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  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    11,658

    Default

    The section that stands out to me is between Mesa Verde and Zion. I would head from Mesa Verde to Las Vegas and then to Zion, the North rim and Bryce, it will save you a lot of miles and will take you to hoover dam rather than having to detour or back track.

    I doubt you will get a site in the Watchman campground in Zion and even less chance of a Riverside site, the sites that are better spaced as Utahtea was referring to. The resort mentioned "10 miles away" is called the Virgin river resort.

    The only campground on the Las Vegas strip is Circus Circus and it is a parking lot with hook ups! Oasis is a resort but you will either have to walk 1/2 a mile to the bus stop, take a taxi to the strip or if you have a tow vehicle, you will be fine.
    I would recommend the Oasis. They also run a free shuttle bus to the start of the strip where you can get the trolley rides along it. The shuttle does go around the houses a bit though picking up and dropping off at other hotels and a cab is most convenient.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    11,658

    Default A bit more.

    Day 1 - June 21, 2011 = Leave Columbus, OH via Rt 70 just after rush hour. 7 hours to St Louis. Stop in that area for dinner and longer stretch. Continue 2 hrs to Columbia, MO. Now, at this point, option B may include a continuation of 2 MORE hours on to Kansas City
    With long days on the road you need to stop more often to stretch the legs, clear the mind, eat and fill with gas etc and that all takes time, longer in an RV. I would estimate in 'real world' terms [away from the computer generated travel times] that you will be looking at 13, possibly 14 hours on the road to reach Kansas with a "longer stretch" in St Louis and not the 11 hours you anticipate. Columbia is a reasonable 'target' area, but even then I would be looking to leave before rush hour and not after, and that would be your only hope of ending up near Kansas and being in a fit state to continue with another long drive next day.

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post

    I would recommend the Oasis. They also run a free shuttle bus to the start of the strip where you can get the trolley rides along it. The shuttle does go around the houses a bit though picking up and dropping off at other hotels and a cab is most convenient.
    If Oasis had a free shuttle they sure didn't tell us about it when we went in to ask how to get to the strip. This was just last month and they recommended the taxi instead of the bus. It is a very nice campground but we didn't spend much time there. We hadn't planned to stop at all but they had winds gusting to over 50 MPH on our route home so we stopped for the night.

    Utahtea

  4. #14

    Default

    THANKS so much for all the feedback. I am still wading through it as i try to put together campgrounds. Before i can go much farther though, i need to pin down my route in the "middle" of this trip - this dang part has been hanging me up the whole time. Dave - you say you think you'd put it in the order of Mesa, LV, Zion, North Rim, Bryce? OK, with what i have at my disposal, i am just not seeing the big miles savings, so what would a potential route be through those 5?

    Also - Since we will have a toad, does it make sense to use it in LV or is it more practical/cheaper/fun to do the trolleys? Not sure how much of an issue it is to park in LV..... and th trolleys might be fun if you can get a whole day pass or something... thoughts?

  5. #15
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,722

    Default if you've got it

    If you are going to bother bringing the toad, I'd certainly think you'd want to use it in Vegas.

    However, consider the pace of your trip - where you really aren't going to be spending more than a day at any one place - why are you even bothering to tow a car at all? It really seems like any advantage of having the toad would be pretty much wiped out by the extra time it is going to take to hook/unhook the car and the hassle of towing in addition to driving a supersized vehicle.

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,658

    Default 'Hoover dam'

    Apologies, I know what I meant, but it didn't translate to the keyboard very well ! You can save some miles, or some back tracking, but not both.

    Dave - you say you think you'd put it in the order of Mesa, LV, Zion, North Rim, Bryce? OK, with what i have at my disposal, i am just not seeing the big miles savings, so what would a potential route be through those 5?
    I was actually unsure which route you were going to take from North rim to Vegas as you mentioned a 'Pit stop' at Hoover dam. If you were to head South from North rim to I40 to Hoover dam to Vegas and then Zion and Bryce, it would be about 80/90 miles more than if you were to go from Durango to Flagstaff [140] to Hoover dam to Vegas to Zion to GC to Bryce. [Shorter] Your right, not big miles but some].
    This option is still 40/50 miles longer than going from the North rim to I15 through Vegas to Hoover dam and back to Vegas and back up I15, [backtracking] Personally I hate backtracking along the same roads when on a roadtrip with a vengeance, but if it doesn't bother you and this is the route you originally meant, it's the 'quickest option' by about 45mins overall.

    I agree with Michael that with a trip where you are constantly on the move, you might consider leaving the toad at home.

    Sorry to confuse you, I should have checked on your planned route first.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 05-25-2011 at 06:21 AM.

  7. #17

    Default

    That's OK, Dave, i was just rrying to make sure if there was an alternative that might work better, I didnt miss it just because i didn't know...

    So at this point, one alternative is to keep it the way I orignally thought, but that puts us in Vegas over the July 4 wknd. The alternative (keeping GC for after LV and Zion) puts us at GC over that time. Not sure which is worse! Gotta think neither is preferable, but afterall, we have no choice. The vacation is when it is... Also, we will be leaving Zion and heading to GC on the 4th (with the one plan).

    So Utahtea has said we should avoid taking the shuttle into Zion on the 4th. I gotta think that whole weekend is gonna be nuts in that entire area... Do you see anything i can do to get in a less crowded park at that time - even if it adds total miles? Gotta think going on the busiest weekend of the year is just not gonna be pleasant. Should we maybe head to Bryce on the 4th instead of GC and loop back down on Tuesday or Weds??

    speaking of confusion.... sorry!

    oh, and more later on why we are thinking of taking the toad - when at first glance it really doesnt seem to make sense...

  8. Default

    All of the national parks in this area are going to be crowded on a holiday weekend. We were in Zion just on a free entrance weekend in April and you were packed into the shuttle buses like sardines! I've heard horror stories about holiday weekend shuttle buses at the Grand Canyon. If it were me, I'd shot to be in Las Vegas for as much of the 3 day weekend as possible.

    I'd be really torn on taking the tow vehicle too. Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon all have free shuttle buses that are going to get you pretty much where you need to go, but you still have other places where driving a 32 foot motor home is going to be a drag and hard to find parking.

    Maybe the bikes would come in handy if you don't have the tow vehicle if you can take them on the motor home.

  9. #19

    Default LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the trip! A total success!

    Just thought i'd take some time to update you all after we have returned from our big "out west" trip in case anyone was wondering what ever happened to us! I have to say it was one of the best experiences we've ever had. The trip was (almost) without a hitch, the scenes we saw were amazing and unforgettable and the people we met were interesting and fun. We LOVED it!!!!

    Overall, we found we COULD push the envelope on the driving, especially on the way out and back from Ohio to Colorado. Once out there, though, you guys are ABSOLUTELY right about setting a lighter driving schedule with more time to enjoy the sights. For us, the passing through states of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas were just miles to check off the list. While I know those states have plenty to offer if we were to tour them (no offense, guys!), for this trip, we just saw the berms of I-70 through those states. Therefore, we wanted to push on as best we could within reason.

    Day one took us from Columbus, Ohio to Bonner Springs, KS, for a total of 683 miles. I have to say it was effortless for us. We were excited to get there, alert and raring to go, and had three willing and able drivers. We took turns, and all quickly felt at ease behind the wheel. I realize that is probably not for everyone, but for our particular situation, it worked perfectly. We "boondocked" for the night at Walmart. (I had called ahead to ask permission and it was fine with the store manager)

    Since we made such good time, Day 2 had a much lighter schedule and we made it farther than anticipated. We drove from Bonner Springs, KS to Golden, CO. (600 miles) Again, no problem, although wind in Kansas slowed our speed a little. Our intended destination had been Aurora, CO on the east edge of Denver, but since we made such good time, we decided to push on and find a campsite in Golden, on the other side of Denver. We wanted to be set up perfectly for the next mornings trip on the scenic "Peak to Peak byway" (Rt 119 North into Estes Park) so we went ahead and went through Denver and found lodging in Golden. This was the first of a couple "fly by the seat of your pants" moments for us, as we changed plans midstream and found a campground where we had not anticipated staying. Fortunately, we found those to work out perfectly (beginner's luck??) We were on the road from about 8 am to 6 pm (10 hrs with a couple short stops- mapquest says it's 9, so about right)

    We loved Golden! What a cute little town! We stayed at the Clear Creek RV Park in the middle of downtown and it was perfect! I will state here that we could not have made this trip without the "Trailer Life Directory" What an awesome book! We found it easy to schedule such impromptu stops such as this with this valuable resource! We looked for highly rated parks and always found them to be up to our standards. Anyway, the Clear Creek runs right through town, so we had the added pleasure of spending the evening watching the kayakers who flock from all around to "play" on the fast running (ice cold!) water of the creek, just steps from our campsite. We wandered into town on foot to enjoy an awesome pizza and saladbar dinner at "Woody's Watering Hole"

    This night was also a first for us to unhook the "toad" (a Ford Escape) off the dolly and back into a site. Piece of cake! We found the setup to be easy and quick and will absolutely never go on an extended trip like this without the toad!! As the trip progressed, we found this to be reaffirmed over and over again. The toad makes it sooooooo simple to park and use the RV as home base and easily travel to your intended sites in a much smaller, gas efficient, easy to park vehicle. My 2 cents to all newbies, BRING the toad!!

    I will skip here all the embellishments about seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time. Suffice it to say it's gorgeous! I'll try to include in this post the "nuts and bolts" things that i hope will be helpful to anyone, especially new RVers contemplating such a trip. If i start talking about everything, you'll be reading for DAYS!

    Just beyond Golden, we were surprised at what a wild ride I-70 becomes!! Yee haw! Since we come from the flatter than flat part of I-70, i had never given thought to it being anything other! But afterall, how are you gonna get through those mountains without going up some side and down the other?? So off we went, lugging our big self up and down in the trucker lane and enjoying the views! Surprisingly the RV (a 32 ft Bounder we bought used just a month before deciding to embark on this giant trip!) did well. We were, of course, significantly slow going up (down to 30 mph at times) and cautious going down (USE those lower gears!!) but so were the trucks. Basically we found in driving the RV, you just need to heed the warnings the signs give truckers. If it says go 25 on the ramp, there is a REASON! GO 25!!

    So we hit RT 119 north and oohed and awed over the gorgeous mountains and scenery all the way to Estes Park where we stayed at the Spruce Lake Campground. It gets an A+, too. I cannot stress how we loved Rocky Mountain National Park. This is hands down, the favorite place we visited. Do not miss the hike to Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, Alberta Falls, or especially Dream Lake! To be hiking in snow (in shorts and T-shirts) on the last few days of June is surreal. It is postcard beautiful everywhere you look! Trail Ridge Road is also not to be missed (Definitely need the toad for that one!! We saw RVs up there but would not have liked to be in one! It is STEEP with drop off edges in many places) We spent almost a whole day just doing that driving/get out and hike a little tour (Heaven on earth!). And a tip - keep your eye out for elk in town! They like to lay down right in people's yards! Unreal!

    And another tip, for us the "America the Beautiful" pass ($80 for the family) paid for itself several times as we went in and out of park after park over this 3 week trip.

    After 3 days, from RMNP, we took off for Fruita, CO (6 hrs), stopping to see Rifle Falls on the way. It is a nice little stop off with a small hike to a pretty falls to stretch your legs, but do NOT take your RV/toad into that parking lot! We had called ahead about parking and were told "no problem". Believe me, that parking lot IS a problem if you cannot back up! Nuff said on that little fiasco!

    We chose Fruita to be near the entrance for the Colorado National Monument, which we toured by car (Rim Rock Drive = 23 miles) the next morning. Beautiful, beautiful!! Dont miss the visitor center for great displays, tours and Rangers full of stories and info. And keep your eyes open for big horn sheep! They're everywhere in the park and fun to watch once you get the hang of spotting them against the rocks.

    After a morning at CNM, we drove 2 hrs to Moab, UT. (Thanks for the tip, UtahTea, about taking Rt 128 into Cisco. What a cool road! One minute you are on the surface of the moon, the next you're in green river bottoms, then canyons.... a very nice drive!) In Moab, we stayed at the Riverside Oasis, which is very accurately named! It is literally a green oasis of grassy sites with trees in the middle of the red-rock desert! How they get that grass to grow i have no idea! Anyway, we got the RV situated and took the toad over to Arches NP. We took a short evening hike (it was well over 100 degrees!) to see a couple arches and went back to get out of the sun. The next morning, we got a super early start to hike to Delicate Arch, one of the more popular hikes and well worth the 4 hours invested! When we got back about 10 am, it was already 105 degrees and we passed lots of people just heading up there - some with little kids and no water bottles.....ugh!

    We had in our itinerary to stop off at Mill Creek in Moab on our way out today, but completely forgot! Right before we left, Yahoo.com had an article about the 10 most scenic swimming holes in the US. One was right where we were going to be, so we added it to the list of things to see, but totally forgot! Dangit! Anyway, after our eraly morning hike, we took off for the 2.5 hr drive to Mesa Verde, and back into Colorado. As we were now on Day 8 of the trip, it was nice to be again at a place we had planned to stay for 3 days. Those little 1 nighters are good if you want to see just a few things in one area that is 2-3 hours away from another, but it is also nice to be in one spot for a little time, too. We went on the first of our tours of Mesa Verde that night.

    To sum up Mesa Verde.....DO IT! It is awesome and scenic, informational and educational, and just plain cool! How people living in the 1200's built these structures with no modern tools is unimaginable! In our days here, we went on just about every tour they had. We had no problems with the height issues and "strenuous" warnings, but others might. Where it says strenuous, it really is. Where it warns "if you're afraid of heights....." it IS high, and precarious, and ledge-filled and wobbly-laddered. We were fine, but I was glad I did not have any senior citizens or children in the family.

    While staying at Mesa Verde RV Park, we took a day to do a river rafting trip. We drove 1.5 hrs to Durango, and rafted with Animas River with Mild to Wild Rafting. This is a class 4 and 5 rapids and was one of the coolest things we did. We loved it so much in fact, that we restructured the entire end of our trip to accomodate coming back through this same area on our way back east so we could do another rafting trip! The second one was a 2 day-er and we are officially in love with rafting! Again, not for the faint of heart, though! For the one we went on, you have to do an orientation the night before, complete with a swim test in rapids, jumping out of the boat and back in, full wetsuit and heavy gear/helmet etc, etc. (They do have many other "lighter" options, but we went for the "Wild" option with Mild to Wild.) And if in the area, USE this outfitter! They are awesome!!

    Next stop for us on Day 11 was the Grand Canyon, with a stop off at the "Four Corners" area - which is literally in the middle of nowhere! (pull in/pay the fee to the Navajo tribe, try the Navajo Fry bread, buy a couple souvenirs or some handmade jewelry and take the requisite picture standing in 4 states at once - a good leg stretch - then hit the road again) We chose the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a less crowded experience as we were going on the Friday of 4th of July weekend. That turned out to be a good plan. It was not crowded. I have to say, though, that now that we have "been there and done that" will not visit the Grand Canyon again. It was somewhat of a let down after seeing some of the other gorgeous sights we had seen. Yes it is a Canyon, yes it is big, but is it more beautiful than the rest? nope. It's just a big canyon. Sorry, Canyon fans, but it did not make our favorites list. In fact, it ranks near the bottom of all the things we saw/did. Sunset was very pretty, as was the view from the Bright Angel Point.

    Although we are not really the Las Vegas types, we decided to put a day and a half towards it since we were so close and none of us had ever been. It turned out to be a nice addition to the trip but with some very surprising encounters. First we stayed at the las Vegas Motorcoach Resort, which i will say is the only RV "resort" we stayed at that was truly a resort! We were shown to our site by the "host" in one of the deluxe golf carts from the fleet! The sites were equipped with "real" patio furniture on a huge, level, cement pad. We felt like bumpkins pulling in after driving through a dust storm and covered in bugs! Ha!! Thank goodness we bought the RV we did, as only class A's are allowed to even stay here! (put your nose in the air now) This place had 5 pools, a "real"mini golf course (real grass on a 9 hole mini course-unfortunately wasted on us as we dont golf!) and tennis courts, spas, etc, etc. Definite luxury and with a $55 a night price tag)

    So our time at Las Vegas confirmed what we thought, we are not Las Vegas types. Oh well... Even though we didnt drink (a popular sport) partake in the girlie shows (ambitiously publicized on street corners with x-rated business cards placed into our hands!) or gamble ($20 lost on the penny slots in 30 minutes!) we did have fun. We did the roller coaster in the New York, New York casino, had a meal in the buffet of the Paris casino, watched the famous fountain outside the Bellagio, and took in a show of Blue Man Group (fun!) 1.5 days of it was plenty and we were glad we did it, but we'll probably never return. Definitely another good use for the car, but traffic is a nightmare and parking is a blood sport!

    On the morning of the fourth of July, we took off for Bryce Canyon. (4 hrs) This was by design, as we didnt want to be in Zion on the shuttles for the holiday, even though it took us a bit out of our way and ultimately THROUGH Zion anyway. Bryce Canyon was a highlight. We had booked a horse/mule ride for 3 hrs and it is such breathtaking scenery. I will say, as athletic and adventuresome as we are, that mule was murder! After about the first hour, I was ready to get off. The human knee is not designed to bend in the fashion required by a giant mule belly! We had a great time despite the pain and if I had had some painkilling shot applied to both knees, I'd have loved every second. As it were, I had not wanted something to be over so badly since I had had my last child! Upon return, we took toll of our various injured body parts and promptly cancelled our intended ride for Zion later in the week. Oh the best layed plans.......

    Zion was only a couple hours away and another 3 day stop for us. Highlight of the time there was definitely the hike into the Narrows. We rented the recommended water-friendly boots and hiking sticks (and agree they are very recommended!) and loved this river hike, where at times, the water is up to your neck! The Zion NP shuttles are sooooo user friendly and free! We easily took the car from our site at Zion River Resort into town to catch the local shuttle bus (also free) that takes you to the first stop of the Zion NP shuttle system. Entire thing is very well planned with informative recorded info on the shuttles, friendly drivers, and never a wait. Nicely done!

    On the morning of Day 20, we left Zion on our way (6 hrs) to Natural Bridges NP where we stayed in Blanding UT at Blue Mountain RV Park - which was nearly empty. Midway, we stopped at our much anticipated tour of Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ and it did not disappoint! This canyon is just so cool, such a marvel of nature is simply HAS to be on your list if you are anywhere in the area! It's a short tour (1 hr) although not cheap ($26) but we loved it! Have your cameras ready and plenty of card space - I took over 100 photos in that hour! Gorgeous!

    Natural Bridges was nice, too. It was about 30 min from our campsite (the nearest one) and another nice use for the toad. It's basically a big loop road that you can get off and take small hikes to see the various bridges. The visitor center here was really nice with a great video of how the bridges formed. The hiking was all pretty easy and accomplished the entire park (seeing everything) in an afternoon.

    This ended the preplanned part of our trip, as we cancelled our intended (major) driving day up to Flaming Gorge and second (Major) push up to the Badlands area in favor of heading back east through Durango, CO for the added-in rafting trip. It was a wise decision. Even though once we got "out there"ost of our driving days were short ones, we were not looking forward to 2 8+ hour days in the car. There is just so much to see!

    As it turned out, we needed almost a full day to deal with our one and only problem.... We had a total brake failure on our (new) tow dolly. Now I am not usually the type to bash a product, but this company needs to step it up! I had bought a brand new ($1800+) Stehl Tow Dolly 3 days before we left. We checked the air in the tires and followed the manufacturers instructions to stop after 25 miles and tighten the lug nuts. No problem. We used the dolly with ease for the entire trip, taking the Escape on and off it in minutes as needed at our many stops. Then as we pulled into the campsite in Blanding UT, we were fortunate that the owners happened to be sitting outside and saw (and heard!) us as we entered. The entire brake assemblies (disc brakes- surge style) on BOTH sides had come completely unbolted (2 bolts each!) and were dangling inside the drums, banging and scraping around. The calipers were completely mutilated and we had no idea how long we had been driving that way! The problem cannot be viewed from the top of the dolly, so we missed in in loading/unloading and we could not hear it from inside of the RV. Thankfully the kind folks alerted us before we headed back across those mountain passes!!! Unfortunately it took much wrangling to get Stehl to do the right thing and overnight the parts (it was obviously still under warranty) and it cost us a full day of our vacation to find a trailer dealer and get the problem solved. I just thank God no one was injured!

    After the final grand finale of our 2 day rafting trip, we headed home. Such a bummer that this awesome trip was coming to an end..... For us it was a marvel in many ways. The stars lined up for us all to be able to take the giant amount of time we took off from our real lives. We saw 10 states in 25 days. We traveled over 4000 miles in the RV and over 1000 in the toad. We visited National Parks galore and filled it in with too many other cool sites to mention. The RVing has us hooked and after years of tent camping the whole "insta-camp" concept is a real joy! In 5 minutes we were parked, leveled, "slided", hooked up and off having fun. It is definitely the way to go! We are already talking about where to go next!

    I must say thanks to those of you who lent your experience and kind advice when I first came here contemplating this trip. You are wise people!! We will definitely poll those in the know for future outings and have every expectation that each will be as enjoyable as this was!

    One last tip: I had read somewhere to make a trip notebook before leaving and i have to say it is a marvelous idea. I took a giant notebook and put in dividers for each day and included things like the directions (printed off mapquest), confirmation letters/directions/maps for each park, pamphlets, internet printings, pages copied from books, and news paper articles about the intended stops. As we went, we added park maps, receipts, etc. It was a very valuable tool! We just kept it on the dash and it was a breeze to open it daily and see where we were headed, with maps, etc all ready to go. An awesome tip and one I highly endorse! We also kept a journal and took turns writing about various events. So fun to keep and re-read as things started to get blurry after the trip. Definitely worth the time every evening to write a little.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,169

    Default Thank You

    What a great report. You took me on the trip with you. I am sure it is going to be a great help to future roadtrippers. Do you have any pics. We love pics. You can upload them into an album in photoshare - on the green bar above.

    Lifey

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