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  1. Default From the UP to Seattle to Fort Smith, Ark., to Kansas City

    Hi!

    My husband, 16yo son, and I are very excited. We're planning an RV trip starting June 8 and lasting 2 - 2 1/2 weeks. We'll be starting out in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where we live) and going to Seattle, then to Fort Smith, Arkansas and then to Kansas City and then home. We'll be pulling a small 5th wheel (we're getting it next week!).

    We want to enjoy ourselves and spend a lot of time in beautiful places. We want to see beautiful mountains, and go whitewater rafting at least once. We're hoping to visit some National Parks and monuments and really enjoy ourselves.

    We'll be looking for campgrounds with hookups most of the time, but it would be worth it to rough it occasionally if the place was beautiful enough.

    This is our first time planning such a trip. Do you all have any suggestions as to what great places we can visit, how to find the best campgrounds, etc.?

    Thanks!

    Lance, Stacey, and Kyler

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default I Don't Think You Can Help It

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You ARE going to spend a lot of time in beautiful places, see beautiful mountains and really enjoy yourselves. If you stay a little north of the shortest (I-94) route you can get cross one of the most spectacular stretches of the Rockies through Glacier National Park. From there your journey to Seattle will take you through more beauty in northern Idaho and western Washington. Here's a thread describing a trip I took through there in the Spring of '05.

    Your leg from Seattle to Ft.Smith will take you through one of my favorite venues, southern Idaho. Here's a thread on that area. From there you'll drop down to Salt Lake City. I'm going to recommend that you take a bit of a detour next, leaving I-80 to take WY-530 south through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in both Wyoming and Utah. Continue south on UT-44 and US-191 to Dinosaur National Monument which may end up being the biggest hit of the trip for your son. US-40 will take you through some more great mountain scenery, culminating in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Finally, from Ft. Smith, I think you might want to look at heading over to St. Louis and completing your trip by heading up the Great River Road.

    As far as campgrounds go, almost anywhere that is going to provide space for a Fifth Wheel is going to provide at least water and power hookups. I think you'll be hard pressed to find a spot where you can 'rough it' with such a rig. For the most part, I think you should first look to the National and State park systems if you're looking for more 'natural' accommodations. Which reminds be, by all means get a National Parks Pass for your trip. This will cover all entry fees (but not camping charges) to all National Parks for a one-time cost of $50.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Thanks, AZBuck! I've spent most of the evening bookmarking interesting things along the way. I've got about 50 things bookmarked already, and that's just from the start of the trip until we reach Colorado! I'm especially excited about the Utah/Colorado area. I hadn't looked at Wyoming yet - but I'll be headed to check out Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area as soon as I finish this post. I think the problem will be deciding which places we'll have time to go to. From Denver to Ft. Smith, to Kansas City, and back home I didn't have anything at all bookmarked and was kind of dreading the journey home, but the Great River Road will help that out a lot.

    We're dropping the kid off in Kansas City for the summer, so we're really taking our time with the first part of the trip and then rushing back. It will be nice to have a nice, scenic road to follow back.

    Do you have a favorite trip planning/map program for RVing?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default We want good local intel on the UP!

    Quote Originally Posted by L&SindaUP View Post
    From Denver to Ft. Smith, to Kansas City, and back home I didn't have anything at all bookmarked and was kind of dreading the journey home, but the Great River Road will help that out a lot.
    The unknown is what drives most of us to keep on exploring. We have never found a truly boring section of road anywhere in the Americas.
    Do you have a favorite trip planning/map program for RVing?
    That is more complex a question, than you might guess -- my favorite one is the one we just abandoned work on (after thousands of dollars of research) but here are a few of the programs we have looked at. The best in the business for planning RV vacations is Tracks & Trails and here is an article written by one of the owners. As far as campgrounds and other destinations be sure to read the monthly columns by Jaimie Hall and Alice Zyetz. And even if you are an experienced RVer this checklist will be very helpful to you...

    Finally, the UP is one place that has always fascinated me. I hope you will share some tips and ideas about your home-town area with us.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Trip Planning

    Quote Originally Posted by L&SindaUP
    Do you have a favorite trip planning/map program for RVing?
    Actually, it sounds like we plan trips in much the same way. What I do is just start with the states I'm going to be passing through and do searches on "StateName tourism OR attraction" and start bookmarking the ones that appeal to me and just following the links. Once I have all the good websites bookmarked, I cut and paste from them into a PowerPoint with generally a page/slide per attraction. This will have such info as directions, open/close times, fees, photos and some descriptive material. I'll print this out before I go and it serves as my own personal travel guide. It doesn't necessarily mean that I will slavishly visit every place in the 'book' or that I won't follow the odd impulse as I travel, but it does mean that I've done my homework and know where the best (for me) sites are.

    Quote Originally Posted by L&SindaUP
    From Denver to Ft. Smith, to Kansas City, and back home I didn't have anything at all bookmarked and was kind of dreading the journey home
    We have a saying around here that there are no boring places. I'm now at the point where I've seen most of the 'must see' locations in North America, but I still immensely enjoy RoadTripping. There are an uncountable number of smaller, more intimate attractions everywhere in this country, and I take great joy in discovering and enjoying them. I am sure that once you start researching into the other segments of your trip, you too will find more than enough to make each day's journey rewarding and memorable.

    AZBuck

  6. Default

    Mark, I'd be more than happy to give you any information you need about the UP. It's definitely a beautiful area.

    AZBuck - your method is very similar to what I was considering! I thought I might print out a page about every attraction that looked interesting and put it all into a binder, then we could decide what we wanted to do while we were in the area. I think that would really help with flexibility. If we don't commit ourselves to specific attractions then, if it happens to be raining when we're passing through an area, we can just keep going until we hit good weather and see the attractions there.

    The problem with that is that we won't be able to make any campground reservations. Will that be a problem?

    We'd also need to find ways to watch the weather, so we could decide if it was worth staying in an area to wait out the rain.

    My husband and I were a little worried that we might be trying to put in too many miles in a short time. Does it appear that way to you? One alternative would be to skip going to Kansas City. We could fly our son from Denver to Kansas City, and head back up north from Denver. That would cut some miles off the trip and allow us to enjoy more time in the areas we really like.

    I'm so excited, I didn't think I'd be able to sleep last night - and we haven't even decided on a 5th wheel yet!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Too Many Miles?

    To cover the entire circuit you've outlined, you'd have to cover around 5200 miles (plus any side trips or detours). To do it in two weeks, you'd have to average about 375 miles a day, with three weeks you'd only have to do 250. Both of these can be done, especially the three week trip. The main thing you need to do is keep a running clock on how you're doing and not let yourselves fall too far behind. Certainly by the time you get to Denver, you'll know if you have the time (and stamina) to complete the full circuit or will want to ship your son and take the shortcut home. I wouldn't think that the price difference between a pre-purchased vs. walk-up ticket from Denver to Kansas City would be big enough that you should decide now, but can just play this by ear and see where you are when you get there.

    AZBuck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default See or Savor?

    My husband and I were a little worried that we might be trying to put in too many miles in a short time. Does it appear that way to you?
    My first reaction too your itenerary was that it was quite a big trip considering the time available. As Buck has pointed out, you can cover the mileage without too much difficulty, but I get the impression you'd like to do a lot of exploring on this trip, and that could get difficult under your timeline.

    Is Fort Smith an essential stop for this trip? That would be the first place I'd leave for another trip. I wouldn't worry about flying from Denver to KC though. If you decide to head home straight from Colorado, KC isn't that much farther than the direct route home for you, which would take you through Nebraska. Overall, It would only add a couple hours.

    The problem with that is that we won't be able to make any campground reservations. Will that be a problem?
    It could be, however, I never make reservations for camping on my roadtrips, and its been a very rare instance where I couldn't find someplace to sleep. I'm looking for tent sites, but if anything having the 5th wheel should make it easier. As a last resort, you can find a legal place to park overnight and "camp" there.

    We'd also need to find ways to watch the weather, so we could decide if it was worth staying in an area to wait out the rain.
    Getting a Weather Radio is always a good idea for a trip. You should be able to find one that plugs into your car's electrial system for not very much money.

    the UP. It's definitely a beautiful area.
    I agree, Yooper country is one of my favorite places to visit when I've got a long weekend. Which part are you starting from?

  9. Default

    We'll be starting from near Escanaba, Midwest Michael.

    Good news! I've found a way to take 20 days, instead of 14, and we're going to cut out Fort Smith, as well. I was going to bring my husband there to meet my mother for the first time, but that can happen another time.

    Kansas City would add more than a couple hours for us, as we would be expected to stay and visit the family for at least 24 hours - and such a short visit would definitely lead to some guilt trips. So - we can decide, once we get to Denver, whether or not we want to just wait and visit the fam a few months later.

    Now it sounds like it will be a more leisurely trip, don't you think?

    This must sound terribly dumb of me - but what exactly is a weather radio? Does it have extended forecasts? I thought weather radios were just programmed to alarm when there was a tonrado warning, etc.

    I bought Frommer's "Exploring America by RV" and National Geographic's "Guide to the National Parks" today. So far, I've only read up on South Dakota and Utah. I've found several things we absolutely must see, and several others which look like they'll be a hoot.

    MUST SEES:

    1. Devil's Gulch. We must see it because it's right on the road, and it's where Jesse James and his horse, pursued by a posse, jumped across a 20-foot-wide chasm which was 50 ft. deep! How awesome is that? We'd be sorry if we missed it.

    2. Mt. Rushmore. Of course.

    3. Wall Drug - because my husband says you can't pass by it without stopping, and we'll be passing by it.

    4. Wind Cave National Park. This is the part my son's most excited about.

    5. Arches National Park - we could go trail-riding there and kill two birds with one stone (our desire to see the arches and our desire to ride horses)

    6. We MUST go whitewater rafting at least once

    WOULD REALLY LIKE TO SEE:

    1. The Trial of Jack McCall, Deadwood, South Dakota. They replay his trial (for killing Wild Bill Hickock) every night, recruiting audience members as jurors! It's free and it's right near everything else we'll be doing. What a hoot!

    2. Jewel Cave National Monument - my son's hoping to see stalagtites and stalagmites.

    3. Hoe-in-the-Rock at Glen Canyon, Utah. 230 Mormons blasted a hole through a 50-foot cliff and lowered their wagons by chain and rope over 1800 feet to the river below. WOW.

    4. The Feiry Furnace at Arches National Park. Not many things more fun than travelling through a maze so confusing that you have to be led by a ranger!

    Two states barely touched on, and how many more to go? Good thing I have several more months to prepare for this!

    I wasn't even this excited planning our trip to the Virgin Islands. This is awesome.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Weather Radio

    A Weather Radio is essentially a radio that is permanently tuned into a broadcast by the national weather service. It will give you the current conditions, a forecast, and most importantly, it will instantly tell you when a severe weather warning is being issued. On a model that I've used, the weather band was built in as part of a portable CB, which is very handy as a backup to cell phones in an emergency.

    Giving yourself 20 days will give you lots more time to see things. I suspect you still won't be able to fit in everything, but that's just because there is so much great stuff to see in that part of the country. Even with 2 months, you'd still have to pick and choose.

    I've been through Escanaba a few times in recent years. It typically works out as a good resting point, and the large park right along the lake is a wonderful spot to have a picnic lunch. Being that close to the National Forest will give you lots of great places to take your new 5th wheel for short trips when you aren't taking it across the country.

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