We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.
1. It’s So Adorable
The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)
2. It’s Easy to Manuever
Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!
3. The Kitchen is Dreamy
The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.
4. Comfy Sleeping Space
A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.
5. Outdoor Shower’n
If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.
6. Happy Hour in the Cafe
That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.
Do we look relaxed? Because we just spent a week exploring the hot springs of British Columbia, a trip that included five long soaks, 500 miles in a Class C RV, gobs of eye-dropping views and one surprising conclusion: It is possible to overdo it on the hot springs circuit. Here’s how to pace yourself.
Ainsworth Hot Springs north of Nelson, B.C.
Fairmont Hot Springs near Invermere, B.C.
Halcyon Hot Springs on Upper Arrow Lake, B.C.
Nakusp Hot Springs, in the Selkirk Mountains of B.C.
Don’t dip your toe in the hot springs after a big meal. The experience is all about slowing down and speeding up your blood flow, so adding digestion to the picture complicates the healthy effects. It’s much better to have a meal, post soak. We loved lunch at Kingfisher, the impressive restaurant at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort.
Get Hot, Then Plunge
Again, the idea is to get the blood pumping while chilling in those mineral infused waters coming from deep in the earth. We follow a routine prescribed by those in the know at the awesome Scandinave Spa near Whistler: 20 minutes in the hot pool, followed by a cold plunge, followed by a break in the warm pool or, as we saw many doing, a snooze in the lounge chair.
Drink Lots of Water
Bring a bottle of cold H20 with you to sip at a steady pace, pool side. It’s essential. We add a packet of Emergen-C to boost the healthy effects. We actually witnessed at least one person who didn’t hydrate practically pass out after too much time soaking and not enough water. Be safe out there!
Be Prepared to Chat
One of the best parts of visiting hot springs is that you meet all sorts of interesting people from around the world. We heard intriguing restaurant recommendations, tips for avoiding traffic and suggestions about off-the-grid hot springs to discover. The group dynamic was also fun when the fearless cold plungers took the frigid challenge. Everyone cheered.
Chill Out Afterwards
We had to jump in our big rig and drive to a destination a couple of times, and the stress of being on the road wiped out the good we did in the pool. If possible, stay put and mellow out in place. Fairmont Hot Springs’ nearby RV campground made that mission possible.
We’ve been on an epic road trip around British Columbia, starting with a couple days in Vancouver. This gorgeous city is so much fun to explore, whether it’s on foot, or an itty-bitty ferry. Here’s some of our favorite fun things to do.
Jump on Board a Water Taxi
These small boats stop at spots along False Creek, the main waterway on the south side of town. Ride it the full length for about $3, an incredible deal, before getting out at Granville Island. There, walk through the bustling marketplace. There are loads of cafes to get a meal, drink or coffee. Or, go DIY and score some outstanding charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Company before heading outside for a picnic. Talented buskers entertain the crowds on sunny days.
Walk the Sea Wall at Stanley Park
Take the roughly 4-mile perimeter trail around the premier park that helps define the urban area’s embrace of natural beauty. You’ll see snow-capped mountains in the distance and lots of ship traffic on the busy commercial gateway to the Pacific, all while sharing the path with runners, cyclists and skaters. Plan on spending some time in the English Beach area on the end of your hike. The Sylvia Hotel‘s bar is excellent for happy hour or a casual meal. Try the fried squid and the signature cocktail, a delicious gin-based drink called The Vancouver.
Eat Southern Fried Chicken in Chinatown
Juke nails the crunchy, seasoned just right bird at spot on the edge of Chinatown. The vibe is fast food, order at the counter, but the results are shockingly sophisticated. Definitely drizzle some housemade hot honey over the golden pieces of perfect poultry.
Drink a Toast to Gassy Jack
Head upstairs to The Diamond, a retro cool bar with a view of Gastown’s heart, Maple Tree Square. The soaring windows look down and a statute of one of the city’s founders, John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack. Trust the friendly staff to make suggestions on beverage and food, but, if you’re adventurous, order the brandade. This sassy dip is made with potatoes and salt cod, which might sound strange, but it’s wonderful.
Go Downtown and Get a View
Canada Place, the iconic sailing-ship-themed convention center and gathering place on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, is as striking up close as it is from afar. Take a walk around it. While you’re there, consider going on the Fly Over Canada ride. It’s a bit cheesy, but undeniably fun. You’ll watch a beautiful big-screen view of the Canada’s beauty while hanging over a dark abyss. For another nice city view, ascend Vancouver Lookout at nearby Harbour Centre.
Eat a Boatload of Sushi
There are about a million sushi options in the city, which means the competition’s stiff. We checked in with the super helpful concierge at the swank hotel where we were staying — The Douglas — and he recommended a few spots within walking distance. We were so impressed by the depth of fish selection and pristine quality at Bistro Sakana in the buzzy Yaletown neighborhood, and its gracious staff. It was also pretty darned affordable, with dinner for two ringing up at under $70, Canadian.
Start the Day Brunching
Medina Cafe is crazy popular for the morning/midday meal, so if you don’t arrive early, you’re going to have to wait. But you’ll be in good company. Your patience will be rewarded by inventive global twists on brunch like the egg-topped paella, cassoulet and spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs. The legendary Belgian-style waffles are a fine way to start a meal, or end it.
For a tour of Canada’s Kootenay Rockies region, we’re supersizing things.
As we travel from Revelstoke to Nelson to Golden, we’re going big in a Class C RV from CanaDream of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s our first attempt at driving a big RV.
No surprises here — this thing is a beast. It’s powered by a Ford F-450 engine and at first it felt huge. Ginormous in fact, hard to maneuver, all the things we’ve tried to avoid as we get into #vanlife.
On the plus side, it is undeniably comfortable. It has a full kitchen, a large sitting area and an absolutely huge bed. It feels like a one-bedroom apartment on wheels.
And let’s not forget it has a full bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. All nice things, until you have to deal with the inevitable black-water “sani-dump.”
It’s a trade-off. Comfort vs. driveability. For this trip, we’re trying out comfort.
To a large degree, the #Vanlife movement owes its popularity to the old-school pop-top VW camper van.
They did everything today’s vans do — and in some ways, they perform even better.
So it’s surprising U.S. consumers can’t get the Volkswagen California, a van that is proving quite popular in the UK and Europe. And just why is that?
After all, the VW Eurovans and Vanagons of the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s are still outrageously popular in the U.S. Even late ’90s vans on the market can command prices above $30,000. So it seems like there’s a market, right?
Not so fast, Volkswagen dealers say.
“The market is just not here in the United States,” said Clint Richardson of Campbell Volkswagen in Edmonds, Wash.
There are two main obstacles to bringing the VW California to the U.S., Richardson said.
“It would be very expensive to get it here, and our safety standards are different than in Europe,” he said.
“For us to get it here and sell it — we’d have to charge over $70,000,” Richardson added. And that price is just not going to work for most buyers.
“Everybody wants one until they see the price,” Richardson said.
The U.S. Highway 101 loop around the Olympic Peninsula is one of the best drives in the United States.
To make the most of it, consider camping as you travel 475 miles around Washington’s coastal handle, taking in the seafood-rich Hood Canal region, the scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca, the lush rainforest and the wild western coastline.
You can do it any time of year. We were lucky enough to hit the weather right for a winter camping trip, done comfortably in a 1987 VW Westfalia camper provided by Peace Vans of Seattle. For three nights of winter camping, it worked amazingly well.
Oly — It’s the Water
Starting in the state capital of Olympia, take a few minutes and head downtown to the Artesian Well and Commons, a small city park at 415 4th Ave. SE. There, you’ll find a quintessential Olympia scene.
Hippies hanging out. Kids shooting baskets. A constant flow of people from all walks of life. Why? They come to fill up jugs of water from the city’s artesian well.
The pipe from this well spews some of the tastiest water you’ll find anywhere. It’s free, and many people in Olympia use it as their primary source of drinking water.
It also makes great camping water. Bring a few jugs yourself and fill ’em up.
Hood Canal and Dungeness Spit
Continuing west on U.S. 101, take the right turn for Shelton and you’re on the way up scenic Hood Canal, the western-most lobe of Puget Sound. Besides being pretty, Hood Canal also is home of many of Washington’s best commercial oyster operations.
If you make one stop, it should be at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. You can sit around and have them in the lively outdoor saloon, or you can do what we did and put them on ice and shuck them later. You’ll need an oyster knife, some lemon, a little hot sauce and that’s about it for a taste of seafood heaven.
From Hama Hama, it’s about 1.5 hours to Dungeness Recreation Area, a fantastic campground and natural area that takes in Dungenss Spit near the town of Sequim. At 6.8 miles long, it is the longest sand spit in the United States.
You’ll see lots of birdlife, seals, sea lions, the occasional orca, and billions of board feet of driftwood on the wild and secluded beach. It’s a long hike to the lighthouse on the end, but you can get the flavor of the spit by hiking out a mile or so.
Make sure to reserve your campsite ahead of time: This place fills up on weekends in the high season.
Onward to the Coast
From the town of Sequim it’s about two hours to Forks, home to the vampires and werewolves of “Twilight” fame, but really just a rough logging town still trying to cash in on the books and movies.
First, consider a few stops along the way. Port Angeles is the biggest city on the peninsula and a great place to gas up and grab provisions. If you visit in summer, an essential side trip is Hurricane Ridge inside Olympic National Park, one of the visited national parks in the United States. Camp at Heart of the Hills and do a hike off of Hurricane Ridge. On a sunny day, the views of the Olympic Mountains and the ocean far below are gorgeous.
Past Port Angeles, you should consider a stop at Lake Crescent, a picture-perfect lake amid the Olympic Mountains. The historic lodge makes a fine place for a lunch pit stop.
When you get to Forks, you have a choice for camping locations. Drive west on State Route 110. At the main intersection at the Riverview RV Park, you can go right to Olympic National Park’s Mora Campground, or stay left and go to La Push, a small fishing town on the Quileute Indian Reservation.
Both locations have advantages. The Mora Campground is not on the ocean — Rialto Beach is three miles away. The rough and rugged Rialto is an amazing place, suitable for a great three-mile day hike along a wilderness beach to a headlands called Hole in the Wall.
If you go to La Push, your camping option is at the Quileute Oceanside Resort. The camp sites are just OK, but the beach setting is gorgeous. La Push has become one of the most popular surfing locations in Washington, and the break in front of the resort attracts a hardy group of wetsuit-wearing shredders all year long.
From La Push, two wilderness beaches are within a short distance. Second Beach and Third Beach offer nice day-hiking options within bordering Olympic National Park.
Just about an hour south from La Push is the beach camping mecca of Kalaloch. If you can snag a spot, Kalaloch offers some of the very best camping along the Washington coast. Be forewarned that you should get a reservation, or at the very least get there early.
If you’re as lucky as we were, grab a spot along the bluff overlooking the beach. You won’t forget it.
The beach itself is long, flat and beautiful, but doesn’t feel as wild as the beaches to the north near La Push. That said, the campsites along the bluff are amazing.
You have a commanding view of the beach and ocean, where you can watch sea birds, the occasional beach walker or just gaze at the clouds rolling by. There’s not a better place on the coast to just hang out and soak in the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.
It’s a great trip-ender. From here, it’s about two hours back to Olympia — or you can hit the reset button and do it all over again.
As Old Blue Eyes croons “Anything Goes,” it’s hard not to feel like we’ve traveled back in time. Of course the wine helps, but staying at the Sou’wester is a real trip, in all the best ways. It’s quirky, arty, rustic and welcoming.
Rooms, cabins and trailers
The Sou’wester sits on three acres in Seaview, Wash., with a variety of accommodations, from its 1892-era lodge to its rustic cabins, and of course, those vintage trailers, all within a short walk from the Pacific Ocean.
Inside the lodge, you’ll find a large vinyl collection, yours to peruse and play at will on the turntables available in many of the rooms. You’ll also find an “Honor Store” — grab a beer or a bottle of wine from the fridge, put it on your tab, and pay when you check out.
When visitors arrive, they are told about the Honor Store, which “sets the tone when you get here,” said owner Thandi Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum has owned and managed the resort for almost six years, creating a community of artsy employees that help maintain lodge and grounds.
While the suites in the lodge and the rustic cabins are appealing, the ever-growing number of vintage trailers (more than 20 at present) are what makes the experience unusual and appealing.
Rosenbaum has tried hard to create an artsy enclave at the Sou’wester. Artists-in-residence receive reduced lodging rates while staying on the attractive grounds. The beauty of the oceanside lodging offers plenty of inspiration.
“It’s a place for people to come and focus on their own creative experience,” she said.
During our visit, the Sou’wester hosted “Spaceness,” a weekend of art installations and music on the grounds.
The Sou’wester also has an art trailer with pieces on display, a thrift-store and a Finnish sauna. Regular yoga and meditation classes are offered.
“We’re always trying to maintain that community spirit,” Rosenbaum said.
What sets the Sou’wester apart from other so-called historic resorts is its authentic style. Many of the trailers have their original woodwork and furniture, lovingly restored.
“We try to maintain them as best we can and as thoughtfully as we can,” Rosenbaum said.
The effect is to feel like you’re visiting and staying at a museum. Squint hard enough and it might feel like you’ve stepped back into the 1950s.
She says: Everywhere I go now, I see vans. Class B recreational vehicles. Our potential future home on wheels. It’s thrilling and kinda terrifying.
The Road Not Yet Taken
I’m not exactly sure how we got to this place, strongly considering buying a van and hitting the road for at least a year. I think the seed was planted when we went to a recent event celebrating the Peace Van fleet in Seattle. We started to see the exciting possibilities of exploring the country, especially the National Parks. We’re not exactly “retired”, but as freelancers, we’re also not tethered to a traditional office job, so…
The Long To-Do List
Before becoming part of the Van Life world, there are a daunting number of hurdles to clear, starting with what type of vehicle would we choose? Are we going to go for a minimalist approach, or build in some creature comforts because living in a van is challenging, right? We’re both doing a lot of searching and researching right now, and would love any suggestions/advice. Until then, I’m sure I’ll continue to see vans everywhere!