Where To Sleep During A Long-Haul Road Trip: Putting A Price On Your Safety

campingAs you may have gathered from my last few posts, I spent the second half of July and first week of August living out of my car during a relocation from Seattle to Boulder. En route, I had a family vacation on the Klamath River in Northern California, and business trips to the Bay Area and North Carolina, which is why I was in limbo.

I’ve road-tripped and relocated across the West many times, and love the time alone with my thoughts and enjoying the scenery. Now that I’m in my early 40s, however, I’ve become more wary about where I choose to spend the night. I’m still on a tight budget, but this increasing awareness is a direct result of life experience, and my obsession with TV shows like “Forensic Files.”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, someone who is truly fearful wouldn’t travel or drive cross-country alone. They certainly wouldn’t elect to drive Nevada’s notorious Highway 50, aka “The Loneliest Road in America,” but that’s what I did last week (anything to avoid the mind-numbing hell that is Highway 80). Allegedly, less than 200 drivers a day pass on this route, so one needs to plan accordingly.

Highway 50 is mostly high desert landscape, broken up by a handful of historic mining towns like the curiously appealing Austin. Located seven hours east of the Bay Area, this is where I chose to spend the first night of the final leg of my journey, in the rustic but comfortable Cozy Mountain Motel.

Although I was desperate to save money (my room was $60, and of the three motels in town, it had the best reviews … I also use the term “town” loosely), I didn’t feel safe camping alone in such a desolate region. It’s a shame, because the nearby primitive Bob Scott Campground, in the sagebrush and Piñon pines of the Toiyabe National Forest, is a beauty. Yet, due to its isolation and handful of sites, it wasn’t the place for an exhausted, solo female to spend the night.arches national parkThe next day, I had a grueling ten hours on the road before I hit Green River, Utah. Green River isn’t the most savory place, but it’s a popular jumping-off point to Moab/Lake Powell/Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks.

I was so wiped out when I arrived that I chose the first campground I saw: a KOA, which is the type of place I usually go to great lengths to avoid. At that point, all I cared about was a shower and rest, and because it was a glorious, hot desert night, I planned to sleep under the stars. Expediency meant more to me than dealing with setting up a tent in a less generic campground.

I walked into the office and asked the very friendly girl behind the counter for a tent site. Upon driving to the location, I discovered several things that didn’t thrill me. It abutted a vacant lot separated only by some sparse vegetation. Next to the lot was a rundown Motel 6. To my right were a few unoccupied, dusty campsites and open highway. Um, no thank you.
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I scouted the mostly empty campground (which was primarily RV, and not tent, sites) and chose a location between two motorhomes, which was backed by a chain-link fence. Then I returned to the office and explained that I didn’t feel safe in my assigned site, and could I please have X or X location?

No problem. The receptionist said she understood, and proceeded to tell me a horrifying story about a recent encounter her mother had had in the town park with a drug-addled freak. She didn’t even charge me the higher RV rate.

An hour later, I was sprawled happily on my sleeping bag, reading, when the receptionist and her employer, a crotchety old man, whizzed up in a golf cart. She looked uncomfortable as he sniped at me for being in an “unauthorized site” because I was in a car. I was ordered to come to the office to rectify the situation immediately. Sigh.

Back behind the counter, the poor receptionist apologized profusely, and I shrugged it off, saying I’d rather pay more to ensure my safety. A manager was needed to get into the system and charge me accordingly, and when he showed up at the office, she explained the situation. He was clearly more interested in returning to his happy hour, so I was permitted to remain in my present location, free of extra charge.

Needless to say, I remained unmolested during the night, and although I was embarrassed by the musical campsites, the entire experience reinforced that it’s best to listen to your gut. Always insist upon putting your safety first.

[Photo credits: tent, Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography; Arches NP, Flickr user Fikret Onal; Jason, Flickr user Stinkie Pinkie]

Explore Lake Powell by houseboat this fall

When the Glen Canyon Dam was built back in 1966, it created Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in the United States behind Lake Mead. Covering more than 250 square miles in area, Lake Powell falls along the border of Utah and Arizona, a spectacularly beautiful region of the country that offers picturesque sandstone cliffs, winding canyons, and sun drenched vistas. It is truly an amazing natural setting that is best explored by boat, or better yet, by houseboat.

With the fall travel season just around the corner, Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas is giving travelers a chance to experience an interesting combination of luxury and adventure by discovering everything that the lake has to offer via a houseboat. Heading into their peak season, the resort is offering an unprecedented 40 percent off boat rentals when booked before Sept. 15th, which makes this trip as affordable as it has ever been.

Lake Powell has a lot to offer visitors, including hidden beaches, great fishing, kayaking and even hiking trails that will take you into the Pueblo cliff dwellings. You can be as active or lazy as you choose, while discovering everything that his aquatic playground has to offer. Best of all, the fall weather is generally very good, making this a great warm weather escape when the cooler temps set in.

The luxury houseboats have all the amenities you would expect, and more. For instance, they come with fully equipped kitchens, comfortably sleep 12, are fully stocked with plenty of towels and linens, and include deck chairs, and water slides. The top of the line models even have state rooms with queen sized beds, hot tubs, wide screen HDTV’s with satellite television, outdoor gas grills, and wine coolers as well. All the comforts of home, and then some.

To book one of these houseboats, and take advantage of these great discounts, click here. Then start planning your fall escape to an unexpectedly beautiful and comfortable destination.

Charlton Heston movie trivia and travel

When I read that Charlton Heston died last night, an image of him parting the Red Sea as Moses crossed my mind. “The Ten Commandments” was on TV just two weeks ago. While channel flipping, I came across it and he was just getting ready to hold up that staff. According to the New York Times article, the scene where he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandment tablets was filmed at Mount Sinai.

Planet of the Apes” has several locations you can also go to and might recognize if you watch the movie. The scene with the top of the Statue of Liberty resting in the sand was filmed in a cove near Point Dume at Zuma in Malibu. The rest of the desert scenes were filmed around Lake Powell (where the spaceship crashed and the crew went to land), Glen Canyon and Page, Utah. I’ve driven through these places and they are gorgeous. I can imagine back in the 60s they were less traveled than today. Malibu Creek State Park was where the ape village was built. Fox Studios use to own the property. Here’s Charlton Heston’s World, a Web site I came across that has several “Planet of the Apes” photos and audio clips.

Other trivia. If you head to Rome, you’ll be near where the chariot race in “Ben-Hur “was filmed at Cinecittà Studios and the Sistine Chapel where Heston played Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy.

As an interesting aside, not movie related, Charlton Heston was involved in the Civil Rights March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. With Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination 40 years-ago, just the day before yesterday, and Heston’s death the day after, that struck me. I don’t know why. It just did.