Aaron, The Foxy Pups and I left our home in Arizona on Saturday, June 27th and won’t be back home until July 26th! My goal is to share my trip diary with you all in real time or at least jot down notes in real time and share not too much later. Once we’re back home I’ll be writing follow-up blog posts more specific to what we learned from our RV, like what to look for when you’re shopping, what towing is like, what is needed to furnish an RV, etc. For now, keep reading to hear about my initial thoughts on RV travel or skip that part and check out the photos and travel itineraries for the various places we go in this gorgeous country. My thoughts are a little all over the place these first couples of days, but comment below or message me any questions you have and I’ll definitely answer them as we go! Also, I have linked a few of my Amazon Ideas Lists that feature the items we purchased for our trailer and trips. If you’re interested in shopping the items that I’ve saved, I really appreciate you checking out the lists as I make a small commission from the items that you decide to purcahse.
Day 1: 6/27/20: Tempe – Monument Valley:
7 hours total travel time and 326 miles (2 hours longer than Google Maps). Left at 8am (two hours behind schedule) – arrived at 4pm Utah time / 3pm AZ time.
Final destination: Monument Valley KOA, Milepost 2, Highway 163, Monument Valley, UT 84536.
We woke up at 5am to leave at 6am, but actually left at 8am. There were two accidents on the I-17 that cost about an hour. We had two 30-minute stops; one at a rest stop at Sunset Point that was packed with people who had the same idea and another one to get gas as we were driving out of Flagstaff. I look forward to driving over the hill as you get to Sunset Point because of the flat land and high grass. It’s such a gorgeous view. However, there was a pretty bad fire about a month ago and on the right it was completely burnt all the way to the highway. The left side looked to be untouched thankfully.
Gas mileage on the BMW X5 is usually around 18 mpg, but at 60-65 mph while towing the trailer the gas mileage is roughly 11 mpg. The hitch makes a rattling noise, which is normal, but is weird to get used to at first. There is a slight sway when big trucks, vans, or SUVs drive past. There’s actually a weird suction if a big vehicle gets too close to us as they drive past. We have a tow kit from Steal Hitches that includes a break controller. It comes with a hand held button that Aaron holds as he drives and presses when he wants to prevent or slow down sway. He will pulse the breaks when he feels sway, needs to break heavily or if there’s wind.
Once we got out of Flagstaff the traffic died down. I drove the car/trailer for the 1st time ever! It was 2 feet at the gas station while Aaron was in the bathroom and I had to pull forward a little bit for us to pull out without any blockage. On the drive we saw cattle, horses (including wild horses and a calf), and goats. As we were getting closer to our RV camp ground in Monument Valley the highway splits two completely different looking landscapes. On the right, it looks like normal high desert with white gravel, green brush and boulders, kinda of like what you’d imagine the Rocky Mountains would look like. On the left, it was red rock with small shrubbery/trees breaking through the rocks and totally reminded me of the Lion King. As we kept driving, the rock monuments started to appear. The mesas and rock formations are so random, massive and magical. There are a lot of rock formations that look like mittens and a few others that look like finger groupings. It’s so weird, cool and special how the rock formations are pretty spread out and pop up randomly.
The KOA in Monument Valley is right off the freeway and you are surrounded by gorgeous 360 degree views. There’s a small ranch attached with horse riding. I really liked how the KOA campsites have dog runs for the dogs to go to the bathroom and stretch their legs. They’re not the best at going to the bathroom on their leashes. Also, they had nice restrooms with showers. Aaron mentioned that this location is relatively new. We have a rule of not going #2 in the RV if we can help it, which I appreciated when we were draining it before leaving. After we set up camp, I took an hour nap and by 6pm we were eating dinner.
Dinner was cheeseburgers cooked on a small table top Weber “Go Anywhere” grill that is large enough to fit six burgers max and frozen crinkle fries that we cooked in our microwave that also has convection oven settings. The convention oven is sweet! It came with the RV and has a setting where you pre-heat the microwave then you cook it like normal – 425 degrees for 20 minutes. The fries came out perfect! We had the freezer and fridge food packed before we left home and had the fridge/freezer running over night so that everything would stay cold as we drove. It seems as though 7 hours is probably the maximum amount of time we can go without power for the food, but as soon as we were connected everything got cold right away. We also have a separate ARTC cooler for milk and some drinks just in case. Before we left home we froze water bottles to keep in the cooler and frozen ice packs to keep in the fridge.
After dinner we got ready for bed. My first shower experience was great. I washed my face in the sink first, then did a body shower. The water was hot right away. Our shower has a hose, so it’s easy to spray down your body, turn off the water, lather up and then spray yourself off. I’m able to keep all of my face and body products in the medicine cabinet and under the sink storage, which makes it easy and convenient. The storage for the rest of the RV is exceptional. I was able to fit enough close for 30 days between bedside storage (underwear and bras), above the bed (folded pjs, shorts, jeans, leggings, tops) and hanging in a cabinet (jackets, dress for a HS grad celebration in Ohio, and any tops I don’t want to wrinkle). We have cabinets for kitchen utensils, dishes, cleaning products, cooking materials, and non-refrigerated food. We also have storage under the bed (dog kennels, sleeping bag, golf clubs, etc.) and behind our dinette (random items, water bottles, soft cooler, lawn games, etc.)
To finish our first day, we ate semi-frozen ice cream and fell asleep a little after 9pm talking about how we thought our experience so far is going; what is going exactly like we thought and what has been a little different. Here’s what we said:
KF: The RV storage situation is way better than I expected. The peacefulness of camping is exactly how I expected and remembered when camping with my family growing up.
AF: Gas mileage is much worse than expected. Averaging under 12 and he was hoping 15 mpg. We’re able to comfortably tow faster than he expected we’d be able to tow so far. He knew the drive distance that we researched on Google was going to take us about 60% longer. The microwave was better and the shower was bigger than expected. The bed was super comfy, but a little smaller than our regular bed (we upgraded our mattress). The floor space seemed a bit more crowded than we thought because of the dogs being anxious (we bought sheets to cover the dinette bed – we might use a bed cover on our bed when we’re not using it for the dogs to go on, but for now they are not allowed on our bed at all).
To Do in Monument Valley:
We’d love to come back and do a guided tour. I read in the National Geographic “100 Parks 5000 Ideas” book (page 208) that the Navajo Tribal Park Visitor Center offers views of Merrick Butte and the twin Mitten Buttes from the parking lot. However, leaving the visitor center you can take Valley Drive between Merrick Mesa and 5 miles out west to John Ford’s Point near the base of the Three Sisters (a trio of tall red rocks). The main road loops around Rain God Mesa to the outlook of Totem Pole from Artist’s Point and the North Window. Navajo Spirit and Sacred Mountain Jeep Tours are two of the jeep tour companies.
We woke up just before 6am to see the sunrise through the windows. Aaron took the dogs out, then we ate cereal and went back to sleep till around 8:30/45am. We got ready for the day, let the dogs out again and cleaned up the trailer. We took the dogs in the car and left camp to gas up. We went to Goulding’s Gas Station (1000 Monument Valley Rd., Moab, UT 84533), which is back off the highway close to the big mesas and looks to be in a very small town area. There was a lodge, a couple houses and an RV park. We’d love to come back to stay at that RV park and tour Monument Valley more. There are jeep tours and routes you can take to get up close and personal to these natural monuments, which would be fun to do. After getting gas, we closed up the RV and were pulling out by 11am to hit the road for Moab.
On the road, we left the red rocks and dust of Monument Valley. Looking back was absolutely stunning to see all of the massive mesas in the background and rock clusters. We continued to drive through this red “Mars” land and the first town we hit was Mexican Hat. The San Juan river goes through it and to my shock there were houses build on the cliffs of the river. The red rock landscape continued and there is a flat rock on top of a mesa that looks like a “Mexican Hat” or a flat hat. The next town was a little bigger and it was Bluff, UT. We were able to get cell service and we passed a small airport, a gas station, a lodge and a steak house. The landscape turned into white rocks with oak trees that looked to be out of place and planted intentionally. After that we come to White Mesa that was much smaller than Bluff and the landscape turned into high desert/grassland with mesquite trees. Then we came to Blanding, UT which was the largest town so far. There was great cell service, gas stations, and it resembled more of a small town. There was a dinosaur museum too! After that we pass a highway sign for Canyonlands, which I saw in our national parks book. The exit for that area was near this super cool rock dome. We saw a family parked at the scenic stop taking a photo and it looked like he was holding the rock formation in his hands – LOL. The landscape is turning more into Sedona-like, red rock, but with more greenery like small trees and bushes. The closer we got to Moab, the more it looks like Prescott too, still a little pink, but with small shrubbery, which surprised both of us. The amazing thing is the arches and rock formations. We passed Wilson’s Arch (20 miles south of our KOA) and Hole in the Rock (10 miles south of our KOA).
The KOA here is massive compared to the previous one at Monument Valley. “Moab’s largest pool” is here along with a lawn game area, specific tent spots, RV spots, a small and a large dog run, and multiple sized cabins. It looked like they were building homes in the area too. The views were again so stunning! After setting up camp, we ate lunch, let the dogs out or a little while and left to explore Arches National Park. We usually kennel our dogs at home, but decided to close up all windows and put everything away as much as possible for them to chill while we were gone. (Spoiler – we came back to our entire bed messed up and their water/food bowls spilled. It looked like they had a party while we were gone! LOL) Driving to Arches National Park took us through downtown Moab, which is SO cute! If it weren’t COVID season, I’d love to walk down Main Street, grab an ice cream cone and window shop. A couple spots that stuck out to me were Dough Bird (donuts and fried chicken) and Jail House Cafe.
About 30 minutes from our KOA, Arches National Park appeared right off the highway. We paid $30 and had access for 7-days. We drove up the mountain and it looked like there were rocks on top of rocks that could easily roll off and crush us! It was breath taking and shocking all at the same time. With every turn there was something else just as incredible to view. Even if you don’t like to hike, there are enough turn offs to check out that have views right off the main road. We saw the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, the Great Wall, the Petrified Dunes, the Balanced Rock, and a ton of arches. The first arches we saw up close and personal were the Windows. You come up to the North Window first and are able to walk underneath it. Then the South window, which isn’t as accessible, but when you walk to the Turret Arch, you can turn around and see both Window arches in one frame. Also, if you look off in the other direction, there are a few different arches hidden among a mountain scape, which I think is Double Arch. I love the random rock forests that look like trees but without the branches, or maybe groupings of people standing close to each other. We went to one more arch, which is Delicate Arch and I think this is the famous arch that you see on Utah license plates. There’s a short trail walk that brings you to view it, but you’re still so far that it’s hard to see much. We decided to save Devil’s Garden, which has a ton of spectacular arches for tomorrow morning. We originally booked a 2.5 hour UTV tour through Hell’s Revenge 4×4 Off Roading Tour for tomorrow morning, but cancelled it because we have to check out promptly at 11am and that is when the tour ends. Back at camp, we set up a tarp outside the trailer and tied the pups up so we could chill and enjoy the nice weather. It was pretty windy. For dinner Aaron grilled chicken and I microwaved us baked potatoes. After hanging out on the patio for a little bit, we showered, enjoyed some ice cream and went to bed by 10pm.
Day 3: 6/29/20: Moab – Brigham City:
6 hours total travel time and 289 miles (1 hour 30 minutes longer than Google with 2 stops – one for gas and one at PetSmart). Left at 10:45am (15 min earlier than schedule) – arrived at 4:45pm Utah time. Final
This morning we woke up at 6:30am after a night of not the best sleep. Moab is so windy and we really felt it in the trailer. I ended up falling back asleep after about 20-30 minutes, but it sounds like Aaron had a more difficult time sleeping through it than me. We set up a bed for the dogs on the dinette/convertible bed in order to prevent them from sleeping on our Nod by Tuft & Needle queen bed (60” x 80”, most RVs have an RV queen at 60” x 74”) with us, but Aaron woke up to Murray sleeping on my feet, which is just so cute! We had a hearty breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs, and microwavable bacon; Aaron turned his into a sandwich. Then we got ready for day 2 at Arches National Park. We drove to the very end of the map which is Devil’s Garden Trailhead. We didn’t have enough time to see all of the famous arches in that area (Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, Double O Arch, Dark Angel and Private Arch), but we had enough time to see the Tunnel Arch, and the Pine Tree Arch. When you first start the hike, you walk between two massive rocks, which creates a wind tunnel. I thought we were going to blow away! Based on yesterday and almost losing my hat, I figured Space Buns was the only appropriate hairstyle to be able to keep my hair as clean and tangled free as possible. It worked like a charm! On the way out of the park, we stop to see Skyline Arch. Other arches in this area are: Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch. It took us about 30 minutes to drive all the way to the end of the park and a little less to drive out. Then about 30 minutes to get gas and drive back to camp. We purposely cleaned up earlier so that we’d be able to close up the slide, drain the water, let the pups out, and attach the hitch. This KOA had a hard check-out time of 11am. We hit the road by 10:45am for our next stop, which is about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City, UT and is the perfect mid-point before reaching Jackson, WY.
The scenery on this drive completely changed! No more red rocks. The wind leaving Moab was intense, but after that is was more up and down hills. The mountains are huge, tan in color and covered in green trees that looked like pines. We stopped in Helper, UT to fill up on gas and for a rest stop. The town looked like an old coal mining town. It was cute and eery at the same time. It was crazy to see that the highway went right through it. One thing we realized is that we need easy snacks for Aaron for when he’s driving. I fed him salami wrapped around string cheese at one point – ha! But we got to flat road and he was able to feed himself an apple, which was good! Once we reached Spanish Fork, we felt like we were in normal civilization again. We saw chain stores and restaurants. I even bought preventative flea and tick medicine for the pups for pick-up in North Ogden just south of our stop. We walked around the campsite to enjoy the cool weather and let the pups get their zoomies out in the dog run. This KOA actually has laundry too! We ate left over chicken, baked potatoes and cooked fresh broccoli. We sat outside at our campsite and I enjoyed a hot coco. Then we showered off and enjoyed a restful and low key evening to energize ourselves for our next few stops that will be heavy with sight seeing. Tomorrow we are expecting rain and we’ll try to leave camp fairly early around 6-7am for Jackson, WY.
Two things that I’ve learned about Aaron:
- He never remembers where he puts things! He’s lost the keys 10 times already along with the hitch pin, the paper towels, the thermometer, among other things – lol.
- He had been so excited for our TV in our trailer. Day 3 was the first day that we were able to get channels and he was so excited! I’ve been hoping it wouldn’t work because it doesn’t feel like camping with the TV going.