Saturday, July 6, 2013

4 more roads to consider (sidebar on USA Weekend article)

U.S. Route 50

Nearly 3,000 miles coast to coast, the quality of this road trip is neck-and-neck with U.S. Highway 2. Start in Ocean City, Md., and head west through Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City and Sacramento. A stretch following the Pony Express trail across Nevada has been called “The Loneliest Road in America.”

Natchez Trace Parkway

It stretches 444 miles from Natchez, Miss., to just south of Nashville. Stop in Tupelo, Miss., and visit Elvis’ birthplace home. A pleasant two- or three-day road trip through beautiful country.

U.S. Route 1 (Connecticut to Maine)

The rugged Maine coast makes this a great road trip. Acadia National Park and Roosevelt Campabello International Park are a short distance off Route 1. Take time to stroll Camden, Maine, a picture-perfect New England village.

U.S. Route 66

OK, “America’s Main Street” is on nearly every traveler’s bucket list, but keep in mind that most of the 2,500-mile “Mother Road” from Chicago to Santa Monica is long gone, ripped up or covered by boring interstates. Some excellent stretches survive — for example, the drive from Kingman, Ariz., to near Needles, Calif. Stay overnight in Holbrook (Ariz.) Wigwam Motel. Don’t miss the restored Harvey House in Barstow, Calif. A good guidebook is a must.

**MY NOTE: This trip is on MY bucket list for sure, so will be done before ever going full-timing.  Besides, it would be a PITA trying to drag a trailer down a road that could end at any time and have to turn around!**

Saturday, June 22, 2013

USA's 5 best road trips

Here's an article I found recently that have some good road trip ideas.  Posting it here so it doesn't get lost.

A road trip is the ultimate getaway. It’s the journey, not the destination, so don’t hurry. Absorb the scenery, visit unusual attractions, eat in roadside diners, knock back a few cold ones in local taverns, and strike up conversations with strangers. The unexpected is part of any memorable road trip.

During 4 1/2 decades, the two of us have driven more than 250,000 miles while touring the USA in a variety of vehicles including four VW campers. We have motored through all 50 states (we flew to Hawaii).

All the trips were enjoyable and educational, but five stand out. The first would be on anyone’s list of great road trips, and the second two are likely on most lists. The last two may be surprising, but only for folks who haven’t driven them.

We’ll see you on the road.

The Pacific Coast Highway.

The USA’s premiere road trip winds 1,700 miles along the Pacific Coast from southern California to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The scenery is breathtaking with stops that include Hearst Castle, Big Sur, San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Olympic National Park. Open the windows and enjoy the fresh air as you drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and watch giant container ships glide underneath. Stare in wonder at the towering redwoods of northern California. Stop in Tillamook, Ore., and enjoy a tour of the Cheese Factory. Walk the beach in the Kalaloch area of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and renew your spirit with the ocean breeze and pounding surf. It would be easy to spend most of a summer on this spectacular road trip. We know, because we did.

Kid stops: San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park; Sea Center at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; Skunk Train through the Redwoods in Mendocino, Calif.; Lewis & Clark National Historical Park in Astoria, Ore.; Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, WA. State parks and beaches are accessible along much of the route. San Francisco offers so many sites and activities for children the city is worthy of a separate trip.

Florida State Highway A1A and the Overseas Highway.

This 600-mile trip traces Florida’s Atlantic coastline from northeast of Jacksonville to Key West. Interesting stops along the way include St. Augustine, the oldest town in the U.S. (sort of); Daytona Beach, where you can drive on the beach; Canaveral National Seashore; and the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Highway A1A meets U.S. Highway 1 in Miami. Thus begins the scenic 127-mile drive on the Overseas Highway that boasts 42 bridges, including famed Seven Mile Bridge. Swim with a dolphin, stroll through a rescued bird sanctuary, tour a turtle hospital. Much of the road parallels Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad that commenced operation in 1912 and was destroyed by a 1935 hurricane. The rail line was later converted to an auto route that today remains visible for long stretches. We consider Key West to be Florida’s premiere destination.

Kid stops: St. Augustine’s Marineland; John F. Kennedy Space Center; Palm Beach Zoo and South Florida Science Museum; Everglades National Park; Florida Keys Eco-Discover Center; Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Public beaches line the Florida coast; interesting stops for kids are scattered along the Overseas Highway.

Newfound Gap Road/Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive.

This seamless, leisurely drive through three national parks offers some of the East Coast’s most scenic landscapes. Newfound Gap Road (32 miles long) cuts across Great Smoky Mountain National Park and connects with the Blue Ridge Parkway (469 miles), which connects with Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive (105 miles). This wonderful drive is void of billboards, traffic lights, roadside trash, and speeding 18-wheelers. We have taken this trip many times and look forward to doing it again. The ideal seasons are spring, for blooms, and fall, for colorful foliage. Six national park lodges along the way offer fun places to overnight. Newfound Gap Road was closed by a major landslide in January 2013, but is expected to open for traffic in mid-May.

Kid stops: Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; whitewater rafting near Asheville; Roanoke’s Virginia Museum of Transportation. National Park Service visitor centers along the route offer videos, exhibits and the entertaining, educational Junior Ranger programs.

U.S. Highway 2.

The northernmost U.S. highway zigzags through mountain ranges, traverses the northern Great Plains, and swings around lakes as it connects Everett, Wash., with Houlton, Maine. The entire route, including a 700-mile stretch in Canada, covers 3,300 miles. In the West it crosses the North Cascades and the Rocky Mountains. In the East it meets the Green and White mountain ranges. In between it passes through small towns with local museums and inviting coffee shops. In western Montana the highway curves around the southern border of magnificent Glacier National Park. Here, take a short detour on Going-to-the-Sun Road that bisects the park. Driving through Minnesota (including Duluth, birthplace of Bob Dylan) will make clear why the state bills itself “the land of 10,000 lakes.” The trip offers a peek at three Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron. In the Canadian section spend time in Ottawa, the country’s beautiful capital city. After a visit to Montreal, the road turns south and reenters the US. Arriving in Bangor, Maine, consider Alternate 1 and visit Acadia National Park.

Kid stops: Coulee Dam tour and light show; Spokane’s Riverfront Park; Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site near Williston, ND; Bemidji’s Headwaters Science Center; Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie; Ottawa’s Parliament Building and changing of the guard; Montreal Biodome; Vermont Capitol tour in Montpelier.

U.S. Highway 395.

Connecting southern California with the Canadian border, this 1,300-mile drive traverses high deserts and mountain valleys through a large portion of the scenic West. The highway runs in a north-south direction through some of the most beautiful, but uncrowded sections of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The best portion is arguably California’s Owens Valley, which bisects two major mountain ranges. Stop in the small town of Lone Pine, Calif., where many western movies were filmed nearby. Take side trips to Death Valley National Park and Lake Tahoe before stopping in Reno for inexpensive lodging and entertainment. The drive through northern California, Oregon and Washington passes through small towns and offers great vistas on an uncrowded highway that crosses the mighty Columbia River three times.

Kid stops: Bodie State Historic Park, a ghost town near Bridgeport, Calif.; Virginia & Truckee Railroad train ride from Carson City to Virginia City, NV; Reno’s Discovery Museum; Pendleton (Ore.) Family Aquatic Center; Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Pasco, Wash.; Spokane’s Mobius Kids Children’s Museum & Science Center.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

New Beginning

Since it appears that the reason for starting this blog is no more, I've decided to delete what little it had and start over.  A new beginning along with my new plans.  This time, however, the plans will be all mine to do with as I wish.

There have always been two competing desires for living out my life.  One is that I wanted a little homestead.  Nothing big, just enough room for a garden, fruit trees, maybe some chickens for eggs.  Thought about the animals (goats?) but I know I wouldn't be able to kill and eat them.  I would be running a retirement home for old hens. 

However, I'm getting older (this year is the big 5-0).  Not that I planned on making my livelihood from farming, but it still requires physical effort.  Something that with my approaching age and health I may not be able to provide for a long period of time.  And I would hate to spend that time and effort (and money!) building up a place, only to have to get rid of it because I could no longer keep up with it.  I don't have any one to pass it on to.  I don't have any real reason to remain here.

Therefore, I've decided my retirement plans will be to spend several years full-timing......buying some type of RV and spending several years on the road.  I'll eventually have to settle down (where I don't know) but I can get a little place then.

However, it will be several years before I can set the plans in motion.  I'm eligible for my pension after 30 years (have 27 right now) but since I plan on paying cash for the rig, I'll need some time to save for it.  Also, I'll receive a bigger pension by working longer.  Right now, the number I'm shooting for is 40; that'll give me about 12 years to save money and be ready to go.

My current plans are the following:
  • Saving money to pay cash for rig (to be determined) 
  • Creating a small nest egg for emergency cash on the road; pension along with Social Security (if still there) will provide enough income for monthly needs with some extra to save for the future
  • Downsizing and 'pretending' to live as if already full-timing, in order to keep my life simple
  • Doing research into locations to visit, full-timing lifestyle, etc.
So, this will be where I'll dream, post plans, recipes, interesting places to visit and store information for the future.
Of course, all this is subject to change if I win the lottery!!