When we rang in 2018 on New Year’s Day last year, we had been traveling full-time for over ten years, and our traveling lifestyle and methods were a well oiled machine. We had lots more travel adventures planned for the future, but we figured they’d be similar to what we’ve been doing for over a decade involving two people, several cameras, a bunch of lenses and a rolling or floating home.
And then we unexpectedly became the owners of a puppy, and our lives were turned upside down!
We didn’t know at the time that in the Chinese calendar 2018 was the Year of the Dog, but we soon discovered that in our own personal calendar that’s exactly what was going on!
Our sweet little puppy, Buddy, stole our hearts. He also stole a bunch of our living space and a lot of our time, but we were happy to give those things up because he was so dear.
Suddenly, we were emptying our shelves and closets to make room for bags of dog food. In no time at all we’d acquired 100 lbs. of dog food to feed our 20 lb. dog!
And everywhere we turned we were stumbling over little dog toys. Not only did Buddy have an indoor toy box full of toys he’d received from friends and his indulgent owners, but he also had an outdoor toy box full of treasures he’d found on his own during our walks, from balls to sandals to sticks and gloves.
Suddenly our time was no longer entirely our own either. Not only did we need to make time for energetic walks with our puppy morning and night and monitor his nature calls, but every so often a little furry face would pop up in front of us wanting to play.
All of this took quite a bit of getting used to, so we began 2018 by sticking around central Arizona and not traveling too far. At Lake Pleasant and Canyon Lake we got into a rhythm of twice daily walks and training sessions to teach Buddy some basic manners. He proved to be an eager and fast learner.
This was good because in early February we had the extraordinary experience of spending three full days working with a video team to create a video for Camping World’s “RVing is for Everyone” ad campaign.
As part of the video shoot we took Buddy on the fun Dolly Steamboat excursion on Canyon Lake, and we walked all around the Superstition Mountain Museum and the Goldfield Ghost Town near Lost Dutchman State Park.
Buddy was a trooper through all the commotion of endless re-takes in front of the camera, even though he was just a few months old. The producers didn’t give him a speaking role, but there’s no question he was the star of the show.
As we traveled north along the California side of the Colorado River, Buddy met his first wild burros. One came right up to the truck window to say hello!
Going north from there, we came to the fabulous red rocks of Goblin Valley State Park where crazy hoodoos fill a valley and kids of all ages and furriness love to play.
It was early April, and as we continued our northward progress through Utah we soon encountered snow and ice in the mountains at Strawberry Reservoir. This is a summertime hot spot, but we loved the stillness and peace of the pre-season.
In the village of Wanship, Utah, we made a turn in town and suddenly found ourselves right in front of Escapod Teardrop Trailers. This small shop turns out terrific, rugged off-road teardrop trailers, and we got an impromptu and inspiring look at a few.
We continued to press north past Salt Lake City and visited several small lakes and reservoirs that oozed a fairy tale charm when blanketed with a layer of snow.
Buddy had his first taste of snow and left his little paw prints on our stairs.
Bear Lake, located in the north end of Utah, is known for its inviting vivid blue water and is lovingly nicknamed “The Caribbean of the Rockies.” In mid-April it was way too cold for swimming, but with few campers wanting to brave the wintry air at the water’s edge, we were able to watch the wildlife and enjoy the lake in solitude undisturbed.
We headed north and east for a while along wonderful back roads in Wyoming. Winter wasn’t exactly over in this neck of the woods, and as we climbed over mountain passes storms threatened.
When we pointed our trailer west again, we found sunshine at lovely Keyhole Reservoir where Buddy posed amid the evergreens and craggy rocks. Mark snapped a pic of him that won a small jackpot in a photo contest a few months later!
We then continued west into Montana to hook up with vacationing family. We explored the National Bison Range and the historic St. Ignatius mission church and enjoyed several outdoor eateries along the way.
The gorgeous east side of Glacier National Park was a glorious next stop with views of soaring jagged peaks, clear blue alpine lakes, and a cool historic lodge.
It was early June and the Going to the Sun Road was still closed because of icy and avalanche conditions at the peak of Logan Pass. So, we drove, walked and wandered all around the eastern parts of Glacier National Park, especially spectacular Many Glacier, and we took endless photos of wildflowers in front of a snowcapped mountain backdrop.
Our original goal for the year had been to visit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan over the summer, so we began moving east and a bit south with an eventual arrival there in mind. We visited tiny Choteau, Great Falls and Harlowton in Montana. On the way we were surprised to find ourselves near an Amish community when we turned at Eddie’s Corner.
We love small towns, and the town of Red Lodge, Montana, charmed us with its main street full of cute shops and bistros. Buddy was particularly fond of the store, “Lewis and Bark’s Outpost.”
Red Lodge sits at one end of the jaw-dropping Beartooth Scenic Highway, and we drove it several times. Our mouths hung open in awe every single time. It was mid-June and the vast mountain-scapes were still covered with beautiful patterns of snow.
The Beartooth Scenic Highway is another of those “must do” trips for all RVers, and seeing it before the snow melts is wonderful.
By now we were pretty used to having a dog in our lives. Oddly, it seemed as though Buddy had always been with us, and whenever we’d chat about memories of different places we’d have to remind ourselves he hadn’t been with us then. So strange! It seemed only natural now to have all three of us together all the time and for me to look over and see his fuzzy face next to Mark’s in the truck.
The Beartooth Scenic Highway crosses from Montana into Wyoming, and from there the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway branches off. This is yet another “must do” for RVers (we were so lucky to hit so many “must do” spots in 2018).
We drove the exquisite Chief Joseph Scenic Highway several times, and in our explorations we came across groves of wildflowers that were like nothing we’d ever seen. Flowers of every color were in the peak of bloom. It was a photographer’s dream.
The views on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway were dramatic as the road climbed and fell and swooped around the mountains. One morning we got up before sunrise so we could catch the pink light at an overlook at dawn.
The Chief Joseph Highway is anchored at its south end by the town of Cody, Wyoming, an ideal spot to spend the 4th of July. Cody celebrated Independence day with so much gusto that there were parades on three consecutive mornings! If you’re looking for a fun place to spend the 4th of July, Cody is a great one (as is Custer, South Dakota!).
After all the cold weather in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was quite a shock to visit Big Horn Canyon which is a lot lower in elevation and very hot in mid-July. But the red rocks were spectacular in the early morning light, ideal for a photo shoot.
In the heat of mid-July we kept looking at the map and the various routes that might take us from Wyoming to Lake Superior, but the temps in those places were scorching. We decided to wait for cooler temps rather than burning our toes hop-scotching across the country. A stop in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains and Lake DeSmet gave us some fun photo ops and a slight respite from the heat.
Moving east and north into South Dakota, we explored some badland areas in the prairie (not the famous Badlands National Park which we’d visited the year before). In the tiny hamlet of Buffalo, South Dakota, we watched the Soap Box Derby races over Labor Day Weekend. Little kids rolled down a small hill in wheeled contraptions of all kinds amid whoops and hollers from parents and friends.
Just over the border in North Dakota we stopped at Roosevelt National Park with plans to do some extended exploring.
The greeter they’ve hired at the Visitors Center is the wild bovine kind with big horns and a thick furry neck. What a surprise it was to see him on duty as cars and trucks rolled in and out of the parking area!
By now it was mid-September and the temps had cooled sufficiently between our neck of the woods and Lake Superior to make a dash for it. Seeing the leaves changing color at Roosevelt National Park, we worried we might miss the show in Michigan if we didn’t leave soon, so we decided to save that National Park for a future visit and hustled across the top of the country.
At Walker, Minnesota, we pulled into town on the weekend of their Ethnic Festival. This is a town that has a festival every weekend it isn’t snowing — and even a few when it is — so it’s a good one to add to any itinerary since you’ll be swept up in a celelbration no matter when you go.
What fun it was to see and hear real alpen horns being played by two women in Scandinavian garb!
We finally landed on the shores of Lake Superior at charming little Cornucopia, Wisconsin. Big sailboats and little kayaks bobbed in the water.
In our new travels-with-dog we’d discovered that dogs are as particular about their friends as people are. Buddy loves dogs his age and size, and even though we’d met hundreds of different dogs all across the country, few were a matching size, age and temperament for a lasting friendship. On the docks of the marina at Cornucopia, Buddy found a soulmate in the resident pup, and they tore all over the place in a rolling heap of happy puppiness.
Lakeshore Drive along Lake Superior is a beautiful scenic drive, and we stopped at all the pretty towns along the way. Bayfield, Wisconsin, was particularly enchanting in the early morning hours of a blustery day. But it was an accidental upside down photo of Buddy reflected in a puddle that stood out for us as a favorite pic from Bayfield.
With any new place we travel to, we always arrive with some preconceptions of what it will look like and be like. These usually prove false in one way or another, and the Upper Peninsula shoreline of Lake Superior in Michigan was no exception.
In the waterfront town of Ontonagon we strolled the beach at sunset and got some wonderful photos of the sun setting. This was one of our first Lake Superior shoreside stops in the U.P., and we assumed we’d have afternoons and evenings like that every day for the next few weeks. So, we glanced at our photos and shrugged that we would do so much better in the coming days.
Well, Mother Nature had other plans, and that was the last we saw of sunrises and sunsets for the next few weeks. What a wonderful life lesson was reinforced as we looked back at that evening on the beach: always treasure the moment you are in right now!
Despite dreary cold weather, we saw lots of stunning beauty in the U.P. The area is dotted with ponds and small lakes, and we caught the leaves changing color in many spots.
Buddy was loving the lush grass that grows everywhere east of the mountain states, and having a few leaves in the pics added a colorful touch!
This area is known for the little meat pies that were beloved by Cornish miners across the pond a century ago. Yummy “pasties” were sold everywhere in the U.P., and we ate quite a few. It was fun to warm up the cold, damp interior of our trailer by popping one of these meat pies in the oven to heat it up!
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has dozens, maybe hundreds, of waterfalls, and a few are quite famous, for good reason. Taquamenon Falls is a true beauty, and the upper part of Bond Falls is a favorite among photographers.
At the bottom of Michigan’s U.P., just before crossing into the Lower Peninsula, we took a ferry out to Mackinac Island. This special island never took to motorized vehicle travel, and everything is done by horse and buggy or by bicycle. We had a ball watching the carriages and flat bed trailers being towed down the street by teams of horses.
Down in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan we stopped in at Metamora-Hadley State Park. All of the state park campgrounds in Michigan — and many throughout the midwest — entice folks to go camping even when it’s cold and wet in October by hosting fabulous Halloween events. We arrived on a Sunday morning, and not only was every campsite full but each one was decorated to the hilt with ghosts and goblins and witches and pumpkins.
It was mid-October and high time to start dropping south. But first we visited Elkhart, Indiana, and the surrounding towns of Goshen, Shipshewana and Nappanee that are all home to the RV industry manufacturers. This area is fascinating for its long history as the heart and home of all things RV, and the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum was a highlight of our stay.
We made a few pit-stops on our way south and west from Indiana, but we were on a mission to get to a place that was warm and dry so we could thaw out a little and regroup.
At that point, as we looked back at our year of travel to date, it felt as though we had made two big journeys — one from Arizona up through Utah into Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, and a second one along Lake Superior and down through the midwest. It had been an outstanding year, but we were absolutely pooped.
Buddy was affected too. He had loved being in our truck early in our travels and had happily sat between us as we drove. But the weeks of long 150+ mile days in stressful rainy driving conditions on scary busy roads that made our tempers rise each time we got lost (which was about every hour or so), wore on him as well as us. Suddenly, he developed an outright shivering fear of the truck.
So we spent several weeks in the beautiful state parks of New Mexico, hiking every day, soaking in the sunshine, and leaving the truck parked.
When we arrived in Phoenix he was beside himself with excitement as he saw the people and homes he had known as a young puppy. We were very surprised to find he not only remembered them all but was thrilled to be back.
Before we’d left Arizona the previous winter, Buddy had become best friends with our friend’s pup named Mason. Mason was a rescue dog too. Whereas Buddy had been left in “a box of puppies” at the Animal Welfare League in downtown Phoenix, Mason had been dumped in the desert on Table Mesa Road north of Phoenix as a puppy and left to fend for himself. Somehow he’d survived, despite being an ideal coyote snack, although he was in very tough shape when we was found hiding from the rain under some debris.
He and Buddy took to each other the moment they met last year. It was truly love at first sight — or sniff.
This year, as we drove to a parking spot on the street by Mason’s house, both dogs went crazy before they even saw each other, Mason in his fenced yard (he couldn’t see us arriving!) and Buddy in our truck (he’d only visited a few times last year!). How did they know?
After 8 months apart, the two dogs picked up right where they left off in a happy tussle of fur and paws rolling around with each other and running across the grass.
Like all travelers, Buddy has learned the wonders of seeing new things and meeting new friends. But he has also learned how heartwarming it is to return to a favorite place and be back with loved ones.
As for us, we have learned that traveling with a dog has its complications, but there’s nothing like living with a little fur person who is absolutely thrilled to jump out of bed each morning and is unabashedly happy to be alive each and every day.
HAPPY TRAILS and HAPPY TAILS in 2019!!
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How We Got a Puppy
TRAVEL RECAPS from PREVIOUS YEARS:An Overview of Our First 10 Years of Full-time Travel + Reflections after 9 Years!
- 10 Years of RVing and Sailing Full-time - The Early Years! - Running away in an RV, then broadening our horizons on a sailboat.
- 10 Years of Living on the Road - 2nd Half! - Fulfilling all our cruising dreams and then returning to full-time RVing!
- 9th Anniversary of RVing and Sailing Full-time - Reflections on how we started and what the first few months were like.
- 2007-2012 - Years of Discovery and Exploration by RV and Sailboat - WOW! We're FREE!
- 2013 - A Year of Transition: Goodbye Groovy, Hello Buggy! - Our last year in Mexico on our sailboat
- 2014 - A Year of Beauty in our RV - Back to full-time RVing...What a rush!
- 2015 - A Thrilling RV Journey East - From Arizona to Florida to Nova Scotia and back!
- 2016 - A Year of RVing the National Parks in America and Canada - Park to Park to the Canadian Rockies. SPECTACULAR!
- 2017 - RVing the West + Flying to Thailand, Cambodia & Paris! - What a fulfilling whirlwind!
- 2018 - The Year of the Dog! - Buddy turned our lives upside down and stole our hearts!
All of our non-travel articles from 2018:
- 101 MORE Great RV Gift Ideas for RVers, Campers & Outdoor Lovers! 11/17/18
- Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review 08/17/18
- Camping World Video Shoot — RVing is for Everyone! 04/06/18
- Cold Weather RVing – Brrr… (or Ahhhh?!) 01/12/18
- Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips 12/07/18
- Lessons Learned in the Full-time RV Lifestyle – Tips & Ideas! 05/25/18
- Merry Christmas and Thank You for a Great Year! 12/22/18
- MORryde SRE 4000 Installation & Review – Smooth Trailer Towing 03/23/18
- Puppy Chow – Is There A Dog Living In Our RV ??? 01/26/18
- Repacking and Inspecting Fifth Wheel Trailer Wheel Bearings 02/23/18
- Repairing and Replacing RV Roof Vents After a Hail Storm! 08/03/18
- RV Awning Installation and Repair – Replacing the Awning Fabric 08/24/18
- RV Roof Repair – Rubber Roof Patch + Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement! 11/23/18
- RV Screen Door Modifications & Upgrades 03/09/18
- SunwayFoto Gimbal Head Review – Catching Birds in Flight! 05/04/18
(Mostly) chronological list of our travel articles from 2018:
- 2017 Travels – RVing the West and Flying to Thailand & Cambodia 01/05/18
- Fall River Balloon Festival in Hot Springs, South Dakota 01/19/18
- Lake Pleasant & Canyon Lake – Waterfront Camping in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert 02/02/18
- Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake 02/09/18
- Lost Dutchman State Park Campground – Arizona Gold in the Superstitions 02/15/18
- Magical Moments in the RV Life 03/02/18
- Wild Burros of the Colorado River – A Puppy’s View! 03/16/18
- Waterfront Dining in Arizona – Scorpion Bay & River’s Edge Cantina 03/30/18
- A Back Roads RV Trip – AZ to NV to UT – Colorado River & Spanish Trail 04/13/18
- Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park 04/16/18
- Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground! 04/20/18
- Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – Springtime Beauty with Ice & Snow! 04/23/18
- Escapod Teardrop Trailers – Rugged Campers for Off-Road Adventure! 04/27/18
- Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City 04/30/18
- Bear Lake, Utah – A Turquoise Paradise in Snowy Mountains 05/11/18
- Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild! 05/18/18
- RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls 06/01/18
- Montana Road Trip – Wildflowers, Bison, a Mission Church + Good Eats! 06/08/18
- East Glacier Scenic Drive – Treasures OUTSIDE Glacier National Park 06/15/18
- Glacier National Park’s “Many Glacier” – Crown of the Continent! 06/22/18
- RVing Central Montana – Great Falls, Cool Coffee & Amish Buggies 06/29/18
- 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming – The Cody Stampede Parade! 07/04/18
- Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive – Dazzling All American Road – WOW!! 07/06/18
- Wildflowers in Wyoming – Spring Showers Bring Spectacular July Flowers!! 07/13/18
- Chief Joseph Scenic Byway – Mountain Majesty Near Yellowstone NP 07/20/18
- Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana! 07/27/18
- Summer Fun in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains 08/10/18
- A Smoky Moon, Badlands & Hummingbirds on the South Dakota Prairie 08/31/18
- Soap Box Derby & Barrel Races – A Labor Day to Remember! 09/07/18
- North Dakota at a Glance – Roosevelt NP and Surprises in the Prairie 09/14/18
- Walker, Minnesota – A Hidden Jewel in the 10,000 Lakes 09/21/18
- Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Shoreline – Cute Towns & Great Sunsets! 09/28/18
- Waterfalls in Michigan’s U.P. – Taquamenon, Bond Falls & Black River Jewels 10/05/18
- Fall Foliage in Michigan’s U.P. + Lake Superior at Sunset 10/12/18
- Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time! 10/19/18
- Halloween Camping – RV Witches & Goblins at Michigan State Parks! 10/26/18
- RV/MH Hall of Fame + Elkhart (RV Heart) Indiana 11/02/18
- RVing Through History – 80 Years of RV Travel! 11/09/18
- Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico – A Dog’s Eye View! 11/30/18
- Cross-Country Highlights on an RV trip from Indiana to Texas 12/14/18
Our most recent posts:
- We’re Alive and Well and Camping in Arizona! 06/05/20
- A Hawaii Vacation! 11/01/19
- Williams, Arizona – Home of the Grand Canyon Railway! 10/25/19
- Drag Boat Races in AZ – Top Speed FUN on the Colorado River! 10/18/19
- Seligman, Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66! 10/11/19