Monument Valley and Homeward Bound

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Nov 01, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Monday, October 23, 2006

So, as we conclude our journey, what have we learned about the good ol' USA--and about ourselves?

First, the vital statistics:

--13,600 miles
--exactly four months, sleeping in the Airstream every night. When we parked at homes of friends and family we used the facilities of the Big House, but we always stayed in the trailer.
--average of about 13.8 miles per gallon. On the highway we got as much as 15.6 MPG, but in the mountains down to 12.8.

We learned that small town libraries are the salvation for RVers. They always have computers that are connected to the internet, and it is also a place to find recent national newspapers and magazines. In fact the biggest disappointment was trying to connect to wi-fi throughout the trip--we have a long way to go before this country is really wired.

We have a renewed affection for bunjee cords, WD-40, duct tape, and pieces of 2x4 boards, which can be used to level off the trailer and support the trailer hitch. Don't leave home without them.

While traveling on the road, especially in the rural sections, the food choices are horrible. Greasy hamburgers and french fries are the standard fare. We agreed that such a trip would not have been bearable if we (Marshall) had not cooked along the way. Our final meal somewhere in Oklahoma was scallops and linguini in a parmesan sauce with salad and wine.

We learned that traveling is very hard on books, so we bought most of them at second-hand book stores. Michelle in Durango pointed out that you can buy even cheaper at the local thrift stores--a whole bag for 50 cents. But you must really like John Grisham novels, because that is the main fare. Better books can be found with a little effort. Speaking of books, for more on the western water issues read "Cadillac Desert." Yes, there will be a test.

For us the sine qua non was the Airstream media center. It would have been a long trip without our ability to watch regular tv through the antenna and cable hookup, the Blockbuster videos through the DVD player, and satellite TV on the high-definition Sony screen (except when blocked by trees and clouds). Of course, we are now spoiled and will need to buy a HD tv when we get settled. The media center kept us current with civilization, as we know it.

But not too current. We were only vaguely aware of airline flights bogged down by security scares; of political scandals and campaign events; of school shootings; of war and dilomacy in Iraq, Iran and North Korea. That was enough.

We learned that it is possible to get fresh milk and bananas in every small town and burg in this country.

We learned that there is a large population of full-time RVers who really turn out after Labor Day. Some have gigantic motorhomes and pull a car behind (one guy was towing a Mercedes 500SL--at least a $100K car), but others have popup trailers and tents. Everybody is universally nice and helpful to their neighbors, but also very protective of each others' privacy.

In his classic "Walden Pond," Thoreau wrote, "Simplify, simplify, simplify," and we experienced that during the trip (perhaps he did not mean that we should live in a space smaller than an average closet for four months). Now we must face the fact that we have two storage closets full of clothes and household goods. We are a little overwhelmed by the prospect.

After we left the Moab area, we headed south to the famous Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border. This is the area made famous by the John Wayne movies. As we drove around for the last photo session a storm came through and a rainbow peeked from the clouds--pretty cool. The next day we drove through the barren Navajo reservation and onward to Sedona, but the campground was full--the first and only time during our entire trip that we were closed out. So we turned south and two hours later pulled into the driveway at Marie's house in Scottsdale, where we lived last winter. After hooking up some electricity and filling up the water, we were all set, and spent a few days eating Asian food, playing golf, going to the dentist, and visiting with Marie and Tomasz for a few days.

Then we departed for the long return trip to Arkansas, a distance of 1400 miles all the way on I-40. Three days later we pulled into the home base, hugged grandchildren, and realized that it is now over.

It was great fun to get the feedback from all of our friends through the blog--like we were all around the virtual campfire, holding hands and singing koom by ya. Did you feel it, too? I would like to dedicate our trip to my father in Ohio. This was the trip he always wanted to take, but never did. He taught us how to be be self-sufficient and independent (perhaps too much so), and we would never have tackled this trip without his inspiration. Of course, it is really Marshall who is following in his footsteps, as she is ready to go again. We have no plans to take another Airstream trip, but we are not ruling it out, either. Our immediate plan is to return to Scottsdale for the winter start in December, and I am still holding out to some kind of work or political project.

Thanks for reading the blog and for all of your support. And don't be surprised if you see us pull up someday and park a silver trailer in your yard. We will only be a few days--promise!
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