6 Lessons Learned From Our 3500 Mile Trip

by | Apr 11, 2016

6 lessons learns from 3500 milesJoan and I just completed our winter trip leaving Middle Georgia days after Christmas and returning the end of March. We had a blast! We saw great sights, met so many interesting people and had meals that provided great representation for each area visited. We also had a number of bucket list items checked off – Houston Space Center, continued our stops at a number of Presidents Libraries, a stop at the Tabasco Factory, Graceland, great ribs and music at B.B. Kings on Beale Street and our yearly trip to Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry along with music stops downtown. We covered a lot of ground in 3 months and it was worth every mile. This was our first extended trip in the RV and traveling this many miles across 7 states will give you plenty of lessons learned from your travels. Here are 6 Lessons Learned From Our 3500 Mile Trip.

1 – The Southern Coast Can Be Cold
3500-mile-tripOur second stay on our trip was Summerdale, AL next door to Gulf Shores. This was the second week of January and we had a number of days when it was cold, very cold. Damp air from the beach, low 20’s and stiff winds made it difficult to keep the 5th wheel warm. We could have run the furnace continuously, but it’s loud and gulps propane. We have an electric fireplace which includes a 1500 watt heater below the entertainment center, but it’s designed to be more supplemental than primary heat.

Fortunately, the Big Buddy Mr. Heater to the rescue. We bought this more as an emergency measure than something to use for primary heat. Putting this heater on low and placing in the middle of the 5th wheel main living area made a huge difference. I cover more on the use of this heater in this post.

2 – Check Out Road Conditions Too
3500-mile-tripThe one item I overlooked as we planned this trip was checking the road conditions before we made our destination plans. We’ve been traveling in the RV for a little over a year and thought there couldn’t be anything worse than driving through Atlanta construction zones, but we were wrong, very wrong. We loved Louisiana. The folks in Cajun county were so kind. The food was amazing. And, it was such a treat to visit the Tabasco factory. But, I-10 from Baton Rouge to New Iberia was terrible. So bad, that if I had known how rough many large sections of highway were, we would have found an alternate route or skipped this area all together.

From this point forward, I used Google to search road conditions. We made a number of route changes, side step construction and in some cases, took a couple destinations off our trip. It’s one thing to drive bad roads in a car, but the extra pin weight on the back of the truck can make a conditions feel worse, plus the added wear and tear on the 5th wheel just aren’t worth going to a location when long stretches of bad roads are involved.

3 – Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Route
As previously shared, there can be reasons to change your route due to road conditions, new sites discovered during the trip or just changing your mind. On this trip, we planned to spend a month and a half on the Texas coast. We love the beach and we would have had a great time, but we decided there was more to see and we didn’t want to short ourselves on this trip. So we changed. Taking the maximum time we wanted to drive between destinations, we created a new route and we’re so glad we did. The new route offered much more to see and experience and none of this would have happened if we were afraid to change our route and travel plans mid-stream.

4 – Ask Where The Locals Eat
3500-mile-tripWe love to eat. When we travel, we’re also on a budget. Put these two together and we can’t afford blowing our budget on a crummy meal. We also like to experience food unique to an area. We found that talking to those who live in an area and expressing how we want to eat at places where they like to go made our dining experiences a blast. Incredible Cajun food in New Iberia, LA, mind blowing bar-b-que in San Marcos, TX, some of the best Tex-Mex I’ve ever had in Waco – I could go on and on. These experiences happened because we took a minute to ask those who lived in an area where they like to go.

5 – Don’t Be In A Hurry
We try to follow the 330 rule – keep your drive miles under 330 miles or stop your day’s travel by 3:30PM each day. We broke the 330 mile rule several times and this was a mistake. Driving a 5th wheel in a straight line is not a big deal, but dealing with traffic and bad roads take a physical and mental toll. By our 3rd stop we made sure we kept our trip from point A to B to 330 miles or less. It made a huge difference. This may be a lessor issue for those who have a large Class A diesel pusher with air bag suspensions, but I just can’t do it in a 5th wheel and ton truck.

6 lessons learnedWe also made the mistake where we did not plan enough time in some of the areas. I must admit that I’m a planner. It’s in my DNA from many years of experience managing large technical operations and engineering departments. I just can’t help myself and find comfort knowing at least part of the trips destinations is secured. The downside is for most campgrounds, you can’t change your reservations without a couple weeks notification and retain your deposit. Next time, we’ll spend more time up front researching what an area offers first, then determine how long to stay.

We also made the decision early on, not to rush through a tourist site. We always made sure we took our time at each stop regardless if it was a presidential library, museum or just a park. Some of our visits were in busy, metropolitan areas and we knew traffic would be a bear at certain times of the day. We also knew we may never have the opportunity to visit this area again so we just took out time. If it was peak traffic at the end of our visit, we found a place to eat until things settled. It was a great formula to really enjoy our visit and the sites along the way.

6 – Be Friendly
I like meeting people. I’m interested in people’s stories and equally interested in knowing stories about the area we visit. We enjoy taking walks around the campground and meeting others along the way. Regardless of where we went on our trip we always met friendly travelers and locals alike who want to share about their recent travels, their home on wheels, loved ones back home and more.

Our experience sharing with people didn’t stop at the campground. Everywhere we went, restaurants, shops, tourist stops, wherever we were along the way, we always took a minute to introduce ourselves and why we were visiting. Whoever we met would offer friendly advice about the area, places to visit and our favorite, the spots where the locals like to eat. I must admit, this is some of our favorite memories and Joan and I still think often about those we met along the way.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but something to consider as you make you way across this amazing country.

As always, I love RV life. Jerry

RV AccessoriesNot sure about what RV accessories you need as you start RV travel? Check out our RV Accessories page where we have listed a wide range of products from essential items to those “nice to have” RV products to make RV life more enjoyable. Every item listed is being used or has been used by Joan and I as we’ve traveled across the country in our RV.

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