Despite homesickness, despite missing my bed, my shower, my kitchen, and despite the walls of the RV literally closing in on us due to the slide issue, ending a trip like this is difficult. I’m an hour and a half from home, and desperate to get there, but also anxious about settling into real life, disappointed that we left so many interesting places unexplored, and most of all, scared of losing the incredible bond this type of travel has created for us. This trip has been an adventure; a way to see our country and Canada, but it was far more than a vacation. Raj and I have reconnected as partners, we have spent nearly every minute of every day with our kids for 122 days away from home, and its indescribable how special (and challenging) that has been. Though I’m looking forward to the normal breaks and space we will get from our kids (Raj even more so), and know some separation is healthy for all of us, I simply feel we’ve made so much progress as a family that I’m (perhaps unnecessarily) apprehensive life at home could derail us. Over the 9 days it’s taken us to drive from San Francisco to home in Atlanta, I’ve experienced moments of wanting to hop on a plane to get there faster, but also the pull of “the road” trying to suck me back in for more time with my family in this special bubble.
We didn’t make it very far our first day – only to Stockton, CA. A friend who’s been helping look after our house requested a favor – to pick up a package left to him by his deceased father. His sister lives in Stockton and warmly welcomed us on her land where she has 8 RV spots (they are avid travelers and participate on Boondockers Welcome). Not only did they hook us up for the night and let the dogs run free, but invited us over to their main house for wine and cheese! We shared stories of our adventures, thanked them in person for some advice they’d sent right before our trip began, and enjoyed the peace of their beautiful property, complete with an abundant tomato garden (they allowed Nina and London to pick about 100 ripe cherry tomatoes and then gave them to us too!). It was a lovely place and offered us the opportunity to get some solid rest and wake up refreshed for a long first day.
We put in about 13 hours on the road that first day – by far the longest since we began our journey on June 11th. Raj was a machine – a horse to the barn – and the kids held up really well. We, of course, stopped often for meals and eventually pulled over at a rest stop and got the kids ready for bed. We kept driving after they fell asleep and finally decided to pull over when we passed a town with a Walmart. For the 2nd time on this adventure, we slept in a Walmart parking lot! This time, though, it was a choice. As a side note, the area we passed through that long hard day on the road, was washed out just 4 days later by intense rain and mudslides! We saw on the news the same stretch of road, just east of Bakersfield, where cars, trucks and RVs were up to their windshields in mud! Luckily nobody was seriously harmed, but it was shocking to think that just a couple days later and that could have been us.
We woke up at Walmart and immediately started driving. We put in another long day but this time, we took a few hours to detour and visit the Grand Canyon. It was just too close to pass up! We basically drove a loop north of Flagtaff. Initially we had thought we’d camp nearby, but since Raj and I have both visited the South Rim before, we decided a quick tour would suffice. We enjoyed stretching our legs on a walk, taking some pictures and then driving east on the Desert View road and stopping several times to witness the vast and impressive canyon from varying angles and spots. We exited out of the East entrance and then drove south until we re-connected with I-40/Historic Route 66 and made it a couple more hours before stopping for the night. At this point, we were 2 days ahead of where we had expected to be. The need to get home was strong and nothing, even the Grand Canyon, or a day of rest, could distract us from our mission!
I wrote a while back about how Raj is a “mountain person” and I am a “beach person.” I completely ignored the obvious third category of desert lovers. To me, the desert, even with the lovely canyons in reds and oranges, is unwelcoming. I long for greenery, for blue waters, for the shade of lush plants and trees. So driving through the desert was less interesting to us than it would be to others. As such, we didn’t want to stop and rest there. We just drove and drove, day after day, through Arizona, New Mexico and Northern Texas and stopped only when we got tired, hungry, or when the kids protested being in their seats any longer. We did, however, see some lovely sunsets in that area.
By the time we got to Oklahoma, the scenery started to change. All of a sudden there were rivers and lakes, trees, and patches of grass (dogs were even more thrilled than I!). Raj and I knew that we all needed a break – a good day of rest- so I searched out a good campground where we’d have the amenities that would make a day of rest enjoyable for everyone. We ended up at a wonderful KOA just east of Oklahoma City and snagged their last remaining deluxe site, which was not only spacious with full hookups, but a built in patio with fire pit and grill. We were right next to their large off-leash dog walk, and just down the hill from their playground. There was grass, trees, and a nature trail through the woods, and we took advantage of all of it on a beautiful sunny, breezy day.
We also managed to get in touch with my Great Aunt Lynda in Hot Springs, Arkansas and arranged a short detour to visit her. So when we left Oklahoma City we made our way there. Her driveway was a bit challenging because of the slope, but we managed to park there so we could spend more time with her. She was so accommodating and chill, even when we had to cut a branch off her tree in order to maneuver in! We toured her beautiful home (which had way too many breakable things for my toddlers to be near) and let the dogs run in her backyard. She showed us her boats and told us many stories (while the kids slept in front of the fire) of her time with my Great Uncle Warner, who died of ALS in 1994. My family is small, so having the opportunity to connect with her and hear new stories was very special. It was incredibly tempting to stay longer with her, both because she is so fun and full of information, but also because Hot Springs, Arkansas intrigued us and we wanted to explore the bath houses, gardens and nature surrounding it. Regrettably, after a nice breakfast with her, we had to say goodbye and finish up the last few days of our journey.
And here we are, a couple days later, pulling into Atlanta as I write this. it’s been quite the ride. I have zero regrets. I am full of gratitude. My gypsy spirit is, for now, quiet. This is far from the end of our travels and adventures (and it’s not the last chapter of the blog either), only the close of our 2015 RV Road Trip. Thank you all for following along, for the advice, recommendations and the encouragement!