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Heading West - What two-week route would you take?


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My wife and I bought our Ollie (Hull 801) and then - oops! - job moved to California. So we're driving our new rig from Maryland to San Diego in early September. I think we'll take a northern route to avoid the worst of the heat. What route would you choose and what sights are can't-miss if you had 2 weeks to get there?

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Have you pretty much explored the east part of the USA? If not, do some lingering there and then haul @ss to California, because much of the air in the northern West is going to be nasty from wood smoke. If you decide to linger in the West, Glacier would be a great spot to spend three days or more. But all the National and State Parks are insanely busy, there are RVs everywhere. So you need reservations, unless you want to risk boondocking. If you can find a primitive spot by Thursday noon, ride out the weekend there and then proceed on Monday. (By early September the schools will be back in session and the mid-week family campers will be gone.)

https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/3627-glacier-national-park-post-season/

If one of you is 62, do you already have a Geezer Pass for free access to Federal Parks and 50% off camping? Campendium and Ultimate Campgrounds will be very helpful. Fourteen days to do 3500+ towing miles does not leave much free time to just hang out and relax, can you take a little extra?  I am sorry to sound so negative, your travel date is not at all good….. this is a rough and tough camping season for a fast cross country trip. 

John Davies

Spokane WA

"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/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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Allow me to add some thoughts to the conversation.

True, Glacier NP is a not to be missed place but do NOT underestimate John's comment about the conditions out west currently and they are NOT likely to change even through September. You would be well advised to keep checking and paying attention to the wildfires throughout any part of the west before departing on your trip. The AQI in Bozeman, Montana where I live was 163 at the top of the morning and will most likely reach near or above 200 before the day is over. Just 80 miles west of here in Butte where our daughter lives it has been 200 or near so for days.

My wife and I were in the Wind River Range of Wyoming this past week enjoying very clear air, deep blue skies and puffy whites punctuated with a few thunderstorms but by Friday afternoon and Saturday morning the smoked had rolled into the area and as of this morning the AQI there is in the 130's or so. None of this is likely to change until some major and drastic change in the weather patterns. Understand too, smoke from wildfires will and do travel hundreds and thousands of mile away. It is not the least uncommon for us living in Montana to have a summer filled with smoke from CA, OR, WA, NV or ID fires. On most days the mountains are completely invisible due to the smokey conditions this summer. I'm not making this up.

Not trying to rain on your parade by any means and with some luck hopefully things will clear up before your departure and if they do understand there are campgrounds within Glacier that are all first come first serve and those include Apgar and Avalanche Lake on the west side. Two Medicine and Swiftcurrent on the east side are a mixture of RSVP's and FCFS however both of these are fairly remote and require some time to get into. The roads are windy with lots of elevation changes and take some time to negotiate. Plan ahead! This will be nothing like driving around the eastern part of the US. On a more positive note I am finding lots of USFS and BLM campgrounds that do not take reservations and are all on a FCFS basis and better still do not fill up even on the weekends. IOW's there are still plenty of camping sites to be had out west even without reservations if you know where to look. However as John has implied the more popular national parks, such as YNP, Glacier, Grand Tetons are more likely to be booked. This year GTNP went to the Advanced Reservation System exclusively meaning there are no walk-ins or FCFS sites throughout. YNP does have some campgrounds on FCFS basis but most are RSVP.

The Ultimate Public Campground app is a must but I also use the Free Roam app which shows hundreds and thousands of dispersed or boon docking sits that are free. Allstays is worth having as well but it will include RV parks and the like, sort of a jack of all trades but not an expert at anything. Let us know if you have more questions. Be glad to help if possible. 

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Legacy Elite II #70

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If you've not driven the Skyline through Shenandoah, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, you might consider that as part of your route. Though we are indeed getting some of the smoke from the western fires here in the east, it's not been bad in Asheville yet.

It's a beautiful drive, though a bit slow. Plentiful camping opportunities on both parkway, and just off the parkway, too. If time is too short, or it's really hot, as it can be in early September,  skip Shenandoah, and just drive the Blueridge.

You could make a stop in Asheville for a day or two, enjoy a bit of Western North Carina food and brews, and move on west from there. You could even stop in Hohenwald for a checkup before going out to Sandiego via I10 through the southwest. Might be a bit warmer than going northern route, but the air should likely be more clear, and lots of beautiful places to visit in Texas.

Most direct route, using interstate and internet speed is about 40 hours drive time, so 6 or seven days of driving, and a week of stops and slower pace where you want to stop. 

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Having been out of the loop for the last week had not realized the smoke from these fires had reached the east to this extent. That should be a warning to any and all. Looking at  todays current fire map and AQI reports my suggestion would be to travel the southern route across the country as SeaDawg mentioned. Yes it will be warmer or in some cases hotter than the northern route although much of the NW have seen record breaking triple digits off and on this summer. NM and AZ have been receiving copious amounts of rain this past month too which helps mitigating clearer air. Safe travels.

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Legacy Elite II #70

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Ditto on Rob's comment above.  We too live in Bozeman, and the air quality today is the worst I've ever experienced here.  We just cancelled a trip to the Lolo Pass area in the Idaho panhandle due to fires and smoke in that area.  Given Bozeman's air quality today, maybe we should've gone!!

I agree with Rob--"Go south, young man!"

Jim & Mary

Bozeman, Montana

2017 Legacy Elite II-Hull #294

2019 GMC Sierra 2500

 

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36 minutes ago, RunninOnMT said:

Ditto on Rob's comment above.  We too live in Bozeman, and the air quality today is the worst I've ever experienced here.  We just cancelled a trip to the Lolo Pass area in the Idaho panhandle due to fires and smoke in that area.  Given Bozeman's air quality today, maybe we should've gone!!

I agree with Rob--"Go south, young man!"

FWIW I have seen it worse here than today but it still is awful and only going to get worse as the summer wears on.

On another note had not realize there was another Oliver owner here in the Bozone, how about that. Congrats.

Legacy Elite II #70

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Every time we've traveled across on I-80 we've experienced very windy conditions.  But, then, I don't suppose there's a way to avoid wind when crossing the plains.

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Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

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2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

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I-10 west of Houston is a good road without a lot of traffic except when you go through San Antonio, El Paso and Phoenix.  You can make good time through west Texas, NM and AZ.  It will be hot but efficient time and distance-wise.  Mike

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18 hours ago, Ralph Mawyer said:

Everyone should experience I-10 through El Paso at least once. 😉

Good or bad?   I didn't know El Paso was right on the border.  Maybe that has something to do with this.

My dad always told me, if at all possible, avoid Dallas-Fort Worth.  

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

1UP-USA Heavy-duty bike rack

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

AZARCAIDNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAsm.jpg

 

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Depends on how you view things I suppose. However it is by any measure the most stark example of the 1st World juxtaposed to the 3rd World you're ever likely to find thrown into a mix of industrial wasteland. The first time is a bit of a shock. 

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And yet, El Paso can be a really nice place.  I have younger friends who live there.

It actually has a very low crime rate for the size of the city. 

Then again, you can take a long loop around on the state highway, if you're so inclined.

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FWIW, I was referring to the driving experience as I-10 wanders through El Paso with the extremely high density of 18-wheelers moving cargo to/from Mexico, in addition to the usual city traffic. Upside, less chances of taking the wrong lane than within the Dallas highway system. 

2020 Legacy Elite II Hull 625 - 2013 Lexus LX 570

San Antonio/Boerne - Texas Hill Country

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10 hours ago, routlaw said:

Depends on how you view things I suppose. However it is by any measure the most stark example of the 1st World juxtaposed to the 3rd World you're ever likely to find thrown into a mix of industrial wasteland. The first time is a bit of a shock. 

This is true.  On one side you see a modern US and on the other you see shacks going up the hills.  It is stark.

8 hours ago, Ralph Mawyer said:

FWIW, I was referring to the driving experience as I-10 wanders through El Paso with the extremely high density of 18-wheelers moving cargo to/from Mexico, in addition to the usual city traffic. Upside, less chances of taking the wrong lane than within the Dallas highway system. 

I-10 through El Paso is nothing like going through DFW.  They have been doing a lot of construction but you get through it pretty quick.  You can go around to the north through the Franklin mountains, very scenic just a bit longer.  Mike

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Thanks all for the thoughtful replies. Didn't take looking at those fire and smoke maps very long before we became convinced on the southern route, which shouldn't be too terribly hot by September. Our plan is to chug down 70W to Colorado Springs and then through Utah. With an eye toward breaking this up into even chunks of driving, here's a draft itinerary. Our hope is that someone will have ideas for places to stay, especially at or near each of the semi-arbitrary early milestones. (Salina Kansas???) We are just blasting through until we get to Colorado, but if there's a small detour off of I70 that you think is worth it we're game. Moving truck arrival uncertainty forces us to plan for as little as 9 or 10 days, but with a little luck we could set a somewhat more leisurely 2-week pace. So yes, we know we SHOULD take more time but unfortunately we can't.

  1. MD to Columbus, OH to visit daughter at OSU.
  2. St. Louis, MO.
  3. Salina, KS.
  4. Colorado Springs, CO.
  5. Arches National Park, UT.
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.
  7. Sedona, AZ.
  8. ??
  9. San Diego.

Make any sense? Yes, we get that finding RV spots could be a challenge but we'd like to start with an itinerary we like and see if we can find something.

Thanks again!

Dave

 

 

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Agree with Mike and Carol, getting through El Paso is mostly a non event and especially compared to DFW or worse yet Houston which are both a major long drawn out PITA. 

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@MarylandDave Arches will still be fairly crowded most likely this time of year and it can still be quite hot in the area. Moab is considerably lower in elevation so triple digit or nearly so temps can still be lingering on there. Its highly unlikely you'll be able to get a camp spot in Arches without having registered for one weeks or months ago. Might be worth a try though. However there are numerous BLM campgrounds around the Moab area. Do not arrive on a weekend though, Sunday or Monday night would be much better.

Its not clear to me what you would get out of the Colorado Springs diversion to the south unless you plan to travel the backcountry roads to and through UT. If time is constrained I would recommend staying on I-70 right through CO. There is the CO National Monument just off I-70 in western CO, then a short drop (relatively) down to the Moab area off I-70. Further west is the San Rafael Swell also just of the interstate then half an hour or so to the south is Goblin Valley State Park. I could go on and on with the possibilities in southern UT but will keep it brief for now. The point is there are incredible things to see and experience other than the heavily visited national parks. One other thing you need to consider, the front range drive is maddening worse than either Houston or DFW IMHO and worse still there is currently major road construction going on from south of Trinidad right into the southern perimeter of Denver. I just drove this a couple of months ago and traffic even on a Sunday went at a snails pace often setting dead still. Took hours get through. Another reason to just blast right through Denver cutting it in half.

Further west in UT most of those Nat Parks will still be quite busy, Zion, Bryce etc, plan ahead now for campgrounds. Kodachrome Basin is just a few miles further down the road from Bryce NP and is a very nice state park campground. Green River also has a nice state park campground (and right off I-70) as well though not much to do there unless you golf or mountain bike. 

Hope this helps

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Thanks @routlaw. So much goodness there for me to chew on. I didn't realize that the Utah parks were so elevation variable, and if seeing "lesser" parks helps us circumvent the campsite booking problem then so be it. CS route was about showing my wife two places I think are cool: Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs/dwellings, but you have me thinking it isn't worth the long detour; probably just a taste of what awaits in greater measure in Utah. Much obliged for your thoughts.

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If you are going to stop in Moab to do Arches, you should at least take a day and do Canyonlands.  We actually like it better than Arches, less crowded.  Outside of Bryce is a very nice FS campground, Red Canyon.  No hookups but nice paved sites and is very well maintained.  Scenic too.  Goblin State Park is good, make reservations early because it fills up fast.  Mike

Red Canyon Campground just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

 

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If going through Colorado you might bookmark this:

https://cotrip.org/home.htm

Just trying to get from Golden/Denver to Ouray this past week I was juggling I-70 closures due to mud slides and State 50 full closure all week. 

It’s a moving target here with road repairs and September weather adds another variable. 

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2020 Legacy Elite II Hull 625 - 2013 Lexus LX 570

San Antonio/Boerne - Texas Hill Country

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