I can’t believe over three months have gone by since we last updated everyone on our travel journey, and my oh my, have those months been jam packed. We are excited to share a little bit about our time of living back on the road during the new Covid 19 “normal,” and then we have some news about a big detour we are taking during the election and holiday months. More about that later.
Wyoming- We left Steamboat Springs (which was also our launch location in 2019) and headed to Wyoming in July. Not only were we ecstatic to be back on the road after months of being quarantined, but we had the pure joy of meeting up with my sister and her family and another travel family that we love and adore. We spent a few days near Lander, WY where we hiked and visited a spectacular waterfall with a natural rock slide that plunged into freezing cold water. From there, our entire crew met up with our friends just outside of Grand Tetons National Park, where we experienced our first boondocking expedition, which turned out to be quite magical once we traversed the backroads and found a spot. Our time in Grand Tetons/Jackson was amazing, full of more hiking, more water, lots of laughter, Jr. Ranger badge achievement (where I was given the privilege of acting Park Ranger since the actual Park Rangers are not able to do all of the oaths at this time,) and some mountain bike riding for Dave and Miyah. We did not go far from Jackson during our next stop at Star Valley, WY. There, we took advantage of a beautiful RV park with much needed washers and dryers and endless hot water for showers. During our stay in Star Valley, we were only a few miles from Idaho so we took advantage of the proximity and went to Idaho Falls where we spent an afternoon tubing the river. We all decided that this entire area of Wyoming is one of our favorite places in the entire country, and we plan to go back soon.
Idaho – We spent a few days in Twin Falls, home of the biggest waterfall west of the Mississippi. We all learned about hydroelectric power, the influence the Oregon Trail had in this area, and about Evil Knievel’s attempted jump over the Snake River Gorge. We had no idea this area had so much to offer, and we were glad we made a last minute detour to check it out. From there we were off just a few short hours away to Boise, which ended up far exceeding our expectations. It was much hotter than any of us realized it would be, since it’s a high desert, so we took advantage of the warm temps and rented a raft to float the Boise River, which was a blast. We also took a day trip to the Sawtooth Mountains to discover natural hot springs, which are abundant in this area. Hot Springs are our jam, so we had a great, adventure filled day. A bonus for the girls was that they got their cliff jumping and rope swinging fill in. Boise is a gorgeous city, with adorable neighborhoods and picturesque homes that allowed Dave and I the opportunity to completely understand why it is such a sought after place to raise families right now. Our last stop in Idaho was to our most anticipated Idaho destination- Cour d’Alene (CDA). While there we all attempted to ride The Hiawatha Trail, which is a bike trail on an old mining railroad track, but we ran in to some weather and found out that Journey was not allowed on the trail, so Aubree and I drove down to the end of the trail and picked up Dave, Miyah, and Jaelyn when they finished, they had a great time! We also enjoyed some time at Lake Coeur d’Alene, which was not only stunning, but the water temperature was surprisingly warm. This city is high on our list for summer home potential, but Idaho can keep their winters when it comes to my preferences.
Washington – We actually visited CDA while staying at our first Washington location, Newport, which was just 45 minutes one direction to get to Spokane and 45 minutes to CDA. This area is beautiful, and we all agree that it gets overlooked when people think of Washington because they usually think of the coast, but don’t miss this area full of lakes, endless emerald trees, berry farms, and the kindest people. Spokane is a fantastic city, but we happened upon it during a time that was really hot, and with nothing open indoors that allowed us to stay occupied, we hit our first wall of frustration on the trip and honestly probably did not give this city as much of our time and attention as we should have. After a quick stop in Leavenworth, the cutest little Swiss mountain town about 2 hours outside of Seattle, we continued our trip across the state to the very upper north west Washington, north of Bellingham. We spent two weeks here and soaked in the area going whale watching, (where we saw a pod of killer whales and Miyah’s dream of seeing orcas in the wild came true) exploring Bellingham, tinkering around in Birch Bay, and during the end of our time here, Miyah and I drove down to Seattle where just she and I flew to Denver for a few days. While we did spend two nights just outside of Seattle in Bellevue, we did not go into Seattle, which was hard for all of us since it’s one of our favorite cities, but given the current riots and protests, we didn’t feel it was safe. From there we went on to an area near Aberdeen, (Home town of Kirk Cobain) where our RV Park sat a very short walk over the sand dunes to the ocean. The weather and scenery were gorgeous, and since we had two weeks in the area, we decided to take a short trip north to Olympic National Park where we stayed in a cute cottage that bordered rain forest and had a rain water shower. It was quite the fun experience for all of us, and Olympic National Park is in our top 7 NP’s. Once we returned to our RV Park, we spent our last night in Washington, which happened to be Labor Day, cleaning up the beach and having a tailgate picnic and a fire on the beach.
Oregon-During our drive from Aberdeen to Bend, OR we skirted Portland and experienced first hand the horrible smoke in the area. It felt and looked apocalyptic, and since we don’t watch much TV, we had no idea how much of the entire western coast was on fire and how much our lives were about to be impacted. We were very excited to get to Bend because so many people had told us that we might love it as a possible place to move to once we were finished traveling, and because Dave had visited there a few years prior for a mountain bike trip and fell in love with it himself. We enjoyed about 36 hours of beautiful Bend before the intense smoke moved in and the air quality plummeted to hazardous levels. Every time we would open the door for just a few seconds, the trailer would smell like fire and everyone’s lungs and eyes would start burning. Since we didn’t want to stay in the trailer for about 5 days while we waited for the winds to shift, we made the hard decision to abandon our plans to remain in Bend for ten more days and then to head to northern California, where the roads were closed anyway, and we started making our way towards Arizona three weeks early.
A Perfect Detour – We first started heading east, anywhere to attempt to escape from the smoke, so we backtracked to Boise, which is five and a half hours from Bend. The smoke was only minimally better in Boise and our heart broke for both cities. Boise was just a stop over on our way to Salt Lake City, and even though we tried to make a reservation for one night at any RV Park we could find, we couldn’t get a single reservation because all of the parks were full with people fleeing the fires. Once we arrived in Boise with a nearly flat tire, and got kicked out of a Walmart parking lot, we also found out that every hotel nearby was also full with fire escapers. We took a chance at a nearby Cracker Barrel that was not very clear on whether RV parking was allowed, and made it through the night without being asked to leave. Therefore, we promptly supported Cracker Barrel upon waking by buying breakfast and tipping well. We have learned that many business that have allowed RV parking in the past, such as Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabelas, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, are often not allowing overnight parking anymore because people are squatting on the property, littering, or committing crimes, which is ruining it for everyone. ALWAYS call ahead and check with the store before setting up, even if you use an app that says it’s okay.
After getting the tire fixed and with full bellies, we headed to Salt Lake City, where the smoke was less intense and the Provo KOA had availability. Hallelujah! During our week in SLC we saw dear friends that had recently left Colorado to move to the area, my aunt’s family, my cousin and his girlfriend, and one of my close friends and her husband. We caught up on school and grocery shopping and a I got a mani-pedi for the first time in ten months!!! If you follow us on social, you likely saw the fall colors in and around Park City and Provo Canyon that we deemed the best fall colors we’ve ever seen.
After SLC we headed to St. George, Utah to visit my cousin and her family, where they graciously set us up in their backyard with not only a place to stay, but with electric and sewer hookups and a resort style backyard. Tanya and I teamed up to do a business event, we got in a couples date night, spent several days by the pool, and had a fantastic afternoon at the lake and sand dunes. We also had the chance to visit Zion NP and met up with some fellow travel friends that we had been trying to link up with over a year. We had a great day going on a short hike, catching up and watching the kids play in the park.
With Las Vegas being only two hours away and a park in our Thousand Trails camping system being there, we jaunted over there for a short stay. Hotel prices on The Strip are crazy cheap right now so we even had an overnight staycation at The Mirage. We visited Freemont Street to watch the light show, swam in the gorgeous Mirage pool, ate a delicious dinner out, and visited another dear friend and her daughter, while getting in a puppy playdate for Journey.
A stop over in Phoenix, where my family lives and where we spent the beginning stages of our Covid quarantine, only seemed fitting, especially since the dates aligned with my virtual business conference and I could be immersed among “my people.” Best of all, I got to meet my beautiful niece Grace for the first time. Bliss!
This leads me to the location I’m writing this from today, and where we intend to call “home” for the next three months…Flagstaff, Arizona. You are likely wondering why we would call any place home for three months when we have a home on wheels. There are a few reasons:
- We do not want to be on the road during this crazy election. We are hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. After experiencing food shortages with nowhere to store food during the beginning stages of Covid, and after having several friends caught with kids in the riots across the country over the previous three months, we felt this is the solid ground we needed for peace of mind right now. One of the best parts about traveling is seeing and experiencing new places, but this can also be one of the most unnerving parts of travel when you don’t know a city, or neighborhood, or your neighbors. Having stability, with four solid walls during a time that we hope unrest will not continue but we are also realistic about the political and social climate, has led us to Flagstaff. We have rented a condo and are settling in nicely while “Spirit,” the trailer gets some repairs done and will then spend some time in storage until we pick back up in January. We do have some short trips with friends planned over the coming months.
- This family of five has three and a half family members that LOVE winter and want to experience snow again. I am the one of the other one and half and Dave is the half, as it depends on whether or not Dave is actually experiencing the cold in that moment which determines if he minds it. When it is cold outside, he doesn’t like it and tries to steal my heated blanket, but if you ask him when he’s warm and he forgets the discomfort of being cold, he likes it because it means skiing. (Insert eye roll.)
- Location, location, location! Flagstaff gives the family their beloved winter while allowing me the opportunity to drive two hours south and warm up in Phoenix. Flag is also only 45 minutes from my happy place, Sedona, which makes me giddy and slightly more tolerable of experiencing winter.
So, what happens come January and what’s the route? Well, we’re not quite sure, but we know it will include Texas and hopefully California, maybe even Hawaii, but as we have repeatedly been learning how to do over the last year and a half, we remain flexible and optimistic and know that we are only in control so much. We’ve also learned over the last three months that every state is handling things differently and that things can change over night, so we will wait to plan and know that we always end up exactly where we are meant to be and that things almost always work out to be better than we could have ever planned. We know to trust in the process because even when it doesn’t make sense or feel easy at first, we can look back and see that it was and is always perfect!
Favorite Moment-I liked it when we were with The Pospisil’s and The Reyher’s in The Grand Tetons and we did junior ranger books.
Finding Joy-She says she can’t think of anything, which is not abnormal because Aubree is pretty much a ball of sunshine. She also struggles to keep her brain focused on the last five minutes and the last three months is pretty overwhelming.
Favorite- In Bellingham, Washington, I lived out one of my greatest dreams that I have had for a couple of years. My favorite animal when I was younger was an Orca Whale and to this day, it is still my favorite! For years I have dreamed of seeing one of these whales but I never wanted to see one held in captivity. I never believed that I would ever see this incredible animal until my family and I decided to go whale watching around the San Juan Islands. We had been sitting on the boat for about 2 hours and I wasn’t exactly confident that we were going to see one of the pods. I slowly started to lose hope that we wouldn’t get see any of the whales when the ships captain said to the passengers that we were coming up on a pod of Orcas. Hearing this, I looked to my mom with a huge smile and raced to the front of the boat. Within a few minutes we were looking at a small pod of Orcas. Standing at the front of the boat, I began to cry happy tears as I realized that one of my biggest dreams had come true!
Finding Joy- There was a day where we had to leave Bend, Oregon because there was too much smoke in the air. My family decided to go and visit Salt Lake City, Utah but before getting there, we had to boon-dock in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Boise, Idaho. That night, my parents were having a little bit of trouble finding a safe place for us to sleep and we tried going to about 3 different locations but couldn’t find a good place. My mom was getting a little stressed out and my dad and sisters were tired. During that night, there was a moment were I began to get caught up in the moment and was getting kind of frustrated we got kicked out of the Walmart parking lot and was tired of driving. I had to stop for a second and tell myself that we were going to figure this out and that we would find a place to stay. Eventually we parked in a Cracker Barrel parking lot and went to bed for the night. I was very grateful we were safe in the night and that in the morning, we all had a big family breakfast and had delicious food in the restaurant!
Favorite- My favorite time between a span of 3 months is when we were in the Grand Tetons with my cousins and friends. We were all in the same site and we had a great view of the mountains. I really liked making scavenger hunts for them and acting out the part of the character.
Finding Joy- It is always hard for me to find a finding joy moment because I choose not to remember the bad things but rather the good, but if I had to choose one it would probably be the be when we had to escape the smoke. That at the time had not been something I was so happy about because there were lots of animals in this campground and we had made new friends. If we hadn’t left though we would not have been able to go to beautiful other places that we would have never gone to if it hadn’t been for the smoke,
Favorite-I absolutely loved our time in Grand Tetons, not only because we boondocked and experienced it with great friends and family, but because it’s a magical and gorgeous place.
Finding Joy-As always, there are so many of these moments, but the one that stands out the most is what I eluded to above our smoke detour. We were so excited to go to Redwoods NP, Yosemite and Pacific Dunes in California, but we know we will get an opportunity to go back there one day soon. Due to being forced to change our route, we got to see so many people that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. One of the greatest reinforced thoughts I’ve had during our year and a half of travel is that life is all about relationships and the people we surround ourselves with. I am so grateful we were given the opportunity to detour and see the people that make our souls light up.
Favorite- St George and the Swarts family! I’ve never been to St George and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a fun city with an abundance of outdoor activities. We stayed with Vance and Tanya and had a blast. They have a plethora of toys, everything from side by sides to electric bikes that go 30 miles an hour. Vance and I went on multiple eRides all over the miles of bike trails around St. George. We also took the side by side to the nearby sand dunes which was exhilarating and slightly terrifying. Luckily, Vance is a master driver and navigated the dunes with precision.
Finding Joy – Shout out to Rex Reyher. When we arrived in the Grand Tetons, our friends rig broke down with a cracked leaf spring. Rex and I left our campsite and drove down to Jackson to assist. Rex is quite the skilled mechanic and I often times take this for granted. What certainly would’ve taken me and Jimmy (owner of the broken rig) hours, if not days, to repair, Rex did in less than an hour. He has the right tools, the right knowledge, and the experience to deal with this kind of stuff, and when it comes to trailers, this happens far too often. Rex has, more times than I can count, helped me out with a repair, or an upgrade, or other on trailers and vehicles. He does it patiently and thoroughly. I’m truly thankful to have a brother-in-law with this skill set.