A journey begins with a step

In my case, the journey begins with the turn of a key.   After a weekend trip, I headed into a three week trip to California.  Round trip, I was planning to travel approximately 4,800 miles.

Gayle couldn’t get off work for the entire three weeks.  Dad offered to ride along.  Such confidence he had in my limited RV experience.  But his faith in my abilities has always helped me to accomplish tasks I thought were tough or near impossible.

Learning from the last trip, I made a rough plan and stuck to it as much as possible.  Gayle and my son Kevin would fly out to Fresno, meet up with my daughter-in-law and grandkids.  I rented a minivan, so we could move about in the National Parks, because they did not recommend anything over 22 feet long.  We would then spend a week in the area of Sequoia National Park before my wife & son headed back to Fresno with the minivan to fly home.

My dad, daughter-in-law and grandkids would head to southern California with me, for a couple nights camping on the beach before heading to their home and dropping them off.  After which, Dad and I would head back home, hopefully getting back in time before Dad needed to leave for a meeting.

The schedule was fixed.  There was no leeway for side trips or delays.  By my plan, I needed to drive about 8-9 hours and cover around 480 miles each day.  I pulled out my iPad, started up InRoute and planned out my journey.  The first two nights, I reserved sites at my planned destinations.  After that, I would plan the next camping spot the night before.  I thought this was a good strategy, because I had no idea if my plan was too aggressive or not.

Aria, my trusted canine companion, initially was coming along for the ride.  However, after reviewing the possible weather and high heat in California, we decided to let her have her own vacation with a family near home that she had stayed with once before.  The National Parks would not allow her on the trails we planned, was also a deciding factor.

The trip could be compared to a three act play.

  • Act One : The journey to California
  • Act Two : The main event with the full cast of players
  • Act Three : The return home

I am one week into the trip and can say that I have learned quite a bit about my RV. Driving has gotten easier with each day.  Driving along the interstate was much easier than I had anticipated after my weekend trip.  By day 3, somewhere in Wyoming I was able to stay in my lane without the passing tractor trailers pushing me to the side of the road.  However I will say that if given a choice between driving in a metropolitan area or on winding mountain passes, I would take the mountain passes any day.  Traffic around areas like Omaha, Reno and Sacramento grew nerve wracking with little cars trying to merge in on the right before their lane ended because they did not want to get stuck behind an RV.

Act One

I had hoped to leave the house by 7:30 AM to pick up Dad.  Guess I was being a bit optimistic.  Late start to begin with.   Dad and I packed the remaining items into the RV and began the journey, only about 2 hours later than planned.   I felt every bump along the journey in the RV.  I can say that our interstates are in need up upgrades.  I won’t complain anymore about my taxes going to the roads, if they are actually going to upgrading the highways and not lining somebody’s pocket.    

Our destinations for the week were:

  1. Lake Anita State Park in  Anita, IA
  2. Cabala’s in Sidney, NE
  3. Phillip’s RV Park in Evanston, WY
  4. Winnemucca / I-80 KOA in Winnemucca, NV
  5. Merced River Resort in Delhi, CA
  6. Sequoia RV Ranch in Three Rivers, CA


Dad provided road construction updates and made notes along the journey.

I found the RV handled best on windy days between 55-60 miles per hour.  Anything over than 60 and it felt like the RV was bouncing all over the road.   Going up and down mountain passes was slow.  I decided to name the RV “The Tortoise” as it is slow and steady in its journey.   After telling my granddaughter the name, she liked it and has been referring to the RV as Tortoise when asking questions.

I made each destination, however the arrival times were always later than the initial planned time at the day’s start.  This was due to breaking down camp, stops along the way and construction.  For the most part the travel was easy.  On the 3rd night, 6.4 miles from our exit the Service Engine light appeared.  I pulled over to let the engine cool, not really sure what would cause this as we had been descending from a mountain pass.  I dug out the manual and determined it could be many things.  A steady light meant it was safe to drive so we proceeded to the campground.  Since I bought coverage, I called the number.  Not much help as everybody was gone for the day.  That night I did some searching of the internet, and eased my mind a bit. This appeared to be a common occurance for the Ford V10 engines.  I was on a tight schedule that did not allow for the RV being in the shop for a day.  The next morning I talked with the warranty coverage person and was told that I should get the codes read to determine what the issue may be.   Lucky for me that AutoZone does this for free and there was one located about a mile away.  The closest Ford shop was in Salt Lake City about 100 miles away.   After the codes were ready, I was told that this was probably due to the high altitude and the lack of oxygen getting to the engine.  The engine was running fine, so they said if it happens again, take it in to get checked.  I bought a code reader, so that I could determine the cause if the Service Engine light issue in the future.  So far, no there has not been another occurrence.

Before I left, I had rented a minivan to hold 7 people, so Gayle could pick it up when she arrived at the Fresno airport.  To insure that the van was there, I paid ahead of time.  Little did I know that Avis would require me to be the one to pick up the minivan even though I said that Gayle would be driving it.  The last day plan changed a bit, as Dad and I needed to meet the group at the airport.  Luckily, Fresno airport is small.  I parked in a hotel lot across the street and walked into the airport, met the family and secured the minivan.   The benefit to the plan change was we now were all together.  So we stopped at the local Walmart for the remaining food supplies and headed to Sequoia RV Ranch.

Thus ends Act One.

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2 thoughts on “A journey begins with a step

  1. Mike, what a gift of writing you have! Keep more coming from my adopted home state and places beyond! So much to see and do out there in this great land we call America.
    Besides writing, you are becoming quite accomplished driving the RV aka Tortoise. What an adventure! Have enjoyed every article and photograph.


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