- Accidental Tourists June 8, 2017
We happened upon Breckenridge all thanks to friends we met at the Tiffin campground when we were all in the same boat of not wanting to be there. We had to get items fixed that no one else seemed to be able to fix. We compared notes of where we had traveled and they said “Oh, you’re going to Colorado? You need to visit Breckenridge!” We were able to extend our short week visit last year to almost two months last year, thanks to a cancelled reservation (thank you, people who cancelled).
This year we decided to stay the entire summer here. We hadn’t really planned on it being so cold in May – on Memorial Day no less. We aren’t skiers, it was a bit cold to hike and instead decided to take a drive to anywhere.
That’s how we happened upon the Continental Divide in Loveland Pass. Sure, we heard about it. We passed the exit on I-70. In fact, when there was a fire in the Eisenhower Tunnel, Waze insisted that we take Loveland Pass in our rig instead of waiting for the road to open back up (thankfully the fire was cleared before we approached the tunnel). By turning right at a light we’d passed, we ended up here.
First we passed a ski town where the slopes were half grass/half snow and were closed. Made sense. It was MAY. But then we happened upon another ski town with fully-functional slopes at Arapahoe.
And then we saw a bunch of cars on the side of the road and there it was: the Continental Divide. We got out, climbed to the ridge, and took a few pictures.
You may see a bunch of emergency vehicles in the background.
You know what happens in May when it is 70 degrees out, sunny, with snow on the ground? Avalanches. A skier went off-trail (as many do in this area) and got caught in one.
This is one of the lessons we continue to learn on the road. You can look into “things to do” while visiting an area. You can make plans. Or you can just drive and happen upon things that quickly become your favorite places or all you see are fields and fields of…NOTHING. Sometimes you can follow people’s recommendations and get the feeling of “wah waaaaaah” once you get there (places to remain nameless, and unfortunately this has happened more often than not). And then you can follow people’s recommendations (the friends at Tiffin) and end up in a place that becomes one of your favorite places. It’s a toss up. You won’t find out until you try.
- Training Day June 1, 2017
What: RV Driving School
Where to Buy: RV School
Price: Varies, depending on type ($695 for the one we took)
Between the two of us we have *censored for ridiculously high count* years of driving experience. It’s second-nature to the both of us. In thinking about driving a 45 foot motorhome (plus tow!), we first watched youtube videos, talked through the logistics of driving a motorhome, discussed how this would be different than driving a car or SUV, et cetera. But like many others, we tend to learn by doing.
Knowing that we were driving something that was hundreds of thousands of dollars (a bit different than the Jeep, we’ll admit), we knew that we weren’t going to depend on youtube. We researched RV Training and determined that we wanted to get training before we took a major trip, so looked at Pennsylvania.
We researched via Google and Facebook and found RV School. They have multiple locations because they aren’t a brick-and-mortar “school”. They have trainers throughout the nation who may live in the location (considered to be “permanent locations”, or be visiting for an extended period of time (“seasonal”) or just a couple weeks (“temporary”). The instructors determine their own schedule and you work out the timing of the training with the instructor. That said, payment is to RV School and RV School stands behind their instructors.
We took a Combination/2 person lesson. It’s a 2 day 6 hour intensive training. There’s also an option for a single/1 person course with the option of a “ride along” companion, but we both wanted ownership of the driving in some way.
We contacted the instructor, Ray Casselberry, to work out the date and place. Ray was a lifetime truck driver who was retired, and we felt he was fully capable of helping us drive the bus. He recommended we travel an hour to South Central Pennsylvania (Carlisle). So with Kim, Chris and the dogs in tow, on Chris’ birthday, his gift was driving our brand new RV (happy birthday to you!).
The training itself was intense and thorough. Did it cover every scenario? No, how could it, but it started at an RV park Ray had a relationship with (and known to have some tighter turns so we maneuvered with an instructor right there for the first time) and the area had everything – steep hills (up and down, as what goes up must come down!), small town roads, traffic circles, highways (entering and exiting) and large shopping centers (to practice backing up). It also allowed the dogs practice to travel in the rig, and helped us identify some snags in our current doggie containment system (our dogs, it turns out, were used to the car and being RIGHT NEXT to us).
To say we learned a lot is an understatement. The training was invaluable. One thing our instructor immediately corrected was our speed. When we both got to the wheel the instruction was “slow down”. As we had more practice, he said it less and less. We also came across some spine-tingling “omygah!” moments which he talked us through (getting onto a packed highway, for example). We learned the “stupid face” (Ray’s phrase) which is the face you give if a car decides to be jerkish and blocks you from safely making your turn. We learned to be more patient than you have driving a car or a SUV. It’s so simple, but it reiterated safety first.
Other than the perk of being more confident with our driving, another perk is insurance – completion did lower our rates than if we hadn’t taken the course.
Would Recommend: Yes. We do often think back to lessons taught during those two days and it was worth every single penny.
- Life on Holiday May 30, 2017
If you are new to RVing, or have a history of staying in a couple of places over the year and don’t typically travel, you may kind of know to book early-ish for remembrance and holiday weekends (typically Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are the trifecta of camping craziness). You may know this. However, no one can properly prepare you for how ridiculously prepared you need to be if you have your eyes on an area, particularly if that area involves the words “State” and “Park” in it.
Let’s back this fun bus up: how crazy are we talking? We’ll use Colorado as an example. According to our hosts at Cherry Creek, Colorado allows you to book up to six months from the date. Colorado citizens go into the most popular state park websites and book every single weekend from opening weekend until closing weekend. Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are gobbled up immediately. This leaves little room for tourists outside of the state to come in for a couple of weeks straight (usually there’s a 14 day max) and have one solid visit.
This also leaves very little room for the spirit of exploration or winging it, particularly if you have a very large rig and can’t just pull off anywhere. You shouldn’t plan on Walmart, Cabela’s or similar because guess what? Everyone else who neglected to make timely reservations are likely to do the same thing. That said, we did see the same fifth wheel – with slides out – in a pull-off rest area for the entire Memorial Day weekend. So it can be done.
We were new to RVing last year and left our winter residence in Florida in late April. We knew we had to go to Tiffin to get work done and worked our way to Red Bay, AL. We got there right before Memorial Day. This made predicting exactly where we’d be during Memorial Day to be very difficult, so we didn’t book anything and we didn’t exactly want to spend the holiday in Red Bay (we know people love it here, but we had spent almost two weeks there and were DONE). We ended up in a tiny park in Georgia which was lucky, but there were reasons why that park was available. It was fine for the two days we were there but there were serious issues that could have potentially damaged our coach. We were lucky, and one of the factors we think about is our animals’ comfort. So we definitely had that.
So what did we learn? Book early and book often. When you have an itinerary that’s relatively open, discuss where you may be and choose 2 or 3 locations. Then, as long as the cancellation policy exists where you can cancel x amount of time, book in those 2 or 3 places. They could be close-ish to each other or on different coasts. What you have to lose is money. You will lose approximately $10 per reservation as a service fee for many parks (state parks and KOA included). You must be meticulous to cancel in the right amount of time (parks vary from two weeks to 48 hours before check in time/date) or you’ll be charged either one day’s fee or for the entire time (the latter is rare). If you don’t want to pay cancellation fees, the risk is you don’t have a nice place to stay for the holiday. The risk if you do book is that you’ll forget to cancel. So you need to weigh risk versus reward.
With that in mind, you can ask yourself questions to narrow things down for yourself. What coast will you be on? North or South? Any particular state or states?
This year, we knew that we would want to be in Colorado so for us it was easier. That said, we neglected to log into the Colorado State Park system for a particular park in time to book Memorial Day (missed it by 2 days – 2 days!). Alas, everything was GONE for that weekend, even sites with no hookups (“primitive”). We were able to book Independence Day at a Georgia state park last year in February, so not as cut-throat but still not ideal if you are a wanderer. If you have minimal needs for the weekend (hookups, namely) or are a smaller rig, you’ll find it to be much easier. If you’re a planner, perhaps you live for this. If you have a large rig and aren’t a planner, it is definitely more difficult.
May the odds be ever in your favor.