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 wrapped up our workamping at Lee Bottom Flying Field on Monday, October 29th. We can truly say we enjoyed our time there and consider our hosts, Rich and Ginger, new friends. It is great to see the work we accomplished, with several group projects too. We look forward to stopping by again, either as workampers or even visitors.
In preparation for leaving, we were able to do a deep clean and get a few tasks taken care of in the RV. One was the lovely job of defrosting the freezer. It has been almost 4 months since we did it last and it really needed it. We had tried to eat as much food from the freezer as we could over the last couple weeks so that there would not be much to store in the cooler while we defrosted. Once everything was out, I set hot bowls of water in the bottom and chipped away some of the build up since it was soo thick. I then used the hair dryer to speed up the last bits. Once everything was melted, wiped up and dry, I placed cheap, flexible cutting mats on the back wall of the freezer with the shelves holding them in place. This should allow me to just slide those out next time and rinse off the frost which will take much less time to do this in the future. Fingers crossed it works just as slick as it sounds!
From Hanover, IN we headed south to Nashville. As Rick was driving, I was scrolling Facebook and saw that a couple we met at the Grand Design Rally in Sept were heading back home to IN on 65N as we were going south on 65. We were able to stop at an exit parking lot and catch up for a bit. It is true, you really do cross paths again and it is never really good-bye but see you later.
We had visited Nashville over 10 years ago for one of Rick's Army Reunions, but only stayed for a quick weekend and did not get around town to see much, so this would be a chance for us to be real tourists. We stayed at Two Rivers Campground on the north side of Nashville, near Opryland. This was on the recommendation from RV friends who just stayed there a couple weeks ago. It is a smaller campground with full hookups, a pool, musical entertainment and a shuttle to downtown, which was very convenient. As with most RV parks, sites were close together but for a couple nights, and us being gone most of the time, that was fine. We took advantage of the shuttle to downtown and walked around Lower Broadway and the surrounding streets while marveling at all the honky tonks and stores. They all had live music and even at 11 am on a weekday. We stopped and had lunch at Luke Bryan's 32 Bridge. There were a couple of guys playing in the bar/lounge area who were really good! We sat and listened to them while we ate. We then took a double decker bus ride around Nashville and saw the highlights of the city such as the Parthenon, Ryman, Capitol and the first Fort in Nashville. The tour guide had alot of great information about the towns history as well. Did you know that Nashville's biggest income stream does not come from country music but from healthcare. There are more than 30 hospitals in Nashville, including Vanderbilt. They also have more than 30 higher education institutions. Who knew??
That night we went to the Grand Ole Opry. They started the evening with an interesting video montage of the history of the Opry, the move to the current location and the flood of 2010. We had a great time seeing some current country music acts such as Carly Pierce, Charles Esten (Deacon from Nashville) Lo Cash and Chris Jenson. There was also some up and coming artists as well as some legends, like Bill Anderson who did a very moving tribute song he wrote about a WWIl veteran, who was actually in the audience. Henry Cho, a very funny comedian also performed. It was a really nice evening and even nicer that it was only 5 minutes from the campground!
The next day we took a scenic drive down to Franklin to visit my Aunt & Uncle, who we haven't seen in many years. It was great to catch up with them and see their beautiful home. After lunch they took us on a tour of historic Franklin, which is really an adorable town with a wonderful little downtown area. There is alot of growth in the area and construction is everywhere.
On the way back we stopped at the Opry Mills Mall near the campground. I have not been in a mall for awhile, and I can honestly say I do not miss it. I can do without the pushy salespeople that aggressively try to get you to try their product while you are walking by, even when you say "No Thank You.". I quickly got my soaps at Bath and Body and we headed over to the Bavarian Bierhaus for a wonderful german dinner. I may not ever get to the real thing in Germany but this one is a close second! We even left with some Asbach brandy chocolate covered cherries! Yumm!
The following day we leisurely packed up for our 1 1/2 hour drive on I-40 E to our next destination. It was a rainy, crummy day but the drive did not disappoint with spectacular color! Unfortunately, the pictures just don't do it justice!
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Yep, that sums up our week. This last week we have been busy with a lot of painting. In previous weeks, Rick has been pressure washing and sanding 3 picnic tables and 2 benches. Well this week we primed and painted them red. Why red? Well they pop and they match the bath house door we replaced and painted a couple weeks ago, that they sit near. You can see before they had a brown, gritty paint on them that was chipping and the benches were unpainted. Now, several coats later, they are a beautiful red! By the way, in the before picture, that is the tractor and mower used to mow the airfield.
We also painted a fuel trailer white and the trim black. It really looks sharp now!
We then did a little interior decorating in the RV. Since our house is a rolling earthquake and is not suitable for framed pictures, I found WallPops, which are stick on vinyl frames that you can put your pictures in. They are really cool, in that you can move them and reuse them and you can switch out and update pictures. I also ordered a name vinyl that I think really completes the grouping.
Since it is fall, which you wouldn’t know it here with temps in the high 80’s and 90’s, we got out our fall decorations. Being that space and weight is at a premium, all our fall decorations fit in a small box. Now Christmas decorations are another story. They are in two bins, but that may whittle down after we have our first Christmas in the RV. We will see. It can’t get bigger because we follow the 1 in, 1 out rule to make sure we get rid of something to bring something new in, be it clothes, dishes, decorations, etc. We are currently getting a bunch of things together to drop off at Goodwill before we leave Southern Indiana.
It has been a bit slow in the plane sighting category but a night landing by a Blackhawk made up for it. As you can see in the picture, it was pretty dark out and they landed just a short way from the camper and we sat outside while they were here. Wish we could have seen what they were doing out there because they were there for about 20 minutes.
This week was also busy with a lot of baseball watching. Our beloved Brewers are in the post season chase to the World Series and playing some pretty stellar baseball. The issue we have, is that the games are on cable channels and we get spotty cell reception to even get a hot spot going to stream anything, so we have been going into town to watch at local sports bars. We have really taken a liking to Off Broadway, a sports bar in quaint, downtown Madison. They have really good food and a wide range of beers for Rick. With many TV’s, they have been more than accommodating to change channels for us to enjoy the games.
We have started planning our travels for when we leave here at the end of the month. The hitch itch is getting stronger and we are excited to see where our travels take us next.
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Last Tuesday we woke to yet another quiet day at the Hardy Lake State Park campground. With only two other campers and the hosts, we felt like the place was all ours. We took a morning walk around the campground and while it was nice to be here when it was quiet, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much when it was full on a busy weekend. The sites do have a bit of room between them but there is no privacy between sites and it felt like any noise traveled quite far. If we were here with a group I probably wouldn’t mind as much.
We packed up and headed out to meet our workamping host, Ginger, at a parking lot on a country road. She would need to help get us to our site and block any oncoming vehicles as we slowly made our way down the bluff road which was a one and a half lane paved road in trees with tight turns and a switchback thrown in for extra excitement. Rick was able to navigate us down the ridge with no problem and then we wound along next to the Ohio River to Lee Bottom Flying Field. Sorry no pictures of the hairpin turn, I was a bit preoccupied and I don't think my hands would have unclenched enough to hold the phone. To get to our parking pad, we drove down the airfield, hoping a plane would not decide to come in at that moment! Our site is just off to the side and midway down the field. We took the rest of the afternoon to get set up and take in the sights of this beautiful lush green hidden gem. We even had a plane fly in.
This workamping job is unlike most as we are not at a campground and there are no other campers here. It is just us. Our hosts, Rich and Ginger, own Lee Bottom Flying Field and it is certified as a public use grass airstrip. There is no tower or public use hangar, but it is well known in the flying community. It is a perfect place for vintage and small aircrafts to land and enjoy the peace and quiet, have a picnic lunch or read a book. There are also local police and military entities that utilize the field. We have seen several planes now either stop to use the restroom, take a picture of their plane at the airstrip or just practice take offs and landings. In addition to the airfield, our hosts own a couple other properties surrounding the airfield and we are here to help with some repair projects and get things ready for winter. Our first completed project was to rebuild and paint the wooden box on the back of the golf cart and give the it a bath. We have also done some storm clean up and cut up a fallen tree and hauled off another. We have a good list to keep us busy and being able to relax and enjoy the planes and wildlife coming to visit and is an added bonus!
While here we plan to explore the area and try to “live like a local” since we will be here about two months. We have already visited the local grocery store, laundromat, Walmart and propane company. We have checked out a couple of the local food fare and had the opportunity to meet up with some friends we met at the RV rally for dinner, to help them celebrate their 38th Anniversary. Congrats again Melanie & Tom! Look forward to meeting up with you again further down the road.
Also, while we have been here, we have tackled a couple projects in the RV as well. As we mentioned in our last update, our microwave had decided to take its last breath at the rally and Grand Design was going to order us another one. Well that arrived in a big, heavy crate on Thursday and we installed that with little problem. Rick then wanted to solve for an issue with our main living room AC intake. It seems that when the AC kicked on the middle baffle separating the intake and cool air area would get sucked over to the intake, allowing the unit to keep sucking in all the cool air and not allowing that cool air to come out into the room and the vents near it. MacGyver was on the job!! First Rick used foil tape to tape up the leaking areas around the inside of the unit so that we were not losing cool air into the ceiling. He then took three metal sign stakes he bought and cut them to size and installed them on either side of the middle baffle to hold it in place. Once that was done, we cleaned the intake filters and reassembled and walla, air now coming out the vents and the baffle has stayed in place. Rick also hooked up the On The Go Double Water Softener since the water is very hard. It really works well and only takes 2 lbs. of table salt to recharge it. He then flushed out the hot water heater with his new flush tool and got quite a bit of calcium buildup out. Finally, we mounted the WeBoost RV cell booster to a PVC pole and the heavy-duty antenna suction cup holds it to the RV. It works wonders and stays in place, even through the torrential rains and wind of last weekend.
We are now working on replacing the restroom building door and cleaning that area up. Stay tuned for more of our Kentuckiana adventures!
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As we are wrapping up our first couple weeks here, we have had our share of fun stuff we have had to address, met more folks and got out a bit more.
Without going into gory details, our campground happenings included still cleaning up the aftermath of 4th of July fireworks including sparklers and poppers, even though there are signs everywhere stating fireworks are not allowed in the park. Do you know how hard those little pieces of paper are to pick up with a grabber??? Rick has settled into being the firepit cleaner and I walk the site to pick up trash with my little grabber and grab the tags on the post. Rick loves to drive the gator, so I let him enjoy that task. It is amazing what people throw into the firepit and we recently had a site with mounds of peanut shells all around the firepit. That took some time to clean up and then Rick likes to also rake around the firepit, sometimes making pretty patterns. I think he misses his pattern making when he mowed lawn at the house.
We have had some other camper assist issues like loaning out a battery jumper for a dead car battery, keeping an eye out for a lost wedding band, helping a flustered camper who was turned around find her site and a late night missing child search that ended before it began. We even had a site of drunk, singing young men at 3am. Thankfully we were told about that the next morning and not at the time. They did quiet down when another camper mentioned to them that this was quiet time and others were trying to sleep. Knock on wood, we have not had anything worse than that.
We also have grateful campers who go out of their way to tell us what a great job we are doing to keep the campground clean and even gourmet smores made for us by a family who Rick helped to repair a bike.
We also continue to have plumbing issues throughout the campground. It seems the piping throughout the park is pretty old and is in need of updating which is on the horizon. We met the maintenance person in charge of plumbing that had come by to fix our plugged sinks that we reported when we arrived. Only 4 days, not bad. I was expecting a week or longer. Those issues have seemed to subside, knock on wood. We did hear today at a camp host meeting that there are several improvements coming to the park. Exciting stuff but obviously, they do not happen overnight.
As for outings, we got dressed up Tuesday night, the 17th and headed out for my birthday dinner. I am a Beef Wellington fan from way back to my days of bussing tables when I was 15 and I would beg the chef to make me a tiny Wellington on Sat nights after a long night. That usually meant that I would have to devein some shrimp for him, but it was well worth it! We went to the English Inn not far outside the park and dinner was wonderful! We were both soo stuffed walking out and promised that we cannot eat like that again for some time!!! It was a splurge since it was a birthday dinner. We are trying to limit our dining out to cheaper breakfasts or lunches, or not at all! We are really trying to get within a budget that we developed from looking at many other full-timers. We will see how July shapes up and we will share that on this blog as I know there are other full time dreamers that would benefit from the information, just like we did. Plus it keeps us accountable!
Our other evening out was to see one of the musicals here at the Northern Theatre in the park. I mentioned in the previous post that we received complimentary tickets for all 3 shows. The first show we went to was Dairy Heirs. A funny, heartwarming musical about life on a farm in WI and coming back home. It was a beautiful evening in an intimate setting and the cast was very talented! After the show we grabbed a pizza and salad at Wild Tomato, which is a Door County favorite, right outside the park. OK, I just realized we have not taken pictures of any of this awesome food. Wow, that is not like us! We will try to rectify that in future posts.
We have also had some visitors. Rick’s Army buddy from Germany, who lives north of Green Bay, stopped over with his wife for a delicious dinner creation that Rick just whipped up off the cuff. We then topped if off with a yummy cherry pie, baked with fresh Door County cherries. The next day friends of ours from home stopped by to say HI and see our new home and where we were working. It was good to catch up! We also have some others stopping by in August and topping our time off here in Door County with a big family camp out. Looking forward to it!
By far the majority of our camper interaction has been with folks who are curious about our camp host position, our RV and our new lifestyle. We spend quite a bit of time answering questions from other campers about what our plans are, where we are planning to go and how the heck we can do this soo young. Some really entertaining conversations.
One of the things we have had to solution for is the dumping of the tanks on the RV. Unfortunately, the host sites only have electric, so we needed to figure out how we would refill the fresh tank and dump the gray and black tanks. For us to pack up the RV and take it down to the dump station would be quite the undertaking, and that would also mean we would have to repark it. NOT! We talked with other camp hosts and they gave us some suggestions on what they do. For filling the fresh water tank, we were able to stretch all of our hoses, 85 ft worth, to the bath house clean up sink. Good deal. Now the crappy part…LOL. To dump the tanks, we have a man hole/sewer cover over by the bath house and Rick would fill up our lucy lu dump dolly and roll it over there and then dump. We picked midday to do this as that is when most of the campers are out and about. The black tank and one gray tank went well but the last gray tank proved to be our first big RV issue. The gray tank gate valve pull, which is a cable, would not release. Rick tried spraying WD-40, pulled off the back access panel to make sure the cable wasn’t binding anywhere, which it wasn’t. He then checked the manuals for info, called and left a message for a contact at the manufacturer, Grand Design. He then went to the Grand Design facebook groups and posted the issue, wondering if others had the issue and how they solved it. One suggestion was to spray PB Blaster, a penetrating oil, on the valve assembly by the pull handle. Rick then let that soak with a ziploc bag over the top. A tech from the manufacturer then called back and confirmed that what he was doing is what a repair tech would do. After a couple hours Rick went back to it and tried to release, hit it with a hammer, which didn’t release and then took two wrenches and twisted and it finally came loose. He then cleaned it off thoroughly and lubed all three valves and after all of that, a lesson learned that lubing the cables will be on the monthly list of maintenance things to do. Amazing how rusty it had gotten after only two weeks!
Overall this campground host position has been a wonderful first workamping experience. The campers have been very friendly, it is a quiet and peaceful campground and the weather has been beautiful! We could certainly get used to this! Enjoy some pictures of the park.
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