It’s time to head out, all the preparation have been done. The fridge is full, fresh water tank is at least partially filled, waste water tanks are empty, you have a destination in mind etc. so you are ready. Got your detailed atlas click here to check out Maps.com
Crossing the Border in your RV
This trip we are crossing the border from Canada into the USA. Generally crossing into the US is not a problem if you are going for a day or weekend, as long as you have your Passport. However if you are crossing in your RV the situation is a little more complicated.
The Border Experience
There is a good chance you will be asked to pull over, leave your RV, open all your compartments, put your dog in the cage, and go inside while they search your RV. This can be intimidating for most of us, I am sure it is standard procedure. It seems to depend on the border agent you are talking to. It has been our experience that if you answer the questions without too much hesitation your chances of being pulled over are less.
Questions such as where are you going, how long, where do you live, your citizenship, any food? We also found that crossing at a less busy or smaller border crossing is easier. For more info. on the Canadian Border visit www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca and for the US border crossing visit www.dhs.gov
On one occasion crossing the border our dog Buddy was put into the cage, just a puppy at the time, he was so upset, he had never been in a cage before, especially because we had to leave him and go inside the customs building. That reminds me, your pets vaccines must be up to date and they need to have been administered at least 30 days prior to crossing the border and of course you need to carry the appropriate documents.
No Food in Your RV
If you are traveling to the USA do not take uncooked fresh food products or anything organic, the border personnel will either take it away or send you back to dispose of whatever you have.
Generally cooked or cured items are fine. Home made wine is OK but why would you bring it across? You can buy a 5 litre box of Vella burgundy for less than $15 at Walmart, and I have “heard” it’s not bad wine.
If you have had an issue with the law in your past it’s probably a good idea to deal with it before you try to cross into another country. It could be a big problem, also carrying weapons across a border is illegal, especially Canada and Mexico.
The First Stop
If you have had to cross the border now you need to stock up. Its up to you where you stop but Walmart Super Centre is our favorite. I guess its because you can get pretty much everything you need from groceries and meat to cell phones and the latest internet possibilities. Walmart always has a large parking lot and if it is late you can spend the night. Its a good idea to talk to customer service before you plan to spend the night, even if there is signage prohibiting overnight RV parking. Sometimes the rule is designed to keep people from setting up semi-permanently. If you’re not into free places like Walmart check out Happy Camper Club for 50% off RV parks.
Your RV Route
The time of the year, weather, and road construction should be a factors to consider when choosing a route. If there is a chance that highway conditions could be problematic, as in late fall, winter, and early spring, choose a route that is well traveled, which will probably be well maintained, and a route that has the least amount of high mountain passes.
Check highway weather before you leave. You can check out this site for an e-book of mountain passes. For instance there is a website dedicated to interstate I-5 south from the Canadian border south through, Washington state, Oregon and California.
The Best RV Overnight Stops
When traveling south we are somewhat impatient to get to the warmth of the southern states. We usually travel 8 to 10 hours a day and only stop if necessary, but don’t let yourself get too fatigued, it’s not like you are driving a compact car that can stop on a dime, and you are on vacation, enjoy.
There are many places you can stop. You can choose an RV park if you need power and water, a designated spot, internet, TV, laundry etc. Of course you will pay $30. and up, for these amenities.
Or if you just want a place to pull off and sleep, there are a number of choices to consider. Walmart, casinos, truck stops, rest areas. Our favorite is casinos, there is usually a designated RV parking area with even a shuttle to the casino where you can have dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening.
The world’s largest camp ground network…………Walmart is our second choice, you can usually pick up a hot meal for dinner, and Walmart is open 24 hrs so it is not usually a deserted parking lot, and they are also conveniently situated close to the freeway. Oh and shopping.
Rest areas and truck stops are our last choices. Truck stops have some conveniences but are usually noisy with refrigeration units running all night and semis coming and going. Rest areas generally don’t have much other than rest rooms and vending machines, but if other vehicles are spending the night we have joined them. its not the best nights sleep but it will due in a pinch. However not all states and provinces allow overnight stops.
RV Fuel Stops
This is probably one of the least considered necessities when touring in your RV. RVs are usually too large to access many conventional gas stations even if you are able to maneuver your rig close enough to the gas pumps. Some of the other customers may be held captive while you refuel, or at least will have to jockey around to get past your rig.
Generally I try to use truck stops, they are so much easier to access, a good place to take a break, have lunch, take the dog for a walk, have a nap, etc. Although generally most gas stations next to interstate highways can accommodate larger RV’s, as well. Truck stops often have propane refilling facilities.
It’s a Waste (sani-dump)
As you are enjoying meandering along in your home on wheels enjoying the beautiful aroma of the countryside , don’t forget about this odor filled experience. Nothing is more inconvenient than getting to your dry camping destination to spend a few well deserved relaxing days recuperating from several days of driving, than to realize your black water, grey water or fresh water is not going to last your stay.
Various places have sani-dumps, rest areas, truck stops, county parks to name a few. If you google RV dump station or sani-dump, there are many, some free others a small fee, many have potable water (drinkable water) as well.
Note – do not fill your RV with the rinse water……..the water next to the dump station. If it doesn’t say potable water don’t use it for drinking.
The Scariest Term for Me…… (Break Down)
A break down is always a high stress situation or at least very inconvenient. There is a few precautions you can take to minimize the chances and stress. The most obvious I guess is pre-trip preparations, vehicle maintenance, the most important. Tires are one of the overlooked potential hazards, just because they look good does not mean they’re going to withstand hours or days of driving the highway especially in the heat.
This brings me to an incident that happened to us while traveling in the Mojave desert in California a few years ago. We were driving north of the town of Mojave when,……BANG…… an outside rear tire blows, no harm done, it was one of two dual tires. We turned around and headed back to the town to a tire shop to have our spare installed. Lucky we had a spare otherwise we may have been spending a day or so exploring this quaint little desert town. The story continues. Myself being a frugal person and also being somewhat safety conscious decided when we get to the next major town or city I will have the two front tires replaced. If one of these blow it could be disastrous. I had the tires replaced and we continued on our journey to San Deigo. On our way back to the desert on interstate 8, guess what……….BANG AGAIN…….. I thought for a second Lynda was going to jump out the window, as she yelled…. TIRE……… This time it was the inside tire on the same side as the last blow out. We limped our way into El Centro and replaced the remaining tires. We laugh about that now but back then I think I earned a few nick names, starting with “you cheap…….. Honest mistake….right. If you are in need of new tires click here huge savings and free shipping.
Other than maintaining your RV there are a few other precautions that you can take. Try not to drive at night in your RV, night time seems to compound the problem, don’t travel too far out in the boonies alone to find that perfect dry camping spot.
If you break down, get off the road if you can, turn on your 4 way flashers, call for help. If there is heavy traffic exit the vehicle from shoulder side and open the hood, stay with your vehicle and wait for help. An emergency kit with reflective markers is good to have.
I would recommend a road side assistance company, they will usually send someone to try to repair your RV or at least have it towed to a repair shop. We have used Good Sam Roadside assistance for several years. We had a break down it our motor home outside of Palm Springs one call and they took care of everything. click here to check them out
The bottom line is be prepared for a RV break down……. it will make the experience easier to deal with.
We try to write in our travel diary every day to record the days events. We have found it useful to revisit areas. Click this link to check out diary soft ware.
I have tried to share with you some of the things that you may encounter on your travels. I hope it helps in your plan to live the RV dream.
I have created a comprehensive list of equipment and items you may need for your RV travels click here to check out my list.
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