Coast to Coast

Where is Waldo? Follow the red and yellow lines to trace our progress.

Welcome to Mark and Sonia’s Coast to Coast to Coast Travel Blog. This trip is one of our bucket list items and this year seemed to be the right time to do it. Mark had his USA Ultimate Masters Championships competition in Denver mid-month which put us a good chunk of the way to the east coast. We planned to spend time with friends and family across this great country and try to stimulate the economy by spending several thousand dollars on gasoline and campgrounds. You can read my blog from start to finish by reading straight down, or you can jump to one of my later updates by clicking on your date of interest from the calendar below. Please let me know how you like it, how easy it is to follow and what I can do to make it more interesting.

San Diego
San Diego
7/10 – Day 1
Flagstaff, AZ
7/11 – Day 2
Mesa Verde, CO
7/12 – Day 3
South Fork, CO
7/13 – Day 4
Denver, CO
7/14 – Day 5
Denver, CO
7/15 – Day 6
Denver, CO
7/16 – Day 7
Denver, CO
7/17 – Day 8
Denver, CO
7/18 – Day 9
Minden, NE
7/19 – Day 10
Hamilton, MO
7/20 – Day 11
Hamilton, MO
7/21 – Day 12
Indianapolis, IN
7/22 – Day 13
Indianapolis, IN
7/23 – Day 14
Indianapolis, IN
7/24 – Day 15
Streetsboro, OH
7/25 – Day 16
New Columbia, PA
7/26 – Day 17
Battleboro, VT
7/27 – Day 18
Palmer, MA
7/28 – Day 19
Palmer, MA
7/29 – Day 20
Palmer, MA
7/30 – Day 21
Portsmouth, RI
7/31 – Day 22
Portsmouth, RI
8/1 – Day 23
Bear, DE
8/2 – Day 24
College Park, MD
8/3 – Day 25
College Park, MD
8/4 – Day 26
McGaheysville, VA
8/5 – Day 27
Cape Hatteras, NC
8/6 – Day 28
Cape Hatteras, NC
8/7 – Day 29
Sunset Beach, NC
8/8 – Day 30
Crawfordville, GA
8/9 – Day 31
Hoover, AL
8/10 – Day 32
Russellville, AR
8/11 – Day 33
Amarillo, TX
8/12 – Day 34
Albuquerque, NM
8/13 – Day 35
Las Cruces, NM
8/14 – Day 36
Tucson, AZ
8/15 – Day 37
San Diego, CA ! ! !
Click on the date that you want jump to – they are in BOLD

July 8, 2022

Day T-2 – Procrastination

We’re getting close to departure date now, it doesn’t seem real yet that we are leaving home for 5-6 weeks on a coast to coast journey and adventure. There are a few “must do’s” for this trip starting with Mark’s participation in the 2022 USA Ultimate Nationals in Aurora Colorado. They run from 7/15-17 and might be the last one that Mark participates in unless they add an older age group to the tournament; the oldest age group is 50 and over, closer to our kids age than ours!

We bought our 23′ class-C motorhome last year with this trip in mind and now its time to see how the vagabond life suits us. Mark has the RV in top mechanical shape for the 7000 mile trip but you can’t help but be a bit anxious about mechanical issues when traveling so far from home. Hopefully the only thing we’ll need to do is fill the gas tank for the next month or so; probably amounting to over half the total expenses we’ll incur for the entire adventure.

July 9, 2022

Day T-1 – Final Preparations

The final push is upon us. After a fun morning playing wiffle ball OTL down at the San Diego Bay with Joshua’s family it was back to work getting the last minute issues squared away on the RV and finishing up packing clothes and loading food. Sonia made some cool nick nack wall bags to put in our bed area to hold iPads and glasses at bed time. Those went up easily but we were still many hours away from being ready to hit the sack.

Nick-nack wall bag

As usual something always comes up that has nothing to do with the main job at hand but has to get resolved; in this case it was irrigation issues. After a special trip to Home Depot and a couple of hours of digging in the front yard I finally got the front yard drip system back in operation. And then there was the foot long alligator lizard that somehow found its way into our old Avalon. I wasted 30 minutes trying to coax it out only to have it crawl into one of the AC ducts under the front seats. Hopefully it crawls out and into the box I left in the rear seat area so I can get him out tomorrow morning before we leave.

It’s now almost 10 PM and we’re planning on hitting the road around 5AM to beat some of the desert heat tomorrow. If all goes well we should be in Phoenix by noon and then onto Camp Verde, AZ after another couple of hours. If all goes according to plan we’ll be arriving in Denver on 7/13 for Mark’s USA Ultimate Nationals and then on 7/18 depart on a 9 days drive to Palmer, MA to visit Sonia’s brother Eric. After another week or so we’ll be leaving the East coast near Myrtle Beach, NC around 8/7 and making the return drive to San Diego over the following 10-15 days. Just in time for Sonia’s Senior Volleyball tournament in San Diego! Return to Top

July 10, 2022

Day 1 – San Diego to Flagstaff, AZ.

2 States and 523 miles – $4.69/gal in Phoenix, AZ

We got off to an early departure as we both woke up well before the alarm went off and decided to hit the road early in hopes of beating the mid-day heat in the desert. We pulled out of the driveway in darkness at 4:30 AM PT. We didn’t see another car until several miles from home and hit absolutely zero traffic getting out of San Diego. Our first stop was in El Centro where we got some coffee and breakfast, again virtually no one else in the store at 6:45 AM on a Sunday morning. It was already in the mid 80’s and only a hint of what the rest of the day had to offer.

After a quick pit stop in Yuma to fill up the gas tank, taking advantage of the $4.79 a gallon in Arizona, we were back on the road headed for Phoenix. By the time we pulled into the Costco in the outskirts of Phoenix a little after 11 it was already 105 and on its way to 111! We grabbed a Costco dog and drink for lunch and hit the road for Camp Verde, the planned first stop on our trip, hoping to cool off a bit by virtue of being up in the mountains. Boy did I miscalculate there 🙁 It was 102 when we pulled into the campground and there were no trees and only a hot wind blowing through the barren campground. I took Buddy for a short walk down to the river, where he happily jumped in for a swim, but he was completely dry after only 5 minutes in the mid-day heat.

When I got back to the RV, where the AC had been running full blast for the last hour, I decided to check the temperatures in Flagstaff, knowing it can get hot there too. Boy was I surprised to see that it was over 20 degrees cooler and headed for a nice 59 overnight low. I quickly checked to see what campgrounds were available and finding a KOA site for only $40 I couldn’t enter my CC info fast enough. Five minutes later we pulled up the stakes and headed for Flagstaff, about 90 minutes north. We pulled into the campground, got our site, did a bit of shopping nearby and then sat down at the picnic table for a light dinner and a long dog-walk before retiring to the RV to try out our new streaming TV and hit the rack early to be ready for our next day’s adventures.

July 11, 2022

Day 2 – Flagstaff to Mesa Verde National Park

4 States and 279 miles, 802 total – $4.73/gal in Flagstaff, AZ

We got to catch up on sleep after our 500+ mile marathon yesterday. Around 9:30 we headed out north from Flagstaff on the familiar 89A, the main route to the east end of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Again, the traffic was light in our direction, which was nice since we ran into several traffic brakes for road construction; easily 3-4 times as many cars coming the other direction, which made for much longer waits than we had. Our first stop today was in beautiful downtown Kayenta where we picked up a few fresh vegetables for our lunch and and dinner and then got back on the road for Four Corners, the highlight of our day.

Four Corners Monument – The only place where four states share a common point

Even though it was only about 200 miles it took us a good 6 hours to get there, and lucky for us the entrance line was fairly short. Once inside the monument we got into the informal line of people waiting to get their picture taken on the Four Corners marker. There’s always a few goofballs that want to sit on it, lay on it, do a head stand on it, etc. so the wait can take a while. It’s also common practice and courtesy to take the pictures for the group ahead of you in line so their entire group can get in the picture. After we took pictures for the preceding group we got our three picture (that’s all you’re supposed to take according to the signs). I then went back to the RV and took Buddy out for a romp while Sonia went shopping for Indian crafts at one of the many kiosks.

Back on the road for a short drive to Cortez and a stop for fuel, drinking water, and, of course, a Starbucks. From there it is only 30 minutes to the Morefield Campground, just inside the Mesa Verde National Park. We drove around the several campsite loops until we found a nice site on a mostly deserted loop near the restrooms and setup for the night. I pulled out the camp griddle and cooked up some vegetables and halibut while Sonia cooked some Raman noodles and chicken soup and we made some awesome noodle bowls for dinner.

Wild Flowers at our Campsite

Finally time to relax. Sonia got out a quilt to finish up the binding. I threw the ball about a hundred times for Buddy to chase and retrieve until I got tired of it 🙂 The weather cooled down nicely as sunset approached so hopefully the RV will have a chance to cool down overnight after 2 long days in the 90-100 degree weather we’d been in for the last two days. Our plan is to visit the Mesa Verde dwellings tomorrow morning before proceeding to our next stop in South Fork, CO. Return to Top

July 12, 2022

Day 3 – Mesa Verde National Park to South Fork, CO

1 State and 188 miles, 990 total – $4.97/gal in Cortez, CO

A leisurely start to the day was in order, we slept in a bit and then had a good old fashion camp breakfast with pancakes, eggs and hashbrown potatoes. We put everything away and started the 15-mile winding drive to the Far View Area. The campground is at about 7800’ altitude and the highest point on the road into the long-abandoned Pueblo dwellings of Mesa Verde crests at about 8400’, enough to make our V8 powered RV wheeze a bit on the way up.

As we drove up the endless switchbacks and steep roads to the top of the Mesa Verde I couldn’t help but ponder the similarities to driving up the steep mountain side road to Machu Picchu in Peru. The area is covered with the many types of dwellings, made and populated over nearly 800 years, that represent the maturing culture and skills, as well as outside influences from contacts in their trade routes. But the other striking similarity with Machu Picchu is that after many centuries of constant presence, all of the inhabitants abandoned the area in a relatively short period of time.

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace

No one knows for sure why, there was a period of drought and crop failures that certainly could have driven the abandonment as well as speculation that overuse had depleted the natural resources needed to support the thousands on inhabitants during the peak years, around 1250 AD. It’s certainly fascinating to learn about the transformation from a hunter gather society, to pit houses with mud roofs, to large sunken kivas and multi-room homes to magnificent 150 room cliff dwellings at the Cliff Palace and Long House. It’s often said that the reason you study history is to help you from repeating the mistakes of previous civilizations. One can’t help but be concerned when reflecting on how these mature societies (Puebloan, Incan and others) could flourish for hundreds of years and then completely disintegrate in a very short period of time!

Enough philosophizing; after a quick lunch back at the campground we hit the road for what we thought would be a quick 145-mile drive. Forget everything you know about driving on our wonderful interstate highways and welcome yourself to the 2-lane roads that connect the vast majority of the towns and cities in our great country. Besides driving a big heavy RV, we got stuck behind slow drivers and the endless slow traffic through every small town along the way. When we were finally only 40 miles from our destination, and Siri wanted us to take a 100-mile detour from what the Garmin recommended, I saw the final impediment to our day’s journey, the Wolf Creek Pass at 10,856’ above sea level. The pass is almost 4000’ higher than Pagoda Springs where we stopped for fuel before driving the last 8 miles up to the pass at 30-40 mph.

Campsite on the Rio Grande River in South Fork, CO

Our RV chugged right up the mountain road and happily coasted down the back side to arrive in South Fork around 5 PM, nearly 5 hours after we left the campsite. We have a beautiful site backed right up to the Rio Grande river, which surprisingly was flowing at a pretty brisk pace. Buddy went for a short romp in the water and really wanted to chase the flock of geese floating down the river past our campsite. Enough for today, tomorrow we arrive in Denver, after a “short” 275 miles through the beautiful and scenic Colorado Rocky Mountains. Return to Top

July 13, 2022

Day 4 – South Fork, CO to Strasburg, CO

1 State and 309 miles, 1299 total – $4.55 in Littleton, CO

Today we decided to head east to Interstate 25 before starting our drive north to Denver. We had one of the longer days of driving ahead of us and wanted to make sure it wasn’t too late when we arrived at our campsite. The drive east on US 160 was relatively level and took us through half a dozen small towns, some a lot smaller than others. We stopped in Colorado Springs for lunch and some snacks and then Sonia drove the rest of the way into Strasburg. Luckily we pretty much snuck under the rush hour traffic jams and pulled off the I-225 onto Colfax and drove past the Ultimate Fields at the Aurora Sports Complex. From there it was another easy 23 miles to the KOA campground in Strasburg that will be our home until the 2022 USA Ultimate Great Grand Masters National Championships are over and we continue our drive east through Nebraska. You can follow Mark’s team’s progress on another blog that will be active until we leave the Denver area on the following Monday. Return to Top

July 14-17, 2022

Days 5-8 – Strasburg, CO – USA Ultimate Masters Championships

If you want to see what happened on these 4 days go to my 2022 Ultimate Blog

July 18, 2022

Day 9 – Strasburg, CO to Minden, NE

3 States and 335 miles, 1909 total – $4.54 in St. Francis, KS

Today was our first day back on the road heading east after Mark finished competing in the 2022 USA Ultimate Masters Championships in Aurora, Colorado. We got off to a pretty early start knowing we had some 300+ miles to cover. The weather continues to be hot and it was in the mid-80’s before 9:00 AM and got into the mid-90’s in the afternoon. We headed out of Strasburg on US 36, hoping to avoid the Interstates as much as possible in areas we’d never been before. The endless rolling hills and grass lands as far as you could see is so different from our SW terrain. You could tell we weren’t in California quickly as almost every piece of farm land with active crops was growing, you guessed it, CORN! We drove for six hours from eastern Colorado, through NW Kansas and into central Nebraska and we saw lots of corn, and that was about all we saw.

US 36 is a 2-lane highway that goes due east from the Rocky Mountains all the way to Uhrichsville, OH, over 1400 miles. It’s actually a nice road though I was expecting to be slowed down driving through a small town every 10-20 miles, not! In the first 100 miles we didn’t see a dozen vehicles on the road and didn’t pass a gas station for at least 120 miles. The good news was that the regular gasoline was selling for less than $4.50 a gallon almost everywhere we went. A couple of the towns we did travel through didn’t have much more than a Post Office building that was in good shape. It is sad to drive through these small towns and realize their heyday was 50-60 years ago when the area was owned and worked by families instead of huge corporations.

There were two really cool things that happened today, the first was that I got to travel through Nebraska, one of the remaining five United States that I had never been to, four to go. The second was that we stayed at Pioneer Village campground in Minden, NE, which is adjacent to the Pioneer Village Museum. I was expecting some corny pioneer village recreation looking like Little House on the Prairie with people churning butter and spinning yarn from wool. Instead we found an amazing collection of more than 50,000 items meant to capture and display the ingenuity and accomplishments of human endeavor from the 1890’s through the late 20th century.

One of the many iconic pieces in the collections, all with significant and unique histories

Harold Warp (a self-made businessman born in Minden in 1903) started collecting every imaginable example of human progress in the mid 1950’s and created the 26 acre Pioneer Village to showcase his incredible collection of Americana (housewares, cars, planes, boats, motorcycles, farm equipment, musical instruments, furniture, appliances, etc.) from the last 130 years.

This baby looks pretty similar the one that was in our house in North Park

He donated the museum to the Harold Warp Pioneer Village Foundation in 1983. While it is obvious that the museum is struggling to maintain the structures housing this incredible collection, the collections themselves are well worth the detour to spend an afternoon there if you’re ever passing through the region.

One of the countless antique and historical pieces of machinery in the Museum

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July 19, 2022

Day 10 – Minden, NE to Hamilton, MO

3 States and 315 miles, 2224 total – $4.35 in Marysville, KS

Back on US 36 heading east, what a beautiful way to traverse these corn-belt states. The roads are well maintained and the traffic is very light, especially compared to our SW interstates. Our RV likes to go about 60-65 mph on level ground and slows a bit going up the hills unless you want the engine to rev up to 4500 rpm. That makes the US highways just as fast as the interstates for us because we’re not going to go 75 mph and we don’t have to deal with all of the passing and being passed, and the on and off ramps. The best part of the highways is we get to go through all of the smaller towns throughout the central plains and see their sights and share in their small town character.

Downtown Marysville, KS
Marysville was one of the stations for the Pony Express that ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California

Today was the first day in a while without 20-30 mph winds blowing us around on the road. The temperatures are still high with excessive heat warnings all across Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. We stopped for lunch in Marysville, KS because it was lunch time but also because we saw a sign for the Pony Express Museum. We took a long walk through downtown and its beautiful park looking for the museum, even though it was 95° outside and their wasn’t a cloud in the sky. One odd thing we noticed in our walk through town was a bunch of large (5′ tall) black squirrel sculptures.

One of the 34 Black Squirrel Sculptures in Marysville

We eventually got to a beautiful park that was full of mature trees that provided lots of shade, they even had free overnight camping spots in the park. We decided to head back to our RV and relocate to the park for a cooler lunch break. Marysville, like every small town, it seems, has a retired steam locomotive with some local history and we got to check another one out on the walk back. They also had an old school house opened up for viewing, and a sod house; believe me you would not want to live in one.

On the way back we saw a plaque next to one of the black squirrel sculptures and learned the story behind them. Apparently in 1912 a circus came through town with a bunch of black squirrels in a cage and one of the young lads in town decided they should be set free and let them out. The black squirrels have flourished in the town and today make up about 20% of the squirrels in Marysville. After relocating our RV to one of the shady spots in the park I looked out the driver’s window and guess what I saw, a black squirrel munching away on a bunch of dried corn sprinkled around one of the larger trees. He stuck around long enough for me to snap a picture and then headed off to another tree in the park.

One of the infamous Marysville black squirrels enjoying a free lunch in the park

Marysville was about 150 miles from our days’ destination, Hamilton, MO so we filled up the tank with the cheapest gas yet, $4.35 a gallon, and got back on the road. It was still very hot outside and inside making it tough to stay awake after a nice peanut butter and banana sandwich. We tuned in to HLN on Sirius XM and listened to our favorite road trip channel, Forensic Files. We’ve probably heard at least half of the episodes before but it keeps our attention and helps pass the monotony of miles and miles of corn fields on both sides of the roads. We arrived in Hamilton around 5:00 PM, picked up some fresh asparagus, grilled it along with some halibut, and served it up with ravioli.

Today was a milestone day; we are officially closer to the east coast than the west! We’re 1700 miles from home and “ONLY” 1400 miles from Boston. We’re going to spend an entire day in Hamilton, one of the biggest quilting towns in America and the home of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. I’m guess that’s only fair after Sonia spent three days watching me play Ultimate in Denver. I guess I can entertain myself for a day while she visits as many of the 17 Missouri Star shops in town as she can. Besides, I need at least a day to winnow down the 3500+ photos Sonia took of Ultimate games to some manageable number so I can upload them for my teammates. Return to Top

July 20, 2022

Day 11 – Hamilton, MO

1 States and 32 miles, 2256 total

Today was a shopping day in Hamilton, the Missouri Star Quilt Company home base. Missouri Star has 12 themed quilt shops, a Sewing Center for retreats and events, and an Education Center for quilting and sewing classes. I guess you can figure out why we had a layover day here. After a leisurely morning where I got to try out our microwave/convection oven/broiler combo appliance for more than warming tortillas and melting butter. While shopping for groceries the day before I couldn’t resist the fresh strawberries, the best I’ve seen all year. That meant that I need to make shortcake, which meant I need to buy some Bisquick, which meant I needed to buy some whipped cream. Well, the oven took a few more minutes to cook the shortcake but it still turned out well. We had a successful run at our classic summer breakfast meal, Strawberry Shortcake, to kick the day off.

Strawberry Shortcake made using our microwave/convection oven combo

So I dropped Sonia off at the main Missouri Star shop and Buddy and I drove 12 miles to Cameron to pick up an assortment of food and sundries at Walmart and my favorite store, The Dollar Tree. I went into Dollar Tree first, it’s really the $1.25 tree now, hoping to buy a few things for some minor RV adjustments and left with no less than 24 indispensable items that I’ll put to use on our trip. By now my phone already had a few text messages informing me that a couple of credit card purchases over $100 had been made, I knew there we more to come. Next stop, Walmart where I bought a few more big ticket items like beer and a bottle of Glenfidich 12-year old single malt scotch; that’ll probably satisfy my drinking urges for the remainder of the trip.

This mural is on the end of one of the Missouri Star buildings

By now it was approaching noon so I drove back to Hamilton to meet Sonia for lunch. She unloaded her first batch of loot into the RV and we sat down for a nice lunch of sandwiches, potato chips and sodas. We chatted for a bit about the bus loads of quilters that descended on Hamilton about 11:00 that morning and tried to guess where they might have traveled from for their day of shopping. Missouri Star has really revived Hamilton and they have huge murals painted on the sides of several buildings in town. They also have a cool limo that I had to capture a picture of before heading back to our campground and sending Sonia on her second shopping sortie.

The Missouri Star Limo, notice the bus in the right background

After returning back at our campsite I fabricated a some sun-block window coverings for a couple of the windows in the RV. That way the 6:00 AM sunshine isn’t what wakes us up in the morning, it’s Buddy wanting to go outside for a pee. I also created a cool dog tether from other Dollar Tree finds that allows Buddy to run the length of the RV while still on his leash. Today was a lot cooler than yesterday, barely breaking into the 90’s, a big relief from the previous few days. I got a couple of weird calls on my cell phone, which I didn’t answer at first, suspecting they were the usual SPAM, but then it occurred to me that Sonia had left her phone in the RV at lunch. We finally connected and she assured me that one of the nice ladies at Missouri Star would call when she was done shopping. And yes, I did get more than one additional credit card alert before that happened.

Sonia Lukens’ traveling barbershop

One last excursion to pick Sonia up, this time she had at least 4 bags of merchandise to I’m guessing she had a good time. She found out that one of the buses was from Indiana and noticed that those ladies were just as tired as her after a day of spirited shopping. We had an early dinner and then went outside to enjoy the cooler evening weather and let Buddy run around and chase his squeaky ball. I decided that there was no way I was going to be able to make it until San Diego before I got a haircut so I talked Sonia into an encore performance of my COVID haircut back in 2020. She did a great job this time, not implying that the previous job was substandard in any way. Ready to call it a day as we head out for parts unknown tomorrow as we make our way to Indianapolis, an easy 2-day drive from Hamilton. Return to Top

July 21, 2022

Day 12 – Hamilton, MO – Greenfield, IN

3 States and 473 miles, 2729 miles total – $3.99/gal in Hamilton, MO

Our plan today was to drive about 250 miles and that’s what we did. We filled up the tank with the cheapest gas yet, $3.99/gal, and got back on our beloved US 36 heading east. It was nice this morning as the temperatures were still 10° cooler than a couple of days ago and there was very little wind. US 36 is 4-lane divided highway now but still in great shape and not very crowded. We actually passed a few vehicles today which is a rarity for our lumbering E-350 Ford Econoline-based RV. We crossed a couple of big rivers today, the Mississippi and the Missouri. We really don’t have any rivers in Southern California so its always impressive to see one with their huge barges pushing upstream and under the bridges.

Mississippi River Crossing from the US 36/I-72 bridge near Hannibal, MO

Four hours later we were in Springfield, Illinois and it was barely past noon. We grabbed a sandwich and figured that we might as well continue on to Indianapolis rather than stopping for the day at 2:00 PM, especially since there were no campgrounds nearby and on our route. We decided to grab a Starbucks drink before we hit the road for Indy. It was quite the event as this was the first Starbucks along US 36 for the last 284 miles. We gassed up and got back on the 36/I-72 and headed out for the final 225 miles. We were again surprised when the GPS predicted that the drive would take an hour longer than we expected, only to realize we were crossing into our 4th time zone as most of Indiana is on Eastern Time. We did this second leg in about the same amount of time and our short 250 mile day turned into a 473 mile, 2-stop marathon.

Springfield KOA Entrance

We’ve been staying at several KOA campgrounds, they’re like the McDonalds of RV parks, not the best, not the worst, not the cheapest, but always pretty clean and consistent in their features. Some of the one-off RV parks along the way, as we found out in Arizona, are little more than a gravel lot with a water spigot and an electrical outlet, no shade, no table, etc. The Springfield KOA is big, it has lots of shade and it has a nice little water park. We arrived around 7:00 PM, got checked in and pulled out the grill to cook dinner, tonight was fish taco night. I got the grill going while Sonia chopped up the vege’s to go with dinner including our last jalapeño pepper. Jalapeños are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Well this one bordered on tear gas strength. I quartered it and threw it on the grill, closed the lid and waited a few minutes before checking on it. When I opened the lid the fumes were so strong it burned my eyes and throat. Sonia threw one piece on her first taco and had to pull it out after one bite.

After an ice cream bar to sooth our burning mouths we took Buddy for a walk down the road. There was a huge field of soy beans and this was the first chance we’ve had to check them out closely, even though it’s the number 2 crop in the corn belt and we’ve been seeing it for days. These were just starting to bloom so we didn’t get a chance to see the seed pods but I guess we know what they look like as we get edamame all the time back home. On the way back to our RV the sun was starting to set and the evening beginning to turn dark. I noticed an odd flicker in the bushes along the stream and suddenly remembered what I was looking at, a sight never seen in the western states, fire flies! It was pretty cool as Sonia had never seen them and I hadn’t seen them in 10+ years, since sitting outside in Mariemont, OH savoring my Graeters ice cream, a required stop when we travel through Cincinnati later this week. Return to Top

July 22-23, 2022

Days 13 & 14 – Indianapolis

1 State and 138 miles, 2867 miles total – $4.24/gal in Carmel, IN

We had planned to arrive in the Indianapolis area today but the previous drive went fast and easy so we checked into the KOA Greenfield campground a day early.  Sonia’s nephew, Chaster, his son Landon, and cousin Leyte (visiting from the Philippines) came over in the morning and we all enjoyed the water park for the entire morning.  The water park had a bunch of tippy buckets that dumped anywhere from 5 gallons to 200 gallons of water every so often but the water slides were the big hit of the park, that is except for the army of other kids playing there, so Landon had a fabulous time. 

The water park at the Greenfield KOA, west of Indianapolis

We were there until lunch time and then “WE” decided to head out for pizza at Landon’s favorite food place, Arni’s Restaurant.  Clearly Indianapolis pizza tastes are different than ours but the company was good and we hung around and chatted until Chaster had to get back to work for a bit.  We took Landon on our daily shopping excursions and again visited my favorite store; the Dollar Tree.  I bought a handful of essentials and Landon grabbed his allotment of indispensable items. 

The Ultimate Pickup Game All Stars (Mark, Terry & Chaster)

We kicked around until about 5:00 when we met Chaster and his mother Mila at one of the local parks for a spirited pickup game of Ultimate with one of Chaster’s local Ultimate groups.  I had a good time playing with and against the 20-something players, many of whom were practicing for a tournament on Saturday morning.  After a couple of hours of abuse, and with the sun starting to get low in the sky, we headed over to Chaster’s apartment for a home-cooked dinner of lasagna and chicken; it was delicious.  We stayed and visited for quite a while but needed to get back for some sleep as we had an 8:00 AM appointment the next morning.

The steering on the RV has a tendency to pull ever so slightly to the left so I wanted to have the front-end alignment checked.  We had made an appointment a few days earlier at the Best-One of Indy repair shop.  The service manager got us right in and 30 minutes later had the RV in the back checking the front-end out.  Good new and bad news; the front end was aligned pretty well with only a slight deviation in camber on the front left wheel, which was causing the pull.  The not so good news was that with almost 100K miles on the vehicle, the king pins in the front end, which are sealed, had dried out causing the front end to be sticky but not necessarily worn out.  The good news was that continued driving wasn’t going to damage anything but repairs would be a 1-2 day job on this type of vehicle so we were going to have to live with it for the next 6000 miles.

Next, we need to fill up the gas guzzler’s tank so we drove over to the nearby Costco.  The line was short so the wait was minimal but in the few minutes we were in line the weather took a rapid change for the worse.  Dark skies, rain, strong winds and, the bane of Ultimate tournaments, lightening was next on the agenda.

Approaching Storm

Before we could get to Chaster’s tournament it was on a 30 to 60-minute hold because of the nearby lightening strikes.  After a 2-hour delay they decided to change venues to a location a few miles south and the tournament was back on schedule.  Chaster’s team had a good tournament and went 2-1 for the day, losing the one game on universe point ☹ We also met Landon’s grandmother and her husband there and had a wonderful afternoon chatting and watching Chaster and team play Ultimate.

Chaster, Dee, Sonia, Mark, Buddy, Landon, Leyte, Miles, Dave

There are several Cincinnati culinary treats you don’t want to miss and Skyline Chili is one of them.  In the SW we wouldn’t call it chili, we’d call it spaghetti sauce but it is very unique.  The chili is flavored with chocolate and cinnamon, along with other spicy ingredients, and served over spaghetti with onions, kidney beans and lots of cheese; a 5-Way.  They also sell little hot-dogs that they call Cheese Coneys.  Thanks to its growing popularity you can find a Skyline Chili restaurant anywhere within 150 miles of Cincinnati, including 120 miles west in Indianapolis.

A Skyline Chili 5-Way with a couple of Cheese Coneys

After devouring our dinner, it was back to the water park with Landon and Chaster to enjoy another splash in the pool.  The KOA campground also had a gold panning play area so Landon got a bag full of panning dirt and worked it to uncover a load of fossilized snails and shark teeth.  That being done, and a root beer float for Landon, and the day was almost done.  We said our goodbyes and hit the pillows after two long days of fun in Indianapolis. Return to Top

July 24, 2022

Day 15 – Greenfield, IN – Streetsboro, OH

2 States, 348 miles, 3215 miles total – $3.63/gal in Grove City, OH

We left pretty early this morning for Cincinnati, OH, a 115-mile drive and slightly off the shortest route to Massachusetts.  The reason was to visit with one of my dearest friends from my days with SDRC in Milford, OH; Wanda Applegate.  Wanda and I worked together on many projects over the years, she ran a large group that created and managed all of the training materials and product documentation.  I’m sure her job was much more complex and important than that but we interacted often and I always made sure I stopped by to chat when I was in Milford.

Wanda and Mark and Buddy in front of the Mariemont Inn

Wanda retired several years before I did but we always stayed in touch and any time I was in the Cincinnati area we always managed to get together for coffee, breakfast or something.  Sonia had heard me speak of Wanda so many times over the years that she sort of knew her, but this was the first time they had met face-to-face.  Wanda treated us to breakfast at the The National Exemplar, a restaurant featuring American-style cuisine, adjacent to the Mariemont Inn, a nearly 100-year-old road house hotel.  We chatted for a couple of hours, walked around the quaint streets for a bit and then stopped in for some Graeter’s ice cream, another Cincinnati culinary treat.

Now it was time to get back on track for the east coast.  We hopped back on the I-71 North and headed up towards Columbus.  By that time the gas tank was getting thirsty again, and so were we, so we stopped for a Starbucks and 26 more gallons of gas.  This was a new low, but a good one, the gasoline in Grove City, OH, just outside Columbus, was $3.63/gal!  It was still pretty early, and we’d already passed one of our potential stops, so I got one the iPhone and found a nice campsite just past the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Streetsboro, OH.

Back on the road again for a short 2-hour drive and a short stop for an early dinner at, you guessed it, Skyline Chili; the last chance for a 5-way on this trip.  Back on the sleepy Ohio State Route 303 through Hudson and then onto Streetsboro for the night.  This is a super large KOA with 100+ sites but very spread out with lots of shade trees and great amenities.  We got a chance to take Buddy for a long walk around one of their fishing ponds and just kick back and relax for a few hours after a long 350-mile day.  We’re just under 600 miles from Palmer, where Sonia’s brother Eric lives, so we have another 2-days of driving before we get to rest and visit for another 3 days. Return to Top

July 25, 2022

Day 16 – Streetsboro, OH – New Columbia, PA

2 States, 290 miles, 3505 miles total – $3.86/gal in Streetsboro, OH

We were not in any hurry today and really didn’t have any idea where we were going to end up, we just need to keep heading NE and make some progress towards Palmer, MA.  We got off to a leisurely start and backtracked a bit to downtown Streetsboro for some sundries and gasoline, which again was just about $2.00 a gallon cheaper than the last tank we bought in San Diego.  I had this crazy idea that we’d avoid the interstate highways again so we headed out on Ohio 303, expecting a similar drive through rural communities like we had in Nebraska or Indiana.

That seemed to be working okay but the going was slow as we never really got out of little towns and lots of houses.  Every 3-5 miles we had to jog north or east to stay on the state highways and jump from one to the next.  I had configured the GPS to avoid toll roads and interstates and it did, but boy did it.  We didn’t get out of Streetsboro until 11:00 and when we finally stopped in Mercer, OH at 1:15 to buy some fresh produce from a couple of Amish guys I discovered we were 68 miles from our last campground, OOPS!  When I get home, I’ll download the GPS tracks and try to figure out where the heck we went but that was not going to continue or it would be a week before we got to Palmer.

Fresh Amish Produce in Mercer, OH

I discovered there was a nice community park in Mercer so we drove over to it, parked under some shade trees, and made some nice sandwiches for lunch.  Buddy got a chance to run around and chase his squeaky ball for a while until he got too hot.  So, we packed up our stuff and headed down to Interstate 80 so we could make some better progress for the day.

Brandy Springs Community Park

Back on the Interstate we ended up heading towards Williamsport, PA and found another nice KOA campground well off the beaten path.  Most KOA’s are a stone’s throw from either an Interstate or a train track, some are close to both.  This KOA was miles from either, had lots of tall trees and lots of shade.  It also seemed to be 75% long term residents but that wasn’t an issue for us.  This one had a cool playground with a self-service zipline that some kids were playing on, something we could reproduce for Vivian and Olivia when we get around to building their treehouse.

The self-service zipline at KOA campground

We were both tired and hungry after an unnecessarily long day of driving but looking forward to enjoying some of the really fresh produce Sonia bought earlier in the day. I got out the griddle so I could do justice to some of the fresh vegetables and we had a nice grilled halibut with vegetables and a caprese salad for dinner.

The wonders of griddle cooking while camping

We’re still about 350 miles from Palmer, which is a little more than we like to drive in one day, though you wouldn’t know it from our past performances. Where we go tomorrow and where we stay, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out. Return to Top

July 26, 2022

Day 17 – New Columbia, PA – Battleboro, VT

5 States, 378 miles, 3883 miles total – $4.29/gal in Danbury, CT

We got to sleep-in this morning and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before disconnecting, dumping and driving to the nearest Starbucks and gas station. On the way out of the campground Sonia noticed a pen of pygmy goats, which meant we had to stop for a short visit and photo op. The smallest babies were about the size of Buddy and so cute, we could have watched them for hours but the highway beckoned.

Pygmy Goats at the Williamsport KOA campground

After a quick fuel and beverage stop we were back on the interstate with a big goal for the day, 350 miles to get to Battleboro, VT. That was an important goal as Vermont was one of the last four states Mark needed to complete his sweep of all fifty states. Today we made no mistake of trying to avoid the freeways and got right on it for the long haul; well sort of. We got about 200 miles and decided it was time to stop for lunch so we pulled off the freeway near Brewster, NY and meandered for 15 minutes towards Castle Park, right next to Lake Tonetta. It was a nice quiet location but required lots of twists and turns to get to the dead end road where we found some nice shade, a baseball diamond for Buddy to chase balls on, and a cool playground full of families.

Castle Park in Brewster, NY

Actually, getting into Castle Park was a lot easier than getting out. We had hoped to wander down the frontage road and get back on the 84 East but that was not to be so simple. It turns out that 3 miles down the road there is an underpass below the railroad tracks with 10′-3″ of vertical clearance and guess what, our RV is a at least a good 12′ tall. Now that the GPS was completely confused, and I was too, we had to make a u-turn, back track a couple of miles, and finally get on another road to get back to the freeway. We were looking for a gas station and when we finally got to one, the gas was $0.50/gal more than the one we expected so we got back on the freeway for a few miles and turned off on the next off ramp to get gas and beverages. Our quick lunch break and fuel stop ended up taking about 2 hours and 15 minutes, a long break for an already long day of driving. But not everyone was disappointed with the long drive, Buddy enjoys chilling on the dinette or in the front seat with whomever isn’t driving.

Buddy traveling in style

Finally back on the road we were lucky enough to sneak through most of the metropolitan rush hour traffic, the worst was in Hartford, CT. It is always interesting to see all the old buildings with their 100+ year old architecture, something we rarely see on the west coast. Driving north we crossed a lot of big rivers, another rarity in the sun scorched expanses for California; these eastern U.S. rivers are huge and beautiful – so peaceful looking. We were getting close to Brattleboro, VT when we both decided we were too tired to cook dinner so we pulled off the freeway and drove through downtown Brattleboro expecting to see a bevy of fast food options. There were a few but none that really excited us. We had seen a sign for camping right off the freeway but a quick search on iPhone Maps app yielded nothing. On a lark I decided to search again using the browser instead of the Maps app and found the Fort Drummer State Park, apparently the Maps app only “finds” things when the “things” pay for advertising. In any case we followed the directions back through Brattleboro, through winding streets and neighborhoods and down a dead-end street to the State Park entrance. Luckily the office was still open at 6:30 and we got a nice campsite back in the woods with no close-by neighbors. It was spacious, especially compared to the KOA sites we’d been staying in, pretty level, and had lots of adjacent forest for Buddy to explore after dinner.

Fort Drummer State Park

No internet here and very poor cell coverage but enough that I could use my phone for internet access and get another update to the thousands of followers I must have by now 😉 Tomorrow we’re on to Palmer for a couple of days visiting Sonia’s brother Eric and his family. Return to Top

July 27, 2022

Day 18 – Battleboro, VT – Palmer, MA

2 States, 68 miles, 3951 miles total

This morning we had a really short drive to make it to Palmer, MA where Sonia’s brother Eric and his family (Christine and Rumei) live. There was no real hurry so we decided to take the road less traveled again. We got on the MA 63 heading south and had a great drive through a bunch of small towns with beautiful sights. We stopped for pictures in Montague as we crossed over the Connecticut River.

One of the small towns in Northern Massachusetts

The view from the bridge was phenomenal. The other thing I love about the Northeast is the curbs. In most of the US the curbs are made out of concrete or asphalt, but not up here. Almost every curb in this part of the country is made out of granite – solid rock. It catches me by surprise every time I notice them.

Granite Curbs in the North East

A bit of travel trivia, today we essentially ended the eastbound portion of our coast to coast to coast trip, we have driven 3951 miles and used 404 gallons of gasoline at a cost of $1787. Our sleek and efficient RV has averaged 9.3 mpg and the fuel costs have averaged $4.42/gallon. Our RV clicked over 100,000 miles a couple of days ago and was scheduled for a routine oil change at 99,000 miles. I wasn’t too concerned as the oil level was still good and almost all of the last 6000 miles had been on the freeway. I have a few additional routine maintenance issues to perform on the RV so we decided to stop at Walmart, Home Depot and O’Reilly Auto Parts on the way to Eric’s house. Besides the oil change, I wanted to grease up the front suspension fittings even though the RV seemed to be handling much better; the left-hand pull is gone and the steering seems much crisper. I can only guess that all of the lock-to-lock tight turning we’ve done parking the RV in the last week must have freed up some of the gunk in the front ball-joints and king pins, at least that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Our first stop for the day was Walmart and I’m beginning to appreciate why it’s an attractive shopping chain for so many people. They have a fantastic selection of just-good-enough merchandise at rock bottom prices, all located in one store. Every time we go there we must walk at least a half a mile as the personal care, camping, automotive and food products are always located in the far corners of their huge buildings; probably not an accident. We don’t always find what we need but most times we do and getting it all while there saves us another trip with the associated start and stop, parking hassle, and RV-to-store walking journey. Other than the problem with Walmart produce being really sub-par, most of the stuff we get there is good enough.

Today we decided to buy lunch rather than make sandwiches so we stopped at one of the better fast food hamburger chains; 5 Guys. The aren’t particularly cheap but you get exactly what you want on your burger (20 choices of condiments) at no extra charge and an order of french fries always includes at least one whole additional medium-size serving of fries in the bottom of the bag. We also like their Coca Cola Freestyle machine; it allows you to pick from any one of about 20 unique drinks and even lets you add flavor accents (lime, orange, vanilla, cherry, etc.). But the best thing about 5 Guys is that they had perforated toilet paper in their restrooms, the first place since leaving home, that I can remember, that didn’t have the industrial size paper role that requires you to tear the paper from the 1 foot diameter roll. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make you happy

When we were getting really close to Eric’s house we again got rejected by the low overhead clearance on one of the back road overpasses, this time it was 11′ 6″ but I wasn’t going to take a chance. Luckily the GPS figured out a suitable alternative in short order and we were back on our way to the Johnson house. After arriving and getting Buddy introduced to their two French bulldogs, we got a deluxe tour of their new house; very nice. What always amazes me about cold weather homes is the basements, something totally foreign to us west coast people. Their basement is totally built out and the thing is the same size as the entire main floor.

Sonia’s brother and sister-in-law in Palmer, MA

Buddy had the best time since we left as he had a couple of other dogs his size to run around with and play. After the first hour or so all three of them had accepted the pecking order and they played until bedtime. We had a great time visiting with Christine, Rumei and Eric; enjoying the cool evening while eating grilled fajitas for dinner on the patio. Christine finally kicked me out of their house around 11:00 even though I wasn’t quite done updated the blog for today, now I am! Return to Top

July 28-29, 2022

Days 19 & 20 – Palmer, MA

We spent the last two days visiting Eric, Chris and Rumei in Palmer, MA.  They moved into their new home last May and it is a wonderful home.  It has a large fenced-in backyard where their two French bulldogs can play and a nice patio area where we enjoyed the cool evenings while eating dinner under the evening skies.  Sonia spent a lot of her time visiting with her brother as they had not spent time face-to-face for several years.  I got a chance to take Buddy for some long walks around the Three Lakes area just outside Palmer.

Eric and Chris’s home in Palmer

I also go a chance to do a little routine maintenance on the RV.  I did a quick oil change which went extremely well.  Sometimes you spill barely a drop of oil and other times it can look like a murder scene.  This one, luckily, was one of the simple and clean ones and I was done in about 20 minutes.  I also wanted to grease all the front-end ball joints so I picked up a grease gun and grease cartridge at the same time I got the oil change supplies.

After getting the grease gun all setup, I couldn’t get the grease gun hose end to snap over the Zerk fittings on the RV.  The grease gun connectors can be stubborn but I’d never had this much trouble getting them to snap on the fittings.  I was about to give up when I gave it one last try with all my might and finally got the connector to snap on.  I guess the connector on the grease gun needed to be stretched or busted loose but I was just happy to finally have it on the fitting.  After a bunch of pumps, the grease was coming out of the ball joint so I knew it was working.  The other 3 ball joints were completed in short order.

Later that day we headed out to do some grocery shopping and made sure to pick up as much of the local produce as we could.  Corn, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, onions, peaches; they were all very fresh and made for excellent additions to our meals for the next two days.  We also stopped for a nice treat, handmade ice cream at one the many local ice cream stands.  I was glad I ordered the small cone as it had about a pint of ice cream balanced atop a small sugar cone.  I managed to consume it fast enough that I didn’t lose a drop due to melting.

Our plan was to eat dinner outside and enjoy another evening on the patio but the weather was not going to cooperate.  About the time we finished eating the drops started to fall.  Before long the lightening strikes were getting closer and then the skies opened up.  The rain stopped for a bit around bedtime but we got about 2 inches of rain that night, at least it cooled everything down a few degrees.

Chris and Rumei at Stanley Park

On Friday Chris took us west a few miles to Stanley Park, it is a very cool colonial town with a stream running through it and lots of ponds with ducks, turtles, coy and other smaller fish.  The park was a gift from the CEO of the Stanley Tool Company, famous for their lineup of hand tools, that is based right there in Connecticut. 

Another of the uncommon Black Squirrels

The park has multiple gardens as well as a river walk where they have beautiful paths through the tress and along the ponds where you can feed the fish and ducks.  Rumei burned up a bunch of her quarters buying fish/duck food and she spent most of the time there feeding the wildlife.

Stanley Park, Westfield, MA

It was getting hot and late so we decided to head back home hoping the traffic wouldn’t be too bad on the I-90 heading east on a Friday evening.  We stopped for a snack and refreshments before getting back on the freeway.  Another evening of fine dining and enjoying the cool evening was in order.  It was past everyone’s bedtime and we all knew this was our last night in Palmer so we said our preliminary goodbyes and headed to sleep knowing we’d be on the road to Rhode Island early Saturday morning. Return to Top


Day 21 – Palmer, MA – Portsmouth, RI

2 States, 108 miles, 4059 miles total – $4.31/gal in Three Rivers, MA

We got up early this morning and got the RV packed up for the 2-hour drive to Rhode Island where we were going to visit our long-time friend Siobhan.  After some brief goodbyes to Eric, Chris and Rumei we were on the road again.  Not in a big hurry, we decided to follow MA 20 east until it hit the 146 south to Providence and then hop across the Providence River to the I-195 and then eventually onto the island.

It was early and we hadn’t had any breakfast or coffee so we decided to stop in at the first place we saw, the Dunkin Donuts in Fiskdale.  I have partaken in their donuts periodically when in some east coast airport terminal looking for a snack so I thought this should work.  We both ordered a cup of coffee and a donut, hopped back in the RV and got back on the road.  We ate the donuts and, after allowing some time for the coffee to cool down, we started sipping the coffee.  We both looked at each other and agreed that this coffee was awful.  Now I know we deserve to be labeled Starbucks snobs but the DD coffee was bitter and overly acidic; it was terrible!  Neither of us consumed more than a few gulps and we dumped it out at our next stop.

Dunkin Donuts in Fiskdale

Luckily the traffic was light on this Saturday morning so we didn’t have to contend with a lot of other vehicles but there was still the on and off ramps mergers to contend with.  In our RV, once you get it up to cruising speed, you don’t want to have to slow down or speed up unnecessarily.  When driving on the freeways though, invariably somebody well be coming down the on ramp at the same time you’re approaching the merge point, and they will never have looked to the left to see if someone was in the slow lane until they are at the end of the on ramp and are either just in front of you or even with you.  Sometimes they expect you to slow down to make space for them, sometimes they pull in front of you going 10 mph below the speed limit or, just to be fair, sometimes they hit the gas and go!  I’m not inclined to slow down to let them in, I’d rather get in front of them but I’m not always able to speed up rapidly in the RV to accomplish that.  And often they obliviously pull onto the freeway in front of you while traveling 10-15 mph under, and then suddenly realize your closing fast, and then remember that the pedal on the right will propel their vehicle to the posted speed limit, and out of your way, very quickly; something they should have done moments before 🙁

If it happened once a day it would be tolerable but not when it seems like it’s every other merge you encounter.  When did they stop teaching people to look at the traffic lanes as soon as you’re on the on ramp and to accelerate to the traffic speed before reaching the end of the on ramp?  I know my dad always taught us that most people will allow you to merge in as long as you’re going the same speed or faster, nobody wants to let you in if you’re going slower than them.  Enough freeway grousing for today.

The rest of our drive went quickly and before we knew it, we were pulling into the driveway at Sioḃħan’s house.  Not so simple in our 23 ft. long RV that is 8 ft wide when her driveway has two stone pillars on either side of the narrow entrance and the road is a narrow 2-lane road with a narrow shoulder, and we’re making a right turn into the driveway.  I thought I could negotiate the turn into the driveway but quickly realized this wasn’t going to happen so I stopped part way in, at a 45° angle to the road, blocking the entire right lane and, guess what, there was a car right behind me.  They were very polite and waited patiently, expecting me to do something miraculous to get myself out of this predicament.  I finally had to ask Sonia to get out of the car and wave them around us as I was going to have to back out into both lanes and attempt a super-wide turn into the narrow driveway entrance.  Luckily there was no more traffic for the next minute or so and we were able to slip into the driveway and park the RV, not to move again until we left 2 days later. This drive today officially ended our West Coast to East Coast drive with our first unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean!

The Atlantic Ocean

We hadn’t visited with Sioḃħan in close to 5 years so everyone was so happy to see each other.

Best Friends Forever!

We took an hour or so just to say hi and hash over the latest family updates and such before I reminded everyone that we hadn’t had a satisfactory breakfast experience this morning.  So, we hopped in Sioḃħan’s car and headed off to the Thriving Tree Coffee House, a house converted to a trendy restaurant, for breakfast burritos and coffee.  This place was had beautiful views of the water, front and back.  They had lounge chairs spread across the grass behind the place so you could just sit and enjoy the scenery while enjoying your breakfast. 

Thriving Tree Coffee House backyard patio

One, especially from the southwest, shouldn’t be surprised when a burrito made by a New Englander fails to meet your expectations.  The tortilla was soft, the scrambled eggs cooked perfectly, but nothing else was memorable.  We were hungry so we scarfed them down and while we appreciated the effort, we’ll certainly bring our own salsa next time.

After chatting for another couple of hours we headed back to Sioḃħan’s farm. She grows Christmas trees, blueberries, lavender, potatoes, among other things. 

Mark picking blueberries at the farm

Even though the blueberry season was mostly over, Sonia and I were able to pick a couple of pints of fresh blueberries. I’ve never seen a blueberry bush before so this was a neat experience. When you buy blueberries in the store many of them have the little stem attached, now I know why. When blueberries are ripe the stem stays on the bush, when they’re not so ripe they stay on the berry. You pretty quickly learn how to recognize the ripe ones from the not so ripe ones and also develop a soft touch when picking them to ensure the not so ripe ones stay on the bush.

Sioḃħan driving the self-propelled, gas-powered weed cutter

As may of you already know, farming isn’t simple and it’s a full time job, well at least it should be. Farms are a never ending source of work so while we were picking blueberries Sioḃħan donned her overalls and took the industrial-strength weed cutter out for a spin. When we all were done picking and mowing we walked back to her 100+ year old farm house and while sitting in the kitchen, Sioḃħan suggested that we could make a galette with the berries.

Sunset at Sioḃħan’s Farm House in Portsmouth, RI
The farm house kitchen

Well, that was like doing the double-dog dare for me as galettes are one of my favorite fresh fruit desserts.  We headed to the store to get some food items for dinner and a few other ingredients to make a galette. 

Fresh Blueberry Galette

There are two key aspects for making a fresh fruit galette; get the crust right and get the fruit right.  You need a flakey crust and filling that is sweetened just right and stabilized so it doesn’t bleed fruit juice all over everything.  Well, if I don’t say so myself, I nailed it on both accounts and this galette tasted as good as it looked.  It was a great chaser for the halibut medallions served over risotto and accompanied with grilled asparagus and rosemary garlic toast that we made for dinner that night. Return to Top

Halibut Medallions with Grilled Asparagus

It was a great chaser for the halibut medallions served over risotto and accompanied with grilled asparagus and rosemary garlic toast that we made for dinner that night. Return to Top


Day 22 – Portsmouth, RI

I’m trying to catch up on my blog, I got behind after a bunch of long busy days having too much fun.  We spent the entire day in Portsmouth today.  We made a big country breakfast and then sat down and talked about life, farms, kids, retirement, insurance, Medicare, career and retirement planning, and anything and everything else that happened to come up.  These conversations are easy to start as we have so much in common, Sioḃħan Sonia grew up across the street from each other, and Sioḃħan was Sonia’s Maid of Honor at our wedding. The minutes turned to hours and finally I had to call a time out for lunch.

Anthony’s Seafood

The last time we visited Portsmouth Sioḃħan took us out for lobster rolls, maybe you’ve had them before.  They are lobster, mayonnaise and other stuff filling served in a roll.  Well, neither Sonia or I really like them but we were gracious guests and didn’t really say anything negative when we had them last time.  This kind of slipped out during our lunch time planning and got us started on an up and down discussion about where to go this time.  We settled on a fast casual place that served crab cakes, clam chowder, fish tacos and such and we all had a pleasant lunch.

After lunch we stopped off at one of only two Starbucks on the Island and grabbed an afternoon refresher before heading back to the farm.  Sioḃħan’s son Toni has a Honda Rebel motorcycle at the house that was begging for someone to take it out for a spin.

Mark on the mighty Honda Rebel 250

I grabbed a helmet and set out for parts unknown.  I drove south for a bit and then turned left hoping to find views of the open Atlantic Ocean. After a bit of zigzagging through the neighborhoods and down some dead-end streets I finally hit the coast at 2nd beach, whatever that is.

2nd Beach

I stopped to take a few pics and then drove another couple of blocks where I could get a better look at one of the huge houses across the bay, and huge it is.  Jay Leno bought the house a few years ago when he moved to the Island.

Jay Leno’s Summer Cottage

Back on the bike and next was 3rd beach, 4th beach and then Hanging Rock and so on up the east side of the island.  Some houses were big, some small, some old and some new.  You could see where the moderately rich had built there puny 5000-6000 sq. ft. homes, trying to appear like the ultra-rich of yesteryear living in the mansions further south.  I finally figured it was time to head back to I made a few well-timed turns and popped out on the main road a block from the turnoff to the farm.

This old upright had strong volume and was surprisingly well tuned – I enjoyed playing it!

This farm is more like a museum.  Sioḃħan’s husband’s family has roots in the area that stretch back to the Mayflower.  Her house was built in 1874 and rebuilt in 1876 after it was heavily damaged by a hurricane.

Butter churn, mortar and pestle, furniture

The house is full of memorabilia and items that date from the early 1800’s on.  A trip into the basement feels like a museum exhibit on 1800’s carpentry and construction techniques. 

House foundation, workshop, plumbing, emergency lighting equipment

The house is full of everyday items that were used by the family everyday before becoming conversation pieces and decorations.

Civil War wheel chair, books dating from the mid-1800’s, historical documents

Later in the afternoon Sonia and Siobhan sat down on the porch and made a bunch of Lavender wands from the fresh cuttings from the garden.

Lavender Wands

One can’t help but admire the strength and resolve of the people that settled here hundreds of years ago and forged a living out of the untamed landscape and ferocious climate of this area.  After dinner we chatted a bit more and then called it a late night knowing that we’d be leaving tomorrow morning to start on the return half of our journey. Return to Top


Day 23 – Portsmouth, RI – Bear, DE

5 States, 335 miles, 4394 miles total – $4.47/gal in Woodbridge, NJ

Today was going to be a tough day, we had to say our goodbyes to Sioḃħan after two fabulous days hanging out with one of our oldest (not aged) and dearest friends.  We pulled out of the narrow driveway without issue and made the turn down the road heading for one of the more frustrating driving days of the trip.  It took us a good hour to get off the island and on to a road actually heading towards Delaware.  The first 30 miles of our 335-mile day, which was just to get on the I-95 South, took us about 1 hour.  From there it was easy sailing until we got to New York State.

New York Traffic

My GPS tried to route me around New York City on the 287 but somehow we missed one of the important turns so into the lion’s den we drove.  The road colors on the Nav system were all red and yellow for the next 30 miles or so as we entered Yonkers, Manhattan, and the Bronx.  It took us over 30 minutes to get through the 270° turn from the 87 South onto the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey.  Once we got through Newark and onto the New Jersey Turnpike (NJTP) things improved.

Lower Deck of the George Washington Bridge -towards New Jersey

I’ve never liked toll roads; I always feel like I’m writing a blank check to some bureaucrat that’s bound to bounce as I have no idea how big it will be or when it will clear.  The other thing that’s weird about the NJTP is the mega-rest stops.  You pull off the freeway but you’re captured in their little strip mall.  It has a gas station and a handful for restaurants and shops for your pleasure.  We finally stopped for gas around lunch time so Sonia went inside to grab a couple of burgers while I made my way through the full-service gas station.  I didn’t have to wait to long but it takes a while to pump 30 gallons of gas into the RV so I fully expected to see her back at the pumps before I was done, NOT!

After filling the tank, updating the travel log, getting Buddy a snack and parking the RV over with the big trucks, I headed into the food court.  Sonia was standing at the Burger King, along with 10-15 others waiting for their orders.  I asked her who ordered before her so I’d know when to expect my food and she headed off to the RV with the drinks.  Well, it became very apparent very quickly that this wasn’t you normal well-oiled fast-food place.  I’m not sure what was the bottle neck but it took 25 minutes for them to fill our order and they couldn’t have filled more than 10 orders in front of us in that time.  Good thing they have a long-term contract with the NJTP and a captive audience, otherwise they would be out of business.

Back on the road and before too long, not really – it was about 7½ hours to go the first 300 miles, we were at the end of the NJTP and heading to the toll booth.  I had the toll ticket that we got 120 miles before and as I read it I figured we might have to pay $16-$19 in tolls.  That certainly wasn’t the case but I wasn’t to surprised when the toll booth collector told us we owed $39.60.  To add insult to injury, 3 miles later as we drove over the bridge into Delaware we got charged another $5 toll.  It didn’t mater as Delaware was number 3 on my list of 5 states that I needed to visit on this trip; only 2 more to go.

Lums Pond State Campground

Once into Delaware we turned south onto some much smaller roads and found our way to the Lums Pond State Park in Bear, DE.

Swamp Forest Trail

The campground was beautiful; spacious, green, well maintained and clean.  We took the Swamp Forest trail around Lums Pond, which has at least 6 varieties of turtles living in it. 

Lums Pond

We saw several from the observation pier during our walk. 

Turtle basking in Lums Pond

Buddy had a great time running through the forest after a long day on the road. 

Lums Pond

I was up late trying to get another entry on my blog done and didn’t get to bed until after midnight, pretty much like every night ? Return to Top


Day 24 – Bear, DE – College Park, MD

3 States, 142 miles, 4536 miles total – $3.90/gal in Washington DC

Today was going to be an easy day of driving, it’s only about 75 miles from Lums Pond State Park to Washington DC.  We got on the road at a decent time and arrived in WDC about 1:00.  I had this wild idea that we’d stop and grab a burger downtown so we dutifully followed the instructions from the GPS as we spiraled down into the bowels of downtown WDC.  For some reason I was expecting to find strip malls with spacious parking and lots of controlled left turns.  Unfortunately the WDC downtown streets are narrow, they’re not all in a rectangular grid, most are one-way streets, there is ZERO parking for anything approaching the size of our RV, and they were very crowded.

We never did find the fast-food place we were looking for so we then decided to head down to the National Mall where we hoped to park and take in the sights.  30 minutes later, having driven maybe another 3 miles, we had seen zero open parking spaces, much less one that would accommodate the RV.  We drove the length of the Mall on Constitution Avenue and somehow ended up on the Arlington Memorial Bridge headed west.  No too big of a problem, as it allowed me to pick up another of the 5 states I was looking to visit on our trip, but it didn’t solve our parking or eating problems and I found us driving away from our desired destination.

Parking along the Potomac River

A couple of miles of driving and more than one set of freeway off ramps and on ramps and we were back on Arlington Memorial Bridge heading east this time.  Somehow we ended up driving southwest on Ohio Drive where we came across a generous parallel parking spot with a three hour parking limit; perfect as it was 2:30 by this time and we were less than ¼ mile from the Lincoln Memorial.  We grabbed some waters, locked the RV up, and stated walking towards the Mall.

If you haven’t been to the National Mall it’s hard to describe, if you have you appreciate the pride and reverence you feel when visiting this special place.  Besides the myriad monuments and memorials, you see hundreds of people from all walks of life taking in the sights.  I was surprised how many of the visitors were not speaking English; some were obviously European but I’d say the majority of the non-English speaking visitors were speaking Spanish.  Kind of cool to see all of these different nationalities and ethnicities taking in the history and accomplishments of our forefathers.

The Lincoln Memorial
Looking east towards the Washington Monument

We got to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam and World War II Memorials, the Washington Memorial, and countless other statues and tributes to our nation’s heroes.

World War II Memorial

The Washington Monument is a lot bigger than it looks from a distance, it is 555 feet tall and was the tallest structure in the world when it was built.

Sonia touching the top of the Washington Monument

By this time our stomachs were growling so we stopped by the food trucks parked on 14th Street and decided to try one of the Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. It looked and sounded better than it was but the french fries were good and we were hungry so we gobbled it down and decided there was time for a few more sights.

Park just southeast of the Washington Monument on 14th Street

We walked a ways towards the Capitol but knew our 3 hours of parking wasn’t going to allow the full journey so we headed back along Constitution once again so we could catch a glimpse of the White House.  It was a bit sad to observe how far away the 10’ fence with armed guards was from the White House, something that has only been deemed necessary in the last 10 years. 

The White House

One could easily spend 2 weeks visiting the Mall and all of the museums and government buildings but that wasn’t going to happen on this trip so we decided to start 15 miles drive from the Mall to our campground northeast of the Capitol.

Rush Hour Traffic in Washington DC in a 23 ft. motorhome is not fun

You can probably guess that heading out of WDC at 5:30 in the evening wasn’t going to be easy, and it wasn’t.  I’m guessing if you knew where you were going and had made every turnoff many times before it would be easier than our drive was.  Luckily the GPS loves nothing more than to utter “RECALCULATING” and it had plenty of chances to do so as our 45 minute, 17 mile commute turned into an hour and fifteen minutes of shear joy.  But we finally made it, stopped by a local restaurant to grab some take-out dinner, picked up a few groceries and headed back to our campground.

We had a nice campsite situated in the trees at the Greenbelt National Park campground for about $20/night.  It was about 15 miles from the Capitol and a pretty straight shot.  Unfortunately, about a week before we arrived I received an email telling me that the park was closed due to tree branches falling.  After scrambling to find a reasonable alternative I booked a 2-night stay at the Cherry Hill Park campground just a few miles further away.  It is nestled in one of the corners of the 495/95 junction, no further than 100 yards from the freeway; you can see the cars through the trees looking through the windshield on our parked RV.  The facilities are very nice and you get all of that for only $95/day, by far the most expensive campground we’ve stayed at in the last 23 days. Return to Top


Day 25 – Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Washington DC

2 States, 86 miles, 4622 miles total

This morning we decided we’d had enough of the National Mall so we instead opted to visit Mount Vernon, VA. I’m so glad we did, it’s a beautiful place and has so much historical significance for our country. We got there around noon and decided to take a walk down the Mt. Vernon Trail so Buddy could get some exercise, thinking we would have to leave him in the RV for our visit. We walked about a mile to where the trail meets the Potomac. What a wonderful way to appreciate what the landscape must have looked like 200 years ago before all of the paved roads were built through the area. It was hot so we turned around and headed back towards the entrance to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate.

Mt. Vernon Trail – Now a 14 miles hiking/biking trail that goes to Washington, DC

Upon going in to the visitor center entrance we got a surprise, dogs are welcome on the grounds, just not in the structures, so we paid our $28/person to the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association and headed into the grounds.

Sonia was getting to know George, Martha and her grandchildren

When George Washington died, the property went to his only living relative, a nephew. When that nephew died the property went to his only living relative, another nephew, John Augustine Washington III. By this time, around 1850, no one had been living at Mt. Vernon for quite some time so John tried to sell the property to the Federal Government or the State of Virginia. Needless to say, the Federal Government had more important things on their plate in the 1850’s and the preservation mentality hadn’t gripped the country yet.

Mt. Vernon Main House

About this time the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association learned about the estate being offered for sale and were granted 2 years to raise the money to purchase the property. Their nation-wide effort raised $200,000, the equivalent of about $7.5M today, and took possession of the property with about 200 acres of the surrounding land. They have done a spectacular job of restoring and maintaining the property and furnishing the houses with either period-appropriate furnishing or actual Washington artifacts.

Lafayette’s Bedroom – He was a regular visitor to Mt. Vernon

They provide guided tours of the main house at Mt. Vernon and the docents are full of interesting facts about the history of the property, the house and the Washington family.

The Entertainment Room, painted in green paint imported from England

One socially sensitive aspect of the estate’s history that the Association has dealt with in a sensitive manner is the fact that the property had almost 400 enslaved and conscripted people working there during George’s later life.

Some of the Storage Buildings on the Property

George was a 4th generation Washington at Mt. Vernon when he grew up with this then “normal”. The docent, and exhibit signage all repeatedly remind us that none of these workers were here by choice. Regardless of how well they were or weren’t treated, the inhumanity of how the enslaved families were controlled and split up when individual husbands and wives were sold or moved, is hard to comprehend given today’s social norms.

Memorial Marker Located in the Enslaved Burial Grounds

In the grave yard where the deceased enslaved workers were buried in unmarked graves over the years, there is now a memorial to them. George Washington, in his will, specified that his tomb be built immediately adjacent to that graveyard, one can only hope that was not a pure coincidence.

George Washington’s Tomb

George was among several of the Founding Fathers that didn’t believe slavery was just. But he and others realized that without some huge compromises the United States Constitution would never have been ratified, and abolishing slavery in 1787 was one of those. When George died, all of the enslaved workers that ‘belonged’ to his estate were freed. Many of them stayed at Mt. Vernon as employees after his death. It is difficult to rationalize or justify how these great men could understand the inhumanity of slavery yet practice it and allow it to continue for almost another 100 years before the institution was dismantled after the Civil War.

Old Town Alexandria – King Street

After a long hot afternoon at Mt. Vernon, we headed to Alexandria to meet up with three of the children of Mark’s best friend, Richard. The children and their spouses, their kids and significant others have all ended up in Alexandria. We’ve known the family since the kids were born and have had the honor of attending the weddings of two of the sons. This was one of the must-do stops for this trip and it was also one of the highlights! It’s hard to explain some of the bonds you form in life but the one between our families has endured the years and meeting them more than 3000 miles from home was so special.

Dinner with the Dickerson Clan in Alexandria

We had dinner at one of the small trendy restaurants on King Street, near the Potomac, and visited for hours at dinner. After dinner we stopped at the town square for some gelato and chatted for a bit longer before everyone had to head home. It was so joyful and sad at the same time, being able to connect yet having to say goodbye.

On the way back to our campground I had one more stop to make before leaving Washington DC.


I am in an age group that inadvertently avoided any significant armed military engagements; the draft ended the year before I turned 18 and my year never even got a draft number. The Vietnam War was just ending and the U.S. did not maintain a large military for many years. Unfortunately, at the same time the country did a horrible job of welcoming home the soldiers that served in Vietnam; regardless of the reasons for the conflict, or the successes or failures that occurred there, these men and women deserved better. The Vietnam Memorial is the memorial of my generation, it pays tribute to those that gave their lives to support the ideals of our great country. Whenever I go to the memorial, I try to reach out to my friends that fought there, to see if they have fallen colleagues whose names are on the wall, that I can visit and honor their sacrifice.

Vietnam Memorial – Panel 31, Line 31

One of my long-time friends, Frank G. did fight in Vietnam and lost three of his brothers in combat.  I was honored to be able to visit the Wall again, locate their names on the Wall, to touch their names on the wall and take a rubbing of them to deliver to their surviving Marine Corp brother. Semper Fi. Return to Top


Day 27 – College Park, MD – McGaheysville, VA

2 States – 157 miles, 4779 miles total – $3.55/gal in Front Royal

Today is going to be one of easiest days in the last 26 days, an easy 157 miles to McGaheysville, VA to visit one of Mark’s flying friends that moved to Virginia from San Diego almost 3 years ago. With the busy schedule of the last few days, we took the morning to catch up on chores before leaving the Cherry Hill Park campground. We did laundry, serviced the septic system, bought some new towel hooks at Walmart, and got everything packed up for the road. As unusual as it might seem at this point the day went as smoothly as planned. We stopped in Front Royal for lunch and fuel, and filled up the tank with the cheapest gas of the trip so far, $3.55/gal.

The drive was beautiful and took us through the Shenandoah National Park. All of Virginia is dotted with historic Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War sites. There are also a lot of interesting geological sites, like caves, though we didn’t stop to visit any of them.

Brad and Rebecca’s backyard near Sunset

We arrived in McGaheysville in the mid-afternoon and quickly got reacquainted with Pierce and Patrick.

Pierce and Patrick and Buddy

Pierce gave Sonia the full house tour while Patrick chased Buddy around the house endlessly. Patrick was captivated by Buddy and didn’t let Buddy rest until he had to go to bed that evening.

Buddy being pursued by Patrick

Brad’s father, Bruce, stopped by for a bit to say hi. Bruce was another of the Miramar RC Flyers that I flew with for years before he too moved to Virginia. After Bruce left, Brad took us on the farm tour, we saw their huge apple tree, the enormous barn with tractors, mowers, chickens, pianos (yes, pianos), and countless other items that always seem to end up in a barn. Pierce and Brad collected the day’s eggs from the chicken coup and we headed back to the house.

They have a huge tree in the front yard that is equipped with dual swings and we played on those for quite a while until one of the ropes broke, luckily at the bottom of the trajectory, and dumped Pierce on the ground at about 8 mph.

Pierce on the defective swing

No permanent injuries so we headed over to the trampoline for some REAL fun! After performing a few of the trampoline tricks that I learned 60 years ago on my trampoline, we did some popcorn pops, turbo-jumps, and played duck-duck-goose with the boys and Rebecca.

Playing on the trampoline

Rebecca’s mother, Michelle, showed up to join us for dinner. We got some real pizza from one of the local Italian restaurants and sat down for a quiet dinner (as quiet as possible with preschoolers) and conversations.

The group picture with everyone smiling – a rare occurrence

After the kids went to bed, we sat out on the porch for a couple of hours discussing the important questions in life until it was late and the bugs were coming out. We said our goodbyes that evening as our plan was to hit the road very early for one of the longer drives of our trip, 350+ miles to Cape Hatteras. Return to Top


Day 27 – McGaheysville, VA to Frisco, NC

2 States- 351 miles, 5130 total, $3.73/gal in Highland Spring, VA

We did get off to an early start today, pulling out of the driveway at 6:40 am excited to finally visit the infamous Outer Banks. We decided to stop in Ruckersville for some breakfast and beverages. As I was walking back to the RV, I noticed that the left rear outer tire looked low so I grabbed a tire pressure gauge to test it; 0 PSI ☹. I’m not one to whine about mechanical misfortunes while on the road but this one was happening at the wrong time on the wrong day.

One of Two Rock Strikes on Our Windshield

I didn’t complain when we took two rocks to the windshield in Nebraska and Indiana, we’ll replace it when we get home.

Temporary Repairs of Driver Side Mirror After Mystery Impact on WDC Highway

I wasn’t too upset when something hit the driver side rearview mirror while on the Richmond Highway in Washington DC, cracking the mirror glass and breaking the remote adjustment linkage. But now, on a day when we still had 300+ miles to go, I have a flat tire that needs to get fixed. We drove over to a local tire shop in Ruckersville but all of the mechanics had staged a sick-day protest, the owner graciously allowed me to change the tire in the parking lot out back.

I felt like Ralphie’s Dad from A Christmas Story – a record time of 45 minutes to change the tire and no F-bombs

Changing tires isn’t fun, changing duelly truck tires is even less fun. Luckily it wasn’t the first time I’d had the RV on a jack and the rear tires off the vehicle so I just sucked it up and pulled the tire, put the spare on, and replaced the flat on the back of the RV; at this point we’d only lost about 1:15, not too big of an issue. I wasn’t comfortable not having a good spare, especially when heading to the outer banks so we headed to Richmond where we found a Discount Tire shop that would repair and remount the original tire.

Buddy lounging in waiting room at Discount Tire – Richmond

While we were waiting for the tire repairs we walked down the street to my second favorite store, Harbor Freight, to buy a hammer (more about that in a minute), a tire patch/plug repair kit, and a small air compressor, just in case. The hammer is to check the tire pressure??? On a family trip to Alaska when I was 12 years old, we saw the truck drivers hitting the rear duel tires on their rigs with a hammer whenever they stopped. The sound and feel quickly revealed whether the tires were properly inflated; so now this will be part of my daily routine. We were lucky that the outer tire was the one that was flat, otherwise we might not have noticed it for quite some time. Now, two hours later, we are 3:15 minutes behind on our long day, but we were back on the road.

Not sure if your phone navigation or GPS warns you about traffic ahead but my experience is that their detours rarely save you time, usually they send lots of cars off the freeway onto neighborhood streets through multiple 4-way stop signs and it’s a disaster. Well today we probably should have done so, a semi ran off into the median somewhere SE of Richmond and we spent 45 minutes in stop and go traffic to drive the next 5 miles, now we’re 4 hours behind schedule and still have 200 miles to go. Hoping for better traveling ahead, we knew that was a dream as now we were headed into the Newport News and Norfolk area at 3:30 PM on a Friday. After another 45 minutes in traffic, we had to stop at the hazardous gas checkpoint to verify that our propane was turned off before entering the tunnel to Norfolk.

Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel

Traffic didn’t really improve until we were in Kitty Hawk, now 5:45, 15 minutes after the Wright Brothers Memorial closed. Still about 70 miles from our campground in Frisco at Cape Hatteras, we drove for another 1½ hours before arriving at our destination, 12½ hours after we left this morning. Hopefully we don’t have another day like that before we get home, or ever for that matter. The one really cool thing that happened today was that we crossed the 5000 mile point on our trip, quite the milestone in our Coast to Coast to Coast adventure, which has at least another 3000 miles to go before we return to San Diego; it will be the longest driving trip that we’ve ever taken, by far, in our 45 years together.

Buddy on the beach in the OBX

Finally at our campsite we parked the RV and headed for the infamous outer banks beach. The water was warm and Buddy had a great time running on the beach, it was a long day for him too. We played there until the sun set right at 8:00 PM, and then headed back to the RV for some dinner.

Our campsite at the far end of the last loop at the NPS Frisco Campground

For all of you who have visited the outer banks in August this won’t be a surprise, the breeze died down after sunset and the temperature dropped a whopping 4° overnight, plummeting from 84° at sunset to 80° at sunrise. My weather app says it’s 84° but feels like 92°, that’s because of the humidity. The NPS Frisco campground doesn’t have water or electricity at the campsites and quiet time starts at 10PM. You guessed it, that means no AC tonight, sleeping in an RV that has spent the whole day heating up to 84°. That’s what vacations are made of. We stayed up until 1:00 AM playing cards before we figured out it was never going to cool down so we finally hit the sack for a well-deserved night’s sleep. Return to Top


Day 28 – Frisco, NC

Just one state today – 33 miles, 5163 total

This was our first layover day with nowhere to go and no one to visit since we left San Diego 27 days ago. We slept in, cooked farm fresh eggs we got from Brad for breakfast, and headed out for the day’s sightseeing around noon. First stop was the Hatteras Ferry Terminal to figure out how the NC 12 ferry system works. North Carolina Highway 12 is the road that goes from Corolla, NC to Sealevel, NC; 152 miles along the Outer Banks. There are several ferry routes along NC 12 that are operated by the NCDOT and they are free to ride.

NC 12 Hatteras Ferry Terminal

The ferries run every 30 minutes for most of the day on a first come, first serve basis. The reason I stopped by today was to make sure there was no issues with an RV. The lady at the information desk said they take everything from motorcycles to 18-wheelers. Now that I was comfortable that we were going to be able to get off the island tomorrow morning, it was time to get some lunch. We drove back on NC 12 towards the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and found a small restaurant that served a ‘4 fish taco’ plate, which we figured you couldn’t go wrong with, and we were right. After a quick lunch we headed over to the NPS Cape Hatteras Lighthouse visitor center.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The original Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built on 1803 and operated for 67 years before being replaced by the current lighthouse in 1870. The lighthouse operated until 1935 when it was decommissioned because of serious erosion of the surrounding seashore. Then in 1950, after the shoreline rebuilt itself, the lighthouse returned to service. In 1980 a serious winter storm destroyed the original 1803 lighthouse and severely eroded the area surrounding the current one. In 1999 the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was moved 2900 feet to its current location, a feat of engineering that is fascinating to read about. The lighthouse still operates today and is serviced by the US Coast Guard.

After our time at the lighthouse we decided to hit the beach again for some serious swimming and body surfing. We pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and walked a couple hundred yards out to the beach. There were a lot of beach goers but nothing like the crowds we’re used to in San Diego. We walked down the beach a bit to find a spot with 25′ of separation from our nearest neighbors and headed into the water.

Cape Hatteras

Buddy likes the ocean but still isn’t sure about the waves. And he hates to get his ears wet so every time he comes out of the water he’s going to roll around in whatever is nearby, including the sand.

Buddy taking a Sand Bath

I decided to do a little body surfing and I have to admit this is the warmest ocean water I’ve ever been in, there was no need to hesitate upon entering the water. The waves were 1′-2′ tall and pretty much breaking in a wall but it was still fun to body surf for a while. Then it was my turn to do Buddy-watch so Sonia could go out. When we got back to the RV I did a quick search and found out that the current water temperature was 82.2°, much higher than normal. Now it makes sense why the outside air temperature isn’t dropping much overnight (about 4°) when the ocean is so warm. We’re used to 30° temperature swings at night in the semi-arid southwest.

After swimming, we made a quick stop at the local super market, picked up some fresh cantaloupe, milk and chocolate syrup so we could make an iced mocha to enjoy this evening. The other thing I scored in the supermarket was two bottles of Smuckers Blueberry Syrup. Now, you might be wondering what’s the big deal about Smuckers Blueberry Syrup. This is Sonia’s favorite pancake syrup and no one, I mean no one in the southwest has it on the store shelves, so I bought two bottles that will travel 3000 miles back to San Diego with us. Return to Top


Day 29 – Frisco, NC to Sunset Beach, NC

1 State, 208 miles, 5371 total – $3.46/gal in Morehead, NC

We got off to a fairly early start this morning as we headed to the southwest corner of Hatteras Island to get on the ferry to Ocracoke Island, about a 20 minute drive from our campground. One odd thing about Hatteras Island is all the ‘For Sale’ signs. It seems that about ¼ of the homes are owner occupied, at least a ¼ are rentals or vacation homes, another ¼ are for sale and I swear, at least ¼ of them are realtor offices. Of the 100+ homes we saw for sale, I never noticed 2 ‘For Sale’ signs listed by the same agent. I suspect there is a lot of churn in the island home market and the realtors are the only ones making money.

it’s only 82° but it feels like 91°

The weather here doesn’t change much and this morning it was hot again. This time I snapped a screen shot off my weather app to help me remember what east coast summer weather is all about. I’d like to say it was a “dry heat” but it wasn’t.

The ferry from Frisco Island to Ocracoke Island is free, one leaves every 30 minute and the ride is about 1 hour. We got there about 15 minutes before 8:00 AM, got in line and were the second to last vehicle to get on the 8:00 AM ferry.

The ferry load master did a fabulous of packing the cars on the ship

It is an interesting ride as the ferry twists and turns through the narrow channels before getting out into more open waters. We passed very near several large shoals where the ferry propeller kicked up massive amounts of sand and mud as it maneuvered between the closely spaced channel markers.

Boat wake crashing up on the shoals

The tide must have been going out as some of the shoals had massive amounts of water flowing over them with what looked like a 6” waterfall flowing off the back side of them.

The water flowing over the shoals

It’s amazing to watch the ferries dock, the skill of the captain is impressive as he inches his massive ship into the docks without touching the pilings and lines it up perfectly for unloading and loading. We got off the Hatteras ferry quickly and drove directly to the Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry terminal on the far end of Ocracoke Island. This ferry isn’t free but they do offer reservations, unfortunately we didn’t have one as we were uncertain what time we would be traveling this day. We got directed to the standby line where we waited about 15 minutes before we got the go-ahead to pay the $30 fare for the 24 mile, 2:40 ride to Cedar Island. This boat was a bit larger than the Hatteras ferry and the load master packed everyone in tight. It was interesting to watch him load a few cars on one side, then another few on the other side. I assume he was being carful to keep the ship balanced as they loaded the 40-50 vehicles onboard. They unloaded the ferry in the same side-to-side manner when we disembarked.

We could only exit via the drivers door due to tight packing

This morning was another first, we cooked and ate our breakfast in the RV while moving. That wasn’t as hair-raising as it seems as we were on the ferry ? We whipped up some gourmet-quality huevos rancheros and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while the ferry was again navigating the narrow twisting channels.

Huevos Rancheros on the road

The second ferry didn’t make the usual 180 degree turn after undocking. Because of that, after the ferry pulled out of the dock in the very small terminal area, it sailed the entire way to Cedar Island “backwards”, which was a bit weird even though the ferries don’t really have a front or back. It wasn’t until we arrived at Cedar Island that the captain turned the ferry around before docking.

The Cedar Island Ferry Terminal

It was around noon when we finally got back on terra firma, we continued south along the outer banks towards our next destination, Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is on my destination list only because of all the years of listening to coworkers from Cincinnati talking about it. With no more reservations for places to go or things to see we just started driving and figured we stop when we got tired. We stopped in Morehead City for lunch, to buy more squeaky balls for Buddy, and to fill the gas tank. This was the cheapest gas yet on our trip, we paid $3.46/gallon. Two hours later we pulled off the highway about 35 miles shy of Myrtle beach at a small independent campground a few miles from the ocean. This will be our last night on the east coast, after Myrtle Beach we will be heading west on our return journey. Return to Top


Day 30 – Sunset Beach, NC to Crawfordville, GA

2 States, 303 miles, 5674 total – $3.39/gal in Florence, SC

We had lots of rain last night at the campground in Sunset Beach. It’s really interesting to see how the ground responds to heavy rain. In San Diego, with the heavy clay soils, rain just pools or runs off. On the Outer Banks, with all the sandy soils, even if the rain does collect, an hour after it stops raining the puddles have drained into the ground and everything appears pretty dry. Before we went to bed, the road out of the campground was under water, by morning you really couldn’t tell it had rained. The water table must also be really high out here as when I unhooked from the sewer at the campground, the water level in the pipe was only about a foot below the ground level.

The morning departure routine is well rehearsed and goes smoothly now. I am in charge of the outdoor tasks and Sonia takes care of the indoor ones. I disconnect the 30A electrical connection and stow the 20’ power cord in its compartment. I turn off the water, disconnect the hose and pressure regulator, drain the water from the hose, wind it up and connect the ends together to keep out contaminants. Next is the fun part, if we’ve been hooked up to a sewer connection, I open the gray and black water valves and let the tanks drain. Before I close the valves, I try to give the tanks several minutes to finish draining. That way when I disconnect our sewer hose there is minimal residual flow, as the dribbles aren’t always clear ☹ Wearing a HazMat suit isn’t an option so latex gloves and caution are you’re best chance of avoiding the unpleasantries of a sewer mishap. A quick rinse of the sewer hose from the water faucet and the sewer line goes in its outside storage tube, and I’m almost done outside.

Inside, Sonia is busy washing the dishes, closing windows, relocating all the loose items to the bed, and getting all the kitchen counter items packed in the sink. The shower is a major traveling storage area with the clothes hamper, dog food tub, shower and cleaning accessories and loose water jugs. Everything that is on the dinette seats has to get stowed on the bed, except for Buddy’s bed, which he lays in most of the time we’re driving, unless he’s laying in our laps on the passenger side.

Buddy making sure I don’t miss a turn

The other important task to complete inside, after draining the gray and black water tanks, is to prime the black water tank with blue packets. Much like airlines, our black water tank needs a little help to keep things Springtime fresh, so we dump a little blue packet in the toilet bowl, along with a gallon of water and let the packet dissolve for 5-10 minutes before flushing it. Flushing it before rolling out in the morning is super important because otherwise the contents will slosh out onto the floor if left in the bowl. We always know how good of a job we’ve done by whether something comes crashing out of a drawer, cabinet or other storage location the first time we make a sharp turn or hit a bump/

Finally, we roll the RV forward a few feet to get it off the leveler blocks that we drove onto the night before. Not all campsites are level so we carry a set of stackable plastic blocks that we can drive onto. When we arrive in a campsite, I walk around the RV and try to decide whether we’re level side to side and front to back, then I stack the blocks appropriately in front of the tires, and we drive the RV onto the blocks. Sometimes I use the ‘Level App’ on my iPhone to check but usually eyeballing it works fine. The RV also tells me how well I did leveling as the AC condensation water runs out onto the roof, collects in one of the gutters on either side of the roof, and then runs to the front or back depending on the tilt of the RV. I always like to see if that was the corner that I thought was the low one while parking.

Well, enough ‘RV life on the road’ trivia, today we hit the last ‘must see’ location on the East Coast, Myrtle Beach. Neither of us knew what to expect of the fabled Myrtle Beach so when we finally got there, the biggest surprise was the miles of huge hotels! It reminded me of Miami, with miles of high-rise hotels that open up right onto the beach. We had no problem finding a great parking spot just a block away from the dunes though Sonia overheard some workers saying that there wasn’t a parking space within blocks yesterday, on a Sunday at the end of Summer. We gathered some beach stuff and headed to the beach. The first thing we noticed on the beach was an endless line of umbrellas and beach chairs, all with little reserved tags on them, in both directions, and a very calm ocean full of people enjoying the morning.

There had to be 200 rental umbrellas setup in both directions along the beach

We walked down to the water with Buddy and just as I was getting my feet wet, a lifeguard stopped to ask me if I knew that dogs weren’t allowed on the beach between 9 and 5 until September 15th. Oh well, I turned around and we headed back to the RV. Other than stopping at one of the souvenir shops to buy t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, that was our Myrtle Beach Experience!

The main drag in Myrtle Beach has countless Miniature Golf courses

Our next stop was going to be wherever we ended up today as we started our journey back home because we had no more reservations or schedule other than being back in San Diego by August 20th. I had an urge to see what we were up against on the journey home so I got on the iPhone Maps App, and in the “Where To” menu I chose ‘Home’. Well, Siri toiled away for a couple of minutes and then popped up the prediction below.

A mere 34 hours of driving and 2500 miles separated us from Home

We briefly discussed just driving straight through, taking sleeping shifts in the back, but that got quashed in about 2 seconds 😉 We eventually got on I-20 West as we intended to pass through Atlanta on the way home. We stopped in Florence, SC for lunch and fuel and bought the cheapest fuel yet on our trip, $3.39 a gallon for regular gasoline using a credit card. Our average fuel cost over the last 5600 miles has been $4.19 and our mileage has averaged a stunning 9.1 mpg. After lunch, with Sonia at the wheel, our regular driving rotation, I got on my iPhone and found a beautiful Georgia Sate Park a few hours away so we headed to Crawfordville, GA and the A. H. Stephens State Park Campground.

We had an awesome campsite location at least 200 yards away from the next nearest camper

This campground is the 3rd oldest campground in Georgia, created in 1933 and constructed by WPA and CCC workers. The campground is spacious and pretty small, with only 25 RV, car and tent sites.

The campground water tower was constructed by the WPA workers 90 years ago

Surprisingly, but not unusual this summer, the campground was no where near full. In fact, out of the 25 sites, 2 were filled by the camp hosts, and there was only one other camper besides us in the campground. We used the laundry and showers and let Buddy run around off leash until the laundry was done. We were going to have a campfire but we had rain and lightning, off and on the entire night, so we played cards until bedtime. Return to Top


Day 31 – Crawfordville, GA to Hoover, AL

2 States, 306 miles, 5980 total – $3.32/gal in Covington, GA

Today we got off to a late departure after sleeping in and making a cooked breakfast. It was almost 10:00 before we got back on the I-20 West and headed towards Atlanta. We stopped for gas and again lowered the bar for gas prices, $3.32/gal, WOW! The day before I had contacted one of my ex-Siemens peers, another Technical Director, Steve, who is within a couple of months of my age, and he also took the same voluntary separation package I took when I left Siemens 3 1/2 years ago. Steve lives with his wife, Susan, in a beautiful home in Alpharetta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. Another connection we have is that one of his sons and our son, Joshua, both worked for Cymer in San Diego at the same time a few years ago.

Steve and Susan in Alpharetta – Mark worked with Steve at Siemens for many years.

The plan was to meet for lunch around noon, which was going to be a challenge due to our late departure. From the I-20 we jumped onto the I-285 beltline hoping to skirt the congestion in downtown Atlanta. Things were looking good until we got close to the Georgia State Route 400 and found that the I-285 was 1/2 way through a multi-year remodel and was a complete disaster! Despite the warning signs that the on and off ramp flows were different, I missed the turn and got stuck in 20 extra minutes of stop and go traffic before finally getting off the freeway and driving surface streets until we were back on track. We did finally make it to Steve’s home and were treated to a lovely lunch. Susan had a great time entertaining Buddy and we all got a chance to catch up on family and personal news for a couple of hours before we needed to get back on the road.

Unfortunately the best route out of town was to backtrack down to the I-285 and then back onto the I-20. The return trip went fairly smooth and soon we were out of the metro area and rolling down the I-20. I drove until we reached Alabama and then Sonia took over so I could find a place to stay for the night. The campgrounds near the freeway were either full or too far away for today but we finally ended up getting a spot in Hoover, AL, a suburb of Birmingham. We got a Costco hot dog and gas (gasoline that is) and then drove the last few miles to the tail-gating campground at the Hoover Metropolitan Sports Complex.

Tail-gate & RV Parking Area

Nothing special but they had nice level spots with electricity, water and sewer – the RV Big 3. We pulled in about 6:30, hooked up and settled in for the night. Return to Top


Day 32 – Hoover, AL to Russellville, AR

4 States, 480 miles, 6460 miles total – $3.45/gal in Horn Lake, Mississippi

We got up at 6:30 this morning and were on the road by 7:00. Our goal was to cover over 450 miles today so we needed to get going early. Since our next visiting spot is Albuquerque, we needed to get on Interstate 40 so we opted to leave Birmingham on the I-22 and connect with the I-40 in Memphis, TN. Now, no one should drive through Memphis, especially around lunch time, without stopping for some of their world famous barbecue so that was on our plan for the day. We stopped in Jasper, AL for a fast food breakfast and got right back on the I-22, which has to be the least traveled Interstate we’ve ever been on.

I-22 in Alabama at Rush Hour

There were times when we didn’t have a vehicle within 1/2 mile front or back, it was kind of spooky. It did however make the drive go quickly. Another thing that made the morning exciting was that we picked up an unwelcome hitch hiker. I was glancing down at the GPS on the dashboard and it looked like a piece of thread was getting blown around by the AC vent.

Our Hitch Hiker – We didn’t really want to know how it got onboard

Turns out is was a 3″ long centipede that was crawling around on the dashboard. Sonia wouldn’t touch it so I grabbed a tissue, scooped the centipede off the GPS, and we disposed of it in an appropriate container at our next stop.

Sonia did a bit of searching and discovered that the Memphis Barbecue Company, 13-time world champions, was right off the freeway coming into Memphis so we exited the freeway and pulled into the parking lot around 11:10. There were a few cars already there as they opened at 11:00.

Apparently the happening lunch spot

By the time we had ordered our food, 10 minutes later, the parking lot was pretty much full and 2/3 of the restaurant was already seated, apparently this was the place to go. We ordered the sampler plate and the baby back ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and super delicious.

A light lunch at Memphis Barbecue Company

We ate as much as we could, got a to-go box for the rest and made a quick stop for gasoline. At the gas station I chatted briefly with a 91-year young Marine Corp veteran; he trained in San Diego at MCRD in 1951, was sent to Camp Pendleton for infantry training, and then deployed to Korea where he fought in the war. I thanked him for his service and wished him a good day. As we both put the fill nozzles back on the pumps he commented that the gas prices there had dropped over $1 in just the last 2 weeks, making both of us happy.

Sonia hopped in the driver’s seat and we headed over to the Mud Island Park, right below the I-40 bridge along the Mississippi River. Buddy got to run around in the dog park and play with a 14-week old Pointer puppy. He had a great time but the heat and humidity was still a bit oppressive so he was done in about 15 minutes.

Big barge traveling upstream on the Mighty Mississippi River

We snapped a few pictures the Mighty Mississippi River and hopped on the I-40 bridge to cross over into Arkansas!

Arkansas was the last state I needed to visit!

Finally I had my 50th state under my belt; I can now say that I have visited all 50 of the states in this great country. An interesting tidbit that we realized at dinner last night, was that we have visited 28 states on this trip alone, and in the next day or two we’ll add Oklahoma and Texas to that list for a total of 30 states on this trip!

Another 2 hours and we were in Little Rock, AK where we stopped to let Buddy stretch his legs and to get something to drink. The Starbucks parking lot was way to small for the RV so we had to do some neighborhood street gymnastics to get turned around and parked somewhere that we could get out of. We grabbed a couple of drinks and then headed out for the last 77 miles of the day to get to our campsite for the night; the Old Post Park Campground in Russellville, AR, an Army Corp of Engineers campground that costs us a whopping $10/night with our NPS Lifetime Senior Pass.

Dardenelle lock and dam on the Arkansas River

It is located on the Arkansas River just downstream of the Dardenelle lock and dam, and, unfortunately, about a 1/4 of a mile from a DOW Chemical plant in North Dardenelle.

Buddy enjoying the sparsely spaced campsites along the river

The campground is spacious and beautiful with lots of trees and great facilities.

One of the wild flowers along the river

Unfortunately the constant drone from the DOW plant next door is audible any time you’re outside on the west end of the campground.

Sunlight hitting the thunder heads at sunset

Oh well, we’ll have the AC running all night again so it really won’t matter.

We finally got to have our first campfire – beautiful evening at sunset

Tomorrow we hope to cover another 400+ miles and end up somewhere in western Oklahoma or maybe even Texas. Return to Top


Day 33 – Russellville, AR to Amarillo, TX

3 States, 524 miles, 6984 miles total – $3.09/gal in Yukon, OK

I was surprised when I looked out over the river this morning and see a large tug boat pushing a bunch of barges downstream.

Tug Boat downstream of the Dardenelle dam and locks

Apparently the locks at the dam are operational and used. Before we hit the road this morning Sonia and Buddy walked down the boat ramp to the Arkansas River to get a good picture of the Dardenelle dam and locks.

Dardenelle dam and locks

Then it was on the road to fill up the gas tank and start our quest to make it to Amarillo, TX, a short 524 miles from Russellville, AK. The gas in Clarksville, 25 miles west, was $0.50/gal cheaper than Russellville, so we headed there to fill the tank. Clarksville fuel was the cheapest of our trip, $3.25/gal, that is until just after lunch where we found gas just west of Oklahoma City for $3.09/gal. There aren’t a lot of big cities between Russellville, AK and Amarillo, TX, in fact, Fort Smith, AK and Oklahoma City are the only two in over 500 miles along the I-40 that have over 50,000 residents, considerably more than Russellville.

Russellville, AK to Amarillo, TX

Passing the time on these long stretches of Interstate can be challenging but our main pastime is filling in crossword puzzles. That is something that passenger and driver can participate in while safely driving. It takes a lot of teamwork and we’ve gotten to the point that we can finish them in about 30 minutes. We’re now on puzzle 34 out of 43 in our puzzle book. We also paid particular attention to how the foliage and terrain has gradually changed from jungle-like forests in Georgia to the brown rolling hills in Oklahoma. We also are gaining altitude as we head west, climbing to well over 3500′ above sea level from less than 350′ this morning. The temperatures since leaving the east coast have gradually dropped but the nicest thing about temps in the 80’s in Amarillo is that the humidity has dropped from greater than 80% to less than 30%. We decided to stay at the Amarillo KOA, just east of downtown, and as we got closer to the campground it occurred to us that we had stayed here before.

Metal Sculpture Mariachis at the Amarillo KOA

In February of 2019, just after I retired, we drove to St. Louis, MO to buy a new trailer and then, while driving home, encountered the worst winter storm of the year. After getting snowed off the Interstate one night just north of Wichita, we stayed a night in Amarillo. As I recall, it was the first time since leaving St. Louis that the temperatures crept above freezing, not like this trip.

More metal sculptures

The campground is pretty barren but they have a nice pool, laundry and other facilities.

Amarillo KOA

While the clothes were getting washed we hopped in the pool and just relaxed after 9 1/2 hours of driving today. At this point in our trip we are just 16 miles shy of 7000 miles driven and still have over 1100 miles to go before pulling into our driveway in San Diego. Tomorrow our goal is to get to Tijeras, NM, just outside Albuquerque, where Mark’s brother, Larry, and his wife Lelia Beth live. Return to Top


Day 34 – Amarillo, TX to Tijeras, NM

2 States, 276 miles, 7260 miles total – $3.31/gal in Amarillo, TX

We pulled out of Amarillo around 8:00 after a cold breakfast and hopped on the I-40 West. We knew today was going to be a fairly short and fairly monotonous drive. We needed to gain about 3000′ over the next 275 miles and the terrain didn’t change much for the first 200. One thing that you see a lot of in Texas and New Mexico is big wind turbines. There are hundreds of them and they were pretty much all spinning away.

Our goal was to make Albuquerque by lunch time and we came very close to that goal. Like other sections of the drive west on the I-40, there aren’t a lot of towns and most are very small. We didn’t really see any towns more than a few blocks big until we were 10-15 miles from Tijeras, which is about 10 miles east of Albuquerque. We pulled off the I-40 and drove just a couple of miles to Larry and Lelia Beth’s house where we met Larry in the driveway, he had just hooked up an extension cord to provide our RV power while parked in their driveway.

Larry and Lelia Beth’s home in Tijeras, NM

We were all hungry so Lelia Beth put together a nice lunch of smoked salmon, home-grown vegetables, cheese and olives. We ate everything on the table while catching up on our families and COVID tales. The last time we we visited them at their place was on our 2019 snow-storm trip back from Missouri. Larry is always doing yard and house upgrades and was in the middle of laying new flagstone and brick walkways as well as finishing up new stucco and roofing upgrades.

Gerdy and Buddy facing playing in the backyard

Their house is about 6500′ above sea level and nestled in a pinon pine and juniper forest. They have a beautiful view of the Sandia Mountains from anywhere in their yard.

Mark got all caught up on Larry’s retirement job, playing a key role in getting the 1944 AT&SF No. 2926 Steam Locomotive operational after sitting in a city park for almost 50 years. Larry is a retired mechanical engineer and his ME expertise was invaluable in getting the steam boiler recertified for operation given the myriad regulations and certifications necessary under today’s licensing requirements. Lelia Beth made us some delicious red and green chili enchiladas for dinner and after dessert we played a round of Fill or Bust before calling it an evening. Return to Top


Day 34 – Tijeras, NM to Las Cruces, NM

1 State, 263 miles, 7523 miles total – $3.18/gal in Albuquerque, NM

Larry made us an awesome hash brown lined quiche for breakfast and we enjoyed it with our morning coffee while sitting on the back porch watching Buddy and their dog Gerdy run around the 1.5 acre fenced in back yard. The hummingbirds and other birds were ever present and kept us entertained for the morning. Sonia got a great chance to do a show-n-tell for Lelia Beth of all the loot she picked up in Hamilton at the Missouri Star shops, as well as sharing a few of her work-in-progress quilts and knitting projects.

L & LB

The hours were passing quickly and we still had over 250 miles to cover today to make it to Las Cruces where Mark’s cousin Dennis lives, so we hit the road and filled up in downtown Albuquerque before hopping on the I-25 south to Las Cruces. The drive from Albuquerque to Las Cruces is pretty monotonous but there are several sections where the valleys are bright green with agriculture. This drive felt like a longer than the 250 miles that is was, but eventually we pulled into Las Cruces and stopped to fill up the gas tank and punch in the street address for Mark’s cousin. It was 98° in Las Cruces at 4:00 in the evening but my weather app said it only felt like 96°, for the first time in several weeks we could add that it was a dry heat. We pulled into Dennis’s driveway about 4:30 and Dennis met us in the front yard. We got meet his cat, Captain America, when we arrived. This cat must think it’s a dog, and it acts like one. Buddy wasn’t too sure about the cat and was growling and barking but Captain America never flinched or retreated, he just went about his business and laid on the floor while we chatted.

After a bit we headed out for dinner with Dennis and Sylvia to the Outback Steak House. It was the first piece of red meat we’d enjoyed on our trip and everyone’s steak was cooked perfectly. Dennis grew up in Las Cruces but he spent a lot of time visiting my family in San Diego while growing up, in fact he knew Sonia and many of our high school friends before we were together. We reminisced about our many adventures around town and at the beach over the years. After a unhurried dinner we headed back to Dennis’s house for a few quick pictures of Dennis, Sylvia and Captain America before heading to our usual KOA campground a few miles west of downtown.

Captain America, Dennis and Sylvia

Tomorrow is another relatively short 280 miles drive to Tucson to visit Sonia’s cousins. Return to Top


Day 36 – Las Cruces, NM to Tucson, AZ

2 States, 276 miles, 7800 total miles, $3.55/gal in Tucson, AZ

We are getting so close to home that the temptation is to blast through but there is another set of relatives we want to visit before ending our 30+ day adventure.  The Las Cruces KOA was very nicely landscaped and kept up, everything was clean, crisp and super organized.  They had beautiful shared cooking stations and picnic areas as well as a beautiful pool area; we didn’t use any of them as we got in well after dark, only the second time in 35 days that we actually drove the RV after dark.  We both used the camp shower facilities in the morning and both immediately noticed the same issue; the water coming out of the shower head had a strong sulfur smell.  Maybe they are trying to sell it as a spa or health club feature but it was pretty offensive to the nose.

 When we finally got out of Las Cruces it was a bit later than we expected but it wasn’t a big deal.  The 280 mile drive to Tucson went pretty quick and we got a one-hour bonus when we drove into Arizona, which is on the same time zone as San Diego this time of year.  If we thought the drive from Albuquerque south was boring, this drive across south central New Mexico and Arizona lowered the bar a few more notches.  There was a whole lot of sparsely distributed cactus and shrubs for a good 2 hours but it was green, given all the monsoon rains this summer. I was surprised to see the dust storm warning system between Lordsburg and San Simon, complete with “Burma-Shave” roadside signs warning drivers: 1) That in a Dust Storm, 2) Pull Off Roadway, 3) Turn Vehicle Off, 4) Feet Off Brakes, 5) Stay Buckled.

Dust Storm Warning Signs Near Lordsburg, AZ

Luckily for us the monsoon rains had drenched the Lordsburg Draw and there was standing water for miles along the freeway. The last bit of the drive heading over the pass through Texas Canyon, about 45 miles east of Tucson, was so green it was surprising, even the ocotillo were a brilliant green and looked much healthier than usual.

We pulled into Tucson right on schedule and our first stop was to visit Sonia’s cousin Jean and her husband, John.  They had just returned from a trip to Michigan so we were lucky to connect with them.  We stopped by a local Mexican Restaurant to pick up some ‘real’ Mexican food for lunch and then had a great eat and greet afternoon with them.  We talked about family and kids, as usual, and caught up on all the extended family and happenings.  Jean and John have been married for 62 years and we’ve known them and their kids since well before we got married 45+ years ago.

After lunch we headed over to the house of Judy (Jean’s daughter) and Dan to visit and help cook a family dinner for the entire crew later that evening.  We got a chance to visit with the menagerie of box turtles, desert tortoises, and their two dogs.

Box Turtle and Desert Tortoise

Dan and daughter Clementine greeted us at the house and we started cooking up a tri-tip, some salmon and asparagus for dinner. Judy, as well as Jean and John, arrived while the food was on the grill. A bit later we all sat down for a home cooked dinner; the food was great, the company better, and we all sat around telling stories and sharing memories for hours. Later in the evening as everyone was getting tired we sat down for the sets of obligatory family pictures. Hazel, the oldest daughter arrived later and avoided the photography sessions but visited for a while before we called it a night.

Dan, Clementine, Judy, Jean & john

Tonight will be our last night sleeping in the RV, something we’ve done every night since leaving San Diego on July 10th.  Tomorrow morning will be our last morning on the road, our goal is to pull into our driveway tomorrow evening after more than 8000 miles of driving over the last 37 days.  The drive from Tucson to San Diego isn’t a tough drive but it is another long 425+ mile day, which will take us at least 8 hours to complete.  It is a bit sad that our journey is coming to an end but we’re also eager to get back to our home and friends in San Diego that we’ve missed for the 5+ weeks. Return to Top


Day 37 – Tucson, AZ to San Diego, CA

2 States, 424 miles, 8213 miles total – $4.09 in Fortuna, AZ

First, and foremost, I hope you have enjoyed following us on our Coast to Coast to Coast adventure. It is apropos that my last entry on this blog, like the first, is being typed on my home computer, just like it was on July 8th, 39 days ago. Being a somewhat frustrated, wanna-be English teacher, and self appointed copy editor, it has many times been humbling to read my own content days later. Sometimes I go back and edit it but it seems like cheating as I don’t expect my readers to reread past posts.

Writing my first travel blog, or any blog for that matter, has been challenging. I find myself switching between 1st person and 3rd person often. Depending on what I’m writing about and which point of view I’m using, I also switch between present, past and future tense way too often. I try to balance the hard facts with the proper doses of trivia, digressions and stories, opinion and rhetoric. Another thing that happened every time I got ready to post was that I never had all the photos I wanted for that day. Many lessons learned and hopefully they will result in a better blog next time we set off on some epic journey to far flung parts unknown.

Today was our last day on the road, and this drive, from Tucson to San Diego, we have made many times. It is over 400 miles but it’s an easy drive as long as you don’t miss the turn-off from the I-10 to I-8. Before we could leave we needed one last family photo with Hazel and Clementine included.

Hazel, Judy, Dan and Clementine

It was a bit after 8:00 when we pulled out of Judy and Dan’s driveway to start the 14 miles journey to get from northeastern Tucson to the I-10 freeway.

Their house is surrounded by beautiful cactus and desert bushes and trees

The traffic wasn’t bad at all but it still took at least 30 minutes before we were cruising west on the freeway heading home. A bit later we switched drivers as I was still a bit sleepy from staying up late every night to update my blog. I have probably driven 2/3 of the miles on this trip but on the long days we split the driving into morning and afternoon shifts. We made another stop just outside Yuma for lunch and fuel and then pushed ahead to El Centro for our last Starbucks stop of the trip. It was 106° in El Centro so our stop there was short as was the remaining distance and time to get home. El Centro to home is a trip we make several times a year for Mark’s RC flying campouts in the desert near El Centro, so we thought we knew exactly what to expect of the climb up the mountains and the drive into San Diego. The weather in the San Diego mountains is usually nice but today there where big thunderheads and on one 5-mile stretch the sky opened up, lightening struck very close, and it poured. Visibility was a couple of hundred feet and traffic slowed to 45 mph. Luckily the rain was short lived and we finished our drive into San Diego with one last refill of the gasoline and propane tanks. 15 minutes later we pulled into our driveway and started the 1 hour task of completely emptying the RV before finally relaxing after another long day.

We visited 30 states on our 37 day Coast to Coast to Coast Trip

It was an amazing journey that took us through so many states and towns, this blog has been the only way for us to keep it straight in our heads over the last 37 days. We’ve seen so many new and cool things, got to visit so many friends and family, make a few new friends and, for me, complete my quest to visit every one of the 50 United States. We drove over 8000 miles, that’s the equivalent of driving 1/3 of the way around the world!!!

Now, being an engineer and a numbers guy, I couldn’t help but be curious to calculate some more of the numerical milestones that we have passed on this trip. I’ve captured a few that I think you might find interesting:

Number of days on the road37
Number of days of driving to a new destination25
Total number of miles driven8213
Number of times the RV wheels made a complete rotation5.9 million
Number of times the engine made a complete rotation16.7 million
Total amount of gasoline used905 gallons
Average fuel economy9.0 mpg
Total cost of gasoline$3,613
Average cost per gallon$3.96
Most expensive gasoline$4.97
Least expensive gasoline$3.09
Propane to run RV refrigerator for 37 days3.5 gallons
Number of nights slept in RV (all of them)36
Number of nights in campgrounds29
Least expensive campground/night$10
Most expensive campground/night$92
Number of states traversed30
Number of Interstate Freeways traveled on17
Number of friends and relatives visited36
Number of times someone asked what kind of dog Buddy is100+
Number of times someone said Buddy was cute100+
Number of times we stopped for Starbucks32
Number of dollars spent at Starbucks 🙁$430
Our Trip by the Numbers

I hope you enjoyed making this journey with us, we really enjoyed sharing it with all of those who made it all the way to the end with us. It would be great to hear what you thought were the best parts of the read.

Updating this post for the last time, Sincerely – Mark and Sonia

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2 thoughts on “Coast to Coast

  • Thank you for taking us on holiday with you! Wonderful trek!!

  • Lelia Beth

    Thanks for taking us on a virtual vacation and including us as a a stop on your epic journey. ❤️

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