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


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