An RV Trip Across America
Planning an RV trip across America can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Get off-the-grid ideas for your next adventure as this episode provides RV travel tips and destinations. On today’s show, our hosts share some of their childhood road trips and camper stories. They are also joined by Jon Gray, the CEO of RVshare, the world’s largest RV rental marketplace. Want to know more about traveling with an RV? Then hop on and enjoy this episode.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing meetings across America, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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RV Across America
Someone once said, “Road trips aren’t measured by the mile markers but by moments.” Since the early adventures in covered wagons into the days of the automobile, the great American road trip has been synonymous with adventure and freedom. From Route 66 to exploring our great national parks, there are countless trips across America. If you’ve ever dreamed of hitting the open road and finding the best eats, hotels, educational landmarks, breathtaking sites and hidden gems, you’ve come to the right place. We’re talking to Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare and we’ll be talking all-American road trip. We’ll learn about the best way to hit the roads, our national parks, renting an RV and road trip stops you shouldn’t miss. Thank you for joining us.
In this episode, we are going on the road across America. We’re excited to have you join us. Todd, we’ve traveled lots of times in cars, vans, trucks and RVs across the great United States. We thought because of COVID and what’s happening, and people aren’t getting on planes that we give lots of tips and ideas of destinations, trips and bucket list items in and around traveling this great country of ours, the United States of America. We have got a lot to cover, but first we’re going to start by talking about some of our childhood road trips, which were pretty comical. I have a few choice stories. Todd, I know you have some as well.
I’ve probably got a lot more than you do.
You traveled a lot by car when you’re a kid?
When the movie, Vacation, came out in the ‘80s, it was funny because it was familiar to us because that’s exactly the kind of traveling that we did.
You didn’t strap your grandmother to the top of the car?
We didn’t have to resort to that thankfully. My dad was in the military, so we were traveling on budgets. If it was probably within 14, 15-hour drive, we were driving and not getting on an airplane. That was our story, our MO. That was our family’s way of doing things.
My family was spread all over the country, but a lot of them were up in the Northeast Corridor. I grew up in Florida, so we kept going up and back the Northeast Corridor from Florida, all the way to New York, New Jersey. I’m seeing a lot of the historical sites, doing all the great, fun colonial things, and seeing my grandparents who happened to live in Morristown, New Jersey. I did a lot of that.
Did you drive or did you fly though?
We drove. Our friends had this great camper. It was the camper that was in Stripes, the movie. The green one that ends up being a tank in the movie. We had that actual one and it was green. I’ll never forget the first time we went up to New Jersey. We were so excited. We woke up one morning and the water had frozen inside the toilet of the camper. We thought that was the coolest thing ever. I was about age nine. I have lots of fun memories of being on the road across America.
We didn’t have the luxury of having a camper because we didn’t do that. My grandparents, when I got a little bit older, they did buy a recreational vehicle. I used to call it a camper and she would correct me. They would say, “It’s a motor home. It is not a camper.” She got legit upset when we called it a camper. With our immediate family, we would drive around but it would be in our station wagon. We had a Malibu station wagon similar to the Vacation story. It was the one that had the flip seat in the back. You can see out the back window. It’s unsafe now.
How dangerous is that thing nowadays. You would never put children in the back of a car. It was like steel back there. You’re surrounded by metal.
It had no car seats and we had a Samoyed. It’s a big, hairy white dog. It looks like a Husky, but it’s white. We were always traveling in warm weather, so the dog would shed and slobber. Me, my brother and sister were in the back seat. I still don’t know where we put our luggage because we didn’t have a roof rack.
Was it not on top of your grandmother?
The luggage was there. I don’t know how it got there. I’ve got to ask my parents about that. The three of us would be in the backseat and my parents would be in the front seat if my dad could go, but he worked a lot. We were off and that’s how we did everything. We’d stop at rest stops. Everything was planned out around a restaurant and a rest stop. Back then, it was like a Cracker Barrel.
I’m glad you mentioned RVs and campers because our guest is Jon Gray, the CEO of RVshare. It’s like the Airbnb for the RV industry. They’re doing amazing things. We’re excited to hear from him and all the advancements since we were kids of how you can enjoy time on the road.
I’ve got to tell you my camper story real fast or my motor home story. This was a story where one summer, everybody was doing their own thing. My parents encouraged me to go with my grandparents in their motor home. They would pick me up and we’d go up to the Northeast. It was my grandparents, their dog and me. They were a member of this club that they could pull up the motor home and get the reservation, you get your spot and you’re good for a day or two. We did that and it was fun for a couple of days. It’s entertaining for kids. We’re having a great time. There are no other kids and this is my grandparents.
They both like to drink and smoke. We’re in this motor home. We would open the door up and the smoke would come out because to them it was nothing. To us, it was the worst thing in the world. You’re getting car sick. As the trip went on and on, they had to let me out in New York. I remember my grandparents took me to the train station and they walked me to the train. We were at a train station because they were going to drive me home, then they were continuing their motor home trip. I was homesick at this point. They put me on a train in New York to come home and they didn’t get off in time. The train took off to Philly. They were freaking out. They had to ride back in between two cars. They let them ride for free to go back to New York so that they could go get their RV and continue their trip. The dog was left in the RV. It was a big chaotic mess. Needless to say, that was my last big trip in an RV, except for some little ones that we’ve done, which have been fun.
I’ve got a similar story. Mine is about my Aunt Nona, who was not really my aunt. She was my mother’s first cousin. She was everything you would think an Aunt Nona would be. She was raunchy and loud. She talked like she had eaten a box of crackers. She drove a ‘67 emerald green Lincoln Continental. This thing was the size of a small airplane. The thing was huge. We went on for days and days. I’ll never forget, they had a second home in Delray. Aunt Nona picked me up and we drove up the Eastern Seaboard. We stopped at every city hotel and every possible diner all the way up the Eastern Seaboard. I had a grilled cheese at every single one of those diners all the way up. I never forget smelling like smoke because she smoked the entire way. I was only nine. I also got to sit in front of the entire time. Times have definitely changed. We’re going to try to spend some time talking about some awesome road trips that you can do across the United States. Everything from national parks to some of Todd and I’s favorites that we’ve done over the years. It’s going to be fantastic.
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I want to welcome our next guest. We’re excited to have Jon Gray, who is the CEO of RVshare. When you think of RVshare, think of Airbnb but for RV rentals. Welcome, Jon.
Thanks for having me on.
[bctt tweet=”There’s so much to do in this great country. You don’t need to get on a plane, especially right now, to have a great time.” username=””]
We’re glad to have you. We’re your customers. We’re in your system. We used you guys in 2019. We had never rented an RV before and we loved it. It was easy. The customer service is great, but a lot of our readers have not ever rented an RV especially in the consumer-to-consumer model. Tell us a little about it. What are RVshare’s key differentiators and how did you get in the business?
Your story about coming in and renting an RV for the first time and not having driven an RV before is a story we hear all the time. The other thing we hear all the time is, “I would have done this a lot sooner had I not been afraid to drive an RV.” That’s something that we look at all the time. We have hundreds of thousands of people book RVs every year. They are easier to drive than you think they are. The other thing that we do at RVshare is if you want just an RV delivered to a camp site, we’ll do that as well. That way if you’re concerned about driving it, you can show up and have a hotel room wherever you want to go. The business was started in 2013 and works exactly like a Vrbo or an Airbnb but for RVs. We connect people who own an RV and want to turn it into a second source with people who are looking to go on RV trips with their family or with a group of friends.
We talked about the newcomer, somebody that’s never had an RV before, never driven a large vehicle, much less a trailer or anything. It can be intimidating. For someone who’s not comfortable driving this vehicle, what assurances can you give them or what do they need to know before they even start looking for the right one for them?
One of the biggest assurances is that thousands of people are doing this. It’s not something that’s impossible to figure out or anything like that. When you talk about RVs, sometimes it sounds intimidating, but most people have driven a U-Haul truck before. It’s the same thing in terms of size. A class-C RV, which is the most common one book through the site is pretty similar in size to the standard smaller U-Haul that you would rent. That’s one of the things that helps put people at ease about being an intimidating thing. When you rent through RVshare, when you go to pick up the RV, you go through a walkthrough with the owner. The owner shows you how to use the RV, how to hook it up, how to use the kitchen, how to use the bathroom, all of those types of things.
They also do a test drive with you. The test drive is critical in getting you comfortable with the RV. We encourage people who are renting for the first time to make sure they ask a lot of questions during that process and get as comfortable as they can. We realized that it is something that feels a little uncomfortable to start with. The other thing too, and this is an important point to make, is that satisfaction in this industry post-trip is incredibly high. Ninety-three percent-plus of our reviews are five-star reviews. People don’t give you five-star reviews if they don’t have a good time on their trip. People talk about the challenges with it and that’s something you can talk about, but there are also some amazing benefits of RV-ing, especially in light of a pandemic.
I remember when I went to pick up the RV, I was worried about backing up, the trailer part of it. I did it twice in their backyard. He gave me some tips and I was off. It was great. It’s a real-life example that you are comfortable by the time you leave there. It’s great that you also have that program where you can drop it off too. I think if you had that a few years back, I would have used it. We got back and forth fine.
We use the delivery products. We went to a campground about an hour away from our house and we showed up. The air conditioner was already on. We walk right in and do a quick walkthrough with the owner. It was a type of RV that I couldn’t carry with my car, a fifth wheel, and it had two bedrooms. My kids could be in the complete other side of the RV, which is nice. When it was time to leave, we walked out of the RV, locked the door and sent the owner a text. He came and picked it up. It was completely seamless. It was a nice experience.
How do you pick the right type of RV for your family or your friends when you may not be experienced and know what to look for? Is there someone to help you? How do you do that?
The biggest tip for anybody planning an RV trip is to begin with the end in mind of what you want the trip to be. Think about how many people are going with you and how far you want to go. Do you want to drive the RV so you can move around a bit more during the trip? Do you want to tow it so you’ll have the mobility once you get there with your car? Those type of questions are important to ask yourself at the beginning. Also, think through the use cases of how you’re going to use the RV.
If you’re planning to cook and eat inside the RV, then having a large dining area is important. If you’re planning to sit outside around a campfire like we usually do when we’re going on an RV trip, the size of the dining room is a bit less important and we focus more on bedrooms. Think about the different ways you’re going to use it and that will assign how you think about using it. Remember with RVs, they will give you an amount that it can sleep that many people, but it won’t sleep that many people in individual rooms. If you want your kids in a separate room, for example, you’re going to want to look at that on the floor plans for the RVs when you’re looking to book.
What amenities come with the RV? You’re talking about sleeping rooms. Do they already have the fitted sheets and things like that usually included or do you bring those along with you?
Typically, they do. That’s something that I would talk to the owner about ahead of time. Most of the owners are very good about sending you a list of things you should consider bringing. Most of the time they’d have the sheets and comforters and things like that in them. They’re outfitted from that perspective. Most of the time, they’ll have lighters that you’d need for the kitchen for lighting the pilot light and those types of things. When you talk about amenities, you can get into specific stuff like there are RVs that are nice. They have granite countertops. They have giant TVs in them that come out of the wall. You can get high-end amenities, but the amenities that matter most in an RV is that you’re able to take your bedroom, your bathroom and your kitchen with you. Relative to the alternative, 40 million households in the US every year go camping. Most of those people are sleeping on the ground. Sleeping in the air conditioner with a kitchen and a bathroom is a very different and much better experience.
You’ve got your RV. Does RVshare have a relationship with different camp sites throughout the country? Do you have recommendations or is that, “I’ve got my RV, I got this covered, I’m going to do the rest of it myself as a traveler?”
We do have some recommendations around that. There are some great websites and apps. There’s one called Campendium. There’s one called Hipcamp that you can use to book campsites. There’s one called RoverPass. That’s the same thing. There’s one called Roadtrippers that gives you different things around the trips as you’re driving. All of those can be helpful. Those are the ones I’d recommend. The other thing that I would recommend is unless you’re going to a real destination campground, if you’re planning to do a road trip and just stop wherever, I would not book my campgrounds in advance. That keeps your agenda a bit more open and allows you to have a bit more fun along the way. You don’t have that for yourself out miles-wise or anything like that. Let’s say you’re going from Texas where I live to the Yellowstone Park, book the campgrounds in or around the Yellowstone, but then on the way there, try to give yourself a bit more flexibility. With RV travel, it’s a cliché but the journey is the destination in many ways. You need to make sure you have the flexibility to enjoy it.
If you’re going from a park to a park and you do need to overnight somewhere that’s not your destination, where do you recommend that people stop? I’ve heard that sometimes, Walmart parking lots allow RVs and campers to stop. Is that true? I don’t even know.
It depends on your budget. You can stop at Cracker Barrel or Walmart for free. Most towns you go into along your way have places where you can stop and hook up your RV. A lot of times in smaller towns, hotels will have RV pickup spots. You can use the amenities of the hotel for your RV. There are a lot of different ways to do it. There are Jellystone Parks all over the US that are great examples for that. There are KOAs. There are all sorts of places to stop. It’s one of those things where once you are driving in an RV and looking for places to stop, you’ll see them everywhere. There are tons of places to stop.
I looked online and I found the top 5 or 6. You have Airstream, Winnebago, Jayco, Teardrop Camper and Happy Camper. Are all these available through you? Is there any restriction if you’re looking for a giant one or do you not go to a certain smaller size or is everything available?
We list all sorts of RVs. We have hundreds of models on the site. What I would say about that is there’s probably less supply of the ones that are in high demand naturally. There’s less supply of the big ones because they’re very expensive to buy in the first place. Those are the ones that we have a bit less of, but there’s not a limitation to the type of supply that you’ll find in RVshare.
If you do have a breakdown or if you need support somewhere along your way, is that a service that comes through RVshare or do you call the RV owner?
It comes through RVshare. It’s a bit more of a nuanced explanation than that. If you book through RVshare, we connect you with our insurance partner that allows you to buy an insurance policy for the rental. That is important because in most cases, your car insurance doesn’t cover you to drive an RV. That’s one of the things that is important. The other one is when you book through RVshare, you get 24/7 Roadside support. If you’re driving around and the RV gets stuck, the Roadside will come and winch you out, the kind of breakdown on the road scenarios, the flat tires and the things like that.
Also, we’re available 24/7 from a customer support operation for you to call RVshare. We can help with any of those things, call or email. You raised a good point with the owner. Let me be clear, something happens with the RV rarely. Ninety-three percent of our reviews are five-star reviews. People are usually having a good time and things aren’t going wrong with the RV. When they do, the first place most people call is the owner because the owner knows their RV the best and can usually help the most. RVshare provides a tremendous amount of coverage to help if something does go wrong, but the owners are an amazing resource as well.
I’m a nervous traveler sometimes, especially when I don’t feel like I know it 100%. I like hearing that.
You used to work at HomeAway, which is a home rental website that you can do. I know a lot of people probably start out doing home rentals before they would take the jump to the RV. What would you tell our audience that is considering this? They’re like, “I don’t know. It’s easy to rent a place on Airbnb or HomeAway or Vrbo. I want to try this because it seems like it gives me so much more freedom.” What tips or encouragement can you give them, Jon?
From booking experience, it’s incredibly similar. Being able to find an RV that meets your needs and book it on the website is pretty similar to how you would do that on Vrbo. It’s not that different from that perspective. If you’re somebody who stays in vacation homes, you’re somebody who’s accepted the idea over the last 10 to 20 years that the definition of travel should be expanded. It shouldn’t just be hotels. In a way, whether you think yourself this way or not, you’re a more adventurous type of traveler. RV-ing fits nicely with that. If you’re going to New York for a couple of days, staying in a hotel is the right way to do it. If you’re going on a business trip and you’re going to be somewhere for a couple of days, a hotel is great.
[bctt tweet=”The journey is the destination in many ways. You’d need to make sure you have the flexibility to enjoy it.” username=””]
If you’re taking your family to the beach for a couple of weeks, vacation rental is amazing. It’s the best option for it. There are 40 million households in the US going camping every year, probably more. It’s a far better way than trying to drive from one place to stay in a hotel than to the next hotel. It’s a great option for a road trip. It’s a great option for tailgates and music festivals when those are happening. When you compare it to the use case of camping, if you’re into primitive camping or something like that, an RV is not an option for you. Most people are going camping just to get outside and spend time with their family. An RV allows you to focus more of the time and gives you a lot more feature comforts than staying in a tent house.
Over the past couple of months, how have you ramped up for this increasing demand for RVs and the people that want to get out of their houses and do it in a safe way?
A few things on that, the first thing is right when everything started to set in from a pandemic perspective in mid-March, we saw a lot of cancellations. We pivoted the business during that period to rent out RVs to doctors who wanted to park an RV in their driveway, such that they wouldn’t cross-contaminate with their family. We rented out a bunch of RVs to utility company so they could isolate their employees and their critical infrastructure workers at their facilities. We did a lot of bookings for medical trips. You think about it. There are a lot of people who have appointments out of state and they used to take a plane to go to those appointments, but now they’re not going to do that. They flipped to taking RVs.
We flipped the business over to that for a month. Once mid-April hit, people started seeing restrictions loosened, especially in Southern states and started booking again for leisure travel. What RV-ing does is it gives you more control over your vacation. You’re taking your bedroom, your kitchen and your bathroom with you. In a time where you want to stay away from other people, that’s incredibly important. We surveyed then and found that 3, 4, some people are still planning to take their summer vacations, but 93% of them wanted to stay away from crowds. We knew that was good for us. We started ramping up staffing, ramping up supply of RVs, all those types of things, ahead of the surge and demand that we’ve seen. The surge and demand we’ve seen has been incredible.
There are still RVs on the site that you can find to book. We haven’t run out of them or anything like that, but we’ve had our biggest booking season by a wide margin. It’s been great from the perspective of business results, and the performance we’re able to deliver for our owners, and the travelers we’re able to send on great trips. That’s all wonderful. Importantly, we’ve raised awareness of a great way to travel. We were talking about vacation rentals. It expanded the definition of what travel mainstream was. This summer 2020 has allowed us to expand that definition even further to include RV travel for trips that are best served by RVs. That’s what’s exciting for our team.
I noticed something on your website, which our readers would be interested in knowing, is you can bring your pets with certain RVs. You have an area where you can choose whether or not it accepts cats and dogs or cats or dogs, which I thought was fantastic. A lot of people either don’t have the ability to have someone watch their animal or they might need their animal for a medical reason.
It’s a filter on the site. You can click for pet-friendly rentals and show the ones that are available as pet- friendly. That’s the thing that a lot of people choose to use. There are other people who explicitly won’t rent one that is pet-friendly because they don’t want it to smell like cat or whatever. You can use that filter in either direction.
Jon, as someone who travels like you do, because I heard you say you have children, do you have a bucket list trip in an RV with your family that you have yet to do, or one that you would recommend to somebody? What type of RV would they need for that particular trip?
I would tell you first from customers, the bucket list trips we hear about all the time are Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and places like that. Those are always our big booking areas year-after-year. I would say that in 2020, what I’ve learned and I see this from our customers and also in my personal experience, is what I get out of RV trips is time outside, not so much the destination. We’ve seen that pop up in our data around where people are searching. A lot more people are going to state parks. A lot more people who would have flown to Vegas and rented an RV and taking it to the Grand Canyon are going to their nearby state park. They’re having just as good of a time. The satisfaction results don’t vary based on where you go.
You want to spend time with your family outside. That’s something that I hope is a lasting thing that we as a traveling public remember about the summer. In terms of bucket list type trips that I’ve done, my favorite RV trip is to Big Bend in Texas. We went in the time of year where it was starting to cool down. We were out underneath a pitch-black sky with beautiful stars. I was walking around with my daughter. That’s something you can’t see staying in a hotel. It’s a completely different world. It was a beautiful place, but it was also a beautiful time and experience in terms of spending the time together. For me, bucket list trip, I’ve always wanted to do I-10 in the South or I-80 in the North, just one end of the country to the other. That’s probably would be my bucket list trip. Since I do have two kids, I would do it in a class-C RV. I wouldn’t try to do it in a camper van, purely from a space perspective. That would probably be my bucket list trip.
Does class-C mean size or does it mean hitched or non-hitched or both?
Class-C is a van chassis with a shell over it. It’s the most common type. A class-B, you see them as Mercedes Sprinters but camper vans. A class-A is the one that looks like a bus, the giant motor home. For the other ones, the tow-behinds, there’s a fifth wheel, which is hooked into the bed of a truck. They don’t hook up to the bumper. They are what’s called travel trailers that they hook up to the bumper. Those can include everything from pop-up campers to toy haulers.
My bucket list would be Cape Cod in the Northeast in the summertime. I’ve been on Cape Cod and I’ve seen the different campgrounds. You can head down towards the traditional cities and towns there. It always looked fun because they’re right on the water. It looks like you have a beach day and still have the experience of the RV, which would be nice.
On-the-water campgrounds isn’t limited to Cape Cod either. There are some incredible ones in Florida’s Panhandle where you’re up on a bluff and you’re overlooking the water. There are a lot of places that are incredibly beautiful where it would be difficult to put a hotel, but it’s not that hard to put a campground. You can access some lodge that are even prettier than what you’d be able to see if you stayed in a more conventional type of lodging.
I always get jealous when we’re traveling, driving on a highway and you see one of those beautiful RVs go by. They’ve got some bikes on the back. They may have a golf cart trailer behind it. I always wonder what the inside of that thing looks like. You see the slide outs and pop outs and you’re like, “That could be a big living space once that thing is set up.” I always get a little jealous of those people because they seem to not have a care when they’re driving. We’re just stressed out. We’ve got a car full of junk and it is a different mindset. You always go by and they never look stressed. They look happy on their way.
I understand what you’re talking about there. One of the things that is great about a service like ours is before you go buy an RV, you can test drive it. See if that lifestyle fits you as well as you think it might before you go write a bigger check to buy an RV.
You always might like something different, which is great. You are not bound to the same vehicle, “This is great for this area, and this one is better for this area and this distance.” It’s the same thing with houses and hotels. You don’t want to go to the same thing all the time. You want to change it up and do different things. Your service is perfect for that.
Jon, the borders are closed right now, but can you take them over Canada and Mexico?
You can take them to Canada but you can’t take them to Mexico. That’s a limitation of the insurance we have.
Our readers can find you at RVShare.com. Where can they find you on social media?
You can go on to Facebook and look for RVshare also on Instagram. We have all the typical social media platforms. Search RVshare and you can find us.
Thanks for your time, Jon. You can reach Jon and his company at RVShare.com and on any social media sites, just search RVshare. Jon, thanks for your time. Thanks for joining us on the show.
I enjoyed the time.
I enjoyed having Jon on the show. It’s good to talk from someone in the industry that knows a lot about how to travel via RV.
He answered all the questions that I had. You can be a little hesitant about traveling in a way that you’re not used to, especially in a big vehicle. I enjoyed listening to what he had to say.
We’re going to share our favorite road trips, not the ones we do as kids, but the ones that we’ve enjoyed over the years with our friends and family. The first one I’m going to start with is Cape Cod. Every summer, it’s a family tradition. We jump in the car, heading up to the Cape in Massachusetts and enjoying all the things that you do when you go to Cape Cod. That’s everything from lobster boils to whale watching. It is an incredible way to do it. If you’re in an RV, there are destinations that you can pull an RV straight up to the water on Cape Cod and enjoy the beach, the sights and sounds of summer without even getting into a hotel. I’ve always enjoyed Cape Cod going all the way down from Plymouth at the top. That is a great historical thing to see with the kids, all the way down to Provincetown, which is a little edgier and fun and has a great vibe. Todd, what are some of the excited things you enjoy most about Cape Cod?
Cape Cod is an amazing place. The food, the feel that the people have, especially over the summer, it’s a different vibe. The weather seems to be perfect especially when you’re on the open road. I understand rain happens, but everybody’s in the mindset of relaxation and vacation when you’re going in the Cape over the summer. That’s when it opens up. I haven’t been there in the winter.
It’s a good point about seeing all parts of it especially Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which are the islands off the Cape. You have to take a ferry there. A recommendation is you need to get reservations for your car way ahead of time. They opened up about six months in advance. You have to book those. If you’re going to head down to the Cape for business or pleasure, make sure that you reserve on one of the ferries.
You should go to the Steamship Authority website and book. You can always modify the reservation, but you need to get the reservation or else you got to go on standby. You never know what you’re going to get in season because it does get a little crazy.
Martha’s Vineyard is out of a storybook. It has all these colonial historical buildings. They require the landscaping to be done in certain ways so everything is uniform. The 4th of July is a spectacular weekend at the Cape, from the fireworks to the bike riding to the neatest walking 4th of July parade in America. It’s really Americana and I highly recommend it.
If you have time, you could participate in that parade, which is what our family did. It was great.
It’s also where Jaws was filmed. You’ve got to go jump off the Jaws Bridge. That’s a great bucket list item. I should have written that down, jumping off the Jaws and Martha’s Vineyard.
It’s considered an island, but it seems to be connected is Chappaquiddick, which is has some historic relevance on its own. You take the little Chappy ferry back and forth, which is a 30-second ride. It takes no time to get there, but you do need to take this little ferry to get a vehicle over or your bikes.
Even farther out, another island is Nantucket, which has the feel of an old whale-watching town.
It’s a whaling town, fishing.
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Fishing, whaling and historical buildings galore. It’s pristine. I’ll never forget the first time I went and seen the cobblestone streets. They’re exactly the same as they were back in the 1700s and they’re magnificent. They’ve done a nice job restoring homes there. It’s a beautiful place to see. That should be on your road trip bucket list if you go to Cape Cod. Those are pretty amazing spots.
You did talk about whale-watching. We went further up. We went all the way to Provincetown, which is also known as PTown. It’s such an eclectic and wonderful place right at the very tip of the Cape. We went out on a whale-watching boat there. We saw more whales breaching. It blew my mind. We turned around and there was another one. They counted 23 breaches or something when we went that day. This krill is all over the surface of the water. These whales would just come up. I don’t know how far they came up, but it was probably one of the most spectacular things I’d ever seen.
We have some of the best whale-watching in the world. There are a lot of great places to do it. Off of Cape Cod is a fantastic place to do it. If you have not done that, a great bucket list item to put down on your list as whale-watching off of Cape Cod. Todd, what are some of the other favorite personal road trips that you’ve done?
We like to hike and it’s something as our kids get a little bit older, we hope they started enjoying it as much as we do. We drove from Boston through New Hampshire in Portsmouth and Kennebunkport and Kennebunk and Goose Rocks Beach is gorgeous. Even before that, you’ve got Ogunquit, Maine and that’s a great place. We’re driving up the coast of Maine and then at Acadia, which has some of the most amazing hiking, and then Bar Harbor, Maine, which is a cute little town, shops, restaurants and some parks. I remember it clearly. The weather was spectacular. We went as part of a family reunion. We met other family there and we all got these little cabins in this one location. It was a lot of fun. We enjoyed that trip.
We covered Boston to Cape Cod. Now we did Boston to Acadia. Let’s talk a little bit about doing a historical road trip, which is easy to do in the Northeast. There are many places to see from Virginia, South Carolina to Pennsylvania. You can go on and on and put a great historical road trip together.
You can even start far South like Savannah, Charleston or even St. Augustine. If you’re looking at all those historical sites, you can go up the East Coast into the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are battlefields one after the next as you start hitting Virginia. If you have a passion for American history, there’s no better place to be. It’s two different things, but they’re close enough where you can make day trips to go back and forth. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one destination, which is in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. If you push a little further East, you do have Williamsburg, Gettysburg and Jamestown. You’ve got all of these amazing places and as you go closer. You’ve got Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon, which is George Washington’s historical home, which had an impact on me when I was a kid. When I went, I thought it was incredible. Jamestown as well, a lot of old families from the Northeast can take their history all the way back to Jamestown. It’s something that you want to visit, but there’s so much there. You have DC and great historical activities you can do with your family and friends there as well. If we go to the West Coast, a lot of people talk about the Pacific Coast Highway and doing that all the way from San Diego. You got Tijuana right there. You want to jump into Mexico. Start heading North and get the Newport Coast right there, which is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. You have LA and everything is there to do in LA, from being a fan of the movies, to the Santa Monica Pier, to the famous scientific museum. I know one of the favorite things that I’ve done is go to the planetarium on top of the Hollywood Hills. That’s a fantastic bucket list thing to do.
You head North, you get through Malibu, then Santa Barbara. It doesn’t stop. That sprawl that LA has that attracts many of the people that love California is that weather that’s right up to that PCH. You keep going and it gets different. California is like Florida. It’s almost like two different states. As you go further north, it becomes a different type of state. You come up into the Bay Area, you’ve got Oakland and San Francisco, which are amazing. You go outside of San Francisco, you’ve got wine country. That’s going to be a whole show in itself in the future.
There are many wineries and so much to do out in that area from grape stomping to hot air balloon rides, picnics, tastings. That’s just outside of the city. You get into San Francisco, that’s a trip in itself. You go further North through Sacramento, you come up on Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, which is some of the most beautiful territory in the US. If you have the time and never done it, take the time and do it right. Pick your stops ahead of time. I love the West Coast.
Let’s talk about some popular US road trips that also have some cool bucket list items as well. I know you went to school up in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Virginia-North Carolina area. That’s a fantastic one. That goes straight through the Appalachian Mountains.
This is generational. Whenever someone drives from the South to the North, if they say they’re going to take the scenic route, which is what my dad often said, he was going to take the Blue Ridge Parkway. It wasn’t the shortest way for me to be, but it was a way for us to enjoy the trip as much as we were enjoying the destination. As a young kid, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I probably should have. Now as an adult, I understood what he meant by taking the scenic route. It’s beautiful.
I know you’ve gone to Luray Caverns, which is one of those bucket list items on that trip. Tell us about it.
Those are the largest caverns in the Eastern United States. You see stalagmites and stalactites. It’s gorgeous. There are some other things. There’s a museum around it. On the park, there is food and beverage. You can’t take anything into the caverns. You can’t take pets in the caverns, but we often have our pets on these road trips. They’re always welcome, but they’re not always welcome everywhere. Keep that in mind when you’re planning. If you do have pets and animals, have a place for them to go if you’re going to be exploring. You don’t want them trapped in a car or vehicle, especially if there’s no AC. There’s also Smith Mountain Lake, which is right off of that. Mountain Lake is part of where Dirty Dancing was filmed.
Can you tour that?
I don’t know what the status of a Smith Mountain Lake is in terms of visiting or what people can and can’t do because it’s a destination. It got very popular during that movie. It was also filmed in North Carolina, two parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about Florida and the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida. That’s a popular destination, especially for Midwesterners where they end up in Sandestin Beach. That area relays some of the most gorgeous beaches in the State of Florida or the world. The development that they use for the Truman Show is there, which is a beautiful seaside. I recommend that you stop there. It looks like an old beach town, but it’s all new construction.
A cool thing to do is if you know you’re going to a certain area, if you’re a movie buff, google movies made in this area. You’ll find some pretty cool spot. You could do it at Savannah and Charleston. I had no idea this was filmed there. Seaside in the Panhandle, which is East of Destin is a beautiful area. They’ve got WaterColor, which is another place and a great beach, then into Destin. The beaches are consistently voted the prettiest in the United States all along the Gulf.
One bucket list I have, which I know you can do a little farther South in Crystal River, which is more North Central Florida, is swimming with the manatees. This is the only place that you can do it legally. Manatees are an endangered species. They have come back quite a bit, which is fantastic. They have these cold springs there where you can swim near them. You’re not supposed to touch them, but you’re with a guide and you can do it. That’s an incredible bucket list item to try as you do this road trip. Put that on there if you’re headed down to the Gulf Coast. It’s a short drive to get to the Crystal River as well.
Another one is Route 12 through Utah. This is about 124 miles worth of road through the Red Rocks, which are amazing. People say that it’s meditational and spiritual. It’s a gorgeous place.
You go to Lake Powell right there, which we’ve done. It’s unbelievable. It’s the largest man-made lake in America. It’s beautiful. They’ve had some droughts over the years, which is why I brought it down. One thing you can do and a bucket list item is to rent a houseboat for the week and troll through all the great coves there in Lake Powell. I highly recommend that one. That’s a fantastic trip to do.
We’re going to talk about some of our favorite national parks, which can be part of any road trip. I know a lot of people are doing them in RVs and cars and everything. Todd, what is your favorite one or one of the favorite ones you visited?
We’re going to talk about a couple here, but one I want to mention is Crater Lake National Park. It’s a huge lake. It’s probably one of the most pristine in the world, but it’s the deepest in the United States and is fed by snow and rain. It’s beautiful and there’s hiking around it. You do also need to check because sometimes with fog and smoke, the visibility around the lake could be pretty poor. It’s a gorgeous place.
A huge bucket list item for a lot of people is Redwood National Park in California. You can visit the tallest trees on Earth, which are the Redwoods and it’s awe-inspiring. If you haven’t been, you definitely want to put that on your list if you’re going to do the PCH and go up to California coastline.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t say Yellowstone National Park. It’s so big that it encompasses several states. This is one of our most memorable trips. We flew into Jackson Hole and we got to spend some time going to all the places around Jackson Hole. Sometimes we drove for a couple of hours, but it goes on and on. Depending on where you go into the park, you’re going to see different things, but it’s all amazing. Tell them about the trip that we had out there.
The Grand Teton National Park is right there. There are bisons, wolves and bears. As a matter of fact, while we were hiking one day, someone got attacked by a bear and threw it over. You have to make sure you have your bear mace.
We were on the hike and then we saw it in the news that night that someone was mauled by a bear. We have bear mace.
Yellowstone has more geysers than any other park and the Old Faithful. Put that on your list if you haven’t been there yet. It’s a once in a lifetime and a must do.
Jenny Lake is gorgeous. There is a Jenny Lake Lodge, but it beautiful. We went out one morning because we were looking for moose, which everybody wants to go see moose when they’re out there. Someone says, “Drive out this road this time of day, I guarantee you you’ll see them.” We’re driving and we saw some car stopped. There was this huge bull moose. There were probably about 3 or 4 females with them. It was a campground. There was a little fog. We hung out with them for a little bit from a safe distance. We drove out to another Crater Lake in Jackson Hole. We saw that. We were coming back and a herd of Buffalo started walking right around the car and past our car. Tourists do all kinds of foolish things. You don’t touch them. You don’t get out of your cars. You don’t do this, but sit in your car with your windows rolled up and watch these things. It blows your mind.
The last one is Hawaii Volcano National Park. If you make it to the islands and you’ve making that long trip, it’s worth a road trip to get there. Get a car and go into national park, which has some of the most active volcanoes in the world. That has over 150 miles from hiking trails. You can do so much on that island in a very short amount of time. I highly recommend that as well.
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Another one that’s different, when you think of national parks, most people think of trees, lakes, rivers and all those things, but there’s also something called Great Sand Dunes National Park. That’s a desert terrain, which is another element we have in the United States. It’s unique to where we are, but that’s in Colorado. When you see those cool videos on YouTube or in commercials where they’re doing sand sledding or surfing, it’s cool. That’s in places like Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Those are some of our favorite road trips. To get you ready to go on these road trips, we’re going to spend a few minutes talking a little bit about what you should pack in your car or your RV. Depending on what you’re traveling in, it will determine how much you can take. There are some key things that you need to remember to bring on any road trip. First and foremost is water. We always throw a case of water in the back of the trunk to be extra safe. You never know if you’re going to be broken down for any length of time. Have plenty of water with you at all time.
One thing you said are portable chargers, things that run on batteries, just in case you are broken down. You said water, piggyback that with snacks too. You always hear these stories about someone that their car broke down at the wrong time of day or season of the year, and it turns into a survival. What started out as a harmless road trip turns into a survival story.
Our next recommendation is to make sure you have a good playlist. If you are stranded and it turns into a survival story, you can listen to some great music. I know our family creates a summer road trip playlist every year, which is a lot of fun. The kids love it and it keeps everybody entertained. Make sure it’s music that everybody loves. There are many great apps as well that you can download from Waze to Roadtrippers. There are tons of information out there. Have that on your phone before you get in the car. It makes it a lot easier.
Always have pillows and blankets especially if it’s a cold time of year because the weather turns on a dime sometimes in some of these places. If you are out there, you don’t want to freeze. It’s not very comfortable. Even if you’re stopping for a little bit, stay warm.
Have a quick pack of toilet paper, cleaning wipes, towels, garbage bags, all that stuff in one container so it’s ready to go. You will need it especially if you’re going on a long road trip.
We should also probably mention all of these parks and all of these outdoor locations, it’s all leave no trace. Anything you bring in to these beautiful places, be sure you take it all out with you. Don’t leave garbage anywhere. Don’t start fires anywhere where you’re not supposed to other than designate areas and just take everything with you when you leave. That saves it for the next person. We’re the guests and we don’t want to be that rude person that ruins it for other people.
Thanks to everyone for reading. It’s been a great show. Jon was a fantastic guest. I hope you learned a lot about how you can use RVs in lots of different ways instead of hotels, and some great road trip ideas from Todd and myself, both our personal ones and the ones around national parks. There’s so much to do in this great country. You don’t need to get on plane especially right now to have a great time. Here’s to you and safe travels.
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About Jon Gray
RVshare is the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (think Airbnb for RVs). While tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic, RVshare’s business strategy pivoted quickly under Jon’s leadership to find success serving groups that need to quarantine and by offering a socially distant form of travel. RVshare reports bookings have nearly tripled since last year and have increased by more than 1,600% since early April as travelers opt for a safe, cost-effective means of travel this summer.
More about Jon: https://www.actonnga.org/teachers/#jon-gray
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