Monday, September 17, 2007

More Odds Than Ends

I borrowed the name of the store I saw in Wyoming (I think) as the title of this entry, because it is about this and that—things I want to be sure to remember, and which maybe anyone reading this will find interesting. I’ve gotten emails from people saying they are reading and enjoying this blog, and I know it is serving the purpose of reassuring those who might worry about us, as well as sharing our experiences. So here are a few details of our trip, and random thoughts, that I hope are interesting (if not, don’t read any further, LOL!)

The Next Exit: A book we have found invaluable is The Next Exit—it is worthwhile to anyone who drives the interstate highways. It has a chapter for each state, and lists all the interstates in that state in numerical order. For each highway, it then lists all the exits, and identifies by name any businesses located at each exit: gas stations, truck stops, hotels, restaurants, and any other stores and businesses which happen to be located at the exit, including major chain stores, supermarkets, visitor centers, outlet centers, etc. If you are hoping to find an Arby’s for lunch, or a Holiday Inn for the night, (or a Flying J so you can refill your fresh water tank!), you can read down the exits before you reach them and determine where you will want to get off the highway. It even says “no services available” if the exit has nothing there of use to a traveler—which is a great help to anyone thinking they will “fill the gas tank at the next exit.” Good to know if there are no more gas stations for another 25 miles!

The Bag O’Fun: Before we left home, Betsy gave us a small shopping bag which she labeled “Bag O’Fun”. Inside it are 30 small brown bags, one for each day of September, each sealed closed and each hinting on the outside what might be inside: “For a Rainy Day”; “Is It Really Hot?”; “Yum!”; “Silly”; “For Roxy”. The idea for the Bag O’Fun came from a cross-country trip the family took years ago. Betsy says that Aunt Bobby gave the kids a Bag O’Fun and it was one of the highlights of the trip for her. So every day, we have been opening a bag. We have found things like a map of the country to color in each state, a balsa-wood airplane, a bottle of bubble soap, a magic expanding towel (you put it in water and the small hard disk turns into a towel), Mad Libs, and snacks. Roxy has also been thrilled with her first bag—a new “Lambie”, her favorite stuffed squeaky toy. In fact, as I typed this, she brought it to me so I would throw it for her to fetch. We are having a great time with our Bag O’Fun—thanks, Betsy!!

State Sticker Map: This is a staple of RVers everywhere—admitted to be a bit tacky, but we love it anyway. I finally broke down and bought the map just before our trip. It is a large (about 20” across) outline map of the United States, with each state also outlined. It comes with a sticker for each state, and of course the idea is to put the sticker on the map as you get to the state. RVers disagree on the exact requirements: do you have to actually stay overnight in the state to qualify for the sticker, or is it enough to have driven through? I figured that considering Mo’s age and reputation, it is sufficient if we drove through the state (such as Illinois), even if we did not stop there to spend the night. Up until now, we’ve only really qualified for 3 states (NJ, PA and DE) and I didn’t think it was worth it somehow to get the map. But it is now attached to our refrigerator (I was a bit too embarrassed to stick it to the outside of the RV, like some people do) and we have filled in 12 states so far! Joe said I needed to post a picture.

Post Offices: At home, we complain all the time about the mail delivery and the post office. But when you are on the road, you realize that the post office still has an aura of trust and reliability about it. Almost every town has a sign directing visitors to the post office, and it is automatically the place you look for to mail cards or letters from, with an expectation that if you do that, you can expect your stuff to be delivered. In Interior, SD, several people came into the post office to do business while I was there, and the lady at the counter knew everyone by name—it was clear that in a small town, the post office is really a community center of sorts. It represents a bit of familiarity in a strange place, too. Maybe I’m just a homebody at heart, but I appreciate seeing the post offices as we pass through small towns. It makes me feel a little less far from home!

Car Repair: Everyone should know something about the basics of car repair, or else arrange to travel with someone who does. Joe has gotten us out of so many potentially tight spots on this trip—I am going to get him a “Joe’s Body Shop” shirt for real when we are home! We’d still be in South Dakota, dealing with electrical problems, if it weren’t for him. He’s been under the truck and inside the hood so many times I can’t count. He seems to have licked the problem with the alternator by changing an entire connection (which obviously should have been caught by our mechanics at home, but wasn’t.) He says we’d never be on this trip if it weren’t for me. But I know we’d never have STAYED on this trip if it weren’t for him. It’s good to make plans, but engine problems can ruin the whole thing. We are stopping to get Mo lubed and freshly oiled this morning before we leave Ely, Nevada, and hope to not have any more scary incidents on the road.

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