My day trip to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park didn’t turn out as expected but the unexpected was worth the trip. I usually have two goals in mind when exploring new places on day trips — someplace my dog will enjoy and someplace where I can get some great photo ops. Studying my maps a few weeks ago, I noticed that, although in Texas and not my home state of New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park was only 75 miles from me.
The unexpected included the spectacular scenery but also a few negatives so be prepared if you take the trip. There is a large visitor’s center but dogs are not allowed and I wasn’t willing to leave mine in the car so I passed on the visitor’s center. Sometimes if I carry him in his sling, people will let me slide but not this time. And since he has medical issues, I didn’t want to leave him tied up outside while waiting for me.
My biggest disappointment was that there are no driving tours through the park. The only way to access the park other than the camping area and the visitor’s center is by walk-in hiking. And no dogs are allowed on the trails! Bummer. We did spend some time exploring the campground area, checking out potential tent sites for future use and there is one paved walking trail by the visitor’s center that does allow canines.
From the website: Opportunities for pets are limited. Leashed pets may walk on the short Pine Springs Campground connector trail or along the Pinery Trail from the visitor center to the Butterfield Stage Station.
The morning in July when we were there we saw numerous hikers and backpackers getting ready to hit the trails from the parking lot. There was also a large bus full of teens and their chaperones. I’m not too fond of hiking with crowds but I’m sure if you go far enough, it starts to thin out. The tent camping areas were about half full and the parking lot with RVs was also about half full.
The park ranger standing outside the visitor’s center did tell me about some photography worthy scenery about four miles farther down the road but we decided to save that drive for another time. There are bathroom buildings that are accessible from the parking lots at the Pine Springs Visitor’s Center and campground. If you do decide to hike into the park, be sure to read all the information first and be prepared for changeable weather.
Okay, so everyone’s situation is different but in my humble opinion my Class C was definitely the best way to go based on what I’ve seen around me in my travels. Here’s why.
First, my experience with camping and RVing:
Went with parents in popups and trailers
Started taking my son tent camping in the late 80s
Took my dogs tent camping in the 2000s
Bought a truck, added a shell, put mattress inside, in 2014
Bought a motor home in 2016
Went full time in 2018
Bought a travel trailer, which is stationary, in 2020
I’d never camped anywhere but state parks, state and county beaches, or national parks until I got my motor home in 2016. At that time, I became exposed to private RV parks like Thousand Trials and KOA. Between 2018 and 2021, I have reviewed over 75 RV parks in 16 states. So, needless to say, I’ve seen quite a bit along the way.
Here’s one thing I’ve noticed. Let me set the scene up for you. I park my motor home, if I’m staying longer than a few days I might check to see how level the fridge is. Otherwise, I don’t bother with blocks. I go outside and plug the 30 amp in, then come back in and turn on the AC, if weather requires. Now, basically, I can leave it if I want to wait to dump my tanks and if I want to use my own fresh water supply. Usually, though, I’ll go ahead and hook up the sewer hose so I can leave the gray tank open and I hook up the water hose so my water pump doesn’t have to work. I don’t have any slides to contend with (more on this later). Total time — about 6 minutes.
Then, someone in a travel trailer or 5th wheel will come in and park near me sometime later that afternoon. They start setting up. 30, 40, or 60 minutes later, they are still outside doing stuff. WTF. How long does it take? I guess it takes awhile. You have to park, unhook your truck, lower the stabilizers, set blocks everywhere, level, chock, open slides, etc., etc. Whew! People are going to argue with me but I have seen this time and time again every time I’m traveling. Maybe you are the exception and that’s great.
Then there’s the slides. My motor home doesn’t have slides. I can use the bathroom while stopping to fill my gas tank. How convenient is that? In my travel trailer, I can’t even go through the front door once the slides are closed. One time, when leaving for an extended trip, I was all closed up and forgot to put the Swiffer away. Nowhere to put it once all the slides were in. I ended up taking it with me in the motor home for 2 months.
This morning, I witnessed an elderly gentleman in a popup camper getting ready to leave for the day. It literally took him 45 minutes to unhook, pack up, close everything up, hook up his truck, and start to pull out. Then, he left to go use the RV park bathroom before hitting the road because his rig was already all closed up. And he pulled in last night way after me. That’s at least 90 minutes of setting up and taking down for about 7 or 8 hours of sleep. Is it worth it?
Many Class B motor homes, unless they are B+, have wet baths. That means that you squeeze in to a tiny space to use the toilet and when you want to take a shower, the toilet takes one with you. I even saw a few older models (Rialto) where the shower/toilet combo slides out to use and then slides back in. Not for me. I like having my full size dry bath and I like being able to use it whether I’ve got power for a slide or not.
I’ve given up a bit of inside space by not having a slide but did you know that the same size motor homes that have bedroom slides actually have a lot less outside storage? That’s because my bed is a platform bed and the outside storage is underneath. If you check the numbers, you will see that there’s a lot more cubic square feet of storage in my slide-less model at 24’. Something to think about, for sure.
Besides the fact that I didn’t want to pull a trailer because I have a severe fear of the trailer starting to sway and pulling the truck off the road, I had my pets to consider. In a trailer or 5th wheel, you have to crate everybody and put them in the truck every time you drive. When I first went full time, I not only had a cat and two dogs, but I also had a parrot. With the Class C, I can just jump in the driver’s seat and drive off after attaching the dogs to their seat belts. No discombobulating the cat or the bird. Which reminds me, if you have slides, you also have to be very aware of where your cat is at all times.
And here’s the difference between a motor home with a small car vs a truck pulling a trailer. First, I prefer to drive a small car around town or to take day long sightseeing jaunts. It’s just easier for me than a big truck. When a motor home pulls a car, the motor home is the bigger object and the car just follows. It doesn’t try to fight with the RV or sway back and forth. When a truck pulls a trailer, the trailer is bigger. If it gets out of control due to high winds or a bad road, it will take the truck with it. Once again, people will argue with my reasoning but for a single elderly woman traveling alone, I had to make the safest choices for me. My MH Ford F-450 with cruise control is a real dream to drive long distances and I don’t even know the car is behind me unless I check the mirror.
I didn’t consider a Class A the year I bought because, from what I read, they weren’t as safe in front end collisions as a Class C. Later, I was glad for my choice because chassis service is also easier to find usually. Mine is just a regular Ford truck with a house plopped on the back. It’s the same truck that is used for commercial delivery vans.
I didn’t consider a Class B because most of them were almost the same size as what I bought (22’ to 24’) and the cost for a new one was literally two times more. The reason is the way they are built. I didn’t want to spend way over $100,000 for something that was smaller, where we’d be squished together as we traveled the USA. At the time, I had a 60 pound dog, in addition to all my other animals.
My situation in 2018:
Full time with no house or storage unit so I needed plenty of storage area
Traveling alone so needed to feel safe and able to do everything myself
Pets that needed consideration
Comfortable with a kitchen and full bath, as well as a queen size bed (for sharing with the animals, of course)
Able to use everything without opening slides or unhooking vehicles
Had to fit in my driveway for two years before I sold my house (I didn’t want to pay for storage)
And my final choice, a brand new 2016 24’ Class C. One year later, I got a 2014 Nissan Versa set up as a tow car.
When making the momentous decision to purchase or finance your RV, make sure you consider all the situations and circumstances you will be facing so you can make the best decision for you.