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Author Topic: First time RV'er  (Read 424 times)

jce77

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First time RV'er
« on: March 14, 2019, 07:06:07 AM »
Hi.

My wife and I are travelling from Norway to the U.S this summer. This is our 13th time visiting and we have always been going to Texas and we always drive a regular car when we're there

This year we have decided to do something new. Texas is big and has a lot to offer, but it's about time we venture out of the state.

In the end of June we'll be picking up a c30 motor home from Cruise America in Dallas (tried to get the c25, but it was cheaper renting the c30  :) ), and set course for the west coast and San Francisco. We have just started looking at route options, but I don't think we will get very far the first day since we need to stock up on food etc and would like to find a place to settle in before it gets dark

So to my first series question here on the forum:
Is there anything we should now about cruising in a rental and does laws and regulations change much from state to state when it comes to camping, driving etc?
Would it be wise to buy Ezpass (not sure of the name) or similar that would cover toll charges all across the country?
We are HUGE fans of BBQ, does most RV camps allow to fire up your own grill?

Also, we don't mind doing long hauls (10-12 hour drive is no problem) and since we're about to cover over 3.000 miles I know we have to do some serious driving to make it to SF and back to Dallas in 13 days. Would you say it's more tiresome to drive a RV compared to a car?

I'm sure there's going to be a tons of questions as we start setting up our route, so I guess this is not the last time y'all will see me in here.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2019, 09:29:12 AM »
Driving rules do indeed vary by state, though not all that much on the major things. Just obey posted speed limits.  Other regulations, e.g. whether you can stay overnight in rest areas or camp in public areas vary a lot. Best to check locally on anything of that sort.

Most all highways in the region you will travel are free rather than toll, so I don't think an EZ Pass would be worthwhile.

Yes, nearly all campgrounds permit charcoal and propane grills.  Open fires, however, may be prohibited, especially where there is fire danger.

 Most people find driving an RV much more tiring than a car, but personal perceptions vary widely.  Newcomers especially tend to stress more about it being big, sloppy steering, etc.   Driving in crosswinds, which are common in western US highways, increases effort & stress immensely.

The problem with 10-12 hour days is that you don't get to do much besides drive. When are you going to see the sights you are speeding by?  And when do you relax, cook that BBQ, etc.?  I know you want to see & do a lot in your limited time, but a less aggressive itinerary is much more enjoyable. In RV travel, the journey is as important as the destination.  I would suggest a shorter distance and more time at the many glorious spots in the American Southwest, e.g. the big national parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce and Arches and visit towns like Bisby & Sedonna AZ.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 09:36:47 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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Matt_C

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2019, 09:47:36 AM »
JCE,

Read Gary's last paragraph twice..... 
Dallas to San Francisco is about 1800 miles (almost 3K kM).  That is over 30 road hours.  Unless that Class C is very comfortable (not likely), you will be very tired at the end of 8 road hours.  Your plan is do-able, but maybe you should think about it more.

If San Francisco is what you want to see, why not start there? 

Matt

Larry N.

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2019, 10:01:33 AM »
JCE,

Read Gary's last paragraph twice..... 
...
If San Francisco is what you want to see, why not start there? 

Matt
Amen!
Larry and Mary Ann N.
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2015 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited toad
Formerly: Trailmanor 2720SL, Bounder, Beaver
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SLOweather

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2019, 10:42:25 AM »
We rented a 30' CruiseAmerica just about a year ago. They don't have any accessories in them. No dishes/utensils/pots/pans/bed linens/towels/pillows etc. CruiseAmerica will rent you some. For the prices we saw, it would be no more expensive and probably cheaper to drive to the nearest Wallmart or Target and buy everything you need, and then just throw it away or donate it somewhere at the end of the trip. Plus, you don't have to worry about paying their inflated replacement costs if you lose or damage something.

When you do the walk around, take pictures of everything with your cell phone, as well as noting it on their form if it is scratched or damaged. Take notes as you travel regarding anything that goes wrong.

Even having driven Class As for 30 years, it took us some time to get used to the Class C being wider behind the cab than the front.

I hope you are not too tall. At 6'4" (1.9 meters), I barely fit in the driver's seat.  I was so scrunched up that my wife said I looked like I was driving a Go-kart. I had to remove my US size 14 shoes to fit my feet in the foot well to work the pedals.

They will charge you about $500 US deposit. They bank on most people returning the coach dirty (especially those like you flying in to pick it up), and forfeiting that deposit. We did such a good job of cleaning we got all of the deposit back. Plus, I presented the dealer with my list of everything that was broken, and that I fixed. He gave me another $50 back for that. I even pointed out the one new scratch I put on it. "No one EVER does that!"

Since you are renting a 30', check the shower before you use it. Ours was plumbed backwards so that the hot and cold sides were swapped. As hot as the water heater thermostat was set, that's a safety hazard. And, I wasted a lot of water waiting for it to heat up until I figured out it was backwards.

And, they will want the holding tanks drained, the valves open, and the cap off, and the gas tank full when you return the coach.

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IBTripping

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2019, 06:53:18 PM »
As a rule of thumb, plan on averaging 55 mph or less. I also agree that your itinerary is too optimistic. Driving an RV can be very fatiguing. I suggest you be flexible. If you find that driving long distances in a heavy RV is too tiring, just change your plans. There are a lot of wonderful places to visit between Texas and San Francisco. Enjoy.
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Gizmo100

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2019, 08:23:42 PM »
Welcome to the RV Forum jce77
 
As a rule of thumb, plan on averaging 55 mph or less. I also agree that your itinerary is too optimistic. Driving an RV can be very fatiguing. I suggest you be flexible. If you find that driving long distances in a heavy RV is too tiring, just change your plans. There are a lot of wonderful places to visit between Texas and San Francisco. Enjoy.

This x's 2...We just did a 1800 mile trip (3600 round trip) We did good to avg 50 MPH on a 8 - 10 hour day. And we had 3 plus weeks planned.
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Isaac-1

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2019, 09:12:58 PM »
I can't help on the rental stuff as I have never rented an RV, I can help on the regional stuff to a degree, as I live in Louisiana about 275 miles SE of Dallas, TX (440 km).  I second the thought on not getting an EZ-Pass, or other toll road tag, as many of these toll road systems don't allow cross use, or require special account setup to do so, though this is getting better.  For example as of a couple of years ago Florida EZ-Tag would not work on Texas EZ-Tag roads, also Texas has at least 2 toll road systems, much of the Houston area uses EZ-Tag, vs much of northern Texas uses TX-Tag, which I think now do some cross billing.   You really should not NEED to use toll roads along your route (I don't know about in California), but in Texas Toll roads primarily exist as a faster express route too and from the center of the larger cities for daily commuters, with alternative free routes that may be a bit longer, or have slightly more delay.

Now down to the trip in 12 days, I don't think this is reasonable if you plan to actually want to see any of the sights of the American southwest, as few of them exist along the major interstate highway routes between these two cities.  It really is hard to average over about 50-55 mph in a motorhome even with 75 -80 mph speed limits in west Texas (don't expect to hit speeds over 60-65 mph), after averaging in fuel stops, food stops, as well the occasional rest area stop along the road.  Also remember to account for camping setup and tear down time, when estimating your travel itinerary, Cruise America coaches don't have leveling jacks, so you likely need to get some wood planks or plastic leveler devices and spend a bit of time learning to use them as RV absorption refrigerators must be fairly level in order to operate properly when stopped (within about 3 degrees of level side to side).  Add in time to fill water tanks, dump black tanks (perhaps wait in line at a dump station if not at a full hookup rv campground), campground check in, etc. and your travel day may be a lot shorter than you are planning.

Personally in about 12,000 miles of travel since buying my current coach, my longest travel day was 499 miles in 10 hours (11 hours if you count time to disconnect electricity, dump tanks, etc.) , the only reason for that long of day was to get through a major city on a Sunday evening instead of on a Monday morning.  In general when planning trips I try to stay under 300-350 miles on travel days, and always regret it in retrospect when I go over 400.
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Tim_T

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2019, 10:01:07 PM »
Here's a newbies perspective- some things we learned renting an RV. 
Last summer, we flew from Detroit to San Francisco, rented a 25 foot class C from Cruiseamerica, and spent the next 9 days wandering California.  It was an experiment to try out an RV to see if we really wanted to buy one. The trip included our 19 and 17 year olds kids. We learned a few things.

- a 25 foot class C is a little small for 4 adult size people for a week.

- yes, we can live in a RV, but will buy a one with a little more living space for just the two of us (ok, maybe the kids can use the pull-out couch and dinette)

- We learned lots of stuff about setting up, tearing down, plumbing and electricity conservation. Doing it is different from youtube and reading.

- that class C is a lot bigger than my F150 pickup. Practicing backing up with just my side mirrors for a few months ahead of time helped.

- driving that large, unfamiliar vehicle can be very stressful. It does not behave like a car or small truck.  Lots of sail area, heavy vehicle at or near GVW, steering and suspension are different from your car so it handles differently. I was more comfortable a week and 1100 miles later, but stayed pretty close to the 55mph California truck speed limit. The vehicle did have 95,000 miles on it which may have contributed to the handling.  See Gary's comment above about newcomers stressing about size, steering, etc. 

- On most family trips we do 600-700 miles a day in the car or pickup getting to where we are going.  In the RV, 300 miles was more than I wanted to do. Reduced speed was part of that. 

- from the driver's seat of that vehicle, you can only look forward, left and right. You can't look 45 degrees to the rear through the rear passenger window (no window).  That matters when you approach an intersection at an angle. The way the box sticks out a foot right behind the front windows really limits visibility.

- The twisty, narrow mountain roads on each side of Yosemite can be stressful in a large, unfamiliar vehicle 2 feet wider than you are used to driving.

- recommended speeds on the yellow signs at curves are about what I was comfortable doing in the class C, instead of the 10mph over recommended I'd do in my daily driver.

- side mirrors for the econoline cost $165 at Cruiseamerica if you don't destroy the arm.  You can do amazing things with camp mirrors and duct tape to get by for a few days.

- as mentioned, cruiseamerica does not include any leveling blocks, no stabilizing jacks, nothing but a dump hose and a table. We made do with firewood for leveling (missed planning that detail).

- you can rent bedding, towels, dishes, pots & pans from cruiseamerica for a little less than buying new. We did that instead of flying all that across the country.

- Our first stop after picking up the vehicle in Fremont, CA was the Walmart half a mile away to buy food and a few items not included in the rental kit. Then we hit a grocery store a few hours later for the rest of the stuff. We'd planned the menu ahead of time, because part of the experiment was to see if I could cook the same way in the rv that I do at home.  Yes, with space limitations.

- the last night was spent at a brother-in-law's place near SF. we unloaded everything, swept it out, wiped everything down with, and got our deposit back the next morning (minus the $165 mentioned above). We'd emptied the tanks thoroughly the previous morning at an RV park with full hookups.

- While we loved the convenience of staying in the parks in a more comfortable environment than a small tent, this trip also made us realize the value of a towed vehicle or a truck and trailer rig.  We're looking forward to dropping the house at the campsite and heading off in the smaller vehicle to explore.

- we averaged 10.5 mpg for the 1100 miles. That was a lot of time at 35mph up and down the mountains and a few hundred miles on highways.
 
- finding parking spaces in town and crowded national parks can be challenging.

edited to clean up some sentences that made no sense.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 10:19:19 PM by Tim_T »
Tim

Arch Hoagland

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2019, 11:23:06 PM »
Tim_T's write up is the best I've ever seen.  Covers just about everything you need to know. Renting an RV is a really good idea for your trip.

When we are on the road for weeks or months at a time I calculate $100 a day to cover everything...gas, RV park, food, tours, etc.

I calculate maximum average speed at 50 MPH and always try to get into the RV park an hour before dark.  Makes it easier to park, etc.

You say you will start your trip at the end of June. The 4th of July all RV parks will be packed in California. So you better make some reservations as soon as you can.

Along the way you are going to see truck scales where they weigh big trucks. Do NOT go into them. They are for trucks only.

When you get to the border of California there will be an inspection station that will ask you if you are bringing any fruits or vegetables into the state. Agriculture is our livelihood here and they don't want the bugs from other states coming in here. They will take your fruits and vegetables.

When we go to San Francisco we stay at:

https://sanfranciscorvpark.com/   

You will pass through some windmill areas going into California. They are located there because, as you will soon notice, a LOT of wind blows through that area. Slow down, way down if necessary until you get through the wind.



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jce77

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2019, 05:40:39 AM »

Wow!
Thank you all for contributing with information regarding our upcoming trip.
I know we are in for a long haul and since we know Texas like the back of our hand the plan is to use the couple first days to get out of the state and in that way cover a few extra miles and get a little closer to the west coast

The reason we're picking up the RV in Texas is that to get reasonable airfare and the company over here made us a great deal on the C30 that includes everything we need onboard like towels, galley utensils etc. and after we return the RV in Dallas, we are staying in Texas for a week to visit friends before we fly back to Norway
We also did get free miles and free generator use, so saving some good money right there.

After reading your feedback I have made a note of the following:
Be flexible - Yes, we are indeed. We never make detailed plans for our trips and we are very open to change the route as we go. Main goal is San Francisco, but if we see that we canít make it and want to stay longer where we are, well, let it be so. Thereís always next year 😊
Stay out of truck scales
Get hold of leveling blocks
Don't keep any fruits or vegetables in the rig when we reach California (hopefully I can bring some oranges with me back to Texas)
4.th July Ė Yeah, I guess everyone with a RV, tent or a truck is out and about that day
Check the RV for damages and that everything works as intended when we pick up the rig

Thanks everyone for taking your time to answer my questions.

IBTripping

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2019, 02:03:25 PM »
 :)) :)) :)) I think you will have a very enjoyable vacation.
1996 Coachmen Catalina 230BH
2004 Dodge Durango SLT 4.7L

Isaac-1

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2019, 03:26:24 PM »
The more I think about this, the more I don't see it as being an enjoyable trip.     A few years ago I helped an old friend driving a 25 ft long U-haul self moving truck (built on a Ford E350 chassis much like one of these rental Class c Coaches) 2,100 miles from Louisiana to western Montana, it was a rushed trip, with his wife and teenage son driving in their car, and he and I in the moving truck, they needed to be their by Friday to start a new job, their departure was delayed by 3 days due to the previously reserved truck not being available on time, they ended up  picking me up at my house at noon on Monday, after loading the truck and driving the first 150 miles on their own.    We drove another 450 miles that day before stopping for the night at a motel in Wichita Falls, TX at about 1 am, only stopping for fuel and food along the way.  We got up the next morning and were on the road by about 8 am, this was our longest day driving 850 miles before stopping to sleep in the cab of the truck at about 2 am on Wednesday morning (we had been hunting for a vacant motel room for nearly 150 miles at that point) at a rest area in Wheatland, Wyoming.    Here we did our best to get some sleep sitting up in the truck until about 8 am when the early morning fog cleared off, we were then off on another 430 mile of driving that day, where we stopped at about 3 pm 300 miles short of our final destination at a small motel in Columbus Montana, we were exhausted by this point, and slept until sunrise the next morning making it into Missoula MT, on Thursday morning just before their 10 am appointment to get the keys to their new apartment.  About all I can say about this trip is that I am glad I flew home, and also glad I had a non-travel day to rest before flying home on Saturday.  This was with 2 people trading off down the driving in the moving truck, and while we did cross much of the US on the journey a lot of the driving was after dark, and there was no stopping to sight see along the way, the trip you are proposing is 1/3 longer, and deals with much higher traffic congestion in for probably 300-400 miles of the trip in California.    So yes doing 3,000 miles in under about 6 days on the road could be done in something like a rental class C, it may be far from enjoyable, leaving you exhausted with no energy or inclination to do the touristy part of your trip, or the return drive back to meet a fixed schedule flight departure.
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Larry N.

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2019, 03:54:11 PM »
Ike,

I think they'll be OK IF they stick with their following statement:

"Main goal is San Francisco, but if we see that we canít make it and want to stay longer where we are, well, let it be so. Thereís always next year"

They'll then learn what works for them and, based on that statement, won't hurt themselves doing it. Folks who've never done long haul trips in minimal time don't have the same perspective as those who have done it.

Luck JCE! Keep it enjoyable.
Larry and Mary Ann N.
2016 Newmar Ventana 3709 -ISB6.7 XT 360HP
2015 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited toad
Formerly: Trailmanor 2720SL, Bounder, Beaver
  de N8GGG

ArdraF

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Re: First time RV'er
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2019, 04:13:45 PM »
We went through the California Agricultural Inspection station at the end of January and they were most concerned about citrus.  I had forgotten about it so "donated" some oranges and lemons to their waste bin.  They really didn't ask about anything else that time.  I wouldn't have had to do that except they had been washed and the labels removed so they didn't know if they were "store bought" items.

ArdraF
« Last Edit: March 25, 2019, 04:15:18 PM by ArdraF »
ArdraF
:D :D