We met in 1999 in Sunnyvale, California where I (Mark) was stationed while on active duty in the Air Force. We were married the same year, and over the next 17 years, we went from coast to coast on our assignments, living in Colorado, Arizona, and Virginia (twice) before ending up at Vandenberg AFB (now Space Force Base) on the Central Coast of California. We instantly fell in love with this area of California and often ask ourselves “what’s snow?”, “what’s rain?”. And with the low population, close proximity to Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles (where Hilary’s family lives, and of course the world-class wineries; we knew that this would be our forever home.
In 2017 I retired from the military and Hilary had left her defense contractor job behind a while back and was now working part-time at local wineries. Best of all, we expanded our family with the additions of Zeus, the most wonderful and best golden retriever ever, and then three years later came Odin, the not quite as great, but still wonderful corgi.
The Question That Planted Our RV Roots
Everything was going great in our lives until one day Hilary asked “have you ever thought about getting an RV?” It was an out-of-nowhere question, but it planted a seed that grew. Why not an RV? We did a lot of day trips, especially to the local wine areas, but always had to return at night. With an RV, we could plan an overnight trip with our dogs. We love traveling with our dogs, but finding places for them can be challenging and not to mention expensive. Plus there’s all the pack, unpack, repack that you have to do with traveling for multiple days so maybe an RV would be a better fit for us? But neither of us had ever had an RV much less traveled in an RV so before we made the leap, we were lucky to borrow a friend’s 35-footer for a long weekend up the road in Paso Robles wine country. From that trip, we learned two important lessons: #1 we loved the concept of the RV. It allowed us to take all of our stuff, bring the dogs, and go around to different places and not have to drive home afterward, and #2 THAT RV was not for us. It was too big, too hard to park, and had horrible gas mileage. So, it was time to hit the internet and see what choices were out there. We learned that Leisure Travel Vans quickly became the standard by which all other RVs were compared. Long story short, and what seemed like not much time later, we were driving the “Zephyr” back from St. Louis to our home in California and the start of our RV life began. You can read more about this choice and our first adventure in our very first LTV blog article at https://leisurevans.com/blog/start-with-the-best/.
While reading other LTV posts, we learned that everyone has a different way they travel. Some are full-time, some like long treks across the country. Others, like us, tend to stick to shorter vacations. Some can meander where the road takes them while others (again, like us) might need to plan more of our trips. And some will settle down for long stretches while others tend to move constantly just like we do. We have also found ways to use the RV in non-traditional ways such as day trips to the beach, date nights (especially during the great lock-downs of 2020 and 2021), and even while going to the doctor. It also makes a great guest house as we have the luxury of being able to plyg in and park at our house.
Most of our trips to date have been short ones. I mentioned that Paso Robles is just up the road, and while we did lots of day trips, once we found Harvest Hosts (which we HIGHLY recommend) and the ability to stay at a winery for the night, that’s become a go-to trip for us, especially on short notice. Only once have we stayed multiple nights at the same campground. I tell people that we don’t really go “camping” with our RV – we go “exploring”. That’s the kind of travel we like – seeing different things along the way and moving from place to place. Even when we took our first long trip, a 10-day journey up into Oregon and back down the coast where we moved every day to see new sights new adventures. You can read about that trip in our blog post called The Oregon Trail…Tail…Tale. Wine-related trips are a staple for us, whether local or up to Napa or other areas in California. And of course, the dogs come with us everywhere we go. Odin has become quite the author with multiple LTV blog posts which you can read here. He’s even been recognized by other LTV owners! We, unfortunately, lost Zeus, but we have added Thor (the other corgi) and Apollo (the English cream golden retriever) to our pack and our travels.
How RVing Has Impacted Our Lives
There have been no regrets since getting our RV. We love the LTV as well as our floorplan and options with the Unity FX model. We enjoy taking the whole family (humans and dogs) on trips. Sometimes we’re seeing new places and sometimes just getting away for a night or two. Having an RV has certainly allowed us to take more of those trips. And we’re just starting to get our feet wet with longer RV journeys. First, we had our Oregon trip last year, and this year we’re being more ambitious and taking the Zephyr across the country and back again. I’m not sure if that will be the norm but once I fully retired, I think we’ll be taking more trips. We already have a list!
Favorite Travel Destinations
Bryce Canyon is like nowhere else we’ve been. The views are amazing and there are different things to see from every angle. Walking down into the hoodoos brings a whole new viewpoint and scenery. It can be difficult in an RV, so we had to park it at the visitor’s center and take a bus around (no dogs on this trip), but we highly recommend it.
This is a short drive up the road for us, but there are literally hundreds of wineries with some of the best wine you’ll ever find. Not as crowded or as expensive as the more famous Napa area. We especially love it for the multiple Harvest Host wineries where we can taste and then spend the night in the vineyard. Our go-to place for a quick weekend getaway.
There are so many tremendous sights along the Oregon Coast. We traveled the lower half of it, pulling over at many of the turnouts to see the dramatic coastline. There are a few campgrounds and parks – we especially enjoyed Beverly Beach State Park. And while you may get a soggy day or two, it’s still worth the trip.