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USA road trip with the family

North-Western America

Mark Sheehan discovers the mountains of Northwestern USA are best explored from behind the wheel of an RV.

After more than 25 years of toting our troops around America, we’ve all become walking sandwich boards for caravan and campervan travel. This time, we decide to invest our hard-earned holiday dollars for an RV trip into Northwestern USA and enjoy a monumental return on our investment.

Wild Northwest
Before our road trip begins, we connect the dots on the map of our top bucket-list stops to cover all bases. With the entire family chipping in on what they most want to see and do in the Great USA, it's best to start planning early on. Our skater son handpicks the best ramps to practise on a half-pipe, while our animal-loving daughter has us zeroed in on the best places to camp among bison, buffalo, grey wolves and bears – tossing in an occasional moose for good measure. Electing a baker’s dozen of must-see events and destinations, we decide anything else we discover beyond that will just be icing on the cake.

Our road trip menu includes a linger-longer visit to Yellowstone National Park (three times the size of Rhode Island State), the famous Cody Rodeo in Jackson Hole, a rafting adventure on the Snake River, devouring a house-sized Buffalo burger while sitting atop saddles at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, a Wild West shoot-out on Main Street, a working ranch stay and a visit to the world-famous Western Museum in Cody. We garnish our travel smorgasbord with ghost towns and wildlife aplenty.

Eat, drink and be merry
The greatest thing about travelling with the family via RV is we no longer have to suffer the age-old comments from the back-seat peanut gallery. With a full kitchen, the kids can get themselves a soft drink, devour a bag of potato chips or dive into a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal as we cruise along the smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom American roadways.

The phrase “Are we there yet?” pops up no longer, as our uncharacteristically mellow offspring watch videos, play board games or simply snooze while we’re driving. The onboard bathroom means we don’t have to do the constant roadside pullovers either. When we do make a pit stop, it’s normally at clean and well-lit rest areas and visitor centres, roadside picnic stops or scenic overviews. The hardest part is getting the kids to actually look out the windows to enjoy a herd of bolting buffalo.

Save money, time and eat like royalty
With a full kitchen on every RV, we do all our meal shopping and meal preparation aboard or at the parks where we spend the night. On Thanksgiving we even cook a six-kilo turkey, homemade mash and fresh cranberry sauce in our seemingly unlimited van space. Which means no dillydallying at restaurants – and we’ve saved hundreds of dollars.

It’s a gift-wrapped package: our RV covers transportation, accommodation and meals all under one cost umbrella, and the fact that we pack and unpack only once for the entire holiday means we spend more time at attractions and sightseeing. Massive storage lockers below the deck allow us to bring along our camp chairs, newly acquired Walmart bikes and scooters, floaties, firewood, barbecue grill ($12 at Target) and our five-piece luggage set.

Troops in tow
I don’t like to sound like a broken record, but there are so very many good reasons to travel in Northwestern America with an RV. Firstly, the old adage, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ has never been more appropriate.

Millions of American families take their annual vacation time to camp in the numerous national parks (this year celebrating their centenary), rub elbows with Mother Nature and enjoy the freedom to linger longer or press on depending on the mood of the troops, the weather and insider information that there are 500 buffalo and a couple of bears ‘just over the hill’.

Not to mention the savings. Petrol is about half the price of fuel at any pump in Australia or New Zealand, and modern-day RVs go for many miles on a gallon of the good juice. The RVs themselves are a work of art on wheels, with air conditioning, power steering, back-up cameras, wide-view mirrors and windows – and they are a cinch to drive. No special licence is required and with an onboard GPS system in place, domestic squabbles about how to read the map have gone the way of the dinosaurs.



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