Road Trip U.S.A. no. 1: Planning a 6 month trip.
Living a dream.
What makes two semi-retired South Africans embark on a 6 month road trip of the U.S.A.? Not an easy question to answer even in our clearer thinking moments. It must be a question of the heart. From way back in the 60’s as we grew up in Pretoria we loved the music and watched the classic movies that seemed to glamorize life in the land of opportunity. A year in Texas to do a masters degree at Abilene Christian University in 1982/3 and some limited opportunities to explore that great country further added to our dream to do what many people would love to do but never get around to. Retirement after many years of teaching gave us a lump sum pay out that we could save or spend. So we decided to spend it.
What makes the USA a great place to travel?
We live in a third world country where travel is relatively easy in comparison to some places in Africa. At the same time our somewhat limited experience of the USA opened our eyes to what it was like to travel in a first world country. Good roads and easily accessed services were tempting. Secondly the great variety of scenery and sights.Photo’s of the Niagara Falls, the Redwoods, the leaf change in New England and ‘Old Faithfull’ all added to the passion to really see the country, not in a limited travel package, but with time to stay for a while if we wanted to, or move on to other places to meet the people and to take our own photos with our cameras and in our minds.
The support system.
Good friends in Oklahoma, Ohio and Texas and Audrey’s sister in Florida added to our desire to go and also provided help with input and a starting point. "Come over and we will help you get started" the invitation came from the Goin's in Oklahoma, a great place to start our trip.
Not having much money was obviously a slight problem as our budget planning indicated that even on a tent camping basis the cost of fuel, food and camping fees was going to be big. Camping was the only way we could survive an extended trip - tent camping. We are experienced tent campers as that is what we have always done, partly out of financial necessity and partly because I love to pitch a tent and sit outside with a camp fire burning. Cooking food over an open fire and hearing the birds calling. That is when I am happiest!
A second hand Ford Econoline named Matilda, after the Australian song ‘Waltzing Matilda’, because she tended to waltz across the road due to some wear on her 20 year old shock absorbers, was to be our transport. It came as a gift from our good friends Charlie and Joy in Woodward, Oklahoma who also helped with some interior changes; a plank across the folded down back seats with a mattress provided a warm and cosy place to sleep if the weather was not good for pitching a tent. Underneath was enough storage space for fishing rods and our camping stove and tents. Some basic camping equipment consisting of a pair of deck chairs, a table, a gas cooker and a cooler box, a tent and two inflatable matresses was stored under the bed and so our adventure started.
Previously we had visited the Southern California Coast, the Grand Canyon and New York and so our trip was planned to aim for the North California Coast and then follow our nose north and then east with a couple of way points to cross i.e. Seattle, Niagara and New England in the Autumn. Because we were self sufficient we did book any places to stay and had the freedom to stay a few more days if we liked a place or leave if we did not. We on only one occasion found a State Park Campground full.
After 35 States, 6 National Parks, 33 State Parks, 15 40 miles we had experienced a trip of a lifetime. Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington State, across the northern States to Arcadia National Park via Niagara, south to Florida and the Everglades and from there to Galveston and San Antonio and back to Woodward, Oklahoma where it all started. With limited financial resources we had achieved what we set out to do. Thanks to the hospitality of friends and family and the reasonable fees in State Parks and specially Wal-mart, and the income from renting out our house for 6 months, we will carry with us memories that are only good.
If you like we will take you with us as we recount the trip and share the photos. As avid birders we stopped to add to our life list of birds as we went, but this was not a birding trip but an exploration of the great country with all it has to offer. Ole! U.S.A! - and thanks to everyone who made us feel at home.