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Old 01-11-2021, 08:31 AM   #1
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Any driving/travel advice for first big trip west?

Hello all,

I am taking my family on our first "big" camping trip out west (Pittsburgh to Yellowstone/Grand Teton) this July. i literally can't wait, it has been something I have been looking forward to for a lifetime.

I am just looking for any advice for my first big long haul. I am driving a 2016 Chevy Colorado towing a 4500# Forest River Surveyor Legend. I have experience towing locally (2-4 hours), but this is my first experience towing for extended times and in "the mountains".

My route out is I-90 to US 16 to US 14 into Cody/Yellowstone ( I plan on getting through Chicago in middle of night to avoid the traffic). My route home is US 191 to I-80.

Any nuggets of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-11-2021, 08:45 AM   #2
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- Really good mirrors
- Really great patience
- Reasonably short travel days
- Ability to make it fun
- Put on tire pressure monitor system on trailer that reports to you in the Chev
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Old 01-11-2021, 08:57 AM   #3
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I plan on getting through Chicago in middle of night to avoid the traffic.

I wouldn't necessarily count on not hitting traffic in Chicago any time of the day or night. I've been in an hour long traffic jam on I-94 or I-80 in Chicago at 3:00 in the morning. But night is probably your best bet. BTW I was just through there a couple of weeks ago and the toll booth to pay the toll westbound to get on I-80 is shut down for some reason. I guess they expect you to pay online somehow. How, I'm not sure so they may be coming to get me because I didn't pay and I have no idea where to go on the millions and millions of sites on the Internet to pay them. Stupid politicians.
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:12 AM   #4
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:16 AM   #5
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We are going to make our very first "Out West" trip this year in Sept....doing National Parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonland, etc. Personally, I am a "planner" and basically do not fly by the seat of my pants. So having said that, I have been routing out our trip, leaving from the Knoxville, TN area to Williams, AZ (5 days of travel to do this). That includes fuel stops, rest areas along the way, and of course the campgrounds where we will spend the night each night. I have to tell you, I have spent hours and hours researching and finding all of those things. To me, fueling the truck after I'm stopped for the day is a priority....vs...stopping for fuel along the way. I have a very large 5th wheel camping trailer (44' Momentum Toy Hauler) and a 1 Ton Dually diesel truck, so not exactly something to be able to pull into your corner gas station and be able to negotiate to the fuel pumps. I also have the ability to start each leg of the trip with approx. 95 gallons of onboard fuel, so I'm good in that regard. My campground choices are based on: 1. Close proximity to the Interstate. 2. Decent campground that is both safe and of decent quality, based on reviews of the campground.

So the day by day trip planning to get to our starting point is done, as is all the different campgrounds that we will stay in during our visits at G.C, Zion, Bryce, and then over at the Moab, UT area. Reservations are already made and confirmed.

Make absolutely sure that everything truck wise and trailer wise is up to snuff and ready for travel. In other words, any repairs and or maint is done to both the truck and trailer for such a long trip.....tires, oil change, wheel bearings, etc, etc. An earlier suggestion about a good TPMS system on the trailer tires is excellent advice. Travelling in the hot summer temperatures require that tire pressure be monitored in order to help prevent tire issues along side the roads and can seriously impact the enjoyment of your journey.

We plan on fairly long days of travel to reach our starting point, on average of 375 miles per day....some a bit longer, some a bit shorter, depending on where we have decided to stop for the night. My wife will be sharing some of the driving with me, so hopefully between both of us taking turns at the wheel, those days should be entirely possible without either one of us becoming terribly fatigued. Almost our entire trip will be Interstate driving, and once we reach the approx. 1/2 way point, it will be even easier driving as we will be on Interstate 40 the entire way, and getting into some of the less populated areas of the country.

The bottom line for you will depend on whether you are a "planner" or a "seat of the pants" type person....or some mix of the two. The trip is suppose to be fun and enjoyable and in my opinion, planning ahead and not having a bunch of "unknowns" every day will make it more enjoyable and less stressful. Good luck and safe travels.
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:28 AM   #6
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The bottom line for you will depend on whether you are a "planner" or a "seat of the pants" type person....or some mix of the two. The trip is suppose to be fun and enjoyable and in my opinion, planning ahead and not having a bunch of "unknowns" every day will make it more enjoyable and less stressful. Good luck and safe travels.
I'm definitely a planner. I have all my stops on the way out already scouted and planned. On the way home I think we're going to be a bit more spontaneous because we have the flexibility of time.
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:38 AM   #7
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I'm definitely a planner. I have all my stops on the way out already scouted and planned. On the way home I think we're going to be a bit more spontaneous because we have the flexibility of time.
Good for you, you're off to a good start in my opinion. One thing I would highly recommend, if you have not done it already is to make your reservations...NOW. Many of the National Park areas will start booking reservations a year in advance and many times, depending on locations and popularity of the campgrounds, will be booked completely months and months in advance. I know that a couple of the campgrounds we are going to use is already booked full for the time period we are going to be there. I started making reservations in mid Sept. 2020 for our Sept 2021 trip.
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Old 01-11-2021, 10:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by SATBman View Post
Hello all,

I am taking my family on our first "big" camping trip out west (Pittsburgh to Yellowstone/Grand Teton) this July. i literally can't wait, it has been something I have been looking forward to for a lifetime.

I am just looking for any advice for my first big long haul. I am driving a 2016 Chevy Colorado towing a 4500# Forest River Surveyor Legend. I have experience towing locally (2-4 hours), but this is my first experience towing for extended times and in "the mountains".

My route out is I-90 to US 16 to US 14 into Cody/Yellowstone ( I plan on getting through Chicago in middle of night to avoid the traffic). My route home is US 191 to I-80.

Any nuggets of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
First thought is to look into the route - Seriously Recommend you try to Avoid the Toll Roads - $$ - keep some money in your pocket - You will Need it - Look at the possibility of I-70 - while not too smooth - for the most part it's Free. - Truck Traffic and Tolls just make I-80 road No Fun.

Not sure of your entire plan or schedule but I'd try to make it a Loop - possibly running through or to Colorado then a loop up to Cody from the South - Why you ask - while the flyover states are not enjoyable the Rockies are just beautiful and deserve at least a Drive Through as much as possible, to help plan the next trip. MAP - of loop - https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=6cf24...=2&form=S00027 - winter map will not allow you to enter YNP - -

As I've used almost every route out at one time or another and the Fav for me is to head to Hannibal, MO then take RT 36 on to Denver - then go north on I-25 or take I-70 into the Rockies. (Son moved to Colorado in 2001, one year I made 5 round trips, made two RT's last summer)

As far as the vehicles and the Trailer - Tires are CRITICAL!!!!!! - keep that in mind - they are not available when trying to make Time, especially in a small town in the middle of Nowhere-- Don't ask me to tell you how I Know!

How much time do you Have - It's Critical for us to help you out - Know what you want to see in YNP - one main road is closed next summer making the top half of the YNP Loop a one way drive with a return on the same road - Heavy Traffic and Limits of what you do. It will be critical to know what you want to do along with the time to do it. YNP is really BIG - Bigger than the State of Delaware!

Last Summer we did YNP and the Tetons with the Grands - they had as much fun outside the Park as in it - Water is the thing they Love - Jackson Lake and all the Streams and Reservoirs around the Parks - In our Three weeks in the area over half the time was outside the Parks.

That's off the top of my Head - Hope it's of some Help,
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Old 01-11-2021, 10:55 AM   #9
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How much time do you Have - It's Critical for us to help you out - Know what you want to see in YNP - one main road is closed next summer making the top half of the YNP Loop a one way drive with a return on the same road - Heavy Traffic and Limits of what you do. It will be critical to know what you want to do along with the time to do it. YNP is really BIG - Bigger than the State of Delaware!
I left roughly 8 days to get to Yellowstone from Pittsburgh, sightseeing along the way. Once at YNP, I allowed 9 days to split between YNP and GTNP (reservations already made thanks to advice here last year). I know everyone says that still won't be enough, but at some point I have to get back to real life haha!. The trip home will be whatever the mood of the truck is at the time...if family still wants more great! If not, we'll make time coming home.
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Old 01-11-2021, 11:16 AM   #10
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One other recommendation that I would make to you, as was just suggested to me on another thread is to purchase either a hard copy or digital version of...
Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers. You will be encountering mountain passes and some areas with steep inclines for both ascending and descending during your trip. This allows you to be prepared for sometimes long and steep grades that you will have to manage....both braking on the downhill side and using the truck's power to climb.....all without overheating the engine/transmission going up.....and the brakes coming down.
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Old 01-11-2021, 11:30 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by SeeTheUSA View Post
- Really good mirrors
- Really great patience
- Reasonably short travel days
- Ability to make it fun
- Put on tire pressure monitor system on trailer that reports to you in the Chev
^^Really great advice^^

- Try to avoid cities, unless they are a destination, it's unnecessary traffic and the alternative routes are more scenic.
- Try to avoid mountains, unless they are one of your destinations.
- Have your navigator take lots and lots of pictures.
- Do not be in a hurry. Enjoy the journey!
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Old 01-11-2021, 12:01 PM   #12
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Where are you staying for Yellowstone? You mentioned coming in on I-90/16/14 into Cody. 16 is a beautiful drive but be aware that you'll have Powder River Pass, 9600' elevation. You'll have a westbound descent for 18+ miles at 5-7% grade with a runaway truck ramp. It's very doable with a RV as it's a popular RVing area and many do it. Just be sure you know how to come down a hill with your braking. Get into low gear before you begin the descent; not in the midst. If you're in the correct gear you won't have to have your foot on the brake very much.

From Cody into Yellowstone you'll have Sylvan Pass at 8560' elevation. It's not as long a descent as Powder River Pass above and you'll only have a 800' drop over 12 miles so it's not a steep. You will have 5-6% grades and many sharp curves but most is rolling hills.

If you're staying in Cody you should know that you're going to have very long days of touring Yellowstone. Madison campground in the park is a good central campground. It's best to take off very early in the morning for your drives and perhaps return around 2pm or so; relax and go out again to view the evening critters with less traffic. You will be sitting in the truck at a standstill at times when you encounter critter jams. Afternoons will be heavier traffic.

The 'Mountain Directory for Truckers & RVers' is recommended if you'll be driving around a lot once you get there.

Exit the south from Yellowstone into Grand Teton (a big favorite of ours for the beautiful hikes). If you need hookups Colter Bay RV or Headwaters RV are the places to stay.

Here is another link covering all the entrances for Yellowstone:

http://www.rvcruzer.com/ystonervroutes.php

.... and of course, be sure to read the park's web site for lots of good information including special alerts, road work, things to do, etc.

https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm

Have a great trip. We've been to all the western national parks often and never tire of them.
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Old 01-11-2021, 02:32 PM   #13
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an alternative to going thru chicago is to go around it. continue west on I-80 to I-39 and then north on I-39 to I-90. safe travels.
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Old 01-12-2021, 06:59 AM   #14
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I left roughly 8 days to get to Yellowstone from Pittsburgh, sightseeing along the way. Once at YNP, I allowed 9 days to split between YNP and GTNP (reservations already made thanks to advice here last year). I know everyone says that still won't be enough, but at some point I have to get back to real life haha!. The trip home will be whatever the mood of the truck is at the time...if family still wants more great! If not, we'll make time coming home.
You may end up feeling like you didn't have enough time in the Parks, but this sounds like a solid plan for your first epic journey. I say "first" because once you've done it I'll bet that you'll be eagerly looking forward to another.

You didn't mention the ages of your kids, but it was smart to allow time for sightseeing along the way. We have three cross-country National Parks trips under our belt; we made two of them when the kids were young. My husband and I are advocates of thoroughly explaining what to expect to the kids and planning at least one fun stop or activity for them to look forward to each day. If they're old enough, consider assigning them travel or camp chores and be sure to celebrate a sense of family teamwork throughout the trip.

In addition to your family members, bring patience, flexibility and a sense of humor along on your adventure. Make an effort to get photos of the entire family at the iconic locations you've been dreaming of seeing - they'll become some of your most precious souvenirs. Our National Parks trips with our kids are responsible for my most treasured travel memories, hands down. We all still talk about them on a regular basis. For the rest of their lives (yours, too, for that matter), your kids will see a photo of Old Faithful or the Grand Teton skyline and remember what it was like to be there in person. It results in an incredibly joyful feeling every time.

I agree with other commenters on investing in a tire pressure monitoring system to help ensure your safety in the road, and I would also consider membership in an RV-related roadside assistance program.

Best wishes for safe travels and tons of fun on your epic journey!

Mary
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