Trip to Michigan via Nashville – Visit with Fulltimers and RV Shopping

Karen and I finished up a trip to see her mother and family in Howell Michigan a couple weeks ago. We first stopped off in Nashville Tennessee to pick up her brother who joined us on the trip. Unfortunately we did not have much time to spend in Nashville touring. Karen’s brother is a professional musician and has lived in Nashville for years.  Figure we will make an extended trip there in the future. I’ve already got some ideas for a campground which is Seven Points Campground, a Corp of Engineer Park.

Karen ran off shopping with her sister and mother in Michigan while I took a couple day trips.

Ryan and Deanne from California

Montana with Nice Ram

For quite a while I’ve been sending emails back and forth to a reader of this blog. Ryan and Deanne are from California. Ryan is originally from Michigan and as luck would have it they were in town visiting his father. So off to the south of Detroit I drove for a day trip. I got a grand tour of their wonderful 2018 rear living room, 35′ Montana 3120RL. And a ride in their new beautiful Ram truck that’s equipped for maximum towing with 4:10 gears, dual rear wheels, Aisin transmission and the high-output Cummins diesel engine. We drove to a local joint for Coney style hotdogs which is apparently a Detroit original. As would seem to always be the case, when meeting fellow lovers of RV’s, it took only a few minutes to feel like I’d known the couple for a while. Great conversation for sure. Thank you Ryan for all the valuable conversation in-person and through the internet! Thank you Deanne for the tour or your home. She had a list of what she would change in this fifth wheel. Wonderful input for us who are still looking to buy one.  As a side note, one of the things I like about the Montana is the very large user group. The Montana Owner’s Forum is huge.

My second day trip was to the Haylett RV dealership in Coldwater Michigan. Home of my favorite RV tour videos and one of several dealerships we might buy from if we go with the Montana. Although I’ve known three people who bought their Montana fifth wheels at Lake Shore in Muskegon Michigan. It’s the volume – lowest price dealership. All three seemed to have had good experiences.

While at Haylett RV I was able to compare the 2019 Montana with the newer 2019 Anniversary Edition.  Funny how in just a few months there have already been two significant changes to the same 2019 trailer! I’ve also been reading Keystone is incorporating more technology in their upcoming fifth wheels. That will be the third significant change in one year! So far they plan to hardwire cellular and WIFI into the trailer using some kind of Furrion system.  Here is part of the news bulletin:

“At the end of September, Keystone RV Company will launch another industry first, all Keystone RVs will be 4G LTE and WiFi ready, standard. New Furrion technology offers an antenna that integrates 4G LTE and Wi-Fi with standard VHF/UHF/AM/FM reception. WiFi and cellular signals are routed to a wall-mounted base inside the trailer.”

The trip to Michigan from Tennessee lead us through Kentucky. This was the first time I’d been on Interstates through south to north Kentucky. I was impressed with the scenery. Karen’s brother Steve had made the trip a number of times and alerted us to an upcoming view of Cincinnati Ohio as it entered our view on Interstate 75/71. I cut some photos out of Google Maps that don’t do it justice. Basically, as you approach from the south, down a hill there is a curve. As you make the curve Cincinnati’s tall downtown buildings suddenly come into view.

Here is the view approaching Cincinnati

WAIT FOR IT

 

 

Bam! As soon as you come around the corner the city appears.

North of Cincinnati is Jeff Couch’s RV Nation’s Dealership. Home of the low price volume dealer for the Forest River Cedar Creek. A trailer which has a ton of changes for 2019. Most importantly is their introduction of a 35′ trailer in direct competition with the Montana 3120RL. Wish we would have had time to stop to look over the new model. Karen likes the double bowl sinks in the Cedar Creek which come at the expense of a deep pantry.

Keystone Montana 3120RL

Forest River Cedar Creek 34IK

So that now makes a total of four RV companies who are building our top floor plan. The others are Vanleigh with their Vilano 320GK or Beacon 34RLB and Grand Design’s Solitude 310GK. Subtle differences in some parts and major difference in others among the four trailers. I’ll not get into that unless someone asks in the comments section. If you are looking for a 35′ “luxury” fifth wheel, these are the four we looked at.

We drove four days on this trip with a little over 500 miles between destinations each way. Karen and I really enjoyed the quick brake from our sticks and bricks home. We both still can’t wait to get on the road sometime next year. Till then we keep downsizing and fixing up the house.

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Renting an RV – Day Six of Trip

Covert Park Beach and Campground – Covert Michigan

We spent the larger part of the day on the beach at Lake Michigan. Karen used to come to Covert Park when she lived in Michigan. She last stayed here 24 years ago when some friends were building and operating the campground. For those that don’t stay at the park they can get access to the beach for $7 a car load.  There are other free beaches within five miles that are dog friendly. Covert Park Beach Campground does not allow dogs on the beach. During an earlier post I talked about our dog Huck coming out of his shell and turning out to really enjoy the trip. Karen said he smiles all the time in his photos during the trip.

Huck on left smiling

Huck on left smiling

Our RV rental trip is winding down. We have learned a lot to include such seemingly minor things such as we definitely want slam latches on our future rig.

We lived through another storm. Man, it’s loud when the hail hits the roof! We did not have a weather radio but were able to follow the storm which was broadcasted by Chicago area television.  We have no cell phone nor internet coverage here.

During the storm Karen and I drifted to other parts of the camper. I was in the bedroom reading and watching TV while she was in the dining area reading. This was not planned, it just happened. Perhaps the storm event was more important than just knowing we could handle the storm. We had no problem finding separated spaces even inside a 25’ motorhome. Earlier she went through the campground and beach taking photos while I stayed behind to read a new book about Military Police in Iraq I got for my birthday.

I decided to cook up the remaining hamburgers and other meat while I had the fire pit setup with charcoal. That way we would only have to heat up burgers in the microwave during the trip home which we decided will be through Amana Iowa. I learned I would not be taking a charcoal grill with us at first while fulltiming. The new fire pit grate I bought is working well by spanning the fire pit. So far none of the parks we stayed in had a barbeque grill located at the camp site.

We will be back to this park. The weekly rental rate is $170 and it looks like I might be able to get a 40’ rig into a couple spots. A 30’ rig would definitely fit with ease.

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Path to beach from camp site

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Office at entrance - with sharp turn to camp site

Office at entrance – with sharp turn to camp site

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View from beach

View from beach

Our spot

Our spot

Renting an RV – Day Five of Trip

Covert Park Beach and Campground – Covert Michigan

Today’s post turned out to be longer than I thought it would be so I’m not combining it with day six.

Since our last fuel-up I’ve been driving five miles an hour under the speed limit or 65. Miles per gallon today was 8.7 which is hardly different than when I just drove however I wanted.  This is a gas rig running an E450 engine. The empty weight listed on the sticker by the door was 10,756 pounds and limits the cargo, fuel, water, other storage and passenger weight to another 3,300 pounds. This Class C has about as large a basement area as any larger fifth wheel.  Driving just under the speed limit has proved to make the drive more enjoyable. Folks just pass us and I don’t have to worry as much if someone is in our blind spot. It allows for a little more reaction time and I have a chance to enjoy the view out the windshield. Note, I recently read you should not drive faster than the tires are rated for. According to others, 65 mph is a typical RV tire rating.

The trip to Covert Michigan was short and uneventful. The campground is rustic and sits directly on the side of Lake Michigan although none of the camping spots are on the beach. Karen spent much of her young adult years camping here with friends. I had reserved a spot for two nights with a credit card while in Kansas City.  Cost was $32 a night with water and electric.  All the camp sites are surrounded by tall Michigan trees. The walk to the beach is short and we can wade out for a long ways where the water is up to your chest.  Karen said this is a good time of year for swimming in Lake Michigan because the water is at its warmest. It felt cold at first but became relaxing even though the outside temperature was only in the lower 80’s.  I’ll get Karen to take some photos of the park and post them. If you are looking up the park don’t get it confused with the KOA campground.

Location of Park

Location of Park – Click to Enlarge

Dogs are not allowed on the beach here. There are a few dog friendly (and free) beaches in the immediate area.

Of special note is Karen’s sister Kathy and husband Eugene rented one of the two small cabins for the first night of our two night stay. We had a good time on the beach and eating steaks cooked from the fire pit. Tomorrow we have our breakfast menu and lunch planned out as well.  It’s nice having them along. The cabins only have sleeping areas and no air conditioning.

I’ve discovered a couple of valuable lessons and observations about the RV lifestyle from a personal point of view. I’m not sure blogging about each day on the road will be in the cards for me. Maybe that will change when Karen and I are on the road fulltime once I’ve got the internet connections figured out and am not so busy having tons of fun on vacation. I’m sure I’ll want to blog about our longer stays in order to at least have a photo journal of our trips.  This trip however is also about learning the RV way and letting you guys know our experiences that might answer questions you have regarding renting an RV.

So far each park where we have stayed we were escorted to our spot. When I pulled in at Covert Park I found it to be run by a couple. He was sitting on a picnic bench in front of the office watching the traffic backup where they had parked a golf cart with a sign stating the beach was full.  There is parking at the beach where those that are not renting a camping spot can park after paying a $7 fee.  There was a lady behind the counter who had all the paperwork done upon our arrival. She said we were in spot #9 and to turn right to find the spot. She did not offer a map and when asked what side of the spot the hookups were on she said she did not know. I might have gotten off on a bad note with her when I said telling someone who is driving a motorhome you don’t know what side the hookups are on is a bad idea. She said why was that? I said because we don’t like backing up and running over kids in the street.  She then pulled a map out and showed me the spot. The sand/gravel road was a one-way street so I correctly made the assumption the hookups would be on the driver’s side.  Karen walked to the spot and confirmed this. The second time backing the RV into a spot went great. We were hooked up and ready to go to the beach in 15 minutes.  I had to make a sharp right turn (left turns are easier) at the main entrance around the golf cart. I told the male host sitting on the picnic table I’d appreciate him moving the golf cart out of the road to make the turn easier because if the tail of the motorhome hit the picnic table he was sitting on it would send it into the woods.  He said just give it a try. Guess I should not have doubted my newly acquired driving skills because I made the turn while only backing up once. I watched the rear camera, not to make sure I made the turn, but knowing I would not want to miss hitting the table and watching him move from his seated position for what may have been the first time that day. This time of year is late in the season and I’m sure the couple running the park are a bit tired of it. No worries, I prefer to laugh about it rather than dwell on it.  That’s a new emotion for me!

One last thing before I finish today’s epic blog post.  Our cocker spaniel Huck is a little scared of new things. Ringo is the opposite. If you say the word truck around Ringo you better have your keys in your hand because Ringo is ready to go.  I can’t believe how Huck is enjoying the trip. Karen says he even smiles in his photos. Both the boys are doing so well with it all. We turn the air conditioner and radio on in the RV while we are gone with them inside. We also close the window curtains and often come back to find them sleeping. We are learning a lot about traveling with pets. If you have any questions for us or comments about traveling with pets let me know. I’m no expert but can at least pass along what we experienced.

We really appreciate our neighbor Joyce back home in Kansas City watching the cats for us. Thank you Joyce!

Renting an RV – Day Four of Trip

Lake Chumung Outdoor Resort: Howell Michigan

I may be able to combine days 5 and 6 of our trip into one post. I’m not used to putting out daily posts on the blog and for those less interested feel free to skip these about our trip. I’ll do a summary of what we learned about our rental experience at a later date.

I spent some time reading about operating the RV Domestic thermostat before Karen found all the owner’s manuals in a cabinet. The 25’ Class C has plenty of storage for our short trip. So far the motorhome has been holding up well other than the 12 volt power supply to one of the two television melted while watching television.  Do any of you have a point of view concerning the benefit of having at least one 12 volt television, maybe in the bedroom, to watch when there are no electrical hookups? I sent an email to the rental company so they would have a heads up to replace the power supply for the next renter.

Lake Chumung is a first class resort so we did not have to use our waste and water holding tanks. We are however getting the hang of when to conserve water and waste tank space as the rigs smaller tanks are giving us a feel for what we might want when we go fulltime.

I’ve been doing all the route planning from my cell phone as every spot we have been in has not had good WIFI. Mostly I concern myself with looking at the trip around larger cities to find out what lane I might want to be in when changing interstates.

Today we attended church with Karen’s mother and trip planning was a necessity. The City of Howell Michigan had an annual festival so traffic was detoured. They did a fine job of selecting the detour road which had no low hanging spots that would damage the RV and the roadways were wide at turns. Suppose trucks have to use the same detours. I’ve learned truckers are our best friends.  I looked at the church parking lot on Google Earth and Karen called the Pastor the night before our visit to ask if we could park in the back portion of their lot. The Pastor said that would be fine, the area is seldom used. He even offered to let us camp out in the lot overnight if we wanted to.

What a great family day we had. My brother-in-law Eugene and I went shopping. As I’m sure most of you are also doing, I’m trying not to buy anything I would want to sell later when we go fulltime.

The family got together at our RV lot for a cookout. It was wonderful. Karen and I walked the park with the dogs later enjoying the “Christmas” celebration which included a parade of golf carts lit up with Christmas lights. At 8:00 pm there was a community bon fire which we missed. Karen took some wonderful photos of the resort that I posted below.

I’d definitely consider staying here for a month or so. The resort is also a popular spot for those avoiding the hot weather in Florida. There are rental spots available but most of the park is full of folks that bought their lots. I took a look at a few spots that were for sale. Seemed like the average RV lot with hookups was going for about $35,000. I did not see any lake front lots for sale which did not already have a park model on it.

We are off to Covert Park Beach and Campground next.  This stop will be in a more rustic park located alongside Lake Michigan.

Smaller fishing pond

Smaller fishing pond

Me - the beach bum

Me – the beach bum

The lake with homes along the banks

The lake with homes along the banks

Lots of nice landscaping

Lots of nice landscaping

Indoor pool near office and security gate

Indoor pool near office and security gate

Another view of lake

Another view of lake

Park model with Class A parked in rental spot

Park model with Class A parked in rental spot

Renting an RV – Day Three of Trip

Lake Chumung Outdoor Resort: Howell Michigan

Howell Michigan is where Karen’s mother and sister live.  Also it’s the home of a guy name Eugene who is my favorite brother-in-law and happens to be married to Karen’s sister. We think a lot alike. Everyone came out to visit us at the park about 30 minutes after we arrived. Good thing it only takes 20 minutes to setup camp. We are finding it takes about 45 minutes to break camp.

We are also finding limiting our drives to four or five hours is working well. Lake Chumung Outdoor Resort has a check-in time of 3:00 pm and we don’t get in a hurry to leave in the mornings. We lost an hour during the time zone change and failed to factor that in. No big deal, we (I’m) trying to avoid over planning the trip and just taking it as it comes for the most part.

So far I’ve only gotten a little upset about the driving skills of folks around the south side of Indianapolis. Thought about calling their local news channel and telling them two things. Slow down and fix your roads! Even had three state patrolman pass me at 15 over the limit. They were followed by a string of cars as if the state patrol was leading a parade.  Later Eugene and I sat around laughing as I came up with several ways to slow the traffic down around Indianapolis. I’ve got a spare cat. We don’t plan to take any cats on the road with us in four years. Figured I could throw one of them out the window in Indianapolis. One bouncing off the windshield of a speeding motorist should do the trick slowing the rest of them down. I got to thinking I might need more cats. Or maybe I should just go with Karen’s idea which includes the more sane approach which is don’t worry about missing the exit, there is always another exit down the road.   We should have taken the north loop around the city.

I wrote early about our dog Ringo having a problem with the right side of his muzzle. Karen was searching the internet as we drove trying to figure out what could be causing the problem. Got me even more concerned about my boy as she read off every possible cause for his dropping lower lip and not being able to blink his right eye. The parking lot at the animal hospital in Howell was thankfully very large and easy to park the motorhome in.  Turned out Ringo had an inner ear infection and should be okay after we give him 21 pills and a few weeks to recover.  Whew, I was relieved to know it was an ear problem and not one of those terrible causes Karen was reading on the internet which included everything but the dog having been abducted by aliens.

Suppose I should write a little more about the RV Resort and what we are learning. We stayed in campsite 119 which, like most of the Resort, in surrounded by long-term lot owners. Many own park models (that’s a small modular home looking thing). This is a true resort that butts up to an inland lake with a ton of amenities. I can now check it off the list to back an RV into a spot. No problem, I just followed what I learned on YouTube about driving a motorhome. Karen did a fantastic job of directing me into the spot. We walked around the park while the dogs caught up on their sleep. Ringo had been wanting to ride on my lap or crawl under my feet WHILE driving. Figured out a way to block his access to the driver’s area for safety.

Lake Chumung 1

Park models fill the streets

We paid $40 per night and know for sure we could spend a month at this spot. Howell Michigan is easy to drive around. The downtown area is full of little shops and all the larger box stores are nearby.

The drive to Michigan was the best possible in terms of weather. No cross winds and plenty of sunshine. We did live through our first rain storm while parked. No big deal. We just starting moving everything from outside the camper when we noticed everyone else doing the same. We can also check off another first which is Karen doing a load of laundry in an RV park. The bathrooms and laundry rooms are exceptional at this place. It would have taken a team of four men a week to install all the wall and floor tiles in the bathrooms and showers. Next time I’ll have to carry a roll of quarters instead of buying a roll from the office even though they sold me a roll without complaint. It was late in the day so maybe the lady at the desk had no use for the roll. Her husband was in the office and said they have been staying here since 1996. They stay four months and work part time at the Resort which is gated with a security guard who directed our guests to our spot. The man and his wife return home to southern Florida for the remainder of the year.

I can tell there are a lot of snow birds that spend the summer in the cooler weather here in Michigan. We learned what they do in their spare time. This includes this weekend being their Christmas. I held the door open for a guy carrying a Santa suit and many of the homes had Christmas lights on.  We checked the bulletin boards and learned the area was having a large campfire tomorrow night which we plan to attend.  Lots of other activates were also posted. There’s a golf course attached to the resort for those that play golf. I’m sticking with the miniature golf course near the indoor swimming pool.

I don’t know what I’ve done in my life to deserve all these new experiences. Karen and I are truly experiencing much of what we should expect while on the road once we go fulltime. Which will however not include many $40 a night resorts.

I used a couple of our RV related gadgets while stopped in the park. Thank you again to Tom and Joleen (Karen says this is the proper spelling for your name) for our Christmas gift of the wonderful septic hookup.

Sewer line

15′ Valeria Dominator

I’ll not need to purchase a new charcoal grill. Found this one at a local store for $10. It can easily span a 24″ fire pit, cleans up with a rag and water. Figure we will buy a gas grill later and use this new grill stand because more of the sites we found have a fire pit and no charcoal grill. It is very lightweight so we will not have to pay more in truck fuel to haul it around!

Our new $10 grill

Our new $10 grill

I started to keep track of the miles per gallon for fuel. We are getting about eight miles to the gallon. However, I’m driving 70 or the limit and not worrying about any form of fuel savings.  On the trip home I might consider dropping the speed to see if that makes a difference.  I made a mental note to do some research on how to save fuel when driving a larger rig. On today’s drive I felt very confident in my newly learned driving skills. We have covered 850 miles to date.

I’m keeping track of the costs and will post about them later for those that are interested.

Lastly, I hope I did not upset anyone with my joke about the cats!  We are animal lovers and really enjoy our family of two dogs and two cats.

I’ll include a few photos of the park later as we are staying for two nights.

Renting an RV – Part 3 – Costs and Justification

In this post regarding renting an RV I’ll write about the general costs we have estimated and how I justified the expense.

Here are links to the earlier posts:

This all boils down to the additional cost to rent an RV compared to how we would have traveled without an RV. It would appear it is costing us about $161 extra per day with the RV.

For us, this would include consideration of; renting a car or RV, possible hotel rooms or campgrounds, boarding the dogs, fuel and food. We normally rent a car for longer trips to keep the miles off ours and the trip seems shorter and more interesting when driving something you don’t drive every day.  I figure cost for food is a wash, although we may actually save money by not eating out. It will be fun to cook out of the RV! We are also not budgeting to spend money on tourist attractions as the view we want is just outside the RV. I’ve not included those savings.  I should also add if you are looking to save a little more on the RV then don’t plan a trip that includes driving 1,600 miles. The folks that rent the RV said the rental costs have more to do with the miles driven than the number of nights we have the rig.

We are able to take our two dogs saving $280 in boarding fees. The RV rental company is charging us $75 extra for deep cleaning the RV just in case the next person to rent the unit is allergic to dogs. We also decided to take the dogs to the groomer before the trip which is something we normally pay for regardless.

I considered the extra fuel cost compared to the rental car which is $388 more for the RV during the 1600 mile round trip.

Of course, we had to plan for campgrounds. I booked two prior to the trip to make sure they would be available upon arrival. Both are in fantastic areas. We knew about where we would land each night on the trip to and from Michigan. We decided to leave those nights open on the schedule and find spots along the way. Just in case we wanted to drive less or more each day because this is our first time driving a 25 foot motorhome.  Another cost consideration is we can normally stay with family in Michigan. However, if we took a vacation anywhere else the hotel costs would have been included.

If you add up all RV related costs, less having to board the dogs, rent a car and hotels, adding extra fuel costs the total comes out to about $349 per day. Compared to $188 we would have estimated without the RV. Again, that’s $161 extra per day for the RV related expenses. As a side note, we are able to pickup the RV the night before departure at no added charge.

How does one justify these added costs. Well, if we owned the RV we would have been paying at least the cost of monthly insurance along with depreciation as the RV aged.  I can’t take enough time off from work to take enough trips to justify owning an RV right now, so that was not really a valid alternative.

An obvious justification for renting an RV is to see what the lifestyle is like.  But, can you really gauge this during an eight day trip? Anything different seems fun for a short time.  I owned an RV in the past that was left parked at the lake. I can’t recall a single time wanting to come home early.

Planning for the trip had unexpected benefits such as learning about trip planning in a 25 foot rig, searching for the right camp spot and that I need to become a more patient person. I’m normally one of those type A’s who has to have everything in order and double check everything from a list. So we left a few decisions open – to be made as we travel along.  After living in the rig we have a good chance of finding out what works for us in terms of storage and how the space is utilized inside the RV.

Another justification is finding out if a Class C would be something we might want to own a couple years before we buy what will become our fulltime rig.

Perhaps the best justification for the trip is it’s our first real vacation in about 15 years which is priceless.  Camping next to Lake Michigan, in a state park and near where family can (and want to) visit is also priceless.

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of details. I hope you get the general idea about the extra costs of renting an RV compared to a rental car trip. If you have any comments or questions please let me know. As always, if you are reading this blog from the beginning, months from now, feel free to comment.

In what will be Part 4 of this series I’ll post a few photos of the rig – and the trip!

Renting an RV – Part 2 – Itinerary

During Renting an RV – Part One I wrote about initial research.  After we located a local RV rental company we asked for a price quotation based on a 12 day trip. They handled quotations online which was nice, however, as we are completely new to the rental side I had plenty of questions after receiving the quotation.  We decided to go with an eight day trip to keep the cost down.  The costs are about  $200 to $250 rental per day as a rough estimate.  At this point in planning we had not booked the RV rental dates.

Karen and I sat down and looked at a possible itinerary for the trip. That way when we booked the trip we knew exactly what days we wanted the class C motorhome and how many miles we would be driving.  Because the company is local I was able to drive out and look at their 25 and 32 foot rigs. We decided on the 25 footer because we knew we would not be taking a toad and would need to go to the store in it. Besides 25 foot is plenty of space for a short trip with two people and two dogs. I’ll write about the rig later during part four of the series of posts.

Knowing we would be spending seven nights on the road we decided to drive halfway to our destination in Michigan on the first day. It’s about seven hours to Terre Houte Indiana which would be our first stop. We decided to avoid Interstate 80 near Chicago until our trip home because I’m new to driving larger rigs. We have an extra unscheduled day on the first leg of our trip so we can stay an additional night before our final destination if needed. From there we plan to drive another six hours on the second day, arriving near Howell Michigan where we will spend two or three nights. Karen says not to publish our travel dates because she does not want the world knowing when we are gone from home.  Good thing the guy that sits next to me at work carries a gun and the other hundred and something co-workers also do.  Besides, the local Police Department can check the house and the neighbor is taking care of the cats.  So, if someone is reading this and is thinking about getting in our house – ask yourself – do ya feel lucky?  Of course there is no need to worry about our blog followers!  Anyway, I’ll honor her request and leave the dates out.

Along the way we have narrowed down the RV parks we want to stay at. The first night we selected one near the highway. In Howell Michigan we found one with full hookups because we will be there for at least two nights. From there we are heading to Lake Michigan. A family member will be staying in a cabin one night in the same park next to the lake. We already booked this park which is a county park at Covert Michigan.  Good thing we did because they were about full because of the weekend.  We have not booked the other parks yet as I just received conformation on the availability of the rig we are renting.

From Covert Michigan we are going to be staying in Amana Iowa which is about four hours from our return trip home.

We can pick the rig up the night before we leave (at no charge) and have to return it on our final day later in the evening.

The reason we had to come up with a preliminary itinerary was to first confirm the rig was available on those dates and to get the time off approved at work. Also, there is a cost per mile charge if we exceed the total mileage we are paying for. With the itinerary in place I was comfortable booking the RV rental.

We learned a lot just in planning our itinerary. First, there was no single place we could go to for trip planning. We don’t subscribe to any clubs which have trip planning. By the way, we briefly considered Passport America ($44 dollars a year membership) but there was only one park in the system where we wanted to stay so the savings was only $17. I’ll spare you all the details of what we used to check for RV parks and trip planning in general. I did learn I’m going to have to come up with a better system for keeping notes other than pieces of paper. If you have a favorite format or method for trip planning please let me know.

The folks at the RV rental were great. I sent at least five emails back and forth asking questions along with as many phone calls. This is because I’m so new to the process.  We had two opportunities to be flexible which is something I’m getting used to because it’s a requirement when we go fulltime. If we waited until after the kids go back to school (their busy season) the rental rates were more reasonable. We found out a family member scheduled their cabin rental in Covert Michigan before the RV rental was confirmed. They got the last cabin. This caused us to book our RV spot before we were ready. This worked out because I found out we could cancel with five days notice if needed. Having a 25 foot rig sure came in handy because this county park had very few spots that took larger rigs. I guess there was a third chance to be flexible. That was while each of us were on our computers coming up with places to stop and stay. We each had our own ideas. This part of planning turned out to be enjoyable and exciting.

I’ll post part three which should include the RV rental conformation and our additional planning steps. Or I might just wait until after we pick the rig up and get it all in one post.

We started a list of what we need to take on the trip. The rig comes furnished with bedding, kitchen stuff and more. Karen suggested we start a list so she can get everything out and ready to move into the rig when we pick it up. We plan to get the rig the night before we leave, park it at home and move our stuff in.  I’ll be leaving our truck at the RV rental company location which is a benefit they offer.  That way when we drop off the RV we can move our property to the truck and drive home.

If you have any advice please let us know.

(update #1) Decided to keep the itinerary in a Microsoft Word document
(update #2) Because we had an extra unscheduled night, we decided to reduce our drive time on the way to Michigan by staying an extra night on the way. This allows us the option to reduce total drive time between stops to no more than 4.5 hours (not counting breaks and such). Campgrounds have check-in times between 1:00 and 3:00, with check-out around 1:00pm. We decided not to book overnight (weekday) stays prior to departure for flexibility.