In Search of Level Campsites and Epic Bike Rides – Volume 1

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My, my, my, another new year starts. 2018 got here so fast, don’t you think?

I once saw a plaque that said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” I really hate how that plaque sticks with me… and is so annoyingly true.

Well, we’ve been on the road a few weeks now, our maiden voyage with Trailer George.

I have mixed feelings about George. He’s so darned handy for carrying all our ridiculous cycling accessories…

…but at the same time he’s a big pain in the ass.

Hmmm, that sounds strangely familiar. Really handy, but a pain in the ass; where have I heard that before?…

With James’ birthday “Mallorca Masochistic Midlife Mayhem” cycling trip looming, I was especially motivated to ensure that every place we stay has some good cycling right out from the campground.

This actually took hours… scratch that… weeks of planning ahead of time. For weeks we spent our evenings visiting cycling and campground websites, reading reviews, bitching at each other over whose idea is better (PS: mine are always better), and building our trip’s Binder of Fun. Although this time around it really should be called the Binder of Suffering. Get it? Because all the bike rides are hard. And we suffer…


We’ve been pretty successful with the rides and campgrounds thus far, with a few snafus here and there… I’ll get to those. So read on as I share some of our hot (and not-so-hot) camping and biking spots. My goal is to document each of the significant rides we do this trip, so expect a few more posts on our campgrounds and rides as the trip continues. Maybe some will intrigue you enough you’ll add them to your own bucket lists! (…or scare you enough to stay far, far away…)


Campground #1: Sand Hollow State Park, Utah

Guys, I just love Southern Utah. Really, I do. So much in fact that whenever we visit I like to nag James about what a happy wife I’d be if we moved there. If you’ve never visited, then that’s just messed up. Point your RVs there right now. I mean it! Put the keyboard down and go hit the road.

Sure there’s the beautiful (and jam-packed) Zion National Park just down the road, and yes we’ve stayed there, too. But Utah’s state parks are really the place to stay if you’re not a fan of crowds. Sand Hollow has reasonably level sites spaced far apart from each other, so you really feel as if you’re more remote than you are. And the best part! You can get an amazing breakfast burrito from the park’s café in the morning!

It was cooler weather, so we bundled up and did a gorgeous bike ride to the St. George airport and back. Here’s the details on that ride from my Strava page, you can click on the picture and go to my Strava to see the pics and stalk me and such (PS come Strava-friend me so I can stalk you back!):

There are so many things to love about road rides in Southern Utah. Since cycling is popular there, they’ve got wonderful shoulders, cars who happily move over, and a tight knit cycling community where 100% of cyclists who passed us waved. A refreshing change from other places we’ve stayed and biked.

We had planned to do a second ride out from that park, one that would have taken us up into the back side of Zion Park with some breathtaking views and excruciating climbs, but woke up to crazy windy no-way-am-I-staying-upright-on-a-bike weather. That’s the great thing about being RVers! You can move! And that’s exactly what we did.


Campground #2: Echo Bay Campground, Lake Mead, Nevada

We didn’t actually stay here; just used it to park while we rolled out on our bikes. The area was sort of strange. It seemed slightly ghost-townish and past its heyday; though there was an old convenience store opened, even though we never saw any cars or people at it. Turns out as the water levels dropped, the resort part of Echo Bay struggled. It is now closed, and the boat ramp is no longer functioning.

Still, the abandoned feel of the place couldn’t detract from the area’s beauty. I’d stay there in the future. That ride was SOOOO worth it…and you can see the pictures I took during the ride on my Strava page, just click the pic:

The ride ended up being 30 miles and over 2,000 feet of climbing, but if you choose to do it, it’s an out and back and you can make it as long or short as you’d like. The views were stunning, the traffic was light, and the hills were rolling…my favorite kind of ride! The only downfall was the intense headwinds going out. Oh yes, and that staple James ran over towards the beginning of the ride; you can see the video of James removing the staple HERE!

Being the smart people we are, we had just switched our tires to tubeless the week prior. Once James pulled out the staple, the tubeless goo instantly filled the hole and we were back on our way. Score 1 for the FitRV!


Campground #3: Lake Pleasant Regional Park, North of Phoenix, Arizona

It was dark when we rolled in to Lake Pleasant, and though we’d made reservations, we had no clue what our assigned site would be like.

Turns out our site could be described in one word: Unlevel. Wayyyyy unlevel. Although now I’ve got two words there. But one isn’t really a word so I think I’m still good.

There were tenters next to us and it was late, so we quietly tried to unhitch George on the hillside.

So with all these things going against us:

  1. our rookie status as trailer owners,
  2. the hillside,
  3. being pitch black out,
  4. us very tired & fussy,

… it probably doesn’t surprise you one bit that George picked this moment to try to escape down the hill.

I was sure I was about to watch James get trampled, because as the trailer started moving, James ran in front of it to stop it.

But, as it goes with James, he somehow was able to get control, and manually wrestle George across our site.

I swear the guy is charmed.

Note to self: We are NEVER getting a 5th wheel.

The road system in Lake Pleasant Regional Park has minimal traffic and is very pretty. It’s great for road biking.

We did, however, want to get a little longer of a ride in than just sticking to the 20 miles of park roads. So, we ventured out of the park.

Bad call.

Turns out the only highway leaving the park is very busy. It also has shoulders that are uncomfortably narrow and in terrible repair. We lasted only a couple miles before bailing, turning around, and heading back in to the serenity of the park roads.

Ended up getting 25 miles in with over 1600 feet of climbing. If you try to repeat our route, stick to the park roads. You’ll still get 20 miles in with some nice hills. Here’s my Strava deets:

And also, if you plan to camp at Lake Pleasant, do yourself a favor and call them for suggestions on sites that are less severely sloping. Be warned, most sites out there are significantly unlevel. But, the park itself is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth visiting.


Campground #4: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, East of Phoenix, Arizona

You can’t go wrong camping at any of the regional parks around Phoenix. They tend to have spacious sites, beautiful scenery, nice showers, and you can make reservations…a big bonus for us.

We really liked McDowell Park. It is famous for its extensive mountain biking trails, and even though we don’t have our mountain bikes along this trip, we felt right at home surrounded by fellow cyclists.

We did have level issues once again with our McDowell spot, but after the Lake Pleasant runaway trailer thrill-ride, it was manageable.

Since James was working that pesky day job of his, I spent an afternoon riding with friends Rex and Valerie. There are tons of road-ride options from the campsite. Rex felt like rolling into the nearby town of Fountain Hills, so that’s what we did.

This was an easy 25 mile ride with 1200 feet of climbing, but we kept a slow pace and chatted as we rode. Way different than riding with James where I can’t spare the air to speak and we’re going too fast to hear each other anyways. So I very much enjoyed being able to see the scenery as I passed!

And at the end of the day, James busted out our CycleOps Hammer trainer and got a ride in at the campsite himself.

It cracks me up the virtual ride he chose to do is his same route he always does back home, Cottonwood Canyon Utah. Change is hard, folks!


Campground #5: Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona

I don’t even know what to say about this place. We thought it would be awesome, but in the end it just felt like we were staying in a parking lot.

Because we were staying in a parking lot.

On the bright side, it was level!

Don’t get me wrong, the place was lovely if you’re an active senior looking for a social RV/park-model community to hunker down at for the winter. And we did enjoy the laundry, the nice showers, and most definitely the gym. But since we weren’t a giant Class A and didn’t have a tow car, which is how they want their residents to come and go, they didn’t quite know what to do with us.

In the final analysis, if we would have stayed in a Walmart parking lot that was next to an Anytime Fitness and a laundromat, it would have been about the same thing. (And a lot cheaper.)

AND THEN there’s the cycling around the Casa Grande area. The riding there would be PERFECT you’re training for a cycling trip to Hell, and you need cracked pavement, broken glass, pit bulls chasing you, and aggressive angry drivers honking and swerving at you.

So naturally, after all that, this was our longest ride so far….65.7 miles of misery.

And with that…

Phew, gang! This has gotten long! I’ll continue it next week. It’ll give me time to recover from the trauma of reliving The Ride of Bumpiness.

Here’s hoping you all are ringing in the new year with health and happiness!

See ya on the road if I’m lucky!




After 15 years as an educator in both the public K-12 setting and the University level in Special Physical Education, Stef made the leap to her true passion… the fitness world. She’s currently a personal trainer and wellness coach specializing in seniors, medical conditions, and injuries. Stef loves running, cycling, and being “Mugga” to her two favorite mini-humans — Punky and Marshmallow. ❤️

    24 thoughts on “In Search of Level Campsites and Epic Bike Rides – Volume 1

    1. Dave Thrower

      Hey James, Stef and Mel,
      We’re Miche and Dave from the UK. We’ve been fans of the site for a couple of years. We’re planning to exit the rat race in a couple of years and travel the world in an RV. Our first taste of the life to come life will be in June when we fly into Vegas and hire a motorhome for 11 days. What are the must see places you’d suggest and is it realistic to get to Yellowstone and back while seeing some of the sights? We’re fit, so up for hikes around the parks and canyons and don’t want to be in the van all day. We’ll still have 4 days in a hotel to explore Vegas at the end. If you or others have time for some pointers that would be really welcome.
      Keep up the good work!

    2. Gordon Yaghjian

      Again, great to see you at Tampa. Love that new Pleasure Way Lexor FL ! Just went to dealer and looked at 2018 Travato 59K. Same Pro Master chassis but interior way different than Lexor. But the price is amazing! Couldn’t get a used Plateau or Lexor for that. Trade off is cabinet and material construction. But yours seems to be holding up OK. Louise likes the Red color. Different. What are your thoughts? Thanks. Hope you had a safe trip.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Hi Gordon, I’m so happy to hear from you! Gordon, come join the Travato Owners and Wannabes Facebook group. It’s 4000 members strong and many of them are Travato owners! They love to share their experiences with prospective owners and will have loads to say about how their rigs are holding up. Our cabinets are like new and we’re very pleased with them. The cabinetry in Travatos comes from an Italian company called Technoform, and they’re made extremely lightweight… very important in RV builds. In the Facebook group you can also see how people have decorated and personalized their Travatos. Seeing them at a dealership, they can look pretty bland. But once you see them “lived in”, it’s a huge difference!

    3. Glenn Roberts

      James, You do the General Van Fleet trail I told you about Saturday at Tampa RV show? Or any other FL bike trails you ended up liking during your visit to FL? Glenn

      1. James

        No – sadly we didn’t take any time to ride.
        We blasted out of Tampa and made it to Hattiesburg, MS for the overnight.

        Next time!

    4. JL

      George is exactly the type of trailer I’ve been looking for to haul recumbent trikes and to function as a bathroom/changing room in a pinch. Could you point me to the manufacturer or was this a local, custom job? Thanks!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        It’s called the “Mini Go” cargo trailer by Sundowner. The pop-top sold it for us; makes it so easy to access stuff while still keeping it compact for towing. Various sizes, we have the 4×6. Easy to pull, we don’t even feel it back there at all. Highly recommend!

    5. aaron turner

      Did you consider a hitch carrier prior to going all out with a towable? It looks like you could have gotten a hitch carrier, modified it a bit by adding an aluminum box that opened end-wise and mount your bikes on top of it and/or still use the carrier you have. Obviously limited to tongue weight which is probably about 300 lbs. Carrier would help with parking and avoid the pita factor of a trailer. Understand you were just curious.

      1. James

        We never considered one at all. Several reasons.
        First: These are rather expensive bikes we’re talking about here. We’re not about to drag them all the way across the country through snow, salt, etc. outside in the road spray. The trailer is enclosed and everyone stays clean and dry.
        Second: I was pretty confident that with just a dongle on the back of the van, I would have crunched it into something in a parking lot – damaging our bikes, van, and someone else’s car in the process. OTOH – I NEVER forget about that trailer back there.
        Third: Never been a fan of hitch mount racks anyway – they bounce the bikes around too much.
        Fourth: I just don’t like the way the hitchy things look.
        Fifth: The trailer is good for more than just hauling bikes. Heck – on this trip, we’re even drying clothes in it!

        1. Greg

          Does gas mileage change with the trailer?

          Speaking of efficiency, James, a NASA guy was recently on PBS TV explaining how ion drive works. I hope you can use it to get Lance in orbit around Jupiter cuz Elon Musk got nothing on you.

        2. James

          Gas mileage is slightly less with the trailer – but only very slightly. Like about 1 mpg or so – maybe less.
          Sure, there’s more drag with the trailer, but we also drive slower, so it kind of cancels out.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        LOL!!! Trust me we’ve kicked it around! We don’t really need any more solar, what we have goes above and beyond meeting our needs…but flexible panels covering George’s roof sure would look cool!

    6. Ted

      Hope you enjoyed the messages on the electronic highway signs in Arizona. Somebody in the AZ DOT is a Sci Fi nerd.

    7. Gwen

      What’s that interesting tent I see outside your van, with the lovely Creme Brulee cat inside? Is it practical for cats who still have all their claws? My two fuzzy buttheads would love to enjoy some fresh air but we need a safe way to contain them outside as they’re not allowed to wander.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        That tent is the Happy Habitat cat tent and I got it on Amazon here:

        But! It is as thin materialed as it appears. Mel does have all his claws, and when we originally got it and were training him on it, he did quite a few freak-outs where he tried climbing it to escape, and the whole thing would collapse on him. He’s since trained us that the only times we can put him in there is when he’s in a calm mood…and we never leave him unsupervised in it.

    8. Carole Van Wie

      I am headed to Utah with my kayak group in March. Thanks for the tips on some camping areas. Planning on paddling Green River and visiting Moab and all the arches. I also plan to up my fitness regime so will be going back to those posts from Fit RV.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Fantastic, Carole! Keep me posted on how your fitness regime goes! With the new year it’s the perfect time to reflect on ways we can improve ourselves and live our best lives. I’ll be rooting for you. And! You’ll love paddling the Green River, it’s so beautiful.

    9. Mike Stanley

      I’m confused – you mention several times that you had leveling issues. But didn’t you just have that auto-leveling system installed by ARV? Were the sites so bad that the system couldn’t handle them?

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Exactly. It took some tweaking, but James has figured out how to handle up to 11” out of level in the front. Some of these sites were worse than that.


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