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RE: 2019 trip from KY to Yellowstone/Tetons

I want to thank everyone who gave me advice for this trip. It was the adventure of our lives and we wouldn't have had as good of a time without advice from you! I still haven’t uploaded all our photos but will post when I do. 2019 Western Adventure Trip Report July 16th - Drove to Lexington and picked up truck at Enterprise (2019 Ram 3500 DRW w/Cummins diesel. I could tell right away the truck was going to be a beast but was nervous about driving a dually around. I brought DD along to help remember all the info we were to hear during camper walkthrough and I took her to breakfast. We went to dealership to pick up camper, a 2020 Sunset Trail 331BH. It was a beautiful camper and the folks at dealership couldn’t have been nicer. After a walkthrough on how to operate slides, appliances, and dumping tanks, we headed home. In retrospect, I should have asked more questions about dumping tanks (more on that later). I backed camper into yard beside house and DW, DD, and I began loading up camper for the trip. DW worked til 5pm that day so it was a whirlwind packing job and in the process I left the TripTik at home. July 17th - We left KY at 3am heading for Des Moines West KOA, 665 miles away. Our group in truck was myself, my aunt, DW, DD and her best friend. Bringing two 12 year old girls on a road trip like this could have been a nightmare, but they did great. Arrived in Des Moines in just under 12 hours. I enjoy driving and the 1 ton dually allowed an effortless tow. We didn’t experience any trailer sway in wind, passing semis or anywhere else. It was a one handed drive for the majority of the trip. I stop for fuel every 200 miles or so, and will stop anywhere in between if I need to hit the restroom or stretch my legs. I have a Pilot/Flying J RV plus card and had already planned out all my fuel stops along the way. I used the RV pumps at Flying J, and the big truck pumps at Pilots. We made good time, the truck (rated to pull over 20K) didn’t even know the travel trailer (about 10K loaded) was behind it. I set cruise on 73mph and used my IR temp gun to check tires and hubs at every stop, no issues the entire trip. When I hauled FEMA campers after Katrina I had a lot of bad luck with blown trailer tires so I had the dealership give me a second spare to carry in bed of truck in addition to the one attached to the bumper. I never needed them, thankfully. Des Moines KOA was great and I recommend it. July 18th & 19th - Left Des Moines at 4am heading for Rapid City, SD. We stopped off at Badlands NP and Wall Drug, which the girls loved. We carried on to Rapid City, made camp at Rushmore Shadows RV Park and spent the next day and a half visiting with family and seeing Mt Rushmore. My parents flew in to Denver while we were here, and drove up in a rental. I made my first dump of tanks here and found that since camper has full bath up front and half back at back near bunks, I had 2 dump tanks and one hose so I would get the pleasure of dumping black first, then grey (as I have researched), then disconnect hose and hook up to other connection and repeat the process. This was something I was dreading but it went well and wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Rushmore Shadows is a members only campground (I think they do rent sites to non-members) with nice amenities. My cousin is a member and reserved a great site for 2 nights. July 20th - Left Rapid City with 3 vehicle convoy (us, my parents, and my cousin and her kids) and met another cousin and his family at the Flying J in Gillette. From there, our convoy (plus a truck pulling another camper) headed for Cody, WY via HWY 16 over the BigHorn mountains. My cousin was driving a 18 1500 Ram pulling a camper of similar size to ours so he was much slower up and down the grades than us. Honestly, the 3500 Ram Dually acted like it wasn’t hardly pulling anything. I learned to love the exhaust break on this truck! I hardly needed to touch the brake pedal. Arrived in Cody, set up camp and just relaxed for rest of the evening. Cody KOA was nice with lots to do for the kids. I saw a lot of advice to stock up at Walmart in Cody before going to Yellowstone and they were right. The two grocery stores in West Yellowstone had a good selection but prices were much higher. July 21st - Drove from Cody up Chief Joseph Hwy to Beartooth Hwy. This was probably my favorite part of the entire trip. We stopped at a pull off at the top and had a snowball fight in the snow, in late July! Very cool! After driving back to Cody, we went to Nite Rodeo which was a little hokey for me but the girls loved it. July 22 - Convoy headed to Westgate KOA in West Yellowstone via east Yellowstone entrance and through the park. We didn’t encounter much slowdowns except for some construction on the east side where the road wasn’t paved. We arrived at KOA about 6 hours later, set up camp, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. At some point during our stay at Yellowstone, our refrigerator starting giving out a fault code. It would flash a red light 5 times in a row. I looked in manual and it said there was an issue with internal controls and we should take to a dealer. We decided to manage as best we could for the rest of the trip. Our trailer had an outside kitchen with a good size dorm fridge that stayed cold while hooked to shore power so we put most things in that. I also brought a 60 quart and 65 quart cooler so we used those for traveling between power hookups. The fridge would randomly work then quit working. We tried all 3 settings, auto, gas only, and electric only, it didn’t matter. July 23-26 - Toured Yellowstone, leaving camp at around 630am each day to get ahead of the crowds. We saw Old Faithful, had a birthday lunch for DD at Old Faithful Inn, and saw rest of Upper Geyser basin. We also saw Tower Fall, did the Old West Cookout at Roosevelt, saw Mammoth Hot Springs. I must say that the Westgate KOA was great. Friendly workers, huge camp store with great selection (although expensive) of groceries, RV supplies, and souvenirs. Many times across many websites I read that “you can’t see it all at Yellowstone” and it’s true. We had planned 4 full days of touring but by the end of the third day we were wiped and ended up spending the 4th day sleeping in, swimming in pool, and just relaxing. July 27th - Left West Yellowstone heading for Jackson WY going south through Idaho and via WY 22 across Teton pass. I read a lot of reviews of that pass and its 10% grades and how scary it was. After how well the truck had handled the trailer up til now, I felt we could handle it and I was right. Going up the truck would accelerate up the grade if I asked it to but we stayed slow to enjoy the view. Going down, I set the cruise on 20 mph and put the exhaust brake on auto and the truck did the rest. I had to tap the brakes a few times because of an RV ahead going slower than us but it was awesome. We arrived at Fireside Resort in Jackson Hole in early afternoon and set up camp. We toured downtown Jackson, had dinner at Pinky G’s (awesome!!) bought some souvenirs and drove through GTNP in late afternoon looking for wildlife (saw some Pronghorn). July 28th - we did the Jenny Lake hike (via the boat ferry) to Inspiration Point and it was awesome. We spent the rest of the day making a run to Albertsons (first major grocery store since Wal-mart in Cody) and walking around shops in Jackson again. July 29th - drove from Jackson to Cheyenne KOA, leaving around 8am and arriving in Cheyenne in late afternoon. Cheyenne KOA was nice, people were friendly, bathrooms and entire campground was spotless. It took a minute to get used the the all gravel campground (felt like were were in a scene of Raising Arizona). DW and I went to Cheyenne Walmart and it was “different”. Wife saw at least one drug deal in parking lot and we both got a very weird vibe there. July 30th - Left Cheyenne KOA heading for KC East KOA at 3am sharp. I had a 680 mile run ahead of me and I wanted to get as much done before sunrise as I could. We made it to Big Springs, NE by sunrise and I did good on drive. I would go around 200 miles between stops for fuel and would stop at rest areas to stretch my legs occasionally. We arrive at KC KOA late in afternoon, set up camp, and girls went to swim. KC East/Oak Grove KOA was nicest we stayed at! Super friendly workers and we even had delicious BBQ delivered right to our site. An interesting happened at 245am as I prepared to dump all the tanks for the last time before turning camper into dealer. I dumped black and grey tanks at rear connection for half bath without incident, then reconnected hose to forward connection to dump main tanks. I reached for the black tank valve and it was GONE!!! I looked with flashlight and could see the hole in the enclosed bottom of trailer where it should be but somewhere between Cheyenne and KC it fell off. I took it very ease going in and out of truck stops, construction areas, and anywhere else significant bumps in the road existed. July 31st - Left KC KOA around 330am and headed home. Made it through St Louis right before rush hour got bad and rest of trip was smooth sailing. Arrived home around 3pm and unpacked camper and truck. August 1st - I took truck and camper back to RV dealer and Enterprise location, picked up my car and headed home. RV dealer was very apologetic about the lost groceries and inconvenience from our refrigerator issues. She said there has been other issues with that brand of refrigerator. She said the missing black tank handle wasn’t a big deal.
wadecool 08/03/19 12:22pm Roads and Routes
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