August 24, Corvallis, Oregon
I’ve been under a wee bit of pressure the past few weeks to take a turn at sharing my perceptions and feelings about our travels in the Big EZ. Today marks the one year departure from Corvallis, Oregon, beginning our “walkabout” to see the United States and Canada.
I have for a very long time, since age 11 or 12, wanted to see the United States. This desire was further fueled by my years as a high school social studies teacher teaching U.S. History. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen until one day in the summer of 2009, Pamela wanted to stop at a used car lot in Corvallis and look at a 2008 24’ class C motorhome. She was so impressed with the quality and comfort that she thought it would be a fun way to travel and visit places in the U.S. BINGO! The possibility to travel and see the U.S. was back in play. We just had to visit many RV lots and RV shows plus some campgrounds to finally decide on what exactly would work for us and our 2 Portuguese Water Dogs. This process took us about a year and a half of research and in March, 2011, we purchased our new 2010 Class A 36’ Tiffin Phaeton. Pamela retired in June, 2011. In July we sold our house and about 75% of the possessions in it, put the rest in storage and began our journey a month later on Aug. 24th.
Having never owned any type of motorhome, the learning curve for both of us this past year has been steep. We have a lot of manuals that came with the MH as well as technical support we can call if we have a problem or question we need to solve so we can understand what can be done to correct the situation. Not being the most mechanically minded person, it was invaluable having all this support available in our travels. Fortunately we have had very few problems and nothing that held us up anywhere. The MH drives and handles great over a variety of roads and we have never found it too difficult to find a spot to park for a day or more. One of the unexpected delights we have enjoyed about the MH is the very large front window which gives us fabulous panoramic views from the pilot and co-pilot seats during our travels. Two amazing views that stood out were going over the Continental Divide into Paradise Valley in Montana and crossing over the Canadian/U.S. border into Maine to see the blazing fall colors. Just spectacular and breath-taking views.
What has stood out for me in this first year of travel? The first thing that comes up is that I love not being a homeowner with a mortgage and all the demands of homeownership. Being a rolling stone that moves at our own pace and direction has been great. I like that we have had no set timetable to be someplace or that we could only stay x amount of time. We traveled to some parts of the U.S. for some very specific reasons and others parts just to see what the area was all about. We used the interstate highways very little and mostly traveled on state and county highways/roads. Occasionally this proved challenging but we managed by relying on a trucker’s atlas and the navigation app on Pamela’s droid phone and the Big EZ cruised right along.
Most of the RV parks/resorts plus state parks we stayed in were welcoming, enjoyable, beautiful and safe. We had views of the ocean, lakes, ponds and rivers often surrounded by beautiful trees and vegetation. We stayed in one spot near Tampa for about six weeks and watched skydivers, glider planes, and ultra lights on a daily basis. It was amazing how generous and friendly people were in the parks or resorts the moment we parked our MH. We often felt included as part of the whole community and were invited to participate in planned activities or join a small group for drinks and snacks. Meeting others frequently started with a simple question, “Howdy, where you been or where you headed?” It was enjoyable meeting so many wonderful part-time and full-time travelers and hearing their experiences and where they had been. We gathered a wealth of information that we used immediately or have saved for this next year.
Where did we travel this first year? We left Corvallis, traveled northeast to Spokane, Washington across northern Idaho to Missoula, Montana. Continued east across Montana, N. Dakota, northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin to Upper Michigan (the Copper Country). Traveled down to Madison, Wisconsin for the OSU football game, back up to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, crossed into Canada and headed east to Montreal and Quebec(old Quebec City). Turned south to Maine (Bar Harbor, Camden). Crossed Maine to go west across New Hampshire, and Vermont, then southwest to Pennsylvania (Gettysburg). Continued to Virginia (Stafford), to N. Carolina (Outer Banks, Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh), S. Carolina (Myrtle Beach, Charleston), Georgia (Savannah), Florida (St. Augustine, Vero Beach, Zephyrhills, Bonita Springs, Fort Meyers, Keys (Marathon, Key West), Sanibel Island, Sarasota/Bradenton Beach, Panama City Beach to Pensacola). Crossed over to Alabama (Gulf Shores, Red Bay( a 19 day layover for warranty work on MH where it was built). Northwest to Tennessee (Memphis), northeast to Illinois (Newton), northwest to Missouri (St. Louis, Kansas City) to Iowa, Nebraska, S.Dakota (Sioux Falls, Rapid City), southwest to Wyoming to Colorado (Ft. Collins, Breckenridge), Utah (Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP), Nevada (Las Vegas), S. California (Yorba Linda), N. California (Santa Clara, Vallejo, Folsom, Ukiah, Eureka, Klamath), Oregon (Brookings, Bandon, Corvallis, Manzanita, Astoria, Corvallis). The map below shows the states we traveled to this past year: pink=short visit or drove through, orange=checked out a few places, blue= spent some time in various places, green=spent significant amount of time here.
What were some of the downsides this first year? Traveling across N. and S. Dakota was no fun. The wind blows all the time and made driving the MH a real challenge to keep it on the road and the right side of the road. I understand better why early settlers to this area went mad. Driving in the Washington D.C. area (Stafford, Virginia) where the speed limit is 75 mph (cars and trucks) and almost everyone exceeds this speed. This is especially scary when a tractor trailer goes by you like you’re not moving. It seemed like the drivers in N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama thought they were in NASCAR. Fast and bumper to bumper. Very unnerving especially at night. Southern California is the pits for driving because of the lousy road surfaces and mega lanes of traffic that never end day or night. It felt like rush hour traffic almost anytime of the day. The experience of two big T-storms, first in Bar Harbor, Maine and the other in Gulf Shores, Alabama also stood out. The one in Alabama was the scariest. It brought a flashback to my very young years living in Cleveland, Ohio and the T-storms there. Sheets of lighting that light up the night sky and very loud cracking thunder. When this happened in Gulf Shores, I grabbed the two dogs and we went to the darkest corner in the back bedroom of the MH and huddled together for safety. I kept my eyes closed during most of this storm.
The purchase of our two kayaks in Pensacola, Florida was a real high for us. We had been talking about making this purchase as we traveled from Maine to Florida and occasionally went shopping to research what was on the market. We stopped at a marina just off the Gulf in Pensacola Beach where we were able to demo several varieties of kayaks. We both had a great time doing the demo and, as a result, are very happy with our purchase of two 13’ Hobie Mirage Drive kayaks. What sold us on these kayaks is that you sit on top of them rather than down in and you can paddle or peddle with the turbo fins. We have been able to enjoy them in the Gulf Bay, lakes, and rivers. Recently, Pamela and her son, Brooks, used both kayaks to go troll for salmon on a river near Astoria, Oregon. They both enjoyed how well they were able to manage the kayaks on the river while fishing for four hours.
In summary, this first year was successful beyond my expectations. I enjoyed sharing this time with my fabulous wife and travel partner, Pamela and I got to fulfill my perfect vision of retirement: spending them majority of time wearing shorts, T-shirts, and flip flops living in mid 70s to low 80s temperatures. Spending our winter in Florida, especially in the Keys and on the Gulf was outstanding. As the cap I purchased in Florida says on the front “Life is Good!” Amen brothers and sisters!!!