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Touring the USA
Old 05-25-2013, 08:22 AM   #1
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Touring the USA

DW and I love the USA. There is still so much for us to see, especially regarding state and national parks. As we approach FIRE, I'm wondering if there are other options to tour. Right now we've done some tent camping, with some good and bad experiences. We're kind of aging away from that idea. Lately we mostly do the hotel/motel thing with day hikes and excursions. It has served us well.

We probably will continue that way, but there's this nagging idea of some sort of RV. But we know we don't want some huge "tour bus." Too big. We also watched our neighbor declare bankruptcy over one of those. And I'm not sure about the whole self propel thing. While touring the US West, we've seen how limited they can be (not allowed on many park roads).

I've thought of a pop up, but maybe that is too tent like? That's about the only thing we could store at home. Some of the larger trailers seem like a lot to handle.

In any case, we'd have to get a new vehicle, and I hate that idea. My LBYM usually means I keep cars until death. Our cars are not near death.

I'm also concerned about the cost of the camping or travel trailer, AND the "rental" fees at camp sites. Seems like motels are not so bad after all, except that you are usually away from the action of a park (which is what we love).

OK, maybe I've answered my question. Perhaps RVing is not for us since I seem to have so many excuses.

What is your experience?
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:45 AM   #2
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Joe, we've experienced almost every RV option, owning everything from a tent, pop-ups, travel trailers, 5th wheel trailer, 30 ft class C, to a 40 ft diesel pusher "tour bus". Each has their own pluses and minuses but the common advantage for us is the ability to sleep in your own bed no matter where you go.

We currently have a 35 ft 5th wheel and I sometimes think it is a bit larger than I want to haul around. Then when we get to our destination I'm happy we have the space it provides.

Camping costs for RV parks aren't really all that bad, at least to my way of thinking. Last year we spent 70 nights on the road and our overnight RV park fees averaged $24, from a low of $12 to a high of $42.

Bottom line, every choice - even a hotel room - requires a compromise of some sort. Only you know which works best for you.
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:53 AM   #3
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I like hiking and I like bicycle touring. I've visited over 3 dozen national parks in the US, plus others in Canada. I've visited a few of them while on bike trips. Those include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, & Hawaii Volcanoes. Most national parks, however, I've visited in a rental car (since I live in the East and most national parks are in the West). I usually stay in motels during the car trips. The car trips were never more than 2 weeks long, so the rental car solution + flight worked for me. In fact, an ER friend & I will be leaving soon on one of those trips.

BTW, I haven't run into many restrictions on bikes in national parks other than the west side of Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier NP. Other parks, however, have some unpaved roads which wouldn't be practical on a touring bike, or for that matter, in a regular car. Canyonlands & Capitol Reef are two parks like that which come to mind.
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:01 AM   #4
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I have a cab over truck camper. It has queen sized bed over the truck cab and plenty of room for 2 people. There's a stove, microwave, toilet and shower, good sized fridge etc. You can pull into regular parking spots so you don't have to skip the "little hole in the wall places" like if you are in a large motorhome or pulling a trailor. It's great for touring because of it's ease of operation and moderate comfort. If you plan to keep moving a truck camper is great - if you plan to spend weeks at various locations a larger floor plan would be better.....
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:02 AM   #5
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You also might want to consider cabin rentals at many of the parks, or just outside the gates. little rougher than a motel room, little smoother than a tent.

Popups are a pain to put up and down. A smaller trailer that can be towed might be a good first try for you to consider--get a used one in decent condition that can be towed by existing car ad see how you like it before you commit to larger and heavier model that will require upgrades to the tow vehicle.
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:06 AM   #6
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Joe, a couple of other options you might want to consider:
Casita Travel Trailers
Folding Trailers : Chalet RV
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:36 AM   #7
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TT would be a good choice in my opinion. We just made that choice because we want to tour some more of the US and also visit our kids who are now on their own, but don't have space for mom and dad in their starter apartments (we like having our own space too). We also wanted to cook and eat our own food after many years of traveling by air/hotel/rental car with meals out 2-3 times per day. We just did a 12 day trip to Utah and ate out only twice. The rest was home cooked.

We went with a TT because self propelled adds another engine to the family that has to be maintained, and you have to tow around a small vehicle to use for sightseeing, shopping etc anyway, so whichever way you go, TT or Motorhome, total combined length will be on the long side.

Pitfalls to avoid: 1) choose your TT carefully if you go that route. Do your own research. Ask me or Rewahoo, or Brewer or Audrey if you have a question. Don't trust the dealer. They are in the business of selling vehicles...parting customers fom their cash, not making sure you are happy or can actually tow the TT.

2) choose your TT before you choose your truck or tow vehicle, if you need to buy one. Make sure you understand weight requirements of the TT, such as dry weight, fully loaded max weight rating, tongue weight dry and estimated tongue weight when loaded. GVWR needs to be less than the tow rating of the tow vehicle...preferably 70% or so of your tow rating, so that stuff you need to put in the vehicle can actually be brought along. Know the tongue weights so that you don't go over the payload of your new tow vehicle, and remember that payload includes the tongue weight as well as you, your DW, Fido, and everything else you put in the tow vehicle (note that I am speaking from expensive experience).

3) if you still intend to camp in national parks and state parks with your TT, make sure you keep the length under the max allowed length at your favorite/intended campgrounds. This is tip of tongue to rear bumper length, not the model number of the trailer. Common limits are 25-30 feeti places we like to visit. We ended up buying a 35' long Jayco 308 RETS, which will be used when we go on longer length trips using RV parks. Next year, we will most likely get another one, just a very small one like the Jayco Jay Feather Ultralite X19h, which is a hybrid with tents that pop out of both ends, and is 20' long, which will be for camping in the forests and mountains locally. I DO NOT recommend buying two TTs. In our case, DW simply demanded the larger one (and you know that if mama ain't happy, th'aint nobody happy), but we both want to camp in the mountains as well, necessitating the second rig. We do have the space for two on our place.

4) be prepared to spend a lot more money on gas or diesel than you are used to, if you are going to tow a TT. Excluding having to upgrade our truck, we have estimated that to break even (vs driving and using motels and restaurants) we need to use the bigger rig at least 30 nights a year for 10 years (incl depreciation, insurance, rv park fees, additional fuel, etc). For the second one we pick up, there cannot be a rational cost comparison with expectation of breaking even...a good tent plus sleeping bags and cots is maybe $500, and the trailer is $18,000...parking at the campground is $20 either way. But again, remember that thing about mama being happy...

For us though, the alternative was a self propelled 30' class A RV, at $110-120k, plus a vehicle we could tow...what we had was unsuitable...for maybe a total of $130-140k. We ended up with the 35' trailer, a new truck, and will have a second smaller trailer for around $90k out of pocket. Plus we can use the truck for other things around our little acreage.

For the frugal trailering person w ho wants to take longer trips, my recommendation would be to go with a TT somewhere around 27' tongue to tail, with a GVWR of around 6500 pounds, which will give you a tongue weight, loaded, at around 700-800 pounds, allowing it to be easily towed by a normal half-ton gas powered truck. This will also allow you to carry some bikes, firewood, chairs, etc in the pickup bed. If you look around, you can find a good used pickup for around 20k or a new one for less than 30k, and a used TT for around 15k or a new one for around 20-25k depending on the quality of the rig, totaling 35-55k.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more. If I don't know the answer, I'll tell you I don't know...others may.

That's my two cents, and maybe it's not even worth that...FWIW.

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Old 05-25-2013, 10:08 AM   #8
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You all are great! This is good info, and has encouraged me enough to not abandon the idea of some sort of TT yet. I'm pretty sure we'd be more on the lightweight end. 5th wheels are pretty much out. I'm not into huge pickups or dualies.

I don't think we could do a trial run either. Our current cars are very lightweight. My Subaru Legacy is not rated for towing. However, in Europe, people tow with it and hitches are made for it. But seems nobody in the US wants to touch it since the mfgr says "don't do it." The other car is a tiny hatchback. So, we'd probably had to change out one of the cars for something heftier. The good news is we wouldn't have the daily drive once RE'd, so the gasoline hit in off season wouldn't matter.

I've been googling and can't find an answer I'm looking for. I saw a program on local news (north carolina) about a super lightweight teardrop trailer manufacturer. I think they made them in Asheboro. I think. Anybody know what that brand is? Just wondering.

Ironically, right after I wrote the thread, I turned on the travel channel and they were in the middle of a little segment on people into teardrop trailers. Kind of interesting. Not saying we'd do that. Just saying that I'm actually enjoying the research about this whole idea. And thanks again for your help and ideas.
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Old 05-25-2013, 10:50 AM   #9
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Teardrop trailers are interesting and definitely cool looking. I suspect most are so small that you'd be unable to stand inside, which I would find very limiting.

My thinking is the Casita I linked earlier is a great lightweight trailer. Audrey1 owned one and will hopefully chime in here at some point with her views. A couple of weeks ago we camped next to a lady who full-timed in a Casita. Even though I can stand upright inside, I think living in one would be quite a challenge...
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Old 05-25-2013, 10:59 AM   #10
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Teardrop trailers are interesting and definitely cool looking. I suspect most are so small that you'd be unable to stand inside, which I would find very limiting.

My thinking is the Casita I linked earlier is a great lightweight trailer. Audrey1 owned one and will hopefully chime in here at some point with her views. A couple of weeks ago we camped next to a lady who full-timed in a Casita. Even though I can stand upright inside, I think living in one would be quite a challenge...
The segment on the travel channel specifically mentioned no standup room being the biggest drawback.

I took a look at both of your links and they have gotten me thinking. The Chalet hard top gable design is particularly interesting.

Great pointers!
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Old 05-25-2013, 11:00 AM   #11
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JoeWras,

Here's a few sites to get you started....

Teardrop Travel Trailers by Camp-Inn
- T@B Camper Trailers
Little Guy Teardrop Trailers - Home

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Old 05-25-2013, 11:05 AM   #12
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. The Chalet hard top gable design is particularly interesting.
A friend had a Chalet he towed with a Subaru.
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Old 05-25-2013, 12:55 PM   #13
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Here is our little Toad Camper. It tows very easy and sleeps two nicely. It has a water and electric hookup. No bathroom. It weighs around 1200 lbs.
it was out choice for easy travel. I personally prefer my own bed and don't care for motels.
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Old 05-25-2013, 04:06 PM   #14
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We have a TrailManor 2720SD. It is a hard-walled travel trailer that is lightweight (2800lbs) and pops open. You can store it in your garage and tow it with an SUV. It has all the modern amenities like a bathroom, furnace, oven, water, oven, and electric, and is the size of a 27' travel trailer when open.

We love it! We are taking it to the Grand Canyon this summer and plan to spend months in it traveling the US when we retire.
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Old 05-25-2013, 04:28 PM   #15
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We have a TrailManor 2720SD.
Another good option - a larger, hard-sided pop-up.

TrailManor|Elkmont Lightweight Upright Trailer
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Old 05-25-2013, 04:42 PM   #16
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We do our touring using rented cabins, houses, cottages etc through sites like vrbo.com

Rent a few places ahead of time over a period of a number of months and take your time driving from spot to spot. Make sure each place has what you need - in our case, washing machine and internet are must haves. Last year we spent over 5 months starting from Texas and then working our way up with stays in New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, Washington, San Juan Islands, Montana, Wyoming, Utah again, Colorado, and back home to Texas. A couple of the stays were inside National Parks, and in total we visited 9 National Parks and several State Parks plus 3 days on Vancouver Island.

We are currently doing a similar thing in Europe and have so far stayed in rented cottages or apartments in Majorca, Yorkshire, Donegal and Connemara (Ireland those last 2). Next week we go onto Northumberland for 3 nights in a B&B then onto rented houses in Cornwall, France and Kent for the next 5 weeks.

Just another option for touring....
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Old 05-25-2013, 05:03 PM   #17
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We fall in the motel/hotel/rented house camp. We drive & use sites like hotwire & priceline to get good deals (and gas buddy for the cheapest gas station) and only rarely do we wing it without reservations. We've camped together ONCE. We enjoyed it and plan to do it again, but never get around to it. (We both backpacked years ago)

This year, I'm going to give airbnb a try too.

I find the thought of caring for another vehicle a bit too much work. Add the cost of acquisition (amortized), maintenance, fuel, insurance, registration/inspection (??) and it may add up to a lot - depending on how many nights you sleep out. On the other hand, it may not - I've never calculated it.
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Old 05-25-2013, 05:16 PM   #18
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Add the cost of acquisition (amortized), maintenance, fuel, insurance, registration/inspection (??) and it may add up to a lot - depending on how many nights you sleep out. On the other hand, it may not - I've never calculated it.
We RV because we find it more convenient and more enjoyable than other options for travel, not for economic reasons.

Anyone who tells you they RV because it is a less expensive way to travel needs to take a look at my sig line. It can be cost effective if you buy used and spend a LOT of time on the road over a period of years, but for most it is not the cheapest way to go.
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:23 PM   #19
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Here is our little Toad Camper. It tows very easy and sleeps two nicely. It has a water and electric hookup. No bathroom. It weighs around 1200 lbs.
it was out choice for easy travel. I personally prefer my own bed and don't care for motels.
Thanks for the pointer. Made in NC on the coast at the NC/SC line. I could probably visit.

I found the other manufacturer in NC I was looking for. It is another lightweight option, but heavier than the Toad or a typical teardrop. Looks nice, if not a bit pricey: ParkLiner Fiberglass Ultralight Travel Trailers -

As for teardrops, I thought the Camp-Inns looks pretty retro cool.
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:57 PM   #20
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We RV because we find it more convenient and more enjoyable than other options for travel, not for economic reasons.

Anyone who tells you they RV because it is a less expensive way to travel needs to take a look at my sig line. It can be cost effective if you buy used and spend a LOT of time on the road over a period of years, but for most it is not the cheapest way to go.
When I was young I used to meet old guys living in their cab-overs on a pickup around boat launches or steelhead rivers. Most of them were retired on very modest SS or disability, had no wife, and had no other home beyond the cab-over. The rigs were often fairly old, and the guys reasonably good mechanics. A Washington winter in something not much bigger than a tent would be rough, so they usually went to California or Mexico for winter. Always interesting guys, and always really good fishermen. It looked like a pretty satisfying life, except for the no woman factor.

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