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.