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Journeys : Oct Nov 2012
"J ust don't know how your family will cope in a confined space for so long!" We heard this comment repeatedly before we headed off in a recreational vehicle (calling it a 'camper van' would be a serious understatement) but we knew that an RV was the perfect mode of transport for our long-awaited family holiday to the USA. The idea of not having to unpack every night and re-pack every morning, combined with the freedom to go wherever we wanted, suited us completely. Our RV would be our home and transport, 24 hours a day -- it was our portable holiday on wheels. We hunted for weeks on the net for the most affordable and ideal RV and found a search engine that came up tr umps -- we chose a 33 ft RV sleeping six people for $80 per day in the low season, including insurance. Choosing the most suitable vehicle came down to the location of pick up/drop off, price, berths and length. We decided to pre-book linen, cooking utensils and a generator, which proved a necessity for heating in the mountains, air conditioning in the cabin during the heat of day and the oh-so-important ability to charge the boys' laptops! The RV we selected also had large luggage departments and dual slide-outs, which work at a push of a button and add an extra metre in your lounge area at night; as well as extra-large windows in the cabin, a must for day-time sightseeing. Fingers crossed, we had it right. With our travel blog set up, bags and boys' golf clubs packed, this adventurous family of two adults and three children (boys aged 13 and 11 and daughter with special needs aged six), excitedly headed off to Los Angeles for our adventure. Once we were over jet lag and exhausted by the city's compulsory tourist attraction s, we headed off on an anti-clockwise loop from L A and drove east towards the hot Arizona desert. We were free spirits -- apart from the RV, nothing had been booked -- we were reliving our backpacking days and taking each day as it came. RV parks (about US$40-50 per night) were an essential stopover every few days to catch up on laundry, cool off in the pool and to dump the waste. Our rule in the RV was only to use the toilet facilities in an absolute emergency -- we made the most of any public toilet we came across! Americans cater very well for the RV market -- the mega-shopping chain Walmart allows free overnight camping in their car parks (great toilets too), campgrounds have convenient drive-through RV camping bays and there is free parking in most streets and along the Califor nian coast. We were warned by the RV company not to visit Death Valley in July and August but it was mid-June so we headed to the unknown. With petrol and water tanks filled to the brim, we ventured into the 48 degree heat of Utah. There in the midst of the desert we discovered the most inviting RV park, with a huge spring-fed pool and surprisingly, even outstanding seafood restaurants. We were relieved that we had ticked the box for a pre-paid generator when we booked our RV, because we could run the air-con through the day and the heating at night. At 11 am, we were sweltering in 48 degrees heat. Three hours away, at 7 pm that evening, we shivered in below-zero temperatures, with Yosemite's snow-capped peaks not far away. Las Vegas has a great solution for RVs -- a huge concrete park next to the famous Circus Circus resort. OK, it wasn't pretty (only a few trees scattered around which were in sufficient in the 40 degrees heat) but we felt part of the Las Vegas lifestyle. We loved everything about it -- the entertainment, the fun, the amusement parks and the shopping, which was definitely to our advantage, with the Australian dollar so strong. We thought our RV was impressive, but this was Vegas, after all. They do things on a different scale in that desert city and we soon started to feel some serious RV-envy. We set ourselves a mission to meet an ow ner who would let us visit their luxurious and enormous home-away-from-home. When we succeeded in our challenge, we were astounded at the hanging chandeliers, huge lounge chairs and the four plasma TV sets (one to view when working the barbecue outside). We learned that most of these massive RVs were the ow ners' only home and that's how they lived every day, circling the US in their sometimes half-a- million US dollar machines. How we would love to rent one of these next time! Travelling parents in Europe are familiar with the children's refrain of "No, not another church, cathedral or castle!". We suffered to the sound of another 'c-word' -- "Please, not another canyon!" But we were firm -- the window blinds were pulled up, daylight shone on their laptop screens and the boys were gently reminded how very fortunate they were, not just to be missing two weeks of school but to be surrounded by such stunning scenery, canyons and all. Since coming home the boys haven't relived the amusement parks, baseball games or shopping mall expeditions -- instead they talk about the RV parks we stayed at, the fun times we had as a family and the freedom of RV travelling. We all loved the flexibility of being able to park the RV late at night on a beautiful beach, enjoy a relaxed meal in a 24-hour diner and never have to rush to meet a strict early check-out time. Next time, perhaps we'd try to spend less time queuing at tourist attractions and we'd aim to arrive earlier at our destinations, to allow more quality family time around the open fires at the RV parks. For us, it was an ideal family vacation. Would we do it again? Absolutely! Opposite page: Wendy with Louisa, Miles (standing) and Guy; desert road, Zion National Park, California; the family's RV; Oak Creek Country Club Golf Course, Sedona, Arizona; Guy and Miles at Bryce Canyon, Utah. This page, from top left: boat trip on Lake Powell; Anthony and the boys, Yosemite National Park; the open road All photos: Nielsen family October / November 2012 15 Destinations
Aug Sep 2012
Dec 2012 Jan 2013