As much as I love to boondock in remote places, the artist and history buff that I am makes me seek out new adventures and explorations. Simply put, I love to explore historical places, museums, art galleries, and even the quirky parts of past and present Americana.
Have you ever wanted to visit major metropolitan areas of the country, but knew getting your motorhome or towable RV in and out of those areas would be problematic due to its size, maneuverability or parking costs? If your answer is yes, then you’ll want to follow my next series of articles where I’ll share some of my tips on visiting those areas while still boondocking, saving money and enjoying a great adventure all at the same time.
One of my favorite places in this great country is Washington D.C. as well as its surrounding historical communities such as Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, and numerous other historical sites that were influential during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War eras. In this first column of the series, I’ll share some of my secrets on how I take advantage of these areas without driving my rig there and how I saved money doing just that.
Finding the right campsite and planning your transportation to and from Washington D.C.
One of my favorite websites when looking for free, reasonably priced and even full service campsites is FreeCampsites.net. They’re always a good source for finding a place to stay near where you plan to visit and quite often, they’ll also offer reviews or recommendations on those accommodations.
For example, the last time I visited Washington D.C., I stayed at Pettigrew Wildlife Management Area which is operated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Pettigrew Wildlife Management Area is in Caroline County, 15 miles southeast of Fredericksburg. It is accessed from U.S. Route 17 between Fredericksburg and Port Royal via State Route 615 or 614.
While not free camping, Pettigrew does require a payment of $4 per night or an annual state of Virginia pass fee of $23, which would be money well spent if you plan on spending several nights exploring Virginia, its history and its beauty. At this site, I could stay for up to 14 days, although I only stayed for five days and visited the city of Washington D.C. twice during my visit utilizing local transportation and Amtrak to facilitate my visits to the historical sites and museums of the D.C. area.
Making your way into the city
Pettigrew Wildlife Management Area is located less than 15 miles from Fredericksburg, VA and its Amtrak station. The area is also well serviced by private car services such as Lyft or Uber, so making your way to the local train station for a short hop on Amtrak into Washington D.C. is easy, affordable, and convenient.
As you can see by the schedules, there are at least five trains a day going into the city and six trains returning to Fredericksburg. Most of the trains take about an hour and half to reach the city, however the returning trains are about 15-30 minutes faster when you are traveling back to your rig. The cost of your tickets is $16 a one-way coach fare and $38 for a one-way business class fare. To be honest, for this short of a train ride I would pay the coach fare simply because you’re not likely to eat or drink $22 of complimentary soft drinks and snacks on a 90-minute train ride.
What to do in Washington D.C.
There’s so much to do in this city that the possibilities are almost endless to include here. The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are very impressive to visit as is the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court and the Library of Congress buildings.
Other sites would include the Smithsonian Museums which are free to visit and are loaded with beautiful exhibits, and the National Gallery of Art is always worth a stop as well.
While most of these attractions are located along the National Mall, there is plenty to see and do outside of this area too. A good example of this, is to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where the eternal flame at President John F. Kennedy’s grave is located as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that is guarded around the clock by U.S. Marines.
As with most metropolitan areas, Washington D.C. is especially hard to visit in a one-day trip. Personally, I recommend leaving the RV in a setting that you trust and spending the night in a local hotel in Washington D.C. so you can take in more of its ambiance and beauty the following day.
In the next part of this series, we’ll look at the best way to boondock, and still visit Chicago, IL or perhaps Milwaukee, WI in the same day. Thanks for following along and safe travels to you all.
If you don’t own an RV and want to rent one, read our article on the top RV rental companies first.