This is an idea I had many moons ago. Unable to afford travel, I decided to travel the US virtually.
This is a work of fiction.
The places exist. The weather may be correct for the place and time. But what is written as my experiences there are just in my imagination. I haven't been to these places except on the 'net.
Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, I refuse to spend the time talking to myself. So I have created a traveling companion. Her name is Kait and for purposes of my journal, she is my cousin. To help me (and any readers visualize), she is younger than me by about 12 years, extroverted, enthusiastic, a touch adventurous, prone to impulse and a child like lack of inhibitions. By that I don't mean that she gets drunk and dances on tabletops, but that she will walk a curb like a balance beam and skip down the street if the mood strikes. I will allow the reader’s freedom to address physical characteristics.
I find it easier to write if I can visualize my “home”. So I have chosen a rig (called Geri). However, my experiences with the rig are still in my imagination and cannot be used as an endorsement or review of the products chosen. The 2017 Gateway 3750PT was chosen simply because it has 2 bedrooms, each with queen beds and 1.5 baths. I found one that had 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths, but liked this layout and the second queen a little better. We will pull with a Silverado 2500 HD. Why – cooling seats. enough said.
To make this trip easier, neither Kait nor I will be afflicted with any medical issues (including the ones I actually have) or financial concerns. After all, it is fiction.
This is fiction.
Mostly this is for me. But others can read and comments accepted from those who join in the story.
If you have not been here before, please sure to read the Disclaimer.
Can you believe it?? It's actually happening. The TRIP has BEGUN!!
As expected, Kait and I each awoke early without need of the alarm clock. We fixed breakfast (a FIRST) and then got ready to go. I think anyone watching us would have wondered WHAT we were doing. It started normal enough (I guess). Kait went outside to unhook and I prepped the inside. Then the double checks...by each of us...at least 3 times.
Are the drawers and cupboards latched? Check.
Is the back door secure? Check.
All slides completely in? Check.
All hoses and connections unhooked and put away? Check.
All vents lowered? Check.
Drawers and Cupboards? Check. Back Door? Check.
Slides? Check. Hoses? Check. Vents? Check.
Drawers? Cupboards? Doors? Slides? Hoses? Vents? DRAWE...
When Kait ran into me as she left the RV and I was headed back in for a fourth time, we figured ... we had checked enough.
Hooked up the truck. Triple checked all connections. Everyone in and buckled and...STOP. We just stopped. Sat there. Stared out the windshield. And realized where we were, what we were doing (more FIRSTS). And then....well, have you seen Love Actually and there is that scene where Carl finally goes home with Sarah and she excuses herself and does this excited shaking thing like she can't control herself...Here. We did that. Then deep breath, smile and Kait started the truck and put it in gear.
It was 8:37 am.
For the first few miles, we were silent. Kait was concentrating on driving and I didn't want to disturb her. She had chosen a slightly longer route because the roads are wider with more of a shoulder. Slowly we each relaxed. I began to enjoy the scenery. The truck is higher than the cars I am used to and I enjoyed the extended view. Tall evergreens, farmhouses, villages flew past as we headed east. The road lulled me into a bit of a trance despite the excitement. Then suddenly we were crossing the Bellamy where it joins the Piscataqua and there was Portsmouth. I ducked when, as we changed from the 16 to the 95, we passed under the 16. Being higher had that effect. I am sure I will get used to it later.
There it was. That green bridge over the Piscataqua would take us over the state border into Maine. I could feel my pulse pick up. A glance at Kait showed a similar excitement even as she continued to concentrate on her driving. I prepped that text message and as we crossed the Piscataqua, I hit send.
"IT HAS TRULY BEGUN!!!!"
What did you think when you got it? We both wanted to do that shaking thing again. We didn't but we did squeal. And laughed.
After that, we actually settled back for the rest of the day's travel. We chatted about the drive, the rig, what y'all were doing back home. We laughed to realize you were probably just getting out of bed.
Kait informed me happily that there was a Starbucks just a short distance across the border. Finding a place to park was a challenge with the rig, but Kait wanted that coffee. So a spot was found; we hustled across the parking lot and soon we were back on the road, Kait with her Venti Blonde Roast and me with a Trente Black Iced tea.
A VERY short distance down the road, we pulled off again, this time into the rest area and to the Maine Information Center. I stocked up on brochures (not that I needed anymore) and we hit the road again.
Outside Kennebunk, we exited the freeway and headed farther from the coast and onto smaller, quieter roads. This wasn’t the shortest route to our first stop, but Kait had suggested the bridge crossing into Maine. The symbolic ritual of beginning the trip.
We will never know if the other route had wider roads. This was just two lanes. Homes set back from the road, surrounded by trees and fields and ... sigh. So relaxing, at least for me. The speed limit was a leisurely 35 mph, so Kait was doing okay. But still I prayed not to encounter a bicyclist . A couple places, Kait used the entrance to a side street as a pull off to let people pass. They weren't obeying the speed limit, but no need to quibble. Encountering a truck coming the other way, Kait told me, "You can try to make yourself as small as you want. Won't change the size of the rig."
The SUV by the white clapboard colonial seem anachronistic. Should it be a horse and buggy? My mind wanders and soon I am no longer in the truck, but riding behind a different kind of horsepower, seeing no power lines, and just the wagon path before me.
Some of the homes are closer to the road and I wonder where was the road when the house was built. Was there a road when the house was built? A rare ranch style or mobile home shows where land was sold or given for a new generation and jars me back to the current era. A signal light, Dunkin Donuts and gas stations on opposite corners complete the return trip. A glance at the clock. It has only been 15 minutes since we left Kennebunk.
Much of the trip was much of the same. Two lanes, clapboard houses and churches. And Trees, beautiful Trees. We picked up the Paquawket Trail Scenic byway just north of Watchic Lake. This byway is truly a scenic byway, not having stops of historic or other interest. But, as a start to the journey, it was good. The farther we got from the coast., the less traffic we encountered. Thank goodness for GPS. Without it, we would have missed turns and Kait did not want to try and turn Geri around. I would say one of the issues was the lack of turnouts. Intersections became fewer and fewer. Kait wasn't going super fast although she tried to keep the speed limit.
The climb was very gradual and not very much. It topped out a little over 800' in Hiram. When we reach the end of the Scenic Byway, we headed east into Cumberland County, Maine. and found our campground on the edge of Long Lake. This afternoon was spent strolling and relaxing. Tomorrow we are the move again with some sightseeing en route.
If you have not been here before, please sure to read the Disclaimer.
Tonight I am actually sitting on my bed in the rig. Truly ambivalent - mixed emotions. Often this means happy and sad, hopeful and worried. Tonight it means excited and exhausted.
The last couple of days have been uneventful. Just a string of things that needed to be done.
Rented car in Medford and Drove to Concord
Signed for and picked up pickup
Drove to RV center and Dropped off truck for hitch install
Signed for rig and left it for washer dryer install
Drove to Wal-Mart and SHOPPED!!
Picked up truck and Rig
Drove to RV Park and hooked up
Put away shopping
But there were a couple of things I can share - mostly related to shopping. First of all, shopping in a place like Camping World can be dangerous to the pocketbook. All of a sudden you find stuff, lots of stuff, that you didn't know existed before JUST FOR RVs. And OH, wouldn't that be perfect for...(fill in the blank ). Kait had to stop me from buying all 15 of cookbooks they had in stock. She did concede on Half Crocked (slow cooking for 2) and One Pot Pasta.
She picked up books on RV living and maintenance and a Camper's Log binder where she can keep mileage and maintenance records AND keep her own journal. I picked up Next Exit. When I said it was so we knew where the next bathroom was, her reply - "we're pulling it WITH us!" She had prepped a list of needed supplies like chocks and hoses and RV septic approved TP. We did pick up that US Sticker map – you know the one that gets filled in as you visit the state.
Luckily we had wandered the shop yesterday without buying (figuring it would be better to buy and load directly into the rig today. That helped us see ideas and looking for less expensive equivalents at WalMart. If we didn't find, we could buy today.
Kait did have one SBI. You know me and you don't know SBI?? Scathingly Brilliant Idea. Watch Trouble With Angels with Hayley Mills for an explanation. Anyway, she decided she didn't need the bunk in her room as a bed. So she decided to make it storage. She picked up some light plastic drawer sets, eye hooks and tie downs. She put the mattress in the storage under her bed (for now - we will donate later), screwed the eye hooks into the floor of the bunk and secured them with tie down. But the best part, IMHO, she got kitchen curtains and strung them up to block the view of the drawers, so instead of looking kludgy, it looks pretty.
I picked up an inexpensive photo frame and put the aforementioned sticker map on that. So I can keep it in my old age after I have settled down.
Late in the afternoon, we were finishing up at Wal-Mart and got in line to check out. An older lady came up with only a couple items and we let her go ahead. As she eyed our carts, then looked at us, she asked "Are you moving into together? Are you engaged? You are such a cute couple." Lucky for me, Kait was taking a drink of water at the time because I saw the gleam in her eye and an adjustment to her posture. She was about to "act". Quickly I popped up with "Yes, no and no. We are COUSINS who will be sharing an RV. Just stocking up for the trip." Later, Kait said I always spoil her fun. I told her she could pretend to be the Duchess of Earl for all I cared, but as hetero adults, it was disrespectful to vamp it up. I could see the Duchess of Earl comment got her thinking and expect a full on British accent next time we have tea. Sigh.
Well, tomorrow it all begins. So early to bed. I feel like a child on Christmas Eve tonight. But I think we are ready. Are you??
If you have not been here before, please sure to read the Disclaimer.
So the answer to that question is yes - There is a Starbucks. And it opens at 4:00 am. This led to the debate on the way to the airport of insisting on Starbucks and getting into the security line later (with possibly a longer line) or settling for whatever non-Starbucks was post security.
When I say settling, I mean Kait settling. I really don't care. I am not an aficionado. I am as likely to get tea as a mocha and, at that hour, was only concerned it was hot and caffeinated. Kait is pickier. On Coffee. On Food, I am. BY FAR. Anyway, the decision was to decide when we got there based on the lines.
The lines were decent. We reached Starbucks and the line was not too bad. More importantly, they worked quickly. Wish I could say the same about going through security. Actually, the security line was just long enough to eat the breakfast sandwich and drink the mocha. Okay, so I gave my ID and threw my head back to finish my drink. As usual, longer after that point, though most people at that hour seemed to be regular business flyers, only a couple disorganized ones. We weren’t disorganized, other than having to pull laptops, external drives, cameras, tablets, etc from our carry-on luggage as we went through security. I think the person behind me in line was a little snarky when she asked if I had borrowed Mary Poppins' handbag. I told her it didn't matter if I did as long as it fit under the seat in front of me.
We ended up with about 35 minutes between security and boarding. I was feeling giddy and thankful and wanting to share. So I dropped my carry-on with Kait at the gate area (which, of course, was the farthest gate possible). Then I popped over to a shop that carried See’s.
Now one thing I know is that See's has gone national. But availability is still very spotty east of the Rockies. So I picked up a few 8 oz "Thank you" boxes. I have read that flight attendants are not supposed to accept tips. But they may have items like this. So I made sure I had enough for them and then added a couple more to use on top of tips if the need presented. And then I proved that I really did have Mary Poppins bag. Actually, I just squeezed my purse into my other carry-on and the See's bag became my second.
I don't want you to think I'm a spendthrift. In general, I am pretty conservative with money. But this is special occasion. And just as dinner the night before needed to not be fast food, this flight needed to not be peanuts and pretzels. So for the first (and probably last) time, I flew first class. Of course I used the excuse that, when the tickets were bought, these were the only 2 seats together. I must say it was nice. Just the little extra space made it more comfortable and less of a stress. Mostly I slept. I generally do. When I awoke, my seat had been reclined; there was a little pillow under my head and a light blanket over me. I am sure Kait asked for this but it still felt like I was pampered. I happily shared my See's.
I have a friend who doesn't ever seem to travel without something going wrong. I must be blessed because I seem to have the opposite situation. Only once did my luggage get misrouted and I found it on the baggage claim and turned it in and it arrived with me. This flight left on time and arrived 15 minutes early!! I hope this is a good omen for our travels
We planned this as a slow transition. The last thing needed was for a long day and flight and then, at the start of rush hour, to jump into a strange car in a city with a reputation for bad traffic. So planning ahead, we had reserved an Execu-car to take us to Medford and the Hyatt. A splurge to be sure, but it was worth it. We were met at baggage claim with the "man with a sign", who introduced himself as Adam. Even got the names spelled right. Adam helped with our luggage, got us settled in the back seat, and pulled into traffic. That was the best part. Someone else handled Boston traffic. The drive to the Hyatt wasn't long - just 8 miles and 28 minutes. And it was all freeway once we got out of the airport. But that transition alone would have had Kait white-knuckled and me praying to every saint known (and probably a few unknown).
By the way, the temperature when we arrived at San Francisco airport and when we left in Boston airport were about the same. Of course, it was before dawn in SFO and mid afternoon at Logan-BRRRR.
After adding a box of See’s to the regular fare and tips for Adam, we checked in at the Hyatt and agreed outside our rooms to meet in the morning. Dinner was, as bro says, yoyo - you're on your own. So it was humorous a bit later to open my door and find Kait doing the same across the hall. We were both going down to get something from the 24-7 galley. I don't know if Kait ate downstairs, but I brought mine back to my room. Short dinner, followed by a short shower and I sat down to write yesterday's events.
Today was uneventful - mostly chores and tomorrow is more of the same, but I will probably write a summary tomorrow. I suspect I will need to create the habit of writing something nightly or else I might just stop. But for now, I will post this and power down for the night.
If you have not been here before, please sure to read the Disclaimer.
Now, talk about Murphy's law. that could be the story of my life for the last couple years. Ever since I thought of this trip, things have happened to prevent it or delay it.
First there was the foot, mine. How many people do you know can badly sprain a foot stepping off the curb? And if that wasn't bad enough, I DID IT AGAIN! a couple years later. Different curb, same injury.
Meanwhile, Kait had family “issues” to deal with. She has one sibling who is jealous of Kait's good fortune. And I mean Jealous, not envious, with a capital “J” and all the bile and anger to back it up. I mean one time....but I digress.
So there were delays. Then we couldn't find a rig we liked. More and more, the RVs have extra beds and even bedrooms. Something like that is necessary for us to have some semblance of privacy and our own space in less than 500 sq ft of daily living. But many of them have hideaways or bunk beds in the second room. And while Kait is younger than I am, she isn't a teen anymore. So adult beds it is.
We thought everything was in place a couple years. But there is one thing that can truly be said about being raised in California's Central Valley...We Don't Do SNOW. At least not to the degree of the Polar Vortex last year. So we put it off again.
I shouldn't really say that. Kait would do snow. She loves skiing. But even she didn't want to try and drive a rig in the white stuff. So we spent this year talking, planning and watching. Starting point decided. We even decided who to buy the rig from. Kait started packing her apartment. And then everything went on hold. The weather channel became a daily viewing pleasure. Finally, it appeared that the sun was returning.
Departure date was set. The rig and truck decided and almost ordered. Kait's belongings moved into the guest room and the apartment let go. We were just about to head off and catastrophe struck. My brother died. Unexpectedly. For the first couple months, I was busy and distracted and then overwhelmed. By the time I started to emerge, it was too late in the year and there was guilt. Finally family and friends convinced me that Brother would have wanted me to continue on this.
So we ordered the rig and truck and set a new date. But we had made plans that included having a place to send stuff. So we talked and we inquired and finally found a cousin’s daughter who had been accepted into vet school at UC Davis. We arranged for her to move in and all was set.
On Monday, we gathered family and friends for a bon voyage celebration. Address book circulated and phone numbers for texting were entered into the phones. Everyone sent email addresses to get into those address books. And hopefully a few signed up to read this. I believe a good time was had by all. A few tears were shed, but not as many as when Kait realized she was limited to 2 suitcases of clothes and shoes.
Then home, bed and a restless sleep. Isn't that the way before a trip?
In the morning, we went and picked up the rental car. I remembered friends telling me that when they made a long trip, it was cheaper to rent a car one way than to pay long term parking. No, I wouldn't have considered long term parking in this case. But it didn't make sense for someone to drive us over to San Francisco either.
So off we set on Monday afternoon with a trunk full of luggage and not a little trepidation. This drive we have done many times. We chose a time with little or at least less traffic. Easy drive, early check in. Since the flight out of San Francisco was very early, and Kait has spent a year sleeping on the day bed, we decided to splurge on a hotel near the airport. The Bay Landing lived up to the many positive reviews (and the cookies were delicious).
Right off the bat, I am going to ask you to forgive me. I will probably talk a lot about food. I like food and restaurants are something I enjoy.
Somehow, it didn't seem right to start this adventure with fast food or at a chain restaurant. Even though we have set the official start after we picked up Geri, this meal shouldn't feel common. We filled up with local chains in recent weeks as it may be sometime before we get them again. For this dinner, we decided on Sixteen Mile House. Not 4 star but I wouldn't be comfortable at a 4 star anyway. and we didn't want to drive too far from the hotel, so we stayed in Burlingame. Early dinner on a Tuesday, not too much of a crowd. We got there as they opened and thus were seated quickly. While there is a good selection of seafood, this trip begins in the Northeast - home of lobster and clam chowder. Having seafood tonight would be like filling up on Hostess cupcakes before going to a wedding reception. So I had the pork chops with a baked potato and creamed corn and the tableside salad to start. While many would view the tableside salad as a way to splurge on the toppings they don't get at home like Bleu Cheese (cue Kait), for this pickier eater, it was a way to ensure nothing was wasted because I didn't like it. The creamed corn was excellent, almost as good as my Bro-in-law makes. But his recipe is from another restaurant (Gullivers) also known for creamed corn. Enough about corn. Kait got the prime rib although I don't remember the sides - HEY, give me a break. It was a very busy day.
The conversation I do remember. It went something like this.
K: So the flight leaves at 6:30.
K: So at the airport at 4:30
M: Car drop off first
K: Right - leave about 3:45 am?
M: Yeah - let's meet in the lobby by 3:30 to check out.
(both take a couple bites)
M: think we should get wake up calls
K: there is an alarm in the room
K: Will 3:30 be early enough?
M: well, if the flight is at 6:30
M: then we should be at the airport by 4:30
K: Right...I'm going to request a wake up call at 3.
K: should we get dessert?
M: well we do have to be up early
K: Right 3:00 and 3:30 in the lobby?
When we returned to the hotel and separated for our rooms, Kait asked me a question I was surprised neither of us had thought to ask before. And I didn't know the answer.
IS THERE A STARBUCKS IN THE AIRPORT AND HOW EARLY WOULD IT BE OPEN??
I am typing this in the hotel outside of Boston. It has been a long day. So I will answer that question tomorrow. See you then.