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Old 08-20-2015, 09:24 PM   #361
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Join Date: Jul 2013
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Let me preface this experience with:

NEVER ATTEMPT TO TAKE AN RV INTO MONTEREY, CA.

It is specifically designed to thwart larger vehicles, because, in the words of my friend's cousin, it is composed almost entirely of "newly-weds and nearly-deads" who are snobby and arrogant.

We ignored this, however, and looked for a spot to stay in Monterey. We met my friend's aunt again, and she had saved two spots for us in front of her condo in which to park. I took a look at it, and could fit the bus, but felt awkward, because first, all her neighbors were outside when we arrived, and the bus looked so unbelievably out of place there I felt very uncomfortable.

So we looked around at this "state park" nearby, which ended up being closed like 10 years ago due to storm damage and never re-opened. Then we went to a park nearby, but they had a 25' length maximum, and we were immediately snapped at by an uptight local for being too large, while turning around to leave. So while giving her a polite one-finger salute, we left that place, and upon my friend's aunt's suggestion, hit up the local Elks club, right down the street, because they had a large parking lot and it was empty. We talked to a guy who said it was fine to stay one night because "we are his new friends." Then another "elk" came up and told us to leave. The first guy came back up and said he would fight the other guy to get us to stay, but we peaced out because we didn't want to be the cause of a fight in some nerdy old dude's club.

So we stayed one night, parked very in-the-way in front of my friend's aunt's condo:



and wanted to spend 2 nights there, but didn't want to get in trouble, because it is against city ordinance to keep a vehicle like that out front overnight even if it is your own property, which it wasn't.

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium but that is about all we had time for.



Then we continued North.
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Old 08-20-2015, 09:55 PM   #362
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Join Date: Jul 2013
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Rated Cap: 72
A photo capturing our experience in Monterey:



From Monterey, we realized we had less than 2 weeks to get back to the east coast, and still wanted to visit Yellowstone as well. We still had to hit San Francisco, Seattle and Yellowstone, not to mention I had to drive all the way back to the east coast. So we bombed north from Monterey to San Fran on 101 North, which wasn't very far, but took a while due to the massive amounts of traffic. We got to Candlestick RV Park in San Fran, which is like one of 2 places we could have stayed there. It was by the old stadium, which has since been torn down, and the park is very out of the way and inconvenient to get to. Not to mention, it was about $100 a night.

We stayed in San Fran 3 days and 3 nights. What a beautiful city. Hideously expensive to live in, but it is easy to understand why. We walked along the water, visited a local food truck / music convention thing, drank responsibly at the local bars;



and went to the exploratorium. I apologize but we didn't take a whole lot of pictures in San Fran.



After San Fran, we wanted to see Portland, OR and Eugene OR, in addition to Seattle. But we were running out of time, and had to bomb north. So we hopped on 101 North, crossed the Golden Gate (someone has pictures of the bus doing this but I don't have them yet) and hopped on I-5 North instead of PCH, in the interest of time and my sanity. I wanted to do PCH, but I was really burning out from all the driving and just wanted to move along. One of my bigger regrets on this trip was not taking PCH all the way north.

We headed up through Northern Cali and Southern Oregon, where we expected it to get cooler, but it didn't because a heat wave was following us.

The luckiest thing ever happened to us in southern Oregon. We stopped at a WalMart as I was trying to get a prescription filled, and we had no food or beverages. While we were in there, one of the guys needed a shower. So we were taking care of all of this, and I walk back to the bus and spot something in the bushes...is that cash? YES IT IS!!! I get closer and see that there is $180 in cash sitting in a bush in the parking lot. I walk away, sketched out thinking it is bait for something. My friends look up "finders keepers" laws in Oregon, and we determine we are legally allowed to keep it. So I start the bus, and one of the guys runs out to grab it, and we bolt out of there. That $180 paid for fuel for the rest of our trip up the coast and then some.

In addition:



The least we ever paid for diesel. It was usually 2.69, but I got a $0.50 off per gallon from Safeway points (from buying groceries and liquor in SoCal, haha). It was B20 biodiesel as well, which seemed to make absolutely no difference in how the motor ran. The only downside is you basically had to fight the guys at the station to pump it yourself, since it only recently became legal to pump diesel yourself in the state. I believe it is still illegal to pump gas yourself.



We headed north and stopped the night in a neighboring town to Eugene, a WalMart lot in Springfield, OR. The next day we met up with 64crew4x4 aka John in Eugene, who has a 40' Thomas bus he is planning to convert to haul dogs across the US. After expressing my jealousy at the fact that he has a Cummins 8.3 instead of a piece-of-sh!t CAT, we had a good talk regarding interior design and construction, and what I / we had learned so far.

We continued North to Seattle, and I don't even remember when we got in. Probably around 10:30 PM. My friend's cousin, who lives in Seattle, suggested we park at this spot she noticed recently - a recently-abandoned 7-11 parking lot, a few blocks from the space needle downtown. So we did that.



We parked here for 4 days and 3 nights, and despite being on a pretty busy street, with "you will be towed" signs all around, we never ran into any issues. I even left my phone number on a piece of paper on the dash, saying to call me if we are in the way, so I can move it. Not a peep.

So we enjoyed Seattle for a few days, even though it was abnormally hot and sunny there. We were looking forward to some cloud cover and cold, but that didn't happen.





After Seattle, we really had to get moving East. So that's what we did. Crossed all of Washington, The narrow part of Idaho, and a decent bit of Montana in a day and a half, slept at some Native-American - run truck stop somewhere in Montana. Not exactly sure where.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:18 PM   #363
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Our next destination, after bombing across the massive area we did, was Ennis, MT. A small ranch town, my Dad had a contact who has a ranch there and was very excited to have us stay there. I had a very nice place pictured in my head, but it was nothing compared to how nice it actually was:





And our best photo of the trip:



We were a little worn out by now:



It is crazy what somewhat-rushed travel can do to you. You initially leave with such high hopes and expectations, and after a while you actually get tired of seeing sights; at least we did. But we still were headed through Yellowstone!





Tetons:



Unfortunately, we only had about 24 hours there. We met up with a friend's friend, who was on a road trip in a car, by himself, and just happened to be at Yellowstone when we were. He slept in a hammock in the bus, in an RV spot that we reserved that day. So much for having to reserve months in advance for Yellowstone. He took us in his car to Old Faithful and a bunch of other sights there, and the next day we unfortunately had to keep on truckin'. We drove through Yellowstone, went SouthEast on 287 and spent the night at a WalMart in Rawlins, WY. What a nasty place, it all smelled like a big refinery. We encountered some overheating issues on that run, as we had to cross mountain ranges, and hit a maximum altitude for the whole trip of 9,600 feet on that particular road. The engine in the bus is rated for 10,000 feet maximum! Going down is scarier than going up, as all we have to stop us is 4 drum brakes, but we made it.

Right about now, the bus is at 7,300 miles on the engine oil. We have added 3 gallons since the start of the trip, about half of which is due to me leaving the oil cap open in Texas. The engine is starting to sound kind of ratty and noisy. So going against my friends' judgement of "you'll be fine," I went and got it changed at the truck equivalent of a Jiffy Lube, against my better judgement.



It made me nervous when the guy couldn't find the oil filter. The enormous, yellow oil filter. That says "OIL FILTER" on it. That is attached to the engine. He also overfilled it by a gallon, but the engine didn't seem to mind, and we didn't have to add any oil the rest of the trip which was nice. After having had the oil changed, the engine was a LOT quieter at idle and generally seemed a lot happier. That ran me $180.

After Rawlins, I bombed across the rest of Wyoming, all of Nebraska, and part of Iowa in one day. 780 miles or so total, all on I-80 East. I am not proud of that, but I was on a roll. We stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Iowa, and spent the night there, almost on the interstate because the stop was so full. We woke up way after everyone else and were awkwardly the only ones there, very close to the road. We got going after getting some vending machine coffee (yes, that is a thing) and some diner food after a while. The original plan was to stop in Indiana for a night at a nice-looking state park by a lake, but since I had gotten so far the previous day, we decided to go straight to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see my friends' relatives, and as a nice convenient stop on the way home. Yes, the same friend who had relatives in Colo Springs, Monterey and Seattle. Very convenient.

So we get to Ann Arbor and stay at a former KOA because we need water desperately, and showers. We roll in around 4 AM, and wake up everybody with our loud engine and driving all over the place to find our spot because EVERY RV PARK HAS TERRIBLE SIGNAGE. We settle in, fall asleep as the sun is rising, and wake up very pissed off because we are back in the hot, humid weather that the East Coast is known for. So we crank up the A/C, go back to sleep and get going around 2 PM. Visit Ann Arbor, spend another night there, and bomb back through the rest of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. We got back July 30th, 2 days ahead of schedule.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:53 PM   #364
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WOW. So awesome.
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Old 08-20-2015, 11:35 PM   #365
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Excellent adventures dudes!
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Old 08-20-2015, 11:54 PM   #366
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Maryland / Boulder
Posts: 309
Year: 1999
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Chassis: Saf-T-Liner MVP ER
Engine: CAT 3126b Rotella-Chugger
Rated Cap: 72
Lessons learned on this trip:

-Going by a strict plan sucks. Don't do it. A vague guideline of where to go is good, but a by-the-hour plan sucks, especially when you are seeing a bunch of places you haven't seen before and you don't know whether or not you will like them.

-RV parks SUCK. We hated them. It is either trashy people, old people or people with young children. They are always out of the way and far from a city center. We hated that we had to go to them. But since we had a shitty gas generator that was loud and underpowered, no solar power and a very limited battery bank, we had to go to them to plug in, to keep our food from spoiling. Which in hindsight, could have been solved by getting a big cooler and some dry ice, which would have cost less than a night at a plug-in site. Lessons learned.

-Don't listen to anybody's travel advice. It seemed like most of the advice we got was misleading or downright incorrect.

-PLANNING IS NOT EXCEPTIONALLY NECESSARY. As long as you are okay sleeping on the side of the road every so often, you don't need to plan or make reservations in advance. We were never thwarted from a location, even Monterey, CA (home of the anti-RV) due to lack of planning. We even got a plug-in spot in Yellowstone the same day we made the reservation, which is one of the most crowded national parks in the country during the summer months.

-Having big water tanks is real nice. We had 92 gallon fresh tanks and 92 gallon grey tanks. No bathroom. And we were fine the whole time. It seems like a bathroom is not necessary. If you are in an area remote enough to not have a bathroom, you can go outside. If you aren't, there will be one, is the generalization we came to. We went from Yellowstone to Washington, DC without filling up our water tanks, which includes showers.

-GET A GOOD GENERATOR. Making your bus as off-grid capable as possible is not only fun, but saves a ton of money when traveling. Any time you can just park on the side of a road or in a parking lot with no issues instead of paying for a spot is beneficial to your wallet, and also to your psyche. Not having to depend on others, even for electricity and such, is a good feeling.

-Solar, solar, solar. I wish I had done it. We were in so many sunny spots where we could have raked in the kWH for free, and we didn't because I didn't have any solar panels. Shame on me.

Overall we did about 8.5 mpg over 8,828 miles. We spent about $2,800 on fuel, divided by 4 until Colorado Springs, then divided by 3. So well under $900 per person, which considering how many places we went, isn't bad at all. I was doing 65 whenever I could. I have a heavy foot and I am still convinced something is wrong with the engine on this thing to return such MPG but it is probably just the best it can do.

I didn't keep track of our expenditures on RV parks or anything because I don't really care. I wasn't particularly budget conscious when in cities either, I think I blew $90 in drinks in NOLA in one day. When we began the trip I thought fuel would be our biggest expense, but it wasn't. Food / lodging combined was much more, even with all the free / cheap spots we found.

If I were to do it again, I would put a lot more effort into looking for free places to stay. The free places we stayed were nice, and in a good location. Paying for spots sucks. In a lot of western states (especially Oregon) you can dump and fill your rig for free at rest stops. So if you had solar and a generator on board, and found good spots to stay at, fuel would be your biggest expense.

Good cooking facilities - We had a decent camp stove with us, which ran off a 20lb grill propane tank, and that tank lasted our whole trip. But that grill / stove had no wind screens and was relatively low BTU per burner, meaning it took a while to boil water and cook anything, which discouraged us from cooking as often as we had intended to. We like cooking, but if it takes 30-45 minutes to boil a half-pot of water for spaghetti, you grow to dislike it. At that point it didn't matter how inconvenient it was to get to; we had to lug the grill out, the propane tank, and hook the hose up, under all the stuff packed on top of it, but it still took so long to cook anything it almost wasn't worth the time and we ended up eating at restaurants a lot of the time.
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Old 08-21-2015, 12:15 AM   #367
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Sounds like some sage advice!
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Old 08-21-2015, 12:22 AM   #368
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Wow, that was quite the travelogue! You should print it, or at least print to PDF and tuck it away somewhere as a journal entry of sorts. I'm sure you must have had ups and downs as a group of people who normally wouldn't spend 6 hours together in a day spent 6 weeks breathing each other's air, but it sounds like some great memories and experiences. I think there's a lesson in there for all of us about over-planning a vacation. I've taken my young family to Yellowstone three times; the best experience was the one where we planned only two things to do each day so that we could have a slow morning, be fairly relaxed through the day, back to camp with plenty of time to fix dinner, and lazy the rest of the evening.

Too bad we didn't get to meet when you stayed overnight in Salt Lake City. I guess you must have been at the Wal-Mart just out of the mouth of Parley's Canyon on I-80? I could've at least thrown you an extension cord and a water hose (and a free place to park )!

On the electricity: at first I thought you'd be running the engine for hours every day and easily keep things charged off the alternator. Apparently it's those multi-day stays where you really get to enjoy a place but also test the battery reserves.
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Old 08-21-2015, 02:26 AM   #369
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Epic journey.....:)

Glad you had an Awesome Time... It was good to meet you here in Eugene.

A trip like this You will remember and Have for the Rest of your life.

AS you stated, Plan things loose, it is always a better trip that way.

Your pics are Awesome, especially the Rainbow in MT.....

And as Family Wagon said, PDF this Journey somewhere some how, or do a Blog on it...you will be surprized at how many hit it.....

Glad you and Your Buds and The Bus all got home in one piece....Time for another oil change, she deserves it....

John.
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Old 08-21-2015, 10:33 AM   #370
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Sounds like a an awesome trip! Ahh.. to be young again I'm only 30, but when I was in my mid 20's I had no problem driving 14 hours days on a motorcycle. Now - in any vehicle - I prefer to break the trip up into days.. The thought of driving 780 miles in one go makes me squeamish (though on the rare occasion I still need to do such trips)!

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches View Post
Lessons learned on this trip:

-Going by a strict plan sucks. Don't do it. A vague guideline of where to go is good, but a by-the-hour plan sucks, especially when you are seeing a bunch of places you haven't seen before and you don't know whether or not you will like them.
Absolutely! It sucks to feel rushed while on a vacation! In my opinion, if there's only one driver it should come down to how the driver feels. They get to call the shots on whether or not they feel up to doing the long drive to the next destination in a day, or multiple days. The passengers have the beautiful luxury of being able to sleep while on the road . On the other hand, if a passenger is going stir-crazy that is another good reason to stop and set up camp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches View Post
-RV parks SUCK. We hated them. It is either trashy people, old people or people with young children. They are always out of the way and far from a city center. We hated that we had to go to them.
May I recommend the Frugal Shunpiker's Guides? They are $20 PDFs. I was skeptical at first, but decided to try one out for New Mexico. It turned out to be invaluable. It listed so many free camping locations with amazing views and hiking, often inside of state forests or the like. Some of them even had hot springs! The directions and map can be confusing to read unless you're going exactly the same direction they came from, but with a bit of deciphering it can be figured out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches View Post
-Don't listen to anybody's travel advice. It seemed like most of the advice we got was misleading or downright incorrect.
Oh, come now.. SOME of the locals must have known what they were talking about, no? Of course, everything must be taken with a grain of salt. Personal research is necessary to see if what works for them will work for you, as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches View Post
-PLANNING IS NOT EXCEPTIONALLY NECESSARY.
RIGHT ON, BROTHER!! (read that in a Hulk Hogan voice)

Quote:
Originally Posted by porkchopsandwiches View Post
-Solar, solar, solar. I wish I had done it. We were in so many sunny spots where we could have raked in the kWH for free, and we didn't because I didn't have any solar panels. Shame on me.
Agreed. The only way to go for peacefully enjoyment of nature...

I'm glad to hear things went smoothly for the most part. Especially mechanically speaking! You put some effort into getting that engine right and it looks like it paid off.
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