RVING TO SANTA BARBARA

 

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen all my RV road trip stories a few weeks back! My boyfriend Jesse and I rented an RV and drove up to Santa Barbara for a weekend of delicious food, yoga, wandering, shopping and…more delicious food.

 

 

Let’s back up, though. Have you ever been on a RV trip? Because I don’t think I had ever even been inside of an RV before this trip! I’ve always been super interested in them though. I’ve been infatuated with the Tiny House movement, and only a month or two after meeting Jesse, we started talking about what it would be like to buy, renovate, and cruise the country in an RV or school bus or something of the sort.

 

Neither of us is handy AT ALL, nor do we have any RV or large bus experience, but we’re both in love with the idea of taking off and exploring while we’re young, wild and free, and still can. I want to retrofit a gorgeous kitchen into a school bus and take off, and while I never thought I’d find someone who shared the sentiment, Jesse’s totally into the idea. But first, we knew we needed to get in an RV and actually have some experience in a giant, liveable vehicle before considered our own adventure. Which is why it seemed like FATE when GoRVing  got in touch through  CLEVER and wanted to do a RV-themed foodie roadtrip post! I couldn’t say HECK YES fast enough!

 

 

We booked the RV through Outdoorsy, which is like AirBNB for RVs, and found the “Leamon Party Bus”, which was cutely decorated and just the right size (24 feet) for first time RVers like ourselves. The morning we left for our trip, Corey, the RV owner, gave us SUCH a thorough walk-through of the RV and showed us how to do everything we needed – drive it around, hook it up, and use the kitchen. Thankfully for me, you have to be 25 to be insured so Jesse had to do all the driving  but as soon as we got on the road, he lost his nerves and had a super easy time driving it around.

One of the best parts about RVing was being able to stop anywhere we wanted, and essentially have our hotel room with us. En route to Santa Barbara, we stopped for acai bowls in San Clemente at Juice My Heart, and sat at our kitchen table on the side of a road in air conditioning to eat them. #RVperk, for sure.

I had also been itching to go to Erewhon Market for ages – it’s a healthier grocery store in LA that has tons of unique, delicious products and a prepared foods section that blew my mind. Think: gluten free mac and cheese, vegan “meatballs”, SO many soups, and the best turmeric cauliflower I’ve ever had. I loaded up on tons of healthier products I’d never seen before, or had seen online and never been able to find in stores. It was my food heaven, and since we were in no rush, we spent the better part of an hour meandering the aisles and getting snacks to fuel us for the rest of the drive. We also picked up a bunch of prepared foods and had lunch in the parking lot. The journey is definitely as important as the destination when you’re in an RV.

Jesse managed to back the RV up into it’s spot in the RV park in ONE GO! What a pro 😉 we got everything hooked up with no issues and went off to explore, shop…and find more food. Before the trip, I surveyed you guys on where we should go in SB and you guys HOOKED IT UP. After a long wander around Santa Barbara on Friday evening, we headed off to Mesa Verde for dinner. And OMG. Dreams do come true. Pretty much everything on the menu is gluten-free, and it’s all vegan, with vegan cheese galore. My dairy-free heart was singing.

 

 

We started with picadillo empanadas, which were filled with butternut squash cheese, cacao black beans, chimichurri, and pickled carrots and cabbage. Next up was my favorite: the summer vegetable pasta with zucchini noodles, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, black kale, macadamia ricotta, and cashew parmesan. The ricotta and parm were out of this world good. Last was the gluten-free vegan pizza with smoked eggplant, marinara, cashew cheese, tempeh bacon, caramelized onion, heirloom tomato, and basil – it was amazing, but we were so full at that point that we had to bring it home. Luckily, we could do that because we had a fridge in our RV 🙂 we rolled back home incredibly full and satisfied and slept like babies in the super comfortable bed.

 

 

I woke up bouncing with excitement for Saturday’s activities: the day before we had found Santa Barbara’s himalayan salt cave, which is the biggest of the sort in the US, and signed up for a yoga class IN THE CAVE. There was only four of us in the flowing class, which was in the dimly lit salt cave, surrounded by himalayan pink salt covering the walls, ceiling, and floor. Himalayan salt is known for being incredibly healing, and being surrounded by it provided a sense of calmness and magic in the class. We had gone into the class a little anxious, and left smiling, entirely rejuvenated. You can see a peek of my terrible, unstretched scorpion pose above  (also, it’s totally not called a scorpion in yoga, that’s what it’s called in cheer and I never remember it’s yoga name.)

 

 

Post-yoga was lunch at Green Table – another gluten-free, mostly vegan lunch spot that had out of this world matcha drinks. I got a salted caramel matcha latte and the vegan veggie parmesan, which was a quinoa burger topped with sunflower almond dressing (that baked up similar to a delicious ricotta), tomato, basil, spinach, nutritional yeast, and Italian herbs. Jesse opted for a matcha green juice and the Green Table burger: a quinoa veggie burger, with house dressing, cauliflower bread (!!!), avocado, Dijon, lettuce, tomato, and goat gouda cheese. You guys, I’d happily be vegan if I could eat that meal every day.

 

 

A trip to the local farmer’s market followed, and I marveled in the beautiful sights: plump and firm heirloom tomatoes, a gorgeous array of greens, the first of the year’s apples, and plants galore. There were vendors selling house plants (we bought a new fiddle leaf fig tree for $20 – her name is Barb) and every type of herb you could imagine. I couldn’t resist picking up some of the farmer’s most beautiful produce to bring home with me.

Anyone ever had a jujube?! I had never seen these before!

 

 

We dropped off our goodies at the RV (in the photo just above, you can see Barb all wrapped up in paper in the messy RV) and went back into town to wander some more and do a little shopping. Jesse ended up feeling a little sick, so we grabbed a quick dinner at The Natural Cafe (I forgot to take photos ) – a lettuce-wrapped turkey burger for me, and enchiladas for him. He ended up having no appetite once the food was on the table, so Jesse’s dinner ended up getting gifted to a homeless man we saw outside and we had a quiet, low-key night in, just hanging out.

 

Sunday morning was supposed to be hiking day, but sadly, Jesse still wasn’t feeling up to it. I took a walk to the local grocery store to get some olive oil and came back to make us a little salad with our farmer’s market finds from the day before. Tragically, I had the refrigerator set to be too cold and the lettuce froze  but I ended up skipping the lettuce and tossing together sliced peaches, halved baby heirloom tomatoes, and GIANT blackberries with some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. Soooo easy and sooo delicious – I’ve left the quick and easy recipe at the bottom of the post. You can see some photos of me styling below (yes, I brought my own bowls…), as well as the final product. 🙂

 

As we would later find out, he was having a minor bout with strep, but he was a champ and we went to Backyard Bowls for acai bowls anyways, before packing up. I couldn’t not go to Backyard Bowls, since pretty much every. single. message. that I got with Santa Barbara recommendations insisted I go. You guys were not wrong – my green bowl was BOMB. It had ginger and lime juice in it, which added such a nice kick of spiciness and tartness to the usually sweet bowl.

 

After our bowls, we got packed up, unhooked the RV, and got back on the road! We made another stop at Erewhon for some more lunch goodies (and promptly devoured a whole container of the most amazing herb-y potatoes EVER) and delivered the RV back to Corey in surprisingly, pretty pristine condition.

 

So, the conclusion? I’m an RVing convert – I would totally do it again, and taking off in a converted bus or RV is just as appealing as ever. It’s a super affordable way to travel, especially if you own your own RV, and it’s so convenient having all the comforts of home at your fingertips. No dealing with lugging bags around, or not being able to keep your delicious leftovers because your hotel room doesn’t have a fridge or way to heat them back up. It also let us be more spontaneous with where we could go and what we could do – we never had to worry about catching a flight or not fitting something into our bags. Freedom is something I’m always after on a trip, and RVing provides the best of it. You can bet this won’t be my last RV trip!

 

 

Simple Peach Tomato Salad

– 1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes halved

– 1 large peach pitted and cubed

– 1/2 cup fresh berries of choice I used blackberries

– 1/4 cup toasted pecans chopped

– 1/2 fresh lemon

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– Salt & pepper to taste

1) In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cubes of peach, berries, and pecans. Squeeze the lemon over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together and serve immediately.

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

 

RVING THROUGH THE GRAND CIRCLE

The Grand Circle has to be one of the most epic road trips in America, and it’s even more enjoyable when done in an RV! Located in the Southwestern United States and encompassing portions of five states, The Grand Circle road trip features diverse scenery across five states and America’s largest concentration of national parks. One of my personal favorite portions of the drive is along Highway 12, the All-American Road. The views of the orange hoodoos (tall thin spires of rock protruding from the bottom of the basin), red canyons, green forests, mountains and many of the state and national parks within Utah – but that’s just a small part of the adventure!

 

 

I was in my Thor Vegas motorhome, towing my Mini Cooper Countryman when I took this trip, so it is suitable for most RV sizes. I had not seen landscapes like this growing up on the east coast, so I was blown away by this trip. I hope you enjoy it as well.

 

 

Trip Summary 

  • 942 Miles; 20 Stops 
    • 3-4 states depending on where you start (NV, AZ, UT, CO)
    • 9-10 National Park areas
    • 5 State Parks

 

Sites in Arizona

  • Grand Canyon National Park – North Rim
  • Glen Canyon National Recreational Area – Lake Powell (AZ/UT border)
  • Monument Valley (AZ/UT border)

 

 

Sites in Utah

  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument

 

Sites in Colorado

  • Mesa Verde National Park

 

Camping Hubs

If you want to leave the RV and explore with your toad vehicle, you can see many places within a radius of these two cities.

  • Moab, UT
  • Kanab, UT

 

Sample Two-Week Itinerary 

If flying in and renting an RV consider these airports to start your trip

  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix/Flagstaff
  • Salt Lake City

 

The following itinerary assumes a start from Las Vegas

 

 

 

Day 1 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 & 3

 

 

 

Day 4

 

Day 5 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 – 8 

 

 

 

Day 9

 

 

 

Day 10 

  • Drive to Capitol Reef National Park visitor center then do the scenic loop
  • On the drive, make sure you stop at Kiva Coffee House off Highway 12. This place is super cute and offers great views of Grand Staircase Escalante while you sip on an espresso. They also have food, a little jewelry counter perfect for picking out souvenirs, and they allow overnight stops.
  • If you prefer to drive straight through – I recommended setting up camp at Kodachrome State Park 

 

 

 

Day 11 & 12

Ruby’s Inn Campground or in the park

  • Scenic Loop Drive with 9 points of interest

 

 

 

Day 13 & 14 

 

 

 

Day 15 

  • Return to Vegas and remember all the fun you had!

 

Extra Stops If You Have The Time

The national parks you’ll see in my trip itinerary below are stunners, but these state parks are also worth checking out if you have extra time. This entire area is just so rich in beauty!

  • Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ
  • Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ
  • Goosenecks State Park after Monument Valley
  • Dead Horse Point State Park on the way to Canyonlands, Moab, UT
  • La Sal Mountain Loop drive in Moab
  • Goblin Valley State Park after Moab
  • Kodachrome State Park before Bryce
  • Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, UT

 

 

Make today “someday” and take this trip of a lifetime!

 

Let me know in the comments if any of you have taken this trip or have additional itinerary suggestions.

 

See more great Destination Inspiration from my fellow Go RVing bloggers here.

TAKE A TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

In 2009 when Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan premiered their Emmy award winning documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” I was riveted to the screen every Sunday night of its run. All of the parks are beautiful in their own way and I hope to someday make it to all of them, but when it came time to start checking off that list I began with Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, America’s first park.

 

Read More

presidents

When you are in the midst of child rearing you find it hard to believe the day will come when you will be free to indulge yourself in all the things you dream about. I grew up in a camping family but we tended to stay east of the Mississippi. In one of our trips we traveled from Chicago to Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the Bay of Fundy; an epic trip for city kids. My parents dragged seven kids in the family wagon to some far out places but we never did the classic American road trip to see our most visited National Parks. With my youngest out of high school and working a full time summer job this is finally the summer that mom gets to take off.

 

 

Planning a four week road trip is something you must dig into early in the winter. I didn’t have to work hard at convincing my friend Mary to join me. Each of us planned to pull our own trailers on the four week trip. Because both of our husbands still work full time, the plan was that we would drive to the big destination and they would fly out and join us once we were there. In any big adventure you need a starting point and we started with determining our ultimate National Park and for this trip, Yellowstone was the winner!! Once there we would also visit the Tetons and Glacier National Parks. We would work our trip backwards to our starting point of New Jersey and figure out how long it would take us to get there and what we wanted to do along the way.

 

As we planned we were developing a formula for the way we wanted to travel. We wanted to have a “journey” rather than a “get there” mindset but we also didn’t want to spend too much time in our own neck of the woods. When planning a trip with a friend it’s a good idea to make sure you are on the same page about what you want out of the trip. Mary and I frequently travel together and I know that if I see a point of interest along the way that we didn’t see in our research that she will be on board for stopping and vice versa.  A ‘go with the flow’ travel partner makes any trip better.

 

Our trip planning started with determining the number of miles for the trip and then dividing that by the number of hours we were willing to drive each day. From there we determined that we needed at least four weeks for this epic adventure.  We both agreed that keeping it to a maximum of six hours of driving a day would make the trip less physically taxing but also allow room for stopping and smelling the roses along the way. Our first travel day was a six hour drive to our first stop at Beaver Creek State Park in East Liverpool, Ohio.  We often camp there with many Ohio Girl Campers and we planned to stay there for three days and visit our friend Gail Bable* who is the Camp Host there.  When we arrived we were thrilled to discover that Gail had planned a surprise camp out with a dozen of our Ohio Girl Camping buddies to give us a good send off on our grand adventure. We had a great few days catching up with old friends, sharing stories around the fire and getting tips from friends who had already traveled our route. One of the best things about having camping friends around the country is the knowledge we gain from their experiences. We left there with a few new stops on our list including the famous Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, a tourist “must see” that did not disappoint.

 

 

From our stop in Ohio we made the 5 ½ hour drive to Elkhart, Indiana and the home of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum. I stop there every time I am in Elkhart. The museum has a large collection of vintage trailers beautifully displayed including a trailer once used by Mae West. It is hard to pick a favorite among them but I always love looking at the original touring vehicles from the early 1920’s when seeing our National Parks by car and camping along the way was first done. Strolling through the museum and seeing the evolution of the travel trailer and motorhome industry and choosing a favorite era never gets old for me.  Included in the museum is a wonderful display on the history of the RV and manufactured home industries as well as a resource library that Mary used to find information on her vintage 1953 King trailer. After a stop at the great gift shop we headed to our campground to rest up for a long drive the next day.

 

 

One of the things we accepted in the beginning of our planning was that it would not be possible to stop at all of the things we wanted to see.  Two of the things we had to pass on for now were the childhood homes of Ronald Reagan and Laura Ingalls Wilder. We vowed to try and get them on the way home. Our other commitment was to try as many state parks as possible along the way and we used Wilson Island State Park in Coralville Lake, Iowa as our overnight stop before we turned north for Badlands National Park, our first park on the national parks tour. Wilson Island was off the beaten path for sure but I am so glad we went there. The park was nearly empty on the Tuesday night we were there and we got to enjoy sweeping views and a good ole Iowa thunderstorm. The park is nicely laid out with level sites and electric. No sewer or water at the campsites. The bathrooms were whistle clean and although we didn’t get to take advantage of the water rights we were told by fellow campers that is a great place to fish and boat. We had one more long driving day before we reached the Badlands where our stops between parks would be reduced to 2-3 hours of driving a day.

 

When researching this trip many RV bloggers and travel writers suggested that Badlands National Park could be done by simply pulling in and driving the scenic route without actually staying at the park. I am so glad that we did not do that! When we first pulled into the park on our eighth day on the road we felt transported to another world. The change in climate and geography was so profound. I pulled over at the first scenic overlook and Mary pulled in behind me. We took in the site before us and we both began crying! We were so happy to be there, so in awe of what we were looking at and just a little bit proud of ourselves for doing it alone! It’s a stunning drive through multi colored rock formations down to the floor of the park where the campground is. Each turn produces a new gasp at the beauty and grandeur of nature. I loved the campground where tents and motorhomes and travel trailers all mixed with ease. We chatted with our neighbors and watched a beautiful sunset while eating a late dinner. I had a site with no hookups and fell asleep with all the windows open watching distant lightning light up the night sky. I woke up at 2 AM flooded in moonlight from the full moon overhead. It was a perfect camping night and the following day we took the long lingering scenic ride out of the park stopping at all the overlooks and vowing to return to this wonder of nature.

 

Our next stop was the Blue Bell Campground at Custer State Park. This would be our launch site to Mt. Rushmore.  What we did not realize when we booked the sites was that Blue Bell Campground was a nine mile drive up the mountain at Custer State Park. We went from the barren beauty of the Badlands to the lushest forest I’ve ever seen. The Black Hills are green and seem polka dotted with strategically placed evergreens that make it look almost like a movie set. In an effort to curb the spread of an invasive beetle that is killing trees the park service has been clearing the forest floor of the fallen diseased trees. Because so much sun light reaches the forest floor it looks carpeted with high green grass almost like an animation created forest. We set up and headed into the town of Custer for a bison burger before heading to the Crazy Horse monument on our way to Mt. Rushmore. Still a work in progress, the monument will depict the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse on his horse and pointing to a distant spot. I really enjoyed learning about the life and family of the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski. It is the largest mountain carving in the world and has been under construction using only private funds for 69 years. It was $28 per car load to get in and the museum contained many beautiful Native Indian artifacts and had a great look out patio to view the Crazy Horse sculpture.

 

 

From Crazy Horse we headed to Mt Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. It’s fair to characterize me as a sentimental patriot. I keep a playlist on my phone of all my favorite patriotic tunes from God Bless America to Take Me Out to the Ball Game. The evening ceremony at Mt. Rushmore includes a short documentary on the history and construction of the site as well as the biographical information on the four presidents depicted there and their devotion and dedication to the formation of this country. By the time the crowd rose to sing the National Anthem and the four figures were ceremoniously lit against the barely dark night sky I was not the only one there shedding tears of gratitude and pride. The veterans in the audience were honored and it was a somewhat hushed crowd that made its way to the parking lot when leaving. I was walking behind a little boy who was holding his grandfather’s hand. He kept saying, “Grandpa, you’re a veteran! You’re a veteran!” There was no reply from Grandpa and the little boy was too young to really know what his grandfather’s sacrifice meant. Perhaps one day he will be at Rushmore again and when they ask the veterans to stand and be honored he will know a little more clearly why they were asked to stand and be counted among the patriots who helped make this country what it is.

 

 

Tips for Planning a Bucket List Adventure

  • Start early. We booked our reservations for the National Parks in January. July is the month in which the northern parks have their highest number of visitors.
  • Apps, Maps and More. Take advantage of all the digital material out there but also get an old fashioned road map of each state you will travel to and trace your journey looking for those little known roadside stops that can make the experience so much richer.
  • Decide what style of camping you want to do. Resort campgrounds or state parks each offer different things and it’s good to know ahead of time what kind of vacation you want to have and choose your campsites accordingly.
  • Download the Apps you want to use ahead of time. There is very limited wifi services in most parks.
  • Study the parks and points of interest before you go so you will know what you want to do when you get there, what the cost is and what kind of crowds to expect.

TOP 20 DESTINATIONS

To celebrate 20 years of Go RVing, we asked YOU to share your favorite places to RV.  Explore these spots, and leave us a comment with favorite places too!

1. Submitted by JoAnn T.

St. Ignace, MI. Tiki RV Park. St. Ignace is just over the bridge from Mackinaw City, MI. It sits on the edge of Lake Huron. Everywhere you go you see the beauty of the water, marina, and lighthouse. The downtown is a beautiful place along the waterfront. We spent 11 days there for the 4th of July.

Link to campground: http://www.tikirvpark.com/

 

Read More