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This page I wrote for my old rv website before developing the Vanabode as the best travel vehicle for cheap easy long term road trips. People still like big rv's despite the much greater cost and trouble to operate, so here's what I know about them.

Family RV Recreational Vehicle Vacation

Trip Report, July 1 - August 6 and additional camping road trip pictures
I am providing a brief description of our summer 2004 family rv vacation for those interested in seeing a sample of the kind of vacation that can be accomplished with a properly equipped and mechanically sound RV, traveling thousands of miles in 5 weeks.

class a rv with kayak on roof

Those of you that know me personally understand that I am not easily impressed, so when I use words like "absolutely incredible" or "unique", I do not do it lightly. I really do mean these places are so interesting and life changing that they are in themselves worth a week-long trip.

Overview - 31 day rv vacation, 7,980 miles, averaged 10.6 MPG, average price of $1.79 per gallon Diesel. Total trip cost $3,069 including fuel, campground fees, restaurants, groceries, park fees, etc. 1994 34 foot Class A Georgia Boy Motor Coach, 190 HP Cummins Diesel, Allison 4 speed Auto Trans, 2 roof mounted sit-on-top kayaks, two adults, two children

Route - Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida.

Amistad National Recreation Area - Texas, we drove hard from Cape Canaveral, Florida and did nothing of consequence until day 2 when we hit Lake Amistad in Del Rio Texas on the Mexico border. Saw border patrol dragging big tires behind their trucks to smooth over the dirt road so they could see footprints from illegal aliens that crossed over in the night. Generally not worth the time or the heat unless you are within 3 hours. AVOID I-10 anywhere but the stretch found in Florida. It is hot, boring, terribly maintained, with hundreds of miles of roller coaster, denture breaking, bone jolting, car shaking, rattle making cracks, bumps, and holes with heavy construction. It is very dangerous in many areas due to tight lane changes. I HATED this part of the rv vacation.

Carlsbad Caverns - New Mexico, absolutely unique, incredible national park of 23+ miles of underground caves, many literally thousands of feet below the surface of the Earth…and you can walk it all. 56 degree continuous temperature means a jacket for some. Caves are the size of a football field, formations 100 feet high, and each evening hundreds of people sit in a giant amphitheater and watch 600,000 Mexican Free Tailed bats fly out of the mouth of the cave and off into the sky. Each bat eats over 300 insects an hour each, fly's up to 23 miles away, and returns each morning in a second swarm to enter the cave. You can watch this also if you awaken early enough. For those of you who think that everything has already been discovered on this Earth and there is nothing new to find: note - These caverns were discovered and brought to the worlds attention by a 16 year old boy who refused to ignore the "black cloud" he saw every evening. This same black cloud the Indians had seen and stayed away from. This same black cloud hundreds of people throughout the region had stayed away from due to the devastatingly remote, deadly, high desert conditions. This same cloud that was finally discovered to be over 6 million bats. When they finally began mining the cave for "guano", bat manure, to be used for fertilizer, they found it 40 feet deep.

Albuquerque - New Mexico, Sandia Peak Tramway - world's longest aerial tramway, 2.7-mile glass ride dangling from a cable. At the top you can ride bikes, hike, ski, camp, and eat at the restaurant looking out across 11,000 square mile panoramic view. This is a breathtaking experience. If you are within 500 miles of this place take a day or two and visit. Tram ride is $15. The 45-minute round trip ski lift ride is definitely worth it at $5 additional. Rv's can park free at the huge casino within a couple miles of the Tram. This helps keep the cost of the rv vacation down.

Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona, We went to the North rim a few years ago and it was boring. This time we visited the South rim…wow, mind-boggling. You could see everything with 3 different free shuttle bus routes and multiple drop-off/pickup points. A very well organized, affordable, and easy to experience National Park, even for kids in 100-degree weather. Hike, camp, ride mules through the canyon. Go EARLY in the day for easy parking and shuttle bus seating not crowded till 2 pm.

Lake Powell - Arizona/Utah - Do whatever it takes to get here...absolutely stunning. This is one of 4 places I return to again and again (others are Florida, San Francisco, Las Vegas) Thousands of acres of crystal clear rivers, lakes, streams, gulches, mountains, cliffs, rock formations, and desert plants running through huge canyons. We put kayaks in at the Wahweap ½ mile long boat ramp, kayaked through the canyons, snorkeled in the 15 feet plus visibility water, then lay on the big flat rocks to "warm back up". Another way to experience this is with a large group of friends, rent a sleep-14 person houseboat, complete with 4 jet skis, for $5,000 - $8,000 a week, split the cost. If you can only do one boat based remote trip in your lifetime do LAKE POWELL! Many experienced travelers say there is nothing like this in the entire world. Do the antelope canyon portion also. We have dry camped here before but you get so tired by days end and the evenings are so hot we usually pay the $20 - $30 a night for rv hookup. Visit ONLY in the summer when the water is warm enough to swim in. Easy to do with kids, no biting insects.

Zion National Park - Utah - stunning, gorgeous, unforgettable. A massive canyon with complete ecosystem to explore and you start with a 1-mile hike upriver in ankle to knee deep, boulder strewn, rushing crystal clear water. Awesome views the entire way and if you want to leave the crowds just hike into the remote wilderness farther than anyone else….can't get lost just stay in the canyon on the rivers edge. Easy to do with kids, no biting insects. Visit ONLY in the summer when the water is warm enough to play in. Fantastic visitor center, could spend 3-4 days here easy. Rv'ers beware…hair raising steep climbs and descents. I came down one pass a little too hard only to find my brakes had faded to nearly nothing… I could not stop. Thank God I was only going about 35 mph, shifted to third then second, then pulled off and ground to a shaky stop on the shoulder. Scariest point of our rv vacation and real sobering.

Las Vegas - probably the most exciting city in the world. Lots of free fun as usual, kids spent all day for $15 each in the Circus Circus Adventure Dome amusement park. Bellagio dinner buffet at $25 a head is still worth it - try finding unlimited portions of 30" long King Crab legs sliced and shelled for you anywhere else. You pull the giant hot dog sized strips of pure white meat out, roll it up, dip the tennis ball sized portion into the warm drawn butter and blast off to heaven. I have eaten in hundreds of upscale restaurants all over the US - and these are still, along with the Aladdin buffet with Dungeness crab, the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. Things have changed a little over the past 10 years besides the addition of new casinos. 1) added over 10 world class, $25 cover, upscale movie star level night clubs, 2) addition of 5 million dollar condos (Real estate prices have doubled in 5 years) 3) most casino shows have gotten more risqué (happens in poor economic conditions) making Las Vegas less kid friendly than ever - even the billboards and ads in the local papers are rated PG-13.

California Coast - Up highway 1 from Paso Robles, beautiful, cool steady breeze, mind blowing roadside views. Rv'ers the days of free parking overnight on the beach or roadside boondocking are over. The law will harass you to no end. I actually had one ranger follow me 20+ miles…chased me off the roadside beach front property I was on, followed me into a state park where I refused to pay $20 just to park, leave, do a U-turn go back through "his" small town, U-turn again and drive 15 miles up the coast - only when I left his jurisdiction did he turn back. Visited Ano Neuvo Park and after a 3 mile hike through the woods we got within 50 feet of a pack of 40 or more enormous 3,000-pound Elephant Seals, fighting, roaring, sunning, playing and wriggling up and down the beach to the sandy dunes.

San Francisco - The usual incredible views, great shopping, street entertainers, wild crazy China town with it's raw meat and food market complete with softball sized black frogs, bizarre live fish, live turtles, whole chickens and ducks in the windows, and every kind of disgusting, dried sea creature and animal imaginable. Kids get bored in a day or two; Kelly and I could stay a year and still love it. The world famous Sea Lions were gone for the season, which was a huge disappointment. Made the biggest navigational mistake of the trip by taking highway 1 North out of San Francisco on our way to the Russian River. After six terrifying hours of 15 mph, hairpin turns, steep brake smoking unmarked descents, bad roads, etc, we gave up, cut over to Highway 101, and discovered we were only 40 miles from San Francisco. Rv'ers do NOT take 1 North out of the city…ever.

Grand Tetons National Park - Wyoming, huge easy to navigate campgrounds, day trips can include rafting, mountain and rock climbing, and typical hiking. Unlike Yellowstone, here you can actually have a campfire at night. Fun easy camping. Nothing worth traveling over 3 or more days out of your way though unless you backpack into the wild and spend a week tent camping.

Yellowstone National Park - Big, beautiful, animal filled park, Old Faithful hot spring portion worth seeing. Hundreds of Bison, running, breeding, bellowing, charging one another, rooting, swimming, and approaching within 15 feet of our RV and us. Kid friendly but beware visiting anyplace more than ¼ mile off established paths and near water results in 2 to 3 bee sized mosquitoes for every square inch of your body…and these aren't Florida mosquitoes that drift around lazily and you can walk away from. These monsters literally chase you and you cannot outrun them. Kids alerted us to an 1,800-pound Bull Bison outside our RV - 50 feet away. Forget Mammoth Springs in the North unless you call ahead and check conditions. We made a special half day trip up only to find the entire site nearly dry, boring, dead. Five years ago it was alive with hundreds of Elk, fountains of green, emerald blue cascading algae, and hot springs.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park - Florida, After Yellowstone we screamed home to Florida because we wanted a few days in the water. Fun 3+ hour river float on inner tubes and for $5 a head the state brings you back to your car. Next day headed to Cape Canaveral National Seashore for the greatly missed kiss of the Atlantic Ocean and the end of our rv vacation.

Animals seen - Bison, jackrabbit, California Condor (two of less than 100 in the world), prong horn antelope, sheep, goats, elk, deer, giant eagle size Ravens, hawks, falcons, horses, Mexican Free Tail bats, ground squirrels, humming birds, white American Pelicans, snakes, elephant seals, otters, sea lions, Canadian geese, coyote.

From Favorite lines and trip quotes

"They have a lot of weird crap out here" - Ben says on animals at Lake Powell

"Hey man you have a great figure, keep up the work man, yea man"
said the skinny, breathless, Latino to my tank top clad son Josh after running to catch up to us in Vegas.

"My advice, don't go jogging alone at night if you're 4' 2", this is Mountain Lion country" - Zion Tram driver

"This is the shortest hike of all our trails. It's perfect for those who don't want to do anything but want to say they did something"
- says Zion Tram driver as most all the tourists exited the bus.

"What time is it? Hello?"
- Ben

"I think I saw a skank" - Kelly squeals her description of the lizard she saw.

Many thanks to my wonderful wife Kelly for her careful planning and adventuresome, upbeat approach to life, and to my sons Joshua age 15, and Benjamin age 11, who provided companionship, insight and adventures of their own. Thanks to my employer Raytheon, and NASA for their flexibility in allowing me the larger than normal block of time off. More pictures of this camping road trip here. Thanks to God for a safe and memorable 5 weeks, in a free, safe, democratic country - rv vacation!

American Road Trips - reviews & pictures of places we visited on $20 a day - food, gas and lodging.


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