Friday, April 14, 2017

Home sweet home! The winter adventure of 2017 comes to a close

Our trailer in the rest stop
The long slog home is complete. Since we last visited we have covered a lot of ground.

As I mentioned in our last post we departed the resort about 12:15 p.m. on Friday, March 31 (Joan’s birthday) and stopped at the Tucson Camping World and had the grey and black tanks of the trailer flushed and sanitized. We also had the trailer plumbing winterized to survive the cold days in Flagstaff during the next nine months.

While the work was being done on the trailer I dropped Joan at the casino and left to gas the car for the trip to Flagstaff. I returned to the casino, collected Joan and we headed back to Camping World to pick up the trailer and begin the trip home.

On our way up I-10 we spotted an official looking car and it was lettered “Zombie Outbreak Response Team.” It struck us as funny.

Son William at a Napa winery
To avoid going through Phoenix at rush hour we stopped in Casa Grande for Joan’s birthday dinner. Finding a parking spot for a Tahoe pulling a 33-foot travel trailer can be a challenge, but we found an empty section of the mall parking lot and by taking up about 12 spaces we were able to leave the car and trailer and walk to the restaurant for dinner.

We spent a leisurely 90-minutes eating dinner at Mimi’s Restaurant and then walked back to the trailer and began the drive through Phoenix and up the hill (I-17) to Flagstaff. As we did last year we topped off our fuel tank in Phoenix and then started up the long climb.

As we did last year we stopped short at a truck stop and climbed into our trailer for our last night of sleep until next winter. Getting up early we headed to the storage lot and secured the trailer for its long rest. We methodically go through a checklist to make sure nothing is left behind we need home and that everything is locked and secured in the trailer.

We did hit one snag when the new lock I purchased for the trailer hitch turned out to be the wrong size, so I had to make a quick trip to a local store to purchase a new lock for the trailer.
Urgent care in Folsom, California

As soon as we finished all that we began the long drive to Cousin Cynthia’s house in Danville, California and the left coast part of our winter adventure. Cynthia had a wonderful dinner waiting for us and we spent some quality time catching up Saturday night.

On Sunday, Joan and Cynthia enjoyed a quiet day together – I think there was a manicure and a pedicure involved some where  - and I drove over to Santa Cruz and took son William to church and then lunch and dinner before heading back to Cynthia’s. On the way home I was able to stop and visit for a few minutes with son Timothy at his new job as night charge nurse at a San Jose nursing home.
We saw Timothy again on Monday as Cynthia, Joan and I headed back to San Jose and had a nice lunch with Tim before he had to go to work. It was great catching up with him. On the way home we stopped and visited a couple wineries in Livermore so we could pick up a couple more fine wines for the wine basket we donate to the Family Literacy Center auction in May.

Sign outside Urgent Care
On Tuesday Joan and I headed over to pick up William for a short vacation to Santa Rosa with him. We stayed in a condo in Windsor and on Wednesday went to Middletown, California (the scene of a major fire last year) and visited with our friend Jan. Long time readers of this blog will remember that Jan and her late husband Norm, drove to San Antonio a number of years ago and visited us when we were staying there in our trailer. We very much miss Norm, but love it that we have stayed close to Jan and our visits are always full of love and laughter. It doesn’t hurt that she lives a stone’s throw from Twin Pines Casino and she and Joan always spend an hour trying their luck there.

I gave my son William 2 - $1 bills and he parlayed that into a $15 win on a slot machine which he smartly took with him.

Too soon it was time to say good bye to Jan and head back to the condo where we watched a couple movies.
Steve and Susie at Kenny's house

On Thursday we battled heavy traffic south on Highway 101 towards San Francisco but took the East Bay route back to William’s house in San Jose. On the way up to the condo we made the long trip up the coast on Highway 1, passing through Half Moon Bay, Pacifica and San Francisco and it turned into a marathon, so we didn’t want to repeat that on the way home. We did get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge which always brings back great memories.

After dropping William off at his home we started back over Highway 17 only to find that someone had flipped their car which meant an hour long traffic delay getting back over the hill. We did arrive back at Cynthia’s in time for a wonderful dinner with her and her friend Ed.

Joan with Liz and Kenny
I re-loaded the car and prepared for our departure on Friday morning. We left Cynthia’s and headed to El Dorado Hills to visit my old friend Kenny from my police department days. Kenny and his friend Liz are always great hosts and the time always goes too fast there. He promised me a surprise and shortly after we arrived there another old friend from my police days – Steve – arrived with his friend Susie.

On the way to Kenny's we stopped at an Urgent Care so Joan could get some medication for a lingering cough she has had. The pollen in Arizona and California really played havoc with her health this year.

We spent a wonderful evening eating steak and talking old times and catching up. Again too soon the time was up and we were on our way. We had to make a major change in our travel plans due to a weather situation. A winter storm was dumping feet of snow on the summit of the Sierras and our route was supposed to go right over I-80 and Truckee, California so to avoid being held up for many hours we took a long route south through Bakersfield, up through Las Vegas and then north back to I-80 through Salt Lake City. There was no snow on that route, but it added about three to four hours to our overall trip.

Me with Kenny and Liz
We ended up in Mesquite, Nevada where we stayed at a very nice Holiday Inn Express. The town seems extremely new and clean and we had a nice dinner at the Eureka Casino before playing long enough to win a few bucks and then returned to our room for a good night’s sleep before heading north to our next stop.

On Sunday, we drove for more than 10 hours from Mesquite to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The winds were howling all day and I was very thankful that the trailer was stored quietly back in Flagstaff. We hit snow in the high mountains of Utah and at one spot saw five cars spun out in a ditch from an apparent freeze up that must have occurred a few hours before.

The wonderful thing about Utah and parts of Wyoming is the 80 mph speed limits that allow you to really put some miles behind you in a hurry. I wish more states would realize that on many sections of open highway, 80 mph is just as safe as 70 mph.

On this day we spotted some unusual looking cows with a big white strip around their middle and twice crossed the Continental Divide.

Utah scenery
Another long drive day was in store for Monday. We left Cheyenne with the winds blowing a gale and that continued through all of Nebraska and the Iowa. Nebraska is just a long state. Make that a long and boring state. The terrain is flat and the scenery never changes, unless you consider a difference between one plowed field and another a change.

We love Nebraska, but it is just a long drive. Somewhere inside Nebraska the time changed from Mountain to Central which just made the day an hour longer. To pass the time we tuned into “Radio Classics” on the XM radio. I love the old radio shows and Joan tolerates them well. I especially love the old detective and mystery shows like “Johnny Dollar,” “Boston Blackie,” and the “Shadow.”

During one of them some of the dramatic dialogue turned sappy. “She’s the whip cream on my shortcake,” that kind of dialogue. Joan took over the driving for about 90 minutes once we got inside Iowa. She drove to just outside Des Moines when I took the wheel for the final couple hours.
A little Utah snow

We ate in Cedar Rapids at a Texas Roadhouse that we once ate at with my sister Laura and brother-in-law Philip when we went to Iowa City to see an Iowa versus Michigan State football game. After dinner we still had 45 minutes to drive to Davenport, Iowa for our night. We stayed at a Country Inn and Suites and because of my use of this night was free. The website gives you a free hotel night for every 10 nights you book a hotel with them.

Because we only had a short driving day on Tuesday we slept in and enjoyed our hotel room until late in the morning. I still got up relatively early so I went for a walk near the hotel because they didn’t have a fitness center. It was cold (30s) but I dressed warm enough to stay comfortable. While walking I found a cheap gas station and a place to wash the dirt and grime off my car later on.

Wyoming scenery (Joan's driving)
We ate breakfast at the hotel and then started the short trip to my sister’s house in North Aurora, Illinois.

This is the third time we have stopped at my sister and brother-in-law’s house on our journey home and each time we have passed a sign along I-88 that advertises the “Birthplace of Ronald Reagan.” Because my sister was working on Tuesday we didn’t want to arrive too early so we decided to take the detour to see this historic site.

Tampico, Illinois is about 15 miles off the freeway and in the middle of literally nowhere. The little town has seen better days but it has a very nice museum in a storefront located below the roomy apartment where the former governor, actor and President started his life. The apartment has been restored with period furniture.

Reagan's birthplace in Tampico, IL
Before we went to the museum we spotted “Ronald Reagan Park” and then across the street a sign announcing his boyhood home. Unfortunately, that home is currently being lived in and not being well cared for. We spent about an hour in Tampico before heading back to the freeway for the final leg to our familial destination.

During this leg of the trip we encountered one of my biggest pet peeves. Remember, this was Tuesday, not a holiday and we came to a 16-mile construction zone that narrowed the traffic to one lane. The right lane was closed for this entire distance and not one worker, not one piece of construction equipment was working during the entire stretch. If you are going to block a lane for a construction project, at least have the courtesy to be doing construction. It’s almost as big a pet peeve as those sections we run into where they put up barrels and a sign to let you know that a piece of guardrail has been damaged. Why not just fix the guardrail if you’re going to be there anyway?

We arrived at my sister’s after eating lunch and my wonderful sister fixed my favorite dinner – spaghetti. In fact the spaghetti is almost as big a tradition as our stop there. I can only hope it is a tradition that will continue long into the future.

Reagan's boyhood home
On Wednesday, my sister took the day off from work and we went shopping at a number of great stores. Joan and I picked up some really tasty olive oils and a balsamic vinegar from a store owned by one of their neighbors. Then we went to a movie and saw “Gifted” a wonderful movie about a young girl who had a gift for mathematics, but had a grandmother who wanted to exploit her for her own reasons.

After the movie we returned home and later went out to dinner with my family. Too soon our time with them came to an end and on Thursday we were up and ready to make the final trek home to Lapeer. There was one thing that brought a smile to our face. A large motor home had a folding aluminum chair strapped to the back and a sign that said “Mother-in-law.”

That trip was pretty uneventful (and mercifully short by our recent travel standards) and we arrived home safe and sound. We made a stop enroute to home to pick up a Prime Rib for Easter dinner Sunday when we will be reunited with our Michigan children and grandchildren.
Mural on a building in Tampico, IL

So this brings to an end another winter adventure. We leave behind in Arizona many friends and great new memories. When I wake up in the morning in Michigan I will look wistfully out the window and be sad that I can see no mountains. But I look forward to the memories we make here with family and friends and the welcoming weather of a Michigan summer. So I won’t wish I was in Arizona and be happy where I am.

We also left behind in Arizona some friends who are having serious medical challenges and we wish them well and continue to pray for them despite our absence from them.

Joan and I are very aware of how blessed we are to be able to do the things that we do and the life we have. We wish the same for all of our family and friends. So until the next great adventure we close this chapter of Grandma’s Recess. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Here are the stats for the trip home:

Mileage out of Tucson: 66121

Time out: 12:15 p.m. (from resort)
Dinner with family

Time out from Camping World: 4:35 p.m.

(Into rest stop near Flagstaff at 9:58 p.m.)

Mileage in and out at Flagstaff: 66441

Time out of Flagstaff: 7:28 a.m.

Mileage in at Cynthia’s in Danville, California: 67175

Time in at Cynthia’s house: 7:19 p.m.

Mileage in and out at Kenny’s house in El Dorado Hills: 68095

Time out at Kenny’s house Saturday morning: 8:47 a.m.

Mileage in and out at Mesquite, Nevada: 68771

Time in at Mesquite, Nevada: 6:30 p.m.

Time out at Mesquite Nevada (Sunday): 7:45 a.m. (Pacific time)

Mileage in and out at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 69538

Time in at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 7 p.m. (Mountain time)

Time out at Cheyenne, Wyoming: 7:22 a.m. (Mountain time)

Mileage in and out of Davenport, Iowa: 70341

Time in Davenport, Iowa: 8:59 p.m. (Central time)

Time out of Davenport, Iowa: 9:53 a.m.

Mileage in North Aurora, IL: 70506

Time in North Aurora, IL: 2:32 p.m. (Central time)

Mileage out in North Aurora, IL: 70547

Time out in North Aurora, IL: 8:23 a.m. (Central time)

Mileage in at home: 70883

Time in at home: 3:15 p.m. (Eastern time)

Total mileage for trip: 10,152 miles 

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