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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Wherever the Road Leads. Wherever the Wind Blows.

    Almost two weeks since my arrival at LAX, and I still have no definite plan - not even a rough plan - where the trip may take me.

    Amtrak took me to Denver, where the van was waiting. Always a great trip. Pity the in-betweens had to be such a nightmare. However, this was mostly forgotten by the time I arrived in Denver. Trains are such a wonderful way to meet other travellers.

    After a night at a great hostel, I took a bus to Longmont, and a taxi out to where my Ford was parked. (Imagine my surprise when it was the same taxi driver who picked me up after I parked it there, last September. Though I did not recognise him, he remembered me.)

    It was good to see it again, despite the fact that there was not even a click when I turned the key. Expected!

    During my preparation for this trip I had renewed my AAA membership, knowing I would need it on my arrival. I had also, with a little help from my friend, managed to get a sim card and phone number to use upon arrival. These things make life so much easier... so much easier to solve initial issues.

    That first day I could not have coped without my phone and AAA. While waiting for the man to come and start my engine, Eric came by and offered a jump start. But alas, without success. AAA was more successful. Once it was running I followed the AAA car to the Autozone, where a new battery was on the menu.

    I had asked the AAA man about my tyres, and he suggested I go see the people at Tyres Plus. They checked the pressure for me, which was all I asked for, but then pointed out to me the cracks in the side walls of my rear tyres. These were on the vehicle when I bought it, and without a date on the tyres, no one knew how old they were. For safety's sake, two new tyres were on the menu.

    Unplanned extra expense.

    It was by now evening rush hour and I had left my luggage at the hostel when I left at 8am. It had not been my plan to drive from downtown Denver along I-70 to Flying J in Aurora at rush hour. (In reality, my road part of the trip had started a couple of days earlier when the train did not run from Emeryville to Reno, and we went by bus. A very pleasant and scenic trip. Much enjoyed.)

    The first destination was to be Joplin MO, where the van had already been booked in for a check-up. A two day drive. I-70 and I-135 to Wichita and 400 straight across the rest of KS, into Joplin. It is a good drive, other than the (what seemed to be gale force) wind along I-70. I thought I would be blown off the road. [That evening I met a couple in Grandma Max's restaurant at Pilot in Salinas, who had come from Vail on a motor bike. He too was saying how sore he was from keeping the thing upright and on the road.]

    The Ford mechanic gave my Ford a clean bill of health. I was also keen to see how Joplin was coming on with the reconstruction. Another tour or two showed the schools are now well on the way, as is the hospital, and new houses are sprouting up all over the place. The path of the tornado is still quite evident, mostly by the lack of mature trees. The area looks so open and bare, compared with the rest of the town. There are still some places vacant, and the remnants of where once a building stood, still waiting for attention.

    With the van now running well, and my scenic tour of the latest happenings in Joplin behind us, we set out to do something about my terrible driver's seat. I just could no longer drive with that seat. Suggestions came from all sides.... Ford, the auto upholsterer, and the many wrecker's places we visited. The news was not good. Scarce as hen's teeth! One place even told us that his computer program showed that there were not any available within heaven knows, how many miles.

    Till finally we arrived at one yard where the gentleman was more knowledgable, and not tied to a computer program. He knew of, and had seen those vans at a salvage yard (way out of town), where they were waiting to be crushed. Made a phone call on our behalf, and sent us on our way. The van initially referred to was not suitable, but way back in the yard, by the crusher, there were some more and we were free to go and check them. (The long walk nearly knocked me out.)

    There, right by the crusher, were four vans... one the same model and year as mine. It had both original front seats in 'reasonable' condition. Certainly nothing an auto upholsterer can't fix. The driver's seat was next to perfect. The passenger seat in a more sorry state. And we got both for peanuts - comparitavely speaking.

    The passenger seat is now at the upholsterers. The driver's seat in the van. It will be upholstered on my next pass through. We were assured that it can be done in a day.

    What a difference a good seat makes!

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-28-2013 at 12:19 PM. Reason: typos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    I'm glad that you have the van in running condition and would love to see the photos of the "new" seats. You have to be comfy to drive!

    What happened, that Amtrak had to send you somewhere by bus? Did your luggage go along for the ride?

    Welcome back to the US!

    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Up and running !

    Nice to read that you and 'Henri' have been reunited and I'm really looking forward to following your trip report !

    Have a great time !

    Dave.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Basic Economics makes buses more likley these days

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    What happened, that Amtrak had to send you somewhere by bus? Did your luggage go along for the ride?
    Donna, a goodly portion of Amtrak's routes are now done by bus. The old train track routes are too expensive to "waste" on passenger routes. (Cargo makes more money per mile than passenger lines could ever hope to achieve).

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Thanks for the warning, I wasn't aware of that. If I wanted to take a bus, I'd contact Greyhound. Hubby and I have talked about taking a cross-country train trip sometime, now I think I'll shove that idea out into the trash.


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default It's not that dire!

    You can still travel coast-to-coast on Amtrak trains -- it's just that the trains go to much fewer cities now. And on the routes that USED to be served by trains, Amtrak buses now provide the service!

    But traveling on the train is still a blast -- I've gone coast-to-coast several times.


    (Look at this map for the Western routes!)

    More information about Amtrak here!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    The only reason we were bussed was because there was work on the rails between Emeryville and Reno. It was a nice change, especially since they had reserved the front seat on the passenger side for me. I love sitting there on bus trips.

    If I wanted to take a bus, I'd contact Greyhound.
    Donna, there is absolutely no comparison. Greyhound bus stopping every hole in the ground, people getting on and off. We had a coach captain, lovely guy from Europe, and one stop for lunch, at a really nice spot. Greyhound only stop at fast food joints.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Resolved.

    Today I received a phone call regarding my 'in-betweens' nightmare. Hilton have agreed to fully refund the charges made to my credit card, and refund the charges the bank added as well. I do not doubt that they will be as good as their word.

    After all, I kept my part of the contract, I turned up. Pity they could not keep their side of the contract and provide me with a room suitable to my needs. They had enough notice. I waited nearly a week before lodging my complaint. Needed all that time to cool off.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default On to Florida.

    It was a generous offer which came via email from a member of another website forum. The discussion had been about the electronics in RVs and Campervans. The pros and cons of solar panels, generators and wind power. I butted into the conversation to ask about dealing with electronics while the van is in long term storage.

    That is when I received the email. It was from north western Florida with an offer to store my van, under cover, and to run it once or twice every month, just to keep the engine running and the batteries charged. (It's all much more complex than that, but mostly beyond my understanding.)

    So when I left Joplin it was off to Florida to meet the gentleman who had made the offer. There was no way I could accept without first meeting him, seeing the property and finding out just what he had in mind. On the way I planned to call in at Melbourne AR.

    Rt 412 across northern AR is such a lovely and scenic route. Up and down, around and around as it goes through the mountains and the little towns. A narrow slow road, but very pleasant. The idea on that first night had been to make it to Bull Shoal SP, but time ran out. Instead the night was spent at the Harrison Welcome Centre.

    I had learned about the AR Welcome centres permitting camping when I was at the Bella Vista Welcome Centre on US 71, earlier in the day. At Harrison there were a couple of others already settled. The facilities are left open, lights and air conditioning are left on.

    Another great resource.

    The idea was from Melbourne AR to head to Jonesboro and down I-55. Ashley at the visitor centre even printed out the instructions for me. But alas. Many hours and miles later, having driven through many of the local roads not seeing a sign nor a shop, I finally arrived on 63 at Jonesboro. From there it was I-55 and I-10 straight to FL.

    That night I spent at the MS Welcome Centre, and again discovered a great resource. MS rest areas have 24 hr security. I asked about staying the night and was made most welcome. Even at rest areas where there were signs of no overnight camping, when I asked the security officer about staying the night, I was told I was welcome to stay, and told where to park.

    Interstates are normally not my favourite drive. However, I-55 in MS seemed to have a lot of the brown signs along it, each announcing a nearby attractions. I was thinking of what a great road trip this would make. One could spend aweek or two just checking out each and every one of those attractions. On another pass through, when I have more time, that might be soemthing I will think about.

    We had calculated that the trip would take me two days. In fact, I made it in almost four days. Enjoyed every mile of it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Heading West.

    Heading west from FL the focus was purely on getting there and meeting up with some folk along the way. Not really for sightseeing, though I was looking for scenic roads to travel. Route 90 took me all the way to Lafayette, Louisana skirting around New Orleans as suggested by glc. Mostly pleasant and scenic, US90 (the future I-49) is a high speed four lane road for most of the way by-passing virtually all the towns. From there is was I-10 to Orange TX and cut across to I-45.

    North of Spring TX on I-45 is a larger than life statue of Sam Houston, no doubt after whom Houston is named. It was disappointing that there was nowhere to pull over at that point. 287 took me to Amarillo and then it was I-40 all the way to Flagstaff. I had forgotten just what a magnificent drive this can be, especially through New Mexico. The only snag all the way was about 30 miles west of Tucumcarri where a truck went off the road, down an embankment. The contents, mostly bottled water, were spread all over the road, along with what appeared to be personal belongings. We could not see the cabin, but the trailer was shredded. Sixty minutes to cover less than a mile.

    In Flagstaff I met up with other members of one of the vandweller sites who were dispersed camping in the Kaibab Forest, less than a mile off the paved road and about 12 miles west of the town. Each with a fully self contained vehicle, they were spread out over a large area, so that sometimes it was difficult to see the others through the trees. I had read that some of them knew all about auto electronics, especially when it came to house batteries and solar panels.

    David took one look at my system and picked the problem without hesitation. (My new battery would not charge sufficiently during a day's driving to run my fridge all night long.) All he did was change the 10 guage wire to 4 guage stranded wire - probably four or five times as much copper to carry the voltage from the altenator to my battery. I have not had a problem since.

    With Dan helping him, David worked on my van for hours in the searing heat. I learned David had spent 12 months, years ago, living in Brisbane. All he wanted was some Vegemite. He said he really missed his Vegemite. It was a pleasure to share what I had with him, for all the work he put into my van. (Apparently not using heavy enough wire for these purposes is a common problem in the North America.)

    It was Monday morning that I bade them all farewell, and set off for CA. A mere couple of hundred metres down the forest road is when my foot went to the floor, and I found I had no braking power. Fortunately, because of the potholes and general poor condition of this forest road (track), my speed did not even register on the speedo. In fact, I put the gear in drive and just let it go without any extra fuel.

    Gently I eased it back to the first campsite. After an initial inspection it was decided I call AAA. While waiting David did some research on the internet for recommended five star mechanics in the area. I have to say, R&R Automotive pulled out all stops to help me. Since they had to acquire the part from elsewhere, it was 24 hours (and more than $350) later before I was on my way again.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-17-2013 at 10:07 AM.

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