The Maiden Voyage Part 2
After spending a few days in the RV Park in Phoenix and learning the ropes of the RV in general, we left Arizona and headed toward Santa Fe, New Mexico where we would dock for a few nights before heading back to Colorado. As we did with our first trip, we consulted The Good Sam’s Club Website and searched for a full-hook-up RV Park with clean restrooms and a laundry facility. At this point, I (Meg) was still leery about using the RV toilet and shower, so a bathroom close by with clean toilets and showers was imperative. I also was scared of boon docking, so a full-hook-up site was imperative until I could feel more at ease with camping in an RV in general. Pat wasn’t as worried as I was, but he agreed that a full-hook-up was important for the first few times we took out the RV, and agreed that the facilities the park offered was important. We settled on Santa Fe Skies RV Park because of the high rating on Good Sam’s and the pictures the web site showcased. It looked like a perfect spot to stay.
We headed out knowing that the mileage from the first park to the second park was 500 miles. A friend of ours once told us not to travel more than 500 miles in one day in an RV, because it is much different than driving 500 miles in a day in a car. We listened, and figured we would make it to Santa Fe in no-time, since the normal 6 hour-ish drive was fairly simple once getting through the mountainous pass leading up to Flagstaff, Arizona. Before leaving Arizona, Pat insisted on finding a (what I called) baby cactus pot, and we finally found one just outside Winslow, Arizona. He was so excited to finally be in our RV, on the road, and a baby cactus in hand, I had to snap a photo of all of those events.
Notice here the towing vehicle we have pulling the Sandstorm. It is a Toyota Tundra V8. We put the stabilizer bars on the vehicle, purchased towing mirrors (which we had to special order- and rush deliver to Arizona since it is against the law to pull a camper without them-which we didn’t know), and installed a break controller (which we had installed prior to picking up the RV) to ensure a safe towing experience. Pat figured this would be a perfect truck to pull our camper, because if it could tow the Space Shuttle, it could certainly tow our camper which was under-capacity in weight load. What we learned about a Tundra:
1. We need a diesel truck (at times in our travels, we averaged 6MPG) both on flat roads, and steady inclines. Mountain passes? Worse. This made us have to stop almost every 130 miles to fill up our tank to ensure we’d not run out of fuel along the way in between gas stations.
2. When driving in a place with cross-winds (hello deserts of Arizona and New Mexico), we get blown all over the place.
3. We averaged about 55 MPH on the freeway. That makes a 500 mile trip take a REALLY long time.
4. Because we weren’t in a better towing vehicle, and the above things were happening, the driver (always Pat; bless him) can get exhausted quickly from holding the steering wheel so tightly to prevent blowing around, and always being on high alert. Physically and mentally fatigued can prevent high-mileage travel very quickly, which in-turn, makes getting from point A to point B challenging.
That being said, we are on the hunt for a better towing vehicle that is a diesel and can handle a 5th wheel camper, which one day we want to upgrade to. We will address how to choose a good-towing vehicle in another post. As with anything with an RV, we learn what to-do and what-not-to-do by trial and error, and can make better decisions the second-time around. (Hopefully if you are a new-RV’er, you will take what we’ve said into consideration).
So, back to the road. Because of the travel conditions with our truck, we were moving a lot slower than we had anticipated. We had to stop for lunch, not because we were starving, but because Pat needed to have a break. We consulted the best book for an RV family to own, The Next Exit, and saw there was a Cracker Barrel ahead in red, so that is where we’d stop for lunch. A little about the book The Next Exit: This book is a MUST HAVE for people pulling or driving an RV. It basically has all of the exits on the US Interstates with what is available at each exit. It shows restrooms, rest-stops (facilities and no facilities), gas stations, restaurants, truck-stops, and major shopping stops. It showcases mile markers, and uses the red (RV friendly) and black (might not work so great with an RV) color-coding system so we know where we can comfortably stop with our RV and have little issues getting in and out. We already knew that Cracker Barrel (a favorite anyway) is an RV friendly establishment, but The Next Exit verified it anyway, and off we were for a cup-of-joe and some much needed rest for Pat.
Needless to say, after our lunch and getting back on the road, our “short” 500 mile trip ended at 10 hours on the road, and we pulled into the RV park in the pitch-dark.
Stay-tuned for Part 3 of the Maiden Voyage: Setting Up An RV In The Dark.