Trip Planning for Weekenders

Trip Planning for Weekenders

The planning for each of these is different and the planning for each is different:

  1. Two weeks to the Big Bend region of Texas and back
    • Return trips on familiar routes
  2. One month to Parhump Nevada and back
    • New route, unfamiliar campgrounds and we have reservations all the way
  3. Four months (or longer) to Alaska and back
    • Too many unknowns on schedule, campgrounds and roads

For reasons of either duration or distance, the planning for each trip is markedly different.

Two Weeks in Big Bend

We have been to Big Bend a number of times and this trip is somewhat routine:

  • return visit to Big Bend National Park Rio Grande Village Campground with no hookups and no reservations
  • return visit to Davis Mountains State Park with full hookups and reservations
  • familiar routes

The map below shows how I see the possibilities for a two week trip to Big Bend.

BigBend Trip Map - updated-2



 Fuel Stops

I never worried about running out of fuel when driving our 2001 Ford F250 Diesel pulling a 25 foot fifth-wheel.   We used the 18-wheeler fuel isles in truck stops as well as gas stations with turnaround space.

It turns out fueling large Diesel RVs is much easier than fueling large gasoline powered RVs.  Our 32 foot class C motorhome was difficult or impossible to navigate through half the stations in Texas.  When towing our toad vehicle (2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2 Door), we have the additional handicap of not being able to backup without unhitching.  Our challenge was to find gas stations with enough space to enter, fill and exit without having to backup.

I forgot to mention that 18-wheeler truck stop fuel isles only provide Diesel.  No gas.  Some Flying J truck stops have RV islands vending both Diesel and gasoline but they are few and far between.

Getting fuel isn’t a problem for everyone.  I became much more aware and started to keep track of accessible gas stations on routes I drive while owning a motorhome.  When I drive on unfamiliar highways, I’m very aware of my RV’s range and will fill more often just to ensure I get to my destination without undue drama.

Tracking Mileage

Keeping track of fuel mileage allows me to figure out my range.  That is, how far I can safely drive the rig without running out of gas.  Every time I fill my tank, I either get a receipt at the pump or I take a picture of the pump as shown below.  When back in the cab, I take a picture of my dashboard to get the odometer reading as shown above.  Thank goodness for smart phones.  I could also write it down in a notebook but hey, modern times call for modern methods.

2001 Ford F250 Diesel  Mileage from July 2001 through October 2007

Driving Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG)
City without trailer 15.61
Highway without trailer 18.8
Mixed City and Highway, no trailer 16.97818182
Trailer 12.00401869




  • Fuel Tank Size
    • 39 gallons
  • Towing Range Full to Empty
    • 468 miles
  • Safe Towing Range
    • 400 miles

2013 Winnebago Aspect 30C (Ford E450 V10 Chassis) Mileage from June 2012 through December 2016

Towed Vehicle Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG)
None 8.231072548
2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2 Door 7.671531639



  • Fuel Tank Size
    • 55 gallons
  • Range with Toad Full to Empty
    • 421 miles
  • Safe Range with Toad
    • 300 miles

2017 Ford F450 Diesel 4WD Dually from June 2017 through October 2017

  • Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG) with Lance 850 Camper and towing 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2 Door
    • 10 MPG
  • Fuel Tank Size
    • 49 gallons
  • Range with Toad Full to Empty
    • 490 miles
  • Safe Range with Toad
    • 400 miles

How fast you drive has an impact on your fuel mileage.  I have made the same observation in each of my RV configurations:

  • Fuel mileage depends on speed
  • The faster you go, the lower your mileage

For example, driving the above routes at 75 MPH versus 55 MPH decreases gas mileage by two or more miles per gallon.

San Antonio to Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park

We plan to go west on Interstate 10 which turns into US 90.  When we get to Marathon, we will turn south on US 385 and south on Texas 118 at Panther Junction to make our way down to Rio Grande Village.  According to Google Maps, this route is 424 miles.  This is over the safe range but in theory we could make it.  Even though Diesel and gasoline are sold in Rio Grande Village and at Panther Junction (both stations are inside Big Bend National Park), I’ve seen them run out of fuel before.  Marathon has run out of fuel before.  Once we found the Marathon gas station had burned to the ground.   Other stations along the route have also run out of fuel.  We typically fill our tank in Brackettville and Marathon.  If there is an issue with one station, we just stop at the next one.  Both Diesel and gas are available inside the park.

Long Drives

While Google Maps reports the drive from San Antonio to Rio Grande Village takes 6 hours and 56 minutes,  this must be based on the posted speed limits because I’ve never been able to drive it in under 8 hours.  In a motorhome, doing 75 on two-lane highway just isn’t practical or safe.  Also true for fifth-wheels and truck campers.

Our solution was to break these long drives up into manageable pieces.  On our way out west on US 90, we have been stopping on the western side of Del Rio at the Broke Mill RV Park.  We have been stopping there several years going out to and returning from Big Bend.

Since I was a kid, I use a simple rule-of-thumb for converting highway miles into hours driving.  In the lower 48 states, I plan for averaging 50 miles per hour on the road.  That doesn’t mean my average speed is 50 MPH behind the wheel.  It means that with potty breaks, meals and other stops I can safely and comfortably do 400 highway miles in 8 hours.

Based on what I’ve read, driving the Alaska Highway takes longer because of road maintenance, weather, wildlife and other factors.  We are planning for averaging 40 miles per hour on the road.

How many hours I can drive has lots to do with the vehicle.  I could only drive the motorhome for 6 hours per day.   At the end of the day, I was exhausted.

I could do 8 hours with our first truck pulling our fifth-wheel.   I think I can safely and comfortably drive our new truck and truck camper 8 plus hours.   Our next trip will be all the way from our San Antonio home base to the Rio Grande Village campground without the extra overnight stop.  If I can’t drive this far in the new truck, I’ll lower my daily safe driving time rule-of-thumb to fit my experience.

Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park to Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis

Google Maps picks this 146 mile route first

  1. Rio Grande Village
  2. Panther Junction
  3. Marathon
  4. Alpine
  5. Fort Davis
  6. Davis Mountains State Park

With a little ‘convincing’ Google Maps was able to find the 159 mile route we plan to take which we believe is an easier drive.

  • Rio Grande Village
  • Panther Junction
  • Study Butte – Terlingua
  • Alpine
  • Fort Davis
  • Davis Mountains State Park

This drive should take between 2 and 3 easy driving hours and we can fuel up the truck and buy groceries in Alpine.

Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis to San Antonio

We have been to Davis Mountains State Park 14 times for a total of 79 nights.  This is both the most times to any single park and the most nights in any park.  This is our favorite park.  Google Maps chooses the 413 mile route we take most often.  What it doesn’t show is where we buy gas and where we stop overnight.

The route home works like this

  1. Davis Mountains State Park to Fort Davis
  2. Fort Davis North on State Highway 118 to Interstate 10
  3. Interstate 10 East to Loop 1604 East
  4. 1604 East to Interstate 10 West
  5. Interstate 10 West to FM 1516

On the way home we fuel in Fort Stockton and overnight at Buckhorn Lake Resort RV Park outside Kerrville.  If we were driving to Davis Mountains State Park, we would take the same route in reverse and we would still fuel in Fort Stockton.   Instead of staying outside Kerrville, we would stay at Fort Stockton RV Park East of Fort Stockton.

Hope to see you enjoying the road ahead.

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