In Our DIY Camper Van 🚐 Here we go!
🚐 We’ve Made our Dream Come True. After several years of dreaming of building a camper van to travel in, we added all of our necessities to our AWD Ford Transit that provides the comforts of home we want 🏠 As we embark to explore from sea to shining sea, our goal is to connect with people and places through visiting, service and good will, experience freedom and bonding through traveling together and unveil the spirit of uniting with nature’s Divine details.
🗓 1st Night, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
We started off from our home base of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Right away we made three big changes to our plans. What did we do and how did that affect our plan as we start off full time traveling in our first week in our camper van we love so much?
Our thought is to stay north for cooler summer temps and south for a warmer winter since we want to be in optimum weather for exploring and staying overnight along the way. But, we’re already making different decisions and headed south as we wanted to go through the prettier parts of Colorado and to visit friends and then areas that we haven’t visited yet but in states we have been to before like Utah, Nevada and California.
We made our first stop two hours south of us in Highlands Ranch, Colorado where we lived for over 14 years raising our kids and making lifetime friendships as seen in our first article “Camper Van Going Full Time” We decided that we will stay one night at each location until we get to cooler temperatures eventually in San Francisco and up the west coast once we get there in a few weeks, staying for longer, exploring and enabling us to also spend more time documenting our trip.
🗓 2nd Night, Eagle Colorado
Sylvan Lake State Park
After visiting some friends for a quick visit, we traveled along I-70 through Colorado and arrived at Sylvan Lake State Park in Eagle. This has been a favorite camping destination for our family over the last few years when all of our kids were still at home. We camped in the Colorado Rocky Mountains over the 14+ years we lived in this beautiful state, but the last few years had us running from extreme weather and forest fires prompting me to say I was done camping in a tent 🏕 Been there, done that!
Several years ago, we started camping in yurts and cabins at Sylvan Lake State Park and anywhere else we could find better shelter and happier camper experiences in these majestic mountains. This park is one of my favorites even though the lake is relatively small. Go to Colorado State Parks and Wildlife website to find a park to visit.
We did experience some quick-moving rain storms 🌬🌦while we were hiking around the lake that seemed to come out of nowhere and whipped some alarmed kayakers across the water. In the mountains, there’s always the expectation that weather really can change in seconds. Nowhere else have I been in the US where this is more the case than in the Colorado Rockies where there are more mountain ranges in one state than any other. Just wait a second, and the weather will change. We love the safety and comfort of “camping”, or traveling in our camper van we custom built all ourselves.
What a beautiful landscape the record spring rains have brought to the state ending a drought and filling the rivers and reservoirs, showing off its array of July flowers. The sweet smell permeated the air all around from the lushness of the flowers, trees, grasses and rivers and was just heavenly.
The campground was the perfect place to set up our Starlink that we’ve had since last year when it opened up to service. Open skies to the north, but lots of trees on the outskirts of the area, gave a clear view for the satellite connection while being surrounded in the pine-filled, mountain setting.
🗓 3rd Night Green River, UT
Love’s Travel Stop
🥵☀️Once we traveled to the western side of the state, we went down in elevation and we started to experience 95+ degree temps during the day heading west on I70 through Colorado and going into Utah near the border. We checked out a Harvest Host location on the way, Buzzards Belly General Store in Cisco, Utah but it did not have an electric hookup option which we thought we might want after all due to the high temperatures. Even though it was still supposed to get down to the low 60’s at night, we knew we wouldn’t be able to run our portable AC for very long, so we opted to try something new with electric for the night.
Did you know that Love’s Travel Stops now have full RV hookup, overnight parking spots with water and electric and black tank access at their stations? Their fee is cheaper than an RV park and they are right off the highway and are great in a pinch, so we decided to go up the road another 30 minutes, mostly to try out the Love’s RV spots and to make sure we were going to be cool enough.
We tried out the portable AC through our window, and it worked great as long as we wrapped the output tube and the metal window vent we attach it to that sits in the rolled down window. The plan is to travel wherever it is the best temperatures for camping so that we don’t need AC but we know that perfect plans sometimes need some what-if options. The fans and vents that we have, do work great for circulating the hot air out and creating superb movement for air flow, but we also have the AC unit for a good backup option for now.
In the morning, we went inside to the Love’s where they have an Arby’s and we set up our computers and had our daily “morning meeting” and we went over our options for internet and how we want to go about documenting our travels. We also discussed the route we want to take to visit the people and places we feel we want to include. We researched the options for places to stay overnight using our typical resources such as Google Maps to pin and save locations in the folders I created. We also check out the AllStays and IOverlander apps as well as taking suggestions from friends and family.
🗓 4th Night, Richfield, Utah
Once I realized that we were heading toward some long time friends, we decided that we wanted to stop in to see them. These friends had moved away from Highlands Ranch a few years earlier than us so it had been awhile since we’ve been able to catch up in person. That brought us to Richfield, Utah and to another Harvest Host overnight stay which happens to be the best steakhouse around. Check out Steve’s Steakhouse if you’re in the area.
I have to mention that it also has a bakery that has so many scrumptious desserts, or breakfast sweets, however you want to “treat” them. We had the Carmelita thanks to our friend. Picture an oatmeal bar with carmel and chocolate sandwiched in the middle. Wow! Was it delicious.
Dinner was great too, but I guess I’m more of a dessert girl, especially with so many to choose from. I did have local trout for an entree with loaded mashed potatoes. The steak dinners were very well liked by the rest of our party as well and we had the best, friendly service!
5th Night Wendover, Utah
Historic Wendover Airfield
As we continued along our way and moved north, we strive to drive no more than two to four hours in a day. However, we wanted to get further north to get into some cooler weather and up to I80 and our goal of reaching San Francisco to meet friends there as well. Wendover was the next stay over and a Harvest Host at a museum was as good as any.
This historic airfield played a vital role during World War II and made significant contributions to the Manhattan Project. This is where they practiced dropping the atomic bomb on Japan!
🗓 6th Night, Winnemucca, NV
Cosgrave Rest Area
Did you know that many states allow for a quick stay over at their interstate rest areas? Make sure to check for the hours and rules for each state. We stayed at this rest area as a suggestion from a traveling friend and it was a good stop between many more miles of road to get to the cooler elevations in Nevada.
It was a great, safe spot, however, there were these giant sized crickets everywhere that the birds were just ecstatic to munch on. The whole scenario was disconcerting but they all wanted to stay away from people, thank goodness! I won’t show the video of the ginormous crickets in case it’s too freaky for anyone. Just wow.
There were amazing colors of the sun setting around the tops of the mountain points across the horizon including the Eugene peaks to the west as seen in the photos below.
🗓 Night 7 Fallon, Nevada
It is very fitting that the last night of our first week was such a special reservation to stay for the night. I love animals and I’ve always wanted to see and visit alpacas up close. Once, again, as we just renewed our Harvest Host membership, we stayed at a registered host and this one was a working farm where they had 40 alpacas ranging in age and attitude.
These cute alpacas also greatly ranged in appearance, some looked like they had mustaches they had been growing out for years or dolled up eye lashes or even a Mohawk. Just so you know, the fiber, not fur or wool, grows very slowly on their heads and faces, so they do not get sheared there. We had a tour of the farm and got to go inside each pen to try to make friends.
However, they were mostly very shy and did not want to be touched or patted. It seemed that only Thunder figured out that it was worth letting people get close to him to pat his neck for scratches. He also made sure to tell all of the rest of them in his area that only he should get the attention. Alpacas only spit at other alpacas, but once I figured out he was not sharing, I of course, would sneak some love to another daring personality while he was distracted. It was one of the highlights of the trip for sure.
Once again, the temperatures were up in the high 90’s, but we were so grateful that it cooled down significantly at night and we even needed a layer of blankets with with the screens open and didn’t even break out the AC. Very refreshing.
We are now Alpaca lovers!
Unfortunately, I did lose about two days of photos, mostly of our visit to the alpaca farm, because we switched over cell services as things were not working great, and we included our phones in the switcheroo. Apparently all of my photos had not downloaded to iCloud beforehand. Live and learn. Luckily, I had texted these few pictures posted here and was able to retrieve these.
Overall, a wonderful finish to our first week or our full-time travels in our custom made, DIY camper van. We have lots to learn and figure out as we go, but we are loving the experiences and thoughtful visits with people and places.
Follow us as we share how we live by these themes and principles through our adventures, as we have joy in all aspects of the journey and refine our spirits through purposeful experiences. May we meet up in person on our adventure or through our posts. Thank you for coming along with us on our first week! Have a good night on the trail fellow travelers, wherever you are 🚐🌄