Reality set in on our next day after we prepared to leave a Walmart parking lot that we had stopped at for a quick break. As we got ready to leave, I turned the ignition key of the motor home and nothing happened. Fortunately our motor home comes with an emergency start switch that allows the coach to be started by the house batteries. I gave it a shot and sure enough, the RV started fine. We completed our trip to our next one night stop in Fort Stockton without turning the engine off in fear that it might not start again. However this didn’t keep us from stopping along the way at one of our all-time favorite rest stops overlooking Seminole Canyon along the Pecos River. It was an overcast day but the views were still amazing. Once we arrived at the campground in Fort Stockton I checked the battery and discovered that it did indeed have a dead cell. So off we went to purchase a new battery at the local auto parts store. We haven’t had a problem with the battery since I installed the replacement. The truth of the matter is, I was a bit hesitant to do the job myself due to the confined area and number of connections that were attached to the old battery but it turned out to be a fairly easy job.
Our next day of travel to Carlsbad, New Mexico was a tough day of driving. Even though we only had a 2 ½ hour drive we decided to leave early due to some dangerous storms that were going to be passing through the route we planned to be driving. Although we beat the worst of the weather we still hit a lot of rain along 60 or 70 miles of roads that were under construction and very muddy. When we arrived at our campground in Carlsbad, New Mexico our motor home and car were both covered in mud.
We enjoyed our first multiple night stay in Carlsbad. We spent our only full day there celebrating Claudia’s birthday at one of the best BBQ restaurants we’ve ever been to. Then, that night we headed over to Carlsbad Caverns National Park for the main reason we returned here. In 2014 we came through this area in March and the bats hadn’t arrived yet. This year the bats were supposed to have arrived from their migration grounds in Mexico by now. We arrived at the amphitheater where we were reminded by the ranger that there is never a guarantee that any bats would fly out of the caves on a given night, even in mid-May. After over an hour of waiting and learning all about bats from the park ranger and right at dusk, we were treated to a spectacular sight. Tens of thousands of bats exited the cave entrance, circling like a tornado and filling the sky as they headed off for their dinner. The exodus took over 15 full minutes to complete. This was an unreal experience that we’ll never forget. It was definitely worth the trip back there.
As we drove out of Carlsbad, New Mexico we headed west towards Arizona. Our first travel day was a day that you can only dream about when you’re on the road. The weather was gorgeous with a bright blue sky and the views along our route were spectacular. The road changed back and forth between a one lane and a two lane highway and there was very little traffic. Along the way we drove along the edge of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and stopped at several viewing areas including one next to the beautiful El Capitan. Next we drove for miles across the Salt Flats with more amazing views. We had to cross the Franklin Mountains through El Paso but a six thousand foot climb in a motor home towing a vehicle is no issue as long as you take your time. We spent one night in Las Cruces, New Mexico before arriving in Tucson, Arizona for a four night stay. At this point we were ready for a break and looked forward to some relaxation.
We spent our first bright and sunny day in Tucson visiting the Pima Air & Space Museum. The museum features displays of over 300 aircraft spread out over more than 80 acres. We spent a good part of the day viewing various aircraft both outside and through many hangers, all full of aircraft that have existed since the birth of flight. There were several hangers designed for specific time periods or geographic areas such as WWII in Europe, WWII in Japan and Vietnam. There were also a couple of museums for specific subjects. One was for Space Flight, detailing the history of space flight from the beginning and into the future including replicas of many vehicles such as the Apollo capsule and the Mars rover. Another museum was dedicated to the 390th Bombardment Group, many of whom died while flying B17 “Flying Fortress” bombers in WWII. This museum gave you a great idea of just what it was like to belong to this group and others like it during WWII. This was definitely one of the best air and space museums we have ever visited.
The weather on our second day turned out to be just as gorgeous as our first with temps hovering in the low 80’s. We spent the day visiting with an old childhood friend of Claudia’s. We spent most of the day enjoying the company of her friend Donna and Donna’s son Tim. After being treated to a home cooked meal at her home we headed over to our campground in order to give a tour of our home on wheels. There we spent several hours outside just enjoying each other’s company. We are so fortunate to have a lifestyle that allows us to meet up with both old and new friends as we travel. During this year’s road trip, we’ll be doing a lot of that.
On our final day in Tucson we decided to stick around the campground and get some errands taken care of. We had planned to take a drive or a hike out in the desert but once in a while when you’re on the road like we are you just have to take a day off to get stuff done and to relax so that’s what we did. We’ve been to Tucson before and due to its proximity to Texas, we’ll be back again. There are still a few places in that area we want to see.
We made the short two hour drive from Tucson to Phoenix for another four night stay. Once we settled in to our campsite we immediately contacted a Glass Company in order to get an enormous chip in our windshield repaired that we received courtesy of an Arizona dump truck. Even the glass guy was surprised at the size of it but he repaired it the best he could and hopes, as we do that a crack across the entire windshield doesn’t appear off one of the spines. There’s nothing more we can do about it. We just accept it as part of life on the road. At this point we’re just hoping it’ll hold off until we get back to Texas.
One of the perks of traveling around the country every year is getting together with friends from long ago. Our first full day in Phoenix was extra special when I broke a record for the longest period between separation and a reunion. A few months ago on Facebook, I found Pam, a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since we were teenagers over 45 years ago. Claudia and I met up with her and her husband Stephen for a visit at their home followed by a tour of their area in the northeastern portion of Phoenix. We had a great lunch at a local Western Bar and Grill in Cave Creek, a gorgeous area of Arizona. We had such a wonderful day together. I just couldn’t believe it had been 45 years. The reunion was special and we’ll be back to see them again.
On our second day in Phoenix we got together with Harriet, a longtime close friend of Claudia’s who now lives there. Claudia hasn’t seen Harriet in about three years while it’s been five years for me so we definitely had some catching up to do. We enjoyed time at her home before heading off for a walk along the canal and over to a nice little Café for lunch. Once we arrived we were joined by Harriet’s daughter Karen who lives in the area as well. Although Claudia has seen Karen on rare occasions, I hadn’t seen her since we flew out for her wedding back in 2004. Claudia and I were newlyweds ourselves at that time. It was another great day full of memories and great conversation with wonderful people.
On our final day in Phoenix we enjoyed the day with my cousin Richard and his wife who I hadn’t seen in five years. He grew up in Virginia while I grew up in Massachusetts but it’s amazing how many similar memories we share of those times we did get together. We also had many similar memories of the time with our grandparents so he played a video for me about some of his time with them, originally taken with a Super 8 movie camera. Our Grandpa had his own candy business and it was so much fun watching that video of him making candy so many years ago. The video also included clips of many family members as well as mutual friends which made us laugh but also reminded us of how long ago these clips were taken. It was another wonderful day full of great memories.
Our next stop took us to Las Vegas, Nevada for a three night stay over Memorial Day weekend. The day of our six hour trip was sunny and beautiful and began in busy traffic along the highways leading out of Phoenix. Shortly however we were driving on a two lane highway with gorgeous views just about all the way to Vegas. We drove along as well as up and over the Vulture Mountains, the Aquarius Mountains, the Hualapai Mountains and the Black Mountains just to name a few. We also drove through the Mojave Desert and the Joshua Tree Forest. It turned out to be another beautiful drive.
We began our first full day in Vegas by catching a shuttle to the Vegas strip. Once on the strip we walked around and did a little gambling in a couple of the casino’s before the Chocolate Bar at the New York New York Casino caught Claudia’s eye. So while I sat and enjoyed a cold beer, Claudia sat and enjoyed a Death by Chocolate Martini. Fortunately it didn’t kill her but she needed a meal right afterwards because although that martini was delicious, she sure did feel it. Luckily, right next to us was the restaurant we planned to enjoy dinner at anyway, Nine Fine Irishmen. About six years ago our niece told us about their Chicken Pot Pies. This is our third trip to Vegas since then and today I had my Chicken Pot Pie at Nine Fine Irishmen for the third time. I just can’t help it. It’s so good I had to pass on all the other good looking items they had on their menu. Following lunch we decided to take an Uber back to the campground where we spent the rest of the evening. It was our first experience with Uber and it turned out to be quite a positive eye opener.
On our second and final full day in Vegas we enjoyed a slow start before we eventually got going and headed over to the Omelet House a couple miles from the campground. We’ve been there before and no other place makes a six egg omelet quite like this place. What we didn’t finish we saved for dinner.
Mid-afternoon we once again called Uber and headed back to the Vegas strip. I had purchased tickets the previous night for a popular show called The Bronx Wanderers and we were off to see it. We arrived early so we played a few slots before heading over to see the show at a beautiful stage at the Linq Hotel & Casino. This was a spectacular live musical production of some good old rock and roll, some classic rock and some current hits. The Bronx Wanderers is the true story of a father and his two sons who have made it their life’s dream to perform and they provided us some excellent music as well as a great story to tell along with it.
The following morning we began our trek north towards Spokane, Washington. This is our sixth year on the road and even after six years we’re still amazed at how beautiful this country is. As we headed north out of Vegas it didn’t take long to get off the interstate and head north on a single lane highway through parts of this country we’ve never seen before. We spent the next 200 miles traveling along roads that were in very good shape and had very little traffic. At times we could see many miles ahead of us and many miles behind us with no other vehicles in view. We travelled along the baselines of several mountain ranges, all with gradual ascents and descents. We did eventually climb to over 8,000 feet but it was a slow and steady drive. We saw many snow covered mountains as well as miles of desert through the Desert National Wildlife Range. All we could say was “Wow”!! All good things had to come to an end however as we spent the last 50 miles going in and out of some terrible weather. We hit severe downpours as well as sleet and hail as we were descending from our higher altitudes. As always, we took our time and did just fine.
We spent the next two nights in Ely, Nevada and Filer, Idaho before arriving in Baker City, Oregon for a two night stay. I’m sounding like a broken record but the roads we traveled continued to be beautiful. As has been our luck this trip, traffic was fairly light and the roads in great shape. For a good portion of our trip we traveled along the Snake River. As we were leaving Twin Falls, Idaho, just outside of Filer we came across a rest area with some gorgeous views of one of the canyons and the river. We enjoyed taking a walk along the canyon wall for some picture taking. We’ve decided that a return trip to Idaho is in our future. It’s a beautiful part of our country that we hadn’t previously appreciated.
On our day off in Baker City, Oregon we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home before heading off for some sightseeing. We headed over to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to learn what we could about the Oregon Trail which ran right through what is now Baker City. The center offered living history demonstrations, exhibits, films and some well-preserved wagon ruts that we were able to see for ourselves. We began our visit with a conversation with a “living pioneer” who was describing her trip that she had already made across most of the 2,000 miles from Independence, Missouri on her way to Willamette Valley, Oregon. The presentation described what it was like for women in particular to make such a difficult journey. It was a fascinating performance. We then made our way through the exhibit area before enjoying a film that highlighted many of the trials and tribulations that the more than 300,000 settlers, farmers, miners, ranchers and their families decided to make. We ended our visit with a walk over to the actual ruts made by those wagons so many years ago and have been preserved. It was a strange feeling knowing that we were standing exactly where those pioneers stood over a hundred and fifty years ago.
Once we headed out of Baker City we started off early for our six hour drive to Spokane, Washington. We arrived late afternoon and parked our motor home in the driveway of our friends, Larry & Donna for our four night visit. We began our weekend together by relaxing on the deck of their beautiful home overlooking acres and acres of gorgeous countryside. After a few hours enjoying each other’s company we were treated to a wonderful home cooked dinner. All the while, Stella just loved the green grass and the air conditioned home with soft carpet to lie on.
We spent the weekend going in different directions. While Claudia and Donna headed off a couple of times for some local wine tasting, Larry and I decided on checking out a couple of the local breweries. Our friend Loretta joined the girls on Sunday for their excursion before we all headed off for an Italian dinner that evening where we met up with more friends of ours, Jim & Anna Maya.
On our final full day in Spokane, we took a ride over to Jim & Anna Maya’s home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They have a gorgeous home on a cliff overlooking Coeur d’Alene Lake. There we enjoyed another wonderful home cooked meal as well as the company of some special people.
That brings us to the morning of our departure from Spokane. I failed to mention that we had a bit of difficulty getting up Larry & Donna’s driveway when we arrived. It was a sharp turn into their driveway and rose uphill quite steeply and quickly. Even though we had removed the car from the tow bar I failed to take the hitch off. The hitch dug into the gravel road quite deeply at the base of the driveway but luckily we got past it with minimal damage. I soon realized however that getting down was going to be much harder even without the hitch. That’s because my wheel base is closer together than most and I have a long section behind the back axle that I was sure would hit the ground. It turned out I was correct but I had a plan. As I descended the end of the driveway very slowly, I’d stop and build a bridge of sorts using my RV leveling blocks. Basically, just as the rear end of the motor home began to bottom out on the gravel, I’d add leveling blocks in front of my rear tires to raise the rear axle and kept inching forward until I was clear. It took a while but was worth the effort. No damage at all. These things are all just part of the adventure.
Our final route for now was the 300 mile trip through three states as we made our way out of Washington, through Idaho and into Montana. Most of those miles were on state highways with more spectacular views. We arrived at a campground just outside the west entrance to Glacier National park. This will be the first of three National Parks that we’ll be visiting over the next 20 days. We’re very excited about some of the special places we’ll soon be visiting. Keep an eye on our web site as we’ll do our best to keep you posted. Have I mentioned how much we love this life?