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Long Road Trip Observations

30 May

We saw 12 states and 6,000 miles in 28 days. For us that is a new record. We’ve gone that far before but have never been on the road for more than 3 weeks. This trip had more 4 day stops to visit friends and family so the time went very quickly. I was able to keep things organized and fairly clean for the whole trip which also helped. A 19 foot van with 2 adults, a medium large dog and one cat with litter box is a little cramped although I prefer to say “cozy”. We actually drove for a total of 15 days. It seemed to be a great balance of travel and rest for all four of us.

I kept a travel log of mileage, gas, camping and overall expenses. About half way through the trip, I realized I should have made note of the state rest areas. Each state was a little bit different in the quality of the rest area and the distance between them. In the past I had enjoyed the welcome center that was usually the first rest area inside a state on the major interstates. Both Arizona and California had closed those welcome centers. The next rest area for both states had billboard kiosks for general state information. Other states offered the same thing but only Kansas offered free state maps at the kiosks. Closing the welcome centers has probably been a cost saving options as is not giving away state maps. Some states had the state map in a glass case but those were often degraded or seriously lacking in information. Our atlas pages often showed more detail especially rest area. States like Idaho were converting old rest areas to parking areas often with a pit toilet and a new rest area farther down the road. Removing rest area marks from the state highway map would make that easier but still confusing. Wyoming often has 100 – 120 miles between rest areas. They do have wide spot in the road parking areas in between but a real rest area with full services at 40 – 50 miles would have been nice.  The quality of toilet paper as well as hot water and soap also varied a great deal from state to state. Wyoming had some of the oldest facilities but also some of the nicest although they may have seemed nice because I needed them after a 100 miles on the road!

We also had a variety of state parks and RV parks. All appeared in our Good SAM club RV park directory but the descriptions didn’t always tell a full story. One tree does not mean “some shaded spaces” and “gravel pull throughs” doesn’t describe a large gravel parking lot with power and water posts. The nicest RV park and great bargain was Butterfield RV Resort in Bensen, AZ. We qualified for summer rates because 95% of the snow birds had already gone home. The pool and pool table were both wonderful. Deer Park RV in Buffalo, WY offered the least for the highest price. It was a place to park for the night but I’d never select it again. Even the shower was cramped and tight with only warm not hot water.

The worst state park was Pieffer State Park in Big Sur, CA. It was in a redwood forest but was on the expensive side with no hook ups and paying extra for a shower. We passed three other state parks on our way north. The first looked great with camping on one side of Highway 1 and beach access on the other side. We passed it too early in the day to stop. The next ones had no beach access and were full.  I was just happy to have a spot in Pieffer.

Game Farm Wilderness Park in Auburn, WA is a small city park on the edge of town and was exactly as I remembered it. It offered hook ups but no showers or warm water in the rest room. Fred, the dog loved the grass and Murphy, the cat enjoyed the quiet setting. Confluence State Park in Wenatchee, WA cost less for both camping and showers than did CA and offered full services, large treed spaces and extensive walking and bike paths with views and access to the Columbia River. It makes a great place to RV camp. It is not a natural habitat park but grass can be a nice addition.

We were not able to camp at Cherry Creek State Park outside of Denver because it was full as were most of the RV parks in the area. We were able to spend the night with friends but the pets would prefer that we camp. They demand a lot of attention when they can’t sleep with us. If we return to Denver, I know where the overnight stay WalMart is located on the east edge of the city. We’ve talked about but never actually stayed in a WalMart parking lot. We might just need to add it to our itinerary for our next big adventure.





Half Way

1 May

We have been on the road for 1 1/2 weeks and are probably half way on mileage. We are currently in Auburn, WA. The city has a small RV park which makes it convenient. The only downside is trying to locate a good WIFI signal. Got that this morning while Auburn Foreign Car changes the oil and checks our van. Being able to use the laptop is much nicer that the cell phone! I could never type a blog post on that.

This trip has checked a few bucket list items. We spent our first night in Hobbs, NM and then moved on to Carlsbad Caverns and spent the 2nd night in the Guadalupe Mountains in TX. Discussed stopping in El Paso to try Chico’s Tacos but it was too early in the morning. Not sure we would make the trip again just to try a taco. It is a long drive.

The RV park in Benson, AZ was very nice but almost empty. Of 200 sites about 30 were occupied by the last of the snowbirds who had not moved back north. Enjoyed the swimming pool and pool table. Almost matched Harry.

Indio CA turned into a nightmare. I wasn’t able to get anyone to answer the phone at the 1st RV park and got a recording at the 2nd saying they had openings. Decided to try the 1st one. We were able to turn in but then there were people and vehicles everywhere. They were having a music fest for the weekend. 30,000 people were expected in Indio that weekend. Took a lot of work and lots of time to get back out. Wish they had had a sign outside the park. I found a park in Desert Hot Springs (on North side of freeway from Palm Springs) that was only $38 for the night. Small park but the heated mineral pool was just what we needed.

The four days in LA parked in Cousin Larry’s back yard were very relaxing. We enjoyed catching up on all of our lives. It was nice to let the animals explore under the lemon and orange trees. Murphy also had to sniff every plant in the garden. I think he and Fred were sad to leave. We headed out of LA via Highwy 1 along the coast. It was interesting for awhile. Saw killer whales feeding in the bay just below Hearst Castle. Didn’t get a picture of them breeching but we did see it.

Camped at the CA state park just outside of Big Sur. $35 cash only to camp in the redwoods without any hook ups. There was a water faucet across the road from our site. Murphy did try to climb a Redwood and Fred peed on it. It was a place to spend the night. The road was not really designed for our van. 30 MPH curves are nice for a sports car rather than a large slow van. We decided I5 sounded like more fun than to continue up along the coast. Stayed in Red Bluff, CA and then moved on the Albany, OR the next night. Quick hop then to Auburn. We may not be out so long after all.

Trip Advisor

16 Feb

I just posted a review of Lake O’ The Woods with Trip Advisor. I’ve used the site before to get some idea about places we were considering before other trips. I always find it interesting to read the “Loved it” and “Don’t Stay Here” reviews. How could they both be describing the same room (or cabin in this case) or restaurant? Using basic averaging techniques, I throw out the top and the very bottom and then focus on recent middle of the road reviews unless there are only bottom ones. It that is the case, I move on to a different hotel. Checking the dates on reviews is also a good idea as well although seasonal can be more important than most currant.

I also pay attention to photos comparing those posted by reviewers with those on the hotel’s website. I won’t book if they only show the lobby, the exterior or the pool although those shots can say a lot. Shots of the room are essential. Decorating style can indicate age and may imply general upkeep. In the case of Lake O’ The Woods, the photos matched the cabin and the resort property. It was easy to see that the steps to the sleeping loft were steep and the walls were all wood. The swimming pool is outside so I would expect it to be closed in the winter. I enjoy swimming but it is not a requirement. They offer a number of outside recreation activities that would also be seasonal or require a group or large family. That doesn’t diminish our stay.

We spent this week in Tyler, TX rather than in our biannual timeshare in Whistler, BC. We had wonderful weeks there even when there was no snow for our cross country skiing. We assembled jig saw puzzles without the “help” of cats and curled up with old movies or explored on roads that weren’t as snowed in. Relaxing was the order of the day. We will probably never return for a week in the snow but that is okay. We can trade our time for a week in different areas of the south for the next few years. We will use Trip Advisor to consider our options but may very well return to the cabins in the woods.