Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Texas. 10 Amazing, Cool and Unique Places to Visit

If this is your first time here – Welcome! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, and different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our most epic boondocking locations. And boy does Texas have a lot!

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I kept thinking as I was writing this, that maybe I ought to contact my long-time Texas friend (Gayla) and pick her brain about some off-the-beaten-path places. Only I remembered she’s currently galavanting around London! So I’m on my own. 

Texas is home to … of course … the words largest cowboy boots, and the world’s largest killer bee – but wait – there’s more! Ha!

Old Tunnel

Located in Fredericksburg, this tunnel might look abandoned, and in a sense, it is, by humans, anyway. A railroad used to run through the tunnel, but now it’s home to a few million Mexican free-tailed bats.

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Every night at dusk between May and September, you can watch them turn the night sky into a cloud of darkness by following Highway 290 in Fredericksburg until you see a brown sign directing you to the tunnel. It’s an amazing sight to see them fly out for their nightly feeding

Munster Mansion (Waxahchie)

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To each their own, but this is a bit on the strange side. This family built an exact replica of the Munster Mansion. They were so infatuated with the TV show, they built their house exactly like that of the fictional family. It is a private residence and isn’t open to the public for tours, but you can drive by it at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, in Waxahachie

Hamilton Pool

Located just 23 miles west of Austin, Hamilton Pool is a breathtaking natural spring formed in the limestone bedrock and fed by an underground river. Surrounded by the Hamilton Nature Preserve. They require reservations from May 15 to September 30.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

The Fort Worth Water Gardens are pools of futuristic angles. A pool is surrounded by trees where waterfalls cascade down the walls. Nearby is an aeration pool where 40 nozzles spray 871 gallons of water every minute.  The pool is 40 feet deep. This is just one of those places where you feel so tranquil and at peace! 

Cadillac Ranch

As funny as it seems, I’ve had this place on my bucket list for a long time. I was so excited this last summer to finally get to see this! Cadillac Ranch, built in 1974, is the product of eccentric helium millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 (he doesn’t like the Roman numeral III) and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective.

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The ranch consists of ten graffiti-covered cars half-buried in a dusty Texas field. The cars are positioned nose-down and face west “at the same angle as the Cheops’ pyramids.” The cars were actually moved two miles further out in 1997 to avoid the expanding city. Justin and I did not partake in the spray painting this time, as you can tell from the picture, it was so very windy that day and the area surrounding the Cadillacs was under about a foot of water. 

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Caverns of Sonora

The cave was discovered by accident in 1905, on ranch land belonging to the Mayfield family.  Our country has some spectacular caves! One of our favorite things to explore! This was really borderline popular, but I just had to share it. 

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Palo Duro Canyon

Known as the grand canyon of Texas. Palo Duro Canyon is considered to be the second-largest and longest canyon in the U.S. You can drive down onto the floor of the canyon by taking Park Road 5. The most prominent feature is the Lighthouse, a 300-foot formation at the north end of the canyon. It is accessible from the road or by a three-mile trail. 

Shamrock, Texas

U Drop Inn – Built in 1936, the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, was kind of a big deal. With its prime location on iconic Route 66, the café with its connected Tower Station was one of the first commercial businesses along the route.

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The road itself was a fairly new addition to the country’s landscape, with the roadway being designated Route 66 just ten years earlier.  This was such a fun place to visit. You can walk through the now-closed cafe, which they have set it up as it looked just a few short years ago! 

We suggest checking out these caves if you’re in the area

  • Inner Space Cavern – Georgetown, TX
  • Cave Without A Name – Boerne, TX
  • Natural Bridge Caverns – San Antonio, TX

Also, make sure you visit Big Bend National Park. What an amazing place to hike and kayak. We didn’t get a chance to spend enough time there and we are definitely going back! It’s not an “off the beaten path” place, so we won’t be showcasing that here, but wow! It’s a beautiful place! 

Kayaking Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake in Karnack, TX (Caddo Lake State Park) is perfect for kayakers wanting to spend the day exploring its unique environment. I know there are two types of kayakers. Personally, we love floating the flat waters, taking in the scenery, and maybe eating lunch in our kayak. Just a warning, we have been told there are alligators here. Just leave them alone, and don’t try to get too close, and they won’t bother you.  And don’t forget your camera!!

Also, check out Frio River – We have not been there, but it’s on our list for sure!! We hear Fall is the best time to go! 

Here are some other blog posts we think you’ll love!

Thank you for reading and please leave your suggestions for your own off the beaten path in the comments section. We always love a new place to visit. Live Simply. Give More. Expect Less.

Looking for the best boondocking / Free camping areas in Texas? Definitely click the button below to see how many we found. And don’t forget to keep checking back!! We’re always finding more!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet! We hope you found some fun and unique things to see! We’re always updating our blogs, so come back often.

Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Montana – Our Top Hidden Gems in Montana!

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state.  Of course, we love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different to see as well. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. We live our name – Opting Out of Normal.

Summer is the perfect time to visit Montana. It gets a little warm in Montana, but most days are pleasant and comfortable.


Kootenai Falls & Swinging Bridge

Located between Libby and Troy, (mile marker 21) the swinging bridge is only about half a mile from the parking area located on Highway 2.

Swinging Bridge Libby Montana

There is a place to eat lunch and bathrooms too. It’s just downstream from Kootenai Falls, the bridge offers access to the other side of the Kootenai River, offering a better view of the falls and connecting to multiple hiking paths. Fun Fact: The bridge was featured in the hit movie, The River Wild. Fun Fact #2: Kayakers can use the bridge to gain access to the famous Super Hole and other river access points.

Garnet Ghost Town

Hidden high in the Garnet Mountain Range east of Missoula. This was one of the coolest things we saw in Montana. The history of this little town is unbelievable.

For a town built that was never intended to last, this is Montana’s most intact ghost town. The miners were more interested in collecting the riches below ground than building above. As a result, buildings grew quickly, most lacking foundations. They were small and easy to heat. Yet, a century after Garnet emerged, remnants of the town stand. If you do nothing else on this list, definitely explore this!

Garnet

The Boiling River

Boiling River flows into the Gardner River and is as natural as it gets.  Just two miles from Yellowstone National Park’s North gate. The hot water and the cool water flow together, meeting in small, stone pools that create natural hot tubs for soaking.

Boiling River

The water flowing from Mammoth Hot Springs is very hot, so be careful. This is public land, and free to use as long as you follow the posted rules. 

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The Ringing Rocks

This place is a crazy phenomenon in my opinion. I’ve seen piles of rocks that don’t “ring”, so these just don’t make sense to me, but it’s fascinating to go see. Pack some hammers for this! Different types, and sizes. You’ll figure it out when you get there! The Ringing Rocks near Butte ring melodically when tapped gently with a hammer. Some sound completely hollow.

Ringing Rocks, near Butte

This pile of rocks exists as part of the edge of the Boulder Batholith, a geological formation that reaches from Helena to Dillon, covering roughly 1,900 square miles. The rock’s composition and connection patterns create the condition that causes the rocks to ring when struck. Scientists say that once removed from the formation, the rocks no longer ring. Just go check this out! It’s really fun for kids too!  Beware though, the roads to reach the rocks are often treacherous.

Havre Beneath the Streets

This is really bizarre and we really love stuff like this! It’s a little on the shady side when you do the Havre Beneath the Streets underground tour. When a fire almost decimated the town in 1904, adaptable business owners moved underground.

Havre

Some shops opened in their basements, and together, they created a series of tunnels that stretched about a six-block radius. They carried on business as usual during the rebuilding of the town above-ground. There is a barbershop, a general store, a saloon, a bordello, and others. If you’re looking for unique, definitely put this one on your list.

Jim’s Horn House

Ready for this one? Ha! This is a collection of 16,000 antlers crammed beautifully into a small shed. It’s actually very beautifully displayed. Art!! For the last six decades, Jim’s favorite pastime has been to hike out into the Montana backcountry, braving the elements, for the sole purpose of picking up thousands of pairs of stray antlers.

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Since starting his collection as a 10-year-old boy, the “Antler Man” has amassed a grand total of 16,000 antlers, all of which are on display in one well-lit shed in Three Forks, Montana. His story is absolutely fascinating and touching. I won’t spoil it! If you’re lucky enough to get a tour, you’ll be able to hear his story firsthand. 

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Know Before You Go: Jim isn’t open as a business. But he does love to share his collection with you, but you must email him (yes, I swear, this is legitimate) and he will give you his address if he’s able to give you a tour. His email is 2jd3law4@gmail.com

Holland Lake

Holland Lake is a small glacier lake in the Flathead Valley National Forest. Yes! this picture is mine and it’s what we saw most days if we woke up early enough. Just gorgeous! We were lucky enough to work here over the summer last year as workampers. (If you would like to read our workamping blog, click here) It is a paid campground with no hookups, but oh the lake! Just wow!

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And the hiking as well is just something completely worth the stay. There is a beautiful, short hike to the waterfalls, and you can also take a longer hike up to Upper Holland Lake. But don’t go too early, as Upper Holland Lake is frozen until the middle of June. We normally are all about free camping and boondocking but I had to include this beautiful out of the way area on our list. It’s worth a stop! There is a day-use area if you just want to enjoy it for the day and take a hike from there. You may not be able to get into Holland Lake to camp (it’s off the beaten path, but it’s a very busy campground for the locals who usually head from Helena every summer). But, there is boondocking right next to Holland Lake (walking distance even) called Owl Creek.

Want to check out all our favorite boondocking locations in Montana? Click the button below for lots of great boondocking and paid campground information.

Morrell Falls

This might not be an “off the beaten path” place, but we hiked up to Morrell Falls and it’s worth a trip! The water that comes over the top of these falls is so intense, that it was hard to get pictures because as soon as we lifted our camera, it would be full of mist. We hiked in, sat in the beautiful spray of the water, ate lunch, and enjoyed a very easy hike back out.

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Here are some more of our travel blogs we think you’ll love!

Thank you for coming to our little corner of the internet. We hope you found some fun things to see and explore. We’d love to hear from you! Where are your favorite hidden gems in Montana?

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Vermont. Our Top Hidden Gems

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each blog post will include at least one epic boondocking area, complete with pictures and GPS coordinates. 

Aside from the really fun Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, and the world’s tallest filing cabinet, there are even more amazing, cool, and unique places in Vermont. So many to choose from, but here are our favorite picks. 

Floating Bridge of Brookfield

I wouldn’t say go too far out of your way, but if you’re driving near Brookfield, we recommend this. It was closed to car traffic from 2009 to 2015 and has now been reopened. Either way, you can walk or drive it (unfortunately, the floating bridge occasionally sinks). The bridge, which is the only floating bridge east of the Mississippi River, was originally built in 1820. 

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Craving Chocolate?

Got Chocolate? Lake Champlain Chocolates is a family-owned business since 1983. Chocolate tastings are available weekends with tasting guides, where guests can sample four chocolate profiles. YUM!

Huntington Gorge

During the summer I would say this is probably borderline “unique and off the beaten path” but if you are lucky enough to catch this amazing place in spring or fall, do it. This is one of the most dangerous places, because of its beauty, people get very distracted. Please! Be careful, watch your step, and then enjoy the beautiful strange rock formations. Sadly, there have been so many deaths here, they call it The Hungry Gorge. There are many different places you can stop to view this incredible gorge. Dugway Rd, Richmond, VT 05477. It has so many angles and facets to view. The rocks here are perhaps the best example of water sculpture in the state.

Warren Falls

Located in Warren, VT. Another incredible view of Vermont’s different and unique sculptured rocks. Another very busy summer area, but if you can get there during the fall you won’t regret it. 

Kayaking Lone Rock Point

Our Pick for kayakingLocated in Burlington, VT. Very close to Burlington’s beautiful waterfront is Lone Rock Point. A kayaker’s destination for sure.

Most people put in at North Beach (see attached from Google Earth). It’s a few minutes (not even a mile) over to reach Lone Rock. But paddling farther north along the shoreline into Appletree Bay gives you some sights such as forested bluffs, Leddy Beach, and Appletree Point. Don’t miss these! 

Lone Rock Point Put In

Smugglers Cave

Vermont is known for being the most amazing place in the fall. If you have a chance to visit Smugglers Cave (in Smugglers Notch State Park) it’s scenic, interesting history, and kind of eerie. Bring your bear spray. Vermont definitely has a lot of bears. The cave is located about 60-feet from the scenic road (known as the Notch). The cave is easily missed, hence the reason why in the 1920’s it was used to illegally smuggle goods.

There is beautiful camping at the State Park. Unfortunately, it’s not free! We like to boondock, which gets us out and about from structured campgrounds. But if campgrounds are your preference, they have beautiful sites there.

Japanese Garden 

Located in Hubbardton. You won’t likely stumble upon this spot in Hubbardton by accident. While it’s known to the locals, it’s easily passed over. It is a privately owned property open to the public year-round whose centerpiece is a Japanese garden. Kit Davidson passed away on September 29, 2016. The preserve is now managed by Alyssa Bennett. The address is 321 St. John Rd, Hubbardton, VT. GPS location: N43°41.099, W73°08.538.

Green Mountain Byway

A Perfect beautiful short drive – Green Mountain Byway is just 11 miles long. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Historic Jericho

If you’ve never been to historic Jericho and you love taking pictures, this is such an amazing town. The old Grist Mill in Jericho is amazing. I’m not including a ton of information on Jericho, as it can get pretty popular at certain times of the year.

Knight’s Spider Web Farm

And … the most unusual place we would NEVER go. Stacy is deathly and ridiculously afraid of spiders! This would be such a huge challenge! Two garage-sized barns are packed with wooden frames, built-in grids, hanging from the ceiling.

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These square frames are ideal spots for spider webs, and the abundant orb-weaver spiders (typing this give me chills HaHa) that live on Knight’s farm make themselves at home. Actual spider webs are used to make his one of a kind artwork and he’s a great story-teller to keep your attention from beginning to end. Maybe I could at least just visit the retail store of his unique art. Might have to try it! This pictures is not mine. Haven’t been courageous to visit yet! 

Boondocking Suggestions:

National Forest Rd 71 – Any size, easy access // GPS: 43.060964, -72.987425 / 14 day max stay. Seriously, look this place up if you’re needing to do anything in the surrounding areas. 

GPS

Chittenden, Vermont GPS: 43.78686, -072.87901 Super easy to get to and some great hikes and dirt biking trails. Turn west off of route 100, once you past Knight Hill you should start to see campsites on both sides of the road. Sites are of all shapes and sizes.

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet. We’d love to hear your favorite places in Vermont that are off the beaten path and quiet.

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Virginia. The Most Unique Hidden Gems in Virginia.

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include a link to our favorite boondocking area(s), some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.

While Justin served on active duty we were stationed in Virginia. It’s funny how life can change from the plans you made. We bought a house, settled in Chesapeake, and he planned to get out of the military. Within a couple of years, we were offered orders to Germany, which we accepted, and we ended up finishing out 20 years of service.

FUN FACT: Virginia is home to the world’s largest Slinky (Richmond). 

Virginia is such a beautiful, fantastic state. It’s a state you just have to take your time in. The popular, tourist attractions are still unbelievable and amazing! So check them out!!

The Natural Bridge

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This really used to be unpopular and left alone. I think more and more it’s becoming something to see, but definitely visit this amazing place if you haven’t. We visited in the “Winter” (January) and couldn’t have been happier we did. It was in the 50s on the day we hiked the 2-mile trail to the waterfall. We might have seen a total of 20 people all day long. Very quiet, and peaceful. Virginia’s Natural Bridge is an enormous natural limestone arch. Carved by Cedar Creek over thousands of years, the arch was created when an ancient cavern collapsed leaving only the bridge. It is the largest natural land bridge on the North American continent. Don’t forget to go see the Hidden J.R.R. Tolkien Quote. Lines from a walking song are etched into a rock in Natural Bridge State Park.

Barboursville Ruins

We love the history behind ruins, and the architecture of some, for the times, is just breathtaking. Usually, there are mysteries and unanswered questions. We love that stuff. The ruins of this Thomas-Jefferson-designed mansion have been left to crumble since the Christmas Day they burnt down. The Mansion is available for visiting when the winery is open (10-5 every day, closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). It is an enjoyable 1/4 mile walk from the winery, or you can drive to a parking lot adjacent to the ruins. 

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We highly recommend this book on your travels! We don’t carry too many books with us but love this one, and have really gotten some great information from it. 

Kiptopeke’s Concrete Fleet

Nine of the 24 concrete ships were contracted by the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II. In 1948 the ships were brought to Kiptopeke Beach in order to bring protection to the terminal during severe weather. The ships lie, partially sunken, about a quarter-mile off of the shore near the fishing pier. Kayaks are available for rent at the pier if you want to get up close and personal with the ships and the many nesting birds that live on them. We did not see if we could launch our own kayaks from the launch pad, but we are assuming you can. What a great historical thing to see! Can you imagine – ships made out of concrete?

Great Channels of Virginia

Wait! Slot canyons in Virginia? There sure aren’t many, if even more than just this one! If you read my blogs regularly, you know there are two places in the world I feel most at peace with everything. Slot canyons and waterfalls. They are all so very different, and yet, so much the same. This maze-like slot canyon is a unique gem within an already fascinating area. A roughly 6.5-mile hike leads explorers through their many twists and turns. The channels are near the summit of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain, so hikers are rewarded with gorgeous vistas of the surrounded nature preserve.

meGreat Channels of Virginia

Patowmack Canal

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Today the Patowmack Canal is largely in ruins, though better-preserved portions are visible as part of the Great Falls Park. Great Falls Park is a section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The entrance to the park is located off of Old Dominion Drive, about 15 minutes off the Washington DC, beltway. Entry to the park is $10/car or $5/person without a car.

The Ghost Church

This is just something fun and unique, but also plays games with your vision and mind. Easy to get to and check out since it sits on the side of a rural road in Mechanicsville, Virginia. But what locals call the “ghost church” is more of a suggestion of a building. The white beams that comprise the structure were built on the site where the historic Polegreen Church once stood. Open sunrise to sunset!

Museums

Virginia is a state that is just full of historical museums if that’s your thing. We do go to some, but we really love outdoor things to do. Hiking, kayaking, and exploring. There are some fun and unique museums so if you are a museum hopper, make sure you do some research. 

KAYAKING

If you’re boondocking at the above Dismal Swamp CoE kayak an 8-mile there-and-back into the Great Dismal Swamp. Start at the state boat ramp on US 17 near Ballahack Road. Paddle your canoe or kayak south through the Dismal Swamp Canal then west on a feeder canal to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Virginia, part of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Continue west on the feeder canal to reach cypress-ringed 3,000-plus acre Lake Drummond, a Virginia legacy.

We are asked a lot about how we travel in 39 feet with 2 full kayaks. Easy! They are inflatable. We do not have an affiliate with Sea Eagle Kayaks. We are simply very happy customers. We’ve traveled 3 full years with these and love them! Click here to see which kayaks we have.

Exploring Virginia

There is so much more exploring to do in Virginia! We hope to be back in Virginia at the end of this year to add more hidden gems to this list! Do you have your own hidden gems to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay while you’re traveling in Virginia? Check out our ever-changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Virginia!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Looking for some more states in our RV Camping series? Check out the links below!

Plus! Here are some more blogs we think you’ll enjoy!

Thank you for checking out our little corner of the internet! We appreciate each and every one of you! We’d love to hear from you!

How To's and Why Not's, Rv Solar, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons, Travel Destinations & Stories

Boondocking ~ How We Spent $48 on Camping Fees For the Whole Year

In 2018 we challenged ourselves to spend less than $100 in camping fees for the whole year. But wait … let’s go back a bit.

When we bought our 39′ Grand Design 5th wheel and started prepping to leave on our journey, we were diving into the research and asking lots of questions. We were a sponge and wanted to learn everything we could about this boondocking thing. We were not new to RVing, but we were new to full-time RVing and boondocking. I had all the same questions all of you have repeated back to me in the last 2 years. “Is it scary?”, “Do you leave your rig unattended?”, “How do you find the places?”, “How do you know if you’ll fit?”, “Where do I start”, “How do you dump your tanks?”. So back when I was doing my research and trying to learn everything, I was sadly met with things like “give it up, you’ll never boondock in that thing”, and “boondocking in a rig like that isn’t possible.” and “no, we don’t share our information.” To say I was deflated was an understatement. We were told on several occasions we’d never be able to boondock in a Grand Design because it was too fru-fru and too big. Wait … What? Ha! Yes, we were actually told that. So I set out on a mission to prove we could absolutely do this in our size rig.

And with that, I decided I was going to help everyone who asked. I was going to do the research, and answer questions, and always share what I knew. I would mentor people and get them to their goals if need be. And, that’s what we’ve done!

YES! Yes, you can boondock in epic, amazing, places in a 39′ (apparently Fru-Fru) 5th Wheel.

In our first year of boondocking, we did not have solar, and we had a small lead-acid battery bank. Yes, you can boondock with just that. We ran our generators, but we still did it. If you want to see some of the places we boondocked in 2017, check out our tips for boondocking here

At the end of 2017, we saved enough to buy some solar panels. Justin did all the installation himself, and it gave us even more freedom. We decided since it was the end of the year, we would see if we could go all of 2018 under $100. And that we did!

So here’s why you came to read this! You want to know how we did it. I’m going to give you some tips, and then the steps we take to find our places, and then I’m going to give you some helpful items that we did not have in the beginning, but we absolutely couldn’t live without now that we are all in!

TIPS

  • Don’t be afraid! Don’t live your life afraid. Leave your RV. Explore. Live! If there is anything in your rig that is not replaceable then take it with you. We personally have nothing in our rig (other than our pup) that can’t be replaced. The only priceless thing I have, I wear on my finger.
  • Always have a plan B. Always! This is something that has saved us a few times. There is only so much research you can do online.
  • Ask friends for tips on places in the area you’re going to.
  • Be flexible. Our hardest times finding boondocking places is when we “have to” be in a certain area. We’re either lucky or not. And we don’t stress about it. If the cost of fuel is going to be more getting to/from our certain destination every day, then we find a low-cost RV park and go in. No biggie!
  • My last tip is … if you have never boondocked and you start doing it, you’re going to be hooked. You’re going to love it.

Read our Boondocking Myths Debunked – It’s important to rule out these doubts!

HOW WE FIND OUR BOONDOCKING AREAS

We first have a destination. That’s a chore in itself for us sometimes. Ha! There are days we have no idea what we’re having for dinner, let alone where we want to go next. But once we find our destination, we then start jumping on our favorite websites to find free boondocking locations. Our top 3 favorite websites are:

Here is a list of all the websites/apps we use. But the above are our go-to’s first.

Below is an example of what came up when I went into Free Campsites [dot] net and searched Moab, Utah. It shows me where Moab is by the STAR in the middle, and then all those green squares are all free areas to camp. If you click on them you can get all the details, reviews, pictures, etc. Please look at all the websites/apps. They are all different with different information. Even if you find the same place on 2 or 3 websites, the reviews and information might be different and more beneficial on one vs. the other. Sometimes you’ll find an amazing place on one website, and it won’t even be listed on the other.

So once we find the location we like, and according to the reviews, we think we can fit, and all looks good. We then take it to Google Maps, and we look at the area from above, the road going in, etc.

Again, we always have a plan B. (I can’t stress this enough) We find more than one in the same-ish area, and then our 3rd option is a Walmart, or Cracker Barrel in the area as a last resort. We really do not stay at WM or CB often unless we are literally passing through and just need a few hours of sleep to get up and drive again. You don’t want to arrive at a boondocking location that might have ended up being closed due to maintenance, flooding, or yes, even a government shut down, and not have a plan of somewhere else to go.

This process takes us about 20 minutes now. It can take us longer if we’re looking for something specific, or in a very specific area that we aren’t flexible with, but typically doesn’t take us too long to find locations.

And that’s that! We head out to our next destination!

OUR BEST BOONDOCKING GEAR

Through the years we have found a few things we consider priceless for our boondocking. Everyone is different, but we don’t mind spending the money if it makes our boondocking more comfortable.

  • 60-gallon water bladder – This folds up smaller than a typical book when it’s empty and stored. It’s strong. Great quality. We don’t have to move our rig or carry around jugs to go get water. This has been a game-changer for us.
  • Yes, we have solar, but there is still rain. Sometimes for many days. We have had 2 Champion Generators since we left in 2017 and we have nothing bad to say about them. They work like a champ (sorry … that was cheesy).
  • Luci Lights – These are great!!! We love these, and now they even come with a USB phone charger. I mean charging your phone with a solar light is genius right? You might think they are a little pricy, but I promise if you buy one, you’ll be buying more.
  • Clam Shelter – This has been so fun to sit in with friends on a cooler night with our propane fire pit inside (yes you can) and enjoy a warm, bug-free area. Please don’t buy cheap brands! We have had several people approach us telling us that they regretted buying the cheaper brand and they saved less than $100.
  • Propane Firepit – I fought Justin on purchasing this. I mean for free we can gather wood and sit by the fire. I am so glad we have this now and so thankful I gave in on buying it.
  • Back Support Camping Chairs – These don’t look like much, but with our bad backs, they are truly lifesavers. Best chairs ever. We love these chairs!!
  • Buddy Heater – We traveled East for the holidays and I can’t tell you how amazing this little thing is to have!

HOW DO WE FIND OUR RESOURCES WHILE BOONDOCKING?

We wrote a blog about that! Check out How to Find Resources While Boondocking

Another great resource for additional information is Your RV Lifestyle. They offer some great information to help you make your boondocking experience the best it can be.

We are here to tell you this – If you want to boondock, you can absolutely do it. No, you can’t get into every boondocking area, but you can get into millions of them. And you can have epic views!

And our biggest question in 2018 was ….

HOW DO WE DUMP OUR TANKS?

To that, I always say “the same as everyone else”. Just because we boondock all the time doesn’t mean we don’t move. We consider ourselves Full-Time RV Travelers. We don’t stay in one exact location for months on end. In fact, after about a week or two, maybe even three, we start to get a little antsy and start looking for our next adventure. So to fully answer your question, we go to the dump station. Those are easily found all over the U.S. See our blog above on how we find our resources. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how easy they are to find! Since we can bring water to our rig with our water bladder (see above link), we really can go about 2 weeks in one location. Yes, we use our bathroom. We didn’t pay all the money for an RV to go outside or use a porta-potty. Our black tank is big enough that we can go a little over 2 weeks before we feel it’s time to go find a dump station. And no, it doesn’t smell. Ever! (I’m a little picky and have been called a bit of a clean freak a time or two, so that would be unacceptable.) And even if we decided we wanted to stay longer than 2 weeks, it’s not hard to hook up, go dump, and come back. We’ve done that before!

HOW DO WE GO MONTHS WITHOUT RUNNING OUR GENERATORS?

This wasn’t always the case! We didn’t always have solar, or lithium batteries. It’s been a work in progress. We’ve saved and installed everything in stages. If you’re interested in seeing our solar setup, check out Justin’s solar blogs starting here. You can also join Justin’s DIY solar group on Facebook. I often refer to Justin as the “RV Solar God”. He’s now up to about 9 installs, but more than the actual install, he’s got the knowledge. I’ve listened to him walk people through a fix 3,000 miles away, while on the phone. Now that’s impressive to a girl who needs help understanding the difference between screwdrivers. Installing your system yourself will save quite a bit of money. Click here to join the DIY Facebook Group.

Whew! If you made it this far ~ Thank you! I hope you learned something. What I can tell you is that like most new things in life, it’s a learning process. I can now say it’s extremely easy to find the sites, get to the sites and I know what I need to look for in the information available. What I can’t tell you is what I’ll find when I get there if that information can’t be obtained online. And that has happened. Last month we arrived at our Plan A spot to discover the entire road was shut down due to construction. We tried to approach from the other side, and it was indeed completely closed from one end to the other. Nowhere online could I have found that. So we had to go to Plan B. But when we first started out, since it was all self-taught, it was not easy. So I encourage you to reach out, we can certainly walk you through it! We can work together to find you your first spot, or just use one of our previous spots. That’s why we share them. You can find all our travel maps here. Starting in 2018! If you’re interested in boondocking, just do us a favor … you have to do it 7-10 times before you make a decision on if you like it or not. Of course, the very first time we boondocked, we both fell in love with it. But I’m here to tell you that you really need to give it a chance. If your first experience isn’t rainbows and sunshine, and is more like mud and rain, please don’t give up! We are here to help!

Reach out! We don’t mind! OptingOutofNormal@gmail.com

We hope you learned something or found value in our information! We’d love to hear from you.

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, How To's and Why Not's, RV Camping, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons

Finding Resources While Boondocking

We’ve been on the road and boondocking in a big rig for over 5 years now! You continue to see all our epic boondocking places. Now you’re wondering how we really do all the other stuff that surrounds boondocking. How do we find water, and where do we take our trash? Well, we’re here to break it down for you. It doesn’t stop at just researching and finding the most beautiful epic places we stay for free. There is more to it. And I’m here to share with you some information, ideas, and tips and tricks we have used. 

How Do We Find Water

Water is actually easier to find than you think.

  • Gas stations
  • RV parks (sometimes for a fee)
  • Cabelas
  • National Forests may have spigots randomly placed
  • City Parks
  • Fairgrounds
  • Chamber of Commerce buildings (in CO they had a dump and fill station)
  • Visitors Centers
  • Laundromats (usually have a spigot outside. Just make sure you ask)
  • Churches

Anywhere with a spigot. Look around when you’re driving. You’ll be surprised! Please make sure you ask if there is someone official around, or go into the business and ask. Sometimes there will be a small fee, but in over a year of traveling, we have only ever paid once for water. Here are a couple of things that are helpful in getting water anywhere. Water Thief (don’t let the name scare you Ha!) And Water Bladder. This is a little pricey but you will not regret this purchase if you have a bigger rig you don’t want to move to be able to get water. 

How Do We Dispose of Our Trash?

This is sometimes a very tricky situation. And frustrating at times, I know!  We often find ourselves picking up others’ trash. But where do we put it if trash facilities aren’t available? Our advice?

  • Walk into the grocery store, buy a few items you need and with your full arms of groceries go over to the customer service desk and explain you’re a full-time RVer, and could you possibly dump just a couple of bags of trash in their dumpster outside
  • Another idea is to use the small grocery bags and dispose at a gas station, or in front of a store.
  • A city park
  • Campground in the area (Please make sure you ask if there is someone to ask.)
  • Burning your paper products is another option. (Personally, we don’t have “real” fires much. We use a propane fire pit. We aren’t real crazy about burning our trash. With the glues and the dyes going into the atmosphere, we just don’t do it. It’s just our preference.
  • Highway rest stops usually have trash cans. Again, they can be small, so try using smaller bags.
  • Highway truck stops are another option.
  • Most restaurants have dumpsters, but again, go in, have a meal, and ask if it’s ok.
  • National Forest/tourist information places will have trash facilities. 

How Do We Find Propane?

We personally have 2 portable propane tanks that travel in our trailer, and then 2 extras we travel with. Some rigs have onboard propane tanks, so your resources will be different from ours.

  • We have found Tractor Supply to be the easiest to use. Because they are a chain across the United States. But not all of them sell propane. That’s when google comes in handy. Also, word of mouth. Always ask “well, then who does?”. People are more than helpful and give you information. 
  • Many gas stations also sell propane.
  • ACE Hardware has been lucky for us as well.

How Do We Find Places To Dump Our Black Tank?

There are apps and great websites for that! Here are a few of our favorites

Some other ideas:

  • A lot of welcome centers will offer a dump (some free, some not).
  • A lot of rest areas will have a dump for a small fee too. Bet you never saw them until you looked.
  • Campgrounds will usually charge you if you aren’t a guest, but here’s a situation we ran into last year. We found a city park with electric and water hookups for $11 a night. Free dump on the grounds for guests. And down the road was purely a dump station for $5. So for an extra $6 we plugged in, took Hollywood showers, filled up our fresh water tanks, stayed a great night in a little city park, and left the next day stopping at the dump on the way out. Sometimes you have to just figure out what financially works best for you.
  • Fairgrounds almost always have a dump station. Most of the time free, but sometimes there is a charge.  We do not have a composting toilet but know many people who do, and never have to worry about finding a dump station. 

Finding Resources Off The Beaten Path

A lot of boondocking locations are in rural, out-of-the-way areas. How do we find resources way out there?

  • Aside from Google, Ask! You might run into others staying in the same area as you. Ask them where they got their water, propane, etc.
  • Locals are another great information source. We have simply been getting fuel and asked the gas station attendant questions about where to find resources. They love to share helpful information about their town!
  • Local gas stations or small convenience store clerks will most likely be from the area and usually are happy to share their information. We once were at a gas station when the local postal worker came by. Who better than the postal worker to ask where to find something. People love to share information about their town. 
  • Apps are your friends! There are so many great apps for RV travelers. If you missed our blog on the best apps, check it out here. Most of the apps we use are free, but there are a few we use that cost a very small amount of money (one time) and they are truly helpful. 

How Do We Know Where We Can Camp/Boondock?

What if it’s not listed on a typical free camping app?

  • We use a paid app for that, and it’s so worth it. It’s called US Public Lands. It’s currently $2.99 and helps us find public lands that are ok to stay on for free. It’s an app designed by full-time RV’ers who have traveled for about 12 years now. Excellent app!
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  • We also stop and ask for maps at information offices inside the national forests.

We promise, once you do this a few times, you will be a pro. As we’ve always said, we will make memories and mistakes. The memories outway the mistakes, and you’ll learn from the mistakes.

Here are a few blogs we think you’ll love!

We love hearing from you! Please let us know in the comments what you use for your resources. We love it when we learn new things, and it will benefit everyone. 

Here are some of our Boondocking Videos we hope you enjoy!

Thank you so much for visiting our little corner of the internet. Each and every one of you is appreciated. We hope you found some value in our content. Travel safe! Be well!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Michigan. Top Hidden Gems We Found in Michigan!

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our favorite free camping areas, along with other RV camping we’ve done in the state

Crisp Point Lighthouse

This is a beautiful lighthouse to visit, but consider yourself forewarned, the road to get there is like no other we’ve traveled. When they sell a t-shirt in the gift shop that says “I survived the road to Crisp Point Lighthouse”, they aren’t kidding! We did it in a dually, so I know everyone can do it, but it is long and tedious, but worth the sights (and you might actually want to buy a t-shirt when you get there). A lot of people travel there on a side by side or off-road toys. We actually visited several lighthouses on the “lighthouse tour”. You can pick up a guide at the visitors center. Makes for a fun “truck hike” day. YES … this funny (funny because it turned out good) sign is actually on the road in! Let’s hear it for Girl Scout Cookies saving lives!!! 

The Tridge – Midland MI

Located in Chippewassee Park, this isn’t the only triple bridge in Michigan, but if you’re near the area, it’s a beautiful walk, and something pretty unique. There is also a farmers market, a skate park and a dog park if you’re interested. 

Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide

Assignment

Located in Thompsonville. It’s basically a huge water slide without the water. You take a chair lift to the top of the mountain and jump on a specialized sled to ride one of the two slides that are each 1,700 feet long. Make sure to check dates because the slide is only open seasonally.

Electric Forest

I’m adding this because it’s on my bucket list. We have not gone here (yet). But highly recommend at least checking it out. It looks really amazing and fun! Click here for information. 

Most everyone knows about the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s not an “off the beaten path” choice, but if you go to Michigan, DON’T MISS IT!!! It’s a breathtaking but very popular tourist place. We went! We loved it, and if you have any questions, let me know. The hiking and kayaking are amazing there!!  I did want to mention that once or twice a year, if you’re lucky, the wind is blowing just right and the garnet in the rocks washes up on shore and causes the sand to turn a vibrant pink. It only lasts a couple of hours to a couple of days. We were lucky enough to catch it! Go into the visitors center and ask about it. 

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Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors

We find this a little creepy, (we like this kind of stuff Ha!) and quite entertaining and interesting. Have you heard the story behind these?  You can actually pick up a tour brochure to show you where all the fairy doors are. Pretty creative! 

fairy2

Here’s a little history I found: “In 1993, While Jonathan B. Wright was renovating his century-old home, his young daughters made a delightful discovery: itty, bitty, six-inch doors scattered throughout the space. When opened, there were tiny railings inside that led to other miniature doors. There were even windows springing up, where lights inside would magically turn on and off. By 2005, Jonathan had become a full-fledged Fairyologist, documenting the little doors that were now springing up all around town – obviously, they were fairies, what else could they be? His website has documentation of over two dozen doors from these “urban fairies.” 

Blooming Mystical Lavender Labyrinth

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Who knew? This is on a farm in Shelby Michigan, called Cherry Point Farm and Market. The fruit and farm market has been in operation since 1961. In 2001, owner Barbara Bull started work on a lavender labyrinth, which can be seen on Google Earth. Don’t forget the amazing cherry pie and other fantastic fruits and homemade yummy things from this farm and market. 

Manistique Boardwalk and River Walk

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The Boardwalk runs down the Lake Michigan shore in the town of Manistique. Go for an early morning walk or take an afternoon and picnic in the park. You can view the Manistique Lighthouse or ships passing by. It is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can spend as much or as little time there. It’s really beautiful to walk out on the jetty to the lighthouse. As you can see from the picture, the sunsets are incredible. Highly recommend early Fall if you’re wanting a more peaceful, quiet time. 

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

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This doesn’t fall into a typical off-the-beaten-path place, but I just had to mention it. We visited this area in September on a weekday. It was almost empty! We actually went twice in one day. (We wanted to get some pictures later in the day.) TIP: Paradise is actually a very small, very expensive little town. We made the mistake of running out of propane and having to fill up there. It was the highest propane cost we’ve ever paid. So gas up, fill your propane tanks, and arrive with everything you need or you’ll be paying extremely high prices there. 

Kayaking

Want to do some Kayaking (one of our favorite things to do) Here are two of our top picks (other than the Pictured Rocks National Seashore area which is not an Off the Beaten Path area)

Bete Grise Sea Arch

Bete Grise

Bete Grise is a nature preserve on Keweenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A quiet and scenic kayaking destination on the Keweenaw Peninsula’s southern shores. The Bete Grise Bay is an amazing destination on its own.  There are miles of shoreline and waterfalls. Make a point to check out Keweenaw Historical Ruins too!

TIP: Launch your kayak or canoe from the Bete Gris Beach and paddle east, keeping the shoreline on your left side. After a couple of miles, natural rock sea stacks and sea arches rise from the shockingly clear water of Lake Superior. You can float through the arch and hang out in the shade. Please watch the weather. Lake Superior can be brutal in a kayak!

Turnip Rock

So, I was thinking this was a pretty popular thing to do. But when I started talking to people last year, no one had heard of it.

So we’re including it on our list. This unique rock formation is a favorite destination of those kayaking in Lake Huron, as it’s only accessible by water. The land on Turnip Rock is privately owned but you can still access this by water (kayak, boat, etc) Another option is to wait for Lake Huron to freeze and walk your way out to Turnip Rock.

Hope you enjoyed the ideas! Thank you so much for visiting our little corner of the internet. We would love to hear what you find “off the beaten path” in Michigan. 

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay in while you’re traveling in Michigan? Check out our ever-changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Michigan!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Here are some of our top blogs we think you’ll love!

Thank you for checking out our little corner of the internet! We appreciate each and every one of you! We’d love to hear from you!

How To's and Why Not's, Rv Solar, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons, RV Upgrades & Mods

10 Myths About Boondocking – Debunked! Yes, We Do Take Showers!

Boondocking/Dry camping isn’t for everyone. For us, it’s everything. Not only does it allow us to see something other than the RV slide next to us in a campground, but it allows us to see amazing beautiful places we wouldn’t normally see at all. We are here to debunk some of these myths and hope that if it’s something you’ve wanted to do, but are too frightened, you try it, and let us help you. 


Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure


Boondocking Myths:

My RV is too big to go boondocking – We travel in a 39 foot 5th wheel and I can tell you this is not true. We have good friends who travel and boondock in a 44-foot 5th wheel. It is not impossible. Like any size, it still takes planning and navigating. 

Utah

Myth #2

You can’t boondock without solar – I’m here to tell you first hand, we did it for 8 months very successfully. We did however equip our 5th wheel with 6 lead-acid batteries and 2 generators to help with the important things like blow drying my hair, and running the vacuum. Ha! Small, lead-acid batteries are not too expensive. A few years ago we did upgraded to lithium batteries, and wow! What a great upgrade that was! We also opened an RV solar installation company and can help support the life you’re working to create! Check it out here!

Myth #3

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You’re cut off from society and there is no internet. – Both completely untrue. As I sit here today I’m running off the hotspot – click here to see how we stay connected. Which is 4 bars, LTE. I’m sitting up on top of the world in Colorado, surrounded by about 12-13 other friends streaming Netflix and working remotely. We gather in the evenings and enjoy each other’s company while watching the beautiful sun go down over Colorado. 

2022 update: We bought into Starlink a few months ago, and though we still have our same hotspot, this was certainly a game changer for us. They now offer roaming for the Starlink!

Myth #4

It’s too hard to find boondocking spots – Today with the 10-15 different apps specifically for finding campgrounds and boondocking sites out there, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. But it does take some planning. You can’t just call and ask if there is room for you, or if your rig can get in that place. You have to take a little time, read reviews (on more than one site), and make sure you have done your research and will be comfortable staying there. 

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Myth #5

It’s dangerous – I’m not going to tell you it’s all rainbow and unicorns every time. Not even all campgrounds are that. But the most wonderful thing of all is your house has wheels. If you don’t feel right, you go to plan B. That’s why our biggest advice is to have a plan B and then lastly a local Walmart to stay for the night. Don’t get discouraged. It’s a learning curve and once you’ve got it down, your planning and arriving will be faster than sitting on the phone trying to make reservations at a campground. And … you don’t have to check out by 11am. Ha! In the year and a half, we have been on the road, there was only one place we didn’t feel right in. We were completely safe, but I was just not feeling the area was somewhere to leave a very big, very expensive rig for the day while we go exploring. So, we ended up going about 15 miles down the road, loved it so much we stayed 9 days. 

Myth #6

Here’s a big one: You can’t take a shower every day – I can guarantee we take a shower every day. Both of us. Sometimes 2 depending on what we’ve done that day. Do we let the water run for 15 minutes? No! But we thoroughly wash and thoroughly rinse. We also use a water bladder (click here to see) that we go get water in, and fill up our tanks. Only once in 15 months have we paid for water, and even that was a very small charge. 

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Myth #7

Water/dump station is hard to find – Again, a huge myth. Easy to find, and even a lot of the apps online have started listing local dump stations and water stations. Also, our number 1 piece of advice is to talk to locals. Grocery stores, gas stations, they all know where these things are. And usually very eager to share. (Check out our top 18 apps blog here)

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Myth #8

We can’t fit in all boondocking places – Correct! You will not fit in all (depending on your size) but you will fit in most. There are open fields, and flat areas to venture into, along with steep cliffs and mountains to climb. We travel to some pretty epic boondocking places, in a 39-foot, Grand Design, 3 slide 5th wheel. Take it slow and know your own rig’s limitations. Go where you are comfortable going. 

Myth #9

I can’t cook if I’m not plugged in – Another complete myth. I realize I might be a little different from some now that we have solar, but I cooked every day before solar using my Instant Pot, my stove, and my oven. We tried some fun cooking outside in foil recipes over an open fire and also used a little tabletop grill. Don’t let this stop you from trying. There are options. 

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Myth #10

Boondocking is too expensive – I never quite understood this one. Boondocking is generally free. To the people who have said this, I have to wonder if they weren’t referring to the misinformation of thinking they need solar to boondock. Campgrounds generally cost $25 to $75 a night. Depending on where and your wants and needs. I am writing and releasing this blog on the 30th of June, 2018, and so far since January 1st, we have spent a total of $48 in camping fees for 2018. (Update! We ended 2018 spending exactly that amount! You can read that blog here)

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How is that expensive? We will do what we need to do, but our personal little hope is to be less than $500 for the year. We may actually make it … you think? Ha Ha, Maybe we can be less than $100 this year. I do understand the cost of gas to run a generator all day. Depending on how much you spend per day doing that, I think maybe this is where the “too expensive” might be coming from. If upfront you can sink a little into the batteries, you won’t have to run your generator all the time. Just to charge your batteries. We ran on just batteries for the first 8-9 months and running 2 generators parallel we still didn’t spend the amount it cost to stay in a campground.

KY

Because we don’t spend this money on campgrounds, we are able to go out to dinner a few extra times, maybe take a tour of something we’ve wanted to but thought it was too expensive. It really gives us such freedom. After boondocking for over a year, it’s now something we find fun to do. 


Where will we find the next epic spot? Who knows! Make sure you follow us or maybe come join us sometime. Every picture you see is from a free boondocking location. And we have so many more we’d love to share with you. 

UPDATE!!!! We ended the year 2018 spending only $48 on camping fees. Yes, we have solar. (Added solar December 2017) Yes, we have batteries. And no, they weren’t cheap. But we have recouped our money spent already, and enjoyed the epic scenery we saw instead the RV slide next to us! No regrets! No Pedestal – No Problem!

Here are a few blogs we think you’ll love!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you so much for coming to explore our little corner of the internet. You are so appreciated, and we hope you found value in our information. We’d love to hear your boondocking myths, and we’d love to help you through your fear of boondocking. Contact us with any questions you might have!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, How To's and Why Not's, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons, Travel Destinations & Stories

Free Camping in South Carolina

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a hundred times – “There is no boondocking on the East Coast“. I’m here to say “yes there is!”.

Boondocking on the East Coast

Yes, it is different. It is more limited. But it can still be done. There are some amazing, beautiful places to boondock on the east coast. What we’ve noticed is you need to be more flexible. If there is a certain destination you need or want to be in, you may not find the availability like you can out West. But if you’re flexible, and can explore more, you’ll find a lot of places, and some amazing things you may not have even known about.

Boondocking in South Carolina

When we first wanted to explore just north of Charleston, SC. we found a nice little spot to stay for free. But when we arrived it had been closed off due to a government shut down. As we were looking for our Plan B, a ranger came up and told us about Santee Coastal Reserve. Explaining we can only stay for 4 days but that it was free, beautiful, available and just down the road.

Santee Coastal Reserve

This was one of our favorite boondocking areas on record. Even though we could stay only 4 days, we made the best of it. We visited many historic plantations in the McClellanville area. And hiked some trails right there in the Santee Coastal Reserve. No driving required!

GPS For Our Camping Spot

There are 8 very large camping areas amongst the old oak trees covered in beautiful Spanish moss. When we arrived there wasn’t anyone staying in any of the spots. You could easily fit two big rigs in each spot if you were traveling with friends. AT&T and Verizon service were good enough for me (Stacy) to work. GPS: 33.154569, -79.367734. Check out our video below for more information on Santee Coastal Reserve and the area surrounding it.

If you’re looking for free camping on the East Coast, you might have to look a little harder than in other areas of the US but it can be done.

For more epic boondocking, check out our travel map! We listed every stop we made in 2018 and 2019.

Also check out some of our boondocking blogs

Where have you done some free camping on the East Coast? We’d love to hear from you!

Hidden Gems in Iowa
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Iowa. Exploring the Our Top Hidden Gems.

Wait – Do people go to Iowa? I hope so!! I never see anyone talk about the beauty in Iowa, and there are so many amazing things to see! You’ll love it! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. If you love boondocking, you’ll find a suggestion or two at the end of the blog.

Fun Facts – Did you know that Iowa is home to the world’s largest Bull named Albert?  And Iowa’s largest frying pan? Does that mean there is another “largest frying pan” somewhere else? I mean, who knew? 

Exploring our Top Hidden and Most Unique Places to Visit in Iowa

There are some really interesting and popular things to see in DesMoines. So if you’re going to Iowa, you’re probably heading there. But also check out our list of Off the Beaten Path places. 

Masquoketa Caves

Located in the state park with the same name, you’ll fall in love with the beauty here! Opened back up in April of 2021! With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions. And you’ll love the campground at Maquoketa Caves State park! This little state park is definitely grand when it comes to caves and you’ll learn about the cave history, and explore the gorgeous area. It’s well worth a day trip (or make it two).

Ice Cave Hill Park

ICE HILL

Decorah’s remarkable ice cave is located near Dunning’s Spring. While Iowa enjoys four seasons, you will find that the ice cave is frozen all year long, due to its glacial location. It’s a short hike up to the cave, and while the cave is small, it is a sight to see. Even in the Summer heat, be prepared to be cold in there. I wouldn’t even suggest taking a jacket though, as you’ll be in and out of there pretty quick.

Devonian Fossil Gorge

meFossil Gorge

This once hidden gorge was revealed by the floods of 1993, and it’s a fascinating place to stop if you’re in the Iowa City/Coralville area. Bring your cell phone!! You can take a free guided tour. There are instructions on a sign in the beginning. The gorge is actually a 375-million-year-old ocean floor with incredible fossils that are older than the dinosaurs. To get there, take I -80 Exit #244, go north for 2.6 miles on Dubuque Street NE, then east 1.3 miles on West Overlook Road to the Coralville Lake and Dam.

Dunning Springs

Located in Decorah, Iowa. There is a 200-foot waterfall located just minutes from downtown. Not a long hike at all, and bring your lunch. It’s beautiful!

Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge

A warning to the weak-kneed: This narrow bridge does its swinging eight stories high.

meLoversLeapBridge

Directions: Columbus Junction is about 35 miles south of Iowa City, down Rt 218. Take a left onto Hwy 92 which turns into Oak Street when you get to town. Turn right onto Third Street (there’s a bright blue sign pointing the way), and the bridge is on the right where the road bends.

Historic Squirrel Cage Jail

mesquirrel-cage-cell

No, this isn’t a jail for squirrels. But this is a super great concept. This rotating jailhouse in Council Bluffs is one of the only jails of its type left in existence. Tour the inner workings of this unique jail built in 1885 and learn about the prisoners it held.

Wildcat Den State Park

We really love to explore state parks. The natural beauty of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine will truly take your breath away. The park features an extensive trail system, with 75-foot cliffs and amazing rock formations. The park also has several historic structures to explore. Located at 1886 Wildcat Den Rd., in Muscatine

Fenelon Place Elevator

Fenelon Place Elevator

When you get to the top of the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, you’ll be able to see not one…not two…but THREE states! Take a ride on the shortest, steepest railway in the world that elevates passengers almost 200 feet in the length of one city block.

The High Trestle Trail

The High Trestle Trail is a nature lover’s paradise and a work of art. It is a half-mile, the 130-foot-tall bridge gets bathed in blue light at night. Bike, walk or jog across the bridge, located near Madrid, for a one-of-a-kind experience. The 41 steel “frames” over the bridge represent support cribs within a historic coal mine. 

High Trestle Trail

After dark, the bridge comes alive as blue lights illuminate a section of the steel cribbings, which mark the location of the main river channel below. From April through October, the bridge is lit from sunset until midnight. From November through March, the lights turn off at 9 p.m.

Matchstick Marvels Museum

Located in Gladbrooke, Iowa. If you’re looking for something to do inside that is different and unique, this is the place! Patric Action of Iowa has been building detailed scale models with wooden matchsticks for nearly 40 years. In that time he’s created around 70 elaborate designs, from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Wright Brothers’ Flyer. Each model is comprised of hundreds of thousands of two-inch matchsticks, which Acton has spent hours shaping, warping, and gluing together with careful precision in an impressive one-man operation.

This is such an amazing art form. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12, and under 5 is free. The museum is open from April 1 through November 30, seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is handicapped-accessible.

Roller Coaster Road

Are you up for a wild ride?

If anyone gets car sick in your group, definitely skip this one! Just outside of Harper’s Ferry in Northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County is Roller Coaster Road (Yes, it’s actually named that!). These thrills are typically reserved for the theme park, but here you can try it out in your car. Just remember to drive safely!

Boondocking

  • Big Creek Lake WMA (Polk City). We love Wildlife Management Areas. We also stayed at one in Colorado. Don’t pass these by: GPS: 41.819025, -93.756061
  • Hawkeye WMA. GPS: 41.792561, -91.71432 Gravel road is about 3 miles long but totally accessible. Big rig friendly! 

Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!

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