We now have been home from our trip around the U.S.A. for two weeks. It took us several hours to unload the RV. When we arrived in St. Louis last May, I was given several bins of photos and other documents that had belonged to my sister. She passed away in 2012, but her husband passed away this past January. As we traveled around the country, these bins traveled with us. The night before we left Yuma, Arizona to go home, I filled the Jeep with anything that I could easily carry into the house, such as the laundry bin, and bags of shoes. While Dennis was signing the contract for the storage area, I took the Jeep back to our home to unload it. Once I dropped these items off at the house, I put laundry baskets and tote bags in the car, and drove back. By this time Dennis was in the storage lot, and we unloaded almost everything. The only thing we had to go back for was the refrigerator and freezer items, so he kept the appliances working.
A good portion of the items were put away immediately, but then I hit a wall. I decided the next day would be good to finish the task. What I didn’t expect was that once everything was put away, I couldn’t figure out my “at home routine”—what I did at home everyday! It would take a few days to figure that out, but we didn’t have a long time because my son and his wife had made airline reservations to visit us for a few days five days after we returned. They are gone now, and life is slowly getting back to our old normal.
I realized that I need to do a final wrap-up of our trip, the highs and lows, what I would do again, and what I would avoid. Many people have asked me those questions, so here it goes:
We traveled approximately 9,800 miles and arrived home on day 132. One of the big advantages of RV travel is that I slept in the same bed every single night. My clothes were in closets and drawers. Our refrigerator and cupboards were filled with food we ate normally. I even mastered cookie baking in the RV oven! All our normal toiletries were in cabinets in the bathroom. It was like being home, albeit a very small home.
One of the first things that I had to overcome was my high anxiety each and every time we hit the road. I was not used to sitting so high (I was equal height to those semi trucks that travel our highways). Because of being so high up, I could see over the edge of highways on mountains, and over the edge of bridges. Being a person with a massive fear of heights, this was a problem. The solution was more simple than I imagined. Every time we were going to travel, we did all our travel pre-checks (which I will describe later), and then we would belt up, review what the RV GPS has for trip, and then we hold hands and I prayed for safety, for us, for our vehicles, and especially for my extreme anxiety when we hit the road. I am amazed at the peace I had while traveling. The only time this peace was disturbed was the trip between Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The GPS put us on some crazy mountain highway with “S” curves and no outside railings. I literally, had my head down and either closed my eyes or stared at the floor between our two seats. If Dennis asked me how I was doing, many times I replied that I had my eyes closed, but the problem with that is he would respond, “Me too!” Yikes! Funny guy!
On this trip we drove through twenty-five (25) states. Along this trip we also visited with exactly 100 people (young and old), which included family and friends. We also visited national parks, museums, and other places of interest. The places we visited numbered thirty-four (34). Yes, I made a count of all of this!
Here are answers to some of the questions I was asked.
Where was my favorite location?
I think everywhere I have ever been is beautiful. God is an amazing artist, and his creation is awesome, be it an ocean, an old volcano, mountains, and lakes. What really caught my eye as a beautiful place was Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The rolling hills and the perfect cornfields and beautiful farms had me there.
What was the most unique place we saw?
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was really unique. I don’t know the difference between a National Monument and Preserve from a National Park. Our national parks pass got us in, and it sure was big enough (to me) to be called a park. Maybe someone can add to the comments what makes the difference. To see the earth heaped up from volcanoes and earthquakes is pretty amazing. Down the road from there is Atomic City, Idaho, which is creepy in itself, since it was the site of a nuclear reaction that most the world knows nothing about! I also have to say that Roswell, New Mexico was fun. Not much there but alien stuff, but I have to say it was most entertaining. Carlsbad Caverns never disappoints.
What was the biggest surprise?
I was surprised by how much the western part of the country is covered with mountains. When thinking of California, I have always thought of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. I have been to all those cities, but arrived mostly by airplane. Driving from northern California all the was to the very southern end of California, we drove through more mountains than I ever imagined. We were in mountains throughout Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and California, not counting our state of Arizona, which is also loaded with mountains. As we traveled, the looks of the mountains differed, from forests of evergreens, to large sequoias and redwoods, to rocky desert type mountains. Here is a slideshow of the different mountain terrains.
What was the worst experience?
Hmm, let’s see . . . The RV park in Alabama was pretty primitive and had an ant infestation that, fortunately, we were able to take care of. The scary mountain drive was pretty bad. Parking our RV on the edge of several cliffs/hills was harrowing, although Dennis was an excellent back in driver. So many places do not have pull throughs.
What would I want to do or see again?
I would definitely want to go back to the RV park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was amazing. I loved that there were kids and families having a wonderful time, we had 1/2 mile of beach, and swimming pools, and ice cream parlors all at the park. Who could ask for more?
What would I not want to do or see again?
I think one time at the Mutter Museum is enough. Maybe I’m just a little uncomfortable with fetal babies on display, no matter how they obtained them. I’d also stay off crazy mountain roads, which means, unfortunately, a Colorado trip does not look positive, Mackinac Island is also a place (for me) that if you have seen it once, it is enough.
What Rookie Mistakes were made that we learned from?
Forgetting to lock the refrigerator four times is four times too many! We dumped on three different occasions beer, coffee grounds, and a gallon of ice tea, and one time when wine bottles fell out and nothing broke open! We came home with more bottles of wine than we even imagined, as a few people gifted us bottles when we traveled.
We learned early on that the gas stations we had to go to had to have big lots to maneuver an RV with a towed vehicle. We almost took out a row of gas pumps early on in the trip–oops! We survived that one without a mishap!
Having a proper GPS for an RV. An expensive RV GPS that works regardless of phone connectivity and is not an app is essential to a safe trip with valuable vehicles and even more valuable lives. We were using a GPS on an RV app on our phone, and it took us through a residential neighborhood where we barely fit under the bridge, trees where hanging over the road, and manuvering around an intersection caused a tire mishap. This was a road we should have never been on.
Half way through the trip we purchased tire monitors for the towed Jeep. Although it is built into the car when driving, we need to know in the RV when pulling. That would have saved a lot of money from the blowout and the damage to the car that needed repair.
What would I do differently than what we did on this trip?
I think our next trip we will not go so many places. Although it was fun to make a big circle around the country, see so many amazing places, and visit with so many wonderful people, I think I would enjoy just setting the RV down in one place for a month and just take day trips from there if wanted, but stay in one place. I’m thinking a month on a beach, a month in the mountains, and of course, a month back in Missouri where we have so many friends and family.
One of the big advantages of doing this monthly stay rather than what we did, is it would save a ton of money. We stayed at over 50 different RV parks. The daily rate is more expensive than a monthly rate. We only took advantage of a few Harvest Hosts that were free. Another cost savings could be going to more of them. The downside is that when staying at those, you are boondocking (no hookups, so using the generator for electricity, and water from tanks). State and national parks also have RV parks, but we found that they book up far in advance, and finding a place to stay could be difficult. The other downside is that when staying at a Harvest Host location, they appreciate if you buy something from them. They are businesses after all—museums, farms, wineries, and breweries, to mention a few. One could end up spending as much as it costs to stay at an RV park with full hookups.
As I went through my though thousands of photos to find ones for this blog, I was amazed at so many places I could have added to this list of wonderful places we had been. What I listed above was the first things that came to mind.
This was definitely a trip of a lifetime. Our little house on wheels became home. It felt good when we were out somewhere, and I could say, “Lets go home,” and that was exactly what I meant—it was home. I am now the owner of thousands of photos from this trip. There are so many great memories. I am grateful that for 132 days Dennis and I were healthy and were able to experience this crazy trip around the country. It is good to be home–real home! God is good!