Renter Interview: Family Cross-Country Road Trip
Our July Escape of the Month Club Winners were kind enough to answer a few questions about their Escape! Learn more about the lovely Dutch family, the Kluitenbergs, and their trip in our Mavericks campervan model.
Where are you from?
We are a family of three from Voorschoten, about 20 miles south of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We are: Rob (49 yrs, legal publisher), Etlien (49 yrs, staff member at a child day care center) and Elora (12 yrs, schoolgirl).
What led you to book a trip with Escape Campervans?
Rather than spending our vacation near a swimming pool, we prefer to travel and see the world. In previous years we traveled a lot in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia) as well as Surinam (north shore of South America), the country of birth of Etlien. Having traveled throughout Myanmar last year, we thought it would be nice to head over to the west for this year’s vacation. A couple of options we considered: Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala and the USA.
September 2016 we started our research and found out that ‘regular’ campers (the big RVs) came with a huge rental price, especially during school holidays. Then, I came across the website of Escape Campervans with more affordable prices. Immediately I fell in love with the colorful handpainted vans. When I showed the website of Escape Campervans and the vans to Etlien and Elora, they immediately agreed on the plan to take a road trip throughout the USA.
Who joined you on your trip? What campervan did you have?
In general, we travel just with the three of us. In some years we have been accompanied by Etlien’s older sister and/or one of Elora’s cousins. But for this trip, we decided that we could make the most out of it if we traveled only with the three of us. With some good will, we could sleep in the van without a rooftop sleeper or external tent. Escape Campervans provided us with the very colorful ‘Crayola’. Immediately ‘Crayola’ felt like a member of the family. Whenever possible, we included ‘Crayola’ in our pictures (reference: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube).
Tell us about your trip. Where did you go?
At the time we were planning this trip we were ‘fortunate’ that Etlien did not have a permanent contract and I got special permission to take a holiday for about six weeks (in the Netherlands on average people (especially with younger kids) take a summer holiday of three weeks). That is why we were able to plan the coast-to-coast road trip (34 days in a campervan).
As Etlien and Elora had never been to the USA before, I thought New York would be a nice starting point (and money wise also the cheapest flight fare from Amsterdam). Because we have some friends (and via co-workers) in the USA (Detroit, MI; Fort Collins, CO and Walnut Creek, CA) we tried to set up the route in such a way that we could visit them when possible. The route we had in mind wasn’t fixed. Only for the first seven days we had pre-booked (campground) reservations.
Because of my background as a legal publisher (specialized in construction law), I had to see today’s Detroit, despite the disapproving opinions of others. We also got in contact with some students from a Dutch technical university (Delft University of Technology). In Detroit, they started the Motown Movement. They develop and share low-budget and do-it-yourself methods to transform worn-down houses into self-sufficient homes. On Saturdays, you can join them working on the house and garden, which we did. Pretty interesting. That set the first pin on our map.
From NYC to Detroit we decided to include a small portion of Canada on our trip. A logical step is then to include Niagara Waterfalls to the route. From an architectural point of view, we liked to include Chicago. Because we had so much fun at the Motown Studios (Hitsville USA) in Detroit we decided to include the other musical cities Nashville and Memphis on our schedule.
After that, we headed towards Fort Collins where we met our friend Roy. He took us to Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park. Having spent a couple of days with Roy, we headed north towards the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Then on the Yellowstone National Park.
After Yellowstone, we decided to take the loneliest road in the US (Highway 50) while heading towards San Francisco. Here I attended Hastings Law School in 1991. Now I was able to show Etlien and Elora where I lived and studied back then. In Walnut Creek we visited a friend (who I had met in 1991 at Hastings) and spend some days with her and her family. We continued on Highway 1 (partly closed due to landslides) to LA. On Hollywood Blvd, we had to see the star of Michael Jackson and Etlien’s all-time favorite Barry White.
From LA we couldn’t resist taking a small stretch of Route 66 towards the Grand Canyon. Through Zion National Park we made it to Las Vegas, our Escape Campervan drop off location.
Name some of the highlights from your trip.
- Detroit – try to connect with a local guide for the ‘best’ places to visit. Don’t forget to visit the Eastern Market area for some of the best street graffiti art; the Heidelberg Project if you are into urban art / supporting the community; Motown Studio (Hitsville USA), the tour starts off like any other, but once you’re in the magic studio room, history will come alive. Before you know it you are singing and dancing ‘My girl’, one of the many Motown hits.
- Chicago – city walk and river architecture boat ride (from Navy Pier).
- Highway 50 – the loneliest road in the USA. Very nice ‘desert-like’ scenery. Make sure to pick up the free ‘Hwy 50 passport’ in a local store/museum/courthouse at the start of your adventure. Collect stamps along the way and you will be awarded a nice certificate and pin, courtesy of the state of Nevada.
- Yellowstone National Park. Because it is so big, the tourist crowd isn’t as obvious as in other parks. If possible, try to attend the park rangers lecture about wildlife and so on. Very interesting and a lot of fun.
- Highway 1 (California coastal road). A lot of wildlife can be spot (elephant seals (Elephant Seal Vista Point near San Simeon), sea otters (Morro Bay) and we even saw some whales)
What are your top tips for future renters?
- Do your research, especially on the facilities a campground has to offer. We witnessed some ‘unhappy’ campers when they were told that there was no electricity, no water nor full hook up at Zion South Campground.
- For the best (free) wifi spots, go to Starbucks. McDonald’s is second.
- For travelers from outside the US, purchase a T-Mobile plan for 30 days. It allows you to make phone calls up to 1000 minutes and unlimited data (first 2GB at up to 4G LTE speeds) (best not to be used for Instagram, Youtube, or other data-consuming activities). The plan is called ‘$30Tourist 1K MIN UL Txt&Dat-2GBLTE’.
- If you are planning to visit more than two National Parks, buy the annual pass for USD 80.
- The closer you get to a (National) Park, gas prices are higher. A timely fill up can save some money. By the way, gas in the Midwest is a lot cheaper than East and West Coast.
Any good resources you want to share?
In general, take your time for researching the places you want to visit. On Instagram, there are many travelers accounts with the most beautiful pics of scenery, landscapes, architecture and so on. If the exact location is not presented, just ask them.
Was this your first campervan trip?
This was our first campervan trip. We loved it. It totally changed our view on camping and camping life. Having all your luggage with you at all times is a real bonus. On our way to LA, we decided to take a swim in Malibu. No problem. Just park the van along the street, spend some time at the beach and move on. Perfect!
What do you like about campervans vs. other forms of travel?
The fact that you are at arm’s length with all of your luggage all of the time is really great. We were able to cover nearly 7,300 miles on this trip and we never got tired of it. Driving a van over a bigger RV is also a bonus, especially on curvy roads in the mountains. The van gives you that feeling of freedom. Even if you get stuck on a parking lot that closed earlier than expected (which happened to us at Great Salt Lake State Park, there is no stress). In the worst case, we could have spent the night there. Fortunately, someone reopened the gate after some complaints of other visitors present, but nevertheless.
Where would you like go on your next campervan trip?
For a next campervan trip, we would like to spend some more time in the National Parks and maybe Canada. Should Escape Campervans expand to Europe, we would seriously consider undertaking a similar road trip in Europe as the one we just finished in the USA.