Planning the Trip

At this point, you can see that planning it one day at a time is certainly feasible, but we aren’t done yet. What RV Trip Wizard doesn’t seem to do, or at least I haven’t found out how yet, is see the whole trip and then fill in details. It appears to be built on the idea of adding stops one at a time. For us, we want to nail down the destination stop first, then commit to the daily trips and stops to get there. RV Trip Wizard does let you put in a starting date later, so I can see a good way to do this. But first, I want to see in general what this trip looks like, and for that I am going back to Google Maps. I put in our park in Pahrump as the destination, with our home as the beginning, and got directions. Google will always give you the fastest route as the preferred option, but we are more concerned about not getting caught up in the mountains while towing a 36-foot RV. The preferred route went right through Denver, Colorado, which is the heart of the Rocky Mountains, but it offered two alternatives, and I picked the more southern route which goes through Oklahoma and New Mexico. There are mountains in the Albuquerque area, but less scary than the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Now I can see the whole trip in the big picture. The first part matches up with what we did in RV Trip Wizard, and has us on Interstate 70 as far as St. Louis, then we get on Interstate 44 for the next leg. Interstates are generally very safe for a large RV, so this is good. Going back to RV Trip wizard, with my planning circle centered on the park near Terre Haute, I can see that the circle goes past St. Louis, so I can follow Interstate 44 into Missouri. As I zoom in, I see a park in St. Robert, Missouri that is affiliated with both Good Sam and Passport America. It also has pull-though sites, which is a plus for making time on the road. So I added it to the trip, and it tells me that it is 330 miles and should take 5 hours and 30 minutes.

I then centered the map on this park, zoomed out, and got my next planning circle. Proceeding similarly, I added a stop near Oklahoma City that looked good, and then RV Trip Wizard warned me that there was no way to get there without going on an unpaved road. So now research is warranted and Google Maps is the way to go. I went to the RV park in question and looked it up using Street View, and the only unpaved portion is in the park itself, and I could see it was nothing to be worried about. So I kept this site on my trip, re-centered the map, and on to the next stop. Then on to Amarillo, Texas. So far all of the stops were just for one night, the idea was to get out to the Southwest, and away from the worst of winter. But the next two stops we extended. First, a three night stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, followed by a three night stop in Flagstaff, Arizona. We may do longer stops in these places in another trip, but this lets us see what the area has to offer. From there, we went to Pahrump, Nevada, where we would stay for two weeks. So our travel plans have us leaving Michigan on December 2, doing five days of travel with one-night stops before arriving in Albuquerque, and between 300 and 330 miles per day. With my planned speed of 60 mph (just under 100 kph), and allowing for rest stops, that should end up being about 7 hours of travel per day. Three nights each in Albuquerque and Flagstaff, then a one-day trip to Pahrump, and our trip out was now planned. But to nail it down we had to call and make reservations at the parks. This was mostly pretty straightforward except at the park in Pahrump, where because our RV was 13 years old they wanted to see pictures to make sure it wasn’t junky, but that was not a problem and we got our reservation. If you don’t have reservations you are taking a chance, and you don’t want to cap off a 7-hour driving day by having to look around for a place to stay.

Now we already locked in 2 weeks in Pahrump as chance to visit some parks in the area, particularly Death Valley. Then what? Looking at the map from Pahrump you either go into southern California or back down to Arizona, and we opted for Arizona. At this point we are no longer looking at long driving days, for the most part, until it is time to return home. Heading south from Pahrump for our first stop we picked Lake Havasu City, home to London Bridge. (Yes ,really. London was going to tear it down, so they bought it, shipped it to Arizona, and reassembled it here.) We decided one week was plenty for this location. Then we decided to go to Ajo, Arizona, which is conveniently situated near the Organ Pipe National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife refuge. We would stay here for one more week. Then for a longer stay we booked a month at a park in Benson, Arizona, just southeast of Tucson. This puts us in the right place for the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest, plus everything in Tucson. One thing worth noting is that many RV parks offer lower rates for month-long stays. When I first called this park in Benson I was looking for 2 weeks, but the helpful person who took my call explained that staying for 1 month would be significantly cheaper than staying for 2 weeks. And being near Tucson means there will be plenty to do around there. So of course I booked a month and saved several hundred dollars. Then we head to Clifton, Arizona for 9 nights, where we are in the vicinity of the San Francisco River and the Apache National Forest.

From there we head to Silver City, New Mexico, near to the Pinos Altos, a ghost town that was once a mining site and is reputed to be haunted. And we are also going to be near the Gila National Forest. We’ll stay there for 8 nights before moving on to Anthony, New Mexico, which is at the point where New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico all meet. It is the site of the Aguirre Springs National Recreation Area, and about one hour from the White Sands National Park and the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. We spend 15 nights there before we go into Texas to visit the Big Bend National Park. We stay there for 11 nights. This is along the Rio Grande, which forms the border between Texas and Mexico, and gets its name from the fact that the river does make a big bend there.

Finally, on March 25, 2022, we start the return trip to home. The process here is very similar to the trip out, and in fact most of the parks we stay in will be the same going and coming. If we don’t like a park on the way out, we can cancel the stay on the return trip and book something, but without any more information than we have it is simpler to just run that in reverse. The return trip will involve 4 one-night stops before we arrive back in Michigan, and by then winter should be over. And once we have all the stops on paper, of course we called to make reservations at each stop.

One thing to keep in mind is that none of this is set in stone. If we get to a park and hate it, we can always go somewhere else. When you are in an RV your home is on wheels, and can go wherever you want to take it. The worst case scenario is that you lose a few bucks, but I think the places we picked out are going to be fine or I wouldn’t have picked them to begin with. We completed all of the planning on 11/4/21, and we leave on 12/2/21. The rest of the preparation consists of purchasing supplies of things we need for the trip. We put in new smoke detectors and new CO detectors, had the RV inspected and maintained by General RV, got new tires for the truck, and so on. Now it is just a matter of waiting a few weeks.

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