I must say we have had fun putting this post together and reminiscing on all the places we have been! Truly an amazing adventure and we got to see family and friends along the way and even made some new friends for which we are ever grateful!
We have traveled to 16 different states and put 9860 miles on the Solitude. Many people qualify a state they stayed in differently and for us that is staying at least one night in the state, not just driving through.
We stayed at 50 different locations. That is almost 1 new location a week, however some were just a day while we were traveling to a new location and others were for over a month.
Of those, we stayed at:
-2 free workamping spots
-2 family & friends moochdocking spots
-1 Boondockers Welcome spot
-2 Harvest Host spots
-7 Passport America locations
-2 County Parks
-3 City Parks
-3 Corp of Engineers Parks
-11 State Parks
-15 Private Parks
Favorite Places We Have Stayed
Of course our friends and family are tops on the list!!!
Fort Wilderness at Disney is a no brainer, but at an avg night rate of $115, this was a special visit and not a normal occurrence! We stayed in the 1200 loop and really liked the location. It was half way between the lake and the bus stop to the parks. We rented a golf cart from an off-site vendor and had a great time zipping around the campground because it is sooo big! THe amenities were amazing, including the laundry rooms that had a site online you could see if there were machines free to use or how long your laundry had to go! Amazing idea! We stayed 11 nights, which was perfect to visit Disney and the greater Orlando area. We flew our boys down and enjoyed a memorable family vacation! Read about our Disney trip here.
Another great, but expensive place was Anchor Down in Dandridge, TN, just north of Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains. Beautiful views, great amenities and the sites with fireplaces...oh my!! Read about our time at Anchors Down here.
In the reasonably priced private campground category, Belle Ridge Retreat in small town Monterey, TN was a winner. This is a relatively new campground that has some great amenities! Nestled in the woods on the Cumberland Plateau, this beautiful park has tons of trails for hiking and ATV's. You can rent an UTV and go exploring, including caves! The bath house and laundry room is also top notch! Read about our peaceful time here.
Best up and coming park is Rest Up Camping & RV Corral in southern IL. When we visited in July 2018, they had just opened and we were one of the first campers. This will definitely be a contender for top park with FHU and lots of activities and a yummy saloon and grill! You can read about our time here.
Best Corp of Engineer park had to be hands down Mill Creek COE park on Table Rock Lake in Branson. Our site out on the end of the Peninsula had water views on three sides with amazing sunsets. Great site to relax and enjoy time with friends. Read about our time at Mill Creek here.
Best State Park is a tough category because we had a bunch of great parks that we love but Topsail Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, FL topped the list. How can you beat being that close to the gulf and have full hook ups! A true gem and we met up with friends and had a great time! Read about our time here.
We really do need to mention Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, GA as a runner up! Most sites have lake views and with almost FHU (except for black tank), it really was a wonderful park. This is also close to where we used to live in GA so we had a great home base for visiting the old haunts and friends. Read about our time at this great park here.
Our best public free spot has to be Mortimer Farms in AZ, part of the Harvest Host network. Rick made a lifelong friend with Pedro the donkey and we enjoyed the hospitality and delicious food they have to offer!
We could mention soo many other parks that were close runners up. We really got lucky with some great places to stay this first year but had a couple of duds. Oh well, that is why the house has wheels, right?! For those interested in all the locations we stayed, you can check out our campground tab here. We will try to keep that up with every place we stayed and the details in hopes that it helps others find great sites too.
We have been fortunate to find some pretty cool workamping gigs in our first year on the road. We have heard horror stories from other workampers and we are happy to say that we did not have any crazy stories to add! We really did enjoy all three of our gigs and, they were all different.
-Peninsula State Park- We were camp hosts in one of the 5 campgrounds within the park for a month in July and August. We took care of Welker's campground and Welker's Point day use area. We had about 55 sites that we picked up in after campers left, checked trash and spot checked the restrooms. There was full time staff who cleaned the restrooms. You can read about our time here.
-Lee Bottom Flying Field- Here we helped the really cool owners, Rich & Ginger, on some projects around the airfield such as powerwashing and painting picnic tables and a fuel wagon, replace a door and cleaned up a bath house, some landscaping and much more. We spent September and October down on the river bottom and had a great time exploring the area and hanging out watching the planes land right in front of our RV! You can read about our time here.
-Val Vista Village- At Val Vista we worked for Cal-Am Food Services in the bar & grill. This was quite the experience, especially when Happy Hour rolled around every day. Rick rocked it in the kitchen and I ran food and drinks out to the tables and pool. You can read more about our experience here
We have some really neat workamping gigs lined up for our second year. These workamping opportunities allow us to not only continue this lifestyle, but explore places for longer periods of time that we may not have gone to without the job. We really love all the different experiences and will continue to search out the next cool opportunity. Who knows...we might just be photographers in the near future...hint, hint.
Top Places We Visited
We also want to identify the top places we have visited and again, really hard to keep this to just a couple so we will post pictures from some of them.
Again, we could go on and on because we have seen an unbelievable amount of amazing things! This year has allowed us to see more than we ever would have in our old sticks & bricks life. We are truly blessed and are excited to see what year 2 brings!
Speaking of year 2, we are back in the Midwest for a couple more months and then we will be making our way down to TX for some camp hosting and some R&R on the beach for the winter. After that remains to be seen. Now that we have a year under our belts, I am trying to lay back a bit on the planning and see where the road takes us.
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We left St Louis Sunday, in the morning, to try and escape most of the heat, however, we were never able to escape it as our next destination was just as hot with temps in the high 90's and very high humidity. Driving through downtown St Louis was very jarring to say the least. I-64 was quite bumpy all the way into IL for several miles. It finally started to calm down a bit after getting out of the greater STL area.
Our drive today was about 3.5 hours, straight east on I-64 through southern IL. We arrived at The Rest Up Camping and RV Coral in the early afternoon. This is a brand new RV park that we have been following through the building progress on Facebook for a couple months. It is a full service, western themed resort with a wonderful restaurant and bar, store with yummy ice cream, a very cool playground and put put golf course with more amenities to come. We were lucky enough to snag one of the 10 full hook up sites they opened at the beginning of July. We stayed 4 nights through the fourth and had a great time getting to know the owners and staff. They are really doing a great job with the place and we can't wait to come back to see the finished product. Quality shows all over the park from the beautiful buildings right down to the really cute barrel sinks in all the restrooms. The food and drinks in the saloon were very good and they will be expanding the menu as they open more RV spots and have more quests staying with them. The most interesting part of their story is that the land was earmarked for a prison and the state had invested alot of money several years back for all of the infrastructure, but then as the IL political landscape was sort of, shall we say, "Shaky", the money was no longer available to finish the job and the idea of the prison was abandoned. The new owners were able to purchase the land and use the utilities already installed to support the campground. With only 10 sites open, we had very little noise, which made for a nice quiet stay. When fully developed, they plan to have 200 RV sites and several cabins. They have plans for a splash pad, gathering room, laundry, store and an arcade type shooting range.
For the rest of Sunday, we stayed at the RV and had dinner and drinks in the saloon. It was all very good and we planned to go back for a lunch because the burgers looked and smelled amazing! With it being soo hot, we skipped our evening walk and retired back to the RV.
Monday was a day of exploring and household chores. We found a little laundromat in Mount Carmel, 15 miles north of the campground, called Sudsey Dudsey. I continue to be tickled by the cute names for laundromats that we have come across. While I was taking care of the laundry, Rick went to wash the truck. The trip so far proved to be a very buggy one, so he was hoping to get those little critters washed off. Once finished with the chores, we drove through a very nice little state park, Beall State Park outside of Mount Carmel, along the Wabash River on the IL/IN border. The park was very well kept with a boat landing and small campground, most sites with electric, that looked to be very underutilized. They do not take reservations and the park staff comes around to issue a permit. We couldn't find any information that led us to believe they even charge for camping. Once back at the RV park, we packed everything away and went to get groceries at the little local IGA. We just love supporting these little grocers and try to whenever we can. We also needed to go over to the Liquor Barn, which had a drive-thru, to get some wine for dinner. Let's just say this is a popular stop for folks and they did have a decent selection for a tiny country town. That night we broke in the brand new fire pit with some corn on the cob and marinated pork chops.
Tuesday we took a drive into Evansville, IN and took a tour of the USS LST 325 docked there. Evansville was a major contributor to WWII, as they produced many of the LST ships for the war as well as ammunition. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the ship and the history of the LST's in WWII. Rick enjoyed sharing his knowledge about them as well and even had a nugget or two for the tour guide. Our tour lasted about 80 minutes and it was a good thing we opted for the very first tour of the day at 10am, because it was very hot and spending time in a big metal ship just amplified that! Thank goodness they had fans throughout and really stressed the importance of taking water with you on board. We had worked up quite an appetite, so after the tour we headed to the Acropolis Greek restaurant for a good gyro sandwich.
On our drive back to the RV park, we took a more scenic route and stopped in New Harmony, IN. This quaint little town has a long history. Established in 1814 by the Harmony Society, the settlement was home for those Lutherans who separated from the original church. Later in 1825, the town was purchased by Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist and social reformer. He set out to create a new Utopian community. Unfortunately, this social experiment fell on hard financial times after only two years. This little town has alot of interesting old buildings and art and the visitor center has developed a really nice walking or driving tour by using your cell phone to go through the different audio information for each site. One of the more interesting stops was the roofless church. It was essentially a large garden area surrounded by a brick wall. The first picture is of a curved parabola dome that houses a sculpture underneath, seen in the second picture. The third is the gates to the open air church.
On the fourth we hoped to see fireworks since the sky was soo dark but unfortunately, we had a little storm roll through earlier and then just complete darkness at night, perfect opportunities for some more RV porn pictures. At the end of the evening, we had a chance to talk with Mike & Mindy, the owners of the new RV park. We shared some feedback with them and Rick also gave some ideas for the restaurant. They were very eager to hear input from the campers and thanked us for being one of their first guests. I must say that everyone at the RV park was very friendly and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
We left Rest Up early Thursday morning to make the long trek back north through IL. 6 hours later we pulled into Blackhawk Valley campground. We were able to score a full hook-up, pull-thru site for half off with our Passport America card. $17.50, yes please! Once we got cleaned up, we ventured out to see the old stomping grounds. Rick & I lived in Rockford for about a year in 1995 before we were married. Rick came down to start his Exec Chef career with The Machine Shed restaurant. We then moved back to WI where he opened the new Machine Shed restaurant in Pewaukee, WI. We ended up having dinner at The Machine Shed and there were some folks still there that Rick worked with 23 years ago! Dinner was delicious and the apple dumpling for dessert topped it all off. The next morning we woke to much cooler temps in the 70's and we decided to take a walk around the campground prior to leaving. It is such a nice, well kept campground with a mix of well-kept seasonal sites and overnight spots. As we were walking around, we saw a seasonal couple working outside and upon getting closer, we saw they were working on their outdoor train track. They had an amazing setup complete with a tunnel, village and a firepit in the middle. We talked with them for quite some time about their train, trains in general and our RV plans. What a sweet couple and nice little park. We will certainly put this park on our must stay when we travel through IL.
As I write this, we have now made our way back to WI and are moochdocking again at my Dad's. We are catching up on laundry and spending time with family. Our next adventure will be to Door County, WI to start our first workamping experience at Peninsula State Park as campground hosts. Stay tuned for more adventures...
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