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Author Topic: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!  (Read 4361 times)

VallAndMo

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RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« on: February 02, 2012, 02:46:35 PM »
Hello Folks,

After we were forced to postpone our last-year RV trip in the US, this time it's for real: we have purchased the air tickets already and will landing in San Jose/CA next Feb 22th!

The problem is, this time we're on a really tight schedule: just 4 days, instead of the 2 weeks we were planning before.  :(

So, this  trip will need to be both shorter and closer to the San Jose area.

We've done a bit of research and found what's looking like a real hidden gem: the BLM Hollister Field Office area. Many very nice-looking attractions (including Joaquin Rocks and Pinnacle National Monument) all within a few hundred miles, and lots of opportunities for both rustic campground and boondock RV camping, which we love.

Our tentative  itinerary can be seen here.

On the other hand, apart from the BLM website and a few scattered references, we could find almost no information regarding the area and its attractions (except on the Pinnacle National Monument), so we are fearing that maybe there's some kind of catch or issue.... you know, whatever looks too good to be true very often isn't.

So, do you folks know anything about these places and the roads there, possible issues, etc? We would love to hear from you.

Thanks in advance,
--
   Vall & Mo.

PS: we will be travelling with the smallest fifth-wheel or travel trailer we can rent (still looking) pulled by a suitable 4x4 diesel pickup truck or SUV, respectively. If we can't rent either, we will then rent the smallest possible Class-C motorhome with a diesel engine.


donn

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 03:25:25 PM »
4 DAYS!
Figuring one day to catch up on jet lag, only leaves you three days.  You will be far better off spending most of your time in San Francisco, maybe drive (in a rental car) down to San Simeon (Hurst castle).
As for renting small MH?  Forget diesels,  99% of the smallest MH's will be gas motors.  In fact I seriously doubt you will find a diesel MH in any size in rental fleets.  Just not going to happen.

Tom

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 04:38:14 PM »
We've lived in the greater Bay area for over 30 years, but I must admit to not having visited those "sights". The BLM at Hollister is best known for its wild off-road parks for 4WD and motorcycles. Maybe one of our San Jose members will jump in with advice on the sightseeing and road conditions on your planned trip.

I won't pretend to know what you're looking for in an RV trip here and, like Donn, I'm not sure how much you'd get to see in four days. Santa Cruz, Monterey and some of the Pacific Coast might be a nice trip from San Jose.

Did you find a rental company that will rent you an RV for just a few days? Last year, you mentioned an issue with insurance; Were you able to figure that one out?
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VallAndMo

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 05:44:42 PM »
4 DAYS!
Figuring one day to catch up on jet lag, only leaves you three days.

We are blessed to be almost unaffected by jet lag as long as we take a night fly (as it's the case this time), so we think we can count on the full four days...

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You will be far better off spending most of your time in San Francisco, maybe drive (in a rental car) down to San Simeon (Hurst castle).

We have been to  SF (and Hurst  Castle) already. And we really prefer to be away from cities and into the wild, specially deserts and desert-like places; it's just the kind of thing we don't get to see here in Brazil. We have wonderful beaches like 5 mins away from home, but deserts? they are far and few between here, and the nearest one is like 4 or 5  thousand kilometers from where we live. If we had the time we would be travelling to Death Valley (new to us) and the Mojave NP (been there twice already, and loved it). But with just 4 days, we have to go somewhere near. And from the photos and descriptions in the BLM website,  the area (and specially Joaquin Rocks) seems to fit the bill.

But thanks for the info on SF anyway.

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As for renting small MH?  Forget diesels,  99% of the smallest MH's will be gas motors.  In fact I seriously doubt you will find a diesel MH in any size in rental fleets.  Just not going to happen.

I think you might be mistaken here: Family RV in San Jose advertises renting the Winnebago View, which is a compact 24" Class C with a Mercedes Bens turbo-diesel engine...

Cheers,
--
   Vall And Mo.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 05:51:08 PM by VallAndMo »

VallAndMo

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 06:19:08 PM »
Hi Tom!

We've lived in the greater Bay area for over 30 years, but I must admit to not having visited those "sights".

Given the scarcity of information we were able to find on the web, this appears to be the general case: it seems almost no one really knows these places, and the ones that do are keeping mum...

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The BLM at Hollister is best known for its wild off-road parks for 4WD and motorcycles.

This agrees with the information we have been able to find, but it seems most of the off-roading is located at or around the north end of the area (ie, just to the south of Hollister proper), like the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. Anyway, OHV is not (at least yet) our piece of cake, we mostly want to stay away from them to avoid the noise, exaust smell, dust in the air and other nuisances.

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Maybe one of our San Jose members will jump in with advice on the sightseeing and road conditions on your planned trip.

That would be very good indeed.

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I won't pretend to know what you're looking for in an RV trip here

Mostly to spend a quiet time near Nature, specially in desert-like places... and to scout good spots for future extended trips. We also don't think we will be able to really get to know each one of these places in the short time we have available for this trip, but I think it will be enough at least to separate the chaff from the wheat....

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and, like Donn, I'm not sure how much you'd get to see in four days. Santa Cruz, Monterey and some of the Pacific Coast might be a nice trip from San Jose.

Been there already, and also to Carmel :-) But thanks for the tips.

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Did you find a rental company that will rent you an RV for just a few days? Last year, you mentioned an issue with insurance; Were you able to figure that one out?

Yes, we think we have it pretty much figured out. Thanks for the heads-up.

Cheers,
--
   Vall And Mo.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 06:38:43 PM by VallAndMo »

ArdraF

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 06:51:00 PM »
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we really prefer to be away from cities and into the wild, specially deserts and desert-like places

The problem with arrival (and presumably departure) in San Jose is that there aren't any deserts around there.  The closest is the Mojave Desert and points east.  Four days sure isn't much time to go there!

The Pinnacles is an interesting place and it seems to me we went to the Hollister Hills offroad place a number of years ago.  Just a short visit but fun.  Not far from San Jose is the San Luis Reservoir which has at least one primitive campground - not desert but also not lush green either.  You used to be able to visit the reservoir dam's but I don't know if you still can do that.  East of there you're getting more into the farming lands of the Central Valley and east of that is the Sierra range with Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.  Again none of that is desert.

Given the time frame you probably could drive through Bakersfield, over the Tehachapi mountains on CA 58 to Barstow, and cross over into the southern entrance to Death Valley.  Do not try US 395 from the west because snow can close it during the winter.  (Online maps will have you driving through mountains which are shorter but probably closed until June.) The distances within DV are lengthy but you might have time to see some of the highlights.  It would be enough to whet your appetite for a return visit.  You might see a few wildflowers but I'm not sure how this year's display will be because of lack of rain.  Personally, I think it's way too much driving for four days (about 500 miles from San Jose with a full day of driving and then another day to return) and very chancy in terms of winter weather.  You'd probably be better just going to the Mojave Desert, although even that would be a very short visit.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

Tom

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 07:03:40 PM »
OK, understand the desire to get with nature. Thanks for the clarification.

The View looks like a nice RV, and you won't be restricted where you can stay, as you might be with a bigger rig.

Given the location of Family RV, be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your return dropoff. That's a busy area at the best of times, but it's a zoo around commute time (5:30-9:00am and 3.30-7:00pm).
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Elly Dalmaijer

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 03:51:17 AM »
From our experience with overseas visitors who rented a motorhome we learned that (at least here in Alberta) it was illegal to provide them with an RV on the day they arrive.They have to spend one night in a motel before being allowed to receive the motorhome and hit the road.

OTOH you can get a rental car right from the airport. That way you can use your full four days.

Just a thought from our own experience.

Elly
Either at home in St Albert AB or working in Africa or in our 1993 Itasca Sunrise.

VallAndMo

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2012, 04:34:18 AM »
Hello ArdraF,

The problem with arrival (and presumably departure) in San Jose is that there aren't any deserts around there. 

Yep, if we are talking about "true" deserts... but from the photos I was under the impression that some places in the Hollister Office area were almost desert-like...

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The closest is the Mojave Desert and points east.  Four days sure isn't much time to go there!

You are correct, it's almost a full day driving to get there, and then another day to get back... that's exactly why we're looking for closer places...

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The Pinnacles is an interesting place and it seems to me we went to the Hollister Hills offroad place a number of years ago.  Just a short visit but fun.

Good to know it. Given the range of attractions we plan on spending a full day or so at Pinnacles, but we will pass Hollister Hills as off-roading/ATVing is not our main interest right now.

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Not far from San Jose is the San Luis Reservoir which has at least one primitive campground - not desert but also not lush green either.
You used to be able to visit the reservoir dam's but I don't know if you still can do that.

We haven't heard of San Luis Reservoir before, thanks for the tip. Just checked in a map and it's right beside Henry W Coe State Wilderness, which we heard good things about, and the map also shows Pacheco State Park, which we haven't heard anything about yet. Sketching an itinerary covering these three places, we found it's about half the distance and driving time than the Hollister itinerary we were planning... we could then spend a full day at each of these three places, and the fourth day at the one we liked best... it's an idea...

Do you perchance know anything else about this Reservoir or the nearby Pacheco area?

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East of there you're getting more into the farming lands of the Central Valley and east of that is the Sierra range with Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.  Again none of that is desert.

That's true, never been there but (from what we were able to find online) these places seem more like forests than deserts...

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Given the time frame you probably could drive through Bakersfield, over the Tehachapi mountains on CA 58 to Barstow, and cross over into the southern entrance to Death Valley.  Do not try US 395 from the west because snow can close it during the winter.  (Online maps will have you driving through mountains which are shorter but probably closed until June.) The distances within DV are lengthy but you might have time to see some of the highlights.  It would be enough to whet your appetite for a return visit.  You might see a few wildflowers but I'm not sure how this year's display will be because of lack of rain.  Personally, I think it's way too much driving for four days (about 500 miles from San Jose with a full day of driving and then another day to return) and very chancy in terms of winter weather.  You'd probably be better just going to the Mojave Desert, although even that would be a very short visit.

We think it's better to exchange our love of the desert for the convenience of a less desertic but nearer place :-) so thanks for the info on the DV route and Mojave, but we think we will try something along the lines of our original Hollister itinerary or maybe the Reservoir one we just sketched with your help.

Thanks for the very thoughtful and detailed posting, ArdraF! This forum really is an unvaluable resource!

Cheers,
--
   Vall & Mo.

seilerbird

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 08:10:21 AM »
I have lived in southern California for 30 years and close to San Jose for 7 years. There are a lot of interesting things to do in the area they are not really world class tourist destinations other than the ones you have already done. It is 500 miles to either Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks so they are out of the question.

My suggestion is to go spend all 4 days in Yosemite National Park. It is not a desert, however...

I have been to all 46 of the National Parks in the lower 48 and Yosemite is my favorite and it is only 200 miles away from San Jose. If you can't find a campground space inside the park you could probably find one right outside the park. It is a bit cold there this time of year but still doable.

I am with you on the deserts, they are incredibly beautiful, peaceful and serene. 

VallAndMo

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2012, 08:43:52 AM »
Hello Seilerbird,

I have lived in southern California for 30 years and close to San Jose for 7 years. There are a lot of interesting things to do in the area they are not really world class tourist destinations other than the ones you have already done. It is 500 miles to either Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks so they are out of the question.

Our thinking exactly.

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My suggestion is to go spend all 4 days in Yosemite National Park. It is not a desert, however...

I have been to all 46 of the National Parks in the lower 48 and Yosemite is my favorite and it is only 200 miles away from San Jose. If you can't find a campground space inside the park you could probably find one right outside the park.

We were kinda saving Yosemite for a future trip of at least one week... and for this trip we were looking for something more "desert-like" (even if not truly desert). But with that strong recommendation from you, we will have a second look at Yosemite for this trip

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It is a bit cold there this time of year but still doable.

Even coming from a tropical country like Brazil, we have no problem with cold as long as we're suitably equipped; in our trip to Germany, we both went to the top of Zugspitz and had a lot of fun at 10F  or so... and Vall braved 3F in a very humid night in an Alps pass (while Mo sought refuge in the heated motorhome) to gaze at the stars, so we should have no problem at the 40F (day) to 6F (night) that's being forecast for Yosemite. But thanks for the warning.

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I am with you on the deserts, they are incredibly beautiful, peaceful and serene.

With me (Vall), it's more than that, and it's weird because I can't really explain it. I guess no one really can, only someone who has spent at least a day and a night at a real desert like the Mojave can understand how it feels....

An important question: have you ever gone to the places around Hollister Field Office that I listed at my original post (top of this topic)? Even with the excellent alternatives that are being suggested, we're thinking about going there anyway just for exploration's sake (as it seems very few people actually went there)... so if you know of any serious gotchas or have any further info or pointers regarding the area, we would be most grateful.

Thanks, and Cheers,
--
   Vall And Mo.

Lou Schneider

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2012, 10:14:12 AM »
One problem with staying around the San Jose area may be the weather.  Remember, our seasons are the reverse of yours in Brazil and you'll be arriving in the middle of our winter.

February is the middle of our rain season, and if the Hollister area is in the middle of a rainstorm many of the backroad areas may be closed.  The area is desert-like during the summer months but can turn into a big mudhole during the wet winter.

Same thing for Yosemite.  A Pacific storm blowing in can leave the valley floor covered in snow with below freezing temperatures, making camping in a RV problematic.

Your time is limited, and it would be a shame to have your trip ruined by a storm.

May I suggest booking domestic flights from San Jose to Las Vegas to dovetail with your arrival and departure?  Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert.  Rent an RV there and explore to your heart's content.

Death Valley's headquarters at Furnace Creek is only a couple of hours away and this is the perfect time of the year to visit.

Southwest Airlines has frequent direct flights. Their booking is a little unconventional in that they don't reserve seats in advance, they assign the order in which you board the plane and you pick any empty seat.  Don't be afraid to book their bargain Wanna Get Away fare if it's available - the only difference between it and the regular price is the refund policy and you get full credit towards a new booking if your plans change.  Go for their optional Early Bird Check In to be first in line when you board the plane for your choice of seats.  Otherwise you'll have to log in to their website exactly 24 hours before the plane takes off - if you wait to check in until you get to the airport you'll be among the last to board and likely won't be able to find two adjacent seats.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 11:27:38 AM by Lou Schneider »

seilerbird

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2012, 10:23:14 AM »
t

We were kinda saving Yosemite for a future trip of at least one week... and for this trip we were looking for something more "desert-like" (even if not truly desert). But with that strong recommendation from you, we will have a second look at Yosemite for this trip
The very best month to visit Yosemite is May. That is when the waterfalls are going full bore, the temperatures are reasonable, the mosquitoes are non existent, school is not out yet and the number of tourist is down compared to summer.

However Yosemite in the summer is a TOTALLY different experience in the winter.  They even have a ski resort. This has been an extremely dry year in the Sierras.

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With me (Vall), it's more than that, and it's weird because I can't really explain it. I guess no one really can, only someone who has spent at least a day and a night at a real desert like the Mojave can understand how it feels....

I have driven across the Mojave a hundred times at least, the last time was last week. I have spent many months camping in the desert and I understand you completely. Some of my non RVing friends cannot comprehend why I love the desert. "There is nothing there". Yeah, right.
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An important question: have you ever gone to the places around Hollister Field Office that I listed at my original post (top of this topic)? Even with the excellent alternatives that are being suggested, we're thinking about going there anyway just for exploration's sake (as it seems very few people actually went there)... so if you know of any serious gotchas or have any further info or pointers regarding the area, we would be most grateful.
Not only have I never been there, I don't know of anyone who has been there.

There are 8 of the very best National Parks in California. In my personal order of excitement: Yosemite, Channel Islands, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic and Redwood. Besides that we have Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and 900 miles of incredible coastline. It is kind of hard to get worked up about going to Hollister. And at Pinnacles they have Condors, the bird I love to photograph the most and I never even consider going there. Maybe if some one else went there and recommended it I might reconsider.

Tom

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2012, 12:03:03 PM »
An easy drive north from San Jose is Lake Del Valle. Although only 6 miles from downtown Livermore, once over the hill on the park side you'll definitely be in the countryside. They have a nice campground, and roads in and out are paved. Back on the town side of the hill, the Livermore Valley is California's second wine country.

An easy drive from Livermore is the California Delta, in the San Joaquin Valley. A couple of files in our forum library:

RV parks on the CA Delta

The CA Delta experience
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JakeR

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 10:07:45 PM »
Here is a link for some more info from visitors to Pinnacles.  Keep in mind you will not have cell service or any internet service there.  Hollister is probably your last place to fuel up should you need any.  You are renting the same RV model that we own.  Easy to drive and park.  Couple things to remember; slide works when emergency brake is on so should it not work for you be sure and check the brake.  Best to run the engine for the slide.  Refrigerator should be set to auto and should switch to electric once you are plugged in.  May have to cycle it off/on after plugging in.  BE SURE you find out where to fill up with water if the rental place does not have it full for you.  Water at campground will be for filling up drinking containers (My advice is to use that to drink from and not the rv water).  Be sure they give you a couple rolls of RV TP.  You never know about rental companies and that one could be a real pain if they forget.

Any questions on the View before you go feel free to email me.  Enjoy your trip and you are right, not much else around there.  70 miles from East Entrance to West.  As you know, no road going thru the Monument.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pinnacles-national-monument-paicines
Jake
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VallAndMo

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Re: RV trip in the US: This time it's for real!
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2012, 03:26:28 PM »
Hello Rocky,

First of all,thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response. More below:

Here is a link for some more info from visitors to Pinnacles.  Keep in mind you will not have cell service or any internet service there.

I'm aware of that, and I'm bringing a rented satphone along for any emergencies (not on the trip, but at home and mainly at the office so people can reach us in case of need).

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Hollister is probably your last place to fuel up should you need any.

Thanks for the info

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You are renting the same RV model that we own.  Easy to drive and park.  Couple things to remember; slide works when emergency brake is on so should it not work for you be sure and check the brake.  Best to run the engine for the slide.  Refrigerator should be set to auto and should switch to electric once you are plugged in.  May have to cycle it off/on after plugging in.

Very good info! nothing like hearing it from an owner...

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BE SURE you find out where to fill up with water if the rental place does not have it full for you.  Water at campground will be for filling up drinking containers (My advice is to use that to drink from and not the rv water).

We will include it in the plans, thanks for the warning (we were under the impression that we could fill the RV with water in the campground).

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Be sure they give you a couple rolls of RV TP.  You never know about rental companies and that one could be a real pain if they forget.

Just included in the checklist.

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Any questions on the View before you go feel free to email me.  Enjoy your trip and you are right, not much else around there.

We are actually planning on going to nearby New Idria ghost town and from there to the famous Joaquin Rocks (with a friend who owns a SUV, as the roads there are not appropriate for motorhomes)  I will post a summary here when it's done.

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70 miles from East Entrance to West.  As you know, no road going thru the Monument.

Yeah, and it's a hell of  a long hike ;-) seriously now, we plan on staying on the east side of the monument due to the campground being there. Maybe we will boondock on the west side in the future

Cheers,
--
   Vall & Mo.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 03:28:06 PM by VallAndMo »

 

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