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With the motorhome from Los Angeles to Las Vegas


Wohmmobil Abholung
We were really excited when we picked up our motorhome.

After a few days in Los Angeles, we picked up our pre-booked motorhome from Cruise America. We were absolute newcomers to this type of travel and didn't know what to expect. In the following blogs, you will find out how we fared for seven weeks "on the road". Our first route took us via Apple Valley, Joshua Tree National Park and the town of Kingman on Route 66 to Las Vegas.


Three days after our arrival in L.A. (see our last blog), we left our hotel room at the Super 8 Downtown by Wyndham and drove to the nearest Cruise America station. There, a 9-meter-long and 3-meter-wide vehicle was waiting for us, which we would use to travel through the west of the USA for the next seven weeks. We've been on the road a lot, but rarely have we been so excited.


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There are several ways to travel the USA and the West in particular and deciding on one of these ways is almost a question of principle. In one of our next blogs, we want to deal with this decision and the experiences we have had with it. This text is primarily about the route from Los Angeles to Vegas and our stopovers.

 

Start in Los Angeles

After checking out of our city hotel, we were finally ready to get down to business. We had been both looking forward to and dreading this day for over a year. We had never been on the road in a motorhome before and took the plunge into the deep end without knowing whether we would even like it. As we weren't quite done with Los Angeles yet (we still haven't), our first stop was to be the Hollywood RV Park near Universal Studios. However, you have to be careful with "near" in the States, because Americans have a different way of estimating distances. A 300-mile route can quickly become a stone's throw away.



We had to park for the first time at the Hollywood RV Park - it wasn't easy.


Even the first few kilometers with the new giant vehicle were a challenge. The driving characteristics of a 30-foot RV were something completely new for absolute beginners like us, but that's not the point here. So we drove with our four-wheeled accommodation straight onto the busy city highways I-405 S and I-105 to our very first campground in the San Fernando Valley. If you're planning to rent a camper van in the USA, it doesn't take 30 minutes to get used to the spongy driving experience. It's only when changing lanes and at junctions that you have to be really careful, as it's much bigger than a normal car.


On the way to the first parking space, the next challenge immediately awaited us: We wanted, no, we had to get our bulk purchase over with. The best address for this - in our opinion - is one of the numerous Walmart branches. There you will find everything you need and much more, from food to clothing to all sorts of practical camping equipment. In some branches, committed gun enthusiasts can even buy rifles and the like. We wanted to equip ourselves first and foremost with food, because only a full glamper is a happy glamper.



We loved traveling in a motorhome from the start.


But here, too, we can reassure you. The driveways and parking lots at American supermarkets are made for motorhomes. It has to be said that our 30-feet RV tended to be one of the smaller camper vans. Americans love their RVs and like them to be cozy. It's not uncommon to see 45-feet RVs towing a trailer or a car out of sheer joy. What you don't need when you're on the road for a long time!



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After this purchase and an extremely challenging parking maneuver at the campground, we were finally able to drink our first beer as new motorhome drivers. Everything had gone well until then. Let's see what we say after the first night.

 

The first night in a motorhome

Sleeping in a strange bed for the first time is something special for many people, and for some it is even unpleasant. When you, like us, travel for a few months, it becomes commonplace. The very first time we spent the night in a motorhome was something special, even for us. Now we can say with a clear conscience: We love it, just like traveling with a motorhome in general. We slept very well at the Hollywood RV Park and didn't feel unsafe or uncomfortable for a second. There's something about settling into the small living space and cuddling up to each other night after night. Even the children didn't seem to mind giving up their usual privacy. After the first two nights of RVing, we were well rested and were able to start our first big RV tour.

 

From Los Angeles to Apple Valley

Anyone who has ever taken a road trip through the USA will know how difficult it is to create a satisfactory route. There is simply too much to see here, no matter how long the trip is, the time almost always seems too short. Anyone who has ever traveled with a motorhome also knows that it is not easy to find suitable and inexpensive pitches and campgrounds. We originally wanted to set off without booking in advance and had to refrain from doing so after a short period of research. Many campsites are fully booked months in advance.


Hollywood RV Park - Apple Valley

Distance: around 100 miles/ 161 kilometers

Travel time: 2 hours 15 minutes

 

Alternative: Boondocking

The first two nights at Hollywood RV Park were a complete success. The staff at the campsite and the other campers were extremely friendly and helpful and we were able to learn a lot about handling the motorhome. The next challenge: the drive to Apple Valley - one of the "smaller" stopovers on the way to Las Vegas. For the next stop, we purchased the boondocking app Harvest Hosts. The popular camper app cost us around 80 euros for a year. Let's see if it's worth the money.



Our very first boondocking stop was in Apple Valley, a town in San Bernardino County. We were allowed to park our motorhome in the front yard on the edge of a sandy side road and had the opportunity to chat a little with the host. After reserving two nights on this pitch, we had a whole day in the area at our disposal.


After a rather chilly night, we decided to combine two smaller excursions with the RV. First, we drove to the nearby Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch, a rather quirky destination. Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is an attraction on the former Route 66 near Oro Grande in the middle of the famous Mojave Desert. The large-scale sculpture installation of bottle-covered metal frames erected here on a private property is described as "folk art". The installation is known far beyond the region as a "historical landmark". It focuses on the consumption of resources in a throwaway society. Admission is basically free, but the operator is happy to receive a small voluntary donation.


A strange place: Elmar's Bottle Tree Ranch on old Route 66.


Our tip: If you want to save money on the sometimes high costs of campgrounds, you should also try boondocking. With boondocking, you can basically park your RV for free or almost free. The Harvest Hosts app offers the opportunity to find private individuals, usually enthusiastic campers themselves, who offer free pitches on or in front of their properties. Some even offer partial hookups with water and/or electricity - usually for a small fee of 5 or 10 dollars per night. However, many of these boondocking providers only allow you to stay for one or two nights.


Die Vorteile: Man spart Geld und lernte neue, interessante Menschen kennen.


Der Nachteil: Die Plätze sind nicht immer in bester Lage, bzw. auf Parkplätzen oder am Straßenrand. Unserer Erfahrung nach ist Boondocking eine gute Alternative für jene Zwischenstopps, nach längeren Fahrten, die man nur zum Schlafen nützt. Man sollte auch unbedingt mit vollem Wassertank, leeren Abwassertanks und gut geladenen Batterien ankommen!


Mehr dazu gibt’s in unserem kommenden Blog mit dem Titel: „Mit dem Wohnmobil durch die USA – was es zu beachten gilt“.

 

From Apple Valley to Joshua Tree National Park

We were really looking forward to our very first national park in the west of the USA. We spent a total of 3 nights in Joshua Tree National Park in California.  Originally, we wanted to spend these three nights in the relatively centrally located Jumbo Rocks Campground in the park, but we were simply too late for that - we couldn't get a free spot. Especially in the campgrounds in and around the well-visited national parks, new reservation systems have been introduced in recent years and the old "first come - first served" principle is no longer so common. For this reason, many places are booked up months in advance.


Unfortunately, this system also has a catch: if you have reserved a place and don't show up, you only have to pay 10 dollars. Many people make a reservation as a precaution and then simply don't show up, leaving some of the coveted seats empty. The 10 dollars are therefore accepted. Annoying if you would have liked to have this spot.


Joshua Tree National Park was our national park premiere in the western United States.


There are a total of 8 campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park:


Reservations required

  1. Black Rock

  2. Cottonwood

  3. Indian Cove

  4. Jumbo Rocks

  5. Ryan First Come - First Served

  6. Belle

  7. Hidden ValleyW

  8. White


More information about the campgrounds can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

 

We had to make do with the available pitches and spent one night at Black Rock and two nights at Cottonwood Campground. There is no full hook-up in either campground and we had to camp without a fixed water connection and without electricity - no problem with a US motorhome.


Our tip: We bought the "America the Beautiful" pass at the park's visitor center when we checked in. For just 80 dollars, a family can visit all US national parks for a year. This pays for itself with just 3 park visits. The passes are available at all parks.



As the name suggests, Joshua Tree National Park is known for its numerous Joshua Trees, which give the park its typical appearance. The roads and paths through the extensive park area are very well developed and we drove through the entire park once in our motorhome - our campsites were located at two opposite entrances. Park visitors have the opportunity to simply relax in the park or walk a few of the trails through the impressive landscape. We particularly enjoyed the Mastodon Trail, which starts at Cottonwood Campground. The three-mile loop trail to Mastodon Peak offers spectacular views, interesting geology, the Mastodon Mine and the Winona Mill Site.

 

You can easily spend three or more nights in Joshua Tree.

 

Apple Valley - Black Rock Canyon Campground Joshua Tree NP

Distance: 65 miles/105 km

Travel time: 1.5 hours

Black Rock Canyon Campground Joshua Tree NP - Cottonwood Campground Joshua Tree NP

Distance: 63 miles/102 km

Travel time: 1.5 hours

 

Off to Kingman on Route 66

After our first stay in the national park, we made our way to one of the most famous Route 66 destinations: Kingman. The county seat of Mohave County in Arizona is named after Lewis Kingman, an engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. It is located 105 miles (169 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, and 180 miles (290 km) northwest of Arizona's state capital, Phoenix. In the 2020 census, the population was just over 32,000. In Kingman (as in Seligman) you can feel the flair of historic Route 66 and the city is also recommended for a stopover.

 

Kingman has two different districts: One part is located on Route 66 and lives from the charm of the famous road. The other part is more urban. Here you will find a variety of shopping opportunities and a very good infrastructure and can equip yourself wonderfully for the rest of your journey. From Kingman, you can visit the Hualapai Mountain recreation area (19 km to the south-east) and Oatman, a "ghost town" tourist attraction (45 km to the south-west).

We spent one night at the very nice KOA Campground in Kingman. There is a pool, a hot tube, a children's playground, a mini golf course, a laundry, a games room, a camper store and even a cheap RV storage facility - a great campground for first-timers. We would have liked to spend more nights here (like almost everywhere else).



KOA Kingman

 

Our tip: KOA is the abbreviation for Kampgrounds of America and stands for almost consistently good quality. There are over 500 of these privately owned franchise campsites in the USA and Canada. It is the world's largest system of private campgrounds. The sites offer several types of accommodation, from tent sites and small cabins to full hook-up sites, and are always a good tip if you are looking for a pitch. Prices vary from around 20 to 180 dollars per night and pitch - depending on what is on offer. At KOA sites, the sanitary facilities were always clean and the staff friendly. With a KOA Card for 36 dollars, you get a 10 percent discount on accommodation prices and can collect loyalty points for further discounts. A great customer loyalty system that we were happy to take advantage of.

 

Cottonwood Campground Joshua Tree NP - Kingman, Route 66

Distance: 200 miles / 322 kilometers

Driving time: around 3.5 hours

 

From Kingman to Las Vegas

There's probably not too much to write about our next big stop. Lag Vegas is cult. The city that the Americans have conjured up out of the Mojawe Desert over the last 120 years is gigantic - not in terms of its size, there are far bigger cities - it's about the flair of this colorful amusement center in Nevada. Las Vegas stands for joie de vivre and commerce, for gambling and excessive living. Las Vegas is the essence of the American way of life. Some hate it, others love it hot! We were open to both sides and ultimately opted for the former.

We opted for a KOA in Vegas again. The KOA Sams Town Las Vegas is not located directly in the city center, but is easily accessible by Uber or Lyft. As the name suggests, the place is located right next to the iconic "Samstown" hotel and casino complex - an evening visit to this temple of entertainment is a must if you are staying here.

 

Sam's Town features 12 restaurants, an 18-screen movie theater, a 56-lane bowling center, a 12,000-square-foot entertainment center and the 25,000-square-foot Mystic Falls Park with waterfalls, walking trails and nightly laser shows. There is also a 13,000-square-foot casino with 40 table games, 3,000 gaming and video poker machines, a bingo parlor, a keno lounge and a newly renovated poker room, as well as racing and sports betting. And Samstown is not even on the Las Vegas Strip, the "place to be" in this desert city.


As we have often been, we were also very pleasantly surprised by Las Vegas. Especially when it comes to homelessness and crime, this city has taken a good path. Apparently, those responsible realized years ago how important the reputation of a tourist destination is for visitor numbers. Vegas is crazy, colorful and loud, but we never once felt unsafe there.

 


The impressions we collected of Vegas don't fit into a single blog


What you should do in Las Vegas is simple: visit the Strip and walk it once from start to finish. It's best to start at the Circus Circus Casino, watch the funny, free circus show there and then walk to Mandala Bay where you can take the Mandala Bay Tram to the end for free. In between, you can visit Venice, New York and Paris and be amazed. Even those who don't want to spend money on a trip across the Strip will get their money's worth here. However, if you want to get rid of your money, there is probably nowhere better to do so than in Las Vegas! We say: Everyone should go to Las Vegas once in their life. At least once!

 

Kingman - Las Vegas (KOA Journey Sams Town)

Distance: 101 miles /163 kilometers

Travel time: 1 hour 45


Route L.A. Vegas
Route Los Angeles to Las Vegas

 

Conclusion

What can we say? The first leg of our motorhome trip through the west of the USA was fantastic. We were skeptical about renting a motorhome. Being on the road for several weeks in a 9 by 3 meter vehicle for the very first time is a challenge. Living for the very first time in a 9 by 3 meter small living space with two children is also a challenge. After the first few nights, the first hundred miles, we were already sure: this is the best way to travel. Then there's the country and the people: the Americans we met were very friendly, helpful and interested in our experiences and life in Europe. The great landscape of the USA and the density of breathtaking sights make the whole thing perfect.

 

The approximately 530-mile (850-kilometer) route that we drove from our first campsite to Las Vegas was the best introduction to life as an RV camper in the USA. The route could be done in four days, but we can only recommend it to all US travelers: Take more time, because the USA is absolutely worth enjoying without rushing. In any case, we have been infected with RV fever and are already planning further adventures. You'll find out how our 7-week trip continues in our next blog.

 

Best regards,

Steffi, Max and the kids (author Max)

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All our trips and excursions are self-paid - we do not give paid recommendations! Exception: Affiliate links. Most of the links in our blog are affiliate links, i.e. advertising. We try to recoup some of the costs of our blog and ask for your understanding.

 

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