After living in Los Angeles for the better part of twenty-five years, Ali and I decided in mid-2016 to relocate our family to our native home of Australia. Before we actually pulled up stumps, I wanted us to do one last 'American' holiday … so we headed off for some family RV fun on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
One of my fondest memories as a kid growing up was a road trip in an RV (recreational vehicle) with my family - seven of us squeezed into that bus that rolled and bumped from San Diego to San Francisco … we still reminisce about that trip whenever we get together, 35 years later.
So I decided a trip to the Grand Canyon was a fitting way to close this chapter of our lives and what better way to do it than by way of the iconic American road trip in an RV.
I organised a sleek Class A 36’ RV from Expedition Motor Homes in Los Angeles. Be aware, after all the costs were added up – it was not the cheap and cheerful undertaking I thought it might be.
After an extensive preparation with the Expedition Motor Home team (which they take very seriously, and so should any renter), we filled ‘Bertram the RV’ with provisions and headed off for our four night tour.
I pre-booked 'full hookup RV parks' for our stops a few days before we left. Full hookup means parks where we could connect our motor home to electricity, water – and most importantly! – to the sewer. Every drop of water we used in the sink or otherwise is stored in holding tanks and they fill very fast and need to be emptied, however there’s plenty of these parks and they cost between $60-100/night.
There was no practical training required to operate the RV (all I needed was a valid drivers licence and insurance, which I was able to set up through Expedition Motor Homes). After tackling the freeways of Los Angeles we headed eastward, listening to a Harry Potter book on CD and a few Mumford and Son CDs, we arrived at our first RV park in Kingman, California.
Ali and the kids set about making the beds and preparing dinner and I hooked up the RV – they even had a connection for satellite TV - which I didn't tell the kids about! The RV was luxurious, with walls popping out to create larger areas inside the living room/ kitchen, the master bedroom and the bunk areas. The heater worked like a fury as the temperatures dropped to freezing outside.
In the morning, Ali and the kids showered in the RV, while I chose the extremely clean (and heated) RV camp facilities. Then we were back on the road, bound for Sedona, Arizona. My driving skills and the family’s nerves were tested as we negotiated the 7deg slope and hairpin turns down into the town of Sedona. Here you will find enormous canyons and red rock formations that rise into the sky, and the setting sun reflects on the rock faces, before the evening show of shooting stars begins.
On day three we rented a car to see the famously haunted ex-mining town of Jerome, as the RV couldn't negotiate the winding road that snaked its way into the empty, tunnel-filled hills. There are many original buildings standing and Jerome is now lined with eclectic art galleries filled with Native American treasures, pottery, silver jewellery and gems.
We wandered through Jerome for a couple of hours, before setting off for the Grand Canyon.
The drive to the south rim of the Canyon took us at least another four hours. We arrived in the dark and set up Bertram for dinner and a movie. Ali and I shared a bottle of wine to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and our 25 years in the USA. It was such a privilege to have our children with us … the fruits of our marriage!
In the morning the temperature was well below freezing and the sky was crystal clear ... and we had a 9am appointment with mules! We saddled up with a local tour that took us on a two hour ride exploring the natural magnificence of the canyon. Almost two kilometres deep, up to 29km wide and 446kms long … it was an awesome sight.
The mule ride was a massive highlight for all of us, even though we all had a bit of difficulty walking after two hours or so in the saddle!
Our drive home was one of the most special times I have ever spent with my family. We enjoyed a day full of enlightening conversation, singing and unforced family time. No electronic devices needed. We shared our fears, our dreams, and our desires for the move to Australia.What was happening inside the RV was as amazing as the desert landscape and sunset outside.
It was the trip I wanted to have with my family … a once in a lifetime, money can’t buy experience!
– Cameron Daddo is an Australian actor and radio host. He now lives in Australia with his wife Ali and children Lotus, River and Bodhi.