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Old 12-17-2004, 10:36 AM   #1
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Hello,
I have saved up 6 weeks of vacation for a trip around the country, (mostly west), next year. I have read similar posts here religiously and would appreciate any suggestions for our planned trip. It can't start before June 24 and has to end in Ohio August 3, (my wife's Longaberger convention). Anyway, here's what we're planning. To save space in the responses, let me say that I know it's not enough time, (it's all we have - we want to give the kids a taste of as many places as possible), and we know it will be hot, (school calendars - don't ya know). Anyway, here we go....

Binghamton, NY to Mesa Verde, CO as fast as we can (3 days)
Mesa Verde (1 day)
Bryce; N Rim Grand Canyon; Animal Rescue ranch, Kanab, UT - Note: family loves animals (3 days)
Phoenix - visit brother who lives there (3 days)
Los Angeles (DD wants to shop in Hollywood - pray for me) (3 days)
San Francisco and Redwoods (3 days)
Mt St. Helens (1 day)
Mt Ranier and Seattle (2 days)
Glacier Natl Park (3 days)
Yellowstone/ Grand Tetons (5 days)
Custer State Park (2 days)
Mt Rushmore / Badlands (1 day)
Columbus, OH, August 3-5
Binghamton, August 6
Sleep all day in my own bed, August 7
Back to the real world, August 8

Things we have eliminated because we've already been there, not enough time, too hot, etc:
S. Rim Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, San Diego, Yosemite, Death Valley

I'd also like to hit a ghost town somewhere if anyone has a suggestion.

I'm not planning on making lots of reservations so we can keep flexible.

FWIW, I've been west several times, (did this with a buddy back in '74 - 10000 miles, $1000 including all gas, food, lodging!!)
Wife and 15 year old have only been to couple places out west one time
7 year old daughter has never been anywhere out west. (No need for sympathy - she's been to Disney World, etc multiple times)
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Old 12-17-2004, 10:36 AM   #2
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Hello,
I have saved up 6 weeks of vacation for a trip around the country, (mostly west), next year. I have read similar posts here religiously and would appreciate any suggestions for our planned trip. It can't start before June 24 and has to end in Ohio August 3, (my wife's Longaberger convention). Anyway, here's what we're planning. To save space in the responses, let me say that I know it's not enough time, (it's all we have - we want to give the kids a taste of as many places as possible), and we know it will be hot, (school calendars - don't ya know). Anyway, here we go....

Binghamton, NY to Mesa Verde, CO as fast as we can (3 days)
Mesa Verde (1 day)
Bryce; N Rim Grand Canyon; Animal Rescue ranch, Kanab, UT - Note: family loves animals (3 days)
Phoenix - visit brother who lives there (3 days)
Los Angeles (DD wants to shop in Hollywood - pray for me) (3 days)
San Francisco and Redwoods (3 days)
Mt St. Helens (1 day)
Mt Ranier and Seattle (2 days)
Glacier Natl Park (3 days)
Yellowstone/ Grand Tetons (5 days)
Custer State Park (2 days)
Mt Rushmore / Badlands (1 day)
Columbus, OH, August 3-5
Binghamton, August 6
Sleep all day in my own bed, August 7
Back to the real world, August 8

Things we have eliminated because we've already been there, not enough time, too hot, etc:
S. Rim Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, San Diego, Yosemite, Death Valley

I'd also like to hit a ghost town somewhere if anyone has a suggestion.

I'm not planning on making lots of reservations so we can keep flexible.

FWIW, I've been west several times, (did this with a buddy back in '74 - 10000 miles, $1000 including all gas, food, lodging!!)
Wife and 15 year old have only been to couple places out west one time
7 year old daughter has never been anywhere out west. (No need for sympathy - she's been to Disney World, etc multiple times)
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Old 12-17-2004, 01:50 PM   #3
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West is good. We always head out that way and it gets tough to return home ever single time. I understand the whirlwind schedule and I know that we all know there's NEVER enough time but if your family isn't used to this it might make the trip less enjoyable. In that case, I'd plan a few spots where you can stay for a bit. The 5 days in Yellowstone and 3 days in Glacier aren't bad. My personal minimum is 6 in Ystone and 4 in Glacier.

Your first stop is Mesa Verde but you'll probably go through I-70 on the way. That's a nice drive and if you get the chance, drop the trailer and take the truck up to Mount Evans. It's just south of Idaho Springs, CO and you can drive up to 14,260' and you will see bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and maybe even elk at that time of the year. Not to mention the view of the world from 14,260'.

I've been to Kanab, that's where you get your ghost towns. Old Pariah is east of Kanab. The original ghost town (whats left of it) is there as well as the movie set from The Outlaw - Josey Wales". On the way back to town the Dodge City set from Gunsmoke is nearby. I've been through the animal rescue and it's not real impressive. Their work is admirable but there's not much to see.

Custer State Park is a great choice. Stay at the Game Lodge campground if you want to be in the park and maximize your wildlife viewing time. Best time is in the evening or early AM. If you take the Iron Mountain Road to Mount Rushmore and back be sure to leave the trailer back at camp or you'll get stuck in the tunnels that frame Mt Rushmore perfectly. Also, bring some sliced apples to feed the wild (but very friendly) burros on that road.

Mount Ranier and Seattle are nice but there's better stuff to see in Port Townsend and Anacortes. We always take Island Adventures whale watching cruises out of Anacortes and see Orca pods swimming in the Straits of San Juan. You see 'em live and you'll never want to bother with Sea World again. Based out of Port Townsend you can go to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, WA. This is the former Lloyd Beebee ranch. Lloyd worked with Walt Disney and shot most of his wildlife films at the ranch. The Grizzly Adams TV series was also shot there, although Ben is now dead. You can take the drive-through tour with your vehicle and hand feed Yaks, Bison, Elk, etc all from your car window (it's safe). You can even feed grizzly bear but they are about 6' away behind a short electric fence so you have to toss them their bread. They were actors in films so they won't charge you and take your head off or anything. There is a picture in his book where he is standing next to 4 of them and hand feeding them hot dogs (and yes, he still has his hand ). If you like animals you'll love this place - we sure do. Mount St. Helens is an awesome scene as well. I'd skip Mount Ranier and go to MSH, instead. I enjoyed it so much I climbed it this summer. But, the visitor's center is easy to access and an awesome presentation.

If you want more info please PM me and I can supply you with more tips as well as links to many websites.

Enjoy the trip. The only part I don't like about your plan is the last line - "Back to The Real World". That's a bummer.
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Old 12-17-2004, 04:16 PM   #4
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Very nice informative posting.......Thanx much
Jim
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Old 12-17-2004, 07:23 PM   #5
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Just made that same kind of trip last summer, but with out children. The northwestern US is just to great to even try to discribe. If your interested you can read about my adventures at:

http://www.geocities.com/iwanac/travel.html

Dick Betz
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Old 12-17-2004, 08:19 PM   #6
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In Mesa Verde you can't pull your trailer thru the park. They make you drop it at the entrance. I didn't have a lock for my hitch and was worried the whole day that someone was gonna swipe my trailer. Take a lock for your trailer hitch!!! Walmart has one for about $20.00
In San Francisco there is a campground on highway 101 at Candlestick point where the 49ers play. It's called San Francisco RV Park. I suggest getting reservations. We stay there about twice a year. It's about 3-5 miles south of San Francisco About $45. There is a RV park in Pacifica by the ocean also but we prefer the one on 101. Otherwise you will have to go north of San Francisco on 101 about 15-20 miles to camp.
There is a campground across the bay in Vallejo next to Marine World. You will need reservations there way in advance.
While in San Francisco go to fisherman's Wharf and park at the wharf. Do not try to drive around the city to see things. There is almost no parking and you will be an unhappy camper. You can buy all day bus passes that are good for cable cars, trollys and buses.. Get a map of the bus routes and you will see that you can get to within 2 blocks of anything you want to visit, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Sometimes we just ride around on the buses. It's better than a rollycoaster. For a REAL thrill take a taxicab!!! Ignore the street people. They are a bother but harmless. Dress warm. Mark Twain said: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." You'll see!
Redwood trees can be observed in the Santa Cruz area on highway 1 about 70 miles south of San Francisco. You may want to go thru there on your trip north. Highway 1 from L.A. is pretty I guess. I've driven it twice and never saw anything but the white line. Very twisty road. In Santa Cruz there is an old loggers train that takes you thru the redwoods. A bit expensive. Otherwise you will have to go north of San Francisco 100-200 miles to go thru some of the remaining Redwood forests. It is very pretty and if you haven't seen Redwoods before up close I suggest you do it.
At Mount Rushmore there are tons of campgrounds. However sometime in July there is a worldwide meeting of motorcycle people. In excess of 100,000. I can't remember the name of the town where they meet but they fill the campgrounds everywhere. You must check for reservations way in advance. The food at the Mount Rushmore cafeteria is GREAT! It was better and cheaper than in any of the places we ate. We were there a week last July 4. They have a great 4th of July show!!! Plan on eating there. Try to be there at night as they light the faces and have a presentation. A lightning storm enhanced our night view and was just beautiful. Go see the Indian Chief they are carving in a mountain about 5 miles from Rushmore. The weather is pleasant in July.
We spent three days in Yellowstone and that was more than enough for me.
Gas in Montana and other midwest states is 85 octane. The closest I ever came to running out of gas was in Montana. That is a loooong state with few gas stations.
Calif speed limit is 55 when pulling a trailer, class A and C rigs. They have zero tolerance programs in various spots and will nail you. The CHP here are amazing. They appear out of nowhere. They are very nice when they give you a ticket.
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Old 12-18-2004, 04:27 AM   #7
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Yes, California 1 (Pacific Coast Hwy) is a twisty thing. If you want to see redwoods I'd go up I-5 to make some time, then get off at Williams and shuttle over to Willits on CA-20. US-101 is the Redwoods Highway and it gets really great between Leggett and Crescent City. I'd stay at Eureka (do some beach combing, eat at Samoa Cook House - an old logging camp cook house, and do some beach combing in th evening) then drive north to Crescent City. The Jedediah Smith State Park has trails that go back where George Lucas filmed the Ewok Village and speeder bike chase scenes and it really is a hike into a different world. If you take a side trip at Orick (lots of RVs camped right along the pacific ocean there) you can go to Fern Canyon State Park. Take the short hike into the canyon. Not only is it scenic but it's also where they filmed Jurassic Park II. Be sure to eat at Rolf's, which right on US-101. His elk is awesome. Just north of Crescent City is Crater Lake, if you have the time. Otherwise I'd drive up the Oregon Coast which is the best coastline anywhere and loaded with lots of great state parks for camping. You can dune buggy on the sand dunes at Florence (I'm sure the kids won't like that ), look at sea lions just north of Florence, visit Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, visit a WW II blimp hangar and naval air museum at Tillamook, do tons of beach combing in the tidal pools, and just plain see the most interesting coastline around. If it's waterfalls you like, take the Columbia River Gorge to Multnomah Falls and back. Once you hit Washington the coastline gets less interesting so head inland to I-5 and make up some time.

Yeah, Sturgis is the big Harley get together. This year it was August 8th thru 14th. When this happens there are bikers all over the Black Hills. I'd avoid being there then. It'll be a real hassle trying to get around all the traffic and crowds.
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Old 12-19-2004, 03:51 PM   #8
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This is one of the better threads I've seen on this group. Postings like these are what travelers want and need. (Also they bring back memories of past wanderings)......Jim
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Old 12-19-2004, 05:47 PM   #9
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camper1b,
I just have to add my 2 cents....
I like your schedule, but since I planned one with simular stops, I would make some changes.
1.) Scrach Custer SP, if you are going for the wildlife, you will be disapointed after spending sometime in Yellowstone.
2.) I would add Jackson Hole and use that as a base to explore the Grand Tetons. There is a CG right in town across from the vistor centre as you are going north out of Jackson.
3.) Add a drive (w/o the Sunnybrook) on the needles hwy going into Mt Rushmore. It is GREAT....

Have a GREAT trip...
Oh BTW, I grew up in Vestal, NY...
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Old 12-20-2004, 07:53 AM   #10
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I can't thank you all enough for taking the time to provide me your invaluable knowledge on our trip. Since this is the first and only time I will be able to make a trip this long with the kids, I wanted to make sure it was a success. You have helped ensure that's the case.

Just to answer some specific questions....
No, I'm not a teacher - good one, though! The program I'm on at work should be winding down next spring/summer and my management is working with me to make sure my position is covered. When I return I will probably start on a new program. Software folks are in short supply up here so I'm not too worried about not having something to come back to.

The reason we're doing Custer is for the animals. If we're getting our fill at Yellowstone, we could just skip it and use the extra time at Yellowstone.

Sturgis motorcycle rally won't be starting until I'm already back at work however, thanks for the info. I had forgotten about it. Guess we just lucked out with the timing of our trip.

I am collecting this thread along with all the other information/research I have compiled. The week between Christmas and New Years I'm off so I'm sitting down with the family and firming up the itinerary. I'll post here when the date gets closer and we know exactly what we're doing. Of course, I'll also post a followup trip report when we get back. (That is - if we decide to come back )

Thanks again.
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Old 12-20-2004, 08:19 AM   #11
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Custer State Park is a great park. I'd rate it as better than some of the national parks. I understand the part about skipping Custer if doing Yellowstone, but only to a point. That's going to depend upon what you want to see. We generally hit Custer on the way out rather than on the way back. That way you save the "big" park for the climax. But, at Custer you can stay in the park. You can see the State Game Lodge - a summer white house for two presidents, travel the Iron Mountain Road through 3 tunnels to Mount Rushmore (just not with a trailer ) and stop and feed wild burros on the way. You can also take the wildlife loop, which will take you through bison herds, and other wildlife. You will see plenty of bison in Yellowstone so that aspect can be a duplicate and just a waste of time. You will also see bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope. Antelope you'll see elsewhere on the trip so it's not a big deal but Bighorn are pretty easy to approach in Custer and hard to find in Yellowstone. Also, the Needles Highway is in Custer and is a great drive and fun for everyone to climb around on. There are a number of easy off-road trails in Custer that you can take, unlike Yellowstone where there is no off-road travel allowed. Also, there is a large prairie dog village in Custer and you won't see these guys in Yellowstone. Wind Cave is just to the south so if you like going into large caves that's an option and Custer State Park is a good central location for Mount Rushmore and all the other activities. And Game Lodge campground is a nice setting right next to a stream. It's not a cookie cutter campground. But, you do have to reserve early and that can be done right over the internet.

If you are only going to Custer for the wildlife then you'll have to weigh the pluses and minuses depending upon what kind of wildlife you want to see. If you are going to the Needles and Mount Rushmore anyway, it may still be a viable place to stop. If it pulls valuable time away from Yellowstone, I might reconsider.

Either way, it sounds like you're going to have a great trip. One of those that'll everyone will talk about and remember for many years to come.
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Old 12-21-2004, 09:51 PM   #12
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I need to make a correction to my earlier post regarding the speed limit in California. Talked to the CHP today. Class A & C motorhomes can travel at the posted speed provided they are NOT towing a trailer or car.
Your rig in California is limited to 55.
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Old 12-23-2004, 06:14 PM   #13
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Having spent the last two summers and going back for the 3rd year to Custer, SD to workamp at Flintstones, I highly recommend Custer, SD as a base camp. You would be 7 miles from Custer State Park, 35 miles from Mt. Rushmore and 5 miles from Crazy Horse. It is 70 miles from Sturgis so that is not a concern. Best time to hit Custer State Park is early morning or late afternoon. Leave your trailer or whatever you are pulling in one spot. It wont fit in a few places there.
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Old 12-27-2004, 05:43 AM   #14
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camper1b,

I took a look at your schedule, and came to the conclusion that you have rolled 2 trips into one- a Rocky Mountain trip and a west coast trip. I wonder if you have left any vacation in there for you. You are going to be one busy Dad with that schedule. Especially pulling a trailer. Been there, done that with my 5th wheel. Will not do such an aggressive schedule again. Perhaps you would consider a modified schedule similar to my suggestion below.

If you took out the west coast areas and Phoenix from your trip, I count 12 days that could be injected into other places on your schedule. Plus you could add a couple of areas that would be near areas that you are visiting.

Example-

NY to Santa Fe- 4 days- Sante Fe has lots of shopping (to replace the Hollywood shopping- like Hollywood you can kiss your money goodby )

Mesa Verde area- 2 days

Moab- for Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Deadhorse State Park- 2 to 3 days

Bryce, N. Rim Grand Canyon, Animal Rescue, Kanab- 3 to 4 days

Note: Have your brother join you for a few days while in Utah, or maybe Sante Fe- after all, you drove the first 2200 miles. We do this with my brother who lives in Las Vegas.

At this point I've used 5 of the 12 days saved from eliminating the west coast and Phoenix. The remaining 7 can be placed in your Glacier, Yellowstone/Tetons, Custer, Mt. Rushmore/Badlands time frame to allow a somewhat more relaxed pace. Some of those areas are larger than you think and may take more time than you have allowed.

I would keep Custer State Park on the list. We have experience more kinds of wildlife in that park than any other, including Yellowstone. Being in Custer SP at sunrise can be a wonderful experience.

Please do not take this as a critique of your plans, only another look and possible suggestion for a somewhat more relaxed pace.

Whatever you do, it will be an adventure!
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