Another year come and gone. 2017 was our fifth full year on the road and ended up being very different from the previous years with the first three months and the last three weeks spent out of the Airstream. While we still love the full-time RV lifestyle, it felt good to mix it up with some time away from our tiny home in addition to some alternative methods of travel.
We covered a lot of ground this year by crossing the country from Florida to Idaho, south to Utah, and then a December trip to the Northeast to visit family. We spent a lot of time exploring new places (specifically Idaho) and enjoying some of our favorites from years past (the Florida Keys and Southern Utah). Following the same format as years past, let’s take a look back on where we’ve been.
A Few Statistics for 2017
Number of States Visited: 10 + 4 without the Airstream
Number of Overnight Stops: 50 + 6 without the Airstream
Where We Stayed (with the Airstream): 7 state parks, 7 different boondocking locations on BLM land, 7 different boondocking locations on national forest land, 6 national park campgrounds, 6 overnight Walmart stays, 5 private RV parks, 3 National Forest Campgrounds, 3 county/city parks, 2 Private Residences, 1 Craker Barrel, 1 Home Depot, 1 Arbys Parking lot (we were desperate), and 1 street side overnight.
Where we Stayed (without the Airstream): 1 house rental, 1 train, 2 hotels, & 2 family houses
Free vs. Paid: In 2017, we stayed at 26 free and 30 paid locations. As always happens when we spend part of the year in the east and part in the west, nearly all of our free camping locations were on the western side of the country. The exception was the large number of free parking lots we stayed at while making a hasty retreat from Florida and across the country in the spring.
Monthly Average: $1,027.52
Daily Average: $33.78
This year our camping fees more than doubled. It really isn’t a surprise since we spent three months renting a house that cost more than $100/day, but still a bit shocking to see the numbers. For comparison, our 2016 daily average was around $15, 2015 $22, 2014 $14, and 2013 $12.
Despite the dramatic increase, we don’t regret any of the choices we made this year and thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up with some time away from the Airstream. Also, this year might have been more expensive, but our overall nightly average camping fee is still hovering under $20/night. Not bad for an awesome lifestyle such as this.
Previous End of Year Wrap-Ups
House Rental in the Florida Keys
For three months we enjoyed the luxury of a full-size house with all the amenities. To sweeten the deal, we had plenty of room for both family and friends to stay with us, easy access to the ocean for kayaking, a lovely state park beach only a short drive away, family and friends who lived right down the road, and a whole winter of nearly perfect weather. We also had a spot to tackle some much-needed Airstream repairs which we somehow managed to squeeze in between all the visit and play time.
Heading North & West
At the end of March, we made our way north through Florida and then set a diagonal course west. It took us a couple weeks to travel all the way from the Keys to northern Florida with stops at Everglades National Park, Koreshan SP, Hillsborough SP and Florida Caverns SP. They were all great places, but by the time we reached the northern edge of the Panhandle we were more than ready to leave Florida and the southeast behind.
Which is probably why we made a mad dash west with only an abbreviated tour of some middle country states. Including Arkansas where we visited Hot Springs NP, Petit Jean SP, and one of our favorite art museums to date, Crystal Bridges. Then it was onto Springfield, Missouri followed by one last midwest stop in Kansas to visit family.
Back in the Mountains of Colorado
The weekend before labor day we pulled into Colorado perhaps a tiny bit too early for optimal weather, but still thrilled to be back in the west nonetheless. We started our month long stay at a cramped, yet convenient city park in Golden, followed by an enjoyable week at a friend’s house in Idaho Springs, and then headed up to Grand Lake for a hiking and animal spotting on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Our last week in Colorado also happened to be our first official boondocking of the year (I don’t count parking lots and driveways as boondocking) on a patch of national forest land outside of Steamboat Springs.
Exploring Western Wyoming and Idaho
As we approached the end of June it was time to head north in Wyoming and Idaho for the remainder of the summer. With no firm plans or even a set route aside from a meet-up in August for the eclipse, we spent a few months simply roaming around trying to avoid any excessive hot weather and forest fire smoke. We were mostly successful in both regards and had a blast on the Idaho Wyoming border where we discovered some great free camping spots, went on our first whitewater rafting adventure, and upped our hiking game with some longer, more challenging trails.
Eventually, we moved farther west into Idaho with a short stop at Craters of the Moon NM followed by an extended stay in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area and then a long month of outdoor activities and social time in the tiny mountain town of Stanley where among others things we watched in amazement as the moon completely covered the sun. A summer to remember for sure!
Return to Utah & One Week in Arizona
The week after Labor Day we pulled into Utah with plans to roam around the state until a family gathering in Zion for Thanksgiving. Once again with no set plans or route, we simply followed our whims and sometimes the weather. A few new places were explored, including Park City, the Little Grand Canyon, and Goblin Valley, while some old favorites such as Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion were re-visited.
We made good progress on our goal of increasing our physical fitness with some challenging hikes through slot canyons, in search of arches, and even in rivers! In the middle of our Utah adventure, we made a quick detour into Arizona where we discovered a really cool campground in Lee’s Ferry on the edge of the Colorado River and spent a single chilly day hiking at the Grand Canyon.
A Three-Week Vacation to the Northeast
2017 ended with a three week trip to the northeast. The Airstream was left behind in a storage facility while we boarded a train and slowly made our way from Utah to Chicago. A few days in the city were followed by a short flight east which allowed us to spend an extended holiday with family and friends in Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. After getting our fill of winter, we got out just as a deep freeze was setting in (seriously not sure how I managed to survive a whole winter of cold for so many years) and jetted back to the warmth and sunshine of the desert for the last few days of the year.
What’s Next for 2018?
Just like last year we really don’t have any specific plans for the upcoming year. We do know that we want to stay firmly on the west side of the country and after a winter in the south will most likely slowly make our north through California, Oregon & Washington. The longer we do this, the less we made advance plans and find that we no longer stress about not knowing what the next month or even week will bring. A few family members and friends from the east have expressed interest in visiting us in the northwest so we have that to look forward along with whatever other fantastic things come up. Here’s to another year filled with adventure!