Final Trip Analysis

We left our home in Union, Kentucky on January 26, 2012.  We spent 292 days or 9-1/2 months on the road, and ended our trip in Wimauma, Florida on November 12, 2012. 

Being the geek that I am, I’ve meticulously logged various aspects of our trip in a spreadsheet.  You may also wish to review my 3-month and 6-month analyses.  This may be a little boring to read, but cross-country RV travellers may find this information to be very useful.

Shadow and Theresa at our campsite in Zion National Park


Parks

The highlight of our trip has been hiking in the beautiful natural lands in the western United States, Canada and Alaska.  As our trip has progressed, we’ve hiked in just about every type of natural land there is.  Following are the number of parks we’ve hiked of each type, followed by the number of days hiking in each type of park:

Park Type # of Parks # of Days
National Park 29 81
State Park 24 38
National Monument 11 20
National Forest 9 22
Provincial Park 6 9
Municipal Park 4 5
National Wildlife Refuge 3 4
State Recreation Area 2 4
National Grassland 2 3
National Preserve 1 6
National Scenic Area 1 2
County Park 1 1
National Memorial 1 1
TOTAL 94 196

We spent the most number of days hiking in the following parks:

  

Hiking

Our primary activity on this trip has been hiking.  It was one of the key reasons we wanted to take this trip now, as opposed to waiting until we retired.  We wanted to ensure we were healthy enough to hike, climb and thoroughly explore our natural lands.  And we’ve hiked a lot on this trip:

We hiked on 186 of the 292 days, which is about 65% of the days.  We hiked on 308 different trails, which means that on some days we hiked on more than one trail.

We hiked for 835.8 miles, which is about 2.2 million steps at 2 feet per step.  So on average we hiked 4.5 miles per hiking day.

We climbed 135,940 feet of elevation, which is about 25.7 miles, or the equivalent of climbing from base camp to the summit of Mt. Everest a dozen times.  On average we climbed about 731 feet of elevation per hiking day, which is about half the height of the Empire State Building.

We hiked for 609.9 hours, which is about 25.4 days.  On average we hiked for about 3 hours 17 minutes per day, which doesn’t seem like a lot to us.  But this average is dragged down by travel days when we did short hikes.

Our net average hiking speed was 1.4 miles per hour, which includes stops for lunch and sightseeing.

Our longest hike was 14.1 miles on the Garibaldi Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.  We hiked on 3 trails over 10 miles in length, and 58 trails at least 5 miles in length.

Our longest amount of time hiking was 8.8 hours also on the Garibaldi Lake Trail.  We hiked for at least 5 hours on 26 different trails.

Our highest climb was 3,570 feet of elevation gain on the Marmot Pass Trail in Olympic National Forest, Washington.  We hiked on 4 trails with over 3000 feet elevation gain, 14 trails with over 2000 feet elevation gain, and 47 trails with over 1000 feet elevation gain.

Our steepest climb was 1,480 feet of elevation gain per mile in the Sage Creek Wilderness in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.  Just as a reference, an elevation gain of 800 feet per mile is considered a “burner,” i.e., a hike on which our thighs and calves “burn” from exertion.  We hiked on 13 trails that were burners from end-to-end, and many more trails that had steep burner sections.

For you dog fans, Darby and Shadow hiked with us on 130 of the 186 days, which is about 70% of our hiking days.  The dogs hiked a total of 488.2 miles, though that number is probably much higher because they wander all over the place when they are off the leash.  The dogs climbed 76,545 feet of elevation, which is about 14.5 miles.  And the dogs hiked for 355.6 hours, which is about 14.8 days.  Note that these hiking figures do not include the dog walks each day off the hiking trails, which would certainly add to the totals.

  

Driving

We’ve never been a big fan of road trips, which is ironic considering that we just drove across the continent.  However, there is no better way to see the country than by driving across it.  In our planning, we estimated that we would drive our RV about 20,000 miles and our SUV about 5,000 miles, for a combined total of 25,000 miles.

We drove two different RVs on this trip because our first RV was destroyed in a traffic accident.  Our original RV was a used 2006 Four Winds Hurricane 31F, Class A, 31 feet long and 18,000 pounds loaded weight.  Our replacement RV is a new 2012 Coachmen Freelander 23CB, Class C, 25 feet long and 12,500 pounds loaded weight.  Our SUV is a 2008 Toyota RAV4, which we towed our behind our RV.

We drove our RVs on 127 of the 292 days, or about 43% of the days.  We didn’t record how many days we drove our SUV, but it was pretty much every day.

We drove our RVs for a combined total of 17,794 miles.  We drove our original RV for 3,029 miles, and our replacement RV for 14,651 miles.

We drove our RVs for a total of 517.5 hours for an average of 34 miles per hour, which includes short stops for grocery shopping, filling up gas, dumping waste tanks, and sightseeing.  However, this does not include longer stops for shopping or hiking.

We drove the SUV for a total of 8,640 miles.  Thus we’ve driven our RVs and SUV for a combined total of 26,434 miles, which was surprisingly close to our original estimate.

Fuel economy is important, especially in Canada, Alaska and California where gasoline is quite expensive.  The most we paid for gasoline was $5.34 per gallon for regular unleaded in British Columbia, Canada.  The most expensive gas we saw was $6.02/gallon for regular unleaded in Death Valley National Park, California, but fortunately we filled up outside the park and didn’t have to pay that outrageous price.  Our average cost for gas was $3.70 per gallon.

Our original RV averaged about 7.8 miles per gallon.  Our new RV averaged about 8.5 miles per gallon.  Our Toyota RAV4 did quite well for a V-6 SUV, averaging about 25.1 MPG.

  

States & Provinces

We spent the following number of nights in each state or province:

State # of Nights
California 52
Alaska 46
Washington 37
British Columbia 23
Utah 21
Arizona 18
Oregon 16
South Dakota 14
Alberta 10
Colorado 9
Texas 8
Montana 6
Nevada 6
Yukon 6
New Mexico 5
Louisiana 4
North Dakota 4
Florida 3
Tennessee 2
Mississippi 1
Wyoming 1
TOTAL 292

   

Camping

Every night we had to park our RV somewhere to sleep.  Sometimes we stayed in established campgrounds, and other times we “dispersed camp” in the middle of nowhere.  Following are the number of nights we camped at each type of campsite, followed by the number of different locations.  The 8 nights we spent in a motel were after the RV crash when we were without an RV.

Campsite Type # of Nights # of Locations
Dispersed Camping 88 49
Commercial Campground 62 28
National Park 48 14
State Park 42 18
Municipal Park 18 3
National Forest 9 5
Motel 8 2
Provincial Park 5 3
National Wildlife Refuge 3 2
Recrational Site 3 1
National Monument 2 1
State Recreation Area 2 1
County Park 1 1
RV Dealership 1 1
TOTAL 292 129

We spent a total of $4,601 on campground fees.  This averages to $15.76 per night for the entire trip, or $23.12 per night when considering just the nights that we paid to camp.  Notice that we camped for free about 30% of the nights.

  

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is when we camp for free outside of established campgrounds, typically in a forest or grassland.  We love dispersed camping because we are off by ourselves, it’s usually very quiet, the dogs can run around off the leash, and we can run the generator whenever we want.  Following are the number of nights we dispersed camp in each type of land, followed by the number of different locations:

Land Type # of Nights # of Locations
National Forest 33 16
Crown Land 10 7
National Grassland 10 2
Walmart 9 8
National Monument 8 4
BLM Land 6 3
National Preserve 5 3
State Recreation Area 3 1
Recreation Site 2 1
City Street 1 1
State Park 1 1
TOTAL 88 47

   

Hookups

Hookups are the connections that are available to our RV while camping.  The most important hookups are electric, water, and sewer.  Other hookups include cable TV and free wifi, but we didn’t track those.  Following are the number of nights spent with the different combinations of hookups.  “Dispersed None” means no hookups (also known as “boondocking”) while dispersed camping.  “Campground None” means no hookups while staying in an established campground.

Hookups # of Nights
Dispersed None 88
Campground None 69
Full 63
Electric + Water 44
Electric 20
Hotel N/A 8
TOTAL 292

What’s interesting is that we boondocked (had no hookups) for 157 nights or 54% of the time.

  

Expenses

This trip has not been cheap, but living on the road can be relatively affordable.  We camped for free about a third of the nights, didn’t eat out very often, and spent most of our days hiking for free.  But we also spent over $9,000 just on gasoline, which was our largest expense not including the RVs.  And we weren’t working and earning any income while on this trip.

The table below shows all ongoing expenses related to our trip.  This does not include one-time expenses such as the purchase of our RVs and expenses related to the crash.  This also does not include expenses that have nothing to do with our trip, such as maintaining and selling our house back in Kentucky.

Expense Total Cost Monthly Average
RV Gas $7,035 $733
Groceries $6,435 $670
Campgrounds $4,601 $479
RV Loan $3,590 $374
Auto Gas $1,987 $207
Cruises, Flights $1,467 $153
Health Insurance $1,464 $152
Dining $1,408 $147
Telephone $1,299 $135
Auto Insurance $1,281 $133
RV Service $1,125 $117
Auto Parts $1,011 $105
Clothing $819 $85
RV Insurance $663 $69
RV Registration $586 $61
Medical $454 $47
Charity $410 $43
Gifts $409 $43
Lodging $398 $41
LTC Insurance $396 $41
Souvenirs $379 $39
RV Supplies $370 $39
Postage $364 $38
Laundry $276 $29
Park Fees $272 $28
Electronics $242 $25
Entertainment $238 $25
Vet $160 $17
Travel Services $158 $17
Auto Registration $149 $15
Household $117 $12
Auto Service $110 $11
Admissions $77 $8
RV LP Gas $68 $7
Travel Equipment $50 $5
Other $145 $15
TOTAL $40,013 $4,157

  

Conclusion

One thing this analysis doesn’t cover is how much fun we had.  This trip was truly an adventure of a lifetime, and well worth every dollar we spent.  No matter what happens later in life, no matter what tragedy ultimately befalls us, we will always have 2012.  We can sum up our year with the famous saying: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

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