Road trip 1 started when we flew into Los Angeles from the UK travelling in a hired ford maverick van that had been converted by Escape Camper vans to allow for simple self catering camping. It was a compact way to travel 3076 miles, use $650 of fuel and its dimensions meant it qualified as a car thus allowing us to access regular parking lots easily. The van was great as it was reasonably easy to operate although I would recommend checking the panel for the light switch as we ended up having to find a place to stop along the desert road to work out how to put the headlights on to comply with a 29 mile requirement to do so! To be fair we hadn’t planned on travelling in the evening but had been delayed. We stayed at a Motel 6, Inglewood which is a clean and basic place with friendly staff that offered free shuttle from the airport and was literally a 5 minute walk to the depot where we had to pick up/drop off the van.
As we didn’t have any bathroom facilities we tended to stay at RV parks so that we had access to showers and as a first trip of this type was a good way to get experience in this style of vacation.
Google maps were an essential part of the planning proving to be really accurate in both time and distance guidance so we also used this as a navigation tool via a mobile phone to assist us particularly in built up areas. Whilst you could just collect a van and wander we had specific places to get to and a deadline to keep so planning was essential. We originally had ordered a sat nav but for some reason it wasn’t available when we collected the van however the phone proved a better option. As it also allowed us to control the budget and book sites to stay in advance which took the worry of trying to find places each night leaving us time to enjoy the sights. Again pre booking the Grand Canyon trip and other events in advance meant that we managed to fit in a number of key things and still have time to enjoy some spontaneous visits. There are a number of companies who offer various options & costs so best to research a head of the trip in our experience.
We planned to take the 605 to join Highway 15 to Las Vegas but ended up taking a detour for afternoon tea with a friend in Santa Clarita. However we did rejoin H15 from a slightly different point but essentially the journey still took about 285miles / 4.5 hours.
We stayed at the KOA Las Vegas which was brilliant because it provided a bus service into Las Vegas which meant we could leave the van.
We also did the trip into the Grand Canyon from here by driving 21 miles to the airport near Boulder NV essentially along the Boulder Highway. The airport parking was free and were transported by air by the tour company from here for the day and returned at the end.
From the KOA Las Vegas we headed to Bend Oregon breaking our 622miles / 9.5 hour journey in Ely to spend a day on a Ghost train and Winnemucca KOA overnight. The Ghost train was great & at certain times offer themed rides but again worth checking the timetables carefully as the running times are limited. Equally be aware of the time differences – mountain time can mean you awake in a blind panic thinking you have missed the train only to find you forgot to alter your watch.
The remaining 225miles/3.5 hour drive was completed the following day bringing us to the home of my niece & partner. Bend is a great place but to our surprise is one of the few USA towns with roundabouts – you have been warned.
The convoy of campers then headed to George, Washington a total of 299miles/5.5 hours which we split by wild camping overnight to make it easier.
After the festival we retraced our steps slightly to reach the KOA Cascade Locks, Portland. Taking about 257miles/4.5 hours to arrive.
A couple of days later we set out for the Scenic Pacific Highway 101. This road was memorable for the amazing scenery, wild life, windy roads & bridges. We broke the journey at Port Orford (274/5 hours), Eureka (166 miles/3.5 hours) arriving at the KOA San Francisco another 271 miles/5 hours later. We had thought we could get a bus from the camp site but this was no longer available while we were there so we got to San Francisco by driving to the local ferry port instead. On the last day we actually drove through San Franciso so I actually drove across the famous bridge & indeed two more to get back on the freeway. If your nerves are strong then
Finally it was time to head back to LA which involved a mammoth drive down the freeway 5 for 385/6.5 hours.
As road trips go the key things we learned were to ideally not be driving for more than 300miles a day. Plan plenty of stops to admire the view and not be afraid to swop drivers if you felt tired or just the conditions were not consummate with your experience. My daughter opted to do the long stretches while I tended to tackle the busier city parts of the routes.