The Great California Escape – Eight Weeks Under our Belts

The Great California Escape – Eight Weeks Under our Belts

We began our great escape from California almost eight weeks ago. The trip has been loaded with blessings and sprinkled with challenges. I last posted about our travels after we visited Ohio. We went there to see friends that we met on last year’s trip to Florida. We have been blessed to meet the most wonderful people on our RV excursions over the past four years. It’s been great to have folks to visit all over these beautiful United States.

From Ohio, we headed to Pennsylvania on route to pick up our tow vehicle in Maryland. We sold practically everything we owned before departing the not-go-golden state for good. With the recall of gruesome Newscum going down to defeat, we couldn’t be happier to be out of it. We sold all of our vehicles because we didn’t intend to give California another penny for registration, and my car was not flat-towable. As I mentioned in my earlier post, we saved over a thousand dollars on the motorhome registration alone when we switched it to South Dakota, our new legal domicile. We have to return to the state every three years and stay at least 24 hours in Pennington County to keep our residence up to date. If you are thinking about becoming a full-time RVer and have questions about this process, please email me, and I’ll be glad to offer advice.

Tommy had been searching the internet for a flat towable car that had all of the proper towing equipment included since we left California. He’d done a lot of research, and we have talked to many fellow RVer’s. The Blue Ox system has had fantastic reviews, and it’s what Tommy was hoping to find. He saw a few possible matches, but they were never anywhere near us. Last month he found a 2009 Ford Explorer with one of the top Blue Ox tow packages in Maryland. The gentleman that was selling it was going to New York for a week. So, it wasn’t a problem for him to wait for us to make the drive from Ohio. The date was set. I found a KOA close to his house to stay at while we took care of the transaction. Talk about a blessing! This car is so clean that it looks brand new. Mac, the car’s owner, takes care of his stuff. We are thrilled with our purchase.

Back to our drive to Maryland. The drive to Ohio had been stressful, and we hoped for a more pleasant exit from the state. It didn’t start out very well. Despite doing plenty of research on Google Maps and RVTripWizard, we ran into some problems. We’d chosen what looked to be the best route, and I had a picture of it on my phone. We entered the destination address into the motorhome’s GPS, and the blue course it offered seemed to match the one on my phone. Off we went, and it was a beautiful drive. The county roads that lead to the highway were windy and small, but the views were gorgeous. Beautiful scenery doesn’t impress Tommy one little bit when he’s driving a 40-foot motorhome at a snail’s pace, tight turn after tight turn. He was handling the situation pretty well when Samantha, that’s our GPS guide’s name, told us to make a left turn on Crooked Road. Could the road get more crooked, we wondered? On the approach, we saw that a huge truck and trailer were backing up into the road, and it looked to be having difficulties. I hopped out of the rig and went to ask the man giving the truck driver directions if turning there was a good option. That’s when I noticed that it was a dirt road. Needless to say, he suggested that we didn’t take the Crooked Road. He told me that he was sure we’d find a better option if we kept going straight. One catastrophe was avoided because of God’s timing. A truck blocking the road wound up being a blessing.

We had three days to get to Maryland, and I hadn’t booked any stays in between because I wasn’t sure how far we’d want to go. What I did know was that we needed to do some serious shopping. I don’t remember the last time our refrigerator was that bear. We headed towards Pennsylvania and were on Hwy 36, which looked to be in the middle of nowhere. In Coshocton, Ohio, right off of the freeway, was a super Walmart, Yahoo! We have been trying to boycott Wally World as much as possible because we are angry about them replacing all of their checkers with self-check cash registers. We feel like their loyalty is misplaced, and they are doing severe damage to working Americans with this policy. Not to mention that self-check is a pain in the butt. We have stood in long lines in the only check stand operated by a human being because we refuse to scan our own groceries. If you have any produce in your cart, it’s not a game you want to play. Not only was this Walmart almost empty, but three checkers were waiting to serve us. We walked right up and put our groceries on the conveyer belt. Our checker was very pleasant, and we were out of the store in record time. Blessing number two. Thank you, Jesus. We had a fully stocked frig, and it wasn’t even 10:30 a.m. What a wonderful surprise.

On travel days, we try to stop and get a nice lunch. I hate cooking after being on the road. We usually have leftovers, so I don’t have to worry about fixing dinner. Low and behold, on I-77 in Kimbolton, Ohio, we found Jackie’s Family Restaurant. I’d Googled restaurants near me, and it wasn’t too far off of the interstate. As it turned out, it was pretty easy to park the motorhome. That in itself was a huge blessing. You never know when you bring up a restaurant in your search engine if you can park close to it. We’d attempted to go to another restaurant where parking was a challenge. Tommy did his thing, and we found a spot. After walking to a place with five-star reviews, we were greeted by a sign on the door that said a water main had broken, and they were closed until further notice. With our heads hanging down, we headed back to the motorhome. We stopped at another restaurant that we’d passed on the way, and it too was closed because of the water main issue. It was another 30 miles to find Jackie’s, and we were glad that we did. Tommy had liver and onions for the third time on this trip, and it was the best that he’d eaten. I had a great burger served by our lovely and overwhelmed waitress, and we left with happy tummies. The service industry is in dire need of people that want to work for a living. We are always sure to tip well and be patient and kind to the great people serving us.

We felt so accomplished, and since we had three days to make our journey, I suggested to Tommy that I start looking for a place to spend the night. I found the Spring Valley Campground in Cambridge, Ohio. They had just received a cancelation for one of their larger sites. It was only $38.00 for the night, and it was a great little campground on a small lake. Since we didn’t need to leave early the next day, I was able to take a fantastic walk and got to see more horses. I do love my horses. I couldn’t pet them because a sign next to the electric fence said they might bite. It was a lovely final morning in Ohio. It is by far the greenest state we have ever seen, and we’ve been to 39 of them. We will definitely be returning to it. It may even be a good option for an extended seasonal stay.

I’d made some calls to RV parks in Pennsylvania the day before, and many were booked up. I left messages at a couple of parks and emailed one. I told Tommy that I may had blown it by not having a destination to stay at for Friday and Saturday nights and when we’d gone to bed, I had no idea if we’d find a place to stay. The following day when I opened up my email before my walk, there was a message from the Saunderosa RV Park in Mercersburg, PA. The message said that she’s had a cancellation and could put us in a nice big site for two nights. They were also having a festival on Saturday. It was a fabulous park on a small lake. The seasonal campers had their sites set up beautifully. It was a pleasure walking around and checking them out. There were Trump signs all over the place. I thought Pennsylvania was a blue state? I’m looking forward to them doing a recount of the November election votes.

The Tractor Festival was fun. We tried the hatchet toss, which we weren’t very good at, had a smoothie made with a local distillery’s vodka, and grabbed lunch to take to the motorhome. We’d enjoyed the miniature golf course so much on our first night there that we played again after we ate dinner. The stay at this park was a huge blessing. We have experienced many God-incidences on this trip. He always makes a way for us.

We were staying at the Washington DC/Capitol KOA to meet up with Mac, the soon-to-be ours Ford Explorer owner. It was only 118 miles away, so it should have been an easy trip. Like Ohio, Pennsylvania has many small windy county roads. Once again, we’d done plenty of research on the most desirable route. We were taking it slowly through lots of twists and turns, and I noticed that there was a sign that pointed to the left with the country road number that we were on. Since Samantha didn’t say to turn, Tommy went straight. Within a very short distance, we found out that it was yet another dirt road. Thankfully, Tommy found a place to turn around, but it was no easy feat. If we had our tow car behind us, we would have been in real trouble. We managed to make it to our destination before noon and were set up by the time Mac showed up with the Explorer. As I said, we were delighted by the condition it was in. Mac was accommodating in showing Tommy how to hook up the towing equipment. Not only was the car pristine, but he included the correct attachment for our bicycle rack. He was pleasant to work with. After spending quite a while with Tommy on Sunday, he returned Monday to take Tommy to the DMV to handle the paperwork. My honey said that they walked right in and had everything handled in minutes. That wouldn’t happen in California.

We stayed at the KOA for three nights and enjoyed our stay. The pool was closed for the season, which was a drag. When it’s 85 degrees outside, a dip in a pool would be enjoyable. The folks that worked there were pleasant and helpful, and they had a great laundry room. I washed our bedding and took a fabulous walk around the beautiful neighborhood. The houses in Pennsylvania are huge! On my return trip to the RV, I noticed a pool table behind the covered swimming pool. I’d purchased a set of balls and cue sticks last year.  We found ourselves in many campgrounds with pool tables but couldn’t play because of COVID restrictions. I’d begun to wonder if we were ever going to use them. Tommy kicked my butt, and we called it an evening.

We are currently at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia, visiting grandkids and great-grandbabies. It’s been quite interesting so far, but I’ll share those stories in my next post. Happy trails, and keep praying and believing. God’s not done with these beautiful United states yet. I believe that great things are ahead for our county. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

God bless, Cat

The Great California Escape – Week Two

The Great California Escape – Week Two

We had such a great time with our pal Teresa and her mom Pat in Idaho Falls. We have been so blessed with wonderful friends. On our way to Idaho Falls from Caldwell, where we enjoyed the company of the Roland’s, we stopped for lunch at Jakers Bar and Grill in Twin Falls. As soon as I saw the billboard sign advertising the restaurant on the interstate, I told Tommy that we had to eat there. You see, my brother’s name is Jake, and I’ve always called him Jakers. It was a great meal that fortified us to finish the trek to our storage facility in Idaho Falls.

As I said in my earlier post, everything we own that wouldn’t fit into our motorhome is in our 20-foot box trailer that housed my Jeep on two cross-country trips. Now the trailer is parked safe and sound at a facility about six blocks from our pal Teresa’s house. Teresa will drive by it often. It blesses my socks off that I found a place so close to her house. It is a God thing because I had no idea it was so close to her when I arranged for the unit. God shows Himself to us through these little blessings all of the time.

We had many views of the Snake River on our drive, and it is truly amazing. We stopped for two nights at The Village of the Trees RV Resort in Delco, Idaho. It was a cute little park that was easy to access from highway 90, but road noise was not an issue. It was beautiful when we arrived, so I set up Paddy’s playhouse. He was so happy to get outside. The weather report said there was a ten percent chance of drizzle that night, so I went to bed without bringing in his beds and items that I wouldn’t want to get wet. At 11:00 p.m. I woke up to pouring rain and ran outside in my nightgown to stick as much of his playhouse under the pop-out as humanly possible. I neglected to grab much of the bedding that had already gotten wet, and I spent the next morning spreading everything out to dry. Our stay there was enjoyable, and $30.00 a night for full hookups in a beautiful park couldn’t be beaten.

I had asked Teresa to scope out the Snake River RV Park close to her because the reviews were not very good. After seeing it, she called to tell me that she would gladly stay there. It had two bar and grills within walking distance and was very close to her house. I tried making a reservation for over a week, and they never had a cancellation. Teresa called me and said that she had called every RV park in the area. The only one close to her was in Shelley. The North Bingham County Recreation Area is about 20 minutes south of Idaho Falls. She’d gone there to check it out, and the manager told her to have me call right away because they only had one site available for our stay. I reluctantly made the reservation because they didn’t offer sewer, and we are glampers in every sense of the word. Tommy drives me crazy, worrying about how often I go to the bathroom if we don’t have a sewer hookup. It makes for a stressful stay.

I called the Snake River RV Park again in a last-ditch effort about 40 minutes from Idaho Falls. I was informed that they still didn’t have room for us. The receptionist told me that they had a sister park in Rigby close by. She gave me the number, and I called the Yellowstone Lakeside RV Park. I was thrilled to secure a spot for our four-night stay. It was north of Idaho Falls, and they offered full hookups, so I canceled our stay at the other park. Thankfully, they hadn’t taken a deposit, and they were great about withdrawing our reservation without a fee. With our campsite reservation handled, we headed to the storage facility. We got our trailer situated in its spot without any problems. After securing it, we stopped on the way to the RV park for a nice Chinese lunch.

The name Yellowstone Lakeside Park was deceiving. It wasn’t lakeside, and it didn’t have any amenities to brag on. That is unless you have a dog. The dog washing station was quite nice. It was, however, conveniently located and had full hookups. It was only 18 minutes from Teresa’s house. She came and picked us up and gave us a tour of Idaho Falls before taking us to her house for dinner. We had a great visit with her and her mom, Pam, before heading back to the campsite in her car. She graciously let us borrow her car since we still don’t have a tow vehicle. We are currently keeping our eyes open and checking Craig’s List and RV forums for a used car with a tow package.

I took a nice walk from the RV park, not knowing exactly where I was headed, and wound up with a great surprise. Adventuring out of the park, I passed a couple of horses while trekking through a small ranch. It took me to the road that led in front of the RV park, and that led me to the Jefferson County Park. It was a beautiful place where we would have loved to stay. It, too, didn’t have sewer, but it was $25.00 a night cheaper than where we were staying and much more pleasant. The Yellowstone Lakeside Park is a glorified gravel parking lot. This county park, blocks away from it, was on a small lake. It had a slide in the middle of the lake, roomy sites, food trucks along the lake that sold tasty snacks six days a week, and a creek running through the back of it. The walking and biking trail around it was nice too. I told the sweet gal at the gate that didn’t charge me the $6.00 walk-in day fee that I would give them a great review and would most likely be back for a day visit with some friends.

Teresa planned lots of great stuff for our visit to the area. On our first full day, she took us to Island Park to have lunch at the Lakeside Lodge and Resort. After a fabulous lunch and tasty beverages, we headed to Johnny Sacks Cabin. It’s an incredible log cabin in Big Springs that won Idaho’s Historic Preservation Award in 2010. It is a must-see if in the area. From there, we went to Upper Mesa Falls. It was amazing!! Teresa was going to take us to the lower falls too, but we didn’t think they could outdo the upper falls, and we were spent. It was a full and fun day. We went back to the RV tired and happy. We needed to rest up for our trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the next day.

Jackson Hole is only a two-hour drive from Idaho Falls, and it is very scenic. Teresa and Pam were amazed by how low the Snake River was in many areas. I guess many parts of the United States are experiencing a drought. I digress. Jackson Hole is a bustling little town, almost too bustling. Tommy and I were both praying for a great parking spot, and we were blessed with one. Teresa and Pam wanted us to experience the Silver Dollar Bar for lunch. I bypassed the LONG line at the door of the restaurant and found four seats at the bar. Favor, once again. Thank you, Jesus. The bartender was slammed, but she still managed to give us excellent service. We enjoyed a tasty lunch and had a great time. From there, we headed to another must-see while in Jackson, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. It’s full of eclectic items, including lots of taxidermy and horse saddle bar stools. The service was good, but the drinks were pricy. It’s what I would expect in a tourist town. The bar was huge and full of happy customers. It was great that out of hundreds of visitors, we saw very few masks.

We had talked about going to the Jefferson County Lake the next day to enjoy a swim on our last day, but after two very full days, we put the kibosh on that idea. Instead, we went to one of Teresa’s favorite spots for Happy hour and another excellent meal. When we arrived at the Smokin Fins, Pam was at the bar saving seats for Tommy, Teresa, and me. The bartender knew her and Teresa well and went out of his way to make us all feel special. They had quite a variety of food. Tommy had sushi, and I had tacos, and everything was delicious. It was an excellent final day in the area.

Our next stop was Melrose, Montana, 178 miles away. We try very hard to stick to the 200-mile, two-day-stay plan. If we go much further, it makes Tommy cranky. I picked the Sportsman Lodging and RV Park because the next stretch of RV parks was over 200 miles from us. I use RVTRIP Wizard in conjunction with RVParky to find our destinations. I love the fact that the Wizard shows you where RV parks are on your route and all the information you need to make your decisions. It lists the amenities, reviews, tips, and the weather in the locations. When I choose our parks, I put them on my list and have an outstanding record of our journey. It also shows you where fuel stops are, and you can add your favorite grocery stores and more to your route. At $39.00 a year, it’s an excellent value. RVParky is free and a great place to check out reviews and RV parks in the area that you are headed.

We got the last spot at the Sportsman, and it was between two giant trees. It was a little tricky to get into, so the park owner came out and helped Tommy back into the site. The Venus and Mars conundrum comes seriously into play when attempting to help Tommy park the motorhome. I was relieved not to be in charge. It was a cute little park with a bar and grill within walking distance. Since we haven’t purchased a tow vehicle yet, this amenity is vital. The Melrose Bar was a fun place. The bartender was so sweet. Not only did she tend the bar and cook the food, but she handled the gas pumps too. There were some video gambling machines there. I lost $8.00, and Tommy won $10.00. It was a fun way to kill some time. We had a pleasant visit with some folks staying in the same park, and it was an enjoyable day. The fried chicken and gravy fries that we took back to the motorhome were surprisingly delicious.

We only got to stay one night at the Sportsman because they were booked up. We were off to Big Timber, Montana KOA, bright and early. We are KOA members and have stayed in many of them, but this one was like no other we had experienced. We always joke about KOAs and trains. Fellow KOA campers totally get it. The first time we hear a train whistle, we laugh about it. Highway noise can also be an issue at KOA’s because most of them are very close to them. The Big Timber park was, however, like nothing we have ever experienced. It was the first time we couldn’t get a sewer hookup at a KOA. I needed to do a load of laundry and figured that I’d do it in the park’s facilities.

We were crammed in like sardines.

We survived the lack of a sewer hookup, but the train and highway noise was horrible. I’m a light sleeper, and it is hard for me to return to slumber once I wake up. I lost count of the trains that sounded like they were right outside of our door. I think the conductors get paid extra from KOA management for hitting the horn additional times. Needless to say, after a two-night stay, I was fatigued. On the bright side, I did get our laundry done for only $3.00.

Despite the problems with Big Timber, I booked us into another KOA in Miles City, Montana. It has been a much better experience. By the grace of God, we are in one of only two sites that have satellite reception. The park is very nice, and the staff is excellent. We were led to our site, and it has a huge patio, table, chairs, and a fire ring. It rained off and on, so we didn’t get to enjoy it much. I couldn’t get out Paddy’s playhouse because of the rain. Try explaining that to a cat. Especially an ornery one like Paddy. The rain very seldom matched up with the forecast. We got a window of opportunity to walk into town, and it was great. Miles City is a cute little town with lots of shops, restaurants and bars, and casinos. They aren’t casinos like Reno or Vegas. They are quaint little places with video games. I put $20.00 into the Hold Your Horses Keno machine and left with $120.00. Tommy left $2.38 lighter than when we walked in. Not bad for a fun afternoon. We went to the Montana Bar from the Silver Star Casino, a historic establishment founded in 1908. We had a nice lunch, and the server was delightful. Bonus, I used some of my winnings to pay for our lunch.

I hope I didn’t drag on too much and bore you. I love hearing from everyone that takes the time to read my blog and check out the pictures of our adventures. We’re off to North Dakota today. It’s one state that we have never been to. If you have some places that you think we should see, please let me know. We’re flying by the seat of our pants this time around, and getting reservations has sometimes been challenging.

God bless and happy travels, Cat