Grand American Loop

Dale’s Grand American Loop

I pasted this travelogue from my original RVing website because it belongs on my active website. It remains the longest trip I’ve ever taken and although at this time of transferring it in December of 2016, over 11 years later, I still like to read the adventure from time to time! 

May 15, 2005 – June 9, 2005

On May 15, 2005 I embarked upon a once in a lifetime tour of the country. My plan was to streak through the southwest, along the Gulf Coast to Florida, up to Maine and back across the northern states. Each day that I found Wi-Fi, I updated this “blog” of my travels. 

Day 1, Sunday, May 15, 2005, Home to Barstow, California via SR99, SR58: 337 Miles 

Could it be? I was actually on the road to see America as I’ve never seen her before! Finally, after two weeks of delays I was on the road!  Day 1 was not the most exciting day of this trip. I hope. It was more like a work day as I loaded all the last minute stuff such as food and the usual array of supplements and pills that accompany us older folks when we leave home.

And there was no new scenery for me that day, either. The day’s route was one I’ve traveled many times before. I headed down Highway 99 to Bakersfield, then turned east on Highway 58 to Barstow. Yep. Bakersfield and Barstow. Not that there is anything wrong with either town – except heat and sand and lizards – it’s just that I’ve seen both many times. But to get this rig on the southern route I planned, I had to go through B and B.

The weather for that first day of the trip was pretty warm. After a long, wet winter at home, I wasn’t complaining. I was at “camp” that first evening, in the parking lot of the Barstow Flying J Travel Plaza parking lot where RVers are welcome. And it’s no wonder we’re welcome: I spent $162 for gas and another few bucks in the store.

One reason I seek out Flying J every chance I get while traveling is that they have Wi-Fi for us computerized travelers. We can pull into most any Flying J, crank up the computer and sniff out their wireless network. For $25 a month we can be online at many locations around the country and never have to leave our coach. Is this a great country or what!? 

A rare event: I actually passed these folks who were traveling along SR58 at even less than my usual 58 MPH.

Managing my bug collection at Barstow’s Flying J Plaza.

Day 2, Monday, May 16, Barstow, CA to Eloy, AZ via I-40, US95, SR72, SR85, I-10, I-8: 435 Miles

Day two dawned breezy and cloudy in Barstow. Barstow? Yep, I thought it might rain in Barstow, of all places, but if it did I was outa there before it started.

The plan for Day 2 was to travel to the small town of Eloy, Arizona, missing Phoenix entirely. That’s why I was on I-8; it misses Phoenix. And the main reason I wanted to reach Eloy is that it has a Flying J Travel Plaza. Flying J gas prices are generally good and the stores are well stocked with nearly anything a traveler could want. They welcome RVs to spend the night in their lots where Wi-fi is available for accessing the internet. I love my Flying J Travel Plazas.

My favorite RV highways are the many two lane roads of the U.S. Highway System. There must be a gazillion highways designated US 29 or US 66, etc. These roads apparently meet certain federal requirements to be so designated and, by my experience, seem to be better than many state highways. So far on this Grand American Loop, I’ve traveled just a few miles on US95 en route from I-10 to I-40. I’ve driven mostly interstates and state route highways. I looked forward to the many US highways that awaited me on my planned route.

I-40 through California: More heat, sand, and lizards for miles!

Day 3, Tuesday, May 17, Eloy, AZ to Anthony, TX via I-10: 339 Miles

I drove entirely on I-10 on Day 3. On Day 4 I’d drive a lot more miles on I-10 through much of Texas, but after that I would be on the US system for many miles of my planned route. 

Somewhere along I-10 in New Mexico, I think I saw Big Bird – a likely tribute to the desert Road Runners!

In Anthony, Texas, for night three, I was at another Flying J. There I was in the lot,  jacks down, slider out and about as secure and comfortable as I would be at home. I thought the day’s drive would be nearly 400 miles, but I drove just 339 miles. Since I needed gas and a couple items from the store, I went ahead and settled in for the night as planned in Anthony, Texas.

Day 4, Wednesday, May 18, Anthony, TX to Fredericksburg, TX via I-10, US 290: 506 Miles

I spent a very restful night at the Flying J parking lot in Anthony, Texas. Although big rigs rumbled by all night, I never heard a thing as I have a “white sound” machine that masks outside noises. I always sleep well in the coach – even better than at home.

I awoke to a beautiful day in that “border town”. The wind was calm for a change, and I was tempted to pull my recumbent bike from the basement storage of the coach and ride a few miles. But I had a lot of miles to cover that day to make up for the relatively few miles I traveled on day one and day three. The biking would have to wait.

I hurried through my morning chores and fired up the coach by 6:30 A.M. The day’s route was simple: Drive 460 miles on I-10, then take US290 to Fredericksburg and the Wal-Mart store where I planned to spend the night.

El Paso was not a dusty border town – it was a busy city with morning commute traffic!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have left so early. In my haste I timed my drive perfectly to hit El Paso’s morning commute. El Paso’s commute?! Yep. As I slowed for the traffic, which by California standards wasn’t all that bad, I had to ask myself “What was I thinking?!” I wasn’t thinking. I guess I’ve listened to too much country music and just took for granted that El Paso was a dusty Texas border town. I learned the truth about El Paso during that commute!

US290 toward Fredericksburg, Texas was a lovely drive.

Finally, after crossing much of Texas on I-10, I reached the scenic, relatively lightly traveled US Highway US290. I enjoyed the drive to Fredericksburg and it was a pleasure to be off the busy interstate. And, of course, I was pleased to land at a Wal-Mart store. Wal-Mart also has a policy to welcome RV travelers for the night. Yep. I’m a proud “Wally-Docker”!

At the Walmart in Fredericksburg, Gillespie County, TX.

Day 5, Thursday, May 19, Fredericksburg, TX to Beaumont, TX via US290, SR8, I-10: 343 Miles

Day 5 was to be the day that I was to arrive in Louisiana – my first “new” state (one that I have never yet visited) since the trip began. But I didn’t quite make it that far. I made it to Beaumont, Texas where a Flying J would welcome me for the night — I couldn’t pass up the Wi-fi connection! There is no Flying J in the parts of Louisiana that I’d be passing through so I decided to stop a bit early. Even so, I drove over 300 miles and maintained and average of nearly 400 miles per day. Yes, that was a hectic pace, but I love the driving.

The day at Fredericksburg, Texas began with cloudy skies and a few rain drops. As I went through my usual morning chores of cleaning the windshields, etc, I was tempted to take a bike ride. But no, I decided that it was more important to get a little shopping done at Wal-Mart before hitting the road.

I’m one who likes to watch wildlife as I travel. I’d been noticing what I think are grackles as I drove through Texas. They look like big blackbirds with extra long tails. I never see them in California for some reason, but they seemed to be plentiful in Texas. They probably can’t afford the taxes in California!

I passed through Johnson City, Texas that 5th day of my trip. The little town made it abundantly clear that it was LBJ’s home town. Their pride and joy didn’t much move me, but I did spend a moment in silent despair as I remembered all the money his wasteful “War on Poverty” has cost me over the years!

Along I-10 near the border in Texas, this car got the “sniff” inspection. They just waved me through.

I also crossed the Brazos River that day. I don’t know a darn thing about it, where it comes from or where it goes, but I have heard of the Brazos River in old country songs. To me, that’s a bit of a historic footnote!

I planned to be driving through Louisiana the next day. When I got there, I would proudly take the little sticker that is shaped like Louisiana and affix it to the little map on the back of the coach. And I would do so every time I visited a “new” state. I guess that was the real reason why I was on that Grand American Loop! 

Settled in for the night at Beaumont, Texas.

Day 6, Friday, May 20, Beaumont, Texas, through Louisiana to Gulfport, Mississippi via I-10, US90, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway: 320 Miles

Elevated I-10 through the swamps of Louisiana.

Gosh. Even before 6:00 A.M. local time it was almost 70 degrees and 96% humidity in Beaumont. I checked Florida and Georgia weather… and they were even worse! What had I gotten myself into!? I was feeling hot and sticky and hadn’t even begun my day!

Driving across Lake Pontchartrain was like heading across the ocean; the other side was beyond the horizon!

On this sixth day of my Grand Loop, I accomplished one of three things I really want to do this trip: I crossed the 24 mile bridge across Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. I once saw a documentary about that incredible crossing, and now I’ve crossed it. It seemed to be like heading out across the ocean as I began. Fortunately, I crossed in the right direction, from south to north. Had I crossed in the other direction I’d have hit the heavy New Orleans commute at its peak time. Lucky me. I avoided New Orleans by heading north.

Crossing the Mississippi River on I-10; one-handed photography at 58 MPH!

I dealt with the time zone changes pretty well. I had reached two hours difference from home and soon it would be three hours later. I had one clock on local time and the others on home time. I tried to adjust myself to doing things closer to local time as the days went by. While this was all new to me, I was having a grand time and looked forward to each day’s travel.

Day 7, Saturday, May 21, Gulfport, MS to Quincy, FL via US49, US90, I-10: 312 Miles

 I awoke this morning in Gulfport, Mississippi. The humidity and heat were mild by local standards, no doubt, but I’ve been running the air conditioning constantly except while sleeping, and then I have a fan blowing much of the night.

 I stayed once again at a Flying J Travel Plaza with Wi-Fi access. I was up and at ’em early that morning, cleaning the windshield which is a daily morning chore along with a number of other chores I have so that I keep this coach prim and proper. I’m not a neat-freak, but I am a neatnik.

A Gulfport, Mississippi casino along US90. This is a pre-Katrina photo; I suppose that “ship” is long gone.

 This day’s plan was to reach Quincy, Florida, just a short distance from Tallahassee. When I arrived at Quincy, I stayed again at a Flying J Travel Plaza. This one was a very busy place as the gas price here seemed to be the lowest for miles around. It was a zoo out front with lines of cars at every pump.

A very strange thing took place at the Quincy Flying J that you’d never see in California: A uniformed local sheriff’s deputy, his official cop car parked just out front, was busy behind the counter watching the goings on at the pumps and answering customer’s questions. I went in to inquire about the lack of Wi-Fi out front, and he advised me to park with the big rigs out back where I’d likely be able to log onto the ‘net. I did. But I had to ask him “What are you doing here?” He informed me very politely that he was off duty and was working part time at Flying J, watching the crazy people pumping gas and being available for chasing down drive-offs. It makes too much sense for such a thing to happen in California, I reckon.

A stretch of US90 in rural Mississippi; a beautiful highway!

Another California note: To date on this trip I haven’t seen a single state that has roads nearly as deteriorated as my home state. Our roads in California are a disgrace, and I’ve been saying so for a long time. There is no doubt in my mind that every state I’ve driven through so far seems to be better run than California. Honey, I still want to move!

My plan to run on mostly US Highways seems to be somewhat changed after today’s driving. US90 was fine much of the time, but I drove through entirely too many towns, stopped at way too many stop lights and dealt with traffic that was not pleasant. So the second half of today’s trip was streaking down I-10 at 59 MPH most of the time. I’ll still try to use the US Highways as often as I can, but I’m not going to average 28 MPH any longer!

Day 8, Sunday, May 22: Quincy, FL to Warner Robbins, GA via US395, I-75: 204 Miles

Quincy, Fl: Another state sticker goes on!

I began this day in Quincy, Florida where I woke up in that noisy Flying J truck parking area. I left as soon as I could get the bare essential chores done; making the bed, dressing and preparing for the day. I headed for what I thought was a nearby Wal-Mart store in Quincy. However, the Wal-Mart was about twelve miles away – backtracking! Had I known, I’d have found another, even if it was a hundred miles away but in the right direction. When I finally arrived at the distant store, I retrieved my little electric scooter from the basement storage of the motor home, assembled its three pieces and scooted on into Wal-Mart for supplies that I needed. I use that little scooter for such activities as shopping so that I put as little stress on my troublesome foot problems as possible.

 I should add here that people in general are on their absolute best behavior when dealing with someone in a little electric scooter or wheelchair. This is a good commentary on the human race, I think. When I’m on my feet, I get no special consideration. But when I’m on my little yellow three wheel scooter, people go out of their way to make my life more convenient. People are – usually – good. And I am grateful.

 After doing my shopping, I re-traced the twelve or so miles back and continued on to Georgia where I planned to spend the night with my cousin and his wife in Warner Robins. He is pastor of a church there and I haven’t seen them in about a year.

Beautiful, beautiful Georgia: I fell in love!

En route to their place, the inevitable happened – something that I should have expected – having left my true love at home for this Grand American Loop: I fell in love. Yep. I fell head over heels for Georgia! I was swept off my feet by her beautiful landscape, her miles and miles of highway, her beautiful green landscapes and her many picturesque little white churches and steeples.

Big homes in Georgia have large, lush, well maintained lawns. Most every little town I drove through I would loved to have called my home town.

I have never seen more lovely countryside in my life. And her roads are as smooth and free of blemish as any I’ve driven in my life. Most homes, both big and little, were planted in huge, lush, green lawns that appeared to have been freshly mowed just for my visit.

…and little homes in Georgia have large, lush, well maintained lawns.

Those wonderful roads were lightly traveled and the few folks I dealt with were friendly. Yep, I am in love with Georgia. But I will be true to my little wife and return to her in due time. But I will never forget Georgia! She was so lovely and beautiful.

Ponds seemed to be everywhere in Georgia, too. Gosh, I’d love to live right there – too bad Wifey just won’t budge.

A typical Georgia Church with lots of lawn and everything green, neat and tidy for Sunday go-to-meeting. I love those values!

My Rev. Cousin Chuck and Mrs. Reverend took me out for Sunday dinner and again after church for, uh, I think it’s called supper in Georgia. Or was lunch supper? I spent the night in the coach, parked safe and secure next to their lovely home, and left early Monday morning. It was a grand visit.

Monday, May 23 Day 9: Warner Robbins, GA to Morristown, KY via: I-75, I-85, I-81, I-40, US123, US76, US23, SR76 (Yes! As a matter of fact, I got lost!)

Eat your heart out! Yep, that’s $1.90 gas and I’m buying all I can! This was in Fairplay, South Carolina. (I wish they’d play fair in California!)

I pulled out of Warner Robins about the time the Monday morning commute was beginning. After a traffic delay at a local school where, I think, a reincarnated Hitler was the crossing guard, traffic by the school was held up for what seemed like an hour. Eventually I reached I-75 and headed north for South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. Hopefully all in the same day.

It was more of a maze getting through South Carolina and into Tennessee. Somewhere in South Carolina I got on SR71 and wound up back in Georgia. After arriving in Clayton, Georgia, I could not find SR71 on the map to save my soul. Maybe I wound up in the Twilight Zone. I spent half an hour in Clayton, thinking I was in Tennessee, checking my two digital maps and the Wal-Mart version of the Rand McNally ’05 Atlas that I keep in the coach in the event that all the GPS gizmos fail. No SR 71 was to be found anywhere. Finally, upon landing at Cracker Barrel for the night near Morristown, Tennessee, I discovered that it was SR 76, not SR 71 that I had traveled. There was no mystery. It was just another senior moment. Perhaps I should not be trusted to wander these American highways alone.

From Clayton I traveled US23 north into North Carolina, then caught I-40 on through the Smokies into Tennessee where I landed for the night at the Cracker Barrel near Morristown. I’m still not sure how I got there after the roundabout day I had. But the folks at Cracker Barrel were very kind and generous and have welcomed me for the night in their beautifully landscaped facility. “Facility” sounds better than “parking lot”, doesn’t it!?

Tomorrow: I’ll just be happy to not wind up in the Twilight Zone. My plan is to just nick Kentucky by driving through Middlesboro which is just across the border from, uh, I think I’m in Tennessee. Gee, I hope I can find Kentucky in the morning…

Tuesday, May 24 Day 10: Morristown, TN to Wytheville, VA via: US25E, US58, I-81: 223 Miles

I actually got a bike ride in the Cracker Barrel parking lot while there, before heading north on US25E to Middlesboro, Kentucky. That would be it for Kentucky, just to say that I included it, then head east to Virginia.

 I entered a tunnel in Tennessee, then exited the tunnel in Middlesboro, Kentucky. I turned around in a Middlesboro parking lot, then headed right back through the tunnel. I then took US58 and entered Virginia almost at once.

I awoke the morning of May 24 after a quiet night at Cracker Barrel’s lot. They are well known for their open policy for us RVers to spend the night with them. I had an excellent chicken fried chicken dinner for a change – it sure was welcome after so much of my own cooking. I even got a bike ride in that morning!

I drove all three states within a few minutes. I rewarded myself with three new state stickers placed on my little US map on the back of the coach. The drivers who pass me must be thinking that I’ve been doing a lot of traveling – what with my California plates and the many stickers on the US map. And rightly so!

US58 is a beautiful highway, but nearly 30 miles of it was a glorified goat trail. While it was very well paved and smooth, it was very winding and narrow, more so than any US Highway I’ve ever driven on. I assumed US Highways had to meet certain criteria. Maybe US58 has an exemption for that stretch.

After the challenges of US58, I gladly turned onto Interstate 81 for a very pleasant change. I stopped at Abingdon, Virginia for lunch, and pulled into an old, deserted gas station where I whipped up a quick sandwich. While there I looked over my route plans for the coming days, and decided to make a change. I had planned to continue on I-81, then work my way east to drive through New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. But with Memorial Day weekend looming, those states would have to wait. I decided to drive north the next day, into Pennsylvania and on up toward New York. I still planned to drive to Maine before heading west again.

I found a Flying J in Wytheville, Virginia, not far from my lunch stop. I parked there to catch up on my internet posting, and took so long in doing so that I decided to stay the night. Although I only drove a bit more than 200 miles, I was ready to call it a day. The following day I planned to head north on I-77. Maybe. Then again, my plans are subject to change at any time.

Wednesday, May 25, Day 11: Wytheville, VA through W. Virginia and Maryland to Carlisle, PA via: I-77, US460, I-81: 385 Miles.

I began the day by reviewing my route and making foolish changes. As I studied the maps that morning, I figured I’d better loop north, up I-77 into W. Virginia if I didn’t want to miss it entirely. So I drove an extra 70 miles or so out of my way. I would then be able to apply the little West Virginia sticker to the map outline on the  back of the coach!

Streaking through the Appalachian Mountains of W. Virginia.

After making that loop of 70 miles or so, up I-77 and back along US 460, I drove I-81 northeast for hours. And I again drove through a bit of West Virginia as I exited Virginia on I-81. What?! Yeah, and I knew that I’d go through W. Virginia on I-81 months ago as I drew up plans for this big adventure. But I’d forgotten. aaaaaargh!

As noted earlier, perhaps I shouldn’t be permitted to wander these highways alone. That senile fog seems to descend upon me with no warning.

I drove I-81 all day except for that unnecessary loop, for a total of 385 miles. I passed through West Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania where I found a Flying J at Carlisle. I spent the night there, and even took the time the next morning to wash my clothes in their little laundry room for truck drivers. As I waited for the laundry to dry, I was hoping that nobody would suspect that I was a lowly RV driver. And they didn’t – I got my clothes dry!

I drove through miles of rain along Maryland’s scenic I-81.

I was past due to get the coach serviced and hoped to get it done soon. And it really needed a wash, too. I noticed an increase in RV traffic at the Flying J – no doubt because of the coming Memorial Day weekend. I hoped the next few days wouldn’t be too jammed with RVs, but I expected that things would be pretty busy.

Thursday, May 26, Day 12: Carlisle, PA through New York to Bennington, VT via: I-81, I-88 (Became I-90), SR9, SR7: 359 Miles

After the chores of the morning as mentioned earlier, including laundry, I merged onto I-81 from the Flying J in Carlisle, PA and headed northeast toward New York and Vermont. I had lingering doubts about visiting New York, and the northeast generally, because of the approaching holiday weekend, but overall things went pretty well. I avoided Massachusetts and Connecticut because of the holiday and hoped to avoid most of the heavy holiday traffic.

Farmland along I-81 in New York: I had no idea! Farms in New York?!

I was amazed by the wooded landscape of the country, including Pennsylvania and New York, which I somehow imagined to be landscaped mostly with concrete and asphalt. Since leaving the southwest desert behind, I have discovered that much of the country is literally covered with brush and deciduous trees. I should have known that, but I didn’t. Having never seen those parts of the country before, I apparently didn’t give the landscape much thought.

I also figured that much of the land would be cultivated. Not so, at least by what I’ve seen through the south and now the northeast. It is mostly woods. Millions and millions of acres of woods. It is beautiful. These are not what I’d call forests, such as one sees in California and the northwest, which are mostly evergreen trees. But the woods are as beautiful as the conifer forests.

I imagine the winter appearance of the woods is simply a lot of barren, twiggy trees. The autumn colors of the woods, although I’ve only seen photos, are absolutely stunning. Some day I should see the autumn colors in person.

The day’s cruise through Pennsylvania and New York was a lot like driving through California on I-5. Entirely too many miles of highways were rough and seemingly untended, full of jarring concrete joints and lousy repairs. Many repairs are simply not done. I honed my cussing skills to a new level as my teeth were nearly jarred loose on some sections. It must be due to irresponsible government, nothing else can explain it. The highways through the deserts and the south were wonderful. Maybe it’s the weather that causes such havoc on the highways of the northern states. But I don’t buy that; California’s highways in my home area are even worse and weather isn’t a factor. I suspect that it’s simply lousy management and irresponsibly spending tax money on “do-good” programs to the detriment of the infrastructure. Arrrrrrgh!

Another observation I made that puzzles me is the many civilian vehicles that sport red or blue lights on their roofs. I’m assuming that those are fire department volunteers. But why blue? In California, nobody sports blue except the police. And red is reserved for fire and ambulance vehicles only.

After passing through New York I entered Vermont. It is rustic beyond description. I’ve always heard of the Vermont “hardiness” and no-nonsense approach to life, but in reality this place is indescribable. The quaint little homes and rustic woodlands that I passed through on Vermont’s Highway 7 cannot be fully described. One must visit to get the feel of this place. I loved  it.

I landed at the end of my driving day in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Bennington, Vermont. It was almost like coming home to discover the store in that small town and to actually pull in and park for the night. It had been a challenging day because of the jarring highways of Pennsylvania and New York – and the pace I set for myself to beat the commute hours of the Albany, NY area. And I did beat the traffic. So far, the pavement of Vermont’s little two lane State Route 7 isn’t all that much better, but it’s a lot slower paced. The posted speed limit on SR7 is just 50 MPH unless otherwise posted. Nothing I saw was posted over 50. And with the rough roads, that’s OK with me.

Friday, May 27, Day 13: Bennington, VT through New Hampshire to Sanford, ME via: US7, SR11, I-91, I-89, I-93, SR4, US202. Whew: 226 Miles

Day 13 of this adventure unfolded pretty much like day #13 should. Things went fine as I worked my way through the usual morning routine. There were a couple of things that had to be done that day: I needed gas. I needed to dump my tanks. I also want to get the oil and filter changed. I also wanted to get the dirty coach washed. But with the skies still cloudy for the third day or so, and rain still coming down on occasion, the wash could wait.

The rains continued to fall as I drove along New Hampshire’s highways.

I gassed up, but it was more expensive at $2.15 than the $1.80s I’d been getting used to. The second high priority job was to get the full waste tanks dumped and the nearly empty fresh water tank filled. That job turned out to  be a real frustrating project as I drove through the northeastern states. Many states have dumps in their rest areas, or at least in some rest areas. Not so up there in the Snow Belt. I tried half a dozen rest area and “Welcome Centers” through Vermont and New Hampshire. No RV facilities were to be found. One so-called “Welcome Center” advised me that loading on some of their fresh water was not even allowed. Yeah, I felt real welcome! 

On the interstate I followed the off ramp that indicated a camping area nearby. Oh, sure! I took a side trip up some god-forsaken state road for five miles to find a private campground. I asked about dumping and was advised that the charge would be $15. I told them I’d pass and headed back to the main highway. I’m not that cheap; I’m that principled. They were trying to mug me. You can’t be ripped off if you refuse to be ripped off!

Eventually, nearly at my destination of Sanford, Maine, I stopped at an RV sales lot to ask about dumping. They suggested that I try a nearby campground and directed me on down the road. By that time my principles were mellowing and I might have even considered paying more than $5 to dump. I entered a very wooded area to find the camp, but no one was in the office, the security trailer, or any place else on the grounds. But as I drove through the place, I did find the dump area with fresh, but not potable, water. I dumped, loaded water and left. I never did see anyone of authority and just drove off. Yep, that price was just right! It was just a matter of shopping around, apparently.

Jacks down at the Wal-Mart in Sanford, Maine. I was at the far end of my loop and would begin my trek toward home the next day! Here I affix a few more state stickers to the little map on the back of the coach.

So both high priority jobs were done. I drove on in to Sanford, Maine and found the Wal-Mart store. I checked about staying overnight in the parking lot and was, as usual, welcome to do so. After just 226 miles, Day 13 was done. To celebrate I went shopping in the Wal-Mart store, came back to the coach and popped a few brews. There was no doubt about it: I knew how to have a good time!

The big news of the day was that I had reached the far end of my Grand American Loop. I was actually in Maine, I had come as far east and as far north as I planned to. The next day would begin the trip home. I still had a lot of travel left as I headed back west through the northern states. I figured that I had nearly three weeks to go. I had enjoyed the trip so far and I expected the rest of the drive to be just as pleasant.

Saturday, May 28, Day 14: Sanford, ME through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, clipping Connecticut, to Auburn, NY via: I-95, I-495, I-91, I-90: 435 Miles

Day fourteen did not begin with any urgent issue to deal with as the prior day’s dumping and loading on fresh water. I had a very relaxing night in the Wal-Mart lot, as usual, and wanted the new day to be a high mileage day if possible. And it was. I made a point of staying on the interstates and off the windy, narrow and slower US and State Routes.

I dodged that interchange on Day 14; that would be too close to New York City for my comfort!

I would have driven through all the above states on my planned route except Connecticut. I wanted to earn the right to the Connecticut sticker for my little map on the back of the coach, so I turned south for about 10 miles on I-91. I entered the state, took the first off ramp, headed back the other way to I-90 and continued west. I had earned the Connecticut sticker!

 I had become a veteran of several highways that ran through the south and the northeast. The southern highways were smooth and well maintained. The northeastern roads were the pits. There were smooth stretches, sure, but there was no excuse for the bone jarring potholes and lousy repairs that were all too often the norm. Bad weather? Maybe. But that’s no excuse in the long run. I came to believe that the highly populated parts of the country, such as the northeast and California, ought to hire some southern folks to run their states for them. Really.

Massachusetts and many NE states wring out every dime possible from the motorists. I wasn’t used to such costly travel!

Not that anyone was about to take my advice. No, the nor’ easterners were so proud of their lousy roads that they made some of them toll roads. So, in addition to the taxes I paid at the pump, they also mugged me on every toll road I drove. And the toll roads were as lousy as any of their “free” roads. On Day 14 I paid $27.60, in addition to the taxes at the gas pumps, for the pleasure of having my teeth rattled and my motor home pounded almost all day long. If I circle the country again, I will not include the northeast states!

The day began with sunshine and ended with cloudy skies and showers. It seemed I drove directly into the rainy weather; I saw it off in the distance as I headed west. It didn’t amount to much, but the sunny weather is certainly my preference. I hoped that I’d soon be able to grumble about the weather being too hot.

Approaching the Auburn, NY Wal-Mart along a two lane highway.

To help me stay on my intended route and not get lost as regularly as one might on such an adventure as this, I used a fancy little black box called a Garmin StreetPilot 2620. It was a highway navigator, using GPS technology and mapping software to make life easier while driving anywhere in the country. I was amazed by the accuracy and speed of the little gizmo. I used the Delorme Street Atlas program on my computer to decide which roads I wanted to take each day, then programmed that route into the StreetPilot. It sat right next to me and kept me well informed of where I was and where I should turn next. Its verbal commands were in a calm and lovely female voice, and she’d talk to me anytime I pressed the little talk button or when I’d approach an intersection or off ramp where I was to turn. I often got a bit antsy when I awaited her soft-spoken advice, and would say “Talk to me, Baby!” as I poked the button to get a verbal update on what to do. It’s an incredible little “magic box” and was about the size of my fist. Every road in the USA was in that little thing, and I believe that included Alaska and Hawaii!

Now, that’s a truck! Double 53 footers parked off the NY Tollway.

Sunday, May 29, Day 15, Auburn, NY through Pennsylvania to Perrysburg, OH via: I-90, I-390, NY15, US20A, I-80: 425 Miles

Day 15 started with one major goal: Hit the road early. After the usual chores such as route planning, a bit of house keeping, windshield washing and can crushing, I was on the road about 0830. That was a pretty good start.

I drove New York’s I-90 as I tried to decide whether to leave the toll road interstate. After much punching of information into the little Garmin computer, I left I-90 for a shot down the two lane roads. That was fine so far as the view was concerned, but for putting some miles behind me, it was a poor choice. I was back on the interstate about an hour later.

US20 in New York took me through some beautiful rural areas. That was my kind of driving!

Once in Pennsylvania, I tried the two lane roads again. As before, they were too slow in this part of the country. I was held up entirely too long going through small, picturesque towns and twisting through the endless maze of turns and hills. Again I headed back to the abominable toll road known as I-90. The two lane roads were better maintained, smoother and less stressful. I like curves and hills; I hate bumps and an endless straight line. Oh well.

Pennsylvania nagged motorists like a worried mother!

The sights were great, the highways were sometimes smooth, sometimes very rough. I was getting very good at dodging pot holes and shoddy road repairs. I got a lot of practice in this part of the country.

I should have just slowed down and stayed on the lovely two lane US Highways and the occasional state highway. But such highways were not as they are in the western states such as Nevada. I can drive for hours on US Highways there and hardly see any towns at all. Here the towns seemed to be just a few miles apart and there was a lot more traffic and delay. It goes against my nature to dawdle. This wasn’t fishing.

After about nine hours of driving 425 miles, much of it against a headwind, and another $13.30 in toll charges, I reached the Flying J at I-240 as it met I-80/I-90 near Perrysburg, Ohio. Whew. It had been a long day. Actually, the whole trip was becoming a mish-mash of days, one day entirely too much like the one before. But I did like the driving and the traveling. I loved it. The trouble was that my senile memory banks couldn’t seem to process it all. If it wasn’t for my record keeping, both by hand in the RV log and on this travelogue, I probably wouldn’t remember where I woke up the day before – or even the current morning.

And while I’m still grumbling, it really irked me that gas prices change at the state lines. New York gas was usually about $2.27, Pennsylvania was usually about $2.02 and in Ohio the prices were back to about $1.90 as they were in the southern states. I was convinced that state regulations and taxes have a lot more to do with gas prices than I ever imagined. The usual media reporting seems to always question the oil companies. Why won’t they dig a little deeper?

A stretch of rural US20 in Pennsylvania. What great country!

That day’s big event was seeing one of the Great Lakes for the first time. I saw Lake Erie, briefly, as I drove through Cleveland.

Streakin’ through Cleveland, thankful for light traffic.

I was apprehensive about driving through the big city. I have avoided all big cities so far and will continue to do so. But I figured that the traffic couldn’t be too bad on Sunday afternoon during a holiday weekend. I was right. And I was lucky a game wasn’t getting out at their Indians baseball stadium as I drove by it on I-90 in downtown Cleveland. I guessed they were playing out of town that weekend. Lucky me.

Camped for the night at Flying J in Perrysville, Ohio.

The next day? I hadn’t figured out the details yet. I would decide that when I got to it.

Monday, May 30, Day 16, Memorial Day! Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois via: I-80, I-69, US24: 404 miles

The Grand American Loop was surely an eye opener. Having never even flown over those states I’d been driving through, my mind’s eye saw them as huge industrial areas with lots of people and concrete. That’s just not how most of it was. Of all places, I always associated Illinois with busy-ness and lots of traffic and activity. Yet  that day I drove for miles and miles through corn fields and countless farms.

Cruising down US24 in Indiana.

I had to stay on the detestable I-80/ I-90 toll highways till I reached I-69 which ran south through Indiana and north to Michigan. I drove both ways. I went north only a few miles to Michigan’s first off-ramp, then headed back to Indiana and followed it to US24 and turned west. I earned the Michigan sticker.

I discovered the perfect highway and it was US24. It ran for miles through Indiana; it was  four lanes of smooth and very scenic driving. It eventually narrowed down to a two lane highway but remained smooth and well maintained – even through most of Illinois. The towns were spaced far apart and the speed limits were a reasonable 55 most of the time. I actually made decent time on that US Highway. Even though I drove it on Memorial Day and the traffic was a bit heavy, it was not as bad as SR120 at home on a weekday.

The weather was perfect that day, too. The wind was breezy but there were only a few clouds in the sky and, for a welcome change, there was no rain. That was the perfect traveling day – even though it was a holiday.

Driving through rural Illinois on US24 was a pleasant surprise! I expected all concrete and asphalt.

I missed the family’s Memorial Day barbecue, so I stopped at a Dairy Queen along the way in Illinois and bought a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard to celebrate the day. That was the first treat I allowed myself the whole trip outside of the motorhome – except for the two meals Chuck and Judy bought for me in Georgia. mmmmmmm. Oh! And the chicken fried chicken I had at Cracker Barrel one night. Life is good.

I’d been driving pretty hard the past few days – well, the past two weeks, really. I averaged 350 miles per day  and drove over 400 miles each of the past three days. I needed to lighten up a bit and get some things done. I had to get the coach serviced. I needed to wash it. I needed a haircut. I knew most everything would be closed that Memorial holiday, but the next day I’d concentrate on the things that needed to get done and not worry about the miles. And I imagined that one day I’d just stop and rest for a day. But I didn’t.

The day’s long drive ended at the Wal-Mart store in Washington, Illinois. It was a long day, but it was enjoyable driving US24 through what I considered to be the best parts of America: the small towns. How I’d love to have been raised and lived my life in such a place. That’s easy for me to say, I suppose.

On that sacred holiday, I gave thanks to those who have served in our Armed Forces. God bless you. I drove by many small cemeteries that day, all decked out in flags and looking their best for Memorial Day. As I thought  of all those heros who gave all for my freedom, I was humbled and saddened. I was deeply moved by their sacrifice. May they have a special place in heaven – and I’m sure they do. God bless them. And may God bless their families who have also sacrificed so greatly for my freedom. God bless America.

Tuesday, May 31, Day 17: Washington, IL to Davenport, IA, clipping Missouri via: US24, US136, US61: 253 Miles. 

The number of miles I drove that 17th day of my adventure wasn’t so important. I was going to finally get the coach serviced! The Wal-Mart SuperCenter I stayed at in Washington, Illinois had a Lube Express that had doors big enough to get the motorhome inside and serviced! I tried about four or five places in five states to get my lube-oil-filter done and none could take me for one reason or another. Having talked with the crew there the prior evening, I was at the big door before 0700 for them to do the service. And they did. I was relieved. And the price was just $23! I have paid over twice that. While they serviced the coach, I went grocery shopping. What a great deal Wal-Mart is for us RVers!

Wifey wanted a photo of me at the wheel. So here it is – But I was actually parked so I would live through it!

I also had high hopes of getting that dirty coach washed that day, too. I was prepared to gladly pay anyplace a few buck just to use their water; I had everything else I’d need with me. But the wash job was not to be, I did not find anywhere that looked promising.

Ipava, Illinois on US136 – this is really rural America, and I loved it!

Day 17 was another day of staying on the US Highways and I saw a lot of wonderful country. I drove through quite a few very small towns, but not so many that I wanted to find an interstate. I have not seen New York City, Washington DC, or any “must-see” tourist traps. I made a point of avoiding them all. But I have seen the real America as most folks don’t get to see first hand. I enjoyed watching farmers working their fields, the small town folks going about their business and, generally, small town America just doing its thing. And I really enjoyed it. I really wish that I could be a part of small town America. It looks like a wonderful way to live.

Barges heading down the Mississippi.

After crossing the Mississippi River, I took a brief drive south on US61 to Missouri. Yep, I drove about 1/4 of a mile into Missouri, my first visit there, then turned around at the first opportunity and headed back north. At least it earned me the rights to the Missouri sticker for the map I was trying to fill out.

I drove just 253 miles that day. After the doings at Wal-Mart that morning, that was quite enough. And the next day I might not do any better. It all depended on what I found on my travels.

I landed at the Flying J near Davenport, Iowa at the end of the day’s driving. It seemed that there was a truck wash nearby. Hmmmmm, maybe the next day would be wash day!

Wednesday, June 1, Day 18: Davenport, IA to Sioux City, IA plus crossing the line into Wisconsin via: US61, US20: 382 Miles

Sure enough! There was a truck wash facility near the Flying J in Davenport where I spent the night. As  soon as my morning chores were done I drove over and asked the price for a wash. They charged $1 per foot, they told me. That would be – uh – $32. Good deal. I got the coach washed at long last. They did a great job! I tipped them another $5. It was a bargain, I thought.

Finally! A long overdue coach washing @ $1 per foot. Ahhhhhh. The coach and I both felt better.

I then headed west on I-80 briefly, just a short way to get back to US61 from Flying J. I drove north to Dubuque and the Mississippi River, crossed the Mississippi into Wisconsin, and pulled into the Welcome Area. While being welcomed, I pasted the Wisconsin sticker to the USA map on the back of the coach. I had barely earned it,  but I was in Wisconsin as I stuck it on. Then I drove back across the Mississippi, caught US20 and headed west across the entire width of Iowa to Sioux City. It was a long, straight drive through the rolling hills of Iowa’s incredible farm country and the wonderful small towns and rural areas.

One Iowa farm town I drove through was Rockwell City. Their claim to fame was, according to their sign, “The Golden Buckle of the Farm Belt”. It must have been a busy day during harvest time when they dreamed up that one!

Parked near the base of an Iowa cornfield wind turbine, the coach gave scale to its gigantic size.

Then I finally stopped and took in a local attraction! I’m not one for tourist traps, but a giant wind turbine – much like those I cannot see up close at Rio Vista, near my home in California – certainly did get my attention. I drove about a mile off US20 to get within walking distance of one, then walked right up and touched the monster. I’m guessing that the length of one of the three blades was about 100 feet. An incredible coincidence was that I believe I saw one of the turbines in transit along my route, aboard a truck with about a dozen axles to handle the weight. It was escorted by a pilot car due to its over length, over width and over weight. What a sight!

Here it is folks! The Golden Buckle of the Farm Belt: Rockwell City, Iowa! And while I joke about their chosen slogan, you can bet I’d rather live there than anywhere in California!

I had visited – I think – 28 states on this trip. That’s 28 states in 18 days. Yes, I was streaking through this trip in a big hurry, but that’s how I do most things, it seems. I’d be in Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota the next day. Then there’d  be North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon before heading back to the madness of California. I should have taken a lot longer getting back there. The more of other states I saw, the more I hated living there. I enjoyed those beautiful states while I could.

Thursday, June 2, Day 19, Sioux City, IA through Nebraska and Minnesota to Rapid City, SD via: US20, US61, I-75, I-90: 457 Miles

That morning I drove across the bridge to Nebraska, turned around at the first off ramp and went back to Iowa. I then got on US75 and drove north to Minnesota where I headed west on I-90, crossed the state line into South Dakota and drove nearly the entire state to Rapid City where I settled in for the night at a Flying J and their WiFi internet connection.

Catching up on the ‘net at Flying J in Rapid City, SD

The day’s drive was pleasant; the roads were smooth and comfortable and there was very little construction going on. I dealt with a fairly strong cross wind from the south as I crossed the first half of South Dakota, but it died down nicely as the afternoon wore on.

Streaking west on I-90 through South Dakota.

It seemed that my gas price theory had been struck down. I bought gas that night in Rapid City for $2.20 per gallon. That was the most I  paid since – ummm – I don’t remember when. I checked Flying J on the internet and it wasn’t going to get any better as I headed west. The theory about prices being higher the closer one gets to California still held, apparently. Rats.

The vast open country of South Dakota.

Friday, June 3, Day 20, Rapid City, SD through North Dakota to Miles City, MT via: I-90, US85, US12, I-94: 296 Miles

With a full tank of gas and near empty holding tanks, I headed out on the day’s adventure under sunny skies and good cheer. And why not?

Cowboys and their rigs along US 85 in South Dakota.

I headed west on I-90 and passed Sturgis, South Dakota and was reminded constantly via the billboards that this was surely biker country. At US85 I left the interstate and headed north to North Dakota. US85 was as remote as US50 through the trackless desert of Nevada. But the Dakota landscape was green and beautiful. The weather was mild, the wind was nearly calm and I loved every minute of it. When I reached what seemed to be the top of US85, probably about 4000 feet, I stopped and had lunch. The quietness of the place was pure heaven to me. Other than the occasional passing vehicle, there was only the flutter of the occasional grasshopper and the distant chortle of meadowlarks. Now, that was a place I could live. At least for the month of May when the wind didn’t blow.

The highways I drove that day were generally smooth and pleasant most of the day. There was a section of US12 in Montana that was a bit choppy due to the concrete joints, but overall it was a very pleasant drive. The traffic was very light through most of the remote areas that I traveled.

I planned to drive to Billings, Montana, but as I seemed to tire early, I opted to make Miles City, Montana the end of the day’s drive. I parked in the lot of the local Wal-Mart and spent the night there. The next day I’d stop in Billings at the Flying J Travel Plaza to log onto the internet and post the day’s travelogue and photos.

It had been a good day. I enjoyed the long, lonesome drive. I’d likely reach Idaho the next day. That Great American Loop was winding down. I had but three states to drive into to earn the map sticker: Idaho, Montana and Washington. The Oregon sticker, the only other state left, had been in place for a long time.

I planned to stay a couple of days at my friend Al’s home in Oregon and to do a bit of trout or kokanee fishing while there. (I really missed my fishing on this trip.) That would likely be the first of the week. After that, it would be just a couple of days ‘til I arrived back home. And that was beginning to sound pretty exciting.

I took a bike ride in Miles City. Note the weather in the background!

Saturday, June 4, Day 21, Miles City, MT to Butte, MT via: I-94, I-90: 373 Miles

Day 21!? That made three complete weeks of my Grand American Loop. I averaged 350 miles per day for each of the 21 days and I hadn’t taken a day of rest the whole trip. Frankly, it occurred to me to take a day off only once, and I had forgotten about it. But I was beginning to feel the wear of that pace. I was tiring. I was especially tired that night.

I suppose I should have been extra tired after indulging in my favorite meal for lunch: Chinese buffet. I pigged out soooo bad. It was a very good buffet, too. I found it in Billings, Montana on my little Garmin navigator thingy. I just did a search for “Chinese Restaurant” and up it came. And while it told me how to get there, it didn’t tell me not to eat so much. But that was only the second such meal in three weeks so I wasn’t too hard on myself. I’m sure that a stuffed belly and driving over three hundred miles had a lot to do with being so tired. But it was a good tired.

While in Billings I also shopped at Wal-Mart for a few things and then went to Flying J to get on the ‘net via their Wi-Fi. Billings was a hundred miles or so west of Miles City where I spent the night. After the shopping and the eating I headed on down the interstate to Butte, Montana. Butte is pretty high in the Rockies, about 6000 feet according to my little altimeter which isn’t all that accurate.

As I began that 21st morning by crushing aluminum cans outside the coach – a part of my morning chores – a young lady pulled up and asked for some information about my trip. Huh? As it turned out, she was a local reporter doing a story for her newspaper about what goes on in Miles City 24 hours a day. I guess we Wally-Dockers at Wal-Mart were considered a part of the happenings in Miles City. So, although I remained an undiscovered celebrity all over the world, I guess I got mentioned in the Miles City newspaper. Perhaps I have been discovered!

I-90 Westbound through Montana. Simply beautiful!

Today’s drive was nearly all on I-90. I drove the few miles from Miles City to Butte on I-94 where it terminates at I-90. All of Montana seemed to be nice country to drive through, but it was not the same as driving the US Highways through the countryside and small towns. I-90 was a very smooth and driveable highway, although I climbed quite a lot getting up to Butte and the Wal-Mart parking lot. Maybe the next day I’d get some downhill. Maybe not.

Sunday, June 5, Day 22, Butte, MT through Idaho to Walla Walla, WA via: I-90, US12: 431 Miles 

Leaving Butte, Montana that morning, I had to decide whether to continue on I-90 from the city of Missoula, or to take US12, which was actually shorter to Washington as measured in miles. I chose US12. It may have been fewer miles, but it turned out to be a much longer drive.

Clearwater Canyon along US12 was a long and beautiful drive – even through the rain.

I drove at least 200 miles of US12 along the Clearwater River Canyon, much of it in the rain. But the beauty of the drive was incredible. It was all river and forest and very lovely. I gave the steering wheel a good work out, continually turning through the endless bends and curves. While it was demanding, I’m glad that I chose it over the interstate highway.

I followed US12 to Walla Walla, Washington and their local Wal-Mart store. The store was being converted into a Super Center and was a very busy place, indeed, on that Sunday afternoon. But as usual, I was at ease in the parking lot under the gaze of their security cameras and patrols. Wal-Mart is a wonderful and safe place to stop while RVing. I am a devoted WallyDocker and proud of it.

Much of that day’s route was marked as the Lewis and Clark Trail. I wondered what kind of motor home they had. Probably back in those days they didn’t have such a wonderful invention as my Rexhall Class A. I reckon they used travel trailers back then, pulled by old pick up trucks. And they probably had very few interstates. Yep, I should have paid more attention to my history teachers, I suppose.

During the day’s drive along I-90, behind a Wal-Mart truck, a separated truck tire tread suddenly appeared in front of me. The Wal-Mart truck driver ahead of me straddled the debris, and by the time he was safely over it, I had no time to dodge it. I, too, tried to straddle the big chunk of rubber. With my low ground clearance, I wasn’t so lucky. I heard it slap the under parts of the coach, and watched the gauges closely immediately after. There was no change in the readings on the gauges; I was convinced that the engine hoses, etc. were not hit. But when I stopped for lunch, I checked the under carriage of the coach. The rear, port side jack had been hit and the “foot” of the jack had been knocked loose from one of the two springs and was dangling on the second spring. I was able to re-attach the foot and reconnect the spring. I was lucky. No real damage had been done. Whew.

The next day, Monday, I planned to reach my friend in Prineville, Oregon for some kokanee fishing on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday I planned to head for home. I would arrive home by Thursday evening. I was ready to arrive home, it had been a long and enjoyable trip.

Monday, June 6, Day 23, Walla Walla, WA to Prineville, OR via: SR11, I-84, US97, US26: 268 Miles 

I had a relatively short drive from Walla Walla, Washington to Prineville, Oregon. Although I was nearing home, a day off  would be a very welcome rest. I parked the coach at Al’s place and went fishing with my old high school buddy. While it was raining the day I arrived, we did manage to go fishing. The fishing? Al did well, I did so-so.

I-84 in Oregon along the Columbia River. That’s Washington across the river.

The weather had been consistent if not sunny and warm. I drove through rain and wind during much of the prior few days. Nights had been downright cold for June. I had been using an extra blanket instead of having the fan on in the bedroom. It was a strange springtime. There in Crook County, Oregon, the weather man predicted snow for the mountains. I fished this part of Oregon two years earlier with Al. It was July. It snowed on us at Paulina Lake. Did I say it was July? So I guess any kind of weather is in season around there. The temperature dropped into the 30s that night. Brrrrrrrr. 

The roads through Washington and Oregon were wonderful. Although I’d been on a lot of “backwater” highways, all of them were better than the rotten roads I endured in the northeastern states. And nobody in Washington and Oregon greets me at the off ramps and toll booths with their hand out for money. Yes, I was still disgusted with the northeast’s poor management. At least when I drive the lousy roads in California, I don’t pay extra for the potholes and rotten repairs. Yet.

Wednesday, June 8, Day 25, Prineville, OR to Willows, CA via SR26, US97, I-5: 350 Miles

 It was good to pull up to Al’s house in Prineville, Oregon on Monday. I parked on their property and made myself at home for a whole day. We went fishing on Tuesday as planned and had a good time on the lake as old buddies always do.

I left Prineville with plans to reach Corning, California and the Wifi available to me there. I wish that I could post photos of the fishing, but I didn’t take the camera along on our little trip. Rats.

A tree farm along Oregon Route 97.

I drove US97 through Oregon and California to I-5 in Weed, California. As soon as I crossed the state line on US97, the roads were noticeably worse. I suppose that my complaining about the roads in California and the northeast is an old song by now, but it just chaps my hide that the highest taxed states have the worst roads. I am convinced that there is no excuse.

Back on the miserable I-5 in Kalifornistan. Look at that broken roadway! There is just NO excuse!

The unusually cool weather continued. There were clear skies and lots of sunshine as I left Prineville, but along US97 in California the rain began. It continued to rain clear down to where I parked in Corning – and continued most of the day. I believe that it was snowing in the mountains above Weed.

Lake Shasta appeared to be full to the brim as I crossed it on the I-5 bridges, and the Sacramento River seemed very high when I crossed it in Red Bluff. All that water in California is a good thing. The more water the better for us Californians. Here in California, it is said, whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over. Maybe this year’s wonderful supply will be good for the fishing, too. I hope so.

After my updates on the ‘net on the Wi-fi in Corning, I continued down I-5 for about 25 miles to the Wal-Mart store in Willows. I like the security and quiet of Wal-Mart and I didn’t think that where I parked at a truck repair location with Flying J Wifi connection seemed such a good place to spend the night. While the Wi-Fi connection was available at the repair facility, it was not a Flying J Travel Plaza.

That night in Corning was the last night of my Grand American Loop. I’d be home the next day! Getting back home was a delightful prospect as I was more than ready to enjoy the company of my loving wife and to reclaim my cozy recliner in front of the TV. And there’s also the hot tub… and the boat… and the nearby Chinese buffet and… and… everything about home! I’ll even be glad to see my wife’s annoying little poodle, Wiggles! Briefly.

Home! Four weeks on the road was fun, but it just ain’t like home. Even so, by the first Monday after getting home, I’d  be readying the boat for a two day trip to the lake. And so it goes.

Thursday, June 9, Day 26, Willows, CA to home near Stockton, CA via I-5, SR99: 144 Miles

I made it! I arrived the morning of the 26th day at about 8:30 A.M. and it was a wonderful thing to hug my wife and put up with the ecstatic welcome of our little poodle. Wiggles jumped all over the place, whining  and yelping, then jumped on my lap and peed. Yep, I was home – which includes life with an overactive pooch. And it was good to be home.

That first day home I unloaded a lot of the stuff from the coach, got a haircut, ate at my favorite Chinese buffet and chunky-dunked in the hot tub. (I’m too big to skinny-dip these days.) Ahhhhhhh. Life is good.


According to the odometer, I traveled 8573 miles, but it read fewer than the Garmin GPS on a daily comparison, so I actually traveled more miles than indicated. I was in 38 states over the 26 days. It was a long, enjoyable trip.

The last day’s drive was very short. I drove through Sacramento during the morning commute, but all went well. I was back in the hurried world of Kalifornistan. I would loved to have pulled up to a country home in – say, Texas – and call that home. I sure loved the south. I must be a southern boy at heart. Maybe some day…

Those that said my pace for this trip was too fast were right. But when alone, I would rather get behind the wheel and drive than sight-see. I saw a lot of the country but didn’t actually live any of it. Maybe someday my wife will agree to a long, slow trip. Maybe to Texas or Mississippi – one way! But I ain’t holding my breath.

I saw much of the country on my Continental Loop, and pretty much filled up that little map on the back of the coach. That was the intent from the start – and that’s what I did. Success is sweet.

Yep! I pretty much filled up the map; I think just New Jersey and Rhode Island remain!

The coach back home in her space – and so was I! No matter where I roam, home with Wifey is best!

The entire trip was 8787 miles after adjusting the coach’s odometer readings to the accuracy of the Garmin GPS odometer. The Garmin reads about 2.5% more distance than does the Ford odometer. I choose to trust the accuracy of the GPS.

For the sake of computing miles per gallon, I measured fuel economy from where I filled up in Barstow, California, at the end of day one. Since that fill up, I traveled 8448 miles on 978 gallons of gas. Figuring about a half gallon for each hour that I ran the big generator, I calculated that I got 8.6 miles per gallon. I am very pleased with that fuel economy.  

I spent 11 nights at Flying J Travel Plazas, 10 nights at Wal-Marts lots, three nights at friend’s or family’s homes and one night at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant lot. That’s 25 nights, the night of the 26th day I was at home. I did not spend one dime to stay at RV parks along the way.

I spent a total of $3 to dump my tanks on the entire trip, that being well spent at the lovely RV park in Prineville, Oregon shortly after my arrival. During the trip I used mainly public dumping facilities at rest areas. One RV park tried to charge me $15 to dump and I declined. You can’t be ripped off if you refuse to be ripped off.

It was a wonderful trip. I hope to do another such adventure again some day. It will be slower, my wife will hopefully be along for the ride, and we’ll likely spend every third night at RV parks for her comfort and convenience.

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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