After a hiatus of 23 days covering almost 5000 miles via a camper van there are a few observations that I want to pass on. Some of this information may be useful to future voyagers and some may be categorized as travel blather, but after many days steering and leering it’s time to review some passing thoughts.
The first thing I noticed is there is no concern with saving gasoline via driving 55 mph. Traveling I-80 from the midwest to the Pacific coast with my cruise control set on 55 I managed to pass one vehicle ( a dilapidated converted laundry truck) and was passed by everything else including 1,000,000 semis and eleventy billion passenger cars, travel trailers, motor homes and motorcycles. After all the hype and articles about how you save gasoline by keeping your speed at 55, evidently either no one believes this “research” or there are just a bunch of rich, defiant drivers intent on proving that you cannot dictate fuel economy. I actually found that I did get better mileage than if I drove above fifty five, but that was empirical evidence which I couldn’t afford to ignore.
Another thing I noticed was the number of trees that residents of Wyoming and Nebraska and Idaho planted around their homes. When I hear environmental groups whining about the loss of trees I wonder if they ever look at the trees around homes that are nurtured and cared for in spots where trees in the wild are extinct. Is this an example of man exploiting the planet or something that must be ignored by those who want to blame man for lack of stewardship? I report, you decide. Some advice – if you want to truly remember your trip, keep a journal. My wife wrote down where we stayed and what we saw and after a few days we had to refer back to the journal to determine if the lousy restrooms were in a state park or a private campground. This we could not remember accurately after 489 mesmerizing hours of sage brush and road cones. Speaking of cones, the only thing that exceeds the number of cones placed on extensive stretches of unworked-upon road is the stream of semis that passed our 55 mph cruise control every 4 seconds. Every town in Wyoming had cones for endless miles with exits closed, signs that were inappropriately placed and that made access to services practically impossible to find.
Speaking of Wyoming, don’t try to find a campground close to I-80. Those that do exist think a parking spot should be granted only with your firstborn and the quality gives you a flavor of tenement living. Walmart parking lots are too noisy and crowded with frustrated campers and/or truckers and there is barely a spot to park at most rest stops. On the upside, the weather was delightful and the cuisine was excellent at most places. Some of the scenery was impressive, particularly after eons of sagebrush. A few majestic peaks, an occasional river, badlands, rock bluffs and lakes were welcome sights when you could glance at them while grimacing and tightly squeezing the steering wheel as the ever-present cones loomed ahead for endless miles.
Taking I-80 out of Reno is like driving on a load of broken concrete. By the time we got to Truckee (which by the way has a marvelous restaurant called “Mom’s”) we were so rattled we took the exit ramp just to be able to get some relief from the road surface. A word about some state parks – in typical government fashion, the parks (with a few exceptions) were well-designed but poorly-maintained. Restrooms were often trashed, the grass was well past the mowing stage, and supplies of firewood were unavailable. The inhabitants were far more inclined to leave garbage in inappropriate places than the well-run private campgrounds (which does not include the ones around Rock Springs, Wyoming).
We met some delightful people at many of our stays who shared a wealth of experiences and gave friendly advice. One couple from Yuma, AZ was rigged up with a fifth wheeler and a semi tractor because of a concern with braking ability. Another couple from San Diego left during the summer to “get away” from the bustle of the city (where many go to vacation). We saw where a camper had left a hammock after 12 years living in a campground and dogs…I never realized so many people traveled with dogs. From St. Bernards to Chihuahuas and all sizes and shapes in between. Ah the open road. There is no open road. The roads are congested particularly around metro areas but I-80 runs a close second. Perhaps it was just the length of the trip, but I vow to limit my travel to two days out and only if I can find a two lane road in good repair with easy access to a cheap clean campground. Seeking Nirvana is no piece of cake in an R.V. and there can be no dispute that Dorothy had the right idea about home. I’m sure she wasn’t referring to those whose home changes daily. Which brings me to the gratitude I feel for four walls and roof on a permanent piece of ground where the solitude of missing traffic can be enjoyed. This must be what the gypsy mogul who founded R.V ing had in mind. The appreciation you feel from returning to serenity and abolishing that sensation of bracing for an attack. I know the R stands for Recreational and the V stands for vehicle but secretly I think the letters denote Real Values. Values like stability, quiet, comfort, security and a feeling of being in control. These are values you search for on the road and only when you return to your driveway do you realize your destination was navigated via a boomerang. The one other consolation from an arduous travail is it now seems like such a short drive to the grocery store. Ah the intangibles that satisfy the weary. Would that we remember when we get a cockeyed notion to hit the road. The lessons of the road are many but they disappear too soon. I was thinking of fishing trip and how handy it would be to just jump in the camper van, hook up the boat and just head out for waters unfished. The spirit to roam must clog your memory cells.