At the close of every year, before we plot out our adventures for the new one just around the corner, we like to review the past 12 months of travel, learning from all those experiences we’ve had on the road – the good and the bad.
Truth of the matter is that it’s hard to identify many bad experiences, though there were a few. And it’s also hard to boil down our great experiences to just a few… because there were so many.
But after 8 years of the RV Lifestyle, we’ve learned this is an important exercise to do if we want the next year to be even better.
In 2019 we were on the road and away from our Michigan home for a little over 8 of the 12 months. We traveled 24,321 miles…. Visited 21 states… three Canadian Provinces and averaged 14.4 miles per gallon.
Here's the video, with links and descriptions below:
Since this is a long post, here is a link to each section so it's a little easier for you to get to navigate:
- Our Best Happening in 2019
- Our Best Upgrade in 2019
- Our Best Boondocking Places in 2019
- Our Favorite Campgrounds in 2019
- Our Best Memories of 2019
- Our Favorite Accessories of 2019
- Our Biggest Disappointment of 2019
- Our Biggest Frustration of 2019
- Our Biggest Mistake of 2019
Our Best Happening in 2019
Our Best Happening in 2019… a brand new RV. After visiting several RV manufacturers in search of the best RV for us, we went up to the Leisure Travel Vans factory in Manitoba in February.
The temperature up there the was MINUS 22 Fahrenheit! But as we toured the factory we were very impressed. We came home and, after lots of consideration and phone calls, we talked to LaMesa RV in Albuquerque, NM and found just the unit we wanted, a 2019 Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX. Two months later, we took possession.
We love the room, the quality and the king-sized Murphy bed. We’ve driven this hard and long this year and it has had no issues at all.We have a couple of videos here on the channel giving detailed tours but, this clearly was something that has worked for us very well this year.
Our Best Upgrade in 2019
The best upgrade or modification we’ve made this year… The lithium battery system and upgraded inverter and solar controller that we added from Battle Born batteries. The batteries were drop in replacements for the batteries that we had in our Unity and the new 2,000 watt inverter we installed gives us enough power to run the microwave, without having to turn on the generator.
Lithium batteries charge fuller, charge faster, last longer and weigh much less than standard lead batteries. We can boondock or camp off the grid for longer periods with this upgrade.
Our Best Boondocking Places in 2019
That takes us to the Best Places we found to boondock last year.
While we love BLM land and dispersed camping in state and federal forests, the best boondocking we had was at Harvest Host locations across the country. It’s so hard to pick a favorite but the best boondocking for me were places like an Alpaca farm we found in New Mexico. The alligator ranch in Mississippi that let me hold a baby gator and took us for an exciting airboat ride through the swamp and a absolutely stunning winery in New York state’s Finger Lakes region.
Our Favorite Campgrounds in 2019
Then there were the best campgrounds we found last year. We couldn’t agree on a single choice so we both came up with our own. You first.
Jennifer's favorite campground was Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park in Florida, just north of Daytona Beach.
Gamble Rogers has about 30 spots right on the Atlantic Ocean. These are nice, big, wide spots, with electricity and water and you fall asleep each night listening to the surf. There are another 30 or spots across the road on the Intercoastal waterway but it’s the beachfront spots that will have us coming back year after year.
Mike liked Gamble Rogers a lot, too, but his absolute favorite campground was the Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, right near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This is a spectacular high desert park with stunning views of the Colorado River some 2,000 feet straight down. The landscape is breathtaking. Immense canyons, vertical cliffs that change colors as the sun travels across the sky.
Our Best Memories of 2019
When we talk about what worked on our travels last year, we ask ourselves what was our best Memory of the yearAgain, we couldn’t agree on a single one. So we have a tie again.
Mike just loved our Winter Campout up at beautiful Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve been going up there with a group of RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers for seven rows now. We hike the snow-covered woods to the Upper Falls. Snowshoe down to look at the Lower Falls. Watch dog sled riders and gather around big campfires. We’re like a bunch of kids playing in the snow and that winter campout is always is a highlight of the year.
Jennifer's favorite memory from 2019 was taking the RV to Franklin Tennessee where we rented a house and brought our whole family together for a week’s vacation. We used our RV for sightseeing transportation, and we had picnic dinners, toured southern mansions, attended the Grand Ole Opry and, of course, strolled up and down Broadway past all the honkytonks in downtown Nashville. So much fun.
Our Favorite Accessories of 2019
We’re always adding things to the RV, accessorizing them if you will. So as we look back on all the little things, we each came up with what we think is the Best Accessory.
Jennifer's favorite little extra were some printed photos of our travels that came from our smartphones. A company named Mixtiles prints them up, frames them and ships them to you in just a few days. They come with a special stick on backing that holds. them to the wall but can easily be removed. And the photo is printed on a canvas-like surface. There’s no glass. They only cost $11 each.
Mike's favorite accessory is called a SnapPad that snugly attaches to the bottom of the leveling jack system on our RV. It spreads out the load, adds stability to the jacks and doesn’t sink down or get all clogged up with grass and dirt when used on the ground out in the boonies. On cement or asphalt, it keeps the jacks from gouging a hole or damaging the surface. They also help dampen vibrations and the “rock” of the rig when you are inside.
So those were the things that worked well for us in 2019. But, as with everything, there’s always some things that didn’t work out so well.
Our Biggest Disappointment of 2019
Along those lines our biggest disappointment is up on the roof and involves something we thought was a sure winner. It wasn’t.
We're talking about the Togo Roadlink, wifi extender and 4G LTE hotspot that works on the AT&T Network. The reason we got it is because AT&T offered unlimited data on this for RVers at the rate of $360 a year. That was an awesome deal.
But it didn’t last long. A few days before Christmas, AT&T just cancelled it, removing the unlimited plan and instituting new, ridiculously expensive rates that turned the Togo into a useless piece of equipment. Insane. Corporate greed at its worst. A ripoff of the thousands of RVers who have now been told that they will not be grandfathered in and when their contracts expire, their $360 unlimited data plan is over.
Why did they do that? Because they are greedy. I think it’s because they figured that RVers who went to all the hassle of installing the Togo would figure just pay those new rates. To me it seems like a giant bait and switch scheme. While the wifi extender will still work and that will be useful at times. But that's not enough to justify it taking up roof space on our RV. Shame on You AT&T.
Our Biggest Frustration of 2019
Next comes our Biggest Frustration – places that are dog unfriendly
We love traveling with Bo. But the reality is, it can be quite frustrating. Most national parks, many state parks, hiking trails and other places either totally prohibit dogs or greatly restrict them. At the same time, many states make it a crime to leave a dog inside an RV, even with the air on, which pretty much means one of us always has to be with Bo.
That limits our ability to take long hikes or bike rides together, It makes eating out at a restaurant challenging. The truth is, traveling with a dog in an RV can be quite frustrating at times.
Don’t get us wrong. We love Bo and he really adds to our enjoyment out there. We visit dog parks to get him off leash exercise while we’re traveling but there is no getting around the fact that traveling with a dog limits your options and what to do with the dog has to be factored in on every trip.
Our Biggest Mistake of 2019
One more thing that didn’t always work out so well last year. Our Biggest Mistake. And it is a familiar one. Driving too far and too long.
Too often last year, we violated our own 330 Rule, which is to drive no more than 330 miles a day and/or stop by 3:30 PM local time.
If you follow that rule, you’re not exhausted each day, you have time to unwind and explore the area where you are overnighting and life on the road goes much easier.
The way to better follow the rule is to plan out of travel a bit more and not to commit to too many obligations so we have more flexibility in our schedules so we can enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
That’s our list of what worked and what didn’t work for us as we followed the RV Lifestyle last year. In all, it was a great year and we can’t wait to make 2020 an even better year!
How about you? use comments below to share the lessons you learned in 2019.