Before diving back into our normal RV travel adventures we had to get those Covid-19 vaccines into our arms.
Despite the needle jab – the experience was awesome. Dance music blared as we approached the drive-through center at the University of Arizona and dozens of happy volunteers greeted John and me. It was a party!
Afterward, my “band-aid of honor” announced “take-that-you-nasty-Covid-19-virus-this-badass-is-almost-bullet-proof!”
Hey, girlfriends, don’t get me wrong, I’m still masking up in public places and playing by all the rules (handwashing, social distancing) but there’s an undeniable sense of relief knowing I can safely interact (hug!) with family and friends without fear of infecting them. Bonus? The protection from becoming infected with the virus spells FREEDOM to travel about the country again! Can you say ROAD TRIP?
Even though traveling sounded great, I gotta be honest. John and I were a bit nervous driving away from The Voyager last month because… except for a measly 320 mile drive to Show Low last spring we’d been stationary for eighteen months. Cobwebs needed to be dusted from our long-overdue road trip checklist. Would we forget to connect the tire minder? Lower the satellite dish? Or lock the refrigerator?
However, once we shifted AireInn (yes our Diesel Pusher has a name) from park to drive – we felt like hockey players released from the penalty box. We high-fived each other, sang our road trip theme song “Goin’ Up The Country” by Canned Heat, and eased onto the interstate!
So strap in for this quick review from our 2800-mile road trip.
Stop #1 Deming, New Mexico
Dream Catcher RV Park. Yikes. I neglected to take one photo at this 18-hour stopover! You may recall a few years back our tragic yet funny stopover in Deming when we stayed at a Harvest Host location called The St. Clair Winery.
Stop #2 Van Horn, Texas
As we entered the rather run-down town of Van Horn, Texas, we were surprised to stumble upon the stately 5-story Hotel El Capitan in the midst of it all. So we decided to adjust our plans to include dining in the cobblestone courtyard enjoying the Texas sunset as it lit up the sky. Built in 1930 the luxurious Capitan provided a train stop for wealthy east coast travelers heading to the National Parks of Carlsberg Caverns and White Sands National Monument.
#3 Big Spring, Texas
Harvest Host location –Hangar 25 Museum.
Omg was this an awesome stopover!
As we entered the museum to take the tour we found the volunteer, Martha, struggling to move a glass display case. Luckily our timing and strong arms prevented a crash and provided some good laughs after all was secured. Because Martha grew up in the area her personal stories of the Hangar’s valuable role in WW2 had us riveted. Later we met another RV’ing couple, Pat and Craig, who were parked on the opposite side of the hangar. That evening we enjoyed exchanging road trip stories, touring each other’s coaches, and sharing the beautiful west Texas sunset.
It’s hard to describe the joy I felt during this day of travel. My absence from travel had given me a type of amnesia – in a sense forgetting the “rush” that road tripping provides. Sharing conversation and the Harvest Host experience with Pat and Craig – AND coming off a year of isolation had revitalized my soul. So it was time to be goofy!
The Hangar 25 museum was home to aviation cadets being trained on the TOP SECRET Norden bombsight. A bombsight was an instrument for computing a bomb’s trajectory. Because the Norden was highly classified it was stored in a heavily guarded vault. Bombardier students spent three months training on the Norden giving a distinct advantage to U.S. bombers in World War 2.
Later that day we ventured into the sleepy town of Big Spring, Texas, and were surprised to discover a 15 story Art Deco Hotel. Hotel Settles was built in 1929 in order to attract wealthy clientele to west Texas. It fell into disrepair for many years but in 2006 a local citizen named G.Brint Ryan invested 30 million to bring Hotel Settles back to it’s original splendor. It was prom night when we visited so we were entertained by the local teenagers having their photos taken on the grand staircase.
#4 Weatherford, Texas
Not much to say about this stopover. However, Angela, the manager, greeted us like we were long lost family and soon we were discussing the various ways that we had been affected by the pandemic. For $25 we had a nice site with full hook-ups.
#5 Texarkana, Texas
This surprisingly quaint KOA sported an old-fashioned porch swing at each site and Penny enjoyed rolling in the freshly mowed lawn. Soon after our arrival a young family of four (mom, dad, daughter, son) pulled in next to us. We learned that because of the confining nature of the pandemic they decided to sell their home buy an RV and live fulltime on the road.
#6 Indianola, Mississippi
I wrote a five-star review after our stay at this Harvest Host location even though the visit didn’t start out quite right.
For example, we arrived on a Tuesday and were disappointed to find the museum closed. A few minutes later I spied an employee approaching the front entrance so caught up with him to see if an exception could be made for us to take a tour. Just then the Curator, Mr. Terrell, exited, heard our story, and promised to unlock the door and let us in! We probably spent three hours roaming through the various displays. Towards the end Mr. Terrell caught up and insisted on inviting us through the yet-unveiled exhibit of BB King’s gravesite.
Later that night we enjoyed THE BEST SHRIMP AND GRITS EVER at Nola’s Restaurant just a few blocks from the museum. And the next morning we were surprised to see Mr. Terrell drive up to bid us farewell. Talk about southern hospitality! Oh, we’ll be back again!
#7 Pell City, Alabama
Safe Harbor RV Park. We enjoyed being surrounded by lakes for this one night stay and it was super peaceful. Additionally, Chris, the manager, was extremely nice and fixed our water spigot to make it easier to connect our hoses.
#8 Piedmont, South Carolina (just outside Greenville)
We reunited with our dear friend, Kay, whom we had met five years ago in Texas and the three of us enjoyed exploring the river walk along the Reedy River. Later that day we toured Bob Jones University and met up with Kay’s grandson and granddaughter who are students. Additionally, we finally met Kay’s daughter, Jessica, who is Dean of one of the colleges.
#9 Charleston, South Carolina
We stayed in the heart of the action at this convenient KOA and I finally saw John’s ‘ole Navy stompin’ grounds. This defunct Naval hospital is where John spent one year working in the CCU and he lived in the naval housing shown in the second photo below.
On our first day we enjoyed a carriage tour of old town Charleston, photographed the famous rainbow homes, and ate the local favorite; shrimp-stuffed hush puppies. The next morning we ferried to Ft. Sumter and later toured the Boone Hall Plantation. Our final day in Charleston we did a self guided tour of the Governor William Aiken home.
Beautiful yet Ugly
Charleston is indeed a beautiful place – but a somberness filled me for several weeks following our visit. Why? Because viewing the stark contrast between life of the wealthy vs. poverty and injustice that slaves experienced made me wince with embarrassment. I could dive deep into this topic but today I’ll leave my comments about our ugly history at that…
#10 Wilmington, North Carolina
Boy did we luck out getting a spot at this busy KOA because it was really convenient to all the areas we wanted to visit. Plus, we found an additional bonus. This KOA had a coffee shop attached to the property and this became the meetup spot with John’s friend Matt – one of his climbing buddies from their 2019 Kilimanjaro summit.
The next day we explored the river walk and toured the U.S.S. North Carolina. Wow, that tour was uber impressive!
#11 Norfolk, Virginia
We met some really nice people at this lovely KOA and it was fun to see young families arriving for the weekend camping deals. As a result, the air was fragrant with smores and campfires each evening!
Only one OOPS at this location. While attempting to re-level the coach we neglected to remove the bikes that were locked to our bumper and CRUNCH! John’s carbon fiber road bike frame cracked. Yeesh.
33 YEARS AGO
Below you’ll see John posing in front of his old apartment buildings. It was an adventurous day trying to find these locations after John’s thirty-three year absence! Additionally, we found his old watering hole – shocked that the same owner greeted us at the door!
Standing on the Norfolk side of the Elizabeth River you can see the Naval Hospital John worked at in Portsmouth across the water. We were not able to get near the Naval Hospital due to tightened security during the pandemic.
#12 Hatfield, Pennsylvania
This was our final stop and luckily we arrived four days prior to our granddaughter’s birth! She surprised all of us by coming nine days earlier than her due date. The baby shower cake was now a birthday cake which we enjoyed when our daughter-in-law, son, and new baby arrived home from the hospital. What a delightful summer this will be!
huge fuel savings
Because of the long miles we drove I thought I’d share the fuel costs and savings during this 2800 mile road trip adventure. To take advantage of the TSD program you need to have a diesel coach or pickup.
$809.11 total we paid at the pump
$150.74 total we saved at the pump
$658.37 total paid after the discount
Have you gotten back on the road for some adventure this year? Did you CRUNCH anything like we did? I’d love to hear about your post-pandemic travel in the comments below.
Lots of love and happy trails,