Think you’d like RV Living? Try a Rental! Here’s how to succeed on your first adventure.
Eddie and I were relaxing in the rejuvenating warmth of natural hot springs as tiny pellets of sleet began to sting our faces. The paradox of the circumstances was mesmerizing. Our first day of RV life was shaping up pretty well! We would spend the next seven days in Montana with a plan that took us 800 miles and three RV locations. Think you’d like RV living? If you have a clue that you want to try out an RV, here’s how to succeed on your first adventure without spending lots of money on a purchase.
Determine What RV You’d Like to Try.
Much more than guessing, this step involves a lot of consideration. Eddie became familiar with RV vloggers and sales representatives of all sorts of RVs. Eventually, he narrowed the choices to one, the Winnebago, EKKO. It is tough enough for boondocking but small enough to fit in parking spaces in town. We were especially fond of the shower, with a swinging panel that separates it from the sink and toilet area.
Locate a rental of the RV.
Finding an EKKO to rent was difficult since Winnebago recently started making the model in 2021. But Eddie persevered and found an EKKO rental from Blacksford RV Rental near Bozeman, Montana. Montana would be the perfect place to enjoy an RV! Except we had no idea where to go. Since it was our first RV experience, we accepted the offer of concierge service from the rental company. Based on our preferences, the Blacksford Director of Travel booked us at three RV sites and a fly fishing experience. They also provided a detailed itinerary and a list of things to do in each location. All we had to do was drive and enjoy!
Pick up the RV.
Eddie and I flew to Bozeman, Montanna, and stayed overnight at a local hotel. The following day we took an Uber to Blacksford RV Rental. Owner Jonathan and staff Caroline and Elise greeted us at the door. After showing us the ins and outs of the Ekko, they sent us on our way. Our first stop was the grocery store.
Bozeman Hot Springs Campground. Think you’d like RV Living?
Twenty minutes from the rental store, we arrived at Bozeman Hot Springs, our first RV site. After hooking up our electricity, we took off for the thermal pools, lounging there until dusk. Visitors have a choice, with 12 pools, temperatures ranging from 59 to 106 degrees, and dry and wet saunas. While we were in the pool, the Montana skies changed from partly cloudy to overcast and sleet. As visitors have done for over 100 years, we stayed put until the weather changed again and twinkling stars appeared. Think you’d like RV living?
The following day, the campsite hosted a complimentary breakfast.
Madison Valley Campground.
From Bozeman to Ennis, Montana, and with clear skies, we took the scenic Gallatin River Canyon, two hours longer. The scenic route, Hwy 191, goes through the town of Big Sky and briefly passes through Yellowstone National Park. We were almost alone on the road. It was off-season, after ski season, and before the summer tourist season began.
Bison pawed the snow for tender roadside growth and then relaxed right there. Incredibly, there were no other people. Think you’d like RV living?
The neighbors knocked on our door as soon as we connected our electricity to the Ekko. RVers Neil and Kimberly travel full-time in their RV with their dog Charlie. Neil works odd jobs, and Kimberly is a traveling nurse. They were walking to Ennis, fifteen minutes away, to “get to know the locals at the bar.” Eddie and I stayed behind to cook a stir-fry dish, the first meal we cooked in the RV.
The travel coordinator at Blacksford RV scheduled us for fly fishing the following day. After an early morning walk to town, we had breakfast and headed over to The Tackle Shop, where we purchased our fishing license and got fitted for waders and boots. Then we took off to the Madison River with our guide, Kurt, pulling a small fishing boat.
We knew nothing about fly fishing, but Kurt gave us some quick lessons before we got on the small “drift” boat.
The town of Ennis is in the heart of fishing and hunting territory, surrounded by the Madison Range, Tobacco Roots, and Gravely Range. It was around 43 degrees on the Madison River, but our gear kept us comfortable, and we enjoyed the breathtaking beauty as much as the fishing. Kurt tried several lures until I finally hooked a trout but failed to bring it into the net. With fly fishing, it’s crucial to correctly position your hands and fingers on the line or end up with “slack” when you hook the fish. That’s a lot of excess fishing line with “nowhere to go.” Eddie caught a white fish and pulled it to the net, where Kurt promptly showed it off and released it back into the shallow waters.
Who can resist a real “Out West” ghost town?
The Ghost Towns of Virginia and Nevada City, Montana, are located along U.S. Highway 287, about 12 miles west of Ennis.
We unhooked the RV and, in about 20 minutes, arrived in Nevada City Ghost Town. We noticed a large parking area for crowds on one end of town during the busy season. But with none but us there, we parked the Ekko on the street downtown.
In 1863, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold in the area. Within weeks, Virginia City was bustling with people, and by fall 1863, the population swelled to as many as 7000 to 10,000. A few years after, when the gold ran out, Virginia City was left “frozen in time.” Nevada City is authentic, too. The hotel, complete with a two-story “outhouse” attached and log cabins, continue to house guests today. Both towns carry their own unique ghost stories from the past.
Grandview Campground. Another great campground; think you’d like RV Living?
Eddie and I left Ennis and headed for Grandview Campground, only 20 minutes from Little Bighorn Battlefield. It was the only campground open during the off-season.
Tombstones for the fallen 7th Cavalry and the Lakotas and Cheyennes are just where the warriors fell. The site is “the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.” Just before closing, we were the only visitors remaining in the monument. The weather changed back and forth, in what seemed like minutes, from sunny to overcast. Was it the unsettled spirits of the horrific battle?
As a reminder that we were in the wild west, a herd of wild horses appeared in the valley. Two of them, stallion and mare, crossed the road and came alongside the RV not once but twice.
Back to Belgrade, Montana
After checking out of Grandview Campground, it was time to turn in the RV, 3.5 hours back to Bozeman. Along the way, we stopped in Livingston, Montana, near the Yellowstone River. The movie A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, highlights Livingston. That’s enough to boast “the most famous small town in Montana.” It is undoubtedly one of the most eclectic, with great restaurants and shops.
Today, Eddie and I are headed to the “53rd Annual America’s Largest RV Show” in Hershey, PA. With 1,300 RVs, there will be plenty to see!
We loved the freedom of the road during our first experience! Eddie said, “We’re taking our house with us on the road.”
We owe the success of our first RV experience to the great folks at Blacksford RV Rental. We were the first customers in the Ekko; everything was new and stocked with everything we needed. As owner Jonathan explained, his customers are familiar with this excellent service since he rotates the RVs regularly. We had no problems on the road. Eddie emptied the “suitcase” (toilet container) twice with no stinky problem. Most of the time, we took showers in the campground facilities and used the RV shower comfortably.