It feels like chapters since we embarked on our cross country trip 31 days and 3,173 miles ago. I must confess my biggest challenge is choosing what to see and do (and keeping this blog current!). Like a bug-eyed kid in an amusement park, I want to do it all! That’s when I dust off my “go-back-to-list”, a tally of places to visit next time, and keep a loose hold on this journey’s bucket list. Here are a few of our top picks from our journey from Indiana to Ohio.
“Hey, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is just a short detour off our route to Columbus!” I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, walking through the evolution of military flight from the Wright Brothers’ 1909 Military Flyer…
…to the B-2 Stealth Bomber, or my brother-in-law Mike’s stories about his tenure as a U.S. Air Force jet engine mechanic.
The museum pays tribute to those who served and their valiant airships.
A bridge separates high rises in Columbus, Ohio’s city center from the red brick houses of historic German Village.
Cobbled sidewalks ribbon past multi-story residences and corner shops. With a double dark chocolate treat from Winan’s Chocolates and Coffees, Greg and I wandered the creaky, wooden floors of The Loft, a 32-room bookstore. I wondered what stories were buried in those old walls.
“They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating, and from what I’ve seen I believe ‘em…”
If there’s a way to sum up the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, these lyrics from Huey Lewis & the News’ hit song fits the bill. Dancing through the doors as rock tunes beat through the air, people flock to the Hall to experience the music genre that changed the world.
Seeing the guitars strummed, lyrics written and stage costumes worn by favorite rock stars touches the fan within.
Meeting up with friends and family has and always will be the best part of our full time RV adventure. To our delight, we discovered our cousin and his wife lived in a nearby town just 15 minutes from our Streetsboro, Ohio RV Park. With limited time in their schedules and ours, we managed to squeeze in a visit. Thank you Tom and Allie for opening your home to us on short notice and for a wonderful, memorable time.
“Lady and Gentlemen Start Your Engines!” The announcement echoed through the stadium sending a shiver down my spine despite the sun’s heat. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the stands at the 2016 Indy 500 was definitely worth our five-day, 2,000+ mile RV trip (See our travelogue below).
The 100th-running of the Indianapolis 500 felt like an epic celebration of time-honored traditions. The speedway bulged with an estimated 350,000 people, a sellout event. Teams readied cars in Gasoline Alley. Spectators stood with hats in hand as our “National Anthem” rang through the stadium. Red, white, and blue balloons soared skyward with the final notes of “Back Home in Indiana”.
A prayer for drivers’ and spectators’ safety called to mind the risks of the sport. We paused and remembered our military. A Memorial Day tribute honored those who gave their lives serving our country. WWII Veterans who survived the Pearl Harbor bombing were applauded. Military personnel representing all service branches circled the track to chants of “USA! USA!”
To commemorate decades of racing, former Indy 500 champions took a lap down memory lane driving winning cars from the first running to the present. Although the 1911 Indy 500 winning car, the Marmon Wasp, struggled to keep pace and left an oil trail near Turn 4, it showed how far racing technology has evolved!
In keeping with this historical theme, the military featured a flyover with two World War II airships before F-18E Superhornets thundered over the speedway in a four-plane formation piloted by the U.S. Navy.
Each pre-race event kicked up the adrenaline in the stadium. Gates opened at 6AM and when we arrived at 7AM the pre-race festivities were in full swing.
Pit Row seemed eerily quiet.
As race fans flocked to Gasoline Alley, stormy skies threatened a rain delay.
Our travel companions enjoyed all the pre-race gala with us before walking a mile to our seats.
On command, engines turned over and roared. The green flag waved and the race was on. There’s nothing like the sound of these mighty machines and the sensation of speed as they blur past you! Huge screens provided race coverage.
“Hey, how’s it going in the Snake Pit?”, the announcer asked the throng of people at the infield party-fest. “They don’t even know the race is going on!” he answered himself.
The checkered flag waved as the race winner rolled slowly across the finish line, conserving every drop of fuel. A finish that will go down in history as a marvel in fuel consumption strategy. It seemed fitting that a rookie in a field of experienced drivers and former Indy 500 champions won the 100th-running of this historic race. It speaks to another American tradition: the freedom and opportunity to succeed. Yes, it took mountains of work, skill and strategy, but American-born, Alexander Rossi, demonstrated that it can be done!
Caravanning with my sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law, Mike, makes for great company. We departed Sparks, NV on a 5-day RV journey to Indianapolis, IN for the 2016 Indy 500, a great kickoff to our cross country trip.
DAY 2 – West Wendover, NV to Cheyenne, WY
“We must be tired this morning!”, I commented as we prepared for our second travel day. We managed to brew coffee into hot water by leaving the freshly ground coffee beans in the grinder. Sharon later confessed that she did the same. The drive out of Salt Lake City, UT on I-80 refreshed us with lush green hills, scenic views and towering mountains. Grumpy, gray skies chased us but we outran them. After an eleven-hour day on the road we reached our Day 2 stopover in Cheyenne, WY.
DAY 3 – Cheyenne, WY to Greenwood, NE
Road Construction plagued us for miles. I-80 squeezed down from four lanes to two lanes for tens of miles at a stretch. Orange cones marked the center line as trucks and cars raced towards each other at 65 mph. We arrived at Pine Grove RV Park in Greenwood, NE just east of Lincoln, NE. After checking in, the clerk glanced out the window and said, “It doesn’t look like it’ll storm but if you’re uncomfortable, go to the men’s restroom. It’s a brick building and it’s safe.” Blue skies belied the warning. At 1AM a bright light flashed through the windows despite the dark-out shades. Betty rocked in the wind. Thunder rumbled, the sky cracked and lightening flashed like a strobe. Sleep came eventually.
DAY 4 – Greenwood, NE to Knoxville, IL
We woke to bright, sunny skies as if last night’s storm was a dream. Nightmare? Raptor One led the way through Iowa in one day. This state wins the “best rest stop award”! Like a park carpeted in green grass with covered picnic tables, shade trees, a paved walking path, and pristine restrooms, the stops offered pleasant breaks for us road warriors. The Iowa “tour” ended when we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. In a quest to find a lunch spot near the river we ignored a sign reading: “No Semis Over 40 feet”. Raptor One and Betty stretch about 65 feet when towing and need ample room to turn around. The next sign read “Last chance to Turnaround”. We pulled off the road to confer as a semi rolled past and returned successfully a short time later. Following Mike’s wisdom of “If he can do it, we can too”, we found the perfect lunch spot. Our stopover in Galesburg East Campground, Illinois provided a relaxed evening under the trees with no satellite TV.
DAY 5 – Knoxville IL to Greenfield, IN (just east of Indianapolis)
Where’s your pit crew when you need them? A slow leak in our tow car tire delayed our race to Indianapolis on the last lap of this long journey. Fortunately, Greg noticed it before we got on the I-74 track. A pit stop at Walmart (the nearest tire center) delayed our departure about two hours creating a rush hour arrival in Indianapolis. Greg and Natalie (our treasured GPS) navigated the highway networks and traffic brilliantly! We arrived at Heartland RV Resort right on course ready for a “jammie” morning before race day!
“Big Brown Betty to Raptor One”, Greg called on the two-way radio. “We need a new handle!”, I insisted. Yesterday, we set out on our first cross country RV trip. The thought of hearing this chant for 3,000-plus miles made me think our diesel damsel deserved a more elegant name. The mike clicked back. “Go ahead Big Brown Betty.” I threw up my hands in mock surrender. Watching the Reno, Nevada skyline disappear behind us, I reflected on our visit over the past few weeks.
“Is this a staycation or a travel destination?”, I mused when we wheeled into the city. Returning to our former hometown after several years on the road felt warmly familiar yet oddly different. Recently constructed neighborhoods replaced open meadows. Established neighborhoods aged gracefully. Restaurants sported new marquis. But one aspect remained the same. Family and friends embraced us. The lyrics from the TV show, Cheers, played in my mind: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”. With full hearts, grateful for cherished times spent with family and friends, we headed east ready to take on the unknown.
Following I-80 for five days, we’ll cover approximately 2,074 miles before settling into a more leisurely pace. We have an appointment to keep, with a green flag to start and checkered flag to end (stay tuned).
Camping along the way will merely be convenient stopovers. Last night we staked out spots at West Wendover, Nevada’s travel center among the truckers. Luckily, the cattle cars were empty. A bit rustic without hookups but comfy with generator and battery-powered electricity, hot water, and satellite TV.
We invite you to travel across this wonderful country with us and share the adventures, discoveries and likely, a few misadventures. Your company enriches our travels.
……still rolling! April 24, 2016 marked our third year as full-time RV’ers and still the gypsy spirit calls. Reflecting on this past year, three words play in my mind: simplicity, stuff and support.
In many ways, life on the road is simple. It’s like traveling in a big suitcase. We take everything with us including, pardon the cliche, the kitchen sink. A perfect setup for me because I detest squashing freshly-pressed clothes into ever-shrinking luggage. It doesn’t matter how exciting the destination, I always wear my cranky pants when packing. Those, of course, never make it into the suitcase!
My warm-weather-loving husband revels in the freewheeling life by belting out the lyrics, “going where the weather suits my clothes” from Harry Nilsson’s hit song (Everybody’s Talkin’) and grinning like a kid. Betty, our diesel damsel, enjoyed the tune when she outran cloudbursts in a lightening storm from Utah to Arizona.
The RV-as-luggage lifestyle spoils us with all the comforts of home. And it is home. We wake up in our own bed no matter the place. Morning reveals craggy mountains, cactus gardens, towering pines or giant blue Walmart signs. Birds chirp, the wind whispers or car doors slam as early risers wrestle shopping carts. We are bound by no place but always at home.
Although traveling with our possessions in tow is simple, stuff is still stuff. It jumps out of cabinets, tips over wine glasses and skids across floors wedging into hard to reach nooks. There’s too much stuff, not enough stuff and stuff that tugs at our hearts. “Look what I found!”, I exclaimed as I reached into the recesses of my closet. Hugging a leather jacket like an old friend, I wondered what other treasures lay hidden in our compact, 41-foot abode. “Can’t be much,” I thought. A scavenger hunt ensued. Cabinets and drawers splayed their contents as we rummaged through the rig. We discovered only a few jewels but ended up with a heap of stuff bagged for donations!
It made me smile. Three years ago, packing for life on the road seemed a monstrous task. Yes, I confess, I sported my cranky pants frequently then. What should we take? What should we leave? Making the common mistakes, we donated items we later purchased and kept things we eventually donated. But life on the road continues to school us. It’s teaching us to let stuff relax in the back seat while we focus more simply on those we love and the wonders of God’s creation. We never felt far from family and friends because you welcomed us on your doorsteps, graciously met up with us on the road and rode along with us on our blog. Thank you for support and encouragement!
Here’s a medley of photos from Year Three, many of which are new to the blog.
After spending months in the Arizona and California deserts, Greg and I headed to the coast for a day. A light mist curtained the rocky shores of La Jolla, California as the morning sun sparkled through. I closed my eyes, inhaled the crisp, ocean breeze and gagged. “What is that smell?”, I gasped. Fellow visitors passed by with faces tucked into sweatshirts and fingers pinching noses. Elbowing our way to the cliff’s edge, we found the culprits. Harbor seals dotted the shore.
Cows (female seals) nudged pups into the water and swam circles while their young paddled to keep up. Some tired and crawled onto their mothers’ backs only to be dunked back in. When swimming lessons ended, the pups belly-flopped up the beach and collapsed on the sand.
A time-worn controversy brews between these cute, but pungent, marine mammals and the local community. The cove, called Children’s Pool, was originally setup as a children’s swimming spot with a seawall, built in 1932, to defend the small bay from waves. Over the years, sand poured in and seals commandeered the beach. The pupping season runs from December through May and is a delight to see if you can weather the stench!
It’s also the season when the brown pelican dons its breeding plumage, transforming from plain to dapper. Its throat pouch turns brilliant red and its nape darkens, an eye-catching ensemble.
The real mission for our day’s excursion was to find these gregarious sea birds and get them to pose for photos. The finding part proved easy as colonies congregated along Coast Boulevard’s shoreline path performing strange, yoga-like throat stretches.
With oversized bills, saggy throat pouches and stodgy bodies pelicans are funny looking creatures. But when squadrons soar over the ocean in perfect formation, power and grace belie their comical appearance.
It seems to me that nature prods us to look beyond the obvious (even the smell!) and see the wonders of creation.
I think of myself as the voice for Greg’s photography. His photos inspire me, not only for their compelling creativity, but for the stories behind the images. You may see an eagle’s piercing stare but I see myself standing ankle-deep in mud at the river’s edge. For the past few years, I’ve shared the stories on our blog, www.WagsWildAdventure.com . Now, it gives me great joy to share a stand-alone collection of Greg’s photography on his new website, www.GMWPhoto.com. Please take a moment to visit the site and let us know what you think.
Moab, Utah is not shy about its claim as the adventure destination. Set in Utah’s red rock desert with two national parks on its doorstep and the Colorado River snaking past, the resort town offers a head-spinning playbook of outdoor activities.
This past October, Greg and I rendezvoused there with family and friends to kick up some desert fun. Sharing travel adventures with others creates a special bond. You learn a little more about yourself and your companions. You play like kids, laugh together and relax in good company. Pesky travel mishaps even turn into funny stories, often embellished with each telling.
“Don’t look down,” I cautioned from a rock ledge, two football fields long, high above the valley floor. Hugging the wall, seven of us followed our boots up to Delicate Arch, the most famous of Arches National Park’s 2000-plus natural sandstone arches.
A party-like mood filled the air. People happily handed their cameras to strangers and lined up to pose for photos under the arch. Although the arch can be viewed from a distance at two lower viewpoints, the close-up extravaganza was worth the 3-mile roundtrip hike.
Not yet ready to retire our boots, we tromped through sand, climbed rocks, and traversed narrow fins to Double O Arch, a 4-mile roundtrip trek.
Back at camp, we toasted the sunset and recounted the day’s escapades.
In the morning’s stillness, I sipped steaming coffee while my cohorts gathered around their UTV’s (Utility Terrain Vehicles). Passionate off-roaders, they chose Archview RV Resort for its easy trail access.
Motors revved and seats filled, but one remained empty. Greg happily accepted our friend’s invitation to join the Gemini Bridges expedition. Rated as a scenic, moderate route, the team managed to find some challenging rock crawling on an adjoining trail marked with a sign reading: “Caution. Very difficult. Great place to change your plan!”
I’m not sure if the evening’s storytelling mixed up bits of truth and tale, but the camaraderie was genuine.
Another day, as the UTV gang motored away, Greg and I climbed into our mighty Honda CRV for our own four-wheeling adventure. “Let’s take the back road in”, my adventure-seeking husband suggested. Which is how we found ourselves bumping along a 32-mile dirt road, rated for high clearance vehicles, somewhere between Canyonlands National Park and Potash Road/Scenic Byway U-279. For miles, ours was the lone car on the road winding through fiery red rock walls, monoliths and towering buttes. Pausing on an overlook, we watched the Colorado River ribbon around the renowned gooseneck bend. A not-to-be-missed view, this site can also be enjoyed from the ridge above in Dead Horse Point State Park.
A weatherworn sign marked the park’s boundary and access to sites hidden from Canyonlands’ paved roads.
Not ready to abandon the dirt for pavement, we explored Musselman Arch before zig-zagging out of the canyon up the infamous Shafer Trail switchbacks with sheer drop-offs.
Too few sunsets later, we stowed lawn chairs, unplugged utilities and watched our family and friends tuck UTV’s into toy-haulers. They headed west. We headed south, richer for our shared adventures.
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