that not only offer free overnight parking, but they come with hook-ups! We even once stayed directly across the park from the mayor’s house! Now, while we’d love to share the love, as awesome as these places are, neighbors have asked us to keep mum on their locations so they remain quiet little hidden away gems for those in the know. Sanctuary exists just off the road less trodden, so don’t be shy, ask around, and take that optional detour.
- Other Notables:
- Best Potable Water: High Sierra RV Park of Oakhurst, California
- Best Chain Burger Joint: Five Guys
- Best Chain Restaurant for Spicy Food: Buffalo Wild Wings
Notably NOT AWESOME Experiences:
- Getting our RV peed on at a rest stop.
You read that right. The rest stop had no-parking signs all along the curbed areas and “No RV Parking” signs along the regular spaces, so we parked for the night in the only place we could park—with the big rigs. It did fill up late in the evening, and a few times a truck or RV circled a couple of times before deciding to just move on, but that didn’t justify the yellow rain. Seriously, F that guy.
- The kamikaze mosquitos and crazy ants of Southeast Georgia.
No less than a half inch long, these mosquitos would sacrifice one of their own just so a horde of their cohorts could feast on you. Given, we were in Georgia in late spring, but the place we were staying had a particularly bad case of these very clever bloodsuckers. Mike wore a heavy hooded sweatshirt (hood up) for days in 90 degree weather… miserable at the time but funny to look back on! Anyway, while we were being eaten alive outdoors, the rig was also getting infested by crazy ants that covered our entire roof—thousands of them—all via one singular leaf from a nearby tree that was touching the awning. Not fun, but we did learn how to naturally combat these pests by the time we left.
- The unstable Vietnam Vet with several pit bulls and a transient girlfriend.
We’re not going into details, but Mike notes it as the most uncomfortable encounter he’s had on the road. Mike’s a pretty social guy, but it’s the one time he regretted going out to meet the neighbors.
- The Asshole NY Highway Patrol Cop on Route 15.
I’ll take the high road and leave his name out of it, but… just outside Corning, NY I get pulled over for doing 81. I wasn’t even going 65. Now, this is before we were towing, so I was driving the car out in front and Mike was tailing me in the RV. The cop puts his lights on, drives around the RV, pulls right in between us, and proceeds to give me a speeding ticket after chewing Mike out for pulling over behind him! Since we had out of state plates, he flat out lied about how fast I was going, knowing full well we wouldn’t stick around to fight the ticket—note that 81mph is just above the 15mph overage required to label it a reckless driving ticket with a much steeper fine and major points on your license. Some people don’t deserve the badge.
- Other Notables:
- Worst Potable Water: Ripplin’ Waters RV Campground of Sevierville, Tennessee
- Worst Seafood: Mr. Fish of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Worst RV Service: Harold’s of Bath, Pennsylvania
Our Favorite Campgrounds:
- Southwoods RV Resort of Byron, NY
For a place that has a lot of long-term residents, these guys did it right. It was set up to feel more like walking through a small neighborhood than an RV Park; nicely landscaped with shaded, stone-lined paths. It was conveniently located right outside of Rochester, NY, and though it did get pretty crowded on the weekend, almost everyone cleared out by Sunday afternoon.
- Bonita County Park of Bonita, California
This well-maintained county park just outside of San Diego is not only affordably priced, but they have the kind of landscaping and amenities than an independently owned park charging three times their rate would offer. There’s no dog run, but plenty of space for long walks, and both a playground and water park for families with kids. Our two-week stay was exceptional.
- Spark Marina RV Park, Sparks, Nevada
I’m actually writing this article from here right now. Even though it’s our last campground of the year, it’s quite awesome! They have great weekly rates, great utilities, a super-friendly staff, well maintained landscaping, and a fantastic laundry room. There are three dog runs, fully-fenced, and large enough for even big dogs to get out their energy. Additionally, the park is just across the road from a large, fishable lake with a jogging path and there’s a full shopping center just up the road. I’m impressed.
Our Least Favorite Campgrounds:
- Evergreen Lake of Klecknersville, Pennsylvania
I grew up nearby, and it was great for fishing, mini golf, and getting propane for the grill. This place is built for long-term residents and (separately) servicing the local community—but it’s $20 just to dump your tanks. The campground is fully shaded. Do I occasionally like to see the sun when I park my rig? Yep. Can you ever see the sun when you camp here? Nope. Do I ever want to stay here again? Nope. Enough said.
- Ferenbaugh Camping and Recreation Area of Corning, New York
There’s plenty of space here, but it’s all steep, one-way gravel roads and there’s not a flat spot in the place. This is another one of those long-term residents type of campgrounds. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but they never worked out the electrical grid. So at 3:30 pm on a hot day (every day), the power would go out due to low voltage because every single person turned on their A/C as they got home. Oh… and this was also the place who’s entrance/exit required crossing deep-grooved rail road tracks at an angle (causing major rocking and consequently destroying Mike’s iPad.)
- Bay View Pines of Morro Bay, California
This place does have better rates than the average (obscene) ones more commonly found throughout San Luis Obispo County, but it packs in its guests like sardines. I could damn near poke my neighbor’s slide from my front door. Also, they claim to be pet-friendly, but all the grass in the park is off-limits and they only provide one teeny little triangular area (un-gated) for all the pets in the park to do their business. We felt so sorry for the dogs.
What We Learned:
- We can indeed comfortably live on $30 a day.
- RV maintenance isn’t as stressful after the first time you do it.
- The best way to learn something is to just be dumb and ask someone who knows—you actually end up meeting some really great people that way too!
- We wish we knew how fuel-efficient diesel engines were sooner, because we would’ve switched to diesel a long time ago.
- And, finally, slowing down and enjoying the ride is better (and cheaper) than trying to see the entire country in one year.