Wednesday, June 7, 2023

RV vs Truck and Hotel Road Trip

I always enjoy your comments and questions in response to the blog.  One recent one was, “I’m interested in your thoughts on the differences between traveling via RV and the car as you are now.”

Traveling on our Coast-to-Coast adventure in Roadrunner 2.0 (aka as our 2015 Ford F-150) is not the same as traveling in our 2009 Tiffin Allegro Bus, 40’ diesel pusher motorhome (MH).  It’s different, but there are many similarities.  I’ll try to give you an idea of some of each.

Truck travel.  Packing and loading up for travel in Roadrunner 2.0.

RV travel. Here we are in an RV space at one of the hundreds of different campgrounds we visited over the years in the Roadrunner.

As our current road trip from Norfolk, VA to San Diego and back, comes to an end, here’s some thoughts on the subject. They are listed below in no particular order.  

Riding and Driving
The first and most obvious difference is the obvious.  Its a nicer ride in the motorhome.

Moving down the Interstate in the MH is a wonder.  The captain’s seats were so comfortable and enjoyable.  The great view from up high and through the very large windshield is like being in the front row seat of a vacation tour bus - only more comfortable.

More than once as I drove the MH I had a sense of pride and accomplishment at “being among those guys” who did it-- we took the plunge, committed to a new and unfamiliar lifestyle and reaped the benefits (and challenges) of going that route.  It was hard to explain.

Also I’d say the MH is more fun to drive and to ride in.  It rides like a dream with independent front wheel suspension and airbags, fancy shocks --We’ve had meals prepared while driving the rig.  Pam has actually cooked things while we drive down the road.  In the truck the closest thing to that is eating a sandwich she prepared before we left.  We’ve done that a quite a few times this trip and it’s worked out well.

On the other hand, the truck is easier to drive.  The motorhome was definitely more stressful to drive in traffic and sometimes it was just unavoidable.  We got a taste of rough traffic at rush-hour in Houston and also getting through Atlanta.  It was not fun in the truck and in the motorhome it would be 10 times worse.

- Similar in many ways
We figure out where we need to be and when and then start adding possibilities to the calendar for places we want to go or people we want to see.
We looked at the calendar and decided where we needed (or wanted to be) on certain days of the month and then filled in the rest of our travel.  Along the way we planned for excursions and day trips.  Instead of looking for RV campgrounds or overnight stops at Walmarts, we looked for places to stay with friends, family or in hotels.  But the planning is very much the same.

In both cases we looked for value.  We weren’t always looking for the cheapest RV park just like we don’t look for the cheapest hotel to stay in.  It’s a mix of what we know we like and dislike and how much we feel like spending.  With the RV campgrounds we eventually came around to the point where we looked for military campgrounds first because they not only were very reasonable but we’ve spent a lot of time around the military and are very comfortable with the culture and surroundings.  Next we’d look for reviews online and see what they had to say about the place.  
For hotels we look at price, and whether or not they have a “hot” breakfast.  Usually we get the eggs and then coffee, fruit, yogurt and maybe a bagel or muffin.  No breakfast is a deal breaker for us in most cases.

Rest stops
Getting in and out of rest stops is an about the same.  With the motorhome we’d park with the trucks and big rigs. In the car we’d follow the “Auto/Cars”  vs “Trucks/Trailers” side of the rest stop parking lot.

Getting fuel was quite different. It was a bit of a stressor at times in the Motorhome (MH).  If we found diesel fuel at a low price (not the only consideration) we had to make sure we could easily get in and out of the area.  Most of the time we used truck stops but a few times we squeezed into a Murphy gas station or a convenience store gas station that was tricky.  The worst thing about that is the possibility of damaging the motorhome or car being towed.  Also if it was too tight, we would be have to disconnect the tow car, pull out, then reconnect the car.  It was a pain but worth it to avoid dents, scratches or worse.

The other big different is the cost to refuel.  In the motorhome, I’d fuel up when our 150 gallon diesel tank got to about 50%.  It was not uncommon to have a $250 or $300 fill-up. Thankfully during our full-timing years we never saw $4 or $5 fuel prices.  Now that is not uncommon all though on this trip the most we paid for gas was  in Flagstaff AZ for $114.26.

In the MH, we had more variety and flexibility with food choices. Part of that was the convenience of a residential refrigerator in the MH and the other factor is that now, years later, we are more limited the foods that suit us.
Additionally, in both modes, we quickly found out what snacks worked for us.  We’d keep them handy along with water and/or our favorite drinks.  When we stopped at a campground, we could easily make dinner and not get out of our routine too much.
In the truck we tried a few things including getting microwavable dinners and preparing them in the hotel room.  It was a challenge this trip to find an entree that was low in sodium.  We had a couple of microwavable dinners in the hotel.
Later on if we weren’t staying with friends or family, we ate out quite a bit and tried to find the good stuff on the menu.  Most times it worked out well.
In the truck we took a 55 qt cooler and ice packs.  If the hotel room did not have a fridge with a freezer compartment, we asked the front desk if we could keep the ice packs in their refrigerator (which always had an adequate size freezer.)  We’d pick up the ice packs each morning as we packed up and before we left/checked out.

Overnight stays (hotel vs campground or Walmart parking lot)  
- Both modes are very different but each has a definite routine. 
In the MH, the sequence goes something like this:  arrival parking, check-in, finding the campsite or being escorted to it, unhooking the car, parking the MH, hooking up electric, water and sewer, setting the jacks down, leveling, moving the slides out, setting furniture in place, placing down the rugs, setting up the TV satelite dish, setting out welcome sign and mats. 
In the truck, the sequence was: arriving at hotel, checking in, finding the room, getting the badges cart, moving the ice chest, unpacking truck with luggage, other bags, computer backpack, moving it all to the designated room.  
I remember being struck by the notion of how important pets were becoming to RVers.  It became very common to see people with dogs and in some cases large dogs who were an integral part of their family.  I also noticed too how every square inch of grass in an RV part could be quickly marked by the pooch population.  It was different and we dealt with it.
Now I am becoming more aware of pets staying in hotels.  The ones we go to apparently allow all kinds of dogs.  It was not uncommon on this trip to be drinking coffee in the lobby in the late evening and here people come and go through the lobby with their dogs.  An an occasional bark/growl/incident in the hotel.  Or go down the hallway and hear a dog barking.  Times are different.

Sight seeing 
About the same.  We’d take day trips in the Honda CRV that we towed behind the motorhome.  During our trip now, we just drove the truck up to Santa Fe and spent the night in an AirBnB and spent a wonderful 24 hrs in our old stomping grounds.  We also were able to take the morning and go for a hike with our friends Kirk and Susan in Branson MO.  Then too, we had some time so we ran by the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course to again see pictures on the wall of Phil and Tiger and others in their youth.  While in Page AZ for the Lower Antelope Canyon tour we were able to run by Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam to check things out.  And there’s nothing like changing the schedule some and be able to spend the night in Pensacola FL and take in the awesome white sandy beaches once again.

- Surprisingly similar.  We had to make a significant repair to the truck.  The spark plugs were misfiring and it was very similar to issues we had with the motorhome at times.  Over the 10 years that we had the motorhome, it was fairly stressful when we’d encounter a driving issue like a fuel pump that wasn’t working properly. We’d just have to deal with it.  We’d call a repair place, schedule service, and hope it didn’t cost too much.  Like the time I put gas in the diesel fuel tank while near Napa Valley CA.  But I’ll save that story retelling for another book.  Or you can read about it here.

Campground wifi was a bit of an oxymoron at times.  In the MH I was able to do some part time work all those years we full-timed and a I needed reliable internet.  Most campgrounds had adequate wifi near the registration desk/campground office but not always. It was not uncommon to have good wifi at the office but less than desirable wifi at the campsite.  I quickly found out that I needed to bring my own hotspot and had a couple different varieties over the years.  

Surprisingly, staying in hotels has been similar with regard to good fast internet.  It has not always been good and sometimes less than desirable.  I was surprised at this.  Right now I am at my nephew's in San Diego and their internet is screaming.  It’s very good.  

Having good internet and blogging on this coast to coast trip has been a challenge.  My best time to get one done is early morning but then other parts of my daily routine suffer.  We have packed a lot into our days this trip so it has been hard to keep up.  This kind of challenge is common among most of us that write regularly and/or have a regular YouTube channel.  

So one does the best they can and in my case I will continue to make updates until I have documented a few more or our Coast-to-Coast adventures.
Daily Routine
Quite different in the MH. After 4-5 days on the road, we got used a tempo in the hotel as we traveled by truck.  When staying with friends or family during the trip, things were different still. .

At the hotel, instead of getting up and quietly making some coffee and reading some devotional material or blogging, I quietly make my way downstairs to the lobby and wait for coffee to be put out.  Then I read and organize my day while Pam sleeps.  The hotel lobby atmosphere usually follows with the hot breakfast of some sort which we grab before we go upstairs to pack.  

In the MH I would just quietly get up, make some coffee and get going on my morning routine until she woke up and we had breakfast.

In the truck this time, Pam usually made sandwiches for us to eat on the road if we were traveling that day.  For a while it peanut butter and jelly were the choice with a few tunafish sandwiches at time.  On the way back, it seems that turkey and mayonnaise has become the staple.  Grabbing a sandwich is so much faster than trying to get a sub or something for lunch, plus it cuts down on the travel day.

When staying with family or friends I usually alerted them to my early rising, and I prepositioned my clothes and books the night before so I could find a quiet corning in the house where I could read and not disturb anyone.  In most cases, I was able to make an early morning cup of coffee which helped get me going. 

Our routine usually was getting up, cleaning up, leaving by 7:00 AM or 7:30, finding a hotel (we usually waited until same day in case our plans changed), getting to our destination by mid to late afternoon, checking in and checking out the room, refueling, maybe running to the store, then on to dinner or back to the room and then dinner.  After dinner if the TV had a good selection we’d watch some baseball, then I’d go read or blog in the lobby until 10 and we’d repeat the same routine on travel days.


There’s just some random thoughts on the sameness/differences of our travels both in our MH and recently in our truck.  Hopefully you can imagine a little of the ways we functioned on the road.  Thanks again for reading and we’ll look forward to next time on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. Another driving difference is the ability for the passenger to use the restroom while going down the road in a Motorhome vs. having to find a rest area.

  2. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into a "day in the life" of your travel experiences, both in the MH and now your pickup. Enjoyed the blog today very much!

  3. How interesting. Enjoyed the read. Barbara Newton.

  4. Great article, Randy. In your travels have you ever retraced John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie? If I asked you this already, I apologize. My brain is getting full…

    1. Mike Waschull

    2. We have not retraced his steps and I think you were the first to make me aware of his book documenting his travels. I think you may have asked about it because I remember looking for it at the Steinbeck museum in Salinas CA after you mentioned it. But I’m not sure. That was back in Oct 2013.