Posts Tagged With: RV

A Whale of a Good Time at Yaquina Head

When smoke continued to choke the Rogue Valley last week, we decided it was time to live dangerously. We hitched up our trailer and headed to the Oregon Coast…without reservations! Spontaneous and risky! And successful. Arriving early on the last day of a three-day holiday weekend allowed us to easily find a full hookup spot at a first come – first served campground.

Our favorite outing of the week was a trip to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse with friends and fellow campers, Lan and Jeff. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the lighthouse has the distinction of being the tallest (at 93 feet) on the Oregon Coast. Free tours of the lighthouse are available most days. Space is limited, so check in at the Interpretive Center to get your tickets.

As great as the lighthouse tour was, the stars of the day were the resident gray whales that linger off the coast near Newport from May through October or November. They swim surprisingly close to shore and put on quite a show for us throughout the afternoon.

Scanning the water, we were continually rewarded with a glimpses of a water spouts, followed by gracefully arched backs of the diving whales. The sight of a fluke (when the tail sticks straight up) never failed to raise a cheer from spectators.

Although the whales were swimming just beyond the rocks, capturing them with my camera lens was impossible…so, while we have no photos, we do have many memories of a beautiful afternoon spent at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and surrounding Natural Area.

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Backroads Across America: A Destination Called Home

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Our lap around the United States took us to 25 states in 61 days, covering 9,833 miles.   We spent 58 nights in RV parks, state campgrounds and one federal camp. We stayed three nights in motels when the weather was just too much.

The average cost of our RV stays was $39. We paid $11 at a fantastic Corps of Engineers campground and $15 in Bowie, Arizona, which turned out to be one of our favorites. It was quite rustic, but charming. All our camps had at least electric and water hookups; most also had sewer. The high was $70, just outside Charleston, S.C.

Could we have done it cheaper? Sure, but we usually opted for location and convenience, which push the rent higher.

Weather. After riding out a tornado warning in Texas, Sue watched the alerts and we stayed away from anything labeled “severe.” That is one reason a few states in the middle are not colored in. We wanted to go up the east coast of Michigan, but winter in May kept us away.

Warm (70s and 80s), dry weather, with rare exception, took us east across the southerly route. It got cool and damp in North Carolina and remained that way much of the way home. But, we got some great weather in South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

So much for the statistics. It was our longest-lasting trip and we are sad to see it end. Sue is especially happy to be home, but we both miss our little trailer. It convinced us that RVing is a great way to see the USA. Overall, trailer life was easier and more fun than we expected. No, our blog has not been hijacked for advertising, that’s how we feel.

We learned you can’t see as much as you would think, but you will see much more without a bucket list. We traveled day to day without an itinerary. We drove for a couple of days, then stayed put for up to four days to explore an area without pulling the trailer.

The highlight? Spending most of a week with our son Chris and his girlfriend Gail in West Virginia, the hardest place to leave.

Surprises galore, but no regrets. Big Bend, New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, Florida, Nashville. Nope, didn’t go there. Chiricahua, Bowie, Saguaro, Warm Springs, north central Indiana. All five stars, just jumped out in front of us!

Was it easy? Absolutely not, but the best trips have challenges. Call us crazy, but we think overcoming hardships is part of the joy of travel. Towing a trailer into a hard wind is no fun, but the smell of coffee from your own kitchen each morning is a dividend.

So, we have left the road behind, but just for a spell.

 

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Backroads Across America: Surprise! Here’s Yellowstone!

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“It has to be one of the best RV parks ever! We have been staying there every summer for years.”

My ears were tuned in as I sipped a glass of wine a couple of days ago at our RV home near Little Bighorn Battlefield in southwestern Montana. I overheard a full-time RVer tell a neighbor about a five-star resort near Yellowstone National Park.

So, after a little investigative work, here we are, at the Yellowstone’s Edge, our trailer  perched next to the fast-moving Yellowstone River. It is one of the best places we have stayed on our journey, now in its ninth week. And, like many of the best parts of this adventure, it was unplanned.

We just finished a fabulous day in Yellowstone. There were bison, bear, elk, pronghorn. Brilliant skies, temperatures in the 70s, and the scenery wasn’t bad either.

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We started at Mammoth Hot Springs, near the north entrance to the park and about 30 miles south of our campground.

Lamar Valley, considered the place to go for wildlife viewing, was next. On the way, we hiked to a waterfall and saw another next to a pullout. By that time, a tailgate lunch was on the day’s menu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe later ordered bear and bison, and there they were!

On our return drive, the leader of a bison herd carefully stopped traffic, including the UPS truck, so the moms and calves could cross the road. None of us tested his resolve.

Bear paparazzi? Yep, they were camped out, watching several bear who were enjoying the afternoon high up a tree. Park rangers struggled to keep traffic moving and direct curious pedestrians off the highway.

Later, it was time for one more bear. A stop for coffee, then back to our wee trailer.

After a brief rain shower and refreshing showers in our home, the sun is out again as we sip our happy hour wine. What’s next? I am listening!

 

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Backroads Across America: Black Hills Give It Up

 

The drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial gives visitors several frames for one of the world’s most spectacular engineering achievements. When you steer along Iron Mountain Road, go counterclockwise if you want the four presidents in your windshield.

A quick detour: Can you name the four presidents? (Answer below)

The 17-mile road was designed to connect three one-lane tunnels blasted in the rock. It features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks and three pigtails.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s presidents measure 250 feet across and each head is 60 feet tall. Why were these four chosen? George Washington, for leading the struggle for independence. Thomas Jefferson, the idea of government by the people. Abraham Lincoln, ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states. Theodore Roosevelt, the emerging role of the U.S. in world affairs.

On our way to see the four stone heads, we explored the 71,000-acre Custer State Park. This place alone would be worth a visit to South Dakota’s Black Hills. We walked around Legion Lake, one of several lakes in the park, then picnicked next to a creek.

We began our day by hiking to Cathedral Spires, one of the park’s many treks that vary in length and degree of difficulty. They share a location as beautiful as any we have seen on our journey, which is nearing 8,000 miles.

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Backroads Across America: Stuff It, Chicago!

FullSizeRenderIMG_0469Finally, we are warm and dry, after a wild, wet, windy ride through the Chicago area. Illinois became the second state (the other was Mississippi) that we drove through without spending the night. We started the day in northwestern Indiana, in the eastern time zone. We soon gained an hour; Indiana’s northwest corner is in the central zone.

Our drive around Chicago took its toll, in more ways than one. Six times we had to pull off the road to pay a $3.60 toll. As an armchair quarterback, I hereby proclaim, “Take these quarters and stuff them!” to Chicago. It will be a lifetime before I return to this place. Our son Chris warned us too.

I know, I know, it is such a great city. Well, you can have it!

By early evening, we arrived in Dubuque, Iowa, a much more welcoming progressive bastion on the Mississippi River, a stone’s throw from Wisconsin and Illinois.

After a hair-raising, 300-mile drive, I had Canadian Club in a bar. Sue enjoyed a glass of wine. Tasty Greek salads followed.

Then we took a short walk to our hotel room. Yep, we decided not to battle the 40s, rain and wind, to set up the trailer. I have to admit, the full-water-pressure shower was great. The king bed is not bad either.

Tomorrow? We will return to the backroads and our beloved wee trailer!

 

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Backroads Across America: Big Plusses to Going Small

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Notes from the backroads, week six

We have continued pull one of the smallest trailers, often less than half the size of other RVs. Even after all this time, we feel we have everything we need and we have not even come close to strangling each other.

There are advantages to going small:

–We can fit in virtually any campsite. We don’t require pull-throughs. Plus, back-in sites give me a chance to entertain other campers when I try to avoid backing into Sue as she signals directions.
–We don’t need a full-size pickup truck.
–We are more mobile in urban areas and parking is easier.
–We have less floor to clean.
–Drivers of huge pickups love asking me “So, how does that Tacoma tow a trailer?” I am tempted to answer, “You know, size can be deceiving.” (I would love to hear other suggestions.)
–Our RV storage cost is lower and our pickup and trailer cost less than the monsters.
–We are forced to bring less stuff.
–We have no room to bring along other people or dogs.

Speaking of dogs, it seems like everyone brings dog(s) in their RV. Often multiple dogs. We have seen up to four. Most are well-behaved. (Dogs, that is).

Pet peeves. Barking dogs, cigarette smoke from neighbors, people who share their music and TV with the campground (many RVs have outdoor televisions.). Park staff who use all the washing machines. Luckily, these have been rare happenings on this trip.

Roughing it?

RVers have come to expect the amenities of a fancy resort. We have stayed at many parks with swimming pools. One had a bowling alley. Two had cafes and offered food delivery to your RV. Many pick up your trash. RV and truck washing can be arranged.

RVers also expect laundry rooms and will quickly complain if the wi-fi signal is weak. Putt-putt golf. Fishing ponds and boat rentals. Convenience stores. Propane service. Walking trails. Cable TV, even HD. Table and chairs, with a grill. Dog-walking parks. Playgrounds. Bike rentals. Horseshoes.

Our place in Tucson had a pub. So far, no parks offered happy hour. One did prohibit alcohol. Good luck with that!

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Backroads Across America: Asheville Leaves Us With Questions

 

Eclectic, mild climate, college town, surrounded by the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains.

City traffic hassles, parking challenges, a place rough around the edges.

Both descriptions fit Asheville, North Carolina. A city of 87,000, there are 425,000 in the metropolitan area.

It was raining when we set out this morning, so we jumped on the Hop-on, Hop-off trolley, thinking we could see the city without getting soaked (I mean that literally.). The weather improved, so we hopped on and off several times and explored.

Do you like college towns? This may be the place for you. UNC Asheville has nearly 4,000 students and is known as a liberal arts school. A community college technical school here has 7,000 students.

Are you a shopper? There are outlets, a mall, lots of shops downtown and in the funkier West Ashevillle neighborhood.

If you like art, this may be your paradise. The River Arts District, which is polishing the rust off the old industrial area, brags more than 220 working artists in a one-mile zone along the French Broad River.  Or, you could explore the former Woolworth’s building downtown, converted into a two-story gallery of local art. In a nice touch, you can lunch or snack at the original soda fountain.

If you enjoy touring old neighborhoods with beautiful homes, you will find them here. Of course, the granddaddy is the Biltmore Estate (see our earlier post).

Music lover? You can listen to live music nightly at various venues. Local performers, but also some big names, especially on weekends. Probably more in tune with 20-somethings. (I promised our sons not to use the “M” word.)

Food connoisseur? Lots of choices downtown. Some pretty funky, some more refined. We had lunch today at a taqueria that doubled as a night club in the River Arts District. Grungy, but the food was alright. There were better choices downtown, but we were hungry and it was there.

Beer lover? Sierra Nevada (yep, the one based in Chico, California) is the big, new brewery in the area, joining a community famous around the country for its choices in local beers.

This city has been put on the map by a host of famous authors, artists, actors, and millionnaires who have called it home. It has a vibe. After three days here, we will move on to Virginia tomorrow morning, not sure what to think of Asheville, North Carolina. Lots of positives. When you visit, let us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backroads Across America: USA’s Biggest Home

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It is the Gilded Age and you have become one of the world’s richest people by means of the shipping and railroad industries. What do you do with your riches? If you are George Vanderbilt, you spend 1889-1895 building America’s biggest house near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Biltmore Estate, by the numbers: 255 rooms, 2.4 million cubic feet of interior space, 135,280 square feet, nearly 8,000 acres. A brick kiln on the construction site produced 32,000 bricks a day.

It is a house beyond imagination, even for HGTV addicts accustomed to the expensive whims of home buyers.

We were among throngs who visited today (yearly visits total 1.2 million). The gardens, especially the azaleas, were spectacular. We enjoyed about two hours walking many of the informal trails. The self-guided house tour was fascinating, but we missed getting a feel for how the family lived. It was dark and felt stiff. Exceptions were the 22,000-volume library and the billiard room. The enormous indoor swimming pool was impressive.

They put us in the old horse barn for lunch. We ate in a stall next to the trough. I should point out that it had been tastefully cleaned up and decorated. It is one of 15 restaurants on the property.

Is the tour worth the $60 admission? If you cannot secure a private invitation from George Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, who owns the property and lives in the area, then we think it is a place for the ages, not to be missed when you come to Asheville.

 

 

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Backroads Across America: These Stores Fit the Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe wish we had 99 cents for every one of these stores we have seen since Texas. Virtually every town has had at least one, usually both. In some places, they are two of very few businesses still open. In larger places, retail activity has moved from downtown to places like…(drumroll?) Walmart.

 

 

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Backroads Across America: A Day at the Beach

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The Isle of Palms near Charleston, SC,  hosts miles of huge beachfront homes fronting small dunes and miles of beautiful beaches. Today, the water was warm, almost matching the near 80-degree air temperature.

We toured Fort Moultrie, which, along with Fort Sumter, was built to protect Charleston Harbor. Some of the cannons could fire balls weighing several hundred pounds up to four miles.

A bridge away on Sullivan Island, we found the buzzing Poe’s Tavern for lunch. Lots of Edgar Allen Poe illustrations hung on the walls. Why was it called Poe’s? Well, he served at Fort Moultrie for 13 months. I had no idea, did you?

We have decided we could be comfortable in one of the homes here, at least for part of the year. That dream settles as I write this in our tiny home just a few miles away, but in a slightly less glamorous setting.

Dreams aside, it sure felt great to splash in the warm Atlantic water!

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