1989 Auto Trail Apache Tours The USA

This story happened on: 30/05/2018

After retirement in 2017 and with the time to undertake some serious travelling, I decided to embark upon an adventure by trekking across the USA in my 1989 Auto Trail Apache.

I shipped the vehicle from Southampton to New York (Newark) in May 2018 and spent the next six months travelling around the USA.  I would have stayed longer but I could only obtain a US visa for a maximum of 180 days.

My journey took me nearly 10,000 miles across the continent from the New Jersey Shore in the east to the Californian Pacific Coast in the west and back again.  During the course of the journey I passed through 29 states, crossed over mountain ranges (including the Appalachians, the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies and the Catskills), forded rivers and drove through deserts (including those in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.  Temperatures ranged from 50 degrees C., in the Arizonan summer, to -4 degrees C. in the New England fall.

Throughout the journey I avoided the interstate highways as much as possible and travelled mainly on the old two lane roads, including the remaining sections of Route 66 in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The main expense involved was the £4,000 it cost to ship the vehicle to the USA and back, but this was partly offset by the relatively cheap price of diesel, which was about half the cost of that in the UK, and the modest charge for accommodation, with many campgrounds charging the equivalent of about £20 per night for full electric, water and sewerage hook-up.  There were also numerous opportunities to "boondock" (wild camp) with many branches of Walmart, for example, allowing camper vans (RVs) to park up in their parking lots overnight for no charge - so long as you arrive late and leave early and don't interfere with customer parking.

The 30 year old Auto Trail Apache coped with the varying road, traffic, terrain and climatic conditions without complaint - sheltering me from wind, rain, hail, frost, sun and searing heat (although I would have welcomed air conditioning on occasions). The 70 horse-power Mercedes aspirated diesel engine (without turbo) coped valiantly, hauling me and my 2.8 tonne home over 11,000 foot mountains, through arid, dustly deserts, deep canyons and dense forests.  My speed never topped 60 miles per hour - but speed wasn't the object of the exercise.  The engine and mechanics never let me down and it always started first time - without fail.

Everywhere I went the Auto Trail Apache attracted crowds of admirers - with people often queuing for a selfie stood next to it.  In California I was even pulled over by a traffic cop because he had "never seen such an unusual vehicle" before.  In the land where Recreation Vehicles have attained a level of refinement that places them in the category of palaces on wheels, with every conceivable mod-con, the simplicity and compactness of the Auto Trail drew many favourable comments and admiring glances.  I received several offers to buy and could have sold the vehicle ten times over.

Both the vehicle and I are now safely returned to the UK and I am beginning to turn my thoughts to my next expedition - to Kathmandu possibly?


N.B.  The vehicle is an Auto Trail Apache

First registered - January, 1989

Base Vehicle - Mercedes 207D

Google map showing location of Newark, NJ, USA

DavidKlyne commented on 17/12/2019 14:39

Commented on 17/12/2019 14:39

That sounds quite an adventure, thanks for sharing. I noticed a month or two ago someone was writing in MMM about a similar trip so the idea of shipping your unit across the pond seems to be getting relatively popular. I have even know people do it with caravans.


USJOE commented on 17/12/2019 15:14

Commented on 17/12/2019 15:14

DavidKlyne, thanks for your comment.  Many people think nothing of transporting their caravans and motor homes to Europe - so why not America?  The reason is probably that they need to spend a significant amount of time there in order to make it worthwhile - and most people in full-time work don't have that much time.  Also, I should imagine, the shipping cost is also a barrier - although it is actually good value.  The cost of shipping my vehicle from Dover to Calais is about £80 and from Southampton to New York about £2000.  The cost is 25 times greater but the distance is 100 times further.  However, this is a very crude comparison and does not take account of the fact that I had to pay to fly to New York because I had to travel separately from the vehicle.  I couldn't find a shipping line that would transport us both.

There are other costs to bear and bureaucratic technicalities to circumvent compared with travel to Europe.  I would be happy to explore these with Club members if they are interested.


footlooserv commented on 14/02/2020 16:53

Commented on 14/02/2020 16:53

Great to hear you had a good time. For others reading this we had an American RV stored in the US and travelled for as little as £642 return for 2 to the west coast to our storage. Without a visa you can neter up to 90 days ulimited times in a year AS LONG AS you travel outside the areas of Canada, Mexico and certain Carribean Islands. Look at facebook for American motorhome lifestyle for europeans for more information. Photo attached is one of our favourite spots free boondocking at Lake Mead near Las Vegas