The second road trip came about from a moment of madness of trying unsuccessfully to get tickets to Burning Man. This time my work colleague & I set about travelling from Seattle on a round trip which interestingly took just over 3,000 miles & cost about $200 more in fuel. This was partly attributable to the fact we were in a C19 recreational vehicle (RV).
We had considered lots of options but this van was the smallest we could find at a sensible hire package that had ‘on board’ facilities as we anticipated camping more on the ‘wild side’.
It’s worth investigating the various vehicles as they do vary in cost & the ‘whats included’ . For UK renters it was more advantageous to book via an agent as we got an ‘unlimited milage deal’ & lots more extras thrown in than booking the same route independently.
In charge of the routing based on the fact that I had only recently completed the first trip I stuck to my rule of keeping the driving to around 300 or so miles a day but with perhaps a bit more room to be flexible than the previous trip. Equally the number of rebooked camp sites was fewer as it was intended that we try our hand at wild camping.
When hiring a motor home international drivers have to have a full nights accommodation booked prior to collecting the vehicle and this is sensible as not only is it essential to be awake for the driving conditions but if like us you have never driven a wide box like vehicle where you rely on wing mirrors as you have no other rear view then take heed. Also non USA citizens may need to get an international driving license as from the UK we did & it was a straightforward procedure but best done in advance of travel.
We used a combination of the local train plus an Amtrack coach link & local buses to get us to the collection depot. As we arrived in Seattle but the van depot was over an hour away in Everett & this worked out considerably less than the taxi would have cost. It didn’t take us much longer time wise & we saw & experienced things a quick trip in a car we would have missed.
Tickets & timetables were available to book & view on line so it was reasonably easy. Having got to the depot its also essential to take a copy of the agreement & make sure you carefully check the van to ensure that all components are in place. We were lucky to have a conscientious team check us out the first time & so we knew what we should expect. The hire firm offered a video to watch in advance of the trip which I did & it enabled me to ask some useful questions that saved us some headaches we might otherwise have encountered.
First stop for us was supposedly a wild camp spot but this turned out to either be non existent or we failed to find it. Either way we discovered the benefits of the National Forest Camp Sites which are generally fantastic basic campsites in beautiful locations that charge nominal amounts for short stays. For ‘on spec’ camping most have a cash payment system consisting of an envelope that you fill your details & enclose the fees. There is a tear off strip that you display in the windscreen area while you are camped. Rangers do visit & conduct checks so please don’t try to avoid payment. If you know in advance where you are heading there is a website so you can check out potential venues & in some cases prebook & pay for a spot which at busy times of the year is recommended as we were to later discover.
Heading to Montana we used a couple of these sites & when we reached Boulder actually found a campsite that was free to use. The key I believe is in the research beforehand & confidence to roam from the traditional tourist routes.
From Boulder we passed through Ennis ending up in West Yellowstone at the local KOA as we wanted to be sure we could pump out & attend to other maintenance matters. The next day we headed into the Park & the inclement weather forced us to alter our plans to head towards The Grand Tetons. Top tip always have a few other options researched to avoid the stress of trying to reroute while you are driving especially through a mountainous region where signal is variable!
Using the general principle of driving around the 300 or so miles a day we headed for Twin Falls to break the journey to Ely. Again because of the location we opted to stay at a KOA because I had been there before so it was an easy fix.
Ely to Pyramid lake near Reno via Eureka & Fallon we spent a very tranquil night before heading to Crater Lake shortly after first light. This meant we arrived before it got busy & was able to enjoy the quiet, get an easy parking spot & fit in a walk before heading towards Reedsport on the coast.
Top tip for all non USA travellers – always check when National Holidays occur & make sure you have booked your campsite or accommodation in advance. We endured a fretful drive up the coast looking for a vacancy to be faced with full up notices at everyone. Finally drawing into a KOA as it was dark & the kind staff let us camp overnight on the grass for a small fee but we were very grateful. Turns out we were not the only ones to make that mistake but not one I would wish to repeat in a hurry.
Following the 101 North we trundled along enjoying the many bridges & views of the sea until we reached Astoria. I love a good bridge & it was my turn to drive so it was quite a unique experience crossing the longest continual truss bridge in North America. For the statistics geeks amongst us that’s to say its 4.067miles (6.55km) long, is made of steel & was the last segment of the US Route 101 to be completed to link Olympia,Washington & Los Angeles California by crossing the Columbia River.
From here we continued to Forks keeping an eye out for werwolves as we traversed into the forested area on route to Port Angeles & the ferry.
From the ferry it was back to the van depot to drop the RV back & head for home.