I remember growing up hearing about people driving all of the way across the USA from the East Coast to the West coast. It seemed like such a foreign idea to me, as the furthest West I had ever been by my 20th birthday was Wisconsin. The drive was always describe to me as a “once in a lifetime” thing to do that everyone should try before they die.
Fast forward to once I started living in an RV in 1997 and we have done at least one drive to the West Coast each year since. Why? There is so much more to see and do than what you can find in one part of the USA, or Canada. Yes, there is much more to the rest of the world, too, but you have to start somewhere.
For us the drive feels like three parts. The start on the east coast, in the middle/end of April where you have green trees, warm weather, and spring is well underway. This year we started in South Carolina, during a major rain/tornado type of storm and drove at night through the Nantahala and Ocoee gorges. We didn’t see any tornados, but that was OK by Dane who really doesn’t even like the idea of them. Kristine and KC intercepted Dane and I in Manchester, TN on I-24 and we started driving towards Saint Louis on Sunday. Our plan was to meet up with Brand Manager of Budweiser American Ale at a local mall. We drove out on Route 40, using my i-phone as the GPS to see how long we would have, etc. and passed by our favorite model home for the first part of our log home search back in the 90’s. It was an Oak Log home called Gastineau. It was a landmark for us in Missouri for many years as we would always stop and look at it when we passed. Joe met us in Saint Louis and hung out with us in the RV for a while as we talked about the rest of the year’s plans. At about 10pm, we headed back out after saying our goodbyes and headed to find a Walmart to sleep in. The first one we found didn’t allow overnight parking, but the Sam’s Club did. I had a Bud American Ale to signify the end of our day’s travels and we went to bed.
6am the next morning we were up and I had walked the dogs, fed them, made coffee, and started the drive. We were going to try for Colorado. We made it as far as “Kanorado” at the end of Kansas. For anyone who hasn’t driven an RV- leaving Missouri means entering Kansas. Kansas means wind, and do does Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Driving a 33 foot Rv with 12 kayaks on the roof to act like sails pulling a trailer with a car on it and another 6 boats, is not easy. Litterally you have to turn the steering wheel 90 degrees just to make it go straight. That wouldn’t be so bad if the wind was consistent. It is gusty and when you go under a bridge, or a truck passes you, the wind stops and you jerk to the side unless really paying attention. I am not complaining, per se, just saying that you have to mentally prepare for 30 hours of hard driving. Kansas isn’t too bad but you notice that you rise in elevation for a long period of time and the weather gets colder and colder. Winter sets in. The big thing I look forward to during this part of the drive is hitting Denver where you finally see mountains again, which is over 100 miles into Colorado after you leave Kansas. We slept in Kanorado, but only after watching the movie Avatar in the RV. It seemed like a good “wind down” idea, until it was very late and we were really tired. Nice sleeping in the rest area, off the road and quiet.
Next morning, same routine-I got up first and walked, fed the dogs, and made coffee and started driving. Kristine and KC got right up and I only drove for an hour or two before Kristine took over. We only average about 50 mph going across country, and the elevation kills our horsepower in the RV and uphill we could be down to 40 mph on a 75 speed limit road. I was super fired up to see the Mountains in Colorado. We took a hard right in Denver and drove up to route 80 in Wyoming, and went across 80. Yes, we are still on 80 and 80 goes into Reno, and even across Tahoe into California. Wyoming is much prettier then Kansas or the flats of Colorado. Awesome that we finally got back in the hills. We hit our first snowshower just before the “little america” hotel that is advertised on billboards across the whole state. Yes, they sell $.50 ice cream cones!
Kristine had the bright idea that we should push for Salt Lake City to go get a couple of Sushi Rolls at her favorite sushi restaurant in the World, “The Happy Sumo” . Kristine got us quite far into Utah, and I took over as we hit over 700 miles for the day ending up in Salt Lake. You pass through Provo and Park City (Olympic towns) and see the big ski jumps on the mountain, etc.. Down a long hill (lower gear) and suddenly we got hit by the biggest wind gust of the trip and litterally felt like we were going to tip over. I slowed down to 40 mph all of the way to SLC. We got a couple of sushi rolls and got our fix, something we haven’t done in a while, as we have been eating Ramon noodles, mac and cheese, tunafish sandwiches, and Krsitine made a good chicken stir fry dinner two nights ago. The RV is good for cooking, but it is hard to make good time and eat anything that takes a long time to cook.
We needed to get out of SLC and made it to the salt flats just outside of town and the wind was ridiculous. It was blowing so hard that the entire RV was bending and tipping about 20 degrees. We stopped at the first rest area we could find and parked. The wind was howling and the RV was going crazy. I put down the leveling jacks to support it better but from 11pm-5am the wind went nuts and actually hit the RV hard enough that I wondered if we would flip over. When we woke up it was clear that a storm blew in and the rain/snow was now coming down. The wind was much better, however. The wind storm blew so many trucks over on the highway that it was crazy. We chose wisely in stopping. Every few miles a truck was on its side on the side of the road.
This morning Kristine got up first, walked the dogs, made coffee and got started driving. She is driving still and we are only about 270 miles from Reno! We are in Nevada, and the casinos lined the state line. Black Jack anyone? The snow was blowing so hard that it was plastered on the side of everything. Not a ton of snow, but enough to remind me that a long sleeve dry deck has more value to me right now than a short sleeved one. Checklist, skull cap, gloves, etc.. OK, got them. Clay just did an update on 80 degree day on North Chick, and surely wore a shorty, or nothing! That part I seriously miss about being East right now. Just as the winter ends and true warm weather hits, and warm water, we drive to where the water is never warm, and the weather is cold again.
I can’t wait to try the new 2010 All-Star at the Reno Whitewater Park. We designed the stern based on our experiences in that park last year at low water where we wore through the 2007 All-Star stern by hitting bottom over and over again in the same spot. This boat is perfect for this whitewater park.
I also can’t wait to paddle the Villain S in California. I have two Villains (larger one) on the roof of the RV too, and will get photos of them in Reno and get them on the website. Yes, we are making them now.
Check out the photos- from my iphone from the trip so far…