How we fell in love with an RV & the great USA!
After visiting New York in 2007, which was our very first trip to the USA, I have to admit, I wasn’t that impressed with what I’d seen.
Having put NYC firmly on a pedestal since my childhood as ‘the’ place to visit, I felt really underwhelmed and a tad disappointed after walking around Times Square and various other well-known sites. Maybe because of the preconceptions Hollywood had filled my head with – everything felt so familiar, but without the glitz and glamour and superheroes, the ‘city that never sleeps‘ just didn’t live up to my expectations.
Luckily, one of our best friends from the UK now lives in New York, so we decided to give it a second chance and visited again in 2011. Whether it was the fact I had abandoned any pre-conceived ideas of the place, or simply because I was older and had learned to appreciate things more, second time round I saw NYC with new eyes and really did enjoy our time there.
First sunset after collecting our new home on wheels from the hire depot in Chicago.
It was to be the start of 90 days in the USA, 90 unforgettable, incredible, and inspiring days that made us see America entirely in a new light.
Beyond the neon lights and craziness of the big cities is some of the most amazing natural scenery you will ever come across. We didn’t learn that from Hollywood, neither did we know about the great legacy of John Muir and the trail he forged through the Sierra Nevada’s, which is what entices us back.
Scenic Driving At Its Best
Leaving Zion National Park, Utah, and heading for the Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Driving through the Grand Teton Mountain Range, Northwest Wyoming.
Leaving the Canyonlands National Park, Utah, and heading to Natural Bridges National Monument, the world’s first ‘International Dark Sky Park’.
Embarking on our own American adventure, we travelled 5,000 miles from east to west, starting in Chicago and finishing in LA. This was by no means an easy task, especially when your husband doesn’t drive. It’s a good job I’m completely useless with sizing. If I’d have been able to visualise 23 feet in length and convert that to metres, I don’t think I’d have ever gone through with the RV booking. In England, my license would not have even allowed me to drive something so large!
Our planned route from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Becoming An RV’er
So on the day of collection at the Hire Depot, it was with great trepidation that I took hold of the keys. I had never driven anything so big, nor have I since. The RV was both well equipped and spacious, and we were excited that it was going to be our home for the best part of 3 months. Especially so, as it meant we no longer had to carry our backpacks after lugging them around for the previous 13 months on our RTW trip.
The proud but nervous driver of a ‘Recreational Vehicle’.
Our Californian license plate.
Sitting on the double bed at the back of the RV. (En-suite shower & toilet to the right of it).
Wayne making use of the well equipped kitchen. Total luxury after our single burner stove in the Jucy Campervan during our Australia & New Zealand Road Trips.
Ready For Some ‘Home Comforts’
Whilst backpacking, I think it’s fair to say that you do on occasions get a little ‘travel weary’. It’s not glamorous 5 star hotels and partying every night – even if the pictures make it look like it! And certainly not if you’re travelling on a budget and want your money to last longer than a month. From experience, after 17 hours travelling through China on a hard seat in a K Class train, you want nothing more than the home comforts of a hot shower, comfy sofa and English speaking TV. Plus a ‘standard’ toilet! The RV provided all of these things, so I just had to muster up the courage to drive it…
Just slightly panicked in my role as ‘driver’.
Especially when faced with dangers on the road… Beware of deer crossing!
Obviously I drove it – but there were always nerves and sweaty palms going on. Especially the time we got pulled up by a State Trooper – but that’s another story… In actual fact, the length of the RV didn’t pose that much of a problem. I was worried about parking and thought I’d definitely have issues with reversing, but we soon realised that campgrounds and supermarkets are well equipped for RV’ers with their very own designated parking spots.
Thank goodness for designated RV parking spots that we were only 23 feet long!
RV’s parallel parked at a ‘Scenic Look-Out’ in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Ours is the one at the back!
Size Really Does Matter!
It was the width of the RV that I struggled getting used to. At over 8 feet wide, it was hard to judge when going past parked cars and overtaking, and this took some getting used to. This was compounded by having extra large mirrors sticking out each side, which made me extra nervous and extra cautious. If you’ve been irritatingly stuck behind an RV – I apologise, that was probably me, the slow one!
I’ve not even mentioned the fact that Americans drive on the wrong side of the road! Well, coming from a country that drives on the left, it was a novelty now driving on the right. I really had to think about that on left-hand turns! You get used to it though. And I loved the fact the RV was an automatic, something that was also new to me. I think I would have had a complete melt-down having to change gears on top of everything else.
Nervously driving through tunnels heading to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
Even more nervous having to drive in snow… And through another tunnel!
Leaving Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Getting used to driving on winding roads… Just don’t look down! Heading to Mammoth Campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
What it’s really like to live in a 7 metre box for 3 months…
Fact: We actually loved it!
Despite having issues with its size, and the stress of driving it, the RV provided us with a home from home, whilst offering us the opportunity of freedom. We could travel anywhere, at any time, without having to rely on public transport and timetables. It also afforded us the chance to get to some off-the-beaten path places that we would never have reached easily otherwise. Taking into consideration the size and scale of America, that was of great importance to us, and forced my hand with the driving issue. If I’d have said no to renting the RV we would have missed out on so much beauty, and that would have been a very regrettable mistake.
Heading to Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.
Reflection in the RV wing mirror of the Grand Teton Mountain Range, Wyoming.
Heading to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota. This was an exciting moment for me having seen it in the 1980’s movie ‘Superman II’!
Throughout our journey, we experienced some of the world’s best national parks, and learned some fascinating lessons about the history of the earth. Well you’ve got to attend a ‘ranger talk’ if you’ve driven all that way. We also met some really interesting people on our journey; people who welcomed us to join them around their campfire, introduced us to s’mores, encouraged us to boondock (we still didn’t dare), who loved our English accents, and who made us think twice about owning a home on wheels as opposed to bricks and mortar in a fixed place.
Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Driving on one of the remaining sections of the original ‘Route 66’, Arizona.
Driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA.
A Great American Pastime
We discovered how completely huge RV’ing in America is. It really is big business. There are RV parks in abundance across the whole of the USA. In England, owning a caravan has always been the popular thing to do, although since coming home we have noticed more motorhomes on the road heading off on the Bank Holiday weekends.
A Home On Wheels
As we look back on our whole RV Road Trip experience with fond memories, that’s where we’re at now. The decision for the future is whether to get back on the property ladder as an investment for future security, or do we go for it and buy our very own motorhome. We would love to take a road trip around the whole of Great Britain and then continue on through France and Spain and into eastern Europe. With a home on wheels, the possibilities are endless. We have learned, most importantly, not to let fear of the unknown stop us from doing something, so if we can find a way to fund it, then that would be the perfect nomadic lifestyle for us.
Relaxing outside the RV & probably checking if we could hijack some nearby wi-fi!
Our great camp spot at Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. We just had to watch out for bison and mountain lion!
Enjoying the sunshine at Death Valley National Park, California/ Nevada.
Driver or Navigator?
I keep encouraging Wayne to pass his driving test! It certainly would be easier if we could share the driving. But I enjoy driving and the opportunities it brings by being able to get somewhere without relying on anyone else. I say that, but actually I rely on his skills of navigation or I wouldn’t have even found the exit to the campground in many cases, let alone driven 5,000 miles across the USA! So it’s definitely a team effort.
Map reading is not my forte! I definitely rely on Wayne’s great skills of navigation.
When we returned to England, friends and family said to me that I was so brave to drive such a big thing. ‘Brave’ to me is fighting in Afghanistan. And actually, our RV was just a baby in comparison to some of the great beasts you see out there on the open road. We opted for the smallest available, whereas some are literally the size of a bus! Now you wouldn’t get me driving one of those…
Picture Perfect Camp Spots
Looking down on our fantastic camp spot at Sand Flats State Recreation Area, Moab, Uta. (A little gem we found by chance when Arches National Park Campgrounds were full.)
We were the only RV’ers left! A very snowy spot at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Los Padres National Forest Campground. A fantastic spot overlooking the sea along California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Enjoying a change in scenery at Badlands National Park, South Dakota.
Surrounded by magnificent trees at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California. We just had to watch out for the bears!
Just The Beginning…
Hiring the RV in Chicago was just the start of our Road Trip. In future posts we will be sharing with you more of our highs, lows, magical moments and favourite photographs from our journey across America.
We hope it inspires you to add a road trip to your bucket list!
Have you ever been on a road trip through the USA? Or ever considered it? It was one of our ‘ultimate’ experiences on our RTW trip. And we think hiring an RV is the perfect way to do it. So why not?