RoadTrip America

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RVing with Alice and Jaimie

Big Cities by RV by Jaimie Hall

King Tut at LACMA
King Tut returns to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Saber-toothed tigers on guard at the Page Museum in Los Angeles

Last week a friend and I ventured into downtown Los Angeles to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see the traveling King Tut exhibit, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs. Gilded statuettes, exquisite jewelry, and a dagger hidden in his mummy wrappings are among the more than 130 treasurers on display. Later they will move to Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, and then Philadelphia.

Many RVers shudder at the thought of driving in downtown Los Angeles or other large cities, and with good reason. Traffic can be horrendous and parking an RV a nightmare. Yet cities like L.A. have cultural attractions that smaller towns don't have. Treasures from King Tut's tomb were last displayed in the U.S. in 1979. Who knows when these or comparable treasures will be made available here again?


Don't forget that big cities can accommodate large vehicles! While you can usually avoid driving an RV into an urban area, don't be afraid to if you must or want to. Think about it. Buses and trucks routinely drive in Manhattan, and RVs can, too. Yes, it takes a little thought, and it's quite different from rural cruising, but if you like the excitement and energy only big cities can offer, you may be pleased to find that there are RV parks in downtown San Francisco, St. Louis, Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas, and plenty of other cities around the U.S. and Canada. There's an RV park at a marina at the end of the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey that has a spectacular view of Manhattan and a good, inexpensive seafood restaurant. Urban? You bet, and it's one of our favorite RV parks in the whole country!

Even if you just want a drive-by look, you can drive through Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and just about every other big American or Canadian city with no more effort than you can in a car. With planning, you can find decent, inexpensive, and even free places to park. I'm not making this up—I've parked a 34-foot Class A motorhome on Times Square, in downtown Chicago, Dallas, L.A., and Detroit, just to name a few.

Some of our most memorable RV experiences have been in big cities, so if the thought appeals to you, put in the extra effort, and enjoy the unusual and exhilarating pleasures of urban RVing!

At the King Tut exhibition we heard people exclaiming over another traveling exhibit-Body Worlds. Exhibits are currently in Chicago and Cleveland and will move to Philadelphia and Toronto. Using "plastination," a new way of preserving actual bodies, the exhibits contain authentic specimens of human anatomy- individual organs, transparent vertical and horizontal slices of the body, and 25 whole-body plastinates. You get a 3-D perspective of human bodies like no other.

Many metropolitan areas have excellent museums and art galleries with outstanding permanent exhibitions. Next door to LACMA are the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum, with fossilized remains of animals trapped in the asphaltic pits from 40,000 to 10,000 years ago.


How can RVers take advantage of these cultural offerings without taking your large RV downtown? Before going, develop a plan.

Base of operations: Find an RV park or large parking lot in a less congested area. A friend or relative may offer parking. I parked my camper at my sister's house near Pasadena. If a subway or trolley line goes near the attraction, locate an RV park further out on the line. For example, in San Diego, the trolley line extends to nearby towns like Chula Vista and La Mesa where RV parks are a short drive from the line. When we wanted to see New Orleans for the day, Bill and I parked our motorhome at a Wal-Mart off I-10 and drove our Jeep into town.

Transportation: Take your tow or towed vehicle instead of your RV. Check into mass transit. A bus, trolley or subway line may go near the facility. My sister loaned me her car so I wouldn't have to take the camper. In San Diego we've used the trolley.

San Diego's trolley system: convenient and inexpensive

Downtown parking: Check the facility's Web site or give them a call. If you are driving a large vehicle, parking garages might not work. LACMA had outside parking for $5 at the museum.

Timing: Time your visit to miss rush hour traffic. Since our tickets were for 2 p.m. we had dinner afterwards, not leaving until 7:30 p.m. to avoid heavy traffic.

Route: Use a mapping program to help plan your route. Check your proposed route with a local. My sister said our route went through city streets; staying on freeways would be longer but less of a hassle.

Don't miss exciting cultural offerings because you are traveling in an RV. A little planning can make your day a fun adventure, taking advantage of the good things a city has to offer while avoiding the bad.

Jaimie Hall

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