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Reviews of favorite U.S. destinations, attractions, eateries, dog-friendly spots, and more

It’s always fun to journey back to Northern California’s Humboldt County to see friends but it sure puts a dent in our budget. Not only does it take a lot of extra fuel to visit this remote coastal location but there are limited options for staying there in a decent RV park.

Full-hookup RV parks in Humboldt are expensive and range from $35 to $45 a night. When we were trying to find somewhere affordable to stay in Eureka or Arcata, we first consulted our Passport America Guide, our go-to handbook for cheap RV parks.

Our old standby, Redneck Acres (sorry, Redwood Acres) is now a Passport America and Escapees Member park. Thankfully we could combine both discounts and ended up paying $30 a night, the cheapest RV park rate in the county. Still, that’s pretty steep for a parking spot on a gravel lot with 10 feet between us and the next guy.

The second cheapest option in Eureka is the Samoa Boat Ramp County Park Campground.

At $20 a night we were tempted to stay there, until we looked around. And saw the only hookup was a water spigot.

The scenery just wasn’t that tempting.

And when we saw the spot-on scary Yelp Reviews we got out as fast as possible..

So it was back to Redneck Acres. At $30 a night, it was the best deal in town. Good thing the excellent company of our old friends made up for that crazy rate!

 

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After several awesome reunions with friends and family in Northern California (and too many nights paying for RV park campsites), we’re headed to the SoCal deserts and looking forward to some sunshine and free camping.

The weather report isn’t looking too promising this week as an epic winter storm moves across North America, but we’ll be staying in my parent’s L.A. home until New Year’s so we’re safe for a while. Once we’re back on the move you can bet we’ll be consulting our Frugal Shunpiker’s Guides to Boondocking.

What’s a Shunpike?

shun·pike [shuhn-pahyk] : noun, verb, shun·piked, shun·pik·ing.

  1. noun: a side road taken instead of a turnpike or expressway to avoid tolls or to travel at a leisurely pace. verb (used without object)
  2. verb: to drive on a shunpike.

Frugal Shunpiker Cheap RV Travel GuidesWritten by experts at Frugal-RV-Travel.com, the Frugal Shunpiker’s Guides come in SO handy for us as we roam around the west in search of unforgettable boondocking places to camp.

Here are just a few reasons why we consult these downloadable PDF guides every chance we get:

Frugal Shunpiker’s Guides At A Glance

The Frugal Shunpiker’s Guides will help you find free and cheap places to camp in six regions around the U.S.:

  • RV Boondocking in Southern Texas
  • RV Boondocking in Arizona
  • RV Boondocking in Southern Utah
  • RV Boondocking in New Mexico
  • California Boondocking: The Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Coast
  • California Boondocking: The Desert and Eastern Sierra

The guides are in PDF format, so you can read them offline without any need for an internet connection. This is handy when you’re roaming around without any cell service for miles, as often happens in our off-grid adventures.

Campsite descriptions include important access details in addition to GPS coordinates. You’ll also know ahead of time which areas are safe for rigs like yours and which ones to avoid.

But that’s not all! They also include helpful trip-planning information, fabulous details about dispersed camping, regional restrictions, public lands, park passes, local attractions, fishing, and much more.

Free camping websites are great, but you won’t find this level of personal experience in most free boondocking directories on the web. We especially like how guides provide tips on what to see, where to shop, where to eat, where to find free water, free RV dump stations, propane, laundromats, and more.

Frugal Guides, Frugal Price

If you prefer to camp for free in the most scenic locations, would rather travel around instead of staying in one place, and are looking for affordable adventures and variety in your RV travels, you need these guides.

Each book is just $17 (less than the cost of one night in an RV park!) but you can also:

  • Buy any three e-books for US$39.00 (You save $12.00)
  • Buy any four e-books for US$49.00 (You save $19.00)
  • Buy any five e-books for US$59.00 (You save $26.00)
  • Or buy all six e-books for US$69.00 (You save $33.00)

With your purchase you will receive, free of charge, the 23-page Frugal Shunpiker’s Guide: Basic Boondocking. This handy 23-page guide includes tons of tips about how to live off the grid and make the most of your home on wheels.

If you’re as frugal as we are, you’re probably wondering if these boondocking guides are worth it. Well, the authors are frugal too, so they have a 100 percent money-back, no questions asked guarantee if you don’t think the books are worthwhile and saving you money.

Chances are, you’ll agree that that the Frugal Shunpiker’s Guides are indispensable for your off-the-beaten-path camping adventures!

Get yours here!

 

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Last week after wrapping up our annual Vickers Ranch workamping gig, we decided to play tourist and visit a part of rural Colorado that we’ve heard a lot about. Known as the North Fork Valley, this region is ground zero for Western Colorado’s small leftie contingent and a blossoming orchard and winery industry.

The main towns which comprise the North Fork Valley are Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia. We approached from the south along State Highway 92 (part of the West Elk Loop), a twisty and hairy adventure that meanders alongside the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a hole in the ground more stunning than the Grand Canyon.

Highway 92 is the best way to enter the Valley but have a barf bag ready; the drop-offs are breathtaking and with no guard rails and few pull-outs, we weren’t able to take any photos.

Highway92

For the first time in months, we had no plans or places to be and zero commitments whatsoever. It was heaven!

We arrived in the tiny cow town of Crawford to find that Verizon cell service is non-existent, which meant we couldn’t look up any places to stay. As I was just about to come unglued because my phone wasn’t working, I decided to have a face to face interaction with the owner of the general store to ask if she knew of any local RV parks.

Turns out, she told me more than my smart phone ever could. She sent us to a new RV park in Hotchkiss, “Farm and Ranch Camp.” Perfect, we thought!

It was rustic and right up our alley. The name was also entirely appropriate; with RV sites set within the actual ranch itself, we were in the middle of the irrigation action. See the water shooting out into left field behind our rig?

We spent the next two days soaking up the last blast of summer heat and playing tourist. First we toured Hotchkiss, which has a few wineries and lots of local produce, but it’s a little rough around the edges as we discovered in a local dive bar, Past-Times.

Paonia lived up to it’s reputation as a culinary destination and hippie haven. We hadn’t seen so many dreadlock-wearing, earthy types since we were in Northern California. It’s easy to see why they flock here. There’s a strong sense of connection to this lush farmland, a very supportive artist community and it’s a relatively cheap place to live if you’re just renting (land prices are another story).

After stopping at a few wineries, we savored a gourmet lunch with all local products in Paonia Town Park.

Even Wyatt got his share of locally-grown delicacies, when a local meat market gave us free elk bones!

Next, we stumbled onto Black Bridge Winery and Orchard Farms, a dog-friendly idyllic destination on the outskirts of town featuring a U-Pick orchard and gardens, tons of local gourmet products and the best wines in the region.

The finale of our visit happened at the end of our day in Paonia, when took the suggestion of a local and ate at the Flying Fork Cafe, which many folks say is the best eatery in the Valley.

We have to agree with the consensus; dining al fresco at this little Italian-style restaurant was comparable to the best big-city dining experiences we’ve had, but without the attitude or the price!

We had a blast and hope to be back someday. It’s been a long time since we did anything so relaxing and touristy. After working 60 hour weeks all summer, it was paradise when we finally got to reap the fruits of our labor!

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Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! If you’re itching to hit the road, here’s a great article about the best national parks for RVers.

This guest blog post was submitted by Angie Picardo, a writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel blog where you can find advice on traveling with your family and on retirement planning. Remember we love guest bloggers, so if you’d like to submit a guest blog post, contact us today!

Top National Parks for RV-ers

If you have retired or found a way to make money from your RV, you are probably looking to see the best of what America has to offer, all from your mobile home. Which national parks are most suited for RVers? Well, luckily, there are many! Here are 10 national parks in the United States that are must-see spots for you as an RVer.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Photo: National Park Service

Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in all of the United States is the Grand Canyon. If you have yet to take in the majesty and beauty of the canyon, then this should be on the top of your list on places to visit in your RV. It is the 15th oldest national park in America and offers plenty of space for RV and tent camping. Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said of the Grand Canyon, “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description.”

Yosemite National Park (California)

Photo: National Park Service

Activities like hiking and climbing are just a bonus to already breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park. Aside from the plant and animal variety (160 total rare plants!) that you will see in Yosemite, the cliffs themselves make for a great view. There’s little to not like about this park and it is very RV friendly. You will want to make plenty of time as it is impossible to see it all as the park spans over ¾ of a million acres.

Death Valley National Park (California)

Photo: LiveWorkDream

If you thought Yosemite was large, well Death Valley dwarfs it by comparison as it registers in at over 3.3 million acres. Of course, you won’t see the wildlife or vegetation that Yosemite has to offer, but the vast landscape is a camper’s dream. Make sure to bring plenty of water to cool off, though, as temperatures are consistently over 100 degrees during the day. Low temperatures can get to almost freezing on average as well during the winter months, so the best time to visit may be in late fall or early spring.

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

Photo: LiveWorkDream

The Grand Tetons can be an absolutely beautiful site to take in. The park is practically the same size as Yosemite, and there is just as much to see. There is a national forest surrounding the park and plenty of water around to see, unlike Death Valley. So if you are a camper that needs to be around bodies of water, then Grand Teton would be more ideal for you.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana)

Photo: LiveWorkDream

Yellowstone is one of the most famous national parks in all of the world, let alone the United States. It is the oldest known national park on Earth, and its majesty has held up beautifully. No matter what time of the year it is, it’s always the right time to visit Yellowstone. The wildlife in the park, the geysers, and the scenery— everything about the park has made it one of the most famous. There’s a reason that people keep coming back to the more than 2 million acre park year after year.

Kings Canyon National Park (California)

Photo: National Park Service

Nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada is Kings Canyon. The amazing trees, mountains and lakes make this a must-see for any RV-er. The elevation ranges by almost a mile from 2,100 feet to 7,500 feet. That range of scenery can make for a lot of great sightlines and stories to tell for ages.

Sequoia National Park (California)

Photo: National Park Service

Just north of Kings Canyon National Park is the famous Sequoia National Park. Known for the absolutely mammoth trees that tower seemingly into the clouds, it truly is a sight to behold. It is a great spot to take the RV, park it and enjoy the beauty by hiking or horseback. Then return to the RV at sundown for a great night of camping and fun. There are even caves to explore and a tunnel made from a fallen tree!

Zion National Park (Utah)

Photo: National Park Service

Zion National Park is a bit smaller than some of the others mentioned in this list, but it’s still large compared to the RV parks of the Eastern part of the country. The winding canyon that splits through the park is a breathtaking sight and it can be enjoyed year-round. It does get a bit hot in the summer, but that’s the case with every spot in America. Still, the conditions make it an amazing adventure in all parts of the year.

Arches National Park (Utah)

Photo: National Park Service

Arches National Park is located on the East side of Utah and is known for being the home of more than 2,000 natural arches created from sandstone as well as the Tower of Babel. You’ve likely seen pictures of the arches and they are even more glorious in person. There is plenty of room for your RV as well and great camping that will be sure to satisfy.

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Photo: National Park Service

Lake McDonald and Saint Mary Lake, as well as the wildlife, make Glacier National Park a great spot to visit. Over 1 million acres large, the park spills into the British Columbia province of Canada. There are still glaciers there to see, but scientists fear that they may be gone by 2020, so now may be the time to take in the majesty of the park.

Angie Picardo is a writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel blog where you can find advice on traveling with your family and on retirement planning.

 

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For the record, I still consider us full-time RVers, considering we only spent a couple months at Jerry’s Acres last year. It looks like we’ll only be here a few weeks this time, before we head to our favorite workamping job again back at the ranch. Barely enough time to reflect upon some of the most memorable highlights from the past 11 months on the road.

Live Work Dream RV Snowbird Travel Map 2012-2013

Click photos to view them larger, or check out our road trip galleries for more pictures. For details about all our stops this year, see our full-time RVing travel map.

A Couple New Favorite Sites

When we first left last May, we found free boondocking at Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO. It was only free because the campground had not yet opened for the season, and there was still snow on the ground. But it was still fun roller blading at 10,000′ along the paved roads.

Turquoise Lake Leadville, CO Free RV Boondocking

Thousands of miles later, near the end of this year’s journey, we discovered a new all-time favorite place where we will definitely be heading again. Goosenecks State Park near Bluff, Utah is simply amazing – remote, quiet, dark at night, with absolutely nothing to do but get some work done or go for a run and soak in the magical beauty – just the way we like it!

Goosenecks Utah State Park Free RV Boondocking

We decided not to park to close to the edge since we could let Wyatt run wild here. Luckily we met a fellow traveler who encouraged to look a bit further down the road from the busy parking area where it seemed lots of RVers stopped for just one night. We spent a week and are already looking forward to staying much longer next time.

Goosenecks State Park Utah RV Boondocking on San Juan River

Attractions and Special Events

Speaking of dizzying drop-offs, a more recent highlight from the past year was our recent Jeeping adventure with Kev, the founder of Nü RVers.

Thelma and Louise Point Over Colorado River in Utah

After stopping at the famed location where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff, we proceeded to climb the most harrowing trail up out of Canyonlands National Park. I’m just thankful I wasn’t driving!

The first attraction we went out of our way to see this year was about nine months earlier before we even left Colorado. The Sand Creek Masacre National Historic Site sits off highway 96 in Eastern Colorado.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Other sacred sites where it felt like we were treading on hallowed ground were the Civil War battlefields in Virginia that we visited.

Spotsylvania Fredericksburg Civil War Battlefield Canon

Fredericksburg, Virgina was also memorable because that is where we gave our keynote talk at the Greyhounds Rock Take A Bite Out of Canine Cancer conference. It’s the whole reason we headed East this year, to share our story about Jerry and help attendees learn How To Be More Dog.

Burning Leaves at West Virgina RV ParkSpeaking of hallowed ground, another highlight was the spooky hay ride and haunted house at Stony Creek RV Resort in West Virgina. I’m not sure what was scarier though, the abandoned old house decked out for Halloween or the way the campground burned all the leaves in a pile that snaked through all the sites.

Another memorable event was meeting up with a couple of my sisters in Georgia. We don’t get to the East Coast often, so I was happy when one flew down from New York when we visited the other near Atlanta. No big sightseeing to report, it was great just to hang out and catch up with each other. Next stop: Luckenbach, Texas!

Doug Moreland Trio Live at Luckenbach Texas

A year on the road just wouldn’t be the same without our annual pilgrimage to the center of the universe in the Texas hill country. We didn’t get stuck in Luckenbach this time, but we did enjoy a couple nights of cold beer and good music by the Doug Moreland Trio and others while boondocking in the cold.

Weather Report from the Road

Speaking of cold. Another memorable night was the coldest night we ever spent roadside boondocking.

Free Boondocking Sierra Blanco Texas

From the ice on the road and the frost on our breath (inside the rig) the next morning, we realized why they named this tiny Texas town Sierra Blanco. As far as weather goes, I must mention Hurricane Sandy. Normally we high-tail it in the other direction when tornadoes or other major weather systems are in our path. But with our conference date in Virginia, we sat this one out about 100 miles south of where Sandy came ashore.

Anza Borrego Dust Storm from RV Window

And speaking of sandy, one more memorable weather event this year was the three-day sandstorm that drove us away from Borrego Springs, back to the Slabs earlier than we wanted. But enough about the weather, let’s talk about some food!

Best Food and Drink on the Road

Rene and I rarely go out. Whenever we do, we make it special, or for a special event. One memorable outing was to the dive bar in Festus, MO where we had to toast Spoonie, since that’s where he was from. But this place was a highlight only for it’s smoke and cheap, bad drinks. Kris would approve.

Oklahoma Joe's Best Kansas City Barbeque

One of the culinary highlights of the year was just a couple days prior at the renowned Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ in Kansas City. This place is a must visit for any meat lover. We lucked out and got there in between the lunch and dinner rushes. The line is usually out the door at this small gas station, and it was starting to form as we were finishing our meal.

Herby K's best Creole Food Shrieveport, LA

The most memorable meal of the year had to be at Herby K’s, in Shrieveport, LA. This 77 year old icon of cajun cooking was just what we were looking for as we approached the Louisiana border and realized we hadn’t yet had any creole food. Disregard any reviews you may read about this being in a “bad” part of town. While the neighborhood has clearly seen better times, long ago, the clientele that kept pouring in as we left were obviously well to-do and knew that the best food is often found in a discreet little hole in the wall.

The Year in Summary

For most of the past year, we seemed to be traveling on somebody else’s clock. Much of it was spent preparing for our first public speaking engagement, and then we had to deal with Wyatt and spent far too long at Rainbow’s End. After that we made a B-line for a belated holiday visit with la familia. Once back on the road again, we were on our own time. We’ve enjoyed the last month or so as we worked our way back to the mountains.

Crystal Lakes Moose Red Feather Lakes CO

We got back just in time to be greeted by a Moose and a major snow storm headed our way. But not until after the most harrowing drive ever, over Vail Pass, in the wet snow, after dark. Not fun, but better than the alternative of driving over the next morning with the risk of it being iced over, or closed.

Snowbirds Return to the Snow

It’s good to be “home” – wherever we park it.

What has been the highlight of your journey recently?

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