2020. The year of the Coronavirus pandemic and a time of political unrest, protests, and violence. Social isolation, face masks, and disinfectants. Extreme unemployment, poverty, and 1.75 million lives lost worldwide to the pandemic. To say it’s been a shit year is an extreme understatement. I lack the eloquence to write about the true depth and impact of all of this, and there are far better writers who have all ready done so, so instead I’ll share how we navigated this year as full-time RVers. We are beyond grateful that our families have managed to avoid the virus (knock on wood). We are also extremely thankful that Brad still has his job and that public lands have largely remained open so that we can still find quiet and safe places to wait out the virus. But I’m perhaps getting a bit ahead of myself, because at the start of the year we had no idea what was coming…
We began the year in Iowa having celebrated the holidays with my parents. My mom was in the final weeks of her chemo and radiation treatments (which we would later learn were a success!), Paco was recovering from bladder stone removal surgery, and in late December 2019 we had a memorial service for the passing of my Grandma Helen.
We were definitely off to a rough start but feeling hopeful about the year ahead. By the middle of the month it was time to start moving towards warmer weather and after a couple days of driving we found ourselves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. We had been in caves with beautiful formations but we were completely blown away by the size and depth of the aptly named Big Room.
We continued on into Arizona spending a few nights with friends at the beautiful KOFA preserve near Quartzsite. I always forget how beautiful this spot is.
We stayed for just a few days before meeting up with the Xscapers group to head into Baja! We stayed 10 days in San Felipe with the goup and then continued south on our own. We visited beautiful and hot ocean-side hot springs, we went on the most incredible whale watching tour, and we met up with friends in the lovely little town of Mulegé – a bit more than halfway down the peninsula.
Unfortunately Brad caught a bit of a nasty cold and a few days later I had it too. We were hearing news of the first few cases of the Coronavirus in the US and we decided that heading back to our home country was the right move. While our time in Baja came to an early end, it was such a memorable trip and we can’t wait to return.
MARCH - MAY
With all the uncertainty about the pandemic, we thought it best to hunker down in southern Utah with Brad’s parents. Two and a half months there was some nice downtime and in addition to getting some quality time with family we completed a fair number of projects on the trailer.
Brad and his Dad welded our rear bumper which had some weak points. Brad worked on removing rust and painting the trailer frame. He replaced our faulty tongue jack, installed new sensors in our holding tanks, and added flush systems. He also added jacks to raise our bed for easier storage access. We upgraded our bathroom faucet and added a backsplash in the kitchen. We also installed some wall-mounted planters and plants to the trailer and, something I’ve wanted for a long time, put tint on all the windows. There were also electrical projects and upgrading of some external hardware. Phew! Brad largely handled the bulk of these projects and I’m constantly in awe of his abilities and determination. It felt awesome to get all that done. By May we started thinking our departure and a safe route to the Pacific Northwest.
JUNE - JULY
We took a lovely scenic route up Highway 395 in California and found some beautiful new boondocking spots. We enjoyed an all too brief visit to Mammoth Lakes and then crossed the border into Oregon. We spent several days off grid near Salt Creek Falls before making it back to our ‘hometown’ of Eugene, Oregon.
Our biggest endeavor here was actually looking for a house! We connected with our realtor and pretty much immediately began the search. Over the course of 8 weeks we looked at countless houses. We put in offers on NINE different homes (one at a time of course), with varying degrees of success. We had 3 of our offers accepted but we ended up walking away from each house for things we learned during the disclosures. We were outbid on the rest of the homes. It was and still is truly a seller’s market with multiple offers on each home and almost everything selling well over asking price. It was incredibly frustrating. But we eventually took it as a sign that it just wasn’t our time. We thought we needed a home base during Covid and the plan was to live in it for a year and then rent it while we resumed our full-time travels. All throughout the summer though, we saw several fellow RVers successully and carefully continue the lifestyle. We realized we could do it too following the pandemic guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding busy places…so we salvaged what we could of our original summer plans and hit the road.
We covered quite a bit of ground in August starting out with four nights on some National Forest land just outside the super cute town of Sisters, Oregon. After that we checked out nearby Crystal Crane Hot Springs where you can soak under the stars in their giant outdoor pool. We then had a brief stay in Ketchum, Idaho en route to the magnificent town of Stanley, Idaho where we spent a week among the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains. We got out on daily walks but the real highlight was our hike up to Sawtooth Lake – 10 miles roundtrip and one of the longest hikes we’ve done. Idaho is known for having a huge amount of hot springs so we made sure to take advantage of that on our path north. We also stayed at our first two Harvest Hosts (a network of breweries, farms, and wineries that allow free overnights when you’re a member of HH). What a treat to stay at Big Sky Brewing and Bowman Cherry Orchard as we made our way up to the incomparable Glacier National Park.
We were able to secure 5 nights at Fishhook Creek campground within the park and did some truly incredible hiking. We did Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake, and then our favorite was Piegan Pass which I would love to do again once the full trail reopens (post-Covid).
After that magnificent stay we made our way into beautiful Washington state. We explored North Cascades National Park, kayaked on Diablo Lake, and spent a long weekend at Mt. Baker where we went on one of the most beautiful hikes of my life.
Washington has so many incredible trails and I had a full itinerary of the best hikes in the state but unfortunately wildfires and toxic air quality forced our time here short. The rest of this month we were basically doing whatever we could to find better air quality. We headed east, and when the forecasts didn’t look good we headed south, and then eventually back east again as we decided to visit my parents in Iowa and take care of some needed vet and truck appointments. En route we did enjoy a lovely stay at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Wyoming – we saw so many pronghorns!
En route to Iowa we visited Toadstool Geologic Park in Nebraska and Custer State Park and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We loved all the cool rock formations and especially the gorgeous boondocking at the badlands.
We eventually made it to Iowa and put our trailer in storage for the month. Fall weather in the midwest can be pretty unpredictable and we saw highs in the 80s, thunderstorms, a snow squall, and the colorful fall foliage. We got out with friends for a socially distanced bike ride on the Great Western Trail, kayaked with the parents at Racoon River Park, we both got in with the dentist, had some recalls done on the truck, and had Paco’s teeth cleaned – where they also had to remove 11 of his teeth! We were told he has a genetic condition where the roots of his teeth were reabsorbing, causing them to be loose. Poor buddy! We carved pumpkins and got champagne cake for a belated anniversary celebration. We binged watched shows and just enjoyed the downtime. Brad also installed a DC/DC charger on the truck and organized the wiring on our entire 12 volt system in the trailer. The endless cutting, stripping, and crimping in the cold weather wasn’t so fun. By the end of the month we were ready to head to warmer weather so we dewinterized the rig and headed south.
We took just two days to travel south from Iowa into Texas and we stayed there for the entire month. We enjoyed a few nights at McKinney Falls State Park near Austin and then made tracks for the coast. We had never been to Galveston and were surprised by how much we loved it. We opted for a private RV park to indulge in some of the amenities. Jamaica Beach RV Park had a lazy river (although the water is not heated, so even on a 70 degree day it was COLD!), extra large adult-only hot tub (which we left if more than two other people were there), pickle ball courts, and was just a couple blocks from the beach. We crossed paths with some Xscaper friends and had some nice socially distanced hangouts. Next we headed to Magnolia Beach for some beautiful boondocking on the coast. It was a super relaxed stay and it’s where we spent Thanksgiving.
After that we headed NW to visit Davis Mountains State Park, which was quite beautiful but we caught a little string of bad luck. On the way there we had to change a trailer tire on the side of the highway due to a fast leak. Then in Fort Davis we caught a bad weather window with howling winds and below freezing temperatures. On our last day we woke to a frozen water hose and holding tanks! When it rains, it pours, I tell ya.
Finally. The last month of the longest year of our lives. This month was actually full of some pretty great stops. We began by scoring a backcountry campsite within Big Bend National Park. Not only was it quiet and secluded, it was very central to the park and had really nice views of the Chisos Mountains. We spent 8 relaxing days here, but with Brad working full-time we only got out on two hikes together: The Window Trail and Ernst Tinajas. Then I did the Balanced Rock hike on my own – which was such a fun trail. We then spent two quick nights at nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park and enjoyed some short and sweet trails plus we had dark and clear skies to enjoy part of the Geminid meteor shower. As we looked at our path to Arizona we saw some unavoidable below-freezing nights, so we just moved along as quickly as could. Once in Arizona we boondocked a couple nights at Saddle Mountain just west of Pheonix. We did the very strenuous hike to the top of the mountain and we also busted out our new propane fire pit. What a luxury to not have to search or pay for firewood and not stink of campfire smoke!
With Christmas coming and the cold nights predicted here, we decided to splurge on a hot springs resort in eastern California for a week. It actually ended up being a steal at $20/night with our Passport America membership! We found a place with a numerous hot springs pools and even though we’re quarantining during our stay, we were told the pools and pickle ball courts are still open to us. For us, sitting in hot springs and melting away all the stress, political anger, and frustrations of the past year is the best possible way to bring 2020 to a close. Well, that and a socially distanced New Years celebration with friends in the desert. 2021: we’re ready for you!