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Road trip this spring (yes, this is a real post also asking other sites)

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Mar 14th, 2013, 11:25 PM
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Road trip this spring (yes, this is a real post also asking other sites)

Hi All, I am looking for some suggestions for an RV trip we are taking in mid May through nearly the end of June (6 weeks). I'm really wondering about the Bryce/Zion/Mesa Verde/Canyonlands/Arches leg of the trip. For example, how much time do I need in each place to get a good idea of what there is to see. We are traveling with my in-laws so there will not be a lot of strenuous hiking involved. Any hiking would have to be easy and short. I am very flexible with my days/times as the only place I plan to have a reservation at is Yellowstone area. This is my tentative schedule.

May 13th - Depart NJ 7am drive to Bristol VA area (approx. 10 hrs driving, we may decide to stop sooner)
May 14th - Depart Bristol VA 7am area arrive Great Smoky Mountains (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
May 15th - Depart Great Smoky Mountains 10am arrive Chattanooga, TN (approx. 3.5 hrs driving)
May 17th - Depart Chattanooga, TN 12pm arrive Nashville, TN (approx 2 hrs. driving)
May 18th - Depart Nashville, TN 3pm arrive Memphis, TN (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
May 19th - Depart Memphis, TN 3pm arrive Arkadelphia, AK area (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
May 20th - Depart Arkadelphia, AK 7am arrive Austin, TX (approx. 7 hrs driving)
May 21st - Depart Austin, TX 2pm arrive San Antonio, TX (approx. 2 hrs. driving)
May 23rd - Depart San Antonion, TX 8am arrive Amarillo, TX (approx. 8 hrs. driving)
May 24th - Depart Amarillo, TX 8am driving on Rt. 66 as much as possible taking our time to arrive in Holbrook, AZ area by the next day (May 25th)
May 26th - Depart Holbrook, AZ 10am (or earlier) arrive at Grand Canyon south rim area (approx 3 hrs. driving)
May 29th - Depart Grand Canyon area 12pm (or earlier) arrive Boulder City/Hoover Dam/Lake Mead/Las Vegas area (approx. 4 hrs. driving) We are thinking of staying at an RV park on the strip near the Circus Circus casino. But not positive since we would like to see hoover dam and maybe rent a house boat for the day at Lake Mead. (SUGGESTIONS ON THIS LEG OF TRIP APPRECIATED)
June 1st - Depart Boulder City/Las Vegas area 8am arrive Zion/Bryce (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
June 3rd - Depart Zion/Bryce area 7am arrive Mesa Verde (via Monument Valley (approx 7.5 hrs. driving)
June 5th - Depart Mesa Verde 8am arrive Canyonlands/Arches area (approx. 2 hrs. driving)
June 6th - Depart Canyonlands/Arches area 7am arrive Grand Tetons/Jackson area (approx 9.5 hrs. driving)
June 10th - Depart Grand Tetons 7am arrive West Yellowstone (approx. 2 hrs. driving)
June 15th - Depart Yellowstone 9am arrive Cody, WY taking our time arrive some time in the afternoon.
June 17th - Depart Cody, WY 8am arrive Custer, SD (stopping along the way to see Devils Tower) sometime around 3:30pm
June 20th - Depart Custer, SD 8am drive thru Badlands (driving approx. 10 hrs. this day stopping somewhere overnight)
June 21st - Driving to NJ drive around 9 hrs.
June 22nd - Driving to NJ drive around 8 hours arrive HOME.

I am allowing an extra day to get home (that Sunday if needed). I am not set in stone with any dates with the exception of Yellowstone. I may have wiggle room around the specified dates if I have to, as long as there are reservations available. My biggest questions are as follows:

1. How much time do I need at Zion/Bryce/Canyonlands/Arches/Mesa Verde? I want to drive through Monument Valley and not sure how long that would take to see those sights. I am also guessing I am going to have to drive around or through Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument to get to Mesa Verde? Also, is driving through that area ok with an RV? Twists-turns? Steep grades?

2. When in the Las Vegas/Boulder City area am I better off staying at the RV park on the strip? How accessible is it to go to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead from that base point for day trips? Especially driving an RV.

3. When staying in San Antonio, is it an RV friendly city or would we be better off renting a car for a few days? I want to do the River Walk.

4. What are some good things to see along the route 66 area between Amarillo, TX area and Las Vegas area. This leg of the trip is supposed to be leisurely.

5. I want this trip to be somewhat spontaneous with driving times and days but at the same time have a general idea of the direction we are heading. Are we trying to fit too much in? Should I eliminate something along the way? Are some of my days too long to be driving? We did a similar trip about 10 years ago with our kids but did not hit the southwest. Some days we really drove a lot, sometimes 12-14 hours. It was too much at times and I would not want to do that again. That is why I tried to keep driving to a somewhat doable amount per day. The first day and the last days would be longer.

Other background: We will be renting a car in Yellowstone to do daily driving around the park. Our RV is a 31ft. Class C motorhome. We are not pulling anything and I am traveling with my in-laws in their mid 70's and two dogs.

Any help/suggestions on this itinerary would be awesome!! As well as suggested sites along the way.

Thanks, Maria
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Mar 14th, 2013, 11:46 PM
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I haven't read through the whole post yet - but what immediately jumped out to me is you seem to be underestimating drive times. Some of the times you post would be very optimistic for a couple in a car, and you are in a Motorhome/RV w/ two seniors and 2 dogs. I'd add up to 50% to some of your drive times.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 02:48 AM
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Your driving plans don't seem excessively ambitious to me. But:

There are RV's and RV's. Some of the roads in the southeastern Utah-northeastern Arizona-southwestern Colorado areas that you want to visit would be challenging in a large motor home, especially for someone who is not fully experienced. There are steep grades and twisty roads, and the road into Mesa Verde is quite airy (i.e., big dropoff on one side). Many of the best places have gravel roads rather than paved. If it is your RV and it is not a large motor coach and you are experienced, you are not likely to have trouble, though the rougher roads will test things like your propane and water connections. Be extra careful to check them daily since shaking them loose is a distinct possibility.

There are also some restrictions on driving into some places: Canyon de Chelly is not open to private vehicles, and I don't think you can drive into Monument Valley without a guide (as opposed to driving through it on the main highway).

There are restrictions on alcohol on Indian reservations, even in the privacy of your own [motor] home. Remember that on a reservation, you are subject to the laws of the Indian nation, not the laws of the United States. This is an oversimplification, but not far off. The Navaho Nation, whose guests you will be while on their property, have their own laws, police, and court system.
Distances between fuel and water are a lot longer than we are used to in the east. Don't assume that a place on the map is actually recognizable as a place when you get there. You cannot assume that a location marked on a map has food, fuel, or water. So make sure you always have plenty of gas and water. It is not a good area to drive at night owing to unfenced livestock, wildlife, and substance abuse issues leading to a high incidence of accidents. It is thrilling to drive into a herd of horses eating grass along the road; it is less thrilling to come over at hill at a good speed and see them right in the middle of the road. Ask me how I know this.

You do know that the end of June will be hot? A lot of what you want to see out West is up high, so the temperatures will be moderated, but it will be very, very dry. You will need to drink more water than you think you want to stay hydrated. This is especially important for the seniors and dogs. In the east, your problem will be the humidity. Memphis in particular can be wilting.

Can you do what you plan? Sure, especially if you are not the kind of person who has to press on regardless to tick off the next block on the itinerary. We have not discussed things like thunderstorms which are generally quick, scary, and spectacularly beautiful west of Amarillo but you will learn that you have to pull over and let them pass.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 04:50 AM
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Six weeks would be fabulous for an RV trip.

I would think that you would want to spend at least 2 nights in the Tetons and 3 nts in Yellowstone. You don't want to drive all the way out there and miss the beauty of the National Park. For me, this would be the highlight of this trip.

What about the Smoky Mountains? Are you planning to see any of the park? You would need another couple days.

Personally, I would not go to Texas and would spend more time in the parks and cities you are visiting.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 07:05 AM
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What size is the motorhome?
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Mar 15th, 2013, 08:41 AM
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This is a lot better than trying to drive your 31' motorhome on the "Strip" http://www.nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm
If you try to drive your motorhome over Hoover Dam it will be searched. I'm not sure about propane going over the dam. Park on the Arizona side in the second or third lot (free).
When my son rented a boat on Lake Meade, we all got sunburned. Pack and use the SPF 30+
I'm thinking it takes 4 hours from Williams to LV not counting the time from the South Rim to Williams.
Fill the gas tank in Kingman where you get on US 93 (easier and cheaper).
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Mar 15th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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"What size is the motorhome?"

It is along post so it was sort of buried >>Our RV is a 31ft. Class C motorhome<<
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Mar 15th, 2013, 09:03 AM
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You have a lot of early morning departures. Are you all morning people? I am not, and if I were leaving at 7 or 8am this many days, I would be cranky at whoever made me do it. This is all I can really comment on:

May 14th - Depart Bristol VA 7am area arrive Great Smoky Mountains (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
May 15th - Depart Great Smoky Mountains 10am arrive Chattanooga, TN (approx. 3.5 hrs driving)


You really just have an overnight in the park - hardly seems worth it. There's so much to see even without strenuous hiking. Chattanooga is great, but I'd vote for skipping it for more time in GSMNP *and* Nashville and Memphis.

May 17th - Depart Chattanooga, TN 12pm arrive Nashville, TN (approx 2 hrs. driving)
May 18th - Depart Nashville, TN 3pm arrive Memphis, TN (approx. 3 hrs. driving)


What do you plan to do in Nashville? With barely a full day you'd have a hard time even fitting in the big tourist sights.

May 19th - Depart Memphis, TN 3pm arrive Arkadelphia, AK area (approx. 3 hrs. driving)
Same question - what do you plan to see in Memphis? You won't have time for much.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 10:21 AM
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>>May 24th - Depart Amarillo, TX 8am driving on Rt. 66 as much as possible taking our time to arrive in Holbrook, AZ area by the next day (May 25th)
May 26th - Depart Holbrook, AZ 10am (or earlier) arrive at Grand Canyon south rim area (approx 3 hrs. driving)<<

There really isn't anything left of Route 66 on this stretch. You'll mostly be driving on I-40 and getting off at places like Tucumcari and Santa Rosa to travel along their main streets. This site might be helpful: http://www.historic66.com/new-mexico/ If you choose to take the part that gets you to Santa Fe, you could spend a night there on your way to Arizona.

Lee Ann
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Mar 15th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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@janisj - I was wondering about the drive times also, I used google maps. But I do realize I may have to adjust times for traffic, road construction and other things.
@Ackislander - I'm actually thinking of letting go of Mesa Verde this trip. I'm not sure my in-laws could really do any of the tours there. And as for Monument Valley, if driving through only on the highway, are there still amazing sites to see, or is it more worth it to take time and do a guided tour? Also, great advice about distances between fuel and water! Also, I am afraid to ask about the herd of horses!! I"m assuming you may have hit or almost hit one?
@LindainOhio - We plan to spend a couple days in Grand Tetons and 5 in Yellowstone. Smoky Mountains we've been to and is really just a passing through kind of thing. As for Texas, we have always wanted to go there so that is a definite!
@Rich - 31ft. Class C
@jent103 - Chattanooga TN is a must as I am visiting my brother. And as for Nashville, I'm not really sure what we are going to do there besides go to the Grand Ole Opry. We are not huge tourist attraction people unless it is something like national parks. Although when we go to Memphis we will be going to Graceland. I am open for suggestions as to truly worthy sights to see in both Nashville and Memphis though!
@ElendilPickle - I will take a look at this website. I also ordered a set of Rt. 66 maps.

As much as I have planned stops along the way I am just as open to just winging it as well. We did that 10 years ago and really enjoyed our trip. The only place we had reservations that trip was at Yellowstone. This itinerary is a rough draft and to give us some idea of a direction, but I do think I should rework some of my driving estimates. But national parks and other natural settings are a high priority. Another priority is to see back roads america which is why we wanted to do the route 66 part. I know a lot of rt. 66 is gone now and it is hit or miss but seeing back roads america can also be fun because you never know what you will come across! We are not big attraction fans like amusement parks, and any kind of strenuous hiking is not going to work with my in-laws. Even walking for hours on end will not work for them. So I have to keep that in mind as well. But as I said, any suggestions based on experience are welcome and are very helpful to me. Again thank you all!
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Mar 15th, 2013, 01:41 PM
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What day of the week will you be in Nashville? The Opry is only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Especially if you're country fans - Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman, for starters. (The Ryman is where the Opry originated - the "Mother Church" of country.)

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is great.

I'd imagine the RV will slow down driving times in some spots as well, not just construction and traffic. Driving through the mountains could be slow going in spots, though coming from Bristol will be easier than from the NC direction.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 02:49 PM
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@jent103 - We will be there on Friday night for the Opry. The Country music hall of fame sounds great, I'm going to look into that! Also - side question...is there a way to have any replies to this post come into my email or at the least a notification that there are replies? I can't seem to find out how to do that, unless there isn't a way?
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Mar 15th, 2013, 02:59 PM
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>>.is there a way to have any replies to this post come into my email or at the least a notification that there are replies? I can't seem to find out how to do that, unless there isn't a way?<<

Unfortunately no. The way to tell if there are new posts - get on Fodors and go to your profile. If there is new activity since the last time you looked, the thread title will be Blue/bold. If there is nothing new, the title will grayed out.
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Mar 15th, 2013, 03:16 PM
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Ok, great thanks!
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