By Gary Hammond
Last summer was our first time to “camp” in an RV. For 15 years, we had only been in tent trailers. We began our “new RV life” in local campgrounds and popular Provincial campgrounds (like State Parks) that we had been to many times before.
But last October we decided to go to New Point, VA, for a few weeks. It would be our first big trip in our RV. We printed out the route from Google Maps, and loaded it into our truck’s “Nav” system a couple of nights before departure.
Good to go – right?
We got off to a great start on departure day, and started heading south. Google had plotted to take us almost through Baltimore, and just around Washington, D.C.
How bad could it be? We were traveling in the daytime and not around rush hour.
It was horrible! We got stuck in traffic jams, got lost several times, and the navigator (my wife) and I were headed for certain divorce.
I was ready to sell the RV (and my wife).
The trip down took almost 22 hours. We spent two nights in Walmart parking lots.
Once at the RV resort, we were guided to a seaside site that was no more than the climb of a dune from the ocean. It was beautiful! We ended up staying there 3 full weeks.
The anger of the trip immediately faded, and we quickly fell back in love.
The next day we had a “lessons learned” discussion, and concluded we were totally ill-prepared for such a trip. We had spent almost no time at all with trip planning and navigation. We didn’t even have road maps: just a Google Maps printout of directions and a few basic maps (of Harrisburg, PA, and New Point, VA) that could hardly be read.
After speaking to locals, we learned that we had gone TOTALLY the WRONG way. They showed us a different route back, avoiding all the big cities, still stopping overnight at the Walmart in Harrisburg, PA, and the entire trip took just over 11 hours total – half the time, and absolutely none of the stress or frustration.
What will be different this year?
We now have the “2018 Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas” with detailed road maps of of Canada, the USA, and Mexico, with all trucker (and RV) friendly roads (no low bridges or overpasses) highlighted. If “all else fails” we will have that to fall back on. We are also in the process of buying an Android 10″ tablet and RV navigation software, like CoPilot or SmartRVRoute.
We are admitting to last years’ total unpreparedness and have acknowledged how important it is to properly plan before traveling!