2015 & Year 6 In Review -> 5,864 Miles Of Western Beauty, National Parks & Bucket List Items
It’s that time again. The start of a New Year, the time to renew your Dogkittylutions, the time to look back at where you’ve been and ponder where you might go in the future. It may be a day like any other day but nonetheless, it feels like a time of new energy and new opportunities.
For us and our blog readers in particular, this is the time I summarize our past year of travels and highlight our top-rated campgrounds. I’ve done this every year since we started RVing and although it takes a lot of effort to organize the map and sort through the mass of ~120 or so posts I wrote, it’s always fun to look back and re-live the adventure. Even though I was there, I’m always surprised at much we’ve seen and done. Looking back allows me to appreciate how fortunate we are to live this lifestyle.
This past year marked our 6th fulltime year on the road and we stuck to our typical “slo-mo” pace, completing a relaxing 5,864 total miles and 42 total stops, averaging a nice, easy ~143 miles a drive. Our longest, and also the absolute worst drive we’ve ever done was 370 miles, while our shortest was 17.2 miles (yup, we do that kind of thing), but mostly we stayed around the 120-150 mark for the majority of the legs.
We did some stuff that we’ve done many times before (Hwy 395), but we also did some “firsts”, most notably we went to a bunch of National Parks (which is not our norm), we only spent 2 months volunteer hosting (which is less than we usually do), we did a mad and crazy dash of 2,467 miles in ONE month (insanity, by our standards) and we ticked off several bucket list items that have been on our list for years. Oh and yeah we went to Hell and back, saw the Devil’s Tower and survived. Here’s how it all broke down:
Winter -> Desert Boondocking & City-Slicking (AZ, CA)
We started the year in full party-mode, ringing in the year with a dusting of snow and the company of a bunch of like-minded nomads at our boondocking spot in Borrego, CA. It’s was an insanely social time and after more than a month of partying we snuck off for some solitude in Yuma, which allowed us to complete our annual Mexico dental trip and also gave me time to me to write my 4-part “boondocking for newbies” series.
We bummed around for the next month or so in the desert, exploring a watery oasis at Cibola, discovering ancient desert figures in Blythe, enjoying a romantic Valentine’s Day at KOFA and visiting new ghost towns.
After months of boondocking we were yearning for a change so we spent a few days in the mountains of Alpine, CA before dropping down for a month of civilization in San Diego. Here we lounged in luxury & sun by the beach, mixing cool bike rides with visits from family, exploring San Diego’s many farmers markets and (most notably) attempting to nail down San Diego’s BEST beer, a daunting task in a town with 100+ micro-breweries (we did OK, don’t you think?).
Spring -> The Eternal Wonder of Hwy 395 (CA)
We’d done the drive sooo many times before and we’d already decided we weren’t going to do it again, right up until our buddies Todd & Russ decided to go. How could we possibly resist???
So, we engaged on a mad 303 mile drive and found ourselves once again on fabulous Hwy 395 and back in the boonies of the mountains…ahhhhh! The spring weather was predictably fickle, but as usual the Eastern Side of the Sierra Nevadas didn’t disappoint and we were lured deep into the beauty of the mountains.
We played around the fabulous Alabama Hills, hiked part of Mount Whitney, went deep into the John Muir Wilderness, bouldered, hiked and ate ourselves silly in Bishop, experienced some spectacular sunrises at Mono Lake and warmed up in the natural hot pools of Mammoth Lakes. Many were places we’d been before, but none of the spots felt old. I think we’ll keep driving this highway until they kick us off!
Summer -> Wonderful Oregon, And A Time Of Sadness (OR, WA)
We couldn’t resist coming back to our favorite state for summer. Although we arrived a tad early for the area (May), good buddies of ours offered their house in Bend, OR for chicken-sitting and that was an offer we couldn’t refuse. So we enjoyed several weeks of bumming around, drinking beer and meeting people.
Right after our country sojourn, Paul needed to fly home so we took a quick stop in Portland, OR arriving just in time for the big Rose bloom (wow!!) and yet another meet-up with our buddies Russ & Todd. There’s so much to do in Portland it would take years to see it all, and we love this quirky city so much we keep coming back almost every year we go north.
As soon as hubby got home we started our drive East, stopping for a bit of wine along the Columbia River Gorge before arriving at one of the absolute highlights of our year, two weeks in the Little Switzerland of the PNW, the astonishing Oregon Wallowas. This place BLEW us away with amazing mountains & gorgeous prairies, super-cute barns & brews and (of course) the infamous drive to Hell and back which took us to both the most divine wildflowers and the deepest river gorge in North America. It was a place I’d wanted to see for years and it did not disappoint. Folks, put this place on your bucket list!!
June ended seemingly perfect with a few days in our favorite coastal town of Astoria, OR before we planned to settle down for our summer hosting by the beach at Cape Disappointment, WA. Unfortunately things were not to be, and my mother passed away unexpectedly at the end of the month, shooting me back to Europe and putting the blog in hiatus for almost a month. It took a while before I felt ready to write about it and return back to lighthouse hosting, but hubby and the coast helped me to start healing. No matter what we might like to think, life doesn’t stop for RVing.
We stayed blissfully stationary in Cape D for another month, attending the yearly Kite Festival, taking advantage of the area’s many beer & food spots, and wrapping it all up with a very windy goodbye.
Fall -> A Mad Dash East, National Parks Galore & Balloons (ID, WY, SD, NE, CO, NM, AZ)
Our summer on the coast had been near weather-perfect, but it had been one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in the rest of the West and we needed to get to South Dakota to renew our drivers licences. Our best laid-plans went awry as we made a last-minute detour to avoid the smoke, driving 845 miles in 3 days and ending up in places we never expected. But it was also totally worth it.
We got to see the amazing Sand Dunes of Bruneau, ID, and the gob-smacking beauty of the Tetons in WY, a place that not only amazed us with it’s spectacular photography, but also it’s extensive dog-friendly options. We followed with a stop to see the smoking cauldrons of Yellowstone and (my favorite) a stay at Devil’s Tower WY, a place I’d wanted to see for years and years. Almost ALL were places we hadn’t expected to see, and they all ended up being well-worthy stops. Sometimes it pays to be “jello”.
The mad dash East got us to South Dakota and once our drivers licenses had been updated we started yet another mad dash South taking us through surprisingly pretty Nebraska, and the worst drive we’ve EVER done, a grinding, bumping, shock-shattering, back-breaking back country road to Trinidad, CO (never again!).
We rested up for a few days in CO and stopped by pretty Santa Fe NM before getting to our REAL destination and the bucket-list item that we had prepped for the entire year -> the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Paul’s dad and stepmom had driven over in their rig from FL to join us, the event was something we’d wanted to do for years and years. We basked in two weeks of absolute balloons galore and had an experience we’ll never forget. Over 550 balloons, up to 80,000 people (per day) and absolute mass, beautiful hot air insanity. We camped on-site, crewed and got to fly, and socialized with friends. It was….SO…worth it!!!
With our balloon cravings more than satisfied, our caravan moved West stopping to admire Nature’s artistry in the Painted Desert, AZ followed by some old Route 66 history in Williams, AZ and (the highlight) two weeks at the astonishing, impossible Grand Canyon. This was yet another bucket list item and inspired me to produce some of my best photography of the year. We loved our stay on the south rim and would come back in a heartbeat.
With the end of Fall in the windshield we stopped for rocks and beer in pretty Prescott, AZ followed by a few days of boondocking before heading to “nest” in our old-time favorite Desert Hot Springs, CA.
Winter -> Home And Home (CA)
For the folks who like to see the nitty-gritty I’ve updated our travel maps, both for the exact 2015 route that we took (see below) and also adding all the new locations we stopped at into our wheelingit camping map. As usual each “pin” links you to the blog posts which were done in that spot, as well as any campground reviews. So, just get your favorite beverage, snuggle into your favorite chair, click and enjoy!!
Coming next I’ll review our favorite campgrounds of the past year. Then our wrap-up posts will be done and I’ll (possibly) reveal some of our exciting (and very different) plans for 2016. Stay tuned…