Monday, June 12, 2023

Heading East - Homeward Bound

Time to land this plane.  Getting situated back into “normal” life got in the way of finishing up episoding our trip.  So this is the concluding installment on our Coast-to-Coast Roadtrip 2023.  

As you might remember, our trip was planned out to hit these highlight along the way from our starting point (Norfolk, VA) to our mid-point (San Diego/Del Mar, CA) and back home.

We got as far as Pensacola, Fl before our final two days changed somewhat to this 

Things mostly went according to the original plan but we were unable to get a good tee time near Jacksonville (at TPC Sawgrass) so we charted a more direct route home after Pensacola.

To pick up where we left off on our trek, we left Del Mar, CA and traveled to Tucson, AZ for an overnight stay with eldest brother Marty and wife Elena.  They had returned a few days earlier from our week long Brother's and Wive’s Reunion in Albuquerque.  

They have a beautiful home with a great view of the golf course out their backyard.
Before we departed, Marty and I had time to go to the RV campground where he is storing his new MH.  I walked him through some of the finer points of emptying his tanks.

We always love going to Tucson (actually Saddlebrook which is a few miles north of Tucson).  The majestic Catalina Mountains (one of our all-time favorite places) were on full display.

After Tucson, we continued on I-10 and drove to Deming NM.  Along the way we tried to absorb the beauty of the Sonoran Desert with its huge vistas, open skies and distant mountains.  There is nothing like the view in all the world.  It was spectacular.  

Our travel routine seemed to be working out:  I get going with the driving for an hour or 90 min, Pam takes over at a rest stop along the way. I take a short nap and while she drives fand then we trade off every hour or two during the day.  We drove between 350-450 miles each day, depending on which leg of the trip we were on. 

From Deming, we went through El Paso, TX, which seemed in great shape.  The interstate was good and even looking across the border from the highway, we couldn’t really tell much about the border situation.  We purposely did not plan on a stay in the city because safety concerns were on our minds.  Also, while at our La Quinta hotel in Deming the night before, we saw some Army personnel who were there on assignment.  They were working on the border security operations but understandably could not say they were working on border security operations.

From Deming, we drove through El Paso, and then had an overnight stop in Midland, TX. The next day we continued on to the Fort Worth TX area (Aledo, TX) and a couple of nights with Brad and Sue.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and got to hang out and recharge for a minute.

Brad and I snuck in 18 holes of golf at his favorite local course and it was a lot of fun.

They too, have a very nice place and there home borders a golf course.  

From Aledo, we drove over to see our lifelong friend Betty.  She lives in Frisco, north of Dallas.
It is always so good to see her and spend a few moments together.  We first met her and her husband (Brent-now deceased) in the mid 1980s while we were stationed in Hawaii with the USAF.

Later that day we drove over to Houston TX to have dinner with Brad and Sue’s two boys and their families.  We were reminded again that rush hour Houston traffic is a bit tough.
Gladly, we made our way to our hotel without incident, then met everyone at Mark and Dean-na's (And Kayley’s).  (Above at the top in the picture at a local restuarant.) 
And we met nephew Drew and his fiancĂ© Chelsey.  It was a great evening together.
After a good night’s rest, we had a long driving day to Pensacola FL.  We were fortunate to be able to stay at the Navy Lodge which is just down the street from the Navy’s Blue Angels.  It is also not far from the Oak Grove RV campground at Pensacola Naval Air Station where we stayed many times.

There, we were glad to be able to find a good seafood restaurant for dinner.
The evening sunset on the beach was terrific.

The sunset was only matched by the sunrise at the beach.  Pretty cool to see a group of Navy people out playing volleyball before 6 am.
Then, we had the joy of meeting up with long time friend, Bill. Brother Bill and wife Linda (now deceased) and their four littles ones were at the Christian Serviceman’s Center in Kunsan AB, Korea in 1979-80 when Pam and I were stationed there.
It was another great time catching up and sharing about our children who are all grown now. We met for breakfast and then had to head on down the road.  

One more overnight stop--this time in Greenville, SC.  We pushed on for day 29 of our Coast-to-Coast Roadtrip 2023.  
Back home we have plenty to do.  It rained a lot and they guy I had lined up missed mowing my lawn.  But I love to mow grass (maybe from my early days working on the golf course?) so that got taken care of pretty quickly.  Pam’s garden was thriving but we had a lot of work to do there too.

We hardly recognized the boys the next day when they came over.  How can they change so much in 29 days?  

Grandma put them to work doing what they love to do -- working in the garden and this time harvesting produce from the raised garden area.
Here they are pulling up the carrots that were ripe and ready to eat.

It was great to be home!

We drove over 6846 miles averaging 20.2 mpg.  We had a full and glorious time seeing everyone and have memories galore.  It was simply fantastic. 

That’s it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for joining us.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

RV vs Truck and Hotel Road Trip

I always enjoy your comments and questions in response to the blog.  One recent one was, “I’m interested in your thoughts on the differences between traveling via RV and the car as you are now.”

Traveling on our Coast-to-Coast adventure in Roadrunner 2.0 (aka as our 2015 Ford F-150) is not the same as traveling in our 2009 Tiffin Allegro Bus, 40’ diesel pusher motorhome (MH).  It’s different, but there are many similarities.  I’ll try to give you an idea of some of each.

Truck travel.  Packing and loading up for travel in Roadrunner 2.0.

RV travel. Here we are in an RV space at one of the hundreds of different campgrounds we visited over the years in the Roadrunner.

As our current road trip from Norfolk, VA to San Diego and back, comes to an end, here’s some thoughts on the subject. They are listed below in no particular order.  

Riding and Driving
The first and most obvious difference is the obvious.  Its a nicer ride in the motorhome.

Moving down the Interstate in the MH is a wonder.  The captain’s seats were so comfortable and enjoyable.  The great view from up high and through the very large windshield is like being in the front row seat of a vacation tour bus - only more comfortable.

More than once as I drove the MH I had a sense of pride and accomplishment at “being among those guys” who did it-- we took the plunge, committed to a new and unfamiliar lifestyle and reaped the benefits (and challenges) of going that route.  It was hard to explain.

Also I’d say the MH is more fun to drive and to ride in.  It rides like a dream with independent front wheel suspension and airbags, fancy shocks --We’ve had meals prepared while driving the rig.  Pam has actually cooked things while we drive down the road.  In the truck the closest thing to that is eating a sandwich she prepared before we left.  We’ve done that a quite a few times this trip and it’s worked out well.

On the other hand, the truck is easier to drive.  The motorhome was definitely more stressful to drive in traffic and sometimes it was just unavoidable.  We got a taste of rough traffic at rush-hour in Houston and also getting through Atlanta.  It was not fun in the truck and in the motorhome it would be 10 times worse.

- Similar in many ways
We figure out where we need to be and when and then start adding possibilities to the calendar for places we want to go or people we want to see.
We looked at the calendar and decided where we needed (or wanted to be) on certain days of the month and then filled in the rest of our travel.  Along the way we planned for excursions and day trips.  Instead of looking for RV campgrounds or overnight stops at Walmarts, we looked for places to stay with friends, family or in hotels.  But the planning is very much the same.

In both cases we looked for value.  We weren’t always looking for the cheapest RV park just like we don’t look for the cheapest hotel to stay in.  It’s a mix of what we know we like and dislike and how much we feel like spending.  With the RV campgrounds we eventually came around to the point where we looked for military campgrounds first because they not only were very reasonable but we’ve spent a lot of time around the military and are very comfortable with the culture and surroundings.  Next we’d look for reviews online and see what they had to say about the place.  
For hotels we look at price, and whether or not they have a “hot” breakfast.  Usually we get the eggs and then coffee, fruit, yogurt and maybe a bagel or muffin.  No breakfast is a deal breaker for us in most cases.

Rest stops
Getting in and out of rest stops is an about the same.  With the motorhome we’d park with the trucks and big rigs. In the car we’d follow the “Auto/Cars”  vs “Trucks/Trailers” side of the rest stop parking lot.

Getting fuel was quite different. It was a bit of a stressor at times in the Motorhome (MH).  If we found diesel fuel at a low price (not the only consideration) we had to make sure we could easily get in and out of the area.  Most of the time we used truck stops but a few times we squeezed into a Murphy gas station or a convenience store gas station that was tricky.  The worst thing about that is the possibility of damaging the motorhome or car being towed.  Also if it was too tight, we would be have to disconnect the tow car, pull out, then reconnect the car.  It was a pain but worth it to avoid dents, scratches or worse.

The other big different is the cost to refuel.  In the motorhome, I’d fuel up when our 150 gallon diesel tank got to about 50%.  It was not uncommon to have a $250 or $300 fill-up. Thankfully during our full-timing years we never saw $4 or $5 fuel prices.  Now that is not uncommon all though on this trip the most we paid for gas was  in Flagstaff AZ for $114.26.

In the MH, we had more variety and flexibility with food choices. Part of that was the convenience of a residential refrigerator in the MH and the other factor is that now, years later, we are more limited the foods that suit us.
Additionally, in both modes, we quickly found out what snacks worked for us.  We’d keep them handy along with water and/or our favorite drinks.  When we stopped at a campground, we could easily make dinner and not get out of our routine too much.
In the truck we tried a few things including getting microwavable dinners and preparing them in the hotel room.  It was a challenge this trip to find an entree that was low in sodium.  We had a couple of microwavable dinners in the hotel.
Later on if we weren’t staying with friends or family, we ate out quite a bit and tried to find the good stuff on the menu.  Most times it worked out well.
In the truck we took a 55 qt cooler and ice packs.  If the hotel room did not have a fridge with a freezer compartment, we asked the front desk if we could keep the ice packs in their refrigerator (which always had an adequate size freezer.)  We’d pick up the ice packs each morning as we packed up and before we left/checked out.

Overnight stays (hotel vs campground or Walmart parking lot)  
- Both modes are very different but each has a definite routine. 
In the MH, the sequence goes something like this:  arrival parking, check-in, finding the campsite or being escorted to it, unhooking the car, parking the MH, hooking up electric, water and sewer, setting the jacks down, leveling, moving the slides out, setting furniture in place, placing down the rugs, setting up the TV satelite dish, setting out welcome sign and mats. 
In the truck, the sequence was: arriving at hotel, checking in, finding the room, getting the badges cart, moving the ice chest, unpacking truck with luggage, other bags, computer backpack, moving it all to the designated room.  
I remember being struck by the notion of how important pets were becoming to RVers.  It became very common to see people with dogs and in some cases large dogs who were an integral part of their family.  I also noticed too how every square inch of grass in an RV part could be quickly marked by the pooch population.  It was different and we dealt with it.
Now I am becoming more aware of pets staying in hotels.  The ones we go to apparently allow all kinds of dogs.  It was not uncommon on this trip to be drinking coffee in the lobby in the late evening and here people come and go through the lobby with their dogs.  An an occasional bark/growl/incident in the hotel.  Or go down the hallway and hear a dog barking.  Times are different.

Sight seeing 
About the same.  We’d take day trips in the Honda CRV that we towed behind the motorhome.  During our trip now, we just drove the truck up to Santa Fe and spent the night in an AirBnB and spent a wonderful 24 hrs in our old stomping grounds.  We also were able to take the morning and go for a hike with our friends Kirk and Susan in Branson MO.  Then too, we had some time so we ran by the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course to again see pictures on the wall of Phil and Tiger and others in their youth.  While in Page AZ for the Lower Antelope Canyon tour we were able to run by Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam to check things out.  And there’s nothing like changing the schedule some and be able to spend the night in Pensacola FL and take in the awesome white sandy beaches once again.

- Surprisingly similar.  We had to make a significant repair to the truck.  The spark plugs were misfiring and it was very similar to issues we had with the motorhome at times.  Over the 10 years that we had the motorhome, it was fairly stressful when we’d encounter a driving issue like a fuel pump that wasn’t working properly. We’d just have to deal with it.  We’d call a repair place, schedule service, and hope it didn’t cost too much.  Like the time I put gas in the diesel fuel tank while near Napa Valley CA.  But I’ll save that story retelling for another book.  Or you can read about it here.

Campground wifi was a bit of an oxymoron at times.  In the MH I was able to do some part time work all those years we full-timed and a I needed reliable internet.  Most campgrounds had adequate wifi near the registration desk/campground office but not always. It was not uncommon to have good wifi at the office but less than desirable wifi at the campsite.  I quickly found out that I needed to bring my own hotspot and had a couple different varieties over the years.  

Surprisingly, staying in hotels has been similar with regard to good fast internet.  It has not always been good and sometimes less than desirable.  I was surprised at this.  Right now I am at my nephew's in San Diego and their internet is screaming.  It’s very good.  

Having good internet and blogging on this coast to coast trip has been a challenge.  My best time to get one done is early morning but then other parts of my daily routine suffer.  We have packed a lot into our days this trip so it has been hard to keep up.  This kind of challenge is common among most of us that write regularly and/or have a regular YouTube channel.  

So one does the best they can and in my case I will continue to make updates until I have documented a few more or our Coast-to-Coast adventures.
Daily Routine
Quite different in the MH. After 4-5 days on the road, we got used a tempo in the hotel as we traveled by truck.  When staying with friends or family during the trip, things were different still. .

At the hotel, instead of getting up and quietly making some coffee and reading some devotional material or blogging, I quietly make my way downstairs to the lobby and wait for coffee to be put out.  Then I read and organize my day while Pam sleeps.  The hotel lobby atmosphere usually follows with the hot breakfast of some sort which we grab before we go upstairs to pack.  

In the MH I would just quietly get up, make some coffee and get going on my morning routine until she woke up and we had breakfast.

In the truck this time, Pam usually made sandwiches for us to eat on the road if we were traveling that day.  For a while it peanut butter and jelly were the choice with a few tunafish sandwiches at time.  On the way back, it seems that turkey and mayonnaise has become the staple.  Grabbing a sandwich is so much faster than trying to get a sub or something for lunch, plus it cuts down on the travel day.

When staying with family or friends I usually alerted them to my early rising, and I prepositioned my clothes and books the night before so I could find a quiet corning in the house where I could read and not disturb anyone.  In most cases, I was able to make an early morning cup of coffee which helped get me going. 

Our routine usually was getting up, cleaning up, leaving by 7:00 AM or 7:30, finding a hotel (we usually waited until same day in case our plans changed), getting to our destination by mid to late afternoon, checking in and checking out the room, refueling, maybe running to the store, then on to dinner or back to the room and then dinner.  After dinner if the TV had a good selection we’d watch some baseball, then I’d go read or blog in the lobby until 10 and we’d repeat the same routine on travel days.


There’s just some random thoughts on the sameness/differences of our travels both in our MH and recently in our truck.  Hopefully you can imagine a little of the ways we functioned on the road.  Thanks again for reading and we’ll look forward to next time on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, June 1, 2023

California Clan

Brothers Reid and Marty have sons(and families) in California.  Reid and Amy’s two sons live near LA and Marty’s oldest son and family live near San Diego.  We were able to spend time with them over the last few days.

First we drove over Ben and Lesley’s house from our La Quinta hotel in Buena Park.  We were able to spend some time with them and their three kids in La Habra CA.  We got to see the latest editions to their house and the improvements they are making as well as get to know the kids a little bit.  Last time we saw them they were not old enough to interact very much but they are a lively bunch now.  

It was the late afternoon and we all were supposed to be at Nate and Angela’s house for dinner.  Their house is in Whittier, CA, 20 min way.  We had dinner there and were pleased to meet up again with Reid and Amy and Angela’s parents George and Linda.  The last time we saw them was in Yosemite in 2016.  The only reason I know that is because I looked it up here on my blog.  This thing comes in handy!

Once at Nate’s house we talked around the counter and munched on chips and guacamole before the tacos and dessert. We all brought something and it was convenient and easy to fix.
Reid and I decided to get a twin shot before the evening was over.  
Everyone indulged me and stood in the doorway for a minute before we left.  Never long enough to talk and catch up but still glad for the chance to have a brief visit.
Next, we went back to our hotel for the evening and got up the next morning for the 85 mile drive south to San Diego/Del Mar.  Before we left the area got some gas at a Sam’s Club and did some shopping, then made our way down the coast.  The famous Torrey Pines Golf Course is less than 5 miles from where we were going, so we had time to stop in and look around and find a couple of things we couldn’t do without.  
We about 20 minutes in the Pro Shop, picked up a couple of souvenirs, then went to a grocery store for a few things.  I also had time to get a haircut before we went over to see Rob and Chris.  Then we drove over to Rob and Chris’ place.  It didn’t look like anyone was home, so we drove went to the town park and took in the sights.  The southern California coast is beautiful!

After 30 minutes of taking it all in we drove back to their place and were greeted with some stunning views from their home.
View from their dining room and kitchen.

Here’s more of a look from their balcony and deck.  It was a perfect afternoon to take it all in.  The rest of the time we gathered in their living room and did more of what we have been doing for weeks now as we visit:  we talked and enjoyed each others company as we got caught up on what’s going on in their lives.  They are such warm and gracious and friendly hosts.  We loved our brief time with them.
Here is Rob, son Jackson, Chris’ mom Irene, Chris and Pam
Andie, their youngest, was studying downstairs for a while and came up to help with dinner and chat.
Rob is quite the grill master and we had a delicious serving of Tri-Tip that was cooked to perfection.
We were able to spend the night with them and then everyone went off to school/work and we continued on our journey, this time pointing Roadrunner 2.0 Eastward.  By now we were 3 weeks into our coast-to-coast road trip and we were looking forward to getting home.  We were missing those grandsons of ours.  So off we went, this time to Tucson for an overnight stay with Marty and Elena.

Thanks for looking in on the Roadrunner Chronicles ~ until next time....