I’m Simon from South Wales in the UK (yep, yet another one) and I’m trying to plan a trip starting and finishing in LA and visiting San Francisco, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and at least some of the PCH between LA and SF.
Now before I start with the questions (quick, now’s your chance to run) I’d like to say what a great source of information this site is, I found it about a week ago and have spent most days and probably far too much time in work reading through it.
Right then, I’m not too sure on the numbers of people going as yet, maximum would be 4 – 2 of my mates are currently looking at whether they can afford it and the other keeps going on about wanting to go away somewhere but has yet to give a straight answer as to where (in fact I’m not sure he’s given a straight answer ever!) so the minimum could be just me as I’ve decided I want to go regardless of whether they go or not, the last couple of years have been pretty crap for me and after returning to work in April after the best part of a year on sick leave it’s the first time for a while I’ve been able to afford and actually felt like getting out and exploring the world again.
The idea for this trip, like most of our schemes, came from a night in the pub, I was moaning about still not having gotten around to visiting the Nurburgring in Germany and how I’d have to go while I can still afford to run a car worth taking there, as we’re all single again it soon expanded into doing a trip we’d always fancied doing but couldn’t afford to do when we were younger.
Ideally I’d be looking to go in September although this may be too soon for 2 of them to be able to afford to go and waiting for them to save up to go would mean a delay until May at the earliest as a colleague of one of them is due to go off on maternity leave at the end of September dropping his chances of being able to take enough time off work to be able to go to pretty much none.
Anyway, back to the whole point of this post – the roadtrip.
As I mentioned above we’re looking at doing a loop from LA and I’ve roughly allowed 14 nights to do it in, although I’m willing to up the length of time if needs be.
Now I started off looking at doing the trip in a Corvette or a Mustang but the cost of rental for that length of time plus the thought of 4 not exactly small blokes in a coupe (renting 2 Vettes is a non-starter) for hours at a time plus luggage wasn’t good so then I thought if I can’t have a car that’ll excite the petrol, sorry, gas in my veins then what about something that could be fun in other ways – an RV. Wondering whether they’d go for that idea I sent an email out suggesting it and the first reply I got back almost immediately was “What, like the Good Ole Boys in the Blues Brothers? Cool”
My first draft of an itinerary is (I’ve included driving times as given by MS Streets & Trips):
Day 1 – Fly into LA, spend night in hotel
Day 2 – Pick up RV
Days 3 & 4 – Sightseeing
Day 5 – Head for Vegas in the morning, arrive at some point in the afternoon, park up at campsite and have a look around (4hrs approx)
Day 6 – Drive to the Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam (4h21m) and stay overnight at GC
Day 7 – Head back to Vegas (4h21m)
Day 8 – Head for Death Valley (2h25m) and stop overnight
Day 9 – Drive to Yosemite via Tioga Pass (5h21m)
Day 10 – Spend morning looking around then head for SF in the afternoon (3h50m)
Days 11 & 12 – Sightseeing in SF
Days 13 & 14 – Drive down PCH to LA, ideally spending the night of Day 14 in a camp sight in LA so don’t have far to go to return RV the next day.
Day 15 – Return RV and fly home.
I’m not too worried about driving an RV as I’ve driven vans in this country that are the best part of 20ft long and down some country lanes that were so narrow that both mirrors were brushing against the hedges on either side. Plus I drive a mountain road every day to get to and from work, granted not as high as the Tioga pass, but I have an idea what to expect and I’ve driven in France (the only country I’ve been to where you can be doing 85-90mph and STILL have an old granny in a Renault 5 inches off your back bumper trying to get past), Spain (all I can say is that they’re just insane, especially the ones on scooters) and covered 2000 miles in 2 weeks in Florida back in 2002 so have an idea of what to expect from the American roads (being able to turn right at a red traffic light is quite possibly the best idea ever!), however I’d like to avoid having to take an RV into city centres if possible.
With that in mind I’ve hit a few problems with trying to places to stay, particularly in LA, that are close to public transport links.
Vegas seems pretty easy – there’s the KAO camp ground at Circus Circus on the Strip and after reading through Southwest Dave’s trip I’ve got the Oasis RV Resort to consider too.
In SF I’ve found a park that has a shuttle bus (don’t have the name of it to hand unfortunately), plus the KOA place to the north of SF doesn’t seem too far out and I did find a place that was claiming to be within walking distance of a BART station, although do you think I can find their website again, so open to suggestions of where to stay here.
So far the only place I’ve been able to find in LA is the Golden Shore RV Park in Long Beach which looks nice, is near to the Queen Mary which I wouldn’t mind a look around and is within walking distance of the Metro station, unfortunately it’s route into Downtown takes it through Compton etc so I’m not too keen on that one, especially for getting back to Long Beach at night and I’ve been considering staying in a hotel and renting a car to get around LA instead before picking up the RV and maybe staying in Long Beach on our return to LA at the end of the trip although any other suggestions would be welcome.
The other things I’ve been wondering about are whether I’ve given myself enough time at Yosemite and how long you would suggest spending there, I’d like to have a chance to have a good look around, especially if I end up going on my own as Yosemite is more appealing to me than LA and Vegas and I’m currently allowing way more time in both than in Yosemite plus where would be best to stay?
Plus does it make any difference which way you go over the Tioga pass? Is it a steeper climb up going say East to West than doing it from West to East?
The other option I’m considering is doing the GC as a day trip with one of the tour companies that fly from Vegas as it would cut out a fair bit of time behind the wheel – a good thing if I’m doing this trip on my own and possibly freeing up some time to use elsewhere or to hire a car for the day to head out to Hoover Dam and go for a drive alongside part of Lake Meade maybe.
My other concern is the drive down the PCH from SF to LA and whether allowing 2 days is enough plus I’m not sure where would be best to stay overnight en route, I’ve been using MS Autoroute the European version of Streets and Trips for years and know not to rely on it’s estimated times, so any more realistic estimates of driving time would be greatly appreciated. I'm also planning on using it on the road on my laptop with a gps receiver, although, as I work in IT, I don't trust technology so would also like to get hold of some decent maps of the area, so again any recomendations you may have...
Umm I think that just about brings one of the longest posts I’ve written for a long while to an end :) other than to ask would I be considered mad for considering doing this trip on my own in an RV if the other decide not to go, obviously I’d be looking at a smaller vehicle if I am on my own – we’d probably looking at a 30ft C class for 4 of us so we get a bed each and the best deals I’ve found so far are with El Monte through a UK based broker, plus the El Monte RVs seem to be less of a rolling advert than the Cruise America ones, plus I’ve found a few write ups on Cruise America that suggests they’re not very good and so far I’ve found nothing but good reports for El Monte.
The last question I have is about fuel economy, just how bad is an RV on sucking down the old go-go juice? How far am I likely to be able to get on a tank of gas and are there any places on the route I’m looking at where I may struggle to make it between gas stations?
I think that’s it, thanks in advance for any advice.