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An Unusual Journey (Part 1)

I have driven the motor home without my navigator beside me before but never quite like this trip. There have been a few short trips to repair shops. The only long trip was from St. Louis to Houston. On that trip Louise was following me in the toad as I returned a tow dolly to its maker. On that trip we had radios for communication on the road and we stopped for rest stops, meals and overnights together.

On Monday of last week I dropped Louise off at the airport. She was on her way to Denver to be with her daughter during and after surgery. I had to remain until Tuesday afternoon for the final follow-up doctor visit following my cataract surgery so taking Louise to Denver in the motor home was not an option. We had the motor home loaded and ready to go before Louise left.

My appointment with the doctor was late in the day and they were running behind schedule so it was really late when I left the office. When I got home I packed the last few things in the car and called it quits for the night. Wednesday I hooked up the toad and got underway headed north from Edinburg, Texas to Denver, Colorado. I was prepared to take longer than usual for this drive as my usual navigator/stewardess/chef/housekeeper was not with me.

I know the route, we've traveled it before. We drive a 40 foot coach with a toad and the team effort makes it much easier. When the GPS tells me to turn somewhere, Louise will check the map and say we do or don't want to go that way. When we need to stop, she can scout various sources of information for rest stops or just watch the road for picnic areas or large parking lots. If I want a snack she can make a run to the refrigerator. Louise usually prepares meals. Normally at overnight stops we divide the work, I do the outside work, wash the bugs of the windshield, check tires and the toad. Louise sets up the interior, attending to slides and leveling and then securing everything before we are underway in the morning. Doing all this by myself means extra stops and doubles the time spent taking care of the coach at each overnight stop.

Louise has several jobs as we travel through large cities. First, she is on constant watch for those exit only lanes that pop up from time to time. Next, she is reading the highway signs and keeping me posted on any coming lane changes or exits we need to take. Finally, she is checking the map to confirm that the GPS instructions are what we really want to do. Our local knowledge or our preferences are difficult to program into the GPS. Sometimes we prefer an interstate highway, sometimes we prefer an alternate that may be better at a given time of day. When traveling through large cities we have a running conversation going related to our route and all of the above things. When she drives we switch roles easily. Either way it is almost always a two person operation. This trip I am responsible for doing all of the above, no help except the GPS.

I got derailed in San Antonio on the early side of the afternoon rush hour. I decided to take the I-410 loop west around San Antonio to keep me out of downtown but hadn’t looked at the map before making the decision. For a while the GPS was fighting me until I finally gave in and followed its directions. By the time I was outbound from San Antonio, the rush hour was definitely building. Anyway, an hour later I was clear of the city traffic and rolling along the road nicely. Later when I was able to stop the map clearly showed that staying with I-410 would have worked fine. I should have checked the map before making my decision!

I stopped for the evening in Ballinger, Texas. There is a city park with hook-ups but it definitely isn't for big rigs. I circled through the park and felt lucky to get away with all my paint. So it was the Wal-Mart that night. Nice people, they welcomed me to park in the gravel lot next to the small store lot. I was joined by an empty hog truck that parked about 30 feet away. He was gone by morning and I slept soundly. I took my time getting ready to go. Wal-Mart had a sidewalk clearance sale and I found a few bargains. I had breakfast, washed the bugs off the windshield and got the interior ready to roll.

To be continued …


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