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  1. Default First ever RV trip – Vegas, Grand Canyon, Antelope, Zion, Yosemite and San Francisco

    This is our first trip in an RV so we had only a little idea of what to expect. We are a family of four, me, my wife Liv and my two boys Ben (17) and Dan (13). I’m not really a camper to be honest (I like a few more comforts and a clean shower) but I love the outdoors so an RV seemed like a really good compromise.

    Liv and I went to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona and Monument Valley 18 years ago (in a car and hotels/B&Bs) and had a fantastic time so somewhat belatedly, we really wanted to show the boys how beautiful this part of the world is and of course, see more of it for ourselves!

    We put together this trip using books like Lonely Planet, extensive Googling to avoid obvious errors and the busiest tours but it couldn’t have been done without help from the guys here especially glc, travellingman, Rick Quinn, Southwest Dave and Midwest Michael.

    The last time I drove any of these roads, we had an atlas, printed directions and probably no useable mobile phone. This time I was using an app called HereWeGo which is an offline Sat-Nav. I’m pretty sure it is still free and we had it last year in Florida and it was excellent. But that trip was pretty easy compared to this one (Orlando, Cape Canaveral, St. Augustine, Charleston, Amelia Island and finally back to Orlando). Being on a U.K. contract with O2 meant that for me to use my phone would cost £7.50 (about $9) a day so anything offline was a godsend. This time however, Liv was on a new contract with Three that allowed free roaming in the US so we were able to validate the routes as we went, at least where there was any network coverage, which wasn’t very often.

    This was a 10 day trip in an RV around some spectacular places plus 3 city days in San Francisco and 6 on the beach at Pajaro Dunes just north of Monterey. I made these notes on the move and have updated them and added photos now I am back.

    So that’s us and how we got here, let’s get on with the trip!

  2. Default Day 1 - Las Vegas

    We landed in Vegas from the U.K. and spent a single night only because you can’t take possession of the Rv the same day as you land. Given how tired I was, that’s a pretty sensible rule, even if it didn’t seem so before we left.

    The trip over was amazing really. Expectations were low for today but a pleasant drive, a nice chatty parking guy, friendly check in lady, nice and funny (as unlikely as that sounds) security guys, very cheery and helpful Virgin stewardesses and then finally, a US border security girl who was also chatty, funny and interested in us and our trip for the right reasons made the whole journey completely bearable.

    We really don’t like Vegas but if we were going to stay here, it might as well be in some luxury, it’ll be the last we see for the next 10 days. So as I had amassed enough points from my business trips away we were able to book a small suite at the Venetian that all 4 of us could sleep in. It was certainly good that we didn’t have to pay as everything else is so expensive! We found the Venetian very comfortable but the complete opposite of everything we like and why we were here but it was definitely another experience!

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    This is us tired but managing a first evening out even if it was in a slightly surreal location.

    And that was that, a long day one, an early night followed by the inevitable early morning, but we had arrived!

    The interesting stuff lay ahead.

  3. Default Day 2 - Las Vegas / Willow beach

    We had an El Monte C28 on order but they couldn’t make it available to us until after 15:00 so we had to waste a large part of the day but the various pools at the Venetian made that easier!

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    When the time came, El Monte were great, the pick up from the hotel was dead on time, the check in and release team were good but in the end we couldn’t escape until after 5:00. We had long decided that a drive to the Grand Canyon on that first afternoon was a bad idea so whilst looking for a stop en-route, I stumbled upon Willow Beach Marina and Campground - https://www.willowbeachharbor.com/ , nearer than Kingman and it looked pretty good.

    Following a slow start (justifiable levels of caution on my part!) and a supermarket stop, we arrived at Willow Beach just as it started to get dark. If you don’t know Willow Beach, it is off the US93 about an hour outside Vegas and the 4 miles down towards the Colorado River. Arriving late was our first challenge, the arrivals office was closed so we headed to the site not sure what to expect. But of course, they were well used to this and there was a notice board and a camp host so we were quickly parked up (pull through site of course!) for our first night.

    It was a fun first night in an RV, working out how to connect everything and how to use the oven to cook a pizza. But a slightly over crispy pizza and a few beers tasted pretty damn good!

    The biggest disappointment of the day was the Hoover Dam. I am sure that 18 years ago the only road was to drive across the top of it but now there was the new road alongside it. The boys were poised by the windows with the camera at the ready but we couldn’t see a thing. Probably a good idea to stop rubber-neckers slowing the traffic down but they were disappointed.

    Unfortunately, we didn’t take many pictures at Willow Beach (blaming Jet Lag) but it is well worth a look.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,599

    Default

    Thanks for sharing!

    The start of your RV experience is very typical - normally you can't pick up until the afternoon, and it usually takes a fair bit of time before you can get on the road. Its an excellent reminder for others hoping to make a "quick escape" on the start of an RV adventure.

    I look forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

  5. Default Day 3 – Willow Beach / The Grand Canyon

    We woke to find that now it was light we could see this was a beautiful campsite, overlooking the river with very flat pitches and all the connections you need. The shower block had individual ‘bathrooms’ accessed with the key card you receive on arrival. We found out later that this really was the height of luxury when it comes to the campgrounds!

    This really was a good find and useful for anyone who wants to start their journey but doesn’t have the time to get to their ultimate destination such as the Grand Canyon.

    We arrived at the Trailer Village campground just before lunch. The check in process was easy and the site was good, we were greeted by a family of elk checking out all the new arrivals!

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    The campground will be well known on here but for us, the only real downside of this site was that there were no showers directly on the site. The pitches are pretty open so quite close to your neighbour but it wasn't a problem.

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    Liv and I had been to the Grand Canyon before 18 years ago and we felt that unless you took one of the (expensive and lengthy) trips down into the Canyon, there was only so much time you could spend admiring the awesome view. We therefore decided to stay only one night which meant one afternoon plus any time on the way out the next morning. This also left more time for everything else and looking back, i think it was the right call.

    So we walked some and bussed some of the rim trail and gave the boys there first spectacular sights of the holiday. There were more to come tomorrow but it was a pretty good first real day of the trip.

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  6. Default Day 4a – Leaving the Grand Canyon

    We had arranged a kayak trip of Antelope Canyon for 1:00 so we headed out of Trailer Village reasonably early and headed towards Page.

    The trip along Desert View Drive is spectacular and in my opinion (from both this and our previous trip) affords the some of the most spectacular views of the Canyon and the mighty Colorado River below. We had to make a number of stops to investigate and take more photos plus a final stop at the Desert View Watchtower which was definitely well worthwhile.

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  7. Default Day 4b – On to Page and Antelope Canyon

    We had allowed plenty of time to get to Page and even allowing for our numerous stops, we were due to arrive about 1.5 hours before the tour so time for some lunch. About an hour outside Page the Sat Nav amended our arrival time to 30 mins before the tour so now a bit tight and the prospect of no lunch loomed over us! I was pretty sure that we were OK as Trailer Village and Page are both in Arizona, so the same time zone, but caution made us get there without stopping. Of course what had happened was that road is very close to the Utah border where the time does change by an hour but we were still ok. We confirmed the time when we arrived and still managed to fit in the lunch!

    The Hidden Canyon Kayak tour (http://www.lakepowellhiddencanyonkayak.com/) is an excellent 3 hour tour of the lowest section of Antelope canyon inside the Glen Canyon National Park.

    We Kayaked from the Antelope Point launch ramp around to the entrance to Antelope Canyon, stopping off for some rock jumping on the way mainly so we weren't too close to a previous tour as they had been slowed down by a guest with a broken arm, not ideal for paddling!

    Once in Antelope Canyon, the views were spectacular, the further in we went the more narrow and beautiful it became and the steeper the canyon walls appeared. There were other kayakers and a couple of boats but not too many and for much of it we were the only ones there. Our group was about 8 tandem kayaks and our guide, Ian, was excellent giving us lots of information as we went. The hardest part was as ever, the paddle back. It’s quite a way from the depths of Antelope to the Ramp and as we emerged from the canyon, the wind had picked up and was in our face making it a tough paddle.

    We would definitely recommend taking a look at this tour if you are in the area. Having said that, the tour was expensive at about $90 each and you could always just rent some kayaks, one look at Google maps and it’s obvious where to go but it one of the best excursion tours I have ever done anywhere.

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    One of the great things about having an RV is that after the tour, we had everything we needed with us so could towel off, change and get a nice cold drink before heading off for an early dinner and on to Lake Powell Campground.

    Definitely our least favourite campground, a lot of it was occupied by people living there, it was scruffy and the toilets and showers were filthy. Still we were only there one night and we didn't arrive until about 8, just time for a glass of wine.

  8. Default Day 5a – Canyon X

    A leisurely start to the day as we only had to go about 30 minutes and didn’t need to be there until 9:25.

    Canyon X is the third canyon in the Antelope 'group' of slot canyons. Whilst doing research for the trip it looked to me like the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours were always very busy whereas the Canyon X tours were less so. I can’t make the direct comparison as I haven’t seen the others but while Canyon X was a little busy (but apparently still quieter than the others) the two canyons we saw were spectacular and we were able to get time where we were the only people in our section of the canyon.

    The pictures just don’t do it justice as it really is spectacular!

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    Our guide, Marcus, was really good, plenty of information and showing the best spots (and techniques) for photos. This tour was an hour and a half and cost about $35 each and as you can’t get into any of the 3 canyons without a tour, it was pretty good value. https://www.antelopecanyon-x.com/

    Overall, we knew that our 2 half days in Antelope Canyon would be the expensive part of our trip (at least in terms of tours) but it was well worth it, we absolutely loved it!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,413

    Default Great stuff !

    Great report and photo's so far ! Really enjoying riding along with you and looking forward to more.

    Dave.

  10. Default Day 5b – On to Zion

    That was Antelope and now we set off for Zion. One of the great things about driving around this part of the world is that the fabulous scenery is always changing making all the drives interesting. I managed to drive for so many hours and hardly noticed the time, that definitely wouldn't happen in England!

    The drive to Zion is one of the shorter ones at just over 2 hours and this time we did cross into Utah so had to allow for the hour difference. En route we passed through a town called Kanab, which is now on the list for a visit, it looked gorgeous.

    We approach Zion via the East entrance and what a spectacular drive awaited us as we moved from the entrance to the Watchman campground. Easily the most beautiful drive of the entire trip. I just wish we had a little more time to stop and take it in but we weren’t sure what was ahead so we pushed on.

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    There are 2 tunnels to go through approaching from this side, the first was very short but the second was completely different. Waiting for the ranger to stop the traffic so we could go through we noticed a height restriction of 13’1” in the middle and only 11'4" at the edges. We had also spotted a sticker in the RV that said we needed 13’5”! I assumed we were ok given the recommendations on here but we were still a little concerned so we asked we asked the ranger. He just laughed and said he puts loads of our size vehicles through every day. Another learning for us, RV manufacturers ‘lie’ about how much headroom you need and Bridge or Tunnel operators ‘lie’ about how much there is! Good to know though as it ensures plenty of margin.

    So knowing we were ok, we set off. It was still a little scary driving in the middle of the road not knowing how much clearance we actually had. It also went on forever with a number of false hopes where there was light, just not at the end of the tunnel!

    The Watchman campground really is lovely, the only downside is no showers, however the toilet blocks are well placed and pretty clean. We had a pull through site right next to the Virgin River (perfect for a paddle, or even a swim after a hot day), it really couldn’t have been better.

    We set ourselves up and made our evening meal feeling pretty happy with the world. That was until about mid evening we were engulfed in a plague of flying ants. We quickly got ourselves into the RV and set about clearing out the few that had followed us. Fortunately it was pretty much bedtime so we were ok.

    The next morning, I had a chat with the Ranger and he said he had never seen anything like it. Sounded like their version of the U.K. flying ant day to me!

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