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Travels in a NV SMB


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54 replies to this topic

#1 radin2son

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 02:38 PM

UTAH NATIONAL PARKS

For anyone considering a trip to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks via I-70, a great place to stop is Green River State Park (photo 3), especially if you are towing. It is close enough to the parks for a day trip and less costly ($28 for 30 amp) than RV campgrounds in Moab. Also, your RV may exceed the park length limits if you can even get a site. We were in the area last week and there was a huge line of all sorts of vehicles waiting to get into Arches. Fewer cars at Canyonlands. No sites available.

If you are in a camper van, take your chances at the NP campgrounds, or go to Needles Overlook (US 191 north of the Canyonlands/Needles NP entrance. There are 2 campgrounds and dispersed camping. Just make sure you are not on private property.

The Green River (photo 2: That's a railroad bridge and at night the passing trains sound like the tracks are right next to your site.) is accessible from the park for rafting and kayaking. In this photo, it was close to flood stage, but last week it was low.

I-70 will then take you over to I-15 with access to Bryce and Zion. Beware of the tunnel restriction at the eastside entrance to Zion.

If you are not towing, head over to Hanksville and take UT 24 to Capital Reef National Park and take UT 12 to Bolder, Escalane, Kodachrome SP (photo 1) and Bryce Canyon NP. Unforgettable road! If you park your RV at Bryce, take UT 12 to Boulder. Fantastic farm based restaurant there.

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Edited by radin2son, 11 October 2017 - 07:46 PM.

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#2 radin2son

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 04:29 PM

Somehow the post below duplicated itself... so I'll add some photos.


Edited by radin2son, 26 December 2015 - 06:26 PM.

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#3 radin2son

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Posted 26 December 2015 - 04:29 PM

BIG BEND, TEXAS  and DAVIS MOUNTAINS

 

A much older than us Texan told us, "You have to want to come here. You can't just drop in."

 

First a word or two regarding Texas State Parks and historical sites. "Day use fees." Every occupant of your NV over the age of 12 must pay a day use fee. It is not included in camp site fees. For $70, you can purchase a Texas State Parks Pass that gets you and everyone in your NV unlimited park and historical site entry for a year. It quickly pays for itself.  Go to www.texasstateparks.org/passes or buy one when you arrive.

 

Big Bend includes the National Park, which we explored 2 years ago and did not revisit, Big Bend Ranch State Park, the railroad towns of Marathon, eastern entry to Big Bend NP, Alpine and Marfa. Each of these towns has a great hotel associated with the railroad and at least one gas station (Alpine is the biggest), so watch your gas gauge, and Davis Mountains. We stayed at Davis Mountains SP and used it as a base for exploring the region. Within the park is Indian Lodge SP.

 

Fort Davis National Historic Site is worth visiting, but is not covered by the Texas pass. 

 

The Chihuahuan Desert is the hottest desert in North America. During the summer, it can get to 125˚, so staying at Davis Mountains SP is much cooler. We, however, did not expect it to be so cold, 19˚ in the morning and no sun until 9 am when it cleared the hills. Very nice campground, 4 miles from Fort Davis and a grocery store, gas and restaurants. Only one restaurant was reported open, but not when we drove by. Not much was open anywhere this time of year.

 

If you are towing, plan on leaving your TT in Alpine (90˚ in the summer) or at Davis Mountain SP (eyebrow pull through TT sites with full hookups) and day trip to Big Bend NP etc. If you are in a campervan during the summer, checkout the campground in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend NP.

 

Big Bend Ranch SP has an excellent visitor center and primitive campgrounds that may require 4x4 depending on road and weather conditions. Texas FM 170 (River Road) is a 68 mile paved road that follows the Rio Grande. It simply follows the contours of the land... 

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Edited by radin2son, 26 December 2015 - 06:32 PM.

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#4 KMG

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Posted 27 December 2015 - 10:00 AM

Nice images and report.  Thanks



#5 radin2son

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Posted 27 December 2015 - 12:51 PM

Kevin, did you notice the "no roads needed" 4x4 in the visitor center photo. It looked like a Unimog or Sprinter, badged INVECO. A German couple owned it. Also saw a FUSO with a similar set up. This is an area where you see many vehicles like these, mostly with foreign plates.

Your 4x4 setup would handle the dirt roads but might have trouble crossing washes if not recently graded.

It also is an area known for mountain biking and rafting/kayaking the Rio Grande. The photo of the river and the canyon were taken at the same spot; I just turned around. Tough place to take photos at the time of day we were there. Very few places to pull off the road to take photos; there was a pull out on a 10%+ grade of the road.

#6 radin2son

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 12:45 PM

DEATH VALLEY SUPER BLOOM

 

We decided on short notice  to check out the Super Bloom. Death Valley isn't the easiest place to get to.

 

Although heading west to Joshua Tree NP isn't a direct route, it offers great camping and scenery. If you are towing, you'll need to use the campgrounds near the entrances. We stayed at White Tank, 25' limit, which the ranger warned us was optimistic. It was a tight fit, mostly due to the placement of a fire pit. Going to Joshua Tree gave us the option of east or west entry to Death Valley.

 

We decided on the east entrance and try our luck in the "first come, first served" campgrounds at Furnace Creek. Texas Spring is a "no generator," defined space campground that was full. Sunset, just down the hill, is a dirt parking lot with no tables, and there were plenty of sites. there were flush toilets and a sink washing area with potable water. If you end up here and you don't intend to use a generator, look for a site near other camper vans or tents. There are reservation campgrounds and hook ups at Furnace Creek, but they were full. There also are 2 Inns.

 

The Super Bloom was the real reason we all were there, and the Rangers suggested parking your vehicle and walk amongst the flowers. Lots of real photographers; I wish I had more than an iPhone. This is an area where 4x4 is needed to get to the more remote areas. You can rent a jeep or take a tour.

 

One night at Sunset campground was enough, so we opted to stay Wild Rose Campground in the Panamint Mountains, still in Death Valley NP. 25' limit on the road to get there. There is a campground at Stove Pipe Wells, but it also is a dirt parking lot. There also is a motel.

 

The western exit/entrance involves crossing the Panamints, the Panamint Valley and Inyo Mountains. You have to use tow mode on descents or your front end shimmies. If I were towing, I think I would avoid the west exit. No matter which way you go, you have to climb from below sea level to 4000' to get out of Death Valley. 

 

When you get to CA 395, you have to decide to head south or north to get around the Sierras. In Lone Pine, there is Interagency (BLM and Forest Service) that can give you all the info/permits you need for the area. We decided to stay at Tuttle Creek, a BLM campground. This is another area where 4x4 would be helpful to explore the Alabama Hills area. 

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#7 Daydreamin520

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 07:51 PM

Thanks for sharing!  Great pix.



#8 radin2son

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Posted 28 March 2016 - 01:21 PM

NPR had a spot this morning on the rebound of the RV industry over the past 7 years. No wonder it is crowded out there. Baby Boomers aren't to blame even though we increase by 10,000 every day. The average age of an RV owner is under 50.

If you are towing, on a tight vacation schedule or hoping to stay in National Parks, you have to be resigned to making reservations.

For those of us in self contained NVs, we have more options. Sites restricted to 25', no hook ups and no generators offer the best chance to find a site and avoid the $400,000 motor coaches, unless they will let us use their stackable washer- dryers...
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#9 radin2son

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 01:57 PM

FOUR CORNERS (AZ, UT, CO, NM)

This is another area you have to really want to visit, although to is just west of the much visited Mesa Verde National Park. We spent the better part of a week in Hovenweep National Monument (UT) and Canyon of the Ancients (CO) hiking and seeing the ancestral pueblos. Mostly pot holed, paved 2 lane roads and some dirt/slick rock roads. We would have liked a little more clearance, scrapped the right front splash guard on a drop off. 4x4 not needed as long as roads dry. Lots of ruts, however in the dirt..

Very nice campground with flush toilets, running taps and soap. People had to use the tap and small water bottles to get water until they opened the outside tap just before we left. 5 gallon daily limit. We used over 30 gallons of water and had to drive to Cortez to buy water.

Speaking of water, I was able to find the leak. It was at the intake, but not where I thought, the water hookup on the side of the van. It was under the van; the pex line was fine, but the plastic "hand tight" nut was loose. Easy enough to get to, sort of like fitting yourself under the kitchen sink, only dirtier and subject to move...

No bugs except bees and hummingbirds due to all the wild flowers. Also too cold, 37*. We did use the insulated front screens. Very easy to put in place. We would recommend every one get them.

Met a guy driving a 16 year old Ford E-series SMB. His pop top had the electric lift. No problems. If we keep this long enough, we may have to retro fit the electric lift. Unlike our SMB, his had a propane cooktop and he also ran a propane line for a B-B-Q he could hang on the side of his van.

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Edited by radin2son, 12 May 2016 - 06:02 PM.

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#10 wollip

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 05:53 PM

Nice - thanks for sharing.

#11 radin2son

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 06:16 PM

You're welcome.

The best time to visit this area is April/May or October/November. That said, climate change is messing with this. Had we gone earlier, temps would have been in the 20s with snow and rain. We wanted warm weather camping and ended up changing our route home due to new snow in Durango, CO.

It still surprises me that so few people we meet on the road know NVs exist. We met 4 couples on this trip, who were looking for a low top camper van for the low profile or need to put it in a garage. Even when I warned them about the $7-8k cost of a pop top they weren't deterred. One lives close to SMB West in Fresno, so maybe more will be built.

Don't know if anyone looked, but I posted a couple of photos of other new SMBs, Transit and Chevy. NVs are a bargain.

#12 wollip

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 06:38 PM

I am in the MidSouth area (Arkansas) and know nothing about the Western regions of the country. Always enjoy your travel write ups. You explore many more areas with two wheel drive than I would have thought possible.

#13 radin2son

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 08:24 PM

One of my wife's aunts was a rancher, and she drove her 60's 2x2 GMC pickup all over her 10 or 11 section (about 7000 acres) ranch in southern AZ. To move the cattle along, she would hit the side of the door panel with her hand. We saw lots of cattle and wild horses on the road shoulders
but didn't think the NV sheet metal could handle "whump whump..."

The roads aren't that bad, but I still worry about getting stuck or finding a place to turn around. On this trip, we parked and walked when the road was questionable. The tow bill would be enormous!

It will be interesting to see what Dented had to pay for his 4x4 conversion.

You will have to come west sometime. Utah is an amazing place! A friend said you can come back every vacation and never be able to see it all. Same can be said for most western states. Going from national park to another is a great way to see the area but crowded. This is why we like isolated national monuments. Hovenweep had 31 sites for $10 and it rarely fills up. Great base camp.

#14 radin2son

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Posted 22 May 2016 - 06:56 PM

Has anyone driven their NV in the area of the Paria Widerness, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capital Reef National Park, all in Utah? We are putting together a return trip to this area, but unlike the past in our NV, we will be getting off paved roads. Most are maintained dirt roads. OK when dry.

Two major dirt sections will be Hole in the Rock Road and Burr Trail Road from Boulder (UT) through the Waterpocket Fold (dirt) to Fruita. We did a portion of Hole in the Rock in our VW in the 90s and 4x4 is not needed unless you go to the very end (56 mi one way).

We plan to get our 4+ year old tires checked to see if they are up to the trip. If they need to be replaced, we're going with AT tires.

#15 radin2son

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 07:29 PM

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

 

Sometimes you just have to change plans. It was 103* when we arrived at our first day destination near the Paria River on US 89, Utah. We continued on to Kanab and BLM Ponderosa Campground near the Pink Coral Sand Dunes. It was 96* and didn't start to cool down until the sun set at 9 pm. We had a shady site and kept every window open with screens. Lots of bugs. it was 44* in the morning.

 

We had no intention of camping in Bryce, but temps ranged from the mid 50s to mid 80s for the 6 days we stayed there. We did all the day hikes we could and fit in a day trip to Boulder, UT and the Burr Trail Road (also on our original trip itinerary) and put off the Water Pocket Fold in Capitol Reef NP to a fall trip.

 

There are no hook ups at either of the 2 campgrounds and almost all sites are first come, first serve. We stayed at North Campground, loop D, which is close to the rim and trails. Loops C and D are no generator and no vehicles over 20'. If you are towing or need to use a generator, there are loops A (reservations) and B. There also are RV parks near the entrance as well as motels. The Park Lodge is the original construction. 

 

With all the day trippers, this is a crowded park, but you wouldn't know it early in the morning or late in the day...

 

 

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#16 KMG

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 10:46 PM

Nice pictures and Van.  Your penthouse is sweet.  How easily does the side door screen allow for entrance/exit?

Thanks for the report.  Happy Trails! 



#17 radin2son

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 10:46 AM

We keep the screens in a stuff sack, having learned no matter what you do, they come out in a tangled mess. The door screens less so because they are smaller. My wife, who made the slider screen, marked the upper R and L corners so we look for one to start the process. Easy enough to install and make enough room to get in and out. Impossible to reattach from the inside so one of us stays outside to reattach the magnets, then enter through the passenger door and crawl over the console. That is one tough piece of plastic.

In this case, we had enough shade to keep everything open, sometimes using the curtains that came with the van. We only brought the 4 ph insulated shades we made but didn't use them. They really cut down on ventilation. We left the lower side window shades home as well. They make the van feel like a tomb, no make that cargo van. They will work well in colder weather. We did use the the cab and rear window shades

The main problem with the insulated shades is storage. The cab shades fit behind the driver's seat, between it and the cabinets. Not in the way at all. The shades (9) we made, are bulky and fit in a space between the rear (L) door and cabinet, but I have to move them to get to lower storage they partially block.

#18 radin2son

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 11:36 AM

HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

 

National Park Service is 100 years old today. Free entry through the weekend. We are lucky in Tucson in that we have Saguaro National Park, formerly National Monument that I cannot stop referring to as such. There are west, Tucson Mountains and east, Rincon Mountains. We are close to the western part, so after a lunch we will drive over in our VW. Won't be the same as traveling in our NV, but we will be home in time for dinner.

Speaking of traveling in our NV, next month will be 4 years of owning our NV and traveling. 20 trips, the longest 2 months. Most tended to be 3 weeks to a month. This year we stayed closer to home and trips were 7 to 10 days. As I have said before the interior of NVs shrinks after 30 days.

Much better mpg in our VW tdi but not as much fun. 97* and a chance for rain...don't know about that. The Rangers were still in party hats but the cake was gone. Hope they do this again in another 25 years...

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Edited by radin2son, 27 August 2016 - 12:03 PM.

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#19 radin2son

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Posted 07 October 2016 - 04:07 PM

GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

This park, an uplifted (8379') tropical reef, is located in west Texas on the southern border with New Mexico and very close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This is a park you really, really have to want to visit primarily because you love hiking. There are 2 campgrounds, Pine Springs and Dog Canyon. Pine Springs is more accessible and more crowded. It also is a paved parking lot for RVs, which put me off at first. Set up on the perimeters and you'll have a decent site. The parking in all but 3 sites is over 20' feet wide so you can park cross ways or if you are towing, you can easily fit both. The trails are worth the visit.

You can hike to Dog Canyon but it is over 100 miles to drive from Pine Springs to Dog Canyon. Few visit. Hiking is excellent and it is very quiet. The 4 grassy RV sites are in the open, so we asked if we could set up in the tent parking area. (Both campgrounds keep tenters and RVs separate. No exceptions at Pine Springs.) The net result was split level camping; we appreciated the shaded tent area and when the thunder storm hit, we moved quickly into our NV.

If you have a traveling dog, there are places they can walk on leash.

 

$8 ($4 with a senior pass) a night to camp. No hookups or showers, but there are flush toilets, sinks for washing dishes and water spigots near the bathrooms.

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Edited by radin2son, 12 October 2016 - 09:46 AM.

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#20 radin2son

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 11:45 AM

CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT

 

This campground is 131 miles from our front door. Great place for winter camping. There is a 29' vehicle limit on the road past the visitor center and in the campground. Narrow road and tight turn into the campground along with steep dips into and out of a stream bed. Dry most of the year. Perfect, however, for camperized NVs.

 

Dogs are only allowed on the Bonita Creek trail. Access to other trails is from the visitor center up, or you can take the morning (9:00 am for now) shuttle to the top, hike the trails on top and hike down to the visitor center. 

 

Faraway Ranch house is worth taking the tour.

 

To the right of the entrance is Pinery Canyon Road; this will take you to Rustler Park and Cave Creek. Dirt road and closed in the winter. There also is Turkey Creek and Rucker Canyon to the south.

 

Some additional info on nearby forest service camping: Dispersed camping in Pinery Canyon (open April-November, 7000') after you cross the Forest Service boundary. Rustler Park (open April-October, 8500') has a $10 fee. Turkey Creek and Sycamore are open all year, no fee. Rucker Canyon has 3 campgrounds. Bathtub (6300') is dispersed; Cypress Park (6000') and Rucker Forest Camp (6500') have $10 fees. NO Water at any of the above.

 

The dirt road continues to Portal on the east side of the Chiricahuas. There are 5 campgrounds (5100-5800') that are open all year, John Hands and Herb Martyr (dispersed camping), Sunny Flat and Stewart ($10 fee). Only Sunny Flat has water.

 

This is a pretty, but very remote area and not likely to be on anuone's cross country tour, unless seeking refuge from the cold north is the reason to be in the southwest.

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Edited by radin2son, 19 January 2017 - 05:23 PM.

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