As you may already know, we travel in a truck camper. And we just recently completed our custom built expedition truck camper we affectionately call Maximus.
A key attraction of a truck camper is to being able to travel and camp in areas where trailers, Class C and Class A RVs can’t travel. Although we’re not anti-social, we do appreciate being able to get away from everyone and park out in the boonies. Here’s a perfect example. We’re at Kofa Queen Wilderness Refuge out on the jeep trail. Most campers stay off the main road which is 5 miles through the jeep trail away. One of our favorite desert camp areas to get away from it all.
We also nearly always stay somewhere for free. When planning a driving route, I always locate dispersed or free camping area for our overnights or even destination camping. In some areas such as near a larger metro city or major suburb, that just doesn’t exist.
Most of our travels do involve getting to a destination. Sometimes its visiting family, other times it’s to see a national park or specific area. Beach camping in Texas comes to mind! And along the way, we meander off the beaten path and locate dispersed or wild camping options. Sometimes we actually succumb to a supply stop and sleep over at a small town Walmart.
When traveling to a destination on a time crunch, your options are severely limited. You lose the ability to navigate through varied camping options and instead have to locate places convenient to the route.
Finding a good balance does take some practice. In this post, we share our California-Oregon-Washington route and our resource for convenient, free overnights. It’s an indispensable tool we’ve used since our first long road trip.
It’s April 2021 and it is time to get the new rig, Maximus, out for a longer trip. To get ready has taken a lot longer than anticipated. But that’ll be stories for a future post or two. Let’s see how we can make it from point A to point B in a way that is efficient yet not a made rush.
The Trip Goals
Every trip usually has a goal or focus. I don’t think we’ve done a perpetual “wandering about” road trip. There’s usually a loose goal of getting somewhere within a time frame; sometimes it’s very loose and other times (like now) we make it a hard date. The goal was to arrive in Everett, WA by Easter to begin a kitchen renovation project. Steve had committed to help renovate his eldest son and new wife’s kitchen. The start date was pushed out a couple of times and we finally put a stake in the ground and set an arrival date.
We left later than we wanted, needing every day we could get in the shop up getting Maximus ready for the trip. That meant, this road trip had little room for site seeing or even camping. So, I came up with a few road trip objectives to keep it from turning into a beeline. Since we’re retired, doing a beeline road trip no longer makes sense to us.
- Break the drive up to about 5 hours each day
- Allow one “no drive day” in the middle of the trip to deal with any discovered repairs
- Find some fresh and newer (to us) scenery
- Plan time for a long lunch breaks
- Find a park or scenic lunch spot
Planning our First Longer Excursion in Maximus.
With little time to actually explore and enjoy a few areas on our way up from Southern California to Everett, Washington, I needed to figure out how best to divide the route. Normally, we prefer to drive around 200 miles per day and even stay 2 nights in one spot as we travel. Well, none of that was going to happen! It’s time to get creative so we can at least have an interesting, fresh and scenic drive.
The trip’s fastest route is a total of 1215 miles following the I-5 highway. Our standard route driving through California is HWY 395 along the eastern Sierras, through Reno and then connect to the I-5 the rest of the way northward. That route is 1191 miles and 20:22 hr:mm of driving. This time, I decided to route us up along the CA state highway 99 through Central California. And, from Oregon northward, we continued predominantly on HWY 97.
The I-5 route on the left was 1215 miles and 19:27 hr:mm versus the plotted route ending up being more than 1345 miles and over 22:50 hr:mm driving time.
We enjoyed nice scenery, drove on less congested roadways, discovered new areas, met extremely nice people and even worked in a couple lunchtime site seeing stops.
Here’s our final route and more trip details with our short lunch sites coming in another blog post soon!
What is Boondocker’s Welcome
How did we find where to stop and where to stop for free? A wonderful resource we use time and time again is Boondocker’s Welcome (BW). The community provides us with options nearly everywhere we’ve headed. More often than not, it’s easy to find someone along the route or not too far off the route for an overnight. We don’t make a BW host location a destination although we’ve met a few in areas where that can certainly occur. Near Glacier National Park comes to mind.
Visit Boondocker’s Welcome website for more details. You can sign up as a guest and for a small yearly fee, have access to this community of hosts. Or like us, open up a spot to host. For every guest you host, you’ll be provided a 3 month credit on the membership.
The Boondocker’s Welcome Community
Why we love being guests.We’ve met so many great people through Boondockers Welcome. It’s not only provided us with many nights of safe parking but we’ve connected with other RVers (even Truck Campers) or people interested in our lifestyle. Being on the road constantly can be isolating, and this community is a great way to connect with other RVers and save lots of money at the same time. #ThisIsBoondockersWelcome
Being a Boondocker’s Welcome Guest
As I stated above, I’d never traveled on CA State Hwy 99 through central California and decided to make that my “new” path for California. We stayed in the western Sierra’s foothills; not far from Sequoia National Forest. I found two hosts near the route that were available to accommodate us overnight.
Our host was an engaging, storytelling gentleman and his math professor wife. He was retired, grew his own wine grapes and made a red wine. He shared the wine (which was good) up on the back terrace with a grand view of the surrounding fields and homes. After a long day of driving it was a treat after which we we retired to our camper next to the grape vines, cooked dinner and slept soundly. No parking lot or bright lights interrupting our slumber.
Continuing on our way north via the 99 eventually routed us back to the Interstate 5. North of Sacramento, we again made our way east and away from the interstate. Traveling to this host found us in large rolling green hills. Our parking spot was a hill top meadow near their house overlooking all those green hills. In the distance, twinkling lights from the nearest town were visible. We never knew this area existed. It looks very different compared to being near the Interstate. It was amazing.
Traveling to our 3rd host followed a day off and was our longest drive day of over 6 hours. Now this host accepted our stay request even though they were not going to be home. The property was in a mountain area and had an easy parking spot to access. We were contacted by the host after we did arrive to make sure we found it and was invited to walk around and even use their deck to see the evening view. We enjoyed a quiet, serene evening and enjoyed a long walk in the morning before heading out.
Being a Boondocker’s Welcome Host
We’ve been BW guests for nearly 3 years and have appreciated our travels more because of great hosts offering a place to park. Two years ago, we were finally in a position to host. Now we’ve experienced both sides and it’s been lovely. We’ve learned what works from our earlier hosts and have successfully created a nice, quiet and safe parking spot for guests.
Why host? I’d ask why not? For the most part, every camper(s) that comes through our area is courteous, clean, engaging, happy, interesting, and I could go on an on. We host because we wanted to give back to this community and emulate what other great hosts did for us. We love hearing tales of our guests travels, helping to fix a broken something or other on their rig, swap stories over a fire pit and learn something we didn’t know before from every single person who comes thru. We’ve hosted folks from US, Canada, Austria and Australia.
These pictures are courtesy of #wherethewynnstakeus. They were the last of 4 guests before we took off on this CA-OR-WA trip. I grew up in this So Cal area which makes it fun to introduce people to the fresh citrus we have here in Southern California. It’s educational and delightful for guests if they’ve never picked citrus fruit own.
RV Life and Community
I imagine we’re mostly of like minds when it comes to traveling in an RV of some sort…including a Truck Camper. We care about our open spaces, public lands and watch out for each other. No where have we seen this more than through the hosts and guests we’ve been introduced to in the Boondocker’s Welcome Community. There’s nothing more welcoming after driving all day to land somewhere where someone is expecting you, they’ll make sure you’re situated and even provide you with a safe spot to park, local area information, maybe even power, water, but most of all interesting stories and conversation.
If you enjoy personal travel stories and especially camping, follow this blog by entering your email below. You can also follow us on Instagram @WorkingOnExploring or @Maximus.4×4.camper, and subscribe to our WorkingOnExploring YouTube Channel on for our build and trip clips. Good luck on your own exploring and we’ll see you from the road somewhere soon!