Thursday, October 28, 2010

Start Date-November 19th

An invitation from niece, Suzie Ryan and her fiancé, for an early family Thanksgiving at their farm in the middle of Oregon was exactly the opportunity to set a start-date.  This should be about a 5 hour drive so I'm planning to leave on November 19th to reach Scio, Oregon for the party on the 20th What a great way to start this off! 

Cautious Friends

During this prep time, friends have had lots of questions: Aren’t you afraid of traveling alone?  What if the van breaks down?  What if you get sick?  What if…what if…

I think those are genuine concerns…but also based on fears they personally would have in taking this trip.  I’ve traveled a lot for business and was able to handle scary situations before…even serious food poisoning and the ensuing hospitalization while in Chicago.  Nothing could be worse than that one!

Any step into the unfamiliar has a bit of fear.  Van breakdown or flat tire?  I have AAA for RV’s along with new tire warranties, so I’ll get a tow to a garage with a phone call.  Getting sick does not worry me but a toothache does.  More likely the latter will be my fate.  In either case, there are doctors and dentists along the route.  

Getting Ready

Preparation for this trip has included not only maping out the locations, getting the vehicle in shape and loaded, but figuring out how to get bills paid and care of my home while I’m gone.

So, you may find these ideas helpful for similar trips you may be planning.  On-line searches, books, and advice from friends have resulted in this list of possibilities:    

ü      “Factory tours” are side trips with little costs.  This idea may be the result of growing up in a large family since the nine of us toured everything from cottage cheese factories to airplane assembly…it was educational as well as cheap.  My sister Nancy and husband recently visited the Airstream factory as well as the Harley Davidson factory during their RV trip to the east coast.  I’m tentatively scheduling the Harry and David factory in Medford, Oregon where it is the season to pack those wonderful fruit boxes and other gifts.

ü      Some casinos provide free places to dry camp (no hook-up for electricity, water or sewer) and appear to have security and some amenities, such as shuttles to the casino, at no charge.  I find that casino restaurants are usually adequate and a free “players card” often provides a discount on food.  I’m not a gambler so you will hear more about the food than any winnings.

ü      Walmart allows free overnight RV parking (again, dry camping) at most locations. I purchased an atlas at their store which includes the addresses of locations country-wide.

ü      I do not generally like to camp in State Parks since security is lax, they are noisy, and they cost nearly the same as an RV park. I also will not be staying overnight at highway rest stops.

ü      I bought a membership in Passport America which will give me half-priced RV park privileges.  With over 1,500 private parks in the system, I expect to be using it often.  

My “Tools”

ü      One well-used GPS that attaches to the windshield.  The British lady has proven herself many times eventhough I may talk back when she sounds a bit too sarcastic. 
ü      A new Iphone which can do everything but scramble eggs.  I have yet to learn its’ full capabilities.
ü      A Dell laptop, full size keyboard and mouse, and Wi-Fi wherever I can find it.
ü      Digital camera
ü Of course, this blog and my contacts with you.

“Google Maps” and “AAA”

Google Maps allows me to route between points, make alternative routes and side-trips, and was very flexible yet easy to use.  I’ll generally be going I-5 south to mid California and primarily I-10 going east.

A trip to my local American Automobile Association (AAA) office resulted in guide books to all the states I’ll be visiting.  Although they focus mainly on hotels and motels, they also include restaurant information and points of interest. Knowing the open hours of a museum can prevent disappointments.  

…And a 3-Ring Binder

I prepared a 3-ring binder with separate sections on these favorites: 

ü      “Golden Corral” is a buffet restaurant found mostly in the southern states. I printed out the list of locations along the route. Best buffet anywhere… yum.

ü      “Drive-ins, Diners and Dives” is a food channel TV show that visits down-home type restaurants.  “Triple D” restaurants are listed on their website and I hope to hit at least one.

ü      A list of cities along the route with Costco stores since they have the cheapest gas.

ü      A list of rest areas along the interstates by mile markers. 


ü      A list of all friends, classmates, and relatives to see along the way.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You're Going to Do What?

Although I love to travel, taking a cross-country RV trip alone was not on my list of must do’s. 

I’m not sure how or why I jumped into this but I felt the push of the upcoming Seattle winter weather and the pull of adventure waiting especially the Gulf Coast.  With all the news of the oil spill, and continuing remnants of the hurricane…I want to see it for myself…from Texas to Florida…and even help if I can. 

My destination: Seattle to Tampa and return with stops along the way.  This will  include Sacramento and history of the California gold rush, towns outside of Las Vegas such as Henderson and Laughlin as well as the new development “CityCenter” on the Las Vegas strip.  The Mardi Gras museum in New Orleans, seafood in Mobile, and friends along the way.  I’m open to your ideas and comments as we move along. 

As I explain to folks…I’m going south to California and turning left.    

Your Travel Buddy

Let me take a minute here to give you some background.  If we haven’t met personally, I’m female, single with grown daughters, semi-retired (consulting) with a past career in the business world, and trying to adjust to my non-working status. I say “trying” because I’ve retired before and then returned to full-time employment. I don’t consider retirement a reward for years of hard work because I’ve always loved my work.  I instead think of retirement as a career change with no pay…at least there’s none at this point.  I hope to be inspired to do more learning and writing.  So, with no visible means of support, I’m off to find my next career through this adventure…or maybe be inspired to return to the old one.      

How We’ll Get There

In early September I began a search for a small, self-contained RV that could be parked and not look like someone was obviously “camping”.  I already owned a 23’ RV but felt it was too big for just one person and not as maneuverable as I’d like in the city.  I found a 1986, 17’ Chevy van with an Okanogan conversion that is fully self-contained and in good condition.  It has only 54,000 miles, maroon velvet curtains and upholstery, fully self-contained and looks like new. It is a doll-house on wheels.   

After two “test runs” (one dry camping and then four days at a full hook-up RV park) I was comfortable with the sleeping, cooking, plumbing and heating arrangements.  I sold my larger RV and put the money into the van by purchasing four new tires, a mechanical check-up and a wash/wax.  By mid October she was ready.  Yes, my vehicles have a gender and often a name. My prior RV had been dubbed “the beast”.  So now my VANessa and I will be roommates for several months.