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Feedback requested for winter Southwest trip.


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Hi folks,

BACKGROUND

I am looking for some advice as I begin to plan our winter get away this year.  We live in mid-coast Maine and picked up our Oliver last October.   We stayed one night at David Crockett park and then headded home.  We put the Ollie in the barn and winterized it.  We are new to camping and have never owned a camper or travel trailer.   

Our plan for the winter of 2020 was to head south for Febuary, March and April.  In early Feb this year we drove to Aiken, SC to my sister-in-laws and de-winterized the Ollie there.  From there we headed to Charleston, Savanna, and had planned to work our way south down the east coast of Florida and end up in the Keys.  First big lesson learned-- You need reservations in Florida and the Keys in Feb and March!!.  Fortunately we did get some reservations in the Keys.  We headed up the gulf coast of Florida to Naples, and Tampa.  Our plan was to cross the panhandle and go to New Orleans, Nachez, up the Nachez trace to Nashville, to the Rally in Alabama and then head home.  We had to head home because of Covid mid-March.  We made it to Panacea Florida when it became evident we needed to go home.  We were on the road for about 45 days. 

We had a great time and we learned a few things about camping, and needing reservations in some areas. We learned planning to stay in each place a day or two longer than we planned to really enjoy each place.  We also learned that I do not really like driving in city or urban traffic with the Ollie.  I am not crazy about narrow winding roads with very poor surface or visabiility.  We learned we are ok and enjoy  boondocking for a few days at a time but also like full survice hook ups.  We learned we like space and privacy between camp sites.  We learned that 10+ hour days of driving/towing are not what we want to do too much.  (we will to get out of Maine for a more temperate climate to de-winterize).  3 to 4 hours is about all I would prefer to drive per day but realize some times more is necessary.  I am not especially fond of coming down steep winding grades.  I also am the guy in the slow lane going 60-65 on the highway.  We learned that our 5.7 litre Tundra with the Anderson hitch is more than adequate to tow our Elite II.   

NEEDED HELP and SUGGESTIONS!!!

This years planned route has us headed to the Southwest.  I am not familiar with this area of the country.  I am looking for suggestions on routes, weather, sites, ideas, feedback on dealing with covid, needed reservations, and how busy these areas may be in Feb, March, and April.  We do have solar and just the regular toilet in our Ollie.  Your feedback is needed, and appreciated!  

Here is our planned route and rough timing:

Arrive in Honnewald TN for service, bearings etc around Jan 21.  Nachez Trace south to Nachez.  We were going to New Orleans but with Covid are questioning this stop and a few others.  Head west to Austin, Waco, Ft. Worth,  I am also questioning those stops due to covid.  West through Abiline to Roswell, Las Cruces, Tucon,  and Sedona.  We plan to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around Feb. 25.  Then on to Moab in early March.  Then to Albuquerque via Route 66 headding east to Oklahoma City.  Then continue East to Memphis and Nashville.  I am questioning Memphis and Nashville due to covid as well.   From there in early April head to the Blue Ridge Parkway and head north back to Maine arriving home around April 20.  It is my wife and me along with our new mid-size Austrailian Labradoodle puppy.  He will be 16 weeks old when we leave Maine.  (our traveling compaion for the previous 11 years, Marley, sadly passsed away in June). 

We welcome your feedback.  We are learning and do not have the experience in this area.  We will do mild hiking and site seeing.  We are not mountain bikers.  We want to see some of the west.  What should we see, what roads should we totally avoid,  what will the weather be like, how busy this time of year, places to stay, etc.  I have done a ton of reading and research but nothing works as well as direct feedback from experienced folks. 

We look forward to your feedback.  I will take it all in.  Look us up if you get to Maine in the summer or fall. 

Much appreciated and thanks, 

Matt.

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You need to understand one thing about off season travel in this area..... elevation elevation elevation! The South Rim is at 7000 feet and arriving there in Feb will put you in the dead of winter, snow, and sub-freezing temps. They do keep it accessible. I don’t know if the campgrounds still operate that time of year. In 1980 I camped there two nights in January in a van, the temperature never got above 10 degrees F. The North Rim at 9000 feet is even worse, the roads do not even get cleared until late May. 

You will have to stay down low. Moab area should be fine, it is desert and around 4000 feet. You will not be able to access any of the surrounding National Forest high country campgrounds, but there is plenty of boondocking around the rivers, as well as Arches and Canyonlands NPs. If you get the opportunity to park your Ollie and rent a Wrangler, do drive the White Rim Road, at least the southern part of it closest to the Canyonlands Visitors Center. It is jaw dropping and beyond spectacular when viewed from a 4wd vehicle.

There is a big road cycling event March 13-16, plan around those dates. ..https://www.skinnytireevents.com/skinnytirefestival

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

 

Edited by John E Davies
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I can't really help very much regarding your trip but I'm sorry that you lost your Marley.  

This should be one heck of a trip with what is basically a new puppy.

Bill

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January is a good time to visit parts of the southwest.  We plan on leaving the first week in January to spend all of January in Arizona and then possibly do some southern Utah before coming home.  John’s advice is good.  January in southern AZ is good, January in northern AZ can get dicey.  Flagstaff and even Sedona to some degree will have lots of snow off and on.  Southern UT and NV are usually good but can have some occasional weather.  Elevation increases cold and precipitation. 

You haven’t said what kind of camping you do. We avoid commercial RV parks and stay at state and national parks, COE, FS and BLM areas.  Right now, NM is pretty much still closed down as far as state parks and other public areas go.  AZ is open, we will be staying at Kartchner Caverns SP, Catalina SP in Tucson, Lost Dutchman SP near Phoenix and Fool Hollow SP.  The issue you might have with AZ state parks is that they are hard to get into. We made our reservations 6-12 months ago.  Same with other public campgrounds, AZ is popular that time of year.

Texas is open and has some nice state parks and other public campgrounds.  Mother Neff SP outside of Waco is nice and there are a number of nice state parks between Austin and San Antonio.   If you are traveling in January/February there can be some inclement weather along I-40.  I-10 across southern TX through NM into AZ is pretty safe.

Southern UT is nice.  Any or all of the national parks are well worth visiting.  There are some nice public campgrounds outside Arches and Canyonlands around Moab.  Mesa Verde NP is also worth a visit, being in southwest Colorado it doesn’t get the same cold and snow you associate with Colorado.  There is also nice camping around Lake Meade in NW AZ and up into southern NV.

I don’t have any experience with commercial RV parks.  Since NM has been closed down for COVID we do stay at a very small commercial park in Roswell when we’re going to Colorado.  

Mike

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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Sorry for your loss of Marlie. It's a tough time, losing a four-legged member of the family.

Your trip as outlined, to me,  looks like a lot of stuff you don't like to do. And a lot of possibilities for cold, snow and ice.

I'd probably look at heading back to Aiken, head south to the panhandle of Florida.  Spend some months of coastal time in FL, Al, MS, TX, including Hill country of Texas. Head further west and North (and higher elevation) as spring/April approaches. 

Moab, Zion, Bryce. Grand Canyon, Sedona.  All great views, but don't go too early.

My opinions. I've been in Moab /Archrs/ etc and Antelope Island  and Dunes in early May, and still chilly at night. April would probably be my earliest dates of choice. As John said, elevation makes a big difference. 

 

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Thanks everyone and thanks for the condolences for Marley.  Great information on the elevations and weather in northern Arizona.  I would not have anticipated that.  We prefer National and State parks if possible.  Boondocking is fine for a few days at a time.  Being from the east we have not yet had opportunities on public or blm land and want to try that as well.  Based on some of this feedback I may push the northern Arizona portion into late March.  Hopefully by February and March NM will open camping.  Thanks for the responses so far.

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10 hours ago, Mattnan said:

Great information on the elevations and weather in northern Arizona.  I would not have anticipated that. 

We camped outside of Flagstaff in August, temps were in the 50s at night.

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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One thing not mentioned so far are the many app's and such that are almost indispensable for finding RV and camping locations. Coming from Maine - the shear amount of open and accessible  public and private camping spots will be eye-opening. BLM, National and state open areas can be useful - even for a few days - and provide multiple options. while you plan - Southern UT is a great place to explore.  

Off the top of my head - Campendium,  Ultimate Campgrounds, and the other reservation sites (rec.gov, reserve america) are great for finding the perfect spot.  I am sure I missed a few. 

And to add - the weather will be an issue at times - JD's caution on elevation is spot on - We got about 2 inches of snow last summer  - in late June - outside of Steamboat - about 10K  elevation. Once we got over the shock the next morning- and  got on the road - 500' lower  - it was all just drizzle. Glad we had 4x4 - we were out in the Nat Forrest - off the main roads. 

Good luck in your travels.

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

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We are also planning a trip to the SW in Jan/February.

I thought I'd share a screen shot of the RV Trip Wizard plan we're developing.

One thing I'm also concerned about is availability.

My spots down the coast are locked in but after my last stop in Death Valley in Feb we are OPEN...

I've not traveled into AZ or Mexico with a trailer before, and I think we may end up being kind of late for planning sites at State/NP.

In any case the planning tool is very helpful.

Craig

 

 

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Craig, I see you will be four nights in Kalaloch, be sure to spend a few hours at low tide at Ruby Beach, a few miles north. It is a glorious spot for rocky tide pools at a minus tide, just watch for sleeper waves, the rocks are kinda far out on the sand. My wife and son really enjoyed the tide pools, I was more than a little freaked out by being that far from high ground. Be “tsunami aware”, always. Know your emergency exit routes and don’t ignore a siren if it goes off. Kalaloch is high enough that you would be safe there.... just don’t pitch a tent on the beach.

Sorry to hijack a SW camping thread.

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

Edited by John E Davies
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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

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That is impressive - at least to me - The usual extent of our planning is logging the start and stop dates - a general direction - and head out. Now - this last years trip found a huge increase in the number of folks out - using the parks and outdoor camping facilities. Seems like planning may become more  important, especially if you want to stay in the more popular areas. 

Having a boondocking RV opens up the ability to go and do - at your leisure.  

Have a great trip!

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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23 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

Sorry for your loss of Marlie. It's a tough time, losing a four-legged member of the family.

Your trip as outlined, to me,  looks like a lot of stuff you don't like to do. And a lot of possibilities for cold, snow and ice.

I'd probably look at heading back to Aiken, head south to the panhandle of Florida.  Spend some months of coastal time in FL, Al, MS, TX, including Hill country of Texas. Head further west and North (and higher elevation) as spring/April approaches. 

Moab, Zion, Bryce. Grand Canyon, Sedona.  All great views, but don't go too early.

My opinions. I've been in Moab /Archrs/ etc and Antelope Island  and Dunes in early May, and still chilly at night. April would probably be my earliest dates of choice. As John said, elevation makes a big difference. 

 

In 2019 we traveled to the SW from the Pacific Northwest in mid-May.  We had to modify our route to take us further south when a snow storm came through the Flagstaff area.  Sedona was fine.  We even ventured up to Payson as we wanted to see the Mogollon Rim; it got down to freezing in Payson at night, but the snow didn't reach that far south. Colorado is to be avoided in February/March unless you are prepared for cold and snow; Monarch Pass is over 11,000'.

Most of the storms in the mountain and central SW originate in the PNW; if you watch what's going on there you will get a good idea of what to expect.

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Ray and Susan Huff

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At this rate it won't be long before there are more Olivers. around than in Tenn.

We have had snow on the southern end of the Blue Ridge in April. That's the end without guard rails. 

While winter is here we load a case of bottled water and carry it in the truck. We then move it into the camper when heat comes on. We also use nontoxic RV antifreeze to flush with.

We also would like to pull out after the holidays, just have not done any planning as you have. 

Don't forget to pack some marshmallow Fluff, Moxie, and a few Whoppie Pies. You can trade them with displaced Mainers for almost anything. Also take some referral cards, because you know you will be asked about the camper.

Enjoy

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We have no experience camping in the southwest, yet. Only 2 cents I can add is to suggest the River View RV Resort that is right across the river from Natchez, MS in Vidalia, LA. We were there a couple weeks ago because hubs wanted to stay somewhere with a view of the Mississippi. The place is spotless, sites are spacious, and the rates were amazingly low. I must admit it was fun to watch the barges go by.

https://www.riverviewrvpark.com/

If you go, request site #2.

Edited by ShallowGal
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Chris & Duke Chadwell
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