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Newbie needs help planning first x-country trip solo


amarie1

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Hi all,

After 2 years of dreaming and scheming, having never owned an RV before nor ever taken a trip in one (other than a test 2-week rental last summer) I finally snapped up a 2017 Class C, 29 foot Thor, and it came with a toad and tow bar etc. I had it professionally inspected and the report came back that it was in good shape. That was 2 weeks ago. I drove it from the seller's location near Detroit to my home in Chicago where I had a parking space in a storage lot ready and waiting.

I've done one short trip to the Indiana Dune Nat'l Park (last week) and it went okay. Doggos and I are getting more comfortable. I'm buying leveling blocks, tire minder system, etc.

Short-term (1 year) goal: Figure out how to take 6 to 8 week trips and keep working on the road (I teach software via Skype/Zoom). Longer term, possibly full-timing. 

I joined Escapees back in January I think, and Good Sam, and FMCA ... lol. 

Now I'm trying to figure out how plan out a trip from Chicago to Oakland California, where my daughter and grandchild and son-in-law are. I'd like to go late July/ early August. 

I know I should not drive the thing more than 5 or 6 hours a day, right? That's about 7 or 8 driving days, taking it easy. I think at least half way through I'd like to rest up for a couple days, no driving. I'm not sure if I'll bring the toad this trip.

Is there any service from Escapees, or elsewhere, that would help me plan this out? That is, where to stop each day, where to take my 2-day break? It would make me feel better to have a few choices or reservations along the way rather than purely winging it. I'm anxious enough already. 😉  

Thanks!

AM

AM and Thor-for email2.jpg

Edited by amarie1

2018 Forest River Sunseeker 2290SC
25 feet, Chevy Express 4500
"Angie" (short for Angel)

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5 minutes ago, amarie1 said:

Now I'm trying to figure out how plan out a trip from Chicago to Oakland California, where my daughter and grandchild and son-in-law are. I'd like to go late July/ early August. 

It is good to hear that your trip home went well. As long as you take things easy and don't let anyone rush you, there is no reason not to expect things to continue in that way.

The question of the right length of time to drive and the best distances to travel each day is a pretty subjective thing. We used to plan to travel for as much as 6 to 8 hours each day, back when we were younger and had limited vacation time. Over time we discovered that it is much more relaxing to take things more slowly and we began to lower the amount of travel time and to more appreciate the actual trip as part of the experience and not just a means to get between two locations. On a trip as long as you are contemplating, there will be literally dozens of things that are worth your time to see or experience which you will just sail past, missing out on the best part of RV travels. The key point is that an RV enables you to stop pretty much anywhere and to stay as long as you wish or as your time allows. We find that we most enjoy our travels when we plan to go no more than 300 miles in one day and we usually average more like 150 - 200 miles per day. We never start before 8 or 9 am and plan to be parked for the night no later than 4 pm, thus avoiding all of the rush hour traffic, no matter where we go. 

I do not know of any route planning services, probably because that is such a personal thing. But there is ample help in doing that on these forums if you will share with us things like the amount of time you will allow for the trip, your travel preferences, and if you are willing to stop for a day or longer in order to seen and experience some of the things that you will be traveling through or past. If it were me, I would first determine what is the most amount of time that I would be willing to allow between departing Chicago and my arrival in the San Francisco area. Once you know that, take a look at the maps (Google Earth is a good choice) and look to see what sort of attractions you would enjoy visiting along the way. Things like national parks, historic sites, museums, and just about anything else that may interest you. Once you know that you can plan a route with those points of interest in mind and even make some reservations in those areas. For camping choices, I suggest either Campground Reviews or Campendium as they list campgrounds with reviews by people who have been there. I would also look at the Escapee camping directory as it has some very good cost saving choices and you may also want to consider joining Passport America which is a discount camping group. My best suggestion at this point is to share more information on your plans here and see what suggestions you get. 

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

            images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQqFswi_bvvojaMvanTWAI

 

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I know you wrote that you had the RV inspected, but did that include the age of the tires?   I doesn't matter what the tires look like.  If they are more than 5 years old, from the date of manufacture, they begin in more risk of coming apart, sometimes a blow out.  You don't want to be miles from the nearest town and have a problem. 

All tires have a DOT (Dept of Transportation) date code.  Here is a link to what to look for on the tire and how to decode the date code:

https://www.tirebuyer.com/education/how-to-determine-the-age-of-your-tires

Usually this code is only on one side of the tire, and sometimes that side is on the inner part of the rear dualies.  Very hard to see.  A mirror & flashlight helps.

Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G 
2020 Chevy Colorado Toad
San Antonio, TX

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

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Thanks all! The inspector did say the tires were in good shape. But I'm bringing the rig to an RV service center this week just to check everything and one of the things I want them to do is check the condition of the tires. Assuming I buy new ones, any recommendation regarding brand? Do I need to buy all of them at once?

AM

2018 Forest River Sunseeker 2290SC
25 feet, Chevy Express 4500
"Angie" (short for Angel)

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Todd thanks, I hadn't heard of that. I'll check it out.

Ideally I'd like to take a month of meandering across the US before I get to Oakland. BUT I haven't seen my daughter/grandson since pre-COVID and seeing them and staying there to visit for a week or two is a major motivator. Probably on the way back I'll be more relaxed about it. 😉 

AM

2018 Forest River Sunseeker 2290SC
25 feet, Chevy Express 4500
"Angie" (short for Angel)

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I’m another that plans 300 miles a day - 350 if I’m pressed for time or have a really good reason.  While I find 250 - 300 miles per day pretty sustainable for multiple days, it’s not my favorite way of traveling.

If you are not locked into a short timeframe, I’d look at a map and decide what sounds interesting to you that might be more or less along your route (Yellowstone?  Cody and the museum there? Lake Tahoe?  Black Hills of South Dakota?  Capital Reef and other Utah national parks?).  Then plan a route between the places you want to visit and how much time you might want to spend at each one.  I know you can easily spend months on that route, so maybe choose to come back by a different route than you take to get there.

You would need to research what you want to see - there’s a lot of places I’d like to see that are closed right now.

Make the trip out there as interesting and as fun as you can - a trip where all you are doing is piling on the miles because you have to be somewhere isn’t much fun at all.

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1 minute ago, amarie1 said:

Thanks all! The inspector did say the tires were in good shape. But I'm bringing the rig to an RV service center this week just to check everything and one of the things I want them to do is check the condition of the tires. Assuming I buy new ones, any recommendation regarding brand? Do I need to buy all of them at once?

AM

RV tires usually "look" fine even up to 10 years old, so someone checking the condition of the by looking at them won't do much good.  The exception is, if there is some obvious damage or defect that can be seen.   To truly check the condition the tire has to be taken off the wheel (rim) and inspected by a qualified tire inspector. 

I have been buying Michelin tires, others have different opinions.  If you want lots of info and opinions, do a search on this forum for Michelin and Toyo.  You will find other tire brands discussed in the different topics.  

Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G 
2020 Chevy Colorado Toad
San Antonio, TX

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

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You said that you joined Good Sam. They have an online Trip Planner.  I-80 is a direct shot from Chicago to Oakland. There are several online campground directories that depict campgrounds on a map. In addition to the ones already mentioned, there are RV there yet, free camp sitesUltimate Public Campgrounds, and USA Campgrounds.  

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Welcome to a great way to see our country and a great group of people to help you do it.

When traveling solo I liked to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, then pack and depart somewhere between 10 am and noon, stop for lunch between 1 and 2 pm and maybe take a nap, then fill the fuel tank just before stopping for the night somewhere between 4-5 pm. That doesn't cover a lot of miles per day but it does keep me from going to sleep at the wheel.

The places we stopped along the way when it was the two of us depended on the trip. Driving Historical Route 66 meant stopping at lots of diners and museums but driving the Blue Ridge Parkway meant meandering along with stops at historical sights between overnight stops. My favorite places to visit are living history museums but Dave's are nature sites so we did a blend of those most of the time. Some people are into sports so tour from one stadium to another. Some are into collecting National Park passport stamps so go wherever they need to to visit as many of those as possible. If you travel interstate highways, I recommend stopping at the visitor center at each new state to get a current map and brochures of places you might want to see along the way. Stopping early for the night gives you time to peruse those. Only you can decide what those places to stop would be for you but, if you tell us about your interests, we can then make recommendations of places we think you might like.

Linda Sand

Blog: http://sandcastle.sandsys.org/

Former Rigs: Liesure Travel van, Winnebago View 24H, Winnebago Journey 34Y, Sportsmobile Sprinter conversion van

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16 minutes ago, amarie1 said:

Todd thanks, I hadn't heard of that. I'll check it out.

Ideally I'd like to take a month of meandering across the US before I get to Oakland. BUT I haven't seen my daughter/grandson since pre-COVID and seeing them and staying there to visit for a week or two is a major motivator. Probably on the way back I'll be more relaxed about it. 😉 

AM

You just answered your own question about distance/time.  You want to get there quickly, but safely. 

Pick up I-80 and plan on 350-400 miles a day. Take breaks every 2 hours or so.  You have your home with you, you can stop most anywhere and take a break.  Do your best to avoid going through large cities between 7-9:30am and 3-6:30pm.   If you have to, get up at 4:30am and drive through the city from 5-6am.  

With breaks and gas stops 400 miles will take you 10 hours or so.  I like early starts and stopping before evening.  

About your drive back.  Give some thought to what interests you.  Museums, outdoor places, visiting state capital buildings, etc.  Then get on the internet and look at the towns and cities, state parks, National Parks, scenic areas and scenic drives from Oakland to Chicago, both along I-80 and 150 miles north or south of I-80.   Pick some places along the way and plan to stay there for 3-5 days and then move on.  You can move 100-200 miles to the next place, or you can plan a 2 day drive and cover 500-600 miles to another place where you could stay for 4-10 days if there and things you like to do in the area.  

Many people enjoy driving the non interstate highways, US-xx and state highways, stopping in smaller towns along the way.  

Remember you have your home with you, so you can stay or move on as you wish.   

Kirk, suggested Campground Reviews and Campendium, I highly recommend both for places to stay.  Call ahead 1-3 days before you plan on arriving and try to get reservations.  If you can't get reservations in the place you wanted, then choose another place to go.  Again you have your home with you.  It doesn't matter exactly where you are, as long as it is safe.  

Another way to go, is to decide on 2-3 places to visit, with enough to do for 5-7 days, on your way back, and start trying to make reservations now for a place to stay.  

Bottom line, you don't have to go 100 miles each day or 500 miles in a day.  The RV gives you the freedom to go and as you please and as conditions allow.  If you can't find a place to stay, don't get frustrated, just find someplace else to go.  

The more you travel, the more you figure out what you like, how to find places to stay and how you like to travel.  

Relax and enjoy the travels, RV'ing is a great way to travel.  There is no right or wrong way to go.  

Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G 
2020 Chevy Colorado Toad
San Antonio, TX

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

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1 hour ago, amarie1 said:

Ideally I'd like to take a month of meandering across the US before I get to Oakland.

That would make for a trip of between 2100 and 2500 miles, depending upon your chosen route. If you plan to drive an average of 250 miles each travel day, that only requires 10 days of travel. If you choose to travel for a couple of days and then relax for a day or two, it will mean that you will arrive refreshed, rather than tired for long days of driving. If you then make two or three planned stops of 2 or 3 days each to tour, that still gets you to SF in under 3 weeks time. I highly recommend that you consider travel that way. You also need to think about the present covid-19 conditions along your route and in CA as well as the city. While you are planning, give some thought to keeping yourself safe both while traveling and once there. These are very different times that we are living in and since we have been staying at home-base, my extensive experience in traveling through the areas you are planning to pass through is very out of date. Take the time to do some checking of valid sources of information about any restrictions.

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

            images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQqFswi_bvvojaMvanTWAI

 

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2 hours ago, Al F said:

Many people enjoy driving the non interstate highways, US-xx and state highways, stopping in smaller towns along the way.  

Be aware that railroads often run alongside US Highways. We like trains so we actually took one trip going west along US Hwy 2 through Burlington Northern territory then took US 30 back east through Union Pacific territory. We also don't mind camping near Interstate freeways because that traffic sounds like ocean waves to us. :)

Those smaller towns Al mentioned sometimes have city parks with camping sites. They tend to be free or cheap and are quieter than truck stops for overnights.

Linda Sand

Blog: http://sandcastle.sandsys.org/

Former Rigs: Liesure Travel van, Winnebago View 24H, Winnebago Journey 34Y, Sportsmobile Sprinter conversion van

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Several items pop up:

Quarantine when you get to Oakland.  Last I saw was two weeks.  Make sure you have a place to stay before you leave Chicago.

There are no rules for how many hours/miles per day you drive or don't.  I would suggest three or four hours until lunch. After lunch drive for night stop. Now if can find something to stop and visit during the day!!!

Passport America for inexpensive camping. Ideal for travelers who only want a night or two. Ask here, on the forums, for a sponsor. With a sponsor you an extra 6 months, so 18 months for one year subscription, and the sponsor gets 6 months added to their membership. 

Use apps as in RV Parky, great trip planner, and RV Discount, you can search by area for the best discount available. 

Places to stop. Pioneer Village in eastern. Nebraska.  North Platte for Bailey railroad yard. Scottsbluff /Oregon Trail. 

The above was just a couple of visit stops . If you do some searching you will find more.  Many more!

Since it is your first long trip, I would figure on 7 to 10 days point to point. 

If you decide to do an A to B trip without playing tourist, I will give you my system.  Usually four hours then lunch break with a walk around. Then run until supper.  Maybe a short nap. Then run three to four hours.  That should yield about twelve hours and 600 miles.  Classic rest area or Walmart for overnight. 

We travel the non interstates as much as possible.  Obviously around the big cities the interstate is the only option.  Look at using some of the two lanes. Especially as you move west. 

Hope that helps.  Good luck. And let us know how your trip progressed. 

Bill

Edited by Bill w/bus
Mission words and typos corrected

Bill & Lynn Baxter

MCI102A3 Conversion, Detroit Diesel S50  

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If you want to see anything you're going to have to travel the secondary highways.  They are very good, you don't have to compete with the speed of traffic and semi trucks like on the interstates and overall, it's just more relaxing.

Most small and medium towns have RV parks or city parks.  If you pull in early you'll get a site without reservations.  Give it a try and see how it goes.  If any issues you can always move over to the interstate and make reservations.

We didn't drive by miles but instead, by hours.  We typically drove until 3 or 4 pm giving time to relax and have a nice dinner.  When you start pulling into campgrounds at 5pm or later you will start getting serious competition for the sites and your chances of getting an unreserved site are slim.  Many people drive a while and then estimate where they'd be at a certain time; look on a map for a town and RV park and then call for a reservation while enroute to the town. Have a couple parks in mind or even a couple towns one after another in case you can't get your first choice. For one night you don't have to get a 'resort' or one with lots of amenities. All you want is a place to sleep.  We were two drivers so we could switch off if one got sleepy.  It sounds like you will be solo so please don't push yourself to keep on driving when you start getting sleepy.  Either call it a day or pull over at a rest area for a nap.  Get out and walk.

We never liked staying around bigger cities so the secondary highways were good for us.  If you're not going to have a toad vehicle, then fill your gas tank as you near your destination and possibly get take out for dinner - unless cooking.  This way you don't have to leave the campground once you get there and in the morning you can just go and not have to worry where the next fuel station will be.

You'll soon get the hang of it and it will be second nature as to how you travel.  Good luck!!  Enjoy your visit!

Full-timed for 16 Years
Traveled 8 yr in a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Motorhome
and 8 yr in a 33' Travel Supreme 5th Wheel

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12 hours ago, amarie1 said:

 

Short-term (1 year) goal: Figure out how to take 6 to 8 week trips and keep working on the road (I teach software via Skype/Zoom). Longer term, possibly full-timing. 

 

You will need your own internet connection setup since you "must" have a dependable connection.  That usually mean using a JetPac or MiFi set up.   The best place I know of for excellent detailed info is:  https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/

Also look into the Xscapers section on the Escapees website.  

Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G 
2020 Chevy Colorado Toad
San Antonio, TX

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

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8 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

Many people drive a while and then estimate where they'd be at a certain time; look on a map for a town and RV park and then call for a reservation while enroute to the town.

We adopted this method on our first trip when we pulled into a campground and found that it was closed and the next campground in the direction we were headed was an hour away. There are parts of the country where there are not a lot of campgrounds/RV parks. A highway, pipeline or other construction project can fill all the RV parks in a fairly large area for a month or more. In some areas of the country, flooding and/or storm damage can close parks seasonally or unexpectedly. Parks, especially public parks may be full every weekend. We try to not travel on Friday and Saturday unless we are familiar with the area and are sure we can get a place to stay or have a reservation.  

Quote

Doggos and I are getting more comfortable.

This to me indicates that you have more than one dog. Be aware that some parks (not many in my experience) do not allow dogs. Some have a restriction on the number of dogs. Some have restrictions on the size/weight and some have breed restrictions. Although we have only encountered it at one park out of the hundreds we have stayed at since 2004, there are some parks that charge extra for dogs. Just another reason to call ahead of arrival.

There have been several mentions of city parks. County parks and fairgrounds may also have RV sites at very reasonable rates. The best sources I have found for these are free campsites and  Ultimate Public Campgrounds. If you  have a GPS, you may be able to load campground location data from Ultimate Public campgrounds at a small cost. Data sets are available from USA campgrounds, the Discovery Owners Forum and the POI Factory for free.

 

Edited by trailertraveler
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Thank you for all this! 

Yes, it's just me and two dogs, a terrier mix at 16 lbs and a hound/beagle mix at 45 lbs. 

Using secondary roads sounds interesting and appealing. I used to drive from Chicago to Kansas City MO for school and often chose to do the trek, at least from Iowa City to KCMO, entirely off-interstate, just to see the country and small towns. Hmm. 

A city park ...you mean like a regular park, with swingsets and baseball diamonds? 

AM

2018 Forest River Sunseeker 2290SC
25 feet, Chevy Express 4500
"Angie" (short for Angel)

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43 minutes ago, amarie1 said:

A city park ...you mean like a regular park, with swingsets and baseball diamonds? 

They run the gamut. Yes; some have play areas, ball fields, tennis courts, etc. while providing places that an RV can park. Others have designated RV sites some even with hookups for some or all utilities.  Some have lakes with hiking trails while others are just paved, gravel or grass areas. Some are free, some have modest fees and even those that have utilities are generally modestly priced. Many are first come first serve while others take reservations all the time or for weekends or special events. Some are managed by the municipality while others are managed by community groups like the Lions Club or Rotary.

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1 hour ago, amarie1 said:

A city park ...you mean like a regular park, with swingsets and baseball diamonds? 

We too prefer the US routes, rather than the interstates if travel time is not a major factor. I have long believed that the interstate highway system not only saves you time but it allows one to travel completely across the entire country without seeing anything other than gas stations.  We found many city parks that allow overnight stays, particularly in the smaller towns of 5,000 or fewer people. Most of them are pleased to have visitors and we usually would drop into the local store a spend a few dollars or even buy some fuel. In most of those towns the prices are somewhat higher than along the interstate but the free night still saves money and sometimes fuel is more on the interstate. If you do stay in the park, ask someone if you do not see any sign to indicate if it is OK. We  found that people in small towns are usually more friendly and appreciate the business more than in big cities and along interstates. 

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

            images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQqFswi_bvvojaMvanTWAI

 

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4 hours ago, Kirk W said:

the interstate highway system not only saves you time but it allows one to travel completely across the entire country without seeing anything other than gas stations.

And the same stations all the time. Boring! But good when you want to just get miles behind you.

Linda

Blog: http://sandcastle.sandsys.org/

Former Rigs: Liesure Travel van, Winnebago View 24H, Winnebago Journey 34Y, Sportsmobile Sprinter conversion van

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Along with city parks also check out county parks.  Here's a very nice one we've stayed:

https://www.mycountyparks.com/county/Benton/Park/Hannen-Park.aspx

TrailerTraveler gave you some good links to find public parks or just Google for county or city parks for the state you're driving.  Texas, South Dakota and North Dakota have awesome ones.

Full-timed for 16 Years
Traveled 8 yr in a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Motorhome
and 8 yr in a 33' Travel Supreme 5th Wheel

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