Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our big trip to the east coast.

Here we go the big trip report, not an English major so don’t expect a great novel. This is the trip the Hawk was purchased for. Several years ago with retirement coming up the wife and I decided one of the things we wanted to do was take a trip across the USA. Looked at motor homes and decided that we could not park everywhere we wanted to go. Thought about driving a small car to save gas and stay at models, we both like to camp and wanted to see the National Parks. Getting too old for tent camping, we looked and found the 4WC would fit my 2005 Tundra. Started to look for used campers and anything under $8,000 was sold before we could see it. Visited both 4WC and ATC decided if we could not find a good used one under $8,000 we would purchase a new ATC. Serendipity, a friend with an auto repair shop called and said he had a customer who wanted to sell a camper like I was looking for. Long story short $3,500 later I own a 2002 Hawk.

On to the trip our only plans were to see friends I had worked with in Austin MN, Dubuque IA and visit the daughter in Baltimore MD. Planed to stay at public parks or Camp Walmart, motel every few days to freshen up. Oct 15, on the road at 10:00 AM and drove to Cabella’s in Reno for a $50.00 can of bear spray just in case. Stopped at Elko, our first night at Camp Walmart. Lots of noise until 10:00 PM found out it was homecoming night and that diesel trucks are the high school hot rods in Elko. Good sleeping until 5 AM when the street sweeper from hell came by. This thing sounded like an old thrashing machine with every chain loose.

Up and on the road at 8:00 AM. Sunday: Wells NV and  Twin Falls ID.

Next we were off to Pocatello, Idaho Falls and Yellowstone. Rained hard until midnight the roof sounded like a drum. Got up to 25 degrees, the heater worked great and the Hawk was warm when we got up, with some ice inside. Decided to have a big breakfast at the lodge by Old Faithful, fantastic food.

Found the pass was closed by snow and ice going the south loop we had planed on. Went north and saw some great wildlife and scenery.

Our future son in law got us a book called Road Trip USA lots of information on back roads and out of the way places. Used it the first time in Cody WY to eat at a small restaurant called Proud Cut Saloon, pot roast was the special of the day and each of us had over a pound of meat on our plates and it was perfect. On to the bighorn mountains, lots of snow and hunting season, saw two big bucks on a front hitch carrier.

Driving out of Yellowstone. 

Sunset in Wyoming 

Spent the night in Gillette WY. Wall Drug in ND for our tourist stop of the day.

Every pickup had an ATV in the back or a trailer with several ATV’s in two. WTH I asked at a gas stop why all the ATV’s and found out it was the opening of pheasant season. Long day of driving, stopped at Sioux Falls for our first night in a motel.

 Short drive to Austin MN. I worked over 30 years for Hormel Foods, great company and worked with some fine people. Visited many friends in the corporate office and spent the night with a good friend.

Next day a short drive to Dubuque IA and Hormel’s newest plant. Good friend is the plant manager and gave us a tour. Spent the night at his house. Yes that is 3 nights without raising the top. After our visits and recommendations from friends we were off to Galena IL.

We also added Chicago and Niagara Fall to our trip. Nice to have the time to do what you want and not stay on a set schedule. Purchased a Toll Pass when we got to IL, our friends recommended this at it saves ½ the toll cost and you can drive by the toll booths at 45 MPH. Chicago may have been a mistake, traffic was like L.A. Spent the night in Michigan City at Camp Walmart, quite night.

Crossed the border to Canada at Port Huron, spent the night a Camp Walmart in Ancaster, super quite night. Got off the main road and drove along the lake, we were surprised by the crops this far north. Grapes, peaches and other tree fruits. Stopped at a small fruit stand and found out the lake keeps the temps moderate to grow what they do. Found the only problem of the trip, my wind wing had moved back and was rubbing into the camper.

Fall colors were good and we enjoyed the drive all the way to Niagara without getting on the freeway.

Lots of traffic at the Niagara Falls, the annual marathon was today. Lots of people at the Falls and an extra 10,000 or so for the marathon.

Looked at the Rainbow Bridge and it was a parking lot going into the USA. We drove down to Buffalo to enter back into the USA.

Corning NY was the first Walmart that said no to spending the night, local law. Found an Econo Lodge, I would not recommend this hotel chain, just short of a dump. Next day stopped at the local Home Depot to repair the wing damage, chair leg ends and fender washers and we were good to go. The Corning Glass Museum is a must see if you are in the area. Gift shop had some big $$ items, glad the wife is not into glass. Drove through Pennsylvania on our way to Baltimore. We thought the colors were great but were told we were one week too late.


 Baltimore was a week of R&R, visiting the daughter and future son in law. My nephew and his wife drove up from Norfolk VA. I put a new front door handle on for the daughter. Wife got to go wedding dress shopping with the daughter.

 Looking at the Fort McHenry map

Veronica at the gate to Fort McHenry.

Standing on the Hill that surrounds Fort McHenry

at Faidleys in Baltimore

Dinner at Jenny's home in Baltimore


On Friday we drove up to Amish Country in Lancaster Co. PA 

  Get off the main roads and it is step back in time Farms were clean and neat, fields were being plowed with a 6 horse hitch and the wife was blowing leaves with a gas blower. It must have been wash day as every home had a full close line.     

 Saw this Amish truck going down the road.

We had perfect weather; the next day they had 6 inches of snow. Baltimore was forecasted to get 4 inches of snow, missed where we were at by 10 miles.

The Farmers Market in Baltimore does not stop for Rain.

 Pizza in Baltimore with Jessica and Nick Harr.

Jenny took us to Great Falls Virgina. 
Another perfect day.

Monday Oct 31 on the road again. We drove to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Saying good buy to Baltimore.

Veronica and Jenny in front of Jenny's home.
Jenny's flower garden next to the stairs.

The park covers two states Maryland and Virginia. Saw ponies in Maryland but not Virginia.

 Visitors Center

 Don't feed the horses

We made it to the Atlantic Ocean.


 The only ponies we saw.

 Fun day with a night at Camp Walmart in Onley VA. It rained like crazy all night, we stayed warm and dry. This was a planed stop so we could drive over and under the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel / Bridge the next day. The Tunnel Bridge was the last time using the toll pass, we did stop in the middle to look at all the boat traffic. On to Norfolk to visit the nephew, he is active Navy and gave us a tour of the naval base. Those aircraft carriers are big.

 Nick and I in front of his house.

Went to Virginia Beach it was deserted, off season is the time to go on vacation. On to see the outer banks. So much to see we decided to get a motel for the night as it was very windy and we were ready for a motel. Stayed at a travel lodge, clean and well maintained with a good breakfast. Had dinner at the Kill Devil Grill recommended by the hotel. Great dinner and maybe the best Key Lime pie I have every had. Next day we did the Wright Bros Monument another must see if you are in the area,

Drove down the outer banks all the homes near the beach are new, we crossed over to Roanoke Island. Had she crab soup for the first time best crab soup ever. Looked at the local historical sites and found this was where the lost colony was. Almost all the freeways on the east coast look the same, a wall of trees on each side. There are no views as we are used to on the west coast. The roads are in much better condition than the ones on the west coast. Off to SC.


Sitting on the rock of the outer banks.

Saw our first cotton as we left the outer banks.

Spent the night at Camp Walmart in Dillon SC. Next morning we were off to see Pearl Fryar Gardens . We saw the PBS special and put this on our list of places to see. We were not disappointed, he has done amazing work.

Lunch in Charleston at Hymans seafood. They had boiled peanuts on all the tables, must be an acquired taste.


Pictures of

Spent the night in Pooler GA at Camp Walmart. Friday morning and we are off to Savannah GA. Took the city tour; well worth the money. Walked around and noticed lots of fit and trim people, they were having a marathon the next day glad we were not there on Saturday. Waited 45 minutes in line to get lunch at Mrs. Wilkes boarding house. Wow what great food, must have been 20 different dishes on the table. You are seated at a large table with the friends you just met waiting in line. The food is on the table when you sit down.

Well worth the wait in line.

 You could not eat all the food that was on the table.

Had to be 20 different items to eat on the table.
All were fantastic. 

Every one left Mrs Wilkes with a smile.

Not everyone dinned at Mrs Wilkes, had to take this picture.

Streets of Savanna.

South to Florida.

Spent the night in Live Oak FL at Camp Walmart. Lots of big motor homes and trucks this was a noisy night. Next destination Patties Seafood for lunch on Mark Ingalls recommendation, it was just a good as he had said it would be. The white sand beaches were fantastic.

 Standing on the white sands of the gulf coast.

 White sand and Turquoise sea, we are not in California.

Me and truck

Just as with the outer banks all the homes on the beach are new. Our CA flood insurance payments at work. Next destination New Orleans. This was to be a motel night, needed one with a laundry to get caught up. We found on the trip the best price for motels were found in the Room Saver magazines you find at truck stops, better than price line. Called ahead to a Hampton Inn and got our room set up. Best motel we stayed at on the trip. Went back to standard time and had a time zone change, we were up early the next day. Off to the French Qtr I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Bourbon Street at 9:00 AM was being washed down of everything that did not stay down the night before. All the other streets were great to walk and enjoy. Lunch at Mother’s Restaurant was the best gumbo I have had. Another wait to get in, but worth the wait. MNF game that night made the afternoon crowded.

Great color in the morning.

Free entertainment in the windows.

Bourbon Street  had it own look and smell early in the morning as the shop owners cleaned up. All the other streets were clean and did not have the smell. 


 Cajun Food was everywhere.

End of our day in New Orleans. I was a great city and the weather warmed up.

On to Texas drove through Houston in the evening to avoid the morning traffic. Stayed at Camp Walmart in Katy TX. I wanted to see the river walk in San Antonio, great job of down town redevelopment. Also took in the Alamo, as it was right at the river walk.


River Walk in San Antonio

Next stop Fort Stockton and Camp Walmart for the night. Drove around town and saw a small café K-Bobs, sign inside said best chicken fired steak in TX. It was good, wife had the small steak, they do know how to do steak in TX. Up the next day and on to El Paso TX the Road Trip book recommended a car wash for lunch. H&H car wash was fantastic. On the wall they had a framed major food magazine article on H&H and an award as one of the 50 best Mexican Restaurants in TX do you know how may Mexican Restaurants there are in TX! Best Chili Relleno I have had.


Lunch at the car wash.

Two night to get across TX and not a lot to see after San Antonio. New Mexico was a short drive after TX.

Spent the night in Tucson AZ on our 4th  week we could almost taste California and home. Wife was ready for a night in a motel and I was also. Driving into Phoenix saw a sign saying road closed 30 miles ahead and it was. Two tanker trucks collided with a major fire, could see the smoke for miles. Hit the detour button on the GPS and got around without much problem.

Got gas in Quartzsite AZ RV’s everywhere. Got a coffee at McDonalds, other than the people working there we were the youngest persons by 15 years. Also saw lots of what you would call desert rats? Old and well wrinkled. Next gas in California was $0.60 per gallon more than Quartzsite, welcome home. Off to Joshua Tree, what a great park, way different that Yellowstone or Yosemite. We came in the south gate, no gate to stop at just a sign saying to go to the visitor center to pay. Asked about campsites and was told we would not have a problem just find a spot and put $10 in the envelope. Drove around and found one campground full; the next had one spot that was gone when we went to get the envelope. Drove back to Jumbo Rocks campground and got a spot on the back side.


Our last camp site in Jumbo Rocks.

 Moon Rise at Jumbo Rocks.


This is what we saw when we opened the curtain in the morning. Way redder in real life. 

 Sunrise over our camp.

 Our camp and the Joshua Tree and the day brightens. 

 We enjoyed our time in Joshua Tree.

 Packed and ready to head home.

Full moon that night so did not get to see the stars I had expected to see. We were rewarded with the reddest sunrise we had every seen the next morning.
We packed up looking forward to getting home today.

The great central valley of California, home is not far now. 

Summary: Long trip 7,528 miles, that we would do again. Tundra and Hawk worked great. Camp Walmart is fine as a place to just spent the night if you are traveling. Restrooms were always clean and the employees friendly. McDonalds one of my least favorite places to eat had great Lattes and Cappuccinos with free internet to catch up on email. Our National Parks are still some of the best values around. Gas mileage varied from a high of 17 MPH no wind, to a low of 10 MPH running into the wind, over all average of 15 MPG running the speed limit. Lowest gas price Schulenburg TX $3.11 per gallon, highest Chiraiaco Summit CA $3.97 per gallon. Total spent on gas $1,857.31 and worth every penny in enjoyment. 5 nights in motels and could have been 3. Driving is the only way to see the USA.

Next spring Washington state to visit friends in Port Townsend, Western Canada and over to Glacier National Park.

1 comment:

  1. This effort deserves a comment...
    Thanks for the trip, Bill!