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Old 04-21-2018, 08:10 AM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2018
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Brand New With Some Basic Questions


I am new to this forum and am close to pulling the trigger on my first RV purchase. I am off work for June, July, August and thought I might purchase an RV and drive from Phoenix to California, up the coast to Vancouver, the Rockies, East down to Niagara, West Virginia and parts in between. I am a cyclist and mountain biker, rock climber and was planning to cycle, and climb along the way...maybe even learn to kite surf along the way. I have some pretty romantic ideas about the open road but I am not much of a "planner" per se. The RV I think I'm purchasing is a Mercedes Sprinter chassis Class C...24 feet long

I've been checking out coastal California RV sites and they seem to be largely booked up all summer. Is there a secret to getting in? Can I just roll up and pray for a cancelation?

Is it possible to just wing it and not have to stay in a wal mart parking lot every night? What are the rules on staying in a rest stop?

How about big national parks like Zion, Yosemite. Can I stay someplace beautiful on such short notice?

The model I am considering has a rear and side slide out. Do they count as part of the length when out?

Even if a campground is full can you still dump and replenish your rv for a fee?

I guess my biggest hope was to go where the wind took me. I don't mind planning a few nights in advance but weeks, or months in advance might be tough.

Am I living in a fantasy world or should I stop thinking and start driving?

Cheers and thanks for your help!

Doc Jay

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Old 04-21-2018, 08:18 AM   #2
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We like reservations wherever we go. But others like to wing it like you. I think you are in for trouble since you will be traveling in summer, the busiest season. You will find that weekends are the biggest problem, but weeknights might be tough too. I can't respond about the CA coast but others will.

Shell Bleiweiss
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Sedona, AZ
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Old 04-21-2018, 08:30 AM   #3
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really depends on your "network" of friends!

For instance... the West coast isnt hard for me because I have friends in southern CA, Central, and Nor Cal as well as Southern OR and Northern WA. All have ample parking and a 120 outlet I can plug into.
Couldnt tell you about wally docking... but self contained travels shouldnt be a problem.
I probably would pre-plan my intended excursions simply because you never know how local conditions could change (fire, floods, etc)

Also I would do some more research on the sprinter platform. The guys I know with them use them as crash pads. Not necessarily as a retreat to relax in or the most reliable platform. Also hooking up for 1 night tends to suck. Im more of a arrive at the intended area and explore type of traveler.
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:55 AM   #4
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During our 16 years of full-timing and traveling constantly, we rarely made reservations. It's too big of a commitment to be somewhere at a specific time. If we don't like a place or area we'll leave earlier than plan and if we really like it we'll stay longer. So..... guess what my recommendation is?

A Sprinter would be an ideal RV for you. It has plenty of room for 1 or 2 people (We've even met full-timers with one) You seem to be very active and wouldn't spend lots of time inside anyway.

Many national parks have campgrounds that don't even accept reservations. Those are the ones we'd head. However, you need to get at the campground early morning when folks are leaving. Park nearby the previous night. With your small RV you'll have many choices of sites. A few times we just went directly to a reservation-type campground in a national park, stopped and secured a cancelled site.

Each national park has an awesome web site giving lots of good information such as campgrounds (this is where you'd check if the campground accepts reservations), things to do, closings road issues, special alerts, etc. Check them out.

For instance, Yellowstone has 7 campgrounds inside the park that don't accept reservations. They would be perfect for you because some are geared for smaller RVs and tenters. Most of these kinds of campgrounds are in the best areas of the parks and very scenic. Next door is Grand Teton Nat'l Park which has two huge (300-site) campgrounds that don't accept reservations. They rarely fill. We like Gros Ventre. Grand Teton has a wonderful paved biking trail. National parks won't allow off-trail biking unless designated for it and usually don't allow biking on any trail unless it's strictly a bike trail.

Yosemite is not a favorite park of ours because of the awful traffic and masses of people. I can't see riding a bike in that park.

Keep in mind that your Sprinter doesn't need to be hooked up to electric all the time so you have more options in finding sites. We actually prefer dry camping spots as they are usually more scenic.

Outside of the national parks are many, many national forests campgrounds which we love. Some are on streams and lakes and all in places that would be good for biking. You could do day trips into the national park for hiking, climbing, siteseeing and plan to do your biking in the national forests.

Here's a great site for finding national forest campgrounds with good directions and explanations of the campsites and roads getting there. You first have to know the name of the national forest and you can get that from any map.


Coastal California is busy and all over the country any park that is close to a major city or popular area is busy... such as Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park. Even coastal has some national forests nearby so look into those. State parks tend to fill but there are always cancellations but if you can find some that don't accept reservations give them a try by coming in early morning.

You might also check city and county parks as you travel for your base and bike from there. We found some very nice ones. Moab, Utah is awesome for your kind of biking and there are lots of BLM campgrounds.



Personally, I think with your 3 months of time that you shouldn't go all the way to Virginia or the east. Concentrate in one area and it will be more relaxing for you.

Also, you don't have to stay at WalMarts. Here's a site that gives free or low-cost camping.


When you enter a new state stop at a Visitor Center for camping information, especially on city, county or other types of places. We've stayed at some gorgeous fishing access sites on rivers and lakes and some states have a booklet of where you can stay at these places. Montana, for one. You don't have to fish to stay there. It would just be a nice pleasant place to stay a night or two.


National Wildlife Refuges sometimes also allow camping... usually no hookups but oh, the quietness and scenery and great biking.

Full-timed for 16 Years . . .
Traveled 8 yr in a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Diesel
& 8 yr in a 33' Travel Supreme 5th wheel
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:29 AM   #5
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you almost brought me to tears. thank you. thank you all!

Doc Jay
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:54 AM   #6
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Learn about boondocking. Most National Forests and BLM areas out west let you camp for free anywhere you want to on the side of the road. Usually you have to be within 300’ of the road and if you drive down almost any forest service road that goes alongside a stream you will see nice pull off areas that hunters and others have made into a camp spot. Near busy National Parks the Forest service will have a motor vehicle use map that you can get at a ranger station that will tell you where you can camp. Campendium is a great website that lists camp spots near where you want to go. None of these spots have any hookups or picnic tables but they are some of the best, private, free campsites around. Stay in the woods for a week and then go dump your tanks at a park and then head off to your next private camp spot. Consider the size of your water and waste tanks, your battery capacity and if you want some solar panels or a small generator to recharge your batteries every couple days and your good to go.
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Old 04-21-2018, 12:25 PM   #7
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Go for it. We've traveled the entire country without reservations.

Usually we know where we are going to be the next day and will call ahead to see if they have room. I use Google maps and locate RV parks in the area we plan to stop in.

4th of July reservations are almost a must have especially here in California.

Once you hit the road you'll soon adapt to finding space, worse case you stay at Walmart or overnight it a rest stop.

RVing is an adventure as you will soon discover. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
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2000 LEXUS RX300 FWD 22MPG 4020 LBS

Don't know where I'm going, spose I'll get there anyway.
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Old 04-21-2018, 12:59 PM   #8
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Welcome to the forum. You are looking a good size RV for what you are wanting to do. We started off with a 24ft sprinter having a full wall slide out. It was a great vehicle and we spent some shorter trips and 3 trips of 4 months each in it for a total of 15k miles in 18 months.

We are now going full time so did replace it with a bigger coach.

We sometimes make reservations and sometimes not. It all depends. IF you get to state parks early enough in the day they many times have walk in sites (non reserved for walk up campers) but they go fast at popular places., To date we have never had to resort to a wal mart or cracker barrel for nights stay.

Enjoy the adventure.
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Old 04-21-2018, 01:05 PM   #9
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We travel all over out West, including Alaska last summer and a month long trip to AZ and UT in March from our home in Florida and rarely ever make any reservations. As said previously, itís part of the adventure for us. Usually sometime around 3-4 PM my wife will start looking for places ahead using Google Maps, Allstays Pro, Campendium, etc., apps. Once she gets an idea she will check reviews and decide first and second choices. She will typically call ahead and see if there are any sites available. We rarely have a problem finding something suitable and have only been turned away a couple of times and those times were either during holidays or spring break. We actually find a lot of interesting places this way, some great and some less so. For example, on the month long trip in March we stayed at quite a variety of places: a Cracker Barrel, a rest area, Elks Club, state parks, RV parks, BLM boondocking, National Monuments, etc.. Up in The Moab area, we were trapped for a day in a dispersed campsite when it snowed and rained and some washes (4) that we had crossed were running streams. Again, all part of the adventure. And FUN for us.
Bill & Jeri RV Travels
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Old 04-21-2018, 01:21 PM   #10
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Down load the RV Parky app. Lots of goot places to stop and spend the night for free.
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Old 04-22-2018, 10:29 AM   #11
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Hi ! Welcome to IRV2! We're sure glad you joined the gang!

Others have pretty much covered it but wanted to wish you well on the RV purchase and the trip!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!

Joe & Annette

2002 Monaco Windsor 40PBT, 2013 Honda CRV AWD
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