AAA Members-Look Skyward! 2017 Eclipse RV Travel Savings

You may have noticed our earlier discussion about the singular celestial event that’s coming to America in 2017. To refresh your memories, we’ll be enjoying a total solar eclipse over America on August 21, 2017. A special reason we’re highlighting this opportunity for RV travel again is that AAA members can save big when renting an RV to view the solar eclipse.

AAA members always enjoy RV rental discounts through El Monte RV Rental & Sales as part of their active membership. For this year’s total solar eclipse experience, the nationwide auto club is encouraging members to hit the road in an RV to find the optimal eclipse viewing sites.

This article on the 2017 eclipse in AAA’s April member newsletter offers information on where, when and how to view the eclipse. If you aren’t currently a AAA member, this link offers you the opportunity to join so you can take advantage of the RV rental discounts.  

Solar eclipse

Solar eclipse

Haven’t started making plans to see the moon’s shadow completely block the sun from Earthly viewers? Here are the details you’ll need to plan your 2017 total solar eclipse RV vacation:

When Will the Eclipse Occur?

The shadow of the moon will align to blot out the sun from our view for approximately two minutes at 10:15 a.m. PDT on the Pacific Coast near Newport, Oregon. That will be the North American debut of the 2017 solar eclipse. The moon’s shadow will then block the sun from sight in an arc across the US, moving back over the Atlantic off the South Carolina coast at 2:48 pm EDT.

Where Will the Total Eclipse be Visible?

This excellent map of the eclipse trajectory shows the fourteen states (from Oregon to South Carolina) crossed by the “path of totality”. On that path, there’s a sixty-mile band of optimum viewing of the entire eclipse event. Outside that band, you won’t be able to see the total eclipse and will have to settle for partial eclipse memories.

To help you plan your eclipse-viewing RV vacation, here are some of the cities within the path of totality:

Oregon: Newport, Corvallis, Madras, Salem

Idaho: Stanley, McKay, Idaho Falls

Montana: No cities within optimum viewing band, eight miles of remote mountain terrain only

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park, Casper, Thermopolis

Nebraska: Scott’s Bluff, Hastings, Grand Island

Kansas: Troy, Atchison, Leavenworth

Missouri: St. Joseph, Columbia

Illinois: Carbondale, Chester

Kentucky: Bowling Green, Hopkinsville

Tennessee: Nashville, Gallatin, Clarksville

Georgia: Blairsville, Clayton

North Carolina: Andrews, Clingmans Dome area of Great Smoky Mountain NP

South Carolina: Anderson, Orangeburg, Columbia

Why Rent an RV to View the Eclipse?

As any experienced RV traveler can tell you, weather changes occur when you least expect them. Viewing the eclipse in all its glory will require staying ahead of cloud cover or storms. Two planning steps can help you win the race:

  •         Watch local forecasts for the area where you plan to view the eclipse. If heavy cloud cover or storms are predicted, have a Plan B viewing location in mind.
  •         Traveling by RV allows you to change plans quickly. The flexibility to move to a better location as the event approaches may make the difference between awesome eclipse viewing memories and traveling home disappointed.

AAA and El Monte RV Rental & Sales can help you plan the perfect eclipse viewing RV vacation, but you’ll need to act fast. Campgrounds are filling rapidly, so don’t delay any longer making your plans.

Where will you be when the sun goes dark on August 21, 2017?

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A Fulfilling RV Excursion to Mount Rushmore and Points Beyond

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

The Black Hills of South Dakota is an amazing destination for an RV trip. Filled with history and spectacular landscapes of stone, volcanic deposits and granite outcroppings, the Black Hills are perfect for a family on a journey of discovery. Places you have read about in history books come to life. Sculptures that have appeared in publications throughout the world stand before you in all their glory.

Of all attractions in the Black Hills area, Mount Rushmore is the most inspirational. Here you have enormous granite sculptures of the Presidents of our land who strived to keep us free. Carved in 60-foot relief are the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The leadership and visions of these men are memorialized right here.

While here, you can take a tour with a ranger so you can learn historic facts regarding the memorial itself and history of the area. Visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to start your tour. You will also find interactive exhibits for the whole family. Then head out on the Presidential Trail which will take you up close and personal to the faces of these famous men. There are other trails in the area so if you enjoy hiking, you are set for some adventures.

One item you must include on your Black Hills itinerary is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Crazy Horse was a Sioux warrior and defeated George Armstrong Custer during the Battle of Little Big Horn. This statue is not yet complete, but is expected to be the largest sculpture in the world when finally finished.

The Black Hills offer plenty of spots to park your RV and make a temporary home away from home while you explore the region. The Mount Rushmore KOA may be a good bet, with pools, spas and a waterslide to cool off on hot days. You can make this the hub of your vacation and branch out to enter the mountains and forests for fishing, hiking and much more.

Head over to the western edge of the Black Hills to tour Badlands National Park. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you. The rugged beauty must be captured to take home. Wildlife here is abundant and you are sure to see bighorn sheep, bison and cute little prairie dogs.

Custer State Park is another must-see. There are 71,000 acres inviting you to explore and have the time of your life. Again, wildlife is all around. A herd of bison roams freely, and you may even be stopped along the road as they block the way. Four mountain lakes offer superior fishing opportunities. There are trails where you can hike or ride a mountain bike or even a horse.

Up north in the Black Hills, take Spearfish Canyon National Forest Scenic Byway for fabulous views of cliffs, waterfalls and streams. If visiting in August, you must stop at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where thousands of cyclists arrive to explore the Black Hills. It’s a real celebration of our land. Yes, it’s all waiting for you at the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore!

Picture credits: The picture of Mount Rushmore is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Posted in National Parks, National Scenic Byways, South Dakota RV Camping Vacation | Tagged | 1 Comment

Discovering the Black Hills Parkway by RV

Towering rock spires, pine-studded hillsides and dramatic canyon vistas are the things for which South Dakota’s Black Hills are famous. Traveling the Black Hills Parkway by RV combines luxurious comfort with history, outdoor recreation and, above all, scenery. We’d like to share our guide to a Black Hills Parkway RV vacation with our readers.

Black Hills Parkway Stop #1: Custer, South Dakota

Our RV tour of discovery will follow US-385 from Custer, SD to Deadwood. Six hours north of Denver in the heart of the Black Hills, the historic town of Custer, South Dakota is surrounded by magnificent scenery and historic sites. From the prehistoric treasures at The Mammoth Site, to the granite peaks of Custer State Park, there’s plenty to enjoy near Custer.

We suggest camping in one of the state park’s scenic campgrounds and then spending at least a day hiking area trails, enjoying the frontier charm of downtown Custer and fishing at the state park’s pristine creeks and lakes. If underground wonders appeal to you, be sure to visit one of the area’s many caves, including Wind Cave National Park, Rushmore Cave and Jewel Cave National Monument.

Top marks from our clients go to the Crazy Horse Memorial, a long-time work in progress honoring the region’s Native American heritage. We’ll talk about Badlands National Park on another post, but if you’re itching to explore the stark beauty of the badlands on this trip, it’s just two hours east of Custer.

Black Hills Parkway Stop #2: Mount Rushmore

As you travel north on the Black Hills Parkway through the Black Hills National Forest, your RV will meander past towering granite peaks and dense pine forests. Slow down to enjoy scenic overlooks and by all means make the side trip on Hwy 244 to that most iconic of all South Dakota landmarks, Mount Rushmore.

The awe-inspiring beauty of this epic granite monument is worth spending the day discovering. Both the ranger-led and audio tours are excellent ways to view Mount Rushmore. Your RV camping crew should also visit the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village along the Presidential Trail.

Black Hills Parkway Stop #3: Hill City

Just fifteen minutes north of Mount Rushmore is a small town filled with both the history and natural beauty of the Black Hills. Hill City, South Dakota is home to the Black Hills Central Railroad, an 1880s train that takes visitors on a two-hour tour of some pretty amazing scenery.

If you like to hike your way into the hills, why not pick up the George S. Mickelson Trail at Hill City? This 100-mile trek through rock tunnels and the heart of the Black Hills National Forest actually stretches from Edgemont to Deadwood, but the trailhead near Hill City is a good place to start a shorter hike. Surrounded by national forest, Custer State Park and the Black Elk Wilderness, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to hike, bike or photograph near Hill City. A first-rate place to stay overnight while exploring the Hill City area is Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort.

Black Hills Parkway Stop #4: Lead and Deadwood, SD

We should slow down and state at this point that simply driving the Black Hills Parkway is an unforgettable experience. Watch all along your route for big horn sheep, elk and bison and keep your camera ready for amazingly beautiful sights like Harney Peak. The colorful striations, rock spires and pine forests add layers of beauty you’ll want to explore.

We’re on the final stretch of our journey, to two towns three miles apart filled with Wild West charm and significance. Lead (as in “lead the way”) is an historic gem worth getting to know. Founded during the 1870s Black Hills Gold Rush, the tiny town of Lead is big on history and outdoor recreation. Surrounded by ski runs, trails, rivers and forests, the active RV traveler will find a dozen marvelous ways to spend time while in Lead, SD. Campers interested in history will enjoy the Homestead Gold Mine Surface Tour and the Black Hills Mining Museum.

Deadwood, SD, once home to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, offers South Dakota RV travelers the chance to experience the Old West with modern amenities! Play at the town’s three casinos, pan for gold at the Broken Boot Mine or take the Deadwood Trolley to visit historic sites like Mount Mariah Cemetery. No less than a dozen Deadwood area campgrounds offer a full range of options for RV campers.

It’s a wild and glorious ride along the Black Hills Parkway by RV, and one all RV travelers should experience. Let us help you with a Denver RV rental and then head for the Black Hills for a memorable RV vacation.

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Planning Your RV Camping Trip to Wind Cave National Park

In the southern Black Hills of South Dakota is a magical place that’s sure to intrigue science buffs, outdoor adventurers and folks who like RV camping in wide, open spaces. This wonder is Wind Cave National Park, home to one of the world’s longest and best-explored caves. As you begin planning your warm weather adventures, use these tips to chart your RV camping trip to Wind Cave National Park.

What Will You See at Wind Cave NP?

We mentioned there’s an enormous underground cavern at Wind Cave NP, but there’s so much more to experience there. Preserved with the national park’s boundaries are more than twenty eight thousand acres of pristine prairie and pine forests. Wildlife is amazingly abundant in the area, so plan to include bison, elk, pronghorn and about a zillion prairie dogs in your vacation photos. Thirty miles of mapped trails let you get to know this wild and wonderful habitat up close and personal.

But let’s talk about the cave itself. According to the National Park Service, more than one hundred thirty five miles of passages have been mapped here, but more passages are being discovered all the time! As the fourth longest cave in the world, Wind Cave gives visitors an almost endless underground playground to discover.

Ranger-led tours make it easy to explore Wind Cave; we’ve heard the tour through rooms like the Blue Grotto, Pearly Gates and Fallen Flats by candlelight is especially thrilling. Guided cave tours range from moderately strenuous with one hundred fifty steps to the Wild Cave Tour, a four hour adventure away from the more popular cave rooms. Be sure to spend some time at the Visitor Center to learn more about the area’s Native American history, development of the national park and the geology of the cave.

Where Can You Camp Near Wind Cave NP?

Glad you asked! There are private and public campgrounds that accommodate RVs throughout the area. A special note: RV camping on South Dakota public lands sometimes means no hookups, so be sure to plan accordingly. Here are some ideas for RV camping near Wind Cave National Park:

Black Hills National Forest:

  • Bismarck Lake Campground, Custer, SD – no hookups, waste station available in Custer.
  • Hill City, SD Area Campgrounds – there are a number of campgrounds available to RVers in the Hill City area, about twenty five miles from Wind Cave. Use this helpful guide to choose your best accommodation.

Custer State Park:

Wind Cave National Park:

Private Campgrounds Near Wind Cave

It’s time to go underground! We highly recommend an RV trip this summer to Wind Cave National Park. Let us know if we can help with an RV rental, and then start your own exploration of one of America’s most-beloved caves.

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An RV Vacation Through Native American History

For an RV camping vacation that’s a history lesson, as well, consider exploring Native American historical sites. The suggestions below represent just a few of the hundreds of places you can learn about the role of Native Americans in our nation’s history.

Native American History RV Vacation – Four Corners Itinerary
Where the borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, you’ll find a treasure trove of Native American history. In the Four Corners area you can visit Mesa Verde, Hovenweep National Monument, Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Monument Valley.

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde, in southwestern Colorado, is the site of ancient cliff dwellings and spectacular scenery. Winding roads lead to the canyon rim throughout this National Park. You will find numerous lookout points offering amazing glimpses of the cliff dwellings where ancient Puebloans lived for more than seven hundred years! While you’re exploring the wonders of Mesa Verde, park your RV at A&A RV Campground located at the entrance to the National Park, or try the Mesa Verde RV Resort only a half mile away..

North and west of Mesa Verde, along the Utah/Colorado border, you’ll find Hovenweep National Monument. The ruins of six prehistoric Pueblo dwellings dot the canyons of Hovenweep, with towers rising far above canyon walls.

Continue your Native American History RV vacation with a stop in Monument Valley in northeastern Arizona. You’ll probably remember the sandstone buttes and towers from hundreds of Westerns filmed there. Native American guides who live within the valley will lead you off the main trails to sites that mark the legacy of their ancestors.

Your final leg of a Four Corners RV camping trip should definitely include Canyon de Chelly near the Arizona/New Mexico border. The Canyon, completely located on Navajo tribal land, offers an entire vacation’s worth of historical treasures. The windswept canyons and buttes of Canyon de Chelly are home to more than two thousand archaeological sites. Plan to camp at Spider Rock RV Campground in Chinle, Arizona for the ultimate Canyon de Chelly experience.

For RV Rentals to the Four Corners area El Monte RV has you covered with the following locations:  Denver RV Rentals, Phoenix RV Rentals, and Salt Lake City RV Rentals.

Native American History RV Vacation – Northern Itinerary
When you’re ready for another round of Native American history, plan some RV camping in the Badlands and Black Hills of the north central U.S. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana lets visitors relive the battle that claimed the lives of most of the 7th Cavalry Division under Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer in 1876. Here in the place Sitting Bull and several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors were victorious, you’ll find breathtaking scenery and plenty of Native American artifacts to explore.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are home to the Crazy Horse Memorial, where sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began creating his enormous tribute to the Lakota chief in 1948. Come watch as progress on the colossal sculpture continues, and stay to visit the Native American Cultural Center and Indian Museum of North America.

Finish your RV camping trip to find Native American history with a stop at the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota. About fifty miles from the actual site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, the Museum tells the story of the tragic deaths of almost 300 Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge.

As you travel the Badlands and Black Hills, there are plenty of well-equipped RV campgrounds to serve you.  Big Pine RV Campground near Custer, South Dakota is a great place to make camp as you increase your knowledge of Native American history.

Why not learn more on your next vacation about the major contribution Native Americans have made to our history? Turn your motorhome into a rolling classroom and get ready to be inspired!

Posted in Arizona RV Camping Vacation, Colorado RV Camping Vacation, Montana RV Camping Vacation, National Parks, New Mexico RV Camping Vacation, South Dakota RV Camping Vacation, Utah RV Camping Vacation | Tagged | Leave a comment