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  1. Default Atlanta to WA and more

    Hi, I've done a couple of road trips in the past few years. I went from Atlanta to the Grand Canyon and back tent camping and hotels in a Corvette. Later in the year (November) I drove from Tacoma to Atlanta in a Miata tent camping and hotels. This time I'm considering a Spring road trip. I'd leave from Atlanta, GA and head to Seattle WA.

    I no longer want to do tent camping as it can be complicated and uncomfortable (torrential rains in Sedona and Arkansas and bitter cold in Las Cruces). Anyway, setting up and taking down the tent and stuff each night and day is a pita. I don't want to purchase a camper to tow or motorhome so I am thinking to convert a minivan such as a late model Dodge Caravan to allow me to sleep in it and camp out of it as well as the occasional hotel/motel stay.

    For me, photography is a real interest as well as seeing this beautiful country and its people. I'd like to take a route going North and taking I-90 or I-70 west and perhaps return again through CA, turning left in San Diego and perhaps see Big Bend in TX of even take some detours in AZ, NM, etc.

    I have thought also to take the ALCAN highway to Anchorage... I hear that's really a Nature observing drive LOL!

    Anyway, I'd like to hear your advise and input. I'll probably travel alone, I'm a retired guy but in generally good shape. I can manage the time required and probably the expenses as well. But I still would welcome advise and ideas.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,724

    Default

    Welcome back to the RTA Forum!

    Rain certainly can be a pain when tent camping, and camping when the temperatures drop below the ratings of your camping gear might be even worse - especially when it's easy to forget how cold it can get overnight in the southern edges of the US, even when it's comfortable during the day.

    I think your plan to get a van to travel in could work. I'd take a look at some of the trip reports from Lifey, another senior who travels the country in a van. Rather than a minivan, you might look at a full size van to give you more space for sleeping and your stuff. You could also look at a class B motorhome, i.e. a campervan, or perhaps a pickup with a camper shell that would still give you the ability to easily get around pretty much any place you can go in a car, while providing a little more comfort on the road and overnight.

    As far as your plans go, you might reverse things and do Big Bend etc first, simply because spring comes very late to many mountain areas, especially in the parks around I-90 and I-70. Yellowstone, for example, really doesn't open up to car traffic until May, while big parts of Glacier and Rocky Mountain NPs often don't open until June.

    Also, even in a car, I'd make sure you've got cold weather gear for overnight. It's easy to forget that a car doesn't actually provide that much more insulation from the cold than a tent does!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    10,108

    Default

    Lifey (Lifemagician) did use a borrowed Dodge Grand Caravan one year before she bought her E-150 high top conversion, so that would be doable (but cramped).

  4. Default

    Thanks, I totally understand how little insulation a car can offer... I'll definitely take properly rated sleeping bag(s). Your idea of reversing the trip is a good one. I hadn't considered it and it makes perfect sense. I thought about a van of camper truck, but I saw a Dodge minivan in YouTube where a guy fixed it for camping and it looks very good... One can obtain custom made window shades to completely hide the inside and it has lots of room for a bed and more... Also it's not a permanent conversion. Just remove the second row of seats and do nothing more that minor, removable modifications.

    I figure to stop in campgrounds for bathroom and shower as well as some hotel/motel, AirBNB stops. I can take a travel toilet for the occasional emergency. The minivan with proper tires has traction control, etc. They can be relatively inexpensive to buy and a modern, reliable car would be super nice. I also would prefer the smaller size vehicle for driving and maneuvering. Also, once I'm done I can probably sell it pretty quickly and recoup at least some of my money. Campers depreciate a lot more and are harder to sell. Anyway, it's gotta be much, much better than a Corvette or Miata LOL!

    I've a friend who purchased one of those old Toyota truck campers with the dualies. He's working to restore it and all, perhaps he'd loan it to me or come along for the trip! But I kind of doubt either option will pan out...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    654

    Default Did someone mention the AlCan Highway?

    Hello!

    I retired a little over three years ago, and my first order of business was a solo drive to Alaska and back in my Jeep Cherokee. I was gone 58 days, drove 13,000 miles, and explored 24 National Parks! Some nights I used a tent, some nights I slept in the Jeep, some nights in motels. I've got a blog where I went into great detail about my preparations, the planning, the gear, the references. If you're interested, you can read about it here: Alaska Highway

    It's probably the most glorious thing I've ever done, and my Jeep, which is small, as SUV's go, was the perfect vehicle (for me, at least). Bottom line, most anything will work if you're sufficiently determined!

    Rick

  6. #6

    Default

    In July 2015, I bought a new Honda Odyssey EX-L to replace my 2004 same model. There were some differences of course, mostly good, but the main detraction was the "3-level" floor from behind the front seats to the lift gate. The floor was more of a thinking challenge than anything else--mainly no building of a bed frame.

    My first Road Trip, in Oct 2015, was with a more hippy trippy casual layout of the temporary camper van conversion. I have been taking annual road trips since and each time outfit the van with my temporary bed frame and remove it at the end of the trip. That process probably takes 2 hours unassisted.

    The middle seats of my minivans (I have owned 4 over the last 3 decades) always come out shortly after purchase to allow room for easy stowage of items, be it bicycles, surf gear, home improvement supplies, so on. The rear bench seat is an overly complex beast to remove in this model minivan so I chose to keep it in-place but fold the rear seat back forward to use as a bed frame support. In the front I use two small plastic shelving units as bed platform supports.

    The other main components consist of two 6 ft lengths of 2x4 and three sections of 2 ft x 4 ft finished plywood. On top of this frame goes two 24" wide x 84" long tent camp pads and a 3" zippered memory foam mattress (Cabelas). Add sheets and blankets. The overhang of the camp pads provide vehicle hardware protection and personal protection as well. Odysseys are always 48.5" wide from tailgate to front seats. To decrease bed platform slippage AND provide interior hardware protection, I run 1/2" pipe insulation along each side of the bed platform using duct tape to secure it. The insulation also provides for a snug bed frame fit to minimize bed platform movement. Don't forget to use a heavy duty tarp to cover the rear seat before mounting wood platform hardware.

    The bed platform provides between 17-18 inches height of underneath stowage space. The trunk space where the rear seat would be recessed provides tons of additional storage space for the cooler, camper stove, several Sterilite Ultra containers and other misc. items.

    The right sliding door is used as my entryway to the sleeping unit. In the forward right shelf platform I keep a box for shoes, flipflops and next to it a roll-up doormat. The forward left shelf platform is where I keep several frequent use smaller Sterilite containers. I also bought rubber floor mats (https://www.weathertech.com/) for protection from spills and such. For privacy and sun heat control I bought a windshield sun block (the Odyssey has a huge front windshield so the best solution I could find was https://www.weathertech.com/techshade/), but had to cut out custom sun and light shades for the front windows and tailgate window (using Reflectix). I run simple curtains from the front seat backs to the end of the van (the first year was very basic old shower curtains or other long lightweight cloth). The past year I acquired some Hawaiian print cloth and had a friend sew up curtain rod runners, thus adding some style.

    This outfitting has served me well for two cross-country trips, Maryland to the California coast; one Maryland to S. Dakota-Wyoming-Utah-Colorado loop trip; and a Maryland to New England-Quebec-Ottawa-Ohio loop trip. Along the way I improved, modernized, and modified various outfittings. Colored string for hanging clothes to dry, duct tape and a trip log are your good friends. Also a folding drying rack.
    Last edited by landmariner; 09-11-2018 at 05:57 AM. Reason: Added last paragraph

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Quinn View Post
    Hello!

    I retired a little over three years ago, and my first order of business was a solo drive to Alaska and back in my Jeep Cherokee. I was gone 58 days, drove 13,000 miles, and explored 24 National Parks! Some nights I used a tent, some nights I slept in the Jeep, some nights in motels. I've got a blog where I went into great detail about my preparations, the planning, the gear, the references. If you're interested, you can read about it here: Alaska Highway

    It's probably the most glorious thing I've ever done, and my Jeep, which is small, as SUV's go, was the perfect vehicle (for me, at least). Bottom line, most anything will work if you're sufficiently determined!

    Rick
    Wow! Just got through skimming through your blog... Your photos are amazing! I wish I hadn't seen them as mine are not likely to be as good ;) Anyway, your images of Denaly and other landscapes are so clear with no clouds or haze! You are lucky for sure. What time of the year were you there? And did you ever worry about running out of gasoline?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by hobbit; 09-11-2018 at 11:33 AM.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by landmariner View Post
    In July 2015, I bought a new Honda Odyssey EX-L to replace my 2004 same model. There were some differences of course, mostly good, but the main detraction was the "3-level" floor from behind the front seats to the lift gate. The floor was more of a thinking challenge than anything else--mainly no building of a bed frame.

    My first Road Trip, in Oct 2015, was with a more hippy trippy casual layout of the temporary camper van conversion. I have been taking annual road trips since and each time outfit the van with my temporary bed frame and remove it at the end of the trip. That process probably takes 2 hours unassisted. <--------- snip------------>
    Thanks, good info!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    654

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hobbit View Post
    What time of the year were you there? And did you ever worry about running out of gasoline?
    On that particular trip, I left my home in Phoenix in late June, and returned in late August, so most of my time in Alaska was in the month of July. The Alaska Highway is remote, sure, but it's a well-traveled route, so you're never all that far from the next fuel stop. There are sections where services are farther apart, but never beyond the range of a standard fuel tank.

    There's a guide book called The Milepost, originally published in 1949, and updated every year since. That guide tells you what to expect and the location of all services, including fuel, lodging, and food, providing great detail, mile-by-mile along the whole length of the Alaska Highway, with seperate sections for a number of other major roads in the region. Resources like the Milepost are invaluable on a drive into the wilds of Alaska. The batteries never go dead, and the maps work just fine, even when <<shudder>> there's no cell service!

    Rick

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,109

    Default Low Cost 'Minivans'

    Part of being able to travel in a vehicle smaller than a full-sized camper van will be dependent on your age and your ability to recover from a night sleeping in the somewhat cramped confines of a converted minivan. If you haven't already purchased your vehicle for this trip, I'd like to offer just a thought that may change the way you think about what you'll need. When I was younger (and single) I piled on a LOT of miles in three cars that you probably wouldn't even consider: a 1957 SAAB 93, a 1972 AMC Gremlin, and a 1979 Subaru Outback. I managed to sleep quite comfortably in each of those even though they'd be considered compacts at best.

    The SAAB actually came from the factory with a conversion kit that let you fold down the rear seat and use the entire length of the car from dash to back bumper as a flat bed. (Scroll down a bit HERE to see what this looked like in a later model. After I broke the hinge on the front passenger seat back of the Gremlin, I realized that I could do the same thing by folding down the rear seat back and folding the passenger seat back up against the dash. And I made a point of making sure that the same was true when I bought the Subaru. Each of those cars had enough cargo room that (as long as I was traveling solo) I could carry enough cargo and still leave the entire length of the right side of the car free for a quick 'conversion' to a bed. They also all got incredible mileage which while it wasn't so important when gas was 30¢/gal, but could make a difference today, as would the purchase price of the vehicle.

    As I say, just a thought.

    AZBuck

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