Traveling the U.S. – Chapter 1

I haven’t written in a while because I have been busy.  I mean busy.  What was I so busy doing?  I was busy planning and getting ready for a road trip—the mother of all road trips.  As I mentioned in previous blogs, after we returned from selling our home in Missouri, Dennis decided to upgrade from our small travel trailer to a 33’ Class A RV.  We found and purchased the model we liked.  The first thing to do was to give it a test run.  We took a week at Lake Havasu, Arizona.  People warned us of what a party spot it was.  Too late—the reservation was made and we were on our way.

We had a gorgeous lakeside view from our RV.  There were no college students that we saw.  Arizona had cancelled spring break for its schools due to Covid, so it wasn’t as crazy as it may have been.  We met the couple in the next door RV, many years our junior.  Lisa and Garren took us under their wing.  We got to ride the dunes with them in their dune buggy, or whatever that thing is.  I remember holding on for dear life, as Lisa looked at me and stated, “You have never done this before, have you?”  Yep, it was pretty obvious!  We toured the island that evening, had them in for a drink in our RV, and found this lovely young couple absolutely adorable.  Then they offered to take us on their boat.  Once again, I was not prepared.  I thought it was just a little boat ride, and then dump those old folks off at their RV.  Instead, we took the boat to a lakeside restaurant, and then we were given the boat tour of Lake Havasu.  This was no leisurely boat ride.  It was high speed with rock music blaring out of the speakers.  It was so much fun.  We hated leaving the lake and our new found friends, but we promised as we traveled through the northwest and came to Oregon, we would look them up.

Just watching a couple who were spending their winter in their RV, we learned so much from them—just the little things we would not have thought of without witnessing them firsthand. 

The geography to and from Lake Havasu was amazing—well, after we got off the I-10.  As we drove along the Colorado River, I was struck with how blue the water was.  The same for Lake Havasu, which is fed from the Colorado River.  The water is just a majestic blue.  The try-out trip was a great success.  When we arrived home, we realized that our windshield on the RV had been hit by a rock and there was a huge crack in it.  Really?  This is a new RV, hardly road tested, and we have to replace the window.  Thank goodness our insurance has windshield coverage.

Now that we were home it was time to make the plan for our summer road trip.  We knew that that the first major destination was to be St. Louis, MO, at the end of May for my granddaughter’s high school graduation.  We have our RV at a storage facility just three miles from our home, and May 6 was the last day of the current lease, so Dennis suggested we leave that day.  We can lease a new space there when we return.

Graduation is not until May 29, so we have 23 days to meander to the Gateway City.  One of the favorite places we went shortly after we were married was Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  Our trip will start as that as our first major destination.  We will then wind our way to Branson, MO, and spend a few days there.  Then on to Hamilton, MO, the home of Missouri Star Quilt Co., and very close to my brother and sister-in-law.  We will go to Columbia, MO to see our mid Missouri family (another brother and sister-in-law), and then to St. Louis for a two week stay.

Once we leave St. Louis we will make our way to Georgia and start driving up the east cost as far as Pennsylvania.  We plan to turn west in Pennsylvania and head to Indiana, up to Michigan, over to Wisconsin, and south into Chicago.  That is what we call the first leg of our trip.  We will be leaving Chicago August 3.  Yes, that is almost two months from today!  The next leg of the trip will take us to southern Oregon.  We plan to drop through California, all the way to San Diego, and then home.  We should see our bed in San Tan Valley, AZ, on September 19.  Yeah, that’s a long time.

I spent my time from Havasu to now purchasing needed items for the RV.  The last purchase we  made was for the barbecue grill.  My most cherished purchase was buying fabric to make a quilt for our RV bed.  When you buy an RV, the bed comes with this cheesy bedspread and pillow shams.  They are a yucky fuzzy like fabric, and I hated it.  I went online for inspiration of what to make, and lo and behold, I found a quilt pattern called “Road Trip” by Missouri Star Quilt Co. that had a tutorial.  I thought it was a cute idea for an RV quilt.  I search for a fabric idea, and came up with patriotic fabric for both the front and back, which my Navy veteran husband loved.  The pillow shams?  How about I design an appliqué for them.  I searched for cartoon pictures of a Class A RV, and one of the US, and when I printed them, they filled a sheet of letter size paper.  It was perfect.  I used that picture to make the pattern for the pillow shams.  I used the quilt backing fabric for the pillow cover.

The last pillow I needed to replace (from the ugly one provided) was the square pillow in the center.  Last year I purchased a sewing machine with an embroidery attachment that I basically used to make quilt labels.  It was now time to really try it out, and I designed a pillow.  It was so much fun watching this machine sew what I designed.

Last week we started the final mapping out of our trip.  We decided to stay mainly at RV parks, and occasionally hit a Harvest Host location.  Harvest Hosts is a membership that allows you to make overnight reservations at wineries, breweries, farms, and museums.  It is free, but they encourage you to purchase something from their stores or visit their museum.  Dennis spent days on the phone making reservations.  We are reserved all the way to Oregon, and a couple spots in California.  We just a have a few more to call to close the route.  I made a spreadsheet of all our accommodations and the miles between.  By the time we get home, we will have logged 10,000 miles!

This is our route–leaving Arizona 5/6 heading east. Our estimated return date is 9/19.

Two nights before our day of departure we proudly showed our RV to a couple cousins who wanted to see our digs before we left.  They all left, and as we were closing things up to go home, Dennis could not get the stairs to retract.  We check fuses, and what little we knew about the RV.  I started googling.  We were two days from leaving and you cannot drive with the steps hanging out.  We were in a panic mode.  It was evening and nothing in town was open.  We had a phone number for 24 hour roadside assistance that came free for our first year of RV ownership.  That was a joke.  They acknowledged that they could come and get the steps in so it could be driven, but they do not repair.  If they repair, we would lose our warranty.  Soooo . . . . we realized our leaving on the schedule we planned might be in jeopardy.  In our web search we learned that it could be a fuse, and a bunch of other minor stuff.  Those we had checked.  The bad news was that the motor that operates the steps could be burned out.  That would be a problem.  Most RV repair places are booked, or don’t have parts.  We talked about how we would modify the trip, if necessary.  We didn’t want to change too much, because we had a timetable, and had booked 34 RV parks and/or Harvest Hosts locations just to get to Chicago (and there is a $10 penalty on most cancellations).  

The next morning Dennis went to the RV to check it out.  He was told that there is a pin that has to be removed that uncouples the steps from the motor.  He decided to attempt to remove the pin and harness the steps in place in order to drive to the RV dealer to see if they could repair the steps.  He was so frustrated.  That pin is tough to take out, as it should be.  You sure wouldn’t want it falling out while driving.  Then he noticed something on the edge of the step.  He picked it up.  It was a small magnet.  This magnet apparently completes the circuit when the door is closed that triggers the motor to close the steps.  When the door is opened, the magnet breaks the circuit and the steps come rolling out.  Dennis said the magnet was put on with double sided tape.  Huh?  Really?  In Arizona the heat would melt that tape off!  He drove to the RV dealer, and the dealer quickly attached the magnet permanently, and “Tah-Dah,”  the steps worked.  Trouble averted, and we were back on plan.

Yesterday we loaded all the food and clothes with just a few  things left.  Early this morning Dennis drove to pick up the RV.  He attached our Jeep Cherokee to the back of it, and drove to the front of the house.  While we finished loading a few things, we brewed a pot of coffee, poured the coffee in some thermal containers so we could put the coffee maker away, and off we went.  Our first destination was a winery in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  We arrived in time for a wine tasting and a free night boondocking at their location.

This is a trip of a lifetime.  Many reservations at various locations will have to be made as we travel because of Covid.  We had to make reservations to hike Carlsbad Caverns a month in advance.  We are watching different states’ openings and closures.  Some national parks and other entertainment venues don’t allow reservations until a month prior, if they even will be open.  

I will keep you informed.  Will we love RV life?  We will know soon enough.  Will we ever want to take on this big adventure in the future?  This trip will be our answer.  Stay tuned . . . check in and I will take you on this adventure with us.

9 comments

  1. Holy cow are you BRAVE!!! (And that quilt is SOOO adorable!) WE just got back from visiting our daughter in St Louis and the drive back to Florida (in a car) was so UGH..that my dream of crossing the country to go to Nappa in a rental RV totally blew to bits. And it’s not all other drivers’ fault either..my husband is a dedicated cruise control guy and it just creates all kinds of issues as we dodge in and out of traffic. (Do RV’s have cruise control??😬) I’ll be following your adventure for sure for guidance.. Don’t sugarcoat it now..HAHA!! 😉 Travel safe!

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    1. What’s nice about traveling this way versus a car: 1) seats are more comfortable; 2) don’t have to do bathroom stops at creepy gas stations; 3) you’re self contained so no searching out unfamiliar places to eat and you don’t have to take long waiting on a server and the food to be prepared; and 4) best of all, since your self contained, you can travel in your jammies! Of course, the driver has to be dressed because of gas station stops. Our rig had cruise control but not sure if they all do. I should probably write a blog on the negatives or dumb mistakes made traveling in an RV. I need a bit more road experience, but I’m already keeping that list csi far, the pros outweigh the cons! 😊

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  2. Well, for the next five months I’ll be thinking of Dennis as John (as in Steinbeck) and you as Charley (riding shotgun).
    When I was 10, I’d have viewed this as a great adventure. At my present age, I think not. I’m glad you and your hubby still have the enthusiasm to do this. Have fun!

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    1. Thanks, Lois. I bought the book for my Kindle reader app. I guess this is a good time to read it. Stay tuned . . . . Love, Charley 😊😊

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  3. I enjoyed your writing. This is something I have always envied bit never accomplished. I look forward to the next installment. If you plan a gathering in St. Louis, I’d love to come. Jan

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