Saturday, November 26, 2011

Camping with off-road vehicles

Recently a question came across the Facebook page for full-time traveling called Families on the Road. A gentleman wanted to know how campgrounds and state parks react to off road vehicles, ATVs in particular.

We have been traveling full-time for over three years and during that period we have hauled our off-road vehicles across the country. As we made the hard choices of what to bring on the road and what not to, our ATVs were something that had to come. Off-roading is something my husband and I have done since we were very young and is a family hobby we all enjoy. It was hard to imagine traveling to so many beautiful places and not get to experience from the seat of a four wheeler.

There is something different when you experience nature while being in it rather than driving by it in a vehicle or taking the same tour that hundreds others have taken that same day. Sure, we do those things, but sometimes we come across a place that is only accessible by off-road vehicle and that is when the fun begins.

Before I get all weepy eyed telling you the wonderful adventures we have had together in the wilds of America, I will get to the logistics of traveling with off-road vehicles.

This is how we do it.

We have a 42’ Toy Hauler fifth wheel camper. The back end of the camper comes down to form a ramp that we can drive our ATVs into. The room is 8 ½ by 12. The floor is rubber and has places for tie downs to attach. We payed the extra money to get a gas tank that is under the back room. It has a nozzle to put the gas into the ATVs. I must admit, we rarely have used it. I don’t like to have gas fumes in our camper. Call me crazy, but I like all our brain cells. I think my husband and son have lost enough siphoning gas out of our van for the ATVS.

When we started our trip we actually used the garage area to store our ATVs. After we had our last child we decided to take them out and make that back room into a permanent kid’s room. It has carpet on the floor, toys everywhere, and school books on the desk.

We bought a second vehicle, a 15 passenger van, which I drive. It hauls a 16’ flat bed trailer with four ATVs, 4 kayaks, a Kawasaki Mule, and bikes. My husband is a master at putting them all on like a puzzle. Tie downs, straps, and more straps are used to hold everything snuggly in place. He checks and re-checks each strap before we head out and at every stop to make sure it is safe.

My husband drives a Dodge Dually one ton pickup that pulls our camper. I drive in front of him with the van and flat bed. He stays behind to make sure the trailer is pulling right and everything is secure.

Not all campgrounds like two vehicles and two trailers. But, most don’t mind a bit. They usually have a spot for us to park our extra vehicles.

State parks are different. Usually they charge per vehicle and trailer. Some have even charged per kayak and ATV even though we weren’t going to use them there. Needless to say, we didn’t stay at those.

National campgrounds are more tolerant. They usually don’t care if you park on the grass, how many vehicles you have or how many people. They almost always are friendly and courteous. Some have a two week limit but others do not. Camping spots are usually larger and more space in between.

As far as riding on state or national campgrounds – they do not allow it. No riding on their property. They do not mind us parking our flat bed with the toys on it but by no means are we to ride them around.

We try to always let them know that we have no intention of doing that.

So, sometimes we have to trailer our off-road vehicles and other times we try to camp near a national forest so we can ride from our camper.

Each state has different regulations as far as stickers required to ride there. Different counties have different regulations also so be sure to check out local laws before making your camping reservations.

Now, to the cry me a river part of my post. I just have to write it, though. I want you to know why we go through the trouble of hauling these expensive toys across the country.

Life has never been easy for us. My husband was severely ill for 13 years with nerve damage to his face. When he was finally well, he decided to do this trip. Once again, life was not easy. Our first year on the road was really hard. That is why we did year two. The first year was not what we thought it would be so we wanted to keep going so we could experience the wonderful times on the road that we had sacrificed so much for.
Badlands of South Dakota

We love traveling now, but it is still hard. So, when things get tough, we leave our camper and go into our huge back yard, the United States. When I jump in the Mule with my kids and we head up a mountain to explore this amazing country of ours, all the troubles of yesterday, today, and tomorrow just melt away. Nothing else matters when we are traveling down a road with the wind in our hair and the dust at our back. We never know what is around the next bend; sometimes a mud hole and other times the most beautiful aspen forest or mountain.

We have ridden in deserts, mountains, forests, and near lakes and rivers. I love to bike ride, but I cannot take six kids on bikes 40 miles around a mountain or desert in a day. Driving through the landscape in our van is nice but how much better when we can get off the main road and be in the landscape instead of just viewing it.

I pray that God would give us a treasure when we head out on an adventure. We might find a beautiful tree or a sparkling stream. Sometimes the treasure is a rock worn smooth by the wind or a deer that lopes through the woods. Treasures are to be found everywhere if we just slow down our busy lives and take the time to look.

ride to the San Juan Mts outside of Mancos, CO

I can hardly wait for hunting season to be over so I can grab my kids and head out into the woods to learn about trees, fishing, hiking, beaver dams, deserts, drought, floods, and sun…by being in it, on our off-road vehicles.
Gabriel and I go for a winter ride in Mark Twain National Forest , Missouri

Cody on his ATV enjoying the desert in Arizona

Shae misses his KTM. He sure enjoyed while he had it!

Our family enjoys picnics up in the mountains.

We love to ride where the van can't go.

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