What The Martins Learned — and Loved — on Their Epic RV Road Trip

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By Randall Martin

Twenty thousand miles and 25 states have passed since we left South Florida towing our 38-foot fifth wheel — on a family journey that will allow us to visit all 50 states by July 2013. During our travels, we’ve grown from novice campers to more experienced RVers, but not without some important lessons. We all know the saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But when RVing we’ve learned, “A wise dollar spent is a headache avoided.” Here are some then painful, now humorous examples to illustrate our point.

Sometimes It Pays to Pay for RV Storage. Northern Ohio is home to some of our best friends. We happily accepted their kind invitation to exit our cramped RV for the comforts of their home in the suburbs. They also graciously arranged for free storage of our fifth wheel at a friend’s ranch during our stay. A long story short, after getting the RV bogged in clay and being rescued by AAA we then discovered that in order to get to a paved road we had to back out our RV through a narrow quarter-mile lane. Oh, if we’d only paid a couple of bucks for dry storage!

Always Stay at KOA. In central Michigan, our planned route prevented us from camping at KOA, and did we ever pay for that decision. An ill-draining, muddy campsite made set-up and tear down of camp a terribly dirty chore. And, worst of all, a lack of onsite propane for sale left us desperately rationing heat during some of the coldest nights of the trip so far.

We’ve camped at a bunch of great KOAs during our tour of the East and here are some of the clean, friendly, convenient KOAs where we’ve stayed:

Niagara Falls KOA (New York) is conveniently located just minutes from the best attraction we’ve seen in our first six months — Niagara Falls. We saw the falls from as many angles as possible; above the falls, below the falls, beside and by boat; and we were never disappointed. Niagara Falls KOA also had discounted tickets and a private entrance to the adjoining family theme park and a top-notch onsite water park that our son really enjoyed. We stayed within steps of clean, well-maintained restrooms and enjoyed the extra amenities of a beautiful patio site during our stay at this campground.

Washington DC/Capitol KOA (Washington D.C.) is a true treasure; conveniently located between Baltimore, Annapolis and our nation’s capital. There was so much to do in the area that we stayed at this KOA for almost two full weeks. Capitol KOA also had one of the best and most generous general managers that we’ve met so far. Brian Goddard was always available with a hearty “Hello,” a thorough knowledge of the best attractions and restaurants in the area, wise and practical advice for novice RVers, and the best directions on how to navigate the traffic. By the time that we left, Brian felt like one of the family.

Williamsburg KOA (Virginia) was certainly one of the biggest campgrounds we’ve stayed at with two locations near the historic triangle of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. We also enjoyed seeing zookeeper and television host Jack Hanna during our visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This KOA offered many extras, including hot air balloon flights and weekend pancake breakfasts.

Luray KOA (Virginia) was beautifully landscaped with an enormous central lawn that was perfect for daily soccer matches. Surrounded by pastures, complete with herds of hungry heifers, it also offered expansive, peaceful views of the Shenandoah Mountains. While in Luray, we visited Virginia’s largest and most visited cave system, Luray Caverns. This natural wonder was incredibly beautiful and definitely worth seeing and was only minutes from KOA. We even purchased our discounted tickets in the KOA store.

Huntington/Fox Fire KOA (West Virginia) was located next door to a terrific water park and offered wooded campsites, clean restrooms and one of the best camp stores we’ve visited. With friendly onsite owners, Brent and Sheila Andrews, the campground provided easy access to West Virginia’s capital, Charleston, as well as a convenient place to stop along the I-64 corridor on our way to Kentucky.

Buckeye Lake/Columbus East KOA (Ohio) was the perfect location for a behind-the-scenes tour at the Columbus Zoo, one of the nation’s best. Only minutes from beautiful Buckeye Lake and its lakeshore village, the campground sported beautiful fall colors and offered a well-stocked camp store — complete with delicious hand-dipped ice cream. We particularly liked our pull-through site, complete with stamped-concrete pad, grill and patio furniture; the property’s clean restrooms with private showers; and enjoyed Buckeye Lake so much that we stayed an extra night.

Plan Your Road Trip

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First-time RVers Randy and Heidi Martin and their children, Kristi and Kyle, plan to visit all 50 states by July 2013. Okay, they’ll actually fly to Hawaii and Alaska, but that’s still a lot of driving (40,000 miles give or take). More information about their trip of a lifetime and their family’s blogs are available at www.thattripusa.com.