American workers, happy to be returning to the travel, food and hospitality fields, are welcoming us back with open arms–only six feet away.
We had wonderful feedback after posting several articles about our recent 32-day, 4500 mile roadtrip from the Texas Hill Country through much of the South, Washington D.C. (for July 4th), to part of the Midwest and back.
Like so many travelers, we learned that our preconceived ideas manifested from mainstream news (and the continually changing regulations around COVID-19) were blown away with the reality we experienced.
Reader feedback confirms what we are seeing: routes and destinations are open to travelers, including campers with self-contained RVs, virtually everywhere.
Except in the most restricted areas–as determined by local politicians–most restaurants and stores are open with COVID-19 restrictions varying by state, city and location.
We often have trip themes to help make planning and experiences fun.
For example, our “Elvis Presley Roadtrip” took us chronologically to the King of Rock n’ Roll’s rented house while in boot camp at Ft. Hood, Texas. In Shreveport, we stopped at his statue in front of the venue he played on weekends for the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcasts.
We journeyed up the Delta Blues Highway 61 in Mississippi to Memphis. Graceland, Sun Studio, his first house on Audubon Street and other sites chronicled his life at home. Tupelo, his birthplace, revealed much about his childhood and roots.
Per your requests and shared information, here are updates on more great RV, camper and biker road trips around the country.
East Coast Lighthouses
The Atlantic coast provides picturesque lighthouse themed road trip opportunities. With beautiful beaches and lighthouses dotting the coast, there are comfortably accommodating routes. Some of the best East Coast lighthouses locations include:
Cape Cod, MA
Assateague State Park, MD
North Carolina’s Outer Banks (Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island)
Hunting Island State Park, SC
Tybee Island, GA
St. Augustine, FL
Maine also has several lighthouses, including the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park. But as of today, July 25, 2020, Maine currently has a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for any visitors who are not New Hampshire or Vermont residents.
For the remainder of summer, lighthouses located in the Mid-Atlantic and South will likely be the most accessible.
Route 66 West
In our previous post, we offered information on Historic Route 66 in the Midwest, specifically Missouri through Oklahoma. We’ve since learned the Texas Panhandle through Arizona is fairly wide open.
Going West from Oklahoma, check out the Leaning Britten Water Tower on I-40 at exit 114 in Groom, Texas. The water tower, signage, and geography was the inspiration for the Pixar animated “Cars” movie series. The tower was deliberately constructed to lean to one side to catch our eye and get us to stop in Groom.
Also in Groom, a giant Cross with statues depicting Biblical scenes is garnering much attention.
The Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo is open. (7701 E. Interstate 40 Amarillo, TX 806-372-6000). With souvenirs galore, this famous steakhouse has been a Route 66 icon since 1960. It is home to the “Free 72 oz. Steak.” If you can eat their 72 oz. steak dinner in one hour, you’ll get it free.
After leaving The Lone Star State on the New Mexico border at Glenrio, Texas, Route 66 continued west in its original 1926 alignment, through Tucumcari, Cuervo, and Santa Rosa before turning north for Santa Fe.
From the capital city, it ran southwest thru Albuquerque and Grants to Gallup near the Arizona border.
In later years, it would continue west from the Santa Rosa area through Clines Corner on a more direct route to Albuquerque.
Arizona, always a favorite Route 66 destination, has many miles of original roadbeds still open–and minimal congestion on most segments.
The largest city on this route is Flagstaff, with only about 74,000 residents. Other stops along the way are smaller towns where excellent traffic conditions offer a great Route 66 theme drive in Arizona: Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork, Seligman, Kingman and Oatman.
Some of today’s journey is on I-40, which parallels the old Route 66 in many places. Some RVers drive the segments of the original road where it still remains. Exits from I-40 onto Route 66 are marked in many locales.
Driving time non-stop from Lupton (near Gallup) at the New Mexico border to Oatman is about six hours. We usually split the trip up into at least two or three days, or more if we elect to camp for longer periods of time along the way.
At this point we usually try to carve out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. It’s possible to visit South Rim with day passes at the southern entrances near Tusayan. Limited overnight accommodations are available, so book your campground reservations early.
I don’t have much personal experience with Route 66 in California, although about six years ago I did see an “End of the Trail” sign on the Santa Monica Pier.
American Mountains West
The motherlode of RV road trips for many, a usual America Mountains West tour begins in Colorado. There are good campgrounds all around Colorado Springs. Journeying outside Denver lets you visit Estes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The national parks may have timed entries, so advanced planning is important.
We’re hearing Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is controlling the amount of visitors they are allowing and are busy. Good luck.
U.S. Grand Teton National Park, also in Wyoming, is following a phased reopening too, but one reader said it was fairly wide open in mid-July. She also mentioned Montana’s Glacier National Park is real good since they started increasing recreational access in early June 2020.
Due to the temporary closure of the United States and Canada border, visiting the Canadian or Alaskan portions of the Rockies may not be possible.
South Dakota’s Black Hills
Since President Trump visited Mount Rushmore on July 3rd, the area has welcomed more visitors.
The Black Hills in western South Dakota are good for experiencing a different set of mountains. It’s about a 6-hour drive (390 miles) from Denver to Rapid City. You’re also 7 hours (426 miles) from Yellowstone National Park to Rapid City.
Key Black Hills landmarks include:
Custer State Park
Crazy Horse Memorial
The Black Hills Wine Trail can be a relaxing way to see the Black Hills region. Many South Dakota wineries began reopening in late May. I’m told most are now open.
California is hit and miss and is gradually reopening for tourism. Others are telling us to stay away from San Francisco and Los Angeles for various reasons.
My personal experience has been driving from Napa Valley south along California Highway 1 (CA-1). It allowed us to drive on the lanes closest to the Pacific coastline. It actually is one of most scenic in the state, but I have to admit we drove it in a car, not an RV.
California’s Yosemite National Park is a must-see, but note that you currently need reservations. During the initial reopening phase, the park was issuing up to 1,700 day passes with limited operating hours. As of June 25, 2020, you can visit most of the key landmarks, including:
Other inland California landmarks include the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These parks can be a great option if you want to see more Giant Sequoias than what Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove offers.
Although most states are RV-friendly this summer despite the coronavirus travel restrictions, there are a few cautions. We’ve heard Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Milwaukee and New York City areas are not recommended.
Some states, including Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, are currently only open to regional residents.
Many state and private campgrounds began reopening in May or June. We highly recommend you make reservations to secure your spots. Unlike previous camping seasons, some campground shower and bathroom facilities may not be open, but since June 19th (in the South, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions) they were all available.
However some rest stops had restrooms closed and water fountains off. But they tended to be more open as we moved through July. As RVs are self-contained, you should be okay in most places.