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Old 05-18-2017, 10:04 PM   #1
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YNP Trip: Size matters -- both good and bad

We just got back from a 2-week trip to Yellowstone in a cramped van, and thinking it could be our last, I paid particular attention to every trip detail affected by vehicle size -- both pros and cons. Here are but a few (sorry for length)



Cons are easy -- 300 cubic feet of space for two adults is tiny. Limited space in turn creates added inefficiency because too many things had to be moved around between day and night. Not that moving a couple of duffle bags with extra clothes or sleeping bags is difficult or takes more than a few seconds; but psychologically it adds to feeling of confinement. Fortunately we are not very large so can still move easily in close quarters.

The less space you have, the more every additional inch counts. Because of it being a longer trip we took an enclosed hitch carrier box roughly half the size of a Honda Civic's trunk, and that extra +/- 7 cubic feet of outside storage helped immensely. An even larger carrier would have been great.

We stayed in campgrounds every night, and therefore had access to showers. Most were more than adequate, but it's still a major inconvenience, particularly when temperatures drop into the 20s at night like it did in Yellowstone.



The pros were not as noteworthy, but were numerous. The first thing most of us think as an advantage to smaller RVs is fuel economy, but that's really minor in my opinion. I did get one tank at 17.0 MPG by having to drive slower than normal, followed by 15.4 and 15.0 MPG -- not bad for a Ford V10 with over 165,000 miles. Overall average was about 15 MPG driving between 70 and 75 MPH on main roads. Still, fuel savings compared to average small Class C or Axis/Vegas was probably less than $500, so not huge as part of total trip costs.

A great advantage was not having to tow a car like many RVers in larger motorhomes end up doing. It's not about cost savings, but convenience and freedom to drive just about anywhere without much if any planning. As an example, in Colorado we were told of a restaurant in a small town/village in the mountains along a scenic route, and pulling in and parking in front was no issue. With an Axis or similar towing a car I would have not stopped there at all.

Yellowstone's south entrance would not open until next day, forcing us to drive from Grand Teton NP to west entrance. The office lady at campground warned us about going over Teton Pass, but said a van would be OK. The road is rated up to 60,000-pound trucks, so I suppose motorhomes should be OK anyway. Still, I had to use 2nd gear most of the way up and down in a light van, staying in the +/- 40 MPH range to keep from having to ride brakes. Had it been a MH two or three times heavier with same V10 for engine braking, it would have required much slower speeds both up and down.

While in Yellowstone, touring the park was as easy as driving a car. We could park anywhere to see wildlife, including off the side of the road, or drive a few miles down a gravel road not knowing where we would turn around. And all while having everything with us. At one point we made a 3-point U-Turn to see a coyote eating his dinner in a snow-covered field. We also saw a total of ten bears while parked off the side of four different roads which would have been tougher to do with large MH.

On way back through Colorado we went up to the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 just to see how difficult the grade was to climb (the Ike challenge is used by The Fast Lane Truck to compare truck towing abilities) and found maintaining speed limit of 60 MPH was easy by just turning off overdrive. By comparison, many trucks and large RVs were going up at well below 30 MPH, so power-to-weight does help, particularly with NA gasoline engines at 11,000-feet elevation.



In summary, there is no doubt we could use a lot more space for the "camping/living" part of touring; the more space the better, but only to the point that a MH would still be small enough to allow us to go just about anywhere we want on the spur of the moment. Comfort amenities, at least for now, remain secondary. Versatility and ruggedness, and the travel freedom they provide, remain of primary importance.
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Old 05-18-2017, 11:35 PM   #2
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There are always pros and cons. Having owned almost everything from a pop-up tent trailer to a 41 foot DP I can appreciate driving something small enough to go just about everywhere. As I've gotten older I guess comfort and convenience is more important than size, guess that's why there are so many choices! Sounds like you had a great trip!
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:08 AM   #3
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Chance ... thanks for the update of your trip.
When we moved on from our Dodge camper van which we used in the mid to late 1990's .. we had a 21' Coachmen Starflyte. It had a corner bed (forgive me if you have read this on another feed) ... it was PERFECT... had the Triton V10, adequate storage etc. Chance...you would have loved it .. no slide ! Ron would put his hitch mount motorcycle rack on the rear so we could ride the Dual Sport while camped. We moved on from that unit because we decided we wanted a slide...
So, enough said....we have remained rather short with the 24.1 Axis..which will be the last motorhome we will buy...it is STILL short enough to park just about anywhere we want...that is a priority for us.
REGARDING the climb/ decline out of Denver via I70...we have done that a number of times... the climbs in Colorado whether it is to the Eisenhower Tunnel or across a peak...the climb never seems to be the stressful..we just do what the RV will do...the decline can be tricky, and at times scary as we all know.

We do what we do because we love to travel and camp. Once we had experienced camping and meeting nice folks along the way...motel/hotels are not desirable to us any longer ! Anyone who thinks the RV experience is the cheap way to travel is NUTS !!

So....make the most of your situation...enjoy every moment ....and feel bad for those who have never left the town in which they were born and raised !
Whichever way we choose to travel down the road...we are FREE and SMILING !!
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:21 AM   #4
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SuperD, yes, we had great time, and saw a lot of wildlife which is what we wanted most. Unfortunately we didn't get to see a wolf, but did see a den with 5 pups in the Lamar Valley area according to guys that had been there for days.

This was my fourth visit to YNP: First one by car and tent camped. Second was Class C. Third by car and stayed in lodges. For me it's just being there that's most important.


We were also extremely lucky with weather. A few days before departing from Houston the weather forecast didn't look good for Yellowstone, so we briefly thought of delaying trip by a few days. For the most part we had great weather on Thursday and Friday last week, with Saturday getting a little colder during day with rain and very light snow (while at Old Faithful). Had we delayed for better weather, it would have actually been much worse. That's why I don't plan much around weather conditions -- it's still mostly luck. On way back we got tornado warnings around Amarillo, but drove slower to let storm stay ahead of us. Around Childress there was still large hail on road left by storm.
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vkb View Post
Chance ... thanks for the update of your trip.
When we moved on from our Dodge camper van which we used in the mid to late 1990's .. we had a 21' Coachmen Starflyte. It had a corner bed (forgive me if you have read this on another feed) ... it was PERFECT... had the Triton V10, adequate storage etc. Chance...you would have loved it .. no slide ! Ron would put his hitch mount motorcycle rack on the rear so we could ride the Dual Sport while camped. We moved on from that unit because we decided we wanted a slide...
....cut....
Kay, did you know that Thor built an upscale small Class C that was similar? I saw one at Yellowstone campground and it looked sharp. It had molded front and rear caps, and full body paint. Don't know yet if made as small as 21-feet.

It's interesting they dropped that model -- must have had low demand.
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Old 05-19-2017, 02:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance View Post
Kay, did you know that Thor built an upscale small Class C that was similar? I saw one at Yellowstone campground and it looked sharp. It had molded front and rear caps, and full body paint. Don't know yet if made as small as 21-feet.

It's interesting they dropped that model -- must have had low demand.
Chance ... I DID know what .. Coachmen actually sold the rights to that floorplan in about 2002. Ours was like a B+ molded and no cabover sleeping..that is where the TV/sound system was located. It was a 1998 .. Ron pulled up the carpet and put down vinyl...had a single size gaucho couch which could be pulled our for another bed...not the greatest. Pretty good setup for what it was.

out of curiosity, I visited RV Trader... they have several 1998/99 Starflytes .. none exactly like our floor plan but they are still lookin good !!
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:18 PM   #7
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Kay, for some reason I can't access Thor Archived brochures after they recently updated their website, but found a couple of pictures of the type of MH I saw in YNP at Fishing Bridge Campground.

It's a Chateau Citation on Ford chassis, instead of more common Chateau Citation Sprinter.

The only ones I've found data on are at least close to 30 feet long, or longer, and with multiple slides so way too large for us. I do like the upscale appearance though.

It appears that given a price point, American buyers mostly prefer size and slides in lieu of a simpler and more solid build, or higher-end features like molded rear cap, full body paint, inverters, solar, etc. I guess it comes down to whatever sells best, as it should be.
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:21 PM   #8
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The back end is what makes it stand out the most compared to other Class Cs in my opinion.
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance View Post
The back end is what makes it stand out the most compared to other Class Cs in my opinion.
that is a beautiful coach ! too long for us and apparently for you too !! if you take a look at RV Trader and tell them exactly what you are looking for, it is surprising what can be found ...

for instance : 22'

https://www.rvtrader.com/listing/200...5211-121693942

23'

https://www.rvtrader.com/listing/200...5211-121106405

ya don't see corner beds much..they were a precious commodity in that short motorhome ! mostly jack knife sofas or dinette/bed combo...
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:19 PM   #10
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Yellowstone NP

We took our 24.1 Axis there the end of last June. The only thing we had on the back of it was our bike rack with our two Motiv electric bicycles. We made the decision from the outset that we were going to use the RV as a base camp, camped at Sawtelle Moutain RV park about 20 minutes from West Yellowstone and rented a car there. We made four trips to the NP from the RV and my conclusion is that during the summer, there is no way that I would want to drive anything bigger than an auto into the park unless I had to. Great trip with the only issue being a starburst hit to the middle of the windshield right before we got to Island Park, ID. Got it repaired at WestGate Glass in West Yellowstone.
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Old 05-19-2017, 08:24 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vkb View Post
that is a beautiful coach ! too long for us and apparently for you too !! if you take a look at RV Trader and tell them exactly what you are looking for, it is surprising what can be found ...

for instance : 22'

https://www.rvtrader.com/listing/200...5211-121693942

23'

https://www.rvtrader.com/listing/200...5211-121106405

ya don't see corner beds much..they were a precious commodity in that short motorhome ! mostly jack knife sofas or dinette/bed combo...
Thanks much Kay, I appreciate it.

We really want something new, or at least a lot newer, otherwise we would just keep repairing our van to keep it in service; and maybe do some upgrades. But that just doesn't make much sense to me because it's so old. Once vehicles get old (more than 10 years or so), many things start to go wrong that are more age related than wear related (mileage) -- like rust. We've also had to replace door latch cables because of age/wear, vacuum hoses/tubes and wiring that are no longer as reliable, etc.

Owners often worry more about engine and drivetrain, but to me that's easier to rebuild and keep running indefinitely for all practical purposes (not that I've had that problem yet with 165,000 miles).

I contacted Thor one last time thinking I may be able to special order an Axis, but that's not going to work out. And ProMaster van transmissions are still too weak, so nothing much has really changed since we started looking.


Regardless, we may just forget about buying for now and rent as needed instead, or fly to destination and rent a car.
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