Special guest Harry Basch, author of "Frommer's Exploring America by RV" and several other RVing guides, joins host David Lytle and editor Kathleen Warnock for an intro to the RV lifestyle. Whether you're a first-timer renting a "Class C" or a longtime owner looking to find some new roads to wander, Harry enlightens us with info on how to get started, the benefits (economical, practical and experiential), where to stay, and how far RV parks have come (spas, satellite TV and 18-hole golf courses!) Whether you choose to getaway from it all (but bring food and lodging) or take the luxury roadtrip of a lifetime, Harry's expert advice will set you on the right path.
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- Less Crowded Canyons: Canyon Breaks, Capitol Wreath, National Bridges National Monument
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.Announcer: Welcome to the frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit www.frommers.com.
David Lytle: Hi, today we are talking with Harry Bosh and Kathleen Warnett. Harry is the author of "Exploring America by RV" and "RV Vacations for Dummies" and Kathleen is the editor on both of those guides as well. How are you guys doing today?
Harry Bosh: Very good.
David: Good. Glad to hear you, you're in Canada right now, right?
Harry: Right, I'm in Whistler, British Columbia and it's a little rainy.
David: Sorry about the rain, we're having a beautiful day here in San Francisco. Harry are you actually on the road right now?
Harry: Right, I'm out in my 36 foot motor home. It's a great way to see the country.
David: Yeah, I can imagine. Kathleen would you like to start of talking to Harry?
Kathleen Warnett: Sure. I really love working with Harry. This is the third edition of "Exploring America by RV" that I've edited. And I love to read about the trips and how he updates them. And I also love the "RV Vacations for Dummies" book as well.
So Harry comes to us with an extremely wide background in a lot of different areas -- including show business -- and started taking up travel writing and reporting on it as well into his career. And he became one of the foremost writers reporting on RVs and the RV kind of vacation, so it's always a pleasure when the manuscript comes in and I get to see where they've gone.
What I really like about this book, "Exploring America by RV" -- is that it's divided into several different sections. There's one that's literally about how you get into RVing, and very practical stuff about renting and buying and what to take with you and how to pack it. And even recipes to prepare while you are on the road. And then there are the nine trips all over the country and in the final section is a glossary and a buyer's guide. So it's all complete in one book. And I love the way that it's laid out and organized, so Harry has been there and done that, and he's still doing that.
One of the things that I've always wanted to ask Harry is, of the trips in the book, which are your favorite ones?
Harry: What is my favorite one? I love the parks of Utah, National Parks. They're scenically exciting and depending on the sun, the whole colors of the canyon change. When I started RVing, I looked for a book that could tell me something about what to do and how do I hook up the vehicle? How do I deal with this? And there wasn't any. So after a while we decided let's write one.
David: Makes sense, that's the best way to start a project.
Kathleen: Now how many miles do you think you've put on the last one and this RV that you have now?
Harry: I'd say... Last time we had sixty thousand and I've got about sixty thousand on this one, but that's from 2000. Then a lot of travel was done in RV situations, driving on the Alaska Highway we were in a rental RV, a lot of travel through the country was done as spokespeople for RVIA. So I think that overall we've done closer to 300,000 miles in the U.S. and Canada.
Kathleen: That's amazing. And that includes Baja, California too, doesn't it?
Harry: Ah yes, that's another area. [laughter] That's where every mile seems like two miles.
David: I was going to say, I understand they finally got roads in Baja recently.
Harry: You've been there recently?
David: I've been there recently, but I was saying that I understand Baja, California finally got real roads recently.
David: They finally completed paving a complete circuit that's actually considered a decent highway.
Harry: Well, you certainly couldn't drive at night.
David: Yes, exactly. So you have to go back down and try that one again.
Kathleen: One of the things I like about the book is that you can go to so many places that might not be so accessible without an RV. Because you've got your house there and you've got your bed and you've got your kitchen. And that's something that's also more economical, isn't it? For say a couple or a family traveling rather than by car and hotel and airplane and all that sort of thing.
Harry: Absolutely. If you're going out on a long trip with a family, an RV is so great because you've got your house with you. So you're not looking for a motel or a hotel, you're not looking for restaurants. And certainly when somebody says, "I have to go potty" you don't have to look around the road. It's there.
David: [laughter] Very practical.
Kathleen: Yes it is. And where do you usually stay when you're on the road, when you're in the vehicle? What kind of places do you stay?
Harry: I usually stay at commercial campgrounds or National Parks. A lot of the states have parks with electrical hookups and everything, I don't advice staying in a Walmart parking lot, not only because it's not really attractive. But it seems very silly when somebody has a 200 thousand dollar vehicle and they're staying in a Walmart parking lot to save on a 20-dollar campground fee.
Kathleen: That does seem kind of penny wise and pound foolish. A lot of these campgrounds have like swimming pools and dance halls and things like that, don't they?
Harry: Oh yeah. These new parks today have spas and certainly Internet connections, wireless Internet, golf courses. Where we're staying right now they have an eighteen hole putting green.
David: Wow, I had no idea that camping had come so far.
Harry: Oh absolutely. Most of them now have Cable TV or Satellite TV, so that you just pull in and plug-in and you've got 150 channels.
David: That actually raises a question for me, I think that the idea of a road trip, an RV vacation, camping, is sort of the idea of getting away from everything. Yet it seems like what you're telling me is that they're putting everything that you're getting away from into the campground.
Harry: You have a choice of either way. A lot of people want to go out and sit by a lake and throw a line in and hope to catch a fish. Others want to take the niceties of home with them. You have a choice. You can do either.
Kathleen: And there's still plenty of what they call the self-contained sites at a lot of State and area parks out there, aren't there?
Harry: Oh yes. And with most vehicles you can go three or four days without having to be connected to electricity or sewer or water, because you have those tanks on board that collect the sewage or have water for washing dishes or whatever.
David: Well I know something that our readers are always interested in -- our readers and listeners -- is how much things cost. For the first time person whose going to rent an RV -- because I assume it's a good idea to rent your first time and not buy, just to try it out -- what could they expect to pay for an average cost per day for renting an RV and all the things that go with it, gas, food?
Harry: It depends on the size of the RV, whether you're taking out a big motor home or whether you're taking a smaller -- what they call a Class C, which is smaller -- but they range in rates from 700 dollars a week to about 2500 dollars a week. That's for the rental and that includes the gear, it includes dishes, it includes bedding, the whole set-up. Now your additional costs would be food and gas.
David: So really, would you say right now... Of course because of fuel prices, that's probably going to be your biggest expense, the gasoline.
Harry: Well I just drove from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. It's about a distance of a thousand miles. And I used 130 gallons, which came close to $500. Now, a year ago it would have been a dollar a gallon cheaper, so this year it cost me $130 more.
Harry: It's not that big an item when you think of the savings you're having when you have hotels and restaurants.
David: That a rise in gas prices, they don't really cut into the availability of taking an RV trip. It still is affordable.
Harry: Now I expected to see half empty campgrounds. And everywhere I've been the campgrounds are full. People are adjusting. They're not taking the kind of long day and drive everyday trips. They'll drive some place and sit for a week. So the gas amortizes over the period.
David: Yes, absolutely.
Kathleen: Speaking of crowded campgrounds, I actually am interested in what you would consider the ways to sort of deal with the heavy duty vacation season in the summer. Are there certain places you love that people don't know about? Or don't go to as often?
Harry: Summer is always a problem. And you really should make reservations ahead of time if it's a popular campground. We go to MarBay in Central California along the beach. You really have to make a reservation three or four months in advance, particularly if you're going to stay a week or two.
David: Well, that's good to know. So at this point, people probably should have made the reservations at any major location.
Harry: The popular ones, if you're going to go to out of the way places in the Northwest or the West, you're not going to have too much of a problem. But if you're going to Orlando or to the Keys in Florida or you're going to travel the Oregon coast, you're going to have to make reservations ahead of time. For July and August.
David: Maybe they should be looking at off beat places if they just sort of want to wing it.
Harry: Absolutely and that's one of the things we do in the book is try to find the things that are not obvious. Everyone can find Disneyland. So that's not in the book. So it's trying to find off beat things.
David: So the book is a great resource for people to find something that's unique in vacationing because oftentimes travelers get that malaise of different day, same thing. So you're pointing out some things that are obviously different than, say Disney World or the Keys. That's good to know.
Kathleen: There's an excellent chapter called "The Dakotas: Black Hills and Buffalo Burgers," which goes through both North and South Dakota. And I also liked "The Rio Grande Valley and the Wilds of West Texas." And that includes just a lot of really fun stuff.
Harry: In regards to that North Dakota, we were there on Fourth of July and you travel through those National Parks and it's not crowded at all.
David: I would think that any national park would be jammed pack, especially middle of the summer and a big holiday like Fourth of July. So it's...
Harry: That area of the country is really out of the mainstream. Montana and North Dakota.
Kathleen: You also talk in the Utah chapter about various parks that people don't get to much that you really really like.
Harry: Actually though, everyone heads for Zion and Bryce, those canyons are jammed packed in the summer. But if you go a little farther and get out into Deadwater Canyon and some of the other areas of Utah, in the eastern part of the state, it's less crowded.
Kathleen: Yes, I'm looking at some of the places like the Canyon Breaks and Capitol Wreath and places like that, the Natural Bridges National Monument.
Harry: And those are beautiful. The areas are in some ways desolate and some ways imaginative because pioneers who came through this named some of those things with great imagination. The one called Capital Dome looks nothing like the Capital Dome.
David: A sense of humor makes it easier on a hard road trip. Harry, what are some of the best sources for information for people, especially if they want to rent an RV, who do you recommend they go to?
Harry: Well, one of the best is RVIA, which is the Recreational Vehicles Industry Association. They have a website called Go Camping America, www.gocampingamerica.com. And they have a lot of information there. And if you go to the RVIA.com you can get lists of rentals and areas for information about various states. Also, the State Internet can provide a lot of information not only about tourist attractions, but campgrounds and things like that.
David: That's good to know, more and more you can find just about anything you want on the Internet. So you're saying really the two best places for people to go are RVIA.com and gocampingamerica.com.
Harry: The other thing is when you enter any state, usually when you are on an interstate highway, you'll find a welcome center. Whether it's Washington or Oregon or South Dakota, that's the place to make your first stop because it'll be filled with brochures and maps and information about that particular state and you can load up with goodies. A lot of them have coupons for savings and campgrounds and what have you.
David: Good to know.
Kathleen: Are there certain organizations for RVers that offer discounts or give you guides and things like that you can check in with and find out about?
Harry: Welcome centers will have that kind of information.
Kathleen: And you talk about, I think, is it the Good Sam Club in your book?
Harry: Yes, Good Sam and KOA are campground associations and if you're a member of those it's a 10% discount at any of their campgrounds. Motorcoach, Family Motorcoach, has discounts in campgrounds as well.
David: What does it cost to join any of those organizations?
Harry: I think KOA is $12 a year and Good Sam is something like $25.
David: Oh, really a relatively low fee for...
Harry: Yeah, it's...
David: ...it's a good investment.
Harry: ...the first of three stops.
David: It seems like it would be very easy to recoup your $12. It looks like we're heading to the end of our chat here. Is there anything else you'd like to say, Harry, before we say good-bye?
Harry: I just want to say that the marvelous thing about RVing is the freedom of choice. The serendipity of discovering something up the road that you would never have thought of going to just because it was there. And it can be exciting. It can be nothing, but it can be exciting.
David: That sounds fantastic actually. Just the opportunity to wander and explore and discover. Well, Kathleen and Harry, I'd like to say thank you to both of you for talking today.
Kathleen: Well thank you.
Harry: Thank you.
David: Sure and hopefully we can do this again soon.
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