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Author Topic: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!  (Read 20894 times)

SargeW

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The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« on: April 19, 2015, 12:46:34 AM »
Well we pulled out of So. Cal for a 6 - 8 month western states trip on April 9.  After making two trips to the east coast last year, we are ready to be firmly planted west of the Rockies.  We will visit many of the western National Parks and attractions, and this may be useful for visitors planning a western US trip in the future.  As usual I will be centering on some of the nuts and bolts of the trip, and let the DW do many of the feature write ups in her blog noted at the bottom of my signature. 

The coach is running well, most of the mods (that I can think of) are currently done, and we are looking to get some miles on the rig.  Unlike last years quick pace to get to Red Bay, AL for some service work, this trip will have longer stays of 5 -7 days in a location to get more time to explore the local flavor. 

I will post about some of these sites, the costs, and the ups and downs (if any) of getting to the camp sites.  You are welcome to come along for the ride, and your input and suggestions are welcome! 

We have made a few local stops already that I will post up here soon.  And as my mom used to tell me regularly......  (note the pic below)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 09:29:19 AM by SargeW »
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Jim Godward

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2015, 11:46:54 AM »
Marty,

Let us know if we can help on locals to visit in MT.  I have several books related to ghost towns, museums, etc. plus my local knowledge.

Our house is up for sale and we will be moving to OR once it sells but still will have the books even if I forget other things!    :)
Jim
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Rosebud3

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2015, 12:59:18 PM »
Sarge,

I look forward to hearing all about your western trip and will definitely keep up with your wife's blog. I plan on a similar western US tour in a couple of years before I move back east.

Be safe and have fun. I love the saying and pic  :)

Arch Hoagland

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2015, 01:43:05 PM »
Let us know how your cellphone coverage is as you travel to various places and, of course, what carrier you use.
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Tom and Margi

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2015, 01:53:05 PM »
I really enjoyed reading your wife's trip journal last year and am looking forward to this year's journal.

cadee2c

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2015, 02:02:36 PM »
Looking forward to reading about it.

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2015, 04:30:20 PM »
Thanks Jim, I will hit you up if we need info on MT.  You can never have too much good info. 

Good idea Arch, cell coverage is so important these days to lots of folks.  Either working, or just keeping in touch.

Thanks Tom and Margi, she loves knowing that someone is actually reading her blog!

Rosebud and Caryl, thanks for coming along on the trip, I will try not to disappoint!
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MN Blue Skies

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2015, 09:53:30 PM »
I am so, sooo, jealous!  Have a fun and safe adventure.
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2015, 12:05:46 AM »
Well, here we go. We started the first leg of our adventure on April 9 from our place in north San Diego county.  If we head north in any of our travels from home, we usually wind up stopping in Vegas as this is about 280+ miles. That is about the limit we like to drive in a day, and there isn't a whole lot else around there to choose from. 

This time we had another reason to to stop in Vegas though. We met up with our kids and got to see the grand kids one more time.  Instead of our one or two night stay, we were in Vegas for a week visiting the kids and a good friend of ours that just relocated there from So. Cal.   

We stayed at the Las Vegas Motor Coach resort, just off of Blue Diamond road.  Usually we stay at the Oasis RV resort on the east side of I-15 at Blue Diamond road.  But since we were staying a week, the weekly rate at LVMC was competitive. LVMC resort is a Class A only resort, and most of the sites are individually owned, and then rented out when the owner is not there.  We chose a "non built out" site as it was much cheaper.  The weekly rate was $60 a day, and the resort does have some very nice grounds and amenities.  The ironic thing is though, Nevada has no state income tax, but believe me, they make it up in other ways.  On top of the daily rate, we paid about $8 per day in taxes and fees to the state! 

The weather was nice in early April, and the nights required an extra blanket on the bed as the temps dropped in the 40's at night.  A few mornings we had to run the heater just to take the chill off while waiting for the sun to warm us up.   One notable thing about this resort, and includes the Oasis as well, McCarran Airport is not far so there is jet noise from time to time during the days.  We even heard a few take offs as late as 10 at night. 

My buddy that moved to Vegas is a "gun nut" guy, and we went to a shooting range one afternoon.  It was an indoor range and had a 25 yard line that allowed firing of semi auto rifles.  Nevada's gun laws are pretty liberal and assault type rifles are available in many descriptions.  My buddy has 3 of his own. 

The reason for the family get together was due to my daughter-in-laws birthday, so the week was filled with various celebrations.  And one of the nights, our son had purchased Elton John concert tickets for the DW and I for Christmas last year.  So my son and DIL went with us to the concert at Caesars Palace in the Colosseum.  It was a great show and the venue is outstanding. No bad seats anywhere in the house.  We also ate that night at the "Gordon Ramsey Pub and Grill" in Caesars just before the show.  For the 4 of us for dinner and cocktails was over $400.  OUCH.  And the bad part was the food was just average, and the server was squirrely. 

Like many places around the country, Vegas real estate prices are recovering after the 08' recession.  Not at the same pace as say California prices, so moving from Ca to Nevada is still a price savings.  If you like the dessert atmosphere, there are deals to be had.  My buddy purchased a single family home in Henderson, which is just south of Vegas. It sits up higher than Vegas so the night time view is quite spectacular.  The summers are quite toasty, so there is a trade off with weather. 

Fuel prices are still low around the country, and Nevada is no different.  We fueled at a Travel America truck stop on Blue Diamond before heading out at the end of the week.  Diesel was $2.85 a gallon, and some of the smaller stations were even less than that.  But squeezing a 37' motor home plus tow into a smaller station to save a few bucks is usually a bad idea.  So the extra few cents for the big spaces is well worth it. We took 36.5 gallons, and paid just over $100.  I was pretty happy with that.

We averaged a little under 8 MPG for the first leg, and that included pulling Cajon Sumit on the I-15 which is a 16 mile long 5 to 6% grade that climbs to over 3700 feet.  Lots of slow trucks to get in our way, and we had a bit of a wind blowing to boot.  I am a cruise control driver when possible, so I set the cruise at 60 and let the Cummins do it's magic.  We are running heavy right now, in a "full timer" capacity.  Lots of clothes, tools, and all the extra food and beverage we had at the house went in the rig.  That will decrease a bit with time, bet we will be taking it all with us for a while. 

The rig ran well and the temps stayed in the low 200's.  The moderate weather helped a lot there, as in the summer when the mercury hits the low 100's the pass can be a motor killer if you aren't careful.  There is a truck lane on both sides of the I-15, but that doesn't stop big slow trucks going 10 mph from pulling out to pass other big slow trucks going 5 mph.  So if you are going to be pulling the I-15 N/B be alert. 

Next stop, Furnace Creek at Death Valley.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 12:10:49 AM by SargeW »
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ArdraF

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2015, 04:08:12 PM »
Quote
If you like the dessert atmosphere,

Chocolate or vanilla???  Sorry, Marty, I just couldn't resist!  The desert atmosphere can be both good and bad, but dessert is always good.  ;D :D

ArdraF
ArdraF
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2015, 09:09:14 PM »
I agree Ardra!
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2015, 10:18:06 PM »
We pulled into Furnace Creek National Park campground, and things have changed since the last time we were there.  We haven't been to Death Valley NP in quite a while, so I was really looking forward to it.  In the 6 years since our last visit, some big changes have occurred.

On the last trip, there were no hook ups, no cell signal, and all dirt camping sites.  On this visit the cell signal was strong (with our Verizon cell phones, and Verizon USB modem).  The park service has installed about 18 full hook up sites (50 amp, water and sewer) and the roads and parking pads are  new asphalt.  Not all of the sites are full hook up though and I recommend pulling up the campground map on line and checking out which sites are which.  The full hook up sites go fast, so plan accordingly. 

An important note here is that during what is considered the off season, starting April 16th until the fall, there is a "no reservation" system.  That is all sites are first come first serve basis.  The FHU sites are $30 per night, and the non hook up sites are $12 per night.  All fees are paid at an automated kiosk at the front check in booth upon arrival. You can only pay for one night at a time, so every day you will need to go to the kiosk and pay for the day. 

There are two different areas that have FHU sites. One section are pull throughs in a rear loop, and the other is back ins by the check in booth.  If you pull into the campground and find a site you like, CLAIM IT IMMEDIATELY,  by putting a person, vehicle, or other item in the site to exhibit that the site is no longer available.  Then go to the kiosk and pay the fee and put the tag on the numbered post on the site.  When you pay at the kiosk you are paying for a day of camping, NOT a specific site. You write your site# and license plate# on the receipt that the machine prints out.  Only Credit Cards are accepted at the kiosk, no cash. 

I saw a few folks upset because they didn't take possession of the site immediately and when they returned someone else was already setting up camp in the site.  This is only in the "off season" time of year. During the "on season" time of year there is a reservation system, and you will make a reservation ahead of time and get your tag when you show up at the visitor center to check in. 

When we arrived the first day all of the FHU were filled so we picked a nice dry camp site with a big tree in the back to block the afternoon sun.  Walking around the loop we could see that several of the FHU sites were leaving the next morning.  So I was up early, and when the FHU sites started to leave, we claimed a nice FHU site for the next 3 days.  The FHU sites were always in demand, so they usually filled quickly when they were empty. 

There are handicapped sites available in the campground, both FHU and dry camp. I checked the restrooms and they are handicapped accessible as well.  There were only restroom facilities available however, no shower facilities. 

There is another campground right next door called "Furnace Creek Ranch".  It wasn't rated very well on a few different web sites we checked.  We drove through it and observed that the sites are pretty close together with no real views of the surrounding landscape. And the other complaint was that there were many full time residents taking up many of the spaces, which we found to be true.  Some are old park models, and some old dilapidated trailers.  There were some amenities though like a pool, restaurant, and playground.  So it's kind of a trade off, depending what your needs are. I did not check prices for campsites at this location.

Maybe because of the off season time of year, but most of the rigs in the campground seemed to be rentals with visitors from around the globe.  We talked to some of them, and they were all happy to be visiting the US with their families.  One family was visiting from Estonia, a country on the Baltic Sea that backs up right next to Russia.  Yep, folks from around the world travel great distances to see the wonders of the USA. 

When ever there are rentals units, there is the chance of inexperienced RVers driving around. And this time was no different.  While sitting outside the rig cooking up some chicken on the BBQ,  I saw a fairly new Class C go by in kind of a rush.  Normally that wouldn't garner much attention, except that this one still had their patio awning fully extended! And before I could stand up and react, his awing knocked down a "Do not enter" sign on a 8' tall 4X4 post.   It made quite a noise, not to mention doing some serious remodel work on the awning arms.  Oh well, hopefully he had rental insurance on the rig.  He said that he was taking it back to Las Vegas in the morning to turn it in. 

We took advantage of our location and the Jeep toad and visited several off road trails to natural attractions. Some are fairly smooth dirt roads and can be trans-versed by most passenger cars. Others are rougher and require high clearance vehicles and 4 wheel drive, but all are plainly marked as to their requirements.  One of the more challenging trips was to the "Racetrack".  It is a vast dried salt bed that is so perfectly flat, that large rocks on the surface of salt bed will, with the right combination of moisture and wind, be pushed along leaving mile long "trails" as them seem to magically move across the desert floor. 

Getting there is the trick though. After driving about an hour from the campground, you get to the turn off and take a 29 mile dirt road that has some pretty rough washboard surfaces most of the way.  Our Jeep handled it pretty well, but is was still rough. Surprisingly we did pass a few hearty (or crazy) souls that decided that they could make the trip in the family car or mini van.  One guy in a Chevy van we passed en-route to the Racetrack, and again on the way back and he was still crawling along. 

And since no adventure is complete without a breakdown, we had ours early.  After getting back from the Racetrack, about 180 miles total for the day, 60 miles of it on a jack hammer, we got home and settled in for the night.  The next morning we decided to just do a few easy drives and see some of the closer attractions.  I went out to start the Jeep and it was completely DEAD.  A long story short, the battery had failed and some of the cells had broken down causing a short.  It had boiled out most of the electrolyte and was pretty heated up. Adding fluid and recharging did nothing to bring it back to life. 

Could the 60 miles of jack hammer trails killed it?  Yep, but it was 4 years old already, so it's death was not a big surprise.  We were just so fortunate that it didn't die out at the Racetrack, 30 miles from no where, on weekend in Death Valley!  If your vehicle is going to die, in your driveway is always the best place. In the morning we pushed it out into the road and backed the RV up to it. I hooked it up and pulled it to a WalMart in Hesperia off of the I-15 and picked up a new battery.  Problem solved.

Death Valley is a totally unique place with some fascinating landscapes.  It is totally worth the visit, but plan your trip wisely when considering the the time of year.  Summers can easily hit 110 to 120 degrees in the day time.  During our visit in mid April, the temps were in the 80's and 90's, and were really quite pleasant. After all, it is a "dry heat".  Nights are really nice, as are the mornings. 

Just a few pics of Furnace Creek campground.   Those Jeep tires were jet black before hitting the Death Valley trails!

Marty--
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2015, 12:14:05 AM »
Our trip through the California desert southwest was brief but fun.  We looped back around to the Ca coast to a little more mild weather.  Our first stop was at one of our favorite campgrounds, Crystal Cove state beach.  Crystal Cove is in Laguna Beach, off of Pacific Coast Highway (Ca 1).  ;D

The whole park is built on the side of a hill, so all of the sites are terraced, and each has a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean.  Half of the sites, the two upper loops have electric and water, and the lower two are dry camping. The upper loops are for larger RV's and the lower loops are usually tents or pop up type campers. A three station dump facility is on site.

The weekend reservations go fast, so plan ahead. We stayed for four days, a Monday through Friday.  The sites are not cheap, $60 for a hook up site, but they are large. There is plenty of room for a 38' rig, tow veh and space in the back of the site (which is where the ocean view is) to set up tables, chairs, and spread out.  A heavy duty picnic table is at each site. The non-hook up sites are cheaper.  To reserve this location, you will need to use the Reserve America web site. 

One important note about this park, there is a strict 3 PM entry time, no exceptions. Plenty of shopping in the area, and the WiFi with our our Verizon USB modem was strong.

We left our favorite beach campground, and went 6 miles down the road to go to one of my least favorites.  Newport Dunes RV resort in Newport Beach is one of the most expensive campgrounds in the country, and in my opinion, without reason. 

The only reason we went was to meet up with some good friends of ours that met us there in their RV. Fortunately it was for only 2 days, as the off season rate for a "bay front" spot was $112 a night!  Maybe I could see it if the park was great and the spots were big and well appointed.  But, not so much.  The sites are small, and are fenced in on 3 sides by 5' chain link fence. The parking pads are dirt gravel, but there are concrete patios. After parking in the site and opening our slides, we had about 5' between the rig and the fence.  The bay front sites, their "premium" sites have a grass area in front that is sloped down towards a short picket fence and then a public sidewalk that goes along the bay.  There are some amenities on site like a pool, spa and work out room, and there are activities for kids.  But you pay handsomely for them. 

The park is older and many of the facilities need modernizing, including the hook ups. A day of sprinkles left large mud puddles at the rear of the sites.  Not what you would expect for this kind of money. >:(

I have stayed here several times in the last 10 years, but I have seen the prices sky rocket.  A "on season" premium site will run in the $200 to $300 range.  Ridiculous in my opinion, not that I will ever stay at those rates.  But they seem to have no problem getting folks to pay it. WiFi is no problem, and stores, shops and beaches are all close.

After leaving Newport we headed north. If felt good to finally be putting some miles on, and getting out of the congestion of the LA area.  The next stop is Morro Bay.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2015, 12:30:13 PM by SargeW »
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John Beard

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2015, 07:22:58 AM »
You're giving me inspiration for my future travels. I am hoping that in the next few years (very few) we'll be on the road for months at a time. Keep the updates coming, I am enjoying your travels.
John & Susan
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garyb1st

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2015, 08:48:08 AM »

The only reason we went was to meet up with some good friends of ours that met us there in their RV. Fortunately it was for only 2 days, as the off season rate for a "bay front" spot was $112 a night!  Maybe I could see it if the park was great and the spots were big and well
Quote

Location location location, Sarge. 


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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2015, 10:24:23 AM »
Thanks Mike! It's is a great comfort to know that someone actually reads the entries!  And I do like writing them. It makes me realize what a great country this is to travel in.

Location location location, Sarge. 

Yeah, you are right Gary.  It just bugs me to see a park in that kind of location be allowed to slip like it has. I checked a few camping review sites as I was writing the entry, and I was surprised how many other visitors had remarked that the park is run down and over priced.

I know I could have paid less if we didn't choose one of the bay front premium sites, but any site that is not on the front row has a view of the rig in front of you and nothing else. And they are still $85 a night!

One of the reasons that our friends wanted to stay there though, is the bike path that runs next to the park and leads to several of the nearby beach cities.  So you are right Gary, location.
Marty--
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Kevin Means

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2015, 11:41:39 AM »
We're definitely reading your updates Marty. I particularly like your detailed info on the campgrounds - which sites are level, best for big rigs etc. Keep 'em coming!

Kev
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2015, 12:42:39 PM »
Thanks Kev, and I will be sure to include site info in the write ups. And you also made me remember a fact I needed to edit in my last post concerning Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach.  They have a max RV size allowed of 38' feet.  There are even lines painted on the ground at the check in booth where they can check on your length.  Out of the few dozen times I have been there, only once did the ranger (camp host I think) ask about the size of our rig, which is 37'.  And it's not because the sites are not long enough, but rather the roads and turning radius' can be tight.  I personally think a 40' would make it, but that's just my opinion.

Some of the sites have a bit of sideways slope to them, so if you are coming in a towable, make sure you bring leveling boards, particularly if you are on a site that is at the end of a row where the grade slopes more.  The awesome views are still worth the effort.

Some of the Newport Dunes sites can be tricky as well if you are in one of the 2nd row or further back sites. This is do to the chain link fences on 3 sides, so longer rigs may need to almost be touching the fence to fit.  The back sites do not have patios as well. 
Marty--
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Steve & Linda

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2015, 05:23:51 PM »
Thoroughly enjoy reading your account of your travels, Sarge! They certainly help with planning our own travels, and really appreciate detail about handicap accessibility and WIFI. Hoping things continue to go well and reading more about this adventure.
Steve & Linda
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ArdraF

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2015, 06:39:56 PM »
I've commented previously in other discussions about the length of sites at Newport Dunes.  A few years back we had a reservation there for a 40-foot motorhome.  It's CALLED a 40-foot in the brochure but the reality is that it is 41 feet and a few inches.  When we arrived at the assigned site we backed in as close as possible to the chain link fence and the front end was out in the street by a foot.  After trying to fit into several other too-short sites, we ended up in one of their premium sites.  So the moral of the story is always know your REAL length, especially if it's a pricey place like Newport Dunes.  We were not impressed and have not returned.

By the way, they also added quite a few park models which we think detracted from the overall ambiance of the place.

ArdraF
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2015, 06:54:41 PM »
Thanks Steve, that is more good info that I need to include if possible. 

Ardra, that is absolutely true about the length issues, no fudging room possible.  And the park models as well. and they put them in the front row premium sites, so it reduced the number of sites that were available to RV's in the front.  But they are getting $215+ in the winter, and $325+ a day for summer rates.  The + sign means that if it is a holiday weekend, the rates double, with a 3 day minimum rental.  Yep, they are in it for the money!
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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2015, 01:04:06 AM »
We arrived in Morro Bay with no problems, which was great since we drove out of Orange County, through Los Angeles county, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and into San Luis Obispo county.  That is a lot of counties with lots of possibilities of crazy traffic.  Other than a few slow downs at major interstate interchanges, we breezed through. 

One important note here is that we knew that there would be few places (if any) to get fuel when we left Orange County until we got into Ventura county. There is a fuel station in Ventura off of Highway 101 named “Silvas Oil Company”.  It is a fuel station that has about 6 large pull through lanes that will fit large RV's and trucks, and two smaller fuel islands for cars.   It is on a frontage road on the east side of the 101, and can be accessed from either direction via an off ramp within a half mile.  The address is 6417 Ventura Blvd, Ventura.  The rig was thirsty, as we hadn't fueled since leaving Las Vegas.  We took about 70 gallons of fuel. 

After fueling we rolled into Morro Bay without issue. We arrived at the Morro Strand RV Park, off highway 101 at Highway 41.  It's not a big park, or has a lot of amenities, but none of the parks in this area do.  It's more about seeing the coast, and visiting the quaint little beach towns along the highway. The park itself is about 150 yards from the ocean and the waves. 

Morro Strand is a horseshoe shaped park and all the sites are gravel.  They are plenty deep, and a few of the premium sites are 42' wide.  We took one of these as we love our outdoor space, spreading out and not being right on top of our neighbor.  The sites are heavily graveled and level so getting in and out is easy, and the staff was always around maintaining the sites and sweeping up. The park is two separate sections, one across the street from the other. One side is for larger rigs, the other for smaller ones.  We paid $59 a night (included was the $10 per night bump for the larger site.)  We were also charged $2 a day for our pet.  That kinda bugged me as there were no facilities for the pets, like walking areas or pick up bags for waste. A negative about this park is that there is a Waste Treatment Facility across the street.  If the wind blows the right way you will get a “chemical” smell from the plant.  There is also a level of truck noise from the many industrial businesses in the area, plus some road construction not too far away.   

The office, rest rooms, and laundry are in two rows of modular buildings. They are raised about 3' off of the ground, but there is a handicap accessible ramp to get up into the buildings and rest rooms.  The restroom had 2 toilet facilities and a large shower, also handicap accessible.  Our Verizon air card worked satisfactory here. Not great, but not bad.  This may be an AT&T home area.

One day we drove N/B on CA 1 towards Monterey.  It is a stunningly beautiful drive, with the aqua blue Pacific waves crashing on the rocky beaches and out cropping.  We drove it in the Jeep, and I am glad we did.  As you drive north from Morro Bay, once you get past San Simeon and Hearst Castle, the 1 gets really twisty.  A road sign warns that vehicles over 30' from pin to rear axle are not advised for the next 88 miles, and with good reason. 

A few years back we had made a reservation at Kirk Creek County campground about 30 miles north of  Hearst Castle on the 1.  We never made it though as a land slide on the 1 about a mile north of the Castle had closed the road for about 2 months.  As we drove the Jeep north this day, we really got into some sharp switch back turns with elevation changes.  Driving north the road hugs some sheer vertical rock faces that make getting too close impossible.  Crossing over the double yellow line, even a little bit may be disastrous.  I would not want to try it with our 37' MH pulling the Jeep.  Together we are about 51' long.  Surprisingly on the way back south we did pass a few large MH's pulling toads.  Looking at the drivers as they passed, they were white knuckled and not having too much fun. 

On the way back south we hit one of the many turn outs and took a few pics.  One look around and you know why this part of California draws so many tourists, both National and International. 

Tomorrow we leave here and head N/E to Pinnacles National Park.  In 2013 it was elevated to the level of a National Park from a National Monument.  It will be our first visit, and we are looking forward to it. 

The first pic is just of our site at Morro Strand RV park. Pretty basic, but that electrical pedestal you see in the left corner of the site is the front edge of our site.

The next two are taken at a pull out on Highway 1 called Cottonwood Creek.  Pretty amazing vista.

And of course, no trip to Morro Bay is complete with a pic of Morro Rock, the towns namesake. 
Marty--
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Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2015, 08:46:07 AM »
Sarge,

Just a quick note to the Las Vegas portion of your trip.

We spent last November at Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort and while it is not inexpensive, it was worth every penny, and two exits from the Strip convenient. Owners and renters were very social and the amenities were impressive.

I, too, however, have to comment on the air traffic which can be annoying, especially on and around the weekends, depending on whether the takeoff traffic is to the south. It was pretty loud and even having been a pilot for 40 years, even I got tired of it.

We had exactly the opposite experience at Gordon Ramsay's Pub, and we are big fans of Hell's Kitchen. The previous season winning chef was on duty and even came out to take pictures with us. And our food and service was top drawer. All of this said to point out that not every place on every night is going to be a winner, just like at the tables.

One of the things we were most impressed with, however, about Vegas, was that if you did your homework, good food, great venues, and lots of fun were not total budget killers. I think the competition for the dollar kept things somewhat reasonable, but not bare bones cheap.

We were so impressed we have four couples going back again this November to do it again!

We are watching with interest as you travel on. Thanks for providing the play by play!

Kim
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2015, 09:42:07 AM »
Thanks for the input Kim. Part of the fun of doing this blog is having others that have had their experiences chime in and share as well.  It's good to hear that you had a positive experience at Ramsey's. I knew it had to be possible, but sometimes you just get the "B" team working that night. 

I too think Vegas can be a wonderful experience, as long as we don't over do it.  The key for us is a little bit at a time.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!   

Marty

PS, the DW just updated her blog last night for a really unique point of view!  Check my signature for the link.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 09:45:34 AM by SargeW »
Marty--
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Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2015, 10:11:47 AM »
Sarge,

My first trip to Vegas (not in an RV) left my senses stunned. We, too, have learned, that venues like Vegas, Yellowstone, etc. are best sampled not consumed.

I also agree that no RV park, eating establishment, vacation choice, etc. experience will be identical to the next consumer. It is important to get the reviews, and more than one, before you commit. Blogs like the ones you guys produce are a great source to get some balance. And that is hard work, which I for one, don't always have the patience to produce. So thanks for your efforts!

Continue leading the way! You look great in a coonskin cap!

Kim
Kim & Christi Bertram
SKP 106183
FMCA 420913
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2012 Thor Damon Tuscany 42RQ
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Taos Monte Bello RV Park, El Prado, NM

SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2015, 08:22:08 PM »
We visited Pinnacles National park on this entry.  Pinnacles is the newest National Park in the National Park system, being upgraded from a National Monument in 2013.  We had never been here before so I was curious to check it out.  The park has a combination of sites, electric only, dry camping, and tent sites.  There is water available throughout the campground from faucets with auto off handles. There are no threads on those faucets so you need a “water thief” to fill your tank.  One faucet in the park has a threaded spigot, by site #86.  There is also a dump station available.

The best way I can describe this park is “rustic”.  Other than a fairly good size swimming pool, there is not a whole lot else for amenities.  The roads are paved, but the sites are dirt and gravel, and weeds grow freely in the sites.  The individual sites are chalked out, kind of like a little league baseball field, just not near as straight.  Some of the sites are big and roomy, and others are chalked on top of each other.  When I hooked up to the electrical box I noted that there were 50, 30, and 20 amp receptacles in the box.  I plugged into the 50 amp plug and closed the box door.  However on the outside of the door a  sticker read “30 amp electrical only”.   I checked my surge guard and it was displaying power on both legs, but soon enough we found that 30 amp was all we were getting.  It was hot during our stay, in the upper 80's in the afternoon, but we made it by running one AC unit and keeping the blinds pulled down.

The major (and only) real draw to the park is hiking.  There are trails of various lengths and difficulty from easy to strenuous. We did one 5 mile hike that took us on an elevation change of 600'.  At the top you enter and navigate a “fallen rock” cave.  A flashlight is needed as some parts are pitch black.  There are boulders to climb over, under, and squeeze by, but it was not too difficult.  The best part is that the cave was about 60 degrees and the outside was 85.  The other less popular activities are bird watching, and star gazing.  The sky here is total darkness at night.

If you decide to come here, be advised that the last 6 miles or so of Highway 25 before you turn on 146 into the park is a two lane road with no shoulder and it's twisty.  The speed limit on Highway 25 is 55 MPH, which is near impossible on this stretch. With the tight turns and blind corners, the last thing you want to do is cross over double yellow line. 

The cell service here in near zero, and I only say near because we managed to get brief weak signal either late at night or very early in the morning.  And that was with our Verizon air card in the router, with a power booster and an exterior antenna.  The cell phones themselves had zero signal. 

The on site restrooms and showers are old, and not handicapped accessible. A sign on the door warned of little or no hot water in the shower.  Two portable toilets were nearby that had handicapped access, but still no handicapped shower facility.   There is a store on site, but it was closed up while we were here, so I am not sure if it was operating or not. 

We did  take a 30 mile drive into Hollister one afternoon to look around and have some lunch. There was a wine tasting event going on with 20+ shops and stores participating. We decided not to partake, as the thought of the drive back on the twisty roads mixed with wine was not a good idea. The town itself was interesting and had character, so I would go back there and visit again.

The camping fees at the park were $37 a night for an electrical hook up site, and that doesn't include a $10 National Park entry fee, if you don't have a National Parks Pass. 

It was an interesting park to visit once, but there is not much here that would inspire me to return. Visit Diane's Trip Journal at the link in my signature for more details and pics of the area and cave.
Marty--
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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2015, 06:07:36 AM »
Nice write up, it looks like Pinnacles National Park will remain on the bottom of my visit list. Keep em coming, your travels have become fodder for our supper table conversations...  :D

I am really looking forward to the day when we can take a months long journey.
John & Susan
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Northwest Las Vegas, NV

SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2015, 10:31:07 PM »
Thanks John, I never minded be a topic of conversation!  And I agree, taking that first long trip is like a dream come true....
Marty--
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #28 on: May 10, 2015, 08:52:59 PM »
After leaving Pinnacles we needed to get back to civilization for some restocking, clean up, and various small projects.  We selected a park in San Juan Bautista that is right next to Gilroy, the garlic capitol of the state (country?).  The park we stayed in is named “Betabel RV park”.  It is right off of Highway 101 at Betabel Road.  The park was surprisingly full when we arrived for our week stay.  Staying for a week often gets you a reduction from the daily rate.  We paid $290 for 7 days and that included tax. I believe it was a 15% reduction over the daily rate. The park has concrete sites and paved roads.  There are mature trees and landscaping between the sites.  While there is not a huge amount of room between the sites, the landscaping makes it feel a little more spacious.  There was plenty of room to sit outside in chairs, watch the outside TV, and even do our morning workouts. 

The park has free WiFi that worked pretty well, but you are limited to emails and basic web searches. Our Verizon air card worked pretty well, but we did have periods of slow downs. The bathrooms are in good condition and had handicapped showers and toilet stalls.  There were 8 washing machines and 10 dryers in the laundry room. Washes cost $1.50 and dryers were $1.00.  Extra capacity dryers were $1.50.   

A few of the surprising perks in this park were a huge lush grass area across from the office that well mannered pets are allowed to run on while off leash.  There is also a more rustic area in the back of the park that has a path around it where pets can also be off leash. Plenty of doggie waste bags and containers are around the park.  There is a heated pool, rec room and showers.  You are also allowed to wash your own rig at your site if you desire, or have a service do it for you.  A car wash area is provided by a separate dump station for free use as well.  Although close to the highway, road noise was never a problem. We were towards the back of the park though in site #99.  An access road runs in front of the park with light traffic, so walking a pet or exercising on it is not a problem.

I caved in and hired a RV wash service to wash and wax the rig one day. I was impressed with them, I think it was the best wash and wax I have ever had. 3 guys showed up at 0830, power washed the roof, then hand washed and hand waxed the rig.  Deionized water was used to final rinse the rig after the wash to minimize water spots.  They finally left at nearly 2:30 in the afternoon.  I really got my money's worth on that one.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend Abel's Mobile RV Wash & Auto Detail service.  I paid $270, and I tipped them as well.

We hit a couple winery's for wine tasting one day. We were looking primarily for reds on this trip, and were not disappointed.  We wound up purchasing 2 bottles, but one didn't survive the night!

Gilroy just 3 miles up the highway had anything we needed, including several restaurants, stores, and my favorite, Home Depot.  Diane looked at Trip Advisor to find a local recommended place for lunch one day. We settled on a place named “Garlic City Cafe”.  It was highly rated, so we gave it a shot. I wanted to have something kinda healthy, so I ordered a “Turkey, Lettuce and Tomato Wrap”.  I asked our ESL waitress if I could get garlic added to the wrap.  Confused, she walked away and sent over presumably a head person, also ESL.  I repeated my request, which I thought should be pretty simple, being we were in Gilroy at the Garlic City Cafe.  She too was baffled at my request, and finally said that if I wanted garlic, I could order some garlic french fries.  I had the wrap just the way the kitchen made it, which was fair.  Goes to show you that you can't always depend on Trip Advisor and past reviews.  Maybe the place changed hands recently....

I even started another project here.  I am making a wood dash panel to replace my existing panel. This one will reposition my Freightliner LBCU electronic readout higher on the dash to make it easier to see while driving.  More details about this later.
 
Diane researched fuel stations in the area as there are few options for a big rig to get fuel off of the 101.  We found that there is a Shell gas station about 5 miles north on the 101 at Monterey road.  It has a truck gas island, as well as a RV fuel island.  As you approach the gas station you will see the auto gas pumps.  Then there is a building that resembles a motel, which is actually part of the gas station. The first driveway past the building on the right is the entrance to the RV pumps.  We scouted this out prior to our planned filling date so we would get easy in and out fuel.  The only thing we didn't account for was  other RV's. When we pulled up Sunday morning expecting to fuel up, there was already a travel trailer in the pump area dumping his tanks.  Another RV was in line in front of the travel trailer waiting his turn. We opted to drive past and use the mostly empty truck lanes.  The RV waiting in line was in line for propane.  So there are other facilities available at the station.  We got fueled and pulled out. We paid $3.25 a gallon for diesel.

Next stop is “Half Moon Bay” on the coast. It's going to be a bit chilly I think. 
Marty--
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SargeW

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Re: The Western US trip, Just the Facts Maam!
« Reply #29 on: May 14, 2015, 06:57:50 PM »
We moved back to the coast for this part of the trip. We stayed at the Half Moon Bay state park. We have stayed here before, but it has been 6 years.  This state park is right on the ocean and has recently added 50 amp electric at most sites. The sites and roads are paved, but the rest of the site was weedy grass. It was in need of cutting during our visit. There was a picnic table and a fire ring at each site, but there is ample room between the sites. There is water available at the dump station and at various places throughout the campground. However, you will need a “water thief” as the campground faucets are not threaded.  We paid about $50 a night for an electric hook up site.  There are still some non electric sites on the back row,  but I am not sure what he cost is. If I were to ding this park, it would be for the lack of maintenance cutting the grass.  The spaces between the sites have grassy weeds, and the fox tails are in full bloom.  Heidi picked up many in her fur whenever she ventured off of the carpet.

The bathrooms are handicapped accessible as well as the shower stalls.  The showers are coin operated and cost 25 cents for the first 3 minutes.  Our Verizon cell card worked well here with no drop outs or slow downs. 

The positive attributes here are you can hear the waves from your RV, and there are walking paths all along the water front.  The town of Half Moon Bay is nearby, has all of the usual conveniences.  Out of curiosity we checked 4 other RV parks in the area.  All were considerably more expensive, $60-$80 a night, and had nowhere near the space that the State park has.  A few had spaces so close that if two rigs both had slide outs, there was no walking space between them.

We ate at a restaurant in town, again relying on Trip Advisor. It was Sam's Chowder House, and had a great ocean view. However, the food was just average. In fact after about 10 minutes at our table with no one acknowledging our presence, I was ready to walk out. Diane grabbed a nearby server and we finally got our waitress to come over.  It got better after that though. But we still paid $56 for two soup and salad lunches. We gave another restaurant in town a chance to redeem our opinion of the eating establishments.  This time we went to “The Moss Beach Distillery”. We went with a couple we met in the campground that were from Chicago. This time the food was great, as was the views. We ate on an outside patio that looked out on the ocean.  Several gas fire pits kept us toasty, and from our perch we had cocktails and watch whales glide by about a 100 yards off.

There are several little charming towns in Highway 1, and the scenery is stunning.  However to keep going north from here would take us into San Francisco. Nope, that isn't going to happen!  I have been to San Francisco several times, but it's not the place to take an RV of any size.  The last time we were there with  an RV we stayed north of the city and drove in on day trips.  San Francisco is not on the schedule this trip.

From here we head back in land to the town of Folsom to warm up and dry out for a bit. Diane has also updated our travel blog as well.
Marty--
2017 Tiffin Allegro Bus 40SP
Cummins ISL 450 HP/Powerglide chassis
Visit our new travel blog! http://www.mytripjournal.com/rvnchickTNG
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