Far ago and long away, my wife bought an RV. We’ve taken it out for shakeout overnight trips twice. We’ve just taken our first real trip. This post is a schematic of the trip, followed by some thoughts about my RV camping experience.
My wife and I grew up in Montana. We’ve camped and enjoyed it. Over thirty years ago we move to the San Francisco bay area, where we still live. As we got older, we became less inclined to sleeping on the ground, and more used to creature comforts. About ten years ago, we rented RVs a few times, against the eventual purchase of one. These trips taught us what we wanted from our own RV:
- Class C – A class A is too big. A class B is too small. A class C is just right. (See wikipedia for an explanation of the classes.)
- Short – We will park it in our driveway. It has to fit there.
- Walk around bed – We both get up during the night. We don’t want to do gymnastics to do so.
- AC outlet by the bed – I use a CPAP machine.
We have other requirements. Every class C RV meets them, so I won’t list them.
My wife received a small inheritance in January. She did extensive research, narrowing the candidates to two possibilities. She also researched RV dealers in Northern California. A week later, we purchased a Coachmen Freelander class C motor home (boring details) from Manteca Trailer. We had a great deal of fun provisioning the RV. This is very much like buying for a new house, except that the furniture and appliances are already in place. My wife had collected some of the items we needed over the years, but there was still much left to buy: linen, cooking utensils, dishware, cleaning supplies, and so forth.
We took two overnight trips to nearby campgrounds to shakeout the RV and our familiar with it. We went to the Moss Landing KOA Express RV park in Moss Landing, CA, roughly 70 minutes from home. The site there had all of the available services: power, water, and sewage. We found and corrected a few problems. We went to Sunset state beach, also roughly 70 minutes from home. We camped self-contained. We corrected a few more problems. We were ready.
Our first trip
I have always enjoyed Yellowstone National Park in the spring. We both have family in Montana. we outlined a trip to Yellowstone, and Butte, Montana. We left the details vague, with one exception: we made a reservation for two nights at the Madison campground in Yellowstone. we almost waited too long. There was only one date left when a site was available two consecutive nights. We booked it. This allowed us to work out a starting date for the trip.
We have driven the trip between the bay area and Butte many times, so we knew you could do it in a car in one long day, but two days would be more reasonable. Since we travel slower in an RV than in a car, we allowed three days. The park reservation was for the nights of June 3rd and 4th. We could leave on Jun 1st and arrive on time. My wife decided to leave on May 31st, allowing 4 days to reach the park. We arrived in Butte on June 5th and stay through June 10th. We took three days to return.
Our itinerary — May 31st through June 10th
- May 31: home – Winnemucca, Nevada Winnemucca/I-80 KOA
- June 1: Winnemucca – Arco, Idaho Mountain View RV Park, electricity
- June 2: Arco – Idaho Falls Snake River RV Park and Campground, electricity
- June 3: Idaho Fall – Madison campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Self contained
- June 4: Yellowstone NP
- June 5: Yellowstone – Butte, Montana Butte Voyager KOA campground, electricity and water (used the dump station in Madison and refilled water tank)
- June 6 – June 10: Butte, Montana
- June 11: Butte – Twin Falls, Idaho Twin Falls 93 RV Park, electricity
- June 12: Twin Falls – Winnemucca, Nevada New Frontier RV Park, electricity
- June 13: Winnemucca – home
Approximate route — major roads
- May 31: home – Winnemucca, Nevada US 101, CA-237, I-880, CA-262, I-680, I-580, I-205, I-5, I-80, NV-289
- June 1: Winnemucca – Arco, Idaho I-80, US-93
- June 2: Arco – Idaho Falls US-20
- June 3: Idaho Fall – Madison campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming US-20
- June 4: Yellowstone NP
- June 5: Yellowstone – Butte, Montana US-191, MT-287, MT-41, MT-55, I-90
- June 6 – June 10: Butte, Montana
- June 11: Butte – Twin Falls, Idaho I-15, MT-43, US-93
- Jun 12: Twin Falls – Winnemucca, Nevada US-93, I-80
- June 13: Winnemucca – home revers home-Winnemucca
En route stops
- Turtle-ing. Like a turtle, carrying its shell everywhere, an RV is a home on wheels that you take with you. My wife calls this “turtling”.
- Cooking. You take the food you want to eat and prepare it the way you want to. You have a tiny ‘fridge, freezer, pantry for consumables. You have a tiny microwave and a gas stove for cooking. You can eat indoors, at a table in the RV, or you can eat outdoors, at the included “grilling station” picnic table.
- Privacy. You don’t have to allow anyone into your RV, unlike a motel room, where maid service enters every day, and management has a key.
- Comfort. You can adapt the bed with a foam mattress, supply exactly the pillows you prefer, and select the sheets, blankets, and comforters.
- Expensive. Initial purchase prices are high. Maintenance costs are high. Mileage is low. (We got 10mpg) RV parks cost. (We paid $35+ per night.)
- Inconvenient. You have to plan around finding RV parks or campgrounds for each night. There are fewer RV parking sites than there are hotel rooms. You have to ‘make camp’ every day that you travel. You have to ‘break camp’ ever day that you travel. This is more time consuming than packing and unpacking at each new hotel room. You either have to tow a car, rent a car at destinations, or drive the RV to the sights you want to see. RVs aren’t allowed on many roads, especially in national parks.
- Slow. RVs travel more slowly than automobiles. They require longer times at refueling breaks because they have larger tanks than cars. My Honda Civic has a 10 gallon tank. This RV has a 57 gallon tank.
- Breaks and driver changes: We take a break and change drivers roughly every two hours when traveling. This does not often coincide with break times for refueling or meals.