Ten RV Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Australian Max Anderson, traveling courtesy of Flight Centre and Apollo Motorhomes, gets his kicks on an all-American motorhome tour with his family from Los Angeles to Las Vegas via San Francisco.

Said to be one of the most complex highway interchanges in the world, the Orange Crush (as it’s known to locals) is where the I-5 meets the CA-22 and CA-57 just south of Disneyland and Anaheim’s Angel Stadium. There are 66 lanes of travel over 13 bridges. (Source: Google maps)

“American horror has many faces,” Anderson writes in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The Exorcist. The Thing. The Kardashians. None, however, is as terrifying as the Orange Crush. It looms overhead, howling, waving its arms, drawing us into its spinning vortex. Thirty-four roads and ramps—the world’s largest intersection—all bisecting and splicing overhead, on stilts.”

Continuing to describe the Orange Crush, Anderson says, “I’m gaping through the windscreen but I’m driving through the looking glass: right is left, left is right, and my vehicle is the size of the Queen Mary. My father’s sagest advice for life was ‘if in doubt, slow down and stop’—but there is no stopping on an exit ramp of a 12-lane freeway in Los Angeles when it wants to feed you into another 12-lane freeway.”

Anderson concludes the article with his ten motorhome lessons learnt the hard way.

1. If you’re new to driving in the US, start somewhere where the traffic’s sane, such as San Francisco; by the time you reach Los Angeles you’ll be ready for it.

Los Angeles freeways and skyline. (Source: goodfoodpreservation.com)

2. If you have to drive in LA, stick to the freeway truck lanes. And remember, there’s no such thing as “Sunday traffic”; it’s the same as Monday traffic.

3. Be smart — take at least 24 hours to recover from your flight before taking the wheel.

4. Be smarter still — take another 20 minutes to figure out your satnav. It’s a terrific resource but it plots the quickest route, not necessarily the easiest. (That’s how we ended up under the Orange Crush.)

5. Insurance is your friend; don’t skimp on it. We collected a stone to the windshield: no charge.

6. Beware, your vehicle roof is not insured. Low-hanging branches will cause damage without you knowing it. I kissed goodbye to $US500 ($477) for a tree-scored awning.

7. Plan and book as much as possible before arrival in the US. Popular RV parks such as Yosemite fill up.

8. Allocate driving days and non-driving days. Despite good intentions (“Oh, we’ll drive in the morning and see the sights in the afternoon”), they don’t mix. Pull up, make yourself at home and enjoy more.

9. Less driving means more holiday. Australians have a better appreciation of distance than Europeans, but I guarantee you’ll still underestimate the time it takes to get anywhere.

10. The Lonely Planet Guide to California ($38.99) is a glove box necessity.

LA is a great big freeway, a shameless one. The energy is steroidal, the self-love is bonkers. It’s a perfect introduction to California.

Fast Facts

Getting there

Qantas has a return fare to Los Angeles from Sydney (from $2017) and from Melbourne (from $1984).

Driving There

Motorhome rental varies by vehicle availability, the season (June to September is peak in the U.S.) and the point of collection and drop-off.

Our six-berth Wanderer vehicle was arranged by Brisbane-based Apollo Motorhomes; a nine-day hire in May would cost $US1500 ($1429) including satnav, mileage, insurance, pick-up in LA, and drop-off in Las Vegas.

It pays to explore the online booking system; being flexible can get costs down. (If you’re flexible, you can take a new vehicle that needs to be relocated for as little as $10 a day; see apollorv.com/factory-special.) Phone 1800 777 779, see apollocamper.com. Also see driveaway.com.au.

Worth Pondering…

Travel is not about getting from point A to point B. At best that’s tourism—at worst transportation—across a more or less sterile landscape. Real travel is about soaking up the local flavor, getting a sense of other people’s lives, and their history.
—Anon

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