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Summer Travels Taught Us Flexibility

Summer Travels Taught Us Flexibility

St. Clair, Michigan
82° / 63° Sunny ☀
TODAY’S RV PARK: St. Clair RV Resort
OUR RATING: 3 Stars – Decent campground, cell signal is terrible on Verizon and 2 bars 5G on AT&T. Constant struggle with campground staff regarding Electrical. Our Watchdog surge protector has errors. So does our neighbors. Staff says they are about to ban all surge protectors because they cause them problems. ;-( Our 50amp breaker broke yesterday and has to be replaced. Nearby towns are quaint with the Great Lake Huron a short 15 minute drive up the highway.
PRICE: (Free) Thousand Trails resort
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 30,593

Our previous post left us in the Washington Cascade Mountains on our way to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Well, Mother Nature had other plans for us. The night before we were due to drive across the Washington/Idaho state border to Glacier, the floods hit Yellowstone and the park was closed. The popular Glacier “Road to the Sun” was closed within hours, due to flooding as well. Guess you can’t drive on a road when it’s been washed away. NOW WHAT?!

I won’t kid you dear readers, we did panic. For about 7 loud minutes. Then we swung into action. We needed to act fast as all those other RV travelers who are also being re-routed out of the national parks and are also looking for alternate accommodations. RV blogs were going crazy with the news. We re-routed ourselves south of I-90 to hedge our luck on securing good vacation-worthy accommodations. After all, Tara did fly clear across the country for this trip and held a non-refundable return ticket to Tampa out of Milwaukee… in just 14 days.

KOA Super Patio

Super PatioWe backtracked and went straight south, losing 2 days in our 14-day countdown. Landing in Idaho, in our first ever KOA Patio ® Super Site. WOW folks! If you haven’t tried this yet, you gotta stay in one of these just once. “Patio ® Super Site” is different then the normal patios and is so new, it’s not even on the KOA website as an RV Site yet. Fortunately, you can see the options in the online booking process. These gazebo-like covered patios are fully enclosed grassy areas with brand new comfy patio furniture. Both of the ones we stayed at had outdoor kitchens, multiple seating areas for guests and a propane fueled fire pit. Our dogs were in love with these, since they were able to sun-bathe leash-free. Something they haven’t done since they had their own backyard.

South Dakota

Since we missed out on Glacier and Yellowstone, all our vacation want-to sights were fully rested on Mt. Rushmore. South Dakota didn’t disappoint.

BadlandsThe drive to South Dakota led us through Wyoming and the Badlands (photo right). There was no need to pay an over-priced wild animal park fare somewhere, the Buffalo clearly liked to roam near the highways. At least we got a stamp for our National Park stamp book at this rest stop. If you are planning a trip, by the time you read this and go yourself, the roads around the rest stop should be freshly paved. However, the roads WEST of the rest stop were awful.

A good/bad RV park can set the stage for things to come, no matter how adult and mature we try to be about things. Sometimes emotions and expectations get the better of us. In this case, our expectations were EXCEEDED by the Hart Ranch Camping Resort.

I’m here to testify, that this is the park all other parks should be measured by! It was laid out like a perfect little grid-like RV neighborhood with brand new roads, super large concrete pads for every camper and a full-time Activities Director planning tons of events throughout their many amenities. Including a super-busy snack bar by the pool with REAL FOOD and ice cream, a bar with TWO BUSY bartenders, bicycle rentals, a rodeo arena and stalls with those rodeo horses. The list just goes on. Tara and I enjoyed Happy Hour each night at the bar, as each happy hour was themed with some planned activities and fun. We only missed the live music because, well, we needed a nap. This was the only RV park where we felt like we were on a cruise ship and needed to stay much much longer then our planned 4 day vacation. Dang it if I was on vacation, the Verizon MOFI WIFI was 100/50. Oh the amount of work I could’ve done!!!!

Mt Rushmore Henry in Tatakna window

Henry, our driving buddy, in Tatanka’s window at Mt. Rushmore.

Our first day trip in South Dakota was a bee-line to Mt. Rushmore. A short 30 minute drive from Hart’s Ranch Camping Resort. It was a once-in-a-lifetime excursion that we will never forget. The most awe-inspiring thing we discovered was the bronze etched 500-word winning essay written about the History of America for the dedication of Mt. Rushmore.

It starts…

“Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores, God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.”

Goosebumps. I want to live in an America like that.

Needles highway Tour bus in tunnelOur second day trip took us on a white-knuckle drive through the Needles Highway. Just know this, our dually truck “Tatonka” is the same width as that tour bus! We measured just to make sure we’d fit before trying. Steve had to do this crazy maneuver 3 times. If you ever wanted to know what lies BEHIND the face of Mt. Rushmore… it’s the State park that the Needles Highway was built in.

 

RV Hack thankshanks

RV Hacks

At the tail end of our trip, we found a hack from Happily Ever Hanks on YouTube that we just had to try! While some windows are nice to have, the battle with privacy and constantly opening/closing blinds is just plain bothersome. Adding frosted/colored window tint to our RV windows was a game changer for us. What’s also great, is at night, you can’t see in!!! We have four windows that we treated, and the colored tint looks awesome from the outside – day or night. The white frosted film can’t be seen at either day or night from the outside. #ThanksHanks !!

Where We are Now

After dropping Tara off at the airport, we hung around Wisconsin for a bit and got really “cheesy”. Pun totally intended. We day-tripped to Amish country and loaded up on cheeses. Quickly passed through Chicago, and stayed only long enough to get take out deep-dish pizza from Pequods and a quick stop by a local hot dog stand. This took us to Indiana where we visited two groups of friends for lazy days by their pool. Followed by a very much needed 3-week break from the road at an RV park equi-distant between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Since we discovered the carnival-like grocery store Jungle Jims in Cincinnati… we went twice. Just had to.

We are now in Michigan finishing up our summer Great Lakes tour and heading toward Niagara Falls for a couple of weeks. With our final destination of Maine in sights within 30 days.

Stay up to date with us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram @RV_RoadKill as Steve is always sharing his culinary makings.

Third Goalpost – Blaine, Washington

Third Goalpost – Blaine, Washington

Blaine, WA
42° / 68° Always Rainy ☂
TODAY’S RV PARK: Birch Bay RV Campground
OUR RATING: 4 Stars – Decent campground, cell signal is ok on both Verizon and AT&T, nearby town are incredible with the bay only a couple of blocks away
PRICE: (Free) Thousand Trails resort
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 23,249

Since leaving California, we’ve driven north through Oregon to Washington.  As soon as we crossed into Oregon, it started snowing and raining.  It hasn’t stopped raining in the past month, although there are moments of sunshine most days that we take full advantage of.

Multnomah Falls
While we passed through Oregon, we were delayed a week for RV repairs.  Having not been in any kind of wet weather, well, since Florida, any water leak soon reared it’s ugly head.  We were delayed in Portland, OR (of all places) while the repairs were completed.  We were very disappointed with the homeless situation in Portland.  Those poor folks are living on any stretch of highway they can find, including the grass in the highway exit cloverleafs, side of roads and entrances to shopping centers.  Homeless tent encampments everywhere.  Sad, that’s what remember most about Portland.

Fortunately, our campground was right on the Oregon Trail.  Which we followed on a day trip to visit Multnomah Falls – which was just a short 20 minute drive out of town.  There were a lot of waterfalls along the way, but this one certainly takes the cake!  The hiking paths leading up to the falls were super simple which made for a nice excursion.  We were not visiting in their primary season, so we missed out on any trolley adventures that run during that time.

We eventually made our way north to Washington, with a short weeklong stop just outside of Port Angeles.  We have never seen trees or forestry so tall before!  The campground at Dow Creek RV Resort was completely empty and we were one of only a few travelers staying that particular week.  Which meant we had no neighbors and nothing but forest to look at and the sound of a lovely creek nearby.  Dogs wandered off-leash (since there was nobody around to say otherwise) and enjoyed the private trails that climbed up the hills in the campground.  Puddin enjoyed running in and out of the stream every time the trails crossed over them.  Even Peanut delighted in the trail adventures.  Being that this camp was in the same forest as where “Twilight” was filmed, we were thankful not to run into any vampires.  Bats, however, are a different story.  We added this park to our Must Re-Visit list of campgrounds!

Blaine02

Peanut and Puddin watching Steve go “clamming”. Canada in the distance.

After our empty-handed vampire trip, we headed all the way north…. as far as possible that you can drive in America without crossing the Canadian border to Blaine, WA.  We stayed for three weeks and loved every minute of it, except the constant rain.  Our first free day in Blaine gave us time to enjoy the famous clamming sport that the area is known for.  One of the many things we loved about the area, is that Washington state is very very dog-friendly.  Most places encourage you to bring your dogs and really go above and beyond to give your dogs a great experience.  From terrific leash free areas to special dog parks, our puppies put this town on their Must Re-Visit list as well.

Steve got lost for hours in the bay shore, digging up clams for dinner.  Even came up with a handful of oysters for a raw-oyster bar appetizer later that night.

Peace ArchToward the end of our time, Tara flew out to join us as we make our way across the top of America toward the great lakes for our official summer vacation.  The first thing we did with Tara was take our Goal Post photo at the Peace Arch, which borders America and Canada.  This is a beautiful park that is maintained by both countries – apparently the only National Park in America that is maintained by two countries.  And the pride is obvious.  There are immaculate gardens all around to showcase the peace agreement.  Even border police were peaceful to us, as we took an innocent wrong turn out of a very busy traffic circle and accidentally ended up in the traffic line to cross the border.  They turned us around and let us back into America, after proving our citizenship of course.

Leaving Blaine and heading toward Glacier National Park led us down Highway 20 which snakes through the Cascade mountains.  Steve, of course, not happy with the mountain driving, I had to silently restrain my over-enjoyment of the beautiful cliffs and terrain that only mountains can provide.  We ran into a bit of winter at the top and enjoyed an impromptu snowball fight on the side of the road.  It was a gorgeous drive, and had we more time, we would’ve loved to have stayed at one of the many little rustic towns with adorable RV parks.  But… we are on a mission and have dates to meet on the calendar.  Tara has a flight to catch in a couple of weeks, and lots of ground to cover before then.

Cascades Dam - Laurean and Tara

Cascades Roadway

 

 

 

Hollywood Sign Day Trip

Hollywood Sign Day Trip

Beaumont, CA
45° / 68° Rainy

TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,207


 

Yesterday was another day trip day.  This time to see family near Pasadena and to see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign.  These are about the only two things in L.A. that we have any desire to do and see.  The rest of L.A. doesn’t hold much charm for us, except for the awesome Asian cuisine the area is famous for.

After 8 hours of driving and exploring L.A., with it’s winding streets, congested freeways and delicious noodle soup – we are satisfied with what we’ve seen of the large city.

We started with a visit with Steve’s lovely Aunt Lee and her grown daughter, Angela.  Both are very generous women with such a knack for hospitality that we always leave their home feeling overwhelmed with kindness.  The visit is ahead of a family wedding just days away, the whole reason why we’ve been stalling around California.

Aunt Lee is one of those eccentric women who has been fortunate to live in the same home for a very long time.  Through all the stages of remodel that the has has undergone, it holds a charm – equal to a hug – with each passing decade showing off its favorited hard surfaces and design.  My favorite room was the guest bathroom, which perfectly highlighted the changes over the years and whispered “authentic California – then and now”.  The bathroom was complete with art deco wall hangings next to an exotic seashell collection.

Angela was eager to share her favorite local delicacies with us and brought home a luncheon meal – homemade noodle soup and beef rolls.  When we say homemade noodle soup – even the noodles where hand made by stretching.  The meal was a treat on a cloudy day.  The warm brothy soup with spices made for a perfect familial meal.  There are soups you just want to wash your face and hair in – this was definitely one of those soups!  I showed ladylike restraint at the table, and didn’t bathe in the broth, but none of us could avoid noodle slurping.  A fun pasttime.

After a delightful visit catching up on family news and exploring Aunt Lee’s recent renovations, we headed out to explore the city.  Of course the visit wouldn’t be complete without some friendly chiding about us being ultimately touristy to visit the gawdy HOLLYWOOD sign.  We didn’t care.  We haven’t ever seen it, we wanted too, we were only 30 minutes from it.  With a truck full of gas and car keys, we were going!

Hugs and kisses Aunt Lee.  See you at the wedding!

tatanka hollywood

Our Ram3500 named “Tatanka” parked at the Hollywood sign.

The good news was, that for all of the L.A. congestion that existed, we somehow bypassed most of it.  By sheer luck, or fantastic coincidence, the sign was just on the other side of the hill where Aunt Lee lived.  All we had to do was drive around to the other side.  Which ended up becoming a beautiful drive through the county park full of bicyclists, a zoo and more (dang it!) windy sloapy roads.  After snapping our tourist photo in front of the HOLLYWOOD sign we came down a different path which dumped us into Beverly Hills.  We couldn’t see much of it as most homes were basically rooftops peeking over tall stone wall with climbing hedges and ivy.  Taking this one main street toward the highway led us to another iconic area – Hollywood Boulevard.  Home of the Walk of Stars – where we searched for Tom Cruise, just to be ultimately tacky – and meeting him is on my top 100 things to do before I die.  In less than 1 hour, we felts we saw the best of L.A. and programmed Google Maps to take us home to Puddin.

Do it too!!

It is said the best place to see the Hollywood sign is at Griffith Observatory.  And it was!  Be prepared to pay a parking fee of $10 for one hour.  Credit cards accepted at the pay stations.

Plan your Star visit at the Walk of Stars before going.  It’s a long road and lots of stars.  Plenty of parking garages nearby to ditch your ride and hop on a Bird.  We looked up Tom Cruise in the database right away and he was just a block away from where we pulled over!!

To learn more about why we named our truck Tatanka, visit www.storyofthebison.com

 

San Diego Day Trip

San Diego Day Trip

Beaumont, CA
42° / 58° Rainy

TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,057


There’s something very refreshing about being in one’s own home state.  Ever since we crossed the California border, I’ve been trying to figure it out.  I’ve felt an immense sense of calm and peace since we arrived.  It’s been a very long time since I could just sit and relax.  Usually, I have a sense of anxiety where I feel I have to solve World Hunger every moment of every day.  Always bustling about – never stopping.  Always in a worry or slight panic over everything.

Maybe it’s the air.

the past 31 years I’ve lived in hot humid climates.  Here, it’s cool, crisp with a breeze that always seems to carry some sort of fragrance from the nearby vegetation.  A good whiff of the fresh air could bring a scent of gardenia or Sycamore.  Or in yesterday’s case – dog poop.

Maybe it’s the tall trees here.

Trees that get to grow tall without any threat of strong winds to stunt their growth.  The Sycamores are everywhere and seem to grow 5 stories tall!  They are so beautiful, they look like Christmas trees that come with their own pine cone decorations.  In many places, they line the freeways.

ice-plantMaybe it’s the ice plant.

The ice plant covers the hills on the sides of the freeways.  A thick carpet of green, finger-thick vegetation with pink flowers.  Just crawling everywhere.   I’ve always thought it to be very beautiful.  The boys growing up thought the finger-thick shoots made for good bullets – as we were always being pelted with them growing up.  I’ve really never seen the ice plant in such quantity anywhere else in the US – it’s always been a sign I’m home in SoCal.

Maybe it’s the mountains.

Living in “The South”, it’s a very flat place and can be hard to tell which direction you are going.  I’ve always missed the gravitational pull of the mountains – to give me a due north.  Mountains on the right – Ocean on the left – and go from there.  It’s reassuring to be able to look up an see your mountain to know just where you are.

Perhaps it was the combination of all those tings that made Sunday a perfect day for a road trip to San Diego.

The skies were blue and crisp as we drove down the freeway lined with the beautiful ice plant, tall Sycamore trees lined the freeways.  Weaving in and out of mountains and canyons, we found our way south to San Diego.

As we came in, I started to recognize the street names of my childhood on those big green exit signs.  I quietly remarked to my husband “I think I used to live on that street”.  He took the next exit, and to my surprise we found my first elementary school and the street that I had lived on.  The house was no longer there.  But my babysitter’s house was, with her ice plant still carpeting the side of her house.  That supply of bullets was still there!

We made our way down the back canyon roads – totally ignoring Google maps – ad following the routes I was sure my parents used to drive.  Thrilled to see the old windy road that seemed untouched by time.  Yet the shopping center it emptied out on looked modern and unrecognizable, save the name.

We got back on a nearby freeway and made our way through the Mission area where baseball fields were still filled with ballplayers.  Passed by downtown San Diego – with it’s airport landing strip adjacent to the freeway – back splashed by the navy ship yard and towering navy vessels.  So close, you feel like you are going to drive right up to one around the next bend.

Just minutes later, we found ourselves at Imperial Beach.  The closest you can get to Tijuana without leaving the USA.

A friendly couple snapped a photo of us, and then we strolled the small seaside town.  The town revealed other California memories for me.  Beach parks filled with basketball players with a natural audience, healthy bodies testing their limits on the workout equipment, rollerbladers weaving in and out of the slow strollers (like us).  And just to put a cherry on top – a red lifeguard truck cruising up and down the sandy beach.

sandiego-pano

From that park, we sat for a short while, digging our feet in the sand.  To our left was a pier full of poles hanging over the ends.  In front of us, way out in the water – were 3 cruise ships and a cargo container awaiting their turn into the shipping lanes.  Next to us, on the beach, was a closed lifeguard station with a doggy tied up under it yapping at the running kids – he too wanted to play.  Off to our right, beyond the active beach volleyball net was the famous blue Coronado bridge and downtown San Diego.  It was definitely a sight to take in, and certainly warranted a few leisurely minutes (if not hours) to take it all in.  If for not other reason, but to count the 5 more ships way way way off on the horizon.

 

Destination Goal 2 – Achieved!

Destination Goal 2 – Achieved!

Beaumont, CA
44° / 53° Rainy

TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 19,675


Yesterday was a perfect Sunday for a day trip to San Diego.  Clear blue skies and clear freeways.  Despite this area being known for its clogged freeways – we were in much luck yesterday!

Every adventure needs to have a goal or destination, else you are just aimlessly wandering.  I’m a goal-oriented person, and one thing I’ve learned through all my goal settings – failures and winners – is that it really doesn’t matter what the goal is.  A goal is simply something to work toward.  An area to focus your time, effort and energy on.  Goals give me a sense of purpose and a feeling of achievement in life.  Feelings that are very important to type-A folk like myself.  I’m also a tad bit of a control freak – so there’s that need too.

When we decided to set out on RV life, we really didn’t have a specific plan in mind, other then to just go out and see America.  Which felt a bit too vague for me.  One of the benefits of living the RV life is to chase the good weather, so as to always live where the climate is mild. That sounded real nice to me, so as we looked at the map, we noticed how the weather seemed to have a unique pattern with the shape of the country.  That’s when the idea of this year’s 2022 RV goal came to us.  We’d visit all four corners of the country.  Starting our adventure near home with Key West.  Then the San Diego / Tijuana boarder.  Followed by Washington in the summer and Maine in the fall.  I’m most looking forward to New England in October as that’s my favorite time of year.  It’s also why we deliberately got married in October.

Last Thanksgiving, we spent the holiday with Tara in The Keys.  It was a wonderful time and a great way to enjoy Tara’s company before we ditched her for the open road.

Key west Mile Marker 0The interesting fact is that Tara’s most favorite place in the world is The Keys.  She and Laurence vacation there at least twice a year.  Mostly for the fishing.  Tara is quite the fisherman and really enjoys the sport – she can outfish most men.  She has even caught the same fish twice!  So, last November we had our own personal tour guide to all things Florida Keys.  We fished off the bridges, we rode an airboat lookin for gators and we even stumbled down Duvall Street – tipsy and having a ball.

To officially mark the start of our travels, we took a snapshot at the famed Mile Marker 0 buouy at the end of Duvall Street.

Yesterday, in San Diego, we took a picture near at the border town to mark our second goal post of 2022.

Checking things off a goal list feels great!  It’s only April and half this year’s goals are already done!

We plan to be in Washington by mid-May.

More on San Diego tomorrow.  Today’s Monday and duty calls.