Wicked Wanderers

Chronicling the full time RV lifestyle of a young family

Category: 2019

Chapter 53: Montana: Home of the free bear hugs

Salida was beckoning us to stay longer however we had arranged to meet Kevin’s Mom and Step Dad in Glacier National Park in 2 days. We saddled up and buckled in for the long haul. Leaving Kevin’s sanity behind we pretty much drove straight through up to Glacier National Park. Of course we stopped to sleep but it’s tough to sleep when you know you need to keep moving to get there. The total drive time was approximately 20 hours and we were all glad to have that over with. Only occasionally we do such ‘ big’ travel days and this was one of those times.

It was nice to see Grammy Carol and Grampy Greg. We visited with them for a little over a week and during that time we went out to eat, drove up the going to the sun road, hung out, got ice cream, went on a boat ride across Lake McDonald and went on several jeep trails. Grampy Greg was also nice enough to help Kevin put a lift kit on our Jeep. It was a nice relaxing time but they had a long drive back to Maine so we had to say goodbye. Camping in Glacier can be expensive and we were there for about 6 weeks all of which was boondocking. After they left we were able to visit with some of our Xscapers friends visiting the area. We also decided to purchase an inflatable hot tub and pavilion tent to go over it. Although it takes Kevin a couple trips to get water to fill up the hot tub it was amazing to relax in it in Big Sky Country. Beautiful. This was also the home of what we affectionately named “bear birds” (aka the Common Nighthawk): birds that make calling sounds like bears. Truly frightening when you are in bear country. We had no idea it was birds making the strange growling sounds for well over a week and at one point we didn’t even dare take 1 step outside without bear spray. (Side story: Pro tip: don’t leave your bear spray in your car on your dash. The sun will come in and heat up the car and if it gets hot enough some of your bear spray will discharge. Yes we found out about that the hard way. I picked up the canister and it felt really light so I handed it to Kevin who agreed it was really light wondering what happened. Then Eloise wanted to feel it and then our friend who we were chatting with too. All told 4 of us touched the bear spray can and had varying levels of burning on skin, eyes, nose. I had burning pain for hours because I handled it the longest. Man that stuff really burns. Fun times!)

One day as a one-night trip we went over to Many Glacier Lodge and spent the night there. We hiked up to Grinnel and Salamander glaciers which was once known just as Grinnel glacier but it has since split due to melting. The hike was long but the weather was nice and the scenery was jaw dropping.

Our next visitor in Glacier National Park was Kevin’s Step Mom Verla and his dad Kevin. They stayed with us for a week along with our Australian friends Lynne and Michael who parked their RV right next to ours. We all had a great time visiting and one day we all (plus a few other Xscaper friends in the area) went on a float trip down a portion of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. It was quite the adventure with many laughs and a few spots of light rapids. The water was cold but the sun was hot and we had a good time.

The hiking in Glacier is world renowned and Kevin’s dad was partly visiting us to watch the girls while Kevin and I and our friends Nate and Kelsey went on a 4 night backpacking trip. We went from Bowman Lake up to Hole in the Wall via Brown Pass finishing at Kintla Lake. It was epic. We totally lucked out on so many levels: Kelsey scored sweet permits for 4 people AND the weather was amazing (mostly). There was a bad rainstorm moving in the last night of our trip and we elected to hike double-time to get out of camping in the rain and while at first it appeared there wasn’t actually going to be any rain, around 11pm the torrential rain and lightening hit and we were glad we were back in our beds. Of course the kids were glad to see us too but while we were gone Grampy and Grammy took them over to the historic Many Glacier Lodge where they stayed in the hotel one night which they loved.

Our last adventure in Glacier was at Whitefish Mountain Bike Park where Kevin and Nate went biking for an afternoon while Kelsey and I recovered from the hike. We explored some of downtown Whitefish before finally our time in Glacier was over and it was time to head West.

(Ultimately during our time in Glacier we only saw 3 Grizzley bears and all 3 were on the smallish size!)

Chapter 52: Salida: the Heart of the Rockies

We had long since planned to dedicate some time to beautiful Colorado and the time had finally come. Unfortunately everything was muddy as it was spring but we made the best of our time there. We explored the area from mid June to mid July. We enrolled Eloise in a week-long art camp which she absolutely loved. They were each tasked with creating a paper mache ‘art car’ by the end of the week which culminated at Salida’s art festival. All the kids artwork was on display. She had a fantastic time. Guess who had the largest most colorful art car: the girl who lives in an RV. (In fact we still carry this art around with us haha)

One day we took the ‘big truck’ to a side trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for 2 nights. It was a beautiful National Park. Of course Eloise did the Junior Range Badge and a starry night program. It was very scenic and would highly recommend you go if you get the chance.

Also in Salida we attended a week-long RV rally for Xscapers over 4th of July at the local fairgrounds. All the rally attendants marched in the local Salida 4th of July parade. Our entry was Kevin’s big tractor trailer truck pulling our RV which was pulling a friends Jeep pulling a Casita trailer which was pulling a wagon which was pulling a rollerblader. It was quite the site to see. We were at the tail end of the parade and everyone was so excited to throw candy to the crowd that they thew all their candy in the first half of the parade. Everyone had a great time. Also during the rally we went jeeping, attended a brewery party, saw a comedian, participated in several pot lucks, did a kids cookie decorating activity, and Kevin went whitewater rafting but the water was too high for kids to go. One week while in Salida I covered over much of the wood interior of our camper with peel and stick wallpaper. It really brightened it up and gave it a more home-y feel. 🙂

There were a lot of outdoorsy activities to do in this area and we also enjoyed several hikes, jeeped up to the continental divide, attended a tiki birthday party in the middle of BLM land, and more jeep trails. Kevin hit up a few mountain bike trails here and there and unfortunately on a group ride had a piece of his frame snap. Salida has a small town feel but with plenty of amenities and I dare say we enjoyed this area so much it made our top 5 favorite places list.

Chapter 51: That one time we lived at a brewery…

From May to June we were on the move with an action packed agenda. For a quick summary watch the video below otherwise keep reading. 🙂

Our last few days in Moab were rainy which turned our camping spot into a giant red sand mud pit. Once our last visitor left town we were ready to go North to Rabbit Valley BLM camping area to visit with friends for a few days. While we were there we took a day trip over to beautiful Colorado National Monument. Here we drove Rimrock Drive all around the park. Eloise became a junior ranger but due to the cold rainy weather we weren’t able to get any hikes in. It was very scenic and definitely worthy of a longer stay.

Continuing on down the road we had arranged a family meet up at Capitol Reef National Park. It was a long and twisty drive over to Capitol Reef with amazing scenery. The weather there was mixed with snow at higher elevations (which the girls loved playing in) but some warm sunny days too at the lower elevations. We were sure to take our time here and spent nearly 2 weeks exploring the area. We stayed on nearby BLM land which was easy to access and only a few miles from the national park entrance. Eloise completed the Junior Ranger program here, we got several scenic hikes and jeep trails in, and we visited with 5 different families during our stay.

Goblin Valley was our next stop and what an amazingly neat spot it is. If you ever get the chance to visit; its so unique. Of course it was spring time and the weather turned on us. We were only able to visit this Utah State park for a few hours however one could easily spend all day here. They had a campground that had several empty spots but it would have been a tight fit for our RV and plus there was no cellphone service so we said goodbye and continued south.

We had several stops in New Mexico planned and first up was Farmington BLM campground which was brand new. Of course it was snowing/raining when we arrived and there was 1 spot left in this campground for us. It was a neat area and we visited with friends who were staying there as well. We enjoyed a day searching for nearby geocaches and Kevin had some work done on the truck. One day we took a very long day trip up to Mesa Verde National Park were we got to climb the steep ladders and enjoy a guided tour of the ancient cliff houses.

Next we joined the Xscapers RV club for a meet up in Taos and Santa Fe. This was an actioned packed 10 days with: a visit to Meow Wolf (if you’ve never heard of it look it up—its so cool!), taco party, potlucks, hikes, live music, and a walking tour of Santa Fe. We were also reunited with our very good Australian friends Lynne and Michael who we really enjoyed catching up with. Oh and how could I forget—a special someone turned 7 year old in Santa Fe. We made an amazing Elsa birthday cake together, visited the local Childrens museum, smashed a pinata, opened presents, and had the while group sing happy birthday to her! Kevin hit up several mountain biking trails while in New Mexico however the conditions in general were still wet and spring-like.

In early June we headed North to Colorado to Great Sand Dunes National Park with Lynne and Michael and our new friends the Brown family. This National park was really neat. Because it was spring Medano Creek was experiencing surge flow at the park. “Surge flow” is a neat naturally-occurring, but rare phenomenon where creek water flows in waves across the sand. The girls had a great time playing in the water and sand and we took them there several times. Eloise and her friend tried sliding down the sand dunes but it was exhausting work climbing to the top of the dunes!

Our next stop in Colorado was Pagosa Springs which is a cute little town centered around several hot springs. We had planned it so we arrived just in time for the Pagosa Springs folk and bluegrass festival which was an entertaining weekend. The girls loved the kids activities and face painting and the music was great. We enjoyed the festival with friends and the girls and I enjoyed a day at the hot springs (which were very hot!) before moving north for a weekend hang out at Colorado Farm Brewery.

The brewery opened its parking/field area up and we packed 11 Rvs into the space. There was a playground and generally good weather for enjoying a beer outside! The story of the brewery and its beers is genuinely a first of its kind in the US, some of their beers are made entirely of on property grown/processed ingredients!

Some of these “estate” beers were made entirely from ingredients grown/made onsite!
We took over a brewery!

Chapter 50: Moab! (again)

Moab was beckoning us to come back for a third time (in 3 years) so we headed North. Moab has always been a friendly city to us and this time around was no exception. We stayed for nearly 2 months visiting with old and new friends and enjoying the various activities and events in the area. Our time in Moab this year was a blur but was roughly divided into 3 sections: the Xscapers convergence, the Fulltime Family Boondockers Anonymous meet up, and family and friends visiting from Maine.

First up was the Xscapers Moab Convergence held again on the old Moab airstrip. This week long event of 110 RVs was packed with potlucks, fires, live music, jeep rides, helping with rig maintenance projects, hiking, mountain biking, bowling, a hot air balloon ride, and a community clean up. Kevin also went on a 3 night canoe trip with a few members of this group to the Canyonlands area after the event.

Secondly but also overlapping with the Xscapers event was the fulltime family informal meet up. Approximately 20 families parked at the end of the airstrip. We hosted a giant Easter egg hunt which was a huge success (thanks for Irinia for the arts and crafts and natural egg dying), many families held campfires each night with music, there was a glow stick party night, group mountain bike rides, organized kid friendly hikes, and of course lots and lots of playing, trips to the local park and pool in town.

Lastly, Kevin’s Dad (Grandpa Kevin) and step mom (Grammie Verla) visited us for one jam-packed week which overlapped partly with the Fulltime Family week. We got permits to do the fiery furnace hike in Arches National Park, they rented a jeep with the fulltime family group and 13 of us all went on an epic Jeep ride (thank you Matt for your good group rental negotiation skills and for leading the group), and of course went out to explore the town. We rounded out our 2 months in Moab by hanging out with Kevin’s friend Nate who flew out from Maine to do several days of mountain biking. While the guys were off hitting the trails Eloise and Eliza played with their friend Maya who we camped with right up until it was time to say good bye.

Chapter 49: Back in the Wild West

We loaded up on groceries, said our good byes to friends and family, and hitched up. Kevin wanted to get West ASAP and we agreed on Big Bend. 1,608 miles and about 30 hours later we had arrived March 16th. Florida was starting to get swampy hot and humid and the cooler temps and no humidity felt good. We were boondocking at a huge site right inside Big Bend (at Government Springs) and used our newly procured (used) Satellite Internet setup for the first time. Truth be told it really worked flawlessly and I was able to use it to work there. Eloise also used it for school which is perfect.

The biggest desert bloom in years!

Big Bend was amazing. Honestly I had not heard much about that National Park but it was beautiful and has since become one of our top 3 favorites. The desert wildflower bloom was in full swing and the bluebell fields were so surreal. Kevin had found online that another fulltime family was also visiting Big Bend and had arranged to go on a Jeep ride with them–the Kroekers. Honestly I was tired of meeting new people but Kevin was right–they turned out to become great friends of ours and we were so glad to have met up with them! Together our families enjoyed a soak in the hot springs, a cookout, several hiking trails, and dinner out at the lodge. This is also where Eloise earned her first Junior Ranger Badge–she was so excited. It was nice to really get to take our time in this park and not feel rushed. We stopped in at all of the visitor centers, hiked the Boquillas canyon trail, checked out the fossil bones exhibits. Kevin and fellow dad Josh hiked to the top of Emory Peak–the highest peak in the park and to the top of Guadalupe Peak the highest Mountain in Texas in nearby Guadalupe National Park. We also had the worlds best barbecue in Terlingua, TX at DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ. *Drool*

After Big Bend we traveled North to Carlsbad Caverns. The Kroekers joined us there a few days later and we all went on the Natural Entrance cave hike. Carlsbad cave is massive. Beautiful. We boondocked a short distance from the park and met up with a handful of other families in the area too and enjoyed several group campfires and talks.

Goosenecks State Park, UT

We were inching our way towards Moab, Utah for a meetup but still had a little time left so we stopped for a few hours at Roswell, New Mexico and ate at a space-ship shaped McDonalds with a playplace. The girls got a kick out of all the alien signs through town. We continued on up to Goosenecks State Park in Mexican Hat Utah which was beautiful. We camped right on the edge of the canyon and it was very picturesque. Due to the steep cliffs right outside our door we put up the babygate on our front door and did not let Eliza outside without her kiddie ‘leash’ on at all times. There was no horseplay here. Yikes. We took the scenic Moki Dugway up to Natural Bridge Monument with out Jeep before heading up to Moab.

Chapter 48: M-i-c-k-e-y…

We got to Orlando on Nov 30th and left on March 14th. We were there a total of 104 days. We bought a Disney pass. We visited a Disney park or property on 35 of those days. This was by far the only time we have ever spent this much time in one area since going on the road and Kevin was not a fan but we don’t want to use this blog to dwell on any negativity in the ‘happiest place on earth.’ 🙂

Disney stats: Eloise’s favorite ride: Avatar Flight of Passage/tied with Everest, Eliza’s favorite ride: Tea Cups (but really her favorite was any and all character meet and greets). Kevin’s favorite ride: Driving home–bahaha seriously. Emma’s favorite ride: Everest. Favorite snacks? None, we brought our own food with us 95% of the time. Favorite parks: Animal Kingdom and Epcot. [Magic Kingdom was ‘magical’ but as the iconic park it was packed most of the days we were there which is annoying and not magical at all.]

Since many of the other families we were with also had Disney passes we visited the parks with numerous friends too which made it fun. (Thanks again to our friends Bill and Porter for introducing Eloise to Disney Pin trading!) Having a Disney pass was nice: kids melting down–time to leave; kid misbehaving–lets go home, sick kid throwing up in the line of Pirates of the Caribbean (true story)–lets go home; too many freakin people today?–lets leave. Not having the pressure of making the ‘most’ of each visit was very nice. By the time we left the park each day we were all tired and usually only went for the afternoon. Let me tell you tho–we can pack a stroller with 2 kids and enough gear for 8 hours like pros now haha. Also for Christmas we enjoyed the day at Epcot and Christmas Chinese dinner at Nine Dragons inside the park and actually it wasn’t “that” busy. Rumor was that Magic Kingdom was close to capacity that day (so full they turned people away.) The line of cars at 9am on Christmas day making the turn to towards Magic Kingdom was impressive…no thanks.

Believe it or not there are other things to do in Florida besides visiting Mickey and Minnie. We also enjoyed plenty of pool time in the nice Florida weather. Kevin and I took a long weekend to go to an Xscapers (RV travel club) convergence in Savannah Georgia and had a nice time. Unfortunately the kids and grandparents were all sick with some stomach bug that weekend which was no fun.

In January we took a family trip over to the huge Tampa RV show where we met up with Kevin’s grandparents and my parents and toured more RVs than we cared to. The weather that weekend was a little rainy and as we went to leave our big truck got stuck in the muck (again!). Fortunately though we weren’t the only ones and the event arena had hired a giant wrecker to pull RVs out of the muck all day. Fun times. In February we went up to Jacksonville, FL to attend another Xscapers Convergence at a Hanna Park. It was a very lush state park with mountain biking trails and a huge playground. Oh and don’t forget its right on the Atlantic Ocean/beach which was nice too. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the greatest but we still had a nice time visiting with friends and making sand castles.

In between Mickey, other events, and friends we also visited family (my grandmother, Aunt, parents, Kevin’s grandparents) around Florida and it was nice to see everyone! It was a busy time for sure and when we left we were glad for the break.

Chapter 47: 1,553 Miles but Who’s Counting?

Winter was just around the corner for Maine and we were ready to go. We left Maine on Oct 12 and were headed to Myrtle Beach for a fulltime family Halloween themed rally. We stopped in Pennsylvania for a few nights at Gettysburg Farm campground to take a break from travel. This campground was part of a working farm which was neat for the girls to see and pet the animals. Weather in Pennsylvania was becoming cooler too and we were ready to find greener pastures but first we happened to find the perfect used 2-door Jeep for us. (We will tow this behind our camper some times and sometimes I will drive it behind Kevin but having a second vehicle was the goal) We left Pennsylvania at night and I drove the Jeep with Eliza snoozing in the back and Kevin drove the big truck with Eloise napping in the top bunk in the sleeper cab. We drove all the way to Myrtle beach.

The rally was held at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach and we had never really paid to stay at a massive resort-style campground before. It was interesting. While we enjoyed the amenities of a large pool, arcade, beach access, store, etc. and had fun playing with all the other families attending however neighbors were close and navigating the campground with our huge truck/camper was also a challenge. We had a fun time and the week went by fast. There was a Halloween costume contest and our family all dressed up as ‘truckers’ as the big truck was new to us. (No, we did not win but got plenty of laughs.) We left there with several new friends we knew we would meet up with again later down the road.

Our next stop was a pit-stop near Daytona Beach for a few nights on our journey down to the keys. We pulled in and it appeared it had just stopped raining. Sweet! We had no idea we had just missed a monsoon so when we pulled onto the lawn for our pull-through site we sunk in up to the hubcaps and had to call a giant tow truck. Bummer. A fun way to top off our travel day.

Our reservation at Sunshine Key RV Resort was from Nov 1 to Nov 30 and while we enjoyed our time there a month was a little much for us. (We typically only stay a couple weeks in any given area but got a super discount to stay here longer as it was directly hit by the last hurricane and they were still rebuilding.)

While on Sunshine Key we visited Key West several times (once to meet my parents who were stopping there on a cruise), swam in the pool daily, watched one day of the Superboat International Speed Boat Races, visited the turtle hospital, enjoyed the splash-pad and playground in Key West three times, went out to Sunset Grille a few times with friends, kayaked around the RV park, explored tide pools, and tried to relax and enjoy the slower pace of island life.

During our time in the Keys we celebrated Halloween and our little bumble-bee (Eloise) and fairy (Eliza) had a blast walking around the neighborhoods on Big Pine Key. They take Halloween seriously down there in the Keys and had full snacks/cookies/hotdogs?! for the kids and drinks (wine/cans of beer up to full kegs for adults haha). It was interesting to say the least! We packed up just before the really hot Keys weather came and we headed north up for a visit with the mouse!

Chapter 46: The New Truck

Kevin had been searching for the ‘perfect’ used big rig truck for months. He wasn’t liking how our GMC dually was pulling the 5th wheel and we had recently learned that our heavy trailer was borderline too heavy for our GMC. Since we knew we weren’t likely to majorly downsize any of our items in our trailer to save any significant amount of weight we knew the only solution was a different truck: a bigger truck.

The truck that checked off all the boxes for Kevin was, of course, about 3,000 miles from Maine down near Phoenix, AZ. The truck is a single axle Volvo VNL 670 Semi (HDT) truck with a D13 engine. It started life as a commercial truck, then about a year ago had been purchased by a cowboy for towing his rodeo trailer. The cowboy had retrofitted it to have a gooseneck flatbed and removed the factory hitch. Kevin and his dad (Kevin) flew out, had the truck professionally inspected and shared driving it back up to Maine over a long weekend, in true “trucker” style.

First Rest Stop!

The truck was parked at Kevin’s moms house in Lisbon where his step-dad Greg owns an auto shop. It was there that together for the next 4 weeks they transformed the truck into exactly what we needed. They built a large cargo box, transformed the hitch from goose neck to 5th wheel. The truck was washed, cab interior was thoroughly cleaned, a dinette table was added (that still turns into a bed), paint touched up, 6 new tires, new driver and passenger side seats. A lot of preventative maintenance work was also performed.

The Final Product

While Kevin was working 24/7 on the truck Emma and the girls cleaned the interior of the truck, visited family and friends and focused on getting ahead on school work. They did pumpkin carving with Grammie E and Grampy Kevin, visited a fair with Grammie Carol, and enjoyed fall in Maine. Before we left Maine we sold the old truck and enjoyed one last meal with family.

Chapter 45: Maine!

They were long days but we finally made it back up to Maine. One final road in Massachusetts  just before we got back onto I-95 was bumpy. Really bumpy. We had been on rough roads before but this was bad. Our newly upgraded trailer suspension had been giving us amazingly smooth rides so we shocked how bouncy both the truck and trailer felt all of a sudden.  We shrugged it off.  We kept going. Finally, we made it. We were happy and unpacking so of course it was time for something to go wrong. I was opening our final slide and it just wouldn’t go out. I summoned Kevin. He wasn’t happy.  After much deliberation it was decided that something had fallen and was preventing the slide from opening. It was the kids room. We could barely get the door to their room open (it opens about 8 inches with that slide in) so we couldn’t see what it was that was stopping it from opening. Kevin took the door and frame off and noticed it just wide enough to maybe get a kid in there. Eloise was volunteered. She was boosted up on top of the slide and with a cell phone and took a photo of what was in the way. She was able to push the junk that had fallen out of the way enough so we could get the slide open. Turns out that on a big bump one of our cabinet doors had opened spilling toys down. The half-open door got caught as the slide was opening and broke in two. Fun. At least it was open and we didn’t have to break a window to get in!

We settled in our moochdocking spot and were glad to be visiting with family in Maine. Kevin and his Dad started working on home improvement projects (including fixing all the broken pieces from the broken cabinet door).  Then he had several work commitments that required him to go into the office. Needless to say he was crazy busy and we didn’t see much of him. The girls and I focused on school homework and visiting family. Also somewhere along our trip North we had picked up a nasty respiratory virus which I had for over a month! (I’m sure working nights didn’t help my recovery tho)

We stayed in Maine from June to October. We moved around the state every 2 weeks visiting all of our family from both sides. Some highlights: the girls’ joint birthday party at a state park, my brother’s wedding in New York to Auntie Caitlin, music concert and activities at the KOA with Grammie Carol and Grampie Greg, playing with Memere and Bompah at Moms camp, mini golf with Uncle Bub and Auntie Caitlin, playing toys with Grampie Kevin and Grammie Verla, canoeing down the Saco river like Pirates, sleep over with Nanny Sherry and friends, visiting our  stationary friends Chase, Cayleigh, Connor, Grant, Lydia, Lucas, and our fulltime family friend Caellum. Our time always goes fast when we’re in Maine!

Birthday Time!

We were scheduled to leave Maine in September, before the cool weather hit. Just then Kevin found just what he was looking for: our new tow vehicle!

 

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