Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Trip in Summary

At this end point, it’s time for me to summarize what this trip was all about and what I learned that may be helpful to you.

First, I drove a little over 6,000 miles in total.  Some days were 8 hours of hard work and some were just a few hours while I played.  I found I can’t see at night so during these winter hours I was restricted to approximately 8am to 4:30 or 5pm.  I went through 8 states to reach Tampa.  My biggest expense was gas at $60-80 per fill-up which happened twice a day or more.  (I’m not looking forward to my credit card statement.)

Did I find sun?  Yes, but I should have been more specific.  Often that clear, blue and sunny sky was below freezing.  Florida suffered freezing rain and fruit damage, the Gulf had high winds and cold, even Phoenix had snow on my 2nd pass. 

The Van

VANessa was a dream to drive and she was always ready to go.  Just like a racehorse, she revved in the mornings and was dependable in desert and mountains.  

This was a great home for one but too small for a roommate.  All things worked (stove, water, heat, bathroom) and the previous owner had filled the propane which lasted until the end. The couch was made into a bed each night and was comfy. The upper bed was used for storage and held the bedding during the day.  I had no problem driving and parking in large and small cities.


My GPS was essential to get through some complex city mazes and to find the RV campgrounds and friends homes.  It gave me the time of arrivals so I could time it with the sundowns (off the road and safely bedded down).  It also provides my speed compared to the speed limit.  I’m sure this was why I never got a ticket even when going through the small town speed traps. When the GPS went out, I got the van’s fuse replaced and back on the road.

Passport America

Passport America is a discount RV camping club with a $40 annual membership cost.  It has over 1,600 RV locations at half their regular price. I used it a lot and it paid for itself in my first two overnights. These discounted overnight stays ranged from $10 per night to $20 for the resorts. Some were not too pretty but I was there only for the night and they had the basics (electricity, bathrooms and shower, water, sewer) while the resorts had those basics plus heated swimming pools with aerobic classes, laundry, cable TV, Wi-Fi, happy hours with live entertainment, and hobby rooms. 

As a comparison, the state parks I stayed at charged $25 for the basics.

Sign-up for Passport America on the internet at:  

I am an advocate of this organization, and if you say I referred you, I get $10 off my next membership.  So, thanks in advance.

Two Books

The large printed Passport America catalog was essential in my daily planning while on the road.  Easy to read, good descriptions and accurate.  They are also on your smart-phone for access that way.

Casino Camping: Guide to RV-Friendly Casinos by Jane Kenny (2nd edition) was very helpful.  The book has been updated with the 3rd edition and I would recommend it.  Because of it, I was comfortable staying at about 5 different casinos...all for free. 

I was loaded down with AAA books but I seldom referred to them.


Connect to friends and call ahead!  I did learn more about my smart-phone and could access my email when I was not able to get wi-fi.  I also downloaded applications (apps) to find local resources wherever I was…such as restaurants and gas stations.  

Computer and Wi-Fi

My Dell laptop allowed me to write nearly every night on the blog.  Wi-fi access was spotty but I connected about every 3rd night. While at Fran’s house in Scottsdale I couldn’t connect while in her house but was able when in the driveway…about 20 feet away…thanks to her neighbor’s unsecured system. 

When I went into a McDonald’s I met a fellow who’d brought an extension cord to connect to the power outlet in the ceiling.  At the table below he was using his laptop and charging his phone…while using their power and wi-fi.  Good thinking.

Since I didn’t have electricity every day, I was sure to take advantage to recharge all electronics when I did.  When everything went dark on the laptop I realized my charging cord no longer worked so bought a new one for $60 and after recharging it was good.

What I Learned

When I was in the Phoenix area on the first pass, I was tempted to just stay there and not go on.  I’m glad I did complete the trip.  One of my purposes was to change careers and get new passion and energy.  I did that.  It formed itself through my experiences, contacts, and time to think while driving.

I was able to spend time with friends and relatives that made this trip especially memorable.  Thanks everyone.

I learned to cherish water…especially an abundance of hot water that I’d taken for granted. 

I learned that California has the worst roads…from interstates to local.  They are in terrible repair in the cities such as Palm Springs, Las Angeles, and San Francisco.  California also has the highest gas prices.

I will be going back to the greater Phoenix area in the future (although not the summer).  I especially love Mesa and Scottsdale.

What I’d do differently

My illusion was summer-like weather and I brought a lot of shorts and sandals that just took up space.  So, fewer and warmer clothes next time.  

Other than that, it was a wonderful experience.  I’m even glad to be back in the northwest rain. 

Mary Beth Ryan

Monday, January 10, 2011

Oregon Coast, Trees and Clam Chowder

It's hard to believe, but it's sunny and bright on the Oregon coast in January.  Even the locals are amazed.  I stopped at a small bakery for a loaf of sourdough bread.  That, plus a hunk of cheese was lunch as I watched the breakers at the beach.

My last night before reaching home was dry-camping at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City. The casino has a large upper parking lot where several of us RV's stayed overnight at no charge.  Nearby are all the resources: shopping, supermarket, and of course, McDonald's.  Overnight a bit of rain fell but nothing serious.  I had a big bowl of Mo's clam chowder at a nearby restaurant.

I left early in the morning for home but first a stop at the Tillimook Cheese factory on the way to Astoria.  At the northwest tip of the state, I turned right and followed the road on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  This is by far, the preferred route as compared to the Washington side. My immediate goal was to connect to I-5.  The trip through the coastal range was easy with clear roads and only a short hail storm. 

In Chehalis, I stopped to make my favorite hot meal on this trip: instant grits, 2 eggs, bacon, milk and cheese all scrambled together.  I was nearly done when the propane powered element went out and would not restart.  I had run out of propane.  What great timing.  The prior owner of VANessa not only sold it with a full tank of gas but propane too!

I arrived home Sunday at 5pm and turned on all the lights, cranked up the furnace, and gave my house a big hug.  My next blog will be a summary with tips.  Then start planning my next trip.  First, I need to wash a lot of clothes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Northern California on the Scenic Route

I left Vallejo Thursday morning and stopped in Petaluma and Santa Rosa.  I lived for a year in Petaluma in the ‘60’s.  About 20 years ago I revisited it and the countryside where I used to go down the street to get fresh eggs at a farm which as gone years ago and my former place of employment was a parking lot.  I didn’t feel the need to visit the old “home place” this trip.  I did go shopping at both communities and got more inventory. 
I’m taking #101 which is a scenic and winding route.  It goes through the vineyards and  past wineries with tasting rooms.  It later turns into mountains with winding roads, evergreen trees and running creeks along side.   I stopped at a roadside park to have a meatloaf sandwich (Mary made a LOT of meatloaf and I get to enjoy it again!) and enjoy the sounds of the river.
My goal was Garberville before dark and I barely made it.  This is the southern point before entering the Redwood forest and I wanted to enjoy the trees in the daylight.  Garberville is a surprisingly active and busy little town…unlike so many I’ve driven through.
Friday morning I had the last of Mary’s meatloaf for breakfast then on the road.  I was not aware that the Redwood Forest and the various sections of the park were spread out so far.  There are 31 miles of the “Avenue of the Giants” plus more along the way.  The weather was sunny and warm even more pleasant than anywhere else I've been on this trip.  The roads had warnings for possible ice but fortunately they were dry.  I certainly wouldn’t want to take these winding turns when the road was dangerous.
About the time I was getting tired of the mountains and switchback roads, I got a glimpse the ocean. 
Pacific Ocean…Oh the Joy !!
My apologies to Lewis and Clark but as I crossed the state line into Oregon, the Pacific Ocean was to my left and breathtaking.  The rows of breakers and giant rocks are like no other body of water I’ve seen.  The Atlantic in Florida and all along the Gulf are lap, lap at the shore.  This ocean has an attitude.  I stopped for clam chowder at a restaurant in Gold Beach while I watched people pull their crabbing pots in off the docks. A bit further north I stopped in Port Orford RV Park run by a commercial fisherman.  He said that this is the most western point of the continental  U.S. and gets the most severe weather.  The boats are not left in the water but hoisted up onto a dock that, he says, is often washed away by storms.  Tomorrow I’ll be visiting the lighthouse and a look for myself.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fun near San Francisco

I reached my brother Rick’s home late Tuesday after a long drive through the central valley.  He and wife Mary fed me a great home cooked meal...meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and had me sleep in the guest bed…just what I needed.   Rick is my middle brother of five and a retired firefighter.  He is doing consulting work and has great stories to share.  Mary is a retired officer of the court.  Their home is in Vallejo, a community just north of San Francisco and the bay. 
Rick diagnosed some computer trouble I was having and we made a trip to buy the new equipment and then with friends to an afternoon at the Oakland Museum of California.  The museum follows the development of the state, has a gallery of modern art, and the feature was the celebration of 25 year of Pixar.  The gallery had drawings, sketches and models showing the development of characters in movies such as Toy Story, Cars, Up, Finding Nemo,  Monsters, Inc., and other films.  We then went to the friends home for chiopino, a seafood stew.  Yum    A delightful day.
Last night I got an email response from friend, Gary, in Chula Vista with directions to his winter home.  Oops, I’d already gone past when I got the message.  Chula Vista is near San Diego.  I’ll catch up with you at your summer home, Gary. Thanks for the invitation though.
Thursday morning I rolled out and headed north.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Phoenix to Palm Springs…going West

On Sunday morning I helped Fran with a few chores including pruning her roses.  The local radio garden show said that these rare frosty nights have put the roses into a light hibernation and it is a good time to prune…so I did.  This is different than my garden where roses are dormant longer and pruning is usually done in February.  I waved good-bye and was off to somewhere west.  I hadn’t heard from my friend in San Diego yet so I decided to go a bit north of there…Palm Springs.  I’m interested to see if there is a treasure of used designer clothes.
The Flying J,  a huge truck stop, was convenient and allows overnight parking so I got gas ($3.19 vs. $3.39 at the Shell) and asked about RV overnight parking.  “Just find a place among the trucks in back…we don’t separate them from RV’s.”   Well, I did feel like an ant among giants.  There must have been 50 trucks all jammed in tight.  They are amazing to watch the maneuvers into tight spaces.  I found a small spot at the end and listed to the rumble of engines and beeps of those backing in.  I DO hope it gets quieter.
I took a shuttle to the casino across the freeway and watched the Seattle SeaHawks win their game.  Yaaa
Yes, I did get a good night’s sleep and in the morning and I hadn’t even heard them leave before me.  I took VANessa for an oil change and then on to Palm Springs.  First let me explain the lay-out.  I’m in Coachella Valley, east of Los Angeles.  There is a spur that runs along side Interstate 10 and generally includes the communities of: Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs and Thousand Palms.  This is an area next to tall mountains which protect it from rain clouds coming in from the coast.
I parked in downtown Palm Springs which has lots of shops and restaurants.  The local talk was primarily of the cold weather. The sidewalks have inlaid plaques like a "walk of stars".  Most were of very old movie stars and seems to match the city.  It seems stuck in the 1940's and '50's...probably because that was the height of its popularity.  

I found a large thrift store with some amazing evening wear.  Beautiful gowns starting at $75 and up to several hundred.  I convinced the gals in the back room to let me look through stuff before it went out on the floor and I found some nice resort items in linen at good prices.  I also chatted with owners of boutiques to get ideas and learn more about the designers.
In the early afternoon it started to rain. 
Driving west and then north onto I-5, I went into the mountains which had just been opened due to snow.  They also had winds at 80 miles per hour.  I'm glad I missed that.  I had no idea that there were such mountains just north of Las Angeles.  Another geography lesson.  And now that I'm in the San Joaquin goes on and on.  I see plowed fields.  Where's the lettuce? 
Rick and Mary....I'm headed your way!!!        

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lazy New Years Day

The sun is out in Phoenix but otherwise still chilly at night and around 45 degrees at the height of the day.  Fran, Bud and I watched the Rose Parade and bits of the football games . I cleaned Vanessa and washed the last of my clothes.  The weather looked O.K in Pasadena for the parade so I plan to head that way tomorrow morning. 

The plan for the on-line store is coming together and I now have a good inventory. I'm getting anxious to set it all up and have been writing the copy.  Anyone know of a good, cheap web site designer? 

Tomorrow it's westward on Interstate 10 and perhaps a few days in Palm Springs.