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Old 01-01-2014, 05:24 PM   #1
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Michigan to Tucson January road-trip advice

We are relatively new air streamers. Have a new FB27 that we have been out in just three times last summer. *We are registered for Alumafiesta and planning to leave Michigan in late January. We are concerned about low temperatures and we have it winterized right now. The plan is to stay in hotels for the first few days and travel about 400 miles a day. We hope that it will be warm enough at that point to start using it without fear of freezing up the plumbing. Hope to get there in five days. We've also heard a lot about Walmart overnighting but are a bit leary re. Security etc.
Our tentative route will take us through Joplin. Mo and then Amarillo, then *Albuquerque. Am hoping these three spots will be warm enough to use the plumbing and that we can find some good spots to stay overnight in each. **We will get out of Michigan as quickly as possible to avoid the salt.
Would like to hear anyone's thoughts on the travel plan including*
1. Is 400 miles/day too far? ( we are pretty used to long drives )
2. Should we use it in cold weather and just not use the plumbing ?
3. Will the furnace work well in 20-30 degree nights ?
4.*How is the "Walmart" experience?*
5. Are the northern campgrounds usually open in the winter so I can use my furnace?
6. Good spots to stop*
.... And any other advice we can gather.*
Before we purchased this Airstream we consulted at length about the hitch . etc. and found that this forum is a great place for information. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom.*
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:32 PM   #2
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Oklahoma can turn into an ice rink over night. You will have to move quickly when the window of travel opportunity opens and keep tuned to the weather stations. You should have a bountiful supply of antifreeze in case you get trapped and must do a quick winterization while on the road.

Once in the Southwest, a really through wash down of all external areas of the trailer (includes the wheels, axles, frame and belly along with all the skin and seams) will be required to get rid of any road salt or chemicals on the coach that blew up from the tires from prior dustings on the roads even if you never drove in the stuff during a storm.

Many times I have driven the route of US-60 from the East edge of the Phoenix area to Quemado, NM and then North from there on secondary roads to 5 miles East of Grants where I join I-40 to Oklahoma City. Then I take I-44 (toll road) to St Louis where I pick up I-70 into Indiana.

Not towing, in a single day, I can leave Bloomington, IN around 4:00am and arrive in Amarillo, TX for a late dinner or just over 1,000 miles and not pad the speed limit more than 5 mph. I will be in Phoenix the next day.
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:37 PM   #3
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Assuming you're winterized completely (antifreeze, etc):

You're going to have to travel much further south than Joplin to dewinterize. Amarillo will have sub freezing temps at that time of the year, too. If you're planning to "hotel" it, I would recommend putting off the dewinterizing process until you're assured of better than freezing temps, as the country you're planning on going through has cold spells often.

Your furnace is up to the task of keeping the trailer warm at the temperatures you stated, should you decide to camp in the trailer without water.

If you do go to campgrounds, you might consider one of the small ceramic heaters to supplement your use of propane, as the furnace consumes a lot of propane at lower temps.

You'll find great campgrounds in abundance when you get into Indian Country (NM & AZ)

Good luck!
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:38 PM   #4
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400 miles a day of towing more than I would want to do, especially if the first couple of days are still in the frozen north. Also, I wouldn't count on Amarillo being balmy this time of year
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Old 01-01-2014, 09:11 PM   #5
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1. Is 400 miles/day too far? -- This is OK, assuming good weather and dry roads. Personally, we usually plan 300-350 miles per day, assuming there's no reason to rush.

2. Should we use it in cold weather and just not use the plumbing? -- Regarding the toilet, you can stretch dumping the tanks by using RV antifreeze in a Windex-type spray bottle for flushing. If you are on the road, you will probably be eating fast food or in restaurants, and you won't be washing dishes. Small amounts of gray water from hand-washing shouldn't be a problem, but don't plan on showering or dumping the tanks until you get to warmer climes. If you use much water, flush lines with some RV antifreeze before bedtime. You can use bottled water for coffee, tea, preparing condensed soup/Ramen noodles, drinking, etc.; and if you keep it in your TV during the day and in your Airstream at night, the bottles shouldn't freeze. As you have probably guessed, do NOT leave fresh water or sewer hoses connected in below freezing weather -- They'll freeze solid. Plan ahead and bring a heavy duty extension cord and a hair dryer for thawing frozen sewer connections (assuming you have a generator or access to shore power).

3. Will the furnace work well in 20-30 degree nights? -- The furnace works great, but you may use a lot of propane. If you limit the thermostat setting to low to mid-60's in the evenings and mornings, and turn it as low as it will go (about 50) overnight, each 30# tank should last 2-3 nights. We use sleeping bags instead of blankets in the winter; and we're plenty warm, except when using the toilet (yikes!). We don't run the furnace while driving, as I think it just wastes propane. Note: Your furnace will probably have problems igniting when less than 1/3 to 1/4 tank remains, due to low pressure in cold weather; so use only one tank at a time and plan on refilling each tank as it drops below half-full.

4. How is the "Walmart" experience? -- Each location is different. Due to poor planning or bad weather, we have stayed overnight in a WalMart parking lot a few times over the years, and we were OK. However, there were a couple places where we didn't feel safe, so we moved on. Also, some municipalities prohibit overnight parking; so I'd check with a manager before staying overnight. Personally, we don't use WalMart parking lots in our route planning. While we stop and shop there frequently, they are last on our list of emergency overnight-parking locations.

5. Are the northern campgrounds usually open in the winter so I can use my furnace? -- Some friends of ours just got home at Thanksgiving from visiting relatives up north, and they said most campgrounds in snow country closed when the freezing weather arrived. In descending priority, we usually try to plan overnight stops for National and State Parks, then KOAs and similar campgrounds, followed by truck stops and rest areas, then WalMarts (last).

6. Good spots to stop -- Most of our camping experience is in the desert southwest, and a few locations are listed below. However, I'm sure others will add areas for farther north and east.

* Carrizozo, NM - Valley of Fires BLM Campground: Well-maintained campground with paved roads and sites, covered ramadas, BBQ grills; remodeled in recent years. 14 of 19 sites have water and electric hookups. Clean, modern restrooms have flush toilets and great showers; dump station. State park on BLM land, honors National Park Senior Pass discount of half-off camping fees.

* Deming, NM - Rockhound State Park Campground. Some sites have water and electric. Flush toilets, no showers, dump station. Geodes can be found in the park, and several pounds of rocks may be removed daily. Great hiking trails and beautiful views at sunset. Note: Restrooms were scheduled for renovation this past season, so showers might be available, now.

* Carlsbad, NM - Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Great place to stop, if you like caves. While there is no campground in the park, there is a nice KOA near Seven Rivers, NM, about 15 miles north on US-285. CarlsbadKOA.com

* Alamogordo, NM - White Sands National Monument (no camping). Also, New Mexico Museum of Space History (and I-Max theater).

* Las Cruces, NM - There's a KOA in Las Cruces. Also, authentic Mexican food and crafts in the Mesilla town square (Mesilla is a little Mexican village within Las Cruces).

* Benson, AZ - Kartchner Caverns State Park: All campground sites have tables and 20/30 amp electric; some also have 50 amp service. Flush toilets, showers, dump station. NOTE: Entrance gate closes at 10:00 PM. Access cards available from Campground Host. Recent special (may not be in effect now): One free night camping with two adult admissions; phone reservations required. Arizona State Parks: Kartchner Caverns: Home
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Old 01-01-2014, 10:08 PM   #6
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We've made a similar winter trip several times. To avoid salt/corrosion damage and get warm travel weather, I would add another day travel heading south as far and quickly as possible to Interstate 10. Leave on a dry weather forecast and stay on dry Interstate heading south.

WalMart has been a convenient and safe stop for us when making quick miles. Lots of them, pick and choose and park with the other rvs; don't worry about time on this first leg, when you are ready to get off the road find one and pull in. When rested and in good weather 5 hours is easy for us.

Once in warm weather, dewinterize and enjoy the trip.

If you allow some time, there are plenty of interesting things to see to see along this southern route, and some stretches to make up time (west Texas). We enjoyed this southern route to Tucson in October.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:59 PM   #7
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Thanks to all. This is very helpful. Will probably wait for a clear 2-3 day window and head all the way South as suggested. Even if we hit some bad weather we can always wait it out ( now that I'm supposed to be semi-retired). It's the salt that is really making me think twice. I'd hate to mess up our brand new home-away-from-home if we run into an icy area that has been pounded with salt on the roads. Still not sure about how to handle that but I suppose spending a half day at the car-wash on arrival would mitigate most of the problem.... I hope. Thanks again to all.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:16 PM   #8
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Sounds like the best possible plan from our experience. The trouble with towing in wet salty roads is the tow vehicle throws up a soupy fog of salt water which then bathes the trailer steadily as you drive along. Passing semis add to the mix. Not good, as it will be drawn into areas you can't reach by washing. Airstreams are not sealed or rustproofed like cars. Best to avoid it.
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:56 AM   #9
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The salt mess is also the bummer for a new unit leaving the factory in January.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:38 AM   #10
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We made the same trip last year & it took us 6 days/5 nights from the west side of MI. Most days, we prefer to go about 300 miles. But, the 1st day we often go farther to get to a warmer area. We started seeing open campgrounds by day 2. (west of St. Louis, MO)
Never tried Walmart "camping". We have over-nighted at Cracker Barrel.. We find they are usually well advertised, have RV parking & are close to the interstate.
Re: road salt removal…Lazydays has giant wash bays or a service that will come to your site & power wash & hand dry your RV. We chose the latter & thought it was a good value.
Final piece of advice…BEWARE THE TX PANHANDLE! 70 degrees leaving OK…17 degrees by Amarillo…ice closes 40. And, no road salt in TX. We waited it out at a small campground in Vega, TX. Only one we saw for miles…it was a safe haven in the storm.
Enjoy your trip…the journey & the destination.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:30 AM   #11
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We have made the trip from our home near Toronto to Tucson many times.

Generally we try to leave home before 6 am and our longest driving day is the first one - mainly to get us into warmer weather as quickly as possible.

Been doing this for about 15 years since I took early retirement, changing our destination to Florida every few years for a change.

Our distance /time record was one trip to San Diego in 3 1/2 days! I do't think I would enjoy that as much now I'm a bit older - also I have come to realize that it isn't a race!

We used to aim for Memphis on day one, a distance of about 950 miles from home - makes for a long day on the road!

In recent years I don't do that much, but still try for maybe 600 miles or so on day one.

I pick a route that maybe adds a few miles, but takes us far south as soon as possible and then west rather than a more "diagonal" route.


We generally plan to stop the first night at a Flying J truck stop - and there is one at West Memphis. It is still pretty cold and we leave the trailer winterized with plumbing antifreeze. I have found that if we don't set the thermostat too high, we can run the trailer furnace overnight and stay comfortable. These days I carry a small Honda genie, so running the batteries flat isn't a concern.

Not only do you save a few $ stopping at a Flying J, but it is a real time saver - n checking in - no unhooking the trailer - have an evening meal there - off again early in the am with no hooking up to do.

Generally we find that on our second night we are in a location where we can find a campsite, I can flush the antifreeze out and we are set for the balance of the trip.

We will be headed once more to Tucson in mid Feb. stopping at Vicksburg and around Lafayette for a few days each on the way down and at Branson for a few days on the way home.

These days, after Our long first day's drive, I do things in a much more leisurely manner. I like to stop driving mid to late afternoon and find a campsite. somewhere around
600km (375mi) seems a good target to aim for in our case.

Just made reservations at Rincon Country West RV resort in Tucson where we have stopped many times before and really enjoyed it. In the past we stopped there maybe 10-14 days, this year I booked us in for a month. Now that the Xmas holidays are over
I am looking foreword to getting on the road, although the first day makes me anxious in case we hit bad weather.

I have grown a bit wiser now and if that were to happen I would just take a break and book into a motel if I had to and wait it out!

I'm sure you will have a fantastic time - I find I enjoy the journey at least as much as the destination!

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Old 01-08-2014, 10:38 AM   #12
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We are leaving for Aluma Fiesta also in mid-January from Iowa. Our plan is to drive between 4-6 hours per day, weather permitting. Our first stop is going to be south of Kansas City, KS at a campground near Lyndon, KS which is open all year. Our tentative plan is to head through Oklahoma City, Dallas, and hopefully stop next in Amarillo, TX. Again, how far we go depends on the weather especially in Texas as they don't plan well for ice or snow down there. Our next tentative stop is Albuquerque, NM or Gallup, NM. Then to Apache Junction/Phoenix, AZ to visit with friends before we head south to Tucson for the rally.

All the helpful hints offered so far on this thread are great!!! We also, have never traveled in the winter, but as we are newly retired, we are heading out!!
So any additional hints or tips would be appreciated!!!
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:51 AM   #13
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Just another thought, campgrounds in the Midwest generally close around October 15 and do not open until mid-April. So anyone traveling through the upper Midwest (IA, IL, WI, MN,) needs to plan to overnight in places for public parking such as Cracker Barrel, Flying J/Pilot or Walmart.
Our AS is also winterized and we are not planning on de-winterizing until we hit warmer temps. I have been monitoring temps in Dallas, Carlsbad, Tucson and Deming, NM. All of them have been having temps low enough that I am still concerned about freezing pipes at night. Unhooking the water hose is one precaution, but do you generally find that keeping the trailer warm at night prevents any other pipes from freezing? We have a small electric ceramic heater that works great along with our sleeping bags. On that note, We just purchased Travasaks which we love. We found them on eBay, but there is another company which makes RV bag beds since Travasaks went out of business. We have one of each and they are great!!!! You can get one side for winter warmth and the other side for spring/summer warmth. I highly recommend them. Since we have a refurbished 1974 and no permanent bed these "bed in a bag" are easy and quick to roll up in the morning. Some people we have talked to use them on their stationary beds instead of sheets and blankets. Removing the sheets for laundry purposes is easy and it is not too difficult to place them back in the "bag" afterwards.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:55 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by iowajones View Post
Our tentative plan is to head through Oklahoma City, Dallas, and hopefully stop next in Amarillo, TX.
If you're going from OKC to Amarillo, why go through Dallas to get there? I-40 runs from OKC to Amarillo. Or you can follow the remnants of Route 66, which takes a bit longer than I-40 but is much more scenic.

US287 from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Amarillo isn't a bad road at all, but it is kind of out of your way, unless you have a reason to stop in Dallas after OKC.
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