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Military Camping Across the US with John & Betty Short

Myrtle Beach Ferris Wheel. Photo: The ed17 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the fall of 2016, my wife, Betty, and I took a cross-country RV trip from our Myrtle Beach, SC home to attend two reunions in California.  We left on September 23, 2016 and returned on October 29, 2016.  The portion of the trip driven while towing the trailer was 7,000 miles, and our overall trip covered 9,000 miles.  The primary purpose of this article is to give the readers a glimpse of what camping is like at military installations, but I also briefly mention our other stops along the way.

September 23, 2016 (Fri) – After an intentional late start, we only got as far as a Flying J (Travel Plaza) near Rutledge, GA (292 miles from home).  For those of you who are unfamiliar with RV travel, Flying J is very RV‑friendly and encourages over-night stays in their front parking lot (as do most Walmart locations across the country).

September 24 (Sat) – We traveled 482 miles to the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, MS.  They have a very nice campground conveniently located to the casino and only costs $25/night.  We stopped in Tupelo, MS to visit Elvis’ birthplace – well worth the time and expense!

September 25-26 (Sun-Mon) – Drove 293 miles to Bull Shoals, AR and visited friends for two days.

September 27-28 (Tues-Wed) – Covered 497 miles the first day and 466 miles the second day with an overnight in Salina, KS (at a KOA campground) before arriving at Denver, CO.

September 30 (Thurs) – October 2 (Sun) – We stayed 5 nights (including Wed) at Buckley AFB’s Williams FamCamp in Denver.  This is a fairly new FamCamp; it’s nothing to write home about.  But it is located very conveniently in the Denver area.  They have 38 concrete, pull-thru sites with full hook-ups.  Although they have limited Wi-Fi, a router if offered for a refundable deposit; it provides excellent online service.   At the time we were there, they were having a problem at the FamCamp with no water at the campsite, but they did provide a place to fill our fresh water tank.  It was a bit of an inconvenience, but OK considering the price of $20/night.  The view of the front range of the Rockies is beautiful!

Buckley AFB FamCamp, Aurora, CO.

October 3 (Mon) – We departed Denver for Cimarron, CO (275 miles) in order to visit the Black Canyon at Gunnison National Park.  This is not a large park (in terms of roadways).  Therefore, we only needed a few hours to see it before darkness was upon us.  We would not describe this as a fantastic example of a National Park, but it is well worth the visit.  We’ve been to about two-thirds of the national parks with a goal of seeing them all before we’re done camping.  We stayed at the Black Canyon Campground – very nice.

October 4 (Tues) – We traveled to Beaver, UT (374 miles) with a stop in Gunnison, CO to visit with friends over lunch.  Beaver is on the west side of Utah, just south on I-25 from the I-70 interchange.  Traveling about 100 miles along I-70 from just east of Green River, UT is what I consider the most picturesque scenery on any interstate highway we’ve driven in the U.S. (and we’ve traveled on most)!  There are also three national parks on this route just south of I-70: Canyonlands, Arches, and Capital Reef.  We previously visited the first two, but had no time for any of them on this trip.  We stayed at the Beaver KOA campground – very nice and management was very friendly.

October 5 (Wed) – Set out for Las Vegas, NV (214 miles) and stayed at the Nellis’ Desert Eagle RV Park.  We’ve stayed here before and I consider it one of the nicest RV parks in the country – but I haven’t seen them all.  They have concrete, back-in sites with full hook-ups, and Wi-Fi at all sites.  Currently there are 100 sites with an expansion plan for about 80 more.  With a rate of $22/night, it’s hard to beat (see Ft. Bliss later in this travelogue).  We barely had enough time to have dinner with a friend and to spend a little money at a suburban casino before getting back on the road the next morning.

Desert Eagle RV Park, Las Vegas, NV

October 6-7 (Thurs-Fri) – Drove from Las Vegas to Twenty Nine Palms, CA (229 miles).  We stayed at the Marine Corps’ Twilight Dunes RV Park (the first Marine RV parks we’ve visited).  This is located on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.  I don’t rate this campground very highly because it is more like a long-term lodging for Marine’s with an RV.  There is no office or any other normal amenities on the campground. There is no W-Fi available at the campsites, but it can be found at other buildings on the base.  They have about 70 back-in sites with full hook-ups.  Each site has a storage facility (see photos) – further justification for long-term stays.  Considering that they provide very little at the camp site, one would expect a lower price than $25/night!  But the location is great; we were able to take half a day and visit the nearby Joshua Tree National Park – not great but very interesting.  And the city of Twentynine Palms has some beautiful painted murals.

Twilight Dunes RV Park, MCAGCS Twentynine Palms, CA.

October 8-9 (Sat-Sun) – We traveled to Oxnard, CA (213 miles) to the Fairways RV Resort on the NCBC (Naval Construction Battalion Center) Port Hueneme – Naval Base Ventura County ($30/night).  The campground is very nice, but we did not stay long enough to really evaluate it and its environs (it’s in a wonderful location).  They have 85 concrete, pull-thru sites with full hook-ups, and Wi-Fi at every site.  Unfortunately, our planned stay of four nights was shortened by a medical event and we left after only two nights.  We did take the beautiful ocean drive on Rt. 1 from Oxnard to Santa Monica, seeing beautiful houses and Pepperdine University, with an unbelievable location overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The Fairways RV Resort, NCBC Port Hueneme, CA.

October 10 (Mon) – Enjoyed a brief visit at the Visitor’s Center for Channel Islands National Park in Ventura, CA.  The Visitor’s Center is on the mainland because there are no facilities on the islands themselves.  We planned to take a boat ride around the islands, but could not because of our shortened stay.  Next we headed for Monterey, CA (269 miles) where we stayed the night at Monterey Pines RV Park/Campground (NSA Monterey Bay).  The RV park is old, small, has only 30 sites, and is very retro (dirt sites and few pull-thrus).  It is located on the same grounds as their very nice golf course.  I was unimpressed with the campground, and it is the most expensive military campground we visited — $33/night.

Monterey Pines RV Park, Monterey, CA.

October 11-19 (Tue-Wed of following week) – We set out for Lincoln, CA, via Antioch to leave our trailer at my niece’s place.  The next 9 days we stayed in the home of a dear friend and visited relatives.  We also made a side trip to San Francisco and visited Fort Baker (on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge) – see the seldom-seen photo, shown below, of the bridge from this location.  During this time, I attended one of the two reunions mentioned early on – a fraternity reunion at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

Golden Gate Bridge, View from Fort Baker, CA.

October 20-22 (Thurs-Sat) – We traveled to Campbell, CA via Antioch to pick up the trailer.  We stayed at a friend’s place in Saratoga, CA, for three days.  One day we visited the Pinnacles National Park near Castroville, CA (the artichoke capital of the world).  This is the most recently-designated national park (2013) and in my opinion it should have remained a national monument.  Not much to say about it, it’s mainly for hikers and we’re too old for that.  The last thing on the agenda was attending my 55th high school reunion in Campbell, CA on Saturday.  The next day we headed home, and for the remainder of our trip limited our travel to one day at a time.

October 23 (Sun) – We left for Desert Hot Springs, CA, 450 miles from Campbell, so that we could use the wonderful mineral hot springs (Sam’s Family Spa), which were included with the camping fee.  While at Twentynine Palms earlier in the trip, we made two side trips here to indulge in the pleasure of these enjoyable hot springs.

October 24 (Mon) – Headed for Phoenix, AZ (250 miles) to visit friends and stayed at the Destiny RV Resort on the west side of town: a very nice campground!

October 25 (Tues) – Set out for El Paso, TX (492 miles) and stayed overnight at the Ft. Bliss RV Park.  When we were here a few years ago, they were doubling the size the park.  It is now complete and has 133 sites and an incredible amenities center (with a considerable selection of exercise equipment).  All sites are concrete and pull-thru with full hook-ups and the cost is only $17/night.  The bathrooms were also very nice – individual rooms containing a toilet, a sink, and a shower.  The only negatives about this park are that the Wi-Fi is only available inside the amenities center, and they do not accept reservations.  You also don’t want to be on one particular perimeter of the park that is a very short distance from a major highway. It can be quite noisy!  At this point in time, this RV park has to be the best in the country – in my opinion – but, of course, I haven’t seen them all.

Fort Bliss RV Park, El Paso, TX.

October 26 (Wed) – Traveled to Junction, TX (439 miles) and stayed at the Junction North Llano River RV Park.  We arrived in the dark so I really didn’t see that much of the park.  But, it is very nice.  Did you notice that we could not make it across Texas in one day?  It’s 877 miles across Texas on I-10!

October 27 (Thurs) – Continued to Kinder, LA (477 miles) and stayed at the Coushatta Casino RV Resort.  We have stayed here several times during our travels around the country.  It is has a very nice casino and a wonderful RV park ($20/night).

October 28 (Fri) – Drove to Montgomery, AL (472 miles) and stayed at Maxwell AFB’s FamCamp ($20/night).  They have 69 sites and seems to have been recently expanded.  The older part has paved sites and the newer part has concrete sites – all pull-thru with full hook-ups.  It has Wi-Fi throughout the park, a very nice BBQ pavilion, and a wonderful lake for fishing and boating.  The bathrooms are also very nice – individual rooms containing a toilet, a sink, and a shower – 8 of them in all.  I hope to get back here to spend more time enjoying these campground and facilities.

October 29 (Sat) – Traveled from Montgomery to home (539 miles).  We initially intended to stop at Ft. Jackson at their Weston Lake Rec Area campground.  We have stayed there several times, and over the years they have greatly improved the camping facilities, but it still is relatively small (33 sites) for a military campground.  Some sites are unpaved, whereas the newer sites are concrete.

Weston Lake RV Park, Fort Jackson, Columbia, SC.

One of the nice things about traveling west is that you gain an hour three times.  But, it wasn’t so nice on the return trip east when we lost those hours, each time failing to reach our destination until after dark.  It didn’t help that it also was autumn, with fewer available daylight hours.

I can’t say enough good things about camping on military bases!  The most we paid at a military campground was $33, but most were in the $20 to $25 range.  Whereas, commercial campgrounds usually start at about $30 and most are in the $35 to $45 range.

And, as for the use of any military facilities (around the US and around the world), the cost is “less per day….the military way” with R&R Travel News.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

CAPT John R. Short, USPHS (Ret.)

& Betty Short

Murrells Inlet, SC

NOTE: All photos courtesy of John & Betty Short, unless otherwise indicated.


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