Another thought considering places to see in California that perhaps are less known: Joshua Tree National Monument (or is it a national park by now?) It's in the desert east of Los Angeles and probably offers some hikes you might enjoy - and definitely in terrain very different from what you'd find in Europe! The park has a couple camping areas, no hookups but find for a night or two, I would think. A helpful website for checking into any of the national parks/national monuments, etc. is www.nps.gov. You can search for different parks on there, and the site has information about what to do, where to stay, etc.
Fish Lake is closer, but is not on (or even near) I-90 - probably slower going (due to the aforementioned traffic) to get to the locations you need to go, though any given day the traffic on the interstates and tollways can be backed up too. Either way, you're a distance out. If some of your group is already booked at Fish Lake, you may want to consider being with them, just for the convenience, though all our other suggestions (IMO) are nicer CGs. Not "stupid" to camp, just less convenient than some other choices. I'd sure rather sleep in my own bed when visiting, if given the choice! Good luck to you & to the team!
That's a shame! Glad they didn't do any damage or steal anything else (not that iPads are cheap.) We always lock the camper and truck doors when we stop for a meal, potty break, etc., unless we are actually in the camper (we still lock the truck when we go into the camper for lunch at a rest area.) But there's always that one time...
I think they're like many other popular brands - some lemons, some especially good ones, nothing huge to complain about as a general rule. We had ours (see sig) for 6 years and did very extensive traveling. Had some trouble with wheel hubs, and as a consequence, had to replace an axle and repair another, but that may have been as much from improper maintenance procedures as from problems with the original equipment. Other than developing some difficulty with the TV/stereo system the last couple years, no complaints; we really enjoyed this trailer and found it very comfortable.
As you can see, we had no problem with buying another Forest River product when we decided to downsize a bit.
The Tundra is a full-size truck, and it pulls and brakes great. (Sorry, jimtandem, your prejudice is showing. :) ) However, the Ram 3500 will be a more versatile tow vehicle for you, with probably less wear & tear on it from towing, because it is such a beast. We love our Tundra, but it does have limitations, particularly payload. For the size trailer you're considering, to have a lot fewer worries about weight, etc., I'd recommend you go for the 3500.
Cliffside is a nice park but has the disadvantage, which it shares with state parks, of having no full hookups. Staying "a week or so" means you'll be having to leave the campsite to dump periodically (unless your MH has huge waste tanks!) :)
That said, state parks in the area are a good option, though some may be booked solid on weekends, as reservations open 11 months in advance for Wisconsin parks. Some nice parks we have enjoyed that are within 50 miles of MKE: Kohler-Andrae SP near Sheboygan, Point Beach State Forest outside of Two Rivers (also a good base for Door County), and Richard Bong SRA west of Kenosha; there's also Harrington Beach SP between Sheboygan & Milwaukee. All of these except Bong are right along Lake Michigan (so is Cliffside, which is a county park). Any of them - with the dump situation noted - would make a good base camp for Milwaukee as well as other things to do in southeast Wisconsin.
Lots of good suggestions for sightseeing. There's a tourist "trolley" in Savannah that we enjoyed. In Charleston, don't miss the Battery (the old downtown by the water), and if you are at all interested in the Navy or military history, Patriot's Point is wonderful. Middleton Gardens and several of the plantations are great too. (We lived there for a year, but it was many, many years ago. :) )
We have camped at Oak Plantation CG and found it to be quite nice. Didn't go to James Island and noticed that the route in goes through some streets that I didn't think I'd have wanted to tow a big trailer through - but perhaps that's just me. Oak Plantation is a private CG, FHUs and elec-water hookups available. Some of the sites are a bit more spacious than others, but on grass so can be a bit muddy if the weather's wet.
Don't miss Savannah downtown - the trolley tour is great, you can walk some of it, etc. Very different from Charleston but both are lovely old towns & didn't suffer major damage during the "late unpleasantness" in the 1860s. :) (Thankfully!) Also worth seeing around Savannah is Ft. Pulaski.
Not just south of Indy, but no more than an hour south, there's Woods & Waters CG (near Seymour?) I believe they might be open year-round. Nice wooded CG, some pullthrus and some back-ins. The CG was a GS member, last I knew.
MTBob, a small-ship cruise in Alaska is bound to be quite pricey, but it is a fantastic experience if you can swing it. The line we cruised on is (very) sadly no longer in existence, but there are others. American Safari Cruises has been operating for quite a few years now, and experience in the area counts. We have never taken the ferry, but that might be a great option for you.
You might consider booking through a travel agent who specializes in Alaska and/or cruising - especially if they are familiar with the various small-ship lines. They will know, probably more than you can tell via various websites, what each cruise line's atmosphere and focus is, and may be a big help in choosing the trip that's right for you.
Incidentally, our fellow passengers on our small-ship cruise were more focused on what we all came to see - Alaska - than on making friends with each other, and that's ok. Despite not having made any longtime fast friends, we still have very fond memories of the experience.
Good advice from handye9, to check on your truck's capacity before choosing a camper. Payload limitations may also preclude a truck camper, even more so than a trailer; your best bet - do your homework on what you have already.
Another alternative to consider: sell the truck you have in Hawaii, save the shipping cost and buy one on the mainland when you arrive. (For various reasons, I don't necessarily recommend buying a vehicle in California. :) )
It's not true that every 1/2-ton (150 & the like) pickup is not capable of pulling a trailer, but it is true that there is a wide variation in 1/2-ton truck towing and payload abilities. Good luck with your plan!
In no particular order, and not differentiating between national parks, monuments, historical parks, lakeshores, etc.:
Great Smoky Mts
Glacier Bay (AK)
Great Sand Dunes (CO)
Sleeping Bear Dunes (MI)
Indiana Dunes (IN)
Washington DC monuments & parks – Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Korean War, Vietnam War, FDR
Craters of the Moon (ID)
Virgin Islands NP (St John, USVI)
Misty Fjords (AK)
Statue of Liberty
Wind Cave (SD)
me only: Rocky Mountain
hubby only: Carlsbad Caverns
I guess we've done pretty well. I probably left some off - just doing this off the top of my head. More to see!
A local CG operator once told me they have a similar rule, but it's mostly to keep out the derelict types, because that tends to turn off (and turn away) other potential campers. They don't publicize the rule either. I think it's unfortunate since it eliminates a lot of folks who need a place to stay, most of whom are good folks and good fellow campers.
Welcome! I will say I learned almost everything I know about towing, weights, etc. from this forum. Good points about patience and the "few cranks," but those are minor challenges. It's a good place to be. Enjoy getting into RVing!
I've been there, attempted to tow a 21' hybrid that typically averaged ~ 4000 lbs loaded and ready to camp with our 4.0L V6 Explorer ... sure it towed it but so too could a lawn tractor. In reality, out on the highway that V6 could barely get out of it's own way .. Our experience wasn't quite that bad, but somewhat similar; we had a V6 Explorer of 2002 vintage, pulled a popup very happily with it but then upgraded to a hybrid (HTT) trailer. What a difference! Living in the flatlands then, we took it out to the Badlands once, and driving into a fairly stiff (25-30 mph) headwind, we had difficulty maintaining 55 mph (in a 70 mph zone), and our gas mileage plummeted to something on the order of 6. We knew we'd never get this combo into the mountains, so we upgraded the next year to a big V8 1/2 ton pickup. MUCH better.
IMHO, bottom line is don't plan to tow more than 6500 lbs. considering you'll have four people in the truck and probably some stuff in the truck bed.
I totally agree with this. For 6 years, on some extended trips (5000+ miles, 5+ weeks), we towed a 34-foot, 7500-GVWR trailer with our Tundra. Length and weight were not an issue for our truck's engine and brakes, any more than any trailer would have been, but I knew that we were at the upper limit. Only 2 of us along, but we carry pretty much gear with us in the truck, and we were over our truck's GVWR (though not over the axle ratings) with the old TT. For various reasons, only one of which was related to towing, we downsized the trailer last year and as the driver I am much happier; our current TT is 8' shorter and 1000 lbs lighter (GVWR) than the previous, and it just seems to "fit" the truck better. We also added LT tires to the truck a couple years ago, and have been happy with those results too - much better than the street tires we got originally. And we also have an Equal-i-zer (brand name) hitch, which has been working very well.
Years ago, someone on this forum once described the Tundra as "more engine than truck," and I would tend to agree. The engine is a beast and can pull more than the much-vaunted 10,000-lb tow rating, but the weak point is the low GVWR of the truck itself.
As for campers, for your family a hybrid trailer might make sense, and you might give those a look. Jayco and Rockwood make them, among others, and are popular brands. If you want a fully-enclosed trailer, then I'd suggest a model that has a set of bunkbeds for the kids. Unless your kids are really small, sleeping on a dinette won't work very well - they're usually enough to hold two people under 4'6" comfortably. :)
P.S. Hi, aftermath. Nice to see you still on here, and still with your Tundra as well. :)