Tuesday, September 28, 2021


Useful RV applications of Google Earth, Part 5: Stops and drops along the way

This is the fifth installment in the series on the many useful RV applications of Google Earth.

In the first installment we reviewed the useful RV applications of Google Earth when deciding, in advance, what RV Park or campground best suits your needs and preferences, along with advance navigation clues/difficulties. In the second installment we looked at useful RV applications of Google Earth/Maps to determine vertical heights (aka low clearances). The third installment covered useful RV applications of Google Earth/Maps for locating fuel stations that are RV friendly and looking at ingress/egress options. In the fourth installment we looked at useful RV applications to locate and preview dump stations.

In this installment we will look at useful RV applications of Google Earth to find places to safely stop and drop an RV along a route.

Stops along the way

If you are like me, you enjoy stopping to see the sights along the way to your chosen campsite for the evening. However, knowing there is a space large enough to safely park your RV where you would like to stop can be challenging. Knowing where those parking spaces are in advance not only allows you to plan the stop into your itinerary, but also provides the needed information on how to navigate to that spot and approach it via the correct lane of travel. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

My wife and I like to visit waterfalls during our RV travels. During one trek there was an unsigned waterfall we wanted to visit off Hwy 140 in northern Nevada along our route. The listing of the waterfall warned of limited places to safely pull off the highway to view it. In fact, the listing only gave a vague description of the location of where it was located along a twisty section of two-lane highway.

Google Earth Satellite View

Using Google Earth Satellite View I was able to quickly locate the exact location of the waterfall. I then viewed the shoulders of the highway in both directions from the falls. By using the scale function (covered in an earlier useful RV application installments), I was able to find the only spot on the shoulder of the highway that was long enough (more than 50 feet) and wide enough (10 feet) to accommodate our travel trailer and tow vehicle while we got out of our rig to view the falls.

I then took a look via Street View to verify that the intended parking spot had no obstructions (no parking signs, barricades, mileposts, etc) preventing us from parking there that I couldn’t see via Satellite View. Since the falls are not readily visible from the highway and not signed, I would have had no clue on where to look or park had I not “viewed” them via Google Earth and captured the coordinates in advance.

useful RV applications of GE finding stops
RV parking and waterfall location

We also like to visit places in towns

Similarly, we like to visit sights (okay, thrift shops, too) within the city limits of small- to medium-sized towns we pass through. By using Google Earth I can determine what our parking options are in advance of arriving. It might be the parking lot of a nearby grocery store, school (when school is not in session), possibly onsite at the place we would like to visit, or street parking along the curb in downtown areas.

One trick I use when looking at street parking is the time of day and day of the week. When I see open stretches of curbside parking via Satellite or Street View, I determine the approximate time of day (morning, afternoon or evening) the photo was taken by looking at shade and shadows. I can also determine the day of the week the photo was taken via the date listed on the bottom of the screen in Satellite View. I can then gain additional time of day and day of the week information by viewing older satellite photos via “historical imagery.” Now I have a pretty good idea (time of day along with weekdays or weekends) of when and where street parking will most likely be available.

Curbside Parking
Available curbside parking Three spaces long is just the right length. Another useful RV application: The shadows tell me it is mid-morning when this photo looking north was taken.

Lunch stops and breaks

We all stop along our route for meals and breaks. Rather than hope for a nice, convenient, level spot along the way to pull off, use Google Earth to preview what lies along your route and know where the best spots are in advance. Trade noisy, unlevel, unshaded rest areas or unlevel narrow highway pull-outs or off ramps for a wide, level, shaded spot along a river, the shade of mature trees along a lush grassy parking strip in a level* church parking lot or many other locations. The options are endless and can be “seen” and evaluated in advance via Google Earth.
*Use the elevation feature to determine level as covered in Part 1 of the series.

Lunch stop
Google Earth allowed me to find this nice lunch spot on the river just off I-84. Beats most any rest area!

Bonus stops

User submitted photos indicated by white rimmed blue circles are often worth a stop. I always click on these photos along my intended route to make sure I don’t miss something of interest. It might be a beautiful vista, a quirky roadside attraction like the “International Car Forest” or a historic structure. Once found via Google Earth, I capture the coordinates and add it to the items to see and do on our itinerary.

Satellite Image
A plethora of blue circles likely means there is something worth seeing


Sometimes the point of interest we would like to visit is up a dirt side road not suitable for our travel trailer, or a popular attraction unlikely to have enough available parking to accommodate our truck and travel trailer. In this case, I “look” at the junction via Google Earth to see if there is an adequate area to drop my travel trailer while we go exploring in our tow vehicle. If there is not a suitable area at the junction, I will work out from the junction until one is located.

Junction in road
Spot to drop the travel trailer while we drove the tow vehicle up a narrow side road to Pine Creek Falls

Other times we like to spend the day in tourist towns where finding a campsite is nearly impossible in season. In this case, I will locate a level place (to keep the absorption refrigerator happy) to legally** drop the trailer for the day while we drive our tow vehicle around town seeing the sights. My usual “go to” sites are street parking in front of a school (when not in session), a church (not on Sundays) or other “semi-public” location in a nicer residential neighborhood (never in front of someone’s home).
** Use Street View to look for parking restrictions.

Here are some tips for keeping your RV secure when you drop it and go exploring in your tow vehicle or dinghy.

Hopefully, you have discovered one or two more useful RV applications of Google Earth you hadn’t thought of or realized existed. If you know of a useful application I failed to list, please share it with others by using the comment box below.



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16 days ago

I used Google Earth when I was going to a Bruce Springsteen concert at Quicken Arena in Cleveland. I was taking my 34-foot class A and by using GE I was able to determine there was a surface parking lot across the street from the arena and if they would allow me to take up two parking spaces in tandem my rig would fit nicely in that space. It worked out perfectly with me just having to pay double for the parking spaces, $50.

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