2021 Wrap Up – Year in Review

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has still been affecting the country, 2021 turned out to be a pretty great year for us. We think back to 2020 when the pandemic hit and how nervous we were with not knowing what was coming ahead. With 2021 we basically went back to normal living but see a lot of the world around us trying to hang on to their mandates and such. The “Covid Logic” as we like to call it, where nothing makes sense has grown old. Back to enjoying this beautiful country has become our goal once again.

At the end of 2020, we met a couple in Reno that offered us jobs at a campground in West Yellowstone, Montana for the summer. We jumped at the idea of working near Yellowstone National Park and getting to enjoy everything in the area. More of Yellowstone to come later in this year in review.

Our 2021 Stats:

Getting back to more moving around in 2021 we traveled more than in 2020 but not as much as in 2019.

  • 2019, we traveled 8312 miles hitting 32 states, and camped at 35 different campgrounds.
  • 2020, we only traveled 3424 miles, hitting 4 states and 15 different campgrounds.
  • 2021, we traveled 5340 miles, hitting 15 states and 31 campgrounds, not all different ones this year with our multiple trips to Yuma.

Average Costs:

Camping: 365 Nights at an average of $13.02 per night up from $11.16 per night in 2020. This includes 155 nights at our site in West Yellowstone. In addition, we spent 112 nights at Thousand Trails Campgrounds with an average cost of $11.10 per night. Our stays at Thousand Trails are usually free, this is the cost after factoring in our membership yearly dues. We also paid extra at a couple of campgrounds for 50 amp service and had to pay for a week to be out of the system while our slide system was broken.

Fuel: 911 Gallons of fuel at an average price of $2.95/gallon compared to 544 Gallons of fuel at an average price of $2.63/gallon in 2019. We averaged 5.89 mpg in 2020 down from 6.25 mpg in 2020 for our motorhome. Guess the mountains had our mileage a bit lower.

Our total cost per day average was $29.49 in 2021 up from $22.02 in 2020 but down from $39.57 in 2019. This includes Camping, Motorhome Insurance, Motorhome Fuel, Propane, and Motorhome Service. Workamping helps to even out some of our expenses.

2021 Year in Review

To start 2021 we spent time at our “home base” of Las Vegas doing doctor visits and taking care of business. Our plan was to spend the winter in Arizona like true snowbirds! January thru the first week in April we spent bouncing around Arizona.

Returning to the Quartzsite RV Show we planned on a week of boondocking on BLM land. But after four nights we had enough of Quartzsite. There really isn’t much to do there in our opinion. So from Quartzsite, we traveled down to Yuma, Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona, and Page.

While in Yuma Lisa needed some dental work done and decided to get it done in Mexico. It ended up being a bad idea and she doesn’t recommend having work done there. We did enjoy the tacos and people we met in Algodones though.

With Lisa having problems with her dental work we made three trips across the state to Yuma to get work done on her teeth. It gave us the chance for more great tacos though.

Getting back to normal was our main agenda for 2021. We took in Spring Training Baseball games in Peoria. It was weird sitting in rows all to ourselves. This was a Seattle Mariners game. Every other time I’ve gone to Spring Training the stands were jam-packed.

Happily, we found places where things seemed to be back to normal. In Tombstone, we hardly saw anyone wearing masks and it felt more like 2019 than 2021.

One of the things we learned from 2020 was that more and more people started getting outdoors hiking and enjoying the State and National Parks. In Sedona, we went to hike the Devil’s Bridge trail only to find the trailhead jammed with cars. Talking to a friend that hiked it they had to wait over 45 minutes to cross the bridge to get pictures. Thankfully we found some places that were less crowded to hike and enjoy the outdoors.

Another of our favorite National Monuments we made a stop at while near Sedona was Montezuma’s Castle.

One of the amazing places we found to kayak was Watson Lake near Prescott. Very cool rock formations and some geese for Lisa to feed.

A favorite place to visit before we started RVing is Page, Arizona. Lake Powell is beautiful as are the surrounding areas. With the Wave, White Pockets, Toadstools, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and so many other amazing rock formations we couldn’t pass up a stop in the area.

White Pockets was a place that neither one of us had been to before. We applied and got permits for a day trip there. If you’re visiting Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and can’t get permits for the Wave we highly recommend doing a trip to White Pockets. It is special in its own way and nearly as beautiful as the Wave.

Antelope Canyon is a place we have both hiked in the past with the Navajo tour groups. One of the reasons we wanted to go back to Page was to go to Antelope Canyon, but this time instead of hiking with the tour groups. We could kayak Lake Powell to the mouth and up the canyon to the lake edge. From there you can hike up the canyon a few miles in a less crowded and less rushed pace. Plus while we were in the area the Navajo Nation was still closed to tourists due to Covid.

It was an amazing trip! There is so much beauty in this area of the country. The dogs loved the trip as well.

Another side trip we made from Page was to see the California Condors at the South side of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Navajo Bridge at the head of the Grand Canyon. The birds were amazing. To see these, at one time nearly extinct, birds in the wild is a sight to be seen! It was my first time seeing them in the wild. They are huge!

With a face, only a mother could love they are a fascinating birds.

From Page, we headed North to Moab, another area we’ve been to previously but this time with the RV. Planning on spending time hiking Arches National Park we ended up only going into the park one time due to the overcrowding. So instead we spent time Jeeping and going to less traveled areas.

The Views from Dead Horse State Park are amazing! You’d almost think it was the Grand Canyon.

From Moab, our plans were to go to Dinosaur National Monument, but with Covid, they have a weird permit system in place to visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall. We weren’t able to get permits so we changed our route.

One thing about Full-Time RVing is you need to be sort of fluid with your plans. We ended up re-routing toward Salt Lake City and made a stop in Helper, Utah. This ended up being a surprisingly interesting location.

We love off-the-beaten-path places and Nine Mile Canyon is one of those places you will love!

Billed as The World’s Longest Outdoor Art Gallery. Nine Mile Canyon, actually 75 miles long, has been recognized all over the world for its 60+ rock art sites, stretching the length of the canyon including the Great Hunt and the Big Buffalo.

We spent the day on an amazing adventure going 46 miles up 9 Mile Canyon and exploring ancient petroglyphs, pictographs, and historic sites!

The trip took us 6 1/2 hours. We stopped at so many sites we lost track and missed a lot of others that were on the list the owner of the campground we’re staying at gave us.

The Great Hunt is truly an impressive piece of art!

While in the area we also visited the newly formed Jurassic National Monument. In our opinion after seeing other dinosaur quarry dig sights, this one is a dud.

After our impressive stay in Helper, Utah we moved further North to the less impressive Salt Lake City area where we stayed a few days at Hill Air Force Base FamCamp.

From there I found a campground near Rexburg, Idaho, and booked it strictly for its name. It did have good reviews too. But I couldn’t pass up the name! Located on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River it is a beautiful park and campground.

$40 for a five-night stay is one of the best campsites we’ve ever had. For the five nights, we stayed there were only a couple of other campers there any of the nights we stayed. We’ll definitely camp there again if in the area.

Unfortunately for us, this was the only time we had our kayaks in the water the whole summer. With the Jeep breaking down and just not having enough time to do all we wanted our plans for 2022 are to definitely do more kayaking.

After Beaver Dick Park we were still a few days early for our job in West Yellowstone, but we wanted to be closer to the area. The only campground we could find open was about a half hour away from the West Entrance. We ended up at Driftwaters RV in Cameron, Montana. We drove back and forth to Yellowstone National Park every day while we were there.

Thankfully we made the choice to show up early otherwise we would have missed the second-best highlight we had all summer, the birth of a baby bison. We were amazed while we watched the birth, people would pull up and ask what was going on. We’d say that a bison was giving birth, and they’d say OK and drive off. There were only four cars in the pull-outs including us. The whole birth from when we first started watching until the little guy was up and walking around was 29 minutes.

A few days later we started our jobs at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park. Working at Grizzly RV Park we got to spend a lot of time in Yellowstone but still not as much as we would have liked. We worked 40 hours per week and had two days off per week.

Our job consisted of preparing sites for incoming RVers and cleaning cabins. We were paid $10/hour. For our RV site, we had to pay $300/month.

What we didn’t realize when we took the job was that running errands would take so much time. West Yellowstone is too expensive and too limited on what they stock for general shopping so we would have to drive an hour and a half to either Bozeman or Idaho Falls for groceries or other supplies. This really puts a damper on how much time we could get into the park.

Not getting to spend time in Yellowstone every week we still got the opportunity to see so many amazing things. The landscape alone would be enough to enjoy but throw in all the animals and there is nowhere better to spend a summer in our opinion.

The scenery is gorgeous but the animals are what we really wanted to see more than anything in the park. And we saw lots of animals!

Early in the year, we got to see a wolf eating on a carcass along the Madison River.

A week or two later this guy crossed within 15 feet of us and parked in the middle of the road. He stopped and looked at us when he heard Ruby whining in the back of the Jeep.

To start with the bison are entertaining but after a while, they start to be a pain by blocking traffic and creating “bison jams”. You can always tell people coming into the park for the first time. As soon as they see their first bison they stop and back up traffic. The rut is the best time to witness the bull bison in their mating rituals. This guy tore up some sagebrush in his sexual frustration.

Wolves, Bison, and Bears oh my! Bears are my favorite animals to see in the wild. We got to see quite a few over the summer. I especially love seeing the cubs.

It was always exciting, not knowing what we might see on a given day in the park.

Some animals are fairly rare and hard to find in Yellowstone like moose. We were lucky to see two over the whole summer. They are much more plentiful in the Grand Tetons.

Sand Hill Cranes are huge fascinating birds. We saw quite a few of them over the summer. This pair had two babies with them.

You wouldn’t think of seeing pelicans in Yellowstone but a few times over the summer we came across them swimming in the Yellowstone River.

One of the animals we wanted to see more than anything after the wolves, bison, and bears were badgers. We made many trips to the park looking for badgers without any luck. We knew where they were located but just didn’t have the luck to see them until late in the summer.

Watching the Harlequin Ducks in Le Hardy Rapids on the Yellowstone River was a cool experience. These ducks dive and swim in the fast-moving rapids searching for food. I could have watched them all day.

It was a blast to watch the elk rut. The bulls bugling, calling their cows, and warning the other bulls in the area was exciting to see.

On one of our hikes, we spotted this red-tailed hawk in a tree. Lisa snapped a quick picture that turned out beautiful. It was her favorite picture all summer.

We saw many bald eagles throughout the summer. This one was one of Lisa’s best shots.

Another thing that kept us from seeing as much as we wanted to over the summer was Jeep issues. Early in the spring we blew a shock and had to wait three weeks for new ones to arrive. Then in June, a ticking noise started in the engine. Upon diagnosis, it was determined that a lifter failed damaging a camshaft and putting metal throughout the engine. The engine needed to be replaced and after fighting with Chrysler the lifetime warranty finally covered it. But we were 45 days without the Jeep.

Lisa had never been fly-fishing so I booked a guided trip on the Madison River. We caught a lot of fish and missed a bunch too. She ended up loving it so we got her own fly-fishing gear now.

We will be doing much more fly-fishing in 2022!

Just one of the many fish we caught that day.

In addition to spending the summer in Yellowstone, we made a few trips to Grand Teton National Park.

On our first trip in May, we hoped to see the grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs. We knew it would be a long shot but as luck would have it about 15 minutes after being in the park we came upon a bunch of cars pulled out along the road. There she was with her cubs. It was so amazing to see them. It was getting dark so we only got to watch them for a few minutes before we headed to our room. The next morning we got to see them again. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get all five of them in one shot!

We caught this friendly fox trying to scavenge for food in a picnic area. After a ranger ran him off he had to go back to actually hunting for food.

On our final trip to Grand Teton, we finally got to see a great gray owl. It was an animal we wanted to see all summer.

As amazing as all the scenery and animals were during our summer in Yellowstone nothing compares to our wedding at Old Faithful. We had planned on getting married in Texas this winter but fell in love with Yellowstone so much we decided to get married there. While leading up to the wedding a lot of things didn’t go right and we had to change plans. But on our wedding day, everything went absolutely perfectly. The timing of Old Faithful going off behind us during the ceremony was right on time.

We did our honeymoon in Cody, Wyoming. Cody is a fun town we visited earlier in the summer and decided it was a cheaper honeymoon location than Jackson Hole would be. The wild horses outside of town were our favorite place to visit.

Upon our return to West Yellowstone from our honeymoon we were slated to have about a week of work left in the season. But a big winter storm was approaching and we were told we could head out before the storm. We made new plans for our trip to our winter location in Brownsville, Texas.

When we left West Yellowstone we needed to go to South Dakota by way of North Dakota so Lisa could get her new license and military ID. We made stops in Billings, and Miles City, Montana where we stayed at our first Harvest Hosts location a pinball machine-themed brew pub and casino.

From Miles City, we drove to Medora, North Dakota to take in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We didn’t get to see too much in the area since most places were closed for the season.

After Medora, we continued East to Fargo, North Dakota where we stayed at another Harvest Hosts location. This time an Air Museum. As we were setting up our RV the passenger side slide stuck in the retracted position. We tried to find someone to repair it but the RV centers were booked out for a month or more and there were no mobile RV techs in the area.

Following Fargo, we stayed at our third Harvest Hosts, Stensland Family Farm, a fourth-generation dairy farm that Lisa loved. She got to feed the calves, learned about the robot milking machines, and ate their delicious ice cream. From Stensland Farm, we moved only 11 miles to Big Sioux State Park in Brandon, South Dakota where we took care of the business we needed to get done in the state.

After our South Dakota business was completed we continued South through Nebraska where we had a stopover at our fourth Harvest Hosts location, Kimmel Orchard. The lesson learned at this stop was gnats can fly through your screens. We had hundreds of gnats in our motorhome.

From Nebraska, we headed to Topeka, Kansas. Spending five nights in Topeka we visited Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve, the Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Park, and the Evel Knievel Museum.

We were really impressed by the Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Park and Evel Knievel Museum.

When we left Kansas we headed east to Branson, Missouri. Branson is a fun town while there we took in two concerts at the Mansion Theater, Neal McCoy (one of our favorites) and The Oak Ridge Boys who put on a really good show. We also attended Dolly Parton’s Stampede Christmas Show.

Following Branson, we headed South to Oklahoma where we stayed at Belle Starr Campground, our first Army Corps of Engineers Campground. It is a beautiful campground on Lake Eufaula.

After Belle Starr, we made it to Texas. Our first Texas campground was Lake Texoma Thousand Trails where we were scheduled to spend three weeks. We finally got hold of a mobile RV Tech to look at the slide on our motorhome. He got it open in about 15 minutes and diagnosed the problem. Parts needed to be ordered and he worked with our extended warranty to get that done. It took five weeks for the parts to arrive then he got them installed so we could get back on the road.

While in the Texoma area, we drove to Fort Worth a few times to visit a couple of my high school friends and see some shows.

With our motorhome fixed we made an additional stop at Camping World in Denton, TX to have a washer and dryer installed followed by our fifth Harvest Hosts stay at an alpaca farm called TX-Ture Farm. Again Lisa loved the farm animals.

The following day we headed to Colorado River Thousand Trails our final campground of 2021 and first of 2022. It’s been a very good year considering all that is still going on in the world.

Thank you to everyone that followed along on our journey and thank you for the recommendations for places to see and things to do on our way.

In 2022 we’ll spend the next three months in the Brownsville, Texas area. We’re looking to get new upholstery in our RV since the crappy material they use is already wearing out. In April we are booked to have our slide system upgraded to a more robust system that should take the worry out of running the slides. Then back to the Yellowstone area working at Drift Lodge & Fly Shop. We’ll be working 3 days on 3 days off so the hours should give us more time in the park. We’re looking forward to being back in Yellowstone!

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