We were sitting around a campfire not long ago chatting with some folks about the places we've been and the things we've seen and the conversation got around to our most favorite drives.
I have three of them. Here they are
1) Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the world’s most spectacular highways. Bisecting the heart of Glacier, the 50-mile-long road follows the shores of the park’s two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it traverses Logan Pass. It is not for the faint of heart or those who are nervous driving narrow roads that twist and turn and are bordered with steep rock walls on the driver’s side and thousand foot drop-offs, without guard rails, on the passenger side.
Turns out, I was about two feet too long to legally take this road in our Srinter based Roadtrek motorhome. I did it, though, thinking it was okay. That's because I asked the driver of one of the tour busses that hauls people back and forth up to Glacier's iconic Logan Pass if I could do it. Those tour “busses” were really Sprinter and when I told him about mine and asked if I could do it, he said sure, no problem.
So I did.
A day or so later, a ranger at the park set me straight and said only vehicles under 21 feet are allowed to drive the Going to the Sun Road. My bad.
But also, my good. It was a great drive. I did video:
2) Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak is 14,114 feet high.
It’s a long haul up and when we entered the road that would take us to the top off Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs, we had to have the ranger help us drive around a barrier meant to keep larger vehicles from attempting the climb. At first, they tried to wave us off. Then they saw that our Roadtrek RV was on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.
“No problem,” the ranger said, motioning us around. “You can handle it in this. Just watch the brakes on the way down. They will heat up.”
The Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles long, a 38 mile round trip. The trip up works the engine hard. It burns fuel like crazy. Coming down, not so much. But if you decide to go, make sure you have enough fuel.
It was 87 degrees on the July day we set off. By the time we reached the summit, it was 46 degrees.
It took about an hour and a half to drive to the summit. There are lots of twists and turns and we frequently stopped at some of the pulloffs for photos as we climbed through the various regions, from the rock strewn glacial moraines at the bottom on through the alpine and sub alpine areas. We found nothing particularly scary about the drive up. But we were too bust oohing and ahhing at the incredible scenery. The Roadtrek handled the constant climbing with plenty of power.
At Glen Cove, between mile 11 and 12, there is a place that sells souvenirs and has a limited-service restaurant. But after that, it’s almost straight up as you pass the tree line where conditions make it impossible for any upright plant to grow. At Mile Marker 16 you’ll pass Devil’s Playground, so named because of the way lightning jumps from rock to rock up there during storms.
The summit itself is basically a parking lot. There’s a small weather station up there, an observation deck and, of course, a souvenir shop.
We were the only RV up there at the time, though I’ve had other RVing friends say they drove their drove their Class Bs up there, too. I suppose a C might also make it. But I think it would be a tough haul for anything bigger.
The drive down was much more challenging. Here's the video.
The hard part was not letting the momentum build up too much speed. I downshifted pretty much the whole way down to use the engine to help me slow, but when we stopped for the mandatory brake check at Glen Cove, we had to pull over and wait for a half hour or so for the brakes to cool down. We weren’t alone. About every other automobile and every truck had to pull over, too, many of them so hot they were smoking.
There’s no way to avoid using the brakes as you head down. The secret to keep them from burning up, we found, is to apply sharp and firm pressure to reduce speed and then release the brakes, instead of a riding them with a steady pressure. Engine downshifting is the best way to go, just watch the RPMs to keep it from redlining.
3) Anywhere, Anytime in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Anytime of the year, hands down, this is our favorite place and one of our favorite drives.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a small motorhome owner’s delight, with little bays, promontories, nooks and wilderness crannies to explore in the up-close style that Class B RVers prefer.
Jennifer and I generally avoid commercial campgrounds and most state parks.
Michigan’s UP is an awesome place that draws us back again and again.
Here's a video highlight of one of our trips there.
Wonder what it is like in the winter? Check this out. It;s as beautiful then as it is in the summer.
Speaking of winter, we'll be back in the UP in January for another camping trip.
You can jon us, though open spots are rapidly disappearing for our second annual Winter Freezeout Camping Adventure at the spectacular Tahquamenon Falls State ark in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We had about 14 RVs and about 25 people last year. This year, with little publicity but word of mouth, we have already exceeded that.
The event is totally free. You have to pay the camping fees charged by the state park. But our Roadtreking group is not charging a cent.
It officially starts Friday, January 22, 2016 at 12:00 PM and runs through Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 3:00 PM, though I know several are coming a day or so early and a few are staying over a day.
Yes, there is usually a lot of snow up there and we expect it to be so for the January event.
But the Michigan DNR rangers plowsites for us. Last year, they even plowed a big space where we could have a community fire. They provided a bunch of snoeshoes for us and the camp hosts – a delightful couple from Florida, – did a guided snowshoe hike through the woods with us. Here’s the story I did last year on our weekend up in the snow. https://rvlifestyle.com/rv-fun-snow/
This coming January, we want to do it again. There’s no real agenda and no plan. Just show up and have fun.
Anyway, there you go…our three favorite RV drives.
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