Our first cross country camping trip – in 1985!

A new Toyota mini van + 2 tents + 2 parents + 2 kids = 2 weeks of fun!

We’ve had some wonderful adventures since we began traveling in our fifth wheel nine years ago but our first cross country journey when our kids were 14 and 10 will always be one of my favorites.

Way back in 1985, over twenty years before we bought our fifth wheel, we packed up our new mini van and and set out on a trip from Georgia to the Grand Canyon South Rim, about 2600 miles each way. We had been taking our kids camping around Georgia and Florida many times but this was the first time we ventured west.

Our plan was to drive as far as we could each day and stay in motels until we got to the Grand Canyon. Loaded down with two tents, coolers, and all the camping gear we owned, we were ready for anything.

Our longest driving day of the trip was on our way to the Grand Canyon when we drove 694 miles across Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  Once we reached Arizona we slowed down to take the scenic drive through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks.

Our Campsite at the Grand Canyon South Rim in 1985
Our Campsite at the Grand Canyon South Rim in 1985

Of course the highlight of the trip was at the Grand Canyon South Rim. After setting up camp we went exploring and planned a hike on the Bright Angel Trail for the next morning. Keep in mind we were there the first week of July and it was HOT!  With backpacks filled with water, trail mix and other snacks we set off down the trail early in the day. Going down into the canyon was fairly easy. The temperature kept rising as we got deeper into the canyon and my daughter and I decided to return to the rim while Henry and our son continued on to Plateau Point (about 5 miles from the rim) where there is an overlook into the canyon and a view of the Colorado River.

Going up was hard. There were few places to sit and rest and almost no shade. When my daughter and I got back to camp we  went in the tents and collapsed on the cots hoping to cool off.  After a short rest we were no cooler so we went to the snack bar for air conditioning and ice cream. We were well rested when the guys got back.

On our return trip to Georgia we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns before driving all across Texas, this time on I-10 instead of I-40. We spent a night in New Orleans and visited the Tabasco Factory before stopping at a beach front hotel in Ft. Walton Beach. We all enjoyed the huge swimming pool and finally felt cool!

I recently came across a log I kept of our trip. We drove a total of about 5200 miles and spent a whopping $321 on gas!

We travel much differently these days. We have the luxury of being able to take our time and rarely travel more than 300 miles in a day. We set up our fifth wheel and usually stay 2 or 3 nights in each location. And we can turn on the air conditioner and go inside to cool off  without leaving our campsite!

24 thoughts on “Our first cross country camping trip – in 1985!”

  1. What fun memories. It’s always entertaining to look back on those memorable road trips and as much fun as they were at the time, I love traveling with our home in tow. Makes life much more relaxing and easy. These days, I can’t fathom the thought of overnighting in a hotel. Thanks for sharing your fond memories.

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  2. Fun to remember those amazing trips. Our biggest adventure was a 3 week tent camping trip in the early 90s with our elementary school aged daughters in our Ford conversion van to the Pacific NW and CA and back to CO. We went to 17 national parks and monuments. They now wear it as a badge of honor. It was wonderful. Looking forward to more of those adventures when we have our 5th wheel. Enjoy your 2016 travels!

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      1. Yes, that pace and all the tent camping we did for many years would probably be way too much for us now. I think we’ll be moving at a much slower speed. Need time for my coffee in the mornings. 🙂 The funny thing is, one of the first things both our daughters did as young adults was buy a tent. I love that! I’d bet your kids have the same fond memories of their childhood travels.

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  3. I loved hearing about your first cross country trip. Mine was in 1972 with two NJ friends who were school teachers, and both wre about five years older than I was. We went to so many National Parks… Drove Rte 1 across Canada. I just found the cache of postcards I sent to my folks when we packed up for our recent move to new house. I need to find the photos and scan them. It was a wonderful trip with two girlfriends, a New Plymouth Duster, and a tent. We were out west for 11 weeks, till it was time to head back to school/college. This trip gave me a taste of camping, exploring and adventure that John and I have shared and enjoyed all our married life.

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  4. Listening to your story brought back so many memories of similar-but-different trips of my family’s when I was young, and when our daughter was young. Travel IS an amazing way to make memories.

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  5. What a great trip for your children! We only did one long car trip and stayed in motels. We went from PA to Colorado. We just stopped where we wanted. Our deal with our daughter, who was only interested in the pool, was that we would tour in the morning and have her back for the pool by 2:00. That way we all stayed happy:) Our son didn’t join us because he was going to Costa Rica with grandmother! Thanks for sharing your memory. It was fun reading:)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. I love your compromise of having a set time to be back for some pool time each day. I’m sure everyone enjoyed having some time to relax after sightseeing all morning.

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  6. What a magnificent memory for you!! Your brand new mini van packed to the gills. And I am sure a few phrases… “Are we there yet?” or “Wow, look at that!”
    This post reminds me of a cross country tour in a rented van. It even had a tv for the kids to play games in. Oh I could go on and on with story after story!!
    Thank you for those fabulous memories flooding my brain today. What a great way to start the day!

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    1. So glad this post brought back good memories for you. We heard those phrases plus others like “When are we going to eat?” We had to break up a few squabbles in the back seat, too! This trip was way before tv’s in the back seat. The van had a sun roof and we had fun when we stopped by opening up the sun roof and standing on the seat to stick our heads out the window.

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  7. I love this post. We had a similar trip in 1983, when we packed up a Chevy van with our two kids and a dog and drove from Alaska to Massachusetts, camping the whole way. We visited Yellowstone, the Black Hills, Upper Peninsula, Niagara Falls … Great memories.

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    1. We chose to stop at motels because it took such a long time to set up and break down camp each day. We also made a pact before we left not to eat any fast food and we enjoyed some wonderful local restaurants along the way.

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  8. 21 years had passed and this still seems fresh in your memory, huh? I loved reading every bit of it; I wonder how I would look back at my camping trips after 20 years. And I’m thinking how different traveling or camping would be by then. 🙂

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    1. Thank you! We have so many fond memories of camping with our children. We have seen many changes since we started RVing. Nine years ago there were no smart phones, cell service wasn’t very good in a lot of places, and many campgrounds didn’t have wifi. All we had was the Woodall’s campground book and the Rand McNally atlas!

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  9. Loved reading this. It brought back memories. We hiked the Bright Angel Trail in 1983, slept in the dorm at the bottom and hiked back up the next day. It was hard back then, would kill me today! Thanks for posting.

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  10. Your first trip sounds wonderful even if it did get a little hot at the Grand Canyon. What a wonderful adventure. In 1983 we drove from Michigan to California pulling a U-Haul. It was not nearly as much fun as your trip but we did take time out to see the Grand Canyon. I’ve been back once since then and really want to go again only this time to the north rim and the glass bridge! Thanks for sharing.

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  11. You’re inspiring me for our planning GC trip next year. Sometimes I think about some of the difficulties that may occur during the trip, but I need to remember that we used to do things like this with far less in the past!

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