WA to TX and Back ~ Vintage BNF

A big part of Early Washington was our ability to travel. The company we worked with and all our extended Family was back in Texas ~ about 2500 miles away. Airline x5 was too much ~ so when Dell needed Greg to travel back to Texas for business (about once every 3 months) we negotiated getting ourselves there and back and coming in cheaper for Dell than air / hotel / car for one. We did this by trading our boat and purchasing a ’91 Toyota Itasca motor-home. This is a really great RV if you don’t need much space or storage. The GVWR (weight) allows only 600 pounds for people, luggage, gas, groceries, water, food, pets… In other words, getting in the thing and filling up the gas tank puts you overweight. To keep it going, your foot is on the floor the whole time, but it got 14mpg! We had no problems with this RV and could park it like an SUV. Loved it.

And fell in love with the road. At first it was kinda freaky to think about doing over 5000 miles round trip on a schedule ~ we would plan for three days driving there , a week at Dell working in Austin, a week visiting Family and friends, and three days driving back. We would always take as much time as we could to visit places in between and Greg could work on the road with a cell and email (nobody was waiting back in an office in Seattle for us).

These trips were not without incident. Our very first RV trip for Dell in the Toyota was filled with apprehension on our part and Dell’s. We were trying to prove that it would work and Dell was skeptical. Thirty minutes out of town on this first trip we were coming over Snoqualmie Pass where it was raining pretty hard with snow melting all around leaving lots of debris being kicked up. We heard a LOUD BANG and looked around deciding that the kids must’ve made the noise on the table where they were sitting. Then we started getting wet. Turns out something had broken out the front window in the sleeper over the cab. After patching best we could, we paid to spend the night under a motel canopy in the next town so we didn’t keep getting wet inside. We woke up in a little town in Eastern Washington on a Saturday hoping to get the window replaced so we could stay on schedule. After struggling to find a windshield place that would see us on Saturday, we finally found a guy that told us it would take two weeks to order and get the window we needed. We were discussing ways to just patch it and seal it so we could continue when he realized the way it was designed it would actually take windshield glass that he could cut. A couple of hours later we were back on the road and expected to drive long hours to stay on schedule.

The schedule was blown that night when we drove into Idaho. It had snowed all day and the night before and started snowing again on a sheet of ice on the Interstate. After sliding around for an hour or so, we pulled over and hooked up in an RV park. Greg goofed that night and turned all the surrounding snow blue from the holding tank chemicals so we bailed very early the next morning and drove on ice very slowly. The day was looking beautiful and sunny with a layer of fluffy snow across the fields. Then the wind kicked up. All the loose snow in the fields began to blow horizontally across the roadway and at times we couldn’t see the hood of the truck, so we pulled over on the side of the highway with other traffic to wait. The winds were blowing up to 60 mph and hitting the RV on the side turning it into a large sail. Since we were sitting on a sheet of ice, the RV was actually blowing into the road as we sat in the back! We had to turn it sideways into the wind and wait. It was really awful because we were anxious to stay on schedule and could see blue skies when the wind would shift. We did feel pretty fortunate that we were in an RV and able to make coffee and sit on a couch, take naps, and wait ~ about six hours! When traffic started moving, it was still pretty dangerous and we followed a semi out of the snow listening intently to the CB radio for info. When we finally broke into roadway after that was relatively clear after 30-45 minutes of white knuckle driving, we learned that the Interstate had actually been closed where we were. It looked like Armageddon with cars in the ditches and overturned and wrecked into each other. There was also two tour buses that were buckled into each other that we later learned was a professional sports team. When we made it to where the road block was on the other side of the Interstate, people were out of their cars in lawn chairs and had clearly been there for many hours. The backup on the other side extended for hours driving at about 60mph. We felt lucky.

We would change up our drives and most often make our way through the middle of the country ~ Yellowstone was one of our favorites even though we couldn’t spend time here, driving through was great.

We would stop at the sites we passed, made one heck of a commute to work!

The desert has always been one of our favorite places ~ the ocean is another. And we really like the mountains and valleys too. Aw jeez, it’s all cool.

It was one of our Toyota trips that we first went to the VLA near Socorro, NM. It’s easily one of our favorite places visually connecting the infinite earth with the endless universe. It’s also where Contact, one of our favorite movies was filmed.

And here’s the spot where there is access to the infinite earth.

One of our trips across the country had to be made in wintertime so we took I-5 south about 1250 miles, then left on I-10 for another 1250 miles. Easy to navigate, hard to drive. So we took a break in Santa Monica where the two Interstates connect. We were walking down the boardwalk (usually concrete) when Austin started making strange noises walking behind us. There was a group of Asian tourists stalking him and wanting to take his and our picture (thinking we were celebrities maybe?). None of them spoke English so through hand gestures, nods, and bows we managed to have pictures of our Family taken with separate groups of about 30 Asian tourists. After they had their paparazzi moment, we turned the tables and took our picture with them.

After making four WA to TX and back trips with the Toyota RV over the years, we never wanted to go home. We just wanted to keep traveling and living in the RV on the road ~ and that was a 21′ Toyota! After the Dell team grew in Seattle and we weren’t alone anymore, we lost a lot of the freedom we had enjoyed working together. Our thoughts culminated into reality when we traded the Toyota for a 37′ motor-home that we could move into. We purchased our new home in July ’00 with a rough plan to take about a year to wrap things up. Our maiden voyage in our new home was for Dell (WA to TX and back) in late August. We had searched extensively for just the right RV to replace our Toyota and decided on this one that was styled nicely, had lots of interior room despite no slides, low mileage (at 18,000 for a ’92), and priced right for that time in its market. We wanted a diesel coach but they were typically $30k more for the same amenities. We figured we could do a lot of gas engine repairs for that kind of money. We’re still glad we chose a gas coach five years later because we’ve only put about 40k miles on it with all the travel that we’ve done. Diesel would’ve been overkill as they’re designed to do several hundred thousand miles per year. We’ve learned over the years that taking a large and heavy rig off the interstates for leisure is just foolish. Most remote campgrounds don’t accommodate anything larger than around 25′, and height, length, and weight issues abound on smaller roads. For these reasons, we’ve moved our home on primary roads from spot to spot and explored the area in our tow car. This first voyage we didn’t even have a car we could tow. The VW came later…

During this journey, we had arranged for two weeks vacation in addition to the week we worked in Austin gave us three weeks plus the two weekends on both sides. We met Greg’s brother and Family to camp near Houston at their favorite spot at Lake Somerville.

While at the Lake, we met this cool Family that had completely redone the interior of this old Winnebago. The more we RV, the more we like the old stuff with fewer systems and less to break.

We also got to spend some time in San Antonio with Greg’s grandmother, Ditty, and her sister, Honditty ~ seriously, and it gets weirder ~ Greg’s mom is Mitty, her grandma was Duddy, her sister was Mitty, Sunny’s legal name is Mitty… So that’s three Mitty’s, a Ditty, a Duddy, and a Honditty ~ long before a P.Ditty or Puff Daddy, what a freak.

We were very proud of our new RV/home. We hadn’t told Greg’s brother and Family that we had a new RV, they were expecting us to show up in the Toyota they had seen before. When we did, they freaked. We still have fun about how Aunt Patti describes this RV by throwing her head around and making hydraulic and air sounds very loudly as if it was a giant bus. It actually looks like a giant bus when there are no other RVs this size around but looks small when its parked next to other RVs and buses its same length. This is because its long, narrow, and short giving a huge visual. And all the noises it was making ~ mega repairs were needed at this time. The power steering pump was growling, the air conditioner fan was busted up and rattling, and while learning how to use the hydraulic jacks we would go to far and release air from the rear airbags. Plus the generator was on because its like 500 degrees in Texas in the summer.

After hanging with the cousins, we did our time in Austin working and playing in all the spots we missed so much.

Zilker park is one of our other favorite places on earth.

Back on the road to Seattle with all the noises bothering us that impressed Aunt Patti. Notice the giant fan? That’s because the AC wasn’t working right.

We removed this chair from the RV and kept Sunny. After removing the chair and table next to it, the kids started calling this space our slide out.

We were in a bit of a hurry to get back to Washington but had some time to visit some places on the way back. We actually spent some time in El Paso for the first time and visited some downtown historic place.

And a couple of days later pulled into Wal-Mart in Salida, CO. to spend the night and figure out why the RV power steering growl was getting worse after losing some power steering, plus our brakes felt weird.

The prospects were ominous.

Very ominous.

We pulled into Wal-Mart late on Friday and soon realized we weren’t going anywhere. Turns out the power steering pump that was growling was because of a leak in the high pressure line which is why we were losing power steering. Even worse, this line that was busted and leaking power steering fluid not only pumped the power steering, but also the power brakes, AND was responsible for releasing the parking brake that locks the transmission from a drum brake on the drive-shaft. What this means is the RV parking brake is locked on and we don’t have power steering nor power brakes until this line is fixed.

So we slept. At least until Saturday when we could get someone to find parts and fix the RV. The shop we found was great (Texaco in Salida near the Wal-Mart). They helped us understand the ‘hydro-boost’ system that was used as described above and he ordered the hose we needed from Denver that would be ordered on Monday and arrive ‘shortly’ after. He even let us hook up the RV to camp next to the shop.

So we rented a Jeep and made the most of being stuck. We went to this really cool ghost town near Salida. There was hardly anyone there and it was a long way down this dirt road. When we arrived and started walking around, the chipmunks started coming out of the woods in the hundreds toward us! It was a spectacular and somewhat spooky sight ~ they didn’t attack us but were clearly interested in us. So we made the kids lie down and put food on them.

Don’t try this at home. We are professionals (at something) that were unprepared to take uncalculated risks with wild animals.

We didn’t get bit. But should’ve after Jenn threw one over her shoulder for good luck.

So these are pretty much the only pictures we have of our unplanned two week stay in Salida. We visited the Royal Gorge, drove to Denver and back, and found Bishops Castle which is a local legend because this one guy has built a castle by himself from rocks he picks out of the local creeks.

We also met these guys who were also stuck in Salida during their quest to RideTheDivide.com ~ Canada to Mexico. Half of ’em made it this far, only two or three of this group finished. Two of their frames were broken when they got here. Since we rented a hotel room, we let them stay in the RV (only after showers). After they left two of them, we befriended Mike and spent a lot of time with him also taking him with us to the Royal Gorge.

We survived Salida and got out after being stuck there for 14 days. It was the last trip we did on Dell’s buck because we turned down business trips then started to arrange for our exit. We were stuck because four of the wrong hoses showed up and we ended up driving to Denver to find the correct hose to fix the RV. After this we still had significant repairs to do to the RV over the next year before we left. We have learned that no matter how much you spend on these RVs, the more systems you have, the more problems you have. Warranties don’t mean much either ~ extended or factory. They somehow get you as experts of writing warranties and service contracts ~ they are not experts at keeping your RV going and you happy. So buyer beware, be prepared for the life of leisure in an RV is an illusion, it’s a house and all those associated repairs and maintenance; it’s a large truck and all repairs and maintenance; it’s also self contained with repairs and maintenance; plus it’s an earthquake every time you move it, and deteriorates if it sits without use. RVs are not for everyone, we’ll probably always have one ’cause we love it.

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