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  1. #1

    Default San Francisco to Seattle - first trip in an RV.

    My wife and I have just completed a oneway trip over 11 days in June from San Francisco to Seattle by RV. It was fabulous and hopefully those wanting to do something similar will find our experiences helpful. Here is the thread for the planning stages.

    Because it was to be a oneway trip our choice of operator was limited and so we booked with Cruise America as they had a special offer on at the time with a reduced oneway fee and free provisioning packs. I was perturbed to read a number of negative reviews after we were committed so I was a bit apprehensive. We picked up the RV on the Tuesday after the Memorial weekend and had to queue for over an hour to see a representative. Things did not look good.

    When we got to the front of the queue the representative was polite and apologetic - explaining that this Tuesday was traditionally one of their 3 busiest days of the year. We were briefed quickly and helpfully and allocated an RV that was almost new with only 3300 miles on the clock. Overall it was clean and tidy and in good condition.

    The fuel consumption was very close to the advertised 10mpg and we achieved 10.2 mpg for the 1300 mile trip. The fridge/freezer was large and effective. What was disappointing though was that the cooking facilities comprised of a 3 ring hob and microwave only - no oven or grill - which severely restricted our choice of food for what was intended to be a self catered holiday. Thank goodness for excellent quality cheap sirloin steaks and plentiful fresh fish that could be fried. Also the bed was excruciatingly uncomfortable. The mattress was very thick, but felt like it was filled with concrete. In the end we put the cushions from the dinette on top of the mattress which
    made it passable (just), but meant that we had to remake the bed each day as we needed the dinette cushions to sit at the table. In case you think we are just soft and used to expensive hotels, we have backpacked from teahouse to teahouse around Nepal, camped through New England in the fall and trekked the Kerala/Tamil Nadu border (India) sleeping on Thermarests - and nothing was even close to being as uncomfortable as that RV mattress. Another user said that the easiest "fix" is to buy a cheap foam mattress from Wal Mart, put it on top of the mattress provided and throw it away at the end of the trip.

    When we arrived in Seattle the staff were again helpful and courteous, and we were not charged anything other than for the additional miles that we had not prepaid.

    None of this materially detracted from what was a fabulous holiday. If we were starting and finishing from the same location, we would try a different provider (my daughter used Apollo for a trip starting and finishing in San Francisco and was provided with hob, microwave, oven, and grill. She has the same bed preferences as ourselves and found their mattresses to be very comfortable, and they also had an extending side bay). However, they don't do one way trips from San Francisco to Seattle. So if we had to do the same trip again I would be happy to use Cruise America - but would get a foam mattress or use our Thermarests.

    A few other tips.

    1. You'll be directed to Wal Mart for initial provisioning. Don't bother. They do not stock anything remotely recognisable as edible food apart from beer, coke, crisps (chips) and doughnuts - no fresh meat or veg. There are plenty of convenience stores en route which are far superior. We got a discount card for Safeway (just ask and they give you one - no paperwork) which provided major savings.

    2. Fuel is 50 cents a gallon cheaper in Oregon than California so cross the state boundary on the fumes in the tank and fill up there. With a 50 gallon tank that's a worthwhile saving.

    3. A satnav will save your marriage. If you want it for more than just a few days, buy one - don't hire! Great not just for general navigation but also for finding nearest gas stations and supermarkets. At the end of the trip you can keep it for the next one - because you WILL want to do another one - or flog it on Ebay.

    4. Maybe book your first and last nights, but don't bother booking in between. We just called in to sites as we found them, and none were more than 1/4 full in the first 10 days of June. It was just so easy and enabled us to be completely flexible and spontaneous about what we did and where we went. Many of the state park sites cannot be pre-booked anyway - it's first come first served. We never once failed to get in to a site without a huge choice of pitches.

    5. Empty your grey water tank whenever there is the opportunity as it fills quickly and some of the national/state park sites do not have an emptying point. It is illegal to dump grey water in the countryside throughout Oregon. However, ensure your grey water tank is at least 1/2 full when you empty the black water tank. It uses the same drainage pipe and will help clear the system.

    6. Do not fall for the hard sell pre-paid propane and waste tank emptying scams! We fell for the pre-paid propane scam before we found that there was no oven or grill, and so the only use for the propane was the hob and hot water. Propane is available cheaply from most gas stations. The needle on our propane tank barely moved the entire trip! Black and grey water tank emptying is quick and simple, and you'll have to learn to do it yourself if you are away for more than a few days anyway.

    And so to the route. We had initially planned an ambitious itinerary taking in the coast, Crater Lake, Mt St Helens and the Olympic Peninsular. That would have been about 1600 miles which would have meant more motoring than we wanted. Also it was likely that the rim road at Crater Lake would still be closed in early June, so in the end we decided to stick mainly to the coast, but head inland from Lincoln City, see the Columbia Gorge and Mt St Helens, but miss out Crater Lake and Olympic on this trip, which also saved us nearly 600 miles.

    We left Oakland late afternoon and headed for a pre-booked site at Point Reyes. This was just a couple of hours away and enabled us to get used to the RV. Point Reyes is beautiful and worthy of a stay in its own right, but with only an 11 day window, we decided to move on quickly towards Oregon.

    2nd day was about 340 miles up Highway 1, and the longest days motoring of the entire holiday. This is a beautiful route up the coast, but single track roads, often with a poor surface, and very twisty. We were headed for the Klamath River, but just as we thought there would be no chance of making it that day we arrived at the 101 which is a vastly better road, and we made Klamath River by early evening. This put us on schedule, and enabled us to stay 2 nights in this beautiful location.



    The next day we went to the Prairie Creek visitors centre about 10 miles back along the 101 and had an all day walk in the Redwoods. Don't miss them - because they finish just a few miles north of Klamath - they don't extend in to Oregon.



    And so in to Oregon, where gas is 50 cents a gallon cheaper, and the RV sites half price! We had paid an eye watering $45 per night at Point Reyes and Klamath River, but in Oregon and Washington State we paid between $12 and $25 - much more reasonable. Heading north from Klamath we had numerous stops for walks and photos before finding a small RV site at Huntley Park on the Rogue River, 9 miles inland from Gold Beach. This is an absolute gem - and only $12 per night for an unserviced pitch with river frontage. Toilet and shower block on site.

    As you head north from Gold Beach, make sure you take time to stop and walk in the dunes - they are unlike any other stretch of coast I have ever experienced.





    Newport is nice, and we stopped in a wooded unserviced state park site for the night for $22 before spending the following morning in the Aquarium. Then it was time to say goodbye to our new found friend - the 101 - and head inland to McMinnville for the night with a view to killing a couple of hours the next day in the Evergreen Aircraft and Space Museum which houses the Spruce Goose.

    We found a nice site just off the main highway about 5 miles west of McMinnville and headed off to the museum the next day. Dispel any thought of doing it in a couple of hours! We entered at about 10.00 am and left at 5 pm and could still have spent more time there - and we didn't even bother with the Imax. They have 2 enormous display hangers - one housing the Spruce Goose and the other an SR71 Blackbird - plus dozens of other aircraft and space craft, and a "Lewis and Clark" exhibition as well.



    I am a terminal "sky junkie", but my wife enjoyed it as well, there is something for everyone. Make sure you join one of the free guided tours for lots of additional interesting information. We only left as we wanted to get east of Portland before nightfall.

    I guess Portland must have plenty to offer the visitor, but being people of the wide open spaces we gave it a miss and headed up the Columbia Gorge and spent a pleasant night on a site just west of Stevenson, before heading north to the visitors centre on the south side of Mount St Helens. On the way we called in to a small visitors centre and it is as well we did. It turned out the visitors centre on the south side of Mt St Helens is small and only open at weekends (this being a Tuesday), and that the best viewing point for Mt St Helens is from Johnson Ridge on the NW side of the mountain. Instead they suggested a hike up past the waterfalls on the Lewis River, a 6 mile walk about 20 miles away. This was a great call, and of all the waterfall walks we have ever done, was second only to the walk past Nevada Falls in Yosemite during the spring melt.



    We were able to finish the walk before the rain set in and drive the short distance to Cougar, overlooking Yale Lake for yet another nice RV site.

    Next day we headed West, and picked up the I5 to Castle Rock where we visited the Mount St Helens visitors centre. This is a really worthwhile place to see, and they also have a webcam with a view from Johnson Ridge - 42 miles away - of Mt St Helens. The bad news was that all the webcam could see was the inside of a cloud. It was completely clagged in. Fortuantely we had a day in hand, so having spent the night in the RV site opposite the visitors centre, the following day dawned nice and clear so we headed the 42 miles up the valley to the Johnson Ridge Observatory - which is just 5 miles across a valley from the crater - and named after a geologist killed on the site of the observatory during the May 1980 eruption. This is a "must see" part of any trip up the west coast, but as the mountain is visible only 1 day in 3, there is an element of luck involved. Make sure you stop at the various look out points as you travel up the valley, some of which have volunteers who can tell you about how that vantage point was effected by the eruption. Also when you get to the Johnson Ridge Observatory, take photos as soon as there is a view you want, as it can close in in minutes. The crater seems to generate it's own cloud cover so you have to be quick to be able to photo the new lava dome growing inside.



    Finally, and with regret, we headed up the I5 to SeaTac where we stayed the night in a pre-booked KOA site. This was convenient, but a little boring and sterile after the wonderful wilderness sites we had stayed in, before handing back the RV the next morning.

    I'm sure that many will say that we missed all sorts of things on the route we took, but we were happy with it. In truth it would be hard to have anything other than a great time traveling up through Oregon no matter which route you take! Next time we will go later in the year and take in Crater Lake and Lassen. But then it would be nice to visit NE Oregon, around Hells Canyon. But hey, we still need to see the Olympic Peninsula which could be a holiday all on its own! You could spend a lifetime exploring this area and still miss some interesting and beautiful stuff. So what are you waiting for? There is no time for delay - start planning!

    Regards, Roger and Pat
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-17-2011 at 12:20 PM. Reason: Moved to appropriate topic and added link.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    8,479

    Default Wonderful !

    Hello Roger and Pat. Thanks for dropping by with an update and sharing your wonderful trip. Enjoyed the photo's, you captured some beauts !

    Thanks for the tips as well, but a couple of thoughts.

    Did your daughter have the same size RV as yourselves ? Our Cruise America RV had a full kitchen and comfy bed, but it was a 29ft with a full size rear bedroom.

    Sat Nav. I agree they are a handy tool to find addresses and as a back up tool, but carry paper maps and use them as much as possible to create your own route and not blindly follow a mapping program.

    Bookings. Yes you will always find somewhere to stay, but for anyone intending to use popular National parks, you really need to book as early as possible. Great that it worked out for you on this trip.

    Being a big company like Cruise America you will get differing service from office to office, but our experience with the Denver office was top notch and not once was we offered a 'hard sale' on any extras. But great advice about the propane, it's so cheap !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    7,496

    Default

    1. You'll be directed to Wal Mart for initial provisioning. Don't bother. They do not stock anything remotely recognisable as edible food apart from beer, coke, crisps (chips) and doughnuts - no fresh meat or veg.
    There may have been a small misunderstanding - a Walmart Supercenter has a full service grocery department. A regular Walmart store does not.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Hello Roger and Pat. Thanks for dropping by with an update and sharing your wonderful trip. Enjoyed the photo's, you captured some beauts !

    Thanks for the tips as well, but a couple of thoughts.

    Did your daughter have the same size RV as yourselves ? Our Cruise America RV had a full kitchen and comfy bed, but it was a 29ft with a full size rear bedroom.
    Yep - we both had 25 foot RVs. I don't think I'd want to go larger, but I guess it's whatever you get used to. Even the Cruise America receptionist in Seattle was sympathetic about the hardness of the bed! And as I said, we are not 5* hotel softies. That mattress was one hard, uncomfortable s.o.b.

    Sat Nav. I agree they are a handy tool to find addresses and as a back up tool, but carry paper maps and use them as much as possible to create your own route and not blindly follow a mapping program.
    Completely agree, so perhaps I ought to expand a little. We planned our route using Googlemaps before we left home. Then as it was a linear route I printed it off at a fairly large scale on A4 sheets and pasted them together to create a map about 8ft long. Having decided where we were heading for the day, we would enter the destination in the SatNav and then zoom out in map view to check which way she was taking us. Then we would adjust according to taste, and then follow her instructions whilst Pat monitored approximate position on the map which also gave a visual idea of overall progress. Then if we wanted a supermarket en route we could just check in "points of interest" and if, say, there was a Safeway 10 miles up the road we would just enter that as a waypoint. We also found the SatNav useful to tell us what the speed limit was at any given moment.

    In particular, satnav was heaven sent for negotiating the busy and complex junctions around Oakland and Portland where maps would have been of limited use. We bought a Garmin 275T, complete with both USA and Europe maps, on Amazon in the USA for $135 (so only about £85) before we left home and had it delivered to a San Francisco address to be collected on our arrival.

    Bookings. Yes you will always find somewhere to stay, but for anyone intending to use popular National parks, you really need to book as early as possible. Great that it worked out for you on this trip.
    I guess that it was quiet as the schools had still not broken up, and we were not there over a public holiday. For instance, the Klamath River site which was 2/3 empty, had been full the previous Memorial day w/e. But never-the-less, many sites would not accept bookings, but that might mean that at busy times you would have to stop travelling and find a site earlier than you might like.

    I know some people just stay self-contained and park in the wild. What is the accepted code/etiquette for doing that?

    Being a big company like Cruise America you will get differing service from office to office, but our experience with the Denver office was top notch and not once was we offered a 'hard sale' on any extras. But great advice about the propane, it's so cheap !
    The guy who dealt with us in Oakland, in all fairness, didn't give a hard sell, but he did advise us to pre-pay the propane for $30 which we did. Having said that we were experienced caravanners in the Uk he didn't press the waste tank emptying. However, I watched and listened to what was happening with other customers and other staff, and one in particular gave a very hard sell on both - almost to the "assumptive sale" point - i.e. "and of course you'll want to take advantage of the discounted pre-payment facility .... etc. I wonder whether they are targeted on what are clearly very profitable add-ons?"

    Regards, Roger

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default

    I know some people just stay self-contained and park in the wild. What is the accepted code/etiquette for doing that?
    You will find a lot of info in the RV section in the tool bar above. Generally speaking you can't just pull up anywhere and camp, it could be trespass or break traffic laws. Either way you could get a wake up call in the middle of the night from a landowner or sheriff. You can find dispersed camping areas and 'blacktop camping' in a truck stop or Walmart etc with the managers permission. The etiquette here would be to give them some business whether it be for gas or food etc. Searching the web you can find sites dedicated to listing little known and legal places to stop the night. One such gem I found was 'Millers rest' in Nevada.
    Some pointers on 'Boondocking'.

    I wonder whether they are targeted on what are clearly very profitable add-ons?"
    It wouldn't surprise me one little bit !

    Yep - we both had 25 foot RVs. I don't think I'd want to go larger, but I guess it's whatever you get used to. Even the Cruise America receptionist in Seattle was sympathetic about the hardness of the bed!
    Perhaps it was too new! Lol. We were 4 adults and needed/wanted the extra space but if it's just the two of us next time I am still unsure what to hire, I would still be tempted by the extra room. [It won't guarantee a soft bed though]. I was surprised more about the kitchen not having an oven and grill.

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RogerM View Post
    Yep - we both had 25 foot RVs.
    More and more of the RV manufactures are going away ovens in the RV's and it has nothing to do with the size of them! A lot have Microwave Confection ovens so next time ask about that. It's to bad they don't provide a BBQ.

    The guy who dealt with us in Oakland, in all fairness, didn't give a hard sell, but he did advise us to pre-pay the propane for $30 which we did.
    That is such a scam they are pulling! We have a 30 foot motor home and we fill our propane tanks maybe once a year. We just did it on Monday and it was $30.05 for not even 9 gallons and we were just less than half full. We run the heater in the winter, we take hot showers, we even cooked in the oven this year. We spent about 80 nights in the RV over the year.

    Loved your pictures!

    Utahtea

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Default Thank You

    Roger.

    That is a fantastic report on a great trip. I did so enjoy reading it, and reading about all the places I missed as you went through OR and WA.

    Quote Originally Posted by RogerM View Post
    You could spend a lifetime exploring this area and still miss some interesting and beautiful stuff. So what are you waiting for? There is no time for delay - start planning!

    Regards, Roger and Pat
    And no doubt, those who do will be able to rely on any and all advice you can give for their trip. There's nothing like hearing from those who have 'been there, done that'.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Default Very nice photos and report

    Very nice post -- Thanks for making it.

    And you're now an "old hand" at this, but still you might find this checklist of things to look at WRT Rental RV's on your next trip!

    Mark

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Applies to all vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    And you're now an "old hand" at this, but still you might find this checklist of things to look at WRT Rental RV's on your next trip!

    Mark
    Mark,

    All the advice in that link, surely goes for any and every vehicle you enter for the first time... or after an extended absence. At least, that is what I was taught.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-17-2011 at 11:19 PM. Reason: bad grammar

  10. #10

    Default

    Many thanks for an interesting and helpful report. We are about to do our first RV trip and are a little apprehensive, but we shall undoubtedly benefit from your advice.

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