A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Meike Carter

Why pay big bucks for campgrounds if you can do that...

Traveling fulltime can get pretty pricey after a while. We always try to find other alternatives to save on the overnight stays, which frees up money on special treats and attractions.
We sat down with a consultant for 1000 Trails at the beginning of our cross country road trip. For an annual fee of $499 we could use their campgrounds for 14 days at a pop, leaving the system for 7 before going back to a 1000 Trail campground; or stay 4 days move to another location within their membership location and stay year round on their sites as long as we move every 4 days.
We looked at the map and what locations they offered and realized it didn't quite cover the midwest.
Maybe once we head back east we talk to a consultant again, but for now we are pretty happy with Army corps of engineers campgrounds and boondocking.
My go-to website has been recreation.gov.
I absolutely love it! Usually I plug in a destination and it will feed me all the surrounding campgrounds, monuments and parks. Usually ACOE campgrounds are located near a body of water. They offer water, electricity and a dump station. The prices range from $ 12-24 .
On our way from Florida we stayed at Gunter Hill, Montgomery AL overnight ($ 9) before making our way to Corinth lake, Bunkhead National Forest , AL. We stayed a few nights with full hookups for $20 20200709_124825.jpg 24319.jpeg
We had so much fun exploring the woods and the lake that I had to find our next destination on that website.
South Abutment campground in Mississippi was within our 3 hour driving limit and cost us $12 . This is a great spot if you want to tour Elvis's Graceland, only half an hour away from Memphis TN.
Next fabulous recreation.gov pick was in Clinton, Missouri. Originally we planned for a quick overnight stay, but enjoyed the beach so much that we extended for an additional 2 nights. 20200713_155910.jpg
I wasn't able to find anything in Nebraska along the route and payed for an RV resort that was located on the edge of a corn field. ED9B65E7048BED14B96274AB9850AD54.jpg ED9ACB46079945D87B922117D5436EE7.jpg 20200716_214529.jpg
After a little bit of research I stumbled upon the free camping app. Boy am I glad , this app literally changed our way of traveling. We knew that Mount Rushmore was our next destination and typed that into the search bar on the app. Several sites appeared with reviews, directions and photos. I was able to pick and choose what location meets our needs. We drive a 40 ft. Motor home with tow and can't fit in certain areas. Luckily I found an area outside of Custer, South Dakota in the National Forest. After a good 5 minutes on a dusty, winding dirt road we spotted some campers. We continued all the way up the mountain and found our spot for the next few days. EE0EF3EEBED8E336B11301FDBCBA6D58.jpg 20200721_190118.jpg
It was incredibly peaceful and still close enough to all the attractions.
The 4 day stay didn't cost us a penny and we were excited to find our next free camping spot.
Buffalo, Wyoming was even better. We found ourselves on a cow pasture overlooking snow capped mountains. Again 4 free nights. 20200724_143133.jpg 20200725_105100.jpg
Not only will the cows entertain you, a beautiful hiking trail leads to the river down below. 20200726_113340.jpg 20200726_114802.jpg
Next pick was a State Park in Columbus, Montana that is free, but accepts donations. Most sites are located along the Yellowstone River, offer fire pits and a water fill site. Don't forget to bring a tube, raft or your boat. Going down the rapids is a blast. 20200728_150313.jpg EEA79BB0E075040B9DAE32AD98ED29E3.jpg
During the pandemic most campgrounds in Yellowstone NP were closed and my free camping app came in handy again. This time we stayed several nights in Emigrant, Montana- about 20 minutes away from the park entrance. This place was getting a bit crowded towards the weekend, but totally worth it. 20200730_151756.jpg ...and it's located along the Yellowstone River. You can't beat it.
By now we boondocked more than half the time we have been on the road and really enjoy finding these remote places.
It sure is a very affordable way to travel !

Posted by Meike Carter 14:49 Comments (0)

Back on the road despite a pandemic

View Summer 2020 on Meike Carter's travel map.

After traveling from the East coast to the West coast and then back in 2019, we were faced with several medical issues that kept us stationary for a year.
20200109_125154.jpg After the holidays we were bored out of our minds and booked a cruise to Mexico. We were eager to start 2020 off in a warm sunny location, away from everything, breathing in salty air and relaxing on the open water.
20200109_073428.jpg After only one day at sea the captain announced that we would have to return to port due to a medical emergency. We still don't know what happened exactly, but somehow after a couple of months we had an idea what caused this odd situation. Carneval offered us a discount for a future cruise as a token of their appreciation and for the inconvenience it caused. Had they applied that discount to the present cruise we would have not done it again, buuutttt we decided to cruise again in March. This time we didn't turn around, but the port in Jamaica didn't allow us access, due to the Corona virus. We were rerouted to the Naval base in Key West instead. Belize and Cozumel still allowed Cruise ships, welcoming all rerouted travelers, which caused these ports to be a bit overcrowded. IMG_20200303_143143_653.jpg 20200306_181359.jpg
This virus was now spreading globally and broadcasted in the media. Back in our cabin we saw on TV that some cruise lines had people on board sick. By the next dinner rotation we noticed a change in the staff's cleaning procedure and nobody was allowed to self serve anymore. The crew wore gloves and face masks, standing besides sanitizing stations to remind each passenger to sanitize their hands before grabbing a plate and utensils. What seems common to us now was weird then, because the climate on board changed overnight leaving us passengers clueless. We couldn't wait to get home quick enough. Upon arrival in Galveston several ambulances showed up and a family got escorted off the ship. Again, we wondered why the ambulances came rushing while we were docking.
Thankfully we made it off the ship unharmed and quarantined for several weeks. While at home we focused on building raised garden beds and planted a lot of vegetables, stocked the pantry and freezer, and avoided going anywhere. 20200420_135747.jpg
We were welcoming our first grandchild during that time and keeping him healthy was our number one priority. Therefore we stayed quarantined, keeping busy with the garden and our home improvement projects.
With school out we noticed an increase of break ins, theft and other disturbances within our community which pushed us to put our house up for sale. Thankfully we got an offer that same week! We had a month to get the house cleared, the RV ready, the vehicles maintained and all our plans in order. We visited our grandbaby and enjoyed some family time. We couldn't decide what to do after closing on the house. We had a couple of options: the dream of buying a catamaran sailing the Carribean or taking the RV up north to escape the virus.
Personally I was drawn to the ocean, but following several families on YouTube that sail fulltime, we learned that they were stuck in one location, either not allowed to enter a port or to leave. It seemed a bit too risky at this time to begin fulltime sailing, hunting for the perfect vessel and taking sailing lessons. We had to be realistic and weigh all the pros and cons. Although not as exciting as sailing, we packed up our RV and made our way from Texas to Florida. 247C943EA354B5DA71A4922509D0B27F.jpg
By the time we arrived in Florida the state experienced a high influx in Covid19 cases. All State parks were closed and some RV parks were about to follow suit, which left us with military campgrounds. After Independence Day those shut down as well, which urged us to leave Florida before the borders will close. We spent a week in the sunshine State and stayed in the panhandle. Unfortunately we couldn't make it all the way to the Keys. Secretly I was still hoping to look at sailboats and find our new home on water, but all the odds were against us. It's just not the right time for us to sail. 20200306_130015.jpg
Thankfully we are very spontaneous, adapting to the always changing situations across the states and prepared to boondock or stay wherever we feel safe. Not only are we traveling, we are literally on our quest to find "home", wherever it may be. I'm sure one day we will find it. Until then we keep moving.
Happy travels! 20200305_121422.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 05:31 Comments (0)

Tombstone, Arizona

View Summer Journey 19 on Meike Carter's travel map.

The wild wild West IMG_20190608_082639_938.jpg
We drove our 40' motorhome right through Tombstone where we found a big RV parking lot by the courthouse. Thankfully the lot was empty and conveniently located only minutes away from all the stores and restaurants. We paid our $10 parking fee, strolled down the street where we were greeted by a cowboy advertising a gunfight in his saloon for $8 per person. We kindly declined and made our way towards the heart of Tombstone where more people advertised their gunfight for a price. I was honestly surprised that everything came with a price tag including the little corner museum and the courthouse. 0054362BC8719BED1E62A8D70001DCB6.jpg
Four men clad in black wearing hats walked out of the saloon. Their stride was impressive, reminding me of all the old Western movies I have seen as a kid. I literally froze, hoping for a good photo opportunity and got it. 005641DBB81D381DE9CC6BEE7AECCF2E.jpg
What really sent me back in time were the conversations with the locals, who shared tons of stories with us. This place either invites or rejects you, they say. Due to the wild and dark past Tombstone carries , it is obvious that some of its past residents still roam around. We entered massive double doors into Big Nose Kate's, a lively restaurant which used to be the Grand Hotel in 1880s. All walls were covered with picture frames of late residents and prominent people who have visited over the years. Just looking at all the memorabilia was close to a visit to the museum. 90_00559565DF16FD021796CABD779D1879.jpg 0054EFFBF39EE3DFC9B79A8009592812.jpg In the middle of the restaurant was a staircase that led to the basement. Curious we had to figure out what laid beneath the old Grand Hotel. A set of wooden swing doors opened into the once famous saloon. The solid wooden bar, whiskey barrels and the antique mirror are still untouched, just how it was when Doc Holliday came down here for a drink. The result of cowboys getting rowdy after a few too many shots, where a couple of bullet holes as a reminder of the days in the wild West. Today it is a little boutique, selling corsages, feather boas, garter belts and hats. We talked to the lady that works in the small windowless shop in the basement , who rattled of one ghostly encounter after another since she has been working there. Most help wouldn't come back the second day to work, too spooked out. This lady here is used to her little visitors and I could definitely feel some presence in the basement, while we listened to her stories. Occasionally I had to turn around, feeling the hair on my neck standing up or getting the chills. In the corner of that room is a tiny space that used to be the groundskeepers quarters. The original bed and furniture still stands there. Only a couple of feet away from the foot of the bed is a deep tunnel about 120 feet long, dug by the groundskeeper to steal silver from the nearby mine. Once he was caught stealing, they shot him dead underneath the lobby of the Grand Hotel. Occasionally a lady will appear urging the staff to hang themselves in the little fitting room. No wonder nobody wants to work there. We were glad to leave the basement, climbed the stairs back up and grabbed a table by the stained glass window for lunch. Halfway through my meal something poked me on my left side in the ribs. I jumped and dropped my food. Tony and Landon were sitting across from me and gave me a puzzled look. Nobody stood behind me- now I was really freaked out.
We told the waitress what happened and she laughed, saying she gets touched all the time. Welcome to Big Nose Kate's where you might get messed with while dining. 90_0059E02EDF8083BB38BF75D957260748.jpg
We were advised to stop by the birdcage to listen in on the history of that particular hotspot. Men from all over flocked to the bordello, keeping the girls extremely busy working sometimes up to 70 men per day. A little graveyard is right off the side of the building, home to many unwanted babies conceived during work hours. A few bullet holes can be seen in the bar and the opposing wall. One bullet hit the massive painting of a naked woman positioned just right to rename the painting to- the third nipple. One can only imagine how crazy the birdcage must have been. 90_00539AC9A2C103691ACAADC06DA162D7.jpg 0056DCEFD5D217E71596CCBC07EEC907.jpg 0057A3B0CCAE6D03101136F772410CD9.jpg 20190607_103636.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 10:57 Comments (0)

Tucson Arizona

7202F13ED48669F66EDC5A11B7D7344F.jpg After six months in California and many stops along the way, (visiting several National and State parks ) we spent our last night at Salton Sea State Park before crossing into Arizona. 71F323250AD23706EC5347EC975AECD9.jpg Unfortunately I cannot really say much about Salton Sea. It definitely looks prettier from a distance, especially when you come from the desert, but the smell and the dried up hard cracked salty layer of what is supposed to be beach is quite a bummer. 71F3DA36D0BB97AB1209FDDD84541926.jpg The full hookup sites for the RV where located in the parking lot, which surprised me as well. We wondered why we were the only campers there at first. But upon setting up, getting into our bathing suits, walking across the big asphalt parking lot and across a wide area of dried salt and seashells we realized why. The smell was awful and the lime green brew that stood stagnant did not look inviting. As hot as we were we returned back to our asphalt lot , took a cool shower in the RV instead. I'm not sure if we arrived during a bad time of year or if that State Park is always so stinky and deserted. I asked the gentleman at the visitor center about the history of this lake and he explained that it is California's biggest lake caused by breaking of levees. A Navy base was established during WW2, which is located to the south of Salton Sea and was used as a missile and nuclear weapon test site. Maybe that's what kept us from going into the water. At least we gave it a try , slept in the parking lot and rolled out bright and early the next morning. 71F29A9AAA38E75055EE230018920871.jpg
We were really looking forward to Tucson and decided to stay a few nights at David Mothan AFB famcamp. Over 300 sites are available, several bath houses , a pet wash station, laundry facility and little club house. It was nice to take care of some errands around here. Unfortunately one night while boondocking only minutes from the Mexican border the wind was really strong, causing the vent cover in the bathroom to fly away while I was sitting on the commode. Thankfully a trip to Camping World in Tuscon took care of that problem and we bought enough vent covers to replace all of them. Tony also had to take our tow vehicle to the Car craft center on post to work on the brakes, while I took care of the laundry and groceries. I cleaned the RV pretty good after driving thru the desert and parking in isolated areas for several days. Overall Tuscon was meant for us to relax, catch up on chores and lastly explore. We noticed how much the climate helped our skin, hair and breathing. Despite the heat I did not sweat and felt comfortable. That never happened before. Even while we hiked Saguaro NP in almost triple digits -no sign of sweat. We had a headache the first couple of days and hydrated nonstop, but once we got acclimatized we felt great. IMG_20190603_064428_434.jpg
Two places were on our list to see before continuing with our trip- Saguaro National Park and Tombstone.
Saguaro NP is split in two, which confused me at first. The west side of the park is located west of Tucson where you will pass Old Tucson, a really beautiful old historic place or you enter from I10 going East. We took the first route and really enjoyed the landscape, winding through the high desert. Beautiful Saguaros were scattered throughout, almost resembling people standing with their arms stretched out. 90_739222FECFA829BEC214214A0BE5F111.jpg 90_20190606_132601.jpg
This Saguaro seems to be holding a flower 7392C625969A1BED178DB085DA17862C.jpg
Several shaded areas are provided along the many trails , and a water refill station is located by the visitor center. A trip to this wonderful National Park is a must when you visit Tucson. 7391668CA67282534B2BC92BF3B7F218.jpg 90_7390CCCADAB666D2B04AF733C7317A5D.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 17:21 Comments (0)

Joshua Tree National Park

After a couple of days in Sequoia we prepared for a long day of driving. Everything takes longer when you drive a coach through the state of California, since the speed limit is 55 for big rigs. We passed nothing but farmland along the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Almond, Orange and Lemon groves spread throughout the countryside as far as the eye can see. Once we entered Angeles National Forest the drive got tougher, trying to maneuver the RV up and down the mountain range. Several 18wheelers had to pull over due to overheating. We took it nice and steady and scooted towards Los Angeles, where we were welcomed by a thick yellowish grayish layer of Smog. The radio stations in that area were awesome, which helped to keep me energized in such heavy traffic
I was certainly relieved to leave all the heavy populated areas behind. We stopped along the way and stocked up with groceries for our upcoming night in the desert. 695AF5DEDAB6A089F59D3ABF31FD2AE1.jpg After 8 hours on the road we arrived in Joshua Tree and followed the last couple of miles down a dirt road to BLM land. We might have seen 10 other campers altogether doing the same thing. Camping on Government land is free and usually in isolated areas, but this particular spot was surprisingly close to the main road of Joshua Tree, where anything you desire is only minutes away. It honestly felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, yet close to everything should you need it while boondocking, which was comforting to me. We had a very relaxing afternoon and watched the sun paint the desert into amber, bronze and golden tones. 695A5BFEB951452D85C59BFE373B5608.jpg 6959958A92233DC037C72B4432A55416.jpg
We tried not to use the generator at first, opened all windows and vents , spread out on the couch and melted away. The temperature reached 86 inside the rig within minutes after setting up, which led us to turn on the generator. The internet connection was surprisingly strong and we opted to watch some Netflix to help us unwind for the night. 9858DA16C91FD3566CE52AC20B6A479E.jpg
We got up at the crack of dawn, enjoyed our coffee with a view and packed up to enter Joshua Tree National Park the second it opened. At the visitor center we asked if it is possible to drive a 40 ft RV with a tow vehicle through the park and were advised not too. We did it anyway ,because the exit of the park leads to Interstate 10, which ties us right in with our travel route. Had we listened to the Ranger, we would have had to turn back around to get our RV adding 2 additional hours to the already 2 hour trip. Tony had no problem driving the rig and countless turn offs allowed for us to let faster vehicles pass. 985818B4BE77C900993030CF04A7F164.jpg
I hope this information will be helpful to anyone trying to save some travel time. 98577CA404E03A8FCEA9F0386AC3A36B.jpg 9856CA599746212B01DC105B80D26882.jpg 985621ECF2391EB0AE388BEFCC57CB8E.jpg 20190531_105036.jpg
We did not hike at Joshua Tree, for the simple reason that it looked very similar to the area we lived in for a couple of years, which is the high desert around Barstow CA. The park offers several trails in case you are interested to explore and get a good exercise. We were ready to get to Salton Sea early enough to spend some time on the beach and cool off. Until then...happy travels! IMG_20190531_145940_853.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 11:10 Comments (0)

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