(Note: This was written before the horrendous event in Las Vegas. We are heartsick about the senseless murder of so many people and our deepest condolences go out to those who were directly impacted)
Our hotel in Las Vegas (Elara, a Hilton property) was heaven. We were on floor #55 (out of 56), with a full view of the strip. Spectacular at night. We didn't do anything much-mundane things like laundry, taking wonderful long showers and hanging around the pool in warm weather. A local city bus trip to the old Las Vegas (think wedding chapels, Elvis impersonators, and seedy hotels) brought us to The Freemont Street Experience. An overhyped pedestrian area with street performers, bars, aerial zip lining overhead, and tourists galore. Maybe it was what we had been doing the last three weeks, or maybe we're old--it was just not our thing, but we did enjoy walking around and people-watching
Flying home the next day was very long. We left the hotel at 7:30 am, and arrived at our apartment in Cleveland close to 9 pm. But...we're home (at least one of them!)
Life in an RV
Many of our friends and family have asked about the RV--how hard was it to drive, live in, vacation style, etc. and would we do it again.
So, we made a list, with some explanations.
Having your own kitchen and refrigerator, and especially your own bathroom with you at all times!
No daily packing or unpacking, although finding all the nooks and crannies to put our stuff was an ongoing and constantly changing experiment.
Met a lot of interesting and friendly people. Also got to see a lot of people who do this full time. Ran into a few noisy people (and dogs), but not too many
Campgrounds were lovely, some with better amenities than others. One had a huge pool and spa, another had a barbecue dinner available each night, and a third (in Zion) had tubing and swimming in the Virgin River-a great way to cool off after being on the trails. There was only one that we didn't like, near Durango. Expensive and they nickel and dimed you (i.e. no Fire pits, but you could rent a propane one for $10.) Biggest problem was spotty or non-existent wifi, and even poor cell phone access (imagine!). Well, we were constantly surrounded by mountains, and we were supposed to be communing with nature, but it did make putting together a blog and exchanging pictures a challenge!
Relatively easy to drive, lots of mirrors. As you would expect, it was like a truck, downshifting a lot when we went up hills (and mountains), and it was very loud. Wendy did a very small amount of driving, Jim did most of it. Parking was sometimes the biggest challenge. In the national parks, the RV spots at viewing areas were often filled with cars, and the sides of the roads often sloped down, sometimes at steep angles. We would often have to use two spaces in a parking lot, or pull to the far corner in large lots like at supermarkets.
Small prep space in kitchen, we were constantly squeezing by each other, and things would fall on the floor. Also small refrigerator, but not too bad. Don't do thanksgiving dinner in one.
Remembering to close, latch, lock and put away everything before taking off. Each time we would leave a park, there would be at least one thing we forgot--to close a window, put rubber bands on kitchen cabinets (they blew open without them, spewing the contents all over), disconnecting EVERY hose and connection, including leveling ramps, when we used them, shower amenities on floor so it didn't fall, All lights and switches off. MANY things.
Trying to cook in fire pits--some didn't have grates, coals wouldn't heat well, too much wind, etc. it got better but was always a challenge.
Bathroom space (or lack thereof), little privacy. This is what people expect, and it is true, that both the bathroom and shower were very small. BUT, we were very lucky in that we had two separate areas to use, and they were adequate. The water hose has a flow restrictor on it, so Wendy, especially found that showers in the park facilities were more enjoyable, especially if they were close to our spot.
The biggest down side of having a motor home RV is that it is your only means of transportation. Well, except for the shuttles in Zion, and Bryce. Every time we wanted to shop, go out to eat, explore, etc, our home went with us. And that meant that we had to put away, latch, disconnect everything, etc. in order to go. We got really proficient at it, for the most part, but it's not like you can just hop in the car.
AND THE UGLY...
Those grey and black tanks. Grey is household water from sinks and shower. Black is sewage. When they get full (handy light panel will tell you), it's time to empty. Hookups usually include a hole where you attach a large hose from the RV. Wearing gloves, you pull a couple of handles- black first, then grey to drain ithem out. Except that they never seemed to get completely emptied so Jim (yes, in our family, this is a male job!) would have to run clean water into the tanks several times to get them flushed out completely. Luckily, they only needed emptying every three days or so.
Getting used to the lifestyle was a rather large learning curve. It took us almost the first week to figure out the best place to store stuff, how to get ready to move (already discussed), and the different hookups, leveling, and hoses. But, each day, we got better, and, in reality, it wasn't a big deal. We bought food for a few days at a time, eating most breakfasts in the RV, packing or eating lunches in between activities, and probably made about 2/3rds of our dinners. We were often exhausted at the end of big hiking days, so it was much easier to eat out. We probably did not eat as healthy as we would at home, but traveling is usually like that.
Three weeks is a fairly long time. We both felt the lack of privacy (or, perhaps more accurately, personal space) at times, but any vacation is like that unless you're in a 5 bedroom luxury house. We did great, and enjoyed almost every minute. It was a great way to visit the national parks! Would we do it again? Ask us in a year, putting some perspective on being away from our own home for over three months.
A Final Word…Finances
RV’ing (especially by renting) is not a cheap way to travel. But, it's not the most expensive either. We went in high season (May-September). The RV averaged about $166/day, plus another 56 for mileage and insurance. Standard auto and credit card insurance do not cover RV' s at all so we had to buy the overpriced coverage (still with high deductibles) from the rental company. Our campgrounds averaged $52/night (again, high season) making a total of $274/ night. We averaged 9.23 mpg in the RV, travelled 1875 miles and paid $613 for gas. We actually used points towards some of our RV expenses as well as for our hotels in Vegas and air fare, so that cut down our out of pocket costs. However, the figures quoted above are the full price. You can save a bit on food with an RV, but food and excursions are not included in the above. Also, note that Utah taxes are extremely high, in some places 10% and even more when tourism taxes are added in. (Hotels would probably be the same). Many of the larger towns--Page, Springdale, Durango, Moab and Bryce have plenty of hotels, from super cheap to expensive, but since I was only keeping track of our expenses, it is not possible to compare.
Hope you found this helpful. We hope to write one more blog...on geology. It is kind of like doing a research paper though, so it will take a few days.