Insider's Guide to Getting Behind the Wheel - Page 3

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Acadia National Park, Maine
CRUISIN' AMERICA: Explore the nearly 120 miles of trails hugging the Maine coast in Acadia National Park. (Thomas Northcut)

RV campsite options are varied—from private pull-offs to themed campgrounds to national parks. Determine your comfort level before setting out. Do you need power and waste hookups? Are you comfortable being the only rig in sight? Do your homework and book ahead. Some campgrounds allow drop-ins, but spots can fill up fast. Keep in mind that the most popular campsites take reservations as much as a year in advance.

While camping is traditionally a safe way to go, it never hurts to follow basic safety rules: Watch children and keep an eye on your belongings. And while you may be deserted in a backwoods wilderness, it never hurts to lock up before you set off.

Mind Your Manners
-Etiquette is just as important on the road and in a campground as it is at home.
-Courtesy in the dark: Circumstances sometimes dictate a late arrival. If you pull in after lights-out, be courteous. Keep the noise and lights to a minimum. Do what you need to do, but be respectful of others.
-Respect personal space. Don't trespass onto another camper's site without permission.
-Dispose of trash properly. Nobody likes pulling into a site littered with a previous tenant's trash. This includes the fire pit.

Do Good While Having a Good Time
More people of all ages are looking to combine vacations and volunteerism. Journalist Julianne Crane and companion Jimmy Smith left the Northwest in late September 2010, traveling more than 6,000 miles before arriving in Sebring, Florida, in early December. They're working with RV Care-a-Vanners, a volunteer organization of RVers who participate in Habitat for Humanity builds. Having worked with Habitat for Humanity in the past, Crane says that "this is the perfect way to combine travel and do some real good for the community, and you meet other RVers along the way. It's fun, but it also serves a purpose." The two archive their travels on Crane's website, RV Wheel Life.

Take Advantage of the Experts
If you're interested in traveling by RV but don't have the time or inclination to do all the prep and planning, consider joining a club or group. There are organizations that put together RV tours and adventures. All you have to do is sign on and show up. For more information, go to Adventure Caravans or Fantasy RV Tours.

There's an App (and Book, and Blog) For That
Chances are, if you talk to any seasoned RVer, they'll be happy to share tips and ideas for the best spots to visit. Crane suggests Zion National Park in Utah. "It's amazing," she says. "Everyone ought to see that."

With a little research and the willingness to get out and explore, you can discover your own favorite spots. In addition to guides and affiliated websites, there are a number of popular RV blogs like Gypsy Journal. Guidebooks, forums like RV.net, and iPhone and Android apps like AllStays Camp and RV Finder help you locate campgrounds, RV parks, and services on the road.

For Pete and Mitzi Kerwin, the chance to spend two months on the road was one more thing off the "bucket list," and now Pete is compiling their experiences into a keepsake book for family and friends.

To Crane and Smith, time on the road is a way to expand their horizons while creating strong community bonds and stockpiling deeply personal memories. "We see families, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and they are all having a wonderful time," Crane says. "That's something none of them will ever forget."

RVing is one of those "live for the journey, not the destination" type experiences. Traveling by RV gets you out of the crowd and into the scenery and leaves you with memories to last a lifetime. You can't see what's just down the road from 30,000 feet. And you can't smell the pines from the airport. "As you drive, you see melting glaciers creating mighty rivers, snow-capped mountains surrounded by endless miles of forest, and animals that still own the land," Pete Kerwin said. "Would I do it again? You bet."

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