In our second year on the road, we covered nearly 7,000 miles in 30 stops. That’s 1,000 miles less than in 2020 with three extra stays. We added six more states to our map and decreased our average trip distance from 294 miles to 227 miles. That’s largely because of some short trips in the Midwest, where we spent the bulk of our time.
Out of 33 weeks on the road, we boondocked with fellow full-time RV family members Tom and Molly for seven — five weeks at the beginning of our trip and two more toward the end. That was a welcome blessing.
We continue to enjoy moochdocking and the opportunity it affords to spend quality time with family and friends. We moochdocked at my parents’, our daughter Megan’s, my brother’s, my cousin’s, the home of a friend from high school, and some good friends’ from the Commemorative Air Force.
The country is home to some beautiful campgrounds — some better than others — and we frequented a lot more of them this year. We didn’t have much trouble finding places to stay and didn’t plan all that far in advance. Here are some of our favorite places we visited in 2021:
Narrowing down the most appealing of the 10 campgrounds we patronized is no easy task, but we can easily eliminate two: Traverse City State Park in Traverse City, Michigan (not big rig-friendly) and Rustic Barn Campground and RV Park in Keiler, Wisconsin. Although the latter offered picturesque views of the sunsets, sites for full hookups were on top of each other, making it not worth the price.
The spacious Texas state campgrounds welcomed big rigs, and a state park in Louisiana had the same allure — and made for our easiest parking job of all (no, it was not a pull-through). We relished our time at Gladstone Bay Campground in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we had beautiful views of Lake Michigan right outside our windows.
But our favorite campground for 2021 goes to Thomson Causeway Recreation Area on the Mississippi River in Thomson, Illinois. The tranquil park features four camping loops, most of which include views of the mighty Mississippi. Offering walking trails, historical landmarks, and turtle crossings, the campground is also close to a bike trail that stretches for miles.
Favorite Boondocking Stay
Equipped with solar panels and generators, our rig is boondock-ready. We expanded our boondocking repertoire this year to four locations, near:
Due to the wide open nature of the first three areas, our stays there included a lot of wind. But that didn’t deter us.
We liked all of the spots for different reasons: desert landscape, rock formations, wildlife, and wooded forests. Our favorite goes to Rock Springs, Wyoming, where we were situated atop a butte overlooking the city. The expansive views and beautiful scenery far outweighed the wind and cold.
Favorite Overnight Rest Area
When heading more than 300 to 400 miles to a destination, we tend to cover the distance in two days rather than one. In between, we stay at rest areas and Walmart parking lots. In 2021, we overnighted at rest areas in New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky, and Utah.
Of those stops, our favorite would have to be a rest area near Deming, New Mexico. At most rest stops, we park with the semi-trucks. That was not the case at this one. Set up for overnight camping, it features nicely distanced pull-off spots with lighted pavilions encompassing picnic tables and access to water spigots.
Our stay there made for a peaceful night on a lengthy journey, and we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset too.
We made the Upper Peninsula of Michigan our ultimate destination for the year and spent three weeks basking in its beauty, history, and uniqueness. After an additional eight weeks in the Lower Peninsula, the state of Michigan wins the award of our favorite, hands-down.
We immersed ourselves in history at the Yankee Air Museum, helped corral cows while visiting my brother and his wife, swam in Lake Michigan in the southwestern part of the state, and reclined on a farm for a fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day, among other things.
Our three weeks in the Upper Peninsula are some of our favorite memories. We took a ferry ride to Mackinac Island and explored an old fort and took in picturesque views. We dipped our fingers in Lake Huron and walked and rode our bikes along Lake Michigan. And, we bundled up in 50-ish degree weather and ventured out on frigid Lake Superior for a pontoon boat ride.
We intentionally headed to the U.P. in early May to avoid bugs. That also helped us avoid tourists. Sure, we had to brave cold weather, but we had a super enjoyable time nonetheless.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.