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Taking an RV back to home base... an affordable way to test the lifestyle

JOANNE ELVES, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
More from Joanne Elves, for the Calgary Herald

The last time we rented a motorhome I spent most of the time looking at the odometer. Every passing kilometer, my head said, ’35 cents. 35 cents.’ By the time we reached Kelowna more than $200 had been added to the bill and we hadn’t even tested the plumbing. Even though the motorhome offered so much convenience and fun for the family holiday, I was obsessed with the fees.

But now that we don’t have to live by the summer break, other options for renting motorhomes have created a less stressful way to rent. An escape with our daughter during Reading Week was perfect.

During the shoulder season, many RV rental companies need motorhomes relocated. For Cruise America, many vehicles go back to Mesa, Arizona, for refurbishment and repairs before hitting the highways for the summer season. Getting those vehicles to Mesa and back to the satellite offices is an inexpensive way for a traveler to see much of Canada and the U.S.

If you don’t mind a little extra planning and shuffling of gear, the payout is pretty nice. Here’s how our trip in March from Las Vegas to Mesa, Arizona unfolded.

We landed in Las Vegas with carry-on luggage and rented a car. The motorhomes don’t come with much for supplies unless you want to pay extra so we were off to Walmart. Sleeping bags for less than ten bucks, pillows for $2.50, a coffee maker for $12 and cheap plates and utensils had us rolling into the parking lot like Santa. That was far cheaper and easier then packing it from home or purchasing kits from the RV company.

"To see if this is for you, check the motorhome rental company web pages for “One Way Deals,” or “Relocation Specials.”

Before we left home, it was decided that breakfast and lunch would be consumed or created the motorhome. Supper was left off the grocery list so we could enjoy the cuisine of the places we were going.

In the relocation program, the RV company gives you a generous amount of time and usually free mileage to get the motorhome from point A to point B. Las Vegas, Nevada, to Mesa, Arizona, is only five hours or 300 miles. Our job was to get the motorhome there within 6 days with 900 free miles. To top it all off, the rental was roughly $20/day.

Of course, we didn’t head south. We foolishly jumped on Highway 15 during rush hour and headed toward St. George, Utah.

I don’t know how many divorces are caused by poor navigation but let’s just say I’m happy we brought the GPS. That little tool took us down winding roads to Snow Canyon State Park under a moonless sky. We pulled into the dark and rather empty camp ground and parked. A phone plan with data helped too.

I’ve been tent camping all my life but now I’m spoiled. We parked, plugged in and cracked open a craft beer. No tent poles, no dragging of gear into the tent, no rocks, no weather issues and no staggering through the dark to find outhouses. Every night was luxury.

Waking up to the sun beating down on the surrounding red rock canyon was surreal. We had no idea we were surrounded by such amazing geological formations. We spent two days there, hiking, biking and caving in the valley.

Driving a motorhome through Zion National Park is tricky. I can’t imagine doing it during the summer. You have to pay an extra fee to have the traffic stopped at the tunnel so the motorhome can drive down the middle. I felt like royalty but that’s not what I saw in the eyes of the people waiting at the other end.

We avoided camping in Prescott because it was still freezing at night at that elevation. Instead, we stopped in Page, Arizona and did the Antelope Slot Canyon tour in the morning, dangled our toes over the cliff at Horseshoe Bend at the Grand Canyon in the afternoon and pulled into Mesa in the dark.

The next morning, we stopped at a Good Will shop to donate our Walmart purchase before dropping of the motorhome. A call to Uber had us at the airport.

Not everyone wants to deal with the logistics of flying in, renting a car, buying gear, renting a motorhome then reversing the process at the other end. But the weather was great, there were no crowds, the campgrounds were empty and the motorhome was totally affordable. And no panicked calculating of mileage.

To see if this is for you, check the motorhome rental company web pages for “One Way Deals,” or “Relocation Specials.”

 

       
 
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