After two months touring Canada, we left Ontario ready to get home. The more direct northern route was not promising weather-wise, and I wanted some warm dry weather before returning for a Portland winter. A meandering south by southwestern course brought us through the heart of mid-America, on to Arkansas to meet an old friend at the U of A, west (quickly) through Oklahoma and Texas to New Mexico, there to search for aliens and explore Carlsbad Caverns, then a few warm, sunny days in Tucson, on to battle traffic in southern California, and a week in California’s central coast, that being my happy place, but I am not the only one. San Luis Obispo regularly places in the top three “Happiest Places in America.” Then, like a horse heading back to the barn, we made a beeline up I-5 to Portland.
After 10,000 miles, in 90 days, we made it home, having witnessed only two wrecks (neither serious, likely no injuries), and with nothing having gone seriously wrong with the motorhome. How could anything go wrong, after all. Anything that could possibly break has already broken at least once, and been fixed. Repeatedly.
There is a rhythm to a long distance road trip. The first hour of the first day takes forever. You look at the odometer – only 50 miles! Geez, this is going to be a long trip. By the end of the first day you are questioning the wisdom of the trip. The second day is not much better. But by the third day, you settle in, and the miles start clicking along, you stop looking at your watch or the odometer.
You have reached road trip zen.
Just getting onto the road in a motorhome takes longer than in a car. In fact it takes about an hour to button everything up, removing all the utilities (power, water, sewer), packing for travel, pulling in the slides, hooking up the toad (the cute name used for a towed vehicle), and installing the auxiliary braking system. Once under way, EVERYTHING takes longer in a motorhome. Starting with acceleration to cruise speed. And stopping. Much longer. Especially if you have delays for horses and buggies (though they could probably outrun you):
So you drive much more conservatively, letting people by when you can. Speed limit is 70 mph? Not for a motorhome pulling a toad. Try 55 mph in some states. But that’s ok, because you never have to worry about passing that slow vehicle ahead of you – you ARE that slow vehicle. So courtesy calls for frequently pulling over to let others pass. And serious hills and mountains are taken (both up and down) at 40 to 50 mph, not full cruise speed, since getting towed out of the runaway truck ramp takes even more time.
If Mr. Google Maps says a trip should take 4 1/2 hours, I figure at least 6. This includes the mandatory nap after every few hours of driving. You laugh? Some friends we met on the trip relayed this dialogue that happened only a few weeks before our visit:
She: “Getting tired hon? I can take over driving.”
He: “No, I’m ok. We’re almost home.”
Car: “THUD!” as he shortly thereafter nodded off, ran off the road, and hit a tree.
They were both fully recovered by the time of our visit. The car, not so much.
On arrival at the campground you stop to register, and are shown to your site. Figure about 15 minutes, more if there is a line at registration. Parking often involves some fine-tuning to make sure you can reach the utilities, nothing will interfere with the slides, and hopefully no tree branches will block your satellite tv reception – yeah, I know, this is really roughing it. Then another half hour or so to level the coach (one button), open the slides (4 buttons), hook up the utilities, set up the furniture, and move everything back into place. This includes the chairs you set up outside in order to enjoy the sunset.
By then, it’s usually time to raise a toast to the Queen (a British tradition we have adopted), make and enjoy dinner, clean up, and finally relax and enjoy the evening. One of the best parts of staying in a campsite rather than a hotel is the campfire. Most hotel chains, I have found, frown on campfires in their properties.
As you can see, this does not allow a lot of time for writing. Especially after toasting the Queen and eating a hearty meal. Nodding off, yes. Writing, no. Hence no posts for most of the way home.
Having left this blog somewhere in mid-America, it is time to bring it home to the Pacific Northwest. The next few dispatches will hit a few worthy highlights along the way as we cannonballed our way west.