This year, we stayed in 70 different locations (yes, I counted.). And pretty much every single one of them had something special about them worth remarking on. When we sat down this year to pick our favorites, it was brutally difficult.
Each spot we stopped at brings back a special memory. People we were visiting or traveling with, projects we were working on, a fabulous view, great hiking or just being the perfect spot at the perfect time.
Which means we’re feeling pretty good that after 8 years of RVing, we’ve figured out how to find our ideal spots and have been so blessed with continual amazing experiences. It’s really not a bad problem to have.
To keep this post from being a listing of the 70 spots we stopped at this year, we had to hold ourselves to some guidelines to putting them on our list:
- They couldn’t be a place we stayed at in the past – they had to be new discoveries for us. That immediately reduced our list by 12. So some of our very favorite stays this year like Sunset Isles in Cedar Key, Sam’s Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs and Cape Blanco State Park in Oregon – don’t qualify for this year.
- They could not include any of our super awesome private hosts who so kindly invited us in to driveway surf with them. These are absolutely some of our fondest stays, but we can’t extend you an invite to stop in too. And that knocked another 6 off the list.
Whew.. that still leaves a lot! So we both went through our photo albums and marked locations that really spoke to us. We had about 20 on the list at this point, and then we selected the 12 sites that took us by surprise or really enchanted us.
And.. here they are… listed in the order we stayed at them this year:
1 – F. D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain, Georgia
After attending a rally in Perry, GA the week prior, some friends were heading to this state park. It was on our way, and heck – we’re always up for state parks. We absolutely loved this place. Huge wooded sites, and choose your own upon arrival. We ended up extending for 10 days, and got a lot of work caught up on – as well as explored the many trails in the park. The park was just the peaceful solitude we needed to reground ourselves after a crazy busy start to the year.
Travelogue Post: A Spring Break
(GA Parks Frequent Camper Program earns free nights.)
2. Tom Sawyer Mississippi River RV Park – Memphis, Tennessee
We headed to this park simply to rendezvous with some fellow RVing friends, and were completely taken by surprise by this park. We had a waterfront site right along the banks of the Mississippi River and watched barges all day and night long. The park is excellently maintained with great hiking trails, and a super impressive FREE laundry room. They also have super cute tree houses built throughout for great views, and even socializing with friends. We’d return here in a heartbeat.
Travelogue Post: Following the Mississippi River – Memphis & Columbus
Rates: $25-45/night, $162 – 270/week, $475-575/month
3. Alpena County Fairgrounds – Alpena, Michigan
One of our biggest pleasant surprises this year was our trip exploring the Sunrise Coast of Michigan, it was so peaceful and beautiful, and exactly the right pace for us while writing The Mobile Internet Handbook. It was hard to pick amongst all of the great state parks we stayed at.. so we’re going with our most unique stay at the Alpena County Fairgrounds. We selected this site for the 4th of July weekend, as most other places were booked up. The campground itself isn’t much to look at, fairly typical of fairgrounds. We snagged a waterfront site, which overlooks a wildlife sanctuary. We had great views, access to fantastic kayaking and the hike & bike trail, easy access to a cute little town and were entertained all day long with swans landing in front of us.
Travelogue Post: The Sunrise Coast: Alpena, Michigan
Rates: $20/night, $110/week, $400/month
4. Ojibwa Casino – Marquette, Michigan
While exploring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we met up with some fellow RVing friends and we both decided to try out Casino camping. Our first was a tightly packed in parking lot, but hey – it had hook-ups and was free. For our second try, we stopped at Ojibwa Casino just east of Marquette. We pulled in and couldn’t believe the sites – huge, wooded and 50A electric. When we went to check in, not only did they not charge us – they handed us each $5 in cash and drink coupons. So we tried our hand at gambling, and we each walked out with about $50 in cash (we really did intend to each lose $20 or so to cover our site… we tried.. really!).
Travelogue Post: Cracking the Nut in the UP (Casino Camping!)
Rates: -$10+/night (They pay YOU!)
5. Lake Sakakawea State Park – Pick City, North Dakota
After four long driving days in a row (note to self: never again!), we were exhausted on our cross country repositioning this summer. When we got to Lake Sakakawea, intending to stay just overnight, we just couldn’t move another mile. And what a great place to plop down and recharge. We stayed four nights here, and lucky us, we pulled into the very first spot we came upon and it happened to have a lovely panoramic water view – and be one of the first come first serve spots. We renewed for a few days, and took some much needed down days. Lovely hiking, lovely views and great LTE signal. And did we mention, North Dakota?
Travelogue Post: Zoom Zoom…. Kerplop
6. Cottonwood Campground, Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, North Dakota
We were super excited, now having some flexible solar panels on board to experiment with, to have our very first solar powered camping experience in the bus – and selected Theodore Roosevelt National Park. All sites are on a first come first serve basis, and we arrived early enough in the day to snag a very spacious pull through with lots of privacy. It was a delightful stay exploring North Dakota’s badlands, and we really enjoyed the campground quite a bit.
Travelogue Post: From Nature to Asphalt
7. Magic Reservoir – Magic, Idaho
Now being firmly out west, and caravanning with boondocking virgin friends – we thought it a mighty fine time to find us a magical boondocking location. We used the app we wrote earlier in the year (US Public Lands) to find Magic Reservoir, BLM land. A little internet sleuthing, and we had some leads to follow. We arrived and found wide open spaces along the reservoir, which made for a perfect spot to be for a few days. We just love big views, especially when they involve water.
Travelogue Post: Magical Experiences in Idaho
8. Crystal Crane Hot Springs – Burns, Oregon
We love hot water, and it had been too long since we had a soak. We spotted this option up ahead on our route and decided to give it a try. The campground itself is kinda sparse and basic. But the hot springs are wonderful. A big gravel based pond with temperatures that vary throughout the day, there’s plenty of room for everyone. They even leave the pond open at night for their onsite guests. We only stayed here two nights, but they were magical nights spent soaking and gazing at the stars. This spot is on our must return list.
9. Salmon Harbor Marina – Winchester Bay, Oregon
After our month of volunteer hosting at Cape Blanco Lighthouse, we decided to take a slow meander up the Oregon Coast to tour the rest of the lighthouses. We honestly had a really hard time picking just one spot to include as a favorite, and it came up as a toss up between this location and Tillicum Beach Campground with our oceanfront site near Yachats. We ultimately choose Salmon Harbor because of the uniqueness of dry camping on a marina dock. The views were incredible, there was ample walking nearby and we had some breathtaking sunsets.. and of course, it’s walking distance to Umpqua River Lighthouse.
Rates: $15-20/night, $90-120/week, $270-360/month
10. AM Solar – Springfield, Oregon
Ok, we’re kinda breaking rule #1 here. We have stayed at AM Solar in the past as their guest, but this time through – we were a customer. This year has been about deciding on Zephyr’s solar installation and we had been testing flexible panels. When we pulled in, we really were just coming to visit our friends Deb & Greg who own the place. After talking with them, we came up with an ideal plan for the installation and they happened to have a cancellation that would allow them to tackle the job the next day. So, we did it. We can’t recommend AM Solar enough, they’re highly professional, know their stuff, their shop is outstanding and their RV parking options are gorgeous at their location.
Travelogue Post: Zephyr is Solar Powered! –800 Watt RV Bus Roof Solar Install
Rates: $760/night (Buy 5 nights, get a 800w solar panel install free!)
11. Volcanic Tablelands – Bishop, California
In yet another caravan this year with RVing friends and now fully armed with ample solar, we explored Highway 395 coming down the Eastern Sierras this fall. There were so many amazing stays, but we both agreed – this one makes our favorites list for the year. It’s a few miles down a bumpy dirt road on this BLM managed land, but so worth it for a spectacular view over Bishop. We stayed here with two caravan buddies for several nights and just soaked it all in. Big wide expansive views will always win our hearts, and this is one we will yearn to return to.
Travelogue Post: Continuing Down Hwy 395 – Mammoth Lakes and Bishop
12. Trona Pinnacles – Trona, California
A place so otherworldly, it’s frequently the backdrop of sci-fi films – Trona Pinnacles is so worth the diversion to explore. Located on BLM land in southern California, it’s free to camp. We selected to camp on the burm coming into the area with a big wide expansive view (I’ve mentioned we like those, right?) and enjoyed hikes down in the formations. So beautiful with views that change throughout the day with different lighting. And excellent Verizon signal, we could have stayed here for many days just enjoying it.
Travelogue Post: Wrapping up Highway 395 – Lone Pine and Trona Pinnacles
How’d Our Numbers Stack Up This Year?
We consider our campground fees and fuel costs combined to represent our previous stationary rent/mortgage payments… so here’s the daily & monthly totals:
- Campground Average: $13/day or $383/month
- Fuel Average: $11/day or $344/month
- Our monthly ‘rent’ for 2014– $749
Not bad at all for having constantly changing million dollar views all year long. Compared to last year, we’ve dropped our nightly campground average from $16/night – which we’re pretty darn pleased with. We’ve done this by mixing up the pace with a couple monthly stays, some volunteer work in exchange for a site and integrating in more boondocking now that we have solar. You can view our monthly travel cost log anytime you like, we’ve kept it updated for years, and it includes lots more info on the costs of full time RVing.
Some other interesting numbers I put together in review of 2014:
- # of different places stayed: 70
- # of Private RV Parks: 14
- # of Public Parks (state, federal, county, BLM): 35
- # of Dry Camping Locations: 10
- # of ‘Free’ camping at a host (driveway surfing, Harvest Hosts, etc.): 14
- # of stays in RV-related shops: 6
- # of RV Rallies: 3
- # of RV Parks Returned to from previous years: 12
We’re also put together our usual annual wrap-up post of our travels.
Some other posts related to this topic you might enjoy:
- Our 2013 Favorite Campgrounds
- Guide to Finding RV Parks, Campgrounds and Boondocking
- Our Monthly Travel Expense Log
- Finding Magical RV Boondocking