9,611-mile maiden voyage - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-09-2009, 12:37 AM   #1
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Spring is in the air, and with it comes the final planning for this summer's travel plans. I thought I'd share a bit about our maiden voyage in Junior, the 1971 Compact Jr. we acquired in (VERY) late June last year. (I've posted about the reworking we did to get it on the road, but THEN what happened?!)

We didn't have time for a test run near home, so we just got her set, packed her up and hit the road July 28 for a bombing run north through California. Gettin' the heck out of dodge, and beginning 10 weeks on the road! Our goal: run the Lewis & Clark Trail from its western terminus at the Pacific Ocean (Seaview, WA) to St. Louis, MO, exploring American history in real life rather than from text books. The girls (and I) were thrilled.

In 9,611 miles we had one flat tire on the TV, and only got pulled over once (in Texas, of course, thanks to Cali plates and my confusion in a strange town), no tickets, no harm, no foul. We saw bits n' pieces of 17 states, learned that we could live in any of them and find plenty to enjoy, learned that even if we traveled like this for 50 years, we wouldn't have enough time to see all we'd like to of the U.S. (let alone the rest of the world), and learned how to live in a box smaller than a horse trailer. The girls got REALLY good at hanging laundry out to dry. I got tendonitis (tennis elbow) from hand squeezin' the laundry (we did our wash ala Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie" - worked GREAT except for the elbow). We saw and heard strange bugs, caught (and released) turtles and tortoises EVERYWHERE from Nebraska to Missouri and back into the deserts again, learned that our older daughter is a snake charmer.

And, as the girls put it, "We didn't meet one not-nice person this whole trip!"

I was ready to hit the road again as soon as we'd finished real laundry here at home. Adjusting back to "normal" life was tough. Now we're saving up for the Next Big Trip.

You can read lots of details about the trip at our blog (see below - and just make your way back to late July to begin at the beginning) and see lots of pictures there. I'm also happy to help with YOUR trip planning with any info you might like about the areas we've visited (name a state west of the Mississippi!)

Jen, E & V
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Old 03-09-2009, 12:41 AM   #2
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One of the best resources we brought along with us was the Free Campground book. I've (almost) always been a tent camper. (When I was a child, my parents had a trailer for a few years.) So I'm not used to comfy camping. The CJ doesn't require a lot, and I bring a shovel, so I was just looking for good, clean, safe, quiet places to camp along our way. We did plan many of our stops, but the book came in handy for finding spots when we were NOWHERE NEAR where we'd intended to be by close of day. The book includes free spots as well as any 10 bucks or less (or was it 12?). Some are rugged, one-hole latrine, forest stops, others are noisy and in town, but by and large we found superb out of the way spots that few others seemed to know about.
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Old 03-09-2009, 12:45 AM   #3
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And we managed to get out of camp every day. We averaged about 100 miles per day, but that includes our initial 400 mile run north on the first day and our final 700 mile run our last day (the youngest was ready to get home - racing the clock to be in her own bed by her birthday as promised). We tested out various modes of transportation (horseback riding, canoeing, hiking, wagons) and made new friends (burros in South Dakota and Arizona were among them).
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Old 03-09-2009, 01:00 AM   #4
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I've always remembered that laundry method from "Travels with Charley"

I have some of the same tendonitis, and here's a trick I used while doing all laundry by hand (bucket) on a boat. I got the idea from a book.

The basic concept is to orient the the article so that it is long and thin. Then you pass it behind a rigid bar and bring the ends back together right in front of you. Now you hold the ends of the item together in your hands and turn them as a unit, making a twist. It sounds similar to "wringing" when I write it, but in this case the bar is doing much of the wringing for you and there is much less strain on your tendons (those tendons).

On a boat there are lots of stainless steel lifeline stanchions so I used those; you might have to hunt a bit with a camper. Of course the bar needs to be cleanish. Here's a photo of a stanchion (of course the bar need not be vertical).



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Great to hear about you arranging your life to take a long trip in a simple camper with your kids. Nothing like real life learning and "experiencing"

I also like the painted map and etc. on the back of the camper. Nice to see you customize it.

Raya

PS: Ah, now I see you have added ore posts while I was typing. Is the free campground book "Don Wright's Guide to Free Campgrounds? (I Googled).

Also, I'm curious if you had Internet connectivity along the way - or how you kept up with your research of where you were going next, camping spots, etc. I know for long trips it's kind of crazy-making to try to do it all at home ahead of time (at least for me).

Much appreciate "the rest of the story"
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Old 03-09-2009, 04:56 PM   #5
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Hey Jen,
GREAT pics and threads, you're adventure looks GREAT and inspires me to have more adventures of my own! YAY!
So when are we going to have a central coast rally, hmm? hehe
Take care, Joe
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Old 03-10-2009, 12:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
So when are we going to have a central coast rally, hmm? hehe
San Antonio Lake in April, I think it is! Didn't you get in on it? Contact Mike -maybe there's still space! (I know...it's not just us Juniors, but should be a fun meetup and learning weekend.)
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Old 03-10-2009, 01:21 AM   #7
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Thanks, Raya, for the new option for "wringing" our clothes. I was thinking I might get a ringer for our next go round and just turn over all the laundry to the girls. They did the rinsing this time around. Next time they'll be old enough to do it all.

Oh, there's so much more to the story, but thought I'd tease folks here into making their own plans to get out. (Like anyone HERE needs encouragement! HUH!)

I THOUGHT we'd access internet at Starbucks across the country. I'd never tried it here, but thought it was a WiFi hotspot and saw people using it. Turns out you have to be a subscriber (paid). THWT! Our first attempt (where I learned about the whole subscription nonsense) was at a store in Lewiston, ID. The kid at the store pointed me across the street to McDonalds where internet access was free.

We're not big Mickey D fans, but I let the girls run wild on the play structure and I had a burger and drink there (the girls don't like burgers...so they had a homemade sandwich) while I uploaded/downloaded e-mail and blog info for "free." Since I didn't have an air card (cell account) for internet access, we hit it about once a week whereever we could. Some campgrounds offered it (Diamond, MO comes to mind), one hotel let me use theirs (Holiday Inn Express, Missoula, MT), but we largely connected at restaurants and cafes while dining. The girls are slow eaters, so it gave me something to do while I waited for them to finish playing with (and eventually eating) their meal.

Next time around, I may actually shell for internet access card. We'll see what the charge is at that point. It's actually nice NOT to have to get online everyday. Then again, if I can find a trip sponsor who wants me to make daily reports - DONE!

Since we didn't have internet daily, I did do a lot of the planning ahead of time. In fact, I created one binder with the map of our PLANNED route (note the emPHAsis) complete with the campground info, and another binder for the girls with info about the stops we were making. Their binder included one page on each state (state name, motto, song, flower, bird, other interesting factoids) to read as we crossed state lines. I downloaded the state song melodies where possibel and we tried to learn the songs. (Unfortunately I didn't get the midi files made in time on some of them so that went by the wayside a bit.) When we were headed to Mt. Rushmore, for instance, I had some information about the project, its history and the presidents to read BEFORE we arrived. Then of course their were junior ranger programs everywhere.

So, yea, I had some idea where I wanted to camp each night, but left lots of room for change. Don Wright's book (yes, that's the one) came in very handy. Even in places where I THOUGHT I knew where I wanted to camp, I checked the book. I wish it had included Missouri in its "western" edition. Could have used it there, but stumbled across some nice camping there anyhow. It would also be helpful for you to know that his campgrounds are sometimes QUITE out of the way, up dirt roads and such. I'm not opposed to dirt roads and drive places others with my setup (minivan and trailer) would never dream of driving. What can I say? Years of practice with a 4x4 has dulled my senses, I suppose. I know my limitations and plan accordingly. (Plus, I'm REALLY good at backing up.)

I only made reservations over Labor Day Weekend (because I was afraid we'd end up in a WalMart Parking lot, and no offense to WalMart, but I'm not a parking lot camper - plus we don't have a commode). Otherwise, it was a free for all and we only got left out in the cold (so to speak) ONE night of all of those - in Cardston, Alberta, Canada during the International Miniature Chuckwagon Championships - who knew?!



We also noticed LOTS of FGTs once we hit Canada, including this one in camp.
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Old 03-10-2009, 02:16 AM   #8
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That little Boler looks just like mine

Thanks for the additional info on the free campground book and how you planned your trip. You have a couple of lucky girls there! Neat that you don't mind taking some back roads.

By the way, there is now free wi-fi at most Starbucks. It's a little convoluted to get signed up, but then you get two hours free per day through AT&T wi-fi (they are providing wi-fi to Sbucks now and not T-Mobile as it used to be).

The one "catch" is that you have to have a Starbucks card that you've used within the last (IIRC) 90 days. I don't usually go in for these cards, but this one you can just pay cash for - no big application where you have to give them your life history. So I just put $5 or so on it and then use it if I'm buying coffee anyway (which I do when I use the wi-fi). It spends for the same amount you bought it for - no fees or anything.

I don't have a cell card or air card either, so this is one more "club" of wi-fi in my golf bag of possibilities when I'm traveling.

Raya

I'm not sure when they switched over to this system, but I first used it last spring or so.
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Old 03-10-2009, 02:34 AM   #9
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Maybe it IS yours! Were you at Waterton Lake National Park (ALberta) in late summer?

Thanks for the Starbucks info.
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Old 03-10-2009, 07:32 AM   #10
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Jen,

Nice trip for you and the girls. I did a similar trip planner on my 3 month trip to the Great Lakes. I had each state separated in a binder with pertinent information and all my campground reservations or places I might light to stay at. I often just wing it but I found a little organization was a Gods Spent on such a long trip.

Say you were mentioning WiFi. I had purchased a WiFi Finder several years ago for about $25 at Staples. I have it attached to my laptop case. When I'm interested in WiFi I simply push the button and it searches for WiFi in the area. There are 3 lights that indicate the strength of the signal. Once I got a signal I'd turn my laptop on and it would tell me what it was picking up and whether they were secured or not.

On my Alaska trip someone told me that Motel 8's have WiFi so I'd pull into a parking lot across the street and connect. I can't remember the other major businesses that I found on my own. Oh, often visitor centers have WiFi that you can pick up in their parking lots or maybe have to go just inside the facility.

Once again glad you had such a nice fun trip.
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Old 03-10-2009, 07:54 AM   #11
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What a good mother you are! Your girls will remember this trip for the rest of their lives. This builds a sense of adventure and independence that they will no doubt inherit from you anyway. It also proves that you don't need the latest and greatest to get out there on the road and have fun.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:15 AM   #12
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What a great story and what a terrific MOM. You are giving your daughters memories for a life time... and I bet they "pay it forward" with their own children. When they're at the rocking chair stage in their lives, they'll be able to remember back and relive this great adventure and I'm sure among others you're sharing. Other parents can learn alot from you... and that includes me
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Old 03-10-2009, 10:29 AM   #13
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Ahhhh Spring. Seems like a fleeting dream to us in Alberta. -25C this morning (that's -13F for you US folks). That is darned cold for January, let alone March. I CANNOT wait to get out in the Boler this year and envy those who can take those long road trips. Someday......... (deep sigh).

Dianne
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Old 03-10-2009, 11:02 AM   #14
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Aw! What sweet people you all are! I've heard that I'm crazy, unfit, odd, unusual, non-traditional, fantastic, wonderful, creative, loony and more. I'll confess some of those are true. You pick.

Thanks for your words of support!
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