These past 6 months have brought about changes in our lives that no one in their wildest dreams could have anticipated. One thing that happened is that my travel schedule went from constantly jetting around the globe to staying put for longer than I have in the past thirty years. There were benefits to this, of course, staying healthy being the most important; along with time spent with my immediate family that never would have happened otherwise. That was a joy. During lockdown, quarantine, social distancing or whatever you choose to call it, I exercised, cooked, read, needlepointed and spent lots of time on the phone with family and friends. I also counted the seconds until we could resume travel (safely) in some fashion.
Travel outside the US doesn’t seem to be on the horizon anytime soon (though my fingers remained crossed), so I began to dream about exploring our own great nation. I read article after article about Road Trips across the country, and as we have been based in Montana there was much to explore. If we could travel in our own little bubble, wouldn’t that be a dream?
Many of your who know me well would say that buying an RV would be the very last thing they might imagine, but in fact my husband and I had looked into doing just that about 5 years ago. In 2015, just before we were hitting a milestone birthday we read an article in the WSJ about the ultimate Camper, the Bowlus Road Chief. With visions of traveling across country for our 50th celebration dancing in our heads, we had extensive conversations with the Longs who founded the company. Ultimately though, we determined we had too many travel commitments in 2016 and felt that we wouldn’t use it as much as we hoped, so we didn’t end up purchasing one at that time.
Fast forward to 2020 and Covid, it was time to revisit our initial idea. One morning in June I placed a call to Helen Mitchell at Bowlus and inquired as to availability. Believe it or not, she remembered our conversations and was more than happy to help. Covid had created a boom for them (there are relatively few produced each year) and as it happened they had one whose purchaser had decided to customize their order rather than take it as is, and if we were interested we could purchase it. If we didn’t snag the one available model the wait would be until summer 2021. After a quick contemplation, I said we would take it as long as we would receive delivery by early August. The stars aligned, and it all worked out!
The Bowlus Road Chief (we purchased the Performance Edition) is manufactured by hand, and it is truly a work of art. They pride themselves on being the ultimate in land travel, and I don’t believe there is a finer product out there. Granted, this is not for everyone. The price is very high, but the hours and work that go in creating it justify it. It is also tiny- just the right size for my husband, myself, and our dog. As empty nesters, trips in the Bowlus are just for us.
Many people see our silver trailer and assume it is an Airstream, but in fact the Bowlus was the precursor to the Airstream, the company was founded in the 1930s and there are still several from that time that have been restored and are on the road. If you are a tech nerd you should read the specs on their website– you can literally live in the Bowlus for weeks at time while enjoying all the comforts of home, including Wifi, air-conditioning, heated floors, a teak shower, and a real toilet! Granted, I am not planning on doing any extended stays, but it’s nice to know I can.
In early August we received delivery of Happy Trailz, the name we bestowed on it with many creative suggestions from friends, and ultimately a vote. We were a little bit nervous as we had never actually seen the Bowlus in person, but were thrilled when it arrived. We also realized we had our work cut out for us. Along with the Bowlus came a very large and very technical manual. Suffice it to say we were complete newbies and had a lot to learn. Thankfully my husband thoroughly enjoys reading a manual, so I tackled ordering all that we needed for the inside.
The interiors are quite stunning, but as you can imagine in such a compact space, all the the inner workings are cleverly hidden away and are not exactly intuitive. We were advised by an RV owning friend to spend the night in the driveway testing everything out before we actually took a trip. Thankfully we listened, as that first night somehow we ended up draining the entire water supply due to a valve being in the wrong position.
In the same vein that I never imagined myself an RV girl, I also couldn’t picture myself staying in Trailer Parks so I was excited to find Harvest Hosts, a membership network that for a very low yearly fee allows self contained RVs to park at farms, wineries, and breweries for free! This seemed right up my alley. There is also an organization called HipCamp that is similar and worth cross referencing when planning a trip.
After our night in the driveway, we were ready for the Big League. We planned a trip to Utah, to the Amangiri Resort which would enable us to stop for a night on the way there and one night on the way back. The Amangiri review is coming soon (spoiler alert- it was fabulous).
We checked Harvest Hosts and found a spot located about half way called Starry Hollow Ranch in Rush Valley Utah.
We had checked in with the owner Genny to let her know when she could expect us, and followed her detailed direction which led us to her picturesque 20 acre farm.
The approach couldn’t have been more beautiful, and it bode well for the lovely stay we would enjoy.
The farm was well maintained, and the animals appeared content as could be. They seemed used to visitors and kept an eye on us as we pulled in to our spot alongside one of the barns.
I felt a kinship with this alpaca, loving his hairdo.
Genny was not there when we arrived, but we were greeted by her husband Shane, and were encouraged to set up camp and then we could tour the property once Genny returned.
Genny and Shane have a real vision for what they hope Starry Hollow Ranch will someday become. Aside from a place to spend the night, they envision growing their goat rescue operation, as well as holding weddings onsite. They hope to build out a cabin so guests can stay in the winter and be able to ski. Genny is unbelievably passionate about her animals, and is happy to share her enthusiasm. I was able to cuddle one of the baby goats, and we were also able to provide them with treats. Part of the expectation of staying at a Harvest Host location (since it is free) is to buy something from the farmer or winemaker. In this case Genny had lots to choose from including homemade soap, cookies, honey, and a doily made by a 90 year old neighbor. We left with a large haul of goodies, and tacked on a small donation for treats to feed her goats.
As it was our first real night in Happy Trailz we we decided to celebrate with some Champagne.
We drank a toast to our good fortune in being able to experience such a special place.
Following our stay at Amangiri we stopped at another Harvest Host site in Utah on the way home, Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin. Rowley’s allows self-contained RVs to camp in their parking lot behind the Barn without a reservation. There were 5 others there when we arrived at 8pm. This location was just off the highway, and isn’t what I would describe as atmospheric, especially when comparing it our last stop. The choices in Utah were slim, so this is where we were going to stay.
There were many treats inside the shop, but unfortunately about 98% of the patrons were unmasked (the servers and cashiers were) and they looked at us and our masks as though we landed from outer space.
There was a convoluted system of ordering and collecting the ice cream, so once we finally navigated that we high-tailed it out of there. People seem to rave about their ice cream, but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed.
Even though Rowley’s Red Barn was a let down, we did get to enjoy a spectacular sunset.
On the way home we decided to stop in Idaho Falls at a classic Mexican Joint we heard was terrific. We passed through Salt Lake City on the way.
Morenitas was located in a residential neighborhood, and was mobbed. We seemed to have picked right.
As they did not have any outdoor seating we got our meals to go. The Huevos Rancheros was very tasty. We parked at a Rest Stop at ate in our Camper.
We returned home relieved after a successful first journey. In this new world of Campers, RVs, Campsites, and Covid safe travel, I find it is not where we ever expected to be, but I know we have loads of new adventures to look forward to.