3 Lessons from Driving 1,228 Miles in 3 Days

There is a lot of discussion in the full-time RVing community over what the optimal pace to travel at is. How much time on the road versus how much time parked in one spot. How much driving to do on any given day, and what the best time to arrive at your destination is.

Often, those who are just starting out on the road jump from place to place and cover distances quickly, trying to cram as much into as short of a period of time as possible and don’t stay in one spot long.

The more experienced full-timers shake their heads at this behavior, saying those folks are still in ‘vacation mode’. They will tell you that you’re a full-timer now, you have as much time as you need to see it all and there is no rush. Do less driving in a day to save on sanity and money, and stay in places longer to get a local’s perspective and have a fuller experience. Slow down, smell the roses, relax and enjoy.

I knew all of this months before I even bought my RV. But that still didn’t stop me from driving from Indian Springs, GA to Sioux Falls, SD in three days shortly after starting full-time.

It was an interesting learning experience, and for all you prospective full-timers out there I offer these tidbits of advice:

Lesson 1: Weight the pros and cons of that much driving in a short period of time.

While not physically demanding, it tires you out, especially if you have to do it alone. I don’t mind driving, especially if it’s through a pretty or unexplored area. The first four hours or so that first day were fine, but it got worse the longer I went. The second day and third days I got weary of it faster.

Sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it’s not. See, I really wanted to get my domicile stuff taken care of in South Dakota before starting at Amazon, and I wanted to give myself enough time to take care of any big problems that may have come up along the way. So I decided that in this case, doing it in one mad dash was best. That way I’d have plenty of time to deal with the unknown.

For a newer RV, this is probably a pretty minimal concern, but the Casita, while in good shape, is 13 years old. I had never driven it a great distance before and so had no idea what to expect with it on the road. For all I knew, the rest of my rivets could have come loose from all the rattling around and I would have had a major repair on my hands. Better safe than sorry in this early learning phase. Now that this is in the past and I’ve been driving the Casita around a while and gotten a couple hard rains I know that it is still quite road worthy an in the future I’ll worry less about catastrophic failures.

Lesson 2: If you are trying to get somewhere quickly, overnighting at campgrounds and RV parks is not the best answer.

If you’re willing to put yourself through the unpleasantness of this much driving, you aren’t traveling to sight see, you’re trying to make good time. And having to set up and take down camp every day is going to take a lot of time – it takes me at least an hour and a half, more like two hours realistically.

Dry camping is the best answer in this case. During my travel days I over-nighted at truck stops almost exclusively. I was traveling along interstates and they were the easiest to find, but places like WalMart work just as well. Every single truck stop I’ve asked about RVs staying overnight at has said it was okay so far. I’m sure sooner or later I’ll run into one that will decline, but in that case I’ll just drive a bit further to the next one.

Not only does going this route save time, but it saves money too. To save more time and money, plan ahead and stock your fridge and pantry with food that doesn’t require cooking. You probably won’t want to cook after a long day of driving and going out every night adds up quickly. Cold cut sandwiches are my staple on travel days, I don’t even have to get a plate dirty.

Lesson 3: Know your limits.

It’s not just about covering miles quickly, it’s about doing it safely as well. It’s no good if you manage to reach your destination too worn out to accomplish whatever it is you needed to be there for in the first place. It’s also no good if you get into an accident along the way because you pushed yourself too hard.

For instance I know I have a hard time staying alert behind the wheel after dark, so I always planned to be parked within an hour after night fell. That gave me plenty of time to rest before the next day of driving.

* * *

Tomorrow I’ll be leaving Roaring River State Park in MO and making the last push towards Coffeyville. I’ve had a wonderful time here so far and my next post will be the review of it once the whole experience is over. Expect pretty pictures.

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  1. No Way Dave on January 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I guess a common plan is to use campgrounds to charge batteries, empty and fill tanks, clean, cook, rest and regroup. I was on the road for work for a bit. It can get lonely and desolate. So campgrounds can also offer some human interaction.
    A few of the most experienced and frugal full timers, boast an $8 per day average over a year, that they spend on campsites. They all admitted to breaking down occasionally, splurging up to $35 a night for festivals and trade shows.

    I don’t know that I would suggest to my daughter, that a rest stop is the safest place to sleep. But in a pinch……………

  2. Jared on October 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Just curious, why does it take so long (1.5-2 hours) to camp in a campground? I ask this because my wife and I just completed a 2-week trip, staying in every place from truck stops to RV parks. A few times we stopped late at night at campgrounds. Arrive, see the host or self-registration board, pick a site, back-in and plug-in. We could do all this, and be inside with the dogs fed/watered, electric on, water on, water-heater lit and taking a shower within 15 minutes.
    Please don’t think I am belittling you; not at all! Just curious about the issues you may have that takes so long to setup in a campground? Keep in mind, this isn’t unhooking from the truck, setting leveling blocks, stabilization jacks, etc. It’s little more than what you would do stopping in a truck stop or walmart, except you plug-in a cord and hook-up a hose before going inside for the night.

    With that said, there were times that we could not find an easily-accessible campground, so we parked in a walmart or truck stop for a night’s sleep.

    • Becky on October 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      When I pay more per night to sleep at a campground than I did in my most expensive apartment I want to be able to enjoy it which for me means settling in. When I say 2 hours that’s getting backed up into the space, leveled and the RV blocked, unhooking and getting all the grease and road dust wiped from the hitch and trunnion bars, connecting to water/electric, and getting everything from the trailer from traveling mode into stationary mode. I’m still pretty new at it and it is getting a bit faster every time I do it. It’s also worth noting that I’m traveling alone so I don’t have someone to split the work with.

      The rest of it is budget. I’m not rich, so I can afford to be able to stay at $20+ a night campgrounds sometimes by taking the cheapest option possible on travel days. That makes this lifestyle affordable to me, it averages out to about what I was paying when I was living stationary in an apartment.

  3. Ron on October 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I have been following your blog since day one and really look forward to your post. Thanks for taking the time to do it.
    400 miles a day is about my limit traveling , I found that a break every 2 hours sure keeps me from getting so tired and stif it also keeps me alert.
    When I am trying to get somewhere and just need a nights sleep the Flying J is my favorite stop,they have a RV area that is well lit and away from the big rigs. I have done Wally Worlds also but sometimes they are not in the best areas.

    • Becky on October 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      I was in a Flying J one night, did Pilot, TA, Love’s as well. I think I’ve hit all the major ones at least once now. I’ll even stop at them during the day if I need a break, make myself a sandwich or something like that. I agree: taking breaks during the trip helped. I made good use of rest stops.

      Thanks for following along Ron, safe travels and happy trails!

  4. Tanya on October 2, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Hi Becky. I’ve been enjoying your blog. I also own and love a Casita, but I’m years away from fulltiming. So I’ll enjoy just enjoy your journey for now.

    Ps Indian Springs was our camping trip at home.

    • Becky on October 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Indian Springs really was a great place, wish the beach had been open so we could have gone swimming, it looked like a good place to swim.

      Full-timing will come sooner than you know it. 🙂 Thanks for following along Tanya and if you have any questions please let me know.

  5. Reine on September 30, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Additional thought. Although we’re not fulltimers, we are retired so we have a lot of control over how long we spend on the road. Sometimes we prefer to drive longer one day so we can relax more later. That sounds like pretty much what you did. Get the requirements out of the way and THEN enjoy the journey.

    • Becky on October 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Get the requirements out of the way, exactly. 🙂

      My thoughts on staying at parks and campgrounds is if I’m going to pay the money I’d like to be able to really enjoy it.

      The most expensive apartment I lived in cost $835 a month, it was a over 1,100 square foot townhouse, just two years old and had a pool, exercise room, manicured lawn, private washer and dryer, the works. I shared it with Julie and it was where we lived before moving into the Casita. My half of the rent came to $417.50 a month. Divide that into days and it’s about $13.96 a night. Add the daily cost for water and electric and it was close to $16. All four of the state parks I’ve stayed at so far have had nightly rates over $20 a night, I get a tiny spot to park and have to provide my own shelter. Now I always think about that when I’m going to be staying at a campground or park. I’m happy to pay that $20+ for the water, electric, and the closeness to hiking trails and beauty of the park, but find it’s not worth it if all I need to do is find somewhere to sleep overnight.

      I’ve heard that Cracker Barrels let RVers stay overnight, guess I’ll have to try that sometime. 🙂

  6. Reine on September 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    We’ve stayed overnight in several state parks or forest service campgrounds where we didn’t unhook and essentially dry camped – although you still have to pay. Noise keeps me awake so we try to get away from the hiway. Several times the only “set up” we’ve done is to lower the tongue jack a little to take the weight off the hitch and level the trailer some. If it’s in the summer and it’s really hot, we’ll hook up the AC.

    Once you get more experience you’ll find you can do a basic setup in about 15 minutes if all you’re doing is leveling, water and electric. When we first bought the Casita, we found that a check list was a life saver.

    FYI, keep Cracker Barrel restaurants on your list of overnight locations. Most will let you park overnight and it’s a great place when you’re in the mood for a good meal out.

  7. Marvin on September 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm


    Becky ,

    I am guilty of using time as an excuse . I make several trips a month that can easily be done in one day , but choose to spend a quiet night on the road each way . I enjoy a quiet snack and a good book prior to bed time , and can then be well rested and up early without disturbing people in the CG . When I am in a rest area or truckstop , I stay out of the truck area due to the limited number truck spaces and the requirement for truck drivers to be off the road daily .

    By limiting my daily miles and taking more frequent breaks , I can do a walk around check each time that I stop . Good for me and the tires .

    Your Casita is built much better than most and should have no unusual problems .

    Looking forward to you Amazon experience .

    Be Safe


    • Becky on October 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Yep, I make stops at rest points too, and I always check that everything looks good when I do.

      I never park in the truck area either. The Casita fits into a regular parking space, so hooked up to Bertha I just take up two regular spaces going lengthwise.

  8. Misty on September 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    This is all definitely true. After my first mad dash at the beginning of the summer, I caused an alignment problem that eventually resulted in a massive cramp in my shoulder. 😛 I’m better at knowing my limits, these days.

    If you’re in a rural state, definitely watch your atlas for big green patches of state or national forest. When you find them, leave the road with enough light to drive for another hour or so, and wander the back roads until you find a pull off far enough away from the highway that there will be little traffic after dark. This has resulted in by far my best “by the roadside” camping experiences. 🙂 If you have GPS, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, but I have usually found that I don’t lose much time getting back to the highway if I just pay attention to the roads I’m taking and then study the map before I leave the next morning.
    Misty recently posted..Campground Review: Gentile’s Campground, ConnecticutMy Profile

    • Becky on October 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Huh, that’s a clever way to do it. I’m a bit of a chicken though, I think I’d be afraid of a police officer pounding on my door in the middle of the night to tell me to move.

  9. cozygirl on September 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    You put it so well into perpective. Got a job to do…get there and get it done and then play! Hoping those days after SD have been perfect, now onto pounding the pavement, new friendships, and then play time again. I’m right behind ya!

    • Becky on October 1, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I have found the pace after Sioux Falls to be much more pleasant. I’m glad I had some time to wander and explore before I started at Amazon, that’ll be an experience in itself. 😉 You’ll love being on teh road, jump on in and join us, the water’s fine!

  10. Sherry on September 30, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Very nice summary of the what to consider in the “fast” approach. Hope you won’t have to do that again. You’ll be surprised how much there is to see even in places where you can’t imagine there is much to see.

    Looking forward to hearing and seeing about your time in Truman State park. I read the popular biography of him which was very well written and really interesting.
    Sherry recently posted..Numbers down, Costs up, Fraud & POSTCARDS!My Profile

    • Becky on October 1, 2012 at 10:21 am

      I already know the trip from Coffeyville up to my parent’s house for Christmas will be similar, but that’s 9.5 hours of driving vs. 20 (according to Google, it takes longer pulling the Casita). Then again I’m not sure yet if I’ll be taking the Casita up there or leave it in Kansas and pick it up on my way South.