When I was a kid I learned that staying busy on long car trips was a way to make the time go faster.  On a four-day car trip to Iowa I spent most of the time drawing copies of the maps from the road atlas my father used to plan the trip.  A nerdy thing to do, but it sure made the time pass quickly.  I spent the rest of the time looking out the window to avoid succumbing to carsickness.

I don't have to try to stay busy anymore.  Back then I'd always have some kind of project I wanted to work on, and I still do, but now most of my time is taken up with things on my to-do lists.

I had three to-do lists going this winter, one for the house, another for the RV, and a third for everything else.  It seemed the faster I'd do things on the list the faster more things would be added to it.

Obviously, I've finished my sell the house list.  As the days got closer to leaving Portland I worked furiously to do everything else on the other two but I eventually realized there were some things I didn't have to do before we hit the road.  So I created a pre-departure master checklist and put everything else from the other two on it, divided into two categories: Things I have to do before we leave town and Things that I'd like to do but can wait if necessary.  My goal was to finish everything on the first and dig into the second before we left.  However as the time grew closer I discovered that there were a few on the first list that could actually go on the second and so the day we left I sighed and added them to the second list.

One of the items on the first list that got bumped was "plan out travel route."  I'm the kind of person who likes to plan things in advance but sadly, so many other things were more urgent that I knew this one would have to wait.  I did however download a bunch of apps to my phone that would help us find things like low-priced campgrounds, free RV parking spots, and dump stations, so I wouldn't have to plan those in advance.

We did know that we wanted to stop in Kingman in time for the CO meeting, so I decided to resume tackling my list when we got there.  As you know I did spend two full days doing just so.  Well, "replace fresh water pump" wasn't on the original list but it ended up being added right on top, since of course running water is a pretty high priority for us typical modern people.

Sadly, before we left Kingman I still hadn't reached "plan out travel route" on my list.  Thankfully, I had some more free time in Tucson.  So last night I finally sat down and looked at our planned destinations from this point on and developed an itinerary.

At the same time I noticed my to-do list was still called "pre-departure master checklist" so I changed it to "post-departure master checklist."  After all, we left Portland nearly two weeks ago.  Most of the items left on it are pretty small and I'm realizing now some of them can probably wait until after we arrive (if I even need to do them at all).  The future is now....

Here's our tentative itinerary at this point:

4/28 head to Roswell via White Sands 9.5 hrs
4/29 explore Roswell, head to Lubbock                   3 hrs
4/30 meeting and service in Lubbock  
5/1 drive to Waco, TX 7 hrs
5/2 explore Waco  
5/3 drive to Galveston, TX 5 hrs
5/5? drive to New Orleans 7 hrs
5/6 drive to Leesburg 8 hrs
5/8 drive to NC 8 hrs
5/9 drive to Bristol, VA 5 hrs

 

Roswell was high on my list of places to visit and Julie and Jaden really want to visit Waco.  Jaden is a fan of Luke Bryan (she has all of his hit albums), so she wants to see his hometown of Leesburg, Georgia.  We also want to visit Julie's cousin Leslie and her husband Darryl in North Carolina.  The rest are tentative stops along the way in between.

Now that the majority of my business (as in busy-ness) is behind me I can actually relax a bit.  Which is what I did yesterday.  Travis, my roommate in Fossil back in the early 90s, lives with his wife Shary (Shar-ee - I mispronounced her name enough times I better get it right now) in Tucson.  Travis had the day off and Shary had to work but was able to join us for lunch.  Travis drove us around to get some necessities in the morning and then he and I took a hike in saguaro country in the hills above town in the afternoon.  The weather was a bit on the hot side but still tolerable so we hiked farther up the hill than he had in the past.  In fact I, being the crazy adventurer I am, felt compelled to go up until I was standing on some kind of peak.  Travis had more sense and patiently waited in the shade below.

Tucson Mountain Park with Saguaro cacti

Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park.  Travis took me to the place I most wanted to see!

Looking up toward a small peak I hiked to

It's not all that high, Travis.  You don't mind waiting here while I climb it do you?

photo of Travis waiting and looking up

Travis waits patiently and looks up at the crazy climber

After Travis went home to get ready for his meeting I joined Jaden in the pool for a spell.  By that time most of the pool was in the shade but I swam a bit before we both climbed out and I sat on a lounge chair in the sun.  The breeze was cool but I quickly warmed up in the sun's gentle glow and I thought to myself, I'm on vacation!

It was a nice thought.

Six months of intense planning and activity which started in September and mostly ended two days ago finally bore fruit.  The future is now.

Today was probably the longest drive of the trip.  From Tucson to Roswell is only about 8 hours but of course it takes us longer.  Besides we couldn't pass by White Sands National Monument without checking it out and decided to drive in.  They rent sleds at the visitor center, which looked like a lot of fun.  Jaden came back looking dejected when she found out the place was closed, but just a few minutes later a kind-hearted man drove in wanting to return his sled but when he found it was closed and we were in need he gave it to us.

I didn't get any photos of White Sands but Julie did so maybe she'll post some.

Next stop: Roswell

looking back over the hills toward Tucson

Tucson, as viewed from our path back down the hill

Life is good.  That's always a true statement, but it doesn't always feel true.   It does when you are well-fed, have some free time on your hands, good air conditioning and good Wi-Fi.  At least, those are high on my list right now.

We really enjoyed spending time with Larry and Paula again.

When I was growing up my father used to take the family camping.  Camping to me meant we drove way out into the woods and pulled into an unimproved spot where we pitched a tent.  There was a water spigot a few steps away from the campsite and a restroom even further away.  In fact if I recall correctly during the first few years the restroom didn't even have flush toilets.  But it was camping, and we roasted marshmallows and hot dogs and got close to nature.  It was restorative.

One time I told a friend about our camping trip and he was impressed.  "You were really roughing it," he gushed.  I didn't even know what "roughing it" meant.  A few years later I went with another friend to a "campground" that to me looked just like a parking lot.  There were parking spaces for recreational vehicles and there was a lake nearby, but I don't remember even seeing a single tree on the site.  To some people, that's "camping."  To each their own.  I already feel like I'm living in luxury in the motorhome, but I've discovered that "camping" can bump it up a notch.

I think I mentioned in my last post that Larry and Paula have a spot with full hookups right next to their house.  We tested our electrical and water connections when we still had the motorhome next to our house, and of course we've made frequent use of the sewer connections, but we'd never actually made use of a full-hookup site before.  With three connections, water, sewer, and electric, the "monstrosity" instantly transforms into a semi-normal house.  Suddenly you don't have to watch your water usage and you can take a long shower if you want.  Things most people in developed countries take for granted suddenly seem like giddy luxuries.

Water sewer and electrical hookups

I didn't make any comment about electricity in the paragraph above because we already feel like we're enjoying a luxury without being hooked up.  We already have all the electricity we could want (at least in the summer) with our mega-battery bank and solar array.  However here in Arizona we have a compelling reason to hook up to electricity - air conditioning.  Our dual air conditioners do a fine job of cooling the rig (at least so far - we haven't hit the high 90s yet!), but they don't run on 12 volts.  In fact, they don't run on 110 volts.  We need a 50-amp connection to run these power-hungry appliances.  Larry and Paula generously let us connect to theirs.  RV air conditioners are notoriously inefficient, and they probably took as much power to cool the RV as their heat pump uses to cool their home (also seen in photo above).  Well, maybe not quite.

Air-conditioned comfort is great, but it becomes a necessity when you have a dog.  Dogs are very sensitive to heat, and Gus-Gus let us know on our way into Kingman that he wasn't doing well.  Fortunately we can also run the A/C units off our generator, so we fired it up on the road and - ah!  Cool air again.  I've tested the generator and run it a few times to keep it healthy, but this week was the first time we've really needed it.

We arrived in Kingman Saturday and were able to enjoy service and the meeting Sunday.  My "house" projects stretched into two days but I really needed to spend that time to get things done I hadn't had time for up till now.  I finally finished putting the trim on the floor, a project I started in December.  The room slide-outs are properly lubricated (need that especially where it's hot), and I replaced the fresh water pump that was giving us trouble.  It took longer than expected, like most repair projects.  Apparently the old water pump (old being a relative term, it's stamped 2014) was going out when we bought the rig, because the newer one is the exact same model but much quieter.  It took three tries to get the plumbing components we needed, but it feels good to have it fixed.  Running water is pretty nice to have...

Despite being busy Larry and Paula were gracious hosts, as usual, but unlike our visit last year where we stayed in their house, it felt a bit more like we were next-door neighbors this time.  I spent two full days working on the RV and Larry was out doing his studies both days.  We spent some time together in the evenings but we attended the Tuesday night meeting in the other congregation because they had the CO.  So we got his visit in reverse, Sunday first then the midweek meeting and talk.  We enjoyed visiting both Kingman congregations.

That brings us to today and our visit with Paula and Larry was quickly over.  It was time for us to head to Tucson and we wanted to get going before it got too hot.  We made a quick stop at the RV store for more parts (which seems to be a regular thing when you drive an older RV) and hit the road.  We drove through Phoenix around rush hour but other than a minor delay caused by an accident on the freeway we sped right through.  At one point we got in the HOV lane and got a rare feeling of passing everyone else.  Most of the time we are the passees rather than the passers.

We're in Tucson to see my ex-roommate Travis and his wife Shary.  I used my Passport America app to find a reasonably-priced campsite 15 minutes from their home.  Technology makes travel so much easier than it used to be.

The heat wasn't too bad today, but we fired up the generator about an hour before we arrived in Tucson.  Once we got into town the weather cooled off pretty fast but it was still nice to have the electric hookup so we could keep the rig cool after we parked.  Travis and Shary were worn out from working hard today, and we were worn out from the drive, so we agreed to meet in the morning since they have the day off.

The Tra-Tel RV Park in Tucson

The Tra-Tel RV Park in Tucson.  Complete with real Saguaro cactus.

Motorhome in campground space with awning deployed

Our first time in a real RV campsite with full hookups.  Old hat already.

After we made ourselves at home with the A/C running we decided to open the awning.  I think the last time we had it open was in November.  It was dripping with residue from the scores of rainy days we had in Portland since then.  No doubt it's dry now.  One of our fellow campers warned us the wind is supposed to pick up in the morning, but I'll wait until then to retract the awning.

Pablo watches the Tucson sunset

Even Pablo got out and took a walk around the campground.  The sunset was brief but beautiful.

Before we even pulled into the camp site Jaden was already in the pool.  Swimming is one of her favorite activities so we had to find a campground with a pool.

After a little swimming and exploring it quickly started getting dark.  We checked out the quail and a couple young jackrabbits on the other side of the fence and then headed inside for a late dinner.  The picnic table will have to wait until tomorrow.

warning signs

Since I am married to a man who believes that the bigger the vehicle, the better the ride; and I have a teenager who, notwithstanding all other subjects, agrees with him, we have a 37-foot-long motor home. Tack on a cargo rack on the trailer hitch, and it’s 40 feet—the size of a city bus. I call it “The Monstrosity,” but Ed and Sis won’t let me paint that on the side of the RV. What is painted on the side is “Damon, Intruder.” By the way, whose genius idea was that name? It ranks right up there with “Damon, Protruder,” “Damon, Peeping Tom,” and the just plain “Damon, In The Way.” But I digress.

As with every new vehicle we’ve ever bought, I do most of the driving. Once that becomes passe, Ed gets a turn behind the wheel. In the meantime, I’ve been noticing all sorts of things on the road which I usually ignored before.

The Line of Arrows—When one has a zippy little car, curves on the road are fun and give us something to do besides holding the steering wheel with our knee and drinking coffee. Not so with a motor home. The small curves are a challenge, and when the curves are lined with yellow and black arrows meant to keep even zippy cars from flying into the woods or off the cliff, you'll drive the Monstrosity 10 mph slower than the warning signs. Add darkness or a downgrade and you end up with callouses from your death grip on the steering wheel. Don’t get me started on snow!

driving in snow
Driving in snow at night. The sign on the right is the third snowmobile sign we saw. The first one should have given us a clue.

 

Overpasses and Narrow Bridges—The Monstrosity is 11 feet, 7 inches tall. I don’t care if trucks way taller than me slide under the overpasses with clearance. I still duck my head every time. In spite of the fact that the Monstrosity fits in one driving lane, it doesn’t feel that way. The way I feel driving over a narrow bridge is compounded 10 times on the face of the old lady in the Honda Fit coming toward me in the opposite lane.

The Jumping Deer Sign--It takes 17 car lengths to stop this 11-ton vehicle. That sign should have a flat deer on it, because he's only doing half a jump before he’s a gonner.

Wind Gusts—Wind is useful if you’re surfing or drying clothes. When you’re driving a 400-square-foot wall, it’s particularly un-useful.

The Tipping Truck Sign—Unlike most street signs, this is a sign that needs no words to describe what it’s trying to say. Before now, the only thing I needed to do about it was avoid trucks that might be tipping. Now, I might be at the wheel of the tipping truck, which makes that sign much more relevant and terrifying. If you’ve ever driven a motor home, you already know it almost always feels like it’s about to tip over. That sign is designed to rob the RV driver of sleep. Like Humpty Dumpty, it would take the equivalent of an army to get this thing upright again. Hmmm. The “Damon, Humpty Dumpty.” Now there’s a name I could get behind.

We've been "on the road" for exactly a week today.  Last Sunday we left Portland.

First we stopped to see my brother Joel in Milton-Freewater and to deliver a car.  Before starting our trip we owned a car and a van but we couldn't bring either with us, because neither is set up to easily tow behind a motorhome.  So we decided to sell them and buy replacement(s) when we arrive at our destination.  Joel made it easy on us.  He was looking for a newer replacement for his aging minivan and an all-wheel-drive vehicle to replace his car.  AWD is ideal for Eastern Oregon winters, and especially after the crazy winter this year, Joel was ready for it.  So he bought our van and car.  That was sure convenient for us and we were happy to deliver the car.  (He had already come and driven the van home.)  It gave us a good reason to see Joel and his family one last time before the move, as well as a chance to see their new home.

Joel and his wife Carra have been living in a spacious home on the edge of town for the last six years.  The front porch has not one but three sets of double french doors.  The sunsets over the orchards next door are breathtaking when viewed through the elegant wall of french doors.  But they are moving on with no regrets because (1) the new place is theirs and not a rental, and (2) they are simplifying their lives by moving into a smaller place.  Simplifying is a goal we have in common, and something we've been hearing a lot about lately.

Thus far the scenery is very familiar to us because of our many years living in Eastern Oregon, in the same circuit as Joel and Carra.

Gassing up at Pilot station, Stanfield, OR

Our first fuel-up after leaving Portland.  Time to change directions and head South to Medford.  Shiny and clean, but not for long!

Maryhill Stonehenge, viewed from the Oregon side of the Columbia River

A full-size Stonehenge replica (far right of window - on hill), just across the river from Biggs Junction, where we start heading South.  Notice several of the many power-generating windmills now lining this part of the Columbia basin.  They are a bit overexposed - you may have to tilt your screen to see them.

Gus-gus and Pablo take a snooze with Julie in the passenger seat

Enjoying a nap together in the sun

The weather for this leg of the trip was half sunny, half rainy.  During the sunny part a lot of bugs lost their lives when we came barrelling through their home territory.  But the rain washed all traces away and left us with a clear windshield.

Parked in walking distance of Dairy Queen

Pulled over for a short break along the main drag in Madras

I washed the rig before we left Milton-Freewater.  You wouldn't know it now.  We ran into snow between Madras and Medford, something we'd hoped to avoid by leaving this late in the year.  We slowed way down and made it through the pass without incident but the snowy part of our adventure left road residue up the back all the way to the top of the RV!  The photo I meant to post here was taken in full sun so it's overexposed.

In Medford we spent a couple hours visiting with Julie's good friend and bridesmaid Cassie.  Then it was time to hit the road again to make it in time to catch an evening meeting in Sparks, NV.  In fact we cut it pretty close.  We were happy to be able to shower, dress, and eat while driving down the road, because even so we made it just in time to walk in the door as the first song was starting.

The meeting program was top-notch, as we have discovered any time we visit a Kingdom Hall no matter where we go.  We feel so honored to be part of a worldwide organization with such a high standard of educational quality.  One highlight was watching a young sister give her first Initial Call tract presentation.  Her parents had worked so diligently with her in preparation that she sounded like a pro.

Our itinerary for the week in review:  Sunday-Tuesday, visiting Joel and his family.  Wednesday driving 8 hours to Medford.  Well, more like 9 with the snow.  Thursday 5 hours to Sparks.  Friday 8 hours to Las Vegas, and Saturday just a couple hours to get us to Kingman, Arizona where we are staying with our friends Larry and Paula.

We aren't killing ourselves driving long hours but we also aren't feeling like we have a lot of free time either.  Our goal of catching the CO visit here moved us to make sure we arrived yesterday.  We've decided 8 hours is a pretty good maximum for one day.  Otherwise we tend to get sore from sitting so long.  We're too young to feel this old!

Larry and Paula have a space with RV hookups next to their house

Our MH "docked" next to Larry and Paula's house

Tomorrow I'm taking a luxury I haven't enjoyed in quite some time:  An entire day devoted to puttering around the "house".  I've got a few things to work on in the RV that weren't so urgent that we had to complete them before leaving Portland, or things that have come up during the trip.

I enjoyed my RV projects in preparation for the trip, but they always happened with the knowledge that we had a limited number of days before we had to sell our house, move out, and complete our preparations for the road trip.  So in a way tomorrow will be the first day in a long time that I haven't been fighting some kind of deadline.  I'm determined to enjoy it!

Along the way Julie took advantage of her passenger time to draft her first blog post for this site.  It should be up soon and I dare say it's more entertaining than this one.