Monday, May 5, 2008

We've Done it All


The trusty Tioga got us home safely. Once again we were outside our house at a 45-degree angle. (You thought we were kidding, didn’t you?) Unpacking and cleaning at that angle is no easier than packing!

It’s great to be home. We’ve driven everywhere we wanted to drive, have seen everything we wanted to see, and have had a heck of a lot of fun. We’ve met some interesting people along the way.

And, for the first time, we’ve driven an RV. Spent 10 days in the thing, in fact. Everything this little motorhome has to offer, we’ve used. We’ve cooked, cleaned, eaten, showered and answered nature’s call. We’ve used all the hookups, leveling ramps and filled and emptied every tank…some more than once. We’ve even had the locks picked! We’ve watched TV, listened to our favorite music and driven the beast some 1800 miles across some absolutely stunning (and stunningly desolate) landscapes.

Throughout the trip, we’ve tried to put our fingers on why RVing can be so much fun. We think it IS fun, we just can’t quite figure out exactly why.

Maybe it’s having everything you need right there with you. Or, maybe it’s because it’s all the fun of camping without all of the work. (If you’re cold or want hot water, you just flip a switch!) Perhaps it’s riding up high and seeing the world like a truck driver. Maybe it has something to do with having the freedom to go and do what you want, wherever you want.

Who knows? We’re looking forward to our next chance to figure that out.

Thanks for riding along with us. We hope you enjoyed it.
If you’re interested in taking your own maiden voyage in an RV, we say “Go for it!”

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Inspiration on I-5


The homestretch of our trip home was 200-mile stretch of Interstate 5.

We made a couple of stops along the way and exchanged pleasantries with fellow RV enthusiasts on both ends of the RV lifestyle spectrum.

At a gas stop, a young 30-something couple at the next pump was filling up enroute to their home in San Diego.

"What kind of gas mileage do you get in that thing?" the young man asked.

We responded, "about 10 miles to the gallon."

"I have to say that it one really cool RV," he went on. "And, I'm not really an RV person."

"Us either," we said. "This was our maiden voyage. We rented this and decided to try it out."

"You rented that?" He asked. We said yes. He asked how much and where we'd been, then shouted: "Honey, they rented this for $120 a day plus mileage and took it to the Grand Canyon and Zion!!!!"

As he washed the splattered bugs off his windshield, he said "We're doin' that!" and left with a brand new vacation dream.

A hundred miles or so down the road we pulled into a rest area for lunch and parked next to a 42-foot top-of-the-line Class A dieselpusher and a toad. (a diesel motorhome with a car towed behind.) As we stepped out to stretch, the captain of the land yacht greeted us with a friendly hello.

We asked each other where we were going, where we had been and where we called home.

"This is our home," he said. "We've been 'fulltimers' for 14 years."

We explained that we were on our maiden voyage. He seemed quite excited about our rookie story and asked an all-important question.

"Well, how'd you like it?"

We said we loved it and his eyes lit up. He happily answered our every question and gave us encouraging advice for a future in RVing. After a few minutes his wife popped out of the coach and announced lunch was ready (for them, not us). We exchanged pleasantries with her and marveled at their story. She too offered an encouraging word.

With that, we said our goodbyes, went back to our respective rigs, had lunch and hit the road again.

As we pulled out of the rest area, we looked at each other and said in unison, "We're doin' that!"

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Don't Cry in the Desert


It's the last night on our maiden voyage. We're resting comfortably in the southern Sierra mountains resting up for our last day on the road.

Today's drive across the desert was warm, dry, a bit windy and featured a lot of sand. With a straight highway and wide shoulders, M was at the wheel as we stopped to gas up in Barstow -- one of the featured cities in that classic hit "Route 66".

Now, M doesn't mind driving the RV on straight highways with wide shoulders. Wandering around on Route 66 trying to find a gas station when you're at about 1/4 tank is a bit more stressful. Pulling into a gas station with an overhang and lots of pumps to make your 26-foot way clear of is even more stressful. Accidently hitting the "lock" button on the driver's door as you're hopping out of a truck you're not used to driving is enough to send you over the edge.

That's right. The keys were inside.

P went to work finding a locksmith. M did what any stressed out RV co-pilot would do: I cried.

Less than 30 minutes later a very friendly and talented locksmith arrived with his magical tools. In less than 3 minutes the work was done and we were gassed up and on our way.

Today's lessons:
(1) Always take your keys when you exit a vehicle
(2) Don't cry in the desert. It chaps your cheeks.

Leaving Las Vegas


We're up and out early this sunny Saturday morning after our one-nighter in Sin City.

We've been to Las Vegas many times - more for business than pleasure and always for more than one night at one of the glittering mega-hotels on the strip.

Each trip has been busy -- so much to do in Vegas. And, it usually involves staying up late and getting up later.

This trip is different. We drove across the desolation of the Utah, Arizona and Nevada deserts to get here. (Sounds bigger than it was...just a couple of hours, actually.) Just about the time we were ready to declare the entire region uninhabitable (because it basically is), up pops a skyline in a little dimple of a valley ahead. That raised the question: How (and why) did Vegas ever happen? It's a big bright neon city in the middle of nowhere.

It's one thing to arrive here by hopping off a plane. It's another perspective to drive in from the desert in an RV. The traffic -- which we've never noticed before -- puts you in a life-size game of "Frogger" as you try to maneuver to your exit. Great fun on a early Friday afternoon!

And, when you're in a RV, the mega hotels on the strip are not for you. You get to stay in a mega RV Park.

Imagine, for just a moment, how an RV park might work in Vegas.

You're probably right.

With 700 rooms (er, campsites), the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort has a sweeping palm-tree lined drive, a dramatic entrance to the registration desk, a couple of big sparkling pools, and a slot machine or two. There's even a spot where you can take a look at luxury suites (er, 40-ft RVs) that you can own. (Yes, we looked.) The place is a kick.

But, unlike previous trips to Vegas, we were in bed early and are up with the sun.

You know what? Mornings in Vegas are something to see.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Our Economic View


New economic numbers were published this week. We’ve paid just enough attention to the news to know it’s not all that bad.

We could’ve told you that.

With the price of gasoline at an all time high, we’re sitting in a fairly full campground on a Thursday night a month or so before the busy season gets underway. These people are spending money. And, that’s good.

True, they may be foregoing other expenses to afford to fill the tank. Or, they may be renting an RV instead of flying somewhere. (Though we are convinced while RVing is much more pleasant, flying is cheaper.) Nonetheless, they are camped in a beautiful spot in southwestern Utah with a trip to at least one National Park on their agenda.

Hiking inside a couple of National Parks in the last week or so, we’ve exchanged greetings with people from many countries. We’ve also come across some rather interesting hiking art. (See above.) On one trail, where just about everyone said “hello” along the way, we heard more people with foreign accents than not.

True, not every Zion hiker with a foreign accent is a visiting from outside our country. But, many are. Thanks to our falling dollar, it looks like hikers from many parts of the world are coming to the US. These people are spending money, too. And, that’s also good.

In fact, it’s not bad at all.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Leonard's Match


One of the things we were curious about before heading out was what kind of people we might meet in our various campgrounds. So far, we’ve really only talked with a few. A couple of nights ago we had a nice chat with a newly retired couple from LA who had never spent a night in an RV but dreamed to, and they bought a 36-foot Class A in Indiana and drove it home from there. (A 36-foot Class A is not exactly a “starter RV”.) Now they’re considering spending a year on the road with their new “toy”. (Sounds like great fun to us.) Nice people.

This morning, things around the campground were mighty quiet – just the sound of landscapers tooling around in their golf carts picking up fallen branches from last night’s windstorm. We took advantage of the calm and quiet to enjoy some time sitting in the sun. Our neighbor from two sites up came strolling by. We said hello. So did she. She stepped right up and sat right down at our picnic table and started to talk. Well, she didn’t exactly talk. She SHOUTED!

Laura is on a trip of a lifetime – after taking early retirement she’s traveling for six weeks or so from California’s central valley through America’s great southwest in her 20-foot travel trailer. Nice lady. And, a real talker.

In a tone she must think is “inside voice” but obviously doesn’t know it isn’t, she recounted every single stop she’s made and is about to – a couple of times. She told us how she came to own and learn to pull her cute little trailer, what she keeps packed inside and where she parks it when she’s not on the road. She told us about her initial road trips and a recent trip to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.

Did we mention she was SHOUTING?

After listening to this kind-hearted but LOUD soul for longer than we could comfortably stand, we took advantage of an ever-so-brief pause in the “conversation” and said we needed to head off for a hike before it got too late. We wished each other well and went on our way.

As we stepped into the RV we said in unison, “She reminds me of Leonard.”

Leonard is a family relative who is as kind-hearted as the day is long. He’s spent much of the last 30 or 40 years traveling across North America in a camper. And, he’s a talker, too. Every time our paths have crossed we’ve heard stories of road trips and friends he’s met along the way. The stories are always shared in a big outside voice like no one we’ve heard.

Until today.

Heading back into camp from our afternoon hike, our campground was filled with activity with many Thursday night campers arriving for a long weekend. As we approached our site we had hopes that a new camper had filled the space between Laura’s and ours to serve as a “buffer”.

To our delight, a 32-foot Fleetwood Southwind Class A was wedged between Laura’s little trailer and our mobile Marriott.

That’ll work.

Dust in the Wind


Yesterday’s posts were postponed due to wind.

We spent much of the day hiking around the park, and while it was a bit breezy it wasn’t bad. In fact, as we were coming off the Watchman Trail to head back to camp, we were greeted by a couple just heading up who inquired about the wind.

“Not bad at all,” we said. “There’s no concern about losing your footing.”

Off they went and so did we. Back at camp the breeze turned to something close to a gale force gusts. And, you know what happens when strong winds blow through a dusty campground? (See above.)

It’s not pretty.

We battened down the hatches and spent the late afternoon and most of the early evening in the comfort of our cozy RV. We have to walk to front desk to get internet access. So, we refrained from posting anything here. We just kept thinking about that hiking couple we met and imagining them hanging on to some tree for dear life on the Watchman Trail.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zion Rocks

video

We journeyed into the park today for some sightseeing and a bit of hiking on this absolutely glorious day. The same person who fired off 60 shutter clicks at sunset last night took a bunch more than that inside the park.

At Weeping Rock, she shot a bit of video.

Enjoy this peek at the park.

Keen


Our mode o’day in footwear is our trusty Keens. They’re rugged sandals that are perfect for light hiking. We love ‘em.

As we passed through the entrance gate to Zion this morning, M got the feeling you get when someone is looking at you...and looked around. As a group of four retirees was entering the park one of them was pointing at, of all things, our feet.

“Young people can wear those sandals without socks,” one of them said to others in their group. “The soles of their feet are tough.”

As just-turned 50-year-olds, we smiled with delight at being referred to as “young people”.

It made our day.

Seeing The Light


We love to watch the sunset. At home, it can be a real event. Sometimes we stop everything to look to the west and take in the combination of sky, water, fog and fading light that draws the day to a close.

Last night we were treated to a spectacular sunset by looking, oddly enough, to the east.

Our camp is at the base of “The Watchman”. It’s a monster of a canyon wall that welcomes visitors to the south gates of Zion. In the morning, it’s dark in shade. Its colors and patterns begin to emerge in the midday sun. As afternoon becomes evening, this guy comes alive.

As we prepared dinner over the grill, we planted ourselves with The Watchman in full view and watched the changing light. One of us grabbed a camera and over the course of the next 45 minutes or so fired off 60 shots. This is one of our favorites.

What a treat it is to take the time to sit and watch the light.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Just Thinkin'


After a day fighting desert winds, we arrived safely at our campground in Springdale, Utah. While we’re far from experts at evaluating RV parks, this one definitely has a lot going for it. And, the view tops the list. We arrived near sunset and captured the last light on part of the canyon from our doorstep. It’s stunning.

As we settled in at this picturesque spot, we took it all in: 360 degree canyon views, sounds of the nearby Virgin River, water, electricity, cable and internet access. We have it all for just $30 a day.

P is never far from his trusty calculator. He ran the numbers and quickly determined that we could stay here for a year for almost exactly the amount we are currently paying in property taxes.

Now, that’s something to think about.

Ruins


When we checked out the RV, our attendant recommended we take a little detour and visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. On the map, it looks like a little 35-mile loop off the beaten path. On the road, it’s a 2-hour history lesson with panoramic vistas.

Sunset Crater was created by a volcano that erupted almost 950 years ago. It made a big mess that’s still something to see.

Wupatki is a 56 square-mile salute to survival. In a place where water is scarce, next to nothing will grow, and volcanoes erupt from time to time, it was home to some 2,000 Hopi people at the turn of the 12th century. The ruins of several pueblos can be seen on the land today. Wupatki Pueblo was the largest building for at least 50 miles. With 100 rooms, a community room, a ceremonial ballcourt and a blowhole, this was definitely the place to be.

It, too, is still something to see.

Weather Dog


At home, we give just half a listen to the local weather forecast. We have two good reasons. First, the weather doesn’t really change all that much. Second, we live in a good sturdy house that protects us from whatever weather does come our way.

When you’re in a house on wheels, weather is something we’re learning to pay close attention to. And, it’s not the temperature or the UV index that’s most important.

It’s the wind.

Before heading out of Williams, we tuned into the Weather Channel and learned that the area of Arizona we’d be driving through during the day was covered with a dark blue blob, which meant winds up to 30 mph. Joy. Joy!

While the Weather Channel was helpful, the true sign of things to come was the little pup at the campsite next door. This little Toto look-alike braced against the breeze and looked like it could’ve been picked up anytime.

Turns out all the forecasters were right. Sunday turned out to be a two-hands-on-the-wheel kind of day.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It IS Grand!


It's one of those places that pictures (our OURS, anyway) just can't capture.

But, here's one of our humble attempts to capture one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The farthest point in this view is the North Rim, which is 18 miles away as the crow flies. And, somewhere in the center of this photo is a blue-green semi-vertical swash. That's the Colorado River at a point where it's 350-feet wide.

This is one mighty big ditch!

Seeing Red


With the Shootout behind us, we boarded the train to the Grand Canyon. We enjoyed a 360-degree view of Arizona vastness from our seats in the observation dome.

The on-board entertainment also included a visit by "Red", a squeeze-box and harmonica playing cowboy who got a car of traveling strangers to sing a enthusiastic round of "Home On The Range". Given the scenery of the day, it was a most appropriate tune, indeed.

Here in the Wild West


Our grand day to the canyon started with a little morning entertainment at the Williams Train Depot -- A Wild West Shootout.

The show featured a fun cast of characters who we would see again later in the day.

The set depicted a town in the old West...complete with red sports cars and minivans in the background. Very authentic!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Many Miles...And Some Serious Coin


Today was our "big" day...in more ways than one.

We traveled the most miles planned for any day on the trip: 525.
(Note: When you're driving a house on wheels, that's too many!)

The co-pilot made her maiden voyage today. "Sure," she says. "Give me a desert highway with wide shoulders and this thing is a piece of cake."

And, we spent more bucks on gas today than the number of miles we covered.

O.K. That's not entirely true.
That was M's guess. P just added it up: $333.

And was the $3.95 a gallon you see here the highest price we paid?

Huh-uh.

The in-no-way quaint desert town of Needles is serving as "The Gateway to Laughlin, NV" this weekend -- welcoming 75,000 Harley riders to top of their teeny weeny tanks before heading to the annual "River Run" in Laughlin.

The per gallon cost to top off your tank in Needles: $4.29.

Now, that's some serious coin.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our First KOA


We've all seen KOAs. Interesting little pieces of temporary civilization wedged between a cornfield and a railroad track (or some such structures), all within sight of the highway.

Yep. We've seen 'em, too. And, until this afternoon, we'd always driven by. We had no reason to stop. But, tonight, for the first time ever, the cute little red teepee on the yellow background is home.

And, you know what? It's nice!

With water, electricity, cable, wireless and a level place to park, we can't complain.

Are We Having Fun Yet?


What do you think?

A hundred miles or so into the trip, the "commander" of our road beast looked calm and confident. Actually, he looks like he was having fun. (The co-pilot was finally relaxing into the idea of riding in something the size of a garage.)

So, how does it drive?

"Like a house on wheels," says the commander.

Careful Packing


Our first stop "on the road" was home. Many of you have been to our house. Just imagine a 26-foot RV parked in front waiting to be loaded.

O.K. Stop laughing.

Packing this road beast was a bit of a challenge. We were super organized, which helped alot. But, we quickly realized that special attention must be paid to breakables and valuables on the road. And that's what bubble wrap is for.

We bubble wrapped just about everything...the TV (yes, we brought a TV), the breakables (yes, we brought breakables), and the martini makings. See above. (The vermouth is there, too...under several layers of the bubbly stuff.)

Thankfully, we had more than enough bubble wrap and eventually everything fit. And, with that we were truly on the road...with a grand total of 13.9 miles of RV driving experience behind us.

We're On The Road


It all started 'round 9 this morning. We rolled into our local RV center, watched a 15-minute video, took an educational tour in and around our 26-foot long soon-to-be home away from home. Less than an hour later, P was driving this box on wheels down a six-lane busy city freeway.

Watch out world. We're on the road.