KOA-St. Louis- Bell-Family-Owners

One of my very favorite things about staying at all different KOA properties across the USA is meeting their owners and seeing the unique twists they bring to their campgrounds. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the St. Louis West location when three generations of the Bell family were too. The Bell Family are the owners of three different KOA locations- their newest one in St. Louis, San Diego Metro and Grand Canyon/Williams in Arizona.


Three generations of the Bell Family at the St. Louis West KOA location.

Ted and Carol Bell purchased the San Diego KOA back in 1968, putting this popular campground under their direction for over 45 years now. Ted, at 85, is still in the business and very passionate about all of the construction projects around the campgrounds. Carol used to do all of the books until taking a more hands-off role.

Ted and Carol’s only son, Mike, is President of the family company. He and his wife, Rowena, are owner/operators of the San Diego location. This park is under a huge redevelopment plan including the addition of an upscale cafe/restaurant, The Sandcastle Cafe, on the property for the very first time. We had the pleasure of spending some time with Mike And Rowena while they were in St. Louis visiting their oldest son and his family.

Third generation kids Josh, Clint and Molly are all involved with the campgrounds now. There was never an expectation from Mike and Rowena that their kids had to join the family business. Josh, Clint and Molly were always encouraged to pursue their own dreams and all went away to college. They also lived in various places, pursuing different job choices for many years. How neat that they have made their way back to the family business and all have various roles in the company at this time. Even their spouses all have unique roles!


Our kids loved renting these fun bikes to cruise around the St. Louis West KOA!

Josh and his wife, Nannette, are hands on owners of the St. Louis West KOA and have done an amazing job with this property since taking it over just a year ago. Josh does anything and everything as I witnessed firsthand. From the first time he answered the phone when I called to make my reservation, I knew this was going to be a great place to stay.

Nannette is in charge of marketing for all of the family campgrounds and has done an awesome job with their store. You would be hard pressed to find a cuter KOA store than theirs! She has brought in popular gift lines such as Natural Life, Danica Studio swedish dishcloths and the infamous poopourri, as well as many other adorable lines. If you live in the St. Louis area, it’s worth it to just come shop here for any gifts you may need for an avid camper!


Middle brother Clint manages and runs the San Diego park while his wife, Courtney is an avid foodie who’s been put in charge of food and beverage.

Daughter Molly Crawford runs the large activities program in San Diego, as well as merchandising. Her husband Ryan currently has a job outside of the family company but is an avid camper/outdoorsman so he brings a different set of eyes to the table. Molly, along with Mom Rowena, also owns a company creating competitive dance costumes for studios across the United States!

About the Bell family KOA year round properties:


San Diego has a rich staff of employees, some who have been with them for the past 20-30 years. The campground offers a large summer activity schedule as well as monthly themed weekends like Chocolate weekend in January and a wellness weekend in March, that I’m really hoping to be at! In April, you can come learn all about your RV if you are a new owner or thinking about buying one, at their Shake Down for your RV weekend.

With the addition of their upcoming property restaurant, San Diego Metro KOA will be branding themselves a KOA Resort property, under the new brand positioning recently put into place by KOA corporate to help campers better understand the offerings of each park.


The Bell family purchased this location in 2007 after a fire had burnt all of the campground’s main facilities. They were able to build the park back up and it is now a KOA quintessential Journey branded park. It’s close proximity to the Grand Canyon makes it a popular stop and it offers food service at the Cowboy Cafe as well. It is unique in the fact that there is another KOA just 5 miles away!



St. Louis West has implemented some deluxe cabins and are now a KOA Holiday branded property. They are also working on a plan to have the best internet service they can provide guests.

According to Nannette, “Folks don’t know how to do downtime anymore. We thought people would want to come here and unplug but people don’t want to do that. We find they want even more wifi to stream their Netflix and surf the web, so we want to provide that.”

St. Louis offers a summer activities schedule full of fun happenings for kids and their families. Our kids had to be back at the campground one night for Bingo and the next for the flashlight lollipop hunt.

Thanks, Bell Family for a great time! We look forward to visiting with you on your properties closer to our Arizona home soon!

When you think of St. Louis, Missouri, you most certainly think of visiting the iconic Gateway Arch officially known as the Thomas Jefferson Westward Expansion Memorial. We began our day with a visit to the famous Arch and then found an even better gem for our family in the City Museum.


Have you ever seen a museum like this? We were recommended to the City Museum by a teacher friend who lives in the St. Louis area. We followed her advice and the Museum invited our family to come spend our Saturday here!

Now, mind you that any place featuring the word ‘museum’ in its title is questionable to our tweens. ‘Museum’ has a connotation of being boring and perhaps a little too educational in their eyes. We haven’t visited many museums along our route because we prefer to spend the majority of our time outdoors. But, this museum is unlike anything that exists anywhere else we have ever been. We were fascinated by this unique, urban spectacle. The City Museum is a definite highlight of our time in St. Louis!


Let’s start with the fabulous rooftop.

It costs an extra $5 in addition to your $12 general admission ticket. The rooftop is open weather permitting and is tons of fun! There is a cool cafe up here too where you can get drinks and snacks, including beer.


It’s best to wear comfortable clothes and definitely old athletic shoes. A couple of our kids’ sneakers got beat up here, so be sure to not wear anything you care a lot about. Pants are even smart to wear, even though the kids get hot running all around! We even saw what must’ve been City Museum veterans wearing knee pads.


There is no map or brochure to navigate the building. A lot of it is ever-changing I guess. The 3rd Floor was where we spent a lot of time. It is home to a number of attractions including Skateless Park, which is a collection of skateboard ramps, minus the skateboards, with rope swings tied in front of the ramps and mats to land on. We would’ve liked to have seen the Everyday Circus that performs daily but the timing just didn’t work out for us.

Around the corner from the Circus, is Art City where guests can try different art techniques. Beatnik Bob’s is an interesting spot across from the Circus, featuring vintage video/pinball games, and a concessions stand with candy and ice cream. Everywhere you look there is something interesting to look at or climb on or through!


It was honestly tough to get too many pictures here as the kids were off and running the entire time! I’m so happy that our four are old enough to fend for themselves because this is a place where young ones could easily get lost. There are so many places to climb and explore!

If you are lucky enough to snag a parking spot in the museum parking lot (which we did), it is only $5. There is plenty of parking in the surrounding areas too. There are lots of good food options here as well, so you don’t have to worry about going hungry. Our favorite was the BBQ cart outside of the ball pit area just outside of the entrance.

And what museum stays open on a Saturday summer night until midnight? This one! We were all worn out way before that, but next time I’m planning to shut the place down!

Have you been to the City Museum in St. Louis before?

Ever since we left Mount Rushmore, we have been cruising around the Midwest states. Our first state to venture through was Iowa. Unfortunately, we were on our way to Omaha, Nebraska so we didn’t have much time for this little state. So, what do you do when you only have a few hours to spend in an unknown state? Look for a sweet treat.

LeMars, Iowa- the Ice Cream Capital of the World

We took a picturesque country backroads drive on I-75 to get there and were pleasantly surprised at the cute little town of LeMars! The sad part about the drive was passing through Minnesota for a short amount of time and knowing that our old Woodbury home and friends were just a few hours north of us and we weren’t able to go see any of them.


LeMars is the home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, so we visited their flagship store and we weren’t disappointed!



We shopped a bit along the cute main street before heading into one of the coziest, inspiring coffee shops I’ve ever been in- Habitué! Everyone in this coffee shop was so friendly. I felt right at home. It made me wish I had more time to just sit and relax before we had to hit the road.

Who knew that when I struck up a conversation with a cute lady sitting in a booth there, that she was the owner of Habitue, Cheryl Wells. Who knew that her husband is part of the Wells Family that owns Blue Bunny as well! I loved the simple, small-town feel and energy in LeMars and I would love to come back one day and enjoy a latte with Cheryl and her friends!


You know you’re in Iowa when……



You can buy freshly picked corn on the cheap out of a truck alongside the road!


Outside the bathrooms at Blue Bunny are reminders that things aren’t always so calm in Iowa!



Our National Parks annual pass is getting a workout on this trip! For a family who only had visited one National Park before this trip (the Grand Canyon), we certainly are making up for lost time now.

We purchased our America the Beautiful annual pass at our inaugural stop at Glen Canyon Dam, near Lake Powell. The $80 we spent for this is the best money we’ve spent on this trip for sure! The pass allows our family access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance and standard fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle, including our big RV. Children age 15 and under are admitted free.


We’ve already used our pass for entrance into Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Badlands and Mammoth Cave.

Another awesome program for families hitting the National Parks is their National Junior Ranger Program. This has been an awesome way for our kids to get involved by participating in the activity based program in each park.


At the Park’s Visitor Center you pick up the Junior Ranger program workbook. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5-13 and your age will determine how many activities you need to complete in order to earn your Park badge.

I wondered if our kids would be too old for this program, but it has proved to be challenging and fun for them actually. It gives our sons and daughter something to look forward to with each park visit. All kids love a collection, so why not start one where they learn along the way and earn something free to take home at the end.


Kids usually have to attend a park ranger event, take a hike and answer many questions on wildlife and aspects pertaining to each particular place. The great thing about my kids doing it at this age, is that they can do the book by themselves or at least work together, which is really nice!

I think these programs would be pretty tough to do with a 5-7 year old. At the end of each experience, the kids share their answers with a park ranger and are sworn in as Junior Rangers before receiving a badge or patch from that park. So far, they have ten under their belt!


Getting sworn in by cool Ranger Marc Ankenbauer in West Glacier National Park. Check out his amazing endeavor on www.glacierexplorer.com!

It has been a fun way for the kids to learn things that they never would’ve known before. They now point out sagebrush bushes while hiking and know what the symbols on the National Park Service logo mean. Two months ago none of us could’ve told you that!

Mt. Rushmore KOA

This gorgeous campground in the Black Hills of South Dakota optimizes summer fun! It is truly a kids dream come true to be able to camp at the Mt. Rushmore KOA/The Lodge at Palmer Gulch. This activity-driven campground has a schedule of fun events throughout each day as well as innumerable mainstays in the Fun Zone to keep all kids busy and happy. This, in turn, means more downtime for parents to enjoy themselves as well.

Mt. Rushmore KOA

This was our kids first KOA jumping pillow experience. Now they are spoiled and search the KOA directory telling us where they want to stay next according to if they have a jumping pillow or not! 


The free mini golf is always a big family favorite! Check out the water slide behind us too!


A couple of other areas for fun! Can you see why our kids were off and running every day?


Due to the unavailability of internet broadband, there is really limited wifi in the park. It’s a real test to see how long you can go without even being able to receive a text on your phone, let alone check email or the internet.

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It honestly is a good thing unless you really need to get some work done. Otherwise, it’s freeing! There are a few hotspots in the campground that you can go to, but I enjoyed heading to Grapes and Grinds for my wifi.


The good thing is you can drive just past Mt. Rushmore into Keystone to Grapes and Grinds for perfect internet access in a really cute environment while sipping a coffee beverage by day or glass of wine at night.  As a guest at this KOA, you’re able to take advantage of the Holy Terror Mini Golf (behind the coffee shop) and the National Presidential Wax Museum free of charge. These three entities fall under the same ownership as the Mt. Rushmore KOA, making it a great deal for those of us who stay there!


We were really surprised at how much we enjoyed this museum! Each of us had our own personal audio device that we could listen at our own pace as we walked through. We all learned a lot and highly recommend stopping into this unique museum!


Now to the main reason we chose this campground for our Hill City, South Dakota stay. It’s proximity to Mount Rushmore can’t be beaten! The campground is only a 6-mile drive along a beautiful route into America’s monument. Our family took advantage of going to Mount Rushmore as soon as it opened at 8 am one day and again at 8:30 pm on another for the nightly lighting ceremony. Both were awesome! Your $11 parking gets you in for the entire year and admission into the park is free.


On our 3rd visit to the park, we had a lot of fun worshipping with a group of college girls that are involved in A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. They come for the summer to work at the monument and hold Sunday worship services for guests. Very cool!


The Mount Rushmore KOA also employs a team of 12 Summershiners to lead all of the kids’ activities and programs for the summer. These Christian college students come from all over the nation to Palmer Gulch to live, work, play and share the love of Christ! I am enjoying learning about all of these different summer ministries!


This KOA is really perfect for multigenerational family celebrations. We saw many families enjoying life together here. The campground sees about 3,000 guests come through the park on each sold-out night between June 15-August 15. This means make your reservations early and realize that a lot of people will be joining you in the fun if you choose to come here during the height of the summer. It is a big, busy park. More like a cruise ship on land than your typical campground!

Mike Bauman, Mt. Rushmore KOA’s General Manager, works extremely hard to see that everyone is having a good time in the park. We always saw him around in many different capacities and he consistently had a smile and friendly greeting. We even caught him driving the tractor late one night for our ghost tour around the park. Hats off to him and his hard-working staff as they strive to help make special memories for all families who come to stay! Thanks for the fun!




We have been on the road for almost 2 months now. Eight weeks and three days to be exact. Some days it seems like we’ve been doing this forever and other days I walk out of this motorhome door bewildered. We’ve spent our time in nine states so far- Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and a corner of Minnesota.

I have had friends write to me and say, yeah, but I want to know the truth. I want to know what’s really going on behind this blog of yours. The truth? I’ve been giving it to you. If you know me, you know I am not one to sugarcoat things. I am absolutely ok with being vulnerable.

On the other hand, I am a pretty positive and flexible person (as much as a Type A first-born woman can be) who can acclimate to most surroundings and happenings that come my way. I think this comes from the sporadic lifestyle I lived for years moving around for modeling. Then, I marry an NHL guy, and life continued to be on the move forcing me into embracing changes I really didn’t want to make. I’m pretty good at regulating my positivity and happiness and quickly getting myself out of any funk I may find myself in. With that being said…

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The truth is….

This is my master bedroom by day. There is nothing Pinterest worthy about it whatsoever. It also sometimes serves as my laundry room and storage unit for the kids’ beds and bedding. I just try to look past it all because it could make me nuts if I didn’t.


We have been having as much fun as you have seen here. I keep us moving. I keep us adventurous and exploring. We had a lot of downtime in Coeur d’Alene, ID because two of the boys were in a hockey camp taking up most of our family time there. I actually enjoyed the downtime as we have been on the go ever since we pulled out of our driveway on June 2. I’m not sure what this camping lifestyle is doing to me. Hmmm..


I have only threatened to drive this rig back to Paradise Valley one time in the 4000 miles we’ve traveled. Not bad out of 8 weeks on the road in a small amount of living space with four children and a husband. Thank goodness there are no pets in this equation. We are good with the 6 breathing beings we have here. In my head I do sometimes question our sanity and if we can actually keep this up. I don’t really voice it though because I feel it’s like using the word divorce during your worst marital spat. You just can’t do it. Once you put the negative out there, it’s hard to take it back. Read more

One of the places that I was most excited about staying along our journey was on the Serenity Sheep Farm in Belgrade, Montana. Mind you, I am not a farm girl. When you grow up in Indiana everyone concludes that you must’ve grown up surrounded by Kubota tractors and pigs. Sorry to disappoint, but growing up in Indianapolis kept me a city girl!

But, I wanted our family to experience staying on a working farm during our US travels as I think it’s such a beautiful part of our countries culture. With the unbelievable internet at my fingertips, I found what looked like the perfect farm for us. Lavonne’s Serenity Sheep Farm was exactly what I had hoped for and more.

This was our first time boondocking ( def: To camp in a dry brushy location; To stay in a recreational vehicle in a remote location, without connections to water, power, or sewer services.) We are able to go a couple of days without hooking up and relying on our generator. I don’t understand the process at all, but I just know we did it with no problem. We can proudly say that our big rig was the first of it’s kind to stay on the property! LaVonne, her husband Chris and her father-in-law were amazingly accommodating and made us feel very relaxed and welcome.


The cool surprise for us was the amazing outdoor shower and fun outhouse right in front of our RV that we could use. Animals were always just wandering around us at all times.



The kids just loved the friendly goats on the property! They were able to pet them anytime they wanted as well as milk one both mornings we were there!



The kids couldn’t keep themselves away from Lavonne’s backyard where all of the poultry animals live! They helped collect eggs and chased the chicken around for hours!



After the morning farm chores, Lavonne sat down with the kids and taught them a needle felting project. They all made adorable little owls from the sheep’s wool, all under the beautiful shade trees in her backyard.


The turkeys kept a close eye on Morgan’s work!


The finished project!


More and more animal fun…



The kids also loved riding bikes just up the street to jump off the bridge into the East Gallatin River!


We had to drag the kids out of here and they are already asking if we can stay on another farm or definitely come back here one day! We all highly recommend visiting Serenity Sheep Farm if you are looking for a relaxed, really affordable authentic farm experience. LaVonne has these two adorable wagons on the property that you can stay in or set up your own tent stay! I’m even thinking of coming back here with just a girlfriend to relax and visit the nearby town of Bozeman. We feel so blessed to have been surrounded by such beauty, even for only a couple of days!



Our time was short, but oh so sweet in the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington! Keith and I had both been to the city before but not with the kids. It was fun to see everything through their eyes and enjoy beautiful sunny weather here as well!

Here’s how we enjoyed our first 24 hours in Seattle

Sea glass hunting and fish and chips for a sunset dinner at Alki Beach!IMG_5697

A perfect way to start any day in Seattle… in Pike Place Market


and you of course have to have a coffee drink at the original Starbucks!


I love wandering around the market. There’s amazing art and foods. Frank’s is one of my favorites for produce. I bought one of their hand painted canvas shopping bags the first time I came to Seattle and I use it for my groceries at home all of the time!


I’d never been to the gum wall, let alone heard of it, until the kids took me here! Yuck!


Can you spot the Carney crew amidst the mayhem of ABC gum? If you too want to visit this lovely spot when you come to Seattle, just take the stairs down from the popular Pike Place Fish Co., where they throw the fish around, and turn left down Post Alley.


We ended our day with the infamous Ride the Duck Tour, which takes you on a tour by land and then into Lake Union for part of the trip. It was lots of fun and we enjoyed seeing Gasworks Park from the Lake. We even had a picnic over there the next day!


Our 2nd 24 hours…..

We are a family who loves our donuts, so we had to try Seattle’s Top Pot Donuts. They used to make the donuts for Starbucks until a few years ago.


We then headed to Fremont for most of the day. Our kids are big into the Geocaching craze and we were able to set up a visit to the Geocaching Headquarters here. It’s a pretty hip and fun place with over 70 employees now working for their parent company Groundspeak.


There are beautiful views of the waterfront behind the Geocaching Headquarters too.  You could see Mount Rainier in the distance. Can you spot it?


Fremont’s Troll Under the Bridge is a fun find! I’m so glad Geocaching brought us over to this side of the city. It was a fun area with interesting shops and restaurants too!


We decided to catch the monorail from Westlake Center Mall over to see the Space Needle. It was a quick, inexpensive and fun way to get over there. We did not spend the money to go up to the top of the Needle or to do any of the awesome museums in that area. It gives us a good reason to come back one day!

From the Space Needle we walked down to Olympic Sculpture Park for another gorgeous sunset.


Goodnight Seattle! We had a blast exploring your beauty!


We spent the last two weeks in Idaho hanging out in Wallace and Coeur d’Alene. Wallace was a cute, small town walkable from our RV park, which was great. We had a blast conquering the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail. We just came out of the first tunnel here and I was very happy to see the sunlight again. The ride starts out with almost 2 miles of riding through a pitch black and wet tunnel, meaning you have to have headlamps attached to your helmet to see in front of you!


 The 15-mile trail is quite bumpy, but the scenery was gorgeous. It takes you through ten tunnels and seven high steel bridges. We opted to take the last shuttle of the day to take all of us back up.


The town of Wallace is an adorable stop and has some fun antique shops and restaurants. We were able to do another bike trail from here, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s. We got a lot of bike time in here!

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This is honestly how we spent most of our time in Coeur d’Alene. Hockey camp took up our weekdays while Keith played in his first NHL charity legends game on the Friday night, which was a lot of fun to watch him having fun on the ice again!



We took the boat across the lake a couple of times to Gozzer Ranch to hang out with our old hockey friends.


You can see why the kids loved going over to Gozzer’s Lake Club!


There is so much to do in Coeur d’Alene that we left untouched. Lots of amusement and waterparks and plenty of indoor fun to be found too. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any bad weather so we spent the majority of our time hanging out at the beach at our RV park and riding bikes into downtown. The kids loved renting canoes and water bikes and heading out on their own.


And of course nighttime smores around the campfire with friends can’t be beat after a long week of hockey camp.


Tubbs Hill is a fun little hike right past the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina. The kids loved jumping from the different cliffs and rocks, while we floated in tubes in the lake to watch them.



We loved Saturday’s Farmer’s Market in Hayden. Plenty of organic produce to take home, treats to eat right away and all under beautiful shade trees!



What are your favorite things you’ve done in this area?


We didn’t know that our visit to West Glacier, Montana was just a bit too early in the summer season for nice weather. Unfortunately, it rained the entire three days of late June that we were here. Our Jackson Hole, WY weather must’ve conditioned us, because we didn’t let the rain keep us down!

We headed into Glacier National Park and found out that the infamous Road to the Sun was closed as they were still trying to remove all of the snow from a recent avalanche! This meant we were only able to drive 14 miles into Avalanche Creek and hike the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.

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It was gorgeous and just slightly drizzling on our hike in. Once we got to the lake, it down poured and continued all the way back getting us completely soaked and muddy. What can you do but laugh and go with it?



This is for my soccer mom friends. Thought you would enjoy seeing my Lululemon pants and Ecco boots soaked in mud. Definitely out of my league here.

Our final day in the area we spent in Whitefish. What a gorgeous area this is! We chose to spend the day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. They invited us to try the Aerial Adventure Park and the kids were stoked to try another mountain adventure. I was a bit apprehensive to do the course but figured since I was going to write about it, I’d better join in on the fun. I was good with all of the climbing apparatus’ but it was the zip lining platforms that I had a hard time throwing myself off of. I don’t think I ever got 100% comfortable with it but I did have a great time and am proud of myself for testing my limits. How can you not enjoy yourself amidst such beauty?




We honestly went through all four seasons in our time on this course. It started off like fall, with cool, but pleasant temperatures. Then, it turned really hot before the weather took a turn and we found ourselves in the middle of a rain/hail storm. How in the world did I end up zip lining through hail and rain?


I had to take a picture of the hail falling on my platform as proof.

Then, the weather cleared and it was gorgeous. We wanted to check out Whitefish’s alpine slide but it was closed due to the rain. The Whitefish Mountain Resort is awesome and offers many options for summer fun. We want to come back and try the zipline course and the alpine slide for sure but next time we’ll come in July!


Of course, our travel day leaving West Glacier to Wallace, ID was perfectly sunny. We stopped at The Amazing Fun Center so the kids could try out their mile and a half long maze and bank shot basketball. The kids had a blast here before the adults said enough is enough and off to Idaho we went!



We’ll be back West Glacier and Whitefish. We only scratched the surface of your beauty!