A Traveling Engineer’s First Impressions of Van Life, Part 2
This is the second half of a two-part series, click here for Part 1. In this installment, Morgan explores Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and other natural landmarks as she works in power plants through the American West. She travels in Coche de Perros, an Advanced RV and her first introduction to Class B Travel.
Friday, September 13th
On our first official day in Yellowstone we woke up, made coffee, and took a chilly morning walk around the campground. It was a beautiful area and we were ready to explore. We hopped in the RV and headed to The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and we were immediately greeted with wildlife. An elk was walking right next to the road outside of our campground.
After taking a minute to admire the elk and the view of the lake, we arrived at the canyon and went for a hike. We enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous 5-mile trek down the canyon and back, working up an appetite. With a full fridge and kitchen in the back of our car we made some delicious sandwiches and even relaxed for a little bit before to venturing off to see Old Faithful. After seeing the incredible geyser blow, we were absolutely exhausted from all of the driving and hiking. We returned to the campground, took the quickest showers we could, and fell asleep.
Saturday, September 14th
Before leaving the campground we emptied the tanks and filled up on freshwater. It was then that we realized the ingenuity of the Advanced RV dump system. We sat in line watching RV after RV struggle to empty their tanks. They were never close enough to the dump station. They needed to manually clean out the hoses. The whole process was inefficient and tiresome. When it was our turn we pulled up, inserted the already-connected hose into its designated location, and pressed a button. It couldn’t have been easier or quicker. We drove away feeling grateful for the system we had.
We journeyed to The Grand Tetons where we planned to spend the next couple days. We checked into Gros Ventre Campground and decided to go for a quick and easy hike to a nearby lake. The view took our breath away. We made it back to the campground before it got dark and we played a couple rounds of Rummy before we called it a night. We planned to wake up early for a difficult hike the next morning.
Sunday, September 15th
We woke up around 6:30am and started to prepare ourselves for the day’s adventure. Marc made coffee and filled our water while I packed sandwiches and snacks. We drove to the trailhead, about 15 minutes from where we were staying, and started our trek. The drive there was rough and unpaved, but the RV handed these conditions with ease.
We hiked the Surprise and Amphitheater Lake trail which claimed to be an 8 mile out-and-back hike. After getting to the 4-mile marker and looking at the map, we realized this wouldn’t be the case. The trail was a grueling 12-miles long. We hiked at a constant incline until we reached the lakes at the top. It was a 3000ft altitude increase in just 5.5 miles but the view at the top was indescribable.
When we finally made it back to the RV we both fell asleep with our boots on, completely exhausted. It was wonderful to return to ice-cold Gatorades and a warm shower, all in the trailhead staging area. After our rest, we treated ourselves to a pizza dinner on the rooftop of a local restaurant before returning to our campsite and immediately falling asleep.
Monday, September 16th
We woke up with very sore legs and decided to spend the day in the city of Jackson. We started our day off with breakfast and coffee. After eating we walked around and enjoyed the town, making sure to get our fill of souvenirs. We had a delicious dinner at The Local and headed over to a local brewery to watch the Monday night football game, Browns vs Jets. By the time we left it was pretty dark out. We had to drive very carefully to avoid all of the wildlife on the roads back to the campground since bears, moose, and elk all frequented the area. It was a fun and relaxing day after an intense hike the day before.
Tuesday and Wednesday, September 17th & 18th
After a wonderful weekend in Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons, it was time to journey to Casper, WY, where Marc planned to fly out the next morning and where I was to work onsite at a local power plant. We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant in downtown Casper and called it a night. The next morning, I dropped Marc off at the airport and went to work. After a long day onsite, I drove down to Laramie, WY for a second site visit. I stayed in a dispersed camping area called Vedauwoo, where there were tons of areas to rock climb and hike.
Thursday and Friday, September 19th & 20th
Following a morning onsite, I drove down to Denver to visit a college basketball teammate. I wasn’t planning on going to Denver right after the site visit, but she told me she secured tickets to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater and I quickly changed my plans.
I realized I would be cutting it pretty close on time so I parked at a Target right off the highway to take a quick shower and change clothes. In only 20 minutes I was able to completely prepare for a concert, all in a Target parking lot. We enjoyed an incredible concert at an incredible venue.
Instead of staying in my friend’s guest bedroom that night, I chose to sleep in the RV, parked on the street outside her house. Having my own little apartment on wheels with everything I needed was an easier option than packing everything up for a night indoors.
The next morning, I drove into downtown Denver where I easily found street parking across from a little coffee shop. I set up there and spent the day catching up on work. That night, my friend, her girlfriend, and I all enjoyed a beautiful dinner on her patio. After dinner and catching up by their fire pit, I returned to Coche de Perros where I took a hot shower and settled in for the night. I was close enough to her house to access her WiFi, so I watched a couple more episodes of Breaking Bad before going to sleep.
Saturday, September 21st
The next morning, we decided to call a couple more friends and drive out to the Aspens for an impromptu camping trip. With dinner already made, a tent, and some firewood we traveled about 2 hours away to a little camping spot in the middle of the Aspen trees that were just starting to change colors. We hiked for four miles, set up the tent, started the fire, and enjoyed an incredible view with each other’s company. It dropped to about 35 degrees that night. This time I didn’t have the RV’s heater to warm me up.
Sunday and Monday, September 22nd & 23rd
I said goodbye to Denver and started heading to St. Louis, my next work location. The drive was a straight shot on I-70 for 14 hours. I broke the drive up into two days, stopping in Salina, KS the first night. The Browns were playing at 8pm so I set up camp at the Salina KOA just in time to watch the game.
I woke up to a message on the dashboard saying “Check Diesel Exhaust Fluid.” Since I had never driven a diesel vehicle before, I had no idea what that meant. I quickly contacted Advanced RV and Viki got back to me within minutes. She walked me through the process of adding more DEF. Her quick assistance really demonstrated Advanced RV’s quality customer support. I felt I could receive help at any moment if something went wrong or if I was unsure of what to do. After adding the DEF, I made my way to St. Louis where I stayed at another local KOA for the night.
Tuesday and Wednesday, September 24th & 25th
I spent the next two days in the St. Louis area, working at two different plants. The site visits took up most of each day. I hit the road immediately after my second visit so that I could arrive in Cincinnati by Thursday morning. In Cincinnati I spent another two long days at two more plants. With such a loaded driving and work schedule, I unfortunately couldn’t explore St. Louis or Cincinnati as much as I did other destinations.
Overall my trip was absolutely incredible and the RV was a huge part of its success. Coche de Perros was not only easy to drive and operate as a non-RV user, but it was a comfortable home for weeks at a time. I could bring the RV onsite with me as a work vehicle and also drive it into the mountains or a crowded city without having any fears or parking concerns. I could take a hot shower literally anywhere I wanted, and I was quick to appreciate the convenience of a user-friendly evacuation system.
However, the biggest advantage of the motorhome was the support from Advanced RV. They checked in on my trip multiple times to make sure everything was going well. When something I was unfamiliar with did arise, they were quick to help. Their support made me feel comfortable enough to make this great adventure happen.