Have you ever thought about renting an RV and going on an adventure? Somewhere you haven’t been before?
Well, we did just that! Pieter did the research and rented an RV from a company in Denver, Colorado. We spent hours huddled over the laptop and came up with an awesome road trip that would take us north into Wyoming and Nebraska and through a couple of state parks. So we booked our flights and the four of us flew to Denver for our Spring vacation RV Trip.
We arrived in Denver, collected our baggage and ordered our Uber to get us from the airport to the RV rental office in the city. Our Uber driver was a super laid back traveler himself and was very intrigued with our planned route. He listened and then told us that “if he were us, he would not head north at all, but west into the mountains, south to New Mexico and loop back around to Denver.”
You know what? We can recognize good advice when we hear it and proceeded to do just that. The only surprise was weather. Apparently, Spring in Colorado is not the same as Spring in Georgia, and it was going to be cold with plenty of snow in the forecast. Might as well see what we could see on this new route while the weather held.
Our Mobile Home for 10 Days
We rented a 30 foot long drivable RV that can sleep 7 people. It was just going to be the 4 of us, but we will have some elbow room for when we needed to stay inside.
Besides the driver and passenger doors in the cab section, it had a main door on the side. You entered into the kitchen area, with a dinette and couch to the right and access to the cab from the inside. Above the cab was the first sleeping area, the couch made the second bed, and the dinette turned into bed number three. We left ours in the dinette configuration for the whole trip.
The middle area is the kitchen with a three burner stove, microwave, sink and fridge. Next to the kitchen was the toilet and shower area. When open, the door to the toilet area was the divider between the kitchen and the complete bathroom, with the curtain in the back to the bedroom serving as the other divider.
All the way in the back was the main bedroom, with plenty of storage around, above and under the bed. The rental came with bedding, kitchenware and some other basics like folding chairs, but we had to get our own braai, cleaning supplies and of course groceries.
Day 1: Denver, CO to Fairplay, CO – 85 miles
We collected our drivable home for the week and got on the road. Not too far though – first stop was a Walmart for groceries and supplies. We shopped a good bit with a general meal plan in mind and got everything back to our RV and unpacked into the fridge and cabinets.
Trying to beat rush hour traffic, we headed out and drove all the way to Fairplay. We did stop in Morrison, CO for liquid refreshments on the way. We had meat and tools to braai (bbq) and you have to have some refreshments to go with a braai!
We called on our way to the Middlefork RV Park and booked a spot for our first night. It was located close to the highway and since it was already dark, we couldn’t really see what it looked like. But we found our spot and set up for our first night. Soon the fire was burning and we were sitting outside admiring the big open sky.
Everyone was pretty tired after the early morning, flight and excitement of getting our temporary home on the road, so we got to bed early. Only to wake up a lot during the night. Pieter wasn’t feeling well, suffering from a racing heart, and both of us had terrible headaches that could not be explained by the one drink we each had.
The next morning, after some reading, we realized it was altitude related. Coming in from Atlanta at 1,050 feet (320m) to Denver and then all the way up to Fairplay, which was at 9,953 feet (3,034 m) above sea level, was too big a shock for our bodies.
Day 2: Fairplay, CO to Salida, CO – 58 miles
After breakfast, we were on the road and looking for lower elevation camp sites. We set our sights on Salida and got going. It was a beautiful drive. Snow peaked mountains, quiet roads and the four of us together. Not a whole lot of mountain passes, but we did drop about 2,000 feet in elevation, making us all feel much better.
We stopped at an outlook just outside of Beuno Vista and was rewarded with an amazing view of the Collegiate Peaks, a section of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It contains some of the highest mountains in the Rockies and are all named for prominent universities. Mount Harvard is the tallest at 14,427 feet. There is also a Mount Oxford, Mount Princeton, and a Mount Yale, to just name a few.
We crossed the Arkansas river and turned north for a walk around Bueno Vista. A small little town with some interesting shops and restaurants. We didn’t stay too long and turned back south to Salida and our next stop, the Four Seasons RV Park. This one was located right on the banks of the Arkansas river and was really pretty. Snow was moving in by late that afternoon and we knew we would have to head a bit more south the next day. Nothing will put a damper on an RV trip like being snowed in and unable to go anywhere!
We made some dinner in the RV (too cold to braai) and got to bed nice and early.
Day 3: Salida, CO to Navajo Dam, NM – 218 miles
What a lovely snow covered view to wake up to! It snowed most of the night and everything was covered in white snow. We got coffee going and soon had to perform one of the less glamorous tasks of RV life – emptying the black water tanks. I volunteered to capture the moment on camera and Pieter got his cousin Eddie moment in (from one of the Clark Griswald movies). Simon came to help and was more than a little grossed out by this type of task.
After the unpleasant, but much needed, formalities were concluded, we packed up and headed up and over Poncho Pass. It started out a bit snowy, but it soon cleared up.
Our first stop for the day was at Grande Natural Meats, outside of Del Norte, for some fresh meat. We bought elk meat and buffalo short ribs and even some jerky to snack on. Interesting stop indeed.
Our route took us over Wolf Creek Mountain Pass where you ascend to 10,000 feet in elevation! After reaching the top, you descend quite quickly again all the way down to 7,100 feet. A very steep drive in any vehicle and a bit nerve racking in an RV! After making it down the mountain, we had to get out of the RV, stretch our legs and calm
our my nerves. We grabbed some brunch outside of Pagosa Springs at the Junction Restaurant.
This was one of our biggest driving days and we had to get back on the road. After passing Chimney Rock, we worked our way down towards Navajo Dam and soon crossed into New Mexico. We were getting close to our stop for the night – Cottonwood Campground.
This would be our only State Park campground on this trip and by far a better option in my opinion. It was a lovely location and even though it started raining, we were able to braai some lamb and elk for dinner.
Check out Part 2 where we visit Shiprock NM !