Alex has been fixated on RVs for a couple of years now. Every time we pass one on the road, his jaw drops and he goes on talking about how he’s going to live in a camper some day. We decided to indulge him and rent an RV for a weekend as his birthday present. It’s still springtime in the Rockies, and we had zero experience with RVs, so we aimed for a relatively short road trip to Royal Gorge and the Great Sand Dunes.
We picked up the camper from the rental facility in Castle Rock Friday afternoon. The weather was cold, with light snow falling. We were warned by the rental facility to add some antifreeze to the waste water tanks to prevent them from freezing overnight. After some scrounging around town for where to by RV safe antifreeze (I didn’t even know this was a thing), we were off. The drive through Colorado Springs and Canon City was slow, as you might image, but uneventful.
We pulled into the Royal Gorge KOA around 6:00 Friday night and found our spot. The campground was about a third full, so at least we weren’t the only people crazy enough to go camping in a snow storm. This was far from “glamping”, but we decided to ritz it up as much as possible by streaming a movie onto the laptop after dinner Friday night. Definitely a far cry from our standard backpacking experiences…
Saturday we went in to Royal Gorge Park. This was our first visit after living in Colorado for over 20 years. Unfortunately, the weather continued to be a pest through the morning. It was cold and cloudy, with intermittent snow flurries. This kept several of the parks attractions closed, including the gondola and the big swing, which the boys were really hoping to try.
We explored around the park, and got lunch in the cafeteria on the north side of the gorge. After a couple of hours, the wind died down and the clouds began to break. This helped tremendously with the views, but it also allowed the park to start running the gondola, so at least we got a ride over the gorge.
The next morning we packed up the RV and drove to the Great Sand Dunes. We had been to the dunes on our last fall break, but we didn’t understand the situation well enough to enjoy “dune sledding”. This time, we were prepared. We rented the sleds just outside the park entrance, and headed into the dune field armed with plenty of wax to keep the sleds greased.
We hiked up about three ridges, each time pausing for the boys to try cruising down the slope. This was also the first time we have been able to bring Laika into a national park. Typically, dogs are limited to parking lots and paved sidewalks only, but they are welcome in the dunes. She seemed a bit distressed by the sand abrading her paws, but she handled it well.
In the afternoon it was time to turn in the sleds and head over to our campsite. We were a bit surprised to find out that the site had no electrical hook-up (somehow misread the campground information), which caused a mild panic about how long we could run the heater off the battery through the 20 degree night. We fired up the generator a couple of times before quiet hours to make sure we were topped off, and actually had no issue keeping the furnace going through the night.
We woke up at 5:15 Monday morning to pull up stakes and make the drive back to Castle Rock before the 11:00 deadline to turn in the camper. This included our first experience at an “RV Dump” to empty out the waste water tanks. If you’ve ever seen the Robin Williams movie “RV”, you can imagine how terrified I was to open that valve. Luckily, it all went off without a hitch, and we were on our way.
Perhaps the hardest part of the entire trip was the drive back up I-25. There was another storm blowing in, which brought some pretty strong westerly wind gusts that tried to push us off the road most of the way. I haven’t had knuckles quite that white in many years. Still, we made it into town just before 11, and after a quick inspection we were back in our own car for a much easier drive back home.
Alex is still convinced he wants an RV (excuse me, a “luxury motorhome”), but I don’t know how long it will be before we try the RV rental approach again. All in all, it was a fun weekend and a new experience, but it seemed just a little too “citified” for a camping experience.