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  1. Default 11 Week Coast-to-Coast Camping Trip

    My wife and I are planning on spending 11 weeks this summer traveling from Massachusetts to California and back. We are planning on car camping, and hope to spend some time in various national parks and forests across the country. Some of the ones we definitely want to stop at are Yosemite, Yellowstone, Arches, Zion and Shenandoah. We'll hopefully spend anywhere from 3 days to a week at each of these places.

    So far it's looking like we'll start our journey off by heading south to Shenandoah, then from there we're meeting some friends in South Carolina, and then from there we'll head out west towards most of the national parks we want to stop at. We'll most likely not spend too much time hanging out in middle America to save time for some leisurely stays at the national parks out west.

    I'm looking for some advise on planning this trip out so we can make the most of our time. One important thing I've found is that reservations need to be made well ahead of time at many of these national parks.

    For camping, we currently have two potential tents we can use, depending on campsite size and distance from our vehicle. Our first option, if the site is big enough and close enough to the car, is a large 10x14 Kodiak canvas tent - but this thing weighs 80 pounds. Our second option is a much smaller backpacking tent that we could potentially carry several miles if necessary. For those of you who have camped in national parks and forests - is it likely that we'll be close enough and have enough space so that we can use our big, heavy, comfortable tent?

    Other than that, is there anything else I should be considering? Does 11 weeks sound like a reasonable amount of time for this trip? I'd ideally like to spend at least a few weeks not really traveling but just staying in place at a few of the national parks on our list.

    Thanks for any advice!

    EDIT: One other thing I forgot to ask... due to my job, I'll need a reliable internet connection almost everywhere we go. I'm planning on getting a cellular data card for my laptop, which should have me covered during most of our drive. For those of you who have spent times in these national parks - is there generally reasonable cellphone reception in these areas? Maybe not in the remote areas of the parks, but at least by the main roads and campsites? Thanks!
    Last edited by Noho; 12-24-2013 at 11:56 AM. Reason: Added additional information

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    Default Wi-Fi in the wilds...?

    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum. As the Administrator of this forum and some other Web-based operations, I, too need access to the Web on more-or-less 24/7 basis. You can never count on any sort of public web access in any part of any national park -- unless it is Shenandoah National Park. I was pleasantly surprised to have great Web service there -- since the park is on a ridge and there are towns and cities on both sides. But even in that park, there are dead zones. In parks like Yosemite or Death Valley -- in certain key spots you can pick up cell service -- but there is nothing approaching Wi-Fi service.

    On the plus side, if you stay in commercial campgrounds -- Wi-Fi is pretty much a given. And once in a while, with a high-gain antenna you can reach towers in semi-wilderness areas. But if you really need full access -- you'll need satellite service and clear access to the southern skies.

    Mark

  3. Default

    Thanks for the reply. That's kind of what I was expecting. I've been looking into some satellite internet options, but I'm still trying to figure out what would work best for me. If I'm out of cellphone range, I'll need to check my e-mail at the end of each business day, and maybe spend 10-15 minutes sending small amounts of HTTP traffic. It's not a lot of data, and I'm willing to spend $1,000 a month if need be, but it seems like most options will run me many times that. Do you have any satellite internet solutions that have worked for you?
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-24-2013 at 06:39 PM. Reason: inline quote not needed here

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,066

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Noho View Post
    For camping, we currently have two potential tents we can use, depending on campsite size and distance from our vehicle. Our first option, if the site is big enough and close enough to the car, is a large 10x14 Kodiak canvas tent - but this thing weighs 80 pounds. Our second option is a much smaller backpacking tent that we could potentially carry several miles if necessary. For those of you who have camped in national parks and forests - is it likely that we'll be close enough and have enough space so that we can use our big, heavy, comfortable tent?
    If you are staying within the campgrounds of the national parks/forests, then you should be just fine using the big tent. You should never have much difficulty at all finding a site that will fit your tent. For the past few years, my main tent has been 12x10 - and I just replaced it with a larger one - and size was never a problem. The only issues I can think of is Yellowstone specifically divides many campsites into "large" and "small" tent sites, and you'll have to make sure to get a large site. Weight shouldn't be much of an issue, as unless you get a specific "walk in" site, its pretty rare to have a site very far from your parking space.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    A number of years ago, we tent-camped in Yosemite's Wawona Campground, in the southern area of the park. We had a 10x12 tent and a site large enough to accommodate it and the other stuff we carried. Parking was at the site; we didn't have to haul stuff more than 50 feet. Over the years, we've found that this type of situation was pretty common for both national parks and national forests campgrounds.

    The sites in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton all have "bear boxes" where you will NEED to stow your food locker and coolers. They all have hasps on them, you just bring your own lock. (We also carried a small piece of rubber with holes in it, which went over the lock itself. It prevented moisture from entering it.) Don't make the mistake of trying to stow your food in the car or, worse yet, your tent. That's a bear intrusion just waiting to happen.

    On the road, you will find that most truck stops, many McDonalds and many Starbucks have free wi-fi connections. Texas appeared to have wi-fi available at most of their rest-areas along the Interstate highways. Also, on our 9000-mile trip in 2012, we found FEW places that were without cell service. Arches -- very little, and only near the visitor center. Also in the area known as the San Rafael Swell (between Salina and Green River, UT) along I-70, there was only spotty cell service.


    Donna

  6. #6
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    Jan 1998
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    Default some places to begin

    Quote Originally Posted by Noho View Post
    Do you have any satellite internet solutions that have worked for you?
    The tricky part of your quest is the "need to check e-mail at the end of the day" If you could check it at non-specific times of the day -- you could certainly use the Wi-Fi options at truck stops and some of the state and regional park options.

    I personally never used satellite -- except as a beta tester for the big companies. We launched RTA in February, 1996 and published articles every single day -- from the road -- using analog cellular service. In those early days on the road, we were thrilled when we could obtain a connection faster than 1200 baud.... In those crazy early months of the web, we were spending more than $3000 a month .... Not much need for that level of heroics these days.

    Just about every mile along the US Interstate system boasts fiber these days -- and you can usually find some degree of cellular service anywhere east of the Mississippi River and in most places in the West. I know you want to camp -- but you really can find Web access in just about every rural and urban area and so maybe you will be able to adjust that timing issue a bit?

    If you want to scan some historical stuff on our wireless access adventures -- here is a column I used to write on the subject. The reality is that with my smart phone -- I have the Motorola Razr I can use it obtain sufficient bandwidth to power all of my devices when on the road. I used to use a separate Verizon Jetpack (mobile hot spot) ffor the purpose -- but I've not used it for over a year -- and cancelled it a couple of months ago.

    If it were me -- and I absolutely had to check in from tent campgrounds every night, I would get the the Iridium 9555 Command Center "This Command Center kit comes with the complete Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone kit plus an extra Iridium Rechargeable Battery, Iridium Docking Station, DPL Handset, Coax Cable and an Iridium Fixed Mast Antenna." A year ago this cost about $5000 -- I see that the current pricing is at 2,754.18

    Here is a thread that was current last year -- about another member's quest for such service

    Datastorm is another system I've used some. We have two RTA contributors who used it and installed it. Their field reports are seriously out of date, but you might find the links helpful:

    Ron Bunge -- January, 2004

    Bill Adams -- April, 2004

    The best outfitter I know for these Motostat systems is Ground Control.

    It really comes down to money and time.... If you find a better solution -- PLEASE SHARE.

    Mark

  7. #7
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    Default Returning to the best part....

    Quote Originally Posted by Noho View Post
    Other than that, is there anything else I should be considering? Does 11 weeks sound like a reasonable amount of time for this trip? I'd ideally like to spend at least a few weeks not really traveling but just staying in place at a few of the national parks on our list.
    Now, let's get back to the heart of the trip planning....

    Wow, eleven weeks sounds like heaven to any of the RoadTrip Enthusiasts who work on this forum! And yeah, you have the right idea -- the best part of any road trip (in my view) is spending time actually in the place you are visiting.

    You have to figure that flat-out transport from home to California and back will consume 12 days at a extreme bare-minimum, so putting aside a couple of weeks of compressed travel still allows you 9 weeks of mosey time. I could easily spend nine weeks in a single national park -- a few years ago, I spent 36 days in the Grand Canyon -- but if you could tell us your priorities for these nine weeks -- we might be better able to share our ideas about the best way to plan for such a grand adventure.

    Happy planning!

    Mark

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Not free at truck stops.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    On the road, you will find that most truck stops, many McDonalds and many Starbucks have free wi-fi connections. Texas appeared to have wi-fi available at most of their rest-areas along the Interstate highways.
    It is extremely rare to find free wifi at truck stops. Even some McDonalds at truck stops, do not have wifi. When I asked why, I was told that because I could buy it next door, they could not offer it free.

    Having said that, places like Flying J / Pilot and Petro / TA have reasonably priced wifi available for around $5 a day or $20 month. But I did not find it very reliable. Many a time I was not able to log on, or it was painfully slow and kept dropping out. McDonalds was always very good, but I don't like eating at McDonalds, and hate to use their facilities if I am not purchasing something.

    More and more States are providing free wifi at rest areas along the Interstates, but mostly it is limited to 30 minutes. Besides the places mentioned above, many big box stores offer free wifi, as do most supermarkets, restaurants, ets. Being totally reliant on wifi, it is the first thing I ask when I walk in the door.

    Lifey

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