Smiles for Miles: Our RV Adventure Part 2

We are back home and so grateful for our RV adventure!  It was so much fun and I’m so happy that we did it but it always feels great to get home!
Thank you all so much for your interest in our itinerary.  I’ve described our way from Montecito to Dallas in this post and from Dallas to Montecito in Part 1

I also attempted to answer most of your questions from my Instagram Stories at the bottom of this post!  Don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or reach out on social media if you have an other questions!  Happy Road-tripping!

Our time in Montecito was great.  It is such a fabulous place. The weather was amazing and we went swimming, hiking and took afternoon ocean walks.  After spending much longer in Montecito than we planned due to issues with the RV, we took off for our return trip eager for adventure.

After a few hours on the road, we made our first stop at Calico Ghost Town.  It was the perfect place to park the RV, stretch our legs and walk around a little bit.  Calico Ghost Town is an old western mining town that developed in the 1880s.  After the silver boom, the miner’s abandoned the town and it was left virtually untouched!  It was purchased and restored in the 1950s but is now part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks System.  We were thrilled to find an outdoor attraction filled with so many fun activities for the children.  The town is full of charming shops and little restaurants (some were closed due to Covid restrictions.)  We took part in the outdoor activities like panning for gold and we enjoyed checking out all of the old vehicles and mining equipment. The old fashioned candy shop was Millie and JR’s favorite!

Our original plan called for an overnight stop at a scenic RV Park on Lake Mead but after experiencing more maintenance issues after only a few hours back on the road, we decided to stop at the Oasis RV Park in Las Vegas as we figured it would be easier to get repairs there if we needed them!  It wasn’t the beautiful natural setting we imagined for the night but the children LOVED popping a movie into the outdoor TV on the RV and Justin loved using his FireDisk to make dinner.

If there was one thing we learned on our trip it was that nothing is going to go as planned!  From our RV issues to the pandemic closings, we really learned to just roll with it! The next morning we took off for the next leg of our drive.  The plan was to kick the day off with awe at the sight of the incredible Hoover Dam but when we arrived, we were turned around as they closed it due to Covid.  I’m not sure how driving over a bridge with a view spreads a virus but – Oh well!  We looked at photos and researched the fascinating history of the Dam while we continued on our drive, ending up at the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon.  I sooooo wish that I had caught JR’s face on video when he first caught a glimpse of it.  It was a sincere gasp and complete awe at the majestic size and natural beauty.  A photograph really can’t do it justice!

We got some photos of the canyon and posed for family photos in front of it but, for the most part, just walked along the South Ridge and took in the view.  It was absolutely incredible and worth the detour from the most direct path home. After our sight seeing, we took the twenty minute drive from the South Entrance of the Grand Canyon to Under Canvas Resort.  I can’t say enough about how wonderful the team there was.  They made our check in so easy and they found a nice spot to park the RV.  Our tents were so charming and the children loved the “hive” that they set up next to our tent with two beds.  I’ve had friends rave about Under Canvas so our expectations were high.  They were right!  It was a wonderful experience from start to finish.

We enjoyed an Under Canvas breakfast the next morning and then started our drive to Grants, New Mexico.  On the way, we drove though the Petrified Forest National Park.  It doesn’t add a lot of time to the drive and it was amazing to see!  It was other-worldly and we all just kept saying that it felt like being on another planet.  It was very hot and doesn’t provide an ounce of shade so be prepared with water, hats and sunscreen if you plan to get out and hike a bit like we did.

After our detour through the Petrified Forest National Park, we pulled in to the KOA in Grants, New Mexico.  As with all of the KOA RV and Camping spots, we were greeted at a distance by a very helpful and kind staff and led to our clean spot with full hook ups.  This KOA had a special feature behind it that we really enjoyed!  There is a path that leads from the RV parking spaces to a walking trail through an old lava field.  Throughout the path there are signs sharing interesting facts about the history and the natural elements of the area.  It was a great way to get out and get some exercise after so many hours on the road.

The children have described the next morning as one of the highlights of the trip.  About twenty minutes from the RV park was the Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave.  It was so much fun to take the short hike to the top of the inside of the volcano, although Millie expected to see hot gurgling lava!

Then we followed the same path back down and went further, descending into the Ice Cave.  It was amazing to feel the natural cooling of the air as we stepped down.  Of course, my husband and son could’t stay with in the fencing of the observation deck and just had to get a little bit closer!

An hour and a half later, we made a quick stop in Albuquerque to pick up some lunch and take a peek at some of the amazing silver jewelry available.  The Old Town was very quiet and the Church of San Filipe was closed but we enjoyed getting in a quick walk and doing some window shopping.

We hit the road again and made it to Amarillo.  As you drive into Amarillo going East on Interstate 40 you pass by Cadillac Ranch (Exit 60).   Although there are all sorts of half full spray paint cans discarded next to the installation, we purchased a few cans of our own the day before and went to make our mark on the Cadillacs.  We timed our tip to arrive there as the sun was setting and it worked out great.  We had the place to ourselves and the temperature was mild.  I hear that it is very crowded and hot during the day!

We spent our last night of the trip at another reliable KOA campground.  Our final dinner by lantern was bittersweet as we were excited to get home but also sad to see the trip come to a close.  For those of you who asked about our melamine dinnerware, please click here!

Our last day on the road started with a fun stop at the RV Museum in Amarillo.  It was SO great and impressed us beyond our wildest expectations! It is worth a stop if you are in the area!  It is in the back of an RV dealership so we kept questioning whether or not we were in the right place but once we stepped into the proper museum in the back, we were mesmerized!  Take a peek at my Instagram Story Highlights to see more photos of this walk through the history of Camper Travel!  It was the perfect final stop for our trip!

Day 1: Santa Barbara, California to Las Vegas  Nevada with a stop at Calico Ghost Town

Day 2: Las Vegas, Nevada to Under Canvas Grand Canyon, Arizona

Day 3: Grand Canyon to Grants, New Mexico with a stop at the Petrified Forest National Park

Day 4: Grants, New Mexico to Amarillo, Texas with stops at the Bandero Volcano and Ice Caves and Cadillac Ranch

Day 5: Amarillo, Texas to Dallas, Texas with a stop at the RV Museum Amarillo

A few things we packed and tips that we got:

-The most useful tip we got was to videotape the training session that you go through when you pick up the vehicle.  We referenced the video on a daily basis just to triple check that we were doing everything as instructed.

-Our very favorite pre-trip purchase was the Fire Disk.  We used it almost every night and loved it.  I know we will use it often at home too!

-Keep a laundry basket for shoes by the door of the RV.  It is a great way to store shoes so that dust and dirt don’t carry through the entire vehicle.

-Buy glow stick necklaces for the children for evenings.  It was much easier to keep track of them after the sun went down when they were wearing them!

-We asked our children to journal every day.  They could write about the trip, draw a picture, whatever they wanted to do but we wanted them to record something about each day from the trip in the notebooks.

-Keep a few flashlights and lanterns by the beds.

-Keep rubber gloves and face masks by the door for the frequent gas stops.

-I wish that I had taken sunglasses for the children.  We tried to find some along the way but they aren’t easily available!

-Don’t forget to pack some DVDs.  I know everything is on our tablets but there were DVD players throughout our 2019 model vehicle that made it easy to pop in movies that the entire family could enjoy.

-Label or monogram a towel for each person on the trip.

-Make a treat bag/basket and let the children dig in for a little surprise when things start to feel slow.  My mother made a fun one to send our children off with before we left.

-Take a few bundles of firewood and fire starters.  Many of the parks have fire pits but often were sold out of firewood.

-Make a plan and print it out. I know it sounds old- fashioned but we were so happy to have printed directions while we were in places that didn’t have cell service.  I made a binder and printed out each day’s directions and activities.  I had pocket folders in the binder for our pre-paid tickets and passes.  We have friends who rented and took off with only a general idea of the path they wanted to take.  They used the AllStays App to find RV parks every evening and played their activities by ear.  I’m a planner so I wasn’t comfortable with that but they loved the spontaneity of their approach.   It worked for them but, because RV travel is up %600 this summer, you do run the risk of not getting a spot at the RV Park you want to stay in!

-I placed the travel departure checklist provided by the RV company on the cover of the planning binder so that we could easily double check that we had done everything we needed to do before we left a destination.

I got so many amazing questions on Instagram via my stories and I hope that I can answer all of them for you here!

How many hours did you drive each day?

We tried to limit the driving to 4-6 hours/day.  A couple of days took longer than we expected on the first leg of our trip so we were more careful about our stops on the way home.  Keep in mind that when Google Maps indicates that a trip will take an hour, in an RV it will really take about an hour and twenty minutes!

How did you come up with or research your itinerary?  

I spent quite a bit of time on and downloaded the app.  You can see our route on Roadtrippers by clicking here. It was a really helpful tool for finding the best route and interesting stops along the way.  I also spent a lot of time on Google Maps while working on our route and Pinterest looking for fun things to do.

Did you buy or rent the RV?  

We rented our RV.  This was our first rental experience so we learned a great deal!  Our advice when renting is to make sure that your rental company has a 24 hour service line and will send help when you need it.

Can you recommend any features you loved or was there anything you missed?

We were told that our RV had WiFi and when we picked it up, we discovered that it did not.  It also did not have a very nice sound system.  Those are certainly luxuries BUT the WiFi would have been really useful when we were using Google Maps in areas that were out of Cellular Range (like the national parks and long roads) and the sound system would have been nice as we spent a lot of time listening to PodCasts and Audible to pass the time on the road.  We used the small bluetooth speaker we packed in the front of the RV instead of the built in system.

Did you feel safe?

Yes!  I was nervous about safety before we left but once we hit the road I did feel safe.  We took our enormous dog, Zeus, with us so that certainly made us feel that we had an extra layer of protection.  We were very careful to check the ratings of the RV parks before we made our reservations and found that all of the people we encountered were so kind and helpful.

Did you use a travel agent?

We started planning our trip with the help of a travel agent who specializes in RV trips but, sadly, she had to pull back due to an illness.  We ended up completely changing our route and heading to California instead of Colorado so I ended up cancelling all of that and starting over!  It would have been nice to have the help, of course, but it really wasn’t necessary.  I also don’t think that a travel agent would have found the random little stops that we enjoyed so much!

How long were you gone?

Our original plan called for 24 days on the road but, because of the issues with the RV, we spent only nine days on the road.  The rest of the time we were in Montecito while the RV was deemed “unsafe to drive” by the repair man who was helping us.  Our issue was with the “slide-outs” which are the sides of the RV that can be popped out to provide more space while the RV is parked.  We spent 11 days in Montecito waiting for a part that was needed for the repair.

How and what did you pack?

Besides the obvious, we packed things like games and flashlights and glow sticks!  Click here to see my Amazon RV Packing List. There are lots of great packing check lists on Pinterest that were really helpful!  There are compartments all over the RV!  We used loads of containers to keep everything organized and also to keep things from rolling around while driving.

Did you cook all of your food?

We did!  We stopped for “take out” on two occasions for lunch but otherwise, we did all of our own food prep.  We typically ate sandwiches for lunch and Justin prepared dinner almost every night on his favorite new toy, the FireDisk. He described it as taking Benihana’s on the road!  We made a very detailed menu plan before we left and asked our butcher to individually package each hamburger patty and chicken breast!  It made a big difference because we only opened what we used each evening.

Did you shower or use the restroom daily in the RV or at the campsite?

Because of the pandemic, we used the RV exclusively.  It wasn’t large but it was totally do-able!

Do you need a water tank for the bathroom and the shower?

Yes! It is built in to the RV but you don’t want to drive with it very full. We were advised to always keep a small amount in the tank but we “plugged in” to a water line every night at the RV Parks that provided water for the shower, toilet and faucets.

How many gallons does the gas tank hold?  What kind of milage does it get?

I can’t recall exactly how many miles the tank holds but we learned when we picked up the RV that we couldn’t let the tank get below 1/4 full or the generator would stop working.  We found that we used just under a 1/4 tank of gas per hour and filled up every 2.5 to 3 hours.  It always felt good to stop and stretch when we would fill up!

How do the water, WC, and any other connections work?  Is it dirty work to refill?

My dear husband took care of that so I turned to him for the answer!  He said on a gross factor scale of 1 to 10, this was a 7.  It wasn’t difficult (I saw an eight year old young boy doing it at one of our stops) but it isn’t exactly fun either.  It actually goes much faster than we imagined as well.  When we rented the RV, they spent about thirty minutes training us on the vehicle.  We videotaped the training so that we could go back and reference it if we had a question and I’m so happy that we did! We referenced that video on a daily basis!

Would you do it again?

Yes! I really hope that we have lots of road trips in our future.  I loved the drives and stops.  Although I’m so happy that we did the RV trip once, I think I would prefer to drive in a smaller vehicle and stay in hotels.  Obviously, that is not as economical but the RV had loads of issues.  I hate to complain about that but they did dramatically impact our trip. That said, it provided a great opportunity for us to travel in a fun yet safe way in the midst of this pandemic. In addition, what takes about an hour by car or truck would take about an hour and twenty minutes (maybe more) in the RV so, in a smaller vehicle, you can make much better time. I’m totally hooked on the road trip but not on the RV!




  1. Karen Crowder on August 1, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Thank you for sharing your family’s adventure! My family took similar trips during the summer when I was growing up to a lot of the same places you visited. Reading your story brought back such fond memories!

  2. Mirna on August 1, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Great details! Looked amazingly fun… thanks for sharing.

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