Trip Segment Overviews – Summer 2015

Updated Google Maps route with Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Black Hills added
Our seven travel segments shown on Google Maps

At this point in our planning, we had seven travel segments identified that we needed to account for.

While we don’t have to plan/book every night of the trip, many of the places we want to stay get quite full (especially sites that can handle a 33′ fifth-wheel plus 22′ truck). For summer weekends, most of the Oregon state parks were booked solid by January 1st, and some parks were booked solid even during the week. National Parks and state parks elsewhere are about as bad. Even private RV parks near popular locations had limited availability. This unfortunately meant that we needed reservations for many of our stays if we wanted popular locations (and we do). Even for areas we chose not to make reservations, we still need to allot a specific number of days so that we could plan the timing of the later reservations we need to make.

Making our reservations and the associated planning took us several months. As we leave on our trip, we’ve been done with our early reservations for a couple of months, although we’re still making occasional adjustments when availability opens up due to cancellations. I’m not going to list our entire current itinerary – hopefully you’ll find the blog interesting enough to follow along and find out where we end up. However, here is a brief preview of each travel segment.

Home – Texas

Due to the timing of a personal obligation and when we want to reach Texas, this will mostly just be four days of driving. We are hoping to sneak in a few hours of exploration at one of our stops.

4 days of travel, plus 9 days with Texas daughter

Texas – Grand Canyon

We have to cross most of Texas, all of New Mexico and a good chunk of Arizona. There will be a lot of driving, but we are hoping to incorporate a couple of interesting stops along the way.

8 days of travel, plus 4 days at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon – Yosemite

We’ll be south of Death Valley on this segment. Planning for very hot weather and few stops.

2 days of travel

Yosemite – south Oregon coast

Besides Yosemite and Sequoia, we are also planning to include another scenic stop plus hopefully some wineries.

12 days in the Sequoia & Yosemite area, then 8 days of travel

Oregon coast

Our stops (though not our time) are almost entirely planned on this segment due to the popularity of the parks on the coast. We’ll be spending a month on the coast, working our way from south to north. Annie will also be getting solar panels installed during this time.

32 days including an inland stop for her solar panel install

north Oregon coast – Black Hills

We are going to abandon the direct route for a while and meander through Oregon and Idaho before hitting the plains, mostly staying 2-3 nights at each stop. One factor in our planning for this travel segment is that we want to arrive in the Black Hills after Sturgis ends.

23 days, plus 4 days in the Black Hills

Black Hills – Home

With less than 1,000 miles to home and after 3 1/2 months on the road, we’re mostly planning one-night stops for this segment . However, we will meet up with our other daughter, son-in-law and grandkids for a weekend as we get closer to home.

5 days including a weekend with our midwest daughter

All of this is subject to change (stuff happens), but that’s what the trip looks like at this point. Over the course of an estimated 110 days, we are currently planning 37 stops ranging from 1-8 days each (3 day average). We are anticipating eight days of no hookups (power only from batteries plus solar and/or generator) and 36 days with full hookups (electric, water and sewer, which means that we can take long showers and do laundry). And my 7,000 mile estimate looks low, due mostly to the meandering route we’re planning from the coast through Idaho.

We’re very excited about most of our planned stops. We should be able to see a lot of interesting and beautiful areas and have a lot of photographic opportunities. We hope you follow along with our adventures over the next several months.

Camp Cooking? Not!

Image of herb and spice bottles filling drawer
One-fourth of our total kitchen drawer space is devoted to spices and herbs

Although we’ll be spending a lot of time in state and national parks, Opa and I plan to feast just like we do at home. Most of our campsites will have electricity. So now, cooking over the campfire or on a small camp stove is mostly in the past for us.

Three-burner stove, convection microwave and residential refrigerator
Our three-burner stove, convection microwave and residential refrigerator. With the convection microwave, we deleted the larger propane oven to get more storage space. Dog and cat food are going where the oven was.

Fifth wheels usually come with a three-burner propane stove top. We ordered ours with a small convection microwave oven and a residential refrigerator/freezer. Of course, we’re bringing along our tabletop outdoor grill. But we’re going to be living in this fifth wheel and that stovetop and convection microwave are a little small.

So what to do? Granted, we can’t take along the whole kitchen, so what can we take that will be most useful? Opa came up with an induction burner. It’s a nice big plate that works very efficiently and uses electricity. Great for making chili, gumbo, goulash, spaghetti sauces, or soups. Also, great for using a big frying pan just like you would use it at home. Opa also picked up a griddler which also uses electricity. It makes awesome panini sandwiches, burgers, etc. and has a flat surface for pancakes and bacon, and another plate for waffles. It can also be used to quickly unthaw frozen meats.

A pot of chili on the induction burner
Making chili on the induction burner

Then there’s the 6 qt. roaster. I love cooking in the roaster and it’s very useful since we only have the small convection microwave as an oven! Meatloaf, shredded pork, chicken, and the list goes on and on.

And who doesn’t love fresh hot bread! Yup, the bread maker is coming too. These four extra appliances along with the convection microwave oven, the tabletop grill and, when necessary, the three burner propane stove, will allow us to feast just like we do at home.

Key Intermediate Destinations – Summer 2015

Having set our two primary destinations for the trip (Texas and the Oregon Coast), our next step was to identify important intermediate destinations that were not too far out of the way. While the home to Texas leg needs to be quick this trip, it is a long way between Texas and the Oregon coast and between Oregon and home, so some intermediate destinations are definitely in order.

Havasu Creek, near Grand Canyon National Park
Havasu Creek, near Grand Canyon National Park

There are tons of things in the southwest to see, but most of them are starting to get hot in May. We’re planning to escape winter for a while each year, so we should have plenty of opportunities to check out the southwest more thoroughly in cooler months.

One big destination along our southern route that is not hot in May is the Grand Canyon rim. Oma had never been to the Grand Canyon, and while I was fortunate enough to spend nine days on the Colorado river many years ago (Pipe Creek (via Bright Angle Trail) to Diamond Creek), I actually never spent any significant time on the rim. So the Grand Canyon became our first intermediate destination on this trip.

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Getting Ready

Getting ready for this long trip has been a huge task.  It’s so much easier if you go for a week or two.  You can make do without a lot when you forget something.  But on a long trip, the trick is to think of everything you would need and or like, and then to make it fit without weighing down the coach too much.  Everything you take needs to be stowed as well so that it’s not flying all around while driving or even when leveling (sometimes that looks like an earthquake)!  Sure, there will be plenty of stores along the way, but I really don’t want to be doing that kind of shopping while traveling. Plus, I don’t want to duplicate items.  I’d rather spend my time exploring and relaxing.

This year “getting ready” has a lot of firsts.  It’s the first time setting up the coach, so many of the things will stay in the coach for repeated use. It’s putting together all of those things that is a challenge right now.  But it will make getting ready very easy for future trips.

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Trip Goals and Preliminaries – Summer 2015

Google-Map-MKE-IAH-OR-MKEOur daughter, her husband and two grandkids live in Houston. They are far enough away that we typically only see them a few times a year, and then for only a few days at a time. We had met them for Mother’s Day several years ago on a shorter trip with our old fifth-wheel, and now that we had more time, we agreed we would meet them for Mother’s Day again this year.

We had also been contemplating travel destinations now that we were retired. One place high on our list that we had never been able to spend much time together in was the Oregon coast. It’s quite a hike from our home in the Midwest, and a vacation-length driving trip is mostly traveling there and back. With more time available now, the Oregon coast became our first (non-family) post-retirement destination.

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Shakedown trip to Central Ohio

Dinner overlooking Camp Timber Lake
Dinner overlooking Camp Timber Lake

 

Prior to bringing Annie home, we spent two days at the dealer putting her through her paces. While this was very valuable – it gave us time to put most of the equipment to use, ask questions and get a few minor things fixed – it is much different than being out on the road, hitching and unhitching, leveling, setting up and closing up at each stop.

For her inaugural run, we concluded that a quick trip to Ohio to see my sister and her husband was the perfect test. We would head slightly south, hopefully find some warmer weather, put Annie through her paces on a real trip, and connect with family.

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Welcome

About the Blog

Our primary purpose is to communicate with family and friends who have expressed interest in our travels.

We will also be posting some topics (campground experiences, for example) that may be of interest to a larger audience. We have benefitted from websites and blog posts of others describing campgrounds, points of interest and general rv/planning/traveling tips, and hopefully some of our posts will be useful to others planning their trips.

During our travels, we will try to update our blog once or twice a week. However, there will be times when we do not have internet at our campsite, so expect extended periods without updates on those occasions. The blog will also be quiet when we are between travels.

About Us

We are a younger (50’s) retired couple who love to travel. In our 20’s and 30’s, we traveled through a lot of the USA and Canada. Time and work eventually broadened our horizons to the rest of the world. Now that we are both retired and have more time, we are returning to our roots and are excited to begin new explorations of North America.

Although we enjoy exploring cities for a few days, we love natural beauty and the outdoors. The mountains, coasts and canyons of the West are our favorite areas. You are most likely to find us on public lands (frequently in a state park), but we also choose private campgrounds when they work for us.

We travel with a large dog (90 lb. mix) and a cat, both rescues.

Although we will travel for up to four months at a time, we still maintain a sticks and bricks house and are not full-timers.

Consequently, we consciously try to keep information that would make it easy to identify us off of our blog so that we don’t advertise that our house might be vacant when we are traveling.

About Annie and The Beast

As a rule, we don’t name vehicles. Our current truck and fifth wheel became the exceptions to that rule.

Annie is an Excel 31′ fifth-wheel that we ordered with several customizations. She got her name from Little Orphan Annie. On the day we signed the papers to bring her home from the dealer, Peterson Industries, manufacturer of Excel fifth-wheels, closed their doors after 50 years in business. She became an orphan, and shortly after was christened Annie.

The Beast is an F-350 dually crew-cab long-bed pick-up truck. It does a great job of towing Annie, who (fully loaded with gear and fresh water) weighs in at about 17,000 lbs (that’s trailer only). Although there are more beastly tow vehicles out there, this 22′ long, 8+’ wide “beast” is the largest we’ve owned and even when driving solo requires a lot more manuevering room than any car or short-bed, single-rear wheel pickup. Not surprisingly, the nickname was coined one day when trying to maneuver it into a space designed for more petite vehicles.