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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default The Lady in the Van - A roadtrip

    Before the roadtrip.

    Even though we touched down in LA on 17th May, it has taken me a few weeks to settle down, visit with family and get the van organised to hit the road. Not much has gone smoothly up to now, but hopefully from now on things will stay on-track.

    After a most wonderful flight from MEL to LAX - not a bump, no seatbelt sign - just a smooth glide 30 - 40000' up in the sky. LAX to BOS with Virgin was another story. I was tired and waiting in the departure lounge, when I must have fallen asleep. When I awoke the lady from Virgin told me my flight had left 40 minutes ago. Nobody bothered to wake me. They knew where I was going, they had asked.

    Supervisor was called, and I was put on a flight to SFO (an airport I had never been to). With my scooter and now wide awake, I made the most of it, and spent the four hours just looking around the shops, getting something to eat, and speaking with other travellers.

    The flight SFO - BOS was now scheduled to arrive in at 6am, not exactly a convenient time for a family with 3 school age children. I took a cab.

    My week in Newton was great. There were three concerts to attend in which the children took park. One dance recital, one Newton combined choir concert and a school concert. Things I normally miss. I made the most of my new mobility, and took a full day to check out all the shops at Newton Center, and went for a ride all the way round the lake near son's home - places I had not seen.

    All too soon it was time to check-in for my flight to Raleigh NC, to go pick up my van. Once again the gremlins were at work. Flight was more than an hour late leaving, and even later arriving in Raleigh. The brightest thing that morning was seeing Foy at the airport. By now, it was too late to get the van all ready and get to the Ford dealership in time for them to start work on it same day. The appointment was changed to the following day, and I spent the night in quite a nice motel (with coupon).

    Foy had ensured that the van was fine for me to drive the next morning, to the dealership where they were going to check it out and make sure it is roadworthy. When Rick and John came with the list of jobs to be done, I figured all my holiday funds would be gone. In the end the new radiator, two new tires, two lots of brakes, shock absorbers all around, as well as the normal service - fluids, hoses and belts, etc. came in at just under two grand. She certainly drove lots better back to Raleigh.

    Turned out that they could not get all the parts and complete all the work that Thursday. Another night in a motel was in order, in one of only two motels in Eden NC - only a couple miles from the dealership. The tiny town of Eden looked interesting. I hopped on my scooter and checked out all the stores. Sadly most were empty and starting to look neglected. One did not need to be told that a new Walmart had popped up not far away.

    Next morning Robert came to pick me up from the motel at 11an. I had told Rick not to send anyone before checkout time. I wanted to sleep in.

    It is at this point that I noticed my phone missing. Having charged it in the motel, it was in my pocket on my tour of the town. Assuming it had fallen out of my pocket somewhere in town I gave up searching, and headed for Raleigh, and my night's destination. [Arriving at daughter's place two days later, I gave her my laundry. "There is something in these jean's pockets." Three days of needless worrying!]


    That first night (Fri) I spent at FlyingJ, exit 106 on I-95, It may sound strange to some, but instantly I felt at home. It was as if I was back home. There were several other similar vans there, as well as three large RVs. FJ now have free Wifi, albeit only inside the building.

    Following evening was at another FJ at exit 29 in southern Georgia.

    The run down I-95 Raleigh to Ft Lauderdale was a dream run, considering I was expecting lots of holiday traffic, traffic which I had hoped to avoid. Arrived at daughter's place in time for dinner on Sunday. Two easy days of (co-incidentally) 377 miles each.

    It has been a wonderful week in FL, especially been able to get around with my daughter. Here I have had the the last couple of things attended to in the van. A new windscreen and getting the electronics for the fridge fixed. Has taken days to find a good auto electrician, but I expect a call any minute to say that it is all fixed.

    OOoops! I forgot to mention that Foy put on a free fireworks show.... with lots of smoke and smell.... when he tried to reconnect the house battery the way (he thought) it went.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-07-2016 at 01:37 AM. Reason: Title correction by request.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,697

    Default Best prepared.

    Sounds like an eventful [and costly] start to your trip, but so much better to be prepared. How many miles are on the van now ? It must have clocked up a few now ! Shame you didn't think to ring your mobile number to see if you could locate it but at least it turned up.

    Looking forward to more updates from the road.

    Dave.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default Delays! Hopefully hit the road on 8th June.

    Dave, I think it has about 140000. And we did ring my phone many times, but in my jeans, in the laundry bag inside my suitcase, no one could hear it.

    The electronics' repair have taken longer than expected. I dropped the car off on Fri morn, and I suspect he did not start work on it till Monday. Now I am told I should have it early afternoon tomorrow (Wed). It apparently took him quite a bit longer than expected to find where the short was which enabled Foy to put on his fireworks display. Still I can't complain, I would hate there to be a short with the electronics which could start a fire.

    His expertise is not in question, as others speak quite highly of him, he has been in business at the same spot for three decades and his appointment book is full.

    The only issue here with daughter, (one we'd all like to have) she has to accompany her husband to Italy, leaving early Thursday morning. So I need to be gone on Wed, as the children's carer will need the bed.

    My first plan was to head to Joplin last week, and that was going to be a straight run, the way I have done it several times. Then, to fit in with everyone's schedule, it appeared I may have four or five days, so looked at all the scenic routes I have been longing to travel, and *designed* a route to incorporate those routes. As the completion of the van date moved later and later, that plan was ditched, and I am back to a straight three day's drive.

    I sometimes wonder why I bother even thinking of planning, let alone go through the motions.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default At last, I can say I am on my way......

    Finally got the van all fixed, at around 8.pm on Wed night. We packed all my things into the van that night, ready for an early start.

    Hit the road at around 7am on 9th June. Planning to head to Dothan AL, via I-95, FL-40, US-27 and US-231. At Ormond Beach exit on I-95 I heard a loud bang under the van. I did not know what had happened,other than the van now sounded like a large diesel truck. Figured that maybe my exhaust had fallen off. AAA towed me to 'Honest 1' repair centre, where they were terribly busy. My nagging eventually got them to look at it, and at least tell me if it was safe to drive to Joplin.

    The conclusion was that it was safe to drive, but would be noisy. To ensure that no fumes would enter the vehicle, they did a quick temporary repair (solder), and I was on my way again........ 3 hours later.

    Any thoughts now of FL-40 and US-27 were again ditched. I headed straight up I-95 and via the bypass to I-10 and its endless hold ups with construction. By now it was also rush hour.

    Stopped the night at Flying J near Quincy FL. (Regular $1.929 - the cheapest so far.)

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default 10th and 11th June

    This morning US- 231 took me to Dothan, where I stopped only briefly, before continuing on to Montgomery, by which time I was ready to find another route. US-231 which I have driven on this route at keast a half dozen times, has become so busy and clogged up with truck traffic, that it is no longer the pleasant drive I remember of only a few years ago. As well I was not keen on going through Memphis again.

    Looking at the maps I chose US-82 from Montgomery, west. Since I did not yet have the Truckstop Directory, was not sure where to stop. When I got to I-55 it was time to think about it. Headed down the interstate till I found a Flying J. Don't know at which exit, and didn't care at the time (nor now). Next morning figured I wanted to get back to my original rout US-82, since it was a most pleasant drive through country scenery and farms.

    At breakfast there were three guys at the table next to me, at times deep in conversation. They were most helpful, telling me about the different ways I could get back to my route, and the benefits of each In the end I chose US-49. It was a lovely route, very scenic and some beautiful old farm homes and barns. At Yazoo I had a look around, before continuing to Indiapola. Points of interest along the way, which I noted, but either did not or could not stop was the Big Tee-pee, an art gallery and two historic markers, neither of which had a facility to pull off the road - so disappointing.

    In AR US-82 becomes US-65 which at times is designated the Great River Road. By the time I got to Pine Bluff I needed a long break, got out my scooter and had a look around, as well as doing some shopping. My plan was to spend the night at Hot Springs NP, which was still more than an hour away.

    For all the instructions I had, including my maps and gps, there was no way I could find either the NP or the campground. By now the visitor centres were closed. Not that I saw them either. But I ended up having a good drive through all the streets of Hot Springs, including all the ones which come to a dead end. For the night I headed back to the Hot Springs Valero place where I had filled up along the way. I had had a long discussion with the lovely lass and she had shown me how to get there on her phone and all that, ending with 'if you can't find it, you are welcome to come back here and spend the night.'

    And a good night it was too.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default 12th June

    Hot Springs National Park.

    An early start this Sunday morning, with a clear head helped find what I was looking for. Parked at the visitor centre, and went inside, but was told it was the city visitor centre not the NP visitor centre..... that was a couple of hundred feet up the road. Since it was a Sunday, and the parking meters did not need to be fed, left my car where it was and headed up the street on my little scooter.

    The NP in downtown Hot Springs consists of quite some land area, where the campground also is, and three or four of the historic Hot Bath Buildings. The most spectacular of which has tours through it by the rangers. As it was, there was no one else on the tour I took, so had the undivided attention of the ranger.

    First he took me into the section of the building which was the treatment baths and stalls for medical conditions. All were marble. Looking at all this, hydro therapy is not such a new concept. There were showers which would aim at the specific parts of the body to be treated, and fire hose type canon sprays which gave the same treatment. Sitz baths, I was told, for those suffering from syphilis and women after childbirth. (These were still in use when I had my family.)

    The Women's section which was plain with stalls, baths and showers and like the rest, all of marble.The whole place reminded me so much of the bath houses we used to go to immediately after the war. When I saw the gym, it was an exact replica of the gym I attended about the same time, when I was first in school. It really was a step back in time, even though I believe the house dates back to well before the war.

    The men only bath chamber is a large room with pillars and marble benches, with stained glass picture windows of exotic women on the ceiling, and a bronze statue in the centre of the room-sized bath. The whole place is magnificent and very well preserved.

    Outside there were the pools large and small of hot spring water. A short walk takes one to the spot where the hot water comes out of the mountain at 143F, with a small pool at its base, which some idiots tried to get into.... and very quickly got out of. There are other bath houses open, which I did not visit. When down that way, this little known, down town, free NP is well worth visiting, as is the small town of Hot Springs.

    By lunch time I headed off to my next destination via scenic US-270 and US-71 through the Quachita National Forest to Fort Smith.

    Arkansas is a bit like PA, there is hardly a road/route you choose which is not scenic. A wonderful State to enjoy a roadtrip.

    Lifey

    [p.s. I delayed posting this post, and the rest of the trip so far, as I have some lovely photos which I wanted to include. Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful with uploading them to the site, so have decided to continue posting without pictures. Maybe I will be able to put them up later.]

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default 13th June.

    This is the day I did what we often tell folk not to do. I was looking for a State Park, and used my GPS to find it. With faith and (misplaced) trust, I followed the instructions..... which led me up a secluded mountain road, by the same name as the State Park.

    Lesson re-enforced!

    A late start saw me heading north up I-49. At Bella Vista a stop at the AR visitor centre was on the plan. Imagine my surprise when the lovely lass remembered me (and my van) from when I called in there a few years ago. Spent a while out of the van and used their microwave to make a drink.

    The rest of this run, which I have done several times, was straightforward, into Joplin, arriving at my destination in the early afternoon.

    Glc had already booked the van into the muffler shop, where the 'muffler man' keeps sentry outside. (I got some good photos here too, alas, am unable to share them.)

    It was during my last trip, I had wanted to surprise glc and go out to dinner to one of the best eateries in Joplin. One of his family members had helped me choose it. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control prevented us from enjoying that meal. Now I was shown that he had been given a gift card for the said restaurant - albeit not sufficient for a meal.

    I then asked him to accompany me to dinner, to celebrate my birthday, my treat!

    Crabby's is a lovely place to eat. Great food, good service, and unlike most places I have eaten, you are not served enough food for two meals. The portions were a nice size. When all this is with interesting company, it's the perfect place to celebrate a birthday.

    Yeah, I can recommend Crabby's in Joplin.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default 14th June.

    How many miles are on the van now ? It must have clocked up a few!
    Dave, when I told you it was about 140000, it was a guess. The 13th June was the day it actually ticked over to 140000 miles.

    Joplin

    When I had driven into Joplin on that Monday, it struck me that it looked so much more like my first visit - pre tornado. A program I heard on the radio as part of the fifth anniversary remembrance mentioned that in the five years, the rebuilding has completed more than one building per day. Only the lack of mature trees still shows the scar.

    The van was now in perfect condition to take on any challenge. My shopping spree on Tuesday added just one more luxury to the van. Up until now I have used mainly solar garden lights to illuminate the van at night, supplemented with an LED torch. I had been asking for a while in various shops for LED lights which could be plugged into a 12V outlet, without success. Now, here in Joplin I found exactly what I was looking for, but needed another opinion.

    I never got all my shopping done, getting lost multiple times, despite the detailed map prepared for me. The fact that Missouri was experiencing a heat wave did not help. So when it got a little cooler, we went out together to look at the lights and finish my shopping.

    Now my van has two strips of 9 LEDs each, lighting up the van like daylight. The torches have become redundant, and the garden lights only had a limited life anyway. I can leave the LEDs on all night (and often do), without it affecting the battery. It has made such a difference. Now I am able to prepare something to eat after dark, do dishes and spend half the night reading, knitting or embroidering..

    (Odo - 140090)

    Lifey
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 07-08-2016 at 01:05 AM. Reason: Fixed quote

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,697

    Default Many miles ahead.

    You have certainly covered some serious miles in that van and I know there is many more to come from this trip alone !

    The Hot Springs sound quite something. Enjoying your report !

    Dave.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,922

    Default 15th June.

    It was before lunch on the Wednesday that I left Joplin, headed for Dubuque.... in a sorta roundabout way. Wanted to include some of the Great River Road, as well as other places I had found on the maps.

    Started out on US-60. Not long into my trip a roadside sign informed me that 359 people had died on MO roads so far this year - 8% up on 2015. But what was even more staggering is that 59% of the fatalities were unrestrained.

    US-60 passes through several sections of the Mark Twain National Forest, and is a most pleasant road to drive. In particular I was looking for the place where I had stopped in 2009. I thought I would recognise it, but alas! a lot can happen in seven years. Took my time, stopping in several of the lovely towns through which this road passes. It was getting late when I stopped at the Leerjak Truck Stop in Elsinore.

    (Odo - 140334)

    Lifey

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