Thursday, April 7, 2011

Going Places

Dear Joe and Vicki: My husband and I have been weekend RVers for a long time, but now we've sold our house and are getting ready to head out as fulltimers. We're really excited about seeing the United States, but don't know quite where to start. Any suggestions?

Joe: As fulltimers, you have one huge advantage. You don't have to rush. And, you don't have to see everything at once. You can stay wherever you want for as long as you want.

Our first trip around the United States and Canada was in 1974. We wanted to pack as much as possible into the trip. So, before leaving, we sat down at the kitchen table with our children and spread maps of the U. S. and Canada in front of us. We went around the table and gave everyone an opportunity to tell us what places they wanted to see. As those places were called out, we circled them on the map. When we were finished with that step, we drew travel routes from one circle to another. As it turned out, we visited all of our "must see" places plus many others. In the process we also developed a new list of places to see next trip.

You could start by asking each state’s department of tourism to send you literature about the visitor highlights of their state. Your mailbox will overflow with information.

Read the articles in the travel sections of your magazines and newspaper. Start a file folder for each state. Eventually, you'll have to expand to individual file folders for cities, government parks and other attractions. We know one couple that has so many file folders of future places to go and things to see and do, that they have relegated the entire area under their RV's queen-size bed to the storage of their “places to go, things to see” files.

You may discover, as we have, that the Automobile Club’s maps and tour books are invaluable. We especially appreciate the way the tour books provide a state-by-state listing and description of all the neat places to go and things to see and do.

Vicki: Once you get on the road, make a habit of stopping at each state's welcome center. They will be located in a rest area just after you cross the border into that state. Wander among the racks of brochures that have been placed there for the tourists. Ask the attendant for a copy of the state map.

Keep in mind that one of the best places to get information is in the campground laundry rooms. Talk to the people you meet there. Chances are someone in that laundry room has just come from the place you are headed toward. Ask them about road conditions, find out their recommendations for restaurants, campgrounds and interesting attractions. We've gotten some of our best information by talking to people in campground laundry rooms.

Most of the full-time RVers that we've talked to have told us that when they first started traveling, they dashed around from one place to another, trying to see everything. After one or two trips around the country, they realized they had only begun their explorations. They discovered they were constantly finding out about new places to see. There were also many places they wanted to revisit, settle in, and spend a month or two.

By the way, don’t be surprised if you find a particular location that you return to year after year. You may find a place that has a particularly appealing RV park. Perhaps in an area that has medical, shopping and recreational opportunities that fit your comfort level.

We're willing to bet that once you get out on the road, you'll find that you have so many places you want to go and things you want to see and do that you'll wonder how you're ever going to fit them all into a lifetime.

Joe and Vicki are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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