63 : Jan 03 2015
because getting there is half the fun...
$50 for the! best letter
Crossing America (again!) in a rental relocation…
A Newbie in America
A first timer’s take on all-things American!
Top Ten - Plus!
11 Highlights from our latest adventure
A great way to explore the USA!
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About iMotorhome | 3
iMotorhome eMagazine is published twice monthly and available by free subscription from www.imotorhome.com.au. Your letters and contributions are always welcome! Contributors Facebook “f ” Logo
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January Deals On Now!
On my mind | 5
Happy New Year! Happy new year and welcome to 2015! I can’t believe we haven’t put an issue of iMotorhome eMagazine together since last year. It only seems like two weeks… I hope your Christmas was as relaxed and enjoyable as Christmas can be, given the weight of expectation placed upon us all: catch-up with everyone we haven’t seen for ages; decorate the house like Chevy Chase; survive the office party with no career-threatening incidents; compile a list of thoughtful presents, buy them, wrap beautifully and hide from all prying eyes; singalong to Chris Rea’s “Driving Home for Christmas” every time we hear it on the radio; stock up with enough food and alcohol to see out an apocalyptic crisis; subdue our abhorrence at the crass commercialism that’s long since smothered the original meaning of the event (whether we believe in it or not) and generally put on a bright and happy persona no matter the pressures of complying with all of the above. We run away. Mrs iM always chooses to work at this time of year and I travel with her, wherever her roster opportunities allow. This Christmas just gone it was LA and New York, and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable Festive Season trips we’ve done. We flew into New York on a rainy Christmas Eve, but the weather cleared the next morning and we spent Christmas Day walking through Time Square, checking out the decorations and ice skating at the Rockefeller Center and exploring the High Line, “A 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line.”
This was our third Christmas in four in New York and we have a real love for the place. There are only two great cities in the USA: New York and Chicago (I can hear the howls of indignation already). What makes them great is they were important trade and financial centres prior to the motor car, so not only do they have a rich and diverse cultural and architectural heritage, they have efficient public transport systems built around an underground rail system. New York is a city’s city. Love it or hate it, in many ways it epitomises the American Dream of wealth, appearance and opportunity. For us the allure of the United Sates isn’t its cities, but rather its diverse scenery, wide open spaces and friendly people. This issue we bring you the highlights of our travels last May from the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa, to Los Angeles, delivering two brand new motorhomes for Apollo Rentals. Our second such delivery run; travelling with friends added a whole new dimension and it was highly rewarding to share such a memorable experience with ‘first time’ motorhomers and USA travellers. Despite the fall in the worth of the Australian dollar the USA is still excellent value compared to the UK or Europe, if you’re looking for an overseas motorhoming holiday. Put it on your bucket list, add it to your wish list or whatever; just be sure to experience it at least once. I hope this special issue inspires you and that maybe one day we’ll cross paths on the back roads of this fascinating land.
6 | Content
On my Mind
On your Mind
Who we are, where and other legal stuff
Find back issues and more on our website
USA Rental Relocation
Second Time Around!
Newbie in America!
Top Ten Plus
What’s happening in the wider RV world and beyond
Happy New Year!
Share your thoughts for the chance to win $50!
The latest Marketplace offers
Our regular update on what’s happening nationally
Relocating with Apollo Rentals
Same country, similar vehicles, very different trip…
Thoughts and tips from a first timer in America
11 Highlights from our USA travels…
What’s coming up and which shows are on soon!
Hosts of Fun Harvest Hosts’ unique RV experience
Resources | 7 resources
because getting them is half the fun...
Missed an Issue? We've got them all saved in one spot for you. Click HERE to view the complete list of back issues.
Missed a road test? No problem! Click HERE to find them all listed by manufacturer. because getting there is half the fun...
Taste of Freedom!
because getting there is half the fun...
Grand Design -
because getting there is half the fun...
because getting there is half the fun...
Esprit de Cor Blimey!
Malcolm Street spends time roaming New Zealand in this compact ex-rental Kea…
Two years on how has the Trakkaway 700 evolved?
Auto-Sleeper’s Malvern is an English motorhome that’s a fine holiday destination in its own right…
Dethleffs ‘baby’ A-class is something to ogle at…
Story and Images by Malcolm Street
Review and images by Richard Robertson
Story and Images by Malcolm Street
Review and images by Malcolm Street
On your mind | 9
Win $50 for the best letter! It’s only fitting that since Ed has his say in On My Mind, you should be able to have yours too. If you have anything to say – or ask – just drop a line to email@example.com and we’ll share it with our readers. We’ll also reward
Cleaning Up! Hi iMotorhome, I found this tip online and tried it on the shower head of our Leisure Seeker, as we seem to spend a lot of time camping in places with really hard water. The tip is, if you can’t easily remove the head for cleaning, fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and secure with a rubber band around the shower head. Let it soak overnight and the vinegar will dissolve the mineral and calcium deposits. I did it for a second night just to be sure and it seemed to work fine. Much better than using nasty chemicals! Thanks, Melinda. Sounds like a great tip, Melinda. Please accept this issue’s $50 prize for your efforts, which I’m sure will keep you in vinegar for quite some time to come. Happy showering!
the most interesting, useful or thoughtful letter each issue with $50 to help you on your way.
10 | On your mind
Hi Richard, re the high-mount microwave issue. Our Winnie Explorer suffers the same problem. My (average height) wife is at eye-level with the floor of our microwave, which is not much help getting hot dishes out! She calls on me to do the duties of dish extraction. We upgraded from a 1500 W inverter to 2000 W, so we can use the microwave while freedom camping, albeit only on low to medium settings and only for short cooking times. Mostly we use it on just reheating of dishes prepared at home and carried in the fridge. Even I, at just a tad below 1.8 m, have commented on the height of microwaves fitted to new motorhomes at the Camping Shows. The sales reps just shrug shoulders and deny responsibility for design and fit-out. We even saw one motorhome home with the (very
Hi Richard, hope you had a great time on your latest US adventure. We are wanting to do the same sort of thing in Canada, or hire a motorhome and combine with house sitting, but imoova.com advertise Canada but never seem to have relocations available, so wonder if you have looked at Canada relocations or hire at any time? We want to stay for up to 3 months so any info you may have would be appreciated as we will need to combine a few different things to be able to afford to stay for this length of time. Love the articles and following your adventures on Facebook, especially the pics from the previous trip. Cheers, Narelle
small) microwave bolted to the ceiling! Even I could not see into it! Evidently the designers fitted everything else, then thought, “Oh, we have to put the microwave in somewhere.” and removed one overhead cupboard to fit it. Crazy. The designers at some motorhome manufacturers should be made to live in their creations for a month - freedom camping - and see if they make some subsequent changes… Regards, Ray. Well said Ray and interesting about the 2000 W inverter. I think it’s a great idea in small doses, as long as your house batteries are in good nick. I’m just over 1.8 m and have also seen some vehicles where I have to look up to see ‘what’s cooking’. Good plan on making designers live in their creations. I think there would be a lot of different motorhomes out there if it happened!
Hi Narelle, thanks and glad you enjoy what we do. Canada is an interesting one and, as you have discovered, there don’t seem to be any delivery/relocation opportunities there despite iMoova’s website saying otherwise. Have you considered El Monte RV’s offer via its Australian agent, as featured in the magazine? They seem to allow up to 35 days, which would give some time to explore Canada’s West at least. Otherwise, just watch iMoova’s US offerings and see if any of them are flexible enough. Sorry I can’t be of any more help, but if I find anything I’ll be sure to let you know. Likewise, please keep me posted if you find anything I can share with our readers.
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12 | On your mind
Hi Richard, best wishes to you and Mrs iMotorhome for the festive season. Thanks for publishing out Top End story last issue! We are in our usual spot at Maroochydore in our Grevillea and enjoying beach life for the 29th time. We have had a lot of fun with the “Elf Yourself” app. It is a cracker and great to find an app that has no bugs, is simple to use and actually furking works! Keep up the good work… look forward to seeing the enhancements to the site and mag.
Maroochydore Christmas was as much fun as ever. Gotta love tradition! We’re looking forward to the enhancements too, which you’ll notice have started in this very issue. More to come, so watch this space!
Cheers, Alan Thanks Alan, appreciate your good wishes and your contributions over the years. Glad you got a laugh from Elf Yourself and hope your 29th
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14 | News
Free Campers Cause Local Anger
ravellers who commandeered a NSW city's waterfront for a grandstand view of last night's New Year's Eve fireworks have angered some locals. Dozens of festive revellers in caravans and motorhomes illegally set up camp on Newcastle's Stockton foreshore for up to a week before the
spectacular display. Local resident Jacqueline Haines told Caravanning News that RVs were allowed to stay on New Year's Eve to enjoy the fireworks. "We have no problem with that, but numerous campers set up well before Christmas," she said. "There are no toilets or facilities so it's not very hygienic." Mrs Haines said caravanners and motorhomers were the main offenders, with 100 or more illegally camped on the entire peninsula. "They have very, very expensive set-ups and can definitely afford to book into a caravan park," she said. "They can't do what they like, there are still rules and regulations that they have to abide by. On this occasion, the council has been very slack dealing with the problem.” From caravanningnews.com
Winnebago Officially Launches in Oz
merica’s Winnebago Industries officially launches its Australian operations this month. Winnebago Australia's chief executive Luke Trouchet and a representative from Winnebago USA will announce the first stage of a new dealer network. They will also unveil Winnebago Minnie™ caravans, along with the 2015 range of Australian-built Winnebago Australia motorhomes at an event to be held at the Melbourne Showgrounds on February 10. Winnebago Industries claims to be the largest RV company in the world. From caravanningnews.com
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16 | News
Web-based Hunter Tourist Drive Launches
mart RVers will be turning to their mobile telephones to enjoy NSW's latest scenic drive. An interactive map designed to integrate with Google Maps on smartphones will help Grey Nomads and other travellers navigate the newly-opened and picturesque 180 km Hunter Valley Way in real-time. Starting at the M1 at Freemans Waterhole in Lake Macquarie and ending at
the Golden Highway in Merriwa, the webbased tourist drive winds through the small towns and villages of the Hunter. Travellers are well catered for along the route, with signs pointing them to caravan parks, RV dump stations and budget or free campsites. From caravanningnews.com
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News | 17
Santos Sponsors Qld Police Safety Campaign
olice vehicles emblazoned with road safety messages will be a regular feature at Queensland's caravan shows this year. The slogans have been partly financed by mining giant Santos as part of the Stay on Track Outback campaign aimed at grey nomads travelling in the State's rugged Outback. Police launched the programme
in 2012 to address local road safety issues following a significant increase in heavy and four-wheel drive vehicles sharing the roads with tourist caravans. Two police utes and a campervan, which will bear the Santos name are for educational purposes and will visit caravan and camping shows to educate travellers on road safety. Police denied claims the $40,000 Santos sponsorship created a conflict of interest. Santos said in a statement it was proud to support a program that "promotes safe driving and is saving lives in outback Australia. From caravanningnews.com
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News | 19
New 303® Range Cleans Up
otorhomers looking to protect their vehicles from the ravages of the Australian sun have a new weapon to consider: The 303® protectant and cleaner range, marketed exclusively in Australian by Trico Products and available from all leading automotive parts outlets. According to Trico the products are easy to apply, never leave a surface glossy or oily, resist the build-up of dirt and mould and provide overall protection against UV attack. “Setting the industry standard for UV protection on virtually any surface, 303® Protectant™ is a product first created for the aviation/aerospace industry to protect rubber and plastics against UV and ozone degradation. Additionally, the 303® range of specialised cleaning products have been designed and formulated to be used on a wide-range of surfaces including all types of rubber, vinyl, plastic, fabric and leather materials, whilst 303® Fabric Guard™ is the recommended fabric protection by Sunbrella, the world’s largest manufacturer of awnings, sail covers, outdoor and indoor furniture, umbrellas and cushion materials,” the company says. Trico claims regular use of 303® Aerospace Protectant™ provides 100% prevention against slow-fade caused by UV exposure. It is nontoxic, silicone free and biodegradable providing long term protection. 303® Aerospace
Protectant™ prevents drying and cracking and keeps rubber, vinyl and plastic items pliable and supple, thus maintaining finish or restoring lost colour and lustre. “Perfect for a quick touch up between polishes is the 303® Speed Detailer™. This product offers an easy, effective and safe way to clean, brighten and protect all painted finishes and hard surfaces on a vehicle. 303® Multi Surface Cleaner™ is a powerful concentrated cleaner delivering spectacular results, even on the heaviest cleaning jobs. It lifts and suspends oil, grease and dirt which can then be easily wiped or rinsed away. For a localised spot cleaning job an additional product in the range, the 303® Spot Cleaner™ can be used to safely remove even the most difficult stains including, oil, ink, grease, wine, dirt and blood on all water safe surfaces including carpet and fabrics. 303® Fabric Guard™ restores lost water and stain repellences to factory new levels. It stops leaks, resists soiling, protects against both water-based and oil-based stains and impedes mildew formation on awnings, tents, umbrella’s, indoor and outdoor upholstery and cushions. 303® is safe for use on the finest fabrics, keeping them looking great and extending their life.” For more information visit the 303 website at: www.303products.com.au or call 1300 698 742.
20 | Freedom of Choice
Freedom of Choice! A
regular feature keeping you in touch with what’s happened and happening in the world of freedom camping in Australia. These stories and more can be found in detail at the Freedom of Choice website, indexed by state and town, while you can also find the latest news and updates on their Facebook page.
7 Dec – Ballarat freedom camp opening a huge success The official opening of Pioneer Park for the twelve month trial went ahead in windy conditions. A large turnout of more than 40 rigs was present to celebrate the event, which was officially opened by the Mayor. There was a large following on social media for the event, too. 1 Dec – C aravan Industry fires broadside at CMCA 8 Dec – Can one believe what they read in the Media? The Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia has copped a caning from Western The following article appeared in the Australia's caravan industry. It came in a The Courier the day after the opening of submission to Esperance shire council the Pioneer Park RV Stop and it is our which was considering a request from the understanding that the reporter never attended 66,000-member club to join its RV Friendly the opening to take the opportunity to speak to Town scheme. the more than 200 people who attended to get This would involve the south-east coastal town a balanced view of the purpose of the site. – population around 10,000 – providing free or 8 Dec – Government plans to reduce ferry budget camping, water, dump point, signage cost to Tasmania and other benefits for travellers. But the More day sailings across Bass Strait will boost Caravan Industry Association Western Australia Tasmania’s appeal as a caravan and camping (CIAWA), which represents 150 caravan parks getaway and bring in more tourist dollars, the and 100 caravan-related businesses, is fiercely Caravan Industry Association of Australia says. opposed to the plan. Caravan park visits in Tasmania rose 17.5 per 3 Dec – An Opinion Piece cent last financial year and the association expects the sector to soar under the TT-Line’s With the debate raging (at least in some new focus. quarters) in WA on whether or not to be RV friendly, we found this blog entry to be most interesting and perceptive from a travellers point of view. We commend the author Jan Hawkins.
Freedom of Choice | 21 11 Dec – Numurka – the debate rages as Town divided over RV Friendly scheme How many times can this debate be repeated across the country? 12 Dec – Locals not content with campers abusing freebie camping Once again the usual caravan parks verses freedom camping debate. 12 Dec – Caravan group calls for action on rest areas. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA NSW) has won key allies in its effort to keep caravanners and other holiday makers from using rest areas as camping grounds. Both the Caravan and Camping Industry Association (CCIA) of NSW and NSW roads minister Duncan Gay have reiterated truck drivers’ need for priority access to the limited spaces, particularly during the holiday season. CCIA NSW president Theo Whitmont says access to rest stops is an important road safety issue for the transport industry. 15 Dec – Motorhomers thank Port Stephens community. CMCA thanks the community after running rally in the town. Interesting figures on benefits to the community. 15 Dec – Australia’s love affair with caravanning and camping Article on the strength of the Australian caravanning and camping industry. 16 Dec – Byron Bay proposes 12 month freedom camping trial Extracted from council minutes. 14-579 Resolved that Council: 1. Commence work on establishing the viability and regulations required to conduct a 12 months trial of a Freedom Camping site or sites within the Shire with an initial Councillor workshop.
2. Identifies an appropriate partner or partners to undertake such a trial through an Expression of Interest process. 3. Include in the proposed trial (after the initial workshop) the following elements: a) Statistical collection and analysis of demand and usage; b) Monitoring and evaluation of the trial; c) Identification of the positive benefits and/or challenges in operating a Freedom Camping site; and d)Recommendations regarding the continuation or future operation of Freedom Camping sites within the Shire. (Spooner/Richardson) 17 Dec – RV Production stats show industry growth Australian RV production statistics released by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia tell a story of recovery and growth in the Australian auto-manufacturing sector. 18 Dec – Merriwa now RV Friendly Merriwa has just been officially recognised as a caravan and recreational vehicle (RV) friendly town. Upper Hunter Shire councillor Ron Campbell is delighted Merriwa has just become an official “RV” Friendly Town. Receiving an RV Friendly rating is not only good for travellers but great for local business, according to Upper Hunter Shire councillor and Merriwa Tourism Committee chairman Ron Campbell. 19 Dec – Hunter Valley Tourist Map on Smartphones “For too long valuable tourist groups like the grey nomads have been ignored and this is our chance to grab some of that market.”
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24 | USA Rental Relocation
Relocating with Apollo Rentals
A rental relocation is a great way to motorhome with minimal expense… by Richard Robertson
ental relocations have been around for a few years now and in Issue 28 we detailed where and how to grab a rental relocation bargain in Australia, New Zealand or America. The basic premise is that rental companies need to relocate vehicles between depots (or deliver them from the factory) according to seasonal demand and offering deals is cheaper than paying staff or using trucks. A rental relocation can be a great introduction to motorhoming for the uninitiated and can also provide experienced motorhomers with a holiday they couldn't otherwise afford. In 2013 we found our special deal through the imoova.com website but in 2014 went straight to the horses mouth – Apollo
Rentals. The Apollo website lists its own relocation opportunities across the same three destinations and last January announced dates, details and costings for the 2014 USA ‘migration’ of brand-new motorhomes from the factory to its various rental depots. Once again featuring departure opportunities across five months (Mar-Jul) there was some big changes in store; namely a change of manufacturer from Fleetwood to Winnebago, the removal of the daily rental charge and an increase from 14 to 18 in the number of nights to complete the journey. Changing manufacturers meant a change of pickup location, but Winnebago’s hometown of Forest City, Iowa, proved rather more challenging to get to.
USA Rental Relocation | 25
Facts, Figures – and Foist?
n 2013 we travelled in April but for 2014 decided to try May, hoping for warmer weather as we intended travelling much further north. Each delivery month has a one week departure window; usually the first full working week of the month. Once again there was a US$500 booking deposit, which was refunded on pickup, and once again it was replaced by US$1000 security deposit which itself was refunded upon delivery of the vehicle in undamaged condition to its destination rental depot. I had initially thought the removal of the daily rental charge was a great move likely brought about by the increased expense/difficulty of
getting to the Winnebago factory. However, upon pickup we discovered Apollo had changed the insurance requirements. In 2013 there was no specific insurance required, just the US$1000 bond that any claim would be ducted from. This time we could choose to do the same thing, but a new clause in the rental contract meant that if we’d had an accident – even if not our fault – and the motorhome was off the road for repairs, we’d be liable to also cover the cost of those days at the applicable daily rental rate at that time. However, for ‘just’ US$15 a day we could reduce the maximum liability to US$500 (half the security deposit) and eliminate the daily off-road repair charge. I was annoyed this new insurance option, which really was essential to take, wasn’t detailed up front. But in reality it was still a good deal.
26 | USA Rental Relocation Another charge I didn’t remember from 2013 was the US$3 a day extra driver fee so Mrs iMotorhome could take over if I did something stupid (like crack a rib?) or just wanted a drive. What I did remember was the US$.45 a mile charge for distance covered in excess of the ‘free’ 2500 mile allowance. The direct route from the Winnebago factory to Apollo Rentals’ depot in Hawthorne (Los Angeles), California, was 1819 miles, so it was quite doable. Depending on availability, other Apollo Rental depot destinations include San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and (I think) Denver.
Problems & Solutions
ur factory-fresh Winnebagos both suffered problems that had the potential to derail our travels. Ours pumped water out the mains inlet connector whenever the water pump was on, while our companion’s had a fridge that stopped working on LPG, which is the only fuel it uses when not plugged into mains power. Repeated calls to Apollo’s 24/7 help line were met by an answering machine that promised they’d call us right back, but to this day we’re still waiting. I cured our water problem by sourcing a screw cap from an RV supplies store for about $3 and eventually found it was a dud spring in the inlet’s one-way valve. The fridge was fixed
about halfway through the trip by a mobile repair specialist who came to us in the RV park in Durango, Colorado. Turns out the igniter was too far from the LPG gas stream and all was rectified for about US$80, which was refunded at the end of the trip. Unimpressed by the lack of support, I gave Apollo an email earful when we were home and received a call to explain what had gone wrong. It seems some genius had put a divert on the emergency support number that nobody knew about, so nobody checked the messages. I’m ASSURED it’s all okay now and the number is live 24/7. I’m sure it is!
espite my insurance and services grumbles I’d still recommend an Apollo Rentals USA delivery run to anyone looking to experience a great American road trip. It’s affordable, comfortable and a lot of fun. Just be sure to pack your sense of humour and an extra dose of patience when picking up and dropping off. Arrive as early as you can in both instances and allow about half a day for each. Hopefully you'll be through much quicker, but take a book in case you arrive just after a coach load of excited Germans all vying to be first to the check-in counter. We just missed them, fortunately!
Who: Apollo Rentals What: 2014 USA factory delivery program When: March-July How long: 18 nights How far: 2500 miles allowed. US$.45c/mile excess.
USA Rental Relocation | 27
How Much: No rental charge, US$15/day insurance (recommended), US$3/day extra driver (recommended). Hint: Donâ€™t buy the toilet roll/toilet chemical pack offered at pick-up, itâ€™s much cheaper at Walmart, in the auto section.
28 | USA Travel
Second Time Around!
Same country, similar vehicles, very different tripâ€Ś by Richard Robertson
USA Travel | 29
Stopped for a play in the snow at 10,000 ft, crossing the Rockies in Colorado. Meanwhile, Jan & Mrs iM couldn’t resist playing with the merchandise in one of Wall Drug’s many gift shops. Nice hats…
n 2013 we motorhomed for the first time in the USA, following Route 66 pretty much all the way from Chicago to LA. It was our first US rental relocation experience and we enjoyed it so much that 13 months later we were back. In fact we couldn’t wait!
experiences, traversing America by motorhome beckoned like a Wild West adventure. It was my hope that upon completion they would feel like they'd starred in a John Wayne blockbuster, not some sad spaghetti western.
Learning from that first trip, we travelled one month later in the year to try – unsuccessfully as it turned out – to avoid the vagaries of spring weather. We also took our friends Jan and Andrew with us, having regaled them over dinners with our Route 66 stories (although I also suspect they came along as much to try and protect us from ourselves). Motorhoming newbies with Eurocentric travel tastes and
All Change hey say the only thing constant is change and for our second rental relocation/ delivery experience with Apollo Rentals that change was in our pickup location. In the intervening year Apollo had switched suppliers and for 2014 was sourcing new vehicles from Winnebago instead of Fleetwood. Both manufacturers are major players in the
30 | USA Travel On the road from Minneapolis in Minnesota, to collect our motorhomes in Forest City, Iowa. Andrew had driven the car from Chicago the previous day and we’d rendezvoused in Minneapolis for an overnight stay before heading south. Even at 6 am the northbound traffic was heavy.
American RV scene, yet as I’ve come to learn is common practice in the United States, both are situated in small, out-of-the-way towns. Winnebago’s hometown of Forest City, Iowa, proved even more difficult to reach than Fleetwood’s base in Decatur, Indiana; a situation aggravated by the only airline servicing the closest airport (in Mason City, some 30 miles away) withdrawing services after we booked our tickets! Despite the challenges we cobbled together a plan. Andrew is a great rail travel buff and booked a scheduled three-day Amtrak service from San Francisco to Chicago, overnighting in the Windy City to catch an Aretha Franklin concert before renting a car and driving half a day west to meet us. We stayed with friends just outside LA for a few days before flying to Minneapolis to meet Jan and Andrew – hereafter known as the Purls for reasons I’ll explain later. Setting off bright and early on the morning of our rental pickup we drove 130odd miles virtually due south
USA Travel | 31
We stayed with friends just outside LA for a few days before flying to Minneapolis. from Minneapolis, arriving at the designated pickup point just after opening time and, fortunately, before two coach loads of other renters arrived.
he organisation required by Apollo Rentals and Winnebago to coordinate and dispatch 300-400 new
motorhomes is handled with something approaching military precision. Deliveries are staggered over five months, commencing in February, and pickups occur in the first full working week of each of those months. Apollo sends a team of staff for each week to process the paperwork, allocate vehicles and wave everyone goodbye.
Massive as it is, Hoover dam is a speck on the vast waterway formed by the daming of the Colorado River. This was the view as we flew east and only about a quarter of the whole system. This year seemed slightly less organised; either that or the Apollo team was more relaxed. The pickup process seemed quicker and we were soon out on the line to collect our motorhomes. Vehicle presentation on pickup was disappointing compared to the previous year, with wood chips/sawdust and more than a few loose screws littering
32 | USA Travel America is a military-focused nation and old hardware is everywhere – like theses retired US Airforce Thunderbirds’ T38 Talons from the 1980s that have become a roadside attraction just outside Minneapolis. Below: The backroads of Wyoming: steeped in Cowboy and Indian history and largely untravelled, they make for excellent touring…
and rolling around the floor, and continuing to appear for days afterwards. With bags transferred it was time to drop the rental car off at Mason City Airport and hit the road.
Knit One Purl One…
ot only was this the Purl’s first time at motorhoming in America, it was our first time motorhoming with friends. To make life easier on the road we took hand-held
CBs and soon came up with the call signs of Knit One and Purl One. This was because Mrs iMotorhome and Jan spent much of their travel time knitting squares that make up into charity blankets sent to Africa. Being the lead vehicle we were the Knits, which seems strangely appropriate I thought… It didn’t take me long to reacquaint myself with the size, performance and handling
USA Travel | 33 Bear fact: Australiaâ€™s own Westfield is a familiar sight, especially in California.
34 | USA Travel
Touring the no-photos-allowed Winnebago factory after picking up our motorhomes. Our factory-fresh Minnie Winnies proved comfortable, though not entirely trouble free. characteristics of a big American C-class. Andrew, a licensed heavy vehicle driver in Australia, certainly had his work cut out adapting quickly to the totally new driving experience. Fortunately he was more than up to the task and in no time was juggling the driving, incessant radio chatter (I blame our passengers entirely) and the job of following us following TomTom.
Lives of our Days
entals in America are based on the number of nights booked, not 24-hour periods from when you pick the vehicle
up. We had 18 nights (19 days) to make our way to Los Angeles and I’d planed a northerly route across South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, retracing parts of an epic road trip Mrs IM and I did by rental car 14 years earlier. The first few days involved some long, tiring drives as I sought to get a day or two up our sleeve and at one stage Mrs IM remarked she was surprised the Purls hadn’t mutinied and decided to make their own way west! We were, however, soon into the familiar rhythm of life on the road and it didn’t take long for our travelling companions to fall in love with motorhoming. We quickly developed the
USA Travel | 35 Top to bottom: Howdy partners! All aboard the covered wagon at Wall drug. Al fresco dinner in the campground atop Mesa Verde. Overnight spring snow at Naked Winery in Hill City, South Dakota. Time travel: Much of the Wild West is alive, well and open for tourist business. routine of breakfasting with them, lunching in either vehicle and having drinks and dinner in ours. We shopped together, sightseed (saw?) together, ate together, drank together and laughed together; and in our 19 days on the road there wasn’t a cross word between us – although there were plenty of crosswords. In fact it became something of an afternoon ritual to help Mrs Purl finish her crossword via the CB as the miles rolled past. The weather caught us out in Wyoming when a severe spring snowstorm swept across the Rockies and put paid to plans to spend a couple of nights in Yellowstone National Park. Instead, we hunkered down in the Walmart car park in Casper, Wyoming, where we sat out Mother’s Day and tried to come to terms with news from home a friend had lost her battle with depression that very day. We felt a long way from home and it was good to have friends so close by.
ur 2014 rental relocation adventure was very different to our Route 66 travels just a year earlier, and in many ways more enjoyable. Or maybe it was just more ‘us’? We both fell back in love with the vast open spaces, rolling hills and sparse population of Wyoming and Montana. We also had our breath taken away – quite literally – by the unrelenting grandeur of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. There we spent about a week above 6500 ft elevation and summited 4 passes above 10,000 ft and one above 11,000 ft, enjoying scenery Australia simply can’t offer. To find out more about the highlights of this trip read my USA Top 10 elsewhere in this issue.
36 | USA Travel
The snow covered Rockies guard the western flank of Wyoming. Excellent roads seem to carry relatively little traffic, even on the freeways. It’s a traveller’s paradise, with good free camping opportunities. From a motorhoming point of view there turns out to be precious little difference between Winnebagos and Fleetwoods. Both are built to a price using traditional methods and while a bit agricultural by Australian standards seem to go the distance, both as rental vehicles and in their post-rental life. What made a huge difference this trip was the ability for Mrs IM and myself to use our phones as normal for just $5 a day extra through Vodafone’s Red Plan. It allowed us to call ahead to check RV Park availability, book tours, call back to Australia or have people at home call us for a set, nominal extra cost. We also used our phones’ data allowances for email, GPS directions and even hot-spotting to help
produce Issue 48 of this magazine from the RV park in Durango, Colorado. Did the Purls enjoy themselves? They’ve signed up for a second round, should we decide to venture back in 2015, so it couldn’t have been too bad. Will we head back? Time will tell. We were fortunate to have the Australian dollar above parity with the Greenback during our travels; a position from which it has since fallen some 20 per cent in value and is likely to continue heading down from. The increased costs might see us sit 2015 out, but there’s no doubt we’ll be back at some stage. RVing in America gets you like that – no matter how many times you’ve been around.
We fell in love with the open spaces and rolling hills of Wyoming.
USA Travel | 37 Useful Websites
A small selection of websites with useful trip information, apps and more.
Hema USA Road Atlas - A$9.99: Just like a paper road atlas but with GPS tracking.
Americaâ€™s Byways: www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways
TomTom USA-Canada - A$24.99: On sale! Turn-by-turn GPS with lifetime map updates.
Driving Route 66: www.drivingroute66.com
Wikicamps USA - A$1.29: A crowd-sourced database of campsites, RV parks & more.
Frugal RV Travel: www.frugal-rv-travel.com
Allstays ONP Walmart - US$2.99: Lists and maps all Walmart stores for overnight parking.
Allstays Truck & Travel - US$9.99: Gas stations and dump points across North America.
US National Parks Service: www.nps.gov/index.htm
Allstays Camp & RV - US$9.99: A huge guide to campsites and RV parks. Allstays RV Care Network - Free: RV service centres if youâ€™re in your own vehicle. Priceline - Free: Shows accommodation with prices on a zoomable map. Can also book.
Though nowhere near as prolific as when we first toured America by car in 2000, there are still large animals to be seen roaming freely. Just be careful they are careless pedestrians.
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Be sure to stop and smell the roses, sample the cheese and drink the wine! Afternoon drinks at Reeder Mesa Winery, Whitewater, Colorado.
he huge Rand McNally road atlas is a great reference and back-up should electronics let you down. Available at truck stops, gas stations and book stores, don’t travel without it.
e primarily self-catered, shopping at Walmarts for fresh food, groceries and even wine every 2-3 days. Walmart has a range of excellent quality precooked beef, pork and chicken that only needs reheating. Combined with a tub of pre-made plain mashed potato and a bag or two of fresh mixed veggies (carrots/broccoli/peas or similar) steamed in the microwave, it was easy and quick to get a healthy meal on the table within 20 mins of making camp in the evening.
If you like good coffee buy a bodem plus some good quality ground coffee, available at Walmart or Starbucks. For coffee on the go we bought two travelling cups from Starbucks that we refilled at a discount whenever a Starbucks presented itself. We also brought the bodem and travelling cups home, just because we could. For pure drinking water while you’re driving and to make tea and coffee, buying bulk packs of small bottles at Walmart proved the most convenient and cost effective, if not the most ecologically friendly. Stay away from ‘proper’ restaurants in America; they cost a comparative arm and a leg and will usually make you go to the bar first for drinks even if the place is empty. When eating out on a budget, look for the better/healthier fastfood outlets like Chipotle, which serve excellent fresh-made Mexican style food – and also a decent margarita!
USA Travel | 39 Sundowners, Walmart carpark, Rifle, Colorado: The Purls quickly embraced this time honoured RV tradition, even though Mrs iM had trouble keeping the iPad camera level. Cheers!
Travel Costs in US$ Hereâ€™s a breakdown of travel expenses for Mr & Mrs iMotorhome, excluding international airfares: Fuel (3323 miles/5348 km): $1164.73 Excess milage (823 miles @ $0.45)
Insurance & extra driver ($18 x 18 nights):
RV parks & pre-tour hotel $ 565.28 Entry fees inc National Parks pass
Airfares - Los Angeles to Minneapolis (approx)
Specials - Helicopter, railway & Mesa Verde tours
Misc - rentals cars, show tickets, etc
Food inc meals out, wine and pre/post tour dining
Total in US$: $6762.48
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Little Big Horn, Montana Casper, Wyoming
Whitewater, Colorado Mesa Verde, Colorado
Spearfish, South Dakota
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Hill City, South Dakota Presho, South Dakota Forest City, Iowa
Rifle, Colorado Buena Vista, Colorado
Durango, Colorado Tuba City, Arizona Grand Canyon Village, Arizona Los Angeles, California
Las Vegas, Nevada Quartz Hills, California
Personalise your journey... Last year we celebrated our 40th anniversary manufacturing Australiaâ€™s most beautiful recreational vehicles. This year we are looking forward. In 2015 we are excited to release 3 new models on new chassisâ€™, including the grandest motorhome to leave our production facility. We are investing in our customer support with new team members and resources to ensure our Sunliner customers, new and old, feel the same care and attention that we invest in our motorhomes. We have several new projects including our new website release and the introductinon of a new Sunliner Online Community. We look forward to meeting and sharing with you our beautiful motorhomes and campervans throughout the year at the Camping and Caravan Shows, at our dealerships and online.
42 | Guest Feature
e i b New ! a c i r e m A in Thoughts and tips from a first time motorhomer in Americaâ€Ś by Jan Berry
Guest Feature | 43
hen the topic was mooted over dinner one night that Andrew and I might like to travel across America in a motorhome with our friends and neighbours Mr & Mrs iMotorhome, I was hesitant to say the least. I did not start travelling until well into my adult years and then it was to Europe, in particular Italy. America was never on my wish list. I’m a homey kind of girl; love creating in my garden and had never considered a holiday of this type. I have never camped or ‘roughed it’, even as a kid, and knew nothing of RV holidays. Andrew was rearing to go, but I didn’t want to be a fly in the ointment, so I quietly researched and considered the proposition carefully. I read stories in iMotorhome eMagazine – in particular the trip our friends had done in 2013 along Route 66 – and became keen to do something similar. My only experience of America was a quick trip many years ago to a couple of big cities, which really did not whet my appetite for more. However, reading about the geography
and diversity of America changed my view. The four of us had many discussions over meals together and the route we would take was planned, bookings made and we were on our way. Andrew and I flew to Los Angeles and then drove to San Francisco to catch an Amtrak train to Chicago. I really enjoyed the train journey; the service was great and the scenery was beautiful, especially through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. The observation car was a lovely way to see everything and to meet people who had much to offer. The spring weather was beautiful and the trees were shooting fresh new green leaves. We crossed into Iowa where there was a lot of crop farming and across the Mississippi River into Illinois and Chicago. After a night in Chicago we drove to Minneapolis on very good Interstates and through a section of Wisconsin that was much wooded in parts. There was also a lot of crop farming, mostly maize, which is sold to make ethanol.
44 | Guest Feature Left: Just part of the parking lot full of new Winnebagos destined for Apollo Rentals. We travelled light and took soft bags, which were easily stored once unpacked. Self catering was the key to eating well while avoiding foods laden with fat and salt, and providing time for a casual evening drink! Bottom L to R: On the road, America is full of destination choices, while tourist information abounds.
On the Road
e picked up the motorhomes at the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa, and had a tour of the factory before heading to Sioux City for provisions. I was hooked! The van was new but stark, with drab furnishings, although I realised they are built for heavy use and soft colours do not make sense. It was a four person van, obviously for two adults and two children, who would buckle up at the dining table by day and sleep in the bed over the cab at night. Our bed was queen size and very comfortable,
with a hanging robe and two drawers either side for clothes. We unpacked and stowed the bags in the hold. The bathroom was tiny, to be expected, but adequate, with a shower, basin and toilet and a cupboard to stow toilet bags. We learned it is important to lock everything away to prevent things rolling about on bends in the road. Same applies to the kitchen accoutrements. We cooked most meals with absolute ease. Having a fridge and a freezer was great when buying supplies and a little pre-planning is a good idea for shopping for future meals. We found Walmart ideal for a couple of reasons.
Guest Feature | 45
I really enjoyed dining in the motorhome. We would have drinks and nibbles at dusk either outside or in, depending on the weather, before dining on our home made food.
46 | Guest Feature
Top: Self-catering is most beneficial in an RV (because) Americans eat too much sugar and fat. Left: Shopping in big stores such as Walmart, Target or membership-based Costco is easy and the variety of produce is huge. One was to stock up on good healthy, fresh food and secondly to stay the night in the car park if we were unable to get to a serviced site. Most Walmarts are perfectly happy with the arrangement and we felt safe due to their security service patrolling the area. Self-catering is most beneficial in an RV because despite the fact that Americans eat too much sugar and fat, the need for lighter, fresher,
easy digestible foods is important when sitting a lot of the day in a vehicle. Heavy takeout meals are best avoided. I really enjoyed dining in the motorhome. We would have drinks and nibbles at dusk either outside or in, depending on the weather, before dining on our home made food. Shopping in big stores such as Walmart, Target or membership-based Costco is easy and the variety of produce is huge.
Guest Feature | 47 Top to bottom: Snow place like America! 14,500 ft (4420 m) mountains for a dramatic backdrop to the Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy. The crest of Monarch Pass, where we drove above 11,000 ft (3353 m), and whiteout on the road to Casper, Wyoming.
Surprise and Delight
was incredibly surprised at how comfortable I was living for three weeks in a motorhome. I enjoyed travelling at the elevated height, as opposed to a car, and the seats were quite supportive of my unpredictable back. Best of all was being able to stop and overlook a pretty vista for a cup of coffee or lunch and to stretch our legs. So much to see and learn! Each evening was planned to be in either an RV park to connect to power and water or a free site or a Walmart car park. There we would cook a lovely meal and enjoy it with a glass of wine. Whatever the weather â€“ and it varied enormously â€“ we were comfortable. The heating was most effective, as was the cooling. Considering we drove through a howling blizzard and a blinding dust storm we were able to enjoy seeing these changes without any discomfort. One thing I did learn was that
48 | Guest Feature Sioux Falls Park has a terrific visitors’ centre with a tower that provides a spectacular view. The falls are right in town and make an interesting juxtaposition with the surrounding ’civilisation’.
comfort is paramount when travelling in this way. And for a newbie, I did quite well. Layered clothing, comfortable shoes and a scarf and jacket for the cold stops served me well. I did not do any driving and Andrew was more than happy to do so. One thing we did comment on was the considerate way in which Americans drive on the major and secondary roads. They indicate in time, pass and merge effectively and the truck drivers do the same. Their road manners impressed us very much.
ne place I will never forget was Sioux Falls Park in South Dakota, which was very picturesque and serene. We moved onto a place called Mitchell, where it was icy cold and difficult to find a cup of coffee that wasn’t loaded with vanilla or some other very sweet syrup. Never mind, the place to see with disbelief was the Corn Palace. The entire facade is made up of various designs using five colours of corn cobs. “Only in America”! It is redone every year at a cost of $130,000 because the
I will never forget Sioux Falls Park in South Dakota.
Guest Feature | 49 Top: The World’s “onlyest” Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota, is covered in corn cob designs that are replaced every year after the birds eat them. Bottom: Coffee is still 5c a cup at Wall Drug – and tastes like it. Just sayin’!
birds eat it. Not kidding. Why wouldn’t they? I must add that the information board told us that the Corn Palace “Is the onlyest one in the world.” I believe it! My next jaw dropping experience was driving in the Badlands in South Dakota. This landscape has to be seen to be believed. There is a town in Badlands called Wall and the star of this town is Wall Drug Store. Opened in 1931 I don’t think it has changed much since – and coffee is still 5c a cup! I was keen to see the Grand Canyon later in our trip but I found the Badlands quite extraordinary for its most unusual topography. I loved seeing the prairie dogs sitting atop their burrows; however, I did hear later that they are a menace to soya bean farmers because they find their crop a delicacy. Antelopes wander along the roadside totally oblivious of cars with cameras hanging out of the window!
50 | Guest Feature
Cheese tasting at Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy. They had some interesting styles and the prices were very reasonable. Well worth a visit, just be sure to catch a milking – it’s hilarious. Along this route we enjoyed a night with a Harvest Host at a wine cellar. We were offered overnight parking in their car park in the hope we would taste their wines. No problem there – we came away with our supply! We woke to snow and travelled to nearby Mt Rushmore, which we had seen in geographic magazines and television, but there was nothing like seeing the real thing. The Presidents appeared to be crying as the snow drifted over their faces and melted. Spectacular! The Crazy Horse Monument was the next stop and for me, equally spectacular. As you can gather, I was hooked.
Jumpin’ Good Stays!
e stayed at another Harvest Host called “Jumpin Good Goat Dairy” (only in America!), which was a working goat dairy making various cheeses. It had a slight Ma and Pa Kettle feel about it but the owners were very welcoming and hospitable. We enjoyed their cheeses after watching the owner making feta. Another Harvest Host we enjoyed was Reeder Mesa Wines, owned by a father and son. Their red wines were excellent.
Another highlight was driving into a very pretty town in Colorado called Durango, altitude 6500 ft, which is known by professional I enjoyed Wyoming for its ranch style environment and saw quite a bit of development cyclists for its great altitude training pre the big European tours. It has a historic railway link occurring. There is coal-seam gas exploration to a picturesque town called Silverton and we going on so maybe that is the reason for the all enjoyed the steam train trip, which took a housing estates cropping up. The Rockies couple of hours. I would very much like to visit were coming into view, but Yellowstone was these two towns again and stay awhile… closed due to heavy snow falls (guess we’ll have to save it for another trip). The Rockies we Visiting the four corners was another highlight. managed to drive through looked like fairyland, It’s where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and with soft powdery snow settled on the fir and Utah meet and it is fun to have a photograph aspen trees. It really was absolute picture taken straddling all four States. This area of New postcard beauty! Mexico is very dry and barren and the wind was
The guided Palace walk at Mesa Verde was truly amazing. So little has changed in the centuries since the Pueblo people left and one can only wonder at their ingenuity in building these cliff-side settlements. blowing a gale, with sand flying across the road making it hard for the guys to drive at times. This is what I mean by diversity.
Back in Time
ur friends had visited a place called Mesa Verde many years prior, but had not been on the tour of the actual â€œcity.â€? Mesa Verde is in its own National Park in South West Colorado and was settled by the Pueblo people. It is a living legacy that has been preserved since 1906 to safeguard these cliff dwellings of prehistoric cultural significance. It is truly breathtaking.
Guest Feature | 51
52 | Guest Feature The Grand Canyon is a well known tourist destination and it does not fail to deliver. To make the most of it we took a helicopter flight and the five people aboard did not speak, because our jaws were agape. A wonder of the world? What could beat it? A stop we had to have was at Road Kill Cafe on Route 66. Yes, only in America. My preconceived notion was maybe a bit grubby, even hick, but to my surprise it was spotlessly clean and the service typically American. It was also the first time I have drunk a Pepsi from a jar â€“ but l added that to my list of experiences! Mind you, the name is quite different from the food, which was very good. As a school child I had learned about the construction of the Hoover Dam and the political chaos it created at the time, but to see it is incredible. It is vast â€“ and what an engineering feat. It is open in the evening, which would be spectacular with lighting highlighting the huge structures. Our last leg was into Las Vegas, and what can I say? Maybe I will just say it was eye opening, but fun. A must do once in a lifetime. We stayed in a very good RV park at Circus Circus Casino, which was very conveniently situated to the strip. Our trip ended in Los Angeles and I enjoyed the day we had there. Again, this is a city full of contradictions. I came back from this holiday in a state of fulfilment. I enjoyed every day for different reasons and I really do believe that we hear a lot of negatives about America that are unwarranted. It is a great country to visit and to enjoy the culture, the geography and the people. I was not disappointed and would go back again to see the east coast as I believe that is quite different and beautiful. Whether from helicopter or rim-side lookout, the Grand Canyon is spectacular beyond words and and an absolute must-see.
Guest Feature | 53
The new bridge in front of Hoover Dam. It soars more than 800 ft (250 m) above the Colorado River and provides spectacular views of the dam and its surrounds. Truly amazing!
54 | Guest Feature
am always hesitant to recommend anything to people because it so often comes back to bite me. Recommending a movie and then being told it was rubbish – same with a restaurant – has stunted my enthusiasm growth! However, I am going to recommend this mode of travel for a holiday and I say to the uninitiated: put it on your bucket list, but towards the top and you will be as hooked as I am. Just sayin’! P.S. Our holiday was made extra special having well travelled and experienced friends who made the trip so easy for us. They were tour guides extraordinaire. Thank you, Mr & Mrs iMotorhome!
Four Corners is where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet and you can stand in all four States at once – if you’re nimble!
Guest Feature | 55
Hints for first time rental motorhome travellersâ€Ś 1. Plan each day the night before. If travelling in convoy, be aware of your fellow travellers and consider departure times, etc. 2. Plan meals in advance. Make a list and get as many provisions as possible to avoid unwanted stops.
7. Toilet deodoriser is a good idea in a confined space! 8. Converter plugs for your appliances and technology if applicable. 9. You might like to buy an extra pillow (and cases) for sitting up in bed to read and planning the next day! Also, buy a few extra cheap tea towels â€“ and a cheap broom.
3. Purchase a few cheap storage containers and zip lock bags for food in the fridge, especially leftovers. We found a simple plastic 10. Take small size shampoos, etc, because steamer for vegetables very handy. space is limited. 4. Purchase rubber gloves for dumping waste 11. Comfortable soft slippers are a great idea and store them in the hold with the hoses. for evenings. Comfort is paramount! 5. A bath mat is a good idea, plus buy an extra 12. Pack clothes into soft bags as they are pair of towels from Walmart. more manoeuvrable in the confined space. 6. Coat hangers are not supplied. I suggest Unpack and stow the bags away on the wire ones so that you can bend the hook first day. to prevent them falling off the rail whilst travelling.
56 | Travel
Plus! Because every trip has its highlightsâ€Ś by Richard Robertson
Travel | 57
Helicopter joy flights over the Grand Canyon are big business. Be sure to fly early for the smoothest conditions – and fingers crossed for the front seat (below). The view is spectacular! Click for Google Maps
There’s a Top 10 for everything, except perhaps Top 10s. So it seemed fitting to create what might be the World’s first Top Eleven and bring your the highlights of our travels. We could have added more but really, a Top 14 or more would just be ridiculous. In no particular order here’s what we loved this time around…
Papillon Helicopters, Grand Canyon Airport.
Air Heads! To get a big picture of the Grand Canyon you really need to see it from the air. There are flights in fixed-wing aircraft, but nothing matches the view from a helicopter. The Papillon Helicopters’ tour we did is an out-and-back loop that takes you at low level across woodlands before bursting over the edge and traversing the Canyon’s width in a spectacular arc. It’s a jaw-dropping, gobsmacking, experience everyone should try at least once.
Seats are allocated on occupant weight and there are usually five passengers per flight. Hope like hell you get the front seat, although every seat provides a spectacular view. Hint: Fly early as strong winds are common and can make the ride unpleasant. Fortunately, helicopters ride more smoothly in turbulence as the blades act like springs to dampen the bumps.
Price guide: From approx $195.00 pp for 30 minutes. Address: Papillon Heliport. Highway 64, Grand Canyon Airport, Grand Canyon, Arizona. 86023. park/helicopter-air-tours/north-canyon-tour
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History’s Tracks Railway buffs and those who just love a great day out won’t want to miss this. Opened in 1882 the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway line between bustling Durango (elevation 6500 ft) and the mining outpost of Silverton (elevation 9,200 ft) worked as a goods and passenger line, taking supplies and passenger ‘up the hill’ and returning laden with silver and gold ore. The track closely follows the river and in places is wedged between a sheer rock face and the raging waters below. Traversing fir-tree lined valleys rimmed with 14,000 ft snow capped peaks and including all the romance of early steam travel, this is a not-to-be-missed experience. A range of travel classes and experiences are offered, including packages with rafting and Jeep tour options in summer. The train runs year-round, but in winter only makes it about half way before heading back to Durango due to the snow. From May to October the line is fully open and you can choose half or full-day trips, returning by coach or the train, respectively. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway & Museum, Colorado. Price guide: From approx $85 return pp (full day) Address: 479 Main Ave, Durango, CO. 81301.
Click for Google Maps
Nice Mesa! Located atop a remote mesa (flattopped hill/mountain) in the south western corner of Colorado, Mesa Verde – now a national park – was home to generations of Ancestral Pueblo people from about 600 to 1300 AD. The park now protects nearly 5000 known archaeological sites, including some 600 remarkable cliff-face dwellings.
Travel | 59
You could spend days at Mesa Verde. We only had time for an overnight stay in the campground on top of the mountain, and a half-day ranger-guided tour of various archeological sites spanning the occupation period that culminated in a visit to the so-called Cliff Palace. The walk down to/up from the Cliff Palace was challenging in places, but to stand in the vast rock cavern which, centuries ago, an ancient people had constructed precision dwellings that still stand largely unaided was simply breathtaking. Tours and schedules change with the seasons, so check online before arrival or at the impressive visitorsâ€™ centre at the parkâ€™s entrance. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Click for Google Maps
Price Guide: $10-15 per vehicle for 7 days (National Parks passes accepted). Tour costs about $40 pp, but tours start from as little as $4 pp. Address: M esa Verde National Park. CO. Web: www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm
60 | Travel
Monumental… Perhaps the World’s most iconic mountain sculpture, Mt Rushmore – featuring the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln – towers over an equally impressive visitors’ centre in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Spring snows and leaden skies kept many tourists away the day of our visit, but added a suitably respectful solemnity. The Crazy Horse Memorial, not far from Mt Rushmore, is lesser known (especially internationally) but dwarf’s the stony Presidents in scale and sheer ambition. Started by one man in 1948 and still decades from completion, the Crazy Horse Memorial is the work of generations dedicated to honouring Native Americans by carving a whole mountain into a truly monumental work of art. Mostly obscured by snow and low cloud the day of our visit, the Memorial centre is open every Click for day and an absolute must-see. Google Maps Mt Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota. Price Guide: MR - Free admission but pay for parking. About $10 for a motorhome. Address: 1 3000 S Dakota 244, Keystone, SD 57751, United States Web: www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm
Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota. Price Guide: $11 per person. Address: 1 2151 Avenue of the Chiefs. Crazy Horse, SD 57730 Web: crazyhorsememorial.org/
Click for Google Maps
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The Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy has delicious cheeses and other local products. It’s also a Harvest Host property, where members can free camp overnight. Just be sure the weather’s warm as at 7200 ft (2195 m) altitude it cools down at night!
Say Cheese! A working goat farm and dairy about 7200 ft up in the Colorado Rockies and ringed by 14,000ft peaks, the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy is a terrific place to get up close (but not too personal) to some of the friendliest goats you’ll ever meet. You can watch the regular milkings and have all your goat questions answered, plus watch a range of cheeses being hand made right in front of you. The small farmgate shop is a great place to sample and buy a range of their fresh cheese, plus a good variety of other locally sourced treats, both savoury and sweet. The Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy is also a Harvest Host location, where members can stay overnight without charge.
Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy, Colorado.
Click for Google Maps
Price Guide: Free Address: 31700 U.S. 24 Buena Vista, CO 81211 Web: www.jumpingoodgoats.com/Home. html
62 | Travel
Bad As… A Remote and almost other-worldly, the South Dakota Badlands is a striking geological formation that’s also home to one of the World’s richest fossil deposits. Once the province of sabre-toothed tigers and other ancient mammals, it’s now roamed by tourists on foot, in cars, on bikes and in motorhomes – each awed by the Badlands’ natural beauty. We drove through in a couple of hours, stopping for a roadside lunch, but an overnight stay would have been terrific. Being a National Park camping places are restricted, but well managed, and in the early morning and late afternoon it would be a photographers paradise. Watch for bighorn sheep lazing on impossible rock ledges and prairie dogs busying themselves around huge networks of burrows. Click for Google Maps
Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Price Guide: $15 per vehicle for 7 days (National Parks passes accepted). Address: I90, South Dakota. Web: www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm
The breathtaking Badlands National Park, South Dakota, isn’t a poor man’s Grand Canyon; it’s a unique destination in its own right that’s far more accessible and just as interesting.
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Silent Witness Site of Custer’s famous Last Stand, the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana is much more than a tribute to one man’s egotistical folly. Today is remembers both the US Army’s 7th Cavalry members and the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors who lost their lives on June 25/26 1876 as the so-call American Indian Wars raced towards their zenith. There’s an interesting visitors’ centre, but the real poignancy of the site strikes when you stand on the ridge lines and look down the grassy slopes on either side – unchanged from Custer’s time – dotted with markers where individual soldiers and warriors fell. The distant Rocky Mountains seem to silently stand guard, while the vast skies and ceaseless wind of the Montana plains add a feeling of tranquility mixed with restlessness that befits a place of such beauty and tragedy. It’s unmissable… Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana.
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Price Guide: $10 per vehicle (National Parks passes accepted). Address: 756 Battlefield Tour Road, Crow Agency, Mt 59022 Web: www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm
64 | Travel
Off The Wall! Crazy, inspired, kitsch, unbelievable and “only in America,” Wall Drug – the store that made this otherwise forgettable speck-on-a-map town famous – is a depression era relic that’s also an unrivalled window into the wild west. You can’t miss Wall Drug when you drive across South Dakota. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of roadside billboards dot the landscape in a way that reminded us there was a time when the only way to get your message across was to put it in travellers’ faces! Wall Drug could easily be dismissed as the ultimate tourist trap. But thanks to the incessant collecting and expansion of its original owners it now houses a remarkable collection of black and white photos dating from the middle of the 19th century. These chronicle not only the struggles of daily life (with at least one hanging), but include many impressive, personal images of Native Americans, their families and way of life. Wall Drug, South Dakota.
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Price Guide: Free - and coffee is STILL only 5c a cup! Address: 510 Main St, Wall, SD 57790 Web: www.walldrug.com
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Dam Impressive Straddling the border of Nevada and Arizona and holding back the once raging waters of the mighty Colorado River, Hoover Dam is another product of the Great Depression, but one that truly shaped the destiny of a nation. When filled to capacity, Lake Mead, which banks up behind it, stretches for 180 km, is up to 152 metres deep and is the largest reservoir in the United States. Drinking and irrigation water, as well as hydro electricity are its commercial and social benefits as well as its lasting legacy. Hoover Dam is another must-see if you’re in or near Las Vegas (it’s about 50 km south east). You can drive down to and across the top of it (after a thorough vehicle security search on the way) and there are parking ares on the far (Arizona) side. Tours are available from the garish visitors’ centre, but just a stroll across the wide dam wall is sufficient to impress. Be sure to stop on the way out to walk at least half way across the new Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which handles all through traffic and towers some 260 m above the river it spans. Hoover Dam, Nevada. Price Guide: Entry and parking free. Various tours available.
Click for Google Maps
Address: Nevada/Arizona border Web: www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/
66 | Travel
Show Time! What trip to America would be complete without a visit to the capital of casinos, bling and glitz? Las Vegas invokes love it or loathe it reactions from most people, but judging by the May crowds the lovers are certainly well ahead. Stroll the casinos by day and night, drop a few dollars in a ‘slot machine’ just for fun and sit back with a cool drink and watch the passing Human parade – Vegas has it all! And when in Rome – Las Vegas certainly feels like the centre of an empire – one of the best things to do is see a show; be it musical, concert, comedy, tribute, magic, adult or a blockbuster celebrity production. The big name shows are often booked out weeks or months in advance, but we made our way to a last minute ticket place and bought some reasonably priced seats for Jersey Boys at the Paris Casino. What a great show! Afterwards we enjoyed a late supper in the Eiffel Tower restaurant, sipping champagne as the myriad dazzling lights of this giant make-believe city sparkled and danced in the cool desert darkness. Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Price Guide: We paid about $65 each for Jersey Boys. Other shows ranged from $20 to $300! Address: Nevada, USA. Web: www.visitlasvegas.com.au
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The One and Onlyest! The windswept plains of South Dakota seem a strange place for a palace, never mind one made of corn. Built in 1892 for the Corn Belt Exposition to showcase the region’s agriculture and attract settlers, the Mitchell Corn Palace has been a fixture ever since. Updated serval times in its early life, in 1921 the current Russian-themed design with onion domes and Moorish minarets was incorporated. As Jan has pointed out an information board inside describes it as the “onlyest one” in the world – and who are we to argue? Aesthetics aside, what really distinguishes the Corn Palace – which serves as a multi-purpose venue for everything from concerts to basketball games – are its exterior corn murals. Each year the giant artworks are redesigned by local artists and painstakingly rebuilt using coloured corn cobs that are gradually eaten away by a grateful local bird population. Undoubtedly kitsch but uniquely American, the Mitchell Corn Palace is worth a detour to see what one community’s obsession with local produce and tradition can do. Mitchell Corn Palace, South Dakota.
Click for Google Maps
Price Guide: Free entry. Address: 612 N Main St, Mitchell, SD. 57301. Web: www.visitmitchell.com/ Side/corn-palace.php
68 | Travel
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70 | Feature
Hosts of Fun! Harvest Hosts provides a unique RV experienceâ€Ś
Feature | 71 An iMotorhome Facebook Friend put me on to Harvest Hosts a few months before departure – and what a good thing that proved to be. In a nutshell, for a small annual membership Harvest Hosts provides you with a list of participating properties like wineries, farm stores, orchards, etc, across America. These provide free overnight parking for self-contained RVs, in return for the hope/expectation you’ll buy some of their produce if you like it. It’s a true win-win situation and one we were keen to sample. The process is simple: sign-up for $40 online, print off your membership card and get planning. Using maps on the Harvest Hosts’ website we were able to browse prospective sites enroute and contact those that interested us. Importantly, an overnight site isn’t a given; you have to call ahead and many hosts have set hours for arrival and departure, plus selective days and even months of operation. Also, many Hosts can probably only accommodate a few vehicles, so until you get the go ahead don’t count your chickens or their offspring.
The basic rules mirror the CMCA’s Leave No Trace scheme; take everything with you and leave nothing behind. Sites are unpowered (unless you’re lucky), have no waste dumping facilities and if you have pets, check first to confirm they’re okay and be prepared to leave them on a lead if requested. I was pleased to see you can read and leave feedback online, which is always helpful when planning a trip.
User Pays (often too much)…
V parks in America are surprisingly expensive, at least for overnight or short stays. While many offer good weekly or monthly rates, travellers on a time schedule such as ours seem to pay excessively for what are often mediocre properties. And while free camping in Walmart car parks is handy when you’re making a mile, finding scenic free camping spots is more challenging – especially near large urban centres. Our travel route and schedule, combined with the seasonal operating hours of different Hosts meant we ‘only’ managed to stayed at 3 properties in our 18 nights on the road, but each was a different and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Here’s a brief look at our own Host experiences:
72 | Feature and a pile of old pallets, cardboard boxes, rusting equipment and building materials. Picture perfect! The Naked Hill Winery is also home to the Sick-N-Twisted Brewing Company – of course. Despite the names the owners and staff proved most hospitable, the wine and beer were most drinkable and the massive pre-dinner, oven baked pretzel most delicious! Despite having dinner in our motorhomes we still manage to spend-up quite ‘big,’ although it included some memorable souvenirs, including tea towels with messages like “Tomorrow's forecast – a 90% chance of wine.” Who could resist?
Naked Winery, Hill City, South Dakota
urrying along the winding road into Hill City, under threatening skies and with the temperature plummeting, we thought TomTom had given us a bum steer when he announced we have arrived at our destination – the intriguingly named Naked Winery – on the fringe of a semi-industrial area. It turned out the “winery” was actually the tasting rooms and a restaurant, and the vines resided elsewhere. As it turned out we were the Naked Winery’s first Harvest Host customers, which was ironic as it was our first Harvest Host experience! Just emerging from eight months of snow (seriously), the good Naked folks admitted to not expecting visitors so early in the season and apologised not having tidied up the parking area. This was, of course, no concern to us and we were happy with our side-by-side site at the rear, set against a backdrop of steeply wooded slopes
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Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy, Buena Vista, Colorado
itting more than 7200 feet above sea level on an open plain ringed by 14,500 ft mountains and with more than a hint of a wild west frontier ranch about it, the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy is a must-stop destination for all lovers of goats cheese, local produce – and goats! Upon arrival and before tasting a selection of farm-produced cheeses we were invited into the main shed to watch the late afternoon goat milking as well as proprietor Dawn Jump (seriously) and one of her daughters magically convert a vat of fresh goats milk into (probably) hundreds of kilos of feta. The friendly goats were as interested in us as we in them and post milking we were invited to take part in the ‘running of the goats.’ This is when the girls hurry back to their kids – literally – and their sheltered overnight accommodation. We also got to meet and play with their children – what a terrific experience!
We parked right out the front of the small farm shop and Andrew was able to plug into mains power overnight, which was a godsend given his fridge was malfunctioning on LPG. Not that the fridge was important that May night, as the mercury was tipped to drop below -7°C. Despite stocking up on all the goats cheese we could realistically consume over the remaining days I think we only managed to spend about $10-$15 per vehicle, making this the cheapest as well as the most hands-on fun of our Harvest Host experiences.
74 | Feature Reeder Mesa Vineyards, Whitewater, Colorado
ur most out-of-the-way and least commercial stay, the small Reeder Mesa Vineyards is up a valley, over a hill and down a dirt road. You can’t miss it – with GPS! This small familyrun business might not be a Harvest Host much longer because the owner, Doug, is looking to close the winery when he retires. He is, however, trying to convince his son to stay on and just grow grapes commercially. Also, the vineyard’s two acres of white wine grapes took a big hit in the same spring snow storms that trapped us in Wyoming and lost about 25 per cent of its vines. Despite its modest production, Reeder Mesa does a good line of serious reds, which Doug blends himself from bought-in grapes. The small tasting room is character filled and in warmer weather the outside deck, with its views of rolling hills fringed with mountains, would be a lovely place to relax. We parked alongside the cellar door and had the place to ourselves, although it could easily have accommodated about another half-dozen motorhomes. From memory the wine ranged between about $20 to $45 per bottle, and to our Australian pallets it was eminently drinkable.
he Harvest Host concept is a winner, but you need to be time flexible and keep an open mind about what you’ll find. Averaged out we ended up spending about the same for our three hosted nights as we would have in a decent RV Park. But for that we got a place to stay AND some great wine, food and experiences. We were also free of RV park regimentation and prying eyes, met interesting people and gained insights in the daily lives of normal, working Americans (who just love Australians). Harvest Hosts is a must for anyone travelling America by RV – and I can’t say better than that.
Feature | 75
76 | Next Issue
Horizon’s Acacia is a compact yet self-contained motorhome at home on short breaks or long trips, while the Trakkadu is ideal for shorter jaunts but can easily be your only car or double as a small-family people mover.
e kick off 2015 proper with a pair of vans: Horizon’s Sprinter-based Acacia and Trakka’s entry level Trakkadu TDI 340, built on a VW T5 Transporter.
February 06-08 22-26 11-16
Newcastle Caravan, Camping & Holiday Expo Newcastle Entertainment Centre and Showgrounds Broadmeadow NSW 2292 • Open 9:00-5:00 daily (4:00 Sunday) • Parking: Free • Adults: $25 • Seniors: $20 • Kids: Free U 16 years with adult
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Due to family holiday commitments for our resident designer Agnes, the next issue will be out one week later than usual, on Saturday 24 January. Fortunately, January is a five weekend month so that won’t disrupt our ongoing monthly publishing schedule. Until January 24 why not join our nearly 19,000 Friends and Twitter followers Facebook for news and plenty of laughs? Facebook “f ” Logo
February 11-16 22-26 11-16 Melbourne Caravan, Camping & Holiday Supershow Melbourne Showgrounds Cnr Epsom and Langs Roads, Ascot Vale. Vic 3032. • Open 10:00-5:00 daily (4:00 final day) • Parking: Free • Adults: $20 • Seniors: $16 • Kids: Free U 15 years with adult
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Adelaide Caravan & Camping Show Adelaide Showground, Goodwood Rd, Wayville SA 5034 • Open 10:00-6:00 daily • Parking: $7 • Adults: $13 • Seniors: $10 • Kids: Free U 15 years with adult
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